Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fiona Eleni Joy- The Birth

9:46 am, March 20th.  The first day of spring, you joined our family.  A light, a joy, a bundle of pink in a brood of blue boys.  You are perfect.  Stronger and bigger than they thought.  Bigger even than your brothers!  At just the right time, in just the right way, you came.  Fiona Eleni Joy Brink.  Two middle names like your Mama, full of of girlie features and mannerisms already.  We chose Fiona because it is unique and classic, sweet and spunky, and it stuck. It just fit.  We chose Eleni (pronounced 'ah-len-ee') because it means light.  Our prayer and hope is that you will bring light to this family and to all who meet you. That there will be a brightness and a 'light-ness' about you that will attract others to you and attract them to Christ. He is the light and the lifter of heaviness.  May you bring a new grace to our home, a new hope, a new life. And we chose Joy because ever since we found out about you, our hearts and the reactions of others have been nothing but joy.  You are a joy already and we pray your life will bring joy to many.

Now, I know that maybe a 'c-section is a c-section' but your birth has a story too, and I want to share it.

Wednesday night, the day before Fiona's birth, her grandparents took the boys so that Jason and I could have an evening to ourselves.  It was a little bit emotional to pack them up and see them off.  How big they were!  How much bigger they would seem when we'd see them next!  But nonetheless, we enjoyed a quiet dinner at home together marveling, speculating, and anticipating the next days and weeks ahead.  We sang together, we prayed together, we dreamt together, and then went to our favourite local spot (Wendels) for dessert and book browsing.  It was lovely.  Sweet, relaxing, and memorable.

The next day dawned and we went off to the hospital.  Our home cleaned and prepped, our hearts ready to receive this new gift.  We waited, tried to pass time, and then almost as if going to the dentist or something like that, I walked into the operating room and sat down.

The next 48 hours were impressively hard.  The spinal procedure was painful, and once the medication took effect my blood pressure plummeted and I was nauseous and felt horrible.  It was scary and overwhelming. I got very emotional, as I tried to cope with the procedure, trying to be brave but also wanting desperately to know that Fiona would be okay.  Jason came in and stayed with me as I cried a Mommy's tears and waited for 'news.'  

Then she was born and she was screaming and crying.  Good lungs!  Strong heart!  I was so concerned she would be too little because I was growing very little in the weeks leading up to her 'early' arrival (10 days before her due date) but there she was, 7 lbs 2 oz.  The surge of relief and emotion that followed was incredible.  Like falling headlong into love and fear at the same time.  My heart all at once vulnerable again!

We journeyed to the recovery room which was quite challenging.  It was very difficult to get Fiona to nurse while lying flat.  And very uncomfortable.  The hours to follow were filled with quite a bit of pain, discomfort, and itchiness (as happened with the boys).  My physical misery only matched by my emotional love for this new little girl.

The boys came later to meet their sister and that bent my heart in new ways.  Silas was a perfect older brother- marveling at his sister, holding, snuggling, 'oohing' and 'aaahing.'  I was so proud of him!  Toby was not so happy.  He didn't want Mommy or Daddy and was grumpy and removed.  He liked Fiona okay but suddenly he was not the happy, bonded boy anymore.  He looked rejected.  My heart was breaking a little already.  He was my baby, and still a baby in so many ways in my eyes.  We had such a special bond together, it was hurting me to see him acting rejected.  I wanted to cuddle him, hold him, reassure him, kiss and wrestle him but my wounded body couldn't get close to his combative one.  

The next day's visit was much the same.  In a tidal wave of emotions (hormones?) I had a mini meltdown watching Toby.  It was very difficult for this Momma's heart to be both embracing a new lovely child but also to see your older child feel rejected.  The room was crowded with our family but I was in the bathroom sobbing my eyes out.  I spent the next few hours in terrible pain and bawling. This was a low point for me.

Another night passed, and the peaceful days with Jason in the hospital were also filled with physical triumphs and physical lows. Getting up!  Moving!  Getting the IV out!  Showering!  But agonizing nursing, engorgement, incision pain, sleeplessness, back spasms...  New motherhood post c-section is just soooo hard.

We left after two days in the hospital and came home bringing treats for the boys.  Fiona gave them some gifts in the hospital but I might have been wanting to 'win them back.'  I was delighted and relieved to very quickly see Toby 'rebound' to having his mom and dad together at home.  This twinkly boy and his loving older brother have been embracing Fiona and watching with wonder at the changes, the bathing, the nursing, and all the little aspects of having a newborn around.  It's been wonderful to see.  It's hard to see your 'baby' become your middle child though.

And so we're settling into this season.  Right now it is pure survival.  Baby 'stuff' has filled every room, our living room has become my 'home' as I'm a prisoner of the downstairs and I spend all my time feeding Fiona or doctoring my many wounds.  Jason is on 'boy' duty and runs around after them trying to keep them entertained and off of me!  Usually I have a delighted audience when I try to nurse which can be amusing and overwhelming.  

Fiona is gaining weight, a bit jaundiced, but very healthy.  She seems to have figured out how to sleep through most of the day quite nicely but at night time she's ready to be awake and alert (arg).  It's musical beds right now- everyone everywhere at different times.  We're piecing together sleep but never enough. I love trying Fiona's little outfits on her (although she delights in spitting up on them immediately afterwards).  She hates being clothed or unclothed and gets herself all worked up in quite a little fit, and turns a mighty shade of red and has the cutest girly sneeze you've ever heard.  One of the first times she opened her eyes, Toby exclaimed "blue eyes, like mine!"  Silas laughed hysterically when he saw how Fiona was to be fed and Toby, mortified, said "why baby eating mommy??"  I love when the boys are outside and the first thing they do is run in and ask "where is fiona?"  or Toby says "where MY baby?"  Toby has also determined that I am no longer able to call him 'baby' and is very adamant that 'I not baby.'

We've been very blessed with some visits with friends and families and have dove into our freezer crock pot meals (thanks to our life group!)  So grateful for her safe arrival.  Praying for these first blurry weeks to gracefully pass and for each area of my pain to be relieved.  Everyone said that this 'planned' c-section would be 'so much better' than my other two.  I haven't found this to be the case.  It's been every bit as hard, every bit as arduous, and every bit as emotional.  The only difference was that there was less panic and anxiety going into it.  

Our life will never be the same again, thank you Jesus for this beautiful gift.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Clunking Up the Hill

People keep asking me how I'm doing right now.  "How are you feeling? Are you ready?" I've finally put a finger on how I'm feeling:

I feel like I'm climbing that first hill on that old, wooden roller coaster at playland.  If you live in Vancouver you know exactly what I'm talking about. (You know, the one you wonder how in the world it's still around and how in heaven's name it hasn't collapsed yet?) Even if you haven't been on this coaster, you've probably been on one like it.  The ones that start with the big climb.  

So you're in the ride, you're buckled in. You've committed, and there's no going back. Shoulder to shoulder with other anxious and nervous riders. You're waiting for everyone to load and with one giant lurch you start moving.  Then, your neck is wrenched as your seat tips awkwardly backwards at an impossible angle.  And there you are, climbing up that first big hill.  Up and up, clunking along.  You're waiting for the top, waiting for the release over the edge.  You can see it, it's coming, you're straining to make it to the top of that first hill...equally terrified and excited.  

That's us.  That's how I feel right now.  We're in this.  We're waiting.  We've been on this ride before, we know what to expect, but there's the new nervousness "Will this seat belt hold?  Will I fall out? Why am I here?  Who convinced me to go on this ride, again?" Anticipation.  Nervousness. Excitement. Slight panic: "I want offfff!"

In 3 days our whole world will change.  Our home will be fuller, our days will be busier, our sleep will be more disjointed, and Lord willing, we will embrace a daughter in our arms.  How does one prepare for this? It's so bizarre to know the day that everything is going to change- like that approaching peak of the coaster. There's nothing more we can do to get ready.  No more rooms to stock, bags to pack, and although there are things to clean I have little motivation or ability to clean them.  We're booked in, this is happening, it's marked on the calendar.  

Maybe this all sounds melodramatic, but I feel the gravitational pull of past experiences and the thrill of the new adventure all packed into one big rolling emotion.  So little can be known about what is ahead, although much is already 'planned' for.  Such a bizarre feeling.  We know what it's like to have a baby.  We know the joy and the terror, the fun and the insanity, the incredible highs and lows.  But then, we don't know what this child will be like and how we will journey through this season for the third time.

I remember the physical pain and discomforts, the relentless feedings, the sore shoulders, the stretched emotions and the constant carrying and holding.  O dear.  How are we going to make it through?  But I also remember the first moments holding and kissing my boys. The incredible wonder of a new life, a new creation, a new soul.  Lips to cheeks and toes. My heart might explode at being in that place of loving a little child so deeply but being just as equally terrified about the responsibility of caring for her.

But for now, we can only imagine what is ahead.  For now, I'm just buckled in, committed, and clunking up this last big hill.  I can see it, the edge is coming.  The thrill is just ahead and I'm slightly panicked, but there's no going back.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Journey Towards Another C-Section

I just went to the hospital orientation yesterday for planned c-section Moms.  I somehow cannot believe I am now 'in that group.'  I've been wrestling with this on and off throughout this pregnancy and we had to make a final decision a few weeks back.  I saw numerous obstetricians, am under the care of midwives again, and went to a special VBAC clinic at Women's hospital.  They all pretty much said the same thing: not only are there too many risks of trying for a 'normal' delivery, but the chances of success in my case are very very low.  

I somehow knew this, and was already planning for it, but hearing those words again kinda threw me under the bus, emotionally.  I guess the dream had never really died.  All pregnancy I was waiting for someone to dangle a bit of hope that a VBAC might be possible, that maybe I could GI-Jane this baby outta me with sure stamina and will power.

But it's not all about will power, is it?

My first kick at the can, I gave it a fair try but after 25 hours of hard labour, fetal distress, and no change in my dilation, the decision was made for me.  My second try, literally everything happened almost exactly the same way.  My babies are small, my labour started and continued without intervention.  They were both in the 'right' position, but my body just didn't progress and my boys never 'descended.'  Aka: they were not fitting, something about the shape of me is just not quite right and it was not going to happen.

And now, at this point, my history (more than this pregnancy) dictates the plan.  If I wanted to try again, I'd have to be at Women's hospital (an hour away), would have to go to the hospital way earlier and the margin I would be given for success would be slim.  2-4 hours stalled out?  Automatic c-section.  I would be monitored, prepped and readied for the event of another emergency c-section.  Chances are slim, under such circumstances, that anything 'natural' would happen.  Of course, I could go all medieval and try to birth this baby on a stool at home.  Then I remember that many women died (and still die) in childbirth, or their children die.  Is seeking after some ethereal, mythical 'unicorn' experience worth the risks of that reality?   

I wish it were different.  I wish my body were predictable.  I wish my hips were more forgiving.  I wish 'trying harder' = 'greater chance of success.'  I wish our system wasn't so medical-ized.  Yet, here we are. As a Mom, or even as a person living on this earth, we don't always get what we wish for. We don't always get the 'easy road' like someone else seems to have it.  But then, we all have our battles, disappointments and detours, don't we?

I am still trying to figure out why, exactly, this decision carries so much baggage with it. Why is there a part of me that shrivels up when other Moms talk about their birthing experiences?  Or when they try to empathize with me saying "I almost had a c-section, so I totally know how you feel."  Why is a natural delivery so glorified?  We put such value on things in our culture, it's hard sometimes to gain perspective.  Does it really make me a better Mom if I only feed my children organic food?  If I exclusively breastfeed?  If I am able to push a baby out of me without any pain medication? Ridiculous, right?  

I'm grieving a little bit because I know what the recovery from a c-section is like.  Let me tell you, it ain't easy.  Not being able to eat for hours, stuck in a bed, unable to pick up your kids for weeks, stuck on your lower level of your home, I could go on.  I am told, and am clinging to hope that a planned c-section is just WAY better for both Mom and baby. That the lack of urgency puts everyone at their best and recovery is a walk in the park. That this time around, the recovery won't be akin to climbing Everest like it was the last two times.  Maybe.

Marking the date on a calendar- it seems so sterile and strange. 

Yet here I am.  On the road I didn't expect to be on, praying for more of God's grace to pour down on me and help me through another surgery.  At the end of the day, I know it doesn't matter.  We don't all walk around with labels about how we entered this world or how we birthed our children.  I need to 'get over it' so to speak.  Let it go.  Get on with it.  And mostly, be thankful.  Because surgery gave me him:

And him: 
And this and a million other precious moments might not have been possible if I were in a different time, living in a different place, or if surgery had not been an option for me:

So again I need to:
Be thankful that I was able to deliver two healthy boys, despite complications
Be thankful for a medical system where mortality isn't a strong possibility with the birth of one's child
Be thankful for the ability to carry children at all, a gift and not a guarentee
Be thankful that we live in a nation where we can take significant time off of work, and still make ends meet.
Be thankful that our husbands can even take time off with us, and nurture a new life (Jason is taking 4 weeks off)
Be thankful for family nearby to help out
Be thankful for medicines to ease discomfort, to prevent infections, to ensure recovery- and the ability to access them
Be thankful for new life, a new soul, a new baby in my arms no matter how she got there

Let it go, Shannon, let it go.  You have a great God who has done marvelous things and this too will be woven into His perfect plan for your life.

And with that, I choose to close this chapter.  Move on.  End discussion.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Joys

I am currently finding a lot more joy in this season with my kids than I have, even in recent months.   There are just some awesome changes taking place with them that I am just over the moon about.  Of course, there are still a lot of everyday frustrations, mainly because I'm lugging around an extra 25 lbs attached to my midsection, but I am enjoying some recent changes in them.  Namely...

1. Toby is mostly potty trained.  The arduous journey with Silas with potty training was so frustrating and so long, that the thought of even starting Toby before 2 was completely unappealing to me.  However, before I speak too soon, he has come a long way and definitely is a more independent guy than his older brother- for which I am greatly relieved!  We've moved completely over to underwear with very few accidents.  So. Thankful.

2. Both boys on bikes.  It took awhile but Toby has finally started figuring out the strider bike and with Silas on a pedal bike now...I am so thrilled (and slightly terrified).  I am definitely the slowest one on walks now which has me a little concerned.  However, hopefully this means that when baby comes along I can put her in the stroller for nap/walks and the boys can toodle along at a decent enough click for her to sleep.  So excited to see what this summer will entail!

3. Watching the boys play together.  They still fight, but now that Toby can talk so much more and understand so much more, they are more often found playing together than fighting.  I literally had lost hope a few months back because they fought Every. Single. Second. Of. The. Day.  I am just delighted every time I see them entertaining each other.  "Toby, want to do this?"  "Okay, Silas."  Just today they were playing doctor together- ridiculously cute and hilarious.  Silas would fall down the stairs (intentionally) and limp to Toby the "surgeon" and he would fix him up.  With woodworking tools of course, and in our furnace/laundry room because where better to do surgery?  (Don't worry, I DID insert a bit of nursing in there and made sure Toby washed his hands before making the first incision).

4. Silas helping his brother.  I could cry, this brings me such joy.  If my hands are tied up, I'll see if Silas can help Toby when he's calling for me.  Silas will bring him a kleenex, show him how to do something or help him get some water, take off his shoes, or whatever else Toby needs.  I love seeing Silas rise to the big brother role and I love it when Toby realizes that I'm not the only one to meet his needs, but that he can ask his brother too.

5. Exploring the outdoors with the boys.  I literally cannot wait until summer.  We spent over 2 hours the other just wandering in and out of the woods.  We played with sticks, they climbed trees, we made bridges and threw rocks.  I. Love. This.  Silas was like "come explore with me Toby!"  "Okay Silas."  Love.

6. Seeing Silas learn.  I love sitting down with this intelligent boy and watching him learn to write his letters, read words, and just soak up knowledge like a sponge.  Sometimes he can drive me a little nuts with his insatiable need to understand.  He can even scare me with the deep and difficult questions he asks like "When is daddy gonna die?"  or "Why did God not heal that little boy, doesn't He heal everyone?"  But I love that He so relentlessly seeks to understand and am excited to see him learn.

7. Seeing the boys create and craft.  I especially love Silas' newfound skill of drawing.  He always drew without purpose- you know, colouring in blobs and random lines.  But now he actually tries to draw things and has stories to tell about his pictures.  I love seeing how his brain works!  He has also taken to 'crafting' in his quiet time.  I leave him with scissors, tape, random cardboard boxes and crayons and he makes the most awesome creations (airplanes, cars, etc).  

8. The boys sleep in bunk beds.  This is pretty much awesome and took awhile to conquer (and sometimes we still separate them) but I love that they share a room. Perfect timing too!

All this to say, I most often mope and groan about the challenges of raising two close-in-age boys, and let me tell you, there are a LOT of challenges.  But I'm also finding new joy in little ways.  I'm a bit sad to see this season of our family of 4 come to a close, but I'm curious to see how they react to a new little girl around.  Here's hoping that all the above doesn't crumble when a new little life is added into our home!  

Painting in the tub 
Playing airplane together 
Another quiet time creation.. 
Pre-outdoors play. 

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