Monday, June 25, 2012

The Birth of our Firstborn Son

Ponderously-Cheeked Pondering
  For all of you wanting the short-and-sweet version, here you go:

William Christopher barreled his 10 1/2 lbs into the air at 11:07 Sunday night, June 24th, 2012.  This fulfilled his daddy's wish for a birthday full of multiples of 6, and his mommy's prayer for a birth far quicker that his sister's.  Speaking of Ryan, you can read his account of the story here.

For those of you wanting DETAILS, ta-da!:

William's birth story begins with my 41-week prenatal visit the previous Thursday.  Measurements showed that I was measuring 42 cm (consistent with a 41-week gestational age estimate), and I continued to display all the signs of imminent labor, from strong frequent contractions to the passing of my mucus plug to loose bowels and an unsettled stomach to a totally dropped baby.  But for whatever reason, I had yet to experience the regular, strengthening contractions of "active labor."  My midwife encouraged me to think and pray about using some herbal means of induction if nothing got started on its own, using her decades of experience.  Her theory was that because I was carrying Liam so far "out there" that gravity was actually working against the contractions-- which were trying to bring him in vertical alignment with my very-posterior cervix.  This would explain why I had so many of my strongest contractions at night or in the car, but why they tended to stop when I stood or walked for long periods of time.  She counseled me to wear my belly band at all times.

Ryan requested a weekend induction attempt, and we had a wedding for a family friend that I wanted to attend on Saturday, so we decided that-- if we attempted to kick-start things-- it would be Sunday.  I was still quite unsure about meddling with the natural order of things, so I was researching and praying and re-calculating my due date, and looking at Eowyn's birth records.  What I found was that the herbs my midwife was recommending-- blue & black cohosh-- would not force a labor on an unready cervix or baby, but would rather help coordinate the efforts my body was already naturally making.  When Saturday brought several hard contractions that petered out true to form, and Saturday night proved particularly un-restful and frustrating, I decided that my body had had enough of this pre-labor (it'd been going on in full force for over 2 weeks... 2 weeks of frequent contractions, many nights of nearly no sleep, stomach upset, etc.).

Black cohosh ("snake root") stimulates uterine contractions.  Blue cohosh ("papoose root"-- Native Americans used it in labor extensively) actually calms the uterus, so is useful in stopping preterm or Braxton-Hicks contractions (wish I'd known this about a month ago!).  Taken together the two work to augment and streamline labor.  They are most effective when contractions are already present.  Check!  Normally my midwife recommends a castor-oil cocktail to start contractions, and then uses the herbs, but since I was already contracting, we agreed to start with just the herbs.  (I've heard too many negative things about castor oil...)  So at 10 o'clock Sunday morning, I put the first 2 1/2-droppers of the cohosh tinctures under my tongue.  OOOOOHH talk about burning!!  The tinctures are dissolved in alcohol... so I was popping the gum to make sure I didn't smell like a distillery at church, hehehe.  Every subsequent hour, on the hour, I took a full dropper of each.  Ideally, tinctures are taken under the tongue for fast absorption, but... you try holding whisky under your tongue some time.  By 4 pm I was putting the tinctures into a few ounces of pineapple juice (also good for labor induction).  Contractions were certainly coming but were all too true to form:  irregular.  I tried not to be discouraged as we settled in to our family nap.

I awoke at 4 to a strong contraction.  I tried to rest after that, but noticed that every 20 minutes another contraction came.  They were consistently strong, too.  I tried timing a few and they were about 90 seconds long.  By 5, it was time for my next tincture dose, so I called my midwife & asked if I should keep taking them or wait and see what my body would do on its own.  As contractions were still coming, Mereinda recommended I stop the herbs.  As time progressed, I began to have to "work" to get through the contractions, blowing or saying "oooh" in a deep tone.  Eowyn woke up and needed watching and I had a hard time focusing on her as contractions took more and more concentration.  Ryan woke up and took over Eowyn-duty, explaining that "Mommy's belly is getting really tight, so she makes noise to help it hurt less."  Eowyn accepted this.  I was still reluctant to call my aunt Olga- who would be watching Eowyn- or my Mom- who would accompany us to the birthing center, fearing that this was yet another false alarm.  It wasn't until Ryan pointed out that I hadn't had to vocalize through any of my other contractions that I realized something was different.

At 6 we called in the troops.  I ate some yogurt & started a bowl of cereal, and stayed glued to my birthing ball.  Unlike with most labors, an upright position slowed my contractions (gravity pulling Liam forward instead of down), so sitting on the ball or bed helped keep them intense and regular.  They were 6 minutes apart, then 5, then 4, still lasting 60-90 seconds.  It was a while before my aunt could make it to our house, but thankfully my mom arrived and was able to take care of Eowyn (and wash our dishes =D), since I now needed Ryan to support me through contractions.  He rose to the occasion beautifully, doing his reading in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth justice. I texted some close friends, asking them to pray that this was the real thing, and for a safe (and short!) delivery... while confessing that a part of me wanted to stop the whole thing, because it was starting to hurt!  As Eowyn came to kiss me goodbye, she asked "You not feeling good, Mommy?"  "It's ok, baby girl." Then, with utmost sincerity, "Jesus will help you!"  That comforted my heart.  :) Then she was off, thrilled to be spending the night with some of her favorite people.

We headed to the birth center around 8:30.  I'd tried to hold out a bit because I knew my midwife's son's 18th birthday party was going on, but the labor tub started to sound too appealing to miss.  She tried to check me when we got there, but laying on my back was agony, bringing a seemingly unending contration, and my cervix was still posterior.  By my demeanor and the sounds I was making, she estimated me to be at about 5 cm dilated.

I cannot tell you what a difference that labor tub made.  I will never- NEVER- labor without one again.  I'll stand on my head to stop contractions if I have to. :)  Slipping into the warm water was so comforting.  I told Ryan, "It's actually quite delightful between contractions!"  Mereinda advised me to labor as much as I could leaning back, to try and bring Liam's head over my cervix instead of its current place of low but in front of it.  I could not have complied were it not for the tub.  In the tub, the water's buyoncy provided counter-pressure, supported my legs so I could let them float, and kept the baby's head from jarring against my tailbone as he descended.  Contractions were never pleasant, but they were bearable.  Labor really began moving along.  I entered the slightly-out-of-mind-state of moaning, praying, etc., through a contraction, and then nearly falling asleep.  Ryan kept reminding me to relax my hands, to have loose lips, and my doula-training kept me keeping my tone low and to relax as much as I could (hah- NOT natural for me!).  I told Ryan that these contractions felt more intense than the ones I'd had with Eowyn, and he was surprised, since he thought I was handling them much better.  I count the tub & my doula experience for that.

I began to get unbearably sleepy around 10, telling Ryan pitifully after a contraction "I just wish they'd stop so I can go to sleep...I'm so so tired."  Mereinda immediately began trying to get me to eat, but the most I wanted was a few bites of very soggy cereal, so she pushed the gatorade, saying she was concerned about my energy level.  This did perk me up a bit.  I tried a few different positions, but mostly labored on my back.  When I had to get out of the water to use the bathroom, contractions would become far worse.  Even in the water, a few times it felt like someone was taking a hacksaw to my back.  Ryan would provide counter-pressure, rub my head, encourage me, and keep me drinking water.  A few times I was overwhelmed by contractions, having to work very hard to keep any semblance of control, crying out loud to Jesus for strength, and talking to William "move down, baby!"  I remember also repeating "the baby-- I want to see the baby."  A few times I told Ryan I didn't want to do this anymore, or just cried that it hurt.  My first successful cervical check came at 10:45, when I was declared to be 7 cm dilated, with a fully anterior cervix, & a baby ready at +1 station.  I just want to take a second here to praise my midwife's compassion and skill-- she was constantly assessing my progress based on how I sounded, how I described my pain, and how I looked, NOT using monitors and numbers (though she regularly checked William's heart rate with a doppler.). Her voice was reassuring and kind, even as she gave me instructions or recommendations.

By now I knew I was in "transition."  Contrations became closer together, longer, with a more intense peak.  At least I knew I wouldn't have to deal with them long. With Eowyn, I'd had my water broken at 7 cm, and only labored 4 more hours.  I decided to hold off on breaking my water since I hadn't been laboring all that long. Not 15 minutes later I told Merienda that I was feeling "pushy."  She checked me again (can I say how much better being checked is in the water??) and announced that I was nearly complete, with only a tiny little bit of the cervix left in front.  The very next contraction I shouted "I'm pushing and I can't stop!"  Pop!  With a feeling like a water balloon untying, and a burst of fluid, I broke my own bag of waters for the first time. That was a good feeling. :)  Merienda took one look at the water and said "there's a bit of meconium in the fluid, so in case we have to suction him, I'm going to need you to deliver on the bed.  I know it's going to be hard to get out and move, so just give it every bit of strength that you've got!"

Moving wasn't too bad.  I made it to the 4-poster bed, collapsed onto my left side, and immediately started having pushing contractions.  It was absolutely surreal, like a typhoon was sweeping through my body.  I began to roar like a mama dinosaur as the only way to stay somewhat in control.  "Slow it down! Pant a little bit!  I don't want you to tear."  "I'll try!"  The midwife's assistant, Carrie, showed up just in time.  I was on my left side with Ryan holding my right leg bent and at a 90 degree angle.  Mom was at my head, stroking my hair and holding my hand.  I buried my face in the covers and gave unbelievably strong pushes as the contractions swept through my body.  The pushing contractions were nearly continuous, and I found strength and energy in abundance to push along with them.  I only really remember stopping and breathing between 2 of them (there were about 5 total).  Suddenly, there was pressure and a burning and the words "he's crowning!"  Ryan told me "I can see our boy!"  Then they told me to wait a minute as they checked for a chord around his neck because his head was out!  No cord, but he did have a little fist tucked right under his chin.  It felt like a vat of snakes writhing in me as the midwife's assistant swept her fingers around and pulled his little hand free.  Another huge long push, and my son's body slipped into the air.  Seven minutes after I'd started pushing-- 25 after I'd entered "transition"-- and what struck me as a purple giant squid was plopped on my chest. "Thank you, Jesus!  Oh, thank you!" Not having seen him emerge at all, having had no time to process his arrival, it was totally surreal.  In a daze I marveled at his huge hands. "He's so big!" and "I can't believe he's actually here!" were two phrases I kept repeating.  I think we were all a bit in shock.

Mom & Ryan immediately began rubbing him down as I called to him and the midwives tapped his feet, trying to get him to take his first breath.  He never really cried but instead gave a little gasp and protested our efforts a few times.  He started pinking up right away.  We waited a good 10 minutes to cut the cord, and I was relieved when it was finally cut because I was so swollen and tender that even the light pressure of the cord on me was abrasive.  I was overjoyed to learn that I needed NO stiches, only having a tiny tear from where his hand had had to be pulled out.  The little munchkin had been sucking his fist throughout all of labor, which accounted for the spots of awful back pressure I'd felt:  his hand pressed against my tailbone.  He is very attached to his hands. :)

He came out pooping and pooped on me another two times before his first half-hour of life.  He started to nurse fairly quickly, too.  When it came time to weigh him, Merienda laughed that she knew she wouldn't be able to hold the spring-scale high enough to get a reading, since she's short and she knew he was a chunker.  This meant that the proud Daddy got to weigh him, and I was shocked as the scale pulled down past 10 lbs...4, 5, 6 ounces!  Yet another benefit of the tub:  the water softens your perineum so much that tearing is far less likely, as my large baby with a neuchal hand demonstrated.  He was 22 1/4" long, with a 14" head (quite molded though).  "There is no question that that is a 41-week-old baby!" my midwife affirmed, and I knew I'd done fine to use the herbs.

I got everything I prayed for:  a face-down baby, a non-marathon, unmedicated labor, minimal tearing, trustworthy & knowledgeable birth attendants, a supportive husband who was with me the entire time in every sense of the words, and a healthy baby boy with every sign of looking like his Daddy-- from the dark hair to the Szrama dimpled chin and perfect bow lips.

Two hours after the birth, with my mom's home cooking in my tummy and the clearance from my midwife, we were headed home to sleep in our own bed.  In our bags were several goodies, like goldenseal capsules to dry up Liam's umbilical stump, and an herbal sitz bath formula to use as a peri-wash.  I really respect everything our midwife recommends, as so far every bit of her advice or recommendation has proven absolutely right on!  Guess it comes with that whole decades-long-practice thing... :)  We could not have had a better experience, nor more highly recommend Merienda and her birthing practice, Upstate Birth Center.  There is something so empowering about feeling total freedom in your own birth-- the freedom to eat, say, cry out, position yourself, do, or not do whatever your body tells you or your best research recommends.  Psychologically it's amazing.  Even Ryan kept commenting at how refreshingly different this experience was from our hospital birth experience with our daughter-- and we had a totally positive experience there, too!

"Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?" says your God."  (Isaiah 66:9)

"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)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

41 Weeks & Waiting On

41 Week Belly (42 cm)
Another week and William is still enjoying his watery world.  Contractions fill my days-- usually not painful, but at times feeling very much "the real thing."  However, they never are regular, nor do they get closer together or more intense.  I do get tired of them, especially at night, or in the morning, after a night of very light sleep, when my abs feel I've overdone it on the crunches.  But with all the "going nowhere" contractions, I was starting to wonder if I was seriously misreading my body-- maybe these weren't contractions at all; maybe I was just feeling Liam stretch?  I had a midwife appointment today, and was gratified that when, true to form, I had a contraction right on the table, my midwife confirmed "oh, that's a good, strong contraction!"  William performed a beautiful heart-rate acceleration and deceleration during the contraction, just like he's supposed to, proving that he just likes it in there. :)

The numbers for the week:  166 lbs (up one from last week), 42 cm fundal height (2 cm gained in one week again-- this boy is apparently growing like, well, a watermelon), good BP & pulse, good glucose & protein levels, no swelling or any other alarming signs.  Apparently William is following in his sister's footsteps of making it quite impossible to "check" my cervix for dilation-- with Eowyn the checks were super-painful or downright impossible until I was very far into active labor-- 8 cm and going into transition!  So there's absolutely no telling if or how much these contractions have "progressed" me.  At least we know his head is very well engaged and he's currently in a great position to deliver.  Now... if he would just decide to "make like a baby and head out" already!

Many of you prayed for us on Sunday when I suddenly was in quite a bit of lower round ligament pain.  One minute I was fine, the next the baby had dropped drastically and I could hardly walk or move without great pain and difficulty.  The Lord heard your prayers and my body adjusted to the new position by the following day.  I've also had quite a good amount of energy.  Tuesday my friend Kristen came over and we swept, mopped, vacuumed and cleaned, and then I pulled Eowyn to our neighborhood playground in her wagon.  Wednesday (yesterday) our friends from Louisville came for a quick visit (they're on a massive East-Coast road trip), and I had the energy to take them downtown to Falls Park and hang out all day. 

Since we're both doing great and I have a history of carrying longer than 40 weeks, delivering a largish baby with no problem and then having that baby seem developmentally younger than her dates would have led us to expect, we have plenty of time to play with before Mr. William is considered "post-date."  However, my midwife is a bit baffled by my body's apparent readiness to deliver, with my baby's apparent unwillingness to commit.  She's also pretty sure this guy is getting fairly, um... large.  She's given us the go-ahead to consider some herbal "pushes" towards active labor-- nothing that will force a delivery if my body or William's is unready, but that just might tip the scale into full-blown L & D.  We'll see.  As of now I'm happy to wait a few more days at least... another night like last night, though, might change my mind. :)  Either way, we are both doing very well and I'm so so so so thankful to be as comfortable and energetic as I am, all things considered!  Check out this blogpost on natural childbirth from my buddy Blythe!

A few pics from the past week:

Avery (5), Nora (6) & Eowyn all with rapt attention at the Library Story Time (the Suitcase Circus)

She's LOVED having little pals to play with

Nora's Nonnie helped them do sillouettes

Eowyn's love affair with bags (full of stuff)-- that's my new diaper bag (from 31)

I love her face as she comes in to "get my brudder!"

Telling William to "Come Out!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

(Almost) 40 Weeks!... and 2 1/2 Years Old

40 cm belly in all its glory!

Technically I'll be 40 weeks by the midwife's little wheel tomorrow, with an "estimated due date" (EDD) on Saturday.  But my visit was today, so I figured I'd go ahead and post the stats... for all those wondering. :)  Feel free to skip!

The feeding frenzy that has been my nights was clearly evident, both in measurement and on the scale.  I gained a good 5 1/2 lbs since last week (164.5), and expanded 2 cm (40 cm).  My heart rate was a bit high for me (90), but Liam's was steady and sleepy at 127.  My b/p is great, but my blood sugar was all wonky... I was clearly sleepy when making my oatmeal and forgot to add the butter.  Those 2 T of fat make all the difference between having wildly high and crashing blood sugar and a steady, satisfied full tummy.  Oops.  William's in a great position to come, though I have NOT appreciated feeling his head very very very clearly.  Those who've experienced the "ring of fire" while pushing will know what I mean.  Enough about that.  As far as "signs of impending labor" go, I've had pretty much all of them on and off for the past week, including LOTS of regular contractions, nausea, etc.  So... I have no idea when the little man will make his appearance.  I guess he likes surprises. :)

Update: 40 weeks today!
The hardest thing the past week has been sleep.  Usually I have to stretch, do inversions, soak in a bath, etc., for 1-2 hours each night, usually eating intermittently, before I can finally go to sleep (due to restless legs), usually around midnight.  Then I've often jolted awake around 4 am with the jittery feeling of low blood sugar, sometimes occasionally with a deep gnawing hunger.  I then eat whatever I can think of and usually finally go back to sleep around 6... thankfully Ryan's new work out schedule has him up at 5:30 4 mornings a week, so by the time Eowyn wakes up around 7:15, he's home and able to take care of her until I am rested enough to stumble downstairs.  She's a pretty low-maintenance kid in the mornings:  give her a cup of milk, a saucer full of soaked nuts & raisins, and she'll play quietly and happily by herself until at least 9.  I just have to supervise clean up when I wake up. :)

Since not much is going on in the pregnancy department, well, not that we can SEE anyway, I will give a little Eowyn-at-two-and-a-half update:

Playing at the chiro's office in one of my
FAVORITE of her outfits (thanks, Grams!)
Some things I've noticed about her this week have been her adorable tendency to substitute a compound word ending in one word with another beginning with the same word.  Two examples:  lollypop & popsicles, or rubber band and band-aids.  It's pretty cute.  She's sitting beside me in a fairy costume right now- occasionally giving me instructions on my lines ("Say "bye" to the fairy, Mom-- I'm leaving for a while.  But don't cry very much, ok?").  She has mastered Daddy's Nook, loving the few children's books we have on there-- either read aloud by a narrator or recorded by Mommy-- or the puzzle games.  When she gets stuck in a game, she calls me over with an "I'm in trouble, Mommy!  Help, please!"  Story Time at our local library (followed by lunch at Nina's!) is a weekly highlight, with the hand stamps at the end possibly being the best part.  Getting to go "work" on the computers (like Daddy) afterwards is a close second.  Of course the books and puzzles and movies we check out are great, too.  :)  (check out our guest performer for our story-time today: Sarah Dippety!)

She's showing more empathy than ever.  When I bemoaned the fact that I no longer had a favorite food in stock, she rubbed my arm and looked right into my face, the picture of compassion, saying "You can get more at the store, Mommy!  Don' worry!"  Other new favorites are "kipping" (skipping), walking on tiptoe, and saying the "sad questions" in the children's catechism (#20-25 that deal with sin).  She continues to be very excited about having a baby brother, and just the other morning discovered that I have a heart-beat too, just like William.  She was cuddled on my chest and sat up, asking me "What's dat?  It's like a hammer!"

Showing new independence on
the swings (wearing her "work-out shorts")
Speaking of heart-beats, Eowyn was SO excited to have her very own check-up at our family doctor's earlier this week.  She comes with me to all my midwife appointments and my one check-up, so she knew EXACTLY what our doctor needed to do, and told him so. :)  He checked her nose, and found a cow in there, just like he used to do in mine when I was little!  He let her listen to her own heart beat, which was priceless.  (My favorite moment was when the nurse asked if she was speaking in two-word sentences, to which I said "definitely."  Right on cue, Eowyn burst in "When Doctor Taylor comes in, he's gonna listen to my heart-beat!" The nurse laughed and said "I think that was about a ten-word phrase!")  She has everyone in our doctor's office swooning over her, from the nurse to the lab tech who did her finger prick.  E just held out her finger bravely and barely whimpered.  She's a healthy, strong little girl with everything looking great.  She's jumped percentiles weight, at 28 lbs she's now in the 40th % ile (as opposed to the 20th), and at 37" tall, she's in the 95th % ile for height!  The reason we even did a check-up in the first place is that we are looking to enroll her in a little 2-morning a week preK program at a local church.  Eowyn is such a social little creature that we know she will LOVE the interaction with other folks, especially while Mommy is taking a lot of time with her new brother.  Mom & Dad welcome the chance for E to learn to obey someone besides us, and to learn to function in a classroom setting.  We got her first classroom supply list and everything... Eowyn cannot wait to start buying things for 'cool, and asks regularly if she can go yet.

Today's Library Story Time featured an EXCELLENT magician!

She generally still takes a 2 hour nap from 2-4ish, and we put her to bed at 8, and usually hear her chipper little voice around 7:30 each morning.  While eating is NOT a struggle with her, sleeping is more challenging. She wakes up in the night fairly frequently, hungry, scared or needing to go to the bath room.  We have to be militant about our "no-fussing-at-bedtime" rule, or else she'd be keeping herself awake 'til all hours asking for this or that or the other thing (like a two-handed hand squeeze, or a kiss precisely in the center of her right cheek...).  We seem to have settled on a good routine now, though:  a book or two, a Bible story read by Daddy, potty, teeth-brushing & hand washing, 1 or 2 songs, family prayers, kisses, hugs, squeezed hands, and then blown kisses, with the door left open a crack, the "frogbert" night-light turned on, and a few songs playing off one of her lullaby CDs.  We're working a lot on politeness/respect (manners!), ASKING v. demanding or commanding, and obeying right away without asking "why" first.  Also trying to train her to be less picky and more flexible... or at least to request help if something isn't "just right" without dissolving into tears!  She's growing up so much and we love our little Eowyn Grace!!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

39 weeks!

39 Weeks Along
There it is:  pictures of The Belly, especially for all my far-away family that was sure 4 weeks ago that I was already impossibly large...  I have indeed done the impossible and grown more. :)

Yesterday's midwife appointment was fun as ever.  Daddy kept Eowyn so I could have more concentrated time with the midwife, and I was actually glad I had to wait (a HUGE rarity in her office!) about a half hour to be seen-- I happened to have a new book with me, and it was a very pleasant wait alone in her sunshiny waiting room.  The stats:  my belly stayed at 38 cm-- I personally think this is because it's almost permanently contracted.  Definitely feels like a bowling ball most of the time now.  I'm at 160 lbs, meaning I lost a pound since last week, which is kind of encouraging because that's a hint that labor is near (of course, I know it's coming in the next 3 weeks anyway so no huge light bulb there, lol).  So far I've gained 30 lbs with Mr. William, which is right at what I gained with Eowyn.  What's interesting to me is that I gained it earlier and steadier with him and much of it at the end with her... and this trimester I've hardly gained any at all.  My pulse and b/p are good-- his heart beat was a bit lower than usual (124), as he was actually sleeping for once.  Usually at my appointments he's kicking the doppler and making my midwife laugh at his poking-out-body-parts.  But everything looked and sounded good.  She tried to check for dilation but William's head is so low that it was pretty impossible.  Oh well, not like it matters anyway.  I don't think I'll ask to be checked again until labor.

It's not working out with Daddy, but 'tretching with Tia Anna is pretty cool, too
I have tons of "toning contractions"-- more than I remember having with Eowyn-- usually accompanied by back twinges and crampy feelings.  I really thought he might be coming around the full moon (Sunday or Monday), but many of the labor-symptoms passed as the moon waned.  Now I'm settling in for the long haul.  :)  I can't believe my baby niece is 3 weeks old already-- time is flying by so fast that I know I can hold out another 3 weeks if I need to just fine. 

My round ligaments are super-stretched, and Liam seems to know JUST where to kick to make me feel like I have a terrible side stitch.  He's got long little legs (wonder where he gets those...)!  But the weather is gorgeous-- highs in the low 70s-- so I honestly have no complaints.  If there was perfect pregnancy weather, this is it!  Eowyn and I go on walks to our neighborhood playground or with Ryan downtown, and it's completely pleasant.  Our little garden is growing and so far I can keep up with it no problem.  Our house is mostly unpacked-- I still have the task of putting pictures up in all the rooms, but I'm putting that off until William's here and I can bend & lift more easily! 

Eowyn has been testing a lot of limits lately-- trying to obey on her terms ("I just doin' this first, Mommy...") or ask repeatedly for permission to do something she's already been told she can't do, or outright ignore instructions. I do praise the Lord that her heart is teachable right now, despite all her little sin. Talks about "listening to the Snake" who lies and tells her disobeying is more fun than obeying actually often stop a fit in its tracks, and the other day she melted my heart by uttering a heart-broken little "I'm sorry, Mommy!" on her own after a fit. I daily pray that the Lord gives her a new heart very soon! Every night she asks me "Mommy, why do I not need to be 'cared? Who is with me?" And I answer "Jesus." And she asks "and who else?" And I finish "The angels." So precious that that actually comforts her in the dark! Her little mind continues to grow at an astounding rate! She puts things together and talks so much more every day... it's a little bit intimidating at times! I'll try to upload some cute videos soon. (EDIT: they're up!)  We have a great one of her trying valiantly to show 2 fingers at once (she can do it now, with MUCH pride), another of her dancing at our local Highland festival, and another of her proclaiming that she does NOT want to taste beer because only "mans" drink that, and "I a GIRL, Daddy.... Maybe when I a man, I will like it." She cracks us up so much and we are really enjoying her. I'm so glad we have a two year old... Ryan & I joke we're going to keep having kids just so we can always have a toddler in the house-- they are so much fun!
How tall is Eowyn? Almost 3'!
Our other family news is that Ryan's been getting into Cross-Fit training with some guys at the church we've been attending.  Mr Not-a-morning-person has been getting up 3 mornings a week at 5:30 am, working out muscles he'd forgotten he had... and coming home sore but learning so much!  (We sound like senior citizens getting into and out of bed at night, hah.)  I am rather proud of him. :) Eowyn went with him to buy his new work-out shorts, and proceeded to insist that she needed work-out shorts, too... so she can "be 'twong... in the Lord."  My mom obliged and our newest entertainment is her donning them and trying to "work out like Daddy."  Her push-ups and squats are very... creative.

It just keeps going, and going...
Ok that's all, folks... my back can't take sitting much longer!  Too many contractions!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Book Review: Father Hunger (Doug Wilson, 2012)

I've got two books to review just in time for Fathers' Day.  This first, Father Hunger, deals with the many facets of Biblical fatherhood, and the lack thereof.  The second, The Happiest Baby on the Block, is a book applicable pretty much only to new dads, but it would be really helpful for them!  Ok, here they are!

My daughter is very blessed to have a daddy who genuinely delights in her!
While Doug Wilson and I don't always see eye-to-eye, especially when he leaves his familiar theo-political realm and ventures into the realm of health (slightly more on that later...), but this book is, plainly, a must-read.  Let me put it this way:  I recommend it to everyone who either is a father, has a father, or didn't have a father...  It's that good.

Wilson's basic premise is that human fatherhood is rooted in Divine fatherhood, and that, as such, holds tremendous importance and has a huge impact-- and reveals what we do or do not understand about the Fatherhood of God.  He begins with the "First Words" we hear God the Father speak in the New Testament to His Son, Jesus (Matt 3:16-17) and infers:
"In human history, there will never be a more perfect father-son moment than this moment between Father and Son.  This is the keynote-- pleasure.  This is the pitch that a father/son relationship needs to match-- "well-pleased." When we don't match that pitch, a lot of things start going wrong.  In fact, so many things start going wrong that we sometimes miss the source of all the trouble.  In our generation we are confronted with many social dislocations that all go back to a foundational father hunger. [...] As we look around, we know that we are broken, but we somehow assume that our notions of fatherhood are intact.  But perhaps it goes the other way. Perhaps our world is as broken as it is because our understanding of fatherhood was shattered first."  (p. 2, emphasis original)

If that doesn't intrigue or resonate with you, I don't know how better to pitch the book myself.  Doug Wilson uses Scripture to define fatherhood as it should be, touching on the topic of Biblical Manhood.  He describes the lack of fatherhood which he sees all over our culture, and which he very convincingly lays out as a root of a great many of our social problems-- from crime to poverty to ineffective churches.    These are rooted in fatherlessness, which itself is rooted in a denial of or misunderstanding of God as Father.  He also delves fascinatingly into the economical and political ramifications of fatherlessness, pointing out how our State makes many efforts to step into the father-void, and fails miserably.  I found those chapters absolutely fascinating and very very enlightening.  Take this snippet:  "Delinquent fatherhood has a significant and negative impact on the U. S. economy. [...]  The total average annual loss in productivity represents a $34.8 billion loss to the national economy each year.  After accounting for associated ripple effects, the total economic loss to the United states as a whole is $60 billion per year."  Wow!!  If there's one way of helping our economy that I've never heard any politician mention, it's trying to equip fathers to be fathers!!

I was wondering what Doug Wilson's idea of "Biblical fatherhood" would look like-- possibly some very authoritarian, "I'm the head of the house so hop to" way of parenting?  Nope.  Not at all.  Instead, one gets the impression of paternal warmth, of great responsibility taken first before and under God, a concern for his children's souls, always laboring under the heavy reality that our children will by default relate to God as Father in the way they related to their earthly father.  In other words, fathers are a child's first picture of God, or to use Wilson's phrase, "a child's theology primer." (p. 53, in the chapter cunningly entitled "Atheism Starts at Home.")  Talk about a frightening responsibility!

While the practical, political and economic sections were my favorites, the chapters relating to the ecumenical implications of Biblical fatherhood were excellent, too.

This book will challenge every man to examine himself as a son & father (and husband, if he is married), to check his view of God as Father, to think through his political, ecumenical and economic positions in light of fatherhood, and to seek to relate to the fatherless around him.  It's a book I recommend to wives and mothers, to singles and marrieds.  This book will make you think, on several levels and in ways you probably never have before.  This is Doug Wilson at his finest-- theology and social commentary are undeniably his fortes!

Two critiques:  Doug Wilson's hyper-Presbyterianism does sneak through, though perhaps I only noticed it because I was watching for it.  Other books of his more clearly outline his belief that the Covenant of Grace extends to children through the family line in such a way that if a father does his job right, then his children WILL be saved... and if they aren't, well, he screwed up.  I don't think that's Scriptural.  There are mere hints of this belief tinging sections on rebellious children, but as I said, I noticed them mostly because I was watching for them.  The other fault I found was when Wilson strayed into implications in the health field, which he seems to bungle every time he enters (don't get me started about some of the ridiculous assertions he's made about gluten and being an enemy of the Holy Spirit...) -- this time, it was a brief mention of autism, which he seems to believe stems from unloving and neglectful parents who put their kids in day care to pursue careers.  Sorry, but that's just preposterous... not to mention that all of the kids who I know with autism have stay-at-home-moms who are more devoted to helping their children than anyone else!  So... skip right over that paragraph on page 112, and I whole-heartedly recommend this book. ;)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book through the Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.