Friday, November 18

Theo's First Month

The first few weeks of Theo's life are a blur to me, but I'm left with the overall feeling of thankfulness.  Thankful that he actually decided to come out on his own, thankful that my labor and delivery was amazing and practically perfect, and thankful that he was overall healthy.  I didn't write down the details at the time but here's what I remember.

Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning when he was 3/4 days old, I noticed he was breathing very quickly.  It concerned me enough to call our family practice doctor on Tuesday morning so he could have his newborn checkup.  Ryan and I brought him in and the doctor immediately listened to his heart and heard a loud murmur, saying there was a very obvious "swishing" sound instead of the clear lub-dub rhythm that a heart should make.  He was reassuring that we'd find an answer soon and immediately placed an order for an echo-cardiogram to find out the cause.  The appointment was scheduled at the hospital the next day, but that's all we knew.  Ryan and I went home very anxious and worried.  My thoughts went to the darkest place, of course, because I had no education and no idea what any of this could mean- but I didn't want to spend time on Google either so we just spent that evening in prayer and concern.

The appointment the next day went well.  The man who performed the scan was very kind but he couldn't diagnose anything, so he said he'd rush off the results to a cardiologist who could perform the diagnosis.

I think that afternoon we got a call from our family practice doctor who said Theo was diagnosed with a VSD- ventricular septal defect.  He had a medium-sized hole in the wall separating the ventricles of his heart, and this caused the murmur as the un-oxygenated blood was pushed into the other side with the oxygen-rich blood, and was then carried to the rest of his body.  His only symptom was heavy breathing due to the fact that his body needed more oxygen to make up for this- we were so happy that otherwise he was fine (his lips/limbs weren't blue, he was nursing fine, and he had already gained weight!).  All of this meant we had to see a pediatric cardiologist ASAP- on Friday.

They squeezed us in on Thursday.  He had an EKG test and was examined by the cardiologist, who was also very kind.  At this point, Ryan and I realized that Theo was not in a life-threatening situation, but we had to mentally prepare for the fact that Theo might need surgery on his heart before too long.  Theo was placed on Lasix, a daily medication that helps clear the extra fluid from his heart, thereby making it not need to work as hard.  This brought his breathing back to normal.  The medication will not heal his heart, but it will "buy us time," to allow his heart some extra time to heal itself and also allow Theo to grow bigger and stronger in case surgery is needed if it doesn't heal.

On Friday, a lump on my foot had gotten bigger and so swollen that I could barely walk.  Fearing a blood clot, since it was on my "bad" leg, the doctor called us in for an exam.  They couldn't diagnose anything so they sent us to the minor ER for an ultrasound.  On Theo's one-week birthday, he spent it sleeping on my chest in the waiting room while I felt like a dummy for having such a stupid problem.  Of course, nothing was wrong, and by the next day I was pretty much completely fine!

The next day was Saturday, and we had his newborn photos taken at our house.  Ryan took the big kids to the baptism of our dear friend's son (Theo's future buddy), but I stayed home and took a 3-hour nap in bed with Theo.  He and I needed some cuddle time together!

Sunday I noticed a rash on Theo, but we thought it was probably one of those weird skin newborn rashes that babies get.  It looked funny to me though- white heads that came up in clusters on his arms, then his legs.  At first I thought it might have been a reaction to the blood pressure cuffs that had been on his arms, as that's where the rash first started.  But then it moved to his legs, so I (hesitantly) called the doctor.  He said they don't want to take any chances on Theo, as the appearance of a bacterial infection could be too hard on his heart, so he said I need to bring him in.  So we went.  They took a culture of his rash and said they'll call us when the results were in.

That weekend was relaxing.  We didn't have anything going on, etc.  But I did notice the tip of his toe was red.  Then there was pus underneath the nail.  I thought it was ingrown so I left it alone.  Of course it didn't get any better, so I hoped to text my doctor a photo of it but, of course, they insisted that we come in on Monday.  At this point I was on the verge of losing it. I had a hard time keeping track of the number of doctor visits we'd had in his less-than-three short weeks, and emotionally I was so drained.  I couldn't believe we had to go in yet again.

While we were there they received the results from the culture of the pimply rash.  STAPH.  My newborn baby, born safely at home, had staph.  I lost it.  I cried in the doctor's office room, holding my precious newborn and wrapped in the arms of my husband.  I just couldn't hold it together anymore.  The doctor was very compassionate and concerned with my emotional health, but reassured me that we couldn't take chances, and that Theo needed oral and topical antibiotics.  The idea of giving my newborn oral antibiotics made me feel sick to my stomach, but I also didn't want to mess with staph.  I got home and started googling natural alternatives to treat staph and got overwhelmed again.  I finally submitted to, what I feel like was God giving me permission to just let someone else take care of us.  I question everything, all the time, but there was a relief when I just gave in and said "yes" to the antibiotics.  It sounds funny but in a way, it was a very spiritual experience to recognize that God had placed these doctors in our lives to take care of us, and that I just needed to let go of trying to be in control.  I couldn't control this.


We gave him the antibiotics, twice a day- and boy, he didn't like it!  But, his staph infection cleared up, and his toes slowly got better.  Several days later my mom flew in, family came to town, and we got ready to baptize sweet Theo.  I can't even express how relieved I was so have some live-in backup help, cheerful smiles from family, and of course our dear friends who had offered months before to host the party.  It was God's plan, because there was no way I could have handled a baptism party at our house!  Sometime in that first month was also Luke's birthday, a dentist appointment (in which I took all children by myself for dental cleanings!), and Halloween. 

As time has passed, things have seemed more "normal," or at least it's our new normal.  We're adjusting to three big kids, a toddler, and a baby who seems like one of our regular babies now.  He sleeps, nurses, looks around, and then sleeps some more.  He never cries- except in the car!  Just this past week I feel like he's made his first real eye contact with me, giving me some giant, gummy smiles (instead of those sweet but accidental smiles).  I think I'm still recovering from everything, emotionally and mentally.  In retrospect, it's a blur.  I can see that it was chaotic and kind of rough, but the time, we coped and went through the motions.  I am incredibly thankful that this part is behind us and for the beautiful pictures and moments I've intentionally burned into my memory from his birth and first month.

Wednesday, November 9

Theo's Baptism Day

In July, we decided to schedule the baptism date a safe four weeks past my due date.  It gave me something to look forward to and prepare for!  We set the date for Sunday, October 30, after mass.  My mom was able to fly in to celebrate, and we had several friends and family offer to help prepare and host the party.  The whole day came together beautifully and went perfectly for our precious Theo.


Ryan and I had been praying so fervently about whom God wanted as the godparents for our child, and I specifically prayed that Ryan would be inspired.  Throughout the pregnancy, though, we didn't really talk about it, but God had put the same couple on each of our hearts. Ryan finally told me who he thought should be the godparents, and we asked them about a month before my due date. They generously accepted and have been praying for Theo ever since!


Blessing of salt and placing it on his lips

Blessing of the water

Baptized!  He fussed only a little bit- no big yells, although he did gag after being anointed with chrism!

All of the little boys in attendance gathered around very closely for a close-up of the baptism.  It brings me such joy to see all these little boys welcomed at the church, curious about our faith, and interested in the life of the church.  May they answer "yes!" if God calls them to the priesthood!

His godmother placed him on an altar of the Holy House chapel as we all offered his "first prayer" to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He smelled so wonderful with the scent of blessed chrism oil!

Our family of seven with our beloved pastor, who cares so deeply for his flock!

Father Hough along with Godparents Christina and Josh

Three of the four grandparents made it to Theo's baptism!

Part of our big, beautiful extended family!

My contribution to the party was Theo's cake!  It's lovely due to the loving criticism encouragement of my sister! ;-)

The rest of the party food and decor was thanks to these two lovely Grandmas!  We shared lunch at the party: Ryan's smoked brisket, beans, corn, and coleslaw.  Theo's godmother brought the party punch- always beloved by the kids!

Our party hosts Andrea and Charlie, two very amazing friends who generously offered to open their new home to host our giant party.  It was wonderfully liberating for me, newly postpartum, to not have to actually host anything at our home!

Monday, November 7

The Birth of Theo

This is a story that I didn't think would be my story. I've heard of wild and crazy fast labors before, but I haven't heard of anything quite like this!

 

I have to start on October 5.  On that day, I was 11 days past my due date, and my midwife requested that I have an ultrasound to check on Baby to make sure everything was still okay in there.  They check several things, but one of the things she noticed was that the amniotic fluid level was very low- low enough that an OB probably would have scheduled an induction right then and there.  My midwife was comfortable letting me hydrate, which would increase the level, and check again on the following Friday.  We continued to try to naturally induce labor but Baby wasn't ready yet!  So I chugged water (seriously, gallons) and we went again on Friday the 7th to have another bio-physical profile and non-stress test, but this time we went to our backup midwife's office at the hospital.

We showed up, waited forever (reminded me of why I can't stand offices!), and finally had our ultrasound done.  The fluid level had gone up significantly, praise God, so I no longer had to worry about my fear of being induced!  We went into another room for the non-stress test, and the midwife asked me if I wanted her to check me for dilation.  My midwife, who was there with us, said she had wanted to check me later anyways so we might as well do it now!  At this point I was like, whatever!  (Previously when my midwife had checked me, she couldn't tell me anything because my cervix was still posterior.) Well.  This midwife really, um, wasn't shy, and she got in there and pulled my cervix forward, and declared I was already 7 centimeters!  This choked me up and I had a huge emotional release right there.  I didn't know this could happen.  I had no idea I could be 7 cm with a posterior cervix, and I certainly wouldn't have thought I could ever get to 7 cm without a single contraction.

She asked if she could help the baby move down by stretching my legs and hips, which actually felt very good as she worked on me.  She asked if she could strip my membranes now, and I consented, but once she checked me again she said the baby had moved down and I was now 8 cm dilated.  She didn't strip my membranes at this point because she wanted me to make it home in time to have the baby!

I remember feeling sort of paralyzed, worried all of the sudden that labor would kick in and I'd have a baby on the side of the road on the way home. Ryan and I walked cautiously back to his truck, and I don't remember speaking much on the way home.  I think we were both shocked.

We got home and Ryan immediately started blowing up the inflatable birth pool that we had rented, and I started stripping and re-making the bed.  I got out snacks for my birth team, cleared off my desk for her supplies, and pulled out all of my postparum things.  I wasn't contracting or having any signs that there would be labor any time soon.  It felt like a dream.

After everything was set up, we decided to take a nap, and we both slept for about an hour.  I remember waking up feeling very refreshed, but disappointed that still nothing was happening!  I texted my midwife to come over and help get things going- she hadn't gone home because she didn't want to be far from us!

She and the rest of the team came over, and we did everything we could thing of to get things going.  She stripped my membranes and she said I was only 7 cm dilated. (Only!)  She rubbed clary sage and castor oil on my belly, and she said I should work on maneuvering him lower into my pelvis.  The trouble was, everything I knew of to do that worked only in conjunction with contractions- and I wasn't contracting!  She also had me use my pump, and this finally started giving me an occasional contraction.  Maybe one every 15-20 minutes, and even then they were only 30 seconds or so.  I lightly moaned through them, did deep squats, and used the lift-and-tuck Spinning Babies technique.

After a couple of hours, I knew I would have the baby relatively soon, but I wasn't convinced it would be that day.  Things were moving too slowly and I thought I was handling it all too well.  I told myself the contractions weren't hard enough to make any significant changes, and felt like I was going through the motions of moaning and squatting only due to "muscle memory" of having done it four times already!  I joked with everyone that I wasn't really in labor, because mentally I felt fully present to what was going on around me (they were watching television) and I had convinced myself that nothing was really happening.

About halfway through Hell's Kitchen, as I squatted through a contraction, I felt a huge pop or kick or... something.  I think it was my water breaking, but it was up high, like behind my belly button.  I've never felt my water break outside of the birthing tub before, and with this there was no gush of fluid.  But things immediately changed and I was pretty much in transition at that point!  I immediately got into the tub, leaned over one side and grabbed Ryan's arms, and continued to moan through contractions which felt like they never quite ended.  I asked for a cold wash cloth on my head and neck because I was so hot!  But I still felt I was in great control, and kept telling myself it was going to get worse.



After about 30-45 minutes of  "real" labor, I felt like pushing.  So I did.  I don't think anyone else realized what I was doing at first! I remember hearing everyone around me- encouraging me I now know- but I don't remember their words.  My arms were wrapped around the outside of the tub, pulling so hard that Ryan told me later he thought I was going to pop the tub!  I switched positions and about 15 minutes later, I birthed my baby and pulled him up out of the water onto my chest.  I remember saying, "Thank you God!" maybe 50 times in a row, I was thankful he was HERE but also thankful that pushing was OVER!

We sat there in our relief and joy and admired our baby. I was so thankful it was all over!



 It took me a few minutes to slip back into reality, and then we turned this baby over to reveal the gender.



It's a boy!!!


We can't say we were surprised because my mama's intuition had me believing it was a boy all along.  We still hadn't decided on a name yet, though.

After a few minutes, I delivered the placenta and got into my own bed to be examined.  Ryan held our unnamed Baby Boy and I was declared healthy, but still bleeding a little too much.  To help with the bleeding, Ryan brought Baby to me and he latched right on; another perfect nursing baby.  What a blessing!

 

At some point I got up while the midwife examined Baby and I took an herbal bath.  My friend and placenta encapsulater stopped by the house to pick up my placenta, and offered to make me a smoothie with a small chunk of my placenta in it to help stop my bleeding.  I drank it all (it tasted delicious!) and my midwife told me she'd feel more comfortable if I took a medication to help stop the bleeding, so I did, and it helped.

I got back into bed with Baby, they packed everything up, and left at around 11 pm.  Ryan and I settled in for the night (the big kids were with Grandma and Grandpa) with our new son!

We slept off and on all night, with him by my side in bed.  <3 p="">
We asked Grandma and Grandpa to bring the kids over around 9 am to meet their new sibling, but Ryan and I wanted to have a name picked out before they came home.  After some discussion and a little bit of flip-flopping, we settled on Theodore Augustine Joseph, and we planned to call him Theo.  We couldn't pick only one middle name- I really wanted both to honor those saints!  So we just went with it!

The big kids came home and met their new brother.  Everyone loved him, even Caeli!  She still called him "Baby French Fry" though, since this was his in-utero nickname due to my craving of extra-salty French fries!








Overall I am so pleased with the way everything went.  Being 13 days past my due date is hard physically, emotionally, and mentally, but if I knew I was going to have a labor like that again it would be so much easier to endure the wait!  Ryan thinks the home birth was SO much better and loved the experience, but it wasn't that huge of a change for me compared to the birth center.  I loved our birth team and was glad we didn't have to get in the car during contractions or several hours after birth to come home.  And it was nice to recover at home in my own bed!  I think Ryan may have loved it so much because we were in our home where HE was still the host and provider; he knew where everything was when someone needed something, and was able to still sort of be in charge.  At the birth center, we were still guests.

We are so thankful for another son, and so happy that he's here!  There is no other feeling in the entire world better than delivering your baby, after waiting for so long, holding him on your chest, and meeting him.  I knew him and he knew me, but examining him part-by-part and admiring his features is still my favorite part of the process!

Recently I've been learning to pray for my specific desires and intentions, and as silly as it sounds, just asking God for what I want and what I think I need while leaving room for His will to be done.  I very specifically prayed for a fast labor, and when people asked if they could pray for me I asked them to pray for a fast labor. God heard and answered me!  Deo Gratias!



Tuesday, October 4

10 Days Past My Due Date



I am sitting here at my desk, doing hip circles on my birth ball.  Although I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write, it’s probably the one thing I haven’t tried yet to induce labor (a sort of emotional release, if you will).  Things I have tried include all the obvious,  acupuncture and induction massage, mowing the lawn on our tractor, lots of crying, and Spinning Babies techniques.  The logical part of me knows there’s probably nothing I can do to make him or her come.  But part of me feels broken.

Having gone 13 days past my due date last time hasn’t made this time much easier.  My body or my babies need more time to gestate; someone has to be at the bottom of the bell curve at 42 weeks.  It’s not abnormal.  So why is it so hard?

I have a few theories for me.  The first is that I was hopeful that baby just might come early!  Not  too hopeful, but hopeful enough that I ordered my home birth kit on time and started assembling supplies at 38 weeks.  I installed the car seat a couple of weeks ago.  And I’ve been slowly checking things off my list… But most were checked off by 39 weeks.  
 
That was over two weeks ago.

So what have I been doing?  Waiting.  At home.  I’ve been feeling very vulnerable and anti-social, so the idea of visiting friends hasn’t sounded appealing, so we’ve mostly stayed home.  But what happens at home?  I feel like I need to have the house ready to go, so we spend a lot of time cleaning- and that’s driving me crazy.  I haven’t felt like reading or otherwise engaging in anything too crafty (I did recover the cushions on the glider and finish crocheting baby’s blanket though).  So I’m just in this perpetual state of waiting.
I’ve done it to myself, I realize, since I don’t want to go out.  But, my main problem with going out right now is the endless commentary from strangers on me and my family.  It sounds horrible but frankly I don’t want to hear anything from anyone about my pregnancy or my family- even compliments.  I just want to talk about normal things.  Everyone stares at me with giant eyes, comments on my basketball belly, asks how many kids I have and stares at me even more when I tell them this is my fifth.  Or, if the kids are with me, they’ll count them up and ask if this baby is a boy or girl, then I have to explain I don’t know because we chose not to find out, then they say, “Oh I could never do that!” and we laugh cordially.  I’ve had that exact conversation 100 times.  While I am very thankful that I haven’t received any rude comments (apparently those have been reserved for Ryan), I am just tired of the small talk.  

Spiritually I feel very dry, because I haven’t been able to engage in any stimulating conversations due to my self-inflicted confinement, and I haven’t been able to force myself to read anything spiritual.  Or anything at all, really.  I feel like my brain doesn’t have the capacity to think or feel right now.

I’m in a tunnel.  It’s pitch black and I can’t see the light.  I know the light is ahead because, well, no one is pregnant forever, right?  Right now I feel like I’ve been in this tunnel for a lifetime, and this particular tunnel has been more challenging to navigate than the other four I’ve already been through.  This tunnel held apathy, depression, vulnerability, and feelings of abandonment.  When I finally had to give up the one thing at 32 weeks that made me feel like ME (which was working out and lifting weights), my body actually started to feel better physically, which frustrated me that I couldn’t even do the one thing anymore that made me feel normal.  

I’m happy with our decision to labor and deliver at home, but I’m not looking forward to having to actually labor again.  Having been through it several times already, and having witnessed nearly 50 births as a doula, I am very aware of what I’m about to go through.  I made a (probably heretical) comparison to feeling like Jesus in the garden before His passion.  He knew what was going to happen to Him; He didn’t want to do it.  He sweat blood!  I haven’t sweat blood before but I know pretty well what to expect.  The tightening, the stretching, the pain that my body will endure.  It’s the only way to bring this baby into my arms, and I wholly accept that this is the way it has to happen.  And we’ve chosen to do it at home (under the care of a midwife) because I don’t feel there are any better options for me.  Jesus knew His Father’s will, yet He still asked for another way.  I don’t feel guilty about asking for the beginning of the end of this pregnancy… I just have to remember His words: “Not my will, but your will be done.”

I see the opportunities for grace, for growing in patience and endurance, for humility, for redemptive suffering.   I see that perhaps God has a great plan that I don’t know about yet, or a plan better than the one I’ve made.  But… I just don’t want to do it anymore.  I’m ready to have this baby, ready to accept and embrace the pains of labor, ready to move on with life.  Yet I must wait.

And so…  we wait.


Thursday, June 30

June, in photos

Caeli has such beautiful skin.

We woke up one Saturday and Ryan said, "What do you want to do today?" I said, "Build headboards for the boys?" So he did it.

I cut 8 inches or so for a summery-do.

Luke loves his doggy.

She has a wonderful imagination.  She reminds me so much of Beth as a baby.
We went to a free symphony concert with friends, with music by John Williams.

Caeli picked her free book from the library as a reward for the summer reading program.  Winnie the Pooh... in Spanish!  And she insisted I read it!

We had fun playing with friends, chasing their chickens, and collecting eggs.

I spent many hours of creative time designing and printing my own planner for life and school.  It's my favorite!

We scored some new patio furniture on clearance.

Luke helped PawPaw recover our dining room chairs.

 
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