Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Birth of Katherine Elizabeth

I awoke at 4am experiencing contractions every 15-20 minutes. Just often enough to not be able to really get back to sleep. I tried though, and told myself this might not be the real thing. For the last week and a half, contractions started and stopped, leaving me unsure about knowing when labor was really there. But something told me this might be it. After eating breakfast I found a ride out to the hospital to see my DR for the regular weekly checkup. We were staying at a guesthouse about 10 minutes from the hospital. The DR does rounds in the mornings and then begins seeing patients who are waiting outside his office. I arrived at the hospital around 8:30AM so I went over to see if the dentist had any openings. (The dentist is my DR's wife, and she had just repaired my root canal that had been chipping away. And now I had lost part of another filling in a different tooth.) She said she did not have any immediate openings, but would call me if she had a cancelation. So I went back to the DR's and waited for him. He showed up at 10AM and saw me right away. I was 3 1/2 cm and he said he could stretch it to 4cm. He predicted things would be happening today. I wanted to go back to the guesthouse right away, but I didn't have a ride. The person I came with would be there till 11AM. I decided to wait for her instead of calling a taxi. I walked across the street and bought a drink and some bananas from a vendor. I experienced a few harder contractions after my visit with the DR. On the way home we stopped at the towns biggest 'grocery' store. It is basically the size of a a gas station snack shop. So I bought a few things we needed for the next couple days. Then we went home and I had lunch with the family. They all went swimming after lunch, I thought about joining them, but thought I should try and rest. My contractions were still 20 or so minutes apart, but when they came they were strong. I laid down and read a bit, and sometime between 1-2pm my water broke. It was then I was convinced that this was really happening. The kids and Jeff had blown up my birthing pool for me to labor in and Jeff was in the process of filling it up. We were on the second floor of the guesthouse, so we were a little concerned about it getting too heavy for the floor. We only filled it halfway. I got in when my contractions were closer to five minutes apart and it really relieved the pressure I felt in my back. My contraction coping techniques were to be on my knees and lean over something, to take slow deep breaths in and out, and when they were more intense, to breath out with horse lips. I read about this in a book and it really seemed to help me. Jeff also poured water on my back. At around 3:30 we started timing contractions. For the next hour they averaged 3 minutes apart. I said we really needed to head to the hospital. We did not have our own car, but Jeff had talked to some people about borrowing one. He really didn't want to leave me to go take care of packing a car. He asked Drew to go get the keys for us. By the time Drew brought the keys back it was about 4:45 and the contractions were really intense. It became clear to both of us that we were not going anywhere at this point.

Side note: We had really wanted a home birth for this delivery, but we were not able to find a DR or midwife who would come and do that with us. I had no intention of delivering without a medical person in the room. Our plan had been to labor for as long as possible in the comfort of the guesthouse, and then head to the hospital. You have to understand the hospital here. The hospital in this town is run by western missionaries and it is the best one by far. But it is still a hospital in Mali. Their delivery room has three delivery beds in it. There are small cloth dividers that separate you from the next woman. Men are never, ever a part of the delivery process here. If Jeff was in that room with me and other women were also having their babies, it would make them very uncomfortable. So we wanted to stay in a place where we could be together comfortably for as long as possible.

Jeff was helping me stay focused and reminding me to breath and relax through my contractions. This is the point where they became so intense that I wanted to quit. I told Jeff when he told me to relax that he had no idea what I was going through, and I think I even told him to shut up once. (Sorry Jeff...) He was doing a great job of helping me... Then I had a contraction that felt different. Oh it was powerful and I felt pressure in my bottom. (Is this really happening here and now I wondered?) As I tried to keep breathing and coping with these monster contractions I felt intense burning. Then with a third and final forceful contraction my body flung itself over and I sat down as my baby was pushed down and out of my body. I didn't know she was coming out until she was out in the water. Jeff quickly scooped her up and handed her to me saying, 'and it's a girl!' And then I sat there in shock. 5:05 pm and our little girl was laying in my arms. We called the DR right away to see what we should do, and he was in surgery. (So even if we had made it to the hospital, he wouldn't have been there for her birth.) We talked to our moms, and we invited the kids in to meet their new sister. Drew was excited to post something to my facebook page about having a new sister.

There was a Swiss nurse, Marlene, who was staying at the guesthouse. She arrived home from the hospital at 5:45pm and came up to see us. It was good to have her there to check me. Jeff clamped and cut the cord. He and Harley dried Katherine off and dressed her. I climbed out of the pool and delivered the placenta. Marlene helped Jeff clean up while I rested. And just like that we were done. Katherine Elizabeth had safely arrived into this world, and was now a part of our family.

I had really struggled with this birth in the months leading up to it. And I want to thank God for really giving me peace when the time came. There are many things in the life that are hard, and that is not bad. But it can be scary to wait for something hard that you know is going to happen. I know many people were praying for me to have peace and strength when the time came, and He blessed me with both of those. Praise God!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Driving in Mali...

It has been some time since I have driven in Mali, West Africa. Our generous friends have allowed us to use their car while we are here at the guesthouse and due to the horrid conditions of the local taxis, I decided to take them up on it. (5 out of 6 times I have taken a local taxi, it broke down or ran out of gas.) This day I was just taking the two older boys to the dentist, but everyone wanted to climb in while I pulled out of the driveway. Driving is quite a rarity in our lives. Once on the road I realized my mistake. It wan't market day, so I had taken the shortest route to the hospital. (This road is closed down completely on market day.) But it is a holiday today. Tabaski. There were so many people, motos, bicycles, push carts, donkey carts, vendors, and animals, not to mention other cars headed my way on what was now a one lane road, that I would have turned around had that been at all an option. We continued through very slowly, and finally made it though the chaos. Driving here is CRAZY!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


A couple nights ago I was sure I was in the early stages of labor. And instead of being excited, I was terrified and feeling panic. This was not part of my labor plan. But I couldn't make the nervous feelings go away. Finally I got some rest and my contractions went away by 3AM. But I realized that I need to get get myself together, and rely more strongly on the ONE who will get me through this. I KNOW labor will be hard work. I don't want God to take that away. But I want to face it with peace, and grace and the knowledge that He will not leave me and He can give me the strength to get though it. So please pray that with me and for me in the next few weeks...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One of these is not like the other ones...

I have to admit when Jeff said he would like to put our kids in a local school I rebelled. They'll never fit in I thought. The other kids will never get used to them. They'll be teased, harassed and end up hating it. But as time went on I realized that God can use situations like these, and I really have no idea what is going to happen. My hope is that are kids will make some good friends, and that they will learn Bambara, the local language. So far they have gone to school for one week. (Mornings only) And they did fine. Joe says the kids touch his head a lot, and he doesn't know anyone's name yet. But it was only the first week. I'll keep you posted and put up more photos of the other kids soon...

Friday, September 9, 2011

School Time

School has started. Joe and Harley are going to start reading this year. We are doing the Sing, Spell, Read and Write curriculum. I needed something that was self contained and self explanitory so that when we move around this fall waiting for baby to come, we can easily take it on the move and Jeff could easily step in and teach them. So far so good... we are off to a good start!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Having a baby...

I'll be honest... the few hours of labor terrify me. I think it's the unknown that is the hardest to deal with. When labor starts, and then gets increasingly painful, you really don't know how much longer you'll have to 'do this'. Of course there is comfort in the fact that it WILL end. It never lasts forever. :)

So this will be my sixth delivery. I'll give a brief rundown of the kinds of deliveries I've had, and what I'm hoping for this time...

Drew: 16 hour labor, all natural, 2.5 hours of pushing, shot of Demerol near the end (Two days after due date)

Joe: Water broke, hospital induced labor with pitocin, stadol through IV, 16 hours (Two weeks early)

Harley: Water broke, hard contractions, quick delivery, 2.5 hours (Two weeks early)

Zach: 20 hour labor, slow start, picked up throughout the day, epidural for last two hours (On due date)

Jethro: 6 hour labor, fast and hard contractions, epidural last two hours (Two weeks overdue)

So I've had lots of different experiences. As an epidural is not an option for me for this next delivery, I am reading up on natural childbirth and how people deal, cope or even enjoy it. It seems like some women view this as a rite of passage into motherhood and feel very empowered by their experience in childbirth. I would have to say with Harley's birth, I did feel very strong and unstoppable. (Look what I just did?) So I am hoping as I practice my breathing and visualization techniques, that I will be able to stay focused, hold myself together, and even enjoy the birthing process this time. I know if you can stay relaxed, your body is more able to do what it needs to, and it is a good method to trust your body. I must not let panic creep in because that does no good for me or my baby. I really am looking forward to meeting this new child.

I recently got the book, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and the DVD 'The Business of Being Born.' I would highly recommend both to any woman, but especially to those who may have another child. There are so many wonderful things our medical world can do for us as laboring women. But also so much that is unnecessary to the process of something our bodies are made to do. Even after having five children, there was much I learned from reading this book.

I have also read the book Hypnobirthing and it has some great breathing and visualization techniques in it that I am hoping to use.
Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method: A Natural Approach to a Safe, Easier, More Comfortable Birthing [With CD] [HYPNOBIRTHING 3/E]

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Day in my Life...

Monday dawned humid and hot. When will we get relief from a rainstorm I wondered . The plan for Mondays is for me to spend a couple hours in the morning at our neighborhood medical clinic. I'm trying to get to know the women and learn some Bambara. Getting out the door is always a challange. After starting some laundry, greeting a few visitors, buying some mangos from a merchant girl, and preping my house help for the morning... I was off. My bike is the perfect transport to whip around our neighborhood. It keeps me active and my feet out of the sewer filled street. When I arrive at the clinic there is a long line of brightly clad women and babies, waiting for their turn to get their free baby vacinations. They greet me warmly and chatter happily amoungst themselves. After many clients have filed through I ask about one in particular who has not moved, nor has she recieved any shots for her baby. Oh her baby is tounge tied the nurse responds to me. I asked the woman how old her baby was. She said, "One week old.... No, ten days." she corrected herself. A few minutes later the nurse came out with scissors in hand. (You are not really going to clip her toungue right here on this porch are you I wonder?) Sure enough... she smacks the babies foot to make her cry, holds her toungue up with her fingers, and clips with the scissors. The baby fusses for a mintue and her mother offers her the comfort of her breast. All is well... the scissors go back to the delivery room for cutting the cord of the next newborn. (After being sterilized of course!) All in a days work!

Who knows why God has opened so many doors for me to work at the clinic. The midwives are more than willing to let me jump in and deliver a baby, even though I am not trained. As I continue to learn about labor and delivery, I like to encourage and pray for the women and children. I have now attended eight births. One of the needs for this clinic is hemostats and scissors. They only have two pairs of each, not enough to get them sterylized between deliveries if they are back to back. If you could help meet that need, this little clinic would sure appreciate it. I also give a newborn baby outfit to each new baby when I attend a birth. If you want to donate used newborn clothes, that would also be well received.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lovin' my boy

Normally he wakes up when we go in the room... but he was out cold today... he is teething and not feeling well...

What a sweetheart...

He needed lots of extra snuggles today... mama loves those kinds of days...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


A lot has been happening in our lives. But I have not taken many photos lately. Hopefully I can pick it up again.
I bought an injured bird from some neighborhood kids in hope of nursing it back to health. It lived for 3 days. We were not quite ready to take on a new pet, but I just couldn't let the kids keep dragging it around town till it died, so I wanted to save it.

Jethro turned one! He is a happy, adventurous boy. He loves to be outside. Here he is on our well, one of the places he like to play.

I really do love having a baby around... I'm glad there is another one on the way.

Zach is still into everything, even as a three year old. He loves to help anyone with a project and he loves to go anywhere anyone might be going. He really is a big help... you just have to keep him busy so he doesn't get himself into trouble...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mango anyone?

So a couple days ago we had another rain storm... this is unusual for April. Usually this is the middle of hot, dry season. Well Jeff did a video about it that you can watch at our family blog. But my job was and is... what to do with all the mangos that our tree dropped in one day. Hundreds of mangos... I will give some away, let some ripen, and cut up and freeze a lot to use in cooking. Stop by for some mango sauce, mango cake or mango crisp if you can!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ups and Downs

OK... it's not that bad... But we have hit a wall. It is the four month wall I think... and it happened to coincide with hot season. Jeff and I have both been feeling stuck and unproductive in the last few weeks. I know it will get better.

A few frustrating things...
- It's hard to learn a new language in the midst of life...
- There is no where to 'get away' (Like the mall, coffee shop, grocery store, dollar store... )
- It is HOT - kids have heat rash
- There are no pools in our town
- We don't have friends or family to really talk to
- Whenever the kids want a snack... I have to cook something (crackers, cookies, bagels)
- Bugs and dirt

A few good things...
- Our kids are awesome
- Fans... and air conditioning when we want to splurge for an hour
- Mangos!!! lots of them (the one snack that is ready and waiting)
- Internet to connect with family and friends
- A rain storm to chase away the heat

So yea... it's not that bad, it's just been hard, and we are trusting God that He will bring us through and soaring on the other side of this valley. We do look forward to spending Easter with our new Church family here in Kadiolo. I'm praying for a good time of fellowship, and for our young friend Kadiatu who is a muslim girl going with us to Easter. She says she wants to be a Christian, but it may be more likely that she wants to go to America. Pray for her to really understand the gospel and want to be a Christian because Christs has spoken to her!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Birth Number 2

I was called to another birth on Friday. It was 4pm, not even the middle of the night. So I thought I better jump on the opportunity to go help out. When I arrived I found out this was an 18 year old girl delivering her first baby. She was outside walking around and had been found to be 8cm dilated.

She wanted to have a rest and came back inside to sit down. They checked her again and had me check her. Again I am no good at this part. I must need much more practice. Aparantly she was 9 centimeters. Shortly after this she expressed a desire to eat something so her friend went off to find some food. When it arrived she sat down to have a snack.

After that she was tired again and wanted to go in and lie down. She was told she need to walk to get her contractions going. They were coming, but not real close together. Like any first time mother, she did not want them closer together or to feel any more pain. But she was very brave.

Here sit the three midwives/nurses waiting for things to progress... When she got so tired she had to lie down, they hooked her up to an IV and gave her some pitocin to make the contractions come along faster.

Here came the difficult part of the delivery for me. As we had checked her the nurse commented on her circumcision. It is very common practice here in Mali for a girl to be circumcised in her childhood. Unfortunately for this girl, she was sewn up too small to allow for this baby to be born. As the baby began to crown the midwifes had to perform an episiotomy to allow the baby through. This makes me so sad. It is a very traumatic experience when a girl gets circumcised, and now in childbirth it becomes more traumatic again because of this. There was no anisthetic used to aid in pain relief either.

A healthy girl was born around 6:30pm. I asked them what the sex was so that the mom could hear. Then after the baby was weighed and left on the scale, I asked if I could hold her. I took her over the the mom and showed her beautiful baby to her. That part gave me great joy.

Pray for me as I plan to talk to the midwives about working on educating their patients about the negative effects of female circumcision.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Simple Pleasure

This morning some Southern Baptist Missionaries stopped by our house as they were leaving town. They come to Kadiolo to do some work for a few days about 4-6 times a year. They have a guest house in town and we help out by giving out salaries to the guard and housekeeper each month. When they stopped by they brought a box of leftover food for us that they did not want to take back to Bamako. It was such a treat! We got chocolate chip cookie mix, blueberry muffin mix, juice boxes, ranch dressing, a taco dinner kit complete with crunchy tacos, and much more. What I was most excited about was the Cheerios. It is hard to come by snacks to give the kids... especially for Jethro who can't manage some things by himself, or they are super messy like a mango. I was so excited to throw some Cheerios on his tray and let him have the joy of picking them up all on his own. He was pretty excited too! It seemed crazy to me how something so simple could bring so much pleasure!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crash course in Birthing

We are working hard to learn Bambara. And I thought maybe combining my need to learn Bambara with my desire to help women and learn some midwifery skills might be a good idea. And so the following story was 'born'.

I was called at midnight by a local midwife to find out if I wanted to assist her with a delivery. I had previously explained that I was interested in womens health and delivery. So I decided to go. When I arrived the woman was six centimeters and was laboring outside. Shortly after she was tired and went in to lay down.

When it came time to check her again the midwife handed me a glove and said, OK, go ahead. Hold on, I was not expecting that. But I guess that is the only way to learn. So sure, I checked. Knowing how much these checks hurt when you are in labor, I felt a head and that was good enough for me. She asked how many centimeters I thought she was. When I responded I had no idea, but I felt the head, she just laughed. She was 7 cm at that point.

This is a very small clinic. Aparantly women go there that do not want a hospital experience. So I was expecting more of what our culture calls a home birth or birthing center experience. It was not so. There was no one there to encourage this woman. Her husband waited outside. An other woman came, but only to clean up after her. It is the families responsibility to clean out bed pans, puke buckets and throw the placenta in the outhouse. She was told to keep her legs in one spot but no one held them for her. Finally I went and held one leg in place, so she didn't have to work so hard on that part. When the head was out the midwife pulled the baby the rest of the way out. I became VERY light headed and felt faint. (Unexpected) I think it was mostly from the roughness of it all. After that she quickly cut the cord and sucked out the babies nose. She then pulled out the placenta. There was no putting the baby on moms tummy, or waiting for nature to take it's course. I was surprised and a bit bothered by how much intervention there was. The baby was weighed and taken out to the family. I don't think the mom ever saw him or was told he was a boy.

This photo was taken after I took a seat. I really thought I might faint and I have NEVER in my life felt that close to fainting. My legs were weak and trembling and my heart was pounding. It was a very strange experience. I think it came from understanding a bit of her pain, and feeling for her that she had no one on her side so to speak. It felt very lonely and joyless. I prayed for her a lot and wondered what I could do to bring some comfort and joy to the birthing rooms in Kadiolo. Or is that even my place?

I wondered at first if this little guy was even alive, but after sucking out his nose and slapping him around a bit, he made a little sound. I think he is a healthy little boy and despite the difficulty of the experience for me, I am thankful for his little life. Praise God, the creator of LIFE!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nous avons tué un cochon aujourd'hui!!!

DISCLAIMER: An animal was killed in the making of this blog. Not for the faint of heart!

Parce que je parle en français toute la journée, j'ai pensé que je devrais écrire mon blog en français aussi.

Aujourd'hui, les enfants et Jeff sortit à la terrain de Jonas et tué un cochon.

Ils ont l'apporté à la maison dans le wagon de notre moto.
Ce projet était très intéressant pour nos enfants.

Nous avons bouillie l'eau dans la cuisine à l'échaudure le porc afin qu'ils puissent décoller les cheveux.
Drew a gardé les ongles comme les cadeaux pour nos chiens

Puis ils ont le suspendu dans notre manguier.
Puis ils lui coupé en deux et sorti son intestins.
Après cela, ils lui couper en morceaux pour moi.
Je les ai mis dans les sac pour congeler.

Apres tous ca, on a bien mange l' atcheke ensemble.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heading out with my new moto...

So it feels good to have transportation... Harley and I headed out this morning for a few groceries so we could do some baking and cooking. Today I made, granola, cookies, yogurt and sourdough starter... I'm going to take a break before I need to start on dinner...
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My New Wheels...

I am happy to announce that I have wheels... I can how be seen cruising around Kadiolo with a moto much like the rest of them... maybe I will blend in more than I did on Big Red... Probably not, but I like it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

He's Back

What an amazing day it was yesterday... I don't have photos of most of it... but here is the rundown...
Our power came back on after a week of being off...
Jeff came home...
We got a huge thunder and lightening storm followed by a real downpour...
Our container showed up in town just before midnight...
and then this morning Drew's chickens gave their first egg!
It's been an exciting 24 hours... Jeff is outside right now putting the kids bikes together!

Jeff coming home...

Pancake breakfast...

Our first egg...

Getting ready to open our container from France...

Putting bikes back together...