Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Baby Jocelyn's Birth Story

It's taken me a while, but here is the birth story for sweet baby Joci:

I woke up around 5:00 am on Friday June 27 for yet another trip to the bathroom.  When I settled back down into bed I noticed some cramping and wondered if maybe this was the start of something.  These crampy contractions became regular for about two hours, between 7:30-9:30.  I texted Josh at work just to give him heads up that something might be happening. 

After about 9:30 the contractions slowed down and became very irregular and spaced far apart.  So I thought it just wasn't time yet and Micah and I got ready for our pool date with Mamma and Aunt Lauren.  My nine-month pregnant body felt so light in the pool - it was amazing!
Me and my boy.  And my kankles.

Micah ended up staying with Mamma for the afternoon and so I headed home around 2:30 or so, hungry and tired.  When I got home, the sleepiness won over the hunger and so I laid down for a nap.  In hindsight, I should have definitely eaten something ... 

Josh called me around 3:30 and said he had finished his last case and would be able to come home if I thought that was a good idea.  I told him I wasn't sure - contractions still weren't regular but they were more noticeable (read: ramping up slightly on the pain scale).  He decided the best thing to do would be to come home then, especially because rush hour traffic would be starting soon and then there would be no telling when he could actually make it home.  And, because my labor with Evie went so fast at the end (read her crazy birth story here), he wasn't comfortable staying away any longer.  So he headed home and I made some calls to arrange Micah to stay the night with my parents "just in case".  The Lord was really so good to us to work out both of these details so nicely - it was definitely something I had been praying about.

So Josh arrived home around 5 or so, much more convinced that I was actually in labor than I was.  He put together the baby swing and put the carseat in the car.  My stomach was in knots about then just trying to decide if I was in labor or not or what was going on.  I was hungry but could only choke down some berries.  Again, in hindsight, my lack of food that day wasn't a great way to fuel the energy necessary for labor.  

From about 6-7 pm my contractions were very regular (5 minutes apart) and the midwife had told me just a couple of days ago to call her when my contractions were that far apart.  So I called, reminded her of my precipitous last birth, and she told us to come on in.  
Right before we left for the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital around 7:30 and I was checked.  I had only dilated to two centimeters and was only about 50% effaced.  The news was quite a blow to my morale.  The midwife told us to walk around for about an hour and then she would check me again.  

So Josh and I walked the halls of the labor and delivery floor.  We read the names on the baby feet wall.  I paused for contractions, trying to do some serious squats to get my body going.  

A little over an hour later we were back in the room waiting to be checked.  Neither the midwife or nurse seemed to be hurrying back to check on me so I called the nurse and just asked if she thought we should go home.  Maybe we had come too early and just needed to wait it out at home for a couple more hours and come back later.  But when the midwife checked me this time I had dilated to four centimeters and was 90% effaced.  She told me with this amount of progress in one hour she would not feel comfortable sending me home.  And that was music to my ears.  

They took a couple more measures to try and get things progressing, including breaking my water.  When the midwife broke my water she uttered a disappointed, "Oh no."  There was meconium in the water, just like with Micah (read his birth story here), which means the baby had been in distress at some point.  But the worst part is that having meconium present meant that I wasn't allowed in the birthing tub.  Demoralizing.  When you're trying to birth without drugs, the hot tub is as close as you can come to pain-free.  I had really high hopes of going through transition in that warm water and minimally experiencing the unbelievable pain that dilating the last 3 centimeters brings.  It could not be so.  

From there I had to be transferred out of the Midwifery Center where they only monitor the fetus intermittently, down the hall to the Labor and Delivery wing where I had to be hooked up to continuous fetal monitoring.  They wanted to make sure my baby wasn't in any more distress, which of course I appreciated, although I wished so much to be in that tub! 

Once settled in our new room, I was given a birthing ball to help me through contractions.  It really was helpful, especially in supporting my weight and helping me squat really low to get the baby on a good position.  

I need to give a shout out to my wonderful husband because, at this point in labor, I felt so hungry and weak and just ready to be done.  I half mentioned wanting an epidural just so I could be done and relax.  He kept grounding me and encouraging me and rubbing my lower back when necessary.  I had already lost the mental battle, the most crucial battle in laboring without drugs, and he stepped in to fight it for me.  What a guy <3 

At one point the midwife checked me and manually helped me dilate from 6 to 7 centimeters.  Oh my word that was the worst most out of control pain I've ever experienced!  I don't know how to describe it except I felt like an animal and could absolutely not control my decibel level.  Not my finest moment.  

I labored in transition for a while.  It's worth mentioning that, even in that very active phase of labor, my contractions were still about five minutes apart.  And in between some really bad ones I even had some less intense contractions.  So strange.  The same strangeness that had me guessing if Evie was really coming up until the moment that I knew.  Anyway, my crazy body.

I was starting to feel really tired and really weak from not eating.  My arms and legs were shaking from supporting my weight during labor and the crazy adrenaline rush that happens during transition.  I needed some encouragement and asked the midwife how long she thought it would be.  She said she thought I'd be birthed by 2:30.  It was currently 1:50.  I remember thinking, I can do this.  Forty more minutes.  

Whether or not she really meant it, I don't know, but it was enough to give me a bit more gumption to endure more transitional contractions.  When 2:30 rolled around we hadn't yet birthed, but I knew it would be close.  

About an hour later I was feeling so much pressure and an urge to bear down and so the midwife checked me again.  I still wasn't quite to 10 centimeters yet so on the next contraction she manually dilated me the rest of the way.  Josh said he heard an audible popping noise (gross, right?) and the midwife said "That's it.  Get the pediatric team." (the peds team was needed to suction Joci right after birth to make sure she didn't ingest any meconium).  

I totally didn't realize she was so close to being born.  Everyone was telling me to push, that the baby was right there.  I just kept saying, "What!?  Really?  Are you for real?"  Haha, anyway they were definitely for real.  I think I did about two pushes for her head and another one or two for her body and she was out.  

I honestly don't remember her crying, probably because I couldn't hear her over my own sobs.  The labor process had not gone quite how I was anticipating and I was just glad it was over.

After I calmed down a bit I was able to glance over and see my little dark-haired sweetie.  Everyone was saying how big she was, and she was indeed a great size!  

Jocelyn Evie Rieke, 8 lbs. 8 oz., 21 inches.
The peds team suctioned Joci out really well and then gave her to me.  Josh and I just kissed our newest little love.  She was pretty perfect. 

Jocelyn has been home for a little over two weeks now.  It's been tiring, of course, but mostly just sweet and enjoyable and wonderful.  Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers.  We are so thankful to the Lord for our sweet baby girl.

Joci and Mommy after our sponge bath and shower, respectively.
Proud Papa
Proud Big Brother
Our little family 
Thank you Jesus <3 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Joci is here!

I am so pleased to let you know that Jocelyn Evie Rieke was born Saturday June 28th at 3:32 am, a very healthy 8lb., 8 oz. baby girl.  Thank you so much for all your wonderful thoughts and prayers.  Pictures soon to come. :)  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A New Song

T minus 10 days (plus or minus) until baby girl arrives.  I am immersed in a world of surreality.  Excitement, anticipation, and this crazy can't-wrap-my-mind-around-it-all feeling.  But it's all oh so good.

A couple of weeks ago it didn't feel so much that way.  A couple of weeks ago I didn't know exactly what to name "it", but I didn't feel quite right.  Joci's nursery corner wasn't quite done and I was hardly motivated to finish it, which is very unlike me.  I was resisting any cervical checks from my midwife for because I didn't want to get things going before I was ready.  It was all strange and uncharacteristic.

It was fear.

Because this pregnancy has been so uneventful and just plain textbook normal, I think my heart was anticipating something to go wrong.  And I was somewhat dreading the moment of labor/birth/early days home because of the impending tragedy I was imagining.  Like, somehow God would pull the rug out from under me at the last minute and the nightmare that was 2012 and the grieving year of 2013 would be my life again.  I'm not sure how I thought not finishing Jocelyn's bedding would prevent her from coming.  Not a ton of logic there.  But I guess it's how my heart was coping.

After talking with some friends I really started to identify this fear and asked the Lord to help me combat it.  Surely just because I lost one baby didn't mean another loss was certain and imminent.  Surely the Lord could bless me with another healthy baby.

So I asked for a word, a verse, a thought.  And a quick glance at my Bible one morning led me to these verses:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song ... sing to the Lord and bless His name ... for the Lord is great and greatly to be praised!  Psalm 96:1-4

This is my season for a new song.  It doesn't mean I have forgotten that in my own book of Psalms there are laments and tear-stained pages and a sweet name that seems almost sacred.  No.  But it does mean this is a new season and a time to anticipate and celebrate new life and praise God not just because He holds me up in tragedy and has built a spectacular plan for life after death, but because He does truly great and celebratory things in this life.  In my life.  And it's ok to sing that new song.

Now certainly this idea of a "new song" can be figurative, more like a new attitude of the heart and not an actual song.  Except that, on the day the Lord brought me to those verses, I happened to have this song stuck in my head.  And I don't think that's just coincidence.  And so, I think this will be my new song.  Vibrant, upbeat, hopeful.  A new song of praise to bless the Lord.

Do you have special songs that have reflected different life seasons?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Project Fail and DIY Challenge

My due date with sweet baby #3 is in less than a month.  Naturally I have been trying to prepare for her arrival and finish up any baby projects I had started.  One such project was this one, and it didn't turn out so well ...

I had this, what I thought was, a masterfully creative idea for a baby mobile to hang over Joci's crib.  I wanted to take the shabby-chic no-sew fabric banner idea and transfer it to a tomato cage, thus making an adorable tiered fabric mobile.  I think it was a great idea, but somehow it didn't turn out so great.

Here was the process ...

Step 1: Acquire a tomato cage.  Have your father-in-law cut the "feet" off the end with some sort of wire cutter that you are too afraid to use.

Step 2: Purchase several coordinating fat quarters from your local fabric store.  Cut each into 12 strips, approx. 1-1.5" in. in width.

Step 3: Begin tying your strips around the tomato cage.  Be as patterned or as random as you'd like to be.

Step 4:  Continue the tying process until you are completely sick of it and the patterns you once thought were so cute now look boring.  

And here's the finished product:

Josh told me it looked like trash.  I think it looks like mummy grave clothes.  I tried to hang it with fishing line and that wasn't quite strong enough.  I originally bought 6 fat quarters at $1.99 each and it barely covered the tomato cage.  So this project wouldn't be as budget-friendly as I'd hoped.  Luckily a friend gave me the banner she had made for Evie's memorial service and so I used some of those fabric strips to complete this project. 

All in all, just not what I was going for.  I can't quite call it a pinterest fail because this idea never was on pinterest.  It's more of a personal creative ambition fail.  Eesh.  That sounds much worse.  

So anyway, I'm using this misstep to issue a challenge to you creative types out there: can you make this idea work?  Can you make it better/cuter/less expensive/easy to hang?  If you can, please post your results here - I would love to see how this has inspired you!  

As for me, I'll be at Target, where already made, cute baby things abound.  :) 

Mom, mom, take a picture of me measuring the tall of this.  Mom can I be in the picture?  Mom, get me in the picture too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

3 Kids, 3 Different Places

Sunday was Mother's Day.  I'm sure I don't stand alone when I say it's a bittersweet holiday.  There are elements that I celebrate wholeheartedly - being a mama to a wonderful boy, two lovely women I have the privilege of calling mom, carrying and sustaining life.  But even still, there are aspects that bring tears to my eyes - a grandmother I never got to know, a daughter whose handprints will never decorate a gluey Mother's Day card, pain in my heart for all the hurting mamas I am blessed to know.  It's a special day and at the same time, a sobering day.

This Mother's Day I was thinking very much about my three kids and how loving them means three very different things.

Loving Micah means being there for him and caring for his day-to-day needs.  It means giving out a bazillion high fives to reinforce good behavior, praying desperately for direction and wisdom in how to mold him into a Christ-centered little boy.  It means four thousand kisses per cheek, per day.  Playing superheroes, bonding time outside on the swing, being the all-time designated pitcher for the all-time cutest hitter.  Bedtime stories and snuggles.  Our relationship is very tangible and I love it.

Loving Evie is very different.  Loving her is replaying memories over and over in hopes that none will fade.  It means speaking her name and talking about her with ease and ensuring others are comfortable doing the same.  Loving her means praising the Father for His eternal plan.  It means being a spokesperson and advocate for babies like her and mamas like me.  Our relationship feels much bigger than just the two of us, and I love it.

Loving Jocelyn (Joci) is different still.  Loving her means taking care of myself.  It means listening to my body when it cries for rest, water, or double death by chocolate ice cream fruit.  It means swallowing those miserable vitamins because I know it's good for us.  It means preparing our home and family for her arrival.  Loving her means loving someone I don't even know yet, but am certain she'll be my favorite third child ever.  Our relationship is very hopeful, and I love it.

Loving my kids in their very different places makes me think of all the sweet mamas out there who also have babies in different places.  Maybe they are in your arms, maybe in your hearts.  Maybe they are no more than a dream but you pray for them even now and look forward to the day you will hold them close.  These little souls have been entrusted to us ... we are their mothers.  And so, I want to wish all the special mommies out there, no matter where your babies are, a very Happy bleated Mother's Day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Over Coffee

This post is inspired by other bloggers who have regular "over coffee" type posts.  My drink of choice is usually just a warm decaf coffee with a splash of cream.  But now that the weather's getting warmer, maybe an iced decaf americano with a splash of cream.  And vanilla flavoring if I'm feeling indulgent.  What's your drink?  My treat ... 

Life has been moving along quite nicely for us.  Josh is settling in well at his new job and really enjoys the autonomy that comes with being a certified professional and not a student still under the microscope.  And I don't blame him.

Micah's been good.  He's such a little character and we love him more each day.  He is very, very excited about a new baby sister that he can help with.  As much as possible, I try to talk with him about what it will be like to have an infant in the house.  I made some burp cloths for Joci a few weeks ago and Micah was totally weirded out by their purpose.  I told him that sometimes babies spit up, which is sort of like throwing up just a bit of the milk they drank.  He said, "That's weawwy gwoss mom."  Haha, I guess so.  What a guy.

Joci and I are growing nicely.  Only one more trimester!  I'm really looking forward to having two kids at home to kiss and love every day.  Always wishing there were three, but thankful for the two I have with me.

In other news, I am going to be an aunt for the first time in just a few months!  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are expecting their first, a sweet baby boy, in mid-September.  I really can't wait to meet the little guy and watch two people I love very much grow into the parenting role.  Such a blessing.  Some free time recently has been going to planning his baby shower, so that's been fun too.  I love me an event to plan!  Especially something so wonderful like a baby shower.  

I'm also working on some things for Joci.  She and Micah will have to share a room so there's not a ton of redecorating going on, but some!  I'm currently working on a fabric mobile idea that I can't wait to post about.  My husband was watching me work on it and said it started out looking like trash but now it doesn't look as bad.  Ummm ... thanks?  

My heart?  My heart has been satisfied lately.  The Lord has really been impressing on me just to be very thankful for all the many blessings happening to us and those we love.  Did I mention my baby sister locked down a fifth grade teaching position with our public school system for the 2014/2015 school year?  Yeah, big amazing stuff is happening.  

I've also been praising the Lord for sparing us from sickness.  For the last two years our little family has been unaffected by the flu, stomach bug, or anything more than just a cold that left us feeling a little extra lazy for a couple of days.  Nothing.  That is amazing to me and something I am very grateful to the Lord for.  He even fights microscopic battles for me :) 

Also ... we got a new camera!  Well, new to us anyway.  And from what I've read, it's a pretty great one so I'm very thankful and excited to share pics from it.  If things start to look nicer on here, you know why ... 

Well anyway, that's me.  But I feel like I've been talking on and on.  Please tell me, how is life going for you?  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Rugged Topography of a Rainbow Pregnancy

I stared at it.  The overpriced, white stick of plastic that now bore two pink lines.  Two very distinct pink lines.  There was no denying and no wondering and no thoughts of, I guess I'll take another one in a few days.  No sir.  I was pregnant.  

You'd think I would have been jumping for joy.  It was something I had wanted so desperately for six months, and as each month passed, I was growing more and more desperate.  You'd think this news would be a sweet relief to my weary soul, my still-grieving mama heart.  But no.  I felt ... nothing.

Maybe it was my sense of desperation; maybe it stole the potential for true joy.  Maybe it was the fact that my then two-year-old was being especially two that day.  Maybe it was the sense of sadness I felt for the person in the difficult predicament with whom I had just ended a phone conversation.  I really don't know.  All I know is the relief and joy I thought I would feel when those twin pink lines appeared wasn't there.  And the only thought I had was, here we go again.  After losing Evie it was so hard to imagine another pregnancy ending well.  I was fearful.  So fearful.

Fast forward about three weeks.  The pregnancy seemed to be going well.  First trimester symptoms started to set in, which, despite their unpleasantness, are always reassuring.  And in just a few short weeks my husband would be taking final exams for the program that had consumed our lives over the last twenty-eight months.  It all seemed too good to be true.  And I told that to the Lord. 

Really, Lord?  Can I believe that all these good things are coming to pass?  Is something crushing waiting around the corner?  

Of course the sovereign Lord who knows my every thought had the perfect thing waiting for me that evening.  As I sat in the bathroom while my bathtub boy splashed away the dirt of the day, I read these words from Jesus Calling (Nov. 12):

This is a time of abundance in your life.  Your cup runneth over with blessings.  After plodding uphill for many weeks, you are now traipsing through lush meadows drenched in warm sunshine.  I want you to enjoy to the full this time of ease and refreshment.  I delight in providing it for you.
Sometimes My children hesitate to receive My good gifts with open hands.  Feelings of false guilt creep in, telling them they don't deserve to be so richly blessed.  This is nonsense-thinking, because no one deserves anything from Me.  My kingdom is not about earning and deserving: it's about believing and receiving.
When a child of MIne balks at accepting My gifts, I am deeply grieved.  When you receive my abundant blessings with a grateful heart, I rejoice.  My pleasure in giving and your pleasure in receiving flow together in joyous harmony.  

That helped a little.  At the very least it stuck in my heart and became something to strive for.  Rejoice in these gifts.  I was allowed to rejoice in these gifts despite all the heartache I had endured and all the heartache of loved ones around me.  God was giving these things to me.  And it was ok to be happy.

Just a couple weeks later I was on the ultrasound table again.  The same table where I first learned something would be terribly wrong with my sweet Evie-girl.  It took everything in me to stay calm.  

When I saw that sweet little figure on the screen, a tiny gummy bear baby, I wanted to cry.  I wanted to, but the tears wouldn't come.  I wanted to rejoice, but something inside stopped me.  I wanted to feel, but there was just a haze.  And the thought ... everything is ok ... for now.  We'll see ...  

Shortly after Thanksgiving we told our families.  And then friends.  And then the world.  As the weeks passed and more people congratulated us on our special news and the first trimester "danger zone" was over, I started to feel a little more reassured.  This could happen.  If things go well and we follow this to the logical end, a baby will be coming home with us this summer. How wonderful.

Joci and Me, 11 weeks <3 

I was pretty emotionally well for several weeks.  Thanks to the tone of my stomach muscles being something comparable to that of a snack-pack, I started feeling the baby move somewhere between eleven and twelve weeks.  That was a really special blessing.  I was feeling so positive.  That is, until about nineteen weeks, one week before the twenty week appointment where we would find out this baby's gender.

After what I'd been through with Evie, one would think I would just be happy to find out we were having a baby that would be well enough to come home with us.  But instead, I was a bundle of nerves, not over the baby's health, but the baby's gender.  I felt so lame.

Truly, I had just assumed this baby was a girl.  I dreamed of it, planned her name, imagined Micah with a real live baby sister.  But exactly one week before that twenty week ultrasound I realized I had to come to grips with something: this baby could be a boy.  

I wrestled with this for some time.  There were tears.  The wrestling with God kind of tears.  The ones where I poured my heart out honestly and told Him all the reasons I desperately wanted another daughter, but one I could keep and grow memories with here on earth.  It was truly my heart's desire.

After all of that I felt the Lord prodding my heart to answer just one simple question.  Sarah, if this baby is a boy, are you going to be ok?

Phrased like that, the answer was easy.  Of course I would be ok.  I would love another baby boy just as much as I loved his big brother.  I would be more than ok!  And I truly felt at peace either way, pink or blue.

Februrary 14th, 2014 revealed that we were having a healthy baby girl.  I was so very happy.  But I was also, again, wrestling with some things.

It was so hard for me to wonder why, when I prayed so desperately for Evie to be healed, the Lord chose to answer those prayers with a very loud no.  And yet, my prayers for a healthy baby girl this time were answered with an easy yes.  Of course I was grateful for this, but it just felt confusing.  What was the difference?  Why now and not then?

At the same time, people all around me were rejoicing and saying that God knew the desires of my heart.  True, these were the desires of my heart.  But it was absolutely never the desire of my heart for Evie to die.  So ...?  Again, confusion and more wrestling.  

After more tears and prayers and deep talks with my husband, I felt at peace with these two big questions.  The Lord still answers our prayers according to His will.  No matter my heart's desire, if it doesn't match up with what works best for His kingdom, it will not come to pass.  That may be incredibly oversimplified, but it helped me, and continues to help me to know these things, these requests, are out of my hands on whether or not they are "granted".  God's sovereignty still reigns supreme, and I can be ok with that.  Father knows best.  And one day I am confident I will see all the reasons why.

Me and the kids at 23 weeks gestation.  For the record, I'm now one day away from 25 weeks ... not that anyone is counting ;)

It's been about five weeks since that day and I am really doing just fine.  Reconciling life without Evie is still hard - everything about my little family just seems a little more complicated.  This is my third pregnancy but only my second child that I get to keep ... Joci is the first girl to be born in our family except not really ... things like that.  But really, life feels very sweet right now.  I am so very excited for this summer and to experience life as a mommy of two.  I can't wait to see Joci melt her daddy's heart and bring out even more sweetness in her big brother.  I can't wait for bows and swaddling blankets and footie jammies.  And sweet baby baths.  I am hopeful.  The topography of a rainbow pregnancy might be rugged - certainly the journey is far from over - but right now I am strolling through sweet green valley grasses.  And I think the best is yet to come.