Monday, November 30, 2015

A Little Peace to Start Advent

Good morning, and Happy Advent! I'm signing on this morning to share the little pep talk the Lord gave me in my Gospel reading just now for the feast of St. Andrew. (Matthew 4:18-22)

"I will make you fishers of men."

Jesus found Simon and Andrew in and through their worldly work. If they hadn't shown up that day, they would have missed Him! If I wish to encounter Christ, I too have to "show up," and do what needs doing right now.

Forgive me for trying to shirk and hide away from the work you have given me to do, and grant me the grace this day to fight that temptation. Grant me grace to do my work cheerfully and energetically.

The duty of present moment is all God will ever ask of me. Doing what He gives me to do, right now, is sufficient. Even the apostles left their nets. That means they left work undone! Be at peace.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Identity is Relational

                Every person defines who he is for himself. A person’s identity is only from within themselves. It cannot be imposed upon a person, even by biological realities. Every man IS an island. At least that’s the growing popular opinion nowadays. Of course that’s crazy talk. My four-month-old son has an identity. He has yet to discover what it means and he certainly can’t define it, but he has it nonetheless. He has a name. His name is Daniel Louis Keane. The simple fact of his name connects him to his older brother who chose “Daniel,” his godfather who shares the middle name of “Louis” as well as three saints named “Louis.” The name of “Keane” marks him as a member of this particular family of Irish Catholics. He didn’t have any choice in the matter, but that’s who he is. Depending on your perspective that’s an imposition or a gift.

                Even we adults, when we introduce ourselves, we of course give our names but also we might say we’re a mother of three, or we work for XYZ Inc., or we graduated from such-and-such college. All of these components of our identity are likewise relational. Even sexuality only makes sense from a relational point of view. I’m not even talking about orientation, meaning to whom we are sexuality attracted. To form a sexual identity at all, we require the examples of others to even give us a concept of what it even means to be masculine or feminine, man or woman. Entire books can and have been written on the subject, such as Alice von Hildebrand’s The Privilege of Being a Woman. We also derive our identities through our relationships with the natural world and with the Divine. 

When we take away all of the relationships, and we are left with the self alone, what do we have? There is no context for gender, race, or even being human at all. So the question is nonsense, but that’s what we’re trying to do culturally. 

I’m not going to waste your time belaboring the evidence for societal breakdown and the isolation of individuals. Families are divorcing, far-flung, or not even forming in the first place. The strength of religious faith is weakening or even altogether absent from people’s lives. Even time spent out in nature is on the decline. So where does that leave us? We are in isolation and consequently going mad. There is no “culture” to sustain us, in the sense of “culture” as a medium for growth. Human beings cannot thrive without a strong culture to tell us who we are and why we are here.

All the popular identity crises, all the “trans” movements, have this one thing in common. They deny the relational nature of the human person. They wish to reject the identity given them by nature and instead desperately grasp at the possibility of creating some sort of meaning and place in this world for themselves. I can’t even begin to express how dreadfully sad it all is. All of the relationships in that person’s life have failed to give to them a sense that they belong, they are wanted, they are beloved the way they are, that they have an important place in this world only they can fill, that they are who they are supposed to be. An individual like this will look to change themselves because—well, what else is left to them?

As for the rest of us, are we our brother’s keeper?

I can’t give a pat answer here. None of us can fix that kind of existential pain and confusion. I will say we’re not doing anybody any favors by ignoring it and not caring enough to acknowledge the simple truth of that pain and confusion. We must not pretend compassion while we cheer on their self-destruction. Step one to recovery is acknowledging the problem. Step two… I honestly do not know. Pray, certainly. And I don’t mean that to be a sanctimonious cop-out.

What we MUST do, is rebuild the culture. What can we do to keep ourselves and those nearest to us from slipping into deep isolation? How can we strengthen our families and our communities? Most importantly, what about our faith? Of all the relationships in our lives, nothing answers who we are more profoundly than our relationship to God. When we believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God Who loved us so much to send His only Son and we can fully entrust ourselves to His mercy as broken and messed-up as we are… Well maybe the answer is simpler than I thought. Simple, but certainly not easy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Birth Story Part 2?!?

Yes, yes, it’s several weeks after Part 1. I thought nobody would notice if I just quietly deleted “Finish birth story” from the to-do list, but in the last 24 hours I’ve had two people bring it up to me, so back on the to-do list it goes. To be soon thereafter deleted. Because it really is shameful. Yes, Daniel, you are a third child. You don’t have a baby book and your quilt is not even started yet. What can I say, I was too busy protecting you from your oh-so-loving older siblings to get all that stuff about the placenta we shared onto the internet in a timely manner. 

 Enough banter. We last left me ready with my “team” of husband Ryan, doula Kate, and midwife Sr. Kay on their way, ready to get Pitocin started at about 6:00 p.m. The nurse was hooking up the IV when I felt a little head wiggle sideways. Daniel was turning out of position again! The nurse quickly paged Sr. Kay and Dr. Martin to come and get him back down again. I used my hand to keep that head from turning any more than it already had, copying the technique he’d used before, but I was afraid to actually push against him. Discipline begins in the womb, y’all. The doctor got there very soon and Daniel was quickly nudged back into position. Okay, NOW start the Pitocin!

It took a while, maybe an hour before I really felt anything, and then maybe another half hour before I had to work through the contractions. During this time Ryan and I said our Rosary. Then Kate arrived and made Ryan go get some dinner because he hadn’t eaten since our very late lunch in L&D. I lay on the bed to conserve my energy. Kate read aloud a scholarly article about how the various peoples of Middle Earth relate to the natural world. Note to first time moms: If you can chat lightly about Tom Bombadill and Wendell Berry, you probably don’t need to rush to the hospital yet. And get a doula who thinks to bring delightful reading material. (You mean you don’t want literary analysis read out loud between contractions?) It was like a dinner conversation colored by just enough good wine and good company, but the source of our excitement was clearly the child about to be born.

By the time Ryan got back from his meal and answering the many text messages from family, Kate and I were more focused on the task at hand. Sister Kay came at this point prepared to stay until the baby was born, even though her shift was officially over at 7:00. Now began what turned out to be a textbook labor. We had our putsy-putsy stage, which was pretty delightful, as short as it was. I had not experienced “early labor” at all with my other two children, but instead got right down to business. Now we became very businesslike. Everyone had a job to do and we did it rather efficiently. There was easy conversation punctuated by contractions. When the contractions began the team would get into position with me directing what helped most. Ryan would most often press on my lower back, and Sister Kay would usually do hand massage and/or verbally help me relax through the contraction. I labored side-lying for a while, then sitting on the rocking chair, hands-and-knees, and standing leaning on the counter the computer was on. Sounds odd, but it was the perfect height. I couldn’t stay in one position for very long. For a woman tethered to an IV pole and external monitor I had a LOT of freedom to move. Keeping the baby on the monitor was never an issue. After about two hours of this we were not really chatting between the contractions anymore. 

One funny thing I remember was Kate had taken it upon herself to make sure I went to the bathroom every hour. This was really smart, because I was getting a lot of fluid with that IV! But what with other bodily sensations I didn’t really notice that I needed to go. I’m writing this as a public service announcement, because a full bladder really will get in the way of the downward motion and opening up you’re trying to achieve. Seriously, voiding made a big difference in pain. You’re welcome. Also, the computer monitor in the room showed the contraction monitors for me and three other laboring women. I never figured out why this was, but I found it very distracting. I was using the computer counter to lean on at one point through a really difficult contraction. When it was over I saw the tracing, which was a nice little hill, while the other ladies’ were probably measured by the Richter scale. We covered the monitor with a blanket after that. Later I found out that all three of those women got c-sections.

Sister Kay asked if she could check my cervix, and it was 4! We could turn off the Pitocin! Yay! So we disconnected and I labored unattached to anything for a little bit. Nothing slowed down, so Sr. suggested I get in the shower since I had hoped to labor in the water. There probably was not going to be time for the tub at this point. The shower felt A. mazing.  For about the next hour I sat on the shower stool and said, “Left. Lower. Arggggggggggghhhhh.” My dear husband stood and directed the stream to exactly the right spot. For an hour. That’s love. I don’t know what Kate and Sr. Kay were doing all that time but there wasn’t room for them in there and I was not going to move. 

Finally I felt the need to move back to the bed. I started feeling shaky and saying things like, “This sucks. This baby was not supposed to be here yet.” In my mind I knew it was transition and we were getting close. Another textbook labor thing I had not yet experienced. It really was as bad as the books make out. Ryan told me during this time that we had just passed midnight and the baby would have my grandmother’s birthday. I didn’t much care and was sort of mad that it was taking SO LONG and that he had to remind me of this fact. Sister Kay knew it was transition too, and so she checked my cervix again. 10! I remember her laughing and saying that the shower really did wonders for me! (Obviously it was not taking SO LONG.)

I believe with the very next contraction I felt the need to push. Crowning happened in three contractions or so. In another minute he was born. I was on the bed on my hands and knees, so I was not able to see the actual birth. I can’t adequately describe the moments of the actual birth. It all happened so fast and was so intense that I was not ready to hold the baby right away. I rested for a few minutes while the nurses took care of Daniel. Daniel needed oxygen at first, but just a little bit was enough to get him breathing just fine on his own. 

He weighed 4 lbs. 11 oz., one ounce more than the ultrasound measured him at two days before.

We could stretch this out into a Part 3, but I think I'll condense a bit and have done. So the placenta answered all our questions about why he was so small. About a third of it was one giant clot . Yeah, gross. Early on in the pregnancy I'd had some serious bleeding from a small clot right in the middle of the placenta. That was why I'd had ultrasounds every month, just to make sure baby was still (miraculously) okay. Well toward the end I was feeding this thing more than I was feeding Daniel. No answer as to why my body did that or why this BLOB didn't show up on ultrasound. Praise the Lord that my water broke and he was born! He's since been very busy catching up on calories and getting adorably chubby.

*I know, WALL OF TEXT. But Blogger won't let me post any photos! My apologies.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Backseat Theology

Anthony and Katie Rose had this discussion while we were driving today. I merely listened. This is the best I can remember it:

Anthony started off with, "I want to go up to Heaven! I'm going to go up to Heaven."
Katie Rose answers, "We can't go up to Heaven by ourselves."
"Well, Jesus will take us up to Heaven when we die."
"But Jesus is already in Heaven. Our angels will take us up to Heaven and we'll see Jesus when we get to Heaven."
"Yeah! But the bad guys don't go up to Heaven and see Jesus."
"But everybody goes to Jesus, Anthony."
"Yeah! Their angels take them to Jesus and then He tells them they can't go to Heaven. And then the bad angels get them."
"But the bad angels aren't going to get me."
"And the bad angels won't get you either, Katie Rose. Just the good angels."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Daniel's Birth Story: Part 1

It's a birth story... so let's take all TMI disclaimers as read, okay? Also I'm going to be very detailed. This is also for me to remember everything, because it's already a little hazy four weeks later, although sleep deprivation could be part of that. This is what I have so far and the rest will come when it comes.

Daniel Louis Keane came into this world on Thursday, February 12, 2015, 12:16 a.m.  Those sixteen minutes mean that he just missed being a full month ahead of his due date of March 11, that he gets to share a birthday with his great-grandmother, and that he was born into this world on the very same date that his great-grandfather left it. The date of February 12 is only one of a great many providential circumstances surrounding his birth.

Daniel on his birthday. Although we won't get quite that far in this post. ;-)

 He was born at 36 weeks, but we’d been pretending to have a baby for a full week already, much to the chagrin of our friends and neighbors who were “on call” for when the time came! We had to go to the hospital in the night on Thursday the 5th because my water might have broken (it hadn’t). Sunday afternoon and evening I had contractions that were stronger than the regular Braxton-Hicks ones and kept me awake, but they were never frequent enough to justify going to the hospital. Just enough that I was tired the next morning! On Monday, I was scheduled for an ultrasound to check the placenta.

We discovered that Daniel was not growing as he had been. He’d been at about the 45th percentile for weight all through the pregnancy, but now suddenly he was at the 10th. A one-hour appointment quickly became a grueling day of non-stress testing, monitoring, and doctors throwing around phrases such as “risk of stillbirth,” “borderline pre-eclampsia,” “oligohydramnios” and “emergency c-section.” However, every other indication showed that the baby was doing very well.  We saw no structural deformities, blood flow seemed fine, his heart rate was consistently strong. My amniotic fluid was barely enough to be within normal limits, but that had been the case for months. So we elected to stay the course but with additional monitoring twice a week, rather than risk delivery before the baby was ready to be born. That night I had a horrible headache with some fuzzy vision. It seemed like a migraine, but a headache like that is a sign of pre-eclampsia and my blood pressure had been kind of high… so the midwife sent us back to the hospital to get checked out.  We were home at 3 a.m. with orders to rest as much as I could. Tuesday night, I had contractions again, but never enough to make me think I was in labor.

Wednesday morning I decided to go to my mothers’ group. About halfway through the meeting I felt a little… wet. I went to the bathroom and used the toilet. It wasn’t much fluid so it was probably just whatever wasn’t amniotic fluid last week… but when I was at the sink washing my hands, suddenly it WAS much fluid.  I was soaked! Thank the Lord I was there and not at home, because of course Sr. Kay (my wonderful midwife) didn’t want me to drive and my husband had taken the bus to work that day.  Dear Ellie, whose bathroom I’d just soaked, calmly helped me load up Anthony and Katie Rose into the car and drove my car downtown to collect Ryan, with Jean following us in her car in order to take Ellie home again.  Ellie led us in the Rosary while she drove. I was not having any contractions, which helped with the car ride. I was worried about needing a cesarean because the baby was breech. I wasn’t too worried about stillbirth, despite Maternal Fetal Medicine’s soothsaying, because Daniel was still kicking like crazy. Definitely my most active baby in utero thus far!

So we got Ryan behind the wheel, said goodbye to Ellie and Jean, then drove over the river to Kentucky. We dropped the children off at Fatima’s house near the hospital (arranged in between Hail Marys), then on to labor and delivery. By now it was about noon. Sr. Kay was already there for the day, and she met us as soon as we arrived. It was still necessary to test me to make sure that it was in fact my bag of waters that had broken. I couldn’t imagine that it was anything else, but I “failed” the first two of three tests. First, visually inspect for pooling of fluid in the vagina. Next is a strip of paper similar to litmus paper. If the fluid that touches it is amniotic fluid, the strip turns blue. I got green. Last is putting some of the fluid on a slide, and looking for “ferning” under a microscope. (When it dries, amniotic fluid forms a pattern that looks like a fern.)  We were waiting for the slide to dry, but it looked like I was going to be sent home from labor and delivery for the third time in a week. Ryan and I were incredulous. If it’s not amniotic fluid, what could it possibly be? It wasn’t urine since I’d just gone! This can’t be normal! While we were going on about this with Sr. Kay, somebody threw away the slide. Guess we needed to swab me again. Thank the Lord for that, because I’d been hooked up to the fetal monitor for several minutes while waiting, and oh, look, fluid pooling. And ferning. Guess we’re having a baby today after all. While I did not really want to have a premature baby, part of me was relieved because all of this in and out of L&D was really getting ridiculous!

The next thing to be dealt with was the baby’s position. He was presenting Frank breech—bottom first. We opted to attempt a version. There is one OB at this hospital with a reputation for being very good at getting babies to turn, and he was there in L&D without any pressing need to deliver a baby, so we could try it right away! I was still not having any contractions, and the baby being small were factors in favor of success. Sr. Kay watched on ultrasound that Daniel was tolerating it well. I’d read up on external version a few days before, after my ultrasound that showed him being breech. The internet told me that women often have epidurals placed for this and that it was quite painful. Epidural wasn’t even mentioned, since I wanted to have a natural birth if at all possible. Truthfully it didn’t hurt exactly. It was extremely uncomfortable, for sure. I used the same sort of relaxation techniques as during labor in order to keep my abdominal muscles loose, and that worked fine. Daniel’s heart rate was perfect throughout. I don’t know how long it took exactly but I would guess about ten to fifteen minutes of the doctor kneading my abdomen put Daniel head down! He was still very high up in my pelvis, so to keep him in position I was strapped into what I can only describe as a girdle. It was a very heavy elastic band about a foot wide.

Now we had to get labor going. Sr. Kay was willing to try natural methods first. She even suggested using the breast pump to stimulate contractions, and walking the hallways in between monitoring sessions. We had missed lunch, so Ryan got us some food from the cafeteria to sustain me in labor. (Yes, I was allowed to eat!) We talked about what to do with the children for the next couple of days, since our labor and delivery “on call” list didn’t address who would be on a month ahead of the due date. We managed to arrange for Beth to take over for the evening, and Lisa to take them home and spend the night with them. We also talked again with Sr. Kay, since after two hours nothing was happening with contractions, even though I’d been having them pretty often for weeks. We decided to send Ryan to transport the children to Beth and change out of his nice dress clothes while I would walk the halls and arrange child care for the next day. When he came back, we would start Pitocin if I was not in labor yet. I was already pretty worn out from the events of the previous week, and it didn’t make sense to waste the energy I had just on getting labor started.

He left, and I started walking. I had several conversations on my cell phone that went along the lines of, “Hi, guess where I am! Want to take care of my children?” In the end my neighbor was able to watch them at her house in the morning so Lisa could get to work, and then Anthony’s godmother could pick them up after doing the morning school drop-offs. I also called my friend Kate, who had been my doula for Katie Rose’s birth. She was available and would come after she’d had dinner with her family. 

It took Ryan a very long time to get back to the hospital. He had a long way to travel, and he hit rush hour traffic as well as a couple of accidents making things even slower. Still not a single contraction. I felt better about the decision to use Pitocin, even though Sr. Kay was okay with waiting longer if we had wanted. I was not on any “schedule” for delivery. When I was in nursing school on my OB rotation, we were taught that once the bag of waters had broken, delivery MUST occur within 24 hours. Even if the woman was close to pushing, once that 24 hours was up she would get a cesarean. I was certainly relieved that wasn’t the case here, but I was ready to get started. By 6:00, Ryan was back and we got ready to labor.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Daniel Louis! Internet debut and update.

He's here! And it is indeed Daniel! Big brother Anthony was right all along.

 Daniel Louis Keane
born Thursday, February 12, 2015
12:16 a.m.
4 lbs. 11 oz, 18"

He was born a month early. I promised a birth story, and I do want to write that all down for my own benefit as well. Bottom line: God is good. But first I want to jump ahead a bit to today, for the friends and family more interested in the immediate present. Feel free to skip and come back for the exciting stuff.

Here's a photo from yesterday.  He does that furrowed forehead exactly like his Pop-Pop! I had a very long night last night, trying to get him to eat. He is very small, even for being born at 36 weeks. See how the whites of his eyes are yellowish? Yes, jaundice. At the pediatrician on Tuesday she said she wasn't concerned that he needed photo therapy, but to bring him back in if he slept through more than one feeding or just started to feed poorly. Well, he did that last night and I did not want to take him out in -12 degree weather if I could help it! This was not quite unexpected, since jaundice in babies of his gestational age tends to peak at about one week. By morning he was doing better, thank God. 

A curious thing about jaundice is the yellow tinge starts at the top of the body and works its way down. As it gets better, the yellow disappears from the bottom up. If you press on the skin, it's definitely yellow or white. So if you're seeing yellow on the legs, that's really bad. His was down to his belly button and now it's about at upper chest, so definitely improving! He's also much more alert, staying quietly awake for a full hour this afternoon. He hasn't be awake that long since he was born.

Anthony and Katie Rose both love their brother very much. Anthony especially dotes on Daniel. He's very proud of choosing his name! When we've had the older children hold the baby Anthony says, "I get to hold him first because I named him!" 

Anthony won't be able to hold him for a little while longer at least, because today he suddenly came down with a fever and very sore throat. I discovered the fever WHILE he was holding Daniel, so please please pray that our baby doesn't get sick! For a four-year-old he has an amazing grasp of how the immune system works, thanks to The Magic School Bus books. Seriously, I was able to explain Daniel doesn't have very strong white blood cells yet to fight off any germs, so he has to stay away from Daniel until he's all better. Anthony should be better in a few days, but if Daniel got sick he would probably have to go to the hospital again. I've heard no fuss about it since. He's been very good about washing hands and covering coughs, things we'd have to remind him constantly of before.

Taken yesterday, before illness!
 Let's end with something happy. How we came up with Daniel Louis: "Daniel" is the name given to him by Anthony when I was about six weeks pregnant. My belly was perhaps ever so slightly bigger, perhaps only noticeable to someone who is eye level with my belly button. He hugged me around the tummy and said thoughtfully, "Hmm. Is there a baby in your tummy?" 

Well, I could hardly deny a point-blank question, and said, "Yes there is."

"That's my baby brother Daniel." He's consistently called this child "Daniel" ever since! I've never received any explanation as to why "Daniel," but pretty soon all of us were calling him that. Too late to change it by the time he was born! 

"Louis" is after three saints to whom we have devotion: St. Louis de Montfort, King Louis IX of France, and Blessed Louis Martin. Daniel's godfather Tom's middle name is also Louis, so that seemed like a neat and subtle tribute.

Since he has three Louises, we'll celebrate his feast day on July 21, the feast of the Biblical prophet Daniel.