Let It Be Big

Almost 25 years ago a very dear friend of mine passed away. She was more than a Grandma, different than a mother, she was so special to everyone who knew her. I had never experienced anyone that I was THAT close to dying. My great grandfather had died, a cousin who I knew a little and was my pen pal had passed, but nothing that left a gaping hole and searing pain. I wondered if I would cry forever.

My little brother was 10. He was far closer to her than I was. She was old and he was young and they were the cutest little pair. He spent every moment he could with her and everyone knew he was her special boy. They took care of each other. We all worried how he would face her passing. 75237550_575550279855486_1372923980209455104_n

He was a rock. He never cried, he hardly seemed to notice.  For a little boy he was so good at “controlling his emotions.” She had insisted that he have violin lessons when he asked for them. She even bought the violin herself and paid for lessons. Every day they would sit together and listen to Itsak Perlman play the violin. At her funeral he stood and played her favorite lullaby for her and his expression never changed but tears streamed down his cheeks. When it was all over this 10 year old boy tried Marijuana for the first time to ease the pain he was feeling but not expressing.74632400_10156702074110658_1778550204996255744_n

He became heavily addicted after just one use. More and more it controlled his life until he couldn’t function without it and the other drugs that had followed. 5 years later our grandma and great grandma were hit by a truck as they were attempting to cross the street. A few weeks later another close friend of his passed away. His drug use escalated to cocaine and heroin.

Soon he was homeless, in prisoned, in and out of rehab programs, wasting away in every sense of the word. No one could trust him and no one wanted him around. He tried many times to over come it and failed. One by one his friends died from overdose or suicide.74476302_949229395437421_677341992123891712_n

Then one day at rock bottom he found The Other Side Academy. It changed his life and brought back my baby brother. He was fun again. Witty, so intelligent, motivated and gifted. They were teaching him a lot of life skills that he desperately needed. After almost 4 years of being clean and almost 25 years from the first drug use our Dad passed away. 74692524_10156677868035658_6111927079991771136_nThis was only 3 months after the devastating murder of our brother Paul 67345058_10162107659460344_1553556358920404992_nand just 4 months from the passing of our oldest brother Doug from cancer. 1483058_10152047951465859_505552891_nIt was big…too big. He turned to drugs to dull the pain once again and after so long being clean he overdosed and passed away.

I sat in my living room after hearing the news and sobbed. All I could think was that it was too big and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lose him and yet I had no choice. He was already gone. That night as I prepared for bed all I could think was that I wanted to take some Nyquil. Nyquil is safe. Its legal. It would make me feel numb and help me sleep and that sounded SO good. But a little voice in my head asked is that really different than what he did? Is numbing out the emotion and sleeping through it any healthier of an approach?

Something that I believe about our society in general is that we are not very emotionally mature. We don’t really know much about emotion. Most of us try to “manage” or “control” our emotions.

Before I had kids I was pretty good at controlling my emotions. I almost never cried in public, and I laughed at the sad parts in movies. I DID NOT understand people who stood to give a talk in church and cried. It wasn’t my thing.

Growing up I had a fierce temper and I learned to control that too at least to some extent by shoving those feelings of anger down so deep and dreaming of a revenge that I would never enact.

When I had my third baby, I had an experience that changed me. I had gone to the hospital to have her even though I had planned a home birth, so my midwife was there as a doula to help me through it. I was on pitocin and things were moving slowly. As labor progressed a little at a time I started to have some feelings. At first I felt frustrated at the hospital and the doctors for trying to pigeon hole me into doing things the way they always did them, then I felt angry at men for not bearing the brunt of the difficulty of pregnancy and child birth, then I felt annoyed at God for the overall plan and my limited understanding of his role for women. Next I felt a primal urge to seclude myself in preparation for what was coming, then I felt fear at something that was too big for me to accomplish and finally I felt overwhelming joy at bringing a new life into the world.

At each stage I acknowledged to my midwife what I was feeling. It felt more like an observation. As I observed each feeling it would come into focus, and then grow small and pass from my body, finished, complete, and without leaving anything behind. Later when the baby was finally coming and I started feeling the urge to push I was so afraid that I would tear and I buried my face in the mattress, I felt the need to hide the fact that I was pushing, the pain became intense and I began begging for an epidural.

Later I realized that the minute I stopped communicating my feelings those feelings became too big for me to handle. Pain and fear surpassed my abilities and the only apparent way out was to medically remove my ability to feel anything.

For 17 months I pondered that experience, learning from it, applying it to other aspects of my life and it wasn’t until I was preparing for my next birth that the full impact of what I had discovered hit me.

I was carrying twins and the pregnancy was uncomfortable. My midwife suggested doing a body code session to help. I did and enjoyed it so much I did one each week for the rest of the pregnancy. Body code is essentially finding imbalances in the energies of your body that are cause by trapped emotions and releasing them. Those imbalances can cause physical pain and discomfort. Each week I was releasing a dozen or more trapped emotions that had been cluttering up my life and my body with undo stress.  Each session left me feeling like I had cleaned out my overpacked closet. I felt fresh and free. As each emotion would come up the practitioner would ask me if I was ready to release it. Sometimes it was easy to release, other times it felt too big and I would ask myself has holding on to this pain served me in anyway. When I realized that it had only caused pain and stress I would take a deep breath and let it go. Each time I felt relief.

When it came time to birth the twins I had opted for a natural birth at home. In moments of the birth where the pain felt too big, where fear entered my heart, where the babies crowning felt more than I could do, I said what I was feeling, I allowed that feeling to enter my body and my mind and I let myself feel it, endure its purpose and let it go. As I did it all fell into place and became manageable. Or rather I realized that i didn’t have to manage it, My job was just to experience it.

Since then I have thought a lot about the words we use to describe emotions. Emotions feel to me more fluid. Love is directly tied to sadness. The more you love the greater the potential for sadness. There can not be one without the other, and both are ok.

I wish that I had spent more time learning to just experience the emotion and let it pass through me rather than trying to control it. I think my emotional closet would be a lot less cluttered. So here I am with yet another experience to teach me how to experience emotions in a more healthy way. My brothers passing feels just too big. My already raw, bleeding heart can’t handle this much pain. So just like the birthing of my babies I’m trying to allow myself to feel the pain and acknowledge it and let it pass. I’m not good at it yet. But I CAN do this. I CAN move forward and even thrive. I CAN do hard things. I can let it be big.

It’s not a thing

We crowded our little family into the tiny sterile room. I sat on the table looming in the center and my husband took the chair while our three kids lost no time in opening the bag of toys and snacks I had brought to keep them company during my prenatal appointment. The nurse took my vitals and then proceeded to open a drawer and pull out the things the doctor would need for the GBS test.

“He is going to do the GBS test today,’ she told me not bothering to even look up at me, “so undress from the waist down.” She handed me the paper sheet to put over myself and started to leave the room.

For those of you lucky enough to not know the GBS test is its a test that is routinely done on pregnant women. Its simple enough really, a swab is taken of a woman’s vagina and other unmentionables down there. Its really pretty simple a little q tip is swiped quickly over the areas and then the secretions left on it are tested for a type of strep common to pregnant woman that can cause complications for the baby.

I had it done with my second daughter and as you lay on your back with your legs in the air feeling completely vulnerable and exposed, some (usually male) doctor does the quick swab and in that briefest of moments you feel so little, and powerless, and just the tiniest bit violated. At least I did. I tried to shrug it off as part of pregnancy but I hated it. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal, he would be doing a lot more than that in a couple of weeks when I gave birth. But this was different and I couldn’t quite say why.

My next child, I was under the care of a midwife and when the time came for the test she simply handed me the long handled q tip explained what she needed and sent me to the bathroom. In that moment I knew what the difference was. I was totally capable of doing this myself. If you can wipe your butt you can do this test. And yet women are told to undress, present their most private parts to a complete stranger to let him do it for them as though they were as helpless as the baby they carry.

I understood then that it was violating to me simply because it was so unnecessary and because it wasn’t presented to me as a choice but as an order. “Undress from the waist down, the doctor is going to do this now” Could you imagine the tables are turned and that doctor or any man for that matter were told to lay on his back and present his genitals so some woman could wipe them down for him! I don’t know about the men you know but any of the ones I know would laugh in your face.

But lets go back to the doctors office. As the nurse handed me the sheet with her flippant order to undress, I stopped her. “Actually, can I just do it myself?” I asked, feeling shame even in the asking. Why did I have to ask some woman if I could do this for myself. I felt like a child asking to play outside.

She looked at me as though I had lost my mind. “Thats not a thing.” She said, just undress the doctor will be in in a few minutes. And she left the room. I sat there dumb founded. thats not a thing? Is that the reason she was giving as to why this couldn’t be done by me in the privacy of a bathroom? I’m surprised they didn’t demand to watch me give the urine sample for testing too.

A few minutes later she came back in the room.” I saw Dr. Burgett and asked him about you doing this yourself and he said it was fine!” She seemed blown away by the novelty of this strange concept. But handed me the supplies and I headed to the bathroom.

Her words and the result of that doctors visit have stayed with me though. “Thats not a thing.” In other words, no one does that, therefore it can’t be done. Well I did it, and now its a thing. If another woman were to dare suggest they could do this on their own she would be one nurse who would know that THIS IS A THING!

We aren’t children that need permission. We are adult women, equal to our male counterparts, as smart and capable (although admittedly without the knowledge or degree) as that male (or female) doctor. How many things do we do, or don’t do, subject ourselves to or live without because its not a thing. Ladies its time for us to start making things, THINGS! Birth is ours, our bodies are ours, our choices are ours! We can own this and be women or we can undress from the waist down and wait for the doctor.

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Just a little something that we did to pass the time while we waited for Preston to “pull the plug.”

 

The Birth of Jaiden and Jarom

  • Warning: This post will contain pictures that are somewhat graphic. If that makes you uncomfortable I suggest you skip this one. And on that note here is a shout out to Salt City Birth Photography for the great photos. Rowan was amazing. I didn’t even notice her taking pictures and she got so many great ones. It was hard to choose which to include in this post. https://saltcitybirth.com/

A recliner isn’t a horrible place to sleep. But after several weeks of sitting propped up with pillows in an effort to feel reclined without actually reclining for half the night and then in a desperate attempt to snag some sleep before the sun fully rises moving to the bed to try to sleep in my nest of pillows only to find that, an even more uncomfortable option I was done and desperate for some relief.

The last four nights I spent a good portion of the night trying to decide if I should call my midwife. Every time I would lay down surges would start. They would get harder and harder until I could no longer deal with them in that position and I would wriggle and worm my way to the edge of the bed and then using one hand to push my belly ahead of me and the other to catch it on its way over I would use my legs to attempt to propel myself over the edge of the bed. If that didn’t cause round ligament spasms or painful abdominal strain, it usually resulted in getting me off the bed. Upon getting to my feet I would give my body a chance to adjust to the weight that settled down in my middle and onto my hips, give my bladder a chance to register the fact that a mere teaspoon was inside and causing a desperate urge for a potty break and I would make my way to the bathroom waddling across the darkened room all the while feeling deeply envious of Joseph’s deep breathing as he peacefully slept away the hours nestled in his burrito blankets and soft pillow.

As the sun rose Tuesday morning March 19th I knew I couldn’t keep this up much longer. I gave my pelvis a break by pushing my arms down on the sink and letting my belly hang. I looked at my tired face in the mirror and thought “just one more day Vilate, just do one more day” I knew the only way this was going to be possible was if I spent the day finding and enjoying things that eased the pain I was feeling. The first thing on the agenda was a bath in Mother’s jacuzzi tub. I felt an exhaustion I hadn’t before, for the first time I felt like I didn’t really care anymore how this birth turned out. I just wanted it done.

I tried to talk myself through it, reminding myself of everything we had invested into being able to have a healthy home birth. I reminded myself of all the reasons I had made this choice, I wondered if I would feel as though I had given up, None of it mattered. I had truly reached the capacity of all that I had to give.

Later sitting in Mother’s tub I talked it through with my sister who had also given birth to twins, I weighed all my options, talked it out with my mom and several others, thought through my motivations and reasons for doing what I was doing and finally came to the conclusion that I was ready to go to the hospital and get this done. I was happy to say that I didn’t feel fearful about the decision. I felt what I had felt from the beginning of this pregnancy which was a deep and sure feeling that all would be well but that it was time to take some action.

I called the OB. Dr. Burgett couldn’t get us in until thursday, That meant an induction on Friday at the earliest. That wasn’t an option. Joseph came to pick me up and I told him we are already half way to the hospital lets just go. I bet if we show up to labor and delivery at this point they would just start us. We started driving and I realized I didn’t have any ID with me. We drove home to get the ID and decided to let Johannah have a nap, pack a bag, find a baby sitter and go prepared to stay.

In the mean time my midwife Richelle called. “Do you want me to come try a natural induction?” she asked. I almost said no. I had worked through the emotions of settling for a hospital birth and was going into it so tired I just wanted all the help (and pain relief) that a hospital had to offer. I didn’t feel strong, motivated, or empowered. I almost said no but I thought about all that she had put into making this home birth successful as well and decided that we all deserved one last effort.

She suggested that I do one last emotion code session while I was waiting for her to get here. I called Dani and we did the session. If you aren’t familiar with the emotion code I wont bother trying to explain it because I won’t do it justice. If you are, I will say that the practitioner, Dani found that because of severe morning sickness early on in the pregnancy the physical (energetic) tie between me and the babies had broken and that messages that my body and their bodies were ready for labor were not connecting. She reconnected us and released several energies that were stopping things from progressing. I left the session feeling fresh and excited to try the induction even though I was not very convinced it would work.

Richelle arrived around 2 and we got started, things were crawling a long and if nothing else I was occupied and resting, as well as actively doing something to bring an end to this pregnancy so I was happy.

At around 7 pm the Relief Society president in my ward messaged to check on me (can you say inspiration) she offered to take the kids for a while. She came and got them just as Richelle and I were trying a procedure that required me to lay down for 30 min. Every time I had lain down in the last 4 days I had hard surges so it was a great time to have the kids gone. By the time the 30 min. was over I was having surges hard enough I found myself making birthing noises to get through them. About this time the kids were just arriving home and I called my mom to tell her that things might be moving along but that I didn’t know, and she could come if she wanted.

As soon as my 30 minutes were up and I got up the contractions stopped and labor felt miles away. It was around 9pm when my mom got there. I felt silly for having called her because nothing was happening. She and my sister got my kids put to bed and Joseph arrived home to help Richelle get the tub set up. We wondered if it was premature but set it up anyway. I didn’t want to suddenly go into labor and need it and not have it.

Around 10 it was set up and filled and I was having pretty regular surges. I hadn’t bothered to time them but they were coming more frequently and a little harder although not yet uncomfortable. I got in the tub and breathed a sigh of relief at how good it felt. That lasted about 2 minutes because the next surge came and hit hard. It reminded me what labor feels like and I felt my first twinge of fear.

“I’m scared,” I told Richelle. Thats what has to happen to get labor started my mom reminded me. “This is what you’ve been wanting.” I imagined myself being grateful for the pain but it was a bit of a stretch. One more surge and I needed a potty break. By the time I finished in the bathroom I was pretty sure this was it. I messaged the birth photographer and told her I thought she could come now. It was 10:20 and Richelle sent her other midwives a text saying “I might need you tonight. I will let you know.”

When I came back from the bathroom I didn’t want to get in the tub just yet. I wanted to stand and move as long as possible. I did one or two more surges standing at the side of the tub, swaying my hips and breathing deeply. Then it became too hard to stand and I got down on my knees and leaned on the side of the tub now making low moaning sounds as I tried to think and breathe my body low and open. _DSC1064

10:40 Richelle sent another message telling the midwives to come now. It was becoming harder and harder to stay low. Joseph and Mother started hip pressure. I could hear the sounds of labor progressing in my voice. I began to dread each coming wave. As the pressure began to mount and the tightening increased I would take a deep expanding breathe while repeating over and over in my mind “I can do all things through Christ…,” at the crest of the contraction I lost myself a little in the intensity of it and just made tiny low moaning sounds as I tried to keep from losing focus. Then as the contraction would ease off I would think “Who strengthens me.” Then I would take a minute to regroup and tell myself “that was one down, this wont take very long and I will be done! My babies will be here and I will have accomplished this just as I had dreamed of.”

When I could no longer focus enough to do that, I told Richelle I was scared, and I needed a break. I was starting to feel like I couldn’t do this. She walked me through visualizing breathing in white light and breathing out blue pain. If nothing else it was something new to focus on, it was something to think about and try. It was something to get me through a few more waves.

Sooner even than I had imagined, and almost before I was ready for it I started feeling my body bearing down and pushing, I could feel everything opening, I remembered Richelle telling me that doing “horse lips” would slow things down and keep me from tearing. “Its coming,” I said and then started doing my best to do horse lips. It was harder than I thought because my body insisted on pushing and I couldn’t push and do horse lips at the same time so it came out in little short puffs that sounded more like I was spitting watermelon seeds.

I widened the space between my knees and fought the urge to freeze up and just scream. I knew i wanted to catch my baby so i made myself reach down and cup the round bulge emerging from my body. As I marveled at holding my babies head in my hands it burst sending water cascading through my fingers and down onto my thighs. The bag of waters had just burst and soon after the real head started to emerge. _DSC1090I held it in my hands and continued to try to slow down the urge to push.  As the shoulders came out quickly followed by the rest of the body I caught the baby in my arms and the midwife reached around me to unwrap the cord from his neck before I pulled him up to my chest. I couldn’t believe that I had caught my own baby! What a dream come true for me.  Jaiden was born at 11:02_DSC1097

 

At that point I wanted to lay back and enjoy my baby. I wanted Joseph with me. He got behind me and supported me as I laid back but just then the second baby started to make his appearance. _DSC1148-2Two little feet came first and I reached down in time to feel a skinny little leg. I held it in my hand for just a moment before things got a bit more intense. At that point the midwife had to step in and do a little maneuvering in order to get the second baby out. My position on my back on the floor wasn’t ideal for delivering a breach baby. I simply got through it by telling myself this is it, we are almost done. Joseph was reassuring me and doing his best to comfort me. There was a good amount of screaming and then just four minutes after his brother was born baby Jarom made his appearance.

 

Things get a little hazy in my memory after that. I recall watching the midwife perform mouth to mouth on Jarom but I never worried. I knew she would get him breathing and he would do great. I nursed Jaiden, and Joseph did skin to skin with them while I delivered the placenta and moved to rest on the couch.

The last I remember was feeling more tired than I ever have in my life and then I guess I went to sleep because when I woke up, the room was dark, everyone had gone home and the babies were upstairs sleeping with Joseph. The sun was just coming up and I felt great! I couldn’t believe the incredible birth I had just experienced, as I replayed it over again in my mind I couldn’t think of one thing I would change. _DSC1504-2_DSC1514_DSC1539-2_DSC1671

Jaiden was 6 lbs 13 oz and 20 3/4 inches long.

Jarom was 6 lbs 12 oz and 20 1/2 inches long.

They appear to be identical.

I don’t know if I will ever have another baby but I feel so great knowing that everything I experienced and learned through each of my births brought me to a place where I could experience such a powerful, peaceful, natural home birth of twins.

Filled to over flowing

Early in 2017 I discovered that I was once again expecting a baby. I was really excited about this one and felt prepared although when I took the test and saw those two lines that meant positive the excitement pretty quickly dissipated as the reality of the months of morning sickness and the difficulty of the pregnancy that lay before me became real.

We decided that since we had one of each already we would not find out the gender and would let it be a surprise. I felt confident it was a boy; the last little boy from the dream that I had a few years before. Joseph also felt like it was a boy. But when we told the kids they were adamant it was a girl. Preston insisted it was a “Vienna baby.” Here is their reaction.

Joseph had started a Masters program at UVU so he was extra busy with classes and work. We also brought Joseph’s mother out to visit and we took a trip to Nauvoo and to all the church history sites along the way. Toward the end of the summer we took a trip to California to the beach. The kids thought they were in heaven and we got some cute pictures.

Finally at the end of October after several false starts and thinking that we were actually going to get our baby, our Sweet Johannah Rose was born. On the way to the hospital Joseph and I decided that we had better talk about possible girl names on the off chance that it was a girl. So her name wasn’t decided on until the very last second.

2018

We had been preparing for a long time for Joseph to get U.S. Citizenship. I taught the kids the pledge of Allegiance so that they could say it along with their dad. Here is their version of it.

Finally in July the paper work came through and we went for the naturalization ceremony. Joseph’s mother came again and was here for the occasion. And several good friends and family came for it as well.

 

It was about this time that I started to experience some symptoms that caused some concern for me. I kept feeling sick to my stomach. My first thought was that I was pregnant so I was relieved when the test came back negative. However the sickness continued for weeks and after awhile it was accompanied by extreme exhaustion and some minor heartburn.

I took another pregnancy test feeling pretty sure I knew what the results would be. But even then I wasn’t prepared to see those two lines that meant our life was about to change once again. It was all so fast!

I went that same day to see the doctor to get something to help with the nausea and vomiting. He did an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy and to discover how far along I was since I had no way of knowing. When the screen came up I saw the usual little bubble that meant a baby was truly on the way but it didn’t look quite right to me and I couldn’t tell just where the baby was. The doctor as well seemed a little taken a back and paused for just a second before he began looking closer at the little smudges and blobs on the screen. 51193491_1214037798759111_904266447474130944_n

He turned off the machine and I half feared he had bad news for us. Well, he said you are definitely pregnant and its too early to say too much… but it looks to me like there are two babies. Joseph just started laughing and I was stunned. TWINS!

It turns out I was already almost 8 weeks along so we only had 4 more to wait until we could confirm that it was in fact twins. I was happy and overwhelmed, and nervous and excited all at the same time. The 12 week scan confirmed two healthy babies.

8 more weeks went by and we went for the 20 week anatomy scan. All was well and it turns out we had two little brothers for Preston on the way.

Today, as I sit here looking back at my life less than six years ago. And the contrast to where I am now it is unbelievable that so much has happened and that my life has changed so much. I look back on the loneliness, the longing I felt to have a family and I remember the image I saw of myself at the vending machine hopelessly putting in my dollars and waiting to no avail. Now it seems that all those treats came tumbling out at once and my arms are full to over flowing.

I look back at the dream I had of my children and I see their faces before me. I hold them in my arms and marvel that they are here and I am living this reality. I feel blessed beyond measure and I know that the names we have chosen for our babies couldn’t be more perfect.

In the next 5 to 9 weeks. Jaiden Scott Ssempala (whose name means God has heard) and Jarom Ivan Ssempala (whose name means Prosperity) will be joining our family. I would love to invite you to share this journey with us as we prepare for their arrival and for the craziness that is sure to follow.

 

2014 A year to remember

2014 was a year that would change my life forever and while it wasn’t my favorite in all the years I have experienced so far in my life it had some of the biggest and best moments of my life so far.

I desperately wanted Joseph there for the birth of our baby so we filled for a visitors visa hoping he could come for a visit right at the time the baby would be born. US Immigration stated that one could file for a visitors visa even when there was a pending immigration visa, but that it would be up to use to prove adequately that he would return. We gathered pages and pages of documents, everything we could find showing that he had every intention of returning back to Uganda after his visit to wait for his visa, and really it would have been ridiculous not too since by not returning it could make him ineligible for the immigration visa which would not be issued unless he appeared at the embassy in Nairobi. However, when he went for his interview he was denied without the embassy official even looking at his thick envelope of evidence.

I was so mad. They simply told him that there was nothing that would be adequate proof that he would return. It seemed so wrong and cruel to me to state that we could apply (and pay the $175 non refundable fee) if we could prove he would return, only to then turn around and tell us that there was nothing they would consider sufficient evidence that he would return. The injustice of it burned.

It was around the middle of February I believe when I was sitting at work in a marketing meeting and I started to feel extremely light headed, hot, and nauseous. Afraid I was going to be sick I tried to leave the room but only made it as far as the doorway before everything went black and I felt my legs give way beneath me. When I woke up I was lying on the floor and I heard someone shout for someone to call 911. I begged them not to and assured them I was ok.

But in the days and weeks that followed this episode repeated itself several times and I found I was having a very hard time carrying this baby and getting enough blood to my head. I decided that maybe this could work in our favor and I called US Immigration to explain the situation and to ask if there was any way to hurry along Joseph’s process.

The man I talked to was extremely helpful and he filed a petition to expedite based on medical emergency. It was all done over the phone in a matter of minutes and about a week later I received a phone call. The man told me that Joseph’s visa application had been denied. I was stunned. How could they deny my husband the right to enter the country and what would that mean for me and our baby?

I started to cry and the man quickly tried to console me. Its not a permanent decision he told me, You simply don’t have the proper seal on your marriage certificate. You need to get your husband to go back to the government and get them to put the seal on and then reapply. My head was spinning and I couldn’t hardly breathe. Start the process all over reapply meant after 7 months of waiting and over $1000 in fees we were being told we had to start over. I started to blubber like a baby. I grabbed the envelope with our documents off the dresser and looked for the seal. It was there however slightly off center at the top of the page. It’s there Im looking right at it I told the man. You can’t deny him. Our baby will be here in a couple of weeks, you can’t do this to us right now I begged.

There was silence on the line and then he spoke. If you send me an email with a scanned copy of your certificate right now while I am on the phone and I can see the seal I will approve the visa, he told me. Quickly I scanned the document and waited for him to receive it.

“Its there I see it” he told me. I began to breathe a sigh of relief. “In the next few days you will receive a letter telling you that his application was denied. You can ignore that letter and and shortly after that you should receive another telling you it has been approved. He told me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A minute before my whole world had come crashing down and I didn’t know if I would ever see my husband again and now he was telling me that we were done. That his visa had been approved and he could come home!

It wasn’t quite as simple as that. He still had to travel to Nairobi, have his medical exam, his interview and vaccinations and receive the actual visa. But the hardest part was done.

I began to hope he might make it in time for the babies birth. But it wasn’t meant to be. On May 9th just before he was scheduled to travel to Nairobi our baby boy was born with his father watching over skype. That day was one of the best of my whole life. It was the day I first became a mother and I will never be the same. Every dream, every hope I had ever had about having a baby was surpassed when he entered this world. His birth story is here.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/birth-of-baby-preston/

it would end up taking another 10 weeks before he would actually receive the visa and fly home to meet his son for the very first time. That day was another best day of my life kind of days. I wrote about it here.

https://acowintheocean.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/families-can-be-together-forever/

He arrived ironically on July 17th, further endearing the number 17 to us and establishing its significance in our family. a couple weeks later on the 27th of July we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary with a delayed wedding celebration with all my family and friends. 10635706_10154585285035344_1044551109458445231_n

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The months that followed would be full of change and adjustment as Joseph adjusted to life in a new and very different country, a new culture, a new wife and a new role as father. I adjusted to a new husband, a new way of life and my new role as a stay at home mom. It was a lot and I wont lie and say that it was fun or easy. There were moments I wondered if we had made a gigantic mistake. But with time we worked through some of those things.

Joseph got a drivers license, a job, and enrolled in school. I settled into raising our baby and keeping house, only to discover when he was just 4 months old that I was pregnant once again. We weren’t really surprised as I had felt the spirit of a girl present through out the first pregnancy and wrongly assumed it was a girl. Joseph had heard a little girls voice saying she was coming soon and so when Preston had been born and truly was a boy we knew that a little girl wasn’t far behind.

As morning sickness settled in with a vengeance I wished that I had a little more time. I felt guilty that my son was being robbed of his position as the only chi`ld too soon. As I kneeled in front of the toilet day after day losing what little food I had managed to get down he sat on the living room floor screaming in fear not knowing what was going on. It was a hard time for our little growing family.

Birth of Vienna Joy

IMG_0237In spite of my best efforts to get a natural labor going before my induction date of July 13th. Monday the 13th dawned without even a hint of anything beyond the random surges and bh contractions that I had been experiencing for weeks. But let me back up…maybe its best to start with an explaination of the choices we had made that lead us to where we were.

After Preston’s birth I was a little shaken in my ideas and beliefs about childbirth. In all the hundreds of birth videos I had seen none had been anything like what I experienced. I watched women TALKING while in labor, swaying gently back and forth and smiling at their husbands behind the camera. It baffled me. The pain I had experienced had hit like a sledge hammer and not let up until Preston was here. I couldn’t see how what these women were doing was even possible.

I also felt betrayed by my body. And I wondered if I had done something to bring it on myself. Maybe the panic that I felt that Preston was getting too big and that he needed to come out now was nothing more than the natural mama’s urge to not want to wait any more. Maybe all the “natural Induction” technics that I insisted we try inspite of my midwife’s reluctance had actually added to the trauma of his birth. I swore next time would be different. I would let nature take its course.

But Preston had been awfully big, the 4th degree tear I had sustained still caused me pain. And I felt caught between a rock and a hard spot. If I was listening to what my body was telling me my gut feeling and a strong one at that said it was time and he needed to come now natural or not. So what was I to do?

When I found out I was pregnant again I called Richelle, I had loved having her as my midwife before and wanted her again. She however was unable to take me so the search began for another midwife. I called and spoke to 3 or 4 and felt teary and unsettled about each one. The decision seamed huge and overwhelming. IMG_0215

We went in for our ultra sound to find out how far along we were. We were 7 weeks. Dr. Chappell sat us down after doing the ultra sound and talked to us about his philosophies about birth. Everything he said peaked my intrest and increased confidence in him. I decided to throw something at him to see if I could shock him with something “crunchy.” I plan to eat my placenta, I told him. Would you be ok with saving it for me?

“Absolutely! I wish more women knew the incredible benefits of doing that. The placenta contains everything a woman needs to recover from a birth. Its amazing stuff” His response baffled me and I threw out every other crunchy natural birth belief that I had to see if I could get a reaction. Nothing phased him, there was nothing he was unfamiliar with. The only thing he didn’t agree with me on was when an induction would be required.

“I think that since 42 weeks in technically full term, the baby deserves that long if its what she wants” I said.

“41 and 3 is as long as I am comfortable with going” he told me. I laughed a little. What was he going to do come to my house and drag the baby out of me?

We left the office and as we walked to the car I felt as though the matter was settled. I wanted a home birth, I wanted a nice warm, motherly midwife. I did not want a cold sterile hospital, medical procedures and a handsome young doctor who looked more like he should be chatting it up with some pretty nurse from Grey’s Anatomy than coaching me through the most difficult beautiful and sacred experience of life. And yet I felt at peace and as though the decision had already been made.

“I think he should be our doctor” Joseph and I said the words at the same time.

We laughed and that was that. A few weeks later I found myself crying over the decision. It just wasn’t what I wanted. I vented to Joseph. “WHo knows how many times I will get to experience childbirth?” I told him. “i don’t want to waste a birth experience on a hospital birth. I want a home birth, I want a midwife and I want to feel comfortable about my choice!”

His answer was simple “well then lets get a midwife! I will support you in whatever you decide.”

Again I called 5 or 6 midwives and each time I got off the phone feeling confused, flustered and teary. I simply couldn’t choose one. Finally I prayed about it. And the answer was simple. I already had the answer. I just hadn’t accepted it yet. Dr. Chappell was the best option for our doctor.

Fast forward to July. We continued to go back and forth about 42 vs 41+3 as an induction date and we finally decided that since we had felt strongly about him being our Dr. we should be willing to take his advice so we scheduled an induction for the 13th. In the mean time I did a lot of walking, relaxing and talking to the baby about what her needs were and listening to my own body and mind about what might be holding her up. On the morning of the 12th I woke up and took Preston for a walk we walked about 1 mile including going up and down the long steep hill by our house 3 times. It was Joseph’s birthday and I really wanted him to get his wish of having her born on his birthday.

But Sunday came and went and Monday morning we got the call to go to the hospital. They started the pitocin at 10 AM and the count down began. Our nurse Marianne was incredible. She started by going over our birthplan in complete detail with us and even asked if there was any wording we wanted her to use to help us with our hypno birthing. Dr. Chappell had agreed to only use pitocin to kick-start the labor and that we would turn it down or off as my own body took over creating the surges. Instead of the usual procedure of increasing the pitocin every 30 min. Marianne would ask me how I was feeling and together we would decide to increase, decrease or leave it.

The surges were rolling right along at a regular two minutes a part. They were comfortable and even exciting at times. I loved having the chance to work with my body. I found that there were things that I could do to make them easier. I found ways to move deeper and deeper into relaxation during the surges and I honestly looked forward to them.

My doula Natalie was there and she was amazing. Supportive as a doula, comforting and knowledgable as to what would help but there just as a friend to hang out and keep me company otherwise. My mom was there and Joseph was there and we just had a nice long visit. We listened to music and Natalie introduced me to a couple of songs titled Vienna. I thought how fun it would be to tell VIenna that this is what we listened to while I was in labor with her.

Mother brought us some lunch and then around 4 pm Marianne told me that Dr. Chappell would be coming soon and that he would break my water. I was a little annoyed that she would talk about it as though it wasn’t my choice and my body. It wasn’t a question to her but a statement. I let her know that I didn’t want my water broke and she dismissed it with a quick well the doctor will talk with you about it.

When Dr. Chappell arrived sure enough he told me he thought it would be a good idea tao break my water. I told him I was uncomfortable with that and would like to look at other options. He suggested that we could just continue with the pitocin but turn it up to get things moving since I was only at a 7. So we turned up the pit and the surges suddenly became waves washing over me, and threatening to swallow me. I got in the tub and labored for the next few hours there. THings got a lot more intense at that point. Natalie was teaching me how to go deep and dive under each surge moaning low and quietly and just let it wash over me. IT was helping and I was just starting to get the hang of it when two new nurses came and replaced my wonderful Marianne.

THey wanted to check me and although it seemed impossible to me at this point since I literally had almost no breaks between surges I agreed against my better judgement. The nurse put on a long plastic glove and shoved her hand at me blindly poking around trying to find what she was looking for. It hurt and I screamed (and maybe even swore) at her to get out of there. A few minutes later we tried again and she informed me that I was at a 10 and needed to get out of the water and start pushing. I didn’t want to, I didn’t feel the urge to push but once again against my better judgement I went along with it. I assumed that maybe my hesitation was fear of reaching the pushing stage.

Pushing hurt and left me unable to focus clearly on relaxing through the surges. I thought maybe I was pushing wrong so I suggested we get a scarf and Dr. Chappell did some tug of war pulling with me. IT helped but we still were making no progress. I was beginning to panic. I needed this to be over. I didn’t feel like I could go on much longer but we still weren’t even seeing the babies head.

Finally after an hour of pushing Dr. Chappell checked me again. I was expecting him to tell me that the babies head was right there and that a few more pushes and we would be done. INstead he looked a bit flustered and even disappointed. Well, you are actually just at a 7 and 90% effaced. I was shocked and wanted to cry. When we had started pitocin that morning I was 90% and at a 5. It was now almost 11 pm and I had apparently only progressed by two cm!

I asked everyone to leave so that JosephIMG_0197 and I could talk. I told him that I know we wanted a natural birth but I needed an epidural. I couldn’t go back to laboring for hours. I had told him before hand to remind me of all the reasons I wanted a natural birth when I asked for an epidural but when he tried I wouldn’t listen. I felt like I truly was beyond the point of no return and I COULDN”T do this any more. Dr. Chappell had turned off the pitocin to let me have a minute and THe surges had pretty much stopped. I insisted that I needed the epidural and asked for Dr. Chappell. He agreed and sent for the anesthesiologist. He was there within a few minutes and after a quick jab in the back I was pain free. It was really nice. REALLY NICE!!!

Here's Joseph cutting the cord. Obviously this was a new experience for him!

Here’s Joseph cutting the cord. Obviously this was a new experience for him!

We thought I could take a quick nap but when Dr. Chappell checked just 30 minutes later the baby was there ready to come. She’s got hair he told me. A few quick controlled pushes and she was out. I reached for her even as her legs and feet were still sliding out and Dr. Chappell let me pull her up on my chest. She was perfect and healthy. They left me alone with her as I had requested and after more than an hour when I had bonded and cuddled and loved on her they came to cut the cord, and measure her. She was 20 inches long and8lbs 4.5 oz.

It was a good birth. I got to experience a lot of the elements of birth that had been missing with Preston’s birth. And as crazy as it sounds…I cant wait to do it again! IMG_0242

10 Ways you will know you have reached (or exceeded) your due date

1.) When siting, standing, walking, laying down, kneeling, squatting, standing on one foot etc. just hurts.

2.) When sleeping with 6 pillows is no longer enough

3.) When you find yourself looking longingly at a bottle of castor oil

4.) When you no longer care what people think enough that you will sit down in the middle of an isle, road, or room full of people because….well you have to sit!

5.) When you watch your babies bottle of milk spilling on the floor of your car and don’t even make an effort to pick it up because you know there is no way your making it down that low.

6.) When all it takes is someone making a helpful suggestion of something that you might do to make the baby come or to make the wait more comfortable and you feel as though your inner monster has been unleashed and you just might take their head off.

7.) When you cry because…well insert pretty much anything here and it works.

8.) When you find yourself doing the toilet dance (if you’ve been there you know what I mean) in an effort to make each visit more productive and possibly give you a full twenty minutes between visits.

9.) When remaining pregnant another day becomes worse than all possibilities, fears and outcomes of giving birth.

10.) When despite the fact that your brain knows it’s an impossibility you find yourself in tears over the VERY REAL possibility of you being the first woman to ever remain pregnant FOREVER.

You will know you have reached your day. And if the baby doesn’t come today, than maybe tomorrow, or the next day… or….or…..

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