Two under Two: Reflections on the Sneaky Culture of Death

Sneaky Culture of Death

By now, the idea that we are expecting a tiny addition to our family has begun to sink in fully. The shock of it all was pretty real for about the first three or four weeks upon finding out. And with that finding out, so many thoughts bounced around my brain. Besides the ones that had to do with practical aspects (ohmygosh…two under two? Life shall be crazy. I will never sleep again. Lucy will never learn to sleep on her own. The new baby will be a terrible sleeper like Lucy was. I will somehow need to grow a third arm just to get through each day. I will probably never shower or wear non-pj clothing again. How will we leave the house, and return, in one piece?) there were deeper thoughts that required far more wrestling to fully reckon with.

Namely, I was afraid that people would judge me for having two babies in so short a time-span. Guess what? That did not happen. Every person so far, from close friends to extended family to strangers on the street, has only expressed congratulatory sentiments at our news. Why did I think I would get raised eyebrows or secret judgmental thoughts? Probably because that’s how I was judging myself, and others in my situation, in a way. I have come to realize that everyone else simply sees that there is a reason to rejoice: new life, a sibling for Lucy who will (hopefully) be her best friend throughout life. I haven’t needed to make any of the excuses I was coming up with in my head: “Well, it was a big surprise” (even though it was). “Hopefully the next ones will be more spaced out…” (even though I do hope that!). There is never a reason why one should feel the need to make an excuse or apology for the occurrence of new life.

The point is, this was a way in which I’d unwittingly allowed the sneaky Culture of Death to invade my thought process:  yes, children are a blessing, but we should probably be very responsible and space them out at least two years by using NFP, and somehow we’re failures and freaks if we don’t. This, coming from someone who has always wanted to be a mom to a large family and loves babies. I just always assumed (and hardly realized I was doing it) that it would be more on “our” terms, more deliberate.

We had the same sort of thought process when we were praying about whether or not to wait on getting pregnant right after we got married. Thanks to NFP, we knew that there was an extremely high chance of returning from our honeymoon with a living souvenir. We knew that there were no truly serious reasons (financially, physically, emotionally or otherwise) to wait, but we both felt the pull of the world, and the whispering in our ears, “But don’t you just want to have some time together? Who wants to just get pregnant immediately?”  We recognized that this voice and its message had a hollow ring. It belonged to the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and so we decided the “we want time to get used to being married” argument wasn’t a serious reason for us. It might be for some people, and I cannot judge that at all. But for us, it was just selfishness. We decided to be open to the possibility of a honeymoon baby, if God willed it, and … He did.

In much the same way, my getting used to the idea of this surprise second pregnancy so soon involved throwing off a mindset that isn’t rooted in true selflessness. Part of me assumed that “normal” child-spacing is about two years, since that seems to be the pattern in many families (and I’m talking about NFP-using, non-contracepting families). Believe me, we were doing the whole exclusive breastfeeding thing, but not every woman’s body is the same. Imagine that! I was charting, but post-partum charting is a whole different animal, and I truly didn’t see any forewarning signs. So really, it was again God’s will that this child was conceived. There was no “failure” about it, even if it turned out I had made an error in charting (I still don’t know). There are no “child-spacing norms” we need to conform to, other than the ones that God has laid out for our particular marriage. An NFP manual or doctor can’t dictate that; only a prayerful consideration of our current state in life and trusting in God can.

As always, marriage and parenthood continue to teach lessons about humility and dying to self. I was humbled to realize that I had always considered closely spaced children as something…well, not beneath me, but just not something I’d ever personally do. That mentality isn’t fully open to life. And dying to self, well, see my list above. I know it is just dripping with optimism about life with two babies. But really, I have no doubt that God will teach me some very intense lessons about myself and the degree of trust I need to place in Him to make it through the days. Even if He doesn’t grant me the gift of a third arm.

 

 

 

Babymoon

Tom and I escaped for a day and a half on Monday to the Shenandoah Valley. It was our second (hopefully NOT annual) babymoon. Just to be clear, for anyone who may be confused, a babymoon is simply a little getaway trip a couple takes shortly before the birth of their child, akin to a honeymoon. I laughed at us, because our babymoon during Lucy’s pregnancy occurred two months after our honeymoon, and then we still had seven more months of what I now consider a “babymoon” (i.e. life together, without a baby).

Thus, this second babymoon was truly more a respite from real life and the demands of a one year old tyrant cutie. We snagged a Living Social deal for an overnight stay at a historic bed and breakfast in the small town of Berryville, VA. The whole Shenandoah Valley area is rich in history, and this B&B was no exception, having been owned by Harry Byrd, Sr., and host to many famous people (Einstein, the Kennedys, Nixon, Churchill, and more). The manor was gorgeous and the grounds were too.

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The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase

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We went on a couple walks while we were there but didn’t really get any pictures, so I’ m borrowing one from their website to show the amazing front porch:

We were so happy to take a leisurely drive into the country, stopping along the way for some shopping at the blissfully empty Leesburg Outlets, some little country towns, and a lovely vineyard for wine tasting:

Sadly, our best attempt at a selfie in front of Breaux Vineyards

Sadly, our best attempt at a selfie in front of Breaux Vineyards

Then we drove into Winchester and stopped at the house where Stonewall Jackson made his headquarters in the Civil War:

Tom helps the docent carry flowers up to the house

Tom helps the docent carry flowers up to the house

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We walked around the pedestrian mall for a bit in Old Town Winchester, enjoying amazing sunny skies and perfect spring weather. The next morning we headed out to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. I wanted to show Tom their impressive gardens, which my best friend had used in her wedding photos a few years ago. It was a bit drizzly, but not enough to deter us from exploring. The place is unbelievable. Just a little sampling…

Tom's model shot in the crabapple covered Peach Allé

Tom’s model shot in the crabapple covered Peach Allé

Baby and I in the Peach Allé

Baby and I in the Peach Allé

The Pink House

The Pink House

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Grand Allé

Grand Allé

Beware of the Geese

Beware of the Geese

Chinese Gardens

Chinese Gardens

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Water Gardens

Water Gardens

Then we went to a local noon mass, grabbed lunch, and used the voucher that came with our B&B deal for a wine tasting at another vineyard.

Check out that view...

Check out that view…

Our last stop on the way home was to join some Trappist monks for their afternoon prayers at Holy Cross Abbey.

They have many cats...here was one. Photo taken for Lucy's enjoyment.

They have many cats…here was one. Photo taken for Lucy’s enjoyment.

As fate would have it, Lucy came down with a head cold right before we left, but she still greatly enjoyed her little stay-cation with Nana and Papa, who put up with her runny nose and unexpected nighttime waking. We brought them two bottles of wine from the vineyards for their pains enjoyment of Lucy! We came back quite refreshed and are ready to get back to our big old to-do list. Send up a prayer to St. Joseph for us if you have a moment, so that we find a place to live soon!

Lucy Agnes’ Birth Story

Tomorrow Lucy turns ONE! I’m still in disbelief. But I thought I would post her birth story, since I’ve had it written out since shortly after she was born but before the blog was. If you don’t like hearing about things involved in labor and birth or are squeamish then skip away! I know I love birth stories, and many do, which is why approx 260 women have posted their stories in Grace’s link-up (so go there if you want more!). 

Lucy’s Birth

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The Fastest First Labor, ever.

Lucy's Birth Story

It’s hard to say when labor “began.” I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for about two weeks, but they were random and not painful, so I didn’t pay too much attention to them. At 36 weeks, I had started taking an herbal supplement to help prepare my body and ripen the cervix, so that, in my midwife’s words, it would make my cervix “less of an unripe banana, and easier to peel.” Right. Well, apparently, those little supplements did their job! At 37 weeks and 6 days, on the morning of April 11th, I began to experience my first “real” feeling contractions. The night before, we had walked around our cute local main street, gotten ice cream, and stopped in at adoration at our parish. I hadn’t really felt anything that night other than the tiredness and severely swollen feet that had been my constant companions, a la Mrs. Bennett, for the past couple weeks.

I woke a few times between 4:30 and 5:30 and noticed maybe two or three cramp like contractions. They were definitely different than all my previous Braxton-Hicks, so I knew something was afoot. They were also more uncomfortable but not truly painful. I was sort of incredulous in that early morning waking– was this it? Was it real? Would she come today?

I told Tom around 6:15 that I’d been up for awhile with a few contractions, and that I would text my co-teacher. I knew I couldn’t teach through these contractions (which really should’ve clued me in to what was happening) but I told her it might be a false alarm, so I’d let her know if I would come in later (hah). Meanwhile, my poor substitute had only had two days of shadowing me and figuring out what the heck was going on with my classes. I was supposed to work up until April 19 and slowly let her take over my teaching over ten days. This baby had other plans and Tamara was thrown into the fire, but did beautifully and relieved my many worries on that front.

I went to the bathroom shortly after texting my co-teacher, and there was some bloody show. I knew that was another sign that labor was truly beginning. But, still, I just couldn’t believe it was happening, particularly since we’d been told over and over at our birth classes that first time labor was often very, very long, and usually occurred after the due date. I went back to the bedroom to tell Tom and felt a little gush of water; nothing crazy, just a little bit, but I knew it was amniotic fluid and told Tom that “some of my water had broken.”

We decided that since the contractions weren’t too intense, Tom would go to school and wait to hear from me. He didn’t have afternoon classes, so he could come home at 1 if labor was progressing, and we could take a walk, watch a movie, and relax (hah, again!). My contractions were very bearable, but I noticed them. They were probably about 7-8 minutes apart, but didn’t last long. Maybe 30 seconds. I sent Tom off at about 7:20, and made plans to go to Whole Foods and buy coconut water and baby wipes/diapers, make home-made Labor-Ade to sip in labor, and clean up the apartment a bit.

Well, about an hour after Tom left, and I had finished emailing the day’s lesson plans to my sub and alerting the school that I was maybe in labor, the contractions started really picking up. I needed to breathe through them consciously and stop what I was doing to focus. I knew I should eat, though i had very little appetite, so I had a bowl of plain yogurt. I texted Tom to update and let him know the contractions were getting more painful and closer together. I was sort of loosely timing them and they were probably now about 5-6 minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. I found an app online and tried to use it to time them, but found it extremely cumbersome to try and lug the Macbook around whilst trying to relax during each contraction, and sometimes I’d be too far from the computer and totally miss timing one or two, so I didn’t have a great picture of the progression of the contractions.

I decided that now going out anywhere was impossible; the contractions were not slowing down during my activity, and stopping to breathe and relax every few minutes wouldn’t have worked in the car and the store. So, next I tried making my Labor-Ade. This required juicing 5 lemons and measuring out some honey and a few other ingredients to boil on the stove. Lets just say it took me a very long time to get that recipe made, since I had to continually stop, bend over and get through a contraction. It was probably about 9:30 or 10 at this point.

I used the birth ball a little to rock and drape myself over during contractions, as well as leaning into the wall and swaying. These things helped a little. I decided a shower would be nice, and maybe slow things down. The water did feel good, but I had several more contractions in the shower, so I knew my plan was pointless. I dressed in the stretchiest, comfiest clothes I could find, and let Tom know via text that I was getting more uncomfortable quickly. I put on Pride and Prejudice with the idea of distracting myself, but the movie quickly became background noise; I couldn’t focus on it whatsoever. I tried the heating pad to relieve some pain, as well as different positions on the bed. I knew at this point that labor would not slow down, but continue to progress, and I was getting a little panicky at being alone and being approximately 50 minutes away from the birth center. I threw a few more last minute things in the diaper bag and the birth center bag. I discovered the camera battery was dead, and failed in my attempt to charge it.

Around 11:00 I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, and my feeble attempts to time contractions showed that they were about 4 minutes apart and lasting almost 50 seconds. They were becoming much more intense, and required a lot of moaning and moving around for me to calmly endure them. At around 11:30 I had had it, and sent an all caps text to Tom saying I needed help, come home now. I had realized an hour previously I should probably call the midwives at the birth center, but every time I tried to dial I would get a contraction and give up.

Tom finished the class he was in the middle of teaching and left the school around 12:30. I was definitely in transition and becoming much less able to endure the contractions. They were very strong at this point, and I thought of women who had Pitocin-induced contractions, which are way more intense, and couldn’t fathom how they survived. Tom called me on his way home, probably after I texted him again in panic, and he stayed on the phone with me as I went through a few more contractions. He finally walked in the door at about 1:15, and tried to make me a smoothie which I refused. Poor guy. He was trying to call the birth center, get changed out of his suit, make a smoothie, and put pressure on my hips all at the same time. He realized I was in, or almost past, transition and that we needed to get to the birth center quickly. We left around 1:30, praying there’d be no traffic on the several major highways we had to use to get there.

That car ride was the worst of my life. I was in the front seat, so I couldn’t really stretch out, and it was torture. I wonder what people in nearby cars thought– I must have been a sight! Gripping the hook above the door and curling over my huge belly, while moaning and sometimes screaming. Tom was awesome– he drove as fast as he could and used his right hand to apply pressure on my back/hips, while reminding me to relax between contractions and drink water. He also reminded me through each contraction that it would come to a peak and then die down…that was really helpful, since in the moment it feels everlasting. He also told me it was ok to scream and that actually helped a lot too.

When we were about 10 minutes away, we hit the only traffic of the drive, due to construction. It was so incredibly frustrating, especially since there was absolutely no shoulder because of the jersey barriers, and everyone was at a dead stop, waiting to inch forward. I thought I would surely give birth right there on the road. There was incredible pressure on my pelvis, because the baby had already descended all the way down to the cervix. The pressure of holding her head in made it feel like my lower back was going to break. Contractions were about 1.5-2 minutes apart, and lasted a minute. We were also so close to the birth center, it probably would’ve been faster to get out and walk.

After about 20 minutes of this, we finally made it past the construction and into the parking lot of the birth center. As I walked in, I remember thinking I was one of “those” women, who goes into labor In the middle of the day and has to walk into the birth center waiting room filled with moms waiting for their afternoon appointment. At each of my own appointments I had wondered if I would ever see a laboring mom walk in, but never had, and now I was that mom. However, at this point, I didn’t care; I was just so glad we had made it in time. The midwives and staff were expecting me and immediately walked me back to the Lotus Room, which I had chosen a few months earlier to birth in. All 4 of the room in the birth center were absolutely gorgeous, with huge beds, fireplaces, lovely furniture, and a huge birthing tub. I had chosen the Lotus Room because it had soft  pink colors in the decorating scheme, and a beautiful round birthing tub in the middle of the room, not too deep for my petite self.

The midwives were immediately soothing and solicitous; not once did we feel pressured or put-upon. Kelly, the head midwife that day, asked if I wanted to be checked. It was the moment of truth! I had a slight fear that I would only be 5 or 6 cm. dilated, but as soon as she checked me, Kelly announced that she could see the head! I think I asked if I was 10 cm, to which she laughed and said, “Honey, you’re complete!” Wow. I was still in shock. It was happening!

I didn’t have long to mull over my shock, though, as the pounding pressure on my pelvis took over. I asked if I could sit on the toilet, as that position felt the best. They said I could, but told me not to bear down. I came out a few minutes later, and the assistant were filling the birthing tub. They asked if I wanted to et in, and that water sounded great to me. I got in, and almost immediately announced that I needed to push. My body wanted nothing else but to push that baby out, now! Kelly said, “Yes, you do!” And yelled out the door to Kim, the other midwife, and the two assistants to come quickly.

It was probably about 2:45 when I got in the tub. I began to push with the contractions on all fours in the tub, but found it more comfortable to sit/squat while leaning back on the tub. Tom was behind me to hold up my arms and encourage me. One of the assistants listened to Lucy’s heart every so often, and they monitored my heart rate and temperature too. Another assistant kept giving me water, which was awesome, and wiped my forehead with a cool washcloth. The whole team was amazing. The best thing was that between each contraction, everyone was so quiet, allowing me to lean back and almost sleep in the painless interludes. This was very refreshing, since pushing was much harder work than I’d anticipated. I mean, you can’t really practice pushing a baby out, not until you’re actually doing it. It did feel better to push through each contraction. The midwives said I could reach down and feel the baby’s head, which I did, and it felt so strange! Squishy and wrinkly. They tried holding a mirror for me to see what was happening, but I wasn’t wearing contacts so I could mostly just see a blob. Kim traded places with Tom so he could watch and encourage me from the other side of the tub.

After about 30 or 40 minutes of pushing, the baby’s head was getting closer to coming out. I knew this because of the notorious “ring of fire” feeling. That was particularly horrendous, and the midwives said, “Push through the burn!” Ungh! Worst words I ever heard! All I wanted to do was make it stop, t making it stop required pushing the head all he way out. The head was taking its time, coming out and receding, over and over for about 20 minutes. Tom said this was the most frustrating part to watch. Finally, the burning and pressure was too much, and I was motivated enough to push through it as hard as I could. Kelly told Tom to get closer so he could catch the baby, but as I pushed her head out, her entire body came shooting out like a rocket! No time for Tom to catch, Kelly swooped in and caught the baby in the water and brought her up to my chest. She was screaming (I don’t blame her!) and her huge, deep blue eyes were wide open. Her chubby body was covered in vernix, a sign she was a little early, and I laughed because Tom had such an aversion to the idea of vernix all through the pregnancy. My first thought was that she looked exactly like her father, and that she seemed big!

In the next few minutes, as we wrapped a blanket around squalling Lucy, the midwives asked if Tom wanted to cut the cord after it finished pulsing. It was crazy to see her umbilical cord with blood still pumping through it! At that point, they helped me try to stand, and as I did the placenta started to come out. So, once again, Kelly had to intervene and cut the cord herself, so they could get the placenta out safely. I then was helped out of the tub, and onto the bed to look at newborn Lucy.

She had stopped crying and was looking around intensely. She was very pink and had lots of fat around her face. We also noticed she had very pretty reddish blonde hair. We all took bets on her weight, and I thought she was about 7. She turned out to be 6 lbs. 14 oz., so I was close! I immediately decided all future babies must come two weeks early, because pushing out 6-14 was good enough. I was SO glad she didn’t go full term and get any heavier!!

Weighing Lucy in the cool midwife weighing thingy

Weighing Lucy in the cool midwife weighing thingy

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I actually felt pretty good, all things considered. The midwives kept telling us how impressed they were with my pain tolerance, and wished all their moms could be like me. I hadn’t eaten anything since my 8:00 AM yogurt, so I wolfed down the rest of our forgotten smoothie, and Tom ordered burgers and fries to be delivered (appropriate, since those were my biggest preggo craving). Then the assistants helped us get Lucy latched on to nurse, and she did so… Great on the left side, not so great on the right. She fell asleep shortly after being diapered and swaddled by Dad.

We realized we hadn’t had a minute to let anyone in our families know we were heading to the birth center, so Tom quickly sent out a few emails and texts to our family and close friends. The midwives were meanwhile discussing what to do about the tears I had I incurred while pushing the little chunker out. They weren’t sure they could stitch it up there, so they called in Peggy, the head midwife, who inspected them and said they were second-degree tears and she felt confident stitching me up. So we all walked down the hall to the little room with an operating chair and better lights. Tom held sleeping Lucy and the other midwives chatted with us while Peggy stitched away. She was very thorough and careful, and took her time. The surgery took about an hour, and Peggy kept warning me it would hurt, but they used a lot of Lidocaine to numb it, and it honestly didn’t hurt much, not compared to what I’d just done.

Our food had arrived, so we ate that and Lucy woke up to nurse again, and then screamed for no apparent reason. The assistant expertly checked her diaper and had guessed correctly- she had pooped her first meconium. Lovely. The midwives gave us a rundown on what to do and expect the next three days, we dressed Lucy and me, took a few family photos, and they told us we could go! We arranged with my parents to stop by and let them meet Lucy, and they kindly went to the grocery store and bought us a ton of necessities, since we weren’t 100% ready for her arrival.

First Family Photo

First Family Photo

We left the birth center around 9 PM, so all in all we were there for about 6 hours. I was so glad on so many levels that we had birthed at the birth center with midwives. They do home births also, but we went with the birth center because it was more covered by insurance (correction: so we thought), and because it was much bigger and better equipped for birth than was our apartment. Plus, all the mess was contained and cleaned up there, and we returned home to a (mostly) clean apartment.

I can’t praise the midwives enough. They were so supportive and respectful, from my first meeting with them, through the birth, through the last postpartum checkup. They never did anything without asking permission first, and respected and trusted a woman’s body to perform the task God had created it to do.

I can’t say the birth was painless, but it wasn’t ever so overwhelming that I couldn’t get through it, even sans pain meds. It was empowering and reassuring to do it, and know I could. I felt very blessed to have experienced such a rapid labor with my first, since that’s definitely not the norm. I was also so relieved she came two weeks early; I was so uncomfortable and ready to be done teaching on my feet all day.

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Ah, that was fun. It was also good for me to re-read all of it, since I’ll be doing it again in approximately 12 weeks, or 10, if we follow the same pattern (and the correct one, I’d like to throw out to Baby #2). At least I learned several things:

1. Listen to the body in labor. It knows what it’s doing.

2. When contractions start, we better be ready to mobilize within two hours or less this time. I want to go through the crazy part and transition AT the birth center, not the car.

3. Relax. 🙂

 

Countdown to Baby To-Do List

I realized the other day that I have given so very little blog time to the smallest member of our family. Maybe it’s the fate of the second child, but I do feel bad that I haven’t posted more updates or thoughts about this pregnancy. Of course, since it all started off so inconspicuously, I suppose it just continued on that way, mentally. Physically, I’m quite aware of the presence of this little person. I’m getting quite round at 26.5 weeks, and baby is rolling and kicking a lot more these days. I still don’t think he/she is quite as active as Lucy was, but then again, I was hyper-sensitive to everything during that pregnancy. Lucy accompanied me to my last midwife appointment, and got to sit up on the bed with me to listen to baby’s heartbeat. Then she screamed when we had to take the belly measuring tape away from her. She’s still very sweet and motherly with her dolls (as well as anything soft, including pillows, stuffed animals, a pile of clothes, etc…she’s not overly discerning), and she loves to see pictures of babies. So that’s reassuring.

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A favorite activity-- carrying baby dolls in her doll carrier

A favorite activity– carrying baby dolls in her doll carrier

Last night, Tom and I were scrolling through his iPhone pictures and we went all the way back to a year ago when Lucy was born. We couldn’t believe how wrinkled and tiny and puffy she was! And before we know it, we’ll have another wrinkled puffball in our arms. I have lots to do before the end of June or early July (I’m voting for end of June, thank you very much).

* First, there’s the business of figuring out what area we need to move to, and find an apartment. This is made extra complicated by the fact that I REFUSE to be more than 20-30 minutes away from the birth center, and that we will be back to one car in about a month. 😦

*I need to fully master driving the stick shift. That way, if and when I do have the car, I can confidently drive without putting myself and two babies in imminent danger. So that’s a little stressful. Tom’s a super patient instructor, but time is not on our side, which is why I’ve had exactly 3 driving lessons between August and November and then none after that.

*I need to have a very organized system in place before the baby arrives, regarding Lucy and cooking. Lucy requires a lot of attention, so I’ll need to make sure I have plenty of stimulating activities set up for her. Also, lots of ready to eat snacks and meals for when I’m one-handed again. If we do move out before the baby comes, I need to cook and freeze some meals and bread.

*Lucy (are you listening?) needs to not wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and require nursing to go back to sleep. We’re going to work on this one over spring break when Tom’s home. Yeah, his break sounds amazing; try not to be jealous. Considering she screams like someone is pouring boiling water over her if she is not allowed to nurse, well, we’ll see. I’m hoping she can get used to Daddy putting her back to sleep if she doesn’t even see me in the bed as an option. She’s ok with napping but I still need her to put herself to sleep at naptime without needing to be rocked, because I won’t have arms for that in three months!

*Then there’s all the regular getting ready for newborn stuff that will happen in May and June, like packing birth center bags, setting up the co-sleeper and converting my dresser to a changing table, etc. I’m the least concerned about that stuff, especially since we really have everything already. All of that seemed like a big deal with Lucy, but looking at my list above, well, it’s not.

So that’s our rather impossible sounding list as of now, but I’m sure everything will be fine and work out according to God’s plan. Now I’m off to pack for our little trip this weekend– we’re going to Franciscan for a reunion with my household! I haven’t been back to campus since graduation day in 2010…eek, worst alum ever! And Tom’s never seen the school, so he’ s in for a real treat in the form of Steubenville, Ohio! 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Yesterday, though we are only 3 days away from the beginning of spring, a good 7-10 inches of snow fell and killed whatever spring-like thoughts we were thinking:

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It was, of course, wonderful to have Tom home so I can’t complain (too much). But really, we’ll all be really, really happy to bid winter goodbye ASAP.

Because everyone was off from work and school, we forgot about St. Paddy’s day until late in the morning. My dad dutifully fetched some Irish beers from the grocery store across the street. Tom enthusiastically put green dye in his first, Guinness, with the following result:

Green on top, brown on the bottom still...oh well

Green on top, brown on the bottom still…oh well

Later, he tried again with a Harp. Much better!

Kartause represent!!

Kartause represent!!

I made potato leek soup for dinner and we also had sausage and greens (um, kale, not cabbage!). Tommy’s finger is fractured so he couldn’t take up his fiddle and play Irish tunes.

In other news, watching clothes in the dryer is newly fascinating:

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Today also marks 24 weeks for the Coxlet, and he/she is really starting to become a little more active, and has moved up closer to my ribs, making the kicks less fun for me! I’ve been really bad about taking belly shots, but the ol’ belly is getting pretty round, so I’ll try to get one together and up here soon. 🙂

The Pregnant Lent

For the second year in a row, I’ll be “doing” Lent while pregnant. Contrary to what any men or non-pregnant women out there may think, normal/healthy pregnancies are NOT enough sacrifice to count for the entire Lenten sacrifice and preparation. There are definite happenings that constitute an immense dying to self, I will say, and this year I obviously have the added wild card of Princess Lucia, who demands all of me and then some. And of course, pregnant and nursing moms are always exempt from fasting and abstinence. So all this leaves me pondering lately– how are pregnant mothers specifically called to observe the season of Lent? It’s tricky, but I do really want to try harder this year. Last year I think I spent a great deal of Lent suffering and recovering from strep and several head colds, as well as the general exhaustion of the late third trimester. In other words, I had the physical suffering part down pat, but certainly didn’t feel spiritually refreshed by the time we were singing Alleluia again.

In general, I’m coming to realize the great truth that motherhood is an intense form of dying to self, as any mother (or father, really) can tell you. My sleep schedule is not my own. My eating schedule is not my own. I can’t even go to the bathroom or shower without an audience or a crying soundtrack in the background. I’ve learned a great deal this year about how selfish I really am and that the dying to self thing does not come naturally. And that is precisely why I need great spiritual aid in this time of life. When I have the least time for quiet and prayer is when I need it most. There is no possibly way I can sustain my well-being, especially mental and emotional, without supernatural sustenance.

Yet most days, between Lucy’s extremely early wakings and struggle with naps, I find that the only formal prayer I may have gotten in is grace before meals and hopefully night prayers with Tom if we haven’t yet collapsed in exhaustion. This is not good for keeping my soul refreshed, renewed, strengthened, and growing in virtue. I cannot use motherhood and pregnancy as an excuse for not improving my spiritual life; it is, in fact, essential to my vocation as mother to improve my spiritual life daily. It is difficult though, especially for me, since I am not that great at multi-tasking prayer or spiritual reading while supervising Lucy or folding clothes or any of the other million tasks that need to be done. And with this second pregnancy, an afternoon nap with Lucy has become a true necessity.

I’m hoping to make small additions to my prayer life this Lent. Fasting is less about denying one’s self and more about realizing how dependent one is on God. For me, that will mean fasting from wasting my precious few free minutes of time on social media and using them for connecting with Scripture, quiet, and spiritual reading.

Simcha has a great Lenten reading list, and Elizabeth Foss gives several suggestions, with more in the comments.

Tom and I will pick up our practice of reading a chapter (or portion of a chapter) from a chosen book of the Bible during Lent. We read Isaiah during Advent and Christmas. I’m thinking the Gospels, and maybe a different prophet for Lent. Personally, I am also planning to continue plodding my way through Orthodoxy, which is amazing but I can only get about 5 pages in at a time before life calls. I also want to read Caryll Houselander’s Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross. She wrote beautiful, lucid meditations, such as the one I wrote out in this post. The important thing is, while I can’t fast from food and physical sustenance again this Lent, I do need, ever so much, to strengthen my soul with total reliance on God through increased and dedicated prayer time.

(Also, since the challenge is 7 posts in 7 days, it should totally count to do two posts in one day!)

Why we love midwives (and HATE insurance!)

Today, I had my second midwife appointment (2 appointments in 21 weeks of pregnancy? Yes, that happened). While I was there, my mother spent over 30 minutes waiting to talk to an insurance rep and then another few minutes getting (surprise!) nowhere at all with him. (Oh, by the way, she was also feeding Lucy lunch at the same time. Multi-tasking at its best, I say!). I can’t help but think of how sadly warped our medical system in the US is, especially because of the reason my mom was calling the insurance company. In order to choose freely where one wants to have one’s baby, and in what circumstances, one must pay out of pocket and then endure months and months and months of unending phone calls and wait signals and broken promises of ever seeing any of one’s hard-won cash come back into one’s sad pocket.

When we were pregnant with Lucy, I was still covered under my dad’s policy, plus under Tom’s as well. We had NO IDEA that this little fact would come to ruin our lives (or at least our hopes of getting our money back). You see, apparently, two insurance companies must turn their backs to each other and their clients, close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and say, “Nahnahnahnah!” over and over so they can’t see or hear anything of importance regarding your coverage. Double coverage– the two words that are the bane of my existence. Lucy is pushing one year old, and guess how much closer we are to getting this resolved? Not any closer at all. Each time I call one insurance company, the say, “Oh, go call the other one. Get a piece of paper. Send that paper to us. Then we’ll slowwwwly push that paper through a thousand people and in a month you’ll probably have to repeat the whole process because some law or policy will have changed and screwed it up. Or more likely, we lost it.”

Now, with this second baby (also paying out of pocket, in order to have the prenatal care and birth of our preference), our one (thank God, not two!) insurance is saying nothing out of network is covered. Evidently, our plan’s benefits changed magically without us receiving any notice at all. To say we’re livid is an understatement. To say I hate all things that have to do with using and calling and pleading and yelling at medical insurance is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, we could’ve just saved ourselves all this headache and grief by being normal people and having our babies with an OB-Gyn at a hospital. Just a little copay here and there and done, right? Maybe. I did start with Lucy at a wonderful pro-life OB office nearby, where many of my friends work. There was nothing really wrong with the doctors or the care, but everything about that scene said, “You are a number. Let me check your chart to see what the last doctor you asked you. Let me tell YOU what is happening and what will happen to your body. Let ME decide what you should do, whether you want that or not.” And that’s just the way it is in medical centers like that. It wasn’t hostile or super uncomfortable, but I wasn’t comfortable, and I knew there were other options.

So I started reading, and watching, and researching, and talking to friends who had done prenatal care and birth in a different way. The options were amazing– home birth, hospital birth center, free-standing birth center, water birth, zero interventions, and most of all, health care providers who actually practiced the belief that women’s bodies were made to carry and birth babies, and most times, the woman will know best. Also, OBs are surgeons. They are wonderful, wonderful, surgeons, and thank the Lord we have them when surgery is absolutely necessary. But…for normal, healthy pregnancy…it’s not! Again, women’s bodies=designed to give birth. Most European countries recognize this and still employ midwives as the main prenatal care for low-risk/normal pregnancy (as in 80% of births are with midwives!).

So around 18 weeks, after talking to many friends who had had home or birth center (free-standing) births about the pros and cons, Tom and I decided a midwife birth center was what we wanted for the rest of the pregnancy and the birth. We decided to have the birth at the center instead of at home because our insurance supposedly covered a birth center at 80% (ahem, none of which we’ve seen!), and we didn’t relish the thought of our tiny apartment being the birth place. Also, the birth center has four stunningly beautiful rooms that are each themed differently and could all be in a design magazine.

We never regretted that decision. The differences between the OB and the midwife practice were stunning. My appointments were a leisurely 25- 60 minutes in length, and I almost never had to wait more than 5- 20 minutes to be seen (compared to an hour wait average at the OB, and 5 minutes with the doctor!). I met not only all the midwives, who seem to be magical fairies, all calm and happy and casting their calm happiness upon everyone else, but also the small office staff. They knew my name, Tom’s name, and all my medical history. They cared. They asked ME if I wanted such and such a test. They never, ever did even the smallest procedure without first asking permission. It was wonderful.

Lucy’s birth was a great experience for a first birth, due to the midwives and their calm support and deep respect of my labor process– nothing was rushed, there were no intrusive questions when I entered the birth center, no bright lights or beeping machines. Just quiet voices, strong arms to hold me up, and the intensely relaxing warm water of the birth tub. Thus, I’m actually strangely looking forward to doing it all again. Yes, yes, it’s very hard work and there is some pain, but it’s also so exciting and such a wild ride of adrenaline and anticipation.

We’re blessed to be in the care of these midwives, but not so blessed that our broken medical system in America doesn’t recognize that as a truly valid choice. It’s not fair that only OBs are covered by insurance in-network. We are paying for the insurance…why can we not have the services we choose covered?! Not to mention, these silly insurance companies should check the facts: prenatal care and birth with midwives is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper altogether than hospital births. I’m talking a minimum of $13,000 cheaper, and that’s as compared to an all-natural hospital birth without a drop of pitocin or epidural– the price after that skyrockets. Midwives would save them so much money, not to mention free up the OBs for the truly high-risk pregnancies where they’re needed.

Hopefully, very soon we will work out this messy insurance catastrophe and have our little one in peace. No matter what, that is worth all the cost in the world.

First family photo in the comfy queen bed at the birth center

First family photo in the comfy queen bed at the birth center

Tired Tuesday morning thoughts

I had every intention to write a blog post yesterday, and thereby start off the week participating in Jen’s 7 posts in 7 days challenge. Then the micro-naps happened and we had a late dinner, and by the time dishes were done, so was my brain. Oh well, I suppose I can be the token mediocre blogger and scratch out 6 in 7, which would still be WAY above average for me.

I would like to report that over the weekend, we experienced some glorious weather with degrees climbing into the 70s. We went for a walk, the boys played soccer, and I went into D.C. for a balmy girls’ night out to celebrate my sister-in-law’s  birthday. (No, I don’t have any pictures of any of these events, in keeping with my usual style). Now, however, it is snowing again. Ugh, welcome to the Never-Ending Winter of 2013-2014.

I do have a few pictures of recent happenings. Lucy is teetering on the brink of her first step, and is able to pull up to standing and then let go and stand alone for about ten seconds. I haven’t been able to capture it on iPad camera since I’m desperately trying to get her to walk to my open arms. Soon, soon, I know. She is staying busy though:

This is where she ends up half the day

This is where she ends up half the day

Nana, her new best friend, helps her practice this walking thing

Nana, her new best friend, helps her practice this walking thing

New toy!

New toy!

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Oh, AND, just to show you the height of my horrible picture planning and taking skills, I wanted to take a 20 week belly shot wearing the same outfit I had on last year with Lucy’s 20 week shot. Well, I was rushing around to get to prenatal yoga that night, and remembered right before I changed into yoga gear that I hadn’t done the photo shoot. So here is the pathetic result:

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Despite terrible angles and distracting piles of crap in the background, I still think I am a little smaller this time around. Now I’m off to nap, since I have been awake since 4 AM, thanks to Lucy’s new “sleeping through the night” habit, in which the term “night” applies only to hours between 7 pm and 4/5 am. I suppose in about two decades I shall once again know that elusive treat known as a good night’s sleep.

An anti-contraception ally

I, along with thousands of overzealous pregnant women, loved watching The Business of Being Born when Lucy was in utero. It was produced by Ricki Lake, former talk show hostess, and Tom and I both wondered what her stance was on life issues, especially contraception, since babies and birth and the health of women are all things she clearly loved in her film. I found this article today on Lifesite News, which reports that she will be producing another documentary, this time warning women how dangerous contraception can be. Even if she has no idea why or how contraception is wrong morally, or doesn’t care, it’s a great thing that she is not only acknowledging the deleterious affects of contraceptions but is also willing to voice her concern on something so widely accepted.

I’m thrilled that she has decided to do this, and hope its message about the truth of contraception will reach a wide audience! Now I’m off to go re-watch The Business of Being Born to get pumped about another natural birth. Speaking of which, we had an ultrasound yesterday revealing the baby’s gender! We won’t be posting it here since Tom’s parents do want to be surprised, but if you’re dying to know, feel free to email me! 🙂

 

Monday Musings: babies, packing, etc.

Whew, it was such a relief to put up the last post with our great news, particularly since the Coxlet feels it’s time to start becoming visible on my body. And of course, there was such an awesome outpouring of congratulations and well-wishes, both here and on Facebook. I do wish I could tell everyone in person, but at the very least I’m glad we can share our joy here with many. I was also particularly touched by the number of women who commented that they had been (or are) in the very same boat– two under two, surprise pregnancy, etc.. I will admit that one of the things we thought after finding out was, “Wow, we’re one of those families! Two under two. Two kids in less than two years of marriage!” (It’s all good…honeymoon baby for #1). We weren’t saying this in a deprecatory way at all, but more just marveling, I suppose. I mean, we both grew up watching young families with many little ones, and often spaced close together. I never planned to be that way, and there is definitely something about the NFP culture that makes you feel like a bit of a failure if you don’t have the wonderful 14 months of lactation amenorrhea (read: no cycles post-partum while breastfeeding), and subsequent nicely spaced babies, two years apart. Anyway, I’ve been doing a good deal of pondering on this whole topic, and will probably share some of my thoughts in the near future. For now, I’m digging out the maternity shirts and will head to the midwife for my first appointment on Wednesday!

17 weeks tomorrow! Excuse the poor quality. I’m convinced there’s something wrong with our iPad camera (and it’s only 9 months old…), or we’re truly abysmal photographers.

Emptied walls for moving make a stunning backdrop

Emptied walls for moving make a stunning backdrop

Meanwhile, in apartment-packing land, things are slowly progressing. The progress is hard to see, since we really can’t pack up one entire room, and have the satisfaction of seeing it and saying, “Lovely! The ENTIRE living room is packed!” I have a sinking feeling that remark will only be uttered on moving day, which is on Saturday. Oh well. It’s been a good reason to once again simplify our things. Why did I ever want to keep all 75 vases/pitchers/glasses we used as wedding centerpieces?! And how many articles of clothing can three people own?! I dread the thought of ever moving with a large family, and I know one day that will happen, maybe more than once. Moving is just so jarring. You rip your soon-to-be former home apart, place it in boxes, haul boxes and very heavy furniture out to a truck or vans, and then have to thoroughly clean out the gutted rooms. And while you’re packing, you still have to live in the space, now littered with all your belongings, newspapers, bubble wrap, and various-sized boxes and bags. I’m pretty sure humans were not designed to do this as often as we do. Or at least this human wasn’t.

I had better be off to more sorting and packing while this is still a reality:

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