Wednesday, May 6, 2015

over a hump

I’m in a fair number of online and in-person mama groups.  It really helps.  They get crazy drama sometimes, but they are usually a safe place to vent and say aloud the things we’re pissed about no matter how petty they seem because the little things are big things, especially to new mamas.  The sweet face of a milk-drunk babe on your chest is delicate and fleeting and glorious, just as not being able to finish your bowl of god-damn mac n cheese is somehow infuriating and tear-worthy.  Parenting is a blessed unrest. 

So this gal wrote the other day on how hard it has been; missing her old self and desiring to be onto that next place-settling into this new normal. Of being a mother and being okay with it all a bit more. She’d heard it was a one year thing. I didn’t think much of it in the moment and then a night or two later I woke up wide-eyed in the middle of the night and was like YES! I am there and I love it. Thank you! It’s not overall easier or more difficult, and yet somehow everything is getting better.  Even with husband-heart issues, lead contamination, oy.  I’m just dealing better.  I’m folding my underwear again.  Yep, that’s what I said.  I am not a tidy person by any means, but for whatever kooky reason I just love folding my underwear and always have.  Sometime after Eldon was born it just became ridiculous to keep that up and so I didn’t and it really bothered me.  I couldn’t keep up with diapers, feeding myself properly, etc. etc., seriously, what was the dang point!  Recently, not because I have more time, but because I’ve made it a priority, I started folding it again.  It doesn’t take that much extra effort, and it doesn’t make any real practical sense, but it’s something that I enjoy and makes me feel better each time I pull open my drawer, and that little moment is important.

I don’t know when the shift happened.  When every little thing stopped being so difficult, but it is truly wonderful.  Our house is not clean and I still don’t cook as much as I’d like, but I’m getting there.  

Also in these mommy group is a lot of venting about partners.  Some of it is hilarious, some deeply painful, all meaningful to the women going through it and those who can relate.  Support behind the new mama is a big thing, made up of all the little moments.  I am unendingly grateful for Josh, and his New Year’s adventure in the hospital leaving him part-robot (a pacemaker, but that’s how he describes it) is coming soon.  We have always been really good at actively participating in the success of this relationship.  I own that and am dang proud of it.  And there has never been a time where that is more important than this past year when we became parents.  When a totally new person became the center of our lives.  It has also been so beautiful to find such new-old joy in each other.  To be capable of all the old things we used to love doing, in addition to having Eldon, and making time for those things. Sauerkraut, bone broths, gardening, planning, reading, holding hands.  Life is yummy and I’m excited for the abundance of summer.

Also he's walking and talking and is just the cutest freaking thing in the world, so even when none of the above feels good or true, I've got that.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Birth of Eldon

If only we could write our birth stories before the birth, you know, back when we had time for such frivolities as writing.  But since that’s impossible, here I am, nearly a year post-birth, finally writing about it.

Where does this birth story begin?  When I first found out I was pregnant?  When I told my partner and his bliss met my nervousness?  When I first felt like something was wrong?  When I began to weep at the absence of signs?  Was it the morning my partner left for work, and my body took over and sent me into the painful labor and delivery of what had been gestating only nine weeks?  Or maybe my birth story began as the following months of hormonal overdrive shifted to real acceptance of life and how it only moves on.  Of going to my partner with joy again.  Maybe it was the moment I found faith in my body, and my cycle returned.  Or two weeks later when I felt implantation and soon became overjoyed with nausea.  Maybe it was our wedding day, when we announced our new pregnancy to everyone we loved.

Or maybe it began with the first contraction.  Despite reading hundreds of birth stories, I remained oblivious to the obvious once it was happening to me.  I enjoyed the feeling of what I thought was the baby arching over like a cat, stretching his back against my belly and hands and feet against my spine. 

My sweet midwife, Aundria, came over for a prenatal visit on a Wednesday afternoon 11 days before my due date.  With her hands on my enormous belly she said, “Well I can’t very well palpate you while you’re having a contraction,” with a great knowing grin.  “Oh that’s a contraction?! Ha! Well then yea, I’ve been having lots of those lately.”  She prescribed massage, chiropractic, yoga, whatever, as she noticed a hair more swelling than she’d prefer.  She told my ma a good Epsom salt foot soak and rub would do me good too.  And after my pee stick she said, “Now don’t get too excited, but there’s a bit of blood so things are definitely moving along.”  

My ma followed the midwife’s orders, and I made an appointment for a massage the next morning.  That evening my mom made the best fettuccine alfredo I have ever had and I giggled and shared every time I had a contraction.  As exhausted Josh fell into bed I sat beside him, “Look! Another one! Wow you can really see and feel it tightening!”  He humored me and felt my belly and looked at me with that classic look of his, meaning, that is super amazing, and completely weird.  I may have laid down for awhile, but couldn’t sleep.  I knew I must be over thinking the contractions due to the new knowledge that they were actually contractions, but they just kept coming.   “Start doing something else” our birth instructor’s voice said in my head and see if they change, or stop.  I got up and watched some silly shows online and they kept coming. I meandered around the house, futsed with stuff, and watched some more.  I decided this was really happening, I was in labor, and the birthing tub was not ready.  I vividly remember being huge and squatting around the trough, tearing off some duct tape with my teeth and thinking it was all very funny while having another contraction.

I knew I needed to get rest while I still could and got into bed.  Sometime later, I don’t remember if I actually fell asleep, I was beginning to have more intense contractions and it woke Josh around 1am.  He asked me some version of “Are you in labor?”  And I responded with some version of yes.  We timed them here and there, and called Aundria around 4:30am.  She talked to me and Josh and basically said to keep doing what we were doing and she’d be there in a few hours.  Josh made plans to go to school to drop off stuff for a sub and my mom woke up and got other things ready.  She made oatmeal and I managed to eat a fair bit between contractions.  At 7:45 my water broke in bed and by this point I was focused on breathing and moving though each contraction and nothing else.  Somewhere in there I spent a long time in the shower.  Contractions were still not very regular, and my water broke a few more times in the bathroom.  

Aundria arrived at 8:45, we listened to the baby, and she listened to me.  I threw up and it was all very intense and transition-like.  At 9:45 she checked me and I was dilated 2cm.  She was encouraging, and said this was probably still early in labor, told us to rest when possible, and call her with updates and she departed soon after.  Somewhere in there Jessica, our good friend and doula, arrived with amazing labor tea.  Despite her and my mother’s wonderful presence, I really only wanted Josh through most of the labor.  I wanted surprisingly light touch, and just him and nearby sturdy furniture to hold as a base as I danced through each contraction.

Jessica and my ma went out for coffee, and Josh remained at my side as I labored.  I got overwhelmed at times and wept.  I remembered the birth stories I’d read and how they described labor as this high, out-of body- like experience.  I felt none of that, and in the moment I was looking for it, but instead I felt so fucking present it was nearly unbearable.  I’d never been so severely planted on earth.  There was no way out but through and through was clear and real and HARD.

Jessica kept me hydrated and carefully offered suggestions like walking more and changing positions, despite my less than enthusiastic cooperation.  Recognizing exhaustion beginning to set in they all managed to support me kneeling and resting on the birthing ball-that point in labor where you really can sleep between contractions.  At 1pm they filled the tub, and I wanted in.  Getting in the tub too soon can stall labor, so I wasn’t really supposed to get in before Aundria got back and we could reassess where we were at.  But at 2 I was over what I’d been doing and got in.  It seemed like I was in the tub for a long time and the contractions kept coming.  They were amazingly painful and the water wasn’t lessening the intensity like I’d hoped, but it was still somehow better and I stayed.  At 2:15 I puked some more, and began weeping again.  It just hurt too much and I felt myself losing confidence and dipping into self-pity.  They called the midwife again around then for her to return soon.

Thinking I was moving into another long stage of labor and wanting to give Josh and I some more time alone, my doula and mom got their shoes on to go for a walk.  One of them, I can’t even remember which,  knelt beside me and explained what they were going to do and all of a sudden I leapt half out of the water and said “I’m pushing!!”  What an incredible, undeniable force!  2:35pm and suddenly it was go time.  I hollered for Aundria to return and focused hard on my breath and Ina May’s horse lips.  I didn’t stop my body from pushing but was able to ease the pressure ever so slightly through my breath.  It felt like leaping up with a big wave in the ocean to ride with it, because you know if try to stand firm you will only be smashed down into the ground.  The ocean, like the uterus, is a strong force that is better to work with than against. 

The horse lips soon became very loud vocalizations and I could not ease the force of pushing any longer.  After what felt like a huge one I yelled that it was coming out and to put it back in because the midwife wasn’t here yet!  They said it wasn’t out yet, and that she’d be here any moment.  I was so sure something was out and my body kept pushing.  I saw Aundria run in and barely set things down before she was in front of me and said something about my having a beautiful labor song, and then her hand was in the water and I was yelling and pushing.  I could hear Jessica’s voice and feel Josh and my mom around me.  I could see Josh’s eyes widen with surprise, and they told me to look down because it was coming out and I said I didn’t want to, just get it out!  And then, it was.  Little arms and fingers outstretched toward the surface of the water, and then up, low on my chest as our cord was short-was a baby. My baby, our baby.  It was 3pm.  

Jessica excitedly blurted out that it was a little boy.  The moments after he came out and became a part of life outside my body are the most difficult to remember clearly, or describe with words that could do them justice.  There was awe.  There was complete, true love, but it wasn’t as surprising as I’d expected, just natural.  Mostly I felt quiet; I’d been one person for 28 years, then I became host to another, and now became a new individual person, a mother.  A mother to this beautiful boy.  Wonky-shaped head, smears of blood and vernix, swollen deep eyes, a few soft first wails of life, and his skin.  Quiviut, the down of the musk ox, is the softest, lightest and warmest fiber in the world, or was until I felt the delicate softness of his newborn skin.

The second midwife arrived and they helped me waddle to the bedroom, and onto the bed where I birthed the placenta and soon they cut the cord.  He latched on for the first time (our rough breastfeeding journey is another chapter altogether), Josh’s mom arrived (she was meant to be at the birth as well but we called her too late) and Josh walked around for some skin to skin with his son.  Aundria did a most adorable newborn exam, and we reveled in the presence of perfection-a totally new human being. 

It turns out he had a nuchal fist, which Aundria recognized when she arrived, and when she plunged her hand into the water it was to push that fist back in to allow his head to come out.  I still tore a bit, but not near as much as if she hadn’t arrived when she did and I’d had to birth a head and fist at the same time.  A nuchal fist can cause you to dilate less evenly, explaining why my contractions never became very regular.  It’s also quite possible that the transition-y feeling time I’d had in the morning would have been the hour of his birth, had that fist not stalled things.  Aundria recommended I call her at the same point in early labor next time because it will likely be a fast one.

My mom made a delicious post-birth platter that I totally devoured (birth makes you ravenous, especially with all that newly free space) and a meal for the whole incredible team.  I fell into the deepest, most blissful nap and woke smiling, remembering I had my son on my chest and my dear husband at my side.  It was late afternoon Thursday, March 13th, 2014.  Two days later we named him Eldon Michael Frederick, our sweet rainbow baby. And the love just continues to multiply.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

On Writing Again

I haven’t been on a writing hiatus this long since I began writing with intention, sometime in early middle school.  I used to write all the time, about everything.  Writing, and art, were how I processed and made sense of life and my place in it.  Sometime within falling in love with Josh my need to write lessened, and since having our son it’s completely vanished.  It’s funny because I now have so many more joyous things to write about.  I realized recently one thing about having a baby is that suddenly everything is fragmented.  Nothing can be focused on solely for very long, if at all, because this beautiful new being is the primary focus.  Yes you have to take care of yourself, but you are no longer the center of your universe, you are an orbit around a new universe.  I sometimes think I’m pregnant again because I will need to pee with such urgency, until I realize my bladder has been telling me quietly I’ve needed to pee for hours now, I no longer have a choice.  It can take me three days to get laundry put away, not for a lack of trying; I’ve started to put it way twelve times.  It can take me an entire day to sweep the house.  I’m not complaining, just observing this funny new normal.  And writing so doesn’t fit into it!  When I write I like to do so without time in mind, without expectation and without interruption.  It takes me a long time to get the words out, even longer to widdle them down into something sensible and with proper spelling and pronunciation.  But I know at any given moment that the new sun, my son, will need me before I can get to any of that, so I leave it aside.  But tonight, hopefully, he’ll stay asleep a good stretch and I can pretend the night has no end and I can finally write.  He will be a whole year old in less than two weeks and it’s about damn time I got down the story of his birth. This is my rusty warm-up.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gestating a Rainbow

I first wrote about my miscarriage the same day it happened.  I was in a whirlwind of hormones, and at the time I felt the need to quickly announce the miscarriage because I couldn’t bear to hear anymore congrats on the pregnancy (we'd announced a week before).  I took as good a care of myself as possible and tried to remain positive.  There was a sense of relief after it happened, not that we weren’t pregnant anymore-that was devastating, but that the bad feelings, signs and sadness that had been there for days meant something, I finally had an answer.  I truly felt in those first moments a strange confidence in my body; I had worked through contractions, alone, and got what was no longer living out of my body.  It was intense and beautiful in its own strange way.  The absence of that pain left me feeling better physically and I thought that must be as intense as it would get.  I assured everyone the worst was over and I trusted the process and had faith in the future, the stats were totally in our favor.

Well if only we could be so in control as we think.  Hormones are a wild thing, and loss is huge.  I waited patiently as I could for my body to cleanse, level out and for my beloved cycle to return.  Josh was unwavering in his love and support, and lack of belief in anything less than wonderful happening, he inspires me everyday.  Every Monday I was sad, my mom supported me in saying I should take time out to just be pissed and sad and frustrated with it-feel it all- and then leave it and move on until I need to take that time again.  Josh would hold me.  Not long after I miscarried three other wonderful couples announced their pregnancies, one a close friend due nearly the same time I was and I found myself in a most uncomfortable position of being truly happy for them, and deeply and painfully jealous.  It became hard for me to face them without imagining what I was missing, and was filled with a sadness so deep.  It was morbidly funny to realize within my little realm we were proving the stats true-1 in 4 pregnancies will result in miscarriage.

After one amazing cycle and a whirlwind of house purchasing, I faced a bottom I had not expected.  My second cycle didn’t arrive, and I felt like I was going crazy-a hormonal imbalance mixed with a pessimistic view.  I wavered between great agitation and wishing to that depth of sadness.  I continued to weep over the loss more and more and felt completely out of whack.  I had everything I wanted, amazing partner, new home, great job, and felt terrible for feeling there was this huge hole within that had only been full for a few weeks.

The healing agent of time seemed to be my only cure, in addition to forceful positive thinking and luckily a partner who was not losing faith in my body.  Soon after I calmed down and regained balance, we decided to begin trying again wouldn’t you know it, my cycle returned immediately.  As if to say, “I was waiting for you” rather than the other way around.  Needless to say I was pregnant within two weeks.

In the natural birth community a birth after a loss is called a "rainbow baby" as it is so healing and a miracle. While I think all babies are miracles, it’s interesting to have another term for the next baby.  Today is the original due date for that first pregnancy, and I am happy to have made peace with that.  While time is the true healer of most losses, of course being four months into a new, healthy pregnancy seals the deal.  I can look to other pregnant women with love rather than longing (our friends who were due near me had a healthy boy last week),  but not a day goes by that I forget to be grateful I only miscarried once, and that as far as we know our ability to have healthy children is still strong.  

I realize I have not written about our wedding yet, but what can I say?!  It was absolutely perfect.  It POURED the day before, and rained much of the day off, but luckily it stopped an hour or so before the wedding and it stayed beautiful.  Our dear friend Randy was the most excellent officiant ever, and the ceremony was wonderful.  We planted a tree rather than exchanging rings and surprised our guests with the news of our new pregnancy.  The pig was smoked to perfection and the food was perfect.  Best of all was having (nearly) all the people we love together, at our home, for an entire evening.  I still can’t believe it came together so perfectly, especially as I was battling early pregnancy 24/7 nausea (which magically held off the day of the wedding :) I truly can’t thank everyone enough, it would take forever.