Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm 100% Mom and 100% Wife--And it has to be that way

This past week, the internet exploded with two more articles in the "Mommy Wars," this time targeting women's roles in the modern American family.

This was the first article: "I'm 99% Mother and 1% Wife--And it has to be that way" in which the author, a tired mother, states why she will always put her kids above her husband (to the detriment of her marriage).

This response hit the web a few days later: "I'm 49% Mother and 51% Wife--And it has to be that way." This article was from a Christian woman who argued that in order for a family to be happy and healthy, a wife must make her husband a priority over her children, if only by 2%.

Here's my two cents:

If we are going to pursue happy, healthy, and godly relationships in our families, we need to be 100% mom and 100% wife.

Because...they are two different roles.

Being a good wife doesn't mean that I ignore my children for the sake of my husband.

Nor does being a good mom mean that I forget that I am married to a man I respect and love.
Photo by S. Carter Studios
They are two different roles, each requiring different time commitments and energy focuses.

Aaron and I talked about this issue in the car yesterday as we drove for 2.5 blissful hours--blissful because all 4 boys were strapped in their car seats and no one was crying or screaming for food (thank you, DVD player).

My husband is a math guy (it's true: he as two math degrees) and he "did the math" on the  mother/wife debate.

Aaron: Let's say you get 8 hours of sleep at night--
Me: bahahahahaha!
Aaron: I was being hypothetical. But let's just say...Then you have about 10 hours of "mothering" before I get home from work at 5. We have about 2-3 hours of co-parenting before the kids go to bed and maybe 2 hours before we both conk out for the night. 

Yeah...you're pretty much 100% mom. 

Me: Do you feel neglected as a husband? 
Aaron: Not at all. 

Of course, adding up the numbers to determine value and worth of my family roles is pretty silly.  Plus, by that criteria, the kids win and I am a sucky wife. But just because I spend more time and energy with the kids doesn't mean I don't "put my husband first."
Photo by S. Carter Studios

My relationship with Aaron is a huge priority to me, which is how I am interpreting "putting my husband first" (Otherwise, I really don't know what this phase means).

The 99/1 and the 51/49 relationship arguments pit motherhood and wifehood against each other, as if being a "good mother" means I can only toss 1% to my husband, or being a "good wife" means that I must  somehow carve out 51% of....something to my husband.

I believe this creates needless anxiety for many women: Oh no...am I prioritizing the kids before my husband? Am I more "mom" than "wife"?

It doesn't have to be either/or, 99/1, or even 49/51.

The roles of "wife" and "mother" don't need to be at war with each other.
We can be 100% mothers and 100% wives.  

Or maybe, instead of focusing on percentages and numbers, we should just focus on being the best moms and wives we can possibly be in our unique family situations.

 A few more thoughts:
~Other than the false 51/49 bifurcation, I agree with pretty much everything Ashleigh said in her article. Cultivating a strong marriage relationship is foundational for a strong family.

~I think the 99/1 mentality often results from a woman feeling like her husband is an overgrown "child" who is a burden to take care of. A healthy marriage is a partnership of equals, with mutual respect between spouses.

~Consider how silly this discussion sounds when the gender roles are reversed:
I'm 99% father and 1% husband--And it has to be that way (???)
or
I'm 51% husband and 49% father--And it has to be that way (???)
100% dad and 100% husband--And it has to be that way

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Happy 3 months, Eli!

Three Months Today!
Elijah Jefferson Meng is THREE MONTHS OLD today! Happy 3 months, baby!
Here he is in all his 7lbs 10 oz glory. We've come a long way since December 23. 
The first month after he was born was very difficult. In fact, Aaron and I kept talking about how his first month reminded us of Micah and Benji's first month. In reality, the twins first month was nothing like their little brother's but the overwhelming, emotional difficulty felt the same. 
Eli had a tongue tie that went undiagnosed for a month. Looking back, it was so frustrating (to use a mild word) because I asked the lactation consultant in the hospital if he was tongue tied, 2 LCs that we saw in the first 2 weeks after his birth, and a pediatrician. They all said NO, he doesn't have a tongue tie. The thing was, he didn't have a traditional tongue tie, but a posterior tongue that was difficult to diagnose. 
But he had all the symptoms, the worst of which were excruciating, toe-curling pain while nursing (which ultimately led to cracked and bleeding nipples), terrible gas pains for Eli, screaming after every feed, wanting to nurse constantly, reflux, and screaming, screaming screaming. 
There was much crying for me and for my poor baby boy.  
Eli was the first baby we bought formula for. I was seriously considering giving up nursing. I felt like a failure every time we gave him a bottle. We supplemented every day for about 2-3 weeks.  Finally, after doing hours and hours of research, I pushed aside all those "No's" and demanded an appointment with an ENT. I KNEW he had a tongue tie. At four weeks, we had the appointment and guess what? He had a posterior tongue tie. 
Mama knows best.
Eli had his tongue clipped (more tears for him and me) on a Thursday and by Monday, nursing was 75% better. It continued to improve even more over the next month. 
No more screaming after nursing. No more massive spit-ups after every feed. No more pain for me. 
It got better
But that first month was ROUGH and LONG. 

But now we are at 3 months and time is flying by. 
Eli is a CHUNK: 15lbs. 
I can't believe it. After having twin preemie babies, I am constantly amazed that I have such a delightfully fat baby.
Eli loves his family, especially Aaron. He loves, loves, loves his Daddy! They "talk" together every night. Aaron has the magic touch that can get Eli to sleep almost every night.
Eli is very vocal and animated. He loves to smile, be tickled, and kissed on his delicious, fat cheeks!
He has an delightful little laugh.
All his brothers adore him. Silas and Eli are beginning to be best buddies. Silas is such a good big brother; he always tries to comfort "E-I" when his baby brother is crying. This morning, when Eli was crying (as I was trying to suck his nose out with that horrible torture device), I heard Silas saying, "E-I! E-I! It's ok!" over the baby monitor. Sweet, sweet brothers.

We love you precious baby! Happy 3 months little guy. We look forward to many more happy days with you in the future.



Thursday, March 12, 2015

How to Start Planning a Weekly Dinner Menu

Dinnertime can be the worst, right? The kids are clawing at your leg, begging for goldfish, your husband is asking "what's for dinner?", and you are stressed out of your mind, wondering what you can throw together with half a box of spaghetti, a block of cream cheese, and some broccoli that is headed south. Pizza...? Wait, we did that last night...Sigh. 
I hate not having a plan for dinner so I try to make Menu Planning a regular part of my life. It doesn't completely reduce the "Witching Hour" woes, but I have discovered 6 ways that Menu Planning makes my life easier.

1. Menu planning makes dinnertime less stressful. At our house, the 1-2 hours before dinner are a low point in my day. Everyone is hungry and sleepy and I tend to get crabby (coffee, anyone?). Having a plan for dinner helps me have a happier evening with my family.

2. Menu planning reduces trips to the grocery store. I hate going to the grocery store every two days (or every day...) to pick up something that I forgot. It wastes so much time; plus shopping with kids? No thanks. By planning a weekly menu, I usually have everything on hand to make dinner (let's face it...I forget something on my list each week!).

3. Menu planning helps me save money. The weeks when I "wing it" at the store, I always spend too much money. Instead of buying groceries that I know we are out of, and mentally counting up dinners in my head (Monday: chicken, Tuesday: hamburger, Wednesday: pork chops...), when I grocery shop from my menu, it helps me stay on budget and avoid impulse spending or the inevitable daily trip to the store because I forgot something.

4. Menu planning helps me be healthier. I like to cook healthy meals for my family. When I menu plan, I am more likely to serve vegetables, fruits, and leans meats for dinner.

5. Menu planning reduces eating out. Oh, this is the downfall of me and my husband. "You wanna grab McDonalds while we're out?" "Sure." And the kids are happy because...happy meal, right? But while the kids may be happy, our budget isn't. When I know I have planned for pork loin, potatoes and green beans that evening, it is a lot easier to say no to the draw of the drive-through.

6. Menu planning helps me get creative in the kitchen. It is easy to get into a dinner rut, eating the same things over again over again. When I plan a weekly menu, I am more likely to try a new recipe, instead of relying on the ol' standbys. Pintrest is my best friend.

So, maybe you want to try your hand at weekly menu planning but don't know where to start.
Here are 6 simple steps to help you reap the benefits listed above!


Step One: Look at your week. Menu planning isn't just about food; it's about making your life easier. Soccer practice on Wednesday night? Crockpot meal.
Potluck at church on Sunday? Great! Cookies it is!
I like to plan simple meals, like sandwiches, on busy nights. In our family, we also plan to eat out every Friday night. Planning our restaurant eating allows us to indulge in the luxury of eating out without feeling guilty... and it gives me a break from cooking too. Win, Win.

I always menu plan on Sunday, but the key is to pick a day to plan and shop that helps you feel the most prepared to tackle the week ahead--maybe Saturday or Monday is the best day for you! 

Step Two: Look in your pantry. Or freezer. Take stock of what you already have on hand (tons of pasta? Spaghetti night this week!) before you plan your meals.

Step Three: What's on sale? Perusing ads, paper on online, is a major way to save money because you can plan your menu around what's on sale. For example, if chicken breasts are 99c a pound, I will plan 3 meals with chicken: Hellman's Chicken, Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, and Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup. I go to kroger.com each week before I shop.

Step Four: Click or Clip Coupons. This is another way you can save money. Since I am a frequent Kroger customer, the store often sends me coupons in the mail. I can also load coupons to my Kroger Card from their website. Using coupons to save money is up to you. Sometimes I use a lot of coupons, other times only a few. I want coupons to save me money as well as time so I am not one to scour the internet for obscure coupon deals. Make your coupons work for you!

Step Five: Plan Your Meals. This step often feels like the hardest one, especially if you are just starting to cook on a regular basis.  Here are some tips to help plan a successful menu:

Start small: If cooking for the whole week feels overwhelming, plan for 3-4 meals (and work up to 6 or 7!) and get pizza or take out on the other nights. The key is to have a PLAN!
Utilize cooking resources: Pintrest is a great resource. I also like allrecipes.com--it's like an online cookbook. For simple, easy meals that use convenient ingredients, try kraftrecipes.com. Or, dig into a paper cookbook, or ask your mom or grandma for family recipes!
Plan a theme night: Make Tuesday sandwich night each week or eat "Brinner" (breakfast for dinner) each Saturday. Themes can help you fill in the blank spots on your menu more easily.
Keep your families tastes in mind: Maybe your kids love pasta so plan a regular spaghetti dinner. (Then sneak some extra veggies into the jar of sauce). There is nothing better than hearing your kids say "Yes! This is my favorite dinner."(rather than, "YUCK! Why do you always make food I hate?")
Try something new: Maybe you've always wanted to learn how to make potstickers, or lasagna, or...whatever! Plan a new meal into your menu. Trying new recipes keeps cooking fun.

Step Six: Go Shopping. Once you plan your meals, make your grocery list and go shopping (don't forget to list items for breakfast, lunch, and snacks!). I like to go to Kroger on Sunday afternoons so I can shop sans kids.

Once your shopping is done, pat yourself on the back, breathe a sigh of relief, and put your weekly menu on the fridge. That way you can simply point when you hear that daily question, "What's for dinner?"

Share your favorite menu planning tips below!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Meng Menu: Two week plan!


Sunday: Hellman’s chicken, parm rice, green beans
Monday: BBQ pork sandwiches, roasted red potatoes, carrots and celery
Tuesday: Chicken pot pie
Wednesday: Chili, cornbread muffins
Thursday: Chili dogs, chips, carrot sticks
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Sloppy joes, ranch potatoes, green beans


Sunday: Biscuits and gravy, smoothies
Monday: Cheddar-ranch chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli
Tuesday: Lasagna, salad
Wednesday: Asian chicken thighs, rice, peas
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Lasanga, salad

I am FINALLY back into a two week shopping routine. The winter weather we have been having really threw off my schedule. Good budget week too: I spent $233 in total, or $115ish per week. Nice!

I frequently have people tell me how much they enjoy these menu post. Later this week, I am going to post some tips about getting started planning your own weekly menus, if you have ever wanted to start this habit in your own family! Stay posted.... :)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Meng Menu

Sunday: Ham, oven roasted red potatoes, peas
Monday: Pulled pork sandwiches (crock pot!), chips, apple slices
Tuesday: Flat Iron steak, mashed potatoes, spinach gratin
Wednesday: Chicken pot pie
Thursday: Pan chicken, rice/ gravy, green beans
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, carrot sticks w/ ranch

I've been winging it lately at the grocery store, mostly because I've been off my usual 2-week-Sunday-Shopping schedule because of all this darn snow we've been having. The bad thing about "winging it" is that becuase I don't plan meals before I go and carefully shop for TWO WEEKS worth of meals, I usually end up spending more money than I want to. Poo poo.

Oh well. Some weeks, or months, are just like that, especially when you get a boatload of snow.

Here's to a March that is free of snow and full of grocery savings!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Two {tough} Solutions for My Every Day Jealousy

I felt the familiar, gnawing feeling as I skimmed the college newspaper article.

The story was about some precious college senior who had just published her FIRST NOVEL, some little "love story" with a cute title. The cover of the book was pictured, showing an 18 year old beauty who was looking pensively off into her perfect future. So predictable....I wanted to gag. My lips twisted into a sneer and I rolled my eyes.

Then I sighed, feeling defeated....because I hated how I felt at that moment: Crazy, stupid jealous.

Wow. She wrote a novel. Good for her, seriously! I'm thirty...! And I haven't even done that. 

And I'm insanely jealous of that fact. Yep, I've been bitten...no, devoured by that green-eyed monster (Thank you, Shakespeare for providing perfect metaphors for my basest feelings).

If I'm really honest with myself, I get jealous a lot.

I'm jealous of:
  • Women with recent highlights and pedicures
  • People who sleep through the night (like my husband)
  • My students (college students) with their stylish outfits and perfectly curled hair
  • Blog posts that go viral ("I could have written that"!)
  • Mom friends who have flat tummies
  • People who get to nap everyday (like my two year old)
  • My English colleagues who get to travel and present their papers at conferences 
  • People who get to eat a full meal without nursing a baby, filling milk cups, mopping spills, or picking up dropped (or thrown) forks. 
  • My single friends who get to do fun adult-things, like road trips
And MOST OF ALL....I am jealous of my husband's ability to fall asleep anywhere at anytime (the sleep jealousy is real, my friends).

Most of my jealousies are petty and fleeting--after all, I am not a 19 anymore with the luxury of thirty minutes of hair-curling time. I don't really care about pedicures that much. And, let's face the facts...I've had four kids, including twins. There are some things that crunches will not fix.

But my other jealousies bother me, like the fact that I disparaged a fellow-writer's success when I read that newspaper article. I should have rejoiced for her...but I couldn't because I was so stupid-jealous of her.

The truth is, I had no right be be jealous of her because she had done the work...and I hadn't.
I had an ah-ha moment. There are just two solutions to my every day jealousies:
I can be jealous of women who have flat stomachs and toned arms....or I can Do The Work and start exercising.
I can inwardly sigh about about my pathetic social life...or I can text a friend and make plans to get together.
I can mope about the success of other bloggers...or I can steadily work on my own blog because consistency and commitment come before success.

I can Do The Work.

But sometimes, I am jealous about things I can't change....so I have to be content.

I may be jealous that the girl I went to grad school with just presented a paper at an amazing Jane Austen conference...but I have a newborn and conferences are not realistic right now.
I may feel a twinge when I see friends with their daughters...but I can choose to be content with my 4 wonderful, beautiful sons.
And I may want to smoother my husband with a pillow when he falls asleep in 2.3 minutes on the couch...but I can choose to be content with a 30 minute rest before the baby wakes up to nurse (And I really don't want to smoother my husband. I really like him. I am just really tired...Sleep-jealousy. It's real).

So after throwing my jealousy-fueled pity-party about my lack of literary success at the ripe old age of thirty, I decided to crack open an old file entitled "Story Ideas" and actually, well...Do The Work.

Doing the Work or Being Content is hard...but it feels a whole lot better than being jealous, right?

What about you? What makes you crazy-jealous? 
Which is harder: Doing the Work or Being Content?
How do YOU handle every day jealousy?  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

EASY DIY Stained Glass Valentines

I really like Valentine's Day because well...CRAFTY. However, my boys do not like CRAFTY so I have to be really tricky creative to get them to do crafts. The most important quality of any craft we do is that it has to be EASY.

So, I give you the boy-friendly (and beautiful!).... 


Stained Glass Valentines

Supplies:
Printer Paper (or card stock) This was a what-do-I-have-in-the-house-craft so I used printer paper
Tissue Paper (So glad I am a gift bag/tissue paper hoarder!)
Contact paper
Scissors
 First, cut the printer paper into quarters. Then tear the tissue paper (any colors you want/have!) into small pieces. The boys really liked this part.
Fold each quarter paper in half and cut out a heart. 
  
We are making these Valentines for the boys' classmates so the boys wrote the name of each classmate and their names on each one.
 Cut a piece of contact paper. Peel off the back and place the sticky side up on a table.  Carefully stick each heart shape piece name-side down on the contact paper. 

Cover with tissue paper!!!
Have fun! Go nuts! Be Valentine-y!
Cover the the cards with another piece of contact paper and smooth down carefully, trying to avoid air pockets.
Cut out each card. 
DONE!
Pat yourself on the back and admire your craftyness and the fact that you tricked your sons into enjoying a craft.  
Give your Valentines to your friends.
Or hang them in the window!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The BIGGEST surprise of my life!

I meet so many people who tell me, "Oh, I always wanted twins!"

Growing up, I never had this thought. Don't get me wrong: having twins is great (crazy...but great!) but I never wanted twins, basically because I never thought I could  have twins.

"Twins don't run in our family." I remember my  mom saying.

And that was it. The end. There had never been...so there never would be twins in our family. Right? (see "Scientific Note" at the end if you are curious about the types of twins that run in families).

WRONG!!

The day I found out I was having twins was the biggest surprise of my life. Want to hear the story? It's a good one. :)

Aaron and I were newlyweds and had just had the "when do we want to have kids" talk. We happily decided that waiting 3 years would be just right.

And God shook his head and laughed.

BOOM! I was pregnant the next month.

We were not happy. There were tears, terse conversations, hurt feelings, overwhelming worry.
We were only 22 and had been married eight months. I was still in college.

Aaron had an especially hard time adjusting to this life-altering news. The "plan" was that I would finish school and then he would be able to finish his degree. Now, that wouldn't happen.

But, like it or not, we were going to have a baby. My first ultrasound was scheduled at 11 weeks.

"I don't want to go." Aaron told me. "The baby will just look like a peanut right now. I'll go to the next one."

I was pretty miffed that he didn't want to go but I wanted to avoid another fight.  So, I sighed and went to the appointment by myself.

For anyone who hasn't had a baby, first ultrasounds are awkward. I expected it to be like all the pretty ultrasounds on “A Baby Story:” a subtle hand-held monitor gliding gently over the mother’s belly. I certainly didn’t expect a curling iron shaped condom-covered stick invading my private sanctuary.

But the real shocker came when I looked at the screen.

The doctor was so calm. “I thought your uterus felt kind of big. You're having twins."

And then my brain exploded. 
April 20 2007: The biggest surprise of my life.
Not really. 

But I went into shock. I broke out in hot flashes and hives laying there on that cold table, covered only in a paper gown.

“I’m having twins?!” I choked.

"Yep. You're having twins." Serene doctor said serenely.

(How could she be so serene?!?!?!? How was everyone not FREAKING OUT? I felt like someone should be shaking me by the shoulders and screaming, "HOLY CRAP, GIRLFRIEND!! YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE A MOM OF TWOOOOO BABIES!!!! BECAUSE YOU'RE HAVING TWINS!!!)

And I was. There they were: two little gummy bears floating and waving and punching at each other through the hair-line membrane that separated them. Twins.

Twins!

After the ultrasound, I slowly got dressed, my heart racing and my hands shaking.

"Well, you just got the surprise of your life, didn't you?" A nurse said when I came out of the dressing room.

I nodded vaguely. I was in a  haze.

Then I started smiling. I was having twins.

Then the smile turned a little twisted. Because Aaron wasn't with me.
 Heh heh heh. Payback, baby.

I called him, inwardly cackling.

Aaron: Hey! How'd it go?
Me: Great! Guess what?
Aaron: What?
Me: We're having TWINS!
Aaron: oh, haha! Good one. No we're not.
Me: Yes. We are.
Aaron: (laughing) You're kidding me!
Me: I'm not kidding you.
Aaron: (pause. not laughing now) You're freakin' kidding me....!
Me: Nope. We're having twins, babe. I've got pictures.
Aaron: (laughing hysterically) [I heard a co-worker in the background asking him what he is laughing about] We're havin' TWINS!

I spent the rest of the day in a happy twin-haze. I smiled so much my face hurt. My ears also hurt from the number of people who screamed in the phone after I told them the good news.

It was one of the happiest, most surprising days of my life. 
This picture never ceases to amaze me.
And that, dear friends, is how I found out I was going to be a mother...times two.

So yes, even if twins don't run in your family, they could still HAPPEN TO YOU. 

Scientific Note (for those who are curious): Fraternal twins run in families, which occurs when the mother releases two eggs.
Identical twins --where the fertilized egg splits--are spontaneous and can happen to ANYONE, although it is rare (4/1000 births are spontaneous identical twins).

And wouldn't you know? We were lucky enough to get identical twins.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Christmas Miracle: Eli's Birth Story

This is a birth story. Therefore, it is long. Also, may contain gory birth details. Read and enjoy at your own risk.  
 Eli's birth was simply miraculous.

Yeah, yeah. I know. That is such a cliche. Every birth is miraculous, right? Right.

No, but REALLY! My little boy, born on December 23, 2014, had such a beautiful, wonderful, miraculous beginning. Here's Eli's birth story....

I was wracked with worry in the months, weeks, and days leading up to Eli's birth. Being due at Christmas is not fun...at all.

I was worried about who would take care of my kids, the weather, which midwife would be on call at the hospital, and most of all....the unpredictability of natural labor.

WHEN WOULD IT HAPPEN???? (GAHHH!!!!)

"I just hope I can be home for Christmas," I would tell people after confessing that his due date was December 25.

I really did not want to have a baby on Christmas day.
1. that would make for a sucky Christmas for my 3 older boys.
2. That would make for a sucky birthday for Eli for the rest of his life.

"You know," Aaron teased me. "This is why people schedule inductions."

But he knew that I wanted to go into labor on my own. So, all I could do was wait and pray...

...while scrambling to decorate, shop, sew Christmas presents, mail boxes, make and freeze meals, schedule a babysitter every day in the 3 week "labor window"....

...and wait and pray.

So in the middle of all this waiting, praying and gestating, everyone in my family gets the throw-up GI bug. Sweet!!

So my prayers changed to, "Please God! Do not let me get sick!!! That would be the worst thing ever."

Well, on December 22nd, the day before I went into labor, "the worst thing ever" happened. Yep, mama got the bug. Thankfully, compared to the rest of my family, I didn't get that sick. Just felt terrible and was in bed all day.

Since I was convinced that I was going to deliver after my due date, my hope and prayer now became, "Please let me get my strength back before I go into labor. " I mean, all I ate all day on December 22 was 10 salteen crackers and some ginger ale. Not a great foundation for the marathon that is labor.

Well....no such luck. At 2am on December 23, I woke up with a twingy contraction. Since I had been having twingy contractions off and on for about a week, I didn't think a lot of it. But 6 minutes later, another twingy contraction. Then another.

"Aww, crap." I thought. Then I took a moment to marvel in the irony of  being two days from my due date and SO OVER BEING PREGNANT, and how I was now not glad that I was in labor.

From 2am-6am, I alternately timed the contractions (about 6-10 minutes apart) and slept--which totally messed up the pattern on my contraction calculator app.

A little before 6, I was getting too uncomfortable to lay in bed anymore. Things were picking up. Aaron came in to say goodbye to me before work (dear, sweet husband was sleeping on the couch to give more room in the bed to me and my 6 pillows).

"Uhh...I'm in labor." I told him.

"Are you sure?"

"Yep."

"Ok if I go into work for a while to get everyone settled?"

"Sure."

Yes, dear readers. My husband went to work. After all, my last labor was 60 hours. For all we knew, this could be the tip of the iceburg.

I decided to take a shower at 6:45. Fifteen minutes and 4 contractions later, I called Aaron: "I need you to come home."

I texted my doula, Debborah, and let her know that today was the day! She said she was on her way over to my house.

The contractions were getting closer and stronger: 3-5 minutes apart. At 8am, I looked at my babysitting schedule chart to see who agreed to be "on call" for the day. It was my friend Kimberley from church.

Miracle #1: This was a miracle because Kim is my ONLY friend who is not married and doesn't have any kids. Because my boys had all had the stomach bug in the past few days, I was SO GLAD that we didn't have to take them over to someone else's house and potentially expose other kids to our GI nastiness.

Kim and Debbie got to the house a little before 9am.  Kim took Micah, Benji, and Silas to the bedroom and they watched PBS kids and played with toys.

I discovered that if I sat down, I could get a 5-6 minute break in between contractions. If I was walking around, I was having them every 2-3 minutes. And since I had not packed my bag yet (I know, I know! But seriously, I was convinced that I was going to go late!), I was not getting many breaks.

I was handling the contractions well and talking and joking in between but at 10:45, we decided that we should probably go to the hospital if we were going to (try to) avoid the car ride from hell.

I remember having 2-3 contractions from the front door to the car, standing with my hand on the door handle and  saying, "I do NOT want to get in the car." I remember with my labor with Silas, the car rides were 100% horrible.

Miracle #2: The 15 minute car ride was bearable. I had 4 contractions on the way over but they were not as intense as they had been at the house. Thank God.

I got the royal treatment at the hospital. ie. they wheeled me up in a wheel chair. Why? Basically my contractions told my legs to stop working.

We got to L&D and in between contractions, met the nurse, Katie. I knew I was going to have to be checked soon and I was dreading it.

1. Cervical checks are extremely painful for me.
2. With Silas, I was in labor for 16 hours before we went to the hospital and was only dilated to 2 centimeters.

Well, we got some good news (despite the horrific pain of the check).

Miracle #3: I was dilated to 7 centimeters. WOO HOO!

Also:

Miracle #4: My favorite midwife, Katie (yes, Katie-Nurse and Katie-Midwife) was on call!! Double WOO HOO!

My plan was to labor in the tub so while I did the required 20 minutes on the monitor (while rolling around on the birth ball), Debbie started filling the bathtub (which had jets!) and the nurses started filling the AquaDoula--which is just fancy birth-talk for a big blow up tub.
 
By this time, I was starting to lose my sense of humor. "Are we almost done with this STUPID MONITORING?" I said.

Finally, I was able to rip off those stupid, plastic monitors and that stupid hospital gown ("One size chokes all!") and get in the bathtub.

The jets felt amazing on my back, which is where the majority of my pain was during each contraction. The only annoying thing about the bathtub was that, because they were filling the AquaDoula from the shower nozzle, the connection from the nozzle to the hose was loose and  spraying cold water all over my head. I was in THE ZONE though and was only mildly annoyed by this--and also mildly amused by Aaron, Debbie and nurses who were frantically trying to control the icy spray (they did).

By this time in my labor, I lost all concept of time. I stayed in the bathtub for a "while," until they told me that the AquaDoula was full enough for me to get in.

Out of the water, the contractions were intense. I think I had 2-3 big ones just walking from the bathroom back into the room (like 12 feet).

I really enjoyed the Aqua Doula experience. I had heard that laboring in a big tub was an "amazing" experience. It was a great experience but different than I thought it would be.

Laboring in the water didn't take away the pain of the contractions (somehow I thought it would?? Dumb. It's not drugs) but it definitely carried the "weight" of each contraction. This made the labor so much easier to bear.

Also, being in the water gave me a break (3-5 minutes?) in between each contraction, whereas out of the water they were coming one on top of the other. So, in those breaks, I was able to relax.

My midwife, Katie, also came into the room during this time and stayed with me until I gave birth. She was so soothing and encouraging. During each contraction, I reached out for Aaron's hand and Debbie's hand and clung, moaned, and breathed (and hollered!) through them. I could hear Debbie murmuring prayers over me, Aaron encouraging me to breathe, and Katie soothing me through each one. In between contractions, Debbie massaged my shoulders, back, and feet with peppermint and lavender essential oils (in fact, I have a very distinct "scent memory" of those oils combined with the tangy smell of the rubber from the pool).

The contractions were getting really strong and I started to feel "pushy." Then, all of a sudden, WOOSH!

"My water just broke!" I cried. (It was nice that it broke in pool, right?)

Two-three contractions later, I was starting to "OHHHHHH" really loudly and Katie suggested we move from the pool to the bed (since water births aren't allowed at this hospital).

Oh my word. The worst part of labor was getting out of the pool. I think it was the only time I actually screamed a bit. I had to swing my leg over the pool (it was about 3 feet high) and then a contraction came crashing down on me.

"Ahh! Ok! I am just going to sit here." I said, straddling the side of the pool. "This feels good."

The contraction ended and Katie and Aaron practically carried me to the bed. It was propped up and I laid on my right side.

About this time, random-male-resident John enters the room!!! Hi John! I did not expect you nor was I very aware of you but here you are to observe me in all my birthing glory!!

It was gettin' real, folks.

I was really hollering and really praying: "Jesus! Jesus, help me! Help me!"

I think I must have prayed this a lot because about this point, Katie really sweetly said, "He's here! He is helping you!"

Aaron told me later that my praying was really cute. He also told me that even though I swore a few times too, no one would have doubted my testimony while giving birth.

"Ok, Brittany! This is where we are going to have to work together." Katie said with her hot cloths and encouraging words.

"Breathe, Brittany! Breathe!" Aaron said urgently. (He later told me that I was turning a bit purple and he was kind of worried).

I clung to Debbie's hand as I pushed, hollered, and prayed.

Four, intense, firey pushes and....

"His head is out!"

A pause...one more...and my squalling baby was in my arms, very clean and very slippery.

He was perfect, precious, and loud, all 7 pounds and 10 oz and 20.5 inches of pure glory.
Miracle #5: Elijah Jefferson Meng was born at 1:38, after less than 12 hours of labor. Now THAT was a miracle.

Miracle #6: The side-lying pushing worked. I only had a minor tear...after having a 3rd degree tear with Silas.

(Side Note: Moms everywhere: Don't you wish that all the discomfort of having a baby was over the minute the baby is born?? Oh my word...the belly "massaging," stitching, and after-birth contractions are THE WORST!!! Ok, "side note" over).

Katie was great with the after-care. We waited a good-long-time to cut the cord (it was nice and white!) and I nursed Eli while she stitched me up--while John observed! Hi John!!!

Miracle #7:  I got everything on my labor "wish list." I didn't even get an IV. The labor went so quickly and so well and so naturally that we had to fill out the check-in paper work after he was born.

Aaron left around 3:30 to go relieve Kim and bring the boys to the hospital to meet their baby brother. It was amazing to get this picture:
I have FOUR SONS!

Miracle #8: I got to go home the next day, on Christmas Eve. So, I got my deepest wish, my Christmas Miracle: To have Eli before Christmas and be home with all my boys on Christmas morning.

Christmas was perfect. The birth was perfect. And Eli Jefferson? Well, he's pretty perfect too.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

If you're heartbroken on New Years Day...hold on.

I wonder if God peers into our man-made New Years traditions, and in his omniscience says to himself, "Oh, dear child, this year...this year you will grow so much. I only wish I could spare you the pain of such growth. Hold on...I am with you."

On January 1st 2014, I spent the day in the bathroom, praying and crying and telling myself that this was not happening, that I was not having a miscarriage.

Happy New Year, right? All my hopes, expectations, and plans for the year were shattered. All I could think was, "No new baby in August. No new baby. No baby."

The only verse that brought me any sense of comfort during this time was this:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..."

You are with me. 
You are with me.
You are with me. 

THAT was the only guarantee I had for 2014.

Now it is January 1st 2015. As I look back at last year, I am amazed at how my miscarriage shaped my whole year, overwhelmed with the good that was directly related to my miscarriage. In fact, this heartbreaking experience even fulfilled desires of my heart in three specific areas: Counseling, Volunteering, and Writing.

Interestingly, at one time, I was going to pursue a Masters Degree in counseling (I even took a Statistics class in preparation for grad school. eek!). My own grief allowed me to help others grow and heal by becoming a peer counselor to women who were walking through the grief of miscarriage, still birth, and infertility. I have grown so much in knowledge, compassion, empathy, and sympathy by being a co-leader of this group.

The grief group is under the umbrella of The Motherhood Collective, a non-profit organization in Lynchburg whose purpose is to "Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child." I had secretly wanted to be a part of the leadership of this organization in a "that'd be really cool" kind of way, but had no idea what I could/would do. The miscarriage opened this door too. I feel very privileged to serve with the amazing women in this organization.

Looking back at 2014, I see how God was able to marry my life experience and clarified beliefs with my desire to develop professionally as a writer. As I blogged about my miscarriage throughout this past year, I was not only able to work through my own grief, but I was also about to develop my theology about  God's providence and sovereignty when it comes to pregnancy and the gift of children.

At the end of November, I wrote "Say 'Congratulations'--It's the Christian thing to do" and it got over 500 views overnight! To date, it is my 2nd "most-viewed" post on my blog, with over 7800 views (in reality, this is not a lot of views in the "blog world" but is a LOT for my little blog!). Even more exciting though, is that this blog open the door for me to be a guest writer for Christianity Today's blog, Her.Menutics. My article was published on December 10 and has received over 3000 shares on social media. These publications have been huge for me as a writer. I hope it is just the beginning. But I know that without the heartbreak at the beginning of the year, the victory at the end most likely would not have happened.

So what is the point of this post? I guess it is this: If you are heart-broken today, on New Years Day 2015, and your life is taking a completely different, unwanted, horrible path than you would have ever chosen...I pray you can find hope in my story.

God had plans for my 2014, ones I never would have chosen but plans that ultimately helped me to grow, learn, love others, and even brought me the desires of my heart.

And even though I was never promised the gift of another baby, He gave me that too. I sit here typing with my 10 day old baby boy sleeping on my chest. What a gift of grace, complete unmerited favor. 


So, hold on, friend. He is with you.

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