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The twins I prayed for

The twins I prayed for

I kept myself awake last night coming up with a list of the craziest things about me. Sometimes we just need to embrace our unique side. 😉

Yes, I really do have six kids. And, no, I don’t have running water. Part of me has always loved simplicity. For most of my life I’ve been convinced that I was born in the wrong century (until I had a good think about what it would be like to have a tooth pulled without anaesthetic). We catch water off the roof and store it in tanks under the house. Once a week, we use a small pump to fill up a barrel that we dip out of for dishes and bathing. We heat the water on the woodstove during the winter and on the propane stove in the summer. But I’m ready for a well and running water now. This summer . . . please.

I love giving birth. This is my favourite thing to do. I’d rather give birth than go to Europe or to a U2 concert. I don’t just love the baby-after-the-birth part. I love the birthing part. I love being woken in the night by contractions or my water breaking and the feeling of wonder and excitement. I love the building contractions that force me to withdraw from the world and focus within. I love meeting my babies for the first time. I’m proud of the fact that I caught my first and last babies with my own hands. Best thing ever.

I wrote a book in a month. There’s actually an event—NaNoWriMo—for the thousands of people around the world who are crazy enough to give up sleep and their favourite TV shows to write an entire novel in a month. So if you notice me wandering around with dark circles under my eyes, talking to myself, and it happens to be November—then you know why. 🙂

I wanted 20 kids. For real, and I’ve never even seen the “19 kids and counting” show. I wanted to birth 10 and adopt 10, but my husband didn’t want to have any kids, so we compromised and had 6. Notice that I compromised more.

I brainwashed myself to enjoy summer and winter. I grew up on the west coast where it snowed once or twice in a winter and the white stuff was gone by lunch time. And then we moved north. Our first winter we had close to four feet of snow. Turns out we’d bought our house in the “snow belt.” I hated winter and we were stuck with six months of it. But at some point I made the decision to embrace it. I went for walks every day and tried to see the beauty of winter. It worked! I actually started enjoying the winters. I decided to try my whole “I love the seasons” thing on summers, since I hated the heat of summer too. I’d go sit in a chair in the sun, close my eyes and say, “I love the heat. It feels so good.” No kidding—it also worked! It’s the spring I have trouble with now. I’m not sure if I’m going to try the whole brainwashing thing again. I don’t think, “I love mud and mosquitoes is going to work.” I might just keep one season to hate. 😉

I prayed for twins and got them. No, twins don’t run in the family. I just got it in my head that I wanted twins, so I prayed for them. Soon after that I got pregnant. We were in a little church at that time—maybe 100 people—and a girl stood up and announced she was having twins. I was ticked. Obviously, there wouldn’t be two women pregnant with twins at the same time in that little church. I was ridiculously convinced that she was having the twins that I prayed for. When my midwife told me I was measuring big, I brushed it off. “Nope, Amanda’s having my twins.” I didn’t even want an ultrasound. At 24 weeks, I was feeling my belly in the night, and I felt two heads! For real—I self-diagnosed twins. They came 10 weeks later.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “What a nut,” then I accomplished my purpose for the day. Have a great weekend!

❤ Rachel

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When the Pieces Come Together

Photo credit: Vjeran

Photo credit: Vjeran

Crazy. November was crazy. Many of you know that on November 1st, I set out to write an entire novel in one month. There were days that I felt like giving up, days that I was sure I couldn’t go on. But I kept on writing until the ache in my shoulders was a constant reminder of the task ahead of me.

I reached my goal and crossed the figurative finish line.

I was exhilarated and exhausted. I can’t describe how weary I was at the end of that month. I’d deprived myself of too much sleep, fresh air, and exercise. I’d tried to juggle running my home and homeschooling my six kids with writing for hours every day. It was just one month, though. I survived, and I’m grateful for what I was able to accomplish.

In the mist of it all, I discovered who my audience is–who I’m writing for. It’s women who love birth.

And this is where the pieces of my life fit together. I’d been working towards becoming a certified birth doula. I had taken courses, attended a birth, and read everything on birth I could get my hands on. But I thought I might have to give it all up, because I was also working really hard at becoming an author. I didn’t know if it made sense to try and do both. These two pieces of my life go together beautifully, though, now that I know my novels will center around doulas and midwives and women giving birth.

Yay!

I just added a new page on my website that gives some specifics on the doula work I’ll be doing. You can check out Cherishing the Moment Doula Services here.

I’ll be starting the long process of editing and rewriting my novel in January. My goal is to have it ready to submit to an agent at the end of 2015. And maybe one day–not too far in the future–you’ll see my labour of love in print.

Blessings! ❤ Rachel

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I love being pregnant, but I have also found pregnancy to be a time of testing. In previous pregnancies I was often tempted to worry. I would fret over where the baby would be born. I worried about having a miscarriage, pre-term labour or unnecessary interventions being done during birth.

It didn’t happen all at once, but gradually in this my six pregnancy, I became aware of a beautiful peace. I felt my fears dissolve in the presence of an Almighty, Sovereign God. I couldn’t control the outcome, but it was in God’s hands and I could rest in that.

I wanted to enjoy this pregnancy. Now more than ever I realized that pregnancy is a brief and fleeting season and I wanted to appreciate the miracle of new life. There were the usual discomforts (nausea, hip pain and heartburn to name a few!) but it was a small price to pay considering the joy and privilege of carrying and bringing forth a precious babe.

I felt that I could go into labour quite early this time. I had so many contractions beginning in the sixth month that I prepared myself for the possibility of having a preemie and having a prolonged stay at the hospital. I was thankful for each week that went by. I felt excited as I approached my 37th week. I hoped to make it to my due date, but at least after the 37th week the baby would be considered term and we wouldn’t need to stay in the hospital.

I had an exhaustingly busy week and on the evening of March sixth I felt a tremendous need to get things ready for the birth. I tried to stay calm and only gathered up the important things. I knew what I really needed was rest, so I tried not to overdo things. I felt relief the next morning when I realized that I had not gone into labour. That night I again felt like I needed to have everything ready. I put the diaper bag, camera and purse by the door, and put the baby clothes with the car seat so we could be ready to run, and then went to bed early.

That night I awoke at 11:20, and minutes later my water broke. “The baby is coming!” I told Kevin. Kevin sat straight up. “It’s too early,” he said startled. I reassured him that the baby was term though still three weeks early and would be fine.

We dashed about wildly and got the children out of bed and into the vehicle. We were headed out the driveway only 20 minutes after waking up. By 12:30 I was having regular contractions and I called the midwife and my friend Miriam (who was going to look after the children) and told them that we would be at the hospital in 30 minutes.

I put my seat back and lay on my side cuddled in a blanket. I wanted to enjoy this labour and experience it. I have found my labours almost too short and this time I decided to focus on what was happening in my body. I felt wonderfully peaceful and joyful as we drove through the night. William was so excited that he was roaring in the back and we all laughed together.

As we approached Prince George the contractions got much stronger and I wondered if we would make it to the hospital. “I’m going to grab a coffee at Tim Horton’s,” Kevin informed me.  I told him that there wasn’t time!

We arrived at the hospital at 1:00, but by the time we had got the time card from the parking meter and made our way through the maze of halls to labour and delivery (stopping a couple of times when I had a contraction) it was 1:10. Though I did not look like a woman who was about to give birth, I knew that things would happen quickly now that we had arrived at the hospital and I asked if we could fill up the birthing tub.

The water was very soothing. I rocked on my hands and knees during contractions and sat back between them. I felt ecstatic as I looked around the room at my husband and children and tears of joy came to my eyes. I was surrounded with love and we would soon meet our baby!

In minutes I was pushing. Low, deep sighs coursed through my body and moved my baby down. I had been studying midwifery, so it was fascinating to be so aware of what was happening. I told everyone when the baby crowned and I could see the baby’s head before I gave the final push and caught my precious baby in my own hands. “It’s a boy!” I whispered, filled with awe.

Though our little Joel was born three weeks early, he was a healthy 6 pounds 10 ounces and there were no complications. He was born at 1:26 am, only 16 minutes after arriving in the delivery room! I am so very thankful for how it all turned out and we are praising God for our sweet baby Joel.

 

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Into My Hands

Pregnancy, birth and mothering have had a profound impact on my life, affecting every facet of who I am. These are my stories of pregnancy and birth…

I remember the day, the moment, that I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I was only 19, but I had been longing for a child for 2 years. I was overwhelmed with both excitement and fear. Would I be a good mother?

Those first movements that I felt shook my world. Every morning I would lay in bed focused on my womb and the tiny child growing within. I smiled, I laughed, I cried as I felt the strange feather like stroking from within.

Both my Mother and my Grandmother had given birth to their first babies VERY fast. (My Grandma delivered my Mom all by herself as my Grandpa was trying to get help!) I didn’t fear birth, I looked forward to it. I read every book that I could find on birth and longed for the moment to arrive.

We started going to a midwife in Courtenay, B.C. It took half a day to get there with the 2 ferries and hour long drive, but we loved the care we received. My husband Kevin was at every appointment.

Three weeks before my due date, we towed a little trailer that we had borrowed and left to await the birth of our little one. As the ferry pulled away from the dock I had a very strange feeling, a real mix of emotions. I knew that when I returned I would be very changed, I would be a mother. There was a sense of almost sadness at what I was leaving behind and fear of what was to come.

That time of waiting was hard. It was difficult to be away from home with nothing to do but wait. I’m afraid that we rushed things a bit. We went for very long walks to pass the time. During one of those walks, I felt strong contractions that went away when I stopped walking. I decided to walk through them instead of resting. The contractions came very strong and back to back. I kept this up for a while, but when I stopped, so did the contractions.

That night I awoke to my water breaking. I went back to bed to wait for the contractions to start. It didn’t take long. I phoned the midwife and she told me to rest and call her back when the contractions were 5 min apart. I called her 20 min later to say that they were and we were off to the hospital.

We soon arrived and I remember being so excited and talking really loudly as we walked down the hall. Everyone was trying to shush me as it was the middle of the night!

I took one look at the delivery bed and said that I wasn’t going up there. I felt that I wanted to be near the floor to deliver, so we placed a bunch of pillows on the floor and covered them with a sheet. I also told the midwife that I wanted to deliver the baby myself.

I soon went into transition and wanted to be away from people. Kevin and I went into the large bathroom that adjoined the birthing room. I began to feel frightened at the intensity of the contractions. They started washing over me and I felt that I couldn’t rise above them to breathe. I was up on my toes, clinging to Kevin’s neck. I remember our midwife coming in then. She rested her hand gently on me and told me that I was fighting the contractions. “Relax, put your feet down flat, don’t fight.” What a difference that made. Within minutes I was ready to push.

I was high on excitement. It was like a party in there. Between contractions I was laughing with joy. Then the moment came… Joanne said, “It’s time. Catch your baby.” I felt like she was talking to me through a tunnel. I reached down… and my baby was born into my hands. What ecstasy! I placed my little one on my belly and was completely speechless with joy and wonder. A mother… I’m a mother!

“Is it a girl or boy?” I finally asked.
“You look.”
“A girl!” I cried and tears swept from me. I sobbed with joy!

It was at that moment that my Mom came in. They had got in their little boat and came across the strait in the middle of the night. And there we were, on a pile of pillows in the middle of the floor.

We named our baby Myra Ellen. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was so amazingly beautiful.
We gazed into each others eyes and I never wanted to look away.

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When We Were One

We had a friend come and stay with us when Myra was 13 months old. He brought his 2 year old daughter along and Myra made a friend. It was so precious to see the little girls play together. I was suddenly filled with a longing to have another baby, a sibling for Myra.

Very soon… I was expecting again! This time we were able to have a midwife in Campbelle River. This saved us an hour drive each visit. We loved our midwife from the start. She was shorter than I am (and I’m 5’3”), had 7 children and was a real character. Every visit was like getting together with an old friend.

At one point I was measuring very big and we began to suspect twins. I had an ultra-sound and was a little disappointed to find out that there was only one baby in there!

I found myself worrying more in this pregnancy. My last labour had been fast and it was likely that this one would be even faster. Also, Myra had come 2 weeks early. So during the last month we felt that I could go into labour at any moment,and that we wouldn’t have much time to get to Campbelle River.

I had visions of having my baby in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, or on the coast guard boat. God reminded me that Jesus had been born in a stable and that had been God’s perfect will. I could trust God and find rest from my fears.

We decided that we didn’t want to deliver in the hospital, but we couldn’t have a home birth as we lived on a tiny island, 2 ferries away from the nearest hospital or midwife. We started looking for a place to stay and deliver our baby. This turned out to be very, very hard. There were several cabins available in the area, but nobody wanted a baby delivered in one of their rental cabins.

Worry crept in again as there seemed to be nowhere for us to go. I felt like God was saying to me again, “Trust Me.”

When we had almost completely run out of time to find a place to stay, God provided. We found a lovely little motel on the ocean. It was only minutes from our midwife and it was affordable too. A sweet Chinese couple were running the motel. I told them that we would be staying for 1- 3 weeks, until we had our baby. I told them that we would like to have our midwife there to deliver our baby. “Yes, yes!” they said with big smiles.

I didn’t think that they understood me, so I said it again in several different ways. “Yes, yes! Yes, yes!” was their only response. I still don’t think they understood me, but what could I do?

We had a wonderful stay there. We walked along the ocean every day. Myra threw rocks into the water and watched the birds soar above us.

The day before my due date we had to make some decisions. We had been there for 2 weeks and we had to decide whether to rent the suite for another week or not. We could save a lot of money by renting weekly, but if were only going to be there for another couple of days then we didn’t want to pay for a whole week.

We decided to try and bring on labour again and if I went into labour that night then we would just pay for 2 days, otherwise, we would pay for another week. Our funds were getting dangerously low and Kevin was thinking of trying to get some work doing window-washing, or any other odd jobs he could find while we were there.

There was a long set of stairs near the motel, so I marched up and down the stairs for about 20 min. This brought on VERY strong contractions like it had in my first pregnancy, and like before, they went away after I stopped walking.

That evening we put Myra to bed and I started to fill the bath. Suddenly, the lights went off. Within minutes one of the owners of the motel knocked on our door and gave us candles and matches. The power was off in the area, but it would be back on in an hour or so.

I have beautiful memories of that evening. I relaxed in the bath with the warm light from the candles filling the room while Kevin played guitar in the living room. I wanted to enjoy that time. I felt that these would be the last few hours of my pregnancy. I was very much looking forward to seeing our baby, but I was also sad at the thought of this pregnancy coming to an end; that precious time while we were one.

In the night I awoke to contractions. I quietly got out of bed. I had a longing to write a letter to my baby before the birth. I got out some paper and a pen and poured out my love to my little one that I would see so soon.

The contractions were coming faster and harder, so I woke up Kevin and phoned our midwife. She kept me on the phone for a couple of minutes and asked if me if I had had any contractions while we were talking. I told her that I had and she told me that if I was able to talk normally through the contractions that I wasn’t very far along. She arrived about 15 min later and we began setting up everything for the birth.

I had a stronger contraction and leaned against the wall. “That’s the first contraction that I’ve noticed,”
our midwife commented. I was in the washroom for the next contraction. I felt that powerful need to push. Maureen was talking with Kevin. “Sorry to interrupt,” I said, “but I have to push.”

Maureen was very shocked. She checked my cervix and sure enough I was fully dilated. “Just lie on your side and don’t laugh, sneeze, cough or push.” In B.C. midwives are required to have a medical assistant at a home birth in case both the mother and baby needed medical assistance. She phoned the other midwife that she works with. “Be here in 10 min or less or I’m calling the ambulance! Don’t even brush your hair!” she told the other midwife. And she did arrive in 10 minutes! In one push, our second daughter Melanie was born!

My mother and my sister were in the living room with Myra. At 23 months she didn’t fully understand what was happening. When she heard Melanie’s first cry, her eyes grew round like saucers. Where did the baby come from?!

Mom brought Myra in to meet her sister. It was truly amazing how God worked everything out so beautifully!

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After my miscarriage, my arms felt so empty. It took six months to get pregnant again. It seemed like a very long time. I was filled with joy when I found that I was expecting, but we decided against telling others. We chose to wait until after I had an ultra-sound at 8 weeks. We just didn’t want our children to have to go through that excitement and then grief if I were to miscarry again.

There was a strong mix of feelings tumbling within me as I went for the ultra-sound. Kevin and the children waited in the vehicle while I went in. “Is everything all right,” I asked the technician nervously. “Everything looks beautiful,” she answered with a smile. She turned the screen towards me and I could see my tiny little baby, so small that I hadn’t felt any movements yet, but perfect and beautiful. I could see my little one’s head in perfect profile and I could see the heart beating strongly.

When I got back into the vehicle, I nodded to Kevin that everything was fine and we told our children right then. They were so happy and joyous! We then went and visited some close friends and they rejoiced with us too. That day was a celebration. I tried to really enjoy that pregnancy. I never wanted to take that time for granted. It can be a difficult time in many ways. There are many discomforts and sleepless nights, but it is a season, a glorious season and I wanted to treasure it.

My doctor had prayed for this baby and she rejoiced with us. Each appointment was like a visit with a dear friend. As my pregnancy progressed though, I began to feel a lot of apprehension and anxiety about the birth. As dear as this doctor was to me, I came to realize that we felt very differently about the process of birth.

My doctor was quite concerned about, attempting a natural birth because of the c-section that I had had 4 1/2 years earlier. There is some risk of the uterus rupturing during labour and this is very dangerous for the baby. She recommended a repeat c-section, but was willing to go ahead with a trial of labour. She made it very clear to me though, that if anything at all was amiss, she would perform a c-section. Even if everything was fine she might go ahead with a c-section if there was a risk of the operating room being occupied later, as there is only 1 operating room and limited staff. She asked me to trust her to make those decisions.

I left feeling very frightened and confused. Childbirth is so beautiful to me and a c-section seems utterly bizarre. This process of routinely slicing open a woman’s abdomen and uterus, when God had designed a perfectly good way to deliver babies, does not sit well with me. I am thankful that the operation is as safe as it is and it undoubtedly saves the lives of both mothers and babies, but I still feel that it is grossly over used.

I was aware of the increased risk of uterine rupture, but I was also aware of the increased risks of a repeat c-section. A woman is significantly more likely to die after a c-section than after a vaginal birth and there is also some increased risk to the baby, as excess fluid is not pressed out of the babies lungs and the baby can have an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic. The fact that I might also want more children later on weighed heavily on the decision. Each c-section weakens the uterus and puts future babies at increased risk.

I really didn’t feel like I could trust our doctor to make decisions that I would be comfortable with. Our views on childbirth were too different and I would not be able to accept a c-section just because the OR might be full later, or because I wasn’t dilating at the exact rate deemed necessary.

This was a time of great turmoil for me. Undoubtedly, this doctor had been provided by God. Why did I feel so terribly uneasy? I prayed to God and asked Him for His direction and peace. He showed me that this doctor had been provided to help me through my miscarriage and that it was okay to look for another care provider for the rest of this pregnancy and birth. I brought my fears to Kevin and he was astonished that I was thinking of switching doctors this late, (I was 7 months pregnant) and especially when I loved the doctor I had. I told him that the apprehension I had just wasn’t going away. He gave me permission to look for another care provider.

What I really wanted was another midwife, but the possibility of finding one so late in my pregnancy was very small. Midwives are in huge demand here, and if you want a midwife it is recommended that you find one as soon as you find out you are pregnant. It would also mean having our baby in Prince George as there are no midwives in Vanderhoof. I was very willing to do this, if only we could find a midwife. I asked God to bless my search and phoned a practice in Prince George.

I talked to Jane, a midwife that had been practising in Prince George for about 4 years. I told her my story and she said that she would be willing to take me on as a client as she was concerned about the possibility that I might end up with an unnecessary c-section. This was music to my ears! We made an appointment to see her and I felt the anxiety lift off of me.

We brought the whole family to the appointment and had a great time. Jane included all the children and it felt so good to talk everything out. When we left, we felt very at peace in our decision to switch to Jane’s care.

One thing ahead would be very hard though; I would need to tell my doctor that we were leaving her care. It was recommended that I just phone the office and tell the secretary that I was switching care providers. I knew though, that that would be wrong. This doctor had given me so much. I knew that I owed her an explanation and a good-bye. I went for my next appointment and explained the situation.

I honestly believe that she was very happy for me. She knew that I had had midwives in my previous pregnancies and felt that I would be more comfortable with their care. She also felt that the Prince George hospital would be much safer for me to deliver in, as they are much better staffed and because there is a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) so in the event that I did have a uterine rupture, there would be a much better chance of a good outcome. She told me, that if she thought she could have convinced me to go to Prince George to have the baby, she would have done it. I left the office feeling so wonderfully relieved and peaceful.

The rest of the pregnancy went very well. We loved our visits with Jane and always stayed way longer then we should have! I had one concern though. My labour with Melanie had only been an hour and a half and the hospital was an hour and fifteen minutes away. There was the very real chance, of having the baby on the way there. I read up on unassisted childbirth and that helped me to feel more comfortable about the possibility. I put together a bundle of supplies to use in the event that I would give birth en route. It even included a suction bulb syringe to clear baby’s nasal passage!

I awoke very early one morning with contractions. I was 35 weeks along at the time. They were quite strong and regular; about 5 minutes apart. We decided to head to Prince George. Jane met us at her office. It had been 2 hours since the contractions started and they were about the same strength and frequency as at the beginning. Jane palpated my uterus during a contraction and told us that they were strong, and I was 4 cm dilated. We decided against going to the hospital right away though; labour was not progressing as quickly as was normal for me and there was the chance that the contractions would subside.

By noon, the contractions were irregular and we decided to go home. I really wondered how I was going to know when I was in real labour. Those contractions had been as strong as the ones I had just before giving birth to Melanie. They were more than Braxton Hicks contractions, because they were causing dilation. We just had to trust that God was in control. I felt very thankful that we had switched to Jane’s care. It was quite likely that I would have ended up with another c-section and had our baby delivered 5 weeks early, if we had gone to the Vanderhoof hospital.

Three weeks later, I again awoke with contractions. We got everyone ready to go; we prayed and waited. It was very similar to the previous time. The contractions were strong and regular. I had one strong contraction and it spurred me into action. “Let’s go,” I said, and we got all of our children into the vehicle.

Twenty minutes later, the contractions had subsided some. We decided to keep driving. If the contractions stopped, than we would just go home. We hadn’t phoned Jane yet, we wanted to be sure that I was in labour before we called her. I phoned Jane when we were 20 minutes from Prince George and asked her to meet us at her office. I also called a friend and told her that we might be having the baby and to be ready to meet us at the hospital if I was in labour. The plan was that she would look after our children while I gave birth.

I arrived at the office, but Jane wasn’t there yet. I used the washroom beside her office and had a VERY strong contraction. It was at that moment that I KNEW I was in labour. I wondered if I would give birth right there! I went quickly to the van and we phoned Jane and told her that there was a change of plans and to meet us at the hospital!

It was only a 2 min. drive to the hospital, but was like going through a maze to get from the entrance to the maternity ward of the hospital. I had to rest through a contraction once, on the way to the delivery room. I guess that I didn’t look like a woman only minutes away from giving birth and it was recommended that I try walking around the parking lot to get labour going. I declined, thinking that if I left this building, I was going to give birth IN the parking lot. Jane started taking my blood pressure when I had another contraction.

With that contraction, came that incredible desire to push. My friend had arrived to look after the children and I asked her to take the children out of the room. Our baby boy William, was born 15 min later! The children say that that was the most exciting day of their lives.

William has been a wonderful gift for our whole family. I find it’s a very different thing to have a baby when you have older children too. It’s been so much fun. He’s brought so much joy to our family and everyone delights in him. I’ve also had so much help from my girls who were 7 and 9 when William was born.

William is a year and a half old now. I have tried to enjoy this time to the full. One thing that I have learned, is that children grow so fast. I want to cherish this time.

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