Monday, June 3, 2013

Teagan Riley Clark

So this is the birth story. I've been taking my time posting it because I really wanted to be sure I had the details correct since everything happened so crazy fast! Let's back up just a bit so I can tell you how this birth story began years ago...six and a half years ago to be exact. Fair warning...this story is LONG!

My birth story with Eli is not one I like to share too often. Don't get me wrong: ultimately, my son was born, he is alive and healthy and his method of delivery into the world shouldn't get my undies in a bunch. However, so much happened that made me feel powerless and even helpless; so much happened that made both Adam and I "grow up" and see just how much modern medicine can influence decisions; so much happened that we look back at and say "if we knew then what we know now, things would have been different". Let me give you Eli's birth and background in a a "brief" summary: (If you know the story or just want the happy story, skip to the heading that says "The arrival of Teagan Riley Clark!)

I was put on bed rest about 2 weeks before my due date because of high blood pressure. My best guess, and my OB's best guess, was that my blood pressure sky-rocketed because I was working over 60 hours a week in a restaurant, on my feet for almost the entire time. Another contributing factor was most likely the fact that by 38 weeks pregnant, I had already gained over 60 pounds (good grief!). So bed rest it was for me. My BP was fine when I was at home or laying down...but whenever I went to the doctor for non-stress tests and a BP check, it would jump up a bit. I had no other symptoms that would point to preeclampsia but the OB decided around 39 weeks that we should induce because my BP was about 150/90. They sent us upstairs to labor and delivery and ran some blood work. Everything came back normal. Physical check said I was NOT dilated at all, and my cervix had not even started to thin out yet. So their course of action was to just start me on Pitocin. (Later research on my part showed that giving Pitocin with a non-favorable cervix is a recipe for disaster.)

Let's fast forward because the next 30 hours were basically just me being forced to lay in bed and labor, my poor husband not being able to do anything to help me, and  me being completely miserable. Basically once the Pitocin kicked in, I started having contraction on top of contraction...back to back...no rest in between. The contractions weren't really productive...it took HOURS to get a flipping centimeter! Long story short, I stalled at about 8cm and then started to run a fever. Doctor explained that if I had a fever, baby had a fever and that would be dangerous. We were told right off that bat that if Eli was running a fever at birth, he would go to the NICU. Suggested a c-section...I was devastated and heartbroken. I wanted my baby healthy but I wanted my "planned birth", too. We decided to listen to medical advice and Eli was born via c-section, then whisked away to the NICU. I never to to hold him until over 6 hours later...the NICU didn't listen to our requests and instead gave him formula (I was planning to breastfeed and wanted to be called when he wanted to be fed)...I was SO drugged up from the surgery that I didn't even become coherent until over 6 hours after...the pain I had from the surgery meant that I had to go back downstairs to my room after visiting Eli, try to get comfortable in bed so that I, too, could recover and my baby wasn't even in my sight.

Then the real kicker...at my 6 week follow up appointment, my OB told me he didn't think the surgery was completely necessary. He said if they had let me go a few more hours, things most likely would have picked up again. Did he think I could have a natural, vaginal birth next time, I asked? Definitely, was his response. I was relieved and ticked all at the same time. I decided that for our next child, I would do my research and be more informed and things would be different.


SO, that was November of 2006. We are in May 2013. Most people who know us are aware of the long road we've traveled to both get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy. We struggled to get pregnant, and then  had our hopes and dreams crushed with each loss. 3 babies before Eli, and 3 babies after Eli are all waiting patiently for us in heaven. I had pretty much decided that I needed to be okay with the idea that we would be a family of 3 here on earth. I still desperately wanted another child, but I was starting to lose hope. And just when I had decided that I couldn't try one more month, a positive pregnancy test rattled my world...in a GOOD way, of course!

I knew that if I wanted to have a successful VBAC, I needed to take better care of myself this pregnancy. After finding an OB close to home to start with, I cleared my exercise program with her. I wanted to continue running and teaching my class at the gym as long as was safe for me and the baby. My OB encouraged me to continue, but to watch for any signs of preterm labor (since we had a loss due to this). Each appointment showed good numbers for me in all my vitals; the few ultrasounds we had showed a healthy baby. We had a minor scare around 20 weeks with a 'bright spot" on the baby's heart; we were told after a trip to the perinatal center for a more in depth ultrasound that "worst case scenario" was that it was a soft marker for Downs Syndrome...our choice was do nothing and head toward our due date OR get an amniocentesis.  I believe my response was "doesn't an amnio increase chances of preterm labor and/or miscarriage?" Yup, and the doctor said given my history and the fact that the baby had no other markers, he wouldn't necessarily recommend the amnio. Decision was pretty simple - no amnio. And I had tremendous peace with that decision. My baby could have been born with green lizard skin and I wouldn't have cared. (Well, that's not true...a lizard baby would have been a bit scary but you know what I mean!)

So the pregnancy continued without any real problems or even complaints on my part. Our biggest issue came after finding out that we were having a girl...girl names are TOUGH! I felt great the entire pregnancy, kept running and teaching my class at the gym, and put on a very reasonable amount of weight this time. It was a fantastic feeling to go to the OB and have her say "I'd like to see you gain just a bit more weight before your next appointment...eat some ice cream!" OK...you don't have to say that twice! I knew once I was in the second trimester that I needed to switch doctors because the hospital closest to our house did not allow VBACs. This was quite the challenge...I interviewed doctors and nurses and hospitals on the phone first. There aren't a ton of hospitals to have a VBAC at in Iowa but I checked all the hospitals within two hours of our house. I finally found my doctor at 31 weeks. It was a long road to find this group of OBs but I am glad I was patient. They actually encourage their patients to try a VBAC if they are good candidates. They would let me go 2 weeks past my due date before telling me it was time to do another c-section. The hospital was super supportive of it and was connected to our children's hospital in Des Moines. Doctor appointments would be 30 minutes from home, and the hospital was only about an hour from my house. I was SO looking forward to this delivery!

Adam has been working in North Dakota since the beginning of the year and we knew we needed to make plans for him to get home prior to the baby's arrival. My EDD, according to me, was June 3rd. The OB put me at June 10th. We decided Adam should come home by Memorial Day, just to be safe. We figured that was PLENTY of time. Boy, were we ever OH-SO-WRONG :-)

THE ARRIVAL OF TEAGAN RILEY CLARK

Tuesday, May 14th 
The day was like any other day, except that it was HOT! We were predicted temps in the mid to upper 90s. My day started like they always do: get Eli off to school. Eli's school had their track and field day and a friend and I were going together to watch our kiddos participate. By 9:30am, I knew it was going to be a hot day. I showed up at the event wearing dark jeans and a black t-shirt...not too smart! I was a rather sweaty mess by the time I got home. My friends and I joked all morning about random, crazy pregnancy stuff...like making placenta jerky and the crazy article I had read about how some women leave the placenta attached to the baby until it falls off on its own, weeks after birth...this means they have to carry the placenta around in a BAG! Not for me, thanks! We joked about what would happen if I went into labor early...all joking aside, however, I had a darn good plan thanks to some pretty amazing friends and family who all offered to help if needed. Once I got home, I did a little housework and laundry; then I took my quick afternoon nap before heading to the gym. When I woke up, it was 102 degrees outside. Crazy spring in Iowa...10 days prior to this day, we were having our second day of snow and it was 35 degrees! The gym was my typical day...taught Group Power first, joked around with a couple "regulars" about how Adam was convinced that teaching this class would put me into labor early, and told everyone I'd see them on Thursday. Then I ran on the treadmill for 4 miles. I had decided against running outside in the morning because it was too hot by the time I got home from Eli's school. I remember looking in the mirror at the gym and laughing to myself when I saw myself running -- I had gotten so much slower over the months, and even though I'd only gained about 20 pounds, I waddled a little when I ran :-)  I thought I looked a bit silly, but running actually seemed to help my hip pain. If I didn't run or at least take a longer walk on most days, I was unable to sleep at night because my hips would hurt so bad.

Eli and I came home from the gym and ate dinner, which was frozen pizza and salad. I could not eat enough salad during my pregnancy...I craved vegetables ALL the time. I think I ate salad every day during my second trimester! :) Neither one of us was very hungry, though...well, until Eli started eating his pizza; then he polished off half the pizza! Eli took his bath, and once he was in bed for the night, I finally got my shower done. I decided to shave my legs for the second day in a row -- I only add this in because pregnancy had made me really lazy and I typically only shaved my legs the day before I had to teach my class! Strange form of nesting, perhaps? Seriously, nothing was out of the ordinary. I watched some TV and then called Adam around midnight...this was typical for us. I was never tired until about 1am and had terrible insomnia since about week 30 so we talked late at night until I was practically falling asleep on the phone. We hung up shortly before 1am and I went to sleep.

Wednesday, May 15th
2:15am:  I woke up because I had to pee...typical. As I got back into bed, I had a random short contraction. I figured Braxton Hicks because I had those A LOT with this pregnancy, but it felt a bit stronger than usual. It was kind of a short one, though, so I didn't even think too much about it. Then I remembered it had been ridiculously hot all day and I worked out pretty long at the gym. It was possible I was a bit dehydrated. I got up, drank a bunch of water, ate a banana, refilled my water bottle and went back to bed. Fell asleep almost instantly.

Around 2:55am: woke up AGAIN to pee. When I got back to my bedroom, I felt like I hadn't quite emptied my bladder all the way. Went back to the bathroom...went back to my bedroom...SAME feeling of full bladder. I laughed at myself and kind of got annoyed with myself. Went to the bathroom a third time. Finally felt empty!

Roughly 3:03am: laying in bed, unable to fall back asleep. No biggie...Eli would be at school all day and it was Wednesday so I had nothing to do. I would just sleep all day. Decided to get up and watch a little TV.

3:06am: (as I was walking to the living room) holy contraction...frantically started searching the internet on my phone to find the list of differences between real and fake labor. Real contractions are more than 30 seconds and regular...you feel them all over, not just in front, blah blah blah. I timed the next one, which I have no real idea when it came but it was pretty close to the first one. 57 seconds long...REALLY? I would have guessed it was like 20. But I felt it all in my belly, not anywhere else. Oh wow...yup...another one. For real? I really didn't believe it was real labor. I thought about calling Adam but decided I wasn't going to freak him out because this was PROBABLY not real labor. I walked around, spent some time sitting on the toilet, not doing anything but sitting...for some reason it was very comfortable to sit on a hard, plastic seat! I was trying to time my contractions on an app on my phone but it kept deleting them so I had no ongoing record of how they were progressing. I just knew they were all about a minute long...I stopped caring how far apart they were and decided to try to keep track of how many I was having, instead. When I got to 5 (this was NOT counting the ones I already had!), I had a "feeling" this was real labor. I thought I would wait it out until later in the morning...I really didn't want to call my "support crew" at this early hour. I looked at the clock. It wasn't even 3:30 yet. I decided that if I was going to wait and labor some at home, I'd better unlock doors in case someone had to get in...then I started opening random windows just in case that "someone" couldn't get in through the doors? That was my thinking.

Another really weird thing: NONE of the cats would come by me at this point. They all were in the living room, just staring at me creepily. It was seriously quite creepy!

OH CRAP...

My thinking became really clear for a moment (just a moment, however!). I'd had WAY more than 5 contractions in less than 20 minutes. Wasn't I supposed to call my OB or something like that? Couldn't remember from back when I was pregnant with Eli...and my current OB hadn't gone over that stuff with me just yet.  Huh. I still didn't really believe that this was happening. I was really convinced this wasn't the real thing.

This is where it got a bit strange; okay, IT didn't get strange, "I" got just weird! I began to clean my house. I made our bed, I cleaned the litter boxes (I did NOT want to ask anyone to clean cat boxes if I was going to the hospital!), I think I even started to do the dishes before I realized that was ridiculous...more ridiculous than cleaning litter boxes and opening random windows!

And then, oh yes, the convincing contraction came. I felt this contraction from my rib cage, all through my lower back and down my legs to my knees. And it wasn't just one. I had 2 of them...back to back. I'm pretty sure that I swore at that point and realized this was really labor. I wondered if I could drive...really? Why did this cross my mind??? Grabbed my phone and dialed my driver. The conversation went something like this:

ME: "Hi Nichelle, it's Sandy. Sorry to call so late or...I really think I should go to the hospital because my contractions are super close!"

NICHELLE: "Huh? Who is this again?"

ME: "It's Sandy"

NICHELLE: "OH! Okay, I'm heading over now..." there was a bit more in that part of the conversation but it was a blur due to another massive contraction.

3:35am: I remember this time quite well...it was the first phone call I made to get a hold of Adam. No answer. Dilemma...do I keep calling, or do I leave a message? No message...decided that was NOT the right choice. I wanted to talk to him personally. Yet part of me knew that getting a hold of him was going to be rough on him - 12 hours is quite the drive to make knowing your wife is in labor already.

Then I called to find a place for Eli to go. Mother in law saved the day...would meet us just off the interstate so we didn't have to drive all the way to her house. I woke Eli, and explained that it was very late and he was going to Grandma's so mommy could go to the hospital to have the baby. I told him I needed him to be cooperative because mommy had a bad tummy ache and he shouldn't be worried. He asked if he could wear his green socks in the morning. Um, yes. Whatever socks you want to wear are perfectly acceptable. We packed his backpack, I finished packing my hospital bag (so unprepared this time around...didn't think I'd be going in at 36 weeks!). I grabbed a towel and a garbage bag, trying to save Nichelle's car in case my water broke on the way to the hospital. I wandered around aimlessly...Eli was already sitting on the couch, ready to go. I was just a space-case. Every time I felt a contraction coming, I tried to make sure I wasn't in the room with Eli - I was so terrified that he would get scared. I wasn't scared, even though this was really my first labor; instead, I was just freaking out that it was happening so fast. At this point, I still had my head on straight, and I could manage to get on top of each contraction and breathe through it. Walked to the laundry room JUST as Nichelle got to my house...and she THANKFULLY took over the stuff that I was trying to accomplish - like getting Eli to the car, getting my hospital bag, etc. I clearly remember standing in the hallway between my bedroom and bathroom, getting myself through a contraction and saying "I can't believe I'm going to have to do this without Adam here". My wonderful coach's response: "You've got quite some time...he might make it!" (HAHAHA! I laugh about it now...at the time, I really wondered if I could handle at least 12 more hours of this ridiculously close contractions!) One more quick trip to the bathroom to pee (I was really worried about losing bladder control in the car!) I remember grabbing the towel and forgetting (not intentionally) the garbage bag. Sat down in the passenger seat and thought I might be dying...sitting through contractions is really not so much fun.

We made it from Roland to Ames pretty quickly - good driving for sure! I'm sure it was a crazy sight...from my MIL's perspective on her Facebook page:

"I wonder what Kum&Go attendant thought of our 4 am rendezvous....I whipped into the parking lot and pulled into a darkened area by the closed Burger King. Two minutes later another vehicle speeds in, parks at an angle to my car. The driver jumps out, runs around and grabs a kid from the back seat. I jump out in my pink flowered pj's, grab said kid and stick him in my car and we both speed away....."

This entire ordeal was pretty blurry to me...I was concentrating VERY hard at keeping myself together. I really was SO worried about Eli's memory of this entire event. I didn't want him to be scared. I remember hugging and kissing Eli and telling him I would see him soon.  My next text message from my MIL informed me that Eli was fine. He had gotten buckled into his car seat and said "Grandma, can we go bowling tomorrow?"  Nice!

OK, so we need to get from Ames to Des Moines after this...under an hour left to the drive. But the sitting was driving me crazy. I just felt like I couldn't quite wrap myself around laboring in a car. Realizing I had no choice, and my Eli was no longer around, I just decided whatever happened was fine...that I just needed to go with it.  In between most contractions, Nichelle and I were still talking. In between contractions, I was STILL frantically trying to call Adam. He wasn't answering, because he was sleeping of course! There was a part of me that was thankful, because I knew that if I called him and said "We're going to the hospital RIGHT NOW", he would have jumped into his car and driven all night to get to Iowa. But there was part of me that really just needed him to answer the phone. There was no talking during contractions...there was nothing except me moaning like a dying cat. Nichelle was SUCH an awesome coach, too...reminding me to breathe (which did make me want to punch her at least once...I AM breathing! Maybe you would like to do it for me??) and trying to make the ride both more comfortable and FAST! We made the usual 25 minute trip from Ames to Ankeny in WAY less than 25 minutes! I know we talked about music (I guess Nichelle like country music while in labor...I was thinking more along the lines of Metallica!)...and she kept telling me I was doing great, which I really needed to hear. I was not feeling great at this point - I knew I was being rather noisy during my contractions and I felt like an idiot, to be honest! But darn it, these contractions were MUCH easier when I was walking or sitting on my hard plastic toilet seat! I noticed that they were getting longer, too...which made me realize I was NOT in for 12 more hours of labor. I just knew it was going to be much shorter than that.

SUPER long and hard contraction...water breaks. "I'm sorry, Nichelle...I'm quite sure my water just broke in your car."  Her wonderful response? "Don't worry...there have been worse things in my car!" Even in my state of mind, I couldn't help but wonder what could possibly be worse than uterine fluid all over your passenger seat...

This is when it got bad - seriously starting having really long and hard contractions, back to back to back...no breaks. It was almost impossible at this point to "get on top" of each one because as soon as it was done, another one came. I remember getting VERY dizzy (and holding my breath several times...good thing for the breathing reminders!) I remember wondering if we would make it to the hospital. I remember REMINDING myself that no matter what happened, I needed to remember NOT to push (funny that I could remember that!). I remember checking my phone's GPS and seeing that we were like 2 exits from where we needed to be. I remember looking at the clock but not really seeing the time, nor caring what time it was. Nichelle would later tell me she was timing my contractions and had decided that if they became ANY closer, she was calling 911 because she didn't think we should deliver roadside! She also told me that I didn't swear once...I did, it just wasn't out loud :-)

I remember the huge bump as we went into the hospital parking lot. Why is this so important? When my older sister was in labor with her first, I drove her to the hospital...and practically drove OVER a parking stop in the hospital parking lot. The look on my sister's face was something I would never forget...and I finally understood WHY she gave me that look when we hit that bump during my own labor!

I didn't know how to get to the maternity entrance of the hospital. I had planned on making a "dry run" with Adam when he came home. I knew there was a blue awning. We stopped by the emergency entrance and asked a "rent-a-cop" how to get to the entrance...she directed us. We didn't find it...either time that we tried to find it. Quick decision was made to just go in the emergency entrance. As I stood up out of the car, I wondered if I was going to make it into the hospital. I really just wanted to lay down on the sidewalk...or throw up. I felt extremely nauseous. Wonderful attendant brought me a wheelchair as I took baby steps into the hospital...took my info to call up to Labor and Delivery. Nurse then brought a gurney and asked if my water had broken...yes, I believed it had. I was told to lay on my left side and NOT to push. Ridiculously close contractions...the elevator ride took FOREVER. I swear we were going to a different hospital in that elevator. "Keep breathing, hon...but DO NOT PUSH!" I was getting a bit irritated at this point. "I'm really trying not to push!" (those were my first words during the elevator ride.)

"I know you're trying but you look like you might be pushing...we're almost to labor and delivery!"

You don't know what I'm doing...I'm NOT pushing. And really, don't tell me what NOT to do...just get me to L&D already. (yeah...I really did think that. Not proud of those awful thoughts to that really great nurse! At least I didn't say it out loud, right?)

So I know I saw the doors of L&D open...bunch of nurses...lady at the desk. Lady at the desk, oh yes...her question to me: "Sandra Clark? Can we add you to our registry so your friends and family know you've been admitted and can find you?" REALLY? Are you asking me this RIGHT NOW? I lifted head off the gurney and just kind of mumbled "Um. yeah...whatever." Laid back down. I kind of felt like I was floating for a moment...but that moment was SHORT lived. Contraction...and another...and another. By the time I realized I was still alive and not floating, I was in the L&D room. There were SO MANY people in my room! A nurse stood in front of me with a gown and gently said "Whenever you're ready, let's get you up and in the gown...and then on the bed, okay?" I nodded. I didn't want to get up though. And every time I started to move I felt another contraction and just wanted to lay down again. I remember looking at the "gown nurse" and saying "I don't know if I'm ever going to make it to the bed!" She smiled..."You will...take your time." Next thing I knew I was standing, moaning and trying to get my shorts off. I can't believe how difficult it was to get undressed! I finally got into the bed and they hooked up the fetal monitors...what a relief it was to hear her heartbeat! I'd been feeling her move all through labor but there was part of me that couldn't really believe this was REAL labor until I heard her heart beating. Suddenly the whole thing became real...

my entire pregnancy became completely real to me for the first time in 36 weeks. THIS was really happening...

There was this part of my heart that was so scared the entire pregnancy...the part of my heart that told me to be cautious. It was the part of my heart that felt like the other shoe was hanging by a frayed shoestring...ready to drop at any moment. But her heartbeat...it was strong, it was fast and it WAS THERE. That's when I looked at the clock and saw it was just before 5am. (Remember...I didn't even decide to actually GO to the hospital until about 3:30am!)

And this is when things really started to go fast...

I tried to quickly show Nichelle how to take pictures on my phone because OF COURSE I forgot our regular camera on the kitchen counter (it was by the stupid garbage bag that I forgot!). A nurse told me she was going to check my progress...Murphy's law states that a woman MUST have a contraction while having her cervix checked, thus making the entire procedure really freaking painful! She then asked me "Are we waiting for dad? Is he on his way?" I said "No, dad is in North Dakota and doesn't even know I'm here yet! He's not going to make it, is he?" She smiled. My doctor walked in, got in her gown and mask and I heard the nurse tell her "I just checked her...she's completely dilated and the head is right there and visible." The words kind of spun around in my head for a moment...FOR REAL? Holy...crap. Dr. Bellaire looked over at me and asked "How long were you laboring at home, Sandy?" I replied "A little more than 30 minutes...and the rest was in the car!" So much info thrown at me then...had I ever made it to the pushing stage with my son? Nope. Ah, it's all good...they'll walk me through it. It was all going to be fine...next contraction, hold my breath, grab my legs and try to poop (or try to push like you're pooping, rather!) Don't worry about the spastic shaking of my legs...completely normal. Yeah, it's gonna hurt like crazy but just remember the baby. Keep breathing...baby needs oxygen! Voices started to fade out..."Contraction?" I nodded...and the pushing began. First push...everyone is cheering like I just became the president. Fantastic job...I'm a rockstar. Yeah, until pushes 2 and 3...not quite so impressive to the peanut gallery. Whatever...I'll push like I want. No, not really. I really wanted to meet my little girl by this point. Around this time I remember apologizing to the entire staff...I don't really know why. I just felt like I was the worst patient in labor ever :) I was assured that everything I did/said/acted like was just fine!

OK, quick breather. Waiting for the next contraction...quick refresher from the doctor on what to do and what NOT to do. I don't think it took all three pushes this time because I was extremely focused and the pushes were productive. I knew EXACTLY when her head came out...when Dr. Bellaire said "OK, stop pushing" I just kind of "relaxed" and waited...seemed like an eternity...

But then I finally heard her cry...

What an amazing sound it was! Immediately, I was relieved and so thankful.  I closed my eyes and I really wish I could say that I exchanged eloquent words with God but it was a lot of "OH thank You thank You thank You...thank You that she's alive, thank You that she's here with us...PLEASE let me keep her...and THANK YOU GOD!"

I can't even begin to really explain the emotions that I felt at that moment because there were SO many. I almost couldn't believe this day was actually here. She was really here. When I opened my eyes it was time to cut the cord and I knew of NOBODY (well, except Adam, of course!) better to cut that cord than Nichelle...my wonderful friend and birth coach. Nichelle...my wonderful friend and birth coach. My "sister" who had seen me through the grieving of pregnancies lost, and had uterine fluid staining her car as we delivered my daughter. I'm so thankful that she said "yes" and cut the cord! Then, I saw Dr. Bellaire handing our little girl to me...
OH MY GOSH...I get to hold my girl right away...

I didn't get this with Eli. I had felt cheated for years because I didn't get to touch Eli for over 6 hours after he was born. My baby was going to be in my arms MOMENTS after her birth. I knew I wasn't going to be able to stay composed for much longer...
...and as I held her that first time, the first words I said to our little girl were "We have waited for you for SO long...you have no idea how very loved you are!"
And I cried...because I was so amazed and relieved and thankful and blessed and SO IN LOVE with this little child...totally overwhelmed...
I really didn't want to let her go...ever...

But I did...and they cleaned her up a bit and weighed her. I heard 5lbs, 5.5 ozs and 17.5 inches long. Such a little peanut! And such a STRONG cry! I felt such relief to hear her cry! 

I managed to get some tiny tears during labor and as I was being "repaired" (which I might say is WAY more painful than labor itself!), I couldn't believe how good I felt. Adrenaline, I'm sure, played a part in this but it was so different from the drugged stupor I experienced after Eli's birth. One of the nurses asked me if I had planned to do a VBAC...I said yes. She laughed a little and said "That's good because there was NO time for a c-section by the time you got here!" What time was she born. I asked?  5:08am! So I was in my L&D room for about 10 minutes total before she was born. I was in active labor for about 2 hours total. This still seemed unreal to me! Nichelle and I started talking about the day before my delivery...any symptoms? No, I even went to the gym as usual.  Dr. Bellaire stopped stitching and looked at me for a moment: "You taught a class AND ran 4 miles yesterday?" Yeah...again, I know I'm a rockstar :-)  Not really...I just didn't feel like Tuesday, May 14th was anything other than ordinary. Seriously, my first "real" labor symptom was feeling like I couldn't empty my bladder completely when I peed earlier in the morning! I "joked" that if all my labors could be like this one, I would TOTALLY have another! (Joked??? Maybe not totally a joke...hmmm...)

Another wonderful "first" for me: I got to breastfeed her right after birth!

I can honestly say this birth took all the emotions I had about "evil hospitals and stupid doctors" and wiped the slate clean. My doctor and nurses were amazing...the hospital was amazing...they allowed me to do what I knew my body could do. If I had showed up at the hospital closer to my house at 4am, before my water broke and when I wasn't fully dilated, they would have made me have another c-section, even though this delivery was totally uncomplicated. Yeah, we cut it pretty close by driving to this hospital but I would totally go there again...I'd probably leave my house a bit sooner the next time! I'm glad I was in a hospital, where there was help just in case I needed it. Even though I was so sad to see my girl go to the NICU later that night for observation and testing, I'm thankful that modern medicine took precautions to protect my baby. I knew we were in good hands from the minute we got to the hospital.

The story doesn't end there, of course. It was 6:30am before Adam answered his phone. He didn't believe me when I told him we had a baby! I had sent a picture, of course...
a picture complete with a goopy-eyed baby! But it got the point across and Adam started his LONG drive home.

I was so amazed by this entire experience...it was fast and furious, to say the least. It took hours before it seemed completely real. Once the reality started to set it, I had phone calls to make! After all the grandparents had been notified, I will honestly say that my next major concern was getting my class covered at the gym! I was still supposed to teach 3 more classes before I went into labor...surprise! Rockstar or not, I knew I wasn't going to make it to those 3 classes ;-) After that, my next concern was breakfast...and I can honestly say that was the best breakfast I have eaten in months!

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.
1 Samuel 1:27


Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17


Teagan Riley Clark
May 15th, 2013   5:08am
5lbs, 5.5oz   17.5 inches

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Light up the Sky



Tonight, Eli and I were driving home from a "get together' with my small group from church...Eli was super sleepy (played hard with his friends and hunted for Easter eggs!) and he was falling asleep in the back seat. I kept trying to talk to him to make our short, 15 minute drive home pass by more quickly but he was fading fast...and I was feeling a bit defeated, alone and sad. Suddenly, I noticed lightening in the sky and heard thunder. I watched again, and even though it was only about 7pm, the slightly darkened sky definitely showed signs of a thunderstorm. 

As I exhaled and just prayed for a bit of peace for my troubled heart, I realized something. I realized that God shows Himself to us in many different ways...including thunderstorms. I remember as a child hearing that thunder was just "the angels bowling" or some other comforting description of an otherwise frightening sound for a child. Even as a child, this analogy made me think about how powerful God really is...and as an adult, I realize how much love He shows through His power. It's random things for me...shooting stars make me think of my children that went home to heaven before we got to hold them. The little ray of sunlight through dark clouds always makes me think about God trying to give us a glimpse of what He has in store for us...if we can just make it through our life here on earth. Rainbows will forever make me think of our little Jonah...Eli has me convinced that his little brother has his own rainbow in heaven . Small things that might be taken for granted by another hold special meaning for me...

So tonight, the lightening was that special sign. My heart is heavy and it hurts...and although most of the time I am able to smile and power through this tough time, there are moments when it feels unbearable. Moments like tonight...moments when I most need my heavenly Father to somehow reach down and grab me and say "I'm here...don't give up yet. I know it's hard but I am here with you...and I will keep walking with you as long as you want me to."

That's when He lights up the sky.

It may not always be lightening, or a shooting star or sunlight. 

It is whatever I might need at that moment. Tonight, it was lightening. A short-lived thunderstorm that made me breathe deeply and remember that I have not been abandoned by my Almighty Father...He didn't forget me. He's there when I look for Him. He's never more than a prayer away. I can never deny that He is always RIGHT THERE...I've experienced it more than once and I rest knowing that my hand is held through this storm - that if I let Him, He'll carry me through this again.


"When stars are hiding in the clouds
I don't feel them shining
When I can't see beyond my doubt
The silver lining
When I've almost reached the end
Like a flood you're rushing in
Your love is rushing in..."

"You light, light, light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me that you are with me
And I, I, I can't deny
No I can't deny that you are right here with me
You've opened my eyes
So I can see you all around me
You light, light, light up the sky
You light up the sky to show me that you are with me."


Since the day a little more than a week ago when I was told, yet again, that there was no longer a heartbeat, I've been thinking so much about the blind man in John chapter 9. Jesus was asked who was to blame for the man's blindness and he replied that it wasn't the fault of anyone...instead "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." This by no means makes the hurt any less, but I've been slightly comforted knowing that God's plan is so much greater than I can possibly know or even fathom. There is part of me that wishes I'd never had to experience this. But there is that part of my heart that believes that if God's love and light can somehow shine through all of this for HIS good, then I'm okay. So I feel this heart-wrenching hurt and this odd peace together...and I don't know what to make of it sometimes. 

But I know that I will be okay...know my God is here with me...and that He loves me more than I can even know.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tiny flickers of hope...

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. ~Psalm 116:7~
But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; 
my God will hear me. ~Micah 7:7~

This past year, I started something new. It started late this summer when we had moved into our new house. I started a simple act that proved more meaningful than I expected, something that started "just because" and became some of my most precious moments during the second half of 2011. Something that nobody knew the meaning of except for me.

I started to light a candle.

Not just any candle. I light candles a lot, especially in the winter. Rather I started to light a specific candle at various times throughout the day. I found this candle to be the most beautiful candle I had ever experienced.

This simple candle had become my little Jonah.


You see, for whatever reason, when I lit this candle in the middle of our dining room table for the first time so many months ago, I started to think about my little boy. It wasn't all sad thoughts, though. Instead, there were some peaceful thoughts...thoughts about what he might be doing up in heaven. Thoughts about what heaven must be like. Thoughts about how wonderful it must be to spend every moment of eternity with our Savior. Thoughts about how someday I get to be there...

forever.


A candle did this for me. A candle prompted me to really spend more than just a moment thinking about what I've been given. I'm the child of an Almighty God who willingly gave His only Son as a sacrifice so that I could be part of HIS FAMILY and live forever with Him.

wow...


I have more children in heaven than I will probably have here on Earth. I often look at Elijah and realize he doesn't even know that he's one of six. Because I know just how fragile life is, I try to cherish everything, even the seemingly small things, because I feel blessed that I have him...he's a gift in so many ways. If someone came to me today and said  "Hey, if you are willing, your son Elijah can sacrificially save the world from 'X,Y, and Z'!" I would take Eli and run the other direction as fast as I possibly could. I wouldn't stop until I was so far away that I felt safe...and I would drop off the grid and nobody would see us again. Yeah...I'm serious. I won't dwell on this thought because I'm pretty certain it's not going to come to that! :-) My point is that God did what I know I could never do...

for me...for you...for anyone who wants it.


This hasn't really made the whole thing easier for me, however. December sucks...it is really a hard month. I realized last year, and then again this year, that losing Jonah in December 2009 now causes me to think about and grieve the losses of all my children. It's like I get to the end of the year and suddenly get bombarded with memories and grief all over again. It makes me sad. I think about each child not only on the day they went to heaven, but also random times throughout the year. A mother doesn't forget her children, even when they're not in her sight. And then in December, I get to remember all over again...

and then again...and again...


I'm no fun to be around in December. I don't want it to be this way, and this year I tried (really, I did...) to be a bit more pleasant. It didn't work. We wouldn't have put up any Christmas decorations if Adam hadn't pulled the decoration totes out of the closet and left them pretty much in the middle of the living room floor. I want Eli to have good memories of his childhood Christmases. I want to share with him the true joy and happiness that can be found in the true meaning of Christmas. I want him to grow up knowing just how special the birth of Jesus is for all of us. I want everyone to be happy, myself included...

but it's hard to do when you hurt...
when all you really want to do is crawl in a hole until January 1st.


Back to the candle. The first candle that I was lighting eventually became unusable. I wondered what I would do...I mean, the candle that suddenly had HUGE meaning to me was gone. I pondered this for a few days before I decided to just get another candle for the holder. I wondered if I would get the same feelings, or this new candle would just be like any other random candle. So I lit the new candle...

and I thought about my little Jonah,
 and about my babies who are with him right now.


It wasn't the object that held meaning...it was the symbolism, and the feelings, and the memories. It was that bright flame on both candles that flickered just enough to touch my heart, and made me smile when I wanted to cry. It was that little light that helped me remember how close my God always is to me, even when I feel like He is so far away. It was remembering the intense love I feel for all my children, and being reminded that my heavenly Father loves all His children SO MUCH. It was that small flame that reminded me again that my babies spent their first birthday and their first Christmas in heaven...with Jesus. I'll bet they got to sit right on Jesus' lap and hear the Christmas story from Him...and they get to celebrate His special birthday WITH HIM every year!  It [lighting a candle] was something I had done thousands of times before in my lifetime, but one day, lighting a candle suddenly held new meaning for me. A candle...it can't replace those who aren't here, but it somehow helps me feel a little closer to them. So I light that candle often...sometimes in the middle of the day when I'm sitting at the table on the computer or doing my devotions. Sometimes I light it at night, when I know I'll be walking past the table many times. The candle was lit for Thanksgiving dinner, and for Christmas dinner...in fact, for many dinners during these past few months. My babies were there with us...at least in my heart and mind. Seeing the small flame makes me realize that five tiny souls have impacted my life in an enormous way. Losing them was heart-wrenching, but realizing that I am who I am today because of all my past experiences helps to ignite that flame of hope in me...

sometimes just enough so I know 
I can make it through the next tough moment.

I've met so many other moms in the past 2 years who have lost children. We all agree that we can never understand God's ways, see His master plan or completely know how our child's brief life is part of that plan. It's hard, because I formulate theories about "why" and think about how it might all work. And then I realize that it's just silly to do that because, well, I'm not God and I can't possibly figure it all out! I don't get it...I don't know that I'll ever understand why I've gone through this so many times. I don't know if my mind could really grasp the magnitude of God's plan right now anyway. I have to remind myself often that someday I'll understand, but for now I just need to keep trusting Him. After all, when I look back on my life, it's the times that I trusted Him that things went the most smoothly. Remembering this doesn't make it easier to miss my kids...it just gives me hope. Sometimes a tiny bit of hope is all it takes for me to be "okay" in that moment.

The candle burns in our house more days than not. It's just a small thing that has touched my life in so many ways. A simple candle...a tiny flame...

a heart that still has hope.

Happy Birthday, little Jonah. 
Thanks for everything your brief life on earth has taught me the past 2 years...

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or 
crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. ~Revelation 21:4~