Monday, April 30, 2012

Elsie's Birth Story, Part 4

We returned to our bedroom to allow Gretchen to rest and regain her strength.  Rene’e counted fingers and toes and completed the newborn testing.  After nearly an hour we called everyone in and announced our little one’s name, Elsie Jane, God is my oath and God is gracious.

Elsie Jane, by Jacob
 I can’t explain what it felt like when the towel was removed from Elsie's body,  happy and relieved mostly.  It was so wonderful to be close when she drew her first breath.  To see the joy on everyone’s faces when she came up was amazing.  They all held their breath, many different squeals and “Good job Gretchen”.  I love holding her and looking at her tiny hands and fingers.  I have never been around for a birth.  It was pretty fast, at least it seemed to be to me.
Elsie, I hope you grow up to be a woman who serves God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  I love you, Jacob
Elsie Jane, by Sophie
I woke up with people all around me: Mrs. Ortley, Miss Vicki and Miss Jody.  I knew then my mom was in labor.  I was so thrilled that I jumped out of my bed.  I walked out and there was a tub in the middle of the living room floor.  I really did not know how to react at first.  I went into my mom and dad’s room where my mom was laboring.  I told my dad that the first and last thing I prayed for the night before was this. Once my mom got into the tub, we all gathered around and got ready to meet the new baby.  Right when the baby came into the my mom’s arms, we hurried and covered it with a towel.  None of us knew what it was yet and were all eager.  I got the honor of cutting the cord.  I carefully took the scissors and cut.  It was like cutting a hose.  About 15 minutes after my mom had the baby we found out the gender..... IT WAS A GIRL!!!!  Wow 4 girls; I was so exited.  I immediately started making phone calls to family and friends.  After my mom and the baby took their bath we found out how much she weighed and how long she was.  9.1 just like me.  I was so tickled.  And to make things better, she was as long as me too.  I felt like I was very special at that moment. After all of the emotion was done and every body left, besides Miss Vicki, all of the kids watched a movie.  But I could not pay any attention.  All I wanted to do was stare at the new baby.
 Elsie Jane, by Vivian
What did you think about being able to watch your baby sister be born?
I thought it would take a long time so I thought it would be boring.
The best part was getting out.
First the head came out, then belly, then body (which Vivian refers to as the private area), then the feet.

What did you think when we found out it was a girl?
We have a lot of sisters.

The first time you held her, what did you think?
She felt light.

What was the best part about holding her?
Her hands...they are so soft and small and I like the way it feels when she holds my finger.

Should mommy and daddy have more babies?
How many?
Cuz little babies are so cute!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Elsie's Birth Story, Part 3

Once Gretchen got into the tub, things began to move very quickly.  She had three or four contractions and then began pushing.
Rene’e is our amazing midwife.  When having a home birth, the prenatal care is done in our home, with the midwife, so by delivery time we had been meeting regularly with her for about seven months.  It is quite a bonding experience going through this process with someone.  Throughout the ups and downs of pregnancy, there are many very vulnerable moments to share.  Having done this once before with Amelia, we have come to love and appreciate Rene’s very much.  She is a sweet, kindhearted and gentle person.  She exudes experience and confidence.
During our last birth Gretchen became a little ‘restless’ during the final moments and moved abruptly about in the water.  Rene’e was not having that this time.  Not even a little bit.  During and between a push, I heard our gentle southern belle midwife pronounce with great authority, “Girl, don’t you fight me!”.  WOW!  Where in the world did that come from?  The sweet “honey darling” went to “girl don’t you fight me” at neck breaking speed.  Where ever it came from, it worked.  Gretchen calmed and focused pushing Elsie out during the next contraction.   As Elsie came up from the water, we quickly wrapped her to conceal the gender.  Not even the midwives saw. 
The kids gathered around to Gretchen’s side, as we held our baby, not knowing whether we had a son or daughter.  There were tears of relief and tears of joy, bursts of laugher and sighs of relief, as the sweet and penetrating presence of God was felt as we together experienced the miracle of new life.  The child we had known for nine months in the womb and the child God had known before the foundation of the earth, was now nestled safely in our arms. 

After waiting several minutes, much to the chagrin of our ‘dream team’, we pulled back the towel to find out together the gender of our new baby.  The kids waited with much anticipation and strained to see…. a girl!  The next and most obvious question was, “What is her name?”.  However, that was to remain a surprise for later. 
 Following in Jacob’s footsteps with Amelia, Sophie was to cut the cord.  With RenĂ©e’s and my assistance, Sophie proudly completed her task.
What an amazing gift Elsie Jane is to our family.  I marvel at the miracle of conception, revel at the creative power seen throughout the nine months of development, and am dumbfounded by the awesomeness of birth.  However, that is only the beginning.  Our children are a joy even in the challenges we encounter as parents.  I realize that the responsibility of loving my wife, parenting my children, and leading my family, is infinitely more important than earning degrees, building a business, or having adequate ‘me time’ to enjoy hobbies.  The concept of family has become so diminished in our culture, one might not see the point.  It is my personal belief that strong families offer strength to a struggling culture and even church. 

Thanks for journeying along as I have shared our story.  My prayer is that perhaps in some small way God has spoken to your heart along the way.   May God bless and comfort you.


Final post coming, with more great pics and the kids’ perspective.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Elsie's Birth Story, Part 2

During our walk Gretchen contracted seven times; I knew the time was getting close.  Interestingly enough, shortly after beginning our walk, our neighbor drove slowly by and rolled down his window to check on us.  During our brief conversation, I could feel Gretchen’s grip tighten and her body tense as she began a contraction.  She kept a somewhat pleasant expression as she completed our brief comments and said our farewell.  Wow, is that graceful or what?  We later realized the baby was born 40 minutes later.
Gretchen was still doing really well with the contractions.  She went to our room and lay on the bed for two contractions and then knelt for two more.  At this point she told Rene’e she needed to get in the tub.  I, being amazingly in tune with what was going on with my wife's body and unbelievably intuitive, thought to myself, "What is she thinking?  She is going to sit in this thing for hours.  This is going to be awkward just hanging out in the birthing pool.  What if the water gets cold?  Little did I know we were 10 minutes away from having our baby.
For our four previous deliveries, Jody, our long time family friend, was the only person present besides the doctor/midwife.  However this time was different.  Gretchen had invited Vicki and Melinda, both of whom are also dear friends.  This was our labor and delivery "dream team”.  Gretchen had given everyone specific roles so everything would go smoothly.  To really appreciate this to its fullest, I will have to recap Amelia’s birth for a moment.  Amelia was our first home birth so we didn’t know quite what to expect.  Jody had traveled from Illinois to be there and was going to help out.  And help out she did!  She was given the responsibility to manage kids, prepare food, entertain the midwives, video and photograph the birth, cheer lead and do anything overlooked in proceeding list.  And while she did as well as one could expect, the thought occurred that perhaps she was a little overloaded. 
Vicki has a servant’s heart as big as Texas and as a side note, has a personal conviction that any food must be prepared with cheese, cream, butter,  sugar (or all if possible).   Good choice.  Her role was to be an advocate for the kids to make sure they were not over looked and FOOD, cinnamon rolls to be specific.  During the final hour, the smell of made from scratch, ten sticks of butter and one bag of sugar, cinnamon rolls wafted gloriously through the air.  We love Vicki.
Melinda, who is an amazingly talented photographer, was to photograph the entire process.  I didn’t realize that Melinda also has stealth like speed and ability to camouflage herself among trees and bushes to catch the perfect shot.  At one point, as I was helping Gretchen during a contraction at the foot of our bed, I felt footsteps across the other end as Melinda repositioned for a better angle.  Melinda’s creativity goes far beyond being a great photographer.  We were blessed to have her there and got great moments captured to cherish and share. 

That left Jody to cheer lead and video which is a much more reasonable expectation.  Naturally, Jody still entertained the midwives.
We had spoken with the kids ahead of time about being present during the birth and the following was their responses:

Jacob exclaimed, “Seriously… gross…no way would I want to be there. I will MAYBE be in the next room.   
Sophie’s response was,  “Yes absolutely, just try to stop me…go ahead just try!”.
Vivian’s response was, “Sounds boring… will there be someone to play with?”.
Amelia’s response was,  “Yes mom and dad.  I love and cherish you both so much.  I will be there to share this moment with you”…. Not really, I made that up.  I’m sure that was what she was thinking.

Jacob couldn’t resist and came in to be close.  At one point he was cowering next to the couch peeking over the arm of the chair.  We woke Sophie 20 minutes before Gretchen delivered and she sat front and center.  Jody stepped in to get Vivian minutes before delivery.  Viv sat groggily on the couch trying to figure out what was going on.  Millie was the last to join the party and verbalized her displeasure with being woken from a very pleasant slumber.  She finally calmed down and sat gazing curiously trying to figure out where the new cool looking baby came from.
 For those of you not familiar with how a home birth works, I will briefly explain our experience.  Most of the labor was spent walking outside, in our bedroom either lying or leaning against our bed or kneeling on the floor.  We had calm classical music playing in our dimly lit room.  The flickering soft glow of a candle bounced silhouettes against the wall and a hint a lavender essential oil hung in the air from our diffuser.  Gretchen remained calm and in control.  I helped her pace her breathing and supported her through contractions.  When she entered into transition she moved to a birthing tub we had set up in our living room.  She wore a dark loose gown so she could be both comfortable and modest.  The entire process was a very sweet and bonding experience.  Sharing such a surreal and wonderful miracle together as a family will be marked in Gretchen's and my mind forever. 

Part 3 coming soon.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Elsie's Birth Story, Part 1

For 9 months I planned to have a March baby.  We have had children born in December, January, February and April.  I planned for Elsie to come in March and never considered the possibility of going a week late and having her in April, not to mention being born on April Fool's Day.  So I was delighted when labor started in the wee hours of morning on March 31. I stayed up late visiting with my friend Jody, who by the way was to catch a plane home on the 31st.  This was her second flight booked for home.  She decided to miss her earlier flight back and extend her trip by a few days in hopes this Carel baby would make his/her appearance.  So my first contraction was at 1:09 am, minutes after going to bed for the night...or so I thought.  They were sporadic but kept coming, some 8 minutes apart, some 12.  I wasn't so convinced it was the real thing.  I text this message to my midwife at 3:15am, "Been contracting since 1am. 8 to 12 minutes apart.  Were 30 sec long. Now 45 sec long.  All while laying on left side in bed.  Haven't gotten up to walk yet.  How close do they have to be before I know it's true labor?".  I know this is baby #5, but my water broke before labor ever started with 3 of my babies.  You know it's the real deal then.  I didn't hear from Rene'e but decided not to call her yet.  I woke Ed and asked him to walk with me.  Walking made the contractions come every 5 minutes but they weren't as strong.  I was confused.  I called Rene'e at 4:30 am and explained to her what was going on.  I told her I was fine, that the contractions weren't that hard yet but wanted to give her a heads up.  She decided it would be wisdom to head in my direction since she is over an hour's drive away.  I also woke Jody, called my friend Vicki who had a very important role and my friend Melinda who was to photograph the moments of the day and of course the birth.
Rene'e, the world's most awesome midwife, arrived at 6:15 am.  She checked on the baby, then checked my cervix.  I was dilated to a 7!!!  Woo hoooooo!!!  I couldn't believe I had gotten so far with such little effort.  Unfortunately my blood pressure was elevated to a level she was concerned about.  I had to stay in bed to labor. 
After one hour of laboring in bed, Rene'e checked me again...still a 7.  Oh NO, I was NOT going to take 5 hours to get to a 10!  At that point I asked  Rene’e if I could go for a walk to move things along.  BTW, remember Jody had a plane to catch and this was going to be a March baby.  Rene'e had agreed to the walk under one condition, we had to be back in ten minutes.
Our 7:30 am walk was beautiful.  The temperature was perfect and our part of Texas full of color.  About half way up the road, we realized we were being followed by Melinda who was hiding amongst the trees like a paparazzi.
The walking increased the strength of my contractions making me realize it wouldn't be long before my baby was in my arms. 
Melinda stopped us in the front yard for a quick smile for the camera.  She told me to look natural. Seriously?  Natural?  Okay, everything else about this labor is natural.  So this is the "natural" look of a 41 week pregnant mama who hasn't slept a wink and been laboring for 6 hours.  No photo shopping the bags under these eyes. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Elsie Jane Carel

She’s here! This has been an unbelievably long nine months for our family, but our wait is over and we got to meet out little girl on Saturday morning March 31 at 8:19. Sophie was glad to share her title as the largest of the Carel babies when her newest sister joined her weighing 9 pounds 1 ounce. And as if sharing her sister’s birth weight wasn’t enough, Elsie Jane measure 21” in length which was also Sophie’s birth length.

So I am going to take a moment and be a bit politically incorrect. Excuse my indiscretion here. Over the past months I cannot tell you how many times I have heard something along these lines, after telling telling someone my wife and I were awaiting the birth of baby number five: “You know how to stop that don’t ya?” or “Wow, are you Catholic or Mormon?” or “What did you do to deserve that?” Most of the time I would just smile and express how happy we were. Sometimes, feeling a little antagonistic, I would reply a little less than kind. However, just to set the record straight, I am neither Catholic or Mormon and indeed I do know how to ‘stop that’. However, what did I do to deserve this? Other than the unexplainable grace, mercy, blessing and favor of God, I am not sure. The indescribable joy of seeing my newest daughter brought up to her mother’s chest, while surrounded by my four other children and close friends, yields me speechless. I guess I am just a guy who is crazy enough to believe scripture when it says “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3 ESV

Over the next couple of days Gretchen and I will share our amazing story of Elsie Jane’s arrival. So if you’re so inclined, you can come along as we share.

Elsie means God is my oath and Jane means God is gracious.

May God be your oath and be gracious to you.