February 21, 2013

Natural Childbirth: My Story, Part I

And now let's pretend it's December (when I actually began composing this post). Let's say I'm 36 weeks pregnant with my third child, and my head is wrapped around Mammahood and little else. My favorite moment of the day comes late each evening when I lean back on my bed, prop up my feet and lay my hands on my swollen belly to feel my son move. Often, the hands of big sister, big brother, or Daddy join mine, and we revel in the miracle of the tiny life coming to us.

And of course I have the time and energy to blog about it, because, what nine-months preggo woman doesn't? ;-)

The last week of November was difficult. Our birth plans had to change and questions have been raised about my health...more on that some other day...but, because of these trials, I have felt so urgently the need to put into words, here, the story of my birth experiences, and how strongly I believe that the journey of labor and delivery can carry a mother to a place of sacred awareness, empowerment, and bliss that cannot be reached in this life in any other way. The reasons I choose natural childbirth are portrayed and promoted in life-changing books like Childbirth Without Fear and bold documentaries like The Business of Being Born (my favorite!). I passionately recommend both those sources to women everywhere, but my stories can only be told by me.

Almost nine years ago Baby #1, my sweet Laurelei, was on the way. I was so young! I have always known I wanted to be a mother, and I have always known I wanted to bring my children into the world through natural childbirth, the way my mother brought me. Actually, until I was a junior in high school, and went to see a friend in the hospital who was having a baby, I didn't know much about any other way. I remember my older sister telling me I should leave the room because they were going to do something called an 'epidural' and she knows I don't like needles. I left obediently, wondering what on earth needles had to do with giving birth.

A little older and slightly wiser in the ways of the world by the time I became pregnant with my first, I ignorantly thought I knew all there was to know about labor and delivery and my options and rights. There were no birth centers near where we lived, but the hospital was small and personal and, as informed as I thought I was, a home birth really hadn't even crossed my mind. I said 'no' to the epidural, the pitocin, the being induced, and I presented my D.O. with the birth plan Brian and I had worked through together (a quiz torn from the pages of a parenting magazine, the boxes checked with our answers). He nodded and said he understood. And I think he did. But still, on the night my sweet girl was born, things were done to me as a mother and to her as she entered this world that we would have said no to had we known--really known--as much as we thought we knew. It was a hospital, after all. And a hospital has policies that most moms never bother to learn and most docs never bother to disclose because the expectation is blind faith in the 'experts,' and little to no faith in our bodies; in what we, as women, were designed to do.

I have a huge problem with that expectation.

When the night came, I had back labor. I stood and walked the polished, white, hospital floors, leaning on Brian through contractions and letting gravity help us along and the pain was manageable. I could see the purpose in it and Brian could talk me through the worst moments...until I dilated to 5 or 6 centimeters and was told that, according to procedure, it was time for me to lie down.


But we didn't know enough to say 'what?' I thought, she must be coming soon. It must be time. I obediently laid on the bed...and felt the full pain of back labor which, up to that point, my standing position had eased me through. I'm sure I screamed. The nurses began hooking me up to machines. External monitors. Heart monitors. An I.V., and, worst of all, an Internal Fetal Monitor screwed into the top of my helpless daughter's head. I remember thinking, and I remember Brian asking, why? But then my focus returned to the contractions that had suddenly intensified tenfold and Brian's focus returned to me. With all the wires and cords holding me to the bed, and the full weight of baby and womb on my back, there was nothing I could do now to handle the pain. I wanted to stand up again. Someone told me no. I fought through several contractions that way before a nurse suggested a "milligram or so of Stadol. Just to take the edge off." Brian and I didn't know what that was and neither of our heads were really with the nurse anyway. But with the hospital -regulation IV that I never wanted already in place, it was easy to inject the medicine for "the good of the baby" without really waiting for us to say yes.

We had lost control of a situation that was ours--not the nurses' or the doctors' or the hospital's. Ours. And even though I could still feel the labor, I still knew where I was and I could try to find the purpose in the pain,  I felt a little bit lost.

Under the influence of the Stadol, the semi-helpful effects of which didn't last that long, I hallucinated. Between contractions I fell into a half-sleep that terrified me without giving me any real rest. Then, at about 8 or 9 centimeters, the drug began to wear off and they wanted to give me more. This time, I found my voice and said no. They still wouldn't let me off the bed, but I insisted on being propped up. I knew she was coming. I knew that the moment I had waited and prepared for was about to happen and I didn't wait to be told to push. My body and my baby together knew what to do and the doctor barely caught her in time.
There is no physical feeling that can compare to the sensation of a baby leaving the birth canal, and there is no emotional or spiritual experience to be had by man nor beast to envy the infinite wonder and joy of having  completed the journey of labor and birth. At the moment she was placed in my arms, Laurelei, Brian, and I were the only beings on earth.

I kissed the wound on her head and cried, happy tears for the child fresh from eternity in my arms; tears of grief for my ignorance and pain. And I knew, as she nuzzled her tiny mouth to my breast, I would never, ever, lose control of my sacred Mammahood rights again.

Coming Soon: Natural Childbirth: My Story, Part II.

February 14, 2013

Valentine Cuties

Happy Valentine's Day blogland beauties! Just a quick idea today for a sweet and healthy Valentine's treat:

Use a Sharpie to draw messages like "Hey Cutie", "Be Mine Cutie", or "Kiss Me Cutie" on a whole
box full of cuties, then share the sweetness and the love!

Happy Hearts Day!

February 13, 2013

Let's Pretend it's November

 The rhythm of my life is reflected in the frequency of my writing. When my most important priorities--my family, my health, my faith--need more of my time and energy, I give it. And the work-in-progress novel manuscript goes back in the box under the bed, the article ideas get jotted on a sticky note for future reference, and the blog posts in my head go unwritten for a season. Then, when we grow accustomed to whatever changes have come our way and life's rhythm becomes steady once again, the words come back to me, and they won't be put off anymore. Such is my chronological, list-making, check mark- checking nature, however, that I find it impossible to pick up in my writing from where I am. I have to go back. I have to catch up on all the things I want to share, all the memories I don't want to forget. So, before we get to baby (yes, he's here!) and natural childbirth, creative craftiness, and the new rhythm of our little family of five, let's pretend it's November. Because I want to tell you just a little about our amazing week in the city where Tony Bennett left his heart and Train begs to be saved: San Francisco.

Waiting for our turn on the street car.

Lunch at Boudin

Boat tour under the Golden Gate.

Lombard Street

I have two sisters. One lives in L.A., the other in Oakland. I get to see them maybe once every two years. This time around (in November, remember? haha i made a rhyme!), we--and by 'we' I mean: a very pregnant me, my hubs, our two kiddos, my parents, my older sister and her hubs--converged spectacularly on the Oakland home of my little sister Andrea and her boyfriend Connolly. The latter had not met most of us before and, it must be said, exercised heretofore unheard of levels of patience with our family's standard dysfunctional mode of cray-cray. Thank you, Connolly.

We spent a week crashing at their home by night, and back-and-forth bay-hopping by day, diving head-first into San Francisco (and a little Oakland) tourist culture. Street cars, Fisherman's Wharf, and Lombard Street, SFMOMA, Aquarium of the Bay, and the Academy of Science. We walked and bussed and rode trains and boats, we ate sourdough bread with almost every meal. We carried extra jackets and sweaters for San Francisco's famously unpredictable weather, and basically spent seven days building family memories, teaching our children, and reminding ourselves, how to let go and immerse ourselves in a travel experience that helps shape our view of the world.

You see, we have these philosophies, Brian and I, by which we try to live, and, more to the point try to parent. One is a commitment to value experiences over possessions--we don't own a house, or even much furniture; our income is modest, but we manage it in a way that allows us to partake in every good learning experience that comes our way (ie: rock climbing lessons or a video game system? the choice, for us, is obvious). Another is that knowledge and relationships are the only things we take with us when we leave this world, so shouldn't our knowledge be wide and our family bonds deep? We think so. And that only comes with time spent together, discovering life.

The Palace of Fine Arts, which houses the Exploratorium.

Science at Exploratorium.


The Museum of Modern Art.

Creating at MOMA.

Laurelei deemed this piece her favorite at MOMA.

Quidditch goggles for SF exploring- gift from Uncle and Auntie.

In Oakland, at Children's Fairyland.

Alice's rabbit hole at Fairyland.

Air garden at Academy of Science.

So we left the City by the Bay with hundreds of new memories, at least as many photographs, if not more (I am married to this guy, after all) and very few souvenirs. Most of what we bought we either did (tickets, admissions, etc.), or ate (food = gooood). And we talked about those seven days and all they brought us again and again, letting the memories warm the rest of our chilly November back home.

What are your goals when you travel as a family? What places have you loved visiting? I hope many, and many more to come.