Deciphering Doubt

 

In my last post regarding motherhood, I wrote, “I’ve even surprised myself at how natural it’s been for me to step into this new role.”

Well, as the saying goes, pride cometh before the fall.

Suddenly, it seemed that I was questioning myself at every turn. The biggest cause for doubt was when there were a few months that Judah stopped gaining the recommended amount of weight. As much as I tried to play it cool, this was very troubling.

I struggled to sort through what the doctor was telling me, what the baby blogs were telling me, what other mom friends were telling me, and what my mama gut was telling me. Yes, I know all babies are different. Yes, I have plenty of milk supply. No, I don’t want to supplement using formula. Yes, I do see that Judah is steadily decreasing in the chart’s percentiles.

To add to it, I was also fighting the cultural pressures around me. More than a handful of times, women would straight-forward tell me how skinny my baby was. Tssking, they would judge me for the size of my child, chiding me for not feeding him enough, accusing me of ill-mothering simply because my baby wasn’t fat. Unfortunately, since Judah’s doctor was cut of the same cloth, I didn’t feel like I could trust her word, not sure if what she was telling me was because of her bias or because of science. As it was, there were already several other health topics we could not disagree more on.

While I never want to compare Judah with other babies, I also know there is an extent of which comparing is healthy in order to gage where “normal” should be. It was indeed concerning that he was not gaining as much weight as the universal baby charts averaged.

I immediately blamed myself for his slow growth. My previously calm, prayerful state of mind quickly switched gears and began to over-analyze the way I had been nursing Judah, searching for a solution.

Had I been too relaxed with the amount of time he nursed for?

Was it wrong to put him on a feeding schedule to try to get some structure in my life?

Should I not have taken him to work with me?

Were his surroundings too stressful for him to not nurse long enough?

Was he sweating too much from the summer heat?

I scrutinized the food I had been eating, questioning the amount of “good fats” I’d been consuming. Was I too worried about losing the baby weight myself that I hadn’t been eating enough? As it was, I was hungry all the time and felt like I was relentlessly snacking either on almonds or oat muffins.

I even consulted with a lactation consultant, getting ideas for different techniques or methods I could try with Judah. However, a lot of what she told me I had already tried and nothing had been changing.

Needless to say, this season was altogether mind consuming. I controlled as much as I could, but in the end, it was actually when we went on vacation that Judah began to gain healthy weight again.

I’m tempted to read into this and shame myself for the amount of worry, stress, and energy that I put into “fixing” Judah, wondering how much of that Judah was able to sense which could have contributed to his slow weight gain even more… The truth is, I will never know if Judah’s growth was a reflection of my mothering style or not.

But what I can know to be true is simply how thankful I am now.

Thankful that it was when we were around family and friends, taking a break from life, slowing down, and being cared for and loved, that Judah, too, felt loved. Thankful that his little body finally started to show signs of plumping up and that his Mama could take a deep breath in and out, realizing that he was going to be okay.

While Judah will probably never be the baby with chunky thighs or stomach rolls, what matters is that he’s healthy. And although he’s in the “below 5%” group on the baby charts, at least he is on the charts now.

As a new mama, I know that this is not going to be the only roller-coaster Judah’s going to take me on. But what this up-and-down ride of emotions has taught me is that while I will indeed search the heavens for all the answers, sometimes the best thing my baby needs is simply for me to breath, slow down, and give him all my love.

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The early moments of Mamahood.

Although the first few months have been more challenging than not, these early moments of being a mama have been SUCH. A. GIFT.

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I feel like I’ve even surprised myself at how natural it’s been for me to step into this new role.

For example,

I never thought I would be able to sleep less than 8 hours and still be able to function. So guess what? For awhile there I was sleeping fewer than 5 hours on average and I’m doing just fine.

I never thought a drug-free labor is something that would actually appeal to me… I mean, why would I do that to myself? Hmm, okay then, how about a home-birth? Bring it on. Seconds after pushing Judah into the world, I believe I even said something along the lines of “that was amazing, I would do that again!”

I also never thought I would be one of those first-time moms who doesn’t over-react about every little “issue” their baby is going through. It’s like someone snuck me a chill pill. Although I would say I’m naturally more easy-going, the fact that I’m able to remain calm when it comes to caring for my first-born babe is truly crazy, especially considering how much love I feel for him.

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What’s my secret? 3 things:

1)My amazing down-to-earth husband who keeps me calm and is in charge of googling whatever inquiry I may have about my little. Of course, for all the serious things we go to the doctor. But for the minor things I don’t trust myself when it comes to google search, so this man does it for me. This is also the man who wakes up at 4am every morning to rock my baby back to bed in order to give me more sleep. Sleep does wonders for my emotional stability and ability to process clearly. Surprise surprise. AND he makes me coffee. Thank you, babe.

2)On-the-job meditations for moms: I have a stack of 25 Bible verse cards my mama gave me. I keep them on the coffee table so whenever I nurse Judah they’re easy to grab and meditate on. One of my all-time favorites is Isaiah 40:11 which says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those have young.” Keeping truth at the forefront of my mind helps me to surrender my tight grasp on my baby and lift him before the Father each morning. I truly feel His peace around me.

3)Community: Doing life with a group of moms who have kids both in and out of diapers has been huge as I step into mamahood myself. Observing how mamas from several different cultures mother their babies has given me more perspective than I could ever imagine. These women have encouraged me, given me advice even when I don’t ask for it, and have taught me to have grace for myself when it comes to being a mama.

Saying all these things DOES NOT mean I’ve figured everything out. Oh my goodness. BY FAR! I definitely have my moments… ask my husband.

Seriously, I have gained so much respect for all the moms out there, and I haven’t even gotten to the discipline stage yet. I know my respect will only continue to grow as I experience each new phase of Judah’s life…

But all this said, I am simply overflowing with gratitude for this season of becoming a mama and for my precious baby boy. Every new day I have with him is a delight.

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Judah’s Birth Story: Part 2

The transition happened fast.

Around 9:00pm I started feeling the urge to push. Since my water hadn’t broken, I decided to let the doctor check me; I was 8 centimetres dilated!

My “favorite” position was kneeling on the ground with my head and elbows on the futon. I hated switching positions, and getting up to go to the bathroom was super dramatic. I could not have done it without my awesome Jillian Michaels birthing coach, my steady, solid husband, and my friend who helped me “ride the waves”.

The doctor checked me again. I was now at 10 centimetres. Good to go! I switched positions to make it easier for the doctor to deliver the baby, squatting in front of the futon with my husband supporting me from behind, holding me up with his arms hooked under mine.

Pushing felt different than I thought it would, though I really didn’t know what to compare it to. I have no idea if I was doing it right… I simply pushed when my body told me to, all-the-while picturing my baby boy laying on my chest…

FINALLY, I heard shouts that he was crowning. I got really excited, pushing with all my might, counting to 10 before stopping. COME ON BABY!

And then, at 10:46pm… HE WAS HERE!

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The doctor lifted him by his leg to show me my baby boy had entered the world. Immediately, the baby was placed on my chest. I looked down to see the most perfect little human I had ever seen. Wow. He was mine.

I looked at my husband. I couldn’t believe it. We did it!!!!!

As soon as the cord stopped pulsing, my husband cut the cord and we announced his name:

Judah Steele

We would go to the hospital the next day to get him weighed and measured.

After the placenta was delivered, I handed to baby to Jesse to hold while the doctor stitched me up. I had torn pretty badly. Did I care at the moment? Not one bit. It helped that the doctor numbed the area so I wouldn’t feel the needle– the only drug I agreed to for the whole birth.

The doctor had his nurse assisting him; it was hilarious to watch them converse back and forth about his stitching job.

Nurse: doctor, your stitches look beautiful.

Doctor: wow, they are really beautiful. My work is turning out very nice.

Once I was all stitched up, Jesse handed Judah back to me and he nursed for the very first time, latching on like a champ!

When all seemed well, we profusely thanked and then dismissed our all-star team.

Then it was just us three…

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Alone with our new baby, Jesse and I reflected on the crazy amazing experience of Judah’s birth, while looking at him in our arms. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. We thanked the Lord for our sweet Judah, and for giving us a textbook 12 hour labor birth in the comfort of our home.

I showered while Jesse changed Judah into his pjs. Then the three of us went to bed tired, happy, and hearts full as full can be.

Judah’s Birth Story: Part 1

I woke up on March 22nd still pregnant and disappointed I hadn’t gone into labor during the middle of the night. I felt slightly crampy, but I associated it with the membrane sweep I had the doctor perform the day before (a natural inducing method). So I showered then proceeded to eat breakfast.

Around 10:30am I realized the cramps were getting worse and somewhat segmented. Thankfully, my husband’s work plans that day had fallen through, so he was at home. I called out for him to come over and nervously told him the cramps were turning into contractions… “But I’m not 100% sure. It could just still be cramps…” As I spoke, I began getting emotional. The idea of what could finally be happening overwhelmed me with a rush of tears. To my surprise, I suddenly felt very scared.

Like the incredible man he is, my best friend leaned his face closer to mine, looked me square in the eyes, and told me that I was ready, I was strong, and that he was going to be right beside me the whole time. Then he put his arm around me and surrendered it all the Lord, thanking our Father that this day had come, praying for protection and for a safe delivery.

Knowing this could be it, we got busy cleaning the house. I was on my knees washing the kitchen floor when the contractions got a little too intense for me to be able to continue. So I decided to focus on packing my “just in case” hospital bag instead. Pausing for contractions, I finished packing. Whew. It felt good to cross that off the check-list.

Then the girls came over for bible study around 1pm, shocked that I still wanted to meet! Honestly, having them over was a good distraction, it was just the encouragement I needed and I got 2 hours of contractions out of the way….
I FaceTimed my mom– wishing she could be here with me!

When I had imagined going into labor I always envisioned going on a walk, and then making a cheesecake to celebrate and enjoy once the babe was born. I laid down on the couch to time my contractions before going out on the walk, and my husband got our “birthing corner” ready. He put a mattress cover and tarp over the designated futon, moved the kitchen table out of the way, and set up all the random towels and buckets and plastic bags. It was almost 4pm.

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As he was setting up, the contractions got a little more unbearable. But according to the timer app on my phone, they weren’t close enough together. I felt like a wimp– if I couldn’t handle these early contractions, how would I do later on? Being that I didn’t want to get off the couch, we X-ed the walk and I moved over to the futon. Jesse helped me to relax using the massage technique we learned in the Bradley Method book…

I really struggled to relax, but what helped me the most during this time was focusing on the sound of his voice. As they progressed, all I wanted was for him to apply pressure on my lower back.

And then I threw up. 3 times.

Jesse had asked me earlier why we had needed to buy 2 buckets. That’s why, hunnie.

A friend stopped by around 6pm to help with some massage reflexology that’s said to speed the process up. She worked on my feet while Jesse ate dinner, coming to my aid when I needed him to push on my back. Suddenly it seemed like he barely got a bite in before I was yelling out a contraction was starting again.

It was then we realized we had been timing the contractions wrong, and I was further along than we thought.

Around 7:00pm we called give my doula an update, and since she lives close she decided to swing by and check-in on me.  Seeing where I was at, she called the other friend whom I wanted attending the birth, and then we called the doctor. He arrived around 8:30pm.

I attempted to stay relaxed and in control by taking deep breaths and letting them out with constant, low moans, riding the contraction like a wave, breathing out until I reached the shore.

I was so focused that later I found out my birthing team had been laughing and making fun of my bossy, controlling attitude. They were taking turns applying pressure on my back, and apparently whenever they paused even to scratch an itch or weren’t pressing hard enough nor in the right spot I let them know very quickly!

The transition happened fast…

“Guess Date”

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When our baby decided he wasn’t going to show his face on his due date, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. After waiting 9 months, I didn’t think I could wait any longer to meet my baby boy!

A friend of mine told me they had been encouraged to refer to their due date as a “guess” date, and boy do I see wisdom behind that kind of reasoning.

As a first time mom, I’ve been doing plenty of research so I can know what to expect. I demolished a tower of pregnancy books, scarfed down motherhood blogs like brownie crumbs, and even started following other moms and their cute organic-clothed babies on Instagram. I would be prepared.

In addition, my current position has me assisting and doing life with other expecting moms. There’s a weekly prenatal class I attend that allows me to support new moms through their pregnancies, teaching them about the labor process, answering their questions about their growing bellies, and calming their worries when their babies don’t come on their due date. In fact, I put a lot of emphasis to make sure they know that “It’s completely normal and perfectly fine for a baby (without any risks) to be born 2 weeks after expected,” and then I add, “don’t rush to be induced!”

If only I could calm my worries as well as I think I help calm theirs!

As educated as I think I am on birth, waiting for the much-anticipated labor signs only to go to bed after an un-eventful day or wake up the next morning still pregnant… well, it definitely becomes a mental game.

At my last check-up, the doctor began talking to me about what steps we would take if the baby didn’t come by such-and-such date. I got pretty upset but put on a smile and politely said “I don’t want to think about that right now.” A firm believer in natural, non-intervention birth, my hopes and dreams for how this baby would be born do not include being committed to a hospital bed hooked to an IV-drip with a monitor strapped to my belly.

No. Thank. You.

I know that birth is a beautiful miracle, No. Matter. What.

However, I was not about to let my doctor hijack my birth plan because our baby decided he wanted to cook a few more days.

But because he brought it up, we had to think about it. And the thinking about it came with a rush of doubts and to be honest, a little bit of depression.

The daily question of “Why won’t he just come?” dug up emotions similar to when the daily question used to be (and still is, sometimes) “Why won’t God just heal me?” Feeling like nothing is ever going to change, I’m never going to be able to do the activities I used to do, like my whole life is on hold, like I’m not accomplishing anything…

These emotions merely point out what a self-centered, idolatrous human I am.

So what if my body is never healed and my feet always hurt? God will still use it for His glory.

Was having a broken ankle part of my plan for my dream wedding day? Most definitely not. Did it ruin the wedding? It most definitely did not. In fact, that day was one of the holiest experiences of my life.

So what if my baby isn’t introduced into the world the way I’ve always imagined? God will still use it for His glory, and my baby will get to play a part in His beautiful story.

For, the due date truly is just a guess date, and I’d much prefer my baby to be born on “God’s Date.”

Whenever that may be….

My Belly Buddy

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At 39 weeks pregnant, I felt the urgency to capture a few shots of me and my belly buddy. ‘He might not be in there for much longer!’ I exclaimed.

A few Braxton Hicks contractions had sent me into false hope, but also gave me the bittersweet realization that the pregnancy was almost over. Carrying and growing this babe inside me has truly been one of life’s deepest joys.

From when I saw those two pink lines appear, I went from absolutely amazed to completely in love at our first ultrasound appointment when we saw his bean-sized little body.

The beauty of our miracle merely expounded upon every milestone reached.

I rejoiced at all the firsts: hearing his heartbeat, learning his gender, and feeling him flutter —to which I often wondered, was that actually my baby, or just my lunch?

Up until feeling him kick, I must admit to the anxious spirit of a new mother… ‘How is he? Is he still okay in there?’

I would constantly question every day of growth, holding my breath as I counted down to the next doctor appointment where I would then exhale at seeing images of our baby on the black and white screen.

Although I knew these were normal fears to be having, I was ashamed of my desperate need to see proof as I let my thoughts get the best of me. Fear can be an ugly thing. I didn’t want the incredible mystery of life inside me to become any less God-glorifying, meaning, the gloomy cloud of doubt had to go.

Expressing my fears to my husband helped. But only by way of continual surrender to the Creator of all living things did I begin to feel freedom and joy in his beginning months of development.

Oh, and then when he started kicking me on a regular basis… how those jabs also served to calm my questioning mind.

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Watching my belly get bigger and bigger gave me such pride, and as we got closer to the last trimester, such discomfort! Sitting in one position for too long would make my legs go numb. Sleeping became a ritual of tossing and turning and getting up to pee all night long. I almost think I’ll be able to get more sleep once he’s here! Who am I kidding…

There are definitely aspects about pregnancy I won’t miss, but among many other wonderful experiences during the past 9 months, I will indeed miss the close intimacy and constant rubbing of my belly buddy. 🙂

However, I am very much looking forward to what’s around the corner! Going into labor, holding our son to my chest, giving him a name, kissing his sweet face, changing his poopy diapers… So far, it’s all just been talk talk talk. Not for long!

Baby boy, how you’re about to dramatically change our lives for the better!

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Soon to be a family of THREE!

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As we anticipate the arrival of the newest family member, I can hardly believe that we’re going to meet our SON so soon!

Looking back on the past nine months, I’d say it went fairly well.

Although, having nothing to compare pregnancy too, I’m not sure what my expectations were.

I knew my belly was going to get huge, but it actually didn’t get as big as I’d imagined. I knew morning sickness could be hit-or-miss, and for me, it was exactly that. Mornings were difficult, however I was still able to cope and function my way to lunchtime.

Did I have cravings? More like aversions! If my husband would simply say “broccoli” out-loud it would make me gag. The same gag that happened every day while trying to swallow my pre-natal vitamins… Who knew, the supplement queen and veggie-lover would struggle with these two very things? As it goes, these are the things women are told to increase in their diets during pregnancy, both of which I found problematic and near to impossible!

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Despite eating meat and potatoes (usually in the form of french fries) for the majority of my meals, when blood test results came back, my iron level was an 8! While this explained the low energy and dizziness I felt throughout the day, it stressed me out since I thought I was eating enough red meat as it was.

So my sweet husband went out and purchased a cheap coal grill, and I feasted on delicious home-made burgers and kebabs. We also splurged and made special trips to Shake Shack as well as frequented a mini burger eatery a few Sundays in a row…

I added an extra iron supplement, and after a month finally began to feel its effects. Unfortunately I ran out a week before the due date and have to wait for my parents to bring more with them when they visit after the baby is born.

 

Pregnancy, aside from the general aches and pains, was quite an enjoyable first-time experience. It helps that I have the most incredible, loving husband who is just as excited as I am about the bundle growing inside me. It’s clear, I picked a good one:)

And he’s going to be the best dad. 🙂

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Yes, I realize I’m wearing the same outfit for these pictures as I did for the pictures we took in Spain… I guess I didn’t feel the need to buy more than one “picture-taking” maternity dress!