Thursday, December 3, 2015

Joshua's 3rd Birthday Letter

Dear Joshua,

How can it be that my baby boy is three? It doesn't seem like it's been that long since I first held you in my arms after a beautiful, peaceful, fast birth at home. 

My sweet boy, I don't know if it's your personality, the fact that you've been the baby of the family for over a year longer than anyone else, or a combination of both, but you are the snuggliest three year-old I've had so far. You love your mama--and your mama loves you too. And if you can't manage to situate yourself on my lap, daddy's lap will usually do.

You talk a mile and a half a minute, amazing family and strangers alike with your vocabulary. In fact, when we went to the pediatrician for your check-up this fall, they asked if you could speak in full sentences yet. As we pulled into the parking lot that morning, I counted an 18 word sentence. Ha!

You have really grown up a lot in recent months, between your speech and your growing ability to hold your own when you play with Katie and Benjamin. You've also begun learning how to be more helpful around the house. You mainly help with picking up your toys, and truthfully you are often reluctant to do so--but we're working on that. You have pretty strong opinions and are fairly hard to convince when you have your mind set, much like your older sister.

You also definitely think you have swag, as daddy would say. You act like you're 3 going on 19. This frequently cracks us all up--and every once in a while is just a wee bit annoying. But that's alright. We all have quirks, and this is one we love about you. You don't lack confidence despite being the youngest of the 'big kids.' 

You are all boy, my Joshua. You love planes, trains, cars, guns, and superheroes. If it has wheels or is otherwise manly, you are all into it. You're also pretty tough. I'm amazed at the tumbles and bumps you take without crying. Your daddy appreciates this about you!

Just over a week after your birthday, you met your new baby sister for the first time. It has been precious watching you become an older brother. You adore Josephine and are so sweet to her! Between you and Benjamin (and daddy!) she will be so well protected and taken care of. Despite how much you love your sister, adjusting to mommy having a new person to focus on has been challenging for you. You're coming along, though.

I am excited to see what providence has in store for you, my son. You're a smart, funny, strong, and sweet boy. More than anything else, I long for you to submit to Christ and honor Him with all your days. In the end, nothing else matters much.

I sure do love you, Joshua Gianavel. You make my world sweeter by being in it.

Happiest of birthdays to you!


PS: I hope when I write you a letter next year, I can say you've successfully potty trained. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Josephine Marian's Birth Story

Giving birth is such an amazing, incredible experience--even when it's hard. Josephine's birth was one of the most difficult of my four. It hurt a lot and took longer for me to mentally feel like I was "over" it. A month after the fact, though, I can look back at her birth with the same affection, awe, and fondness as my other three.

Josephine Marian Murch
Born October 25, 2015 at 2:49pm into her Daddy's arms
9lbs., 14 oz. and 21 3/4" long
The story starts on Friday, October 23. The previous night I had not slept well. Our children normally go to homeschool co-op classes at church on Fridays. This day my brother-in-law took them for me as I was feeling exhausted and knew labor could happen at any point since I was a few days past my due date. I had a quiet day at home to myself. I was able to take a good nap and get caught up on some things for work, something I really wanted to get done before giving birth.

That night after the children were in bed I started to have some signs of impending labor including some contractions. I texted with my midwife and fully expected to go into labor during the night. Saturday morning I woke up quite surprised that things still hadn't picked up. I had contractions during the night but they didn't get active. We did our normal Saturday morning stuff and I continued to have some contractions. We decided to go ahead and send the children to my in-laws' house because we were sure things would pick up that day.

Ben and I had a nice day together. We went out and walked around town. We also bought our first TV. We came home, had pizza, and relaxed together. I alternated between resting and bouncing on the exercise ball. I was still having contractions but they just weren't picking up enough. We finally decided to go to bed around 10:30 after both falling asleep on the couch watching a movie (on the new TV). I was pretty sure I'd wake up during the night in active labor.

Sure enough, I woke up around 1 having contractions every 5-8 minutes. After an hour of that, I called my midwife. I knew things needed to pick up a lot more, but she had a long drive and my last labor was pretty fast. The first midwife (Leslie) arrived about 2:30. She was the primary midwife for my second and third babies and assisted at this birth. The other midwife assistant (Dorcas) and my primary midwife (Degra) arrived by about 3.  I was happy to have them here and we visited between contractions. Leslie and Dorcas were at both of my other home births, and Degra was Leslie's midwife partner during my pregnancy with Joshua, so I have known all of them for 3 to 5 1/2 years.

Around 5, it became clear things were slowing down. We decided to have everyone lay down for a while until things picked up. I had a snack and then went to bed. Once I was in my room my contractions got stronger so I wasn't able to sleep. I got up and just bounced on the exercise ball and rested in between contractions. Contractions were still not very close together--about 10-15 minutes apart.

Finally around 8 or so, we decided to take some measures to get things going. Contractions were strong enough that I couldn't sleep, so we really just needed the baby to come. First Degra stripped my membranes. She found that I was only about 2-3cm. dilated, but Baby was in a great position and my cervix was soft, so she suspected things would go quickly once they picked up. Following the membrane sweep, Leslie rubbed a mixture of castor oil and essential oils on my belly. Dorcas massaged my feet with the same mixture as we used on my belly. We also hooked me up to a breast pump.

By 11, contractions were much closer together (6-8 minutes apart) and very strong. Based on what I was feeling, I was pretty sure at this point I'd have the baby by 12:30 or so. I spent some time on the ball and stood up and swayed through contractions. Things were getting pretty intense and I decided to get in the shower. We had the tub ready but didn't want things to slow down since they had just picked up.

I stayed in the shower until I ran out of hot water. Contractions were still intense and close together  so I decided to go ahead and get into the tub. The water was so soothing and I didn't want to go back to laboring without it! In the tub, contractions continued to pick up and eventually were coming one on top of the other. It definitely felt like transition and I was pretty confident delivery was imminent. With each contraction I kept telling myself, "Maybe next contraction I'll be pushing."

But contractions just kept coming. I had very intense pain in the center of my lower abdomen, stronger than I remember in my other labors. I also started having some back pain. After about an hour or so in the tub, it just wasn't doing it for me anymore and I got back in the shower. My contractions were intolerable. I started telling Ben I couldn't do it anymore and generally feeling really discouraged. 

I've given birth without drugs three other times and I had never had intense, transition contractions last this long. After a while in the shower, I got out and asked Degra to check me again for dilation. She said I was at 10 (which I expected based on what I felt) but that a part of my cervix was only dilated 5-6 and that's why I wasn't pushing yet.

At this point it was 2:20pm. I asked Degra how long she thought it would take, and of course she couldn't give a prediction, but she said she was confident I'd have the baby by dark. I was SO discouraged--but glad to have an answer so I didn't keep telling myself that I might be pushing next contraction.

The midwives had me lay on my side in the bed with pillows between my legs. During each contraction, they lifted the top leg onto one of their shoulders. I switched sides after a few contractions. They also gave me a couple doses of some herbs--a mixture of valerian, lobelia, and one other that I can't remember. This really helped me to relax which was good because I was starting to have a really difficult time coping with my contractions. In between contractions, I prayed for endurance and strength--and asking the Lord to help things move along because I was so exhausted and in a tremendous amount of pain.

During the time laboring on the bed, Ben was holding my hands, one midwife was pushing my hips together and another putting pressure on my lower back to ease the back pain, and the other was helping hold my legs up. I don't know how I would've managed without the whole team there! These women were amazing and I really do love each one of them.

Sometime after 2:40, I really felt like I needed to pee. I really didn't want to, though, because I knew it would bring on a contraction. At some point I suddenly felt the urge to push. I was surprised because it had only been 20 minutes and nervous because I was worried I'd hurt myself if that one part of my cervix hadn't dilated fully. I said I needed to push and Degra said to wait for a contraction and then we'd walk to the bathroom so I could empty my bladder before pushing. I thought to myself that I'd probably have the baby in the bathroom if we did that, but I didn't verbalize that thought.

After next contraction, a couple people helped me to the bathroom (Ben and maybe Dorcas? I don't think I was fully aware). When I sat down on the toilet my water broke right away and her head came out (with no pushing). I yelled, "Her head is out!" The birth team quickly had me stand up and in one push she was out. Ben caught her--a first for us!

I cried tears of joy and relief when I held my sweet girl. Labor was OVER and I had my long-awaited baby in my arms at last. Because of all my health issues prior to this pregnancy and the fact that it took me longer than usual to get pregnant, I was especially filled with gratitude.

Josephine felt BIG (and she was--my biggest baby, weighing in at 9lbs., 14oz.!) and I was very pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any tearing.

The midwives cleaned up, got us situated, and left by about 5.

It was a difficult but beautiful birth. We are so thankful for our sweet, healthy, big (!) girl and I am finally feeling like I'm adjusting to life as a mother of 4. The Lord has been so kind to our family and we are blessed indeed.

Josephine ready for her first Sunday at church at 3 weeks old,
exactly 40 weeks to the day from when we found out I was pregnant!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Katie's 6th Birthday Letter

At Chipotle for your birthday lunch
Dear Katie,

When Joshua's birthday rolled around, I realized that in the midst of first trimester haze, I neglected to write you a letter on your 6th birthday.

Now it's been over seven months since you turned six. I'm so sorry this letter is so late, sweet girl. I guess better late than never is still true.

It's crazy to me that it's been six entire years since I held you for the first time! I look at you and am daily amazed at how grown up you are. After mothering only very young children for so long, it's incredible to me that my daughter is old enough to have mature conversations. I love talking with you and hearing about what you have on your mind and what you think about the world.

You still have quite the strong will. It frequently gets you into trouble, but I believe that as the Lord continues to work in you, your strong will is a trait that will serve you and Christ's Kingdom well one day. Despite your strong will, you have such a soft and tender heart. You are quick to apologize sincerely when you've behaved poorly, and you're often very sweet and motherly with the boys (though you do your share of buggjng them too!).

It has been just precious to see you with your new baby sister. You are so excited to have another girl in the family and I can't wait to see the friendship between the two of you blossom as the years go by. Your reaction to the news at our gender ultrasound in May was just precious--you literally jumped up and down and cheered for joy as soon as you heard.

You are well on your way to completing first grade. Reading has really clicked for you and you've taken off! Truthfully, though, you'd much rather play outside than do school.

You've also become such a good helper around the house. You and your brothers clean up your room and the living room every day, and you have taken it upon yourself to clear and wash the dining room table as well. With a new baby in the house and Daddy working the hours he works, the extra help from y'all is such a blessing!

Since your birthday, you've lost three teeth and one more is about ready to fall out. You're concerned you look goofy, but I think you look adorable.

As most little girls your age, you are enthralled by all things princess-y. You still love playing with dolls. Despite being such a girly girl, you still love watching Superhero cartoons and playing cars, planes, and trains with your brothers. I think it's a good mix, personally!

Katie Lee, you are so precious to me. I love you more than you can fathom and I'm so blessed to be your mama, your teacher, and your friend. I hope the Lord will help me do better with all of those things as each year passes.

I pray that the Lord will see fit to grant you repentance and faith even now as a young child. May you serve Him faithfully all your days and teach many others to do the same!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Announcing Murch Baby #4!

We are expecting our fourth baby, due October 15, 2015! After battling with my health for many months and often wondering if I'd ever be healthy enough to carry another baby, I am truly overcome with joy and gratitude that the Lord has restored my health and opened my womb once again. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

My bump on Friday--at 5 weeks, 1 day

The Back Story (which contains some details probably only ladies would be interested in):

As I have mentioned previously, I started struggling with my health in a major way about a year and a half ago when I started having gallbladder attacks. I spent many months with no energy and frequently in severe pain. I had a hard time keeping up with basic household duties and caring for my husband and children. I was the recipient of much help, and by God's mercy, and with the help of a wonderful doctor, I am doing SO much better (and I do still have my gallbladder!).

Throughout the months of dealing with my gallbladder, I was still nursing Joshua (I realize I could have stopped, but I really didn't want to--a discussion for another day!). I was eating a diet of little to no saturated fat for many months and I lost a tremendous amount of weight. I also hadn't had a menstrual cycle since January of 2012 when I got pregnant with Joshua. 

Joshua weaned in September of last year and I went right into GAPS Intro. I had been doing the full GAPS diet for about 6 months and still had lingering issues with my digestion. Doing that made all the difference for me. I was able to eat animals fats liberally and tolerate them well for the first time in over a year--beef, eggs, chicken with skin, ghee. I also added nuts back into my diet. Finished with the intro, I was feeling really good. I was eating plenty of fat, carbs, and protein and not having any pain in my gallbladder! I gained some weight back and eventually had a cycle again about 4 months after Joshua stopped nursing.

During the months of feeling really bad, I had prayed that the Lord would close my womb until I was healthy enough to be pregnant, and for the first time I really felt like I was healthy enough. I was mentally prepared for it to take a while to conceive since my body had been through so much and since it had been so long since I had a cycle, but I truly wanted to be pregnant.

A few weeks after my period, I started to have some pregnancy symptoms, but I brushed them off as other hormonal stuff since I didn't want to get my hopes up. I was super hungry and drinking a lot more water, among other things. I tested at 28 days and it was negative. Same at 29 and 32. Then on the afternoon of Day 35 (at church, after the service--a little bit impatient!) I took another test and almost immediately there were two pink lines!

I am so thankful for this sweet babe. I'm tired and hungry and already feeling a bit round, but truly, I am SO thankful. With my other children, I never had to wonder whether I'd be able to conceive again. I think going through what I went through with my health and then praying that the Lord would restore my fertility and praying that He would bless us with another child has given me a whole new level of gratitude for the privilege of carrying new life in my womb.

"My soul doth magnify the Lord,And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden...
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation." ~Luke 1:46-50

Friday, January 9, 2015

Benjamin's 4th Birthday Letter

Dear Benjamin,

Apparently 2014 was my year for late birthday letters. Joshua's birthday letter was late and now I'm writing yours almost two weeks after your birthday. Hopefully I'll do better this year!

My sweet, sweet son, you are four! I can hardly believe it. You are such a joy to have in our family. You are so kind and sensitive. You respond quickly to correction and often apologize without being asked, which is a blessing to me. You love to snuggle with your mama and tell me often that you love me, and you still say "yuv" instead of "love" which is pretty sweet. I know you'll grow out of it someday, so I'll enjoy it while I can! You do have a little bit of a mischievous streak, though, and you just love to pester your older sister; you like to bug Joshua too, sometimes, but Katie definitely bears the brunt of it.

Sensitive though you are, you are still all boy to be sure. You love superheroes. Your favorites are Captain America, Batman, and Spider Man. You got hooked after we watched The Avengers together as a family this fall. You got action figures for Christmas and a Captain America dress-up outfit for your birthday. But of course, your love for cars hasn't lessened any and that's what you spend most of your playtime doing. You've rubbed off on Joshua and y'all have a great time playing cars together every day. He may actually be a little more obsessed than you are.

Of all my children, I think you are the neatest. You don't always clean up without being asked, but when I ask you to clean something, you pretty much always do a good job and you usually don't complain about it. You also concentrate really hard when you're doing something, whether it's organizing your cars or putting a puzzle together.

You are very rarely at a loss for words.You talk a mile a minute to anyone who will listen, children and grown-ups alike. It's amazing to me how well my four year-old boy can carry on a conversation with an adult. You've always been ahead for your age with your speech and vocabulary, but it really took off over the last year. You also have a great memory. Over the past couple of months you and Katie have been memorizing Psalm 1 and you're doing such a great job with it!

In recent months, you have been asking me more questions about the things of God, expressing concern for your soul. You seem very soft to God's word much of the time and I'm so thankful you are thinking about these things even now.

The older you get, the more you keep looking like your Grandpa Dale. The resemblance is truly amazing. It makes my heart happy that you are named after your daddy and look so much like my daddy.

My sweet Benjamin, your smile makes my days so much sweeter. I am so grateful for the time I have at home with you being your mama. I so often fall short, but you just keep on loving me anyway. I am so thankful the Lord gave you to our family. I pray that you will be converted as a young child and be faithful to the Lord all your days, that you'll grow into a strong, godly man and lead a family in advancing Christ's Kingdom. May you be zealous in your love for the Scriptures and diligent in applying them to your life.

I love you so, so, so, so much, my son.

Happy birthday!