Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lilyanna Grace, continued

"So do not fear, for I am with you.
Do not be dismayed for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you, and I will help you.
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

Soon after I started praying specifically for this birth, I was reading my Bible and this verse jumped off the page. I don't remember reading it before (though I've read through Isaiah several times). It seemed as though God was bringing it to my attention for this season specifically. I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope that somehow God was going to give me the birth I desired. 

The sad news is, that for the third time, God said no to my desires. (He said yes in many ways, too!) For the third time I endured things I hope no one ever has to experience, and it's not all about the c-section, either. It was an extremely painful emotional experience. I really have two choices here. Curse the darkness and relive those experiences all over again, or focus on God's goodness. As a child of God, I choose the latter. 

I asked you to pray for peace. Were there moments of fear? Oh yes! But if you looked at my labor and delivery as a whole, I believe you would say that the decisions I made over and over were based on faith and not fear. 

I asked you to pray for protection. God answered mightily. Lilyanna suffered no ill affects from the labor or surgery. She was a nursing champ, like her siblings. The nurses were so impressed on how long she nursed immediately post-op. She has been my cuddle bug all along, and also a great sleeper even in the hospital. As for me, I almost needed a transfusion--but I didn't. I almost lost consciousness during the surgery--but I didn't. Thank you so much for covering me in prayer. 

I asked you to pray for progress. I made it further than I ever have before. I made it to 6 centimeters before I needed to have a c-section. Again, an answer to prayer. This is also the area where God said no. He loves me, and though I don't understand, it was a part of His plan to allow me to experience some things I would have rather avoided. He has never left me, though at times I've felt alone. 

I asked you to pray for my partner--Josiah. He held up great. I'm pretty sure he stayed up all day and night with me, walking with me, rubbing my back, holding my hand. My favorite memory of him during this time was when surgery was imminent and he crawled into bed with me and held my hand and alternately read my labor journal to me or prayed over me. What an amazing gift.

I asked you to pray for the professionals involved. God supernaturally allowed me to develop the best relationships with nurses that I have ever experienced. It took work on my part to see past myself, but I purposefully got to know details about each of their lives and my heart swelled with them as they spoke of husbands and children and upcoming weddings and the like. When I was in the O.R. I had more people helping me than ever before. My midwife was able to accompany me, as well as my doula, and Josiah! All there just to support me. My midwife insisted that as long as baby was healthy she would be with me as soon as she was out. And she was. I remember it like it was yesterday as she ripped open the top of my hospital gown and laid sweet, "goop"-covered Lilyanna on my chest. Oh how I cried! Thank you, Jesus. 

All of the above is in addition to the time when Lily was breech and when I called to have a procedure scheduled, the receptionist prayed with me that it wouldn't be necessary (along with many of you!) and it wasn't. There were also many moments of supernatural peace immediately following prayer, and the joy I had sharing my pregnancy with so many of you and feeling your support.  

No, things didn't go according to my plan. Even in our happiest moments we sometimes wonder, "Is this it?" The truth is that we were made for more. Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, "He has set eternity in the hearts of men..." God created us for Himself--to be with Him. Often we feel the void in this sin-stained world. The violence, the disease, the heartache and loneliness increase our craving for that which is good and peaceful and filled with joy. Author Brady Boyd captures my thoughts so well when he says, "In my own life, I have known the pain of crushing circumstances and the elation of very good days. But through suffering as well as the joy, I can see how it all has matured me in Christ. I can look back on the journey thus far and see reflected in every step that this place is not my home... God is not a myth, and his power has not waned. There is purpose in our suffering, and thankfully heaven will one day be our home." 

Thank you for reading and going on this journey with me. I pray that God will bless you with a satisfying relationship with Himself that will meet your deepest longings. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lilyanna Grace

Josiah and I just started watching Hallmark Channel's Cedar Cove.  It's about a small town with little to no crime, beautiful scenery, and friendly people. It made me think: "We all want that (or some variation of it)." We all want healthy babies born without pain. We all want our children to be healthy and strong and have no fear of violence. We all want true love. We long for a world without sickness, death, and pain--a world where we have a sense of belonging and our deepest needs are met.

The sad reality is that this world is not it. I don't have to tell you that. You see it all around you. Many people believe that this reality is contrary to the Christian God. A god of love? A god who cares? No way! Most of us, at one point or another, feel pain so acutely that we stare at the sky and wonder, "Where are you, God? Do you see this?"

For me, one of those moments was when I had my first emergency c-section. I knew that like most women, I would experience pain, and even that a c-section was a possibility. What I wasn't prepared for was what some call "birth trauma". Not everyone who has a surgical birth experiences this, nor is it limited to those specific circumstances. I love God deeply, and prayed many times for my upcoming birth. Many times I've felt the nearness of God like I feel an arm around my shoulders, but not this time. I didn't experience peace, only intense fear and anxiety, and a variety of physical symptoms, like my severe back pain, that confused my doctors. This time in my life was characterized by a spiritual darkness. I would pray and pray, but feel like I never really received answers.

Fast forward to Samuel, and while the spiritual darkness had lifted, there was still the question of how his birth would play out. (You can read about that in the archives and judge for yourself!) Certainly it was less traumatic, but my heart grieved the loss of a non-surgical birth. When I got pregnant with Lily, I was unsure of what path to take. I was still a candidate for VBAC, but was it the right choice for me? I knew in my heart that the easier path would be to just plan on a c-section, but I wanted to follow God's path for me. I began to pray for wisdom. Immediately following those prayers, God brought two women into my life who shared their stories of VBACs after two c-sections (one of them completely unprompted). Their stories gave me hope, and I knew in my heart then that I needed to at least try.

At this point I knew that I needed to pursue care providers who would support me in having more time to labor. I decided the best option would be a practice of midwives about an hour from my home who had hospital privileges. (In my home town, midwives did not.)

Thursday, July 12th, in the evening, I had some good, strong contractions. This was about one week after my Estimated Due Date. Over that weekend, they would disappear during the day, but return with a vengeance when I was trying to sleep at night. I was so grateful to have a doula to call on. She came to my house in the middle of the night and helped me to find a comfortable position when I thought none was possible, and I managed to sleep some--thank you, Jenn!!

Monday, July 16th was two weeks past my EDD and the day I was scheduled for induction. One thing I had not agreed to with Samuel was the use of pitocin, but I had been assured of its safety when used in a limited amount even during a VBAC. I knew then that Sam and Lily would have the same birthday most likely, because birth is not a quick thing for me. If I could go back, I would have asked for one more day, but that fight was not in me. Armed with my "labor journal" filled with verses and words of encouragement from friends and family, and Josiah driving our new minivan--that God had worked out just the week before--we headed to the hospital. Oh, this is not how I wanted things to go.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A few of my favorite things in the Lehigh Valley, part 1

I am enjoying Colorado. I'm thankful for the adventures God is taking my family on, though most of my days look strikingly similar. I get up, make my bed, fix breakfast for the kids, try to squeeze in some Bible time and coffee, start chores, play with the kids, fix lunch...You get the idea! I'm even typing this post on the same computer. I could be in Allentown right now.

I always intended to write this list sooner, but it seems more appropriate in hindsight. Here are a list of some of my favorite places in the Lehigh Valley. They all hold special memories spent with people I love.

1)  The Drive-in 
Becky's or Schenkweiler's it doesn't matter to me. One of our first dates when we moved to PA was a drive in movie. And by date, I mean we hoped baby Elizabeth would fall asleep in the backseat while we watched the movie. Since she didn't, she ended up climbing all over us/the floor/the seats the whole time. It's still a good memory.

2) The Crayola Factory
This was a favorite place of ours to take out of town guests. My favorite times, though, were when just Elizabeth and I would go and spend a few hours creating together. We got a pass so we could go often!

3) Dorney Park
I'm super thankful my Dad and Mom continued my grandfather's tradition of buying us season passes to the local amusement park. Fortunately for us, it was only 5 minutes away. I have wonderful memories of swimming with Elizabeth and watching her face light up when she met a new character or rode a ride. I also had a blast getting to know one of my best friends there and laughing with her when one of our kids had a break down over something silly, like not letting them ride the biggest roller coaster in the park when they were two (ahem). Perhaps the best part of Dorney was the fall festival--during the day time. They gave out free costumes each year (one year a clown, another year a pirate) and offered trick or treating in a safe/fairytale environment.

4) Wegmans
I don't remember my first time in Wegmans, but I do remember that it could be wonderful or horribly overwhelming if it was crowded. I quickly learned to shop in the later evenings when it was less busy so I could take my time! I learned so much about cooking from their menu magazine and website. You can get anything at Wegmans, thus eliminating the need to go to multiple stores, and if you stick with their brand and sale items, you CAN get a good deal. The trouble is that they just have so many enticing options. The good news is that their customer service is spectacular.

5) Farmer's Markets
Allentown--This is not your typical farmer's market. Yes, you can get some local produce but it's hard to find amidst all that is there. Once you know what to look for, though, it's a great. Tons of specialty items like low cost organic chicken, fresh Mediterranean food, coffee, Amish baked goods, popcorn and more. It was only open from Thursday to Saturday, so the craziest time to go was anytime after three on Saturday. Then you will find deeply discounted items, but they may be out of your favorites.

Emmaus--This is your typical farmer's market. Held outdoors only on Sundays from May to Thanksgiving, I really enjoyed stopping by here for lunch on the way home from church. The local honey is the best deal in town. The bread guy that's there has the tastiest bread, and the veggies are local and often organic.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Please pray for me!

I've been thinking about writing out ways people can pray for my baby's upcoming birth.  I know that whatever happens, God is in control. I'm thankful that He has given us the gift of prayer and has encouraged us to come before Him with our requests. Several people have mentioned they are praying, so I thought a more specific list might be helpful. Just in case it is, here you have it!

  • Peace "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. " Phil. 4:6-8 Please pray that I will not become anxious! This is the most critical aspect of my preparation and participation in this birth. I need to trust God, bring my requests to Him, and trust Him again, no matter what is going on around me. I also need to meditate on good things--not let my mind go for a ride down worst case scenario lane over and over! I also need to be able to relax in a hospital setting, and think about things that are "lovely" and not focus on the beeping machines, plastic everywhere, etc. 
  • Protection Psalm 91 This may be the most obvious, but definitely worth mentioning. I love the words of this Psalm, and plan on reading them regularly as I pray. I'd love it if you join me. 
  • Partner Pray for Josiah. He has been so amazing throughout this journey we're on together. We've learned so much, and he has helped me so much--by saying the right thing at just the right time, or offering to help around the house just when I thought my energy might be completely depleted, or a hundred other things. Pray that he knows when to speak and when to hold back, and that He is led by the Holy Spirit. Most of all pray for supernatural strength for him, as I know labor is no walk in the park for daddies either.  
  • Progress If you've been following along, you know that I tend to have long labors with slow progress. So far, that has led to c-sections. As I'm trying for a more natural birth, making steady progress is critical. I think praying against fear and anxiety is part of this. Another part is praying for  patience for myself and those involved in the process (midwives, hospital staff). The best case scenario would be steady progress during both stages of labor (quick would be fine, too). If I don't progress quickly enough, the medical personnel will encourage the use of pitocin to artificially speed things up. I am praying that God will supernaturally intervene, and allow my body to do something it hasn't done before. Please pray this with me. 
  • Professionals There will probably be more professionals than I can count who will have a part in this process. The ones I will be most closely involved with are the midwives at the hospital, my midwife, a doula and the nurses. I have a complicated history with the hospital setting, but still feel it is the safest option based on my history, and the option that gives me the most peace when I pray. Pray that I can put aside my own needs and minister to others when appropriate. Pray that my lack of fear, focus on Christ, and gentle spirit (I hope!) will be a shining light for the good news--that Jesus came to save us, and give us new life in Him. 
There are two more things I'd ask of you. First, thank God with me as He has walked through this process with me and taught me more about Him, and truly has begun (in ways I can see) to work these things together for good, and for His glory. Second, if you'd like to, I'd love to add your comments/prayers/encouragement to a special "labor journal" I'm making to read while I'm in labor. Just send me a note and I'll add it in! It would mean so much to know that you are standing with me. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Birth Story Part 5: Samuel Josiah

It was Monday, the day after my due date, and I went in for my scheduled appointment. My midwife immediately started talking about induction. I was shocked. We had had so many conversations about how I was against being induced and against using pitocin to augment labor. I knew that either way, it increased my risk of uterine rupture 4-fold, though the risk was still less than one percent. In addition, they had told me I could go full term if necessary--up to 42 weeks. When I brought that up, she countered that hospitals only do inductions on certain days of the week, and the doctor's schedule was already pretty full. I'm sure my eyes bugged out of my head! You've got to be kidding me, I thought! Now, those of you who know me know that I would never say anything like that, but I certainly thought it. I was finally able to side-step the scheduled induction by letting the midwife know that I would rather wait the two weeks and then just have a c-section, if necessary. I left that appointment, like so many others, in tears. 

Josiah and I went to dinner, and I made up my mind. I was going to just pray. Pray and believe, and pack my bag (because it wasn't yet). I also called my mom, and she agreed to come as soon as she could to watch Elizabeth. Josiah was able to take the next day off and spend it with me, as I was emotionally a wreck. My mom got to our house that night. She told me we were going to walk and walk and walk some more until this baby came. I had already been walking daily, but we were going to ramp things up! 

Wednesday I noticed a "bloody show"! That's got to be good, right? Wednesday night we went to the Promenade and ate my favorite--Thai. Afterwards Elizabeth and Mom stayed at the fountain while Josiah and walked--very slowly as it was very uncomfortable. I started feeling what I called "gas pains". I thought maybe I needed to go to the bathroom. Sorry if that's too much info! Josiah commented that my pains were coming a little too regularly, and that maybe we should pay attention. I timed them the whole ride home. He was right! About every 5 minutes or so! Huh. I laid down in my bed at home. They were still coming! I called my doctor and described my pain. She told me that this wasn't "it" but that the good news was that things were getting started without any help. I slept as long as I could, contractions coming every five minutes, but at about 3 am I couldn't go back to sleep. I woke my mom. We looked through old pictures and talked about good times. 

By Thursday morning, I was definitely hungry! I ate some eggs and shortly after my contractions stopped. I was heartbroken. We went to Dorney Park for a little while, but it was HOT and my heart was not there. I was afraid to eat--afraid that that's what had stopped my progress. I came home and rested some, and then Josiah and I went to Home Depot for something--being new homeowners we were always there for something. We walked every aisle--slowly like before--the whole time I was begging God for the contractions to start again. I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. 

Friday I had a non-stress test. We decided to go to Chuck E Cheese because my mom wanted to take Elizabeth there. I noticed some contractions, maybe every 10 minutes or so, but I ignored them. They hadn't amounted to anything before. By the time we got to St. Luke's in Bethlehem (we had to go there because the Allentown office was closed on Fridays),  I was pretty uncomfortable. I stopped to get directions to the correct office, and the staff offered to take me where I needed to go in a wheelchair, but it wasn't that bad yet. When I was hooked up to the monitor, the nurse said to me something like, "I've been in labor and delivery for X number of years (twenty, maybe?) and I think you are going to have this baby today". I briefly thought with a grin that it was my husband's boss's birthday, and I had told him in no uncertain terms that my baby would not be waiting that long to be born! She suggested I call my doctor, because she would hate to send me all the way back to Allentown if I was 8 centimeters! When I called my doctor, she said she was certain this was not it, but offered to meet me at the office to check me if wished. I did. If this wasn't it, I didn't know what was. 

We got to the office as fast as we could, but we hit a little traffic on 22. No one was there. We tried calling the answering service, and they said they would call the doctor, but we never heard back from her. Though we had joked about having the baby at home, I certainly did not want to have my baby in a hallway. I told Josiah we needed to go to the ER. So off we went. As Josiah backed our car out of the parking space, it stalled. This, a borrowed car, and the second car to break down on us in a very short period of time. We called my mom to come get us, but she got lost because I failed to mention the "south" part of Cedar Crest Blvd. Finally we were on our way! 

On the way over to St. Lukes, we got stuck behind some construction. Josiah tried to no avail to pull out into traffic to get around it, but it wasn't working. (I guess those DC driving skills were in hibernation.) So he decided to take matters to the next level. He hopped out of the driver seat and started waving his arms and screaming, "Get out of the way, my wife's having a baby!" Please know that at the time I was deeply embarrassed by this show, but I can now appreciate it's rich humor. 

When we got to the ER, everyone who saw me thought for sure this baby was coming any minute. My contractions were strong and every two minutes. I was not making loud noises, but I was obviously uncomfortable. I was set up in the hallway as no beds were available. When they checked me I was 2 cm and -3 station. Not what I was hoping for! This was about 5 pm. They offered me tylenol with codeine, which I gladly accepted. I got home and when I finally found a good position on the futon, I was able to sleep between the contractions, still coming steadily every two minutes. Josiah and my mom took turns with me. The only thing that offered any relief was prayer. It went like this: at the end of the contraction I would close my eyes, lay my head back and sleep. As another contraction would jerk me awake, I squeezed my supporter's hand and said, "Please PRAY". They would say a quick prayer, and I would let my head fall back as the pain was subsiding. 

Around 3 am, my water broke. We called to make sure there were beds at the hospital, and we called my doctor to see what she suggested. She suggested we go. We briefly contemplated staying home, but we knew that was not really an option as we didn't have support lined up for a home birth. When we got to the hospital, I was checked by the same resident, and I was only 3cm and -3 station. Major disappointment. I will not go into detail about the hospital experience, because this is getting so long, but needless to say that the IV, the monitor, and overall smell and feel are completely contrary to relaxation to me, especially since my first birth experience. As a VBAC mom, you are restricted to a 3 foot rope, ie monitor. I did the best I could to stay out of the bed, but when I sat on the birth ball, the baby's heart rate dropped, so that was not an option. I was weary, and in pain, and not sure what to do, even though we had been "trained". 

Immediately upon arrival, the staff suggested that I might need some pitocin to speed things up. I told them to call my doctor, and she said I could have six hours. I labored as best as I could. I kept thinking, things can change so quickly! They would check me, often at my request, and my dilation was stalled. When the six hours were coming to a close, I started thinking that maybe this birth was not going to go the way I had planned. I felt pitocin was unsafe in a VBAC situation, so I chose a c-section when it was going to become an issue again. 

It was very surreal walking myself to the OR and climbing up on the operating table. I chose an epidural over a spinal. (I just felt more comfortable that way--though neither option filled me with joy.) I had some trouble breathing, and I was getting pretty upset about it. The nurse and anesthesiologist both insisted that I was not because I was on oxygen. I still insisted, and they decided to take matters into their own hands to calm me without telling me. Josiah told me about it later. 

Though it wasn't what I chose, it was definitely easier this time around. At least my epidural worked! Afterwards, I felt such peace. We were alone, just the three of us and I felt so happy! I had survived! No, it had not been the story I wanted, but God had been faithful. Over time I realized that maybe it was better that it had still ended in a c-section. I had "corrected all my mistakes" from the first time, but the outcome had been the same. Maybe I could finally stop blaming myself. 

I won't say that I felt no sadness. I did. Especially as I could over hear other women laboring in the  adjoining room. I heard their struggle, and then I heard the triumphant cheers when their babies arrived. It was almost more than I could bear. I walked the hall a lot so that I could get away. I just could not understand why I was not allowed to have that experience. 

Either way, my beautiful baby boy was here. Elizabeth had her brother. God had added to our family. 

My Birth Story Part 4: Healing

I am excited to move onto happier thoughts! Thanks to everyone who is reading along. I pray you are encouraged by God's loving faithfulness throughout even the dark times. 

Years went by. I still couldn't tell my story without tears. The thought of not having more children saddened me, but I was unwilling to accept the possibility in my current state. Not until my back heals completely, etc. What if I injure myself worse? Who will be there to parent Elizabeth? I wanted to trust, but I wasn't even sure if that's what God wanted of me. Maybe He wanted one to be enough.

Not long before I got pregnant with Samuel, I was walking the mall with a friend. I was trying to loose weight (as I just about always am!) so that my body would be better prepared, just in case God did want to bless us with more children. She was talking to me about how God was challenging her to trust Him with the size of her family. Don't worry--I've heard it all before. I gave her (ahem--God) my really good excuses. My back is injured. My body may not be able to handle the stress of pregnancy in this condition. She just smiled and said something about how He could handle those things, too. I couldn't speak. I went home and prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed. Wasn't she right, my soul shouted? God could handle anything. Didn't he want my trust instead of my fear?

Over the course of a few months I prayed through all my fears related to birth. Over and over I felt God's comfort, and reassurance that He could and would bless me, if only I'd be open. I shared all this with Josiah, and he felt the same way. So we started trying for our next little blessing, and it wasn't long before I woke him at 4 am to show him a positive pregnancy test! The most amazing testimony of God's goodness in this pregnancy was this: no more back pain. Up until the point I got pregnant, I still had sporadic pain. I would know when I had overdone it by the familiar throbbing and soreness. But even though I weighed exactly the same as when I had gotten pregnant with Elizabeth, and gained the exact same amount of weight during my pregnancy, I never experienced pain! It was as if God was supernaturally showing me what He could do with my trust.

Now the big question: was this pregnancy fear-free? And the truthful answer: no. I cried over and over about the delivery and post-partum period. What happened before simply could not happen again, right God? I spoke more openly with my friends about my fears, and asked them to pray. Though many people loved and encouraged me, two conversations stand out to me from the rest, because of their uniqueness. One, a dear friend who had watched my pain helplessly the first time (there was so little anyone could have done) told me toward the beginning of my pregnancy that she was praying, and asking others to pray, because she did not want to see me suffer like I did before. I had said so little. I didn't even know that she knew. Her knowing, and her praying, meant the world to me. Later in my pregnancy, my dear non-confrontational friend listened again as I cried over the possibility that I would be forced into another c-section by circumstances out of my control. She was quiet for a second and then said something like, "I know what happened last time was really terrible, but there are no guarantees it will happen like that again. You need to trust God." Perhaps I was quiet for too long, because she rushed on to say that she wished could have said that face-to-face, and with a big hug. I couldn't speak, though, because I was smiling so big. She was right! She had just given me a great gift! Even after that, it was hard to trust and not be afraid, but I knew then what I needed to do.

I worked hard to correct every "mistake" I made the first time. When I was pregnant with Elizabeth and I went for walks if I experienced pain, I thought something was wrong, and would rest. Now I knew that pain was normal (within reason) and walking was the best thing I could do. I took a Bradley Birth Class with Josiah. We both enjoyed those once a week outings just the two of us. It was a great time to heal from the first birth. I was able to finally look back and see some of the things that had gone well the first time around. For example, I had second guessed my choice of hospitals (among so many other choices), but the pediatrician I met there was the best one Elizabeth had ever had. We have yet to find as caring, patient and natural a doctor. Breast-feeding went well. Many women struggle, but for us this was a joy (not that it didn't have it's hard moments)! Some of the things happened because they were standard procedure/hospital policy/etc. It does not mean they have to happen again, and it did not mean that it was all my fault just because I didn't know it all or know which questions to ask. God was healing my heart, too.

My Birth Story Part 3: Recovery

Again, this part of the story must be told. But I pray that I can do it in a respectful way. It is no way intended to hurt or offend those closest to me.

It begins as I was being wheeled to a recovery room. It felt as if I was rejoining the world after being away for a while. I'm not sure how I could have prepared myself for this next part. Everyone was so excited. I felt like I had just been through the battle of my life. I was still in a state of shock. I know why they were excited. Our long awaited baby was finally here, safe and sound. But I felt anything but safe. I was afraid of what was happening to my body. I was severely swollen, for one. My legs were as hard as rocks, and it wasn't muscle. My abdomen had just been cut in half. I felt like if I moved, all my stitches could not possibly contain the inside of me. Yes, I had read the c-section portion of What to Expect, but it wasn't sufficient. When my doctor finally came, he said the words I needed to hear most. He said, "You feel like you are going to fall apart, but don't worry. You aren't." He also made a comment about having removable shower heads in all 6 of his bathrooms. We're still not really sure if he was serious, but we laugh about it to this day. My mom also stepped up at this point and asked the doctor things I couldn't have thought of at the moment. She also convinced him I needed a script for an extra massage because of my legs. (The hospital provided one post-natal massage as part of it's routine care.)

Elizabeth did have some trouble nursing later. Not much. Mostly it was hard to get her to wake up to nurse. My intense anxiety over her welfare began to exhibit itself. I was so fearful that she was not getting enough. The lactation consultants helped some, but overall I credit my success breast-feeding to my mother. Her steadfast "you can do it because I did" attitude is part of what made giving up not feel like an option. Fortunately, this is a bright spot in this story. I loved breast-feeding. Knowing that I was providing something only I could provide was the most comforting thing.

After I got home a few days later, problems began to arise. First, I started experiencing extreme discomfort in my back near where the epidural needle was inserted. I couldn't lay on my back at all. Sitting was uncomfortable. When it came time to go to sleep, I was exhausted, but couldn't sleep. Not only could I not get comfortable, I felt like I was artificially being kept awake. I would fall asleep only to pop awake a few moments later. At five days post-partum, I was experiencing rapid heart rate, and my doctor advised a trip to the ER. That was an ordeal in itself, but I won't go into details. After many hours and lots of tests, nothing alarming was showing up. However, in the mean time, I had been without pain medicine for my back. I talked to a nurse about the potential side effects of that medicine. She told me it was very possible that the medicine could be causing the symptoms I was describing. I stopped taking it (it wasn't really helping the pain go away anyway) and eventually I was able to sleep again.

Josiah is the real hero at this point of the story. I often couldn't fall asleep without sitting up leaning against him. His warmth and listening to his heartbeat was the only thing that seemed to calm my racing heart and mind.

I never wanted to be alone--not even for an hour--but I wasn't good company. I was fearful, anxious, stressed, tired, and still so confused about all that had taken place. I enjoyed caring for Elizabeth, but nothing else seemed to bring me any peace or joy. Normally a people-person, I couldn't relax in the presence of my friends. Television proved almost impossible for me to watch. Any scenes of action or intensity only heightened my anxiety. For many years I could not watch a medical drama. They still really aren't a favorite.

My back pain wouldn't go away, but Josiah had to return to work. Lifting and holding a baby for long periods during the day was very painful. We decided to "move in" with my parents for a little while. Maybe a few weeks? I don't remember. My mom came to me when she could, and when she couldn't, we went to her. I never could have imagined that this how my birth story would go. I was so embarrassed by my lack of being able to stand up on my own two feet. When we were at our house, our church family continued to provide meals, as did other members of the body of Christ. Never had I been so thankful for the way God ordained community to work. I knew there were people praying for me, and that, too, was invaluable.

Unfortunately, it took me a long time to recover emotionally. It was one baby step at at time. Around four months after her birth, we began support raising in earnest for the job God had called us to with Fellowship International Mission. I saw God do amazing things, and my faith was strengthened. Still, there remained this dark spot on my journey. What had gone wrong with my baby's birth? Why had God allowed this to happen? Would the pain in my back or my heart ever go away?

Would my battered and broken body ever be able to carry another child? It was never our plan to have just one child, but maybe that would have to be enough. Oh, how I grieved for Elizabeth! To never have the joy of siblings! It was my greatest disappointment in the whole ordeal. (Though the following is certainly not true for every woman who has gone through a c-section, I have heard the same thoughts echoed in more women than I can count, often through the haze of our tears.) I felt like a failure as a woman, and a mom. When the time came to be there to bring my baby into the world, I couldn't do the one thing my body was made to do. I had failed her, and myself. I was broken. Going into future birth experiences, this will be the largest mental hurdle to overcome.