Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Graeme's Birth Story

I so wanted to have this put down in writing, but I didn't want to actually do it.  How's that for not making sense? lol  But my need to document things outweighed my laziness, so here it is (drumroll, please): Graeme Paul's Birth Story

My seventh pregnancy was incredibly easy and blissful.  It was problem and nearly-symptom free, despite being Advanced Maternal Age.  Until the last three weeks.  It was still problem free, from a medical perspective, but I totally lost it.  I think that Elle's early birth at 38 weeks made me erroneously assume that this little guy would also arrive before his due date.  That mindset made the days, as I hit and passed 38 weeks, then 39 weeks, and then my due date, feel interminably long.  Even though I knew in my head that it wouldn't last forever and it would seem like no big deal after he finally arrived, whenever that would be, my emotions got the best of me.  I was so miserable, and on top of that, I felt guilty for feeling miserable because baby and I were healthy.  I just wanted to go into hiding as October 2nd (my EDD) came and went.  My OB did not want me to go past 41 weeks, and, after a lot of back and forth, at 40 weeks 4 days, I did something I had promised myself I would never do again.  I was so desperate that I decided to try the Castor Oil (dun, dun, duuun).  I had used it before with Ian, and it had (maybe, obviously you can never be 100% sure) worked.  There were definitely unpleasant side effects, but I went into labor a few hours after I took it.  So, I threw my better judgement to the wind, but somewhat cautiously, only opting for a small dose at about 10am on Tuesday, October 6th, hoping that at least it'd make me dilate or efface a bit more for my 2:00 OB appointment.  After swigging down 1 ounce of castor oil mixed with orange juice, I waited.  And was met with crickets.  It didn't really do anything.  I gave up, frustrated, and consigned myself to making my first "overdue" OB appointment.  Pretty quickly after climbing into bed for my afternoon nap around 12:30 I started feeling sick to my stomach.  Ah, the dreaded castor oil had finally worked its evil magic.  I visited the restroom several times and feared for the drive down to my OB's office (would I be able to make it without pit stops?).  James arrived to pick me up at about 1:00 and off we went, with a planned stop necessary for James to do some work on the way to my appointment, we headed off around 1:15 or so.  About ten minutes into our drive, a contraction hit.  Now, I'd been having contractions for weeks, sometimes even rhythmical for a while, so I didn't put too much stock in it.  Plus it was short, only about 30 seconds, tops.  About 3 to 4 minutes later, another contraction hit, slightly stronger.  And so it continued, extremely patterned, and progressively stronger, for the next 15 minutes or so.  He stopped at his work stop and those minutes he was inside their office felt like forever.  At that point, it was time to turn around and lean over the truck seat.  When James came back out and saw that I had assumed the "position", he made a call to my OB's office, who instructed us to skip the appointment and go straight to Labor and Delivery.  Then he made a second call to my doula, who would meet us at the hospital.  The 15 minute drive to the hospital took forever.  The pains were already very intense, but I remember thinking that it probably looked funny to everyone driving down State Street to see the woman kneeling on the front seat and moaning (did we hit every possible stoplight?  it felt like it).  At about 2:00, we finally arrived in the hospital and the walk from the parking garage into the hospital and through the main lobby and up to the second floor was hard - I hate not being in control and I wasn't completely in control at that point and I was crying because of the pain (and I had to use the restroom again).  We were immediately admitted into a triage room and they checked me and I was 5cm dilated and 100% effaced - definitely in labor.  And, at that point, the pain subsided a bit, and I worried that I would have to have some augmentation.  But no worries, after a 30 minute stay in the triage area, I was led to my room, and labor shifted into high gear quickly.  I was required to have a heplock, as a VBAC patient, and my veins are tricky.  Which meant that it took three different nurses about 6 attempts in multiple places on both arms another 30 minutes, while I'm in very active labor, to try and get the IV in.  After blowing up some veins and leaving me with some spectacular bruises, success!, although it had to be placed on top of my hand, unfortunately.  I was handling labor well at this point, standing up, with the support of James and my doula.  But my legs were trembling and felt very tired, so we had to move to some different positions.  This proved to be my undoing.  I just could not get comfortable.  I tried the birth ball, the toilet, kneeling - none of it provided any relief.  The worst of it was the intense need to pee - it must have been how he was positioned, but I felt like I continually had to go to the bathroom (nothing there, though), but I knew it wasn't the rectal pressure of full dilatation.  And my L&D nurse did a quick exam in one of those positions and, after an hour of hard, regular contractions, the news that I hadn't dilated anymore was positively crushing to my desire to do things unmedicated.  At this point, I asked for the epidural.  My doula suggested that now might be the time to consider the nitrous oxide.  I readily agreed.  It helped a bit, for the in between contraction part, but did nothing for the pain of the contractions.  I asked for the epidural again, but the epidural requires that you be given two bags of IV fluids before administration.  Upon my loudly-expressed desire, they started the fluids, but everyone in the room (even me, although I just needed reassurance that they were at least TRYING to get me the epidural) knew that I was going to deliver before an epidural could happen.  I tried to block that knowledge out and finally climbed into bed with the peanut ball in between my legs and held onto that nitrous mask as if it was my lifeline.  In fact, post-delivery, the bridge of my nose was super sore and it took me a while to figure out that that was from pushing the nitrous mask so hard into my face.  The time from that point out is a complete and total blur - it could have been minutes, or it could have been hours.  I felt completely out of my mind.  I just hovered as far away as I could from the events that were transpiring as a way to cope with the trauma of the intense pain.  I vaguely remember my OB coming in, but not much else.  I was finally instructed that I need to move from my side to my back (a Herculean effort, if ever I've experienced one) to start pushing.  Now, here finally was what I was waiting for - the desire to feel the urge to push, which I'd never experience before.  And, it was nothing like I expected it to be.  I felt a desire, alright, but more a desire to just escape the pressure that had engulfed my entire nether regions.  Pushing didn't bring me relief, per se, I just did what I was told to do, hoping that they were right.  It took a long time - I found out after the fact that his head was huge (98% percentile), but then he was also broad-shouldered, and so he didn't slide out easily, and I had to work hard to pass both areas, but he arrived at 5:26 pm, about three and a half hours after I checked into L&D.  The doctor laid him on my stomach and I remember feeling slightly disgruntled about that, which was definitely a first for me.  The pain (without an epidural, pushing out the placenta was unpleasant, I found) had left me shell shocked and traumatized, and all I wanted was to be able to feel like myself again.  I didn't experience the euphoria or empowerment I'd heard you're "supposed" to experience after natural birth and I didn't feel the immediate bond and love that I'd had with my other kids - my brain remained in its numb state for a good thirty minutes after delivery.  The kids came in pretty quickly to meet their little brother, and everything was still a bit fuzzy for me.  We even forgot to take family pictures, which is something I've done every time.  Everyone except Graeme and I left to go have dinner and then the baby care nurses came in and did his assessment.  I enjoyed the peace and quiet at that moment and was finally starting to feel more like myself.  He weighed in at a (for me) whopping 8lbs8oz (my previous largest baby was a 42 weeker at 7lbs11oz) and was 20 inches long.

In reflection, I feel almost as shocked by my first natural (the hospital staff considered nitrous usage to be still classified as a "natural" birth, I'm sure others disagree, but whatever you want to classify it as, it was definitely a non-epidural birth) birth as I did by my unexpected c-section with my first.  It was a wildly different experience than I'd dreamed it to be, and from what I heard nearly every other woman describe it as.  I felt traumatized by it, mentally foggy, and not entirely present.  My brain handled the pain by withdrawing from the situation and that lasted clear through the actually delivery part, which I didn't expect.  People usually cite wanting to be fully present as a reason for seeking a natural childbirth, and the irony of this birth was that I actually felt LESS present than in any of my other previous births.  I entered into this animal-like state of existence, and wasn't fully cognizant of what was going on around me.  I feel a bit like a non-participant in Graeme's birth.  Clearly, I'm going to have to work through some stuff, and my feelings of trauma have lessened already as two weeks have gone by.  I absolutely adore my little boy now (way more than I have with previous newborns), but I feel like an anomaly - a woman that desperately wanted, but ended up hating natural childbirth.  In fact, it kind of makes me feel guilty typing that out!  But, the take away, as always, is that I've learned more about the world and more about myself.  And my precious son is worth it.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

How Different Things Can Be In A Year!

The small pile I pulled out (not all of it, I tried to spread out the enjoyment over a few days)

My dining room with sparkly pumpkins, gourds, and indian corn

A few autumn touches for the top of the piano

This finally replaced the Easter cross that hung on my door all summer, oops

So much changes in a year!  One year ago we came home to a broken icemaker in our refrigerator that leaked while we were in Wisconsin for a two week vacation.  Our kitchen tile was wet, and we knew that wasn't a good thing, although honestly it didn't seem that major.  We contacted our insurance company and they suggested we get a bid from a clean up company and we found out that our relatively little problem was not going to be so little and that we would need to make an insurance claim.  We'd never done that before, but honestly that process wasn't too bad.  The bad part was living through it.  In fact, it's standard protocol on the part of insurance companies to put you up in a hotel throughout the drying process (which took, for us, 3 weeks) because due to the 24 hour a day industrial fan noise is considered unlivable.  Of course, that is not really doable for a family of eight, newly into school mode.  So, we lived right in the midst of the clean up, and then the reconstruction for about two months.  It. was. terrible.  I always knew that everything would be fine once we got through it, but it was a trying time.  And now, here we are, one year later, and indeed it IS fine.  My kitchen is restored (we found out about a more serious building issue underneath the house where a very important support beam was out of place and should have never passed inspection and was slowly sinking, so they had to jack our house up and put in a new support beam - so our house is now BETTER than new).  I have new carpeting in the music room, we painted the entire downstairs (which had mostly been the same plain jane white from when we moved in), and we converted nearly the entire downstairs into beautiful dark hardwood, from the nasty old dark brown carpet and white/green vinyl that was there.  I remember being so sad about not being able to put out any fall decorations last year - it just felt so silly in a house that was such a disaster and I didn't have the heart for it.  So, this year, I broke into my Fall storage bins on September 1st, with much pleasure.  There's so much beauty to be found in the change of seasons, everyone of them, but this one is extra appreciated this year.

Kitchen and four of the eight dryers/dehumidifiers we lived with for three weeks

Music Room/Entry Way and more dryers (one was under the house in the crawl space too)

The kitchen/dining room during renovation

Looking into the living room during renovation (our dining room table was in the living room)

The music room - where I had to teach while this was all going on


Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Psalm of Promise and Rest

I have a heart for injustice and mercy.  It took me years to stop railing against God for what I DIDN'T have (my personal stumbling block has always been envy) and realize that that intrinsic awareness of others that I've always possessed in abundant measure could be turned to the good, by the grace of God and His work in my jealous heart.  But no journey of growth will ever be complete on this side of heaven, so it was a delight, then, to have Psalm 73 pop up in our daily bible reading this morning.  What comfort for those of us who absolutely ache for the misery and oppression that fellow human beings endure at the hands of those who appear to be more privileged!  What promise and rest comes in the arms of the Mighty God alone, praise Yahweh.    

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”
This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.
If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.
When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Things I Love About Summer

This post should be easy - I mean the conventional wisdom is that summer is awesome, right?  But I've never been too much of a summer girl myself, so this takes some work for me.  But positive thinking is a good exercise, so I'm bound and determined to find 10 things I like about summer (not in any particular order).

#1. Green Tea Frappuccinos - Generally I'm a latte or macchiato girl, but on a hot summer day that simply won't do and I'm not much of an iced coffee fan, so Green Tea Fraps (no whip) it is for me.  I think the odd color is half the fun.

#2. Sandals and Flip Flops - This pertains to me AND to the rest of the family.  They take up less space (when you have eight people and multiple pairs of shoes, this becomes important) and they are easier to put on, both as an adult AND for the littles.  And nothing says comfort like naked and free toes. :)

#3. Swimming - I think it's the cheapest, easiest entertainment out there (especially for us who have the luxury of nearby family with a pool).  And it's super healthy for you too.  I haven't been in the pool this summer as much as I probably should be, but it is amazing how good it feels on a pregnant body as well (or should I say, how heavy and burdened you realize you are when you climb OUT of the pool).

#4.  Camping - Okay, okay, I have a love-hate relationship with camping.  It's SOOOO much work and sleeping is just never very comfortable, even on the best of nights.  And the epic clean up/laundering when you get home is rough too.  But there's just something so family-bonding-ish about the whole thing that keeps me looking forward to our once or twice a year trips every winter.  And, let's face it, nature, while it scares me a tad bit, is just awesome, isn't it?

#5. Easier Mornings - This isn't universal, we often have early mornings for skating, swim team, and various appointments, but in general it's less hectic as there are at least only one or two kids that need to be ready early versus the entire crew.

#6.  Grilling - I love the grill.  We don't use it as much as we should, but grill cooking in the summer is the best.  Especially veggies.  Who knew zucchini could be so delicious?

#7.  Laundry - There's less of it in the summer, I think because each individual piece has less fabric in the summer, and because, let's face it, there will be days (not often, I promise) when the kids don't make it out of their PJs.

#8.  Long Nights - The lazy, sunshiney nights are some of the best times of the year.  In the early and late summer, they are perfect for sitting out on the patio.  And the sunsets, oh the sunsets.  Amazing, and certainly reflective of God's majesty.

#9.  Green - Okay, Idaho doesn't compare to the Midwest here, but hey, I'll take what I can get.  I love to see things at least a *leeetle* bit green.  Now, by late August, green is very relative lol.  Speaking of green, my oddly happy hydrangea bush brings me great joy too!

#10.  The Family Unit - While I love the school year and have never had a second thought that traditional schooling is exactly what's right for our family, there's a sweet togetherness that happens during the summer.  The younger kids and older kids spend more time together, bonding as a unit.  It's neat.  I think perhaps the brevity of it helps keep it sweet too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

C'est la vie!

Life gets in the way of things like blogging sometimes, doesn't it?  Oh well, the only reset that's too late is the one that never happens!  So here I am again.  I won't make any fantastic promises, and I'm not planning on trying to catch up.  I'm just going to let my blog be what it will be.  The end and amen.

Summer is coming to a close quickly.  We've spent the week thus far doing doctors and dentists appointments, cleaning up from our camping trip, and starting back-to-school shopping (I always have grandiose plans to get this done ahead of time, but inevitably I wait til the week before - I think I'm in denial prior to that).  I'm excited for Fall: cooler temperatures, football season, all my favorite scents, colors, and flavors, a more structured family life in terms of school being back in session, and, for the first time in all my 16 years of child-bearing, a brand new Fall baby (something I've always wanted but have never had!).  Bring it on, I say!

A pretty sky view from our front yard

33 weeks and holding

Camping fun at Badger Creek

My biggest girls

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Moms' Night Out

James has been sick for over a week now, so I decided it would be the perfect time to rent a movie that he would have no qualms about falling asleep during - so, after seeing rave reviews online, I decided to go for Moms' Night Out.  Some things were funny, and it was nice to be able to have a movie on that I had absolutely no problem with my children wandering in and out of.  I enjoyed the speech by the character named Bones (played by Trace Adkins) that spoke about the beauty of motherhood is simply in the being.  Not the doing.  Not the end result.  Just in being a mother, a role that God has (if you have a child) uniquely fitted for you.  But, in a lot of other ways, the movie was little more than a sanitized version of Hollywood cliche: the wife and mother who's grubbed up in sweatpants and tee shirts with artfully messy hair (but still, let's not kid ourselves, is drop dead gorgeous and, once you slap some makeup and heels on her, is swoon-worthy), the picture-perfect, Pottery Barn suburban house, the clueless but tender-hearted gentle husband, the children who are cutesy naughty but not bad-bad, the crazy, fun friends that are always there for you, and so on.  I wish there were more movies out there that broke the mold.  I'd love to see a plain woman be a heroine (just as I'd love to see a non-attractive Jesus portrayal).  But even Christian filmmaking has bought into the idea that in order for a woman to be likable, she must be physically beautiful or cute.  Undoubtedly beauty, financial security, a good spouse, and a network of friends don't make one immune to self-doubt and problems. Full disclosure here: I possess my share of neuroses which make me sensitive to things that probably don't bother others - I'm plain and no amount of makeup or pretty clothes will cover up my unpleasingly plump figure, and I just plain old don't have any real-time friends to confide in and let my hair down with, and my kids aren't little anymore, so the problems I'm dealing with as a Mom make messy houses seem quaint.   But, for me, it's a little like watching a Christian version of The Real Housewives - less guilty pleasure, but leaves you hungering for something a little more authentic.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

52 Week Home Organization Challenge - Week 1

I like to think of myself as a fairly organized person, but I have my "trap" spaces, as does anyone (I hope!) who's lived in one place for a lengthy time.  And, there's something more fun anyways about being challenged to do something, so I signed up for a full year home organization challenge that popped onto my Facebook feed (it's not too late to join if you are interested).  This week's spot to tackle was kitchen counters.  I really thought this would be easy-peasy.  I don't have lots of stuff on my counter, right?  I was wrong!  The whole process took about two hours, and only a small portion of that was cleaning - most was trying to figure out how to reconfigure things and how much I could put away without impacting functionality.  I love the new look - it wasn't a huge change, but it just feels fresher and lighter, which is the direction I'm heading towards throughout my house in general..

It shocked me to remove everything from my counters to the dining room table - all in one spot it's way too much!

Ah, much better - it now highlights my favorite pieces, like my German stainless and glass breadbox and an antique crock that belonged to my mom

And now my KitchenAid is on the opposite side of my sink, which gives me more baking space to work with, which is intuitive, but I've missed all these years

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

For the Beauty of the Earth

I don't know about you, but, while I enjoy winter more than most, part of the reason I'm able to do it is because it lends me new appreciation for the splendor of spring, summer, and fall.  I enjoyed looking back on these October photos of a rare family trip to McCall.  It was so worth getting away, even for a simple overnighter (it was a part of a skating competition, lest anyone think it was too simple - the Fife family doesn't do simple LOL).  

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Halloween 2014

Halloween is one of those holidays I'm lukewarm about (sort of like Easter - not the biblical aspect of it, but the secular side).  For my family, we keep it light and positive.  We focus on the harvest and community aspects of it.  But I can say that unequivocally that I love the dressing up portion of it!  It's so fun to get to be a different "version" of yourself for one night of the year.  This was Allegra's last year trick-or-treating.  Next year she will join Hero as a candy-hander-outer (yes, that's a real word in my dictionary).  Allegra wore her Harry Potter robes from her trip to Florida in the summer with Nana, Hero, and Oriana.  Ian was Link from Zelda, Colin was a Skylander (the costume was a bit small - that's what I get for waiting until the week of Halloween to get a costume - have I mentioned that I LOATHE spending money on non-historical costumes?), Cecily was Belle (in a fabulous costume that was purchased at Disneyland for Allegra back in 2004, and will go into my bin of costumes I will save for my future grandkids), and Elle was Snow White (an old Disney Store costume from when Hero and Allegra were little).  The night was balmy and the mood was fun.  It really was what I want Halloween to be: lowkey, happy, family-oriented.

The Awkwardness of a Reboot

It's funny - it's my personal blog, so I can do whatever I want with it, yet I'm not quite sure what it will be this year.  Is it a family blog to keep people updated or preserve memories for the future?  Is it a journalling blog, where I ramble and meander from topic to topic, wherever the wind blows?  Is it a testimony blog?  A homemaking/marriage/parenting blog?  Meh, I don't know.  I'm having an identity crisis.  I think that paralyzed me last year too.  But what I DO know, is that writing is good for me.  I've always said that you can judge my mental health by the state of my house (if it's tidy and neat, that means I'm feeling strong, if it's a disaster, that means something's wrong), and that's true to an extent about writing.  If I'm writing regularly, it means that I'm making time for myself (not in that New-Agey, Oprahesque "me, me, me" way, but in a forcing myself to be contemplative and reflective).  So, I'm going to worry less about content and output, and focus more on the process.  This blog will be eclectic.  Somedays it'll be family-oriented, somedays it might be about organization or parenting.  I'm sure I'll share a recipe or two.  Hopefully I'll talk lots about where I'm at in my reading.  I want to make sure I discuss whatever spiritual insights have caught me for the week.  At the end of the day, though, what's most important is that I just sit down and DO it.  I'm not going to use the "I" word (can you guess it?), because it's all over blogs during this time of year and it's just too precious for me.  But I am going to use the word Responsible.  I'm in control of ME, within the confines of my human world.  So, if I say I'm going to write more, than, with the help of God, I'm going to do just that.  Are you getting the sense that this is about more than just this little blog?  Right you are.  I don't want to be grandiose and egocentric with all this predictable talk about resolutions and the like.  But, certainly the novelty of a new calendar leads one to be reflective and think about the big stuff in life.  Responsibility is going to be a big theme for me from here on out.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome 2015

2014 was a year of transition in our home.  It was more of the "negative" transitions, though, tearing down old methods, bad habits, preconceived notions, and prejudices.  It wasn't always pretty work, but it had to be done.  2015 is going to be our year of rebuilding - rebuilding our marriage, our family, our security, and our future, and our dreams.  The foundation is the easiest.  That is Christ, always and forever.  This wall quote features prominently in our dining room, and I strive to notice it multiple times a day.  Because my strength, and even James' strength, is not enough for the task ahead.  Only through the grace of the Almighty, given wondrously and freely, will we be able to be all that He intends for us to be as individuals, as a couple, and as parents.  Onward to 2015, and with all gratitude and appreciation to our God and King.