A Story To Tell {Of Deepening Lines}

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Micah snuggles into my neck, leaving a sticky residue of pureed bananas and crumbling graham crackers on my tired shoulder. His chubby fingers intertwine themselves in my hair, and he giggles at the sensation.

Abby twirls in her latest costume get-up, talking non-stop with every waking breathe. Talking and talking back. Smiling sweetly and stomping her foot angrily. She reminds me so much of myself, and the ache of my own inadequacy in knowing how to raise her grows stronger with each passing day.

David looks up wearily from his computer screen, where the job hunt is in full swing. The months of working long hours and commuting several hours a day in an uncertain contract position have taken their toll on both of us. He is my best friend, my lover, my steady force in the storm. Most days lately that means that we are both lonely.  I do the early morning shift with the kids, and he does the late. If we are lucky, we occasionally meet in the middle. I touch his arm in bed and simply comfort myself with the knowledge that we are committed to this journey together.

I see myself in the mirror, and a woman with deepening lines stares back. Her lids are heavy with sleepless nights, and her forehead creases with the telltale signs of years of smiling, years of pressing through, years of pressing in. Her body still needs to heal from her last pregnancy and birth, and her soul craves answers – house, jobs, goals. She drinks coffee before water in the morning, and sips whiskey before tea in the evening. She hasn’t journaled or blogged in months, but most thoughts are accompanied by prayers. And, yet, there is no naive trust. But she wields the power of truth – and even from ugly truths – she doesn’t shy away. She has grown braver in the last year. More confident in her ability to lead, to work full time as a mother, to creatively find solutions for business problems. And, yet, in the crush of what 50+ hour work weeks have produced in her personal life, a new resolve has formulated. The resolve to choose a different – a harder – path: come what may.

We aren’t buying the house. We aren’t saving for our kids’ college. We aren’t saving at all. We don’t know where we will be living at the end of this year. But we know we will be together. We know we will learn to pray together again. Learn to sit once again in situations that, frankly, make me angry. When it feels like we are professionally moving backwards, I’m tenaciously hanging onto the beauty and power of the choices that we are making. To leave a job that has filled me with so much fulfillment to treasure more of the moments with my favorite people in the whole wide world.

Micah’s slobbery kisses.

Abby’s princess dresses. 

David’s touch as sleep claims us both.

So, in August, when our boxes have been moved into storage and friends’ basements, and our lives have slowed down a bit, I’m embarking upon a personal journey to stare deeply at the lines of that woman in the mirror. Stare at the lines on her face and smile even more. Stare at the lines in her soul and find her new equilibrium in God’s grace and His sufficiency. Stare at the lines of the budget and figure out what it is going to take to make ends meet. I long to find the woman who trusts God and trusts in daily sweet communion with him. I have some harsh lines now that are unbecoming. Lines that make me cringe when they speak out in frustration.

But, one day those lines will also hopefully speak of wisdom gleaned and hope found. Of dreams realized and children received in thankfulness.

My Miracle {On the Eve of Having Not Enough}

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Micah laid in front of me on the bed, feet kicking, fists clenched, crying. I sobbed too. Waiting for my milk to letdown. Waiting for the tingle to know that Micah wouldn’t have to work very hard to latch and drink. Despite several tongue and lip tie procedures, his latch has never been good. He tires easily. Nurses often. Has often returned to a pattern of eating every 2 hours even through the night. And while his head and height measurements remain steady and strong, his weight constantly teeters on the dangerously low.

~~~

Perhaps my blog has remained silent because I didn’t want to put these struggles into words…

~~~

After too many tears had been shed, I spent all of Saturday giving Micah my precious pumped small supply of milk by bottle while simultaneously…endlessly…trying to pump more. My crying continued.

~~~

Ever since returning to work in February after maternity leave ended, I dubbed the first day of the weekend “Crying Saturday.” It all hits. The exhaustion. The messy house. The laundry that barely gets washed. The constant need for even more groceries. And now this. The challenge of feeding a long and lean baby in the 4th percentile when I can’t be for sure on any given day if my milk supply will be up for the challenge. 

~~~

Tomorrow, Micah will officially be four months old. He is waking up to the world around him in an entirely new way. Rolling himself into positions that leave him upset with himself and fussing for rescue. Cooing when it is just the two of us. Grinning with that one dimple. He has my heart. My precious boy. And, I have chosen to feed him no matter what it takes. Nursing. Pumping. Breast milk. Formula. Gifted donor milk. To him, it is all nutrition. And for me – just that simple permission to divert from exclusive breast milk if needed – is grace. It is a gift. A gift that I have given other mamas with words of affirmation, but never extended to myself.

And, with that decision, have come miracles. First, in the form of 60 bottles worth of formula in my pantry. (For those interested, after quite a bit of research, I ordered Pure Bliss off of Amazon. It is made in Europe, sold by Similac, and – most importantly – from grassfed dairy.) Then, a traveling doula offered to bring me all of the milk she was pumping while traveling before boarding a plane to go back home. She estimated that she would have 50 ounces. She brought me 100 ounces. And, despite having the flu this week, my own milk supply has been sufficient each day so far.

All miracles. The formula. The incredible gift of milk. The opportunity to nurse and pump for Micah myself this week.  

Thank you to the mamas that have reached out. Thank you, Jesus, for grace. Thank you that I live in a world of plenty where I have options. These are all gifts.

~~~

So, Micah, on the eve of your four month birthday, know that your mama loves you so very much. She would do anything to help you thrive. She also knows that you and your sister and your daddy need a happy mama. A mama who can see beyond the next pumping session. Beyond the bottles of milk in the fridge. Beyond a number to a family. That craves laughter and joy and fun. Welcome, Sweet Boy, to the world of grace and to seasons of finding the balance between expectations and reality. IMG_0160IMG_0161.JPG

Dear Abby {On the Day You Turn Three}

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IMG_0093.JPGMy Sweet Abby,

You have been counting down the days until your birthday. Talking about all of the sweets and pink sparkly things that you wanted. And, today, you finally turned three. Donned your pink sparkly birthday hat. Prepared to greet the world with the same enthusiasm that you have for all of life. You are My gift. My lens into what is fun, lighthearted, social, important, out-of-my-control, wild, crazy, messy, emotional, and tender-hearted. IMG_0090.JPGIMG_0091

It snowed today. Thick, wet flakes after a run of warm Spring days. It snowed on your Birth day too. I remember the swirling white magic around the car, as your Daddy and I drove to the hospital. The world was coated in newness in expectation of you.

You bring a freshness to our days that can’t be rivaled. You are ready to go and do. Always active. Always entertaining or being entertained. Always talking. Always using your imagination. Rarely still. IMG_0101.jpg

Today, instead of a traditional birthday party, I took a day off of work to treat you to an over-the-top Mommy-Daughter date. (That day off work couldn’t have come at a better time, since I have been very sick the past several days.) Despite my fever and respiratory challenges, we braved the cold to go do “Big Girl” things. Ride the carousel at the mall (they let you ride free, dressed as you were in your birthday outfit). Ride the train (once again, you rode free and were even given money by other passengers?!?). Be serenaded by the train driver. Eat a scone at Starbucks. Shop for a bathing suit. Have your first haircut. Enjoy a pedicure and manicure with me. It was grand. And my heart will always treasure the look of pure delight on your face today. The feeling of your hand in mine as we walked through the mall. Your profile as you ran ahead of me. Your warmth as you snuggled in my arms. IMG_0113.jpg

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Family came over in the evening to celebrate with you, and I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter time of gift-opening, playing in the snow, riding your new bike from Grammy and Pop, and watching you sample more sweets than we normally see in a month. Your Grammy even made you a Thomas the Train cake and cupcakes. I think you will sleep well tonight, Little Girl.  IMG_0134.jpg

IMG_0138.jpgIMG_0148.jpgToday reminded me of why I love being a mother. Why all the long days and sleepless nights are worth it. Why the recent weekends of crying because I haven’t been able to produce enough milk for Micah will fade into distant memories as you both grow and thrive. Life looks different in each season. When you were little, you and I spent endless hours doing nothing but playing together and going on adventures. In this season, our routine barely allows for clean laundry much less exploration. But, what matters most to you is that you know that you are loved. You are seen. You are special.

You are my most amazing birthday girl. I fear time will fly too fast in the coming years. But, today…today was perfect.

I love you,

Mama

Pregnancy Reflection {These are a few of my favorite things}

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Nights full of broken sleep. Coffee. Sore boobs. Half-finished sentences. Healing foods, supplements, and essential oils. Coffee. Newborn snuggles. Sibling snuggles. Coffee. Soaked nursing pads. Changing diapers. More coffee. 

Hasz_x4_168.jpgThese are a few of the things that currently fill my days and nights. But, it was not so very long ago that my sweet Micah was on the inside, and pregnancy with its joys and challenges was one of my main focuses. And before my memories surrounding that season fade, I want to highlight a few of the things that supported my pregnancy goals and helped prepare me for my current postpartum journey. For ease of reading, I have broken up the following post into several categories that address questions that I am often asked by fellow pregnant mamas and doula clients: nutrition, exercise, clothing and gear, and community partners/practitioners.

~~~Nutrition~~~

First of all, I should clarify that I am NOT by any means qualified to give medical advice, so please consult your team of health practitioners on anything that you have questions about. However, I have done a good deal of research on the nutritional needs of pregnant women and now have had two pregnancies during which I personally experimented with foods, supplements, and eating habits. For those trying to conceive or currently pregnant, my favorite go-to book is “Real Food For Mother and Baby” by Nina Planck. Not only does Planck break down the nutritional requirements of perinatal women during all trimesters (including the fourth trimester), but she also delivers her information with a good deal of grace and personal anecdotes from her own motherhood journey.

But back to my favorite nutritional tips, I have learned that very little is in your control during pregnancy (welcome to parenthood). How sick are you going to be during first trimester? How much energy will you have? What does your home/work schedule look like? How often do you pee at night? Do you have pregnancy insomnia? When do you notice relaxin being released in your body and your joints becoming looser and less able to handle impact activities? All of these things impact your pregnancy and nutritional needs. So let me emphasize, there is not a one-diet-fits-all approach, and each pregnancy must be approached with grace for yourself and awe for what your body is doing: growing a baby.

But, there are some general principles that are helpful to keep in mind. First, according to many nutritionists including Planck, the three months PRIOR to conceiving can be some of the most important months nutritionally speaking. Before nausea and exhaustion set in, the three months prior to pregnancy prep your body with nutritional reserves for your growing fetus. If you need to detox, these are the months to do it. If you haven’t been taking a prenatal vitamin with folate, these are the months to begin. If you haven’t been eating a high-quality, high-fat diet, these are the months to intentionally add large amounts of healthy fats: grass-fed butter/dairy, eggs, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts/seeds. These are the NOT the months to fad-diet or allow your weight to yo-yo, as both of these things can be detrimental to fertility.

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Once pregnant, listen to your body. Don’t panic if you can’t consume “the perfect diet” during the first trimester. If you are sick like I have been with both of my babies, then simply SURIVE. If you can eat normally, then do so. Otherwise, try to listen to your cravings and base your food choices off of the “healthiest version” of your cravings and aversions. For example, if you are craving salt, try to choose combinations like plantain chips dipped in hummus, coconut-oil based chips, celery with nut butters, etc. versus the traditional nutritionally-empty saltine cracker and canned chicken noodle soup. Bone broth is an excellent way to satisfy your salt cravings and receive an amazing boost of protein (I don’t like the taste, BUT the Epic brand has just come out with pre-made delicious bone broth. It is worth the price if you can’t get much else down!). If like me, the though of eating vegetables makes you want to barf, then try to sneak in fruits and veggies in other forms such as frozen smoothies. I have found that cold foods without smells are much more easily consumed. Keep snacks by your bed and strive to eat protein. Research has actually shown that protein can help calm nausea even though it is usually the last thing you want to eat. Almonds, specifically, have shown to be a snack that helps mamas in first trimester to feel better. Keep in mind, though, that your goal during these early weeks is simply to stay hydrated as best as you can and know that second trimester will be the time to replenish your body again. img_9036

For me, I begin to feel better around week 16 of pregnancy and usually feel that I can resume normal eating around week 20. Now the focus shifts to eating healthy fats, high-quality proteins, and high fiber foods including fruits and vegetables. Honestly, I think the healthy high-fat foods are what is most often missed in the traditional American pregnancy diet, especially with our focus on not gaining too much weight. Granted, pregnant women stereotypically consume plenty of ice cream, and I fall into that stereotypical category 😉 BUT, we miss the importance of eating fat during pregnancy. High-quality fats support the development of your baby’s brain, help your skin stretch with your growing belly and feed all systems of your body as it grows another human.

In addition to fats, fiber is my best friend. This should generally be understood to mean that constipation is one of my worst enemies in pregnancy. The extra progesterone and just the general state of your organs being moved around (I’m rather sure that my stomach was on the left side of my back) don’t promote seamless digestion. In addition to foods, I require supplements to keep things moving. Extra magnesium (which is also helpful for sleep), Comfortone (a supplement from Young Living), and even the occasional stool softener have helped me manage the pregnancy bloat. Staying hydrated is also crucial.

As far as supplements go, my favorite nutrient-dense food supplement that I recommend during pregnancy is Collagen Hydrolysate. It is a protein-rich powder that contains important amino acids for joint and muscle strength. It is also one of the few things proven to help reduce stretch marks. Not to mention, prior to pregnancy, it is one of my favorite foods to help gut healing. Since it is tasteless and colorless, I generally add it to tea, coffee and/or smoothies depending on what else I am consuming that day. Technically, it can even be added to plain water as well.

And, overall, let me just say: when pregnant, eat and eat a lot. It is hard to not worry about weight gain, but also learn to trust that your body knows what it is doing. With both my pregnancies, I ate constantly, but with my daughter I only gained about 15-20 pounds, but with my son I gained 35-4o pounds. It is what it is. And, though I am not at my pre-pregnancy weight at this time, I actually feel stronger and healthier after this second pregnancy than after my first.

And, in an effort to be fully transparent, I probably ate my weight in bowls of cereal at all hours of the day and night. 🙂

For a list of essential oils that I love (specifically in the weeks leading up to labor), I have written a blog post completely devoted to that topic. You can read about my personal use here: Essential Oils for Birth.

~~~Exercise~~~

I probably get the most questions about my exercise during pregnancy. It is no secret that I love to exercise and have historically erred on the side of too much/too intense exercise for my life season. BUT, this pregnancy, I resolved to be gentle with my body, maintain my strength, but not push too hard and damage my joints/abdominals. I also sought out expert advice this time around, as I had a three-finger abdominal separation after Abby that took me nearly two years to heal. It doesn’t help that my favorite form of exercise is running – a very high impact practice that can be quite jarring and potentially detrimental to the pelvic floor and core during pregnancy. When it was all said and done, I exercised almost every day in second and third trimesters, but was much more intentional to honor my body’s needs and modify my activities to nurture myself.

Without a gym membership, all of my workouts were accomplished either outdoors or in my basement. I own a set of resistance bands and 3 and 5 pound hand weights. Supportive tennis shoes are also a must for any jogging. I also can’t say enough about the belly splint I wore that was made specifically by a pre- and postnatal trainer and mom for other exercise-enthusiast moms. Known as the Maternity FITsplint, the band supports the core muscles. img_8242

img_8619I worked with two trainers specifically this pregnancy (both local to Colorado, but both schedule Skype/online consults/training as well). First, I had an initial consultation with Brooke of The Bloom Method when I was about 14 weeks pregnant. As her website explains, Brooke has designed an innovative program with “cutting-edge core techniques [that] use diaphragmatic breath and deep core engagement to keep the abdominal muscles strong as the belly grows throughout pregnancy.” After this initial consultation, I faithfully completed between 5-20 minutes of deep core engagement exercises everyday for the rest of pregnancy. I also had several subsequent training sessions with Brooke and worked on incorporating core engagement with functional movements during intense circuit training sessions. The difference in my core strength just five weeks postpartum is remarkable when compared to my postpartum journey after Abby was born. I weigh more this time around (just to point out that it is NOT about strict weight standards), but only have about a single finger separation in my abdominals at this point and am feeling my muscles re-close as the days go by. IMG_9434.JPG

I also worked with Beth Reese Jones of Beth Jones Coaching. I knew Beth from my time in as a full-time doula and reached out to her before I got pregnant and during pregnancy for training programs designed specifically for the season of preparation/restoration that I was in. During pregnancy, I was often working 10-hour days as the center manager of Baby+Co birth center and needed fast, but safe workouts for my 4:15 am wake-up time. Given those constraints, Beth created 20-minute workouts that helped me stick to my daily exercise goal. She now has an online training program called Mama Sport that I recommend.

Additionally, I used the wonderful and FREE world of prenatal workout videos on YouTube to mix up my routine, as well as a couple of prenatal barre exercise DVDs. Among my favorite YouTube videos are the prenatal series of workouts by BodyFit by Amy and the prenatal series of workouts by Glow Body PT. After exploring many, many exercise DVDs, I found several by Suzanne Bowen that I love including “Slim & Toned” and “Long & Lean” and a series of prenatal videos by Tracy Anderson called “The Pregnancy Project.” I highly recommend purchasing these DVD series if you enjoyed barre workouts pre-pregnancy and desire to continue those routines.

~~~Clothing & Gear~~~

As far as maternity clothes go, I despise most of them. They are over-priced, don’t last long, and are often unflattering. The one exception to my rule is maternity leggings, which I adore, but I always buy several sizes “too big,” as the last thing I want to be while pregnant is uncomfortable and squished. Target carries a great line of leggings and tanks, but I buy the large size even with my small frame. Once again, a tight waist band drives me crazy and just adds insult to injury.

My maternity “uniform” consists of leggings, tanks, and then a kimono/cardigan/flowy top to complete the ensemble. Every so often, I find a comfortable maternity piece that I add, but overall, I don’t expect much from most maternity lines. View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection

Round ligament pain struck early and often this pregnancy, and I found that I wanted additional support earlier on. For this purpose, the Blanqi support tanks are great  – if a bit overpriced. I only bought one and wore it on days when I needed a slimming look under a dress or on days when I was going to be on my feet for long periods of time. As an added bonus, its length and compression also help to hold up pants/leggings under a growing belly.

As far as pregnancy gear goes, I borrowed a large maternity body pillow during my third trimester and used it periodically. However, for most of my pregnancy I loved the Bellifly Pillow, as it doesn’t take up the entire bed and can support various sleeping/sitting/nursing positions without much moving of pillows/blankets, etc. img_7660

Everyone finds their favorite belly cream, but mine was definitely Burt’s Bees Mama Belly Butter. It smells wonderful, is thick enough to provide long-lasting moisture, but doesn’t stay greasy on the skin. I also made a homemade shea butter blend with Young Living essential oils for thicker, evening applications. “Gentle Baby” is a wonderful YL blend for pregnancy skin, and one of my favorites in body butter creations – pregnant or not.

~~~Community Partners & Practitioners~~~

IVF injections. Sterile procedure rooms. More blood tests than I can count. This is how my pregnancies begin. It is a gift – modern medical technology. But, it also leaves a lot of the intimacy out of conception. When the months came for me to begin the IVF medications this year, I sought the prayers and hugs of a small group of friends, and I began a journey to make this a “conscious conception.” I wanted to nurture myself and seek the expertise and support of amazing local community practitioners in my infertility struggle and ensuing pregnancy. IMG_6460.jpg

Amy Colo, a retired midwife, is an incredible Mayan abdominal massage therapist. She helped me prepare my body for pregnancy and then nurtured it throughout the duration of Micah’s growth. (She was also incredibly influential in my postpartum healing…more on that in a future post.) I highly recommend her for infertility, women’s self-care, and perinatal massage. Her website is http://amycolo.com/maya-abdominal-massage/.

On a similar note, the practitioners at Alpenglow Acupuncture were incredible supports during my third trimester when circulation issues and prodromal labor nearly got the best of me. I highly recommend them! Their website is http://www.alpenglowacu.com/.

Karina Constantino of Dynamic Doulas was my amazing doula and supported my birth experience both at the birth center and during our transfer to the hospital. She helped me emotional prepare for the postpartum time and held the space for David and I to labor during the long night of Micah’s birth. She has worked with both low and high risk families, and is absolutely amazing. Her website is http://www.dynamicdoulas.com/.

Rachael Hope has been my photographer since David and I moved to Colorado as newlyweds in 2008. She is a family, lifestyle and birth photographer. I don’t have words to describe her talent, but all I can write is that she captures magic. She is sensitive, compassionate and understands the needs of mamas. I have been honored to be her friend and walk with her through the birth of her three babies. Her website is http://www.havenlifeandphoto.com/.

And, this list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the midwives at Baby and Company birth center. I realize my recommendation could appear biased as the center manager, but truly I had always dreamed of delivering at Baby+Co since they opened in May 2015. If you are pregnant or in need of well woman care, then please consider them. Amazing, compassionate, holistic care! I should also note that the midwives at Avista Women’s Care did an incredible job caring for me during the beginning of my pregnancy, and I highly recommend them for natural hospital birth 🙂

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Thank you again to my family and friends who prayed for our family, kept me sane during pregnancy, and have gone above and beyond to love on our family of four since Micah arrived. I am speechless and blessed to be part of this village. Hugs. XOXO

Dear Micah {4 Week Letter}

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Dear Micah,

You’ve just begun to smile at me, and it’s a private smile, as though you and I share the sweetest secrets. And perhaps we do. We share the secret of birth. The secret of midnight nursing. The secret of dawn coffee dates when you stare at me with your big, wise eyes while I sip my first cup of the day. Hasz_bath_144.jpg

We share a story that made me stronger and more passionate about motherhood and womanhood. More certain that God makes broken things beautiful. More certain that you have been and will always be my Little Lion baby. You will be fierce, yet gentle. A defender of the weak. I’ve felt this about you since you first took root inside of me. Now you are four weeks old, and I feel this still.

You are a miracle. And my heart and soul and body have found a new peace since you came. Hasz_bath_150.jpg

When I wrote your birth story, I put behind me the moments of trauma that lingered and chose to share a story that I pray continues to brings healing to the readers, as the processing of that night brought healing to me. But our story isn’t done. Because truly your birth instilled in me an even greater desire to see women empowered by their labor experience. Empowered for a new strength. Accepting of a new vulnerability. Believing in a stronger hope.

So I will continue to speak out. Serve families. Bring beauty when and where and how I can.

And live honestly. With a heart wide open. As I pray that you and your sister do.

~~~

Snow fell and dawn was just a hazy shadow in the night sky when your sister Abby woke up this morning. Padding around in her polka-dot pajamas, she peered out the window. “May Abby wake up yet, Mama? Is it light out?”

“It’s still pretty dark outside, Abby, but you may wake up.”

“Mama, light and dark are opposites,” she assured me, certain of this new knowledge she had recently acquired. “Yes, they are, Sweet Girl. You are right.”

But, as she chattered away, I was struck by the mystery out our frosty windows. Dawn defies the strictness of opposites. Light and dark mingle. Night gently fades, and the morning steals slowly in. And dawn is beautiful. Perhaps even whimsical. Sometimes brilliant in its sunrises. But often unnoticed. It’s a fresh start. A herald of hope and healing.  

As have been these past four weeks with you.

~~~

For nigh on a month, your arrival in our family has been a mixture of light and dark – a study in opposites. Your first days were tumultuous, but your first weeks some of the sweetest that I have ever experienced. Hours so intense have never been followed by healing so powerful. And I think it is that gift that I desire to share. The power to re-live, release, remember, and re-find. Hasz_bath_136.jpg

And so this blog post shares some images that I initially debated whether or not they were appropriate for me to personally and publicly share (even though I was dressed in the tub). Some of the photos from our postpartum bath session will remain my private treasures, but some pictured here convey so perfectly the essence of this past month. These weeks of DAWN. These days of snuggles and cuddles and nursing and figuring out what it means to be a family of four. To mother two precious treasures. To honor my postpartum body. To return to the same birth center and the same tub in which I spent hours laboring in order to bring you into this world. To sit in that sacred space and cry. And relax. And remember. And walk out of the dark into the light.

You have filled my heart with greater joy. Hasz_bath_122.jpg

~~~

Gentle intake. Softly out. Resting.

Eyelashes drenched with purifying rain.

I’ve fought with hell.

I’ve lain prostrate, broken on the shore.

Wind-whipped hair. Chapped hands –

I’ve been through a hurricane.

~Excerpt from my poem “Hurricane” written in 2010~

~~~

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IMG_9448.JPG View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection{Photo Credit Rachael Hope of Haven: Life & Photo}

Micah’s Birth Story {A Little Lion’s Tale}

Joys are always on their way to us. They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming. ~Amy Carmichael

Dear Micah,

It is fitting that you came to us this Advent season through the darkness of the night. Weeks of preterm contractions led up to your birth, and I was prepared for what I thought would probably be a fast labor. I imagined an intense, but peaceful day. I’ve been a doula for too long to not know that birth is unpredictable, but I still never expected the wildness of the hours that would bring you into my arms. But here you rest. Wrapped to my body right now in peaceful slumber. You are okay. Perfect, even. And the world is a better place for your arrival. IMG_9144.JPG

micah_birth_126.jpgIf Advent is the expectant waiting, then birth is the pinnacle of travail, tears, and battle that brings such fragile beauty in its wake.

Such raw power.

Such broken hallelujahs murmured between the waves of contractions. 

But such joy.

I press my lips to your dewy soft forehead and stare into the depths of your eyes and know that it was all worth it. You have been my warrior – my Little Lion Baby – from the day of your conception. How could I picture your birth as anything less?

Micah David Hasz.

Born at 7:16 am on December 8. 7 pounds, 10.2 ounces. 20.25 inches long. IMG_9137.JPG

micah_birth_104.jpgNo matter how the rest of the telling goes of your birth story, I am empowered by the long hours. The arms of your Daddy holding me up. The touch of my doula and dear friend Karina calming quivering muscles. The eyes of my sister soul friend and birth photographer Rachael locking on mine in love and strength. The power of my midwife Tracy and the understanding of my midwife Ellen. The deep sounds of the laboring mother next door.

I was never alone.

Never.

And in birth, that changes everything.

~~~

{The rest of this post shares my heart – and intimate, but perhaps graphic, details – of Micah’s birth. Please don’t read on if you would prefer to not know these moments. But the telling – yes, the actual writing – of this story is for me. My healing. My heart. My memory. My community of birth professionals and passionate mamas who wish to change the face of maternity care. These details are for us, for them, for our the generation that will come after us and who should expect birth to empower no matter how it progresses.}

~~~

My water breaking at 10 pm on the evening of December 7 woke me up from a deep sleep. After a quick text to my midwife, I vacillated between going to bed and waiting to see if labor was going to kick in. At 10:07 pm the first strong contraction began, and very quickly I was having to concentrate, moan, and change positions with each one. Still, I didn’t want to arrive at the birth center too soon, so I tried to get dressed and braid my hair between contractions. By about 10:20 I knew I was going to need to wake your Daddy. Contractions were hard and already 5-7 minutes apart. Your daddy was in a much bigger hurry than I was (thankfully), and we were in the car by 10:40 pm. On the way, contractions were 4-5 minutes apart and made me want to force your dad to break a few traffic laws to get us to our destination faster. (Alas, that’s not his personality.) But, with great calm, he steadied me, and Tracy met us outside of Baby and Company birth center.

Settling into the beautiful Mama Bear room at the center, candles aglow and bath tub filling, I remember my midwife Tracy Ryan telling me that “It would be soon” based on her exam. I didn’t need to know more than that, but focused on those words in the coming hours. The force of 3-5 minute apart contractions took every ounce of concentration and will power to simply survive. “Surely, you would make your entrance soon,” I believed. IMG_9135.JPG

micah_birth_129.jpgmicah_birth_133.jpgWater was gently poured over my back in a gentle stream. Flooding. Dripping. Easing.

Your Daddy held my hand as I hung over the birth bath tub’s white rim. Gripping. Strengthening. Believing.

The hand held fetal heart doppler regularly declared your heart steady and strong. 130 BPM. 135 BPM. 130 BPM. 

Beating in rhythm for both of us. Our two hearts beating as one. Sharing the intensity of the night. Waiting for morning’s joy.

Surviving.

The next hours became a testimony of sheer survival. I could barely moan deep and low much less stifle the screams that wanted to escape. My doula’s background told me not to waste energy in yelling, but my mama’s body didn’t care. “I just want to be done,” I told Tracy. “I just want to hold Micah.” And while I began pushing intermittently somewhere in the 2 am hour, you kept descending and then disappearing. Nearly crowning and then gone. The moments were agonizing. img_9136

IMG_9224.JPGmicah_birth_178.jpgWe pushed in every position. In the birth tub. On all fours. In a lunge position on the yoga bars. Seated on the birth stool. Laying on the bed on both my back and side. Tracy used a finger forceps technique to aid my pelvis for several of the hours. Karina calmed and steadied me, using pressure points, essential oils, fans, and affirmations. Your Daddy supported me through position changes. My body straining. Deep belly breathing you down. Every ounce of energy poured into moving you down. Over and over again.

Until it was finally enough. And we knew that you needed more help to be born. And it is at this point that I can’t say enough about our transfer process from the birth center to Lutheran hospital. As center manager of Baby+Co, I always rave about the seamless transition, but I was truly overwhelmed by the continuity of care throughout the long night. And for my midwife team. Ellen kept calm even in the midst of my obvious distress. She often just sat quietly, holding the space. And Tracy was my rock. She sat near me for hours, held my body as I pushed, didn’t let me quit, always gave me choices, and orchestrated a transfer to the hospital just as I was nearly spent. “Lauren,” she said after about 4 hours of pushing, “baby needs a little bit more help. You are a powerful pusher, and he is just stuck. There is nothing more we can do here.”

Dawn was just breaking. It was in the late 6 am hour. I yelled and cried and pushed and simply survived as we made the 0.2 mile drive to the hospital, Tracy in the back of the car for support. I remember my body writhing on the seat and the seconds feeling like an eternity. As I look back now on those dark hours, the sun just barely peeking over the horizon, I never want to return to that emotional or physical space. The despair. The pain. The knowledge that the journey was not over until it was over. I had no control over the pace or the place or the coming minutes.

But, that is where miracles happen.

In that place where you lose control.

In that time of desperation.

When we aren’t alone.

As Ann Voskamp writes, That is always the secret to the abundant life: to believe that God is where you doubt He can be.

When we arrived on the labor and delivery floor, a nurse quickly ushered us into Room 1 where a team was already prepared for me thanks to the report that Tracy had called in ahead of time. I was a mess. Covered in bodily fluids. Beyond exhausted. Hours and hours of pushing already in the bag. My face so swollen that my nose had almost disappeared. The blood vessels around my eyes and in my eyes had ruptured and were already red  and swollen. Everyone who saw me in the coming days commented that I looked like I had been in a fight.

Well, I had.

A fight for my your life, my Little Lion Baby.

A fight for my own heart.

A fight to voice as many of my original birth wishes in the face of rapid interventions needed to keep you safe.

And, as I have processed what came next, that is the conclusion that I have arrived at. The interventions were NEEDED, life-saving, life-giving, and not chosen hastily. I replay the room’s scene in my mind. Karina, my doula, right by my side. Tracy acting as nurse and helping me speak my wishes. My dearest friend and photographer Rachael respectfully putting her camera down and simply holding the space. Crying with my husband. David, standing strong, but also breaking with the yearning and the hoping and the fear.

After rushing into the room, I found myself kneeling on the hospital floor. IV being placed. Blood drawn. Nurses introducing themselves. A big white fluffy bath robe from the birth center still wrapped around my shoulders. Gripping the hospital bed, as I bent over it. And still the contractions would not stop coming. The pushing would not stop. The bright florescent lights of the room filled my senses in stark contrast to the dimly lit birth room from which I had come.

And then the OB commented that I was doing a great job pushing and questioned”Did I just want to push for a while longer before trying anything else?”. I nearly cursed. It had been over four hours of pushing and it was not more time that was needed to help you into this world. I knew it. Deep down. Tracy knew it. Something else was going on. And then the doctor also saw what we had been experiencing through the long night: you, Micah, crowning and then re-entering the birth canal back to a +2 or+3 station. He offered me three contractions with a vacuum assist before we immediately moved to a Cesarean.

On my back with my legs up in stirrups barely able to see out of the slits of my swollen eyes, I no longer cared how you arrived. Who delivered you. Whether I was on the birth stool or in the birth tub. I just wanted to hold you to my shaking body. Meet you. Know you were safe. And so I pushed. Again. And with just one vacuum-assisted contraction, your head emerged in an acynclitic position.

My son.

But there was no sound. 

Other than the palpable panic of the nurses and OB in the room.

Immediately, a flurry of activity ensued. I continued to push. Nurses literally put their weight on top of me, using their hands on my belly to assist. The OB expertly inserted his hand around your body to dislodge your shoulder from under my pubic bone and untagle your arms from their twisted position behind your own back.

And in the urgency of those moments, God was still there. I didn’t see His presence then, but I realize it looking back. He was there in the care of an excellent, well-trained hospital staff. He was there in my cries and my husband’s prayers. He was there in the strength of my midwife. I was never alone. You were never alone.

I remember seeing the sun tinge the sky pink outside my hospital room window.

I remember the touch of people who loved me.

The powerful burn of your bluish-toned head and body wedged.

The instants of sheer terror when I wasn’t sure if  you were going to be okay. IMG_9223.JPG

Curled up pushing, I saw you emerge. Your face turn pink. Your first – and instantaneous – cry. It sounded more like “Ma Ma” than any cry I have ever heard. And, I gave thanks. Shaking uncontrollably, my arms received you to my chest and warm blankets covered us.

I was so cold.

So weary.

So done.

The next minutes were a blur. But, I do remember realizing that my body had immediately stopped contracting and the placenta was also stuck. Several different medications were administered including pitocin to no avail. The cord broke and more help was needed.

img_9141img_9142IMG_9143.JPGYou went with your daddy and a nurse to the warmer and the scale, so I could focus. I was given the option of pain medications, but if I accepted, then it would most likely be hours before I would wake up and be able to snuggle you. While I did briefly try nitrous oxide for the second time that night (the gas seems to have no affect on me at all), I refused other pain medications. I had gone without so far, and I would continue without drugs if possible. I might have changed my mind if I knew the pain of a manual placenta extraction. But, thankfully, the doctor was very skilled and fast and the excruciating pain was probably over in 5-7 minutes. I screamed into the nitrous oxide gas mask.

And then you returned to my chest. And we cried and shook and met this great big world together. You, a newborn. Me, also reborn. Cherishing a greater love than I imagined possible. You were worth every moment of that long night. IMG_9140.JPG

We are both healing. More slowly than I had expected prior to your birth, but healing nonetheless. Your broken clavicle should heal in 2-4 weeks. My body is losing its swollen appearance and all but the blood vessels in my eyes have returned to a more normal color. Miraculously, I didn’t tear (I’m chalking that up to all of the essential oils and perineum massage I used in the months leading up to your due date, as well as the collagen I regularly added to drinks/foods) – though I think that miracle also goes way beyond supplements. More importantly, my heart is healing. The trauma is fading. I’ve re-entered the birth center space and cried. Had a massage in one of the birth rooms. Scheduled an appointment with craniosacral therapist for both of us and worked through some of the painful images. In the coming weeks, I plan on taking a postpartum herbal bath with you in one of the big birth center tubs and re-living some of the moments that I missed in the hospital.

Resting. Eating. Nursing. Breathing. Staring at you. Snuggling your sister.

Enjoying the final days of Advent as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. IMG_9134.JPG

I am not victimized by your birth story. No, not at all. Rather, empowered. Birth was hard and agonizing, but also tangible grace. In the bright light of the hospital. In the vulnerability of those final moments. In our mingled weeping tears.

You came, and I did it.

And, I love you. More than words can say. I love you.

{All photos credit to Rachael Hope of Haven, Life & Photo}

Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it. ~ R.H. Sin

To My Son {On My First Day of Maternity Leave}

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To My Little Lion Baby,

img_6665Bent over in pain with small contractions coming and going yesterday, I was reminded of the week you were conceived. I left the reproductive endocrinologist’s office with you gently placed in my body, but with no guarantees as to whether or not you would be able to flourish and grow. Instructions for me included rest, stress-free days, minimal lifting/carrying, many hormone injections and patience as we waited for pregnancy results. And then your sister got sick. Sicker than she has ever been with days and nights of high fevers. And, in tears in the middle of the night, I asked the Lord how I could mother both of you. How could I rest for you? But simultaneously, how could I comfort and hold your sister through hours of feverish body aches?

And through my tears and exhaustion, His gentle whisper came. As it always does. The lyrics to a song that is always present if we care to listen.

I am holding your children,” He said. All of them. The ones that are already in Heaven. The daughter in your arms. The baby in your body.

img_7275And I knew in that moment that as mother of multiple children that I would always have to make choices as to who needed me the most in each moment and then trust that your ultimate care was in our Heavenly Father’s hands. Not an easy lesson. Not one that I’ve mastered or even come close to understanding yet.

But, despite the sleepless nights, you thrived, and now I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant with you. I’ll be honest. I want you out. Want you in my arms. Want to snuggle you through the night. Want to fit into my shoes again. Want the pubic pain to end. Want the weeks of contractions and false labor starts to finally bring your birth.

I am a humbling weepy mess.

And so, with the support of my amazing staff at Baby and Company birth center, I chose to make yesterday my last day at work. It is time to wait for you from the comfort of my bed. To read books with Abby without a newborn in my arms. To take naps when I can’t sleep at night. To clean. And cook. And write thank-you notes for shower gifts. (Or perhaps to do none of these things at all.) And definitely to stop stepping on the scale 😉

~~~

You were chosen, Baby Boy. Loved. The most extraordinary gift this Advent season could possibly bring. And with expectation we wait for your arrival.

Becoming the Fire

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Some women fear the fire. Some women simply become it. ~R.H. Sin

Ever since a dear friend gifted me a beautiful print with this quote, the words have churned round and round, finding a home in the nooks and crannies of my heart. Some women become the fire… IMG_6198.JPG

IMG_6260.jpgIMG_7275.JPGIMG_8934.JPGI’ve never felt so independent as I do in this season of working 9 to 11 hour days in a field that I love for a cause that I love.

Yet, I’ve never felt so weak as I have this pregnancy during what has proven to be a much more physically challenging set of trimesters.

I’ve never felt so conflicted between my roles as a wife, mama, friend, and career woman.

Never has there been so little time for so little extra. That extra book reading time with Abby. That extra afternoon time to make muffins. That extra evening time to laugh with friends. That extra weekend time to rest. Never has there been so little space for these little things. These little-big things. IMG_8952.jpg

And, so, I’ve drawn inward, trying to find my way. 

It is my way. This going inward for introspection. This conserving heart space to ponder the changes. This growing quiet so not everyone knows what a toll this pregnancy has taken on my body. My own doubts. My desire to be nurtured myself when my body aches and is tired. My metamorphosis into a someone new.

I pray this new woman is someone remembered for how much she loved and gave and sacrificed even when she felt empty herself. I pray she is someone known for transparency and quiet strength. I pray it someone known for bravery. She became the fire…

For, I am becoming the fire. IMG_8923.jpg

I’ve walked past the threshold of fear and revel in the new calling that my family walked into this year. But, I’ve not figured it out yet. This balancing act between self-care and self-sacrifice. This great mission to daily reflect more and more of Christ’s glory and love and grace. I’m keeping my head above the water, but I’m certainly not winning any medals for my graceful swimming just yet.

And, that’s the thing. A fire doesn’t just burn in solitude and leave no trace of its existence. Fires are magnetic. Transforming. Holy and cleansing. Painful. Refining. Contagious.

I want to be these things. A woman of magnetic strength, lovely holiness, contagious grace.

So perhaps the question is how do we keep these questions at the forefront of our minds as we go throughout busy days, challenging careers, physical obstacles, relational demands? How do we tattoo these goals to our trembling hearts and become like fire?

I don’t believe we do it alone. Yes, the “becoming” is an individual journey, but we don’t live and love in a vacuum. We watch those going before us. We guide those coming behind us. We seek the Holy and live humbly before our God. We lay ourselves down on the altar for Him to become the internal flame that burns from the inside out. The giving way to the Spirit within us that isn’t quenched or afraid or overcome.

For I may be becoming the fire, but I am not strong enough to resist the heat on my own. It is Christ in me. My hope of glory. My first love. My comforter. My rock. He makes me brave. IMG_8859.JPG

 

When you cry at a glimpse of the Holy

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“And love is not a victory march / It’s a cold and a broken hallelujah.” ~Jeff Buckley

And it’s that broken hallelujah that fills my soul with shivers.

It’s the sacrifices that my Jesus made for me and the sacrifices we make out of love that touch an eternal cord, ringing true of what is beauty and what is broken and what will be made whole. View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection

Rocking Abby back and forth before bedtime recently, her mouth pressed closed to my heart, my face bending toward her tousled long hair, I heard her whisper her broken hallelujah. “When the baby arrives, he will need a toy, Mama,” she explained. “He will need a bear. I will give him MY Bear.”

Oh, Baby Girl…My Sweetest Abby, all I could do was hold her tighter. Grip her innocence and her sacrifice. Marvel at a heart so pure that she would give up her most precious possession to a brother she has yet to meet. If you know Abby, then you know that “Bear” is never far from her grasp. Bear comforts her. Bear goes with her on adventures. Bear helps her be brave.

And she would give him up for a love unknown.

That’s the love that would change the world.

Now, my two-year-old is far from perfect. Many days we barely survive the sudden tantrums and frustrating demands. But in these tender moments, her faith and hope and trust brings me to tears. I glimpse the Holy in the purity of her dreams and desires. I stand in awe of her wonder. And, I know that broken things are fixed in the presence of such love.

Ann Voskamp recently wrote on her blog “A Holy Experience” that “Sometimes the places where we are stretched thin are the thin places where we catch a greater glimpse of God.

And in the wee hours of the morning today, I write from a place of being stretched thin. Of wondering how I will mother two children and have anything left to give. Of wondering how I will make it the remaining 4-9 weeks before this next one’s arrival without breaking in the exhaustion and demands both physically and emotionally. Of wondering how I will make a difference for friends and family when I can barely find time to send text messages right now.

I stare down at my body – literally stretched thin – and see a belly separating to allow my Little Lion Baby to grow stronger. I look up and see an expanse of a sky created by a God who allowed himself to be separated from His son and broken for a world’s healing. I wrangle my toddler and see a little girl with the potential to live out a broken hallelujah.

Will she? Will I? Will I strain for a glimpse of the Holy when I am all poured out? Will you? What would our world look like if we lived each day willing to be made into that broken hallelujah? That song nearly too precious to sing, because it turns all of this world’s priorities on their head. If my life is not meant to be a victory march in one sense, perhaps it will be beautiful in my brokenness.

As I acknowledge that my strength is from my Savior who is strong for me. As I acknowledge my imperfections. Repent. Make peace. Give grace. And seek the Holy. View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collection

Dear Abby {At Almost 2.5 Years Old}

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My Dearest Girl,

These letters are getting fewer and further between, but my moments with you grow more vibrant. More alive. More complex as your imagination and creativity soar.

IMG_8598.JPGOne of your favorite activities right now is to “float away” in a cardboard box. After emptying it of all its contents, you fill the “boat” with your favorite stuffed animals, supplies for your trip and any number of toys to keep you company. Then, you climb in and wave goodbye to me in the middle of the kitchen: “Bye bye, Mama! Abby is floating away!

IMG_8601.JPGMy heart knows this is true in so many ways. You are growing up. Floating further away from the person of my needy baby toward an independent, determined preschooler. I would not hold you back, but sometimes I wish I could just snuggle and rock you without you wiggling away. Sometimes, I wish I could dress you and make you obey without a lengthy negotiation session. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t see my hormone fluctuations reflected in your exaggerated tantrums. Yes, I know you were sleepy last night and probably experiencing a sugar crash from that apple fritter that we shared, but did we really need to have a drawn-out weeping session over an orange shopping bag you wanted from the car and the fact that we couldn’t find your missing sock?

I think the proverb “Don’t cry over spilt milk” resulted from someone’s experience of parenting a toddler.

But, I digress.

View More: http://rachaelhopephotography.pass.us/hasz-family-collectionAs I suspected from those first early months of your life, you are not a child who is content to sit and ponder the world. No, you explore it. Taste it. Jump into it and on it and over it every chance you get. You climb up and fall down. You are a whirlwind of perpetual activity. Reading books is a rarity, but singing and dancing to silly songs is a daily occurrence.

Since I began working full-time, I’ve gone through phases of mommy guilt for the time I spend away from you, mommy guilt for the relief in the hours I don’t have to negotiate with you, grief as I drop you off in the morning and miss you in my empty quiet car, grief as I see you sleeping on the monitor when I get home at night but didn’t have a chance to tuck you in. I’m crying now even, as those emotions are fresh and raw, often occurring and confusing. I may also be pregnant and hormonal, but that’s another story.

THIS is the story of YOU. You and me. Our ups and downs. Our highs and lows. How I miss you and your constant conversation, as I drive away from your early learning center. How I am proud of you, as I watch videos of you riding your balance bike with Grammy and Pop. Your mind absorbs new ideas and new words, reshaping them and fashioning them into such delightful perspectives. You keep us laughing. You keep us praying. You keep us realizing how little we know about parenting. But, we will learn and pray and laugh. Cry, too, but that goes without saying these days.

IMG_8556.JPGAbby, when you are grown and look back on this season, my guess is that most of your memories will be very fuzzy except for what pictures and our stories of you reinforce. You are just two-and-a-half. Just barely coming into your own. Just barely asserting yourself in this big amazing world. But, I pray that you read these letters and find the strength to chase after your dreams. To be a stay-at-home mom if that is your calling or to pursue a career. To not be confined by stereotypes or people’s expectations. To remain humble before your God, but to proudly revel in the strong woman that you are. You are brave. You are smart. You are beautiful. Embrace all of those characteristics. The strength. The intelligence. And the beauty of being a woman.

I love you, Sweet Toddler Girl.

XOXO, Your Mama

{Photo credit Rachael MacPhee of Haven, Life & Photo}