Life

For months, I have read my Bible with a sort of frustrated apathy.  I have been desperate to find life in the Word – answers to my despairing questions, water for my parched soul, something to reach into the depths of my heart and remind me: oh yeah, that’s the truth I’ve been forgetting.  I’ve searched for it in all of the familiar verses and stories that used to reliably draw my heart back to the Lord, but have found them to be like dust poured onto dry ground.  Days would pass when I just didn’t bother to open my Bible, certain that I would only reap discouragement.  It has been the harshest season of my soul, these months, and I’ve struggled to even understand why.

But there’s been a light in recent weeks…not a total understanding, or a great revelation, but a slow, dim dawning in the darkness.  He wants to be enough.  He needs to be enough.  When I think that any satisfaction will be found in answered prayers, or when I deem Him faithful only if life is going as I think it should, or when experience trumps what I know to be truth, then I have missed the point of it all.  Because it isn’t that my circumstances should be the evidence of a faithful God.  That puts Him on my level.  That says that who He is must be confined to working within my understanding.  I have wanted so much to force His hand in my circumstances, to make Him prove Himself to me.  And I think He did, but not how I wanted – not how I thought I needed Him to.  Instead of showing up in my circumstances, He stopped showing up in my searching for Him.  Instead of fixing those areas of life that were going wrong, He became absent even from those areas of life that were fine.  And I missed Him.  And I realized that His presence with me was the proof I needed of His faithfulness, and His truth, and His love.  It’s His presence that makes it possible to look past unanswered prayer and find hope.  It’s His presence that brings comfort in despair and peace in the storm.  It’s knowing that He is there to strengthen and sustain and guard and revive that make hard things bearable.  It’s not anything He can give or do that is the proof I need of all that He is.  It’s just Him.  Who He is proves who He is, if that makes any sense.  

And a couple days ago, for the first time in so, so long I opened my Bible and found nourishment.  In Ecclesiastes, of all places.  It paints the picture, so clearly, of how pointless life is when our focus is on anything but God.  Even searching for understanding, even making morality and righteousness our goal, are vanity.  Knowing Him should be our goal.  Eternity should be what we’re living for.  Our hopes should begin and end with that.

To be honest, I’m still left with questions about how in the world to have faith in prayer for things.  I’ve lost it.  But maybe what faith I had was misplaced anyhow?  Still, it’s secondary, at best.  No matter what circumstances look like, that communion with the Lord – made possible only by Jesus’ sacrifice – is life.  And life is what I need.


Summer days

Life has been disorganized lately, to say the least.  Not that it’s usually super organized anyway, but it has been particularly amorphous this summer.  Obviously, adjusting to a new baby has been a significant contributor to this, but I hate the feeling that days are passing with nothing concrete to show for them.  As I think about it, though, I find that all of our time hasn’t been spent whiling the hours away.

Up until about a week and a half ago, there was baseball.  Just about every weeknight that it wasn’t raining found us at a ballpark, watching either Caedmon or Nathanael play.  Okay, so sometimes “watching” could only loosely describe what we were doing, since by the end, the four or five children who were being asked to just sit and pay attention to the game were pretty tired of it, and let us know as much…in ways that did not necessarily lend themselves to us following the games as closely as we may have liked.  I’m sort of torn about how much to expect from them.  I think learning to sit still and exercise self-control is necessary, but they are just kids and I never really know when what I’m asking of them goes beyond stretching to being exasperating.  But, I think the overall experience was still fun…even if at times it was simply the being together that made it so.

The past couple Sundays, there has also been men’s softball – Tim plays, Caedmon plays with the youth, the rest of us watch.  We’ve done this for the past 3(?) summers, but this year is proving a bit more challenging, with a new baby wanting to be always held, and a toddler-girl who has decided that listening and obedience are for the birds.  My nerves have been pretty frayed by the time the games have been done, so we’re assessing whether an adjustment of priorities might be necessary.  Missing softball would be kind of disappointing, though, so I’m hoping we can figure out a way to make it work.

There has also been gardening.  This year, our gardens – much like the rest of life – have been mostly discouraging.  Blankets of weeds seem to appear out of nowhere, a bunny attacked our broccoli and beet plants, which had been doing well, radishes didn’t grow, rhubarb came and went in the blink of an eye and I wasn’t able to make any use of it, my spinach bolted in, like, a week, my tulips didn’t bud, and a couple new flowering plants that I added last year didn’t regrow this year.  Because of my cesarean (and a baby), my ability to do anything about any of it has been severely limited.  Even now, I can only weed for short periods of time before my abdomen hurts.  On the plus side, we have snap peas and lettuce and chives and strawberries, plus a couple cherry tomato plants that are huge (compared to our started-from-seed-two-weeks-ago plants) thanks to their ability to grow from seeds left in the ground over winter.  And we have daisies growing in the pile of dirt that is next to our garage…though, at the moment, I don’t honestly remember where that pile of dirt came from or why it is still there…but I am happy for the flowers.

Back to the subject of strawberries, though.  There have been a lot – about 14 quarts from our garden, plus the 24 quarts we got from strawberry picking, plus four quarts so far from the CSA.  Most have been frozen for jam-making at a more convenient time, or to use for other things later on, but some have been eaten and they are so good.  Of course, since strawberry shortcake is my hands-down absolute favorite dessert, an abundance of strawberries could never be considered too-much, and even the hours that have been spent cleaning and hulling the strawberries have been mostly spent in appreciation of such bounty.

I have also spent hours researching and pondering math and language arts curricula for next year.  Not my favorite thing to do, and I’m still not decided on what we’re doing.  This is just really hard for me.  I try to tell myself that even if something doesn’t work out, it’s not a disaster, but I know I will feel terrible for spending money and energy on something only to have it be the wrong decision.

The past few weeks have also included me adjusting to driving our bigger vehicle.  While we still had our minivan, I drove that, because I found our Ford Excursion with a 6-inch lift and massive tires a bit intimidating.  Since our van sold (much to our relief, and our children’s sorrow) I don’t have a choice.  There has been a learning curve, but I think my driving is mostly not-scary at this point.

We are also on the home-stretch of memorizing Ephesians 2, which we have been in the process of doing for…um…a long time.  Really, I think my kids could have had it finished months ago (and I think Caedmon did), but since I have been memorizing along with them, my pregnancy and then new-baby brain has necessitated taking it much slower in our “official” memorizing time.  But I think next week should wrap it up.  Finally.  Then the trick will be to keep it memorized.

The kids have, perhaps, been suffering a bit from lack of structure.  Chores seem to take longer than they should and there are a lot more “can I?” requests throughout the day.  But there have been trips to the library, helping Daddy with projects, many days with hours on end of outside play – complete with sweat-soaked baseball hats and mud-encrusted limbs, episodes of MasterChef (evidence that they are, indeed, my kids), and lots of ice cream.  Starting next week, there will also be swimming lessons at 10:30 three days a week.  I’m not entirely sure that I was completely sane when making that decision, as getting all six of them ready and out the door by 10am seems incredibly daunting at the moment, but hopefully it will bear fruit, and perhaps result in some (or all???) of my four oldest learning to swim.  We’ll see.

I have also been trying to go for a walk most days.  Up until about a week or so ago, this literally was simply around the block, since anything more still caused a fair amount of pain.  I’ve managed about 1.5 miles the past few days, though, and am hoping that it won’t be too long before I can start running again.  This particular aspect of post-partum life is always particularly difficult for me.  Having 40 pounds to lose and not being able to do a whole lot about it is frustrating, to say the least.  Not having clothes that fit (nor even being able to find any) just makes it worse.  I’ve come to expect that at somewhere around 3 months post-partum, my body will decide it’s finally time for my hips to return to their normal, not-quite-so-wide state.  I will at that time have a horrible backache for a week or two and feel like I can barely stand, after which all of my clothes will fit differently again, my belly will stick out even more (because it won’t be stretched so wide) and I will get to go through a whole new round of frustration.  At least, that’s how it’s happened after the last 3 babies.  I’m trying to brace myself.

In the meantime, I enjoy my baby girl.  She likes to be held.  She likes to nap for long stretches during the day, then stay up fairly late at night.  She looks in your eyes and smiles for long moments.  She is a gift.

And that’s life.  Well, okay, not exactly.  It’s snapshots of life here.  Hardly the whole picture.  But they are snapshots worth noting, I think.

 

 

 

About my baby

Tomorrow, Isabelle will be 6 weeks old.

She loves to look around, and if awake, wants to face out and take in the world around her.

She rarely wakes up crying, instead signalling her wakefulness by wiggles and squeaks, much like her oldest sister did as a baby.

She has the.most.adorable dimple in her right cheek.  It’s elusive, though.  Despite several attempts to get a picture, it is as yet unphotographed,  Otherwise, I would show you, because it’s so sweet.  Oh well.

Her eye color is still yet to be determined.  We’ve had to wait to find out for each child.  So far, we have two with solid brown eyes, one with a brown and green mix (hazel?), one with light gray-blue, and one with dark gray-blue.  Whatever color they are, though, they are big and beautiful and full of the wonder of this life that’s so new to her.

She loves to be rocked.  She is the first child to really take to it.  It definitely beats walking around late at night.

She has fussy times, but she has times when she is really content just looking around, too.

She is adored by her siblings, even her nearest-in-age sister who, despite some obvious adjustment difficulties, has quickly added words like “cute”, “gentle”, “kiss”, and “Belle-belle” to her vocabulary, and has taken to swaddling her own little stuffed bear in a washcloth so that she can have a “baby”.

She wraps her arms around me and my heart melts.  Her head gets kissed endlessly, and I choke back tears as I look in her eyes and tell her she is beautiful.  Words can’t really describe how beautiful.  I love her – this fearfully and wonderfully made little girl – completely and indescribably, for ever and always.

 

 

Trying to learn…

…contentment – and distinguishing it from apathy.  I will never be perfect.  I know, I know – that’s a shocking notion.  But, really, it is a difficult concept for me to grasp.  I have trouble setting goals that are anything short of perfection, and since I never come anywhere near perfection even on my best day, even in the littlest things, discouragement comes easily.  And I want to be better than I am, I want my kids to be better than they are, I want my house to be better than it is, and on, and on, and on.  I need to learn about grace – more and again.  I need to find the freedom that comes with acknowledging that the gap left by my failings and insufficiencies is covered.  I need to not let all of the things that don’t go just right dictate my attitude.  So far, I do a pretty lousy job of this.

…submission.  You may be surprised to learn that my husband and I don’t always agree on everything…but I really hope you aren’t.  In any case, there are times when we don’t see eye to eye…times when I wonder if we’re even facing each other…times when we’re both convinced the other is wrong and giving in would seem to mean certain devastation.  Sometimes it’s little things, but sometimes it’s not little things.  And I know I’m supposed to let him lead, and trust that God is bigger, but it goes against every fiber of my being.  My childhood was one where submission meant the forced relinquishing of any say and then bracing for the fallout of what would almost certainly be a bad decision.  Authority was not trustworthy, in any capacity.  I don’t know how to let go of that.  I don’t know how to submit when I’m convinced that a mistake is being made.  But I do know that the weight of responsibility for this family is not mine, and I don’t want it to be.  So, I need to learn how to stop arguing.  I need to learn how to support my husband even when I don’t agree.  I need to learn how to follow.

…blind faith.  Normally, I would argue against this.  Even now, I’m certainly not advocating for it in a general sense.  But, in trying to understand why life has seemed so devoid of God’s presence lately, the only answer I’ve sort of gotten is that I need to learn to trust Him in His absence – not just absence from circumstances, but absence from my worship times, absence from my Bible study, absence from my prayer time.  I’m seeing that I have grown used to having Him answer me, rebuke me, comfort me and challenge me on a very personal level.  I haven’t learned to rely on the foundation of faith that has been laid in my life.  Instead of answering my questions and fears and doubts with the truth that I should have embedded in my soul, I have expected that still, small voice to answer me every time.  I can’t fully explain it.  I don’t really know why I shouldn’t expect Him to answer me.  And I have struggled to reconcile my faith with how it is supposed to bear fruit in my life.  But, I’m trying to figure it out.

On recovering

When faced with the reality that a cesarean was going to be my only option, 5 weeks ago, though I had many reservations and concerns, few were regarding the recovery period that would follow.  My first two children were born by cesarean, and – really? – I didn’t have much objection to how long it took me to be “back to normal”…if “normal” can be called that with a huge gash across one’s abdomen that had not previously been there.  In any case, I figured this time around would be no different.  I didn’t consider that being 8 years older, or four babies later, or even having my insides cut open and rearranged for the third time, among other things, would affect my ability to recover.  I was hoping that, at least, this part would go right.

At first, everything seemed to go as I expected.  Standing and walking didn’t pose any greater challenge than previously, my incision appeared to be healing well, and I was allowed to go home after 36 hours.  The day after coming home, though, I got the most excruciating headache ever – and I’m not entirely unfamiliar with brutal headaches.  After trying Tylenol, and caffeine and water with absolutely no effect, we realized that this was a spinal headache – what my anesthesiologist claimed he’d only seen twice in 24 years, and which was only relieved by laying flat on my back.  Perhaps being forced to lie flat on your back doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world, but when trying to nurse a baby, it becomes inconvenient, and when you have a just-starting-to-heal abdomen, it’s also incredibly painful.  The solution, then, was to get a dural blood patch.  What is that?  Well, it’s when they take an epidural needle (or a slightly larger one when they don’t have any of the usual size available), stick it into the spinal column (while admonishing you because you aren’t adequately tightening your incredibly sore belly in order to round your spine, which is reflexively arching in pain in spite of the claims that it shouldn’t hurt at all because a local anesthetic has been injected) then draw blood from an arm and inject it into the spine until it feels like a horrible muscle cramp, and then inject some more in until it officially becomes the worst pain thus far in the whole labor-surgery-recovery-headache course of events.  But it worked, and over the course of the next day, or so, the headache subsides.

At this point, I thought things should be getting easier.  After my previous cesareans, it took about two weeks to resume normal life activities.  This time, I could barely stand for even five minutes at the two week mark.  My abdomen was visibly bruised…I can only presume from a less than gentle delivery technique…and I was still pretty much useless for any kind of productivity.

Since then, I have improved…slowly.  Pain from the incision has become less frequent, but as I move around more, I am finding that my hip joints are extremely loose.  My balance is easily thrown off and after walking short distances my legs are shaky and sore.  This is new for me, and I guess it may be in part because I have been off my feet for so long, but I find it hard to not be discouraged.

I just wasn’t ready for this.  I was hoping to move quickly past the frustrations of this birth.  I was hoping to be able to look back on all of it and think it wasn’t really so bad.  I was hoping that I could possibly consider the thought of another baby in the future without even more anxiety about the now even greater probability of another cesarean.  I was hoping to find some silver lining to all of the disappointment.

I write this with a beautiful baby girl asleep in my arms.  And I would endure all of this a thousand times and more, if that were necessary to ensure the protection of her life.  Please don’t misread this as any resentment over the cost that a safe birth sometimes carries with it.  Mostly, it is just a weariness of soul and a wondering why and a fear of hoping.  That’s all.

Belle-belle, Izzy-Soph, Izbo, Sweetpea

When Isabelle was born, we didn’t have a name picked out.  Through the course of the day right after her birth, we didn’t get a chance to try to figure one out, either.  I was hoping that we could that night.  But that night, we realized Ava would be too much for Tim’s mom to handle on her own, and the hospital would not allow Ava to stay with us in the hospital room, so Tim went home and we spent our first night apart in fourteen years.  It was hard for me, honestly, but there was grace in it, too.  As I sat awake for most of the night holding my baby girl, I prayed for a name.  Tim and I really were at an impasse, name-wise, and I was extremely discouraged and desperate for God’s guidance.  After a while, the name Isabelle Sophia – devoted to God; wise – settled in my heart.  I don’t know how to explain it other than it seemed right, which was fairly significant since neither name had been my preference.  When Tim arrived the next morning, I asked what he thought of the name, and his response was that it was exactly what he had been thinking.  That was it – she was named.  And I was thankful, in the end, for the timing.

Since then, I have gone through the inevitable struggle to not call her the names of our other children, and I think I’m now mostly through that phase.  She has acquired a few nicknames, however…most consistently Belle-belle, which is what Ava calls her, and Sweetpea, which was Tim’s attempt to have something to call her so that he wouldn’t inadvertently call her by any of Ava’s nicknames.  The others…Izzy-Soph and Izbo…were mostly just meant to be silly suggestions of possibilities, and really haven’t been said much, but do somehow seem to fit upon occasion.

Maybe a particular nickname will stick, maybe we will decide that ‘Isabelle’ is most suitable on its own…time will tell.  But whatever we call her, we are most happy to be able to call her ours.

Even here

I stood at the sink, scrubbing away the mess from newborn clothes.  It’s a part of life with a 3 week old.  This was yesterday’s mess, actually.  It had been left because, yesterday, I was so exhausted I could barely stand.  And Tim said he would clean it, but then forgot.  And that’s more than okay.  Because he was working all day, plus doing a dozen other things – at least – that were more important than cleaning baby clothes.  So, I stood scrubbing.

After a couple minutes, I felt the sharp stinging pain in my abdomen that told me I was doing too much, that reminded me that things had gone wrong and I’m not all better.  I finished scrubbing.  I got another load of laundry going.  I went to fetch the not-quite-two year old for her nap, telling her to hold my hand – that I couldn’t carry her right now.  When she didn’t take my hand right away, my ten year old offered to carry her for me, and it seemed almost laughable that he could do that which I couldn’t.

I finally sat down after going through the naptime routine.  It wasn’t even two in the afternoon yet, and I had to be off my feet.  I feel like a failure.  I have lists of things that need doing and I can barely manage to do laundry and throw simple dinners together.  My brain is foggy and days are slipping by with little order and little productivity.  And I doubt that I will ever measure up to any standard.  I tell myself that this is why God doesn’t answer, this is why He overlooks me - ’cause why would He bother with someone who does such a terrible job at life, even when trying to do well?

Even as I tell myself these things though, I am reminded that it’s not really true.  I’m reminded of a moment in worship several weeks ago when He did answer these particular doubtings of my heart.  The logic that has run through my mind countless times in life that says He loves me and saves me by default, that He only “loves” me because He loves the whole world and I’m a part of the world, that if He could choose to love me, He wouldn’t – was assaulting my heart at that time, too.

But, His words to me then, and again today, were simple: If I had wanted to, I could have chosen to not die for your sins.

See, I forget sometimes that the whole idea of salvation was God’s alone.  I tend to think that He was bound by some rule that forced Him to make it an all or nothing thing.  I gloss over the reality that the punishment Jesus bore wasn’t for the idea of sin, but for the personal, one-at-a-time a gazillion times over sins that each hold the power to separate the sinner from God…which means that each of my sins had to be addressed on the cross, and could have been left out if God so chose.  So, to be saved, God had to want to save me.  I know it’s simple, but I guess I need simple.

At that same time, my other question to the Lord was why didn’t You make me good enough? I asked because I felt like so many others were good enough.  Everyone always seems to do so much better than me at everything.  It can appear as if others make God’s gift of salvation worth it.  Me, though?  I was sure I was a waste of His time and effort.  His answer, however, was that He didn’t make anyone good enough – that not one is righteous apart from Christ, that even what I might see as amazing in someone falls so far short of His standard.  Even if He were in the business of comparing me to someone else, the reality is that my worst and someone else’s best are hardly different when compared with sinless perfection.  He’s not in this to garner from us a certain level of performance, and regardless of how I might perceive things, the free gift of salvation is impossible to deserve. This wasn’t a new realization, but I obviously needed to learn it again that day.  And again this afternoon.

Much of the time, lately, it has seemed to me that God has just been completely absent from my life.  I have a lot of frustrations and confusion about a lot of things.  It’s easy for me to be so focused on those things that I ignore the times He does show up and speak truth to my often foolish heart.  But remembering those moments is necessary (obvious, right?), especially when I feel forgotten.  They may not be as frequent or faith-building as I might think I need, but they do remind me of His character, and His presence with me, and that I’m not so far removed from Him that He can’t or won’t reach me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.  —Psalm 139: 7-10

Thoughts on a birthday

Tim had a birthday yesterday.  When I think about what makes him so amazing – even on a regular basis, but more so when life seems to be in a bit of upheaval – I most often think of his servant’s heart.  This heart that enables him to look past himself to see what someone else’s needs are and then give all of himself to meet that need.

Obviously, I see it most clearly in how he serves me and our family – sacrificing sleep, personal comfort, his own [long] project list, and so much more, so that we are taken care of.  But, I see it everywhere else, too.  With extended family, with neighbors, with coworkers, with anyone that ever asks anything of him…or, really, with anyone that he sees in need…he will lay aside his preferences and go out of his way to make life easier for them.

And it’s not out of obligation (though, he might sometimes assert that it is), but rather, any time his desire to help someone is challenged (I know from personal experience), his response never has anything to do with himself, but is always based on what is best for the other person.  Even if someone has hurt him, or been selfish, or disregarded his help in the past, his response doesn’t change.

Though he will say that he’s not a compassionate person, I can’t say that I’ve known anyone with more genuine compassion than my husband.  It is a joy, and often a source of conviction, to walk beside him and see the outworking of this in our lives.  I am so thankful for him.

When knowing isn’t enough

The night before Isabelle was born, I had a dream.  I don’t usually apply any significance to dreams.  I don’t usually even remember any dreams to which I could apply significance even if I wanted to.  But, that night, my dream stuck with me, and seemed to have a point.

I dreamed that I was being chased by someone or something that really terrified me.  And then I got away, or thought I had.  And then I was surrounded by people pointing guns at me…caught by whatever/whoever it was that had me so scared.  And as I stood, defenseless, the only thing I knew to do – felt I had to do – was surrender…not to those that had me surrounded, but to the Lord…and trust that He was still in control.  So, I did.  In my dream, I said “not my will, Lord, but Yours be done”…resignedly, I think.  But, there was peace.  And after saying it, inexplicably, this enemy that was surrounding me lowered their weapons and walked away.

To a normal person, this might not sound like it has anything to do with birth, but my first thought upon remembering the dream when I awoke, was of the last time I really felt the Lord tell me I needed to surrender.  That time was right before I went into labor with Bethany, when I was so, so scared of having another cesarean.  And I surrendered, went into labor, and ended up with the cesarean that I feared.

So, as I went through the next day, this dream was stuck in my remembrance.  I thought about how, for the past ten years, I have been doing everything possible to avoid facing another cesarean.  I thought about how I finally felt like, maybe, cesarean was no longer anything more than a remote possibility.  Through the contractions, and the bleeding, and the hospital, and the eventual cesarean, I felt some level of certainty of how it was going to end.

But I didn’t understand why.

I don’t understand why.

While there is comfort on some level in knowing that God knew the end from the beginning of this situation, on the flip side, that knowledge has also been a sharp blow to my already weakened faith.  I acknowledge that the cesarean was the only reasonable response to the placental abruption, but why, in His omnipotence, did God think it right and good for the problem to arise in the first place?  I was desperately hoping and praying for an easy delivery.  As much as it might sound shallow and weak, I needed that prayer to be answered.  I needed a reason to believe in God’s goodness and faithfulness again.  Prior to the birth, I had already lost pretty much every bit of trust in Him.  I thought maybe some could be restored, though, by a simple reminder that this part of my life – this birth – that had caused me an inordinate amount of fear throughout the pregnancy and which represented a lot of past hurt and disappointment, mattered to Him.  But instead, I got almost the exact opposite of what I prayed for.

I’m sure many people would point out that all of this reveals some gigantic flaw in my theology…and honestly, I’m really, really trying to figure out what that might be…but I have yet to hear a legitimate correction…or, at least, one that doesn’t hinge on the presupposition that God’s ways are always good.  When that belief falters, what is there to build it back up?  Why has God been only silent during these past several months when I have wanted more than anything to see His face and hear His voice?  My faith can’t shrink much more before it disappears altogether.

Isabelle Sophia

There are a lot of different perspectives that I have had concerning Isabelle’s birth.  Some – like the fact that we have a beautiful, healthy, precious daughter – are pure joy to my heart.  Others, though?  Not so much.  For now, I will try to focus mostly on the former, and maybe down the road, I will be able to adequately communicate the latter.

This birth story starts out fairly innocuously.  Thursday night, May 15, I started feeling some cramping…not contractions yet, but previous pregnancies had taught me that this cramping usually meant real labor was only a day or two away.  About 4am on Friday, I felt my first “real” contraction.  It wasn’t long or painful, but I took note nonetheless.  Over the course of the next few hours, there were 7 or 8 more, so I emailed my midwife just to say that labor was likely to happen sooner rather than later, but my expectation was that I still had a while.  We went about our day as usual.  Tim’s plan was to do a shopping run to Massena that afternoon, and though we debated briefly whether or not he should go, it was fairly easily decided that nothing of any significance was going to happen that afternoon, so he went.

At 2:30, though, as I was baking cookies for the kids’ Academy Night, I felt something leaking.  I thought maybe it was a small leak of amniotic fluid, but when I got to the bathroom, I discovered that it was blood, and not a small amount.  I panicked, a little.  I called Tim, he didn’t answer.  I called my midwife, she said she would call back in 15 minutes to see if the bleeding had continued.  I struggled to discern whether the blood was “bright red” or “dark red”.  I bled some more.  I called Tim, he answered, and I told him to leave his almost completely full shopping cart and come home now.  The midwife called and told me to head to the hospital, and said she would be on her way shortly.  It was 3pm.  Tim got home in about 20 minutes, I think.  He was (understandably) frazzled.  After making sure his mom had whatever info she needed to run the household for the evening/night, we left for the hospital.

By this point, I didn’t seem to be bleeding anymore.  We got checked in at the hospital and taken to labor and delivery.  While I had waited for Tim to get home, I  had tried to figure out what might be causing the bleeding…the most likely options being placenta previa (where the placenta covers the cervix) and placental abruption (where the placenta pulls away from the uterine wall)…so I was trying to prepare myself for the advice I felt sure was inevitable, but I was also praying desperately for wisdom and clarity.  I absolutely did not want to get stuck on a slippery slope that led to another c-section without good reason.  The first couple hours were spent getting an ultrasound and a non-stress test.  The baby’s heart rate seemed fine (or so we were told at this point), and the ultrasound showed low amniotic fluid, but the placenta was high, which ruled out previa…however, it was mostly behind the baby, so it wasn’t possible to tell if there was an abruption.  We hadn’t yet seen the doctor, but he went ahead and order some bloodwork (which was supposed to help determine if there was internal bleeding happening) and a test to determine if there was any amniotic fluid present near the cervix.  Eventually, (before any test results were back) the doctor came by and said his working diagnosis was an abruption and that his recommendation was cesarean.  Since his diagnosis was, at this point, based on next to nothing, we insisted that we wanted something more concrete to base our decision on.  He then told us that he wasn’t happy with the variability in the baby’s heart rate (never mind that the nurse had previously said it looked great), but when pressed, couldn’t/wouldn’t tell us exactly why.  It was at this time that the results came back which indicated that my water had broken (I think probably just a slow leak), which explained the low fluid on the ultrasound.  The doctor decided to order a biophysical profile (BPP), which would apparently give a better idea of how the baby was tolerating life inside the womb.  The BPP was a timed ultrasound where the tech measured movement, muscle tone, fluid levels and breathing “movements”.  Movement and muscle tone were fine, fluid was low – but for an obvious reason, however, there apparently weren’t enough breathing movements (when the baby mimics the breathing action, though it actually serves no useful purpose in the womb), so the overall score for the BPP was low.  Once again, explanations were not given that could explain why it mattered if the baby was mimicking breathing, we were just told that it wasn’t good.  During the ultrasound for the BPP, another attempt was made to view the placenta.  This time, it was more visible, and it was determined that there was a clot on the placenta, which apparently equated to a partial abruption.  After learning this, the OB was pretty set on doing a cesarean.  If the BPP had not been low, there may have been the chance that he would have approved a transfer to another hospital…if there were one willing to let me labor.  But, as it was, he would not approve a transfer.  My midwife (who arrived around 9pm) at this point was convinced the birth needed to happen in a hospital, so we were left with the option of having a cesarean, or – in the unlikely event that there were any hospitals within a few hours that would have even considered a trial of labor – leaving the hospital against medical advice, while in labor (contractions were pretty consistently about 10 minutes apart at this point), and risk the possibility of a full abruption while making the hours long trip to another hospital.  In other words, there really was no option.  And as much as I did not want another cesarean, I was thankful that the choice was made clear for us.  We agreed to the cesarean.

There was a lot more in the way of thoughts and feelings that came up before, during, and after the cesarean, but of greatest importance was that at 11:41pm, Isabelle Sophia arrived (though nameless for more than 24 hours).  She was our smallest baby yet, at a slight 7lbs, 10.6oz, and 20.5 inches long.  She was healthy and strong.  While I couldn’t hold her until an hour or so after her birth, when finally given the chance, she nursed easily and often.  I am thankful for that.  I am thankful for her.  I am thankful that she’s here and doing wonderfully well.  She is a priceless gift and whatever the “cost” to ensure her safe arrival was more than worth it.