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  • Evie Claire's Birth Story — Our Home Birth

    If you don't already know, you need to know a little about the birth of my first daughter before reading about the birth of my second daughter. I was induced with Talitha at 3 days past the due date for low amniotic fluid. My labour was 30+ hours and included an epidural at 24 hours. I broke out in chills before I was fully dialated, checked vaginally more than a handful of times, constantly monitored, and once I was instructed to push, I was told there were 3 strikes against me: that my pelvis was shaped in a way that was going to make it harder for Talitha to come out, that she was back-to-back (meaning she wasn't in the ideal position to come out), and that both our heart rates were going up. My doctor then asked me if I wanted to have a c-section as he told me that he'd likely have to use forceps and that he thought I'd likely have a third degree (full vagina to anus) tear. Frightened, clueless of how birth works, and unbelievably tired, I tried to push for half an hour more whilst laying on my back (the worst position to birth a baby in!). I wanted my baby so badly. "Let's do the c-section," I said finally. Still clueless about everything, I had accepted the way it went with Talitha. But after the experience of my incision bursting due to infection at 2 months postpartum and taking months to fully heal, I realised I was going to do things differently second time around. Not out of bitterness, but from a desire to feel empowered and informed and with the passion that no matter what happened, I wanted to feel calm and positive and sure of myself.

    This post isn't about how I prepared for Evie Claire's birth or how Talitha's birth brought me to Evie Claire's. I'll write about that another time. But it is about the full circle healing that's taken place in my heart and my body from this experience — a total opposite event whereby the circumstances and my body were fully in my control this time. I feel so grateful and in awe that my body was able to do all things it didn't get the chance to do last time. 

    It all started when David put Talitha to bed. When he came down the stairs at 8pm on Saturday the 20th of October (which makes Evie Claire's birth on the 21st three days past the due date),  I told him the contractions I had been feeling for nearly 2 weeks were definitely different. I felt them in the top of my belly before and was sure those were just Braxton Hicks. But these were coursing through to my vaginal area and lower back. We began to take stock of them gradually, but went on with our evening together by watching an episode of The Office and chatting. I sat on the birthing ball, scrolled on Instagram posting about our day walking around at Reculver, one of my favorite local spots. We decided if this was the real deal, we'd help things along by getting my oxytocin (the love and birth hormone) up with lots of cuddles and light touch massage. I went to have a hot shower and texted my doula at 10:45.

    “Hi Sue. We think it might be building...my contractions have been stronger and more frequent. I’ve not had a show or my waters release but just been semi-tracking these surges. They feel “lower down” if that makes sense. Not sure if this is real but figured I would text you. Xx”


    “Hi Christie, thank you for letting me know. How exciting! Are you able to sleep or are the contractions keeping you awake? How frequent are they? Xx”


    “I have been resting but not sleeping since T went to bed. That’s when it started. The last five were roughly 3 min apart and 45 seconds or so. Some aren’t as long. I’m about to have a shower and then try to sleep I think. I’m having to breathe them through. I had one while writing this text.” 


    “It definitely sounds like things are getting ready. Once you’ve had a shower, rest, lots of cuddles. Call me as soon as you feel that you are ready for me to be with you xxx “


    The next text in our thread is after the birth, because I called her about 12:15am. I had stronger and stronger contractions in the shower that I couldn’t talk through. I began to get a bit overwhelmed by the idea of the pain, but a powerful affirmation rang in my ears: “my surges (or contractions) can not overpower me, because they are me.” Embracing the act of my body instead of trying to resist it completely changed my mindset and my pain level. Before I got out, David started making the rearrangements of our furniture that we’d planned and getting the birthing pool out. He had put the old mattress that we’d planned to use directly after the birth to deliver the placenta on in the lounge, so I laid down there and began to listen to my relaxation mp3s from my hypnobirthing course. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep through these contractions.

    I spoke to my doula, and we knew we wanted her to go ahead and come. She got to our house about 1am, David had the pool up and was still working on filling it as he had encountered a slight issue with the tap not attaching correctly to the hose. Sue started helping him with buckets. Somewhere around this point, David asked me if I wanted my birthing playlist of music on, which I said yes. I vaguely remember hearing the music later during the actual birth. My surges were getting so strong that in some of them I felt the need to push and couldn’t exactly stop myself. Sue encouraged us to call the midwives at that point. I honestly didn’t think it would progress so quickly, so even though things were feeling quite intense I still thought we had loads of time. 

    David got on the phone to the hospital at 1:45 and a midwife called him back at 2:05. David told her I was having urges to push, so she decided to come on to our house without the gas and air and would send it with another midwife. Just as that was happening, we heard Talitha, our 3 year old, wake up wondering where we were upstairs as she had peed in her sleep. David brought her down telling her “baby baby” was coming. I remember greeting her and my doula also saying hello. She saw the pool and I think it just clicked in her mind. She had a peaceful, observant, and engaged look on her face — ready to see what this was all about. We had prepared for her to be at the birth by going through a stages of birth illustrated "map" with her here and there at home.

    We had also watched a few home birth videos together including ones with siblings also present at birth. She had met my doula several times as well; she even had a special nickname for her. Her name is Sue, but Talitha called her 'Sula the doula," which we all sort of adopted. I started to think Talitha wasn't going to be able to see the birth as it was all happening while she was asleep, but she woke up at just the right time. I was so encouraged seeing that my contractions weren’t freaking her out. She just seemed to watch and let me get on with what I was doing. I remember interacting with her here and there but mostly I was in my own zone.

    There was a moment my doula reminded me to relax my face, that my body would follow suit just by relaxing my face. I zoned in again and that reminder was a little breath of fresh air. 

    Finally, the water was filled enough that I got in the pool. The feeling of relief as I lowered my body in was so lovely. But the contractions were coming so close. The midwife arrived around 2:25 or so. She told us we still needed to get more water in the pool, so David went to work with the bucket again. Talitha came into the pool just after me as was a part of our plan. She loves water just like I do, so I knew she wouldn't be able to resist. I loved having her in there with me. She had a flannel in there with her that had come off of my neck as I had needed it to cool myself previous to getting in the pool. I remember her laying it on my tummy saying, “Here, mama, this will help.” That sweet gesture just made me melt and I told her thank you.

    The midwife wanted to monitor the baby’s heartbeat, and when she seemed to have a hard time locating it with me sitting on the little seat in the pool, I felt an instinctual desire to turn and face the other way kneeling with my knees on the bottom of the pool. The midwife managed to get that one strong reading of the baby’s heartbeat, but there was no time for any other monitoring or checks!

    I remember one contraction where David was not in the room filling up the bucket, but I needed a hand to hold. I reached out to my doula and held her close through it. It was so good to have her there when I needed that extra support. With each contraction at this point, I felt like I was going to give birth to a massive poo! There definitely was some that came out, and my daughter was the one to realise it. I could hear her behind me saying, “Mummy did a poo. Get it out!” It’s actually the thing she talks about the most when she tells the story! "Yes, and what else did Mummy push out?" I ask her with a smile on my face. 

    Back to the action: I knew that it was happening so soon, but I made the choice not to say anything or ask any questions. I feel like my birth team knew it, too, but it was great how no one was annoyingly telling me what was happening. There seemed to be an understanding that I was following my body, and didn’t need to hear anything. I do remember hearing the midwife say when she initially arrived, “She’s handling them so well.” That combined with the encouraging words of my doula and the warmth of my husband’s embrace and the, I believe, subconscious incentive to give my daughter an amazing example of giving birth fueled me.

    At what must have been 2:45 or so, I felt a big pop during a contraction. “What was that?” I asked. I heard the midwife say, “it could be your waters.” I couldn’t see anything behind me, but I realised she was putting a mirror under the water to look. My husband recalls a couple times where there was nothing to see but then the last time, the midwife told him, “There’s the head,” and David could see it. I remember on the next contraction feeling and thinking, “This must be the ‘ring of fire.’” I had been quite guttural throughout the labour, and heard myself “roar” her out as my doula so encouragingly put it later.

    The midwife said the forehead and nose were out, and I heard her tell me I didn’t need to push anymore but to just breath the baby out. I focused all my energy on breathing and immediately I felt her fully descend. I turned around, heard David whisper something like, “you did it,” had to lift my leg over to receive her (that’s when I heard her cry and when David said, “it’s another girl”) and then just sat back holding my fresh babe. “It’s Evie Claire!” I told Talitha as she stood beside me gazing at her sister. “My girls...my girls...” I remember uttering.

    “2:57,” the midwife said. I remember looking at my doula like wowwww. And as we all took it all in, the second midwife arrived with the gas and air! We sat in the pool for maybe 10 minutes as we delayed cord clamping. And David cut the cord. Then we moved over to the mattress on the floor, and I put her to my breasts. It took just over an hour for me to deliver the placenta, which actually was more frustrating than anything. We had turned the heating on earlier so it would be warm in the house for the baby, but I was really hot and asked David to turn it off, and I started feeling tired and just wanted it to be over with.

    I actually told the midwives to go ahead and administer the injection for a managed third stage, but they encouraged me to wait for a full hour. I felt like I wasn’t getting any help from my body, but I kept letting Evie Claire nurse, and finally whilst kneeling, a little over an hour after her birth, I felt the placenta just sort of plop out! The relief! I mentally thanked it for doing a great job for 9 months, but all my attention was turned towards my breasts for the role of sustaining my baby out of the womb.

    I was checked for tears and was delighted to learn I didn’t need any stitches for the minor stretching that took place. I kept thinking, “Goodness, this is just too good to be true.” 

    We called our parents to let them know. We hadn’t told any of our family that we were planning a home birth. We wanted them to experience our joy after the fact instead of worrying about what all could go wrong beforehand. I said to my mother whilst FaceTiming her in America, my new baby in my arms, “I hope you don’t mind I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to worry.” She smiled and said, “You’re right, I would have worried.” 

    “You know how much I wanted this,” I said. “I’m so proud of you,” she said through tears making me cry as well. 

    The midwives weighed Evie Claire, gave her Vitamin K, and finished up their paperwork. They left by 5:30am. Talitha had been given her tablet (I think she chose to watch Bing reruns) at some point and we noticed she finally crashed on the couch around then.

    My doula stayed with us a little longer just recapping what an amazing few hours it had been. I sent out a few texts, got cleaned up, and put on some PJs. Then the 4 of us went up to mine and David’s bedroom carrying our 2 daughters. We pulled Talitha’s mattress beside our bed and went to sleep for a couple of hours. We woke up together to a new season. One of my deepest dreams fulfilled, it feels like we’re forging into new territory where reality is just that good — it’s true. 

     

  • A Tiny Bit on Leaving Germany & Bonding as a Family

    I'm typing this as I sit on the couch in a one room flat in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany. It's the night before my little family embarks on a road trip to England. Finally, this isn't just a visit. This is us moving there — moving to my husband's homeland, my daughter's other citizenship, and the country that has enamoured my heart for as long as I can remember. 

    It feels surreal to know I'm going to enter the UK from the ferry trip across the English channel and have no time limitations on how long I stay. It feels surreal looking down at my face and name on a German residence card and to be entering England no longer as a tourist but as a German resident with "family member of a (European) Union citizen" written on my card — a distinction that gives me the ability to also reside in the UK. 

    My residency in Germany these past 6 months has been a prerequisite to living in England that we chose — a route we felt best suited our journey. We never knew it would take 6 months for a residency card to come through, but sometimes things are different than we expect. 

    I don't know that I can neatly summarize my experience living in Duisburg, Germany and what I'm feeling on the eve of entering my "promised land." It wouldn't fit in a neat little list like I tried in my post at the end of December. It's been far too messy and all over the place for that. 

    I'm also not fully sure of the reasons why things went the way they did here that were opposite to what I desired to happen. We have been living in a lot of waiting, which we understood to an extent in the beginning. But not finding purpose and structure like we had in mind when we decided to come here made the waiting harder. We utterly underestimated the way adjusting to a new culture would make finding the things we'd always found easy and natural (like building community and feeling connected and being fruitful, productive parts of that community) become such struggles.

    At the same time, we weren't forgotten or overlooked. Our life and the people in it just became really concentrated — something we've never experienced since we've always lived with an abundance of people around us. I never knew how language and cultural barriers could make such a difference. I am so grateful for how God weaved a few families into our lives, though. They know who they are, and what they have meant to me. 

    The most beautiful thing that I have come to understand from this time is the rare opportunity my husband, daughter, and I have had to bond. David and I both saw up close and personal how our little girl grew in these months. It was the 3 of us almost all the time doing everything together. I can now see that this season was a gift to us as a family — a place to cultivate a strength as a father, mother, and daughter. I'm excited to see the result of this bond play out for us in our future. 

    Though it feels like there is so much more to unpack from this part of my life — how it stretched me as person so much further out of comfort zones I didn't even know I had — perhaps these things will come up more clearly in the days to come. Perhaps there will be moments like, "Oh that's what that was for."

    Until then and to end this post, I'd like to share some lyrics that catch the spirit of what I'm feeling in this moment. Two songs from the latest Future of Forestry album seem to nail the end of this season and begininning of the next one so beautifully:

    THE WAIT IS DONE
    Eric Owyoung (ASCAP Real Boy Music 2016)

    From the gorge to the highlands
    How this trip’s been a long time coming

    In conversations past the burning sun was setting
    Behind the golden skies the stars did shine

    In debts resolved your pain is gone
    So long in waiting
    The wait is done

    In still of night, lights aglow
    The heavens open
    The wait is done

    ON GIANTS SHOULDERS
    Eric Owyoung (ASCAP Real Boy Music 2016)

    Come to the water at the riverside
    Quenched from the desert that you came from

    Kings of the earth came with their vanity
    Came placing their wagers on their mortal ventures

    Your heart has brought you to this land
    You’re standing on a giants’ shoulders
    Your heart has brought you to this land

    Where your love is strong and bolder
    Your heart has brought you to this land

    The beauty of a heart for others
    The day that you arrived

    You knew that you could ride
    On Giants’ shoulders

    Ancient pathways stretch from shore to sky
    And fathers look deeply into their children’s eyes

    Your heart has brought you to this land
    You’re standing on a giants’ shoulders
    Your heart has brought you to this land

    Where your love is strong and bolder
    Your heart has brought you to this land

    The beauty of a heart for others
    The day that you arrived

    You knew that you could ride
    Oh...On Giants’ shoulders

  • 8 Things About Life in Germany So Far

    Without a doubt the biggest change in my life this year was leaving the U.S. I'd moved away before, but that was for only 6 months. This time I literally left everything behind to begin a new life in the UK that would begin with some time living in Germany first. 2016: the year I became an expat. (And not actually because Trump won!) Before the year closes, I thought I might write a bit about how living in Germany is going. I didn't have any real idea what to expect here. But here's how it's different than I might have imagined and what I'm having to get used to that I could never have planned for. It's not an exhaustive list, so maybe I'll write more another time. 

    1. This place is weird, but I like it. 

    Never in my life have I specifically desired to visit (much less live in) Germany. Growing up, I'd heard that my maiden name was apparently German, but it's not like I felt any affinity to the country. When we started talking about how we could move to England quicker and easier by moving to another EU country first, Germany made sense as David, on the other hand, has always had a thing for this country. One day last year when Talitha was still using pacifiers, I looked down to see the words 'made in Germany' on a NUK pacifier she had. Something clicked for me that day. A tiny whisper saying "yes." In February, we were watching some clips on GOD TV of worship at a conference or something being held in Germany. Another slightly louder whisper of confirmation rushed over me and deep into my spirit as I sang along with the worship set in my living room in North Carolina, Talitha not even scooting around yet laying on a blanket in the floor in front of me. As the months passed and we bought our plane tickets and the time drew closer for our departure, I had this feeling being here in Germany was going to be more than just a "waiting room" for England. The first night we were here, exhausted from traveling from California, I went to sleep with such expectation in my heart. As I closed my eyes, I immediately began to feel something I can only describe as "fireworks" going off in my spirit — that is exactly the image I saw in my mind's eye. I've carried that with me in my heart through out this time so far. Most of the time, I have no idea what my wider purpose here is in this community and city. (But I remembered recently that to love people around me is always my "wider purpose" anywhere I am.) Often, I find myself incredibly eager to be in England instead. To be honest, Germans as a people (but definitely not the church community we've met here) can be rather cold. The culture isn't naturally lively, warm, and open — you have to look harder for those moments. (Although Christmas here was beautiful and special and brought so much more festivity.) Duisburg isn't actually very pretty in the sense of fairytale villages you might conjure up in your mind when thinking of Germany. There isn't a charming 'olde towne' here. It is city life complete with grafitti everywhere and often trash littering the road. We also came at the tale-end of Autumn (which was lovely), but generally anywhere the seasons of Fall and Winter tend to be a bit more isolating. So I hold onto to those fireworks I felt in the beginning and actively choose to look for the places I can set them off for myself. 

    2. Language is everything. 

    I think God must have shielded my heart from anxiety over the language barrier in our preparations for coming here, because I didn't realize how crazy it would be. Visiting foreign countries is one thing — you only deal with that change of language for a short amount of time. But living in a place day in and day out where everything is written in a language you don't undertstand and that you've never studied and have absolutely no grid for is utterly exhausting. I often find myself very tired (more than just mom-fatigue and beyond adjusting to jet lag and the time zone) and I don't understand why, because I'm not physically tired out by working at a job or running around doing a ton of stuff. But I've realized that my brain is naturally constantly trying to translate everything and make sense of the world around me. I think it must be a bit like how Talitha's little baby brain does that. Now that we've been here for 2 1/2 months, German doesn't seem as foreign as it did before. The actual sounds I hear feel more like a language now instead of just harsh consonants and vowels. I'm starting to sense the rhythm of the language, and I've picked up some vocabulary here and there, which seems to thoroughly delight and impress David. He's been very encouraging about it, and I'm constantly amazed at how he's able to function. Naturally, his German has already improved using it so much. I have to depend on him in a way I never have before. He is my constant translator and often has to be my voice. But it's been hard feeling like I don't have a voice of my own sometimes. Once, in the parking lot of a supermarket, a couple were coming back to their car parked next to us. David was still in the store, and I had come back out to the car with a fussy Talitha. I was standing with the back side door open letting her play in the back seat. When I saw the woman was about to get in the passenger side of the car, I picked Talitha up to go back in to rejoin David inside. When I did, our car door brushed theirs, but it was very light, so I carried on inside hoping nothing was the matter, because I obviously didn't have the words to say "Oh, excuse me, I might have hit your car. I hope it's okay" and be a normal, decent human being. A few seconds later, I could hear the voice of the man calling out to me. I didn't know what he was saying, but I knew it was directed towards me. With a blank stare on my face, my heart sunk a little. Thankfully, David was just coming out. "I think I might have hit their car with the door," I said. David chatted with the guy, who wasn't terribly mean or anything, just concerned about his work vehicle, and David gave him our info. Because I was so stunned by the experience and embarassed by what I'm sure they might have thought was awkward behavior from me at first i.e. seemingly dismissive since I was just silent, I felt so frustrated that I couldn't be myself or respond the way I would normally react in a situation like that. I couldn't relay to them that I was sorry or that I wasn't trying to ignore them. They realized I didn't speak German obviously once David was there, and they called back later in the day to say the tiny mark was so insignificant that there wasn't anything to worry about, but the feeling I had in that situation — the feeling of being invisible — was the worst. Needless to say, I have a new empathy for people who don't speak the language of the country they're in and haven't learned it yet. 

    3. DM is everyone's favorite. 

    DM (short for drogerie markt meaning 'drug store') is the equivalent to CVS or Walgreens in the US or Boots or Superdrug in the UK. Since Germany doesn't have anything quite like Walmart or Target (where you can get, like, everything at one place), I don't know, I feel like DM is sort of the German Target without the clothes (although they do have an adorable babies and toddlers section complete with play area and changing table) and electronics and food and furniture. It's basically where the cool people get their shampoo. It's that place that's become familiar now, and when I go in, I feel a little 'ahhh' in my heart, much like I imagine the Germans are feeling when they pop in there. If this tells you anything, my friend got me a gift card to DM for Christmas, and it was rad. 

    4. Rewe's €2.50 Kebab is our new comfort food. 

    There's a grocery store here called Rewe (pronounced Reh-vah) about a mile from our apartment, and they have a grill in the back where you can buy hot food like bratwurst, frikadellen, and doner kebabs. Their kebabs are so cheap yet quality and filling, we find ourselves stopping by a couple times a week. It's a habit we don't want to break. I admit, I can be a fast food junkie, but in a city of over 500,000 that only has ONE drive-thru fast food place (McDonald's), my American fast food habit isn't possible. I realize that's a good thing, but I won't pretend that finding the cheap kebabs didn't feel like an absolute godsend. Thanks, God. He knows your needs, friends. ;)

    5. I Miss Goldfish. 

    Who knew Pepperidge Farm Goldfish snacks would be so dearly missed? It's just that Talitha loved them back home (what kid doesn't?) and snacks are basically a lifeline for any mama of a young child. Kid acting antsy getting into the car seat? Stuff food in kid's mouth. Kid is bored but you're out in public. Stuff food in kid's mouth. Kid is having a meltdown over the toy they can't have/you won't buy for them. Stuff food in kid's mouth. Even though there are other things I've found for her to munch on in those life or death situations — bread rolls and pretzels FTW, and I promise I give her fruit, too — I miss the way her little face would light up when a handful of goldfish were placed in front of her. 

    6. Being connected to people is life. 

    We've become pretty good at making new friends (and moving away from them!). But even though we're not staying here for long, it's vital to find people who are like-minded and open. I'm so thankful for a few sweet people who have opened their hearts to us for a while — and for English speakers! It's still tempting to isolate ourselves, but the challenge of doing life with others is far more rewarding. 

    7. I've never been so grateful for a car. 

    We've lived without one before both in England in 2013 and most of our time in Redding, CA, but not having a car with a kid is far more difficult. It was only a little over a month we didn't have one, but that's definitely not something I'm going to volunteer for in the future. It's still not quite as good as it could be since we bought a manual engine, and I can only drive an automatic, so it's not like I can hop in the car by myself or anything. Basically, this time here is definitely bringing my lack of skills to the surface! But I can either let them be or do something about them. The language thing isn't as easy, but driving a manual is something for the 2017 resolution list for sure! 

    8. My kid is amazing. 

    Talitha — she's seriously the best. Yes, she has moments where she's crying because she can't have something, and she's getting harder to take shopping since she's always wanting to move and go and play and pick up everything. (When did I get a toddler?!) Also, going to sleep at night lately has become a drawn out exercise in increasing mommy and daddy's patience levels. She weaned herself from nursing to sleep, but she wants extra (and extra and extra) cuddles before finally falling off to sleep. But to put it all in perspective, to know she's also had to leave everthing (and everyone) she knew behind, and to see her do it while still keeping such an open heart to everything, smiling and playing as if nothing were different, it makes me smile. I know she's a baby, and their adaptability is off the charts, but there are so many other ways this could have gone, right? It's like seeing her happy and well lets me know that we haven't screwed up massively. I just mean that from a parent's perspective, it seems that if your child is struggling, you sort of know that something is wrong and things need to change, that it's your responsibility (and honor) to make things better for them. What I guess I'm saying is that Talitha has made it easy for us to follow our hearts so far, and it's the combination of God's grace and her awesome personality, I think. One day when she's older, I can't wait to thank her for being a pretty chill baby and send her on adventures of her own.