Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Something Special (Part 2)

This is second part of a 3 part series on Aviel's birth story. Please don't forget to read Part 1 and Part 3.

***


Devin and I met Sarah at a Succot dinner during the previous fall chagim (holy days). She was this cute curly brown-haired girl with big eyes and an even bigger heart. She had her two beautiful children and her English illustrator husband at dinner that night. I was still pretty sick at the time, and immediately felt at ease with her.

We chatted a little about being artists in Israel, birth, and pregnancy that night. I remember leaving thinking, "I'd really like her to be there." The big day was still about six months away, so I just laid the idea aside for awhile.

When a friend offered to pay for Doula services as a baby gift, I was ecstatic! We called Sarah that week and made an appointment to meet with her.

Sarah typically meets with her mothers three times before the birth as part of her Birth Doula Package, but because of some transportation difficulties, we planned for two longer meetings instead.

At the first meeting, besides getting an idea of what our hearts were for the birth of our baby, Sarah talked to us about the physiological process of labour, the "pyramid of intervention" and standard hospital procedures. She explained that each medical intervention increases the need for another intervention.

For example, Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of the naturally occuring hormone, Oxytocin often used to induce labor, can cause an increased heart rate in the baby. An increased heart rate will increase the likelihood of the use of suction to help remove the baby, or even cesarean.

She also explained that the use of Pitocin can interfere with the body's means of coping with pain during labor. During a natural birth, as the pain steps up a notch, the bodies ability to cope also steps up a notch, adjusting to the pain similar to how our eyes adjust to a dark room. In an induced labor, this process isn't naturally occurring, so it increases the likelihood for a laboring woman to request an epidural, which has rarely discussed side effects that may be undesirable, and increases the chance of a surgical birth by three times!

She covered the pros and cons, risks and benefits, of each procedure and she explained the other medical alternatives to an epidural if I felt as though I was not coping well (Stadol, Pethedine, Meptazimol or Mepid, Laughing Gas and walking epidural are a few). Although I had a tremendous desire to birth naturally, I also had a fear that I would not be able to handle the pain, especially if I was experiencing a particularly long labor. Knowing that there were alternatives to an epidural eased my nerves a bit.

All of this information was important for me since GDM pregnancies are often induced before the baby becomes too large. I felt very prepared to ask my doctor more detailed questions at my next visit, primarily if she would support allowing the pregnancy to continue along naturally as long as my baby's growth was healthy.

Sarah left us with a nice packet of information to read over as continued preparation and she gave us some homework: write out a birth plan, and pack the hospital bag. Most importantly, she left us in a position where we felt confident about our ability to make choices that were in the best health interest of me and the baby on the day of his delivery.

I had a renewed sense of energy to keep up with my sugar tests and to stick with the diet plan. And I got serious about praying for the timing of the baby's birth.

The Lord said he had "something special" and I had the faith to believe that meant a healthy, natural birth.

***


Several weeks later, we met with Sarah again. This time we covered natural comfort measures.

During our previous session, Sarah gave us an exercise to help understand our psychological response to pain. She asked Devin and I to each hold an ice cube. For one minute she timed us as we focused hard on what we were feeling. It was a struggle to make through the minute! After our hands recovered, she gave us both another ice cube. This time, she asked us to focus on something else. We both made it through the minute with ease.

As we discussed what to expect with contractions, she taught us comfort measures that helped relax my body, and she encouraged me to focus away from the contraction. My favorite mental distraction was the idea of having Devin share his version of our love story through my contractions. This sounded like a great way for us to connect on the big day.

We learned a few interesting facts about the progress of labor as well. For one, Sarah explained that there is a relationship between a laboring woman's mouth and throat, and cervical dilation. A relaxed or smiling mouth, and low sounds made with the throat will help everything open up for the baby. Screaming is ineffective for coping with pain, where as low and deep moans could actually help labor progress. She would also be able to tell if I was too tense in my body by the shape of my mouth.

To keep my body relaxed, she suggested various different swaying and hanging motions, most of which involved Devin for support. Some of the exercises brought comfort to the aches and pains of third trimester pregnancy, so it wasn't hard to believe that they would be effective during contractions.

After we covered comfort measures, we went over our homework from the last session: birth plan, and what to pack in our hospital bag. Then we covered procedure options for newborn care while in the hospital. Learning about the options available for the baby, and praying through what was best for him was a very sweet way to mentally and emotionally prepare for his arrival, and how we hoped he'd experience the world in his first few days outside of the womb.*

Sarah had recently received a donation of baby boy hand-me-downs, so we picked out some goodies, and she sent us home with a few books: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin) for continued birthing preparation, and The No-Cry Sleep Solution (Elizabeth Pantley) to help prepare us for the realities of how babies sleep and offer suggestions for night time parenting. On my own, I had also been reading The Christian Childbirth Handbook (Jennifer van der Laan).

She made us tuna sandwiches for the bus ride home, and we were off, with me feeling like I had just left a spa!

Meanwhile, on the medical side of things, we were in for an ultrasound and foetal heart monitor once a week by this point. My doctor was very pleased with how my pregnancy was progressing and how well we (and I say "we" because I couldn't have done it without Devin) were managing the diabetes. The baby was growing long, but his weight appeared to be in a healthy range. "You will have a tall and thin baby." She said. She also confirmed that he was still head down in the optimal back-to-front position.

Now all we needed was for the baby to come!

***



Besides good info, books, and support, Sarah also made us the cute mobile hanging above Aviel's head!


*For expecting moms: Each state/country has different laws about which procedures your baby is required to have before leaving the hospital. Do some research to know what these are. Don't forget that you can always ask to delay any procedures that you can't legally refuse if you feel they may impede on early birth bonding!

Related Posts:
Growing Belly
"Oh Big Baby!"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Something Special (part 1)

This is part 1 of a 3 part series on Aviel's birth story. Please don't forget to read Part 2 and Part 3.

***


"I have something special for you. Do not worry."

After three days of tears, those are the words the Lord whispered to my heart.

I was crying because I had just been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GDM). The news came after a visit to Hadassa Ein Karem's Natural Birthing Center in Jerusalem. Complete with a giant bath tub, double bed, birthing balls, and fabric to swing on - not to mention the added perks of first priority "rooming in" after the delivery, and a midwife on call and present through the entire birth, this place was a a laboring woman's dream come true!

When the midwife giving the tour explained who was eligible for the use of their facilities, I knew I might not qualify. Earlier that day I had undergone the four hour long glucose challenge. My routine third trimester test comes back with high results, so I needed a more detailed sugar test to check and see if I had developed GDM. If this test came back high, my pregnancy would be considered "High Risk," so I would no longer a candidate for the Natural Birthing Center. And it did.

High Risk.

That simple phrase set the tears in motion. Fear took over as I worried about what this might mean for the health my baby, and for my desire to have a natural birth. I was plagued by mom guilt as I wondered if I had done something wrong.

Was it my diet? Had I not been exercising enough? Have a gained too much weight?

The questions swirled around in my head.

And since I didn't qualify for the Natural Birthing Center, I felt an odd sense of rejection and shame, as if something was wrong with me and the baby.

To make matters worse, I made the mistake of reading all the possible complications that could occur as a result of GDM, and the tears kept coming. I had not experienced the easiest pregnancy, dealing with an abnormal amounts of nausea and vommiting during my first trimester, while working through the hormones and emotions in a new place, with very new friendships. This news did not make it any better.

The word of the Lord was welcomed and brought rest and hope to my weary soul.

Something special...

I wondered what it might be...

A few days later, Devin and I met with my doctor to discuss my sugar test results. Unbeknownst to us at the time of coming under her care, my doctor was a "High Risk Pregnancy Specialist." I found her to be incredibly comforting and helpful as she filled us in on the details of GDM. She explained that pregnancy hormones cause all women to process sugar differently, but in about 5-8% of pregnancies it actually develops into a form a diabetes that disappears after the baby is born. This wasn't something I caused. In fact, the lifestyle I was living (eating lots of Israeli salads and walking about five miles a day) was actually prevention-airy. It was simply something genetic. I was just "a sweet girl!" she said.

But we needed to take action.

Unmonitored, the baby was at risk for high and disproportional weight gain, which could cause complications at birth. Also, we both risked developing other forms of diabetes in the future.

My doctor remained hopeful about our ability to minimize long and short term effects through diet alone. She also believed I would be fine to birth naturally as along as the baby's weight was low. "Worst case scenario," she said, "we will induce before he gets too big."

Even that idea wasn't the ideal, nonetheless, her confidence increased my confidence.

Along with Devin's support and accountability, we began the three month journey of checking my sugar six times a day, learning to fill up on raw vegetables, and precisely measuring rice, noodles, cereal and other carbs at meals.

After the first week, with raw fingertips, and increased medical expenses (we were doing this without insurance) I wondered what sort of special blessings the Lord had in mind. At that moment I could only see "giants in the land."


My belly on the day of the Glucose Challenge


***


The budget was tight. We became pregnant before I was eligible for insurance in Israel. When we finally did find a policy that I could purchase with my visa status, I didn't qualify because my pregnancy was a "pre-existing condition."

The diabetes added to the constraints. Rather than one appointment a month, I would need to visit the doctor several times each month, and at more frequent intervals, to monitor the baby's heart rate and weight, as my due date approached. We also had appointments with a Pregnancy Dietitian and added expenses from the sugar kit.

And what about my options for birthing?

I did not go into the pregnancy opposed to a more traditional hospital birth, but after hearing all the horror stories from friends, I wasn't so confident anymore. The Natural Birthing Center seemed like a great option and I was still mourning the closing of that door.

The idea of a hiring a doula crossed my mind. We met a great one at a Succot feast, but she lived outside of the city. I didn't know if we were close enough to be her clients, and I didn't know if we could afford the extra expense. Besides the medical bills, we still had quite a bit of preparation to do for the nursery, as well.

I knew Devin was feeling some stress, but I didn't I realized how much the financial pressures were weighing on me until they were miraculously lifted one morning at breakfast with a friend who handed us a card with a check inside. I looked at the numbers, quickly did a shekels to dollars translation in my head and was awed by what I saw! We were blessed to receive a financial gift large enough to cover three months rent! Devin and I both had tears in our eyes and gratitude in our hearts as we hugged our dear friend, and thanked the Lord for His provision.

Later that week, a sweet friend - a new friend - offered to throw a baby shower for us! We had one with our friends and family in North Carolina, which was a huge blessing. This one ministered to my heart in a different way. It spoke to my need for relationships.

We found out we were expecting a baby just two months after moving to Jerusalem as a married couple. Between working a full-time job, a part-time job, being enrolled in Ulpan (Hebrew classes), and working through first trimester nausea and vommiting, I had little energy to put the effort into new friendships. I was overwhelmed. Carly's offer ministered to my heart in a deep way. Her own due date was just a week before mine. The sacrifice of time and energy at the end of her pregnancy blessed me. When the shower finally rolled around, we collected tons of goodies for the little one! We were set!

Several days after Carly's offer, another friend approached me with blessed gift.

"Callie, I have an anonymous friend who is willing to pay for the services of a Doula for you, if you are interested."

Um... Yes!

We contacted Sarah several days later, making one of the best decisions possible to help create a positive and informed birthing experience.

The Lord seemed to be proving His word to be true!


Yummy cupcake treats from my shower!

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

I love settling into a restful Shabbat. This is one thing that I really love about living in Israel. After a long week, it is great to have a day that can help the tension melt away. If resting on Saturday is not something that you can do in your country, make sure you can take a "Shabbat" on another day of the week. Shabbat is a time of drawing into the Lord, but it is also a gift from the Lord so that we can have rest. The Lord doesn't mean for us to be busy seven days a week. We were also blessed to have had Callie's father here with us for a short visit. He couldn't stay away any longer and he just had to see his grandson Aviel. Aviel is growing at a staggering rate. Three days short of his 5 month birthday, he started to crawl and he hasn't stopped. Two weeks ago, he started saying "Momma" and "Abba". We are pretty sure he hasn't identified yet who goes with what name, but he started to repeat these words after hearing them so much. He wakes up some mornings now and just sits in his crib, repeating these words until one of us comes to get him. It has to be the cutest thing I have ever heard. As a family, we are waiting on the Lord to either open or close a door for us. This is the first time in my life that a direction the Lord will take me depends on such a clear open or shut scenario. Please pray that the Lord would give us the patience we need to wait and the faith to know that He will lead us where He wants us to go.

Israel is in a time of calm between storms. No one quite knows yet when the next storm will come or what it will be, but everyone is expecting something. There have been rumbles on our northern border, as well as the usual rhetoric coming out of Iran. More and more, Turkey seems to be distinguishing itself as an antagonist towards Israel and UN has declared the beginning of its investigation into the flotilla incident. "Direct talks" with the Palestinians are set to start in Washington in September. All of these things are swirling around us, but have not touched us quite yet. Please pray that the Lord would strengthen our leaders. The things they are facing is more than anyone could ever imagine. Pray that Netanyahu would remain strong and would continue to find wisdom in the Word of the Lord. He has openly said that he has his time of "rest" when he reads the Scriptures with his son on Shabbat. Pray that the Lord would meet with this man in a dramatic way so that he could come to the full revelation of the truth.

It is amazing how much of our walk comes down to simple trust that the Lord is who He says He is. After many years of walking with the Lord and actively working in ministry, it still is a struggle to answer "yes" to the question, "Do I trust in the Lord?" Callie and I have both committed every part of our lives to serve Him. We gave ourselves to serve Him, trusting that He know what it best for us and He will bring it all to pass. That trust is tested again and again as our circumstances don't match up with what we think SHOULD be happening. The things that we have gone through together since we first looked with love upon each other are experiences that Callie and I never would have imagined. Constantly coming back to this basic question has been a way the Lord has kept our feet on solid ground. The Lord has said that He is faithful. Do we believe that is who He is? Yeshua said that our Father in heaven knows how to care for us and He knows how to give good things to us. Do we also trust that this is who He is? It is so much easier to trust in the things we can see. We can trust in ourselves and the abilities we have. We can trust in our church and our community of faith to provide our spiritual needs. We can trust in our democracies to grant us the rights that are afforded to us by Law. Callie and I have found that no matter how able we are, there are many things about living in Israel that have nothing to do with ability. We have seen that democracy doesn't guarantee our rights the way we all hope it will. Even though our community of faith is wonderful, it simply can't meet all the needs that we have. There is only one who can meet our needs, who is just, and who is eternally faithful. The Lord of Hosts is His name! We as a Body are looking at a time coming when this reality will be all that we have. We had better learn this lesson well now. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

Walking with the Lord is something that is never dull. When Aviel was born, I
had a unique feeling as if I had been born into a new life as well. There are a
few transforming moments we go through in life, and I have to say that this one
has encompassed every part of my life. Caring for this gift the Lord has been
so gracious to give us is a full time job. When we eat, where we go, how we
travel, and our schedules all have been influenced by this blessed boy. It is
so amazing to feel like our lives have been flipped upside down, but at the same
time we have never felt so right side up. The first thing the Lord commanded
was to be fruitful and multiply. Fulfilling this first command has been a
profound experience for both Callie and I. We see the light of the Lord in a we
we have never seen it before. We see how patient the Lord must be with us when
we experience how crucial patience is when caring for Aviel. Everyday he does
something new and we have to adapt to how Aviel is changing. Sometimes it seems
like too great a task, but when know the Lord can fill our weakness with His
strength. Please pray that Callie and I would continue to submit to the Lord
through all these new experiences.

Israel is experiencing relative calm after months of potential upheaval.
Nothing could have prepared us for what has transpired, but we sure got a
spiritual workout through all the intense prayer. We can already see an end to
this "calm" on the horizon. Israel, as a gesture to the Palestinians, have
frozen the construction of all settlements until September. The goal of this
freeze was to help jump start the peace process again. Netanyahu has
continually said that if there was no progress made before September, he would
order an end to the freeze and building would resume. With this deadline in
sight, everyone is starting to put pressure on this government to continue the
freeze and even extend the freeze to include East Jerusalem. Jerusalem, East
and West, are part of the unified capital of the Jewish people. No country on
this Earth would accept such a demand concerning their own capital, but for some
reason, it is fine to demand such a thing from Israel. Please pray that the
Lord would move upon this situation. Pray that Netanyhu and his government
would have wisdom in the face of this pressure.

As believers, we all have asked the Lord for a miracle at one time or another.
I know I have wanted the Lord to split the sky and work a miracle in my life,
promising that I will walk in the reality of that miracle. Many times when we
ask the Lord for a miracle, we expect that our faith will built up if we receive
it. The Lord drew me to a little passage in Luke that hit home in my spirit.
In Luke 17, starting with verse 11, there is a story about the ten lepers.
These lepers asked Yeshua to heal them. Yeshua's response was, "Go show
yourselves to the priests." Then the second part of verse 14 says this, "And as
they were going, they were cleansed." This struck me because they were asked to
take a step of faith BEFORE they were cleansed. They were not healed
immediately and then asked to go see the priests. Yeshua told them to go to the
priests before they had any evidence of healing. As they went in faith, their
healing became a reality. When we ask for our miracle, or even simply that the
Lord would direct us, we expect that if the Lord acts, it will happen
immediately. Then, having received from the Lord, we commit ourselves to
walking in the faith gained through the miracle. The Lord does work this way,
but I think we have neglected this other way of receiving the work of the Lord's
hand. He may be asking us to take a step of faith FIRST and then the answer
will follow. This is something that I am trying to take to heart and meditate
on. The danger of this is the possibility of acting in presumption. The lepers
received a direct word from Yeshua telling them to go. We must discern how the
Lord wants us to walk. Does He want us to wait until He moves, or does He want
us to take the step believing that the promised miracle will come? We can only
know this through an intimate relationship with our Creator, in which He can
speak clearly into our spirits. May we all know this intimacy and be able to
discern the direction He wants us to walk. Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie