Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stop, Drop, and Pray

Shortly after Micah and I were married (in 2004) we moved to Los Angeles, California where we both sought employment in our areas of interest. Our goal in moving there was to both finish college while working at jobs we enjoyed. 
We had a hard time finding jobs at first! Micah was hoping to get his old job back at the LA Zoo, but  that didn't work out as planned. And I was having a tough time finding a job working with at-risk-youth, like I had wanted. As our first month in the big city started to unfold, we desperately needed money to pay our rent due the following month.  
After weeks of interviews and struggling to find the perfect job, I finally got hired for a youth rehabilitation program for troubled teenage girls coming out of the juvenile detention system. I was so excited to start working again, and especially for a job I knew I would like. Micah was still unemployed for the time being.

Fast forward a month later: I have locked myself in the bathroom at work and am crying on my knees, praying to God that I can get through another day of this horrible job. There's a large, terrifying black girl named Ashley banging on the bathroom door yelling at me to give her the weekly allowance she deserves or she'll punch my face off.  She's been calling me "Dingy White Bitch" all week long. In fact they all call me that-- all six of the girls that live in the transition home I work at. It hurts and it bothers me, but it's not the worst of the problems I have at this job.  I'm the only white employee working as a mentor at a transition home for inner-city black and Hispanic kids coming out of jail. The kids don't like me nor do they respect me. They break all the rules when I'm on shift. They make fun of me. They walk all over me. And I can't even begin to empathize with the horrible life situations they must have come from before they arrived here! My fellow employees aren't friendly towards me. I feel useless and vulnerable at this job. 

Ashley's threats are starting to scare me as she gets louder and more aggressive. "Open the door you Dingy white bitch! Open the effing door or I'll punch your face in." 
I say a prayer one more time, get off my knees and open the door. I smile sweetly and professionally, and try my hardest to stay calm. I also look out the window wishing desperately that my co-staff is on her way up the doorstep. She's also a large black woman, and she knows how to handle these girls. One quick word from her and they'll be back to the expected, acceptable behavior. But she's not here, yet. 
"Now Ashley," I say, "You know you can't have your weekly allowance until you finish your chores and clean your room. This money is for after dinner when we take you to the dollar store."
"Shut the eff up you Dingy White Bitch," she yells so close to my face, I can smell her flaming-hot cheetoh breath enter my pores. She continues, "My supervisor said I could have the effing money now, so hand it the eff over!"
I want to cry. I want to open the front door and run away from there. I want to tell this young fifteen year old girl  that her life will amount to nothing if she keeps playing these  stupid games. 
The games and lies and excuses never seem to end at this transition home, and in these girl's lives. There's always a problem, and it always seems to be my fault (or anyone else's) that needs to fix it. 
Right when I think she's going to let me have it, my co-staff, Veeona, pulls in the front driveway. Ashley goes and sits on the couch with the other girls watching TV, acting like nothing ever happened. She smiles as Veeona walks in the door. I smile and pretend I'm a hard-ass mentor for inner-city bad kids who's tough behavior and threats don't bother me a bit. 
When my shift is finally over I get in my car and cry all the way home. 
But I made it! I made it another day, and a paycheck to pay the rent. Micah was hired at an animal clinic the next day, so I quit that horrible job and never looked back. 
However, years later, as I reflect back on that experience, it was here that I learned to stop, drop, and pray whenever I was in a stabbing situation. I would stop what I was doing, find somewhere to drop to my knees (usually the bathroom) and pray with all my heart that God would protect me and help me to get through another day, another hour, or another minute of this job. It was that bad. Maybe even worse than the Flash Flood experience, but I'm not sure--they come pretty close. 
I know that the Holy Ghost was guiding me and helping me in some hard situations, as my pleading prayers were answered each day, each eight hour shift. I even found a place in my heart to pray for these troubled girls who may never know a better life. 

Recently I've been applying this same principle to my current family situation, as I've been facing some pretty tough challenges over here. 
With the kid's school starting, (public, preschool, and an intensive homeschool program), and all the kids  getting the flu, and Micah starting work, and me taking care of the new baby, and trying to get organized, and making meals, and trying to get enough sleep, and keeping the house sanitary, and me getting mastitis, I just about lost my mind. Seriously. I started having the worst anxiety I've had in years, and felt like I wanted to cry, non-stop. Or open the front door and run far away.....
I can't even dare to compare my wonderful  life as a mommy to working at that job, but I do know that when I feel so overwhelmed that I want to cry and run away, it's time to stop. drop. and pray. 
So I did. Wherever and whenever I could. 
And I could totally feel the spirit guide me, and the inspiration fill me, and the anxiety melt away, as I figured out how to conquer each challenge that came my way.

Anyways, these are my thoughts today. Pray, pray, pray. I don't have much time to blog these days, but I found a little window of time to share these thoughts from my heart. 

Yours Truly,
Dingy White Bitch

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our 4th Baby Birth Story- a planned home-birth with a surprise ending!

This is the birth story of our 4th baby boy, Malachi, born July 19, 2014. He was a planned home-birth with a surprise ending! 
Our very first baby in 2006 was a natural, un-medicated hospital birth.
Our next two babies were home-water births attended by a midwife in 2008 and 2010. I thought I'd mention these details just to add broader understanding to our experience.

*For those who get squeamish with birth details, feel free to scroll through and look at the pictures. For those who love reading birth stories, read on and enjoy!

Labor started Saturday morning July 19th at about 6am, with short contractions happening every 30 minutes or so. I was also starting to lose some blood, as my cervix lining was thinning out. This was a good sign, (as I was assured from our midwife. It had been 4 years since I’d gone into labor, and my memory was pretty fuzzy about what was normal.) At around 12:pm I sent Micah to a nearby Thai restaurant to get me a bowl of red coconut curry and rice. I wanted to eat something yummy before the real work began, and this was the only thing that sounded good!
While he was gone my contractions were getting stronger and longer, about 3-4 minutes apart and 1 minute long. As soon as he got home we called our midwife and Micah started filling the birth tub in our bedroom. Our boys were bouncing off the walls with excitement when we told them that it was finally time for baby to come today.
 Next I tied a sarong loosely around me, so I could walk and labor comfortably around the house. I began to walk up and down the halls of our home, stopping periodically to sound and breathe through each contraction, and also stopping to drink sips of red hot curry.
Our midwife and assistants arrived at about 1:30pm. I continued to labor at home as planned. It was very peaceful and cozy in my bedroom. 
Micah came into the birth pool with me and supported me, as I needed him. It was a very special experience to have him in the tub with me. He was a strong support for me throughout this entire experience. He even made me laugh at moments when I should’ve been focusing on breathing. 
It felt so nice to have confident, supportive friends in the room with us also. Our birth team was made up of my midwife Dyanna, and her two apprentices Gina and Paige. My friend Jillian came to take pictures. Her energy was peaceful and calming, as well. We listened to the labor music CD I had made, and talked when moved to do so. I got a little emotional during the labor just because birth has never been easy for me. I was scared for the pushing part because that has always been my biggest challenge in birth-(to push through the pain and exhaustion at the very end when all I want is to give up.) But, I worked through my tears, breathed through the hard contractions, and was overall eager to get to the end of this. Everything was going in a positive direction as the hours ticked away, and as baby Malachi worked harder and harder to get here.

When I felt the urge to start pushing (at about 5:30pm), at first the baby wouldn’t budge because of an anterior lip, as well as the giant, bulging bag of waters, which he couldn’t get past. Over the next several minutes I switched positions in the tub, pushed really hard, and popped the bag of waters. My midwife was going to help by moving the anterior lip over as he emerged. He was trying so hard to come out! I pushed and pushed and pushed through several more contractions. Our midwife could feel his head, and his little patch of hair. He was so close- so very, very close to coming out!

As I started pushing through a final contraction, I was suddenly overcome with excruciating pain all through my left thigh and abdomen.  His head had tilted ever so slightly, putting pressure on a nerve. It felt like someone stabbing my side and abdomen over and over with a knife, putting me through the worst torture imaginable. It seemed that I was no longer participating in normal labor as I was now in a crazy, alternate universe of debilitating pain. I remember yelling over and over,” I can’t do this! All I feel is pain. All I feel is pain!” I started hyperventilating and I couldn’t calm myself down.
My midwife had me get out of the birth tub at this point to try pushing on land because I couldn’t push in the pool any longer. So, my husband held me up under my armpits as I used his bent knees to support my bottom weight underneath me on the carpet. I tried pushing through a few more contractions but crumbled over in exhaustion in the end. The nerve pain was just too much for me to bear. I insisted that they take me to the hospital, give me drugs, and put me out of my misery. In fact, I begged for everyone to take me to the hospital, give me drugs, and put me out of my misery. I was done pushing, done breathing, and done being in such horrific pain.
At this point our midwife gave me two options:
1. Lie down on the bed, try to calm myself down, and push when I was ready again. 2. Go to the hospital, get drugged, put myself out of my misery, and then push.
I didn’t need to think this over very long.  I couldn’t possibly see #1 happening without being put through hell and back so I chose #2. I needed immediate intervention and this was my answer.

The next part of being in labor is an absolute blur. I’ve heard that when people are in such excruciating pain they don’t remember details. I sort of remember my midwife and husband trying to get me to walk up the stairs to the carport, and me being confused about what we were doing. I even remember refusing to go. I remember crying and screaming a lot. Then I vaguely remember getting in the back of our car while Micah sped me over to the hospital, which is just a few blocks away (thank goodness). I remember being hunched over the back seat of the car wearing a wet sports bra and a giant diaper, and yelling in pain. I also remember being hysterical in the parking lot of the hospital while I waited for a wheel chair to push me inside, while hanging onto Micah and Jillian’s shoulders. I recall trying to differentiate between nerve pain and labor contractions and not knowing which was which anymore. Then I remember being wheeled into a room in Labor and Delivery and being placed onto a bed, totally naked. I remember holding onto the rails of the bed, whaling and crying, and begging everyone in the room to help me. There were nurses coming in and out, hooking me up with an IV, putting me on a fetal monitor, taking blood for labs, and checking my cervix while they were at it. It felt like pure chaos to me--not at all what we had planned.
My husband was right there next to me the whole time, as well as Dyanna and Gina and our friend Jillian who had been taking pictures the entire time. Their presence brought me great comfort, within the chaos. The next thing I remember is sitting up on the side of the bed while a needle was inserted into my spine. Then within 15 minutes this amazing feeling of relief and happiness come over my entire being. It felt like big, fat, magical, Pixie Dust got sprinkled over the entire lower half of my body, taking the pain completely away. Not only did the anesthesiologist give me an epidural, but he also gave me localized anesthesia for the nerve pain. I could no longer feel my labor contractions, or my lower extremities.
 A huge smile spread over my face. I could suddenly breathe again, think again, talk again, laugh again, and exist in the moment. Yes, I was still having our baby!! Just not under such hellish circumstances!

For the next couple of hours I was able to rest and relax on my little hospital bed of relief before it was time to push again. Only this time I had a doctor in front of me telling me when to push, and a fetal monitor keeping track of my contractions. The epidural made me itchy and shaky, but it was 1000x better than the debilitating nerve pain, by far. In fact, I decided right then and there that I was blissfully in love with my epidural and would never birth naturally again. (Euphoria)
My feet were up in stirrups at this point, with a nurse on one side, and my midwife on the other side, both getting ready to pull my legs back towards my head when it was time to push.  The sensation was starting to come back to my legs and toes at this point. I could also feel mild contractions in my uterus every few minutes. I started to get worried that the nerve pain would come back, too, so I wanted to hurry and push out the baby ASAP. It was 8:40pm when the doctor told me to push hard with the next contraction, so I did. Then he told me to slow down a bit, so I did. Apparently he had to move that pesky anterior lip of my cervix over, since it was still blocking the passageway. Then he told me to push hard again, so I did. But, as I was pushing this time, I could feel a bulging pressure slide through me. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever felt in my entire life! It wasn’t painful, but instead It was a tiny, squishy baby body passing through my body, and I loved being able to feel that little miracle.

I looked down to see Malachi’s little body curled up in the doctor’s gloved hands. Then the doctor put him immediately on my chest. I cried out with happiness, relief, and pure joy.He was darkish purple and covered in blood, vernix, and meconium. I loved him immediately. Our baby Malachi was here safe and sound, and I could finally relax and enjoy him.

This whole experience was really surreal, if not altogether CRAZY. I always wondered what it would be like to give birth under these circumstances, and suddenly there I was, pushing my baby out under anesthesia in the hospital. By the time I got home from the hospital Sunday evening, I was completely exhausted and wiped out. It felt as if someone had run me over with a truck, then left me with a baby to take care of. I laid in bed all day the next day, not only in immense physical pain from the strain of my labor and birth, but also in deep, emotional pain from the intense trauma from the pain I had gone through.
As I looked around our bedroom at what was left of our peaceful, planned homebirth, I cried at the loss of what could have been. I was so close-- so very, very close to pushing our baby out in that birth tub, until that nasty nerve pain started. I was so close to having the peaceful, gentle homebirth we had planned. I was so close to holding my baby in my arms without going through all that pain. I could still smell the raw, powerful fragrance of natural birth, lingering in our bedroom. I could still feel the intensity of the moments as if they were still happening all around me. It was almost too intense for me to be back in our bedroom so soon. The birth kit supplies were still scattered about the room. Towels and sheets lay bunched up on the bed. As I looked around our room I couldn’t hold back my big, sad, broken tears every time I thought about my difficult birth experience.
“Don’t think about it, Sally,” I told myself over and over. “You have a big, beautiful, healthy baby boy in front of you, and that’s all you need to focus on right now. What’s done is done and now it’s time to move on.”
So I would try hard not to think about it and redirect my focus back to my beautiful baby Malachi, with his adorable, little, newborn face, his tiny, fuzzy ears, and those big baby lips puckered up for nursing.
If memories of the hardness of my birth started to surface and break my heart, focusing on his little face mended it all back together again.
Throughout that first day at home my family brought more happiness into my heart. My little 3-year-old Jonah brought me apricots in bed, fresh from our backyard tree. My 6 year old, Odin, wanted to kiss and snuggle the baby anytime I wasn’t holding him. His genuine enthusiasm for his new baby brother melted my heart. And my 8-year-old Zadok’s eyes lit up right when I got home. He would constantly ask me throughout the day if I were okay, which was very touching to me.
Throughout the next few days my thoughtful and caring husband held me tightly every time I needed to cry it out and be held. He would calm down my outbursts of confusion and sadness, and assure me it would all get better in time. Soon enough I would forget the pain, forget the trauma, and only be able to remember the awesome parts.  And of course, getting to snuggle in bed with a beautiful, perfect, delicious smelling newborn baby, was the most healing of all. These sweet and tender moments with my family helped me to eventually get over it and move on from feeling bad about my experience.

In fact, as I’m writing this story 3 weeks later, I can see clearly the blessings and meanings in all of it! I can see how God’s hand had led me through this experience the entire time, and how it has changed me for the better! What we experience during birth has a powerful impact on how we see ourselves and the world around us, and can influence our feelings for good or for bad. I feel like this experience gave me a new perspective on the reality of birth trauma, and has allowed me to be even more empathetic with other’s hard experiences. It has enabled me to better serve those around me who may need my understanding and help. It has also allowed me to be more positive and trusting in our local hospital community, as they were so friendly and respectful, and helped me immensely in my time of need.
I had a fairly negative experience at a hospital with our first child, which prompted us to have the next two at home. However, this experience seemed to heal me of that. (I kinda wasn’t kidding when I said I loved my epidural…)
I also realized that we can’t always control what we have planned, and that’s okay. I know that God has bigger plans for us than we can see for ourselves, and often what we learn from an experience is more important than the experience itself.

Now, when anyone asks me how the birth went, I tell them it was awesome! And I really mean it! There were so many awesome things about this birth experience, that the hard things have just melted away! Here’s a few awesome things about the birth of baby Malachi:
*It was awesome when I got to labor in the birth tub with my husband. *It was awesome when he made me laugh. *It was awesome having my boys in the bedroom with us, their sweet faces so close by. *It was awesome having such a caring and competent midwife and her two wonderful apprentices in my home. *It was awesome when I was able to feel all those pains go away at the hospital. *It was awesome when I pushed our baby out and felt his body slide through me. *It was awesome when I held him for the first time and felt his squishy baby and kissed his squishy face. *It was awesome seeing the proud look on my husband’s face as he admired our new baby boy. *It was awesome when baby started suckling right away. *It was awesome that the doctors and nurses at the hospital were so friendly and helpful. *It was awesome when the nurses cleaned everything up and made sure I was comfy cozy in my recovery room. *It was awesome when I got to rest all night with my baby next to me in our own hospital bed. *It was awesome when I got to order food from this huge restaurant-style menu the next morning and stuff my face because I was starving! (French toast, blueberry capote, fresh fruit, cranberry juice, and chocolate pudding! MMMmmmmmm)
*It was awesome when my boys came to visit me the next day and held the baby for the first time. *It was awesome that my friend Jillian captured everything on camera. *It was awesome to receive so many blessings of comfort from my husband when I needed them. (Before the birth, during the transition to the hospital, and several days postpartum.)
***It was especially awesome that baby Malachi weighed 10 pounds and one ounce of awesomeness, and continues to grow bigger and healthier every day. I am extremely blessed to be his mama! I love you my squishy Mal-mal.