Friday, December 13, 2013

Midwives, Milk, and a Stable

We’ve gotten some interesting responses to the fact that we had a homebirth almost 3 weeks ago.  I think a lot of people have just been very surprised we would choose that route.  Homebirth accounts for only a small percentage of births in the U.S. although in Europe it is much more commonplace.  Without going into tons of details and citing research that supports the idea that homebirth is a very safe choice for low risk mothers, I will say that our choice was made with much prayer.  I have now had four very low risk, textbook pregnancies and births.  I had a team of highly qualified midwives who have tackled every emergency situation and never lost a mom or baby.  The hospital setting was just not for me and thankfully Ricardo (while initially apprehensive) supported me in that decision.  T. was actually born outside a hospital as well in a local birthing center.  To anyone who has indicated they thought we were nuts, I simply stated that as Christians we seek to follow after Jesus.  Had Jesus been born in his hometown, he surely would have been born at home.  Instead he was born in a stable.  If a stable was good enough for Jesus, our safe, warm, cozy home was good enough for baby I.  ; )

A few days after I. was born I was able to do something very special which elevated my amazing midwives to an even higher state of awesomeness.  A little back story:  Almost 8 years ago when I gave birth to J. I had an incredibly difficult time breastfeeding.   My milk supply suffered after a number of interventions with my birth and complications after it.  I made an appointment with my obstetrician to discuss if there was a prescription I could take (one exists) to help increase my milk supply.  Her response was basically along the lines of this, “Well some women just don’t make enough milk for their babies and they have to accept that.  You are just one of those women”.  I was crushed.  She did end up being wrong and with much perseverance and patience I was able to stop supplementing with formula after a few months.  Still her words crushed my spirit.  For many mothers, the ability to fully nourish their babies is closely connected to their overall wellbeing and feeling of adequacy as a mother. 

When I. was only 5 days old I got a call from one of my midwives that a mother had given birth a few days after me and was unable to breastfeed her baby for a number of reasons.  She was working on getting him to nurse and would be working with a professional lactation consultant, but in the meantime the baby was extremely hungry.  She wanted to know if I could pump some milk for him.  Of course I said yes.  I’ve donated milk in the past to a mother who couldn’t fully nurse her baby.  This particular situation became so near to my heart because of how I was treated when I found myself in the same situation 8 years ago.  Instead of telling this mom that she needed to just resign herself to bottle feeding her baby, my midwife team made another choice, one that to me showed their true understanding of a mother’s fragile emotional state post partum. 

Midwives have always had a reputation of making choices that go against the status quo, but are in the best interest of mothers and babies.  In the bible midwives are held in high regard in Exodus for deceptively telling the king of Egypt they couldn’t carry out his edict to kill every baby boy born to a Hebrew mother because the mothers delivered before they could get there.

“But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” Exodus 1:17

For my midwives to hook up two moms for a modern day wet nurse scenario is completely A-typical, but that’s what makes them so special.  It further confirms my decision to choose them for my prenatal care and birth.  Little did they know they also gave us a connection with another family who have a newborn baby.  We text each other at 3 am to share updates.  They are equally sleep deprived.  We share a pretty cool bond.  I’m so thankful for how I. came into the world.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our Sweet Baby I.'s Homebirth Story!

At 12:45 am on November 24th I woke up to a few contractions.  They felt different than what I had been feeling before.  I began to panic as it was 2 weeks until my due date and I really didn’t feel ready to go through labor.  Ricardo had just gotten back from working straight for 24 hours and hadn’t slept in almost 2 days.  It wasn’t a good time.  Besides that, I had pretty much spent my entire pregnancy not wanting to have to go through labor.  Obviously this was an inevitable end and beginning that I needed to complete at some point, but I wasn’t ready for it to be that night. 

I went to the bathroom and after I peed and wiped the toilet paper was slightly pink tinged. Blood.  Darn this was happening.  I knew this was happening.  I called my midwife telling her I didn’t want to go through it, that I wasn’t ready.  I told her I wanted to go to the hospital and drug myself up and just not have to deal with the pain.   She said, take a bath and maybe they would stop.  I knew she was wrong, but I took her advice.  I got in the shower and had some more contractions there.  When I got out I got dressed and felt a gush and knew my water was leaking.  I called back my midwife and she said she thought she should come over.  My water usually doesn’t break until the very end of labor so having it happen this early on signaled to her that it might be quick.  Our apartment was in a bit of disarray so Ricardo got busy straightening things up for our birth team to arrive.  I continued to have contractions, but they were pretty manageable.

When my midwife arrived I had surrendered to the process and journey ahead.  I had hoped this time I would be able to lean on the two rocks in my life, Jesus and Ricardo.  I hadn’t ever managed to keep my focus on them during labor before, but this time I really did.  Ricardo put on some music for me that really kept me in prayer and I would pray to Jesus during each contraction and in between too.  I thought about how he had endured so much more than I ever would.  I was also hopeful and asked God if we could have the baby before the older kids woke up in the morning.  The assistants arrived shortly.  I alternated laboring on the bed, the exercise ball, and just standing.  One the assistants was a massage therapist so she helped relax my legs in between contractions as they were shaking badly.  This helped so much because spasming legs is not conducive to rest in between contractions.  I went back into the shower and labored there through a few contractions, but it was too hot and I wanted to get out.  Back to my room and the labor ball and then back to the bed.  Through the whole things I just kept praying for God to help me through and leaning on Ricardo for support.  We were totally in sync.  My birth team monitored the baby and was very hands off.  They let me do my thing and followed my lead.

Eventually I started to feel I.’s head much lower and my body began to push.  At my request I was never checked for dilation.  I just wanted to go with the flow.  I pushed for what felt like a really, really long time.  My midwife told me later it was just light pushing for about 20 minutes and then really intense insanely hard pushing for about 20 minutes.  It hurt so much and I badly wanted breaks, but my body was just doing it and so I went with it had pushed with all I had.  Eventually I pushed I.’s head out, but his shoulders got a little bit stuck in the position I was in (on my side) so they flipped me on all fours.  I have never been in so much pain and I was worried he was stuck and wouldn’t come out.  In maybe only a minute more I pushed his shoulders out and the rest of him came.  What sweet relief!  He was born at 6:14 am about 20 minutes before our other 3 woke up and came in to greet their new brother and sing happy birthday!

We immediately noticed he was sort of chunky and sure enough he is the heaviest of all our four kids at 8 lbs 4 oz.  Surprising for being the earliest by far.  We are so in love and blessed to have him here.  Recovery is going well.  He nurses wonderfully.  I couldn’t be more happy that God chose a different plan for our family than the one I had planned for myself.

Monday, November 11, 2013

4 weeks to go! or 3? or 2? or 5?

I have exactly 3 weeks and 6 days until our fourth little human is due to make his appearance.  I was reflecting the last day or two about how much anticipation I always feel in the final weeks of pregnancy.  When I ponder it, it feels quite huge.  On some pre-set date, that only God knows about, our child will arrive into this world, and I have no idea what day that's going to be.  It's exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.  I think to myself, "It could be next week or in three weeks or five" I'm not sure if I like the anticipation of it or not.  The planner side of me certainly does not like it.  But it's a lesson in trusting God.  It will be soon though.  I will meet my fourth sweet little baby face to face.  It's been a long long roller coaster ride of a pregnancy.  But God has brought me a long way.  I'm excited.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

On the Fence

For the last year I've been part of an online community of Christian women.  It's been interesting to discuss different topics and I've learned a lot about where I stand in my own walk with God.  The debates at time can get very intense.  I do enjoy a good debate however and often find myself straddling the fence on whatever topic is being discussed.

Lately I've been pondering my place as a fence straddler.  I don't know what I believe about a lot of things.  To name a few: I see the biblical basis for both believer and infant baptism, predestination vs. free will, remarriage being acceptable vs. never being acceptable.  I have absolutely no certainty over where I stand politically on gay marriage and abortion, although I tend to lean more liberally in the political arena while keeping my bible minded beliefs out of that area.

I feel like there is so much I just don't know and in the past that concerned me.  When the online debates get heated over things like Halloween, modesty, should every believer speak in tongues etc… there is an ever present Catholic voice on the board that points out that we Protestants can never figure out what we believe about anything, are constantly divided, and that leads to bickering and dissension.  She's certainly correct.  She points out that the Catholic Church's solution to this is to have a stance on everything, therefore eliminating the need to wonder about anything.  The leader being infallible and ordained by God cannot make a mistake, therefore Catholic doctrine comes directly from God and solves the problem of what is right, wrong, and what to do about it if you're wrong about something.

It makes nice, neat sense, except for one thing I've been feeling lately:  I just don't feel like God wants us to know and have all the answers.  I don't doubt the answers exist.  But perhaps being uncertain leads us to just trust Him and have faith that one day it WILL all make sense.  If we have all the answers down pat we as human beings have this nasty tendency of becoming self righteous and legalistic, trusting in rules and not God Himself.

With all that said, I could be entirely wrong.  : )   I'm okay with that.  I'm actually very okay with saying I don't know how I feel about a lot of stuff.  I think I have the important stuff down.  Love God, follow Jesus, love people.  Leave everything else in His hands and listen to His voice.  Someday I will see Him face to face and maybe then everything will be perfectly clear.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Apples and Burqas

Ricardo and I have been praying and contemplating a move outside the city.  It's such a tough decision. Maybe not for everyone, but we always said we wanted to raise our kids here.  Now that we have almost 4 of them, we still have that desire, but realities have set in and we are balancing them and trying to weigh our options.  I recently read an article that poked fun at the idea of having more space and a suburban life style.  It touted the tough minded, steadfast individuals who stick it out year after year in their one bedroom apartment with four kids.  I admire the positivity of the writer.  I respect him pointing out that living in a small space is nothing compared to living in Darfur or Syria right now.  He is right.  But... it's still a tough decision.

Yesterday I was reminded of one of the reasons we love it here.  T. and I had gone on our weekly trip to the produce store.  She was sitting in the shopping cart helping me choose apples.  Another patron passed us wearing a Burqa; only her eyes were showing.  T. looked up and smiled, pointing to the lady she said, "Oh look it's Husam's mommy!" referring to a friend of mine.  Seriously where else in this country would my daughter have such a nonchalant reaction to something so foreign and strange to most people?  To her, the lady just reminded her of one of our friends.  The opportunity to know and love and be loved by so many wonderful people from so many places doesn't happen everywhere.  But God has allowed that to happen for us here.

I don't know what's ahead for us, but I hope no matter where we go, my children will grow up around a multitude of different people from different cultures, walks of life, and experiences.  God created this rainbow of people and and I want my kids to live amongst it's beauty.  If we can't have that anywhere else, I don't know if I'll be able to leave.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Dream of Mine is Realized

On September 1, 2001 I moved to New York City to pursue a Masters Degree in Education.  I came here for a top-notch education, not because I particularly wanted to live here.  A few days later I began student teaching at a school on the Upper West Side close to my university.  It had a tough student population and I was in a first grade classroom with little real clue about what it took to be an effective teacher.

About a week later two airplanes flew in the World Trade Center while I was beginning to get my feet wet in the classroom and turned my stable world upside down.  I wanted to leave the city.  I begged my parents to let me come home.  They told me to stay put (a little odd right? considering the circumstances, but they knew well what I needed).  The rest of the semester was a struggle trying to connect with these little humans who talked about people jumping out of buildings like it was no big deal.  The head teacher I worked with had little confidence in me.  She left the classroom regularly when I took over the class and the kids, knowing she was gone, would go nuts.  My supervisor from the university was supposed to visit me eight times and provide me with feedback and support, but she rarely showed up.  At the end of the semester both of them gave me poor reviews.  My supervisor told me I would never cut it as a New York City school teacher. 

Amazingly I didn’t run away.  I took on a new placement in January with a wonderful, caring teacher who restored my confidence.  My new supervisor was top notch and gave me tons of advice and encouragement.  I met my husband for the first time that month and fast-forward 12 years and I am still here to this day!  I did end up “cutting it” in the city schools.  I think I actually faired wonderfully.

I always said one day I wanted to have the chance to be a supervisor to student teachers.  I would be everything like the one I had my second semester and nothing like the one I had first.  I wanted the chance to tell a future teacher that they could be a positive inspiration to a child, that they could speak life into their lives and perhaps even change it’s course.   Better, I believe that in a system that is gritty and hard and cynical, they could bring a smile to someone’s face, help a child know that they had a purpose, and be different than many people around them. 

In March I found out I was going to be a mama for the 4th time, a role I never planned on.  The door I thought I would walk through this fall back into the classroom was closed.  I was discouraged.  But you know what?  God had a different plan for me.  First He needed me to focus more on my role as a wife and mother.  But He is gracious and He knows me and that I would love to have just a little more than just that.  Out of absolutely nowhere I was offered the position I had always wanted to do:  Supervising student teachers, and from a Christian college no less!  So now every Friday for a few hours I hang up my mama hat and head back into the schools and work with future teachers who feel the call on their life to be God’s hand of love extended.  It is rewarding beyond what I had hoped and I am so thankful!   

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Gay Marriage vs. Remarriage Hypocrisy

I've been struggling a lot with the notion that many Christians are hypocrites (myself included).  One particular area I struggle with is the way we as Christians treat homosexuality and gay marriage.  It's not that I disagree with what the bible says about it.  What I struggle with is the hypocrisy in the church to mark that as clearly wrong and sinful, and overlook the sin of remarriage between a man and a woman.  I've been searching scripture lately and I sincerely cannot find one clear verse that seems to permit a person to remarry unless that person's spouse has died.  The only verse that comes close is this one:

 "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9 NASB

I suppose from that verse alone we can conclude that if your spouse cheats on you and you leave them, you are permitted to remarry someone else.  Yet there are other verses that contradict that idea.  Here are a few:

"A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 7:39 NASB

 "And He *said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery." Mark 10:11-12 NASB

So is it okay or isn't it?  I wish it were clearer.  There are far more verses that suggest that it's never okay than suggest that it's okay in the context of adultery being committed.  And what about when there hasn't been adultery and people simply can't make it work and find someone else?  All across the country there are conservative churches that will recognize the remarriage of couples who join their church.  They don't call it an adulterous relationship even though the bible does.  They don't insist that the couple absolve their union.   

I can't figure out the double standard.  The gay marriage will never be recognized, but the remarriage between a man and a woman seems to somehow be grandfathered in as okay.  We say, "They repented of their sin so therefore it is valid", but we don't extend the same courtesy to a gay couple who does the same thing.  

I literally have no answers for my own questions.  But I know I feel like something is remiss.  Why do we allow some things and not others?  Why do we ostracize an entire group of people, yet welcome another?  I just don't know.