THREE WEEKS.

Lydia is three weeks old.

I’m stopping today to write because I don’t want this season to pass without remembering a few things about Lydia’s first three weeks. If the next three go as fast as the first, I’ll never be able to keep these precious memories straight. Here are some things I don’t want to forget.

 

T O . B E . S E R V E D .

Since Lydia’s birth, we have yet to go to the grocery store and have hardly spent any money on food. Immediately after Lydia was born, a friend of ours set up a “meal train.” Every two days we’ve had a different person in our church community bring us a meal and many other friends and family drop by with snacks, coffee, meals, groceries, and gifts for Lydia. We’ve received countless texts, e-mails, and cards in the mail from friends and family who are eager to help us welcome Lydia into the world.

In all of these ways, we have been served graciously.

On another level, a few of my closest friends have entered my exhaustion, recovery, and the mess of my home. My sister raided her closet for summer clothes that would fit my postpartum body and helped me pack away my work and maternity clothes. She’s encouraged me, sat with me while breastfeeding, helped care for Lydia’s needs, made grocery runs, taken our dog on walks, cleaned, organized, and showered Lydia with gifts. My best friend came all the way from Dallas to Lawrence simply to serve me and encourage me in my new journey of motherhood for a few days. She scrubbed baby poop and milk stains off my nursing chair, cleaned my bathroom, and reorganized my kitchen cabinets to make room for baby bottles. Her and another best friend in town came over one morning with Starbucks and Chipotle and vacuumed and swept my floors and folded my laundry.

To be served
when nothing is expected in return
is truly a gift.
Undeserved grace.

 

T O . S E R V E .

In the same breath, I also have had the opportunity to selflessly serve my husband and newborn baby with the same challenge – to except nothing in return.

Two days after we got home from the hospital Kevin came down with a stomach bug that knocked him out. Before I would have otherwise felt ready, I was encouraging him to sleep through the night so that he could get well, waking up on my own every couple hours to feed Lydia. Even after the worst of his sickness passed, the virus lingered, and for days Lydia’s diaper changes were a trigger for his nausea. Lydia’s care became my sole responsibility for a few days as I learned to serve my daughter and fought to serve my husband with every ounce of energy I had left.

At first it seemed like I had a boost of hormonal-mommy superpowers, but after a few days, the exhaustion hit. I was tired. Yet in spite of my physical weakness and sleep deprivation, my husband and my baby still needed me to serve them.

I fought against the weakness of my flesh
and strived
to serve
expecting nothing in return.

Since Kevin has been well, we are establishing a new rhythm of serving Lydia together and mutually serving one another.

To serve
and
to be served
in unity
is a beautiful thing.

 

M I L E S T O N E S .

This past week, Lydia’s third week of life, has been about taking small steps towards our new normal and our new routine. Despite a few minor setbacks like my viral eye infection and losing power in our house for 12 hours, we’ve felt freedom to start incorporating Lydia into our normal life. We’ve brought her to church, friends and family’s houses, and even out to a few of our favorite coffee shops.

This upcoming week continues to bring new milestones, including my first outing for extended time away from Lydia and our first drop off at my parent’s house so that Kevin and I can have a date night.

As I pass milestones of my own, I am watching my daughter grow and change every day. She no longer does the heart-melting lip quiver when she’s trying to cry, but now she’s unafraid to cry loud and use all her lungs, making sure I can hear her from the other room. She’s opening her eyes wider and can now hold eye contact with me for precious seconds that make time seem to stand still. Her tiny fingers have already grown, and this week Lydia is able to grip one of my fingers with her whole hand. She’s grown in her independence, lifting her head to look around when she’s on my chest. She isn’t afraid to let us know when she’s hungry or when she just wants to be held. She’s already out of newborn-size diapers and her newborn onesies are getting tighter. She’s growing so fast, a constant reminder to not take a day (or night) for granted.

.

When I look back on these first three weeks of Lydia’s life, I will forever remember the feeling of being selflessly served by others while learning to selflessly serve my family of three.

As we step into our new normal, I am thankful for a God who sent His own Son into the world to show me what it looks like to serve others freely (John 13:14-15).

He came into this world
to serve
expecting nothing in return.
His love for us is a gift
Undeserved grace. 

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45)

my first hard day.

Lydia’s birthday was filled with the sweetest moments: lots of skin-to-skin time, family cuddles, and staring into her eyes with wonder. There was little sleep but our hearts were full. I witnessed my husband as a loving father. We had our first opportunity to sooth Lydia to sleep, as I rocked her and her daddy read us a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible.

The second day we had many more visitors, this time friends and more family who came to meet our sweet baby Lydia and bring us coffee, meals, and dessert. Everything seemed to be going better than I could have dreamed. It was Wednesday night, and we were looking forward to discharge on Thursday morning and taking our girl home.

The doctor was monitoring Lydia’s jaundice level and said they would check again in the morning. As we neared the midnight hours, my breasts began to swell and feel different, unexpected pain. The nurse informed me that my milk was coming in, just in time for a lactation consultation the next morning before heading home!

And this brings us to Thursday, Day 2 of Lydia’s life, my first hard day of motherhood.

 

H E L P L E S S .

During our lactation consultation, I learned that my breasts had become so full with milk that it changed Lydia’s ability to latch. I got the devastating news that my daughter had in fact not been latching since my milk came in, and there was a decent chance that she had not gotten any milk in her previous two feedings.

Instantly I was embarrassed and ashamed. I should have known. How did I not know? Guilt set in as I blamed myself that Lydia hadn’t gotten the milk that she needed the last two feedings.

The next thing I knew, the lactation nurse was instructing me to pump, pouring my breast milk in a bottle, and handing Lydia over to Kevin to bottle feed her.

As the lactation nurse was writing out a new feeding plan that included trying a nipple shield to help Lydia latch while simultaneously pumping and bottle feeding, the hospital pediatrician walked in.

“Hold on, before you finish your plan,” she instructed the lactation nurse. “I have an update that might influence it.”

The doctor then went on to inform us that Lydia’s bilirubin levels had increased overnight. Her jaundice had worsened. She would start phototherapy – a special light treatment – immediately.

Before I could even process enough to ask the doctor questions, the nurses were bringing in a blue light, baby goggles, and the various materials for Lydia to start treatment.

Suddenly I was sitting on my hospital bed speechless
staring at my daughter
from across the room
watching her wiggle under the light
eyes covered.
And
I felt helpless.

For the next 24 hours, that’s most of what I did. That’s all I could do – just watch her.

She could only be removed from the light every 2.5 hours for feedings, for a max of 30 minutes, before returning back to the light.

The only 30-minute window I had with my daughter that day involved the one thing I was failing to do for her, feeding her. We would try 10 minutes for her to latch, and then the nurse would say, “Dad you’re up!” and hand Lydia over so that Kevin could give her a bottle.

It’s hard to put into words the emotions that I felt that day because they were emotions that I had never felt before in my life.

As I processed
I realized
never before had I felt this way
because never before had I been a mother
wanting so desperately to hold my baby
to tell her everything was going to be OK.
that the treatment was for her good
so that she could get well
that we would figure out feeding together.
And
I couldn’t.
And
I cried.

At some point later in the day I accepted what I could not control and tried to see the positives. By staying a third day in the hospital, not only would Lydia get well, but I could receive more lactation support and rest. I just needed to get through the day, my first hard day, that I knew wouldn’t be my last.

 

P E R S P E C T I V E .

I thought about our friends over at teamlacrew.com, who have been on a journey with their baby girl who was born premature at 25 weeks. (PS if you don’t know Andrea and Leonard Davis, you need to follow their story!) Just five weeks behind in pregnancy, their story has hit close to home for me, and I’ve been praying for their little girl since she was born as a preemie almost five months ago. They finally got to take baby Carrington home a few weeks ago. I thought to myself – if this is hard for one day – I can’t even imagine what they went through, just having to watch their baby helplessly not just for hours or days, but for months.

Perspective.

I thought about how many other times in Lydia’s life will I feel completely helpless and inadequate to save her? How many times will I see her hurting, see her making mistakes, and not be able to step in? How many times will I make mistakes and feel guilt, embarrassment, and shame for the ways that I fall short?

While I know this to be the gospel truth—that yes I am limited and I won’t be a perfect mama for Lydia—I still needed to experience the deep emotions in that moment. I needed to run to God. To sprint to Him, and let Him remind me to trust Him with my daughter’s life. My limitations as a parent only serve as a reminder of my desperate dependence on God every day.

I thought about how God, my Heavenly Father, sometimes let’s me undergo suffering for my good. Just like I watched Lydia receive phototherapy, knowing that even though that meant her next 24 hours wouldn’t be comfortable, it was for her good. How many times have I complained to God for a lack of comfort in my life, not being able to see the big picture that He is allowing me to endure for my good? How many times have I voiced anger at God for keeping me in that place, only to think that He hurts watching his daughter upset, even when He knows it’s for my good?

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Perspective.

.

Night came and the sun rose again, Friday morning, a new day. Lydia latched for the first time (with the help of the nipple shield) since my milk came in. She got pricked for blood work for the third or fourth time, but we learned that her jaundice level had improved, and her treatment was complete. We held our girl close and did not stop holding her until we buckled her into her car seat and walked out of the hospital, headed home.

Enduring the hard day
made her homecoming
that much sweeter.
And
we rejoiced.

Welcome Home, Lydia.

Lydia’s Birth Story

9 AM MONDAY

Monday, May 14 started out just like any other day. I had a cup of coffee and sat down for my morning quiet time with the Lord. Yet instead of sitting down on our porch or in my usual spot in the living room, I told my husband Kevin I was going to go spend time in our nursery praying for Lydia. At 39 weeks pregnant, I picked up a journal that was gifted to us to record prayers and thoughts for Lydia throughout her life. This is what I wrote:

Lydia – I am 39 weeks pregnant today. I am sitting and praying for you in our finished nursery. There is a verse above your crib that reads “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.” These are words that your Daddy and I believe have been spoken by God over your life. You belong to the Lord…

Jesus – I pray for our baby girl, that labor and delivery would not be delayed but come soon! We are ready to meet our little one! I am ready to bring her home and show her the place that we’ve prepared for her! Father God – bring her safely into this world and into my arms. Thank you God for the beautiful life that she is!

When we sit and pray and spend time with God, He conforms our heart according to His will. My heart was led to pray for the first time that morning that God would no longer delay her arrival. And that, indeed, was His will.

12 PM MONDAY

After some reading, cleaning, and a workout, my husband and I were off to our 39 week doctor’s appointment chatting briefly about the week’s activities and making plans for the rest of our afternoon. Everything about our appointment was normal. We got the news that I was dilated at over 4 cm, 90% effaced, and we laughed with our doctor about wanting her to come soon!

The final thing to do was to listen to Lydia’s heart rate. We waited for the familiar sound of her heart beating through the Doppler monitor, and while we heart her heart beat, my doctor’s face changed from a smile to a look of concern. Lydia’s heart rate was low. She instructed us that she wanted us to stay for further monitoring. After about 45 minutes of monitoring Lydia’s heart rate, we found the pattern. Each time she would move, her heart rate would go up as normal but then dip down suddenly below baseline. After getting a sonogram to check a few other things, our doctor sent us over to the labor and delivery unit for further monitoring to make sure that this drop wasn’t spontaneous activity.

2 PM MONDAY

We walked into a delivery room and my stomach was strapped with two monitors – one for Lydia’s heart rate, and one to measure contractions. The nurse left us alone and Kevin and I started to pray. Kevin’s prayer, similar to my own that morning, changed suddenly according to God’s will.

Lord, let us meet our daughter today.

An hour or so later, our doctor came back in. The pattern in Lydia’s heart rate had persisted, and she didn’t feel right sending us home. She informed me that she was admitting me into the hospital for an induction. We talked through our options and our attitude changed to excitement. This is the day we had been waiting for. We were finally going to meet our daughter!

4 PM MONDAY

They immediately started me with an IV of penicillin because of my group B strep while Kevin went home to grab our pre-packed hospital bags and a few last-minute items. As soon as Kevin came back, my doctor broke my water, and labor began.

5:30 PM MONDAY

We spent the next two hours being monitored, getting and IV, texting friends and family, walking the hallways, and processing what was happening. We prayed for Lydia’s heart rate and her health. We praised God for this day. With each increasing contraction, so was the reality of labor. My sister Rosie arrived for extra support and stayed in the room throughout labor, leaving just before delivery. We came up with a code word for every time I would start to feel a contraction. After laughing at all the possible words, we established a simple one. Now. Every time Kevin would hear the word now he would put out his hand, I would grab his hand, and we would together endure the pain.

7:30 PM MONDAY

After only progressing to a 4.5 cm, we made the decision with our doctor to start Pitocin (given through an IV) to induce labor. Within 30 minutes, my contractions increased to every 2-3 minutes. Lydia’s head was lowering, my dilation started increasing, and so did the pain.

For the past 8 months, Kevin and I have had a lot of conversations about our birth plan. I am so thankful that we stayed open-minded and that we could confidently accept the induction without being disappointed. The goal was healthy Lydia, whatever it takes. Yet one important preference was to not have pain medication or an epidural. We read a book together, took a class together, and spent time preparing for what the pain of childbirth would be and how we would approach the reality of that pain. For both medical and personal reasons, we stood firm in this decision. Throughout the next five hours, the pain increased with every contraction to undoubtedly the worst continuous physical pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. Yet we never lost control and God never left our side. There were four stages of the pain from my experience, which I will process below as I continue documenting the timeline of Lydia’s birth story.

8:30 PM MONDAY

After learning I was 5 cm dilated, I decided to do a labor position on the ball. Lydia was so low that the nurse couldn’t keep the heart rate monitor on outside of my stomach. One nurse had to actually hold it on to my stomach while I was laboring. I even tried the wireless monitor so I could get in the tub, but we quickly learned that made it even more difficult for the monitor to stay on. I got the chills and was shivering head to toe and started feeling nauseous. Whatever liquids I drank since being admitted I instantly threw up. The doctor decided to insert a heart monitor from the inside that would stick on the top of Lydia’s head. This allowed the nurses to completely leave the room and monitor from outside the room. Finally we were left alone – myself, Kevin and Rosie. We turned on worship music and the rest became a dream. I wish I could remember every detail but it was so surreal. This is around the time I hit stage one:

 

D I S T R A C T I N G . T H E . P A I N .

Back to laboring on the ball, what I remember from this stage was that Kevin would tell me to “dream Lydia dreams.” I thought about meeting my daughter. I thought about taking her on walks or taking her to the pool this summer. We tried to distract my mind from the pain. This didn’t last too long, and I quickly transitioned to stage two:

 

F I G H T I N G . O F F. T H E . P A I N .

We learned in this stage that I needed to actively fight the pain mentally so that I could relax and breathe through the pain. I found myself repeating phrases that Kevin would say throughout the climax of the contraction.

The pain is temporary.
It will pass.

10:15 PM MONDAY

After being checked again, I learned that I was dilated at 6.5 cm and 100% effaced. However, Lydia had turned slightly and she needed to be face down, so my doctor suggested that I change positions. With the front of the hospital bed raised, I was on my knees, arms over the top of the bed, rhythmically swaying my hips and breathing through each contraction. After a few moments of weakness, doubting to myself and Kevin, wondering if I could do this, wondering if it was too late for the epidural, I realized that I needed to change my mindset. This brings on stage 3:

 

A T T A C K I N G . T H E . P A I N .

Perhaps it was the former athlete, competitive side of me taking over, but all of a sudden I realized that I didn’t want the pain to win. I knew that I could be in control mentally over the pain with a mind-over-body approach. I simply needed to get my mind in a place to attack the pain. I needed to not think about the many hours and contractions to come, but take it one contraction, once at a time. Our repeating phrases changed:

It’s worth it.
Joy on the other side.

Over and over, we repeated these phrases, breathing through each contraction. Kevin was my rock and didn’t leave my side from this point forward. I would say now, reach for his hand, and he would coach me through the pain, reminding me of our phrases, reminding me that it’s worth it and that there’s joy on the other side. We found our rhythm and Kevin constantly reminded me that every contraction with an increase in pain meant I was one minute closer to meeting our daughter.

11:20 PM MONDAY

All of a sudden, I started feeling the urge to push. I asked Rosie to call in the nurse, I needed to be checked. I had figured out how to attack the pain, but resisting the urge to push was an entirely new experience. After being checked again, I learned that in just the last hour, I was dilated to a 9.5 cm. (I only needed to be at a 10 cm before I could push!) I needed to endure the pain just a little bit longer while Lydia got a little bit lower. Yet at this point not only was the pain a 10/10 on the pain scale, but I was also having to resist my entire body convulsing to want to push her out of me. It’s at this point that I transitioned to stage four:

 

E M B R A C I N G . T H E . P A I N .

As we got back into our labor position, Rosie came over to read scripture. This is what she read:

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20-22)

I was reminded in that moment about the Cross. I was reminded about the pain that Jesus suffered on the Cross because He loved me. I wondered in that moment how Jesus was able to find joy in His pain, because He knew that there would be joy – salvation for His beloved – on the other side of the Cross. I thought about how He was empowered by love to endure the pain and suffering on our behalf – because He loves us.

Kevin had been reminding me of the gospel and the presence of God was obvious throughout labor, but in this moment I looked at Kevin. I felt completely empowered by my love for him and my love for Lydia. We had one of the most intimate moments of our marriage. I told him that I was enduring this all with joy because of my love for him and my love for Lydia. He thanked me, spoke sweetly to me, and we held each other’s gaze for several moments before the next contraction came.

These overwhelming feelings of love allowed me to embrace the pain. My final phrase became:

Joy in the pain.

12 AM TUESDAY

The doctor came in for a check, and I was 10 cm dilated. Finally, it was time to push! Kevin remembers this scene much more than I do, as I was now on my back, continually enduring contractions and resisting the urge to push until my doctor and the delivery team was suited up and ready to go. The doctor gave me the instructions on how to position my body and how to orchestrate my breathing.

Each time I would feel a contraction coming on, now, I would take a deep breath in and out. Then one deep breath in, hold, and push as hard as I possibly could for 10 seconds. Pause, repeat three times until the contraction ended.

This stage was easier because I could finally use the pain towards something, but the amount of pressure that I felt as Lydia’s head started to come out was a whole new kind of painful sensation. Not very long after, Kevin and I could both look down and see the top of our sweet Lydia’s head coming out and we could see her dark brown hair.

While worship music had been playing throughout all of labor as background music, a song came on our bluetooth speaker about halfway through pushing. Hillsong United’s Lead Me to the Cross… The song that I walked down the aisle to on our wedding day. This was the sweetest gift from the Lord and a reminder to us in that moment of His presence.

The Lord was near. I prayed more actively in this stage during breaks between contractions. I needed God’s help to show me how to relax the right muscles, hold my breath, and push the right way so I could meet my daughter sooner. Finally my doctor informed me that she could make a 1 cm incision and then I’d meet my baby. Without a doubt, I said yes.

12:39 AM TUESDAY

I don’t remember even feeling the incision because of all the pressure. All I knew was that I was determined to meet my daughter. On the very next push, my doctor had to yell at me to stop pushing because my daughter was arriving! The next thing I knew I heard Lydia’s cry and she was immediately placed on my chest. I started repeating a different phrase in that moment, over and over:

My baby, my baby, my baby…

Kevin started crying as he came close. Whatever else followed – delivering the placenta, getting stitched from the incision, the emptying of fluids – nothing else mattered because I was holding my daughter. She stopped crying when she felt the warmth of my chest. I saw her eyes and I studied her from head to toe.

2 AM TUESDAY

After our family bonding time, they weighed her, measured her, and my sister and parents came into the room to meet Lydia. Then I was able to get up, use the bathroom on my own, and walk myself to the room down the hall next to my husband who was pushing our daughter in her hospital bassinet. I enjoyed the benefits of the quick recovery of natural childbirth, and we received compliments from doctors and nurses commenting on Lydia’s liveliness, their shock that I never once screamed or lost control, and commenting on Kevin’s steady and attentive presence.

.

Yes, the pain was worth it.
Immediately the pain of childbirth was forgotten.
Love, joy and relief washed over me.
Our daughter was here.

Lydia Evelyn Tietz
Born 12:39 AM on Tuesday, May 15, 2018
8 lbs 7 oz, 21 inches