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Simeon’s Birth

Note: The following is the story of Simeon’s birth as I remember it. If you don’t particularly want to read the gory details of birth, you might just want to scroll down to view photos and read the final paragraph to read Simeon’s stats. . . which I’m afraid will be a long way down, as this is incredibly wordy =0)

On Thursday (Feb. 12) afternoon, I received a phone call from our midwife Jessica notifying me that they had received the results of my labwork—and it didn’t look good. She and our doc had talked and decided that I should probably go in right away to be induced—that I either had pre-eclampsia or HELLP Syndrome. She said untreated (and “treatment” was birth), my organs—particularly the liver—could begin to shut down. She assured me she would be available for whatever we would need, and suggested I call Dr. G (my OB) right away.

When I got off the phone, I called Allyn at work—all the while trying not to cry—to alert him that it was go time. He made plans to come home, and I called the doctor’s office to get more information. Dr. G’s nurse had not been told anything yet, so while she was talking to the doctor, I began running around figuring out what on the “to do” list needed to happen before we took off.

When Allyn arrived home, he offered to pack bags, so I began listening to the Hypnobabies Fear Clearing track to attempt to calm myself and regroup. It was tough knowing an induction­­—and the extra risk factors—would change all of my plans. And not knowing any details about what the labs revealed, I was afraid of what the medical team saw.

Dr. G called back and, as expected, suggested that coming in was the best thing. I asked if it had to be St Anthony’s, or if we could go to MoBap, which we had decided was our back-up plan if I became too risky for the Birth and Wellness Center since both the doc and midwives have privileges there. As it turned out, he was on call at St. Anthony’s for the weekend and would not be able to go to another hospital.

And, of course, this made me even more panicked. We never toured St. Anthony’s, and I was not a fan of the information I’d received there for gestational diabetes. I knew they didn’t have the same sort of natural birthing culture that it seemed MoBap championed, and I was worried about giving up EVERYthing from my birth plan. While I knew Dr. G was supportive of the sort of birth I wanted, I also realized that doctors are only a small part of the process. So while I continued attempting to listen to tracks, Allyn called Jessica back to ask questions about what it would mean if we were somewhere else. She implied that with the diagnosis, facility really didn’t matter . . . but after talking to Allyn, consulting again with Dr. G, and finally agreeing to listen to myself, we decided to go to MoBap, even if that meant a doctor we didn’t know. 10997298_10100654072116062_6719660482011881525_n

I continued to listen to Hypnobabies tracks while in the car, trying to wrap my head around the idea that this was the time, despite the fact that I was having no signs of birthing time (Hypnobabies term for labor).

We were admitted to MoBap under one of the Birth and Wellness Center’s partner doctors. Downstairs we ran into the nurse who had given us the tour only four days before. It was nice to see someone we knew!

When we got to Admitting, they received word that we were a direct check in (not a triage patient), and so we went straight from the check-in desk to a labor/delivery room. A nurse drew more labs and began trying to insert an IV. As it turned out, my veins were terrified (their words) and ran to hide. Three or four different nurses attempted to insert the IV, followed by two different people from anesthesia. At one point, one was placed, only to have our nurse (who was a great nurse and felt absolutely awful) trip over it and pull it out. I finally ended up with an IV on the inside of my wrist—the only place they could find a vein that wouldn’t roll or collapse.

My new doctor, Dr. M, arrived to introduce himself. He affirmed the pre-eclampsia/HELLP diagnosis and suggested that my new labwork showed my platelets had already dropped again—and more than they would like. So I was put on Oxytocin to jumpstart labor and Magnesium Sulfate to minimize any neurological impact of the P-E/HELLP.

Magnesium is a rather nasty drug. Our midwife Nicole, who was assisting at a C-section around the time I was induced, stopped by to check in on us. She apologized for the Magnesium and suggested I might begin feeling like I was made out of sand bags. She added “I will say this only once . . . “ and instructed that despite my hopes for limited interventions, if I needed an epidural it might actually be helpful as one of the side effects that can be problematic in other women could help me: lowering blood pressure. This scared me a bit as midwives are not known for recommending epidurals. I wondered what she thought I would be experiencing—and also what criteria I should make the decision on. Was the recommendation one for comfort or one for safety? 10942513_10100654075025232_4721343776019534847_n

The Magnesium meant that I was confined to bed, which was something I never considered happening. I knew that emergency C-section could be a risk, or that my diabetes could dictate needing a hospital setting in order to monitor my and Simeon’s glucose levels, but I always pictured either surgery or having a birthing time that allowed for walking around, multiple positions, a birthing tub (we had pre-ordered one at MoBap just in case we ended up there. The plan for the Birthing Center had been a water birth). Being on my back was tough mentally—particularly knowing that I really had no other options. Both Simeon and I were under constant monitoring.

Overnight as pressure waves (Hypnobabies term for contractions) began and strengthened, I continued listening to Hypnobabies tracks and trying to concentrate on my cues—going into deep hypnosis for pressure waves, breathing “peace” to both strengthen my relaxation and target hypnoanesthesia where needed. Since our room had a cd player, we were using it to play tracks (rather than using my cellphone). At some point a disc ran out while Allyn was sleeping. After I could no longer stand being alone in the quiet, I began attempting to wake him up, which eventually involved breaking the rules a bit and maneuvering so I could reach him with my foot. “I need you!” I said. I think we put cds on repeat after that.

Allyn and I talked about the things I would be doing if I weren’t stuck in bed—how the tub truly sounded amazing. In class, we had practiced a number of various positions and techniques, and all of my favorites involved being able to move freely (walking, slow dancing, sitting on a ball, being on my hands and knees). It was good to be able to identify how this differed and figure out how to adapt to the reality of the moment.

Unfortunately, being confined to bed while on fluids also meant that I got to experience the joy of bedpans. I did, however, become an expert at timing the getting up and down to be before or after pressure waves.

I began to cough and feel sick leading up to pressure waves. The nurse asked if I wanted to try being on my hands and knees—which I desperately wanted to do, but assumed was off limits. I wasn’t able to hold myself in that position long (granted, my perception of “long” is likely askew. It may have been an hour or more)—which I imagine is partially the fault of the Mag—but it was glorious. 10991270_10100654588640942_7630275149293767908_n

In the morning, Nicole texted Allyn stating that she would still be on-call that day and was available whenever we were ready for more consistent support. She came in shortly after, which was a great relief. She convinced the nurses to let me use a birthing ball since she and Allyn would be with me to give physical support, if needed. Using the ball really got things moving. I was able to rock during pressure waves, which both lowered my blood pressure and allowed Simeon to sink down lower.

I began feeling a little pushy, and Nicole encouraged me to relax into what my body wanted to do. My pressure wave grunts shifted, and I began to chant “open, open, open” during many of them. Apparently my grunts were significantly different enough to warrant shifting into the next phase, so I moved back to the bed and tried a variety of positions to attempt to continue progress and allow Simeon to move into the world.

We switched to the “Pushing Baby Out” track, which continued to play in the background for the next several hours. It seems pushing Simeon out was a group process. I apparently had a tight circle of tissue that didn’t fully want to yield to let Simeon by. At the end, whenever a pressure wave would reach its height, Allyn and a nurse each took one of my legs, Nicole worked on keeping the progress Simeon made by maneuvering the tissue circle, and I was pulling on the stirrup/handlebars in rowing fashion. Luckily his monitor revealed that he continued to do well, so I was able to continue the process. Dr. M reappeared to offer some suggestions (the above may have been one of them) and provide support for the last bit of Simeon’s arrival.

Once it was obvious that Simeon would be with us shortly, the room filled with a team to evaluate Simeon. The part of me that was not working hard really wanted to laugh, as Hypnobabies tends to make fun of “purple pushing”—the holding of breath and pushing to particular counts . . . but it is exactly what I had to do—and the thing that ultimately worked to birth my son. Allyn said later that he was convinced that I was at the end of my energy and would need some other sort of intervention (it was suggested that a vacuum could be used). He suggested my pure stubbornness is what allowed me to continue. I responded that my body didn’t give me any choice, that it was the one calling the shots.

When Simeon was born, it was obvious something was wrong. The plan had been to wait until the cord stopped pulsing to cut it, but Allyn was immediately instructed in what to do and had to cut the cord immediately. My child was whisked away to a warming table with a team of various doctors and nurses. While I was desperately trying to pay attention to what was happening, Nicole and Dr. M began instructing me to push again to birth the placenta. As soon as it was out, I wasen something to help my uterus contract to stop my bleeding. Dr. M was checking me for any tears (there were none), and I still had not heard my son cry. Turns out he didn’t take his first breath for over a minute. After a birthing time that felt considerably shorter than it actually was, that minute felt like the longest, scariest thing I had experienced. He finally cried out and was shortly handed back to me for skin-to-skin. I learned later his initial APGAR score was a 4. It jumped to a 9 on second evaluation. 10850223_10100654651889192_6198589766057626_n

Once my family came in the room, I noticed how completely exhausted I was. Twenty-four hours later, I learned the Magnesium, more than the difficult process, was responsible for my extreme exhaustion. As soon as I was taken off the IV, the world around me cleared and I had more energy (despite the lack of sleep I got in the hospital during the two nights before). Once I recognized the impact of the Magnesium, I couldn’t believe I was able to do all I did to birth my son. I suppose the body acts on its own to do what it needs (even with all the other ways my body did NOT want to cooperate—diabetes, pre-eclampsia, HELLP).

Allyn was, of course, my partner in it all—constantly offering me water, helping me into whatever position I needed, placing his hand on my head or arm for our “relax” cue, running interference when someone would ask questions during a pressure wave, calling for nurses when I needed them (or when one of my monitors needed them), and simply being with me. If the above doesn’t mention him much, it is only because he was so much a part of things that I forget to separate his work from mine (you know, aside from the fact that Simeon was clearly birthed from me!).

I am incredibly thankful for MoBap and my amazing birthing team for allowing me to continue with a “natural” birth (it was still being called natural, although it seems silly to label it as such given the Magnesium, Oxytocin, and fluids—and all the monitors I was hooked up to). Even with my limitations and complications, I felt like I was able to make choices and have as much control as the situation allowed. The nursing staff was amazing, and having Nicole with me was so great. She was with me the whole day—and I just realized skipped lunch in the process. While Dr. M might get the official credit for assisting, she was truly the one coaching me and doing the hands on work (very literally). I can’t recommend midwife care—and the Birth and Wellness Center in particular—enough. 1510647_10100655000051472_6092908500291081931_n

The birth was not at all what I anticipated. I felt like I had to adapt and reframe everything I learned in Hypnobabies class. But it was ultimately still the empowering experience I’d hoped for. Nurses—and the doctor—kept commenting that I was the calmest person they had ever seen in labor. The nurses who had been with us during the day (when Simeon was born) stated afterward that I should teach classes. Even though I felt like I wasn’t able to fully use my Hypnobabies tools, I know they are what kept me in a state of relative peace. During the long pushing phase, I kept being told “I know this hurts . . . “ but pain was never my issue. I don’t know that I can say I had a pain-free experience, but I know in those moments my energy level—not any sense of pain—was what kept me from being able to maintain pushes as long as they wanted . . . until my body took over, and I couldn’t stop any longer. I felt a lot of intensity and certainly a lot of pressure, but whatever pain I had never escalated to a point where it was ever something I focused on. In fact, while I was on the birthing ball, I recall thinking “I could definitely do this again.” I felt so in tune with my body in that moment, it was pretty amazing.

Simeon is also pretty amazing. Our boy was born 21” long and weighed in at 7lbs, 4oz after his first meal. His Dad and I believe him to be the most stunningly beautiful creature we’ve ever seen. I think we’ll keep him.

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December Ministry Update

The last few months have felt like a whirlwind. Between pregnancy, planning a move (which will be complete by Jan. 1!), and trying to remain active in the community, life has passed quickly. It has been a time of absolute joy, utter mental chaos, and devastating heartbreak. The following is only a very small snapshot of what has been going on. Feel free to ask for more info!

At the beginning of November we attempted the first “Who Are the Mennonites” discussion. We had exactly one person show up right at the point that we were beginning to turn off lights and go home. He noted his surprise that we had not drawn crowds of thousands (neither Pastor Sam nor I found this quite as surprising). It turned into a good conversation, making connections across traditions.

And, of course, the congregation has continued to work on how we respond to the racism in our community that has been highlighted again with the killings of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers. During our regular joint worship service with Bethesda Mennonite—an entirely African-American congregation—we (thanks to the City on a Hill Committee who planned it) had conversations about race. We had a joint choir (something that has become a beloved tradition) and instead of a sermon, four of us—two from each church—shared our own experiences with race and racism. I was honored to get to be one of the four, listening to the stories of others and sharing how my experience has been one of privilege and blindness. We followed the service with a group activity in Sunday School and a potluck where we continued the conversations from the service in small groups. It was a great time of deeper connection with our brothers and sisters.

On the night of the Grand Jury announcement, I was at the building of a sister congregation that was serving as safe space. I stood on the sidewalk inviting marching protesters in for warm beverages, snacks, bathrooms, and heat. Several weeks before I was able to act as a mediator for a community meeting in Ferguson proper that was organized by an SLMF member (she and her team have been holding regular discussion groups for several months now).

“The New Jim Crow” book study had a great first week, but we quickly discovered this was not a good time of year for gathering for yet another thing. Hoping to try again this Spring.

In the midst, we celebrated a successful end to the first term of Sunday School. My class ended with talk of Passover and experiencing a very small form of some of the symbolic elements of the Passover meal.

In personal news, I’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and have had a complete overhaul in diet the last two-and-a-half weeks. I sometimes feel like my life is lived between tracking every meal and snack I eat (three of each!) and the beeping of the timer telling me it is time to check my blood sugar. In fact, while I was writing that last sentence, the timer alerted me that I finished lunch an hour ago. But I’m now about two months away from little man’s guess date, and things are looking good. Allyn and I are excited to be moving into a two-bedroom apartment that will give Mops a room of his own. Plus, we will live only a few minutes away from the church, so will be present in the area where I am serving.

I am continuing to fundraise. At this point, dollars are in the bank to pay me for the next couple of months. I would love to tell you more about what I am doing and why you should help! If you would like to make a year-end contribution, you can do so with a check payable to St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship with my name in the memo line. The church address is 3752 Giles Ave.; St. Louis, MO 63116. All gifts are tax deductible. If you would prefer to give online, talk to me about options!

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Good news!

I have two bits of exciting news. First:

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We’re having a baby! I can’t make out a thing in this ultrasound image, but the doc managed to see a dancing 10-week-old baby. Right above the little x was the heartbeat. We have never made it this far in a pregnancy. While we thought we got to 11 weeks with our first, she only measured at 9 weeks during our first ultrasound. Doc was thrilled and pronounced baby and me beyond the first trimester riskiness. Seems all the vitamins and shots may be working! If all continues to go well, Baby HD should make an appearance sometime around February 25.

In other news, I have two weeks to raise the first half of my salary. Last I heard, I’m several thousand dollars away. Today I started an indiegogo campaign that links directly to the church (you’ll notice it is listed as a verified nonprofit). All gifts to the campaign are tax-deductible. If you have a dollar or two that you are able to share, my family and my church would be incredibly appreciative. Please visit (and share!) here.

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Elsewhere on the web

I haven’t been posting much here, but I have been actively writing and reading.

This week I had a guest post at The Femonite, one of my absolute favorite blogs. Check it out and bookmark the site—you’ll want to follow Hannah!

Yesterday, I was also the writer for the Baby Jesus Blog: An Advent Study. If you haven’t been following along with this guide, you’ll want to read all of the entries. I’m incredibly honored to be part of this project.

And for all of you who have been waiting to buy The Modern Magnificat until your purchase helped support women in Piedras Negras, Mexico—wait no more! I have partnered with Points on the Wheel (run by my dear friend Mark Buhlig) to bring you The Modern Magnificat for a $20 donation to help a group of women in Piedras Negras start a sewing business. Your gift will help these women get the commercial sewing equipment they need—and you get a free book! Check it out here. The book makes a great gift for pastors, seminarians, strangers on the street . . .

Looking for other book ideas for gifts? Here are a few remarkable books that I edited this year:

Going Back to New Orleans by Bert Montgomery
Seeking the Face of God by J. Daniel Day
Queer Lessons for Churches on the Straight and Narrow by Cody Sanders
Anabel Unraveled by Amanda Romine Lynch
Nightmarriage by Chad Thomas Johnston

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I’ve Got the Joy

In January, I had the privilege of attending the Academy of Preachers. Here is my sermon on Psalm 137. Just a few hours later a cold stole my voice.

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Year of Jubilee

I can’t get over yesterday’s lectionary gospel passage. I’ve been thinking about it all week.

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21 NRSV)

jubileeRobert Parham, executive director of EthicsDaily, suggests “Luke 4:18-19 is one of the most ignored, watered down, spiritualized or glossed-over texts in white Baptist pulpits, evading or emptying Jesus’ first statement of his moral agenda.” (Thanks to Heather Entrekin for pointing me to the article). While Robert is writing to and from a Baptist context, I’d suggest that the neglect extends far beyond Baptist life.

The truth is, as exciting as encouraging as this text is, it is hard. The church where I work hires homeless individuals to do the custodial work in exchange for room and board. In the six months I’ve been here, we’ve had an overturn of three guys (luckily at least one of those was to his own apartment — which is the goal).

These last six months I’ve also been a volunteer for the Community Mediation Program (through the Mennonite Peace Center). The most peaceful agreements I’ve seen parties (usually neighbors) come to is the decision to act as if a restraining order is in place — they decide not to have eye contact, not to talk to one another, not to talk about one another, not to call city services on one another (for the uninitiated, one of the ways to get at your impoverished neighbors is to call various city agencies and make claims of rats, garbage, etc. Your neighbor then has to take a day off work while folks determine that their home is not, in fact, infested). And while this kind of “peace” is better than pursuing a violent end, it isn’t exactly good.

Declaring a year of jubilee isn’t easy. It involves moments of wanting to pull your own hair out. It involves walking into someone else’s imperfect story and loving someone in the midst of terrible decision making.

But I can’t help but wonder what it would look like—how we would live—if we truly believed that this was the year of jubilee. Yesterday my church joined with others across the world in declaring it so. And I was thankful that it was also membership day to show that we need one another to live out this declaration. And I need all of you. What are your ideas? What are the cool things you are doing to proclaim and live out the good news to/for the oppressed? How might we be God’s agents in making this world more awesome?

(photo credit)

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Share your stories

Since before the release of The Modern Magnificat, I have been fascinated by stories. Personal stories help connect and shape us on a deeper level than mere facts seem to. This year I want to open this blog up to your stories. I’m looking for women from all backgrounds. I want to hear about your experience as a woman. Perhaps you are a minister inspired to share your own call, perhaps you are a business woman, perhaps you work from home — whoever you are, I want to hear your story.

I’m looking for submissions of 1,000 words or less. Please send a picture and a brief bio — with links to your blog/website (if applicable). My email is doveintheattic@gmail.com.

And, of course, since I am terrible with titles — I’d love your help naming this guest blogger series! If you have ideas, post away!

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