Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thoughts on Motherhood- The Nevers

Before becoming a mother, it was easy to imagine what choices I would make as a parent; surely if I read enough books & blogs on parenting I'd know exactly what to anticipate and how to handle any situation (spoiler alert: I was really wrong about that). It was also very easy to think "I'll never" do X, Y, Z.

Now that I have become a parent, and parenting decisions are no longer a thought exercise but a daily reality, there are many things I've renegotiated. And thank god. 

The most important lesson I've learned as a parent so far is flexibility (not something I've ever been good at). You just can't plan out parenthood. Babies are tiny humans with individual needs. And I'm also a unique individual with my own needs and preferences as a parent.

With all that in mind, I've been able to look back at all the things I was certain I'd never think/do/say, and laugh at my utter cluelessness. 

I swore I'd never....

Co-sleep. One of the most horrifying discoveries of parenthood was that babies are not born knowing how to sleep soundly in a crib. I did not know this. I really, really didn't know this. So Nathan and I took turns sleeping only half the night and holding the baby the other half the night. For our first two months as parents, we didn't sleep in the bed together. We were certain we shouldn't co-sleep, but our "alternative" was actually pretty stupid and potentially unsafe, in retrospect. Eventually we naturally ended up co sleeping, and it was miraculous. We all slept soundly, I nursed lying down and barely woke in the night, and we woke up to sweet baby cuddles!! 9 months in and I'm still convinced it was one of the best decisions we made for our family. Gresham needs touch and closeness, and I need sleep; so this was a really great way to meet everyone's needs. Now that I know how great safe cosleeping can be, I'm a bit bummed I didn't know this from the start! 

Question vaccination. What a touchy subject. I have always been very pro-vaccination and thought that anyone who chose to forego vaccinations had to be irresponsible and uninformed. While i still believe vaccinating is a very important public health issue and have chosen to get Gresham vaccinated on schedule, I've developed a bit more understanding toward the "anti-vaxxers". Rather than being angry at parents who choose not to vaccinate, my anger has been redirected at the pharmaceutical industry which has given parents so many reasons to feel fear and distrust. It's hard to watch your perfect little baby be poked and injected with a concoction of chemicals; it's easy to question that decision when you see your baby's legs swell and have to soothe his crying all night after his shots. I still vaccinate and wish everyone did, but I've softened a bit.

Use my phone or watch TV around my kid. Listen, sometimes you need a minute to remind yourself that life exists outside the messy house in which you are currently kinda trapped. 

Take a billion photos of my kid. He really is so cute that I physically cannot stop myself from taking pictures of him every day. 

Post a billion photos of my kid to social media. First of all, my social media (Uhh except this blog) are private and I don't accept friend requests from people I don't know, so I'm not totally irresponsible. Second of all, I've learned that the people who I'm actually friends with want to see photos of my kid; they actually ask me to post photos of him. The people who matter most to me don't seem to tire of seeing pictures of what is happening in our lives. And honestly, the people who do mind have probably unfollowed me anyways. Plus, as stated above, I'm physically unable to refrain because he's too damn cute.

Own toys that make obnoxious noises. Umm now I know why they sell all those loud plinky toys - kids love them. Gresham is obsessed with his tiny piano and basically anything he can bang on that will in turn make noises. I'll admit we have taken the batteries out of one particularly annoying toy, though. 

Become a stay-at-home mom. I was certain I wanted to be a working mom. I loved my job; it was the perfect job for me. I was a part of something bigger than myself when I was at work, and was part of the most wonderful community. I couldn't imagine myself ever leaving my job. And then all of a sudden I could. The more Gresham grew and developed his personality, the more my heart ached being away from him. The more I longed to be near my child, the less dedicated I became to my work. I felt torn between two identities, and it was exhausting. Leaving my job was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but I know it was the right one. All I have to do is look at my precious boy and I'm reminded that I am where I'm supposed to be.

Know love like this. Well here's one I was right about, even if I couldn't fully grasp what it would look like. I'm overwhelmed every day by my love for this kid. At night I get in bed and just watch him sleep, longing to slow down the time. My love for him is more intense than anything I could've imagined. It has changed me in ways I couldn't have imagined and for which I am so grateful. 

photo by Stephanie Creasy

Monday, November 10, 2014

The birth of Gresham Finley

Monday morning (Oct 20), I woke up around 5 am feeling some cramping. I went to the bathroom and noticed bloody show and mucous plug discharge. Given that my due date was still over 2 weeks away (November 5), I felt uncertain about whether or not this was real labor. I called my doula and talked to her about it, and she encouraged me to keep an eye on how things progressed and give her a call later in the morning. The cramps progressed into contractions, and I continued to see bloody show & mucous discharge. We decided this was the real thing. I labored at home with Nathan for several hours; we went for a walk, used the birth ball, etc. At that point I was able to talk, laugh, get things done around the house, and felt really excited. We continued laboring until around 4pm, when contractions were coming on stronger and much closer together. Our doula met us at the midwives office. I was checked, and only measured at "fingertip dilation". We returned home and labored more, though the contractions felt much more intense at this point. Nathan called our doula to come and help with pain management around 7. We continued laboring at home, using the bath, rebozo, back & hip pressure, etc. for pain management. My contractions continued getting stronger, and even began stacking on top of each other. I stopped talking & was totally in the zone. Our doula decided it was probably time to go to the hospital, given the intensity of contractions. 

When we got to the hospital, I was checked and found to only be 3cm dilated, though I was 90% effaced. The midwife observed my contractions and determined it appropriate for me to go ahead & be admitted due to the intensity of contractions, despite my lack of dilation. There wasn't a labor tub available, which was disappointing. In triage, they monitored my contractions & baby's heart rate for about 30 minutes, which was pretty grueling because they wanted me on the bed & my body wanted me moving about. After triage, I was moved into a labor room, and the nurse began monitoring me again. The baby's heart rate was dipping slightly during contractions, and the nurse was concerned about this. They had me drink lots of juice and gave me a full bag of IV fluids. The nurse was incredibly competent and good at her job, but seemed a bit less comfortable with my desire to be moving about. She attempted to confine me to the bed, stating that the baby was her priority, not me. I did my best to get through contractions on the bed, unable to move the way my body desired, and feeling stress about my baby's heart rate. I could see the heart rate on the monitor during each contraction, and in retrospect think these factors caused me to lose focus on my labor. 

After 2 hours on the monitor, they let me off to labor as I pleased. We continued laboring, mostly in the shower on the birth ball, for the next several hours. Around 4:00am the midwife returned & checked me. I had barely made any progress, at only 4 cm, and my effacement had lessened to 80%. I was incredibly disappointed and overwhelmed by exhaustion. At that point, I felt I couldn't do it any longer. I tearfully told Nathan & our doula that I thought I had to give up, and asked about an epidural. We all cried together, and discussed with the midwife, Jenna. Jenna told me she wouldn't try to keep me from doing what I wanted/needed, but told me she didn't want me to be disappointed in my birth. She encouraged me to fight for the birth I wanted for my baby. At this point, she agreed that my body probably could not continue as it had been for the past almost 24 hours, and encouraged me to consider "Therapeutic Rest", which is essentially a combination of Morphine and sleep-inducing medicine, in a low dose that does not harm the baby. I was skeptical, but at that point I was pretty desperate for anything to help me in my labor. We talked through this option, and ultimately all decided it was the best course of action, for my sake and the baby's sake. The nurse wasn't keen on giving it to me cause of the baby's heart rate, and she made me take another bag of IV fluids; eventually the midwife basically commanded her to give me the meds. It was a very bizarre feeling - i still felt each contraction fully, and was very awake during each contraction, but in between my body was able to fully rest; I slept for the few short minutes (sometimes less than a minute) between contractions. This lasted for about 2 hours. I think the ability to completely let my body & mind rest between contractions was what enabled me to make the progress I needed in my labor. When the midwife returned to check me after 2 hours, I was 7cm & fully effaced. That amount of progress was hugely encouraging. 

We continued laboring with a new sense of optimism and excitement. At around 7, just over an hour since my previous check, shift change happened & the new midwife-on-call came to check on me. It happened to be the midwife who did most of my prenatal care, and whom I had badly wanted to be present at my delivery. This made me really excited. The nurse who took over was also marvelous; she was about my age, very maternal, supportive, encouraging, and overall wonderful. I felt very supported by the new team. They checked me at this point, and I was fully dilated "with a lip" where my cervix had swollen slightly. The midwife, Lori, had me lie in a very uncomfortable "pretzel" position on the bed to take pressure off of the lip of my cervix. Despite feeling the urge to bear down, they told me to try really hard not to push, as the lip of my cervix could tear. So, for about an hour I worked REALLY hard to breathe through contractions, panting, grunting, doing horse-lips. Despite not pushing, my uterus was still bearing down during contractions. At this point my water broke. Lori checked me again after an hour or so of this, and said the lip was much smaller but still there, so she held her fingers against the lip and encouraged me to push the next time I felt a contraction, that way the baby's head would put pressure on my cervix and hopefully hold back the lip. So, we started pushing. After that initial push, the baby's head was holding my cervix fully open, and Lori was able to remove pressure from my cervix so that I could push in whatever position I needed. I pushed squatting on the bed with the squat bar, then on hands & knees, and then Lori suggested that Nathan sit on the bed with his knees up and me in front of him with my knees up. This way I could lay back on him in between contractions, and could press against his knees as I pushed. This was actually a really good way to push. I was able to get a lot of leverage and push "BOB"-style. I also was able to feel very connected and supported (literally and figuratively) by Nathan. As we kept pushing, Lori said she saw a head of dark hair. She offered to set up a mirror so we could see. I almost said no, but I'm so glad I didn't. We were able to watch our baby's head get closer & closer with each push. It was great motivation. We kept pushing, together, with lots of cheerleading & encouragement by the midwife, nurses, our doula, and eventually the nursery staff, until our little boy's head emerged, and then like magic his whole body was delivered and they laid him immediately on my chest. They asked dad to cut the cord, and I did have to ask them to wait until it was done pulsating (which confused me because that is supposed to be a standard practice among the midwives). The nurse and my doula helped guide baby to the breast, and he did try latching pretty quickly. Our baby's lungs had some extra amniotic fluid in them, so they moved him to the warmer & tried to get him to cry and cough it out (I think partly because he was a few weeks early, perhaps they were being extra cautious), so I didn't get quite the initial skin-to-skin time I wanted. While they were tending to baby, my placenta was delivered... apparently it was quite large. I did need a few stitches from baby's shoulder causing a tear. After they stitched me up, we were sent on our way to postpartum recovery. 

Resting against Nathan in between pushes

Looking back on the labor, parts of it are already a bit blurry. My perception of time is very murky when looking back on it. Yes, it was a long labor, but honestly the hours seemed to go by very quickly. It didn't at all look like what I expected it would, but I am so incredibly humbled and grateful for the birth experience we were able to have. My contractions didn't quite follow the pattern I had learned; they became close together and very, very intense pretty early on, but my cervical dilation didn't seem to match the timing & intensity of contractions; I still don't quite know why.  I expected myself to want to be clothed, but as soon as we got in triage at the hospital I was completely naked, and stayed that way until well after baby was born. I couldn't imagine fussing with clothes during the labor. I also was much more vocal than I expected; I moaned and groaned and mooed pretty much the whole time; I found it very helpful to find a deep guttural groan to help me through my contractions. It all felt very primal and wild, in a really good way. I think it helped me feel strong and in control, as much as was possible. I am very grateful for the support of my partner Nathan & our doula; my birth story would have been much different without the support of each of them.

chubby baby with his extra birth weight 

Our sweet baby boy Gresham was born on 10/21 at 11:12am. He weighed 7lb 9oz and measured 21" long. He is perfect in every way imaginable, and we are madly in love with him. 

Thanks for letting us share our story. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just your typical mid-week political rant

I'm really bad at maintaining my blog. But a former college cohort of mine (and a woman I have a great amount of respect for) recently asked me if I blog in response to a post I made on facebook. And I thought, you know she might be on to something. I have a lot of anger and passion regarding many different current social issues, and perhaps my blog is the perfect place to explore some of that. So, sorry mom, I'm not just gonna post life updates on here anymore.

To kick things off, I'd like to bring attention to an incredibly asinine new piece of legislation that our incredibly ignorant state legislature brought to the governor to sign, and in an act of equal ignorance, Governor Haslam indeed signed it. This legislature criminalizes pregnant women for using drugs during their pregnancy, potentially leading to jail time. I absolutely, 100% agree that drug use during pregnancy is really, truly horrible, both for the mother and the child. As someone working in a field where drug abuse and dependence is prominent, I fully understand that there are serious consequences of drug abuse on the individual and society as a whole. As someone who is currently expecting, I also feel a deeper connection to this issue, including an emotional response that I have to check at the door when encountering these sort of situations. I recognize that I am doing every possible thing in my power to keep my unborn child safe, including watching what types of food I eat, what type of air I breathe (sorry smokers, stay away), and totally abstaining from alcohol (guys, that's a big sacrifice for me), and feel a strong moral obligation to do so. But I also recognize that I am able to approach pregnancy and childbirth from a place of abundant resources, privilege, education, and support. All that to say, pregnancy and cultural experiences of pregnancy may be a great future blog post!

So, with the groundwork of my basic stance on the issue of drug use during pregnancy, let's get into the messy details of this legislation, details which everyone who helped make this bill happen have completely ignored or not bothered to care about.

We don't live in a vacuum. Plain and simple. The whole notion of punitive cause & effect is incredibly flawed, since we do not live in said vacuum. In a totally simple, black & white world, where we're all robots and nothing is complicated, it makes sense that someone should be punished for engaging in something illegal (in this instance, illegal drug use) that leads to serious harm of another individual (in this case, an unborn child... which raises other concerns, but let's move on). And the ultimate hope here is that the punitive measures will be a deterrent to the bad behavior. This makes sense if you're dealing with a 5-year-old who refuses to take his nap. This particular issue, however, is much more complex and delicate than lawmakers seem to realize.

First of all, let's consider the incredible racism and classism existent in our current criminal justice system. I see it every day. My homeless clients are incarcerated for things that they simply would not be arrested for if they weren't visibly poor and/or visibly Black. It's absolutely disgusting. From a more fact-based standpoint, though I don't have the data in front of me, I have done research on the disproportionate arrests and sentencing of people of color, based purely on race, and boy is there lots of it. This is a pretty obvious (unless you're a rich, white, probably male politician) concern when addressing a piece of legislation such as this. Women of color and poor women are going to be targets for this legislation. Given the current culture of our criminal justice system, I just can't see this law being enacted in a way that is fair or just across races, religions, and socio-economic classes.

I'd be willing to bet that many of the women addicted to drugs during pregnancy were not intending to get pregnant. Perhaps this is a dangerous assumption, but hey, I'm a risk-taker. If we want to address the effects of drug use on pregnancy, we need to first address the absolute lack of reproductive education and resources available to women in Tennessee. I never received sex education in my public high school. I received slut-shaming abstinence-only education. That is not effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies. Our state needs to start by offering women support before they become pregnant, in the form of true sex education, more accessible women's healthcare, affordable birth control options, accessible early-term abortions, and some freakin' respect. Slut shaming and ignoring the value of women's bodies and reproductive abilities is the first part of the problem, and is never, ever a solution.

So onto the issue of drug addiction. I work in mental health. I work with a lot of people who have addictions to drugs and alcohol. Many of them are in recovery, and I see how unbelievably hard they work at their sobriety. Many of them are still struggling with addiction, and it is a very serious struggle. Addiction is a disease. It is a serious disease, and it rips people's lives apart. Many addicts are also dealing with mental illness, which is perhaps often an underlying cause of the addiction. Addiction is such an incredibly multifaceted issue, with social, financial, cultural, and medical complexities. The criminalization of drug addiction has not adequately addressed the problem of drug addiction in our society. And it won't solve the issue of drug use during pregnancy.

What I envision happening with the implementation of this bill, based on my own experiences in social service work, is that women who have a drug addiction and learn of their pregnancy will forgo prenatal care for fear of arrest and further legal ramifications. Women will hear horror stories of their sisters being locked up, and will therefore fear reaching out. Addiction will continue. Babies will continue being born addicted to various drugs. The cycle of overincarceration of poor women and women of color will continue. No one will be better because of this legislation. A few politicians will sleep better at night because they have tricked themselves into believing they've done something good "for the children", rather than actually getting in the midst of the communities this new law will affect and asking "what do you need?".

Politicians need to stop deciding for women what is best for us. Period. And Tennessee politicians clearly need to consult a few social workers before making any more decisions, ever.

***Let me say here that I know my arguments are very emotionally charged & certainly not fool-proof. I also acknowledge that I use some pejorative language, mostly for my own tension release; I apologize if anyone is hurt or offended in the process. I also want to be very clear in saying that this issue is complicated - I don't know all sides to the story & I don't have all the answers... I definitely don't claim to.

Monday, January 27, 2014

this is a blog post.

So, I said I was gonna start blogging again. And then I didn't. I thought about it a lot, but never actually wrote anything. Truth be told, writing (even for only an audience of like 4 people who might occasionally read this blog) stresses me out sometimes. I'm not a prolific writer. It's not one of my strong suits. Plus I'm surrounded by incredible writers - my best friend & husband are two of the most beautiful writers I know, and my sister is literally a poet - and sometimes it feels like written expression is just best left to them. If you've ever had a conversation with me, you know that I babble, ramble, trip over my thoughts, talk before thinking out what I'm actually trying to say (I've put my foot in my mouth way too many times with that one), and go on really long tangents. Efficiently expressing myself in speech is hard enough... trying to convert that to a word document just feels too overwhelming a lot of the time.

And maybe it's also because I'm having a hard enough time processing my life internally, which makes it seem almost impossible to figure out how to do externally, for even one other person. I'm realizing that as soon as I think I've got myself figured out, life throws me a curveball. It's been a weird year (aren't they all, though??), and I'm still sorting through the mess that is my emotional state.

Today was a hard one. One of those days where I just wanted to curl up in a ball and wait for life to pass over me. So, I deal with depression. Nothing major. Just a minor case of depression. I take a really low dose of antidepressant, see a therapist monthly, and usually I suffer no more than an occasional case of the blues. But then sometimes it hits me hard, and recently this is where I've been. I withdraw, lose excitement or enjoyment in the things I know I love, feel unmotivated, don't find my husband's jokes funny (and he's a really funny guy!), feel a particular type of alone-ness, and just can't escape those blues. It sounds dramatic, but usually I don't notice all of those things. Today is a day that I do, though. Today is a day that I wanted to cry pretty much all day long (I even did, in front of a client... which was embarrassing). Today is a day that I sort of wish I could just give up and never leave my bedroom.

Thankfully, I pretty much know that these types of days will pass (you know, I'm generally a pretty peppy, sunshiny kinda person). I know that at the end of even a really shitty day, I've got a partner who loves me and supports me no matter what, friends who lift me up and remind me who I am, a warm home of my own to restore myself in, pets who will cuddle with me under any and all circumstances, and a body that is strong and able. Being able to know those truths gets me through the times when it's hard to feel those truths.

I'm pretty confident that this upcoming year is going to be better than the last. There were so many great things about this year - we bought a house, got a new dog, Nathan graduated from divinity school and got a job, I started a new job that I love, we started getting involved in a really awesome new community, etc., etc. But it's also been filled with a lot of tough stuff- feeling pulled completely apart in a billion directions by my parents' divorce and the complete unraveling of my family unit (that's a big one), the unexpected death of my Nana, my Grandma's worsening Alzheimer's, mine & Nathan's two best friends moving away, the stress of a tough job, marriage, etc. I've had to parse through what all of these big life things, good and bad, mean for who I am. What I've learned more than anything is that I'm never going to reach a satisfying answer. Life keeps moving, and I keep changing with it. I think that's usually a good thing, but I know it's also usually a freaking hard thing.

i'm trying really hard not to apologize for sounding melodramatic. on my own blog. which i wrote as an outlet for myself. yet i still feel like i should write a disclaimer or an apology stating that i really do love my life and am so grateful for all that i have been given & all that i have and I realize i have it really easy, please don't hate me.   BUT i'm NOT going to write that disclaimer/apology. Cause it's my own damn blog.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Judith Finley Stone, 78, of Chattanooga, passed away Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, after a brief illness. She was a founder, deacon, past treasurer and finance chair of Rivermont Presbyterian Church. Judy was born in Chattanooga on May 31, 1936. She was president of the GPS class of 1954 and attended Vanderbilt University before graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1980 with a BS in accounting. She was employed as a CPA with Joseph Decosimo & Co., working as a tax manager and specializing in the taxation of estates and trusts. She was also employed by Spears, Moore, Rebman & Co. She retired in 1995. Judy was a caring and passionate member of her community and supported many philanthropic causes. She had an especially passionate interest in education. She was elected as a trustee of the University of Chattanooga Foundation in 1995, where she served as treasurer beginning in 2007. She sat on the executive committee, and chaired the nominating committee beginning in 2009 and continued to serve until her death. Additionally, Judy served on the finance committee and endowment committee of Girls Preparatory School. She served in various capacities on numerous other boards, including: Richmont Graduate University, King College, the Faith and Hope Fund for the Presbytery of East Tennessee, Bachman Academy, University of Tennessee Alliance of Women Philanthropists, the Kidney Foundation, Scenic Land School, Tennessee River Gorge Trust, the UTC College of Business Advisory Board. Additionally, she was a member of several Bible studies, book clubs, and the Women of Rivermont club. She was preceded in death by her father, the late W. Max Finley. She is survived by her mother, Margaret Ferrell Finley; her sister, Cynthia Finley Anderson, of Winston-Salem, N.C.; children, William M. Stone III, of Knoxville, Catherine Dianne Stone, of Nashville, Robert Finley Stone, of Chattanooga; and daughters-in-law, Lacie Newton Stone, Cynthia Dair Stone, of Chattanooga; and granddaughters, Sarah Elisabeth Stone and Rebecca Stone Dryden. She is remembered for her red hair, her quick, impish wit, and above all, her kindness and generosity to others. She loved traveling, photography, cooking shows, and spending time with her family and many friends. The family will receive friends at Rivermont Presbyterian Church from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5, followed by a funeral service, beginning at 6 p.m. in the sanctuary, with a private graveside service at 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, at Forest Hills Cemetery. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Kidney Foundation, the Siskin Children's Institute, or the Bachman Academy. Share your memories at Arrangements are by Wann Funeral Home & Cremation Center, located at the foot of historic Lookout Mountain, St. Elmo. 821-7551.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blog revival

After a very long hiatus, this blog is being brought back to life.

I am seeking new ways to unpack some of the chaos that goes on in my mind, and this seems like it may be a healthy outlet for me. I am not writing with hopes of gaining a large following or impressing anyone with any sort of artistic abilities (due to the fact that I have none). I am writing as self-guided therapy.

I welcome anyone who wants to read my posts, comment with questions, or altogether ignore this blog.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We bought a house.

Well, we did it. We took the plunge into homeownership. It's a bit overwhelming, but more than that, it's exciting. We love our house, and have been busy making it our home.

We're not totally done decorating & settling in, but here's what we've got so far: