Category Archives: pregnancy

This Wasn’t How I Thought This Life Would Go

Jonathan and I married 22 years ago this month, and like all newly weds we had big plans for our life. Among the certainties we presented to God, were the following:

  1. Jonathan would be a youth pastor forever, because youth ministry wasn’t just a stepping stone to “something bigger and better.”
  2. We would be young parents. Our four children would be born before we hit our 30’s so we could be grandparents in our 40’s.
  3. We were never leaving Canada.
  4. We would never renovate a house, or farm sheep.

In case you’re new here, I’ll remind you that we have, thus far, managed to not farm sheep. We hit our tenth anniversary, still childless, and Jonathan leaving his youth pastorate at the beginning of what would be a five year theological overhaul. One would think I would have learned not to give God absolutes. Still, I continued to be surprised when my plans were not His. Here I sit, approaching 43, expecting my own bonus doodle, instead of the granddoodle of my initial plans, and I find myself thinking “but this wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.”

Almost nothing about the life I have now is the life I pictured then. I “should” be published. I “should” have teenagers in an excellent Christian school on whose PTA I would gladly serve. I “should” . . . does it even matter? The point is, I’m not.

And still, as I look back over 22 years of “shoulds,” I am struck also by the things I never saw coming. Would anyone who knew me even ten years ago have anticipated that I would own three separate rolling pins for three separate baking tasks, and use every one regularly? Would the naive almost 21 year old who walked that aisle have anticipated the day she/I could gut, skin, and process both large game and small animals and birds for our family’s consumption?  Hardly. My political shift from liberal to angry conservative to undefinable was probably not as surprising to others as it was to me. However, I know that no one could have foreseen the day in which I found joy and peace within the bounds called “confessional.”

I didn’t set out to be a confessional Presbyterian, any more than I set out to spend ten years of life infertile, but the journeys are not separate. This isn’t the life I set out to live. This isn’t the road map I unfurled at the dawning of my early adulthood. It doesn’t even look like the same country, some days. Still, I wouldn’t trade it. Some of the greatest beauties of my life and things that stir my soul today couldn’t even be found on that first path. The things in which I delight today are things I didn’t even know I wanted then.

So six months ago it wasn’t my plan to have a baby in my 40s. What joy and delights are to come that I cannot anticipate? This bonus doodle follows in a long line of things I receive from the Lord that I didn’t know I wanted. Some of those things have been terribly painful, and the heavy hand of providence may lay on this too. Even so, all things considered, He has continued to make my boundaries lie in pleasant places. This isn’t the way I thought my life would go, 22 years ago, 10 years ago, 6 months ago. This wasn’t my plan. What a comforting place to rest.


How the First Century Church Kicked My Butt in the 21st Century

We’re reading Acts in family worship and today we read a prayer that the first group of Christians prayed after having been threatened to stop preaching the gospel.

they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servantsto continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Did you see what they prayed? They didn’t ask the Lord to remove the threats, or to protect them, or to keep them or their children safe. All they asked was that they would continue to obey in light of the threats against them.

For months I have been praying, “Lord, please let the baby sleep tonight.”

Tonight, after having the prayer from Acts bouncing around my head all day, I am convicted to pray, “Lord, please give me the strength to be obedient to you even when the baby doesn’t sleep.”

It’s certainly a harder prayer, made more so by my tendency toward the heresy that all a problem really needs is for me to learn the right lesson and then it will immediately be solved. As if God is in heaven with a level chart and as soon as I complete all the required tasks of a quest he bumps up my avatar and starts the next level of sanctification. The story of Acts is certainly not helping that presupposition either. They prayed for boldness in the face of persecution and got both boldness AND persecution. I am praying for strength, while still hoping for sleep, and thanking the Lord that He has even the number of hours of sleep prewritten before the foundations of the world.

So, Is This How Some of You Live?

For the first time in my adult life I am not being defined by my reproductive system. I am not pregnant. I am not breastfeeding. I am not actively trying to conceive. I don’t really know how to handle myself.

Since 1997 my life has been dominated by counting. For eleven years I counted cycle days, praying on the way up that the numbers wouldn’t come back to 1, and often crying when they did. Then I counted gestational weeks, at first praying they would keep climbing toward 40 (and crying when one didn’t) and then praying they would just end. In between I counted hours until the next feeding, hours of sleep, growth in days, then weeks, then months. Always counting, but not any more.

In some ways my identity has shifted from my reproductive system to the products of it. Between potty training, speech and physical therapy, cooking, cleaning, laundry and general troubleshooting/fire stomping, I’ve got my hands full enough that I’m glad I’m not counting too.

But today I looked at a calendar to determine the date of a future event, and realized that all days were essentially equal. In that realization, I suddenly wondered, “Oh. Is this how other people live their lives?” I may be calling on some of you for tools in navigating this new approach to life.

Introducing . . .

Gabriella Caroline Cowan born Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 4:12 pm. She’s 8 lb 8 oz, 20 inches long.

It was either the longest or the shortest labor of all – I’m still not quite sure. Well, let me explain.

I may have mentioned (whined, grumbled and complained about) the painful contractions I was experiencing from last Thursday afternoon. After writing my blog post on Monday, I began to have regular contractions – every seven minutes for more than two hours – and we started to make plans to go into the hospital when they got to five minutes apart.

Which didn’t happen.

By midnight I climbed into bed contraction free. I was angry, depressed and just generally feeling like I was destined to be pregnant forever. It as a completely irrational response and should have been a hint to me that something was under way – if I had been able to look at my irrationality rationally.

Tuesday morning I got up late and started my regular Tuesday morning chore of sorting laundry. The contractions came back and I just decided to ignore them. I got a load of laundry started and took the children outside to play. By this time I was having a hard time doing anything but breathe when I’d get a contraction which were continuing to be maddeningly irregular. My cheesedoodle chose the middle of one such contraction to – for the first time ever – run onto the road in front of a car (thankfully driven by our friend John, who is both gracious and conscientious) and I sent Jonathan an SOS.

“Help me with the kids.” It said.

He arrived home to find us all piled on my bed reading stories. I stopped, mid sentence, and the mackerdoodle turned to him to announce, “Mama’s having contraptions so we’re reading until they go away.”  45 minutes later we were in the van on the way to the hospital. The doctor’s office had said that as I was past my due date, if things stopped again they’d just go ahead and break my water and progress things for me.

I arrived at the hospital and was examined and pronounced to be at 4 cm – having been at 2 the day before – with contractions coming anywhere between 2 and 5 minutes apart with neither rhyme nor reason to the spacing, but more and more pain. As they admitted me they told me the orders my doctor had given: Make her comfortable, and then break her water to get those contractions regulated and things progressing.

An epidural made me comfortable, and the nurse stepped out to fetch a resident to break my water. With the next contraction, just as the resident entered the room, my water broke on its own. I was thrilled. So was the nurse and the resident. I was also delighted to hear that just under two hours after being checked in admitting I was now almost 7 centimeters, and the contractions were, indeed, regulating.

All of that relief, combined with the sudden lifting of the pain fog, meant I slipped into a nap for about 20 minutes. When I woke up I was convinced the contractions had stopped again. There was nothing on the monitor for the last 20 minutes. I hadn’t woken up with the pressure of contractions. I just knew I had made the wrong decision having the epidural.

“They’re going to have to give me pitocin anyway!” I wailed to Jonathan. “I’m not going to have this baby for HOURS! I just made the wrong call!” It went on this way for another 30 minutes until the nurse came back in, told me the contraction monitor had slid off  during my nap and declared me 10 cm. Then she said, “Oh good. You’re doctor told me he didn’t want to miss it.”

I was so touched!

From then it was pretty straight forward. We turned off the epidural and did our thing, and my beautiful girl was born 40 minutes later. She’s my only non-pitocin baby, my only non-vacuum delivery, and so far my easiest recovery.

So if you count labor from beginning of dilation, it’s my longest labor at 5 days, but if you count from “Get me some DRUGS! I can’t handle this!” it’s my shortest delivery at 5 1/2 hours or so. Either way you count it, it’s a great ending to this season of our lives.

Tomorrow I’ll post about What the Pediatrician Told Us the Day After (a. k. a. Why Changing a Snickerdoodle Diaper Requires a Degree in Engineering.)

Still Here

Well, it’s the due date. I’m ready. She’s not here yet. I’m still waiting.

I’ve been more impatient with this pregnancy than with the others, and it got to a point on Thursday and Friday that I was just angry that she wasn’t here yet. This was primarily because of the painfully intense (and yet irregular and thereby inconvenient) contractions I have been having. Knowing that I hadn’t progressed at all, I kept feeling as if all the pain was useless, as if I was “suffering” for no purpose at all.

On Sunday our pastor preached on Matthew 16:21-23. He phrased Peter’s response to Jesus this way,
“Can’t we have the Kingdom, have this life you’re promising us, without the suffering and the pain?” Doesn’t that just define western contemporary culture? It certainly defines too much of my outlook on life. I was convicted about being angry with my contractions. They are serving a purpose. At the end of this I will have a beautiful daughter who has been created uniquely by God for specific good works. That’s certainly worth a few contractions, isn’t it?

Finally, I was further chastened when I was informed in my weekly exam today that I have in fact dilated to 2 cm. “I guess those contractions are starting to do their job.” he said to me, unaware that he was being a further voice of the Holy Spirit to me.

So I wait out the irregular contractions, hoping that this one will be the beginning of the real thing, and I am reminded of Romans 8:21-23

. . . the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that(B) the whole creation(C) has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have(D) the firstfruits of the Spirit,(E) groan inwardly as(F) we wait eagerly for adoption as sons,(G) the redemption of our bodies.

The pain of this world, just like the pain of my contractions,  is not useless. It reminds us that this world is not our permanent state. Unlike the pregnant woman who is waiting to deliver someone else, the pain of this world reminds us that we are the ones waiting to be delivered into a perfect kingdom.

I’m waiting to deliver the snickerdoodle.

I’m waiting to be delivered.

I’m still here.

In Which I Channel Star Trek and Wave My Geek Flag Just a Little.

In every episode of Star Trek (original generation) the Enterprise encounters some sort of mechanical challenge or needs to escape from some especially vile villain, and Captain Kirk coms engineering begging Scotty For. More. Power. Scotty invariably responds with, “I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!” By the next commercial break, however, Scotty has managed to work a miracle and pull just enough more out of the warp core to enable the Enterprise to make a miraculous escape.

At the beginning of last week I felt like at the slightest demand of energy, my body would say to me, “I’m giving you all I’ve got, Captain,” and like Kirk (this may well be the only time I compare myself to Cpt. Kirk EVER.) it wasn’t enough. I still had one task I wanted to complete before the baby arrived and it wasn’t a super small one either. I really needed my warp core operating at peak efficiency for another few days before shutting down all systems but life support and basic propulsion. (Is the metaphor wearing thin? Sorry.) I wanted to move Jonathan’s study into the toy room and the toy room into the study.

I know. You’re thinking, “Why? What’s the urgency?”

The reason is two-fold: first, the study is also functioning as our guest bedroom and when my parents come in the first week of May to meet their newest (and last, unless my sister has a surprise birth event) grandchild they will bring a fold out couch with them as our guest bed. As I began to look at the room, I realized that there really wasn’t enough room for everything plus a couch and there really wouldn’t be any room to fold out that couch.

Secondly, I cycle the children’s toys, putting a portion of them away for periods of time, so that when they come back out it’s like having new toys. I had left the current toys out longer than usual because I thought bringing out “new” toys right before a baby comes might be a good idea. Packing up the current sets and taking out the old ones is like moving, so if I was going to change the rooms out, that would be the time to do it.

Finally, I got more bookshelves, because Megan is moving to Oklahoma, and I put them in the toy room because there was no room for them in the study. (see “first” above)

Those bookshelves mocked me emptily for four days, sitting in the middle of the toy room floor with my kids using them for obstacle course practice and hide and seek. It seemed that just looking at them gave me contractions and I would begin the day with great intentions of doing something, but end it with the sound of the bookshelves’ laughter echoing in my ears.

Then, on Friday morning Scotty worked his magic. The warp core came on-line. I didn’t hurt all over. I got off my ever growing duff and started by moving some paper. Once I got started, the doodles began to pitch in. They carried every book they could reach from one room to the other, stacking them on the new book shelves which I had moved against a wall. The mackerdoodle sang “Stacking, stacking, who doesn’t love stack-I-I-I-N-N-N-G-G-G” repeatedly as she trotted back and forth between the two rooms.

By Saturday, the former toy room was a study, with a clear wall just waiting for a couch, and even some empty shelves, meaning I could ask Jonathan to bring those last few boxes of books up from the basement! The toys are in the other room, and the doodles played together in that room for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon without so much as a “MAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Help ME!” or a scream of protest.

Today I’m back to hurting when I sit, stand, lie down, roll over, play dead – oh wait, maybe not that last one – but it doesn’t matter. All I have to do between now and when the baby comes is basic housekeeping maintenance – dishes, vacuuming, laundry. That can be performed on the “life support and basic propulsion” setting to which I have been temporarily reduced, and I don’t care any more.

I don’t Need. More. Power.

I would be happy to unload my cargo bay, however. 🙂

“Just Hold On!”

This week has been Grand Opening Week at the newest Chick-Fil-A. At the last grand opening, Jonathan was just on loan to a new location, and he felt it, but this time around it’s with his operator and his manager and the management staff he knows and appreciates. It feels like a family event.

They knew they were going to have a good grand opening when people were knocking on the windows of the store last week asking if they could buy chicken, but no one anticipated the opening they actually experienced yesterday. They sold $8000 more in product than their best estimates. They ranked within the top five openings ever nation wide. They literally sold out of everything and put in emergency orders for more food, more packaging and more people for today.

In the midst of the whirlwind, the general manager and the store’s operator managed to send a message specifically to me via my husband as he came in after midnight last night. The message was, “Ask her to hold on! I know she’s close and uncomfortable, but please, ask her to hold on! We really need you.”

We’re delighted for Mark (the operator) to be so successful in this venture, but it’s pretty flattering that the impending birth of our daughter is even included in their thoughts right now.

And as far as holding on, I’ll do my best, but babies tend to have a mind of their own. Despite the best laid plans.