Thursday, March 10, 2011

a rite of passage

This is something I've thought a lot about since October, when Judah was born.

I was looking at pictures of Megan Hutching's birthing experience (beautifully done by Kali Park, by the way. And congrats to the Hutchings on Eric's arrival!). And I know this sounds weird, but seeing those intimate and beautiful moments of labor and delivery makes me feel like I missed out on something amazing with my son. I know I shouldn't be complaining because in the end he is here with me, and he is healthy... but wow, this just got me thinking...

I really wish I could have had a natural birthing experience. I feel like I haven't gone through a rite of passage as a woman and mother because Judah was born premature by c-section. Even though I was 6cm dilated, I never felt contractions, and even though we made the best decision we knew to make at the time... I feel as if someone stole those precious memories from me... moments where my husband could support and encourage me through each wave of pressure and contraction. Where we can work as a team through the pain-- very intimate moments as we grow closer, minute by minute, to parenthood. Moments where I work my son through the birth canal and push him with my strength (and the strength of the Lord) to bring him into this world. Feeling, at the end of it, a great sense of accomplishment, relief, and overwhelming joy to finally see my son. My son. My son that I struggled to bring into this world. My son, that I met with sweat and tears and laughter.
I'm being a bit vulnerable here. I'm sure some who read this would throw up their hands and scoff while saying, "consider yourself blessed that you got to skip to the end without any pain!" But with pain comes a myriad of things that you might not otherwise see: A challenge to face and overcome, to see myself at my most difficult moments and see how I respond and handle the struggle. To become a stronger person, to persevere.
They say that you don't appreciate the mountaintops unless you've been in the valley, where you see them in their most glorious state. I feel like someone took the "skip" button and jumped over something I truly wanted to experience: climbing that mountain, if you will. Something that was robbed from me, and I am left to instantly become a mother, having carried my child more than half-way to term, but without that struggle to bring about the joyful end of his birth. Without that series of events that are naturally supposed to take place. My birth experience seems out of order, mixed up, half-done. There's a sense of guilt that I couldn't make it to the end, that I didn't have to go through the pain, that I took the 'easy way out'. I know most of those feelings aren't logical, but the creep up from time to time.

I don't blame God, and I'm not looking for pity. I know we had more than our fair share of struggle having a premature infant in the NICU for 3 months. But still, this is different. Perhaps a bit more personal than even all that.
Believe me, I am appreciative that things turned out the way they did. My son is a miracle, and I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything because they've made us better people, better parents, and gave me the opportunity to see God's provision and protection firsthand in Judah's little life and in our family.

You may think I'm crazy, but if I had the choice, if God had asked me how I wanted things to look at the end of my pregnancy... I would have chosen the pain of childbirth. I want to go through that experience, that rite of passage, that feeling of accomplishment, that miraculous and challenging moment.
And I pray and believe He will give me that chance some time in the future, if He blesses us with more children. I pray fervently that our future children will be full-term healthy babies, and I hope they come about naturally in His perfect timing.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

wow, sorry about that!

So I abandoned yet another blog for months at a time. Here's to hoping I get back into the swing of things and post more often in the future ;)

As you can imagine, most of our life has revolved around Judah's progress, and the transition into life as a family. Quick recap of the last 3 months:

Mid-December, Judah had a major growth spurt! He reached 6lbs by Christmas: what a wonderful gift God gave us to see such progress!
We had Luke, Hannah, and Leah here for a few days, as well as international friends Sarah and Linton from South Africa!

Christmas was quiet and very nice: I made a very non-traditional dinner of homemade chicken nuggets and cranberry couscous. Jonathan got me TOMS shoes, and we got a new GPS :)
New Years was fun: we went to the Joneses and got to know some Aletheia friends better while playing games and eating yummy food!

January went from 'typical' trips to UVA and living life to "oh my goodness Judah's coming HOME!". On Tuesday, January 11th, we got 'the call' informing us that Judah's being discharged as early as the 13th! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face all day, we were ecstatic! So we packed up and spent Wednesday, January 12th getting him ready, filling out paperwork, etc. Then we spent the night with him in the family suite (wow what a sleepless stressful night trying to figure out oxygen, monitors, nighttime feedings, etc.). The next day we wrapped up a few more things and then drove our little 7lb boy home AT LAST!

It was a sobering but relieving ride home from the hospital. What sweet moments, and we praise God for His faithfulness to our family, and especially our son!
He went home on 125-150ml oxygen, and we spent the next few days organizing our home into a mini NICU with tanks, monitors, wires and tubes. We put a pack-n-play right next to our bed and began our journey of official 24/7 parenthood. After the first few crazy sleepless days of adjustments, we were able to find our routine and fully enjoy our son at home! We invited a few people over to celebrate with us and meet Judah, which was so exciting for everyone!
Mom came down to visit a week or so later and stayed a little over a week. She thoroughly enjoyed every hug and cuddle!

We got 8" of snow that week and went sledding while leaving Judah with his grandma for about an hour. Then we went on a much-needed date that weekend: our first time without Judah in several weeks! It was very nice :)

February brought on some semblance of routine for us as a family of three at home.
Having a son on oxygen limited our freedoms quite a bit: having to restrict vistors to those that are exceptionally healthy, and avoid crowds and children during the flu season... not to mention having a baby attached to a 3-foot radius, unless we roll a tank to another room, or change over to a travel tank. Our living room turned into his living space, essentially. Any trip outside the home took twice as long, and moving him from place to place proved to be challenging and awkward. But, oh it was so nice to finally have him there to hold and care for, to take out in the stroller, to show him off to friends who have long-awaited to see him. To have him with me on OUR terms, instead of asking permission to hold my baby in the NICU. Such freedoms were once a commodity, but now are common and refreshing.
Jonathan was back at work full-time, and I was home with Judah during the day. Jonathan would take some of the night-time feedings on the weekends, bless his heart ;) We had many an evening and night where we would spend our hours trying to coerce our child to transition from inconsolable crying and fussiness to blissful sleep. This is a phase, this is just a phase, it will pass, it will get better! ;)
We'd go to lots of doctors appointments, occasional outings and errands, and had several visitors. We spent Valentine's Day as a family, and Jonathan brought home a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me! Judah, who was now in the 8lb bracket, gave Daddy a Valentine's card :)
(sorry it's sideways)

Judah thrived in the month of February. He got all positive feedback from the doctors, and were pleased to see his progress! He is a full-fledged newborn with all the signs of proper development: starting to focus and recognize our voices and faces, lifting and turning his head while on his tummy, pushing up with his legs, and even some signs of cooing. He still smiles in his sleepy state quite often: and oh how it melts our heart! He's also perfected the "boo-boo face" with full-out quivery lip, oh dear Lord help us! ;)

Now we're into March and Judah is just over 9lbs! The doctor's appointments are still sometimes bi-weekly, with follow-ups at UVA, specialists, weight checks, and vaccinations. Judah is quite the popular little guy, everywhere we go people ask about him: I'm pretty sure more people know him than know his parents! ;)
Just this week, Judah was given the OK to be taken off ALL medications, including his inhaler. We've also been weaning him off his oxygen and yesterday was quite the milestone. He went a period of 4.25 hours AND over 3 hours breathing on his own without any problems. That's close to 1/3 of an entire day of independancy! This was a huge jump from the 30 minutes he had done just a few days prior. We're hopeful that he is telling us he is on the verge of being ready to wean off completely very soon!

Today, we have a dermatologist appointment at UVA to assess his "strawberry" (hymangeoma) on his forehead. Normally, an infant who has one has no problems and it just grows then shrinks down on its own after a few years. But Judah's has become quite puffy and is beginning to ulcerate (blackness and skin breakdown). This is very rare and may mean it needs to be removed or treated with medication. We'll see what the doctors say. Guess our son is a rare case all-around, but we are still praising God for his provision and care over our him daily. We are in awe of how He has taken care of ALL Judah's medical expenses via medicaid, and that we are not in want (though not in great excess either, ha!).

We still have a bit of a road to travel until we can safely say Judah is in the typical/normal infant category. But we are thankful that the process, though bumpy and challenging at times, has never been more than we can handle, and with many joys along the way.

As far as the future outside of Judah's world: we have many exciting things to look forward to! Jonathan's career is excelerating, and he is getting ready to leave for Suriname (South America) next week. He will be gone for a month, which will be difficult for all of us, but he is ready to be in the air again, and it will certainly help us financially.
We also have several sweet friends who are or have recently become pregnant and we are thrilled for them!

Whew! That about covers life with the Tacks since December. The next posts will hopefully be a bit shorter and more frequent! Thanks for reading, if you were able to get through the whole thing :)

Charisma, Jonathan, and our sweet boy Judah