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Archive for the ‘America’ Category

It’s been about 2 1/2 years since we left Ohio for Arkansas. I really wish I would have kept up with my blogging during that period, but maybe it’s best that I didn’t. While I loved living in Arkansas and so many good things came out of it, I have to admit that the period we were there was one of the hardest times in my life.

There were so many changes that occurred during that time, as well as painful lessons, trials, loss, and revelation. Scott’s sister and her children moved in with us briefly as she and her husband attempted to save their marriage. First, it was just her teen son as she arranged for him to fly in and get settled first as she finished up last minute arrangements back home. That was an adjustment period itself and I regret that my kids struggled with some of the influence he had on all of us, as well as the leniency we showed him because we were trying to make the changes he was going through a bit easier to adjust to. I think our kids felt that we were making too many exceptions for him while holding them to a different standard, and I think they were right. We later learned that they had been exposed to some things they shouldn’t have been exposed to when we weren’t around. It wasn’t until he was gone they felt okay to talk to us about some of their experiences. It really got to me to think that my own children didn’t feel that they could talk to me about their concerns.

Finally, my sister-in-law made it in, and her husband promised to help get the family business settled back home and then he and the other three kids would join her and her oldest son. At that time, we were going to a smaller church we’d found and were just beginning to get involved in, but when my sister-in-law expressed that she was not happy there, we agreed to try to find a church that we could all agree on and go to together. And then we ended up not really going to church at all.

Later, when it was clear that my sister-in-law’s husband wasn’t really devoted to making the changes he needed to make in order to save their relationship, and when it was obvious he wasn’t going to move down to Arkansas as promised, a divorce followed and we all said goodbye to our hopes that they would make it, to each other as his sister and kids moved back, and to the hopes that our family could all finally live in the same town and settle down.

Scott and I really struggled during all this as we went through some major trials ourselves that tested our relationship and shook us both up a bit. Scott ended up taking on two separate roles with the company he works for – that is two full-time careers – and ended up in a near zombie-like state. That was miserable for both of us because even when he was physically present, he really wasn’t even there during a time when our entire family needed him as we went through other issues and hardships. When he asked his boss for help, he was promised resolution and assistance but nothing ever happened. Months followed and nothing changed. He and I both tried to deal with this and other issues on our own and in our own way, and that only made things worse. I think we both ended up hurting each other and ourselves in the process.

On top of that, I was already vulnerable due to other things going on, and ended up dealing with major self-worth and body image issues. I was fed a few lies about myself, and because I tend to believe the lies a lot easier than I do the truth, I lost myself. I was miserable inside, and couldn’t help but think that he was comparing me to every other woman out there. I suddenly only noticed every physical feature other women had that I didn’t and felt that there was no way my husband could be happy with me – with all my flaws. My scarred, stretched belly, and broken down body was ugly after having his children. How could he NOT want other women after looking at me? What was I? I was a stay-at-home mom…a housewife. What could I possibly have to offer him that was so great? Suddenly, I found myself striving too hard for my husband’s approval, affection, and interest. I noticed I was spending more time on my make-up, hair, etc.

Next, I contemplated plastic surgery. I even called and made an appointment to see a plastic surgeon for a consult – twice. But deep down inside I knew I would hate myself for trying to cover up the damage with a superficial bandaid of sorts. So I cancelled the appointments both times knowing it wasn’t the answer for me. I knew my problem wasn’t going to be fixed with surgery. I’d still look in the mirror and be the same insecure and lost woman trying to grasp hold of whatever it was I needed in order to feel whole and valued. I didn’t need to fix my body, I need to fix my head and needed healing in my heart and broken spirit.

So instead, I ended up going to counseling.

During this time, Patrick went to counseling too. We discovered he too, was struggling with his own issues. As we took a step back and really looked at the situation, we realized that our whole family was falling apart in a sense, and we couldn’t keep it together on our own. We realized we were relying too much on our own strength to make it through the hard times, and we really weren’t strong enough to make it on our own. We realized we’d kind of put God up on the back shelf and stopped seeking and relying on Him to guide us through the darkness.

The darkness – it was so, SO dark. Even as I read this, I can feel the darkness, the desperation, the helplessness, the sadness, the emptiness – all of it, attempting to creep back in.  I never ever want to go back to that dark place again.

But somehow, by His patience and grace, we made it through as truth was revealed and healing set in.  We learned a lot. Our dependence on God has grown as we realized how easily we slipped into a state of self-reliance. We now realize how He truly is the only one holding our family together.  It is not us!

We are weak without Him, and we will never make it if we try to do this on our own. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time, because through all of the darkness, we’ve had a taste of His goodness.  He didn’t let us down, even when we were letting Him and each other down.

So here we are now, just as life was finally starting to get back to “normal.”  Just as I was finding myself again.  Just as I was truly establishing relationships and just as we were enjoying life even through the craziness…we suddenly are called to move back to Ohio.

And as I type all this out and reflect on the last couple of years, I am thankful that God had the patience and grace to work even in the darkness to reveal His truth to us.

It’s funny too, because it seems that God wants to make sure I don’t forget.  He seems to be speaking to me through my 3-year-old a lot lately.  Just last night she asked me a very serious question as she was coloring in her book, “Mom? Do you need Jesus?”

“Yes, America! I DO need Jesus!”

“Yes you do!” she replied enthusiastically.

The truth is, we all do.

YOU DO.

He is not just a free ticket to Heaven, He is so much more.  He is a loving God who wants us to be free from the things that hold us captive in our lives.  We do not have to be slaves to our sin, our past, our pain, nor weaknesses.  Where we are weak, HE is STRONG.  If we are willing to give ourselves to Him and totally rely on Him and walk in obedience, He will rescue us!  But we have to be willing to rely on Him to meet all of our needs.

He truly is a good and loving God, and I need Him!

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Mom, this book is an easy read!  Can I borrow your Twilight book?

Maddison wore this outfit for her 6 month pics.  America is wearing it at 4 months!

I love this outfit!  I was able to put it on her on one of those rare warm days in November here in Ohio.  She’ll probably never get to wear it again now that it is cold enough to start snowing!

Like my new set up?  I am learning a lot about portion control with this Nutrisystem plan!  I decided to start portioning out the kids’ snacks into snack bags so I can teach them something about portion control and healthy choices too!  I let them choose one snack bag in the pantry a day.  Then their other snack has to be a fruit, veggie, and/or cheese/dairy product!

Another view.  Mini rice cakes, cheeze its, raisins, preztels, Pringles stix, and goldfish crackers.

Kelly with her snack bag.

Madison with her snack bag.  Raisins!  Raisins!  I want raisins!

Isn’t she so cute?

My little cuddle bug.  Look at those long toes!  She gets them from me. 🙂

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Bees Chasing And The Dog Woman

Whew!  Losing power last week has thrown me way off.  I have three blog posts in the back of my head I don’t want to forget to post, but I just haven’t had the time to get them written.  I haven’t even made a dent in my reads, and then there’s real life, where I am working on a church project and getting kids to their various sports and school events. 

Anyway, I just have to write about this: 

Yesterday I was at Kelly’s soccer practice.  I decided to make good use of my time and try to get my workout in, so I walked with America in her stroller for about 30 minutes before she started fussing.  I was so hoping to get in at least a 45 minute walk, but oh well.  She was hungry. 

So I walked back to the picnic tables under the pavilion right where Kelly’s practice was.  I left the stroller in the back because for some reason, the bees in that park just love that stroller.  I sat up towards the front and put on my nursing cover and started to nurse the baby.  Wouldn’t you know it?  Something, the bright flowery print on my cover, or the sweet smell of milk on the baby, just drew those bees to me. 

So there I was running, hungry baby in one arm (trying desperately to get her milk from me), nursing cover flailing about, as these bees (and there was more than one!) started chasing me around the pavilion!  I admit it’s a bit silly that I am afraid of something 10,000 times smaller than me, but I know my dad is allergic to stings and I didn’t want them anywhere near my baby! 

So this old lady sitting at the table across from me told me it was probably the bright flowers on my nursing cover.  I threw that thing off and tossed it on one of the tables away from me, while trying to keep my breast concealed.  I grabbed a baby blanket so I could keep covered, but those darn bees still came around!  So I’m running around the tables, trying to keep my exposed self from flopping out, while this woman is sitting there with her dog watching me.  (I’m sure she was quite amused!)  I finally started swatting at the bees with the blanket.  At that point I thought, Who cares who sees my boob, these bees are assaulting my baby and me!  I guess the bees got the message and they finally left us alone.

So I sat there and burped the baby as this lady with the dog started talking to me.  We talked about my baby, and her 4 month old grand baby.  My how her eyes lit up when she talked about her grandbaby!  It made me think of my mother.  Then she talked about how she just loves the 2 year old stage…and again, I thought of my mom.  I know my mom must have that same look in her eyes when she talks about her grandchildren.  And then we talked about her dog and how easy going and laid back her dog is.

Then out of nowhere, this little boy comes running up to the pavilion…

“Can I pet i………?!?!?!”

“NO!”  She shouted before he could even finish his question. 

I turned my head in surprise.  Her answer was quick and harsh.  She didn’t even let him finish his question.  I watched as he quickly turned around and ran off.  I think she must have scared him.  The woman looked at me and I could still see the hateful fire in her eyes.  How could those eyes that lit up so brightly look so dark and hate-filled now?  And it hit me.  She didn’t want that little black boy anywhere near her or that dog.

I guess I’m still a bit naive.  It still takes me by surprise, to see how people treat each other.  It makes me sad.  Even if she didn’t want the boy around her dog, she simply could have said, “Not right now.”  It wasn’t the no that revealed her prejudice attitude towards the boy.  It was the tone, the harshness, the look in her eyes.  I felt so bad for the boy, that even in this day and time, he is experiencing that kind of treatment. 

Neither one of us talked after that.  Honestly, I didn’t know what to say, other than, “What do you have against the kid?”  And I knew better than to ask.  I was afraid she’d either spew her hate-filled thoughts about the boy and his race right there in front of the other parents and kids, or she would lie to my face.  Neither seemed like a good response to ask for!

It was very uncomfortably silent for about 10 minutes before she talked to her dog.  “Well, I suppose it’s cooled off enough…let’s go for a walk.”  And with that, she was off.

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After taking some time to monitoring the baby, I was allowed to take the monitor and spandex belt off.  If I remember right, we were still being monitored when my doula arrived and boy was I relieved.  She told me my other doula was going to try to come, but her kids were very sick.  They were throwing up and had diarrhea.  “No!”  Scott and I both said.  The last thing we wanted was to expose our newborn to sickness!

So I just had one doula, the doula who is being mentored.  She knew some of the techniques that helped a laboring woman get through the intense contractions and she began to show them to me.  It wasn’t long after that when they moved me to the laboring room.  I have to admit I was relieved because then I knew I REALLY was in labor.  This baby really was going to be born soon! 

The room was huge and the nurse transfering me (while I lie on my bed) bragged that she got me into the “newest” room.  It certainly was new and very nice.  Flat screen tv, marble shower, hardwood floors.  It was beautiful.  There were plenty of chairs, a table, and a rocking chair in there also, but at that point, I was just happy to be in any room.  I was in pain. 

 

I tried a number of laboring positions, from leaning over the table/tray to sitting on the birthing ball.  At that point, I just wanted to stand up and lay my head on someone’sshoulders and breath as I rocked through the contractions.  The back pain was bad and it seemed that when someone would push into my back to relieve the back pain, my belly pain just got worse.  Eventually, the contractions became even more intense and I headed for the shower.  I sat on the ledge as my doula sprayed hot water on my belly.  It was amazing how much relief the water provided during the contractions.   I sat there for what seemed like forever, breathing through the contractions.  I kept my eyes closed most of the time not even noticing when someone switched out with my doula.  I didn’t even care how hot the water was.  When the nurse returned to my room to tell me we had to put the monitor back on, I nearly cried.  I hated that stupid spandex belt.  It made things worse.  But I complied.  I got out of the shower, dried off, and pulled the belt up over my body and onto my now red, water-burned belly.

I had the nurse check me again.  To my surprise, I’d progressed to 7.  Maybe this labor wasn’t going to last too long.  The pain was terrible, but as long as I could hang out in the shower, I thought I might be able to make it through.

But the contractions continued to get worse.  They monitored the baby and it seemed to take forever to get the readings they were looking for this time.  Of course, the baby was fine, so they  let me take the belt off again.  I headed back to my comfort zone – the shower.  But the contractions were getting worse and the shower didn’t provide nearly as much relief this time.  The night wore on and everything seemed a blur because all I could do was prepare myself for the next contraction.  I remember trying different positions in the shower, the back pain getting so intense, I hoped the hot water being sprayed on my back would help.

 

It didn’t.  I remember the nurse checking me again, I felt like I needed to push, like the baby was hitting my bottom.  It was not comfortable, no, it hurt.  I hadn’t progressed anymore, but the pain continued to increase. 

I was frustrated because I wasn’t progressing but the pain was getting so bad I was yelling and tensing up.  The shower no longer helped.  I remember being on my knees, thrashing my head back and forth in agony with each contraction.  I didn’t want to lay down, sit down, stand up.  I just wanted to get this baby out.  At one point, I apparently bit my husband on his chest.  This served as a humorous moment for my mom and Scott, which was good because they felt so helpless.  I didn’t remember biting him, until they told me about it later.  Then I remembered being in so much pain, I even stuck my own hand in my mouth to bite down. 

I was out of control.  I started crying to Scott, telling him I could not do this anymore.  “I can’t!  I can’t!”  I screamed.  Finally, the nurse talked to me.  She told me that it was possible that I was tensing up so much I was not allowing my body to progress.  I knew my next option was an epidural, but I did not want to do that.  I was afraid that if I agreed, I wouldn’t progress anymore and I’d end up with another C-Section.  Memories of my first labor experience haunted me.  It seemed things were following the same pattern. 

Scott and I talked, and finally, I knew I couldn’t take anymore.  I knew that I wasn’t progressing and I knew I was closing my body up every time a contraction came along.  So I agreed to an epidural, hoping I wouldn’t regret my decision later.  The nurse hooked up some fluids and told me I’d have to wait until the bag was empty before they could give me an epidural. I looked at her in dread.  “How long will that be?”  I asked.

She didn’t want to give me a time frame. She knew better.  Even 5 minutes would have been too long.  “Until it’s empty.”  She said, and then walked out. 

Finally the anesthesiologist walked in.  They made my mom and doula leave the room as she prepared to give me the epidural.  She started talking immediately, telling me the procedure.  When she told me that I would have to completely hold still during the contractions while she inserted the needle, I freaked.  “It could be dangerous for you and me.”  She said.

There was no way I could sit still.  I asked her how long it would take, she told me about 20 minutes.  20 minutes!?!  That’s like 10 contractions!  I looked at Scott and told him I didn’t know if I could hold still that long.  He assured me I could.  But as the contractions came, I couldn’t. 

The anesthesiologistrefused to do the epidural if I couldn’t sit still, and that was understandable.  I didn’t want her sticking a needle up my back if I couldn’t sit still either!   I asked her if she would give me just a contraction or two to practice being still, and if she would wait until the contraction was over before starting so I’d have one less contraction to endure.  She started packing up her supplies.  “I’ll tell you what.  When you make up your mind, call me.”  And walked out.  She was not a patient woman.  She wasn’t going to give me one contraction to breath through, to practice being still through, and she was not going to promise me that she’d wait through the end of a contraction before starting on my back.

I cried.  I told my nurse she was not a patient woman and I saw the look on her face.  She was pissed.  She agreed withme.  My mom and doula came in.  I guess when the anesthesiologist walked out, she smiled at them and said, “She changed her mind.”  Only my mom said it was almost a half-evil smile.  My doula called the other doula.  The other doula called her a real bitch.  She said she was like this to everyone…very difficult to work with and the nurses dreaded sharing the same shift with her.

I told Scott I didn’t want the epidural now, because I knew I couldn’t sit still.  But I couldn’t endure this pain either.  I was trapped.  He continued to talk to me, speak logic into my clouded mind.  “She’s not going to take any risks, Melissa.  This is her job, she knows better.  She will wait for you to get through the contraction.” 

Finally, I agreed to the epidural and while I waited for the “bitch” to come back, I practiced breathing through some contractions.  She came back in, again expressing the importance of being still.  While she prepared everything, I continued to practice breathing.  I had to sit on the edge of my bed and lean over, hunching my back good so she could see my spine.  I dug my foot under the bar on my bed and used that foot to brace myself through the contractions.  With the urge to move and sway, I pressed my toes up under the bar and pulled on it with my foot.  Doing this helped me remain still through the contractions.  I figured out a way to do this and she hadn’t even inserted the needle yet.  It turned out the 20 minutes she said I’d have to remain still, was only about 2, the actual time she took inserting the epidural.  The rest of the time, she was simply preparing, washing my back, taping the needle in place, etc.  “She COULD HAVE TOLD ME THAT.”  I thought.  For some reason I thought that the actual insertion was going to take 20 minutes, which was silly because I’ve had an epidural before.  But I just wasn’t thinking straight. 

Finally, relief.  My screaming and moaning (and biting) stopped.  I was able to relax.  I could still feel the contractions coming, but it was the pressure hitting my bottom I felt, as if my uterus was pushing the baby downwards.  It wasn’t comfortable, but certainly bearable.  The anesthesiologist returned to my room after a while and didn’t so much apologize, but told me she was proud of me and told me she wasn’t trying to be mean, she just wanted to make sure I didn’t get hurt.  At that moment, she could have been my best friend.  I didn’t care how rude and terrible she was during some of the most intense pain I’d ever experienced…I was finally experiencing some relief.  She walked out and told my mom I was a real “sweety.” 

Sometime during the night, and I don’t remember if it was before or after the epidural, my mom told me if I could just hold on a few more hours, I’d have the baby on her birthday.  I looked at her and said, “I don’t really care.”  She laughed at me.  Even though deep down inside I thought it would be extra special to have the baby on my mom’s birthday – the 4th of July, while she was here to witness the birth of her grandchild, I couldn’t help but wonder if this baby was ever going to be born!

For the next several hours, the nurse came in to check on me.  The spandex belt I grew to despise was already on me and the baby remained monitored since I was stuck in my bed.  Every couple hours, I was rotated from one side to another, lying a bit on my stomach.  These different positions continued to help me progress and try to get the baby to turn the right way, because the baby was face up and not wanting to turn. 

I tried to sleep the best I could, to get rested up so I would have the energy and strength to push.  I managed to sleep lightly, but woke up through most of my contractions, because I could still feel the pressure.  I remember Scott and my mom taking off for a while to get something to eat.  I remember the doula doing the same, and then returning before my mom and Scott and setting up the sofa seat for herself to sleep on.   This left a couple of chairs and a rocking chair for my mom and Scott to sleep on.  They came back and Scott had my mom sleep on the two chairs while he attempted to sleep on the rocking chair.  I remember thinking it was a bit strange she was taking the couch.  Wasn’t she supposed to be looking out for me and my husband?  But I was just too tired to say anything. 

The night progressed into the wee early hours of the morning and eventually Scott found his way to the floor.  I felt bad for him, wishing there was room on my bed to share.  Finally, the sun rose, and it was getting close to time for my doctor to come into the hospital to check up on me.  The good news was, I was progressing, and around 7-ish in the morning, I heard the even better news.  I was ready to start pushing! 

They sent the anesthesiologist in to turn my epidural down so I could feel what I needed to feel.  A quiet man walked in.  He wasn’t so very friendly either, but he wasn’t unpleasant, just quiet and serious.  He turned my epidural down, and I started pushing as we waited for the numbness to subside.  Finally, I had enough feeling in my legs to get up on my knees.  I leaned over the back of my bed and pushed from that position, letting gravity help me. 

I stayed this way until I felt I could do other, preferable positions.  I couldn’t wait to pull out the bar and start pushing in a squatting position.  To me, this seemed an even more natural way to push.  I pushed for a while as the nurse and doctor checked my progress.  They told me I was doing a great job pushing.  That made me feel good, like I was doing my job.  Even with the epidural, I was strong enough. 

 

The baby was still facing up and my doctor came in and said he wanted to try to turn the baby’s head.  I agreed, knowing it would be easier to push the baby out that way.  So he put his hand up there and tried to turn the baby.  He smiled.  “She’s got plenty of room to move.”  He said.  She’d turned right around.  And then another look on his face.   A look of surprise.  He shook his head.  “She turned back.”  He said. 

“You have one strong baby!”  He said as he wrestled with this little one trying to get the child to turn again.  Apparently, this baby was fighting him.  He kept shaking  his head, half-way laughing.  This child didn’t want to turn. Every time he’d get the baby going, the baby would turn back up.

I kept pushing for a bit, and the pushing time reached to about 2 1/2 hours.  My doctor decided to talk to me about other options.  He explained how the vacuum worked and asked me if I’d be interested in trying it.  I kept thinking I’d still be pushing for a while before we used the vacuum and remember asking him how long it would be before he’d try it.  “Right now.”  He said.  “We can do it right now.” 

“Oh!”  Wow.  “Okay, let’s do it!”  I said.  I was ready for this baby to be born and it looked like I was going to need a little help to make it happen.  At this point, the thought never occured to me that if this didn’t work, I’d have to have a C-Section.  I just knew she was about to be born. 

The nurses and my doctor started to prepare things for the birth of my baby.  A table was brought towards the doctor where he was sitting.  He attached the vaccuum to the baby’s head before I even realized it and then it was time to push again.  I pushed.  Pushed again.  I could feel the baby moving and before I knew it, the baby’s head popped out and everyone started getting excited.  I can still remember the feeling of her moving out of me.  The doctor told me to stop pushing for a minute.  I guess her cord was wrapped around her neck, but he also didn’t want her coming out too fast.  Too bad, because before I knew it, the rest of her just popped out.  “It’s a girl!” 

Everyone cheered and got excited, but the reaction I’ll always remember is Scott’s.  He was so excited, so happy, so in love. 

They placed her in my arms nearly right away.  At first, I was just thrilled to have her in my arms. 

Then, I realized that I really didn’t know what to do.  My last two babies weren’t placed in my arms right after birth.  I had to wait until the surgeries were over. 

But I recovered from the shock quickly, and before I knew it, I was admiring the beautiful child lying in my arms.

My doctor shook his head as he told me she just came out, and I guess her coming out so fast caused me to tear pretty bad.  “Third degree tears” he told me as he stitched me up.  I even tore some on the inside.  I told him maybe I made the wrong choice, maybe I should have asked for an episiotimy.  He disagreed.  He said my tear avoided other areas that an episiotimywouldn’t.  Even with 3rd degree tears, I’d made the right choice. 

I turned back to my daughter, staring at her in disbelief.  I did it.  It wasn’t really a “natural birth” like I’d planned, but still, I’d reached my main goal – No C-Section.  My little girl was finally born…and the best part of all, she was born on the 4th of July, my mom’s birthday.

That night, Scott and I were settled in our room.  They moved me, and while the room was much smaller and not nearly as fancy, I was happy to be in this room, because it meant my baby was finally in my arms.  We talked about names, trying to decide on one that fit our little girl.  We had a list, and we went through it.  But Scott and I both seemed to like one name in particular…the name, you can find here, with the right password.  It just seemed like the name that was supposed to be, which made sense, because while I was pregnant with our little girl, I prayed and asked God to give us the right name.  The middle name seemed fitting, since it is also my mom’s middle name.  They share the same birthday, Scott and I wanted them to share the same middle name. 

After I got home, I looked up the meaning of our daughter’s first name.  We named her without knowing what her name meant, and tears welled up in my eyes as I read the one word that in many ways, changed my life – a word that I’d seen many times before, a word that meant many more words to me.  Even her name was a gift, an answer to prayer, a message and reminder that God will find little ways to continue speaking His love to me.

and that one word is

CAPTIVATING.

 

***If you haven’t, check out Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, get it at half.com!

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