3.25.2016

Lent and Holy Week

It's mid afternoon on Good Friday. The weather is fitting, as it always seems to be - overcast with the threat of rain. The house is quiet. Sugarbeet is napping and R is at the Good Friday service at our parish.

I'm going to pray the Stations of the Cross when I'm finished here.

This Lent and Holy Week have not felt very "Lent-y" or "Holy Week-y". In reflecting on Lent earlier this week, I do think it was more fruitful than I initially thought. And Holy Week will be too, I think.

I had intended to return to reading The Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas for my Lenten practice. As much as I complained about it during my graduate classes, I miss it. While it stretches and challenges my brain, the way it nourished and deepened my faith - both the head and heart aspects of it - is something I missed. I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took me to have the 'ah-ha' moment of being able to read The Summa because I wanted to and not because I was in a class requiring it.

I have The Summa downloaded onto my Kindle, but due to a recent move, said Kindle was not located until last week. Add that in with sheer exhaustion -- mentally and physically -- from the schedule of moving and caring for my Nan and it just didn't happen.

What did happen though were weekly Wednesday nights and Thursdays spent with my Nan and twice a month weekends. Times when I was stretched outside of myself. When what *I* wanted to do was the last thing that could or should happen.

Instead, I learned (a little, I hope) what it means to see Christ in another when that other is being less than kind to you; what it means to be Christ to another with no expectation of anything in return. I learned to die to myself as I knew the only things she would truly remember and share with others were my failings. The things I did right would go most often unacknowledged and nearly always unremembered.

I spent hours in the car with tears streaming down my cheeks as I reflected on how I failed her, and daily praying for the strength and knowledge and self-control to think before I spoke or acted.

I do not think it is any coincidence that she moved to her new apartment on Tuesday of Holy Week.

And then, goodness, someday maybe I will learn to check my pride, she was moved in and I thought to myself "oh good, now I can really enter into the Triduum and reflect upon the Paschal mystery."

We made our schedule - Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper followed up with 4 stops at other parishes for prayer at Altars of Repose; Good Friday service in the afternoon and Tenebrae in the evening; Saturday Evening Vigil Mass; and Mass on Easter Sunday.

For a moment I considered Sugarbeet and thought to myself 'she is starting to be more active and vocal at Mass, is this a good idea?' But I thought, oh, she usually nurses and falls asleep, and the services around bedtime will be perfect for that.

And so last night, we headed off. She chattered during the songs, made friends with all the people around us, and settled in to nurse during the homily as is her routine. I thought 'oh good, she'll fall asleep and won't wake up until we put her in her PJs at home'. And then, her eyes popped open and she sat up, smiled at me from ear to ear and I knew there would be no sleeping. We stayed in our pew until just before Communion. Then, I knew with the transfer of the Eucharist to the Altar of Repose a sacred silence would be requested, and silence in leaving, and so we headed to the back where we could watch through the glass doors. We made it until the procession went past us and then headed outside to avoid any accidental squeals during the time of silence.

And that was when the tears started and I realized how selfish I had been. *I* wanted to make up for what I'd perceived as a failed Lent with a 'perfect' Triduum. And for 2 adults, it was a perfect schedule. Heck, for Sugarbeet's 'usual' it was a perfect schedule. But it did not take into consideration that she is no longer 3 months old and sleeps through anything; that she is becoming more and more social and alert and interested in everything around her. And I knew to my very bones that we should have stayed home.

Yes, children belong at church. Yes, for weekly Sunday Mass, the squeals and giggles that happen are part of what it means to belong to a Parish Community. But, in my opinion and for my family, the Sacred Silence that is part of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil should be respected by all present. And so, this afternoon, Sugarbeet and I are home.

If she took a bottle (that's another post), she would be home with a sitter.

(And just in case anyone is wondering, if you decide differently and have a crying or giggling baby at Mass this week, please know I support you in that decision as well. I think absolutes as it relates to children at Mass are dangerous and only serve to discourage families from coming and participating and I do not intend that. This is just what we decided is best for us.)

And so, Lent and Holy Week have looked and will look very different this year. Yet, one thing will be the same - the story doesn't change. We know the ending and that is where I find my peace and comfort this year. In allowing myself to rest in the knowledge that we know death has no victory and on Sunday morning, the tomb will be empty, the bells will ring, and Sugarbeet can squeal and giggle and jabber all she wants as we celebrate Christ's victory over death.

For now, the silence of my home. Stations of the Cross prayed in private. And the knowledge of the full story will be enough for me to enter into this most sacred of days.

A Blessed Triduum to you, friends.

3.04.2016

Nan and Sugarbeet

There have been many drastic changes in my life in the past 18 months. I have been stretched and pulled in ways I couldn't have imagined before in all ways - spiritually, relationally, physically, and emotionally. One of those ways is in caring for my Nan.

I have written about her in this space before, and many of you have prayed for her over the years. One of my greatest sorrows of infertility was perhaps never taking a photo of 4 generations of women again - growing up, that was one of my favorite things, as the great-granddaughter, to take 4 generation photos with me, my mom, my Nan, and my Big Grandma. I looked forward to doing so with a daughter of my own, even in the times when I didn't think I wanted children, I thought that would be nice. It was something not 2 years ago, I found myself mourning.

Then, Sugarbeet came along, and with her, many 4 generation photos.

Then, in December, just after Christmas, Nan fell. Again. That made 4 falls in less than 6 months. This, on top of memory issues that cannot be ignored combined with a text from my mom saying 'it's time' and I packed up and moved in with Nan until a better solution could be arranged. By some miracle, we visited a retirement community with an assisted living-type of wing and Nan loved it. She put her deposit down and is on the waiting list moving in at the end of the month.

In the meantime, every Wednesday night and every other weekend are spent with Nan. The other times, she has caregivers from an agency with her.

And I'm failing her. I'm failing my Nan each and every time I'm with her. Memory loss and aging (we are still awaiting a formal diagnosis of dementia/Alzheimer's) are no joke. Nor is being the caregiver for one struggling. Kat recently wrote about caring for her mother-in-law and the similarities between care-giving and motherhood, and it was right at the start of my increased time with my Nan before her fall, and I've wanted to write this post ever since. If only to say, no to shout, YES YES YES!

In fact, for me, caregiving has given more experience with the challenges I thought would come with motherhood than actual motherhood has. Waking up in the middle of the night to feed Sugarbeet? Sure, and I'm actually happy to do it. (Which if you know me and my need for sleep is something miraculous.) Having to wait to shower or rework my meals to accommodate someone else's needs? No problem! Giving up "my" time to care for another? Sign me up! I worried so much about my ability to be a good mother, and don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect by any means, but the struggles I anticipated are not the ones I'm facing.

Except that I am, in caring for my Nan.

My head knows that dementia and memory loss are out of her control. That her outbursts are not something she wants to do, nor can control. That no matter how many times I say 'remember...', she will not. And that this is NOT a helpful caregiving strategy. My head knows that I need to hear the same story over and over. That I need to remind, give memory tools, and remind again.

And yet, I fail. I lose my patience. I yell (not so much anymore, but there was one awful night where I really yelled). I cry. I roll my eyes. I take over and do it myself. I forget to appreciate the little things that she does remember (like stocking her fridge with the yogurt I like, or putting tea bags and splenda on the table for dinner). I forget to just enjoy my time with her; to be her granddaughter and let her by my Nan.

I try to learn from each mistake. From each tear, from each rant of frustration. And yet, I find myself just making new mistakes. I give myself a pep talk each drive to her home, reminding myself to see Christ in her, and to be Christ to her. And I fail. And my heart hurts with each failing.

The saving grace is Sugarbeet. She forces me to remember that Nan is still Nan. Sugarbeet loves Nan so sweetly. I often reflect that they 'get' one another because they are both so close to God - Sugarbeet so fresh from Him, and Nan on her way back to Him. And I am gifted with watching them play - a gift I do not deserve because of my failings. A gift I know I will treasure long after Nan has gone Home to Him. And I see the beauty in that. I relish their playing. I relish their shared laughter. In fact for the longest time, Nan was the only one who could make Sugarbeet laugh.

I have faced the struggles of my relationship with my Nan that have occurred over the years. In caring for her, our disagreements have all come rushing back to my memory. We are too much alike, it is true. I see her stubborn and double it. I see her independence and raise it. And so we battle. All I can do is hope that through our battles, she knows I love her and that I want to protect her from harm the same way I want to protect Sugarbeet from harm. Not allowing her to stay alone for long periods of time is much the same as not allowing Sugarbeet to reach out and touch a hot stove - with the only difference being that someday, Sugarbeet will earn the stove is hot and stop reaching out to touch it. For Nan, she will not learn at this point. She may remember some things, some of the time, but she will no longer gain new knowledge and be able to be fully trusted with it.

-------------------

I started writing this when I had no end in sight; when the time I'd be responsible for her care was open-ended. But now I do have an end. I have 2 more Wednesdays and 2 more weekends with her at her house. At the house I played in growing up, spent a week at each summer. Where so many holiday memories are contained.

At the end of March, we will move Nan to her new home. It is 6 minutes door to door from my home. She will be cared for. She will have 3 meals a day prepared for her. She will have Bridge games, and crafts, and make new friends. Someone will look out for her. She will still have some independence - not being forced to get up for 8am breakfast (she loves to sleep in - another similarity) and being able to have a coffee pot, refrigerator, and microwave in her apartment.

And maybe, just maybe, I will once again be able to go visit my Nan and just fully be her granddaughter. I will not have to keep her on schedule; fix her checkbook; remind her of what's coming up tomorrow, and this afternoon, and 5 minutes from now. I will be able to visit and enjoy her, just as Sugarbeet does.

And in these remaining 2 weeks of caregiving, I will continue to try to be patient. To not yell. To see her as God sees her, and to be Christ to her. I am sure I will fail. But now, I see light at the end of the tunnel, and perhaps I will not fail quite so badly. Perhaps the knowledge that someday "Nan's house" won't be "Nan's house" anymore will remind me to enjoy these last visits, just as I enjoyed them so much growing up.

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In all of my failings, there is one thing I think I might have done right. I had the idea to capture the time of Nan and Sugarbeet together with a special photo session. The photographer who took Sugarbeet's maternity and newborn photos agreed to come and spend a morning with us, photographing Nan and her great-granddaughter at play.

This morning, just 2 months ago. These photos. Perhaps they are proof that I am not failing as completely as it feels like at the end of long day.

(The link to the photos is a blog post written by the wonderful photographer who has become like family as she has documented my pregnancy with Sugarbeet and her first days of life on the outside.)

And so many candid shots that I've taken. To remind me that this woman, my Nan, loves deeply and bears the burden of her aging more than I could ever bear it for her. Photos taken, that someday will heal a sad heart that says goodbye and will remind me of good moments among these days when I am tempted to only remember the details of my failings.

Our most recent 4 Generations Picture - please ignore my cheesy smile, Sugarbeet's face, and Nan's lack of camera-looking. It's hard to get everyone to cooperate these days :). At least my mom looks good, as it was her birthday.
With Nan and Nan's sister, my (Rebecca's) godmother.
Helping Nan read the paper.
Out to lunch!
People watching at Starbucks.
Playing together at home.

2.24.2016

Let's Talk About Being Pro-Life

If you haven't already, please read: *Disclaimer Post*

I have been wanting to write this for a while now (and it's still not as polished as I'd like, but I need to hit publish and keep writing), and well, it's just time to talk about being pro-life and what that looks like to a non-Catholic or someone who does not 'fit in' with the circle of 'orthodox/faithful/traditional/whateverothertermyouwanttouse' Catholic.

From my own experience with this: (Reminding you of my own transformation from being pro-choice, of the 'I'd never do it, but who I am to tell someone else what to do' ilk, to being fully pro-life from conception to natural death including opposing the death penalty and euthanasia.) I remember the first person who said to me "Thank you for choosing life" upon learning I was pregnant with Sugarbeet. At first I was a little put out, thinking why would someone even say that to me? Not choosing life had never even crossed my mind, placing her for adoption had (that is a story for another day), but not carrying her to term and giving birth to her? Um, nope, never even occurred to me. And then, I thought about it.

Pregnant. By someone other than my husband. Facing having to quit my job. Facing having to tell my parents. Facing having to tell a community of faithful Catholics who I considered some of my dearest friends. Starting over, with no guarantee of support from anyone.

Oh. I got it. I was nearly the poster child for NARAL and a woman's right to choose.

And then I did share the news. And many of the things I feared would happen, did indeed happen. To list a few: people I considered friends quit speaking to me because I did not do things the way they saw to be the 'only way'. My Dad and my relationship is fractured to a point I'm not sure it can recover, he has only seen his granddaugther 3 times in 6 months. My stepmother has never seen Sugarbeet, nor has my littlest brother. I was removed from blog-rolls, deleted from being able to see private blogs I followed, unfriended on Facebook and in real life. And more.

I feared, and quite honestly knew, these things would happen. I dreaded them. And I'm so glad I didn't even consider some of the other things that would happen. I fought the urge to just quietly disappear and not tell anyone, so that I could at least pretend it was all my 'choice.' And then I thought, oh my. What would my 19-year-old self, or even my 25-year-old self, have done in the similar situation?

And y'all, I was shaken to my core. I knew, without a doubt what she would have done. She'd have 'taken care of it.' Her pride, wanting to preserve the way others saw her, and fear would have taken center stage, and she'd have done anything to preserve it.

Knowing that rejection and not being accepted are two of the things that I struggle with more than any other. Knowing that only in the last few years of gut-wrenching soul searching and spiritual direction have I even been able to admit that aspect of my own weaknesses. Knowing that without years of infertility, I did not have a full respect for life from the very beginning.

And, where this fits into the bigger pro-life picture, and our responsibility as pro-life Catholics/Christians is this: what about the girl or woman on the outside looking in? The lurker who read comments in this space refusing to congratulate me because my pregnancy was not in the perfect circumstances? Which I have said I intellectually understand, and accept. But, if we say all life is a gift and is to be cherished, why do we withhold the congratulations on this gift? And what of the girl who never hears the word 'congratulations' because those around her are too busy focusing on her sin and not on the life that is growing inside of her?

And about the girl who knows her father will quit speaking to her?
Who knows she will no longer be invited to participate in activities with the people with which she has found a home?
Who will be forced out of a group that she founded to support others?
Who will have friends (who she once called friends) of friends refuse to be in the same space with her?

How do we possibly preach pro-life and behave like this?

It is no wonder that girls and women walk into Planned Parenthood and 'take care of it'. They hear that they are loved and begged to choose life, but then they see the actions of those same people towards someone. And dare I say, they see it and it frightens them more because it is 'one of their own.'

We truly do say: Your baby's life and your life are valued, if and only if you adhere to our standards. Do things our way. These may not be our words, but these are the actions of so many.

You may be thinking: but you knew better. You were different. We treated you differently because you knew better. And to that, I say. Yes, I knew better. So what?! I was still a woman facing uncertainty, pregnant and in need of the support we claim to offer. Yes, a few (and you know who you are, and you will never know the lifeline you have been to me) offered this kind of support, but the majority abandoned me. My place of refuge, of love, became a place of rejection, all because I no longer fit on the pedestal upon which I had allowed myself to be placed.

I shudder to think of the number of women who have been my 19 or 25 year old self and walked through those doors. I shudder to think at how my own actions in the past have contributed to any woman walking through those doors - directly or indirectly.

If we truly want to change our culture of death, we must change the way we respond to unplanned life among us. There is a way to walk with someone and to love them, without condoning their sins. Some of you, have done a beautiful job of this, and I don't want you to feel forgotten in this. From those of you who offered congratulations, to the one of you who offered me sanctuary, to those who offered tangible resources if needed, to those who have shared in my joy of Sugarbeet (which reminds me, I do have a secret FB group with more frequent updates and pictures if you are interested, just send me a PM or email and I'll add you), to the small gifts and notes offered along the way. These are the things that are the actions of truly pro-life people. Sadly though, these are what have caught me most off-guard; what have surprised me. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't it be the other actions that surprise? The other actions that are the exception? And, I suspect, those of you who have remained connected to me have received some push back as well. In fact, I know it to be true in more than a few instances. My head, my intellect, understands it is a consequence of my sin and our fallen world. Fortunately, I am not 19 or 25 year old me, and I can bear it, and I can reach out to those who are willing to walk with me when needed.

The very human side of me, who found a community and a 'home' here during some of the darkest days of my life, well, she still doesn't get it. There is a hole in my heart. You may say I deserve it. I deserve the isolation. That my sins demand it. Fortunately I am learning (finally, perhaps) to fill that hole with Jesus and no one else.

But, I ask you then, what does that say to the young woman standing at the door of Planned Parenthood? How does that give her any hope that she and her child will be welcomed and loved? That her acceptance as a human person, and that her baby's worth to be congratulated depends on her manner of conception?

We preach and march and vote and pray 'pro-life'. We must find a way to truly act it.

The Disclaimer Post

There has been so much to process and live through these past few months and I've felt such a strong pull to do it in this place. The title of this space feels more right than ever these days as I stumble, crawl, and trip along my road Home.

To help eliminate the need to qualify everything in every post, I'm going to put this here to hopefully have one place where the following needs to be said and can be referred to when needed:

1 - Any sin I have committed I name as such and I do not encourage or uphold it as a choice to be followed. Ever. In any circumstance.

2 - I realize that my sin and bad choices led me to face a lot of the struggles I am currently facing. I do not deny this. I do however still have to deal with the struggles before me. Much like I wrote about the Marathon Analogy for pregnancy after infertility, long before I was pregnant myself, so to is this situation. I 'signed up for' these struggles, if you will, but that doesn't make them any less real or less difficult to experience.

3 - I am still a human being and while I'm trying daily to correct the errors I've made, I'm still bound to make mistakes and am most definitely, just as I was before, a work in progress.

4 - Some feel that I shouldn't write about all that has transpired in my life, that because there are still unknowns and ongoing struggles with sin that I should just quiet myself until all is worked out. I disagree. I do not write to cause scandal. I do not uphold my sins (see #1). However, if we all waited until it was 'all worked out' to share our struggles and our stories, well, we'd all feel as alone and unwelcome as I have these past few months and I don't think that helps anyone.

5 - I will use generalizations at times. I will strive to not use words like "always" and "never", but please know there are exceptions to both the good and the bad I've experienced from others and if you find yourself wondering "is she talking about me?", please look at the facts of our interactions and hopefully that will give you your answer. If you aren't sure, please just ask me.

6 - So much happened so quickly in regards to post comments, emails, private messages, texts, etc., I know for sure that I missed things. I know there were phone calls or emails or messages that didn't get returned. I am sorry. If you are still waiting to hear back from me, and you are willing, a gentle reminder would be welcome.

I think that is it for now. If something else comes up, I will add it here.

(Comments are off for this post.)

12.07.2015

Sugarbeet's Arrival - Part 2

As with part 1 - here is a link to some cute elephants if you aren't up for or into a birth story post :). - Cute elephants click here.

So, once we returned from a week at the beach and I scrubbed my kitchen until it looked brand new, stocked my freezer with food, and had my car cleaned and then re-cleaned it until it looked new, I figured Sugarbeet would be arriving soon.

I never reached the point in pregnancy where I was just done and wanted baby to just be out. Probably because I went into labor at 34 weeks, 5 days and I had believed all I had read about first babies always coming late. I had seen my midwife 2 days prior and while things were definitely changing - period-type cramping, baby had dropped, I felt different, etc - I knew that it could still be weeks and wasn't getting my hopes up too much.

We had a birth plan, but the one thing I have picked up on in my not-reading-birth-stories-experience is that birth plans rarely go exactly as planned and so we had listed our preferences but were very aware that it could change. As I heard the other morning, the one missing variable in any birth plan is your actual labor. Our general plan was to labor at home as long as possible, to not have any medicines/pain killers, to have immediate skin-to-skin care, to nurse immediately, and to not be separated from baby at any point.

On Wednesday, Aug. 5, around noon, I noticed some leaking and wondered if maybe my water had broken, but when the leaking seemed to stop I figured it was either a mucus plug breakdown or urine. As the day progressed these leaks came and went and finally after dinner I figured I'd better call the midwife before we settled in to watch a movie just to be sure, because I was GBS positive, and knew that my water breaking was one reason I'd have to go to the hospital earlier in labor rather than later.

So, midwife said come in and when she did the little ph-strip test, it turned blue immediately and she said 'you'll be staying.' Good thing R had insisted on taking our bags :).

I then had to have my first cervix check - which was awful. Short midwife with short fingers + tall patient who is not dilated at all = OUCH! Yea, I knew right away I did not want to have many more of those and fortunately being GBS+ with a broken water meant they wanted to minimize checks as well. Because I was GBS+, I was put on penicillin and received it through IV every 4 hours. And that was my second OUCH! That stuff stings hurts like heck hell (sorry, it's the truth) going in - thank goodness for ice packs!

We were given some options to get labor going because the ideal is to deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking and since I didn't know for sure and hemmed and hawed all day long, we were already about 10 hours behind schedule.

We opted for cervidil to ripen my cervix and the plan was to insert that and get some sleep. Because I was on the cervidil, instead of the periodic fetal heart-rate monitoring we wanted, it had to be monitored constantly. So, just as I settled in after getting my penicillin and monitors set (Sugarbeet wiggled a lot and kept moving away from the monitor), the lights were dim and we were both getting ready to sleep, the nurse came in and said I needed to move to my side immediately - Sugarbeet's heart rate had been slower than they like to see. That didn't work as they hoped and suddenly the lights were on, the room was full of people and before I even fully realized it, the cervidil was being taken out. It all happened so fast and seemed so out of my control, and even the midwife's control for a moment. The resident that came in to oversee, was kind, but I preferred my midwife. She asked some questions of the nurses, Sugarbeet's heart rate came back up and she expressed that she didn't think it was the cervidil and would check with the attending OB and be back.

About an hour later she came back, OB agreed they didn't think it was the cervidil at all that impacted the heartbeat, rather that baby had just been moved away from monitor and I was more on my back than usual. So, everyone was OK with trying the cervidil again. It was reinserted at 6:00am and could stay in for 12 hours. Our quiet night's sleep was no more and we were getting closer to the 24 hour mark.

Also in all of this, my blood pressure was creeping up. Bloodwork was all normal and the thought of a catheter to get a direct urine sample to check for protein (to rule out preeclampsia) was not something I was interested in having done, and so we opted for a wait and see approach.

At 7:00am on Thursday, Aug. 6, we had a midwife switch (the practice I go to has 9 midwives). The new midwife was a little more concerned about the 24-hour mark than the first one, but she was willing to wait and see a bit longer. As noon came and went, we talked about other options to get labor to progress more, none of which were at all something I wanted to do (um, foley-bulb, no thank you) and since my temperature was normal, baby's heartrate was good, and my blood pressure was high, but not too high, we decided to wait until the cervidil had to come out at 6pm.

At 3pm, things changed when the cervidil came out on its own. I consented to another check at this point to know if it was doing anything. I was 1cm dilated and 30% effaced. Nothing to get excited about, but enough to start pitocin and have it be able to work. I had been having some very mild contractions, but nothing that was worth getting excited about. We had taken all sorts of laps around the labor and delivery unit and were more than ready to get things moving (plus, we were hoping for a Transfiguration baby :).).

Just before the pitocin, it was time for penicillin again and my IV was really hurting, even with a saline flush. They determined it was infiltrated and we started to look for a second IV location. My nurse was wonderful and said she recommended in the inside of my forearm, but was honest and said she couldn't get it in there. So, we called the IV lady to do it. When she walked in, I breathed a sigh of relief because anyone who can wear white scrubs and start IVs all day without a drop of blood on her has got to be good, right? And she was - new IV in forearm went in without problems and felt better immediately.

So, finally, at about 4:30 or 5, the pitocin was started. I was nervous because I'd heard all the horror stories, and confirmed that we'd start with a very low dose. Soon after it started, the contractions began to intensify and for the next 6 hours, I had what seemed to be very productive contractions, getting stronger and closer together. The only way that I was comfortable during contractions was standing up, holding R's hands, and leaning into his chest. I'd then sit down between them. I tried the birthing ball, squating, leaning forward, sitting up higher, nothing that involved any pressure on my lower back during a contraction worked. And so I sat and stood for those hours. By 10pm, I was exhausted. My legs were shaking, and it was getting harder and harder to stand up for each contraction. I was feeling positive because the contractions had been so close together and intense for so long, that I agreed to another check. (Oh, and we were on midwife and nurse #3 because there was another shift change at 7pm.)

I was only 4 cm dilated and 50% effaced and suddenly I was the lady on the birthing class video who I swore I would not be and I was crying because I had not progressed as much as I'd expected. And my exhaustion became overwhelming. I knew I needed to rest somehow, I was over 24 hours in the hospital at this point and had barely slept on top of the standing-up laboring. While the contractions were painful, as long as I was standing and breathing through them, I was doing ok. But, the exhaustion was becoming more than I could take - mentally and physically.

We asked the midwife and nurse what our options for the exhaustion were, and we all agreed that we weren't ready to jump to an epidural, so a narcotic analgesic would be a good in-between step. It would be in my system about an hour, giving me an opportunity to rest, and hopefully my relaxed body would respond well and I'd progress a bit more too.

I got the stadol sometime between 11:00pm and midnight. For the first half-hour, I got the rest I so desperately needed, I could still feel the contractions and could tell they were intensifying, but didn't care much about them. Sometime at the mid-hour point things started to change, not only were the contractions getting much more intense and I was starting to care, but in between contractions I was having the most awful dreams about baby parts and the pla.nn.ed paren.t.hood videos that were being released in the days just before. So, no longer was I getting a mental break and the physical break was less and less as well.

As the hour came to an end, I was in a lot of pain with each contraction, was scared to death to be checked again because 1) it hurt and 2) it had only been an hour and I didn't want to be told that I was only 5 or 6 cm dilated. But, I also knew that I could no longer breath through these contractions. I couldn't really articulate it at the time, but they were different and it was just literally holding onto the sides of the bed to get through each one. A dear friend had once told me "childbirth is supposed to be painful, but it should not be suffering. If suffering starts, get an epidural." That simple distinction of pain vs suffering had really helped me to this point and now I was sure that breathing through these contractions meant suffering. And so, R and I started the conversation about an epidural. He knew it was not what I wanted to do, but also heard what I was saying about suffering, and so, with some disappointment from both of us, we told our wonderful nurse, G, that we wanted the epidural. Then, I said I needed to go to the bathroom, or something. It felt like I wanted to push or go to the bathroom - and I knew this was a sign of labor progressing, but didn't believe I could be actually ready to push. I remember feeling very confused, disappointed that I was getting an epidural, and a weird combination of being panicked and not caring at all that I was going to poo and pee all in the bed.

This description to G gave her all the information she needed and she gently said, why don't you let the midwife check you one more time before the epidural, just to see. And for whatever reason, I did.

As the midwife did the check, I admit to feeling a little defeated, exhausted, and scared about what was to come next. But, the check didn't hurt, not at all, not like before; and she look up and smiled and said "you are 10cm and fully effaced" and I immediately replied "so I can push then?". To which she replied, "Yes!".

And just like that, it was as if someone had flipped a switch and my defeated feeling of not being able to do it and needing the epidural to stop the suffering was immediately gone and I was determined and ready to push. Again, I couldn't have described it this way at the time, but I knew I couldn't just breathe through those contractions, that it was suffering to do so, but if I could do something productive with them, like push, well, then, let's do it!

And so, at 2:05 am I started to push. And I laughed internally because I remembered our birthing class and how lying in the bed on your back pushing is the worst position because you get no help from gravity, but there I was laying in the bed on my back, pushing. And I knew, instinctively somehow, that was where I needed to be - but, I did happen to bump the bed adjust button with my elbow during one push and it inclined the bed just enough that I could really tell a difference.

And for 2 hours I pushed, with Sugarbeet crowning for at least 2/3 of those 2 hours. I had no sense of time during those 2 hours - they could have been 20 minutes, 2 days, or the 2 hours they were - I didn't feel like they dragged on, and though it was hard work, I felt very productive throughout.

And finally, at 4:06 am, Sugarbeet was born. I got a little impatient with R asking if it was a boy or girl, but as he explained later, there's a lot going on there and he wanted to get it right! And finally (it was mere seconds) he told me Sugarbeet was a girl. I got to hold her for a few seconds and then she was taken to the warming area. The NICU pediatricians were standing by because I was GBS+ and my water had been broken for so long. We knew this would happen, and in those moments, while R stood with her and took photos, I prayed that she was OK and would be brought back to me instead of being whisked away. And she was. She was brought back and placed on my chest. R had been able to cut her cord, and she passed her apgars and was perfectly healthy.

We were moved upstairs to our recovery room and home for the next couple of days. She nursed without any problems right away and had even started to gain weight back before we were discharged - she was born at 6 lbs 15 oz, dropped to 6 lbs 8 oz, and was 6 lbs, 10 oz at discharge.

While we had a long list of preferences, the most important one was 'healthy baby, healthy mommy' and both of those were met. Each person we came in contact with respected us and we felt very much a part of the decision making. I tried so very hard to not have high expectations for the birthing day (or days), I wanted to focus on the end result and trust that those who were caring for us were only doing what they thought was best. It was so important to me to try to keep perspective and to not allow small changes or disappointments to cloud the whole experience. Somehow, I managed to do this and for that I am grateful.

Here is Sugarbeet less than 15 minutes old, just after they gave her back to me:

And here she is at 14 weeks, 4 days, with the nurse, G, who helped deliver her (we went to visit to say thank you - and please excuse the dazed look, she had been awake for about 30 seconds at this point):