Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Ride

As of Friday, I was riding bps like 148/95 whenever I got up to pee. On Saturday, 2 doses into my labetalal (or something like that), the numbers were more like 130's over 80's - much better. Today, I had 106/69 - which would be okay for a normal blood pressure, but lower than my normal level and definitely lower than what my doctor wants. I was light headed and felt pretty funky.

Part of the problem is that I took my morning dose only 8.5 hours after the previous dose, rather than 12. I had a cup of coffee at church, but felt funky until after lunch. Still, even at my busiest, my bottom number is high seventies. I'm giving it a little time to see where we level out, before calling my ob and asking for a lower dose.

The ride for my heart follows a similar pattern, maybe. Going from thinking there were two weeks left to just really not knowing when or how has been a ride.

Here's where I landed:

"I want hold you."

Most of my children have gone through that delightful developmental stage of saying, not, "hold me," but "hold you." And some of them, as their language has progressed, went on to say, "I want hold-you."

Pick me up, I'm tired, I'm afraid, I don't know all these people, I don't understand what is happening, I feel small, this place is unfamiliar . . . "I want hold-you" can mean so many things, but it can all be summed up with this: whatever is wrong right now, I know you can fix it.

A little one often doesn't know why they feel the way they do. Maybe he needs a diaper change, maybe she doesn't feel well, maybe hungry, maybe thirsty, maybe a child's sensitive little spirit just knows something's just not right.

But they know the answer. Whether I'm scared, hungry, tired or poopy, being held my daddy will take care of it.

My friend Dave spent some time holding my littlest one today, and the picture of tall strong Dave holding my little baby girl, combined with the sermon and the worship reminded me of something so true.

"You are my hope," we sang. "Be silent, while the Lord fights for you," Kevin preached. "I want hold You," my heart cried out.

Pick me up, Daddy. This is hard. I feel out of control. I don't know what is going to happen. I'm frustrated. I'm lonely. I'm angry. I want hold You. Pick me up and carry me. I know You know. That is enough.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Better, sort of

Doing better.

The cavalry came. Laundry, dishes, meals, cleaning up, tidings of comfort and joy. What blessings friends are!

Blood pressure medicine working, pressures back in the safe range, even sitting, even after getting up and making a few pbj's, even living a little. I still have a headache, but pretty mild. So that's better too.

My house looks better, there is a bottom to both sinks, the laundry is clean, and some put away. That means my husband is happier, and that is good too.

The other side is that my husband is overwhelmed with work right now. It happens to everyone from time to time. This is one of those times for him. He will be able to push pause and take a break when I need him, i.e., when it is time to have the baby, and he is doing everything he can to do everything I am not doing here, but I just miss down time with my man. I miss his heart and mind when he is carrying the weight of the world (much of it being the things I'm not doing) doing ever so much more than his share.

I am 35.5 weeks pregnant and will definitely have a baby sometime in the next month and a half. Furthermore, I will definitely have a baby that is either a boy or a girl, and has either 46 or 47 chromosomes. I can say also, with certainty, that I will either be induced or I will go into labor on my own. And I'm pretty sure it will take somewhere between 1 and 20 hours, roughly.

I am trying to gear up for the long haul. I'm trying not to worry about the blood pressure/pre-eclampsia/headache things. I am trying to turn my trial (it is a small trial, really) into an opportunity to acquire some perseverance, proven character, hope, all that jazz. Patience, focus on the Lord, who knows all things, the date of my baby's birth, the gender, the number of his or her days, the name, hair color, and yes, number of chromosomes.

If I can just get my head out of my butt and press in to the One, the Sovereign, if I can just reach out and cling to the Faithful One, the Friend, if I can stop searching Google and Babycenter and rest my heart in that secret place . . . I think there might just be some peace.

Maybe my headache would even go away.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Living Life on the Horizontal

Ironic, actually, that because I am living life on the horizontal, I was unable to finish posting this blog. I am on bed rest. I am on the couch. On my left side. All day long. My children are cooking, caring for the little ones, and having a blast on the Wii and playing outside in the snow (eldest son made an igloo).

When I am laying down, my blood pressure is okay. When I am sitting or standing it goes up too high. I'm frustrated. I cannot cook, clean, do dishes or laundry. (Funny, how those are all the things I'd normally not love to do - turns out I don't mind them, just on my own time.)

My ob is saying if my blood work is clear (I went out in the snow and got my blood drawn today) I can start taking blood pressure medicine tomorrow. Hopefully that will buy me some time and maybe I can last long enough to go into labor on my own.

What!? Go into labor on my own? No! That is an option I have not even considered with this pregnancy. Well, maybe with the extra chromosome, go into labor early because of that. But honestly?

Why is that such a problem, you ask? Because going into labor on my own has historically meant 41 weeks. I was planning on 37. Today I found out baby weighs over 6 lbs. Thirty seven weeks would have been great. Do the math. Forty one minus 37 equals a whole 'nother month! Ask any pregnant woman who thinks she has 2 weeks left if she wants to go another 6 instead. Ask a kid who is supposed to get out of school on June 1st if he wants to go until the beginning of July. Ask any engaged person if it's okay to postpone their wedding (night) an additional month. Emphatic no.

I KNOW it's better for the baby. I KNOW it will probably make for a more pleasant labor. I KNOW it is the best thing for me, and that I'm doing a crappy job being horizontal anyway, and that's why I have to go on the medicine in the first place.

But I want to meet my Dozer NOW! I want to know who this child is. There are too many options. Is it a boy? Is it a girl? Does the baby have 46 chromosomes? 47? I've been waiting ever so long, and I've been so patient. Sort of.

Right now, my husband and children are watching a movie, something about owls and guardians, and having popcorn and candy night, a family tradition (a night early, yes, plans tomorrow). I'm not with them. Because when I asked my husband, would I like the movie, he said, no, too suspenseful. Too suspenseful!

I d-o n-o-t h-a-n-d-l-e s-u-s-p-e-n-s-e w-e-l-l. Not my best thing.

But I'm here. Laying on the couch, waiting for bedtime, for test results, for medicine that will make it possible for me to wait.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Finalization Day!

It is finished. Our adoption is finalized. As of approximately 12:30 p.m., c.s.t. It is as if I carried her in my womb, she is our daughter. She belongs to us and we belong to her. Until death separates us.

It was a beautiful moment: my husband and me, our little treasure of a daughter, the notary, the attorney, the judge, and a speaker phone. We gave a vow, answered some questions, the judge complimented our family picture and said he will keep it.

I feel like passing out cigars. The day our precious birthmother signed, we went out to Olive Garden, and I wept. There was no joy. It was not a day to celebrate, not a day for dancing.

Today is the time to dance. It's a girl! We have labored and delivered, and great joy is ours.

God gives good gifts. He gives and takes away, and I pray for grace to worship Him when He takes, but today is not that day. Today He has given. Today we celebrate. Today, we dance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's the little things

Like looking for my toothbrush at bedtime and finding it. Dry.

Seeing 5 of my younger children wadded up on the couch with one of the big kids reading a book to them.

Having my husband come home early on a particularly exhausting day.

Spending a night without my beloved children eating my favorite food with one of my favorite people doing some of my favorite things.

Putting my laundry away and finding my favorite shirt AND my favorite jeans together (shouldn't surprise me, since I wore them together last time, as soon as they were clean).

Walking into the laundry room and seeing the floor.

Knowing what's for dinner at 4:15.

Holding 2 or 3 or 4 little ones and all being comfortable and happy. It only lasts for a minute, but it's one of my favorite minutes.

Being understood.

Receiving advise that actually helps and doesn't make me feel like a big idiot.

Playing board games with my big kids and kicking their butts, but barely.

Watching my husband laugh.

Looking at my little adopted daughter and remembering dreaming about her and thinking it would never happen and feeling foolish for even hoping . . . and having the courage to hope again and feel foolish again.

Having a contraction or two here and there and knowing it won't be forever.

Seeing my children worshiping or reading the Bible or drawing or playing together, seeing their personalities and gifts emerging, seeing them care for each other or use wisdom or laugh together, and feeling like with all my failures and shortcomings, there is fruit being born here and because of or in spite of our efforts, our children are becoming people we like and want to be with.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Birth stories, part 5.1

I skipped the birth story of my eleventh child, because I didn't give birth to her, at least not in the traditional way. (disclaimer: I may have covered much of this in earlier posts, but will be redundant here for the sake of having her birth story with the others)

My little sopapilla was "conceived" in our hearts on January 31, 2010. We were at a church service, Lou Engle was speaking. I don't think the focus of his talk was about adoption, but he did talk about a small church somewhere in the south that has adopted a large number of children out of the foster care system. And I think he may have talked about the idea that we, the Church, can't say we are against abortion unless we are willing to open our arms, pockets and homes and receive those babies that didn't get aborted.

Each time I had heard people say those things in the past, I had been very moved, but knew it was not for us, not now, simply because we had so many kids, I run a pretty disorganized shop, I didn't think we could get through a home study, didn't think a birth mom or adoption agency or home study agency would ever say yes to us. But I had heard a few stories to the contrary about that time. And while Lou was speaking, and I was thinking my same thoughts, I felt like God said to my heart, "Why don't you try and see what I will do?"

After the service was over, my husband and I talked and he had had a similar conversation with the Lord. In his case, it went something like, "Why don't you take [That thing I spoke to your heart about being] Not Ashamed out for a spin?" So we took some time, prayed, talked, listened, waited, weighed, researched, and landed at the following conclusion:

God wants all of us to do something for the widow (a woman who has been left by a man, either through death or abandonment) and the orphan (fatherless). The question is what? What we had to offer was us. And we felt like we'd been given an invitation. So we said, ok, we will start walking until we meet up with a closed door.

First door, Tracie Loux. Tracie is the sister in law of our beloved Derek Loux, minstrel, writer, father of a total of 12 biological and adopted children, one of whom is in heaven with him, since he was taken from us in a car wreck around Christmas of 2009. Tracie is carrying his torch as an adoption consultant ( helping people find the need and bringing adoptive families together with babies whose birthmothers are placing them for adoption.

Our first questions to Tracie were a little crazy, but what we were really asking was, do we have a chance? (reminds me of Dumb and Dumber, "What are the chances of a girl like me and a guy like you?", "Not good", "Like one in a million?", "More like one in a billion", "So you're telling me . . .

There's a chance."

That's kind of how we went in. Yes, there were big families adopting. Ok, we said, door number one, open, at least slightly. We accumulated the myriad of pictures and completed the many page profile prep document to give Tracie so she could use all that to make the magical family profile book for us to send to birthmoms, so she would know what our family was like, and what her baby's life would be like if she were to place him or her with us.

Door number two was the dreaded home study door. We had two families ahead of us on the journey, who had both used the same home study agency, and who both agreed that we should NOT use that agency, that they wouldn't know what to make of us. So we went with the other agency, Adoption and Beyond in Kansas City. They would have a contract social worker do our actual visits, and we would go there for a class. That seemed good to us.

Amazingly, (really, I was amazed) we found favor in the eyes of our social worker. She seemed to enjoy (not be overwhelmed by) our children, and each encounter with her was pleasant. This agency does most of its information gathering in the form of a written interview, which worked for me, being a writer of sorts (means: I like to write; not referring to skill), and we did my husband's portion in a sort of dictation/interview/review format, 1 or 2 questions at a time. The funny thing was when a question was something like, "what are your parents personalities, roles in the home, what did you do in your free time and on vacation?" and he would say, "That's ONE question???"

Incredibly, in late June, we received the rough draft of our home study to review and send back. We were thrilled, amazed and worried sick. I was late. Not tardy. Late for not being pregnant.

Now, lest you think us irresponsible for not preventing pregnancy (even though we established in the first few birth stories that we are not very good at preventing pregnancy, and that we think children come from God and are a blessing to be received with joy), remember that we also believed (and still do) that we were a long shot, and that the only way we would adopt is if there was a true need and if God wanted us to.

Not only that, but we are pretty firm on this concept: that children are an unqualified blessing. Period. Whether they are biological or adopted, typical or chromosomally enhanced, and regardless of the specific shade of brown their skin is and the number of alcoholic beverages the mother consumed while she was carrying them.

If God, Who opens and closes all wombs and creates all life from nothing and knits each child from conception, if He put a baby in my belly while we were in the adoption process, then either He would close the adoption door, at least for a time, or He would give us both babies. But honestly, we figured if there was a pregnancy for us, that would be at least the temporary end of our adoption story.

Secretly, I was hoping the whole process would move quickly enough that a pregnancy wouldn't be an issue.

So, as I was suspecting, but didn't feel pregnant, I asked Tracie - what happens if, hypothetically, I were to get pregnant. The answer was basically that if we found out later, it would cost money - because we'd have to update the homestudy. So I went upstairs in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday and took a test. Dark, positive, immediately. K.

So I sent out two emails and a prayer, to Tracie, to the homestudy people, and to God.

I was not excited. I was nervous. I was wrong. I realized I wasn't rejoicing over what God was doing, so I made a conscious decision to tell the people I was with and celebrate with them. 5 minutes later I got an e-mail from the home study people saying congratulations, you're still approved. Unbelievable. My biggest fear - gone.

The 3rd step (door) was sending out applications (filling out applications) - there is a lot of paperwork in adoption. We sent them to a few places, and over the summer had very few opportunities come our way. We said yes to them all, and they all said no to us.

Until a few days before Labor Day, when we learned of a situation that an agency was trying to place. Leaving out the details, a birthmom chose us. She was presented with just one family, but was told repeatedly that if she wanted, they would find more. She picked us.

Fast forward a very few weeks to the actual birth. (Sorry this is so long). We got a phone call on Monday morning that our birthmom was at the hospital with nausea, headache, high blood pressure, admitted with an i.v. magnesium sulfate drip, and was alone. I believe now she had a family member visit, but for the most part she was alone, and I knew they wouldn't take her off the mag, and I knew she was in till delivery, and my heart said, "let's go."

A day later, we had rented a car, packed for 5 (4 going down, 5 to return, we hoped), placed the other 8, and were on our way. We drove all night and I walked into her hospital room at 6 Wednesday morning. After about 5 hours, they announced they were going to begin inducing her. Her platelets were low also, so she couldn't have an epidural. She was not very dilated either, so they started with a cytotec tablet smashed into some gel. This caused her contractions and pain to increase but no dilation. They gave her some pain relief when they could, but she was working all day. She had a friend and a family member there, and her previous labors had been quick, but this was early (36 wks) and her body wasn't ready. After 8 hours, they started the pitocin drip, and it got pretty tough. I was glad to be there, glad to pray with her, glad to help her with contractions and hold her hand when they checked her.

Eventually the family member left, and the friend and I were still there. Her contractions were still strong and hard and she still wasn't progressing. Around midnight or 1 (all fuzzy now) the baby's heart tones began dropping between contractions. I knew from my experiences with The Show and Dimples that we were in trouble, especially since she wasn't progressing at all. So we prayed again, and I sent out a prayer request on facebook. 15 minutes later, because they were worried, they checked her and she was at 2-3 centimeters. Still praying, heart tones still dropping. 15 minutes later, 4-5 centimeters. Prayer, heart tones, 15 minutes, 7, rinse, repeat, 9-10! Thank You Jesus! My girl was ready to push.

45 minutes earlier she had had another dose of pain meds. Between that and the problems with the heart tones, we were told that our baby (which still in my mind was just her baby - none of this was for us yet) was probably going to need some help. She did. She was born with an apgar score of 1, and I'm not sure what that point was for. She wasn't breathing or moving and didn't look good.

Either because I knew God would take care of her and that she was in good hands and because they told us she would have trouble, or because my mind was just on mom at this point - I wasn't afraid. Not for the baby.

Mom, I was worried about. She was bleeding an awful lot and they were repeatedly doing painful things to try to get it to stop. I knew how much it hurt, and I hated it. And they wouldn't stop, couldn't stop, because she needed them to get the bleeding to stop.

Headache, blood pressure still high, platelets still low, our mom was in bad shape. Finally a doctor who seemed to have more authority came in and talked to us, to her. (The medical staff did not know what to do with me, by the way.) They were going to give her general anesthesia and do an emergency D & C. (good.) There was a possibility that she would need transfusions. (okay.) There was a possibility that she would lose her uterus. (not acceptable, not to me. she was okay with it, but i was not - not if she was placing this baby, please no.) We prayed, again, and they took her.

Back on facebook, please pray. Prayer warriors, hundreds of miles away, putzing on facebook in the middle of the night, called to arms. Praying, praying they said.

We waited, her friend and I, for a long time. We talked about lots of things. She was less nervous than I. And it seemed like forever, but God was in that too. This was a friend who was not happy about the adoption. Actually she was pretty angry. And having hours of building relationship with me may have helped some, for her, for mom.

They eventually came and told us she was okay, was given blood and platelets, but still had her uterus. Thanks again Jesus.

From that point on for a couple days, I felt like a new father, taking care of my baby in the NICU, who was on oxygen, feeding tube, eventually taking bottles but without much passion, trying to gain weight; and my baby's mom, in the ICU, no food yet, blood pressure still high, headaches and blurred vision, so that she couldn't even see the pictures I brought her of the baby. My heart was torn between two floors. Between visiting hours and pregnancy and loving two humans that I barely knew, I was exhausted and emotional.

I prayed. I prayed as I walked to the Ronald McDonald house. I prayed while I gave my baby girl bottles (although she didn't feel like my baby yet). I prayed on the elevator between floors.

Our birthmom hadn't signed yet, couldn't sign because she was still on meds. And I told her, on multiple occasions, "If you decide not to place her, it's okay. I'm glad we came, glad to be with you, glad to be here. It's okay." I always treated it like it was a decision yet to be made. I never wanted her to feel like it was too late to change her mind, so I just spoke as if she hadn't made it up yet.

But she told me again and again that she hadn't changed her mind, that she was going to do what was right. She wasn't deciding because of herself, but because of what was right for the baby. And she signed the papers.

It was one of the saddest days of my life. I knew I should be happy on some level. I wasn't. I wept. I cried through dinner. I went to see the baby and ran into mom and the friend who was not happy, so I went somewhere else and wrote in the baby book we had summoned the courage to buy earlier, and prayed, and cried.

It reminded me of Jesus, "And can it be that I should gain . . . " And it seemed horribly wrong. And I felt like I was stealing.

Eventually birth mom was released from the hospital. We didn't get to say goodbye. She was still sick, and unable to come back. After a couple more days we drove away, the five of us. It still felt mostly like we were gaining at someone else's loss.

I still struggle with that. I have to be reminded fairly often that the choice was hers, before she knew anything about us, to place her child, and that she chose us for her child. That she felt like being adopted by us was the right thing for her baby, that she saw it as the right thing to do.

I hope she still feels that way, or at least remember that she felt that way. I hope she remembers that I told her it was okay to change her mind. I hope she remembers that she was and is important to us.

We wanted to give relief to the widow and the orphan, the mom and the baby. The baby is happy. She is fine. She will be well. She will be okay.

But the mom is out of our reach, mostly. Our ability to bless her, to love her is limited to prayer, pictures, texts and facebook communication. How much to reach out to her is a mystery to me. I am not sure all her fb friends know about her decision, and, well, my profile pic is me and the baby.

My heart is for our birthmom. I pray for her. I want what's best for her. She is in my heart forever. I think it never occurred to me that she would perceive us as hurting her so we could have the blessing of her baby. I believed and hoped it would give her relief to know that her baby was in a good place.

I hope that's true. I know she will have bad days. I know I am not to blame for her bad days. But I hope, and I do pray, for joy, for freedom, for hope, for peace, for a good healthy future for this heroic, beautiful, strong woman who somehow allowed us to be part of her life for a moment, and to have part of her heart for a lifetime.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The End of 'Waiting It Out'

That day in October when we learned that Down syndrome might be part of our future, one of the first things I did was call an old friend who was already walking that path. And without taking a breath, she sent me some links, including info about the Down Syndrome Pregnancy group at

Little did I know there is a group for everything at There isn't just one for people who are or might be or might not be parents of a child with T21, there are several. But the one specifically called Down Syndrome Pregnancy is pretty narrow in focus. It is for people who are carrying a child who has been confirmed to have Down syndrome (by Chorionic Villus Sampling or Amniocentesis) or who have high enough odds of it to be thinking about it but choose not to do the aforementioned testing because of the risk they carry for miscarriage. The latter group are called 'Waiting it out'.

That group will very likely disappear. I've been reading (and do not begin to understand the science of it, please) that there are tests being developed that will make it possible for every pregnant woman to know, without risk of miscarriage, beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt, whether or not the child she is carrying is carrying an extra chromosome.

Sounds wonderful, right? I wish. Remember, the current rate of termination of babies with a confirmed Ds diagnosis is something like 92%. But many (perhaps half?) babies with Downs are born without a diagnosis. No one knew they had that extra chromosome until it was "too late."

Now, isn't it marvelous, women and their, um, partners, will be able to know with certainty if the baby they are carrying is "defective" before anyone looking at them will be able to tell they are pregnant.

I hope very much that the baby I'm carrying is one of those special sweeties with an extra 21. I want to make sure every woman of childbearing age in my little corner of the universe has every opportunity to see how delightful and marvelous and perfect he or she is. I want to shine a light on this particular baby-killing scheme of the enemy of life.

Enlarge my territory Lord. I know it won't be easy. Nothing worth doing is. I know it will change us. We need to change. I know our whole world will turn upside down. I trust You with that. If You say no, I trust You with that too. All that You do is good and right. I am not afraid. But please, shine Your light, save these babies, who also bear Your image. Hide them somehow, until they can come forth and bear fruit, spiritual fruit. Save us from our fearful selves.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Birth Stories, part 5

The Amazing Supermom Rides again, sort of

17 months and 2 weeks later . . .
The Show
Summer 2007

1, bad, 2, 3, 4, good, 5 horrible, 6, 7 great, 8 not great. I talked to a midwife and researched the internet - what can be done about high blood pressure. I was put on a very strict diet, lean meats (not processed - basically didn't do pork), vegetables, 30-50 grams carbohydrates per day (I did have whole wheat pancakes at least once a week, with blueberries and almonds, butter, no syrup), 120 oz water a day and a boatload of vitamins (C, juice plus, garlic, and I honestly don't remember what else).

Probably the main thing that was different is that I gained no weight. Actually I lost a bunch and gradually worked my way back up until, on the day he was born, I weighed the same as the day I found out I was pregnant.

My blood pressure was borderline near the end, but I didn't have to be induced and went into labor on my own, a few days BEFORE my due date. And I was bleeding. That day was my most typical labor, starting very gradually, writing the contractions down with times and seeing them get closer together all day long.

My husband was working, finishing our retaining wall, and I had the pleasure of telling him to hurry up because it was almost time to go the hospital. My doctor was not on call, and I had no relationship with the guy covering for him.

So I went in with contractions around 5 minutes apart, still feeling okay, but with bright red blood. I was afraid, and prayed, and gave the baby to God, again. The middle name we had for a boy meant "he belongs to God" and I just kept telling Him that, over and over, praying for the next kick. But he seemed to be okay.

When I got to the hospital I was 7 or 8 centimeters, still in a good mood, doing well. My bp was probably a little high, and I got in bed, thinking we were almost there. Then began the worst hour and a half (or 10 minutes or 6 days - I have no idea how long it was) of labor in my life. It was horrible and nothing I did helped. And this doc didn't know what to do with me. Here I was at 8 centimeters, not progressing, writhing, changing positions, wanting to die, bleeding, and all the while the baby's heart tones are slowing and slowing and slowing.

Finally, the doc says, I need you to try to push. And I did, and I did push that baby out, knowing we were very near a C-section.

He was fabulous. 8 lb 4 oz maybe - I am not sure. It was supposed to be triumphant, but didn't feel triumphant. It felt like a failure because I couldn't handle the pain, because my placenta was abrupting, because even without pitocin or an induction, even going completely natural, it hurt like, well, worse than anything I'd experienced.

Maybe having had the epidural with the last baby, I had forgotten? Maybe I'm getting old? It was unnerving. I lost my nerve. I lost my confidence, my pluck. And for the first time, I was afraid.

Too good to be true
Almost 2 years later
Spring, 2009

There were an additional 5 months between 9 and 10, as compared to the other children's spacing. And each month I would relinquish to God my right to have any more children. If 9 was it, that was fine. If there were more, that would also be wonderful. I was grateful for the set we had and was okay either way, to add more or be done.

So when I found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic - this baby was not a foregone conclusion, not an assumption. I knew God didn't have to give me any more children - and I was grateful that somehow He had chosen to bless me again.

I think because, even though my ob considered the last baby to be a success for me, I felt like a failure somehow - I didn't try to eat as well during my next pregnancy. I just gave up. My placenta had started to detach, a symptom of high blood pressure, and my blood pressure had been high, not enough to induce, but high nonetheless. For all my sacrificing, I had avoided an early induction, but I had not had a "good labor" like I'd had with 6 & 7.

So I crapped out. I did walk on the treadmill for a while, and kept it under control (maybe), but then I got sick and stopped that too. And when my bp was high at 37 wks, I said, I don't want to risk waiting and having my placenta detach again, let's go for it. The previous labor was scary, why wait.

At 37 weeks and 1 day I went to my check up, my pressure was high, I went to the WEU, it didn't come down, and they sent me upstairs. My stomach was empty, it was mid morning, and that was not in my favor. I had another long haul ahead of me, and my body wasn't ready.

So, just like with Bibith, I had a super long slow tedious unproductive induction, and gave in to an epidural more from exhaustion and hunger than actual pain. I just didn't think I could do it.

Another all day of imaginary labor (that's how it feels), with a little jello maybe, and at some point started to bleed. WHAT? Another abruption? Not good. Not good at all.

The baby did fine, heart tones good, no distress, but not coming down. Finally, a nurse suggested a position change that seemed to help and our baby girl was born, 7 lb 2 oz, after 17 hours of seeming futility. She didn't nurse well, had a bruise covering the top of her head (poor presentation) and became quite jaundiced.

So even though I have these 10 amazing children, all healthy and strong, all of whom who went home from the hospital on time and nursed for at the least 4 months, even though all that, I look back on my last 3 deliveries as relative failures. I probably shouldn't, but compared to how great and confident I felt after the earlier ones, I do.

The next birth story is not mine, and has had some attention already, and really deserves it's own post.

But, heading into the next delivery, having gained 40 or more lbs, with swollen ankles and feet and calves, knowing my blood pressure will most likely be high, knowing our little person may have challenges of his or her own, I don't know even what to hope for.

I think I'll be induced. Either my bp will be high, or the baby's growth will necessitate a delivery. I do not want to have an epidural. I think my labors with epidurals and especially stuck in bed do not progress, baby gets stuck, labor is long and often hard on baby, and potentially affects the health of the baby after, including blood sugar and jaundice.

My plan is to go to every ob appointment with a very full stomach and schedule all my appointments early in the morning. If I get sent to the WEU I'll have a snack on the way. I have a friend who is going to help me get through the hard parts, only allowing me to have an epidural if I say the secret password. I have to lay down if I can to conserve my strength, use heat, massage, anything available to get through the parts that I can stand to be in bed, so that I have strength to be up when it gets hard.

And I need to find that secret place again, that place where I find the Lord, praying and seeking His face and basking in His presence during my most sacred moments. In my weakness, He shows Himself most strong - hasn't that been the theme of this season.

I have to give my best labor this time. More than ever, my baby might need it. And I need it. I need to not feel like a failure again. I need one more good story. I need to find that place of communion with the Creator, Womb-Wonder-Worker, the Knitter in the secret place. I need to link arms with Him again, as together we bring another life into His world for His glory.

So help me God.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Getting closer

I am 33 and a half weeks pregnant. Not sure if that's any kind of milestone, but it feels like getting closer to me. I was looking at one of my youngest, who is, today dressed in layers - a really loud purple, pink, orange and white paisley dress, a dark purple velvet dress up dress, pink long johns, the teal butterfly print skirt of a swimming suit, and a red shirt with royal blue sleeves and small white polka-dots (don't let yourself imagine that any of those pinks and purples compliment each other, either)and enjoying the uniqueness of her. She has pale blue eyes, dimples that rival the perfection of a cabbage patch kid, fair skin, and blond whispy hair that explodes into a puff of curls on the back of her head (reminds me of Sally from Peanuts). She is delightful.
She is still nursing, which for me is bizzaro, since none of my other children made it past 10 months nursing, and she has kept going through a week without mom (Bermuda:) and another 2 when we went to get our precious #11. But she is, and I think there is good in that - maybe helping get my body ready to deliver a little early.
I'm pretty convinced that this baby will be early because of my blood pressure (and the irresponsible way I've managed it this pregnancy, gaining much, exercising little) and potentially because of my potential to have a potentially chromosomally enhanced bundle of potentiality.
As I look at her, I find myself counting up in my head, then on my fingers, and at last breaking down and getting a piece of paper, how many of my darlings have blue eyes, hazel, chocolatey brown; how many have curls; and all the varying statistics that quantify the uniqueness of God's creation in my house, and wondering . . .

Who will this baby, this #12, this Doze (Portuguese for 12, hence the nickname Dozer) be? Will we have a boy, a girl, blue eyes, brown, green, blond, brown, curly, straight? Who is coming to meet us? Dozer is very busy these days, moving, kicking, hiccupping, rolling, exercising for his or her debut.

And I wonder, even though I think I've found some peace either way, boy or girl, 46 or 47 chromosomes, what manner of child is God giving us? Do we have the typical model, or the enhanced? I don't know. Some 50% of women who have a baby with Down syndrome had NO markers whatsoever on their ultrasounds. And I've never had any, until now. On the other hand, there are women who have all the markers I have and deliver babies who have the typical # of chromosomes. I don't know.

But I'm getting closer to knowing. I am 33 and 1/2 weeks today. 2 of my last 3 were born at 37 and 1/2 weeks. Four weeks left, maybe? I will start having non-stress tests at my next visit. Never did that before.

One thing I've done on my little journey with Down syndrome is read blogs of women who have had babies with Ds. Here are my 3 favorites. Not easy to read, but worth reading, worth knowing, worth feeling.

The third one is doing a fundraiser for the national down syndrome society (at least I assume that's what NDSS stands for). I'm not asking you to give, not sure I'm giving, but I am passing it on. Whether my baby has 46 or 47 chromosomes, I don't think God has called me to be an advocate in the way some moms are. But I do have eyes that are opener than they were, and I think it is worth giving you the chance to have your eyes be opener too. (I know that's not proper grammar, just being funny)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Birth Stories, part 4

17 months and 2 weeks later . . .

Jambo, Fall of 2004
Having experienced the nearly perfect birth of number 6, I had finally figured it all out. There was the meconium thing, and waiting for the doctor, but having a baby without pitocin, in God's timing was definitely the way to go, and I was committed to it.

So, as #7's due date came and went, I was not troubled. As we approached the 41 week mark, I was at peace. At my 41 week appointment, I was not concerned. Until my doctor took my blood pressure.

Up until that appointment, my bp had only been high when I was in labor. Not a big deal. We had since come to an understanding that if my blood pressure was under a certain number, I could still get out of bed to labor, so I wasn't worried about it. But that Monday afternoon at my appointment, my doc said, I'm sorry, but we need to have this baby, I can't let you leave with numbers like this.

I cried. But my husband came, I got hooked up, and from the first drop of pitocin until they said it's a boy it was only 2 and 1/2 hours. Not only that, but I did almost all of it out of bed, and the pain was manageable. I love watching that birth video. It was a real struggle deciding whether to get in bed and be checked, but when I did, they said I was pretty much there. My doctor let me wait until I wanted to push this time. It was quiet and peaceful, no stirrups, the doc, a nurse, a couple friends taking pictures and video, just waiting. Each contraction came and went. (it hadn't taken much pitocin, by the way, being 41 wks) Finally there was a contraction that lasted maybe 3-4 minutes. In the video you can see the people checking their watches. But by the end of that contraction, we had a baby boy, God's gift, and he was perfect and marvelous, 8 lb, 7 oz.

So I thought, okay, maybe pitocin isn't the devil, just trying to have a baby early is the actual devil. Hmmn.

17 months and 2 weeks later (same spacing to the day) . . .

Bibith, Winter, 2006
Like any pregnant woman with children, I enjoy a little break now and then, so when my OB began sending me to the Women's Evaluation Unit (hereafter referred to as the WEU, pronounced Wee-U, which is what my daughter calls the Wii) to be observed, it didn't bother me too much. It was exciting, knowing baby would happen soon, the pregnancy was almost over. I would be okay, I'd stand up during labor, it would be fine. And at 37 weeks 3 days, when my blood pressure was causing my liver enzymes to elevate (that's all I know, don't know which enzymes or how high or anything else) and my ob said we have to do this, I was okay with it.

The problem was that it was the middle of the night, I hadn't eaten, or slept, and I was being induced 3 and a half weeks before my body really wanted to have a baby. And it protested. For hours I would have contractions, get up, and not have them. On. Off. Frus. Trating. Finally, I agreed to an epidural, I thought so they could turn the pitocin up higher and speed things up. But they didn't. I had a sweet little nurse who could see that I was having contractions (It's my 8th baby - I have contractions all the time - means NOTHING!) so she didn't want to turn it up. So nothing happened.

It was morning, the cotton candy nurse left, I had an epidural but was not in labor. I was not progressing, not nothing. Finally, the getturdone team showed up, including Val from my 4th labor, to make things happen, turn it up. I had way too many people there for that baby, which doesn't help with progressing. I was hungry and bored.

Blah, blah, blah, eventually contractions picked up. I should mention that in the 10 or so years since my first, the epidural has changed and now does not take away all feeling, and this is good. Eventually I was feeling them, and finally felt like pushing. right. now. Again, Val trying to keep me from giving birth, again waiting for my doctor to get there, but finally (about 16 hours after we started) we pushed out a tiny 6 lb 2 oz baby girl. She was so tiny we called her baby for years.

She also had a hard time nursing, maybe because she was sleepy, maybe because she was little, maybe because my body was no more ready to make milk than it was to give birth at that point, maybe because she was jaundiced. But she only became more jaundiced because of not eating. And eventually Roberta, the old battleax from the newborn nursery, came and let me know that we had to give her bottles or she couldn't go home with me.

And I wept long and hard and looked like crap. It was the final straw in the labor that didn't go my way. Not my due date, not my labor, not my baby - they were taking it all away. Melodramatic? Maybe, but I also think when you jump start labor weeks early it throws the hormones into a huge lurch and the emotions run wild. I was a mess. Eventually I pumped and worked through it, but it was really rough.

I did not want to do that again.


(written November 23, 2010)

i sent out a text last night to 3 batches of people because i have made myself vulnerable to so many people my phone has to break it into 3 groups to send a text. anyway, this is what the text said: after ultrasound today our odds for down syndrome were lower, baby looks healthy, trusting God for whatever He blesses us with. i don't think i meant to say our odds are all better. i didn't mean we had no risk. i just meant we went from 1 in 2 to something like 1 in 5 at the worst.

the doctor appointment itself was confusing to me. when asked about the nasal bone, both the sonographer and the perinatologist said it is too late for that to mean anything, but last time the peri based her 1:2 odds on its absence. this doc said because the baby is growing and is a good size and that he wouldn't worry.

so this is what i think: i think the doc spoke as from the Lord to my heart. he basically said, don't worry about this. you cannot see the future. your baby may have downs. or you could have a child with autism, or a cancer diagnosis, or lose a child in a car wreck. you can't know the future. right now, you need to focus on what you have, focus on the baby you have in your arms, on your family. whatever God gives you, you will do great with.

but then i have the responses of the whole world who received my text. they all seem to have taken it as a "never mind, we don't have downs." and i don't know if we do or not. i will still be seen monthly. i will still be monitored weekly at the end if the kidneys don't normalize. i think if we had had a different perinatologist we might have had a different interpretation. we Just Don't Know.

and here's the tough little thing - i have come to see the baby in my belly as a baby with an extra chromosome. that's who i think is in there. that is who i'm looking forward to meeting, because that is who i thought God was making. all the people praising God for not giving me that T21 baby are rejecting the baby i want. they are very excited for me, but i feel like i've lost someone.

i'm also having to let go of my pride, and acknowledge that maybe God isn't giving me a baby with Ds because i can't be that good of a mom, that i wouldn't be able to make sure he got everything he needed.

i feel like a fool, having told so many loved ones, sometimes in tears, and now it looks like there wasn't ever that big a risk, and why did i even go there anyway.

but mostly i'm disappointed, because i have loved and potentially lost an imaginary little baby with an extra chromosome, and at the moment of finding out he was only in my heart and never in my uterus (maybe), i also learned that the rest of the world is seeming glad, thrilled that he went away - nobody wanted him but me.

i do not want to be disappointed when my baby comes. for this reason, i will set my heart to receive what to me is the less desirable option - i will anticipate a baby like all the others. and if He ever does in fact trust me with a little 'tongue-er' (nick's name for Ds), i will be the one dancing for joy that God trusted me enough to give me such a reward.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Birth stories, part 3

15 months, 3 weeks later . . .
Nani, summer, Y2K

Firstborn daughter celebrated her fourth birthday 9 days before the arrival of her new sister. In fact, for a while, we had a joke that all our kids got a baby when they turned 4. This baby was conceived against all our understanding of periods and calendars and birth control, and it was at about this time we figured out that we were not very good at family planning. I read the books "A Mom Just Like You" by Vickie Farris (wife of HSLDA Pres. Michael Farris) and "A Full Quiver" by Rick and Jan Hess. The first book has two chapters about giving God control of your fertility, one about letting God give you more kids, and the other about trusting God when He doesn't give you more kids - very humbly and gently spoken. The second book is a dogmatic and somewhat sassy presentation of the same basic concept, that babies are a blessing from God to be received with joy.

All I knew was that I was pregnant with my fourth (and presumed final) baby at a young age, and wasn't ready to be done. So somewhere during this time period, WE decided WE were willing to have at least one more.

We also got a bigger house. At 8 months pregnant. Sigh.

It is possible that this delivery represents the height of my arrogance. Knowing that after an ob appointment I would have contractions, knowing my ob (different than the one who delivered my first 3 children) would supplement my "labor" if I showed up at the hospital with contractions (even though we all knew I wasn't really in labor), I had a check up, went for a walk on the hospital grounds, and went in. They hooked me up, decided I needed pitocin to "supplement" my "labor" and there you go, I was induced.

I walked around the floor on pitocin for a couple hours, did nipple stimulation in the room to help it along, and eventually really was in labor. My nurse, Val, who really was very experienced, was telling me it would be a long time, and that I was in too good of a mood and not really in labor yet. I believed her and asked for an epidural. In the 10 minutes it took for the anesthesiologist to get there, I really went into labor and progressed quite rapidly.

My parents popped their heads in while it was being placed, and were told to come back in a half an hour. "A half an hour?!" I said. "What happens in a half an hour?" They answered that I would be feeling much better then. I told them that I didn't think I had that long. I was told I would receive a test dose to see how I handled it, and then I'd get the full dose. But as soon as I turned over, I said, "I want to push, I need to push, I'm pushing (conjugating the verb, you know)."

7 lb, 8 oz Anne (means grace) was born into the hands of Val and the anesthesiologist. A doctor came in from the hall and checked to see if everything was okay, and my doctor showed up a few minutes later. I went from 5 centimeters to baby in 15 minutes. So I began to get a reputation for quick deliveries. We were only at the hospital for about 4 hours.

However . . .

Dimples, Fall 2001

Fifteen months and 3 weeks later, my bubble was burst. Since I'd had a big baby and two fast babies and lived a half hour from the hospital and had 4 small children to find childcare for (blah, blah, blah), and since my OB was probably tired of my whining, we scheduled an induction for the day before her due date. At this point, I had figured out the whole thing, standing up during labor, working through contractions, etc.

The thing I hadn't figured on was high blood pressure. This is where it begins. My blood pressure was high that day, so I had to stay in bed. All. Day. Child number 5 hadn't been told that I go quickly. Contractions that happen at 2 centimeters when you lay on your back in bed feel very much the same as contractions that happen at 6 or 7 or 8 centimeters when you are up moving around. It is just that different. But I knew I would go quickly, so I held off on the epidural. After all, I was a week more pregnant than the last two babies.

But alas! This was the labor that never ends, the baby who was coming down wrong, positioned wrong, I couldn't (didn't know enough to) move around in the bed to help her out, had a freaked out nurse, and came pretty darn close to a c-section and/or vacuum extraction.

Finally, my doctor said, "I know you aren't complete and don't have the urge to push yet, but (heart tones dropping, I've been on O2 for a while, an O2 sat monitor on the baby's head, amnio infusion, all the interventions going in me without an epidural, the guy doing it rolled his eyes when he realized I was feeling the whole thing, I thought there were like 3 sets of hands in there and wondered while they were all in there why they didn't just grab the baby and pull it out!) we need you to push this baby out."

I had an anterior lip, or something like that, but after 20 hours of pitocin, when I saw the vacuum extractor come out (which looked to me like Mr. Waternoose and Randall's scream machine from Monsters, Inc.) I gave a mighty push, like Casey at the Bat, and Voila! A silent blue child emerged.

I asked if she was ok several thousand times and no one answered (or they did but not convincingly, because she was still silent).

But eventually she did scream and we all started breathing again. I was anticipating a boy. I was anticipating a great and triumphant labor. I was anticipating everything going the way I wanted it to. And it didn't happen the way I anticipated.

What happened instead was dimples. 6 of them. Not even smiling, I counted 6 dimples and the brightest eyes I had ever seen. And after the scare she gave me, I loved that baby so hard. 7 lbs, 8 oz, Claire, meaning light. Her song was Claire de Lune, and she reminded me of how our light is just a reflection of The Light that coming into the world was the Light of men, and the darkness could not overwhelm it.

The next couple days of storybookland continued. I hemorraged a bit, nearly passing out, seemed to have a little something left inside, more hands inside without enough pain medication to handle it.

The entire experience was enough to make me consider whether to have more, whether to switch doctors, etc. But I did a pile of research on the internet, figured out what I'd been doing wrong, and went into the next labor with a whole new groove in mind.

16 months 3 weeks later
Nuke, spring 2003

I was committed to ridding myself of Pitocin forever. I was going to wait. I would wait until I was in labor, real labor. I wasn't going to whine or be impatient or self induce or use nipple stimulation. I was going to wait until the baby was ready to come out and my body was ready to give birth. I was going to let God be in charge of when my labor started instead of trying to make it happen myself.

So here we were, expecting another child, partly because we still had a boy name we were waiting on, Nicholas - victorious. And my due date came and went, of course. And approaching the one week mark, with offers of pitocin, I held firm. After my last doctor appointment, on a Friday afternoon, I asked my husband to meet me at the mall, and we walked for two hours with hard contractions every 2 minutes, breathing through them, sure this would be it, but so tired. Sat down to rest, contractions all gone, bye-bye.

The agony and humiliation of going home to children and in-laws without being in labor. I half heartedly vacuumed the basement, but knew in my heart that I would, in fact, be pregnant for-e-ver. Ate dinner, went to bed, didn't even bother with the marital action, too disappointed. Woke up to pee at 2:30, sat on the can and Whammo! Contraction. Felt the head come down. Hmmn. That was interesting.

Back in bed, 5 minutes later, contraction. Hmmn. That's never happened before, two regular hard contractions in a row without any outside influence. What do you know? 5 minutes later, if you can believe it, I had another one.

I got out of bed and got dressed, beginning to believe in my heart that the impossible might actually happen to me, I might for real give birth without being induced. And lo and behold another contraction, 5 minutes apart. So the stories were true.

I woke up the husband, he told his parents, and we were off. Contractions still happening in the van, though not so painful (didn't occur to me to be thankful for this). Walked into triage (or whatever it was called then), and they didn't know what to do with me. I was smiling (grinning from ear to ear probably) but said I was in labor, hadn't called my ob. Well, okay, they would check me.

Six! I was at 6 centimeters. 6 centimeters with my 6th baby, they started to believe me. But my blood pressure was high, so they'd give me a few minutes to see if they could get a better blood pressure reading before taking me upstairs. So they're out with my husband at the desk, filling things out, and I'm hurting pretty bad and wishing I was not on a gurney and sploosh! My water broke. Um, green, yeah, everywhere. Well now I had everyone's full attention. Blood pressure reading or no, it was time to go upstairs. Did I mention that I have had a couple quick babies?

So up we went and a few minutes later the pitocin loving doctor walks in (the one who started the drip with child #2 without any notice or permission) and offers to get me going again (because the contractions slowed when my water broke). But I know, from my research, that my uterus just has to catch up because it is all big and inflated and just lost all the water that it was full of. So I insist and he and the nurse leave us alone. No i.v. Was there a monitor? Yes, but it wasn't staying on and THEY DIDN'T CARE! (That was different.)

A few minutes later the contractions picked up again. I got up on all fours with my head and arms resting on the elevated headboard (butt completely exposed, thank you very much) and worked through a couple. Then I had my first transition-like contraction, and I thought, "Oh, it still has to hurt like this, even without pitocin," followed by the tiniest beginning of the urge to push at the very end. We radioed the nurse and she came right in, I got on my back, she checked me, agreed that I was complete, called the desk and said, "tell him to run." She helped me to not push (incredibly, the hardest part of his labor was the NOT pushing), made me look her in the eye, pant, etc, until he got there (because the water was green, we needed him there). She was good.

We gave birth a push or so later to a green haired, punk rocker named Nicholas, who I believe weighed 7 lb, 15 oz. He had a little trouble staying warm, but other than that was a champ, and I felt like Rocky, myself. It had been only 3-4 hours since that first contraction. Beautiful.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Birth stories, part 2

15 months and 3 weeks later . . .

Booty, spring 1999

My first two children were supposed to be 3 years apart and were really less than 17 months apart, 512 days. So when I found out was pregnant with our third child, I cried. This was not the plan. As I said before, I meant to have 4 children 3 years apart, and instead, I would have 3 children in less than three years. (Around this time I read the book "No Ordinary Home" which I love). But my husband didn't cry, he was pleased.

I was afraid I'd never leave the house again. I researched on-line grocery shopping. I thought life was over. I was, of course, again, wrong.

Since our first son weighed 9 lb 10 oz, we used that as an excuse to deliver early. There was some discrepency about when I was actually due, so I was going with the soonest possible due date, and that helped my cause. Finally, since I had discovered that through nipple stimulation, one could practically induce her own labor, I had big impatience and control issues. Finally, to get me to shut up maybe, my doctor said, when you have some contractions going, come on in, we'll hook you up, break your water, and get you delivered.

Only problem, the baby's head was pretty high. So the nurse actually encouraged me to get out of bed and walk with my labor (what a novel idea). I labored all night while my husband slept. I prayed, sang, and had a great time with God. But I was afraid they were going to send me home. At last, I was really in labor, progressing, and the nurse turned the pit off, thinking my body would take over. Wrong! I was 38 wks 5 days, my body takes 41 weeks to make a baby, and my labor went away. So they turned it back up, and the doc went down the hall for coffee.

I labored a while longer, and got on the bed to be checked. Sure enough, I was ready, and the nurse deliberately did not break my water, knowing the baby was sure to come when she did. So we were waiting for the doctor, the nurse was young and inexperienced, and I told her I wanted to push. She said, "don't you want to wait for the doctor", and I said, "not really. I decided to give just a little push, to relieve the pressure just a little, and whoosh! My water broke and my little 7 lb 5 oz boy swam right out onto the bed (which, thankfully, was still intact). Just me, Dad, the nurse, and our little son, whose name means son of my right hand (funny, because he's a lefty). Within a few minutes we had a whole lot of doctors and nurses in the room, and I'm sure the nurse felt terrible.

Surprises/lessons learned:
You can't really decide when to go into labor all by yourself. The contractions you can induce at home can be painful, but unless you are ready, they won't push a baby out.
Standing up and moving with labor is ever-so-much less painful and more efficient than laying on your back in a bed. It took about 12 hours, but most of that was very managable.
A baby who spends no time in the birth canal is beautiful! No battle marks on this boy.
I was so very surprised to have another son. I figured one son was what you got. In my family there were 3 girls and 1 boy, so I guessed that was what I would have. I remember sitting on my couch watching basketball with my sonS and calling my dad and rubbing it in.
Finally, going from 2 to 3 was not that big of a deal. I used a double stroller and a baby carrier and still went everywhere. I got strange looks, but still had enough of an ego to enjoy that. The bigger two played well together, and we did okay. It was loud and crazy, but I didn't really know any better.
Oh, I also learned not to potty train a toddler right before having a new baby. The last thing a new nursing mom wants to do is stop, put the baby down and run to the bathroom to wipe a bottom, even if it's a cute bottom.

Another side story: I had my worst case of thrush with this kid, and it beat me. We stopped nursing at 5 months. If I knew then what I know now . . . cut out sugar and dairy, take diflucan and power-acidophilus, boil everything, use gentian violet and diaper rash & thrush ointment from . . . but I didn't, it got way out of control and I lost.

what if my baby doesn't have down syndrome?


i know that's the wrong question for most people. but our ultrasound report was either better today than last time, or our perinatologist was just a more positive guy, and i'm trying to figure out how to position my heart.

i think God has uniquely prepared us for a baby with down syndrome, i've worked through it, i'm okay, even excited about having a baby with an extra chromosome.

what i'm not ready for is a change of plans. i'm not bouncing well. if we have a typical baby, here are the (potentially ridiculous or petty) things i'm struggling with:
1. did we really hear God?
2. does this mean God doesn't trust us with a baby with Ds?
3. have i wasted all this time reading about/talking about/preparing for Ds?
4. am i a fool for having talked to my loved ones and taken everyone on this little emotional journey?

so what is being required of me (it feels like) i'm going to wait another 14ish weeks trying to be ready for either a boy with 47 chromosomes, or a girl with 47, or a boy with 46 or a girl with 46, trying hard not to have much of a preference so that when my baby is born, regardless of gender or chromosomes, i am able to fully welcome him or her without any shadow of disappointment. barring an amnio or whatever, i will just not know, and need to let go of my need to know.

but here is the real story. God is making a baby in my tummy. And He is doing it exactly right. if He does not give me a Ds baby, then it is because His plan for us and for this baby was 46 chromosomes. and that is good. whatever He wanted to teach us through this process, we will have learned. we will be better friends to anyone welcoming a baby with Ds into their lives. we will be more understanding of persons facing mental and physical difficulties.

that's all i know, all i can go on. God does not make mistakes. He is doing whatever He is doing perfectly. i can trust Him completely to give me grace each day for whatever that day will bring. including down syndrome. including typical. including not knowing.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Birth Stories, part 1

About this time of pregnancy, I begin to obsess about labor and delivery, when it might happen, how it might happen, how I want it to be different than my other labors. And I think about my other children's deliveries, watch the videos. I read birth stories of other women, specifically as they pertain to things I may go through.

This time I've been trying to find birth stories of women about to give birth for the eleventh time in 14 years, who weigh over 250 lbs and are nearly 40 years old, with a history of pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure and with the possibility of trisomy 21. Would you believe I've had a hard time finding any? So I'm writing mine, just in case people want to know.

Kat, 1996
I started my first pregnancy overweight and pretty ignorant. I gained a decent amount of weight. I enjoyed it until the end. I had an induction scheduled for 4 days after my due date because my OB suggested it and it never occurred to me not to do it. We took classes through the OB's office, including the epidural class offered by the hospital. My desire was to go as far as I could without an epidural in hopes of having future babies without one. (Incidentally, at that time, my plan was to have 4 babies, 3 years apart.)
So I went in on a Friday morning in early summer, after leading worship at a Kent Henry conference and dancing around the room in full bloom, got all hooked up, didn't know what a contraction was. After a few hours I felt some, and wondered if I would recognize them if I had them at home. For a while it was a fun game, watching them on the monitor, playing cards, with the excitement of knowing we were having our baby that day.
One of the exciting things was that we didn't know if we were having a boy or girl. Names are always very significant to us, and the names we had chosen for our first meant very different things: either Isaac, meaning laughter, or Katherine, meaning pure.
Beyond that, I was in for a huge surprise.
By 1:00 p.m. I was beginning to be uncomfortable, by 4:00 I was on stadol. My opinion of stadol is that it is a not funny joke. It knocks you out between contractions so that all your consciousness is PAIN. And you are loopy so you cannot focus on handling the contractions. My mom and sisters had been with me up till this point, and while I was hallucinating on stadol my dad showed up. So I would wake up to a contraction, want to die, the contraction would end, and I would say, "I dreamed my dad was here, is he here?" They would say yes and I'd pass out again. This process repeated itself for a year and a half.
Eventually the stadol wore off, the contractions were right on top of each other, and I was willing to have the epidural conversation (sometime around 8:30 p.m.). I wasn't really progressing. I should mention that no one ever encouraged me to get out of bed or change positions other than switching sides. Someone did tell me to go to the bathroom each hour, but I forgot about that when on drugs.
So they placed the epidural maybe around 10:00 (I'm guessing on these times). Once it kicked in, I shook like mad for an hour, my dad sat with me, and a doctor came and told me how glad they all were that I had the epidural and was not in pain anymore.
I think just after they placed it they emptied my bladder. I would guess that an empty bladder, a relaxed mom, the prayers of 2000 people at that worship conference, and it just being time (nearly 18 hours after the beginning of the pit) I did finally dilate the other 5 centimeters (I was told Kent prayed, God let her go 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 baby about that time) and was ready to push. This was back in the day that the epidural removed ALL feeling in the bottom half, so I felt nothing! But I did as I was told and pushed out my baby girl at around 12:30 a.m. She did pass some meconium and so there was a team of folks in the room, but having never had another baby, I didn't know it wasn't normal to have a whole committee present. And they were pleasant and it was fine. My first view of her was a polaroid my husband snapped (that's how long ago it was). My mom was there shooting video, but she's lousy at it, and kept it focused on feet, the floor and the handsome anesthesiologist. Moments later, they handed me my 7 lb 8 oz baby girl.
The surprises were as follows:
The nurses kept calling me "mom".
They kept calling the baby by the name we had given her.
We went into the room as two people and left three.
I had just met this new person who pooped, peed (preferably with the diaper off), sucked, cried and slept (and eventually spit), and I LOVED HER. I loved her like I had never loved anyone or anything. I did not have to learn how to love her. I just did. It was miraculous. Amazing. I was a mom. Just like that.

16 months and 3 weeks later
So-big, 1997
I lost some weight before getting pregnant the second time. In fact, that was the last time I weighed less than 200 lbs. So, of course, I gained a ton and weighed the exact amount when I delivered as I had with #1.
I wanted to not be induced this time. I had heard from a nurse friend about nipple stimulation but frankly it sounded creepy to me. On Saturday morning I had a check up and was at 4 centimeters, had my membranes stripped, and was told they didn't know why I wouldn't have that baby that day. (I was scheduled to be induced on Monday, and just really didn't want to go to church again pregnant) That night, after spending some 'quality time' with my husband, I went down in our small basement, put on some music, walked and followed my friends advice, and had contractions for about 2 hours, 3 minutes apart. I felt pretty good, but they were real. Finally it seemed like we should call the doctor and he, of course, said come on in.
I was nervous, like I'd been cheating, and my contractions slowed on the way there, so I was afraid of being sent home. Some friends met us at the hospital and took Kat home. They admitted me and said I was at 7 or something, so I didn't think I was going home. I was in the bed again, my water broke when the doctor checked me (so I knew I wasn't going home), and HE STARTED PITOCIN, without even asking me or telling me. Granted, my contractions had slowed down, but I was so disappointed, because I had gotten so far with relative comfort.
Looking back, I know that the pit hurt like mad, immediately, because I was already progressed so far - I'm sure it was only on a 2, and just got me moving again. Also, I was in bed instead of walking, and it was transition, after all. After a few contractions, I told my husband to go get her and if I hadn't progressed, I was having an epidural now! (remember, my last experience took a very long time)
She was a very brave, and accurate, nurse, and after checking me, said we would probably have the baby in the next 45 minutes - we did. She immediately set up the baby warmer (THAT was different) and there were no other people in the room, just a nurse or two, a doctor and us, Weird! I won't lie, it hurt, but then, there he was, 9 lb 10 oz, named Joel, meaning God is able.
It was not harder to give birth to a baby who weighed 2 more lbs.
Adding Pitocin when already in labor was very different than starting from nothing.
A baby that nurses all the time will make your milk come in faster.
Having a baby when my body was ready was easier and much faster (4-5 hours) and just way better than the 18 hour induction we had the first time.
I had worried that all that miraculous love I had experienced for my firstborn, that filled my entire being, I was worried that I wouldn't have that for #2. I just couldn't imagine it. I thought, oh, it's too bad for him. Not so. It reminded me of the Grinch who stole Christmas - my heart simply expanded and I somehow loved both in that way I didn't imagine I could love anyone. Unbelievable.

Having closely spaced children, I will add that it is my opinion, when 2 are so close, to put the older child ahead of the younger at times, simply because I never wanted to force my older baby to stop being a baby before she was ready just because she happened to have a brother so close. I didn't want to make her potty train or change beds or whatever before she was ready. I wanted to allow her to be the age she was at the time. I also felt she had more of an ability to remember or feel slighted on the baby's behalf, whereas he didn't know if he'd been crying for 10 seconds or 3 minutes. So if she needed a drink and he needed to nurse, I would get her drink first.
I know life was crazy then, but I think I was crazy enough to just enjoy the moment. I've never been very uptight about keeping my house/room clean, and that value system has worked to the advantage of my sanity, although perhaps not that of my husband. We read a lot, were on the go a lot, watched hardly any tv, and tried to conquer the world. I had a friend who watched the two of them one morning a week, and that was my time to go to Cracker Barrel and do my entire weekly Bible study in 2 hours.
Reflecting on that season, I was pretty cocky, I was working at church 1 day a week, and was trying to protect my husband from how overwhelming life was. I took them wherever I needed to go, grocery shopping, friends' houses, Walmart, road trips. It was the beginning of the adventures of the Amazing Supermom.

And that is the end of my birth stories, part 1.

Straddling the universe with hope


It is weird to me that I am writing all these posts in secret, not to publish until everybody knows that needs to know, until we are ready, until we know a little more.

And today I know less than I did yesterday. My ob called this evening. He had finally read the 'report' from the perinatologist. And it was just as confusing as our visit was then. On the one hand, only one tiny marker, big kidneys, big deal. On the other hand, 50/50 odds, talk to your pediatrician, want to see you back because "these babies sometimes experience fetal demise". Until my husband asks the big question - knowing what you know, what odds?
What makes her think so strongly? In the report it just said, "nasal bone not convincingly displayed," or something like that. "I hope I'm wrong," she said.
Obviously, everyone hopes she's wrong. My ob hopes she's wrong. My pastor hopes she's wrong. Friends, relatives, husband, of course we hope she's wrong.
But I don't. I am trying to be okay with whichever baby God has made. But it is hard to adjust to both possibilities. I have experienced the need to be ready for a boy or a girl. I have prayed, "God, I need You to help me be ready if I'm having . . . " whatever I wasn't hoping for. And He has.
But this is different. In order to be ready for a baby with Down syndrome, I have to believe that if that is what God gives us, that is the very best thing that could happen. In order to be in a position where I will be relieved to have a baby with 46 chromosomes I have to focus on, believe that a 47 is less desirable than a 46.
It is hard not to have a preference, hard not to want one thing more than another. And today, my preference is what I think God has been saying. I think God is saying He's making a baby for us with 47 chromosomes. So that's what I want.
When we were answering adoption questions and one of the questions was Down syndrome, we said no. It's not that that's what I've always wanted, not that I've been praying for that, not that I would have gone out of my way to pursue it (although I'm learning that once you are the parent of a child with ds, you might just feel that way). The reason that is what I want is because at this time, that is what I think God wants.
Could I be wrong? Sure, I'm wrong all the time. Overthinking, overreacting, letting my imagination prepare me for the worst case, just in case, being safe rather than sorry - these are all ways I roll. I'm a thinker and a dreamer. So my prayer is that the Lord would prepare my heart for whatever He is doing, boy, girl, 46, 47, whatever.
So, don't worry, Dr. Herrmann, about getting my hopes up. My hopes are high. I'm hoping not for a particular # of chromosomes or a certain gender, but for God's Name to be glorified, for His Kingdom to expand, in my heart, in my house, on my block, in my city, here, wherever He takes us, I hope He is exalted. God is making a baby in my belly. He Who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A year ago today

A year ago today I was different than I am now.

I thought adoption was something I could not do, or would at least have to wait until my children were older.

I thought perhaps 10 children was all I would have.

I did not know how powerfully God could speak through my children.

I was unaware of the blessing that Down syndrome can be.

I did not know what amazing young men and women my older children would be today.

I would not have believed that today I would be holding a beautiful baby girl with long black eyelashes, warm brown skin and curly black hair, or that she would have such an amazing smile and would laugh when she sees me.

I did not know I'd spend 12 life changing days 12 hours away getting to know other people in another world, or how much I'd miss my people back home to the point that my heart would almost break.

I didn't know that my older children would blossom in the areas of music and prayer as they participate in their worship training set.

I didn't know the next generation of children in my life would grow up so much and take on leadership qualities of their own.

I have learned much about baby formula, premature baby, nicu time, nursing, adoption, empathy and loving than I ever thought there was to know.

I have developed some marvelous new friendships in the last year, and have also deepened friendships that I've had for years.

In the last year I have learned some about heartache and betrayal, some about depression and weakness, some about failure and trudging.

I am also more convinced than I was a year ago today that God is gracious, holy, mighty, kind, and ever present in my heart.


(Originally written 11/20/2010)

The response of the world to a babe with down syndrome, as I am learning, is to reject it. They abort it, if they know about it, in 90+% of the cases. That means for every baby you know of with Ds, you should know another several, because for every baby born (whose parents knew ahead of time of the diagnosis) 9 or so were murdered in utero.

Not only that, but I read last night that (anecdotally - no stats on this one) that sometimes pediatric cardiologists offer as an option to new parents of babies born with the heart defect that some 25% of babies with Ds have, to forego the surgery needed to fix it, even though the success rate for the surgery is 95%, and even though most babies who need the surgery and don't get it die within a year, and most don't live very much longer. And some parents choose this.

They reject it. The world REJECTS babies with down syndrome as a lesser human, less desirable. They call it bad.

Obviously, in the body of Christ, we don't do that. We don't abort babies. But sometimes, some responses to my probable Ds pregnancy feel like a rejection. It feels like those blank stares, those promises to pray for a normal baby, feels like they feel the same way the world does about a baby with downs. Like they want to reject it too. And because of how I feel about that baby already, sometimes it feels like people are rejecting that which I perceive as God's perfect plan for me, rejecting what may be a difficult but fruitful road ahead of me, rejecting my LESS DESIRABLE blessing.

And if we lived in a Darwinian world, Godless, where things just happen, sperm meets egg, practicing "unprotected" albeit marital sex, I might be inclined to agree with someone who feels that way. I'm in over my head. I have so many children, I ought to live in a shoe. 10 kids is hard, adopting is hard, adopting trans-racially is harder, adopting when you are pregnant is ridiculous, and having a baby when I'm 39 and therefore at greater risk for chromosomal anomaly is unwise. If we get stuck with a hard kid, oh well, but we'd be silly to want it.

But such is not our outlook. God sat as King at the flood. He sits as King forever. He is great and mighty. He knits babies together before we ever know it is happening.

My brother and his family have worked in Kenya as missionaries and have a relationship with a woman named Betty there who has HIV. She wasn't born with HIV. I'm pretty sure it wasn't because of a blood transfusion. I don't know if she knew how she got it, but she does have it. The crazy thing is, she calls it a talent (as in the parable of the talents). Her HIV is a talent she uses to lead people to Christ. It's the craziest thing.

I have a dear friend who has a daughter with spina bifida. She sees it as the perfect way God designed her daughter. God made Selah so that she cannot use her legs or go to the bathroom in the typical way. She has had many surgeries and complications. But God wasn't sleeping or on vacation or out to lunch when Selah's spine was being formed. In that hidden secret place of the womb that we can't really touch or understand or influence, except by prayer or negatively with drugs, God knows exactly what He is doing. God works all things together for our good.

My friends want what's best for me. They do not want to see their overwhelmed friend be more overwhelmed. They would not wish difficulty for me. In their compassion for me, they would prefer to see us have a typical baby. I understand that and appreciate it. I would not have wished HIV on Betty or spina bifida on my friend's daughter. But I see the goodness of God that has happened through these hard things.

A mother of 10 whose youngest has a spare chromosome said something like this: "God could have made us so that any chromosomal anomaly was fatal. He didn't, and I think He had a reason for it. I think He wanted those people here for a reason, so that we can learn from them." I agree with her. And if He has chosen us to have such a child, such a privilege, such an honor - I will just be ready to see His faithfulness EXPLODE!

Higher than my ways

(Originally written 11/6/2010)

So we found out we have some "markers" for Down's Syndrome. Well, we also think we have some things we call 'spiritual' markers. And one of the big ones for me is the unique ways God has prepared our hearts to be parents of a little guy with an extra chromosome, using our adoption process. I'm not saying we adopted our baby girl just so we could be ready for our downsy guy (don't know its a guy, don't know if its downs, just think so). I think we adopted her so we could be her parents. But God is a great multitasker!

1. Through our adoption process, we had several long heart to heart conversations about what kind of baby we would be willing to take. Drug impacted, fetal alcohol syndrome, physical disabilities, potential to never live independently . . . we talked at length about all kinds of things we had never considered before. Multiple times, we said yes to God about babies who had the potential to be, well, hard. A scripture God gave us very early on by means of confirmation was Matthew 18:5, "whoever receives one of these little children in My Name, receiveth Me." Because we had this preparation, when we were told about the markers indicating the possibility of Down syndrome, we were not really thrown, especially compared to how we might have reacted a year ago to the same news.

2. When we adopted our girl, she spent a week in the nicu. With any of my other babies, I did not handle well any time I had a baby who was not with me, whether in a warming bed, under a bili light, whatever - I would really not take it well. But now, I think maybe I can handle a baby who needs special care. I'm ready, in a way I would not have been.

3. Speaking of NICU, I had previously spent only hours visiting my nieces in NICUs. I was not comfortable in them and pretty overwhelmed. Now, if our little guy needs extra care, which more than half probably do, I can take it.

4. Furthermore, when my friend recently had a baby in OUR nicu, I found out that my hospital has a GREAT NICU!! Fabulous. We will be ok.

5. Nursing. Up till now, my struggles with nursing have been limited to a couple early arriving girls who didn't want to nurse because they were sleepy and jaundiced. But we have learned a whole lot about feeding challenges and bottles and supplemental nursing systems, etc, and I feel ready to handle a challenge in that department as well.

I'm not saying I know all there is to know. I'm saying my heart is significantly more ready than it would have been a year ago.

I have been wondering about God's timing in this whole season. Why would He give me 2 babies 5 months apart? I may have an answer. Talking to a dear friend with an adult son with downs, she said that not only will a child with Ds do well in our house because of the wealth of siblings, but he will be especially benefited by having a sibling so very near to push him on! Who knew? Well, God knew. Isn't He amazing?

My husband has been hearing from God. I know it's God, because his whole face changes when he talks about it. God is saying things like, "I do not make mistakes. This is not an accident. I am trusting you. This is a reward."

I also feel God breathing strength in me, talking about enlarging our territory.

Little things. #3 daughter has been saying for months "it will be well with you, with the baby in your tummy." Finding out that a dear friend can be our care coordinator for First Steps, and getting information and comfort from her about that whole thing (which I had feared). Meeting a mom of a little guy at soccer the week after we found out. Getting to see my friend's newborn 2 days after our 1st ultrasound. Telling my eldest and having her say, yeah, mom, I thought so. She went back and read her prayer journal from when we found out we were expecting, sure enough, God was speaking to her then. A camp friend I had lost touch with for nearly 20 years and re-found last Christmas (thank you facebook) whose sixth child has downs.

We feel fairly sure this is where God is taking us, and that it is GOOD. We are not afraid. Does that mean it will surely happen? No, of course not. But it means that if it does, God has uniquely prepared us to receive this kind of blessing, and for that I am so very grateful.