Monday, January 25, 2016

Then There Were Five

Nadia Charlotte
Born January 18, 2016 at 10:35am
6lb 5oz, 20 inches

I was convinced that the baby would not come early, seeing as all my fervent early-baby wishes last time were futile.  So when I went into labor at 37.5 weeks, it took a while to believe it was actually the real thing.  I kept thinking, "It's too early for baby to come.  I thought I had at least a couple of weeks to prepare.  I was going to make a hat for her!"

My first labor was 15.5 hours and rather...laborous.  My second was 1 hours 45 minutes and rather adventurous.  This one was a nice middle ground: 5.5 hours that I would best describe as peaceful.  Plenty of time to get to the hospital and settle in, and when she decided it was time to come, she shot out in about 30 seconds, and I got to help catch her.  I will write up the full story soon, because I do love a good birth story.

Because Nadia was born earlier than we expected, and because these things seem to be harder to decide once you get to the third baby, Nadia was born before we had a chance to finalize the name.  So we spent our first few hours after birth getting to know baby and trying to settle on a name.  In the end, I'm glad we waited until we met her, because while she looked more like "squishy newborn baby" than any particular name, I think Nadia really fits her.

We both liked the sound and meaning of the name Nadia Charlotte.  We wanted each of the girls to have a meaningful name, not something to grow into and experience in their lives.  Juliana Grace means "youthful grace."  Adalyn Lucia means "noble light."  Nadia Charlotte means "hope free."

The fact that Nadia decided to come early on MLK Day makes her name even more appropriate.  Our prayer is that her life will similarly be a beacon of hope and freedom.  I have been thinking of the words of Isaiah, echoed by Jesus: "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." Such words of hope, ringing with freedom - we ask that she will experience this reality in her own life and fight for freedom for others.

Baby is nearly a week old and doing well.  She got down to 5lb 11oz but has already started gaining back.  After a very sleepy start, she has been nursing well.  Her nursing schedule is something like this: Wake up and nurse a bit, fall into floppy sleep, wake up 20 minutes later and nurse some more, sink into a deeper sleep until alerted by a six sense that mama is trying to sleep, take a shower, or eat, wake up desperately hungry.  She has occasional alert spells but more often than not can be found sacked out in someone's arms.

Mama is tired and sore but enjoying her internal organs all returning to their usual place.  While Nadia has been sleeping semi constantly, there hasn't been a whole lot of sleep for me (shocker, huh?).  One of the real mysteries of newbornhood is how baby can sleep 20 hours while mama sleeps 4.  I don't get it. Last night Nadia slept for three hours straight - then she nursed for three hours straight.  I didn't know that was possible, but I'm actually not exaggerating.  I am enjoying lots of warm baby snuggles and trying to share some with baby's many admirers.

Speaking of admirers, her sisters are big fans!  Juliana keeps saying, "I really like the baby!"  At first she would say, "Nadia is just wondering where mama is," but after holding the baby for the first time, she changed it to, "Nadia is just wondering where her sister is!"  Adalyn alternates between shy interest, indifference, and rough love.  Nadia has also enjoyed lots of attention from her grandparents and aunts, including her doctor aunt who is the first to describe her as "anatomically intact." 

Miraculously, no one was harmed in the making of this photograph

Enjoying our first days with this squishy little baby!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Grace in Retrospect

When I chose Grace as my “One Word” for 2015, I wasn’t sure how I would really go about growing in grace. I started reading a couple of grace-related books because how else do you go about learning something? I knew I needed more than head knowledge, but I didn’t know I would be learning about grace through forced-acceptance.

My year in review would look something like this.
- 8 months of pregnancy
- 1 violent stomach bug and 1 less violent, longer-lasting mysterious stomach ailment
- 4 months of mostly constant “morning sickness”
- 1 month of severe allergies
- 7 weeks of bad colds
- Lot of general pregnancy ailments like difficulty moving, digesting, sleeping, or thinking clearly

I spent a lot of time inside because I was sick or because it hurt to climb to the fifth floor or because I couldn’t go out without a mask and a large box of tissues.  I spent a lot of time on the couch because I was sick or because I didn’t want to throw up or because I felt like I really might die of tiredness.

If we actually had food to eat and nobody got buried under a pile of laundry or toys, that was probably a successful day. There were five students I saw on a relatively regular basis, and that was about the extent of my campus interactions. I taught Juliana as often as I had voice to do it. It was a year of great limits.

I spent a good deal of time feeling frustrated - not everyone has such a hard time with pregnancy, why me? I felt guilty for not doing more, for neglecting my kids and not spending time with students. I felt discouraged about feeling so bad all the time. I fought against the limits.

And then, eventually, I accepted them. I still got frustrated and discouraged (and did I mention irritable?). But I realized that actually, this was what I needed.

It’s impossible to accept grace when you still think you can keep it all together. Working hard to be strong, pushing through, thinking positive - that’s what you’re supposed to do as long as you possibly can. But sometimes, it doesn’t work. However hard you try to be strong, you still get sick. Pushing through means getting sicker. And pithy motivational sayings make you want to punch someone.

In the end, I learned about grace because I had to. It wasn’t an intellectual pursuit. I didn’t finish those books. I didn’t read through the Bible or even read through one book of the Bible. Instead I read the same passages, the same verses over and over again. I listened to the same songs over and over. I learned the same things over and over, and each time the truth sank in a little deeper.

When I think about what I accomplished - or mainly didn’t accomplish, it looks like a dormant year. I was a tree in winter: silent, stripped, waiting. But I think I will look back on this year as an important one. Not only because I grew a child, but also because I grew. In the deep, quiet places that cannot be reached in the busyness of accomplishment and self-reliance.

It hasn’t been my favorite year. I can’t say I want to continue in this period of sickness and pregnancy and limitation. But looking back, I am grateful. It has been a year of grace.

I haven’t yet settled on my One Word for the new year. It will be a year of newbornhood - of long nights and daily growth and constant neededness. It will be a year of potty training and the start of another three year old, God save us all. It will be a year of learning to read and changes at Chinese school and inexorbable growth. It will be long and full and exhausting and pass so quickly.

So I know my idea for the new year...something about seasons or slowing down and living the moment, about investing in what is right in front of me. But I haven’t yet decided on my One Word. But it’s only January. I’ve still got time.

[Linking up with Velvet Ashes: One Word]