Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a (few more) odd things...

~Although I liked the fact that our kids all had even-numbered birthdays (up to Gabe, that is), I think it pleases me even more that the new baby's birthday is exactly a week before Benjamin's...which is exactly a week before Christmas.  (We have several other one-week-apart birthdays in our own family and extended family, and I find patterns very satisfying...)

~My daughter made a charming little boy as the Toddler Jesus in our church's Christmas musical.

~I mentioned in THIS POST that Owen had been referring to his new brother Gabriel as "Rachel."  That has ceased, but funnily enough, the lady who played Mary the mother of Jesus in our church musical's name is Rachel - and over the past two days, whenever her name comes up, Owen  very sternly says, "No, it's Gabriel!"  You could not invent this kind of stuff, people. I kid you not.

~Kyle made Benjamin a birthday card, and chose to decorate it using photos he took of me during and just after Gabriel's birth.  Oy...

~Jeff and I have apparently given up on sending Christmas cards/letters altogether.  So if you're expecting one from  us, and it doesn't come, now you know why.  There are just so many other things to do. Is that totally lame?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in Egypt

Last night was our church's Christmas musical.  It was so much fun, and the kids all did great!  Kyle nailed his lines, Benjamin was wonderful, and Elise was just about the sweetest Toddler Jesus you ever saw.  Here's a photo of my three performers in costume after the program last night - I couldn't resist sharing...

Friday, December 16, 2011

a few odd things

~Our son Owen, 3 1/2 years old, has been calling the new baby (Gabriel) Rachel. I honestly think he hears himself saying Gabriel, but it comes out as a very clear Rachel. Bizarre.

~Never could I have guessed that I would find a 22-month-old's "yes" so charming.

~Evidently the birth team thinks I'm hilarious.  Or maybe that laugh that much at every mama's jokes?

~I may be the only woman in America to feel this way, but I don't really see the allure of Pinterest.  I am on it, and I use it occasionally, but I am not as drawn in as others seem to be...

~My (youngest) son's chest circumference was 2 cm bigger than his head. Small wonder he needed that extra effort to push out!

~After bumming around in pajamas and stretchy pants all week, I'm more than a little nervous at the prospect of wearing real clothes this weekend.

~I find it amusing that, in spite of the fact that I have four sons, it is my daughter who will be portraying Jesus as a toddler in our church's Christmas musical.

~Today Ben and Kyle bring home the photos they took during and after Gabe's birth.  How terrifying is that?!

~A friend lent me a wrist brace, which I am wearing as much as possible.  In related news, I am trying really, really hard not to get any bodily fluids on said wrist brace.  Nothing else, either, but particularly not bodily fluids.  So far, so good...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Birth Story of Gabriel William

Waiting has always been a part of late pregnancy for me. In letting my little ones choose their own birthdates, I have to give up a large measure of control. And so, as we anticipated when the baby might be born into our arms, we wondered and waited...and waited.

On Thursday evening, at 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I had fallen on the driveway in front of my house, and hurt myself. My right wrist was painfully sprained, and I also ended up with an injured right foot and raw, bruised knee. Thankfully, the fall didn't harm my baby at all. However, it did leave me somewhat crippled - even if temporarily. I wasn't able to do very much in the following few days, but I was blessed by a loving outpouring of help and care from my family and church.

Early Sunday morning found me awake with uncomfortable contractions. This had been fairly common during the last few weeks, so although I was weary from the early waking, I resolved to not pay too much attention. I continued to have somewhat regular contractions throughout the morning. "Somewhat regular contractions" had been a pretty frequent occurrence for me during this last month or so - although they generally began in the afternoon or evening. So while morning contractions were a tad unusual, they didn't illicit much notice from me. Happily, my wrist was improving, and my foot was nearly back to normal.

I had a little time to rest after church, and I took advantage of it. During lunch, I began to notice the contractions had a different tinge to them. The dance of practice labor versus early labor had been particularly challenging as I prepared for this, my fifth journey of childbirth. How much to pay attention? How much to time things? And I'd been trying not to get my hopes up day after day.

But these felt different. And even though I had felt distinctions and changes over the past few weeks, something about the contractions on Sunday struck a chord of remembrance for me. They felt way stronger: gripping, even. These definitely got my attention.

After a few hours of this, Jeff and I had a pretty good idea that this was It. Although the contractions varied between 8 and 12 minutes, they were the kind I needed to breathe through. Around 3:00 pm we called my midwife, Katherine. I didn't think there was any reason for her to come yet, but I wanted to give her the news that we thought the day had come at last. Together she and I decided to touch base a little later. We also called Jeff's parents, who live across the city and were planning to come tend to the other kids during the birth. "Don't come yet," we said. "But start getting things in order. We'll call you in an hour or so." After an hour, we called and asked them to head on over. I wanted the kids to be well cared for, so I could have Jeff's full attention and support.

But then things started to slow down. I was still having contractions, but they were spacing out a bit. I decided to go upstairs to my bedroom. (Jeff's parents arrived after I went up there.) I felt like being away from distractions as much as possible, and in my bedroom I paced, trying to keep things going. I also began to pray. "Dear Lord, please help these contractions to keep coming. Please, please let this be the day. Please, may we have our baby safely in our arms tonight...."

I also spoke to my baby. I coaxed him, cajoled him. I told him we were ready for him, and that I hoped he would decide to come that night. I said just about everything I could think of to convince him that it would be a good day to be born.

Another thing I did was speak phrases like "I just want to open up and let my baby out." This idea was inspired by Ina May Gaskin's book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Other "Ina May ideas" we used, both in this labor and others, are kissing through contractions, words of affirmation, and mental imagery. And they say that what got the baby in, gets the baby out...

I spoke to Katherine again at 5:50. I told her things weren't really speeding up, and I didn't think she needed to come to our home yet. While we were on the phone, I had another contraction. When it was finished, she said "Well, that's definitely a real contraction. You are definitely in labor." We decided I'd check back in about an hour, unless I needed to sooner. I felt so much better when I got off of the phone with her! It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Finally, after trying various labor-spurring tactics, and mere minutes after I got off the phone with Katherine, things began to move faster. What had been 12 to 15 minutes apart, became 4 to 5. Jeff and I danced through a few more contractions, and then I said, "I think we ought to go ahead and ask Katherine to head over..." It had only been 20 or 30 minutes since I had spoken to her, but active labor had definitely begun. Jeff made the phone call, and soon the birth team was on its way. We started filling the big tub in our bathroom, while I breathed in the scent of my lavender candle and listened to the labor songs I'd chosen.

After they arrived, my midwife checked my blood pressure, pulse, and the baby's heartbeat. She found that I was about 5 1/2 cm dilated, and when she asked "So when do you want to get into the tub?" my answer was "As soon as possible!" So that's what I did; I think it was around 7pm.

As always, the tub was a wonderful change. The warm water felt so good, and really did ease the pain of the contractions. As I reclined in the tub, Jeff was with me nearly every moment. I also had some new members of my labor support team: our two oldest sons. Ben and Kyle spent a lot of time by my side while I was in the tub. In my memory, they were rarely there together, but one of them was present most every moment. Kyle stroked my shoulder. Benjamin brushed the hair off my forehead. Once I'm sure I heard my son whispering in harmony with his father, "You're doing so great, just keep relaxing, let the baby come..." It touched me in a way I have never known before.

I felt strangely self-aware during this part of my labor. I tend to be fairly self-aware anyway, I think (in childbirth, that is), but I found myself with thoughts like: I'm not feeling pushy yet, but I think I will be very soon. I feel like I'm almost open all the way... Once again, I used low tones to help me relax and breathe through the labor pains. "Ohhhh.....ahhhhh..."

About nine o'clock, in between contractions, I felt my water break. It was shortly after that (about 9:08 by the records) that I began to push. My first push was a tentative effort, to see if it felt right. Evidently it did, because I kept going.

In all of my children's birth stories, I have mentioned the fact that I hate pushing. It is always scary and intense for me. This birth was no exception, and I felt a little out of control at times. I yelled, I forgot to keep my vocal tones low. I...just...wanted...it...to...be...over. My two younger children were in their beds at this point, but Ben and Kyle were there, and they told me later that they went into the nearby closet to escape the onslaught of noise. I don't blame them. It was intense.

Thankfully, though, the pushing stage didn't last more than 5 minutes - just like my most recent labor. Unlike that time, however, when the baby's head was born, the rest of his body didn't immediately follow. The contraction ended, and I heard my husband say that the head was out. Katherine told him to check whether there was any cord around the baby's neck, and there wasn't. After a bit more discussion, I decided to go ahead and push again, instead of waiting for another labor pain. I gave it my all, and with loud cry, I pushed my child forth completely.

His father caught him in the water and placed him in my arms. Together we discovered that God had seen fit to bless us with another son!

And then, surrounded by people who love him, our new little boy was serenaded with our family's signature lullaby, personalized just for him.

"Gabriel fusses, Gabriel laughs
The angel who watches says
'Hey, look at that!'
There's your faith, the mountains will shake
'Cause God gladly bends just to hear Gabriel when he prays..."

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's a boy!

Gabriel William
Born Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 9:13 pm
8 lb 11 oz
21 7/8 inches

Gabriel had a beautiful waterbirth at home, surrounded by his family. He is beautiful, healthy, and such a sweetheart. We are very blessed, indeed!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I hurt myself.

Sad but true. Last night on my way to take the kids to musical practice for our church's Christmas program, I missed a step coming off the porch and fell. The good news is that the baby is just fine. It seems that I managed to protect my belly, back, and general torso from the impact - and though I ended up on my side, I'm not sore there at all.

The bad news is that I hurt my wrist and ankle, as well as bloodying both knees pretty good. I was hurting pretty badly last night, and this morning is much the same. But I can walk a bit better today, although I can't do much with my (dominant) wrist. In fact, Jeff had to help me get dressed this morning.

He's been such a prince. Before he had to leave for work, he prepared some breakfast to keep warm for the kids and I. He's going to come home early to fix dinner, since there is no way I can peel and chop potatoes or shred the cheese for the potato soup I was planning for this evening. He insisted on helping me down the stairs before he went, and Ben and Kyle will be my runners when we need something from the second story, as well as my hands with Elise and lunch stuff.

Oh, and speaking of my boys...they have been so, so sweet. When I fell, Ben was first on the scene. He soon assessed the situation and ran back into the house, just as Kyle came zooming up. Kyle eventually helped me turn over and balance enough to stand up (a hands and knees position was not really an option, because my knees were so scraped up and I was on pavement). Benjamin was still inside at this point, and I began to worry that he might be calling 911 or something. So I hobbled inside, and discovered that he'd hauled a stool up to my closet to get bandages for my bloody knees. I heard later that they shook hands when they talked over what had transpired, and their roles in helping me.

We managed to get to musical practice, and after Jeff met us there I was able to drive myself home to rest with ice packs (ankle and wrist) and quiet.

After they arrived back at the house, the boys were so incredibly tender and sweet with me. Ben and Kyle both made me Get Well cards, drawings, and books, and they brought me presents (a canvas bag full of stuffed animals and special blankets. Benjamin pulled back my covers for me, and arranged the body pillow I use just so.

That was last night.

To wrap up this sorry but sweet tale, I shall bring us to the present moment.

This morning finds me at 41 weeks into my pregnancy. The baby is moving plenty, I've had no cramping or spotting. The excitement doesn't seem to have done anything to spur on labor, which is probably a good thing. I doubt I could even pick up a newborn this morning, my wrist hurts so badly. I am incredibly emotional and wondering how well I'll be able to tend to my little girl today...

I am really upset about the crummy timing of all this.

But Jeff has helped so much (he even prepped a few things for lunchtime), and I have my boys to haul their sister around and bring me diapers, etc. And while I was just writing that -- my wonderful father-in-law, after hearing about what happened, has decided not to go fishing today after all, but to come here and help out. My husband comes from quality, folks.

And so, in the midst of pain, tears, and really cruddy timing, I am incredibly blessed, and I know it. Even so...pray for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

a little perspective

Just to offer a little perspective for you: in order, my babies have been born 11, 5, 15, and 9 days past their due dates. Today is 5 days past Little Bean's EDD. So really, if I'd had the baby before this point, that's what would've have been surprising.

Yes, the baby is "late." No, I do not enjoy that fact. But we're just now getting into where my span of "days I've birthed" begins.

I suppose it's nice for Kyle that he still holds the record of being my earliest baby... (*wink*)

*Yes, I know, I know, I know I've got birth and babies on the brain. I can't help it. Feel free to skip these posts if they're growing tiresome; I understand.

I am...

...trying to work up the motivation to do more cleaning.

...really looking forward to sleeping on my back again.

...making an effort to rest up daily - usually in the afternoon. (This doesn't include sleeping - I am a horrible napper! - but still, physical and emotional rest is lovely these days.

...still doing homeschool lessons. But with a lot of flexibility. If I need to take a "mental health day," I will. (We've achieved everything I'd hoped to by the baby's EDD. Whatever we get done after this point will just be icing on the cake: a very good feeling!)

...still taking extra effort to tidy up downstairs before I come up to bed. Besides looking nicer for the birth team and our birth-time help, it's pleasant for me, too when I come down in the mornings.

...wondering when all this Practice Stuff is going to develop into something called It's Time.

...thinking about my baby for most of the day, every day.

...amazed by how much time I have to blog, now that I'm officially done with prenatal exercise!

...doing the "this is the last time I'll do __________ before the baby comes" thing.

...riding the hormonal wave. My poor boys have no idea what to do when their mama get so weepy!

...so very glad I got one more haircut squeezed in before the Time came. (It was amazing how fast my hair grew all through this pregnancy: I spent least half of it feeling something like a shaggy dog!)

...amused by the fact that all my kids' birthdates are even-numbered days, and somehow hoping this baby shares that pattern, too.

...very, very tempted to just hole up and avoid the general public right now...but still trying to go ahead and live my life.

...just biding my time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

belly drawing

So, Jeff and I talked our new midwife into doing a belly drawing for us. She used a Sharpie, which is somewhat less forgiving than the grease pencils my other midwife used to use...but I think it turned out pretty good.

Which is entirely different than it might look if it's still around after the baby is born, don't you think?! Let us not ponder that idea for long...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

a letter

Dear Baby,

In case you're wondering, it's safe to come out now. Our home is ready for you and our arms long to hold you. Our hearts are ready to receive you.

I know it sometimes sounds loud out here. And I'll be honest with you - it certainly can be. Sometimes it's loud, and sometimes it is cold. But still, I think it's worth it. Mostly (not always), the noises are happy ones. Your siblings know how to have a good time, that's for sure. And we know of many ways to help you stay warm - not the least of which is snuggling. Just sayin'.

I made mayo yesterday. And the granola (that long 3-day process of soaking & drying) is all finished. I've cleaned and shopped and planned and wrapped ...and cleaned some more. I'm not saying everything will be perfect when you do arrive, but it will be good. I bought toilet paper this weekend, and extra tissues. The tissues just seemed like a good idea, what with it being December and all, and a new baby joining the family.

Speaking of December...no pressure, but the sooner you arrive, the farther away your birthday will be from your big brother's own birthday -and from Christmas. Not that there's anything horrible about being close to those two dates, but still. Something to think about...give it some thought, but not too much thought.

Your Daddy and I have had a lot of dates lately. Did you notice? While we were enjoying the Weekend to Remember...while your siblings were at their grandparents' house...and even this past weekend when our church hosted a Parents' Shopping morning. I guess we're cramming a lot of "us time" in now before you arrive. It's been great, really. But with all this eating out, I'm not sure how much more my waistline can handle.

Ha, ha. Ha.
See, your mama even has a sense of humor! Most of the time...

So, I just wanted to let you know that whenever you're ready, we're ready. And of course I don't want you to come before you're ready. Truly. But really, anytime now is fine. We are so very eager to meet you!

See you soon (Lord-willing),


Saturday, December 3, 2011


Lately, there's been a lot of labeling around here.

Because really, I don't want the birth team to mistake Soap Nuts Liquid for apple juice.

And other similar reasons. People need to know what's what...ya know?

*Incidentally, I just love the fact that my husband can walk into the kitchen, find his spouse photographing a fleet of jars, and never so much as bat an eyelash. Fantastic!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

the baby's Christmas stocking

Let me say this again: I am not crafty. At all. It's true: I resist crafts like the plague. I am not a craft-lover (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's just not me.

But there is one thing I've done for each one of my babies, usually in the months before they're born. I have made each and every one of them a Christmas stocking.

It started even before I was born. I believe the story goes that my husband's aunt made him a personalized felt stocking, complete with various felt shapes, beading, and his name, as well as the year of his birth. Then when Jeff and I planned to spend our lives together, his mother made one for me. It was decorated in much the same way, and included my name in gold glittering letters.

(our collection of stockings in December 2010)

So as soon as I could get my hands on another plain felt stocking, I started working on one for the new (yet-to-be-born, of course) little one. I have some simple paper templates I drew when I made my first stocking, and I still trace with them before I cut the shapes out of colored pieces of felt. These I paste on with tacky glue.

After everything has dried, it's time for a needle, thread, and beading. I also have some shiny sequins and shimmery snowflakes. I decorate the stocking however my heart desires -giving the snowman features and buttons, the angel a songbook, crown, and face, the reindeer a red nose, and the Christmas tree its ornamentation.

After that, the only thing remaining is adding a name (and with it, a year). So while our baby's stocking hangs by the fireplace with the others, it alone is nameless. But soon (Lord willing)...soon, we shall meet our newest family member, give him or her a name...and then, at long last, I can finish my little one's stocking.

Still, for the time being it waits, patient...patient...