Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Cohen

Dear Cohen,

Today you are two. People like to tell me that you're an angel (you're not) and that you are adorable (you are). You get a lot of attention. Everywhere we go people have expectations for you, many of them based on the shape of your eye. I have them too. Mine are higher than most, because I see in you such wonderful potential. I want things for you that a lot of people say are impossible. I thought you'd walk before your second birthday, but you haven't yet, and it's okay. I want you to do things your way. I simply want the same things for you that I want for your siblings: to make this world a little kinder and a little more beautiful. And I want you to find joy in the journey, Cohen.

I am so proud to be your mama. If you become the world's first doctor with Down syndrome I will be so proud to be your mama. And if you want to work at the grocery store and bag like a champion I will be so proud to be your mama. Or if you're a fireman like your daddy, or a banker, or a janitor, or a senator, I will be so proud to be your mama. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am going to do my best to give you the tools to move on and then I'll do my best to move out of your way so you can do life your way.

Today you like to toilet paper the bathroom and eat things that aren't entirely edible. Today you are two.

I love you,

Sunday, October 13, 2013

impressing you

I often, after meeting a new person, spend a lot of time contemplating whether or not I have made a good impression. I replay the conversations over in my head- what went well, what I should have said here and there, and all the times I interrupted or spoke too quickly. Really, it's not just after meeting a new person, it's almost every time I have a conversation with someone outside my own family. I have thought for a long time that I am just naturally shy and that is why I am uncomfortable in social settings, but recently I had an epiphany: The reason social interactions are so nerve-wracking for me is that I am completely focused on myself. My self-absorption keeps me worried: I think this person is really (nice, cool, well-educated, or fill in the blank...) and I want so badly for them to think the same of me that I miss out on the actual relationship! I constantly try to find points that we have in common- it's almost like I'm yelling "See! Look! I'm nice (or cool or well-educated or whatever thing I admire about you) too!

I want to try a new way. I want to find the beauty in others and celebrate it. I want to change my focus from trying to make people like me, to just loving them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

To My Career Mama Friends

I am sorry I judged you.

I'm sorry that I believed that because it was best for my family for mama to be at home, it must be what's best for your family too.

I'm sorry I assumed that the sacrifices you make daily weren't as difficult as the eighty seventh argument I refereed, hundredth diaper change, and endless laundry I faced.

I'm sorry for pretending that I had it all together, so you'd think I was super-noble and want to stay home so you could be awesome like me; I know now that that kills honest friendship.

I'm sorry for not giving you space to exercise your talents, pursue your dreams, or simply provide for your family.

I'm sorry for acting like a bitch in Jesus' name. (I'm pretty sure it wasn't His idea)

Thank you for being patient with me. And thank you for continuing to be patient with me when I realize that I've been a jerk about something else next month. Or tomorrow.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Frank and Jesus

Today, while helping my brother and sister-in-law move (well, maybe all I really did was drive my mini-van back and forth), a couple of us stopped off for lunch and after lunch I proceeded to run into a nice man named Frank. I mean, I really ran into him. I put the van into reverse, looked both ways, and backed straight into his very pretty new-looking truck. I looked both ways, but somehow I failed to look directly behind me. Then I swore. Probably about half a dozen times. I returned my to my parking spot and got out to assess the damage. I was met half way by a man somewhere around the age of my parents: he wasn't angry, he didn't shout, he didn't even look annoyed. The first thing he did was to ask if everyone was okay. I was struck by his kindness; he genuinely seemed to care. We introduced ourselves and exchanged the necessary information. Frank seemed as bummed as I was about the whole situation and told me he'd give me a call after he had his bumper looked at. Frank even smiled a little, not a mean, smug smile, just a reassuring "I know you're human too" kind of smile.

When I got back in the van I noticed a sticker for a local church in the corner of the rear window of Frank's truck. But Frank didn't need the sticker to tell me that he was doing his best to follow Jesus, he had already shown me: he had loved his "enemy" by being kind to me. Frank treated me the way I think he would have wanted his daughter treated if she'd have done the same thing. Frank showed me Jesus today.

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, less than a week after it happened, Frank called to tell me that the dealership said the only way to fix the truck would be to replace the back bumper. Then he told me that since it was just some minor cosmetic damage, he didn't want me to have to deal with the insurance or to have to pay to replace the bumper. He wished me well and that was it.

Crashing into Frank has taught me so much.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Home Birth of Kezzia Layne

She's one month old today. My daughter! I still have moments of disbelief as I watch her sleeping in my lap. Ten months ago adding another person to our family was the last thing on my mind and now here she is; soft, beautiful, and exactly what we didn't know was missing.

That Wednesday evening one month ago, I was almost 41 weeks pregnant, waddling around the kitchen cooking dinner, having contractions somewhat regular but not at all uncomfortable. We were getting ready for our dinner party. Chris, the boys, and I all dressed up; funny hats, costume jewelry, neck ties, capes and assumed new identities for our party. We had a great time getting ready and a great time playing at dinner. It was especially fun for me because I had a secret. As I drained the noodles in the colander, served the salad, talked about current events with important guests like Super-Firefighter Cyrus, Lord Litzby, and whatever the rest of their funny names were, I felt the gentle surges that meant my baby was coming soon. I didn't tell anyone. It was delicious having such a sweet little secret to keep.

After the guests had been bathed and put to bed, I told Chris that I had been having contractions all evening but kept down playing them because I didn't want to get too excited and make things peter out. They continued to be consistent so I sent a text to my doula, Jessi, to let her know that I thought sister baby might be getting ready. I stayed up for a while timing them; they got to about 3 minutes apart and just slightly uncomfortable and I think that is when I let Gail, the midwife, know. Shortly after that (maybe around eleven or midnight, I can't really remember) they slowed down quite a bit and I was getting tired, so I took a nap. At a quarter till three I had a strong enough contraction to wake me from a sound sleep and as I laid in bed I noticed that they were pretty close together. I consider that the point when my labor actually began. I got up and went to the living room to time them and didn't have one for 10 minutes- so I just decided to go to the bathroom and go back to bed. But on the short trip to the bathroom I had a pretty good contraction and went back to the computer to time them: 2-3 minutes apart for a couple of them. I told Chris I'd wait about another half hour before I called Jessi to come and a minute later I had one that was powerful enough that I had to squat and breathe through. So we called her right away.

Eleven years ago, during my high school years, I went on a trip to Taiwan to visit a friend who was a missionary there. While I was there I met Michelle. She was close to my age and her family was on the same team as the friend I had gone to visit, so we spent a lot of time together that week. I have seen her occasionally during her visits to the States, received newsletters here and there, and, like everyone in my generation, have kept up with her life via facebook, so I knew she was a midwife serving in India. What I did not know was that she was in the US for a year and had started working with the midwives I was using the day before I went into labor! It was a sweet surprise when Jessi sent me a text to ask if I was comfortable having Michelle assist at my birth!

Jessi and Michelle arrived just after Chris finished airing up the birth pool and called my mom to get the boys. After checking my vitals and listening to baby, Michelle checked me. I was a little concerned when she told Jessi that I had a "magic cervix" (I feel sort of strange just typing that). She assured me that it was a good thing and I stayed put through a contraction so she could get a more clear idea of where I was at; 6 centimeters.

They started filling the pool with water and my mom arrived to take the boys. Chris woke each boy one-by-one and brought them to me. It was so precious to have just a moment with each of them. I got to hug and kiss them and tell them I love them. All three of them were so calm and happy, despite the fact that they were being woken up and taken out in the freezing cold at almost 5 in the morning. I love those little moments. I can still almost see the sweet smile on Cyrus' face, feel Caedmon's big bear hug, and smell Cohen's soft baby hair. It was just what I needed before I began the hard work.

Every once in a while I'd feel a little bit of panic rise up in my chest. Fear did it's best to remind me that it was going to get harder and harder. Every time I'd start to feel panicky I'd tell Chris or Jessi, and for some reason just making them aware of it always helped me to calm back down. I remember telling Jessi that I was worried because I knew it was going to get really hard. She told me that yes, it was, but I could do it. And I knew she was right.

After the boys left it was time to get in the pool. I know everyone was there, Gail arrived shortly after I got in, but most of the next two hours were spent in my own world. Occasionally I would notice that someone had stopped pouring water on my back or that someone was using the little hand held device to check the sister's heart rate, but mostly I was focused on helping sister baby move down.

During Cohen's birth at the hospital there had been a lot of fear and pressure from the nurses and the midwife on call and I think that made his heart rate look really scary. I had learned that left unchecked, a little bit of fear can generate more fear, so this time every once in a while I'd remind sister baby that she was okay, that she was safe, that I was working with her to help her come out, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Her heart rate was great every single time they checked.

I sunk into my contractions letting every muscle loosen up so that my body could focus all of it's energy moving sister baby. I'd rest in between, sipping on water and eating bits of an orange. I remember telling everyone that I was tired and I laid back in the pool for a few minutes and someone rubbed my head and neck. And that's when I had the battle: labor was taking every ounce of strength I had and part of me just wanted to lay there, will my labor to stop, and let whoever was rubbing my head just keep on until I fell asleep. Even though it was completely unrealistic to just quit, I had to decide to keep going, trust my body, and to tap into that inner strength that God has given women. And I did. I got back on my hands and knees and I helped my baby on her journey.

It felt good to give little pushes at the end of my contractions, so that's what I did. My water broke and I could feel sister was ready for me to do some really hard work, so I started really pushing. It was wonderful to just be trusted. No one felt the need to stop me and make sure I was officially 10 centimeters or to yell at me when and how to push. I worked her down when and how it felt right.

After one good contraction I looked at Chris, tired and steady. We've done this before, he and I, he knows how to stay with me, he knows how to let me work and he is so, so kind when I accidentally snap at him for putting his hand on my back the wrong way. I felt grateful for him.

After several more pushes I reached the point of despair. Just like the battle to keep going, I've had the point of despair at each of my births. It's the same every time: everyone is telling me that I'm doing great and that the baby is almost here and Fear creeps back in and tells me that they're probably lying to me and that I'll probably die trying to push this baby out. I started crying and Jessi held my face and said something, I don't remember what, but her voice was calm and sure, it was just the connection that I needed to snap out of it and push out my baby.

I pushed with everything I had, I felt the familiar sting of a new person emerging. Her head was out. I pushed again and again and again, I was wondering what was taking her little body so long to get out, when she finally finished her journey. I flipped over and held her to my chest. I kissed her sweet head and held her tiny fingers. My daughter had arrived! She looked just like I had always pictured her, with a head full of thick brown hair.

She weighed over 9 pounds, which is why it had been so hard to get her little body out.

We decided to call her Kezzia Layne. Kezzia after one of Job's daughters (Keziah), who in a time when women were considered completely valueless, was mentioned by name and was given an inheritance among her brothers! I hope that our Kezzia will grow up in a world that sees what a gift women are, and if she doesn't, that she'll be a part of the change. Layne is a combination of our dad's middle names. I think her name brings hope for the future and gives honor to the past.

I am overwhelmed by how peaceful our little Kezzi's birth was. It was so beautiful and it was the perfect way to welcome her to our family.