well, folks…i learned something this week.

and that is that helping my little bear learn to sleep on her own is one exhausting full time job…albeit an important and hopefully rewarding one in the end.

up until about a week or so ago, we’d gotten into the habit of using many props (as the baby whis.perer terms them) to get her to sleep…including, but not limited to, a binky, rocking/swaying/jiggling, pacing, etc.  and then she would really only sleep no more than 30 mins on her own, if that.  but if i would hold her, she could sleep 2 hours or more.

so, guess what i was doing?

yep, holding her to sleep all day long.  and this was tiring and frustrating and a little scarey to me…what was i going to do when she was bigger?  hold her then, too?  plus, i knew i needed a tiny little bit of freedom to move about with both arms free and a back that wasn’t throbbing (i almost never had back pain while pregnant and now—ouch!).

i began to feel that if we didn’t act soon, we’d be in for a much more difficult time of helping her learn to sleep independently.  and by independently, i mean in her bassinette next to my side of our bed.  this is the first task on our agenda.  next will be tackling sleeping in the crib in her room…slowly, but surely we’ll get there.

let me say that while it doesn’t work for me to leave her alone to “cry it out” (cio), i have been tempted to just walk away many times…times when it’s been so difficult to soothe her and i just don’t know what to do…when that damn binky slips out of her mouth and she wakes up and we have to start the process of soothing her all over again…times when she and i have tried so hard to find her sleep and we just weren’t able to, leaving us both frustrated and exhausted. 

in those moments i just want to leave her to figure it out on her own.  and maybe there’s validity to that sleep training technique…i know many people who’ve used it and found it to be successful.  i’m not writing about this to make any judgments one way or the other.

but i do know that to me it doesn’t make sense to ignore my instinct to comfort my baby when she’s screaming, alone in her room.  this doesn’t work for me in part because of my own fears of abandonment that i carry with me even to this day…and the thought of passing them along to my girl is very saddening to me.  so much so that i could easily become a mother who never wants to be more than 2 feet from her just in case she’s afraid i’ve left her.

but then, smothering her like that doesn’t work for me either.  and this is why i’ve chosen the middle road.  helping her learn to sleep without leaving her or holding her everytime she’s sleeping.

but it’s damn hard work, i’ll tell you that.

oh how i wish i got paid to care for my own little one the way i’ve been paid to take care of other people’s children for so long! 🙂

it’s been quite a while since i wrote, hey?

there are many reasons for this, but the main ones are:

~sleep deprivation—-i had no idea how negatively affected i’d be by lack of sleep over such a long stretch of time.  i need my sleep even more than i knew.

~too busy—-this is only partially true b/c i’m not too busy to write emails or make phone calls when i want to, but it is kind of true.

~ashamed of some of the more difficult feelings i’ve been experiencing—-i wasn’t prepared to feel the level of “negative” emotions i’ve had since she was born.  it’s difficult to accept that these are also part of the package of mothering a little one so full of need and vulnerability.  but it’s true.  at least for me.  sometimes i feel angry or resentful or frustrated or enraged or numb or checked out.  and i’m embarrassed.  but i know these are part and parcel of this stage of life and mothering, so i try not to hold it against myself. i try to just let this process be what it is.  and make every attempt at managing all that i’m feeling so that i don’t take it out on our precious, innocent little bear.  after all, she’s just doing what little babies do…communicating primarily through her tears.

but here i am, expressing myself once again through writing.  knowing that this is one kind and helpful way for me to make my way through these experiences successfully…with grace and dignity.

i’m learning there are similarities in birth and in death……for instance, the day my mom died my world stopped…life as i knew it would never be the same…i am not the same.  thursday, april 1st 2010, our lives changed forever yet again, time stopped, life as i know it will never be the same…but this time because of life and birth.  and what a wild, beautiful ride it has been since then.

i had no idea when i woke up on weds march 31st that my labor would begin that evening…i just went about my day, wondering how much longer until she made her debut.  all along i’d been thinking she’d be born on the 30th, so when the 30th came and went i was out of guesses.  would we have another whole weekend together, just huz and sweetie?  i really thought we would.

and then that evening at 6:53p i felt the first contraction.  still, we weren’t sure for quite a while whether this would turn out to be another practice session or if this was the real deal.  but as my mucus plug began to release, i knew this was it.

in the beginning, every contraction was pure excitement.  i’d had so many practice rounds that i was prepared for what they felt like and i faithfully listened to my birth affirmations and my relaxation techniques on my ipod as the frequency and intensity increased throughout the night.  when i called my midwife around 9:30p to let her know that i believed we were experiencing the real deal, she said, “have half a glass of red wine, go to bed at your usual time and try to sleep…true labor will not be slowed.  and you’re going to need the rest.”

i didn’t bother with the red wine b/c i don’t generally like the taste…though we do happen to have an unopened bottle in the house, but i just didn’t feel like forcing something down that i didn’t want to drink…so i took a hot shower to relax instead.  then off to bed with my birth affirmations playing  in my ear. 

my goal all along was to labor as long as possible at home before heading to the birth center.  since we’d decided against working with a doula, i wasn’t sure how feasible this was going to be, but still i’d hoped i’d do most of my laboring here.

and boy did i!  all night long i’d doze off only to be woken every 8-7-6-5 mins to another contraction.  they were becoming more intense and finally at 5a i got up to take another shower and to move around in general.  that’s when they started coming 4 mins apart, so after an hour of consistant 4min contractions lasting a min each, i called my midwife again.  we decided i’d call her back when something changed again…as in if my water broke or the contractions became noticeably more intense, closer together, etc.

an hour later, i called again b/c i’d begun feeling shaky, slightly nauseous and the contractions were stronger.  so, we left for the birth center about 20mins later…it’s a 40-45 min drive there and this was during rush hour, so we were hoping we’d not get stuck in any traffic.  gotta love those hov lanes!  the drive was MUCH better than i thought it would be…my contractions were still very intense, but they slowed in frequency while we were on the road…thank you body!  we arrived shortly after 8a.

this is when things started to get really exciting for me…i could not believe we were actually there because our baby was finally coming to us!!  i was so happy and excited and our midwife and the student midwife were both surprised at how “chipper” i was, especially when i agreed that they could check me and found that i was at 7cm already!

well, if i wasn’t chipper and excited before this news, i certainly was after.  my huz and i celebrated my good work with a double high-five and two of our friends arrived at the birth center to support us.  though not in our birthing suite for the birth, they did spend a while with us until i began to feel the need for privacy.  i loved knowing they were in the building, there for us, anticipating with us…so glad we invited them and they were each able to be there on that particular day.

at around 10-10:30ish a.m. i decided to get in the tub to see what i thought of laboring there for a while.  i liked it and decided to stay put for as long as i was comfortable, which turned out to be the whole time.

at some point we decided they would check me again……..and wouldn’t you know it—her head was at +1 already!  that’s when i reached up there and felt her head for the first time…absolutely incredible.  as my water remained intact at that point, we talked about whether i’d like them to break it for me or if i’d like to wait and allow it to release naturally.  

i’d always wanted to wait for my water to release naturally, mainly because once it’s broken, it’s broken…they can’t go back and undo it….which can set a person up for further interventions that i was not interested in having….but since she was definitely–without a doubt–coming (+1 already!!), my huz and i agreed to go ahead and have them break it for us. 

the whole water breaking thing was kind of anti-climatic………at first.

and it was just as my hypnobirthing teacher told me—when my baby and my body were ready, my uterus would begin to contract downward to bring our baby to us…i just needed to focus on directing my breathing downward, rather than breathing up, as i was during the thinning and opening phase of labor. 

well, holy.mother.of.god.

yes, my body did just that………my uterus surged downward…it literally heaved in the most unexpected way—at least, it was unexpected for this first-timer.  and with that massive heaving a huge gush of amniotic fluid was forced from my body.  when the contraction ended i exclaimed, “holy crap!  i feel like i just threw up out of my vagina!”

my midwife started cracking up and said she’d never quite heard it described that way.  well, i ask you, how else could i describe it?  that’s just exactly what it felt like…an out-of-control-heaving while fluid was expelled from me! 

so, for 53 mins the heaving came four minutes apart.  i could tell with each contraction that her head was getting lower and lower through the birth canal.  it was amazing.  

at some point one of the midwives sneezed while i was in the midst of a contraction.  when it finished, i said, “bless you.”  everyone started laughing and that’s when i realized how silly it must have been to have this woman in active labor, in the midst of heavy contractions saying bless you to someone sneezing….but really, that’s just how present i was in the moment.  my senses were hightened.  and i was very aware of not wanting to be left alone.  not that anyone was going anywhere, but i was hyper-aware of my huz’s presence and the student midwife who was doing all the hands on work with me. 

and then she began to crown…she’d come down with the contraction, stretch my tissues and then go back.  down, stretch, back.  down, stretch, back.  my midwives were awesome about letting me know this was natural and good…our baby was stretching my tissues so that her head could comfortably emerge.  well, somewhat more comfortably than if she just rocketed out with that first heave!

and then they told me i could feel her head.

feel her head!

i have tears right now just remembering that precious moment.  the first time i felt her silky hair waving in the water.  her sweet, soft little head.  i never thought to ask if i could see it.  and as far as i know my eyes were closed…all i know is that i wasn’t looking at anything; i was deep inside of myself, visualizing the stretching and unfolding…feeling her head travel down the canal and into our arms.

then i heard our midwife say she could see some cord around her neck.  but that she wasn’t able to get it off until the next contraction.  i remember feeling absolutely panicked when i heard this.  the cord being around her neck was something i’d been fearing (and trying not to fear) for many months.  i was just certain it was going to be that way.  but then i’d fear that my fear was going to make it happen, so i’d try not to fear.  i’d visualize her unwinding before coming down the canal.  but, alas, the cord was around her neck.  they told me this happens 40 percent of the time and that it was okay. 

then at 12:24p, our little bear emerged.  our midwife helped my huz catch her and place her on my chest.  i remember hearing him say that she was slippery.  and she was limp.  and i was freaking out.  there was all this blood in the water and i was scared.  scared she wouldn’t breathe and scared i was dying from hemmoraging.  then i heard our midwife say, “she’s okay.  just talk to her and rub her back.”  so i did just that.  i told her, “mommy’s here.  you’re okay.  you can breathe now.  mommy’s here.”  and i rubbed and i rubbed and i felt panicky and i looked into susanne’s (student midwife) eyes and pleadingly asked her if our baby was going to be okay…and she looked directly back into my eyes with piercing strength and said, “yes.  everything is okay.”  and i believed her.  all of this took seconds? minutes? hours?  i have no idea how long that was.  all i know is that the moment susanne assured me all was well, i breathed.  and so did our little bear.  first a little breathy cough.  and then she wailed.

and i was so happy.  but still scared i was going to bleed out.  i remember pausing to assess my physical sensations and thinking, “well, let’s see.  i don’t feel like i’m dying.  maybe that means i’m going to live.”

and live i did. 

oh, and i forgot to talk about the placenta…that precious, hearty placenta!  what a miraculous thing, i say!

i didn’t know until later that my huz took detailed pictures of it for me (he knows this part of me so well…he knew i’d just love to see it all even after the moment was over).  they also showed it to me, all the parts and the cord.  amazing.  amazing.

and then they took a piece of the art paper i brought and pressed it onto the inside surface (the side baby was against in the womb)…we’d heard the blood vessals make the shape of a tree if you press it to paper…and it sure does!  many have asked me what i plan to do with these papers (they did it more than once before finding the masterpiece!).  well, to that i say………..i have NO idea.  none. but it’s just an amazing image to me…a tree shape on the inside surface of the placenta on which my baby rested and bumped and thrived for so many months…that’s just crazy.  but even crazier was when another student midwife offered to dehydrate the placenta and put it into capsules for me.  i said to susanne, “listen.  i do a lot of crazy shit.  i really do.  but i am not going to eat a placenta.  that’s too crazy, even for me.”  placenta tablets?!  not for me.

all the rest is a whirlwind.  by 4:20p that afternoon we were heading home (just four hours after she was born!)…the three of us in our car for the first time as a family.  we pulled into our garage a little after 5p that day…just like a normal work day….left home at 7:20a and returned just after 5!  all in a day’s work, if i do say so myself.

and this, my friends, is our birth story…together my baby and my body worked to bring about the most amazing miracle ever.

since then, it’s been quite the roller coaster…quite.  i’ve felt every emotion from sheer joy, to grief, to rage, and back to elation.  there is no way to express it all and frankly, i feel ashamed at times for the more negative feelings i experience.  but they’re real, too.  a very real part of the process of coming in to motherhood.

i’m just loving this new role of mothering our little bear…she’s soft and warm and lovely.  easy to soothe.  easy to love.  and so tenderly vulnerable and trusting.  sometimes i’m overwhelmed to look at her and see her vulnerable little body, so trusting, so full of need, so open to receiving our love.

and as much as i’m deeply in love with this little baby, i also at times feel anxious, crabby, craving sleep, agitated and personally, quite difficult to soothe.

today i found myself pondering how it is that i can possibly mother our little baby when the little baby inside of myself–the young, vulnerable, needy places within me–needs such tender mothering…this seems so connected to the intense grief i feel around the reality of my mom’s death.  i so long for her to mother me as i mother my own child.

thankfully, as my huz returned to working half days this week, i have a friend coming down to spend the days with us…mothering us, as it were…cooking meals for eating and freezing…folding laundry and holding our lil’ bear while we try to sleep.

i am truly grateful for friends who will stand in the space that’s so achingly void of my own mother’s physical presence.

and i miss her so.

i desperately wish i could see her face as she looks at our baby for the first time.

i wish she could have been there to see our birth…she would have been truly amazed.  i know it.  and so proud of me.

i wish.i wish.i wish.i wish.

mostly, now i find myself wishing and hoping that when our baby girl is bigger she will tell us tales of visits from her grandma…i am quite sure they have already met…in that mysterious, other worldly place and i can’t wait until she has the words to tell us all about it.

to learn how to soothe a fussy baby by triggering their calming reflex, watch the happiest baby on the block with harvey karp, md.  amazing….and it works!

i thought, based on my experience of our first week together, i’d write out my list of “essentials”—would-not-want-to-do-without-these-things—when it comes to giving yourself the space and freedom to drink in the magic of the first days of life…pure magic…pure love…pure ecstasy. sacred days.

  • find a room in your home that can be converted into a dedicated space for “baby central”; this means having all the necessary baby goods within an arms reach, so to speak (i.e. diapering station, chair/foot rest/pillows for nursing/feeding, bassinette, etc accessible without needing to leave the room, go up and down stairs, etc.).  it also means mom resting, partner tending to mom’s needs around food, water (lots of water!), and ice cream–of course.
  • don’t bother fussing with dressing baby those first few days.  for one, they don’t usually like to be dressed and undressed, but even moreso…save yourself the extra work b/c your lactation consultant will more than likely tell you to feed skin to skin, especially when you and your little one are in those early days of learning.  instead of clothes, swaddle your baby up in a couple of flannel blankets and maybe put a kiddo.potomus swaddle over that…keeps them warm; saves you energy and the stress of hearing your baby wail while you change their outfit.  plus, this makes diaper changing that much easier, too.
  • speaking of diapers, don’t stress if your baby doesn’t poop right away after the meconium has passed, if you are breastfeeding your baby, that is.  according to my naturopathic pediatrician, bf babies always poop, it’s just a matter of when…our little bear didn’t poop for a few days and i was worried, but oh dear let me tell you…………..everything is working just fine in that dept now–more on that later! (of course, always follow your instincts and check with your pediatrician, just in case.)
  • hunker down…cozy up…and fall in love with your baby and your partner…the rest of the world can wait b/c this is your time to bond as a family.  visitors are well-meaning, but will only cause stress in the long run…even though unintentionally.  these days will go so quickly and trust me…everyone will still be hankerin’ to see your little bundle a few weeks later.  babies just do that to people.
  • and that reminds me, i can’t tell you the stress you’ll save yourself if you stock up on freezer meals before your baby is due…when making dinner, just double your recipe and freeze one.  you’ll not regret this one bit…even if you have a whole host of people dropping off meals just after your baby is born, eventually that will stop, but you’ll still need to eat!
  • take turns with your partner in caring for your baby so that each of you can go to the guest room, the sofa, or an air mattress—a tiny bit away from your sweet baby and her precious noises that will keep you from being able to truly fall asleep—not forever, just long enough to get a nap so that you’ll be able to handle a potential crying jag or diaper blowout with grace…not to mention being able to face the challenges of breastfeeding if you and your baby need extra practice with latching on, etc.  sleep deprivation can make us begin to feel anxious and overwhelmed and paranoid, among other more difficult to manage emotional states of being…by giving yourself a slot of time for “interrupted” (not sure there’s such a thing anymore!) sleep.  you might be surprised how difficult it is to relax into sleep when you can hear your baby’s every sound.  i know i was.
  • with regard to breastfeeding, if you are planning to do so………..have the name and number of a lactation consultant handy in case you get home and bump into some difficulties.  even better, contact her before your baby is born to see if she will do home visits to your area and to see if you feel comfortable with them over the phone, etc.  you may need the help and you won’t want to delay on getting it if you start to feel like your nipples are about to be bitten off!  when the breastfeeding is painful, it’s very easy to begin to resent your baby’s need to be fed and it can also  cause off the charts anxiety, etc.  not to mention, the interference with the all-important and amazing bonding process.  plus, when the baby is properly latched, you will feel a delightful sense of feel-good hormones coursing through your veins—now, why delay that experience?! 🙂

so, these are my top essentials for making your first week just that much more simple and exceedingly, delightfully, deliciously magical.  what things would you add to the list of must have’s/must do’s?

..they are just too sweet and velvety-soft for words…

i just simply had to show you…

notice the crease on the underside of her big toe…..oh how i love to kiss that little line…..

you can’t imagine how soft her little feet are.  you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

i keep trying to write her birth story…i relive it all the time in my mind…and bask in the glow of all that goodness and wonder.  i try to talk about it and i do talk about it constantly, but still it’s lacking.

putting everything i’m feeling and our birth experience into words is impossible right now.  i’m so high on love and sweet newborn breath that i can’t find words for it all.  i don’t want to find words…words can be so limiting and this life altering experience is full of unimaginable, deep, deep love and fullness…it’s also full of grieving and tears and missing.

so.so.so.full.

one day i may write a post including the details, but for now, suffice it to say~

~experiencing my body and my baby working together to bring her into this world was simply…otherworldly (hypnobirthing all the way).

~i am amazed and in awe of all that my body continues to do for our baby and for me…providing hormones to give us the ultimate bonding experience, making milk to nourish her tiny little body…i feel humbled by this body’s abilities and so sorry for all the years i’ve spent hating it.  forgive me body.  i want to carry this gratitude with me for the rest of my life…

~i am more in love with my huz than ever…i’m sure the hormones have a hand in this as well…we just look at each other in awe.  today when i went back into our baby bear den after having a shower (our bedroom has been converted into baby central, which is where we spend all of our time…cozy, warm, private), i found my huz rocking our little one whom he’d dressed in this fluffy little white bear outfit while i was away…singing to her along with the beat.tles…i melted.  and started taking pictures!

there’s so much more, but this is all i can put down for now…this little one brings me unspeakable pleasure and contentment…and lots of diapers and everything else.

she’s magical and i’m head over heels in love.

this will be a shorty, but goody, i assure you!

our baby girl was born today at 12:24p weighing 8lbs 8oz and measuring 21 and 3/4 inches long.

holy moly…giving birth is the craziest, most empowering thing i’ve ever done. 

we are home and doing very well.  more details to follow!!

first, happy 30th birthday, MEG.!!!

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obviously, we all know the likelihood that a baby will be born on her due date is very slim…in fact, only 5%-ish of babes actually are.

this means, i am now moving into the majority!  i thought all along that she’d be born yesterday, the 30th.  so that’s what i considered my due date (based on ovulation and her measurements at our first u/s at 6wks2d)…my midwives have always gone by the 31st b/c that’s her due date based on the first day of my lmp.  however, at my 12wk u/s the tech tried to tell me my due date was moved up to the 20th of march or something like that!  imagine how disappointed i’d be by now if my midwives and i had gone with that date!? 

of course, we knew it was impossible for me to be due that many days earlier, as it’s no mystery—none at all—as to when i ovulated and such.  i’m really really really thankful we didn’t change my date back then b/c although i was excited to think we’d meet her sooner, by now they’d be talking a hospital transfer and induction…two things i’m hoping to avoid if at all possible. 

i’m using this time to practice patience and trusting in my body and this baby to know what to do about birthing and when.  i keep letting her know that whenever she wants to come out she’s welcome and will be received with joy and love, but if it’s not time, it’s not time and that’s okay.  we have several more days before it becomes urgent in any way, as long as she remains healthy and isn’t distressed.

but i will say, even with all of this practicing and all of my good intentions toward patience and everything else, i’m sad to see these days come and go without her arrival.  i’m increasingly feeling like staying in and hunkering down…driving sounds miserable to me…so i don’t want to go anywhere or do anything that involves getting in the car…unless we’re heading to the birth center, that is!  and each time i feel a contraction i get excited…then sad when they peeter out.  so, it’s hard sometimes to not want to pressure the baby or doubt that my body knows what it’s doing…after all, staying pregnant was difficult, what if my body doesn’t know how to birth?!?

but it does.  and things will get moving when the time is right.  i’m just hoping it’s soon b/c i can’t wait to check this little one out!