Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lyda June and Oscar Abraham - A Twin Birth Story

I was 36 weeks and 5 days the night I started labor. We had just had our 36 week appointment at our doctor that day and received several shocking pieces of information. Firstly, our OB (whom we'd collaborated with for a vaginal birth plan, though our son was transverse) was unexpectedly out of town for an unknown amount of time. Secondly, we were greeted by an entirely new doctor to the practice, who glances at our chart and says, "So, you'll be having a cesarean section." Thirdly, I was 3cm dilated and 75% effaced. Luke and I high-fived after that last one. THAT, at least, was good news.

Now, hear me. When we first found out we were pregnant with twins (Yes, naturally. No, they don't run in the family. Yes, we were "trying." Yes, it was a shock.), I, with all sincerity and a look of irreverent stubbornness on my face, said, "I'm having a cesarean." So, you see, I'm not against it.  I prayed a lot. And I'll tell you what I said to my ever-patient Father in Heaven. I said, "God, if you really want me to push these babies out of my vagina, you just set them up right, and I'll do it." And so he did. So that was the plan. A plan, nonetheless, that took some time and effort to get our doctor to agree to, our doula to help me tweak, and for me to come to terms with all the unknowns this presented.

So, here I am in labor. I've laid myself to bed for the night and those low, aching contractions have begun. This has been normal for several weeks at bedtime. So, I wait, drink water, and I force myself to sleep. By 1:00am I am periodically waking up with the contractions and making a note of the time between them. Bleary-eyed, I check the clock. "Was that ten minutes or a half-hour?" Mmmm sleep. By 3:00am I have enough consciousness to know I am certainly in labor. By 4:00 am the contractions are about 6-8 minutes apart. I get up. I go to Luke's side of the bed to plug in my cell phone. He sleepily rolls over and sweetly says, "Honey, I can do that for you." What a helper. "Babe, my contractions are about 7 minutes apart." The poor fella didn't even know I was in labor. He grips my arm quickly, "WHAT?!"

We get up. I gather a few things for our hospital bag, put on something nice, and head to the bathroom to pee, brush my teeth, and put on makeup (LISTEN. I will NOT show up to the hospital looking like a broke-down-hot-laboring-mess. I will show up looking like a Fine Warrior who is about to DO.THIS.). Something has changed in the amount of time it has taken to for me to do these things. I suddenly can't stand for the contractions anymore. They're short - 45 seconds, maybe - but they're coming every 2 minutes now. My feet clench and I am moaning, searching for a comfortable position and finding none. Luke calls our doula, Jackie. I can't make any decisions or speak. It becomes a desperate priority for me to see our sleeping son before we go. I have 3 contractions on the way to his bedroom ten feet away. We wake Luke's parents, they pray over us, and I have a loud, gripping contraction in the kitchen. We leave and tell our doula to meet us at the hospital.

How do I find myself on my hands and knees on the curb of the sidewalk? In the elevator? At the check-in desk? The pain is intense in my abdomen and unbearable in my lower back. Having my cervix checked is excruciating and sharp at first. I still think about how I yelled out in pain like those crazy ladies in the movies and I'm a little bit embarrassed. Luke and Jackie help me to relax and focus during the cluster-cuss that is getting registered (WHERE IS MY HUSBAND???), my medical history reviewed, my IV administered (insult to injury), triple monitors on my belly, and another try at the cervix. I'm 7 centimeters. The babes' hearts are looking great. "Let's do this," I say.

I made it known that, unlike my delivery with Hugo (au-naturale, intense, and lovely in retrospect), I'd be receiving an epidural to ensure a vaginal delivery of both babes. It was assumed by the sweet, young nurses in triage that I would be delivering by cesarean. But, oh! The infamous Dr. Nett - who recently delivered twins naturally - is in the building tonight! Let us see if she'll be around to deliver! She will. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God. We all thank God.

What is the hold-up on the epidural? Why is the penicillin in my arm like a fiery dagger? That is so rude and obnoxious! Jackie rubs clary sage oil on my chest and it calms me. She massages the hell out of my back and hips during contractions and it helps me cope. She lets me bruise her hand with my grip. Luke is there, always there, my plaid-shirted pillar of strength. I can't look at his face, can't focus like I did my first labor, but I smell him and feel his flesh under my fingers as I grip him through contractions. Standing isn't an option - not because of all the monitors - but I feel like I have most control while I'm in the bed. I'm just surviving through these contractions. When I labored with Hugo I was heard to say through clenched teeth, much to Luke's amusement, "I...just...want these be...productive...".  Not so birthy-all-star this time. This time, it is intense and I feel with every contraction like I am desperate and my body is revolting against me.

Post-epidural kissin' time
By the time the epidural is administered, we've made it to the laboring room, I've gone through transition, and my doula has successfully sent a "code blue" alarm throughout the hospital. It was hilarious. She apparently was helping unhook some of my monitors in triage and pulled a cord she wasn't supposed to. It's good to know that a solid dozen people actually respond to those things. Anyway, the epidural made me feel lovely. It also made me feel itchy. And chatty. I was too excited about being able to enjoy the arrival of my twins that I couldn't rest. Jackie and I talked for a while. I kept asking the nurses to check my cervix. Not quite ready. I became oddly bored. When it was finally go-time, my sweet nurse, Jenny, looked at me with a gleaming smile, "You're complete!"

As I was wheeled into the OR (standard for multiple births - at least at this hospital), the tone changed. I'm not sure how to describe it. I was separated for the first time from both my husband and my doula. I had expected this and I don't think this was the source of my rising anxiety. The OR is buzzing with nurses and doctors, none of whom look at me. The lights above are glaringly clinical (duh, it's an operating room). Everyone is moving quickly, performing their tasks, preparing for what's about to happen. I feel my throat tighten and my eyes threaten to leak. I can't pin-point exactly what I was feeling, but, whatever it was, I was feeling A LOT of it. This was it, I was about to meet my babies! I was excited - but, it all seemed so serious.

Luke beaming at Lyda
Several nurses introduced themselves, asked me how I was doing, and the neonatal team came over with their smiling eyes (I couldn't see anyone's faces from the nose down). This made me feel better. My legs were strapped down into the harnesses (weird - where did they think I was going to go?) and Luke and Jackie were by my side again. Dr. Nett arrived, excited and encouraging.  And unceremoniously the delivery began. She monitored my contractions and told me to start pushing. This is strange, not being able to feel them and direct my own pushing, but, I pushed 4 times during one contraction, with much encouragement from Jackie and Luke. I felt my daughter slide through my body. I heard her, saw her little fiesty self and exclaimed, "Oh my God!" with laughter and joy. She was slipped into my arms, covered in vernix which I rubbed into her back (I read somewhere to do this, I have no idea why) and I gushed over my first daughter. Her hair, her fingers, her sweet full lips! They let me hold her for awhile and it was bliss.

Dr. Nett then began to try to turn Oscar from his transverse position to vertex. Y'ALL. I am so thankful I had an epidural for this. She worked internally and externally to maintain his vertex position for over 10 minutes. Finally, after he wouldn't cooperate, she decided he would need to be delivered breech. She needed to have both of his feet in her hands while I pushed. A contraction came and we did our work. I sucked in breath and used it to fuel my momentum. In one contraction and five pushes, Oscar came into the world 13 minutes after his sister. I looked between my legs to meet my son and I saw him, cradled in my doctor's arms, pale and still. My excitement immediately turned to worry and fear. "Is he okay?!" I kept saying over and over, with increasing anxiety. Everyone in the room assured me he was just shocked, that he would be fine. I tried to hold it together.  They immediately brought Lyda back to me while they whisked Oscar to the side. Luke went to be with Oscar and Jackie stayed right at my head. I'm not sure whether I was crying at this point, but I felt the desperation rising. I held Lyda and let my whole heart love her. It was the only thing I could do in that moment. Jackie rubbed my head and talked closely to me, "It's going to be okay. He's going to be fine." She kissed my forehead over and over while tears began to erupt. I will forever remember her tenderness in that moment - an intimacy that matched the need in my heart. It was her voice that broke the fear, "Do you hear him? Do you hear him? That's him!" And I listened to the sound of my son's strong cry find me in that vast and crowded room. He was mine and he was okay! I wept for joy.

They brought him to me and told me to hold him firmly against my chest. For over an hour I held him there, willing him to breathe normally and to find my heartbeat as a rhythm that would calm him. My twins did so well. Lyda latched immediately and Oscar's breathing regulated. No NICU time. Incredible. God is glorious. He helped my weak body (read: I was hospitalized twice with back spasms and pre-term labor. By the end I couldn't stand for more than FIVE minutes.) carry two humans of his design, deliver them, and give breath to their lungs and life in their souls. My Father in heaven continues to care for me every day as I manage three children. He has made my body provide the food my twins need and increases my graciousness toward my children in a time when I am tempted with exhaustion, isolation, and exasperation. He has reminded me that He never rests, but is always pursuing good things for me. This season is challenging and joyous in so many ways - but that's another story.

Our new kids and the amazing Dr. Nett

Hugo meets his sister

Lyda (5lbs 13 oz) and Oscar (5lbs 11oz)

holding Lyda

2 months old

our new life

Saturday, August 10, 2013

about love

There are a few music makers and writers who get me in the zone. That place where my mind seems opened up and clear,  rushing coherently with thoughts deeply suppressed by the day's mundane and constant work. The surface of my stomach shudders and jolts with the unknowable movements of the two lives inside it. I'm in a tub, soaking some pain away, listening to Over the Rhine croon about swallows falling from the sky.  I carry these babies in front of me, inexplicably suspended at a distance from my long-lost center of gravity. During the day and most of the night, they are a weight and a burden. They pluck at my ribcage with their feet like they're testing the tautness of a line. The girl nestles her head in my bladder while the boy stretches his spine and measures the boundaries of my width. We're all sharing my body, but I have no idea who they are, really, apart from their movements.  It occurs to me that it's not necessary for me to know them in order for my body to build them, birth them, and feed them. We're tied together, tethered by my blood, not my heart or my mind. That will change, of course, as soon as I see their new purple-red faces hollering at me at the shock of air and light and noise. When I rest their helpless bodies on my chest and they find comfort on the other side of my skin - laden as it is with warmth and aroma and milk - my heart will break for them.  I will fall to pieces in love with their tiny, awkward lives.  Then, my body will work from love, not just mechanics alone. My days will be filled with a pouring out of work that comes from a love that I didn't make. So even in this choice of loving, sacrificing work, Someone has gone before me and made the way.

The song ends and I turn in my tub to the book beside me. Louise Erdrich is telling me of her longing for Dakota horizon in the midst of her current New England homestead claustrophobia. I realize she and I will likely have a lot in common in the coming years as I adjust to life in a place that isn't - and is - my home. We're moving away to a farm of unknown location. I take solace in her words as she describes how she has put roots in a place that entraps her with it's unfamiliarity - how she has done so because of her love for her family. She watches her children be about that home place and realizes, weeping, that she's taught them to put their roots down, too. When I read her words, it's easy to forget the shag green carpet, drop ceilings, and hopelessly linear layout of the houses we've searched to make our new home. Instead, I daydream of uprooting the bushes in this imaginary yard, gathering peaches from the treess that threaten the foundation of the shed, spreading a blanket under the tree with the over-sized string bean pods hanging from it, a natural mobile for my little ones. I think of humming to my babies and herding my firstborn away from dangers. I think of teaching him to dig holes so we can plant bulbs in the yard. I think of the winter being ample with warm, fresh-baked bread and turning the corners of rooms into teepees and forts for a little fun. You see, with all this love that's happening, I still need a little romance. Throughout the normalcy of my day I can only imagine - as I clean my son's food tray for the 5th time and urge him not to climb on the table for a number exponentially larger than that - how hard this is going to be. How my mundane, repetitive, exhausted life will be transplanted to a smaller, tighter, lonely place - with bad carpets, an uninspiring floor plan, and more people. I realize as I find comfort in Ms. Erdrich's descriptions of spiders and trees and baby-wearing, that it's the romance of it that gives me peace. Romance, as we all know, is incredibly fickle and can be bought for the price of a well-written love story or a movie ticket or worse. It's also the stuff of courtship and, when remembered, is used to bind together the patches in a marriage. "It's okay to be in love with me," my husband jokes in the quiet dark of our bedroom after a day filled with missed connections and diaper changes and tantrums (not just the baby's). He reminds me there is still romance to be had. If I turn my eyes from the burdensome obvious and see that we are bound together with tenacity and hope - remembering that I married him not because of a lifestyle he promised, but because of a love we vowed - then I can see we've made a home in each other.  I can feel the hope and recklessness of a romance that can sing clear and sweet from any dilapidated rooftop in Kentucky.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hugo Lynn Groce

Our son is here! It's been awhile since I've posted anything, but, I figured the up-and-coming 4 month birthday of our son was a fine enough event to get me posting again. He is such a dynamic and adorable addition to our family. We've loved learning all about him the past three and a half months - he is feisty, hilarious, chubby, extroverted, strong, and stout!

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A few days away, going nowhere, and, actually, diving into it all..

This past weekend was really great. It seemed like a microcosm of what our life is really like. Or, rather, what we like our life to be like. It's been awhile since we've been able to really live it all out - usually our days are: wake up, coffee, farm/greenhouse, scramble to get stuff done, kiss cheeks, have Luke rush me to work, Luke farming/working until I call him after 10pm, saying, 'hi, can you come get me?' and then spend the last few minutes before bed reading/talking/crying/drinking an old fashioned.

We both took off of our non-farming jobs this weekend to participate in wedding festivities, of which my husband had certain groomsmen duties.  That meant we enjoyed a great rehearsal dinner at a fancy-shmancy place downtown and two fun nights thereafter, with plenty of celebratory food and drink to fill our bellies, great reminders of our duties as husband/wife, and praise to God, the Father, for his Gospel.  This is the thing you must know about us: we love good food and drink. We especially love when said food and drink are FREE. It's like the best, most special gift we can think of (but, that just goes to show you how unimaginative we are).

More than anything, it was great to be together. We farmed a bit, Luke planted peas while I washed 10 dozen eggs in the sunshine. I did some cleaning in the house and crying in the bedroom.  My husband has been amazing during this time of mourning and grief. He has held me, listened to me, corrected me, encouraged me, and pointed me to my Heavenly Father, my Anchor. He's reminded me of stories about my dad, lamented my regrets with me, and has never said, "It's going to be alright".  He has always said, "Come, Lord, Jesus" in some form that says in chorus with my heart, "This is not the way it's supposed to be." It will only be alright when Jesus comes, and not a moment before.

All that said, I realized I had not cried by myself in awhile - just letting the tears come without punctuation or words. It's not the way I want to live my life forever, but it is the way my life is right now. And I know it is a luxury to be able to stop. and. cry. To mourn with simplicity.

One thing the Holy Spirit reminded me of  early in this process is that God is good. And because of that, he is leading me through this time of mourning. My Father knew before I did that my dad was going to take his own life. He knew the heartache I and my family were about to endure.  And He led us all into it. I have nothing but his path before me. I trust He is leading. And that His leadership is good. How can I know these things? You might ask. That is faith, friends. There are certain truths and certainties that come with having faith and they can neither be explained nor given evidence unless you daily endeavor to know who God is. My lack of explanation isn't a tool for de-bunking Christianity, it is an affirmation of the tension we live in as Christians: God is mysterious - cannot be completely understood - and yet He has given us the ability to know Him and understand His ways through His Word, His Holy Spirit, and His Creation.
Here is a rudimentary example to explain what I mean: Before working a lengthy Algebra problem for the first time, one can't cite a line from the middle of the solution until you work it - step by step. You may even know the answer (x=2, for example). But how do you arrive there? How many steps does it take? Faith is the same. Know there is an answer at the end,  follow Christ to the Father and know He will give you everything you need along the way, guarding your heart and mind to trust Him.

Last night, after a day of church and a lunch picnic with the family, we had friends over on our back porch, sitting under twinkly lights and eating yummy food and drinking yummy wine. We laughed and felt the breeze chill our shoulders as afternoon gave way to evening. We told stories about vomiting and crying. The fellas danced in the living room in the dark - doing strange pirouettes to Bonnie Prince Billy. I think we all went to our beds feeling like we had done a great thing to take advantage of such a nice evening and fellowship.

Luke and I awoke at 3-something this morning, our open eyes silently meeting each other. My head was filled with thoughts, and Luke's head met mine with strangely, equally well-formed responses. I went downstairs for a glass of water and realized that our dog was so sick. We spent the next hour cleaning up her mess and her, then sitting bleary-eyed on the couch at 5am, talking about our marriage. I guess, sometimes, when you're that tired, things become more clear.  Because we were finally able to get to the heart of some issues that had been troubling us for some time. We finally went back to sleep and woke later to realize the day had started without us.

Now here we are, another storm front moving through. Damaging winds and cold promised.  Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I've come here to write thoughts down many times recently. The truth is, I just haven't been able to make it happen. I don't know what to tell you. I can't find the words to build a bridge from where I was to where I've found myself now. To be honest, only a very few have come with me across that great divide. They found their way with me.  We all traveled unknowingly, but we walked that darkness together. What an amazing comfort.

Let me be plain. This is what it means to grieve with someone: To plant your feet firmly with theirs, to boldly brush off the haunting words "awkward," "appropriate," or "silence" and just be. There is no one who is leading the hurting or their companions, but Christ. And he knows no awkwardness and never did anything appropriate and the only silence is the mystery of himself.  He will show you what to do.

I can't write pages for you about the misery and horror and sorrow that entered my life the moment I found out that my Daddy died, seemingly, at his own hand. I relive that moment often enough, but the hours and necessary days and now nearly months that have followed are all chronicled somewhere else that I can't reach.  I can't come back for you and walk you through them all again.

And so it's strange for me to write here with so much going unsaid. I lost my Daddy.  Every day I lose him all over again, it seems. I grieve, I miss, I hurt, I weep, I regret, I long for, I remember.  This is my life: joy and sorrow always together.  I'm sorry if the words I chose were not the right ones for this first post.

It's not the way it's supposed to be.

Come and heal us, Lord Jesus. Come and make it all new.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

one point five

Today we're celebrating 1.5 years of marriage. Luke woke me up initially by telling me he re-set the alarm for me, and then when I turned off that alarm and went back to sleep, he woke me a third time with this great spread of our favorite breakfast foods. Can't beat grapefruit juice in the morning. Can't beat a husband who loves cookin' me eggs.
And if you think it's silly/adorable/absurd that we're celebrating the 1.5 marker, I should tell you that during our first year of matrimony we celebrated a little something we liked to call monthiversaries

Sunday, September 19, 2010

date cards

On a recent date night, Luke decided to present me with some options via these date cards. On the outside of these notes are visual representations of the dates described within. Can you guess what each one is? (at one point, I thought luke was going to buy me a puppy. that was not true.)

Also, today we took a tour of Woodland Farms (owned by Steve Wilson of 21c and Proof) in Goshen and met sweet Stephanie who runs the garden there.  It's a sight to behold and you can only come by invitation.  We were also lucky enough to watch some of my co-workers try to cross the pond via zip-line and not even come close to making it.  Then, 1 of the 3 said co-workers hung upside down like a monkey and shimmied himself across the zip-line to untangle it, only to have it tangle again when he dropped back into the water. Maybe it's one of those "you had to be there" moments, but I'll tell you, there was a lot of laughing happening. And maybe some snarky jokes.