Birthday Prep.

Elena’s birthday is next Thursday and her party is next Friday. ah. Inner freaking out. I ate something bad yesterday… thought about it five minutes after the fact… five minutes too late… and have been paying for it ever since. [My mom’s advice? Stick my finger down my throat. uuuck.] That and my computer in the classroom not working this morning meant for a day off. I tried to nap this afternoon and realized I couldn’t until I worked through my migraine and wrote out my to-do list for the party! I had so much on my mind, there was no way I could rest until I wrote it all out and saw it on paper. It filled 4 pages. sigh. Here’s what I have:

  • Make at least 3 pans of brownies [my oven only has one rack and I only have 1 9×13 pan, so this will be done over 3 days, I’m sure.]
  • Make at least a dozen cupcakes – find ice cream cones to bake them in.
  • Decide on whether or not to make a ladybug or buy one. [Here’s my cultural dilemma: Can I serve just brownies instead of cake or do I need to have a cake as well? I want to just serve brownies, but Brian pointed out that it might not be acceptable. I have no idea. If it okay, then I will make the cake for Elena’s family celebration that I want to do next Saturday, with grandparents over Skype. I really hope that works out.]
  • Buy all the decorations, including a pinata and a sign that says “Feliz Cumpleanos” with possibly her name under it. [They make them at the local market; very cultural.]
  • Purchase her birthday presents! We bought 2 gifts at a yardsale a few weeks ago, but Brian and I want to get her both something from each of us. 
  • Ask some students to do face painting on the kids when they come in. 
  • Ask some friends to help with decorating, frosting the cupcakes, emceeing, and handing out food. 
  • Ask a friend to help purchase the items for the children’s gift bags. 
  • Ask permission to use things from the kitchen and things from the Bible school. 
  • Make the items needed for the games, which also involves purchasing the materials to do so. 
I think that’s about it. Migraine’s back in full force so I should really get off the computer…..

America.

Disclaimer: This blog is not sugar-coated. Read at your own risk.

I read an article today about not hating America after a missions trip. It got me thinking about all the short-term teams we host from the States. Sometimes it’s hard not to get upset with them. We try not to say things that would be taken offensively since we know a lot of what they do is out of ignorance, not on purpose. But, if I could sit down and talk with them, I think here are a few things I would like to address:

  • “What is that?! I don’t eat that.”as opposed to, “Thank you for making us a meal! I know it took you all morning to prepare and it’s one of Peru’s famous dishes. We have never tried it before, so we appreciate you going into all this effort and we look forward to trying it.”
  • “That is so weird! You would never see that back home.”as opposed to, “Wow – different! We do it differently back in the States, but that’s okay! That’s what makes America, America and Peru, Peru!”
  • “Ugh, everything is so dirty.”as opposed to, “Well, you live in a desert! I understand now why it’s so hard to keep your house clean.”
  • “There are bugs everywhere! I could never live here.” as opposed to, “Is it difficult for you to live with all the insects? I know it would be hard for me.”
  • Being uber-loud in public. Peruvians are generally a quiet people in public. You can sit in a restaurant filled with people and still talk in a normal tone of voice here, no need to be loud. We bring visitors into restaurants and we realize then that the saying, “Americans are loud,” is very, very true. The volume goes way, way up, we get stared at even more, and it becomes very embarrassing.
  • Flashing money, or talking about money, or making comments about money. “Everything is so cheap here! I love it.” as opposed to — being cautious about money (flashing it, talking about it, makes you an easy target for pick-pocketers) and being courteous around natives who, to them, S/.12 (about $4) for a meal is quite honestly, very expensive.
  • Being wasteful: throwing away most of your meal you’ve been given; leaving behind basically brand new clothes, shoes, etc, because they got dirty and aren’t good enough for you now, so you’ll leave them behind with a student; giving away loads of  (our currency) before you leave because you exchanged too much when you got here and can’t use it when you get back home, so you’ll just leave it behind. — as opposed to — Making sure you eat as much as possible out of what’s been given to you since it’s very offensive not to. It’s okay if you leave stuff behind, but do it graciously – clean your sneakers, wash your clothes, make them presentable, before giving them away. And don’t make a big deal out of it being dirty therefore you’re not going to keep them. The people receiving this stuff may not ever be able to afford such nice things and it makes them think all Americans are rich and snobby if they’re given something just because it’s too dirty to take back home. Exchange money wisely; don’t exchange exorbitant amounts and then leave it behind like it’s nothing. The stereotype of Americans is that we’re all rich and every time you do that, it makes everyone think that we who live here are the same with our money – and we don’t have extra like that, trust me.
  • “We’re running on Peruvian time now! We can be late if we want; everyone else is, too, so it’s no big deal, right?”as opposed to – Please realize it’s not that we’re purposefully late or that the entire country runs late. Latin cultures view time differently. The Latin culture views time as more relaxed, more relational. This does not mean that we don’t value being on time (especially here on our Bible school campus where we’re teaching our students the importance of being on time for things). We are late to things, yes, but when everyone’s late, it’s not really late. If the pastor isn’t there at 10 to begin church, then we’ll just start church when he shows up and it’s not considered late. But, just because we’re more relaxed with time does not give you the liberty to be purposefully late when we’re taking you somewhere. We do make schedules and we do need to be places relatively close to on time and if you are purposefully late and view it flippantly, that is exceptionally rude. Be flexible, not rude, please, and understand that it’s all in how you view the concept of time, not in the time itself.
  • “I’ll just buy for everyone. You want something, too? I’ll buy for you, too.”as opposed to — We are missionaries, not street urchins. Maybe we can’t afford everything you can, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy everything for us. We’re doing fine; we’re happy with how we’re living. Please don’t feel the need to purchase everything for us and make us feel even more poor than we are! As for buying everything for the natives, realize there’s a sense of pride in being able to provide for yourself and your family in front of wealthy foreigners. You just automatically paying for everything takes away that pride and can come across as arrogant, not helpful. There is a time and a place to pay for everything; please pick wisely.
  • “I’ve been dying for ______! Can we eat there tonight instead of at the house?”as opposed to — Okay, couple of things here. #1: Keep in mind that meals are figured out for you weeks ahead of time, planned and paid for in advance. Keep in mind that meals here take hours to prepare, not just minutes, so if you decide last minute to eat somewhere else, you are inconveniencing a whole chain of people while satisfying yourself. #2: You’ve been here for how long? Two weeks? And you just can’t wait to have a taste of “home”, right? Don’t forget you’re around missionaries who haven’t had a “taste of home” in possibly months because it’s too expensive. We miss it, too, but we have learned to live without it. You can, too, if you really try! #3: Our currency may be cheap to you, but we live on it. Even though it’s a special occasion – visitors! – that doesn’t mean we can afford to go with you. But, if we wait outside, that will make you feel bad. And if you don’t offer to pay, we have to pay for ourselves, which in some cases is most of our week’s paycheck for one meal out. So, if you want to eat there and you’re accompanied by those of us who live here, offer to pay or don’t ask to go, please. [see? time and place to offer to pay!]

And last of all…

Making promises you’re not going to keep. Such as –

  • Promising to keep in touch.
  • Promising to come back and visit.
  • Promising to send care packages.
  • Promising to pray.

Yup, huge pet peeve: those who promise to pray and never actually do. To pray, you must keep in touch with us so you know what to pray for! Therefore, if you’re not keeping in touch, I highly doubt you’re praying. And that, above everything else, hurts the most.

So, there you have it. Thoughts?

This Week.

This week is a quieter week for us. I don’t have school and basically all the other missionaries have left for a trip (we chose to stay behind for various reasons). We have had beautiful spring-type weather, too – FINALLY! I never realized that dreary weather would affect me… and then I moved to Peru. Our days typically look like this:

But, for almost the past week, our weather has looked like this:

(my house)

Can you see why I’m happy?! The top picture was taken Saturday while Brian and I were outside using our new grill. I stripped Elena down to her onesie, put on her sandals and sun hat, and let her have fun outside in the warm sun. Today, we had sun again, but now it’s 4pm and the sun has disappeared and fog has returned. We’re just beginning spring, so this is not unusual. Sad, but not unusual.

So, my week, besides enjoying the sun, has consisted of:

  • Cleaning my house more thoroughly than it’s been cleaned in awhile. I have a girl who cleans for me in the afternoons, but she also babysits. I know my daughter and I know it’s very difficult to get lots done with her at your feet constantly. So, some areas of my house have, unfortunately, been neglected of late. I have deep cleaned my (black-mold infested) bathrooms, organized my kitchen, and cleaned off my dining room table so far.
  • Going through my 4th grader’s lessons and making up lesson plans for as far ahead as possible. Normally, I do this the night before and that’s just plain stressful and annoying. I’d like to get as far ahead as possible so I can have evenings more free.
  • Making the morning devotional lesson plans for my older kids. We’re going to do the “I Am”s of Jesus in the book of John. As usual, I think I’m learning more than they are just by studying them.
  • Washing not only my laundry (which got backed up due to no sun, therefore nothing drying, for weeks on end), but also all the curtains in my classroom which are covered in bird doo-doo (yes, we have birds basically living inside my school) and dust. I’m also washing Elena’s toys that she’s outgrown and her different blankets and the seat for the walker I let her use in the classroom (also nastily covered in mold).
  • Sleep-training my darling daughter. Okay, don’t judge me. I have a confession. And seriously, please don’t judge me no matter what your thoughts on this. I just need to vent this out.

Here’s the story: The mattress we have for Elena does not fit in her crib. We bought the crib and mattress from someone a year ago and they warned us they couldn’t find a mattress that fit the crib well (everything’s handmade here). So, we put her crib bumper around her mattress to fill in the gaps (which are serious gaps – gaps that even at almost a year old she could get stuck in) and it works. Back in June, Elena got a horrible cold. She could not lie on her back or she couldn’t breathe – at all. She gagged, woke up screaming because she couldn’t breathe – awful. Scary. Well, with her mattress the way it is, it is not safe to prop the mattress up, like we would normally do, so she could breathe at night. She was also waking up every 20 minutes or so, gagging and coughing and crying. We finally brought her stroller upstairs so she could be propped up (it has 3 different inclines) and that worked wonderfully… until we realized that she’s just a hair too big to sleep in her stroller and she was waking up uncomfortable and crying throughout the night. So, we brought up her carseat. And – perfect. She slept like an angel. This lasted for maybe about two weeks and then we moved her back to her crib. About two weeks after that, another cold hit. Same thing – couldn’t breathe. We also had a visitor (who lived with us for a month) and so we didn’t want to disturb her, too. So, back we went to the carseat. And again, slept like a charm. We also knew that no sleep = not gonna get better. She must sleep to get well! Also, let’s be honest, if Mommy and Daddy don’t sleep, we’re gonna get sick, too, and round and round we go. Elena had that horrible cough/cold for more than a month (teeth were thrown in there, too). And then about the time we wanted to put her back in her crib… another cold. Ahhhh!! Now, guess what. It’s September and my child hasn’t slept in her crib since July sometime and now – naturally – she hates her crib. HATES her crib. You know how you read, “Just let them cry for 20 minutes – they’ll wear out and fall asleep. Crying never hurts any kid. They’ll wear out quickly.” Ha. They have never met my child. Yesterday, I spent 2 hours trying to get Elena to calm down in her crib. Two solid hours of screaming – to the point where she went hoarse – and she never once calmed down. I left her alone. I held her. I stood next to her and held her hand. I sat across from her on the floor and didn’t say anything. I left her for 10 minutes, came back, cuddled her, put her back down and left again. I rocked her in my arms and then tried to lay her down. I played with her. I let her fall asleep first and then tried to lay her down. Nothing worked. Two hours later, the only way to calm her down was to nurse her – something I haven’t done during the day in more than a month. Monday, we tried for over an hour with the same results. Today, I tried for half an hour, thinking less time would be better. I sat on the floor with her in her bedroom, reading her books, letting her play quietly, and then I held her and prayed with her and told her it was naptime. Stood up to put her in her crib and… bam. Same thing. Screams – horrible, horrible, nightmare-inducing screams, for 20 minutes, until I went back to get her. Took her another hour to calm down and now she’s finally asleep on my lap, stripped to her diaper, covered in a blanket. I don’t know what to do. I know we messed up, but looking back, I don’t know if we had another option. I feel like an awful mom. And I feel stuck. I have been planning for quite awhile to use this week to retrain Elena and now I’m halfway through and wondering what to do differently so this can actually work. sigh. Seriously, doesn’t this face break your heart?

On a happier note.. tonight is Date #1 of our year of planned dates. I’m making pizza, pita chips, and guacamole and we’re playing the Wii and staying home. I made my mom’s famous “Chocolate Peanut Buddy Bars” this morning (one of our favorite desserts with our fast-disappearing peanut butter). So looking forward to tonight. We need this. You ever just hit a wall and realize you just need time alone with your spouse or you think you just might implode? That’s where I’m at. Tonight is my night with my man and I can’t wait.

And… how are you? Enjoying your week? I’m open to any parenting tips you might have. [Keep in mind, I feel like a horrible mom as it is, so please don’t berate me on top of this. Thanks!]

As a thank you for letting me vent about Elena, here’s the recipe for our Date Night Dessert:

Chocolate Peanut Buddy Bars

1 cup smooth peanut butter, 6 Tablespoons butter (softened), 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend the peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and cream together.

1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips – 1 cup set aside

Add flour and salt and blend together. Fold in the chocolate chips, leaving the 1 cup out.

Pour into greased 13×9″ pan and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350F. When you pull it out, immediately pour the 1 cup of reserved chocolate chips on top. Let sit for 5 minutes. They will get all shiny and smooth. Spread over the top like frosting.

Yum. Enjoy!

Midnight Ponderings.

I’m up late tonight with nasty cramps (aren’t you glad you know that?!), so I thought I’d blog. You know what’s a pain about using the computer at 1am? All the little creatures who think they need to land on my screen. I just had a nasty, giant moth land on the screen and when I flicked it off, it not only left behind moth residue, it flew into (and got stuck in!) my hair. Ugh. Oh well. 

So, let’s see where my 1am thoughts take me, shall we? 

  • 9/11 is coming up. Where has time gone that it’s been 10 full years? I teach kids who either don’t remember it or who weren’t born yet. Of course, I’m also in South America and all my kids are Peruvian, so it doesn’t affect them like it does American kids. I remember so much from that week. And yet not enough. I watched President Bush’s interview this week and cried through basically the whole thing. Looking at what happened through an adult’s eyes – and a mother’s eyes at that – changes a lot. I was 18 when it happened and I know for a fact I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of what happened that day. I’m 28 now and I get it. I get what they did to us. Just today in my Bible study, I was reminded of a passage that pertains to this:

Daniel 7:9-10

 9 “As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.

This is a passage in Daniel where Daniel actually got taken up into heaven to see what happens in the future. The Ancient One is God. The scene is a courtroom. The idea behind the title “Ancient One” is that He who saw the act take place is also He that judges. Justice will be served in heaven. Of that you can be certain. He saw it happen; He will judge fairly. When Bin Laden was killed, Facebook was aglow with all sorts of people saying Christians should not rejoice. And yes, I agree we should not “rejoice” as it were in the death of a person. However, King David “rejoiced” when he beheaded Goliath. He rejoiced when his enemy were gone – when justice had been served. No, we don’t throw a party when someone evil dies, but I believe there can be a sense of relief – a sense of justice – when they’re gone. It’s 1am. I’m not wording it right. I’ll leave it there.

On to happier thoughts…

  • Elena’s birthday is coming up. Okay, so here’s my ideas thus far:
  1. Decorate by getting a red tablecloth of some sort (they’re kind of hard to come by here – might be a plastic cover) and cut out black circles to put on top, and use that for the main food table.
  2. Put black dots around the room and write “Winner” on the back of one. At the end of the party, the kids can collect the black dots (hehe – helping clean up, too!) and the one who gets “Winner” will get a little prize.
  3. Possibly use sidewalk chalk and draw bugs coming up the sidewalk into the room.
  4. Get red and black balloons, but then also get fun colored ones, too, and group them together to kind of represent “bugs.”
  5. Have one of the Bible school students (or two!) do face painting as the kids come in. They can choose between like a ladybug, a butterfly, or a grasshopper (something more boy-ish. Very few little boys on campus, but I doubt they’ll want butterflies on their faces!).
  6. *Maybe* (big maybe – not good at crafts) make headbands of antennae for the kids as they come in.
  7. Play “Pin the Spot on the Ladybug.” Have a picture of a Ladybug, but have her missing her one spot in the middle, so the kids need to get as close to the empty spot as possible.
  8. I have other game ideas, but they’re downstairs and I’m not leaving to get them, so never mind.
  9. Make a Ladybug cake as the centerpiece, but it won’t be big enough to actually share with everyone. So, instead, I want to do something different as the main dessert. I can’t decide if I want to do cute little cupcakes cooked in ice cream cones OR dirt cake (chocolate pudding, oreo-type cookies, and gummy bugs). I think dirt cake would be good, but to make it really good, you need cream cheese and whipped cream, both of which are VERY expensive here. So… I don’t know. Thoughts?
  10. Make sugar cookies in fun shapes. Brian bought me a giant container of cookie cutters that have every shape imaginable, including all the letters and numbers, so I could go crazy with that, too.
  11. The invitations are going to be little ladybugs whose wings open and the writing is under the wings. Really cute! Now if only someone ELSE can make them so they genuinely come out cute…
  • Next week is a little (much-needed) break. You know, I was calculating and the “average” school in the U.S. gets, what, 6 weeks of vacation during the school year? If you add up 3-day weekends and in-service days with regular holidays. Maybe a little less, I’m not sure anymore. I get maybe 3 weeks during my year. I had been wondering why I always feel SO BURNT OUT by August and I think this is why! Next year, I’m considering adding in “in-service days.” I don’t feel like I can ever get stuff done IN the school. So next week, I’m going to be washing curtains, repainting areas, and redecorating for the last half of the school year. I’ll also be doing lesson plans (trying to get ahead! There’s a thought.) and Bible lesson plans for morning devos. I think we’re going to do the “I Am”s of Jesus. We’re doing the Armour of God this week and it’s going really well! I like our devotional time in the mornings.
  • Spring is beginning to arrive. Two days of sun and real warmth in a row have done my body good. A baby cow was born yesterday morning in the field next to our house! The lady who gave us our puppy has two cows who are pregnant, now just one who will calve any day. I wanted to see the calf born, but missed it by probably half an hour or less. I got to pet the baby cow yesterday evening with Elena in my arms. She came right up to me, wet little hair, spindly legs, and tiny “moo” and all! So sweet. Definitely feels like spring with baby animals all around!
  • Like I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve been reading a lot of personal birth stories of home births after C-sections (in many cases, after multiple C-sections, including emergency C-sections). I don’t think I’ll do a home birth (scratch that – I know I won’t do a home birth!), but just reading them makes me feel empowered. I’m more and more at peace about being pregnant again and having a second delivery. I know each delivery is different – there are no two exactly alike – so the odds of having everything happen just exactly like last time are basically impossible. I’d like to see my OB and talk with her about all my questions and see what she suggests as far as a timeline before #2. I want to be wise without being more overly cautious, you know what I mean? And the rest is really up to God.
Okay. Feeling better. Very, very tired, so I’m gonna call it quits before I make myself legitimately sick!
Bonne nuit, buenas noches, good night, whatever it is in your language…. see ya lata.

“BYE!”

Here It Is, Almost 1 Year Later.

It is 11:30pm on Saturday night. As usual, I’m up way later than my family. Tonight, I was reading my new favorite blog site – all birth stories from real people, many believers, and a lot are VBACs, something I’m hoping to try for next time. In light of all that I’ve been reading lately and the fact that Elena’s first birthday is coming up soon, I thought I would finally share with you all my birth story. You don’t need to read it if this isn’t your thing; I won’t be offended. It’s just something I think I need to finally write down, now that I’m more distanced, over post-partum, over-joyed with my baby, and not as traumatized. A year ago, I couldn’t get past a certain point. We’ll see how I do tonight. 

So here we go. The birth story of Elena Ruth Biegert.

I found out I was pregnant while in the jungle city of Iquitos, Peru. Brian and I had convinced ourselves I was unable to conceive, so this pregnancy was a miracle in our eyes. Of course, the doctor in the clinic in Iquitos told me I was “not quite pregnant yet” but would be “in a few more weeks.” Touching. I wrote a letter to “Baby B” and pinched myself every morning in unbelief.

The pregnancy really wasn’t awful, as far as pregnancies go. I was nauseous at the beginning, for the first solid 3 months, but at night, most of the time. I only threw up once, at that was like the culmination of the nausea because after that, it finally began to subside. I enjoyed being pregnant until August. Of course, by then, I was big and uncomfortable anyway, but I slipped in mud and pulled muscles, then was jumped at by a giant dog and pulled more muscles, and then I got the infamous shingles. And here’s where the birth story kicks in.

Two weeks before Elena was born, I got the shingles. Of course, we didn’t know what they were, but we were scared. I was in mind-numbing pain and couldn’t barely talk in English, let alone Spanish, so a good friend called our doctor to see if she could see me Monday afternoon. Our “wonderful” doctor (who had told me my entire pregnancy that I was gaining too much weight and would have to have a C-section if I gained anymore. You know, 15lbs during 8mos is just absurd.) told her, “I don’t work Mondays.” Pissed off, Brian had our friend call her doctor (she had just given birth to #2 a month before) and her doctor said without hesitation, “I must see her today.”

We went to my new doctor, Dr. M., and she was wonderful. She took one look at me and… whipped out her cellphone to take pictures of the shingles! Flattering. She knew what they were and immediately put me on bedrest. She showed me where Elena was and I got to see my healthy, giant baby and took home a daunting picture of JUST her head. If that doesn’t freak out a first time mom, nothing will.

I laid in bed with shingles for two weeks. I was told to not do much – at all – or I would get Elena to come and she did not, under any circumstances, want Elena born until the shingles were gone. So, no stairs, no walking around campus, no on my feet teaching – nothing. Not that I wanted to; shingles are bad enough as they are. Two weeks went by, and she put me on another five days of bedrest, but assured me, “The baby will be here by the weekend. I will be very surprised if you make it to the Monday appointment.”

Friday morning, I woke up with contractions. They were so different – I knew immediately what they were. It was 6am and Brian was sound asleep. I got up quietly, used the bathroom, laid a towel under me, and laid back down. They lasted for quite a few hours. When Brian got up at 7, I informed him labor had begun, but it would be awhile. I called my mom and we all agreed it was too early to get excited. Contractions ended by noon, but I felt… odd. Slightly sick? Very uncomfortable. Very crampy.

The weekend came and went and Monday night, I had my check-up. Dr. M. and I were disappointed to be meeting in her office! She checked me out and said I was right there, but not close enough. She stripped my membranes (the most painful thing ever – she had kicked Brian out of the room, but he stood in the doorway anyway and said he was impressed with how I handled the pain since he’d read that was more painful than birth itself! I tend to believe him.) and then the bloody show started and contractions kicked in and about took my breath away. She said that would help and she expected a call from me during the night. She told me to call when contractions got down to 15min apart for 2hrs straight.

We live 45min from the clinic, on horrendously bumpy roads. So the question was, do we go home? Do we stay a few more hours? What do we do?! My friend (who shared the doctor) called and she suggested we go to her mother’s house, who lived 10min from the clinic. Her mom said that was fine and they made up a room for us, downstairs, with a private bathroom. The maid made me tea and her mom brought Brian supper – it was really homey and relaxing that night.

I took a nice, long, hot – HOT – shower to relax my nerves and see if the contractions would stop. They did. Grr. I laid on some towels and tried to relax. I remember we watched “Psych” and tried to just relax. Around 11 (?) the contractions kicked in full force. Brian pulled out the phone and we started timing. We didn’t have paper so we used a scrap of something we found to keep track. We got down to a solid 15min apart and Brian started getting excited. An hour went by of 15min and he thought we should call. I said no, we should wait awhile longer. I was nervous – terrified  – of checking into the clinic. I didn’t know where to go, who to talk to, what my room would look like, what they would do to me, how long I’d have to wait – I was scared stiff. I cried and told Brian no, I would wait it out as long as possible!

The contractions, during the night, got down to 5min apart for more than half an hour, and I was in a lot of pain. Brian would tell me when another one would be coming and he was always right. I’d grab his hand and breathe slowly through it with his help (I tend to forget to breathe when I’m concentrating and get light-headed very easily so we had practiced this beforehand!). And then… around 3am, everything…. stopped.

I fell asleep, Brian had been asleep for an hour, and we slept until 6:30. I took another hot shower hoping that this time, it would make something start UP again! Nothing. I still felt…sick, though. No other way to describe it. We went out to breakfast and my friend called to see what was up. I told her what happened and she suggested I go ahead and call Dr. M. and describe it to her and see what she said. So I did. Reluctantly. Really the only reason I did was – and this is key – Dr. M. was going on vacation on Friday and I’d have to use my awful doctor (or some random person) if I didn’t deliver by Thursday! This was now Tuesday morning. We had to figure this out NOW.

I called Dr. M. and she said to come to her office ASAP. We went in and contractions kicked in, but not near as strong. She checked me out and I was a 1. woo-pi-dee-doo. She worked again on stripping my membranes and told me that normally, once it starts, it’s an hour a cm, so I should expect another 9hrs of labor before pushing, but should have Elena by midnight. This was 10am. That didn’t sound good. She wanted us to check into the clinic and she’d check on me tonight if nothing happened before then. She called ahead and told them I was coming and what to do when I got there.

We went to Emergency and… waited two full hours. One paper had not been signed by Brian (not our fault) so we weren’t in the system saying we had a room waiting for us, therefore we had to wait like everyone else. Contractions had started back up, I had to pee like every 10min, and I was getting hungry by now. Finally, I was brought back to an “examining room” – a curtained off “room” big enough to hold a bed, a sink (pushed up against the bed), and a trashcan. We waited there for another hour. A nurse came and asked what was wrong. I said, “I’m in labor. I need a room.” Nothing. They finally – FINALLY – pulled Brian out to sign a paper and wheeled me upstairs to my room.

Finally – good news. The room was lovely. Private. My own bathroom, TV, DVD player, refrigerator, safebox – really nice room. I got hooked up to an IV, they did other cosmetic stuff (ugh), and then I got hooked up to machines to monitor my contractions. And I waited. When I wasn’t being monitored (which seemed like constantly), I got up to walk around. Little did I know, being taller than every other woman in the clinic, the nurses hadn’t thought to make my I.V. taller than me so it would continue to drip when I stood up! So all the inducing medication my doctor had prescribed, I wasn’t getting 3/4 of the time while I was walking around! Nothing was fixed until around 8pm when my doctor finally got after them about it.

Dr. M. came to check on me, like I said, around 8pm. I was still at a glorious…. 1. She said they would continue the I.V. drip and then, if nothing happened overnight, at 6am, I would have part of a pill inserted to get the dialation going. All I was allowed to eat was broth and by this time, I was really hungry, but there was nothing I was allowed to do about it. I was also excited – I wanted to get this over with! They offered me an epidural and I said, “Why? Nothing’s happened yet!” When I told them I didn’t want any pain meds, they all looked at me like I was crazy. Oh well.

Wednesday morning, I was woken up by sharp, horrible contractions, around 4am. Brian was sound asleep on the couch and didn’t notice me pacing for over an hour. A nurse came in around 5 and said, “Yup, sounds like you’re right on schedule!” They called my doctor and told her I would be giving, by the looks of it, around 9am. Sweet! The contractions got intense enough that I could barely talk, although I never lost the capacity to talk through them. Walking around helped a lot, so I figured I’d be fine.

Around 6, the nurse came in and insisted she insert 1/4 of the pill and hook me up to the monitors. It didn’t hurt when the pill went in, even though she said it would feel like it does when they checked me for dialating. I found that odd, but wasn’t too worried about it. They hooked me up to the monitors and it all looked really good. They brought me breakfast around 7 and told me to eat all of it for energy, doctor’s orders. So I did. Of course – I was ravished!

Around 8am everything… stopped. OH. MY. WORD. It stopped so much, I thought I’d dreamed everything up to that point. I was so frustrated. Dr. M. came at 9 and said, “What happened?! I thought I’d be delivering Elena right now!” (Yes, she called Elena by name.) She inserted 1/2 of the pill and this time… it KILLED. She said she’d be in touch with my nurses and scooted out of my room. They hooked me up to the monitors and within 10 minutes, I looked at Brian and said, “Something’s wrong.” From here on out, my memory gets a little sketchy.

I felt the contraction building and by this time, I knew what they were supposed to feel like. This one did not come on right. It was too strong, too intense, and there was no level to it – it just. kept. building. And then, I looked at my tummy, and right where my ribs started on the right, it was beginning to bulge. I was having a hard time breathing, I could feel something pushing into my ribs on the right and I was in a lot of pain. We got the nurse immediately and she came in, sat down on my bed, put her hand on my tummy, and pushed the monitor away. Then another nurse came in. Then one left to go call my doctor. And then more people came in. Everyone was very (oddly) quiet. The one nurse just sat there for over a half hour with her hand on my tummy, breathing with me, and watching the monitor. I asked to sit up, to move around, and they said no. So I was on an incline, not able to breathe, in the worst pain of my life, getting more and more scared. And then they told me the bulge I was seeing was my uterus bulging out of my side. Pleasant.

Brian was in and out, calling our parents, talking with nurses, and then standing in front of me, breathing with me. I don’t know what all happened during this time. I know I saw a cardiologist. I know at one point, the entire room, which had seemed large when we checked in, was filled with people and I didn’t know why. All I wanted was to see Dr. M. but she never came. I wasn’t even allowed to unstrap the monitors for two minutes so I could go pee so I got introduced to Ms. Bedpan (so gross) RIGHT when the doctor came in who was sent by Dr. M. to check me! Embarrassing. Got all that out of the way and this doctor confirmed to me what I was afraid of: This 2hr contraction (which I found out later was so intense it hadn’t even registered on the monitor this entire time) had not succeeded in dialating me any further. Elena’s heartrate had shot to 190bpm and she was getting frantic. I was having an allergic reaction to the inducing medication and needed an emergency c-section. I informed them I couldn’t – I’d eaten breakfast! So, they gave me a shot to prevent vomiting and began prepping me anyway.

In Peru, you must pay for procedures before they happen, so Brian was shipped out immediately to pay for the c-section and I found out later he wasn’t even really sure what he was doing or why! He told me at this point, he was shaking, could barely think straight, cried every time he left the room, and could barely hold a conversation with anyone. He didn’t want to scare my mom so he composed himself to talk to her. He didn’t want to call anyone else because he knew he couldn’t hold himself together well enough to do so. So, he felt really alone and really scared. He paid for the C and made it up to my room in time for me to say, “Grab the camera! We’re going!”

I’m still in the throws of this major contraction and now, they make me LIE DOWN on my BACK as we travel down 3 floors and 2 endless hallways. Sheer agony. We got to the door of the operating room and they grabbed Brian from behind and told him no further. I will never in my life forget watching him stand at the door as they wheeled me away, the doors closing in his face. And this is where I used to never be able to continue the story. Even now, that particular memory makes me sick to my stomach.

I was wheeled into the surgery room and I remember it being very sterile, large, and cold. Two (three?) women prepped me while I answered a myriad of questions for my epidural. And all of a sudden – there was Dr. M.! It was like seeing a short, heavily-made-up angel at that moment! She helped hold my shoulders while they did the epidural. The epidural HURT SO BAD. It crunched as it went in and it took 3 women to keep me from jerking or moving. Horrible, excruciating pain on top of the never-ending contraction. And then… relief. Finally, I started going numb and the awful pain of the contraction went away.

I remember when they began the surgery, I could still wiggle my toes and all the horror stories of operations while the people are still awake came to me and I FREAKED. I told Dr. M. and she said that was perfectly normal (did NOT know that) and made sure other areas were totally numb before officially starting. I had been told that getting the baby out would be fairly quick, but getting sewn up would take awhile. I was not prepared for the C…. at…. all.

Elena was out by 12:16pm, Wedneday, September 29, 2010. I remember actually feeling her being pulled out of my body and hearing Dr. M. saying, “Hola Elena! Elena – hola! Ven, Elena! Ven!” She told me later that Elena just blinked up at her and didn’t act like she wanted out at all! 🙂 That’s my girl! I felt her come out and my heart stopped because I didn’t hear her scream for what seemed like an eternity. And then she wailed. Oh, how I wish Brian could’ve heard her cry for the first time! It was the most beautiful noise ever. I can still hear it. Every single person in the operating room said, “Wow, she’s healthy!” They brought her over to me so I could see her, but of course I was strapped down and shaking like a leaf so I couldn’t do any more than look at her and cry (the tears started just as soon as she screamed and I couldn’t make them stop!). Dr. M. gave the nurses her phone to take pictures. I have them printed; I don’t have them on the computer anymore. I don’t post them; they’re too private anyway. Only family has ever seen them.

And then… the sewing up. It felt like they were repositioning my insides. It was horrible. I did not vomit (my worst nightmare), but I was horribly uncomfortable, scared, and counting down to when it would be over. The meds made me loopy enough I couldn’t think straight, but not loopy enough to actually sleep, so it was awful. I remember right at the end, they pulled or did something and it really, honestly HURT and only then did the little man sitting behind me monitoring my vitals (while talking on his cell phone – I kid you not) reach up and brush my hair back and tell me, “Shhh, it’s okay. It’s normal.” I could’ve used that a lot more often and a lot earlier!

Finally, the nightmare ended. Dr. M. came to me and said Elena’s apgars were wonderful, the surgery went good, she’d go talk to Brian, and I would go to recovery for 90min and then be brought up to my room and she’d see me later. Off to recovery I went after the wonderful cleaning up where your whole body gets plopped around like a chunk of meat. That’s fun and wonderfully private. I was brought to a room completely by myself – just one nurse in there “monitoring” me. I tried to doze off and on, all the while thinking, “Did all this really just happen? Where’s my baby? I hope Brian’s okay. I hope Brian knows where I am!”

Unbenounced to me, Brian had been told to wait outside the operating room, but then a nurse told him, “Why don’t you come with me and I’ll show you where they’ll bring out the baby and you can wait there?” So, off he went. He said it was over an hour before they finally wheeled out Elena. He said he just paced here:

Finally, after more than hour, Elena was wheeled by. Brian was told that his daughter and that they needed a whole package of diapers, a whole package of wipes, and all of her clothes immediately. He was not allowed to touch her, hold her, or even spend a minute alone with her. This is all he saw for the next 4 hours:

He then went to our room and waited for me – or any word of me. He waited there another hour and a half. By that time, he had convinced himself I was dead and was trying to figure out how he’d be a single dad. Oh, my heart just breaks for all he went through. When I was finally brought in the room, he wasn’t even there! The TV was on some horror show (he had it on for background and didn’t even know what was on it!). He was out buying more diapers. When we finally saw each other, we cried and cried.

I had been told not to talk because it would increase the gas in my stomach. But, I HAD to talk to my husband. And then I slept. Around 5pm, Elena was brought into our room with strict instructions that we were NOT to pick her up yet. I still don’t get that. So, I still couldn’t even nurse her, much less hold her! I remember seeing her and just thinking, “She’s beautiful. So, so beautiful.”

Finally, I was allowed to nurse. OH the misery. It went so bad. And all the “help” I got contradicted itself so I ended up more confused than helped. She would not latch, it hurt like crazy, my milk took 4 days to come in, they convinced me she wasn’t getting enough food so they gave her 2oz of formula at EVERY feeding even though she was almost 8lbs! Everyone insisted on “helping the ducts open” which included a lot of pinching, pulling, and squeezing until I bled and cried and still had a baby who wouldn’t wake up and wouldn’t nurse and wouldn’t latch… it was awful.

They left the catheter for the epidural in so they could continue to give me strong pain meds on Thursday. But, they wanted me to get up and move around as much as possible. So, I walked and paced around our room until all of a sudden, I had such horrible back pain, I couldn’t move – it was worse than the incision. I called my nurse and she said she could take it out, but it would keep me from having any strong medication so she suggested I wait. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and early afternoon, I had her take it out. Ah – relief! Finally. When she pulled it out, we realized the problem was that it had gone crooked in my back. It was a perfect “L” shape when she pulled it out of my back.

I had a horrible time getting up and moving around. We have finally decided it MUST be because they did the surgery in the middle of the strong contraction, so all my muscles were tight when they slit through them. I just could not recover from this stupid thing! Saturday, I started developing a sore throat, but I did not care – I just wanted to get home! We’d be in the stupid clinic since Tuesday; I was DONE. I wanted to be home. I wanted to take care of my baby the way I wanted to – I wanted my husband to be able to change her diaper without a nurse saying, “You’re going too slow! Move!” I wanted to be able to sleep in between feedings without a nurse coming in to put in a new I.V. and not warning me beforehand, just beginning the process while I’m still asleep!

Saturday, I did get a free manicure (that was nice!), and then we were GONE. Brian stopped at the grocery store to get groceries while I waited in the car with Elena. He bought me my celebratory millkshake from Burger King (the prize I’d told myself I’d get when it was all over!) and then we went home. Some friends were SO NICE in bringing me dinner that first night. By evening, I had a cold and was coughing which KILLED my incision. I coughed for the first two weeks. We think it was the drastic change in temperature. It was about 80 in the clinic and no more than 60 at home those first few nights. Ugh. Anyway – I could barely get around the house, couldn’t get out of bed by myself, couldn’t even shower by myself. Brian had to cook (only one trip up and down stairs a day so I had to choose wisely!), help the baby latch every two hours, change the baby’s diaper during the night, bathe the baby, and do his own job here on campus.

I had a hard time bonding. I have never admitted that publicly before, but it’s true. I had a hard time bonding and I was scared to death of being home alone with her. The first time Brian left me to take someone somewhere, I cried all morning, begging him not to go. He had to show me how to change the baby, assure me I could do it, and he called me every 20 min to make sure I was okay. I was terrified I’d do something wrong. Brian did all the major stuff at the beginning; I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how and I was afraid I’d do something wrong.

Nursing was horrible for the first 2 months. Once I figured out how to get Elena to latch without Brian’s help, the pain about drove me insane. I’d have a meltdown before every nursing session, especially as the days wore on. By nighttime, I would just sit in the rocking chair and cry while Elena screamd in the other room for food. I just couldn’t do it. The pain would shoot down my right arm and make my fingers numb. We think, though we’re not for sure, that it partly had to do with the shingles that were still healing (they were basically gone when Elena was born, but I was still scarred and sensitive. In the clinic, when they helped me shower the next day, the two nurses literally stood there and touched my side really gently and said, “Wow – we’ve never seen someone so scarred before!” Between the incision, the stretch marks the dog gave me, and the shingles – all on my right side – I looked like I’d been through a battle! And lost. Badly.).

And then….. the smoke cleared. And all of a sudden, the nightmare turned into…

… which has grown into this:

Am I healed? Physically, I believe so. Emotionally? Honestly – no. Not yet. Yes, I want another baby. I love being a mommy. But, getting there was rough. I want to try for a VBAC. That’s what I’m praying for. But, Brian’s right (as usual) when he tells me that if a C is God’s will for me, then that is what He deems best. So, we’ll wait. And we’ll see.

It’s now 1am and a giant spider just landed on my leg out of nowhere which means I need to shut off the light before I get freaked out by all the night creatures that I like to pretend don’t actually exist in my house. Thanks for reading this saga. I think I needed to just let it out. 

Rejoice Always!

Every time I get down, Brian tells me to read the Psalms. We are called to give thanks to God through everything! So, in lieu of a blog that’s full of discouragement, I thought I would use this time to remind myself of things I’m thankful for and/or blessed with at this time in my life. So here goes…

  • Of course, of course, of course, my beautiful baby girl. She turns 1 (ONE!) on September 29. Elena Ruth is my JOY, my love. To hear her giggle and laugh takes every cloud away. She started walking this week – August 31! And to think this time last year, I was laid up in bed with shingles, wondering how she would ever exit my giant body! 😉 I love this precious gift. I’m so blessed.

  • My handsome, smart, loving, sweet, compassionate husband. As we did our annual women’s retreat last weekend, I was reminded again of how many women there are who do NOT have husbands as wonderful as mine. I was able to attend the retreat, do my responsibilities, and not worry an ounce about my daughter because Brian stayed home with her – cooked her meals, took her for walks, cleaned the house, did our giant loads of unending laundry, and still got his work done. Superman. Pretty sure.

  • My little school. It’s my ministry and I take it seriously, as my own. I’m thankful for the days I get to spend in here. I’m trying to make it my own and I do enjoy teaching – I really do!

  • My house. I know, this is a picture of a doghouse, but it’s right next to my house! And this is what currently makes our house even more “homey.” Brian is constantly fixing up our house to make it more ours. He does little things, like hanging coat racks and my birdfeeder, fixing the new floor so it stays longer, cutting the grass out front… I love my little house. It’s just..perfect.

  • My Eva. Eva takes care of Elena and seriously, these two are like sisters! Eva is a huge help. She watches Elena all the time – as much as possible. She cleans my house the way I want it cleaned (phew!). She disciplines my baby the way I need her to. She’s my little sweetheart and we consider her family.
  • allrecipes.com I live on this website. The only thing missing is a little button that says, “Dinner Tonight.” ha! On my to-do list tonight is to make [ahem, yet another] batch of Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies. heavenly.

  • Passionfruit! MmMMM the fruit of the gods. This stuff is a.m.a.z.i.n.g. I feel sorry for all of you who have never experienced the taste of fresh passionfruit juice, passionfruit slushies, passionfruit ice cream, passionfruit cheesecake.. I am blessed to live in a land where passionfruit is in season year-round.

  • This week, some of our very good friends back in PA flew to Ethiopia to pick up their baby girl! They have been waiting since the end of last year to actually go get her. They visited her in March and had to leave her there only to fail court I don’t know how many times and wonder if they’d ever bring her home. But, God is just amazing and they got to take Tsega out of her orphange on her first birthday. Is God cool or what? Adoption is an amazing thing. Someday, we’d like to adopt as well, if God allows. In the meantime – congrats, Joanna. We’re so happy for you! Read her blog at:  http://www.mymeanderings.net/
  • I’m thankful for a good meeting today with parents of two of my kids. Tough meeting, but a necessary one. I think it was good that I did it, even though it basically made me sick before I actually went in! In the words of Rex the Dinosaur on “Toy Story”: “I don’t like confrontation!”
  • Tomorrow is a yardsale. They are few and far between here in Peru (like, two a year), so this is fun! Tomorrow should include some higher end items (nicer district of Lima), so I’m looking forward to it. Last year, we bought Elena’s bedding, her butterfly she played on, and her bouncy chair. Score. Don’t know if we’ll be as lucky this year! But, we’ll see! Here’s her bedding:

  • Okay, honestly, can I say this? I am thankful for our television! How shallow do I sound right now? Oh well. Judge me if you want; you’re the sucker reading my blog. Anyway – we got satellite last year when another missionary couple left. We split the cost with something like 4 other missionary families so it’s next to nothing for satellite with DVR. sweet. It’s Brian and I’s escape at the end of the day. We have our favorite shows – in English – from the States – and it’s just… nice. We get lots of movie channels, so we’re never lacking for a movie night. I don’t know; it’s just… comforting somehow. Shallow? Maybe. Do I care? Not really.
  • Our mission board, Bible Centered Ministries International. We just love being a part of this global team. We know quite a few missionaries who just aren’t fully content with their board, but stick with them anyway…not sure why. We love being a part of BCM – they feel like a giant, extended family. Our President has had breakfast in our little house and knows us by name – he comments on my pictures on Facebook, for goodness’ sake. We appreciate our board and all they do for us. It’s a joy serving with them. We are celebrating 75 years this year and our president just went to India with his wife to celebrate with our work over there. Wow, so inspiring.
  • Skype. My parents use Skype to call us on our house phone and we call them on our computer other times to use the camera. Even though the connection is not always good, at least I get to see them and they get to see the baby! My brother has Skype now, too, so hopefully we can connect up that way so the cousins can see each other.

  • In closing today, I guess I have to say, our new puppy really does make me happy. I am thankful for our new puppy. It was really hard leaving Gunther, our old dachshund from the States, with my parents when we left. Brian and I both grew up with dogs and it’s weird not having a pet. Even though she’s more work than I cared to have at this time in my life, she’s awfully sweet and makes me smile. There’s always something nice about having somebody always happy to see you, someone who greets you every time you come and go, and who gives you kisses relentlessly. Mota, our little eraser, is my last blessing for the day.
I leave you with one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken here in Peru, from the window of my house. It was taken in summer last year when I was pregnant. Lately, the weather has every now and then felt a little more spring-like and a little less winter. So, here’s my hope – that summer is around the corner! 🙂 And I am blessed to live in a country where our summer is so wonderful ~ and on the way!

September 2011
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