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).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charlotte's birth story: A Story of Pleasant Surprises, Part II

--Part Two--

I awoke after my deliciously sound sleep at 5:45am on Thursday, July 12 (after almost 9 hours of sleep! Oh, sweet surprise!) with a contraction.  Strong, but not remarkably stronger than the contractions I'd been having the previous days.  I went back to sleep.  An hour later, however, I was growing certain that this was the real deal. Contractions were 5 minutes apart, and they hurt.  It was 7am.

I awoke to a text from Karen (aforementioned midwife) who was checking in, and one from my mom.  After updating them both, my mom said she was on her way to come get the boys, and the midwives and I would be in touch.  Distracted Husband distractedly asks, "So, do you think I should stay home today?"  (He did. and quickly proved himself dedicated, not distracted.)

I went around getting things ready.  I packed a diaper bag and fed kids breakfast.  Contractions were pretty erratic, but strong, and I was quite relieved when my mom's van pulled into the driveway.  As soon as my whiny darlings were on their way, contractions normalized.


Today, though, I had a plan.  I was going to do the laundry (including the rest of the baby clothes), make the bed (birth-style, with my birthy sheets), take a shower, make banana bread, and then go to my so-desired nail appointment at 1:30.  Then I'd  have the baby, with my nails looking awesome.

So off I went.  I folded laundry on the living room floor, kneeling next to a dining room chair during contractions.  I cleaned up the kids' breakfast, and put another load in the wash.  Contractions were definitely stronger now, 3-5 minutes apart.  I ate some toast, but truly couldn't stomach anything else at that point.  I made the bed and double checked all my birth supplies. The house was quiet, and I felt peaceful, purposeful, and strong.

  By the time I got to the kitchen to make banana bread (almost noon at this point), I was vocalizing with contractions and could feel myself slipping into "labor land"- the deepest, darkest part of the black hole.  I wasn't afraid anymore, though, and I let it come and go.

I got my bread into the oven and texted Karen and Christina (the other midwife).  It wasn't time yet, I told them, but it was "very hurty".   Karen called shortly after and we agreed that she should come check things out.  I was still fairly convinced that I was only in early labor at this point.  I expected to get checked at about 4cm, and head out to my nail appointment.

I took a shower as we waited for Karen.  She arrived around 12:30.  We sat on the living room floor and listened to the baby's heartbeat and talked about... ... I don't even know what we talked about.  I mentioned that I didn't think I had progressed very far, and that I wanted to get to my mani-pedi.  I also said that if, by some chance, I was further along, say 7-8cm, that I wanted to have my water broken (this is a decision made based on three previous labors wherein my water has not broken on it's own, and a history of having the baby relatively quickly after breaking the water.)  This discussion took place between contractions which were now flooded with I can't, I can'ts.  Ok.  This was really starting to hurt.

When Karen checked me, she said the only thing she could feel was a bulging sac.  Well, that was a pleasant surprise.  It was baby time.  We called Christina, who promptly headed over to get this show on the road.  I continued laboring on the bed for awhile, leaning against a stack of pillows.

Christina got to our house a few minutes after 1pm.  She broke my water at 1:10.  Things escalated pretty quickly here.  I started bearing down within a few contractions, kneeling on the living room floor, leaning against a chair.  "I don't know, Erin," Karen said after a contraction, "I think you could still make your nail appointment."  My midwives are hilarious enough to make a woman laugh moments before she has a baby.

The next little while felt like an eternity.  Christina suggested that I hold off on pushing for a few contractions.  The baby was stuck behind my pubic bone, which was slowing things down a bit.

Ok.  So I waded through a few contractions.  Those were the very worst, awful minutes of the whole thing.  In my mind, I was doing this for hours, but in reality it couldn't have been more than a few minutes.

At last, a strong urge to push.  Christina directed in me in pushing while kneeling on one knee through a contraction, then kneeling on the other through the next.  This helped the baby descend a bit more.  Still seemed to be lasting an eternity.

What happened next was one of the most awesome moments of my entire life.  (I think the moment that you push a baby out is always one of the most awesome moments, but this was one of the best for me).  Still kneeling one one knee in the living room, I remembered far, far back in my mind,

A full squat can shorten the birth canal by almost 30%.

A 30% off deal has never sounded so good. I pulled myself onto my feet, into a squat, pushing on my knees with my elbows.  With my next push, out came baby's head.  And with the next, shoulders, and all in a blur, there was my baby.   Oh, it was over.  Hallelujah.

And it was a girl.

Born at 2pm, we met our fourth child and our first daughter. 7lbs, 0oz and 19 inches long.  We named her (several days later!) Charlotte Magdalena Marie, after Blessed Sister Charlotte, martyred in the French Revolution, and Saint Mary Magdalene, whose feast day falls just a few days after her birthday.

And that, my friends, is both the end and the beginning.  Thank you for reading.

Charlotte's Birth Story: A story of Pleasant Surprises, Part I

It's taken me a few months to write a birth story.  I guess that isn't so surprising.  My preferred mode of birth-story-writing is being alone, cozied up on the couch (alone), in a thoroughly clean house (alone), with wine (alone), while neglecting all other responsibilities. Alone. Believe it or not, it's sort of hard to accomplish around here.

 This time has been a little different, I guess. Even in the absence of external silence, Advent is upon us, calling us to seek internal silence, internal emptiness, preparing room for the coming of Christ into the world and into our hearts. It's when we find silence in our souls that we really hear our own pulses, aware that each beat of our heart is a knock on death's door.   Understanding birth, in so many ways, is like understanding death.   It's taken some clearing and quieting of my soul to sort through the magnificent thing that is giving birth, and so here it is, at last, Charlotte's birth story:  A story of change, and of pleasant surprises.

--Part one--

I can't say that Charlotte's pregnancy was filled with excitement. Not a giddy excitement, anyway. The pregnancy itself was pretty comfortable.  I was healthy. I took care of myself, and we were all happy enough, quite thankful that another healthy addition to our family was in the works. But, with three little boys and their perpetual (read: constant, unrelenting) demands, the prospect of adding a newborn to the mix didn't thrill me or anything.  In fact, I didn't really think about the baby very much at all.  Labor and birth loomed ahead of me like a big black hole, and I was vaguely aware that beyond that horrible, horrible place, there was a new person whom I would love, who would change me forever-- but honestly, it was an afterthought.  I mean, really.  This was a big. black. hole.

 I took very little joy in preparing for the birth and for the new baby. I felt quite certain that we were preparing to meet Baby Boy #4, which was all well and good, but frankly, it was feeling very 'old hat' by now.  The thought of all things baby-related sparked waves of anxiety over giving birth and the neediness of a newborn.  It all felt very difficult and very heavy.

 I remember realizing, one day as I was watching the boys play in the sandbox, that when I had my first baby, I felt anxious  because I didn't know what to expect.  As I prepared to have my fourth, I felt this way because I knew exactly what to expect.  I knew, so very well this time, that on the other side of this scary, scary black hole, I would be a different person.  Again.  And that I would have to change and adapt and become a mother to a whole new person, whom I had never met.  That kind of adaptation and growth is phenomenal.  It's also exhausting.  And you know, I was already feeling awfully tired.

As my due date grew nearer, the summer was growing blisteringly hot.  Oh, it was so hot.   The heat was downright  inescapable- the kind of heat that works its way under your skin and just won't get out.  So here I was, tired and hot (have I mentioned how hot it was? Have I mentioned that I was tired?).  Matt was working late nights at the office night after night.

 Many of you read my last birth story, and you'll remember how long that labor was (think days, not hours).  I was very afraid of laboring that way again, and that fear grew and festered and bred like an infection in an open wound. I wanted it to be over, and the hard part hadn't even started.  I prayed, and my prayers were jumbled. What I really wanted to pray for was that I wouldn't have to do it, and that it wouldn't hurt.  

My 40th week happened, not-so-conveniently, to coincide with my husband's busiest work week of the year.  He left early each morning and returned home late each night.  On Monday, July 9th, I started having contractions.  I was 39 weeks, 2 days.   These were good, strong, deep contractions that um...totally freaked me out.  We had reached the black hole, and it was sucking me in. Doom.

But anyway, it was Monday.   Erratic contractions.  I wasn't timing anything, but knew that this whole thing was going to be over soon.  (Think days, not weeks.)  Fitful sleep on Monday night.  Painful contractions, but not in active labor.  Distracted husband.  Noisy children.    I awoke on Tuesday feeling like panic was about to take hold.  Contractions started to normalize a bit in the morning. I'd say they were about 10 minutes apart.  I was officially in limbo.

Now, I am fortunate to have good friends.  Friends who understand why I choose to birth the way I do, who also understand my anxiety.   My friend (and neighbor) Renata , who attended my last birth, had us over to visit that Tuesday afternoon.    I sat on her couch with my feet up, eating fine cheese and apples.  We listened to music and she tended to my children's every whim.  Total delight.  When I left her house, my anxiety had quieted considerably.  My faith in my body had been restored and I felt strong.   I was strong because my friend gave me courage.  Quite literally, she encouraged me when I felt that my own courage had run out.

Tuesday night was also fitful, however.  Contractions woke me up frequently, though I managed to get a few consecutive hours in before I was harshly awakened by my boys and their cruel, discompassionate demands for food and drink and clothing and yada, yada, yada.

I might not live through this day, I thought as I dragged myself out of bed.  In fact, I will likely die.  I AM PROBABLY GOING TO DIE BEFORE THIS DAY ENDS.  

Deep breath.

No.  All I need is a plan.  A plan will fix everything.  I AM GOING TO MAKE A PLAN.

To make matters worse, moments before dashing out the door, Distracted Husband distractedly asks, "So, are you in labor or what? Oh, my ride is here.  Gotta go!" And with that, Distracted Husband was gone in a flash.

I wasted exactly no time before totally losing my cool.   Didn't the whole world realize that I was being sucked into a terrifying black vortex of pain and suffering at a tortuously slow pace?  Panic levels were um....escalating.

Contractions at this point were slightly more consistent than the day before.  About 10 minutes apart, definitely strong, lasting about 40 seconds.  I had some bloody show in the late morning and texted my midwives to let them know that things were gearing up.  (And gosh, it is seriously nice to have midwives who text directly back and forth with you. Wow.)

A plan, a plan, I need a plan.  I didn't have a plan, though, and I was having a hard time holding it together.  I fed the kids breakfast, dressed them, turned the AC on, and plopped them in front of a movie. (That's what good moms do when it's a million degrees and they're in early labor.  Trust me.)  I called a salon to set up an appointment for a mani-pedi (a late pregnancy gift from Distracted Husband).  I was hoping they'd get me in that day to take my mind off of baby-limbo, but alas.  No openings until tomorrow.  I sat on a birth ball and chatted, via Facebook, with a few friends about the status of things and about my general panic-strickenness.

My friend, Renee, who also debuted in my last birth story, chatted with me, and she was ready to make a plan.

Hallelujah, I thought, she has a plan.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt, momentarily, like I could keep my head above the panic.

My 18-year-old sister Kyla offered to come out after she got off work (at 1pm)  to help me with the kids (because I have awesome family, too), and quickly a plan fell into place.  Kyla agreed to spend a few hours with my boys while I went out thrifting with Renee.

I took a shower and got dressed.  I made lunch for the boys.  After a few really strong contractions around 1 o'clock, I noticed more bloody show.

At 2pm, Renee and Kyla showed up.  Renee and I headed out, leaving Kyla and the lunch mess and crying toddlers behind (I love Kyla. Really.).  It just didn't matter to me at that point.

So, we went thrifting.  You should know that Renee is not just a friend that you go thrifting with.  Renee is the Queen of Thrift.  You are guaranteed to find something good when you enter a thrift store with that woman.

We looked at everything.  Of course, we looked at baby clothes and blankets, and we found a few cute things for Baby Boy #4.  For the first time that pregnancy I felt the -zing!- .  That -zing!- that was the realization that soon, soon, I was going to meet this baby, and that whatever amount of pain lay between him and me was a small, small obstacle. Because I loved him. I was excited. Really.  Finally.

She implored me to look at baby girl things, and I agreed. We found a couple of really cute, flowery newborn sleepers, and I abandoned my hesitation to buy girly things.  I enjoyed having cute new-to-me baby items for either gender, and I enjoyed the mystery.  (Even though I was *definitely* having another boy.)

Still having contractions, let's not forget.  About 10 minutes apart.

We found The Blanket. This blanket.  It was the blanket that made me think, I cannot wait until I hold my baby.  And, I really hope this baby is a girl because I REALLY WANT TO USE THIS BLANKET.

And we found the birth sheets.  I can't really explain this one, but if you've prepared for a home (non-water) birth, you understand that you need sheets, and that you want to like them without valuing them.  Does that make sense?  Maybe not.  Anyway, these were brightly colored striped sheets that I liked.  They were birthy sheets.

We checked out with our exciting new baby and birth items and then my dear friend took me out for dinner.  It was about 4:30.  One of my midwives, Karen, texted to ask how I was doing, and I gave a brief update, letting her know that contractions were still slow and steady.

We sat outside and ordered burgers. Mine was oh-so-good, and I was ravenous.  We talked about birth, and about the mystery that birth is.  Giving birth is not about doing, it's about receiving and opening.  It's about entering the dark unknown, and accepting pain and total transformation of body and soul.  It's about allowing yourself to become a vessel- the hollowing out of yourself to make room for another.  It happens to you. It is amazing and beautiful.  It is not, however, painless.

I'll remember that night forever.  Lovely.

As she drove me home, Renee picked up Wendy's for my boys so I wouldn't have to cook dinner for them when I got there.  Did you catch that?  She bought my kids' dinner.  Amazing friends, I tell you.

On returning home, my sister was hanging out with a crew of noisy, rambunctious boys. Renee headed home. Kyla and I fed the rambunctious boys, and she cleaned up.  Contractions picked up for awhile here, about 5 minutes apart, and I was having a hard time dealing with kids + contractions + heat + fatigue.  It was 7pm, and Kyla headed home.  I got the boys ready for bed, put all of my newly-thrifted baby stuff into the wash, and poured myself a big glass of wine.  Matt got home from work around 8.  I finished my wine, took a long bath, and went to bed.

I slept that night, and I slept hard.  I wasn't anxious and I wasn't afraid anymore.  I didn't know what the day ahead of me had in store, but I felt strong.  I had courage because my friends gave it to me, and so I slept.

Click here for part II :)