Monday, September 22, 2014

The Birth of Our Beautiful Baby Boy

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but have been putting it off. It is always hard for me to write about meaningful experiences let alone put them out into the world. But this has been weighing on me and have felt that it is important for me to write, even if just for myself. I had a hard time sleeping last night thinking about it, and I really need sleep these days.

First of all, I want to start by saying that I believe every woman is entitled to have their own birth experience without the judgment of others. A lot of attention seems to be placed on labor and birth which, yes is a hugely courageous, difficult, and amazing experience, but even more courageous is the decision to parent a human soul for the rest of eternity, which in my opinion is the hardest, most important job there will ever be. If you would like to debate me on this you first have to spend a week with me and my 5 children. You will experience equal parts horror and unexplainable joy. But, whether you have a pain free birth, a drug-free birth, have a C-section, are induced, adopt, or are a parent in other ways to the children around you, every woman has the right to feel proud of their birth/parenting experience. I know many women feel guilty or disappointed or less worthy because their birth plan didn’t turn out the way they wanted. I’ve realized over the years that, yes we should be educated in our decisions, of course we should go in knowing all we can to have a safe delivery, but in the end, it isn’t our plan, it’s God's.  I remember having a very specific birth plan with my first child and it turned out nothing like I thought. I had wanted to try to do a drug-free labor and did 8 hours of labor through the night before getting an epidural. I remember someone telling me after “You almost made it, you were so close” like what I had done was less than. I thought later, “that’s not right, I did make it!!!!” That’s when I took on the cause that every woman should feel amazing about whatever experience they have, because it is their's and it is personal and special. We should be lifting and supporting each other in this magnificent effort to bear and rear Heavenly Father’s children. My Mom felt strongly that she needed to have all of her children without epidurals. Because of her experience I have tried to stay close to the spirit and be very prayerful when making decisions about labor and birth, but I personally had felt peaceful about getting an epidural. I have had all kinds of births with different labors and situations and each time the veil of heaven was thin and the spirit so strong and each one I can remember clearly as the most important moments of my life, the first time I met the heavenly souls that I would be with forever. So as I tell this story I do it in the spirit of revealing the tender mercies of the Lord in my life and how I felt the Lord’s hand guide me as I went through this specific labor and birth experience.

I moved across country from Auburn, Alabama to Forest Grove, Oregon on August 15th and my baby boy was due to arrive Friday August 29th. My Mom usually comes a day or two after the baby is born, so she planned to arrive September 2nd to help me with the new little one. On the 31st I had a false labor that lasted a few hours then petered out. Sam and I hadn’t even had a chance to get our hospital bags together so while my false labor was going on we were packing. My mom came and still no baby. She was scheduled to be here a week and so I was hoping it was coming sooner rather than later. I had inductions with other births and felt fine about it, but for some reason with this birth I felt that wasn’t the right decision so we were waiting it out. I had another false labor, but nothing came of it.  So instead of helping with a new baby my Mom was helping me get my house more settled and moved in and helping as the kids started school that week. Her help that week saved my life and even though I had been hoping to have the baby sooner, looking back, those were some of the most precious moments I got to spend with my Mom and my children as they started school in a new town.
 On Wednesday I had a doctor’s appointment and he talked about scheduling an induction for Friday morning at 6am. Even though I had felt like I shouldn’t be induced, for some reason I felt very peaceful about scheduling the induction. I was confused about these conflicting feelings but figured I could always cancel if I wanted to, so I scheduled the induction. As I prayed about this confusion the thought came to my mind “It won’t matter either way.” So I prepared to go in on Friday morning. It was really great to have a few days with my mom to spend some fun time with her preparing for baby. So Friday Morning I had a couple random contractions around 4:20 am, but nothing consistent. I had been having contractions all week so I wasn’t thinking anything of it. At 5 am when Sam and I got up to go I was feeling great and ready to go when I realized I had a missed call from the Hospital. When I called back they said they were going to postpone due to being short staffed, but when I didn’t answer they just figured it out and were ready for us. My Mom got up to send us off and stayed to take care of my 4 children. During the 40 minute ride to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland my contractions went from very minor and 20 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart and painful. I was still in denial because they weren’t completely consistent and I had already had 2 false labors.

When we got to the nurses desk I was breathing through the contractions. They all looked very confused since I was supposed to be their induction that morning.  When I got in to the room it was 6:30 they checked me and I was at 6 cm. They said we still had some time and since  I like to wait a little bit to get the epidural so I can walk around and labor on my own for a while, we weren’t in a huge rush  but she started to get things ready. I was still feeling ok and could handle the pain. My shortest labor had been 5 hours so I thought we had plenty of time. That’s when things started getting very painful very fast. I called for the epidural and they said it would take about 20 minutes to get there. With the amount of pain I was in 20 minutes seemed like an eternity. I had no idea how horrific these contractions could be and I felt like I went from slightly painful contractions to unbearable in ten minutes. They couldn’t get the IV to stay in because I was clinging onto Sam for my life and also sweating the tape off. By 7 o’clock (I had been in the hospital room for 30 minutes at this point) the contractions were coming back to back and I couldn’t even switch positions, I was in so much pain.  It’s crazy how pain turns you into a different person, I was screaming and crying. I remember yelling, “I didn’t know it was like this, I didn’t know.” I also at one point asked the Doctor to knock me out. The screaming was so bad that my throat was raw and hurting for the next day.

The doctor had come in for his morning rounds and the look on his face was total shock. He thought he was coming into a peaceful induction and instead it was screaming chaos with nurses everywhere. Come to find out later he also thought I was a first time mom for some reason and that this labor would most likely take a long time. So at this point they told me there was no way we had time for an epidural and even something to take the edge off was out of the question. The doctor had barely gotten in the room and the nurses had to tell him he needed to stay because this baby was coming.  I felt this urge to push that I had never felt before and told them so. The doctors and nurses rushed to get ready and in 2 pushes with my amazing partner and love by my side, our sweet little West was in my arms at 7:24 am. He stayed on me for the next hour and I kept saying to him “I’ve got you, I’ve got you.” And just like that, I was healed. All I could feel was peace and intense love for this new human in my arms. In that moment it feels like a window from heaven is opened and pure love is placed in your arms. 

My labor was about 2 hours long from start to finish and I was in the hospital less than an hour when my sweet angel West was born. I feel like the Lord showed me so many tender mercies during this experience. Had I not scheduled the induction for that exact time there is no way we would have made it to the hospital on time, especially since I was planning to labor at home for a couple hours and wasn’t really thinking I was in labor when I was. Had my mom not been there, we were planning on dropping off the kids with my cousin who lived a half hour away and there is no way we would have time to do that. I felt the Lord completely orchestrated her visit so we could have the best possible experience and that our other children felt very secure when transitioning to a new school. She was quite literally a Godsend. I felt the Lord guide me to schedule the induction so I could be in that safe environment when West was born instead of on the side of the road. Now the mixed signals I was getting from the Spirit seem so clear, that I wasn’t going to need to be induced, but needed to schedule the induction because my labor was going to be so fast. Even the fact that I didn’t pick up when the hospital called so they could figure out how to get the nurses they needed for me was a blessing.

Later that day as my sweet baby was having precious skin on skin time with his Dad I was reading my scriptures and writing in my journal. I was so overwhelmed with the miracles I had seen that day, but also feeling anxious that now I had this soul that was depending on me to make it through this world. I opened to this scripture. “Fear … not; … I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; … I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I know this even more after this experience and am so grateful.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sammy's Accident

I’ve been feeling for a while that I needed to write this story. I am awake at 3 am and can’t stop thinking about it. If there is anything I have learned from this experience it’s that I need to follow promptings that come from the Holy Spirit. Because it was a traumatic and sacred experience for me, I’ve been avoiding writing it down, not wanting to relive it.  I think it is always hard to share experiences like this, not wanting to say the wrong thing, but it is my experience and it’s true.

My family was together in Santa Barbara for my sister Annie’s wedding in May. Sam and I had flown out from Alabama with our four children, Sammy(8), Luke(7), Henry(4), and Vivienne(1). The boys in my family had planned a boating day trip a couple days after the wedding. It had been planned way in advance with family friends helping to make the whole thing happen. The night before this trip was to happen I woke up in a panic. I looked at Sam and said “You can’t go!” and he said something to the effect of “I don’t feel good about it either.” I went to sleep with a bad feeling in my gut. In the morning I questioned my feelings. I was so exhausted from planning and executing a wedding as well as traveling with 4 young kids across the country. I didn’t want to seem selfish like I didn’t want Sam to go on this trip because I just didn’t want to have to watch the kids by myself when I was feeling so run down.  Up until the seconds before the boys left Sam and I were still going back and forth, which seems strange now since we both felt so bad about it. Why didn’t we just listen? Well, all the boys in my family were going, my 5 brothers, 2 brothers in law, and my Dad. We just felt bad that he would be the only one not there and as they were calling for people to get in the car I remember the moment Sam and I looked at each other wondering what to do. I ended up being spiritually lazy and said “Just go.” I felt that it was easier for him to just go then have to explain or have people think I was being selfish, which in hind sight seems crazy.

So the boys left. None of us girls knew just how spent we all were. We took turns napping from sheer exhaustion and managing the kids and trying to clean up the wedding. We all felt like Zombies so we said let’s get out of here and go to the Zoo, do something fun. As we were preparing to go I knew some of the kids were in the front yard waiting for us to get in the car. I was grabbing my things when I heard a faint cry. It barely registered, since most of my day is filled with being a referee of little boy fights, I didn’t think much of it and then I saw little Henry running up the stairs of the front door calling for me. The next thing I saw will forever be etched in my mind. My little Sammy crushed under a huge pillar with blood everywhere. I screamed and started running. Later my Mom said when she heard that scream it was the most heart wrenching thing that she had ever heard and she knew that there was something horrible on the other end of it.

In my parents’ yard there were two huge stone pillars. I’m not sure how much they weighed, maybe 300 pounds. They seemed stable, but I guess the ground they were on was slightly unstable and the pillars weren't meant for an 8 year old to be playing on them. Sammy said later that he could have easily gotten out of the way when it started falling toward him, but he thought he could prop it back up. The pillar was way too heavy for his little body and crushed him.

When I got to him he was crying which was good, it meant he was still conscious. There was blood all around him which sent me into a panic. Even though I knew how heavy these things were I remember thinking “There is no way I am not lifting this thing off my little boy right now.” I used all my strength to pick the pillar up enough that it was hovering just above him, at this point Cubbie had reached us. She had been holding Viv, put her down to help me with the pillar. We together managed to lift the whole thing off of him. When we lifted it there was so much blood I was terrified. My mom and my sisters came rushing out to help. Someone got me a rag. He had a gaping wound on the back of his head and even though I guess you aren't supposed to move someone who might have had a neck injury, I picked him up crying, trying hold the wound and comfort him. Cubbie called the ambulance and they were out a few minutes later. As they strapped Sammy to the board, he was so scared, I held his hand and felt a strange calmness just wanting to be there for him and love him. The very big, strong paramedics surveyed the scene. I found out later that they had questioned my Mom how I could have lifted it off of Sammy, they could barely lift it themselves. I drove in the front seat of the Ambulance, they wouldn't let me in the back with him, which I thought was horrible. It was the longest ride of my life. Sammy was beside himself. I kept promising him from the front seat that he could play Wii as much as he wanted if he would try and take deep breaths and stay calm. That definitely helped him.

When we got to the hospital it was rush, rush, rush. I was asked a lot questions about what happened. Sammy was in hysterics, having a hard time calming down. They eventually took the neck brace off which helped relax him. The doctor stapled the wound in the back of his head and took him to get a CT scan. Then we waited. Sammy was conscious the whole time, but was acting off. Having crying fits every few minutes. I think we were both in shock. We would be sitting there talking or I would be singing to him and then we would take turns just crying from the trauma. This would continue for me for the next several weeks.

The CT scan came out miraculously clear. All we keep hearing was “this is one lucky boy.” He came away from the accident with a concussion, stitches, and body full of scrapes and bruises, but no permanent injury.
The way the pillar was shaped there was a slight curve inward at one point, that is where Sammy’s head was. If it had landed in any other spot it could have gone very different. I feel lucky. Maybe that’s not the right word, but that’s how I feel, very lucky and grateful that it wasn't Sammy’s time to leave the earth.
I couldn't reach Sam during any of this and by the time I did we were already home from the hospital. Sammy stayed in bed the rest on the day, just completely overcome with shock and exhaustion. When I could get a hold of Sam I could barely get the words out. It was too much.

Now, I don’t know if Sam and I had listened to the promptings we had felt for him to stay home, if this would have happened or not. What I do know is Sam wasn't supposed to go that day, even if just to be there with us when we needed to be together. I've felt very strongly about sharing this experience even though I am reluctant to. Take what you want from it, but the lesson I learned from it is LISTEN. Forget anything else and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s Will will always be what is right.

I truly believe angels were watching over us that day. I know we all have experiences like these where we feel heaven a little closer. Where our views are changed about what we want our life to mean and what we want to fill that life with. This was mine.