7.14.2014

What I Did this Summer, Instead of Writing

In the past eight weeks, I began about twenty posts that I never finished. We have been traveling non-stop since mid-May and our days have been full of support raising, spending time with family, and bouncing back and forth between Kyle's & my parents' homes.

In spite of the crazy, I feel like I've spent the summer collecting small moments of peace, the ones tucked into the corners of the day that are easy to miss, sometimes. Early mornings with Jesus & coffee, date nights with Kyle, sweet conversations with my parents and in-laws, and a few never-change-out-of-pajamas days with Z & V.

So here, in the form of (we'll call it) a photo essay, is what I've been doing this summer, instead of writing:


I went outside. This has been the first summer in five years that I am 1. in Texas and 2. not pregnant, so I tried to get outside as much as possible. I was, ironically, trying to write when I took this picture but I wound up closing my laptop and soaking in the sunset instead. Sunsets in the Texas hill country are my absolute favorite. I don't want this to sound like a bad country song but, fyi, they are even better when you're drinking a beer. 

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Playing with V. I have been holding this blue-eyed beauty and soaking in the baby smell and soft skin. Babies change so much during their first year, especially, that sometimes it really does feel negligent to not watch them wiggle & grow in front of you. 

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Celebrating Z's  second birthday. HOW IS HE ALREADY TWO? We threw a co-birthday party with some of our best friends, who's little boy's birthday is the day after Z's. This didn't really take up a crazy amount of time, but throwing a birthday party for littles was more work than I anticipated. Next year we will probably do something really glamorous like setting up a baby pool and inviting some of Z's friends over for chocolate chip cookies. 

I chose this picture because it has Z and his buddy who was turning one (the bald cutie in the front), and they are both staring at that poor child on the right like they have no time for his problems, and could he please move out of the way and not ruin their party? thankyouverymuch. 

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Went to a wedding and hung out with good friends, without our kids, aka we had fun. Don't get me wrong, kids are fun, but so is having an uninterrupted, hilarious conversation with good friends, staying up late, and then sleeping without the ambience of the faint hum of a baby monitor. It's a different fun. One that we haven't had in awhile.  Grandparents who babysit little ones overnight are proof that you still do selfless things for your children even when they are almost thirty. This picture was taken at the rehearsal dinner of our friends' wedding. Kyle was the best man, and we had a beautiful time celebrating these two amazing people getting hitched. 

And we did so with the circle of friends that we went through college with. If Boy Meets World would ever get its act together and make a made-for-TV reunion movie, I imagine it would feel a lot like this weekend did. Also, some of our male friends have paired up with ladies that I loved getting to know. Good job, gentlemen, good job. 

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Kept Z alive without the use of an insane amount of TV. This activity probably took up 80% of my undivided attention this summer. Two-year-olds have this admirable trait of wanting to squeeze every. ounce. of. life. from their day, which also happens to feel, sometimes, like they are squeezing every. ounce. of. life. out of you. 

But then, you catch moments like the one in the photo above and think, "It's a short time in life that you can run around covered in marker, wearing nothing but a lavender headband and a diaper, and experience no social repercussions, so I'll let you enjoy it." 

He is crazy. And amazing. 

And we watched a lot of Curious George. 

***

Yesterday the pastor at my parents' church spoke about thankfulness. At the end of the service he asked people to come up to the front and, on small slips of paper, write out their thanks and place them in jars. In testament to how God has softened my heart, ten years ago this is something I would have rolled my eyes at. Yesterday, though, I saw something holy about the Body giving an offering of thanks in such a tangible way.

A more serious reflection of my summer would show an impatient woman who has been not exactly content with the season I'm in. As I was scribbling on my slip of paper, I realized that God has been incredibly good to me in this season of waiting.

And I'm sure this is the way it works for everyone, but I'm always amazed at how, once I stop dwelling on the idea that I'm not getting what I believe I deserve, I usually find that I'm receiving even more.

Hope your summer has been beautiful.

5.07.2014

When God Told Me to Quit Whining

The Lord asked me to give up complaining for Lent.

The transition to motherhood was pretty hard for me. I've never been a "go-with-the-flow" sort of person, and there are days and weeks of motherhood that are pretty much all flow. I just got caught up in the 1, 462, 863 daily details that come with raising a child. So I began voicing my frustrations, often, and mostly to Kyle. 

When Lent came around this year, I felt the urge to do some sort of fast, but honestly couldn't think of anything. My two token fasts: caffeine and Facebook, were out. I'd already given up Facebook, I was barely drinking caffeine because of the pregnancy, which also prevented me from doing any kind of food fast. (Okay I guess I could have given up sugar, but thankfully the Lord didn't convict me to do that because ALL THE CRAVINGS were happening.)

I prayed about it a few days, and then the Holy Spirit spoke pretty directly to my heart and said, "Work toward giving up complaining." 

It was kind of an embarrassing thing to admit, to be honest. At first I wasn't sure if I heard correctly. I was all, "Lord, complaining? Isn't there something a bit more, I don't know... serious that we could work on?" 

And then He was all, 

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." -- Phil. 2:14-16a

As if that wasn't enough, Z hit a whole new "whiny" stage of his own. He having way more of an excuse  than I, since he lacks most basic communication skills. Still - on a particularly bad day when my patience was past gone I turned toward him and said (as my eye was twitching), "STOP. WHINING."

And then I felt a tiny little voice (let's call it the Holy Spirit) say, "He can only do what he sees you doing."

Ew. 

It's been kind of messy, actually. It's not like God gave me a twelve-step process to be free of negativity, but there are a few new habits I've begun to cultivate. 

- Filling my mind with positive things. Too Oprah? Maybe, but it works; and way more importantly, it's also scriptural. (Phil. 4:8) This doesn't mean burying my head in the sand, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's a pretty simple filter actually: will reading/watching/listening to/thinking about [blank] help me look more like Jesus?

Jesus was able to engage the world without turning into a hot mess of pessimism. I figure I could attempt to do the same.

- Being thankful. I have attempted to work on this ever since reading Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts. It's a sloooowwww process. I try to think of five things, every day, for which I'm thankful. Some days it's pretty easy, other days it's not.

When I was in highschool, my youth pastor challenged us to take someone we didn't like and for two weeks, every time a negative thought popped into our head, stop and think about something positive about that person. Doesn't matter how trivial it is. "Wow... their hair is always so clean." You know, whatever you can drum up.

I tried the experiment and found myself enjoying conversations with someone that a few weeks previous it was hard for me to be in the same room with.

So my most recent step has been to take not just people, but everything in my life that is a source frustration, and replace the negative thoughts with something about it or them that I'm thankful for.

And it's working out pretty well.

Granted, there are the small, trite inconveniences that I really just need to get over... I've found these are the easier things to stop complaining about, obviously.

And then there are the not so trite, kind of sensitive areas of hurt and disappointment that I don't think the Lord is asking me to, "just get over." There's a lot of pain in this world and I don't think Jesus wants us to mask it with a false Pollyanna-esque cheerfulness. I think He just wants us to trust Him. Trust Him more than we do ourselves.

Trust Him when we really can't keep our heads above water. When it seems impossible to focus on anything except how unfair or difficult our situation in life is. Truthfully, it seems hypocritical to write all that knowing how absolutely terrible I am at it.

But I guess that's why God told me to quit whining, so I can try to start trusting Him instead. 

4.19.2014

V's Birth Story // Natural v. Medicated Birth

Click here for Z's birth story.

She's here! April 7, at 5:38am. Kyle is convinced that we're fated to have babies in the middle of the night, and I guess since we're two for two he may be right.

Taken at the hospital, with my cell phone. We did snap a few actual pictures with our actual camera, but I fear she's already doomed to the "second child" fate because I think Z's entire first 24 hours was documented on film. 

I find it interesting the way things happened with V, because for most of her pregnancy I was planning on going the natural route again. About two months away from my due date, however, I began experiencing a lot of fear about the birth itself - mainly, that I didn't want to do it.

Which is a common thing for pregnant women to feel, I've been told. The fear of birth made sense to me, even in my most hormonal moments. I don't know any woman who has children because she enjoys labor and the recovery process. Talk to us six months after, when our baby is cute and chubby and *hopefully* sleeping through most of, if not all of, the night, and the incredibly insane *whatever* that our body just did has all but left our memory.

In addition to the normal fear, Z's birth wasn't entirely smooth - and the recovery process well, sucked. But everyone was saying, "Don't worry! Second births are way easier!" God and I had several conversations about it, and the whole time I felt like He was saying, "I'll be there with you, Christina. Don't worry. Trust me."

I went to a refresher class for the Bradley Method, which we used with Z, and I walked away encouraged. Reminded about all the tools that I had at my disposal to walk through this birth without the use of an epidural.

And in spite of all these good things, there I still stood, a few weeks out and feeling a bit hesitant about the whole thing, even though I had done it before.

Over the next few weeks I focused my energy on getting ready for her to be here. I was excited about her, you know. The little one kicking around inside of me. It was just the process of her arriving that was making me nervous.

Really, looking back, I simply lacked the same confidence I had going into the Z's birth. There was this weird assurance that I could do it. Not a big deal for some, but if you know me and my very low pain tolerance - the fact that I'd be so confident to give birth without pain medication was very likely a supernatural grace.

With V - it just felt so different.

On Sunday morning, I woke up having contractions that were 20ish minutes apart. This continued all day. They were not painful at all, very much what I remember from "early labor" with Z. So I went to church, went to lunch with Kyle's parents (who came in town hoping V might show up that weekend), and then took a nap. The rest of the day I walked, and walked, and walked. We went to the mall and walked until they closed, and then went and ate dinner at a restaurant within walking distance from our house. The whole time, my contractions wouldn't get closer together than twelve to fifteen minutes.

Then, after dinner they started picking up a bit. I was excited, and we got our overnight hospital bag ready with last minute items.  Then all of a sudden, they shifted back to 20 minutes apart. LAME. Though still not painful, the contractions had bumped up to, "If this keeps up all night - I will be a hot mess in the morning," status.

At some point after we went to bed, I began to get all panicky, like, "WHAT IF I LABOR FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS LIKE THIS. WHAT IF MY LABOR IS HORRENDOUS. WHAT IF. WHAT IF. WHAT IF."

So, after I calmed down and my breathing returned to normal, that verse in Philippians where Paul straight up tells us to not be anxious in anything (I assume this includes birth) and rather to, you know, talk to God about it, ran through my head.

So I did, and for the first time during the whole pregnancy - when I finally calmed down enough to just let God talk to me, I felt Him ask:

"Christina, why aren't you considering an epidural?"

Me: "Ummm... because I did it this way last time? And because if I get an epidural that means I caved."

God: "Yeaaahh... those don't really seem like good enough reasons to me."

And you know, they weren't. Just like that, my heart was flooded with peace, and I turned to Kyle (who was asleep), poked him in the side and said, "Kyle, I'm choosing to get an epidural this time."

And he half mumbled something like, "Sounds great, Babe." And then fell back asleep.

Something I've mentioned on this blog before is how labor can slow down, or stop all together, when there's an unprocessed fear/source of anxiety. Well, as soon as I made the decision to go with an epidural, my contractions started coming super fast. They went from barely squeaking under ten minutes apart to to being 3 to 4 minutes apart in like, half an hour.

We scrambled to throw all of our stuff in the car, woke up Kyle's parents so they could take Zeke, and took off to the hospital. At this point my contractions still weren't that intense. I wasn't able to talk to anyone during the contractions, but in between I was pretty chipper. (To be honest the only reason we left was because of how close my contractions were - if I had gone based on pain, we may have been pulling into the hospital around the same time V decided to make her appearance.)

Oddly enough - I had zero contractions on the car ride over - which didn't bother me because nothing is quite as obnoxious as laboring when you're sitting up with a seat belt on. My first contraction that may or may not have made me curse (in my head - my father-in-law was in the car with us) happened right when we pulled into the ER.

Now, if you've ever had a baby at the hospital, you know that they encourage you to "pre-register" so that you don't have to fill out a million forms when you show up and a baby is trying to shove their way out of you. We have done this both times, and I have yet to understand that in spite of this, there are still about 500 million questions you must answer about yourself and your family's health history before they check you in. To be fair, this is one of the very few issues I have with hospitals. But still, when your uterus feels like it's being turned inside out at the same time that someone is taking a sledgehammer to your pelvis, you don't really want to have to think about if your siblings have ever had asthma.

The contractions kept coming, and as I said they had now hit the, "not responsible for my words/actions," level on the pain scale. When the labor & delivery nurse showed up to escort me to my room, I was literally on my knees leaning over the check-in counter, and asked her if I could, "please... please... not use the wheelchair." She let me walk up to the room. Bless her. (Contractions, believe it or not, are actually way less painful when you can be up and moving.)

I labored for about an hour and a half before the anesthesiologist showed up.

Another thing: I hate needles. To be honest, it's one of the reasons that I even began to consider a natural birth with Zeke. Who wants a GIANT NEEDLE being plunged into their spine? I was incredibly nervous. Especially because they make you watch this video (I kid you not, again, while the sledgehammer is going) about all the things that can go wrong with an epidural.

Here's the thing though, they shoot you with a local anesthetic so I didn't even feel the epidural. I mean, I felt a weird little poke but that's it. Getting my IV hurt worse than the epidural did. And after that weird little poke?

I felt nothing. And it was glorious indeed.

I giggled and talked with my sister-in-law for the next two hours while Kyle slept on the floor. (I was too full of adrenaline to sleep.) And then I began feeling the urge to push a little bit, and with each contraction it became harder not to push. The nurse told me that she'd come and check me at 6.00, and around 5.15 I buzzed her because I really didn't think I'd make it that long. Sure enough she came in and after checking me, quickly called my doctor to come.

My OB walked in around 5:30, I woke up Kyle, and after a few pushes, V came into this world eight minutes later.

My recovery, compared to Z, has been light years easier.

So now you may be thinking, "Um.... are you trying to convince me that natural birth is crazy?"

No. I believe that natural birth was exactly how I was supposed to have Z, and I'm not ruling it out for future children, either. In fact, my OB told me when Z was born that not getting an epidural likely played a huge role in the fact that I wound up not needing a C-Section. Since I didn't get one, I was able to feel everything that was happening, which made my pushing way more effective.

However, with V, my OB told me that getting an epidural is probably what made the recovery so much easier. I was able to wait and not rush through the last few pushes, which gave my body plenty of time to relax.

I believe birth, like everything in life, is a spiritual thing. There were times during this process that part of me kept feeling like I might be "over-spiritualizing" it, or something. But that just wasn't the case.

So now, where I stand on natural v. medicated is to be Spirit-led each time. I will tell you that I am so grateful that I live in a time that I have a choice. And I'm overwhelmed with gratefulness that our V is here, safe, and so am I.

God has this crazy way of giving us exactly what we need, even when we try and fight it.