Archives for December 2014

34 Weeks… and Counting

I made it to 34 weeks yesterday, praise God!  What a crazy week it has been, I can’t even express the insane amount of things we have needed to get done, and with half the hands to do it all.  My husband is the most amazing husband of all the husbands.  I guess when he said “in sickness and in health” he really meant it!  He is absolutely my hero.

So here’s where we’re at right now, a week ago I started having regular, working contractions.  Despite my attempts at “resting” (aka only getting one child ready for Church instead of four) they continued to get longer, stronger and closer together.  A visit to the midwife and some medication were able to knock them out, but they aren’t gone by any means.

I have had contractions every day since then, they are triggered by movement and standing, or if I sit up for too long.  If I starting having them and don’t take steps to stop them (lay down, take an Epsom salt bath, etc.) they will gain momentum and we’ll be right back to where we started.  The more times I go too far, the easier and faster they seem to be triggered.  I could do more without triggering them at the beginning of the week than I can now.

I had to take some more medication on Christmas because I went to the service the night before and did just a bit too much walking between rooms on Christmas day.  So by the time evening rolled around, they had gotten themselves into a comfortable 3 minutes apart again.  (They’re always worse in the evening after being awake the whole day, and sometimes non-existent in the mornings after laying down for several hours straight.) Needless to say, I pretty much spent the rest of the next day in bed.

It doesn’t look like the contractions are going away any time soon, so the plan is to make it to 36 weeks at least.  I’m hoping I can go off of bed rest that day because it also happens to be January 10th.  It’s Hope’s very first birthday home with us and I’d love to be up and bustling around to help celebrate!! I have plans!  There will be more Christmases but this is her only 10th birthday, her golden birthday, her first birthday home!  I really, really want to be up and about.

So… here I sit resting and resting and resting and hoping that in two weeks I will be ready to do some moving and that this baby won’t come out for three weeks.  (If I make it to 37 weeks I get to use my new birth tub!!)  Thank you all so much for everything!  What a crazy year it has been.  Maybe we’ll get all the craziness out in January and we can just work on settling in as a new family of seven for the next eleven months.  I think I’ve had plenty of excitement for a year or two.

Merry Christmas, and if you don’t hear from me before then, a Happy New Year as well!

The Birth Story: Prologue

I am accustomed to writing my birth stories after the birth of the baby, but this little one has thrown us for a bit of a loop!  Labor started unexpectedly Saturday evening at exactly 33 weeks along.  I didn’t realize it at first, of course.  I had been having contractions for about two months at that point – a few here and a few there.  Nothing to be concerned about.  I was using them to gauge whether or not I was doing too much with the other kids.  “Contraction?  Ok, I guess I’ll sit down for a while.”

Then my contractions went away completely last week as I upped my protein and tried really hard to take things slow.  I thought we were doing pretty good!  But about 4:00 pm on Saturday night, back they came.  I started to notice them while eating dinner with the kids and waiting for Jake to come home.  I had no reason to be alarmed at that point because everything seemed normal… although I wondered why I was having contractions on the one day where I was lazier than any other day?  (I mean dinner was frozen pizza for Heaven’s sakes!)

After about an hour and a half it became clear that sitting down and resting was not making them go away, and I could tell that they were coming in regular intervals.  On top of that, every time I stood up it triggered another contraction.  I sat down to time them.  Four minutes apart.  That’s odd… I knew that pre-labor contractions would probably not be so regular.  After the kids were all settled in bed I chugged a big glass of water to see if that would stave them off.

No go.  On they kept, and they started feeling stronger.  Time to call the midwife!  She told me to eat some protein, to take four doses of my Calcium Magnesium and to get in an Epsom salt bath and then see if that would knock them out.  Getting in the bath was reassuring, they stopped immediately… only to disappoint me by kicking right back up once I got out.  I called again and convinced her that I thought I could make them go away by laying down, so she told me to sleep and if they kept me awake to call again.

The contractions dissipated in bed and I did go into a fitful bit of sleep, but it was more my own worry keeping me awake at that point.  I also caught some sort of a bug (maybe that’s what triggered the whole episode?) so I felt miserable on top of it all.  The next morning I woke up with no contractions, but they started as soon as I stood up.  I grabbed a notepad and wrote down every single one, and what I was doing when they happened.  Four minutes apart, unless I was doing something, and then they were two minutes apart.

I got the kids breakfast, dressed Evie for church and sat on the couch as much as possible, but to no avail.  They were just getting stronger and closer together.  I called my midwife and she told me I had to come over ASAP.  Grandma and Jake were both at Church and I had three other little ones with me, so I called Jake’s mom and thankfully she was in a position to come over right away.  By the time I was dressed she was there, and I headed out the door.

So glad my midwife only lives about five minutes from us!  She hooked me up to a fetal monitor, which was a totally new experience, but kind of cool.  I had no sign of infection, great blood pressure, awesome heartbeat and movement from Mambo and my contractions were barely visible on the monitor.  She said she was really pleased with everything she was seeing until… she checked me.  I was 1.5 cm dilated and was already presenting very soft and thinned out.  Those contractions weren’t much… but they were working.

At that point she gave me a shot of medication, which stopped them in their tracks.  Jake had just finished up service and his mom told him in the handshake line what was going on.  Poor guy, he tried to call but we had terrible reception, so he just drove over.  I assured him I was alright and that we had gotten the contractions under control, but that I felt pretty shaky and funny from the meds.  He drove back to the church, asked someone to drop him off, and then drove me home.  Sweet guy :)

I was not ordered to go on full bed rest.  “Queen of the Couch” is what my midwife called it.  I could sit, go up and down the stairs to go to bed, etc. but I just needed to be delegating from the couch and doing nothing else.  So for the rest of the day that’s what we did.  I had to take some more medication orally in the evening from contractions starting up again, but everything seemed to be going well.

The next day I woke up still feeling miserable from whatever I had caught, I couldn’t eat much all day.  Late morning my contractions started regularly at ten minutes apart.  I called the midwife, she said we could deal with ten minutes – as long as they stayed there.  They didn’t.  Almost as soon as I hung up they went to 7 minutes… 5 minutes… 4… 3… 2… each contraction was closer than the last.  And stronger.  By the time I got her on the phone they were a minute long with only about 30 seconds between them – and these were actually uncomfortable.  Not the cute, warm and fuzzy “Oh my tummy feels like it’s giving me a hug!” sort of contractions.

Amazingly she was driving by our house right that minute and pulled in to see me.  Not exactly what I thought our first home visit would be like, but ok!  I took another dose of medication and was instructed to lay down.  Sitting was only for short periods, but mostly I needed to get that pressure off, because every little bit was causing more contractions.  Bed rest, still not strict bed rest… but bed rest.

We fought off contractions for most of the rest of the day.  This was the first time I was really worried we weren’t going to be able to stop the labor for longer than a couple days.  It came on so quickly for no reason.  Every little change of position would trigger another contraction.    I was also still feeling miserable, I couldn’t eat even though I really needed to.  When I finally did go up to bed, just that two minutes of being on my feet triggered very strong contractions that I was having trouble getting dressed through.

My midwife thinks that we will be able to hold off labor for a few more weeks if I can behave myself and stay put.  She doesn’t think they’ll go away completely, but that hopefully we can make them a little less touchy so I can have a bit more freedom than I have now.  She really wants to get me to 37 weeks (January 17th) but will allow me to give birth at home as long as we make it to 36 weeks (January 10th).  Today I woke up feeling completely healthy (hope it stays that way!), my appetite is back and we haven’t seen any unwarranted contractions.  No medication yet, praise God!

I still have them every time I sit or stand, but for the most part they’ve been easy to ward off.  I am so grateful.  We have a fridge full of delicious homemade meals and already and we’ve had so much support.  I think we are covered as far as help goes for this week of Christmas, but if and when that changes we will certainly let everyone know what we are in need of.  Thank you all so much for your prayers so far!!  I am a little sore from lying on the couch, but other than that we are doing well, are in good spirits and hanging in there!  Hopefully the rest of this birth story won’t need to be written for another month or so!

Protein Latte (No Powder Necessary!)

On Monday I had an appointment with my midwife… one of those appointments where you go in like a child who is misbehaving because she knows she hasn’t been doing her chores.  Ahem.  The last few weeks had not gone well for me.  I was probably eating about the same amount of calories a day as my seven year old.  Not. Ok.  But when you are exhausted with four little ones, and another baking in the oven, and you have no appetite… the very last thing in the world you want to do is go make yourself food that you have no desire to eat.

I knew I hadn’t been doing well, so two weeks before the appointment I had cut out a lot of sugar, no desserts or sweets.  I thought that if I cut those things out it would force me to eat something with substance.  But no, I just had zero appetite and nothing sounded good.  Welcome to the third trimester.  The vicious cycle of not eating.  The less you eat, the less your body wants to eat… and on down the rabbit hole we go.

I guiltily confessed all of this to my midwife, but secretly I was glad to be there.  I knew she’d be able to set me straight.  I needed someone to stand up to my despondency and who better to do that than the lady in charge of my health and the health of our baby?  She listened very empathetically, and then gave me a piece of paper with several instructions scribbled on it.  The first?  100 grams of protein a day.  Fun fact, apparently swelling in pregnancy is always due to not getting enough protein.  I knew how much protein I needed to be getting,  but I just couldn’t make myself eat that much.  I was getting maybe 40 grams on a good day.

So what’s a pregnant lady to do?  Food aversions and lack of appetite hit me on both ends of pregnancy – first and last trimester.  Not to mention, finding the time to cook extra food for myself with all these little ones to feed and clothe and love on is less than easy.  I knew I needed to get creative, and this morning was the perfect opportunity.  I woke up late and had a meeting with the special needs director at our local school first thing.  I ate a little breakfast, but it wasn’t near enough, and I knew I needed food as soon as I got home.  But I had been gone all morning,

I had things to catch up on, I was even hungry, but the only thing that sounded good was a cup of coffee.  So that’s what I had.  And it was amazing.

photo (55)Delicious, warm, comforting, beautifully frothy… and packed with 33 grams of solid protein.  Yes, I had a stroke of genius this morning.  It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I get lucky.

This was so much easier to get down than a protein smoothie or protein bar!  Those things can be quick, easy substitutes too, but sometimes that’s even more than my fickle appetite is willing to do.  But this?  I would be up for this any day.  How has this never happened before?

Protein latte… you are my new best friend.

Ingredients

(Protein listed in grams next to each ingredient to make the math simpler as you consider substitutions.  With pregnancy brain, there’s nothing I appreciate more than making math easier on people!)

1 ½ Cups Milk (12g)
2 TBS Instant Coffee
2 TBS Cocoa Powder (2g)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
¼ Cup Pumpkin Seeds (19g)
Sweetener of Choice

Instructions

Gently heat milk to not-quite-boiling.  Stir in instant coffee and cocoa powder.  Pour into a high-powered blender and add vanilla, pumpkin seeds and a sweetener if desired.  (I used just a couple teaspoons of sugar and it was plenty sweet enough.)  Blend on high until seeds are pulverized.  Pour into your favorite coffee mug and enjoy!

Notes

I suggest raw milk for the highest amount of quality protein.  But it can easily be substituted for whatever milk you like, dairy or non-dairy.  Just be sure to adjust the amount of protein.  If I had maple syrup on hand I would have used that instead of regular sugar and omitted the vanilla.  Another fun twist might be adding peppermint extract for holiday flair!

If you do not have, or don’t like the taste of pumpkin seeds you can substitute for ½ cup of almonds instead.  It will probably give it an even milder flavor, and you only lose 7 grams of protein – so you’re still getting about as much protein as you would in a protein bar, which is pretty great for a cup of coffee I’d say!

It is really so flexible and adaptable.  Simply use milk instead of water, and blend in some high protein seeds or nuts and you’ve got a great, energy boosting comfort drink for your morning!  You might also want to be sure to use decaf if you are pregnant or nursing like me. 😉  Go ahead and try a cup and let me know what you think!  I’d love to hear your recipe variations in the comments too.

Warm (and Delicious) Wishes!

An Open Letter to the Pews Behind Me

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Last night, I once again braved the Church pew with four lively young children.  Ordinary enough, I know that thousands upon thousands of mothers complete an identical ritual every week.  But our situation is a bit unique, and for those of you in the pews behind me, you know all of this.

You know that I am not just an ordinary parishioner; I’m your pastor’s wife.  I sit up front with my four children who are absolutely capable of being well behaved during a service… but are not always.  You know that we just adopted two of our children this summer, that neither can walk and both have special needs and come from neglected orphanage backgrounds.  You know that the pastor’s kids, my kids, have been struggling more the last few weeks.  Three of the last four services I have had to take someone out screaming.

You know that last night was the worst they have ever been, one raging, cursing, flailing child (yes he was cursing at me in Russian); one uncomfortable little girl who began screaming and crying while I was on the other side of the building; a little one too quick to follow in his older brother’s disobedient footsteps; and a little girl who should know better… but just couldn’t help herself; and a poor grandmother trying desperately to salvage the entire ordeal before the entire pew made a grand exit.

I know you have concerns.  Perhaps you are concerned that I’m too strict or too lenient with my children in Church.  You might be worried about our biological children after seeing our adopted son throw punches in the middle of the sermon last night.  I know that you are concerned about my wellbeing; most of you ask every time we see each other how I’m holding up.  Maybe you’re worried that our family is too much for anyone, or how can Pastor possibly have enough time or energy for his work after all that?  You might certainly be wondering how on Earth we are going to manage with Mambo #5 who is arriving very quickly after the New Year.

I know there might be a lot of wondering and a lot of speculation, and probably even a little bit of talking after last night’s episode.  And so, since I’m in the fishbowl already, I thought I might as well join the conversation.  Our family’s struggles are no secret, or at least they aren’t after last night.  I know you have concerns and I know you have questions, so here is my two cents about the matter.  No matter how much or how little you saw last night, here’s what I really want you to know.

I take my children to Church for a reason.  Yes, they disrupt the service.  I wish they wouldn’t but they do.  I could sit in the back, or I could give them food or toys or any number of distractions.  I could make it easier on them and on myself, and on your ears too.  But I don’t.  Why?  Not because distractions are bad parenting, I certainly make use of them.  But when we go to Church to meet our Lord and Savior, to honor and thank Him, to physically touch and consume His Life, to sing praises along with the entire host of Heaven, well… why on Earth would I distract my children from such a great experience?  Why wouldn’t I want to give them a front row seat to the miracles taking place before their eyes?

No they don’t appreciate it, and they never will either – unless I teach them, show them, tell them what an honor it is to be in the presence of God at Church.  And by giving them distractions from God, I would be making it difficult to later assert that He is the One Thing Needful.  Everyone’s kids are different, and parenting during Church will look different for everyone.  I know my children, and I know what they are capable of.  Each one of them is more than capable of participating in the service without distractions.  Why would I expect less from them than what I know they can do?

Yes, I’m a bad mom.  But not last night, last night I actually did really well.  Ever since coming home with our new little ones I have struggled with my temper, really struggled.  Some Sunday mornings my little ones make it through the service, but I don’t.  I end up snapping or being too firm with their fidgety little hands.  It makes for less noise and distraction, but it puts a whole lot of sin on my plate.

Last night though?  I kept my cool under the pressure cooker of the worst rage our son has had in months.  I was hit, spit at, cursed at, bit, scratched and a myriad of other infractions.  But not once did I raise my voice at him.  Not once did I lose my temper.  I was present and calm and I weathered the storm, even when the rest of my children crumbled under the chaos – I continued to calmly go about damage control the best I could.  I refused to enter the crazy cycle with my hurting, traumatized son.  Instead I just waited him out, I put him to bed and I told him I loved him.

My son is not a bad child.  What you saw was not a temper tantrum; it is what they call a “rage”.  Raging is a behavior stemming from neglect, abuse or trauma.  It is a fear response, and it happened at least daily when we first came home.  About two months ago his rages stopped.  We had been doing very well keeping him close to us and not letting other adults give him affection that would be confusing to a child for whom every adult had been interchangeable his whole life.  One day a flip switched, and he just stopped raging.  Overnight he transformed into our best behaved child.

But the holidays are usually a very difficult time for children like my son.  More affection from other adults, more visitors, more sugar, more presents… it’s all too much and it can send them toppling back into the confusion and chaos in their mind.  In the last week we’ve seen the rages slowly come back, and last night was the grand finale topping it all off… right in the front pew for all to see.

Often these children don’t rage in public, they wait until they feel safe – at home.  But you have done such a wonderful job of making our son feel welcome and safe, and apparently he doesn’t mind showing off at church now either.  So for his sake, and the sake of all children who come with struggles and special needs – don’t assume a child is bad, especially if you see them acting unusually loud, aggressive, manipulative or crazy in public.  Over-the-top behaviors don’t indicate a bad child or even bad parenting, they indicate hurt and fear.  Show generous amounts of compassion to this child’s parents, and pray healing over their child.

Our other children are safe, but not untouched.  Yes, he came out swinging last night, and yes some of those punches landed.  But I can count on one hand the number of times, out of many many rages, that he has ever laid a finger on another child.  And I can assure you, no one has ever been really hurt.  My husband and I are the ones that trigger his insecurities and fears of being left or hurt.  He is afraid of loving us, because he’s never been able to love an adult or caregiver before without being hurt by that affection.

He’s not afraid of loving his siblings.  That means, either myself or my husband is always physically there when the raging begins, and it is very simple for us to keep other children safe at that point.  Close quarters in the pew complicates things a bit, as you might have guessed.  But my point is – don’t worry about our children.  They are safe.  This doesn’t mean that they are not untouched by the trauma that their siblings have endured; it has affected them greatly too.  Some of that you even got to see yesterday as they followed suit in acting like hooligans in the middle of the Divine Service.  They were just as tired and stressed as I was over the whole thing.

Adoption is hard for them too.  They have seen the trauma and aggression and neglect and fear and pain that their brother and sister have endured.  They are acutely aware of the suffering of people so close to them.  Both of them have been changed and, as their parents, we are working so hard to make those changes positive for them.  But it is a lot to process for little minds, and this will also take time.  Give them grace too.

One more sibling is not too much.  Yes, having five children developmentally five and under is going to be CRAZY!  I know.  And I’m so excited.  I won’t write a whole post on that here, but someone else did, and it’s a really great read if you are interested: “Why Have More Kids?”

We are bruised but not crushed.  Our family is weary of all that this adoption has taken out of us.  Adoption is not an easy road, and many of you might be looking at our ragged, weary bunch thinking that you are so glad you aren’t in our shoes, or that you could never do it or maybe even that we bit off more than we can chew or that we shouldn’t do this either.  That’s just not the case.  With God’s help we are making it.  We are surviving the transition.  Not only that, we really are thriving with His provision and mercy.  All of us are healing, growing, learning and becoming stronger.  And we’re doing it together, which is the best part.

These are our children, and we knew they were ours.  We love them dearly and want them exactly where they are now, right here with us.  Our life isn’t perfect or easy or comfortable, but we have a life together.  None of our children are starving or being drugged or beat up.  None of our children have to be cold at night or go for days without being touched.  No one is lacking medical care and no one is alone.  Those are not things that our family takes for granted anymore, because it wasn’t always this way.  We are so blessed to be where we are… and perhaps from the outside it looks like a life that is unpreferrable, one that you would not choose.

But from our point of view, we are clinging desperately to our Savior, because He’s our only hope left.  And we would not change that for the world.  Hardship, discomfort, pain, loss… it’s all a part of adoption.  And it’s a great privilege and blessing to endure it for the sake of these little ones, for the sake of our Lord.  Don’t feel sorry for us.  The joy and love we are creating is worth so much more than what we’ve lost, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

Just Hold On!

I know you all have been waiting for something, anything for a while now.  And I promise I’m getting there.  There have been some BIG changes in our household over the last week or so and once I have my life reorganized I think I’ll actually have time for this little blog again.  I’m really excited to share all the wonderful ways God is providing for our family.  So just hold tight!  I have a post coming soon!!  In the mean time, have a very blessed start to your Advent season as we prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s birth!

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