Monday, March 31, 2014

Hudson's Birth Story

I awoke to a gush.

It wasn't a huge gush, but enough to wake me up.  And I knew as soon as it happened: my water had broken.  I looked at my phone: it was 2:44am.

After I got up and changed into dry clothes, I laid back down in bed for a bit.  I immediately reflected on my last thought the previous night before I went to sleep: "I really hope Hudson isn't born this week.  I have way too much stuff to do, and the house is a mess!"

You see, I had felt like for a while that baby Hudson would come before his "due" date (which was April 10th).  Call it mama intuition or whatever you want, but I knew that boy wasn't staying inside of me for much longer.  His back was rammed up against my ribs and my ribs were digging into his back, and I knew that neither of us could wait much longer.  This was in complete contrast to Esther, with whom, even a week past her "due" date, my mama intuition was telling me she was not ready to come (and indeed she didn't come until close to 42 weeks, and even then only with some prompting).

But Hudson was ready.  Contractions didn't start right away, and I started to think through my day, wondering when I would go into labor.  Would I have time to run errands and stop by a friend's house like I planned to?  What if labor never started on its own and I had to be induced?  But after about 15 minutes, I had to wonder no longer: I had a contraction, and then another and then another.  At some point I noticed that Alex was awake and mentioned to him that my water had broken and I was in labor.

Knowing that I would just be thinking about everything and not actually sleeping, I decided to get out of bed and do a couple things around the house that were most urgent on my mind if this baby was coming today: I did a load of laundry because it had some of the clothes I planned to take to the hospital.  I baked a double batch of sourdough crackers (the dough of which I had started soaking the previous day), followed by a batch of granola (which I had also started soaking the previous day).  I swept the kitchen floor (because dirty floors really bug me and I knew it would be impossible to ignore after we came home from the hospital).  I like doing a few mindless things like these around the house during the first part of labor, as it fulfills my nesting instinct, and gives me something to focus on besides how intense labor is about to become.

After a couple hours, I went upstairs to pack a hospital bag.  I hadn't packed it yet, and ironically it was even on my to do list for that day (written before I went into labor).  I found out when I got up there that Alex had never gone back to sleep (I guess I had given him some major news or something).  About that time, the contractions were becoming harder and I felt the need to lie down for a bit.

After a while, I decided to take a shower to help with the pain, and stayed in for a good half hour or so. When I got out, it became clear that we needed to start moving towards getting to the hospital.  We contacted two of my friends who were to serve as doulas as well as my midwife to let her know that we would be heading to the hospital soon.  I laid down for a bit longer, partially because I didn't have the energy to get up and leave, and partially because I wanted to be as far along as possible before getting there.

By that point, contractions were very strong, lasting about 50 seconds and coming every 4 minutes or so.  With Esther, at that point in labor I only ended up being 3 cm dilated when we got to the hospital, which is part of the reason I was delaying.  But then I felt a contraction that felt like I had hit transition and was almost ready to push.  That motivated me to get up and get out to the car!  I remembered having to fight against all of the pushing contractions with Esther, waiting for my midwife to get to the hospital, which was easily the hardest part of labor with her.  I didn't want to repeat that experience.

Once again, we left for the hospital at the peak of traffic hour, 8am (with Esther we left at 5pm on a weekday to drive 30 miles in Southern California traffic to the hospital).  However, Bloomington is not Southern California (traffic-wise), and we live only a mile from the hospital, so we got there in no time. The lady at the front desk must have seen how serious I looked because she offered to wheel me up to labor and delivery, which I was thankful for.  As soon as we got to my room I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and homey feeling the atmosphere was.

The nurse came in and began to do intake.  Within a couple minutes, one of my friends had arrived.  The nurse was being super casual and slow with all of her seemingly (to me) non-important questions, so I told her that it was starting to feel like I needed to push, so that she would hopefully check my dilation.  She wanted to start fetal monitoring first, but I must have convinced her because she finally checked and announced that I was 9 cm dilated.  In the next few minutes contractions were getting more intense and my other friend serving as doula arrived.  I asked the nurse if she knew how long until my midwife would be there, and she told me most likely within 20 minutes.  I looked at the clock: it was 8:30.  By that time it was pretty clear that I could've started pushing if she was there, but I told myself I could wait 20 minutes.

The wait ended up being 30 minutes (I tried not to look at the clock too often!).  As with my previous labor, this was the hardest part: with each contraction, everything in my body was pushing the baby down, but I had to do my best to resist the urge to push and relax with every fiber of my being.  Relaxing is actually really hard work when you are having a pushing contraction!

But three things really made a difference this time over labor with Esther: the biggest was having my two doula-friends there.  Between the two of them and Alex, I was having my back massaged, a cool washcloth on my face, comforting/loving words spoken all around, pillows and sips of water being offered and so much more. With all of this loving comfort, it was much easier to relax while my body pushed.  A second thing that really helped was mental imagery: instead of being overcome by the intensity of the contractions, I put great effort into thinking about the contractions as a workout.  When I work out, the longest sets that I do are about 60 seconds long, and by the end my muscles are really burning.  I pictured the contractions as a really intense workout for my uterus (which is acutally a pretty accurate description) and it made everything much more manageable.  The third thing that helped this time was making sure to make low vocalizations through the contractions, a technique that I had been reminded of as I prepared for Hudson's arrival.  The vocalizations (pretty much groaning) allowed me to focus my energy somewhere and feel more in control.

It was a long 30 minutes, but it did end: at 9am my midwife walked into the door!  Sweet relief!  I immediately asked if I could start pushing and started to with my next contraction.  I had wanted to attempt pushing this time in a squat position, but I had literally no energy to do so, and I ended up in a sitting-squat position.  It turned out to be a suitable position, however, as Hudson started to emerge after about 3 contractions and was born at 9:09am.

Praise God for his sweet blessings!

Esther enjoying her new brother a
few hours after his birth.

Friday, March 28, 2014

On the Name James Hudson

We've gotten some questions and confusion on baby Hudson's name, so I thought I would write a bit to explain it.  In short, he is named after a British missionary from the 1800's to China.  James Hudson Taylor also went by his middle name, and is more commonly known as Hudson Taylor (or sometimes I see J. Hudson Taylor).

As aspiring missionaries ourselves, Hudson Taylor has always been inspiring and challenging to us.  Alex was the first to read his biography, and I read it myself about a year ago.  Hudson Taylor was unique and innovative among missionaries.  He felt it was more important for the Chinese to embrace Jesus, rather than English culture.  At the time, Christianity and Western culture were seen as being hand-in-hand.  Taylor chose to wear Chinese garb (see above picture) and eat Chinese food in order to fit in with the people he was reaching out to.  Taylor's influence in China was broad: it is estimated that his work resulted in about 18,000 Chinese people choosing to follow Jesus, which has expanded to 100 million Chinese Christians traceable to his ministry today.

It is not just the results of Taylor's work that we admire.  He was a man of God and it showed in many aspects of his life.  He never raised support for his missionary work, but trusted God and prayed for it to come in.  It always did.  (Side note: we are not against raising financial support, we have done it before and expect to do it again.  But his faith in not doing so is truly remarkable.)  He also had the faith to trust God and continue his ministry in China even as he lost his first wife and many children (I can't find the exact number, but I think it was at least 4 or 5).

Here are two (of many) great Hudson Taylor quotes:

"All God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them"

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered, it is a command to be obeyed"

James Hudson Taylor Costa, we pray that you would have such faith!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Postpartum Rest, Fearful Parenting, Peter Hitchens' Journey to Faith {Links I Like}

To round out this week of links, I have a few more that I came across this week that I want to share.  These don't fit nicely under one topic like the other two, but are a hodgepodge of interesting reads.

5 Reasons I Fear Standing Up to My Kids - This is a good (and convicting) check-up on your parenting.

Why are America's Postpartum Practices So Rough On New Mothers? - If I had seen this earlier, it might have been added to my postpartum care post. The gist of it is, American new moms don't rest enough.  Not surprising in our go-go-go society.

This was a helpful read for me and reminder to take it easy after our baby is born in a few weeks.  Most of our new babies have been foster, so its easy for me to forget that birthing a baby involves not only adding a new family member, but also immense wear and tear on the body.  With Esther I was shocked at how long recovery took, but I was able to take it pretty easy since it was just her at the time.  This time I will have to be much more intentional to purposefully rest, for the sake of recovery.

Peter Hitchens Talks About How He Came to Faith - I like hearing anyone's story of coming to faith in Jesus, but I have wondered about his story because of his famous late Atheist brother, Christopher.  The interesting part is, it involves a famous painting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Natural Postpartum Care Resources

In addition to mentally preparing for labor and delivery, I have also been thinking about the postpartum period and wanting to be prepared for that.  With Esther, I was totally unprepared for how much the birth process would take out of my body.  This time, I want to be sure to have everything on hand I will need to care for my body.

'eat drink woman child' photo (c) 2005, Nico - license:

Homemade Natural Postpartum care kit - I love making homemade health and beauty products!  I love the looks of these recipes; I need to get on it with making some of these before baby boy comes!

Binding your belly after birth - Belly binding is practiced in many cultures to help restore the abdominal muscles after the intense workout that is labor and delivery.  This article explains why and how to do it.

10 Things you need to do post pregnancy - A good list of things to keep in mind, mostly revolving around the topic of abdominal/pelvic floor muscle rehab after birth.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Natural Labor and Delivery Resources

As I have been mentally preparing for the upcoming birth of our little one, I have been reading a lot of resources (and re-reading some I've seen before).  Here are some of the most helpful ones I have come across...
'beautiful belly' photo (c) 2006, Bonbon - license:

Embracing Pain and Letting Go of Fear in Childbirth - For some reason I have been much more anxious about my upcoming labor than I was before my labor with Esther.  This is strange to me, because with Esther labor was an unknown, but now I have the experience of one relatively easy natural birth.  These are good points that I want to keep in mind.

Three exercises for a STRONG birth - Hopefully you have been doing these exercises for a while and don't just start a week before you are due.  If you are pregnant, start doing these now!

Make your own natural labor and birth kit- I liked the suggestions on what to bring to the hospital- for some reason I have already forgotten what I found helpful to have at my last birth.

Labor-aid recipe - A refreshing homemade drink to keep you nourished and energized during labor.

Essential oils for labor - When Esther was born, we brought lavender to the hospital but forgot to use it (slash we didn't really have time!).  This is a very exhaustive list of oils; I'll probably try to narrow it down to 2-4 oils to use.  If I remember this time :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

3 Things to Do in Front of Your Children

Just as important as actively teaching and interacting with your children is living life in front of your children.

Do Housework  There is a current stream of thought that says the highest level of motherhood is when you are on the floor playing with your children, implying that housework and other things should be put off until later (maybe when the kids are asleep) so that you can put your best energy and attention to "quality" time with your children.  While playing with your kids is a good thing, doing housework in front of your children teaches them that all of life is not about play, and helps them to learn responsibility and a good work ethic.

Furthermore, since children learn so much by emulation, doing chores in front of them teaches them how to do chores.  Esther sees me do lots of types of housework, and even likes to "help" with things like sweeping the floor, hanging laundry and baking.  She's not actually a big help yet of course (though she's cute when she's doing it), but the more she watches and tries things out, the more she will learn.

Read Books (especially your Bible)
While reading books to your children is important, in order to raise a good reader it is important to read in front of them as well.  This is how children learn that reading is something fun, that mom and dad like to do in their free time as well.

In American Christian culture, Bible reading is often seen as something you do when you are alone with plenty of peace and quiet.  And honestly, this is the way that I prefer to read my Bible.  But just as with reading other books, it is important and good for your children to see you reading your Bible, in addition to having the Bible read to them by you.

Repent of Sin
It can be hard to repent of sin in front of your children.  But it is very, very important.  Some children raised in Christian homes choose not to follow in their parents' faith because they see the hypocrisy in their faith.  Repentance says, yes, I am a hypocrite, I do things that are different than what I say should be done.  And I need forgiveness for that.

Repentance is attractive because no one can live a perfect life, and most people who are sane realize this.  Repentance gives hope that there is a way to be relieved of the burden of this sin.  Seeing their parents' repentance should be a sweet aroma to children.

What other things are important to be done in front of your children?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pop Quiz

If you see a Christian sister in sin, what would Jesus tell you to do?

A. Be sure not to judge her.

B. Pray for her, that God would point out the sin.

C. Kinda sorta bring it up lightly, but make sure not to hurt her feelings.

D. Rebuke her, and when she repents be quick to forgive.
'Exam' photo (c) 2006, Alberto G. - license:

Answer: D

"Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" -Jesus (in Luke 17:3)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Every Good Gift and the Good Giver

Every good gift comes from God.  Every blessing- from a cup of hot coffee on a cold and weary day to a new born baby- is given by God to help us to know Him; know his character.  Furthermore, all of these blessings are but a forerunner to help prepare us for the eternal mercies he has in store for us.

But why then does he sometimes take away these blessings?  Maybe it is a friend going through a hard time calling and needing to be comforted while your hot coffee goes cold.  Maybe it is the unexpected death of your newborn child.  Whatever it is, it can be painful and confusing when God chooses to withdraw those blessings.
'spring water pipe' photo (c) 2007, Tom Hodgkinson - license:

One way to think about it is as though these gifts are a pipeline- a conduit for getting God's grace and love to us.  When they are taken away, we are forced to go to the source- to God himself- to receive the blessing and fulfillment.  Jeremiah Burroughs, in the book "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" puts it this way:
"This is indeed an excellent art, to be able to be able to draw from God what one had before in the creature [i.e created things].  Christian, how did you enjoy comfort before?  Was the creature anything to you but a conduit, a pipe, that conveyed God's goodness to you?  'The pipe is cut off' says God, 'come to me, the fountain, and drink immediately.'
Since God is contented with himself alone, if you have him, you may be contented with him alone, and it may be, that is the reason why your outward comforts are taken from you, that God may be all in all to you.  It may be that while you had these things they shared with God in your affection, a great part of the stream of your affection ran that way; God would have the full stream run to him now."
So, when God takes away a blessing, look for it as a chance to get that fulfillment, that satisfaction that you drew from that blessing in him alone.  Go straight to the fountain and don't be distracted by the loss of the pipe.  Drink deeply and be satisfied.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Basic Equipment to Own [Fit Mamas Series, part 7]

To wrap up the series, I want to make some suggestions on some basic equipment you should own in order to be able to do a variety of workouts at your house.  Even if you have a gym membership, it is helpful to have a few basic pieces of workout gear at home because it allows you to fit in short workouts here and there during times you wouldn't be able to make it all the way to the gym.  If you are on a tight budget or don't want a gym membership for some other reason, spending just a few month's worth of gym membership fees can get you enough gear to be able to do a wide variety of workouts at home.  Here are some suggestions for exercise equipment I find helpful to own:


If you only get one thing on this list, I would suggest a good set a of dumbells.  And please, stay away from 1, 2 and 3lb dumbells!! Too many women lift light weights like these when they can and should be doing heavier weights.  If you are new to working out, you may need 3lb weights for some exercises for now, but try to use them temporarily and them put them away when you can work up to more weight. I would suggest getting a set of 5's, 8's, 10's and 12's to start off with, and expand when you get strong enough for more weight.

If you own some heavier dumbells, you can use them for most exercises you use kettlebells for.  But if you don't, I find kettlebells a worthwhile investment.  Consider getting a 15lb and 20lb kettlebell, and go heavier once these get too easy.

Yoga mat
Yoga mats are nice for any exercise that you have to get on the floor for, such as push ups or planks.  If you are really on a tight budget, you can use something like a beach towel, but a soft thick yoga mat is nice to have on hand, and you'll likely use it every workout.

Bosu ball
I see a bosu ball as a bit of a luxury as it is pricy and not absolutely necessary.  I myself just started using one in the past few months because of the rec center we joined.  However, there are tons of exercises that can be slightly modified or made more challenging by incorporating a bosu ball.  Consider a bosu ball once you already have at least dumbells, a jump rope and a yoga mat.  That being said, you can easily incorporate the bosu ball into every workout, making it a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Jump rope

A jump rope is relatively cheap, small and easy to store, and makes for a great workout.  Definitely include one of these in your workout equipment.

Medicine balls

As with kettlebells, you can get away with doing some medicine ball exercises with a dumbell, but there are many advantages to a medicine ball (it is easier to grip, and you can throw/drop it, which you can't do with a dumbell!).  Consider getting a few medicine balls once you have gotten some of the other basic equipment.  An 8lb and 12lb ball should serve the purposes you need them for.

Did you miss part of the series?  Here are the topics we covered:

Why Take Time to Work Out?

Fitting in Exercise for the Busy Mom

Practical Suggestions for Exercising

10 Minute Core/Balance Workouts

10 Minute Strength Workouts

10 Minute Cardio Workouts

What are your suggestions for must-have workout equipment?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Work, Selfishness and Christ's Strength

Since we moved, my workload has been a bit easier, now that we are back to one kiddo.  It has been a nice break, and good timing to coincide with the last half of this pregnancy.

But in the midst of this gift of rest, I have noticed sin subtly sneaking into my heart.  Selfishness.  And lots of it.  Just like all idolatry, I am taking a good gift from God (in this case, rest and down time) and turning it into something that I prize more than God.  I am loving the gift more than the giver.  I like rest, and I don't want my workload to increase again (as it inevitably will do in about a month).

And then someone pointed out something a few weeks ago which messed me up.  Our small group leader mentioned the account of Joseph from the Bible (which I happened to be reading at the time) and made the point that every time Joseph received more blessing from God his workload increased.  This happened three times: first, when he was placed in Potipher's house, secondly when he was in prison, and thirdly when he was made second in command to Pharaoh.  This is quite counter to our nature, as we often believe (especially because of American culture) that life should be easier when God is blessing us.

Since then, I have been wrestling with this sin in my heart.  On one hand, I want God's blessing and I want to work hard to serve him to my full capacity and not hold anything back.  On the other hand, I think back on very busy/difficult times of life (like when we had the sibling set of four foster kids or when we first got baby boy R and he cried all day while I had horrible morning sickness) and I just don't want to have to go through these things again.
'A heavy burden' photo (c) 2013, Alf Melin - license:

But then I came across something this week that really helped bring all the pieces together in my head.  I am reading "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" by Jeremiah Burroughs with some ladies from church and this quote really hit me:

"Now if a man has a burden to bear, and yet can have strength added to him- if the burden is doubled, he can have his strength trebled- his burden will not be heavier but lighter than it was before to his natural strength... Though you cannot tell how to bear it in your own strength, yet how can you tell what you will do with the strength of Jesus Christ?  You say you cannot bear it?  So you think that Christ could not bear it?  But if Christ could bear it, why could you not come to bear it?" (p. 63)

So, with Christ's strength, a difficult burden can even become lighter than an everyday burden.  This is good news and comforting to know.  It doesn't mean that God WILL triple our strength so that our burden actually becomes lighter, but we should seek this blessing from him, knowing that he can easily provide it.  In fact, we should not rest from petitioning him until he does increase our strength.  Burroughs wraps up this thought this way:
"You must not therefore be content with a little strength, so that you are able to bear what a man might bear by the strength of reason and nature, but you should be strengthened with all might, according to the glorious power of God, unto all patience and all longsuffering." (p. 64)
To be strengthened with ALL might, unto ALL patience and ALL longsuffering?  Sounds like just what a mama needs.

Christian, let us not be content with little strength.  Let us seek greater strength to bear greater burdens, to the glory of God.

Monday, March 3, 2014

February in our Home

February in our home was a month of fatigue, preparing for baby Hudson, watching Esther emerge and settling into a rhythm/routine (that will soon be interrupted once again by another major life change... which is kinda the norm since we seem to get those about every 3-6 months in the past few years).

The month started off overcome by fatigue, fuzzy-headedness and shortness of breath that made it hard to get almost anything done.  I was getting to the point of needing a nap every day (a nap a week is typical for me during pregnancy) and couldn't even concentrate long enough to write out a to-do list (usually my favorite activity of the day!).  I started to suspect anemia and asked for a blood test from my midwife.  Though I was in the normal range, I was on the low side and so I still decided to take a vitamin B and iron supplement to see if it would help (This is the one I settled on after a lot of research.  I have also heard good things about this one. Most iron supplements contain a synthetic form of iron that is not easily absorbed by the body and usually causes constipation).  Since starting the supplement, I'm feeling much better now, with just the amount of fatigue/shortness of breath that probably should be normal at 34 weeks of pregnancy.

This month certainly hasn't been a month of blogging... sorry friends!  I have gotten much behind on my writing.  The fatigue certainly didn't help that, in addition to the fact that I have been doing a lot of reading so I have had little extra time for writing.  But most of all, our computer, which is coming up on 7 years of age, is just very slow and frustrating.  The OS is so old that many websites don't even work properly (like Amazon and YouTube), and its not uncommon to wait three or four minutes just to get into email.  Getting on the computer is so draining that I have been doing the bare minimum, and am really far behind on emails, in addition to blogging.  So, if I owe you an email message, know that my slowness to respond is nothing personal!

We are taking baby steps towards getting ready to add another member to our family (pun intended :) ).  As we gave away or sold most of our baby stuff before our big move from California, we are mostly starting from scratch when it comes to preparing for a new baby.  But God has been good, and we have gotten about 20 baby boy outfits in various sizes from a clothing exchange bin at our local community center.  Most of these clothes are high quality and seem like they have only been worn a few times.  Its not even like these hand-me-downs are stained and worn, which I would still accept, but God's grace has abounded to us to give us more than old stained things.  We have also been offered a car seat to borrow for the time being.  Since we already have a crib, cloth diapers and baby wrap carrier, all these things together have the bare basics pretty much covered, which is a relief.  If you would like to get something to welcome baby Hudson into the world, here is an idea of some of the things we could use.  We also love any and all hand-me-downs! :)

Esther's first time ever playing in the snow was this month!
Esther is turning into quite the little girl.  A couple weeks ago, I had her "help" me bake some cookies for the first time.  Now she can't get enough!  Since then, any time I am in the kitchen, she yells out "THIS!!! THIIIIIIS!!!" (her way of saying she wants something) and drags a chair over next to me to "help" out.  As long as I have time for everything to take me twice as long as usual, I let her help.  She has also gotten really into taking care of her dolls and stuffed animals, which is not only super cute but makes me more excited for her to be a big sister (again).  She likes to put them down "for nap" (face down in a box covered head to toe with a blanket), apply essential oils to their feet (she learned that from her crunchy mama), and bounce them over her shoulder while shushing them.

One of the things on my "to-do-before-Hudson-comes" list is to get a number of sewing projects done.  So far, I have been working on making cloth napkins, which has taken much longer than I had imagined it would.  But I am very happy with the results (thus far) and am looking forward to a new set of napkins to replace our old ones that are starting to look more like rags than napkins.  Also on my list to make are bibs and diapers for Esther's baby doll (to go with her new found interest in baby care) and a matching dress set for Esther and her baby doll.  Lets see how much I can get done in the next 6 weeks!

What I have been reading this month:

 All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

 The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

  Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition by Susan McCutcheon