Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Gilead!

On January 1, 2011, my baby Gil turned one!! It's kind of funny, because I actually went into labor on the 31st, and he was born a little after midnight, so I find that I associate the experience more with New Year's Eve. New Year's Day felt like the "next" day. Regardless, one year has passed, and I cannot believe how much sheer joy this little guy has brought into my heart and my days. And I'm not sure there has ever been another baby who has received so much love. (Well, I guess that's not fair to say, but it just seems right!) :) Between me, his daddy, and his brothers and sisters, Gil is smothered with love and affection around the clock.

Here are some excerpts from an email that I sent to some close friends just after his birth:

So first of all, you may or may not have noticed that I actually went into labor on my due date, which is unheard of for me. I have a strong pattern of going late AND needing lots of help...herbs, and castor oil, etc... Even after four kids, I did not know what it felt like to spontaneously go into labor. I felt like something was wrong with my body, or my body lacked something. Maybe an endocrine system issue or something where my hormones were not balanced? Anyway, this time I did do two things differently. At 36 weeks, I began taking an herbal tincture called Gentle Birth (which my doctors recommended) that had some great herbs that are known to stimulate and tone the uterus and prepare the body for labor. I also went to acupuncture, which I am convinced played a large part in going into labor naturally.

And some of you who I don't get to talk to that much may wonder how I ended up with doctors and in a hospital, so I want to preface that too. Our living situation is such that I did not at all feel comfortable having a home birth. I don't feel that our current home could ever be clean, organized or comfortable enough to actually relax and have a baby in. While I feel that home birth is safest and optimal (for me), I knew that was not to be this time. However, the hospital in Asheville is actually pretty progressive. I have done several births there with clients and been impressed with their support of natural childbirth for those who want it. And they are a certified baby-friendly hospital meaning that they only encourage breastfeeding, skin to skin contact for the first hour, and there is no baby nursery at all. Rooming-in is the only option- not something you have to fight for. And, so I chose a practice called Family to Family. They are two female MD's. (not OB-GYNs) I had witnessed a few births that they attended and was blown away. They were more nurturing and laid-back than even any midwife I had seen. They always stayed the entire time, and provided such beautiful care that I felt honored to even work with them. And prenatally- they were so wonderful. The appt's were always very long and very holistic. They were concerned about every aspect of my life, health, emotions, etc...

[On Thursday, the 31st,] contractions continued that day and into the evening and around 9:45 I had a contraction that was just different. Lower, crampier, more intense, etc... After an hour of those, I called my doc and my doula and said that I knew i was in labor, but I wasn't ready to head out the door yet- just a heads up. Then, the next hour brought contractions that were definitely intensified and required that I really work through them. I was just praying that I would have wisdom with the timing. I didn't want to spend too much time at the hospital, or spend too much time in the car during intense labor, OR have the baby in the car on the way! But at 11:45, I knew I needed to go. I called everyone again so they could meet me there. My mom had just come over to sleep here with the kids, and we left.

I whined like a baby about our long gravelly driveway and around all the tight curves on our roads for about ten minutes- until we realized that we hadn't grabbed my purse, or the specialized homeade anitbacterial hand wash that I had made for Blair. (swine flu killa). So, i whined all the way back through those curves and up the driveway, then back down and around the curves again. Then, once we got to Asheville, Blair got off one exit too early and that took us through the heart of downtown, just after midnight on New Year's Eve. I remember opening my eyes and it being so surreal to be in a traffic jam with crowds of people partying, etc... I am pretty sure I asked Blair very sweetly and calmy, of course, why the heck we were crawling through downtown. I'm sure I was angelic at that moment. :) What would a Watkins' story be without a little drama?

So we got to the hospital about 12:45am, and seriously snuck in side entrance where my doula was waiting on the inside to open the door for us where we shot up a spy elevator and straight into the L&D. (My doctor had recommended this to us so that we could avoid traipsing through the ER, and therefore, according to Blair, surely contracting swine flu, MRSA, and Legionnaire's Disease on the way. We had actually brought jars and bottles of our own water with us, so that we wouldn't even have to drink hospital water. :)) Anyway, my doctor had already scored me a waterbirth room and i could just go straight in. Because my doctor was there right then, she quelled so many hospital procedures and routines that we honestly didn't even feel like we were in a hospital. No IV start in my hand, no zillion questions about my medical history, no paperwork, no labwork and blood draws. ( She had told my nurse," She's not sick- she's just having a baby.) :) She quickly checked me and I was 6-7cm dilated. They did a quick strip to make sure the baby's heart rate was good, while I sat on a birth ball next to the bed. My doula was kneading into my back and talking me through each contraction. I actually found myself moaning and/or humming loudly through each one, but in a very low tone. I was trying so hard to focus on allowing myself to relax and open up and to not resist the contractions.

After the heart rate strip, I was able to get in the water, and it was SO nice. I had never been in the water for labor/birth, and after witnessing it as a doula, and learning so much about the many benefits of hydrotherapy in labor, I knew I had to do it this time. Oh my gosh, the water felt so good. It immediately relaxed me even more, and the next contraction I had was much easier to work through. Then, I had this long pause, and I got a little freaked out. I was worried that I was going to stall out and the labor would slow down. Then, I finally had another one and it was the monster. I felt ( and heard) my water break into the water, and there was suddenly all this pressure. I'd say close to ten pounds of pressure coming down into my bottom. Then, a moment later, I felt the baby's head start to slip out and I just couldn't believe how fast we had gotten to this point and how fast it was happening. I remember saying Oh, the baby's coming out! And my doctor said, It's OK, just reach down and get your baby. And I thought, Oh, yeah, I should do that- I can do that. :) And just like that, seconds later, he just slipped all the way out. (That was 1:50am) No splitting open, no crazy pressure through several contractions of intense pushing, etc... He just slipped all the way out like it was nobody's business. :) At the risk of sounding obnoxious. It almost seemed too easy.

Obviously, it's not easy to birth a baby, but I was just washed with utter relief at what I felt was God's mercy. I think I was repeating that about 50x as I first held him- Thank you God, Oh thank you God. Mercy.... So I actually just held him there for a few minutes and we were just pouring the warm water over him to keep him warm and someone finally asked if it was a girl or a boy, and so I told Blair to look for us, and he said boy! :) We still didn't talk about a name then. We waited until the cord stopped pulsating and Blair cut it. Everything just seemed very peaceful and slow. No one was rushing around or worried about anything. They just gave me space for the moment and let me process it all.

After a little while, they helped me into the bed so that I could deliver the placenta there and monitor any bleeding. Everything went fine. The baby was skin to skin on my chest the entire time, nursed almost immediately. I didn't have any extra bleeding at all. Everyone left us three alone for about 30 minutes to bond and relax together. Then they came in later and weighed him (9lbs, 5oz, 21in long) and we finally named him (Gilead Xavier, Gil for short).

Then, they moved me up to the Mother/Baby floor for recovery, and we again seemed to defy all odds. Apparently my doctor and nurse told these new nurses that this was my fifth baby, that we were tired, that we wanted to be disturbed as little as possible, etc... And it almost seemed too good to be true. I was back in some quiet corner and they seriously almost never came in. Just now and then to check our vitals, but it was amazing. Hours and hours would pass and I could just rest in the silence and enjoy Gil. Blair hung out with me a little, but he made a few trips home to see to the kids and distribute them amongst friends and neighbors and whatever else.

God's mercy is so sweet, and it is so obvious to me as I write this (and maybe for you as you read it) how He truly did go before me and clear a path of peace. He gave us favor with every nurse and person we dealt with. How amazing that we could come through the whole experience and not even feel like we were ever in a hospital.

...when we had to head home, it was (and still is) a blustery, snowy day of 17 degrees with a windchill of one degree- yes one. We bundled him up good though, and he didn't seem to suffer hypothermia or frostbite on his way in and out of the car. :) And even though it's frigid outside, I have loved being "stuck" inside with the baby, cozy by the fire.

Ah, so here we are a year later. Ironically, the temperature is 19 degrees, with a windchill of 4 degrees, and we are underneath a blanket of snow. Cozy, by the fire. :) Here's a look back on the first year of the life of Gilead Xavier...

Blair just barely got the camera out in time to catch this moment...

This next picture I just love, love, LOVE!! But I had to crop Gil out of it because...well, I'm naked! :)

Novah meets Gilead...
Big sis Hayden just loved her Gil...

Mama R bonds with baby Gil...

Um, the hat, Elliot. He's so sweet with him.

Connor loves him so much!!

Beach bum. Er, lake bum. In daddy's baby shirt. All five have worn this!
"So, these were all for me, right? I've got to maintain my weight, people."

Bright eyes.

He is my son. What other 9 month old has a healthy appreciation for the sludge at the bottom of mom's coffee cup? He loves it! Such a stinker, I know.

"One bite for you, one bite for me..."

As the weather turns...
Wahoo.... Really, that's the dog's name. Wahoo.

First birthday party at Mama R's house....

There is a balm in Gilead to heal the wounded soul
There is a balm in Gilead that makes the broken whole

Friday, January 7, 2011

white winter

Here I am. I'm not very good at keeping up with my blog, but I am ready to jump back in. Part of my hesitation is feeling like I miss so much and I have to go back and chronologically update everything that has happened since the last post, and I get overwhelmed. And the other part is just feeling like it may be redundant after posting pictures on facebook. But, it truly is a release for me sometimes to express myself in this way, and tonight I am feeling motivated.

My last post was quite melancholy as I was begrudging the coming winter and the passage of time. But funny enough, just after writing my post, I found that I felt so much better about it. Maybe I just needed to release all of those feelings and get them out. Even in the next few days, I found myself soaking in the views and just simply being at peace in the moment. And it also helped that many of our circumstances did change for the better as well, just after writing.

Blair started a new job, doing mostly finish carpentry. He works for a great guy with a stellar reputation. The guys work mostly out in Blacksburg and Roanoke, and they are long days. Blair is usually gone before the sun is up, and home after dark. He likes the work, though, and does well. Blair is usually starving to death by the time he gets home, so there is a small unspoken expectation for me to have something hot and delish for dinner. I say unspoken, but I do seem to get these texts everyday, usually between 4:30pm and 6pm, that say "I'll be home in 1 hr.". (Read: "Wife, I'm starving, get busy, and it better be good") I'm kidding. If you know Blair, you know he wouldn't really say that. Not in those words. Anyway, it's been good for me to get back into some hot, hearty meals. When Blair was mostly on the farm, he was perfectly happy to come home and cook dinner, so I guess I fell out of practice a bit. But I am honestly loving the change right now. It's a different routine for our family, but a pleasant one, overall.

Also, we committed to stay in our place here on the farm at least through the winter. And we have taken up some remodeling projects as part of our rent payment. So, goodbye black and white floral wallpaper, circa 1989. Goodbye bidet. Goodbye tacky vanity. Hello new toilet, new vanity, new bamboo floors and white paint. Oh, and goodbye sanity as we scrape off that blessed wallpaper and all the glue beneath. Sigh.

So it's a good thing I came to peace with the shift from autumn to winter, because boy did winter ever come. With a vengeance. The first real snow we had was a big one. It covered us completely, and stayed on the ground for weeks. We had several days where the temperature was in the single digits, and the windchill was 5-10 below zero. Our pipes froze several times, meaning we had to haul water from the one working faucet on the property. On those super cold nights, we had the kids sleep downstairs, by the bigger woodstove and we hung sheets to block off the upstairs. We've had several big snows since then, and we're under several inches of snow right now. We only heat our home with wood, so you can imagine the hours of cutting, splitting, chopping, stacking, etc... (And just to see the pile dwindle as fast as we stacked it!!) It's intense, folks.

I have to say, as intense as it was, situations like this always seem to be invigorating. I feel like this is what "living" really is. We have to work to be warm, and to stay warm. We are deeply in touch with the weather, the environment, the season, etc... (The same way I love planting and harvesting fresh herbs and vegetables. This is how I know I was made for this kind of lifestyle. It does my soul good. And I am so grateful to be able to raise my kids with this awareness and experience.)

We have to be resourceful and have forethought. Even when we are snowed in (as we are right now), and unable to do certain things, there is something so humbling and refreshing about God and nature just halting things. Bringing them into submission. We are forced to pause and slow. I really do love that about it. Whenever things are forced to pause, it always seems to make me feel peaceful. Like I can relax. Like I can sit with my coffee, and watch the snow cover up the world.

Sometimes, before I am even out of bed, I can hear the kids out sledding on the hill beside the house. Sometimes, I hear them screaming because someone got snowballed in the face. With love, I'm sure. What is it about kids being seemingly immune to cold weather? I walk around my house in thick wool socks AND soled slippers and I still can't feel my feet half the time. And my girls usually walk around barefoot (despite my wild protests) and don't seem phased. Does anyone hear me out there?

So, there are my musings on winter, so far. Now I feel a little more caught up and hopefully I'll post with more regularity. In the near future, I plan to begin knitting, work on a few more sewing projects for the kids, and spend some more time baking in the kitchen.

I'll leave you with some shots of our winter so far...