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Birth and Re-Birth

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never.
A mother is something absolutely new.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

There’s a lot of pressure on American women these days to “go back” after having their babies. Back to work. Back to their pre-pregnancy weight. Back to “normal.”

What a lot of people don’t seem to see is that there is no “going back.” I didn’t really see it myself until I was on the “motherhood” side of the divide. I can start working again and I can lose the weight I gained during pregnancy, but I can’t “go back” to who and what I was before giving birth because that person and that place just don’t exist anymore. “Reclaim your body!” the doctor said at my six-week postpartum checkup. What he should have said was, “Claim your new body!” Yes I’ve lost the majority of the weight I gained, but my hips and spine will never be the same (curse you, back labor!), and my core muscles are all out of shape from being stretched by growing baby. Things I could do a year ago, I can’t do now.

And on the flip side, things I couldn’t do a year ago, I can do now (thanks, relaxin!). So while my yoga muscles are out of shape, my yoga joints are bendy in all new ways. I can survive on slightly less sleep. I’m getting the hang of what we call “winging it.” I’m getting the hang of the thing called “patience.”

River gasped the first time she really saw a tree. I could tell she was truly seeing it, not just registering it visually, from the look on her face and the gurgle-ah sound she made. She made the same sound at the tree that she makes when she gets ready to smile at mommy. Maybe I can get the hang of gasping at the sight of a tree, too.


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No power in the ‘Verse — River’s Birth Story, Pt 2

June 22, 2013
11 AM: This is where I start to lose all sense of the passage of time. There, in Labor 1, kneeling on a rolled-up yoga mat at the edge of the bed, answering questions about allergies and family history. I know that it was about 11 o’clock because that’s the time printed on the blood-draw wristband I would wear for the next three and a half days. The room has no windows, and the clock on the wall is hidden behind things (and I couldn’t see it if I wanted to anyway). The L&D nurse tried to place an IV lock in my left hand, but I think she missed the vein and hit a nerve because the pain of the IV needle is worse than the contractions. She doesn’t believe me and keeps telling me that no IV should be a 10 on the pain scale, much less worse than contractions. I started to panic because the pain in my hand was distracting me from concentrating on the contractions, and I wanted to focus on what I was there to do — labor! So the nurse had to recruit the obstetric anesthesiologist to come place the next one IV, and it took her another 4 attempts, including one blown vein (the bruise just cleared up in the last two or three days). Mentally I congratulated myself on having decided well in advance to avoid an epidural, because this woman can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn, much less a vein.

The OB came by occasionally to see how I’m progressing, and it’s a centimeter or two at a time. Slow and steady wins the race…?

At some point in the afternoon, around 6 or 7 cm, crazed by a lack of sleep, we made the decision to administer a mild painkiller just so I could rest for a while. It wouldn’t affect River for more than a few hours, but I did have to remain hooked up to fetal monitors until she showed signs of being awake after it cleared our combined systems. I went in and out of a serene doze, not really sleeping, and at some point — the middle of the night, I think — I knew my water broke. I could feel it being on the verge of breaking, and swam up out of the sea of serenity long enough to talk to Jim. I woke up my labor team and they helped me back in to the soothing hot shower, then back to bed, where I waited patiently in a daze for River to wake up too.

June 23, 2013
Probably between 5 and 6 AM: The on-call OB was going to go off his 24-hour shift in the next hour or so, and came by to see how we’re progressing and ask how we’d like to proceed. I’m 9.5 cm but — what the heck?!? — he insisted my water had not broken. I’m pretty sure I didn’t hallucinate the sensation of my water breaking overnight, so the news my water didn’t break made me a little hysterical. It’s too late to administer pain medication per se, but they could give me Benadryl and break water artificially. I wanted to crawl back in the shower again, and we all expected we’ll see the OB again in an hour or so before he goes off shift, so we asked for half an hour to clear my head and talk. But we decided quickly that breaking the water was the best thing to do at this point. I couldn’t believe it hadn’t broken already, because the contractions got noticeably stronger after what I thought was my water breaking overnight.

Sometime around 9 or 10 AM maybe?: We got a new nurse, and apparently the news that I wanted my water broken a few hours ago was never fully realized by the medical staff, because we had been left alone since the OB left earlier in the morning. Whatever, I told myself, Miscommunication sucks but I’m not going to dwell on it. Let’s do it now! The new nurse, who turned out to be a fabulous asset, and the new OB broke the water bag and that sensation convinced me that yes, my water did already break overnight, but I can’t dwell on what did or didn’t happen and make a mental note to ask about it when I’m fully lucid again.

The next two or three hours…: Nurse Patti worked some magic on the hospital bed and transformed it in to a stepped-level surface for resting and reclining and also for squatting using a birth bar that she installed at the end of the bed — almost not in time, because she was still scrambling to latch it when I really wanted to push. And as it turns out, River is facing the wrong direction, with the soft part of her head against my cervix and the hard part against my spine, which explains in retrospect the painfully slow labor and the intensity of the contractions, and the coupling contractions, and the fact that my contractions never came around the front as I’d been led to expect, but stubbornly remained in my lower back and hip bones. I concentrate on the encouragement coming from my support team, while a rational corner of my mind observes the proceedings. I’m convinced that the nurse is telling me I’m doing a great job because that’s her job, whether or not I’m really doing so great, so I put more weight on the things my husband and friend are telling me. I’m completely aware of the OB standing there impassively for a while, not speaking, just watching silently, and I am quite aware that I regularly give her a vicious look (made more absurd, in retrospect, by the fact that my glasses were off and in order to see her clearly at the foot of the bed, I had to squint), waiting for her to say SOMETHING positive. I was depending on her for an idea of how well things were really going, and the state of River’s health, so I needed to see some encouraging sign from her as well. At some point she says something positive, and my friend stage-whispers, “She’s been waiting for you to say that.” I’m aware of Nurse Patti massaging me to make way for River’s head; I’m aware of a second nurse, Nurse Kara, coming in with the blanket warmer, scale, and hospital bassinet to wait for baby; Jim’s commenting on her dark hair, Patti is already comparing her nose to mine; Kara is cheering from the sidelines and telling me how strong I am (the rational part wonders if she means physically or spiritually? I never find out). Patti tells me not to retreat from the pain that is about to come because it’s going to be more intense than the pain I’ve been having (the rational part exalts to know I’m so close to the finish line, and also says Why would I retreat from what I am well aware is the very last pain I’m going to feel?!). And then…

12:43 PM: River is suddenly laying on my chest, and we’re being wrapped in blankets fresh and hot from the blanket warmer, and Jim is moving off to cut the umbilical cord and all I can say is, “Hi! Hi! You’re here! Hi!” because after 34 hours of work, it’s a bit stunning to have her on the outside, where I can see and touch and HEAR her, instead of inside, where she is a total mystery. Someone calls out, “Time! Time!” and someone responds “12:43!” and I want to ask — AM? PM? Sunday? Monday? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT DAY IS IT?! And yes, the pain completely disappears when she slides free and in to the world. Like someone threw a switch, poof.

Over the next couple of hours…: The nurse and OB finish removing the placenta, which is examined for tears or damage, and Kara discovers (I notice Jim is over there in a heartbeat examining it with her) that the typical double wall of the membrane is separated a bit, which explains why it felt like my water had broken, but then it hadn’t — a high leak somewhere along the membrane spilled amniotic fluid in between the double walls, creating a “fore-bag” that descended ahead of the main bag, FURTHER slowing the progress of labor. Double whammy — the soft part of River’s head and the double bag, double the slowed labor. Then they checked me for signs of damage, finding, to everyone’s surprise, none. We all suppose that the combined slow descent due to her bad position and the fore-bag, despite prolonging labor, gave all my parts a chance to adjust slowly and kept me from being torn or requiring a surgical cut. Whatever the cause, no stitches is a great relief to me. We make all the phone calls, send the emails, peek at Miss River caterwauling away on my chest under a pile of blankets, and eventually she leaves for a bath and evaluation in the nursery, and I get packed up to move to post partum.

The wheelchair they brought for me ended up being a baggage cart for all our things. As for me, I walked the length of Labor & Delivery to my room in post partum. Damn right I did. 🙂

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The only water in the forest — River’s Birth Story Pt 1

June 20, 2013: You could have knocked me over with a feather when I made it to my due date, much less when it looked like we were going to sail right past it. I was expecting her to come early, but in my mind I had always said, she’ll be here no later than June 23. Now, I wasn’t so sure…

June 21, 2013
11:15 AM: A well-baby ultrasound to make sure she’s happy to stay in there, that fluid levels are staying optimal, and that her vitals are good. She sleeps through the whole thing. And sleeps. And sleeps. The technician can’t get her to wake up enough to move around and show muscle tone! All the usual tricks — butt poking, elbow jiggling, getting mom to go to the bathroom and move around, rolling mom from side to side — and she sleeps through it all. The technician is pretty sure she’s facing out toward my stomach, which corroborates what I’ve been suspecting based on her recent movements, which feel like hands and knees distending my abdomen.

12:15 PM: A 40-week OB appointment. The ultrasound images are all good-looking, there’s plenty of fluid cushioning her (it starts to decrease after 38 or 39 weeks), her heart is showing no signs of stress. The doctor did an internal exam and exclaimed, “Why is this baby not here yet!?” I don’t know, doc — we’re asking the same question! At 2 cm dilation and ready to go, he’d expect a first-timer to be in full swing labor. The OB issues an eviction notice: If she has not appeared of her own volition by Thursday, June 27, I’m to be called in on Thursday evening around 7 to have labor induced, and she’ll be born on the 28th. The doctor is pretty sure she’s NOT facing my stomach, but is correctly positioned facing my spine.

1:49 PM: Fretting myself to pieces over the idea of having a heavily-medicated, induced labor, I RSVP to a friend’s housewarming for Saturday night in a fit of pique, and drag Jim to the mall to pick out a housewarming gift. And buy chocolate, because chocolate. I even make a comment on the Facebook event wall that the best way to encourage baby to arrive is to commit to attending the party!

June 22, 2013
2:30 AM: Woken up by waves of lower back pain. Squinting at the bedside clock in the dark — they’re coming about every 9 minutes. Refusing to be tricked by another round of 9-minute Braxton Hicks contractions, I roll over and try to sleep.

3:30 AM: Rhythmic back pain still keeping me up. 7 minutes apart.

4:00 AM: Now they’re 5 minutes apart. I prowl the downstairs a bit to see if they’ll stop. They don’t. I wake Jim up enough to tell him I think we’ve got to call the doctor in a few hours.

5:30 AM: Still prowling the house, checking email, and corresponding with my dad about the comet Hale-Bopp‘s passing in 1997. The subject came up because we were emailing about the Supermoon due on the twenty-third, and he mentioned he had to start brushing up on his astronomy from my childhood for another little girl he knew…

6:00 AM: Still 5 minutes apart, except sometimes, when a second contraction comes after only 2 1/2 or 3 minutes, and the only comfortable position is kneeling in the hot shower with water hitting the base of my spine. If this isn’t going to be the day, we’ve got to go in to the hospital anyway to see what’s going on. We’re committed to calling the doctor’s on-call line at 7 if the back pain doesn’t let up.

7:22 AM: Jim calls the OB on-call. A nurse calls us back and asks to talk to me. I’m expecting this — they usually make the mother talk for about 10 minutes, to assess her state of mind, breathing, and the intensity of contractions. If she can talk through them, it’s not time to go in yet. The entire phone call only lasts 4 minutes, and I am able to talk the whole time, even though I know I am speaking slowly and in broken phrases. The nurse says, “Well, it sounds like you might have something going on here, so if you want to come in you can, so do you want to come in now or see what happens in the next hour?” I say to her, “We’ll start leaving now, but it will take us an hour to get past the front door with this pain.” I spend the next hour instructing Jim on what I need to have done before we can leave. He finishes my packing and wraps the housewarming gift (and it looked very chic, I must say).

8:38 AM: We’re finally in the car. I have a mental laugh that it really did take an hour for us to get out the door. Jim tells me that true to what was suggested by our natural hospital birth book, it took me ten minutes to walk from the front door to the car. I start text messaging our support team to let them know we’re in action.

9 AM: We arrive at the hospital and an ER nurse wheels me to the 2nd floor birthing centre while Jim parks the car. I spend the time waiting for him to come back kneeling on the floor and leaning over the seat of a chair. After about 10 minutes, during which I swear I was surreptitiously being monitored by the reception nurse, the triage nurse — the same one we had when we had to visit at 30 weeks! — comes out, starts to call for me, then says, “I guess you are in labor!” I get as comfortable as possible in a triage room, roped to monitors, and as it turns out, my contractions aren’t exactly 5 minutes apart — they’re “coupling,” so there’s a big one every five minutes with a smaller one during the interim. You know how they tell you that false contractions are irregular, and real ones aren’t? THEY LIE. Real ones can be irregular too. After an hour or so the OB on call comes in to see how I’m doing, and he’s happy — we’re at 4 cm. We’re moved to a labor & delivery room and I spend the next hour or so kneeling on a rolled up yoga mat on the floor and draping myself over either the side of the bed, or a birthing ball.

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38 Weeks :: 2 Weeks

Nice things:

  • When a waitress doesn’t realize you’re 9 months pregnant if she only sees you from the back and from the mid-torso up, and the hilarity that follows.
  • 5 consecutive hours of sleep for the first time in a month.
  • Chocolate cake.

Not nice things:

  • Woodpeckers at quarter past 5 in the morning.
  • Being more tired after 5 consecutive hours of sleep than you are most nights when you only sleep in 90 minute increments — “baby sleep training” is when the baby trains you to not sleep continuously anymore, right??

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37 Weeks :: 3 Weeks

Full term! The doctor’s expert opinion this week is that I’ll probably be able to keep my appointment for next week. But then, he also said that the fact I was born 8 days early is good news for me, implying that he wouldn’t be surprised if the same might happen to us, now. Filing all these tidbits away in my head. Chances I will make it to my best friend’s birthday party next weekend? Pretty high. Chances I really will need to buy Jim an advance Father’s Day card to have “just in case”? Could also be pretty high. Playing the probabilities off of each other and trying to decide where to put my money, or in this case, effort.

I learned just this morning that all of the births we can track through all-female descent from my great-great-grandmother, the Annie Wickline Knight of whom I have just recently written, averaged one to two weeks early. This makes me lean even more toward having that Father’s Day card on hand. The middle and end of next week will be interesting, if the “getting ready” symptoms start to speed up appreciably.

The sudden high 80s and low 90s affecting our region this week wreaked havoc with hands and feet that had stayed unswollen for the first 92.5% of pregnancy. This coincides with me mentally bumping up against the wall that says “Ok, I’m done with this, any day now is fine by me.” Yes, I could reach that thing I dropped on the floor, but I don’t want to. I could do something productive, but I’d rather curl up, semi-tired, on the couch and elevate my feet and just meditate the afternoon away. I can practically feel the fluid collecting in my arches as I type. I feel a little better and more energetic when I drink water, so I’m drinking water like a drowning fool today. It’s noon and 90 with a sluggish breeze — at least I know it will get a lot better when the sun dips low enough to get behind a tree, and the sea breeze picks up.

Hanging in there…

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36 Weeks :: 4 Weeks

Having completed 36 weeks, I am now in the last four weeks — the final month — of being pregnant. It hasn’t been the most fun or comfortable thing I ever did, but it was only ever a necessary means to an end, not the end itself. It didn’t have to pleasant, it just had to go well. And for the most part, it has. So far.

Just checking off the last few tasks…

Buying the last few items…

Washing the last few outfits and linens…

Packing the bags…






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35 Weeks :: 35 Days

I had to point out in the title to this post that at the 35 week point, the average pregnancy only last another 35 days. 🙂

Parenting advice from dad:
“No. 1 rule for new moms: Any song sung softly enough is a lullabye.”

Yes, I know this post is a few days late. My weekend was dedicated to last-minute bridesmaid meetings, dog-sitting trial runs, social meetings, and co-throwing a really fantastic bridal shower for my BFF. My feet aren’t hurting too badly this morning, despite the really ambitious red crocodile pattern high heels I wore for most of the day, or the fact that I was standing or sitting upright from 8 AM til 7 PM. My lower back was a little sore last night, but that’s par for the course. I fell asleep at 10 PM and didn’t really wake up til the morning. But I’m looking forward with relish to the extended weekend coming up.

We grew in week 35. Significantly. People have stopped telling me I’m too small and have started telling me that I look fabulous, very healthy, and am carrying it well. So that’s a comfort! My own weight didn’t change significantly from 33 weeks to 35, so the friend who remarked yesterday “It’s all baby!” is on to something.

The extended weather forecast is very rainy with passing storms, with a bit of a break in early June expected and then back to rain and storms afterward. Given that we’ve already had a weather-related run-in, and that she’s already head down and shouldering the exit (she had a fabulous time socializing at the bridal shower and testing gravity!), I’m wary of the forecast the way it looks now. She’s “lightened” — gotten her bony feet and knees out of my lungs — but not yet “dropped.”

As I’m fond of saying: 4 weeks — or less.

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