Parenting

The Birth of Mary Joy

28 July 2015

I don’t post on this blog anymore, but tomorrow is my sweet baby girl’s first birthday and the first anniversary of her birth. It was a magical and wonderful birth, though not Perfect like Leif’s. I have taken this year to reflect on it and on myself, and I think I’m a bit wiser because of her birth. Life is certainly a lot richer because of her birth, but mostly because of HER. So here it is… the long version. As I recall it, one year later.

Zwischen… Waiting in Readiness

My midwife called it “sensitive” and urged me not to dismiss it. Most people would call my mood at the end of my third pregnancy emotional or hormonal. This pregnancy was different, that I was sure of. Something seemed to be brimming, and with the advancement of my pregnancy, it was overflowing, surfacing as emotions I couldn’t understand or articulate.

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around 7 months pregnant

Pregnancy was always a spiritual experience for me. It’s a time when I feel close to God and bursting with life and creativity and focus, and then also deeply contemplative, and then sometimes wracked with fear. Birth Without Fear. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Well I could never do it. I tried. So, I had to do the inverse. I had to face my fears head on so they could be conquered.

So now that we’ve established how I am emotional, sensitive, and how pregnancy & childbirth is a spiritual experience for me, you can understand how when on the morning of July 27 it started pouring down large raindrops onto our Southern California home, why I would see that as a kind of an omen. Things were happening in nature—both in the sky and in my body.

This came after a long night that had brought me very little sleep. The Braxton Hicks contractions were coming regularly and kept me up. They didn’t increase like real labor, and by that morning I was exhausted and incredibly emotional.

Before the downpour, I had been walking outside. That was all I knew to do after that horrible night. Andy was worried about me but I felt restless and needed to get moving. As soon as dawn broke I was out of the door, sobbing as I walked the boulevard under a cloudy sky, the scant car whizzing past now and then, leaving me unnoticed, but covering the sound of my cries. When I returned, I felt more at peace. A quick nap and a hearty breakfast brought me back down to earth. I knew now that a night birth like Leif’s was not what I wanted. I am tired these days, and need to labor on a full night’s sleep. So I changed my requests to God, and started asking for something crazy: to labor during the day, after a full night’s sleep, with my children present. He knows my needs, so I trusted that He would give me either rest or unexpected strength. Turned out He gave me both.

This is probably a good time to point out that my babies have always been born either on a weekend or first thing Monday. I really believe this is because my husband has always worked rather far away. I think there is something in my subconscious that has always been afraid to let him get too far away from me, with LA traffic in between.

We went to church Sunday, and when we got home I took a nice nap. My midwife Lisa Marie came over that afternoon for a prenatal visit. She always grounds me and gives me peace. Whenever I start to feel down on myself, she reassures me that there is always good reason for everything I’m experiencing.

This whole weekend I had been walking, walking, walking. It felt good and it felt like I was doing something. The Braxton-Hicks contractions would start and stop, coming with more frequency than they had before. But it still didn’t feel like labor.

Somehow I managed to get a good night’s sleep that night. What a miracle! But I was awoken rather early by the contractions. Again unsure if this was real or not, I once again started doing every trick in the book to either speed them up or stop them. I rested, walked, bathed, ate a hearty breakfast… nothing was changing them now. So I figured I ought to text my midwife and let her know.

She canceled her plans to go to a family gathering in Big Bear that day, and at breakfast I asked Andy if he wanted to go to work. He said he wouldn’t go until he was sure that this wasn’t it. That put my mind at ease and so outside I went for more walking.

I started timing the contractions on the website my midwife had referred me to. It turned out they were shorter and farther apart than I had been thinking they were. This was actually a relief to me. In the past I’ve been a fast birther, but I was in no hurry this time. Birthing waves were increasing though. When I was walking I had to slow down and breathe deeply through them. I loved the feeling of my tightening belly as the sensations rippled through me.  And I say “rippling” with intention. My waters were still intact and the feelings definitely had a floating and spreading sensation to them.

In my previous two births, the first sign of labor was my water breaking. I was impressed that my waters were holding up this long—it had already been a few hours of this. I wouldn’t call it painful at this point but I did notice the slowness and increased pressure on my cervix.

Soon I went inside and the boys were preparing some sort of decorations out of construction paper and string, something to welcome the baby when he or she arrived. I loved this, but tried not to notice, so it would be a “surprise.” I prepared some postpartum supplies and bustled around the kitchen a bit. I checked on our birth supplies and made sure everything I needed was in the box. Then I thought it would be good to try to get a little of work done for my job.

First I headed into the den to play with the boys for a bit and I used the ottoman of our rocking chair to labor on. I loved draping my upper body on it while rocking it back and forth as my belly tightened firmly. Next I went into the living room with my computer and the birth ball. I bounced on it while trying to do a few last minute tweaks on the online course I would be teaching in less than a month. I was hoping to get as much done on that as I could before baby came. I was pleased that I had come pretty close.

I should interject for a moment here that having my children and other people around while in labor is not something I was used to or even an idea I was completely comfortable with. But I had asked God to let me be well-rested for labor and I guess that’s just all part of it. Our housemate David was around all morning and could hear me moaning and such but never gave it a second thought. He said he thought I was just doing a “pregnancy thing.” Ha! And I had to set firm boundaries with the boys not to touch me or talk to me “during the squeezing.” Even hearing them talk was much too distracting. Other than that, having the kids around was actually a wonderful experience. I was glad to be sharing the time with them, feeling their energy, letting them show kindness and love to me without me prompting them. It made me feel like I was doing a good deed for our family by bringing this person in, and in hindsight of course I now know that is true.

Andy was still being the captain of this ship, and he was busy giving the boys tasks to complete and starting to get things ready for the birth. Before long it will be time to move upstairs. But for now I was still sitting here on the birth ball with my computer pretending to be a professor, but not really doing much. Then suddenly I got slammed hard with several contractions in a row—BAM BAM BAM—much more fierce and powerful than they had been up to this point. I knew my work time was now over.

I know I didn’t tell Andy what was happening, but he must have somehow sensed it because he soon ushered me upstairs. It was weird going up those steps knowing I wouldn’t be coming down again for a few days, knowing that when I did come down, I’d be a different person. But none of that mattered now. I stumbled upstairs, pausing as I went, half-hunched over as I climbed the steep stairs.

My midwife Lisa Marie was on her way, and I could tell she was getting nervous that she wasn’t here yet. I never doubted her though! She was texting me for better directions and finally I just gave my phone to Andy. He guided her through while I continued to labor in the boys’ room. He handed the phone back to me and returned to the other bedroom to fill up the tub.

Lisa seemed concerned about labor progressing too fast. She feared she might not make it.  I was looking forward to getting into the tub, but she told me to wait. She suggested I lay down on my side to see if the contractions would slow down. I told her I’d try after we hung up. I was actually quite comfortable where I was, but I told her I’d try so I did. I laid down in Peer’s bed on my side and waited for the next pressure wave to come.

Even though labor had gotten quite intense a long while ago, I still wasn’t thinking of this time as painful. I was getting drunk on the overwhelming response my relaxed body had to the pressure. I listened to HypnoBabies a bit and that helped. But when I lay down on my side there was something about the pressure from that angle that hurt like hell! I have been trying not to think of the sensations as pain, which is a HypnoBabies trick. But in my mind I cried out, “Damn you HypnoBabies, this HURTS!” So that idea was over after one contraction. I returned to my previous position on my knees, head down, butt in the air.

Waters still intact. This is crazy. Still haven’t had my cervix examined but that’s ok because the plan was to avoid those checks altogether anyway. Plus the midwife wasn’t here yet. And clearly I’m heading rapidly into transition. Andy was filling up the tub and the boys were bouncing back and forth between the two rooms. I guess if I were in my right mind I’d be wondering if my mom was coming to watch the boys, but the thought didn’t even cross my mind.

BabyMaryBirthday_04

I was excited to be giving birth… really I was

By now the contractions were very very strong. I was moaning and swaying with my butt in the air, head down, resting my forehead on my arms, unable to move other than the gentle swaying of my pelvis. I was lost in laborland. All I could hear was the voice of the HypnoBabies lady on the audio track in my ears, but by this time to be honest it was starting to irritate me. The statements of “birthing is easy,” “you are totally relaxed,” and things like that just did not reflect what I was now feeling. That may have been true for the first several hours, but not now. I was still breathing through the contractions and relaxing, but they were so strong that it took every ounce of my mental and physical energy to confront them. It was hard work, very hard. When Lisa arrived I finally just ditched the stupid tracks on my stupid stupid phone.

My doula Lindsay arrived first. I wasn’t planning on having a doula for this birth, but Lindsay was a student and Lisa introduced us. We hit it off right away and since she was offering her services for free, I couldn’t not accept such a kindred spirit at my birth.

Finally the tub was ready and I got in. I must have put on my bathing suit too, but I don’t remember it. By this time my whole birth team had arrived—Lisa Marie my midwife, Lindsay my doula, and Kate the assistant midwife, whom I had meant once and really liked. I was very happy to have these three lovely women supporting me. I labored in the tub for a while. I was really looking forward to pushing because I knew that would ease my pain, but alas I still didn’t feel the urge. When I finally did start to push I remember saying to Lisa, “I guess I’m pushing now.”

Andy was still handling the boys and I was starting to wish he was here. I asked someone to go get him. When he came to me he had to explain himself. “I didn’t want to worry you,” he said. “I can’t get a hold of your parents.” “Oh that’s funny,” I said calmly. I could tell he didn’t expect that response. “Mine are here and they’re playing with the boys.” “Ok good. Thank you.” By that time I cared so little about our plan for who was going to watch the boys and all those details.

Whenever I talk about the birth with Peer, he always points out how he gave me fruit salad, stole a grape from it, and how he rolled a wheeled lego creation all over me like a massage. I can’t remember exactly when in the labor that was, but I do remember being in the tub.

BabyMaryBirthday_07

Lindsay gave me counterpressure when the contractions turned into back labor

For the rest of the labor, Andy was by my side and never left. He put his hands on me, and Lisa Marie held my hands. Since baby was ROA (right occiput anterior), she had to spin ¾ of the way around as she descended into the birth canal. This meant that for a while she was in a posterior position and that felt like painful back labor. Lindsay helped this situation by giving me counter-pressure on my lower back during the contraction. Soon I couldn’t imagine a contraction without her, and panicked if one was starting and I didn’t know where she was.

So I didn’t want any vaginal exams because I perceived myself as being a “hands-off” type of birther, (and to avoid infection). From an outside perspective there was no reason to perform a vaginal exam or for my midwives to get more involved. But in hindsight if I had been more open to it, or if I could have better expressed what I was feeling, a vaginal exam might have helped me better. My midwife was already getting involved more than I anticipated, and I liked it. I felt supported. Every suggestion, every touch, every instruction that I could hear was received with openness and gratitude. However there were many things I simply couldn’t hear.

Contractions were very strong and they developed a strange pattern. At this stage in labor, contractions are more powerful than they are painful and pushing often relieves the pain. That’s why I was looking forward to pushing. But these pushing contractions were very different from what I expected. Each contraction would begin with intense pain. If I tried to push during that, it would hurt worse. Then the pushing began on its own. Then the contraction would end and I’d keep pushing. I don’t know if I did that willfully or not. Another weird thing was that I pushed very very hard from the first contraction on. Usually a mom starts with gentle pushes that become stronger with time. But I was full strength from push #1.

photo 3-2

water is relaxing

This time I also didn’t get that paralyzed feeling during contractions. With each push I moved around, pushed my hand against the wall of the tub, etc. This labor felt wild and crazy. I started to say things like “I have to get this baby out.” In fact, that’s ALL I said. Over and over again. I wish I could have just told my midwife what was happening. But it never occurred to me. I think she sensed something intuitively because she did make me get out of the tub at least once and labor on the toilet. That seemed to help. On the birth video I heard her saying things like, “take your time mama…” but I honestly don’t remember that. I think I never heard it. Not a word. For some reason I couldn’t take it in.

I responded to this stage of labor the way I respond to many difficult things in life—with pure strength. No creativity, no flexibility, no asking for help, no communication of my needs. The result: a natural birth…healthy baby… but a wounded mama with lots to learn, and whose journey is far from over.

And by the way, my water still hasn’t broken!

waterbirth

Lisa Marie and Andy helping me through a contraction

But all this pushing was definitely moving my baby down. Lisa had been encouraging me to reach down with my fingers and feel around. She said I could pop the bag of waters myself if I wanted to. I had been scared to do this (after all I was raised a good Baptist!) but finally I did. It didn’t take much “searching” to feel the bulging bag of waters, still completely intact and then—POP! Not anymore!

In a startled but thrilling moment of fear and excitement I announced, “I did it! I popped the bag, I popped the bag with my fingernail!”

Then immediately I felt a huge pressure on my rectum and everyone knew the time was near. With one more push I felt a slight burn and pushed the head out. My hand was still there and I felt the head emerge into my waiting hand beneath the water. Then, a pause. I breathed deeply, stroking the silky, hairy head of this little being that until now had been only kicks and movements and hopes and dreams. Things were getting real.

I couldn’t believe I was here. From wondering if we would even have another child, to the decision, to pregnancy, labor, and now this moment. I psyched myself up, like an athlete waiting to hear the whistle, like an actor waiting for the cue. I’m going to push my baby out right now. With the next contraction. I’m going to do this and then my labor will be over.

It came, and I gave the biggest push I my life. Every ounce of strength in my body and soul and mind, with the strength of my previous two births, with the strength of every moment of triumph in my life, everything that led me to believe in myself as a strong person—all of that went into this one moment when I cannon-balled my baby out of my body and into the tepid water.

Then release. And eagerness.

“My baby, my baby, where’s my baby?” I found the baby in the water and lifted my baby into the air for the first breath of life. On the video you could hear me saying, “It’s over!”

I was filled with joy, no exhaustion to be found. With my husband at my side, I was so thrilled that together he and I had worked to bring this person into the world. We did it again—three natural births and three healthy, beautiful babies.

And then—oh yeah—the gender! I had nearly forgotten to look.

IT’S A GIRL!!!!!

What another amazing surprise. We have a daughter. I had a feeling this whole pregnancy that it could be a girl. I didn’t want to indulge the feeling though, because what if that was just my desire and not intuition at all?

Mary Joy Wahlquist. Welcome earthside, baby girl.

newborn Mary

It’s a girl!

Mary was born at 39 weeks and 1 day but she did not appear that way. Her placenta was very old and crumbly and she did not have any vernix left. All these are signs of a post-date baby, not one that is born a week before the due date. I think this testifies to the inaccuracy of due dates. It’s much better to think of a 5-week window in which to expect baby. Lisa determined that I must have conceived much earlier than I thought I did. Considering the fact that the number—40 weeks, 41 weeks, 42 weeks—really effects a mom psychologically (and socially), I am very glad I never knew I was farther along and that we never even told people how many weeks I was.

POSTPARTUM

BabyMaryBirthday_21But that is not the end. Oh no, for every end is another new beginning and that beginning is a transition and an initiation.
Remember when I said that there was only a tiny bit of burn and that I cannon-balled my baby out of me? Well that burn was stretching, and since there was very little stretching and a whole lot of force, I tore very, very badly. So badly that my midwife was not sure at first if she was even able to handle such a bad tear.

There was talk of a post-partum transfer to the hospital. Please God, no no NO! Transfer would mean possible separation of baby and I (scary enough), exposure to all those sick-people-germs we were trying to avoid with a home birth, and then of course the cocky attitudes of hospital staff who receive a home birth transfer.

But I got really scared when I heard my midwife mention the possible risk of a tear that didn’t heal properly—a fistula. Now I was getting REALLY scared. She called the office of a homebirth-friendly OB that she knew. He wasn’t very willing to come. 5pm on a Monday is not the best time to travel from west LA to Downey. Lisa was trying all she could to make the best possible choice for me and my health.

When the bleeding stopped, she took some pictures and sent them to other midwives she knew. She talked on the phone quite extensively to a couple of them. Kate the other midwife very wisely brought up the fact that just because we transfer doesn’t mean that we will get a skilled physician or even an OB-GYN to stitch me up. We might just get a standard ER doctor who has never done this before.

Then Lisa made her decision. She would go forward with this job, and stitch me up herself. She had a plan. She could tell that the tear was close to my rectum but not all the way, meaning she was legally licensed to do this, and after getting some wise council from others, she believed she could do this. So Kate and Lisa sat at the foot of my bed for at least an hour, very carefully and cautiously talking over every single stitch. Finally it was done. I really appreciated the attention that Lisa gave to this problem. This is a great example of the superb maternal care that a mom can get from an out-of-hospital midwife. There is no way I could have gotten this kind of care in a hospital from an OB.

My birth team

My birth team (L-R) Lindsay my doula, Kate the asst midwife, Mary and me, Lisa Marie my dear midwife and forever friend.

But the story is still not over. I bruised my bladder pretty bad during the birth and couldn’t pee for 2 days. I begged for a catheter and almost received a second one.

Andy weighing the baby

We waited until after I was stitched up to weigh the baby and do her newborn exam. She was 7 lbs 1 oz, 21 inches long

I felt like a prisoner. The fears that I had during my pregnancy came rushing back—here I was, trapped upstairs, severely wounded, barely able to walk even from my bed to the bathroom, in incredible pain, not able to care for my children, just like I feared. Luckily we did have some help, but feeling like I didn’t have any say in their care was still very frustrating for me.

Add on top of that the feeling that I had failed, that I had done a bad job with this birth. This was my last birth and I blew it. I didn’t relish it or enjoy it. Instead of savoring the sensations of my baby moving through my body and marveling at the power of it all, I simply “had to get the baby out.” I did a bad job with the birth, and I had the wounds to prove it.

By the third or fourth day things were really getting better. The tear still took a solid two and a half months to heal, but it was not a painful recovery. After a few days I also started to recover emotionally. I fell in love with my baby and I began to accept this birth experience for the strange and wonderful thing it was. My midwife prayed with me. I learned a lot from the experience, and I knew that throughout this year as I pondered her birth, that I would learn even more.

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Mary a few hours after birth

Then at 4 weeks postpartum, something strange happened. We went for a nature walk at El Dorado Nature Center. I overdid it a bit with this, and started bleeding and cramping again. I also had intense cervical pain that felt like dilation. Then I passed a large, meaty clot. It was so strange. I took pictures of it and sent them to Lisa. She told me to fish it out and freeze it. She would send it to the lab for biopsy to find out what it was. It turned out to be a “product of conception,” which kind of means it was part of the placenta. My placenta appeared whole when it came out, but I think this was tissue that is usually absorbed throughout the pregnancy but didn’t. Tammy my postpartum doula remarked how amazing it was that my body just passed it. What a smart uterus I have!

 

 

Oh but there’s more…

Breastfeeding was not really going well. My breasts were not bursting with milk like I thought they ought to be and my right one seemed to be withering away. Since I had had an undiagnosed thyroid problem throughout my pregnancy, I was afraid my hormones might be completely out of whack. I started using galactagogues (food and herbs that boost milk supply) and that did help. But I was worried. I imagined myself as the La Leche League leader who couldn’t nurse her own baby. And that this precious girl, whom I had longed for, might be the first of my babies to have formula. I really did not want that to happen. Mary’s weight gain was moderate and so were her diapers. I thought it could be better, but she wasn’t in the danger zone by any means.

BabyMary_74

my snuggly sling baby

I thought the problem was either my hormones, or it could be tongue-tie. The frenulum on her upper lip was awfully thick and when she nursed she couldn’t seem to flange her lip out the way she needed to. Like a dummy, I didn’t call the IBCLC friend I have because… I’m a dummy and I blamed myself. And I was in denial.

But then when she was two months old I led a La Leche League meeting and my co-leader who is an IBCLC was there. I eagerly had her look in Mary’s mouth and she confirmed the tongue- and upper lip-tie. I was relieved. I knew this would be a simple fix (though not cheap), and I prayed to God that things would improve.

I had to wait a while for the appointment and until then I continued to drink tons of water, eat lactation cookies, oatmeal, and take More Milk Plus supplements. We got by.

My dear friend Helen watched the boys for me when I took Mary clear out to Riverside for her appointment with the laser specialist. Dr. Jesse fixed the lip tie, but said her tongue was in normal ranges. I still question that part of the diagnosis. She cried during the 5-minute procedure, but after a walk around the building she fell fast asleep and stayed that way for the whole car ride home!

After that—thank God—everything did get a lot better! That whole week I felt overly full as my milk supply returned to normal levels. It felt great! Mary started putting on weight like a sumo wrestler and remains in the 90th percentile to this day! In hindsight, my mother’s instinct was right. I should have listened to it sooner. Another lesson that bears repeating.

I am so grateful to have this beautiful child in our family. She brings us so much joy every day, and we have such wonderful dreams and curiosities about the type of girl she will become. I am so grateful to have given birth to her at home, that I got to really live every moment of her entrance into the world. The good the bad and the ugly, we were there together for it all. I didn’t miss it. It’s just sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees. I was present, in all my imperfection.

And that much I can promise you always, Mary Joy.

THE END

…HERE’S TO MANY, MANY NEW BEGINNINGS

  P9

I Love a Rainy Day

9 February 2013

Maybe some homeschoolers don’t like rainy days. I understand– it’s hard to stay cooped up inside your house all day. I am a busybody with two very active boys and they need the outdoors like they need food or air. But on a day like today I was especially glad to be homeschooling and spending my day inside with these two amazing individuals. I’m so lucky to be sharing my days with them. I love being able to sleep in until we all want to wake up, the three of us snuggled together in our family bed, warm together against the biting cold air of a winter morn. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast, then headed back upstairs to get them dressed & teeth brushed. After a winding rabbit’s hole of imaginary games and stories (with one boy dressed, the other who remained indefinitely pajama’ed), and a lot of looking out the window at the rain, watching the puddles on the sidewalk fill up, counting seconds between thunder and lightening, and listening to the rain pound against our roof, our roomie David yelled upstairs that it was snowing! We rushed downstairs to the back door and saw the tiny pellets of hail bouncing around on our lawn. The little boys seemed un-phased by this phenomenon, even oblivious to it, but David and I were appreciative and in awe of the rare sight. Just as he hail was melting and the glorious moment dissolving away, CRASH FLASH!!! The loudest clap of thunder occurred simultaneous to a bright bolt of lightening that seemed to be attacking the lawn right in front of us! I screamed and started to run away impulsively before I caught myself, relieved no property of mine was now on fire. The bolt must have touched down no more than a block away from us, a notion confirmed by the fire trucks that raced down our street 5-10 minutes later. We laughed at our own silliness and said a quick prayer for those at the fire truck’s destination and went about our indoor, rainy-day homeschooling activities. What’s on today’s agenda? No, not pages of desk work, handwriting practice, sheets of math problems, or a spelling quiz. No review of classroom rules or treats for the child whose desk is the neatest and who can sit up straight with their hands folded. Our home learning environment today was filled with silly drawings that ended being an alphabet game, talking about weather and the water cycle, gazing out the window watching the ice on the rooftops turn to steam when the sun came out, construction of vehicles that can simultaneously deliver mail, collect garbage, and fly through the air on a helicopter (made by scotch-taping toys together of course), and lots more creative play than even this mama can document or keep track of. Sure, by the end of the day we managed to count a little money, knock out 4 pages in his math textbook, and whiz through all 8 of his little readers, sounding out lovely 3-letter words while marveling at the silly things cats, rats, and pups do, but that’s really not the beauty of homeschooling. In fact, those academic activities were probably the least educational and definitely the least interesting part of our day. When you are a homeschooling family, I think you are much more acutely aware of how deep and wide the learning experience is, and can appreciate the myriad of ways a child learns. I am so thankful to be aware of this. And I love most that on a cozy, stormy day like it was, that I can spend it with my two little buddies, who are making these memories with me, and I with them.

Homeschooling Adventures

1 February 2013

Our schedule is changing again, which for this normally inflexible, routine-addicted mama means I’m a little emotional about it, and that this was a change that is long overdue. We ran out of money to keep sending PJ to the homeschool co-op that we were attending. I am really sad about pulling him out, and the loss of that regular community, but he has been particularly needy lately, and never seems to want me to leave him there anyway. So he’s not upset by it at all. I think we probably need more time together doing fun things that do not depend on time, schedules, or things like that. I need to build back up the trust I lost all the times I’ve dropped him off places, and we need to recoup the “us time” that we missed when I was working and directing the play. So we are quitting the co-op, and I signed him up for a couple of classes that the public charter is paying for (yay for free stuff!). Tomorrow we have a fun day planned of PE class in the morning and a playdate in the afternoon. I hope to start going back to our homeschool group park days once a week and I really want to get back into doing field trips every couple of weeks too. I am fortunate to have built up a great network of homeschooling families and like-minded moms who are a great support and sounding board when it comes to being the best mom I can be and navigating the unchartered, vast ocean that is the homeschooling experience. I think I’m getting over the mourning of our old routine and I’m excited to start this new one, looking forward to more quality time with my children, and focusing more on our life together. I love that homeschooling affords us the luxury to change our schedule and our outlook on life when what we’re doing isn’t working for us. I know the friendships we’ve made at the co-op are not coming to an end, and look forward to all the fun times ahead!

Two Years

9 November 2012

Yesterday my little boy turned two.

Two Years.  That is how long my baby has been in my life. Feels like a moment, yet the time before we knew him seems to be as if it were another lifetime. How someone who makes the world so rich, so meaningful, so warm and wonderful could have simply not existed two years ago boggles the mind.

Two years ago he was just a tiny mewing infant, small enough to be held in one arm, yet fragile enough never to do so. He spent his days mostly eating and sleeping and eating and sleeping. The boy we know now is so different. He roams through the wide world with eyes wide open, taking in and investigating every possible adventure or fascination. Things we take for granted, or don’t have the interest in studying, Leif brings to our attention with wild amazement, reminding us daily that the world is truly a place full of wonders.  He is patient enough to give his attention to one project at a time for long stretches. He is curious enough to repeat everything he hears with remarkable precision, putting together sentences that seem far too complex for such a young mind. He observes how others play and have fun, and is quick to join in with his own version, never doubting the activity to be any less than thrilling.

It’s hard to believe it has been two years since my homebirth. My Perfect Birth. I remember so vividly the first time I laid eyes on this beautiful child, and I will never forget the peaceful and powerful way he graced us with his grand entrance. The grace and peace that I was given that day will be a lesson I will never forget. I am so lucky that despite all our struggles, he still craves his mommy’s breast and that I get the privilege of staring into his beautiful eyes as he fills his tummy with sweet milk.

Yet often as I watch him lying in bed sleeping, I get a strong sense that he is rapidly growing from a baby into a boy. My heart is overwhelmed with pride and sadness. But with each tear that is shed in mourning over the loss of his babyhood, my heart is doubly filled with elation over the person he is becoming. It is a privilege to watch him grow, to bear witness to his life and development, but the greatest honor is that I am blessed to nurture him through it.

Last week, I was embaressingly clumsy and took a pretty bad dive as I tripped over a toy in our playroom. Both boys saw it, and as I lay on the ground in pain I watched them rush over to me in fear. Leif reached my head first and I saw the fear in his eyes as he yelled “Mommy!” and looked down at me, tears welling in the eyes and heavy breaths waiting to be released. I was fine, but it was so humbling to experience for a moment the depth of his love for me. How I ever deserved such love I have no clue. But I am thankful, and pray that I will be a good mother to him throughout the years to come.

So here’s to many more happy years! However fast they come, I promise to relish every moment, always thankful that I am your mother.

Leif is such a Lucky Baby!

12 June 2012

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My Yearly Update!

23 April 2012

I never blog anymore.

I think this is because I need to decide what this blog is, exactly. I know i don’t want to be 0ne of those “mommy bloggers” whose blogs I read often. I’m just not as awesome as they. Nor do I see myself being one of those that blog every major and minor life event, with pictures. I’m too much of a slacker for that.

Oh well.

Here’s an update at least:

I am working part-time at Cerritos College now. I teach Acting Fundamentals in the Theatre Dept. It is temporary, substitute. But they asked me to stay until the end of the semester because the reg prof is on medical leave. I am loving it! The class is great. I’ve decided I don’t really know how to act, but hopefully my students won’t figure that out until after the semester is over. Don’t tell. =) Next time I should teach something easy like how to tie shoes the cool way, or alphabetizing my bookshelf… j/k… The hardest part really is dealing with childcare. Andy stays home once a week and the other day we have been using a series of grandmothers and babysitters. It’s really hard to leave them, but I know they are in really good hands, and that they are enjoying the time they spend with their caregivers. I don’t know what we’d do if I was offered a more permanent job, but I trust the Lord will show us if He gives me such an opportunity.

The Downey Arts Coalition is embarking on its first theatrical endeavor! I am so excited to be producing Urban Acts: New Plays from the Street alongside Andrew, a couple other DAC members, and also alongside the critically-acclaimed Urban Theatre Movement. Those guys rock. This will be a staged reading series at site-specific locations throughout Downey. All new plays by new and established playwrights. We are very very privileged to be able to read these wonderful new works and to have most of the playwrights in attendance as well! Check out www.downeyarts.org for more info.

Speaking of DAC, our organization is 1 year old now! I can’t believe the organization that Andrew started has grown into such a huge thing practically over night! I never imagined we would be involved with so many incredible people and doing so many exciting things here in Downey when he first started talking about wanting to form a group like this. That’s exactly it– when he started talking about wanting to do this, it was just going to be a group. Like maybe a support group. Well, God had other plans and it has exploded into an organization! No, a movement! We are even on the fast track toward 501C3 status with our plans to merge with the Downey Art League. This, alongside our friendship with the Downey Art Vibe, is making the arts movement in Downey a force to be reckoned with! Good things are happening and lots of people are getting on board.

It’s also pretty cool to see my husband in this leadership role. He’s always been such a strong leader and he is really thriving in this organization. I’m so proud to be his wife and partner. He stays up way too late, though. 😉

I’ve got a couple of potential directing gigs lined up. Not professional, but I’m excited about both the projects. I hope they don’t fall through! Meanwhile, just focusing on Urban Acts and my new job.

My children are a constant delight. I want to homeschool Peer, we’re learning more about that and considering our options. I might sign us up for a charter in the fall. At the very least we are glad that we can delay kindergarten and keep him home until age 6. A lot of parents are doing that nowadays. “Giving them the gift of time,” as I’ve heard it said. I like that. He will be 5 this summer and I am so proud of the young man he is growing into. I’ve recently discovered that he knows quite a bit of math. He is very adept at simple addition and subtraction, and he’s learning to read and sound things out. I catch him practicing on his own, it’s so cute. What a smart kid I have!

Leif is 17 months going on 5 years old as well.  =) He seems to have his own complete language that he is teaching us, and loves to play and run around outside with his brother. He wants to do everything his big brother (or “Ba-Ba”) is doing, especially the naughty things like smacking and destroying. Also wrestling and horseplay. It’s all a lot fun until someone lands on their head, boys! I am pleased that we are at the point with breastfeeding where it is so easy. But I often miss having a tiny one to nurse. Leif no longer needs/wants to snuggle in my lap for hours nursing. At most it may be 10, 15 minutes and then he’s back to playing. Oh well, he’s pretty heavy and squirmy anyway!

We still go to First Baptist, not a long happening there. Looking forward to several weddings this summer, especially that of our good friend Geoff, when Andy will be a groomsman. Geoff is very special to us and we are so happy for him and his new bride-to-be Scarlet, who is especially lover-ly and wonderful.

I guess that’s our family in a nutshell right now. Sorry no pics. I’m a slacker.

 

Epidurals in Labor

8 February 2012

Today I read this article at The Feminist Breeder about epidural use in labor, and it was excellent. The author devoted the short piece to the scientific aspect of some risks associated with the routine use of this popular labor drug. Because she was being scientific and evidence-based, she stopped short of giving any personal opinion, anecdote, or bias toward why an individual woman might do well to avoid the epidural, if possible.

Well, since this is my personal blog, and if you pinky-swear to read the article, I will go one step further and give you my personal opinion as to why I chose (successfully) to avoid the epidural. Twice.

But first, shout-out to the Haters! They’re right. You don’t get a trophy. Or a medal. (although in my case it did involve a certain amount of jewelry, but that’s another story) Nonetheless, there are tangible benefits to doing without this drug, if possible.

Here’s the bottom line: epidural use robs you of your mobility. Mobility and gravity are your best friends during labor.

When I gave birth to my second baby, I was on my knees. In fact, I was in that position for the entire 2nd stage. No one told me to get in that position except my body and my baby. I was able to listen because I could still feel what my body was doing. I could not have been on my knees if I was limp from the waist down. Being in this position utilized gravity to pull my baby down. Mimicking a squatting position on my knees also opened up my pelvis 30% more than if I had been on my back, as one is with an epi.

During the first part of both my labors, I also enjoyed the freedom of movement that going drug-free afforded me. I took walks, ate, drank, sat cross-legged on the floor, did yoga, used a birth ball, leaned upright against a tall dresser, and best of all MOVED AROUND in between all my different coping strategies.

Did any of these things take the pain of birthing away? Of course not! If anything, they made it “worse,” and by worse I mean better. Better because all these things I did helped my body dilate, move the baby into position, and push that baby out. To which end I had a completely intervention-free vaginal birth. The Perfect Birth.

Sometimes people will tell horror stories about birthing drug-free. As a willful natural birther, I would say that if you prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for a natural birth, it is not torturous. It is euphoric. But don’t think that you can just white-knuckle the pain. You must surrender. You will do better if you prepare with a class specifically designed for it, like HypnoBabies or Bradley.

I would also add that sometimes one must be flexible to very real complications in childbirth. If a woman has been in labor for 24, 30 hours and her body is totally fatigued, an epi may do her some good, giving her the rest she needs to push her baby out. Or if she is induced, the labor is already not natural, and few women can endure the pain of pitocin contractions without medication.

But if you are healthy, low-risk, and open-minded, and if you are serious about wanting to reduce your risk of surgical birth, vacuum extraction, forceps, episiotomy, pitocin, etc., you might be surprised at your ability to birth without an epidural. You’d be surprised at the strength that comes from within, and from above. And at the peace that passeth understanding.

Try it, you might like it! 😉

Things I say to my Oldest Son Daily

23 December 2011

Gentle!
Do not jump on the baby
Do not tackle the baby
Do not hurt him
Do not pull on him when he’s in Mommy’s arms
Please do not bite the baby
Please do not kick the baby
Please do not hit the baby
Please do not shake him
Please do not jump on the bed
Please do not jump on the furniture
Please do not jump off the furniture
Please do not jump from one piece of furniture to another
Please do not climb up onto the back of the couch
Please do not jump off the back of said couch
Control yourself

Good idea!
Good observation, Scientist
You are so smart
I’m so glad I have you to help me
Thank you for listening
You are so funny
I love you

This is what it’s like to be mother to a very lively, smart, creative, little 4-year-old

A Busty Woman: Mothering Courageously while Homeless

10 October 2011

Earlier this week I was making a trip to the bank with my boys, and while I was trying to navigate my car into the drive-thru ATM, I noticed something I hadn’t seen there before.  A woman was standing there, just a few feet from the ATMs with a cardboard sign asking for money.  This was a little out of the ordinary at a bank (smart move, though) and here in Downey (we don’t see a lot of that), but what was really extraordinary was the fact that she was not alone.  She was standing there nursing a sleeping baby at her breast.  I would say the babe was probably about 3-4 months old. She was not using a shawl or even wearing nursing attire.  She simply had the neckline of her shirt pulled down and baby was asleep, nursing away, as mine often do.  The only “cover up” she has was the cardboard sign she was holding and her baby.

I was extremely moved by this encounter. Allow me to explain.

First, I should say that I’m really interested in the politics of breastfeeding and I love following the Lactivist blogs and facebook pages to learn what’s going on.  Because of this I know that in this country women are thrown out of establishments, harassed, and shamed quite often for exposing far less than what this poor woman was exposing.

In addition, we are the city of Downey.  Now I love Downey, but we are a very conservative, right-wing sorta town.  There are probably many people who do not take kindly to seeing people camped out at banks with cardboard signs.  Maybe freeway exits, but no further.  Now on top of that, we have fairly poor breastfeeding rates.  Our hospital does not have a Lactation Consultant, and I think a woman was even thrown out of the library a few years back for breastfeeding in the children’s area.  Sadly, we are not a very breastfeeding-friendly city.

I don’t think this courageous and loving mother really realized what a ballsy thing she was doing.  (“ballsy”?  No, bad choice of words.  Let’s use “busty.”  And in this case, “busty” can mean feminine courage–courage that only mothers possess) Judging from her accent and limited English, she didn’t seem have been in this country very long.  And usually the American poor– at least in southern CA– do not breastfeed.  I imagine in her country it is normal for a woman to breastfeed, and to do so publicly.  She probably didn’t realize what a novelty–dare I say taboo– it is here.  Here she was, begging for money in a public place, pulling down her shirt to do what’s necessary to care for her child, all the while hoping that a few people will collectively do half as much for her. All in a place where breastfeeding isn’t very visible, and where many would like to believe that homeless people are lazy, or worse: con artists.

Is it possible she brought her infant to elicit sympathy?  Sure.  But she was still nursing a baby while begging for money for food. You can’t fake that. And you know what’s beautiful?  As hungry as she may have been, her baby wasn’t.  What a beautiful testament to everyone around her that God through nature provides a way for even the most destitute to nourish their babies.  And in my opinion, it also sends the message that sometimes people fall on hard times, and they are unable to restore their financial situation, to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, because they are caring for the very real needs of others.

I find this mother’s courage admirable.  Although I doubt she felt courageous.  In fact, I imagine she probably wasn’t trying to be courageous at all.  She must have been feeling very vulnerable and desperate.  This must have been a sort of rock-bottom for her.  She probably did this because she had to, because she felt she had no other choice.  And that’s what feminine courage is.  We parents are given the task to care for our children in the best way we can, regardless of our circumstances.  And this mother did what she had to do. Pop that baby on the boob and see if anyone will help you with the rest. Multi-tasking at its best.

When I have a friend who has a baby, I usually try to help her with breastfeeding, if she wants help.  I have long phone conversations, write lengthy emails, send them books and articles and buy them supplies.  I pray for their milk supply and for their adjustment and their perseverance.  I cry with them when things are tough.  These are my middle-class friends, all whom have homes and three meals a day.  I wish I could have helped this woman more, although she certainly didn’t seem to need any help breastfeeding.  But a little money and some gift cards were all I had to give.  I did cry a little for her, and ask God to bless her.  I only hope that if hard times should fall on me, that I would possess the courage she had.

Theatre, Childbirth, and Existence… and tea.

20 September 2011

I once heard childbirth compared to brewing tea with a teabag.  When the heat of the water affects the tea, what’s inside comes out.

This is comparable to why I love performance.  Probably my very favorite thing about watching a performance by someone I know personally is getting to see that unmatchable effect it has on them when they step up on to that stage in front of an audience.  The effect is astounding.  The powerful become weak, the shy become witty, the mysterious become funny, and the outcast become glamorous.  I was even enraptured by viewing a video of my own son when he performed at an open-mic night here in Downey. He is incredibly outgoing, but sometimes chickens out when the pressure is put on him to “perform” in social situations.  But he went on anyway, and the excitement he had for the songs he shared was nothing less than charming.  The giddy delight he had every time he made a mistake and his repeated insistence that he sing just one more, and then another, and another, was heart-warming.  This is even true of my friends from my former life, professional chameleons like I once was.  Even though they are good at it– the vulnerability, the control of emotions, the focus on action–there never ceases to be something truly amazing and beautiful about seeing another facet of that diamond that is that particular human being.

So it’s not such a stretch that my passion for theatre extends to my passion for childbirth.  Women do the same thing in labor.  What is inside often comes out, for all to see.  This is why it is such a vulnerable and personal thing for us.  This is why it can be difficult to give birth in an unfamiliar environment or in the presence of unfamiliar or unwelcome individuals.  But what is inside will eventually come out– and I’m not just talking physiologically here.  The weak do indeed become incredibly strong, the loud and obnoxious might become silent and introverted, the flirty girl might not want to be touched, the angry might cry, the gentle become self-determined and powerful.

This is one reason I want to become a doula someday.  To be able to experience humanity in such a powerful and rich way seems to be so thrilling– even more than doing theatre.  This all happens in the theatre, and after the show we go for a drink, then go our separate ways, then come together the next night to do it all again.  It’s beautiful really, but also very mundane.  But birth… ah… birth is monumental.  Life is never the same after a new being enters this world.  It’s sacred.

And theatre was once a sacred, religious act.  But the passage of time has turned it secular.  I suppose the same could be said of childbirth.  Yet with all the changes that women have experienced in regards to the ways in which we give birth, the passage of time has not been able to rob humanity of the sacredness of birth.  No matter how many c-sections an OB performs during his/her day at work, each of those mothers still goes home a new being.

It’s the change that delivers permanence.  That’s something that the temporal existence of theatre cannot imitate.  All it can do is express it.

So at intermission, I will have a cup of tea.  And since I’m a mother, I’ll take it sweetened, with plenty of milk.

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