Saturday, October 1, 2016

On Presence

The other day, while in the midst of the cacophonous tropical storm known in our home as "bath time," my son Cæd calmed for a moment, looked up, and gave a sly kind of half-grin.  Being a modern-day Dad, I had my iPhone at hand, whipped it out, and caught his savoring of the moment on "film," posted it online, and basked in the glow of having bagged another trophy of the good times of being a family.  As soon as I captured it though, I knew it wouldn't be enough.  Its a shadow, a breath,  and the best it can do is, like driving past a favorite restaurant, bring back memory of a savored experience.  You see, it's not the memory I want, it's the meal.

Having several children now, we have been awed, and even a bit dazzled by the innumerable delights that have come along with each kiddo and each treasured moment that make up the stages of their rapidly growing lives.  Each bit is so deep, so meaningful, and so influential in my own rapidly growing life, that my heart yearns to capture each second, hold it close in a big fatherly bear hug, and never let it go!

As young parents we are consistently given the piece of advice to "cherish these moments!" and I completely understand why!  They are the grout that holds together the all the pieces in the mosaic of family life, they are the foundation clung to when the project of the moment seems to be fracturing, they are the sweet wine sipped on the front porch of reminiscence.  And yet, it is inescapable that though we cling to them so closely, and though they be infinitely meaningful to our souls, they are but a breath, and then they are gone.  Gone.  And I think the truth is that this is actually what we were made for.

Now don't hear me wrongly; in our era of high quality cameras readily available at a moment's notice, I have become a big fan of Instagram!  I've always been a picture kind of guy, and while I do love words, I am not nimble enough with them to succinctly capture the sweetness of the every-day in the midst of the every-day (hence this being the first blog post I've written in about 3 years).  But pictures on the other hand, pictures!  A whole relationship captured in the look one sibling offers the other, a unique angle that restructures the way you think about a familiar object, a particular focus that brings the essence of a moment new value.  The ability to create an ongoing, in-the-moment, photo journal record of many of the sights, sounds, perspectives, and experiences that my family and I have been blessed to encounter together along the way is a beautiful thing!  But the drive to preserve all of life's moments rather than simply chronicle them can leave us with a whole host of things we were never really made for: guilt at having missed the moment, ambition to use our families to show off to our friends, and even the hollow presence of being with one another in a moment but only by being on the other side of a lens and screen.

Rather, I believe Scripture shows us that we were actually made for transience.  As Jesus gathered his disciples he never asked them simply to come to him and stop, but instead said "follow me" as he went forward.  Paul talks about our life in Christ by reminding his readers that we are "being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16), by praying that our "love may abound more and more" (Phil. 1:9), and by exhorting that "all may see your progress" (1 Tim. 4:15).  Mary even models this well when it says of her that, after giving birth to Jesus and hearing the revelation from the shepherds, she "treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).  Notice that she doesn't preserve them, yearning to hang on to them, but "pondering them, so as to understand their implications for the present and future.  Life in Christ, and thus life as a whole, is for growth, moving us ever forward through his plans and designs.

Really, what I am trying to say in this somewhat round-about fashion, is that in an age that demands we document and preserve everything, what we are built for instead is to be present within and process everything.  So keep Instagramming! Keep bringing up that obnoxious "There is not enough available storage" message on your iPhone!  But do so in order to grow, in order to set markers of God's goodness that you can draw courage from in the future, in order to invite others into your blessings and tell of his faithfulness, and not in order to preserve certain moments or create a fable of "glory days" to morn.  Our God is a God of forward motion, and thus we are a people of forward motion as well. Let us build wisely on the moments he gives us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Twins' Birth Story

It's been a long time since we have posted on this blog. I thought that my birth story with the twins was a good launching point for diving back in. I read this quote recently, "Motherhood: when theoretical beliefs in a Creator give way to experiencing the act of creation." Even though I gave birth to my second and third child I still cannot fully grasp the gift, joy, responsibility, and other adjectives that I can't come up with to describe what it is like to carry a child for nine months and then deliver them into the world. As a mother I get to experience the act of creation and it's a beautiful, but hard gift. It gives me a glimpse into the heart of our Father who created us and the love that he has for his creation. The curse of the pain of childbirth also gives me a glimpse into the pain that the Father feels at how broken his creation is. The pain of delivery is just the beginning of a lot of pain and joy that comes with raising babies. Praise be to the Father who chose to rescue us from this pain and curse, and my prayer everyday is that I will let the Heavenly Father be the hero of my children's stories rather then trying to be the superhero mom. God is the hero and even in my pregnancy and delivery of the twins he was the hero of the story. He answered so many prayers and it's a joy to share the story of his faithfulness!

I found out I was pregnant with our second child on July of last year and we were thrilled. I felt a sense of peace from the beginning despite our two miscarriages that we had before Anna. The onset of morning sickness happened pretty quickly as well as coming down with an awful cold. The morning sickness was very intense and worse then what I remember it being like when I was pregnant with Anna. I remember one day looking up why morning sickness happens just to try to understand what my body was doing. On one of the sites it said that intense morning sickness could be a sign of twins. That little kid bit of info entered into my mind and left a small moment of wonder. I later told my friend how cool it would be to have twins because then I would get two babies and only have to face this horrible sickness once. The night before we went in for our ultrasound I had a very vivid dream that we were having twins and in the ultrasound they were two boys and had full mustaches. The next day we went to the doctor for the 9 week ultrasound and we were super excited to have the opportuniy to see our little baby moving around on the screen. I planned to see the midwife in the practice, but for the ultrasound an OB came in to do it. She asked how I have been feeling and expressed how intense the morning sickness has been, and then laughed about my dream the night before. She said, "Well let's take a look and see!" This was the moment that Drew and I will never forget. We heard the doctor say, "Oh!" and we said, "Oh, what?!" She said, "Well there's your baby, and there's your other baby!" Our jaws hit the floor and we both just started laughing! We were absolutly shocked! We left the doctor just looking at each other, laughing, and saying "two babies!?"

Thankfully morning sickness went away at 14 weeks and I started feeling much better. It was so fun to feel two babies moving around, and because I was considered high risk I got to see the babies a lot! Twins, in delivery, are considered wild cards so my desire for a low intervention birth was a little bit more compromised. I really wrestled a lot with this and wrestled with the fear that seemed to be surrounding my pregnancy and delivery. Of course I absolutely understood the risks, but I also wanted to trust my body and the process and continue pursuing my desire for low intervention. I hired a doula to help me navigate the experience of birth in a hospital since I delivered Anna at a birth center. At 24 weeks I went in for an ultrasound and to have my cervix checked. At this appointment they discovered that my cervix was a bit short and they were a little concerned about pre-term labor. At this point the babies had reached the age of viability, but if they were born at this time it would be a long road of NICU. I continued to feel a peace, for the most part, but there were definitely times fear snuck in as I thought about the babies being born early. The doctor recommended I rest as much as possible as well as get steroid shots to help the babies lungs in the case that they were born early. I am thankful for Drew and friends who helped to make this possible. From 24 weeks on I found my mind constantly counting days and imagining scenarios of "what ifs." It was definitely a time of learning again what it means to trust the Lord. Sometime after hearing the news of my cervix shortening the Lord gave me the verse Romans 15:13 which says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." This verse became our prayer. We desired to have joy and peace as we trusted him, but also recognized that the Spirit was the one who would do the work in our hearts to allow this to happen. On my own the only thing I could muster was fear and anxiety and certainly NOT joy and peace. God alone would have to bring me those emotions, and I can say that HE answered our prayers! The weeks continued to pass by and we rejoiced at each major milestone while keeping our eye on the calandar daily. Our church threw us an amazing baby shower and my sister-in-law threw me a long distance shower. We were so blessed by so many gifts to help us welcome two babies into this world. Part of the shower that my sister-in-law threw had everyone guess gender, birthdate, and weight. It seemed that most people thought it was a boy and a girl and very few thought the babies were the same gender. My guess was also one boy and one girl. I actually thought Baby A was a girl and Baby B was a boy, and I happened to be right.

   At 34 weeks on a Sunday night I started to have some back pain and began to wonder if it was labor. I was terrified of being that woman who went in when it was false labor. I have no idea how I got this thought into my head but after the encouragement of Drew and Nancy, my doula, we decided that it was wise to go in. I was thankful to have made it to 34 weeks and was ready to meet these babies and the possibility of NICU was beginning to settle in as I entered Triage at OSU Hospital.  At 34 weeks I was already 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. They connected me to all of the wires, but were really unable to find regular contractions and I had not progressed anymore. Instead of leaving the hospital with two babies I left the hospital that night with a prescription for a urinary tract infection. Week 35 passed without anymore signs of labor. On March 4th I hit 36 weeks and we rejoiced again for being 1 week away from full term after so much fear surrounding the possibility of pre-term labor. The weekend of March 6-7th was the women's retreat at our church. I decided to go to the events during the day, but not spend the night. It was so fun to be with friends and be out of the house. On friday night as we were leaving the hotel to go back home I went to the bathroom and noticed a lot of discharge. I got excited and shared with my friends who both happen to be nurses who work with postpartum mamas. Saturday morning I got up and went back to the retreat. There were a few times during the talks that I had to get up due to some pressure. I started walking the halls, but I wasn't in any pain. By the time the retreat was over I was exhausted and ready to go home. I had not felt this exhausted in a long time. Little did we know that that night would be our last night as a family of three. At 8:11 I texted my doula to say that I was uncomfortable, but not in any pain. We put Anna to bed and laid on the couch until around 10:00. I was definitely feeling uncomfortable, but I was still not in any pain. I tried to go to sleep, but I was uncomfortable. I knew if I called my doula she would suggest taking a shower so even though I didn't want to I showered to see if the feelings would go away. I got out of the shower and the uncomfortable feeling was still there. We called my doula, called our friend Tammy to come stay with Anna, grabbed our bags and headed for the hospital around 11:30. Due to my fast labor with Anna I kept picturing scenarios of me having the twins in the kitchen or the car. I was thankful to not be in severe labor as we drove to the hospital. I was checked into Triage and at 1:00 am the doctor came in to check me. My doula, Drew, and I had prayed so much for my birth and that the Lord would bless me with my desire for a natural birth and even for the doctors and nurses that would assist me. The first doctor that came in asked about my desires for delivery and I shared that we wanted a low intervention birth and she was so excited for me. She shared how she had had natural birth with her children and was a huge supporter of it. Her bedside manor was awesome and gave me such ease. At 1:00 am I was still 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced, but my contractions were about 8 minutes apart. I still was not in active labor and was only slightly uncomfortable with each contraction. She said that she would let me labor for an hour and then come back and check in on me. We watched the clock hit 2:00 and then immediately switch over to 3:00 am since it was the night of daylight savings time. The doctor came in at 3:19 am to check me and she told me she wasn't very hopeful that I had progressed, and I said that I was feeling the same way. She checked me and said with excitement, "Yup you are definitely at 6 cm!" I couldn't believe that I had progressed and I still wasn't in any pain. They called the doctor on call since my doctor had just had her own baby and they put me in my labor and delivery room at 3:30 am. We gave the nurse my birth plan and then the doctor came in to talk to me. He had a very confused look on his face since I had the heplock in my hand, but I was not connected to an IV. He proceeded to explain to me all of the risks with having twins and the possible scenarios. I was very aware of the possible scenarios, but my babies were head down and I was confident of my plan to proceed with natural birth. I looked at him with as much confidence as I could find and said that I understood but that I would like to proceed with no intervention. He said OK, and no one questioned me again. This was definitely an answer to prayer! The doctor said that he would like to break my water, but I asked to be left to labor for another hour to see if I would progress. I was hesitant to have my water broken because it didn't feel like I was letting my body do the work. My doula reassured me that it was a simple way to help the babies heads engage and to really get labor started. I felt a bit more pressure in that hour and even started bleeding a bit, but when the doctor checked me at 5:40 am he said that I had not progressed any and still suggested breaking my water. They broke my water and as he left he told me not to expect things to start too quickly. The sensation of my water being broken was very odd. Painful labor did kick in pretty quickly, and before I knew it I was in active labor. They needed to keep monitoring the babies so I had to be in the bed a lot which made it hard to move around to help ease the pain. They did put an internal monitor on Baby A's head which made it easier for me to move around, but I was feeling so much pressure that I labored mostly in the bed. I did go into the bathroom at 6:25 am I remember losing a lot of fluid. At 6:44 am I expressed that I was feeling a lot of rectal pressure. The nurse said OK and went to tell the doctor. The doctor came in and and checked me again at 6:50 am and I was 7-8 cm and 90% effaced. I started feeling very hot and cold all at the same time, and my doula gently told me that I was entering into transition. It wasn't two minutes after she said that that I started to throw up. The pain was so intense at this point that all I could do was sit in the bed, holding myself up by my hands, rocking and moaning in rhythm. I just kept repeating, "Guys, guys it hurts, it hurts!" Drew and Nancy were awesome at encouraging me and they each took turns getting dressed in the clothes so that they could enter the OR. I was required to deliver in the OR in case of an emergency. They prepped me, covered me up, and wheeled me out of my room towards the OR. It was right when the night crew was leaving and the morning crew was arriving for their shift. The nurses who were leaving cheered me on as they wheeled me to the OR. The doors of the OR opened and it was so bright and lots of people were shuffling around. The anesthesiologist was in there and introduced himself, but he was quick to say that it did't look like I would need him. They wheeled my bed right next to the long, hard, narrow OR bed and told me that I needed to move my very pregnant in labor body over onto the OR bed. This was an incredibly difficult task that was very painful, but I did it! Once I was on the OR table the doctor instructed me to put my legs in the stir-ups. This was super hard and uncomfortable due to all of the pressure that I was feeling. He never checked me to say that I had reached 10 cm and that it was time to push. Once my feet were in the stir-ups he told me to take a deep breath in and hold it for 10 while I pushed. I took a deep breath in and immediately let it all out. I mean I had only pushed one baby out 2 years ago I was a little rusty on my technique. My doula stood by my side and helped me to understand a little more what I needed to do. The nurse told me to push at the height of my contraction and I tried to explain that it all felt like the height. After a few failed pushes I finally remembered how to do it and I also remembered how incredibly painful it is. Apparently my people pleasing tendencies are heightened while in labor because I remember that I just kept apologizing for not doing it well. Ha! I did't experience the "ring of fire" with Anna, but I was definitely experiencing it now. I gave 4 good pushes and Baby A was born at 7:56 am! They held her up over my body and Drew called that it was a girl. They laid her on my chest for a few seconds before taking her behind me to check and make sure she was OK. Drew followed Baby A while I prepped to push Baby B out. The doctor broke Baby B's water and announced that the head was engaged. My nurse told me later that she was so thankful when the doctor said that the babies head was engaged! My doula later told me that I was very out of it at this point. I gave a few good pushes and Baby B arrived quickly at 8:00 am. They held Baby B over me and Drew exclaimed, "It's a boy, babe!"All I could do was look at my doula and express with tremendous joy, "I did it!" I just pushed two babies out of me without drugs and I felt incredibly empowered and proud! Story was 6 lbs 2 oz and Caed was 6 lbs 5 oz and were perfectly healthy even though they were not full term. Neither of them had to spend anytime in the NICU which was such an answer to pray! The Lord had really answered all of our prayers! I did tear a little and the doctor sewed me up and then we were all taken back to the labor and delivery room. My experience of delivering in the hospital was a positive one and I was thankful for how each nurse and doctor respected my desires for a natural birth!

 It was so much fun to see Drew holding TWO babies in his arms and to call our family and share the news. Our nurse gave us a few minutes by ourselves and I was able to start skin to skin and nursing. It was a precious moment to hold those two babies against my skin and watch them latch on to nurse.  We named our little girl Rachel Story after my dear friend Rachel. The name Story comes from our love for God's big story and seeing all of life through this lense. We named our son Joshua after the man Joshua from Scripture. When I first met Drew he was so passionate about the story of Joshua and God really used this book of Scripture to teach Drew a lot. Caedmon is a first century monk who cared for the animals at the monastery and became an accomplished poet who wrote a hymn about God's creation. We pray that Story always views life through the lens of God's grand and beautiful story as well as pray that her own story is one that brings glory and honor to her Savior. We pray that Caed is a man of God who loves God's creation. We laugh that we will spend the rest of their lives looking at each other and saying, "Two Babies!!"

Meeting Rachel Story

Meeting Joshua Caedmon



Two Babies!!

Two Babies!!

First picture as a family of five!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ash Wednesday

The season of lent has always been confusing for me.  I usually feel this pressure to give something up, fail to do so on time, and then just plan to do it next year. Growing up in the Catholic Church, lent was always something that I understood as a time for self-denial and ritual.  There didn't seem to be much reflection or scriptural basis behind the fasting from a certain item or the restraining from eating meat on Fridays.  As a child I knew that we would go to church to get ashes on our foreheads, but it had no meaning and just made me feel silly. An understanding of lent from this perspective leaves you in the sink hole of legalism and self-righteousness, not in the refreshing streams of grace and the gospel.

This year our family is setting intentional time aside to reflect and repent from the brokenness of our own hearts and the brokenness of this world, but we don't do this without hope!  We are looking towards Easter and celebrating the resurrection of Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

"But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:5)

As we attended our church's ash Wednesday service last night, I was brought to tears as the ashes were placed on my head and the verse above was repeated to me. The reality of Christ's work on the cross became more real.  In the OT ashes were a sign of repentance and lament.  The ashes on my head were a reminder of my humanity, and the tension we all feel of the already and the not yet.

We are excited to celebrate and reflect upon what Christ has done through this lenten season.  This season is not about self-denial and ritual, but rather about feasting on the grace that is possible through a relationship with Jesus!


Friday, February 21, 2014

A Year of Motherhood

This time last year I was sitting on the couch with my VERY swollen feet elevated and feeling my baby move, hoping he/she would make their debut sooner rather then later.  Little did I know that seven hours later my labor would start, and six hours after that I would be holding my little girl.  The memories of the labor pains have faded, and tomorrow we celebrate a full year of life with Anna!  
I have had so many thoughts and reflections in anticipation to Anna's first birthday!  Everyone keeps asking if I can believe that she is already one.  In hind sight, yes, it has gone fast, but I don't feel like it has gone so fast that I missed out.  There were so many times throughout this year that I felt so overwhelmed with feelings of love for my daughter.  Pictures and videos couldn't capture all the emotion of my heart.  Being present in each moment has been my goal.  I certainly have not done this perfectly, but I do feel like I was able to soak in the first year of Anna's life well.  As I watched her sitting in the middle of the tupperware cabinet tonight, talking and chewing on a toy, I just smiled and tucked the moment away!

I had no idea the ups and downs that this year had in store for me as I embraced the role of mama.  As I wrestled through my desire to blot out the brokenness of this world, I was continually brought to my knees in humble reliance upon the one who has already accomplished it.  As I fought paralyzing fear about the things that could happen to me, my daughter, or my husband, I was again gently reminded by my Heavenly Father that he is on his throne.  As I wrestled through, and continue to wrestle through, my own issues of confidence, I make decisions for my child, and sometimes even stand up to others who may disagree.  This people pleasing heart is not always very good at being confident in the face of those who may disagree.  As thoughts of "I don't know if I can do this" plagued me in those first few weeks, the words of Jesus brought hope: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).  Apart from Christ I can do NOTHING!  What a relief that is to hear when my patience runs out as Anna squirms on the changing table, or wakes up once more, or wants to eat again even though she just ate 20 minutes ago, or as I look at my body that doesn't look at all like what it used to, or as my mind can't focus on this date with my husband because I am worried about whether Anna is sleeping.  Apart from Christ I can do nothing! His grace is sufficient for me, and his grace is definitely something that I need!  This year of motherhood has taught me yet again what it means to rely on my Savior.  He is the Christ, and I am not.  I pray that this truth is cultivated more and more in my life as I continue in my journey as mama, and begin to teach my daughter what it means to abide in her Savior.