Saturday, April 13, 2019

Benjamin Tobias, son of God

Benjamin Tobias was baptized on March 10, at the 10:3o am Mass at St. Joseph's Church in Hays, KS. It was a beautiful day and we are grateful to God for welcoming him into the family.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

7 Quick Takes -- Random life with the new baby.

1) Scenes like this melt my heart.

Rebekah is holding Peter and Benjamin while reading a book that Zipporah, Miriam (not seen here, but close) and Paul are also listening to. I love when they all do stuff together.

2) Rebekah was drawing a picture of our family at scouts last night and she drew Dad in his underwear. 😁

She didn't get it all finished before she had to go do other things.

3) Benjamin :)

Three weeks old today!

Looking up at me while I'm holding him.

4) Benjamin has dirt under his nails.

How is this even possible? It's not like he's been playing in the dirt or anything. And it's not like there is dirt that isn't frozen or mud right now. What a puzzle here. . . (And yes, I am bathing him regularly.)

5) Creations by the kids.

6) Rebekah loves to wear Benjamin.

She is so smitten with her youngest brother. She comes to get him as often as she can when he's crying, or even not. She wears him as often as I let her. (He usually goes to sleep when she wears him.) It is really sweet to see her being all "momma" to him. And it makes my life so much easier!!

7) Randomness

I came home from a doctor appointment the other day to these three being absolutely goofy. They were singing Christmas carols. I guess Peter was riding the horse to bring the girls somewhere. Never a dull moment around here.

Postpartum Reflections and Benjamin's birth

It seems like I hit this deeper reflective mode after each of my babies are born. Maybe it's the left-over hormones. Or maybe it's something deeper. Labor, for me, at least is an incredibly moving experience. I tend to shy away from the drugs (partially because the thought of a needle in my back is incredibly unappealing) so I suppose that makes for a more intense experience.

Actually, this brings me to my main reflective point. I have lived enough now (37 years) to generally get a feel for what events/circumstances have been life changing to me. And I firmly believe that surviving labor eight times is the most difficult thing (or things) I have ever done. And assuming my life continues on it's somewhat boring course (that I am in no way complaining about, mind you) these eight occasions definitely have the potential to be the most difficult moments I ever live through.

But just because they are the most physically painful, mentally taxing, and emotionally insane, in no way makes them bad. They each ended with one of the greatest blessings available to any human. But the real beauty is that the blessing goes on. They continue to grow and change and I get to love them every day.

This last time I went into labor, I was tired. I mean, I physically did not sleep all that much the night before. But also, since moving out in the country, I feel my regular boring life has been a bit more of a crucible. We have adjusted well, but there were some days we had no power, or no water, no way to cook, or even no heater! Fortunately most of this initial chaos was settled by the time the date for Benjamin's induction rolled around. 

But we had lived in the city, in a "normal sized" house for 15 years. We have only been out here in the country, in our tiny house, for about 9 months. We are still adjusting. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about running out of power, or water, or heat anymore. But there are a few things that continue to stretch us. The weather plays a huge part in being able to drive our vehicles down the long dirt driveway. It also is key to our sanity some days. If the kids can't go outside to play, it can make for a long long day. Likewise, planning an extra half hour drive to make it to activities and then the same amount of extra to get back home adds stress to life, especially when dinnertime coincides with driving time.

In any case, all these factors definitely had my coping abilities mildly compromised to begin with. Then you add the worries my well-meaning doctor planted that my body would not respond this time or something could go terribly wrong. I found myself testing and trying everything. Does this hurt? Does it feel like last time? But mostly I was just very over it all before it even started. I mean, I knew the baby needed to be out, but I really was not excited over the prospect of another induction. Even the room, which I had had four babies in previously (though not all at once obviously 😁), while being familiar, also carried undertones of the pain I knew was coming.

With all this said, I cannot help but be grateful to those who pulled me through. God bless my husband. I had him doing counter-pressure on my back during the hard contractions. And thanks to my prompting for more pressure, I was definitely sporting bruises from his effort the next day. But his assistance was no doubt exhausting for him. 

And my doctor was always right there, whispering encouragement, directing me, praying with me. She has definitely been a bright spot in all of my labors. 

And all those great labor and delivery nurses. They are just so incredibly NICE and helpful at the hospital I deliver at! My first three labors at a different hospital are a stark contrast to these last five at this other little hospital. Seriously, after my third labor I was so scarred I spent basically my entire fourth pregnancy in absolute TERROR that labor was coming. I feared it like none other. But then, it wasn't that bad. And I still had some residual fear for the fifth pregnancy, but again, other than the last few contractions, it really wasn't too bad either. My sixth pregnancy was my first to deliver squatting and that was empowering and awesome. And for my seventh, my husband assisted my squat which was helpful -- and little Peter was wedged in funny, so it probably was the longest I've ever had to push -- or maybe the first time I actually had to push and my babies tend to just pop out when they are ready, kind of like the timer on a turkey. That is definitely how little Benjamin joined us.

So here is as much as I can remember about Benjamin's labor. And I admit I might remember things a little differently than they actually happened. It would be interesting to check my "memory" with the recorded facts. But without further ado, I will try to recall the points that seemed to matter to me.

I had been taking Primrose Evening Oil since week 37, or maybe it was 36 of my pregnancy. My body never seems to get the message to go into labor, or even prepare, but this herb usually gets me a few contractions here and there and begins to ripen my cervix. This time it got me a "soft cervix" and to a 2 by 39 weeks. So I figured I would forgo the nighttime induction options, sleep once more in my own bed, and just start things off in the morning. But alas, I woke up around 3 am to pee and just could not settle back down after that. I am embarrassed to admit, it was mostly just nerves. I wanted to be sure I had all my ducks in a row before coming in to the hospital. It was SO important for some dumb reason (pregnancy nesting I guess). Finally I climbed out of bed a little before 5 am, to run the generator for an hour (to be sure the house didn't run out of power while my friend Karen was here to watch the kids). I got dressed, brushed my teeth, made coffee for my husband, and even made the bed. I offered to drive to the hospital since I had taken these particular roads and Gordie had not yet, but there was snow on the ground and we both would rather have Gordie driving in severe weather. In any case, we made it to the hospital with no incident.

I got checked in and taken to my room. They came in and got everything started, monitoring me for a half hour before starting the induction drugs. I was planning to try and sneak a nap in before my doctor got there, but there was entertainment instead! Three ladies from the NCK technical college nursing program were there for the day and they asked if they could hang out with me for the delivery.

Now let me step back a minute. When I was being induced with my second child, Samuel, at my old hospital, they asked if they could have, what I thought was, ONE nursing student present. I was like, sure, one more person is no big deal. Well, as it turns out, there was some sort of special workshop for the nursing students that day at the hospital, so when it was time for me to push they marched in like 15 nursing students to witness the event!! Now, I was a little distracted at that point, so I did my thing and was not super concerned about them. But after delivering Samuel, I became aware of my surroundings again and very, very aware that my nether regions were on display for 15 people I didn't know as they cleaned me up and such. It was rather disturbing.

So here I am on my eighth labor, being asked if students can watch and I must admit I did pause a minute to clarify. But they all seemed nice and normal, and they assured me it would be those three, maybe a fourth, max, so of course I agreed. So instead of sleeping, they were asking me loads of questions and enjoying my anecdotes of past labors, etc. Honestly, I enjoyed them a lot as they provided a nice distraction from everything and some entertainment as things in the beginning are so boring. But no rest was happening as I chatted it up.

Finally, the students headed out to do other stuff and the nurses left me so I snoozed a bit -- or tried. I remember my doctor walked in and said something to the effect of, "Mary's in bed. What's wrong? Mary's never in the bed!" A mostly true sentiment and it made me laugh.

Anyhow, things progressed some from there, but incredibly slowly. The Pitocin was started, but barely causing anything. I was kind of depressed for a bit, honestly. I had really gotten my hopes up that this baby would come quicker than the others. That was dumb of me, but I couldn't help it. 

Anyhow, I posted in my bazillion facebook groups that I was being induced and asked for prayers. And then finally I looked myself in the bathroom mirror and turned on my thankful mode to kick the grumpiness. I started by taking a picture of my awesome nursing gown. 

Seriously, where had this thing been my last seven pregnancies?!?! It was comfy and soft. It was pretty and thick and yet still had all the necessary openings for anything that might need to happen to me. And did I mention, it had pockets?!?! Best gown ever. Totally worth the cost, even if I only wear it once -- although I have actually worn it since being home, it kind of doubles as a light robe since it opens in front. But I digress.

Then I remembered that "labor" generally meant work, so I better see what I could do to help things along. I decided to do some walking. Now here is the one part that my little hospital does not excel at -- having a good place for pregnant ladies to walk. In my old hospital they have an entire maternity ward, so you can walk laps and no one but nurses, pregnant ladies, or freshly delivered ladies, are around to see you in all your gown glory, pushing that IV pole. At the little intimate hospital I have grown to love, they have all of two labor rooms. So I have to walk into the main part of the hospital and even then, it's not that far. I easily did at least ten "laps" and barely walked for 15 minutes. But it was something. And it picked up my spirits if nothing else.

So finally I realize nothing is happening quickly and we pick a show to start watching. I decided on the BBC Sherlock series as it is so well done and my oldest daughter, Rebekah (who was with us) had not seen it, so why not let her enjoy something new. We started in. Lunch was served. I had vowed not to eat much until baby was born because I know how food can come back to haunt you in the throes of serious labor. But the food came and smelled so great. I just couldn't help myself. I gobbled up my portion and then promptly fell asleep.

My doctor came in to wake me up AGAIN. Things were still not really happening yet and she never wants to rush me or do anything rash, but she commented that I seemed to want labor to finish today and my body was moving in the right direction. We concluded she would break my water next. I was barely dilated enough for her (she likes to wait until at least a four and I had been a three for pretty much the whole morning). Anyhow, she broke my water and things were still super boring. I had a few more serious contractions, but I could tell I was not the only disappointed one.

Hours seemed to pass (I can't remember exactly how long). Finally my contractions started to pick up -- mostly while I was distracted bemoaning to myself how nothing was happening. I began to ask my husband to give me counter-pressure on my low back. This gave me great relief last labor, so I was all over asking for it this time! Soon the plea for him became less of a, "hey, this would feel good," and more of a "please get over here now and help me through this!" That was when I knew things were getting more serious. After several of those stronger contractions, I was sure things were happening, although not nearly enough to be done.

My doctor checked me and I was at a six. Seriously, JUST A SIX!! It was as if my body was like, "What? Hold my beer." I almost immediately started shivering (a sign of dilation for me -- I wasn't cold) and could feel things moving forward. I could feel the baby moving down with each contraction. At some point in there I remember saying to my doctor, "I know I'm not there yet, but could you maybe stay in the room?" She laughed because apparently I say that every labor and that's how she knows I'm getting close.

I know that once I get to a six or so I'm almost home free. But not everyone else knows that. And my doc was quick to not get my hopes up. I remember telling Gordie later that I went from six to pushing in like a half hour. Gordie said it was more like 10 minutes. -- I have no idea. Time stops in labor. It is like eternity for me. Just living contraction to contraction until I can push and get that baby out!

Anyhow, I lived through several very rough contractions and then suddenly I was TIRED. I mean, I was ready to lay in the bed tired -- that's saying a lot for me. Normally I want nothing to do with the bed in labor -- it makes the contractions worse. I actually laid down right on the floor. I had been kneeling by the bed (the position I spent most of my last labor in) but I just couldn't stay up anymore. My doctor had the brilliant idea to bring in the birthing stool. I was grateful to sit.


So things are still progressing. Super strong hard contractions. I tested the waters on one, seeing if I was ready to push. Baby was not quite down yet so my doc was quick to shut that down, lest I damage my cervix and never get this baby out that way.

Finally she checks me again and I'm at a nine. She tells me to breath through two more contractions. And generally I try to do what she says, but in my head I was thinking, "he'll be ready to come on the next one." And sure enough, halfway through the next contraction my body starts pushing on his own. I make sure to squeak that out amidst trying to breath -- that I'm not doing this, my body is!! My doc conceded he was ready and I could go ahead and push, but I was sitting too straight up on the birthing stool, so he was hitting the back lip -- I could feel it. That contraction ends and I'm trying to catch my breath. My doctor says we need to make a plan for the next contraction.

I remember thinking, "well, I think I'll have a baby." But her point was that he couldn't come out in my current position. So I ask what I need to do. She asks if I want to stand up or lean back -- basically I need my legs a little wider. Well, on comes the next contraction -- no time for a plan. I just instinctively put my hands behind my legs and pushed up to give my lower half some more room. Legs splayed a bit more and out pops Benjamin as if it were a slip and slide.

My doctor says, "or you could just have a baby." And the next thing I know she is putting him on my chest. And I'm hollering, don't let go yet, I can't feel my arms! I don't want to drop him! Soon enough, though, I am able to hold him. I look down and he is picking his head up to look at me! And he starts to cry. I know my doctor likes it when they cry, so this makes me happy, too.

The rest blurs. I come out of my intense focus to deal with the pain to see all the NCK nursing students all smiling and happy they stayed extra long to experience that insanity.

Nana decided to witness the event and was quick to enjoy the little bundle. One proud grandma here.

Eventually I decide he might be ready to try nursing. He latches on like a champ and eats happily (with loud swallowing) for at least 15 minutes. Benjamin really is practically perfect in every way.

I do remember feeling INCREDIBLY tired after labor -- like I'm so tired I'm going to pass out tired. And after some ado on trying to pick a name and Gordie leaving to go back to our kids at home, I let Rebekah cuddle the new guy. Then I ate everything in sight (all the snacks we brought and everything the nurse would bring me) and practically passed out. After a good nap I finally felt more like myself again. Cue the happy post-birth hormones. 

Rebekah and I enjoyed Mr. Benjamin for the rest of our stay in the hotel -- I mean hospital -- but that slip happened several times as I referred to my postpartum stay. 


Seriously, that place is so great, like staying at a spa, but you get to come home with a kid! They feed you, let you (and your guest gets food, too -- and breastfeeding moms get a snack basket to much in-between meals!) take long relaxing baths in the jet tub, and even bring you warm blankies. Other than the occasional squeezing my arm so hard that I can't feel my fingers (stupid automatic blood pressure cuff) there is really nothing to complain about!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Loving My Body

I have been into working out for a long time. I always did sports growing up. And while I am not always one of the fast ones, I am big and strong. Although I do wish to tangent one moment and say that one of my basketball coaches in high school once made a comment that I can never forget. He said,
"Mary is going to do a lot of great things for us. But Mary is not going to set any land speed records." 

He went on to basically tell me (and all the other posts/big girls) that we need to be sprinting from lane to lane (one side of the court to the other) and not lollygagging on the sides or trying to steal the ball on the way. And it was good advice. I feel like I was a better player in high school and then in college because I would seriously turn and sprint to the other end of the court each time the ball changed hands. I was not the fastest, but I ran my fastest and it put me in position faster and better than anything else could have.

Fast forward to basketball in college. It was winter break. Everyone went home to their families, etc. I kept my work-out up, even over the break. It was our first practice back after the break and we were running winners (or suicides, or whatever you want to call the sprints). And I kid you not, I was THE FASTEST!! I was faster than the point guard!! All because I was the only one who continued to work out over break. It only lasted a few practices and then everyone was back in shape, but it is still a great memory for me.

So with that bit of my past in mind, you see how I am physically oriented. I took up running outside during college because I was intimidated by going to the gym there. And long distance running was what I considered the most difficult thing I could imagine at the time. But I started small -- keep running for 10 minutes straight, super slow. Then I increased my time and my pace until I hit a comfortable speed for me. Then I pushed it. I wasn't running races or anything. I was running to stay in shape. (I noticed that I could really eat almost anything, as long as I kept up my running I was still losing weight/slimming up slowly.) But my mild OCD had me running in any kind of weather or location. (I am a little nuts like that.)

Fast forward again, I am still running, but going to the gym, too; married and pregnant with my first baby. Finally around the last half of the third trimester my running turns to walking, but I still hit the gym for weights (though nothing too taxing) and enjoyed seeing my stomach bulge all funny when I did sit-ups while pregnant.

So seven pregnancies down and I stumble on this home program called STS (Shock Training System) by my favorite DVD instructor, Cathe Friedrich. I picked the program up second-hand thankfully (as it is understandably pricey -- it's a lot of DVDs). I worked through the program (it's long -- like 3 months or something if you just do the "regular" routine). I initially was not impressed with the work-outs, but by the end of the program I had noticeably built muscle and I felt faster and stronger than I had ever been!

So then I'm pregnant with baby number eight, in the midst of doing my second round of STS -- a special "strength" routine that has me repeating each week twice. It just so happens that this routine is set to end the week before I am due to deliver this last baby. Well, being who I am, I made it to the end with no injury. I was very careful to listen to my body and I might have gone slightly less heavy the last few weeks than what could have been my max. (Although that is really debatable as I don't have the proper equipment to truly max myself -- I need a spotter, a squat rack, and a stand for bench, but even without those, I feel that I did a great job of challenging my muscles and getting stronger.)

Here are a few pictures of me that last week (taken by my oldest son) so you will believe just how nuts I am. (Please pardon the pile of clothes -- we were blessed with these from a friend and they had not found a home yet. And yes, I feel the need to point out that this particular pile was not just random laundry. But don't worry, we have plenty of that around, too. 😄)

And let me tell you, I felt better this pregnancy than I have with ANY of my previous ones, even though I am getting older and this is my eighth time doing this! But seriously, I could carry things and walk long distances. It was awesome.

But I wasn't exactly patting myself on the back as I had gained a good amount of weight during pregnancy, despite trying to eat healthy and obviously working out. I think it was around 35 pounds maybe a bit more. Which brings me to my next tangent.

Obviously I have been pregnant before and despite working out as best I could during pregnancy, I would of course slow down a ton toward the end (perhaps too much) and normally not lift much at all. And even as I try to eat well, lots of vegetables and protein, low or no sugar or carbs, I am just really good at gaining weight while pregnant! So of course I come out the other side with a body that's "a little larger and a little looser than I had going in. And it takes A LONG TIME to get that thing back under control! Seriously, breastfeeding makes me want to eat ALL THE FOOD ALL THE TIME!! And then not feeling up to working out/baby not sleeping, etc. It is tough. After several pregnancies, I finally almost felt comfortable believing that a year and a half is the recovery I require to feel like myself again. So this time, here I am prepared to suffer through this "pudgy" stage in my life. But alas, I was totally shocked to see what happened to me this time.

Despite having gained all that weight, I barely look like I was pregnant! Even my doctor made that comment at my baby's first weight check. And I was like, "I know, right?!?!" All I can chalk it up to is the lifting. Lifting and lifting heavy up until the end must have kept the muscle building and the blood flowing. I am completely amazed at how I look right now. 

(These pictures are from about four days postpartum. I got dressed to take baby to a retirement party for a good friend. I just couldn't miss it!) I mean, I still have a belly, but man, I really don't look like I just popped out a baby! And these are my regular jeans and shirt. No need for pregnancy clothes needed at this time. (But I am still not holding my breath that this will last. I have definitely gained weight after giving birth in the past. But I am taking it one moment at a time and marveling in this one for now. )


Friday, January 4, 2019

7 Quick Takes in December 2018

(Disclaimer, these might not be so quick. 😊)

1) Extended family on Gordie's side.

With Grandpa and Grandma, all their kids (3 boys plus 3 spouses), and all the grandkids.

We had a nice get-together early in December with Gordie's side of the family. Did I mention I feel like I did well with my in-laws? They are good stock. We had a good time. And the weather was beautiful for pictures.

Just our clan.

Just our kiddos.

All the cousins.

2) Vehicles

Our house is starting to look a little bit like a used car lot. 😊 We recently (thanks to our amazing neighbors) added the 2005 Chevy truck to our collection. It is four-wheel-drive so we can tow out the van when it gets stuck. And it is probably the nicest car I've owned in the past ten years. Too bad it only seats six. But that's still a lot and I am so grateful to have it.

Gordie is a little bummed, though, as he had his eye on Dodge Ram Cummins Diesel but this was definitely the wiser choice for us at this time. Perhaps we will need a more "farmy" truck as our future out here on the prairie progresses.

3) Holiday Houses

I mentioned our shepherd in a previous post. One of his activities as he searches for Jesus is to make a home for Jesus in our hearts, as well as making a gingerbread house. We improvise and make our houses with graham crackers and frosting, but everyone loves them. And the sugar buzz is really the same I think.

These four decided to combine their resources to make one big "complex." I believe the boys were more focused on the structure and they let Miriam do the decorating.

Peter made his own.

Zipporah also made her own.

And since Rebekah was busy helping everyone else in the beginning, she found enough supplies to make two by herself at the end.

4) Museum

We actually finished up our semester about a week before the regular school kids (because that's how our virtual school does it) so we loaded up to celebrate the effort by hitting the museum. The kids always love it there.

Doesn't Rebekah look like an angsty teenager here?!?!  😁

I was told Peter did this "by himself."

And of course I took a moment to take advantage of the large mirror and capture a photo of Baby #8. I always get so big when pregnant!! But it's so worth it. 😊

5) Tiny House

Because I know you just can't wrap your brain around our living quarters. Here are a few pictures. It has gotten a little more cramped thanks to the addition of the rocket mass heater, but are adapting and enjoying the heat for sure!

It burns twigs. Crazy right? But it is awesome.
And we can cook on it. Bonus!


The crack was a bit of a shock to discover, (definitely not supposed to do that!!) but Gordie has since fixed it (because he's awesome) and it is working again to supplement/sometimes replace our propane heater. It also helps with some condensation issues we've been having this being a metal building and sealed up entirely too well. 😊

6) Random kid stuff.

Samuel loving on the cats. Normal cats sit in your house and look out the window all day. Our cats sit outside and look in our house all day. Sometimes we go out and say hello. (Please pardon the messy glass. Cleaning is beyond me these days.)

Check out this picture Zipporah drew. Not bad for a 4-year-old. She is artistic like her older sister Rebekah I think. And she probably has better handwriting than all of her older brothers already.

Peter smiling, just because.

Miriam met Santa at the mall while selling stuff for Cub Scouts.

Samuel moved up to Tenderfoot rank in Boy Scouts. That means I get a pin on my ribbon as his mom. (Such a cool tradition.) 

Miriam and Zipporah being silly. They are always begging me to come take pictures of them these days.

7) And my friends blessed me with a Sprinkle!

I have the best of friends that threw a celebration for Baby #8. It was so touching to be remembered even though we already have a good amount of kids!

Pardon the messy mirror. This is my favorite pregnancy outfit these days. Many thanks to my mom for the beautiful cardigan.