Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tio Joe's Prayer

Tonight, Steven asked me to say the family prayer before bedtime.

As I was praying, I was reminded of his Tio Joe's ending to every prayer, "And Lord we pray for the orphan, the widow, the one on the street..."

I got choked up as I closed with Tio Joe's prayer.

When I was eight months pregnant, my mom called me one day sounding gloomy.

I'll never forget that conversation. She had just visited my littlest brother's birth mom, who was expecting too.

I knew my mom faithfully visited her because she'd sadly described her living conditions to me & send me updates on her health.

"You know," she said during that call, "every baby deserves to have parents that decorate a room for them, like Ezra's getting."

My mom loves decorating- it's important to her- so I knew that statement was about far more than decorating.

What my mom was really saying was that every baby deserves to be celebrated. And that baby was going to be born to a sick, drug addicted mom. It's hard to imagine a life like that for a child still in utero.

Ezra is snuggled up in my bed right now, breathing heavily in the scent of his mama as he lays on my chest. I know he feels safe & secure. I'm not a perfect mom but I am confident he knows he's a gift.

He knows he is wanted.

But how many countless children go to bed at night feeling unwanted & forgotten, like they are more a burden than a gift? I can picture their little eyes tonight, the windows to their soul, with that look of desperate longing a child has, the one that asks, "does anyone love me?"

And for a moment, I imagine Ezra as one of them & it makes me cry.

I know I need to pray for the orphans & widows so much more than I do. I wonder if God is ever saddened when he hears my selfish prayers in light of all the heavy ones these orphaned babies & burdened widows must pray...

I hope tonight's heavy heart is not in vain.

Who knows, you and I may one day be called to the highest calling of all- opening our arms to receiving a child as part of our families.

For now, I just want to remember to pray for them.

I hope you will too.

Thank you Tio Joe for that much needed reminder.

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baby E is 4 Months Today

Some days I feel like a broken record because I am constantly at a loss for words when I look at Ezra, so I simply repeat the phrase " I love you" over & over again.

Happy four months Ezra! Thanks for the slobbery kiss yesterday.

50 + Books To Add To Your Child's Library

I love reading- I always have.

I remember sitting on the floor with my mom when I was five as she read Laura Ingall's prairie adventures to me.

I asked some of you to tell me your favorite children's stories & I love the responses I got because some of these I'd forgotten about, or never even heard of. I shared my own extensive list, too.

Thank you for sharing!

100+ Books For Your Library

Picture Books I Love

For Littler Ones...

The Happy Lion
The Lyle Crocodile Series
Toot and Puddle Series
A Visitor for Bear (the whole series)
Olivia Series
Otto the Book Bear
Dragons Love Tacos
This Moose Belongs to Me
Velveteen Rabbit
Ferdinand the Bull
How to be Famous
Ike's Incredible Ink
Don't Let the Pigeon Series
Amanda and her Alligator
Beatrix Potter books
Ace Dragon Ltd.
Rosie's Magic Horse
Bark, George
Extra Yarn
A Ball for Daisy
Meet Wild Boars & Wild Boars Cook
My Dad is so Big and Strong but..
Julia, Child
This is not my Hat
Toot & Puddle Series
Little Red
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Tell Me My Story, Mama
Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School
Iggy Peck, Architect
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Elephant and Piggie Series
The Adventure of Beckle: An Unimaginary Friend
The Queen's Hat
Barnacle is Bored
A Bear and His Boy
Alfie's Lost Sharkie
Everyone Loves Bacon
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Doctor De Soto
The Book with No Pictures
The First Slodge
Bog Baby
Mr. Peek's Zoo (series)
And the Cars Go..
Mr. Gumpy's Outing
We're Going on a Bear Hunt
Curious George
Go Dog, Go!
Green Eggs N' Ham
The Giving Tree
Are You My Mother?
Angelina Ballerina
The Hug Machine

And for those a little older...
Betsy-Tacy series- my absolute favorite.
Island of The Blue Dolphins
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch!
James & the Giant Peach
Little House on the Prairie series
The Giver
The Hobbit
Boxcar Children series
Ballet Shoes
James & The Giant Peach
The Indian & the Cupboard
Pippy Longstocking
Little Women
Anne of Green Gables series

Favorite Authors:
Bernard Waber
Ludwig Bemelmans
Holly Hobbie
Bonny Becker
Quentin Blake
Mo Willems

Books you recommended.

For Littler Ones...
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
Make Way for Ducklings
Town Mouse
Country Mouse
The Little Engine That Could
Giraffes Can't Dance
My Monster Mama Loves me So
My Heart is Like a Zoo
Dr. Seuss's ABCs
You Are My Miracle
The Rainbow Fish
You Are Special
Llama Llama Red Pajama
Love You Forever
Everyone Poops
The Monster at the End of this Book
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Oh, the Places You'll Go!
The Giving Tree
The Very Quiet Cricket
From Head to Toe
Goodnight Moon
Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
The Berenstein Bears
The Jolly Postman and Other People's Letters

And For Older Ones...
Charlotte's Web
The Narnia series
The Hardy Brothers series
Skippy Jon Jones

Authors You Love
Sandra Boynton
Eric Carle
Michael Waite
Shel Siverstein

Happy Reading!


Monday, February 25, 2013

The Story of Ezra

I am fiercely competitive- a character trait I attribute to my father who, at the age of 30, knocked over a 4 year old in order to win a game of musical chairs. Anything to be the best.

So, when I heard that women still delivered babies unmedicated, and they were perceived as tough for doing so, I took note.

But years later, when I actually got pregnant, the idea of an epidural sounded divine.

And normal.

After all, child birth is painful, so why wouldn't you numb yourself?

I quickly resolved an epidural was a must.

Now, I just needed an OB. My husband, Steven, had an insurance plan that allowed us to birth at his place of work, a hospital close to our house, for next to nothing; thus, we needed to find a doctor who delivered there. I found two but ruled out the first in a matter of minutes- cold, unfriendly front desk personnel.

Steven, & I booked an appointment with the second OB for the 8 week mark of the pregnancy.

The day of the appointment I took off work early & met Steven at home so we could carpool. Uncontrollable, unpredictable hormone surges & an inability to grasp the coming change a baby would bring, sent us into the worst fight of our marriage.

We arrived at the OB stressed & angry at each other- frightened out of our minds.

How would we raise a child if we couldn't even handle each other?

My husband kept his sunglasses on the entire visit. It didn't take a genius to see we were fighting.

The nurse practitioner that day did what few medical professionals care to do these days- she took her time with us, soothing our fears with her kind presence, introducing us to the fluttering peanut on the monitor- our sweet baby. We were in awe.

I went back to that OB practice faithfully for five months but never met that nurse practitioner again; in fact, the practice was so large that I only met one of the five doctors I was told could deliver our baby.

He spent two minutes with me... once.

No one even knew my name at that place. I was just another pregnant patient they paraded into an exam room each time.

I began to have reservations.

In my heart was a deep seeded fear that I would have to birth in a cold, sterile room with an anonymous white coat waltzing in last minute to tell me to push.

Five months into my pregnancy, I dreaded every doctor's visit & knew I needed to transfer care. But every practice I called had four or five doctors that could potentially deliver my child.

Then, I was introduced to the idea of a doula (woman who accompanies and helps through the birth process. Doulas are known to reduce the chance of c-section and help a woman advocate for her birth plan during labor) by my friend, who had just had a natural birth at home & felt so inspired that she had become a doula herself.

We interviewed & hired one within a week's time- she happened to be my husband's college professor's wife.

Small world.

She asked us to look into the idea of a birth center. I told her I had actually just booked a tour with one but it was out of our network & would cost thousands of dollars.

With her encouragement, Steven & I decided to keep our tour date with Babymoon Inn, a "sanctuary tended by midwives." How nice.

And it was nice. A minute into the tour, my husband was thrilled with the birthing rooms & the custom tub.

"This is awesome, Krisann!"

I still kept my reserves- natural birth was too painful.

But the staff were so passionate & friendly- they took hours with us that first day, answering questions, settling my fears with this idea of "natural birth."

Besides, the hospital was only 3 minutes away & midwives are always careful to transfer care, if the need arises.

For the first time in my life, the idea of birthing, dare I say it, became... exciting.

By request of my doula, I even educated myself by reading numerous, well-researched books on birth, listening to lectures & attending classes at Babymoon Inn.

The more I read, the more I felt confident Steven & I were brought to The Inn by God himself.

My body was meant to do this- I would let no drug or person take this experience from my baby or me.

Impatient by nature, I hoped I wouldn't be like most first time moms & deliver at 41 weeks. When the 36 week mark came, which is when you can safely deliver at a birth center, I began taking primrose oil, eating 6 dates a day, and continued my yoga practice- all hoping it would make Ezra come on time.

At 36 weeks and 5 days, I started having contractions.

Apparently, Ezra inherited some of his momma's impatience because I was experiencing heavy, active labor by noon the next day.

laboring at home

I labored around my house all afternoon & into the early evening, my husband & doula by my side.

It was tough but I never once thought of opting out- I wanted this experience.

Around 5:30 pm, unexpectedly, my labor sped way up. I had urges to push.

Steven & the doula rushed me to the front door of our house but I stopped them.

"I will have this baby right here."

" You can't. Come on Krisann, we'll get you there."

"I feel him coming!" I screamed.

"Put your hand down there. Can you feel his head?" my doula asked.

What I thought was his head was my water bag in tact, with Ezra right behind.

They shuffled me into the car.

As I sat in the back on all fours, it felt
like a scene from a cheesy movie, or dramatic sitcom.

"Brace yourself, speed bump!"

My husband talked me through that whole drive.

When we arrived ten minutes later, I was rushed into the birth room.

I was finally free to push.

I pushed & pushed.

"Can you make sure I don't tear? Is there olive oil?"

"Of course, it's right here."

The smell of the clean sheets & the warmth of the midwives & nurse there made me glad we had made that drive.

Suddenly, the tone of the room changed. I heard the midwives talking quietly & it worried me.

"What's wrong? What is it?"

" We just need you to keep pushing."

His heart rate was lowering from what I could sense.

I pushed for what seemed an eternity, but was actually ten minutes, before they announced his head was there.

Ezra's first moments
"Want to catch him dad?"

"I'm ok"

"Catch him!" I yelled.

Steven didn't argue- he caught Ezra as he slipped out effortlessly.

What should've been the most beautiful moment turned into anxiety.

Purple & lethargic, Ezra was making no effort to announce his arrival.

I sat there with adrenaline running through me. Begging my child to scream.

The midwife calmly reacted- lovingly coaxing Ezra to cry. But he wouldn't.

Instead, he just lay there with shallow breath, opening his eyes just a little.

Putting him on oxygen, the ambulance was called.

I remember Steven kneeling & crying out to God with his entire being- it was oddly holy in that moment.

Later he told me he asked God if he were going to take his son & if he did, make him ok with it.

But God answered no, he was ours to keep.

The EMT's arrived- a group of six or seven firefighters- there to whisk my baby away before we'd ever bonded. I remember answering questions as I sat there still uncovered, shaking physically, but feeling strong.

They moved so slowly that I felt assured Ezra was ok.

By the time he was placed in the ambulance, he was crying loudly.

"Do we still have to go?" Steven asked.

"It's procedure" was the response.

They drove an extra five miles to take him to Phoenix Children's for better newborn care.

Steven with baby before I got there

I arrived two hours later, having rested & showered at The Inn, not yet feeling like a mother.

Still, natural birth has this way of giving you a good surge of endorphins- I felt like running a marathon that night.

I could do ANYTHING.

We didn't get to hold Ezra- he was on monitors & IV's but were told to try later that night.

Tests all came back negative- we were given a room to rest.

We fell asleep, missing our opportunity to hold him.

I didn't get to breastfeed him until noon the next day.

 He latched fine right away but the NICU had him on sugar water so he wasn't hungry.

And this began a long ordeal. They call 36 week old babies the "great pretenders" because they seem ready for life outside the womb but they have trouble breathing and eating on their own sometimes.

And Ezra was quite the pretender when it came to eating.

So much so that a feeding tube was decided upon to give him the nutrients he didn't take by mouth.

I started pumping & bottle feeding him so the hospital could track what he ate & we could get out of this place.

Our expected one day stay turned into night after night and feeding after feeding, crying over a six pound baby uninterested in substances other than the sugar water they still had flowing in his veins.

Day three Ezra's billy ribon levels came back moderately high so he was placed under a heat lamp & blanket. 

We were instructed only to hold him for 30 minute feeding increments. The rest of the time he was to be under the lights.
When Ezra was in the womb I always sang that Lauryn Hill song with the lyrics "You'd be like heaven to touch/ I want to hold you so much."

How ironic that was now.

Every morning they pricked his bruised heels, only to have the results come back higher.

one of the precious feeding times I had with him.

Halloween passed. My husband's birthday was spent in the hospital.

By day six I had the baby blues so we took a night off from the hospital & went home to rest.

At this point, we just wanted them to "set Ezra free!!!"

On day seven, I spoke with one of the nurses. Ezra was eating & his levels were down- I politely let her know it was in our family's best interest to go home. For the past two days the nurses had felt he should be discharged & had freely told us so. His levels weren't that high & he now breastfed & bottle fed fine.

day five in the NICU

She advocated with the over pre cautious doctors to discharge us.

It worked. Happy and relieved, we took him home that day.

We appreciated it all so much more now.

In the end, this was not how any of us envisioned Ezra's first days of lives.

Reflecting on it, I feel that it was not a coincidence that Ezra spent his first seven days in the NICU. In our faith, seven is a holy number- God's favorite number.

Seven days Ezra's life was covered in prayer & thoughts from people from all over the place. God must have a purpose for such a life.

I envisioned Ezra's birth story as quiet, peaceful, & calm- it was none of those.

But I'm glad I didn't get the birth story I thought up because Ezra's was so much more powerful.

It tested our faith, it drew us closer together.

And I don't regret giving birth to Ezra at the Babymoon Inn- if I'd given birth to him at a hospital he would've been whisked away before I ever saw him. I would've felt robbed & Steven wouldn't have held him in the first moment of his life.

They had the equipment and experience necessary to keep him alive & they kept me calm & confident that it was ok. Where else will you get care like that?

And where else will my entire care team know my name?

I love that they know my name.

I'm not a patient with a procedure- I am a woman & this is my birth experience.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sweet Surrender: How I Met My Daughter by Michelle Belt

I researched and planned.  I visualized and prepared.  After six months of exceptional prenatal care with an OB, I made a controversial decision to leave their care and began my birth journey with the midwives at Babymoon Inn, a (gasp) birth center.  The OB practice was everything an expecting mom could hope for; thorough, organized, friendly.  But this was childbirth. I didn't need a doctor. I wasn't ill. My body would do the work.  

From the moment we toured the charming birth facility (which I liken to the best B&B's in Sedona), my husband and I felt right at home.  Home.  Yes, that is how birth should home.  For us, the birth center was the next best thing to birthing at home, with the comfort of a short, three minute drive to the nearest hospital.  But that fact was more for those questioning my decision than any comfort I needed.

The weeks continued to pass.  I was well into my third trimester and enjoying weekly prenatal massages at the birth center.  I toured the birthing house one last time with my mom and dad who were in town to meet their first granddaughter.  In the entry of the quaint home was a jewelry stand with the tiniest little charm bracelets.  After a few moments of searching, there it was, 'BELT', my baby girl's I.D. bracelet.  I couldn't wait to see it on her tiny wrist.  Everything was progressing as expected.  At 36 weeks I began having Braxton Hicks contractions, which continued until I delivered.  I was told this was a great sign that my body was getting all the early labor out of the way.  Hopefully that meant active labor wouldn’t be as long.  Awesome!  

39 weeks, 40 weeks...41 weeks.

"Okay Michelle, at this point, we'll need you to begin non-stress tests at the hospital to ensure baby is still thriving.  They will monitor her heart rate for twenty minutes and perform an ultrasound to check the fluid in your uterus."  Piece of cake.

At 41 weeks, she passed with flying colors.  Practice breathing, good heart accelerations, plenty of fluid in my uterus.  We're good to go another two days.

41 weeks and two days.  More of the same; the tests were reactive, a good thing.  It was Friday, the attending midwife at the hospital sent us home saying, "She'll be here by Sunday."  Her confidence was reassuring.

Sunday morning.  A trip to the restroom and, "oh my gosh, my bloody show!"  The midwife was right!  Finally, a sign that labor was imminent, other than those pesky, non-stop contractions.  I phoned my favorite nurse at the birth center to let her know since it was also our scheduled day to go back to the hospital for another test.

"Can I just skip the hospital visit today?  My contractions are picking up, I think this might FINALLY be it!"

"We still need you to test to be sure she's doing well, but go sooner rather than later."

I was excited...let's get this knocked out so I can come back home to labor for a bit before we head to the birth center.  I'm going to meet my baby, and SOON!  Our bags were packed and we brought them with, just in case we needed to head straight to the birth center from the hospital. 

I was getting more comfortable with the hospital since this was our third trip in less than a week, but it still gave me an uneasy feeling.  They recognized us by now at the triage desk and sent us back to get hooked up to the monitors.  After five short minutes the doctor emerged like Oz from behind the curtain with news we were not expecting.

"I'm afraid the test is non-reactive.  The baby is not showing enough accelerations."

"What?  I've only been on the monitor for five minutes?  She's sleeping!  (she was always VERY still when she would sleep)  Give her a chance to wake up." 

"Okay, we can wait a little longer, but you're having some pretty regular contractions, are you feeling those?"

I used my best poker face, "I've been having contractions for the last four weeks, this is nothing".  I wanted out of there.

From the beginning I told myself I would willingly go to the hospital if things weren't going well.  It's easy to say when you really don't believe it will happen.
I immediately called my favorite nurse at the birth center.

"They're telling me the test is non-reactive after only FIVE minutes!  Can I just leave and go to the birth center?  This is ridiculous!  If they tell me it's non-reactive, I will risk out at the birth center, right?  She's already awake and looking really good on the monitor.  Why did they only give her five minutes?!"  I was furious.

"Let's see what they say now that she is looking better.  In the meantime, I will call the midwife and get her input as well."

After performing another ultrasound showing my amniotic fluid was great, and receiving a second opinion, they still concluded that the test was non-reactive.

I called my favorite nurse again.

"It's non-reactive, Amey.  How did this happen?  Can I leave and go to the birth center?  What did the midwife say?"  I was in denial.  

And then, the dreaded words, "Michelle, you did EVERYTHING right.  I am so sorry it is happening this way, I wish you could come to the birth center and have the experience you planned for, but this is your journey now."  

No.  No, it's not.  This isn't fair.  I hate this.  I hate hospitals.  Let me go home.  I wanna go home.   

I choked back tears, "I DID get the experience I hoped for these last several months. Thank you so much Amey."  Being strong is so much easier than faking strong.  "Can she still have her I.D. bracelet from the birth center?"

"It's here waiting for her.  I'll call your doula and send her your way."  

Yes, my doula, someone to make the upcoming tough decisions for us.  I no longer trusted myself.  

I was admitted after about three hours of waiting in triage.  The fears I had about fighting for less monitoring, wearing my own clothes, eating and drinking, not being pushed for pain meds...none of it was there. The doctors were on our team.  One by one, nurses and doctors entered our room to let us know they understood our birth plan and slow and steady was the approach.  We can do this, and without a fight.  I felt so relieved.  

Slow and steady was the name of the game and that is exactly how it progressed.  After 24 hours of Cervidil and a Foley Bulb, I was dilated to 5 centimeters.  In the throes of active labor, my husband's support gave me the strength to continue.  Looking into his handsome eyes, I imagined our baby.  It got me through four and five minute long contractions.  Where was my break?  The back pain was excruciating.  I could handle the contractions but the back pain didn't subside when the contractions did.

I got to 7 centimeters and then things began to go backward.  I was checked by half a dozen nurses and doctors.  The mood in the room began to shift.  

"I think she's gone down to 5 centimeters."  "Her cervix is swollen."  "She feels posterior."  "The baby is looking a little flat, let's start some fluids and get mom on oxygen."

My doula saw the look of defeat in my eyes and came in close and whispered...“Michelle, when did you get here?”


“What’s today?”


“It’s time to have a baby.”

After watching the sunrise twice, exhaustion was setting in.  I hadn't slept, I could hardly eat, I needed a break.  My husband looked at me again with his loving eyes to reassure me that whatever I chose, he was going to support me.

After 36 hours of labor it began... “maybe you’ll get the rest you need if you get the epidural”, “let’s break your water”, “a touch of pitocin might be just the thing to get things started again.”  After all these interventions, nothing worked.  My body wasn’t working the way I planned, the way it was meant to.

40 hours in and my body and baby had enough.  We didn’t have any fight left in us.  I didn’t want to give up.  More than anything, I didn’t want to give in.  In those moments all I could envision was this baby girl inside me, trying her best to meet her mommy and daddy.  The only thing standing in her way was me.  It was time to surrender.   

The consent papers were signed and I was wheeled into the operating room.  Things were happening fast.  Where was my husband?  Oh my gosh, they're strapping down my legs.  They didn't tell me that part.  I'm claustrophobic. They can't do this. I can't handle it.  Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore the cold rush of anesthesia pulsed through my body and I could no longer feel my legs.  Thank God, I can do this.  Finally, my husband joined me and a calm came over me as he said, “We’re going to meet our little girl so soon!  You’re so strong!”  At my weakest moment, my husband said I was strong. 

As the surgeon made his first incision, I noticed music playing.  It was Pink singing in her gravely voice, "Just when it can’t get worse, I’ve had a shit day, we had a shit day!"  Yes, they play pop music in the OR.  It was a welcome distraction.  

After meticulously cutting through each layer of my stomach, the surgeon began to tug and pull.  My husband watched as the doctor's arm disappeared inside my exposed abdomen.  

"She's almost out!  You're doing such a good job, babe!"

Time was standing still.  I had lost complete control of my baby’s birth.  Then suddenly, the eyes I had been looking to for comfort lit up with life and filled with tears as my husband laid eyes on our perfect little girl.  Confined to the table, I searched around for my first glimpse of her.  Show me my baby!  They didn’t.  She had been handed over to the NICU nurses so they could make sure she hadn’t swallowed any of the meconium-filled amniotic fluid.  They had warned me of this, but I thought I would at least get to see her first.  I felt robbed...again.  Instead, I heard her sweet cry, and that was enough for now.  

After such a long journey, we were blessed to have a perfectly healthy little girl, Rafaela Nicole.  My husband took her into the recovery room and they snuggled while waiting for me to be sewn back up so I could join them.  My fears began before the surgeon finished.  I began asking myself; Will she latch?  We didn’t get skin-to-skin.  Will we have trouble bonding?  I would soon find out.  

At last, I joined my little family in the recovery room.  I’ll never forget those first moments with her.  They are the most precious I’ve ever experienced.  All of my fears about nursing and bonding vanished as I snuggled her close and gave her first taste of life on planet Earth.

After five days in the hospital we were released and more than happy to be going home.  As scheduled, I would go to my postnatal appointment at the birth center.  I couldn’t believe how excited I was to see my family of midwives, nurses & doulas.  When I walked through the door, I was greeted with open arms and tears.  Feelings of sadness and frustration flooded my thoughts.  This was home.  THIS is where I was supposed to be.  In their loving embrace and care. 

When you are confident in what your body is capable of and it fails, how do you cope when everyone around you expects you to be as strong as the woman who prepared to give birth without drugs?...when your biggest fear isn’t an eight minute long contraction, but lying helpless on an operating table?  Recovering from surgery is easy, but how do you recover from the loss of having a natural birth?  How do you react when people say, “It doesn’t matter how she got here, just that she’s safe and healthy.”  Oh really?  No shit!  

I want women to know that it is OKAY and perfectly normal to grieve any struggle you may have experienced during birth or after.  Many of us dream and hope for a certain delivery and for one reason or another, things don’t happen according to plan.  It’s okay to be mad about it.  

For me, finding a great network of moms and continuing my relationships with all the wonderful people I’ve met at the birth center is how I am taking back the experiences I longed for.  My baby will know these women and how they supported me and shaped my outlook on birth and motherhood.  With natural childbirth, it may be that you have to change your plans.  But don’t ever doubt that, in every case, the plan still changes you.