Monday, December 15, 2014

I Wanna Get Better

There are things people don't like to talk about, especially in relation to things that are supposed to be joyous. There's a fear of being perceived as incapable, less than or bad in some way. I know this, because I've felt it too. Not at any time more so than I have since I had to admit to myself after months of telling myself "it's just hormones" or "the baby blues" that there was something more going on. Even after I checked off several boxes on the PPD check list.

Motherhood is one of those things that is held in such sacred and high regard that to speak ill of it, to let anyone know that you've found anything other than joy in it, causes you shame. I've been feeling so very ashamed, so very heavy and alone, only willing to admit my feelings to Joe. I felt myself withdrawing, I felt myself cracking under the weight of my own unmet and wholly unrealistic expectations of what motherhood would look like for me.

I've found myself beating the shit out of myself for not being this perfect, beautiful, serene zen hippie mama that I expected and wanted to be. I've railed against my body - this miraculous and strong vessel that grew and bore this baby- for it's faults and weaknesses, because I can't wear my child the way I had envisioned and longed to. Because I have 2 left hands and 10 thumbs and can't get the whole wrapping thing down (goodbye dreams of beautiful, heavily filtered photos of my baby curled up and snoozing in hand woven fabric) and then because my back will spasm with angry ropes of fiery sciatica if I carry or wear him in the strappy buckle carriers I CAN use for too long. (so long dreams of painting while I wear my soothed, snoozing infant). I curse it because the same happens when I sway my hips and rock him to sooth him when he's sick or uncomfortable. I've been cursing it and wishing for a new one because neither one of us particularly likes it when I have to soothe him laying or sitting down. We both crave motion, a calming rhythmic motion, when we're uncomfortable. He is so much my son.

And I've been cursing myself and this brain of mine, so filled with emotions, for being anything but happy and delighted by this child I wasn't even sure I could have. For daring to be annoyed with him, for feeling my blood pressure rise when the cries of an overtired child can't be soothed away easily or sometimes at all. I've hated myself for whispering to the night to please shut him up so we could sleep and loathed myself for putting him down to cry and walk away to go get my head on straight again and calm back down when I feel myself becoming agitated. How could I?

I've felt like a monster; who gets mad at a baby? Who asks a baby to kindly shut the fuck up - even in gentle whispered sing song tones?

Apparently, every one. But I've been incapable of giving myself the grace needed to accept that and to accept that in that aspect anyway, I'm perfectly normal. And that lack of acceptance and grace coupled with the unmet expectations I had for myself, sent me down a spiral. The waves of sadness, darkness and less than have dragged me under and left me gasping in heaving breaths for air. They've tossed me on to my knees, a tear stained crying mess of a woman who can barely breath or find a kindness to give herself. And they've left me on the shores of endless doubt and hopeless dark skies, wondering aloud if my boys wouldn't be better off with another woman to care for them.

One who isn't a giant fuck up. One who doesn't constantly worry. One who doesn't cry and feel so very emotional. One with a strong body and mind.

And the light broke in, through those clouds for one shining moment. The full moon's kiss on my tear stained raw face, and I knew that these are all lies. All a pack of motherfucking evil, hateful lies. That it isn't my fault, that I don't deserve these feelings, that there is nothing to be ashamed of or scared of. That I'm worthy of love and motherhood and most importantly, of healing.

And I reached out. In one big afternoon of emailing and calling, I reached out. To my sisters far and near and I was lifted up and held. And I was gifted with their stories, so many so similar to my own. So many that I had never known or would have guessed had done this dark dance as well. So many women suffer this in silence. So many women never reach out. So many of my beloved sisters were too ashamed to tell anyone, some were scared of themselves but were too afraid of what others thought to reach out. And that is why I'm sharing. That is why I'm placing this darkness, raw and unedited, in to the glaring light of day.

Because fuck being afraid. Fuck the shame. Fuck people who think depression is fake or all in our heads. Fuck those who think we're weak. And fuck the unrealistic standards that women are saddled with - by themselves and by others.

I've reached out. I'm starting therapy tonight, despite the fear I feel at opening up to a stranger face to face and despite it not being in my budget, because this isn't my fault. And I deserve to get better.

And, so does every other person out there who needs it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Moonday Musings: Thanksgiving Weekend

Orion snuggling with daddy while the sun comes up and the turkey cooks on the smoker.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I'd say probably the best one we've had in a few years. We stayed home and invited a few friends over. Joe woke up at 5am to start cooking the big things - ham and turkey- Orion and I woke up a bit later and watched the parade on TV (well, I watched while I played with him) before I worked on my offerings of raspberry chocolate pound cake and fresh cranberry sauce. Our friends brought the rest of the sides as well as 4 (yes - 4) pies!

Everything was delicious and we all had very full bellies. After we ate, we spent the remained of the afternoon, evening and early part of the night talking and playing games. Orion slept soundly despite our loud laughter. Everyone went home around 11 pm, and Joe and I went to bed tired but happy. It's been a long time since we had a house full of people having fun and to be honest, it's been a bit lonely. While I'm a bit of a loner, I'm also someone who lives entertaining people. As ever, I'm an anomaly.

We spent my least favorite day of the year, Black Friday aka The ShitShow of Greed and Commercialism, snuggled in bed until late. Then getting up to eat breakfast, pack away the Autumn decor and start lugging the Christmas stuff out of the attic. We also spent a good amount of time trying to get Orion to nap, as he's entered the dreaded 4 month sleep regression and seems to have gone back to his newborn days of fighting naps to the point of exhaustion. Having tried every trick in my arsenal to get him to sleep on his own, I threw in the towel and strapped him to my chest in the Babyhawk while we decorated the front yard. As Joe hung up the lights on the house and I decorated the tree out front, Orion drifted off to sleep. Success!

We did venture out in the early evening, once all the traffic and madness had died back, to visit our favorite local brewery for their "Black Stout Friday" event. 9 delicious stouts on tap and a string band on a chilly night cannot be beat!

Saturday and Sunday found us out and about. We browsed tool stores, picked up a few items we needed from the store and looked for our annual Yulemas tree. We visited the lot we've gone to each Christmas since we bought the house, a little family run affair that brings their trees in from their family farm in North Carolina. Orion got to touch his very first fir trees as we looked around and Joe and I had small heart attacks over how much the price of trees has increased since last year. With only one income this year, a $70 tree that was already cut and not in a pot to be replanted was not in our budget. We snapped some photos while we were there, as I do every year, but we ended up buying a much more budget friendly tree elsewhere.

Today the nap fighting continues, Orion's longest snooze being about 35 minutes. I managed to get in the shower and am writing this up on my phone as he dozes off beside me in the bed; he seems to sleep longer with me beside him right now and I'm willing to do whatever it takes at the moment to help him get the rest he very much needs. I hate typing on my phone, but I forgot to grab a book or my journal and when I go to roll away his eyes pop open. Ah well.

Plans for the afternoon include a stroll around the block since it's fairly warm, repainting an old window frame to use in my holiday mantle display, dusting the altar and swapping Autumn things for Winter ones and, if I'm really lucky, organizing the freezers.

The excitement never ceases!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musings on a Tuesday: The Contradictory Season

In this season of my personal Winter and the beginning of Nature's great Winter, I find myself drawn inward. Craving only the company of a hot cup of coffee or a steamy pot of tea, my fibers, threads and fabrics and perhaps some music. It's a season of introspection, of slowing down and of sitting with my soul. I do the deep work at this time of the year, as I stitch, crochet or recently, spin. My mind wanders, fingers trailing the lengths of fiber like Theseus' trail inside the Minotaur's maze, and I go to the dark places. Dredge up the things that the Summer sun beats in to submission, to sit with them and determine what needs changing, healing or burning off.

It's a time to inventory my thoughts, to stitch up the tears in the fabric of my mind and to recharge. Time to do the work that is best done alone, where the opinions and emotions of others cannot affect it in any way.

However, it is also the season of gathering and giving thanks. It is a time to be flung in to the mix of our communities and tribes, to laugh and reminisce and step in to the light of gratitude and joy. The joy of having these communities; be they blood family, chosen family or friends. Gratitude for the things that sustain us. And so, in the season of my introspective Winter, there is a tug to be social and to spend time with cherished ones. There is a giddyness that overtakes me and makes me agree to doing more than my inner self probably appreciates me taking on, like hostessing a Yuletide party where everything needs to be just so, or cooking Thanksgiving dinner for friends who don't have nearby family, or picking a half dozen names off of every wish tree I come across though my funds are tight or nonexistent.

It's a contradictory season for me, this desire to be social and to love on my friends and family battling with my need to be alone and do some soul work. Some years I'm frantically sprinting around the house with my blood pressure soaring and cursing myself as I try to get everything ready and other years I manage to keep this balance with barely a sweat breaking out.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the latter happens when I've been working fibers regularly. My fingers work a trail for me to follow through the labyrinth and the fibers themselves ground me. The work is humbling, it is simple and it keeps me in the moment. I truly believe it is the reason that I, for the most part, leave the vibrant colors of paint and pastel behind when Winter comes. Because in a contradictory season, especially one with so much baggage and expectation behind it, I need something to keep me connected to the simple and to myself.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Honoring My Seasons

There's an undeniable ebb and flow to the seasons of Nature, which we accept and do what we must to get through, because we know we have no other choice. Similarly, I've noticed that we all have our own seasons of sorts, cycles that we go through of ups and downs that can last hours, days, weeks or months. If we keep track of them, we may notice they follow a specific rhythm or pattern - a wheel of sorts. Unlike the ones in Nature, however, we rally and try to fight these cycles... at least, I know that I do.

For years, I've fought against my own personal Winter. Without fail, at this time of year my energy levels drop, I become a bit of a shut in, I have no desire to pick up a brush, a pastel or a pencil and create art. And despite knowing this will happen and knowing that in years past the fight with myself has led to depression, I've continued to do so. I rail against the lack of energy, trying to force myself to get all manner of things done and I beat myself up over the lack of art making; demanding to know what sort of artist doesn't paint for months at a time.

Until this year. This year, I'm done fighting. I'm done railing and belittling and putting so fucking much emphasis on what I'm not doing, rather than what I need. I'm done sending myself down the deep corridors of the Black Wolf's domain over something that, much like Nature's Winter, I cannot stop. So what if I don't paint? So what if I want to hang out in bed in my pajamas drinking hot tea until a decadently late hour of the afternoon? What is it going to hurt to give in and honor my seasons?

What will change if I go with my own flow, just like I go with the flow of Nature, that wonderful teacher?

Perhaps nothing. Perhaps I'll still face darkness during the longest nights of the year. Perhaps I'll still feel stressed about not making art or the house being untidy. Perhaps I'll feel guilt for my self perceived laziness.

But perhaps not.

Perhaps I'll find that the darkest nights aren't cold black, but a warmer shade. Perhaps I'll find contentment in wool and yarn as I sit in bed crocheting after Orion has fallen asleep, or twirl the drop spindle where he can watch it. Perhaps the occasional day under warm covers with hot tea and the bodies of my family cozied up next to mine is more important and nourishing than a scratch cooked meal or the most tidy of homes.

I'm betting that there is. That there is magic hidden in our personal cycles, our small medicine wheels if you will, just as there is in the large one that spins the World. An overlooked magic that we've forgotten in our quest to do more, be more, have more and fit in to tidy labeled boxes like so many office files.

Perhaps it's time to let go of more and reclaim our magic.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Birth of Orion

Orion is four months old today and so, it seems appropriate to share the start of his life with us here on Earth today. This is going to be loooong, since it was an 80+ hour labor, so I added a lot of eye candy. ;) All of the amazing photos in this post were taken by the immensely talented visual storyteller, Jen Conway Photography unless otherwise noted.

Photo by Joe

The story of my mighty one's birth begins several days before I held him in my arms. This little soul I was told I may never be able to have. I could jump ahead to the end, I could just tell you about the final 24 hours, but that wouldn't be doing justice to the labor that bore my mythologically monikered son Earthside.

No. The story of Orion's birth begins a week before I heard his cry, felt his skin on mine or knew if baby was Orion or Lily. It begins when we were taking photos for the virtual mad tea party that we participate in each Summer.

I felt like my hips were going to pop out of their sockets. There is no other way for me to describe it. I now know how dolls with their legs all akimbo, barely connected to their plastic pelvises must feel. Certain that I was going to fall over any moment, but too stubborn not to participate in one of my favorite photo sessions of the year, I went about setting up the table and all of its decor in the dining room. I set up the tripod and the camera, Joe and I got in to costume and we began shooting. I needed to take frequent breaks, I was crying at several points at the fire in my hip joints. I told Joe to Hell with the due date being 2 weeks away, as I had said earlier in the week, baby was coming very soon. Possibly "over the weekend" soon. Baby was engaging in my pelvis, though I've never been pregnant or birthed a child before, there was no doubt in my mind as to why I felt the way I did.

Being heavy, achy and swollen during the hottest part of the Summer here in the land of Eternal Summer, I was definitely ready to meet my baby. However, Joe's best friend was making the long trip from New Jersey to see us Saturday, so I kindly asked baby to wait until Sunday to be born. I messaged my Doula, the amazing Julie Byers, to tell her my suspicions and that I had just struck a bargain with my baby. She laughed, said it did sound like baby would be joining us soon and that she was ordering me to take it easy over the weekend. None of this cooking all day, weeding the gardens, or scrubbing the house nonsense I'd been up to all week long. I gave her my word that I was planning a lazy weekend and said I'd keep her appraised of any changes.

At this point, my hospital bags were not packed. Have I mentioned that I'm a bit of a procrastinator?

Friday night I rested, having finished up stocking meals in the freezer. We watched The Lego Movie (Everything is AWESOME!) and Joe decorated my enormous belly with Henna.

Photo by me

Saturday went off without a hitch. Joe and I woke up and worked on the "Before Baby To-Do List" I had jotted down, filled with little things we needed or wanted to get done before baby came to make our lives easier. Things like freezer meals. getting a spare key for my best friend so he could come stay with Luna while we were in the hospital and getting those pesky bags packed. Bob and his wife Nicole arrived around 10 and we lounged around the living room catching up. They asked me about my pregnancy, I laughed that I now had my own gravitational pull. We watched crap TV, went out for burgers, and spent a lot of time sitting.

Occasionally my hips would start to hurt and I'd have to stand and sway my hips. Or go to my bedroom, drop to all fours and do some pelvic rocks to release the pressure in my hips and lower back.

In hindsight, this was definitely an indicator that labor has started, but my inexperienced brain wasn't picking up on the signals my body had begun to send. Except for one brief moment, while Nicole and I were at the mall so she could pick up a bathing suit for the next stop on their trip, and I had this brief thought of "I feel like I'm on labor." Having not felt any contractions, tightening of my belly or anything even remotely like cramps though, I shrugged it off as baby still descending and engaging.

After they left to continue on to Dallas that night, I slept soundly. The first night in weeks that I didn't wake up at least a dozen times to go to the bathroom, roll myself from one side to the other or adjust the pillow between my legs. I dreamt, for the second time, of a curly haired little boy smiling at me in a hazy, sunny field. The first dream came to me about 5 months in to my pregnancy; those were the only times I dreamed about my child. I was sure I'd be meeting Orion soon.

Sunday found me feeling achy still, but in the mood to move. We had a few things left to get for baby, I needed to make some exchanges at Babies R Us, so we headed there after breakfast. We walked, well, he walked and I waddled, through the baby section picking up a few miscellaneous items that were left on our registry and I decided to pick up a belly cast kit. Joe laughed and said. "We'd better do that soon. Like, tonight!" After we finished there, we went over to Costco to grab snacks and drinks to have on hard for when the big day arrived. I was craving fruit, so we picked up a big watermelon, a pineapple and a bunch of strawberries along with juices, trail mix and granola bars. Quick, easy, healthy things that I could munch on while I did the hard work of bringing baby in to the world.

It was, unfortunately, a trip where I could not make up my mind about what I wanted, and so we must have looped the store a half a dozen times. When we got home, it was beautiful outside, so I worked in the garden after lunch. Pruning hedges. With the electric hedge trimmer.

Sorry, Julie. I didn't keep my taking it easy promise after all. I felt so hopped up and full of energy, I chalked it up to a good night's sleep and my hips no longer being on fire.

That night, as Joe suggested, we did my belly casting. The thought of standing in one place forever sounded awful to me, so I opted to lay on the floor with a bunch of pillows under me while Joe worked. We were watching The Office while he laid the warm strips of plaster over my belly when out of nowhere there was a sharp shooting pain in my back. I was fidgeting trying to get comfortable without messing up the casting while he apologized and said his back hurt too and he was working as fast as he could. A few minutes later it happened again. This time, I shoved my hands under my tailbone to prop it up a little and that soothed it until the next one hit a few minutes later.

As soon as that thing was dry, it was off of me, I was off the floor and I was in the shower wincing.

Photo by me

Joe scolded me for over exerting myself. I imagine, had I spoken to Julie that night, she would have done the same.

That night was a restless one. I was up every 30 - 45 minutes to move myself because my back and hips hurt. Around 4 am, I moved to the couch and managed to get some shut eye with Chico purring away on my chest.

When morning came, I got in touch with Julie about the back pains. I described them in detail and she said it could be early labor, but it sounded like baby may be laying on a nerve or otherwise positioned oddly. I double and triple checked that he was still in the occiput anterior position using belly mapping techniques and he was. She offered to call a Webster Certified Chiropractor to see if he could get me in and try to get me some relief and I agreed. In the meantime she repeated that I was to take it easy. This time, I listened, though it was difficult because laying down was tremendously uncomfortable, as was sitting on anything soft. The chiro offered to see me Tuesday, which I agreed to, and I spent the majority of my day sitting cross legged on the floor, at the kitchen table or pacing around outside with Luna, who was still in recovery from her knee surgery and needed to be kept to her exercise regimen. Again, I thought to myself "Am I in labor?" but again decided that I couldn't be, because all the sensation was in my back and I wasn't spotting or having any other labor signs.

I managed a cat nap on the living room floor after listening to my Hypnobabies script for the day. Not my usual napping spot of choice, but beggars can't be choosers.

That evening, Joe took my 9 month belly shot as well as maternity photos of my beautifully henna'd belly. It wasn't ideal, as not only was I being eaten by mosquitoes but now the back pains were persisting while I was sitting too. I had to keep popping up and walking it off or dropping to all fours to stretch it out every few photos. We went out to eat at the local Mexican restaurant where I needed to get up and move twice during our meal. We kept joked, as I sipped a virgin strawberry daquiri, that this was going to be the last date we were going on for a while. Julie had me do "The Mile's Circuit" in hopes of making baby move in to a more comfortable position in my pelvis. It brought me an hour or so of relief but alas, didn't fix my back problems. I was still insistent that it was not my birthing time and that it just felt like a really bad pulled muscle or a pinched nerve. Or, at times, both.

Photo by me

That night, I don't remember sleeping at all. Having pow wowed with Julie once again, I tried a hot bath, Tiger Balm, a big glass of wine and finally, as a last ditch effort, some Tylenol PM that Joe ran to the store and grabbed after Midnight. I paced the house, changing positions as often as the back pain dictated. I tried timing them just to see if they were at a set interval and possibly could be pressure waves in my back, but they were sporadic, sometimes coming 5, 15 or 30 minutes apart. The chiropractic appointment the next day couldn't come soon enough.

I can sum up Tuesday simply, more back pain. I tried to use my Hypnosis techniques on it and while I was usually successful, every so often one would shoot up the length of my spine, in to my shoulders and throw me right back in to full consciousness. I was only comfortable and able to stave them off by kneeling in front of the couch and leaning on to it. The chiropractor visit gave me, again, a few hours of relief but wasn't able to keep the sensations at bay for long.

I did, however, pack my hospital bag.

Our friend Anthony was in town from Arizona and came by for dinner. It was during this that the pain began to become a bit unbearable. And I was so, so tired. Since we don't see him often and I figured what I needed was rest, I excused myself to the bed room to try to rest. I was on the bed flip flopping from side to side trying to find relief that lasted more than 5 minutes. I dozed in a hazy half awake fog at times in between them. Joe came to check on me and tell me he was driving Anthony back to his hotel and I nodded, half asleep.

While he was away, one of the pain waves spasmed, rattled my body so horribly that I jumped, literally, out of the bed with a squeal of pain. At that point I was on all fours on the ground trying to stretch it out using pelvic rocks and cat/cow yoga poses. It wasn't going away. I couldn't get myself to my safe place and shut down. It was followed by another and another, 3 in a 5 minute period. I began to panic, to feel a wave of "Oh my Gods, if I can't get through this with hypnosis, how am I going to have a baby?" I was exhausted, my last decent sleep having been Saturday. I kneeled against my bed and cried and begged the Universe to make it stop. Or to make it have a purpose. Because if it was going to give me my baby, I could make it through. But this pointless back pain was horrendous and unlike any thing I've ever experienced in this lifetime. I got up and paced the house. I remember there being tree frogs on the glass door, which struck me as important to note.

Photo by me. In intense pain. Clearly, I have a photo sickness.

When Joe came home I was sobbing. I told him I wanted to go to the hospital, but that I didn't think they'd be able to help. I waffled, he told me we could do whatever I felt I needed to do, he just wanted me to be alright. And off we went, at a little past Midnight to the emergency room. I told him my fears in the car, that all of my planning and preparation had been for nothing, that if I couldn't handle this back pain I'd be insane to think I could handle birthing naturally. He squeezed my hand and reminded me that I had been preparing for something completely different than what I was experiencing. That at the end of that experience I'd be holding my son or daughter and that would help keep me calm and get me through. I calmed down and texted Julie, not wanting to wake her.

In the ER I had at least 4 people ask me if I was sure I wasn't in labor. When I described what I was feeling, they agreed with me that I probably was not and had just managed to hurt myself because of the relaxin hormone flooding my body. They gave me some Tylenol and wheeled me up to Labor and Delivery because, as the doctor who was delightfully sarcastic and matter of fact (no seriously, his manner cheered me up) stated, "You're extremely pregnant. And *sucks in breath through teeth* we don't mess with the extremely pregnant." In L&D I once again described my symptoms and sensations and was once again told that I most likely was not in labor, but that they wanted to hook me to the monitors to check on baby and would also like to check my cervix to see if I was dilated at all. I got changed, tried to stay still in the bed with the back spasms making me want to jump up and run out of the door and let her hook me up. When she checked me she looked shocked.

I was 1-2 cm dilated, my cervix was thinning out nicely and I was very definitely in my birthing time.

After the initial shock and feeling of stupidity subsided (how did I not know I was having pressure waves?!? It was so obvious in hindsight.), I was calm. It was like a switch flicked in my brain and in my body. All of a sudden, hearing those words and exchanging a wide eyed look with Joe, shut it all down. The panic, the fear, a large modicum of the pain. It was as if someone had come in and dumped a big bucket of Zen over my head and I had sucked it all in like a sponge. I didn't even care when the nurse told me it was pretty uncommon to have it all in my back and that I was one of those unlucky few. I rested my head back on the pillow while she left to call Doctor Stafford, my ob/gyn and family doctor, and gave Joe's hand a big squeeze. I didn't even care when my phone went off and Joe told me that Julie was going to scold me in the morning for not calling her, because trips to the ER are very definitely worth calling your doula for and that I needed to stop being so considerate because she works for me, darnit. I laughed and told Joe to tell her I'm sorry, I'd let her know when we were going home and that I'd call her before my doctors appointment in the morning before dozing off in the bed.

At 3am I was released and sent home with instructions to keep my planned doctors appointment at 9 am and a pain pill that did absolutely nothing. Once more, I didn't sleep. I paced the house, changing positions as often as needed and felt like surely I had to be a lot further along than 1-2 cm, because this constant changing of positions was what happens during transition. Or so I'd been told.

Photo by me

At 8 am Wednesday morning, I ate a big bowl of yogurt with granola and strawberries while Joe put the hospital bags in the car, just in case. For some reason, I vividly remember all of the food I ate in the final 32 hours of my birthing time, haha. After I finished, we were off to see Doctor Stafford and I called Julie, who gave me the weakest scolding I've ever heard. We talked about how I was feeling (better now that I knew the pains were pressure waves and could ride them out), that she was at my beck and call from that point on and to tell Doctor Stafford that Julie said he needed to make sure I slept. I laughed and said I'd give him her demands and call her later. At this point, I was what Julie referred to in our Hypnobabies class as "slumber party giddy", meaning I was still in the early stages of labor.

Doctor Stafford greeted me with a grin and commented that we'd be meeting baby soon. I laughed and said hopefully sooner than later and related my tale of sleepless back pain and Julie's demands back to him. Unfortunately, being in active labor, he didn't feel comfortable giving me anything that might knock me out or slow things down, we were all really hoping for a Wednesday baby! When he checked me I was 3+, so I'd made progress despite my lack of sleep. We talked some more, with him saying to keep him posted and up to date either by calling the office or his cell and parted with hopes to see each other later that day to bring baby Earthside.

Under strict orders to attempt to sleep, I curled up in bed with Joe once we got home but, as I mentioned earlier, I was giddy. Like a little girl wanting to call everyone and tell them the news giddy. But, I didn't, because we had decided to keep the news between us and our birth team until after baby was in our arms to keep our phones from constantly buzzing, beeping or ringing. So while Joe snoozed, I made myself as comfortable as I could in the living room and thought about my last day without a baby. In doing so, I realized I didn't have much to mourn now that this transition was about to happen, I realized that while I was going to have to make some concessions and wasn't going to have as much time for things as I did when it was just Joe and I, the important stuff - me, myself and I - would still be there. Transformed and stumbling in this new role and form, but still me. My biggest fear had been conquered and I was ready to put on the mantle of Motherhood.

Photo by Julie Byers

When that realization sunk in is when I realized the waves were coming fairly close together and had begun to get longer, so I began to time them. They were coming 3-4 minutes apart and lasting nearly a minute. I was still breathing through them and somewhat giddy but decided that now was the time to call Julie since it would take her about an hour to get to me. After calling her another big wave sideswiped me, nearly knocking me off my feet. I dropped to my knees and shut myself down, breathing through and riding it out. I woke Joe and had him draw me a warm bath to settle in to, the waves were growing stronger and I longed to be in my soothing element, in water.

As I sat in the tub, with the warm water soothing and relaxing me, I was better able to let go and lean in to the waves as they crashed over me. Joe took me to my safe place, the beaches of Asbury Park, and I visualized the faded buildings, heard the crash of the waves, the cries of the gulls, smelled the salty air and felt the sand between my toes. I was trancing through the biggest waves, surrendering to my body, letting it lead the way, trusting it to guide me through this transformation. In between smaller waves my beloved rubbed my shoulders, offered me sips of ice water, whispered encouragements and we laughed and held hands. I was no longer giddy, but neither was I turned completely inward. I was comfortable enough, aside from the occasional back spasm. We were listening to the "Modern Folk" station on Pandora.

Julie arrived and relieved Joe of his post in the bathroom, sending him to eat and sitting quietly with me while I rode the waves. We talked quietly in between and just her presence calmed me in the most tremendous way. The fact that she came in the house quietly and unhurried, that she sat in the dark bathroom listening to music with me while I sat in the tub and that we had a good laugh over the speed at which one hits the mute button when their 4 year old's favorite song says the word "fuck" let me know that everything was as it should be. That even though I had been in labor and without sleep for days, that everything was alright. We switched the station to "Bob Marley" radio. The waves were coming closer and lasting longer. When Joe had finished eating and returned, I asked for help getting out of the bathtub, I wanted to move. To feel solid ground under my feet, sun on my face and smell fresh cut grass.

Photo by Julie Byers

So we wandered the backyard, Julie taking Luna and Joe and I strolling and holding hands. When a wave came over me, I leaned in to him, my rock and shut off sensation, leaving my body until it had passed. When we went back inside, I was greeted by Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds", my mantra, my musical talisman. The song that lifted me up out of the darkness in the Jamaican heat, healing me and followed me back to the states where it would move me to happy tears, would remind me to let go and be brave, to have faith, it came on accompanied to slow dances in the living room with my bulging belly pressed in to Joe's and was once more present at this monumental time in my life. It meant so much to me, this song, and still does.

Every little thing was gonna be alright.

We sat in the kitchen for a bit, me eating watermelon, and the conversation like that of old friends catching up on an unremarkable day. I remember thinking how beautiful it was, this connection with these two strong and lovely people and how astounding it was to have such unremarkable conversation during such a remarkable day. It was humbling, it was grounding. It was exactly what I needed to remain calm and not let the fears that had swelled in my heart for so much of my life - that it would be pain beyond all imagining and I couldn't do it, that I'd feel as if I was being torn asunder, that I should give up on my goals and just do it the way everyone else had done it because that seemed so very, very easy - from even peeking in to the windows of my mind palace. Never in my life have I been so fully present in my mind, my body or the moment.

The afternoon went on much the same, with Julie trying several different techniques to try to move the pressure out of my battle weary back and enable me to sit or lie down comfortably. We tried hip dip figure 8's (swanky hips) and those worked for quite a while. AS the waves grew longer, I wanted to get back in to the tub and so I did, with delicious lavender in the water and a patchouli candle burning and though the waves were getting so long (90 seconds) I felt so happy and relieved. It was much easier with the sensations in my uterus rather than my tailbone and I was able to truly relax for the first time in days, there in the water.

Alas, it wasn't meant to last and the back pressure returned. I ate some more fruit (pineapple this time) and Julie explained that we were going to try some pelvic floor releases to move the pressure once more. I was game, as I desperately wanted to sleep, so we did that. And that felt like the longest unpleasant experience of my life. The waves felt unbearable during them and I wanted so desperately to get out of position and run away - where? I didn't know - but Joe and Julie rubbed my back and my hair and softly spoke loving encouragement that helped me through even as I had lost my trance and hypnosis.

As we were finishing up, Luna went nuts and I knew Julie's friend and second doula who I had not met before, the talented Jen Conway, had arrived. Julie had asked me a few weeks in advance if I minded if Jen came to my birth. Normally I'd have said no, a stranger entering my home during my most vulnerable moments sounds positively stomach turning. But when she asked, there was no off-putting feeling and without hesitation, I said Yes. And I'm so glad that I did, because not only do I now have breathtaking photos of this magical time, but we clicked instantly and I've gained a friend for the risk.

Had it not been for Luna's antics, I'd have never known she had entered the room, her presence was so gentle and non-intrusive. I was in thrall of the biggest, longest, meanest wave yet as she came in, camera in hand and began her magical work of documenting the sacred, powerful moments of a woman's birthing time. When it had passed, I was once again in desperate desire of movement and nature, so back outside we went. At this point, I was not only no longer giddy, I was no longer talkative. I was turning inwards, walking myself through the waves as if through thigh deep ocean waters. Hypnosis and concentration became intertwined and as the hardest ones hit me, I let the wisdom of my body and my husband's unwavering support of that body, hold me up and see me through. At one point I asked Julie "Am I in early labor?" and I think she just smiled, but I'm not entirely sure, as anything outside of my body or mind is so very hazy.

I remember Joe joking that it was bowling night at work, so he'd be seeing us later and deciding that it felt like time to go to the hospital. I was shaky and no longer talking to anyone, the waves were so close together that I didn't bother getting off of my knees in between. Julie retrieved my precious mother beads that friends, sisters and fairy godmothers from around the world sent to me and that I had strung together under the light of the Full Moon just a month before and placed it around my neck. The weight commanded my focus, keeping me from sinking under the waves. We got in the car and drove over to Greer Memorial, Joe and I in the lead (my ass on the dashboard, knees on the seat and arms hugging the headrest). When we arrived, I was taken to triage where we had a nurse that made this birthing woman's blood pressure rise and my hands clench in to strangling motions. Again, doulas are amazing at keeping one calm - in just about any scenario.

And good thing too, because despite my waves coming fast and strong for hours, I had only dilated to a 4. I was deflated, the wind knocked out of my sails. I lost my hypnosis and felt crushing disappointment as a wave hit me. When Doctor Stafford walked in just a moment later, we talked and I said I wanted to go back home. My goal was to spend as much of my birthing time in the comfort of my own home as I could and I was still a maddeningly long way from meeting my baby. The waves began to space out, from the rush of sadness or sheer exhaustion, I'm not sure. Jen went home with promises to be back as soon as we needed her and it was determined that I needed to sleep and I was sent home with instructions to go home, eat a filling but not too heavy dinner, get in my pajamas, have a glass of wine, put on the Hypnobabies Deepening script, take the prescribed Ambien and go to sleep. I was also told not to take the ambien if I didn't think I was going to fall asleep because it would keep me up.

I followed the instructions to the letter. Joe and I were curled up in bed, the waves had spaced out a good deal so I was able to get comfortable. I was deep in my special place, letting the script relax me to the point of weightlessness... and a wave jolted me out of my skin. I was awake, the 30 minute magic bubble of Ambien induced sleep had closed and the strangest night of my life started.

You see, no one told me that Ambien can make you trip balls and hallucinate! I don't recall much of the night, though Joe tells me I pestered him a good deal and made him move to the couch because "I promise, I really, really promise, I can sleep there." (I didn't). I do remember "waking up", having no idea where I was, being on all fours, all wet and completely panicking. I yelled ad woke my sleeping husband, who came to my rescue. I had crawled in to the middle of my bed and was crying that I had peed all over myself. Apparently, when you're tripping, your water breaking doesn't dawn on you. It did dawn on Joe though, who informed Julie who had crashed at a friends house nearby. After I was cleaned up, I'm not sure what happened - another gaping black spot - but I do remember calling Julie at 5:30 in the morning because I thought my pelvis was on actual fire, that my back hurt so badly, that the only place I wanted to be was the toilet and, most jarringly, that I didn't think I could do it. She promised me that I could and would be to me in 15 minutes.

I crawled, crying and afraid, in to bed next to Joe and woke him up. I was scared and achy and so very, very tired. He drew me up a warm bath and held me as I sobbed that I didn't think I could do it. He told me that I was so very, very strong and that I was doing it. That I could do it. That I was amazing. And that no matter what happened, if I deviated from the birth that I wanted with all of my heart that he would support me and continue to stand by my side, holding my hand and loving me. Because he wanted only what was best for me and our baby.

And that gave me the strength that I needed to continue, 4 days after my birthing time had started. The love of my life, father of my child and soul mate reminding me that I was, indeed, doing the thing I didn't think I could do... that very moment as he held me in the dim bathroom with the water running. I was back in my body, back in control of my emotions and my mind. Back to trusting myself, my body dancing the same rhythm of life that women's bodies have danced since time immemorial. My fiery hips and aching back still had work to do, the final hard work of birth, but I was ready.

When Julie arrived I was calm, but I was searching for something. She helped Joe move me as I dictated, from one bathroom to my bedside to the couch to the other bathroom and back to where we started. And I found what I was looking for, straddling the toilet backwards, I tattooed a beat against the wall with my hands. Drumming. Letting my hands beat the song of creation, the music of mother earth's heartbeat thrumming in my ears, in time with the drumming of my hands on the wall. Sending me down in to a deep trance, quieting my mind, driving away my fears. There was a warm rice sock on my back, constantly held in the loving hands of my husband and my doula. I began to vocalize with the release of the waves, the sound coming from deep in my belly. It was time to go back to the hospital, though there was a flicker of fear that I'd get more terrible news.

Photo by Julie Byers

At 8:30 am, I met my amazing nurse, Joanne. If there was a polar opposite to the nurse the night before, it was her. She was calm, confident and made it clear to me that she was there to support me and my natural birth plan. I did need antibiotics however, and so she put the IV in, somehow managing to thread the tiny tube in to my uncooperative veins between enormous, close, crashing waves. Doctor Stafford arrived in the middle of a wave, came to kneel beside me where I was kneeling on the back of the couch to look out the window and spoke to me. When the wave had passed he checked me - 9cm. Despite the hallucinations and black outs, the Ambien had done the job of helping me relax enough to progress. "Send Me On My Way" radio was now playing on Pandora. "Three Little Birds" played. Jen came back. I was fully dilated. I kept kneeling on the couch, looking out at the cerulean blue skies and this one, beautiful tree with toothy vibrant green leaves.

The details of the day are almost non existent to me, outside of my own body again. I know I began feeling pushy long before I held my son. I began to push long before I held my son. The work of riding the waves was exhausting, this dance with life was slowing down when it should have sped up. My body, worn out and in desperate need of real rest, began to space the waves out to 10 minutes. I couldn't push often enough or hard enough with waves like that to get my baby past my pubic bone.

Doctor Stafford and I discussed the options and I consented, though it wasn't what I had hoped for, to a Pitocin drip to bring the waves back up. I pushed in so many different positions; on the toilet, with one leg up on the shower bench, squatting on the side of the bed, on my knees, on all fours... all with Joe and Julie holding that warm compress on my back, holding my hand, keeping me hydrated and keeping my mother necklace close. All with Doctor Stafford gently, but firmly encouraging me to give each push my all by softly repeating "push, push, push, push, just a little more... give me a little bit more". (Not at all like those doctors that just tell you when to push, but rather, respecting my body's urges to push and simply encouraging me to give it everything) In the end, the position I was making the most progress in, was the one I couldn't be in, as each wave sent spasms from my hips to my neck, on my back.

I needed to meet my baby. I wanted so badly to hold this life I had worked so hard to bring here in my arms. So I did the bravest thing I could do in that moment; I threw my annoyance at painkillers and the thought that they somehow diminished my birth aside and admitted I needed help with the spasms. And to my great relief, all that I received was a small shot of stadol, which allowed me to continue to feel the waves and remain present in my body but kept the spasms at bay. In fact, when a particularly large wave sent pressure in to my back, I thought it was a spasm, but Jen said "No honey, that's a contraction. Push." Which made me laugh.

At 2:25 I was on my back on the bed (not how I had envisioned pushing, but my body knew better than my mind what to do) and I was pushing with everything I had during each wave and gently pushing between as well, to nudge baby out a little more gently. Joe held one leg back and Julie held the other. Stafford continued to encourage me. He brought the mirror over and Joe was replaced at my side by a medical student who had been shadowing Joanne. I reached down as baby was beginning to crown and Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" came on one last time as I touched the thick hair on the weirdly squishy head and that awoke my last bit of deep strength. In the next moments, I was all fire and power, strength welling up in my loins, travelling through the muscles and nerves of my body and escaping through the my mouth. I found my primal voice, connected in that moment to the mysteries of nature and the universe, in tune with the power of my ancestors and with one last powerful push I felt a slap of water, my leg dropped, there was a cry and thunderous applause.

Orion was welcomed in to his father's waiting hands, guided by one of the best doctors I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, after soaking the medical student holding my leg with the last of his amniotic fluids. Harry Bellafonte's "Day-O" was playing and I was in shocked, relieved, peace. The fire subsided, I was intact, no stitches needed and my son was placed on my chest by my teary eyed soul mate, where he started to suckle like an old pro.

First latch. Photo by Joe

In that moment, I became a Mother.


Thank you all for sharing in this story with me. I believe that each of our stories is so beautiful, not just births, but in general and that sharing our stories is not only cathartic but important. There's community and history, wisdom, humor and love in storytelling.


My doctor and my doula, Doctor W. Keith Stafford and Julie Byers, at their last birth together. Doctor Stafford delivered one final baby after Orion before retiring from obstetrics. I feel so very, very blessed to have been able to share in the final chapter of this birth team's story, to be one of the last of his legacy of births and to have been able to work with such a mother centric, baby friendly, non medically invasive and most importantly, genuinely caring, doctor. Our local birth community has lost an incredible practitioner now that the "grumpy midwife" has retired.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I'm joining Taryn at Wooly Moss Roots and several other lovely bloggers in honoring the things for which we've been grateful for throughout the week. A quiet, weekly practice of appreciation and positivity. A time to breath and reflect. A small step towards a more simplistic and appreciative outlook.

If you would like to join us, just click the image at the bottom of this post.

This Week I am Grateful For:

* More time with my family than I expected! For laughs and talks around my kitchen table, for cooking in my kitchen alongside my mom, for getting to watch my son light up at everyone and to see the delight and love for him on their faces. For sips of fresh coffee together in the mornings, for my brother's hilarious rendition of "Let it Go" from Frozen, for the non judgmental curiosity and questions over my choices of cloth diapers and breastfeeding - firsts in my family. For things feeling comfortable and normal and happy, they way they always should when a family is together, for the first time in 5 or 6 years - since we all moved apart.

* The time spent watching the interaction between Khloe (3) and Orion (4 months tomorrow). She kept telling him she loved him and he is her best friend and he would giggle and squeal and tell her all sorts of stories that she had no desire to share with us. On the last night, while he was laying in bed getting a diaper change, he was fussing. She came in, crawled in bed beside him, shushed him and patted his belly, put a little blanket over him when he was done being changed to "tuck him in" and then said "I'll show you how to sleep" and laid on the pillows to try to help him fall asleep. My heart was a puddle.
* Journaling, both in my own journal and in the one I started for Orion.
* Hot, relaxing baths and glasses of wine.

* Functional heating, blankets of all shapes and sizes, my beat up slippers, a brand new soft hoodie and the snuggles of my boys and fur children to keep my heart and body warm now that we've started to have truly cold days here.
* A gentle pattern to my days emerging. A cycle of sleepy eyed, milky mornings spent in golden morning light, playing and breakfasting giving way to afternoons spent napping, cleaning and reading leading to daddy coming home from work to scoop us both up in hugs and kisses before dinner. As the light dies we may wander the neighborhood before Orion's bedtime. The night wraps up with lazy kisses, curled up in bed, quietly talking before sleep claims us. All broken up with quick snippets of time to write, to draw, to create, to reflect.
* Quiet moments of crocheting in bed before bed.
* A brand new, soft pullover sweatshirt that my mom surprised me with after I mentioned that it was pretty. I'd forgotten how delightful and snuggly a hoodie that isn't a decade old and threadbare is! Also, even as a grown ass person, I still get all excited over presents from my mom.
* The crisp, clean bite to the air both in feel and scent, of the tail end of Autumn.
* Quarts and quarts of long stewed homemade bone broth, portioned out and tucked away in the freezer for the coming Winter.
* Signs and messages from the Nature. The medicine of Falcon, Crow and the (unpleasant) encounter with cockroach. I hear you, Universe. Loud and clear.
* A sense of ease and peace over me that I haven't felt in months and months. A sense of gentle confidence, of easiness, of no stress and quiet happiness.

To join in Gratitude Sunday, click on the image below! Happy Week, lovelies.

Gratitude Sunday