Sunday, November 23, 2014

Athena Luthien's Birth Story - Part One

The only picture I have of me nine months pregnant.  Yep, this is about how I felt, too.

If you do not like to read in detail natural birth stories - then this would be best left unread. But if you do, boy are you in for a treat!

Athena's due date was June 1st.   Elisheva was born in April, and Guinevere in June  - so I just knew that Athena should come in May, and then we'd have a line-up of March (Lydia) to June - where each girl would get her own birthday month. We were moving to Utah for the summer (so Avram could teach a couple of classes at BYU) on the 16th - driving cross country, with a family of seven, no less.  We were coming back at the end of the Summer, so we didn't need to pack our whole house, but it was still a big move for a family of our size. Elisheva came 11 days early, and Enoch I went into labor 5 days early. The latest I had ever had a child was one day after my due date, so I felt pretty great and set for an early baby. Of course, narrative causality tells you that no way was Athena going to arrive like in May - the perfect month for her, and for our family (and her long suffering pregnant Mama!).

 Avram's mom graciously agreed to come out and help with Athena's coming, and with preparing to move.  It ended up that what worked best for her schedule was to come a whole week before the due date.  I was concerned that having help in town so early would somehow jinx her actual arrival, but I also was relieved that she would be there for the last few days of school after Memorial Day, just in case I went into labor during the night and she could still get the girls off to school.  Well, she came, Memorial Day came, the last day of school came - and went.  Nothing happened.  During the last day of school, I had a midwife appointment.  She checked me, and nothing was happening - no effacement, no dilation, nothing.  I know that one can go from nothing to birth in a day, so it's not like this is actually helpful information to know, but my heart has not yet been convinced of this.

Now, I need to take a moment and mention my midwife group.  For Athena's pregnancy, I saw the three same midwives that I had used with Enoch's birth - Emily, Cassandra, and Becky.  They had been out of Westerville and used St. Ann's hospital there when I had Enoch.  I had used a different midwife group previously with Guinevere's birth, whom I did not like at all, and they had delivered at Ohio State Medical Center, which hospital I had not liked for birth at all either.  Well, sometime between having Enoch and Athena they switched over to the OSU medical system, and no only delivered at OSU!  They had also added another midwife to the group, Pat.  So although I was loathe to return to OSU for another birth, I loved these midwives too much not to do so.  I was concerned about delivering at OSU, but after talking to them about my concerns, and how to change Athena's birth experience from what I had gone through with Guinevere (which, if you follow the link to her birth, you will see was nothing major at all - I just felt like we had become a cog in a machine, and did not enjoy my labor and delivery with her because of it).

The last day of school, a few days before my due date, I had an appointment with Pat. I scheduled an induction for June 6th, a Friday, because I wanted to have Athena and be home from the hospital longer than a week before we drove to Utah (which would put it a week and three days before). I have never wanted an induction, I had never asked for one, or had one that I scheduled. But I also wanted to have this baby for I had to drive cross country! I asked her to strip my membranes, just in case it could get things started.  It was incredibly painful (remember - my body was not in fact getting ready for birth yet), and led to a lot of contractions that were stronger than braxton hicks, but not bad at all...and that also went nowhere.

Whelp, the last day of May came and went, along with all my dreams of a perfect birthday line-up. Sunday brought her due date, but no baby.  By now Avram's mom, whom we call Mum, had been there for over a week.  We were all very ready for this baby to just come on out!  On Tuesday I had another midwife appointment.  I decided to move my induction date back to Monday, the 9th, because that would still get me home from the hospital by Tuesday the 10th, which would be six days before the move, which was almost a whole week, and more importantly, added on an extra three days that she could come without any outside prompting as well.  By this appointment it looked like there would be a baby actually showing up sometime, since I was dilated to a 2.5, and mostly effaced as well.  I think because of this it did not hurt at all when they stripped my membranes.

A few hours later, like they promised, the contractions showed up.  The kids were in bed, and we turned on The African Queen. There is nothing like waiting for a baby to show up to make you watch a lot of movies - even for me, and I am not a movie/TV person.  During the movie I timed each contraction - more than I ever have in my entire life.  My labors are quick, intense, breathless.  They do not involve passing the first hours with movies, walking, sleeping, timing.  However, with the membrane stripping, I didn't know what to expect, whether this was slowly moving towards actual labor. So I timed, and in a few places had to look away from Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn to breath through a few.  Hope rose.  And then the contractions moved further apart, lessened in intensity. The movie ended, and with a few contractions still coming, we went to bed.

And woke up the next morning.  Nothing.

It became a waiting game - every night I would go to bed, and hope against hope that I would wake up before the next morning - that in the middle of the night we would make a silent escape to the hospital while Mum held down the fort.  Every morning I awoke, just as pregnant, as full of baby, as I ever was.  As I told Avram repeatedly, although I was tired of being pregnant, I logically knew that one way or another Athena would come soon. The problem wasn't exactly being overdue, as much as being overdue and on a tight deadline.  It amazed me how I could carry a child so close to me, with her underneath my heart, her bottom firmly planted under my ribs and her head down low, and yet at the same time feel so utterly apart from her. I felt like I was waiting to meet her from a far voyage, that one day her ship would come in and we would meet at last, rather than carrying her around with me constantly, where ever I was, Athena was also.  Just not earthside.

Friday, June 6th I had an ultrasound.  The levels of amniotic fluid were high, but not concernably so, so we were given the all ok to keep waiting.  The ultrasound tech captured a very clear picture of Athena's face, with her hand laying next to it.  She was amazed at how clear it was, being that usually full term babies have their heads so low in the pelvis that you cannot see them. Not Athena!  She had no intentions of coming down, of coming out.  I was grateful that day that I had moved my induction date - because otherwise that would have been the morning of her induction, and clearly she wasn't ready yet.

Also, I was greatful, because Avram had ended up attending Jury Duty that day.  He had received the notice in the mail a few weeks prior, and they gave a set number of reasons for getting out of it - but none matched our situation (can't serve - will be out of state).  Also, we thought at the time that surely Athena would be born by then, so we didn't worry about it.  Well, the day arrived, Avram went down, and was gone all day. They told him that he had to come back on Monday, and give his reason he couldn't serve to the Judge then - that they had no authority to release him.  I hoped even more sincerely that Athena would be born that weekend, because I didn't want Avram to have to call in Monday morning in the middle of an induction and claim emergency issues, risking contempt of court if they were not accepted.

Friday night (Mum has been here for two weeks as of the next day, mind you.  We are all ready, ready, and over ready for this) I went to bed as pregnant as ever. We didn't get to bed until after one, since Avram had role-playing.  I bowed out, since I could think of nothing but having this baby, and so spent the night watching the newer Henry III with Aleatha and Mum across the street.  As our friends left after roleplaying, I joked with them that this would finally be the night that I went into labor, since we had stayed up so far past our usual bedtimes. Around 2:45 in the morning, I woke up, when I felt a gush.  Now, this is where things begin to get graphic, so don't say I didn't warn you.  My water broke first with both Elisheva and Enoch (his was when I walked into the chapel on Sunday - exciting times!), and so I knew what it felt like.  But - it was a small gush, and so I wasn't sure. I hopped (waddled) to the bathroom, where I was pretty sure, but not completely so, that my water was broken, or leaking at the very least.

I went back into the bedroom and changed my clothes. I also slightly woke Avram up, and told him that I thought my water was breaking.  Ever the one to be excited to talk to me when he is half-asleep, he mostly said nothing (but later told me he thought that this was not much to worry about in the moment - after both Elisheva and Enoch it was 11 or 13 hours until I went into labor.  I lay down and tried to relax, but then had three contractions in a row, and by the last one I wanted to control breathe through it.  I woke Avram up again, and announced that I thought this was actually labor too, and not just my water breaking.  By this point it was around 3:00 am.

Now, as I mentioned before, I have quick labors.  My labors from for the previous four were (from very start to finish, not just "active" (ie, four centimeter) labor): six hours, three hours, four and half hours, three and a half hours.  Also, my contractions start out close together and just move in closer - there is no gradual build-up, and I am basically in the final stages of labor - intensity-wise and distance of contractions - my entire labor. Because of this, we do not wait to pass go, collect $200, or stay at home.  We immediately and quickly move towards the hospital, as fast as two people, one of whom has to stop every two minutes for another minute of contracting, possibly can - as in, we quickly move like cold molasses pouring from a jar.

We began to do those timeless things that all couples do when preparing to go to the hospital.  I called the midwive's on call number, they called back, we discussed arriving at the hospital, I put the final few things in the hospital bag, Avram informed Mum of the situation, and we slowly stepped out to the van.

I think that this is a good stopping place - I will get to the second part soonish, I promise.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Let's talk about - Hard times and Grace

Recently I was at a Relief Society Saturday get together.  It was great, with good food, good company, and uplifting and thought provoking messages, both in the key note address (about the temple) and in the smaller classes. One of the classes I attended was about Discipleship of Christ, and around half way through the twenty five minute class the teacher asked if anyone had any questions or comments, since it had been kind of quiet.  I had a burning one, that had blazed since the beginning of class - even since I heard of the class title, and although I hadn't planned on asking it necessarily, an open invitation for questions was just too much for me to keep quiet.

Unfortunately in my question I made the mistake of mentioning struggling with balance in motherhood and disciplehood of following Christ, and specifically mentioned as one area of balance keeping a clean house along with parenting, performing religious duties, etc.  I was on the spur trying to come up with specifics so my question wouldn't sound vague, but because I mentioned housekeeping, most of the advice (which the class was very enthusiastic about - all the answers took up almost all the time that was left ) was about housekeeping, motherhood, work/life balance.  Now, there is nothing wrong with a few tips and tricks, a few ideas about priorities, reminders that our children get just wasn't actually the question that I meant to, but failed to ask.

So here I am writing my question down, having had time to think about it, and then I will lay out what I have thought of as answers, upon pondering it.

It seems in my life that the more that I am trying to do to live the Gospel (ie, specifically in my case as I have had more children - which my belief in eternal families, the importance of giving our Heavenly Parent's children physical bodies has directly impacted my family size) I feel like the farther I am away from actually being a disciple in Christ - the less Christlike I feel. When I was in college, I was a master at scripture study - it was one of the things that I impressed Avram with as I was getting to know him.  I used to be a very patient person, and up until I had three kids I felt like being a patient mother was one of my virtues.  I have had nine years since I graduated from college, since I got married.  I have had eight years of being a mother. I feel like I should perhaps be able to look back on the last decade, and see myself slowly, but surely getting better - becoming more Christlike.  I know I keep adding more plates that I need to keep spinning, but it feels like instead of becoming an expert plate spinner, I am slowly regressing backwards until all I have is shards of plates broken on the floor.  Now, keep my previous post in mind, so you know, I am not exactly the most chipper right now, but at it's core - how come my trying to follow Christ in the large in my life has left me feeling like I am further than ever away from him in the details?  Why do I struggle with scripture study now - not just in time, because let's face it, I have time, but in desire, in effort? Shouldn't I feel like I am leveling up in life, and not slowly drowning in muck?  Why do I struggle so much with patience and my children?  Why do I yell so much?  Why can I have the theory down pat - okay, love others, pray to be kind, show love, and yet once I am right in the throes of it not do any of this?

Alright, so my thoughts on this after weeks of pondering this and thinking on this question.

Well, number one, let's not forget that I have spent the last five years  with three pregnancies and three bouts of depression, so you know, I may not have the most perspective on my own life right at this moment, and any time that I feel like I am failing as a person, it may just be my skewed perspective talking and not reality at all. But even so - even if it is a skewed reality I am seeing, it is still my day-to-day reality in the moment.

A point to keep in mind I was reminded of while I was reading  from April's Conference of this year and Elder Neil L. Anderson's talk really stood out to me, specifically this part,

"Not all the whirlwinds in life are of your own making. Some come because of the wrong choices of others, and some come just because this is mortality.

As a young boy, President Boyd K. Packer suffered from the crippling disease of polio. When Elder Dallin H. Oaks was seven years old, his father died suddenly. When Sister Carol F. McConkie of the Young Women general presidency was a teenager, her parents divorced. Challenges will come to you, but as you trust in God, they will strengthen your faith.

In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return."

In the second paragraph I could add, "Thora had five kids in eight years, had post partum depression with other health problems three times, all while being married to a student and living on a graduate student's stipend."  It helped me remember that although feel like I am mostly leveling down, and that I am dropping far more plates than spinning, in reality I cannot always see how I am getting stronger.  A tree that is bending over in a hurricane does not look strong - it is being blown to its almost its breaking point, and yet in doing so it is also getting stronger.  So the first thing to remember is that although I feel like I am failing at being a disciple of Christ, I am in the whirlwind of my life, one of the busiest, hardest seasons of it, and if the strength I am spiritually gaining now may seem too little, it is because I am bent over in the hurricane, and as time passes I will be all the stronger and better for it.

Another thing I have been thinking a lot about with this is Grace.  As Athena hit three months, and the ppd started seriously affecting me, I talked to Avram a lot about how much I was struggling.  After one particularly long session, he gently told me that what he thought I needed more of was grace.  Now, at the time I got angry at him, because I felt like he was telling me yet another thing that I should be doing and wasn't, yet another way that I wasn't measuring up and yet another thing that I didn't have - yet another way that I was failing in not just mother hood, but in also in following Christ.  After calming down, and after a later conversation, where I tried to express this and we talked over what he had meant, and then after pondering it for the months following, I have come to have an entirely different view of grace.

Grace is the unearned, freely given enabling power of Christ to help us.  It's not an attribute like patience or an activity like hard work that you can learn and develop through personal accomplishment, it is divine power. I can't fail in having it - because it's not my grace at all - it's His grace that he gives to me.  Grace for me and my life in the here and now is realizing, and perhaps it has taken the grueling day to day job of motherhood in these last several years for me to finally realize this, that I need Christ, that I cannot do it on my own.  I have always known about the atonement for repenting of sins, but I am finally coming to understand the atonement for when we try, we try hard, we try with all we have be better, and it just doesn't make it.  I am an independent person - I like to be able to do things for myself.  I don't like feeling vulnerable in front of others, I don't like being vulnerable with myself.  But my life, my inability to succeed at even the simple goals I have currently (Raise children. Don't go crazy) has forced to realize that I cannot succeed at life, I cannot do it, without Grace.  And with grace, what succeeding means may not be what I want it to mean, and definitely not what the worlds means by success.  For today, it means that I keep praying when I mess up. It means telling my children about love and repentance and Christ's grace, so that when I fail (every day), they too can depend on it to make up the shortcomings in their life.

Tonight we made chocolate chip cookies, and despite using an oft-used, well-loved recipe the cookies spread out into thin, crispy flat-as-a-pancake cookies, and not the loftly crispy-edged, soft interiors that I usually, even with this same recipe, know and love. At the same time as baking the cookies, I was looking through the newest collection of books from the library and read the copy for one called The Prodigal, a ragamuffin story (which despite what I am about to say, am interested to read it - it is by Brennan Manning, and a companion to his The Ragamuffin Gospel, a book about, you guessed it, Grace).  It is a novel about a mega church preacher who has an affair, and loses everything - his wife, child, church, book royalties, and in the bottom of his alcoholic life finally discovers Jesus in his failures, not in his successes.  As I read the copy, I told Avram that what I really need is a novel that talks about someone who doesn't have an affair, or commit any big sin - I am pretty good at not having affairs, or killing people, or general debauchery, and whatnot.  I am generally trying, and always have, to be a good person - I have never stolen, tried never to lie, and have never even illegally downloaded music or somesuch.  And yet, I fail.  A lot.  My life feels like my poor chocolate chip cookies tonight - I feel like I am trying to follow the instructions I have been given, I have tried to be good and to follow Christ my whole life - I have tried to learn and grow and become a disciple of Christ, and yet I feel more like a crispy, hard, yucky chocolate chip cookie than ever.

What about Grace for the good girls who fail?  For people who try and try again, and still feel like they aren't making it?  I cannot speak for others, but for myself, as difficult as these last five years in specific have been, years where I have felt stretched thin like too little butter over too much bread - it is these years where I have been led to ask the hard questions.  Questions of faith, of meaning.  It is these years where I have told God exactly how I feel (which in one memorable moment after Enoch was when I was depressed, lying in bed and crying while praying, and asking, if this is the plan of happiness, then why don't I feel happy!?). It is also these years that I have found the most profound answers to my hard questions. These are the years that I have had my strongest personal revelation ever while doing an endowment session in the temple, where God told me that my sacrifices were sufficient unto him. It is these years where I have learned the most about grace, because I cannot do it on my own any more.  When I felt good enough, I didn't feel lacking.  When I wasn't lacking, I wasn't looking for help - I could not even see my own need.  Now I see my need every day, every hour, and as such, I have at times felt that because I lack, that I cannot come before the mercy seat.  And yet, as I have fully felt that need, I have learned more about mercy, more about grace than I ever did when I was doing better in my life.  Sometimes what I have seen as the greatest failures in my own life, I believe have directly led to my greatest successes in God's eyes - because he doesn't need someone who flawlessly balances housework with scripture study with patience with child care with motherhood.  He needs someone who is accepting His grace. And that, no matter where I am, no matter how many dropped plates I have, I can do.  And in the end, discipleship in Christ is all about accepting grace.

So - discipleship in Christ can be summed up as - it is hard. Life is hard.  Following Christ does not make it easy, but through the whirlwinds of Christ I can be strengthened through his Grace - and that will not lessen the wind, but it will enable me to bend into it and not break. Even though  I feel like I am getting worse and not better as life's trials come, I need to remember that these are the winds that are here, and that bending into them does not mean that I am getting worse as a person, but stronger in the long run. Sometimes the best way we can walk in Christ's footsteps is by crawling on our knees.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Let's talk about hard things - Post Partum Depression

(I am thinking (if I write, which is an open ended question) of starting a series of talking about hard things - hard topics.  This is the first.  If this is a series and not just a one off- just trying to keep you one your toes).

This may not be common knowledge, because I do not advertise it much, and not everyone is a mind reader, but I get post partum depression, and have after my last three children.  It may not technically be depression - I have had post partum thyroiditis after the last three births, from about month 2 1/2 to month seven or nine or so.  This means I am hyperthyroid at first - my thyroid works over time and everything about my metabolism speeds up, which can cause anxiety.  Then after a few months, the thyroid is overworked, and it slumps into hypothyroid, which at least until now has then self resolved after a few more months.  Hypothyroidism can also be a cause of depression - as everything in my body is working slowly and sluggish.  Regardless, the two together, combined with a new baby, feel like post partum depression to me.

On the positive side, I know what is causing it.  I know that in a while it will go away - that I will feel better.  But I cannot lie - when I have been pregnant with the last two I have had moments of dread, when thinking about the period after birth.  Well, anyway, I would like to talk about that more sometime. After all, I think that the uncertainty that comes when you are depressed has contributed a lot to me having a difficult time writing.  I feel self conscious - not because I think I have done something wrong, but because I don't like feeling weak publicly.

But, I have been wanting to talk about it more publicly for a while, because I know that one of the worst parts of post partum depression is feeling alone, broken in the dark, and for myself at least, hearing about others' experiences is very helpful to myself.

Talking to my sister recently, I laid out what has helped me the most with ppd.

They are:

Don't get on the computer until two (ie, stay away from escapism, from distractions, force me to live my life, etc.) Get off before getting the girls from school - more broadly - accomplish things first, and spend a limited time on the computer. This helps me because it is not a big to do list, which between five children, a house to run, food to fix, diapers to change, I cannot guarantee I can even begin, let alone accomplish. But I can guarantee that if I spend the bulk of my day unconnected electronically (I don't have a cell phone, so I have no access to social media, internet, etc, except through a computer), then I will inevitably clean more, spend more time with my children, feel better about what I can get done, and not focus and what I am not, don't have, etc.

Walking them to school and back, every day.  Two miles of walking total in the fresh air.  Gives exercise, fresh air, perspective. Makes me like my house better. I think it's not just the exercise, but being outdoors, even in the cold or rain, that helps.  I love being outdoors, but I find I don't just go outside - I have to have a reason to be there, whether it's exercise, gardening, yardwork, etc.

Reading from the conference issue of the Ensign every day - at breakfast, or in the morning after taking the girls to school. Ideally, I want to work in regular scripture study as well, but I have been struggling with accomplishing that, and so reading words from modern prophets and church leaders helps me to spiritually focus, gives perspective, and "fills the well."  I have something to say about filling wells.  For me, what I mean is doing activities that help me to be more patient, not yell, gives me more reserves to draw on when things are difficult - when the girls are home from school and it's homework time, and I am stressed.  I think doing fun, personal activities are important for everyone, but reading decor blogs, reading novels, and going out with friends, as important and necessary as these are, do not give me a greater measure of patience.  They do not reaffirm me in my vocation.  Now, when I have the time, these things are fun, they are good. And if I never did anything like this, then I would need to prioritize them as well - but I already do these things.  I have no problems prioritizing fun for myself. I am not a martyr. What I do tend to deprioritize are activities which are hard, which take work, which take effort and self discipline, but that I need to do anyway because I need the benefits, like the spiritual help,  or exercise - luckily I now have an outside reason that helps me prioritize that.

Pray.  But not just general prayers.  Not even just desperate pleas to help me just get through the day, and to not give up.  But specific - help me to not yell at the girls when they are taking forever in the morning - this morning.  Help me to find a way to help them get ready patiently. Gratitude for what I have. Actual conversations.  Praying while walking by myself - when I can pray out loud, and no one can hear me, works especially well.

Now, none of these things are going to fix my thyroid, they are not going to make me not struggle, or get rid of my post partum depression.  What they do accomplish, however, is helping survive through this time.  They help me do what I can, and I can guarantee that when I do all of these every day - I am happier.  I do better.  Now, perhaps just because I am human, perhaps because I have ppd, perhaps because of life, I do not always stick to even this small list.  And I seem to have a cycle, where if one week goes pretty well, the next week is harder, and I fall down and do nothing one day, which then makes the rest of the week go yet harder.  And some days, although I know that if I followed this list, I would feel better, but I perversely don't, and then I don't.

Unlike some people who have lifelong depression, I can honestly say that I have only had it these three times post partum.  I am not an expert in depression, post partum depression, or anything else related.  But I do know what has helped me, when I have struggled.  Along with all of the above, I try and remember that this is transient - that I will feel better soon.  That although my life feels more than I can bear, and overwhelming every morning when I wake up, that this time will pass.  So, overall - I try and keep a sense of perspective, and remind myself that I honestly don't feel all right, and that is okay - it's okay to struggle, to have to work hard at things that come more naturally for others.  It's okay that life is hard, that it is not supposed to be easy.  I have not yet succeeded in gaining so much perspective that I wouldn't just wish away the ppd I have had, the compassion I have learned for those who have depression, in favor of a life of positive naivety.  But...maybe I will get there yet.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lydia as she is

On Saturday, Lydia (8) was dragging her feet about getting dressed, ready for the day, cleaning, etc.  After pulling her up to her room, and giving her an ultimatum about getting ready, she came downstairs having written this poem (spelling, stanzas and grammar has been standardized for comprehension's sake):

Everything Hates Me

Everything hates me
I don't know why
Everything just does
At school, at home, anywhere I go
Computers, especially for the Queen in William Shakespear's time
Math.  How am I ever going to become a physicist if my math hates me.
Writing. Not as much.
Homework. Maybe for others it likes, but not me.
And the most surprising one I cannot believe, but it's true -
Sometimes my own family.
Everything hates me.

I just don't know what to do with a kid that won't wo(Ourrk, but can read for forever - who acts like she's deaf, and never cleans up - but likes to write poetry to express how she feels, and then reads it to us.

She has more poems, too.  Here's another one she wrote, while she was supposed to be writing a different poem (about releasing butterflies) for school.

The Wind

The wind sounds like someone whistling
[whistle not so good]
Rushing through the trees
Sometimes fast like a person in a race wanting to win
Sometimes slower than a perosn can walk
I love the wind!

Here's a sign she made yesterday - she is planning on making lots of duplicates.  Here I have kept her spellings:

Come and See the Walking Fence grils for one doller, cheap. Only one doller per persen.

(our address)

refreshments served           Saterday November 8th
                                             11 oclock, 3 oclock, 6 oclock

On my suggestion, she did change it to free, and added that the refreshments were free too.  She wants as many people to come and see eit (she walks on the supports for a wooden fence, while holding on to the slats).

I wish I knew how to harness her creativity and brain power for things like obedience, chores, and some more obedience.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Best Laid Plans

For years I have cherished the hope of coming back to Provo, of Avram getting a job at BYU and moving to Utah, buying a house, and staying there for the rest of my life. Never mind that Pa Ingalls and I have the same itchy feet, and I start having (literal, night-time) dreams of moving after a year or so of living in the same place.  I work this out by hoping that Avram would also make it on the study abroad circuit, and every few years I would be refreshed by a year spent exploring another country, and coming home would feel fresh and new again.  Regardless, the thought of being able to settle down, buy a house, have a full-time job with things like insurance and benefits that is also a satisfying career; these things have sustained me through the last nine years of marriage, especially at times when our journey towards financial and working stability has felt like the mythical Odyssey home to Penelope, minus magical carefree hedonistic years spent with a minor goddess (but with the addition of lots of consequences of fun yet responsible marital years, ie children).

As an intermittent hobby I have combed through Zillow for the latest house listings in my favorite areas, namely those around downtown, and the tree streets neighborhood up by the Y mountain. I know perfectly well that Avram getting a job at BYU has depended on a lot of factors, namely his qualifications, their having an opening, and then the perfect stars aligning and the hiring committee picking him.  Yet in comparison to any other school in America, which may or may not have an opening for many years at a time, and then for Avram to be on the market at the right time, and then for his application to stand out among many other applications, when they have never met him; in comparison, BYU has felt like a good opportunity.  The religion department is large, which means that there are more jobs that come available, and some years there are even more than one job available.  Avram has now taught for them a couple of times, so he is not an unknown quantity, but rather they have a real relationship - which could go either way, of course, but I believe (even through my natural bias as his wife) that Avram's greatest strength in the trifecta of academia - teaching, research, and being a good citizen, ie administration and working with others - is in teaching, so BYU seeing him up close teaching can only be helpful.  Their hiring of him for two summer terms has never implied, and we have never taken it that way, that he will be given preferred status for any future opening. but at least it means that they know who he is, and that he can teach well.

Now we only have a year left, and suddenly the far off distant future is right next to us.  As far as Avram's qualification, we know that he needs an outside (ie, not LDS) publication to be considered.  Currently he has an article under review, that we do not know for certain will be published, but we and his advisor feel confident about, and even if it is not published with the journal currently looking at it, believe it will be published somewhere. And yet, after all of this, it turns out that the Ancient Scripture side of the religion department will probably not have a job opening next year.  All the best laid plains I have been making all these years were always dependent on that one, small and yet vital aspect.  And now, I feel a little like we are free falling.

Of course, he will apply anywhere else that has an opening in his field - we have three other jobs that he knows he will be applying to thus far, and more will hopefully be posted.  We would be happy to go anywhere, truly.  There are even positives about some other places, like the thought of living in a small college town, or old houses with a lot of character, which I adore.  The climate of the midwest is great, with its rain and four seasons.  The west has a lot of family all over, and many mountains as well.  The east is where Avram's family is centered.  The south has a long growing season - great for gardening.  Part of the stress is that getting an academic job is rather time sensitive.  It is important to get a job immediately after graduation - the longer after you graduate without a job in the field, the more likely you will never get a job in the field.  So finding an academic job this coming year is not just nice, but vital.  Tenure track is the gold standard, but it would be alright to have an instructorship, and even adjuncting (teaching, but not full time) would be better than nothing. What is most scary is not having an academic job at all - with having spent eight years in graduate school, and in the end finding an entry level administrative or public servant job at best, or at worst fulfilling the butt of every joke about higher education by flipping burgers.

 But as with any area of life, I have spent so much time with a known, even just a potential known, future, that it is so hard to trust and accept different futures.  Especially because I truly believe that while God loves us, and wants us to be happy, he thinks happiness is found in following his plan and obeying his laws, and not found in a comfortable salary and satisfying career that one has trained for.  I know that trusting in him, and following him, and accepting what happens could mean not getting an academic job at all, but getting some other job that will support our family in an acceptable manner.  The modern conception of having to have a job that fulfills our financial, social and intellectual desires is just that - modern.  People throughout most of world history, and throughout most of the world today, do not have jobs that are fine-tune suited for every quirk, every ability they may possess, and I believe, I have to believe, that we can find satisfaction and fulfillment in our life while still spending most of the hours our life completing jobs that we do not love.  There is no shame in working to provide for life's basic needs, to help your family live so that they and you in turn may work on what's truly important - fostering family and friend relationships, following Him, finding joy just in living.

I partly have to believe this, because in my own life I have found this to be true.  I love being a mother - I love my five children, and would love to have more if God blesses us with such.  But I do not particularly love many of the aspects of being a stay at home mother as my "job", and yet for myself and my life circumstances, I also feel like it is important for me to be at home right now in my family's stage of life (among other reasons being that we have many young children, and I do not have an important or grand career that by accomplishing it will help others or fulfill myself , and we are able to financially live without a second income.  This is not meant to conscribe others in their lives - we are each unique, and what is important or works for me with a career is not meant to describe you or your life situation).  I know that although I have struggled, and will probably always feel a little unnatural in my job, that it is what is right for me and my family at this time.  Additionally, I only have an undergraduate degree in Near Eastern Studies - I also do not have the training or skills for some other, more fulfilling job that incorporates my individual interests and talents.  And yet, I believe that I can work hard at my job, that I have feel fulfilled in life, and that doing something I don't always enjoy or feel like is the best personal fit for me can still lead to a fulfilling life overall.  This life isn't about me, about what the world, what my job, what God can give to me, or allow me to even achieve through hard work, that will give me glory, fame, money, or intellectual satisfaction.  It is about what I can contribute to others, about how I can serve.  And that can be accomplished through a high paying job, or by working at home with no paycheck at all.

To bring this back to Avram, I know that is also the case with academia - Avram can accomplish much in academics.  I believe that he has a lot to say in the intersection of Early Rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew Bible, and if he gets a job at BYU, in the LDS interaction with both, as well as with unique Mormon topics such as the Book of Mormon.  And yet I also believe that after this next year, even if he never has an academic job, that his life up to that point will not have been wasted, that the Ph.d. and the eight years of graduate school will not be wasted.  Avram and I were talking recently, and both agreed that we feel like he has a voice to add to Mormon Scriptural Studies.  And soberingly, we both felt like that voice could either be heard through working at BYU, or alternately, not working in academics at all, and thus having the extra energy to devote to independent Mormon scholarship.

Truthfully, I feel like Avram will get a job in academia.  Years ago when we first returned as a couple to BYU, we both independently felt strongly while on campus that someday - not on any timeline mind you, we would return to BYU (of course, that could have been fulfilled by these two summers spent teaching here....). But those feelings have sometimes led me to a place of over confidence, because the alternative is too scary to contemplate - that in a year we may have a life we have never dreamed of, never planned for, even though it could be better than I have ever dreamed of as well.  I am a planner by nature - I plan everything from what I would do if Avram died when he is a few minutes later than expected from work to what we will spend our tax refund on months before it is even submitted.  I want to plan the future, but at a certain point a year from now our future is flat out un-plannable.  At the crux of the matter, time and time again I have had to surrender control to God, have had to recognize that I cannot force life to conform a certain way, despite all of my schemes, well laid and planned as they may be.

So here is my prayer, that I may be able to let it go, to let the future rest in its place, while finding joy in the place we are in now, uncertainty and all.  However, don't expect me never to visit Zillow again - after all, there are limits in what I am capable of, even in giving all to God.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

An attempt to find a voice

Whew, if there were electronic cobwebs, this place would be covered in them.  I think deep down I feel like I lost my voice somewhere, and it's hard to write when you don't know how you want to say things.  Realistically though, after this many years my old voice has probably gone the way of my twenties, easy socializing that doesn't require taking into account five children, a house that when it's dirty I have only myself to blame, and clothing that I haven't worn since three kids ago.  I think I'm finally coming to realize that the only way to forge a new voice is to, gulp, actually sit and write and feel dumb but still hit publish.

But, enough catch-up, let's chat.  Well, where is the Shannon clan now?  Currently we're in Utah, living in a two bedroom apartment with seven people (seven!  When did we get a new member?  In June of this year, and her name is Athena).  But only for the next couple of weeks, and then we're going back to Ohio, where Avram has one final year left of his Ph.d.  Yes, there will be an end to this mythical journey called "Getting a Ph.d. while having five children."  Just as a refresher, Avram is getting a degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from OSU, which specifically in his case refers to Hebrew Bible and Early Rabbinic Judaism. He's writing his dissertation on Foreign Ritual (mostly Greco-Roman) as seen through the eyes of the Early Rabbis, and what this teaches about Rabbinic conceptions of appropriate ritual and religious action.

We are in Utah this summer where Avram is teaching a couple of Book of Mormon classes at BYU.  He did the same thing two years ago, if this sounds familiar. We are even staying in the same apartment as last time, only this time with two more kids.  Enoch gets the privilege of sleeping in the pantry off the kitchen, while our three older girls are in the second bedroom we also call the playroom, and Athena is in with us.  Also, the Living Room houses a couch, small bookcase, and table and six chairs, since the kitchen isn't large enough for a table.  This makes the living room feel kind of like a crowded hallway (it isn't large either).  It's fun to laugh about, and it really isn't bad, because at home we have four kids sleeping in a room together, and Enoch would even fit in their room here, it's just that it's easier to have him sleep on the other end of the house from the sparse toys we have here.  Also, I know from experience that this will make returning to our three bedroom (one we use as a playroom) house that actually has a table in the kitchen feel positively roomy.

Lydia is eight, and is obsessed with poetry, reading, and avoiding writing and chores at any cost (writing more than chores, even).  Elisheva is six, and loves Frozen, makeup (which she doesn't get to wear), dress-up, pink and purple, and anything else that sounds like a stereotype of a six year old girl.  Guinevere is four, and is a great cleaner, very opinionated and stubborn, and cannot be forced into anything (but we have been working on the fine art of persuading for years now).  Enoch is the strong but silent type - he doesn't speak almost at all, even at 23 months.  We already have an appointment with the doctor when we get back, but until then we are grateful that he is fairly even tempered, and isn't too picky, except when it comes to food, because he doesn't seem to mind that we don't understand his garbled sentences.  He is also built like a tank, which is highly entertaining aspect of his character.  Athena is only seven weeks old, but has an old soul, and face.  I realize that pictures would be highly appreciated here.  Hey, I'd like them here too, but then I would have to go and upload them from my camera (which means finding my camera), then picking them out, then trying to get them in the post, and somewhere along this line giving up in disgust and finding some other activity that doesn't involve so much bother just to say a few words.

As for myself, well, I'm still me.  It's amazing how even though I have more kids, years, and opinions, I still am as me as I ever was - I pick reading over cleaning, love seeing people and also love spending time alone (usually reading), love the outdoors, but only if I am doing something in it (camping, gardening, hiking).  I talk too much, or just a lot, depending on who you are. My current life plans are to go back to school a year after Avram starts a full time job (so, hopefully in two years).  If he gets a job at BYU I want to do a master's degree in Archaeology/Anthropology, with a certificate in Museum Studies.  What do people with that degree do, you ask? Why am I going to get what could just be a vanity degree?  Well, first off, because I wouldn't be paying tuition, so why not?  Second, I actually would love to work in that field, or in many potential fields like that .  I previously wrote about that here on this blog, and my basic thoughts still remain the same.  Of course, we could end up almost anywhere (please, God, let it be somewhere), so the specific thing I would get a further degree in would depend on what what available.  BYU is our top choice for a number of reasons, which brings me to my final hobby - looking at the Provo housing market via Zillow.  I found a perfect 1913 home near where we live now (which is a couple of blocks from the Provo City Center temple that's currently being built) that is a great price.  Unfortunately, Avram has no job in Provo, so the grown up side of me is not putting in an offer, but I like to imagine being a crazy couple that buys a house in a state they don't live in, entirely on the slim hope they will return, and then I like to further wake up, and be grateful I'm not crazy.

So that's the Shannons.  In a nutshell.  Maybe a brazilnut nutshell, but that's just how I write - and is part of my voice, whether years ago or today.  Maybe next session we can work out topics I like to write about that I won't get too nervous or self conscious about, and stick back in a drafts folder to never see the electronic light of computer screens.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Enoch's Birth Post- August 2012

This post was lost by the Internet, but luckily my sister-in-law's reader had a copy saved.  

After my experience with Guinevere's birth, I knew that if I had another baby in Columbus, I wanted a different midwife group.  Aleatha, my sister-in-law, and Rachael, a woman in my ward (and whose house we are now's a small world) both had seen a group of three midwives that they absolutely loved, so I planned to go with them. 

Fast forward to December 22, 2011, and I was several days late for my cycle, and strongly suspected that I was pregnant...oh, and just a little thing, I also happened to have an IUD, the copper kind.  Avram's whole family was in town for Christmas, and I had been trying to casually pick up a pregnancy test, you know, without tipping it off to the extended family, and since I won't run errands for just one thing, I was failing. That, and I couldn't find it at the dollar store when we were there (yes, I use dollar store pregnancy tests...)  Finally I asked Avram to pick it up when he was already going out with Samuel, and he did, which made for a slightly awkward conversation, but regardless, I had the pregnancy test, and since you know that I have a ten month old baby, this next sentence may be lacking in the surprise department, but sure enough, it was positive.  I don't know why I worried about not telling family - the second we knew, I told the whole family anyway, which worked out well when several days later we were making dinner, and I was reduced to tears because the mango lassi that I made used a slightly mushy mango, and although it tasted fine, and no one else could tell, I knew that it was mushy, and the imperfection of it all left me bawling in my bedroom while everyone else cleaned up dinner....yeah, so it was a good thing we didn't attempt to keep it a secret, or else they would have concluded that I had just gone crazy.

Anyway, back on track to the birth story, which will come eventually, I toyed with just calling the new midwives immediately, but I thought that it made sense to go back to the people who gave me the IUD first, so we made an appointment for the next day with them.  A doctor at the same practice examined me, and sure enough, I was pregnant, and sure enough, there was the IUD, which thankfully was no where near the fetus, so she was able to take it out, which although still left me with a 50% chance of miscarriage, at least meant that I wouldn't have a high risk pregnancy, like would have happened if it had to be left in the whole pregnancy.  After the awkward moment where she asked if we wanted to keep the pregnancy (this connects to how I have had a complete change of heart regarding birth control, which I may write down sometime, but you know, you can only be so controversial at a time on the Internet, and as this post deals with natural births and midwives, I'll leave that for another day), we were all set up with a second follow up appointment, to basically see if the fetus stuck around or not.

So here we were on December 23, with a Christmas surprise.  Despite the fact that Enoch had a .05% chance of conception, we were both quite calm with it all - we had been talking about trying for another baby soon,  and that month had even while at the temple prayed about it. Although we hadn't received any particular feeling while there (and yet we both, independently and at the same time in the Endowment had a strong impression that Avram should become a temple worker.  I figure that God already knew we were about to have a baby, so didn't feel like we needed any inspiration in that sector....), we were both basically ready emotionally for another baby, and of course I got quite excited once there was new life on the horizon.

Back in the appointment mill of the the old midwife office, I was concerned that I would let myself just get sucked back into their system, but after that second appointment, where little fetus was just doing great, no spotting at all (and once again, the baby who's currently trying to wake up kind of sucks all the narrative suspense here), I just didn't make the next appointment that the doctor wrote out for me.  I hoped that they would assume that I miscarried after all, and never call me and harass me about it. I don't know if my assumption was correct, but they never did call and try and make another appointment, and so that was the end of that office, and on to the new midwives.

I really loved the new midwives - there were three of them, and I felt like they got me, and my situation.  Avram taught at BYU in the Summer of 2012, and so the biggest hiccup in the pregnancy came from me spending my seventh through ninth month away from any health care at all.  Thankfully I never went into labor, and after a successful two day drive across country, less than two weeks to my due date, I met with the midwives again, and all was well.  Sunday morning, six days before my due date, I thought that my water might be leaking. I had thought that often for the last weak (which in retrospect, it may well have been), and so went back and forth on going to Church, or what, but I eventually decided to go, since I had no certain idea.  I did wear a pad as a precaution, though.

As we walked in to church, into the chapel, a sister in the ward asked me how I was doing, and if I was ready to be done. I told her that I was ready, but that I was there...but that you never know, I might leave half way through church.  Except for in the place of the ellipses, there was a small pause, while I felt my water break.  Avram was ahead of me with the kids, so I just walked straight through the chapel and then on to the bathroom, while he meanwhile had no idea what had happened to me.  As I went into the bathroom, another sister in the ward asked me if I was ready to be done yet.  I ruefully told her with a laugh that I actually had just had my water break, and if she would be willing to see if there was anyone with a pad or something, because I wasn't leaving the stall until I could get something.  As an aside here, I love the women of the Gospel - they were all so helpful to me this day, and I felt like part of such a sisterhood.  So she went to see, and eventually came back with nothing, and then left again, and she and another sister (This is Susan and Marta, for those who know), and Marta offered me a baby's diaper that they found, which they could cut in half. 

Just as an FYI - first, if you're male, I hope that this all doesn't bother you, because I haven't even written about the birth yet, so if you don't like words like pad or water breaking, just click away now - I won't mind.  Second, if your water breaks your body continuously makes more water, so you will continue to leak water, which is actually amniotic fluid, until the birth. Despite the fact that there is only an 11% chance of your water breaking before labor, 50% of my pregnancies have ended with my water breaking first.

So, with all this accomplished, I waddled back into Sacrament Meeting, where I admit my thoughts were really distracted, and not focused on the singing, sacrament or messages.  We passed a paper note back a couple of rows to a family, the George's, who had offered to take our kids if Samuel and Aleatha were still out of town in Kansas.  In the note I told them my water was broken, and would they take the kids after church home with them?  They agreed, with a note sent back up. It made me feel like I had returned to junior high, but it was also comforting to know that things were arranged. 

I thought to originally stay at church, but after sacrament meeting I ended up calling the midwife, with Rachael's encouragement.  The midwife on duty, Cassandra, gave me the deadline of 10:00 pm to come into the hospital, in labor or not, from a 10:00 am water breaking time.  I pulled Avram out of Sunday School, and we went walking around near the church for twenty minutes, but I felt great, not a contraction to worry about.  Finally I decided that we should go home - I couldn't concentrate on church anyway, and I wanted to get a good meal in, in case I did go into labor.  At home it was so quiet without our three kids.  We finished cleaning up the house, so that I could come to a sparkling home. I did some kick counts with the baby, since he had always been such a calm baby in utero that often I didn't feel him move for a long time, and with my water broken, I didn't feel him move at all for long stretches.  A member, Tim, came over and helped Avram give me a blessing, which I really appreciated.  I still didn't go into labor. In the last phone conversation with Cassandra, she suggested trying to start labor with nipple stimulation.  I was reluctant to do seemed kind of weird, but as eight pm rolled around I got kind of desperate.  I knew I really, really did not want to be induced, and I knew that some kind of induction was hanging over my head. 

So I took a shower, as she suggested, and tried the technique - sure enough, I had strong contractions that started, but I didn't think they were real, or would last on their own. Feeling discouraged, and after the fifteen minute time period Cassandra suggested I got out of the shower, and while drying off had another contraction.  And while getting dressed, had another contraction.  And then while eating a late dinner (homemade Ratatouille, homemade artisan bread, and roast chicken - yum!) I had a few more.  And then I knew I was really in labor, and with my quicker labors rather than dragging it out going to the hospital, I began to want to hurry up and get there.  We called the midwife, and then my mother called, and then we were out and on our way to St. Ann's.  By now the contractions were picking up in intensity, and driving to the hospital was like it always is - unpleasant.  We walked slowly to the entrance, having a couple of contractions, and right outside the entrance, I had a killer long contraction - I leaned on Avram and breathed/moaned through it, and meanwhile, tons and tons and TONS of water came out - as in, overflowed the pad I was wearing, ran down my pants, puddled on the sidewalk into a two foot diameter or more.  As this was all happening, a couple left the birth center, and walked right by us.  A small part of me hoped that they had had children before, but if not, well, that's what you get when you visit maternity sections. 

We did the long laborious part of checking in, despite having pre-checked in (and really, what is the point? Why do they ask so many questions while you're in labor?) and they showed us to my room. Thankfully this hospital didn't have a triage room like OSU, so I was in my room to stay, and it had a birthing tub, which was exactly what I wanted.  I had worried that with my water breaking I wouldn't be able to have a water birth, but the midwife assured me it would be no problem.

After three labors, I finally feel like I know what really works for me, and my type of labors.  My labors are fast, and progress well on their own.  So what I need to do most is relax, and let my body do the work.  I reclined in the bed, half sitting up, while Avram sat next to me and talked me through each contraction, as I slowly breathed in and out, letting my out breaths go on and on.  I concentrated on relaxing all of my body, so that the only thing that was working was the uterus. The triage nurses joked that he was relaxing them - they seemed very comfortable with labor, and natural labor, which was good for me.  At some point during labor, I noticed that there was a cross with Jesus on it on the wall (this being a Catholic hospital and all).  As I focused on the cross, I thought to myself that Christ has suffered the pains of all mankind, and boy is that a lot of labor.  I knew that if he had made it through for everyone, that I could make it through my one, small birth.  This thought helped me keep going, and gave my labor a religious tinge I had never thought of before in the actual moment.

I had never tried a birthing ball, so I wanted to try it, so while they were waiting for the midwife to arrive and give the go ahead for me to get into the tub, I laboriously got off the bed, and sat on a ball.  Where within one contraction I knew that it wasn't for me.  I then tried to just relax on the ball, which wasn't as nearly as pleasant, but by this point the water was filling, and I didn't want to have to get back into bed, and then get right back out again.  The midwife, who was now Becky had arrived, and given the all go ahead for the tub, and I got in, and immediately relaxed again.  We had arrived at the hospital some time shortly after ten, and by now it was probably around 11 pm.  I love laboring in water - I did it with Lydia, and went from 2 centimeters dilated to 8 in an hour and a half.  I floated in the water while Avram continued to support me, by giving me ice chips and water.  During contractions I submerged my self all in water but my face, and just relaxed into the warmth. 

I could tell that I must be moving along, and that they thought I was nearing the end, because people were coming in and out of the room, preparing a bed for the baby, and the midwife came back in and was working with me, but I was also intentionally trying to stay slightly out of it, focusing on one contraction at a time, and not thinking about time passing, or being goal oriented to get to the end.  Labor is like nothing else that I've experienced - you have to find the zen in it, and let it carry you, but not like a current that's our of control, but rather some other overwrought metaphor that boils down to you controlling the situation.  I had a super long contraction, and after working through it could tell that things were progressing.  Around this same time the indigestion/heartburn that had plagued me this whole pregnancy visited again, and I had to sit up to calm my stomach.  The change in position affected how well I could zone out during contractions, which is to say that I stopped zoning out at all, and suddenly I wasn't handling them so well anymore.  Becky the midwife talked me through them, and as I told her that I couldn't do this any more, and I didn't want to, she became firm with me, and told me, "You are doing it.  You're doing it right now."  At that moment it was what I needed to hear - someone who knew I could make it through. 

With most of my births, I haven't liked the pushing stage - it's been fast and furious, with only small breaks in between contractions instead of large ones.  With Guinevere I was still in transition (emotionally, if nothing else), when she was born.  This time I was terrified of pushing, because I thought it would be worse than transition, and so I had a hard time getting through transition, because that's where I was at, and getting past that mental block.  Soon enough I was almost ready to push, and although I was mentally not quite on top anymore, Becky was right there, encouraging me, and preparing me.  When I had my first pushing contraction, I was still unsure about wanting to continue, but it felt so much better than not pushing.  I was still in the tub, and Becky had me sitting upright, with pulling my legs up against me. As I pushed in a second contraction, the baby's head started coming out, and Becky told me to keep pushing, that I needed to get him all out in that contraction (because it was partially in water, they always want to  make sure you don't have shoulder dystocia or any other complications).  I drew on reserves I never knew I had, and pushed and pushed, and out he came. It was an amazing feeling, feeling him come out - I have never been so mentally present for the that moment, and realizing that my body had actually brought forth a baby, that an 8 lb 13 oz baby had come out of me, which the geometry of that equation still confounds me. 

I kept exclaiming, "A baby, I had a baby, a boy!" Which felt a lot less inane in the moment, but there are few words that can adequately describe birth, especially when you're the one delivering.  Becky quickly cut the cord, because she likes to move Mom and baby out of the tub immediately, and doesn't like them being attached while trying to move in the slippery water.  I knew this was coming beforehand, but was alright with the trade off of having a water birth (or rather, water labor, which was what I cared about more) than waiting to cut the umbilical cord.  We moved to the bed, and looking back it was like a scene from a horror movie, with red tinged water everywhere, even dripping down the outside of the tub.  Thank goodness that was someone else's mess to clean up.  They measured him and such, and then I got to hold him and feed him for the next forty minutes or so - the perfect opposite to the last delivery.  Also, once they got me to the recovery room, the nurse brought me a toasted bagel with cream cheese, although it was the middle of the night.  I scarfed it down.

Enoch Bleys was born at 12:23 am on Monday morning, just missing his grandfather's birthday by 23 minutes, but instead hitting his uncle Neal's birthday.  We didn't name him that night, since I wanted to wait until I had some sleep behind me before making that big decision, but named him the next day (and Enoch wasn't even on the long list of name options, but I'm glad we waited to name him until we had some time to think).

In a fun coincidence, Becky was also on duty the next night, when my friend Rachael had her baby boy Marc (Mark?) - at 1:15 the next morning.  I got to visit Rachael just hours later, and was her first visitor. 

Overall it was such a better labor, and my favorite labor so far that I've had. If this is the last labor I ever have, I'll be happy I ended with it.  I felt bad that I lost it during the transition, but at the six week follow up with my Midwife, I told Becky sorry that I hadn't kept calm during transition, and she laughed it off, and said that people routinely struggle with transition, and not to worry about it.  I was especially grateful that she spent so much of the labor in the room with me, and knew when to be gentle with me, and when to be firm.