Saturday, January 17, 2015

Peter // 2 Months

My little baby turned 2 months old yesterday! The poor little guy is celebrating by trying to get over a cold. :( It's been a blast watching him develop and start to do fun stuff like smile on purpose, coo, and stick out his tongue while he smiles and acts silly. :) He is SO close to rolling himself over, and he's doing a lot better at sleeping during the night. 

We go to the doctor Wednesday and will find out how much he weighs and if he's grown taller, but I know he has to be about 13 lbs. now, which makes carrying him around more of an exercise than it used to be! 

Peter's Faves:
smiling at Daddy (his favorite person EVER)
lots of noise
sucking on his fists
cooing at night
listening to music

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2014 // one step forward, two steps back

Last year was a funny one. It was, at the same time, both the fastest and the slowest I think I've experienced. 

Shortly after beginning January with my shiny new resolution of daily exercise and improved productivity, I discovered I was pregnant, and began to "enjoy" four weeks of morning sickness. Gone was my exercise. I think out of the nine months of pregnancy, I exercised maybe 6 days, and consumed enough food to end hunger in Africa. Even though the beginning was a little rough, Chris and I were thrilled to be expecting (finally) and looked forward to becoming parents in October (we thought). 

My weeks were long and monotonous, made up of days with very little variation from routine. I taught violin lessons three days a week, taught PeeWee Patch on Wednesday nights, and kept up with running my home.

In April, I enjoyed the opportunity of decorating and hosting my first table at our church's annual ladies' tea. With help from my mom, I think it turned out pretty nice!

We planned our babymoon for May. Normally the second we're able to go on a vacation, Chris and I head full-speed to a beach somewhere. This time, though, we decided to visit all of his family before we hunkered down and waited for Baby. So off we were to the chilly North. We went to SD first and stayed with what Marsceaus aren't married off yet. ;) They gave me a WONDERFUL birthday dinner, and it was so special to spend my 21st birthday with them. Then we stopped by Chris's sister Claire's in MN before heading up to the northern part of the state and staying with his sister Meredith for a few days. The Larsons were excellent hosts, playing Settlers of Catan late into the night, doing music with us, and showing us all the beautiful waterfalls and touristy places to see in the area.

In June I had a blast putting together a beach-themed recital for my students. It was so much fun, and everyone did a great job! 

Chris and I also enjoyed a camping trip with my family and some friends from church. (Yes, I get major gnarly points for camping at 20+ weeks pregnant.)

June was a pretty big transition month for me musically. After playing only two concerts in the earlier part of the year, my poor violin rarely got taken out of its case. Our main church pianist has been having major health struggles and hasn't been able to come to church much at all. In a matter of about a week, I became the church choir accompanist, AND offertory accompanist, AND special accompanist. It's a good thing I was practically forced to do it, because I'm a timid performer and get nervous like crazy. This experience made me play, for one, but also helped enormously with my playing confidence, since I had to do it all the time. It was also super fun for me, as accompanying is my favorite thing ever to do. The hardest thing I think I've played to date is Dwight Gustafson's "Foundation." Holy moly and toledo and cow. :P

Anyway, July came and we were all invited up to my aunt and uncle's cabin in Hayward for the 4th of July. It was a big reunion type thing of my dad's side, so it was really fun to all be together for a few days. (I also rode the jet ski at 6 months pregnant. Applause please, people.)

My baby shower was in August. I had it so early so my friends would still be home from college and be able to come. About 70 ladies came and were such a blessing with their sweet encouragement and gifts. Everyone's generosity was very overwhelming. 

In September, Chris and I celebrated our second anniversary in downtown Chicago.

All 31 days of October were defined by eager anticipation and unstoppable impatience. I washed baby clothes, cleaned my house a million times, wrapped up teaching for the year, and kept going to the midwife and saying, "Hopefully this is the last time!" You can read all about the birth journey here, but as most of you know, little Peter stubbornly waited till November 16th to make his appearance. But when he did, he sure stole both our hearts in a hurry. ;)

Because Peter came much later than we expected, it was a huge blessing to stay close to home for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's were all spent with my family; smaller celebrations that still meant everything to me. 

Since most of the year, as I've said, was rather slow and dreary since all I could do was wait for my little guy, I got a lot of reading done. You can read my reviews of the following books here, but here's a list of the titles:

Stargirl // Jerry Spinelli
That Printer of Udell's // Harold Bell Wright
How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World // Jordan Christy
Love, Stargirl // Jerry Spinelli
Tiger Lily // Jodi Lynn Anderson
Mrs. Mike // Benedict and Nancy Freeman
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World // Joanna Weaver
Hood // Stephen R. Lawhead
Hiding in the Spotlight // Greg Dawson
Isle of Swords // Wayne Thomas Batson
"When Did You See Her Last?" // Lemony Snicket
The Unhealthy Truth // Robyn O'Brien
The Search for Joyful // Benedict and Nancy Freeman
Trusting God // Jerry Bridges
Isle of Fire // Wayne Thomas Batson
The Maze Runner // James Dashner
A Wife After God's Own Heart // Elizabeth George
The Ransom of Mercy Carter // Caroline B. Cooney
Legend // Marie Lu
Five Little Pigs // Agatha Christie
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close // Jonathan Safran Foer
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Natural Childbirth // Jennifer L. West
Homebirth // Sheila Kitzinger
The Westing Game // Ellen Raskin
Surprised by Motherhood // Lisa-Jo Baker

Spiritually, 2014 was a total fail year for me. I didn't do my devotions, did things I knew I shouldn't, and frankly didn't care. I don't really know what's going on with the spiritual side of me right now. I think God is letting me discover that nothing on this earth can truly satisfy except for my relationship with Him. He's showing me that you either love the world and hate God, or you love God and His commandments and shun the world. Friend of one, enemy of the other. The Bible talks about this and it's how it is. Why do I think I can hold hands with both, smile, and say, "Yep! I'm okay! Use me, God!"? Would I use me, with my loyalty being insecure at best? And by the way, how others live is no excuse. Having a horizontal view can cripple a Christian, and it definitely did me this year. I completely lost sight of God and instead was getting hung up on how others were living or backsliding or whatever. (Yeah, I know. As I sat there not reading my Bible. Oh the irony.) 

So once again I am at the start of a new year. By God's grace, I get another chance. I'm focusing on baby steps right now, because I get very easily overwhelmed with the huge list of things I need to work on in my Christian walk. I am trying to make Bible-reading a habit again. (I never used to miss!) My sweet sister-in-law has agreed to be my accountability partner. At the end of the day we text each other with the passage(s) we read and maybe a thought or two. It's good. I am reading Psalms and Matthew again, as those books are my default. :) If you think of it, I'd appreciate prayer that I would recognize lies as lies, and be willing to see where I have deceived myself into thinking what I'm doing is okay instead of choosing what's best. 

2015. Who knows what'll happen by year's end, but I'm hoping to rebuild my spiritual life, jump wholeheartedly into motherhood with its wild and tiny joys, read 25 books, have a garden, and get a dog. I want to make the world better because I'm here. I want to leave people refreshed because of my conversation, and not wearied or unedified by complaining or gossip. It's all possible through God, who can do abundantly above all that we ask or think. :)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

life's an hourglass....

Little boy, when you speak
I can't help but kiss your cheeks,

I love the way you grab my hands,
And tell me all about your plans.

Rocket high, comets fly,
You and I could hitch a ride
And fly away to Neverland,
And give our best to Peter Pan.

When you reach for the stars,
Don't forget who you are.
Please don't turn around and grow up way too fast.

See the sand in my grasp,
From the first to the last.
Every grain becomes a memory of the past.

Oh, life's an hourglass.
Life's an hourglass.

Story's read, prayer is said,
Close your eyes, Sleepyhead,
While angels linger in your dreams,
And hold you in their feathered wings.

Just like you, I was small
Not that very long ago at all.
I wish you all the happiness
That God gives freely if you ask.

When you reach for the stars,
Don't forget who you are.
Please don't turn around and grow up way too fast.

See the sand in my grasp,
From the first to the last.
Every grain becomes a memory of the past.

Oh, life's an hourglass.
Life's an hourglass.

*"Hourglass" lyrics by Mindy Gledhill (pardon the theology)
*Many thanks to Fabric of Life Photography for the beautiful photos!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

thoughts on grace and motherhood

Wanna know two ways God likes to show us how selfish we are? Number one: marriage. Hopefully there is no gradual slip-into-marriage-type experience. One day you're engaged and living with your family or by yourself, then BOOM. Your life is suddenly not your life anymore and you're someone else's other half and that someone else probably wants you to make him coffee and wash his clothes. Your brains probably aren't identical, causing the occasional argument. On Sunday afternoons, no less. Pretty soon you start realizing how much you thought the universe revolved around your needs and desires, and cultivating a servant spirit becomes top priority. 

Number two: having a kid. Oh my word. I had no idea. Really. 

The first week we were home with Peter Chris stayed home from work. I was so sleep deprived I honestly couldn't function safely, and of course I was healing, so poor Chris had to handle everything. He was such a wonderful blessing, jumping right in to his daddy role. :) Right around Thursday afternoon I felt this strange, awful feeling rising in my gut. After a moment of contemplation, I realized it was utter terror: Chris was leaving us on Monday and it would be just me and the baby. Now, most of you know I have like zero baby experience. The last time there was a baby in my life was when Charlotte was born and I was 5 years old. I don't work in my church's nursery, and I've not babysat. You can understand how simply changing a diaper seemed like a daunting task. 

Well, Monday came and Chris left and I bawled. I really did feel overwhelmed and it was only Monday and 7 AM. Peter needed to eat every 2-3 hours, needed at least one diaper each session, breastfeeding was a total disaster, my house was filthy, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Because Chris was tired from work, I tried to let him sleep through the night and take all the shifts. I lost a LOT of sleep that second week, and with each passing day I grew more and more exhausted and cranky. The day came where I actually felt myself getting angry at Peter for being so needy. Just take your pacy and let me sleep for FIVE MORE MINUTES FOR GOODNESS' SAKE!!!! 

And then it totally hit me. Obviously I knew how dumb and horrid it was for me to be upset at a baby who constantly needs something and has no way to communicate that except by crying. I knew this was my new job and priority. But I had no idea it would be a huge life lesson. I am selfish, and God loves me anyway. I am just as needy and whiny as a little baby, and my heavenly Father answers my prayers every time. The diligence with which I have to tend to Peter's needs is nothing compared to how my Father watches over me and is orchestrating every move in my life. At any hour of the day, be it midnight, 4:30, or 7 AM (Peter's nightly shifts) I can call on Him and He hears me. Not just hears me, listens to me. When I am hungry, either physically or spiritually, He provides nourishment. When I am dirty from sin and guilt, He cleanses me. When I truly need rest, He restores my soul. 

Grace is everywhere. Peter looks at me while I change his diaper, and how can I not fall in love with those eyes? His little noises as he gulps down a bottle make me smile. He kicks his feet and "talks" to us at night and we talk back. He's just starting to smile when we get in his face and make silly sounds. This motherhood thing - the messy, the overwhelming - is showing me so much about grace, about love engulfing and defeating selfishness. I'd much rather keep sleeping when the next shift rolls around, but love gets me out of bed and doing it all again. I'd rather leave the dishes in the sink forever, but love makes me wash again, again, again. I'm not very interested in changing the diapers and wiping down not only Peter, but the changing pad, wipes dispenser, and wall, but love pushes me on and is the motivator for everything. Thank you, God. 

By Him all things consist. If it weren't for Him being the only perfect Father in existence, we could not exist. The very second He decided to "skip a shift" in His care for us, we would completely perish. What cause for thanksgiving! 

This gem was hidden in the monotonous, messy tasks of motherhood, and I am so grateful God allowed me to discover it. :)

Merry Christmas!

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!!!!

Peter Pics!

I know I've texted or Facebooked a lot of these, but still. :P These aren't all in chronological order. Just a big post of pictures of my little guy. :)

My first pic with him. The face of death after giving life. :P

We were all wiped out after about 36 hours of no sleep.

Poor Chris had to handle the first several awful diapers. ;)

Peter's first doctor visit at 5 days old.

Middle of the night bottles are the best. :P

Well that escalated quickly.

He likes bath time so long as he doesn't get cold. :)

How he tells me he's completely done with a bottle. lol

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

peter's birth story // part two

It was rush hour when we drove to the hospital. This reminded me of one of the reasons why I hadn't planned on giving birth at UIC or Hinsdale; I would NOT want to be stuck in traffic with crazy surges going on! We finally made it to UIC and sat in the waiting room with my midwife. Colleen was about 3 weeks away from delivering her third baby, so when the nurse came in to get me all registered, she walked up to Colleen thinking she was the patient. lol "No, the OTHER pregnant lady!" 

On the way to my room was the first time I really sensed God was going to make all this okay. Our nurse asked if I had a birth plan. I was like, "Whaaa? She's asking for my birth preferences??" We gave the plan to her and she not only entered everything into the system, but made copies for us to give to anybody else who needed them. Right after that, I realized God granted another desire of my heart. I had the room at the very end of the hall, which meant no one would be walking by and peeking in if they wanted! Nurses wouldn't be wheeling carts past my door. I'd have a little handful of quiet and privacy, two things I never expected. :P 

The first nurse and midwife on shift were absolute angels. The nurse was an older lady named Anne, who happened to be my doula's nurse 4 years ago! The midwife was a young, punky girl who was lots of fun. When she checked me the first time, I was already 90-100% effaced, which meant they could start the Pitocin right away. I was thankful to not have anything delayed. So they hooked me up to the IV and Pitocin, strapped on TWO monitors (ugh), and said they'd be back in every half hour. "Try to get some sleep," they said. I politely said "okay" and was thinking "are you nuts" because this stuff they were dripping into my blood made my middle totally implode and that doesn't feel like a pedicure, just saying. 

Chris slept. I did not. [Side note: my husband is totally my hero. I couldn't've done a single bit of this without him at my side. He was there always. He was and is my strength. I wouldn't say my love for him grew, because my heart is already full of forever for my darling, but it certainly deepened through this experience.] All night, from about 6:45 PM till 5:30 AM I just laid there learning to breathe deeper for each contraction. Anne came in every half hour and upped my Pitocin dosage by a unit. In the beginning it was easy. Contractions were no big deal. I was eating popsicles and posting on Facebook, for goodness' sake. The midwife came in at one point and whispered, "You doing okay?" And I just groaned, "I'm soooo bored!!!" She thought that was funny. Yeah, looking back it was funny to say that when the hardest part was still coming, but it was taking forever. 

Fast forward to about 5:15 AM. The contractions were very strong and close together. After realizing I wasn't getting much of a break at all in-between contractions, I decided to text my doula to let her know I wanted her. :) I also had the midwife come check me. My goal was to hold out until I was a 4 or 5 before getting an epidural. (And yes, my plan was to get the epidural if I got induced. I gave myself permission for that one.) When she checked me, I was a 5 almost 6. I was like, "Awesome! Now call the anesthesiologist RIGHT NOW." He came in and told me Chris had to step out. That totally, totally threw me. Chris had been with me for EVERYTHING up to this point and this was the scariest part of labor so far in my mind. I wanted him there. But for the room to be a "sterile environment" or something, he had to go. My body was losing it at this point. I was terrified of being alone with a nurse, the guy, and needles bigger than I wanted to think about. I was exhausted and starving. I started to shake. I was trembling so bad that the nurse had to hold my shoulders to keep me sitting upright and straight, and she asked me my name and what I was doing there. :/ But then the numbness took over and I was distracted by how funny my lower half felt. (Blessing #3: I didn't have any scary side effects from the epidural. Just major itchiness which went away eventually.)

The epidural was one thing that didn't turn out like I expected. I guess I expected to be totally numb down there and not feel a thing. (It's happened to a lot of people that told me their stories.) But I actually felt a lot. I felt each contraction, which ended up being a good thing when it came time to push. 

My midwife came in and checked me. I was an 8 or so. I texted my other midwife, Colleen, and had her come. [SO glad she was there for the birth!!] Around 10 AM I was a 10 and was told to start pushing. Chris tells me I pushed for almost THREE. STINKING. HOURS. There was a clock on the wall opposite me so I guess I knew the time but I for sure wasn't keeping track. Each time a contraction came, I'd push like my life depended on it. It was the most exerting thing I've ever done, and I was running on empty as far as sleep, food, and drink goes. My midwife knew I didn't want an episiotomy, and I for sure didn't want a C-section. Since this was going on and on, she eventually sat down, looked at me hard, and said, "Rachael, you have two pushes to get this baby out." I felt the pressure. I pushed like I hadn't pushed before. Finally his head was out, and I expected the rest of him to come rather quickly, but he was still not wanting to exit and enter the world. His hand was behind his head or something, making his elbow come out with his shoulders. The cord was around his neck, but it was no big deal thanks to my awesome midwife. After a very long struggle and effort, my son was born. :) My birth plan said I wanted immediate skin-to-skin, but somewhere in the moment that got lost, so I looked and they were scrubbing him to death. And that's where what my doula calls my "primal moment" came in. I said (hopefully not too loudly) "JUST GIVE HIM TO ME!" 

They handed him to me and I had a million thoughts running through my head. "THANK GOD it's over!" "No one let me near Eve up there because things would get ugly." "This kid is HUGE and so strong!" "Someone put food - any food - in my mouth now." "Awww, Chris is crying!" "Thank you, God, that he's healthy!" And that really was the most amazing answer to prayer. The epidural didn't affect little Peter at all that we could tell. He was alert from the very first moment. His eyes opened and he nursed just fine. I was so, so thankful and relieved. 

We went home a little over 24 hrs. later. Chris and I couldn't WAIT to get out of the hellishness that is recovery in a hospital room. People came in every half hour or sooner, most of them doing non-necessary, annoying things. As soon as the papers were together, they wheeled me out, we strapped him into his carseat, and took off with the heat blasting. (It was BITTER cold out and snowing.) He slept all the way home (yay). We came home to an "It's a Boy!" sign in the yard, a welcome home message in the frost on our front door, a clean prepared house (thanks, family!) and an amazing basket of goodies and dinner from a dear church friend. It was just wonderful. 

So in the end I am actually telling people I'm glad he was born at the hospital. There were enough circumstances that make me think that if I had tried it at home, it would've been a VERY long, excruciating experience that might've dampened my desire to do it again. :P Now that my body's gone through birth, hopefully the next time will be faster and smoother, and I can have the baby at home like originally planned. But God used this experience to show me how His hand is everywhere. He knew I did everything I could to make what we thought were the best decisions, and when the timing just got crazy, He made Plan B go just as well. I am so humbled and thankful. And it's pretty surreal to look into little Peter's eyes and say "I love you" and have him sigh contentedly. Motherhood is a great gift. None of us deserve it at all. :) 

A picture post is coming soon!