Posts Tagged Leif

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.

Planting a Placenta Tree

6 June 2011

Well, it’s better late than never, right?

After having L’s placenta in our freezer for almost seven months, we finally got around to this important ritual of childbirth.  When you have a homebirth, you get to keep the placenta.  Or rather, you are responsible for disposing of it yourself.  The placenta is the organ that nourishes the baby inside the womb and once both are birthed, the placenta is still rich with nutrients.  It makes for a wonderful source of nourishment for plant life.  In fact, it is so nutritious that some people encapsulate it and take it as vitamins.  But we opted for the tree.  We picked out a lovely looking dwarf peach tree and a spot where it should thrive and not interfere with anything else in the yard (i.e., lawn, fence, etc.).

Here’s why we are choosing to perform this ritual instead of dumping L’s placenta in the garbage:

  1. Planting this tree marks his birth in this place.  We rent our home, so we will not always live here.  But L was born here, and nothing will ever change that.  This tree commemorates his birth on this property.  It will be here long after we are gone. (…sniff)
  2. Planting a fruit tree symbolizes our children as the fruit of our marriage.  As we were planting it, I said a prayer thanking God for our beautiful boys, and our wonderful marriage of 10 years.
  3. It represents the circle of life.  Just as his placenta nourished L while he was in my womb, now it will nourish this tree, which will produce fruit of its own and in turn, nourish us.  (hopefully in a peach cobbler.)
  4. Dust to Dust.  As I tell my oldest, everything that lives eventually stops living and is put back into the ground, and becomes food for the next thing that lives.  The time for this placenta to do its job is over.  It must return from whence it came.

So we let the thing thaw in the sun while Andy dug a big hole.  PJ played in said hole.

The umbilical cord started to glow a bright white as it thawed, which made me feel kind of emotional.  It was a sight I hadn’t seen for seven months, and the last time I saw it I was in a highly emotional state.  Finally the hole was ready.  Andy dropped it in, and I said a prayer and started to cry.

PJ and Andy threw compost on top of it and it was gone.  More dirt, more compost, then finally the peach tree.

planting the tree

There you are, little tree.  You are the same age as my baby.  May you grow and flourish in God’s grace just as my children will.  Amen.


P.S.  The funds for this tree are also special.  Years ago when my great-grandmother, my Oma, was living she used to send us $30 always for our birthdays.  She was an amazing woman, a refugee of WWII, lived to age 90, and all-around very remarkable.  She died when I was about 20 and for some reason I never had the heart to spend the last $30 cash she had sent me in the mail.  I was wanting to save it for something special.  Well, this was finally it.  I pulled it out of my jewelry box after all these years and spent it on a tree.  A tree that celebrates life.

Remembering my Pregnancy… Vitamin Edition

6 January 2011

So now that baby is here and everything, I thought it would be fun to kind of get an electronic version going of the journal that I kept during pregnancy. In this entry, I will entail what I perceived to be a rather lengthy and complex series of supplements that I ended up taking by the end of the pregnancy. They all sort of built upon each other, like a symphony, until they reached their glorious climax at the end when I realized i was a legitimate pill-popper. BTW, this is ironic to me because I generally try to get all my nutrients from food, and as a rule I don’t really “believe” in supplements at all. Well anyway, here goes:

Prenatal Vitamins: my midwife was rather indifferent about them, believing–as I do–that good nutrition is really all you need. Nonetheless, I headed over to the health food store and picked up a bottle of Rainbow Lights at the beginning of my pregnancy. I took them sporadically throughout the pregnancy, but really got disciplined about it in the third trimester. After all, I did eat pretty healthy but I ain’t perfect!

Ionic Fizz Magnesium Plus: So very early in the pregnancy I started having crazy heartburn. Very painful. While it can be addressed through diet, the source is actually hormonal, and for me diet wasn’t cutting it. Luckily, my midwife has a background in naturopathy, so she had great suggestions for all my pregnancy discomforts. This was the greatest! My heartburn went away and the fizzy drink even tasted yummy. So add this 1-2 times per day to my daily prenatal.

[SIDEBAR: Quercetin & Nettle Leaf Tea]: I started taking these when the winds got really bad here and my allergies went crazy. Helped a little. I stopped the Quercetin when things calmed down, but still drink the tea. It’s yummy.

I kept up these two things for most of the pregnancy until the very end, when I got the only minor hiccup: I tested positive for Group Beta Strep. GBS is a bacteria that ebbs and flows in a woman’s body all the time. If it is present at the time of birth, there is a small chance the baby could be infected and the resulting disease is rather serious. Pretty slim chances, though. In hospitals, when a woman tests positive for this, she is routinely given antibiotics during labor. We’ve had some bad experiences with antibiotics and really want to reserve them for an immanent, life-threatening illness. My midwife sent me some studies about the use of chorohexadine (??) rinse during labor as an alternative to antibiotics and the results were very good. So we did that instead of antibiotics. She also had an herbal regime outlined in the notebook she gave me, so I went ahead and got started with a few of those. Here they are:

Garlic: garlic is a natural sort of antibiotic, so it is very useful to use it to treat infections. Every night before bed.

Echinacea: Every morning for immune support. I’m using this still now during cold and flu season. Should have started it before getting sick, though.

Crystalline Vit C: 5,000 mg in my half-gallon water bottle each day. It’s non-acidic, which my tummy liked. It tastes like nail polish, which my mouth did not.

Grapefruit Seed Extract: about 10 drops in my water bottle daily. Also tastes awful. But I’m keeping it around in the case of thrush for myself or any close friends that deal with thrush. I’ve heard it really works.

Those things completely ruined my enjoyment of my daily water drinking. But it actually made me drink more H2O. I had to really chug it and then chase it with plain water or some juice or something. Then I would end up finishing my water earlier in the day and needed to refill with more or I’d be parched. Peeing a lot, but very hydrated, and I was glad to be doing something to combat the GBS. That’s not the whole regime, but I bought the vitamins I could afford and thankfully I had the baby a week later. So glad I didn’t have to keep downing that horrible water for a few more weeks!

Cod Liver Oil: CLO has lots of Vit D for immunity and bone support and is also loaded with Omega-3 Fatty Acids, including DHA. All really good stuff for babies and pregnant women. Some people don’t like this stuff because of its non-vegetarian-ness, but it is a natural source of so much good stuff that I love it. I’ve been giving it to Peer for years and my chiropractor convinced me that I should be taking it too. My midwife also liked the idea, stating that my baby’s brain will grow more now in the third trimester than any other time in his life. So everyone on my team liked the idea. =) You can buy it flavored (if you don’t mind the additives they use to flavor it), so it actually tastes pretty good. We buy the Emulsified orange-flavor and mix it with Peer’s OJ for him. He knows about it, so I’m not tricking him! Andy and I take it straight and like it.

I’m still taking the Vit C (although NOT in my daily water bottle. I don’t want to be drinking it all day long!), the echinacea, and the CLO. I finished out the fizzy magnesium and the prenatals and didn’t replace them. Oh, and no, my baby did NOT contract GBS disease, thank God. Probably wouldn’t have anyway statistically speaking, but I’m still glad I did something. I’m also glad to have been introduced to all these useful supplements. I will remember their usefulness even if I don’t become a full-time pill-popper!

Baby Leif’s New Toy

29 December 2010

So we got this Fisher Price Rock ‘n’ Play Sleeper and we love it! Leif loves to sit in it while he’s awake and kick kick kick! I like having a place to put him while I cook, because I really shouldn’t do that with him in the sling! He also sleeps really well in it too, so I use it for him while I’m snuggling with big brother at nap time. Great buy for under 40 bucks.

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Hypnosis or Drama?

18 December 2010

So while I was pregnant I started reading Mongan’s HypnoBirthing book because I know a lot of natural birthing-moms really like that method. I couldn’t explain the whole method well, but let’s just say that moms who use this method use visualization and concentration to relax their bodies to the point of apparently not feeling pain at all. In fact, the book emphasizes the importance of ridding the mind of preconceived ideas about childbirth– namely, that it’s painful–in order to free the mind and body for birth. In other words, if you don’t think it will be painful, it won’t be. And granted, the method seems to work. A lot of women claim to have had pain-free births.

Well, God bless ’em.

Even though I had a good attitude and a very positive curiosity about this method, once I began reading the book, I kind of started to reject the idea. I just can’t seem to fully swallow the idea that if something feels painful to me, that I shouldn’t call it for what it is. I guess it seems unfair to me that I should feel something painful and not be able to say, “I feel pain right now.” Now, I totally get the Grantly Dick-Reed philosophy of the inter-relationship between fear-pain-tension. (we fear pain, which makes our bodies tense, which increases pain) But just because I recognize something as painful does not necessitate that I fear it, don’t accept it, or don’t willfully prevent my body from tensing up as a result. This is why we do relaxation exercises, right? Because the natural tendency is to tense up when we feel pain and when we are afraid. And in childbirth education we train our bodies to relax under those circumstances. We practice mantras such as Hurt Not Harm, or Open The Door Let The Pain In. In fact, this is what Hypnosis does too, only the word pain is not used.

As I self-reflect on this experience I’ve started to realize that maybe my insistence to hold on to my right to pain is associated more with my sense of drama. Ever since my first birth, I fantasize about the dramatic nature of it. A woman’s labor and delivery is really a beautiful story arc, complete with a rising action, a climax, and a denoument. The pageant, if you will, of childbirth is so beautiful. This is one reason I did not want to anesthetize myself through it. You miss all that drama if you take the pain away.

Perhaps the same could be said of hypnosis. The women who use this method describe a peaceful, pain-free birth. It all sounds great… for them. I think maybe I just love the drama. Now don’t get me wrong– I don’t want real drama, like with ambulances or plunging heart rates or medical intervention. No thank you. But the natural drama of a healthy, normal, natural birth is just thrilling. I’ll take the pain with the adventure. It’s worth it.

So what do you all think? Is a pain-free birth possible? Is it even desirable?

You Were Wrong, Doc

12 December 2010

It seems now that I’m processing this second birth experience, I can’t help but compare it to my first. I suppose they are inseparable. Now I had a very good birth the first time around, but it was an uphill battle to accomplish a natural birth at a hospital, especially DRMC, and with the very unsupportive doctors I had. Even though Peer’s birth was natural, there were still many unnatural things that were done to me and the baby that I wanted to make sure didn’t happen again. Like the routine pitocin I was given after the baby was out. I was not asked or warned at all about this and only found out as I was receiving the shot in my arm. Or like the premature cord clamping and cutting, and the subsequent yank the doctor gave the umbilical cord to get the placenta out. Or, in general, the separation that we experienced just to have the baby bathed. Now that I’ve experienced another way, I’ll never go back. (if I can help it)

But mostly what I want to talk about today is the overall unsupportive attitude I had to combat with the doctor throughout my whole experience, and it was culminated in a final comment he made immediately after the birth and then again at my six-week postpartum check-up. He said that I was very small inside and that if Peer had been any bigger, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver vaginally. Peer was 6 lbs 2oz. At my check-up he told me if I ever have a baby any bigger, that I should have a c-section. I was just too small.

I always thought this opinion was hogwash. And guess what, Doctor Bender? I did it. Despite you. I had a bigger baby (a whole pound and three ounces bigger), again without drugs, no episiotomy this time, and considerably less tearing. You cut me badly last time because you thought I couldn’t do it. I needed 30 stitches. I took 10 weeks to heal. This time my birth attendant believed in me and let me do it on my own. As a result I had minimal tearing that needed only 3 stitches. You were wrong.

Here’s another thing that I now know I was right about. The whole issue of the perineum. As I mentioned, last time I had a really bad cut/tear because the doctor insisted that I “needed” an espisiotomy and then when I resumed pushing, the tissue tore like crazy from the already-started laceration. With both my births, I seem to have gotten really powerful and determined at the end (what woman isn’t?), paying no mind to my perineum. So some tearing is probably inevitable for me. Ever since Peer was born, I always knew that I had been somewhat robbed of that culminating sensation of childbirth– the ring of fire. This is the feeling of the soft, thin tissue between the vagina and the rectum stretching (or tearing) as the baby’s head crowns and is born. Why, you may ask, would anybody actually want that sensation? Shouldn’t I be grateful to have been spared? True, it was frickin’ painful. It burned like crazy. But one also must observe how considerably less damaging this series of events were than during my first birth. Last time, my birth attendant intervened and injured me badly. This time there was no intervention, and my perineum remained mostly intact. I am far less injured this time around. And what “injury” I do have from this second birth was my natural fate– not the result of the poor judgment of a pompous, faithless doctor wielding tiny scissors.

Also, in terms of my own experience, feeling the ring of fire was extremely encouraging in the moment of birth. It was obvious what this feeling was, and I knew that I would be completing my hard work and meeting my baby very soon. On a personal level, the more intense the sensation, the more meaningful the memory. In other words, it was an amazing feeling. I’m so glad I got to feel my baby coming out. Fire and all. I’ll never forget it–in fact, I will cherish that moment in my memory forever.

Dr. Bender, you laughed at me when I said I wanted a natural birth and told me I’d be screaming my head off in labor. Well I did it once in your presence and did it again without you. Your words have been lingering in my memory for three years. You don’t know what you do to women when you say these things. You should believe in us. We have more power than you think.

Our Homebirth of Leif William Wahlquist – November 7, 2010

12 December 2010

Here are the highlights of our birth story. This is pretty much the same version I posted on facebook a while back, but I wanted to blog it too. (Not sure if there’s anyone out there who reads my blog but not my facebook activity, but that’s okay.) It was actually a rather “boring” birth. There isn’t much to tell. I suppose that is the best kind of birth. I prefer to think of it as The Perfect Birth.

Saturday I woke up feeling crampy. I experienced mildly painful Braxton-Hicks all day. This was somewhat normal for me. I went to yoga and thought that if today was the day, yoga class would be a great way to start it off. Afterward I went to the Downey Farmer’s Market and a stranger rubbed my belly for the first time. After lunch, I put Peer down for his nap, which always starts and ends with nursing. This caused a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. Afterward, I really wanted to get out of the house. Andy suggested going to Seal Beach for dinner and a walk on the pier. After getting ready, I came down the stairs and announced these contractions were “starting to bother me.” We actually timed them in the car. They were irregular in span, duration, and intensity. Not rhythmic, regular, or increasing– they way you’d expect real labor to be. The walk along the pier was nice, I contracted a lot and got very tight, but it still didn’t feel like labor. The contractions weren’t going anywhere—although I noticed they weren’t stopping, either.

By the evening, I had decided that this wasn’t it. I had just had a bad day. I knew I wasn’t dehydrated, but I was probably exhausted. We put Peer to bed and I got really sleepy, even though I was still experiencing contractions. I napped for about an hour or an hour and a half while Andy finished putting Peer to sleep. I woke up and felt great, but the contractions returned before long. We watched some Hulu, then I went to bed. Andy hung out next to me, reading or something. Tomorrow would be the end of Daylight Savings Time.

11/7/2010 – 12:45 am
I was almost fully asleep when I awoke to the sensation of my water breaking. I was so surprised. After all I had convinced myself this wasn’t the night, now it was. As I sat on the toilet, I made sure the amniotic fluid was clean and odorless. It was. I got really nervous, and I asked Andy to pray for me. I was still sitting on the toilet. I thought that was funny.

Andy began to prepare our bedroom for the birth. The first thing this meant was cleaning up and folding laundry. Labor hadn’t really begun yet, and I began to feel very anxious. I knew this was going to be tonight, and this was going to be really hard. “I can’t believe I have to do this again,” I cried in anxiety. I had a lot of self-doubt and fear at the thought of doing this very, very hard thing again. I was very anxious. I told myself I needed to enjoy this time, because it’s the easiest it will be all night. But I was afraid.

Our roommate Ben came home (our other roomie David was out of town) and we could hear him downstairs in the kitchen, adjacent to where our birth supplies were. Andy wanted to go down and get them, so I made him promise not to say anything to Ben and try to be discreet. Nothing was really happening yet, and I didn’t want to feel watched. Ben totally didn’t notice. I think he even snuck out of the house for work the next morning after the birth without noticing.

I think contractions officially started around 1:30am, and sometime before then, I did the HiboCleanse Rinse, since I had tested positive for Group Beta Strep, but didn’t want antibiotics.

Our midwife Sue had told us that she would come when I couldn’t walk or talk through the contractions anymore, so Andy was watching for that. I was glad that it would be a little while. I wanted this private time to labor with just Andy and I also did not want to be checked for dilation yet. For my last birth I wasn’t checked until I was complete, which was perfect. I didn’t want the discouragement of not being as far dilated as I felt. Anytime I grew curious about dilation, I tried to tell myself that dilation didn’t matter, that length of labor didn’t matter. This baby will come out when it’s ready and God would give me the strength to do it, when the time was right. Reflecting on these truths helped me through the great fear I felt.

Now that the contractions had started, I went to work. I first laid down for a little while, then I started following Andy around like a puppy dog. The contractions were strong and mostly felt like intense pelvic pressure. I labored entirely in our bedroom. Often I would lean my head and arms against our tall chest of drawers and sway my pelvis to relax. Sometimes I would get on my knees and lean on the yoga ball and moan. I moaned a lot, and employed the toning practice from yoga. The only sound that worked for me was “HAAAAAAAA.” All these things really helped me relax through the intense pressure and pain of each contraction. I remembered how after my first birth, I was so amazed at the incredible way my body worked to get the baby out. But now that I was in the moment again, the reality of the overwhelming sensation was coming back to me as well. This was really, really hard! I remember crying out “God help me!” and thinking that I was way too early in the labor to be acting so desperate. At some point I thought, “I understand why women get epidurals!” 

I needed a distraction, so I watched Waiting for Guffman. Andy pointed out how rapidly my labor had picked up during the movie. By the end of the movie, the tub was ready and I put my bathing suit on and got in. The water felt sooooo good. It didn’t take my pain away, but it definitely helped me cope with each contraction. Peer woke up once and Andy went in to comfort him. I got out of the tub to pee and my labor really picked up. I had several strong contractions that made me very emotional. When Andy came back I told him that I didn’t want to go through another contraction alone. We should probably call for help. After we called the midwife, I think he called my parents. I remember thinking that for every phone call, Andy sounded so business-like and calm.

In the tub, I pretty much stayed in one position– on my knees, with them spread in a V, with my upper body resting on the side of the tub, or on the yoga ball next to the tub. Before anyone even arrived, I started to grow “push-curious.” I suddenly wondered if applying gentle pressure would give me some relief. So I tried bearing down gently on each contraction. It felt so good. I pushed on every contraction since then. Our midwife Sue arrived with another midwife. They came in quietly and whispered whenever they spoke. I told her I was pushing gently and she nodded in approval. (I’m still amazed and so pleased at how I somehow knew exactly how and when to push– no one ever gave me permission or told me how to do it. So different from a hospital birth.) My mom arrived and asked how I was doing. I told her this was really hard! She helped me through a contraction and then went to talk to Andy. They were talking through a contraction and I snapped at them to be quiet!

At some point, Peer got up and came to give me a kiss. At another point, he gave me a cold wet washcloth (that was his designated job) and then went downstairs. I had wanted him to witness the birth, but in the moment his joyful energy was disrupting the quiet peacefulness I needed. So he played with his grandparents downstairs.

I kept pushing on every contraction, pushing harder and harder all the time. Maybe I pushed too hard, but it felt good. I noticed a drop of blood drip down from me and sink to the bottom of the tub. Suddenly I felt a pop! I still don’t know what that was. They checked the baby’s heart rate with the doppler a couple times. It was perfect. I was pushing harder and harder and the excitement in the room was growing. It was almost time. Leif’s destiny was at hand– the moment of his birth was immanent. Our baby was coming straight down, pulled by gravity, pushed by my body, and guided gently by God. I pushed hard and started to feel the ring of fire. That was an incredible sensation. It really hurt. The contraction ended and the baby retreated a little. I pushed again (by now my contractions came one on top of another without any breaks in between) and felt the ring of fire again, this time more intense, and longer. I roared like a lion out of pain and power. Sue asked if I wanted to reach down and touch the baby’s head. “No!” I shouted. But Andy did. He touched his little nose. Another contraction came and I pushed again, feeling the ring of fire one last time, and then feeling the baby slip out of me and the most incredible release imaginable.