Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Finish Line - A Birth Story

To start off, my labor did not go at all how I had hoped.  I pretty much had to throw my birth plan out the hospital window once I arrived.  I can laugh at it all in retrospect, but it was definitely hard at the time.  "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

After my due date had come and gone, and Josie was still enjoying her time in the womb, I had some tests done to make sure everything--and everyone--was still doing well.  As it turned out, I apparently had a low amniotic fluid level, which meant Josie didn't have enough swimming space.  After drinking copious amounts of water and a second test the next day, I had to be induced immediately.  I'm not entirely convinced the test was accurate, and it seems to be one of the current trends in obstetrics, but after a quick trip to Jamba Juice to fuel up with a Peanut Butter Moo'd smoothie, I reluctantly went into the hospital to induce labor.  There went my desire to labor at home as long as possible, out the window.  It's sort of like bad weather on the day of a triathlon--it's not how you want things to go, but it's beyond your control.

And so, at noon on Wednesday, July 7, I was induced.  The first attempt to start labor was a very unpleasant and awkward process--a foley catheter was used like a balloon to encourage dilation.  This took about four hours, and Scott and I grew bored as we waited in the hospital room, nice enough though it was--we hadn't brought enough stuff to keep us occupied.  We even called my mom to bring us a board game, though by the time she arrived I had finally reached 4 cm, and the catheter fell out.  I was so excited and relieved!  Labor had finally started.  To keep it going, they gave me pitocin.  I cried as they hooked me up to the machine (my hormones certainly didn't help).  And because of the situation, they had to continuously monitor Josie, so I was also hooked up to a fetal monitor.  There went my desire to dance with my husband, out the window (though we did attempt it at one point).

Once contractions grew more intense, I did everything recommended in the books and classes:  walking, using the birth ball, changing positions, getting into a water bath, breathing, focusing, etc.  After about ten long, excruciating hours, I needed something more to help with the pain.  A trusted friend (whose sanity I now question!) had recommended saline shots in the back for pain, so I thought I'd give it a try.  You know when you read about those blood-curdling screams in books?  Well, after getting the saline shots, I think I may have curdled my husband's blood.  As well as the two grandmas' in the waiting room.  And the nurses' in the hallway.  Perhaps even my own, it was that bad.  You could have recorded my scream and used it in a horror film.  I would say it was worse than labor.  It may have helped for about an hour or two, but it wasn't worth it to me.

Once the shock of the saline shots wore off and my contractions grew closer together, I reached my limits not of pain tolerance, but rather pain endurance.  It was very discouraging when, after two hours, I had only dilated one more centimeter.  Had it been a triathlon, I would have quit the race.  But that isn't a choice with childbirth.  So, at 4:00 am and 7 cm dilated, I opted for an epidural.  I felt defeated.  There went my desire for a labor without pain medication, out the window.  The anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural.  I call him my "epidural angel" partly because he relieved the pain, but perhaps more so because he was a collected, caring and calm presence right when I needed it most.  Of all the medical professionals involved with my labor and delivery, I would say he (and my nurse Heidi) was one of the best, and he was only present for a few minutes.  Though he did come back after Josie was born to see how I was doing, and to say congratulations.

As part of a baby shower gift, my mom had given me a silver heart with an inscription that read, "I can do all things through Christ" (Philippians 4:13).  I thought this verse would help me endure the pain of childbirth without pain medication, but instead it became the verse to help me do what was even harder than that:  give up my own desires.  I wasn't throwing them out the window after all, I was giving them over to God.

After the epidural, I slept for several hours.  It felt incredible.  I had no idea how exhausted I was until I slept.  When I awoke, I felt like I had just run the longest race of my life.  Only I still had farther to go!

I began pushing at about 9:30 am.  With the epidural, this was actually one of the easier parts of labor.  Forty-five minutes later, at 10:17 am on Thursday, July 8, Josie was born!  Scott ended up catching her (with the midwife's help) and cutting the umbilical cord.  He was such a great support throughout the entire course of labor, and I wouldn't have wanted to do it without him there.  He's my superhero husband.

My first reaction to Josie:  utter and complete awe.  Outside of Josie and my husband, the world around me blurred (and not just because I wasn't wearing my glasses).  I knew things were happening--nurses cleaning everything, a surgeon stitching my tear, someone observing Josie, etc.  But my focus was on my new daughter lying on my chest.  Newborn babies can look rather strange--even ugly--but to me Josie was the most beautiful thing in the world at that moment.

And Josie's first reaction to the world:  She pooped.  On me.  *?@! happens.  But the love I had for her washed all of it away; it simply didn't matter.  I imagine it's much like how God's love for us washes away our sin.  When we become his children and are cleansed by the blood of Christ, our sin simply doesn't matter.  It's still there, but in God's eyes it's out-of-focus.  His is a lens of love.  "Love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

I have now experienced childbirth.  The pain of labor is an enduring pain with intermittent bouts of intense pain--all day and/or night.  It is more like an ironman than a sprint triathlon.  But with labor, there is a much better, incomparable prize at the finish.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trimesters Part 3

With all the excitement of the new baby, I haven't had much chance to write about the third trimester.  So just for the sake of continuity, here are three brief points on my third trimester:
  • I failed the initial glucose tolerance test, which meant there was a possibility of gestational diabetes.  After much stress and a second longer and stronger (99 grams of sugar in 5 minutes!) test, I passed with flying colors.  Whew.
  • I had two baby showers and got lots of great things for the baby.  Everyone has been incredibly generous.
  • Scott and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary on June 18, five of the best years of my life.  We went out to dinner and a movie to celebrate one last time together before we would become three.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Curse of Childbirth - A Devotion

"Women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."  1 Timothy 2:15

 I don't pretend to know what this verse means.  I think perhaps it refers to the curse of childbirth in Genesis 3:16, and that women will collectively be saved from sin by enduring the pains of childbirth, as long as we are faithful, loving, and holy.  Perhaps it means God will save us physically during the intense pain and process of labor and delivery.  Or perhaps by enduring childbirth and childrearing we will fully understand what God went through when we sinned by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thereby understanding why he did what he did, helping us to put our trust in God once again.  Kids have an uncanny way of teaching us about ourselves--including our sin and disobedience--and about our relationship with God our heavenly Father, for what child does not disobey his parents at some point?  Furthermore, childbirth may help us to identify with Christ's suffering on the cross, an intense suffering that brings about life.

This passage came at a very appropriate time for me.  I am not far from childbirth--less than two weeks away from my due date.  The pain and suffering ahead of me is a bit frightening, and yet I am trusting God to help me through it (with help from my husband, midwives, and nurses!)  I'm also trusting in him to prepare me for parenthood, and all the challenges and joys that it will inevitably bring.

Prayer:  Father God, I pray for you to cover me with your saving grace as I endure the pains of childbirth.  May your grace be sufficient for me not only in childbirth, but also in childrearing, and may your power be made perfect in my weakness.  I pray also for your grace to cover over my daughter, that she would come to know you as her Lord and Savior, and that your truth and love would shine brightly through her life.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Trimesters Part 2

I've just made it through the second leg of my pregnancy, which was a big improvement over the first.  I regained some of the energy I had lost, allowing me to be a little more active, though still much less than prior to the pregnancy, which is to be expected.

The second trimester was filled with all kinds of excitement, including a trip to New Zealand, feeling the baby move, finding out it's a girl, seeing her face for the first time (!), and eating lots of avocados.  Yum.

Despite all the excitement, however, it has still been a rough transition to being unable to exercise as much as I would like--I simply don't feel like myself if I'm not active.  I hear many women talk about their pregnancies with fondness, saying they really enjoyed being pregnant.  I, on the other hand, cannot say that.  But I can say that it will all be worth it in the end.

The biggest lesson I learned in this trimester has been about control--or rather, the lack of it.  A good friend of mine who is a runner shared her wisdom and experience, saying that athletes can often have a tough time with pregnancy because they are so used to controlling their bodies that it's difficult to handle when things go haywire (and whether it's true or not, I heard that the female body changes more during pregnancy than mens' bodies change in a lifetime.)  Instead, we try to transfer that control to other areas of our lives, sort of like a water-filled jar that's broken open...the water must flow somewhere.  Once she told me this, it was like a lightbulb coming on in my brain and I could see this very thing happening in my life.  As a triathlete, I became very good at training my body, making it swim/bike/run as hard or as far as I wanted it to go, as well as controlling the types and amounts of food I ate.  But after getting pregnant, I lost much of that control, only to try and exert it (unsuccessfully) in other areas of my life.  Now that I realize this, I am working on relinquishing that control, knowing that God has a different plan for my life right now.  When life changes and the things that we hold onto go away, he remains.  When I am weak, he is strong.  This verse is a source of encouragement for me as I wait upon the Lord to renew my strength: 
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:28-31

In the meantime, I will keep pushing (figuratively and literally!) to the finish line of this pregnancy, anxious for the prize that awaits me.  Stay tuned for part 3....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

From Triathlons to Trimesters

It is time for a different kind of transition--a life transition--one that will last for nine months:  Pregnanacy!  My husband and I are expecting our first child on or around July 4, 2010.  And in the spirit of tri, here are three thoughts regarding my first trimester (which, thankfully, ends on December 26!)

First is change.  Life as I know it will never be the same.  Some of the changes are bitter while most are sweet.  Since becoming pregnant, it's sort of like I've been given a new pair of glasses that enables me to notice things I've never really noticed before, things like how unique each person in this world truly is, or the miracle of a baby, or how seemingly significant things in my life really aren't as important as they once were.  And all this after just eleven weeks of being pregnant!

Second is humility.  This one actually makes me laugh at myself.  Before I even knew I was pregnant, I did exhaustive research on the effects of exercise during pregnanacy; I wanted to make certain I didn't hurt my chances of getting pregnant, or harm the developing baby once I did if I were to exercise too much.  I laugh at this now because once "morning" sickness (such a misnomer!) set in, the last thing I wanted to do was exercise.  I could barely even walk a mile without losing my breath!  Considering the amount of training I've been doing, this was quite humbling indeed.  It was a rather difficult adjustment, and I had to keep reminding myself that there was a reason for it and it would likely pass after the first trimester.  I just need to do the best I can in the circumstance I find myself in.  Plus, pregnancy is in and of itself similar to high-altitude training:  There's less oxygen to work with, and it takes time for the body to adjust.  But once my body does adjust, my lungs will be more efficient than they've ever been before :)  Also, even though much of what I do affects the developing baby, it's humbling to realize that most of the growth and development is beyond my control.  There is only so much I can do; the rest is in God's hands.

And third is fear--not the kind that frightens (though there is some of that, too), but rather the kind that leaves one in awe, blows one's mind, or take's one's breath away.  I am in awe of what's happening inside of my body, at the baby being formed.  In Psalm 139, David writes, "You [the Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  As I write, the fetus inside me is likely developing a unique set of fingerprints, unlike anyone else's in the world!  The things that appear ordinary--people, snow, sunsets, etc.--become extraordinary when we open our eyes to see just how unique God creates each person, snowflake, and sunset.  No matter how many there are, there is never a duplicate--even identical twins have different fingerprints (and no, we aren't having twins!)  Of the billions and billions of people from the beginning of time, we are each "fearfully and wonderfully made."  It blows my mind.