Eden Jacquelyn: A birth story

**** This was supposed to be posted on Eden’s birthday, July 13, but our hard drive crashed that day so I didn’t get to post it until now ****

One year ago this little angel made me a mother.

Only a few hours old

In some ways it’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year, but in other ways it seems like she’s been with us forever. Seeing how much she’s changed over the past year has been amazing and the love that she displays to both Tim and I just fills our hearts until we think they might burst.

I thought that I might share Eden’s birth story since I haven’t yet, it seems timely since it’s her birthday and all. Tim wrote an excellent log of the labour and delivery during and after it happened so I have a great resource since my memory of the whole thing isn’t that great.

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July 12, 2010 around 11pm

My contractions started, well, I wasn’t really sure whether it was contractions. It felt more like menstrual cramps and I wasn’t too concerned since my due date wasn’t for another week and it’s more common to have a late first baby than early. Tim was out playing softball and I was home, probably watching a show or something like that. When Tim got home I told him that I was having some cramping but nothing too serious I didn’t think. We tried to go to sleep but it was pretty futile because I couldn’t get comfortable and the cramping was increasingly bothersome.  Around 2am I asked Tim to start recording my contractions and we realised that they were only about 4 minutes apart lasting for about 1 minute. They were pretty consistently 4 minutes apart which is actually pretty close together. We decided to stay home for as long as we could, to try and get some rest (turned out impossible) and just start this process together in the quietness of the night.

It was a bit of a strange situation because we couldn’t really call anyone to tell them labour had started because it was the middle of the night, but it was also nice because it was just the two of us. What an amazing support Tim was!

At 3:20am Tim journaled, “Sleep’s not going to be possible, too many contractions, plus things to do to get ready; bags to pack, sandwiches to make…here we go, early labour!”

We left for the hospital around 9am, 7 hours after the contractions began, and after we called a few family members to let them know what was happening.

Around 11am we met the OB, Resident, and a Med Student…(we also had our regular nurse and a student nurse) and they did the first examination. It was a pretty full room, but we were told that I was already 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced! This was such an encouragement to us.

I laboured on the exercise ball quite a bit and spent some time in the tub. Tim and I walked around the ward and it seemed to be going really well. Around 2pm, 12 hours after labour began, the myriad of doctors arrived for another examination. The news wasn’t great this time, I was only 1 more cm dilated and that was after 4 more hours of contractions. It was strange though because up until that point I was really in control of the whole situation. I was breathing through contractions and I was feeling really optimistic about the whole thing. I honestly felt like I lost a lot of control over the whole process at this point.

A healthy girl!

The doctors recommended that they rupture my membrane (break the water) manually to get things going. I honestly didn’t want to have any interventions but I didn’t really feel like I had a choice in the  matter. My nurse was really pushy too, so we decided to go ahead with it. In the end it did nothing other than make the contractions much more painful.

Things really went down hill from here. Because of the increased pain they recommended fentanyl to “take the edge off”, and needing this medicine made me feel like I had failed somehow because I so desperately wanted to have a natural birth without intervention. The fentanyl really negatively affected me and I basically lost my mind.  After a few more hours of steady contractions and being examined by the doctor we found out I was still only at 5cm. This is what Tim wrote about it: “This knowledge caused her to plunge into despair…she basically became hysterical, weeping and hyperventilating between and during each contraction, with no way of consoling her. She claimed that she ‘wasn’t even here’ and ‘didn’t know what was going on’ and that she ‘wasn’t herself’. She would hardly open her eyes, even to look at me, partly because she was dizzy from the fentanyl and hyperventilation, but also – I suspect – because of her panicked state of mind.”

Charlotte holding her cousin with mommy's help

On a side note, I think I had the worst nurse in the labour and delivery department. She didn’t really listen to any of my wishes and would say things like, “You can’t say we never offered you an epidural” when I was in the middle of a contraction. If I had been in my right mind I probably would have asked for a new nurse, but since I was out of it I didn’t really realise until afterwards. She also had me strapped to the fetal monitor for a long time, so I laboured a lot on my back (which is the worst position). Tim was getting pretty frustrated with her though, and when it got to be too much and he was going to ask for someone else it was the end of her shift and I got a new one anyway.

At 5pm, after 14 hours of labour, Dr. Adam arrived! I had never met him but I had heard many good things about him from other moms. He recommended that they give me Pitocin to help speed up the process. I was eventually able to consent to it (I was still very hysterical) and it really helped things progress. I dilated 2cm more in only an hour and during that time I also started breathing Nitrous Oxide. I don’t really know if the gas did much but it really became part of my routine of getting through a contraction. I felt the urge to push sometime around 7:00pm, but the nurses told me to stop, which is impossible (if you’ve ever had a baby you will know this). They checked my progress and of course I had dilated completely (the body knows when it’s ready) and it was time. I think I did really well at this point, I was concentrating really hard and listening to the nurses instructions on how long to push and such. The contractions slowed a bit so I did have time to breath in between each one. It hurt like no pain I’ve ever experienced before, at one point I remember saying to Tim that I couldn’t do it and I didn’t even care about the baby, I just wanted it to stop. Thankfully I only had to push for about half an hour and then everything changed when she was born.

Mom and her granddaughters shortly after Lila was born

They immediately brought her up to my chest for some skin-to-skin contact. The room became quiet and I was just amazed at the perfect little baby that laid there, looking up at me with her big blue eyes. The resident began to stitch me up (which took forever and was very painful, he did do an excellent job though) and they cleaned Eden up. She latched on really well and we had a successful first nursing session.

Sisters and Cousins

What an amazing experience it was to bring a life into the world. I will probably never forget it and I have definitely learned some things for next time that I’ll do differently, but in the end it was worth it. I honestly can’t imagine life without this little angel now. She has taught me so much over this past year and I’m sure there is much more for me to learn.

July 14, 6:40pm: “We named Eden after the place God made for his creation; a perfect place of peace, where all of their needs would be fulfilled. It’s our hope and prayer that Eden will grow up strong and healthy to fulfill the meaning of that name; to live in peace with others, to have all her needs met, and to enjoy God’s creation and a relationship with him.”

I love you Eden, for making me a mother and teaching me what that really means. I pray that as you grow physically I will grow spiritually and with confidence in the decisions I have to make for you. You are an amazing daughter and fill me with a love that I didn’t even know existed prior to your birth. I thank God for entrusting you, his precious daughter,  into my care as your mother and primary role model (at least for the early years). You are a treasure that I cherish and I love the kisses that you so generously give me.

Learning to kiss, she's a pro now!

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Traveling at light speed – possible but extremely unpleasant?

I got thinking about traveling at light speed the other day while I was eating breakfast.  There must have been something in my Shredded Wheat and Bran that stimulated intense neural activity, because all morning at work I felt like my mind was bubbling over with interesting and stimulating thoughts and concepts.  As I pondered the eventual possibility of interstellar travel (or even intergalactic travel) a few thoughts crossed my mind:

Regardless of mechanical capabilities (we all know the Falcon could never truly endure light speed) could a human being actually survive travel at light speed?  I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t exist quite happily while traveling at that speed – after all, we travel at 800 km/h with basically no sensation of it in airplanes – but could a person actually accelerate to 300,000,000 m/s in the course of their lifetime?  How long would it take, and what force would have to be applied against them in order to maintain the level of acceleration required to get them there?  Traveling at light speed would potentially be cool, but not if you were a cold, rotting, corpse because you died during the approach.  Even if you did survive the force of acceleration, you wouldn’t want to end up with permanent damage or a facial expression stuck like the middle one below:

John Stapp's need for speed resulted in permanent eye damage...oh, and honour and respect.

The problem with accelerating quickly to very high speeds is mainly that doing so impedes circulation, as far as I can tell.  Your heart is designed to pump blood around your body at or near atmospheric pressure.  When a substantial amount of force is applied against your body (or by your body against something else, same thing!) – as in the case of a vehicle collision, airplane crash, Gravitron-gone-wild or willful subjection to interstellar travel – your heart may not actually be able to pump blood hard enough to overcome the applied force.  Basically, your blood ends up pooling in the direction of the applied force instead of circulating and keeping your tissues (and thus, you) alive.

Acceleration is often described as a multiple of the rate of acceleration due to gravity (the “G force”: ~9.8 m/s^2).  Plenty of studies/events have demonstrated the detrimental effects of sustained (or even brief) exposure to high G’s (greater than 5 or so).  High-velocity jet pilots and other maniacs wear special equipment and train their bodies to cope with forces upwards of 9 G’s, but only very briefly (seconds).  They need to flex certain muscles throughout their bodies in order to manually “encourage” circulation; as a side note, muscle flexing is actually always a component of healthy circulation, even at STP.  Particularly without this kind of training or special conditions, prolonged exposure to high G’s would almost definitely lead to rapid loss of consciousness.  In a way, it’s comforting to know that many people who die in tragedies like SwissAir 111 may have passed out from the intense G force prior to being decimated by the impact.

Anyway, based on the Wikipedia article on G force I decided to see how long it would take to accelerate to light speed at a couple of different (possibly) tolerable G forces.  I pulled out a pad of paper and started scrawling down some formulas from intro physics.  Formulas 1 and 2 were used to find the time required, based on average acceleration (about 5.5 g’s, or 55 m/s^2 first) and initial and final velocities (0 m/s and 300,000,000 m/s, respectively).

See text for description - ignore the stuff at upper and lower right, or just enjoy it independently

I was actually surprised to find out that at about 5.5 G’s it would only take 63 days to make it from 0 to light speed.  Since 5.5 G’s is probably right around the threshold of maintaining consciousness, this would probably be the most horrendous experience of your life.  63 days of being pressed back against your seat so hard that you’re constantly bordering on passing out, probably unable to eat anything since even IV fluid might not be able to circulate due to the force against it.  [One possible, futuristically awesome solution to this that my colleague Emma and I came up with would be micro-pumps inserted into the blood vessels throughout your body, similar to stints.]

If you slow the rate of acceleration down to 3 g’s, it would probably still be absolutely terrible for a prolonged period of time (similar force to what you might experience on the Gravitron, which recommends no more than 80 seconds of exposure), and it would take 118 grueling days. Plus, remember that you need to double this number since you’d have to decelerate upon arrival.  You’re looking at the better part of a year in a state of constant pressure…

Anyway, I’ve exhausted my interest (and probably yours) in this subject by now, so I’ll leave it at that.  Feel free to carry on with my calculations and find the amount of time you’d be willing to travel to reach light speed, and the G’s you’d be willing to withstand.  What do you think?  Sound like a good time?

Faith & Willingness

I figured it was about time for some heavy duty thoughts, considering how many pictures of Eden have been up lately.  So tonight I’m going to try and dish out some coherent points on willingness to believe, an extremely important aspect of Christianity that I’ve had on my mind for a while.

I want to start with a reference to a Richard Dawkins TED talk on “militant atheism”- I watched this a while ago on a quiet night shift, after being impressed with how poor Dawkins’ Giraffe’s Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve example was for animal “design” being random and unintelligent (i.e. lacking design).  I gave a brief rebuttal to this idea in a previous blog post (in the comments section), so I won’t go into detail here.  It suffices to say that a short Wikipedia article contains more than enough information to form a decent rebuttal.

In the TED talk linked above, Dawkins discusses how religion and evolution are fundamentally corrosive to one another, which may very well be true.  If you’re interested, watch the whole talk, or if you’d like to see just the part I’m about to refer to, go to the 9:45 mark and watch for ~2 minutes.  Prior to this point, he discusses a quote from Douglas Adams, in which Adams challenged the notion that some things in life are up for debate (e.g. which political party to vote for, scientific theories) whereas others, namely religious dogma, are seemingly not.

Dawkins goes on to share a parody in which he compares how people come to scientific conclusions versus religious truths; essentially, he makes a mockery of the fact that religious people can accept something based on the fact that it’s been “revealed” to someone, whereas good scientists would never accept a conclusion based on such evidence (e.g. “it was privately revealed to Professor so-and-so that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs”).  If that summary wasn’t clear, go watch that part of the video (start at 9:45).

This brings me to my real point: not primarily that science and religion need to be considered “differently” – although this is true to an extent – but that Dawkins and Adams are absolutely right, in a way.  From their point of view, it is ridiculous to accept that any truth could be accepted solely on the grounds that it was revealed to someone, who then shared it with the rest of the world.  This is because in their worldview, God does not exist.  In a Godless context, his sarcasm and satire are quite clever, and his point are possibly irrefutable.

But what if there is a God?  What if he actually does speak to individuals, and not necessarily just guys like the Pope, but to regular ones like Abraham, David, and Elijah too (people who, in retrospect, we often call Biblical “heroes”).  The problem that Dawkins, Adams, and all atheists face in considering this possibility is mainly that they are simply not willing to do so.  Josh McDowell, in his information-packed book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict“, makes this point right in his introduction: if a person is not willing to accept something, even in light of the most convincing evidence, then there is no point in presenting the evidence.

Some of you may have heard the proverbial story of an atheist who goes on and on about how, if he was a Christian and really believed that hell was real, he’d get on his hands and knees, weeping and pleading with those around him to repent, forsaking all other responsibilities in order to save his loved ones from eternal damnation.  However, you and I both know that if someone has already determined not to believe in God or hell, all that begging and pleading would serve only to ruin any chance at ongoing friendship.  Everyone would assume you were having a nervous breakdown, and they certainly wouldn’t find the situation appealing.  I hope this helps illustrate the importance of the fact that willingness to believe is a crucial first step.

I believe unwillingness is the point at which Christians find most of their friends and neighbours in modern society – probably not truly convinced that there is no God, but not willing or interested enough to investigate the claims of the Bible.  There is evidence out there (not just revealed dogma), and a “true” Christian doesn’t just accept dogma anyway, but investigates the claims of the Bible, tests them in his or her own life, and eventually accepts them as a their own, but always partly on faith.  In a worldview where God is real, it’s absolutely okay to have faith, while also examining, criticizing, and engaging critical thinking skills (including thinking critically about the “religious” aspects of your life).

The writer of Corinthians, one of the books of the Bible, points out himself that the message of the cross is “foolishness” to those who don’t believe it, and that it’s actually counter to man’s wisdom and intelligence (just as we see in Dawkins parody).  The interesting thing is that, as Christians, we are able to understand that it can be ridiculous to accept that dinosaurs were wiped out based on the fact that “it was revealed to Professor so-and-so” yet at the same time we can accept that there are aspects of existence and reality that God has chosen to reveal through specific people and events in history.  The one (logical reasoning, scientific and philosophical experiments) does not preclude the other (revelation, teaching from God).

Sometimes I wonder which attitude is more open-minded, actually – the one that sees logical deduction as the only source of truth, or the one that understands the roles of both logic and revelation and where each can be applied.  That’s it for tonight, comments are welcome as always.

Canada Day 2011

This was a pretty low key Canada Day for us. We had a delicious late breakfast of pancakes, fruit and cinnamon buns (fresh out of the oven). We then decided to check out what was going on downtown. Eden wasn’t really into Scotty and the Stars.

Snoozing in the stroller

Eventually she woke up but had no idea where we were or what was going on. We just snuggled for a while.

Still waking up

We then decided to go for a little walk around down town before heading home.

Eden loved the paper flag

We finished off the day with some fresh local strawberries.  It was a mixed box of Annapolis and Evangeline, both are my dad’s varieties I believe, this farm also grows Wendy so hopefully we’ll have some of those later in the season.

Eden had strawberries for the first time

She took a big bite

The aftermath...

Tim also mowed the lawn today and we also spent some time outside this evening raking up the mounds of grass. Over all it was a great relaxing day and we’re looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend out at the cottage!