Violet's Birth Story

When Violet turned one a month ago I meant to post her birth story, which I wrote just about a year ago.  But life happened and I never did.  So I'm doing it now.  Parts have been redacted because they may not be for young or male ears.  It is long but I make no apologies.  It is for Violet.

When I suspected I was pregnant with Violet, I was in disbelief.

But this seems to be how we roll...surprise!  We’re pregnant again.

I was not thrilled.  It was so unexpected.  Five seemed to be our number.  Six seems so out there, so many kids.  We would need a larger vehicle.  We are filling up our four bedroom house now...I would be 37 when the baby was born.  Not to mention the nausea, vein problems, weight gain, and the fact that I had a job now and would have to break it to my boss that I was pregnant and thus wouldn’t be a very good assistant in approximately 8 months.  It was all overwhelming.

We made it until I was at about week 11 before we told the kids.  I was just so sick and tired.  I was going to be early every single night and the children were bringing me “Get well soon” notes.  The kids were happy.  Libby’s reaction was the best.  A quiet, almost tearful joy.  But reserved, as the first thing she said was, “I thought Mom didn’t want any more kids.”  She was afraid I wasn’t happy.  It was sweet.

It took me seriously until about week 17 before I accepted the fact that I was having a baby.  I really thought it wasn’t happening.  That I would lose the baby.  I just felt detached.  Maybe it was because it had been so long.  My baby had just turned three.  I had gotten rid of all my baby stuff.  I was moving on.  I felt like I was going backwards in a way.

Between 16 and 18 weeks I found out my alpha-fetal protein levels came back abnormal.  I had tested at a higher risk for having a baby with downs syndrome, or possibly another chromosomal abnormality.  After a few weeks, during which I had an ultrasound and blood tests run, it was determined everything was totally normal.  This was hard.  I felt like I was in limbo and didn’t know what the future held.  It was strange.  I felt the fear of the unknown.  God spoke to me the Psalm that says, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You, in God whose word I praise, in God I trust.”  

The summer was full of swimming next door in our neighbors pool, in attempts to help my circulation.  I tried to swim, to burn some calories, because the weight gain was plentiful.  I felt jealous when I watched my kids jump in the pool.  I wanted to be able to have fun like that.  Instead I felt huge and uncomfortable.

The vein issues forced me to bed every night early to elevate my feet.  I had no other choice.  Looking back I can see how slowly I became more and more withdrawn and unhappy because of the state of my body physically.  It was impossible for me to feel happy when I felt physically undone.

When I got to the end, I was retaining fluid and if I was up on my feet all day, by about 4 p.m. I was really exhausted and my legs just felt tight and huge.  My lower legs began to get red and splotchy.  I was unable to squat and bend all the way at the knees without feeling like something would explode.

All this is a very long way to say that me and pregnancy were not getting along any more.  We used to be best friends, but now it was as if we were enemies forced to be roommates.  Or maybe like inmates where one (the pregnancy) beats the other (me) up.

But it all would come to an end.  And I was hopeful I could go out on a high note.  That I would have an easy natural delivery without any labor inducing drugs or the need of an epidural.

I wasn’t expecting to go early.  None of my kids had come early, except one.  But as I got closer I hoped for it.  I was so miserable, I wanted to get a week or two off for good behavior, as my OB put it.

A week before my due date I was 3 centimeters and 50 percent effaced.  I’d had some good contractions.  It was Thursday, and my doctor was on call that Saturday.  He joked that it would be a great time to come in and have the baby.

But nothing happened.  I hoped for it.  I would have some good contractions at night when I was resting, but nothing would materialize.  Nearly a week later, the next Wednesday, September 24th, I had some real good contractions that lasted until nearly 3 a.m.  I was hopeful.  My mom and dad decided to go ahead and come to stay.  Thursday came again.  I went back to the OB.  He checked again.  I was nearly 4.  He stripped my membranes.  It hurt so bad I yelped.  I was embarrassed for screaming.  He had caught me off guard.  I hadn’t expected it to hurt like that.  It was about 2 p.m.

I went home.  I walked as much as I could that afternoon and evening.  I had a lot of contractions.  By about 9 p.m. I was ready to put my feet up.  I really thought I was going into labor.  But the contractions, which at first were coming every 6 minutes, by 11 p.m. died down and I went to bed.  I had a few more in the night, but I knew it wasn’t what it takes to get a baby out.

Then, for days, nothing.  It was as if my body had settled in to being pregnant.  Tuesday came.  I was back at the OB.  Standing at the front of the office to sign in, I read the large calendar.  It was September 30th.  I realized in that moment that I had made it.  That unless something crazy happened, my baby would be born in October.  This would mean that all my kids would have a different birthday month.  I had another ultrasound to make sure the baby and my fluid looked good and that there was no need to get her out.  She passed all tests.  I saw the Dr.  He stripped my membranes again.  We decided on induction Friday if needed.  I would be over a week late by then.  I stopped by the scheduling desk.  They told me I would have to come in on Friday, somewhere between 4 and 7 in the morning; whenever they had a bed available.  I was not enjoying the fact that I was having to do this.

When I got back from the doctor visit, I was determined to keep the contractions going.  I knew that stripping my membranes would get some of the hormone going that causes contractions.  I walked.  I took a very short nap.  I walked some more.  Jimmy and I left the kids with my parents and went out to dinner.  Then we walked around a couple stores.  We had to drop off a saw at a friend’s house.  On the way there, it occurred to me I should ask people to pray for me.  So I texted everyone in my contacts that I thought would lift me up in prayer, specifically that I would not have to be induced Friday; that I would go on my own before then.

When we got home from the date we walked some more, around the neighborhood.  I put my feet up at about 8:45.  I was exhausted.  But I was still having contractions.  At about 9:15, after watching the clock, I could see that my contractions were becoming less frequent and they felt less painful.  I had a moment of realization.  I could get back up, walk some more, and even though it would be hard, it would make the contractions harder.

So I made myself get up.  I remember having a mental picture of myself in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV of the evil pitocin, blanket up to my chin with chills because of an epidural, and I thought about how much I did NOT want that to be my birth experience this time.  I wanted to push this baby out naturally on MY terms.  I got out of bed and started to walk.

At first I just did some chores, making sure I stayed on my feet.  Then I began to walk around the circle that exists inside our home, living room, front room, entry, kitchen, hall, over and over.  My dad was getting ready for bed.  I said to him, “I’m in protest.  I am not going to eat or sleep until I push this baby out.”  I don’t think he believed me.  I don’t know if I believed me.  But it ended up being true.

I walked for about an hour and a half but I could do it any more.  I was starting to swell up and my legs were getting really tired.  I laid down for about 30 minutes.  But I was determined.  I got up again.  I put on some headphones and listened to music and just walked the circle again and again.

By about 12:30 a.m. though, I decided I couldn’t do this all night.  I decided to go to bed.  So at 12:45 I laid down.  Contractions were coming, though, but not real close together.

Now everyone was asleep.  But I couldn’t sleep.  Not because I was in labor, but just because I was all done sleeping as a pregnant person.  I had been restless for about a month already.  

At about 2:15, with contractions still coming, I decided to get up and walk again.  I figured I could really speed this process up if I could just make myself walk a little more.  I knew the contractions were way more effective if I was on my feet.

I walked for 30 minutes, loud music in my earphones, using the length of songs to time the distance between contractions.  I was surprised to learn they were coming strong, every 3-4 minutes.  I decided to lie down at 2:45.  I knew that if they kept coming that close together even while I was resting, that I was probably actually in labor and that there may be no turning back.

They kept coming.  So at 3:15 I nudged Jimmy and told him that I wasn’t positive, but that we’d probably be heading the the hospital soon and he might want to get up and be coherent.  I started to get things packed up.  I put on my jeans, I got the camera and computer packed up, we woke up my mom.  When they continued to come strong every 3-4 minutes my mom and Jimmy wanted to get me there.

We left at about 3:50.  I told them that if I was anything less than 5 cm dilated that I wanted an epidural.  We argued about which way to drive to the hospital.  I pleaded with Jimmy to go slow on any bumps.  

We got there about 4.  Jimmy dropped me and my mom off at the door.  He would park the car and be right behind us.  In the elevator, I told my mom that the ladies at the triage desk would be real complacent and to not yell at them or anything.  Not that my mom ever would.  I was right.  When we walked up to the desk we had to stand there for quite a few seconds.  She finally acknowledged us and said, “why are you here?”  And I said, “Um, I’m in labor.” To which she replied, “Okay, let me finish processing this newborn paperwork and I’ll be right with you.”  I blame this on all the ladies who come into the hospital when they are NOT in labor but think they are.  Shame on you.  All of you.  At this point I have no patience for women with a low pain threshold.  Anyway, I had to fill out paperwork.  They had contacted me and told me I needed to do this, but I didn’t know I’d need to do it while in labor.  I had to walk away from the desk a few times during contractions; the pain being so bad I couldn’t stand still.

Eventually I made it back to a bed in triage.  I got out my free pass to call Dr. Brickler and not whoever was on call.  I made a comment to my nurses that it was kind of quiet tonight.  She quickly came back, "Girl, shut your mouth!" It was pretty funny.  I told her that when I get to seven I go quick, so we shouldn’t fool around.  After a few minutes she checked me and I was seven.  I knew it was go time.  An interesting thing happened too, when she checked me.  It was weird.  I smelled the smell of childbirth.  It was startling. It all became real at that moment.  I knew that soon I’d be pushing my baby out and I’d smell it again.

So I got back to the L&D room at about 5 a.m.  I walked around a little bit.  I used the bathroom.  I wanted to take a few more contractions standing up because I knew that once I laid down, I wouldn’t get back up.  Right after I got into the bed Dr. Brickler came in.  He'd been up since 4 something and had already been jogging.  This is who you want delivering your baby.  He checked me again.  I was 8-9.  He asked me if i wanted to go ahead and start pushing and just get the baby out.  I was feeling a small urge to push at the peak of my contractions, so I said sure.  He went to gown up.

He came back at 5:15.  I was wanting to push.  He had wanted to break my water but I asked him to wait.  I was getting such a good break between contractions that I was afraid to change anything.  He agreed to wait.

I started to push.  The nurse asked him to let her know when to call the baby nurse.  He nodded.  I think I actually thought I would only have to push once or twice.  After a few minutes I could tell I had some work to do.  I would wait for the contraction.  The crazy thing was, my contractions were still 3-4 minutes apart!  So there were a few times in between where we were all twiddling our thumbs, so to speak.  It was kind of awkward.  But things started to happen.  I was moving the baby down.  I would get frustrated when my pushing for that contraction was over and I knew I had to do it again.  I wanted to be done very badly.  Dr. Brickler did break my water after about 20 minutes or so of pushing.  I felt a little bit of relief.  I think things moved down a bit.  

When I pushed once and I heard my doctor say, “Okay, call them” I knew I was about to push the baby out.  I bore down really hard and the head was out.  I asked “Now what do I do?” and he said, “Relax.”  And I did.  For a few seconds.  Then I pushed a little more and I heard my doctor say, “Reach down here!”  And I said, “NO!” (gross!) but he insisted, “reach down here and deliver your baby!” and I did and pulled her little legs out and dragged her up on to my chest, smelling that delivery smell and talking to her and feeling SO much better.  

You are almost in disbelief that you’ve done it, and mostly I am in disbelief at how amazing God is and how generous and gracious He is to have given me a perfect human being.  She was so big!  And beautiful and wonderful.

My mom had been rubbing my forehead and saying encouraging things to me.  Jimmy too of course, but I remember mom rubbing my forehead because just the day before Juliet had not been feeling well and I held her on the couch and rubbed her forehead in exactly the same way in an attempt to make her feel better.  I told mom how much I enjoyed that- especially because I had done it to my own child just the day before.

And then, you are post partem.  And though it is an ending to pregnancy, it is a beginning of something else.  The immediate post partem is not super fun, but it is waning...I am nearly three weeks out as I type this.  I still feel some of the physical challenges and still don’t want to bend over, even though I can much more easily.  I am desperate to lose my weight, but not so desperate to do anything desperate.  I’m feeling like a breastfeeding machine and am enjoying every minute my baby sleeps on me, because I know it doesn’t last nearly long enough.

I love you baby Violet!  You are my last birth story and you are wonderful.

Costumes 2015

The Alley house is currently being rented this weekend so we are in Brandon, FL for Halloween.  We have already enjoyed First Baptist's Fall Festival and we will go to Calvary Chapel Brandon this evening.  It is nice to already have the photo session over with- now, if their costumes get messed up at least we have captured it all for posterity.
 Here they all are.  Jackson decided not to dress up, but I had him put on the George Bush mask so he could be in our photo.  Violet is scared of George Bush.
 Juliet is Rainbow Dash.  This is the second time we've had a Rainbow Dash in the mix.
 Penelope is a bird.  She wanted to be a peacock, but we both had a pretty difficult time with the fact that peacocks are male birds.  So she's just a bird.  She's my bird.

 Cash has rocked his Hulk costume hard this year.  Has been wearing it around the house for over a week.  I didn't know the Hulk had a sensitive side, but you can see here his rage stopped long enough for him to kiss his muscles.

Libby is a baker and Violet is a cupcake.  It is fun and fitting for these two to have costumes that go together.  They love each other.  

Candy! Costumes!  Fun.


So, a mom walks into a bar...

A couple weeks ago something wonderful happened.  Jimmy and I went out on a double date with our very best of friends, Spencer and Carey Mitchell.  And we didn't have babysitters.  We left our very capable teenagers in charge of their siblings and we went out. 

Let's just pause for a moment to relish in the significance of this unprecedented event.

(Still relishing...)

Okay.  Moving on.  It really was a wonderful thing.  We went to an arcade/bar in Midtown (where Jimmy and I dominated in a couple vs. couple Foosball game and then Carey schooled me in Ms. PacMan) and then out for shakes and fries at a burger joint.

Without children.  Without paying money for a babysitter (we pay ours in room, board, and screen time).  It was a super fun night.

Jimmy mentioned it again this week, how it was as if we'd "arrived".  For you see, ever since little Jackson popped out 14 years ago we have been practically prisoners in our own home.  But no more.  Jimmy said how he'd like to go back to the arcade.  How it was fun and how he felt like an adult. (Usually we are regulated to kids night and places with a playground.)

Even though I had a wonderful evening and look back at it with lots of fondness, I replied, "I don't really want to go back there right away."

Jimmy said, "Why not?"

And I realized. Going to a bar/arcade wasn't much of an escape.  At a bar/arcade it's loud.  And there's no where to sit.  And you have to yell to be heard.  And it's not really very clean.  And it's loud.  Did I mention it was loud? Do you see the parallels?  At my house I never sit down.  I'm in a room full of loud people who play games (and drink/eat a lot) and I have to yell to be heard.  And it's really dirty.  You never know what you might find in the bathroom, or really, you might find dirty underwear just lying in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Why would I want to go to an arcade with a bar to escape my normal life?  I live in a bar!

But just as I wouldn't trade our night out with our best friends for anything, I wouldn't give up my every day life no matter how crazy, loud, and dirty it is.  My whole life is a night on the town.

And there is one more parallel.  I told Jimmy, "I liked the milkshake part of the date.  When it was quiet and we could talk and relax."  Because this is me every night when I shut down the arcade, go into my room and close the door, and eat ice cream in the peace and quiet.

I should leave a "tip jar" on the kitchen island or charge quarters to open the game cabinet.  Or maybe I'm taking this metaphor a little too far...