It’s Fall, Ya’ll

(As I write this there is half an inch of snow on the ground, so that title might be misleading, but snow on the ground on November 3 in Seattle is unprecedented, at least in my 21 years of living here, so it must be noted.)

It’s been six months since I’ve touched this blog, and that’s due largely to the little seven month old who lights up our days.  He couldn’t be easier, as babies go, but because he’s twenty-five percent of a quad, I’ve struggled to want to do anything productive in my free time (free time being defined as time not spent on cleaning or chores or anything household- or child-related).

So here we are!

Long-time readers, (and I do mean long time), might remember this number on other offspring:

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Any excuse to bring these cherubs back to the page:

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I love that Henry and Arden are pumpkins at just three months, swimming in the six-month-size onesies, and Jameson at seven months is bursting through the buttons.

We’ve had several big firsts around here, the first one leading to the others: Henry and Arden have started preschool for the first time, at age four.  They love those three mornings a week enormously, and it makes us all feel like we’re on an adventure with them.  Like their first field trip, which we embarked on together.

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Side note: Mike having a job that allows him this kind of freedom is priceless, and I do not take it for granted…until I do, as we shall see.

This field trip was by-the-book, as field trips go, largely peaceful and full of farmland, pumpkins, tractor rides, and lessons on nitrogen.

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We cruised through it all, happy-go-lucky, until 10:45AM approached and Mike decided, along with another dad friend of ours, that he should head to the office.  I totally understood and we all kissed him goodbye as the teacher said something about a slide in a barn being our next activity.

I herded the kids into the barn and looked up at an enormous, incredibly steep slide cascading down a mountain of hay.  Fun! was my first thought.  Arden and Henry took off toward the ladder that led to the top, toting sack cloths to slide on.  I had Jameson in the stroller and Hunter by my side as we watched them climb.

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And then I noticed that they, along with all the other preschoolers, were struggling to mount each step of the ladder, for two reasons.  First, because it was constructed of hay, and second, because each step was nearly as tall as they were.

I looked at Hunter and the baby, weighing my options.  A handful of other parents were already resigned to making the climb to hoist their progeny to the top.  A young farm-hand was holding a bale of hay over his head, readying it to make the steps shorter and easier to climb…until the bale combusted in his arms and sprayed in all directions, and he stood there, not knowing how to proceed.

Meanwhile, a dad had taken pity on Arden and helped her up a step, while Henry turned to holler down at me to help him up.

I bent to Hunter, telling him to stay with the baby, then realized that was a fool’s request and grabbed him to hustle up the hay mountain. I lifted Henry and Hunter up each enormous step, glancing down at Jameson to see him starting to fuss.  I suppressed a mild feeling of panic and reminded myself I was surrounded only by preschoolers and their parents, all of whom would surely be understanding.

I lifted them both up another step, laughing as I realized I was barely tall enough to scale them myself — how were four year olds expected to climb?

At the top, Arden wasted no time flying down the slide, but the boys wanted me to ride with them.  I hurried them onto my lap as I saw Jameson crying with a mom leaning over his stroller to comfort him; I dug deep into my four years of mothering to chant “not a big deal, not a big deal” when every part of me wanted to yell “WHY AM I HERE ALONE?”

It was surprisingly steep and we flew to the bottom, only to see them jump up and expect to do it countless more times.  I ran over to Jameson to console him and caught the eye of my friend Anne, also-deserted wife, who said, “Where are they NOW, when it’s INSANE?” which made me feel a hundred times better.

Fast-forward a few slide rides and they all raced over to what can only be called the corn pit — a foot-deep and twenty-foot-long hole filled with hard kernels of corn for playing, like a sandbox.  They tore off their shoes and were lost in the melee in seconds, just as I realized it was time for the baby to eat.

Yep, I nodded to myself, this is happening.  I am going to breastfeed in a barn.

I snuck over to a bale of hay somewhat tucked behind a piece of farm machinery and metaphorically squashed my modesty like a fresh cow pie.

No one could see anything, because this isn’t my first rodeo, but that was cold comfort when an entire class of first graders marched past me from the other end of the barn.  I could practically see the thought bubbles above their heads comparing me to an actual cow giving milk.

I had a pleasant conversation with a fellow preschool mom friend, temporarily losing track of my three corn pit excavators.  I called jacket and hat colors to her from her privileged standing vantage point and we vaguely located each of them.

I finished nursing, spotted Anne and said, “Where are they, INDEED,” and then made the astute choice to ring the dinner bell on this situation.  I rounded up my sheep and marched out of there, shivering less from the crisp fall air than from the relief of this country carnival coming to an end.

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I love when my children’s expressions mirror my interior emotions.

I also love being an expert blogger, getting all children in the frame and a gorgeous red barn standing proudly in the background.  You’re welcome.

I am told there are more preschool field trips ahead.  Is this true, fellow mama bears?  Where shall I find myself breastfeeding next?  An old-growth forest?  A wind-whipped coast?  Beside glazed-eyed gorillas in the zoo?

Preschool is more intense than I anticipated.

P.S.  Speaking of fall, Hunter was Gaston for Halloween, and it was five-dozen-eggs, large-as-a-barge fantastic.

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A Day in the Life When We Were Still Five

We are now a party of six, and I want to remember those special days when it was Henry and Arden, age 3.5, and Hunter, age 22 months, so I wrote this two months ago.  It will be a total snooze to anyone but me, but a blogger’s gotta do what a blogger’s…you get it.

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7:05AM Thanks to daylight savings time, the kids are now waking at this perfectly reasonable hour.  We’ve spent years rising between 6 and 6:30, but we’ve implemented the toddler alarm clock (only for the twins, Hunter is too young) and it’s done wonders.  Right now it is set for 7:15AM, so they usually chat from 7:00 until it turns green at 7:15 and then they toddle into our room.

Hunter has already called “Dada!  Dada!  MAMA!” so he’s in-between us in our bed, holding his stuffed puppy and sucking his thumb.  This is the most glorious time, as he loves to just lay quietly with us until the twins arrive.

7:15AM  Not one minute late, the twins walk into our room, each holding a blanket and a stuffed animal or doll.  They crawl into our bed and snuggle or cavort around until Mike gets in the shower.

7:45AM  Mike is getting ready for the day and I lumber my big belly out of bed and start getting dressed.  I change Hunter’s diaper and verbally facilitate the twins getting dressed.  For Arden this involves asking her at least half a dozen times to get going, for Henry this requires absolutely nothing; he always gets dressed on his own initiation.

8AM Breakfast time — I make everybody either eggs, toast and fruit, or oatmeal with cinnamon, banana and seeds, or a green smoothie.  Mike rolls in and makes his coffee and we all sit down to eat.

8:20AM Mike kisses the crew and heads to work, and I begin cleanup while the kids all do an independent activity.  Usually they each read, or play in the living room (that is actually a playroom), or put some music on to start our day.

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8:40AM  I check the calendar, pay any bills, check email, get my head organized about what needs to happen that day.

8:45AM  If it’s…
Monday — we head to Toddler Time at the gym to burn some energy.  I pack lunch ahead so we can spend more time there and there’s less to do upon returning.
Tuesday — we go to Bible Study at church, with me getting two glorious hours of worship, teaching, interacting with adults, small group time, and two uninterrupted cups of tea.  The kids get loads of stimulation and interaction with other kids in children’s ministry.  Everybody wins.
Wednesday — Nonni day!  My mom comes over at 9:30AM and spends the day with us and it is fantastic.
Thursday — twice a month we have MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) which is a lot like Bible Study in that I am with other moms for two hours with brunch and lots of chatting, and the kids are in children’s ministry doing crafts, stories, play time, etc.  On non-MOPS days I try to arrange playdates.
Friday — Nana day!  My mama-in-love comes over at 9:30AM and spends the day with us and we love it.

12PM  I make lunch while they play or read.

12:20PM  Lunch time

12:40PM  I clean up lunch and then spend half an hour reading to them, or playing, or doing whatever my body will allow me to do at that point.  I can’t chase them anymore, or spend more than a minute or two sitting on the ground, but we find ways around this.

1:15PM Nap time!  All three down and all the hallelujahs.  I spend the first part of naps eating lunch if I didn’t eat with them, then doing a chore.  Mon: kids laundry plus dusting and vacuuming downstairs (though I usually vacuum earlier or after nap to reduce noise), Tues: our laundry plus dusting and vacuuming upstairs, Wed: clean kitchen, Thurs: bathrooms, Fri: break.  Then I usually have 45 minutes to an hour to rest, which I spend emailing, reading, blogging, or budgeting.

3:15PM  Their alarm clock light tells them it’s okay to get up, but often Henry will wake up around 3PM and whisper “Mom!  Mom!” and I’ll sneak him out of his room and we’ll read books downstairs before the others are up.  Hunter often sleeps until 3:45.

4PM  If it’s not raining, we go outside after nap and a quick snack.  Riding bikes, going on a walk, playing in the yard — whatever we can do to be outside and burn some energy and get some fresh air.  Nowadays it’s hard for me because simply standing without taking a quick sit break makes me contract more frequently, so this part of the day is good but hard.  The kids aren’t old enough to be out front without an adult, so I really have to be physically present at all times.  Thankfully, our dear family friends gave us their super safe trampoline (only a foot off the ground, totally netted), which we put in the backyard.  So now I can release the hounds to the backyard and start dinner and they’re perfectly safe.  This is a saving grace just in time for the baby and for spring.

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5PM  My brain is officially on countdown mode until Mike walks through the door.  Most days I can start dinner without him there, but if they really want to stay outside I’m stuck until he’s home.

5:30PM  Daddy’s home!  As soon as he arrives, all the kids barrel up the stairs with him to change.  This is exactly as Mr Rogers as it sounds.  He changes out of his suit and into casual clothes, and Henry insists on doing the same.  Even if he was wearing play clothes all day, Henry will change into another set of play clothes so he’s just like Daddy.  It’s adorable.  Then they all wrestle on the bed and play and laugh while I start dinner allllll by myself.  It is a lovely reprieve.

6PM  Dinner time.

6:30PM  Our agreement is that Mike cleans up dinner since I cooked it, but most of the time I just want him to play with the kids because they miss him, and also because I am burned out from playing with them all day, so I actually prefer the cleanup.

7:10PM  Head upstairs for bedtime routine: bath (every other to every third day), pajamas, teeth, story time.

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7:30PM  Lights out.

7:40PM  Parental fiesta!!!!!  At nine months pregnant, this looks like asking Mike to do some sort of nesting chore, and then we have snacks and watch something on Netflix.

10PM  Bed.  Another day on the books.

P.S.  Lest I give the impression this is all a smooth operation, there are moments of stress and chaos so acute I think I’m going to run screaming from the house.  That’s when, at least a couple of times a week, I call in the big guns…TV.

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Those glazed expressions mirror my own.  They need a break from me as much as I do from them.  Glory, glory.

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It’s a BOY! Welcome, Jameson!

It’s a boy!  Our third son and fourth child has arrived!

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On Thursday, March 23 at 7:30AM, we welcomed our precious baby Jameson Wendell Reph into the world and our long-waiting arms.

It was instant love.

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He was 8 lb 12 oz, also my exact birth weight.  He felt and appeared feather-light to us, due to him coming out a full two pounds lighter than his predecessor.  All the nurses would pick him up and exclaim at how big he was, and we’d sort of stare at them like, not to us, ladies…not to us.

He is the sweetest. He sleeps constantly. He only wakes twice a night to feed and then returns to his preferred state of unconsciousness. This is more than we could have hoped for in a fourth child.  God is indeed merciful.

We can’t get over how blonde he is.  It’s white hair.  Mike also had this hair at birth, which is charming.

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Henry always checks on him. “Where’s that baby? Where’s Jameson? Who is staying with him when we go to the gym? You, Mom?”  Henry is like his security detail.

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Arden would like to eat him whole. She runs to the couch and says, “Give me that baby!  I want to hold my precious baby boy. I love him so much I can’t bear it. He is the cutest baby I have ever seen.”  These are actual quotes.

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Kindly disregard this pink blanket.  He peed on the blue one previously wrapped around him.

Hunter looks in his bassinet every morning and exclaims “Baby!” and then tries to give him a toy. If Jameson is already awake, he comes over to kiss him, first on the head, then smack on the lips. It’s like an opiate to see a baby baby a baby. Did you follow that noun-verb-noun usage? I hope so.

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Their embrace of him does frightening things to my mama heart, or maybe my uterus. I see how they love their new sibling and I say to Mike, “We’re having a dozen children.”  This makes for super fun facial expressions of pure fear.

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Second to our love for Jameson is our gratitude that his birth went so well.  The scheduled surgery went as planned without complication, and my recovery is steady.  The Lord’s protection and love were evident and gave us great peace.  If you are one of the many who joined us in praying on that special day, we are so, so grateful.  Thank you, thank you.

I’m eager to tell the story but it will be far less exciting, though no less extraordinary, than those of his siblings; the birth of every baby is miraculous and remarkable.  We’re just glad that this time the outcome was wholly positive.

 

For now, we’re reveling in this little life, this tiny baby we will treasure forever in our newfound family of six.

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Hunter’s Birth Story, Part Three

For Part One, click here.

For Part Two, click here.

Mike and the nurse helped me into the adjoining bathroom and sat me on the toilet.  I was anxious because I could feel that I actually had to go, and peeing for the first time post-catheter made me tense up.  The nurse coached me, telling me to just release and let go, and she and Mike never left the bathroom.

The instant I released the pressure to urinate, I felt a searing pain as if I’d dropped a match on an internal line of gasoline, ripping through my abdomen like nothing I’d ever felt.  It was acid – a sharp stab – it was unmistakable that something had gone wrong inside of me.  I screamed.

Mike and the nurse stared in alarm as I screamed louder, hollering that something was wrong, that something had ripped me apart.  They both froze for what seemed like minutes but I’m sure was only seconds, trying to understand what was happening.  I couldn’t believe I was actually screaming, and that no one was doing anything.  I yelled, “Get a doctor!  Call someone!” And, to show you how truly freaked out of my mind I was, I yelled, “WHAT THE F— IS HAPPENING?!”  Because I honestly couldn’t comprehend how no one had pressed an alarm, or gone shouting down the hall, or rushed me somewhere urgent.

Maybe it’s my years of journalism school, but I don’t trust myself to be completely accurate and objective with my recall of such a traumatizing event.  So I asked my sister Erin, who was the only other person in the room (holding Hunter for us), if she would share what happened.

“What I remember most is the scream that came from your mouth,” she said. “It was guttural and horrifying. A short time after you went into the bathroom with the nurse and Mike, I heard a scream of pain unlike any I have heard before. Simultaneously I had three thoughts: 1) I have to do something to help you; 2) I have to find my mom and; 3) I have to stay calm for Hunter. I started praying immediately because that’s the only thing I could do.”

The nurse told me they were going to move me back to the bed to be examined.  I started to cry from the pain of having to move, not believing that I could.

Erin said, “You were stuck in the bathroom for several minutes because you were unable to walk through the pain. The nurse and Mike were finally able to help/carry you back to the bed and you were in agony.”

They hoisted me up and I walked to the bed and got in, trying to answer their questions and describe what I’d felt.  I was hysterical, and I’m never hysterical.

“You kept repeating, ‘Something is wrong, something is not right,’ and the

nurse eventually started to believe that you might be telling the truth,” Erin said.  “You begged for your doctor to be called.”

After asking for the doctor repeatedly, Mike put his hands over me and started praying out loud that the Lord would intervene, help me, help us to understand and know what to do, that He would bring healing.  I calmed down as he prayed and was surprised to see the nurse standing next to the bed praying with us, tears rolling down her face.  She was truly scared and felt helpless, and kept trying to think of what more she could do.

Around this time, my mom came back down the hall with the twins.  Erin told me they wanted to come in, but I said no because I didn’t want them to see me in such distress.  My mom had to stay with them, and Erin wasn’t allowed to leave the room with Hunter, so we were all trapped where we were.

When my doctor arrived, I described what had happened and she stood by my bed and listened.  She hadn’t performed the c-section simply because of scheduling, so I hadn’t seen her since first being admitted.

She was immediately condescending, saying, “You’re fine, your body is still fresh from surgery and in pain, there’s nothing wrong with your vitals and you’re okay.”  I knew she was wrong, and I don’t say that lightly because I had enormous respect and trust built with her, as she was the same doctor who’d delivered our twins.  I knew she wasn’t listening to me, and was being dismissive, and it made me feel small and insane.

Erin said, “You had to fight your doctor for an exam and she finally did, begrudgingly. The doctor barely touched you and after 4.5 seconds, concluded that nothing was wrong and you were overreacting after your C-section.”

I asked her several times, “Please, just examine me, please, I know something is wrong, something happened.”  And she would just repeat again, “Abby, I am examining you, I am assessing you right now, and you’re okay.”  As a person who takes pride in being reasonable and having all of her faculties intact, I backed down and began to accept that I wasn’t going to convince her of anything.  Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe it was just pain at my bladder releasing the first urine after surgery.

After she left the room, I told my family that I knew something was wrong, but what was I going to do?  The nurse said we’d monitor my urination output and pain.  And that was the end of that.

I was still very upset and cautious that something was wrong and would only worsen, and I was gobsmacked when later that afternoon the nurse came and started discussing my departure that evening, which was Tuesday.

“WHAT?” I replied, as she looked over paperwork.

“The doctor says you can discharge on time this evening,” she said evenly.

“There is no way that I am leaving this hospital hours after one of the scariest moments of my life, that I’m not at all convinced was nothing,” I said to her.  “You can tell her that.”

She got a look on her face that acknowledged she would not fight me on this, and backed out of the room to tell the doctor my message.

The rest of the day, in between snuggling sweet Hunter, nursing, eating, and trying to rest, the nurse would help me to the bathroom to pee.  Barely a trickle would come out.  They put a measuring device in the toilet to see that I was peeing an adequate amount, and I wasn’t.

I was still hooked up to an IV, so we knew I was properly hydrated, but we all said maybe the nursing was draining my fluids or my body just needed the hydration and wasn’t creating a lot of urine.

All night and the next morning I’d report my teensy amounts of pee to the nurse and she’d write it in my chart.  I didn’t have any remaining pain in my abdomen like I’d had when it occurred, so the next day I was sent home.

At home, I became unwell.  My abdomen grew larger instead of smaller, my color turned from healthy to pale to gray, and I was in inexplicable pain.

I’d had a c-section with the twins so I knew what healthy recovery felt like.  This wasn’t it.

It’s incredible what we’ll tell ourselves, the mental hoops we’ll jump through to deny that anything is wrong.  I wasn’t peeing, but I told myself and whomever asked that it must be all the nursing and fluids my body needed.  My belly was huge and tight, but I told myself that it was just swollen from such a large baby and would take more time to decompress.  I was in so much pain I couldn’t lay down, sleep, or let the kids touch my stomach in any way, but I told myself it was just a lousy recovery and I’d be fine soon.

The photo below was taken early afternoon on Thursday, one day after arriving home.  The boppy pillow is sitting high on my oversized abdomen, and my skin is beginning to pale.

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Finally on Friday morning, the day of my follow-up appointment, I felt an alarm bell ringing in my head that physically I couldn’t wait for the mid-afternoon appointment.  I had been up all night, sitting in a chair, staring into my dark bedroom, unable to function or sleep from pain, and in the morning I just knew.

I called the hospital and described what I was feeling and the nurse said I needed to be admitted immediately.  I paused.  I didn’t reply.  She sensed my hesitation.

“Abby,” she said.  “Will you go?  Will you do what I’m telling you to do?”

I couldn’t answer.  In my head I thought, “I’m probably overthinking this.  I’m probably fine.  I’ll look like an idiot if I go in.  I have to feed the baby, I can’t be away from him.”

“Abby,” she said again.  “Are you going to come in?  You need to be seen.”

I couldn’t lie.  “I don’t know,” I said.  “But thank you for your help.”

I called my dad.  I’m not sure why; I just needed to hear his voice.  I told him about my conversation with the nurse and he sounded like he would reach through the phone and shake me by the shoulders.  Go IN, he said.  This is NOT negotiable.

To this day my mama-in-love says she’ll never forget the sight of me that morning when she came by for a visit.  My skin was grayer than gray, a blank expression on my face.

So I went.

Amazingly, the doctor who had performed my c-section was present that morning instead of my regular doctor (who had dismissed my concerns), and able to see me right as I arrived.  He took one look at me and I knew instantly that I wasn’t insane.  It was like his stunned expression gave me permission to admit I was deeply unwell.

He rapped his fingers against my abdomen and stood back, eyes wide.

“It’s solid,” he said softly, to the nurse or maybe to us.  Then he gave quick instructions to the two nurses present, for a catheter and a bladder ultrasound. After examining me using those and asking me exactly what happened that day after my c-section, that incident, he quickly concluded that my bladder had ruptured.

Mike and I couldn’t believe this — my bladder burst?  THAT was pain I’d felt?!  We stared at him in shock.

He rushed me to surgery, first to the emergency room and then up to the surgical floor.  All I could think about was Hunter, who we’d brought with us to the appointment.  Who would feed him?  Who would care for him?  He’s not even a week old and he’s to be separated from his mother?!  I was devastated.

My family assured me they would take shifts; they would care for him.  My best friend Siri said she would give him her frozen breastmilk so he’d have plenty.  We all prayed he would take a bottle.

After surgery, the doctor met with us and told us several facts that we continue to marvel at to this day:

  •  the urologist repaired a six centimeter tear in my bladder
  • they removed nine liters of urine from my abdomen; nearly two and a half gallons.
  • the surgical room was filled with unnecessary surgeons, OBGYNs and doctors who wanted to observe what not a single one of them had ever seen before in their careers — bladder rupture from a birth
  • my liver was in great distress from being overwhelmed at having to process the toxins
  • I was gray because my body was being poisoned from the inside out.  If I’d continued to ignore my symptoms it could have been life-threatening.

But, by God’s grace, it wasn’t.  Jesus rang the alarm in my head, He prompted me to call and get help.  He provided care and milk for Hunter, and grandparents to care for the twins.  He rescued me when I was too blind to help myself.

What I know for sure: I was never abandoned.  The Lord was very near; through every uncertainty, His faithfulness never wavered.  We serve a God of love and great compassion, and His presence carried me through the darkness.

The change in my health was immediate — my color restored, the light came back to my eyes, my abdomen started to shrink considerably and my liver began functioning properly.  The doctors, nurses, and my family all couldn’t believe the difference in my appearance and behavior.

Saturday morning I was well enough for the children to visit, and I would’ve leapt out of that bed at my baby boy if I’d been able.

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I laugh looking at him here because he’s a day short of being a week old and he covers my body like a three month old.

Being with him, holding him, smelling his newborn smell and feeling his unspeakably soft skin broke my heart afresh.  The excruciating physical ordeal was nothing compared to the agony of being separated from my baby in his first precious days.  I couldn’t even nurse him when he visited because the drugs in my body were too strong.

Luckily he had no complaints about taking a bottle, and I pumped every three hours every day to be sure I wouldn’t lose my supply.

On Sunday morning the whole family came to visit again, and we could see our ordeal was coming to an end.

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The doctor said I could leave that night, and I went home Sunday, May 17, one week after Hunter’s birth.

I walked into my home and my mom and mama-in-love greeted me with baby Hunter, a clean house, sleeping twins, and a little table next to the couch with water, snacks, and a new People magazine for the long recovery ahead.  I felt so loved and reassured.

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Mostly I felt overwhelming peace at being reunited with my baby, able to hold him, feed him and care for him.

The weeks that followed were some of the hardest of our lives thus far.  I was on strict order to spend every day seated or lying, focusing only on healing and feeding Hunter.  This left whomever was with me to care entirely for the twins, as well as carry Hunter to and away from me based on his needs (I couldn’t pick him up yet).

For at least the first week we had to have three adults there (including me) to manage all of this, and help care for me, too.  My mom and mama-in-love were at our house very often, but Erin was the most present of all.  We were all amazed that because she was between jobs, God arranged for her to be such an enormous help to us in this intense season.  She was with us nearly every day for months, and we can never thank her enough.

Part of this help involved the utterly humbling task of emptying my catheter bag, which I couldn’t do for myself because it was strapped to my lower leg and I couldn’t bend down more than a few inches.  Never have I known such limited mobility, or such helplessness. Nor had I ever had to swallow my pride so acutely for this humiliating task, several times a day.

When we took our vows, Mike and I never imagined that not in our eighties, but in our early thirties, he would be escorting me to the bathroom first thing in the morning and emptying my very full catheter bag, cleaning it, and reassembling it.  Never did we imagine that he’d help me down the stairs, while also carrying an infant and making sure two 21-month-olds were following safely behind.  Never did we know that he would have to adjust to a new baby with a wife who literally couldn’t pull her weight, instead needing almost as much care as the infant.

But we did it.  We asked God for grace and strength and hour by hour we walked out of that bomb shelter, not into glorious light, but certainly into the dawn.

And to prove how quickly we bounced back, on June 6, a mere 22 days after the bladder surgery (and once the catheter was removed for good!), we packed the kids in the car and took a day trip to Anacortes.

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Mama-in-love took the lead and we couldn’t have gone without her.

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It was the first day that we felt we’d turned a corner.

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Thanks be to God that the bladder is the most easily healed organ in the human body.  Today I don’t have a trace of a sign that any of this happened.

…apart from the precautions and modifications my doctor is taking as we prepare for baby number four.  A scheduled c-section is non-negotiable, and we’ll be staying at the hospital an extra night to be sure all is well before we depart for home.

With that, I welcome your prayers on March 23 for an uneventful experience — apart from the life-changing event of meeting our fourth baby, of course!   We are excited and thrilled and nervous and hopeful.

We call on Psalm 91, where David writes (changed to she),

“She who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge;

His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

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Note: There are huge swaths of the story I chose not to include: several MRIs, internal ink-bladder scans, countless trips to the urologist,  much scarier pre-surgery photos, the details of the second hospital stay, our follow-up meeting with the doctor who ignored me (!) and much more of the recovery process at home.  Instead I wanted to share the essence of the story, and the emotional elements.  Otherwise this could have been a dozen-part tale, and nobody wants that (least of all me). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hunter’s Birth Story, Part Two

For Part One, click here.

We jumped right into pushing, with Mike and my mom each holding a leg and me pushing for ten seconds, three times per contraction.  I was so excited, so positive and convinced that this might actually work and I might be able to experience pushing a baby out of my body.  The epidural was working but gave me enough sensation that I could move my legs or change position without a lot of trouble.

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Pushing must have been my nurse’s forte, because suddenly she was bright and optimistic.  Perhaps she was anticipating the delivery and therefore conclusion of dealing with me in labor?  Perhaps it was nearing the end of her shift?  Perhaps she genuinely was excited?  I’ll never know, but she dropped the sass and became Susie Sunshine for the next few hours.

We tried different positions and kept the pushing consistent as the hands wound round the clock.  I had no concept of time as I labored, elated and anticipating meeting the baby whose gender I didn’t even know.  The nurse kept saying, “I can see hair!  It’s getting closer!” And I would surge with energy and push all the harder.  My mom later told me that she was watching and the baby was not getting any closer, and as each hour passed she wished the nurse would stop giving me false hope.  Looking back now, I’m actually glad she encouraged me because I wanted to give it all I had, and I don’t know if I could have if I’d been told I wasn’t making progress.

The doctor checked in periodically and reached his hand inside to try to manipulate the baby’s head a bit to assist.  It was so intense it felt like he was reaching to the back of my throat.

The epidural started to wane, and I pushed the little button to deliver more of it.  Minutes would pass and I’d only feel more sensation, more pain, and I started to mildly panic.  I told the nurse the drug wasn’t working anymore; I could feel the contractions and pain with every push.  She told me it was likely working but I was just getting worn down after hours of pushing.  I told her the statistics about redheads and anesthesia (we have high drug tolerance so typical pain management is often inadequate).  She seemed irritated by this and became impatient that I was focusing on my pain.

She told me to get on all fours and try to push that way, and just getting into that position was a laugh riot in itself.  As soon as I started to push my body erupted in pain and I told her I couldn’t deliver a baby like a dog.  I returned to my back and the contractions started to come faster, and when they came I reverted to breathing to cope with them, and the nurse noticed this and said, “No, you’ve got to keep pushing!”  To which I replied, in desperation, “I can’t do both!  I can either cope with the pain or push but I can’t do both!  The drugs aren’t working!”  And she said, which I still can’t believe, “Well, what do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t have these drugs?  You wouldn’t have a choice.  You have to push!”  I felt venom run through my veins and gave Mike the universal wife glare to please clock this lady at his first opportunity.

Luckily he was still in his rational mind.

After another hour of pushing with nothing to show for it, the doctor came in to talk to me about having a cesarean.  I shook my head in denial and disbelief, saying I hadn’t come this far to quit; I was determined to have a vaginal delivery.  He was completely calm and drenched his words in kindness, and he explained that four hours of pushing with almost no progress was a sure sign that the baby wasn’t coming, and this was the best thing to ensure the health of both of us.

“Abby,” he said compassionately, “if you were my wife, I’d already have you prepped for surgery.  No question.”

I stopped talking then.  I sat quietly and then told him I just needed a minute to accept it.  He left the room and I broke down crying.

I asked why?  Why was this happening?  How had we come so far and had this happen again?  How had all of my effort lead to surgery again?  Was something wrong with me?  With my body?  All of my family members came into the room and poured love over me, saying again and again that this wasn’t a failure, this was a saving grace, and thank God there was this operation to help us meet this baby.  I cried quietly and then nodded, and the doctor came back in and we prepared to head to the operating room.

By this point the epidural had worn off almost entirely, and the pain was almost unbearable.  They wheeled me down the hall and I couldn’t stop repeating “How much longer?  How long until they do the full block?  How many minutes exactly!?”  I can’t describe the pain because I can’t remember what it felt like, but I can remember never having felt more desperate or scared in my entire life.  I thought the pain would make me faint.

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When they sat me up to move me to the surgical bed I held onto Mike and begged him to do something, do anything to help.  He felt incredible pressure and pain at seeing me like this, and would ask “How long until you can help her?  How many minutes?” And when they said six more minutes I cried again thinking there had never been such a long period of time.  Writing this feels utterly pathetic, but I can’t overstate my misery.

At that point, my lowest by far, the nurse said to every doctor and nurse in attendance, “This one has a lot of questions,” with a look of total contempt.  She might as well have said, “This one is a handful,” to all the people about to deliver my child.  I couldn’t believe it, but I also didn’t have mental energy to give to her.

Finally the anesthesiologist inserted the block and they laid me down to begin.

Since the pain had abated, Mike and I refocused on the importance of what was about to happen: we were about to meet our third baby.

We reminded the doctor that we didn’t know the gender, and that Mike wanted to be the one to announce it to me.  The doctor made his incision and described what he was doing to me, and then said, “You’re going to feel some pressure…” and then he and the other doctor gasped as they glimpsed our baby.

“What!?” we said, convinced something was wrong.

“It’s HUGE!  It’s a toddler!!” they exclaimed, laughing.  And then he lifted our precious baby high in the air for us to see.

“Abby!!!  It’s a BOY!!!” Mike beamed at me, radiant with joy.

And there he was; extraordinary, perfect baby Hunter.

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Everything slowed to a quiet hum as they laid him across my chest and I kissed the softest newborn skin and said hello to his perfect chin, chubby cheeks, and plump round body resting against my heart.

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The pain and exhaustion disappeared, replaced with absolute peace and gratitude.  Mike leaned in and we greeted our baby with overwhelming love, amazed that this was our son.

Our son whose size no one could get over, by the way.  The doctors kept chatting about him as they stitched me up.

“Easily my biggest baby of the year,” my doctor told the room.

Every nurse called out bets, all in agreement that he was over ten pounds, it was just a question of how much.

He was born looking like a three month old, and it was pure joy to witness.

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He weighed ten pounds, eleven ounces.

His size also made it immediately obvious to everyone why he wouldn’t come out the traditional way.  The doctor launched right into how he was simply too large for my body to push out, and had he come that way, I would have likely needed surgery to repair the extensive damage.

I was flooded with relief, and also shame at having been so angry at how he needed to get here.  Even though he didn’t come the way I’d dreamed, God still gave me so many gifts in what I didn’t get to experience with the twins: my water breaking, going into labor naturally, laboring to eight centimeters before resting, pushing with all my strength (okay I did also get to experience that with the twins).  Seeing how large he was allowed me to turn my disappointment into great gratitude for us meeting each other in perfect health, just as we were meant to.

In one of the happiest experiences of our lives, we were wheeled down the hall to a crowd of waiting family, me in the bed and Mike walking next to me holding Hunter, and he yelled, “It’s a boy!” to enormous cheers.  I shared his name with everyone and then we went into our room to let everyone meet him.

The next morning (since he was born at 8:02PM, it was past the twins’ bedtime) Henry and Arden came to meet their little brother for the first time.

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They were like…what baby?  My mom is in a bed.  This is not normal.  Are there any snacks?

Others were more interested.

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We couldn’t get over his dark hair and skin that was much more olive than Henry or Arden’s.

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Not surprisingly, he was a great eater and sleeper right from the start, which we credited to his enormous size.  He was such a contented baby, and we delighted in him.

A day after he was born, it was time to remove my catheter to get my body back in order.  I asked for a little more time, even six hours, because it was so painful and difficult to get in and out of bed to use the bathroom.  The nurse on duty said she would delay it a few more hours, but it would be out by early the next morning.  I agreed, gratefully.

The next morning a new nurse arrived and removed the catheter, and soon afterward asked that I try urinating to make sure things were working as they should.

They weren’t, and so began the most agonizing ordeal of my life.

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Part Three coming soon.

 

 

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Hunter’s Birth Story

Remember that one time I had a baby and promised I would tell his birth story before he was 21 months old?  You probably don’t, because you have a life, but I do, and it haunts me. Hunter turns 21 months old on February 10, so I’m keeping my promise by the most anorexic of margins.  I originally made that odd-numbered-month promise because that’s how long it took me to write the story of the twins’ birth.

I know procrastination had a starring role, but the other lead actors in my failure to record his birth actually involve his birth: it was an emotional and unexpected series of events, and the drama of circumstances after his birth made me recoil at the thought of writing it all down.  I’m still not sure how much of his post-birth story I’m going to share, because it’s very personal and hard to write about.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Sunday morning, May 10, 2015 was Mother’s Day, and it was also the day we were planning to dedicate Henry and Arden to the Lord in a service at our church.  We had attempted this twice before, both times resulting in illness and missed dedications, so I was determined to make it to church that morning.

I have no memory of what we did that morning.  I am sure Mike made a special Mother’s Day breakfast and tried to let me sleep in, but I was having Braxton Hicks contractions every day by that point (two days shy of my due date) so I probably just waddled around trying to get the kids dressed.

This was the state of my ginormity (taken the previous day at a Mother’s Day celebration at my parents’ house with precious baby Gardner, now two and a half (sob!)):

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I was standing near the family room at 7:50AM when I felt an odd sensation that drove me to the bathroom.  The second I sat down my water broke.  I knew instantly that was it, and I was amazed my body warned me to reach the toilet.  I called to Mike the phrase all men ache to hear, “Babe………….my water broke.”

He couldn’t believe it because this was a first for us, having been induced with the twins.  I called the doctor’s office and the nurse asked me to sit on the toilet again and wiggle around and see if more fluid came out.  She wanted to ensure I hadn’t mistaken this for peeing.  I was vaguely insulted but did as I was told and said yep, more fluid, lady.  She said “Come on in, you’re in labor.”

Normally this would be music to my ears, but I temporarily lost my mind and said, “You know, we have a dedication this morning with the twins, and would it be okay if we just swung by there on our way and took care of that and then came in?”  She was like, um, no.

Which is funny, because it’s also what Mike said when I posed the same question.

We called my parents to come over to watch Henry and Arden, and then I started packing up last minute items and Mike ran around getting everything ready to go.  I started laboring immediately, surprising both of us, and had to stop every couple of minutes to breathe through contractions.  I couldn’t believe how fast it was happening, and I was so excited to be in labor naturally.

My parents arrived and I kept tidying things, bending to breathe, telling my mom things to remember, bending to breathe, walking room to room thinking about what needed to be done, bending to breathe.  Mike became more and more alarmed by the closeness of my contractions, and kept saying, “BABE.  WE NEED TO GO.  NOW!”  And I kept saying, “It’s going to take hours, don’t you remember last time?”  And then I’d bend over and breathe.

I stopped in Henry and Arden’s room to say goodbye to them, and felt my throat tighten and my eyes burn as I hugged them goodbye.  I felt I was saying goodbye to us, to the Fab Four, to the era of my life when it was just us and the twins.  My mom could see the emotion rising and said, “They’re fine, you don’t have time for this, you’re in labor, GO.”  So I heaved myself up and walked out the door.

As a reminder, these little babies were who I was saying goodbye to.

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It’s shocking to look at them now and think that I was having a baby with twins at this age.  At the time I knew everyone around me was deeply concerned for my sanity at having a baby when the twins were so young, but I couldn’t see it then — they looked like big toddlers to me.  Probably because it felt like it took so long to get them to this point, they just seemed older to me than to everyone else.  And now I look at this photo and can’t believe what babies they were.

Once we checked into the hospital, the nurse took us to one of those super private triage areas where you’re separated from the other laboring moms by nothing but a curtain.  We could hear what sounded like a man making deeply disturbing moans, and of course it couldn’t have been a man in the maternity ward, but I kept saying to Mike, “What IS that?!  Do we have to listen to that?!”  And then I’d contract and wouldn’t care again for another sixty seconds.

The nurse was a little, shall we say…huffy.  That’s probably the only word.  I am an open communicator, particularly when I’m engaged in something as enormous and rare as giving birth, and she seemed indignant that I would ask so many questions; she took it as a personal offense like I didn’t trust her.  So we were on rocky territory right from the start.

I’d been laboring hard and in significant enough pain that I told Mike I was sure I was more than five centimeters.  She checked me and announced I was three, and I was completely aghast.  I told her that was impossible, and that I knew through my prior birth experience that my cervix was tricky to measure, which she accepted with an eye roll and a threat to do a balloon to try to open my cervix.

I asked if my doctor could check and this did not please her at all, but she called him.  He came in very shortly (it was 10AM now) and after checking, announced I was at six centimeters.  Triple victory!  Far along!  No balloon!  And most importantly, in-your-face Nurse Huffy!

We proceeded to the delivery room and I labored in all the ways one does — on a ball, standing, holding Mike’s shoulders and leaning, walking around, the works.  Each contraction approached like a bell curve, slow to start, peaking, then slowing backing away.  I told Mike this was night-and-day different from laboring on Pitocin during my induction with the twins.  It was drastically easier to manage, way less pain, and I could totally cope.  I had to admit it became progressively more painful, and I must have expressed as much because he started to ask me to order the epidural.

I told him I was fine, and I wanted to see how far I could go, and I did for another half hour or so, but then things became much more intense and I told the nurse I was ready for help.  She called the anesthesiologist and reported back to me that the one on-site was in a c-section and she’d paged someone on call.

“One!?  There is only one for all of the women here?  How is that possible?  How is that responsible?”  I gasped.

“Well it’s the weekend,” she replied, like that made any sense.

I knew I was crossing into the ugly side of my personality, but I was in labor and didn’t care.  “Oh, because women only have babies Monday through Friday?  Incredibly logical.”

She sort of glared at me.  I sort of glared back, and then I contracted.

Just before the glorious anesthesiologist arrived at 11:40AM, they checked me again and I was at eight centimeters, which made me feel like superwoman.  I had only made it to four with the twins before needing help, and though there is no shame in that, Competitive Abby wanted to better her score.  You know, for those non-existent awards handed out at the end of each delivery.

The drugs worked like a dream and I took a little nap from 12:30 to 1:30PM.  My mom had arrived by this point and she and Mike hung out while I dozed in medicated bliss.

At 3PM they checked me again and I was a full ten, ready to rock.  And so the pushing began.  My old friend!  Oh wait, my foe.  I always mix those two up.

For Part Two, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baby Number Four!

It’s only fitting that I break a four-month blogging break with the news that we’re having baby number four!

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And quite soon — the end of March, in fact.  And it’s only one, another major news bulletin.

We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, because we’re wild that way.  We don’t go out on the town as often in this stage of life, so we get our kicks by delivery room shouts of genders.  To each their own.

Henry and Arden will be freshly three and a half, and Hunter will be 22 months old, so this puts us firmly at four kids under age four.  I’m just disappointed Kate Middleton couldn’t keep up.  We really had a thing going there for awhile, with our first two pregnancies resulting in births just four and eight days apart, respectively.  Would it have been too much to ask for her to give birth twelve days before me, to keep the pattern alive?

I’m endlessly grateful to God that this pregnancy has been a cakewalk.  I don’t know how I would have managed to care for the others if this newbie had made me viciously ill.  I have several friends who endure this and I don’t know how they manage.  Now that I’m 28 weeks, I’m in the third trimester and feeling more of the effects, which is fine considering I’ve had such an easy time until now.

The twins are really excited about having a new baby in the house, though they each demand that it be their corresponding gender.  Arden won’t hear of it being a boy, and Henry doesn’t even respond if you say it’s a girl.  So that might be tricky on delivery day.  But I comfort myself with the knowledge that literally all of the siblings throughout time have had their newest sibling’s gender be a surprise, except in the last twenty years.  Plus we talk to them every day about how it could be either and how great it will be either way.  They’re like….sure.

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Hunter really doesn’t know what’s coming, but all signs are positive.  He adores his cousin Kinsley, eight months, and he points to my belly and says “Baby” and gives it a kiss or a raspberry.  It’s adorable.

Mike and I are really joyful, really excited, and really thankful.  We’re also really aware of what it’s like to have a newborn with other small children, so we’re luxuriating in the quiet evenings and long hours of sleep we have now.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t filled with dread at the amount of work ahead of me, but I feel much more experienced this time around, and much more aware of how quickly that newborn turns into a three month old, and how quickly that three month old is a sitting-up-and-eating-solids six month old, and how quickly that six month old is crawling, then walking, then turning one and making me weep for my newborn again.

So I’m going to take it day by day — who am I kidding? — hour by hour, meal by meal, nap by nap, until we’re steady on our feet and our lives are functioning again.  I’m praying the Lord will show me the best way to help myself; maybe a mother’s helper once a week?  Maybe preschool in the fall?  Maybe a minivan?  HA — the minivan is certain, people.  It’s happening in the next two months.  I just need a bumper sticker that reads, “Respect the Van” and I’ll be locked and loaded.

Did I just use a gun metaphor in my baby announcement post?

How things have changed.

Bring on baby number four!

 

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