Category Archives: Pregnancy

The road to race day . . .

has been a difficult one.  In ways I could not have imagined or anticipated.  

I know I need to report on how Saturday’s race actually went, which I will definitely do.  But in the last seven weeks this experience has become much bigger for me than race day.  I’d like to do some further explaining about that before talking about the race.

When I started training for the triathlon I had the thought “Can I do this?”  As I got into my training that question faded away.  Hopefully you could sense that in my previous related posts.  I realized I could do it.  And I kept training, looking forward with optimism and confidence.

But seven weeks ago things changed.  I found out I was pregnant. 

We were slightly surprised but very excited.  Though, of course, I wasn’t sure what my training would look like moving forward.

I know that many women have gone out and done some incredible things while pregnant.  They’ve climbed mountains, ran marathons.  Tara even told me she had a friend who did the Ironman while pregnant. 

This experience has taught me that I am not one of those women. 

I tried as best I could to get out there and move in the last weeks of my training, but I was just so tired and gross-feeling.  When I would exercize with any moderate-to-high level of intensity I would hit a huge wall.  My burning legs, my fast-beating heart, my panting lungs would all scream “We are DONE!” 

This is all normal, I learned.  And any woman who has been pregnant will tell you that the word “normal” is a very comforting thing to hear when you are with child.

Unfortunately, there were other things about this pregnancy that were not normal.  I have hypothyroidism and that became an issue.  We thought that was resolved when we went in for an ultrasound and saw our little one’s heart beating.  We were six weeks along.  He or she measured just fine and we were on track for a March birth.

Then the icky pregnant feeling started to fade and we learned that my hormone levels were not increasing “normally.”  I spent a week living in a chaotic mixture of fear, hope, uncertainty, prayer, sadness, and confusion. 

You can see where this is going.  And, of course, the last thing I wanted to do was train.  Understandably.

A week ago today we saw with our own eyes that our baby’s heart was not beating.  This was five days before the triathlon. 

I had spent over a month of pregnancy wondering “Can I really do this triathlon?  Will the baby be okay?  If I don’t do it am I just wimping out or is my reasoning legitimate?  What would God have me do?  This seems so much bigger than just doing a triathlon. Do I trust Him with this?  What does trusting Him even look like in this situation?”

Even though the baby is now safe in the arms of Jesus (and really was, all along), I still wondered if I could finish the race or if I wanted to anymore.  “I’m just so tired, Lord, in every way.  The last thing I want is to be out there on that race course exhausted, alone, feeling like I want to give up.”

At the same time, there was something compelling and healing about the thought of accomplishing something with my body (if I could do it).   This body that has carried three babies and delivered one at full term.  The one that survived those years of disordered eating and ran a half marathon last October.

The one that’s gotten one too many sunburns and doesn’t get enough water every day.  The one with the bum shoulder.  The one that breastfed a child for 14 months and the one strong enough to carry that same child’s 28-pound body around every day. 

I have to admit, this body I have is an amazing creation.  And it’s sustained by a lovingly persistant Creator.  

I couldn’t shake the thought that this was something from God all along.   I have felt that before with other things and I have felt my resistance to fully embrace it. 

I knew He had provided all I had needed up until this point, on many practical levels.   And I knew I had proclaimed that, to myself and to others.

Come race day, I would learn even more about His provision. 

I just had to get to the starting line.

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Birth story

It has taken me a while to find the time and energy to sit down and write about our birth story, but here I finally am. To tell you the truth, this recounting is really for me to look back on and see God’s faithfulness. It is also for other moms and moms-to-be who are interested. I found that birth stories were especially helpful to me in my pregnancy as I looked forward to my own experience.

I also want to preface my writing with the warning that as a new mom I don’t seem to be writing as succinctly or coherently as I used to. So bear with me.

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Our son’s due date was November 27th, Thanksgiving Day. We celebrated the holiday with the Francis’ and Mother Teresa. No baby, just lots of food and fellowship.

The following Monday we met with Cindie, our midwife. I was all around feeling very good. I was looking forward to the birth, but didn’t feel particularly anxious about it happening on the due date. I knew that was just an estimate and that Baby H would come when he was good and ready.

During that appointment Cindie had to go through the routine procedure of telling me about all the increased risk of various complications after a baby’s due date. I know she was not concerned at all about these happening, but I guess I wasn’t really expecting to hear them. She said she’d like us to come in on Thursday to do some fetal monitoring. She also gave us the option of going in and having an ultrasound done to make sure everything was okay.

The next day was a rough one for me. Now with all the possible risks presented I felt more of a sense of urgency, even though I told myself everything was just fine. Also, I wasn’t very fond of the idea of having to do the monitoring or deciding about the ultrasound. I just wanted to leave Baby H alone and let him come in his time. I was emotional all day. Because of this we decided we weren’t going to go to Community Group that night.

That decision was very much God’s grace to me because at 8:30pm my water broke. I was fine with dirtying my own kitchen floor with the mess, but I would not have been okay with it happening at the Watson’s house. We’re all family, but not that close.

When it did happen, Jason & I just looked at each other dumbfounded. This was actually happening. I could tell Jason was excited as we cleaned up the house a bit for our midwife & doula, did some last minute laundry, and got ready for bed.

By 10:30pm the contractions started to come. People say that at that point it’s a good idea to watch a movie or do something to distract yourself. That wasn’t possible for me because the contractions were quite strong right from the start.

I labored for the next four hours at home. I spent that time in bed, a bit in the bath tub, and leaning over a birth ball on the floor. At the point where I started to feel like I really needed help getting through the contractions (2:30am) our doula, Eliza, showed up. She was so great, applying pressure in just the right places on my lower back when the strongest part of each contraction would come. When she wasn’t doing that, she was feeding me scrambled eggs, toast, water, and shot blocks.

Jason & I had talked beforehand about having our baby at home and we had decided to leave it as Plan B. Plan A was to go to the birth center in Kirkland. But by the time Cindie arrived I was at 7cm and it seemed like a no-brainer that we would have the baby at home. I felt comfortable there, was making progress, and did not want to endure the car ride across the water.

Although Jason was a bit hesitant through the pregnancy about having a home birth, at the point of decision he was fine with it. And in the end I think he was glad it turned out that way. Through the rest of active labor and transition he helped Cindie bring in her supplies and set up for the birth.

The funny thing is, I really thought I would want him by my side for every contraction but it didn’t turn out that way. Eliza was so helpful and encouraging to me and I actually preferred that Jason busy himself with setting up. I really think the presence of a woman (and a woman who had also given birth at that) was what I needed. I think Jason was also glad for this because he set his mind on the practical things that needed to happen and felt very much like he was contributing.

Once active labor was underway I decided to get in the bath tub and ended up staying there through transition. What I didn’t know at the time was that we were out of hot water and so Jason had scrounged up a bunch of pots and was boiling water full blast on the stove to pour into the tub. What a blessing that was to me, though I didn’t know he was going to all the effort at the time.

When I did get in the tub, Eliza was there by my side, holding my hand and pouring water over my belly. Although the pain grew more intense, I was not afraid or felt like I wanted to give up. Rather, I felt encouraged that things were going so well and empowered knowing I was making progress.

When the contractions became the most intense I started to feel overwhelmed and was having difficulty breathing and relaxing through the most painful parts. That’s when Cindie came in and suggested a breathing technique (“hee hee who”) that was a lifesaver. Eliza remained there with me and I tried as hard as I could to focus on her face as I breathed through the pain.

As I lay there in tub, I began to feel a sense of peace and euphoria. It was very strange since the pain hadn’t gone away. I also remember noticing that the dark bathroom was now starting to fill with light as the morning came. The time was passing much quicker than I thought it would.

At 7:30am Cindie checked me and I was at 9cm. The progress made me feel even more encouraged. At around that time I started to feel a slight sensation to push and decided I wanted to get out of the tub. I remember thinking that I had gotten past the toughest part, which really hadn’t been bad at all. All I had to do was push and it would be over.

What I didn’t know was that it wouldn’t be over for another almost four hours. This is one of those situations where I’m glad God doesn’t allow us to see into the future. If I would’ve known it would take that long and how hard it would be, I probably would’ve mentally given up right then and there.

For the first of those four hours, I tried to figure out how to effectively push, which wasn’t as intuitive as I thought it would be. Also, it took me several different positions before I found the one that was allowing me to make the most progress with each push. This was thanks to Mel, the birth assistant who arrived just in time to suggest a position she had seen women in the Philippines use during delivery.

For the next three hours I pushed and pushed. As time passed I grew more and more familiar with the sensation to push and was able to push past the pain during each contraction. At the same time, I was feeling increasingly more emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I doubted my strength to keep going, Cindie, Eliza and Mel kept reminding me that I could do it and that I was making progress. It was also comforting to know that the baby heart rate was fine every time Mel checked it with the doppler.

Jason sat right at my side next to the bed the whole time. He was mostly quiet, always read with water, goos, and a wet washcloth, which I needed in between each contraction. I remember at one point looking over and seeing him leaning his head down on the mattress. I think he didn’t know anything else to do but pray.

I was also praying. I don’t know how many times I cried out “Lord, help me!” as the next round of contraction and pushing would begin. I also remember asking God to make Satan and the lies that I couldn’t do it go away. Cindie prayed against that out loud and Eliza told me not to be afraid. I thought about 1 John 4:18 which says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

I made slow progress with each push. Cindie told me it was taking longer because I have such a strong perineum that would not stretch so easily. Looking back I am glad things happened the way they did. The many pushes stretched this area slowly and even though Ian had a 14-inch head I ended up with only a minor tear that did not require stitches (and an easier recovery!).

Finally, at 11:07am, Baby H was born. They immediately plopped him down on my chest. I felt totally dumbfounded. You spend nine months imagining what your child will be like and then all the sudden he is there. It is such an overwhelming experience. Jason & I were both in tears.

As Baby H lay there wiggling around on my chest quietly Mel suctioned his mouth and finally letting out a little cry. All the while Eliza was snapping photos. I am so glad she was able to capture those moments. Then the cord was cut a few minutes later and he was wrapped in a blanket.

Everything about the labor & birth was very normal up until that point. But then Cindie noticed that I was bleeding more than usual. She asked me to push again a few more times to get the placenta out and after a couple pushes she decided to retrieve it herself. That was an uncomfortable experience to say the least, but she was quick about it, and as gentle as she could be. It turns out that the placenta had only partially removed itself from the uterine wall.

Once Cindie had gotten the placenta out she massaged my uterus and I got a shot of pitocin and an IV bag of fluid. Thankfully that stopped the bleeding very quickly. If it hadn’t, I think I probably would have had to get to the hospital very quickly.

What’s amazing is that through all of this I felt fine. I was tired from the labor & birth, but I did not feel lightheaded or even scared about what was happening. Cindie, Mel and Eliza were very professional about the whole thing and moved quickly to do what was necessary.

All this time Jason was in the other room holding our son and spending some special moments bonding with him. I am so glad they were able to have that time together. He told me later that he asked Baby H “What is your name?” He had two names in mind and when he looked at him he decided his name was Ian. It means “God is gracious.”

When Jason & Ian returned to my side I asked Jason “Have you decided on a name?” He told me and I was so glad. I had prayed that God would show us what our son’s name should be and in my heart I had really settled on that name several months back. Jason wanted me to wait and he would make the final decision when the time came.

A couple hours later I was able to get out of bed and into a bath. When I got into bed again I started nursing for the first time. Cindie did the newborn assessment shortly after and we found out Ian’s weight (8 lbs 5 oz) and length (19.5 in). Shortly after Cindie tucked us three into bed, packed up her stuff and went home.

Jason & Ian fell asleep right away with Ian on Jason’s chest. I don’t blame them since we were up all night laboring. I, on the other hand, lay wide awake. I couldn’t help but run through all the events that happening in the last 24 hours.

In preparation for the birth Jason & I had been memorizing Psalm 46. It seemed kind of strange to me that a psalm about chaos and destruction was what we were focusing on. But now I can see why. God had been my refuge and strength. He helped me when morning literally dawned. In the midst of all the pain, which did feel chaotic at times, He helped me be still and not only take comfort that He was working in the pain, but allowed me even take pleasure in it. And when trouble came, when I started to bleed post-birth, He was there taking care of me.

In daily life I forget quite frequently that God is good. I cease to remember His faithfulness to me and all the miracles He does in my life. I doubt and fret and am far from being still. The labor & birth of our son is one of those extraordinary Ebenezer-type experiences that I am hoping to look back on to remind me of the character of God and His power in my life.

What’s more, I have come to have a new-found respect for my body. It is amazing what it was able to do. I still occasionally struggle at times with my body image, but reminding myself that my body was the dwelling place of our son in utero, that I gave birth and am now able to breastfeed him, is a powerful antidote to the lies.

With all that being said, now we live life with Ian.

Getting ready

  • Completion of possible last date night as childless couple. Check.
  • Christmas presents for family & friends bought AND wrapped. Check.
  • Cars seat inspected and installed. Check. Ensuing realization of why people decide to buy SUVs and mini-vans. Check. Decision to no longer judge. Check.
  • Meltdown in IKEA while buying crib. Check. $1.25 hot dog and Diet Coke to relieve emotional upheaval. Check.
  • Decision to pick up entirely new hobby last week (sewing). Check.
  • Completion of first hobby project (curtains for Baby H’s room). Check.
  • Dream that I had twins. Check. Dream that my two front teeth fell out. Check. Discovery that, upon awakening, I was more disturbed about losing my teeth than having twins. Check.
  • Test drive of baby jogger with someone else’s child. Check.
  • Growing annoyance at the question “Have you had your baby yet?” Check.
  • Daydreams of future non-pregnant self running around Greenlake once again. Check.
  • A jump start on Lizzie’s assimilation into baby-dome (with above mentioned child that is not mine). Check. (Modus operandi–everyone keeps their distance and we all do just fine).
  • Two hour sleep chunks followed by a bathroom break, five times per night, for two weeks. Check.
  • Realization that I may cause my child to grow an extra limb due to toxic fumes potentially found in foam mattress purchased two months ago. Check. Decision to let it go. Check.
  • Illusion that I’m in control. Um, check?

Don’t forget the lab geek goggles

Alyssa is my mad scientist friend. She sits in her lab (pre-baby, mind you) and does experiments with things that cannot be seen with the naked eye. At least I think that’s what she does.

I used to picture her in a lab coat with little glass vials all around her, pouring things back and forth between the vials. Then I went to visit her there and she was wearing regular clothes and sitting at a computer. That was a bit anti-climactic and disappointing.

But when you’ve put in years (how many is it?) getting your PhD in Physical Chemistry, you have every right to be called a mad scientist, no matter how many undergrad student papers you grade.

Knowing this, only Alyssa would send me this email:

“So last night I dreamt you were in labor in a bed like at a camp or something… I was there with you and you were all calm and doing great (just like I said you would be… 😉 and it seemed I was about to deliver your baby but I felt we should try and find Jason, though I wasn’t sure how much time we had. ha ha. So anyhow if I come visit maybe I’ll bring some sterile neoprene gloves, just in case….”

I responded to her with the quiz I routinely give Jason on emergency birth procedures, which inspired me to write my last post.

A few hours later she sent back this:

“here will be my plan if i’m there:
  1. call 911
  2. pull on my purple neoprene lab geek gloves, with a super-cool TV-doctor snap at the wrist
  3. pull on lab geek goggles to shield the spray…
  4. pray (i guess that should be number 1)
  5. get you in the bathtub. “

She really does have her science background going for her. It just goes to show that those thousands of dollars in tuition and government grant monies really do come in handy for at least some of the academic elite.

Not to mention the fact that she recently gave birth to her own child, so it’s all fresh in her mind. Yes, she’s the one who allowed her friend to do a documentary on her birth and then watched it only a few days later and was NOT traumatized.

The lesson here is that when it comes to friendships the goal is to diversify, diversify, diversify. You’ll have just the right person to call for any situation you might find yourself in.

36 weeks

We are now officially four weeks away from Baby H’s due date. I figured it was “due” time to give an update, since I haven’t done that since our 20 week ultrasound.

Last week I went in to see Cindie, our midwife, and we were both surprised to discover that Baby H is sitting quite low, with his head down. For those of you who know about pregnancy and childbirth, the fact that I am at -1 will make sense to you. It’s good–he is in the right position and has less distance to travel (even if it’s just a little bit).

We have also gotten a taste for the newborn experience since Alaythia, Owen, Ketziah, and Kate have all been born in the last month. Jason has become quite mesmerized by these babies and has taken to calling himself “The Baby Whisperer” because he was able to successfully hold and keep calm Alathyia and Owen (not at the same time–he’s not THAT good). He is all about The Happiest Baby on the Block techniques and recommends them frequently to his new parent friends.

He also remembers most of the technical terms such as “effacement” and “dilation.” So when I don’t remember what they mean, I just ask him.

Lizzie doesn’t really care about the baby, except to say that she enjoys using my belly as a stepping stool to get to the other side of the couch. It has also served as a nice place to rest her feet when she’s slung over my shoulder for her morning snuggle.

One thing I will add is that she was not amused when we watched the The Happiest Baby video. After listening to several minutes of crying babies with her ears tipped back (she looked quite stressed out), she promptly hopped off the bed to retreat to some dark corner.

Jason and I just finished our birth class on Wednesday. We made it through the rest of the class videos without passing out or throwing up. Although I will have to admit when the teacher explained to us how they give an epidural I got quite woozy. I guess right now I’m more okay with things coming out of me than going in.

Lastly, we have reviewed procedures for a very quick emergency birth. Every week or so I quiz Jason:

E: What is the first thing you should do if we’re alone and I should calmly explain to you that “I AM GOING TO HAVE THIS BABY RIGHT NOW!”

J: Call 911! (and then say “you’re going to do great, Beautiful Wife!”)

E: Okay, then what?

J: Wash my hands up to my elbows!

After that, everything’s pretty much intuitive, right? 🙂

Beauty comes when you let go

Since I’ve seen considerable differences in my growing body, I have been consistently bothered by the fact that I am not document this pregnancy. I had a feeling I would regret it later.

I tried to take a few of those side photos of my silhouette that most moms do, but I was always depressed to see my puffy-faced self in bad lighting with a white wall as a backdrop. Plus, those shots always make my arms look bulgy and when you’re pregnant you don’t need any help in the bulgy arm department, if you know what I mean.

Then I saw the beautiful photos Keisha had taken during her pregnancy. What intrigued me most was the redeeming quality these photos had for her, which she documents on her blog. As a result, I felt inspired to capture this season of life, too.

For those of us who have struggled with body image issues, it is a confusing and awe-inspiring concept that our bodies need not be controlled. They can be left to do exactly what God intended them to do.

In the past I have really struggled to believe God’s promise that letting go of control really does lead to beauty and not to some disgusting end. But it is true. And I think pregnancy is a really great picture of that.

Marcy Dorschel is the talented photographer who took these photos. Her work is a ministry dedicated to the very things I am talking about.