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My 4:8 Baby

Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Recently we did a Sunday series on this scripture at church. It was a great series for me, and a great call on my heart to focus on the good and to practice gratitude, which is the birthplace of joy. I am not naturally a joyful person. As someone who battles anxiety, it is more natural for me to focus on the bad than the good. I am grateful for this scripture and others like it that remind me to focus my thoughts on the good.

God knows my heart so well that he saw fit to give me a living, breathing, smiling reminder of Philippians 4:8 who I can see every day. On April 8th, my first born son ninja kicked his way into the world, and I know I will never be the same.

I am one of those women who loved being pregnant. I had the occasional migraine and heartburn, but overall, I was a happy and healthy pregnant lady. (I’m sure that not being pregnant in the heat of the summer had a great deal to do with my comfort and happiness, as heat and I do not mix, says the southern California girl.) I loved my baby bump. I loved the little kicks and hiccups. I loved hearing his heartbeat. I loved reading of his progress each week, knowing he was dreaming in the womb and learning to suck his thumb and all sorts of other really cool things. I loved the mind blowing idea that I was carrying a life inside of me. God amazes me in his creation of human beings. Every one of us truly is a miracle. Side-note: Did you know that God geniusly created us so that when breast feeding moms kiss their babies, whatever germs are on the baby get transferred to the mom so that her breast milk can build anti-bodies against said germ?! How cool is that?!

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Later in my pregnancy after going back and forth about how we wanted our labor and delivery to be, the hubs and I decided to move from our OB to a midwife. (This was a hard decision for me, as I absolutely love my OB and have been seeing her for over 10 years.) We really wanted to have a natural birth at a birthing center. We knew that it was possible to achieve a natural birth in a hospital, however, it is sometimes a harder fight with the nurses to get what you really need and want. (I wanted all of my fighting to be reserved for actual laboring and pushing.) The hospital that I would have been delivering at with my OB allows you to squat to deliver, which is what I wanted, but you may not stand, and the squatting has to be done by repositioning the bed, as you must stay on the bed for delivery. I didn’t love that rule. I wanted to be a little freer than that, to do what my body needed.

Plus, I have a bicornuate uterus, which makes me a little higher risk. I learned that my contractions may not be strong enough to do the work they need to do to get the baby out. If that was the case, the hospital may have wanted to put me on pitocin, which could have increased the likelihood of me needing an epidural in order to be able to handle harsher contractions, which could have begun the cycle towards an unwanted C Section. My midwife had other more natural ways of getting me to contract if need be, which I was really happy about, and though she couldn’t guarantee that she could help me deliver without unwanted interventions, she gave me a 50/50 shot and assured me that she would do everything she could to help me plus be there with me if we had to go to the hospital. All in all, it was a great choice for us.

Everything was on track for my April 16th due date. The baby was low and in the right position, and the midwife was really happy with how the baby and I were both looking. I had done a big grocery shopping trip on April 7th and set to work making some meals to stock my freezer. I woke up on the morning of April 8th feeling really good and started chopping veggies for a soup that I was going to make and freeze, the last of the meals I was working on for after the baby was born.

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Hubs goes to work super early. He leaves the house at about 5:30am, so he was at work before I woke up. At about 9:15am, I felt something dripping down my leg. At first I thought I had reached the point in pregnancy when you begin to lose control of your bladder. I had read about that but had made it so far without that happening. I put down the veggies and went to the restroom, thinking that would solve the problem. It took me a few minutes to realize what was happening. It was not incontinence. It was my water breaking…a week early. I thought there was no way. My poor mom was pregnant for an extra month with both my sister and myself. I was a first time mom, and you always hear about first time moms being late, not early! I was about to learn that nothing about my labor and delivery would be typical of a first time mom.

I called the birthing center to let them know my water had broken or was breaking. It was not the typical “big gush” that you think of as your water breaking. It was a slow trickle that kept going for a while. She asked me a bunch of questions and said that it sounded like the baby had kicked a hole in my bag of waters. (Baby Ninja!) She was concerned about me going into labor because I was not really having contractions other than a few braxton hicks’ here and there. She told me that when I called the hubs I should tell him to pick up two homeopathic medications to help with contractions. One was Caulophyllum and the other Kali Phos. It looked like I was definitely going to need some help getting contractions going, not because of my bicornute uterus but because my baby was a ninja! If I didn’t go into labor on my own within 24-36 hours, it would be a problem. She told me to lay on my left side and gave me specific instructions of how to take the homeopathics and told me to keep my 2:00 appointment at the birthing center unless my contractions started to get really bad before then.

When I called the hubs, he couldn’t believe it. I think he may have been in more shock than I was. He picked up lunch for us both and also the homeopathics and came home. I was up in bed laying on my left side as directed, and he walked into a kitchen with a counter full of chopped veggies and a pork roast in the crock pot. I’m sure it was a sight to behold.

As I took the homeopathics and rested, we waited and talked. He took a picture of me as I “labored” laying on my left side and remarked that this would be the last time it was just the two of us, a big deal, as we had been married for a little over a year.

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We talked about calling family or texting friends but decided that it could be a while, as first births usually take a while to progress. We agreed to wait until we got to the birthing center to get checked before we called or texted anyone.

I had some pretty strong contractions that hubby helped me through as best he could. We had been taught in our birthing class that the point of contractions is to move the baby down and eventually out. The pain is not a sign that you are in trouble but a sign that the body is doing what it is supposed to do. We were taught that the more a mommy could keep the tension out of her body during a contraction, the more work that contraction could do, making the labor progress. It is so counter intuitive to your natural response to pain, but that’s what I tried to do, with my hubby’s help, remain relaxed during each contraction so that the contraction could do its work.

At about 1:30 we got in the car to go to the birthing center with my packed bag and the car seat in tow. The drive seemed to take forever, as I was in a lot of pain. The contractions seemed to get worse just in time for us to drive over there. It seemed I couldn’t really even count the time in between contractions. To me it just felt like one long contraction.

When we arrived, they asked me if I was having contractions. I told them yes, but it was one of those things that, if you have to ask… They had me pee in a cup and then walk back to the birthing room where they hooked me up to a monitor to hear the baby’s heartbeat and monitor my contractions. They could hear the baby’s heartbeat just fine, and it sounded good. They looked at what the machine was telling them about my contractions, and they told me that I wasn’t in labor. In fact, they told me that according to the machine I was in “anti-labor”. What?! What the heck is anti-labor. I thought to myself that I was pretty sure I was in labor. I mean, I’m not an expert, and I’ve never had a baby before, but if this isn’t labor, I thought I might just kill myself…because this hurt!

There were two midwives attending to us, both of whom I trusted implicitly. They were going back and forth about whether to check me because if they checked me and I wasn’t in labor, they didn’t want to put me in labor before my body was ready. They talked about sending me home and waiting until there were stronger contractions. (Stronger contractions??!!!) As they were talking to each other and occasionally to me and the hubs, I began to feel nauseated. I asked for some help and threw up my lunch. Not pleasant. They looked at me and asked why I was throwing up, which I didn’t have an answer to. I mean, what would be a good answer to that? That is when they decided to check me. And guess what? I was four to five centimeters dilated and so relieved that they hadn’t sent me home without checking me! (Can you imagine?) At this point, one of the midwives looked at me and said, “You have a pretty high tolerance for pain, don’t you?” I guess I do.

At that point, neither the hubs nor I were thinking about much but getting through each contraction, but I believe he did send out a text to our families letting them know I was in labor and how much progress I had made. I was so impressed by my husband and the amazing job he did as a first time father and coach through labor. He was with me and for me and did exactly what I needed as I needed it. He was constantly re-adjusting himself to my needs without me having to direct him at all. He re-focused me again and again and reassured me when I was afraid. I remember several times during the process stating out loud, “I am afraid.” Labor is a scary thing sometimes because you’re not sure what to expect or how you will be able to handle it. I was so grateful for his calm and collected presence through the entire labor and delivery, and even afterward when I had to have some stitches, which seemed like the longest part of the whole ordeal.

The midwife who was second in command helped me immeasurably by putting pressure on just the right places to help relieve some of the pain so that I could more easily relax my body during each contraction.

After I had thrown up a few more times, they decided I needed an IV and that I should probably go in the tub to help relieve some of the pain. They began filling the tub and also tried to start an IV. This would be a good time to mention that I have an extreme needle phobia. It stems from a traumatic childhood experience, which makes it neither rational nor any less terrifying. I was laying on my side as they tried to get a vein in my hand during on and off contractions. They couldn’t get it, so they tried to roll me onto my back so that they could get the darn thing in my arm. I was having none of that being on my back stuff. It hurt way too much. This prompted them to check me again, only to realize that it was too late for the bath and that it was time to push!

When they tell you that your body knows what to do in labor, they aren’t joking. Nothing could have stopped me from pushing at that point. It was more than an urge. I pushed and pushed harder, and I felt so much relief when the head came out. At this point, they told me very sternly to stop pushing because the cord was around the baby’s neck. I did as I was told, which was much easier to do with the head being out. The midwife tried to slip the cord over the baby’s head, but since my uterus is heart shaped, too much of the cord was in the other side of my uterus, making the cord very short. They had to cut it before the rest of his body was out, which they did, and he was totally fine, thankfully. His shoulders did a little damage to me when they came out, but other than that, we were both healthy and came through the labor and delivery with no complications.

The euphoria that you feel after giving birth naturally is like nothing I can describe. It was almost like an out of body experience. Oxytocin is real and powerful! All I can remember after he was born was looking at him and stroking him and saying, “My baby! My beautiful baby!” It was like I couldn’t stop saying it or touching him or looking at him. My husband jokingly says it was like the baby was lost at the supermarket and we had been reunited again.

After my husband cut the cord shorter and we spent a little time as a family, fawning over the baby, and after I had delivered the placenta, which was so not as bad as I thought it would be, the hubs sent out a text to our families letting them know that the baby had been born, and, of course, attaching a picture.

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My mom, in particular, was in disbelief. The first she learned of me being in labor was at approximately 2:30pm or so, which is when she was told I was at 4 or 5 centimeters. At just about 5:30pm, she got the text that the baby had been born. Yes, this first time mom was in active labor for three hours and pushed for twenty minutes, and the baby was born. To God be ALL of the glory in this experience. I did not know how my labor and delivery would be. Who ever does? But I do know that God showed up and showed off and gave me a very special and very merciful labor and delivery. 4:8 indeed.

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Musings

I was just speaking with a couple of co-workers about the progress of some shared students, and one of them mentioned that the two of them were both moms. I didn’t catch it at first, but then the other one spoke up and said, “and so is she,” pointing at me. Her comment made me happy to be included, but more than that, it made me remember that, yes, I still am a mom. I am grateful for the reminder.

Love is Like a Stream

When I get a little emotional, my right eye begins to “leak”.  It’s like a little stream, but just out of that one eye.  I’m not sure why it happens that way, but it does.  As I was sitting in my bedroom in the Ikea “rocking chair” that was given to me by a friend who was moving, long before I had any idea I would be a foster parent, my eye began to leak.  I wasn’t alone as I sat rocking, my eye stream activated; Baby Incredible was lying on my chest.  He’s almost getting to big to do that now.  His legs curl up under him, and his arms hang off of the side of me.  

The first time I put him down for his nap, he woke up as soon as I left the room.  When it was clear he wasn’t going to go back to sleep, I went in, cleared off the rocking chair that had clothes piled on top of it…after all, what’s the use of it when there’s no baby in the house…and plucked him out of his crib.  He lay on me as I rocked, his ear against my chest, listening to my heartbeat.  We were both quiet.  I played with his hair, a little buzz cut now, his “jewish curls” gone.  His eyes fluttered, and my right eye leaked.  

I thought about how God knows just what we need, how he made the ultimate sacrifice for us, sending his Son to die on the cross, how all of my “sacrifices” for Baby Incredible pale in comparison to that.  I thought about how God knew exactly what I needed in that moment, and God is so amazing that it was actually what Baby Incredible needed, too.  We both needed each other, to have that skin to skin contact, for him to hear my heartbeat and for me to hear his breathing and smooth his hair and skin.  I don’t know if his mom rocks him when he is at home.  I know they don’t have a rocking chair.  I can’t imagine on her doting on him as much as I do when he’s here.  This is a gift for both of us.  

Everyone always tells new moms to sleep while the baby sleeps.  It is advice that seems to make sense.  New moms are sleep deprived and have a very demanding little human whose needs come before their own; moms need sleep.  This advice that sounds great in theory, doesn’t work out so practically.  There is laundry to be done and dishes to do and floors to be swept or mopped.  A lot of times, laundry or dishes or floors trump sleep.  Sometimes, though, holding your sleeping baby trumps all of that.  It is true for all moms that you never get that time back, but for this former foster mom, it is truer than true. I will never get back that opportunity to hold him a little longer while he sleeps, and I only get that opportunity once in a while.  

When I was a little girl, I had a lot of ideas about how my life would go.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be a “co-parent”.  Never did I picture sharing my little boy with another family, one who gets to call the shots.  That’s really what I have become.  Where I once was a foster parent, now I am a “co-parent”.  That said, I am grateful beyond words that I still get to be in this little boy’s life.  Actually, it is a miracle of God that I am able to be a co-parent of sorts.  This kind of thing virtually never happens.  God is definitely working in this situation.  I am grateful for all of my friends who have prayed for Baby Incredible and me and his family.  I am grateful for those who continue to pray.  This is one amazing little boy.

It’s interesting to think about the way I once pictured my life in comparison to the story God has written.  When I was a little girl, I thought I would be married by the time I was in my twenties.  That’s when my mom and dad got married, in their young twenties: my mom was 20, and my dad was 21.  I thought it would be easy to meet my “prince charming” and that we would have a fairytale wedding and have a few years to enjoy some time together before we started having babies.  I thought I would begin having kids when I was in my mid to late twenties, and I thought I would be well into the rhythm of being a mom by the time I was in my thirties.  None of the messy realities of adult life ever entered my consciousness.  I never thought about not meeting my prince charming or not having kids before I turned thirty or of foster care or adoption or co-parenting.  My picture was that so many things were difficult for me during the kid part of my life that things had to go easier in the adult part of my life…easier, no.  Better with God, yes.  

God has given me an amazing man to live the rest of my life with, and I get to marry him in 77 days.  Although fairy tales are not real, God has given me such a phenomenal story that it feels just as good to me as if it were a fairy tale.  Erick, my incredible beyond words fiancé, and I have been through more than most engaged couples and have learned and grown so much through it.  We have each been on a journey that has been tying us closer and closer together.  None of that would have happened the way it has without fostering being in our lives.  God knew.  Every time I am fearful of what lies ahead for us, I think about God’s plan being bigger and better than I could ever ask for or imagine.  Even in all of my ideas of what my adult life would be like, I never pictured that I would get to marry my best friend, that he would propose to me in such a well planned, well thought out, and romantic way, singing a song to me before he asked me to marry him.  Never did I think that we would get to have the courtship and dating relationship and engaged relationship that we get to have.  Never did I think that I would have such amazing friends and family around me during such an important time.  I am truly blessed.  

God is never finished working until Jesus comes.  “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6

Vulnerability

To write well in this true life, journal, memoir, autobiographical, blogging genre, you need to be vulnerable.  I have not been ready or willing to do that since Baby Incredible left my care.  Today, amidst a vast array of feelings, I began to experience these little “nudges” I always feel just before I write an entry, so here I am, messy and emotional and not at all sure that anything worth reading will come out of this exercise in transparency and vulnerability.  

Baby Incredible left a lot behind at my house and in my heart.  I have constant reminders of him.  The stroller is still in my car.  His pack and play is still set up in my living room.  The boppy hangs from it, looking sad.  His crib and changing table are still in my bedroom.  The changing table is still stocked with diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream.  I find pacifiers everywhere: in old purses, in my car, in my garbage disposal, under the couch, or in my silverware drawer.  Every once in a while I will find a baby cereal puff on my floor.  The jogging stroller peeks out from behind the big comfy chair in my living room, one I used to sit in all the time with him and with Little Dude.  Funny that I never sit in it anymore; I didn’t realize that until just now.  His diaper bag sits on a small ottoman near the door, still filled with some of his stuff but also now with some of my things piled carelessly on top of it.  The foam mats I used to put on the floor for him to sit and play on are leaning against a piece of furniture in my living room.  His high chair is used for practical things like a small table fan that I can point at myself while I do the dishes in my hot kitchen.  The baby swing that I’m not sure what to do with swings the slightest bit when I have the swamp cooler on or a breeze comes in from outside.  There are ice cube trays of frozen pureed baby food still in my freezer and a smattering of bottles still up in my cabinet.  There is a box of baby oatmeal on top of my refrigerator.  Sometimes I swear I hear him crying from the other room.  

Baby Incredible left his little fingerprints all over my heart.  Am I sad?  Yes.  Do I miss him? Yes.  Do I understand God’s plan in all of this?  No.  But I do know that he has a plan.  Knowing what I know now, would I go back and change my mind about fostering Baby Incredible?  No.  Not in a million years.  I gave him all of the love I could give in the first eight months of his life, and I would do it all over again.  I pray so much that God will watch over him and give him a wonderful life in which he gets to have a relationship with God.  

I am learning so much in all of this.  As I am trying to learn to grieve this loss, I am learning that I am sad not just about Baby Incredible.  This loss has brought up other things for me…truths that have deep roots in my heart.  Babies and young children have always a source of comfort for me.  I have loved them and felt really at peace when around them.  I used to think I felt that way because I was “in my element”.  It is in more than that.  Babies have been a peace, a comfort for me, in a social world that was very anxiety producing for me.  I felt the safety of acceptance and unconditional from them, something I didn’t often feel with people my own age.  In essence, I am grieving the loss of that as well.  I got to feel that while Baby Incredible was in my care, and it was wonderful.  Now I am trying to learn to get that acceptance, love, and worth from God.  

There are miracles in this story, too, for which I am so grateful.  Since I took Baby Incredible back to live with his parents , he has come to visit me a few times and vice versa.  (This is part of the reason why I keep his things out at my house.)  His parents see the value in me still being a part of his life.  Praise the Lord.  I love that I still get to see him and be a part of his life.  The plan is for him to be one of the ring bearers in my wedding.  God is good.  

Goodbyes

I am getting ready to say goodbye to Baby Incredible. He will leave me in just a few short hours after spending the last 8 months or so with me. Even though I say I am getting ready for him to leave me, I can never actually be ready.

Although I did not give birth to him, I have been his mom, in every sense of the word, over the last eight months. Leaving him today feels like I am abandoning my own child. He is going to wonder where I am and why I’m not coming back for him…I keep telling him that I love him and that I don’t want to let him go. He may not understand, but I hope he feels my message.

Heartbroken is the adjective that comes to mind. Foster parents volunteer to get their hearts broken. They know going in that this is not forever, but they choose to put their heart “all in” to that baby anyway, to bond with them, and to attach to them, and to love them as if they were their own.

No words can fix such heartbreak, but God can. The most comforting words I have heard are these: “God can only bless a heart that is willing to be broken.” and “God loves this baby more than you love this baby.” Amen

The Best Mother’s Day Present

This past Sunday was my first Mother’s Day.  Last year at this time, I was just asking advice and beginning the certification process to become a foster mom.  What a difference a year makes!

Baby Incredible has been with me for a little over six months now.  In that time, he has grown a lot, and so have I.  I love him so much and constantly want to kiss him and make him smile and laugh.  He is such a wonderful blessing.  

Anyhow, the day before Mother’s Day, Baby Incredible had an unmonitored visit with his birth mom.  As I’ve alluded to in the past, Baby Incredible’s birth mom has not been the easiest person to work with.  She has a lot of ups and downs and has often tried to exert her power when she feels like she is too out of control of the situation.  Our journey has been tumultuous.  Despite this, I knew I wanted to make her feel special on Mother’s Day.  Baby Incredible is her son, and if he is important to me, she is, too.  I gave her a heart shaped coin purse with Baby Incredible’s picture on it and a twelve by twelve framed enlargement of one of my favorite photos of him.  I attached a simple card to the front that said, “Happy Mother’s Day.  I love you.  Love, Baby Incredible.”  

When I arrived to pick Baby Incredible up from his unmonitored visit with birth mom, she presented me with a card and gift.  She wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and we shared a hug, a first for us.  

Later, I read the card…it was the best first Mother’s Day present I could have received.  In it, she genuinely thanked me for taking care of Baby Incredible and for helping her to grow up a little as well.  She wrote that she could never express the gratitude she has for all I have done.  She went on to say that although she told me once before that she wasn’t in this to make friends, she wanted to keep in touch with me “after this was all over” because I have played such a major role in Baby Incredible’s life, and she knows that he loves me a lot.  And at the end, she remarked that I had been such a gracious woman.  

Wow.  God is working.  What an amazing miracle that she wants to stay in touch.  This gives me hope that I will get to see him grow up a little, that I may get to visit him.  That is never a given when you are a foster mom.  God is working.

 

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Five Months

It’s been five months.  It’s been 22 weeks.  It’s been 154 days.  That’s how long I’ve had Baby Incredible.  I expected to only have him for one or two months, although I knew there was a possibility it would be longer.  I don’t know for how much longer I will have him.  And that feels strange to say.  I’ve had him since he was so little that it feels like he is mine.  In many ways he is, which is what makes it so hard to think about him leaving me.  

Some think I’m crazy or even masochistic for doing this knowing that this is only a temporary situation…and an indefinite one at that.  Sometimes I think I’m crazy or masochistic for the very same reasons. I keep going back to the book “Middle Mom: How to Grow Your Heart by Giving it Away” by Christie Erwin. One of the things she wrote that really stuck with me was that people always ask her how she does it. How she takes in children and loves them as her own, only to ultimately give them up. They often say that they could never do something like that. I have had people ask me the very same thing. I have had people tell me the very same thing.  What has stayed with me is her response. Christie says that if you are a person who says you could never do it, you are precisely the kind of person who is needed. She goes on to explain that in order to be a good foster parent, you have to give your whole heart to the baby or child, even though you know you are eventually going to be faced with the pain of loss. Talk about sacrifice. Being a foster parent is the closest I’ve ever come to loving like Jesus. And I certainly couldn’t do it without God. He is the one who led me to foster, and I have to keep reminding myself to go to Him when I am feeling the strain of being a single working foster mom. This is God’s plan, so I know He has my back.

Looking ahead, anticipating when Baby Incredible might go, worrying about what problems may arise between now and then (because this time around it seems that there is a “crisis” every time I turn around), wondering how this is going to play out, is only hurting me. It’s causing me to take my eyes off of God, to lose my hope and my faith and my trust in Him. God has an amazing plan for Baby Incredible’s life and an amazing plan for my life. My prayers need to be centered on those truths. I need to cherish the moments that I have now, for where I am right now is exactly where God wants me to be, even though I don’t understand it. He wants me to basque in every smile and giggle and coo. He wants me to enjoy every moment: every bottle I make, every cry I soothe, every diaper I change, every smile I induce, every song I sing, every time I rock him to sleep. I know that when he is gone, I will miss everything…even the sleepless nights and long commutes and things that I can’t do because I am providing love and care for a little baby who is so very special.

Is it going to hurt when he goes? Absolutely. Will I always wonder how he is doing or if he is in pain or what he is learning in school or who he is becoming? Yes. He has left an indelible mark on my heart. And for that, I am honored and grateful.