10 April 2015

Eight

eight 
months ago I became a mama
eight
days ago, so did my dearest friend

eight
times now I have stopped myself from texting her the
words that
eight 
days in, it all feels so much bigger
than possible, bigger
than everything
that ever came before this thing called being a 
mama.

eight
months in, I wish I could tell her
how much better 
it is to be a 
mama -
so much better than it seems at
eight
days in.

there ought to be research on the 
impact 
of just falling asleep only to be woken by a tiny, ravenous monster who wants nothing more than 
eight
long minutes sucking at your chest before it spends
eight
more minutes in between sleep and suck
only to waken and resume its insatiable feasting
for what feels like 
eight
tortuous hours.
the constant questioning of how such a life is possible - it feels quite inevitable that this must be the 
definition of
failure
as the child will 
never
be
satisfied 
and
just
sleep.

there ought to be research 
on
the fading of these visceral memories
over time
such that a new 
mama 
can only recall the vague impression
of the tangible fear, hopeless frailty and faceless demons that haunt that echoing part of the brain, that section called
doubt.

eight 
months in I wish I could speed up time 
emotionally
but stop it cold physically 
so we could appreciate the newest moments, the softest skin, the hardest part
while basking in the glorious knowledge that it gets
easier
calmer
happier 
by eight months in.




19 January 2015

yep, normal.

I just returned from a fantastic 48 hours celebrating the upcoming arrival of a dear bestie's babe.  After gifting her some of my favorite baby items, I also made her a little 'boobie basket' full of my recommended nursing items and some tips from what I've learned the last five months of breastfeeding. I am definitely no expert, but wanted to share the things that I had some of my village of women shared with me as I transitioned to confident, breastfeeding mama.

The nursing items I shared were the following:

 

a) lanolin for preventing and soothing sore/cracked nipples; b) washable nursing pads to cover any leakage; c) some cooling gel nursing pads that can go in the refrigerator and help SO MUCH those first days when those nips are SO SORE; d) circular gel things that can be cool or warm to ease engorgement or assist with letdown and flow; e) my favorite bags for storing expressed milk.


The second part was a framed page with my thoughts on breastfeeding.  I envisioned that she could glance at them as she went through the various stages of the early nursing relationship:
  • Yes, getting baby into position is awkward at first. Try the football hold.
  • Yes, your nipples should be sore. Use the lanolin every time.
  • No, it shouldn't be excruciatingly painful. If it is still painful more than 30 seconds into a nursing session, talk to a lactation consultant.
  • Yes, he will be noisy while he eats. Or, he may make no noise at all. Normal.
  • Yes, you may FEEL your letdown. Or, no you may NOT. Both are ok. Pay attention only to wet diapers and weight gain as measures of baby-eating success.
  • Yes, the engorgement phase sucks. Try heat, using your fingers to soften your nipple and hand expressing a little bit before he latches. It can be hard for a tiny mouth to get a good hold on an engorged, flat nipple.  Also: football hold.
  • He might cough and gag a little bit in your milk. This is normal. He might not. Also normal. If he does this a lot, try leaning back so the flow is less forceful in his sweet lil' mouth.
  • Yes, it is exhausting the first weeks. Yes, you will nurse for forty minutes only to start again forty minutes later.
  • Nurse whenever he seems hungry. Schedules and patterns come later. I promise.
  • Yes, the above is exhausting and daunting. You will miss it someday.
  • Breathe. Let downs can be prevented when stressed. If you can find a pattern of breathing/position/thought your body will learn, Pavlovian style, to release your milk to your baby. Deep breaths help. And relax those shoulders and your jaw.
  • Text me, your mom, your mama friends whenever you have a wonder. We can help or even just say 'Yep. Normal.'
  • The leaking does stop eventually. Promise.
  • Yes, you may as well just not wear a shirt. Good thing Texas is warm.
  • The first time in public is hard. Challenging, logistically and mentally. It gets so much easier.
  • Soon he will be holding his own head and that pillow won't be needed. Woo hoo!
  • Don't be afraid to pump and give a bottle. Wait at least four weeks but not too long- a boobie-only baby is hard to be away from. Plus, bottles help bonding with Papa!
  • Don't worry too much if baby latches or makes noises that you read are 'wrong'. Is he getting milk and growing strong? Then it works. Trust yourself and your son.
  • Don't beat yourself up if you supplement or need help with any part of this. You are a rock star mama and what matters is that baby eats and grows.
  • Yes, there will be days, weeks in, where he suddenly nurses SO MUCH MORE or even LESS. Growth spurts/frequency days happen. Part of a growth spurt/developmental leap can be increased eating OR reduced (for a short while). If you are really concerned, call an LC or the pediatrician. But also, breathe. You got this.
  • And if after all of this, you didn't get to breastfeed or your nursing relationship ends sooner than you wanted, know this: it will be ok. I promise, promise, promise.

18 January 2015

Will, so far

We just crossed the five-month celebration of sweet William making us a family of three and me a pink tiger.  They passed at quite a whirlwind and I am only reminded that yes, the hours are long and the days (much too!) short.

Will’s first month (0-4 weeks)
Oh, the squishy, magical newborn days.  I did not appreciate these as much as I should have, I now know.  He was so tiny and grew so fast.  Born at about seven and a half pounds, and ten by four weeks old!  Kid is a champion eater.  We worked so hard to get that internal clock set for him, and nights were pretty established a few weeks in.  He’d give us and a couple of great 3 hour chunks in a row by one-month old, and started getting a bottle of pumped milk on his first wake-up, sometime between 11 and 1 am.  After 3 am, he’d wake about every 90 minutes to two hours, and I already miss watching the sunrise from my bed with him snuggled close to me, cluster nursing every morning from about 7 AM to  10 AM.  I started to notice a pattern around three weeks old, and could rely on a pretty good 2 hour nap in the middle of the day – allowing me to leave the house with sleeping baby in tow and get lunch!  We’d get home in time for some more nursing, a smaller nap, and then a nice cluster feed before ‘bedtime’ around 8 PM.

From the beginning, he head and neck control was strong, and he was lifting his little head off our shoulders at twelve hours old.  He continued to work these muscles daily, and his little face become more alert every day.  He started to become reliably sleepy when we began the bedtime routine we began around two weeks old – bath, song, pajamas, bottle and swaddle/bed.

We missed Topher when he returned to work after two weeks, but my mom came to stay for a week right at the end of this first month, and I was grateful.  When she was with us, it became clear Will was suffering from above-average reflux and daily doses of Zantac became routine.


Will’s second month (4-9 weeks)
As the second month dawned, Will continued his daily routine of waking between 5 AM and 6 AM, nursing, and sleeping a bit more as Topher headed off to work. We began a nice routine of lots of nursing, tummy time, a book or two, and many naps in the pack ‘n’ play or car seat while out and about or on a walk around the neighborhood.  Lots of Mama and Will time, which I no longer feared and learned to love.

Will began to smile and respond to our faces and voices near the middle of his second month, and had a great time with his grandparents in North Carolina at six weeks old.  He had his first dip in the ocean!  It was cold to him, and he complained but took the best nap ever afterward.  He also slept for seven hours straight (twice!) for the first time on this trip! We were so grateful.

Will’s first set of shots on his two-month birthday ushered us out of his second month, and poor kid spent the day nursing, sleeping or shrieking in pain.  Luckily, mostly the first two with tiny bursts of the third in between.

As his second month came to a close, I faced my return to work.  It was so hard to leave him behind, as we had such a great rhythm to our day and he is my favorite part of everything now.


Will’s third month (9 – 13 weeks)
Will became incredibly vocal as his third month began, and really found the range of noises he could make. Lots of high-pitched coos and some consonant sounds, with the occasional shriek that has us seeing if somehow a dinosaur had made his way into present day, and thusly, our house.

Will thrived at daycare and under the eye and loving care of his great-grandmother and soon was chowing down on three 4-ounce bottles while I worked.  We still nursed right when I got home, and it seemed Will craved the reconnection just as much as I did.  He mastered accidentally rolling from his tummy to his back, and impressed everyone with some crazy good neck control.

Will’s fourth month (13 – 17 weeks)
A rhythm for the mornings and evenings began to be established during Will’s fourth month, and Topher and I both treasured the few hours each day we were with him.  He smiled as we came home each day, and showed signs of moving his bedtime a bit earlier.  The same bedtime routine we began weeks ago now started closer to 6:30 or 7 each night, which meant a little less time with our guy in the evenings, but a little more for the two of us, which was bittersweet.

Will became a bit hungrier during the day, and began taking five ounces in his bottle.  This correlated to better sleep at night, including whole nights of not needing Mama or Papa at all and we all slept well for a good two weeks.  And then, the dreaded first cold hit and we had quite setback.  We decided to transition out of the swaddle at this time too, and suck it up.  The week from hell regarding sleep, but we got back on track after about ten days.

At the very end of this month, as Will entered his sixteenth week, he decided he preferred the bottle and not the boob, and we have yet to return to any sort of regular nursing schedule.  He still grows like a weed and loves his milk though, so the most important parts are taken care of.

His four month appointment went swimmingly, and the kid showed signs of great growth, hitting the 80th percentile for weight, height and head circumference.  He stood tall at nearly 27 inches and solid at 17 pounds 12 ounces. He loves to lift himself up to standing in our arms and hates being held in any way that doesn’t allow him to see and observe the world around him.

Will’s fifth month (17 – 22 weeks)
The holidays made up Will’s fourth month, and he loved December.  The lights on the tree especially enchanted him, and we made a habit of saying goodnight to the tree every evening before heading up to his bath and bed.

His vocalization continued, and he found that his fingers made a great, and soothing, snack.  He mastered neck control this month, and began to really love the Ergo even more as he could look either which way and really take in the sights.  He realized he has control over his hands and began to really intently focus on reaching for, grasping and exploring (with his mouth) anything he can. 

Will took his first plane rides to Houston and back this month and did incredibly well.  He had a weirdly fussy period for a few days, and we noticed that his eye-hand control got much better after that.

Will’s sleep became a bit more erratic, but he learned to fall asleep from awake/drowsy, which was a big win.  He also started showing much more interest in books, so we added a nightly book to the bedtime routine.  Around Christmas, he became increasingly fussy and sleeping poorly, and we learned his reflux med dosage needed to be increased a good deal.  Sleep got better, including a few nights of zero or one waking(s).

Finally, as Will edged closer to a full five months old, he learned to, with control, roll back to tummy.  Right on New Year’s Day – a great developmental leap to kick of the new year.  His sleep suffered a for a week or so as he adjusted to sleeping on his tummy, but he found a rhythm and soothing technique (rub that face back and forth on the mattress!) right as he transitioned to five months old, and into his sixth month.

Will’s sixth month (22 – 26 weeks)
We are about ten days into Will’s sixth month, and all I can say currently is that I hate colds – as soon as we are getting a good rhythm of sleep and seem to really master sleeping through the night – BAM. Illness.  At 23 weeks, Will had his worst night of sleep ever (which Topher managed alone as I took my first trip away from baby for the first time this weekend!), followed by another pretty terrible night of sleep.   A nurse at our pediatrician’s office chalked it up to a cold and the likely beginning of teething, so we all are eagerly anticipating what this sixth month will bring.

As I write this, I’m crossing fingers for Will to come out of the stuffy nose and cough fog soon, for his sake (and mine!) because Topher started a new job which includes overnight shifts…beginning tonight!

Send wishes for good sleep and healthy babies.  And lots of coffee for me.  Please and thank you!


05 January 2015

steps for when your four-month-old does the one thing they say a four-month-old never does


Or, how to get over yourself when your baby 'self-weans' before one/goes on a never-ending nursing strike/develops a bottle-over-boob preference/defies everything the experts know about babies and does the one thing you didn't know to dread or worry about.

  • Step 1: Doubt that your four-month-old is actually refusing to nurse.
  • Step 2: Offer a bottle so that said baby doesn't starve.
  • Step 3: Try to nurse again and get rejected. Begin to worry.
  • Step 4: Repeat step 3 and 2, in that order, increasing worry exponentially with each occurrence.
  • Step 5: Cry.
  • Step 6: Blame yourself, and then your spouse, and then your baby, and then the bottle, and then your boobs and then yourself again. Because, it's your fault. Obviously.
  • Step 7: Research and research and research with your frenemy, Google.
  • Step 8: Try all the tips your 'research' led you to try.  Build frustration and tears each time a new 'tip' has no effect on your child's persistent, angry refusal of your sweet, milky boobs.
  • Step 9: Cry.
  • Step 10: Suck it up.  Tell yourself it's not a big deal, and that you're lucky you got even four months of breastfeeding.  Many, many women don't even get that.
  • Step 11: Get angry and acknowledge that, yes, you've been lucky it's been so easy but DAMMIT this needs to end NOW.
  • Step 12: Rationalize.  Well, you can still pump breastmilk.
  • Step 13: Itemize all the reasons exclusively pumping will suck: 1 - it's not convenient like the boob. 2 - it often leads to reduced supply and a need to supplement 3 - it doesn't give you all the selfish feels of closeness and bonding.  Tell these reasons to anyone who will listen.
  • Step 14: Cry.
  • Step 15: Suck it up.  Life goes on. Your kid is growing, healthy, happy. This is NOT a big deal. 
  • Step 16: Repeat step 1 and 6.
  • Step 17: Try those tips from step 7 again.  Ask everyone you know who nursed what they would do if their kid stopped nursing. Ignore the women who tell you their nursing strike turned into a kid who weaned.  Tell yourself that won't happen to you.
  • Step 18: Feel disconnected from your baby. Mourn the loss of nursing.
  • Step 19: Establish a new normal of pumping around the time your kid eats.
  • Step 20: Cry. Laugh.
  • Step 21: Realize it's not all that terrible to have very portable food for your kid.  Itemize the reasons: 1 - you now know exactly how much your kid eats every day. no more doubting -is he hungry?! 2 - all those times you wish you could 'detach your boob and insert in his mouth when he was crying uncontrollably in the car/in public/whenever' is now a reality. 3 - everybody gets to feel the joy of your squirmy, active baby melts into their arms as he eats five times a day. 4 - realize you get to kiss his head, his cheeks, his nose while he eats.  feel his little fingers curl around yours on the bottle. 5 - note that washing so many bottles is somewhat calming at the end of the day. 
  • Step 22: Write about it and realize, hey, you're actually ok with this.

Note: Steps 1 - 19 occur over the course of 3 days. Steps 20 - 22 over the course of 3 weeks.

09 December 2014

Thoughts, right now

I am currently riding the metro home from work.

And all I am thinking of is the very real possibility that I will miss bedtime for the second evening in a row. I am trying not to cry, in public, at this potentiality.

Being a parent, man, is all kinds of awesome.  I am quite literally awe-filled by the deep seated feelings I have for my kid daily.  Feelings of the purest joy when he smiles, the heart quickening concern when he cries in a way I have never heard before (dear God is he bleeding?!), or the gut-wrenching combination of regret, guilt, worry, pride, and love that comes with dropping him off at daycare.


(That daycare drop off, friends, that shiz is ROUGH.  I dread the moment all morning. Why do we need money, again?)

Oft times it can feel as though I am delaying happiness now for the potential of magnified happiness later. Missing ten of my son's awake hours each day? When placed next to making money so he can pursue his life interest later in life, so we can travel, so we can enjoy our life without having to worry about money, it seems worth it.

Worth it about fifty percent of the time, anyway.

I find solace in knowing I am not alone in these feelings.  There are countless articles and posts about the sacrifices parents make for their kids' future happiness.  These sacrifices aren't relegated just to parents who work outside the home, though maybe we are just louder in voicing our displeasure around this topic.

I think what it boils down to is the constant fear of "am I doing this parent thing right? will I regret this decision later?"  And there is no way to know.  I try to keep the faith that doing the best I can, with what I have will be enough, will be worth it.  

But all of this just seems like bollocks when I am counting down the train stops to make it home in time for nighttime kisses...

28 October 2014

firsts

There are lots of firsts going on around these parts lately.  First sleeping through the nights (twice, this past week!), first giggles, first recognizing of mama's and papa's face in the mornings and evenings.

It's all about the lookout for new things that Will can do these days.

Back in the beginning though? Those first hours, and days?  Looking back, it was all about the firsts for us- the humans clamoring to welcome sweet Will to this world.  So many new titles being embraced- mom, grandmother, uncle, great uncle.  So much we all learned and adapted to, so quickly.

First time adoring sweet, pink, cherub lips.

First family picture.
(I was retaining SO MUCH water!! Those cheeks!)
 First nap with a baby on my chest.

 First photo trying to cover sheer exhaustion with laughter.

Seriously, though…just for good measure. Those first hours!

First day spent just staring into each other's eyes.

First time grandparents holding their grandkid.

And first time meeting a GREAT grandkid…

First bath!

First time little Will was held so carefully, cautiously, protectively by three men who adore him... 

First time charming a lady of the non-related variety...

First night spent checking on him, every ten minutes...

First 'we made this?!' snuggles, caught on film.

First selfie as a mama.

First blog post about nothing since Will was born.

[see above]

Cheers!

27 October 2014

fall


how many blog posts do you imagine are out there right now that discuss how the changing weather is like transitions in life and shedding layers, metaphorically and such?  it's ever so cliche but it just seems so apropos to discuss how fall just feels like a unique kind of new beginning.  it's not spring, so we're not overly zealous here with the idea of starting fresh…but it's the crisp weather and the changing colors and the back to school that sparks a feeling of renewal.


so, we can add another post to the blogfeed.


in cambodia, the season of autumn translated to 'leaf tree fall' which is rather elegant, no? elegant, and matter of fact. i always appreciated that about the khmer language.  side note, not that cambodia HAD a 'fall' season.  there was wet and dry, and varying levels of 'hot' in there.


this fall, is of course, quite a new beginning for us.  (cliche police!)  sweet william has turned us into quite the autumn celebrators.  we're talking pumpkin picking and renaissance fest-ing and babywearing (not a fall tradition thing?).


great success!



at the pumpkin patch (where, of course, will was dressed… as a jack-o-lantern), topher said ' stick him in the wheelbarrow with the pumpkins!' i said 'no he'll get dirty!' and then my don't-overthink-this-parenthood-thing meter went off, and we put a handkerchief down and in the wheelbarrow he went.


do you have a 'crazy parent' flag that you try so desperately to wave sparingly?  i have this image, this idea, of how low key i wish i was about this child raising thing.  i mean, in my heart of hearts, i have such great faith in how it all turns out if you just chill, laugh and love.  you know? but those dumb surface level worries and fears, man - they just creep in and jump out at the silliest moments, no? i'd say, at this point, i'm successful about 37.6% of time.  when we get nuts, topher or i usually say to the other - 'CAMBODIA!' which is not so secret code for, hey, don't over think this, yeah? in cambodia, they raise great kids with far less (less stuff, less conveniences, less parenting books) and all's well.  so, its our equilibrium point, you know?


we're officially back at work full time here in the marsh household and no one has suffered yet.  maybe my bank account, because now i visit starbucks like it's going out of style.  also, maybe it's a great little filler when i'm feeling a bit blue and missing the little guy.


in sum, if you haven't already and if at all possible, get yourself a plumpy little person to love this fall.  they make you fall in love with them (see, that twist on the word 'fall' i did there?) and this season even more deeply than you thought.  and if you just want a plumply little person and are working on it, may all the leaves that fall bring chubby babies to you soon!


obligatory fall post, over and out!

25 September 2014

on becoming a pink tiger


The finer parts of the last hour of my labor are hazy.  I spent the better part of that time with my eyes shut tight, pushing and screaming and fighting the last leg of the labor journey.  At some point, as I was getting ready to push, or sometime just after, I looked to my doula and husband and proclaimed "Look! I'm a pink tiger!" They must have thought I was in some sort of laboring delirium, but I knew exactly what I was thinking.  The pink lines that ran up and down my belly and sides were a part of me, and I was owning them and everything they meant to me.

When my pink tiger stripes first started to show up during the middle of the third trimester, I lamented their arrival.  For two weeks, I looked into the mirror each night and repeated a mantra.  Something along the lines of "it's all ok, these are a small price to pay for a perfect child."  I don't exactly remember what I said to myself but it was meant to take away the power from the stretch marks and reaffirm the beauty of all that pregnancy stuff and the things that came along with it.

It wasn't until my son- my son!- landed on my stomach that those pink stripes actually became an emblem, a representation of the ten months I'd made a little home for this little human in my body and a reminder of all my hopes for him as he left that home and began life as his own entity.  In that instant, I became a pink tiger - a fierce protector of this little person, his own personal tiger mama who loves him so deep, deep down to the core.  Loves him so much that my skin had to stretch and strain to make room for this love.



I had been saying for days, weeks even, that I just wished I knew when to expect him to arrive.  Granted, I didn't know for sure it was a him I was waiting for; but I knew that I just wanted to have a date to rely on.  The waiting business was for the birds.  When I hit 37 weeks, I told Chris that we could have this baby anytime now.  Every day, I said 'maybe today!'  Every morning, when I woke up, not in labor, I told Chris "not today!" I had the notion that I'd for sure go into labor at night, when it happened.  I'd sigh, and pull myself out of bed, achy and heavy with it all, pull on one of the myriad jersey maternity dresses I'd worn for months already, and head to work, heavy with the knowledge that it wouldn't be that day.

As I left work every evening, for weeks, co-workers said "see you tomorrow… or not!"  We all expected me to go into labor early, before my due date.  I was huge, massive even.  I was fully cooked and my indicator had popped.  But the little turkey taking up residence in my uterus was not ready to come out yet.

As the weeks wore on, I said, aloud and frequently, that I just wish I knew a day to expect him.  It would take out all the waiting and the frustration if I could plan on a date.

And of course, silly me, I did have a day, a time to rely on.  That day that my midwives and the internet  due date calculators had given me months before. The little guy inside had given me a time of arrival, and it was me that had chosen to ignore it.

August 8th.  My due date.



Around 9 PM on Thursday evening, August 7th, it seemed as though my water had broken.  I'll spare you the details, but it involved believing that things smelled of what the internets tell you amniotic fluid is reminiscent of (its sperm, people. sperm!), making Topher confirm that he thought so too, and a call to the midwives, who said, yes sounds like a leak in the water.  I was told to labor at home until the next morning and call by noon if things hadn't gotten started by then.

HA! "Labor" at home.  I slept like a baby Thursday night, had a contraction - just one - Friday morning, and called the midwives.  I was to head to the hospital at 3 PM - 18 hours after my water broke - to get checked out.

I spent Friday morning bouncing on my ball, posting my out of office message, and trying to keep my mind off of the lack of labor that was happening.   I called my mom and told her "today is the day! get here!"  She called my dad back from work and they set off on the road to join us.   Chris spent the time working on building a fence for our backyard

Two contractions later (hours apart, of course), we called our doula (and Peace Corps friend) Sam who joined us as we were heading to the hospital.

This is it! I thought.

This is it! We had texted family and friends.

This is it! The midwives told us based on what they knew.

I was looking at induction when I headed to the hospital Friday at 3:30 PM.  By 4:00 PM, I was looking at extreme disappointment when a little blue line not appearing confirmed that my water had indeed not broken.

All I wanted was to be alone in the moments after the triage nurse confirmed that we were not in labor.  I wanted to not cry and just be alone.  Chris could feel it and had the grace to avoid looking directly at me.  He took me and Sam to get doughnuts and they both politely let me put on a brave face.

To say I felt silly, dumb, all the adjectives you assign yourself when you make a mistake and get family and friends excited, is an understatement.  At the time, it felt like the worst case scenario: think I'm in labor, tell everyone, tell work, and then find out I was wrong! I didn't know my body at all, in fact!  To me, I had had the thing I wanted least to happen - I didn't know what labor was and I didn't know when it was really go time.

And, of course, that's when real labor began.

---

Friday evening found me in the shower, not crying over not spilled amniotic fluid, and it came swooping over me.  A contraction! It felt ever so intense (ha!).  And then another one, as I lay in bed, wrapped in my towel, not feeling sorry for myself at all.

And just as my parents pulled up, not disappointed that today wasn't the day, they hit their stride.  Contractions every 7-10 minutes.  I labored, laughing, smiling, in deep excitement that I may have actually gone into labor as soon as I gave up hope that it would happen.

The contractions continued through dinner, through a walk around the neighborhood, and through the night.  We said goodbye to doula Sam around 9 PM, and she reminded me that labor could pick up or slow down during the night - don't stress about it, she said!  I was full of excitement, tempered with the reminder of false labor earlier that day.

That night was a night of crazy vivid dreams.  I woke up regularly, pulled out of sleep where I was suddenly doing something very painful, only to realize I was in the middle of a contraction.  And contractions lying on your side? They suck.

Very early Saturday morning, I woke up.  I knew.  This could make or break labor. I just knew it and I knew I could make it happen.  So I took a shower. And that sure did speed things up!  I downloaded a contraction timer and spent the next hour popping my hand out of the shower to start the timer, and stop it, start it and stop it.  Every three minutes!  I took labor to the bouncy ball and that's where Chris found me when he woke up a few hours later.

Chris meant to spend that Saturday continuing to build the fence in our backyard with his uncle John.  As contractions continued, and didn't stop, he forfeited those plans.  We ate breakfast with my parents, I labored through contractions that started to come every 5-7 minutes.  We called Sam again and she suggested a good long walk.  Walk I did, for a good 45 minutes.  Very slowly, though, so it was really only just over a mile.  And those darn contractions stalled! One good one as I started, and two cheapo ones as I walked on.

Sweaty and smiling, I decided it was time for another shower.  Chris joined me upstairs and I asked him to be on standby to time the contractions as I showered.  And this is where it got exciting, folks! Contractions got harder and came faster.  Every 3-4 minutes they took over my focus and I began to moan through them a bit.  It was glorious.  I wanted to sit in the shower, so Chris dragged a makeshift chair into the shower (a cooler! on its side, with a towel draped over it) and I began a rhythm.  Rock back and forth, standing, with the shower hitting my front.  Sit, just on the edge.  Stand, bent over the 'chair.'  And, smack, contraction!

I was exhilarated.  It felt like I was bringing them on, coaxing them forth, encouraging my body forward.  It got more painful and I was so gratified.  I sank deeply into the pain and I welcomed it.  I was so grateful to be in labor, and really in labor.  I had been begging my body to cause me some pain and it finally was and I knew it was good and true and exactly what it was made to do.

Which is exactly how labor felt.  As if I, my body, my mind, was doing precisely what it was designed to do.  It felt so right, and so good.  Yes, it was painful and yes, in the middle of a contraction, I felt nothing but a desire to get through to the other side.  But the pain, the desire to get through it, was a feeling of wanting to help my body do its good work - sway and moan through another, more intense contraction and we're one step closer.  Closer to birth and closer to meeting our child.

For once, I wasn't in my head - I was in and of my body.

I sank and I sank and I sank, deeper into labor and I loved it.

Sam arrived and I had a stall.  Laboring, essentially naked, in front of someone other than my spouse? Scary.  Pink tiger stripes, exposed for all to see! I'm moaning, like those women in the movies, and I feel silly! All the thoughts swirled and my head starting taking over.  Two hours of 3-4 minute spaced contractions stopped as the minutes ticked by…11 minutes before the next one.  Then 7.  And then I asked to be alone, to refocus and center.

And it worked.  I left my head again, and got back into the rhythm.  They grew farther apart, but longer and much more intense.  No speaking through them now, not at all.  I was so glad Chris had convinced me to ask my parents to get me the food I had wanted most - a smoothie. I had sucked it down while in the shower, and the sugar was coursing through my veins, powering me on.  When we called the midwife around 2 PM, I knew we would be doing this today.  I think we all knew - Chris, Sam, my parents.    Not an hour later, my labor partners made the decision we were going in.  It was hospital time.

And then, it became super painful and super fast.  Pain, not starting down low and moving up, and around.  No, now it was pain, shooting in my lower back.  As if someone was smacking my in the back with a 2x4 again and again, ceaselessly.  And five of these kind of contractions in the car, during the fifteen minute drive to the hospital.  And two while walking to the elevator.  And two while signing in in the maternity ward.

That second one, after I signed all the forms (those same forms I had signed excitedly the day before, sure this was it!), hit me and overwhelmed me and tears came and I lost my focus.  I couldn't find a low moan, I could only gasp.  I was scared, suddenly. So many people staring at me.  And the pain! In my back! Make it stop!

Two more again as we entered triage to be checked and suddenly I let myself think it - what if I wasn't even a 5? All this laboring and now this crazy back pain - what if I still had so far to go?  I had only wanted to labor at home as long as possible and show up at the hospital deeply in labor.  What if my pain threshold wasn't going to bear it?

And then another contraction on the table but I was a 6! A 6!  We all cheered, even the nurse.  The relief was palpable and we all admitted we had been thinking the same thing - let me be at least a 5.  

This was it - actually it.  Really in labor.  And still, my water had not broken.



I was officially admitted around 4 PM.  I had asked the sweet triage nurse - Peggy - if there were any birthing rooms with the big windows and she found us the perfect room.  The exact room Chris and I had seen when we toured the maternity wing the weekend of our birthing class.  It felt right.  And the excitement took over again, and those back contractions had nothing on me.  I knew I could do it.


As I paced that birthing room, bending over the bed and swaying my hips as Chris and Sam applied counter pressure to my back, I relished that I was there, in the room where I would give birth.  During one break between contractions, I walked away from the windows to a counter in the room.  A counter where a plastic bag with hospital bracelets had been placed.  And there, next to my name and date of birth, was a handwritten note.  Three bracelets, all with the word 'male' written next to my stats.  And that's when I found it out that it was sweet William who was pushing his way into this world.

A little boy.  That moment was an eternity, and then I turned around.

I weathered a contraction and Sam and Chris watched my face.  The pain was lessened by the new knowledge and as I came out of the crescendo of pain, I told Chris I knew a secret.  I didn't want to ruin his surprise, but I didn't want to lie to him.  Aloud, Sam guessed I had found out the sex.  Slowly, I told Chris to walk over to the counter to see what I had seen.  And then he knew, and there were tears in his eyes and we just looked quietly at each other, until another contraction pulsed through my back and we continued progressing through labor.  Full of the knowledge that deep down, we had both known it was a little man that would make us a family of three.

...

Sam had been reminding me throughout labor that the intensity increases slowly but surely, to allow my mind to handle the step up in pain.  Just as each level of pain felt manageable, the intensity increased.  But it was ok because I began to know that that new level would soon become manageable too.  I had gone into labor wanting to do it naturally, but knowing that if the pain became too much and began to inhibit progress, I would calm myself however I needed to keep it moving.  Pain blocking drugs included.  I'd hoped I wouldn't need them but I wasn't expecting myself to be a hero if it got to be too much.

And, of course, suddenly it just stopped being ok.  Instantly, the pain was NOT manageable at all.  I was done.  Not two hours later and I couldn't do it any longer.  I needed to vomit! No, I didn't.  I needed the pain in my back to stop, stop, stop.  I looked right into Sam's eyes, crying and told her I couldn't do it.  I took a few steps, and I felt it. I felt William slip down, lower.

This is it! I said. And I meant it this time.  I felt as though I needed to poop a bowling ball.  Just what nurse Peggy had told me I would feel when it was time. Time to push!

There was a flurry of activity and suddenly I was back to that place of fear.  I wasn't ready for this.  I had barely labored at the hospital at all!  We hadn't walked the halls, I'd had no ice chips.  I wanted to pee.  My midwife told me I could do some practice pushes while in the bathroom, as it was a good position.  But I didn't want to.  I wasn't ready!

I began to lose my breathing, to lose focus.  The midwife, changed and ready for delivery saw it and just took me in her arms.  Held me tight and told me, no nonsense like, this was it and I could do it. I didn't quite believe her, but I did gather some calm.   And then I was on the table, eyes clasped shut, tightly closed.  I labored bent backward over the elevated hospital bed but it wasn't working.  I turned on my side, and tried so hard to find the reservoir of strength to push and push and be done.

There were a good number of people in the room as I pushed, but I heard two voices above the rest - one very clearly and the other through a haze.  Chris', right in front of me, clear as a bell, encouraging and pushing me on.  My midwife's, at my feet, helping me to know where to push, no nonsense telling me exactly what to do and how to do it.

Pushing, man, it did me in.  If I labored like a champ, I pushed like a total loser.  I mean, I did it, I pushed him out, but dang, if it wasn't the hardest thing I've ever physically done.  I just did not believe I could do it.  I couldn't muster the strength to push the way I was supposed to, chin up, breathing out, all energy and focus on pushing.  I screamed, man, even though it took energy away from pushing.  I breathed just to be able to survive and I did what I could to just get it done.

And when William finally emerged, the exhilaration was instantaneous.  I could do this for hours! I could run for miles! I could smile forever!  There is no feeling like it, and it was exactly what I thought it would be, and more.



The last part of William's birth is marked with some extraordinary bleeding, a placenta that did not want to detach and my midwife's hand going back up the way Will had just come out - three times! - to coax whatever remained out.  Happily, morphine and time have a way of erasing the memory of this pain and I can say that I'd do it all over again, in a heart beat.


...

When Will had to be taken off my chest so that I could be tended to, Chris took our son, wrapped up like a burrito.  He sat on the bench near the giant windows in our labor room, and spoke to Will, welcoming him to this world.  A few feet away, I chattered on in my drugged up state, watching their every move.  And William turned his little head toward me, toward my voice and we locked eyes.  His dark, dark eyes caught mine and we saw each other, two separate beings that had existed as one for so long.


"Oh, I love you, I love you so much" are the words Chris tells me were my first for our son.  And they are the ones that I repeat in my head, every day, over and over, as I hold him in my arms.  Being Will's mama is more than the best - it is it, the end.  A child is the corporeal manifestation of all the best things in life.

I love him, I love him so much.