Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Party of Seven

Wow, it's been four weeks already since Annalee's arrival!  I've been soaking up all the sweetness that she is  and feeding her lots.  She had her 4-week weight check and is over 11 pounds already!

Anyway.  Back to business. Within about twenty minutes of me giving birth to Annalee, Matt headed out to get Lilly and Wyatt from my friend's house, so that they could see her on her actual birth day.

Last summer Lilly had asked me if she could pray for me to have another baby.  I'd told her sure, but told her that sometimes prayers get answered in ways we don't expect.  So when I told her I was pregnant a few months later, she started laughing and crying and kept saying, "Really?  REALLY?!"  She was so excited!  Seeing the look on her face as she walked into the room was precious.  I kind of start to cry every time I look at these pictures.

It's safe to say Lilly is completely in love with her!

We were a little worried about how Wyatt would do with her.  Every day during the second half of my pregnancy, he asked if it was a baby brother or baby sister in my tummy.  I would tell him it was still a sister, and he'd say, "No!  It's a brother!"  There were even a couple times where he told me, "There's a baby in my tummy, and it's a brother!" But the night she was born, he walked in, looked at her, smiled, and without hesitating, kissed her cheek.  A little while later, Annalee started crying, and he played peekaboo with her.

He also told us a few days later, "I like the baby sister.  Her face is like --" and puffed out his cheeks.  Pretty true.

Another funny thing: when we got home and he saw Annalee's cord stump, he asked, "Why does she have a feeshy in her belly button?" At first, I went, Huh? A fishy?  But looking at it, I totally got what he thought and couldn't help but laugh a little every time I saw it.

Now, I'm not saying he's been a perfect angel.  Au contraire, mes amis.  Matt and I have had to deal with quite a bit of his acting up, unfortunately (which is par for the course, I think, even with his sisters).  And I've had to say more times than I'd like, "We touch baby sister with our fingers, not our knuckles," or, "No noogies on her head!"  But he has been really so loving toward her, I'm kind of impressed. 

Jayna and Skyler, as you know from reading my previous posts, attended the birth.  I was really proud of both of them.  They had wanted so badly to be there that they read everything they could on childbirth -- including how to deliver a baby, according to this book!  Glad it didn't come to that!  They also watched dozens of Youtube videos.  

Jayna said that when I got back in the bed and things were getting crazy, she almost had to step out because she couldn't take seeing me in pain like that.  And her description of the actual birth was funny -- she said she felt just like the saucer eyes emoji.  But she stuck it out, and once Annalee's head was visible, she was just completely amazed.

Skyler has been talking about being a nurse or even a midwife.  She went to some of my prenatal check-ups with me.  None of the birth process phased her at all.  In fact, Susaanah was going to let her help deliverAnnalee, until the cord came out first. I asked her what she thought, did she still want to be a nurse or midwife?  She said, "Mom.  I felt like I was made for this."  It would be hard to disagree.

I had to spend 48 hours after the birth in the hospital, since I didn't get the second dose of antibiotics. But the care was amazing (even if the food wasn't.  I got spoiled by the hospital where I had Wyatt).  I was really impressed.  We finally got home, and it's been so good and fun to be a family of seven.  

People ask me if I always wanted a big family (because I guess when you have five kids, you're officially "big".) I don't know.  For a while, I think I just figured only crazy people had big families.  Then around Lilly's birth, I started thinking there was something to that whole "the more the merrier" saying.  But when I think back to my childhood, I would answer that question as, "Of course!"  I always liked the stories with a bunch of kids.  There's definitely a level of chaos and craziness -- not to mention noise and mess -- that increases with more kids.  But when I'm waking up and there are five faces on the bed, talking to me seriously about something, teasing, begging for breakfast, or just sleeping sweetly, it really does feel... well, kind of like a party.  

And I kind of love it.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Annalee's Birth {Part 2}

{In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here...}

I dropped Lilly and Wyatt off with my friend, and they were so excited to be with their friends (she has six kids, so it's an automatic party), they barely even looked back at me.  We were off to the hospital!

Except I suddenly had this thought that maybe I hadn't turned off the curling iron after doing my hair, and I wanted to stop by the house to check.

"Seriously?" Matt asked.  I pictured the house burning down as I labored.  Yes, seriously.  He sighed in exasperation and went back to the house.  Jayna got out and raced inside to quickly determine that everything was fine and I'm truly just a little OCD.  Everyone rolled his or her eyes at me...

So then we were really off to the hospital!!!  

The car was filled with our slightly nervous laughter and conversation.  I kept timing, and the contractions were definitely more regular, and the traffic was moving smoothly, and I thanked God that I wasn't doing this during rush hour.  And then there was even a parking spot in the Stork Parking!!

As we walked into the hospital, I noticed there was a group of pregnant women and their husbands/ significant others gathered in the lobby listening to someone talk. Grreeeaat. I had managed to get there just in time for the weekly hospital tour.  I hurried my steps as much as I could, though I felt pretty cumbersome and was having contractions on the way.  I had just gotten to the desk, though, and started talking to the nurse when the tour group showed up.

I was suddenly Exhibit A.

The nurse asked why I thought I was in labor -- contractions 3-5 minutes apart, told to come in when they were at 5 minutes so I could get the IV started, fifth baby, etc. etc.  Meanwhile, the tour group leader was saying things like, "You'll want to come to the hospital when your contractions are about five minutes apart.  Or when your water breaks."  I felt like I was in a documentary with the narrator talking about exactly what I was doing.  Everyone was staring at me, and my cheeks we're getting hot. I tried to concentrate on the pertinent information even as another contraction came.  I'd found that rocking side to side seemed to help with discomfort, so I was standing there trying to say everything I needed to, rocking, under the uncompromising stares of about twenty people.

So yeah, it was a little awkward.

Then the tour leader said, "Your cervix will be checked for dilation..."  I heard a slightly muffled snort from behind me.  I'm still not sure if it was Jayna or Skyler or Matt, but suddenly, all three abandoned me for the waiting room.  Apparently that was the point at which they couldn't keep a straight face any more.

Fortunately, I was put straight into a triage room and hooked up to the monitors.

It seemed like forever, but it was probably just about half an hour before a midwife came in.  It wasn't either of the ones I'd seen in my pregnancy, but she was really nice.  She checked, and I was 4 cms and still only about 50% effaced, but for once I considered that good.  I was officially "in labor", but maybe there would be time to get the IV and have it in long enough for it to do its job before the baby came.  I wasn't in horrible pain, so... I could do this.

But then came the bad news.

Everyone and their best friends were having babies that day.  They weren't sure there was a room available -- she thought there was, but she'd have to check -- and there also had to be a nurse who could sit with me for an hour while the IV was administered in case I reacted poorly to it.  

So we waited at least another hour in the tiny triage room before we finally got word that there was, in fact, a room available.

 Fortunately, my contractions stayed about the same, but they were uncomfortable enough that I desperately wanted to get the ball rolling.  We were taken to the room, and I was very pleased to discover that there was a jacuzzi tub in the bathroom.  I had hoped to labor in the tub (because I always love a good long soak in the tub, especially if I'm hurting).   Only problem was, I had to wait till after the IV.

The IV started at 4:30.  Courtney, the nurse assigned to sit with me, was super nice, and we chatted while the IV dripped and I labored.  She seemed like someone I could be friends with, and Jayna asked her questions about college and what she had done -- because that's my life, people, having a baby while another baby is talking about college!  Aaahhhh!!

Matt posted this picture of me on Facebook,

and I appreciated all the kind words of encouragement as a distraction.  FINALLY! The IV was done!  I could move around!  Courtney said it would take "a while" to fill the tub, because the hospital is a really old building with antique plumbing, so she started doing that while I turned on some music and started walking and rocking around the room.  I went on the birthing ball for a little while, but my back was killing me, so I leaned on the bed while Matt pushed on it.  Courtney's shift was ending, but she hung out with us a little longer.  The contractions were super close now, and feeling noticeably stronger.
Getting serious

The tub was still filling up.... Courtney had to leave, and the new nurse came on.  She was nice, too, but a little more business-y.  Just not the same "potential friend material." But the new midwife was Susannah, who I had seen before and really liked.  Yay!  

The tub continued its painfully slow fill... They wanted the water to be above the jets before I got in.  It was almost seven o'clock when Matt announced it was ready.  My contractions were almost constant by this point, but I was determined.  I would make it till 8:30, they could slam the next IV through, and the baby would be born safely.  I'm a stubborn person, I could do this.

So at very long last, I climbed into the tub.  The temperature was just right.  I sank down into the water and felt my whole body relax after the last hard contraction.

"Perfect," I said.  I leaned forward to try to figure out the jacuzzi jet settings.  Another contraction was starting.  Suddenly, there was this sound that I can only compare to a water balloon popping... And it came from me.  My water had broken with all the girls' births, and been broken with Wyatt's.  With Jayna, Skyler, and Wyatt, it had been a mostly-slow leak.  With Lilly, it was more like this -- very forceful -- and she was born about an hour later.  

"Uh.... I think my water broke," I announced.  The nurse came running in.

"Okay, you need to get out.  Right now.  Come on."

"No, it feels so good!  Please let me just stay!" I begged.  I could feel the contraction getting stronger.  
"We have to check you and check on the baby.  It's a change of status."  

I sighed and closed my eyes.  "Okay... Fine."  My mood was going south, and the contractions were really strong.  I had a feeling I was going through transition.

As slowly (and argumentatively) as I could, I got out of the tub.  The nurse handed me a couple tiny towels that make the ones at Motel 6 look luxuriously large and tried to dry me off quickly.  By now the pain was really intense, but more than that, the contractions were insanely strong.  

Matt started the special playlist he'd made for my labor -- which included "Shake It Off", "Under Pressure", and "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky.  I snapped, "Not funny!  Turn it off!"  I got to the bed with another towel (I would call it a washcloth) draped on my chest as the midwife checked me.

"Okay, five centimeters, effacement complete." Wait... FIVE CENTIMETERS?!  I had been at the hospital almost five hours!  I'd been at four when I got there!  How could I have only dilated one centimeter (the size of a Cheerio, see previous post) in five hours?!  The nurse and midwife tried to get me to breathe through the contractions which were to the point that they took my breath away and made me feel like I was going to throw up. I had felt much more in control when I was having Wyatt (until I was pushing and everything got scary). 

"Why won't you let me push?" I begged.  "I NEED to push!"  It felt like a bowling ball with a freight train behind it was pressing on my tailbone  Way deep down in the parts of me that were still acting and thinking like...well, me, I knew it wouldn't be long.  But at the same time, five centimeters?  When each contraction felt like a million years?  So I said something to Susannah  that has made my family tease me every day since: "You're SOOOOO MEEEEAAANNN!"  

Susannah said something about getting a little too intense, and suggested that I blow through the contractions, sink into the bed and let it swallow me... Or something like that.  I was thinking, Lady, you don't know too intense yet.  I can go full-on crazy if this keeps up much longer.  

But I tried doing what she said.  She told me, "Good job."  And then... For some reason she left the room.  (I'm guessing to go check on someone else?)  Matt was leaning over me, quietly telling me that he just knew it was going to be over soon.  The contractions were almost on top of each other now, with barely seconds between them.  During those seconds, I could feel my fear growing.  I told Matt I didn't think I could do it again, I was too scared. But then as the contraction peaked, I felt my body pushing in spite of my best efforts not to.  The nurse hurried out telling me not to push, and in a moment, she and Susannah were back.

"I can't stop it!" I said through my clenched teeth.  And then I loved Susannah so much because she said, "It's okay, if your body is telling you to push, just go ahead and listen to it."  So I did, rather tentatively, but she checked and said everything was good -- I was fully dilated, and the baby's head was on its way out.  I pushed again.  This was about twenty minutes after my water broke.

It's always surprising how exhausting and incredibly painful actual birth is, but somehow you push through it anyway.  Then my heart sank for a moment because the nurse said in that serious, scary voice I'd been dreading, "Push hard.  The baby needs to come out right now."  (I found out later the cord was around her neck.)  And I felt panic rise, but I pushed through it, too.  Then Susannah said, "It's okay now, just a couple short pushes if you can... Okay, one more big one, we've got some shoulders here," and next thing I knew she was out.  She made a little gurgling sound, then coughed and started crying. Good and loud.  Through the blur of my own tears, I saw my hands reach out as she was lifted to my chest.

 Jayna and Skyler were crying, Matt was saying how beautiful she was, I was crying... Oh goodness.

We named her Annalee Mirabel.  Anna means "grace". Lee is a family name, but it also means "pasture" so combined with Anna, it makes me think of Psalm 23, and this picture of grace -- "He leads me to green pastures".  Mirabel means "marvelous" or "beautiful reflection."  

I know a lot of people don't want to have kids these days.  And if you do a cost-benefit analysis of pregnancy and birth, it kind of makes sense to wonder why anyone does.  You go through pain that can make you feel crazy, and it forever alters your body.  If everything goes just right and both you and baby are healthy at the end of it, you have someone who is demanding and hungry and needs everything from you. 

But therein lies the grace, doesn't it?  I think so, anyway.  That with the newborn in your arms, warm, wet, crying, you have a chance to love someone who isn't going to give you anything for a while except an endless supply of poopy diapers, a lack of sleep, and spit-up.  And maybe it's in those moments of such deep love for someone so totally helpless, so dependent on us, that we get a tiny glimpse of the heart of God.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Annalee's Birth {Part 1}

The story has to start nine months ago, when I first found out I was pregnant with Annalee.  It was a Saturday, and we'd spent the morning at the beach.  On the way over there, Jayna was telling me about a dream that I had had a little girl.  I suddenly had a little head rush because... I was late.  Not late late, but late enough to think, Maybe?

After the beach, we got frozen yogurt, and I told Matt I needed dry shampoo and moisturizer so I could go grab a pregnancy test alone, and I managed to keep everything a secret, even when I took the test and knew it was positive.  I didn't tell anyone for 24 whole hours.  If you know me, you know silence doesn't come easily.  As one friend says, I'm a "verbal processor."  I wanted to take time to give thanks and pray.  I did verbally process, but only between me and God.

One of my regrets with past pregnancies was the amount of time I spent worrying rather than just enjoying it.  Especially when I was pregnant with Wyatt.  We had sold a house and moved across the country, and Matt was back on "sea duty" meaning he had to leave a lot, including a three-month trip shortly after the birth, and my dad who had come to help out, had a heart attack.  It had been stressful, but it had also been wonderful, and I'd spent too much time worrying.

You see, I'm great at worrying.  I would be a world-record-holding gold medalist if it were an Olympic sport.  So there were many nights when my heart pounded and fear gripped me, not just about my pregnancy but also the four other kids to worry about.  In fact, I woke up before Matt's alarm just a few weeks ago (and let me tell you, that alarm is set for early!) to worry about one of my kids, then as he groggily came to, I generously unloaded all that worry onto him.  I know, I'm a model wife.

But this time, I knew I didn't want to do that... if at all possible.  When fear gripped me, I tried -- really hard -- to remember scriptures like, "Cast ALL your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7) and "Do not be anxious about ANYTHING  but in everything with prayer and petition, present your request to God" (Phil. 4:6). (emphasis mine because I'm usually going, Okay God, You take care of this while I just worry about that one little thing, thanks.)

As the birth approached, I felt like more and more was out there to make me worry.  What if I went into labor during rush hour and had to give birth on the shoulder of the H1?  I'd agreed to Jayna and Lilly being in a dance recital on the weekend of my due date (I know!  Brilliant!) -- if I were in labor, who would get them there?  What if I hadn't finished homeschool for the year?  What if someone was sick with that bug that's going around?  What if Matt was at work and I couldn't get ahold of him?  

Then there were fears about the actual birth.  Somehow, I'm now over 35.  Plenty of scariness there.  Also, Wyatt was 9 lb's 5 oz's and a week early.  What if this baby was even bigger?  I remembered the sickening fear I felt watching his heart rate plummet on the monitor when I was pushing, the oxygen mask on my face, and the doctor saying in a terrifyingly calm voice, "You need to push harder."  Like I wasn't already doing my best!  I even had a nightmare where I was trying to push the baby out and nothing was happening.

At my midwife appointment the Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend, I was told I was 3 cms dilated and 50% effaced, which I considered good if not all that significant, just because it was that much dilating and effacing I wouldn't have to do in labor.  (These are words that still make Matt squirm, by the way.)
So... the slice of banana
I was also told that, for the first time ever, I was GBS positive.  I was disappointed because I knew it meant I had to get an actual IV instead of just a hep lock.  But then the midwife said, "You have to get it four hours before you give birth if at all possible.  Otherwise you have to stay in the hospital for 48 hours.  So come in when your contractions are no less than five minutes apart."  Okaaayyyy... like that was even possible.  My contractions were usually two minutes apart before I realized I was in labor, and Lilly and Wyatt had both been born in two hours or less from when I arrived at the hospital.

So now I had something else to worry about.  (Especially when I got home and read about how much more likely a sepsis infection is if you don't get the antibiotics in time.)  Then the midwife remembered I'm over 35.  She said if I wanted, I could come into my next appointment "ready to go" because they could induce labor at 39 weeks for that reason alone (even though she rolled her eyes at 35+ being "old").  Well, the family was super excited about this news.  I, on the other hand, was on the fence.  None of my other babies had been induced.  I didn't want to just hit the "eject" button.  But then again...

So the weekend came, and Monday morning we received an e-mail saying Jayna had officially finished her last course (she does online school because I can't teach things like Pre-calculus and Chemistry, thank you very much).  I breathed a huge sigh of relief because that meant we were all done with homeschool for the year.  WHEW!  We decided to celebrate with a drive to the North Shore.  

I'd been having tons of contractions.  I didn't know if I should call them "real" or "Braxton-Hicks" because they were kind of long and pretty painful, but not particularly regular.  So I decided to not say anything but got into the car to do one of my favorite drives on the island.  But we didn't get far before I started to question the wisdom of our plan.  I was having to breathe through some of them.  Finally, when we were almost to Waialua, I had one that was bad enough for me to say, "Okay, I don't know about this," with apparently just the right amount of pain or panic in my voice for Matt to make a very hasty U-turn and head home.  Wyatt started wailing about the North Shore and shave ice, and I felt bad but texted my friend who was lined up to take care of the kids and she was available.  But then I got home, used the bathroom... and the contractions disappeared.  Nice.  My friend and I went to the pool with all our kids, so at least Wyatt forgot about shave ice.

The next day, I had a non-stress test (my third, thanks to being over 35) and AFI.  Matt decided to load all the kids into the car so that we could go somewhere afterward.  Usually I read during the test, but Tuesday, I just lay there and rested.  I had had more irregular but crampy contractions, plus a few other "signs", and I had a feeling labor was close.  But I wasn't sure how close... Afterward, Jayna and I walked around the (giant) hospital waiting for Matt to pick us up and snapped a picture and I announced to social media that I was still, as of that moment, pregnant.

We drove to the windward side of the island to get fro-yo from our favorite place -- incidentally the same place we had gotten it the day I found out I was pregnant.  Yes, I was having contractions, but I'd be darned if I was going to say something and spoil the day again.  I had the contraction app open on my phone, and I was trying -- as discreetly as possible -- to time them without anyone noticing.  Matt noticed, though.

"You're having contractions, aren't you?"

"Yeah, but... I don't know."

"I can tell because you breathe different when you're having them.  Is that your timer?" I nodded meekly.  "How far apart are they?"

"I don't know... maybe eight minutes."

"Eight?  And you're supposed to go in at five? Kids?" he announced, "We're only getting frozen yogurt, and then we're going home.  It's raining anyway."

Matt pointed out the hospital that several friends had their babies at as we drove into Kailua, and asked if I thought he should stop and I said no, we weren't at that point yet.  We got our treat and sat there chatting for a few minutes.  Finally I asked if I could use the bathroom.  I had to get a key from the proprietor and go outside and down a couple shops, and when I got there, it was occupied.  There was an older gentleman doing some maintenance on the shop next door, and he struck up a conversation with me.  "Not much longer, yeah?" he asked.  Same as the proprietor had said when he handed me the key.

"I'm due Saturday," I said smiling.

"Saturday?!  Wow!"  Suddenly he banged on the bathroom door.  "Hey!" he yelled, "there's a pregnant woman out here!  Hurry up!"

I was... well, kind of mortified.  "Nononono!!  It's okay!  I can wait!" I insisted, even though yes, it took everything in me not to do the Pee Pee Dance.  Especially when a contraction hit.

"It's just my wife," he explained, because obviously that made it okay.  She was used to not listening, apparently, because she still took her sweet time.  So we chatted.  I found out that the shop he was working on was his brother's, he was going to visit his sister after he was done there, and so on.  FINALLY, his wife came out of the bathroom.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said when she saw me and my gargantuan belly.

"It's okay, really."

"I told you to hurry up!" her husband said.

"Almost time, yeah?"  she said.  I wanted to say, You have no idea.  But I gave my standard answer, Due Saturday.  "Are you having twins?" No (...but why do you ask???).  "Is this your first?"  No, my fifth.  "Your fifth?!"  Yes, we like kids.  We like the craziness.  By this point, I was actually standing in the bathroom beside the toilet, a smile plastered on my face as I wondered if and when I would actually get to use it because this woman -- a total stranger -- was still in the bathroom with me!   I was contemplating just getting down to business; meanwhile, Matt was texting me because I'd been gone so long: "Are you okay???  I'm sending Jayna!!!"

Anyway.  I'll spare you any more of the details, but I did get to use the bathroom, and we headed home.  The contractions were definitely not disappearing this time, but getting closer.  By the time we got home, they were mostly 6-7 minutes apart.  I sat on the couch watching some National Geographic show for a while.  Much more regular contractions, no more than 6 minutes apart.  I went upstairs to do my hair, because goodness knows, having curled hair is so important when you're giving birth.

Okay, five minutes apart.  I texted my friend to tell her that I was dropping off two more kids to go with her six.  Jayna and Skyler were both headed to the hospital with Matt and I.

It was go time.

{Part 2 here...}

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Welcome, Annalee!

Well, she's here!  Annalee Mirabel was born a week ago!

 She weighed in at 8 lb's 12 oz's, most of which was in her cheeks.
 And she has quite effectively managed to steal our hearts, even with her eyes closed.
 I'm working on writing up the story of her birth while it's all still fresh, but I'm also spending a whole lot of time just staring at her.  With an almost-sixteen-year-old daughter as well, I know how fast it all goes.  It kind of takes your breath away.

So does this face.  Right??
We are so incredibly grateful to God for another amazing gift!!!