In the field...

In the field...
Our Family awaiting baby #4

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Removing our "Rose-Colored Glasses"

Do you remember that country song "Rose-Colored Glasses" from the 80's?   I do because my parents took me to Austin's Erwin center as a teen and I heard John Connally sing this in person...and I didn't forget it.  But I'll come back to this...

I have to tell you that I am QUITE excited to write this post, but I'm a little anxious as well.  You see, I originally started this blog with the hopes of posting weekly thoughts and experiences of living the daily life of a Christian mother of 4 little ones...but then life got in the way.  In good ways and in bad ways too. 

This is understandable I know, but I still have SO many things on my mind that I want to share.  I think of topics while I commute to work.  Then I kick myself because when the sun goes down and the kids are finally asleep, I don't even have time to shower, much less post on these topics . 

But I am determined to make an effort to start putting some of these thoughts down... slowly...even if I just add small bits here and there (when I can). 

So here we go...

I am very inquisitive person.

 In our endless "informational age", in looking for one answer I sometimes stumble upon other information that (at least I think) every parent and grandparent deserves to know. 

I also have faith in God and His purpose.

Mix these statements all together and what do you get?

A realization that I (and my beloved husband) have removed our "Rose-Colored Glasses" when it comes to raising children in our modern society today.

So you might ask, what topics have you questioned along the way? 

WELL, these are just few...

      • MODERN CHILDBIRTH VS. NATURAL CHILDBIRTH - Which is more Godly? I've touched on this a bit in my previous posts.
      • VACCINES - To Vax or not to Vax? This is a BIG topic, but one that I have become quite passionate about.  Lots of controversy here, but it's worth at least sharing my shocking discoveries...
      • BREASTFEEDING - At least it is making a come back =)
      • DIET/EATING HABITS - Is it even possible to live preservative free? 
      • JUST WHY ARE OUR KIDS SO SICK ANYWAY?  - Why our "modern" world has lost its way when it comes to raising "healthy" kids. 
These are some of the bigger topics that are always on my mind...but there are plenty more where these came from. 

As I've mentioned before, I constantly ask myself "Is this really what God intended for us"?  How were we created and how FAR have we strayed from HIS perfect blue-print?

This is all I have time for right now...

But I will tell you that I DO plan on tackling the topic that I am MOST passionate about first.  The one that originally convinced me to rip off my "Rose-Colored Glasses", even though I had zero intentions of doing so.

Until then...
  God Bless =)   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our FINAL difficult decision.

As we finish packing our home in Liberty, I feel it is necessary to finish the last chapter in our saga of difficult decisions.  It does feel a bit therapeutic to close this chapter at this point...

SO we left off here...with the devastating news that I did NOT get the teaching job in Liberty.  

I remember the morning that I went over to the school to inquire.  After all, it had been over 7 weeks since I interviewed for the job.  I knew the odds were good for me to be hired, but did have some doubt about having not had any job offer at that point.  But I wasn't too worried.  I was comforted by the fact that the community members were very supportive and said they would be CRAZY not to hire me, voiced even by those that worked within the administration.  

Some complications had actually arose within the school itself though.  The principal had resigned - but only a few weeks after interviewing me!  And so naturally, the school district had some rearranging to do.  

Early on in the summer, I simply did not press the issue that I had not been notified either way about the job.  But once July hit, I started to get a bit worried, desperately needing making plans for the school year, day care arrangements and adjustments within my home music studio.  I needed to know what the plan was.  

I often describe myself as a "paranoid planner" -
I really need to know what is coming and how I can make it the most productive.

But I'll admit that I had made ONE wrong decision at this point...

With the reassurance that I SHOULD get this job, I had NOT even looked for any other positions in the area.  I wasn't over-confident about what a super job-candidate I was, I simply trusted those that had reassured me that I was "in"for the Liberty position.

After hearing the district had an "interim" principal designated, early that Monday morning in mid-July (I had interviewed in May), I got up early and dressed professionally.  I went across the street to the school and walked inside.  The lights in the office were off, but the door was open so I went inside.  I knew most of the faculty were not in for the school year anyway. 

I rang the bell and waited.  

A nice lady popped her head around the corner and asked if she could help me.   I inquired about the status of the position, and she said "Oh hun, they hired someone weeks ago! I'm sorry you were not notified".

And that was it.

At that moment, my mind went into super-hyper-over-load....What were we going to do now? WHY did they not have the decency to notify me sooner?  How were we going to survive without a significant change in our existence?  What was Jon going to think?  Would he be upset with me?  How was I going to find another position in MID JULY???...but I said nothing to her.  I staggered out.


I don't even remember crying, but when I got home I did have black mascara streaks staining my face.   I didn't want Jon to see my pain, but it was radiating through me. 

Jon said "Honey, what's wrong"?

I told him what she said.  

Just know...I wasn't hurting because I had NOT been chosen for the position.  I hurt because I felt I had let my husband and my kids down.  Not a good feeling...

The rest is history...we had NO other option at this point.  

But what doors were God going to open for us now?  I admit that I was even a little excited at that thought!  God is SO good in these situations...

Sitting on the couch, cleaning my face off, I knew that I HAD to make something happen.  BUT, I only had 2 weeks left of the normal hiring "season" for teachers.  Quite a challenge...but tell me I CAN'T do something...and watch out!  I'll complete it quicker and better than most, simply because that's my character: 

Driven + Focused + Dedicated + Passionate = WATCH ME SUCCEED...even in the most adverse situations. (The US Army NCO Soldier in me, no doubt)

Within hours of finding out the "bad" news, I had a list (and printed description) of every music teacher position available within our area, as well as a one-hour radius around Austin.  I knew that if we had to move that way, we would have endless support with my wonderful family.  I was also able to go to both of these TX region websites and click on EVERY school district to double check their job openings.  

That is when I found Jarrell ISD's opening(s) - that SAME Monday morning.
There was something about this position that intrigued me.  After a short phone call with the SuperIntendant, inquiring about specifics, I was pretty excited.  It really seemed to fit my qualifications like a glove.  YAY...time to get a job!

Long story 1 week I was able to apply to 13 total positions around Central Texas.  I was invited to 3 interviews and I got ONE offer.  Exhausting, but effective.

NOTE:  The teacher field is SO difficult right now, especially in the field of music.  There are music teachers around the country that have been "RIFFED" and let go due to budget cuts.  There are teachers with PHD's applying for assistant music jobs and even elementary positions.  Some of the positions I applied for had 80+ applicants!!  Not good odds, but I did NOT give up.  

Fast forward to today.  I LOVE my new job.  I teach 4 classes of Kinder through 4th grade music in the morning M-F (including MY girls H & T - they LOVE having Mommy as their Music teacher).  Then I have lunch on my own (sometimes WITH my girls, I love it) and travel to the Middle School.  I teach one MS Choir class, then finish my day at JHS (3 miles away) teaching the HS Choir class.  

Jarrell is a small 2A district, but has grown from a K-12 campus 5 years ago, to 3 campuses with a new HS and a brand new elementary.  It is not too far from Fort Hood too, and so there are a number of soldier's children enrolled.  My status as a veteran is much respected there.  They were also impressed that I had performed with Willie Nelson =)

Even though it is a small district, my elementary classroom is HUGE and (being brand new) equipped with high-tech gadgets that make teaching music SO fun and modern.    My MS and HS Choir students and eager to learn and REALLY great kids.  I couldn't ask for more.  The district appreciates having me and I appreciate being there. 
ENOUGH about me though...

Those of you who know us are probably a bit concerned about my beloved husband and his career, right?  That is a legitimate concern after all.   He is brilliant.  He is blessed.  He is SO talented.  But HE made the decision to put those things aside to get our lil family where we need to be.  I constantly asked him if this is what he wanted me to do, and painfully he said yes. 

So just to clarify, he will NOT be preaching full-time or even part-time in Austin.  In fact, he will be staying home with our two little ones while I'm teaching and taking the two older girls to school.  

I love my husband SO much, but I will admit that it is hard to see the hurt that this decision has caused him overall.  A lot of people don't know this, but he has been behind the pulpit on Sunday and Wednesday since he was a teenager.  He chose to follow in his grandfather's footsteps to preach the Gospel in AL.  He sacrificed his racing career to be a minister.  It is all he knows.  

BUT, I have no doubt that this situation is only temporary for him.  In fact, it opens a lot of doors for him... to pursue guest speaking and song leading, radio internships and commercial voice-over work that he never had time to do before.  Austin should be a great place to be for this too!  I'm actually quite excited to share his talents with churches all over Central Texas =)  

In the end I've learned a lot through this situation, which I'll expand upon another time.  But through it all, my FAITH made this whole experience bearable and kept me focused on what was ahead.  I KNEW He was watching out for us no matter what. 

God Bless my Friends...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

...More Difficult Decisions

When I got pregnant with Emilia late in 2009, she was going to be our fourth baby in seven years.  While this caused a bit of anxiety at first, we were excited to add another beautiful baby to our young family.  A few stressful events happened around this time though, all of which were constant reminders that God was guiding us and opening up doors for our family when others closed.

We obviously had serious concerns about having another baby.  The biggest one being that I had just graduated from Graduate School at UH and ultimately had to forfeit my student health insurance...which remember, is how we were able to get Billy's birth covered. 

My heart was so heavy. 

I was now officially uninsured and married to a minister with a good salary, but on paper (BEFORE taxes of about 27%....self employment tax...income tax...and both sides of Social Security Tax being our responsibility) made "too much" to get any type of assistance from anyone. 

It seemed like a middle class "catch 22" or something....

Grasping for straws, I did remember that I had limited VA benefits available with my honorable discharge.  So I made a B-line to the VA hospital to get a pregnancy test done.  The blood test was positive - no surprise there. 

NOTE: After four pregnancies in seven years, I can pretty much "know" that I'm pregnant within days of conceiving.  I simply can NOT relate to those "I didn't know I was pregnant" ladies?!  But everyone is different...I know =)

But then I had a rather pleasant surprise.  When the VA worker handed me the paper with the positive blood test result, they also gave me information on how to get an approved OB/GYN contracted through the VA hospital. 

Do what?!

Since when?

I didn't even know this was an option?!  WOW - thank you...God is good!!!

That was a God moment no doubt.  I later found out that the legislature had changed the women's veteran's benefits in 2006...way before Billy was born by the way.  But I didn't even have a clue about it then.  I had inquired with the VA about deliveries and maternity care in 2003 when Hailey was born, and right before my honorable discharge.   I did get a BIG and somewhat sarcastic, "no lady - we don't deliver babies"?!  That was disappointing...but I understood the actual VA hospitals were not equiped.

But THIS new development in our lives though was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.  We were SO relieved!

Within weeks, we were able to find a new midwife who owned her own free-standing birthing center in Pasadena, TX, less than a mile from the Pasadena hospital.  (BTW, Nativiti was not on the VA list, plus it was a bit too far from Liberty...especially with my history of fast, natural labor). 
Again, I LOVED my birth experience in Pasadena with this new midwife and doula and would be honored to blog Emilia's birth story sometime very soon!

Once we added Emilia to the family, things became quite a bit more hectic in the Sanford household.

Also with the new year of 2011 came the "Obamacare" scam, which gave us false hope that he would actually help all of those in this desperate middle class and self-employed position.  All it did was raise our premium for the same fact raising them so HIGH (even WITHOUT ME on the plan) that we had to change from a $5,000 deductible to a $10,000 deductible  - just to pay the SAME monthly premium amount every month.  Yikes...we were very dissapointed Obama...and we felt quite jilted.

So we quit going to the doctor for well check-ups (paying 100% with a "high-deductible" plan was just too expensive for 6 people)...

We ran out of money to get any dental work done, even cleanings were too expensive...and can you imagine the anxiety of having to tell your 5 year old "I"m sorry baby" while she cries from tooth aches?  HEARTBREAKING!!!! Ibuprofen can only go so far...

Jon had NOT had new glasses or contacts or even an eye exam in years...nor had the rest of us...

There was still NO way we could afford the vasectomy for....well know what that's for =)


It seemed hopeless...

As for the family side of things, with four little ones, even getting a babysitter was stressful (just being able to pay a teenager) or having the guts to ask a friend to watch ALL of them so I could "work" and hour here and there...we felt awkward to say the least.  We did have a few angels that would help us out of the goodness of their hearts, but I always felt bad or guilty about that.

We had four beautiful (and well behaved, might I add) kiddos that deserve the best in life...but a mommy and a daddy who were miles and miles from their family and any-time support structure.  Also a Daddy who gave it his all as a full time preacher and teacher, volunteered announcing local sports AND called dirt track racing for a little bit of extra money (during racing season only though).  Plus a  Mommy that wanted desperately to stay home with her amazing kiddos, but NEEDED to contribute something to our income and bills - we're talking simply to meet basic survival necessities!!! 

So at this point, I have a confession to make...I have always had a tendency to over-work myself!

People often say to me "I just don't know how you do it?"

I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise to those of you who know me.  I realize that it's probably quite typical for a lot of young moms too, especially with our economy the way it is.

Sometimes I think I thrive on over-working myself...or maybe it's a multi-tasking addiction...or even the fact that I get bored very easily and can't sit still.  Some say I'm just like my Mom (love you Mom)!  I'm not sure exactly, but even as a college student I had 4 part time jobs - HEB Cashier (for 7 yrs?!), Teaching Assistant for TxSU Music Dept, Army National Guard Bandsmen/AROTC Cadet AND I taught private lessons during the school year.  During my undergrad years, the scholarships ran out quickly. So I was trying to work my way through college for the most least that is how I justified the over-working in my head.

Upon getting married though, I was certainly up for the challenge of being a minister's wife (plus Bible class teacher/Education Dept. planner) and adoring mommy.  But I also wore the hats of teacher, graduate student and BC Home Spa Team leader and trainer....I began to see the over-working college student coming out in me once again.  But I wasn't really sure if that was a good thing...desperately NOT wanting to neglect my husband or kids in anyway. 

I never gave up though, thinking if I slept less and worked harder....

Somehow I could fix this....right?

By this summer, Jon and I were pretty frustrated with our situation and a little scared.  We were behind on needed dental procedures and had stopped buying some needed prescriptions (one was $680 for 10 pills?!)  The thing I discovered though, was that even with my talents and qualifications, no matter what I tried to do part-time (around wife and mommy duties of course), the private music lessons, the home spas, even my amazing part-time college teaching gig as a professor at TxSU in Spring of 2011 (my DREAM job) - NOTHING would qualifiy me for the benefits we so desperately needed...

EXCEPT for teaching with a school FULL-time!   

That was what I HAD to do help my family - I could save the day - SUPER MOM to the rescue!

But remember...this was something Jon and I had mutually agreed that I would NOT aspire to do until ALL of our kiddos were in school.  I felt like a failure not being able to live up to this promise.  What were we going to do now? 

What happened next, really fell in our laps...we got a lead on a local job opening at one of the Liberty schools teaching music - literally across the street from our house!!!  Yay, thank you God for looking out for us...right? With my Masters degree, there is NO way I would not be hired for this position, NO way.  Everyone was so supportive and Jon and I were almost giggling with the excitement of what what we could do with group health insurance benefits.  We would sit and plan out what we would do first, almost feeling giddy inside.  We would be SET and have hope for the first time in a long time...

BUT, what I thought was another God given opportunity, ended up not working out.  I did NOT get the job.  WHAT?!  I was so confused... 

But I didn't give up! be continued yet again (last time, I promise)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Difficult Decisions

Jon and I are in the middle of moving our young family from Liberty, TX to Austin, TX.   

Many of our friends and family know why this has come about, but you might not...  

As chaotic as our lives have been these past two months, it has really been quite difficult to communicate the reasons behind our decision with all of our friends and loved ones.  Do we owe an explanation to everyone...not necessarily.  But our story might enlighten you to help other young families in similar situations, so here it goes...

Since Jon and I married in 2003, we mutually agreed that we would pursue Jon's ministry career as the foundation for our lively hood.  Yes, even if that meant putting my music and teaching career aside until our kid(s) were in school.  My husband is SO blessed as a public speaker and really gifted as a gospel preacher.  When I first heard him preach, I sat in that pew (along with 22 other people in a small church in AL) and decided at that instant that I would marry him someday.  I was mesmerized by his friendly warmth, his flow with words and most importantly his message - sincere and straight from the Bible. He could also, could he sing! 

And yes...I also liked his deep Alabama accent, which was similar to my Aunt Sherry's (also from AL).  Definitely part of his southern charm =) 

I knew then I would follow him to the end of the earth if I had to...

We had a quick engagement and married just a few months later (read our love story here).  After getting married and conceiving our first child, I was given an honorable discharge from the Army due to my pregnancy.  With only a couple months before my due date, Jon started to apply for ministry jobs in LA and TX.  After a few visits and much prayer, we chose to move to Channelview, TX and start a ministry work with the church there.  

We were young and excited to start our family.  We loved each other and wanted the best for this wonderful congregation.  Upon our transition, we did have some concerns about loosing my military benefits...but we paid $2100 for 3 months of an extended Tricare Health care benefit as a premium to cover Hailey's birth (delivery charges extra of course).  After that we didn't really think about our lack of health care until I got pregnant with Tegan in 2005...then we kind of panicked.

In fact, we were so worried about our lack of benefits that we decided that I needed to start teaching full-time in order to get a group health care plan for our growing little family.  Just in case you haven't caught on yet, our churches are just not equiped to offer any type of health care benefits to their preachers.  Only the larger churches have enough employees to even begin to pursue a group plan benefit for their employees. 

So I applied to Crosby ISD and surprisingly got a job offer to teach 5th/6th music and choir.  We felt like this was a gift from God, as I was 5 months pregnant...and who would normally hire a pregnant teacher?  Now with the comfort of the group plan and benefits, we really excited about having our second baby. 

Before getting ever getting pregnant the second time, we had decided to pursue more natural birthing options. 

REMEMBER - Hailey's birth did NOT go as we had hoped, and I really wanted nothing to do with birthing at a hospital again.  It just did not feel right...did not feel like what God had designed my body to do.  I was determined to search for other options!  With my older sister's help, I did find a great midwife and a beautiful Birthing Center in the Woodlands (called Nativiti) that I LOVED and was so impressed with. 

NOTE: I will share about Tegan's actual birth it was beautiful, empowering and just about perfect.  I hope to encourage other Christian mother's to see that natural birthing without fear is really possible!

After having Tegan, I took 6 weeks off and cried my eyes out when I had to leave her and Hailey at a daycare upon returning to work.  I faithfully pumped twice a day at school and managed to successfully nurse Tegan with no supplementation for about 18 months.  I was very content with this and proud that I made it work.

But then...during my second year at Crosby, word spread around Houston about Jon's preaching ability and he was offered a new position in Tomball.  Curious about the possibilities with this new job, we agreed to move.  In order to keep our benefits, I attempted to commute from Tomball to Crosby (48 miles one way, but well over an hour driving) to teach for the remainder of that school year.  BUT, the horrible Houston traffic was gruelling and down-right torture in making that drive twice a day. 

At the end of my second year of teaching, I decided to stop teaching and pursue a graduate degree in music at University of Houston.  I had auditioned and earned a spot (and $10,000 scholarship!!) with the UH Graduate Woodwind Quintet.  My GI Bill was also a big part of that decision too...but either way that is what we did.  With this decision though, we lost our group benefits =(
So with Jon preaching (technically self-employed) and with me at UH, we were back to using individual health care options.  I did take on the UH student health care, but that would only cover ME, with no option for family members too. 
FYI: Important to note that individual health care plans do NOT cover maternity care in Texas AT ALL!    Not one penny.  Supposedly there are too many uninsured that do get covered, so we are out of luck.
No matter what coverage we had, Jon and I agreed that we were going to wait to have our 3rd baby until I was out of Grad school. 

But then comes Billy. 

Luckily I still had my UH student health care coverage.  Even then, I chose to birth at Nativiti again and managed to have another beautiful, natural water birth.  But surprisingly, the UH insurance DID cover the birthing center as well (after a few persistent requests).

By the end of 2008, Jon was again offered another new position, this time on the east side of the Houston area. And curious again, we moved. By 2009 I finished graduate school. This also left me without any health insurance, except my limited VA benefits (as I did not want to add more costs to our premium).

Then...oops...I got pregnant again. It was quite ironic to realize that my LAST cycle was on the LAST day of my LAST final in graduate school! Well, at least we are quite blessed to be so fertile, right? We really are...I don't mean to sound unappreciative. We LOVE our babies!

NOTE: I have issues with birth control pills! Yes, I tried them. No, I did not like them. I prefer not to live with hormone induced eczema. Sorry. And no, $1800 (paid up front) for a vasectomy was not exactly affordable for us at that point.

But this is when things got medically difficult for other reasons...

#1 Before getting pregnant with Billy, Hailey had been hospitalized with a severe allergic reaction to 2 scoops of almond and cashew butter I had given her after church one night.  She suffered through anaphylactic shock and could have died without medical help.  We paid quite a bit through this experience (towards our high deductible) and then needed to keep epi pens (not covered) on hand for emergencies.  

#2 Jon was diagnosed with Chron's disease and IBS.  He had some tests run and it was recommended that he go on medication and have part of his small intestines removed, due to damage that had already occurred.  Our answer to that option:  NO THANK YOU.  With a $5000 deductible, there was no way we could pay for that up front.  We just decided to watch his diet and pray.

#3 We delivered a super healthy baby boy and Billy was his name.  The birth was covered thanks to UH, but then he was added to our individual plan and of course the premium went up.  We also had to pay 100% of all of the pediatrician visits etc.  That stuff adds up.  So we just stopped going, as I was nursing him and he was doing great.

#4 Jon and I both needed serious dental procedures done, all out-of-pocket of course.  We did what we could do, but once again, we were not able to do everything that was recommended for optimum health.

Now let's address a few questions that Jon and I get a lot: 

Can't your family get assistance?
 Doesn't the government help families in your situation? 

In one word - NO.  We are unluckily stuck in the middle class category...just BARELY making too much (BEFORE taxes) to get any kind of government assistance with...well...anything.  We didn't really want government assistance at that time, so no complaints from us.   
During these 5 years we never questioned our path.  We knew that we had each other and things would get easier someday, right?  Well that someday has come, but in a way we never expected.  

To be continued... 


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Faith-Based Births...yes, you CAN!

Have you ever heard of or maybe even desired to have a "Faith-Based Birth"? 

Does that term sound exciting to you? Or perhaps completely terrifying?

When mentioning natural birthing, most women will automatically tune you out and say...."oh no, I'm not that strong" or "I can't take pain, there is no way".  Well, what if we called it a "Faith-Based Birth"?  I am proud to say that that is the best way to describe my 2nd, 3rd and 4th births, and they were AMAZING! 

After mentally healing from Hailey's natural-attempted hospital birth experience, I officially started out on a quest for other options in labor and delivery for my next pregnancy.  I desperately wanted to experience something closer to what I felt God intended for my body during childbirth.  I'm thrilled to share that I WAS able to have my own "Faith-Based Births" in 2005, 2008 AND 2010, and I can certainly reassure you that it can be done! Not only can it be done, but it could potentially be the most spiritual, empowering, or even inspirational experiences of your entire life.  I know mine were and I can't wait to share those stories with you in my next few posts....

Notice I did not use the words painful...

or scary...

or horrible...

it's amazing how a little bit of FAITH can go a LOOOONG way =)

Was there pain?  Yes, but nothing I couldn't deal with knowing that God was with me.  And yes, Eve ate of the fruit and put this childbirth burden on women for all time. (Gen. 3:16 - To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children...)  However, God will not put upon us anything we cannot handle, right?  Hmmm, something to ponder...

Another important point is this - I simply approached my second birth from the perspective of having a natural, midwife-assisted birth at a freestanding birthing center (2 min. from a hospital and next door to a firehouse).  I did not conceptualize "faith-based birthing" until after I was able to birth Tegan naturally, easily and was even able to pull her out myself during the water birth!!  It was THEN that I discovered the role that my own faith played in that process.

Honestly though,  from my perspective this topic intrigues yet saddens me at the same time.  Why?   Because SO many "modern-day" mothers (and Christian women) are missing out on these types of experiences for the most part.  Now let me clarify that this is NOT due to ignorance or lack of faith, rather due to a modern-medicine approach to birthing, which simply distracts them from its sacred origin and (for the most part) leaves the patient's faith at the front door of the hospital.  So where else can women turn but to the doctors and nurses over their delivery and care? In Hailey's birth experience, it simply felt like they were treating the pregnancy as a sickness rather than a natural, beautiful occurrence.  It's about's about's about what is considered "normal".  Well, just because something is considered normal or common in today's world, does not make it better or preferred for my body and my baby's journey into this world.

I've literally cried my eyes out thinking of how many women have been robbed of this potentially spiritual experience (especially when I knew one of my good friends is in labor...or being induced, leading them into having another c-section)... 

yes, the baby was healthy...
(or were they really? - more on that later)

yes, the mother was happy...
(of course she was, who wouldn't be happy to FINISH labor or a c-section *** which account for an alarming 40%+ of births in the US today!!**** to finally complete her 40 week pregnancy and hold their precious little one?)

...but, it could have been so much more, perhaps what God intended it to be?  This is what saddens me the most when they for the most part don't really know any better =(

As for the act of labor, I feel that something special and sacred goes on when a woman is "travailing." She's working with God to bring another spirit into the world.  As a Christian woman who has experienced this with an open mind and body full of faith, I often think - who would want to miss that or cheat themselves of this?  What I've discovered is that most women in modern society don't even realize what they are missing or realize what their body is truly capable of.  Yes, this is what saddens me the most, BUT this is where I felt the need to blog and share...and so here we are!

Have you ever just stopped and really thought about the process of conception and childbirth and how amazing it is that women can even accomplish this? For me, this is where my FAITH stepped in to remind me that the way our bodies were designed to birth is truly amazing and perfect.  But what I've discovered through my own experiences, is that if you don't have faith in that process, then you are allowing yourself to live by FEAR and not FAITH. Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." (Luke 7:50)  Also, And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace." (Luke 8:48)  

Along the lines of fear, most women also take themselves out of the birthing process equation completely by allowing others to do the work for them.  Women and mothers in the 21st century are strong, capable, multi-tasking mothers that work all hours of the day and night...but then they do not allow themselves the opportunity to feel empowered through their births?  Seems like we need to bring FAITH back into birthing around the world, but especially in the US.  And no, I do not expect the doctors and OB/GYNs to lead this revolution...but you are in control of your own body, so ultimately it is up to you.

It's important for me to say this: I am NOT trying to put myself on a pedestal or come across that I am better or stronger than any other mother out there.  Perhaps a little more enlightened, yes.  I was so blessed to go on this journey and to be able to experience faith-based birthing.  My quest is ongoing, but what I've experienced thus far has been life-changing - for me and my babies.  Most importantly though, I believe these births have made my relationship with God stronger, and for that I am proud and I think others would be too (if they only knew they could). 

Do you think I'm a little crazy at this point?  I'll admit, I do expect some to label me as such, but...just remember, either way you gotta have faith!

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Stop pushing hun, the Doctor is not here yet" - HUH?!


...sorry to leave you hanging from the last post, but Hailey's actual birth was THE beginning of my quest and simply needs its own space. does come with a warning label!  DO NOT read any further if you:
  1. are easily grossed out when hearing about birth stories            OR
  2. might be pregnant and do not want to hear of any negative birth experiences
So lets pick up where we left off...
I was full term in my pregnancy, but 10 days from my due date.
We were living in a brand NEW city in a NEW home provided by Jon's NEW ministry job and our NEW congregation!  God is Good!

I had only met my OB/GYN twice.  I had not had a chance to go over the birth plan in detail like I had hoped.  I knew that I had put myself in a bad position, moving states in the 3rd trimester and all.  BUT, I had printed it out and it was in my hospital bag and I was confident that I would not wimp out or change my mind in the heat of the moment. 

THEN, I went into labor TEN DAYS EARLY?!  AND on the day of my baby shower, which the ladies at our new congregation were so sweet to throw for me.

Here's how it fell into place...
It was Friday night, 11-14-03.  I had just made a heart-felt dinner for Jon (and I will admit it was not too tasty...) and I had told him I wasn't feeling too good.  Around 8pm I was trying to clean up, but I started having cramps.  These were strong cramps but not unbearable.  I called my parents in Austin and let them know something was going on.  I did the normal warm shower to see if the cramps stopped and then I went to lie down in bed for a little while, but they progressed.  So we decided to head over to the hospital just in case.  Luckily, the hospital was not too far away, so Jon did not have to panic too much.  My waters had NOT broken and there was no other signs of an immediate baby. 

IMPORTANT: At this point, I must talk about my family history of birthing....rather, my Mother's history of birthing.  My brave mother birthed 4 babies just like me.  My sister was a 5 week preemie, but born naturally and monitored in the hospital before going home healthy.  My baby brother and I were born naturally in a hospital, probably in less than 2 or 3 hours of labor from beginning to end.  THEN there was my baby sister...oh boy...she was born in MY bed at home (but not on purpose)!  Ironically, my older sister and I were at the neighbors house at a sleepover the night this took place.  So we missed all of the drama, except hearing the ambulance and wondering what had happened.  Here is her mother slept through her contractions, got up out of bed (realizing she was in full-blown-labor and only made it down the hall) where she stopped to give birth on our full-size bed?!  At that time, we lived in "far" south Austin, and when my Dad called 911, a (young) volunteer fireman arrived first, scared half to death.  So my Dad ended up delivering the baby's head right before the ambulance arrived.  Everything was fine...but now you can understand my concern with having our first baby pretty fast.  Most importantly, I want you to see what a wonderful example my mother was for me and my sisters, showing us that natural birth is possible, preferable and potentially very QUICK.

Continuing on....
Jon pulls up to the hospital, we go inside to the ER and are admitted.  They check me to find that I am only 2cm dilated.  They tell me that I will need to walk around the hospital and try to get the labor to progress, or they will send me home.  We called my parents and let them know and they decided to head to Houston along with my older sister.  By 2am or so, I was feeling pretty strong contractions at that point, so going home was just not an option in my mind.  I would take a few steps and then grab the wall and bend over in pain.  I made a few squeaks here and there and Jon even said "Baby, there are people sleeping, it's in the middle of the night?" and I quickly answered "I DON'T CARE, I AM ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY"!!!  PLUS, we had not been admitted, so there was really nowhere else to go but the hallway or the ER bed I was given. 

FINALLY, they checked me again to find that I was at 4cm, so I finally got admitted...we were about to meet our baby girl!!!!  Then we heard that my OB/GYN was NOT on call that his partner was being called...oh no....WHICH WE HAD NEVER MET?!!!  That was not what I wanted to hear...but I was too busy laboring and I didn't really worry about that honestly.  My trustee "birthing plan" was tucked away in my hospital bag and still fresh on my mind.  BUT, I quickly realized that the nurses and this strange doctor were probably not too interested in what I had "planned".  Below are a few highlights of my plan: 
1. NO IV PLEASE - I wanted to be able to labor and move and not be held down (this did not happen)   
2. NO EPIDURAL and NO PRESSURE TO HAVE ONE - I wanted this baby to come out on its own and with nothing holding me back.  I had researched enough to know that the drugs often slow down the birthing process and I wanted it fast and over. (this did happen, thank goodness)
3.  NO NURSERY - I did not want my baby to be whisked away from me at any point, plus I wanted to nurse as much as possible in the first 24 hrs especially. (this partially happened)

It is now 3:30am or parents are getting close to the hospital.  I was told to go to the bathroom just in case I wanted an enema (NO I DID NOT) and to prepare for a possible epidural (NOOOOOO???!!!).  They had asked on more than one occasion if I wanted one.  Once I got back from the toilet, bowels emptied (on my own thank you very much), they checked me again and said I had progressed to 7cm and it was too late for an epidural.  Well thank goodness -  no pressure there!  This is where things got tricky tho...

By 4am...there was STILL NO DOCTOR to be found.  Then my parents and sister walked in. The nurses started looking kind of nervous when they said I had quickly gone to 10cm the baby could come any minute.   My dad and little brother went to the waiting room and my mother (the natural birthing pro) and my sister  (who had birthed her first child recently...had a FAR WORSE experience than me...and therefore was very well researched and supportive of natural birthing and hospital issues) ended up staying.  I was laboring on my own and having pretty severe back pain....I didn't know why at the time, but I figured it was supposed to hurt that was natural birthing pain, right?  WRONG - I (days later) found out the Hailey was posterior in the birth canal - OUCH?!!  Meaning: she was sunny-side up and with every contraction her head was pressing on my spine...which was excruciating, especially since I was laying on my back after all (I DON'T recommend that for any birth btw).  Did the nurses care to tell me that?  I was naturally birthing a posterior baby with NO drugs....and NO DOCTOR!  But remember, I did not know any of this while it was going on.  Did not actually figure it out until days later.  I just wish they could have communicated that with me, that's all.

By 4:30am or so I clearly remember starting to bear down and push on my own.  My body wanted the baby out and so here she comes.  Then guess what?  (although no sane person would EVER guess this...)  The nurses took my legs off the stirrups, twisted them to the side on top of each other and said "Stop pushing hun...the Dr's not here yet".  I looked over to my mom and my sister, I remember my sister biting her nails just wanting to scream at them.  SO I start to panic and hyperventilate - wouldn't you after all???!!!   I screamed, "I'M NOT PUSHING ON PURPOSE?!?!?!"

So I am holding this posterior baby in my birth canal, causing the worst pain of my entire life (blood vessels broke and busted in my face, eyes, and upper body btw).  They now say the baby's heart rate is dropping (no...really, you think?) so they put an oxygen mask on me, which I peel off over and over, crying.  Then they say I need some medication for pain and inject Demerol into my IV (which I did not want to begin with).  I go to sleep...for like 45 seconds in between the contractions.  Then I wake up and sit up and SCREAM....then I sleep....then I SCREAM...then I sleep.  This was insane and NOT the beautiful birth I had envisioned AT ALL!  Just in case your wondering, the Demerol did NOT help the pain, only knocked me out in between contractions and made me loose my bearings completely.

FINALLY the DR shows up at 5:04am...
They finally open my legs back up (after what seemed like an eternity of unnecessary misery) and out pops Hailey at 5:10am.  The DR literally catches her...with her little head all long and squished from being in the birth canal WAY TOO LONG!  She was technically fine, but unfortunately I don't remember most of the first hour of her life because of that unwanted DEMEROL!  I was drunk and loopy and could barely talk or stay awake.  Again, NOT what I wanted to happen.  Poor Jon was crying, I do remember, what a emotional roller coaster I just put him through.  But he held Hailey first I believe, which was good.

SAD SIDE NOTE:  I did read that they would use this type of "torture" in Auschwitz...force women to hold their babies in during birth until both the mother and baby died.  YIKES...what a horrible thing to think about, and partially experience!

Now for the GRAND finale...
After delivering the placenta (which I don't remember either, ugh) the DR starts to stitch me up.  NOTE: I did NOT have an episiotomy (one thing that went right from my birthing plan) but I obviously tore when Hailey torpedoed out of my body.  SO the DR goes to stitch me up...and he DID NOT REALIZE I DID NOT HAVE AN EPIDURAL AND I COULD FEEL EVERYTHING!!!  So the first stitch goes in with no meds and I (drunk with Demerol) don't even know what has happened...I tense forward and manage to pull my groin muscles (so severely that I could not walk the next day).  The DR said "Uh, did you feel that?"..."yes" I said crying.  Wow...that just sums up my experience right there.   

Post-birth, the other issue we had was Hailey's eating problems.  I was able to nurse her (despite being drunk with Demerol) within the first hour or so.  I had no problems getting my milk in over the next 24 hrs and I had PLENTY of it.  But once we got home from the hospital I had a hard time keeping Hailey awake to eat.  This seemed normal, but then she only had one wet diaper in about 12 hours and we started to panic.  Jon drove us downtown Houston and rented a breast pump to start pumping and making sure we could see how much she was drinking.  I would have to constantly wake her up while at the breast and encourage her to keep eating.  After much stress, my sister researched and found that Demerol had been banned in Australia because it caused "sleeping baby syndrome".  YIKES?!  What?  Seriously?  I was so furious that something they did within an hour of her birth had caused so much unneeded stress in the first 2 weeks of Hailey's life.  It went strait from my blood to hers....which is why I did NOT want it to begin with. 

Phew...that was exhausting just reliving it all.  It is important for me to share my story though.  Simply so that others can maybe relate...possibly compare what they experienced...know what to avoid...and ultimately see where and why my quest began.
....also, just in case you were wondering, my mother and sister were nice enough to attend the baby shower in my place that Saturday morning =)  They surprised the ladies in attendance and they found a newborn picture of Hailey on the front table (taken by one of the early morning visitors)...which is still in Jon's office today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Meeting the love of my life

Today I will tell a little story.  Perhaps you can call it a love story...this is where my quest began afterall (even though I did NOT realize it at that time).   

It was 2002.  I had just met the love of my life online...YES we met online...unusual then, but quite normal today (1 out of 5 couples).  Jon and I had hit if off right away...first online chat (Christian singles website)...then hours and hours on the phone...then a little akwardly in person - no room for superficiality there!   He was in AL, living 8 miles from my uncle (who was a preacher) and his family....this was also 8 miles from where my paternal Grandmother and Grandfather Powell had met in the 40's ironically.  I believe these factors led us to bond a little quicker than normal, which felt good...

At that time, I was in VA stationed as an oboist with the 392d Army band at Ft. Lee near Richmond.  We had many things in common, including our Christianity and our love for music.  After a whirlwind courtship, we were engaged in September 2002, then married in January 2003 (see our post-wedding fun below with Bella our first baby)!  We were quite anxiuous to have our first baby as fast as we could too!  We were both 25 years old after all and were feeling "over-the-hill" least that's how we felt then, silly us.... 

After not conceiving on our honeymoon, Jon even felt like a failure poor guy.   But he simply did not understand that we missed my ovulation by a few days. I did conceive in February however, proving that we were very blessed and quite fertile after only one month of trying.   Sometimes I feel guilty about it being so easy for us, as I know so many others struggle with infertility.  But either way, we were having our first baby in November, yay!

At that time, we were living in Camden, AL.  Jon was working with Camden Church of Christ as their minister and I had requested and received (very unusual, perhaps God assisted) transfer to Ft. Rucker, AL as an E5 SGT with the 98th Army Band.  Camden and Ft. Rucker were about 2 hrs apart, so I would commute on Monday and stay at a motel Mon-Thurs then drive home on Friday.  It was not an ideal living situation...but being the stubborn, determined person that I am, that didn't phase me at all.  I got up at 4am, kissed Jon goodbye and drove to make it for P.T. (physical training) at 6:30am.  Sometimes Jon would come and stay with me during the week if he could, and my weekly schedule was quite flexible as Army Bands do not normally work M-F.  We work around the concerts and holidays and tours, so sometimes I would only have a few days away from Jon.

Once I verified that I was indeed pregnant in March (via military blood tests), we had to make a choice.   FYI: As a verified pregnant soldier, the military makes you sign a paper where you select that "A" - you will stay in and take responsibility for your new baby while on Active Duty or "B" - you will take an honorable discharge. So we chose "B"...which was part of our plan all along actually =)  Jon respected the military, but was not destined to be an Army husband...and I knew that from the beginning. 

After the positive blood test, I was assigned a local OB/GYN near Ft. Rucker who I saw on a regular basis (even though I knew I would probably not deliver with that doctor).  I was also placed on limited P.T. restrictions.  So my workouts consisted of walking and water aerobics, which I loved!  It also allowed me a few more hours with Jon because I could workout on my own schedule and leave at 6am on Monday instead of 4:30am. 

By early summer, Jon and I began to make plans for the maternity honorable discharge, which would release me from active duty 45 days before my due date.   We were looking at options to deliver near our home in Camden...except that the nearest hospital that actually delivered babies was 2 hrs away in Montgomery!!!  (WELCOME TO SOUTH ALABAMA BTW)  This was a huge concern for us because I knew this much:
1.  I wanted a natural delivery at the hospital
2.  Due to family history, I expected it to happen rather quickly with no drugs
(more on that later...)

So we decided to move closer to a hospital upon release from the military and before our due date.  Jon began searching for other ministry opportunities - literally anywhere in the country!  We narrowed it down to a church in LA and a church in Houston.  After normal job search drama, we solidified the job in Houston (Channelview area) and made plans to move.  No rush I was now 8 months pregnant and needed to figure out where I was going to deliver!?  We also had some hiccups with the TriCare transitional insurance (good ol' military: one person said one thing and another person said another).  But we decided upon a local hospital and went to find an OB/GYN that would deliver a new patient in her 3rd trimester! So this is where we were...

9 months into my first pregnancy

A new job/church and city

A new home (provided by our lovely new church, thank you)

No furniture for the first 2 weeks - (Army transport wait) - so my dad shipped us a new sleep number bed quickly, thank you Daddy...and we had some lawn chairs to sit on

A new OB/GYN which we had seen twice - I had briefly mentioned and showed him my printed natural "birth plan" - expecting to do it my way =)

Then I went into labor TEN DAYS EARLY...and on the day of my baby shower with our lovely new church!

Oops =)

To be continued...