Birth Day

{Just because we don't get what we want, or what we prayed for, doesn't mean God didn't answer our prayers or doesn't care about us. Sometimes that is a hard lesson to learn...}

{pictures are following the story}

I wanted this time around to be different. No meddling OB, no hospital procedures, no medications, no unnecessary interventions. I cared this time, and educated myself, and prayed. A lot. I had questions, doubts, and feelings of confidence and excitement. A natural labor, possibly at home, with wise midwives, a smaller baby, a shorter pregnancy...I had a list and a birth plan and I believed in it! I believed that all of it was going to happen!


41 weeks plus 5 days rolled around. There were scare tactics thrown at me by a midwife I thought I trusted, doubts about my advanced maternal age and the safety of my baby flooded my mind and I gave in to the pressure of scheduling an induction.

I will never forget (but hope I do) the feeling of complete dread and mild terror that washed over me as we drove to the hospital early on Saturday morning and the nurse showed us to our room. I felt like a trapped animal, and wanted to run. I couldn't really put any of my feelings into word. After all, wasn't I supposed to be happy that I was being "rescued" from this long pregnancy and a possible negative outcome? Wasn't I supposed to be happy that I was finally meeting my baby?

Thankfully, our labor nurse finally arrived and sat down to chat with us and go over my birth plan. My plan.The one that was already being derailed. But I was anxious to get started and put this behind me, so I sat and talked and laughed and tried to pretend that I was alright.

 Having had three uneventful inductions prior, I thought I knew what to expect. And, since the labors kept getting progressively shorter, I fully expected this one to follow suit.

The Pitocin finally started my contractions but they were very mild. That phase lasted so long that I started to think crazy things like maybe I just wasn't going to feel labor that much. After several hours of that, and not much progress, we decided to break my water. Contraction intensity started to pick up a bit and I began breathing through them with some counter pressure on my back and massage.

After a while, I began having no break between contractions and shaking uncontrollably. I also felt an overwhelming sense of exhaustion and self doubt. We though perhaps I was near transition.  When I asked for a check and was only 5cm after that long, I knew deep down that I simply couldn't make it without some rest from an epidural.

The midwife turned off the Pitocin, and we let my body take over the contractions in an attempt to stop the shakiness and no breaks. I labored for quite a while like that, all the way to 8 cm. At one point Marvin looked at me and said, "Shelly, this is all you! YOUR body is doing this on its own!" I had so desperately wanted to go into labor on my own, and this was the next best thing...for a moment I was elated!

Of course, Marvin and I had talked about the possibility of me asking for an epidural, and my doula and the midwife and nurse knew that I didn't want to be offered pain meds, so me getting what I knew I needed took a bit of persistence. I just kept feeling so discouraged, and frantic, like it would never end. Each contraction seemed to get harder and harder but was getting me nowhere.

I had had pretty horrible heartburn during the pregnancy and sometimes having an empty stomach made it worse. I basically had an empty stomach when the anesthesiologist came, and having to lay flat on my back to let the epidural kick in made the heartburn almost unbearable. At one point, I started to gag and had to sit up and asked for a drink and the nurse got snippy and said no drinking if you are vomiting.

The epidural started to work a little bit, but gave me a horrible case of the shakes. By now it was well into the middle of the night, and Marvin and my doula were exhausted too. We all sat there in the room in the dark, with my epidural and more Pitocin running, and every so often my doula would give me ice chips to try and stop my heartburn.

All I could think about was the time passing, how late it was, how I felt even more like a failure because I couldn't get in a good place mentally to get on top of the labor. I just felt like it was dragging me under, that I'd be pregnant and in pain forever. Even though I felt so terrible emotionally, I never felt unsupported. Marvin and my doula were incredible, loving on me, serving me without hesitation, and with so much sincerity.

After a while, we had a new nurse, and morning started to roll around. In hindsight, I should have known that I would labor all night because I had a super strong sense that Baby would be born in the morning. I even had drawn a huge sunshine on my birth art picture. I had also drawn a long, winding road...I should have paid more attention to that one, too!

I started to feel each contraction with more intensity and knew that my rest was over. I asked the midwife to check me and I was at 9. Since each centimeter had taken hours, we called the anesthesiologist back in to see if he could make me more comfortable with a higher dose of the epidural.

It didn't work, and very soon I began to feel numb legs, but every single second of transition contractions. They felt small, and intense, like a hot ball in the center of my body. I was excited but very afraid that after the grueling night I would have it in me to push the baby out. Since I really couldn't get up to let gravity help, I was even more worried.

With help, I got turned to my other side, and the midwife confirmed that Babys head had turned around and was facing back...and that I was complete at 10cm!! I had been bearing down slightly with each contraction, and was so relieved that I had listened to my body and had been doing the right thing.

They called in an extra nurse to help with my legs since they were so heavy still from the epidural, and my doula was going to take pictures. I remember them telling me to push whenever I felt ready and I started laughing! I simply was in complete disbelief that it was actually going to happen. My 10 1/2 month pregnancy and 26 hour labor was actually going to end!

I probably pushed with a total of 5 contractions before Baby was born. I felt everything but it didn't hurt, and I felt no ring of fire when he crowned. Just pressure and intensity...and complete elation! At one point I reached down and felt the top of his head, warm and soft.

After his head came out, I reached down for him, but saw Marvin shake his head no, and the midwife said, "Hold on, I need to cut the cords" I wasn't concerned, but a little confused. In just a second, he shot out and was put on my chest. Purple and confused, he stared at me...and then let out a squawk. We rubbed him and I cried..He grabbed at the oxygen being held to his nose and held on and we laughed. I later learned that he had had the umbilical cord wrapped twice TIGHTLY around his neck and it HAD to be cut to get him out.

Finally The Moment. The one I had thought about for long months. Taking the pregnancy one day at a time, sometimes daring to dream about what if everything DID turn out alright? What if I DID get to meet my baby and hold him? What if this pregnancy didn't end like the last two? Do I actually deserve a miracle?

And the answer was a resounding YES! Here he was, wet and fresh, wavy dark hair, tiny fingers, button nose. All mine...nursing at my breast...my miracle, tangible trust in my Divine Creator. My rainbow after the storm.

I reached down and felt between his legs and said, " Is it a boy? Do we have a boy?" Marvin nodded and smiled. I knew his name was Caleb, I had actually had a dream that he came out a boy and I said, "Hi, Caleb!" but didn't want to admit it.

He pinked up quickly and made a funny face when I tried to let him nurse. I heard the camera and other voices, but could only focus on Caleb's face. We bonded skin to skin for an hour, the nurse and midwife were so wonderful and patient, not rushing us to have him weighed or measured.

After the hour was up I handed him over to Daddy who was ANXIOUSLY waiting to hold his THIRD son! I got cleaned up and used the bathroom and came back out to the news that my baby who had spun and wiggled right up to the last day was a whopping 9lbs 11 oz and 21 inches long!! We all had a good laugh, everyone had thought he was tiny and had a lot of room!

As I've reflected on labor this past week, I've come to several realizations. IF I had gone into labor on my own, I would have stayed at home as long as possible. Perhaps too long, and he might have been born in the car or somewhere else, in which case his birth might not have had a very happy ending. Same if I had had a homebirth...I probably would have ended up transferring due to exhaustion. His head just would not come down because my placenta had grown directly to the top of my uterus and with all his twisting and turning, the cord had wrapped and shortened, making it virtually impossible for his head to put enough pressure on my cervix even after my water was broken.

I knew all along that God had a plan, and had us in the palm so His hand. It funny as we go through things like this, we know this, but we still balk and whine and question at every step of the way...and then afterwards is when we learn how foolish we are.

Looking back, I will say that over all, I did not enjoy my labor. I got to labor on my own, disconnected from wires and monitors, I got to feel Baby coming down and the urge to push, I got to have an amazing doula and wonderful midwife and nurses, all of which I had prayed for. Those things I did enjoy, but I'm not able to look back on it and say it was an empowering, incredible experience. Honest. I felt completely overwhelmed with emotion and dread for most of it, and sort of just felt swept along, out of control, and out of touch with my body. It was pretty much everything I had wanted to avoid this time around.

Of course I will say, and do honestly feel that it was worth it...what mother won't go through ANYTHING for her child and say it wasn't worth it? I will also say that I saw the hand of God very clearly through it all. In each nurse, in each touch of Marvin's hand, in each encouraging word from my doula...and in my son's beautiful eyes. And I am grateful. Grateful to my Jesus for dragging my stubborn self along, despite my doubt, despite my hard questions, despite my fear. Grateful to Him for never giving up on me because He knew my heart, clouded as it was with human emotion, he knew my hearts desire and delights in giving.

Caleb Jackson
9lbs 11oz
Deeply Loved
{Caleb means "whole-hearted"}
{Jackson means "God has been gracious, has shown favor"}


 {yes, this is me, laughing, as I am pushing!}

 {The Moment}

 {cutting the rest of cord, he was still holding on to the oxygen mask!}

 {Daddy love}

 {hello, world!}

 {my sweet, sweet reward}


How We Roll Part 3


How we search this largely depends on why we are traveling. Obviously if we are going somewhere intentionally, we've already searched and found the place to go and why. We do always try and find some local history no matter where we go. For example, last year in the summer, we decided to go to Hilton Head. Instead of just baking on the beach all week, we took some time to go inland, talk to some locals, take a guided tour of the bay area in a small boat, etc. We also drove 45 minutes south and visited Savannah, Georgi and soaked in all that history. We like to learn no matter where we are!

However, if we are traveling because of a business trip, the process is a bit different. This past trip, for example, we HAD to be in Dallas, Texas, on Tuesday morning of that week, and couldn't leave till Wednesday afternoon. We knew already that we wanted to see St. Louis, so I plotted a route using Google Maps that went through St. Louis, down to Dallas, and back to our town in a loop.

{we try and see a bit of local history in each town if we can, this is in downtown Dallas}

Then I looked at all the states we would pass through and searched "things to do in _________" or just that state's tourism website. I typically look under "history" or "free attractions". Once I pull up the list of things to do, I pick some that seem most interesting to most of us. Then I search the website for that particular attraction. If it's an historical attraction (ie: Lincoln's birthplace) I read VERY carefully to determine what is actually there, what the hours are (being extra careful to check the months because we often travel in the off-seasons), how much it costs for admission, if there is parking, and how much time it looks like we would spend there. Sometimes I call and ask more questions.

 Our goals are fun education, local history, natural history, and seeing something that we can't see at home. All of this research is VERY important...I can't tell you how many times I've gotten excited reading about something only to discover that they are closed during the month we are traveling, or it's astronomically expensive, or the historical site we think we are seeing is actually a replica. It really, really pays to do your research. We also check to see if there are any reciprocal memberships. For example, if you buy a pass to a National Park, it is good for ALL National Parks for a certain amount of time.

{at the amazing City Museum in St. Louis}

{holes in the floor everywhere...a little unnerving the first time we went, the kids kept disappearing!}

{and re-bar to climb in all over the ceiling}

{amazing glass mosaics}

{bread pan bathrooms}

{the "no skate" skate park}

{shoelace factory, tribue to the old shoe factory that once occupied the building}

 {sweaty tired kids and a million pencils on display}

{yes, they have a circus, too! there's a little of everything crammed in here!}

{taking a break in the ginormous ball pit}

{spool seat}

{hall of mirrors}

{people sized hamster wheel}

{inside the bank vault}

{beautiful empty spaces}

{retro fun}

{one of my favorite areas}
{note on this particular museum: expensive, but worth every penny in our opinion. Exciting for all ages, plan to stay all day to get your money's worth}


So here is some of the nitty gritty...

We all know the saying that the kids attention span is how old they are in minutes, right? (a 2 year old has a 2 minute attention span, etc.) So...what do you do with three kids who should have a collective attention span of 23 minutes on a 17 hour drive? Or on a 2 hour long battlefield tour?
Well, for starters, we expect WAY more from them than that. While we do attempt to chose activities that are age appropriate, we also expect them to adapt and exercise self control if they are in a situation that is not ideal for them. This goes back to parenting and training skills that, if correctly implemented at home, will be invaluable when you expect your energetic 5 year old to sit still while a long winded tour guide is elaborating on the history of horse drawn carriages!
We have trained our children to sit still and be quiet. It's not hard, you just have to be consistent. Start in small increments (like 1 minute if necessary, you want to set them up for success at the outset!), let them know clearly your expectations, and follow through on the consequences for disobedience.
For us, homeschooling has been a wonderful tool for teaching these skills. We have had our good and bad moments, but requiring all children to at least be in the same room and quiet while I read someone's lesson aloud has gone a very long way in promoting self control, and courtesy for others.

That's all I will say on short attention spans, other than to say if you have not been successful at getting your young ones to sit still at a meal at home, you probably won't be very happy with the results of trying to get them to sit quietly while you and your older children enjoy a tour somewhere!

Meltdowns, tantrums, the grumpies, whatever you want to call it, that happens too! Typically for us, it's a result of lack of sleep/sleeping in a strange environment, feeling out of control with so many new things, or just a simple case of home sickness. Our oldest used to spend the first 24 hours of any trip constantly in the bathroom and complaining of a stomach ache and yelling that he wanted to go home. After that he was just fine and enjoyed himself!
While this type of behavior at home (the meltdowns and tantrums, not a sick stomach!) might require a different approach, viewing the situation with a bit of empathy and patience can go a long way in easing frustrations of the whole family.

We learned the hard way that having really ANY expectations for the trip outside of simply arriving safely at our destination eventually made us stressed out. Realizing that kids thrive on routine and sameness and don't have filters to regulate their emotions yet, and just relaxing and enjoying the natural rhythms of our family in a new place has gone a long way towards making even the longest road trip a peaceful, enjoyable experience.

Just because you are on a cruise, for example, doesn't mean your children are suddenly perfect angels and you will be on vacation from parenting! Just plan on parenting, and "doing your life" with new and different scenery! You will all be much happier, and may even find traveling with very young children to be extremely enjoyable. Young ones, if given the opportunity to slow down, will take it all in from quite a different perspective than you adults with an agenda! You might even find yourself learning more than you ever thought possible from your toddler tour guide!

As far as the "other unpleasant things" mentioned in the title goes, by that I mean stuff like sickness, clogging a hotel toilet, losing a lovey, etc. Yes, all of that does happen, it's just life. You might as well have a sense of humor, remember that you have no expectations, and roll with the punches!

Last year we arrived past midnight at a hotel, one of the kind that has outside doors for each room, not a lobby and a hallway. We checked in and went to sleep very quickly. Marvin and I were awoken about an hour later by Alec screaming. We sat up to find, much to our shock, Benji sitting up over Alec, vomiting on his head, the wall, and all over the carpet and bedspread.

We rapidly moved the boys to the bathroom and began damage control. I called the front desk to explain the situation, apologize profusely, and ask for clean bedding. The startled desk clerk (I think she was asleep) pointed out to me that she was the only one there and had no access to the housekeeping area, and couldn't leave the desk because it was the middle of the night. (remember it was a hotel with only outside doors, not hallways). She offered the key to the adjoining room, so we could just move the kids to a clean bed and leave the mess where it was. While Marvin was on his way down the driveway to the office to get the key, phase number two began in the bathroom, with diarrhea covering nearly all the towels and the bathmat.

You might say that we took FULL advantage of EVERYTHING in that adjoining room when he came back!  Thankfully, it was only a "fluke", Benji was the only one that got sick, and he was completely better the next morning. We did all take precautions, like taking activated charcoal, but were all fine. And yes, we did laugh a LOT about it in the car the next day. It's still a joke when we travel, and an example of how we took something that could have been really horrible and made it into something lighthearted. A sense of humor is extremely important!

 {more local history, long walk to the arch in St. Louis}

{seeing it again for the first time}

{looking bulky and pregnant!}

{trying the famous frosty mug at Fitz's}

{Christmas decorations made it even more special inside}

{it WAS actually really good, and made with real sugar, not corn syrup!}

 {on the Loop, historical section of town near Washington University, St. Louis}

I hope you've enjoyed my little series on how we roll, and it inspires you to try a little road trip of your own, or to revamp the way you currently travel...

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