Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Year in Review - 2017

Maybe it's just me, but 2017 has felt longer than a normal year. And yet, it wasn't quite long enough to get certain things done. Alas, isn't that how we often feel at the end of things? That we didn't have enough time to do the things that really should have been done? I hope I'm not the only one with this feeling - but more importantly, I hope there's grace for folks like me who probably didn't spend time correctly. Oh, wait, there is! It's called tomorrow: where there are mercies new every morning.

Even mornings when you wake up to fire and smoke.
But before I turn the page on 2017, I'd like to share some of the highlights of my year - at least according to the social media I was on. (Look carefully and you might notice a theme!)

#2017bestnine on Instagram

And the winner here is... Fire Baby! No surprise, really, as he was the best gift of the year. But in a bit more detail (going from top left to bottom right):
1. sharing a My Sunday Best reflection on the week after Fire Baby was born
2. Fire Baby on his birth day
3. 400 pounds of Fire Baby cuteness pinning me to the couch
4. an in utero profile pic of (you guessed it) Fire Baby
5. our Butterball Fire Baby wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving
6. Not pregnant! Drinking tea! Wearing my mom-iform! #thatpostpartumlife
7. a "Bumpie" in the bathroom while on a little getaway with the hubby in Scotland
8. Costco shopping with mom really wiped the little dude out. I guess.
9. Fire Baby's baptism!

I'm not sure how we'll top this in 2018 - I guess by taking more pictures of Fire Baby?? 😂

The Top 3 Posts on this here blog

So, who is this Fire Baby, you ask? Well, the number one viewed post on my blog was his birth story, and the second most viewed post was his birth announcement. Third up was a reflection on God's provision, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the picture of my baby bump may have had something to do with that (as it seems that social media likes babies!). So again, if I had plans to make things bigger and better on this here place, I guess I'm going to have to include more posts on/about Mr. Fire Baby. 
Either that, or get pregnant again! 😜

How did that (fill-in-the-blank) work out for you?

I'm not usually one for making resolutions or goals, but I do have one tradition of setting a goal for reading a certain number of books: this year it was a book a month, plus one:
 Looks like I fizzled out sometime around October... Gee I wonder why? #iblamethebaby #orthefires #orboth #betterlucknextyear

I also did a word for the year and a patron saint - and oddly - I wrote all of that up in a post that I never published. (I wonder why? It was a decent post!) In any case, my patron saint was Our Lady of Guadalupe and this was so fitting as she is also the patron saint of the unborn and I definitely felt her prayers during Fire Baby's birth.

My "word" for the year was (ha ha) GOALS - which I think I failed miserably with as I neither met my one goal above, nor made any to aspire to. I think I will have to do better this year, so I shall now turn to the internet to give me both my WORD and PATRON SAINT for 2018:

My word is:
Ooo. Striking. I want to make fun of this word, but somehow, I feel like it will be appropriate. I shall let it sit and ruminate on it a bit. There could be some wisdom in here.

My patron saint will be:
OK. This is so not cool. I actually did this a week or so ago with the kids and back then it picked a saint for me that was also the patron saint of those who have lost a spouse. And now this?? (And her name is just a feminized version of my husband's name?!)

I am officially weirded out. Someone needs to go talk to Jennifer Fulweiler about getting some better saints in her generator.

Alllll-righty! Well! This post took quite a turn for the strange and unsettling - so to close, I'll bring it back to something I know social media loves: Fire Baby!
Happy new year to you and thanks, as always, for reading. 💗

(Now can someone please hold my hand and tell me everything will be alright? Cuz that saint thing was really spooky!)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Fire Baby - Matthew's birth story

This is actually a two part post of my experiences during the Santa Rosa fires - for part 1 click here. In this part we learn of new fires and (if you couldn't guess from the title) have a baby.

October 14

A new fire starting up to the east of us
The kids playing (unironically) on a fire truck at a nearby park.
This day was odd. One the one hand, this new fire that popped up truly made us think about evacuating for real, but on the other hand we had some of the best air quality out of the whole week because of the direction of the wind. So we stayed on alert but also at home. We also decided to go to vigil mass at our cathedral instead of our home parish - which turned out to be slightly fortuitous (I guess) as the next day our parish was in a mandatory evacuation zone.

October 15

No church means more Lego time
With no church to go to on Sunday morning (because, again, we had gone the night before, not because it burned down!) we were all feeling a little bit "off". We received an invite from a friend to head down south again - but neither Paul nor I were feeling up to the travel. And again, this turned out to be fortuitous as at about 2pm I started having sensations that I thought were gas pains. When I was still having them at 4pm I realized they weren't gas pains, but I still wasn't willing to call them "contractions" though they were about 30-45 seconds long and coming every 7-10 minutes. In any case, I called my midwife to let her know what was up and she conceded that I could very well be in early labor. I did not like this news, so she gave me some things I could do try and slow the labor train down: drink water, put my feet up (i.e. rest), take a bath or shower, have a glass of wine. (Ooo! A glass of wine? Yes, please! Only problem: I had no wine in the house. Enter Big Sister to the rescue! She brought over a lovely bottle of pinot gris.) I tried all of these things to no avail. By 8pm things were definitely picking up the pace and I was emotionally a wreck - texting friends and even acquaintances asking for prayers that baby boy would stay put. In my mind there were so many good reasons to not have a baby just then - things like:
  • we had no diapers yet (but thanks to Amazon Prime, I would have them in 2 days)
  • we had no bassinet/crib (yet)
  • there was no birth center, and only 1 hospital in Santa Rosa still open
  • oh, and fire with all its accompanying smoke
But I needed to call the midwife again and let her know things were not slowing down - so I did, and received a welcome piece of news: they decided to open up the birth center early for us. I broke down crying at this news - I was so grateful. It was funny - this whole pregnancy, whenever anyone asked where we would go for the birth I always responded "Lord willing, we'll go to the Birth Center." I'm so glad the Lord was willing! But I knew it still wasn't time for us to head over to the center just yet. But at least when I hung up the phone a part of my heart and mind were at rest.

My sister, who was kind enough to supply the wine, went home but stayed on call and I went to bed. My previous labors have been 43 hours and 30ish hours, so I was sure I'd be in for a long night and wanted to get as much rest as I could. Rest wasn't in the cards though. As I laid there the contractions continued to come, but something was changing: I'd have 2 or 3 that I could handle just fine, but then I'd have a really big one where all I could do to cope was shake my leg (much like a dog's leg will spasm when it's dreaming - such an attractive picture, I know). After one such contraction, I received the words that would become my mantra for the rest of the labor, "Pass through". I don't know where these words came from, but they turned out to be a premonition of what I would really need to have happen, and I would repeat them over and over whenever a contraction came. This pattern of 2-3 "easy" contractions and 1 "big" contraction continued to build in intensity until I had one that knocked the wind out of me - and that's when I told Paul we needed to get to the Birth Center. This was about 10:30pm. So the midwife was called and the sister was called back and we got in the car.

Again, that 1 mile drive to the center was just the worst. I don't know how any laboring woman can stand to have a drive longer than 5 minutes to get to wherever they're birthing. Car rides are just the pits! We arrived at the same time as our midwife, who was fully decked out in scrubs and her N95. She checked me and I measured 5cm - which was both welcome and a bit disappointing. Welcome, because that meant I could be admitted, but disappointing because I thought for sure I'd be farther along. In any case, we made our way back to the birthing rooms, and because I had the choice, I chose to be in the same room where I had delivered both the wee girl and the little dude. Having that continuity was comforting and I needed all the comfort I could get.

When I labor, I like things to be dark, quiet and warm. Oh, and also new for this labor, I liked to have my barf bowl next to me at all times. So basically then, the things that I remember are the times when one of the "rules" were "violated". Like when I had to ask Paul 3 or 4 times for my bowl. I got so mad at him for taking it away, and then I got doubly mad at him for making me have to talk to him to get it back. I mean, after 2 labors with me he still can't read my mind?!? Sheesh, man.

(It wasn't actually this dark, but you get the idea. Turn up the volume to hear baby's heartbeat!)

Anyway, once the midwife checked me in and took my vitals, she and the student midwife left us to "work". I wanted to lie down on the bed, so I did and worked on saying my mantra and breathing through the contractions. But at some point, I couldn't even say my mantra anymore and that was when the midwives came back into the room. The student midwife was truly wonderful, very professional, always explaining exactly what she was doing - but because she was breaking my "quiet" rule I started to get really irritated. At one point, when I thought they were gone, I asked Paul, "Could you please tell the midwives not to talk to me?" not knowing that they were actually in the room. When I found that out later, it made me really glad that I had said what I did and not what I was thinking which was, "Can you tell her to shut up?" (That would have been awkward!)

At midnight, the midwives checked me again and this time I was fully dialated; so they offered to break my bag of waters, in the hopes of moving the labor along. But I refused - not because I wanted a repeat performance of the waterworks at little dude's birth - but because having my bag of waters broken for the wee girl's birth was something that I had always kinda regretted. So I said no and continued to have really painful contractions that didn't seem to do much of anything to get the baby out. The midwives suggested I sit on a birthing ball (a big NOPE), and then go sit on the toilet (another NOPE but it was a bit better than the ball). The birthing stool was brought out and that was somewhat helpful - but the big problem this time around was that while I could feel a whole lotta pain, I couldn't actually feel when I was doing an effective push. So I would push 3 or 4 times and on that last push the midwife would finally say, "There! Yes! Do another one just like that!" Except I didn't know what I was doing any different than the way that I had been pushing before, plus, I was so tired from those pushes that I needed to rest and wait for the next contraction. At which point, the cycle of ineffective pushes would start again.

I started to pace back and forth in the room, almost like a caged animal, and more than once I wondered if I was going to be able do this. When the midwives offered to break my bag of waters again at sometime around 1:30am, I said yes enthusiastically and almost frantically. Get this baby out!!

The relief I felt as the bag broke was wonderful, but short-lived. Very quickly we were back to painful contractions and ineffective pushes. I threw up once... then twice. As my midwife shared, "Some women vomit their babies out". And that had definitely been my experience. After the second time, I remember feeling somewhat encouraged because with my other labors the baby was delivered shortly after the second spew. But it was not to be. I just couldn't figure out how to effectively push this baby who seemed very unwilling to budge. Finally the midwife and I hit on a strategy that worked - as long as she had two fingers pressing on my cervix I could focus on where I needed to direct my energy and my pushes would be effective. Of course, now her fingers were in the way of the baby's head creating a ridiculous Catch-22 situation. "Pass through" indeed! But I was finally making some progress - some very slow and hard-won progress.

With my previous 2 labors, the work up to the pushing stage was long and arduous, but the actual pushing was only 30-45 minutes - jubilation! Once again, this was different: I pushed for about 3 hours and it was (dare I say it?) horrible. The pain was just getting worse and worse, and even though they told me baby was coming, I didn't feel it. Plus I was getting frantic and I remember crying out, "Can you just reach in and pull him out?!" (Though I don't remember an answer to that request.) And forget "working noises". This was an all-out fight to get this baby earth-side complete with Wonder Woman-esque battle cries.

I prefer this image over what was probably the reality.

When I finally got baby's head out I expected to feel the slip and slide of the rest of his body - but again - this was not to be. One of the midwives (either the student or the attending, I can't remember) exclaimed, "Sunny side up!" and the other said, "Just a few more pushes..." All I could think was, "MORE?! He's supposed to just slide out now!" Turns out "sunny side-up" is just a poor euphemism for "hard as hell". (Ok, no, it isn't but whatever.) Finally - finally - at 4:30am, all of baby's 19 inches came out and we welcomed Matthew Francis with cries of relief and joy.

When I met Matthew I was surprised by his dark hair, red skin, and cries. They were strong and MAD! I couldn't blame him, and in fact I wanted to tell him "Dude, the feeling's mutual," but then he opened his eyes and I was stunned by the clarity and intensity in them already! All I could think was, "He is a smart one!" The rest of the morning was quiet and uneventful, so at 8:30 we were discharged and ready to go home. Stepping outside the smoke in the sky made a sun as red as my little one when I first laid eyes on him.

October 16

Anniversary cards, still in the plastic! We'll put heartfelt messages
in them next year.

We brought our little "fire baby" home on our 9th wedding anniversary - our Matthew - truly a "gift of God" to us.