Friday, November 13, 2015

The Story of Judah Benjamin's Arrival - November 11th, 2015

Several months ago, we had a bunch of very exciting things happen all in the same week. It was Sunday, March 1st, and I found out there was going to be a third Howry baby joining our family! Beyond ecstatic, I had no idea just how much was about to change in our lives! The next day, we had a showing for our house. It was nothing new, we had many showings over the years, but this one was THE one that changed everything. On Tuesday, March 3rd, we received an offer, and the next day, it was under contract. Now we were weeks away from living in a new place, with two small children and one sick pregnant mama. Oh boy, here we go! What an adventure. We found a place to live just in time, the sale of the house went as smoothly as anyone could hope for, and right after we moved in I made these shirts for the kids to wear as we announced our news to the Facebook world. Our family was going to grow yet again! 

Overall, it was a pretty easy pregnancy. I was really sick in the beginning which was difficult with the move, but soon after we settled in, I started feeling better and we began our new "normal". Chloe turned 3 in June and I took on a couple of children to babysit for the summer. We stayed busy, busy, busy! I have to say this was definitely the "fastest" pregnancy I have had yet. I just feel like the time flew by. We were constantly on the go, I stayed really active, and we made the most of the beautiful weather we had. Then fall arrived, and with it, our first real homeschooling adventure...preschool! All the way through September and October, we stayed busy with so many activities. I just wanted to soak up all the time I could with my two munchkins before I had a baby to focus my attention on. These two kids have been such a joy and I adore them...and watching them become older siblings has been an incredible thing. I know they will be great at taking care of their baby brother.

October 14th - Still 4 weeks out from Judah's birth date! 
There's the back story. :) During the month of October it quickly became more and more difficult to function. My belly got VERY big and "pointy" as many people liked to say, but I still felt good and did as much as possible to keep the kids active and busy. Around the end of October, I began with false labor contractions. They would start to get regular, then stop all together. This went on night after night for weeks! It made me think I might not make it to my due date (which of course I was wrong about yet again!), but I was actually very happy to make it to the 40-week mark as I knew this meant the baby was nice and healthy and strong. Another thing that was causing me to feel anxious was the baby's position. His head was down, but he kept moving from posterior to anterior multiple times a week or even in the same day! I was nervous about having a long painful labor and delivery because of that, so I was trying all kinds of exercises and positions to try and help this little guy flip into the right spot and stay there, but nothing I did seemed to change anything. I definitely felt that God was teaching me that ultimately this is not in my hands and I have zero ability to control this. I still felt that temptation and struggle on a daily basis, though. I just wanted to do whatever I could to get this baby here as quickly and easily as possible! As the days past my due date ticked by (I was due on the 5th), I became increasingly frustrated with myself and feeling like I needed to "do something". I have been down this path before with Elijah and I did not mind what the calendar said, but I was getting so uncomfortable that I really couldn't do any of my normal things anymore and I was just tired and ready to be done. I found myself withdrawing from pretty much any gathering of people because, as much as I love them all, I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want all the eyes staring at my belly (because trust me, that's what everyone does when you're that huge!), and I didn't want to answer questions. Because..I had no idea why I was still pregnant either!! I told Derrick that I now understand why cats go off on their own to deliver their babies. There is something so private about the whole thing and I just didn't want to involve the whole world anymore. Don't get me wrong, I was so blessed and encouraged by all the love and support I had from family and friends. I was just worn and emotionally drained. I needed time alone to reflect and pray and come to a place of wasn't easy and I wavered many times, but ultimately I knew it was not in my control.

I'd say things began to change on my actual due date, which was on a Thursday. That night I had regular contractions and once again, they went away. But I do remember that they started to feel different. I was terrified that Tuesday would come and Derrick would have to go back to work. I could barely lift Elijah anymore and regular chores were incredibly difficult. I prayed and pleaded with God to keep Derrick home the following week. And then, Tuesday morning at 3:30, I woke up with REAL contractions. I waited about an hour before waking Derrick, but I couldn't sleep. They were real ones, I was definitely in pain, and I knew this was good. But I also knew it could be a long early labor because of how the baby's position had been. So I finally woke him and we decided that I was too uncomfortable to be alone. Praise God! He let me keep my hubby home that day. Nothing was regular, though, and after a whole day, they actually got weaker and further apart. I was so discouraged. My wonderful midwife told me that things would probably pick up once the kids were in bed and I wasn't distracted by them any longer. She was right! They went to bed at 8 and almost immediately, my contractions started in again. But they were still REALLY far apart and I still didn't feel like it was active labor. I fully expected it to be a long night and for the baby to be born sometime during the day on Wednesday. I pretty much resigned myself to this, even though the contractions were long and very painful, some even lasting almost 2 minutes! Finally, around 10 pm, I decided to check in with my midwife again. My contractions were still further than 12 minutes apart at this point, and she didn't want me to keep going like this as it would just tire me out and still not progress things very much at all. She suggested that I do a position technique to try and get the baby to come up out of my pelvis and realign his body to be in a better position for delivery. In my head I seriously doubted this would work, but when I got off the phone with her, I knew I should at least try it! So I did, then laid down for a little while and tried to sleep. Dozing off in between contractions, I started telling Derrick when they were coming and we realized that they had suddenly become regular, but were still only 10 minutes apart. I stood up and felt my belly and realized that now the baby's back was perfectly positioned in the middle, right where it should be! The intensity and frequency of contractions picked up considerably from that point on. Around 11 pm, I was begging God to not let this last all night, because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand it! We still thought I had plenty of time, because they weren't much closer together at all. I labored through them, moved around a lot, and even ate and drank! (Something I had just insisted would be impossible for me to ever do during labor). I stayed completely alert and aware this whole time, which I think made Derrick and I both believe I hadn't progressed too far yet. Usually when things get intense, I'm completely in the "zone" and don't really interact much. Finally, around 12:30, I asked him to at least inflate the birth tub so I could just see it and have some hope. He agreed and got to work. Shortly after that (probably closer to 1), I started saying I wanted Natanya here, so he called her and she got ready to head out. She also told him he should start filling the tub. But at this point, my contractions were still probably 8 minutes apart (or close to that), and it really did not seem imminent. So he told her not to rush. Right after he talked to her, they jumped to about 5 minutes apart. I could barely move or catch my breath. Yet I was still walking to and from the bathroom, trying to sit or stand in different positions to find some relief, and then trying to get ready so I could jump in the water as soon as it was filled. I started telling Derrick that he needed to hurry up because I felt like I was holding the baby in with every contraction! Right when he finished filling it, I felt like I was transitioning because the contractions were back to back and I had no more breaks in between. I even started yelling a little bit through some of them which is also something I've never done before! Finally, the tub was filled and at the perfect temperature. I got right in and had some immediate relief as the water lifted me and helped me relax.

My contractions almost came to a halt. My first thought was, "Oh no, I got in too early, now my labor will be even slower!" But then I just decided I'd might as well enjoy the water as much as I could so I found a good position and just hung out there.

One contraction came and went, but nothing happened. Then another. This time I felt like pushing a little to see if my water would didn't. I think I had been in the tub for about 25 minutes total, if that, when suddenly the last contraction came and that was the moment it all happened! My water broke and instantly the baby started coming out with it! I had been sitting, but jumped up to my knees and screamed, "The baby's coming!!" And there he was, just like that. I think this delivery was even faster than Elijah's. It all felt so surreal, especially since only minutes before this, I had worried that I still had hours left to go. I delivered his head, and the rest of him came out instantaneously. Derrick wasn't close enough to reach him so I had the amazing experience of catching my own baby and bringing him up out of the water. WOW. My baby was in my arms and I had no idea what had just happened.

He was beautifully pink and those lungs kicked into gear right away with nice loud cries. We busied ourselves making sure he was all set. Good color, check. Breathing, check. Crying, yes. Warm blanket around him, good. Oh....what about the gender???? Maybe we should look now! And at the same time we both exclaimed, "A boy!" We laughed (because I was totally wrong about my "gut feeling" that it was a girl) and I kissed our little baby and finally got to name him....Judah.
 Once we assessed that all was well, we called Natanya. She was 5 minutes away. This guy just did not want to wait for her to get here!

She came in and took care of us...seriously my midwife is amazing. She just went right to work and was perfectly calm. Two hours later, she left and I was resting and nursing Judah and we all dozed off for a couple of hours before the kids woke for the day.

Reflecting on this experience, I'd say it was my most challenging labor yet, and also the most rewarding. Having the opportunity to experience this with my husband just cannot be described very well with words. He was amazingly calm, did all the work, and got to be my "honorary" midwife. I already thought he was incredible, but now he's pretty much a rock star in my book!

God has blessed us with another child to love and care for. I don't take this responsibility lightly! We are so thankful for the opportunity to raise up children to know and follow Him. Will we have more? I don't know...but He does. And that's enough for me right now. :)


Saturday, February 7, 2015

How to Have a PERFECT Marriage......For Real.

Did I get your attention with this? Think I'm just gonna brag on my husband and gush over him for the next few (or several) paragraphs? Well, I do love him, but that's not what this post is really about. So, bear with me as I try to unpack these deep, meaningful realizations founded on God's Word that I think many of you will find least it was for me, so I hope it is for you, too.

I often feel like there is something missing in Christianity. Well, there are a lot of things missing. But one big thing is that we don't talk enough about the eternity that awaits us. You know, the one that will be infinitely longer than the mere decades we spend here on earth. We somehow forget that, as a dear friend once told me, earth is just our "training ground" for the life that is to come. And oh, what a life it will be! Peace, comfort, and unspeakable joy. I mean, we have these things now, to a degree. But it is not without intermittent periods of  sorrow, anxiety, stress, and other struggles. Not there, though. One day, all the negatives will be gone from the equation...and life will be as God designed it originally. It will be His perfection and glory resounding everywhere and in all of our hearts forever.

Catch my vision yet? Hang on, it gets better.

Occasionally it hits me hard that one day my darling love and I will be separated. Temporarily, of course, but still, unless we are ushered into eternity at the same time, we will exist apart someday. Last night was one of those times. That thought usually brings me quickly to the next thought, which is to try to imagine what life in heaven will be like. I know that God's Word says there is no marriage in heaven. But won't I miss him? Won't I long for that relationship we once had? It breaks my heart at the thought of being near him but not being "allowed" to be together. It sounds cruel. It sounds devastating. I was saying all this with tears streaming down my face...until Derrick shattered my thoughts of despair with these words:

 "You won't need me. You'll be complete."