Posts Tagged ‘displacement’

Elijah’s Birth Story, Part IV

I was told that from the time the options were presented until the time we made a decision was about an hour. But all I remember from that time was lying on the bed next to Rob, sleeping deeply in between contractions and waking to endure them. I lost all sense of time. I had no idea what to do.

Then, suddenly, I remember waking and saying, “Let’s do it.” I felt a renewed sense of strength, and a decision needed to be made. Avoiding a decision would still be a decision, and it wouldn’t stop any of the discomfort from continuing. All I knew was that something had to change. I felt—albeit momentarily—strong enough to handle whatever consequences would come from breaking my water, whether that meant a hospital transfer or harder contractions. I looked to Rob to make sure the decision was also alright with him. It was.

Within minutes, Robin had checked Eli’s heart rate and then Christy had broken my water. We waited with bated breath as Robin re-checked his heart rate. The moment felt huge, even through my exhaustion. I felt the gravity of the results. Would I have a hospital birth, or a home birth?

Just as it had been the whole time, Elijah’s heart continued to beat strong. This kid was quite the fighter. If he could do it, so could I. We were in this together, and inwardly, I told him so.

I braced myself for the contractions to increase. It was time to move back into the water. The next hour was a blur. The contractions were strong and difficult. I slept in between. Robert, Christy and Robin continued to be my support team, and there were times when all I saw was Robert’s eyes, grounding me. I felt anxious, I felt despair, I felt hope and desperation all at the same time. I wanted to see my son. I wanted it to be over. But I also felt lost.

I stopped speaking. The only way to communicate became through nods or shakes of the head. I had to conserve all my energy, and talking felt like it used up too much. Besides, there were no words for these moments. It existed outside of time, outside of language. It was raw and primal and real, and the only way out was through.

I began to feel an enormous pressure descend toward my bottom. Some say it feels almost like a bowel movement, and in some way it does, but it was also different. The pressure began to increase with each contraction, and I couldn’t hold it back. I was afraid to push too soon this time, and I told Christy so—I told her also that I couldn’t hold it back. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, but I also didn’t know when the risk of re-swelling my cervix would have passed. I held the pressure at bay to the best of my ability.

The time finally came when Christy asked if I wanted her to check my cervix to see if there was any progress. I told her I wanted to wait a few more minutes. I needed to mentally prepare myself, and I wanted to be sure that I held that pressure off as long as possible. But after only a couple contractions, I couldn’t wait any longer. I asked her to check.

Before the check, I went to the bathroom. Christy and Rob talked softly outside. While in the bathroom, I secretly thought to myself, “If I haven’t progressed any more, I might need to go to the hospital. I’m just too tired.” I thought about relief from the pain. I dreamt of having a hospital around the corner. My resolve faltered, I feared the worst. I imagined that Rob and Christy were talking about the same thing (which I later found out wasn’t the case—they were discussing the positive aspects of my progress). I laid on the bed and looked to heaven. Please God, I whispered. Please. I looked once more to the purple letters on the wall. Support me, whatever the news is.

Christy got a distant look in her eyes as she concentrated during my contraction. Finally, she said, “There’s only a little bit of cervix left, and I think you can push past it. Let’s try on the next contraction. I want you to push when you feel the contraction coming on.” I felt relieved but not out of the woods. As the contraction began, I pushed. “Yep…” Christy nodded. “Yep. The baby was able to move past that last piece. Wow, you’re a great pusher, Stacia. This baby is going to be out in no time.”

Part of me couldn’t believe it. Was it finally time? “So I can push whenever I want?” I asked.

“You’re free to do whatever you feel like,” Christy replied. And it was then that I finally began to really feel what a “pushing contraction” felt like. It was something that I could aid, but couldn’t stop. Some women say that they felt a great sense of relief when the pushing started, although I’m not sure I can say the same. It didn’t necessarily feel “good,” but I can say that I was glad for the change of pace and the sense of progress.

I pushed for a few contractions on the bed. It was hard work, and I began to break out in a drenching sweat. I almost couldn’t believe how much I was sweating! It seemed to seep out of every pore of my body, from my scalp to my toes, dripping down my face and arms. I decided it was time to move back into the birthing tub for the final time. I wanted to give birth in the water.

Strange as it may sound, I could feel Elijah moving down the birth canal. I felt his progress physically, and I felt the emotional connection between us deepen. I would finally see this little man face to face—the one who had been kicking, elbowing, hiccupping, and back-flipping inside me for so many months. This was his final movement inside me, the last page of this first chapter in his life. A new adventure was about to begin.

After about 50 minutes of pushing, I began to feel the stinging sensation of his head emerging. I quickly told Christy and Robin that it was beginning to sting. I remember thinking that Christy seemed surprised for a split second, and then she and Robin disappeared briefly into the bathroom. They emerged quickly after, and Christy stood behind me as I began to push Elijah’s head out. At the time I was on my hands and knees in the pool, and Christy was monitoring Eli’s heart rate every other contraction. It remained strong until his head was halfway out, at which point she told me to flip over after his check. His heart rate sounded slower to me—a fact which she later confirmed—and I needed to reposition. After I did, it went back up immediately. His head emerged fully after two more pushes, then his shoulders, and finally the rest of his body. It was over. My son was born.

Christy caught him and immediately put him on my chest. I felt his little warm body, and was surprised at the thick layer of sticky vernix. It was hard for me to get a good look at him because of the angle he was at on my chest, but in many ways I was filled with disbelief. Was this really my son? Was the labor really over? What now?

During the many months leading up to his birth, I had pictured that moment over and over. I had imagined crying, or saying something like, “My son! My son!” and being flooded with overwhelming emotion. But the truth was, the physical and emotional exhaustion of the experience kept such an outpouring at bay. There would be time to process the emotions later; for now, the main feelings were relief and disbelief. I was looking forward to figuring out exactly how I felt, but I needed a little time.

 Elijah was remarkably calm–one of the benefits of waterbirth and delayed cord clamping. I couldn’t believe it. He was finally here, this warm, squishy bundle in my arms. He was so dependent and helpless, and I was now responsible for making sure he felt safe and protected. I knew instantly I loved him, although it took a few weeks for me to be in love with him. I think this is mostly because it was my instinctive mommy-sense that loved him, but it took a while before I began to know who I was loving. The instinct to love came first, and the choice to love came after.

I held him for about 15 minutes as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and as the midwives monitored his color and breathing. Then, after cutting the cord, Elijah was handed to Robert and I was helped out of the pool and onto the bed. I felt like I was finally returning to my body, and was aware of its separate-ness from the world for the first time in about twelve hours. My world was no longer my body’s sensations. It was now wrapped up in a little bundle on my husband’s chest.

[The last part, Part V, coming tomorrow…]

Elijah’s Birth Story, Part III

[Note: This part begins a challenging time in my labor. But as you read, know that I do not regret birthing at home or naturally, and will absolutely do it again next time. I don’t believe these challenges were a result of not being in a hospital, but rather were a necessary part of my own journey, my own learning. In retrospect, I feel so honored to have come through such an amazing, formative experience as part of my–and Eli’s–life story.]

Christy did an underwater cervical check soon after that point. Two things were of note: first, she said, I was fully dilated and it would be time to push soon (or so we thought). Second, she had felt the baby’s head. I hadn’t felt my water break, but we speculated that perhaps the water had broken underwater and unbeknownst to me. With those two things in mind, she said that she wouldn’t be surprised if our baby was born as the sun rose on the hillside. I sighed, relieved. It was almost over.

Except, it wasn’t.

Being a first time mom, I simply didn’t know the difference between a pushing contraction and regular contraction. Certainly I was feeling the baby moving lower, and the pressure of this movement began to be more and more uncomfortable. Since I was fully dilated, Christy gave me the okay to push if I felt like it. The trouble was, I felt like it but didn’t realize that I didn’t undeniably, unequivocally feel like it. In retrospect, there is no denying a pushing contraction, but I didn’t fully know what this meant at the time.

So, as the sun rose, I began to push. And push. And push. And nothing happened.

Except, perhaps, the contractions began to get more painful. Much. More. Painful. Which I didn’t think could actually happen at that point. But it did.

I think that if I had been able to push Elijah out at that time, I would tell you now that I don’t really remember the pain associated with labor. I would tell you that I never really felt totally exhausted, and that my emotional state was tired but joyful by the end of it all. But God had a slightly different plan for Elijah’s entrance into the world, one that would test my resolve and become a true testament to my and Robert’s covenant.

By 7:30 or so, Christy recognized that something wasn’t right. Was I pushing incorrectly? She asked to do a check while I pushed during a contraction so she could help direct me if this were the case. But during the check, she recognized that I wasn’t completely dilated anymore. My cervix had swelled 2 ½ centimeters, pushing me back to 7 ½ centimeters dilated. I would have to go through transition all over again.

She asked if she could continue the check for one more contraction and concentrated hard. Finally she said, “Your water is still intact. It didn’t break.” How was that possible, we asked, since she had been able to feel the head before?

She explained that he had descended so far down in my pelvis that the bag had been stretched thin over his head, leaving no water in between the bottom of the bag and his head (thus making it feel like there was no bag present). However, when I experienced a contraction, the water rushed below his head, pushing his head upward into my pelvis. This motion, along with my premature pushes, had made my cervix swell.

We would have to wait until the swelling went down and try to actively get some of the cervical lip to pull back through various positions during contractions.

This news was too much for me to bear. I couldn’t imagine going through transition again. I couldn’t imagine spending hours waiting for the swelling to go down, enduring the ever-stronger gripping movements within my womb.  I just couldn’t bear it. But I knew there was no way out but through. So I cried. And cried. And cried.

Robert held me and tried to get my focus back. He encouraged me to the best of his ability, but I was inconsolable. There was nothing in my mind that could fathom continuing through these contractions for an unknown amount of hours. I had been on the brink of seeing my baby. It had felt so close. Now I could see nothing but the looming pain, and I didn’t know how to break free of that perspective. From a spiritual perspective, I truly entered my Dark Night of the Soul. I felt exhausted and spiritually weak.

Before the birth, Robert and I had put posters up around the room that I had used for a retreat I had led. On the posters were written all sorts of quotes, from Scripture to prayers to the words of saints. The one poster I remember focusing in on over and over during this challenging time had bold purple letters: “Throw your cares on the Lord, and He will support you.” I read it over and over again. Support me, Lord. This requires a strength that I simply do not possess.

I began to feel unbelievably tired. The contractions were taking every ounce of my strength. I began to doze a little between contractions, which gave me blessed rest but also made me feel like no time passed between each one. It gave me both relief and made it seem like time was standing still. No time existed outside of each contraction. There was no yesterday, when this wasn’t happening. There would be no tomorrow, when it would all be over and I would see my son. No, there was only this moment. And this moment hurt.

Christy was a midwifery superhero, constantly giving me homeopathic combinations to help me reserve strength and enhance my emotional state. Her knowledge and study certainly paid off as her remedies helped stabilize my emotions and relax my body. My team encouraged me to eat and drink, but I began to refuse everything. Sometimes I would take sips of orange juice just to pacify them, but I just didn’t feel like anything. I never did eat the donuts my dad bought, save for a few donut holes before the sun rose. Eating just didn’t make sense. At times, it felt like nothing made sense.

Christy and Robin knew they had to break me out of this mindset, and Christy began strongly encouraging me to take a walk around our house in the warm morning sun. At the time I couldn’t fathom it, but she was persistent. Rob also thought it would be a good idea. How could I walk? I thought. How could I possibly walk? But I was beyond the point where I could make decisions for myself, so I agreed. I began to truly understand how women could be talked into anything during a hospital labor. At some point, you just get too tired to know what to do next.

I couldn’t have anyone speak to me, so I asked that my parents and Rob’s mom not talk to me as I walked out the door. Thank goodness, they obliged. Christy and Robin had been keeping them in the loop and they knew that this was a particularly difficult moment. Rob took me by the arm and supported me as I walked around our house. The sun felt good on my face and the breeze nice on my skin, but I did think it probably looked quite ridiculous if any neighbors (thankfully relatively far away) saw a 9-month-pregnant lady with nothing on but a fuzzy bathrobe moaning and groaning her way around her house, stopping every few moments to have her husband support her while she squatted through a contraction. 

As we walked around our property, Robert began weave the story of our little boy’s future in our home. “Look,” he pointed. “There is the oak tree where we’ll put a swing. Our son will swing on that swing and have so much fun. And over there,” he said. “There’s where he will climb the back hill and have all sorts of imaginary adventures.” At one point he said, “And that’s where he will form a zip line over the chicken coop,” to which I replied, “That doesn’t sound like such a good idea.” The lightheartedness felt nice, even if it didn’t help to lighten my emotions. I also remember looking at our chickens and thinking, God bless you, ladies, for doing this every single day just so I can have an omelette for breakfast. I didn’t have the strength to make the joke, but I still thought it.

By the time we went back in the house, I felt slightly better. My family had decided that they wanted to give us the opportunity to labor unencumbered wherever we wanted in the house, so they told us they were going to make themselves scarce for a little bit. This turned out to be a good thing, because we moved into the main bathroom for some of the most difficult work yet. Christy wanted me to labor in a few different positions to help quicken the cervical lip as it pulled back. First, she had me sit on the toilet backward, leaning forward. I remember hitting the wall a few times, and I remember yelling “Help me!” I don’t know who I wanted to help me, but it helped to say it. Was I talking to Rob? To Christy? To God? I don’t know. But it helped to ask for help.

After what seemed like an eternity, Christy had me stand next to the tub. She wanted me to do a version of a lunge during each contraction, with my right leg up on the edge of the tub and my body leaning forward. I can’t quite describe why now, but this really, really hurt. It was probably the most uncomfortable way to experience a contraction—or at least as uncomfortable as the typical on-your-back form of hospital laboring. After the first lunge contraction, I was ready to stop. Christy encouraged me to do just two more. “Only three lunges on this side,” she said. After three on the right side, she had me do the same with the left side. All in all, I was probably doing lunges for a half hour. The contractions had slowed to give my body a chance to rest, which was nice, but also made things seem to go excruciatingly slow.

We retreated to the bedroom for another cervical check. We had to see if any of this was working. It was, but only slightly. I was still in between 1 ½ and 2 centimeters from being complete. Christy suggested that we had two options. The first option was to continue to try to labor through the contractions and hope the water broke on its own. The second option was to have them break my water. The second option would certainly speed things up, but wouldn’t be without risk.  There was the possibility that the baby would go into distress from the shock of having the water break so far down in the pelvis. That would mean an immediate hospital transfer. Our dreams of a homebirth would be done, and I would have to endure an hour in the car to get to the hospital. On the other hand, it was highly possible that enduring many more hours of these strong contractions with such slow progress would leave me with no strength to push. We needed to make a decision.

A Simpler Life

When we started this journey a little over a year and a half ago–through reading, researching, learning, and dreaming–it was easy to romanticize the “simple life.” After all, I had seen the beauty of laundry hanging in the wind and drinking homemade root beer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I read blogs of chicken owners, talked to farmers at the farmers markets, and we even planted a few raised beds of our own. I began making my own cleaning products, cleaning up our eating, and trying to learn how to sew my own clothes.

Then we moved to the country and grabbed the “simple life” with both hands. We used less natural gas by doing things like hanging our laundry to dry. We planted a 140+ square foot garden. We began tending our orchard and grape vines and berry canes. We got chickens that will start laying eggs in the Fall.  Our living space got bigger and thus our ability to host friends and family joyfully increased. Ah, yes–the “simple life.”

But let me tell you–this simpler life of ours is certainly not easier.

Not that I’m complaining. But I’d like any readers out there who imagine this life as more recreational or less busy to understand that voluntary simplicity requires a lot of hard work. A lot. We rise with the sun and go to bed shortly after it sets, and are usually exhausted. Rob works hard at his job and then comes home and works hard on the land. I work hard to keep our house a home, to keep the behind-the-scenes show running, and then try to help in the evenings when and where I can.

And yes, there are things I miss. I definitely miss Rob and I having time in the kitchen together to cook. The demands of evening chores usually mean that dinner needs to be done by the time he gets home, so he doesn’t have the time to participate in one of his most fulfilling activities (which is also a great source of talent, I might add). The commute also is tiring for him, so I’m not sure if he would even want to cook when he gets home; but still, I miss the days when I used to play assistant chef. He makes such better meals than me!

I miss the rare night when we would dim the lights, make popcorn, and watch a movie on TV. Since moving here we haven’t set up the TV in the house, and don’t necessarily plan to (thank goodness). And we certainly have watched a movie or two on my laptop computer. But, I’ll admit, it’s just not the same.

I’m looking forward to the greater sense of relative calm that will hopefully come in the next few years, once our routine and garden and orchard and berry patches are established and require a little less oversight.  I pray daily that Rob’s job would be less stressful. I appreciate each sacrifice that both of us make on a daily basis to give us this beautiful, wonderful life.

This simpler life has it’s advantages and disadvantages, although I must say that it brings more fulfillment than I ever felt living in Los Angeles. It’s not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for the lazy. It’s for the hopeful, the dreamers, and the slightly looney. It’s for Rob and me, for the family we’ll someday have, and for Sugar, Midnight, Easter, eight chickens and a hive full of bees.

The simpler life is a harder life. But it’s a good one. Of that, I’m sure.

Knee Day

A couple of years ago St. Patrick’s Day ceased to be a day for green beer and pinching–at least in our family.  March 17, 2008 changed the course of events in our calendar, overwriting St. Patty for the evermore infamous “Knee Day.”

This was the day of my second ACL reconstruction. The final ACL reconstruction, my orthopedic surgeon emphasized. A day that would ensure that I wouldn’t have the recurring pain of bone-on-bone (I have no cartilage or meniscus in that knee, either) or the uncertainty of whether or not my knee would hold together during a fall. The knee reconstruction was also a reconstruction of my future.

Today I’m thinking a lot about my life just two years ago, on Knee Day. Our lives were so different. I hadn’t even started seminary yet; in fact, it was my recovery after the reconstruction that brought me back to theology and study. We didn’t have any intention of moving out of Los Angeles, and backyard chickens were for quirky people who baked their own bread and probably their own granola, too.  Tehachapi? Where was that? And I guarantee that a dog wasn’t anywhere near my husband’s radar.

Today, exactly two years later, I’ve changed the course of my career (or, rather, my vocation) and Rob has changed to a new job that we hope we’ll some day be able to work him out of. We own not only our own home, but the acre and a half that surrounds it. There isn’t the sound of planes or traffic in the morning; rather, there is the silence of a still sunrise…just before a chorus of birds sings its hymn to welcome the day.  I know how to demolish and reconstruct a bathroom. I know how to plant a garden. I’ve had to clean dirt out from under my nails more times that I can count. We’ve expanded our family to include our sweet dog Sugar, and on April 16th we’ll welcome a hive of bees. We’ve planted a cherry tree, an apple tree, an almond tree, asparagus, blueberries, boysenberries, and grapes (syrah, merlot, zinfandel, and chardonnay).  We have lavender seedlings started, and the seeds for our garden are simply waiting until the threat of frost passes soon. We have cows that frequent the hill behind our house. Neighbors always smile and wave when they drive by. We don’t have cable anymore. In fact, we haven’t even unpacked our television.

Life is very different.

The past week or so has been filled with grief, but today I want to focus on the joy. The gratitude of what we do have, rather than the pain of what we lost. I honor that pain, but I need to feel normal again. I need to remember that pain isn’t the sum of this story. It’s only a chapter. And it’s certainly not the final chapter.

Thank you, Knee Day, for reminding me that my life is continually undergoing reconstruction. The recovery can often be painful, but the fruit of the experience is sweet.

Stitches and Cones

Sometimes Sugar gets what we lovingly call “The Crazies.” When she gets The Crazies, she begins running full speed in whatever direction she is facing until she meets an obstacle (like the edge of our property). Then she’ll stop in a way that resembles a skier at the bottom of a hill, dirt flying everywhere, turn around, and start running in a new direction. A few people have independently commented to us that they think she might be part whippet, and to see her run, I wouldn’t doubt it. At full speed, I would guess that she’s running at least 25 miles an hour, maybe more. When she gets The Crazies, she is having more puppy-like fun than almost any other time. She loves it. But it doesn’t always leave her with the best judgment regarding her own safety.

So this last weekend during a bout of The Crazies, she got too close to something–we think the raspberry bushes are the culprit. I never knew raspberry bushes had such nasty thorns, but they do. But whether it was the raspberry bushes or something else, Sugar came in with a nasty gash on her hind leg (as well as a milder one on her front). It was pretty bad…I’ll spare you the gorier details, but needless to say I could see down to the muscle.  And our brave little pup patiently (and surely painfully) stood still while we poured iodine and bactine into it, never even letting out a whimper. It was obvious she was in pain, but I could also see that she trusted us to take care of her.

Despite our best efforts, it became clear she needed stitches. So she got a date with Dreamland and woke up to a stiched up leg and a brand new collar. The Elizabethan Collar bascially makes sure that she can’t lick the area, thus tearing out the stitches or introducing infection. She’s not happy about it.

The collar basically means that she can’t navigate in her usual way. She’s always bumping into things. She can’t sleep in her crate because she can’t move around the space with the collar on (and we can’t take it off at night because we can’t supervise her). It’s much harder to eat. She’s afraid to go to the bathroom with it on. Needless to say, it’s been the source of a lot of discomfort and fear for her. Sometimes I wish I could speak dog language, and then I could just explain how it’s for her own good, how it’s not a punishment, and how it’s not forever. But for now, I suppose, she just has to trust us even though we can’t explain.

I was thinking the other day about how similar this situation is to our own faith lives. How often do we go through periods of discomfort, of fear, of not understanding the purpose of things? How often do we just have to trust that God knows something we don’t? We all have Elizabethan collars in our own spiritual lives. We all have stitches that are healing, and God sometimes keeps us from licking our wounds for our own good.

Sugar would probably say that being in the collar is the hardest job. But as her “mom,” I have to say that watching her suffer and knowing that she doesn’t understand is pretty hard, too. I wonder if God experiences that? I think so–that God struggles with our struggle. That God’s compassion reaches out to us in those moments. And that God continues to assure us that there is a purpose for the discomfort, and that God will take care of us each step of the way.

Moments in Time

Although most of our days lately have been spent working on getting our bathroom back up and running, I’ve found myself more and more recognizing the larger picture of our situation. It’s true that this remodel has been an inconvenience to say the least–on our bodies, our time, and our finances–but in the proper perspective, it’s truly just one moment in time. One instance of inconvenience.  Sometimes inconveniences, when in an inappropriate mindset, can feel like the end of the world. We fall into frustration, impatience, sometimes even despair.

Until you witness real, life-altering events.

Yes, it’s tempting to feel like a bathroom remodel is taking over our lives. But I’ve been closely following the story of a woman who attends my childhood parish, who was in fact only a few years apart in age from myself. While giving birth to her fourth child, she started seizing and her brain was without oxygen for an extended period of time. When they were finally able to bring her out of her coma, she had to begin to learn how to talk, how to use fine motor skills, how to function again. And her family will never be the same.

And then there’s my brother-in-law, who is a commander in the Navy. He left yesterday to go to Haiti–just one of the thousands of people who are going into the devastation in the hopes that they will be able to help. We can’t even imagine what the daily circumstances are in the aftermath of such a disaster. We just can’t. It’s hard to even wrap our minds around what is going on there, because it’s so far outside the experiences of our lives.

So I can’t help but see this “inconvenience” of ours as more of an opportunity to recognize it’s place in the larger scheme of the world. To use any small measure of displacement as a moment to stand in dignified solidarity with those who are dealing with much, much more challenging circumstances. And to be grateful, so grateful, for these moments that we’ve been given with family and friends to work on this project.

It’s all in the way you look at it, I suppose. Each moment in our lives is an opportunity to recognize it’s larger place in time. Each moment presents us with a chance to spend it consciously–and it’s up to us whether or not we waste it on frustration and regret, or appreciate it’s opportunity through solidarity and gratitude, holding each other up along the way.

Doing What’s Necessary

This weekend I learned more about wielding a ultility knife, a crowbar, and caulking than I ever anticipated in these early weeks of our time on the homestead.  When we bought the house–which is about 60 years old–we knew that we wanted to replace the carpet in the bathroom and completely remodel the guest bathroom. What we didn’t know was that we’d be doing it almost immediately. Who knew that the combination of roots in a plumbing line and dried wax seals could cause such a mess?

Yet it’s actually been okay. That’s not to say it has been easy…there have definitely been some scary moments, and more than a few gross moments. But there have also been some intangible benefits of our little plumbing disaster. For one, Rob and I continue to grow in the affirmation that we are better as a team than alone. I’m so grateful for his partnership in all of this. We really did pull together to do what needed to be done.  And I think both of us went above and beyond what we thought we were capable of doing. Yesterday, for example, we ripped the rotting, water-damaged wood paneling off of the guest bathroom walls. It needed to be done. But it was an incredibly daunting task. We also moved a cast-iron clawfoot bathtub out of the bathroom and into the garage all by ourselves (that’s a heavy sucker). We didn’t really think too much about whether or not we should do it; we had to. Sometimes you just have to do what’s necessary.

We’ve gotten the master bath fixed up pretty nicely. We laid in new flooring and replaced the toilet. We still need to stain one piece of floorboard and the threshhold piece and then set them in place. But by and large, I’m pretty proud of our handiwork.

The guest bath is going to be a work-in-progress for quite a while. But I’m alright with that. After all, it continues to be part of this wonderful adventure–scary, stressful, but empowering. It brings another level of meaning to having dignity in the work of our hands. In fact, I’ve been meditating a lot on what it has meant that we’ve done this work ourselves instead of throwing up our hands, moving out for a few days, and hiring a contractor to make it magically transform. There’s value in doing this work. There’s an intimacy we feel with this house. An unanticipated blessing.