Thursday, June 13, 2013

To stay or not to stay: On being a SAHM

Even before we were engaged, Brandon and I discussed what we would want for our future families.  In my mind, when I began having children I would want to stay home.  I've always felt called to this, a vocation of sorts.  My mom was able to be home with my sister and I while we were small and had a part-time job when we were around 4 and 2.  She worked full-time after my youngest sister was born, but my dad was working for home.  So, for as long as I can remember, one of my parents was with us at home for the majority of the week.

Brandon agreed, he envisioned his children being home day-to-day instead of in a day care.  He grew up on a dairy farm, so his parents were always around, albeit working extremely hard to keep things running smoothly! 

When we got engaged and were going through  Pre-Cana, it was brought up again.  As a sidenote, Pre-Cana was such a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for the journey of marriage!  It really helped us communicate about issues that may otherwise have not been brought up and focus on the vocation instead of the "Big Day."  It would have been easy to focus on the details of the wedding instead of the details of the marriage. Okay--where was I? Oh yes, future families.  In Pre-Cana, we discussed and decided that if we were blessed with children, I would stay home with them and Brandon would continue to work outside of the home.  I have to say that it was definitely a looong conversation.  Playing devil's advocate (sometimes too much, I'm sure) I pushed the issue and inquired about whether Brandon would ever consider staying at home.  This challenged his worldview a bit, but I really needed to know that I wasn't going to walk down the aisle towards a man who thought a woman's place was barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (I was a communications major at a liberal arts college who took--and loved--Women's Studies classes, what can I say?)  The more we talked about it, the more convicted I actually became that I would have it no other way than to be home with our children.  And, in the end, Brandon agreed that he would be willing to be the primary daytime caregiver for our kiddos if the job I had outside the home paid more and had better benefits.  Let's get real though, he's an engineer.  and it made me jealous just thinking about him being home and me heading off to work every morning.  and the fact that I really did know it was supposed to be part of my life plan to be at home with kidssince I was 12.

Fast forward a year.  We're married and go on a super great honeymoon and I have an amazing, fulfilling, challenging job and we join a parish and buy a house.  
Oh, and we're pregnant.  
Three months in, and I pretty much freak out.  Could I really leave a job I love so much? Will I really feel satisfied just sitting at home all day? (how wrong that statement really is...) Can I truly go with so little adult interaction day-in and day-out?  I'm not so sure I can do this and was having major trust issues--trusting myself, trusting my instincts, and trusting God.  I felt like the people I worked with would be judging me.  There were 4 other women I worked with who had babies under 1 year old, and every one of them returned to their position.  Maybe women don't do the stay-at-home thing anymore?  Maybe that's too old fashioned...

Brandon was pretty confused when I drastically changed my tune regarding post-baby plans, and so we began praying about it, pretty intensely actually.  Prayers for the baby's health and my ability to understand my own heart and mind.  I prayed a mass novena for these things, we asked for the intercession of St. Gianna and St. Gerard daily, we prayed rosarys...and I eventually did feel a shift when I took the advice of Sarah A. Reinhard, author of "A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism."  What an amazing read, by the way.  If you are pregnant and Catholic (or even if you're not!), you must get your hands on this book.  Reinhard suggested that you take all of your anxieties and lay them in Jesus' lap, because He can, and will, take care of them.  And God will be there with you in the future, too.  He doesn't leave after baby is born...
Well, duh!  I mean...mega-duh.  Of course I knew this, but I sure wasn't acting like it.  

So my prayers shifted.  I started asking what the Lord's will was for my life.  I asked God to be with me and this child, whether healthy or sick.  I realized this wasn't actually my decision at all.  And during our trip to Orlando, Florida for the FOCUS National Conference, my 26 week pregnant self and the hubs attended adoration with about 4,000 other people (talk about incredible).  I'm telling you, right then and there I was smacked in the face and over the head.  I kept thinking about something my (very wise) mom had said: "No one ever wishes they spent less time with their children." 
And I actually have the chance to choose!  What an absolute blessing that we can figure out how to live off of one income, that our benefits are coming from Brandon's job, that we can make something like this actually work.
I have the opportunity to be blessed by the presence of this child day-in and day-out.  Will it be challenging? Oh, you betcha.  
Worth it?
I dare to think--yes.

Since that day in early January, I became more and more convicted.  I began letting those in my life know our decision, and felt nothing but an overwhelming amount of support.  For some reason, this surprised me.  Many people I told responded with, "That's awesome, good for you!"  Ahh...yes...good for me :)

I have to add here that I have also felt so uplifted and supported by a handful of SAHM Catholic bloggers, whom don't even know I follow and read their blogs daily.  They prove the absolute worthiness (and sacrifice) it is to dedicate this season of their lives to their children.  I have linked to them below--thank you.

Bonnie at A Knotted Life
Rosie at A Blog for My Mom
Lindsay at My Child, I Love You
Emily at Glitter Rainbow Happiness Land
Ana at Time Flies When You're Having Babies
Hallie at Moxie Wife

Monday, June 10, 2013

Silas' Birth Story

Well, it's been seven weeks since we had the privilege of welcoming Silas into the world! I thought I should write a "brief" rundown of the events leading up to his arrival, so that they are documented.  I'm sure at this point some details have already fled my memory, but I know that as time goes on it will only get blurrier.

Note that there are some graphic details included in this birth story, as otherwise it couldn't accurately describe the birth of a person (it's a bit of a messy endeavor!), so stop now if you're really not interested in that business!

It was Thursday, April 18th, Brandon and I were both home from work and didn't feel like cooking. I think that's what happens when you're 6 days past due! We decided to go out to eat, as I had a taste for Mexican food and we had been going on "last dates"--never truly knowing when the last would be.  That was our plan until my water broke. The ironic part was that just that morning our basement had water trickling from many places towards the drain because of the many inches of rain we had over the previous week!  It was a day of water, it seems.  It was also ironic because my grandpa predicted that we would have the baby on April 18th at 7pm...although there was not yet a baby, this is very close to the time when everything began!

Contractions started soon after that, less than 5 minutes apart. I had been having some contractions here and there over the last weeks of pregnancy, but these were the first that were strong and consistent.  We labored at home for about 4 hours, bouncing on the birthing ball and going through some on my hands and knees. Brandon made me some toast and poured me a glass of red wine (we had read that this can help keep you relaxed during labor...and heck, this wino needed any excuse to have a little taste!  Truly I only had about 3 sips and was no longer interested, though.)  Contractions were still easy enough to talk through and we sat on the couch together, chatted in anticipation, and said a rosary.  Around 10:30 or so we decided to go to the hospital because of how close together they were--still less than 5 minutes consistently--and they were becoming strong enough that I had to lie still during a contraction. Upon arrival they checked me my cervix and I was only at about 3 cm, but 90% effaced. 

We labored through the night, using the tub and birthing ball mostly. Everything we had learned in the Bradley method classes really paid off.  Bradley is the "husband-coached" birthing method, and boy was Brandon a rock star!  He was consistently encouraging, suggesting different positions for me to go through contractions, and I definitely could not have done it without him!  

I'm pretty sure Brandon didn't eat any more than I did...a few orange popsicles and a bunch of water.  I guess the adrenaline hid his hunger pangs.  Around sunrise we sat in front of the window, me on a birthing ball, Brandon so wonderfully at my side, and the craziest thing happened: it started to snow.  On April 19th.  Little man, you are a spring baby and it snowed on your birthday.

I had requested upon arrival to be checked as infrequently as possible, as we were choosing to go completely natural and knew that being checked a) hurts b) means you can't move around as much and c) can give you a bit of false hope at how long you have left before baby comes.  At 7am the nurse asked to check me again, though, because she felt like my contractions were strong and solid. She said I was at 10cm and converted the whole room over, brought in the baby scale, and started teaching me how to push.  I was feeling really exhausted, as this was probably the first all-nighter I had ever pulled, but also really excited to meet baby!  When the doctor came in, though, he said I was actually only at a 7...shoot. So we labored more and around 9am I was at 9 1/2 cm--so close!  Unfortunately, at 10, 11, and 12 I was still only at 9 1/2.  We were stuck.

Since my water had broken the night before, the doctor was concerned about how long it had been and ordered a small dosage of pitocin (2 cc/hr).  While I wasn't thrilled because our #1 goal was to avoid pitocin, we trusted that this doctor wouldn't order it unless it was absolutely necessary.  It made contractions really, really hard to manage.  They also put me in the most uncomfortable position--on my hands and knees--because we needed baby to push on the lip of the cervix that was still present.  Wow...I'm fairly certain I blacked out during some of it and know that I could not have gotten through this without the support, encouragement, and massages Brandon was giving me during that painful few hours.  It all seemed to do it's job, though, because at 1:30pm, 19 hours after my water broke, I finally got cleared to push (for real this time!) and did so for about an hour and a half.  Doc came in to check on us (random thought: I did not realize how little the doctor was really around during labor.  Praise God for nurses, and fabulous ones at that!)  He felt to see if Silas (who, at the time, was still only Baby K to us) was getting in the right position. At first he thought Silas was facing to the side, so on my next contraction the doctor tried to move him...yes, actually use his hand to turn a baby while it is inside of me, coming down the birth canal!!! Pretty sure this hurt more than anything I'll experience. ever.  What he realized, though, was that baby was actually coming face presentation.  This means that while typically baby's chins are on their chest when being birthed, the back of Silas' head was actually against his back.  While babies can still be delivered vaginally this way, it's pretty risky because the baby could have spine damage and their entire face is bruised upon arrival to this world.  Let me just say that upon doing research post-labor, this happens in less than 2% of births!  We should have bought a lotto ticket.  What we won instead, though, was an automatic c-section.  I still remember squeezing Brandon's hand and letting out a sigh of relief.  Of course, I would have preferred to deliver vaginally and not have major surgery, but this was an easy "decision" because we wanted what was best for our little one.  And, at that moment, I knew I could let my exhausted body rest because baby would be here soon. The doctor told me to stop pushing.  Psh.  When you've been pushing for almost two hours and have TONS of pressure down low, this is easier said than done.  My body was pretty much pushing without my consent.  

Within 10 minutes I signed multiple forms, was briefed on a spinal tap, received a shot to stop contractions (ahh..much better!), Brandon changed into scrubs, a team was assembled and we were wheeled into the OR!  Brandon walked next to the bed as I was being wheeled there, and I remember this as one of the most precious moments of labor.  I couldn't see most of his face, but I could tell in his eyes that he was smiling.  And so was I.  "We get to meet our baby!"  We had been up all night, enduring this labor thing together, and suddenly the time was here.  

I received a spinal tap and almost instantly felt a rush of cold tingles throughout my body.  Brandon was then able to come into the OR.  Although I couldn't feel any pain, I absolutely could feel the pushing and pulling on my abdomen.  It felt as though I was wearing a snowsuit, and someone was touching me through it.  The oddest part was feeling them pull apart my ab muscles!  Brandon held my hand tightly and wouldn't look at what was going on until the doctor announced baby's head was out.  I guess it would be weird to watch your wife get cut into!  At this moment I asked Brandon if it was a boy or girl.  His reply: "I don't know, it's only it's head!"  duh... 

Within seconds, though, Silas was pulled completely out and instantly cried loudly, then sneezed, and then started crying again.  (He's sneezed at least once everyday since...)

Cue Brandon and I sobbing uncontrollably.  

Seeing Silas for the first time is a moment I will never forget.  Here was this little person I had come to know so intimately, and yet a stranger to my eyes.  Here was a little face we loved so deeply even though we had never seen him before.  What an overwhelming, joyful, beautiful moment for our little family!

The nurse who labored with us took a few photos of the three of us before Silas was promptly whisked away by the nurses to check his vitals, get his weight etc.  Of course, Brandon went with him so that he could hold him when they were done and then meet me in our room.  So there I was, after one of the most emotional moments of my life, lying stretched out on a table being stitched up, staring at the ceiling.  What's a girl to do?....Talk to the anesthesiologist about the weird weather this morning I suppose.  The nurses were really sweet, congratulating me on a long labor without drugs, telling me how cute our baby is and how much they liked the name. They moved me from one bed to the other and wheeled me to a new room.  I distinctly remember looking down and being really confused about what that thing was under the blanket near my hip...oh wait! It's my leg!  When your whole body is numb, it plays tricks on you.  

We stayed in the hospital for 3 more nights after delivery and our parents and siblings and even a few friends were able to come visit us and meet Baby Silas!  I know for a fact I was quite out of it during most of these visits, after being up laboring and enduring my first major surgery, but having loved ones around during this special time was SO special and we wouldn't have had it any other way.  

Although his birth story in no way reflects what we thought it would be like to welcome a child into this world, it is perfect because it is Silas'.  We are so blessed.

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