birth

3

dining

hands

baby

face

meal

feet

flowers

burrito

rob:lenox:dark

Sometimes things happen a little differently than we plan and other times things happen just the opposite in every which way.  One of my coaching mentors from years ago used to say, “if you want to make god laugh, tell her your plans.”  Oh, the infuriating truth in that statement.

And so it was, with the birth of this tiny treasure who now makes us a family of four — he arrived in a fashion absolutely nothing like what I had prepared myself for or what I had hoped for.  I’ve noticed, some folks are quick to say, “all that matters in the end is a healthy baby and a healthy mama.”  And while I get what these folks mean and I am, of course, enormously grateful to have a healthy babe and to be a healthy mama, I hold a different view.  Birth matters too.  How we birth our babies and the unprecedented rite of passage for women that birth is matters too.   To me, it matters a whole lot.  It would be easier, for certain, to tell you here today, “the babe is here!  nothing else matters!”  But, I believe that you, dear readers, deserve a fuller story.  This blog is about process and transition and rites of passage, so as difficult as it is to share vulnerable details I will likely be processing for a good long while, I would be remiss in sharing only the joy that I now feel with this babe in my arms.  I feel much joy, but I don’t only feel joy — I feel many things.  It is with this in mind that I share this story.

For the four weeks before Lenox Bear’s birth I did little more than hope and yearn for things to get rolling.  Three weeks out, contractions constituting pre-labor began and happened sometimes all day every day and sometimes just in the evenings.  I tried, but didn’t sleep much.  And as I bypassed his due date by days and then a week and then two weeks plus, in deep and almost constant discomfort, I began to lose my sense of humor about all of it.  I dodged neighbors and phone calls.  It became so that I couldn’t stand another well-intentioned person saying, “are you STILL pregnant?!”

And then, as somewhere deep in my gut I knew it would, it began, late on a Sunday night.  At first, it was the same contractions I had felt for weeks, but they fell into a rhythm and I found, after 45 minutes or so, that I could no longer be alone.  Fast and furious they came — we tucked Orlis securely in bed with his grandma and called the midwives.  They took one listen over the phone and arrived within minutes of each other, just a half hour later.  Now I knew we were in business.  Feeling what seemed like an unmistakeable (and early!) urge to push, I was reminded by these amazing women baby-catchers to listen to my body.  Upon checking, they confirmed, “just a bit of a push past the pubic bone and we’ll go upstairs so you can have your baby on your bed.”  This sounded like a simple, easy task.  I remember thinking to myself, “after the longest drum-roll ever, this might be the easiest, fastest birth.”

Five long, extremely difficult hours later, I was still, in every position imaginable, trying to do just that — push that baby past my pubic bone  We had gotten exactly no where — not one millimeter closer.

While the baby was doing just fine, I wasn’t.  It was then that I knew I needed to get some medical help, and as much as it was the last thing I wanted to admit to myself, my exhaustion had overcome me, and my belief that this passage could happen in the comfort of my home by the sole efforts of my own muscles and the encouragement and expertise of the midwives and Rob deflated.  We drove to the hospital.

And there, with the delayed but most welcome relief of an epidural, I entered into another matrix entirely.  It was, just as I had read about so many times, a domino effect of interventions — first an epidural, then the worried looks on the nurses’ faces as they saw the effect take the baby’s heart-rate down, then an oxygen mask, then pitocin, some more pushing (and no budging) and finally, the dreaded moment when the doctor said, “I hate to skip to the end of the story here, but we are looking at a c-section.”  How could this be? I wondered.

And then, we decided to make one final attempt using forceps — a tool whose use is accompanied by laundry list of possible scary side effects for me and for baby that left me trembling.  But it was my last chance at a vaginal birth.  With a crowd of 12 people (3 nurses, 2 doctors, 2 extra medical personnel in case of emergency, 3 midwives, 1 grandmother, and 1 loving partner) all around me chanting and smiling and coaxing me along, I closed my eyes and gave all I had and then…a baby boy.  ”Thank you,” I said to the doctor over and over again.  Thank you.

 

That’s the story.  And the week that has passed by since then has been a beautiful, challenging, tearful, painful, joyful, busy, sore, and heartwarming one.  Neighbors and friends have come by with watermelons and flower bouquets from their gardens and whole, delicious, colorful meals.  There have been visits from midwives, and calls from the doctors and a whole lot of advil coursing through my veins.  There has been daily diaper laundry and other laundry and cookies and muffins to eat, and the amazing help of one wonderful grandma.  And there’s been baby feet to hold, and the ups and downs of new nursing, and one bright sweet and appropriately confused and cuddly big brother just getting a handle on things in the ways a 2-year-old knows how, with challenging and tears, and moments of utter, heart-wrenching kindness.  ”Are you okay, mama?”  ”Why is baby Lenox sad?”  And there’s been the tender and tricky navigation of new roles and new chores for both mama and papa as we navigate a shifting center of gravity with as much tired grace as we can muster.  And there’s been, of course, a sweet little babe to love and hold and to remind us, that loving and holding is about all there is to do right now.

 

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these days (waiting)

These days…oh, these days.  I am waking early and noticing, “hmmm…still pregnant.”  These days are those strange and sacred ones during which I inch so humbly close to an elusive “due date” knowing, at any moment we’ll begin.  It’s these days that are, I think universally, a challenge for many of us going through this rite of passage.  The psychology is odd — yearning for something that we know is likely to be a bigger challenge and also a bigger joy than any we’ve known and not knowing how or when it will start, but knowing it will…it will…at just the time it should.  It’s a peculiar place to sit for days on end.

Dearest friends and family are checking in, daily some of them, wondering if I feel anything.  (ha!  ”yes.”  I tell them.  ”I’m feeling every move my body makes with the most acute awareness.  Who needs meditation practice when I have this waiting game on which to feast my every sense?”)  Other dearest are, I think, deliberately not checking in, but I know the pins and needles on which they sit.  There is just nothing quite like this anticipation.

Well, what are we doing with ourselves while we wait, you might be wondering?

3.on

*Playing with the neighbors.  The youngest among us donning our bicycle helmets and going belly-forth on the skateboard.  (The maternal among us holding her heart and breath with every such endeavor.)

birth.supplies

*Checking and double checking the birth supplies we’ve organized.  Appreciating how many of the things that are gathered in these baskets are homemade and handed-down and otherwise used and loved so well already.  What better to wrap up a new baby in than an already beloved blanket that holds some legacy and embedded warmth?

birth

*Making birth art.  Toddler-style and mama-style.  Loving the way watercolors work and move together.

fixing

*Fixing, fixing, fixing.  Using our tools as much as we can.

windowsill

*Ah!  Enjoying bringing in the bits of spring that so abundantly grace our out-of-doors.  And loving the streaming sunlight too.

cat

*Just…waiting.

dress

*Beginning, at friends’ insistence, some sewing projects that I know won’t get finished for awhile.  Being okay with the idea of a long, unfinished project.  Loving the challenge of sewing projects that are well beyond my skill level (and the knowledge, too, that my mama is coming soon and will know how to help me).

mama.birth

*Appreciating the thoughtful things I was mandated to include in the Mama Birth Supply Basket by the midwives.  Oh, those midwives have mamas in mind all the time.  I am so grateful for that.

collecting

*Staring dumbfounded by the amazing versatility of sticks.  All day long we pick up sticks.  I had no idea they were so very much fun.

bandaid

*Applying bandaids where we have no ouchies and wearing them like costumes.  Because what is more fun than bandaids to a 2.5 year old?  (And what is a better lesson for this mama than embracing and loving our scratches, bruises, and scars?)

mt

*Employing every natural induction method I can think of ….acupuncture, pineapple, wild dance parties.  And doing as I’m told and making my way to Portland’s Mount Tabor Park (affectionately nicknamed Mount Labor Park to those in my situation) to walk the stairs.

stairs

*Bringing my sidekick with me.statues

*Imitating statues together and having a good giggle.

table

*And doing my very best to cherish this precious table for three — with hearty meals and silly moments and a bushel of lilac from our generous yard out back.  We are in the business of falling in love here, I remind myself.  And we don’t ever really get to know the precise moment that will happen.

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springing

bush.w:.sky

rose.up.close

white.flower.bush

dead.flowers.w:.truck

running.in.grass

roses.blooming

white.up.close

view.to.garage

This baby-in-utero has not, as of yet, sprung forth, but in the meanwhile, spring has.  And oh, in such glorious ways.  I’ll take it — all of it.

I’ll take these friendly and most perfect blossoms outside my window in the morning, and I welcome, wholeheartedly, the sun, yes Oregon sun, that pours in, rendering my own home almost unrecognizable.  (Did someone accidentally leave the lights on last night?  Oh, no, that’s the morning sun.)

I’ll certainly take the blue skies that beckon us, Orlis and I, outdoors to sit quietly together and make tools with sticks and rocks and mud and fallen dead blossoms.  We can spend hours “fixing” the steps to our driveway and “washing” them with rock “soap” and brown, wilting petal “washcloths” and I’m floored by the way this enchants him.   I see the imagination of my 2 and 1/2 year old exploding with the simplest of found-object “toys” and I’m so grateful to have stood my ground about keeping things relatively spare and simple in the toy department, even when it makes me unpopular with some well-intentioned gift-givers in our lives.  Because nothing, truly, could be more engaging and engrossing than the mud on our shoes and the way spring, in particular, has offered us a little something new each day with which to make our world.  I don’t always love getting my hands dirty but I adore seeing a little brain believe so wholeheartedly in the stories he creates.

And, I see nature offering me some very timely reminders that good things do happen in their own, sweet time.  The faces of flowers emerge just when they are ready, and then, I notice, open so very wide I am amazed by their vulnerability; their unabashed showing of their true natures.  These things, these offerings are not only metaphors for what’s to happen in our home in the coming hours, days, maybe weeks…but also simple gifts in their own right.  Nature knows just what to do.

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pregnant mamas unite

There are few things more comforting for a big-bellied pregnant mama than a whole room full of big-bellied pregnant mamas.  One Tuesday evening per month, a group of us gather around a table and share a meal.  I must say, there is just something so lovely about each of us inching our growing bodies as close as we can to the potluck table and filling our plates with the various homemade goodies with an unspoken and very much spoken understanding that this is a special time in our lives.  There’s a lot to discuss about this enormous transition we are all going through.  Lucky, lucky me to have found the amazing community resource that is Alma Midwifery, here in Portland, OR.

This particular group of us all plan to give birth — some of us for the 2nd time, and most of the group for the 1st time — either at home or in the warm and most inviting private rooms at Alma’s stand-alone birthing center sometime in March, April, or May.  That makes us the “Spring Mamas.”  And besides just being pregnant (which I’ve found to be a great common denominator among all different kinds of women), we all share in the experience of having chosen the midwifery model of care.   This, I have found, is a source of instant connection, commonality, and great bonding.  With a  shared paradigm from which to draw, much to learn from each other in the way of resources and ideas, and the vulnerability that this sacred process beholds, this is community-building at its very best.

This monthly potluck ritual is so much more than just a few women gathered for a meal, I find.  And much of that is due to the physical space in which we gather — Alma’s Movement and Education Space in SE Portland — where, I think anyone could make themselves comfortable.  There’s a gorgeous bathroom, a clean, shared kitchen stocked with herbal teas and jars of honey, soft chairs and pillows everywhere, and a bulletin board with reminders about all kinds of juicy offerings happening in the same space throughout the month.  It gives the sense, you are invited.  You are welcome.  What I love most, though, are the bits and pieces of art scattered around the space that honor the uniqueness and beauty of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.   There are beautifully painted bodycasts, paintings of babies and mothers nursing, and many images that celebrate the rawness and realness of birth.  I am humbled by these images, and specifically, by the powerful reminder they offer about the work that all of these women’s bodies are doing now, and the work their bodies will do as they bring their babies into the world.  I’m humbled, too, by the people — partners and husbands and midwives and doulas — who have made it their passion and their business to make it so, and specifically, to make it so on the mother’s (and nature’s) terms.  It isn’t easy work for anyone involved, but it’s sacred, and this space pays homage to that more than any I’ve had the honor to visit.

People often ask me — what are the reasons to prepare for a home birth?  Why do it?  And I want to say, among so many things, this is why — the community, the honoring, the nourishing, and the attitude of both realness and celebration around what many describe as the biggest transition of one’s life.  I am honored, truly, to be a part of this group of Spring Mamas — to be growing community together in this way, and to be sharing in this magical, complex, and wild ride.

P.S. I leave for vacation today!  I’ll be gone from this space for about a week and will see you back here on Wednesday January 23rd.  Have a great week!

 

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