Saturday, November 24, 2012

Samantha, I Am.

For some time now I've been struggling with who I am. Who am I? I thought I knew who I was when I was a senior in high school. I was outgoing and opinionated. I was a natural leader. I was comfortable being alone or being in a group. I believed I was smart and that I could change the world.

And then I got pregnant. And then I started college. And then I got married.

I was so ashamed of being pregnant. So I hid. I stopped going to church for three years. I didn't make friends. I refused to share my ideas and thoughts. Being pregnant made me feel like a joke. College made me feel stupid. Being married made me feel inadequate. Shame will do that to you. I no longer believed I could change the world. I lost my fire. I lost myself.

And then I made the decision to have another baby. And then Pam Flannigan invited me to church with love and encouragement. And then God was so faithful to me after Asher's death. And then I made friends.

For almost 6 years I've been grappling with who I am and with what I have to offer the world. About a week ago I realized that I no longer felt ashamed, although I didn't even realize what it was at first. But now, sitting here writing this I know. Shame has fallen away. I am comfortable with my past. My past can change the world if I let it. My ideas are important. My thoughts are good, I am smart. I walk with a pleasant dignity instead of hiding in the shadows.

Deciding to have another baby gave me back my power. Pam Flannagin helped me gain the faith to trust that people will accept me for me. God repaired my broken soul. My friends laughed with me and cried with me.

I am no longer struggling with who I am, I am comfortable with her. Myself, she is growing and changing still. I have my own issues that I have to work out over time, but they will not cripple me anymore. I may not change the whole world, but by God's grace and faithfulness I will change part of it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What I Didn't Expect

Eden is 4 months and 2 days old. I just called Nolan to tell him I'm sad. I'm still sad. When no one is looking I'm still sad. Everything makes me think of Asher. Every song. Every blade of grass. Every smile from my girls. Every time someone tells me how beautiful my children are. Every egg I eat. Every holiday. Every regular day. Every single thing. I am sad. But you won't see it. You won't see the sad. I don't want people knowing I'm still sad. So I'm gonna write a blog about it and post it on the internet so no one will know I'm still sad. Last night I sat on my porch, looking at the stars and weeping. I can't cry with people around. I don't want anyone, for one instant, to think I'm ungrateful for Vera or Eden. I am so in love with them. They make me laugh. They make my hair fall out. Sometimes they pull it out. Still I am sad. Today someone asked me how old Asher would be now. I said, "2, in November." This is my second year of living without my son. Will I be sad for the rest of my life? Will my eyes never be fully carefree and content with joy again? I can't imagine they will. But my days are more happy than sad usually. I guess I didn't expect to still feel this deep kind of grief a year and a half later.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Joy of Eden; the story of the birth of Eden Constance Ritchie

Monday the 20th of February, 2012.
   Over the previous 24 hours I worked very hard on letting go of my fears about my pending induction and let God's peace wash over me. Until that morning I didn't actually think I would need to be induced. I told everyone that I would go in at 41 weeks, and I meant it, but I didn't really believe it would come to that. And honestly, I was sure that if I just willed or prayed for it hard enough I would go into labor before the 40 week mark. When 40 weeks rolled around I began to think God had abandoned me. I thought maybe he had decided that my body was broken, but it wasn't he who thought that, it was me. I bought into Satan's lie and started to despair. Why didn't God answer my prayers? Why didn't he hear the prayers of our friends and family? I know there were a good 100 or more people surrounding us in prayer. And doesn't the Bible say that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much? But what was happening was so far beyond my comprehension that it will be difficult to tell about. The big picture is so big that only God could have contrived all the amazing events about to happen that night. Simply because God answers your request with a "No", does not mean that he doesn't have something much more grand prepared for you.
     Sunday afternoon my Montrice (labor coach), Lori, called me. She said she had read my last blog and could see how scared and nervous I was about being induced. She reminded me that everything was going to be ok. She also told me that even if my head was doing well with working through Asher's death, that my body still remembered on a cellular level what had happened. That it was still working through post-tramatic stress. I had signs of early labor 3 different times for 6-10 hours in my 40th week of pregnancy but it always quit on me by the time I woke up in the morning. By the end of the week lack of good sleep and my frustration with my body caused me to chew my nails down to bleeding. She said that my body was trying to go into labor but it remembered the pain and grief from the last time. My body was protecting me the only way it knew how. She said she wanted me to work on letting go of the fear of induction and embrace it. And that induction might be Gods way of doing a great work in someone's life.
    So that's just what I did. I let go of my fears. I was still nervous.... but I had a deep down sense that things were going to be just as they should. So I worked off my nervousness throughout the day Monday. I did several loads of laundry, went to the store, picked up the house and did other odd jobs. I would normally have been super tired by early evening, but my adrenaline was pumping hard. At 4 my mother-in-law showed up to get Vera. Our pastor also stopped by right at that time. He talked with us some and then we all had prayer. At 5 minutes till 5pm Nolan and I loaded up the car and made the 7 minute trip to the hospital. We parked and walked up to the labor and delivery unit where we learned that were were an hour early. But the nurses were cool about it and got us checked in all the same. They asked me tons of questions like "Do you have a living will??" - this one made me laugh. ---Hi, welcome to our hospital. You don't need to worry about a thing. By the way, do you have a will?? --- Anyway... So once they got me all set up my Dr. came in with the cervidil (it is a cervical ripening drug on a long string that is put up behind your cervix) around 6:45. After placing it he said I was 3cm dialated and that he wouldn't be surprised if the cervidil kicked me into labor right away. At 7pm the nursing staff switched and I got a new nurse. I didn't like her. She was pushy and said a few things that made me want to black her eye -but I've been told there are worse nurses?? So I'm not going to go into my distaste for her because it would be a waste of space. About an hour later I started having contractions, and by 8:15 I was starting to really work. Lori showed up right after Nolan and I both looked at each other and said that we hoped she got there soon. Lori worked with me through about 30mins of contractions. One would start and I would stand up, lean over the back of a rocking chair and sway. Moaning all the while. Sometime it was just a sound, and sometimes it was the word "Open" or "Down". In strong deep guttural tones that helped bring Eden down lower into my pelvis and open my cervix. In that time also called my midwife who I also wanted at my birth. I remember Lori telling her that my contractions were about 1 1/2 to 3 minutes apart and 2 minutes long. They were more irregular than normal contractions because of the cervidil.

My midwife showed up at some point and I remember being so glad she was there. A little while after she got there, she and Lori started having a conversation about girly stuff. I teased them, between contractions, saying that I was going to write that conversation on my blog. haha. About the time she showed up my nurse wanted to put my saline lock in my hand and start antibiotics (my GBS had come back positive so hospital likes to do antibiotics). I sat down in the rocking chair and tried to relax and focus on moving Eden down and opening my body up. The nurse went to work on my I.V.,  missing my vein in the first hand, it hurt like the devil. She got it in the second hand but couldn't manage to draw blood for hospital protocol. So that meant a 3rd stick in my arm for a blood draw. I was very frustrated with her at this point b/c I hate needles and getting stuck 3 times during contractions was making me loose my concentration. But there I sat, in the rocking chair all the while. Moaning, and sometimes crying out from the pain of the needle, which to me was worse than my contractions.

****I feel that I should mention here, I have been told by several people that Nurse Claw-hand wasn't actually as bad as I perceived her to be. And that there are some much worse nurses. That being said, I've had amazing nurses in the past and she had gigantic shoes to fill.****

After my blood draw was over the nurse was getting concerned about how close together the contractions were getting so she needed me to sit for 20mins to get a good reading on Eden's heart rate. Around 10:30 (I think, time starts to get fuzzy here) the nurse determined that the cervidil needed pulled b/c the contractions were too close together and Eden wasn't reacting to them well. A babies heart rate is supposed to vary, that is, go up and down with contractions and her's were not doing that. I remember getting up out of the chair and almost running to the bed (which was only a foot and a half away) and saying "Get it out!" So she used her giant sharp claws to dig around behind my cervix until she found the string and pulled it out. It hurt so bad, worse than a contraction. At the same time she said I was 6 cm which I was happy to learn. She also flushed my system with saline to help Eden and I got in a hands and knees position. As the cervidil was being pulled out it finally occurred to me that I must actually be in active labor, and that I was likely very close to transition. Until this point I was wondering when labor was REALLY going to start. My contractions had been so hard and painful with Asher that I expected them to be the same this time around.

After about 10 minutes Eden's heart rate was great again, and she had turned from her posterior position (her back to my back) to a better one with her belly facing my back. So Nurse Claw-hand rolled in the birthing tub and started filling it up. Because I was on the bed on my elbows and knees my arms began to get tired. I decided to lay down on my right side to rest for a bit. After laying there for just a little while I thought to myself "It's O.K. for my water to break now." About 12 seconds later I felt and heard a pop. My water broke. In the past my water breaking was almost as soft as a soap bubble bursting, but this time it was as if a heavy-duty water balloon popped. My mom, who was in the room (I have no idea when she got there??), later told me that she heard it. I said "I think my water just broke." My midwife checked to see if there was meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid, but it was clean.

I got back on my hands and knees and I think Dr. Wonderful (he really was, this is not sarcasm) came in around this time. My butt was facing out into the room, and suddenly I started to hear a conversation about blue lines on my butt. I remembered Lori telling me during the birthing class I took almost 2 years ago, that there is a blue line that shows up on a woman's butt when she's in labor. You can tell approx how much she's dilated by how long the line is. So my midwife is telling Dr. Wonderful about this but I'm sort of out of it and I turn around after hearing him say something like "we can see a head" I yell "What!!???" And then he laughed, and I told him (jokingly) to "get out!" There was no head. There were, however, more contractions. And now I was really working. My water breaking quickly pushed me to the 10cm mark and I was encouraged to get into the water. For some reason, I remember resisting. I think I was just concentrating to much on the contractions and wasn't sure I could actually move... but Lori and my midwife were gently persistent and I got in the tub. It felt glorious.

I sunk down onto my knees and spread my legs as wide as I could get them. The warm water came up over my swollen belly and half-way up my breasts. I looked down into the water at my thighs and belly and breasts, feeling awe at what God created my body to do. Just before the next contraction I'm sure I heard God whisper down in my heart, "You are created for this, my beautiful daughter." It gave me strength and courage to continue. On land Lori would rub my back and talk to me during my contractions. Softly telling me that I was doing "good" or "wonderful". She would coach me into deeper vocal tones, help me focus and breath. Now she was either squatting or kneeling outside the tub. She told me to hold on to her hands drive the power behind my contractions down. I would begin to moan in higher tones and she would gently coach me "down". My "down" sounded like a bear roaring. If you are wondering if I am a gentle, delicate flower birth-er, the answer is "No". This is right about the time when I looked up into Lori's eyes and whimpily said "Is it too late for an epidural??" (It was laughably too late for one) I got the feeling she wanted to laugh at me, not because I was being ridiculous, but more because she knew how close I was to giving birth (which was 20 minutes or less later). But she didn't laugh, she sympathetically said, "Yes, honey, it's too late". So I carried on powering Eden "down". I would do so well during a contraction until I would hear Nurse Claw-hand say "You got this Samantha. You are in control." Some how this really bothered me so I yelled at her to "STOP TELLING ME I'M IN CONTROL!!!!!" She did. And I later apologized.

After some time (like maybe 10 minutes, I told you time got fuzzy) my midwife said she thought I had a cervical lip and that if I were to lean back it would likely take care of itself. So I did and it apparently went away. It was hard for me to push in that position so Lori twisted a sheet into a rope and told me to pull on it during a contraction. This helped a TON. I really found my power and used the energy from my growling now to funnel it into pushing Eden under my pubic bone. I will NEVER forget that sensation. I felt her move down, down, down. After getting her head past my pubic bone I reached up inside me and felt her head. It was at that point that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I could totally push this baby out. She was so close, and I had the POW-WA! So with the next contraction I found that strength that every birthing woman finds at the end. The equivalent of a volcano of power erupted and I pushed Eden's head down and out. Past crowning and just right to her eyes. Her head was half-way out. The hard part was over. My body rested for a bit and didn't contract for what seemed like a long time. My midwife told me to put my leg up on the side of the tub to open my pelvis just  a tad more to let her shoulders come down. Dr. Wonderful reached down and held up my other leg and he seemed kind of excited now. And I think he told me to push, or someone did.... that part is fuzzy too. I gave one last push and out she came. She lay very still in the water (which is normal and good with a water birth) with the cord coiled once around her neck and then down around her body. I started to reach down to grab her but they asked me to wait while the cord was being unwrapped. After the cord was moved, I reached down and picked up my daughter and placed her on my chest. Victory. The first thing I thought was "Please, please, just open your eyes one time for me." I was still afraid that she too would die before I ever got to look into her eyes and tell her that I loved her. But then the most perfect thing happened, she looked up right at me, open her eyes and took a breath. And with that breath she let out a gurgly cry that filled the room with tears and thanksgiving.

I was in such shock and wonder that I couldn't cry. I could only laugh and smile. Dr. Wonderful quickly suctioned out her mouth and put a blanket over her. He, as per my wishes, waited to clamp her umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing. Someone called Nolan (we had agreed ahead of time that is was best if he was in the waiting area while I gave birth) and he happened to be on the other end of the building. He wasn't aware that things were moving so quickly. He told me that he started running back to the Labor and Delivery unit. It took him some time to get to my room, so my mom got to cut the cord. It was a first for her even though she had 4 children and has been with me through all 3 of my births. Cutting the cord was especially exciting for her. While I held Eden in the tub my placenta detached almost immediately. I gave two  mild pushes and that came out as well. A minute or two after that Nolan finally arrived and it was time for me to get out of the tub. Nurse Claw-hand put a new blanket over Eden and I handed her to Nolan. He told me that he felt relief course through him first. And for the rest of the night he kept having to ask himself what had happened because of being in shock.

While Nolan held Eden, Lori and my midwife helped me out of the tub, dried me off and put a hospital gown on me. After getting in bed I looked around and everyone in the room was crying and hugging everyone else. Nolan gave Eden back to me and all I could do was marvel at her. I needed nothing more in those moments than to look into her eyes. Those eyes. Still, every day I spend hours looking into her eyes. I never got to look into Asher's eyes. I never heard one breath. Never one cry. I will never take for granted one single cry again. The sound of my child living, even when I am exhausted and she has cried for hours, will give me joy.

After spending time with her, Nolan went to get the rest of our family and there were more hugs and tears. Vera got to meet Eden that night while sitting on Daddy's lap. She said "She's so soft." and kept stroking her head gently. Eden was passed around  and pictures were taken. Facebook was updated. And pictures were uploaded. 20 minutes after I gave birth Eden latched on and nursed for the first time. She knew just what to do.

When Nolan's mom held Eden she sang to her. The last time she sat in a hospital rocking chair and sang to her grand-baby was with Asher. This is another memory I will never forget.

I spent 2 1/2 days in the hospital with Eden. Both of us were so healthy the hospital staff was very surprised. Eden was nursing really well. I produced tons of colostrum. I did not have any hemorrhaging (this is a big deal because it is routine in this hospital to give EVERY mom a shot of pitocin after they give birth to help the uterus clamp down. But I wasn't given any).  Eden's bilirubin (jaundice) was only 1.7 (they want it under 12, a healthy adult can test at 1.7).  The pediatrician and the nurses thought at first it was a mistake.

This has been the most tragic, life transforming, blessed, and spiritually alive 15 months of my life. I have learned that when people pray for you it really makes a difference. I have myself learned to pray in a whole new way. I know God has a plan and whatever may come, I will follow him. I still miss Asher with every fiber of my being. I think of him every single day. Sometimes holding Eden makes it hurt harder, and other times it heals wounds. I am now able to thank God for receiving Asher so soon into heaven, because I would never have known the joy of Eden. I do not try to reason it out, or understand His ways, for they are higher than mine.

Through this birth God has worked other miracles that I'm not able to share here. If I had never gone in for this induction many amazing things would never have happened. Eden's birth may very well be the catalyst for change for the better. Again, God is not surprised, even by miraculous events. It was all in his plan.

Pam, my pastor's wife told me dozen's of times, "God will be so faithful." At first I didn't know what she meant. And then I thought she meant that he will always be with me.... and while that is partly what she meant, there is  another part I am seeing now. With God all things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. God's design for my life my not always be easy or happy, but it will always be for my good. And I can truly say that God has been so faithful to Nolan and I.

Welcome into our family, Eden Constance Ritchie. 9lbs; 1oz, 20 inches long. Born at 12:20am on 02/21/12.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Waiting on Eden

   I don't remember how much I've filled everyone in with the last month or so but its been...... taxing. So full of self-doubt am I that its been hard to think straight. We are waiting on Eden. Waiting, waiting, waiting. On Monday I am scheduled to be induced. INDUCED. As in a Dr. will put chemicals into my body to FORCE it into labor. I feel heavy anxiety over my decision to be induced, but I also feel heavy anxiety over the idea of going past the 41 week mark. My nails have never looked worse (this is saying something because I have a LONG history of chewing them down to nothing), my hair is all out of whack and I'm not sleeping. I have searched and searched and looked and scanned every resource I can find for ways to get my body to go into labor on it's own (getting Eden in the right position, soften cervix naturally, ect.), but in reality.... only the baby and your body know when the time is right. If you are not teetering on the edge, nothing you do is going to put you into labor except strong pharmaceuticals.
    Knowing all this I have vacillated back and forth with "to induce or not to induce??". Do I just carry babies to 42 weeks? Is this what is best for Eden? or is getting her out in 2 days best? Is my mental steel tough enough to go another week or more? According to EVERY SINGLE ultrasound my placenta is beautiful, Eden is healthy, and my fluid levels are great. I do not have high blood pressure and only a tiny bit of swelling at the end of the day. So I'm about as healthy as can be for 41weeks pregnant. I want her to come on her own. I want to feel my body go into labor and cross into the labor void. I want to come out on the other side triumphant and gleaming and saying, "See? My body is NOT broken. See? My body isn't a baby killer!! See?? See??" But I am so very tired of fighting with my own self. I don't know what is best.
   Maybe that is just it. I don't know what's best. And what if I choose to wait another week.... and the unthinkable happens. What if Eden dies too? And what if it could be prevented by just allowing the good Doc to pump powerful drugs into my system and forcing Eden out? But what if the drugs are too much? What if suddenly Eden can't handle the drugs and they wheel me into a cold room, strap my arms down and cut Eden out of me? This anxiety is as powerful as any drug.
   Tonight I was driving home and talking with the Lord. I was shaking my head and being frustrated and saying, "God, I'm almost done asking you to bring on labor. I have almost given up that you will come through. I kinda don't believe that you want me to have a healing labor and I feel alone. Don't you care that I'm tired? Haven't I fought enough? Haven't I learned the lesson(s) you wanted me to learn?" And then 'You Deliver Me' by Selah came on the radio.

When I feel like I can't go on,
You deliver me.
When the road is winding and way too long,
You deliver me.
You deliver me.

Of course God was speaking to me right then. He was reassuring me that he is the great physician and he knows what is going on. He knows where I am and what I'm feeling. I still don't know what the best choice is for this labor.... but I know that God will be in the trenches with me. Protecting me and carrying me and giving me strength.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I feel the itch to write. But as soon as I logged in and saw the blank page.... I had nothing to say. When I was in 5th grade I had an amazing teacher named Mrs. Flatter. She taught me to just write the same thing over and over until I knew what I wanted to say. That practice has served me well for almost 12 years now. If I write nonsense for long enough, great ideas begin to seep out on onto the page. Sounds strange.... but it works. And here we go.....
     A while back my sister-in-law introduced me to a blog post which was about the idea of story. As in what is your story? Or what story are you a part of right now? After I had Vera I thought that my big story was going to be about moving away from God, getting pregnant, and then married and the storm of chaos that ensued thereafter. I thought it was going to be a story about God redemptive power in my life. And then after we lost Asher I thought that was going to be my big story. About God's faithfulness and about his peace. But that doesn't seem to be it either. Each of my children seem to have written their own chapters in my life while at the same time penning their own stories.
     After making the startling discovery that it was O.K. to dream again I started to wonder where my story was going next. Maybe our life is going to settle down for a bit.... maybe we'll have a healthy baby girl, and I will make dinner and wash laundry and run errands, and Nolan will kiss us all and go to work. And things will settle down. But experience has taught me that in life you are either IN a storm, COMING OUT of a storm, or about to GO INTO a storm. I feel like right now we are walking out of a storm but still facing a few rain showers here and there. All of this makes me wonder what my life has in store for me. And what, at the end of my life, will my biography say.
     Will anyone read about my life and be challenged by it? Or will they shake their heads, sorry for having read such a pathetic story. I hope it will be the former. What does it take to live in such a way that it challenges others? It will mean an intentionally living with purpose. But that begs the question, what purpose?? So that is where I'm at now..... what purpose???

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Someday

So.... I've been avoiding you. Mostly because the incubation stage of my writing process was taking so dern (watch Matilda, dern IS a word) long, also because every time I would have an idea it would skitter right out of my head to make space for some other more pressing change or plan or idea. So you all have earned an update; 1) I'm not seeing the Indy Dr. anymore, I'm back with my midwife. But we are still planning a natural as possible hospital birth with (hopefully) the assistance of a Dr. here in town! Yay! No more long drive. I found out that Ball Hosp. has 1 wireless electronic fetal monitoring unit and I plan to use it.
2) Eden is growing perfectly. Her heart beat is perfect. I'm in good health, but I haven't been eating enough or healthily. Working on getting my greens and proteins again. And clearly my sleep is off (it's 4am here), but only mostly because I have to pee 492 times every single night!!!
3) I have a dream. Just call me Martin. I know that everyone has dreams. Goals you want to accomplish, a life you want to someday live, but for so very, very long I have not even allowed the prospect of someday to enter the realm of possibility. Thinking about the way things could be is so dangerous that my subconscious had protected me by not even pausing for a single second for the idea that someday I would accomplish some dreams. Because in EVERY SINGLE dream scenario a baby was missing from my arms. And if I allowed myself to dream beyond Asher's existence in my earthly world it was like I was blotting him out of my life. As if I took white-out and deleted my memory of Asher. But yesterday was different. Yesterday I spread the gardening catalog across my desk and began to plan. I didn't just plan a garden patch for this summer (like I'll have time for that this year, lol) but I was planning a for a lifetime. I let go of more of my dreams for Asher. I surrendered my dreams of hearing his laughter while he plays with his sisters. I surrendered my hopes of ever teaching him anything. I didn't do it on purpose..... and I honestly didn't even realize what I was doing until later. You don't immediately cut ties with your hopes and dreams when your future is suddenly, drastically altered. You let them loose slowly, carefully. In their place new life blooms, and new passions spring up. Or even -as it is for me- old passions that didn't have any light to shine in or air to breath now are given a second chance.
Some day I want to make and sell my own pottery. I want to sit for long hours at the wheel and throw clay until I work out all my problems. I want to make whole matching sets of hand-crafted, dishwasher and oven safe dishes. I want to sculpt pregnant bellies as gifts for, as Nolan calls them, my "hippy friends". I want to sip coffee under a weeping cherry in full bloom with my husband beside me. I want to have a large garden and a few barnyard animals. I want my own library so I can teach my children about adventuring in the pages of a good book. I will have a few bird feeders hanging in the trees and maybe even allow a cat to slink in and out of the house. I will listen to my girls play pretend with one another as their laughter peals out over the yard and through the kitchen window where I am just taking a pie out of the oven. And I will still kiss Nolan every day, but the scenery will be nicer.
It is fitting that today marks exactly 1 year and 2 months since Asher died. I can dream again. I realized just how important it is to have and nourish your dreams. There is always the possibility that a dream will be taken before it is realized, but there is no such thing as living without risk. I would love to hear about your 'someday'. What is it that stirs your soul to passion??