Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Baby's Best Friend

12 Weeks

Whitley had a favorite toy... Doggy.

She lights up when he appears!

She can bat at him, grab him, suck on his ear and smiles at him. 

 She loves her doggy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Christmas Card

I got a Christmas card yesterday. 

One that made me gasp, breath pulled from my lungs and tears well up to brimming.

Just look!

Last year................................This year!

My little buddy Ezra Bulaguhare is growing up.

His letter contained a picture he drew of his hand traced and nails drawn in.
It said, "The beautiful hand of baby Ezra."
I love little boy hands... dirty and yet so sweet.

I must confess when I think of him I see that baby. 
Baby no longer. Baby fat is vanishing. 
Eyes are bright and with out fear! Smart... as in Ugandan smartly dressed!
He's a scholar now in three piece suit.

This is why family preservation should be given more funding than institutions. 
Children grow up in families! They have aunts or grandmas or parents who are supported in the task of raising them, feeding them, educating them! Interestingly enough many children are place in institutions, even though they have family, so that they can care for their needs like schooling. This is a tragedy! Families can do far more than institutions can. We believe in families!

Merry Christmas sweet big boy Ezra!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Once Upon a Time I Knew How to Raise My Children

Last night I sat with my children and looked at their little faces, with quivering chins and red eyes and thought, "What have I lost? I use to know exactly how to raise children. I use to know how to do this thing. But I can't remember any more how it is that I was going to accomplish it all..."

Before I had children I was a teacher, mostly kindergarten. I knew exactly how to raise a child then. I could see exactly how my pupils parents were failing and I knew that when I had children I wouldn't make those same mistakes.

Then I had our first child.
My first clue that parenting wouldn't be quite so simple was about 48 hours into my parenting career. I remember saying to God, "God, I didn't sign up for this... for an insanely fussy baby. Every book I diligently read, doesn't seem to 'work' for her... I prepared, now where are the results I should expect?" It was my first clue that "good parenting in" doesn't mean "good kid" will pop out at the end of 18 years.

Number 2 sort of re-instilled my perception that if I was a "good mom" my children would be "good kids" too. Then I got pregnant when our 2nd was only 9 months old. I didn't foresee this event and really doubted I could "hold it all together". Three children under 3 didn't bode well for my ability to ensure they'd all act nice and reflect well upon me.

Then we adopted. I knew we'd do a grand job raising children through adoption because we were superior parents. We had a loving family and what more does an orphaned child need than that? Love in, great kids out... right? Sure it was hard at first, what I didn't expect was for it to be hard a year, 2 years, 3 years later. I've learned love, my love, isn't always enough.

Here we are, a few years later, with our 6th child ... I look at her and now know I never knew how to raise a child the right way.

I thought I did, but what I had back then, when I knew exactly how to raise a child, was just a bunch of man made, one-size-fits-all tips, tricks and tactics. They might work on the little things like how to stop your 4 year old from picking their nose and eating it or how to not be (complete) brats in Walmart, but they fail in any effectiveness at correcting my children's real struggles... basically their sin and brokenness.

This shouldn't surprise me so... because God had a far better method of dealing with His children's sin... and even that failed to be effectual and provide for their ever-present need for grace. God couldn't make his children obey any better than I can make mine obey. What a foolish woman I was to think I could do things God couldn't!

Since learning I can't change my children's behavior/sin I've processed what it is I'm called to do...

I am called to teach them and impart knowledge and truth (both practical and spiritual) to them.
I am called to love them and be consistent in my discipleship/discipline of them.
But more than that I am called to parent them not for my own glory, but to glorify God.

Many of my days as a mother are futilely lived trying to battle the chaos around me and in turn glorify myself. I battle the chaos in the environment around me, in the people around me and most often with in myself. I get up with the battle already starting to thud and rumble (or shall I say grumble). I set out to try new tactics and new methods... being kinder, being more firm, giving more grace, being more consistent... except when the "bomb" of the day goes off I always feel defeated. I always wonder what "I'm doing wrong" as if finding the perfect formula would make it all better.

Last night as our family sat around our lit tree, glowing and golden, with red eyes and quivering chins my husband helped us all sort ourselves out of the broken bits of our day. He said, "Children, mom and I are called to teach you, train you and instruct you in many things. We teach you how to read, and write and do math. We teach you how to work hard and love others. But... there is really only one thing we can teach you that will make any difference in your lives. We could teach you everything else and if we don't teach you this one thing, your life would still be in ruins and with out hope. The one thing is Christ alive. Christ alive, working and changing you. With out that you will always and forever struggle and be walking in darkness. The fact is, you can't be good, you can't do good, you have NO hope with out Christ alive in you."

At some point (and repeated over and over again as I re-learn this lesson) I came to the startling realization that this whole parenting gig had far less to do with my abilities and faithfulness of raising children "correctly", as it did with God raising me into a person who brings Him glory. 

The solution for my children's struggles is the solution to my struggles... Christ alive ... Christ alive in me and in them. We have no hope outside of Him. Our struggle reminds us that our life is best lived in Him.

Once upon a time I knew exactly how to raise children. What I didn't know was that raising my children would really be raising me to see the only One who can do this thing!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Skinny Jeans on a Chubby Baby

<<< 10 Weeks >>> 

The weeks are ticking by. 
My mom kisses my ever growing cheeks and threatens to bite me...
but it's ok, she never actually does. My dad's beard is torturous however! 

I'm learning all the people's names. 

Addie, the big one, carries and retrieves me from my naps. 
Allan, the dark and handsome one, is who I like to smile at the most, 
he doesn't move too fast like the others do. 
Eli, is Mr. Cuddles, he kisses me the most and compliments me on my skin. 
Cora is fun to tickle when she holds me up on her shoulder "like a real mom". 
And the little one seems to like to herald every event in my life... She's always yelling things like "She's awake!", "Did she poop?" and "She's reaching out!!!" 
It's kind of weird, yet endearing all at the same time. 

I bet they had no idea what to do before I joined them ... 
Lucky for them I came along!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


My in-laws came for a long overdue visit.
They drove for days to get to us... with only one driver (my mother-in-love is an amazing woman)!
We got to enjoy Thanksgiving with them.
Sweet moments to give thanks for!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Whitley's Birth Story

I've been debating about posting this, but I decided to because ... birth matters. How we handle births in our society are a reflection of how we view life. Positive, real narratives help us! Often birth is dramatized and made out to be something less than normal... that is really unfortunate for mothers-to-be! Generations of woman have successfully birthed babies ... big ones, small ones, 2 or 3 at a time, special needs ones, early and late... and we all are proof that birth is most often normal, natural and positive! 

That said, medical interventions saved one of my babies... which allowed her to join our family. I am so so thankful that doctors and interventions made it possible for her to live today as a last resort when events necessitated it!

Birth Stats...
Estimated Gestational Age: 40 weeks and 4 days 
5 hours labor, 45 minutes pushing
8 lbs. 12 oz.
Unmedicated, Home, Water birth
4th Pregnancy/Delivery, 6th baby in our family

On Wednesday I was 40 weeks and 4 days, overdue again. Totally expecting I’d eventually make it to the 41 week mark. I was beginning to think that taking Castor oil or a natural induction would be inevitable. Early at about 2 am I woke up and had fairly intense contractions until about 5:30 am. I was up with them for a time and then was able to go back to bed. This was a pattern that I'd been having for about 2-3 weeks every few nights. Oddly, I felt fairly energized and ok when I woke up at about 8:30 am. 
All SIX of my sweet children... one just still on the inside.

We skipped most of school that day due to my active night and just listened to Story of the World and did a little history read-aloud. I was suspecting our 3 year old had a UTI because she was having huge potty issues. I got her a doctor appointment for that afternoon. I’d take her to the doctor and Tim would stay with our 4 older children. My parents (who have a vacation home near us) stopped by to see us and pick some stuff up and I told them that if things started up again that night that it would likely be “it”. I had continued to have the more “intense” contractions through out the day, but I doubted them because they were so far spaced apart and irregular. I let our midwife know that I might be starting up, but it could also be a false alarm. 

40 weeks... 4 days to go!
I took Thea to the doctor at about 3 pm and felt great, did a lot of walking with her back and forth the the bathroom, poor girl. Then we had to go to pick up her antibiotic prescription at Walgreens. They, of course, took their sweet time filling it and we did laps in Walgreens just to keep Thea busy and happy. While walking around I thought "I bet this baby will come tonight... just maybe." On the drive home I noticed that the contractions were now about 8 minute apart and coming regularly. I was still in denial or doubtful however.
We were planning on going to camp for dinner. The camp had been running outdoor educational trips for local public schools and it was the first week, so we wanted to be present and help out. When I got home there was an hour before dinner (it was about 5 pm) and Tim told me to go lay down and rest my achy back before we would head over. Once I laid down the contractions immediately went from 8+ minutes apart to 5 minutes apart and about a minute long … and they were still fairly strong in intensity. 

Tim came in at one point and saw me timing them and sort of panicked a bit. He said we wouldn't go to dinner, I think I told him we should still go, he said "no way." Tim called our midwives and put them on alert, one of them lived near us and said she would come check me to see if I was making progress. My parents also came and picked up the children for the night on Tim's insistence. I was still really doubtful, but also seemed to know that this probably was "it."
By the time our assisting midwife, Beka, arrived at about 6:30 I knew this wasn’t a fluke, but also was still feeling it might be a long time, because our last birth took about 14+ hours.  Beka checked me and I was at 4 cm. I was slightly disappointed... (stupid, I know, but who doest hope they are at like 7 or 8 the first time being checked???) ... I also knew that 4 cm was proof that this was happening and I wasn't imagining things.

We figured I better eat now and so Tim made some soup. I sort of horked it down. At about 7 pm we went for a walk in the dusk that really ramped things up. Honestly, it was a really short walk... I kept thinking I'd have to go back in the house to use the bathroom and I was afraid to get too far from the house. We made about one lap before I said we needed to go back in, then went out again and got about 50 feet from the house and just stood there for about 10 minutes before we went back inside. 
I took a hot shower at about 8:30 pm for about a half hour. That's when things got much stronger. I was still very much mentally/emotionally feeling doubtful... fearful that this would be a long labor like my last one. Tim kept saying, "This is much more like Eli's labor pattern, your moving fast... don't worry." That was helpful for me and affirming of truth I couldn't see myself.
I tried laying down after the shower, but that didn’t last long as it was much more uncomfortable. I am often restless in labor and moving helps me a lot. After trying to lay down I tried sitting in a rocking chair. That was nice and I stayed there for some time. It was comfortable and I could move, but still relax in that position.

My happy place.
Then Tim wanted to draw me a bath (and prep the bath by cleaning it out well)… I didn’t really think I “needed” the tub yet… and I like to reserve the tub for my “epidural” ... as a last resort comfort measure. So I was almost hesitant to get in, but Beka said I could get in and out if I wanted and keep switching things up (bath, walk, shower, repeat). I liked that idea. About the time I got in Carole our main midwife who delivered Cora showed up. That was at about 9:30 pm. Things got intense and I was checked and found I was 7 cm. The tub was nice, it is relaxing and takes away so much of the discomfort! I had to get out a few times to used the bathroom, but it was all very comforting and a really normal and everyday place for me to be.
Her first photo and one of my first glimpses!

A bit later Carole checked again and said I was at 9 cm, and she thought I would be at 10 cm if I gave some little pushes to push the remaining cervix away. I was SO doubtful, I was getting to feel like I couldn’t take it much more, yet I was still really doubtful I was “ready” or that things were progressing for some reasons (um… transition). I kept thinking, "I feel so with it" and able to smile and joke between contractions, even if they were far more intense than I'd experience in the past... this even made me doubtful, because I usually am "in the zone" and not really very communicative during labor. I made Carole checked again and she said again I was really almost ready to push, she said I should follow my body. I pushed hesitantly from time to time during the peaks of contractions. This felt better for a bit. Tim was great at rubbing my arms, legs and keeping my head cool with a cloth and giving my water after every contraction. He was my hero... he always is!

My help.
At some point pushing became fairly painful, a feeling I'd never experienced in labor.  The pain was very high and radiated down my legs and in my back. One issue was that the baby was still very high up and she was moving a lot. Tim and midwives could see her head above my pelvis moving and bulging about. I could feel her kicking and moving her hands… Her back was on my right side and her head was still not at a 0 station.  It is likely that the pushing was really painful because my muscles were having to position her to get her down and through my pelvis and bring her down so much farther than I'd experienced in the past. Pushing had always been sort of a relief for me in previous labors, so I was really displeased about it. I tried to change positions in the tub, thinking that might change things or help the pain … but that was horrible! I moved back down to a reclining position in the tub, slightly on my left side.

During one contraction and pushing the water broke, and after that she began moving down faster. At one point I felt her head move down quite rapidly and I could feel she was only about a finger length to move down. At that point I decided to just finish pushing her out and stop messing around. I tend to do this and would rather "rip the bandaid off" than keep fooling around... not always the best idea, but it is my instinct. I was so done and starting to feel like I was “losing it” a bit and not be able to function (ie… I was freaking out)! The pain was over my whole body, Tim and midwives were trying to help me with the back pain and with the pain in my legs, but really they couldn't do anything to help much.
With the next she was crowning and the next contraction brought half her head out, to about her brow line… I was not happy it wasn’t all the way out (obviously) but the contraction had ended and I couldn’t push the rest of it. It really stunk waiting for another to come so that it would help me get the head out. It wasn’t long and I didn’t want to wait long because she needed to come out, but with the next contractions her head was completely out and Beka checked for a cord, as I pushed out her shoulders there was a cord around them very loosely, it easily looped off and the rest of her came sliding out! 

Best feeling ever! I kept saying, “Thank you Lord! Thank goodness she’s out! I feel so much better!” and various other proclamations. 


Her poor face was pretty blue (due to it being compressed for that short time) and she was a tad floppy, so I didn’t grab her up from Beka, who had caught her. They held her body in the water with her head out and worked on getting her breathing… the cord pulsed and gave her oxygen and her heart rate was great and strong! They stimulated her, gave her little puffs of air and cleared her airways in a very gentle and yet systematic manner. They were fantastic and so professional! I never felt remotely worried. We were just all waiting for her to join us. I kept rubbing her feet and and legs that were on my body. What a precious moment to observe... a margin of time between the womb and the world. Soon she pinked up and gave a really little cry. It was all very calm and unhurried and a beautiful serene moment to follow all the craziness I had felt as she came out. Sacred really.
After birth pains stink!
Feeling much better.

She was born at 11:14 pm, after about 5 hours of active labor, start to finish. We named her Whitley Cate (both family names of meaning to us) and she weighed in at 8 lbs. 12 oz and was 20 inches… my biggest baby yet by a few ounces.  I was stunned she was so big! She looked so tiny to me.

Seriously. Smiles!
Still all balled up ... that is how she fit.
We moved to the bed and finished up the process, while resting and recovering. Getting in one's own bed is glorious, even though I felt like a limp noodle for a few hours and I did my typical leg shaking routine. I had a shot of pitocin to ward off any extra blood loss and delivered a fairly massive placenta (that's what was making me so big!!!)

Someone made me a meal; ice cold milk, peanut butter toast and some fruit. It is always the best tasting food... I remember the meal I ate after each child! SO good. Whitley also had her first meal. She took to it right away and was alert until daddy took her to the other room while I got patched up. They both fell asleep for a while.

After about 4 hours our amazing midwives left for the night. They called the next day and visited again the following day and then again at 5 days postpartum. I love how they "mother" and care for us both in those moments and days that follow.

Then we promptly went to sleep. I don't know who slept best, but I think it was probably Tim and Whitley.

We were very thankful for a safe and sweet birth!
Thankful for skilled and caring midwives who make hard things seem much more possible.
Thankful for a husband who never leaves my side and will walk through the rough stuff.
Thankful for the beautiful gift of a new daughter!