Anna's Birth

We welcomed our fourth child into our family at home on Nov 21, 2014 at 7:16 pm.  Anna was 8lbs, 6oz and 19.5 inches.
If you want the synopsis…
Anna was 8 days past her due date, yes we did a homebirth, yes it was planned, no we are not crazy, yes Jared opted for pants (see reference below), yes it was a fantastic experience and yes clean up was fast (first question out of everyone’s mouth about homebirth).  A big thanks to our Nurse-Midwife, Katie, at Eastern Iowa Midwifery for a wonderful experience and helping us welcome a beautiful healthy baby girl.  

If you want the novel…..
If you know our family you're well aware that there is a 5 ½ year gap between our third and fourth child.  As we announced once again we were expecting we received many comments, most which contained the word “surprise”.  While Anna was indeed a surprise, it was a long-awaited and welcomed one.  I knew inevitably the day Ike was born that there would be a fourth.   Years passed and due to health issues in my early twenties the consensus was that time had most likely ran out. Personally it was a tough reality, but with time the transition came.  Ike started preschool, I started working more and looked at Masters programs.  The kids were growing and for the first time in years everyone was sleeping through the night.  By last winter we decided to relieve ourselves of all baby gear.  For me that was the last big step to close one door and move forward.

Mid Spring I noticed a shortness of breath out running.  The weeks progressed and one Sunday morning I woke up nauseous. I sat on the cold tile with my back against the bathroom wall, face buried in my hands trying to regain composure, listening to Ike cry because Eliza was once again dictating what bow tie he would wear to church.  The thought crept into my mind, was it possible?  It couldn’t be, I had closed this door emotionally, life had moved on and so had I.  Like any pregnancy I wasn't sure if I should cheer or panic.  I got the kids ready, drove to church.  I looked at my watch, service was starting in four minutes.  Jared was just walking up to sit on the stand (I have the privilege to be married to an Mormon Bishop), I grabbed him by the suit coat and said “You, your office,NOW!”  His weak petition of starting on time was no match as I dragged him out of the chapel. Before he could even close his office door I blurted it out.  In typical Jared fashion, a smile spread across his face with a calm “All right, we can do this.” We walked into the chapel together like it was just another Sunday (but I’m pretty sure I spent the hour with my head between my knees hyperventilating in pew #8, everyone oblivious except the woman sitting behind me with a ½ dozen kids).

Why a homebirth?  I have my crunchy facets in life.  And Jared, well we all know Jared married a landscape architect and that accounts for ALL of his crunchiness. So it wasn’t entirely that.   I wasn’t crazy about my OB office in town, no one had a glowing recommendation.  The nearest hospital-based midwifery practice was in Iowa City and history proved that a 30-mile drive was not a bright idea considering child #2 was born in  a wheelchair at the wrong hospital and child #3 I delivered by myself in the hospital bathroom (links provided if you need to waste yet more time at work).  With Eliza I learned to birth solo.  With Ike I learned to enjoy birthing solo.  While it was in chaos the morning he was born, it was an unmatched experience to catch that little guy and I had longed for it again.  Laying in bed one night Jared turned to me and said “I can’t do the drive.”  “What??  What do you mean?”  “I mean I can’t handle driving you while in labor again, it freaks me out.”  And with that confession the homebirth search commenced.

We had so many questions, was it safe?  Would my body labor the same way being five years older? What if we had another heart baby?  The reality is we've had a child who was not born perfect, at least medically defined sense of perfection.  The weeks sitting in the CVICU wondering if we would ever have the privilege bringing her home hangs fresh in our minds with every pregnancy.    There were so many scenarios, so many outcomes.  We began to read, to digest, to look.  Unassisted, Entry Level, Certified Nurse Midwife?  CNM it was.  After interviewing a few CNM’s we found Katie at Eastern Iowa Midwifery.  We emailed her thirty times and grilled her on every possible scenario as I met with her in person.  I imagine she was hoping we wouldn’t sign on, but to be fair I think we were pretty easy clients after all fifty irrational fears were put to rest.  She answered our questions, put us at ease and gave us more information to digest.  What I really liked about her was the balance of technology with natural birth.   

If you know us you know it takes us a year to pick out paint, transitioning from the status quo hospital birth to a homebirth was a big step.  While it sounded like a perfect fit, we still were hesitant. One night someone sent us the Jim Gaffigan skit on homebirth.  We about died laughing and with the idea that pants were optional and the realization that we had done our research and found a competent practitioner we signed on the next morning.  

Months passed and I got to know Katie, had my eyes opened to new ideas and alternatives to think about as we proceeded to delivery to integrate with what we were comfortable with.  Plans were made, ultrasounds done, meeting with our cardiologist to make sure we had our bases covered to look for heart conditions.  My pre-natal care was so much more thorough than with any OB.  Anna was due Nov 13th and I still felt pretty good (pregnancy is a lot easier in Iowa fall than Houston summer).  Sunday Nov. 16th back labor started to set in.  I early labor slowly for days with all pregnancies and I was hoping the end was in sight.  Tuesday things started to pick up, if like previous experiences, we would have a child within a few hours.   I called Katie, Jared came home from work…and then nothing.  Jared was so flustered that he would miss the birth he stayed home Wednesday from work.  By Thursday  I kicked Jared back to work,  I was a week over my due and patience was waning.  

Finally Friday came, I didn’t feel great.  I went to Aldis mid-morning and part way through the store found myself forehead pressed against a cooler door, (the guy behind thinking I was way too focused on what kind of ice cream to buy)  when the thought occurred shopping probably wasn’t the best idea.  I went home and called our Midwife still not convinced I was in labor (I now see I have a history of labor denial until it brings me to my knees).  It was to be an icy night so she said that she would swing by around 3:30 and check on me and if needed stay the night.   At 3pm I texted her that maybe she should grab her equipment and she was knocking on my door a few minutes later, with Jared running in behind her.  Dara was there shortly thereafter, coffee in hand, which signaled I wasn’t the only thinking this labor would be longer than I had originally anticipated.

I had tested positive for Strep B and opted for the IV antibiotics (thinking that the last two labors were so fast they didn’t have time to administer them in the hospital so most likely this time would be the same).  Ironically I ended up with an IV with the homebirth but it was a painless process.  With the last two labors being so fast we planned on just sticking the kids in the basement with a movie (don't worry we had many discussions including the one if Mom sounds like she is being trampled by a herd of moose, it's perfectly normal).  They came running in the door from school at 4pm and I knew they had to go.  Jared loaded them up and took them to Hodsons and I promised him I would wait for him to get back (like I had any control but it made him feel better).  The room was prepped, we chatted, Jared made it back in time and administered a blessing.   Everything was in place, it was time to get this little chica here. Like Ike my labor was all in the hips and back and so it was really difficult to time contractions.  We talked to for a while longer as they filled up the birth tub.  At that point I was all about laboring in the tub but still unsure about doing a full water birth.

I got in the water and my contractions picked up in intensity  (the secret they don’t tell you) and yet the water seemed to mellow the sting.  Lights were turned down, music was on, Katie monitored and there was silence.  This was by far my hardest birth since my first and yet it was the best.  As the contraction piled on, I was able to focus, to think, to process and for the first birth to stay in the moment.  

Jared  and I had the conversation many times about how helpless he feels during labor, to know there is little relief he can provide. He had asked me repeatedly what I needed during labor since he didn’t have to drive (or recover from driving).  Due to circumstances I had learned to do this completely on my own.  With my two previous labors support had a different definition as in “I’ll never mention the line of profanities that came from you if you don’t have this kid in the car, deal?” (romantic no, but it’s what we had to work with).  So I wasn't sure how to use him, I’m not an overly touchy-feely person in  normal circumstance and in labor I’m really hands off (lets just say the Bradley method was not written for us :).  But Jared sat there and held my hand in silence and after eleven years of married we both knew that was the perfect support for both of us.

There comes a time during labor when the clock becomes faceless and time is measured in breath and wave.  When you find yourself in your own Gethsemane, with unanswered pleading.  In that moment, so remote from the room around, you collapse in fear or find unwavering strength.  Personally, it is in that time of helplessness that biology and Divinity meld to create the beauty of Motherhood.  It is empowering and in each labor becomes sacred ground, an experience that buoys me through the sleepless nights, sickness and the uncertainties of life that is bound to come with raising children. 

And for the first labor I didn’t lose focus.  At one point I was asked to get out and use the bathroom, my water broke.  I decided at the moment that water birth it was, there was no way anyone was dragging me out of that tub.  I got back in, it was time to push.  It was a hands off approach, they were there if needed, I knew the drill.  For being a slow labor, the push was fast, about two minutes.  Poor kid had some serious road rash from the quick delivery.   I picked this sweet little girl out of the water at 7:16 and all was well.

As always there was the joy of afterbirth, the part you forget and wished for the drugs coursing through your veins. It always amazes that I can gracefully make it through labor and birth and yet become a completely pansy afterwards.  Katie and Dara were fast and efficient and before I knew it Anna and I were tucked into bed, laundry was in the washer and the room was back to normal, pretty sure they moonlight as a hazmat team.  They stayed around for a few hours to make sure everyone was stable and left us to welcome in Anna  (who was actually nameless for two days) into our family.  

It was a beautiful experience, my only regret was not having the courage to do a homebirth before the fourth.  A big thanks to our  wonderful Midwife Katie that ensured we had the best and safest experience possible. Anna has gracefully transitioned into our family and after a month we couldn’t imagine life without her.  She has such a sweet calm spirit and will always be a reminder that the blessing we seek don’t always come on our timeline.


Colorado Springs

Jared is one of seven siblings so this year we did our first family reunion.  Jared and I were in charge and being the engineer he is he plugged everyone's address in and Colorado Springs was the center point outside of the east coasters.  

We rented a historic house in downtown Colorado Springs and it was perfect.  We spent the week hiking Garden of the Gods.  Erin did her first rock climb with Aunt Brittany.  Jared took Eliza white water rafting and Ike and I went to the cliff dwellings.  We spent an afternoon at the penny arcade, Ike celebrated his 5th birthday!  And Jared and I found Blue Bell Ice cream.  We enjoyed games and dinner together as an extended family and it was just a great vacation.    

 (our pregnancy announcement)

Washington DC

Time for our yearly post?  We do more than travel!  We survived a brutal winter, I think between Dec 15-Feb 15 we had 37 days below zero.  By the end of school we had 11 snow days and were ready for summer!  That being said the summer has been beautiful and soon the kiddos start back to school.

This spring Jared took me to DC for a week.  I have always wanted to see the Cherry blossoms and luckily we caught the very last week.  We flew in and headed to the DC temple to do a session.  I finally got to see the original mural that spans the interior wall.

We then spent three days doing the mall, renting bikes, puking in the occasional garage can (thank you morning sickness) and just enjoying some time together.  My top two favorite spots were the National Cathedral which we got lost on our bikes riding up there and missed our tour.  I put my pride aside and played stupid tourist and scored a tour with the architect on staff.  My second was Arlington Cemetery.  In a city where the pace exceeds human decency Arlington provided a place of reflection and awareness.

We met up with two sets of friends from our Houston Days.   We did dinner in and game night with Millers and dinner at an Irish Pub and  Mt Vernon with Milenkovics.  So good to see everyone.  It was a fast trip but we loved every  minute of it!


Family Vacation Devils Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Our family vacation this year got downgraded from Colorado to Wisconsin.  However not a bad change at all.  I was so impressed with the area and the park.  We spent a week in August exploring close to home.

We booked a teepee at Devils Lake State Park.  It was nice not to have to deal with tents.  The teepees sleep 6 and had cots and have a huge secluded campsite.  We spent the week hiking, took the kids horse back riding for the first time and enjoyed numerous glens and the lake.  The nature center had GPS units the kids nature exploration bags to check out, which the kids loved.

Geologically this is where the glaciers stopped (think of a snowplow) leaving 400 foot piles of massive pieces of broken stone.  The CCC built stunning trails through these rock slides in the midst of corn fields.
Our Teepee
One of the pieces of broken granite, you can see the scratch marks from the glaciers sliding over it.
 The kids did so well on the trails.  Balanced Rock was a 400ft assent on uneven stone stairs.   Beautiful trail design.  Needless to say the kids slept very well this day :)
Balanced Rock Trail

Trail Steps
Where is the trail??
Devils Doorway - We made it to the top!
View from the top of the ridge
Our second day we took the kids into the Dells to go horse back riding for the first time.  Erin was adamant that she was not getting on a horse for fear of death and dismemberment.  Jared put his foot down and made her go.  When she mounted her horse, she turned around with a gigantic smile on her face. Eliza had her own horse also and did very well for her first time and age.

We spent one afternoon at Parfrey's Glen.  We had hiked a few county park glens and the kids were tired.  We were about to turn around, the trail was nothing special but Eliza wanted to keep going and this is what we found.   Photos do not do it justice, to give you an idea of size and depth click on the panoramics below.

Kids exploring Parfreys Glen
Parfreys Glen
After four days we headed to Madison for a night.  On the way we stopped at this roadside art place.  Sadly it was closed but they did have a few sculptures on the side of the road.

 We spent a morning at the Madison Zoo and then toured the Wisconsin state capitol before heading home.
Ike was scared to death of this guy :)

Costa Rica - Day 7&8 - Paradise on a Dirt Road

We left Jaco and traveled another hour south along the coast to Manuel Antonio National Park.  We had debated about going since we had read it was typically overpopulated with tourists.   But decided that we would regret not going so we saddled up the Yaris and headed out.  Pulling into the park we were met by an entourage of tour guides and parking lots hosts bidding for our cash.  This didn't put me in a great mood and then the first mile of the trail was on a gravel road with groups of tourists, guides and the occasional government car....so much for wildlife.

And then we hit the "front of the brochure", the white sand beaches of Manuel Antonio.  We spent the afternoon hiking the less populated trails and ran into a great troop of white-faced monkeys.   Also a 280' tree (which was not properly labeled).

And then we headed to the white sands paradise of Manuel Antonio. We would have stayed longer but there was a storm a brewing (when you look around and all the Ticos have left you know its time to head out).
Manuel Antonio Beach

The drive was about forty minutes north and then turned on a gravel road that held  stunning views and a serious 17km drive up the mountain.  We passed through a small village, saw the agriculture side of the region.  We seriously bottomed out the car once but managed to escape any major damage.
Agricultural fields
View on the mountain road

Mountain road panoramic
Our last night we stayed at the Paraiso Carlisa Eco Reserve.  We were the only guests on 100 acres of preserve.  Story behind the place a wealthy European had built the chateau for his family and when the children grew up they wanted nothing to do with the area.  They went on to build several villas for research and tourism.  The The best western took it over for a while but because of the location it was unsuccessful.  Our Villa was appx 800 sq/foot, it was huge (for $40/night).
Our Villa Bedroom
Villa living room

Villa patio
Lodge porch
The next morning we were awoken by the monkeys on the roof. I stepped outside and saw a half dozen monkeys looking curiously back at me.  We ate breakfast on the chateau porch watching all the wildlife.   Then the Ukrainian college student (who was one of the five staff members on the whole property and very excited to see human life)  took us on a guided tour of the preserve.  We walked through the animal rehab center and then down through the pastures to the waterfall.  We didn't have the time to do the horseback ride to the big waterfall (which was our one regret) because the clouds were gathering and we had to get the Yaris back on paved roads before the rain came. 
Animal Rehab Center
Animal rehab
Ginger!  They had at least 20 varieties in the garden.  The flowers were about 24" tall.
Waterfall on the preserve
This was by far our favorite place we stayed on our trip, so far off the beaten path it was a slice of paradise.
We left the Eco Lodge at 1pm and started our 26-hour trip back home.  This was (one of the better) bridges we crossed on the gravel road.  At least this one had all of its planks.

Mountain road panoramic 2
Racing the storm to the paved roads
Interstate back into San Jose
 We then had a four hour drive back to San Jose in torrential rain, the first really hard rain we saw all week.  Again hit rush hour and prayed that we could get the car back in one piece.  AND WE DID!  I have never been so happy to return a rental car.  We stopped at dinner and then caught the shuttle back to SJO airport around 7pm.  Our flight didn't leave until 1am but San Jose is not a safe place after dark so we sat at the coffee bar listening to the crazy man sitting down the row from us sing rap songs.  We were happy to get through security and no longer listen to him, lucky for us he was on our flight.  Last time I saw him he was stopped with three guards at Customs in Florida.  We arrived in Chicago at 10am, found our civic with hub caps still attached and drove the final four hours home to hugs and lots of little smiles.  I would trade the ocean and mountains any day the laughter and love at home.  A big thanks for grandparents for making it possible.