A Year of Existence: A Letter to my Son

My Dear Sweet T,

A year ago this week we learned that you existed. A little line in a small round window told us that you were here. Tiny little you existed, implanted in my womb. We were so happy, so anxious, so thankful for you. We were happy because we, with the help of God, had brought another human being into the world. You have added to the perfection of the universe by your very act of existing. And you have been doing it for a year.
So, I gave my body and my heart to you. I cared for you from the beginning. We went to the doctor, learned that I had low progesterone and, with care, did twice weekly injections to help you live inside me. 

When we had the early ultrasound and saw your little heart beating, we were so thankful. You were alive. So, I gave myself to you through all the discomforts of nausea, sore injection sites, blood draws, fatigue. I loved you from the beginning. 

I prayed for you. I knew what life with a new baby would be like, and I anticipated your arrival. 

Another labor of love was the labor it took for you to come out. You were ready, and childbirth happened. Nine hours of labor, 25 minutes of hard pushing, and you came out after so many weeks of growing. All 10 lbs, 3 oz of you came out. It took all my strength to get you out. And then I held you in my arms. I saw your little face looking into mine and smelled your newborn smell.

Life is so busy, centered around you. Family life is always centered around the baby’s needs, isn’t it? If we stretch you one way, we know we will have to give you more care later. But you are so delightful, your existence is a gift for us all.

And here you are now. We have had a whole year together. I have nourished you and helped you grow a whole year. You are a whole 16.5 pounds of cuddly, lovable, little personhood. There is so much more growing and loving to do, and now that you exist, you always will, you with your immortal soul…and I am so glad to exist knowing you.

Love Always,
Under His Mercy,

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 18–brought to you by Quiet Time

1. Nine years ago today I woke up to go to the 6:30 am Mass in Christ the King Chapel. I woke at 6:07, got dressed in running clothes, stumbled down the second floor Marian Hall to the bathroom, popped in my contacts, and pulled my hair up. Then I rushed quickly back to my room to grab my phone and raced off to Mass. I noticed my phone light up with a call as I was walking. My sister was in labor. In labor! A couple of weeks early! I promised to pray, especially at Mass. After Mass, I went for a short run. This was back when I convinced M to go running with me. I think it lasted about two runs. But anyway, I was trying to get into running. It was a tough jog, but I offered it up for my laboring sister. And by the time we were walking to the cafeteria for breakfast, my new baby niece was born. Hooray! And now she is nine years old. Happy Birthday to my first niece!

2. The garden is still going strong, though our tomatoes are not ripening as quickly as they had been, and our cucumbers are down to once a week or so. I picked this carrot yesterday.

I think it is part Twi’lek or at least distantly related to Bib Fortuna. (Please, please, catch my Star Wars reference.)

3. Our morning glories on the side of the house have really taken off.

This was a winning experiment, so we plan to do it again next year. I am going to let each girl pick a seed packet. Not pictured are our annuals. I have a sense for what works in our side garden and what does not. I am forming a plan beyond, “lets try some random flowers.”

4. Fall clothes… I need some jeans that fit. I found a great pair last September while thrifting, but my PP midsection is far from being ready for those… so I need to go out and find new ones. M promised me some shopping time soon, but I am not sure that the baby will let me go… I also am going to hunt down a cute trench coat, because we have enough chilly days that are not freezing that I am ready in find a nice cool weather jacket that will last and fit my varying sizes.

5. Guess who has been irritable, drooling, having trouble napping for long stretches and has two swollen bumps on his bottom gum?

This guy…wish us luck…

6. Quiet time has been my saving grace these days. Even quiet time with T is awake is so so necessary. The rules for the non-nappers are: stay in your quiet time space and play quietly until I say you can get up… we may or may not milk two hours out of them most afternoons. T sleeps whenever he is tired still, but F (almost 3) sleeps habitually at 1:30pm or stays in her crib. If you have little kids who don’t nap and don’t do quiet time, I highly recommend it…

7. And check out this artsy shot. It cracks me up…


Seven Quick Takes:Friday, August 21

1. This has been a great month for meeting up with internet peoples. A couple weeks ago, Nell (who lives a few miles from us) hosted Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas and some other awesome friends Jacqui, Laura, Anna, Nancy, and more at her house for a ladies evening. I haven’t had that much fun hanging out with ladies in a long time. T and I stayed out past my bedtime, and even then I did not really want to leave. But responsibility and limited time to sleep at night finally called me home.

2. Tomorrow, sweet Nell is hosting people again. (She is very generous with her awesome house.) The Blessed is She Minnesota brunch is tomorrow morning! There are supposed to be over 50 ladies coming! We are going to be doing small group discussion, and apparently I get to be a leader…so, hopefully I can pull that one off. I have not had to be a small group leader since college, but I was just telling M that one of these days someone is going to discover that I used to lead all sorts of things (like in college) and make me do it again…I am very excited for the brunch, especially since I am bringing watermelon, which I don’t eat very much since G is allergic.

3. It would not be a summer quick takes without a discussion of the garden. I made my first roasted tomato sauce. Turning these: 

Into this:

It was delicious. And in case you were wondering. Three pounds of grape and cherry tomatoes makes about a three and a half cups of sauce.

4. I was so excited about this sauce that I impulse bought a 25 lb box of Roma tomatoes at the farmer’s market last Friday and turned it all into roasted tomato sauce. We have 27 cups of sauce for the winter in our freezer. And my advice to you is, make sure you have some ventilation besides the A/C running if you are going to run both gas ovens for 2.5 hours on a hot summer morning. Otherwise you might set off your carbon monoxide detectors…

5. Speaking of freezer, we finally got around to buying that deep freeze. You may remember my photo of the packed freezer from before T was born. This was our normal upper freezer above our refrigerator. And it was packed full of freezer meals.

As we ate the meals, I started adding fresh summer fruit, and with the decision to buy a 1/4 cow this Fall, we knew it was time to get a deep freeze. Plus, we just had a boy and one day he will be a teenager and eat lots and lots.

 Lots of frozen fruit, and still room for the cow! Hooray!

6. There is a legend on my father’s side about two of my aunts. First, I have to provide a bit of background. On my father’s side there is Lebanese ancestry and Irish and Scots ancestry (and a number of others), so of him and his 6 siblings, 3 of them ended up looking more Lebanese and the other 4 had a more Irish/Scots look. Well legend has it on one day when one of his sisters was sick another one went to get her work for her, and the teacher was in complete disbelief that they were actually sisters because their complexions and hair color were so radically different. Well, I think the same thing might happen to these two:

She has all the Greek and Lebanese, and he has all the Scots/Irish/English. Those eyes of his are so light, but I am not sure they will stay blue.

7. We are doing a three day school week starting Monday, but are also in the midst of three weekends in a row of visiting family. This weekend is my father’s sister and her husband. Next weekend is my sister, her husband, and her three girls plus one boy. Labor day weekend brings in my in-laws. This will make up for the lack of road trip this summer! And then it will be school full time until Christmas (school full time means 2 hours a day…)…


That’s it for this week! Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, August 7–Summer, never leave me!

These all came from the garden. Yum!

1. I am really soaking up summer right now. I don’t really want it ever to end: sunshine, warm days, garden fresh veggies, flowers everywhere, barefoot children, and squishy bare baby legs. It does not really get better than this… please summer, don’t go away, ever…

2. This guy is smiling and cooing, and as F (2) says, “He is talking at you!” That is probably the most apt way to describe it: “talking at.” And we are getting some sleep at night, at least six hours most night of interrupted sleep is all I need as long as I can have my cold press coffee mid-morning after I have had my hot coffee with breakfast.

3. We checked out a beach at a local county park last Sunday. (The Twin Cities has amazing parks). It was perfect. The water was not too deep, there were umbrellas for shade for the baby, and the bathrooms were about 30 feet from where we laid our blanket. This was our plan for teaching the girls to swim this summer, but we might just have to give in and do lessons at some point. Anyway, the beach was nice and I did some coverless public breastfeeding to kick off World Breastfeeding Week (because everything needs a week I guess) and showed less skin than most of the other women on the beach, so there…

Not a nursing picture.

4. We have had the following conversation at dinner about 5 times in the last week:

G (6): “I still am going to be a nun when I grow up.”

L (4.5, and who previously expressed a desire to be a nun): “I think I might get married instead.”

F (2.5): “I am going to be a PRINCESS!”

Of course you are, F; dream big. Be who you want to be. You can keep the Disney Princesses out of you home, but your can’t take the dream out of their hearts. Actually, we do a lot of princess stories here, just sans Disney.

5. G came out of her room dressed like this the other morning.

Me (wondering if she is going emo): “You know, G, you are wearing all black.”

Her response?

“Some nuns wear all black everyday!”

Me: “True. Good point.”

6. Back in June, M and my mother took the girls strawberry picking. They came home with 30 lbs of strawberries, most of which we cleaned, crushed and froze. Well, last Sunday (the one before we went to the beach), we made a whole bunch of strawberry jam. So much so that we canned it in quarts and pints. With four kids we have moved up to club size canning!

7. And in case you don’t follow me on Instagram, check out these morning glories:

I love them!

That’s all folks… I guess this was a photo dump post…

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum!


Trying Not to Lose Hope and the Planned Parenthood Videos

That baby is my two month old T when he was 9 weeks gestation.

I have a confession to make: I have not watched any of the Planned Parenthood sting operation videos. I read the contents in detail of the first video and I went cold all over. I did not want to watch that. And each video gets worse. They say there are 8 more, and I wonder, can it get worse than it has?

But I also have another confession. I am guilty of losing hope that peoples’ hearts will change, that our country will stop the slaughtering of its unborn.

We made it to the early daily Mass yesterday morning, and the first reading from Numbers struck me. God told the Israelites that He was giving them a land flowing with milk and honey. So, they go and scout it out. The scouts come back and are completely without hope. There are giants living in this promised land. There is no way that they can ever live there. They will probably die before defeating those giants.

The abortion industry and Planned Parenthood have been giants in my life, big bad, unbeatable giants. Sure, we can get a mother to change her mind on occasion, but it is always going to be on the sly, outside the yellow painted line on the sidewalk. Since I was a child I have been praying for the end of abortion, outside clinics and everyday in my list of intentions.

 When the Israelites gave up hope in God’s promises, they were given 40 years exile.

We have been wandering in the legal desert for over 40 years, and babies are still dying and it is easy to give up hope. (And to clarify, I do not think that we legal abortion is punishment for our lack of hope; I think that it is easy to lose hope when evil is going on for so long.)

So, when these videos first started coming out, I have not been at all surprised by their content. But I have not been able to watch them. Merely the images of the murdered babies that accompany them have been horrific to view, making me feel sick and sorrowful. The written out descriptions of the content have been enough for me to know of the evil that I have known about since I was a little girl.

But I realized when I heard the doubts and hopelessness of the Israelites that by giving up on things ever changing, by losing hope, I am being just like them. So, I decided to try hoping again. It is okay to hope for good, even when the odds of things changing are slim. And I have never stopped praying for change. But maybe it is time to become more active again. Maybe it is time to take my family to pray outside the place where they slaughter babies again.

And when I decided this, I read my friend Rachel Lu’s article about how she believes that the Planned Parenthood videos are making a real change in the culture. And her reasons gave me even more hope. (Thanks, Rachel!)

Maybe these videos really will make a difference. Maybe I should watch them. But I am not sure I want to; it is never nice to watch evil. But I do hope that curiosity will get the best of others, and they will watch and their hearts will change.

The Interim State Conference in Idaho: AKA “Our Second Honeymoon”

Apparently M and I went on our “second honeymoon” last week, deemed so by our philosopher friend who happened to be at the same conference in Idaho with his family (we will call them “the P’s”). Who wouldn’t want their second honeymoon to take place with a newborn tagging along at a philosophy conference on a lovely lake in Idaho. 
What better topic to have in mind on a second honeymoon than that awkward “Interim State” between Death and the Resurrection of the body. Will that really be us existing without our bodies or do we need our bodies to be us? Or will we really us but just not as complete as we should be? 
If you want to know these answers, look for some published papers that will be accepted for publication in the next 12-24 months and published in about 4-6 years once the journals make it through their backlog. Well, maybe some journals will manage to publish them in about 3…
The river and mountains between Boise and McCall, Idaho.

 So, the story starts last Tuesday when, Aunt J and Uncle T arrived to spend the night. The next morning, after dropping M, baby T, and I at the airport, the girls and the relatives headed to the farm in Wisconsin for the duration of our trip.

We flew for the first time with any of our children this trip, and traveling with just a newborn (that happens to be our fourth newborn) is super easy. Plus, everyone is deceived into thinking your baby is well-behaved because he just acts like all other newborns: eat, poop, sleep, repeat. The worst part of it was nights, because my rocking chair did not fit on the airplane. I think that hotels should offer rocking chairs as well as roll-away cribs.

The mountain range around McCall.
 So back to Wednesday, we were whisked through security at the airport and enjoyed a quiet early lunch. The flight was easy breezy as T slept the whole way until descent. He did not seem to mind the pressure changes. We enjoyed an early dinner and a local brew while we awaited our shuttle to McCall. A conference participant was on our flight, so they embarked on the philosophical discussion even then. It lasted the 2.5 hour whole shuttle ride with other conference participants. We met a lot of really neat philosophers at this conference. You would like them… even if some are wrong in their views… 😉

By the time we got to the hotel, T had had enough, and fussed for the next 4 hours until he fell asleep for 3 hours, woke up and then slept 3 more hours. So, Thursday morning, we were somewhat rested. Though I survived the morning on three cups of hotel coffee.

Ponderosa State Park, McCall, Idaho.
Thursday morning (while the Interim State was discussed in depth at the hotel by the conference participants) involved going to a state park with other philosophy families and their children and getting lost in the woods with some members of the P family. It was a nice hike. The one and four year old were really into the Idaho squirrel.

This is before we knew we were lost.

Being a fan of Terence Malick films has forever ruined being in the woods for me in that I hear Jim Caviezel’s voice in my head as I look up at trees saying things like, “all things shining” and “the glory”.

It was a beautiful day and I really did experience the glory in those woods.

Once we were rescued, we made it back to the hotel and I went out to lunch with M and a neat family (the B’s), napped with the baby in the hotel room while the conference went on, and then went out for a steak dinner with lots of participants and their families.

Friday morning was high 50s and windy, but we braved the beach and took in the view. When you are six weeks old on a day like this, you prefer to stay snuggled up to Mom.

The lake and the mountains were amazing. Once again we had lunch with the philosophers and rested in the hotel for the afternoon and watched the other families swim at the pool. Dinner involved fish and chips, two locally brewed beers, lively discussion on Purgatory, C.S. Lewis, and liturgy, and this amazing dessert! Since it is called a “grasshopper”, I highly recommend it for any feast of St. John the Baptist, except for his beheading when you have to eat cabbage.

Taste the glory.

And here is the first photo ever taken of just M and his son, which is not really, because we have all of those strangers mulling around in the background. I could not get him to smile. Maybe he is contemplating being in the Interim State and is not happy about it.

This was about as romantic as our “Second Honeymoon” got: A chilly walk to the lake as the sun was setting. I was longing for a sweater, and the baby was about to hit “fussy hour.”

Saturday, I leisurely read a book and drank coffee while the baby napped in his stroller and carseat. The conference ended at lunchtime, so we once again discussed philosophy over lunch (I mostly listened), and shuttled back to Boise for the night. Don’t even ask how the night at the Airport Inn went. Let’s just say we got coffee at the airport.

See, we went to the airport!

Here in this second photograph with “just” his son, M is kind of smiling, but the airport guy with the sticks is photo bombing.

We made it home safely to St. Paul, and Uncle T got us from the airport. The girls were happy and waiting for us.

So, ended our “second honeymoon.” I hope I get to go to another conference sometime before the next seven years are up…

A few last thoughts:
-Philosophy conferences are fun! Free hotels and eating out every meal! Also, always lively discussions at every meal!
-It takes three disposable baby wipes to do the work that one cloth wipe can do.
-It is nice to be able to talk to other adults for 4 days without interruptions beyond that of a needy newborn.
-I missed my other kids by the end.
-Hotels really need to have rocking chairs in the rooms, not just wrought iron ones at the pool.

How to Can Peaches With a Newborn in 10 Easy Steps

1. Send your husband to Hudson, WI to purchase the Georgia peaches that have been shipped in by Tree Ripe Citrus Co (a wonderful company that makes living in the north less bleak by bringing amazing fresh southern fruit, plus Michigan blueberries). Try to keep four kids aged six and under happy while he is gone.

2. When the bushel arrives on your dining room table, lay the peaches out in a single layer on cardboard to ripen for two days. Bounce the fussing baby in one arm while doing this.

3. Sleep in later than planned the day you want to can because the newborn kept you up for too many hours in the middle of the night. Attempt to set up for canning once everyone is dressed and fed. Tell the 6 and 4 year old to play with the 2 year old and stay out of the kitchen. Nurse the newborn.

4. Nurse the baby. Soothe the baby. Watch your husband: wash the rings, wash the lids, wash the jars, fill the canner and bring it to a boil, make light sugar syrup, wash and blanch peaches. Put sleeping baby into carrier and help.

5. Peel and pit a 1/4 bushel of peaches. Re-soothe baby who is fighting the sling but wants to be asleep.

6. Fill jars with peaches and hot syrup. Place screaming baby in bouncy seat while hurrying to get load in canner. Place lid and ring on each jar. Process in boiling water canner for 30 minutes.

7. Order pizza for lunch. Nurse newborn. Get the older children into their quiet times and the 2 year old down for nap.

8. Repeat steps 5-6 until peaches are all canned. Optional: After lunch lay sleeping baby in cradle swaddled for an afternoon nap.

9. Clean kitchen and happily greet friend who is bringing you dinner for that night.

10. Boil the peach peelings for 30 minutes to make peach juice. Leave out overnight. Ask your husband to help make peach jelly the next afternoon.

Stats: We canned 3/4 bushel of peaches into 21 quart jars and froze 4 quarts of slices. We made 11 pints of peach jelly with the juice. The last 1/4 bushel we have been eating for a week. Yum!

The Birth Story of the Masculine Child

Okay folks, for those of you who like this sort of thing, this is a BIRTH STORY. There will be discussion of blood, waters, measurements, contractions, and other birthy things. If that is not something you like, then feel free and please do, skip this one!


When does this story really start? Just like my last labor, I spent well over a week having regular mild contractions for most of my waking time. Some hours I did not, but most I did. It was no problem, just kind of annoying.

About 10 days before the birth on a Monday (and 8 before due date), I had my first, “this could be it” evening, with intensifying contractions. And once I called around for childcare back-up they stopped. That is the way of babies.

When I had my 39 week exam on Wednesday, I let the doctor check my dilation and I was 3 cm, which is not too bad a week before the due date. But the baby’s head was not engaging. Dr. M gave me some exercises to help the head descend, but no matter how often I did them, head stayed up. After the exam, I had another several hours of increasingly painful contractions, and reluctantly sent M to teach the first of his summer night classes. He was teaching for six weeks on Mondays and Wednesdays, and was gone from 4-10pm both of those nights. My mother’s helper was coming that night to feel out the routine before baby came, so I figured if it was labor, at least she would be here already. But contractions stopped again after about 3 hours.

Again on Friday, I had 3 more hours of painful contractions, which stopped as soon as we sat down to wait them out through a movie. And during all of these episodes of pre-labor, I would text my parents and ask them to pray that the contractions would stop if this was not labor or be very clearly labor if it was. So, we got what we prayed for each time.

Things settled down, and I even made it past my Tuesday due date to my 40 week appointment on Wednesday. I had not dilated beyond 3 cm AT ALL, and Dr. M could not even feel the baby’s head. She got worried that the baby had flipped. So, she brought me into the ultrasound room to find the baby’s head, and when she could not find it (I guess it is hard to find a head on a huge overdue baby), I started mentally preparing for a C-section delivery.

After a few more minutes of searching, she called in the tech, who, much to my relief, found the head down in my pelvis right away.

I then questioned Dr. M about 10 times to be assured that even though there was no head engagement whatsoever, I could still go into labor whenever. She explained that when it is not your first delivery, engagement sometimes does not happen until active labor anyway, and for this baby that ended up being the case.

Oh and the other funny thing about that appointment was that I had gained 4 pounds in one week, and everyone said that I was still “all baby.” I blame the donuts I consumed that week and the “due date” cake I baked for the baby. I figured that if he was not going to come on the due date, then I could at least have chocolate cake. I started to wonder if I was going to have a huge baby.

That evening was another Wednesday night with M teaching, but I decided to let my mother’s helper have a night off. I just had a feeling that it was important for me to have a night with just me and the girls. We had a nice evening, and I savored those last few hours with them and no baby. I guess I had a feeling things might happen soon.

My parents have started calling it the Spencer Way and my close friend in St. Paul does not understand how we do it, but we work hard to have morning to pre-dinner time labors. We also really wanted the baby to come on a Thursday, so that M would not have to teach for as a long as possible (until Monday).

And according to our plans, Thursday morning, right at 7:00 am, my contractions started. I am not joking. After breakfast and coffee M and I decided to do some of my house cleaning chores (since it is summer he does not go to campus everyday and had been helping me with chores for a couple of weeks anyway). He agreed to vacuum, if I would do the dusting. At this point, I figured, it was nothing to call anyone about. Though the contractions were not slowing down.

At 9:00 am I went on Facebook to discover the above mentioned St. Paul friend had given birth to her son at 4:30 am several days before her due date. I told M the news, and said, “I better be in labor, because it would not be fair!” Plus, we had been joking for months that we were going to have our babies on the same day and at the same hospital.

I decided to take a shower. Things kept on happening and when I got out, we decided to call Aunt J two hours away in Wisconsin to see if she was available to come to town to be with the girls. She had a wide open day and could come whenever we were *sure* it was labor. I was still only 3 hours into contractions, so I did not want to make the call yet. I wanted to have at least 4 hours before I made the call. I decided to work on dusting, but kept on having to sit down during contractions. They were getting bigger!

Around 11am (after 4 hours of labor), we started looking to see who locally could watch the children until Aunt J arrived. We got a hold of my mother’s helper, but she was going to be busy from 11:45am-12:45pm (at Mass) unless we decided we needed her before that. I was not sure what to do, but thought that maybe I could wait until then.

I decided to call my mom and ask her to pray, but she proved to be unreachable (turns out she was somewhere without cell phone reception the day after my due date… silly mom). So, we had to pray alone for clear signs of labor.

Then, as what seemed an answer to my prayers and uncertainty, at 11:30 am, I had a HUGE, ACTIVE LABOR contraction, and I said to M, “This really is it.” We need to go to the hospital. I can’t remember if the dusting got finished. Maybe M did the downstairs? I got most of the upstairs before this happened.

That huge contraction set us in motion. M called the mother’s helper to have her come over, and called Aunt J who said that she could get here by 3pm. I looked for the hospital number to call, because, I had forgotten until that moment that we had to call first. There I was on my knees leaning over the foot of my bed during contractions, searching frantically on the iPad for the Maternity Care number. We found it eventually, and I called, explained the situation, and they said to come in.

We gathered our things, M made the girls lunch, I sat in my favorite glider rocking chair, calling people to let them know what was going on. Still no Mom, Dad, or my middle sister or brother. My oldest sister answered, and got excited, and promised to pray. The mother’s helper arrived, we said goodbye to the girls, and we left.

We drove to the hospital. They had not entirely fixed all of the winter potholes and bumps in the roads. Do you know what it is like to be almost in transition and go over a pothole? Not fun. But I had a short list of really important intentions I focused on during my labor, and offering up the pain for a friend in a desperate and awful family situation made it a grace-filled labor for me and later I learned a grace-filled day for her.

I did experience some relief on the way. We were almost there and a huge contraction was coming on, and right before us the light changed to red. I had a nice still 60 seconds to ride out that massive contraction while we waited for the light to change.

We decided to park in the ER lot this time. Last labor I walked from the main garage. I told M that I did not think that I could walk through these. So, we went into the same ER and waiting room we last entered when I was bleeding too much after the loss of JP at 9 weeks over a year ago. It brought back a few memories. We sat in different seats and talked about that day. And we were thankful and said a prayer for this happier circumstance.

After about five minutes, a nurse came down to wheel me to Maternity Care. I suppose I could have walked, but why walk when you are 9+ months pregnant and are offered a wheel chair?We discussed with the generous wheel chair pusher how we used to live in Buffalo, NY and all the snow they had gotten there last winter.

I got to stand at the counter when we arrived in Maternity Care and hand over things like my ID and insurance card. We even mentioned the names of our friends who had a baby at the same hospital that morning, and they said, “Oh yeah, they are here!”

So, we finally got to our room around 1 pm, and I was still contracting. I did the whole sample giving thing, and tried to put on the gown. But honestly, those elbow-length thick sheet-like sleeves really bother me, and there is no way I can relax properly with them on.

I decided to keep on my own shirt and tied the gown around my waist as a skirt. I think it was pretty brilliant. I could maintain my modesty a bit longer (not walk around bottomless), and not bleed all over my own clothes. It was a win-win situation.

Anyway, they did a bit of monitoring and finally checked me, to announce that I was a FULL 7 CM already. I did not even feel like I was in transition. Labor had been intense, but not that bad up to that point.

They called Dr. M, and she decided to come right away. I was only a bit worried that I was not going to get my antibiotics in before delivery. If I got them in time I could go home 24 hours after delivery, but if I did not, I would have to stay TWO nights. I sleep badly everywhere but my own bed, so getting home ASAP was at the top of my list, besides having a healthy delivery and baby.

They got the IV going around 2pm, and Dr. M showed up sometime around then. She then got me to do all sorts of things to get the baby’s head to descend. I spent awhile kneeling on the bed over the birthing ball rocking my hips during contractions, and discovered that counter-pressure on my back relieved the pain of TRANSITION contractions almost entirely.

To make up for the ease of those contractions, she had me lay on my back during four contractions and stretched my bent leg across my belly so that I could not breathe. The point of these was to mimic a lunge to get the head DOWN.

Thankfully we switched back to the ball on the bed after that. We also tried a peanut shaped ball which also helped me relax on my side but open things up for the head to move downward. During this time (maybe between 2:30 and 3) I checked out at 9 cm.

So, there I was at 9 cm, water intact, baby’s head still not engaged, and started to experience the urge to push. We hung out like that for awhile. I decided to get into an upright pushing position, but my pushes were ineffective. We made it past 3pm and my antibiotics were done. We made it to 3:15, and my water was still hanging out intact. I knew that if my water would break, I would be really pushing the baby out.

To tell you the truth, the contractions were doing nothing at this point, and I was getting a bit bored of being stuck in limbo between transition and pushing. Though maybe it was the best thing for me and the baby to have a calm before the pushing.

Finally at 3:30, I asked, “If we break my water, do you think the baby will be coming out?” Dr. M’s face lit up, and she said, “Yes.” I confirmed with M whether he was okay with it, and he was. So, I asked her to break the water.

Then all of a sudden, my bed was being raised, the bottom was taken off, and they set up a bag off the end of the bed to catch the water. So, she went to break my water, which was fascinating for me, because I have never had it done before. The other three labors, it broke on its own at 9 cm. She used a dull plastic rod, but my membranes proved resistant to breaking. She made it through one layer, and then told me: “You have membranes of steel!”

Looking back, it is funny to me that she said this, because I spent the last three weeks of pregnancy wondering at least once a day if my water had broken and was trickling, when in fact, my membranes never wanted to break on their own.

So, anyway, the water broke and gushed, and the baby’s head was right there. She checked my dilation again, and this time I was ready, but had a slight cervical lip (which is common after multiple deliveries), which she was going to manually help the baby around. So, I began to really push.

The nurse was monitoring the heart-rate holding the doppler with her hand on the left side of my belly. After the first couple of pushes, the heartbeat switched to the right side. The baby had turned, and finally the head was engaging.

Then came the hardest part, or so I thought. I started pushing the head out, it took a couple more pushes and the head was out, but the body did not slip out (like it always had in the past).

Dr. M told me I had to push the shoulders out, which were wider then the head…

I feel like these words are not properly describing the intensity of the situation. The baby’s head was 15 inches around when I pushed it out, and then broad shoulders, and then finally I had to push even more to get the baby’s body out that was just as wide as the head…

It took me 25 minutes from water breaking to getting that baby out (with baby #3 it took 5 minutes, with the first two it took 10 minutes each). It was a long, super uncomfortable 25 minutes, and Dr. M even had to help pull the baby.

At 3:54pm (right before the cafeteria opened for dinner orders and almost 9 hours from the first contraction), the baby was out. A true Spencer.

“What is it, Dad?” Dr. M asked.
“A boy!”
And that I could not believe, “Really?!”

A boy! But it felt so right. “He is a BIG boy!” they all said.

And he was snuggling on my chest, my big 10 lb, 3 oz, boy was born. The cord pulsed awhile, and M got to cut it when it was done. I did no even care about the massive placenta coming out next, which was “as big as some babies”. I required some stitching up, and once that was done, baby T nursed like a champ. And I got my cranberry juice and ginger ale “cocktail”, which I remembered so fondly after F was born, and asked for specifically.

M called Aunt J, and she put her phone on speaker for the girls. “You have a brother!” he told them, and they responded with squeals and screams. We then called everyone else, and M posted this blurry iPad picture of me breastfeeding to Facebook.

And what made things even better, is that I did not hemorrhage this time. I always hemorrhage. I wonder if it was the hour I spent at 9 cm with my water intact, and the longer pushing phase that helped. Apparently, when you don’t lose 1.5 liters of blood after delivery you feel about 1000x better afterwards than when you do. They didn’t even do the next morning hemoglobin check.

The main concern was that T was so big, they were worried that he was going to have his blood sugar drop too low. The poor baby had his heel stuck before and after nursing for the first 12 hours of life, but he was fine and my milk came in while we were still in the hospital.

After the medical staff left us all alone, M realized that he was hungry. He had missed lunch, so had I, but I don’t eat when I am in transition. We decided to have him go home and see the kids and help Aunt J for a hour and get some dinner. T was sleeping and eating fine, and I ordered my dinner and sat to wait for it.

I messaged my friend, to tell her I was down the hall from her, and she, her baby, and her husband came for a visit. We chatted a few minutes until the nurse came and fumbled with something hooked up to me still.

Nursing stupor.

So, we spent one bad night in the hospital, and a restful morning and afternoon. Aunt J brought the girls for a visit in the morning, and they were all really happy and took turns holding T. The lactation consultant came, and saw that I was fine… fourth babies and an experienced mom make their jobs easy!

I even got to receive Communion in the afternoon. And at 6pm on Friday, we checked out and went home.

Hey big guy,  newborns are not supposed to be this big in their carseats!

It was good to go home. The girls were really happy to have T and I there. They all got out their dolls and pretended to nurse them while I fed T. It was pretty funny.

And that is it. I think I covered everything…

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, July 10

1. Tomorrow is the last day of the novena to Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin! I will post a link to a litany for their feast day. I had forgotten since last year how powerful and realistic the daily reflections are on marriage and family life. When these two are canonized, they are going to be an even greater example for marriage and family life.

2. I had a birthday since we last did quick takes, with my traditional chocolate peanut butter cup pie. Also, here is the only photo of me and T since I was in the hospital.

 3. My sister asked for more baby photos. I have not really been able to take many photos of the baby. Here is one from last week.

 But today I got his FIVE WEEK old self dressed in his first 3-6 month outfit (he is in a cloth diaper), fed him, and he was happy. I set him down to snap a photo and he did this. This is why we don’t have lots of photos of the baby.

 4. Garden update! Our lettuce harvest was massive and delicious. There are still a few plants that have not bolted. And I am trying a second planting in a shadier spot. The cold crops don’t like the heat of the summer. The peas are still going strong. The chard has been delicious. The carrots, cabbages, and leeks are still coming.

 Here is the first of our cucumbers.

 5. Other Garden: These nine tomato plants (in front of the lilac bush) are covered in grape, cherry, or yellow pear tomatoes waiting to ripen. We are going to have tomatoes coming out of our ears soon. The pepper plants are not really growing, so we will see. The herbs are doing well. And those are potato plants in the far back.

6. We did some peach canning yesterday, but I am going to give it its own post next week, because a days worth of canning deserves its own post. For real.

7. In case you missed it, M and I published our second article for ChurchPOP reviewing the films on the Vatican Film List. This time was the Religion category.

I am linking up with Bonnie at “A Knotted Life” who is hosting this week for Kelly.

Learning to Enjoy the Waiting Time of Recovery

In anticipation of the birth of little T, I talked about how I really was not looking forward to the immediate post-partum recovery time. But I also have to make a confession, I am an impatient person. I confess impatience and my struggles in how I handle it every time I go to the Sacrament of Confession.

I have been trying to be okay with sitting around, sleeping, resting, bathing, waiting to feel better. I have been doing pretty well, but perhaps not as well as I should. The weather is so lovely, I look out the window and see people going for walks, the children playing in the yard, and all I feel up for is napping, reading, and cuddling the baby. I am impatient to feel better so that summer does not pass me by. I am impatient to go for walks. I am impatient to feel normal again. But when a shower is enough to make me tired for the rest of the morning, I know that I have to wait.

I complained about feeling impatient last night to M, and we sat down to do a little silent prayer time. I am back to reading Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales for like the fifth time since we had G six years ago. It is so full of reminders that I doubt that I will never stop going back to it. The last section I read, the night before T was born was on patience. I read it again, and, well God knew what I needed to hear:

As to the trials which you will encounter in devotion (and they are certain to arise), bear in mind our dear Lord’s words: “A woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world.”

You, too, have conceived in your soul the most gracious of children, even Jesus Christ, and before He can be brought forth you must inevitably travail with pain; but be of good cheer, for when these pangs are over, you will possess an abiding joy, having brought such a man into the world. And He will be really born for you, when He is perfected in your heart by love, and in your actions by imitating His life.

When you are sick, offer all your pains and weakness to our Dear Lord, and ask Him to unite them to the sufferings which He bore for you. Obey your physician, and take all medicines, remedies and nourishment, for the Love of God, remembering the vinegar and gall He tasted for love of us; desire your recovery that you may serve Him; do not shrink from languor and weakness out of obedience to Him, and be ready to die if He wills it, to His Glory, and that you may enter into His Presence.

Bear in mind that the bee while making its honey lives upon a bitter food: and in like manner we can never make acts of gentleness and patience, or gather the honey of the truest virtues, better than while eating the bread of bitterness, and enduring hardness. And just as the best honey is that made from thyme, a small and bitter herb, so that virtue which is practised amid bitterness and lowly sorrow is the best of all virtues.

Gaze often inwardly upon Jesus Christ crucified, naked, blasphemed, falsely accused, forsaken, overwhelmed with every possible grief and sorrow, and remember that none of your sufferings can ever be compared to His, either in kind or degree, and that you can never suffer anything for Him worthy to be weighed against what He has borne for you.

Consider the pains which martyrs have endured, and think how even now many people are bearing afflictions beyond all measure greater than yours, and say, “Of a truth my trouble is comfort, my torments are but roses as compared to those whose life is a continual death, without solace, or aid or consolation, borne down with a weight of grief tenfold greater than mine.”

-Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, Part 3, Chapter 3, “Patience”

So, even now, I pray for more patience and more joy in being with my newly born baby and in my newly post-partum achey, sore, tired, generally exhausted state. I am not supposed to be doing anything besides taking care of me and baby, and I will work to enjoy it patiently. And when that fails, I will look to the Cross, which carried me through labor and will carry me through now.

This little guy is much more comfort than trouble for sure.

And honestly, I am mostly enjoying it. It is just the sudden moments of impatience that show me I need to grow.