Thursday, November 29, 2012

His Heart Pursuing Mine

In the midst of all of the Thanksgiving feasts, Black Friday ads, and Christmas parades, I feel like I've been informed everyday of someone either dying or someone's cancer may have returned or someone's divorce is final or someone's child is very ill or someone is struggling with scary memories from their past.

My intention is not to be Debbie Downer...but this is real life.

I was just feeding sweet Baby Blair in her warm, cozy nursery. I couldn't help but think about what her life will look like ahead of her. As much as I want to shelter her from the storms, I can't. I'll do my best to raise her in a safe and loving environment, try to guide her, teach her about Jesus...but I don't know what her life will look like.

My mom couldn't protect me from diabetes, from heartache, from struggles very, very few people even know about. I'm sure that when she was rocking me in my childhood nursery, she wanted to protect me from this world, too.

But you know what calms my anxious heart? And I'm not just using that phrase flippantly. Seriously, it is what I cling to constantly. That the very same Jesus that has sought me out, protected me, and fiercely pursued my heart takes care of my children, my family, my friends, all of us.

Never have a known a deeper, purer, more steadfast, unchanging and beautiful love than His. And His love, though intimate and personal, isn't only for me. He will pursue Blair and Grant the same way. He seeks out the brokenhearted. He is pursuing the man who cheated on his wife. He is tightly squeezing the mom who is fearful her cancer has returned. He is knocking on the heart of the high school boy who is questioning His very existence.

And that puts me at peace.

My worrying is useless because the very same God who has made my life into a beautiful story desires to do that for every one of us. Doesn't mean it's without heartache, desperation, and struggles. But it does mean that we have nothing to fear since the enormous Creator will do whatever it takes to grab onto our heart and loves us like nothing and no one in this world can.

"Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'" - Luke 15:3-6

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blair's Birth Story (Part 2 of 2)

(Part 2 of 2)

When people ask your daddy “how was labor?”, he typically responds…”INTENSE.” The time period he is referring to is from between 12:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

After Dr. Lamar broke my water, the contractions immediately intensified. There was no longer a buffer for pain, so it was much more uncomfortable. I remember your Mimi and Papa coming in somewhere around 1 p.m. That is when I had to start breathing through the contractions. I sat on a big purple birthing ball that we brought from home and rocked back and forth for comfort. For a few minutes, Erin sat behind me and tickled my back and head to help distract me. Occasionally, I would lean over the bed and move my hips from side to side through contractions. Daddy would squeeze my hips and put pressure on my tailbone to make me more comfortable.

At some point, Wendy and Erin suggested that I get into the shower in hopes that the warm water would relax me. Sounded great…and into the shower I went, still sitting on the birthing ball. (It became my closest friend that day.) Daddy sat behind me, talking to me in between contractions. I was still talking and laughing between contractions with him. And still somewhat aware of the fact that I was naked, in a shower, on a ball, in front of several people. That all changed.

What you have to understand is that somewhere in the shower, I lost complete recollection of time. And complete recollection of modesty. Your brain shuts down and all you can do is cope to get through one contraction at a time. Easier said than done.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the pitocin running on the pump through my IV was at its maximum level, leading me to contract every 1.5-2 minutes with about 30-45 seconds of down time between contractions…resulting in intensity. Someone who is in labor on her own normally contracts (less painfully) about every 3-5 minutes. My uterus was on overdrive.

Somewhere around 3 p.m., I made my way out of the shower for another check and an attempt to get your heart rate recorded. It’s kind of a blur. I’m pretty sure I was dilated to about 7 cm. In retrospect, that’s great. In the midst of the pain, I was devasted. Just a 7, I thought?! I couldn’t take much more of this. (*Correction: After looking back on records, I was actually only dilated to 6cm. Wishful thinking.)

I made a beeline back to the shower and my best friend, the birthing ball. Your daddy sat behind me on the bench with the shower wand in his hand, spraying my back. He was awesome. Encouraging when appropriate, but always a steadfast presence. Just having him in the room made me at ease. Wendy stood next to the shower, talking to me and encouraging me. Erin was the gopher, bringing ice and updating people with texts and phone calls.

And let me tell you where Jesus was.

My friend Sherril encouraged me to purposely look for Jesus while I was in labor. Since He is always with us, never leaves us, never forsakes us, He’d definitely be there in the midst of your birth. After spending time praying and thinking about this entire experience, Jesus very clearly revealed Himself to me. He, with His outstretched arms, had a hand on Daddy’s shoulder and a hand on Wendy’s shoulder. He would lean over and whisper in their ears. And right after they would hear Him, they would talk to me. And you know what? It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. “Just make it through this contraction,” Wendy said. “You are doing great,” Daddy said.

One time, Wendy said, “You are living life to the fullest.” I know this is not a typical thing she says to her clients in labor because she told me so. How did she know that I needed to be reminded that I was living life at that exact moment? That I was fulfilling a dream, crossing something off of my bucket list? She knew because she too loves Jesus and because she had her heart and ears open to Him. Because she loves Him, she has the same Holy Spirit that I do and He told her to tell me that because He knew I needed to hear it at that exact moment.

(In some special way, Jesus also made Himself evident to your big brother Grant (2 years and 4 months old). Two weeks after you were born, I was sitting on the bed, feeding you and asked Grant to come sit next to me. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. Completely unprompted, he said, “Um, let’s talk about Jesus.” I said okay…what about him? Where IS Jesus, I asked? “At the hospital. When I was there with Grandad.” (Your brother had never heard me mention this. The day you were born, he spent most of the day with Grandad and Noni, with some of the afternoon at the hospital.) “He’s really tall. With lots of hair,” he said. So in whatever way He chose, Jesus also comforted Grant on your birthday, too.)

One day soon, we’ll talk about how beautiful, comforting, and life changing hearing Jesus’ voice is. He loves you and leads you just like he does me, Daddy, Wendy, Erin, and Sherril.

And the next hour or two are even more of a blur. With contractions coming hard and fast every 1.5-2 minutes, my goal was to just survive until you were born. Our bodies are amazing things. We are designed to know exactly what to do to give birth. Every woman comes up with some rhythm or pattern to help them cope through contractions. Mine was groaning. I would make an “O” sound and moan in short and long bursts through the contractions. Daddy said I kind of sounded like I was singing. I think I probably sounded more like a cow or an animal in heat. From what I remember, it was loud and awkward sounding. But it worked.

During this time period, I remember a few things really specifically.
A.             I only said three curse words. If you ever experience natural childbirth, you will understand the pride I have in keeping my words appropriate. (*Another correction: I did only technically say three curse words. After this blog post, I was informed by those in the room that I repeated those same three curse words numerous times. Again, wishful thinking.)
B.             I thought my uterus was going to explode. The intensity and strength of contractions was unlike anything I have ever, ever experienced before. IT HURT.
C.             I never, ever asked for an epidural. Not because I didn’t want one…but because I was certain I would be dead long before they arrived to ease my pain. And I WASN’T going to tarnish my story with asking for an epidural if I wouldn’t live to even experience pain relief.
D.             I repeated numerous times, “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t take it anymore.” Well, here’s the deal. Deep down inside, I knew I could continue on. But I also knew that the phrase “I can’t do it anymore” is indicative of being close to completely dilated, so my altered reasoning mind thought if I kept repeating the phrase, then surely I was almost done.
E.             I felt sorry for the next-door neighbor. One of the other things my body naturally did to help cope with the pain was bang my head into the shower wall, in rhythm with the moans, through each contraction for the last 30 minutes of labor. When I realized that smashing my forehead into ceramic tile over and over again was “soothing,” I thought to myself, “Wow, this must really hurt.”  I did find out later that day from my friend and co-worker Tessa who was taking care of the patient next door that at one point, the patient said, “So, is that what you sound like without an epidural? If so, I want one.” Apparently, we made an impression on her.
F.            I also kept asking, “How will I know how to push?” I was quite fixated on this. I felt pressure from your head starting at about 8cm (especially since you were OP). Wendy kept saying, “You’ll just know.” Well, it’s true. At the end of a long, painful moan, without even trying, I started to bear down and push. In the shower.

This leads us to why a lot of L&D nurses get a little nervous when their patient labors in the shower towards the end. You don’t want to catch a baby there. Once I had the urge to push, everyone told me I needed to head for the bed. Stacy had checked me about 15 minutes before and said I was 9cm dilated. (It was the first time she had ever done a cervical exam on someone standing up, in the shower. What a friend.)

I had a brief moment of clarity as I arose from the birthing ball and began to make my way out into the room to the bed. This is my place of employment. And I’m completely naked. And there are 9 people in the room. I panicked. All I remember is Dr. Lamar’s calming voice coming from somewhere in the room. “I will get you a sheet. You’ll be okay.” That really put me at ease. Not only was my doctor in the room, ready to deliver you, I also wasn’t going to be completely exposed to anyone and everyone I sit next to and each lunch with at work.

I slowly made it into the bed in between contractions. At first, they had me lying on my back. That was so unbelievably painful. I pushed through one or two contractions that way. Daddy said I was gripping the bed rails so tight and pulling them inward to my chest that he was sure I was about to break them. Honestly, I bet I would have if I pushed a few more times that way. And somewhere in the there, Dr. Lamar checked me and said that you were OP. (We didn’t know this until now.) “It can’t be OP!” I cried…loudly. I knew how tough OP deliveries could be. He said it’d be okay and that hopefully the baby would rotate while I was pushing. Dr. Lamar then suggested I tried pushing on my side. I rolled to the left and pushed through one contraction. Again, unbearably uncomfortable. At this point, Wendy suggested that I get onto my hands and knees and try pushing that way. A couple of things about that: We are so fearfully and wonderfully made. It is our body’s natural way to help rotate an OP baby and take the pressure of the back of the baby’s head off of the mom’s tailbone when you are on your hands and knees. So obviously, this became the most comfortable and chosen position to push. HOWEVER, it had been a running joke amongst the L&D nurses and OB-GYNs that I would deliver that way. Not because it’s not great and comfortable and natural, but because it looks a little awkward to the outsider. Yet HOWEVER, at this point, I did not care how awkward it looked…I wanted you OUT.

So it was, on my hands and knees I started pushing. I remember Stacy trying to get your heart tones and then checking my pulse at the same time. I knew she was having a hard time distinguishing between your heartbeat and mine and that yours may be dangerously low. And I got very nervous. In 1.5 seconds, I came to a quick conclusion that I was about to be rolled out of the room for an emergency c-section. As long as you were healthy, I didn’t care. “The baby is down!” I cried out. Stacy and Dr. Lamar assured me everything was fine…you were fine. I felt immediate relief. And I continued to push. Once my mind wrapped around the fact that I was pushing, I got really nervous again. I pushed almost 2 hours with Grant. It was horrific. I was certain that I literally would not survive 2 hours of pushing again.

Enter Jesus. Without me saying ANYTHING, Wendy leans over into my ear and says, “This does not have to be the same as last time. You are almost there. This is different.” Pretty amazing, huh? Yet again, exactly what I needed to hear to continue on.

Somewhere in the midst of a push, I felt something crack. It happened to be your right collarbone. (But I’m still not certain it wasn’t my tailbone, too.) And after that crack, I felt you start making your way out.

There is something called “The Ring of Fire” in delivery when a baby’s head is crowning and about to exit. Let me tell you…I know where it got its name. IT BURNS. At that point, I had this overwhelming desire to push but Wendy convinced me to pant through a contraction or two so I wouldn’t tear as badly. Then, I heard someone say how much hair you had. And I heard the excitement in your daddy’s voice as he said that you were almost here. I had to start pushing again. And after 10 minutes total of pushing, out you came.

I thought I heard Dr. Lamar say the word “she” or “her” but I wasn’t sure. And honestly, I don’t know who even announced that you were a girl. I heard afterwards that Dr. Lamar asked Daddy, “Do you want to tell her?” and Daddy said he wasn’t sure himself of your gender and was really afraid he was going to say the wrong one. At some point, it sunk in that you were a GIRL. I wasn’t completely shocked, but I couldn’t believe it. I HAD A GIRL!

I immediately felt relief after you were out. I rolled back over and they handed you to me. You were BEAUTIFUL! You had so much dark, thick hair. I saw what everyone was talking about! And you were so long! (21.5” and 8lb 3oz). Your head was perfectly round and you were so alert! I held you for a few minutes, cried, laughed, hugged and kissed Daddy, and handed you to the nursery nurses.

Blair Elisabeth, after you were born, I was the happiest, most fulfilled person on the planet. You were here. You were healthy. You were a girl. I delivered naturally. If I could do that, then I could do ANYTHING!

Your big brother Grant got to meet you first. He was enamored and gave you a giant kiss right on the mouth. He ran out into the waiting room and told all of your grandparents that you were a girl. Everyone was so excited…especially your grandmas! The family, Wendy, and Erin all loved on you. All of my work friends came and saw you. Sarah, Katie, Alli, John, James, David & Bery all came to see you. We texted friends and family and put a picture of you up on Facebook. You breastfed beautifully about an hour after you were born. You, my dear, were quite a hit! And rightfully so.

There are a few days I look back on in my life with absolute thankfulness, gratitude, and joy. The day I believed in Jesus and asked Him to be my Savior, the day I married your Daddy, the day your brother was born, the day I went to something called Discovery, and October 30, 2012…the day you were born. I am beyond grateful and so honored that Jesus picked me to experience your birth and to be your Mommy. Other than knowing Him, there is nothing sweeter.

I love you, sweet Baby Blair. I will always cherish you and will never forget how precious of a gift you are. Thank you for being my daughter.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blair's Birth Story

(Part 1 of 2)
Here's something I'm thankful for this year...

Blair’s Birth Story

Written by: Meagan Renee Hoover (Mommy to you)

Sweet Baby Blair –

I can’t believe I have a precious baby girl to hold in my arms. I get to dress you in pink, with headbands and bows and ruffles…you made one of my sweetest dreams come true when you were born at 5:00 p.m. on October 30, 2012. Let me tell you about your birthday.

There were many times I thought you were about to make your grand entrance. When I was 36 weeks pregnant with you, I started contracting late one night, for several hours, every 3-7 minutes apart. I had to rock on my hands and knees, back and forth, just to get comfortable. And your Daddy slept through all of it. But, you decided to stay nice and cozy inside and my contractions stopped.

Then again at 38 weeks…for several nights in a row…I lost a lot of sleep having contractions. It made getting up to go to work kind of difficult. Especially when I was getting up to go take care of other pregnant mommies who were having their babies long before their due date!

And the big fake out came on Friday night, October 26. I started contracting at 5 p.m. that afternoon. We ate dinner. Your daddy and big brother Grant went to a football game. The contractions came closer together, started getting stronger. I even took a shower to see if they would slow down. And they didn’t. I made sure our bags were packed. I called our doula Wendy to give her a heads up since she had to drive in an hour to get to our house. I kept contracting every 3-8 minutes apart…until 4:30 a.m. That is when I called into work (since the 27th was supposed to be my last day before maternity leave) and told the girls that they would probably see me that Saturday in labor. Then, I finally fell asleep. And the contractions stopped. And you didn’t come. I was so disappointed!

At this point, I started wondering if you were a girl. You see, we didn’t find out if you were a boy or girl. Your daddy and I made it through at least 5 sonograms without anyone telling us whether you were Blair Elisabeth or Ethan Garrett. So, since you kept teasing me and being indecisive about making your grand entrance, I thought, “Hmm…this is a girly thing to do. We’re pretty good about teasing and manipulating…maybe this baby is a girl.” Little did I know…

So, the morning of Saturday, October 27, I called Wendy to tell her how I wasn’t in labor. I told her about my contraction pattern, the timing of contractions, my back pain, and how the contractions would double or triple at times, then space out. We both agreed that we thought you were what’s called “OP” or occiput posterior position…meaning face up…and that my body was trying to start labor but you just weren’t in the right position to get going. So what my contractions were doing was trying to rotate you face down. Wendy suggested I go “curb walking” to try and jiggle you face down into my pelvis so we could get the show on the road.

So curb walking it was. For over a mile, I would walk with one foot on the curb and one on the road, up and down Berkeley, Clarinda, Speedway, and Avondale. Your daddy pushed the stroller with Grant in it and did his best not to laugh at me. I probably looked a little crazy. But I didn’t care. I wanted to meet you…and be able to breathe again.

During our walk, I was so proud of myself for not falling off of the curb and hurting myself. And then about 100 yards from our house, as I was telling your daddy while looking at a less-than-optimally maintained house that I hoped the new owners would clean up, I stepped into a hole in the sidewalk made by a big oak tree, heard my left ankle pop, and almost fell to the ground in pain. Like a doofus, I sprained my ankle. I started sobbing because A. it hurt so badly, B. I was embarrassed, and C.12 hours before, I was certain I would have a baby by then and not be walking around the neighborhood like a weirdo halfway up the curb. Your daddy offered to go get the car and drive me home, but because of my pride, I refused and hobbled and cried the remaining 100 yards to our house. When we got to the back porch, we took off my shoe and my ankle was black and blue and size of a softball. And you apparently did not feel sorry for me because my contractions had completely stopped and I had no hope of going into labor before my set induction date of October 30 (40.0 weeks).

In hindsight, it was all part of Jesus’ plan for you to not make your arrival yet because Dr. Lamar (my longtime OB-GYN) was out of town and Wendy was in the pre-stages of a highly contagious and vicious 24 hour stomach bug. The absence of either one of them would have completely changed the story of your birth. So, as downcast, tired, and sore I was…I guess He knew what He was doing.

We’ll fast forward a little. The night before your induction, we went to the Young Life banquet where we had dinner with friends and heard about how high school kids are learning about Jesus. Grant spent the night with Derik, Sarah, and Elliot Schnieder. Your daddy and I were packed and ready to go. And then it hit me. I WAS ABOUT TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY. I had a tried and true panic attack. You see, my intention was to have you “naturally.” Meaning, without an epidural or pain medication. And I knew that was going to be really hard to do with an induction. I felt like my dreams of a natural delivery, laboring at home with your daddy and the doula, the middle of the night water breaking…it was all shattered. (Plus, I was hormonal.) I cried, I had a hard time breathing, I threw up…I think your daddy thought I had officially lost my mind. And then, I remembered what Wendy told me one night on the phone…”Even before the foundations of the earth, God knew the birthday of this child.” All I needed was that simple reminder that He was in control. Not me, thank goodness.

And why did I want to have a natural delivery, you ask? Well, for several reasons.
1               As a type 1 diabetic, I have always felt a little different. Lots of doctors appointments, lab tests…even getting being pregnant is deemed “risky” for both mom and baby. I wanted to do things the “normal, natural” way.
2               I’m a labor and delivery nurse. I wanted to experience birth in the fullest extent I could, to better identify with patients.
3               I wanted to bond with your daddy on a whole new level. I was counting on him for support and guidance.
4               It’s healthy. They say that babies are more alert after delivery without pain meds.
5               I pushed for almost 2 hours with your brother. I was hoping that the ability to move around with lessen pushing time immensely.
6               I wanted to see if I had what it took…if I was tough enough to do it.
7               It was on my Bucket List. You only have so many chances to cross “Have a natural birth” off our your life’s to-do list.

On the morning of Tuesday, October 30, 2012, your daddy and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. because we had to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. I was so nervous. Excited, but nervous. So many unknowns…boy or girl, epidural or natural, healthy or not?

We got to the hospital, signed the paperwork, peed in the cup (me, not your daddy), put on the gown (again, me and not your daddy), IV started, and pitocin (which makes contractions start) all by 6:30 a.m. Kathy and Kayla were efficient! I was dilated to a “loose” 3, 50% effaced, and -2 station. About the same as I was in the office the day before.

Your daddy and I talked for a while. Looked around the room. He asked if it was weird to have a baby where I worked. I told him yes and no. I was definitely more comfortable being the one taking care of someone rather than someone taking care of me. But I was also so confident about the care you and I would receive. I work with some top-notch girls and had no inhibitions about us being well taken care of.

Daddy and I played cards for at least an hour or two. Poker, to be exact. I didn’t do very well. He took all of my money. I was hoping my luck would change as the day progressed.

My nurse for the day was my sweet friend Stacy. I was thrilled when I found out she was going to take care of us. Not only is she smart, experienced, and a quick thinker, she also makes me feel relaxed and at ease. A real friend.

My contractions started to pick up a little as the morning went on. Wendy arrived at the hospital mid-morning, about the same time as my best friend Erin did. I told Wendy that I wasn’t hurting much (because the plan was for her to come to the hospital when the pain picked up) but she, being the dedicated and caring doula she is, came anyways. Erin came, too. She drove in all the way from Austin just to be here when you were born. (And she, along with her husband Aaron and her mom, were the ONLY ones who knew you were a girl. And fingers-crossed, she didn’t tell me!)

Dr. Lamar came to check on us about 9:30 a.m. He kind of let me do my own thing regarding when he would break my water, how my blood sugars would be managed, how fast the pitocin would be turned up…which was great. He checked me and I hadn’t really made any cervical change. That was a bummer. He told me he’d be back around lunchtime.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the next two hours because not a whole lot happened. Your Mimi, Papa, Noni, and Grandad all came to visit. Some of my work friends came to visit. And your daddy and I texted updates to people. But that’s about it.

Dr. Lamar came back again at about 11:45 a.m. I was dilated to 4cm and your head had come down. So, a little change. My pitocin was still being turned up but he told me that unless I wanted to have a baby on Halloween, he needed to break my water. I agreed but asked him to give me a little time without extra intervention to see if my body would start progressing. He said that was fine and that he’d be back about 12:30 to check on me.

Well, 12:30 p.m. rolled around and I wasn’t hurting any more than I had been. Go ahead and break my water, I told him. He did…and things got rolling…HARD and FAST.