Ayanna’s Birth Story

In my typical terrible fashion, I completely forgot to announce to our friends and followers on this site that Ayanna Marie Wasike is here. She’s actually been here for over a month (smh)… six weeks, to be exact. She was born at 11:30 pm on December 27, 2017 at 3.5 kg and 51 cm.

When I last shared about my experience with being pregnant in Kenya, Ray and I had a tentative plan for where our daughter would be born, who would help us bring her into the world, and a general idea of what would go down throughout the process. Pretty much none of that happened. Actually, none of it happened. Ayanna’s arrival was incredibly different than anything Ray or I could have anticipated.

A little backstory

Let’s start with the previous plan, for those of you that don’t remember or didn’t read the last post. We live in a small town called Kitale. The next biggest city, Eldoret, is about an hour and a half from where we live. Throughout the pregnancy we were driving to Eldoret on a monthly basis to see my OB, one who had come highly recommended by other missionaries and Kenyan friends.

The idea was that we would go to Eldoret about a week before Aya’s EDD and stay there until she decided to make an appearance. That plan was initially foiled when I asked my doctor at my 8 month checkup the likelihood that she would be the one to deliver my baby. She told me it wasn’t likely since she would be on vacation the month I was due. I wish I had known that sooner!

Rolling with the punches

At our 9 month visit we returned to Eldoret and met with another doctor, one I knew nothing about. It was at that appointment that we discovered that Ayanna was still breech — something we had known since I was 31 weeks — so we were instructed to make plans for a C-section. This particular doctor approached the situation by urging us to schedule for that same week (I was 38 weeks at the time). Completely rattled by the speed at which everything was moving, we asked for alternative options that didn’t require immediate surgery. She told us there were none, but we pushed to wait until I was at least 39 weeks and scheduled the cesarean for December 19th.

Now, two years ago, when I had to go back to the States to see doctors about some health problems, I met two OB/GYNs that have been lifesavers throughout this pregnancy. I believe they were divine connections. Dr. Amy Hogan was there for me when we first found out we were pregnant. I emailed her right away, and because she had previously tested me and discovered a hormonal imbalance, she knew exactly what supplements I needed. Thankfully, my OB in Eldoret took Dr. Hogan’s notes and wrote me the prescription that I needed. Dr. Molly Carroll, the one who had performed my laparoscopy and hysteroscopy, also gave me great advice regarding Aya’s delivery. When I reached out to her via email, she immediately responded and advised us to wait until I was at least full-term, among other things. So we cancelled the appointment.

More divine connections

Knowing we didn’t have much time left before Aya would be here, we started looking for other options. We were referred to a midwife here in Kitale whom we instantly liked. She examined me, explained the type of breech Aya was to us, and gave me a bunch of exercises to do to try and coax our baby girl to turn, though by that time there really wasn’t much we could do. If Aya had turned, we would have had the midwife deliver her, but Ayanna stayed where she was, so we had to find someone to perform the surgery.

Initially, we had no intention whatsoever of going to a hospital in Kitale. We hadn’t heard many pleasant things about hospitals here, and we didn’t want to risk any complications with Aya’s delivery. But on the recommendation of our midwife and a trusted friend, we met Dr. Kasembeli. Aya was due on Christmas but still hadn’t shown up, so the following day we decided to get a sonogram to see if she had turned at all. The place we normally frequented for ultrasounds was closed, so we decided to try Dr. Kasembeli’s hospital and see if they were open. By the miraculous grace of God Dr. Kasembeli was in his office only because some plans had fallen through (he was also supposed to be out of town on vacation). He did the ultrasound and sat down with us and discussed our options. We really liked him and immediately trusted him, so we scheduled surgery with him for the 28th.

D-Day

Thinking we had a day to prepare before we met our little girl, we took it easy the next day. When I had gotten up that morning I noticed that Ayanna had finally lightened or dropped into my pelvis, but that can happen weeks before delivery, so I wasn’t alarmed and spent most of the day in bed watching movies and napping. Throughout the day I kept experiencing cramping, but I assumed it was Braxton Hicks. I was expecting the actual labor pains to hurt a lot more.

By late evening I noticed that the contractions were happening more frequently and my whole stomach would tighten with each one, so we decided to time them. To our surprise they were 3 minutes apart. Five minutes is when you’re supposed to report to the hospital with a normal pregnancy… so yeah. It was bad. Can you imagine how bad it would have been if we had still planned on going to Eldoret? I don’t even like to think about it.

We called the doctor and he told us to come in immediately. Within the hour I had been prepped and was on the operating table for an emergency C-section. As much as Ray and I had tried to psych ourselves up on the drive to the hospital and in the waiting room, I wasn’t ready. I knew generally what was supposed to happen during the surgery, but that still didn’t make me ready. I was mostly scared.

Trying to smile through contractions in the waiting room.

As the nurses tried to help me prep for surgery, they mostly spoke to me in Swahili. I can understand the language for the most part, but my mind was racing so much that I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around what they were saying. Once they realized I wasn’t Kenyan, some of them spoke to me in English, but others continued speaking in Swahili. With the whole delivery process being rushed already, it was hard not understanding what my part was in it all. Instead of me delivering this child on my own and letting my body call the shots, other people were telling me what to do, yet I had no idea what they were saying or how to help the process along.

Once the surgery had begun, I began to feel claustrophobic. Not being able to feel my legs or get off the table made me want to scream. I felt trapped and nauseous to the point of dry heaving, so I tried to focus on breathing. Though I had managed to keep myself from freaking out, something else was happening inside me. I was becoming detached from the whole situation. By the time the doctor pulled Ayanna out and lifted her to show me the cord that was wrapped around her neck so he could explain how dangerous the situation could have been had we not come in, I felt completely detached. I saw her and felt nothing. I just wanted the whole thing to be over, so I laid there and felt blank.

Disillusionment sets in

Ayanna was taken into a room next door where Ray was waiting. I could hear her crying and the nurses conversing with Ray, but everything was just a blur. They wheeled me out of the operating room into that room and showed me my daughter again, but I didn’t care. I was shaking uncontrollably and in and out of dozing off. Once I got into my private room I continued shaking for an hour or two. Every once in a while I would open my eyes to see Ray holding Ayanna. He looked so happy. She looked so content.

It took 12 hours before the feeling came back in my legs and I could at least sit up in bed and hold my daughter. Ray had taken care of our daughter that entire time. It helped that she slept a lot and didn’t need to eat for at least 24 hours. Still, once I had her in my arms I felt nothing. I searched her face and smelled her and tried to find at least an ounce of maternal connection to the child in my arms, but it just wasn’t coming. Throughout the rest of our stay in the hospital, I did everything I was supposed to do… breastfed her, held her when she cried, and so on, but I did not feel like a mother.

It wasn’t until the ride home from the hospital three days later that I looked down at my daughter and truly felt even an inkling of a connection to her. I saw her beauty in the sunlight as she slept in my arms, and the further we got from the hospital, where everyone had been telling me what to do and how to do it, I finally felt like this child was mine. It wasn’t this big moment or anything like that, but it was an organic start to a process that is still continuing to this day. I still find myself on a daily basis trying to wrap my head around the reality that Ayanna is my daughter.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that giving birth to a child doesn’t make you a mother. Even though I technically earned the term mother by growing a child in my uterus and bringing her into the world, that was the extent to which my relationship with my daughter went. To mother, in the verb sense of the word, is to bring up a child with care and affection. During that time nothing in me wanted to care for her; there was no affection in my heart towards her. Ray was more of a mother to her than I was, honestly. To be a mother is a choice. To love a child in spite of yourself is a choice. It’s a choice I have to make on a daily basis. Some days making that choice is harder than others.

Bringing baby home

As I mentioned in my last post, it is a cultural custom to have family members stay with you after a baby is born. They not only help around the house, but they also teach you how to care for your child. Ray and I came to a compromise that allowed us to be alone with the baby for a few days before his mom came for about half a week. She was amazing about allowing me to have my space and time with the baby so I could figure things out on my own. Having her in the house was a huge help, especially to Ray. It was very important to him to have his mother in our home during that time, so it made me happy to see him enjoying fatherhood with his mother around.

After she left we had one of Ray’s cousins come and stay a week. That was also very helpful. I’m typically the kind of person that doesn’t like to ask for help even if I really need it, so as much as I had once raged against this aspect of Kenyan culture, I’m really happy that we have a village of people to help us when we need it. If I would have allowed it, Ray’s whole family would have been at our home in a heartbeat!

Standing in the need of prayer

Since then it’s been a continual journey of learning how to love my daughter and my husband through my service to them while trying to figure out how to heal from the emotional trauma of the C-section. To some it may not seem like a very traumatic experience… I mean, the doctor did everything perfectly and our overall experience at the hospital was great, but as time goes on I’m realizing just how much the process affected me.

Just the other day we were on a domestic flight to Nairobi, and I had a panic attack. I’ve flown dozens of times, sometimes 15 hours at once, and that has never happened to me. Something residual from my surgery has been hanging onto me and causing fear. I felt the same way on the plane that I had felt when lying on the operating table. I can’t explain it, but I knew there was an obvious connection between to the two incidents.

That is definitely something I would love prayer for and something I plan to seek counseling for. We are praying for God to make a way for us to be able to travel to the States this summer so our friends and family stateside can meet Ayanna, and if I’m behaving this way on a 45 minute flight, I don’t know how I’m going to do 15 hours! If anyone knows of anyone that specializes in what I believe to be a form of PTSD post-surgery, I’d love referrals.

I thank God every day for the gift He has given us in Ayanna. I also thank Him for the husband He has given me who provides so much support for me. Motherhood is nothing like I expected, but I’m learning to embrace it all one day at a time.

 

 

This journey is our own

Comparison is a lot like the game Spoons. You can never keep your eyes fixed only on what’s in your hand, and someone always ends up getting hurt (at least when you play Spoons with my family).

Valentine’s Day woes

A few days after Valentine’s Day I posted a blog at She Is Set Apart about the way the lover’s holiday used to cause problems for me as a single person and still does even though I’m now married.

When I was single, using Facebook on Valentine’s Day was difficult because everyone was either posting pictures of their amazing gifts – making me feel bad because I didn’t have any, getting engaged – reminding me that I didn’t have someone to propose to me, or sending me “cheer up, you don’t suck that bad… at least Jesus loves you” posts – which I guess were meant to encourage me as a single woman.

Now that I’m married all I see is competition, oneupmanship. Hundreds of women claiming their husband is the best and sharing all the ways he spoiled her, making hundreds of other women instantaneously lift their expectations of their husband so that when he comes home with a single rose and box of chocolates, she’s looking at him like “That’s it? You hate me, don’t you?”

Long story short, the conclusion I came to on the blog post and in life is that my jealousy is an indicator that my Christian love tank is probably running on low. If I had the love of Christ living inside of me like it should, I should be rejoicing with my sisters and brothers because of the gifts they received. There is no room for jealousy and comparison in love.

Same story, different season

You may be wondering what my point is considering Valentine’s Day was over a month ago. Well, I bringt it up because the comparison struggle has started again but for a totally different reason: babies.

Since we had our miscarriage, just about every single friend that I have back home has announced that they’re pregnant or they’re already pregnant or they recently had a baby. I kid you not, this is true of at least 80% of my close friends.

It can be really hard to think that I was supposed to be on that ship, fell overboard, and now am treading water as the ship sails on. Without me.

As I scroll through my news feed, here we go again with a million baby pictures and birth announcements. It would be so easy for Ray and I to become upset because we had gotten so close to becoming parents, and sometimes I think we both do feel a twinge of envy, but aside from learning how to love others and truly rejoice with them in these wonderful gifts that God is giving them, God has really been giving us a new perspective to tread these murky waters.

Breathing under water

See, at this point in our lives we may not be on our way to parenthood and we don’t know when God will give us the go ahead with that, but with what felt like a tidal wave crashing over us, we’ve discovered that the undercurrent is actually pulling us deeper into our dreams. At this point in our lives we are able to pursue all that God puts on our hearts with total abandonment. The Joshua Blueprint has become our baby.

We’re in a similar position to where I was as a single person. Because I wasn’t in a relationship I was able to get involved in numerous ministries, go on lots of mission trips, and mentor a lot of kids. Now that I’m married I’ve lost some of that freedom, but I’ve discovered new potential in the partnership I have with my husband. Now, as one unit, we can dive into all that God has set before us and accomplish more together than I ever could on my own. The beauty of it all is that we can maintain this perspective through every phase that we’ll go through in life. As we begin to build our family we’ll gain revelation on how we can continue to pursue what God puts on our hearts but in a different way. My friend Kimberly Huffman has a great post about what that looks like as a mother of seven on the mission field. You can check it out here.

That being said, every phase of life looks different. We’re only in the second phase right now and we don’t necessarily plan to be in this phase as long as I stayed in the single phase, but who knows? Maybe God will keep us here for a while so we can spend more time branching out and experiencing new foundational aspects of His vision for us.

Whatever His plan is, our hearts say yes.

The latest and greatest marital sensation: grief

Last month I wrote another post over at She Is Set Apart about some of the phases I went through as a single adult. One particular area of focus was the way I typically handled my disappointment or grief in the dating realm.

Now some of you may suspect that I might be one to employ the use of pity parties, but that, my friends, would be an untruth. I actually preferred the use of anti-pity parties and not only sought to find the most optimistic reasoning to help me sort through whatever situation I was facing, but I also scolded anyone who wanted to throw a pity party for me.

Some of my favorite phrases as a single person were things like:

“I don’t think I’m meant to be in a relationship, and I’m okay with that.”

“I’m so happy to be single again. Now I’m free to do whatever I want.”

“I love Jesus so much, and I’m glad there’s no guy to come between us.”

Almost immediately after breaking up with someone or realizing I had been single for longer than I would have liked, these statements would become my mantra. Throwing myself into living out these life mottos, with great zeal I might add, I never allowed myself to really grieve the loss of a relationship. There’s no room for sadness when you’re championing your newfound freedom, right?

History repeats itself

Well now that I’m married, I’m finding another area of grief beginning to surface. No, it’s not the identity issue again.

This time it has to do with babies.

Though Ray and I committed to doing our best to refraining from having children in the first year, there were a few times when we threw the chart (we’ve been doing natural family planning) to the wind and waited to see what would happen.

Regardless of our declaration to remain childless for a year, both of us became so giddy whenever the prospect of a child seemed imminent. We’d talk about how the child would look and what he’d be like and what kind of parents we’d hope to be. But every time the all too familiar “period” would come around signaling an end to that month’s parenting fantasies, we both felt that twinge of disappointment.

But being true to my former self I would immediately say,

“Well, I’m glad. We’ve got so much going on this year that I would hate to do while pregnant.”

“Guess God knew it wasn’t time yet.”

“I’m not ready to be a mom anyway. I just had a little case of baby fever.”

Stuffing is for turkeys

Now none of these statements are false, the same could be said of the statements I declared as a single, but they can be slightly deceptive. In my case, when I immediately snap into “find the optimistic approach” mode when dealing with grievous situations, I’m not allowing myself the appropriate space or time to deal with it. I’m just stuffing. We all know what happens to any vessel, especially one as fragile as the human heart, when it gets over stuffed. It breaks, and usually in a bad way.

Two nights ago I miscarried at 6 weeks of pregnancy.

When it first started I cried simply because I was scared, but once we realized there was no rebounding from the situation, fresh tears of grief were summoned and released. Ray, being the amazing husband that he is, just held me and tried to encourage me to stop crying, but after some time he realized that I needed to cry, as did he, so he allowed himself to add some tears to the mix.

That was all that I needed.

The time we took to just hold each other and cry truly allowed me to come to peace with the situation and continue to hold out hope for the future. Had I not been given that opportunity, I surely would have stuffed it and sooner or later it would begin to seep out in some of the most unseemly ways. Now I can at least use my optimistic statements and know that they’re coming from a heart that’s truly in the right place.

One of the things Ray reminded me of was King David and the loss of his first child with Bathsheba. He prayed and fasted and wept, asking God to spare the child’s life, but when his requests were denied, he got up, washed himself, and went to the temple to worship God. With my husband’s support we were able to actually praise God and receive his consoling truths while allowing ourselves time to grieve.

A season of grief is just that, a season

Throughout this new phase of life (marriage) I’m learning how to allow myself to feel sadness and grief and to learn what those emotions tell me about my inner desires.

Okay, you’re single and you want to be married. That doesn’t make you a bad person. So you’re married and you want to have a kid. You’re not displaying a lack of trust in God if you shed some tears expressing your grief at not having obtained one.

Our sweet Father desires to be the one we lean on when we need a shoulder to cry on. He doesn’t ask us to come to him pretending that our trust in Him leaves no space for the reality of humanity He placed in each of us. Humans cry. Allowing myself to cry and share my disappointment with Him will by no means open any doors to depression, which I think is a real fear many of us have, like once the tears start they won’t stop, but I truly believe there’s nothing healthier than to be able to release emotions as you feel them. I truly believe we’re more susceptible to depression when we refuse to deal with what we’re feeling as we’re feeling it.

Anyway, now that our first year of marriage has come to an end and we’re totally open to the possibility of expanding our family, I’m thankful for this lesson in embracing grief and being honest about its presence in my life before I end up picking up the fragments of a broken vessel.

Our answer to the question: “When are you having kids?”

It’s complicated.

From the first day we arrived in Kenya to today, our ear holes have ceaselessly been bombarded with the question, “When are you having kids?” Because we got married when we were both nearly 30, we were already familiar with questions like:

  • “When are you getting married?”
  • “Do you plan to be celibate for the rest of your life?”
  • “Are you gay?”

Enter the question du jour

Back in America, though many people may be wondering when a baby is coming, few people ask. Here in Kenya, everyone is wondering and everyone asks. It doesn’t matter if we met the person five seconds ago. Once he/she finds out that we’re married, we know what question is coming next. It never fails. The general expectation here is that within a month of a couple being married, the gossip grapevine should be bustling with baby news.

Ray and I both want to have and adopt a lot of kids, but aside from our decision to spend our first year of marriage focusing on our relationship, we just have a lot of cultural and personality issues that we are still trying to work through before we can answer that question.

Let’s start with delivery, shall we?

For American women, it can be incredibly disheartening if their husband is not present at the time of birth. You expect to have the guy responsible for putting the baby inside your belly to be present when it comes out. Of course we want to share the joy of meeting the baby for the first time with our husbands, but we also want them to share in our suffering. Someone has to. Here in Kenya, men aren’t allowed in the delivery room. Maybe some of our Kenyan readers can explain why it’s culturally improper, but we have yet to hear about a hospital here that will allow Ray in the delivery room.

**Update: After talking to a few people we found out that hospitals in Nairobi city will let the man in the delivery room if you communicate with doctors beforehand that it’s something you want. It’s mostly outside of the city that you won’t have that option.

Bringing home the baby… but who’s in charge?

The first week that the baby’s around, a Kenyan wife is relieved of her household duties, and relatives come and help her take care of the baby. Many of you have heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, and that’s truly the mindset here. For weeks, one or two family members will become a permanent fixture in the new parents’ home to teach the woman how to be a mom. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an introvert. The first time Ray and I discussed this particular cultural expectation, I literally cried. I know in America some women have their mothers come stay with them for a week or so, and maybe I wouldn’t find that to be so bad, but that’s just the beginning. Part of the reason you have people come live with you is because there will be cycles of people coming to visit, and you are required to feed them all. It’s rude if you don’t. For this reason, once we find out we’re pregnant, it will be a must that we move into a bigger place, not just to accommodate the baby, but to accommodate all the guests, live-in and daily.

I guess for me I just was looking forward to learning by trial and error with Ray and spending quality time alone with my baby. I like the idea of a village helping to raise a child, but actually living that out is a different story. Maybe it’s the pride in me that doesn’t want to be told I’m doing things wrong or how to raise my child, but it’s something I’m going to have to deal with, because it’s important to my husband.

Is it a boy or a girl?

The majority of couples in the States find out the sex of their child as soon as possible so that they can prepare the nursery, clothing, and accessories. Unless you’re a modern couple living in Nairobi city, most people don’t find out the sex of their baby. Even when it comes to buying gender based items, it’s not that important. I often see baby boys in girls clothes and girls in boys clothes. Especially the rural areas, people aren’t as interested in dressing their kids in the appropriate clothing for their gender as much as they are interested in procuring any kind of clothing that fits well enough.

Infliction of pain on our boy child

I’m talking about circumcision here. There’s always the debate of whether or not to get your child circumcised, but for those that do circumcise, it’s usually taken care of shortly after birth so as to keep the child from having painful memories and to reduce certain risks, but for Ray’s tribe in particular, circumcision is a rite of passage for boys when they’re about ten (Ray was 8). There is a huge production that the Luhya tribe is known for when it comes to circumcision, involving parades, walking around naked, and covering themselves in mud (there’s more detailed information about it here), but thankfully Christians do not participate in these practices anymore, so our future boy child is safe there. Still, Ray thinks it’s cruel to cut a baby and I think it’s cruel to cut an adolescent, but we both think circumcision is important nonetheless.

And he shall be called…

Like most American girls, I picked out the names for my children long before puberty made child bearing possible for me. Flip through any of my journals from middle school and you’ll see lists of names, underlined, circled, or scribbled out (depending on if I was still into the dude I wanted to name my child after). A lot of you back home have heard me talk about this, but when Ray and I first got together, he told me that traditionally either his grandfather is supposed to name our child or our children should bear the name of at least one of his relatives. Nowadays it’s more of a respect thing to name your child after a grandparent, but not a necessity, so this matter has become the least of my concerns.

The battle of our wills

There are some issues on the list that are extremely important to me. I wouldn’t want anyone else in the delivery room with me except for Ray (and my bestie Lisa). I refuse to give birth without him present. Ray also is adamant about having family come to help out. As is characteristic of the nature of marriage, we both are going to have to sacrifice a lot, and we want to be in agreement about the majority of these issues before we’re bombarded with them as we’re dealing with the stress that will naturally come from having a newborn. Through natural family planning we’ve been able to give ourselves time to discuss this quite a bit, but Sammy honey wants to have a baby with a quickness, so hopefully we’ll be able to resolve all these issues soon enough.