Sherman Jeffrey Meeks, May 3, 2014

I woke up at 1:30, after only two hours of sleep, because of a contraction. I didn’t want to make too much out of it, though, because there had been two previous nights I’d woken up with contractions that had petered out after about two hours. Ruby woke up about ten minutes later, and I went in to nurse her back to sleep. As we were sitting together, I felt a stronger contraction, but I kind of chalked it up to the fact that nursing releases oxytocin, which is also a hormone that stimulates contractions. I’d nursed Ruby every day and it hadn’t yet succeeded in getting my overdue baby here yet.

But long after Ruby had gone back to sleep, the contractions kept coming. So I woke Kyle up around two or two-thirty. He made me eggs and bacon because I was hungry and it’s a good idea to eat some before labor. I also woke my mom up to braid my hair (I didn’t want it falling in my face during labor), but she went back to bed because there wasn’t much for her to do other than watch me having contractions. We called my midwife at around 3, and she arrived at 3:30.

When my midwife checked me, I was 6 centimeters. We did a vaginal wash since I had tested positive for GBS (the wash strips the bacteria out of the birth canal, reducing chances of infection), which was the worst because it meant I had to labor lying down ten minutes while we did it. I was coping really well with labor at this point, and my midwife complimented me on how well I was handling the contractions. I was pretty proud of myself, but it turns out that pride cometh before the fall, because this labor was about to get a lot harder.

We had been planning on having another water birth, but there were some problems with getting the tub set up, and after a little while Kyle came into the bedroom where I was laboring to tell me that it just wasn’t going to happen. I was laboring on my knees, resting on a yoga ball, and I told him that I would have the baby right there if that’s what God wanted instead of in a tub. I didn’t care, and I sure as heck didn’t want to move anywhere, anyways.

At around this point, I felt water leaking out, and I told my midwife I couldn’t tell if I had peed or if my water had broken. She looked at the pad I was kneeling on and told me my water had broken–and to get ready. Baby could come any time now, and considering my history there was a good chance baby would come quickly. I started feeling the urge to push, so I buried deep inside and pushed.

And pushed. And pushed.

And it was hard. It was so hard. I was so tired. After a while, my midwife checked me again, and was surprised to find my bag of waters was still intact. It turns out that baby is actually encapsulated in two membranes, and occasionally the outer membrane breaks and allows some amniotic fluid out, but the interior membrane stays intact. So my midwife broke the other membrane, and felt baby move down the birth canal some. She also told me I was only 8 centimeters dilated. I needed to stop pushing until baby descended more and I finished dilating.

It was incredibly demoralizing to hear that I was only eight centimeters dilated. The contractions were so intense, and I was so tired with only two hours of sleep. When I labored with Ruby, I was excited at the opportunity to meet my baby, to finally not be pregnant anymore, to experience birth. Ruby’s birth was euphoric and beautiful for me. But with Sherman, I was beaten down by being a week and a half overdue, I was tired of hearing comments about how I should have just gotten induced by then, and oh, your baby hasn’t come yet? And I was just. So. Very. Tired. So when I heard that baby wasn’t all that close to coming after all, I just wanted to quit.

Unfortunately, labor’s not really something that you get to quit. You’ve got to get on through.

But I was tired. So I told my birth team (Kyle, my midwife, and the birth assistant) that I wanted to lie down. My midwife thought that it would be better for me to stand up and to let gravity assist and pull baby down the birth canal. I know that this is an incredibly effective position for moving baby down the birth canal, so I stood instead for a number of contractions (who knows how many?). Kyle held me up, my midwife and birth assistant supported my knees and legs, and I prayed that baby would move down.

I repeated the same mantra I had used during Ruby’s birth, but this time it held greater urgency and agitation.

By the grace of God, I can bear all things. By the grace of God, I can bear all things. By the grace of God, I can bear all things.

Including babies.

After a little while, I declared that I needed to lie down on the bed for a bit. I was just so very tired, I didn’t think I could bear one more contraction. So I got down on the bed, but I immediately regretted it. Laying down while laboring is the worst. It is the pits. I hate it. So it soldiered up onto my hands and knees on the bed and somebody made pillows appear to support me.

I was agitated. I was tired. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do this for. I was praying for help, I was struggling, and I was trying to focus and be more positive.

I think my midwife could tell how hard it was getting for me. She sat down next to me on the bed and she said, “Eliza, for this next wave, I want you to relax. I just want you to let go and relax. Don’t worry about pushing the baby out, don’t worry about anything. Just relax.”

So I did. I stopped trying. When the next contraction came, I let go.

By the grace of God, I can bear all things.

I relinquished control.

By the grace of God, I can bear all things.

I relaxed my body and a miracle happened. I felt the baby–who I hadn’t felt at all in the birth canal–move all the way down the birth canal and begin crowning against my perineum. Just like that. In one contraction, after all of the hard, seemingly useless ones before. All I had to do was let go of the fatigue, the effort, let go of trying to be in charge.

Somebody exclaimed, “Guess what I can see!”, but I already knew. It was a head. The head of my beautiful baby. God had heard my prayers, and my baby was coming. Baby was almost here. I was almost done.

With a little coaching about how to breathe while I was delivering baby, I birthed the head. Then the shoulders. But baby was still in there. Usually after the shoulders come out, baby just slithers out, but my baby was still in there. It was terrifically unfair. But with one more push, baby’s chest and body was delivered. Kyle caught the baby, and somebody told me that it was a boy. I felt very pleased because I had been right–it was my baby boy.

Kyle then tried to walk off with the baby still attached to me and the umbilical cord, but he was quickly stopped, and I still tease him about it today. They passed Sherman up through my legs, and I rolled over onto my back, finally able to lay down. Finally able to rest.

Sherman was born at about 6:00 in the morning. He weighed 8 lbs 8 oz, a full pound and five ounces more than Ruby had. When they were measuring him, they discovered that his head was 14 inches…and his chest was also 14 inches. No wonder his chest needed an extra nudge to get out–it was enormous! He had this big, barrel chest, and tiny little chicken legs. He was so adorable.

My mom came into the room at this point; evidently she hadn’t wanted to get in the way. Our apartment is relatively small, and she didn’t want to crowd. But when she heard Sherman cry, she came in to see what was going on. Amy arrived. Ruby woke up.

Sherman nursed beautifully. I cuddled him for a while, then Kyle and Amy took him out to the front room while I got some stitches.

I laid on the bed for a while, wishing to feel the euphoria that I had felt after Ruby was born. But instead of euphoria, I was left with a sense of profound gratitude. This labor had been hard. Very hard. But at the end, when I was out of energy and at the edge of my capacity, I had been granted a miracle. The birth assistant later told me that she’d never seen something like that happen before. During that last contraction they could literally see my body opening up as the baby descended to crown. She said she’d never seen it happen that quickly.

Kyle and I tried to nap after the midwife left. Kyle managed to nap for hours, but after thirty minutes I woke up, too keyed up with hormones to sleep. So I went out to the front room to sit in the recliner and love on my sweet baby. My sweet, overdue, big Sherman. Finally in my arms instead of in my womb.

Finally.

Love Poems

I asked Kyle to write me a love poem for our anniversary. He wrote me two, but they are on my phone. I want to record them here in case my phone ever dies or gets lost.

Poetry beautifies, and You are a poem
Kyle Meeks

Perhaps I can write a poem better than you could.
But I can never write a poem better than You.

The Purpose of Love and Death
Kyle Meeks

We exist to be happy.
I can only be happy if I am with you.
Therefore, our existences have to coincide again.
No matter what.

Peanut Butter Toast

I gave Ruby half a piece of peanut butter toast for breakfast. It’s been her preferred breakfast lately, and it is blissfully easy to make. She picked it up, put it in her mouth, and said, “MMMMmmmm. Dewicious.”

Took another bite.

“Mmmmm. Dewicios. DEWICIOUS!”

Bite.

“Dewicious!”

Bite.

“Mmmm, dewicious!”

Kyle tells me it’s from a book called “Baby Giraffe” they read last night. Baby Giraffe eats some leaves and the book says, “Mmm, delicious.” But I’d like to think that I am the culinary master of peanut butter toast, deserving of praise over and over and over again until every bite has been savored and enjoyed.

If only all of my culinary adventures ended with such admiration.

Ruby’s Birthday

Ruby’s birthday was last month–she turned two! I just wanted to jot down a few memories of the day before they get lost in the deluge of time. It was a crazy day, I had just gotten back from visiting my parents in Fargo the day before so everything was a mess. But I made a cake, and put sprinkles on it, and had Wesley and Amy over for cake and presents.

Ruby loved the cake. She blew the candles out all by herself, although she put her nose right into one of the flames and got a smoke smudge on it. She carefully ate every sprinkle off of her plate before beginning to try to pick every sprinkle off of the rest of the cake. She seemed intent on this until Kyle pulled out her presents (unwrapped; remember how the day was a mess? It’s a good thing she’s two and doesn’t care). She saw the box and jumped off the chair to get the goods. I was glad we didn’t have a tantrum over the cake. Kyle and I gave her a baby doll, who she named Baby Sherman, and a baby doll stroller, which has been a huge hit. Ruby likes to sit in it, she likes to put her dolls in it, and one day she even convinced Amy to put to the real Sherman in it. (He actually fit pretty well, but he didn’t really like sitting in it.) Basically, the stroller has wheels, so it’s the best thing ever. If I ever fold it up after she goes to bed, the first thing she does is come and unfold it. She’s even run Sherman over with it a few times.

And just like that my sweet little girl is two. We’ve been looking at pictures of her when she was a baby, and she inevitably points to herself and says, “Baby Sherman!” I’ve explained–but she doesn’t seem to understand–that once upon a time she, too, was a tiny and adorable baby. This whole getting big process happens so slowly, but it seems so drastic when I look at pictures from when she was Sherman’s size. I would say I miss my baby Ruby, but I really don’t. It’s important to love her at the age and size she is now instead of becoming nostalgic for a moment that has passed. The present is so ephemeral; it’s good to appreciate who she is right now. It won’t be the same again.

Kiss it Better

I had a bug bite on my wrist the other day. I was scratching it hard, so the skin around my wrist was really red. As I was scratching, Ruby walked up to me–totally unprompted–gently took my wrist in her her little hands and planted a tiny little toddler kiss on my bug bite.

“All better,” she said before walking away.

Ruby Sings

Before Ruby talked much, she sang. It started out that she would sing along to the last word of the line. She would sing musical interludes. She even started singing along to her own lullabies. Now she sings many lines and words, and her songs are becoming identifiable even when she’s not singing along to music.

It’s pretty much the cutest thing in the world.

The Inadequacy of Goodbye

How do you put all of the feelings, the love and care that you have for a person into a word, a hug, a goodbye?

Lives touch each other, but sometimes people move in and out of your life. We may be connected by blood, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always live close.

So I said goodbye.

And this time, goodbye came with the knowledge that I don’t know when I’ll see you again. I know I will, but when? Money and distance are large barriers at this point in my life; and traveling with small children is a challenge.

So I said goodbye.

And I hope that the things that word fails to adequately express, the ways that I will miss you, are somehow communicated, even though the words and gestures of love are small. Because I care, and I will miss you.

Best of luck in Florida, may God bless you and keep you safe.

Ruby Sees Jesus

My mom got Ruby a book of gospel pictures for her birthday, so we go through and identify Jesus, animals, water, shoes, noses–you know, whatever is in the pictures. But now Ruby will point out Jesus in pictures hanging on the walls of the church or in our home. It’s pretty cute.

Today we were driving down the road and I hear Ruby gasp and exclaim, “Jesus! Jesus!”

“Do you see Jesus somewhere?” I asked, but I was kind of confused. There aren’t exactly a lot of pictures of Jesus that you can see in the car. But then I looked in the rear view mirror, and I realized that the guy driving the car behind us had shoulder length hair and a beard. Ruby, whose car seat is still rear facing, could see him very well. And as far as she was concerned, she was seeing Jesus.

I guess He drives an old beat up brown van.

Sleeping Sherman, Restless Ruby

Longtime readers will remember what a crisis it was to help Ruby to be able to fall asleep on her own. Sleep, for Ruby was a challenge, to say the least. The other day, I decided it was time for Sherman to start learning to fall asleep on his own. So I would swaddle him, put the binky in his mouth, and just pop the binky back in every time he spat it out. Over the course of two or three days, with absolutely no drama, crises, or trips to the ice cream shop so that I can run away from the crying (which would happen no matter what method we used to put her to sleep) Sherman started falling asleep on his own when we put him in the bassinet.

It felt like a small miracle.

This is just one way that Sherman is a very different baby that Ruby was. Ruby was a trial of a baby. She had a hard time with things like falling asleep, and especially when she was a small baby she would wake up and cry for hours at a time. She’s never really gotten the hang of sleeping through the night, although she goes through phases where things are better and phases where things are worse. Sherman’s always been laid back. Falling asleep is a piece of cake for him, nursing was easy for him to learn, and he doesn’t really cry unless he’s hungry or needs a new diaper–a solvable problem.

In short, Sherman is far and away an easier baby.

But one of the interesting things that I’ve noticed in comparing the two, is that it doesn’t matter that one was easier and one was harder, I love them both immeasurably. If Sherman was colicky and needed to be held and rocked and sang to, I would hold him and rock him and sing to him because I love him. A crying baby is very distressing, and it’s simultaneously heart wrenching and insanity inducing to realize that there’s little that you can do to soothe your sweet baby.

Not that I’m complaining, you know, about my sweet, easy Sherman. He’s just not the ball of fire that Ruby has always been.

Calm

So I’m cooking dinner, and Ruby is screaming at me in the way that only a two year old can. She wants to be held or help with dinner, but I’m chopping onions, which is a chore that two year olds really can’t help with. So I turn to her and calmly explain that I can’t hold her and she can’t help. I tell her, “If you’re going to cry, you can cry in your crib. You have three options. You can watch TV, you can cry in your crib, or you can calm down. What do you want? TV, crib, or calm?”

Through belligerent tears, Ruby declares, “CALM!”

I’m gonna be honest, this is not the option I thought she’d pick.

So I said, “Ok. Then go in the living room and calm down.”

And the heavens smiled upon me and she stopped crying and left the kitchen.

…Pulled off all of her clothes, sat in her baby doll stroller, and glared at me. So, you know, you win some you lose some. But I’m gonna count this as a win. Who knew my two year old could choose to calm down?