Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in spirit, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

Oh Lord,

Teach me to seek You and reveal yourself to me when I seek You.

For I cannot seek You unless You first teach me, nor find You unless You first reveal yourself to me.

Let me seek You in longing, and long for You in seeking.

Let me find You in love, and love You in finding.

~Saint Ambrose of Milan

<< # St. Blog's Parish ? >>

Name: Erin Yonke

Location: Aurora, IL

Info: I'm happily married to my husband and champion pro-life activist, Matt. I stay home with my three small boys; Ambrose (11/06), Peter (3/08), and Joseph (9/10).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birth, take three. Part two.

Let me tell you a little something about birth preparation.

It's a bunch of hooey.

I'm kidding, sort of. But I will say this: while I was pregnant with Joseph, I ate really well. Loads of protein, tons of vegetables--my diet was pristine, with few rare exceptions. I was very active and walked easily several miles each day with the kids. I did prenatal yoga almost every day--5 times a week, minimum. I drank, quite literally, ONE GALLON of red raspberry leaf tea EVERY DAY through my second and third trimester. I was taking other birth herbs, too.

And so, as I stood in my kitchen during the wee hours of Friday morning, September 10th, having spent the last 24 hours in early labor with very little progress, I couldn't help but wonder why I hadn't done exactly what I wanted to do all these months: spent my days lying around, eating brownies and drinking cokes until the baby just, you know, popped out.

Matt, who was still awake, asked how things were going and I mumbled something about the baby never coming out and how I didn't think being sedated during labor would really be that bad. I did some laundry and then tried to sleep again. Still awful.

Somewhere between 1am and 2am contractions spread out pretty significantly and started growing more intense. They were longer. I'd say they were coming every 10-12 minutes, and lasting a whole minute. Now we're getting somewhere, I thought. Each wave got me out of bed, leaning against the door frame or pacing the hall. Needless to say, there wasn't much sleep to be had.

I rested in bed at 4:00, drifting off and waiting for the next contraction.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up at 4:30--hadn't I been having contractions? I shrugged it off and welcomed the sleep that, at long last, seemed to come easily.

I woke up at 6am, flustered. All I could think was, OH MY GOSH, WHY AM I NOT PUSHING THIS BABY OUT RIGHT NOW? The September sun was already peeking through my bedroom curtains. I wasn't even having contractions. Nothing. Flat nothing.

I wanted to cry, but I was too tired.

I got up to use the bathroom, then came back to bed.


I rolled over.


They were not "good ones".

I tried to sleep a little more, but gave up and got out of bed after a few minutes. I went for a walk.

The sky was beautiful and clear, but my mind was cloudy. The weather was cool--so cool, in fact, that I caught a glimpse of my anklebones for the first time in weeks. I thanked God for the merciful, sweet relief from the 95-degree days.

I felt horrible. I was so tired. It was a strange brand of exhaustion, too. My body knew it was doing something important, I'm sure. My mind, however, was growing skeptical. I couldn't fathom what the day held for me, or how I could possibly cope with being left with the boys all day. I ran over the night in my mind, over and over. I just couldn't stop thinking, Oh. my. gosh. Why am I still pregnant?

My anxiety died down a bit when I got home, and I dedicated myself to being as normal as possible. I had to welcome the rest, I told myself. I threw in another load of laundry and made coffee. By this time, the boys were waking up and we ate breakfast together. I was starving.

At some point in the night, Matt had hooked up the hose for the birth pool to the kitchen sink. Oh, the heartache. The baby was never coming out. I knew it now. I detached the hose. Matt got ready for work. I showered and dressed. I emailed my midwife to let her know that things had fizzled. The baby was, officially, never. coming. out.

Shortly following my concession to be pregnant forever, contractions started again. 7-10 minutes apart, lasting a little less than a minute. I was annoyed.

I decided, at this point, to jump into distraction mode with both feet. I had an appointment scheduled with my midwife that evening, and I was bound and determined to fill up my entire day until then. Matt left for work, and the boys and I played outside. We went for a walk and played in the sandbox. I baked brownies and watched episodes of Little Bear online. I was having contractions every 10 minutes all day, and they were hard.

I tried and failed to rest while the boys napped that afternoon. It was just so uncomfortable. Everything was so uncomfortable. When they got up, my friend Tessa and her two boys went to the park with us. "So," she said, "Did you have a false start last night?" I sighed. "Yeah...I don't know. I think I kind of am in labor." What I meant to say was: I think I am in labor, and I think I'm going to be in labor forever, because my baby is never coming out.

I wanted to hold my baby. I wanted to BE holding my baby.

They were the best diversion, though. The weather was so nice, the adult conversation was so refreshing, and the kids played and played--for hours. By the time we were walking back home, contractions were noticeably more intense. It was 5:30, and Matt was home from work, strumming his banjo in the living room. I left shortly after for my appointment.

I was starving.

At Christina's office, I waited in the waiting room with another woman who was 20 weeks along with her first baby. I felt like an elephant (an uncomfortable, tired, and grouchy elephant who was still having contractions....maybe every five minutes now), and I wanted to tell her not to believe the lies--babies don't really come out, they just live in your uterus forever and ever and swim around like a fish in a fishbowl. I didn't, though.

Karen, the nurse, was there too, and she was so nice. She took my blood pressure and we chatted about the day, the contractions, and the night before. Christina checked me. I was 4cm and almost completely effaced. Baby was at station zero. She swept membranes and sent me home with instructions to try to rest, and to call if things picked up within the hour.

Why did I drive myself to that appointment? The contractions immediately following the exam were biting--my body was kicking into active labor, and I almost immediately started to feel shaky and nauseated.

When I got home, I tried to relax, but my anxiety level was really high. The contractions were painful--much, much more painful than early active labor contractions with the others. Matt offered to take the boys to the store to stock up on some laboring drinks and a few other things, and off they went. I went about doing a few things around the house. Contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes, still lasting less than a minute. I called Christina to let her know that things were, indeed, picking up, though certainly not imminent or urgent.

Being alone was horrible. The contractions were horrible. I couldn't relax, I couldn't calm down, and I didn't understand why--I didn't expect to feel that way at all. I was afraid. I was absolutely terrified, and I didn't know how to deal with it.

I tried to console myself. Maybe I am dilating quickly, I thought. I pulled the box of birth supplies out of the spare room and swept the floors. I washed some dishes and waited for Matt to arrive home with the boys.

They got home shortly after 7:30. We got the kids ready for bed, and Peter was being especially difficult and requesting that *I* do everything for him. At this point, I was really feeling it. I had the shakes, really bad. My legs trembled uncontrollably. I was starving, still--but felt too nauseous to eat. The contractions were hard to deal with, sweeping over my body in that way that makes you feel like you're suffocating. What it felt like, honestly, was like I was about to hit transition.

I knew I needed to relax. Karen was on her way to our house, and I knew I had a long way to go before this baby was coming out.

Karen arrived with orders from Christina to check my progress. It was 8:30 or so, and I was, in my mind, hoping at least to be 5 or 6cm, though it felt more like 7 or 8.

I wasn't. I was still 4cm.

At this point, Karen went to bed in our spare room while my spirits plummeted. I was done. I didn't want to do this anymore, and as far as I could tell, things weren't even progressing--they were just getting more and more painful.

I started devising elaborate plans in my mind. How was I going to get out of this? I'll call my mom, I thought. She will understand. She will take me to the hospital and get me an epidural and a c-section and a nice glass of orange juice and then this whole ridiculous nightmare will be over. Okay. That's what I'll do. This thought was warm and fuzzy and brought me abundant comfort, even though I never even picked up the phone to call her.

The shaking was almost as bad as the contractions themselves. I had planned to wait much longer, but decided to fill the birth pool to help me relax and to soothe some of the tension in the wrong places. It was awesome. The warmth eased the trembling almost immediately. My unhinged, rampant anxiety and terror settled into more of a quiet despair. The swarm of I can'ts that muddled my thoughts became more concrete. I just couldn't do this, and that was that. Calmly, I said, "Matt, I think we should go to the hospital."

There have only been a few times in our marriage that I have seen Matt's face look that way--totally caught off-guard and unprepared for what I had just said. He always knows exactly what to say, exactly what I'm about to say, and how to respond. But just then he looked alarmed and confused and I could tell he was struggling to find some encouragement. "Oh--no--no, we shouldn't do that. Why would you say that?"
"I want drugs. I want a c-section, and I want to go to the hospital because I don't want to do this. I think we should just go."
"Um. No, sweetie, you're doing fine. You don't want--"
"Yeah. I do. I want it all."
"I'm just...I'm going to go call Renee," he said, pulling his phone out of his pocket and heading for the front porch.

Good, I thought, dejectedly. Maybe she'll take me to the hospital.

He made an excellent call.

She didn't take me to the hospital, though. I'm not sure what exactly he said to her on the phone, but she did come over shortly thereafter. I was sitting in the pool, still plotting about how I was going to get my epidural. She sat next to me, held my hand, soothed my nerves, and reminded me with so much sureness that I did not, in fact, want a c-section--what I wanted, truly, was for the whole experience to not hurt. And that was simply not an option. She. was. phenomenal.

It was probably 10:30 at this point, maybe 11. My friend Renata (who had planned to attend the birth) came over with Zoe, her (then) 6-month-old (my goddaughter!). As soon as she was there, the last shred of my epidural fantasy faded, because I knew Renata wouldn't stand for it. And I knew she was right.

And so, I labored on. I was in the pool, then out of the pool. It felt good to bear down just a little with the contractions. I leaned on a birth ball, swaying with each wave. We chatted and swapped birth stories and I was so thankful to not only not be alone, but to have such incredible company.

I don't remember when Christina got there. I remember her arriving, but don't remember the time. Midnight? 1am? I was a "stretchy 6cm". It hurt so much. So much. I was exhausted. I'd get in the water and contractions would slow, almost to a stop, leaving me with the agonizing choice between the sweet relief and forcing myself up and onward.

Matt baked a pizza for everyone at 2 o'clock. He was constantly checking the pool temperature and boiling water on the stove to keep it warm.

It was at 3am that I went outside for a walk. Not far, just back and forth on the sidewalk outside our house. Renata walked with me, and I bemoaned the fact that I wasn't holding my baby right then. I mentioned that I wanted Christina to break my water. She urged me to press on a little longer, and after a few trips back and forth with little improvement or progress, we went back inside.


I ate a bowl of cereal. It was at 4:30 that Christina suggested the breaking of the waters, and I heartily agreed. With the very next contraction, I knew I'd hit transition. It brought about a whole new wave of pain--above and beyond what I ever expected labor could possibly feel like. It brought a new level of "I can'ts", shakiness, nausea, fear. Karen encouraged me to rest, to try to sleep between contractions, and I did. I slept between them, but by the third wave I couldn't take it. I got back in the pool.

So. Much. Pain.

The next hour was a blur of pain and power. It felt like drowning, struggling to keep my head above the magnitude of the contractions, and then submitting. At 5:35, I started pushing. I remember, even at this point, I didn't fully expect the baby to actually ever come out.

I had hoped that pushing would bring some relief from the intensity, but it didn't. It hurt. It was hard. I was first semi-squatting, then squatting, and then finally on my hands and knees in the water. At some point during this, Ambrose woke up and cried out in his bed. Matt dealt sweetly with him and put him right back to sleep--and I was so, so thankful for his obedience.

By 5:45, the baby's head was out. With the next contraction, I expected the shoulders to come out, but they took at least two more pushes.

And then, THEN there was this:

At 5:54am, Saturday morning, September 11th, our third son was born. Joseph Sebastian Yonke, weighing in at 7lbs, 8oz. He was 20 inches long.

I have never been so happy to see anyone in my entire life. The moment was filled with all the exclamations you'd expect to hear: "Hi!" "I love you!" "I'm so happy you're here!" "I am SO happy you're here!" and, of course, "It's a boy!" I heard the 6:00 church bells chime. it was beginning to grow light outside.

He didn't cry right away and wasn't breathing well, but was receiving cord blood and eventually pinked up and cried one of the very sweetest cries I've ever heard.

Sweet victory. Sweet relief. Utter joy.

My toddlers were perfect angels. They waited long enough for me to get stitched up (only one stitch!), and robed and comfortable on the couch before getting out of bed. Renata took a trip to the store and returned with donuts and orange juice for everyone and a gorgeous bouquet. The baby nursed and nursed like a pro. And it was sweet. It was so. very. sweet.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Birth, take three. Part one.

Well, as usual, it's been awhile. Let me introduce any followers who may have not already met the handsome young man pictured on the left. This sweet brown-eyed bundle is my third son, Joseph Sebastian Yonke, born September 11, 2010.

It's taken me awhile to write about Joseph's birth for a number of reasons. Aside from being the third baby in a few short years, there was alot of other chaos following his birth that left me in a place that wasn't--or hasn't been--conducive to writing the story the way it needs to be told. His birth and the weeks following were so complex--so long, with so many twists and turns, it took some real time and processing to sort it out in my own head, let alone for someone else to read.

I was blessed this time to have two very good friends with me for the birth, along with an absolutely fantastic midwife and nurse, and, of course, my beloved husband who catered to my every whim during the whole thing. It was difficult--the most painful of my three labors--but was made so much more pleasant because I had such pleasant, caring company.

There have been plenty of theories passed around about what we should have done differently, and how the birth could have been made better from both inside and outside sources--good, wise suggestions and discussions that I loved being able to share, but in a way, it left a residue of inadequacy--of feeling like his birth was flawed somehow, or that it wasn't a good birth. It's taken some time for me to make peace with the way his delivery was, the things I would do differently if I could, and, also, realizing that I can't.

After spending these months with my sweet, sweet Joseph, I have learned much about mothering, and what it is to be a good mother. Good mothers have babies who get sick. Good mothers have babies who cry. Yes, even breastfed babies. Even babies born at home. Yes. Even babies who co-sleep and baby-wear and cloth diaper, or any number of other things that we crunchy moms like to believe will make our children super-human. Good mothers sometimes find themselves in less-than-ideal situations, even when they've done everything "right", or made the very best decisions that they could. And that doesn't necessarily mean they did something wrong, or that they've failed at being good mothers. Good mothers have to make tough decisions and do hard, painful, unpleasant things. They have to trust their instincts--and they have to refine their instincts with knowledge. Good mothers trust deeply in their bodies and their hearts, but trust more deeply in the righteousness and goodness of their God. And sometimes that means not taking the advice of friends, or doctors, or other knowledgeable, good mothers. Sometimes it means enduring the scrutiny of other good mothers or friends or doctors who wouldn't have made the same decisions as they did.

And so I've been thinking and rethinking, what defines a good birth? A healthy baby? A healthy mother? A vaginal birth? An unmedicated birth? A home birth? Water birth? Fast birth? Perfectly medium-paced birth? I think it's important to separate our ideals from what is simply good and what is best for us--to recognize that a good birth is not necessarily our "ideal" birth, but it is dealing with the twists and turns in ways that are gentle to our bodies and our babies' bodies. It's allowing our minds and hearts to work with our bodies to do what they need to do without harsh critique. And that is why I want to tell the story of Joseph's labor and birth, the way it felt to me, without dissection or analysis, without rethinking what I should have done differently--and to recognize that his birth was, indeed, a very good birth.

And so, I present to you:

Labor: Part One.

When I went to bed on Wednesday evening, September 8th, I knew things were starting to happen. Not anything imminent to be sure, but there were rumblings of things to come and I knew that the baby would be born soon. I tossed and turned with light contractions through the early part of the night and found it hard to get comfortable enough to sleep well. I got up to use the bathroom (to be fair, it was one of the many, many times I got up to use the bathroom that night) at 2:00 and had a good, strong contraction. The baby felt really, really low. The contractions stayed strong for the rest of the night, and I didn't sleep much at all after that. By 5, I thought I'd be calling the midwife sometime that day, probably that evening, but continued to try to rest for another hour or so.

The boys were up by 7 and we all went about our usual morning routine. I had a distinct "I-think-I'm-in-early-labor" buzz, despite being really, really tired. The weather was cooler, and cloudy. Contractions had spread out a bit, but were still notable and coming regularly. I finished up some sewing projects and went for a walk with the boys. By the end of the walk, I was having frequent, short, irritable contractions--and was beginning to feel pretty irritable myself. I was tired and uncomfortable. The boys were being uncooperative and fighting naps and I was running out of patience.

At this point, contractions puttered out for a bit. My mom called and offered to take the boys for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and I could have bowed at her feet. Matt left his office a little early to run work errands and I tagged along with plans to go out for dinner afterward.

Through the car trip and walking through Office Max, contractions picked up speed again. These are good ones, I thought. They were growing increasingly uncomfortable, coming regularly 7 minutes apart. We tried to find a restaurant after that, and honestly, I was so famished and ill at ease with contractions that I probably would have settled for a happy meal.

We found, however, a really cute 50's-themed diner and were the only people there. I was starving. We chatted about work, and finally concluded that, if our baby was indeed a boy, his name would be Joseph. Joseph Sebastian. We talks about St. Sebastian and read his story on Matt's iphone--the saint who was martyred twice.

After eating, contractions were growing stronger still. Still 5-7 minutes apart. I remember distinctly discussing the possibility of some friends coming through town on Saturday evening, and Matt was pressing me to agree to have them for dinner. Feeling a bit bewildered, I paused for a contraction and then blurted, "Honey, we are going to have a BABY before Saturday evening."

We lingered a bit after dinner and then went home for a few minutes before heading out to pick up the boys from my folks' house. The car ride to DeKalb was bad. The contractions were powerful and uncomfortable and I was growing confident that things were moving steadily in the right direction.

My mom could tell almost immediately that I was feeling it, and semi-jokingly begged me to not have the baby in the next day, since she was going to be really busy.

The 30-minute ride home was also rough. "I think this may be our night," I told Matt, still uncertain. I remember feeling really hungry again. The contractions were coming with lots of pressure.

At home, we put the boys to bed. I took a bath and drank a glass of wine, hoping to relax enough to sleep. We watched some Hulu, I emailed my midwife to let her know that things seemed to be starting and that I would give her a call when they picked up.

I went to sleep at 10pm, and it was miserable. Perhaps it was less restful than hiking, or aerobic exercise. I really mean it--it was awful. My body and mind were exhausted, but my uterus wanted me to be up, moving with the contractions. I got up at midnight feeling like I'd just completed a really intense workout. Shaky, tired, and starving. I drank a bunch of water and ate a sandwich. It was here that my spirits really started to drop. Things were happening, but not nearly as quickly as I had hoped they would. I was totally exhausted and sleep continued to elude me. My hope of having a baby that night was fading.