Tuesday, October 30, 2012

dear patrick

good morning, darling.
i'm sitting here on the couch.  sam is napping, and so is vava.  i should be doing the dishes, or putting away the toys that have hurricaned our living room, or tossing laundry into the washer.
but you see, our snuggly little girl is curled up on my chest, and the sweet warm weight of her is irresistible.  i can not find the strength to leave this spot for something as prosaic as chores.
i know you're coming home early today.
when you get here, i'll let you be her couch, and i'll get something done.
until then, know that i'm sitting here loving our family with all the fireworky joy you can imagine.  and i'm so glad that God has chosen me to belong with all of you.


Saturday, October 27, 2012


friends who pray: will you say a little prayer for sheldon today?  there's nothing wrong, exactly - but there's just still so much distance and stiffness in our relationship.  and while i won't give up on trying to build a friendship and fill his stay with warmth, i feel at a loss as to how.  i'm not sure what else to do to show him we care.

thanks for praying.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

should / be

my sister and i were talking about this the other day.

how should is a hard place.

not a grace-place.

there is no tenderness in should, no expansive arms of joy, no welcome.  should is a cold shoulder, a great gap of expectations and a yardstick to measure the falling short.

all too often i find myself living in that house.  and putting others in it too.
and the walls don't meet, and the rooms aren't comfortable, and the light glares magazine-glossy on all of our imperfections.  it is filled with the stench of disappointment and shame.

this is not the house God built.
this is not the house God built.

his name is not "you should" (or she should or we should or i should) but "I AM".

I AM is filled with grace.  it holds no expectations, no measuring-sticks that turn quickly into rods for beating the failed backs.  the rooms are large, and all are welcome.  come, they beckon.  be.

in my childhood church, there was a man who often prayed from psalm 31.  "thou hast set my feet in a large room," he would praise.  the heart-grabbing graciousness of that phrase gripped my heart.  a large room.  room for all.  room to grow.  expand.  room to be.  not a small room.  not a room of squirming, mincing steps, but a large room for whirling, dancing, joy in the sheer gladness of living.  a room with big spaces for big faith and big hopes.

not a critical room.  not a room with measuring sticks on walls and windows.  no.

a large room.  plenty of space to rest.  to just be.

God's name is I AM.  in him, there is enough.  there is more than enough.  all fullness.

this morning, three hours after her last nursing, vava woke me again.  i stumbled across the room, confused to find her in her crib - hadn't i just picked her up?  wasn't she still in my arms?  a glance at the clock and the room spun, exhaustion and nausea swimming up my veins.  again?  it was time to feed her again?

i snuggled her, crying, into patrick's arms while i set up my pillows.
and as i nursed, wakefulness flooded into me.  wakefulness for this moment.  eyes that had hung bleary over her opened, devouring words.  arms that had trembled, sleepy, grew strong.  i read psalm 31 and traveled from the small, cramped room of should to is, place of grace and love.

i don't feed my dear lovely girl because i should - but because i am.  i am her mama.  my heart flows with love for her, my bones ache with love for her.

like His grace.  for us.  through us.  to us.  from us.

God sets our feet in a large room.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

our birth story (a cautionary tale)


i talk about giving birth in this post.  not trying to be creepy or graphic, just processing the grand event the way i prefer most: through writing.  if the idea of reading this feels too personal, weird, or just not appealing, please feel free to skip this post.  i promise i won't mind.

also, if you're pregnant for the first time, maybe consider not reading this til after the baby comes.  
or let it be a cautionary tale.

a few weeks ago, i had contractions - well, what i thought were contractions.  they fooled me for a while, getting steadily stronger and closer together, but then they went away.  aha, i thought, braxton-hicks.

my hopes were up that the braxton-hicks were signs of vava's imminent arrival.  but they weren't.

at least, though, i knew what braxton-hicks were like, so chalked up one more pregnancy experience.

on thursday last week, i woke up in the wee hours of the morning with contractions.  painful ones.  ouch-a-rama.  not terribly painful, or terribly long, but painful enough that i couldn't talk through them.  and they increased fairly quickly.  patrick stayed home from work because i was definitely in labour.

the day passed slo-o-o-wly.  we packed our bags, got everything ready, and waited.

and waited.

went for a walk, and waited some more.  i really didn't want to be one of those first-time-moms who show up at the hospital and get sent home.  after nine months of waiting, i'd rather wait a few hours at home than suffer the frustration of being told Not Yet.

finally, at 730, they were getting close together.  4 minutes apart - ish.  sometimes i would go a few minutes longer.  it was confusing.  but definitely painful.  so we decided to go in.  we called the midwife, who said they sounded like braxton-hicks, but i should come in if i wanted an assessment.

i knew they weren't braxton-hicks, so in we went.

and while we were there, i only had three contractions - none of which my midwife saw, because she wasn't in the room.  apparently, vava was being shy.  i was SO frustrated.  and after my assessment she shook her head condescendingly and said i was experiencing braxton-hicks.  "and if you think these are painful, my dear, you should consider pain management options during labour instead of attempting a natural delivery," she added.

i was so mad.  SO MAD!

so we went home.  out through the waiting room and into the cold.

all night long, those same contractions continued.  they got more painful.  i started vomiting from the sheer pain of them.  then shivering.  i tried so hard to be quiet in the house full of sleeping people, but sometimes cried out.  patrick woke up and rubbed my back, hard.  it felt like my spine was going to explode.

i remembered advice from a friend about how to get through labour: pray.  and count.  and pray.

i did.

i remember at one point just asking God if i could curl up in his lap and die.

and at last, as it has the habit of doing, the sun rose and brought the dawn.  i threw up the last bit of fluid left in my body and told patrick we had to go to the hospital.  so he called the midwife.

she told us we should stay home for a few more hours.

two hours later, i wasn't really conscious of much.  just the pain, and breaths in between.  and then the pain again.  and then i realized i really really really had to push and i absolutely could not get in the car.

my mom told me she was going to call an ambulance if i didn't.  and she had scared eyes.

so i lurched into my boots and into the car and yelled half the way to the hospital.  patrick drove like a champ.

i leaned on him in the lobby while he phoned to have the doors unlocked.  we left our car in the drop-off zone.  mercifully, there was a wheelchair inside and in my tunnel of pain i managed to sit in it.

a smiling nurse met us.  "what number baby is this?" she asked.  "first."  "ah," she responded, "do you need to go to the bathroom?"  "always," i moaned.

i could hear patrick and a (different - darling!) midwife waiting outside the door.  and i was pushing.  i couldn't help it.

they wheeled me quickly back to an exam room, where my midwife assured me i woudn't pee on the bed, and coaxed me to get up.  her eyes popped, and she told me i was having a baby.

"i know," i said.  (things weren't really making sense.)

"i mean, very soon," she said. "like, right now."  and she hustled me out of my clothes and into a gown and wheeled me into the very same delivery room where sam was born.

i heard words like "fully dilated" and "in labour for more than 24 hours" and then there was a monitor and i could hear vava's heartbeat and it did not sound good.  it was choppy and slow and definitely not the zippy, happy heartbeat of prenatal visits.  more and more people began coming into the room.  i didn't really notice enough to care.  not much.  patrick's hand was on my shoulder and it was a strong anchor in the middle of the maelstrom.  then i was pushing again and they said "meconium in the canal" and "doctor" and "resp team" and more people were there and i couldn't stop shaking.

then there were three people trying to talk to me at once.  the nurse was telling me she was starting an iv line, and i would feel a little pinch.  (i wanted to assure her i didn't really care about that - all things considered.)  the (mean) midwife was telling me not to moan, just tuck my chin down and use all my energy to push.  and the (where did he come from so fast?) doctor was introducing himself and asking me my name.

(btw, the mean midwife kept calling me different names - even after being my primary midwife the whole pregnancy - i remember hearing her call me janine, jenille, and labelle - YES even labelle! - while i was at the hospital.  snicker.)

and then they told me there wasn't time for the usual stretching and slow pushing.  vava's heartrate was dropping too fast and she had to come out.  the nice midwife told me she would count to ten three times, and during each count i had to push with all my energy.  i could take one breath in between counts, and do it again.  a contraction hit, and she began to count.

and so i pushed.  really fast.  and really hard.

and suddenly vava was on my belly and there wasn't time for patrick to cut the cord (oh darling, i'm sorry!) and she stared at me big eyed and beautiful and was whisked off to the resp team who vacuumed her and made sure she lived (our lively stranger!  so full of life, yes, even with such a beginning).

the next half hour was a blur of stitching and shaking and hot blankets and breathing in gas.  and patrick's hand was always on my shoulder, so warm and strong.  for a few moments he left, to snuggle vava before she went to the nicu, and i missed him so.

and then the doctor was gone and the nurses were gone and the nice midwife was puttering around, and bringing me more blankets and assuring me vava was fine.

and patrick brought me apple juice with ice and a bendy straw, and it felt like the most nourishing and delicious drink in the world.

and just when i was starting to doubt the midwife, and starting to wonder if patrick should go to the nicu to check, a nurse came in.

carrying vava.

and oh, she was fine!  more than fine.  perfect, adorable, irresistible.

we cuddled her for blissful hours, and then had the magic of introducing her to sam and my mom.  and we've been snuggling ever since.

vivian varvara - still lively, less a stranger ;).

{if you read this as a cautionary tale, let the moral be noted: when in labour, listen to your body, not your midwife.  amen and amen.}

Vava's Birth

editor's note: birth details included.  read at your own risk.

This is the story of our daughter Vava's birth from my (the father's) perspective. Just in case you were wondering what it was like for me.

I was awakened at five o'clock on Thursday morning by Janelle having her first contractions. "I'm in labour," she said. "You have to call work and tell them you can't go."

"It's too early," I told her, and went back to sleep.

My alarm rang almost an hour later and I woke, checked to see that Janelle was still having contractions, turned off the alarm, and went back to sleep.

At seven forty five I called work, told them Janelle was in labour and that I wouldn't be going to work today, and again, went back to sleep.

By this time, Janelle was having contractions every five to ten minutes. And I was in favour of them continuing because it meant a day off work for me.

A little later on we got out of bed, we got Sam up, and Janelle's mom, and we spent the day doing regular stuff, timing Janelle's contractions and trying to contact our friends to tell them that at any minute, we might have to rush to the hospital, and could they please watch Sam for us?

So, I'm no sure this exists or not, but the midwives to us to come to the hospital when the contractions get to be about four minutes apart and last for one minute over an hour, approximately. So that's what I was looking for. Every time Janelle had a contraction, I timed it with the stopwatch and recorded the duration and time on a piece of paper I kept with me.

The contractions lasted from thirty seconds to three minutes, they came three, four, eight, eleven, twenty minutes apart. Never becoming regular or predictable. By lunch time I was beginning to think I should just go to work.

The afternoon progressed, we went for a walk, pushing Sam in the stroller. We walked around the block, came back home. We had supper. By this time, Janelle was becoming quite sore.

After supper we decided to call the midwife. I told her how the contractions were going and that Janelle was in some pain and she said something like, "It's probably nothing, but if it'll make you feel better, come to the hospital and I'll do an assessment."

So Janelle's mom dropped us off at the hospital, we went into labour and delivery with all the prepacked bags and sat down in the waiting room and waited. There was nobody at the reception desk, just a phone. But I was expecting the midwife to come in and meet us in the waiting room. Eventually I got the bright idea to look around, and sure enough there was a sign on the phone that said to call a number to get inside. So I called and told the nurse who answered that we were supposed to meet our midwife here and the nurse said, "Oh, yeah, she's here, come on in." And the doors swung open.

So we went inside, hauling all our bags, and were shown to an assessment room. I tucked the bags under a table and sat down and Janelle lay down on the bed.

The midwife came shortly after and connected Janelle and the baby to a heartrate monitor. And then she examined Janelle.

And then she pretty much said, "Yeah, just like I thought, it's nothing, you're only two centimeters dilated. It's probably just false labour. Don't worry, it happens often to first time mothers. Go home, have a hot bath, drink some tea and have a good sleep."

So we got our bags together and left the hospital.

Janelle was furious. I was confused.

Janelle was too furious to call her mom to come pick us up right away, so we started walking.

Anyways, we eventually got home. We watched a TV show, and then went to bed. Oh yeah, and the contractions stopped.

It was around midnight when the contractions came back... with a vengeance. They'd been painful before, now they were excruciating. Every five to ten minutes, Janelle would wake me up and I'd rub her back or press on her back.

She vomited a few times during the night.

I started timing the contractions sometime in the early morning. Again, looking for what the midwife said would indicate "real" labour: strong contractions lasting about one minute, four minutes apart. These contractions were lasting between fifty seconds and three minutes and coming irregularly at three, eight, five, ten, four, six minutes apart. Just, you know, whatever.

Between contractions I dreamed that my Aunt Doris had a complete mental breakdown and ran away and the police were looking for her. And then I dreamed that I got attacked by a moose while holding Sam and the last thing I thought before the moose charged was: "How am I going to explain to everyone how Sam got killed by a moose?"

So, at seven o'clock, when Janelle said I should call the midwife, I was a bit hesitant. What do I tell her? She's just going to think we're over anxious. I procrastinated for about half an hour.

So about seven thirty I called the midwife and told her what was going on and she asked to talk to Janelle. Janelle came down the stairs to the phone and the midwife told her to wait and see if the contractions became regular. Oh yeah, and she said to take some tylenol or gravol.

Janelle asked for tylenol, but I brought her some extra strength ibuprofen. She protested, "What if it's bad for the baby?" I made her take it anyway.

The contractions continued the same as they had been. Janelle vomited a few more times. And she had to pee all the time.

At around nine o'clock Janelle told me to call the midwife again. I was still hesitant but this time I didn't procrastinate. This time I got a different midwife. I told Midwife #2 what was happening with Janelle's contractions and she said that irregular contractions lasting a long time sounds like false labour. So I said, "Janelle's in an awful lot of pain." So she asked to talk to Janelle.

I brought the phone up to Janelle in the washroom and then after talking to the midwife, Janelle told me that we'd go to the hospital as soon as she finished on the toilet.

And then she had another contraction and suddenly, she couldn't get up off the toilet anymore and she had the urge to push!

I tried to bully Janelle into getting into the car, but it didn't work until her mom joined me and we both bullied her into the car.

I got the bags and everything into the car and we drove to the hospital as fast as I could. At the door, Janelle got into a wheel chair and I pushed her up to labour and delivery.

We went straight to the phone and I called in, Janelle was moaning behind me and I said, "Hi my wife is in labour, can we come in?"

I guess the nurse heard Janelle's moaning because the doors swung right open and she came running up and asked, "What's going on here?"

And then Midwife #2 came and got us into an assessment room and then Janelle had to go to the washroom again, so I wheeled her up the hall and she went into the washroom and locked the door and I let the nurse take the wheelchair back to the entrance. And I stood outside the washroom door and waited.

Midwife #2 came from getting the assessment room ready (I guess) and stood across from me and asked for some details and I filled her in as much as I could and then we both heard Janelle say, "I feel like I need to push!"

Midwife #2 went right for the door but it was locked, "Can you get it open?" she asked.

"Just wait, I'll try."

So while Janelle tried to unlock the door, the midwife took off and came back a second later, pulling on a pair of gloves. And then she stood outside the door, her shoulders squared, her feet apart, ready to spring into action.

I think that's when I fell in love :)  (Just a platonic crush. C'mon.)

Janelle managed to get the door unlocked after what felt like forever, and Midwife #2 sprang in. I tried to help, but she just told me to get out of the way and go wait in the room. So I did.

And then Midwife #2 helped Janelle into the room and down on the bed and checked her out. And Janelle kept saying that she had to pee and couldn't hold it in and that she was going to pee on the bed.

"You're not going to pee," Midwife #2 said. "The baby's head is like, right here, and that's why you feel like you're going to pee. You're going to have this baby, like, right now."

I can't remember how, but the nurse and the Midwife and I got Janelle into a labour room and Midwife #2 started coaching her about pushing and breathing. And then Midwife #1 showed up and the two of them worked on Janelle.

And then I heard Midwife #2 whisper to the nurse, "There's mec in the birth canal."

And all of a sudden people started falling out of the cracks in the walls and the ceiling. A doctor showed up, another nurse, four respiratory technicians. There was like, twelve people in that room all at once. And the baby's heart rate dropped.

The doctor took over from the midwives, and started pulling on the baby's head with a thing he called a vacuum.

I was really worried. I thought the baby was going to die and that they weren't telling us. I almost couldn't keep from crying from worry. So I just patted Janelle's shoulder and told her she was doing awesome. And I sniveled a little bit. And then I was in the way of the nurse, who was connecting an IV, so I had to back off.

And Janelle pushed and pushed and waited and pushed...

It felt like hours. But then the baby popped out and slid into the Doctor's hands, all red and yellow and slimy and mewling. They clamped and cut the umbilical cord in half a second and passed the baby to the respiratory technicians who immediately started poking and pinching her and rubbing her with a hot towel. I stayed by Janelle's shoulder for a bit and then they told me I could go see my baby so I went over to where they were pinching and poking and rubbing her and I put my hands on her face and rubbed her and they told me that they were trying to keep her crying to clear the shiznit she had inhaled out of her lungs. And then they wrapped her up and took her to the ICU.

Apparently, at this time it was only half an hour after we'd arrived at the hospital but it felt like much, much later.

And then they didn't bring the baby back from ICU until that afternoon! And I was just aching to hold her all that time.

Anyways... that's about it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

“Every experience God gives us, every person he brings into our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.”
-Corrie ten Boom

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

happy unbirthday

turns out, i didn't get a baby for my thirtieth birthday.  and while i'm going crazy with waiting, i'm kind of glad.

i've been so focused on meeting her, on holding her, on getting her, that i forgot something.

it's not about me getting a daughter. (and oh, she will be so much more than my daughter.  and i can't wait to see who she is and what she does.  all the silly and funny and wonderful and hard decisions she will make. and all those seeds of glory are planted in her already.)

it's about her.  it's about her new and bursting life.  it's about God bringing a new person into the world.   it's her beginning.

it's not my event at all.

and if she needs a few more days of snuggling in blissful contractiony warmth before she's ready to take on the world - i'm on it.

birthday present

i got a really nice birthday present this morning :)

the past 2 nights i've been up with contractions, which never seem to make it past the morning.  they just come at night to keep me company in bed, i guess.  and last night they were so close together - 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration - i almost called my midwife, but they stopped.


so when patrick woke up for work this morning, i was cranky, exhausted, and had a killer headache ... and a big sad contractionless heart.  i did NOT want to get up with sam and be cheerful-morning mom.  i wanted to stay in bed and pretend everything would work well without me.  (haha he's 18 months.  who was i kidding?)

instead of getting up and preparing his breakfast, i just laid in bed and cried a little, and fell asleep.  i knew i'd wake up when he squawked ... 

and i did!  two hours later!  that's right - my amazing little gem slept an extra two hours, just when i needed it.

thank you, God.
i love you too.