Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lydia's Birth Story

Our second baby, fifth child, was due on April 13. That was exactly the day Sophia turned 18 months. At a 34 week sonogram, the tech said the due date according to measurements was April 3, as baby was measuring 10 days larger. Our last sonogram with Sophia also put her ahead and she was born early, at 38 weeks and 1 day, so we all expected that this baby could come ahead of time! I worked hard to have everything ready for my family and squared away with Casa de Amor by 37 weeks. By about 38 weeks, I had finished a gradual clearer of my weekly schedule to not be exhausting myself with going out constantly, often lugging Sophia up and down Cochabamba streets.

It was a relief to make that goal, but I told my body to not relax too much, as the next big challenge was getting everyone here in time! There were several who wanted to be present, including a midwife from Argentina, especially as the waiting continued on…but I said “no thanks”. We did need our midwife, second “medical” person, and the proud Grandma to arrive first!

I was not prepared for how tough of a mental game it was to be all ready and just “waiting”. As happy as I was that baby was “cooking” longer and would thus be healthier and bigger, it was a little embarrassing to will everyone here as fast as possible in my mind…only to then sit around and wait, feeling like a ticking bomb waiting to go off. Or would it EVER go off?! Jake and I started to have strange thoughts that this baby was never coming… And we weren’t even to the due date!

It didn’t help that about 12 days before, I started occasionally having cramping and rhythmic tightening of my lower belly. It usually happened after taking a walk, or throughout the night. Twice I didn’t get good rest because of that. Like another friend due the same week as me said, it “messes with your mind”. Will this escalate? Do I thaw that meat for tomorrow night or will I not be cooking…? Should I nap just in case this is leading somewhere, or carry on and school the boys as usual? It’s a good thing I always chose to carry on as usual, since this did not turn out to be the fast labor we were anticipating!

 Getting the pool ready

Then dawned the due date, and how we wanted baby to come already! That evening, I found Jake watching youtube videos on natural induction of labor. Being the well-educated home-birthing-husband that he is, he realized he knew most of the methods already, but he studied the acupressure points and we did them before bed. I particularly loved the foot massage! But absolutely nothing happened –not a twinge!

The next day, April 14, had brought me to another check-up that I hadn’t imagined needing. I was just so grateful that midwife Katrina was now “in country” and comes to me, instead of having to leave my kids, trek to La Cancha (huge busy market) to my doctor, then wait an hour or so to be seen for a quick visit!

After everything checked out fine, Katrina had lunch with us, and then we sat outside watching Sophia play in the dirt with her brothers as we chatted.

I spent some time that afternoon looking at my Christian childbirth book and once again committing the timing of our baby’s birth to God. The book has a section on working through fears and worries before the birth, and I examined my heart again. It was a brief but good time. I’m glad I also got a good nap, because that was the last time I rested well.

Jake came to our room late in the afternoon, and asked if something was going on, to keep me from going into labor. I replied I wasn’t sure, so I was talking to myself, and baby, about everything being ready, about the timing being wonderful…to just COME ON!!

As with so many other conversations together, I’m not sure if just being open and talking about things did something, but contractions started a few hours later and didn’t stop until we had a baby!   

That evening I prepared dinner as usual, with help from my mother-in-law. There was an incident with the kids and I realized that I felt like a volcano about ready to EXPLODE! I felt so stressed and pressured…all pressure from myself, I’m sure…and I just wanted to go off and eat alone, but the routine won out and we had a nice dinner. After bathing and putting Sophia to bed, my back was sore and I was tired. I folded clothes and rested on all fours (relaxing for an overtaxed back) until it eased enough that I felt like I could go take a walk.

I was going to head out at 9, but Thea told me I should wait for Jake, who was putting the boys to bed. When he appeared 10 minutes later, she told him to accompany me. I had actually wanted him to go with me on a recent walk, but the timing never worked out. Strangely tonight, I just felt like I was too emotional or hormonal or something to be a good walking partner. I told him that normally I would love his company, but that I didn’t want to make him feel weird with all my emotions. He said it was too late (ha), and with one more phrase “maybe this means I’m close”, I was gone. I was out for at least 25 minutes, trying to regain some equilibrium in the cooling air.

When I came back in, I sat on the couch by Jake as he listened to his mom tell stories from his childhood. It was entertaining! I couldn’t get comfortable on the couch, so moved to the exercise ball. That didn’t help, and I realized that what I was feeling was more like cramping. Maybe even…“regular” cramping! My lower belly had shooting pains, too. Not the first time in the past week, but this time it just all seemed to be heading somewhere. When I was starting to tune into all of this enough to be distracted from all the story telling going on, I checked the clock. It was a few minutes after 10pm. Trying to figure out what it was, I stood up…got back on the ball… Thea started to notice and said “How are you doing? Something is up, isn’t it?” I was tired of saying any little thing and everyone thinking birth was imminent, so I didn’t say much.

That night I tossed and turned. Well, as much as a 40+ week pregnant woman can! I went to Sophia once, the bathroom 3 times, and around 5am had the most evil cramp I’ve had in a while. After over 5 minutes, the commotion woke Jake and he massaged my foot and ankle and it finally relaxed. Come morning, it felt like I had never gotten into a deep sleep. Sophia was calling me so I went to her and brought her back to bed with me. Jake came in and looked at me still in bed, and I said I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. As I lay there playing with Sophia, I realized that the cramping from the night before, and all night, was still going on. And was worse about every 10 minutes. Hm. That seemed promising. It was hard to be very excited about the work of labor ahead when I was so worn out. I’d been trying to stay rested, and now this!

I considered going back to sleep, but I was hungry after being awake so much of the night, and I had told the boys we’d have their current favorite breakfast, especially since Grandma was here.

At 9:20 the boys went to their rooms to start school, and I sat down to message the midwife! I told her what was up, and that I thought I’d go for a walk again, and that any suggestions were welcome. She wrote back almost immediately, suggesting the Miles Circuit (curb walking, anyone?!).

After getting the boys set up with math, I went for a walk. Turns out there are lots more people out and about than at night!! They got an eye-full of this big-bellied gringa walking and exercising. Since the baby was very wiggly for the morning, when she was usually quiet, I wanted to help her get into a good position. It seemed like I didn’t have many contractions while out, but once home I noticed them again.

I continued distracting myself by doing school with the boys. At 11:45 I told Jake I was so tired and needed to nap, but would do so after the boys piano lessons (every Wednesday). He asked if it was a good idea to wait (in hindsight, no!). I used the pump during a few free minutes I had, to encourage labor along, and did a double-take when I realized I was leaking colostrum! Yeah for body getting ready!

I taught the boys piano as usual from 12:15-1, with contractions getting a little stronger and closer together as I sat there. There seemed to be 2-3 per student. When we finally finished, I felt very accomplished in what we got done that day…and headed to bed! I tried resting for 2 ½ hours with two pillows between my legs to keep things open, getting up once to help get Sophia to sleep (having a rough time with new teeth) and multiple times for the bladder. It was the first time I could concentrate on timing the contractions and they seemed to be an average of every 8 minutes, with some occasional 4-5 minute intervals creeping in every half hour. I couldn’t get into a deep sleep with that many, but hoped that the rest did some good.

All day I was hungry…so I kept eating nutritiously. Seemed a little strange to me, but now in retrospect, I’m glad my body signaled me to keep eating, with such a long haul ahead! I now busied myself making some things in the kitchen to have postpartum and then made dinner. 

After going back and forth with Katrina a little bit, at 4:30 I decided we should get my family in the loop. Jake figured out how to message the cell phones of my family via skype and tell them labor was ON!

Jake started to tell me that I should get Katrina over. I just wasn’t seeing signs of things greatly picking up and was still busy with the family. I said “after dinner”, to which he rolled his eyes, but after a dinner where I had to stand up and sway to deal with some of the contractions, I told her at 7:15 that the timing would be about equal to with Sophia (every 5-6 minutes). She called and talked to Jake and messaged me to say that she would gather her things and leisurely head over.

At 7:30, somehow the boys started playing with candles with Sophia, lighting them in her room and letting her blow them out. I took pictures and a video, letting it sink in that it was my last moments with four children!

Throughout the afternoon, Jake had also been telling me we needed to send the boys away. I thought if it was going to be a night birth, they could stay, but it was true that the room of two of them is directly above the visitor-turned-birthing-room. And that Thea would need a place to camp out if things prolonged, and Samuel’s room would do nicely. Jake had been in touch with missionary friends/neighbors for hours, and finally was able to call and say that things were taking longer than we had expected, but that he was sending them over to sleep there.

The house became a flurry of activity as the boys got ready to go. As they left, I took Sophia into her room to put her to bed. Katrina arrived at 8pm, which made it all seem real!! Except that contractions had slowed considerably. Sigh. I told Katrina that my hope was getting the kids all squared away for the evening would make my body “relax” and kick in to high gear.

That didn’t really happen, so I guess the positive is that we all got plenty of time for it to soak in that the baby was coming! At 8:15 Jake got back from taking the boys to the neighbors and Katrina checked my vitals.

We hung out in the office doing stuff on the computer and chatting, with Thea or Katrina giving me counter massage for the worse contractions. At 9:30, I was at 3-4 cm and fully effaced, yeah!

At 10, Mom called to check on us. We told her how we’d been discussing changing the time zone of the birth, to get our April 15 baby! Contractions were finally picking up, 2-3 every 10 minutes.

 We had such a beautiful room set up for the birth. I loved how it turned out!

Around 10:30, they got a little harder to deal with. At 10:45, Katrina said I could get in pool, yeah!!!! I went upstairs first to put my hair up first, hurrying and ready for the blessed relief of warm water.

It’s lucky I didn’t wipe out stepping into the pool! It was VERY slippery, having been filled up for a week before in a closed off room! I started on a labor popsicle, and in between contractions I wiped down the inside of the pool. Nasty little floaties developed! I was glad my water never broke while in there—yuck!

At 11, our medical backup person contacted us (a repeat Casa de Amor volunteer and medical student who “happened” to be in Bolivia right now on spring break)—also a Katrina! We said she should come on before it got much later and more dangerous to get to us. She rang the doorbell at 11:35 and by the time she got in a few minutes later, I’d realized I’d had 3 strong contractions right in a row, wow. I was starting to make some noise here, to cope. Jake said later that it wasn’t much, but I sure felt a change.

I was watching the clock and couldn’t believe that the day really was about to change over! Crazy baby, what was taking so long?! Being in labor ALL day was getting to me…

At 11:55 Katrina notes that contractions were close and strong. They were getting really tough! I still tried to chat with those in the room about all sorts of stuff as distraction for myself in between. For this birth, same as the last, WORDS (verbal encouragement) were extremely helpful—vital! Even the smallest bit of praise bolstered me to continue on, after such a long wait and now labor.

After midnight, Jake and Katrina 2 started taking turns refilling the hot water kettle jug in the kitchen. Then Jake would heat the water to boiling and pour it in one side of the pool. I was getting chilled (it was winter and no indoor heating). So different than last time, where my main “temperature” memory is that of getting overheated!

Starting around 1:15, I began to feel baby moving down during the worst contractions. (Jake or Katrina would say “That was a good one!” about a particularly painful contraction and I’d want to growl “Not exactly the wording I would use!!”) I told Katrina that I was at the point of reminding myself during the contractions that no mother has died from the pain, even if it felt like I could. :)

I think it was around here that I tried to doze in between contractions. Resting my head on the side of the pool felt so great. I was just so TIRED! I hadn’t slept well in two nights.

At 1:30, baby got hiccups. Seriously?! Is she all laid back, or what!! Katrina noted that I was getting more vocal. Oh, yeah! As I told Jake later, I felt like screaming, but knew that would do no good.

At 2am, was at 2-3 contractions every 10 minutes. At some point I noted, “They aren’t lasting a full minute, are they? Are they doing any good?” And Katrina’s reply of “they are just fine” was so reassuring.

Around this time, contractions got REALLY REALLY difficult to deal with. Not every one, but most. For a couple hours or so, it felt like a knife was twisting right in the middle of my lower back. That was where I’d have Jake apply counter pressure, leaning over the side of the pool.

At 2:30, Katrina got me out of the pool. That of course made the pain harder to deal with, and there were maybe 3 or 4 contractions where it felt like my tailbone was shattering. Because of this, Katrina thought she was posterior, so she tried a couple of things (I wasn’t even sure what at this point, nor did I care except to have baby TURN!). I would have loved to know if she really was. She had been in such an excellent position with all past exams and sonograms, it doesn’t seem like she would all of a sudden be in a bad position. 

We walked down to the living room and back again, via a couple contractions in the kitchen. I was seriously worried about passing out from feeling chilled, exhaustion, and weakness.

At 2:45, we did another check, and it was possibly the most discouraging part of all of labor to hear that I was only at an 8. Only Katrina’s upbeat attitude (really?? She must’ve been tired too, but PTL for her pep!) kept me hanging by a thread. She acted like there wasn’t much left now, that I was coping great, and that we’d be meeting our baby soon. (One more hour, to be exact!!)

At 3, the “pushy” groans began. The first one came as a surprise and memories of my last labor washed over me. Even if it’s not a glamorous part of labor, it did seem a very positive sign! Katrina was happy, too. It wasn’t long (15 minutes according to Katrina’s notes) before I started involuntary pushing. That didn’t come with every contraction though, a sign I wasn’t dilated a full 10 yet.

By this point, I was practically delirious with exhaustion and this never-ending labor and worse pain than last time (this was supposed to be my FAST labor!!). Things became a blur though as we started progressing towards BIRTH!! Katrina told me to go ahead and get down on the floor with Jake. Having deducted through my labor-fogged-brain that this was the place she had prepared for the birth, by the plastic and towels laid down, I had a glimmer of hope that we were close!

First I was on all fours leaning over the living room sofa cushions stacked up. We only did that for a couple of contractions (less than 5 minutes by Katrina’s notes) with involuntary pushing before Katrina had me turn to the “semi-reclining position”, supported by Jake behind (leaning on the cushions himself now). Unfortunately, there was still a lip of cervix.   

Even though transition was hard, it wasn’t that I thought I couldn’t do it, I just was tired of doing it! The worst battle I fought mentally actually came now, right at the end. I panicked inside, wanting to get baby out quickly enough to protect her, and not be rushed to deliver like with Sophia. I knew that subsequent babies come faster, but in that moment of pressure I was just overwhelmed. Jake prayed for strength for me, and within minutes, we were heading towards imminent birth! Although the whole pushing phase was about five times faster than with Sophia, it was more painful. At least this time I was mentally prepared for the spacing out of contractions that come with that 2nd phase of labor and welcomed the rest in between pushes. That rest also gave me the gift of being much more prepared for the moment of receiving the baby up to myself, versus being so shocked with Sophia I’m surprised I didn’t drop her! Such a great, great feeling to have that warm, wiggly, live baby on the outside—at last! She looked huge! She cried briefly.

 She's finally here!!!

Again the placenta was delivered in great time, with no issues, and I barely noticed because it was so much less painful than what I’d just gone through. The most blessed realization of all—no overwhelming pain like after the first time! Sore, but otherwise elated and great and like I’d just powered through the hardest physical challenge of my life. Jake on the other hand nearly passed out, so laid down behind me instead, and I got to cut the cord. Good experience—it really is sinewy and tough to cut through!

Pretty soon I was moved up to the guest bed and made comfortable. Somebody brought me a banana (I wouldn’t have remembered except for a picture!). Jake went to get his mom.

 Thea Ruth meets Lydia Ruth

When baby was finally weighed, we had a biggie! At 8 pounds 1 oz, she was about 1 ½ pounds more than her sister with just 2 weeks more of baking time. Katrina did placenta prints and mentioned that the cord was longer than average. Around 5am, Jake went up to bed, to be ready to get Sophia up soon. 

Mom feeds baby, midwife Katrina makes notes, father looks on!

Midwife Katrina did the baby check, a lovely time, and we had a marvelous first nursing session—Katrina declared it the longest/best she had seen a newborn nurse in a long time! After 30 minutes, we got settled down to rest—Lydia in her new dress and hat from New Zealand and her sister’s favorite blue swaddle blanket—and the Katrinas left. We slept soundly till the room was filled with light from the big window. It was shocking to me to see how very still and quiet baby slept, quite the opposite of her big sister… Only the first of many new experiences that were so different from the last! She assimilated into our family pretty easily and I was more laid-back. Turns out that going from 4 to 5 isn’t as huge as 0 to 4, like I had 1 ½ years earlier!

 Getting checked over

A few pictures of the kids meeting their new sister the next morning:

Monday, April 6, 2015

A quiet Easter...

Sophia didn't have quite as much fun on the neighbor's trampoline as another day with her brothers...

We had a different sort of Easter this year! The first Sunday in April is Pedestrian Day in Bolivia, one of four annually. Even though I thought it would be canceled since we had a no-transportation day the last Sunday AND since it was was not. There would be no church picture with the whole family like last year. :(

And then the boys went to a three day/two night camp with their former church over the holiday weekend, so even when we did go to "church" at the neighbor's house, we could only get a picture with the three of us. (They had a LOT of fun and made great memories!)

Sophia was tired and couldn't stop rubbing her eyes

Jake and I had such a relaxing weekend, working on some projects and having fun with Sophia. I liked baking and cooking special dishes, chatting with Katrina our midwife (she spent the night Saturday since it would have been impossible to get to us on Sunday without a longgg walk), and taking a deep breath before welcoming new life to our family!

It felt like Sophia's first Easter because it was so much more fun with her this year! I would have thought she was too young to do an egg hunt, but the neighbors had prepared one for their three youngest guests, and she totally got it! Hunting for something with CANDY or CHOCOLATE inside - are you kidding?! She figured it out in an instant.

I took this first set of pictures when she started finding and opening eggs even before it was actually time.

Heading for a blue egg

 She had to figure out how to get the eggs open...

 Mommy, open it for me!

Thanks to her brothers, she knows all about candy!!

Finding an egg with da-da

And another one!

  In our neighbor's beautiful yard

She would have played with the eggs for hours if we hadn't had to leave them with our friends! We've asked Grandma B, arriving in just a few days, to bring us some. :)

A few more pictures, for the relatives!

We have a bonafide walker, finally!!

This would be Sophia's new "serious face". It's hilarious! She does it then laughs.

 Ready to get off the trampoline

Happy Easter to everyone!!!

"Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is RISEN..." 
Luke 24:5-6a update. This is the family picture we got a week after Easter:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Our Triathletes

On March 1, Jake and the three boys competed in a local triathlon! I wanted to post pictures and brag on them right away, but it took two weeks to get their placings as the different clubs disputed results.

To train, the boys got a third month of swimming lessons, ran a kilometer every few days with Jake or me (well, I timed them!) during school breaks, and biked to and from swimming.

Here are our brave competitors!

Jake and Joel, Samuel, Michael at the transition zone

While we waited to watch Dad race, the boys got all their gear ready with their assigned race numbers

Jake raced first! Here he's about to come out of the pool, well ahead of most of his group.

Jake coming in for his finish! He clocked in 20 minutes faster than last year!!

Jake swam 400 meters, rode his bike 10 km, and ran 3 km.

The boys swam 200 meters, rode 3 km, and ran 1 km.

In the second lane from the top, you can see the three boys in a row (heading to the right)

Even though our kids were really slow in the pool, they had beautiful technique. Some even commented on how nice Samuel swam! Next time, I'd make sure they are practicing quick turns in their lessons, as they seemed to lose time pausing at the wall. 

Michael coming back on his bike. 

He loved being in the limelight, oh my. I'm surprised he didn't crash because he was looking at everyone looking at him, instead of the road!! 

Samuel in the transition zone, between biking and running

Joel racing out!

Michael running back

Samuel finishing RUNNING!!

I was so proud of Samuel, because in our practice runs, he would usually walk the last block or two, just totally out of motivation when he was tired and would see that his brothers had already beat him. We talked to him again and again about the importance of FINISHING, and of course finishing strong would be nice. He was the dead last of all the 11-12 year olds, but he hasn't actually turned 11 yet (the groups were modified the day of the race).

Overall, when people ask how they did, we say THEY FINISHED A TRIATHLON! They gave their all!!! And even though they were bushed afterwards and Samuel wanted to throw up, there really wasn’t any complaining. They agreed with Jake that these races are awful and hard, but all three want to do it again!

As for the placements...

This year there were more competitors in every group than last year. 

Jake was 4th in his age group even with his much improved time (54 minutes). 

Joel finished in around 24 minutes, which was good enough to put him in 2nd place for ages 11-12!

Michael finished a couple minutes later, only 9 seconds behind the 3rd place finisher, snagging 4th place.

Samuel finished in 31 minutes, getting 6th place. That was a very long 31 minutes, walking his bike up the hills, walking instead of running, getting some help from the paramedics re-tying his shoelaces, etc., but he didn't give up!!

Joel, who looked strong the whole race, was still a little rough afterwards. He said that when he wanted to quit, he could hear Jake's voice saying "Never give up, never give up..." (Only when he said it, it sounded like "never get up, never get up..." Jake and I tried not to grin as Joel talked, as he was talking very seriously.)

This weekend, the top 3 placements of the Cochabamba race are representing our department at the national race in Tarija. We went last year and had quite the adventure, so Jake was excited about going back this year, if the dates worked out. Joel qualified and Jake was bumped to third place, due to a racer who can't go, but with baby due any day, it didn't seem the right time for them to leave me!

I'm so proud of all my triathletes! I look forward to cheering them on in many more races.