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!