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.