Birthday pancakes with sprinkles. all his favorite foods. good friends, donuts. hand stands. presents. minute-to-win it games. Hanna's amazing baked goods. ben's incredible mac and cheese. good belly laughs.
This has been a long time coming. While I wrote the story a few days after Elias' was born, I wanted to be able to edit it and make any changes. A whole year has passed, so now seemed like a great time to read it. To all you who love a birth story, here's how Elias came on the scene.
On Thursday we went to our midwife appointment just as scheduled. She measured my belly and commented again how she anticipated a very large baby. I'd been fighting it all along, but something in my heart kept telling me I needed to start being willing to hear what she had to say. I think I was just afraid of being induced, unncecessarily, but my heart started to lay down the idea of a the birth I wanted, just incase that wasn't in the cards.
The next day I got a call from my midwife "I just can't stop thinking about it, I really need you to go to an ultrasound and get baby checked."I said okay, called Ben and was a bit bummed because of how helpless I felt. I couldn't really figure out how this information would help other than to go down the induction road. When I prayed about it that afternoon, again I felt like I needed to lay this down and have a good heart towards my medical staff. They were for me. And if they weren't "What you've intended for harm, God intended for good." In my heart I knew I was covered either way.
So, to the ultrasound I went. It was at 2 in the afternoon, on Monday. As soon as I met the OB, my heart rested. I made mention that I thought my water might be leaking (I wasn't positive, but figured I'd make mention of it) and sure enough after two tests, they were both positive. Also, baby was measuring at around 4 kilos (9 pounds.) The OB recommended we go to the hospital and see what they would have us do.
We decided to take our time getting there. We had groceries that were going to be delivered, and we wanted to give our babysitter time to do whatever they may need to before dropping her off. At around 7:00 we dropped off Eowyn, called the Hospital, and they told us to come in at 8. We had some time, so we went and bought milk, just in case (and to hopefully get labor going by walking.) I was having braxton hicks contractions for weeks, so even when I would feel contractions then, it was nothing different than what I had been feeling.
We arrived at the hospital, went in and waited. 45 or so minutes later we met with a midwife who had one of the kindest hearts. She was an older woman, who kept joking calmly. She ran the tests to check if my water had broken and confirmed yes. She joked "Well, you're definitely pregnant!"
She then proceeded to hook me up to some monitoring to check baby and contractions. Surprisingly, what I thought were just braxton hicks were regular contractions coming at around 10 minutes a part. She asked me if I felt pain, which I didn't really, and she seemed unsure as to what to do. They decided to admit me to the hospital and see what happened. Later we found out that the midwife conspired a bit to get things moving as naturally as possible (separating the membranes) and see what happened. Regardless, the looming '24 hours' of needing to deliver was there since my water had broken.
We went to the labor & delivery and got a room. They hooked me up to fetal monitoring, different than what I had ever had before and my water broke all over the floor. It was a party. After that the contractions began to be stronger, and after about 20 minutes of monitoring, I went to shower. They don't have baths in the hospitals (apparently there is one, if you hoped for a water birth) and so I brought my yoga ball and hung out in there. Things progressed quickly from there. Before the contractions really started, the hospital midwife kept mentioned needing to give me sythentic oxytocin. I'm grateful for Ben pushing against it and asking for us to wait a little longer before doing anything like that. With how fast and how intense the labor ended up being, if we had pitocin in the mix, I don't think we'd have a very positive story to tell.
Ben was a champ with his coaching, and kept me focused with counting and getting through contractions, the pressure/pain was way more intense than with Eowyn, so I was struggling to get into any kind of rhythm to concentrate. I was grateful for Ben. I went from 3 cm to 7 in about two hours, and then 7 to fully ready to push in about 30 minutes. I managed out of the shower after about an hour, but stayed with that beloved ball the whole time. My body started pushing on its own, so I pushed the button for the midwife and let her know I couldn't help but push and she should make her way over.
I was able to get up on the bed (barely), and started to push. He was big, people. His head came out finally and he had his hand up by his face.After his head came out, I thought I was in the clear. Since Eowyn came out so easily after her head came. Not with him. Perhaps it was a mental thing, but my contractions stopped for what seemed like forever (it was less than a minute) but I was having a hard time pushing his belly out. I got a bit desperate thinking I wasn't going to get him out. (Not to mention I was convinced I was split clean from top to bottom!) Eventually the contractions came again and I was able to push him fully out. God be praised.
While we were laboring, we kept hearing all these sweet newborn cries in the other rooms. It made me all the more excited for our little guy to come. When he finally came out and took his first breaths, he let out a high pitched shriek. Like...banshee scream (which he's still a fan of today.) Ben and I both, wide-eyed, looked at each other and were like "Woah..." We've jokingly called him Banshee and have upgraded him to Pterydactl every time he decides to awaken us in the middle of the night with it. We've called Eowyn Dragon since she was little "The dragon has awaken" so it seems fitting he came into this world already giving us ideas for future nicknames.
When he came, his body was nice and pink, but his face was blue. He came out so fast, his face got bruised! He was a solid nine pounds. He was born just past midnight. While he has his own birthday, he shares his birthday stateside with his grandpa Sprague (we called them and it was still the day before!) It was a sweet joke leading up to his birth, so to actually have him at the time we did is fun. He gets to have his own day and share it with his grandpa too.
He took to nursing pretty fast (which is in contrast with Eowyn who was wisked away immediately to the special care unit and bottle fed donor breastmilk,) and they brought us a nice platter of food while we enjoyed him in our room. We had an hour or so to just enjoy him until we were moved.
We were soon escorted to a different room where Ben had to go home since it was a shared room with another mother. That was around 3 AM. The next two nights were, to be honest, pretty hard. Elias cried a lot those first few days (I think it was his bruised face. ) and Every day Ben had to go home to be with Eowyn and I had to stay in the hospital. The angel nurse that admitted us came to check on me a few days later in the hospital. Her company is one of my fondest memories. Lucky for us, they let us go home early. It was a sweet relief. Since there's communal showers, rooms and bathrooms, it was nice to be able to go home and have everything to myself. His birth was pretty much as perfect as it could have gone. Especially when considering it was in a different country, everything was in Finnish (luckily we had staff that spoke relatively well and were wildly kind to us.) and I had to be without the rest of my family for most of the days after Elias' birth. While he did have to keep getting his glucose checked, he was perfectly healthy.
I think the actual birthing process was very similar to my experience in the states. Perhaps it's because I had a rough idea of what to expect, so I wasn't so fearful (good thing I didn't know how fast it would all end up being! Giddy up!) The midwives offered meds just as often (if not more) as when I was stateside, which was confusing to me due to the characterization of American midwives. They acted very surprised when I asked to hold off for a bit (I'm not against the meds-God be praised for modern medicine and sweet assistance as we need it.) The staff was very competent, very kind.
The differences in experiences were more with post birth. We had shared rooms, communal bathrooms, there was a 'bell' that cues you to come and get your meals (conveniently on a tray with your name on it-don't be late or you'll miss the meal!) and little carts that you wheel your baby around in back and forth from all the communal spaces...It was such a different experience. They don't ask the baby's name, because in Finland there is a 'naming ceremony' so many parents don't have a name picked right away (it's essentially the equivalent of a baby shower, just post baby.) Mostly little things were different, really. I think setting my heart up to expect something different made for a positive time. I have positive memories, even if they are a bit more lonely. Not speaking the language left a lot less small talk to be had (not that Finns are much for small talk anyway.) and without Ben and E being able to be with me, I found myself ready to go home as quickly as I could.
Oh, also, they don't use baby wipes at the hospital. So imagine my surprise when I got to use the sink to get that black meconium off! I quickly got used to it-not so used to it that I converted, but I do see the benefit..
From the time my water officially broke to the time he came out screaming was a little shy of three hours. He's been fast and furious ever since. So happy to have our sweet Elias.
This past month has been a blur and yet simultaneously has sludged on a bit. New Years Eve seems ages ago, and yet my little boy's birthday is just next week. How did this all happen? I'm still sorting it out.
There's been a lot of really good things happening this month. We're gearing up to get to see my parents next month (which puts a pep in my step for sure!) and we're in the wake of the first Roll Out with Ben's work. Starting another year here seems optimistic, and this place feels like home.
Helsinki feels like our second home and the people have our hearts. We laugh at the seeming impossibility of that reality. It still feels weird to us on paper-us living here in a Scandinavian country. But now? We're reaching the stages of knowing the nooks and crannies of our place. God really has blessed us with a heart for this city.
There's been some new found grace in our parenting. We're chilling out a bit more on some things, and being more diligent about others. There's mostly been a whole lot of deciding whats good for our kids and not worrying to much about what other's might suggest is good for them. That sounds a bit off-putting, but when I often function in insecurity with my mothering, it's been a fresh breath to go ahead and do what we know is good, regardless of the external reactions. It's given me a lot of joy.
I got the opportunity to write a bit of a 6 month recap on the progress of our church plant. If you haven't read it, be sure to take a look at it. We're grateful we get to grow with our church. It's been a fun thing to notice our hearts change in the way we see our church. At first it was "yeah, we know some people who church plant; we help them out a bit..." and now it's morphed to ownership. It's our church plant. What a blessing to get to show up in the early stages and celebrate as we grow.
Ben and I are kicking off our 12 months of dates this weekend. I decided to give Ben 12 dates as a Christmas present last year-where he opens up an envelope at the start of each month, picks a day to go and I plan the rest. I intentionally picked things we wouldn't normally do which is making me all the more excited for him to open each envelope to see what they are. I'm mostly just excited to get to spend time with that guy sans kidlets.
Otherwise life looks pretty normal. Laundry days, meal planning, etc. I'm finishing up "For The Love" by Jen Hatmaker, and I am OBSESSED with this book. It sings to my heart. If you're wanting encouragement, especially regarding the christian community and just want a good laugh, this is a solid lead.
Highlights of this month so far? Elias is walking non-stop. I imagine by the time my parents see him he won't be tumbling anymore. He'll fall over and get right back up. Eowyn is all of a sudden 10X more hilarious than previous (how does that even happen?) All the reading to her (and letting her watch rando shows on youtube kids) is paying off. She's using wild adjectives, and making life way more exciting. We have feasts now instead of picnics, things are 'disgusting,' 'adorable,' 'amazing' and other really fun ways of describing things. She sings songs and tells stories of brave princess dragons who eat knights like 'a piece of corn.' I snort on my drink and food often. She's got this wit and if she could help it, life would always be 100% silly.
We found a pretty great babysitter for this upcoming year that I'm excited about. I found a few great new recipes thanks to my friends on the internet, I've discovered a organization called Revelation Wellness that I've known about for some time but just now am really getting to roll around in. There's just been a lot of good stuff.
I think one of my favorite things is the reality that we have people here. Like, people who see us parent and that crack jokes with us and that remind us who we are. It's a special point in relationships when they'll joke about how they know we'll react this way or that, because they know us. It's special to be able to rest with friends and be honest about the nitty gritty. I love the fact that Eowyn is able to see us as grown ups have people who are so easy to love, and to have women and men who love on her. It's an answer to prayer.
So, in the upcoming weeks we've got a date night, birthday bash, a plane ride to Funchal, Portugal and getting to rest and be with my fam. My heart is greatly looking forward to it.
In the meantime we'll be living life as usual-which is crazy to think that this life is now our 'usual.'
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
I announced it to my mom a week ago and I've uttered it to a few more times since: I finally, after nearly a full year of this two kidlet gig, 'feel like I'm not drowning.' We make it outside nearly every day. Often without a full on scream fest from my youngest (or oldest, for that matter.) Most days, even with the cries, my head doesn't feel quite so blurry and when we laugh, it's genuine and nestled in rest. The to-do's feel a bit trimmed down, a bit more manageable. Life feels a bit more, dare-i-say-it, easy. It's surely not coincidence that when Ben and I have both prayed over this year, we really feel like our focus needs to be on prioritizing peace. To most it's just a trendy Christmas word, but after such a jarring year previous with everything else feeling a bit battered, the idea of peace is just what our hearts need. The best part of all this word business is how much I can already see God's hand in bringing about the very thing. I mentioned to Ben last night that some of the struggles we've faced seem so far off now. Even if it was just a season ago, I know it's because of Jesus. No wounds heal like those healed by Jesus. No situations change like those changed by Him. No peace is like the peace of Jesus.
One way I'm finding peace is by chewing on the idea of the long-term. This in itself is such a BIG IDEA for a mom who very much has to live in the moment. Most of my brain is used for cataloging where a certain girl's special chapstick, tutu or other hidden jemstones, like her babies bottle are. So to find myself thinking in terms of next year, a few years from now, and sometimes even eternity is surprising. Surprising not just because I actually find myself thinking of such thoughts, but surprising that I'm not itching to get to it. I'm not eager to get to the year that everything is easier. Sure, I have my moments of pinning, but what I'm finding myself thinking is more along the lines of "do the work now, we'll see the fruit later." This is astronomical in my heart. I'm a quick results kind of girl. If my children are reflecting something distasteful I want to shut it down ASAP. If I feel a certain restlessness in my heart I want it fixed stat. So, to begin to think of this work as sustaining or planting, to realize that sometimes it isn't time to reap.... To think of life, and my children's hearts, and my body, and our food not as projects to get results but as...things that will be (hopefully) here for the long haul. Well, it changes things. My job in life is not to produce outcomes, but to be faithful with the things I've been given. God has clearly called me to one or two things (although I often find myself wanting to add a few more for the ego boost.) And those things? I'm called to be faithful to. He equips me to parent. He equips me to take care of my body. He equips me to do the work I've been given outside of this home. He calls me to motherhood, to being a wife, to being a friend. This isn't for my glory, but it is for my joy. As I've really started to see this concept weave into my thoughts, it's forced me to look at things and challenge some of my actions and heart motives. I've noticed that I've ingested a few things said about me over the years. My actions have since either worked hard to defy those things, or to maintain them. For example, I've been told I'm dependable and stable. So when I feel shaky, or feel anxious, I feel tempted to hide. Why? Because I want to be 'stable'. I don't want anyone to think that perhaps I'm not not dependable. I once was the butt of an off-the-hand joke. The punchline was essentially that I wasn't a good listener. As a young college aged gal, majoring in counseling...the idea that I wasn't a good listener was basically like telling a doctor he can't understand biology. It's the BASIS of the practice. If I can't listen? Well... And so my identity became wrapped up for a very long time in proving to people I was a good listener. Did I in fact become better at listening? Maybe? But my motive and my heart work wasn't honoring to God. I can nearly guarantee it gave him very little glory. Why? Beyond the fact I was in it for myself, I was allowing someones off-handed(most likely unintentional) joke to decide many of my actions. It influenced my decisions for years. Rather than actually looking through the lens of "Hey God, is this some thing I should listen to?" I wanted to be the listener of everything and in so doing muffled listening to Him. Often, filling our heads with words of people can choke out the voice of the one who matters. It took me a long time to embrace the reality that what God says is true-is in fact true for infinity forward. When God saw all he created in the garden and called it good, I really believed it was good just in that moment. You know, before Eve and Adam janked it all up. For someone reason, I couldn't fathom how, after all the heartbreak he was sure to go through-he could call it good for future tense. But I now know otherwise. As a mother (not even knowing the end story) and as a wife, in my imperfect view-I can see my children and I can see who they are now. I can see my marriage and what it is now. I can with a clear head, knowing the ache that I've carried from parenting and our relationship and with 100% honesty call them fully, completely, utterly good. They are FULL BLESSINGS. Is there room for God to work in them? Sure thing. Yes, please. I get to be a big part of that good work. But who my people are? They are good at this very moment. They are whole at this very moment. Because they are his, he is pleased at this very moment. God wants to bring peace. It's who he is. A big part of that in my life is embracing the reality that when he sees me in current time he sees a finished work. He's wholly pleased with His creation. He does delight in bringing more fruit-and that looks often like pruning and calling me out and leading in different directions, and almost always that can be scary and painful (in the least ) but he sees beauty the same way a garden is seen by the gardener. He anticipates the bloom, even while weeding. Even when the thorns prick him, he is tender. He delights in his handiwork. He calls it good because he knows that what he plants is ALWAYS good. There are seasons in my life where I can see it. "Man Jesus, I look good! I AM BLOOMING!" and there are some where all I feel is the digging. All I feel is him piercing a bit deeper, planting a bit more sturdy things and I think "Surely, you cannot call this good." When the anxiety, and the deep fears, the depressing thoughts, hasty mean words all come flying out... He's dug up some nasty. Yet, he somehow still calls me good. He's blessed this ground and my heart with his word and his truth. He's produced good fruit, and is gonna keep on doing so. Right now, he's sowing in peace and it's already sprouting up. Right now he's teaching a crazy mom of two that he's in it for the long haul. Right now he's giving me glimpses into that future garden, the eternity bloom. and it looks like peace.
1. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
2. Peak-a WHO? by Nina Laden
3. Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox
4. I Love you Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak
5. Night-Night, Little Pookie by Sandra Boyton
6. Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
7. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess
8. That's not my monkey...by Fiona Watt
We're totally wild about books in this house. While I sometimes will post our favorites on Instagram (#spragueletreads), I thought it would be more fun and useful to post them here as a bit of a series. We've got our very favorites as well as happy new discoveries. I'd love to share the wealth as we discover or rediscover some really amazing kid lit.
The books you see here are tried and true. All of them have been read over and over, the edges are starting to wear, our spraguelets have them near memorized if not entirely memorized, they are plainly put great books.
I've been reflecting on the past year and the good things that have come out of it. I wanted, just for fun, to go ahead and write out some of the not so serious decisions, both practical and non-tangible , we actively made this year that have blessed us. These were, amongst a few others, for sure some of my best. From these five my load has been lightened, I've been encouraged and I see God working a lot of grace and joy into my life.