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.

Five Things I Will, And Will Not, Miss About Pregnancy

As this pregnancy draws to an end, and I look at the growing pile of maternity clothing into which I can no longer squeeze my significant body, I am embracing this idea of having completed this season of my life. Don’t get me wrong! I am so abundantly thankful for the three little miracles in my life, and wouldn’t trade any of them for a stretch-mark free body, but the idea of moving beyond this stage is also appealing.

That being said, there are some really neat things about pregnancy that I have enjoyed, and will probably miss. So here is my list of the 5 things I will not miss, and the 5 things I will miss about being pregnant.

I will NOT miss:

  1. vomit, nausea, food aversions, heartburn and all other digestive related malfunctions
  2. the inability to bend over while simultaneously breathing.
  3. maternity clothes. Everything about them.
  4. contractions, exhaustion and aches
  5. being unable to play and wrestle and chase my kids

I WILL miss:

  1. the kicks and rolls and continuous movements
  2. nursing (I know, not pregnancy, but I’ll miss it when it’s over)
  3. the anticipation of the unknowns of a new life
  4. medically advised bed time snacks
  5. the absence of cycles.

So there you go. My thoughts on passing out of this season of life and into another.

I remember back in the first days of the blog, when we were riding the roller coaster of miscarriage, thinking what a blessing it was to just be able to say that I had been pregnant. That is so much truer now than it was then. In the midst of the discomfort and the inconvenience and the frustration at my own limitations, I am still in awe that the Lord has seen fit to give me these amazing years of back to back pregnancies after so many years of barrenness. I look at my children in complete amazement at the vibrant little beings the Lord knit together for me and I honestly believe that the heartache of waiting, and the heart break of loss and the heartburn of pregnancy is all completely worth it for the treasures I will spend the rest of my living investing in the Kingdom.

Waltzing Under the Lens of Pregnancy

The last month or so of pregnancy is a very humbling time for me. It’s not so much being the size of a water buffalo, and the shape of Jabba the Hut, although that’s part of it. Really the humbling part of these weeks is how enormously it magnifies the extent of my own depravity. Normally an impatient person, I am currently almost unbearably so. My laziness is reaching almost proverbial proportions and my attitude? Imagine a pity party crossed with Oscar the Grouch. I could blame it on being tired. I could blame it on low energy, or low blood pressure, or just being generally uncomfortable, but here’s the truth: those things are just showing what’s in my heart already.

Mitch, our pastor in Georgia, talks about our Christian walk as a dance. We can either dance the 2-step: fail/try harder, or we can do the gospel waltz: repent/believe/fight.

It’s tempting right now to do the 2-step and say, “I’ve just got to be more patient and less lazy and quit complaining.” It’s easy to SAY, but impossible to do.

Instead I need to waltz through these last few weeks of pregnancy and subsequent weeks of newborn mamahood. I need to repent of my impatience, laziness and grumbling. I need to believe that right now, while I’m feeling physically and spiritually weak, Christ is strong enough to keep me from grumbling and complaining, just like he is when I’m at the “top of my game” and somehow feeling like I’m being good all by myself.  Finally I need to fight, by preaching the gospel to myself moment by moment.

It’s not every day you hear a woman in her 38th week of pregnancy declare the need to waltz, but here I go, stepping into the waltz, where Jesus leads, provides the music, and lets me just stand on his feet and enjoy the dance. Even when I’m the size of a water buffalo and the shape of Jabba the Hut.

What an awesome savior.

In Which the Gospel Transcends the Awkward

Here is a portion of a conversation I had yesterday:

Him: And what about that sermon on Passive Unbelief? Fantastic!
Me: Yeah. That was a home run! Of course, we haven’t heard a bad sermon.
Him: He really has an ability to communicate the deep things of the word in a way that even the newest believer can hold onto. You’re 37 inches. Right on track.
Me: And his sermons are all gospel at the heart.
Him: Who was that preacher who said, and I’m paraphrasing, I am a great sinner and I have a great Savior? Oh you’re very posterior.
Me: Yeah. I know. Newton.
Him: Yes. Newton. Mark is driven in the same way as Newton. The gospel, but deep. ( No significant change.)
Me: Because the gospel gets deeper the more we walk with the Lord.
Him: Amen.

So if you didn’t catch the clues, that was a conversation I had about our pastor’s preaching in the midst of a weekly cervical exam. Uh yeah.

My OB is an elder at our church and a few weeks ago I had a couple of women ask me how I could see my doctor at church on Sunday and not feel awkward. I guess this is the answer. He’s passionate about the things of the Lord and our church, and so am I so when I go into my exam it’s more like seeing him at church rather than seeing him at church is like the awkwardness of an exam.

This is one more example of the beauty of the body of Christ, and another reason we’re excited about being where the Lord has planted us as our seminary church home. (and you can click the link above to listen to the sermon. It really was yet another home run.)