Archive for the ‘childbirth’ Category


I think sometimes pretty deeply about the ramifications of being pro-life. I mean, so many people are really, really worried about population control, the earth’s resources, inequality ….

These people think a lot about these issues. All the ink and cyberspace committed to these problematic issues.  The mega-money. The government policies. Birth control. Abortion. Oh. My. Word.

People are so worried about this. And the issues are real. …. But the proposed answers?

I began to think about this as we visited churches that support us. We drove by miles and miles and miles (and miles, and miles) of unused, beautiful earth. Why does no one talk about this? Why does no one envision life?

And I think: How does God think about this? Did He really create such an inadequate earth? It would be so easy for Him to stop creating souls, stop allowing children to be born. But He doesn’t stop!  … What amazing inventions have been hidden from us, undiscovered, because we approach this issue with a crisis, impoverished mentality?

Could we not … dare to imagine a world where we are all committed to welcoming new life? What would we invent? What would we create? What relationships would be forged? How would we be changed and challenged as nations if we committed ourselves to creating policies, committed ourselves to finding solutions for everyone, committed ourselves to stewarding and sharing the resources of this amazing earth?

So I’m just putting this out there, especially for the young. Maybe God wants you to dream, to invent, to create— to reveal to the world His welcoming and providing heart that accepts all the new lives He creates in and through us.


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Today we visited the local clinic here and got my pregnancy booklet done and released into our hands. All in one visit– this is the second time we’ve done this at our clinic here in Ivankov, since I am propisen (like registered but more permanent) here in our village house.

This booklet is given to all pregnant women when they do prenatal care here, and it has all their test results and pregnancy info (I’ll post a photo later). Around week 34-35-36, the booklet is given to the woman for her to take to her local birth house where she has her baby (at least, this is how it is in Kiev; in villages where there’s only one birth house, I’m not sure if they give it to the woman or not.)

Because we birth at home, we need this booklet to show the pediatrician who comes to our house after the birth– mostly to prove that I was pregnant (we also sometimes show the placenta as proof). Then the pediatrician gives us the next paper we need to get the birth certificate from the local ZAKs (govt office that registers local marriages, deaths, births).

The doctor is very smiley and pleasant. Except when she needs to say to me a few times that home birth is dangerous and am I not afraid…? She later explains that she needs to say these things because she gets in trouble with her “higher ups” because she couldn’t talk me out of our homebirth plans. They use an outdated tool of pelvic measurements to measure my pelvis, ask for my blood type, measure fundal growth, and decide a due date.

Here are some photos of the waiting area in the hallway:

This big sign has a poem on it about "mama"

This big sign has a poem on it about “mama”

the doctor's door over/behind Vitaliy's head

the doctor’s door over/behind Vitaliy’s head

blue poster about how using a condom is "love"

blue poster about how using a condom is “love”

more informational posters

more informational posters

So I got my fourth due date today … My earliest due date is Aug 23, then Sept 1 or 2, then Sept 8, then Sept 15.


I guess we’ll see which one is correct.

She says I have a big-looking stomach just because my muscles get stretched out from pregnancies, but the baby is not that big. And s/he is head down for the moment. But there’s so much room in there, the baby can move pretty freely.

Vitaliy writes the refusal of all tests and signs it for their files. We can get tests done at a private clinic if we want, we’re just refusing the government-required testing.

All in all, a lovely visit.

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Our church gals do awesome baby showers. (One is a wedding designer, so ….) It’s worth having a baby just for the beautiful shower. And all the love and gifts and sweetness poured out.

So I was asked to give the devotional at the shower yesterday, and I talked about thankfulness.


За все благодарите: ибо такова о вас воля Божия во Христе Иисусе.

1 Фесс 5:18

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thess 5:18

Here are some notes:

We thank when it’s obvious and easy. But thanking always is a huge step in maturity and growth. It’s how we can constantly fellowship with God and experience His grace and joy.

The verses in the NT where we’re instructed to give thanks are often connected to prayer and rejoicing, so giving thanks constantly is a way we can have/do/be full of prayer and joy.

I want to talk about 2 times when it’s hard to thank God:

  1. For the mundane. We do many repetitious tasks that seem to have no spiritual value. … laundry, food, discipline, playing with kids, cleaning .

But we can fill these tasks with spiritual meaning by giving thanks to God for them and through them.

For example, we can thank God for these simple, humbling jobs. For Christ, who did simple, humbling things on earth–who lived in a family and fulfilled the will of God as a son and brother.

We can thank God for the presence of the Holy Spirit while we do everything. In the Old Testament, people were filled with the Spirit for special tasks, and in order to fellowship with God, they had to go to a priest, a temple, offer a sacrifice. But today!  We have the Spirit constantly living in us, filling us, making holy all that we do. We ourselves are priests; we can pray and fellowship directly with God through Christ. And we can do every single job in holy service to Him.

Example: Jesus thanking God for food–such a simple, daily, repetitious thing to thank God for, but He gave great meaning to what He was doing by giving thanks. Mtt 14:19, 15:36, Luke 24:30-31

2. We can thank God for hard things: for disappointments. For tragedies. For our own struggles with sin.

Thanksgiving by faith gives meaning to these things and gives us hope that God will do even greater things than we can imagine.

Jesus thanked God for the bread and wine at the Last Supper and taught that they represented His suffering for us. He pointed us to the spiritual value that His suffering had. And we now continually give thanks, too, when we take communion, for His suffering. Mt 26:26-27.

All things in our lives have spiritual meaning, even tragedies (Rom 8:28). These things are God’s grace to us, it’s what we don’t deserve. We don’t deserve to have tragedies that can become blessings to us– we deserve just to have evil for our sins. So thanking God for ALL things strengthens our faith that there is purpose and eternal value in the things that disappoint and hurt us. For example, when I was in a car accident– it seems like simply a tragedy, but so many spiritual and physical blessings came from that time. The world may not understand our thankfulness and joy during these times when only sadness and tragedy is visible, but by faith, this is what we do.

Thanking God for our sins. When my first two kids were little, it was the hardest time in my life. I felt like I was sinning all day long. At one point, I wanted to put my older child in kindergarten, but I realized that I was just trying to run away from myself, to withdraw myself from a situation that was provoking me to sin a lot. But could I submit myself to the egoistic discomfort I was feeling, and remain in the relationship and let God use it to sanctify and transform me? I’m thankful this is what happened, and that God taught me so many lessons about Himself and the process of sanctification during that uncomfortable, obviously-sinful time in my life. I have much better understanding of some spiritual things because of this, and much greater compassion for others.

Sometimes when we give thanks for a hurtful thing, we immediately feel and gain relief in our spirits. Other times, we have to discipline ourselves to keep thanking God, and in time, He grants us that joy and peace that comes from fully trusting Him.

Also, when we have conflicts with someone in the church: Paul very often wrote to churches, “I thank God for you…” Of all people, Paul could’ve been critical, judgmental, and constantly dissatisfied with these new believers. But what did he do? He constantly thanked God for them! And so, when we experience conflicts in our church, rather than think evil, let’s find ways to give thanks for that person.

And let’s be ready to encourage one another to give thanks. When we share our trials and hardships with each other, let’s urge each other to express thankfulness in this, to find spiritual value in it, and not grumble.

We're all due not far from each other :)

We’re all due not far from each other 🙂

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So, a year or so ago, the director of my midwifery school started this awesome program to become a “Certified Home Birth Consultant.” I couldn’t pass it up! It’s just what I’d love to do. Have an “official,” named position for answering people’s questions about home birth. I do this a lot already 😀

I signed up. As everything she designs, it’s challenging. I like challenging. I’m currently reading a book written by an English statistician called Safer Childbirth?, exposing and explaining the cultural myths about obstetrics improving childbirth. She delves into what has actually improved perinatal mortality and morbidity rates— better nutrition is probably #1, sanitation and hygiene, clean water, non-interventive midwifery care, etc.

To finish, I have to read still a lot of books, listen to some lectures and take tests on them, answer 50 questions, and take a few smaller courses, and a few other details.

I’ve already finished some books, listened to some talks, answered some questions …

I love doing this because I love the topic, and it helps me keep growing and be able to help others more.

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God, please use this birth to strengthen my faith.”

That was the prayer God put on my heart early in my pregnancy. And He had the answers all lined up.

he weighed 10lbs

The faith lessons had started in the six months we tried to get pregnant. God used that brief time of infertility to convict me of some pride in my own heart, and He also re-emphasized to me the truth that He is the God of life. He really is personally involved in becoming pregnant, each time, no matter how easy or hard it seems.

This pregnancy saw probably the most stressful time period of my life. Andre was conceived in July. In October, our church started a rehabilitation center in our village house, and Vitaliy went there every Sunday through Wednesday. Single parenting is hard, especially because Vitaliy is really, really involved in our family life. Then in December, our Ukrainian nephew came to live with us after he was removed from his home. His mom went to a rehab center, and he came to live with us temporarily. He’s three, and we learned that he has cerebral palsy. He can’t walk normally—his leg muscles are deformed—and he can speak only very little.

I’m glad we took him. It was hard, hard, hard for me, with Vitaliy being gone and winter upon us making it hard to go anywhere—and having three kids and being very big pregnant with a fourth made it hard to go anywhere, too. . . . I think I cried a lot. And I was a little depressed sometimes.

I stopped taking doula clients because my emotions and energy were so consumed by the kids and my own needs that I couldn’t make commitments to others.

Skyla with Andre in the sling

Stressful as it was, I’m so thankful and glad I had these trials in my life. God was disciplining me, the way an athlete disciplines himself. He wants to make me stronger and purer. His Word became very real to me. I would read it and cry often. I would go to church and cry during the singing because I was living the truth of the words we were singing about God. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26) My heart and my flesh failed. They were exhausted and perishing. So God was there to be my strength and my portion.

I sinned a lot, I failed a lot, I was a good mom; I was a bad mom. But it was a good exercise for me in general–experiences that are painful to endure but that strengthen.

We were told we needed to move. We hunted for a new apartment. We moved.  Extremely stressful events took place in the church.

Our church was also lovely about supporting us, bringing food, babysitting, helping us move.

 About a week before our due date, we sent our nephew to live with his mom in the rehab center, and Vitaliy started staying home more. Spring came!

The birth: This was another stressful-but-good thing. We birthed at home with a midwife the first two births. But this time, we aimed for an unattended birth. I was always open to inviting a midwife, but in end, it was always preferable to me just to birth ourselves this time. However, responsibility is responsibility.

And especially because this was the first time we’d made this choice, it was rather stressful. I had to choose what level of prenatal testing I wanted. It was stressful making those choices for myself. (But I’m glad I did it.)

And I really wanted someone to pay attention to this pregnancy because I felt like I hardly had time to think about it with all that was going on. I actually really missed having a midwife to drive to for prenatal visits who would sit and talk to me for an hour about the pregnancy, listen to what I was experiencing, help me focus on the baby, etc.

It was also very stressful because I was afraid to talk about it and be happy about the birth. No one was happy for me, for wanting to birth unattended. And that is exactly how I would’ve responded just a little bit ago. But now?  . . . If someone shares that they plan to birth unattended, I will just gush on and on about how exciting it is. They need that support 🙂

Towards the end, I started telling people who asked our birth plans that they had to be happy for me when they heard my plans because I couldn’t handle any more stress, and so they lovingly obliged. I’m thankful for those friends. My mom was really great about it, and that helped. But still, most people didn’t know.

The pregnancy and birth weren’t entirely unassisted. I hired a very knowledgeable “friend” in the States whom I could call or email with my questions, and we did that several times. She was also available during the birth. She constantly pointed me toward faith in God and helping me discern whether or not I was truly sensing a problem, or if I was just being plagued by unhealthy fears.

For this birth, here’s what I was imagining: We’d have this fairly short, romantic birth. It would be lovely and quiet. I had candles, music, scents all ready. It would be so special. . . .

But . . .

HAH!!! . . . . HAH, HAH, HAH TO YOU, ANNE SOKOL!!! (Remember, when you pray about faith, the answer probably will be hard, hard, hard. But very good for you.)

The birth itself was the most painful birth of the three I’ve had. The active labor was 14 hours. (Early labor was about 17 hours before that.) Nothing helped with the pain of the contractions. Not bath or shower, not positions, not massage. I was in a dark place mentally. I kept wanting an epidural, a c-section, to die. (And this is ME, the die-hard, all-natural, doula girl!!)  I kept imagining getting to the birth house and trying to get one or more of those things. . . . Good thing I couldn’t figure out a way 🙂

I guess if I could change one thing, I would just want a voice telling me that this was absolutely normal, that everything was just great. I needed a positive voice in my dark, negative place. Vitaliy kept saying it, but I didn’t believe him (because how many births has HE seen??). Contractions were very intense, like transition, most of the time, and I felt like pushing a lot. The baby was extremely low and probably posterior. This probably accounts for why this labor seemed so painful compared with the others.

About half way through, I was really confused so we called our friend in the States. I explained that I was having transition-like contractions, feeling pushing-like contractions, but no baby was coming out. She said that women can seem like in transition but not be; she said I need to discern if I’m just confused or if I’m really sensing a problem. And I knew immediately there was no problem, I was just confused.

Back to the birth (as if we could leave that, hee hee): So much for the quiet romance. I power-yelled through all the contractions. I pushed for about 3 hours. It was a lot of power-yelling. Vitaliy is glad no one called the police (we live in a large apartment complex).

V weighs Andre stapled in a chux pad, of course, and with a fish scale, of course

We didn’t know if Andre was a boy or a girl. Vitaliy was pretty sure we were having a boy. It was his faith between him and God. I had no idea. When he came out, it was, of course, wonderful. It was all more than worth it. I was on my hands and knees, and Vitaliy caught him and held him. After his body came out, meconium splatted out onto the chux pad. But he was crying, pink, and breathing.

My constant fear for this birth was shoulder dystocia—that the shoulders would get stuck and he wouldn’t be able to get out. As usual, God delivers me from all my fears. His body slid right out with his head.

Vitaliy gave him to me through my legs and I put him on the bed and started rubbing him—I just did this naturally because he was covered in vernix. I was talking happy talk and noticed right away that we had a boy! We called the girls in quickly—they’d been playing in the living room the whole time.

One thing about natural birth—the greatest hormone-induced “high” is actually just after the birth. I just love that high. I felt so good, so happy, so rewarded. It lasts for weeks.

Vitaliy, poor man, he had all the hard work after the birth. But he did it so tenderly, so thoroughly. He ended up going to the pharmacy several times and all in all, he bought NO LESS THAN 50 CHUX PADS (those are the cotton-on-one-side-plastic-on-the-other square things). He would staple them together to cover the mattresses. . . . It’s a guy thing.

He brought me fruit, flowers, juice, took a bazillion pictures, fed us all for a few days, and generally was awesome. And every hour or so he would come to me and touch me and say, “Wow, honey, you’re amazing—you did it!”

After this birth, unlike the first two, I wasn’t immediately ready to have another baby. Oh, the pain. . . . Although now that I’m 5 weeks postpartum, and I’m so enjoying the baby high, the lovely squishy-ness and cuddly floppiness of a newborn . . . well, sure, I could do it all. over. again. It’s so worth it.

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my pregnancy meditation

Two things came together for me a few weeks back. I read in a midwifery textbook that the most important preparation a woman can do for birth is her emotional/psychological prep. That just stuck with me (because I tend to be so geared toward mechanical/technical/academic knowledge). And then one night I was dinking around with some online Bible studies, and I came across Psalm 91. And I thought, why don’t I use this psalm as my birth prep? So I started meditating/writing.

I want to share some thoughts from verse 1.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

My meditation:

These two lines seem to say the same thing: dwell in His shelter = abide in His shadow. And whose? The Most High, the Almighty.

Before, I always think about me in regard to these verses and ponder how to dwell, how to abide. But this time, I was drawn to the names of God used here.

And I was impressed that, from this verse, I see that these names/qualities of God are my comfort, they are what I run to and hide myself in.

The Most High–This is the One who is over all, all the universe, all bodily processes, all people, all authorities–all of life. He gives life, and really, He never “takes it away,” He just moves it from one place to another, from earth to Home, or from earth to eternal punishment.

So I needn’t fear death. God gives life and death is His moving a person–His own creation–to live in another realm.

Lord, all the lives dear to me–You are over them all and I trust You with them all.

Every movement of my body during birth, every movement of our baby, of his/her heartbeat, You are over it all. Every thought You want to prepare for us, for Vitaliy, You are over all, the Most High.

Almighty–God has all power to do as He pleases. And I am comforted by dwelling/abiding in Your shelter. I do not need to fear Your power over me. Your power and You are my comfort, my peace, my refuge and trust.

I am so happy I can commit this birth to You. And not only the birth! But every single thing in my life. You are over all, the Most High, and You have, of course, all power! And these two truths are my source of comfort, safety, and joy. Thank you. No matter what comes, in childbirth, in all of my life–my death, our child being deformed, Vitaliy’s death, my children’s death–these truths of your Being are my refuge. You rule all, with all power.




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