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December 25, 2017

Birthing from Within

I’ve wanted to chronicle some of my childbirth preparation (I want this girl to know I was at least as diligent as I was with Addison!) and since I’m 39+ weeks now and showing some signs of early labor, it may be now or never!

One of my biggest desires was to take a Birthing from Within class this time around since that was the childbirth prep book that resonated with me most before. Although there weren’t any local options, I found a perfect fit with a one-day, 8-hour class in Costa Mesa with Your Birth Team. It was a fast weekend trip to Orange County so that my parents could watch Addison and feed us lots of good food!

Neal was a little nervous about feeling exposed and uncomfortable during the class but it was a credit to Megan and Marlee, our mentors, and the small class size that he felt fairly comfortable. He thought they asked good, incisive questions to help us think through our past experiences with birth (spoiler alert: it was traumatizing for Neal) and create realistic plans and expectations. To say I loved the class would be an understatement — I would have done a weekly version if I could have!

There’s lots of reasons I connect with the Birthing from Within philosophy. Probably most fundamental is that it is more of a philosophy than a “method” per se, in contrast to some other popular childbirth prep programs like Bradley, Lamaze, hypnobirthing, etc. Of all the guiding principles, several fit very well with my conceptions before giving birth the first time:

  • Childbirth is a profound rite of passage, not a medical event (even when medical care is part of the birth).
  • The essence of childbirth preparation is self-discovery, not assimilating obstetric information.
  • Parents deserve support for any birth option which might be right for them (whether it be drugs, cesarean, home birth, or bottle-feeding).

Some fit even better after that birth experience:

  • Pregnancy and birth outcome are influenced by a variety of factors, but can’t be controlled by planning.
  • Pain is an inevitable part of childbirth, yet much can be done to ease suffering.
  • Fathers and birth partners help best as birth guardians or loving partners, not as coaches; they also need support.

I never could get behind the concept of not using the term pain as some prep methods suggest (instead referring to “waves” or “pressure,” for example) but especially after my labor, parts of which could only be summed up in this way apparently: “pain to exceed all pain I have ever EVER experienced.” Neal was, of course, a fabulous labor support and “coach” in many ways, but it also took a huge toll. And now with his residual trauma on top of the regular stress of labor and delivery, we knew it was a big priority for him to feel supported during the labor, especially in finding a doula that he felt as comfortable with as he did with Melissa. (Coincidentally, our wonderful new doula is also Meliza.) The goal is for him to be able to take more breaks than he got the last time — since last time around, his first bathroom break in about 7ish hours was interrupted by a frantic hurry, hurry, the baby’s coming! The breaks are especially critical now that he’s working on getting over the flu.

In case you haven’t noticed from reading my blog, self-discovery is a big part of almost every process in my life, so pregnancy, labor, and delivery has been no different. One of the ways that Birthing from Within emphasizes this is through “birth art.” It’s chock full of prompts and suggestions to creatively express your innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, etc. Interestingly, however, this was the part of the book that I engaged with the least. I think I tried a couple of times to create some art through the exercises, but the best I can say is that it felt a little bit more “new agey” than comes naturally to me. I never really got anywhere with it. I suppose my self-discovery process is typically a little more cerebral in nature, trying to find words and assign some order to what is going on inside.

But in the classroom context, I really saw how powerful the birth art process could be. One of the other attendees broke down in full-on sobs when asked to explain what she had sketched. Her previous birth had clearly been traumatizing and she articulated that trying to draw something representative really helped her understand the depth of emotion still there. The contrast in the birth art that Neal and I each created really shows just how much can be communicated without words:

Birth art

In case you can’t tell, my imagery of birth (on the left) is about the peaceful, end result. Neal’s: not so much.

But I loved Neal’s piece so much that I began to use it as a coping technique, tracing the various colors with my finger or eyes, during my practice “ice contractions.” As I’m staring at it, I think about how things don’t have to be serene or peaceful to be beautiful. An apt reminder for childbirth.

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December 21, 2017

2018: Baby

It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper one-word theme for the new year. I seem to recall that for several years my first thought was Survive, which felt maybe a little too pessimistic to make it official. As I’ve been contemplating 2018 (still can’t believe we’re here now!), not surprisingly, Survive was also what came to my mind first. It’s definitely Neal’s mantra right now.

But as I was tossing and turning this morning, I realized that Baby is a much more fitting theme. Sure, there’s the obvious meaning: that we’ll have a literal baby again in the next week or so. But beyond that, I think there’s a lot of “verbing” to be done with this. I was reminded of this specifically when Addison had a (thankfully mild) flu last weekend. Neal banned me from sitting too close to her or cuddling her for fear I would catch it, but as I sat a distance away from her on the couch, she took my hand off my laptop and held it in hers. I was trying to wrap up my grading and final emails for the semester, but every time I took my hand back to my laptop, she grabbed it again in seconds. Finally, I acquiesced, put my work down, and just sat for the next couple of hours holding her hand while she watched inane cartoons. This simple moment was a clear reminder: even though I need her to be the big sister and helper, she will also need some babying through this transition.

2017 was a rough year for her in a lot of ways; enough that her pediatrician gave us a psychiatrist referral to have some assessments done. Those subsequent meetings with a social worker and therapist felt a little futile and disappointing, but the general consensus from them and the school personnel we’ve worked with has been that the amount of change she’s gone through in one year has perhaps just been a little more than even a gregarious, resilient 7-year-old can take gracefully. It’s certainly not rocket science to think that a new city, 3 different schools, 6 temporary siblings, a new full-time job that takes her dad away for the first time in her young life, and now a new baby is a lot to handle! So we need to baby Addison in 2018. Make sure she has one-on-one time with both of us. Respond to her bids for connection even if it means putting down the baby sometimes or cutting into time I’ve planned for work. Don’t expect too much of her. (Though as I’ve transferred a lot of chores solely to her over the last couple of months of the pregnancy, I can see that it will be difficult to strike the right balance. Some of you will not be surprised — *cough Elizabeth cough* — to hear that I can be a bit demanding.)

Beyond just surviving, Neal’s refrain right now is that this is going to be the hardest year of our life together. (He’s such an optimist!) His new job is often intense and we’re stressed financially . . . but if you know Neal, you know that it’s mostly about the sleep deprivation. That guy does not like to lose a minute of precious sleep, and babies are just the worst about that! I don’t know exactly what babying Neal will look like, but I’m sure it starts with accepting his preferred methods of unwinding even when they drive me crazy (like when I walk into our room and he’s playing two different games on his phone and computer simultaneously. What? WHY??!).

But at least he’s got some self-care and “escape” methods up his sleeve, which it became increasingly clear to me over the last year that I have still failed to adequately develop. I still love to read, but my books always end up being about parenting, education, politics, or economics. And when I sit down and pull up Netflix, I often gravitate toward depressing documentaries. So . . . not exactly escapist fare, or usually even relaxing.

On some level, what I first thought when I pondered babying myself is a bit absurdly basic: I have to eat. Regularly. I know this comes naturally to many, but when I’m tired, stressed, or trying to get some work finished, eating is the first thing to go . . . and I can easily let it go for 8, 9 hours at a time. I’ve never been a snacker, but I’ve also never been one to schedule mealtime into my routine (hence our woeful track record of forgetting to feed Addison lunch during her pre-school years). So while I may not be able to schedule lunch every day, I must eat.

With Neal working full-time, this will also be my first time going it alone with night-time infant care. (I actually did almost no nights at all with Addison per medical advice since I had been so sick for so long by the time she arrived.) So I’m trying to remind myself to sleep when the baby sleeps. I really hate napping; it just doesn’t work well with a long history of insomnia. But I couldn’t have survived this pregnancy without more naps than the rest of my entire adult life combined, and I think I will have to baby myself by continuing to nap regularly.

In some of the pregnancy books I’ve read this time around, they talk about cultures where there is a specifically defined period of “confinement” after you give birth. I’m planning to adopt one of the longer ones: 60 days. I’ll still have to jump right back into a new semester — and I actually have a higher credit load next semester than I have for the last year — but that’s in my pajamas from bed as usual! But beyond that and school pick-up (thankfully, Neal can still do most mornings because of his late start work schedule), I plan to stay pretty unscheduled. I’ve even declared myself on “maternity leave” from my calling at church — some people have laughed so that may not be a thing, but I’m babying myself by acknowledging up front how little I will feel like wrangling 7-year-olds for the next couple of months.

The one problem with the “confinement” idea is that even though I know I will want to stay mostly home-bound, isolation is definitely a risk factor for postpartum depression. I think we all anticipate that it will be an issue again (and maybe worse with Neal gone most days?), so I do wish I had been more proactive in making local friends. I do have some and thankfully, I’ve got my sister-in-law right around the corner but I still really miss the many close friends I had in our mountain town. I will have to persuade some of them to come visit! Luckily, I’ll have a cuddly baby to use as extra enticement . . .

Besides babying myself by eating, sleeping, and seeking help and social support (why do those three simple things sound like such a Herculean feat in my mind?), I want to focus as much as I can on the baby. My last baby! I need to set clear boundaries around my work time and hold her as much as humanly possible. I’m used to exceeding expectations at work and going the extra mile for my students, but this semester, I need to meet their needs but scale back and not go over my contracted hours as I sometimes do. Another Herculean feat of willpower for this workaholic!

Feel free to hold me accountable next year (and ask what I’ve eaten lately as my midwife does in almost every communication now) . . . it’s almost BABY time!

June 11, 2012

Hunger

Filed under: Adoption, Motherhood, Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 3:55 pm

I wrote this last Monday, but promptly forgot about it amidst the busy week.

Yesterday I held a just about two-month-old baby during Relief Society. I could hardly take my eyes off her, observing/remembering all the baby things babies do that Miss Addison most decidedly does not do. I forgot how charmed  I am by the little things: watching them gently suck pacifiers (something Addison never actually did — maybe that’s why I don’t remember how cute it is); seeing their lips break into momentary smiles; listening to them grunt, trying to get comfortable (or poop). My right arm felt dead afterward, but it was worth it.

Despite how much I enjoyed it, I realized this surprising fact: I’m not really baby hungry anymore. I still like them, I still want one, but there’s no ache there now. There’s a few newborns at church and I remember seeing the first one come to church in March, at just a few weeks old. His mom picked him up to shush him and I started crying. I just wanted to shush a baby so badly. And not someone else’s where I wasn’t quite sure how he wanted to be held, whether he wanted my shoulder or the crook of my arm. I wanted to shush a baby and know that I was the very best shush-er for that little one. But unless I’m mistaken, I think that was the last time I cried for a baby. And that aching hunger has been replaced by something calm and peaceful: my time will come again. Someday.

I’m surprised at how quickly and gently that ache went away. I thought it would hang on me, maybe drive me back into therapy (not that we could afford that right now). I credit it to God and Addison. She doesn’t let me hug her often or long, but one-and-a-half seconds turns out to be just enough to remind me that I have already been given an incredible gift. (And shenanigans like Saturday’s remind me that it won’t be the worst thing for Addison to be older when a sibling comes along, lest I have another child to manage while fishing her out of fountains.)

But despite the baby hunger dissipating, I still feel some sorrow about pregnancy and labor and delivery. This just doesn’t compute for Neal. In his mind, my pregnancy was 9 months of absolute hell and complete incapacitation. But when I protest with all the things I was able to do, I can only come up with finishing my stats class and going to church.  Being out of bed 7 hours a week for 7 months (fewer after the appendectomy) is not exactly a ringing endorsement for pregnancy. And don’t even get Neal started on the terror of labor.

I remember it all differently, of course. Not that it seems rosy, but it seems amazing, almost magical and so incredibly worthwhile. I still can’t believe that I, of the strange and never-ending health problems from infancy (when I was a baby my parents came into my room once to find me bleeding out my eyes) to now, carried and delivered a girl so robustly healthy that she is forced to run everywhere and sees the doctor only once per year! That is a miracle worth suffering for.

Even while I can think of many advantages to not having another pregnancy, when my mind starts to wander, I routinely picture myself with a big, round belly again. I don’t miss the rash, but I sure do miss that belly (and the little girl punching me from inside it). And when I think about never being part of another labor/delivery, I feel sad. I still read lots of birth stories, but it’s not the same as being there with a laboring women, or myself, watching the intense highs and lows unfold.

Is it weird that I don’t even think about having another biological child anymore, but I do still dream of being pregnant and (most of) what goes along with it?

May 9, 2012

Flashback: My thoughts on April 2

This morning I had a conversation with two of my good friends, a conversation about new babies and first children and postpartum depression. And then quite by accident, I stumbled on this post that I never published. I wrote it on 2 April 2010 (hence the very creative title I picked) when Addison was just about 6 weeks old. I’m not exactly sure why I never published it but I suspect that there was some element of not being completely ready to discuss how I was feeling. I know I did blog about some of my experiences with PPD, but I also know there were some things that I wanted to say but I just could not bring myself to do it. Revisiting those times through conversation with a few friends over the last several months has been surprisingly healing. I’ve told them things without fear or shame (and often with laughter) that I remember feeling so horrible about at the time. I just want to hug them and tell them that we’re good people and good mothers and in the whole scheme of our lives these difficult feelings will be so fleeting and inconsequential and no reflection on whom we really are and what we are capable of. And while I’m telling them all that, I want to tell myself too.

For a little over a week now, Addison has been smiling directly at us, in response to us.  I think this actually started much earlier, but Neal says I was deceived by motherly-wishful thinking (the more I think about it, the more I believe that “motherly-wishful thinking” may be a sort of mental condition — anyone know if it’s in the DSM?).

This new turn of events has made getting her in the morning my favorite part of the day.  She will be rooting around, flailing her arms, making little frustrated squeaks, still partially asleep.  As I walk in the room and start speaking, she calms down a bit and starts to tentatively open her eyes.  By the time I’m in front of her swing looking at her, she has her eyes open and breaks into a smile.  She doesn’t stare at me for long because she still wants to make it clear that she is hungry, but she is very sweet and smiley in the first few moments of her day.

I have yet to get a picture of her wide eyed and smiling, simply because it is so adorable, I can’t pull myself away long enough to get the camera.

***

Speaking of beautiful moments, I used to have so many sacred thoughts and feelings about this baby girl while I was pregnant.  Impressions about her character and personality, about our pre-existing relationship, and my role as her mother.  So it’s been interesting that since she was born those have been fewer and farther between.  There is something so in-the-moment about being with a child.  When they need something, they need it now.  When they are unhappy, they want to be soothed now.  It doesn’t leave me with the kind of contemplative time to which I am so accustomed from years of bedrest and ill health.

Couple this lack of time with exhaustion and add in more mixed feelings than I could have foreseen, and this has been an interesting experiment thus far.  A lot of people talked to me about how hard the first while would be and about postpartum depression and baby blues, but I don’t remember people talking about the mixed feelings.  How you would never go back to life before her, but you will also grieve for the things that you must leave behind.

Why can we not acknowledge that we are losing things too?  Things we would want to grieve.

“Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.” [From this Joni Mitchell song I love.]

April 24, 2012

A new story of my life, part II

Click here for part I.

I usually don’t write about something until I’ve mentally determined its structure, figured out some semblance of a beginning, middle, and end.  But this new story is so full of different threads, and so far from its end, that I am still only guessing at what its “parts” might be.  But I think the next part is about my miscarriage in December 2008.

When I think about it now, I get a good chuckle from the way I suddenly became a computer-game-playing, Reality-Steve-reading Bachelor junkie.  But at the same time, I cannot downplay the fact that I was in a pretty deep depression for many months.  I had wanted to start trying for a baby as soon as we got married — my “biological clock,” which only started gently ticking around 25, was clanging by 27 — but I was still in the middle of a string of neck surgeries, and the two situations were mutually exclusive.  I think I always had a sense that I was in a race against time . . . my health was probably not going to get better with age, so I needed to get some babies here as soon as possible.  I was hoping for at least 3, maybe 4.  I think the thing that surprised me the most when I did miscarry was how fiercely I was grieving for that baby, the one that I had never actually seen or held or heard.  It wasn’t about setting my timetable back, or running out of time, or wondering if I was capable of having a healthy pregnancy.  I just wanted my baby that I already felt this undeniable connection to.

Oh, that longing was fierce and persistent — even during my pregnancy with Addison.  How I finally moved past that feeling is really just a side-note to this broader story I’m trying to tell, but since I’ve never recorded it, this seems as good a time as any.  The turning point for me came in October 2009 when I was discussing labor and delivery techniques with my friend Kjell.  She said, kind of off-handedly with no particular gravity, “Do you think this baby is the same one you miscarried?”  Perhaps I said maybe or I don’t know or I’m not sure.  Of course, the thought had occurred to me as I contemplated many questions related to perinatal loss.  But for some reason that day in early October, the suggestion struck me in a different way.  Neal had felt that our first baby was a girl.  And we had just found out definitively that we were now expecting a girl, and so I just let that possibility sit with me.  Maybe this new baby girl is the same spirit, coming to a body that can sustain her life in a way the first one could not.  Now, I should make it clear that I didn’t know if that was the case, and I still don’t; but there was enough comfort there that I was finally able to let go of that baby I had tried so hard to hold on to.  So thanks for that, Kjell (I don’t think I’ve ever told you that).

But let’s back up a few months, back to the central story.  After six months of heavy grieving and depression, I was finally ready to try for another baby.  It didn’t take too long to get pregnant, but things weren’t looking too good from the start.  By eight weeks along, I had already been to urgent care and a doctor and my midwife, trying to figure out if the problems I was having were pregnancy-related or just coincidental new health problems.  Just before we took off on our blockbuster summer vacation in July, our midwife told us to prepare for the worst.  We mostly tried to relax and have fun on our trip, but we also made the decision that if this pregnancy didn’t take, we would shift our focus to adoption.  The midwife had told us that she thought I was capable of delivering a healthy child, but that it might take three or four miscarriages to get there.  And when you’re still in the middle of grieving a miscarriage that happened eight months before, you just know you can’t do that three more times.

Needless to say, our adoption talk subsided when I didn’t miscarry and Addison turned out to be a miraculous fighter.  We had our hands full trying to manage the pregnancy, and then a newborn, and then postpartum depression — adoption was no longer on the radar.  I can hardly pin down when the shift in our discourse came about, but eventually we were questioning whether adoption would ever be a good idea for us.  The new conventional wisdom was this: if I had such a difficult time accepting the loss of a baby that had only barely been present, how would I handle losing a baby or child I had held and rocked and soothed?  (Something that does not always happen in adoption, but is common enough that it must be considered.)  We would talk over different types of adoption (I had a decent amount of foundational knowledge from my work at CORE and the fact that I have four adopted cousins) and weigh the possibilities, but it was starting to sink in how emotionally difficult that path might be, and whether I was capable of dealing with it.  Combine that questioning and self-doubt with my still-clanging biological clock, and I became convinced that we should shoot for another biological child.  I felt that it could work out, that the pregnancy wasn’t as bad as Neal remembered, that maybe we could ask for another little miracle and get it.  In short, I bargained.

It’s actually interesting for me to go back and read my bargaining and acceptance posts because I can see just how dichotomous my thinking was only three short months ago: have another biological child or have only one child.  The idea that I wasn’t cut out for adoption, that I couldn’t endure its risks with strength or sanity had become so firmly rooted.  Which is why it was nothing short of miraculous when just a week later, I had this little glimpse of the future and I knew that we would be adoptive parents.

I will have to get stronger before that time comes.  Learn a lot more about the process.  Assess our parental capabilities.  Create an income stream.  Shed some emotional baggage.  Start getting out of bed again (not depressed, just still in a tough place health-wise).  But there’s a child or two coming our way (maybe already born) — I’m certain of it.

March 19, 2012

Recent and random

I think I’m still in the “just can’t face it” funk.  Still overwhelmingly fatigued, still fighting some sinus issues, still totally unmotivated to do anything.  I managed to prepare and teach my Relief Society lesson for yesterday, but beyond that, I have done nothing productive since I returned from my trip.  And by nothing, I mean, I have not even unpacked my bags in the past eight days.  Oy, it’s a mess around here!

It’s really disappointing to me — I stayed so healthy on my trip, despite interacting with mildly-sick people right and left, that I was feeling really optimistic about just-me-and-Addison travel.  But if I lose a couple of weeks on the end of every trip, is it really worth it?  Not that I’m giving up altogether, but it’s been a little disheartening.

***

Despite that, I’ve read and watched some interesting things lately.  Here are a few in no particular order:

This TED talk by Jonathan Haidt was quite interesting (though a bit repetitive), going in some entirely different directions than I was expecting.  But for some strange reason, I was particularly captivated by the way he used his hands and how elegant his wedding ring looked.  It made me think I should get Neal a wedding ring, you think?

***

A couple of my friends linked to this lovely letter John Steinbeck sent to his son.  I thought about excerpting part, but there were just so many little gems that I couldn’t choose.  Just go read it!  It reminded me of the first time I fell in love with Steinbeck’s writing, reading the truly stunning East of Eden.

***

Speaking of fiction, this article on the neuroscience of reading fiction really caught my attention.  Even though I am mostly a nonfiction reader and have been since childhood, I really believe in the power of novels and the like.  Sometimes I’ve felt that a fictional account captures a truth about humanity in a more perfect way than any nonfiction version could.  So I was not surprised to read that some studies find that “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.”

***

This Salon article from an ex-con/college professor was obviously right up my alley.  In the opening paragraphs, she references people who were locked up for minor offenses (like possession of marijuana) and had their lives forever altered by incarceration.  This is all too familiar because it is the tragic story of one of the first men I met in D.C. Jail.  I’m going to tell you Oliver’s story some day soon (I’ve started writing it many times) but it’s taking me time since he is still the person I have cried for most in my life.

***

It turns out if I do only have one biological child (which is looking likely), I had her at exactly the right age!  Apparently, 30 is the statistically ideal age for having a child that is “less frail, less obese, taller, and [has] better self-reported health later on in life.”  (I’m not sure what happened with the height, but the healthy-as-a-horse part definitely bears out so far.)

Thanks to Rachel and her getting-a-PhD-in-demography husband Stephen for the info!

January 8, 2012

What I’ve been reading lately . . .

Besides Getting Things Done.

CBS doesn’t know Ron Paul is running for president?

My good friend and former roommate Jenn Morrill writes about politics and Ron Paul for the Examiner.  If you think I follow politics closely, meet Jenn, who makes me look like a casual observer at best.  Even though we don’t share all the same political views, I love reading her articles because her passion for and dedication to her values are so evident.  Her articles have also sensitized me to issues I haven’t always recognized.  For example, Ron Paul and the media.  Whenever supporters of a particular candidate start to talk about unfair media treatment, I am a bit skeptical — I mean, every ardent supporter thinks their candidate is getting the short end of the stick, right?  But over the last several weeks, I have begun to think that Ron Paul supporters are right.  Following the Iowa caucus this week I read two articles in major media outlets that failed to mention Ron Paul at all.  Seriously?  How does that happen when he was only about three percentage points below the first place finisher?

2011 Lesson #2: Don’t Carpe Diem

One of Neal’s friends (only on facebook, of course, in real life I am his only friend) posted this and he sent it to me, and I like it.  I think most of it represents the way I experience motherhood.  As my parents so often remind me, for most of my life I swore I would never have kids, only monkeys (that I would obviously dress in diapers).  And I can see why I felt that way.  Because parenting is tough.  And if a certain biological clock hadn’t started ticking in a crazy-loud, undeniable way, I could see myself still doing other good in the world sans Addison.  Truthfully,  many days I want to do those other things I used to do in the world because they were far less tiring and never-ending.  Sure, I often worked 12-hour days at various non-profit organizations, but I got to SIT all. day. long.  And when I opened a snack, no little hands took it away.  Or deleted the text I was writing.  So luxurious.

The point is, I don’t hate when people say, “Enjoy every minute.”  Or tell me that they enjoy every minute of parenthood.  Probably because I think it’s not really true (but also because, hey, good for them if they do!).  But I’m comfortable with the fact that it’s not like that for me.  I don’t call them “Kairos moments,” but that’s what I look forward to — moments when I’m a little bit awestruck that I get to know and love Addison every day.  Some days I think of her as my baby, but more often now I think that she is just an incredible human being, already so full of good intentions (but still needing a little guidance about the social unacceptability of nose-picking).  I am grateful that I get to spend these days the way I do, but I’m not giddy about it from moment to moment.  It’s just too exhausting to make me giddy.

Erin Caroline’s Birth Story

I love birth stories.  I’ll never have a birth story like this, but I might if life always worked out just exactly how we would like (although I’d still want my doula there; she was so fantastic!).

December 3, 2010

Two legacies of pregnancy

Filed under: Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , — llcall @ 7:54 am

(Besides the baby, of course.)

1. I never want to go back to my pre-pregnancy jeans.  It turns out, I love maternity pants!  (Naturally, Neal is thrilled about this.)

2. Every time I have an itch, no matter how minor, something in the back of my mind says, “Crap!  You better not be pregnant!”

I confess I saw the maternity pants thing coming from a mile away, but I don’t think anyone assumes that itching is going to be their key pregnancy symptom (if you don’t know the back story to this and want to, you can basically catch up with these three posts).

 

June 14, 2010

My labor project

Filed under: Personal, Pregnancy — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 6:00 pm

I mentioned before that one of the strategies from Birthing from Within that I really loved was the labor project.  The idea is to plan a project to pass the time during early labor so that you do not obsess over every contraction.  While most of the examples revolved around cooking (like making a birthday cake for your new baby, which sounded awesome until I realized that they meant I would be doing the baking), I knew immediately that I would use this as an opportunity to do some sewing.  Obviously, I went with practical over fun, but it was still enjoyable.

Washable nursing pads

Cloth diapers

(the reason I was so desperate for ball-point needles)

I also started to hem Neal’s new pants, but it turns out that 9-months pregnant + contractions + getting on the floor to measure do not mix!

April 29, 2010

Final reflections on my birth experience

And by final, I mean constantly evolving . . .

  • Neal was INCREDIBLE.  A couple weeks later, he told me how even after going through childbirth once, he doesn’t think it would be any less nerve-wracking the second time; that it freaked him out; that it was so hard to see me in more pain than he had ever, ever seen before; that if we ever do this again, part of him wishes that I would just choose to get an epidural as soon as possible so that we could just relax together, watch movies while we wait; that he ultimately felt a little bit guilty that he kept encouraging me and didn’t tell me to get an epidural sooner, as if he prolonged my pain . . . and a million other complex reactions.  But, you know, that day and night, he was so present for me that I honestly didn’t even feel like he was nervous.  I guess it is a true testament to how much he rose above his own fears and emotions because I kind of didn’t realize he had any in the moment.  He never showed it.
  • Although Neal never actually read one of the scripts that we had practiced during labor, and in fact, it seemed at the time like it would have been an incredibly odd thing to do, they helped us enormously.  We had practiced so much that literally when Neal or Melissa or Krisell told me to relax, it triggered a chain reaction where I would go through my face, shoulders, neck, arms, legs, and just relax everything.  Melissa said that it was obvious to her from the first few minutes that we had practiced a lot because of how quickly I could respond to the suggestion to relax.  Who knew relaxing could be such a learned behavior?  I should have started learning it years ago!
  • This is one of my most vivid memories of the whole experience: when the anesthesiologist came in to give me that epidural, they made Melissa and Krisell sit down on the couch.  Only Neal could stay with me to help me get through the contractions.  I think everyone was a little nervous about what would happen because I was not really able to control my body through the aforementioned pushing/spasms.  So Neal had the job of trying to get me to stay completely still while the doctor inserted the needle.  Neal was standing right in front of me, his face just inches away from mine.  He kept telling me to look at his eyes.  Every time I looked away or closed my eyes, he would tell me to open them and keep staring into his eyes.  Out of the corner of my eye I could still see Melissa and Krisell, and I could hear Melissa quietly telling Krisell to watch what a great job Neal was doing, how he was keeping me focused so that I would stay still.  I can’t imagine anyone being a better birth coach than my Neal was.
  • I think there are two things that I’m most proud of about how I handled things: first, I never (not once) got short or snappy with Neal.  This was one of my fears because although Neal had read all the books reminding him not to take comments from a laboring woman personally, there is literally nothing that shuts Neal down faster than a harsh tone or phrase.  He just kind of withdraws when addressed in that way.  Second, I stayed focused and worked hard the whole time.  I think in the end I just felt really prepared because of the process that we went through.  When Heather dropped the c-section possibility, I was not really phased even though that had initially been one of my biggest fears.  I think we were as ready as we could be for any direction that things could take.
  • In case anyone is in doubt, I am very pro-doula!  We paid $440 for childbirth classes and the labor/delivery with Melissa ($350-400 is typical for a doula in this area), and feel like it was worth. every. penny.  I remember at one point when Heather was recommending an intervention that I did not want, I turned to Melissa and asked, “Remind me why we didn’t want to do that . . .”  There was just no way that I could keep everything in my head at a time like that; thank goodness Melissa could talk us through each decision point.  Not only was she great during the actual process, she called to check up on me multiple times postpartum to make sure my depression was under control, I was feeling okay about the delivery, breastfeeding was established, etc.  It was wonderful to have such an understanding and experienced person available to me to talk through things before, during, and after such a huge event.
  • Right after I received the epidural, Melissa said something really funny.  She said, “You know, you went through every part of labor unmedicated: active, transition, pushing, and everything else.  It just doesn’t work as well when you do it out of order.”  I guess I’m just really glad that even after some of the most challenging hours of my life, my sense of humor was in tact and there was a fairly light mood in the room.
  • In one of our follow-up phone calls, Melissa told me that she wouldn’t even really count it as me having an epidural.  She said that no one has an epidural for like one hour and then delivers their baby.  And from the way I was pushing it was clear that I was feeling things down there.  The great thing is that I honestly don’t care either way.  Even though the to-epidural-or-not-to-epidural is one of the key distinguishing factors between so-called natural childbirth or not, I knew that it wasn’t just all about that.  My preparation process was about so much more than that: wanting to be well-informed, to make good decisions, to stay calm, to stay kind.  Really, to try and exert some sense of control over a pregnancy that always seemed to be spinning just outside my control.  In the end, having the epidural was one of those good decisions.  And although it did cross my mind how much pain I went through when I could have had an epidural sooner (!), I know I would make the same choices again because some of the additional risks of the epidural were diminished by the brevity of it.
  • On my midwife Heather: I honestly don’t hold ill feelings toward her.  In fact, we had a nice chat a few days after the birth when I went in because of my bladder and uterine infections.  That encounter really underscored for me that 1) she must have been very tired during my delivery because her bedside manner was much better at the office visit and 2) she is a perfectly nice person with a very different birthing philosophy than I have.  Through a couple of different channels, I have since found out that she went to midwifery school about 10 years ago, but then spent her whole career working with obstetricians.  From the perspective of one midwife that went to school with her, she had a strong desire to be accepted within the OBGYN community and consequently, changed her mind about a lot of common elements of midwifery practice.  In particular, she gets annoyed by “birth plans,” especially birth plans like mine, no doubt.  We also learned that the other midwives at the clinic would have allowed me to get in the tub or shower, so she wasn’t being completely honest about the back-up doctor forbidding it.  There are a few other things, but in the end, it all just underscores for me the importance of knowing everyone at a particular clinic or practice that could possibly deliver your baby.  I’m just a little sorry that Sarah (who I loved) was replaced with her just a few weeks before my delivery.
  • I really wish I had a picture of the way Neal transformed our living room into my own personal laboring room (but I was a little busy at the time ;)).  It was so cute.  Picture a shower curtain spread out on the floor.  Towels on top of that.  Then the birthing ball.  Another towel draped over the top.  Nearby, the crockpot with warm washcloths.  A couple of water bottles within arms reach of the ball.  Our birthing materials on the coffee table.  He tried to think of everything for my comfort (and the cleanliness of the carpet :)).  I’ll always remember that.
  • Probably the best pregnancy/delivery/baby decision we made was having Neal take a very light load during Winter semester.  This gave us a lot of extra time together to prepare and practice for the labor, as well as lots of help for me afterward.  We have a comparatively easy baby (I am well aware of this!) and I feel like I barely survived having a newborn.  I have no idea where I would be if I didn’t have a true partner, in things big and small, in Neal.

And also, don’t you just love rainbow colors?!

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