Monday, September 30, 2013

Veronica's Pregnancy

As the story of Teresa's birth was quite long all on its own, I decided not to include the details of another pregnancy in our family. Veronica's.

Throughout the past nine months, Veronica has experienced many symptoms. Her back has hurt. Her head has hurt. And quite regularly, she has reminded us of the baby in her tummy.

Well, coincidentally, when I went into labor, so did Veronica. Every few minutes or so, she would announce to the room, "I'm having another one," meaning another contraction. And as I would breathe through my contractions, so would she. "Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hooooooo." For a woman in such pain, she was also very helpful to me. She would play with my hair, hold my hand and walk with me.

The boys had very different reactions to my labor. Noah really just went on with life and acted like nothing was happening. Joshua wanted to be near me, to know how often my contractions were coming and to help me. He also played with my hair, held my hand and walked through contractions with me. 

It is unclear whether Veronica's baby has been delivered or not. Occasionally she is taking care of her new baby. But at other times, she is holding her abdomen and telling us that the baby is hurting.

However, her hormones seem to be producing in high gear. We have had a lot of meltdowns this past week. And occasionally when I haven't understood why she was upset, I've asked why she was sad and in response she cries in a confused, frustrated way, "I don't knoooooooow!" Yes, Veronica, I completely understand.

Veronica came down with a cold the day I began labor, so when she came to visit in the hospital two days later, she had to wear a mask. The boys both ended up with the cold too, but so far neither Jason, Teresa or I have caught it. Knock on wood!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Teresa is Here!

*****This is a long post. I write it really for myself, so that I don't forget the details of Teresa's arrival. But of course, I share it for anyone who wants to read.*****

About one week ago, on Thursday the 19th, there was a big, beautiful, full harvest moon. I had noted this on my calendar at least a month prior, hoping that the old wives' tale may be true and that the pull of the full moon would put me into labor before my due date on the 22nd.

On that Thursday, I had a doctor's appointment at 6pm. I didn't even want to go. I had just been one week before and doubted the necessity of such regular appointments or that there would be any update. Joshua had been delivered by cesarean and both Noah and Veronica by VBAC, both of which were very long labors. Despite having had contractions on most nights last week, I really didn't believe that any real progress had been made. They were all irregular and as this was my fourth pregnancy, I definitely knew the difference between these practice rounds and the real deal.

Well, I was sure surprised at the appointment when my doctor told me that I was 2 cm dilated! Those contractions had actually done a little something and I would be going into labor with a jump start and 20% done with dilating! That WAS good news.

At home that evening, I made sure to eat a substantial dinner of meatloaf and a baked potato in case it would be my last meal before labor. During dinner, contractions began to become more regular and intense, about every 5-10 min apart. I called Damian to let him know that we may be bringing the children to his house sometime that night. We put the children to bed wondering if we would be waking them again soon.

I paced around the living room, in our kitchen and on our deck, watching the pregnant moon rise in the eastern sky. The question arose again and again--Is it time? Should we go to the hospital?

Thankfully, more wisdom has been gained with each pregnancy. When pregnant with Veronica, I went to the hospital too early and was sent home for the night until things were much further along the next day. I did not want to go through that disappointment and frustration again. While I was most definitely in pain with each contraction, I was able to breathe and walk through them and could recall how bad they got during my labor with Veronica. We weren't there yet. Sleeping in my own bed and getting as much rest as I could seemed like the best option. But if this had been my first pregnancy, we most definitely would have gone to the hospital at this point.

Contractions continued through the night.

The next morning things had slowed down, which was frustrating. I walked throughout the house to try and move things along. I watched that same full moon setting now in the beautiful western morning sky. As the day went on, labor began to progress more and more. I felt exhausted. I tried to nap. I tried to eat. I waited and waited until about 2pm when I knew that the time to go to the hospital was near. My mom came to pick up the children and deliver them to Damian and Kristal's.

Thank goodness! Shortly after, I was vomiting and had begun a much more intense part of labor, moaning and crying through each contraction. The time had come. We arrived at the hospital at about 3pm.

Despite the intensity of the contractions, I was still worried that we would be sent back home from the hospital. But as we arrived, I became reassured that this was the real thing. A young girl in the parking lot watched me with large, alarmed eyes as I worked through the horror of another contraction. Upon seeing me, the man at the reception desk immediately put me into a wheelchair and escorted us to the maternity ward. The charge nurse took one look at me and immediately and frantically began trying to open up a room for me, apologizing the entire time that I had to wait. Apparently, the full moon myth is no myth or old wives' tale at all. Every room was full and my doctor and nurses confirmed that with every full moon, this is the case.

I was given some fentanyl through an IV for the pain, while I waited for the glorious anesthesiologist to arrive. My cervix was checked and I was at 4 cm. Woo-hoo! Two more out of the way! The baby was facing forward rather than backward, making for possibly more difficult pushing later if the baby didn't turn. I laid onto my right side to try and encourage the baby to turn the easier direction. About an hour later, my magnificent epidural was administered and all became right with the world again.

In the mean time, Jason had called my mom and Jenny and they arrived a little after we did. This is absolutely the most attentive birth team you could ask for. How loved and supported I felt as each of them talked with me, encouraged me, made me laugh to tears while in labor, played with my hair, put a cold cloth to my head and waited with me for this new life to enter the world. A while later, my dad also arrived and the room was even more full with love and support. How blessed I am and how blessed the children are who are born into a room so full of people who already love them.

Also, the nursing staff at Swedish Edmonds was phenomenal. First of all, I had two nurses to choose from when we arrived. The first was Rachel. Rachel had actually been my nurse when Veronica was born. I had very fond memories of her. She was my nurse when I had arrived 2 1/2 years ago. Her shift then ended and I was assigned a different nurse. When she came back the next day, I was still in labor and was assigned her again and she was with me through the birth. I remember her telling us how special and joyful Veronica's birth had been and how it had even brought her to tears. 2 1/2 years later, she actually recognized us and our name when we arrived, remembered Veronica's birth and came into see us.

The second nurse was Marie, who I had been assigned as soon as I was admitted. She had been taking such wonderful, sweet care of me. Rachel was only going to be there for part of the evening while Marie would be there for the whole night. While I was so happy to see Rachel again, I was ready for a long labor and wanted to switch nurses as little as possible. So I chose Marie.

My water broke at about 3:50 pm. Marie told us that there was some meconium in the amniotic fluid, raising a small concern at birth that the baby could aspirate some of it.

My cervix was checked at about 4:20 and I was at 5 cm. I was happy with this progress and prepared for the baby to arrive sometime the next day on Saturday or perhaps even Sunday. As I mentioned, I had experienced such long labors before and was ready for that again.

My epidural was really only working on one side of my body, making my left leg heavy and unable to move while my right leg was a little tingly, but able to move just fine. This also meant that while I felt nothing on my left side, the contractions were becoming more and more painful on my right. This same thing had happened with Noah and Veronica, making me wonder if it has something to do with the shape of my spine. I was about to have my epidural redone, but after raising the dose a couple of times, it finally began to be effective on my right side as well.

A little after 7:30 that night, my cervix was checked again. Rachel had come by just before to say goodbye and good luck as her shift had ended. I thought I would maybe be at 6 or 7 cm, but really would not have been surprised if I was just at 5 1/2 cm. As I was checked, Marie gave me a big smile.

"What?" I asked.

"You're at 10! You're ready to push!"

This was an absolute shock! We had been at the hospital for a mere 4 1/2 hours!

Before Marie actually called the doctor, she called the front desk to have them let Rachel know before she left that I was ready to deliver. Rachel actually stayed after her shift to come and help again with my delivery!

The doctor arrived and confirmed that I was at 10 cm, but he was conflicted. He had another patient who had been sent over from the emergency room and needed his care very soon. I described my other births and how I usually pushed for about 45 min to an hour before the baby arrived and told him that I wasn't feeling any pressure. He decided to have me go ahead and try to push while he was still there and to see what happened.

My parents and Jenny had been outside the room as they checked my cervix. They watched as the doctor, pediatrician and nurses entered my room. Finally, mom decided they were coming back in. Thank goodness they did!

I pushed once for a few seconds and was told, "Stop! Stop! The baby's coming!"

Again, I was shocked! Marie had joked that with all of the laughter in our room, I might laugh the baby out, not knowing how close to the truth that may have been!

I pushed one more time for about 20 seconds. I was able to place my hand on the baby's head and feel them leave my body and enter the world, a strange and absolutely amazing feeling.

At 8:02 pm, the baby was born. That was the biggest shock of all. In less than thirty minutes, I found out that I was surprisingly at 10 cm and ready to push. Then I pushed for what seemed a moment and the baby was born! That was it! It was over!  It all seemed so surreal and so sudden and I could hardly believe it had happened. I'm not sure if I cried or not. Mostly, I just laid there in disbelief.

I waited for what seemed a long time but was probably only about 10 seconds, before I heard the doctor announce, "It's a girl!" A few moments later, I was handed our new daughter, Teresa Miriam Burdullis.

I laid there in awe and wonder as I gazed at this new person. After waiting, often impatiently, for an entire nine months for this moment, I could hardly believe it now that she was here.

A little while later, she was weighed in at 8 lb 2 oz. Recall also that she was born at 8:02 pm. Add to that that my birthday is 8-2, that I was also 8 lb 2 oz. and born in Room #82. Make of that what you will.

That was all a week ago today. Time is so strange. How can that seem like just a moment ago, yet at the same time it seem like Teresa has always been here? How can our whole family be catapulted into a big adjustment, but at the same time it seem as natural as can be? How can one's heart feel so full and yet grow even more with each child? Such are the mysteries and blessings of motherhood :)

Our hearts and prayers are filled with gratitude as we watch our family continue to grow.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Preparing for Labor

Hanging on the door of the baby's room :)

The hospital bag is packed. The children's bags are packed and ready for them to head over to my brother's house. Now we wait.

Preparing for labor is similar to preparing for homeschooling with an infant. I obviously just don't know what to expect! Making plans seems foolish in a way as there is no way to know what to predict.

I've spent a lot of time contemplating labor and trying to prepare for it - ironically more than I ever have. By preparing, I don't mean learning about labor really. I know about the different stages and what is physically going to happen.

I have mixed feelings about labor. There is most definitely part of me that is scared. It's difficult for me not to be afraid when I know of the pain that is coming. In some ways, knowing what I am about to go through is a blessing, in other ways it causes more anxiety. I have been through it before. I know I can do it. I have learned techniques that help me to cope. But at the same time, labor is hard! While the past two labors were successful VBACs without complication, they were quite long, both lasting 35+ hours. It is hard not to be intimidated knowing such a feat lies before me.

Labor is equally, if not more so, mentally difficult than it is physically. It seems like an endless marathon, requiring an almost impossible amount of perseverance. I have been trying to ready myself for this any way I can. For the past month or so, I have been working on a Birth Playlist on Spotify, which you can click on and listen to if you have an account. It is a very eclectic mix of songs that inspire me in different ways. Jason has been given the task of "Birth DJ," making sure that we are listening to tracks that are helpful to me during labor.

Above all, I have prepared spiritually for labor this time, much more so than I ever before. I have spent time reading and studying Scripture that I think will be helpful to me while in labor and printed out verses that I would like to have with me at the hospital. I learned that St. Gerard is the unofficial patron saint of childbirth. There is a web site dedicated to him where I learned his story and discovered a novena to him. Jason and I have been praying it together at night and my mom and Jenny, who will be present at the birth, have been praying it as well.

The owners of the St. Gerard web site will send you a free medal when requested, so I have received one and have been wearing it. While it doesn't really matter, it is a bit large for my taste. I was expecting the usual small saint's medal. This is like a large medallion! But no matter. It is a good reminder of where I want my heart to be at right now.

I have finished reading A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy, which I really enjoyed and found very encouraging and inspiring. Each week, I read a different chapter and contemplated further the miracle of life and the blessing growing inside of me. This book helped me to reflect on Mary as a mother and how I can include her in my journey.

I have found prayers to help me center myself and offer the discomforts of pregnancy up to the Lord, rather than wallowing in my frustration.

I have also written two very short prayers. They are very concise and when I am struggling, I can pray them and immediately feel God's grace.

The first prayer helps me to focus on God's will for my life rather than my own. In my prayers, it can be so easy to focus on my needs and desires and those of my loved ones. We are so abundantly blessed and there is so much to be grateful for. Ironically, sometimes this creates anxiety in me. I can worry about the days and years to come and what our crosses may be. When I worry about what God's plan may be for us, I pray to the Lord:

May it all be for Your glory. 

This gives a purpose to my life, to the creation of our family, to our joys and to our sufferings.

My second prayer was inspired by the book I mentioned above. In it, Sarah A. Reinhard speaks of how we receive God's grace through the trials of life, and more specifically, how if our hearts are open to it, we may receive grace during labor. In that vain, I pray to the Lord:

Help me to see labor as an opportunity to receive God's grace.

This helps me to overcome the fears I have about labor and to look forward to it. 

So far, I have focused on my feelings of apprehension, anxiety and fear. But thankfully, that is only one part of my mixed feelings. Another very big part is my excitement. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that I've experienced, that compares to the joy that is felt when I first see our newborn child, when I first get to hold our baby. That moment is coming soon. To know that one of the best days of my life is so near fills me with such happiness and anticipation.

Lately, it occurred to me that in most circumstances, you don't know when you are going to meet one of the most important people in your life. You don't know when you are going to meet the love of your life or someone who will become a dear friend for life. When you are a baby, you do not understand that you are about to meet your parents and will never recall doing so. They will just always have been there. As a child, you do not understand the significance when you meet a new sibling.

Having a baby is entirely different. For nine months, you are aware that you are going to meet one of the most important, influential people of your life, one of the people who you will love the most and who will have the largest impact on you as a human. How incredible!

As we have had more children, this experience has become more amazing for me. We have thus far been able to witness three children be born and transform into completely different people with different personalities, a miracle in itself. During this pregnancy, I find my thoughts often drifting to wonder, the wonder of the miracle of life and of who this next person will be. Will they have Joshua's strong will or intelligence, Noah's imagination or love of music, Veronica's sweetness or easy disposition? How will they be the same? How will they be different?

So close to the day of birth, I feel as prepared as I possibly could. I look forward to the day with some fear, but mostly with excitement to meet this new being.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Late Pregnancy Weather Complaints and Hopes

Under normal conditions, I get irritated with Seattlites who complain about the weather all of the time, no matter what. Come December 26th, they are tired of winter which began of course only five days earlier. If it's 80 degrees or higher, they complain that it's too hot. If it rains for several days in a row, which it often does, it's depressing.

Well, today I join the weather whiners and complain, "It's toooooooooo hot!!!" We reached 93 degrees here in Mountlake Terrace, a record high, and our home is a split-level oven in such weather.

Due to the heat, I was awake for almost three hours in the middle of the night last night. So between that, being nine months pregnant and the heat, let's just say that I am more than lethargic. I am a crabby zombie who is still attempting to get things done because let's face it - this baby is almost here!

My due date is a week from Sunday, on the 22nd. And while I have tried to rest as much as I can today, life still goes on despite being a crabby zombie. Children still need to be fed, lessons taught, laundry done, dishes washed, etc.

Thankfully, the end is near. And with any luck, maybe I will deliver early. The temperature is supposed to drop almost 20 degrees between Saturday and Monday and there will be a full moon next Thursday. I'm hoping that this may be the perfect situation to get things rolling!

This is how we cope: three fans pointed in my direction as I rest a bit with my feet up, two ice packs, a water bottle, a cold cloth on my head, virgin margaritas with lunch, iced tea this afternoon and ice cream will definitely be happening tonight :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

And that makes 10!

Today we celebrate our 10th anniversary! The past ten years have passed with that strange, familiar effect that time has on all wonderful things - for the most part, they have gone by unbelievably fast. But on the other hand, I can hardly remember my life without Jason and the life we have built together. Marriage has thus far surpassed my highest hopes. We have so much to be grateful for and so much to look forward to. In just about two weeks, we will again have the blessing to experience together one of the best days of our lives. God is so, so good.

Here is a little montage of the past 10 years . . .
The best decision I ever made.

On our honeymoon in Kauai

At my graduation party. We had been married for about nine months and little did we know that I would become pregnant about two weeks later!

Our first family photo! Joshua is born!
Just one child. What was that like?
At Noah's baptism in 2007, a couple of months after he was born.
Celebrating our 5th anniversary at Disneyland without kids! That was so much fun. Although I missed the boys, I cried on the last night, knowing we wouldn't have another trip like that in a long time.
At a National Catholic Engaged Encounter Convention in 2009
Going to the St. Luke Auction in May 2010

On an Engaged Encounter camping trip in 2010 that we planned when we were the local coordinators. We found out that we were pregnant with our third baby the day that we left for this trip!
Camping at Ocean Shores with Mike and Jenny. This was early in my pregnancy with Veronica and I was dealing with some serious morning sickness.
On at trip to Texas for Jason's Grandma Dot's 90th birthday
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The day we became godparents to Mike and Jenny's darling girl, Kayli, in February 2011
On a weekend at the El Gaucho Inn as a babymoon just about a month before Veronica was born
It's a girl! March 28, 2011 - Veronica Margaret was born
Celebrating our 8th anniversary at the Barking Frog
A few Halloween photos from our yearly party, which we will be skipping this year. Even though there is part of me that thinks I could make it happen with a one month old, I know better. Here, Jason is the Devil and I am a fallen pregnant angel :)

Little Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks

Zorro and Wife
Happy New Year 2012!

2013 St. Luke Auction
Our family at Joshua's First Communion in May 2013. I am five months pregnant with the latest addition.
On a weekend away this past June, celebrating our 10th anniversary early at El Gaucho

Here's to many more decades filled with wonderful memories!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School 2013

Working hard at the kitchen table
I have been asked by several people during this pregnancy something like, "How are you going to homeschool with a baby?"

Ummmm, am I supposed to know the answer to this??? If so, then we are all in for a train wreck around here. I mean, I have my ideas. I've read books. I've read articles. I've read blogs. But my instinct says that this is one of those things that you learn as you go. I can plan and organize all I want, which I have as best as I can. But when it comes to having a baby, I at least know that most of one's "plans" get tossed out the window.

This is most definitely what I am most nervous about with this baby. I can't totally envision homeschooling with an infant, because I haven't done it. I would like a rain check on this question. Please re-ask me in a year or so.

Occasionally, there is a truly delightful day when everything goes right. And today we were blessed with such a day, which seems to be even more of a blessing than usual. As I am about to enter an unknown phase of motherhood and homeschooling, it is very reassuring and encouraging that we can have days like this. It helps me to know that I can indeed do this and while I realize that everything may be turned upside down for a while, it is so comforting to know that eventually we will have a day again like this one.

We began the day by getting to daily Mass a few minutes early, so we were able to read about our saint of the month, St. Joan of Arc. I was able to ask for wisdom and patience in my prayers and receive God's grace through Communion--the perfect way to begin our year.

We came home to finish our morning chores and then sat down to read about and discuss our virtue of the month--patience. I chose this virtue very intentionally for two reasons. First, it will be helpful to refer to when the boys are ready to strangle each other. Also, as I will be spending the next three weeks waiting for this next little one to come along, I figure that I also could do with learning a little more about patience :)

The rest of the morning was mostly spent with lessons in the basics - reading, writing, math, spelling, grammar and handwriting. There was little conflict and the boys got through the amount of work I had hoped and planned for.
We were also able to spend some time doing our traditional first day activities - measuring how much the children have grown, interviews and student pictures.
Taking measurements
Our list of measurements behind the refrigerator
Our 2013-2014 class! Veronica (preschool), Joshua (3rd grade), Noah (1st grade)
After lunch, we were able to go for a walk together in the rain. We had time for resting and more reading.
It was good we had rain coats - we got drenched!
This afternoon, we began our year as chemists! In today's introduction, we learned what chemistry is followed by a very fun introductory "experiment"--baking cookies!
Best science experiment ever!
The laundry and dishes are done, the pork chops are marinating, the boys are riding their bikes and Veronica is looking at a book on the deck next to me as I write this. Jason will be home soon and I will have a little cocktail date hour (alcohol free wine for me) prepared when he arrives as the children watch a little television.

It has been a fantastic first day to our school year, and my confidence as a homeschooling mother of a large family has officially been boosted. Please remind me to revisit this post in a month or two when I am feeling frazzled!