21 November 2019

"Sometimes by Step"

Somehow, almost accidentally, Rich Mullins songs have ended up becoming the soundtrack to important milestones in my life together with Angel.

It started in his old Ford in 2009, when we were headed out on a shopping errand together, and he popped in a mix CD that began playing "If I Stand." 

It was instantly one of those "You too? I thought I was the only one." moments that C. S. Lewis talks about. I don't know how a California boy who grew up Catholic a decade ahead of a Michigan girl who grew up in Asia both happened to become fans of the same artist who passed away over a decade before we met and wasn't exactly crazy popular in 2009...but it happened. And "If I Stand" became the song that we consider "ours," one that we played during our wedding.

Years later, when I had a miscarriage, Mullins' "Hold Me Jesus" became the hymn that I clung to on a daily basis.

When Cyrus was born, we dedicated "Let Mercy Lead" to him, as it truly fits what we hope for his future and life.

A month or so before Glenn was born, I was having a physically very tough day. It was getting near the end of the day, which had begun with the usual homeschool routine with the big kids, and now I was finally making dinner, Cyrus was wandering around getting into things he wasn't supposed to be getting into, and I began to get discouraged with how rough I was feeling, I brought to mind the picture of "putting one foot in front of the other." I didn't have to think about how I was going to make it all the way through till the end of pregnancy and recovery again, I just had to think about the very next step.

And as I thought, I realized how very much that theme had been a characteristic of this pregnancy, how ever since early on when we discovered, much to our surprise, that his little heart was still beating, and we were told bluntly, "There's no way to guarantee anything, at this point we'd call it a 'threatened miscarriage.'" 

All I knew at that time was that I was indeed still pregnant, and all I could do was count each day, each little 'step' further along on the journey. The journey never really got easy, but it wasn't cut short and taken away from me, and for that I cannot be thankful enough.

And then the song "Sometimes by Step" came to mind and I knew I'd stumbled upon my song for Glenn.

Here are the lyrics:

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You'd already done
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Now, in the wee hours of the morning as I take my steps around the house, holding close a tiny boy who doesn't yet grasp the idea of sleeping without cuddles, I sing this to him, and think about all the days when I wondered if we'd ever make it this far together.

Sometimes this walk comes just one small step at a time, and that's all we can manage...and we can't quite even manage those little steps but for the grace of God. And that's enough.
13 November 2019

Birth Day Story

It started on a Sunday evening. Some friends who we hadn't seen in over a year had just arrived to spend the week at my parents' home, and after they came to my place for a short visit to see how much Cyrus had grown since they last saw him, we all went out to Subway together for a quick dinner.

Towards the end of dinner, around 6:30, I was starting to experience some suspicious pains and when Angel suggested walking around the mall for a while to see what was going on (there was some sort of fair or sale on at the time), I told him no, we ought to head straight home, I wasn't feeling well. I walked out and was headed straight for the car, but Angel lingered in the restaurant with my dad, continuing their dinner time conversation about Christian bands from the 70s and 80s. I remember turning around and glaring at him a bit as I waited, uncomfortably, near the entrance to the parking ramp. A minute or two later, he came with Cyrus and we headed home.

When we arrived home, I gave Cyrus his evening cup of milk and we brushed his teeth and got him to bed around the normal time, 7:30, and then I took a shower--both to help with the pain and to be showered and ready if I decided we ought to go to the hospital. Then I wandered around, finding the final things that needed to be added to the hospital bag and making sure we knew where everything we needed to bring was.

I was quite unsure what was going on, because the contractions didn't start out nearly as strong and predictable as they did with Cyrus. After a couple hours of walking around the house and trying to stretch and try out different comfortable exercises, I decided to call my mom to come stay with Cyrus and that we would head into the hospital to be safe. Cyrus's birth was so fast, and we live a solid half hour from the hospital, that I was nervous about being too far away or having to manage late-labor contractions while in the car.

But...spoiler turned out that this was very different from my experience with Cyrus and we had a long ways to go. I wonder whether we ought to have stuck it out at home longer...but I was in pain way too often to fall asleep anyways, and I did feel safer closer to doctors and with the ability to check on the baby's heart rate, so in the end, I think it's good we went in when we did.

We arrived at the hospital and, once again, went in through the "No Unauthorized Entry" doors into the ER, where they immediately put me in a wheelchair and brought us to a labor and delivery room. This time, they put me on the monitors for 20 minutes first (they never did that with Cyrus, I guess it was a little too obvious that time that it was very nearly "go time" for baby), and the nurse said sure enough, I was having contractions about every 2 minutes, but they were varying in intensity and not very long. But I had progressed enough and with the history of a quick labor the first time, they called my doctor right away and admitted me.

At that point, Angel got taken away to do the admittance paperwork, at which point he found out that we did need to have my passport (I'd asked in packing if I needed to pack my passport but he'd said no, he didn't remember needing one and I am already registered at the hospital so they have my info. But we were wrong!) He pacified them by saying we could have my family bring the passport in the morning, and then was able to come back to my room.

They left us alone most of the night, only the occasional visit from my doctor once she arrived and from nurses who had me back on the monitors to check on baby's heart after every couple of hours. I alternated between walking around the room for 30-45 minutes at a time and then lying down in the bed to rest for a while, trying to find the balance of giving the baby gravity and movement to help move him along, and also resting to try to stay relaxed and not get too exhausted. Labor is weird. You can read up on everything that is supposed to help but in the end, you just don't know exactly what's the best thing to do at the moment. Angel spent a good chunk of the night sleeping in the bed while I walked the room--which worked out well, because while I was in a good bit of pain, it wasn't unbearable or anything I felt I couldn't manage on my own.

According to the monitors, contractions kept coming on very frequently but weren't lengthening or getting consistently stronger. Around 7 am, 12ish hours after the pains had begun, my doctor suggested starting a pitocin drip to see if that would help with labor progression. In her opinion, I was plenty far enough along that there was no backing out of it at this point--she was definitely open to letting me continue to progress naturally but thought it might be another 12 hours or more at this rate and was letting me make the decision of whether I wanted to tough it out or try some drugs to help move things along.

I decided to agree to the pitocin--again, I feel like at times like this, you really never quite know what's the best choice--and then because of that now had to stay in the bed on the monitors so that we could keep an eye on baby's heart rate. After about 3ish hours after starting pitocin, they came in and suggested breaking my water, thinking that would help get us all the way to the end zone. Seemingly within seconds after my water was broken, the pain instantly ramped up into "impossible" level and I immediately asked for the gas to breathe...which, again, I'm not sure helps all that much with pain, but gives you something to concentrate on doing, attempting to breathe air coming out of a little tube, and I was sitting up and Angel was right there helping me through it all.

About an hour after my water was broken, baby Glenn was born. Unlike Cyrus, I actually got to hold him and keep him with me for a while because he was breathing fine (Cyrus was first handed to me but then got immediately taken away because he was so purple and not breathing so well). It was a good thing I actually got to hold my baby because things didn't go so well for me in the post-baby birth process and since I wasn't on anything for pain relief, the only thing I had to help me through it was holding my precious baby and Angel right there with me. They let us keep the baby with us for a good while before taking him to the nursery for weighing, etc, and that was really nice. It was so good when it was just the three of us in the room that (when I was brave/foolish enough to actually look around) looked like a scene out of a gory movie that I would never watch. My first impression of Glenn was of how much he didn't look like Cyrus at all (Cyrus was born with a very noticeable v-shaped storkbite on his forehead, so at this point I was kind of expecting all babies to be born with Vs on their foreheads) and that he was very tiny.

Glenn had been measuring a bit behind in his size since around the beginning of the third trimester...just one more little worry in a pregnancy that had been very worrisome, and was born at 38 weeks 5 days weighing just a bit under 6 lbs--much smaller than his 7 lb. 2 oz. brother, but a very respectable size for a baby who was expected to be on the small side. We'd had an ultrasound 2 days before he was born that estimated his size at 2.7 kg, and he was born weighing 2.7 when people always say, "Oh, those ultrasounds can be really far off!" just know that they can also be pretty correct. Who knew?

We eventually were brought to a recovery room about 2 hours after Glenn was born, and my parents arrived and brought Cyrus and one of my sisters to meet the baby...only we had to wait another couple hours before Glenn actually arrived in the room.

We had opted that we wanted to keep Glenn in the room with us as much as possible and take care of him ourselves rather than having him go to nursery, so once he arrived, he was with us for the evening. I expected that, like Cyrus, he would be very sleepy on his first night, but quite the opposite, he was very alert and wanted to be held most of the night. At one point I think I held him for two hours straight while he just happily looked around the dark room. The next day, we were both discharged by our doctors and were able to head home in late afternoon, which is where we both stay for now, getting rest and building strength before heading out into the big, exciting world that Glenn doesn't even know about yet!

Our miracle boy is here. and I'm so very, very grateful. As we were alone in the room together after he was born, Angel and I talked about those horrible 5 days in April when we thought he was already gone, and about the doctor's appointment at the end of 5 days that utterly shocked us--when we saw a growing baby on a screen where we fully expected to see nothing good at all. How stunned we were as we drove home from that appointment, trying to wrap our minds around getting the best news that we could imagine alongside the words "at this point we would call it a threatened miscarriage." And then at 18 weeks when the doctor told us that the placenta had partially detached and early delivery was a risk...and then at 28 weeks when his growth slowed...all I can say it praise be to God for this indescribable gift. We got to meet our boy!