Category Archives: Pregnancy

Labor and birth photos, Jessica Ribera

Back in July I had the privilege of taking photos during my friend Jessica’s labor and the birth of her fourth child, Bran Raphael Ribera.

My first goal was to take as good of photos as I could (duh). Bran coming into the Ribera family has a special story and I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up documentation of his entrance.

Second, was to capture the mother. My underlying desire in all that has to do with pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum is to lift up that magical woman at the center of it all. And being how in this case that mother was a dear friend, it made this experience all the more fun and special.

I hope the Riberas (mainly Jessica) enjoy a little walk down memory lane. And I hope the rest of you get a glimpse of how incredible labor and birth is.

The photos displayed are just some of my favorites.  View all photos on my flickr page.

25436988343_4fa6cccf9d

Painting by Elizabeth VanSnellenberg

26013575146_1719530633

25973128651_4097061642

26039507795_aefd78b81b

25436980503_8ed6903123

25973133521_517176678a

25973223551_1ed70c0697

26013662086_c5fec19058

25973234961_9922a61d9a

25434819974_c01c3ab4d3

 

25766735000_f4a0c490cb

25973213601_814ea4179c

26039612535_f49910b132

26039610485_56b0148064

25766723810_08969cd0c2

25973193171_a4191803f1

25973228141_a1fa0f52d9

25434949554_d856d2e80e

26039723895_a2b75c2d59

Photos taken with a Nikon D60, 50mm lens.

Heartfelt thanks

During this pregnancy my psychiatrist told me I needed to find a significant amount of help for the first 12 weeks postpartum.

12 weeks is a long time.  That’s 2,016 hours that could potentially be filled with tearful meltdowns, bored children up to no good, sleeplessness, a colicky baby, piles of dirty laundry and dishes, hungry stomachs, poopy diapers, and other variations on the definition of chaos.

In the months we took to thoughtfully prepare for our new addition, I continued to get the impression from the Lord that this prescribed help would come from a lot of different people.  And that a good portion of that help would come from people I didn’t know all that well.

This made me uncomfortable.

But, as we drew closer to Beatrice’s arrival, God sent people who committed to help. Sometimes it was because we asked; other times people knew to ask.  That 12-week period ended a few weeks ago, but we didn’t even have to contact all the people on our help list.  That’s a blessing I did not anticipate!

I want to publicly thank those that have supported us in the last few months, and that’s what the rest of this post is for.  I also wanted to write this all down so I can come back and remember.  This is how Jesus came to us in this season and got us through.

*These thanks are not in any particular order and if I’ve forgotten anyone please, please forgive me and know that I appreciate you.

Jason – you are still married to me because 1) you are extremely loyal 2) God has given you incredible strength and 3) He holds all things together.  Thank you for not only wanting me and us to get through this, but for wanting us to thrive and for doing so, so much to see that happen.  You are also amazing for doing night duty for three months.

Mom – you’ve done pretty much everything for us around the house.  And you never cease to entertain us either! You’ve also listened to me when I’m crazy and empathized when I’m in tears.  You’ve just generally been motherly and I have needed that.  And you’ve been there for Ian and Imogen during a time when they need extra love and attention.

Sarah T – you have kept our household from falling apart!  I can’t say thank you enough for your care of the kids, your hard work, your flexibility, and your asking how I am.  You and your family are a Godsend.

Cindie – thank you for being there, once again, for the birth of a Haggard baby.  You have given me such thoughtful and personal care and counsel with each pregnancy, but especially this one.  And you are always so good to remind me that you are thinking about me and praying for me.  You pray harder than anyone else I know.

Sherri – for giving breastfeeding expertise and encouragement in the first days and weeks as Beatrice and I tried to figure things out.  It was so nice to have you come over or to know that I could call if I had questions or didn’t know what to do.  Nursing has continued to go smoothly.

Jessica – for being my dear friend and now I can also say, my doula.   I am really glad you were able to be such an integral part of this pregnancy, labor and birth.  One more drama we’ve walked through together!

Jane – you just kept bringing food.  And more food.  And more.  It was wonderful.

Ben & Allison – thank you so much for taking care of our kids on the spur of the moment, on several instances.  They had a lot of fun and just today they asked if they could go over to Isaac’s house again 🙂

Sara B – for seeing me at preschool in the months while I was pregnant and getting the sense that I needed some help (which I did!).  Thank you for giving Ian rides home from preschool.  I’m glad Ian and Ellie have become buddies and I really hope to get to know you more in the future.

Alicia – for donating breast milk I could use in the early days after birth.  It really took the pressure off of me and aided my ability to sleep at night.  And thank you for offering to continue to pump if needed.

Amanda R – for being so excited for us when my water broke that you stayed up the rest of the night and then still took our kids for the rest of the day so I could go about the business of having a baby.  Also, for dealing with my inconsolable child who didn’t want to sleep at your house.

Lynette – for bringing us your amazing pot roast plus other food, as well as handmade baby gifts and a big tub of clothes to go through.  And that day you took my kids for like five hours–that was amazing, too.

Emily N – for coming over, taking care of your kids and mine while also somehow managing to clean parts of my kitchen that had been neglected for months.  I don’t really know how you did that!

Amanda D – for your life coaching and for offering to be my birth assistant.  I really felt honored that you would ask and want to be there.  Also, for the great foot rub.  I look forward to pow-wowing with you soon and setting personal goals for the future.

Michelle – thank you for supporting me through prayer and emails as well as the specially made Chinese postpartum food.  Also, when you nod your head when I share parts of my story at BSF it makes me feel like I’m not so crazy after all.

Brenna – for knowing I could call you if I needed to talk and for calling at the right times to check in.  I really appreciate it.

Kathy – thank you for offering your postpartum doula services to us at just the right time. You’ve helped me gain confidence as a mom and it has been so nice to know I can ask an expert questions when I have no idea what to do with my baby (which is more than you would expect with a third child).  If anyone needs postpartum help, connect with Kathy!

Brittany – for coming over and doing night duty (and doing it so well), even though you have a little one at home to care for.  We got some great sleep that night.

Lisa – thank you for giving us your Sunday afternoons so many times and finding creative ways to entertain the kids.  I know Jason especially appreciated that he could nap during that time since he was so dead tired there for a while.

Monica – for being so excited to see me back at BSF and for praying for us.

Nathan and Natalie – for coming over and cleaning all the floors in our house (they were nasty!), and with smiles on your faces.  They looked so shiny and pristine, which is a treat for me, and so I am thankful for your elbow grease.

Sarah L – thank you for being so available to come over and help and for being so persistent in getting here even though Jason gave you the wrong address!

Linda – for spending the good part of two days of your visit here cooking in my kitchen so I could have delicious freezer meals to get us through the last few weeks.

Alyssa – for the absolute perfect voice mail you left me.  I still have it on my phone to listen to on particularly crappy days.  It makes me miss you, too.

Ashley – for holding my baby so I could take a shower, even though your baby was screaming on the floor.  I found it amusing, I’m not sure if you did at the time!

To everyone who prayed for us.  We really needed it and God was faithful through your intercession.

To everyone who responded to my requests on our church’s website for baby supplies – absolutely everything you’ve donated or lent has come in incredibly handy.  Julie – I especially appreciated all those newborn diapers!

To everyone who made food for us.  It was delicious and we had plenty extra to carry us through.  Also, thank you, Blythe, for organizing meals for us and for everyone else in need at our church.

To friends and family who sent cards, money, gifts, and congratulations.  It feels really good to know that those who are far away are thinking of us and celebrating with us.  It’s also nice to get a fun treat in the mail or put cash towards diapers or medical bills 🙂

After this experience I can say that it has become a lot easier to ask for help (and that’s saying a lot).  It also makes me look forward to the day when I am more fully able to help others – hopefully that day won’t be in too long.

Many, many blessings,

Elisabeth

(and Jason, Ian, Imogen & Beatrice)

Beatrice’s birth story

Beatrice is just over three months old and her birth story has been sitting here waiting to be finished. Some of you may have thought it would never come, but I love birth and birth stories too much to not get this out of my headand on to the blog. So, here goes.

_______

As I rolled into the final weeks of the third trimester, I can’t emphasize enough how much I was looking forward to meeting the next Haggard baby. I remember with Ian I was focused on how labor and birth would go.  By the time Imogen came around  I was already a mess so much of the pregnancy and postpartum is sadly a blur.

This time I knew I could give birth because I’d done it twice before.  And I was making every preemptive move to not be a mess postpartum,  so I had the mental and emotional space to think (over and over) “I can’t wait to see and hold this baby!”  I will say, this time around it was really fun not knowing the sex (something we had not done before).

We sailed through the holidays and once those were over, in my mind, it was baby time.  Mystery baby was due January 23rd, but since Imogen had come a week early I was more open to the idea that may this baby would come early, too.

That being said, as I met weekly with my midwife in January, there didn’t seem to be any indication that I was going to go into labor soon.  In fact, on January 15th I left the office with a cervix that was far back and not dilated.  My midwife said “See you next week!”

That night Jason and I finally finished our laundry/office space.  He had been working on insulating and sheet-rocking it and the final piece was to take everything out, lay down a carpet remnant, and then put everything back in.  After several hours of hard work we went to bed late and tired, but in fine spirits.  I did wonder, though, if all the lifting or even just the fact that this final project was done and out of the way, would help my body get in the mood to labor.

At about midnight Imogen woke up because she had wet her bed, so I went downstairs to sort things out.  When I bent down to help her change her clothes my water broke.  It wasn’t a gush, but I definitely knew what it was.

In the course of the commotion Jason had gotten up and after telling him the news, we called the Richards, who were our childcare.  We told them to be on standby and that the baby would probably come in the next 6-10 hours.  We also notified Cindie, our midwife, and Jessica, our doula.

At that point I went back to bed and over the course of the next 3-4 hours I dozed, feeling contractions every so often that were enough to sort of wake me.  Early morning came and while everyone else was still asleep I got up and sat in the rocking chair in the baby’s room and worked on my BSF and spent some time journaling. When everyone woke we decided to ask Jessica to come over and to get the kids off to the Richards.

Jessica arrived and because my contractions weren’t really going anywhere, we decided it was a good idea if Jason and I went for a walk.   We walked the kids down to the end of the street to meet Amanda, who would take them for the day.  She was so sweet and excited for us, and had brought me a bouquet of daffodils.

After that Jason and I walked for about an hour.  I remember telling him, “Doesn’t it kinda feel like we’re first-time parents, taking a walk and trying to get labor started?”  Jessica had warned me that third labors could be a bit wonky with their stopping and starting, but it felt odd to actually be experiencing it.  By this point we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would not have a textbook labor like we had with the other two.

Our little walk was really lovely.  The air was cold and we were bundled up, but it felt good to be outside and moving a bit.  It was also an opportunity for us to talk and for me to tell Jason I was anxious. I felt like more contractions should be coming and I wasn’t making them happen.  I was worried I just wasn’t relaxing enough. Jessica was sitting back at our house, ready to help a laboring woman and I wasn’t much of one at that point.

Jason responded wonderfully and I felt really comforted.  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I think it was something to the effect of “We all love you, we are here to support you, and you are going to do great.”  I remember saying “THAT was the most perfect thing you could’ve said to me!”

Contractions did pick up as we walked, and I remember feeling free to let them happen.  We would stop every so often when they came.  But when we returned home and assessed things with Jessica, they began to slow down again.  I wasn’t in labor enough to not feel self-conscious when the contractions would come.  I suppose I still had some mind control over them.

I also had this feeling, though I wasn’t able to put it into words at the time, that my body just wasn’t totally ready to have this baby.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was like all the pieces just weren’t in place yet.  Jessica was great about it all, and said she’d go home and that I could call her at any point either just to talk or to have her come over.

For the rest of the day the contractions would pick up and then slow down, coming anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes apart.  I could tell they were definitely doing something, but I could still pretty much go on with regular activities.

It’s been long enough since the labor and birth that I don’t remember exactly how we filled our time the rest of the day.  It was unusual (and nice) to have a quiet house with just the two of us there.  I believe Jason spent an hour or two making work calls.  Cindie called and I gave her an update.   I remember her saying, “I just want you to take your time and enjoy this day and what comes of it.”  Such a Cindie thing to say–it puts a smile on my face to think about it now.

Later in the afternoon I called Jessica and we had a good talk about where I was at emotionally.  I told her I felt pressure to make this happen and she helped me process through that a bit.  I spent some more timing journaling, too.

By late afternoon/early evening contractions weren’t necessarily closer together, but they did have a bit more umph to them.  Cindie called again and I told her a lot of the same things Jessica and I had talked about.   In her calm and cool manner she reminded me that my body would do the work, I didn’t have to.  But again, I wasn’t into labor enough that it felt like my mind didn’t have some say in when or how contractions would come.

Cindie also shared that she had just had a patient whose labor progressed in a very similar way to mine.  Cindie had deduced that because the patient’s cervix was so far back but her water had broken, she had light labor for a long time.  Each contraction, though far apart, was bringing the cervix forward.  Once that was ready, her labor picked up and it wasn’t too long before she was holding her baby.

This was exactly what I needed to hear.  I knew my body was in the same situation and that my cervix coming forward was the missing puzzle piece.  And this was why this labor was so very different than my others.  It also felt good to know that every contraction I had been having was doing something productive.

The Tarters came up and chatted with us around 6 or 7pm.  I had previously asked Sarah if she wanted to be there for the birth since she is an aspiring midwife, so we needed to give them an update of what may lie ahead so they could plan for the night.

Jessica came back around 8pm.  She had been nothing but supportive and helpful during this process, but I could tell when she arrived that I was feeling self-conscious again.  Jessica is a dear friend and I knew I wanted her to be there, but we had never experienced this in our friendship before.  And you just can’t hide in the middle of labor, if that makes any sense.

I tried to labor in the bedroom on my own, but I just kept feeling like I needed to vocalize to her about how I was feeling about her being there. Getting it out in the open would help me move past it, I knew that.  And I knew that’s what God wanted me to do.

Even though it was a bit awkward, she was, of course, really great about it and at the end we prayed.  We specifically prayed that the labor would pick up, that I would feel comfortable and ready for what would come, and she would know how to help.  I remember telling God, “I have known for months that I want these particular women at my birth (Jessica, Cindie, Sarah, and Amanda the birth assistant).  I still really want that, and I pray you would make this a really special time for all of us.”

Now that I think about it, I suppose that was another puzzle piece that needed to fall into place–the last piece.  Because after that I went back into the bedroom and really got to work laboring.  Actually, laboring just started to happen without my control.  Jessica was listening from the other room, encouraging me that I was doing a good job.

Jessica eventually came in and started helping me get through contractions, and soon after Cindie arrived.  Sarah came up at that point and helped Jason get our bed set up for birth and I moved into the baby’s room for a while.

Also, while I was laboring we got a call from the Richards that Imogen was not doing so well.  It was around midnight and she was feeling homesick and would not go to sleep.  So Jason jetted over there to get her and got her into her own bed for the rest of the night (and thankfully we didn’t hear a peep until everything was all over).

I would like to say that as labor progressed it all became a whirlwind, but it really didn’t.  I sat on the birth ball leaning onto the side of the bed as I moved through contractions.  It felt like I did this for a long time, while everyone else stood around and listened and watched.  I was very aware of their presence, but not bothered by it.

Physically, I was doing just fine.  My body wasn’t really tired and I was managing contractions with both the help of Jessica and Jason.

Mentally and emotionally I was becoming more tired of the whole thing.  Although it hadn’t been hard, the start of all this had been 24 hours ago by that point. Jessica prayed for me, which I appreciated.  I remember saying at least once “When am I going to be ready to push?” — I was waiting for Cindie to tell me.  In reality, everyone in the room knew she wasn’t going to need to tell me–my body would certainly do that.

Eventually that feeling did come.  I don’t even really remember it ramping up, it was just there and I got up on the bed.  Jason was sitting on the other side on the edge, and as I kneeled on the mattress I grabbed onto his shoulder and arm.  With a strong contraction I pushed with all my might.  I was looking into his eyes the entire time and he maintained eye contact, but he had sort of a horrific look on his face.

With that big push the baby’s head popped out.  It literally felt like a pop.  I obviously knew what had happened, but it took everyone else a few seconds to realize it.  Cindie had turned around to do something and when she looked again she said with delight “Oh my goodness, the baby’s head is out!  Elisabeth, the baby’s head is wiggling around.”

I don’t think I even waited for another contraction; I pushed again and the rest of the baby came out.  Cindie hands were there and she sort of caught her and let her rest on the bed beneath me.  I looked down and there she was, all curled up.  My first thought and words were “What is it (as in the sex)?”  I had to uncurl her and look to discover it was a girl.  I was so surprised, more so than I thought I would be.

She was covered in vernix (because she was early), but her little eyes peeked through the white on her face.  We laid down and she was tucked between my arm and side.  Jason lay next to me in the bed as Cindie and Amanda went to work.  I had no tears and the placenta easily came out.  After a while Cindie suggested we try nursing and the baby was definitely more interested than I remember my other two babies being.  That was encouraging.

It felt really good to just lay there and relax.  Jason was so great about staying right there with me in the moments afterward; this is something I specifically requested he do.  At the time I didn’t realize how grossed out he was by all the vernix on the baby, the shot of pitocin I received, cutting the umbilical cord (which Sarah did) and the delivery of the placenta, but looking at the pictures you can see it on his face. Despite that, he played the role of doting husband and father very well.

Jason’s looking a little worse for the wear in this picture, but he was amazing.

We announced her name, too–Beatrice Olive Haggard.  Even though I had been so surprised, it was such a pleasure to know we had another girl and to look into her face and call her by her name.  As I mentioned in her birth announcement, Beatrice means “bringer of joy” and Olive was my grandmother’s name.

After a while Amanda did the amazing thing of asking if she could give me a foot rub, which of course I did not turn down.  We all chatted and watched Beatrice for a while.  Sarah took more pictures.  At one point someone asked if I wanted to sit up or get up and into the bath and I said “No, actually, it feels really good to just lay here and not move.”  The hard work of labor was over and I could relax with my baby and husband by my side, and these wonderful ladies nearby.

I did want to make a point of getting a photo of all the women at Beatrice’s birth.  They are all so very special to me and I was truly honored and blessed to have them there.

 

From the left – Amanda (birth assistant and my NP), Jessica (doula and friend), Sarah (friend) and Cindie (midwife).

God really answered the prayer Jessica and I prayed at the start of that evening, that everyone who I wanted to be at the birth would be there and play an important role.

Eventually I did get into the bath and Amanda fed me some of the salted chicken and rice we had made in our postpartum recovery class, which we had frozen just for the occasion.  I had very little bleeding and I felt, all things considered, pretty good.

I also got a chance to take a good look at Beatrice’s placenta (I even took pictures, but don’t worry, I won’t share those).  Cindie explained to me the various parts of the organ.  I am truly amazed at placentas and the work they do in utero.  It’s really astounding.  Beatrice’s was on the smaller side because she was a smaller baby.  It made me wish I would’ve looked at Ian and Imogen’s more to be able to compare.

By the time recovery, clean-up, and Beatrice’s assessment were done it was about 6am.  Imogen woke up a little while later (Ian was at the Richards) and we heard her coming up the stairs.  We told her we had a surprise and she got up on the bed and peeked in the co-sleeper.  She was so sweet about it.  Here she is holding Beatrice for the first time.

I can’t quite remember the order of things, but I think soon after that Amanda Richards brought Ian back to meet his new sister.  We had wanted to wait to tell him it was a girl ourselves, but apparently he overheard Amanda and Jason talking.

Let’s just say he was not impressed with the news.  In fact, he was quite disappointed.

But for being as upset about it as he was, within ten minutes of meeting her he must’ve realized he wasn’t going to be able to change her into a brother, and decided to happily accept Beatrice into the family.

Actually I think what did it was when Jason told him that he gets to be the only brother in the family and that means he has a very special role.

Here is proof of his turnaround:

He’s been seriously doting on her ever since.

I think Amanda took the kids back to her house at this point and Jason, Beatrice and I lay down to get some sleep.  After the last two births I remember very distinctly laying in bed with my husband on one side and my new baby in the co-sleeper on the other side.  Both of them deep in sleep and I wide awake.

But this time I slept, what a wonder!  That was also encouraging; we were off to a good start. And thankfully, postpartum recovery has progressed very positively, even with its normal ups and downs.  I intend to share more on that later.

We are so blessed to have Beatrice Olive in our family.  I am thankful to the Lord that he brought her to us in His timing and with His protection and care.  I can’t say enough how amazed I am at how far we’ve come since that day back in May when we found out we were pregnant.

Here’s one final picture from January 17th.  One beautiful baby, all fresh and new.

Yes, the crazy lady had another baby — and it was wonderful!!!

For nostalgia’s sake, here are Ian and Imogen‘s birth stories.

Second birth story

I hope it hasn’t been too long since Imogen’s birth for me to share the story.  I’ve actually had the majority of it written for over a month, I just haven’t had the time to wrap it up with a thoughtful conclusion.  So, here goes.

_______________

On Friday, June 10th, we were one week out from our due date.  My plan was to clean the house that day, as I usually do on Fridays.  Planning on having a home birth made it feel a bit more urgent than usual.   So, I set out to get the floors and the bathroom clean, if that was the only two things I accomplished that day.

Ian is usually great about occupying himself on chores day.  But on this particular Friday he was constantly wanting my attention and letting me know so in some not-so-positive ways.  That coupled with some major potty training regression made me feel increasingly discouraged as the day went on.

Unfortunately, Ian met with my irritability and frustration. I had no idea what to do about potty training, which we’ve been working on for months.  By the time the morning passed and it was a nap time, I was so worked up I couldn’t sleep (something I really needed).

All these things being said, by 2pm I had called Jason in tears asking him to come home.

I will say, though, that there were some really sweet moments between Ian & I, amidst the tension and turmoil. Because he wanted my attention so much I spent more time with him than I normally would on cleaning day.  I sensed we both needed that time.  We had fun making up a rescue helicopter game, reading books, and just talking.

Looking back, I see these moments were God’s grace to both of us.  The days of just me and him were quickly coming to an end (though I didn’t realize how quickly!).

Jason wasn’t able to get off work early.  When he did get home we put Ian to bed and then I ran to the store and picked up some food (this was the kind of day when I did not feel guilty for splurging on pre-prepared food from Trader Joe’s).

After dinner Jason & I talked about the potty training situation.  And I got all worked up again.  I felt angry because I felt out of control and Jason, understandably, didn’t know how to solve the problem.

You can imagine this didn’t make for an evening of marital bliss and connectedness.  The subject of potty training usually doesn’t evoke these sort of feelings between two people, especially if one of them is an angry, pregnant lady.

Sadly, of my own doing, I ended up on the bathroom rug bawling my eyes out, with Jason wondering what the heck was going on with me.

In the middle of all the tears, even I could see that my response was a bit over the top.  This feels hormonal, I thought.  Once the tears passed I remembered I felt similar on the day I went into labor with Ian–super emotional. And I wondered if I would go into labor that night.  Turns out the hormones that make a woman feel crazy are also the hormones that make babies come out.

By 10pm I felt relatively at peace about life.  Jason and I went to bed. At 12am I woke up and had to pee really bad.  When I sat down and started going I felt a pop and a gush.

Whoa, I thought.   Is this really happening? That definitely felt like my water breaking!

I went in and woke Jason up to tell him.  He sat right up in bed, even though he had been in a sound sleep and said “Really? That’s so great!”  That made me feel good, especially since it was a bit overwhelming to think this was happening now and not in a week or two.

I called Cindie, our midwife, to tell her what happened.  She said it certainly could’ve been my water breaking, but that it also may be a false alarm.  Sometimes the bladder of a pregnant lady can fool her.  (Yet the pop I felt did not feel like anything my bladder has ever done before.)

Cindie instructed us to wait it out and call her if I started labor and my contractions were five to six minutes apart.  I also called Eliza, our doula, to tell her the news, and that we may need her that night.

Jason encouraged me to go back to sleep, but I wanted to get up and show him where all the birth supplies were since we hadn’t done that. Jason also cleaned the bathroom since I hadn’t gotten around to it earlier that day.

It wasn’t long before I felt some very faint cramping, which is exactly what I had felt with Ian.  By 1am I was definitely having contractions.  We decided that Jason would take Ian over to Scott & Courtney’s.  I wanted to make sure he was safe and comfortable elsewhere in case labor got going quickly.

Once Ian and Jason were gone, I dealt with contractions by myself for the next hour or so. I remember standing around the bathroom, still feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I had Isaiah 12 stuck to the bathroom mirror and so I read and prayed through that for a few minutes.  I reminded myself I didn’t need to be afraid of what lay ahead.

By the time Jason arrived home my contractions were about seven to eight minutes apart. I felt pretty good.  Jason came up to the bathroom with a really encouraging surprise–a handful of GUs.  These helped me get through transition and pushing with Ian.  I had been asking Jason to buy some in anticipation of the coming labor, but he hadn’t gotten a chance to.

When Jason was at Scott & Courtney’s he had asked Scott if he would go pick up some GUs in the morning if I was still laboring.  Turns out Scott had just bought a bunch that day at REI and he sent Jason home with them.  This little provision from Jason, from our friend, from God, made me feel relieved and more prepared.

It wasn’t long after Jason and the GUs arrived that my contractions jumped to three to four minutes apart. I was still able to manage them on my own, but Jason called Cindie and Eliza to head over.

Eliza got to our house first and went to work helping me get through contractions.  It took me a while to find a comfortable position to labor in.  I mainly stood leaning over the dresser and swaying back and forth, but found my legs would get tired. I tried leaning over the exercise ball and hanging over the couch, but couldn’t find a position that felt just right.

I think part of this was because the labor pain was centered around my tail bone, not farther up my back as it was with Ian.  Standing up and leaning seemed to relieve it some.  I will say it wasn’t really more painful than my previous labor and so at the time I didn’t consider it back labor, which I’ve been told can be excruciating.

Cindie arrived and she came with her precepting student, Louise.  Louise had been a part of my last two appointments but I didn’t realize she was going to be at the birth.  Cindie also told me that Jen or Mel (the other midwives in her practice) were not going to be there to assist her.  She had called another midwife named Erin to come help.

As I labored I remember telling Eliza that I felt a little self-conscious with two new people around.  I was wondering if I would be able to let loose when I needed to, which is really essential to working through contractions.  She listened to me, and I think just being able to voice how I was feeling was enough for me. I don’t remember worrying about it much after that.

At one point I ended up down in the kitchen with Eliza while everyone else was upstairs.  I was leaning on the kitchen counter.  As things got more intense Eliza was rubbing my lower back. I asked for Jason and he came up right next to me.

Eliza asked if she could pray for me and went ahead.  Then I asked Jason to pray for me, too.  I don’t remember what he said, but afterward I said to him, “I always think I can’t do things and you tell me I can.”  I don’t remember how he responded, but it made me feel like I could do it.

A few minutes later Cindie came around for a particularly difficult contraction and once it was over I said to her “I hope this is the transition!”  She said she thought it probably was.  She suggested I head back upstairs.

On our way up I had a contraction in the middle of the stairway, so I got down on my hands and knees.  I found it to actually be quite comfortable.  As the pain faded away I said to Eliza, “Now every time I walk up these stairs and get to this spot I will think of this.”  She laughed.

Next I made my way into the bathroom and rested over the covered toilet for a while, which allowed me to sway back and forth, but at least rest my lower legs for a bit.

Around 5am Cindie asked to check me.  It was encouraging to hear her say I was at 9cm.  That definitely was the transition I had been feeling!  Cindie suggested I head to the bed since she thought I would be pushing soon.

That word–pushing–was a bit of a bit of a loaded word for me with this pregnancy.  I pushed for almost four hours with Ian and it was the most physically strenuous thing I’ve ever done.  Needless to say, I had been feeling hesitant about how it was going to go this time.

I wanted to make sure I expressed this to Cindie before labor, partly to get it off my chest and partly to see if she could offer some insight or encouragement.

At my last appointment before labor, just a day earlier, I had told her and Louise that I just didn’t feel very strong for the job.  They both reminded me that my uterus would do the work.  Cindie said she wasn’t worried, that I would do just fine. She has a way of saying things very confidently and definitively (plus, she knows what she’s talking about) so I left her office feeling better.

So now there I was, early that morning, heading to bed to “let my uterus do the work” (which, technically speaking, it was already doing a lot of work, but you know what I mean).  I am thankful that in labor you don’t have a lot of mental space to think about anything, so I didn’t feel any hesitancy.  That is God’s grace for an over-thinker like me.

I laid on my side in bed for a few minutes and then felt my uterus bearing down. This is what Cindie and Louise were talking about!  I felt the urge to push with Ian but this was more distinct and powerful than I had felt with him.

Jason was kneeling right next to me on the side of the bed, just as he was when I pushed with Ian.  I had my arms wrapped around him.  The more the contractions came, the more I went with them and pushed.  I was squeezing Jason really hard. At one point I beat on his back with my fist.  His face was right by mine and he kept encouraging me, telling me I could do it.

As the pushing grew more intense, I remember thinking “this is going to produce something good.” I could actually feel the baby moving down (again, not something I remember feeling with Ian).

But, it was also a helluva lotta work. As some time passed I started to wonder if I could do it. If this went on and on, I didn’t know if I could keep going with it (but really, what was I thinking?! This was nothing compared to four hours of pushing).

As the thoughts crowded in, something that Cindie said to me about a month ago came to mind.  She was praying for me at the end of one of my appointments and she prayed “Blessings from God can also be tests.”

At the time I had expressed to her how I was realizing that with a new baby coming I would have to let go of Ian more and more.  I was scared and I wasn’t sure God was going to take care of Him.  I knew I wouldn’t be by Ian’s side like I have been his whole life.

Back then Cindie reminded me that the wonderful, good things God gives us can also be used to help us grow in our trust of Him.  My family has certainly been this to me.  Likewise, as I pushed during labor, with every contraction, I felt tested, in a good way.

Yet I was also was being carried along with it, just as Cindie and Louise had said it would be.  There was a big part of it that was out of my control–my body was just doing it.

It’s funny how the hard things in life feel so much like work, and yet, we can also feel (either at the time or looking back) that God was doing the really hard stuff and we were being carried along.

At one point I remember saying “I can’t do this.”  And all the women in the room just got louder and said “Oh yes you can, you are doing it!”  And then a few minutes later, as a pushing urge came I said “I can do this!”  It felt good to hear myself say it.

As Ian approached his birth, he crowned for what seemed like forever.  I was thinking back on that and so in between my contractions I tried to feel the baby’s head.  I figured if I could feel it, she would be coming out soon.   It must be there, I thought. But I couldn’t feel anything.

I was confused.  Everyone in the room kept telling me I was making huge progress.  The impression I got from them was that this baby would be out into the world soon.

At that point Jason said, “I love you, Beautiful, but I’ve got to go.  I’m going to throw up.”  He ran out of the room and Cindie slid in where he was.  She let me hold on her to and as that contraction passed she said “You could have this baby in five minutes.”  I wasn’t really sure myself.

But, Cindie was right. Jason came back (sticking his head out the window had been enough to make the nausea pass) and just a few minutes later and I gave a good hard push, which brought the baby’s head out.  And then another push and her body was out. The time was 5:40am.

And then that moment came that I will never forget.  They set her down on me and I saw her for the first time.  She was petite and pink, with dark eyes.  She looked so different than Ian did fresh out of the womb.  He was a blue-ish gray, with the face of a wrinkled old man.  He was so quiet, this little girl was crying.

I was given a shot of pitocin right away and thankful no hemorrhaging occurred. It wasn’t long before they cut the cord and the placenta came out.

A few minutes later Jason said “Well, do you want to share what her name is?” Strangely, I said no.  I think I wanted to keep the secret a little bit longer. I loved having that just between us.  We had known what her name would be since the day we found out we were having a girl and Jason had said “Well, should we name her Imogen?”

And now you all know, of course.  But Jason had to ask me again a few minutes later if we could share, and I said yes.

When I was finally ready to get into the bath, Louise stayed with me and we chatted. I could hear Jason gabbing away to someone downstairs.  Turns out he was skyping with Jordan & Elysia.  At the time I felt a little annoyed because I wanted to share these special moments with him, but now I look back and realize he was just so excited and proud and wanted to share the joy with good friends, with the world.

Once I got cleaned up and back into bed it was time to try breastfeeding and to eat.  The labor support team cleaned up around us, did the newborn exam, and left us tucked into bed.

And then I found myself back at that same place again that I had been two and a half years ago.  The house was quiet, I was wide awake, and I had a new baby and a husband lying next to me.  I had just accomplished this amazing feat, while at the same time, experienced a miracle.

I actually had many of those moments in the weeks following Imogen’s arrival.  I would be laying in bed, trying to sleep, and would think back on how awesome (and I am using that word how it was originally intended to be used) it was bring Imogen into the world.

She was the one we thought we were going to lose.  She was the gummy bear on the screen that had a heartbeat.  She was the one who survived with me through the crummy flu and stomach flu.  She was the one who kicked me in the middle of the night and made it hard for Ian to sit on my lap.

I have been very, very blessed by God.  Honestly, it’s a little scary to say that.  But it’s true.  Imogen’s birth was a great experience.  And Imogen, herself, is perfect. She’s our Imy, Imsy Bimsy, our Gooby Girl.

I’ve also been blessed to have great care during both my pregnancies by women who love women, families, and God.  I know that is unfortunately not the norm for many, so I am thankful for that.

I’m also blessed to have a husband who has been there for me; not just through the labor and birth (though he was wonderful then) but also through our miscarriages, the scary bleeding, and the woes of a tiresome, sick pregnancy.  He is a great dad to our kids and I’m glad I get to parent with him.  I love seeing him get up close to Imogen’s face and sweetly say “Hey girl.”

Thank you, also, to our family and community who have prayed for us through this and many other things.

If you enjoy reading about labor and birth and you’re a story person like me, you may like reading the birth stories in this book.  Also, with this pregnancy I really appreciated what two other ladies, Brenna and Sarah, have to say about it.

And of course I’ll leave you with the fruits of my labor (literally).

Another lady Haggard in the haus

If you haven’t heard on Facebook (as Jason calls it, the most impersonal way to share personal information), we’re having a GIRL!

Up until about a week ago we were undecided as to if we were going to find out the sex in our 20-week ultrasound on Friday, though we were leaning toward doing so.

Earlier last week I remembered a very special project I’ve always wanted to undertake in my pregnancy, should we be anticipating a little girl.  I reminded Jason about it and he agreed that my project was a good reason to find out.

I’m excited to share with you that project in future post, but for now I will leave you in anticipation about what it might entail. 🙂  I promise you’ll hear about it sooner rather than later.

But back to the more immediate details . . .

As I mentioned before, I have been nervous about this ultrasound, knowing I would feel relieved if the baby looked and measured healthy.  I felt wired and amped up all afternoon and avoided resting physically or finding peace in God.

But right before we left for our appointment I looked over the passage we’re studying in BSF this week.  It’s from Isaiah 40:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel?   . . .To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? . . . Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?  He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one of them is missing.” (12-13, 18, 28)

This felt like a comforting word to me from God about how big He is and yet how He pays attention to each detail not just in His creation, but in each of our life’s situations.  And it is His bigness that reassures me that He has the power and might to control this baby’s health and life.

I re-learn daily that I can’t do that myself, so I am glad to be reminded there is One who can.

After that I loaded Ian up into the car and were off to meet Daddy at the doctor.  We were glad we brought him along.  He was a little weirded out when we finally got into the dark exam room, but Jason reassured him the tech wasn’t going to hurt me, and he enjoyed watching the TV and eating his apple.  I think he understood as much as he could that we were seeing the baby in Mommy’s tummy.

As I’ve mentioned previously, not all the US techs we’ve had have been very friendly, reassuring or informative.  Unfortunately, the one we had this time was along those lines.  She spoke pretty quietly, too, so I felt like I was straining to pay attention to the screen and catch what she was saying when she pointed out certain things.

We found out later that Baby Girl had positioned herself in such a way that it required the tech to do quite a bit of maneuvering to look over all her body parts (I think this is why Baby’s photo is a bit more blurry than usual).   The tech waited until the end to ask us if we wanted to know the sex, but based on certain views I kinda thought it was a girl. Of course it was nice to have it confirmed!

Not surprisingly, Jason kept asking both the tech and doctor “How sure are you?  Completely sure?  How often are you wrong?  Can you give me a percentage?”  Really, I think he was just trying to give them a hard time. 🙂

Dr. Wang, the same doctor who spoke with us at our last ultrasound, was the doctor who did the consult.  I was glad to see him, though he probably doesn’t remember us.  I have a very positive association with him from our last visit.  He’s an older, jovial Asian man who seems genuinely enthusiastic for his patients (at least he has been for us).  He gave us the good news that she measured fine and all her parts looked good.

Though I was still feeling excited about finding out what we were having, it made it all the more a celebratory affair to hear that she looked healthy!

To mark the occasion, we stopped off at Ballard Market and splurged on their amazing take-out buffet, then followed up our meal with homemade brownies and ice cream.  And there were, of course, phone calls to grandparents and siblings to report the news.

Both Jason and I both felt we were having a girl, though we have admitted that it just seems natural to think you’re having a girl when you already have a boy.  But I think our inkling was there for some reason, too.

Thanks to everyone who has been excited for us and I will report on my project for Baby Girl soon!

A little (big) miracle for the Haggards

This post was originally written back in November, but I have decided to wait until now to share it.  You will see an update at the end.

________________________________________

November 10, 2010

It has been pretty crazy around here over the course of the last week and I want to make sure I get all that’s happened down while the memory is fresh.

Many of you know that we miscarried back in August.  Well, on our anniversary, October 6th, we found out that we were pregnant again.  We were excited but a little apprehensive.

According to labs things seemed to be going well–until last Thursday (November 4th).  I started spotting, which turned into more heavy bleeding.  It seemed that we were headed in the direction of another miscarriage, especially when we got another lab report back which said my progesterone was quite low and my HCG was nothing to write home about.  One of our midwives said there was probably no need to do an ultrasound, since most evidence pointed in a discouraging direction.

I felt all kinds of things.  Sometimes I felt I was accepting what seemed like the inevitable, other times I had hope that the baby was okay.  The truth is, it’s never actually over until you either miscarry or get an ultrasound and you see no heartbeat.  On top of that there was anger, impatience, numbness, exhaustion, embarrassment, confusion, and frustration.

You can imagine, for Jason, I was a gem to be around.  But despite my moodiness, he took care of Ian & I so well–making us meals, cleaning up, listening to me talk and cry, playing with Ian.  He did all these things despite the fact that he was going through his own personal version of life anticipating a probable miscarriage.

Yesterday (November 9th) I woke up and decided I was tired of living with the unknown.  If we went in for an ultrasound and there was no heartbeat at least we could know and move on with whatever was ahead for us.  If the baby was living (highly unlikely) then that would be amazing and we could do whatever was in our control to set this little one up for a continued successful life in utero and out.

I himmed and hawed through the morning about it.  I talked with a friend who listened well and added her encouragement, and then finally scheduled an appointment.

In the hour and a half in between scheduling and walking into the doctor’s office I felt a bit of relief, coupled with dread and nervousness.  And I prayed that we would get a really nice ultrasound tech.  They don’t all have the greatest bedside manner or are very clear about what they are seeing.  I know this by experience.

Getting to the office went smoothly.  When we got into the exam room, the tech told us she was the mom of two boys.   She was super nice to Ian.  She knew we were doing a viability check (which indicates there’s a good chance the findings won’t be positive) and she responded with warmth and helpfulness.  She was very clear and informative.

At 4:15pm I was laying there with Jason & Ian next to me and the screen popped up and we saw our little one.  And very nonchalantly the tech said “Your baby looks like a little gummy bear, that’s exactly how it should look.  And there’s the heartbeat.”

I saw it for myself.  I looked at Jason.  And then I said to the tech “Wait, there’s a heartbeat?”  She told me several more times and reassured me that the beats-per-minute were very good, she didn’t see any bleeding that was concerning, and that yes, our baby looked like a gummy bear.

I was dumbfounded.  And then the doctor came in and said all the same things but added “This is very good news.  We like giving this kind of news to people.”  And he left.  And I was still dumbfounded.

The tech handed me four photos of our little one (the most I’ve ever gotten from an appointment), I got dressed, and we walked out.

I was thinking a million things at that point, but here are some of them:

  • What does the road (aka drama) ahead look like now?  Will the baby be okay?  What about my low progesterone levels?
  • God, why are you so good to me?
  • What will our midwives say?!
  • This is very weird, but good, of course!
  • Why am I bleeding?
  • I HAVE to trust God with this.
  • Thank you for that ultrasound tech!
  • I’m scared.
  • I have to tell all the people who were praying for us!  They prayed for us and look what happened!

The last thought was very encouraging to my faith, which to be honest over the last week has been one of numbness and distance from God.  Quite a few people have told me that they had been thinking of me/us recently and were praying (whether they knew I was pregnant or not).

Of those who knew what was going on, I had several people say “I am going to pray that the baby lives.”  I appreciated their prayers, but I myself didn’t have much hope.

And there have been people praying for us that we don’t even know.  Friends have told me their extended family members have been praying and my mom’s bible study group is, too.

If you know us, please pray for us.  If you don’t know us, please pray, too.  Pray that the baby would live!

I am still bleeding and sometimes it’s pretty heavy, which concerns me.  It doesn’t take long after seeing God’s faithfulness to forget and start to worry about the future.

I’m now supplementing with progesterone.  I’ve also been told to cut down on my activity level, a sort of partial bed rest.  My hope is that these things will help, the baby will be just fine, and the bleeding will stop.

Jason reminds me that God has sustained this little one so far, He can continue to do it, and He will do exactly what is best.

To be honest, sometimes I feel peace when he says that and sometimes I don’t.  But I can’t deny that God has done a miracle for us!

__________________________________

An update: After partial bed rest at the end of October, my bleeding stopped. No one was able to identify why it occurred, but after talking to several other women and doing a little internet research, I found that quite a few others have had a similar experience.

Besides this troubling symptom,  I felt pretty good in the first trimester–not nearly as nauseous as I did with Ian or as tired as I did with the last one.   Our due date is June 17th.

At 12 weeks we heard a very reassuring heartbeat.  At 14 weeks I stopped taking progesterone, as our midwife said she didn’t think I needed to anymore. I’m now at 19 weeks and in the last couple weeks we’ve been able to feel the baby kicking.

In about a week we go in for our 20-week ultrasound.  We’ve decided we’re going to find out the sex.

I am being asked to trust God in a new way with this pregnancy.  With Ian I remember worrying about if Jason & I could handle parenthood and all that came with it.  I worried how our marriage would do with the change.  But  I felt confident that my body could grow a healthy baby and that the birth would turn out positively.

This time around, I am finding that I am more worried about the baby’s health and my body’s ability to carry him or her.  I think more about the “what-ifs” of potential medical complications.   I guess that is to be expected considering our past experiences.

Life continues on and with that, the pregnancy is going by much faster than with Ian. And Ian is getting excited, too.  He understands more and more that there’s a baby in Mommy’s tummy (and not in his tummy or Daddy’s).

Please continue to pray for this little one and for us.  I am looking forward to seeing him or her again in the upcoming ultrasound, and will be relieved if all looks well with this second look.  I also have had the flu for the last week and would appreciate a quick recovery and health for our whole family.
Thank you God for what you have done done in our family–not just this miracle, though we are especially excited about it, but everything You have done.


All that happened on race day

Truth be told, up until the very last day before the triathlon, there was a part of me that was looking for a reason not to do it. But I think you probably got that impression from my last post.

This apparently didn’t seem to deter God.  He just decided to start (or really, continue) paving the way for me to not only get to the starting line, but get all the way to the finish with flying colors.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.

After finding out on Monday that we had lost our baby, I tried a brief run on Wednesday and came away discouraged by how tired I was.  We left for Coeur d’Alene on Thursday.  I had not yet actually miscarried.

On Friday morning, after going for a short bike ride (in which I felt pretty good, which was progress), I started the miscarriage process.  When I felt sure this was what happening, there was a sense of relief.  At least I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.

God was very gracious to me in that it was not too painful and it did not last too long.  I spent some of the time by myself talking to God and some of it with Jason.  I had time to cry and be a mess and it was okay.  I was really thankful for that.

Shortly afterward, our midwife, Cindie called me to check in.  I told her what was going on and she gave me the freedom to go ahead with the race, if I continued to feel okay.

After all this, I still had no excuse.  And I was still waiting for one.

I felt surprisingly fine the rest of the day. I got all my gear organized and set my alarm for 4:30am, as if I was racing.

I woke up on Saturday morning and I felt like myself.  I hadn’t felt that for over a month.  Not the pregnant me or the miscarrying me or the crazy emotional me.  Just me.  I wasn’t nervous.  And it felt like racing was the natural thing to do that day.  There was no question in my mind.

Praise God He did not have to drag me to the starting line.  I was going willingly, wholeheartedly.  What a miracle heart change is.

When we got to Independence Point we found parking easily and made our way to the transition area with all the other athletes.  Now I was starting to get excited.

Here we are before the race, during set-up.

[I realize now that in this picture I look very tired and wrinkly and Jason looks rested, but I promise I felt really good that day.]

When it was time, Jason got his wetsuit on and went out to the beach to wait with his group.  I warmed up by running around the park until he began swimming, then I got ready.  He told me when he thought he’d be out of the water and where to wait for him to tag-off.

He was right on time.  Through a bit of heaving he told me he loved me, gave me a kiss goodbye, and off I went on my bike.

And here begins the even more amazing part.  But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

I spent the first third of the ride getting warmed-up and comfortable on my bike.  My body needed that, but my heart didn’t.  From the moment I zoomed out of transition area, I felt like the communication lines between God & I were wide open. That is not something I experience so deeply very often.

I felt encouraged and hopeful.  I thought about all the people I knew who had been praying for me or were praying for me that day.  I thought about how I had gotten to this point.  I thought about all the other people out there on the road, doing what I was doing.  I prayed for Luke and Sharon, a few cross country buddies from high school who were also racing, a few miles ahead of me.

But I also still wondered how the upcoming hills were going to go.  There are many of them on the second third of the course.  When I got to the first one I thought about what Ryan Hughes told Jason a few weeks ago when he asked him for cycling advice.  He said “Man, you just gotta attack those hills.”

And so that’s what I did–I zipped right up it.  I attacked it.  I was really doing this.

Then I zipped up the next hill.  And the next one.  And the next!

What the heck was going on?!  There was no exhaustion, no wall, no defeat.  Instead, I felt like a million bucks!

Jason met me at the top of the biggest hill.  It was the place I had imagined myself walking, defeated.  I got so excited I yelled “THAT’S MY HUSBAND!  I FEEL GREAT!”  He had told me previously that he didn’t think he would be able to get the car to that location because of all the other cyclists on the narrow country road.  But he did it.

Here I am when I saw him that first time.

Then I saw Mom & Ian cheering for me.  And then Erin & Miranda.  I hit all the rest of the hills, came in and made my transition successfully, and was off running.

It was pretty hot by that point, but halfway through the run there was a nice breeze off the lake. Jason met me at numerous points along the way, and Erin & Miranda were there, too.

I had thought it would take me about an hour to complete the run portion, but now I wondered if I could run it faster than that.  I remember thinking often “You can push yourself harder than this.”  I felt like my legs were moving quicker than they had in weeks.

The last 800 meters or so I really tried to pick up the pace and scoot in to the finish.   My cheer squad was there 100 meters before I crossed the line.  I was well under an hour–55:49.

Here are the final results for our team–Team Tired (I find it kinda ironic we named ourselves that when we signed up months ago).

And here’s a video Jason put together of the footage he took.

So, you can see, I did it!

Or rather, God did it. But I think that’s pretty obvious by now 🙂  And it was more fun, encouraging, healing, and faith-building than I had hoped it would be.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us through the last month and for the kind comments, emails, phone calls, and prayers.  We really appreciate it.

Check out the rest of the photos.