Friday, December 12, 2014

A New Perspective on the Holy Birth

I was reading Luke's account of Jesus' conception this morning, and I gained a new perspective on the significance of Jesus' birth to a human mother. I read Luke 1:31 where Gabriel told Mary, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." With the experience of pregnancy and birth fresh in my mind, I stopped when I saw the words conceive and bear. I thought of all that is involved in pregnancy and birth, and was overwhelmed that this holy, royal, perfect being came to us in such a frankly disgusting way. I've always known in my mind that it was an act of humility for Jesus to become flesh, to be born and dwell among us, but I gained a new appreciation for it this year.

We often remark on how Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a manger, which was a symbol of complete humility and lowliness. And that's true. But even if he were born in a castle or a golden temple, he was still born. He came through a woman's birth canal, in blood and mucus and all manner of gross bodily fluids that are involved in birth. No certain location, no matter how royal or pleasant, can sterilize or "pretty up" the birth process. It's just a repulsive thing. Beautiful in a certain way, but repulsive. There is a reason partners faint in the hospital when a woman gives birth! Levi saw and was involved far more than he expected to be with Clayton's birth, and while he didn't get sick or faint (he was a champ), he said he never wants to see such a thing again.

I would love to hear Mary's birth story. To hear what emotions she experienced, knowing who she was giving birth to. I wonder if she had morning sickness during her pregnancy? High blood pressure? (Although she probably wouldn't even have known if she did. Ha) How long did she labor, and how did she survive the flood of emotions when not just a son was born, but when the God-Man was born? Maybe someday we will get to hear her story. Or maybe at that point it won't even matter anymore. But for now, I'll continue to marvel at Christ's incarnation through the eyes of a new mother, thanking him endlessly for his humble sacrifice.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mom Diaries // 10-27-14

It's true that no one can ever prepare you for what it's like to have a child. The love and fear of love, the joy, the despair. It's not the same for everyone, but this is how it was for me.

Clayton Barrett Kauffman joined our air-breathing world on Monday, 10/27/14 at 7:07am. I'm glad that I gave birth in the morning. I remember glancing toward the window, noticing that the sun was shining, and having a fresh feeling of newness and beginning. My active labor and Clayton's birth all happened in about 2 hours, but that was enough for me to find sweet relief in the rising sun. It was dark while I labored, and it was light when he was born.

Arriving at the hospital Sunday night.
We had been admitted to the hospital Sunday night to begin pre-induction because my blood pressure had been high since 37 weeks and I was borderline preeclamptic. I would be 39 weeks pregnant that Monday, and we didn't want to continue with the risk that the problem could escalate at any time. I was nervous about induction, not wanting a scheduled birth or to experience birth with Pitocin. But knowing that birth (and life) rarely goes exactly as planned, we arrived at the hospital Sunday night ready for whatever would come. We knew no matter what else came, our son surely would.

As it turned out, the medicine they gave me Sunday night to prepare me for Monday morning's Pitocin induction was all my body needed to send me straight into a labor that was faster than I ever dared to hope for. I contracted consistently through the night and was uncomfortable enough that I couldn't sleep, but nothing was intense enough that I needed to get up or do anything. Levi and his sister Rebekah, my doula, tried to sleep between nurse visits, and we all waited through the night, listening to the quieted beat of Clayton's heart through the monitor.

A good time capsule artifact…
At 3am the nurse came in and said I was contracting too frequently and she would take me off the medicine to slow things down. I'm so thankful for that break because it allowed me the only 30 minutes of sleep I got all night, and just a few minutes after I woke up, at about 5am, my water broke. I instantly went from a level of annoying discomfort to actual pain. I got up right away because it was too much to stay in bed through, and within 20 minutes I was on the floor wondering how in the world I would survive the hours and hours ahead of me.

Levi and Rebekah coached me through each breath for the next 40 minutes or so, and I went through what I didn't know at the time were the hardest parts of labor, thinking the whole time that I was just at the beginning. Around 6am something felt different. Rebekah called the nurse, who quickly determined it was time to call the doctor. Even though I knew why she would be calling him, I wouldn't let myself believe it until Rebekah confirmed. Clayton was coming, and coming quickly.

For the next 25 minutes until my doctor arrived, I clung to Levi's hand and the bed rail for dear life. Then Dr. Stokes walked in and the eternity of waiting ended. My world went from determined rage to calm and comfort. It is truly a gift for a doctor to carry that sense of safety, peace, and comfort with him and to be able to impart it instantly on his patients without having to say a word. He walked in and everything was ok, exciting, and almost even fun. He looked down at me and said good morning, I smiled…he chatted with others in the room for a few minutes…I remember there being laughter...the lights came on, and he said, "let's have a baby!"

I had never known that kind of intense focus
Dr. Stokes had arrived and everything was ok

Thirty minutes or less later, Clayton was born. I had instant relief, instant love, and instant amazement. I felt tears trying to form in my eyes but I couldn't cry. I could only gasp and stare at the perfect son who lay in my arms. He was soft, he was warm, he was beautiful. And he was Clayton. A couple days earlier we thought he would be Clayton, and he was. I marveled at his life and his birth. For days and weeks to come I could still hardly believe that I went in for an induction, aware that a lot of things would likely not go as desired, and left with a birth experience that was even better than I had hoped.

Just 15 minutes old

Me & Dr. Stokes at my 6-week postpartum checkup

…until next time, on a difficult recovery

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pregnancy Diaries // Entry 5

The last few weeks of pregnancy haven't been what I thought they would be. For months I've been warned, "Oh the last 5 or 6 weeks are so hard and long"...or, "The last 3 weeks are REALLY rough…every day feels like a week." I should probably thank anyone who has told me those things, because they set my expectations and I braced myself for some degree of misery that would cause me to lose my senses and think that my baby would never actually be born.

But actually, at least at this point halfway between 38 and 39 weeks, I can't believe how fast it's going. I'm not miserable…time isn't dragging by…the days often feel more like three-quarter days…and I'll be ok if he stays put a little longer. Maybe my lack of preparedness has actually kept the days from dragging on. If my to-do list was all completed and everything was "just so" like I pictured it being by this point, maybe I would be bored and going crazy.

I'm sure it also helps that besides some standard discomforts like sore feet and an inconveniently-sized belly, I'm really feeling fine. I've had more energy, gotten better sleep, and had a better appetite in the 3rd trimester than most of the rest of the pregnancy. I thought the 2nd trimester was supposed to be the best, but for me it's been the 3rd! Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY ready to not be pregnant anymore. I want to be able to roll over in bed without it being a strategic operation. I want to move around in general without it being a strategic operation. And God knows…I want SO badly to wear blue jeans that zip and button. But overall, it really hasn't been as bad as I expected. Maybe I'll get to say the same about labor…?

Mentally and emotionally, I'm ready. My home…not so much ready. But I'd rather it be that way than the other way around. Having so many "false starts" in the past week…so many doctor and hospital visits to keep up with the tests and blood pressure checks…it's actually helped prepare me personally, even though it didn't feel like it when it all started. I wasn't ready when the craziness started, but now I feel ready, and that helps me feel ok about the possibility of him coming before everything is "just so."

The good news is that my maternity leave started a little early so I could stay on light bed rest, which means as much resting and to-do-list-finishing as I want! Then maybe it will work out, just to satisfy my curiosity, that I will have a little bit of time at the end where I might start going crazy because I'm bored and miserable. But right now…I kind of doubt it. Either way, even if he comes late, he will be here SO soon it hardly feels real. But then sometimes it does, and we couldn't be more excited.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pregnancy Diaries // Entry 4

As it turns out, I'm a terrible bed rest patient. Thankfully, I'm not on strict bed rest… I can move around the house, fix myself food, etc., but just have to stick close to the couch and not do anything too strenuous. Even so, it's really hard when you want to be bustling around cleaning the house or running errands. On the plus side, it means I'm having several days of not having to go into the office for work!

But let me back up. The past few days have kind of been a roller coaster. I had my regular checkup on Wednesday, and my blood pressure was high, so my doc sent me back over to Labor & Delivery to monitor it more and keep an eye on the baby. (I had already been sent in once last month for some unexplained bleeding, so we'll be nice and familiar with the nurse's triage by the time I'm actually in labor!) Before I went, my doc warned me that I may need to be induced either in the next few days or possibly even that night, depending on what my blood pressure was doing and whether further tests indicated preeclampsia. I called Levi and he met me at the hospital, both of us unsure of what to expect.

A not-entirely-flattering shot from our first visit to L&D at 34 weeks.
I stayed on the monitors and had some blood work done, and in the meantime my blood pressure remained high. The nurses were amazed at how strong and active Baby Kauffman was as they monitored him. They kept saying, "only a very healthy baby can do that!" I was having fairly regular contractions about 7-9 minutes apart, but nothing to indicate labor. Since my blood pressure remained high, I was sent home and told to come back the next night. It was about the same Thursday night, but still no induction since it had not risen. I left urine samples to be analyzed, and found out Friday morning that everything was showing negative for preeclampsia. Good news! So for now, I'm on bed rest until my next regular checkup this coming Tuesday. We'll check my blood pressure again and go from there. I'm borderline between pre-hypertension and hypertension, so if it increases, we'll have to consider induction, or possibly medication to keep it down. Or if it remains the same, I may just have to lay low until this boy decides he's ready to come!

Overall, it was definitely hard not knowing what to expect or how to prepare ourselves mentally. It's probably a good lesson for me in not being able to control everything and not having the guarantee that I'll always be as prepared as I want to be. I'm thankful though, that I now have lots of down time to get baby clothes washed and put away and to get the last few items knocked off my to-do list! (From my couch…of course…) We're coming up on 38 weeks and I think it's finally sinking in that we'll have a baby any time now! (Who am I and when did I wind up a parent??)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Pregnancy Diaries // Entry 3

We've been through a lot these past few weeks. My OB practice and I parted ways on bad terms. Technically, they kicked me out, but at the same time as I was already looking for a new provider. They refused to explain the reasons behind their recommendations and became shockingly belligerent, aggressive, and threatening towards me when I wouldn't just follow blindly and stop asking questions.

So I tried transferring to a midwife practice, assuming I would be accepted as the healthy, low risk, attentive mom-to-be that I am. All it took was a call to my previous provider and before I knew it, I had been declined from their practice. It was "too risky" to accept a patient who was kicked out of another practice for non-compliance and high results from a 1-hr glucose test (that I later found out hadn't even been administered properly). I couldn't retake the test correctly. I couldn't provide my 2 weeks of glucose monitoring results showing I'm below diabetic levels after every meal. I couldn't explain my side of the story of why I was kicked out. I'm just a risk.

Messages are currently out to Practice #3 and Practice #4. I tried to avoid having to explain everything to the office lady at Practice #3, but they want to know everything about transfer patients. "Conflict with my doctor"…."incompatible philosophies"….it's not good enough. They want to know the details.  But as soon as they hear anything about a glucose test, it's like everyone loses their mind and won't listen to the whole story. I was then interrupted 3 times by the office lady and had to beg her just to hear me out. She said she would talk to the doctor to see if he would accept me, but that I should start calling others as well. In other words, don't get your hopes up, you freak mom-to-be who must be trying to endanger her baby take all the doctors in the world to court. Huh?! What did I ever do to anyone??

But all of that is just the back-story. What I really want to say is... I love my baby and care about his health and well-being more than any doctor ever can. I shouldn't have to convince anyone of this. I shouldn't have to defend my right to understand the decisions I make that affect my baby's development and birth. And I certainly shouldn't have to walk around like some freak of nature begging people just to listen as I try to convince them to accept me into their practice. Since when do we just assume the mom is the "bad guy?"

If my son could understand the muffled words he hears as I talk to doctor after nurse after midwife, I hope he would be able to learn a few things. I hope he would learn that I love him too much to follow blindly. I hope he would learn that just because someone is in a position of authority doesn't mean they are right, and that sometimes you have to challenge that authority for your own good and protection. In the grand scheme of things, this really isn't one of the most significant circumstances in life, but if it's still this exhausting, I hope I have the strength to do the same when it matters even more. And I hope that he will too.

P.S. - What would you know but that as I finish writing, I get a call from Practice #4, who returned my call an hour after office hours, listened to my whole story without interruption, was legitimately concerned that I'm overdue for a checkup, was willing to look at my test results and retake the 1hr. test if even necessary, and found a way to fit me into a completely booked schedule so I could have a check-up next Tuesday. There are still good, decent people in the world after all.

At 27 weeks.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pregnancy Diaries // Entry 2

Dear Blog,

I don't know how it's been over a month since my last entry in the Pregnancy Diaries. Time is flying and there is so much to record. My little boy may never really care about any of this, but Mama will be glad that she can look back and remember.

I was 5 weeks along that day I found out, then on Thursday, at 5w4d the nausea hit me. For the next several weeks, I survived on smoothies, bananas, oatmeal, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and cream of wheat. The whole first trimester seemed an eternity of struggle and discomfort. My hunger was insatiable, and the nausea got worse the hungrier I got. But of course, my desire to eat ANYTHING was non-existent, so it was a maddening battle all day and night. Weeks 8-10 got a little better, at 11 weeks I had a couple bouts of vomiting, the next few weeks were a little better again (and overall way better than the early days), then another bout of vomiting at 16 weeks. Things really got better at 18 weeks, and other than the occasional regression due to stress or exhaustion, I'm a lot better now. I'm still not my normal self and am a pickier eater, but it's far more manageable. Overall, things could have been so much worse.

Speaking of eating, people used to think I eat a lot. And I did, but not 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, dinner, and a bowl of cereal before bed. Sometimes with snacks in between. And if I miss a meal or get too far off schedule, I start feeling sick and it gets really hard to eat. So basically my life has to be scheduled around food, and while you may think I'd be ok with that, it's actually exhausting, and I'm at the point where I wish I would just never get hungry. But all for the cause, right?

Cravings? For a while, pasta pasta pasta. Not so much now, and thankfully my desire for beef has finally started to return. I went a few months without a steak and almost had an existential crisis.

Weight gain? 25 lb. so far, at nearly 26 weeks pregnant. I had lost some weight from having my wisdom teeth pulled out a couple weeks before finding out I was pregnant, so I remind myself of that on days when I feel like a fat pig. Also, on any given day I will be about 5 lb heavier at the end of the day than I was at the beginning, which I've never experienced before, so that's new. People are telling me I'm "all belly," but I can tell have more thigh, hip, and backside than I ever have in my life. Hopefully that excess will come off postpartum, but I secretly hope the wider hips stick around. It will make shopping for pants SO much easier!

Overall I don't really like being pregnant. I miss my muscle tone and range of motion. Things hurt and clothes don't fit and it takes way too much effort to do things like get off the couch or out of the car or to roll over in bed. I'm not one of those people who basks in the magical delight of pregnancy, and I never thought I would be. All the more power to you who are! I'm ready for this child to vacate, but we still have 14+ weeks to go, so we'll keep taking it one day at a time.

Mama at 24 weeks pregnant

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pregnancy Diaries // Entry 1

Dear Blog,

Sorry we've kept you in the dark these days. It's been about 3 1/2 months since we found out, and we still haven't told you. There's a new Kauffman to report on, and even though he hasn't been born yet, he's already very much a part of our lives.

People say after they have a baby, they can't really remember it being any other way. I already feel that way, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. I feel stuck between two worlds. I'm so excited to meet our son and hold him every day, but I'm still clinging to the beautiful times when it's just me and Levi. Our life is so good together, just the two of us, and I know it will be even better when it's 3, but it will be different. There will be 3, and there will be more sacrifices and more demands, and less of the "do whatever we want when we feel like it" times. Sometimes I try to remember what it felt like to not have this great expectation…to not already feel like parents…and I panic when I can't quite recreate that feeling deep in my heart. It's not that I don't want this, I just want to be able to remember the bliss of knowing nothing other than love for my husband. It's scary to love deeply, and it's even scarier for that depth of love to be expanded to include another.

But I'm getting so serious so soon. In those stuck-between moments, I just take a deep breath and some extra time to remember all of our sweet times together and to remind myself that we will still have our own sweet times that are ours alone, even after the baby is born.

Pregnancy apps and websites are always telling me that I should have a "pregnancy journal," but despite my greatest efforts, I've never been a successful journaler. I want to remember details of my pregnancy though, so I thought I would tell you instead. That's kind of like journaling, right?

That test was positive on Monday, March 3rd. I had taken a couple before, on occasions when I felt crappy and was looking for a better explanation than just being sick. This time I didn't feel crappy, I was just snowed in, working from home, bored…and had a curious, suspicious feeling. As the second line slowly turned pink, I could hardly believe my eyes. We had decided we were ready to go down this path, and there I stood at the very beginning. I turned all sweaty, walked in circles in the living room yelling "oh my god, ohmygodohmygod," buried my head in the couch pillows laughing and crying, then repeated all of the above for about 20 minutes. I was instantly overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all and the knowledge that God had chosen to entrust this child to me. There was no going back…no escape plan. Every time I checked the test, it was still positive. I wasn't dreaming.

Levi was at work but ended up coming home earlier that day than I was expecting, so I was glad I had already hung the positive test on the key rack by the door attached to a note that said, "Nov 3, 2014." It took him a few minutes to figure out what was going on, and then a while longer for it to sink in, but he picked me up and kissed me and couldn't wipe the the grin off his face. We announced to his family and my brother that night and then to my parents the next day on my mom's birthday. It took most of the week to get through all of the calls to the rest of the family, but the more people who knew, the more real it felt.

…[to be continued]

Our happy little bean at 12w2d
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