Saturday, January 11, 2014

To Try Natural Birth Again, and the Bradley Birthing Method

I don't have great birth photos, but this one was taken prior to labor, when I was about to undergo extended monitoring for the baby's arrhythmia. 
Before my first birth, Josh and I took Bradley birthing classes and hoped for as intervention-free a birth as possible. We strove to achieve this in a hospital as that is where we felt most comfortable among the viable options we had. This is what we got. The summary for those who don't want to read the whole thing, in order:

-Induction using Cervidil, which caused uterine hyper-stimulation without any other drugs
-10 hours of hard, drug-free labor (overnight), with contractions no more than 2 minutes apart, that led to only 3.5-4 cm dilation
-Pitocin and epidural
-Three hours of sleep, which led to being fully dilated
-1 hour of waiting on the doctor once fully dilated
-3 pushes
-Successful latch and breastfeeding within the hour

While this was clearly not what we had in mind, we accepted it without grieving too much. There was a little disappointment, but not very much. I recovered very quickly and felt great. 

So, a few people have asked: Will I try for a natural birth again? And, will I take a Bradley class again? The answers are yes and no. 

The second answer is easier to explain, so I'll start there. We're not taking a Bradley class again because 1) we just took our class 1.5 years ago and still have all of the materials and remember the exercises, and 2) we didn't love taking the actual class. I could write a longer blog about this, but the short review of our Bradley class is this: we enjoyed learned all of the exercises and practicing them, but we found the science and facts outdated and questionable. So I think we got the best from it, we don't really want to sit through the classes again. Perhaps a better instructor would've given us a better experience, but the one we had certainly didn't impress.

Now for the first question. These are the reasons we'll try for a natural birth again, which clearly means utilizing some of the Bradley Birthing Technique:

1) I did not enjoy the epidural experience. I mean, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have asked for it if it wasn't enjoyable in many ways. But I did not like not being able to move, not being able to feel my legs, not being able to discern what was happening while pushing. In short, I didn't like being stuck. 

2) While I do think that the epidural was helpful in getting me to rest and relax, which aided in a quick dilation from 4-10, I also now know that my body is capable of dilating quickly at the end even after hours of seemingly-unproductive labor. While in hard labor after 12 hours and only being 3.5-4 cm, it did not even seem like a possibility that I could dilate 6 cm in 3 hours. But I did, so this time I will bear that in mind. I'm not doomed to a 36-hour labor just because my cervix is slow to get the memo. 

3) I reacted poorly to the Cervidil. Uterine hyper-stimulation is not supposed to happen, but we now know that my uterus goes *boom* to the drug. For many inductions, either Cytotec or Cervidil are necessary to prepare the cervix, and I'm not going to take Cytotec. And now that I know I can react poorly to Cervidil, I will do my best to avoid that as well.

4) I am convinced that the 12 hours I spent laboring out of bed allowed August to be in a great, low position that made for easy pushing and avoided all threats of a caesarian. This is probably the most important reason I want to try for a natural birth again. Had I received an epidural sooner and sat in bed for longer, I'm not sure pushing would have been so easy for me. And as many women can attest, unproductive pushing often leads to caesarians. I'm grateful for those hours of pain because they kept me moving. I labored in many position (learned via Bradley), and I'm glad I wasn't trapped in bed unable to aid August's progress. 

So, we'll try again! We'll go back to the same hospital, but with a new OB. And if we fail in natural birth, it will be okay. But I do think that it is worth trying. 

Also, I love reading birth stories. I made a call for them last pregnancy in this post: Share Your Birth Stories. It generated some great stories worth reading! If you have one that you haven't shared, I'd love to read it. Comment or link away, in this post or the post where I originally made the call for stories. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

When "I Just Don't Understand" Hits

'Hand over mouth' photo (c) 2007, Melissa Wiese - license: are a lot of issues about which I feel torn and confused. I see the strengths and weaknesses of differing positions, and I have a hard time choosing a position of my own. When these issues are of importance, it is vital that I allow myself to feel and live in the tension. As a personal example, this is often how I feel about politics, generally. I just feel torn. 

Then there are some issues about which I have chosen a position, but I understand why others might disagree with my position. I sometimes still vehemently disagree, but I get how they could land where they've landed. Personally, the issues of baptism and sexual equality fall into this category. I have solid opinions about the baptism of infants and the full equality of women in the Church, but I understand when you disagree with me. Often, these issues are ones that are scripturally less than clear, but do force a practical decision be made eventually--either you baptize infants or you don't; either you ordain women or you don't. 

But tonight I want to write about a conviction that has shaped me this year in regard to a third category: issues about which I have a position and am unable to understand how someone could hold an alternate opinion. These are the issues about which I think to myself, or say to a friend, "I just don't get it. It seems so clear." It's hard to pick an example for this because I'm sure it will hurt someone, but here it goes: In my life, I feel this way about Christians who marry nonChristians. Call me old fashioned, but I just don't understand how you can build a life with someone who does not share a worldview shaped by the story of God. I know that people do, but I genuinely don't get it. 

And to put it briefly, this is my new conviction: When these topics come up, I should keep my mouth shut. There are people better equipped to carry the conversations around these topics, and I should defer to them. My inability to understand alternate views is really a weakness, not a strength (as it so often feels). 

Now, if I really feel compelled to speak into an issue like this, I think I should only do so after I take some time to genuinely understand how people with opposing views have arrived at them. And then I should speak carefully, humbly, and kindly, as I am still speaking from a position of weakness. And I should remember to put relationships with those who disagree with me above my need/desire to persuade them. 

This might sound extreme, but for someone like me, this has been a mark of growth; I am not the type to naturally hold my tongue when I have a strong opinion. I think I have always felt that these issues demanded I speak up, because I could see so "clearly" when others could not. But I have realized that a) while it's possible I might see "clearly," I am finite and so is my vision; and b) doing so only alienates people who either disagree with me or are on the fence, while drawing closer those with whom I already agree.

So I'm writing this to share a bit of how God is working on me, and to challenge you to identify those issues about which you say, "I just don't understand." I'm not saying you need to zip it on those issues, but I am offering the possibility that it's not a bad idea. In any event, it is certainly a good idea to proceed with extra doses of humility and kindness. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Surprise of Conception

On Labor Day weekend, I laid down on the couch while Josh and I were watching TV, expressing a desire to go to sleep early. I didn't think much of it. The next night, I did the same thing. I didn't think much of that either until it was time to actually go to bed and then it occurred to me that the last time I was this tired early in the evening was December 2011. 

Josh insisted I take a pregnancy test right then, so off we marched, and about 5 minutes later we stared at each other in shock. We didn't sleep much that night. I kept saying, "There's no way." He kept pointing to the test, refuting my denial. Luckily, the next day was Labor Day, so we had one day off to process before school started on Tuesday. And then off to the races we went. 

We weren't planning on a lot of space between our kids, but we also didn't exactly plan this pregnancy. It's not the best timing for us, but that's the way pregnancy goes. You plan some, you are gifted some. This one is a gift. We are excited to open the gift come May 13(ish), but right now, I am honestly struggling. I mostly feel overwhelmed, not at the thought of a second baby as much as the thought of getting through this school year being pregnant the ENTIRE time. I don't do pregnant well. I'm sick and tired and already having weird aches/pains. I'm not the heroic pregnant woman who can do it all. I need to sit a lot. I need to eat frequently. I need to not smell your flavored coffee. I have needs, and lots of them. 

So, if you can't tell, processing this pregnancy has been very different than my last pregnancies. I haven't wanted to tell people because their excitement is a bit much for me; it just doesn't exactly match what I'm feeling. I am of course grateful for a healthy, growing baby, but I am overwhelmed. My grades didn't suffer when I gave birth or navigated August's first year, but they did suffer during the first half of my last pregnancy (when I tend to be sick). Luckily, I don't feel like I'm failing at school right now, but I do know that I'm not putting my best foot forward in school or in work or in life, and that's hard to accept. Or, maybe I should reword that. I am putting my best foot forward right now, but my best right now is not Normal Laura's best. 

I'm trying to be grateful, but it's hard. I don't really know how people who have more surprising pregnancies do it. Wowza, you people amaze me; this is an intense thing to process when you aren't prepared for it. And Josh and I have had almost no time/emotional space to process this. We found out two days before it was off to the races for the year, right after we had some breathing room in August. Well, now we see what happens--breathing room creates babies. 

That all said, I actually feel better now. I've been keeping a lot of these feelings in for the past 6.5 weeks, or only acknowledging them while simultaneously dismissing them. That's not helpful either. :-) So, here they are: I'm overwhelmed, drained, and just wish we had a little downtime to process this wonderful, unexpected gift. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Was Jesus the Bible Incarnate?

A former colleague of mine, talking to a group of college students under her care, held up her Bible and said, "This is not God."

It was a little scandalous. 

It should not have been. 

Rachel Held Evan's recent post, Is God's Presence Limited to Scripture, reminded me that I've been meaning to articulate an observation for awhile. The observation has to do with John 1, particularly these lines:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (1:1, 14a NRSV)
My observation is that people read John 1 this way:
In the beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God..... And the Bible became flesh and lived among us.
And that, my friends, is not what John was saying.

I don't know if other cultures do this, but American Christians like to use the word "Word" as a placeholder for "Bible" or "Scripture." As a result, it seems that some Bible readers and even teachers think that John 1 is talking about the Bible.

This has led to a view of Scripture that is often idolatrous. Scripture is not part of the Trinity. Don't get me wrong. Scripture is great. I love it, and want to spend my life helping others come to know God through it. It is food for our spirits, and truth for our minds. But Jesus is not an embodiment of Scripture. He is an embodiment of the One True and Holy God, the God about whom Scripture cries out.

So, what was John talking about if he was not talking about the Bible? John was speaking into the culture of his day, and he did so beautifully. John was talking about the Logos. He says:
In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God..... And the Logos became flesh and lived among us.
Now we translate the word Logos as Word, because that was/is the literal meaning in Greek. But the Greeks had a deeper, richer understanding of Logos. In short, to them the Logos was reason, or The Reason. The Logos is what explained reality, the argument stood behind and beneath, giving order to life. It was a philosophical concept that is hard to translate today, which is why Bible translators just go with "Word."

If we try to absorb what John was really saying, we will be brought to a state of worship. If Jesus is the Logos, we have every reason to follow Him, and turn to Him for answers, even when it appears there are none. In the Christ child, the answer to all of your questions came to Earth. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mother's Day Repurposed

'God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.' photo (c) 2009, Sundaram Ramaswamy - license:
I have had a complicated relationship with Mother's Day. Two year's ago, I was fresh off a miscarriage on Mother's Day, which as you can imagine, was quite painful. Last year I was pregnant, but finally bold enough to say that Mother's Day should be for everyone who mothers. Now, Mother's Day 2013 is right around the corner--May 12th. 

This year, the first with a child of my own, I don't have any grand ideas of what Mother's Day will be like. I know some women dream of flowers and breakfast and bed, but I just don't. (Eating in bed? I have never enjoyed it.) But then, a couple of weeks ago, the WorldVision gift catalog came in the mail and I instantly thought, "Now this is something that could actually make Mother's Day enjoyable for me."

So, I'd like to propose that we turn Mother's Day into a day when we do something to actually help mothers, especially mothers who have gone without the healthcare, social support, education, or employment that I have had this year. I'm asking that my Mother's Day gift be redirected to one or more of these causes (my husband can choose from them), and I invite you to consider a similar idea.

WorldVision: New Mother and Baby Kit ($77)

WorldVision: Maternal Health in Afghanistan ($25)

WorldVision: Share of a Home for a Mother ($50)

World Harvest Mission: Drs. Scott and Jennifer Myhre, Kijabe Hospital, Kenya (any amount)

World Harvest Mission: Jonah Kule Family Care Fund (any amount)

Of course, I don't want to pass judgment on people who do receive Mother's Day gifts or appreciation from their loved ones. (I personally have been wanting one of these infiniti nursing scarves mostly because I think they're clever and cute, even though very impractical for our Southern California life. So I do understand using the opportunity of Mother's Day to get something nice that you've been wanting.) But I just thought I'd throw the idea out there for those who are as unenthused about Mother's Day as I am. Let's consider repurposing the day to help other mothers around the world.
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