Friday, October 31, 2014

Making Space for Grace: On Our Changing Role as Parents

Google tells me there are 21,300,000 parenting websites and 230,000 parenting blogs.  That right there is a supernumerary level of advice. 

That result led me to ask how many parents there are in the world, because naturally I wondered if maybe there is perhaps an unadvertised goal of one website per X number of parents.  After that, I wondered where everyone got their advice in 1814 and 1914 before 21,300,000 options were at our fingertips.

Sadly, the world doesn't keep track of its parents, but I found this highly reliable resource...

 Statistics show that there are 82.5 million mothers and 66.3 million fathers in the United States. This brings the total number of parents in the United States to approximately 148.8 million.

Clearly, I am working with hard facts and unimpeachable statistics.

I question what happened to 16 million USA fathers, but that is a blog post for another day.

  *  *  *

Today there are 230,001 parenting blogs.  I figure I am a grandparent now, certainly that automatically means I have reached a level of experience in parenting that creates an obligation for me to share my vast knowledge. (Read: sarcasm)

Something about being here in the USA with my adult children and missing my five at home has me in a weird space of introspection.  It is a place of grieving what is gone while examining what I have learned and anticipating what lies ahead. It is a cacophonous space, to say the least.

Today I had lunch with a friend and we traded tales and woes of the middle place, where we both reside. I said something close to this-  'I just feel like if we learn as we go and I have learned things through my mistakes with the first few kids, certainly by the time the seventh one hits her stride we will know every mistake and pitfall and she should be raised mistake free. Yes?'  Am I right?


*** ***       *** ***

When we parent our little kids along side our friends and community, we like to sit around discussing how to help them not be jack-asses. We compare stories about tantrums and pontificate about which foods seem to make monsters of them. It is pretty easy to find agreement and comaraderie when it comes to raising little kids. 

Oftentimes we will laugh together at the hilarious things 5-year-old kids say. We confess to one another when we had a bad day, those days when we just weren't patient enough with the toddlers or the hormonal pre-teens. We create safe, encouraging spaces on line and in person to share the ups and downs of parenting little people.

As our kids get older, the circle of sharing grows smaller. We talk less and less about what is hard or funny or wonderful or terrible about parenting.  For multiple reasons, it is more difficult to find parents that will discuss their pregnant teenager, or their binge drinking college kid, or their changing and sometimes strained relationships with their adult children.  There is way less encouraging one another and far less sharing.

It isn't that most people with older kids have perfect trouble-free kids. It isn't that we, as parents, don't need help. It isn't that we have lost our friends. It is that most people with older kids don't know if it is safe to be vulnerable about these more consequential years. Older kids that are struggling strike greater fear in us. Maybe it's that we are embarrassed that we don't really what we are doing. 

Raising kids is hard.

If we are managing an out of control five year old, we can talk about it because  - Well, because he is five. There is time.  It'll get easier, we think to ourselves. However, if we are managing an insolent 22 year old, it is rarely shared.

Before I go too far, please know this isn't a post about my or your troubled kids.  I don't actually think the Internet is the best place to discuss that. I do think that one of the more encouraging things is coming to realize we are not alone in our struggles.  It always helps to find out someone else struggles or feels uncertain in the same areas. Families and family relationships have been complex forever and ever. None of us are experiencing things that are unheard of or new. 

This is a post about how we parent older kids (and let go of control) and it is a post about vulnerability and finding what we all have in common.  It is about grace and do-overs.  It is about second chances and, forgiveness. It is about there always being time.

Our core group of friends our age are mainly handling grade school and younger kids, a few of them are just entering into the teen years with their oldest kids. Of course, we are there with them in that. We have early teens and our last two little primary school divas. 

The only place we find ourselves the oddballs in child rearing, is this place of having adult children with significant others  - and now even children of their own. 

Apparently if you have a child or two really young and your friends don't also start a family young, it follows that you will have kids moving out of the house and getting married when your friends don't. This was a shocking revelation for me.  

There are things about parenting older children that nobody really tells you. I am not sure why. I have a lengthy list of the things I did not know, but here are a few of the bigger ones:
  • It is scary, the mistakes feel more costly and long reaching
  • Older kids doesn't equal an easier parenting gig - the job doesn't stop feeling big or even daunting because they grown up
  • "I'm sorry" is an important two-word phrase to memorize
  • There is still time, even though it doesn't feel like it
  • We change -They change  (or at least if we do, we can hope they will)
All throughout child rearing our kids do things we have asked them not to do. I bet we can all think of examples from the last 24 hours. The difficulty comes when the kids are launching out on their own and the whole landscape changes almost overnight. 

The ways in which you handled disobedience don't so much serve as viable options any longer. I would venture to guess that for all parents, there will come a point when the adult child will do something you have asked them not to do. As a parent, you have to choose how you will respond. At five and ten and even fifteen years of age, it is a fairly straightforward how you handle being ignored. At 18 and 22, it is less so. There are no time outs for young adults. 

How are a mother or father to act/respond when they disagree with decisions their newly adult children make?

We made some pretty large mistakes six years ago when our oldest daughter announced her engagement to be married.  To us it felt very quick and we feared she was too young and things had moved too fast. I flipped out. I was afraid. Long story short, Troy and I made some fear-based decisions and because we were afraid we did not give our immediate blessing. (Although, we came around in time.) We made choices and asked things of them that caused our relationship harm. All of our reactions were still based in love and concern (with a large dollop of fear), but they did not necessarily land as love and concern. 

When our second child started going through a difficult season people were so kind to us and commented about how gracious we were acting. It made me uncomfortable because they did not see the entire picture and they did not know about our past mistakes that directly led us to be better equipped to respond more graciously to child number two.  

Like C.S. Lewis said,  "Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."  

To our great delight, time and cautious attention to the mess-ups in our parenting careers seem to bring healing. When I wrote a letter to my grandson, I shared with him one thing I have learned; nothing is ever quite as bad as it seems right in the beginning. Time brings clarity. Time brings healing. There is still time. 

I have long since changed this misconception of mine, but I always assumed that parenting adults would be easier and that the hardest parts were over once you got through that hormonal stage of 11 to 14 years of age. I don't want to bring you all bad news, but it doesn't necessarily get easier. I am sorry, but that is truth. The good news is this: there is time.  If we, as parents, are committed to growth and change, it follows that we can be hopeful that our relationships will grow and change with our kids as they grow and change too.  "I am sorry, I was afraid, can you forgive me for responding with fear?" can and does go a long way.  

Our kids will (and should) make their own choices and sometimes choose to ignore our words of caution or wisdom. We will be forced to decide if we keep harping on things and draw hard lines, or decide that stating our hopes and desires once or twice with clarity is enough. 

Someone recently asked how I could "condone” something that my child decided to do. I said, "Well, I told her how I felt and what I thought was a wise choice and she decided not to do what I suggested. If I keep loving her and speaking to her and pursuing relationship does that equal condoning to you?"   (It did to that particular person.)

This line we try to draw troubles me. The definition of condone is, to forgive or approve (something that is considered wrong) : to allow (something that is considered wrong) to continue.  

I want to suggest that love and pursuing relationship doesn't really mean approving of everything someone chooses.  I can dislike a choice they made but still pursue them wholeheartedly. Withdrawing relationship (or love) because I don't approve is not my answer. I also want to suggest that at some point it is not up to me to allow or disallow anything anymore. 

If we are raising kids to eventually be autonomous, (that is the point, yes?) the natural progression of things will mean they start making choices that don't seek or require our approval. 

When a six year old is told "Don't eat that whole bag of candy", and they still do it (maybe many times over the course of a few months) and you keep loving them, speaking to them, spending time with them, we would never say we are "condoning eating a whole bag of candy" because we kept loving.  

I don't know if I will find agreement here, or how many of you reading have older kids, but I think the roughest part of the whole transition happens during the first year or two after the kids move out from under our roof. Literally overnight parents have to figure out how to be the right amount of involved and gauge the right amount of advice and caution to give. I have not found this to be easy. It feels like uncharted territory to me and I know I have erred on both sides, too much advice, and too little input.

As our kids all get older and start to test their own decision making power and even begin to choose differently than we want at times, there will be times we can't win an argument or will not get our kids to see it our way.  It feels strange at first. Who is this person with differing thoughts of his own?!?!??? It is odd to realize we are not the boss anymore. 

In those times I find it is important for me to remember that winning an argument should not really be my ultimate goal. When Jesus came up against difficult things, he couldn't have cared less about winning the argument. He preferred to make space for grace. When we make space for grace with our kids they will make space for grace for us too.  

I don't know much, but I know there is nothing I need more than grace. 

Thank you, Brittany, Christopher, Paige, Michael, Isaac, Hope, Noah, Phoebe, and Lydia for being my grace teachers. I sit under your tutelege with gratitude for all you continue to teach us. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a week of emotional tremors

I came to Texas in early October planning to see how long I "should" stay.  I wasn't sure what that meant or how I would decide.  

Even with that sketchy non-plan plan, I can say unequivocally that so far it seems like I "should" stay.  It is hard uncomfortable to feel like I'm not doing my part at home with the other five kids and not doing my part at the Maternity Center, and I miss both places terribly -- but it seems to me that the timing of being here now is more than providential. 

I have been here for almost three weeks and it appears like I will stay another two weeks. 

I am staying at the house of the Carney Family, (the Carn-dogs) - they are the quirky landlords that P and M rent the garage apartment from in this season of much transition. 

Landlord is a weird word.

I like the Carney family a lot. Long before I had met them I knew that they had some Minnesota ties and a few common friends/acquaintances and I had decided they were the sort of people that Paige should know. I had heard Josh (the Dad Carn-dog) preach and liked his style. When they ended up having an apartment for rent, I played it reeeeaaaal cool while simultaneously trying to manipulate everything. It is how we mothers do. Who, me? Trying to tell you what place to live? nooooooo. i never! 

Being in their home is wonderful because they have four kids and it is chaos and I am comfortable with that. They have one little pistol that sometimes melts all the way down, and I feel so much closer to Lydia just listening to her from my attic bedroom at night. Their 6 year old was telling me that she needed her fan on high at night to sleep.  She asked if my kids like to have a fan to sleep.  I said, "they must have a fan to sleep most of the time because it is very hot in Haiti and we don't have air conditioning."  She looked at me with eyes widened and with sincere incredulous shock she said, "What?!?! EVERYONE should have air conditioning!"  This is a girl all of Haiti needs in their corner.

Troy stopped in to Dallas/Waco/Austin on days 10 to 16 of my time away from Haiti and made us all giddy happy. He of course is needed at home with the kids and the work at Heartline, but the trip came at an excellent time for all of us girls. I don't know which of us was most excited. I bet he could get pretty darn used to that kind of fanfare over his arrival. He could, but he shouldn't. He is now back in Haiti with the little kids and they all report that things are well.  

I am also jetting up to Dallas here and there to spend time with my favorite PA student and her adorable chef husband. Their new house is cozy and inviting. He whips up fancy food and clears my plate (wha????) and she memorizes words that have far too many letters in them and cannot be pronounced by the vast majority of us. I love getting to be with them a little bit during this time, and I feel God's mercy in the time we have had together.

There's more than a new baby and postpartum hormones going on in Waco.  We've been trying to get insurance to pay out for the totaled car. Of course insurance has a goal of never paying or paying sllllllllowwwwwwllly. They must think you'll give up and go away or something. 

I've been car shopping a little in between the other dramas. Troy sends me the listings, tells me what questions to ask. I message our friend Tex for last minute coaching, then off I go. 

Today I faked like a boss at a gas station when I opened the hood of the 2004 CRV I was test driving - and by faked like a boss I mean, an awesome old guy asked me if I needed help and I told him, yes, I most certainly did need help finding the dipstick to check the oil. After that test drive I asked things about timing belts and pretended tp know what that even means.

Last week Michael had a full physical for a job he had been offered. During the course of the routine tests (that led to follow ups and specialists) he was diagnosed with WPW Syndrome (a heart arrhythmia that is found in 1 in 1,000 people) and he will need an ablation surgery to repair his heart. He is scheduled to do that late next week.  

Then, Paige got sick (common postpartum breast infection called Mastitis) quickly on Sunday night. She was a hot mess today, we're hopeful it turns around quickly. They are working through a lot at once, those physical things being just one piece of it all.  

The little family of three needs to be boring now.  We're all tired of the action. At some point we have a lot of wedding things to do, but for now other pressing things need our immediate attention.

I found this prayer on Sunday when I was trying to look up something the pastor at All Saints Dallas (I went there with Britt and Chris) had said on Sunday.  Never found what I was looking for, but I did find this ... 

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”
― Teresa of Ávila

 Both girls were a tiny bit emotional when Troy arrived.

 Troy and Michael did some  manly wedding shopping.

Troy, and the three of us he got in a package deal (plus Graham-son)

Dallas Kids ~ fancy food, fancy words

Insta-Graham ~ no such thing as too much of this guy...

and, a link to the photos that Kimberly Ellis took of the little family on Saturday. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

developing world reality ~ join us in prayer

By Beth McHoul -
The enemy of our souls always targets the little guys, the helpless ones, the tiniest. God in His wisdom created all breast milk good. Moms in fancy houses and moms in third world shanties can all feed their babies this liquid goodness. It is a gift. It is sterile, the perfect temperature, and is complete nutrition. So, why is breastfeeding such a hard sell? Why do moms who are resource poor disdain breastfeeding? Somehow they got the wrong message.
Every Wednesday morning we midwives and helpers pile into our ambulance, armed with gift packs, a guitar, and hope as we travel 4 miles to a government run hospital. The paint is old, the rooms overcrowded, the moms and babies are often two to a bed and the nurses don’t have modern, working equipment. The NICU sports a line of bassinets with too tiny, yellow colored, still, doll like babies. Their moms sit hopeful. We sigh. We pray.
We gather in the large postpartum ward and like singing minstrels we belt out a jingle each week with rhyming words admonishing moms to breastfeed their babies as soon as they are born. We clap, we dance around, and we make a scene. The nurses seem to like this and join in. It’s a little like church as we sing the praises of colostrum and mother’s milk. It’s a lot like church in that the enemy is lurking, attempting to harden hearts and block ears from such a worthy message.   We pass out papers with the lyrics, we pass out gift packs and we attempt to get the new moms hooked on what we are singing about.
We go from bed to bed. Most often the baby is bundled and ready for the Alaskan winter. Mom sits by weary with the cares of her life, she might be eating, visiting, or just staring, trying to recover from her birth experience.   Her life is hard whether she is a teen mom or a 40ish mom of six. Life isn’t easy and now she has another person to look after. Not much hope abounds in the weary, overcrowded, ghetto neighborhoods of Haiti.
Midwives, comrades and nurses, we spread out and visit each bed. Sometimes those beds hold a lone woman whose baby died. We cry with her, we pray with her. Other beds have twins. Still other beds hold two moms and two babies, strangers till they shared a hospital bed, blood and fluids mingling from one mom to the next.   We try to engage each woman. We attempt to help her baby latch on to begin the process of receiving life-giving nutrition. Most times moms state they can’t put their baby to the breast till the milk comes in. That could be two, three or even four days after birth. Word has it, from grandmas and aunties that colostrum is bad and must be thrown away. This first milk is full of exactly what a baby needs. Throwing it away is like throwing natural vaccines and health down the sewer.   So we strum the guitar, belt out the lyrics and try to beam the message across to the moms that baby needs this liquid gold and baby will thrive if given breast milk.
Moms light up when a baby who they thought couldn’t feed latches on and sucks heartily. We light up too! We feel like we are starting a little revolution that moms can join and their babies will be healthy. Lies are broken, superstitions are exposed, and light breaks through every time a mom who would not nurse puts her baby to the breast.
It’s deadly if they don’t: Diarrhea from bad water, foods babies can’t digest and fillers that rob their bodies take thousands of precious lives. If moms only knew. We are here to tell them.
After a few hours we pile back in our ambulance and drive the few miles back to our safe haven. Our maternity center looks more beautiful when we return. We check in with our postpartum mom who is in our bed with pretty sheets, in a clean nightgown with her almost 9 pounder at her breast. We sigh. Tears come as I think of the dozens of ladies we left in such bad conditions.
But superstition is never far away. The enemy is prowling and grandma is trying to buy off the devil. She states she must make a tea from boiled cockroaches and feed it to the baby to keep the newborn safe from evil spirits. Her daughter-in-law rises up in new mother indignation and threatens to call the police if grandma tries such a thing. Battle won. Mom listened in class every week of her pregnancy and she will have none of this! The maternal grandma tells us that she too is pregnant and has been for years. The baby just isn’t born yet.
These lovely grandmas, these matriarchs, these women who could be giving the new mom sage advice instead give wives- tales and fear based admonitions. It is their truth, their old ways, their paradigm.
So, week-by-week we bring the good news in prenatals and class at our Heartline program; in song and pamphlets at the local hospital.   Jesus came to set us free from superstition and beliefs that strangle our souls and kill our babies. Like Herod of old, the enemy wants to kill the children. We say Jesus came to set them free and they shall be free indeed. Darkness flees when light comes in. Babies thrive when moms understand to breastfeed. When superstition is broken and God’s light pours in, a culture changes and grows. The difference is eternal.
Beth McHoul
Port au Prince, Haiti

Monday, October 13, 2014

My #Grahamson Story ~ The birth of Graham Gonzales

(Friday after a brisk walk.)

(Saturday at 3pm BU vs TCU game.)

Graham Porter Gonzales made a decision to leave the dark warmth and relative ease of his Mother’s womb on Saturday evening.  

He must have weighed all his options and decided that adventure was better than predictability, that excitement beats monotony, that spontaneity and whimsy make life so much more interesting. 

In reviewing his particular method of joining us on the outside, we think perhaps he felt the need, the need for speed.

Lest you prefer not to read an entire birth story, and you simply need the stats, let me tell you the end first.

Graham Porter Gonzales appeared on the scene October 11, 2014 at 9:56pm, weighing in at a fighting weight of 7 pounds 9 ounces with an impressive 20.25” of vertical giftedness.  

His Mother was there for the event, his Father was too. Additional members of his team were his Aunt Britt, his Mojo (me), two midwives Betsy and Terry, as well as a student midwife.

For some, birth stories are too much. People get all squirmy and uncomfortable talking about body parts and bodily fluids. It is almost as if talking about it is what makes it gross. We (Paige and I) understand that and we ask you to exit the blog at this time because we both do birth stories right.  There are details coming.

For the rest of us that like birth stories, well...
…We think that everyone was once born and because that is true (can we get agreement here?) we all have our very own fluid filled beginnings and that is just the simple messy truth of it.

Our conclusion is this: Birth is beautiful and MIRACULOUS while simultaneously being more than a bit humbling and so very equalizing.  Nobody gets out of it without at least some excrement or slimy fluid. 

Like Forest Gump said, shit happens.

~          ~           ~

This birth story is going to begin a little sooner than some.  Let us return to mid September of 2014 in order to record a few facts.  

(Let us also switch to a third-person narrative for a few paragraphs.)

Paige was having some concerning blood pressure issues. Lab work, consultations, prayers, and careful watching became a part of the pregnancy around week thirty-seven. 

There were already tickets booked for Mojo from Haiti to Texas on October 14, but something in Mojo’s heart said that the ticket needed to be sooner.  The ticket was switched to the 8th of October.  Mojo kept praying (andwriting) and feeling nervy. Paige kept resting, eating protein and monitoring her blood pressure.  

For whatever reason, Mojo couldn’t shake a bit of fear and trepidation. She felt like something wasn’t going to be okay, she worried and told a friend she kind of felt like Paige would end up with a hospital birth situation.  Mojo called American Airlines and changed her ticket to the 7th of October. Paige and Britt thought she was dumb, because what’s one day?  

The morning of the 7th, Mojo felt uneasy and afraid. She told two friends that prayed with her.  On the ride to the airport at 2pm Haiti time she told Tito, “I feel like something isn’t right with Paige and Graham.”

Mojo left Haiti on a 3:44pm flight on October 7th.  As Mojo powered down her phone to leave the island, Paige and Graham(son) were in a car accident on their way home from work.  Mojo landed in Miami 90 minutes later to see the photograph posted at the end of this blog entry. The accident happened outside of Waco and was a hit and run. The driver has since been caught. 

Paige and Graham went to a local hospital to be monitored and checked out.  Midwife Betsy and Daddy Michael were also at the hospital. After four hours they were determined to be 100% healthy and unharmed. They were discharged.  Mojo boarded her next flight to Dallas knowing they were okay and heading home to rest.

~        ~           ~

The Rest of the Story

On Thursday Paige and I addressed and mailed wedding invitations.  

On Friday we decided to head to Dallas to be with Britt and Chris (Paige’s older sister and brother-in-law) because Michael had to work long shifts on Friday and Saturday. Paige talked a lot about wishing she could go into labor and wondered how could we make that happen. On the ride to Dallas she voxed with midwife KJ in Haiti, asking why we disagreed with trying Castor Oil. KJ gave Paige the exact answer I gave, much to Paige’s disappointment.

Once to Dallas, Britt and I took Paige on a brisk 30-minute walk. Britt fed us a delicious lasagna dinner.  After dinner we tried tricks we learned on the medically trusted and truly professional website called "YouTube". We practiced pushing on pressure points in Paige’s legs and feet for an hour.

By 11pm a storm knocked out the power at Chris and Britt’s house so we decided to pretend we were in Haiti and head to bed.  The power returned in the middle of the night. The four of us all woke up rested after a great ten hours of sleep. 

Britt took off for a long run around 10am. Paige asked me to strip her membranes.  (Google that if you need more Intel.) Afterward we decided another brisk walk couldn’t hurt anything.

We walked/pseudo jogged for 20 minutes. We returned to the house and showered quickly to head south to a Baylor vs. TCU football game.  (Sic Em Bears!) During the drive down to Waco Paige started having contractions.  She downloaded a contraction app and began timing them.  By the time we got seated at the game her contractions were coming regularly.  Paige enjoyed 15 minutes of the game before things got more painful and from then on she simply tolerated the game.  (See photo of enjoyment. See video of toleration.) She had 50 contractions while we were at the game.

During the beginning of the fourth quarter, Baylor acted like they did not want to win. Paige asked to leave, we happily obliged. On the walk back to the car the contractions were bad enough that Paige needed to stop walking and talking during them. 

We arrived back at Paige’s apartment at 6:30 and checked Paige’s progress. We found that she was 5cm dilated. Paige decided to lie down for a bit while we waited for Michael to get home from work so we could head to the birth center. 

Michael ran into post Baylor game traffic (and a surprise end of the game win for BU). It took a lot longer than usual for him to get home. He walked in at 7:40pm about the same time that Chris delivered dinner to those of us not in active labor. 

While Michael got changed Britt and I finished our cleaning in the apartment and put the last items in the bag to be ready to leave after Michael ate his dinner. 

Right then, Paige started throwing up. To the midwife, that was a little concerning because it did not seem like throw up time quite yet. (Vomiting is a sign of transition and often means that dilation is 7cm or more.)  I said with my fake-it-till-you-make-it calm voice, “You guys, we should probably get going”. 

Paige asked to be checked. When she was in fact 7cm - we all moved out with urgency.  At exactly 8:18pm we left the driveway with Britt behind the wheel of the loaner Tahoe we were (are) using due to the accident. Chris headed to Dallas to pick up Paige’s best friend Julia, who was to land at DFW at 11pm. 

We intended to drive 57 miles to the birth center in a somewhat calmish fashion.

We drove about 10ish miles before Paige started throwing up again. She said, “Mom, it hurts so bad and I cannot do this. Make it stop, make it stop, Mom.”  Britt and I both let a few tears go over that sad pleading that we could do nothing about.

At that point I thought, ‘Well, a baby in the truck is not part of the plan. Dammit.’  I asked Britt to pull off the road to dump out the puke bowl and move people around in the truck. Up to that point Michael, Paige, and the car seat were in the second row and I was in the front with Britt. The back of the truck had our bags and belongings. 

Pulling off of Interstate 35 proved to be difficult because we were in a construction zone and not near an exit. Britt did super-ninja driving tricks and got it done. When the truck finally came to a stop Paige shocked us to our senses when she yelled, GET OUT MICHAEL!” 

I dumped the puke and started to organize and unpack KJ’s birth bag. I found some key items (gloves, Doppler, instruments, etc.) while Paige got out of the truck and kneeled (“full on hands and knees on the side of the road” to quote Paige) on the shoulder of the road.

Paige said, “Mom, I think my water broke while I was puking.” (That turned out to be urine, not ruptured membranes.)  I hurried faster to arrange the back of the truck and move the other stuff forward.  While I was doing that Paige said,  “Mom, I have to poop, is it okay if I do?”  It was then that I thought, “Oh man. We are not having a birth center birth.”  However, I said, “We can make it to the birth center, guys. We can make it! 

I told Paige not to poop or push - that she was feeling Graham’s head.

Paige got into the back of the truck and rested on her left side. I sat in the corner at her feet. Michael stayed in the second row, turned back toward us. Mercifully, she got a bit of a lull in the contractions, they slowed down.

Britt decided to drive with the hazards flashing and she turned on the intensity. We were still 40 minutes away. We prayed out loud for the Lord to see the hot mess that we had going on and slow Paige the heck down. 

When Paige’s next contraction came we asked her to try hard not to push, it was obvious that she was complete (that means 10cm – that means business) and had an urge to push.  Michael put his finger in front of her face to blow out as if it was a candle.  That worked for two contractions. On the third contraction Paige tried to bite Michael’s finger then swatted wildly at him, like an angry bear. We decided at that point our candle would need to be invisible. 

I laughed (silently) until tears were running down my face. Michael rolled with it and checked to make sure all ten digits were in tact.

The contractions were very strong; they were coming every six minutes.  Paige was the champion of the world. She did so well and kept from pushing as absolutely best as can be expected. We had a clean chux pad underneath her and a roll of paper towel.  It is possible that some paper towels with excrement on them left the car window at speeds of 75 miles per hour. Luckily, we were the only ones on the road at that point.  During one of the contractions her water broke and was delivered in a perfect water balloon into my hands. (We spared you some photos.) 

In review, there was vomit, urine, poo, and amniotic fluid on that ride. The only thing left to do was have a baby.

As we pulled into Cleburne I said, “I see the head Michael.”  I told Paige, “You will not want to get up and walk, it will hurt, but you are going to get up and go into that birth center to have your baby.”  

At 9:40 we arrived at Edenway Birth Center. The midwife on staff there met us in the driveway. I offered to wrap Paige’s bottom half up in a blanket (she had ditched her gym shorts) – but Paige was in the zone and marched right inside, sans blanket.  She went straight to the bed to lie down.

Paige’s “birth plan” did not include anything that had happened up to that point, so when Terry the Edenway midwife said, “We have a warm bath drawn if you’d like to get in there for a few contractions”, of course Paige got up and marched to the bathtub.  

Paige had always thought (and expressed to me) that water birth was weird, bordering on gross.  She had no intention of having a water birth  --that is -- until she had a water birth.

Paige did not want to get back out of the tub so when she needed to push with the next contraction, she pushed. Betsy, her primary midwife had arrived while she was getting settled in the water. 

Betsy and I coached Paige. As he was crowning and not retracting back at all, Paige incredulously said, “I don’t get a break? I don’t get a break any more?”  We had to inform her that there were no breaks in her long-range future. 

To that news she simply said, “Holy cow.

The next contraction came and Paige pushed with a lot of control and the head was born.  Paige said, “I did that!”  Brittany was filming and she laughed through her tears and said, “You did!” 

(For the midwives in the crowd, he was born OA and he did not fully restitute.) 

Two and a half minutes later, exactly 16 minutes after we had arrived at the birth center, Paige had one more contraction and delivered her son into his thrilled/nervous/excited Mojo’s hands in the warm water. I

I untangled his cord and lifted him out of the water to place him on his mommy’s chest.  Paige looked at Graham and said, “We did it, we did it together!”

Graham was a bit of a slow starter. His heart rate was great but breathing took some coaxing. Betsy and I both gave him some inflation breaths (Betsy first) and he finally began to sputter a bit and started to get pink.

By 17 minutes postpartum, Graham was latched and nursing in the bathtub, showing us what a brilliant little man he is.  

Paige and Michael experienced 7:40pm to 9:56pm of labor/pushing together.

Michael kept his fingers.

Britt kept her cool on an intense 80+ minute ride.

Mojo kept it together and shed tears of nervousness, laughter, empathy and joy.

Graham stayed strong and had wonderful heart tones all the way through his delivery.

Paige? Paige did it all. She is the master.

~     ~      ~

Today, less than a week from that horrible car accident, there are a hundred or more reasons to be grateful. I cannot begin to list all the complex feelings or the deep gratitude because so much of it is something that cannot be easily integrated or voiced; it is the silent prayer and my nearly constant whisper that says over and over and over again, “Thank you Lord”.

Chris and Britt

#Grahamson and Paige added that little coronary below into the adrenaline mashup for the week. 
(photo from Tuesday 10/7) 

... It is the silent prayer and a nearly constant whisper that says over and over again, “Thank you Lord”.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Honoring a Heroine

(What is a Midwife?) Midwives Are Trained Professionals 

Midwives are the traditional care providers for mothers and infants. Midwives are trained professionals with expertise and skills in supporting women to maintain healthy pregnancies and have optimal births and recoveries during the postpartum period. Midwives provide women with individualized care uniquely suited to their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs. Midwifery is a woman-centered empowering model of maternity care that is utilized in all of the countries of the world with the best maternal and infant outcomes such as The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Canada. (source MANA)
  ~       ~       ~

International Day of the Midwife is in May, but apparently the USA celebrates Midwives in October, for an entire week. Who am I to ignore or miss out on a USA celebration?

As Robert Brault said, There are exactly as many special occasions in life as we choose to celebrate.”  

I marvel daily at how joyous it is to have found the vocation of my heart at this perfect time in life when my kids are bigger and I have the ability to do more outside my home.  

There are so many midwives that have inspired me along the way and have spoken truth and life and hope to me in the infancy of my career. Tonight I want to write about one of them.

Meet Marie Jose, pictured on the right. She is with her daughter Wini, a friend of mine and a stellar nurse/midwife at Heartline.

Marie Jose worked for decades in the area of Maternal Health. She worked seven years at a hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti, She also delivered hundreds of babies in the areas she lived for many years. 

When I met with her last week she told me that she estimated she had assisted more than 3,000 women with the birth of their babies. She has delivered American, Canadian, and Haitian babies. She has delivered twins, conjoined twins, triplets, and breech babies. She has worked without water, without electricity, without supplies, without adequate rest or help. 

When I said, "Because of your hard work, many mothers and babies in Haiti are alive", Marie Jose nodded solemnly,there is no denying God has used her to touch the lives of Haitian women.

Marie Jose had a stroke about 18 months ago. Since her stroke she cannot walk or do what she loves. Her daughters care for her well and have learned to understand and interpret her slurred speech.  She remembers a lot. She can tell you stories about birth and life and death. She knows hope and sorrow more intimately than most of us. 

I know that Marie Jose will never be recognized in any fancy ceremony, or thanked by her government. I highly doubt most of her amazing stories and unique knowledge will ever be recorded, but I would like you to know about her and I would like to ask you to pray for her and her daughters and grandchildren. 

She has given much to her country and her people.  In the true meaning of "midwife", Marie Jose has given her life to be "with women".  

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

New Opportunities

A number of months ago we were contacted by a friend in Haiti that directs a feeding program (Outside the Bowl) in Port au Prince. This feeding program operates out of a kitchen located on the property of a government run/funded maternity hospital. 

We were familiar with this hospital because many women deliver there, as the options in Port au Prince are very limited for maternal health care. The options are even more limited outside of the city. It is not uncommon for women with five or six kids to tell us they had two or three kids at home and a baby or maybe two at one of the government hospitals.

The exciting development? We have been invited to come into the postpartum areas of the hospital once a week to try to connect with the women a bit and teach some basic breastfeeding and bonding principles.

We have been going for three weeks, and are starting to figure out what works and what doesn't work so well. In a relationship-based culture, it is pretty important to do what we can to make it fun and light. There isn't the time needed to really get to know one another, so we are improvising and trying to encourage the new Moms by helping them get their babies latched and by taking a few minutes to hear from them about their new babies and their lives.  

Today we added a song into our weekly plan/agenda.  We were excited and knew it was a good song with the message we hoped to deliver, but we didn't know how well it would be received.

When I heard the security guard outside the window with the sawed off shot gun singing "kite bebe souse'l" - I knew we had a hit! 

(Thanks to April for the idea to write a song and to our funny and creative staff for writing it in a flash.)

L to R
April, Wini, Nirva, Mica, Andrema

Here is one of the rooms we visit each Wednesday.  There are usually about 25 new moms in this room...

(Apologies for poor quality video, shaky phone video only for now. Mica, our main singer is a mom that delivered at Heartline and loves to sing, we recruit talent when we see it!) 

Chant ( kite bebe souse)

Depi ti bebe a fèt mete l nan tete manman l
(when the baby is born, put it to the mother's breast)
Paske l gon likid jòn, yo relel kolotwòm
(because she has yellow liquid, it is called colostrum)
Yon vaksen natirèl, ki pwoteje trip li
(A natural vaccine that protects baby)
Li anpeche l malad, ki develop sèvo l
(it prevents illness and develops the brain)

Pa pire l pa jete l
(don't waste it - don't throw it away)
Kite bebe souse l
( let the baby suck it)
Pa bay dlo, Pa bay lòk,
(don't give water, don't give tea)
Kite bebe souse l
( let the baby suck it)

Aprè 2 a 4 jou depi l tete souvan,
(after 2 to 4 days of breastfeeding often)
Wap vin gen anpil lèt, ba li l chak 2 zèd tan
(you will have a lot of milk, give it to your baby every 2 hours)
Menmsi li ap domi, reveye l pou tete
(while your baby sleeps, wake him/her for the breast)

Pou kwè li byen tete, kite l pou 30 minit
(for it to be good breastfeeding, let him/her feed for 30 minutes)
15 a dwat 15 a goch
(15 minutes on the right 15 minutes on the left)
Kite bebe souse l
(let the baby suck)
Pa di ou pa gen lèt
(don't say you don't have milk)
Kite bebe souse l
(let the baby suck it)
Jiskake l gen 6 mwa
(birth to six months)

Kite bebe souse l
(let the baby suck it)

Every culture has its beliefs and traditions.  In Haiti, women will often throw away colostrum, thinking it is not good for the baby.  The most common thing we hear when we enter a room full of ladies that haven't had the chance to learn otherwise is that they don't have milk and are waiting to have milk to feed their new baby.  That is just one example of a handful of local beliefs that get in the way of immediate breastfeeding as well as bonding between mother and child.

It is easy to understand why pregnant women would want to get into the Heartline program. We are the only prenatal care provider in Haiti that offers all of the following: three trimesters of weekly classes, three trimesters of personalized care, six months of postpartum care and weekly classes, private labor and delivery with 3 qualified staff at births, breastfeeding support, free birth control offered after birth, transport provided should an emergency occur.   The alternative in Port au Prince is typically a few prenatal appointments, a delivery in a busy room filled with others delivering as well,  and one day in postpartum care.  

The two experiences are totally different.

The fact is, the government hospital is doing everything it can to help reduce maternal mortality. The demand is far greater than are the resources available.  Dr. Megan Coffee, a physician working in Haiti with TB patients, recently said, "In medicine, you don't want to die waiting for what's perfect. We always learn the enemy of good is perfect."  I am fairly sure Dr. Coffee was referring to TB, Ebola or Cholera, but it applies to Maternal Health as well. I don't think you could find a person that would say that the situation at the government hospitals is sufficient.  The fact is, while insufficient, (not perfect) it is still 100% necessary (good) and the care saves lives.

We are incredibly thankful for this opportunity to come along side the nurses and doctors and new mothers that deliver at this hospital, what a gift to us all! 

Be on the look out for our forthcoming album of lactation jams.