Monday, January 01, 2018

Back to Blogging?

So, I've been thinking of blogging again. I've been thinking about it for a while, actually, and this being New Year's Day (a bit over two years since I last posted), this seems as good a day as any to bit the bullet and float this trial balloon.

If I do keep writing, it will be a bit of a reboot. Mommy blogging seems like practically a dead medium, unless (a) you're truly doing it just to keep family and friends updated, (b) you made it big during blogging's heyday and now you've got book deals and sponsorships and all that jazz, or (c) you took it all seriously enough to be hosted on a magazine-type platform like Huffington Post or Patheos, writing on a particular theme.

My reboot will (would?) be closest to option c. I don't anticipate writing for a bigger site, but I do hope to be--if not "serious," exactly--a little less random, and narrow my focus to a few things that have grown into passions for me. Things like:
  • buying secondhand
  • purging/avoiding excess "stuff"
  • finding responsibly-made products
  • reducing our consumption overall 
  • resisting consumerism 
  • countering consumerist influences on our children
  • the "whys" and "hows" of all these things
I'm no expert on these, of course. The irony of valuing "less stuff" while I look around and see SO MUCH STUFF is disheartening but also motivating. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is first on my reading list for 2018. (Alas for all the half-read books on my nightstand. I have a very bad habit of starting new books and then abandoning them as soon as I get a new book.) So, I might be writing stuff on supporting hobbies and passions--like reading, scrapbooking, and throwing parties, in my case--without a lot of unnecessary purchases. 

I see the goal, overall, as living lighter--with less stuff weighing us down, and we ourselves being less of a burden on the earth and its people. It's being content with and grateful for what we have, and that's a pretty good goal for 2018.

Monday, December 14, 2015

18 Laps of Thankful

I started working out again last week. Who knows how long this will last, as I'm pretty bad about sticking to things like this, but I'm doing what I can. I determined that I prefer walking (even occasionally running--gasp!) on the indoor track, rather than being stationary on an elliptical machine or bike.

The indoor track at my preferred Y location is 18 laps to a mile. As I started my walk today, I tried to think of a way to both focus my thoughts as I walked and keep track of what lap I'm on. What came to mind was a wonderful exercise in reflection and gratitude. I let the number of the lap be a prompt for things in my life to be thankful or prayerful for as I walked.

ONE holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the world.

TWO darling daughters, and all the Mommy-Daughter fun we have. I wanted girls so badly, and though I now have a beautiful son to love as well, I marvel at the two awesome girls I get to mother.

THREE precious children: fireball Kate, cheerful Claire, and sweet baby Jonah. I love them so!

FOUR years in Brentwood, living in our lovely home, close to things we enjoy, and just three miles from Matt's parents.

FIVE members of our family. What fun we have and how I love our little family!

SIX seats at the table. Both our kitchen table and dining room table each have six chairs around them. With four of us currently using chairs, and Jonah who will eventually sit in one, that means we always have room for at least one more: a guest, a foster child, another child, etc.

SEVEN days in a week, time to be productive and time to rest. (Just picturing a page in my planner makes me smile!)

EIGHT weeks of Jonah! The joyful rest of my days getting to know my sweet boy, and thankfulness for his health and mine, especially in light of so many I know who've had traumatic births and postpartum experiences.

NINE years of marriage. Matt is such a loving husband and great father. It's not always easy, but as Andrew Peterson says, "that's what the promise is for."

TEN years in publishing. I love my work and have a great career going!

ELEVEN . . . praying for some eleven year old out there going through a tough time. I couldn't think of anything personal for this number, but middle school is rough . . .

TWELVE years in Nashville (well, the Nashville area). I came for Vanderbilt Divinity School and stayed because of Matt. Four years in Midtown, four in Clarksville, and now four in Brentwood. I love my hometown of Louisville, but being a Tennessean isn't so bad either!

THIRTEEN years old when I switched to private school. Seventh grade was wretched for me, and for eighth through twelfth grade, I thrived in a much smaller educational environment where I could participate in a lot of activities and hold several leadership roles.

FOURTEEN years of studying religion. Choosing the religion major at Furman University enhanced my faith and changed my thinking, my politics, my personal and professional life, and maybe in some small way, the world, as it's given me a more global and missional perspective.

FIFTEEN minutes of walking (by the second mile, that is, as I counted back down from 18. I couldn't think of anything for fifteen the first time!) Thankful for my body, my health, the ability to walk, and a nice facility with childcare in which to work out!

SIXTEEN years since high school. Adulthood has been pretty good so far.

SEVENTEEN days left in the year. Seventeen days to relax, spend time with family, and celebrate the birth of Christ. And 21 days left in my maternity leave--eek!

EIGHTEEN years at home. Thankful for my happy childhood and wonderful parents. Day trips and vacations, history lessons, traditions, and family dinners.

18 laps--well, 36, actually. Two miles thinking on such things made me feel grateful, proud, and happy with my life. Sure beats a half hour pondering my jiggly thighs or envying the fit aerobics instructor leading a class in the gym below. And it made my cardio time fly by! I moved on to the weight room with a peace I carried on to pick up my sleeping son from the nursery and out into the surprising warmth of a December day.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Frozen Halloween

Like thousands of other little girls (though not so many as last year, I imagine!) our kids wanted to dress as their favorite Scandinavian sisters for Halloween: Anna and Elsa, naturally.

Kate and Claire both got Elsa dress-up dresses and shoes for Christmas last year, so for a while, both were planning to be Elsa for Halloween, which I was planning to roll with, but I'm glad Claire decided she wanted to be Anna instead. So, with Mommy, Daddy, and a new sibling arriving mere weeks before Halloween, we planned our Frozen family ensemble.

Daddy was Kristoff, Mommy was Sven, and Jonah was Olaf. Our costumes were pretty simple: Matt with black pants, shirt, toboggan, and fleece vest from his own closet, plus a scarf from mine around his waist. I just wore brown and added $5 reindeer antlers I bought on Amazon. For Jonah, I bought a secondhand white fleece sleeper on ebay and sewed black felt on for buttons, and bought the crocheted Olaf hat on Etsy. Jonah actually won first prize in the costume contest at our neighborhood Halloween party. (It's hard to compete with an 8-day-old newborn, though!)

My personal favorite was Claire's costume, though. I made her cape and cap out of fuchsia fleece and it just made the ensemble. I couldn't get enough of her little braids sticking out from under her bonnet!

Halloween night itself was rainy and a bit chilly after dark, but between the neighborhood party, church trunk-or-treat, and braving the rain for at least a few streets on the 31st, our candy bowl is full and our Frozen fever sated for the time being!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jonah's Birth Story

Jonah Matthew Kelley was born a week ago, Friday October 16.

His birth story picks up right where I left off in my update from last week. (Notice: this being a story of childbirth, there are some details toward the end that aren't for the squeamish.) Five days overdue, we went to the midwife for our 41-week appointment, bags in tow just in case. I knew they would strip my membranes if I wanted, to help urge things along, and Peg had told me they might want me to stay close in that case, since it could happen quickly. My labor with Claire started about seven hours after getting my membranes stripped, but third babies can come especially quickly.

So, she checked me—80% effaced and 3.5 cm dilated—and did the stripping. We had some trouble when she put the heart and contraction monitors on, though. Jonah had been very active that morning, even before I was out of bed, and in the midwife's office, he was going nuts! My placenta being in front and a super-wiggly baby made it hard to get a steady read on his heart rate. So, we stayed a while to get a good trace on his heart, and at one point it went up to 170-173 bpm, a bit over the desirable range. Peg decided to send us on to the hospital for further monitoring and possible induction. (We used the Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives practice, and while they did open a birthing center a couple months ago, we'd still planned to deliver in the hospital.)

She didn't make a big deal of it, just wanted to be on the safe side. My main midwife was the one on call, so Peg called Margaret and told her we were coming. As we quickly drove through Wendy's and updated the grandparents, I told Matt not to use "the I-word." Induction. I hate the idea of having a crazy-specific "birth plan," (shocking for a planner like me, but I also hate the idea of being high-maintenance) but since I did want to go natural, drug-free this time, getting Pitocin would derail my hopes right from the start. Surely they wouldn't have to induce.

It was strange going up to Labor & Delivery not already in labor, pulling my own suitcase and waiting (semi-)patiently in the waiting area. The check-in person told us no need for triage, we were being admitted already. When the nurse, Ann, showed us to our room, I commented there was no laboring tub, and she said we couldn't use one "because you're an induction." I started to debate her, so she went to get Margaret the midwife. As we waited, my face crumpled to an angry cry. I did learn that the tub didn't get extremely hot, though, so I didn't really care about that anymore, since I like to practically boil myself in the bath or shower! The bottom line for me was that I wanted to be up and about during labor, not confined to the bed. They assured me this would still be possible.

We started monitoring and Jonah's heart rate was totally normal, but Margaret thought we should go ahead and try to start labor if we could, since I was already near 41 weeks and his heart rate had gotten so high earlier. She explained the options: 1) have her break my water and see if that got contractions going, or 2) start a Pitocin IV. I didn't want to have an IV in and be tethered to a pole, even if I could walk around with it, plus I worried that Pitocin would make contractions so strong I'd end up wanting an epidural. I felt disappointed and confused and had another face-crumpled angry cry before deciding to have her break my water. At least then there would be a chance of not needing Pitocin, if contractions got started without it. My membranes (bag of waters) had been artificially ruptured with the girls, so I was hoping to let that happen naturally too, but it wasn't too big a concession. She did that around 2:30 in the afternoon (no meconium this time—go Jonah!) and Matt and I settled in, had a visit from a friend, watched a little TV, and took a walk around the halls.

I was planning to use Vanderbilt's volunteer doula program, and though none of the volunteers had signed up for that on-call slot, we were going to call the main number and see if someone could be found. Instead, Ali, the student midwife I'd seen that morning and the week before with Peg, volunteered to doula for me. As it turned out, she was also a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School (where Matt and I met) and we knew a lot of the same people. She'd been at div school after our time, planning to go into ministry, and done a chaplaincy internship alongside a traditional midwife in Mexico. There, she discovered a passion for midwifery, and after graduating the divinity school, enrolled in the nursing school!

We chatted and got to know Ali and my contractions began around 3:30--hooray! The water-breaking worked! Contractions were about 4-7 minutes apart and only mildly uncomfortable. I paced around our room in circles, watching my guilty-pleasure show, "Say Yes to the Dress," and then having Matt hook up his iPod speakers and turn on the soundtrack to "Rent." Strangely, this was something I'd thought about way back when birthing Kate, feeling like singing along to some really driving songs would help me in labor. But I don't really feel like I "labored" then, I just endured contractions lying down until I could get my epidural. Instincts were pretty much forgotten.

At 4:45, I had my first contraction that was remotely painful. So I kept pacing around in circles like a lion and Matt and I sang along to Jonathan Larson's brilliant music. (The nurse told me she's seen lots of things, but never a couple singing show tunes in labor!) As contractions got more painful, I put the birthing ball up on the bed, kneeled behind it, and rocked forward and back. It felt so good to be moving around at this point. At one point, I sat back in the bed to test my theory of whether contractions really hurt more when reclining (my rationale for this "I think I can do it without drugs if I'm able to move around). It didn't really hurt more, but made me feel helpless against the pain because there was nothing I could really do about it.

Sometime around 6:00, contractions got MUCH more painful, and only 2-3 minutes apart. I had Matt turn off the music and I got in the shower for a bit. The water wasn't near hot enough for me and brought little relief. The pain was getting really bad. I sat on the toilet and threw up. Ali checked me, and I was 90% effaced, 7 cm dilated, and baby's head was at zero station (i.e. right at the cervix). She coached Matt on supporting me through the contractions (the dancing pose really didn't work for me, though), and she and Matt switched off pressing firmly on my hips while I stood at the end of the bed with my torso laying across it.

Around 7:00, Margaret's shift was over, so she introduced me to Tania, a midwife I'd never met. Given that Ali and I had a good thing going, Tania pretty much stayed in a background or advisory role. Margaret might have stayed if they'd known how soon it would all be over, but who knew? I was seriously laboring, practically in tears, leaning onto the bed with one contraction coming right on top of the next with no break. This was the one point where I asked "Why did I think this was a good idea?" and wondered how long I could take pain at that level before wanting an epidural. Whatever that point might have ended up being, it was thankfully a moot point, because at 7:15 or so, I said hesitantly, "I think I need to push out a BM . . . and maybe a baby?"

Ali checked me again. Couldn't have been more than an hour since checking me before, but there I was, 100% effaced, 10 cm dilated, head at +1. It was go time!

Perched awkwardly on the end of the bed, we prepared for me to push. I'd envisioned myself squatting to push, but someone said gravity might help a little too much and he'd come shooting out too quickly. Plus, it hurt so bad to change positions in this state, I just wanted to push him out ASAP. I did have a BM, and then got a little reprieve as contractions eased up. I'd read about that in one of the birth books—what an amazing gift our bodies give us, a rest right before the big job of pushing out Baby!

I had Matt take a picture of the clock, as we had at the girls' births. 7:23 when we started pushing. I asked for the mirror to be brought over so I could watch. As contractions began again, I screamed from my gut as I pushed Jonah out. A bunch of dark hair became visible and then retreated until the next push. When I reached down to feel it, I thought it was the cord because it was just a puffy, soft line of flesh, but it was the skin of his head squeezing through the opening. Pushing hurt so bad, I thought again at this point, "Why did I want to do this?" He crowned with the next contraction, but retreated again and I pushed ever harder to get him out with the next one. His head popping out brought a burst of excitement, followed a split second later by the realization that his shoulders weren't going to just slide out—I'd have to push them too. Ow. But one more contraction and push and it was done. There was Jonah!

He was born at 7:45, just over five hours from getting my water broken and only three hours from the first twinge of pain! They laid him on my chest as they helped the placenta out and stitched up a first degree tear. Once that was done and I could get into a better position, we nursed. It was nearly an hour before they took him from my chest to weigh him and do other checks. He weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces, 21.25 inches long. More than a pound heavier than my girls, but he still seems tiny to me. Precious babe. He didn't leave my presence until a short bit Sunday morning before we went home.

I don't know if I could have done it with a longer labor, but I'm glad I had the experience of laboring and birthing my sweet third child naturally. My parents were there even before he left my chest, and Matt's parents brought the girls the next morning. They were so excited to meet him and just adore him. We've had a good week getting to know each other. He's such a sweet baby!



Friday, October 16, 2015

Still Waiting...

I'm basically a week overdue now.

My by-the-book due date was Oct. 9, but when one factored in the luteal phase, it was Oct. 11. Ultrasound measurements also said Oct. 11, so we went with that. Either way, we are about to go to my 41-week midwife appointment, which I'd truly assumed and hoped I wouldn't need when they scheduled it a week ago.

That was my last day of work for the calendar year, as I'd worked like crazy to get everything done before Baby arrived. And since I'd worried he'd come early, I was especially hustling in the days leading up to Oct. 1, when I had a bunch of big deadlines. It was actually the evening of Sept. 30, when I skipped church choir in order to work into the evening, that my Braxton Hicks picked up, becoming regular at 20 minutes apart and somewhat more intense than they had been in the random times I'd had them prior to that. So, I especially started to panic then, but when Oct. 1 and 2 came with no greater signals of labor and I met my big deadlines (yes, some one day late), I relaxed a bit.

Last week, Oct. 5-9, I finished up the other things on my big "TO DO BEFORE MATERNITY LEAVE" list and gleefully set my "out of office" message before heading to my 40-week midwife appointment. I'd been having some discomfort in my hips and butt, and the irregular, painless contractions had moved to the bottom of my uterus, so I'd hoped maybe things were moving along. Peg, the tell-it-like-it-is New Englander midwife, told me Baby had definitely dropped a good bit lower than the week before, but didn't even worry with checking my dilation and whatnot because "you're not really doing anything." Boo. (And I didn't push the issue because I know it doesn't really give much of an indicator of when Baby will come--one could stay at 4 cm for a week or go from 1 cm to 8 in a day!) She did think I'd go into labor this week, though, such that today's 41-week appointment wouldn't be needed!

Alas. Last Saturday, I'd really hoped to go into labor because 10/10 would make such a nice birthday. Instead, I spent the day recording a CD with our church choir, at a historic studio on Music Row (quintessential Nashville experience--so cool!) I took walks on breaks and hoped something would happen, but it didn't. Sunday, my due date, we went to BGC's third birthday party, something I'd hoped to attend but assumed we would miss! So that was fun. (She's doing amazing! Walking and running, saying a few words . . . she threw her arms up gleefully whenever she saw us around the party room.) Monday morning was BGC's dad's Termination of Parental Rights hearing. We were prepared to testify if needed (basically saying he clearly loves her so much but her needs are just too much for him to handle as a single dad who still isn't totally clean) but after being at her party the day before, and seeing all the love her new family is surrounding her with, he made the very difficult decision to surrender his rights voluntarily. He gave a tearful speech in court and we all affirmed him for his self-sacrificial decision. So, BGC is free for adoption, and once she has been with her new parents for six months (early December) she can be officially adopted. Yay!!

I was glad to have been able to be there, but then the week became a waiting game. I started to get frustrated. I did some cleaning and organizing, not out of nesting instinct as much as "well, I really have no excuse now!" since I was on maternity leave already and the kids were at school. My mom came Tuesday evening and helped me with various things around the house. Wednesday was Matt's and my 9th anniversary. We'd planned to be in the hospital or settling in at home with Baby, so we hadn't planned anything special, but we went out to lunch. Other than some sciatic pains, no more signs of labor.

As yesterday, 10/15 (another nice-sounding birthdate, 10/15/15) came and went, I got even more frustrated. Matt and I took a three-mile hike hoping to jumpstart things, and the discomfort increased some, along with some mildly uncomfortable contractions 10 minutes or so apart in the evening, but they went away. Every night this week, I've gone to bed hoping to be awakened by something resembling pain or gushing waters, and every time I woke to pee or get up in the morning, it felt like waking on Christmas morning to find that Santa hadn't come.

So here we are. I'm still comfortable (with the exception of my inner thighs), and enjoying my pregnant body--I'm just impatient! At the midwife, we'll do a 20-minute monitoring (stress test) to see how Baby's doing, and probably strip my membranes to help things along. I had that with Claire and labor started about 7 hours later (2 days late). So we'll see. Maybe today will be the day!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

In Due Time...

I'm just two weeks away from my due date, Oct. 11, and hoping Baby Boy doesn't try to break the mold and come early. Too much work to do!

The girls were five and two days late, though I'd been determined they were going to come early (Kate just because and Claire because she was SO LOW for so long) but if there's a running theme with this pregnancy, it might be that my plans and expectations mean nothing!

Beyond that "planning" issue, this pregnancy has been pretty similar to the others. I've been sick throughout (decreasing to just once a week or so in the latter half) but loving it nonetheless! I'm one of those annoying people who just ADORES being pregnant. I feel more confident about my body, and beyond nausea and heartburn, don't really experience any other bad symptoms (swelling or migraines or whatnot). Though I'm excited for Baby's arrival, I'm also really sad that pregnancy is coming to an end (especially if he's our last).

Eating has been a little different this time, in that I had that massive food aversion for several months in the spring. Everything sounded gross, and the thought of making dinner for my family was just repulsive. This especially was a downer during Matt and my trip to NYC in April. If you're going to be spending $20+ an entrĂ©e, it better be enjoyable, but I just felt bleh about it all. My $8 noodles from Wok to Walk were probably least disappointing. After my appetite was restored this summer, I've had a thing for Pad Thai, egg rolls, quesadillas, nachos . . . basically Asian and Mexican, mostly vegetarian.

Though I'm still nervous about this whole boy stereotype that they are so active, so wild, never sit down, etc., I am kind of amused (if a little scared) that his in utero movements seem to echo this stereotype. Whereas Kate was a stretcher, pushing out both sides of my belly (and indeed has excellent gross motor skills, balance, etc.) and Claire was a skitterer, playing piano across the front of my belly (and now shows better fine motor skills than gross), this baby is an all over mover and shaker. He kicks and squirms and dances all over the place.

I'm planning (ha! hope this plan doesn't fall apart) for a different sort of delivery this time. I wanted and enjoyed epidurals with both girls, and was so numb with Kate that I slept through most of labor and even fell back asleep between pushes (I think it was too strong, in retrospect), but I'm hoping to "go natural" this time. It's hard to explain my desire to make this change, since I didn't have bad experiences birthing either of my girls. (Actually, I mainly credit my college/blog friend EMU, and her passion for natural birth, for putting the idea in my head!) In retrospect, I do have some bad feelings about Kate's delivery, knowing now that the vacuum, forceps, 3rd degree episiotomy, and all might not have been really necessary, and mostly the fact that they took her away from me for 45-60 minutes to check her lungs after the meconium staining, which I now see as a likely cause for her nursing trouble and the reason I became an exclusive pumper for her. Claire also had meconium staining, but they did checks right there in the room and handed her back to me quickly.

Matt thinks I'm a little crazy, abandoning my "No pain, no pain" motto from previous deliveries. He reminds me how painful my contractions were during the hours between arriving at the hospital and getting my epidurals before, but I really associate that with being in a reclining position. I feel like if I can be upright and moving around, I can handle the pain. We'll see!! I'm looking forward to following my instincts and being more of an active participant in birthing this baby. Chances are, it will be a fast delivery—Kate's being just 14 hours, with 40 minutes of pushing, and Claire's only 5 hours, with 9 minutes of pushing, and the reputation of third babies coming really quickly—I'm just hoping I don't end up delivering in the car or in the bathroom at home!

I hope to blog a little more before he gets here (a post about his name, for one!) but if not, wish me luck and pray for a healthy new addition to our family!

(silly girls not so much cooperating during our recent photo session!)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Foster Parenting Reflections

My most recent post for Vanderbilt Children's Hospital's Wishing Well blog is up today: Foster Parenting: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly.

I was nervous to be the "voice of foster parenting" for the blog, having been at it less than three years (and with only three official placements, thanks to BGC's extended stay!) but I tried to make clear that I'm only speaking from our experiences, with the gaps filled in somewhat from stories I've read on other foster moms' blogs.

I used the above pic of Claire and a little girl we did respite for. (It was BGC's first weekend with us and we'd already agreed to do respite, so we had FOUR little girls for four days. It was awesome.) It's hard to find good pictures of foster kids that I can share publicly, since their faces can't be visible. But Claire looked kind of forlorn in this pic, so it seemed to suit the topic!

To update on BGC, she did finally move to be with her pre-adoptive family!!! We are so excited for them. We'd hoped we'd see her walk unassisted before leaving our home, but she was really close—walking with just a hand to hold—and just a few weeks later, started to walk on her own. We saw a video of her getting up from a sit and taking four or five steps—so exciting! I can't wait to see it in person at a shower for BGC and her new mommy next week.

I mention in my Wishing Well post our frustration with how slowly things move in foster care. I can't count the number of times I said about BGC, "I'm sure by [X month] she'll have moved," and then many more months passed by! When she finally did move, it was so anticlimactic (preceded by a week or two of "maybe tomorrow" or "maybe Monday") that I forgot to tell our parents when she'd actually moved! It was kind of funny how both sets asked me, maybe three days or a week after, "So how's BGC?" or "Did BGC end up moving?" and I had to be like "oh yeah, last Wednesday!"

She will still be "in the system" for a while, since kids have to be with the family that plans to adopt them for at least six months before the adoption can take place. That would be early December, so maybe before Christmas, she'll have permanency! Another "maybe". . . shouldn't get our hopes up too much. There is also the complication of termination of parental rights. BGC's dad is contesting the motion, so there is a trial for that coming up as well. I feel for him, understanding the emotional resistance to just giving her up voluntarily, but there is just no way he could give her the care and stability she needs.

DCS gives/encourages families to take a break after a long placement, so we are officially "on hold" right now. Given that we'll go on hold again when Baby 3 is imminent, there isn't much time to offer care, but we do hope to provide a short-term home for a child in need before taking another break while Baby 3 is small.


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