7.05.2017

Owen Lazarus's Birth Story


When I woke up on April 4, 2017, I never would’ve thought Owen Lazarus would be joining us that day. Even though I was six days overdue I resolved in my mind that I would eventually have to be induced later that week. He seemed awfully cozy in my belly and the early labor, that was really just a nuisance and exhausting, wasn’t giving any hints. Losing more of my mucus plug and the incessant contractions were a tease since beginning a few weeks prior.

My due date was March 29, and once that came and left us without Owen in our arms we told Travis’s mom, Terri, to come on down from Ohio. It was nice having her here to help with the kids while I rested before the big day.

The morning of the day he came I was so over being pregnant. I really shouldn’t complain. It truly is a blessing, being pregnant and all. But by the end, and especially since I was almost a week late, I was so tired of being uncomfortable and so tired of being tired. I knew nights of interrupted sleep would continue after Owen came but I found solace in knowing I would finally be able to sleep on my stomach and not have to carry 40 extra pounds around my midsection.

As we sat around the breakfast table that morning I asked Terri if I could spend some time with Jesus while she entertained the kids. She was happy to let me go so for the next hour I worshipped and read encouraging scripture. That time with the Lord was so refreshing. I felt His peace envelope me and remind me that He is good and in control no matter if I get the labor and delivery I hope to have or am induced.

To stay busy the rest of the morning Terri and I took the kids to Freedom Park. They played at the playground while I walked around the lake in the hopes it would spur on stronger contractions. It definitely did something. By the second loop my contractions were feeling different than they had over the past few weeks. They weren’t painful yet but they were like waves beginning in my thighs and moving up over my belly. By the time I completed three loops and met up with Terri and the kids my contractions were coming every 8-10 minutes.

Terri was really excited when I told her what was going on but I was still sure the baby wasn’t coming that day. I didn’t want to get my hopes up just yet. We ran a quick errand to Target and then headed home for lunch and naps.

When we got home my contractions were down to 6-7 minutes apart. I sent a text message to Travis  at work to update him on my progress. I also told him I was going to shower and lay down for a bit to see if the contractions would stop.

“NO! DON’T SHOWER, DON’T NAP! KEEP WALKING. I’M COMING HOME!!!”

“But I’m so tired! And don’t rush home. I still don’t know if it’s the real thing,” I wrote back. I knew he was right though. If my contractions really were different and this was the start of something I knew I should keep walking to move things along. While Terri put the kids down for a nap I walked around the neighborhood.

Travis met up with me 15 minutes later to walk next to me. We laughed about how this could be the real thing and how we could meet our new son in just a few hours but most likely tomorrow because I tend to have long labors. We got excited after each contraction ended knowing we were one step closer. Travis asked me how long we needed to walk until it was time to go since my contractions were now down to 2-3 minutes apart. I was so afraid of going in too early—that’s what happened with my other two—so I tried to wait as long as possible until I couldn’t walk or talk through them.

We made it back home after a few contractions in a row stopped me in my tracks. They were tolerable but I had to really concentrate on my breathing in order to get through them. I knew it was time to call my midwife. The nurse told me my midwife would call me back but I told her that we were already on our way. I wasn’t about to wait around when I finally knew this was the real deal, and with Owen sitting so low and being my third baby I had a feeling this was all going to go really quick.

We kissed our napping kids, thanked Terri for being awesome, and headed on our way!

We arrived at the hospital at 3:30 pm. My midwife, Kathy, checked me right away. I was 5 cm dilated.

“You seem to be progressing very nicely so I don’t think it’s necessary to break your water,” she said. I was so thankful. My water was artificially broken with my other two and I stalled for several hours. The pain was excruciating. At one point when I was in labor with Theo I swore I would never get pregnant again. But here I was for the third time.

For the next three hours, that seemed to fly by, I went back and forth between bouncing on a ball and swaying my hips hunched over the bed. This labor was so different than the other two. I’m not sure if it’s because my waters were still intact or if it’s because everything was happening so fast. I could actually feel my body move through the different stages. I looked up at Travis at one point as he held my hands across the bed from me and whispered, “I’m going through transition.” I breathed and relaxed with every wave, and although it hurt like hell, the pain was manageable.

During each contraction I imagined holding Owen. I imagined what he would look like. I imagined how it would feel to push another baby out of me. I told myself I could do it again, and I marveled at my body, the way it carries and grows a human, births a human, and then sustains a human. What a beautiful miracle. I praised God that I could be a part of that.

Two and a half hours after we arrived and not long after my sister, Emily, joined us I felt the urge to push. I was surprised it happened so quickly. Thankfully Kathy walked in right after I told Travis I was ready to push and she checked me. Half expecting her to tell me I was still at 8 cm I was thrilled when she said, “you have a tiny bit of cervix left but I think you can push through it.”

“Praise the Lord!” I exclaimed.

Travis helped me onto the bed as Kathy donned her scrubs and turned on the blinding overhead lamp. Within seconds I was ready for my first push. I bore down and my water immediately burst. It was the weirdest, coolest feeling ever. Kathy asked if I wanted to push again during that contraction but I wasn’t ready. I wanted a few minutes to rest and regain my strength. I was already so exhausted.

I waited for the next one to come. And when it did I took a deep breath, bore down again with all my might, and felt the familiar ring of fire. He was there!

“There’s his head! You’re doing so great, Jess! Keeping pushing!” Kathy said. I could hear Travis and my nurses encouraging me too.

I pushed two more times within that same contraction and his head finally released. I thought he would wiggle himself out at that point but I could feel as if something was caught.

“Push again! One more time and he’s out!” I didn’t want to push again. I wanted him to already be out. I was confused as to why he didn’t just fall out of me. The pain was unbearable. I wanted it all to be over. It was so uncomfortable and hurt so bad. But I collected myself, took the deepest breath I could muster, and pushed. And then his broad shoulders popped through as the rest of him followed.

I lay back in relief, my whole body shaking. I couldn’t believe it was over. I couldn’t believe my body just did that.

Kathy called Travis down to cut the cord because it was too short for Owen to rest on me while still connected. Seconds later she set him on my chest. As I looked down at him and took in the fact that he was on me now and no longer in me, I exclaimed, “I’m not pregnant anymore!” Everyone laughed. I was filled with joy. He looked exactly like his sister and brother, except his entire face was blue. We were reassured it was just bruised from traveling through the birth canal so fast. I couldn’t believe I was a mother for the third time and that he was mine.

It was 6:43 pm. Owen came only three hours after arriving at the hospital. It was absolutely glorious and everything went exactly how you would hope a natural, non-medicated birth would go.


Travis and my sister crowded around my bed as I held and nursed Owen, admiring his little self. He still had gunk all over him that kept him a grayish color and he pooped on me at one point but I didn’t care. He was beautiful.

After holding and gazing at him for an hour or so, he was weighed and cleaned off. He weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces. I knew then why his shoulders were stuck!


And that’s where I should end my birth story. My sweet family gathered together around my postpartum bed, holding our newborn son, marveling at the works of our Lord and taking in all of His goodness.


But it continues.

Shortly after we settled into the room that would be ours for the next two nights I hemorrhaged.

Travis went to grab our bags from the car while Emily and I chatted in our new room, Owen lying peacefully in my arms. It was only 8 pm or so and I was excited that we would have an entire night to rest.

Two of my nurses walked in a few minutes later and asked if I would like to go to the bathroom. I hadn’t gone since delivering. I agreed that I should try. I handed Owen to Emily and each nurse stood on either side of me as I draped my legs over the side of the bed. I stood to my feet and before I could take a step blood began gushing out of me through my diaper-like pad as if it wasn’t even there. A pool of blood lay at my feet as I looked up at the nurses hoping they would know what to do.

“OK, let’s get you back into bed and lay you flat,” one of the nurses, Haley said. She remained calm but I could see the bewilderment behind her eyes. As the other nurse repositioned my bed so I was laying flat, Haley called my midwife and told her to bring in a team of nurses, including a hematologist.

Within seconds the door swung wide open and a slew of nurses filed into the room. I looked over at Emily who still was holding Owen and she had a very concerning look on her face. She was scared and helpless. But I was so thankful she was there. She was such a comfort to me even if she was in the corner out of the way of the nurses holding my hours-old baby.

I lay flat on my back with my hospital gown up around my still soft belly as one nurse to the left of me continually took my vitals, Haley down at my pelvis exchanged pads every few minutes while my midwife pushed on my abdomen to the right of me. The hematologist was inches from the foot of my bed with a scale weighing the pads as Haley passed them to her. Another nurse inserted an IV into my right arm filled with Pitocin to contract my uterus and pain medication for what was about to take place.

“Your earrings are pretty,” the nurse who was taking my vitals said. I’m not sure if she really thought so or if she was trying to distract me from all the chaos.

Every few seconds I was asked how I was feeling. Despite my blood pressure dropping, not once did I ever feel dizzy or lightheaded. Not once did I ever think I would lose so much blood that I would need a transfusion. Not once did ever it cross my mind that I could actually die.

A short time passed and Travis finally walked in the room. Amidst the frenzy he was informed by one of the nurses of my condition. His face went white as snow when he saw the blood pooled at the side of my bed. He later told me the room looked like a crime scene. Grabbing my hand, he stood to the right of my head and instantly I felt peace. But I could tell he wasn’t doing well. I imagined he had thoughts swirling through his mind of his wife, the mother of his children, dying right there on the bed in front of him. He couldn’t last a few minutes without having to retreat to the bathroom. I reached my hand out for someone, anyone, to take. I needed to be comforted. Kathy held my hand as she waited for the pain medication to take effect.

Travis walked out of the bathroom and back to my side moments later with more color to his face. He took my hand once again. Kathy then proceeded to search inside my uterus with her hand. It’s as bad as it sounds. Thankfully the pain medication did its job and I didn’t really feel much of anything.

There’s nothing like being splayed upon a hospital bed, naked from the waist down, with 16 eyes on you and one hand in you and blood all around you. I was at my most vulnerable, fighting for my life. I didn’t care at that point who saw me and what they saw. I lay there and allowed the nurses and Kathy to do what needed to be done.

“Well, there it is. Would you look at that?” Kathy said as she held the tiniest piece of something that came out of me. Whatever it was rested in the palm of her hand.

“It’s a part of your placenta that broke off inside,” she continued. “Your body was trying to flush it out, that’s why you were hemorrhaging.”

That’s it?! That’s what was causing the blood bath? That’s what almost killed me?!

I could not believe it. In that moment I thought of all the things that could have gone wrong if I was anywhere else with anyone else. If I would have gone into labor at home. If it was 100 years ago. If I didn’t have an amazing team of nurses who cared and didn’t just chock up my bleeding to the usual postpartum flow and a brave midwife who was willing to search inside of me to find the culprit.

It was past midnight by the time my bleeding subsided and the room was scoured and spotless once again. What I once thought was going to be a relaxing night of cuddling my newborn baby turned into a bloody fiasco along with having to be checked every 15-30 minutes until morning to make sure I didn’t bleed out. I didn’t get any rest that night even when Owen was taken to the nursery for a few hours. I was insanely exhausted but my mind could not shut off and my body could not relax.

I saw the sunrise before eventually receiving a Percocet and finally falling asleep.


The Lord is good. He gave me the birth I had always hoped to have. I felt him in every wave that swept over me. After every contraction I praised Him for getting me through another one. The pain was fierce but his presence was fiercer. And then he continued to be with me as my body worked to rid the foreign piece still inside of me. His peace overwhelmed me as I lay on that bed exposed trusting in him and trusting that my midwife and nurses were going to find and fix the problem. I never doubted they knew what they were doing and that I wouldn’t be healed.

Three months later I’m still shocked by the whole day. It’s funny how God makes you forget what labor and delivery feels like because if you asked me today if I’d do it all over again, I would—just without the hemorrhaging. Childbirth truly is a miracle and I feel blessed to have been able to experience it all in its full glory.    

5.17.2017

Grace


It's funny what adding one more kid to the mix will do to a family. In ours Baby Owen has brought joy, excitement, and wonder. He's also brought with him higher loads of laundry, less sleep for me, bigger messes from all, and more discipline for the older two. Talk about sanctification! Then there is this new ability I've acquired this time around to let things just slide off my shoulders.

As I recently skimmed through old posts I wrote following the birth of Theo I couldn't help but want to give my former self a huge hug. I didn't want to tell her everything was going to be OK and to cherish the moments because that wouldn't have helped. Those were hard times. Going from one to two kids was really, REALLY tough. It was one of the blocks I put in place as we contemplated having more. I remember how bad my eyes burned from the exhaustion of not sleeping more than 2 hours at a time while attempting to console a fussy baby night and day. I was drowning in laundry and dishes and to-do lists. And looking back now I know I didn't savor all the sweet and new things that come with a newborn. I say that because I don't remember any of it. How could I? I was running on a few hours of sleep here and there. I was just ready to move past it all and get back to a normal routine.

After giving her that huge hug, one thing I would tell my former self is to give grace. Give grace to yourself. Give grace to Theo. Give grace to Anna. Give grace to Travis. Grace upon grace upon grace. As I read those words from two and a half years ago I sensed so much guilt from that new mama. Guilt for not having the toilets cleaned, for dishes stacked high, for laundry still sitting in baskets--clean, but still unfolded and not in drawers. Guilt for not having memory books written in and toys not placed nicely in their correct homes. Guilt for the time I wasn't spending with my older one because I was too busy with the new one. Guilt for not knowing how to console my son who was in obvious pain and wishing I had an "easy baby".

Grace.

Since we welcomed Owen I haven't cleaned the bathtub or vacuumed the floors, most days dishes are stacked high, I currently have a load of towels in the dryer that need to be folded and two other baskets of clothes that need to be put away, not to mention the clothes sitting in the hamper that need to be washed. Memory books still sit untouched. I'm writing from the YMCA while my older two are in the child care and we left the house with Legos strewn all over the floor. Travis and I tag team to console Owen during his 8-10 pm witching hour every evening all the while the older two raucously play in their room refusing to go to bed.

And I've resolved to not let it bother me.



Owen is an infant, he's going to cry and spit up. He's going to need to be nursed in public and a passerby may just happen to see a boob. He's going to poop all over the changing table and have blow outs that cover his entire back. He's going to need to be held to be comforted and straightening my hair is just going to have to wait--or maybe it's not and he's just going to have to wait because he's not going to die from crying a few minutes longer.

Anna and Theo are kids, they are going to disobey. They are going to test us when we say no just to see how far they can get. Anna is going to whine when her brother takes her baby doll and Theo is going to throw a fit when I tell him he can't have another "bip" (chip) when he's already had 20. They are going to wake up earlier than we would like and spill their milk on my bible while we're eating breakfast and insist on putting on their own shoes as we are running late for church. But they are also not going to forget to ask to give Owen a hug and kiss before bed and beg me to "nuggle" and sing them our song as they fall asleep. And always I will be happy to oblige.


It's only natural that the more you add the more challenging it gets. More hands to hold, more things to remember, less time to devote to each person in the family, less sleep. But there are more giggles and more kisses and more love to go around. And there is more grace. 

***

A few nights ago I stood in the doorway watching the gloomy clouds cover the sun setting behind our building. The older two were playing outside while Owen lay peacefully in his bouncer at my feet. Anna pedaled past us on her purple bike, Theo played with a stick and a rock he found a few minutes before. Any other night I would have rushed the kids inside upon seeing the looming clouds. I wouldn't have wanted them to be caught in the rain and then trample the water and mud through the house. I wouldn't have wanted to get towels to clean up the mess and then have to change them out of their wet clothes into dry, clean clothes. I wouldn't have wanted to do more laundry than I needed to. Plus dinner was almost ready and it would have kept us from sitting down to eat in a timely manner.

But I let it happen. I waited for the clouds to open up and allowed the torrential rain to pour down on their little heads. They squealed and looked to me half expecting me to call them inside. 

"Go! Play! Get wet!" I shouted.

The giant droplets soaked their clothes. They jumped through the puddles that quickly pooled next to our front stoop. Mud splattered across their legs and they both looked up to the sky, mouths opened wide to drink up the falling rain. Soaking up the moment, I delighted in their giggles. A moment that only lasted a few minutes but one they will remember for awhile and one I'll remember even longer.

I had a friend the other day ask me what my favorite thing is about having a newborn in the house for the third time. 

"Noticing all the little things again." I told her. It's allowed me to stop and cherish Owen's fuzzy ears and the way he tries his hardest to smile at me first thing in the morning at only 5 weeks old. I've taken in Theo's growing hands and feet that are more like a little boy's and less like a baby's, and Anna's sweet and hilarious songs she makes up on the spot and her big beautiful eyes that continue to pierce our souls. 

This whole parenting thing is still so hard. It's always going to be hard because we're dealing with tiny, broken human beings who become big, broken human beings, when we ourselves are broken--and clueless. But grace. Grace allows us to let things slide off our shoulders much easier. And thanks be to God, our newest addition has brought that with him. 


Photos by my wonderfully talented sister, Stef
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3.05.2017

A Love Letter to My First Son



Dear Theo,

It feels like yesterday when I first met you, peering down over my still round yet quickly deflating belly, the same belly that held you carefully for 9 months. My legs were raised in the stir ups as Jan, our midwife, held you high so I could see your tiny arms and legs extending for the very first time.

And all I could say was, I love him so much! – my first words to you.

I never imagined having a little boy. Growing up in a family where the estrogen ran high I was unsure of how I was going to handle the nonstop energy of the opposite gender. Two years later I’m still scratching my head trying to figure you out. You’re loud, you like to believe you can jump from any height, you’re already talking about poop and calling everyone “poop”, I’m finding rocks in the laundry that you’ve collected in your pockets, and you always want to wrestle.

You’re such a boy!” I yelled out one day after you came inside covered in mud. As I stripped you down to your diaper at the door I immediately contemplated how much Oxyclean solution I was going to have to use in order to remove all the stains.

“You can’t say that like it’s a bad thing,” your father called out to me from the other room.

He was right. You are a boy, and that is the most wonderful thing. You’re going to get dirty, you’re going to think farts and pooping are funny, you’re going to hide rocks in your pockets, and you’re going to see how high you can jump off the playground. You may even break a few bones along the way. And that is great.

You know what else I’m learning about boys through you though? You love to cuddle and you love your mama.

While you were still in my belly I prayed you would come out as a baby who didn’t want to ever be put down. I should have listened to the old saying, “be careful what you wish for”, because I got exactly that. The months after we brought you home tested my strength as a mother and my faith in God. Most nights were spent nursing you, snuggling you, and burping you, not to mention sleeping in an upright position with you on my chest to help with your reflux. You didn’t finally sleep through the night until after your first year. Many days I regretted saying that prayer for a cuddly baby.

But it has paid off.

As you’ve grown older and been sleeping through the night regularly, your desire to cuddle hasn’t faded. When we read together you don’t pull away to sit by yourself. You always choose my lap as your go-to seat. When you’re sad you don’t run off licking your wounds by yourself. Instead you reach up, arms open wide, saying, “hug, hug.” And my favorite part about all of this is when you get hurt the first person you call out for is mama.

I don’t ever take this lightly.

And do you know why?

Because I won’t always be the one you call out for. There will be someone else someday who you’ll choose over me to cuddle with, to hug when you’re feeling sad, to call out to when you need to be comforted. And I’ll have to be OK with that.

Lately it’s been more of a challenge to carry you around, to hold you when you reach your little arms up to me. It’s because of your baby brother growing inside of me. My arms get tired, my belly contracts as it’s nudged by your knees wrapping around me. I ask if you would rather be held by your father and all you say is, “Mama, hold you.”

“Ok, buddy,” I say because I remember I won’t always be your favorite person. There will be someone else.

So in these moments when my arms are tired and my belly contracts more than it should and a part of me just wants a moment alone I’m going to endure and hold you for as long as I can take it.

I love you my sweet, cuddly boy, more than you’ll ever know,

Mama 

2.08.2017

Soft Curves

My second trimester was lovely. I felt great, I slept great, I breathed easy walking up and down stairs, and my bump made the perfect soccer ball shape under my maternity clothes. Most days I forgot I was pregnant. Ok, not really, but I had no complaints. 

And then the third trimester came in with a vengeance. Sleeping has become incredibly uncomfortable. With every waddle I feel the extra weight that's been added. The weeks leading up to when we'll finally meet our little guy seem never-ending. My clothes continue to get tighter, and I feel like a whale most of the time. I've been told more than once that I look like I'm ready to pop. And whenever I tell people I'm not due until the end of March they respond with "oh, you poor thing".

At the gym last week one of the front desk attendants told me I'm a lot bigger than I was with my other two. 

"Thanks! I still have two months," I responded with a fake smile. 

Then I watched as she floundered like a fish.

"But you still look great, like really great! You look so cute! I'm so glad you're here, it's so good to see you!" she said back pedaling her compliment--or insult, I'm still not sure which one it was.

Uh-huh.

I thanked her again, but this time for real. I felt bad that she felt so bad. I know she didn't mean to make me feel larger than life. I ran upstairs--and out of breath--to the elliptical vowing to not stop until I sweated off the pancakes I ate for breakfast that morning.  



12.09.2016

It's Another Boy!

Poor, sweet Anna. We opened the pizza box together, and before our eyes, the ultrasound photo taped to the inside lid revealed what we had been waiting to find out for weeks.

"It's a boy!" Travis and I shouted together. 

Then Anna's little voice cried out: "But I don't want another brother!" I immediately looked down and saw her face drop and the tears begin to well in her eyes. My heart so full of joy broke a tiny bit for my first born who so desperately wanted a sister. It was as if she never wanted anything more in her life. Her own baby sister to hold and nurture and dress up in the sweetest little girl clothes. A sister to begin her huge family of sisters just like little orphan Annie--her ultimate dream. I hugged her and kissed her and told her what an amazing big sister she is to her little brother and will be to her new baby brother. I thought of all the things I could tell her to convince her that it's ok she's the only girl (for now). You'll get to have your own room someday. You'll be mommy and daddy's favorite girl. You'll get to keep all your dolls to yourself. 

12.07.2016

All I Want for Christmas


The past few months have been a whirlwind. Fall is already crazy in itself. Three birthdays to celebrate, a soccer season to fill our Saturdays and at least one night a week with practices, and a new school year schedule to get accustomed to, not to mention Halloween and Thanksgiving, plus Christmas to prepare for right around the corner. And then on top of all that, this year we had a big move. Well, maybe not a big move, we only moved three buildings down the street, but a move nonetheless and our first with kids. They tell you it’s not easy moving with kids, but it’s one of those “you never really know until you’re in the throes of it yourself” type of ordeals.

I feel like we’re finally catching our breath in December, but even then we have all the festivities that come with Christmas, and as a mother to two young kids I want Christmas to be magical and special and include every activity that goes along with it. We have an advent calendar and a Jesse Tree; we’ve already baked cookies, watched at least 10 Christmas movies, and listened to Christmas music every day since Black Friday. I have it on my radar to visit Santa, see the singing bears in uptown and walk through the nearby Christmas village, take a carriage ride through the Billy Graham Library lights display, and watch still at least 20 more Christmas movies. Plus there are the parties to attend and the Christmas cards that need to be printed, addressed, stamped, and sent. Oh, and then there are the gifts; gifts for the kids, gifts from the kids, gifts for parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles, friends…

11.10.2016

Half Way There

I've made it to the half way point. **praise hands** A part of me feels like the baby will be here in no time, but I also feel like 20 weeks seems so far away. I mean, we still have Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day to get through. The leaves still have to fall from the trees and Charlotte's one snowfall in the winter needs to blanket the grass until it all melts away in the afternoon sun. Flowers will be blooming again before my due date rolls around and daylight savings will have already graced us with her sunny presence. Still so far away, right?


To tear or not to tear?!