Saturday, March 29, 2014


I have been mulling over this word for the last several days, wanting to sit down and gather my thoughts on 'paper', but have had neither the time nor energy to do so until now.  Our sweet princess girl has either hit her two week growth spurt, or has come out of her newborn sleep-of-the-dead phase and is having trouble figuring out how to fall asleep, or is developing a sensitivity to dairy in my diet, or SOMEthing ... but the last couple days and nights have been stretching!

However, they have contributed to my thought process.  This whole season of our lives is one of learning.  Learning how our life as a family needs to flow living in a very different environment.  Learning medicine in a missions hospital, in a rural setting whose inhabitants contract different illnesses than patients in the States and who routinely 'settle' disputes by hacking at each other with bush knives.  Learning who this new baby is and what she needs from me.  Learning a new language. 

Now, I know one could argue that our entire lives should be spent learning; being teachable and willing to learn is part of having a flexible character that can adapt well to change.  While I do agree, I also think there are times in life that require more learning than others.  And it is hard!  I just spent nearly two and a half years learning how to take care of our family of four - learning what routines worked well, how to balance my time between husband and two children and house, and how (hopefully!) to also take care of myself in amongst all of that - and now I need to relearn that process for our family of five, including starting totally from scratch for the fifth member! Mark just spent what at times feels like a lifetime of education learning how to practice medicine - in the States - and now he needs to relearn a lot of those lessons in a totally different setting.  And yes, there is some overlap in both cases; only one member of our family is totally new and different, and much of what worked in our family before will continue to work, with some adaptations for Lucy.  Anatomy and physiology and pathology remain the same for humans all over the world, although diagnoses and treatments may differ depending on where in the world one practices medicine. 

However, my point is this: learning is a time of vulnerability. Of not being sure of ourselves. Not being in control, and not having a familiar answer to fall back on when problems arise.  What worked for Anna or Levi will not necessarily meet Lucy's needs.  In getting to know her, I will have to try things that may fail, and then confront my own frustrations at failing as well as her needs!  Communicating with the people around me in a language not my own reduces me to simple, superficial conversation - and even then sometimes fails to truly communicate!

So how do I deal with this season of learning, of being vulnerable and subject to failure?  Well, a lot of the time, not very well!  It is much easier for me to give in to frustration, and then give up.  To pass off the wailing baby to Mark at night to figure out what she needs, because I know I will be up again in three hours.  To avoid developing relationships with non-English speaking people so I don't have to struggle just to speak.  But -- in giving up, I am making a choice not to grow.  A choice not to allow the Holy Spirit to develop my character and abilities.  A choice not to learn, and therefore (ironically) to remain incompetent! 

It is so easy for me to get bogged down in seasons of relentless learning, and lose sight of the fact that at some point, growth does happen.  Lessons become learned.  New people, surroundings, language and routines will become familiar with time.  James 5:11 says,

            "As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."  

When I persevere, I am counted as blessed because of what the Lord will bring about - even if there is an element of 'finally' in His timing - and in my perseverance He will be compassionate and merciful.  As Paul writes in Romans 5, perseverance produces character and character brings hope.  And hope, surely, takes away the frustrations and fear of failure, and replaces them with changes in my heart that make me look just a little more like Jesus.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lucy's big debut

I'm not exactly sure when labour started.  My water may have broken about 48 hours before she was born, but not very definitively.  I went to see Dr Bill on Thursday and we started talking about inducing labour, since the risk of infection in the baby goes up once the mom's water breaks. We decided to hold off for one more day and see if labour started on its own.  However, I seemed to be 'leaking' more by the end of the day, so once work was done at the hospital, Dr Bill stopped by with a tiny, innocuous-looking quarter of a pill for me to take to induce labour.  That was about 5pm, I was in the middle of making a cheesecake, and hadn't even gotten dinner going yet.

6pm and my sweet and infinitely practical neighbour Steph stopped by to see how things were going.  And bring a delicious pot of soup for dinner so we wouldn't starve while I was baking dessert and neglecting to get actual nutritious food on the table for my family.  Contractions weren't strong enough at this point to really notice.

By the time dinner was over at 6:30, the contractions had started but were still pretty easy.  By the time Bill called around 7 to say that he and Marsha were going to head our way soon, I was definitely having to stop and breathe through each one, but didn't feel anywhere near ready to head to the hospital.  Good thing Mark didn't relay my message to Bill to not rush over quite yet.

 When Bill and Marsha arrived at 7:30, contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart and hard work to get through.  My sweet children were putting on a dance show to distract me from the pain, I definitely did not want anyone touching me or talking to me while I was contracting, and focusing on relaxing was getting tougher with each one. Bill checked me to see whether I'd started dilating yet, and said I was 3-4cm.  This made me not want to go to the hospital yet; when I was induced for Levi, I was 3-4cm when we arrived at the hospital and he wasn't born for another 8 hours.  However, Bill in his wisdom told Mark to gather my hospital bag and get the kids situated with Marsha so we could drive the less than quarter of a mile to the hospital - "I think this is going to happen quickly, guys."

I had one contraction in the car, and a couple on the walk to the labour room.  (There is one private inpatient room at the hospital, on the labour and delivery ward.  This is where the missionary mamas go for their deliveries, rather than the less-than-private 'bays' adjacent to the ward.)  Our nurse Staci met us there, and as she and Bill prepared for the delivery Mark helped me through another half-dozen contractions - each noticeably more intense than the last.  That Cytotec is truly something else.

At 8:20pm Tiny Baby made her appearance, Mark burst out laughing and said "She's a girl!!" (he'd been pretty confident we were having a boy), and we finally got to meet the person who makes our family five. Labour was over 3 hours and 20 minutes after I took my quarter-dose of Cytotec.  Heaven help any woman who gets a bigger dose than that!

I tore quite badly and had some fairly heavy post partum hemorrhaging.  Having experienced one epidural and two medication-free births, all of which involved a good hour of repair for tearing afterwards, I am appealing to the world of medical research to come up with some form of post-delivery pain relief that is more effective than local Lidocaine!

After a couple hours of recovery and getting settled, Bill offered us the option to go home rather than spend the night in the hospital. We gladly took him up on that, and he drove us home around 11pm.  Anna got up to come out and see us, and was delighted by Uncle Bill's news that she had - as she'd been hoping for - a baby sister!

 Although having such a short induction made things just a liiiittle intense, we are so thankful that Lucy was born when she was.  Bill and Marsha were leaving PNG a few days before my due date, and while any of the other doctors here could have very capably delivered her, Bill had been taking care of me since we arrived here.  Also, he and Marsha have been close friends with Mark's family long enough that Bill was in the delivery room when Mark and Luke were born.  So it was very special for us that he was able to deliver Lucy before leaving.

We are settling in and getting used to being a family of five.  Lucy figured out nursing much faster than either of the other kids, and is gaining weight well. She's starting to stretch out her night-time feeds so I'm getting three whole hours of sleep at a time now :) Mark has just gone back to work, although he's able to take extended lunch breaks and be home for a couple hours in the middle of the day.  We love our little Lucy girl (despite the fact that we deliberated over what to call her for so long that she remained Tiny Baby for four days after being born), and are enjoying this new season of our lives.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

38 & 2 ... and counting!

As I approached my due dates for Anna and Levi, we painted my belly according to the nearest holiday and took some fun maternity pictures.  (And when I say 'we', I mostly mean my sister-in-law Tiffany and I.  Mark graciously participates in any family photo shoots I ask him to, but is just a little less thrilled by the opportunity to create seasonal belly portraits than I am.)

I don't know whether I'll make it all the way to the 17th, but this baby is our St Paddy's pot of gold :)  Our artistic friend Rachel came over yesterday morning and we got the paints out, and here is the end result!

(Our SLR is acting up right now and having trouble focusing, which is making me a little crazy but there you go.)