Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ethan Thomas' Birth Story

We are a family of five! Can you believe it?! I still can't. Ethan is a treasure and we all adore him. Just like his brothers, he has fit into our family so easily we know he was always meant to be here.

At 36 weeks I went in for my checkup and discovered I was dilated to 3cm and 50% effaced. My doctor informed me Ethan was coming early and to stay off my feet to try and stall labor as long as possible. I was very nervous. We don't have any family in the area and help wasn't arriving until I was 39 weeks, so while trying very hard not to panic, we made several phone calls and back up plans to get help sooner than later. My contractions remained steady and strong, but miraculously Ethan held on til I was 37 weeks and family arrived to help. Thank goodness! Now I could get on my feet and bring on labor! Then somehow I made it to 38 weeks... and then 39. Turns out Ethan didn't want to come early. I was frustrated at the time, thinking I'd cried wolf and made everyone rearrange their schedules for nothing, but I have since been grateful he took his time so I didn't have to worry about him spending any time in the NICU. Heavenly Father has a plan, and we may not always understand it, but it is always better than our own. Funny how I have to learn and relearn that lesson constantly.

So on August 5th, at 39 weeks to the day Brenton and I got our things ready and headed to the hospital. Even though I hardly slept the night prior, I was very calm that morning. I felt reassured everything would be fine. I'd been through this all before, and knew I'd be in good hands. I kissed my boys goodbye and we headed for the hospital.

We breezed through check-in and I met my nurse, who would stay with me through the entire delivery. I had never had that before. Usually with a csection you have different nurses poking, prodding, transporting and touching you for every different step. It was wonderful to have only one nurse to explain my birth plan to. Amazingly, this lovely nurse had already done her homework and read up on all my doctor's notes about my wishes, knowing everything we were planning in advance. She also knew I would most likely have a panic attack in the OR, and was prepared to help me through that, too. I was so grateful to have her there with me.

 At about 10;15, it was time to go to the OR and have my spinal block put in without Brenton. The last time I had this done I was wheeled in on a gurney, sparking my panic attack with Jackson's delivery as it triggered my terrifying gurney ride to the OR for Ryan's emergency csection. This time they let me walk there myself. I felt so empowered by that. I know it's a simple thing, but it made all the difference. I was walking down that hallway by myself. I was in charge of my body and what was about to happen to it. I can't fully express how the simple task of walking into that room unassisted lifted my spirits.

While it was a little chilling to be back in an OR with all the bright lights and tools lined up that would soon be in my body, I was greeted by cheerful nurses and assistants all ready to help. They chatted with me as I climbed onto the operating table and readied myself for the spinal block. My nurse helped me hold still as the needle went in, and I assumed I was done. Nope. For whatever reason the anesthesiologist had a hard time getting the needle in just the right place for the nerve block to work. I don't know if you've ever had a large needle shoved into your spine but, for the record, it's extremely painful. After about twelve tries (not kidding), she decided to call in some back up. I was sure during all of this my panic attack would arrive. I was just kind of expecting it. However, my nurse knew it would come, too, and she kept talking to me saying, "you're so brave, Katie. You can do this. You're such a brave mom." So I kept repeating out loud, "I'm a brave mom. I can do this. I'm a brave mom." Later on my doctor came in and held my hand, talking to me about Ryan and Jackson to also keep me calm. I'm so grateful for her and my nurse because while I shed several tears as my back kept getting stuck, I never lost control. I'm still amazed by that. The second anesthesiologist got my spinal block in first try. Moving on.

Because I had so much medicine in my back from all the attempts to get the spinal block right, I became very nauseous, and threw up a little before they slipped some Zofran through my IV. Brenton came in and I felt much better. It is always such a comfort to have him beside me, feeling his hand brush my hair and tell me everything's alright. After a minute or two I realized they'd already made the incision and were working their way down the layers to get Ethan out. Brenton talked to me and things settled down until before I knew it, I could barely breathe as they pushed and pulled Ethan out. I felt like it went much faster than Jackson's, but maybe that's because the spinal block took so long.

At 11:02 Ethan came out with a full head of jet black hair. I couldn't believe it! About three feet to my left they wiped him down and weighed him. Brenton walked over to cut the cord which is always a little funny to me since the cord is already cut, and he's really just trimming it. Anyway, our beautiful baby boy weighed 8lbs 6oz, 20" long, the smallest of our three little guys. I loved him instantly.

Moments later my beautiful son was being laid on my chest. No blankets, no diaper, just me and him, skin to skin. I'd never had that before. Even with Jackson's delivery he was all swaddled in blankets and although I got to hold him in the OR, the pediatric nurse never let go of him either. Not this time. Every person in that operating room honored that fact that I was Ethan's mother, and no one held him but me. They backed away and gave me, Brenton, and Ethan our own little space to be in, just the three of us while I was stitched up. No one tried to intervene or talk to us, and it was as perfect as if I had delivered him like any other mom. I have had many sweet, precious moments in my life, but this one may have taken the cake. It was indescribable. 

As I was getting close to being finished up, the pediatric nurse said, "well, it's time for Ethan and Daddy to go to the nursery." Before I could open my mouth in protest my wonderful doctor firmly said, "No, the baby will be staying with mom." The nurse immediately backed off and that was that. I didn't have to say a word. If I could I would have sat right up on the operating table and hugged my doctor. She was my hero. Minutes later we went to recovery. All three of us. 

I was very tired and hungry, but we got through Recovery just fine. I even managed a quick phone call to my mom to tell her the good news. We all rested together and they never took Ethan off my chest, even when they were checking vitals on us both. That skin to skin bonding did wonders for both of us. I've always known the benefits of skin to skin for the baby, but really got to understand the benefits for the mother this time around. I felt so relaxed and happy just holding him and not having to fight for the privilege to do so. 

Because I threw up on my way to postpartum, they restricted my diet to only clear fluids. I'd been fasting since midnight and was starving. I knew I was fine and the nausea had nothing to do with my stomach, so we may or may not have begged a nurse who didn't know my dietary restrictions into bringing me a turkey sandwich. Bless you, uninformed nurse!! They put me on solid food after that, thank goodness!

Later in the afternoon Ethan got to meet his two very eager brothers. They were thrilled! Jackson wanted me to snuggle him a lot, I think to reassure him everything was okay, but the visit went well. Both boys just adore their new brother. It was very sweet to see them all together, and I realized I loved all three of them more than I ever had before. My heart expanded to a whole new level that afternoon.

The rest of my hospital stay was wonderfully uneventful, and we were both discharged 48 hours later. It was lovely to be home again and be able to rest. It's always surprising to me how little rest I'm able to get in the hospital. There is someone coming in literally every 20 minutes needing to check something, give advice, bring meds, check the baby, etc. I never got an hour of uninterrupted sleep, even during the night.

We are so happy to have Ethan here, and that my delivery went so smoothly. Csections are different at every hospital, and I'm so grateful for my doctor and the staff who made the surgery seem as natural as it could be. Our sweet little boy is so loved already. We can't imagine life without him. I still can't believe I have three children. We are so very blessed!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What I Would Say

The birth of our third little boy is rapidly approaching, and that always causes me to reflect on the previous deliveries of my children. Of course, that reflection quickly moves to Ryan's birth, because it affected all my subsequent pregnancies and deliveries. So many thoughts go through my mind. I'm grateful we're both alive and well, angry for being denied the ability of ever having the birth experience I've dreamed of, devastated that with each subsequent pregnancy my chances for additional babies hangs in the balance, happy that I have two beautiful healthy children with another one weeks away from arriving, and terrified about facing another OR again with all the fear that comes with it.

As I contemplate all of this, combined with an overload of hormones making my feelings only semi-rational, I sit and gaze at my wonderful little son who will turn five a couple weeks after his second baby brother's arrival. I watch him as he peacefully sleeps, and am amazed at how much he's grown. I think back to those first scary days after his birth having no idea whether he would live or die, or whether he'd be able to talk, eat on his own, or write his name. If I think my thoughts are all over the place now, it is nothing compared to how they were during that time. Now, five years later, I've thought about what I would say to that terrified, broken down girl who had her life turned upside down so suddenly. What would I tell her?

Probably something like this.

"Hey, it's me five years down the road. I know, I thought we'd be a little skinnier too, but don't worry, you'll get over that for the most part. First off, everything you're feeling is okay, no matter what it is. That sweet little boy over there? The one they won't let you hold or feed because he's so covered with tubes? He turns five years old in a few weeks, and is extraordinary. He loves sharks and trains, with an additional obsession that changes every six months or so. Currently it's a tie between crocodiles and dinosaurs, specifically the spinosaurus, because it's basically a crocodile dinosaur. I know, it's adorable."

"He's a lefty, and a great big brother. Yep! We have more babies! I'm not going to spoil everything that happens in the next five years for you, but yes, you're going to be able to have more, and they are just as extraordinary. He is very smart. Just today I sat next to him while he read me the book, Pirate Pat. We homeschool, and he's awesome at it, writing his name perfectly on every workbook page."

"It's not always going to be easy, and he has his own weaknesses, but so do you. You're going to butt heads, get frustrated, and wonder if you're doing everything wrong. Trust your instincts, trust your Heavenly Father, and trust your husband. He is an amazing father, even better than you dreamed. You will work through the hard days together, and there will be hard days. Remember that Ryan is exactly whom Heavenly Father chose to send to you, along with all his gifts and struggles. You will discover more each day how beautifully he fits into the family, and you will love him all the more for it."

"Also, you may not believe me right now, but he's going to be just fine. Everything those scans show, and all the risk factors all the doctors keep throwing at you that feel like knives in your heart, just let them all go. Have faith, not fear. Ryan will be fine. I promise. Miracles happen. You of all people should know that by now."

"Over the next five years, be kind to yourself. You'll have a lot on your plate both physically and mentally. Learn to let things go, stop worrying about meeting everyone else's approval, and pour all your worries and concerns into prayer. I'm just a little further down the road, and we're not perfect, but trust me, you get through this, one step at a time, and you'll do it a lot faster if you stop worrying how everyone else feels about what you're doing. You've got this."

Of course I realize I wouldn't have learned the same lessons the same way if I could have glimpsed into the future, but it sure would be nice to give myself a hug and tell five years ago Katie everything will be okay. I know right now I'd love for five years further down the road Katie to give me a hug and tell me everything's going to be okay with this delivery, too, but that's a different story, and a different speech I'll post five years from now. Here's to then, and here's to now, taking things one day and one step at a time.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Why I Stopped Blogging (and why I'm thrilled about it!)

Hi! Remember me? You know, the one who wrote all the way back in April about how I was spending too much time on my phone and not enough time with my sweet husband? Remember my little experiment of turning off my phone in the evenings for an entire month?

Guess what?

It was amazing! Brenton and I have become much closer, and while I don't keep my phone off every night these days, it has brought back the glow of our dating years, which is something we haven't had in awhile. Life is pretty fantastic lately.

So why haven't I written in over eight months? Great question. Those who read my blog probably already know me well enough to know most of our life updates: how we moved to South Carolina, Brenton's job is finally 9-5, M-F, and we are expecting our third little one at the end of July. Life is just about as great as it could be. I actually have tons to blog about, lots of ideas, and plenty of time to do it. So, why the sudden stop?

As it turns out, my prime time to blog was during Brenton's many, MANY late nights. I'd put the boys down, start up a Netflix show and settle in for a nice long blog entry. It was a stress reliever to write about the things that concerned me, my dreams for something better, and took my mind off the fact that my husband would't be home for several hours. But guess what? Brenton doesn't have late nights anymore. His phone calls of "Sorry Hunny, I have to work late tonight" means 7:30 instead of his usual 5:30 homecoming. Mere child's play compared to his former work schedule. So now instead of spending most nights alone, we put the boys down together, then have the whole evening to chat, play games, watch movies, work on the budget, whatever. The point is we're together, and it's awesome. Really, really awesome.

Having Brenton on a set schedule has also given me the freedom to do something for me, completely separate from him and the kids. Before, his schedule was never concrete, so even something as simple as a monthly Book Club meeting rarely worked out for me to be able to attend. Now I go out every Wednesday evening to participate in a singing group that I love. It is wonderful to get out of the house, wear something not covered in food and snot, and enjoy adult interaction with the rest of the world. Win!

In conclusion, it isn't that I don't enjoy blogging, because I do. And it isn't that I'll never write another post, because I will. It's just that the outlet blogging has been for me in the past is no longer necessary. Blogging filled a void in my life that no longer needs to be filled, and for that I've never been happier to see eight months go by without a single post. Here's to 2014 really being as wonderful as I hoped it would be a year ago!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reconnecting by Disconnecting

I haven’t written in awhile, and there’s a lot to catch up on. We've been out of our home for three months, and have lived in three places. It’s definitely been an adventure full of ups, downs, and every emotion in between. I’m exhausted most days, and all of us are certainly tired of living in one room, in each other’s space at all times. However, the end is in sight, and Brenton should have his first assignment within a week or so. We are very excited for his training to come to a close at the end of the month. He has worked hard, and feels confident this temporary sacrifice will bring the blessings we’re praying for as a family. I’ll try to post photos and stories about this dreadfully cold, long winter we've experienced as the next few weeks progress, but today I’m focusing on something else.

One month from yesterday will be a special day for Brenton and me.  We will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary.  I know that’s pretty small as far as anniversary milestones go, but it’s our first big one since the actual wedding day itself.  In those five years we've lived in six states, and seven homes. We've had two children, two cars, and collectively held five jobs and 16 church callings. We've watched our bank account rise and fall, our waistlines expand and shrink, and our children thrive and struggle. Five years seems like a day and an eternity all at once. We've done so much in such a short span of time.

In some ways we’re much closer. I absolutely love Brenton far more today than I did five years ago. In other ways we’re disconnected. When we were dating there was plenty of time to sit and talk to each other. We went on dates and never ran out of things to say. That’s not really the case now. At best we have a few hours together in the evenings if we’re lucky, and that time isn't really spent with Brenton so much as next to him.

With his job in Kentucky, Brenton was often gone in the evenings, so I would put the boys down to bed, settle down in front of Netflix, and spend time with what has now become my other half: my phone. It just became a habit. I’d scroll through Pinterest and Facebook, using the time to unwind from the long day. Now that Brenton’s schedule is more concrete, he is home most evenings. We put the boys down together, which I’m grateful for. But then when they’re asleep, I find both of us sitting together with our phones. We might engage in a brief conversation of, “did you see this photo?” or “watch this funny video, hunny!” for a minute or two, but then it’s back to glossy eyed, thumb scrolling. I used to miss him so much during the evenings he’d work late, and now that he’s home I’m doing the same thing I did when he wasn't. It needs to stop.

So, for the month of April, I’m giving Brenton 30 days of phone-free time. Last night was Day 1, and once the boys were down I plugged in my phone, put it away, and just sat and talked with him. We told jokes, and actually communicated about our day. It felt like a mini date night right there in our tiny, one-room hotel suite we’re stuck in for the next month. It wasn't instantly magical, and I almost grabbed my phone a few times when I wondered about the weather, or what actor was in that movie, or where so-and-so is living these days. But overall the change has been a positive one, even after one day.

I’m not saying I won’t ever pick up my phone for things in the evenings, but I am taking the time to say to my husband, “you are more important to me than a 4-inch screen. Our marriage means more to me than Sally’s latest post of what she ate for dinner. I don’t need to see how many people liked my photo, or who left a comment on the article I shared. I need you to know I care about you, just you, and that you are the only person I need to “like” me. I may be able to access the world through a device that fits in my hand, but you were my world and held that hand long before it was holding a smart phone, so I am reconnecting with you by disconnecting from it.”

I mean, after all, the best way to celebrate five years of time together is by spending more time together, right?  

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year of Healing

2013 is rapidly drawing to a close, and in just a few short days our family will be moving to our next big adventure, starting with a 90-day excursion in Chicago for Brenton's new job training. Having the year end at the cusp of a new journey for us has caused me to reflect much on this past year and our time spent in beautiful Bowling Green, Kentucky. This has been a place of great emotional healing for me. It has been a safe zone where I've had time to pause and reflect on how my past was affecting my present. So before we head into 2014 and our family heads to the Windy City, allow me to address a few things I've learned.

I finally became secure and happy enough in my life to recognize I have some very deep scars from past trauma. Some of it you are aware of, such as the scary birth of my first son, Ryan. That trauma was visibly brought to the surface during the birth of my second son, Jackson, but since his delivery went perfectly it allowed me to acknowledge the pain and heal from it. That was so freeing. I accepted the trauma, then let it go. In return I was given the precious first few days of motherhood I had never known. It has been one of the most beautiful manifestations of Christ's love for me as He helped me let go of all the pain and fear my mind and body had accepted as the reality of childbirth.

The other scars and trauma come from a part of my life most of you are unaware of. Previously I viewed those two years as a crippling weakness, a dark shadow of my life I never wanted anyone to know about. However, the events of this past year gave me the strength to seek out help, finally face the demons from my first two years of college, and acknowledge I wasn't as healed as I thought from them.

During my freshman and sophomore years of college I was involved in a severely abusive relationship. It affected my grades, family, friends, spiritual testimony, physical health, and self worth. Although I moved on and turned my life around, I thought simply suppressing all the pain was enough to carry on with the rest of my life. But this Fall when an innocent little girl grabbed my wrist hard to ask me a question and my whole body shut down, my blood pressure skyrocketed and I could barely breathe, I realized I wasn't as healed as I thought. That's when I noticed little patterns in my life that weren't normal. For example, I couldn't take the trash out at night without breaking into a cold sweat, vividly imagining I would be attacked. I couldn't roll over and look at the bedroom door in the middle of the night because I was too afraid. I couldn't go to a shooting range with my husband without breaking down into full, body-shaking sobs at the sound of a gunshot. When my little boy would throw a tantrum, often I'd put him in timeout just so he wouldn't see me emotionally shut down and cry, too. None of that is normal. It's textbook PTSD. So I faced my fear, pushed through my pride and called a therapist. It was the single best decision I made this year.

Through the help of my wonderful therapist, my incredibly supportive husband, and my relationship with my Savior I made huge (we're talking Grand Canyonesque huge) strides in letting go of all the trauma and fear associated with those two years. It has completely changed my concept of self worth, forgiveness, and mental health. In the past few months I've become a better wife and mother. I've let go of so much pain and grief and realized most of my fear was irrational and destructive. It has been so liberating!

Now I understand all this healing happened at just the right time. I was in a good place. My marriage and family were fantastic, and I had all the tools I needed to face the music, take the necessary steps to detach myself from the fear and look at it from a removed perspective. It was all part of Heavenly Father's plan for me. I don't know where Brenton's new job will take us, but I will be forever grateful for everything Kentucky has given me. I have a new son, a new perspective on childbirth, and a new perspective on life. Now I know no matter where we end up I will be more than just happy, I will thrive.

Fourteen has always been my lucky number. It makes perfect sense that I will go into 2014 a new woman, full of the confidence and strength I've always had but was brainwashed into believing wasn't there. This will finally be my year. Bring it on, 2014. This girl is on fire.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Our Mushy Romance

This past week marks six years since my and Brenton's first date. I know, this is the part where half of you think, "awwww! They're so sweet!" and the other half roll your eyes and think, "here she goes again with all that mushy romantic stuff. Gag me."

Well, that's exactly what this post is about. All that mushy stuff.

You see, when two hopeless romantics fall in love with each other, we tend to celebrate all the little stuff. First date, the day we became boyfriend and girlfriend, the day he proposed, you get the picture. But as sweet and special as all of that "mushy" stuff is, that's not the stuff I'm talking about. I didn't choose to marry Brenton because he remembers little anniversaries and buys me flowers, although those are wonderful things I appreciate about him.

I married Brenton because he pinched my nose closed today so I could swallow nasty medicine while mushy snot ran down my chin as I held our baby boy.

I married Brenton because he asks for seconds of my mushy pasta that I left on the stove too long while consoling our three-year-old who stubbed his toe.

I married Brenton because he has eyes only for me, no matter how mushy my waistline gets after having two children.

I married Brenton because he humbly changes mushy diaper after mushy diaper without a single complaint.

I married Brenton because he mows the mushy, overgrown lawn after a rainstorm so I don't have to.

I married Brenton because he still wraps me in his arms after a long day, even if my shirt is covered in mushed up baby food.

I married Brenton because he sits down and watches mushy movies with me that he wouldn't choose himself.

I married Brenton because he knew our marriage wouldn't always be perfect or easy.

Because when real life sets in, it's messy. It's mushy, often mundane, and exhausting. I think that's why we love celebrating all the little things so much, because it brings back the spark of what caused us to fall in love in the first place. But those sparks aren't the real reason we made the eternal commitment to be together. Our love is a strong fire built on work, trust, sacrifice, and unfailing loyalty. And those things are what sustain us through the rest of the mushy stuff.

So even though I hoped to spend today celebrating the 6th anniversary of our first date by splitting a butterbeer at Starbucks and perusing the half-priced bookstore being all mushy and starstruck, I was reminded of the true, deep, sincere love we have for each other as I used up an entire box of tissues on the couch while Brenton took care of our boys. That's real love, and I'm so blessed I found a man who understands it. Here's to another year of all that mushy stuff.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Live Your Dreams

One of my favorite songs of all time is "Rainbow Connection" sung by the timeless Kermit The Frog. It's a song about dreams, and how believing in stars or wishes is really just a catalyst for believing in yourself. Since I was a little girl, every time I hear those opening notes I picture Mr. The Frog sitting in the middle of a pond, strumming the banjo. It's what has always sparked my desire to learn to play it someday.


Our lives are full of somedays. "Someday I'll do this, go there, learn this, try that. Someday, someday, someday. One of the biggest roadblocks to Someday is having children. Don't misunderstand me. Marrying my husband and having our two boys have been the three best decisions and greatest dreams of my life. I don't regret any of it for a second, and they more than make up for the sacrifices I make on their behalf. But when you're a mother, many if not most of your own personal aspirations get set aside in order to raise your children. At the end of the day the hours and money just don't add up for anything extra. That's why everything gets pushed to Someday.

About a month or so ago it came up in conversation with my mother that I've always dreamed of playing the banjo. But it's not a priority, it's a Someday dream. One that when push comes to shove will probably never happen, but is still fun to talk about because it makes me believe someday I will have time to persue new things for myself.

A week ago when when my parents were here visiting, my mother said they had an early birthday gift to give me. (My birthday's in December). And there it was: a beautiful, Kermit-approved banjo.  I couldn't believe it! It meant so much more to me than just a really cool instrument that I couldn't wait to start playing. To me it was a symbol of never giving up on my dreams. Yes, being a mother takes a lot of time, and there are always going to be things I will put aside for Someday. But that doesn't mean I have to give up on myself. There are dreams I can persue now, and that's important. It will make me a better mom by taking time for some of my own dreams, too.

It has been such a blast learning how to play one of the coolest instruments ever. I feel like a million bucks every time I sit down to practice. And guess what song I learned first?