Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ellie's Birth Story

Our tuk-tuk rumbled through the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand, pulling to a stop in front of our guesthouse.  I heaved myself out of the back seat.  I paused to inhale the scent of the flowering vines basking in the moonlight.  Slowly, I willed myself up each wooden step to our bungalow on stilts.  I didn’t know how much longer I could stand it.

Every day for weeks, we’d been waiting, hoping, longing for the big day.  At eight days past her due date, having tried every labor-inducing trick in the book, I didn’t know how much wait I had left in me.  My arms ached to hold my baby girl.  We were returning from our appointment that night where the doctor told us, “I think it will be soon.”  I could hardly muster up any more hope.

I awoke at 4 a.m., with the now familiar twinges of pain.  Having never done this before, I didn’t know if I could call them contractions or not.  But on this night, finally, blessedly, these twinges kept coming.  That’s when hope flamed alive and my heart knew this was it.  I told Aaron, “We’re going to have a baby today!”  “Are you sure?” he asked, hesitant to believe that all the waiting had come to an end.  “Yep, I’m sure” I replied.

There was no panic, all the questions and fears that had surrounded me for the last nine months quieted.  In their place was an overwhelming, peaceful readiness to do this, to cross the threshold into motherhood.

With contractions still six minutes apart, we decided to distract ourselves with a game of monopoly on the computer.  The florescent light buzzed above us, the wooden plank walls echoing the sounds of geckos outside.  After a while, I rolled the birthing ball into the shower, where I let the water run soothing trails down my back as I envisioned the moments to come.

Then I knocked next door to let my mom know it would soon be time to go to the hospital.  Seeing the big smile on my face, she didn’t know whether to believe me.  It was too early for taxis to be out, so we called the British manager of our guesthouse, who was just getting ready to take his kids to school.  He said that this would be an ok excuse for them to be late for school.

So Aaron and I, my mom and her step-sister, the manager and his two kids all piled into their car.  Our huge birthing ball was in the front seat, nearly blocking half of the driver’s view. The two kids sat in the back giggling. The older one said to his sister in his crisp British accent, “This is not a laughing matter!” They quieted down and we drove through Chiang Mai. I watched the Thai streets come life in the morning light, knowing I would forever remember this ride.  I breathed deep and full, the strength of the contractions rising.  We arrived at the hospital around 7:30am.

At the hospital entrance, the little Thai doorman helped us in and said, “Good luck!” They wheeled me to the emergency room. A man from the reception area came to me and said, “You have pregnancy?” I looked down at my bulging belly, and thought, “You have got to be kidding me.” But I calmly responded, “Yes, I have pregnancy. I need to go to labor and delivery on the second floor.”

His next question was “You have contractions?”
 “Yes! I need to go to the second floor!”
“What time you have contractions?”

For a moment I thought I was going to have to go climb the stairs myself. Somehow, we finally convinced him to wheel me to the elevator and take us to the second floor.

They checked me in and found that I was already dilated 7-8 cm and 100% effaced. We called our labor coach and told her she’d better come fast. They monitored the contractions and the baby for a short while. I was still feeling pretty good, smiling and posing for pictures.

Our labor coach arrived, and the contractions began to get more intense. I stayed out of the bed most of the time. Sitting on the birthing ball seemed my best position. Aaron was an incredible support. I was amazed at the emotional and physical strength I received from his presence, his touch.

I reached 10cm, and it was time to push. The problem was, just as my contractions should have been at their strongest, they started to get weaker. I kept waiting for that “oh-so-wonderful-urge-to-push” that all the labor books had described. Only it never came.  I tried some pushing, but it was extremely difficult without the urge to push. This went on more than an hour and a half, the Thai nurses humming in unison through every push, my mom there cheering me on.  But little seemed to be happening.  Finally, I heard my labor coach say, “We need to get that baby out.”

It was then that something clicked inside me.  No more waiting for my body to do this.  I realized that I was going to have to make this happen.  Reaching deep down to the strength that says, “I will do this for my child,” I began to push with every fiber of my being. Moments later, at 11:46 a.m., through searing, life-giving pain, my baby girl emerged into the world.

She was bluish grey, and nothing in my entire life had ever mattered as much as knowing right then in that moment, if my baby was ok.  They placed her slippery warm body on my chest.  I was holding my daughter!

With a bit of oxygen and suction she pinked up quickly.  She lay quiet, her bright eyes taking in the world for the very first time.  Then she tested her lungs with a healthy cry.  She immediately found comfort in nursing.  The act of life-giving continued.  I grasped her close, pressing these first moments forever in my heart.

It wasn’t until later, when the nurse lifted her off my chest, that I saw a sticky brown goo coating me.  I had been so lost in the wonder of her that I never noticed her pooping all over me.
She received a round of “oooh’s” and “aahh’s” when she measured in at 9lb. 9oz., 21.5in,  and a 14cm head. The doctor declared her to be perfect. I lay on the bed while my doctor repaired me, watching over as the doctors and nurses examined her and gave her two shots. It was when the shots went in and she cried out that my own tears began to flow. I knew then that my heart now laid on that little wheeled bed next to me.  Her pain was my pain. All I wanted to do was hold and cherish and protect my little girl.

I snuggled her bundled body close to me and breathed a long exhale.  She had finally arrived. I had experienced the miracle of birth, and now I had the most priceless treasure, a daughter.  The awe overwhelmed me.

Daughter, you have been gifted to us by the God who created you in depths of my womb, and we will never stop thanking Him.  Know that always and forever, no matter what, we love you all the way up to the sun and the moon and the stars.

Happy 5th Birthday, Ellie!  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coming Clean About Our Disney Secret

So we have this little secret.  Something we've been keeping quiet because we feel oddly embarrassed and guilty about it.  I guess I shouldn't say "we."  I feel embarrassed and guilty about it.  My husband is not nearly so concerned with what people might possibly think.  I'm the one telling him not to post the pictures and videos to facebook.

Here's my hang up.  You all know our line of work.  And people in our line of work have this reputation/expectation for, you know, suffering.

So I didn't want everyone knowing.  About Disneyland.  About how we go there ... every week.

There. I said it.

It's true. We do, in fact, as a family go play at Disneyland once a week.

And Disneyland is sort of the opposite of suffering.  It's sort of crazy extravagant.  And when your line of work depends on the generosity of others, you just don't do crazy extravagant things.  Except, perhaps, when God plops something in your lap.

You see, we had been trying to figure out how to tell our children, that, yes, we are living 15 minutes from Disneyland for two whole years, but, sorry, you're not ever going there.

Then some people gifted us with a generous sum of money with specific instructions that it be used for something special and extravagant, not daily and practical.  So we bought Disney's cheapest annual passes and are now able to spend a half-day there about once a week.

And as someone who was not a big Disney fan, nor huge lover of amusement parks, I have to admit that I absolutely adore our Disney time.  Yes, we do realize that it may be completely distorting our children's expectations for life from here on out.  But we've decided to embrace the gift we've been given.  It is our family happy place.  It's our time to be together, to put aside the worries of the week and just enjoy.

Because it's become a part of our routine, the kids don't wig out with the overwhelmingness that is "Disney for the first time."  There's no pressure to fit it all in, because, of course, we'll be back next week.

We spend nearly nothing while we're there, since we pull out our slightly-smashed PBJ's from the bottom of the backpack, along with some apple slices, and call that dinner.  Aaron and I get in our weekly power walking.  My two year old is learning what it is to wait your turn.    My baby is content to sleep and go in the Ergo.  And my daughter, she is learning to grow courageous.  A year and a half ago she was terrified to tears of a carousel, seriously.  Now she rides some of the fastest rides there are, proudly declaring afterwards, "I was soo brave!"

Then there are the parades.  Oh, the parades.  Truly, they are magical.  Ellie and Aiden stand at the curb, bouncing and dancing with glee.  Every single time, at some point in the parade, they wrap their arms around each other in the lovey, dovey spell that the parade casts on them.  Aaron and I stand behind them and exchange that look that parents do when they are delighting in their children's delight.

So there's our secret, we have Disney passes.  Since it is a big part of our life right now, we want to be able to share it.  We thought we'd give some context to the pictures, so people don't misunderstand and think we're livin' large here in So Cal.  There are still the three part-time jobs, the one car, the no cable TV or smart phones, the pennies pinched, all sacrifices that are more than worth it to make a dream real.

But here in the midst of the "doing without" there is this crazy extravagant Disney gift we have, the memories we are making, and the bonding that it brings.

To those givers of this gift, you know who you are. We are ever so grateful.