Monday, July 29, 2013

Esme's Birth Story

My official due date was a Thursday, but for some reason, I had always anticipated giving birth on a Sunday. That first Sunday came and went; not surprisingly, since Maren had been five days late. The following Saturday was my birthday, and that weekend passed without event as well.

I woke up on Sunday July 29 at 5:00am with a significant amount of wetness in my pajamas. Not enough that I was convinced my water had broke, but enough to get up and change clothes. I laid down and waited to see if any contractions would start. None did, but an hour later, my water definitely broke.

I didn't want to wake up Michael or Maren, so I went downstairs to call Erin (my primary midwife). I knew women whose labor started with the breaking of the waters but whose contractions didn't start for hours, even days after, so I was prepared to keep waiting. However, the moment I hung up the phone, at 6:15am, I had my first contraction.

Labor with Maren was only 10 hours, and we expected this one to go even more quickly, so I decided I should make myself something to eat while I still had a handle on things. My early labor began just like my first one, with short (30 second) contractions coming every 3-5 minutes. Unlike my first, I knew what to expect, so I was able to breathe easily through them.

I woke Michael at 8:00am and told him I was in labor. My contractions were coming about every 2 minutes by this point and lasting a little longer, 60-90 seconds. Even though they were more intense, I remembered some breathing tricks and moved around to manage the pain. We checked in with Erin sometime around 9:00am and she asked if she could head over, since things seemed to be moving quickly and, again, we all anticipated a fast labor. My mother-in-law also arrived and took Maren to church to get out of the house for a bit. Maren was very hopeful that she would have a baby sister by the time she returned. My dear friend Kristi and our other midwife Jeanne also arrived sometime before 10am.

Soon after that, my contractions became much more intense, and I also began having back labor. This is an entirely different category of birthing experience, which I would never have anticipated and would never, ever want to endure again. I instantly went from joking between contractions to torturous screams of pain. By 1:00 pm, I had entered transition. Contractions were very hard, came very close together, and lasted longer at this stage.
All photos copyright Adrian Meg
For me, the back labor was incredibly painful by this point. I could barely tell when one contraction stopped and another began because the back pain never let up. I was not getting any breaks between contractions and could not relax because of the continuous pain in my back. I kept yelling at my team, "I cannot do this! I need you to tell me I can!"

Perhaps in a futile attempt to escape the pain and try to speed things up, I labored in every position and every room possible. I laid in my bed, pushed against the walls in the hallway, bore down on the toilet, squatted in the birth tub, got down on my hands and knees. The pain was constant, deep, and overpowering. I mentioned (actually, screamed, more than once) that if I were in the hospital, I would be taking drugs. There seemed to be no relief.

After about 3 hours of transition, Erin checked my cervix. I knew that something must be wrong then, because with Maren, the midwives never did a single check - everything progressed smoothly and quickly. She told me that the cervix felt a little swollen and also that only one side was fully effaced. The left side was still thick and covering baby's head.We were monitoring Esme's heartbeat, which was strong and consistent, so my midwives were not expressing a lot of concern at this point. They told me that I would have to work to get the other side of the cervix to thin out and had some suggestions for me to try. They said we could wait another hour or two but if the baby still hadn't entered the birth canal, we would need to consider other options (i.e., going to the hospital).

I did everything they offered. I started by lying on my side on the bed with one leg pulled across my
body. Then I wanted to move again, so I headed for our staircase. With every contraction, I made sure my left foot was a step higher than my right and, during the contraction, I lunged/leaned into my left side. I hadn't thought it was possible for my labor to get even more intense and the contractions to get even closer together, but doing stairs while in labor certainly kicked everything up a HUGE notch.

During these stair lunges, I could feel my body opening up but baby was still not dropping into the birth canal. The back pain continued, so I wanted to keep shifting positions. Back in the bedroom, we had a stepstool that I put my left foot up on and then squatted, with it raised, during contractions. Over and over again, I willed my body to open and cried out for that baby to come down. I asked God to help me and to bring this baby forth.

Sometime around 6:30pm - having now been in transition for 5.5 hours - my midwives calmly began encouraging us to consider transporting to the hospital. They reminded us that this was not an emergency situation, since baby's heartbeat was still healthy and strong and I was able to continue laboring. But because transition had lasted for such a long time with no progress, we had to start asking what the problem may be.

Michael started to figure out which hospitals our insurance covered, and Jeanne checked my cervix one last time. Much to our surprise, she told me that it had thinned out and she could feel Esme's head right there. She said that if I gave a small push with my next contraction, she could manually lift the cervix over baby's head so that baby could enter the birth canal. She didn't have to say it twice! With Jeanne's hand on my cervix, I gave a small push, she slid it over the head, and Esme dropped down.

Everyone got really excited and started saying that baby was almost here. Ever the realist, I replied, "no she's not. I've got at least another hour of pushing to get her out!"

Back labor was still going strong but at least now I could push during contractions and feel baby making her way out. The work felt far from over and it went more slowly than we all would have liked. Once she crowned, I climbed into bed and decided I wanted to deliver on my hands and knees, which is how Esme Nicole entered the world at 7:50pm.
My birth position meant that I couldn't see Esme when she came out, but apparently, she was quite blue and not breathing. Her eyes opened quickly and she was very alert, but Erin administered a quick mouth-to-mouth while Jeanne rubbed her intently to bring in the color. I'm sure it felt long to everyone who was watching, but I felt like I heard her cry fairly quickly and she was soon in my arms.
Our midwives had 3 theories about why Esme was unable to enter the birth canal on her own. Her fist was by her mouth, adding another 1-2 cm that my cervix needed to dilate. Also, her head came in at a slight angle, which may have been her effort to get into the canal because the cord was wrapped around her like a harness: under one arm, behind her head, and under the other arm. With a short cord, and so much of it around her body, we guessed that each time she tried to push down, the cord pulled her back up. This may also be the reason that she was 17 days past due!

We didn't name her that evening, but on Monday morning, Maren woke me up by saying, "Mama, I have the perfect name for my baby sister. What do you think about Esme?"
It turns out that both Michael and I had immediately wanted that name when we saw her the night before, so it became a unanimous family decision.
Happy Birthday, lovely little girl!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Roof Over My Head

Does it seem like I'm always talking about moving to New York?

Yeah, that's life lately. Unfortunately, I've been doing more complaining than praising in this season of preparation, especially when it comes to my house. We need to sell the darn thing before we can afford NYC rent and it feels like a boat anchor around my neck right now. I'm not worried about it selling but I have this terrible habit of worrying about when it's actually going to be put on the market (something I am not in control of).

Some of you may remember that a whole year before we were called to Brooklyn, I had this irrepressible urge to move out of our house and into an apartment. I'm calling that the Spirit of God, but then my flesh took over and began filling my mind with 1,001 reasons why I hate owning a home. Three years is a long time to be ungrateful about a gift, don't you think?

I recently reminded myself that complaining arises from a proud spirit that demands my "rights" while gratitude says, "I deserve nothing but have received everything". So today, I'm going to share why I'm thankful for the roof over my head.

What I Love About My House
  1. Our large (by South Minneapolis standards) backyard
  2. The beautiful bathroom my husband remodeled
  3. A sizeable working kitchen, which holds an oven we found FOR FREE when we moved in 8 years ago
  4. My washer and dryer on the first level (oh, so endlessly convenient!)
  5. Walking distance to three parks, three grocery stores, the farmers market, the light rail, the bank, Target, and the library
  6. The wonderful memories of hosting friends, prayer nights, counseling sessions, and family in all our lovely space
  7. Giving birth to both our daughters here
  8. Amazing insulation, thanks to my husband replacing every single window, which keeps our energy bill low and the house warm/cool enough for every season
  9. Hardwood floors
  10. And then there's the obvious - a safe place where our family has grown together
I am looking forward to saying good-bye to this house and I am really happy for its future owner. But I am also so thankful for all that God has given to us in this space!

What about you? Where should you be thanking instead of complaining?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

On The Other Side

Eleven years ago, I met an amazing single woman who was wholeheartedly seeking Jesus. We spent a year interning at our church, wrestling with our faith, sharing lots of smoothies, and getting into each other's messes; we remained friends long enough to start a church together, for my husband to marry her to an equally godly man, and for us to joyfully send them on mission with God in Latin America. Here, she shares some reflections on how God was working to prepare her for this season of ministry, which encourages me greatly as I am in my own season of preparation. 

Dave and Angie in a sweet moment of rest
Almost a year and a half ago, my husband and I moved to San Jose, Costa Rica to be involved in full-time ministry among the people here. There are a lot of practical things we did to prepare for this move, like selling most of our belongings, doing our best to prepare ourselves with solid Biblical teaching and understanding different worldviews, as well as having five part-time jobs to avoid going into debt. There is also an enormous focus on the spiritual side of getting us here which included immense amounts of time spent in prayer, asking other people to commit to praying for us as well, trusting God’s call and His timing as well as raising all of our necessary financial support so we can live overseas and minister fulltime. These things were all incredibly difficult, exhausting, joy-filled and obviously ordained by God for us.

I believe that God controls everything and that He uses everything for His good, that there is no separation between the “practical” and “spiritual” sides of things that I listed above. God was equally interested and involved in both. So, now that I am on this side of the years of preparation, I can say there are six things that God did or used in my life that helped better prepare me for life in a different culture.
  1. I have almost no sense of personal space. Seriously. I love being close to people. Probably uncomfortably close for most people from the States. But it certainly helps when I am jammed on the bus, waiting in line somewhere or making my weekly purchases at the local market. I am very rarely offended by the people constantly touching me and entering my personal bubble because it seems like God didn’t create me with one.
  2. Thirteen years ago I spent many months praying for patience. And instead of being supernaturally given this gift, God decided to teach me patience by putting me in countless situations beyond my control that required me to simply trust He knows how I should use my time. This virtue goes a LONG way in a context where almost nothing starts on time, there is no such thing as a bus schedule (to date the longest I have had to wait is an hour and twelve minutes), I lose water weekly and electricity on a monthly basis. I still get frustrated for sure, but have come a long way and find myself handling these situations with a much better attitude. 
  3. In 2006 I started forcing myself to cook things on a weekly basis that I had never tried to make before. I learned how to make a lot of things from scratch like salad dressing, seasonings, ice cream, bread, etc. This went a LONG way in preparing me for the amount of time I now spend in my kitchen and for the number of items that aren’t available here that I know how to make. 
  4. I am learning to be much more grateful. Instead of being frustrated when I see a cockroach in my cupboard or when my pipes break (for the fifth time in four months) I find myself being grateful for fumigation that has killed most of the bugs in our house and the opportunity to rent. Sure, there are days when I would love my own house and to live in a world where armies of ants were not constantly trying to invade our living space, but most days I find God has filled me with a spirit of gratitude that is clearly only from Him. I truly love my life and believe that I am most richly blessed. 
  5. I grew up on a farm with my nearest neighbors living a whole mile away. I love silence, tranquility and the calm that comes with the farm. But God has given me a love for the city and the people in it. I am used to the noise, handle sharing both side walls of my house with neighbors better than I ever expected, and appreciate public transportation. 
  6. When I started college at the UMN, my psychology class had more people in it (800) than my entire school (K-12) where I grew up. I felt completely suffocated. My very wise advisor told me to take a language course because they cannot have more than 30 students in them. Although I had taken Spanish in high school in order to avoid having to take it in college, I followed her advice. And five years later, by the sheer grace of God, I graduated with a degree in Business AND Spanish. At the time I had no idea what I would do with it. And now, ten years after graduation, I couldn’t be more grateful that I spent that time investing in learning the language of the people I currently serve among. Oh, I still make lots of mistakes, (just last week I gladly shouted, “We are the champions!” But instead actually said, “We are the mushrooms!”) but I LOVE being able to understand and communicate on a deep level here.
Now that we are here, we are overwhelmed by the way God continues to bless us and continually reminds us that we are exactly where He wants us to be.  It is so encouraging to think that when God created me He knew I would be serving in Latin America now and used so many circumstances to prepare me for this life. I am sure while going through some of the learning I was not as joyful as I am on this side of the experience. But hopefully I am learning so that as God continues to grow me I enjoy the process and rejoice in what He is doing, knowing that on the other side I will be more equipped for whatever He has prepared for me. I am learning that not only has he prepared good works for us to walk in (Eph 2:10) but He also prepares us for those good works.

Want to know more about the Ziels and what God is doing in Latin America? Follow their blog, on Twitter, or just enjoy some pictures!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Land That I Love

As you know, I'm preparing to plant a church in Brooklyn pretty soon (woo hoo!). So I thought I'd take a moment, in this little space, to share some info about my new neighborhood. Keep in mind: I've been there ONCE. For ONE DAY. So I really don't know anything about Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I'm moving there because God told me to. For real.

But if you follow pop culture, HBO, or haters-against-normal-women, you might be familiar with Greenpoint because of the hit tv show Girls. I've never seen it, so don't take this as a recommendation. {incidentally, producers are now casting "only well educated and extroverted" girls in a reality tv show based in "hipster Brooklyn"}

A young woman on our team tipped me off to a sweet website that helps people who are relocating to NYC, and the founder recently wrote a short piece on our neighborhood. We have 3 beautiful parks!

Some Midwest musicians just opened Lake Street Bar in Greenpoint, paying homage to Minneapolis. {Apparently, there are multiple connections between Minneapolis and Greenpoint, which is no surprise since the moment I came up from the subway that one day I visited, I instantly felt at home}

And if you're a stats kind of person, you can get your fill of neighborhood info over at City-Data.

So basically I just gave you a bunch of random links with news about Greenpoint. That's what I've got to go on, people.

Do you know something I don't? Please share!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who Are Your People?

Today’s post wraps up our series on protecting yourself from ministry burnout, and I want to build on the practical wisdom that Ned shared. In addition to the theological truths that keep our hearts centered on Jesus, rather than ourselves, I believe that one of the primary reasons our family has not experienced burnout is because we’ve always had safe people in our lives. Broadly speaking, this has been marked by participating in healthy church community, but more specifically, this has meant cultivating vulnerable friendships in which no topic is off limits and no secret left unshared.

Early in our marriage, whenever we met up with a certain couple, one of the four of us always ended up on The Hot Seat. We joked about this repeated pattern of examining each other’s lives, but I believe there was great value in the questions, challenges, and encouragement that came out of those times. As we became more involved with leadership in the church, we kept our lives open to our colleagues and invited them into the (sometimes very) ugly parts of our story.
At nearly every point in our journey, we’ve had mentors. Early in ministry, our mentors were involved in our context and were able to address issues or concerns related to our service. Our former pastor had a habit of asking “are you walking in the Spirit or the flesh today?” As we grew in leadership and met other experienced ministers outside of our church, we benefited from mentors who encouraged us to persevere and offered counsel on sensitive issues.    

I’m also personally convinced that team leadership not only relieves the burdens of ministry but also forces you to evaluate (over and over and over) the state of your heart. Planting a church with another couple is risky and is also scarily similar to getting married. But, just as in marriage, the more you let go of your own ego, the more you move toward your partner(s) in ministry, the more blessing you experience. Ministry teamwork - intimate, truth-wrenching teamwork - exposes your sin, selfishness, and pride, but also provides the safest place to confess these weaknesses and be sanctified.

Of course, in all the examples I’ve listed, it’s not just about having safe people around you. Christian friendships are essentially worthless if you do not share openly about your struggles. I can have all the friends in the world but if I never let them see the dark corners of my heart, then I miss out on the sharpening that they offer. The best trick that Satan plays is convincing Christians that we have something to hide. We are afraid that if others saw the “real me”, then they would reject us; we cover up our messes in an effort to escape shame. And darkness cannot serve the light, so eventually, our feeble attempts to serve the church eventually overwhelm us and we burn out.

I know this to be true: all of us are sinners, wretched and without hope in this world. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who sets us free from these bodies of death! Therefore, we can confidently share our mess with one another, for we have nothing to prove and no one to impress, since there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. {a joyful paraphrase of some of the apostle Paul's words to the church in Rome} 

Friends, whether you are in vocational or lay ministry, whether you are a pastor or volunteer, if you are part of the body of Christ, then you must have "a person" who you trust with your most intimate secrets and, more importantly, who keeps pointing you back to Jesus. We must sympathize with each other, yes, but more than that, we must preach the gospel to each other so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and fall away from the living God. 

How has your person helped you keep seeking Jesus when you wanted to give up?  
How can we help one another find "our people"?  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Due Date

On this day last year, my second daughter was due to be born. Her older sister was 5 days 'late' so I expected to wait a little longer for her arrival. I did not, however, expect to be pregnant 16 days later. I wrote the post below on July 28, 2012. 

I have now been pregnant for 296 days.

That's a pretty significant amount of time to sustain another life inside of you. It's a lot of time to consider the future and attempt to prepare for it. And it's quite a lengthy period to wait.

Many of you have shared this journey with me but I wanted to officially take some time, in this space, to reflect on the awesomeness of these last 296 days. Remembering God's faithfulness is one way I continue to remain hopeful for what lies ahead!
This I recall to my mind; therefore I have HOPE:
the Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning.
Great is your faithfulness.
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore, I have HOPE in him."
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him.
                           ~ the prophet Jeremiah, in his Lamentations (3:21-25)  
This passage has been a repeated and encouraging theme for most of my walk with God. In fact, waiting has been so prevalent in my Christian journey that it's the name of my blog and the most common theme in all my journals over the years. So truly, I should not be surprised that this pregnancy has been another source of waiting, hoping, and trusting in God.

For those of you who follow my blog, you may suspect, as I do, that my recent series on pregnancy and birth is no coincidence. I have been wondering if the Holy Spirit is preparing me for the possibility that the birth of my second child will not be at home and may not be natural. That would be just God's way! Most women have a c-section or hospital birth with their first child, then choose homebirth the second (or 3rd) time around. Given so many other stories in my life, it would not at all surprise me if God granted me such an amazing homebirth with Maren, only to land me in the hospital the second time around. Upside-down nature of his ways, so to speak.

God has been sustaining and providing for me every moment of these 296 days. In particular -
  • he has preserved my health and the health of this baby
  • he has given me the most delightful and understanding 3.5 year old imaginable
  • he has blessed me with a mother-in-law who continues to rearrange her schedule and cancel plans in order to be available both now and in the hour of baby's birth
  • he has surrounded me with a close circle of prayer warriors who listen, encourage, and lift up my needs in all circumstances
  • he keeps sending friends to play with Maren, bring me food, pamper me, and just generally lift my spirits at the most timely moments (i.e., when I'm just about to have a complete meltdown)
  • he reminds me of his grace and gives me visions for the future
  • he has provided many moments of connecting with my husband and daughter, of enjoying our little family of 3, before our family changes
For all of these moments, in the midst of all this waiting, despite the uncertainty of what will happen next, I am grateful. And I am grateful to be grateful right now and not just months from now, looking back. I want to be sanctified.

I have been made right in God’s sight by faith, and I have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ my Lord has done for me. Because of my faith, Christ has brought my into this place of undeserved privilege where I now stand, and I confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

I can rejoice, too, when I run into problems and trials, for I know how troubles can develop passionate patience in me, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping me alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, I'm never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—I can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into my life through the Holy Spirit!

~ encouragement from the apostle Paul to the Roman church (5:3-5)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Few Good Laughs

As I mentioned in my previous post, I don't have enough time to enjoy (or work) every moment of each day. This includes not being able to read every blog I love, check Facebook more than once a week, or thoroughly examine my Twitter feed. Which means that I choose my moments and my options carefully.

If you need a little more laughter in your life, especially if you are a parent or want to avoid becoming one, then I encourage you to check out The Honest Toddler blog or follow on Twitter. I've included a few snapshots here today to give you a feel for how honestly this toddler shares about life from the kid's perspective. Enjoy!

From Twitter:
How is sharing different from a pyramid scheme.

Parents: It's unfair to put your toddler on a leash if you're not going to also let them pee next to parked cars.

If you know a discreet plumber who specializes in not jumping to conclusions please get me in contact. Today please. I can't pay in $$ so take something from the house. Use back entrance. If you see an adult just run.

If you have pictures of me in a time out please know that those could have been from weeks ago. cc Santa

The Truth About Car Sleep (excerpt) 
If you’ve ever thought to yourself that your child is from a “different planet,” you’re not far from the truth! Alas, we toddlers are not aliens- har har, but we do exist in a dimension all our own; one that allows us access to high levels of energy (you may have noticed). The dimension we live in is closer in proximity to the light. I can’t go any deeper into that without violating confidentiality clauses and at least 14 treaties. We can see things you can’t see blah blah blah. OK.

Unless you drive a purely *electric vehicle, your car contains an internal combustion engine. In simple terms, high energy fuel (gasoline) is ignited in an enclosed space. The result is a high amount of energy released.

When the elementary particles in the combustion engine and the outer dimensional field toddlers exist in that mimics the speed of light collide, something spectacular happens. Upon colliding, the particles vaporize into pure energy. This immediately overwhelms us as it feels like Mentos and Coke have erupted in our psyches. Some of us scream. Others cry and resist the carseat like it is a portal to Hades. If it is close to naptime, most of us will be sent into sleep mode as a natural guard against dangerous overwhelm.

The pure energy released creates a outer space like dark matter-rich force-field that creates the perfect conditions for gravitational time dilation. When you look in your rearview mirror, you see a cherub sleeping and only a few minutes passing. But in our dimension, 1 minute equals an hour. Three minutes for you, three hours for us.

The problem is that while some toddlers will come out of the warp sleep happy and rested, most of us experience a post radiation “hangover,” if you will. Headaches. Confusion. Slight nausea. You drink, right? You know what this feels like. Combine this with an impatient parent upset that they missed out on three hours of child-less bliss (whatever) and an emotional fallout is likely.

In light of The Honest Toddler, do you have any fun stories to share about how a kid drove you crazy recently? What's a good tagline from your own childhood?