One of the most tragic things about life is that it’s impossible for a person to remember her infancy and early childhood. Perhaps for some that’s good, but I’m so sad that I can’t remember what it was like to be a baby, toddler or young child. I’m sad that I only remember little snippets of time, flashes of experiences that hang in my mind randomly, seemingly disconnected, or I simply remember the photos of myself that I’ve seen. Even more so, I’m saddened that my babes won’t remember any of this life that we’re living right now, or that we’ve lived up to this point.
Just this morning, while walking Maysen up to her school, I asked if she remembered the rides in the bike buggy that I used to take her and Avery on. She looked at me blankly. It was only, well, now that I think about it, I guess it’s been almost a year, maybe. Since I was still able to ride a bike while pregnant and towing two young children behind me in a buggy. I had to remind her how we would load up in the buggy, and they would always have snacks, then we’d ride past Ryder Park, and then along the Bay all the way to CuriOdyssey. I’d be huffing and puffing so hard that I saw stars by the time we got to the top of the hill, but it was a workout! It was awesomely fun, and great exercise, and it always left me feeling so much better. Until I was too pregnant with Ryenn to do it anymore. But I had to go through all of the details until finally she was like, “Ohhhh, yeeaaahhh…The thingy with the straps?” And then she slowly remembered.
I have an awful memory, which bums me out so badly. I forget everything. I’ve often wondered how it’s possible that my mom doesn’t know how to answer some of the questions that I ask her about what I was like as a child.* I’ve asked if we used to snuggle in bed like I do with my girls, and she says she doesn’t really remember, but she’s sure we probably did. I’ve asked if my personality was like Maysen’s, or if she’s completely different, and she says she doesn’t really remember. I’ve asked about lots of different things, clues to my past, my personality quirks, and maybe clues to understanding my own children, but she often says she doesn’t really remember. I’ve thought, puzzled, “How can you possibly forget this important stuff?!?” But then I realize, I don’t even remember what Avery’s first word was. Or what Maysen smelled like as a baby, or where Avery learned to walk. And most of the time I don’t remember anything that has happened unless I’ve taken photos and/or videos of it. I hardly even remember what the girls looked like as babies, and they still ARE babies!What I really wish is that I could remember what it was like to be a baby. I wonder how much our babyhood affects our personalities. Breastfeeding, in particular, is what I wonder most about. I mean, does the experience somehow exist deep in the id, or the deepest subconscious? I can’t help but wonder if the feeling of that unconditional love from the mother, the closeness and intimacy, the oxytocin, the security, somehow shape the infant’s personality. Maybe on a molecular level the hormones and nerve impulses and other scientific stuff are actually helping form the physical parts of the brain. Maybe the memories form the innate quilt of the subconscious, like a blueprint for the blossoming character. Sometimes, when I nurse Ryenn, she is completely overcome by the experience of it all. There is no inhibition, no insecurity or self-awareness, or self-criticism, or shyness, or anything like that. It’s just the pure acceptance of genuine pleasure. She can be wailing, all teary and shaking and sticky and sweating, and the second that I put her in a cradle hold and give her the breast she immediately stops, sighs, and sucks wholeheartedly, eyes rolling back, and she lets out these little involuntary “ngmmm’s” with every swallow. It’s an instinctive expression of contentment that can only be compared to the sounds of sexual pleasure, or the first bite of chocolate/peanut butter/caramel/coconut to a stoner with the munchies. Her feet find her way to my hand, pressing into me, sometime sticking her little butt out, kicking into me playfully. Her little fingers of one hand squeeze and “scrinch” and rub my arm, while the other fingers trace my chest, my neck, my nose, my lips, squeezing and feeling and comforting her, orienting her and nestling her into my embrace. It hurts and irritates me sometimes; her fingernails are like those of a kitten, and she’s got one hell of a tight grip, but sometimes I just let her do it. It’s like when a cat gets really comfortable and kneads a pillow, or your belly, purring, losing himself for a moment in the rapturous experience. You let them do it, even though their claws are puncturing your skin.
That’s just it. Ryenn completely loses herself in the nursing experience. It’s this uninhibited succumbing to nature and pure enjoyment and nurturing and the acceptance of that nurturing, the 100% un-self-conscious, inalienable entitlement to the breast, the sense that this is MY milk, MY mommy, MY natural place to be and to be loved in this world. I wish I could know what this feels like. To be rocked and sung to, to have my head gently rubbed, my back patted, my head kissed, my ears traced, my entire body swaddled in mama’s arms. To feel that softly and deeply loved, and supported, no strings attached. No need for reciprocation, or self-consciousness, or insecurity or guilt about feeling loved. I’m sure my mom and dad rocked me and loved on me all the time, but I obviously don’t remember it. I really wish I could. Sometimes I still wish I could sit on Mommy’s lap and let her rock me. But I’m too big. I’m a grown-up now. But the instinctive need for Mom’s comfort is still there. The instinct is so strong that the baby is able to wriggle her way to the breast shortly after being born!
None of this stuff happens when I give the baby a bottle. Whether it’s my breast milk or formula doesn’t matter. When Ryenn drinks from a bottle, she just simply drinks the milk, and she’s never really happy about it. She often pushes it away. She holds the bottle and gulps, and sucks a little, but her eyes don’t roll back, and she doesn’t feel me with her little hands. She doesn’t make that instinctual, autonomic, unconscious pleasure sound. It’s like drinking from a bottle is just to fill the belly, whereas drinking from a breast is an entire, intimate, loving experience.
I can’t help but wonder how that affects brain development. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that I was exclusively bottle-fed contributed at all to my depression, lack of self-confidence and low sense of self-worth. My mom said that when I was born, moms at that time just didn’t really think about breastfeeding. I guess that was when marketing for the formula industry was at its prime. That’s just the way things were, and she never even considered breastfeeding. Things were just different then, I guess. It’s not her fault, and I don’t hold it against her at all. I guess it just makes me a little sad to know that I never experienced breastfeeding as a baby, and it makes me sad that even if I had, I wouldn’t be able to consciously remember it. But would my subconscious remember it? Will Maysen or Avery or Ryenn ever have a sense of it? Will their subconscious hold this experience in its vault so that they always know they are loved, and worthy of the most intimate, selfless love possible?
Probably not. But I’d like to think that it’s possible. And if nothing else, we’re enjoying the experience now. And we’ll continue to enjoy it until the moment when we know it’s time to wean.
I enjoyed the experience with Maysen until she was 8 1/2 months and thought it was funny to bite me. She hurt me and made me angry so we switched to formula. She
had no problem with it at all, and she loved taking a bottle to bed.
I enjoyed the experience with Avery until she was a week shy of two years old. She didn’t want to give up “Dat!” at all, and I had trouble letting it go, but when I was pregnant with Ryenn, my body physically told me that it was time to quit. And this time around, with Ryenn, I’m relishing the experience, because I know this is probably my last baby. And pretty soon she won’t want anything to do with breastfeeding. And these intimate moments will be a thing of the past.
The most tragic thing is that none of my babies will remember it ever happening at all, and my memory is so awful that the entire experience will one day be like a fuzzy dream. I won’t remember the scent of the baby’s freshly washed hair, or the dimples in her knuckles, or the tiny shape of her skull, or the weight of her belly against my belly, or the tiny suckling as she falls asleep, or the little involuntary, twitchy smiles as she slips into a dream state, or the way I just study every detail her beautiful little face, trying as hard as I possibly can to commit it all to memory. Because no photo can ever catch these experiences, and even if it could, who would take the photo? Aside from the fact that I have a few of my own photos here, these memories are mine, all mine, and I hope against all odds that they will stay with me forever.
*Mom, I know you read my blog. I want you to know that I love you more than I could ever express, and I know you’ve always loved me as much as a mother can. I hope your feeling aren’t hurt in any way by what I wrote above.
So, unbeknownst to me, the inevitable happened. But it happened so much sooner, and so much more quietly, than I ever expected possible. And it hurt even more than I knew it would. It dawned on me when Maysen said the words that I’ve been dreading for a while now.
“I guess I’m just over princesses now.”
Maysen was known in our old neighborhood as the streak of shimmering pink and purple that glittered down the street, giggling and squealing, pretty much any time of any day of the week. Strangers, friends and acquaintances alike commented to me nearly day about how cute and happy and carefree she was in her tiaras and tutus. She climbed trees in her princess dresses, she jumped on trampolines in her princess dresses, she did every thing she did in her princess dresses, every single day.
We lived on a street where we knew every neighbor, and kids ran around freely every day. Maysen was free to run and let her spirit shine, and was admired by kids and adults alike. Her infectious smile caused the elderly to fall in love with her, and the kids, mostly older than her, to follow her lead. Even the preteen boys agreed to play princess with her, as her charisma had them under her spell.
Over the last year we’ve been so stressed out. It was October of last year that our landlords told us that they planned to sell our house. Granted, it was a crappy little house, but we loved our neighborhood. I was pregnant with Ryenn, expecting her in January, so it was a time that we wanted to be nesting, not packing and moving. But the market was ridiculous in the Bay Area, and even though we put an absurd offer in on our house, it wasn’t accepted. The rental market was too high and we couldn’t afford to buy anything, so we had to move. In order to move, my husband had to find a new job. Months went by. The baby came on time in January, but instead of being able to just snuggle and enjoy our family of five, we had to think about what we were going to do. Not a day went by that Ronny and I didn’t try to craft a plan for our future. Not a day went by without stress and uncertainty. And a foreboding sense of time running out.
Finally, our deadline, March 22, arrived, but we didn’t yet have a new job or even the fuzzy beginnings of a plan. So Ronny decided to stay in the camper on his work property and keep on working and job hunting, and the girls and I all drove down to stay at Mom and Dad’s house. We expected it to be maybe a month until we figured something out. It was nice to have a place to land, and my parents were so good to help us with the kids and take us under their wings. We even put the kids in a small preschool for a bit, just to keep them busy. It was wonderful, but it was also unsettling being so unsettled. And to have our family apart.
After four months, we finally moved to one of the last places on earth that I would ever want to live: Texas. San Frickin’ Antonio. All I wanted was to stay near family, near friends, and/or near the ocean, but we all got dragged to San Antonio. With promise of a better family life, more space, more time for Ronny to be at home. We stayed at Ronny’s brother’s house north of Austin while Ronny trained out of town, and while we looked for a place to rent in San Antonio. Six kids under six all at the same time, with just me and my sister-in-law taking care of them, was pure hell. After three harrowing weeks, I was grateful to have Ronny back in town, and to find a rental.
And so we’re here, in San Antonio, where, for the first two months, it was over 100 degrees nearly every day. I felt suffocated. The kids felt suffocated, cranky and restless. I couldn’t even take them outside to play and burn off energy because it was so hot. Trying to unpack and organize with three little kids in ridiculous heat while my husband was at work was awful. I did breakfast lunch and dinner. I did bedtime. I did it all.
I don’t know anyone here. Our neighbors are all nice but elderly. And I had to get Maysen into kindergarten. And Avery into preschool. All of this fell on my shoulders while Ronny concentrated on his new job. All of these things, new job, new schools, new home, we were supposed to do in a place where we planned to live for several years. In a city where we could buy a house. But we’re in San Antonio, nowhere near the ocean, nowhere near my family, nowhere near anywhere that I want to be. I’m getting used to it, tolerating it, now that the heat has broken a bit, but I can’t say I’m happy. Not even close. Ronny’s promise of regular hours, 10-6, has so far been a joke. It’s rarer for him to come home by the kids’ bedtime than for him to come home at 2:30am. I feel like a single mother most of the time, and like my husband and I are the old “ships passing in the night” cliche.
But this is all beside the point. It’s just a little background information. I’ve been so stressed out and busy and miserable this whole time that I didn’t even make much more than a brief mental note that the dressup box goes untouched in the toy closet. I didn’t even notice, until just a couple of days ago, that the pink and purple sparkly streak had been M.I.A. for a while. That Avery is the only one interested in princesses, and barely, at that. Now it’s all about My Little Pony.
I engaged Maysen one day last week, as I drove her home from school, in a conversation about princesses. I asked, “Hey Maysen, I haven’t really seen you in your princess dresses lately.”
She merely shrugged and looked out the window, aloof and uninterested.
I kept at it. “You used to wear your princess dresses every day. What’s going on?”
“I guess I’m just over princesses now.”
Gasp. My heart sank. It sank quick and hard and heavy, that dense lump in my gut telling me that what I had been dreading for quite some time had actually happened, long before I expected it to.
“What? How can you be over princesses?” I asked, in a bit of a panic, wishing I could take back all of this time and go back to that little girl running and giggling down the street. How can she even know what “being over” something is?!? She’s only 5 1/2!
“Hmph,” she said, totally uninterested in the conversation, looking exhausted, bored, and a little sad.
“Princesses are still fun, aren’t they?” I was feeling desperate, like during all this chaos, my little baby girly-girl had disappeared and been replaced by an apathetic, uninterested teenager, too cool to care about the imagination she used to have. Too “over it” to even realize what she has lost.
“Nah,” she said, “I mean, like, Cinderella and Rapunzel and Elsa and The Princess and the Frog and stuff, I’m just kindof sick of them,” she said nonchalantly, kicking the back of the seat in front of her.
“But don’t you even like to dress up anymore?”
“Well, I guess I can be my own kind of princess, but I’m just tired of the other ones.”
At least there’s a little hope. She still wants to dress up as her own kind of princess.
I’ve been hoping to avoid this day for at least 18 months. I remember reading a mommy blog post a while back about how this 7 or 8 year old girl had broken her mom’s heart by bringing all of her princess dresses and accessories to her mom to ask her to donate them because she had just grown out of them. The blog post made tears well up in my eyes, and my breath caught for a minute. I wish I would have saved a link so I could read it now. Maysen was only 3 at the time, I think, and I made a mental note upon reading this blog that I would embrace my spirited daughter’s “princessness” for as long as I could, as I knew that a day would come when she would no longer want to belt “Let It Go” out as loud as she could, or run barefoot down the street with the glimmery hem of her Rapunzel dress fraying, the sun glinting off of the plastic jewels in her dollar store tiara, the passionate blue of her eager eyes outshining the blue of the California sky.
I’m afraid that all of this stress that we’ve been under, particularly my own personal depressed exhaustion, has snuffed the flame of my princess’s spirit, which I previously thought indomitable. Of course, as a mother, I blame myself, irrationally. She still runs and laughs and plays, but it’s just not the same. If “Let It Go” comes on the radio, she rolls her eyes and sighs like a teenager asked to accompany her mother bra shopping at Sears. She’s more prone to tantrums, pouting, and fighting with her sister. She’s been extra bratty and quick to fight and crumple into a hot mess of whining and angry tears. She’s just not the same. And my heart is broken.
I would do anything to be able to do the last year over, in a different situation, in a “normal” life. I don’t know anyone who has been under this much constant stress. People move, but they generally don’t move over and over and over again. With a 6 week old baby. Uprooting their lives to stay nearly 5 months in other peoples’ houses. I know it could be worse. Way worse things happen to people every day. But in my little world, I’m devastated that my little princess has grown up right in front of my face. I wasn’t even watching. I wasn’t even ready. I’m NOT even ready.
So now that my princess seems to be gone, how do I embrace the spirit that is left in her? How do I, who feels exhausted every moment of every day, encourage her free spirit to bloom and blossom? How do I help her to be happy? How do I not lose even more of my precious little baby?
I feel like I see evidence of my own depression in her. My depression has ruled my life. That’s a whole other story. But if it turns out that the joy of her life is dampened and smothered by the heavy, wet towel of depression like mine has always been, I will never overcome the guilt. Though I know it’s not my fault, really, I will never forgive myself. Depression has ruined my life, and I will be heartbroken if it ruins hers.
And just as I write this, Jon Mayer’s song, “Daughters,” comes on, and my eyes are filled with tears again.
Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.
I feel like I haven’t been good to her lately. It’s been a constant cycle of motivating her to get dressed, get in the car, pick up after herself, eat, hurry up, do her homework, go to bed, stop fighting, stop whining, stop crying, stop making messes, stop screaming, stop throwing books, stop! stop! stop! Somewhere along the way, my happy baby has vanished.
Please, if you have a little princess of your own, I implore you to embrace every moment of it. Embrace her in all of her princessness. No matter if you are a feminist who wished your daughter would be a tomboy, or a scientist, or engineer or whatever. Or if you thought you and your kid would be too good for princesses. I never expected to have a princess myself. But, luckily, I got one, and I adore her. So embrace that little princess. Let her wear her shiniest princess costume out to dinner. Let her wear her tiara to church. Let her adorn herself in baubles, and ride her bike in shiny princess shoes. Let her climb her tree in her Belle dress, or swing at the playground in her Elsa dress. Let her bake cookies and make a huge mess in her Cinderella dress. Let her snuggle with you and watch Frozen in her Ana dress, and hug you tight in her tutu. Dance with her at the Mardi Gras Ball in your living room, for the 100th time that day.
Because one day, way sooner than you think, she may just hit you hard with the words, “I guess I’m just over princesses now.” Your heart will shatter, just like mine did. And you’ll wish you would have captured a video of her running down the street in her Rapunzel dress, with her pink scarf flowing behind her, singing “Let It Go” with the biggest smile, and no inhibitions, and no cares in the world, face turned up toward the sun, because you know that some day, the memory you’ve etched in your mind will most likely disappear, just like that innocent, spirited little princess of yours.
Once again I’m sitting down after months and months of silence. I don’t have anything particular that I want to say, it’s just that I’ve thought of many things lately that I’ve wanted to write about. I’ve been so stressed out and busy that I haven’t had the chance to write anything. Ryenn is actually 9 months old today. Time has flown, we have moved to another state, and I’ve got two girls in school now. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to spend any time on myself. Well, I want to re-commit to writing yet again. I can’t guarantee that I’ll do it, but I want to try. I guess I always feel like I need to have something significant to write about, or a ton of time to do it. But the truth is that if I sit down just for 5 minutes a few times a week I’ll be much less disappointed in myself and I’ll have much more to show my girls when they’re a little older.
I’m not even going to attempt to talk about all of the craziness in our lives, or all of the cool things that the kids have said or done. I’m not going to talk about any of the things that are constantly rattling around in my head. I just hope that I can sit down every now and then and jot down a few words. Getting pictures here will be a whole other challenge.
Our new baby girl is here…and she’s three weeks old already! I want to tell the story of her birth. It was, quite probably, the best experience of my life. I finally got to have the dream birth experience that I’ve wanted so badly for so long. After Avery was born I thought I had had the fastest possible natural birth, but I was actually pretty shaken up by it after all was said and done. Having not believed I was actually in labor until I felt the baby’s head almost crowning, and even then not really “getting it”, I was a little panicked and therefore physically tense and in consuming pain, and really didn’t understand what was going on. My detailed birth plan — which included Hypnobirthing techniques and sun salutation visualizations — flew out the window before I even knew that I was fixing to have a baby. Of course, being at home, and not taking double-digit hours, it was a great experience, but it wasn’t the candlelit, mellow experience that I had hoped for.
This time around I was prepared and knew I ought to expect anything. I had vowed to go with the flow and be happy with my birth experience, however it went. We knew that a very quick birth was a possibility. Our midwives had told us that a third baby can be just as expeditious as Avery’s birth, or take even longer than Maysen’s. Third babies are wild cards, they said, so I should be careful what I wished for. I planned for a longer labor, I hoped for a longer labor, I visualized a longer labor, and you could almost even say I prayed for a longer labor. I was more worried about this baby coming faster than Avery had than anything else. More worried about the speed than the pain, or tearing, or a hospital transfer, or any of the other myriad things I could have fretted about. So I prepped Ronny and my mom, who were going to be at the birth, on everything that we needed to do. I had two doulas on call. Everyone’s jobs were assigned, everything was laid out ready to go, and the birth pool was in the living room ready to fill for weeks. We even had neighbors expecting our call if we needed hot water for the tub.
I had been having contractions for several weeks, but nothing too serious. Having been through labor twice, I knew that they weren’t “the real deal.” I wasn’t even totally sure of my due date because we had changed it from January 14th to January 8th based on my desires originally for not wanting to deal with induction, then later based on my fear that I wouldn’t make it to 37 weeks for a legal home birth before the baby decided to come.
Then, around January 5th, I started having regular contractions in the evening. They came every 5-8 minutes for several hours, but then went away when I went to bed, and though they were more than just tightness like typical Braxton-Hicks contractions, they weren’t exceptionally strong.
The same thing happened four nights in a row. On January 8th, I went to bed but had a little trouble sleeping. I just couldn’t get comfortable. At 1:00am (January 9th), as I lay in bed listening to my dear husband snore as he slept soundly, I felt a really uncomfortable sensation right in what felt like my butt. It was like a hard pokey feeling. Then I felt a little oozing sensation and I suspected right then that it was my water breaking. (Funny how I’ve done this three times and I never got that Hollywoody gush that the movies lead you to expect.) I got up and went to the bathroom, and sure enough there was a little liquid. But not enough for me to be sure. My plug had come out and cried wolf a couple of weeks before, when I wasn’t sure if my water had broken or I had peed on the floor, so I really wasn’t positive about what was going on. Turns out I had been starting to dilate before even that, and had got to about 3 cm, but stayed there for three weeks! I never got another exam after that so I have no idea where I went from there.
So I stood up and went to tell Ronny that I thought he should set up the pool. He asked, “are you sure?” and I said, “no, not really,” so he went back to sleep. I lay back down in bed just paying attention to my body, watching for signs of imminent labor. This was maybe 1:02am. (Really, this all happened very quickly. Then I felt more oozing and headed back to the bathroom. This time there was more liquid, so I got back up, went back to our bedroom, and told Ronny that I really did think this was time, and I grabbed my phone and went back to the bathroom. At 1:04 I called Sharon, my midwife, and said that I was pretty sure that my water had broken, it was probably too early to call her but I wanted to be safe, but there was no bloody show, and no contractions. Then suddenly — like right as I finished my sentence — there were contractions, and then suddenly there was bloody show, all in a matter of maybe a minute, so I told her she should probably come over.
There on the toilet, as I talked to Sharon, I suddenly started to experience super intense contractions. They just came out of nowhere. But it was like last time…no labor slowly ramping up to intensity, it was just suddenly intense. I sat there on the toilet wrapping my head around what was going on, realizing that the last four nights really had been early labor. I could hear that Ronny had gotten up out of bed and was moving around the house, so I knew he was getting set up. I just kept getting up off the toilet and putting a pad on so I could help, but then more water would come out so I would sit back down. Why I felt the need to help with (er…micromanage) setup is beyond me, but I couldn’t just sit there on the toilet and labor all by myself! This maybe happened 8-10 times, but the water wouldn’t all come out! I went through pad after pad just trying to catch this water. In the meantime I texted my doulas and my photographer, Jamie, from Pixel and Paper, and let them know that it was time.
When I had a break in the contractions, for like a minute maybe, I opened the door and Ronny had already started filling the pool, and he had woken my mom up. The frenzy of getting ready began. Even though we had been expecting this moment for so long, it still came as a surprise, but we all just flowed naturally into our own jobs.
Ronny worked on getting hot water in the pool, Mom got the plastic and regular sheets on the couch and lit the candles. I got my music going. By about 1:25 I was in very strong and active labor. I was in a cute little nightgown standing in the hallway when a killer contraction came on. It wasn’t the gentle, rolling wave I had hoped for; it was more of a tidal wave, and I seriously had to focus on breathing through it. I just bent over with my butt out and pressed my hands into the wall in front of me, in kindof a modified downward dog, breathing through the wave, stretching my back, and trying to let my belly hang. I felt like I needed to create space and length in my body, and to let my breath take over and help me to control the sensations.
I fully understood at this point that I was in labor and it was not going to be a long one. Accepting that seems obvious, but it didn’t ever happen with Avery’s birth. When that contraction passed, I walked toward the kitchen to check in with Ronny, but before I had walked five feet another surge came on. The rocking chair happened to be in front of me so I bent over with my hands on the armrests, stretched my back, hung my belly, created length in my spine, and rocked myself back and forth in rhythm with my breath through this one. I never timed any of the contractions, but they felt loooooonnngg. And very intense. Yes, they hurt, but I had really concentrated on not focusing on “pain” but rather on “intensity” and that actually worked.
Realizing that the belly-hanging, back-stretching position was working for me, as soon as that contraction passed I went to the couch and got on my elbows and knees, kindof a baby puppy / dolphin pose with my butt in the air. I thought if I could get inverted that maybe I could slow things down. Logistically, how can a baby come out if you’re upside down without laughing in the face of the universal law of gravity? I wanted my water birth this time, goshdarnit, and I’d find a way to stand on my head if I had to to make it happen. That contraction had to have lasted about 2 minutes, and as I rode it, I looked longingly at the blue plastic pool painfully slowly filling up next to me. There was maybe 8 inches’ worth of water in there, which just wasn’t enough to birth a baby in. But I didn’t care. Ronny was going to make it happen. I trusted the process. The whole process.
So when that contraction tapered off, I went in my room for my swimsuit that I had laid out a couple of weeks earlier, all ready to go. I had just enough time to get it on and get back onto the couch before another contraction came. After the next one, I realized I didn’t care how much water was in the tub, and I asked Mom to help me in. She had been so busy lighting candles and Ronny had been so busy filling the tub that I was laboring all on my own, and totally managing it. All of the breathing and mindfulness that I have been practicing as a doula and a yogi came into play, and I felt that I was able to handle these contractions perfectly. But suddenly I needed help. Mom somehow braced me to help me into the pool, and I got on my hands and knees, trying to keep my butt high, as I still had a little glimmer of hope to slow things down. It felt like warm, buttery heaven letting my belly sink into the water. I had known that the water would help, but I had no idea how good it would actually feel. That it would actually make me inadvertently say, “Mmmmmmuunnnnnngghhhhhhh.” And Ronny was filling bucket after bucket and the water was slowly rising, and Mom was heating water in the teapot and soup pans on the stove. I heard Ronny talking on the phone to the neighbor, asking them to fill us a big bucket. Everything was unfolding exactly how I had hoped, only faster.
At about 1:35 Sharon and Jamie got there. At this point, I was fully in labor, feeling intense pressure in my lower back, and telling my mom how to press her knuckles and palms into my lower sacrum to relieve the pain. She pressed as hard as she could, but it was still…so…intense. She had to remind me of my birthing affirmations, that this was what my body was meant to do, that I absolutely could do this. When I had a break between contractions, everything felt fine. Like nothing was happening except that I was taking a warm, candlelit bath in the living room.
I realized that one of my favorite yoga songs, the yogic “Invocation”, was playing.
“Om, namah shivaya gurave, Saccidananda murtaye.”
I honor the highest part of myself, the Supreme. That is full of luminous consciousness, the highest joy, and takes the form of my body and my mind.
I’m still not entirely sure what this means to me, but I love the mantra and sing it mentally often.
I asked Sharon what I could do to slow this labor down, not because I was afraid, but because I wanted to mindfully participate in my own birth experience. And, frankly, because I was a little afraid and dreading the physical sensations I knew were coming shortly. She said that being in the water was about all I could do.
I felt myself go into that savage, primal birthing mode just as Ronny took over for my mom in pressing my sacrum down. He had done his part with the tub and was ready to do his part with the labor. I couldn’t believe the relief that the counterpressure provided, but the sensations inside my body were very, very vivid and powerful. He had to remind me of my own words that I had just spoken that day, that this was my chance to be empowered and let my body do its natural work. That I had the choice to focus on the pain, or to focus on the intensity, the strength of my body doing its natural, innate work. That this was what my body was meant to do and that this was MY birth experience. I was in control of this experience, or at least of my experience of the experience. I was in control of creating my own memories of this birth. I was in this moment writing my own true birth story.
I could feel that the baby was moving down, so I felt inside my body with my finger, and I touched the top of her head. I said to Sharon, “I can feel her head,” and she asked, “is the baby coming out now?” so calmly, without seeming worried or stressed or rushed at all. She was so relaxed and laid back. Only later, when I asked how she had arrived so quickly, did she tell me that she had driven over 90 miles per hour across the San Mateo bridge to get here. “Not yet, just about an inch and a half or so,” I said. She just said “all right, baby’s coming soon then,” and kept doing her thing and letting Ronny and me do ours. There was no worry in her voice or mine, just matter-of-factness, this was what was going on.
Then suddenly, but without fanfare, everything shifted, and I felt my body not so much pushing, but ejecting the baby, even though I was still deliriously trying to slow things down. But I clearly heard my own voice change as the transition happened. I went from a quiet, introverted moaning to a deep, more primal, guttural voice, the unmistakable tone that I clearly recognize as the bearing down sound. It’s the sound of your body completely taking control of the situation and telling you to just back off and enjoy the ride.
But no matter how hard I tried, there was nothing I could do to make it slow down at all. I was reaching between my legs and could feel that her head was starting to come out; the bulge so hard and huge that I felt I was exploding from within, but I was desperately trying to press her back in, and I could hardly reach my own vagina over my ginormous contracting belly.
My own lack of control, in a situation for which I had planned and which was unfolding exactly as I had hoped, struck me as ironic and funny, but not in a “ha ha” sort of way. More in a “what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here-and-how-could-this-be-happening-so-quickly-but-hurt-so-badly-but-not-hurt-all-that-badly-really-but-is-that-a-head-coming-out-of-my-vagina-and-am-I-going-to-survive-this-and-is-this-really-labor-and-can-I-actually-do-this-and-seriously-what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here-and-oh-my-god-all-these-doula-techniques-really-work-and-oh-my-god-I-love-this-hot-water-but-seriously-what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here-is-this-baby-coming-out-seriously-this-quickly-am-I-going-to-be-a-mom-again-tonight-oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god-there-is-a-baby-coming-out-of-my-vagina-but-what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here-and-I’m-not-sure-but-is-that-seriously-poop-floating-in-the-pool?” sort of way.
So I got up on my knees, reaching down desperately, helplessly, to press her back up and in, but the unerring law of gravity took over and she just wouldn’t stop her rapid descent. I supported my pelvic floor with my right hand and braced myself on Ronny’s shoulder with my left, realizing that I was just helplessly along for the ride in this whole birthing thing. He was reaching down into the water too, but not to slow things down. He was reaching down to help bring our daughter into the world. Last time I had held on to him to try to squeeze the pain out; this time I held on to him to support me in this crazy roller coaster ride.
At some point Ronny’s dialog shifted from supporting me to narrating what HE was experiencing. As a birthing mama in labor, you think it’s all about you. But you have to remember that he’s in this too, and he’s experiencing it for himself, in his own way, from his own perspective. He’s becoming a father. First he exclaimed surprised and excited, “I feel her head!” and I realized, finally, that I wasn’t going to be able to slow anything down at all, that she was coming whether I was ready or not. I wasn’t even pushing…She was pushing herself out.
That’s when, overwhelmed, I said “I can’t do it…I can’t” and then Ronny said, “You can…I have her ear! I can feel her ear in my hand!” Then we couldn’t get my swimsuit bottoms untied, and we had to lift my right knee to get them down at least far enough to allow access, so I was kindof in the “Captain Morgan” position, leaning on my elbows on the edge of the pool behind me, arching my back, when the rest of her head came out. I was sortof pushing into the pool trying to lift my body away from all of the pressure. It wasn’t exactly pain, and it wasn’t exactly burning, but it was intense, and it was pressure, and it was overwhelming, and it was out of control, and I felt the need to lift away from it. But it was a beautiful, magical sensation, something I wish I had the vocabulary to explain.
Then I noticed Sharon checking her watch. The baby can only be head-out under water for so long, so I asked her if I needed to hurry. In a millisecond of panic I felt that I didn’t have the strength to push the baby out the rest of the way, even though I hadn’t really done anything but hang on at this point. “Nope, she’s fine,” Sharon said cooly, nonchalantly. No problem, I felt calm in the chaos again, trusting that she would let me know if anything worth worrying about was happening.
I don’t really remember contractions happening during this time, but I’m sure they did…they have to to get the baby out, but I didn’t feel them, that I remember. All focus was on the bulging pressure, on the baby coming out of my splitting pelvis and expanding vagina. The next surge came and the baby’s first shoulder came out. Ronny hooked a finger under her armpit and then gave a gentle pull. Suddenly her whole body came slipping out, all gloopy and slippy right into Ronny’s hands. He pulled her out of the water and onto my chest, sigh-laughing-exclaiming subtly with excitement and relief. Suddenly, our baby was born! I couldn’t believe it. Time: 1:47am. I laughed and cried and tried to figure out what was going on. How it had happened so quickly, and so (relatively) easily. Right at that moment “God’s Chorus of Crickets” started playing, and continued for the next 25 minutes, casting a relaxing ambiance on the room, but completely unnoticed by anyone besides myself.
As I sat there, in a comforting, cozy pool of warm water, blood, and amniotic fluid, I heard a few knocks on the door. Diana,our assistant midwife, (who was Avery’s amazing midwife before,) arrived, and then Joyce, our doula, arrived, and then our neighbor arrived with the bucket of water. I just sat there in the “bath” totally amazed and in awe of the experience, with the baby’s umbilical cord coming out of my lovely lady parts. I could not believe how deliciously comfortable I was. More contractions started and then it was time to deliver the placenta.
I just leaned back in the pool with my new baby on my chest, and pushed the placenta out. It wasn’t easy, because of sheer exhaustion, but it pales in comparison to pushing out an entire, albeit tiny, human being. Sharon gently placed the brilliant, amazing organ into my mixing bowl and let it just float on the water for as long as I stayed there. She and Diana checked everything out, gave the baby a solid Apgar score, and just let Ronny and me revel in our new daughter, who was right there, and who had arrived so, so quickly.
We just sat there for a long time, at least an hour. (My sense of time is a little confused.) I drank water and ate a banana and handful of cashews and just marveled. I marveled at my beautiful daughter. I marveled at my beautiful husband. I marveled at my beautiful placenta. I marveled at all of the beautiful candles I had received showing birthing affirmations and support from my friends. I marveled at the music that had come on. I marveled at my beautiful, amazing body. I just marveled.
At one point, we heard a little pitter-patter in the hallway and Maysen came out from her bedroom to see what was going on. Quietly she came up to the pool and we introduced her to her little sister. She wasn’t entirely impressed, and was most concerned that the blanket draped over the baby was getting wet. Ronny carried her back to her bed, and then a few minutes later we heard another pitter-patter.
Avery came out, quietly, and then she was thoroughly unimpressed, too, as we introduced her to her little sister. She hugged onto her daddy sleepily and pressed her head into his neck. He took her back to bed. Miraculously, neither of them cried or fussed or anything.
Ronny then came out to cut the umbilical cord. He held the scissor tool and cut through our particularly thick cord, which showed a lot of Wharton’s jelly (just like Avery’s had). A thick, beautiful cord became severed, and my baby was forever released from my body. Just like that.
Sharon wrapped her in a dry blanket and then Ronny sat down to hold her on the couch. His moment of bonding as a father began, and I got out of the tub to take a nice, hot shower. Diana kept an eye on me and warned me not to be overly confident in how good I felt, that I could easily get dizzy and I was still losing blood. But I washed my hair, and brushed my teeth and soaped off the birthy water. I got out, dried off, put my hair up and my robe (and my Depends adult diaper) on, and went to lie on the couch to meet my baby.
They placed this beautiful, brand-new being on my chest, skin to skin, and I watched her, waiting. It took a few minutes, but she managed to sniff and bob and scoot her way to my breast, and then after a few more minutes, she managed to latch on for a brief suckle. I was amazed and in disbelief. We just lay there and bonded.
I sipped on a delicious fruit and placenta smoothie that my mom made for me (even though it grossed her out a little). Everyone around the room was so calm and happy, just chatting and watching over my new baby and me. I hardly even noticed the bustle of the midwives draining the pool, or the cleanup of the room, or the clicking of Jamie’s camera shutter as she captured every single delicious moment of this amazing event. I hardly even noticed when the baby pooped on me!
After a few minutes we decided to weigh and measure our new little girl. 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and 21 inches long. 13.75 inch head diameter. She was absolutely rosy-pink and perfect. No breathing issues or any other trouble at all. Sometime around 4:00am I was told to go to bed, and even though I was totally wired from this birth, I let myself get tucked in. I don’t remember who helped me to bed, but I crawled into my nice clean sheets and lay down, ready to receive my little babe. Diana had bundled her up in a cute little swaddle, and someone handed her to me…maybe Sharon? (I was probably so high on adrenaline, hormones and placenta smoothie that some of the details are a little fuzzy!)
Joyce, Jamie, Diana and Sharon all said their goodbyes when they individually saw that it was their time to go home, and then Ronny and I just ogled our little girl. I held her to my chest, so amazed by how clean and perfect she was. No vernix, no cone head, and the most perfect, rosy, soft, not-peeling-at-all baby skin. She even smelled good. Her full head of dark brown hair felt so soft, and even though her hair had who-knows-what in it, I couldn’t help but rub my lips back and forth over her little diamond shaped fontanel. She laid down all cute and bundled, right next to me in my own bed, and we tried to sleep. Ronny slept out on the couch so as to try to give us a chance to rest. Everyone in the house slept soundly for several hours, except me. I just couldn’t fall asleep.
I lay there in bed thinking about everything that had happened, and feeling such pure gratitude and amazement. I tried to think of what her middle name should be. We had already decided almost for sure what we wanted her first name to be, but the middle name was still up in the air. I thought about her birth and how we could make the whole amazing experience part of her name. All of these mellow, positive adjectives came to mind. Harmonious, gentle, candlelit, relaxed, peaceful, amazing, perfect, mellow. But the word that really struck me was Serene. As soon as the word came to my mind, I knew that that was what I wanted her name to be. But I had to wait until Ronny came in the morning to talk to him about it. Suddenly, I was able to sleep.
In the morning, Ronny came in, and we just lay there in bed getting acquainted with our new baby. She was absolutely beautiful, all squishy and sleepy. I told Ronny about the name that had come to me. For some reason I didn’t think he’d be thrilled with my idea, but he surprised me and he loved it, especially after I told him the definition.
1. calm, peaceful, or tranquil; unruffled: a serene landscape; serene old age.
2. clear; fair: serene weather.
3. (usually initial capital letter) most high or august (used as a royal epithet, usually preceded by his, your, etc.): His Serene Highness.
4. serenity; tranquillity.
5. Archaic. a clear or tranquil expanse of sea or sky.
Reflecting on my birth experience, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude. Even though it all happened so, so quickly, it was my absolute dream birth experience. I can’t help but feel a little guilty because I’ve heard about so many other births that just didn’t go as well. I’ve experience births as a doula that didn’t go as hoped for. I wish that every woman could experience a birth as miraculous as ours.
After transition, the contractions didn’t really hurt, exactly, but everything was so inexplicably intense. There’s really no way to properly explain what it feels like to push a baby out of your lady parts, or, rather, to have her push herself out. But I’m thrilled to have experienced it again, only this time it was so much more satisfying than the first two times. I got a beautiful baby girl and became a new mother each of the three times that I gave birth. That goes without saying. But in the end, contrary to what many people say, having a healthy baby isn’t the only thing that matters. The woman’s birth experience, and the consequent memories of that birth, matter as well. Becoming a mother happens rarely in a woman’s life, so if she has the opportunity to be in relative control of the situation, why not make it beautiful? Why not make it one of the most empowering and fulfilling experiences of her life?
I was going to write “Almost There” but “Almost Three” came out instead. Lucky typo got to stay. Today is January 5, 2015, and technically baby girl #3 isn’t even due for another three days. Unless you count her original due date of 1/14, which would mean another 9 days. I had her date changed because I REALLY thought she’d be here too early to have my much-desired home birth. Before 37 weeks home birth isn’t allowed in California, so I had the date changed. So basically I’ve been on high alert for labor for over a month, feeling like I’m ready to pop, but nothing’s happening! I have been showing labor signs, namely, losing my plug, contractions, and being dilated to 3cm for the last three weeks.
Why am I seeing such a “3” trend in this post? Hmm…
I did manage to get some lovely pregnancy photos taken. Perhaps I should share a few:
Oh, wait, that’s not one of the pro photos. That’s just an iphone selfie. But you get the idea of how huge I feel!
It’s nearly impossible to pick favorites, because my dear friend Jamie from Pixel and Paper Photography did such an awesome job on my photos. She actually made me feel like a beautiful pregnant woman, not like a big old cow about to pop, which is how I feel right now.
I’m trying to enjoy these last moments of pregnancy. It’s really a bittersweet time for me. On the one hand, I’m excited to meet my new baby girl. On the other hand, I still don’t feel like this is even a reality. On the other hand (humor me), I feel like crap and want my body back. On the other hand, and this is the hardest part, I realize that this is my last pregnancy (of course I should never say never). I realize that this is the last time I’ll ever feel a tiny little baby inside my belly, the last rolling and kicking and stretching. No matter how uncomfortable it is to have a knee jut out of my ribcage simultaneously with a head pressing against my anus causing very confusing poo-like sensations, it’s still a magical feeling that I know I will miss. I missed it with Maysen and Avery, too, but I always had in the back of my mind that I’d be pregnant again. This time feels like the last time, so I’m a little upset with myself for wanting to rush things.
I am really excited to see how Maysen and Avery take to their new little sister. And I can’t wait for the squishy, lovey, amazing experience of breastfeeding again. But am I ready for sleepless nights and tons of crying, from every person in this family? Am I ready to feel like a sleep-deprived zombie cow again? Am I ready to load and unload THREE kids in car seats? Am I ready for a frigging MINIVAN?!?!
My next post will probably be my birth story, if I ever get it written. Until then, please send your positive birth vibes my way.
When I was pregnant with Maysen, I managed to blog nearly every day, even when there was nothing to write about. And then when I was pregnant with Avery, I still wrote a little bit, but certainly not much. Now, I’m actually 31 weeks pregnant with our third baby girl and this is the first time I’ve sat down to write. Lame.
It feels like there’s just so much to say. So much has happened and is happening in our life, but where can I start? I guess I just start where I am…here.
We are planning on having this baby at home. Home birth is a no-brainer to me now, having experienced having a baby both at home and in the hospital. We’ve hired a lovely midwife, Sharon. She’s very sweet and experienced. I would have loved to have hired Diana again, but considering how quickly Avery came into this world I just can’t feel totally sure that Diana would make it to us in time. She will be our assistant, though. And this time I am planning on having a doula present. Not that I necessarily need a doula, but I would like to know what it’s like. Ronny thinks it’s ridiculous, and that I’m just going to be critiquing her every move. As much as I know he’s a wonderful “birthing coach,” he’s really not even aware of all of the things that a doula can do. I’d love to have someone try some of these techniques on me.
Anyways, this pregnancy has been much more difficult than the first two. Obviously, it’s harder because I’m also taking care of a 4 1/2 year old and a two year old all day long. Part of why I was able to blog so much the first time around was because I had a lot of free time, and even when I was at work I didn’t have much to do. Now I hardly have any time to myself, and when I do, I manage to fritter it away doing something mindless. I’m also getting older. I can’t even believe that I’m 37! My hair is turning grey, my boobs are sagging, I’m starting to get wrinkles. I’m so tired all…the…time. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get; I’m never 100% rested. I never feel good. I remember during my first pregnancy feeling really good the whole time. Now, even though I go to the gym often and (try to) eat well, I still feel like crap all the time. I’ll admit, though, baby number 1 got a lot of salad bars, baby number 3 is getting a lot of chocolate.
I’ve been feeling a lot more depressed this time around, too. I think that has a LOT to do with my lack of free time. It’s how I felt before I got pregnant, only now I can’t self-medicate with wine.
I think this baby is going to be big. She moves around a lot and just feels huge to me, and I still have 2 months to go. I’m already at my max weight that I hit with Maysen’s pregnancy (thanks, chocolate). Maybe that has something to with why I’m so tired all the time. The one thing that has been really cool, though, is that I’m very aware of the baby’s position at almost any given time. I don’t know if it’s because I’m more in tune with myself, or because this is my third time around, or what, but I can pretty much always tell where she is. Unless I’m totally wrong, of course!
I haven’t had any complications, other than heartburn, tons and tons of Braxton Hicks contractions and bad S.I. joint pain, and I’m really feeling confident that we’ll have a beautiful (and hopefully not too quick) birth. I’m thinking that maybe this time around I’ll actually be able to get in the birth tub. I’m hoping to have a water birth…it’s an experience that I really, really want to have.
The one thing that sucks about everything, though, is that Ronny and I really haven’t been able to focus on this pregnancy as much as I would like. It’s almost like it’s not even happening. We’re once again in a situation where he has to be job-hunting, and we’re going to have to move out of our house when the baby is two months old. It’s just adding lots of stress to our life, and making it so Ronny’s entirely focused on the job/housing situation. And that’s after we’ve managed to be exhausted by Maysen and Avery. There’s just no room in the day, or our scattered brains, to focus on what we really should be focusing on…the fact that we’re about to have another baby.
The best part, though, is watching how excited Maysen and Avery are for this baby. Every day, over and over, Maysen asks to feel the baby move, and gets so excited whenever she feels a little kick. She hugs my belly and sings songs to the baby. She even tells her knock knock jokes. And little Avery loves poking my belly and reminding me that there’s a baby in there, and gives her big hugs and kisses. I know Maysen gets it, but I’m not sure that Avery really understands what’s going on. I’m still trying to decide if it’s a good or bad idea for the girls to be around at the birth. I’d love for them to be, but I don’t want to freak them out. With as many people as will be here, it’ll probably be a little crowded even without them, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience. I think Maysen might be a little to worried about me being in pain to be able to handle it as well as I’d like. We’ll see.
So I guess that’s enough for now. I just wanted to take a few minutes to touch base here. Hopefully it won’t be so long before the next time I write. And hopefully I’ll have some photos next time, too.