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Weekly Tidbits: Birth, Postpartum, the Triumvirate, and Anthropology

IMG_3501My sister-in-law shared a link to a really potent article from The Guardian about birth, midwifery, postpartum, and supportive friends. When she shared, she brought tears to my eyes by thanking me for being part of her own “triumvirate,” described by the post author as…

I needed a maternal figure, a dedicated and present midwife, dear and loving friends. I was blessed with one out of three. It could have been worse.

The only people I know who did just fine in the postpartum period are those who score the triumvirate: well cared for in birth, surrounded by supportive peers, helpful elders to stay with them for a time. The others, wild-eyed at the supermarket, prone to tears, unable to nurse or sleep or breathe, a little too eager to make friends at baby groups – I can spot them at 20 paces. We form a vast and sorry club.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I’m lucky enough to have also scored the triumvirate (I find it takes pretty careful planning and active attention to put it into place!). When my midwife came to visit me postpartum and commented that I was looking good and I replied that people kept telling me that, she said that rather than just saying “thank you,” I should point out my looking good was directly related to having excellent postpartum care. And, she was right. I did not look, feel, or sound depleted, exhausted or overwhelmed precisely because I was being taken care of. I had great prenatal from my midwife along with six weeks of postpartum follow-up visits. I had a postpartum doula for immediately post-birth support and several follow-up visits as well as meal calendar coordination. I had my mom, who cooked for us and cared for our other children. I had my sister-in-law who came to stay for several days and helped with cooking and cleaning. I had friends who brought me dinners and took my kids to playgroup. I had my husband, who got to enjoy our new baby with me because he wasn’t trying to do all of the above!

When I think of my triumvirate, a specific moment comes to mind. I am sitting in the bathroom holding my brand new baby, still attached to me by his cord. We are waiting for the placenta to come. My midwife is close by, peeking over, but not being hands-on or aggressive. My mom leans over to take pictures. My doula is standing in our bathtub to make room. My husband is kneeling near me and my other children are gathered around to cut the cord. In the driveway outside, my friend waits with her three children to take my kids to playgroup. This is what birth support looks like. I am surrounded with love and care.

The author of the article quoted above did not have the same experience…

Two weeks later, I gave birth at home, after a 13-hour posterior, or back-to-back, labour, which the long-practising, well-respected midwife did not bother to attend. Frankly, it felt like staring death in the face, by which I mean an altogether normal and intense physiological process that has nothing to do with the ordinariness of daily life. Throughout, my husband and doula repeatedly called and texted the midwife, whom we had found privately. She told us it was “probably” early labour. From inside the grip of what turned out to be very active labour, I managed to flat-out demand that she join us, speaking at the phone while the doula held it to my ear. The midwife sounded annoyed, vaguely put-upon. It was another three hours before she arrived. Minutes later, with a great and unbridled roar, I delivered my son into bathwater.

We wept with joy, held him, kissed him, named him. Eventually, I got out of the bath. My husband lay in bed with our new son on his chest. I showered in a state of trembling, happy shock. The midwife perched on the sink and told me a story about her estranged sister. She handed me a towel, and I remember commiserating, trying to comfort her about her unfortunate relationship with her family, as though we were two cool girls hanging out in the bathroom at a party. One of us just happened to be naked and bleeding, immediately postpartum. I didn’t care; I was too ecstatic. Having just given birth, I felt omnipotent. Epic. Heroic. Unstoppable.

via My friend breastfed my baby | Life and style | The Guardian.

I wrote about the value of breastfeeding support here:

But, what happens after the birth? I’ve often thought that my role in breastfeeding support, while less “glamorous” or exciting than birth work, has had more lasting value to the women I serve. Breastfeeding is the day in, day out, nitty-gritty reality of daily mothering, rather than a single event and it matters (so does birth, of course, it matters a lot, but birth is a rite of passage, liminal event and breastfeeding is a process and a relationship that goes on and on for every. single. day. for sometimes years). Anyway, sorry for the brief side note, but I enjoyed reading this article about the celebrity culture surrounding pregnancy and birth with its obsession with who has a “bump” and then how after the birth the main deal is losing that weight and having a fabulous bod again! Woot!

via Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Thoughts | Talk Birth.

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I shared this pic on Instgram this week in honor of the theme of “self-care” in the online Equinox 15 event I’ve been taking part in.

I’ve only recently recognized that while I was surrounded by excellent support for birth and postpartum, I’m not really giving myself much credit lately for still having just had a baby. Yes, Tanner is almost 5 months old, but that moment in the bathroom was only five months ago. I still need quite a bit of help and that normal and okay. I need to recognize what I’m capable of, which is a lot, while also still recognizing what I need and what the pace of my life can be and can handle at this point in time. I also recognized that I have difficult admitting or expressing how difficult it feels sometimes to be incorporating a new baby into the family, to be working around “baby time” again, and to be physically bound to a baby again. It is hard to admit, because Tanner is such a treasure of a baby and I enjoy him so much and love having his adorable, babiest of babies self in our lives. However, it also sometimes feels hard to be doing this all again and I often feel “old” and kind of worn out and ragged lately.

This brings me to a lovely article about vulnerability as strength (something my doula reminded me of several times following Tanner’s birth):

…Today I stood swaying my daughter to sleep in my mommas group shedding tears because of the intense sleep deprivation over the last 6 weeks. My tears fell and I was held with empathy, no one solved my problems; women just heard me and held me in my challenge. We heard each other, others cried, we softened, we opened ourselves up to the wisdom that each expressed and afterwards our hearts felt happier and lighter. Something sacred unfolded. I was in a container that was safe to share my soul, to be naked in front of these women, to admit I was not perfect and I didn’t have all the answers. And I felt better. I was not alone.

The more I allow myself to be vulnerable, the more I receive, the more I soften, and the more I open myself up to support. We are not meant to mother alone. The first year of our child’s life is a raw experience. It is amazing; it is illuminating, joyful, and raw.

via Vulnerability as a Strength | Mothering Arts.

This container is so important. Though, I will also acknowledge that for my personality, being told to “take it easy” or to “lower your standards” or “don’t have such high expectations of yourself,” often registers for me as being told: You’re not capable. I don’t believe in you. Give up. So, I personally, when trying to create a container of safety or support for other women I will not usually use those sorts of phrases.

Related to the idea of postpartum tenderness and triumph, I enjoyed this photo series of newborns and mothers: Born yesterday: mothers and their newborn babies – in pictures | Life and style | The Guardian.

Bringing the discussion around to anthropology and birth though, this interesting recent article suggests that it is the mother’s metabolism (and energetic reserves) that creates the human gestation length rather than the size of the pelvis as often commonly theorizes:

We’ve been doing anthropology with this warped view of the male pelvis as the ideal form, while the female pelvis is seen as less than ideal because of childbirth,” she said. “The female births the babies. So if there’s an ideal, it’s female and it’s no more compromised than anything else out there. Selection maintains its adequacy for locomotion and for childbirth.

via Long-held theory on human gestation refuted: Mother’s metabolism, not birth canal size, limits gestation — ScienceDaily.

In a past article about the wise women behind and around us, I included this interesting quote from Tsippy Monat:

“Anthropology describes trance as a condition is which the senses are heightened and everyday things take on a different meaning. Communicative competence with other people may increase or may not exist. Facts of time and place are revealed differently than in normal everyday consciousness. This description reminded me of situations encountered at birth because birth is a condition in which the mind is altered. When I accompany births, I experience the flooding of oxytocin and endorphins. In Hebrew, the root of the word birth can also mean ‘next to God’” (p. 49).

via Thesis Tidbits: The Wise Women Behind, Within, and Around Us | Talk Birth.

And, speaking of historical experiences of birth support, I re-visited this guest post about birth witnesses:

The only way to understand birth is to experience it yourself. The ONLY way? That comment stayed with me, haunted me. I became a doula after my daughter’s birth because I wanted to be able to provide women with support and knowledge that could give them a different experience, a better memory than what I had. I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a way to understand birth at all except to experience it firsthand. Certainly there wasn’t always this fear and unknown around birth that we each face today. Not always. I began studying that idea. What about other cultures? What about our culture, historically? What about The Farm? There wasn’t always this myth and mystery about birth! I realized there was a time (and in places, there still is) when women banded together for births. Mothers, sisters, cousins, daughters, aunts, friends. They came together and comforted, guided, soothed, coached, and held the space for one another during birth. These women didn’t go in it alone – they were surrounded by women who had birthed before them. Women who knew what looked and felt right, and what didn’t. Women who could empathize with them and empower them. In addition to that, girls and women were raised in a culture of attending births. Daughters watched mothers, sisters and aunts labor their babies into this world. They saw, heard, and supported these women for the long hours of labor, so when they became mothers themselves, the experience was a new, but very familiar one for them. Birth wasn’t a secretive ritual practiced behind the cold, business-like doors of a hospital. It was a time for bonding, learning, sharing and sisterhood. Girls learned how women become mothers, and mothers helped their sisters bring forth life. It was a sacred and special part of the birthing process that has become lost in our institutionalized, over-medicalized, isolating and impersonalized system today.

via Birth Witnesses | Talk Birth.

And, another regarding women’s rites of passage:

“I love and respect birth. The body is a temple, it creates its own rites, its own prayers…all we must do is listen. With the labor and birth of my daughter I went so deep down, so far into the underworld that I had to crawl my way out. I did this only by surrendering. I did this by trusting the goddess in my bones. She moved through me and has left her power in me.” ~Lea B., Fairfax, CA (via Mama Birth)

via Rites of Passage… Celebrating Real Women’s Wisdom | Talk Birth.

In just a few hours, I’m headed into town for our first local Red Tent Circle. I took this photo yesterday in honor of the spring equinox and the themes of manifestation, intention, and creativity. May we walk in harmony with each other and may we be surrounded by circles of support.

Happy Spring!

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The Heart of Birth Quotes

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Fill your body with this breath
expand your heart with this message
you are such a good mother.

via International Women’s Day: Prayer for Mothers

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Choosing to move beyond the painful disconnections of our culture, I do my best to support the breastfeeding mothers I meet. Our world must move beyond separating baby from mother, self from breath, and bodies from hearts.

–Amy Wright Glenn, In praise of breast milk.

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I remain firmly convinced that the way we treat women in the birthplace reflects an overall cultural attitude towards women in general. I believe that peace on earth begins with birth. I believe that we can change the world with the way we greet new babies and celebrate new mothers and see the deep, never-ending work of parenting our children. I believe in rising for justice and I keep vigil in my heart every day for women around the world.

–Molly Remer, Rise for Justice

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Birth doula work is not about double hip squeezes. It isn’t about birth plans. Birth doulaing at its heart is a spiritual path that will rip away your narcissism and your selfishness. It will restructure your values and strengthen your compassion and empathy for all people through pain and humility. It is about learning how to BE in the presence of conflict and the human experience of living at its most raw and gut wrenching…

–Amy Gililand

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Midwives often forget that our beliefs in [mom’s] abilities can alter her accomplishments. It is important to check our hearts and push through any lack of belief that may inhibit her strengths. This may sound silly or ethereal, but I guarantee it can make a difference for a laboring mom and family.

~ Carol Gautschi (Midwifery Today)

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Body opens
heart opens
hands open to receive

Birth mama
birth goddess
she’s finding her way
she’s finding her way…

via Birth as Initiation

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…all those tasks and interactions of motherhood, a day full of which might make you feel you’ve ‘gotten nothing done’ because you’ve been in the cycle of care, are the heart and soul of the best brain building possible.

–Lauren Lindsey Porter

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Magic mama. She who transforms body and blood into milk. Into life. Into the heartsong of another. Maternal sacrament. Shared freely. Flowing sweetly. Uniting. This thoroughly embodied stuff of motherhood. This physical commitment. This body-based vow to our young. She holds her baby. And she holds the world.

Mammal mama. Liquid love. Cellular vow. Unbreakable, biological web of life and loving.

She’s just feeding her baby. Is she? Or is she healing the planet at the very same time?

via Pewter Breastfeeding Mama Goddess Sculpture by BrigidsGrove

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Open hearts, strong hands. Be present, listen, feel her, trust your instincts. And remember–I have birthed my children…she will birth this child her way, with her power, be with her and let her feel your faith in her.

–Jennifer Walker

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The regular old birth books and charts of fetal development and nutrition facts and birth plan worksheets didn’t cut it anymore (do they ever?). I had the same experience in teaching birth classes–yes, I could cover stages of labor and birth positions, but what about the heart of birth. What about the “mystery”? What about those unknown lessons in excavating one’s own depths? What about that part of birth and life that only she knows?

–Molly Remer via Sacred Pregnancy Week 1, Part 1: Sacred Space

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…birth, if she has her way, happens below the head. In the end, fantasies and images from the stories a woman holds in her heart are what emerge with power…

–Sister MorningStar (The Power of Women)

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Birth is not a cerebral event; it is a visceral-holistic process which requires all of your self–-body, heart, emotion, mind, spirit.

–Baraka Bethany Elihu (Birthing Ourselves into Being)

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A doula gives from the heart to help another woman discover what birth and life are really all about.

–Connie Livingston

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…Like other involuntary processes, we cannot consciously control pregnancy and birth unless we physically intervene. Did you need to learn how to make your heart beat? How to breathe? How to digest your food? How to produce hormones?…You don’t have to do anything to make these processes work. You can support them, or you can intervene, but they will happen all on their own. You can trust them.

Lamaze International

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As doulas, midwives, nurses, and doctors, it’s important to never underestimate how deeply entrusted we are with someone’s most vulnerable, raw, authentic self. We witness their heroic journeys, see them emerge with their babies, hearts wide open…

–Lesley Everest (MotherWit Doula)

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Children are the power and the beauty of the future. Like tiny falcons we can release their hearts and minds, and send them soaring, gathering the air to their wings…

–Skip Berry

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Expectant mothers need to be mothered; their hearts need to be infused with love, confidence, and determination. I now see myself as ‘midwife’ to the gestation and birth of women as mothers.

–Pam England (Birthing from Within)

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Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.

–Sue Bender

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Understanding birth technology shouldn’t lull you into thinking you understand birth. The profound mystery and spirituality of birth can never be understood with the mind, they are known through the heart…

–Pam England

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…fear has to be present in order for courage to exist. The English word ‘courage’ is derived from the French word for the heart, coeur. Finding the heart to continue doing the right thing in the face of great fear inspires others to become nobler human beings.

~ Gloria Lemay

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Womb Labyrinth

10801641_1583381505207399_4451968254649696695_nBirth journey. Each of us walks our own path. In the center, a baby waits. And, so too, wait deep truths about ourselves. Our own courage, our own fears, our own strength, our own power. One foot in front of the other. That’s how the journey is made. You set out for the threshhold, unknowing. Maybe a little fearful. Maybe intrigued. Maybe anticipatory. Maybe excited. And you start to walk. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes our journeys drop us to our knees. Sometimes we feel around in the dark, searching for something to hold onto. Sometimes we skip and twirl along the path. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we pause and sit down and wait. Sometimes someone walks with us, holding our hand. Maybe even giving us a little push from behind. But, ultimately, it is our own private journey. When we get to the center, we will discover what it is that we know that no one else does.

il_570xN.703098950_l7x8The journey of postpartum is a labyrinth too. Carrying our babies in our arms, past sleepless nights, through endless days. Through worry and tears, through sharp, sweet, timeless moments of a joy so bone deep it knows no words and in a love so endless that it defies description. And, we walk. Sometimes we bounce. Sometimes we sway. Sometimes we sing a little tune. Sometimes we beg. Sometimes we scream. Sometimes we sit down and say we can’t keep going. Sometimes we skip through the sunshine and dance in the moonlight. Sometimes we can’t believe how much fun we are having and how wonderful this is. Sometimes we feel so alone, we think we might break. And, yet, we keep going, and we emerge, blinking at the newness of it all…

 Modified from a past post: Birth Labyrinth | Talk Birth.

Welcoming Tanner Matthias!

“There really was a baby!” –Me, in birth video

IMG_8557As was my pregnancy custom, on October 3oth I woke up around 3:00 a.m. with definite contractions. They were spaced about 30 minutes apart, however, and I kept myself awake unnecessarily waiting for them to get bigger or closer together. I finally got up at 4:30 or 5:00 and Mark got up too. As I as I got up, contractions picked up to about three minutes apart. I couldn’t believe I’d “wasted time” by lying down, non-sleeping AND non-laboring! I felt very adrenaline filled and excited. The sense of urgency and “coming soon” was very familiar to Zander’s exceedingly fast labor, whereas my sense of need to call Mom during a contraction and then changing my mind afterward was similar to Lann’s. And, leaning on the kitchen half-wall as an ideal labor position was similar to Alaina’s. There was no slow lead-in here, these were sharp, strong, intense contractions that I already couldn’t talk through. Though they felt big and serious, they were also short in duration. I lit my birth altar candle and since I wanted to have clean, freshly washed hair, I decided to take a shower.

043 044After showering and even blowdrying my hair for cuteness in future pictures, the intensity of the contractions increased again. Mark got to work on filling the pool and heating more water as soon as I got out of the shower and he kept messing with the pool even though I was starting to feel like I needed him (also needed pool, so he wasn’t doing the wrong thing!). I felt sure that this was picking up FAST. We texted Mom and she contacted Robin and Summer (midwife and doula). I felt a weird sensation of time pressure then, looking out window, waiting and not wanting to be observed, waited for, or watched. The pool continued to take a lot of time and attention and was annoying. Plus, the hose popped out when Mark was in the laundry room and flooded the floor. I was saying things like, “this had better be the best thing ever, because right now I hate it!” I couldn’t decide if I should keep standing up or try something else like sit on the birth ball or try the water. It seemed early for water (except during contractions!), so I sat on the ball at which point contractions became HUGE, but, also only 8-10 minutes apart. I was confused and kept trying to figure out what made more sense—smaller, more frequent contractions while standing up, or bigger but far apart on the ball. I was laughing about my indecisiveness and kept saying, “so, tell me what to doooooooo!” (which is actually my most despised thing in labor). I opted to stay on the ball because I felt open there and when standing I felt like I was closing my legs together and tensing up. On the ball, I started humming the Sacred Pregnancy Standing at the Edge song I listened to so often during my pregnancy: standing at the edge…clinging to my innocence…one more tiny step…time is here and now…diving into the unknown. I believe in me, I believe in meee-eeee. I believe in me, I do, I do…

Later, in the pool, I turned on the rest of my Sacred Pregnancy playlist from the CD, which I both liked and didn’t like because I could no longer anchor myself then with the “I believe in me, I do” hum.  I talked and joked and laughed about stuff a lot. And, I would sing little things like: let’s find something else to say and not owie-zooooowie… I do not know how else to say that these were intense, big, powerful contractions. To my memory, they feel like they were the biggest, most painful contractions I’ve ever had—but slooooooowly far apart. The sensation of downward pressure was powerful already during each, but the distance between them very confusing. After back and forthing verbally for some time, I decided to get in the pool: this had BETTER be WORTH IT.

I loved the pool, but I also, intensely, felt like I was on “display” or being watched. I also felt a little isolated or separated and observed, even by my own mom (who, mindfully, went to sit on the couch to give me space). I kept feeling worried and pressured about my midwife and doula getting there any minute, even though we talked in advance about how I mainly needed them for immediate postpartum care and only wanted them to come in at the very end. I had never talked to my mom about specifically when to tell them to actually come though, so I kept thinking they were sitting in the driveway waiting for me (they weren’t, because they were being respectful of what they knew I wanted and needed). As with my other babies, I knew in my heart I wanted to birth alone, but then with immediate postpartum/follow-up care. This is hard to balance and gauge. And, I acknowledge that it isn’t really fair to the midwife either! My birth brain really needs to be alone and unwatched and I knew in the pool that I wanted to push my baby out before anyone else was there.

I took my favorite birth goddess sculpture into the pool with me where she kept me company and floated with me and reassured me until I was pushing and set her outside the tub (ever practical, I didn’t want her to get lost in what I knew would end up as bloody water!).

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If you look close, you can spy the little goddess in my hand.

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Here, I was laughing about feeling like a little toad in a pool.

My mom kept me supplied with food and drinks and occasional encouragement and Mark stayed close, touching me and being present. There was lots of waiting in the pool (I feel like) for those slow but BIG contractions. I got out to pee and finally saw some BLOOD. I always wait and wait for this sign because for me it is the herald of nearly full dilation. I have no blood or any leaking or discharge until I’m only a short distance from pushing out a baby! I shook and shook in the bathroom at this point too, which I think was related to the temperature change from getting out of the warm pool and not transition per se, but it could have been both.

Back to the pool and out one more time to pee (more blood! Yay! Blood is so fun! Really. It is super encouraging for me to see during labor at this point.) I started to weirdly fret about my bladder at this point getting in the way of baby’s head (potentially): this can happen, you know, I told my mom and Mark (even though I was totally peeing and had no signs of bladder being in the way). I could tell baby was moving down and getting close to pushing, but I felt impeded with the amniotic sac intact. I moved to hands and knees in the tub and talked to myself: it’s okay. You’re okay. We’re okay. I can do it. We can do it. You can come out baby. We want you. We want you. (I cried I tiny bit saying this.)

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I like how you can see my friendly little birth altar glowing in the background.

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I turned back over then and kept on smiling…

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One hour before birth.

IMG_8543Some time after this, I started feeling inside after each contraction and could feel a hard lump getting closer and closer every time I had a (now close together) contraction. I didn’t feel sure it was a head though, but that maybe I was somehow feeling my own pubic bone or some other mysterious part of my anatomy never before felt. It felt squishy kind of, though hard underneath. (Duh, because it was an amniotic sac around a baby head, Molly!), so then I imagined I wasn’t fully dilated and was somehow prolapsing my cervix instead of feeling a baby’s head. I think these types of thoughts are one of the hazards of being a birth professional. They are also proof, to me, that no matter what odd or frightening things you think, babies’ heads still move down and come out anyway! At this point, the baby began to have hiccups. He was so low that it basically felt like my anus was hiccupping. I had Mark feel them very low on my belly—just above my pubic bone—and then I laughed and saidthis counts as a fetal heart tones check!

Finally, my water broke at last and I knew he was almost out. Pushing was intense and big and felt huge and hard and long. I became convinced baby weighed ten pounds and was probably not going to come out. I felt like it was taking a long time and a lot of work, but according to Mom and Mark it was about four pushes and date stamps on pictures reveal about 5-6 minutes total of this hard work. I also kept thinking someone else was going to come in. I felt the familiar burning on my front right side and knew I would tear again (labial/clitoral). It felt scary and I looked at my mom and said I was scared (she said, “I know”). I almost pushed through the burn, but then I stopped myself and waited for the next push and then his head was out, along with a bloom of blood in the water which does indicate tearing, but I didn’t get checked for tears (by my specific decision and request) so I don’t know for sure. A minimal follow-up push and his body came out into my hands. He bobbed to the top of the pool and I lifted him out of the water. He cried a little and was already reasonably pink. He was looking around and was a little bit gurgly. I talked to him and kissed his head and told him I loved him: oh my little one, oh my little one. Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! There really was a baby! Oh, he’s CUTE! I noticed his cord was around his neck and arm and somewhat awkwardly moved it off. It was 10:20, a little over five hours after I got up.

We called my dad to bring the kids back over to see the baby and cut the cord and they arrived a few minutes before Summer and Robin got there.

053 054After Robin and Summer arrived, they helped me out the pool which I was eager to get out of, but had a lot of trouble actually doing, and onto my futon nest on the floor between the pool and bathroom. This is the part I didn’t like. So familiar and so not fun. The weak and wounded transition. But, Summer (doula) reminded me that the warrior moments are in feeling the vulnerability too. Sometimes the warrior is found in showing the vulnerability and needing the help.

After some lying on the futon and waiting for the placenta, I went to the bathroom (still holding baby attached with cord) and the placenta finally came out there (after it was washed, I swallowed a small piece of it). Zander and Alaina cut the cord as they had been waiting to do and then left for playgroup with my friend who was waiting patiently outside to take them. When the placenta was examined, they saw he had a velamentous cord, which is fairly rare and can actually be dangerous and possibly explains my widely spaced contractions (giving baby time he needed).

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The baby’s temperature was low and it took us some time and effort to get him warmed up and that was probably because I was in the water a little long after birth and that is my only regret about this birth. When his temperature was normal, we weighed him and he only came up as 6lbs4oz. He then weighed 7lbs4oz at two days, which means he was really bigger than that at birth. He weighs eight pounds now at a week. So, he weighed something at birth, but the exact amount is unknown! He was 20 inches and had a 14 inch head.

As I laid on my futon and latched baby on for the first time, I realized that in all my planning and fretting and preparing and deadlining, I’d forgotten how very, very much love was possible.

 

Ready or Not!

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I woke up this morning thinking that considering how close my due date is to Halloween, I’m surprised I have not managed a pumpkin + belly picture of any kind! So, despite the fact that I am intensely crabby crabbilicious, have a cold, and am wearing ugly clothes, I can now check pumpkin belly picture off my list.

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I also dreamed I gave birth in a random driveway full of Halloween decorations! I said: “this was my first outdoor birth!” (the baby also had all his teeth, including molars)

Also, non-belly, but here is our annual pumpkin patch picture from our homeschool group outing last week:

October 2014 153The inexorable march towards Birth-Day is such an interesting, liminal place to be in. It both feels “mysterious” and inevitable. The closer I get to my official due date, the more wide open the possibilities seem as to when he will be born…when, in reality, the options narrow each day! I still have a certain sense of unreality about the whole thing—like, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to have a BABY????!!!!!

However, I’ve spent the last nine months working towards exactly this…

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(This is what my schedule for this week looked like on Monday)

And, I hit 39 weeks on Monday too!

October 2014 070Look! My mom made matching mother-baby birth socks for us to wear after the birth. :)

October 2014 094And, this is how Alaina has been…

October 2014 098(Clingy clingolicious and sleeping like crap)

We realized a couple of weeks ago that we’d better order a couple of key things, like a car seat, to finish getting ready for Tanner. Shortly after, UPS, the mail carrier, and FedEx all came to the door within the space of about thirty minutes and then, same day in the evening, FedEx came AGAIN.

October 2014 011 It is also both fun and a little shocking to see Tanner’s clothes come out of the laundry with the rest of the family’s. He’s really on his way!

New Etsy Pictures 005My final night of in-person class until January was October 7th and my students surprised me on final exam night with a whole bundle of baby presents and said it is in appreciation for everything I’ve given to them and how committed I am. I came very close to crying!

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(I felt a little guilty about their three part comprehensive final exam then!)

My “crunchy mom” student also gave me an amber teething necklace. And, there wasn’t a bottle or pacifier to be found in the bundle of gifts.

A post about American postpartum practices continues to make the rounds on Facebook and when I read this quote…

“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one. For the mourning or the injured, we will activate a meal tree. For the woman who is torturously fatigued, who has lost one 10th of her body’s blood supply, who can scarcely pee for the stitches running up her perineum, we will not.”

Why Are America’s Postpartum Practices So Rough On New Mothers? – The Daily Beast.

…I thought that this is what I am SO not looking forward to doing again any time—the being someone in recuperation. I am healthy and happy and strong while pregnant and it is such a hard adjustment to “suddenly” be weak and wounded. I hate it. I’ve tried to explain to Mark how weird it is to one day be a bopping around pregnant woman and the next day to be having to have someone help you get into the shower and feed you! AND, that said, I have totally excellent postpartum support because it is like my personal obsession to get those needs adequately met after not having a clue how hard it would be after the first baby. Every baby, I have less and less of a birth plan of any kind (other than, “have baby at home”) and a more exhaustively detailed postpartum plan right down to: “I get this kind of tea with this honey in it immediately after the birth.”

One of my friends who shared the article made the interesting observation that perhaps this phenomenon is made worse by the empowerment culture of the homebirth/natural birth community, because of our emphasis on women as strong and capable (which they are). But, perhaps that translates into the assumption, goal, or expectation (either from herself or others) that the mother than then “triumph” over the vulnerability of postpartum just like she can or did during labor and birth. After I thought about this, I went ahead and took my sister-in-law up on her offer to come help me postpartum this time as well. I already have my mom and Mark and my postpartum doula and I have midwifery care. So, when my sister-in-law originally offered I felt like I shouldn’t say yes, also because she has a little baby herself. However, then I thought, bring on the love and help!

Though as I mentioned, I haven’t spent a lot of time making specific or detailed birth plans, I have revisited this past post based on the “what if” thoughts of Leilah McCracken:

Let’s shift the internal dialogue and think “what if?!” in powerful ways: “What if I have the most beautiful experience of my life? What if I could actually feel a wet, moving baby on my belly—just after birth—and fall in love with that feeling forever? What if I give birth and feel pure exhilaration? What will happen if I give birth as a powerful, free woman—what will happen if I claim my right to give birth as my biology impels me to? What if I emerge victorious, free, and powerful? What if—what if my baby never feels anything in her first moments other than my body and my love? What if I push my baby out into my own hands, and pull her up, and kiss her wet head, and cry and moan and weep my joy in private, darkness and love—what if… what if this birth is the most loving, sweet and gentle moment of my life? What if I give birth with wild joy and courageous abandon? What if…”

What If? Shifting the Dialogue of Birth | Talk Birth.

And, I’ve been wondering if going on a massive Unsubscribe From All The Things mission is a type of virtual “nesting”?! (Our non-virtual kitchen cabinets have been getting a ruthless sweep through too.)

I do not picture laboring during the day at all, so every night I go to bed thinking “tonight could be the night” and then when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I’ve got a “bonus” day ahead of me! Since two of my other babies were born two days before their due dates, I’ve had my sights set on tomorrow as a likely possibility… (the 25th, which could be tonight or tomorrow evening and still qualify)

Also, not totally related, but we got some new pigments recently and I am very fond of this “rose gold” one…

October 2014 062I keep feeling a sensation of needing to “get more done” during each “bonus” day I wake up to and have been feeling frustrated with what feels like overall household inertia from everyone else around me—all the rest of the family members seem content to just “hang out” and wait. I do not do “hanging out” well at all and feel like perhaps I should somehow go ahead and knock out the 50 page paper I have rolling around in my brain for one of the remaining three classes I have left in my D.Min degree. However, then my brain isn’t quite in it (and the household is not cooperative. Seriously. My other kids lately. Whoa!). So, today, I made one of the teas for my Sacred Postpartum class and did some other small projects and to-dos instead (like this post). The 50 page paper can keep waiting!

October 2014 094

Sacred Postpartum, Week 1: Birth Stories and Vow

Backtracking a little into week one of my current Sacred Postpartum class, for the first week’s assignments in reviewing our own birth and postpartum experiences, I set up a mini sacred space and put on some of my birth power bracelets (Mark and I started making these recently and I love them! It is like carrying a mini-mantra, birth power reminder with me every day).

October 2014 003 October 2014 037

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did my vow page and then a collage of reminders to myself. I made a birth stories page and then printed out copies of each of my kids’ birth stories and stapled them to the back of one journal page per story, including one for my third baby who was born in a second trimester miscarriage (the stories are all available on my blog here. I didn’t include pictures of the actual print outs! ). Then, I did a page on the front of each birth story with pictures of each kid and significant words/lessons from their stories. I ended with a collage of myself as I prepare for my upcoming birth at the end of this month (39 weeks now, 37 when I did the assignment) and took a picture of a blank page as well as a symbol of the story yet to be written…

(click for bigger pix)

I also just have to pat myself on the back again about having enrolled in these trainings at this point in my own pregnancy. It was a stroke of genius! And, while I knew I would benefit from them, I had no idea how very deeply I would do so.

October 2014 005

 

Wednesday Tidbits: Mother Care

“I watch her face become alight with joy and ecstasy. ‘You’re here, oh look, you’re here! You’re so beautiful! I love you! We did it!’ It hasn’t been easy, but it was worth it…She knows–in a way that can never be taken from her–the story of her own courage and strength.”

–Jodi Green in SageWoman magazine

Photo: "I watch her face become alight with joy and ecstasy. 'You're here, oh look, you're here! You're so beautiful! I love you! We did it!' It hasn't been easy, but it was worth it...She knows--in a way that can never be taken from her--the story of her own courage and strength." </p><br /><br /> <p>--Jodi Green in SageWoman magazine
After talking with my doula last week about my own powerful need for postpartum care, I re-read my own past post about “birth regrets” and was reminded again how the theme of inadequate postpartum care in my own life resurfaces multiples times. I told my doula that I’ve never really been happy with my postpartum care, recovery, and experience until I hired her for my last birth and became very, very, very clear about exactly what I needed from the people around me following birth. This is despite having an extremely helpful mother who cooked and cared for me very well and lovingly after each birth AND an extremely involved, nurturing husband. I still needed MORE. Postpartum is hard! Many hands, helps, and small care-giving tasks are needed.

It is interesting to me to see that this is where my regrets and “things to fix” come from, rather than from the births themselves. It is kind of hard for me to write about clearly because I did get good care every time from my mom and from Mark, but I still needed MORE. And, I don’t think it is necessarily “fair” to them to skip bonding with the baby because they’re so busy helping me crawl to the bathroom, or whatever! I also didn’t take particularly good care of myself–emotionally, mainly–following birth.

Midwives are wonderful and midwife-attended birth is wonderful, but it feels like very often birth is the moment and then they fade away and the mother must pick up the early postpartum pieces herself, when perhaps her vulnerability and need for support and physical care is highest then, definitely more than prenatally and, I would argue, often more intensely than during the birth itself.

(Oh, and by the way, I still joke that what I’ve really needed is a continuous postpartum doula for the last 11 years…when my first son was born).

My birth regrets post is a companion to my “bragging rights” and birth post:

‘…Frankly, I think all mothers get bragging rights on their babies births. Birth is awesome and amazing and power-full. Every mother must face it. Sure, she may face it differently than me, but it IS a labyrinth we all go through. This is the way of life. So, mothers, brag away. Brag about whatever part of your labor and baby’s birth made you feel empowered….find that piece, even if it’s just a tiny moment, and cling to it. Shout it from the rooftops!…’

via Tuesday Tidbits: Bragging Rights | Talk Birth.

Speaking of doula Summer, Rolla area families should take note that she is available for a variety of different birth and postpartum packages as well as birth classes: Summer Birth Services. I’m looking forward to her care again in October when I have my baby!

And, still speaking of Summer, I am so excited to share that she is moving forward with the Womanspace community resource center idea that we have talked over and visioned for so many years.

…I visualize a center. A place where women can come together to learn, to talk, to develop, to grow. A safe place. A nurturing place. A supportive place. Hostess to LLL meetings, book clubs, birth circle, birth info nights, prenatal yoga classes, birth classes, birth art workshops, pregnancy retreats, journaling workshops, craft classes, crafty mamas meetings, a miscarriage support group, postpartum mamas support group, birth counseling/consultation sessions, dancing for birth, prenatal bellydance, drop-in support chats, blessingways, red tent events, meet the doulas night, Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal groups, women’s spirituality circles, playgroups, baby massage classes, baby/tot yoga, girls’ coming of age classes, an ICAN chapter, Friends of Missouri Midwives meetings.

A gathering place. A woman’s place.

It will have a large, open meeting room, access to a bathroom and another, smaller room that could be an office, consult room, or playroom. We will have counter space to plug in some minimal cooking implements like a microwave. There will be comfy couches, chairs, toys, a lending library of books and films as well as perhaps toys/games/puzzles. There will be big pillows on the floor and beautiful art all over the walls. Other women wishing to have groups/classes for women, could also use the space for their groups/events.Think we can do it? And, if so, what can I not do to make space in my life for it? In a way, my vision is that this will be that classic “room of one’s one” that every woman needs access to. WomanSpace…

via WomanSpace | Talk Birth.

The above is an excerpt from a post I wrote four years ago! It is so exciting to have it going somewhere. Summer posted on her blog today with her expanded and deepened vision of this space: WomanSpace ~ Making the Vision a Reality

Related to celebrating women and mothers, I updated my mother blessing/women’s ritual page this week: Blessingways / Women’s Programs | Talk Birth.

And, returning to the need for mother care, it so important to recognize that women need support following birth regardless of the week of gestation at which she gives birth. Personally, I was knocked off my feet by my need for immediate support following my first miscarriage. I had never once dreamed miscarriage would be such an intense, physically demanding birth experience. I’m glad this information is now reaching others via Stillbirthday…

When a mother is experiencing pregnancy & infant loss, she needs immediate support.

If you’re a bereaved mother on facebook, it is extremely likely you’ve heard the cry of the newest bereaved mother, sharing that she just very recently endured the death and birth of her beloved baby.

What is some practical support she can use? We have three little buttons published in several places throughout the website, for support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester. Here’s a link for support in the earliest days and weeks after birth:

Photo: If you're a bereaved mother on facebook, it is extremely likely you've heard the cry of the newest bereaved mother, sharing that she just very recently endured the death and birth of her beloved baby.</p><br /><br /> <p>What is some practical support she can use?  We have three little buttons published in several places throughout the website, for support prior to, during and after birth in any trimester.</p><br /><br /> <p>Here's a link for support in the earliest days and weeks after birth:</p><br /><br /> <p>http://www.stillbirthday.com/after-the-birth/

Switching gears somewhat, another one of my quotes from a Pathways magazine article was turned in a Facebook meme and has been shared on Facebook over 3,000 times. I again would have missed it except for two of my friends tagging me in the post!

August 2014 047Remember that in honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we’re offering a 10% off discount code on any of the items in our shop through the end of August: WBW10OFF.

I am 30 weeks pregnant now! I had a bit of an “OMG, can I actually DO this?!” moment last night when the new session of classes began for me. My students asked me how much longer I have left of my pregnancy and my answer was, “about ten weeks.” I have 8 weeks of class…

August 2014 046It is a hot time of year to be pregnant and while I feel good and healthy over all, I am noticing some different things compared to past pregnancies. I weigh 165 pounds now, which is pretty big! I have way more round ligament pain than I’ve ever had before, including just randomly while walking or sitting, rather than exclusively related to getting up “wrong” or twisting in a not pregnant-friendly way. I also keep having some mild heartburn. And, getting up from the floor is a much bigger challenge than ever before.

I’ve mentioned several times in recent posts that Mark and I have been working on birthing a big project together and it is finally here!
August 2014 049Our first collaborative book project! I did the writing and he did all the illustrations, layout, and formatting. This has been a project about 18 months in the making, a more significant undertaking and more significant expenditure of energy than I could have guessed when I began.

I like how the experience of the final stages of the book have paralleled my own pregnancy. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, our co-creative work on our business endeavors this year is really entwined with the progress of gestating and preparing to welcome our new baby.

As we’ve worked over the last weeks on the final push to finish the book, I saw this meme on Facebook:1479335_10153562403855714_35111715_nI shared it on our page and noted that when you’re both creative and you’re both home, the effects may be even more dramatic!

Our Embrace Possibility pendant is the design that has perhaps always held the most personal meaning for me, but as we continue to focus in on our shared vision and to embrace new directions, ideas, and projects in the context of our co-created business, she returns to me as very personally meaningful.


“Encoded in her cells,
written on her bones…
The mantle settles around her shoulders.
Sinking into belly, bones, and blood,
until she knows,
without a doubt,
that this is who,
she really is…”

(Embrace Possibility Pewter Goddess Priestess by BrigidsGrove)

And, I shared this on our page recently since it has spoken to me anew in multiple ways this month:

“…These waves of power. February 2014 007
They are you.
You are doing it.
You ARE it.
This is energy, this power, this unfolding might of creation.
It’s you.
Your body
your power
your birth
your baby…”

Birth Spiral Chakra Blessing | Talk Birth.