Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Story of Elsie Ruth’s Birth Part 3: My Breast Friend

Let’s recap….when I was pregnant, Danny and I made a birth plan stating that we wanted to exclusively breastfeed Elsie with no bottles and no pacifiers.  We wrote that in the event Elsie needed supplemental intake, it should be from cup-feeding, not bottle-feeding.  We also wrote on our birth plan we wanted to room in with Elsie, and we wanted an hour of uninterrupted skin to skin contact with her immediately following her birth.

After hours of screaming “Get me out of here!”, attempting to escape the delivery room, and one sweet epidural, Elsie was finally born.  In a matter of a few minutes, Danny cut our perfect 4 pound, 10 ounce baby girl’s umbilical cord, they put her on my chest and I cried all over her perfect face, she was cleaned off with vital signs taken, and she was back in my arms for an hour of uninterrupted skin to skin.  Danny and I took turns staring at Elsie and each other and thanking God for our precious miracle.   I had read lots of literature that said mothers should breastfeed their babies directly following birth, so Elsie and I had our first special moment of breastfeeding.  I was in a magical baby fairy land and I wasn’t nearly as concerned about how the mechanics of breastfeeding were going as much as I was with how happy I was that she was safe and cozy in my arms.  It seemed like only a few seconds passed before Elsie was whisked away to the nursery for her first bath.  Danny quickly followed with a camera to get pictures, and I left the distant memory of the horrors of the labor and delivery room for the comforts of the recovery room. 

As I sat in the recovery room talking to my mom and dad, I reached down to touch my belly to let Miss Elsie know I was thinking of her when I suddenly realized that Elsie wasn’t in my belly anymore.  This was the first time I had been without her in 9 months, and I missed her terribly.  I told myself that she would be right back in my arms in a few minutes, and forced myself to take a deep breath and relax.  Danny came back in the room after taking pictures of her first bath, and said the words I’ll never forget: “Babe, the nurse told me they bottle-fed her formula.”  Instantly, white-hot mama bear rage filled my body.  How dare they bottle-feed my baby?  How dare they give her formula when I had explicitly written on the birth plan “NO BOTTLE-FEEDING, NO FORMULA, BREASTFEED ONLY.”?

Before you could say “Psychotic mom alert”, I was on the phone calling the nursery.  A very sweet nurse answered the phone, and I was set to give her an earful.  Before I could start unloading the fury about how they had ruined my baby with formula and how I would now have my nipples gnawed off because they gave her a bottle before she was a month old, she said “I thought you’d be calling.”  She explained to me that Elsie’s blood sugar had crashed, and that it was necessary to give her formula to get her blood sugar levels back up.  She said they would need to keep Elsie another hour to see if her blood sugar levels stabilized after receiving the formula.  Sad that I had to spend another minute away from my baby and irked that my “plans” hadn’t been followed to a tee, I said, “I would have appreciated you calling me before you did anything and cup-fed her instead of bottle-fed her, as I specified on her birth plan.”  The nurse graciously explained that cup-feeding is messy and difficult, and at the moment the most important thing was getting as much formula in Elsie as possible to keep her blood sugars stabilized.  As I got off the phone, I was struck with a feeling of helplessness that my baby was locked in a nursery that I wasn’t allowed in, and that I wasn’t the one calling the shots.  Talk about a control freak’s worst nightmare.

I received a series of phone calls following that: first, that Elsie’s blood sugars went up following a feeding, and I would get my hopes up that I would get to have her back, only to be followed by a phone call that Elsie’s blood sugar levels crashed again.  After the first few rounds of this, my heart sank as I realized that this was a problem that was going to keep Elsie away from me for more than just a few hours.  I held my breath as I heard the words “We need to admit her into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit)”.  Yet another component of our birth plan wasn’t going to happen.  We weren’t going to get to room in with our sweet baby.  The thought of her being a few feet from me, let alone across the hospital from me felt like a hard kick to the stomach. 

My fight or flight instincts kicked in at that moment, and I was ready to fight.  I told myself that if I kept calm and collected and acted like I knew what I was doing, they would give my baby back to me.  In my mind if I cried in front of them or showed weakness, they would deem me unstable and unable to take care of my baby.  I cried anyways.  The nurse was so sweet to let Elsie come spend about 30 minutes with us before they had to take her back to the NICU.  As I held my sweet baby in my arms, I scanned every inch of her face and tried to commit it to memory.  There was no way I was going to forget what my baby looked like and let them switch my baby for another baby.  Yes, my control freak mind was on crazy overload…seriously, why was the hospital trying to switch my baby for another baby first on my list of concerns?   
I was determined to not give up on breastfeeding, so during the agonizing hours of waiting for Elsie to get situated in the NICU before we could go see her, I started pumping.  Nowhere in my daydreams of having a baby did I ever picture myself sitting in a hospital room wearing a huge gown with two huge slits in the front extending from my chest to my belly button (seriously though, WHO has boobs that big?!?!) and hooked up to a machine that was milking me like a cow.  Not very glamorous.  I would also like to mention that whoever came up with the expression “don’t cry over spilt milk” was obviously a male who had never experienced the true bliss of having your lady jugs pressed and squeezed for 15 minutes, only to produce 2 tiny drops of milk. 

It was time for us to go see Elsie, and I still had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair.  I impatiently kept telling Danny to go faster to the point where he was practically running while he wheeled me to the NICU at the other end of the hospital.  When we got there, my heart sank as I saw my teensy little baby hooked up to lots of tubes and wires.  I was fortunate to have experience working in a hospital setting, so the “scariness” of the tubes and wires wasn’t as bad for me as it was for Danny.  He was scared to touch her at first because he thought she might break.  I, of course, was angrier at that point because I saw that Elsie had a pacifier in her mouth.  I wanted to stand on a chair and scream “READ THE BIRTH PLAN, PEOPLE!  WHEN ELSIE BITES MY NIPPLES OFF BECAUSE OF NIPPLE CONFUSION, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!”.  I was obviously grasping at any semblance of control I had left and failing miserably. 

We met our first of many NICU nurses and I’m sure that although I had decided to be calm and in control, what she saw was a crazed wild animal who would do whatever it took to protect her young.  As our nurse calmly explained to us what was going on (basically, Elsie had been admitted to the NICU because she couldn’t stabilize her blood sugar levels or her temperature), she told us that Elsie was on antibiotics.  Instantly, I felt sick to my stomach.  “Wait, you put my daughter on medications without asking me?” flew out of my mouth before I could use a filter.  The nurse explained to us that Elsie could have a virus, and putting her on antibiotics would start treating the virus, if it were present.  I knew that the nurses were following protocol and doctor’s orders, I just felt sick that my 4 pound baby was less than a day old and already on antibiotics…and that I obviously had no say in most aspects of her treatment plan. 
I decided to pour my energy and efforts into something that I could have control over….breastfeeding.  I emphasized how important it was to me that Elsie was breastfed and not requiring formula to supplement meals as soon as possible.  I was told that I would be able to feed Elsie every 3 hours, but that I would only have a very short amount of time to feed her before she needed to be hooked up to the monitors and under the lights again.  So basically the scenario was “Hey Allison, you have 10 minutes to learn how to feed your teeny tiny baby in a very public place with people all around you and you better do a really good job because your baby won’t get to go home unless she gains weight and her blood sugars stabilize.  No big deal.  Oh, and don’t stress because then your milk won’t come in.” 

I had pictured breastfeeding as this beautifully organic experience where Elsie would float to my breast that God had created her to feed from, the stars would align, and we would sink into this breathtaking interlude of magical mother-daughter bonding.  Nope.  Try fumbling around wondering if you’re doing anything right while complete strangers stare at your chest and attempt to “help you”, while telling you to relax when relaxation is the furthest thing from what is happening.  Oh, and somehow your teensy newborn has a million teeth made of knives…except she hides them when you look inside her mouth.  Not beautiful, not magical.  Just…ouch.  It was long after we got home from the hospital and I finally relaxed that both Elsie and I mastered the art of breastfeeding.

So Danny and I settled into this crazy routine where he would run/wheel me down to the NICU, I would wait for them to take her vitals and prick her teensy feet to get her blood sugar, I would breastfeed her then supplement with a bottle feeding of formula, then rush her back to bed.  We’d go back to our room, I’d pump, and if we were lucky we’d get a 45 minute nap in before we’d run/wheel back to the NICU and start the whole process over again.  The nurses noticed how exhausted we were because we were always at the NICU and suggested we skip a feeding and allow them to bottle feed her formula while we got some sleep.  I always smiled and said “Maybe”, but then showed up for the next feeding.  No way was I going to miss an opportunity to be with my little girl.  Mama Bear don’t play.

Let’s be honest, I did not handle this experience with poise or grace.  God had blessed me with a beautiful baby girl, and I still somehow managed to feel like her being in the NICU was the worst thing that could have possibly happened.  I remember being in a haze of running to feedings, trying to hold it together so they wouldn’t say I was too weak to take my baby home, and on my way back to my room for my brief nap I would see a flood of happy visitors coming to celebrate the birth of a loved one’s baby.  Danny and I had asked for no visitors because they couldn’t go into the NICU to meet Elsie and we were so busy with her feeding/pumping schedule, but I found myself being angry that I didn’t get to have visitors bring me flowers and teddy bears and come admire my baby in my hospital room.  Why did all these other parents get to enjoy having their baby in their arms, but I had to wheel across the entire hospital and wait for my baby to be unhooked from a pile of wires to hold her?  It didn’t help that on our trips down to the NICU I’d stare at my reflection in the window and wonder who the lady with bags under her eyes and a 6-month pregnant belly was. 

The day that I was released from the hospital was a really hard day.  Instead of being grateful that we were fortunate enough to be able to stay in a hospitality room because we technically lived “out of town”, I cried because the hospitality room was sketchy.  The twin beds looked like they’d seen better days, the toilet gave me the creeps, we had to use a community shower, and the only window in the room was covered by a huge suspiciously moldy-looking black spot.  I was feeling helpless on the Elsie front too.  They kept running more and more tests, kept poking her feet to draw blood, and I didn’t see an end in sight.  Instead of being satisfied that my milk was coming in, we got her off of formula within the first two days, and she quickly didn’t need the IV to stabilize her blood sugars anymore, I dreaded going to the NICU only to hear about another test, another reason I couldn’t have my baby with me, another day of worry and heartache.  I felt like I was on a roller coaster—the nurse practitioner told me “I think your baby will get to go home by Mother’s day” and I would cry with joy, only to be told a few minutes later “Nevermind, we have to wait until Monday to run some more tests.”  At one point a doctor came up to me and told me they needed to do a head ultrasound on my baby.  When I asked why, she coolly said “To check to see if there’s hemorrhaging in the brain.  Sorry to tell you that.” and walked away while I bawled.   

One day I was taking a quick nap in between feedings in my yucky hospitality room on the yucky twin bed and staring out the yucky window when I felt God gently press on my heart “Are you going to stare at that black spot on the window all day, or look past it and see the sunshine?”.  We had so, so much to be grateful for while we were in the hospital.  Each NICU nurse was like a guardian angel sent from God…they were each exactly what we needed right when we needed them.  Our first nurse was very informative when we had a ton of questions.  When I felt really sad about leaving Elsie in the NICU without me, God sent a nurse with a sweet “mama” personality to love on Elsie and give me confidence.  When I was at my lowest point on Mother’s Day, God sent us a precious NICU nurse to make me a Mother’s Day card from Elsie with her hand and foot prints and a picture of her I could take with me when I couldn’t be with her.  Both of our pastors came to pray with us and gave us words of encouragement when we needed them most.  My mom was such a blessing, running errands for us and holding down the fort and taking care of Miley for us while we were in the hospital for a week.  God blessed me with the world’s greatest support person and most caring dad, Danny who held it together when I couldn’t, sought the Lord throughout the whole process, shared a twin bed with me so I wouldn’t feel alone, and sang to our daughter in the NICU, no matter who was listening. 

Most importantly, no matter how much I stressed or fretted or worried, He held our tiny Elsie Ruth right in the palm of His hand.  Each test came back negative—she didn’t have any viruses, she didn’t have hemorrhaging on the brain, her platelet levels and blood sugar levels and temperature stabilized and we were able to take her home 6 days after she was born.  She was our tiny, precious gift we didn’t deserve.  I was so humbled that, despite my best laid plans, God’s plan was the perfect one and the only one that mattered. 
Me getting an epidural did not result in paralysis or death.  Elsie using formula and a bottle and a pacifier for a few days did not equal my nipples being ripped off.  Although it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to be away from her for those first few days, it didn’t kill me to not room in with her that first night.  And what’s the result of all of this?  I come away with a precious, precious baby and a beautiful perspective that I can’t control everything in life…or even most things.  The best thing I can do is trust God knows what He’s doing, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Story of Elsie Ruth’s Birth Part 2: Labor of Love

So here’s where we left off in part 1.  I had planned to have a natural birth without induction, pitocin, or an epidural.  At 38 weeks my doctor told me that I needed to go to the hospital to be induced because Elsie hadn’t grown significantly in the past 3 weeks.

It was a Tuesday evening when we were sent straight from our doctor’s appointment to the hospital, and my adrenaline levels were off the charts.  I was about to have a BABY, after all!!!  Danny lugged our bags (I swear it looked like we were planning to live in the hospital for at least a year with the amount of things I packed) up to the fifth floor and we got settled into our labor and delivery room.  I changed into my fabulously attractive hospital gown, handed the nurse our birth plan, sat on the hospital bed, and waited.  Having a baby.  And waited. Pushing a baby out of my body. And waited.  I wish I had some ice cream.  And waited. 

Finally after three hours of waiting and worrying (and a serious craving for an Andy’s M&M concrete), my obstetrician came in the room and said “Let’s get this show on the road!”  I, still wanting to have as natural of a birth as possible, asked if there was any way that we could break my water and see if the contractions would start on their own before attempting to use pitocin.  Due to the nature of my situation (Elsie being small, the timeframe of the labor once the water broke, etc.), my obstetrician said that she wanted to insert a mechanical balloon in my cervix and that hopefully by the morning I’d be dilated to a 5.  If I hadn’t started contractions on my own by 5 am, then we’d start the pitocin.  All I really heard was “mechanical balloon” and I pictured a huge red balloon robot filling up my insides until I blew up like the blueberry girl on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Thank goodness they gave me an Ambien to help me sleep that night. J

Despite my concerns about transforming into a balloon robot, when I woke up at 5 am, I was still in human form.  The pitocin was started, and I tried to prepare myself mentally for the pain that was inevitably headed my way any moment.  Except, funny thing, there was no pain.  The nurse told me that for every 15 minutes that went by and I wasn’t having steady and strong contractions, my pitocin would be bumped up by 2.  I started off at a 4 and watched every 15 minutes as the nurse came in and bumped up the pitocin.  I grimaced, braced myself…and felt the same.  Typically my body reacts very strongly to any type of medication, but this time I didn’t feel a thing.  I convinced myself that I was going to be the miraculous .0001% of women who didn’t experience pain during childbirth, that I would probably just sneeze and the baby would simply pop out.  No such luck.

Danny suggested we try some of the Lamaze strategies we had discussed to practice for when the contractions started kicking in.  I would like to briefly mention that the Lamaze classes we took that were provided by the hospital, while hilarious, appeared to send us a mixed message.  I got the impression they were telling us “We want you to feel guilty if you use drugs to ease your labor pains, but we have no intention of actually helping you achieve that lofty goal.  Baths are good for easing labor pain…but we don’t even provide you with a sink in your bathroom.  Birthing balls are very helpful…but bring your own because we only have 5 in the whole hospital.  Moving around the room is a fantastic way to get through your labor pains, but we’re going to restrict you to these cords and wires that only allow you to travel 2 inches.” 

Nevertheless, I hopped on the birthing ball (we brought our own for fear the hospital would be unable to spare one of their precious 5) and Danny started reading me some Bible passages (I love my husband so so much).  Instantly, the nurse came in the room and told me that my fetal heart rate monitor had slipped off my belly.  I got it situated back in the right place, and no sooner had the nurse left the room than my contractions monitor slid off my belly.  The nurse came back in the room, jokingly cursed the roundness of my basketball belly, and adjusted the contractions monitor.  This dance continued, with monitors sliding off my belly, the nurse coming and adjusting them over and over again until I decided to just sit on the bed for awhile to give myself and my poor nurse a break.  In the mean time, my nurse continued to bump up my pitocin every 15 minutes until it was at 24 at about 8:45 a.m.

Lucky number 24.  While I was pregnant with Elsie, Danny and I had decided to watch every season of 24 on Netflix.  Talk about INTENSE!  After we finished the series, I told Danny it might not have been the best idea to watch the shows while I was pregnant because all of the action and drama stressed me out.  Danny pointed out that maybe Elsie would come out of the womb being a hardcore terrorist avenger like Jack Bauer.  Once my pitocin hit 24, like the TV series, things got INTENSE!  All of a sudden, after hours of feeling nothing, I got slapped in the face with very strong, lengthy painful contractions.  When I asked people what a contraction felt like, most people said “Oh, like period cramps” or “Just a feeling of pressure in your belly”.  I felt like a giant had picked me up, given me a wicked Indian rugburn all over my stomach and back, and then kicked me with steel-toed boots just for good measure. I closed my eyes, pictured the strong and silent woman from the natural birth video, and screamed my head off.

It’s funny how when you’re in pain, all rational thought goes out the window.  In my optimistic pre-labor, semi-rational mind I had decided that pain is subjective, that I would have the strength of mind and willpower to tell myself that the pain wasn’t that bad, and perhaps even convince myself that contractions felt great.  Sigh…you guys…contractions don’t feel great at all!  I was dilated to a 7 when all of this started, and my optimistic pre-labor brain told me, “See, look at you!  You’re over half way there!  You can do it!”…to which my crazed in-labor brain replied, “YOU GONNA DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. 

I want to cry when I think about how sweet and patient my husband was with me as I felt myself transform from calm, semi-rational pregnant woman to insane monster beast.  He was by my side the entire time kissing my hand, telling me I was doing great, whispering Bible verses in my ear, encouraging me to try the pain-management strategies we’d discussed, and attending to my every need.  He suggested I get back up on the birthing ball to ease my back labor.  When I felt a contraction coming, I would yell “Put pressure on my back!”, and then a few seconds later I’d say “No, hands off!”.  He suggested turning on some music to get my mind off the pain.  I had planned on burning a “Birthing Mix” and playing it at the hospital, but since it was towards the end of my to-do list, it didn’t get made.  We turned the TV onto the Christian music channel, and the Francesca Battistelli song “This is the Stuff” came on.  I listened to the song for about 3 seconds, felt another contraction coming on, and yelled “Turn it off, it’s too happy!”.  My vision of the strong and silent woman was quickly giving way into the nightmarish reality of the evil witch monster.

My obstetrician came in around 10:30 when I was dilated to a 7 and broke my water.  That’s when I seriously lost all control of any essence of being a human being anymore.  Afterwards when I asked Danny what I was like during that time, he said “You were like a caged wild animal who was wounded and had nothing to lose.”  The only thing that had been keeping me semi-sane at that point was my ability to move around (it was only like a 3 foot radius, but it was better than nothing!).  Then my worst nightmare came true…because the contractions monitor and fetal heart rate monitor kept sliding off and they couldn’t get the internal fetal heart rate monitor to work properly, my nurse told me I’d have to lay still in the bed, to which I promptly replied “I can’t!”.  The end result?  My nurse had to physically hold me down in the bed while I had contractions to prevent me from moving.  And now….drum roll please…it’s time for the three things I yelled most frequently during labor:

1.      “I’VE GOTTA MOVE!!!!”  The literal one strategy I had for easing labor pain was to keep moving.  So imagine my dismay when I was being held down in a bed during extremely painful contractions.  I was completely unable to cope with having a contraction while laying down, and despite being held down, attempted to sit up during each contraction…which did not make my nurse very happy.
2.      “GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!”  Somewhere in the fog of pain and panic, I convinced myself that if I could just break free from the nurse’s grips and rip off all of the wires and monitors, I could get to the door, run down the hall, and be free.  That I could literally run from the pain and it would stay in the labor and delivery room.  Does that make any sense at all?  Nope.  Welcome to my insane labor brain.
3.      “I’M POOPING!!!!!!”  Did I really yell that?  Sadly true and highly embarrassing.  Towards the end when the baby’s head was moving down, I kept screaming “I’m pooping!”, to which the nurse replied “And that’s okay!”.  I didn’t actually poop, I just felt all the pressure of the head coming down and apparently the only sensation I had to compare it to was… know.  What little was left of my dignity had vanished at that point.

Once I lost my ability to move anywhere, I found a new pain management strategy.  During each contraction, I would grab my sweet husband’s arm, find a small portion of flesh, pinch it as hard as I could, and then twist it.  Sweet Danny just allowed me to inflict pain on him the first few times I did this.  By about the third or fourth time, Danny gently suggested, “Hey babe, next time you feel like you need to squeeze something, why don’t you do it to the sheet instead of my arm?”  My response, direct quote, was “The sheets won’t react.”, to which my frightened husband replied “Babe, I think you might be a sociopath.”

When Danny and I were writing our birth plan and had decided on natural childbirth, I had warned Danny that I would be nuts during labor, and that I would more than likely tell him I needed an epidural and he would have to be strong and tell me no, no matter what I said.  After my obstetrician broke my water and felt the contractions becoming even more intense and painful, I looked at Danny with pain and panic in my eyes and said, “I can’t do this.”  My sweet husband grabbed my hand, kissed my forehead, and said “You can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.”  Full of holiness and grace, I replied “SHUT UP!”.  Danny calmly but firmly told me that we had decided not to do an epidural and that I had specifically told him “It’s not even an option.”  After another strong contraction and yelling “STOP TALKING!” (my fourth most common thing yelled during labor…poor Danny), I looked at my sweet husband and said “Danny, it has to be an option.” 

Around that time my nurse came in and asked “Would you like an epidural?”.  Our birth plan had said not to offer pain medication, that we’d ask for it if needed, but at that moment I saw an opportunity and decided to take it.  Unfortunately, it involved throwing my saint of a husband under the bus.  I looked at the nurse and said in my most pathetic battered housewife voice, “My husband doesn’t think I need one.”  The nurse glared at Danny with the devil’s fire in her eyes, then passionately said to me “He does NOT know what you’re going through. He’s NOT pregnant, and he NEVER WILL BE pregnant.  This is YOUR decision, not his.”  By the time she finished her speech, she was practically yelling.  There was an awkward moment of silence in the room and I felt like I needed to defend my sweet husband who, after all, was only trying to enforce what I had told him to enforce.  I had another strong contraction and quickly forgot about the awkwardness and told her we’d let her know.  After the nurse left the room, Danny gave one last ditch effort plea for me to remember what I said and to just hold out because I was at an 8 at that point.  I looked at my husband’s kind, compassionate eyes and tried to muster what it felt like to be a human again, back when I was semi-rational and didn’t want an epidural.  The nurse came back in the room, asked “Have you made a decision?” and I quickly blurted out “Yes, I want an epidural please!”

I was in a haze of pain at that point and had no concept of the passage of time, but Danny told me afterwards that it took the anesthesiologist about an hour to get there after I had asked for the epidural.  Once he got there, I was dilated to a 9, but my semi-rational optimistic brain was no longer there to tell me “A 9!  That’s awesome!  It’s almost time to push, you don’t need an epidural because you’re SO CLOSE!”.  All I heard was the steady tribal chant of the crazed in-labor brain shouting “Pain! Pain! You gonna diiiiiieeee, you gonna DIIIIIIEEEEEE!”  I do remember asking my nurse at that point how much longer it would be until the baby came, to which she replied “I’m not sure…it could be 30 minutes or 3 hours.”  I looked at the anesthesiologist and said “I’m hurting dude, let’s do this thing.”  He started calmly and casually telling me all of the risks associated with an epidural.  I felt another strong contraction coming on, and yelled “Get him out of here!  I’m having another contraction!”.  After the contraction was over, I looked at my nurse and told her “You tell that man to come back in here, but tell him to STOP TALKING!”.  The anesthesiologist quickly finished explaining the list of precautions to Danny (I think he was scared of me at this point), and before I could say “Ginormous needle in my spine”, it was done and he was gone.

At that point, I laid back in the bed and closed my eyes. Danny told me afterwards that he was concerned that I had died because I was so still and silent (I knew I’d eventually get to strong and silent, I was just hoping to have done it without the epidural).  At one point he asked “Allison?”, to which I replied in a low, guttural voice “I’m here.”  My arms were shaking uncontrollably and I still felt the intense pressure of the baby moving down, but at least I had stopped screaming “I’M POOPING!!!!” at this point.  I’m sure my nurse was also relieved she no longer had to hold a screaming, flailing maniac down in the bed.  About 5-10 minutes after I had the epidural, the nurse said “I see the baby’s head.  Time to call the doctor.”

After that, everyone was in a hurry of activity preparing for the birth.  Me?  Just chillin’ on the bed with my eyes closed.  Epidurals are awesome.  My obstetrician came in, looked at me, looked at her phone, and said “Well, I’m going to be late.”  By the way, I will never again complain about having to wait for her during a routine exam…she’s birthing babies, it’s important work!  Before I knew it, it was time to push.  At one point, one of the nurses said “Do you know what color your baby’s hair is?  Because I do!”.  It sank in to me at that point I was not in an episode of “Extreme Pain Camp: Hospital Edition”, I was having a BABY!  A baby with HAIR that I would get to meet in a matter of minutes!  And, to my relief, I realized that Jell-O doesn’t have hair.  Pushing was my favorite because everyone was cheering “Push, push, you can do it!”  I think I finally had a taste of what it feels like to be an athlete J.  After about 15 minutes and a few pushes, out came Elsie Ruth Slone, the love of my life.  I cannot explain in words the flood of emotions that rushed over me as I saw that sweet baby for the first time.  The one we had prayed for, worried over, ate cheeseburgers for, and carried in my belly for all this time.  A perfect, tiny miracle from God that I didn’t deserve.  As I held her in my arms for the first time and cried all over her perfect face, I thanked God for the blessing of this precious life.  Every time I would pull it together and stop crying I’d look at my sweet husband and the pride and love oozing out of him for our brand-new daughter and start blubbering all over again.  We thanked God for His goodness and breathed a sigh of relief.  I had pushed a baby out of my body…with pitocin and an epidural…but I was too happy to feel any guilt.  We were snuggling a precious baby that was now ours to keep. The hard part was over, right?  Or so we thought.

Stay tuned for Elsie’s Birth Story Part 3: “My Breast Friend” to hear about Elsie’s stay in the NICU, our adventures in breastfeeding, and how God is good, even when things are hard.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Story of Elsie Ruth’s Birth Part 1: The “Birth Plan”

Today our sweet baby girl is 1 month old!  I can’t even believe it!  To celebrate her 1-month birthday, I thought I would share the first of a three-part saga of Elsie’s birth story.  A fair warning…I will be talking about the three Bs in these posts: blood, birthing, and breastfeeding.  If any of these topics upset or offend you or you do not yet know the logistics of how a baby gets out of the belly, please discontinue reading these posts.  It’s about to get real.

Part 1 will discuss our “Birth Plan” and background information leading up to Elsie’s birth.
Part 2 will be about the labor and delivery…and why Danny Slone deserves 4,000 gold stars.
Part 3 will be about Elsie’s NICU stay and adventures in breastfeeding.

Background:  So like…first, I was pregnant.  That was fun.  During every doctor’s visit after about 20 weeks, I was told I was measuring small, but that it was “probably just because you’re a small person.”  At 30 weeks, my obstetrician suggested I get an additional ultrasound to make sure Elsie was growing like she was supposed to.  The ultrasound technician assured us that we had a healthy baby, and that she was just small.  Even after hearing the words “healthy” and “normal”, I let my mind wander and freak me out.  I was convinced I was housing a “little person” in my body (who, for some reason, was dressed as a circus clown) or that somehow (even though I saw a living, breathing, kicking baby with fingers, toes, and eyes in my ultrasounds) that my daughter was going to come out as a ball of Jell-O and the doctor would shout, “Oh, JELL-O!  THAT explains why she was so small.”  I couldn’t even let myself enjoy compliments from coworkers like “Girl, are you sure you’re pregnant?  You just look like I look after I ate a big meal” or “You don’t even look pregnant from behind” because I wanted to scream “Don’t you know it’s not a real baby?!?  I’m housing a gelatinous snack!”  In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, my pregnant brain was psycho. 

At 35 weeks, I was still measuring really small, so my obstetrician suggested another ultrasound.  After this ultrasound, the technician said “Let me go get the doctor”.  Doctor?  I had never had to talk to a doctor before during these ultrasounds.  As we waited I held my breath, trying desperately to shut out the list of horrible scenarios that were running rampant in my brain.  The doctor told me that there were a few “red flags”: first, there was an indication that Elsie might not be getting enough blood flow through the umbilical cord.  Second, Elsie’s head was measuring slightly larger than her belly, indicating that she might not be getting sufficient nutrition.  Third, she was barely over the 10th percentile for weight.  Tearfully I asked, “Am I just not eating enough?  I can eat more!”, to which the doctor replied “No, it’s nothing with what you’re eating.  With this type of thing it’s almost always an issue with the placenta.”  He told me that I would need to come back weekly to do an ultrasound to make sure she was growing properly.  The week between the appointments felt like a month, and I was worried sick that our sweet baby wasn’t growing.  Even though the doctor said that eating more wouldn’t help, I ate lots and lots of cheeseburgers that week just in case.  Weeks 36 and 37 we went back and got a report that everything looked good, and I finally let myself feel hopeful that maybe we would have a baby after all.  At our 38 week appointment, the doctor told us that Elsie hadn’t grown a significant amount in the past 3 weeks, and that it would be safer to induce labor and have Elsie grow outside of me than inside me at that point.  I stared at the doctor with an open mouth, and after a few moments of silence, I asked, “Like right now?  I’m going to go have a baby RIGHT NOW?!?!”, to which the doctor calmly replied “Yep.  Head on over to the hospital.”  I suddenly became aware of the fact that I wouldn’t be allowed to eat for a long time and shoved some trail mix in my mouth.  I was on my way to have a circus clown…or a pile of Jell-O…or hopefully…a baby!

The Birth Plan: I’m a planner…some might call it a control freak, but I like the word “planner” better.  I like to go into new scenarios (especially important ones) with a game plan…I am capable of “winging it”, but only if I make a plan in advance to do so. J So naturally, when it came to giving birth to our first child, Danny and I made a game plan.  We were given a worksheet from the hospital with a birth plan, and we filled it out.  Our basic desires were:
  •   Natural birth—Before we knew about any medical complications, Danny and I decided we wanted to bring Elsie into the world on God’s time, without being induced, without pitocin, and without an epidural.  Almost everyone I mentioned it to said “Good luck with that!” with a huge smile on their face.  Translation: “You don’t even know what you’re about to get yourself into, you crazy hippy.”  I had read a few books and watched a few videos on natural childbirth and decided that the benefits for me and baby were worth a little discomfort.  In one video, a strong woman just lightly rocked back and forth throughout her whole labor, not making a peep except one small grunt as her baby came out.  I decided that woman was my hero, and that I was going to be just like her.  Strong and silent…yep, sounded just like me.  We wrote on the birth plan to not offer pain medication, and that we would ask for it if needed.
  •    Breastfeeding—I planned to exclusively breastfeed Elsie, and we had taken a few breastfeeding classes.  In the classes and in the breastfeeding material I had read, there had been a few major recommendations. 1.  No bottle feeding for the first 2 weeks.  2.  No pacifier for the first month.  Both were to avoid “nipple confusion” (babies use a different kind of suck to suck a nipple than they do a pacifier or bottle).  In short, I was basically told my baby would bite my nipple off if I introduced a bottle or pacifier too soon.  Thinking that sounded a bit too painful for my liking, we wrote “No bottle-feeding and no pacifier” on the birth plan.  We also wrote that in the event Elsie needed to have supplemental intake, it should be from cup-feeding instead of bottle-feeding.
  •   Rooming in—Danny and I really wanted Elsie to sleep in the same room as us while we were in the hospital, even though several of our friends and family suggested having the baby sleep in the nursery the first night so we could get some sleep following the labor and delivery.  Danny and I both agreed we couldn’t imagine meeting our baby and then being away from her, even if only for a night, so we wrote on our birth plan we wanted her to sleep in the same room as us.
When I gave my obstetrician the birth plan to sign during my 32-week appointment, she gently reminded me that I would need to be flexible, because even with the best-laid plans, things could change very quickly, depending on how the labor and delivery went.  I smiled politely and said “Of course!”.  Leaving the office, my last thought was “Sweet OB, she must not know how determined I am.” If I had a time machine, I would go back and slap myself in the face, saying “Honey child, you don’t even know how real it’s about to get.”

Stay tuned for Part 2: Labor of Love to find out the three things I yelled most frequently during labor J (Oops, spoiler alert, I was NOT strong OR silent).

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hippie

I’ve decided that I want to become a hippie.  Before you freak out and picture me in a field surrounded by magical mushrooms, burning my bra while psychedelic music plays in the background, perhaps I should explain myself.  It seems that everything in our American culture is geared towards fast pace, efficiency, stress, and productivity.  We value people who get things done, and get them done quickly.  We stress when things are not done in the way that we specify they should be according to the cosmic master plan that plays in our heads.

I distinctly remember sitting at the lunch table with my friends in fourth grade, telling them my life plan.  In my purple velvet shirt with a built-in choker and massive glasses with bifocals, I confidently told them, “I’m going to meet my husband in college, and then we’ll get married the summer after we graduate college.  We’ll spend two years together before we decide to start a family, and we’ll have one boy and one girl.  We’ll have the boy first so he can look out for his little sister.”  Well, I did meet my husband in college (thank goodness, it took me that long to tame my curly fro and get rid of my 2 inch thick glasses), but we didn’t get married until the summer after my first year of grad school.  Plan fail #1.  We have been married 2 years and are pregnant, but with a girl.  Plan fail #2, there’s no older brother to look out for his little sister.  Later in life, I created another “rule” for myself that I wanted to be a young mom, so I needed to be done having kids by the time I’m 30.  Why do we make these ridiculous plans and rules for ourselves that are often beyond our control, and then get mad when our plans fail?  Don’t we know that, despite our best efforts, we are not the cosmic rulers of the universe?

A few weeks ago we went back to Blue Springs for a wedding, and I had the pleasure of attending the church I grew up in.  I always love hearing Pastor Rodger preach, God has blessed him with so much knowledge and insight.  This particular Sunday, he preached on being led by God.  I often find myself making plans with little thought as to whether or not my plans align with God’s will.  I worry that the alternative would be to never make plans, and just “let things happen”, which is not in my nature.  In his sermon, Pastor Rodger said that it’s necessary to plan, but our planning should be flexible and conditional.  In other words, we shouldn’t haphazardly drift through life, waiting for things to happen to us and for us.  But at the same time, we should always leave our plans open to God’s leading, and our plans should be conditional on God’s permission.  We have to be prepared though that God’s will for us may not always be a smooth road.  When the road is bumpy, that doesn’t necessarily mean God hasn’t lead us in that direction.  It does mean that we should thank God for the opportunity for spiritual growth through the trial…how often do we not get our way (or not get it easily) and decide to say thank you to God for the opportunity for growth?  (If you want to listen to Pastor Rodger’s full sermon or read his online notes, you can find them on the church’s website marked as 3/11/2011—even though it’s 2012--

I’ve heard so many stories the past few years of people who are unhappy with their current life situation.  Either something isn’t happening that they feel should be happening (a boyfriend, a marriage proposal, a pregnancy, etc.) or something is happening that they don’t feel should be happening (a loss of job, loss of a loved one, marriage difficulties, etc.).  I’m often guilty too of trying to rush along my life, fitting it into a box of what I perceive should be happening.  But what if I shifted my focus from hyper-egocentric woman who knows what she wants and wants it RIGHT NOW to calm, poised woman who puts God’s plans over her own?

Hence where I’ve decided to become a hippie.  My definition of hippie obviously doesn’t align with the actual definition of hippie, so let me give you MY definition of a hippie: “someone who is super chill about when things in life don’t go according to plan”.  This may sound like being laid-back to you, but to me this is radical.  This is me surrendering my grip of control, my perception of my plan for my life, and even…oh gosh…even the possibility that the plans and rules I’ve created myself may not work out, or aren’t God’s will for me.  This means when I come up with a parenting philosophy and something needs to be altered or modified, I go with it.  This means if my husband decides that our entire house could fall down at any moment because of those “deadly termites” and wants to spend our entire savings on “termite insurance”, I actually consider it.  This may even mean that my throw pillows are in slight disarray when company comes over.  I might as well be dancing in a field of magical mushrooms, burning my bra, and listening to psychedelic music, right?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Meals

I'm starting to like food again!  Woo hoo!  I have been taking a cooking hiatus while pregnant (aka the sight of raw meat made me want to faint and the smell of spices made me want to puke), but I am finally back to cooking again.  The other day I even chopped my first onion since I've been pregnant and I didn't gag!  Victory!  I feel like a much better wife when I cook, and I know Danny appreciates the results! In celebration of my return to food and cooking, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite recipes and maybe you'll like them too. Feel free to send your favorite recipes my way, I love to try new things!  Happy cooking (and eating)!

My FAVORITE chili recipe! (Besides my dad's chili....and he won't give me the recipe):

Savory White Chicken Chili

Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans  (15 oz each) cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chilies 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 container (6 oz) Greek fat free plain yogurt
  1. In a 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Cook chicken, onion, and garlic for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients, except cilantro and yogurt.  Heat to boiling.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  
  3. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and yogurt.  Serve with additional yogurt and chopped cilantro, if desired.
My FAVORITE barbecue recipe!:

Skillet BBQ Chicken

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Servings: 6-8 

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp paprika 
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/3 cup flour
  1. Mix salt, pepper, 1 tsp paprika, sugar, garlic, onion, water, and ketchup in a small saucepan
  2. Heat over medium heat to boil
  3. Simmer on low (uncovered) for 20 minutes
  4. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and 2 Tbsp butter.  Mix well, set aside.
  5. Clean chicken well, pat dry.
  6. Put flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp paprika in a paper bag (I used a gallon sized freezer bag), shaking the chicken breasts (1 at a time) to coat them with the mix.
  7. Brown the chicken in a skillet evenly over medium heat
  8. Pour sauce mixture over chicken, cover skillet and cook SLOWLY for 40-50 minutes.
  9. Turn chicken and baste with sauce several times while cooking.
My FAVORITE burritos!

Baked Steak Burritos 

Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6

  • 1/4  cup butter
  • 1 pkg (1.25 oz) taco seasoning mix
  • 1 1/2 lb boneless sirloin tip steak, cut into thin bite-size strips
  • 1 can (16 oz) refried beans
  • 1 pkg (10.5 oz) flour tortillas for soft tacos and fajitas (12 tortillas)
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (10 oz) enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Mexican cheese blend
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  In 10-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in taco seasoning mix. Add beef strips.  Cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired doneness.  Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, place refried beans in saucepan and heat over medium heat until heated through.
  3. Spread each tortilla with refried beans to within 1/4 inch of the edge.  Top each with beef, cheddar cheese, and green onions.  Roll up, folding in sides.  
  4. In ungreased 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish, place burritos with seam side down.  Pour enchilada sauce over burritos.  Sprinkle with Mexican cheese blend.  
  5. Bake uncovered 7 to 12 minutes or until burritos are thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bibbity, Bobbity, Baby!

Happy New Year!!!!  Insert ridiculous excuse here as to why I haven’t blogged for the past 7 months.  Busyness? Laziness?  Writer’s block?  Choose your own adventure.  What’s important to note is that I am back, I am blogging, and I am having a BABY!!!!  For those of you who are interested in the details of pregnancy or are morbidly curious how ridiculous I have been for the past four months, please read on.  For those of you who are not, stay tuned for a post not pertaining to babies on another day.

When people found out I was pregnant, one of the first questions asked was, “Were you guys trying?”  This seems like a normal enough question, but for some reason in my head I picture two people wearing 80’s workout jumpsuits and sweatbands with a huge clock behind them, screaming “It’s baby-making time!” every hour on the hour.  Normally I am a planner and I have timelines and organizational flow-charts running through my head at all times, but this wasn’t the case with getting pregnant.  Babies are miracles from God and we knew that God’s timing was better than anything we could ever plan.  If you’ve ever watched a video on the miracle of conception, you know that it is an amazing, intricate process that only God can orchestrate. My mom reads this blog, so I will not get into the logistics of how Danny and I enjoy the benefits of our wedded bliss, and therefore it was perfectly plausible that I would become pregnant.  We were excited about the prospect of becoming parents if it was God’s will, but not fervently calculating ovulation days, if that makes sense.

How We Found Out
It was a Saturday (September 10th to be exact), and Danny had gone to a float trip bachelor party extravaganza for the weekend while I went to a women’s conference in Nixa and a 1-year-old’s birthday party.  The day before, Danny and I had gone for a walk and I had felt really faint, but I just thought it was because I hadn’t had enough water that day.  All day Saturday I felt really shaky and weak, but I told myself it was because I drank a coffee drink for lunch and I had given up soda for the month of September, so I wasn’t used to the caffeine.  When I got home that night, I tried to talk myself out of taking a pregnancy test.  I told myself, “Allison Slone, you are not pregnant, you are being ridiculous, you’re going to waste a pregnancy test, and your husband isn’t even in town.  At least wait until tomorrow when Danny’s home to take the test.” 

Despite my best convincing, I defied myself and took the pregnancy test.  As I was taking the test, I prayed, “Lord, I want what You want.  But I also don’t want any false alarms…so please make whatever is on this test the real deal.  If I’m pregnant, let it say ‘Pregnant’.  If I’m not pregnant or will be not pregnant down the road, make it say ‘Not Pregnant’.”  The three minutes I waited for the test to process, I was fully convinced it would say a big fat “Not Pregnant”.  I told myself not to be disappointed, that it just wasn’t God’s timing for us.  When I looked at the test and it said “Pregnant”, I immediately fell to the floor and prayed “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over again.  There were no words, I was in complete shock and my husband was floating down a river with a dead cell phone battery.  I hid the test in a drawer, then went back there periodically 50 or more times throughout the night to make sure I didn’t make up in my head that it said ‘Pregnant’ and miss the word ‘Not’.  I could not sleep at all that night, so I made a sign for Danny that said “Welcome home Daddy!  Love, Baby Bean” and put it in the drawer with the pregnancy test.  I spent the rest of the night praying, smiling, and double-checking that I wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating. 

The next day I went to church without Danny and sat in a room full of my close friends with a huge secret to keep.  I kept lecturing myself, “Allison Slone, you will be the world’s WORST wife if the very first person to find out you’re pregnant is not your husband.”  This time I listened to myself and kept quiet.  After church I went to lunch with some friends, and Danny met us there.  I thought I was going to explode when I saw him, but I somehow managed to keep the secret through the entire lunch.  One of our friends at lunch was pregnant and talking about working in the schools and having a separate “baby insurance” for when she took her maternity leave.  When we finally got home (we drove separate cars because Danny met us there directly after his trip), I told Danny, “Hey, I need you to come inside and help me with something.”  He said , “I think I’m going to stay out here a little while and clean out my car.”  Unable to contain myself a second longer, I yelled “You need to come inside RIGHT NOW!!!”  Scared of his monster wife, he complied.  I told him to look in the drawer, and he did.  With big eyes he turned to me and his very first words were, “But we don’t have baby insurance!”  After I slugged his shoulder, we laughed and cried and hugged and thanked God for the blessing.

Symptoms and Cravings
Everyone wants to know your pregnancy symptoms and your pregnancy cravings.  I was sure that whenever I was pregnant I would be hugging the toilet for nine months straight, only taking a break from barfing to eat chili cheese dogs covered in chocolate, but that really hasn’t been the case.  My biggest pregnancy symptoms are as follows:
  1. Sleepiness.  I need naps.  I need pre-nap naps and post-nap naps.  I have been going to bed as early as 7 pm each night and sleeping as late as humanly possible.  At work I struggle to keep my eyes open the hour after lunch time, because I always tend to need a post-meal nap. 
  2. Tears.  I cry at happy commercials.  I cry at sad commercials.  I cry when Danny tries to adjust the covers on the bed and accidentally takes the blanket away from me.  I cry when I see babies.  I cry when I see dads with their children.  I cry when I don’t feel like eating.  I cry when Danny talks to our baby in my tummy.  My mom says I need to “get my emotions under control”.  That makes me cry too. J
  3. Nausea.  For a long time in early pregnancy, I couldn’t enter a bathroom, open a microwave or refrigerator, or even put my toothbrush in my mouth without gagging.  I have only “been sick” about 10 times total, mainly when I try to drink super concentrated healthy juice, eat a salad, or smell a particularly stinky toot from one of my kiddos I’m working with.  I have been generally disinterested in food, and had a particular aversion to onions (which I normally adore) and meat, particularly raw meat that I have to cook myself.  Poor Danny, the Slone household has had many a vegetarian and onion-free meal since I’ve been pregnant.

As far as cravings go, the only two things I have craved consistently are chocolate and potatoes in any form.  I love baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, and potato chips.  I have been striving to eat balanced, nutritious meals, but several times all I could manage for dinner was a baked potato.  Normally I like a small chocolate or two just to leave a sweet taste in my mouth, but since I’ve been pregnant I’ve had to ask Danny to hide chocolate from me so I don’t eat the entire bag.  I was hoping pregnancy would make me not such a wimp about spicy things, but I have not been very “daring” at all with spices.  I crave what is bland, what is plain, and generally what is unhealthy.  Those women who tell you to “Just listen to your body” when you’re pregnant obviously don’t have the crazy body that I do.  If I “listened to my body” all the time during this pregnancy I would now weigh 700 pounds. 

Danny’s Adorableness
I need to take just a mushy minute to talk about how adorable my husband is.  He has been a complete angel and blessing through these past several months.  He is the most attentive, sweet, PATIENT man in the entire world and I thank him for it every day.  For the first few months of pregnancy when all food repulsed me, he readily took over all of the cooking and gently coerced me into eating small meals.  When I was taking my pre-nap naps, naps, and post-nap naps, he was picking up the slack around the house by doing laundry and dishes.  When I cry for no reason, he smiles and hugs me and tells me everything will be okay.  In his first conversation with the baby, he laid out a gospel presentation.  Since then, he has sang to the baby, kissed the baby, and read a fatherly Bible passage about not fornicating.  He helps me put lotion on when I get out of the shower so I don’t get too itchy during the day.  He brings me water every night and reminds me to take my prenatal vitamin.  He has read the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book cover to cover, and any time I complain about a symptom, he’ll say “Yeah, the book said you might have that.”  Then he provides me with the book’s suggested remedies.  I weep when I think about what a great dad he will be, and I weep when I think about how amazing of a husband he is to me now.  It ALMOST makes me want to give in and let him name the baby Stonewall or Tecumseh or Jubil or Lowell.  ALMOST.

Trusting God
I have been completely terrified through this entire process.  When I found out we were pregnant, I was so excited but also so filled with worry.  I have had so many amazing, godly friends who have had terrible difficulties getting pregnant and heartbreaking miscarriages.  I wanted to trust that God was going to provide this blessing, but I also wanted to guard my heart.  It took four agonizingly long weeks before we had our first ultrasound to see the baby’s heartbeat.  The verse I hung over my desk and meditated on over and over again during that time was Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  God has been faithful despite my lack of faith.  Our initial ultrasound was a healthy little bean with a heartbeat.  One day I found out that I had been exposed to fifth disease through one of the kiddos I work with, which is not good for pregnant women and there’s a small percentage of spontaneous miscarriage from exposure.  I impatiently waited 2 weeks to get the results of my blood work.  One night when I was in St. Louis at a conference, I found a tiny streak of blood when I went to the bathroom and immediately assumed the worst.  I angrily asked God, “Why would you give me this baby and then take it away?”.  I came to the immediate realization that this baby WAS God’s to give or take away, not mine.  At my next doctor’s appointment we heard a healthy heartbeat and my doctor told me I had previously been exposed to the virus, so I had the antibodies to protect the baby.  There is something so humbling about carrying a miracle that God is intricately forming inside of you, knowing that there is literally nothing you can do except try to stay healthy and pray for the best.  I am praying for a much greater faith in the Lord and His will for my life, whatever the outcome.  It’s a hard but rewarding journey to practice surrendering control.  Maybe He knew that my ultimate lesson with surrendering control would be a time where I had no other choice.  J  He’s so wise.

We are now 20 weeks (halfway through the pregnancy) and we find out on Tuesday if we are having a boy or a girl.  I have a feeling it’s a boy, but we will see what God has in store for us in 2012. J