The Broken Road

Dear Baby Girl,

In just 12 weeks, we will meet. Oh, you already know me. I’m the one who eats all that key lime gelato and pepperoni pizza. I can’t wait to lay my eyes on your face and hold you in my arms. I can’t wait to kiss your little nose and rock you to sleep on my shoulder. I can’t wait to see you smile for the first time. I can’t wait to hear the things you have to say.

I am so excited for you to meet your daddy. He is kind-hearted and sweet, and you are going to adore him. I’ll tell you a secret: he’s more fun than I am. He has the patience to read you a book 10 times in a row if you ask him, and if you’re a thrill-seeker like your big sister, he’ll flip you around in his arms and carry you on his shoulders and swing you in circles until you’re dizzy with laughter.

Speaking of your big sister, I cannot wait to see you together. She has a big personality and a big heart, and is a force to be reckoned with. She lives to have fun, to laugh, to learn everything she can soak up about this world. I hope you adore each other. I know you will, and I know you’ll have moments when you can’t stand each other, too. That’s okay. I hope you will be great friends. I hope she shares her toys with you. I hope, as your awesome Grandpa Hap used to say, you fight for each other and not with each other. She has been an only child, and the center of our universe for over two years now. She may struggle with your arrival. I hope you are patient with each other. I hope you grow old together, sharing stories and laughing. She is the only person in the whole world who will share your upbringing and understand exactly where you came from. You are allies. I hope you never forget that.

My pregnancy with you has been so different than my pregnancy with your sister. I felt so sick with your sister, but this time around, I feel really great. I am only now starting to feel those aches and pains that mean I’m getting close to meeting you. I’m not quite so afraid all the time, though the fear does creep in. I had a hard time at the beginning. Sometimes life takes us down a path that we don’t expect. And through your life, you’ll learn that change is hard. Even change that leads to amazing and wonderful things.

At my wedding to your daddy, your grandma and aunt gave us an amazing gift. They surprised us by signing us a song called “Bless the Broken Road.” It was the perfect song to sing to me that day because every road that has led me to true happiness has been marked along the way with heartbreak. The broken road led me to your daddy. The broken road led to me your sister. And it has led me to you. And you three are and will always be the great loves of my life.

Your daddy has taught me to be kinder, gentler, and to forgive more easily. He shows me every day what it means to be selfless and to put others first. He is by far the kindest person I have ever met. He works so hard for our family. I am so incredibly proud and feel so lucky that he is your daddy.

Your sister taught me to be a mama. From her I’ve learned patience and perseverance. She taught me to be flexible. She taught me selflessness and showed me the amazing love that a mama has for her baby. She makes me laugh, she drives me nuts, and she breaks my heart with love every day.

And you, baby girl, have taught me trust – trust in my body, trust that life will turn out okay. You have led me and our whole family to a place that I never dared dream we could be. You came into our lives with a determination that, for many weeks, I did not understand. You changed everything and made my life – all our lives – fall into place in a way I never knew possible. You are the catalyst that led us turn our adequate house into a home. As I sit here, I can hear your bedroom being built, and with every nail, every sheet of drywall, I feel like I am closer than ever to the life of my dreams. Closer to you.

I can’t wait to learn all of the things you will teach me once you’re here. I can’t wait to see how you’re similar to your sister and your daddy and all the ways you are uniquely you. Will you be fiery like your sister? Mellow like your daddy? Will you have my tendency to say inappropriate things? I can’t wait to see how you are different from us, how you will surprise us, how you will make us laugh. You have already been such a blessing, I am so excited to see what you have in store for us.

In your life, during hard times, people will say things to you like, “everything will turn out fine.” Sometimes that will be true, and sometimes it will not. Not all of your roads in life will be easy. But sometimes, baby girl, the broken road is the right one. It has been for me. It led me to you.

Love,
Mama

– ALW

E’s Adventure Into the World

When I thought about birth, I had no fear. As a women’s health and sexuality educator, I was so prepared to trust my body through pregnancy, labor and delivery. I was ready for a natural birth. I knew that birth in our culture is unnecessarily medicalized and that interventions only lead to further interventions. I also knew that no birth goes as planned. Little did I know the surprises in store as E entered the world…

During my pregnancy with E, due to unrelated health conditions, I was a highly monitored pregnant mama-to-be. Ultrasounds. Amniotic fluid measurements. Stress tests. I kept saying to my midwives that if they keep looking hard enough to find something wrong, they will find something. And they eventually did. Throughout pregnancy I was told I had a ‘modest amount’ of amniotic fluid. In my 40th week of pregnancy it dipped to a low level.

It was suggested that I was induced. Induced?!?

Although this was against how I thought of birth, I agreed to induction as I felt like it was time to surrender, as it were. I found peace with this. I was not going to let my stubbornness and preconceived notions of giving birth get in the way of my healthy baby. I mean, what if they were right?

On my due date, T and I dutifully arrived at the hospital excited, ready to be induced and meet our baby boy! It was like a surreal vacation – instead of a hotel, a hospital room. Instead of evening strolls on the beach, they were down a corridor. We played dozens of games of Yahtzee. (Side note: In one game of Yahtzee, T and I had 7 Yahtzees!!) We ordered Greenbush. Had visitors. Listened to the best playlist that T made. All while ripening my cervix, watching contractions on the big screen and having an IV of pitocin. It was a pleasant day, really.

Around midnight my water broke. Game on! We were moved to the actual labor and delivery floor, birth lights were hung. A baby was on its way!

We comfortably slept through the night. In the morning, the pitocin was upped and contractions were coming more regularly. More intensely and with regularity. Things were moving along.

We alternated between hanging in the tub. Walking the halls. Bouncing on the birthing ball. Almost how I had envisioned labor – minus the induction.

I labored with crazy pitocin-fueled contractions for 16 painful hours without an epidural. Around midnight that night, I could no longer ‘not push.’ It had to be time to push. I finally fully dilated and effaced. We were going to give it a go…

I had no fear. I was ready to push with all my might to see my baby boy.

Every time I pushed, half of my cervix swelled shut. Elliott entered my birth canal with a twist causing this asymmetrical swelling. I pushed. I swelled shut. I had to wait. No pushing until the swelling subsided. And repeat.

Now let me tell you, when you are in labor and it is time to push it takes everything you’ve got to not push and sometimes then you cannot control what becomes a reflex. However, I had to stop pushing. Because I couldn’t, an epidural was recommended to slow down the urge to push. The fearless, pain med free birth I thought I would have, now was intercepted with an epidural. An epidural?!? Yup, an epidural.

Pushing continued, as did the swelling, for 4 long, exhausting hours. It was time for plan B. Forceps. Forceps??!? Yup, forceps.

Along with the forceps came a tray prepped for an episiotomy. An episiotomy?!?! Yup, an episiotomy.

The OB, with his forceps, tried with all his might to pull my baby outta me. So much force, in fact, that he propped his foot on the edge of my bed to muster enough power to pull E out. Thankfully, I did not have an episiotomy because the forcep delivery failed. Now on to plan C.

Yup, emergency C-section. A C-section?!? Yup, a C-section. Who’s birth was this?! It was so far from the one I had envisioned.

T dressed up like a surgeon. And we were off. 35 hours after labor began, I was about to have a C-section. At this point, all I wanted more than anything was to hold my baby. A C-section it was. Draped. Gowned. Ready to roll.

Now remember, I pushed for 4 hours with only mild success. Then an OB pulled with all his might with forceps to bring my baby through my pelvis and into my birth canal. Now, in this C-section, baby E needed to come out from the other direction. Tugging. Pulling. Jostling. Yanking. Now, this was a pain unlike the contractions and the pushing combined.

At some point because I could no longer tolerate the pain, I was knocked out with twilight. Twilight!?!? I remember saying, “… but I want to remember the birth of my son!”

To get the leverage to pull my baby out in the other direction the tall OB needed a ladder. A ladder?!? Yup, a ladder. I kid you not, a ladder.

I woke up to my sweet baby wrapped up at my face ready for his first mama kiss. His papa introduced us face to face. He was so perfect. Oh baby, I’ve waited so long!

E surprised us all – even his nursing staff. His birth certificate and bracelets have typos on them because it was all but certain that he would have been born the day before. We bought a newspaper with the wrong birth date.

Each time we reached a fork in the birthing road, we went the way we least expected. E’s birth story is the exact way I never thought I would give birth. Little did I know.

E arrived into the world through induction, an attempted vaginal birth, an attempted forcep delivery and finally via C-section almost 48 hours later. I couldn’t have been happier to see him and I would do it again in a flash.

To his papa’s and my amazement – along with everyone else waiting to meet him – despite his dramatic and traumatic delivery, he arrived wide-eyed, unscathed, perfectly beautiful and chattering to anyone who looked at him. He was ready to greet the world full of curiosity, wonderment and ready to participate. Really, much like how he greets his world today as a 20-month-old toddling boy.

Baby E

EVC October 16th, 2009 at 6:45am 8 pounds, 9 ounces 20 inches long

– NVC

I Didn’t Have a Good Mother’s Day

Wait, isn’t this weekend Father’s Day? And you’re talking about Mother’s Day, which was last month? Yes, I am. It’s my blog.

I’m normally not a huge celebrator of manufactured holidays. Valentine’s Day? Whatever; I’d rather celebrate Birthday Week and indulge for seven days straight. Sweetest Day? I don’t even know when that is and what the difference is. But since becoming a mother, I do feel happy to have a little day that reflects not only me, but also all of the great mamas I know.

But this past Mother’s Day I didn’t get anything from CH or Miss Red.

I’m partially to blame. I posted on Facebook the week before Mother’s Day that all I wanted was a nap, alone in the house. CH was happy to oblige, but when the day rolled around, I ended up hosting Mother’s Day for my mother, sister and stepfather, which was fine, but it did involve to cleaning the house. My mom partially gifted me a new sewing machine and gave me a card.

Here’s where the rub is. CH is an artist. Like, has showings and while he doesn’t draw people, has the ability to create truly beautiful images of people. One of my favorite memories ever of our time together is waking up when we lived in Columbus, Ohio, and seeing a picture of me he had sketched. It’s framed on my side of the bed, and remains one of the nicest gifts anyone has given me. And it didn’t cost anything.

So for almost three years now I’ve kind of nagged him to draw me a picture of Miss Red. He resists. But it’s All I Want.

I didn’t think that he would do it for Mother’s Day. I haven’t given up hope, but I don’t expect it. Well, not today. But I thought for sure that he would do some kind of cute art project with Miss Red, who is becoming a great artist in her own right. We all are as children, and she really enjoys it, too.

But there wasn’t anything from Miss Red or CH that I could open. No doodles of curated art or paint-splattered sheets of paper.

If you can stick with me and this poorly written post, you’ll know that it all worked out in the end. My mother and sister-in-law had us over for takeout, and later that night, knowing me as well as he does, CH asked, “you weren’t happy with today, were you?” And I didn’t hide it. I shared my feelings with him.

This isn’t about not asking for what I want or being passive aggressive or mopey. I told him that I want Miss Red to grow up loving to share gifts, not store-bought, because who needs another candle bought under duress, but the thought of something for a person she cares about. That could be a macaroni necklace, a sticker, a tracing of her hand. But that’s something that does need to be taught – how to be generous without spending money – and it’s a trait I value and want to cultivate in Miss Red. Again, it’s not about the money, but the actions behind thinking of someone and wishing them well. It’s what leads someone to say, “I’m so happy to see you,” or “I thought of you today.” It’s what glues you to friends, family and community. It’s what keeps us grounded and brave enough to adventure.

So while I got my time alone in the house, where I couldn’t fall asleep, I took a quick trip downtown. I spent a gift certificate at the local feminist book store. What did I get, one month in advance? CH’s Father’s Day present.

– MD

Baby M’s Birth Story

I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was mentally preparing for labor, doula on stand-by, Ina May Gaskin by my bed, well-thumbed. I allowed only empowering birth stories to be shared with me. And I absolutely, completely, totally did not want my big sister at my birth. I love her dearly, but we are not always on the same page in this book of life. I wanted the whole bowl of granola: candles, birthing tub, yoga breath. She wanted her pain meds chilled on ice, awaiting her arrival at the hospital. And she worries, my god, how she worries. Nope, I wanted nothing to do with THAT KIND OF NEGATIVE ENERGY anywhere near my child’s birth.

So instead, I invited her and my niece and nephew to come up that weekend to celebrate her birthday, rub my belly and feel like she’d gotten quality time with her future niece or nephew. Then I would gently let her know I needed to be around calming, affirming friends who understood and supported my desires for natural childbirth. We had a wonderful day together and in the evening, we headed out to celebrate my sister with sushi.

On the way out of the restaurant, I went to use the bathroom but to my horror and embarrassment, I didn’t make it. I’d peed on the bathroom floor. Oh shit. I kind of mopped it up with a bunch of TP and skedaddled out of there. We got home at 9 and said our good nights. I went up to my bathroom again and missed again. But this time it gushed. I looked at that pool of water on the floor. Water. Broken water. Oh shit. J and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and grabbed the stack of birthing books. You know, to study. We figured this could be a long wait. First births are always long, right?

By 10 pm, contractions had begun. So much for studying.

Jake went downstairs to let my sister know what was going on. Remember the sister I did not, under any circumstances, want to have at my birth? She was in my living room timing my contractions on her cell phone and biting her fingernails off one at a time.

By 11 pm, contractions were 2 minutes apart consistently. Our doula, with her own newborn in tow, arrived shortly after 11 and helped get me settled in the tub and showed J how to press my pelvis together which he did faithfully during every contraction throughout the rest of the labor. It was about an hour later when I threw up the sushi dinner. Things were moving fast.

I cannot honestly remember a lot of the next couple of hours, I was deep in laborland, contracting every couple of minutes. I would stand for every one of them, and then kneel back in the tub again. I do remember “surfacing” a couple of times to holler about how much this hurt and then retreating again to that deep, watery place. I remember too, feeling all the phases of labor sweeping over me, cold, then hot, getting to that place where I didn’t think I could take it any longer.

At that point, around 2:30 a.m., our doula suggested we go immediately if we were going to make it to the hospital. In a panic Jake threw stuff into the “Packed bag” that we hadn’t yet bothered to pack (weeks to go still, right?) and we sent the whole crazy train – doula, crying baby, moaning pregnant lady and frantic husband – down the stairs to the cold night outside. My sister was in the living room, wide awake, looking panicked too. She had been timing my contractions from downstairs, wondering why the hell we hadn’t left for the hospital hours ago but too nervous to come upstairs and get involved. Niece and nephew were fast asleep in the sunroom, oblivious to the mayhem.

At this point, I felt the need to push, so I had to Breathe. Really. Deeply. Every time the contraction came. So there I was in the backseat, trying to stand, huffing through my contractions. The baby, 10 weeks old and hating the carseat, was screaming hysterically next to me. I tried to comfort us both while our doula and J navigated their way at warpspeed to the hospital. Upon arrival, a security guard accompanied us to the labor ward, with stops every minute, it seemed, so I could lean against a wall, moan loudly and bleed all over the floor. Needless to say, we bypassed triage and went straight to a delivery room where I came down on my hands and knees and started to push immediately.

But something didn’t feel right. The midwife measured my cervix (I hadn’t wanted us to measure it previously) and I was only 6cm dilated. So this was a problem. Simply put, when my water broke, the baby’s head descended into the birth canal a little crookedly so was pressing on my cervix, hence the need to push. But my cervix still had lots of work to do so for the next couple of hours, I had to breathe through every contraction. Every two minutes, when my body screamed “PUSH” I had to just breathe it out my mouth.

I went into a place deep inside myself where I envisioned a long, long road and I was on my road bike. Every contraction was a steep hill and I comforted myself with the thought that I could coast for a couple of minutes at the top. I spent more time in the tub and then, when I reached 9cm, we moved to the bedroom. Finally, the midwife was able to push the last little lip of cervix out of the way and I was ready to get this baby out. We worked together, baby and I, for 45 minutes. I would push hard and then rest for a little and then push again. I was on fire and honestly terrified of being broken in two by the pain and pressure. I had a hard time trusting myself in that moment and it was the wisdom and kindness of our doula and midwife that got me through it. Slowly, the head emerged, facing the wrong way. J was there and saw the baby watching him in a truly surreal moment.

Then, around 6:30 a.m. the baby slipped into the world and we met our son for the first time. I remember being exhausted and finally being able to focus on the little human that was now here with us. He was quiet and robust, I was starving. At 8, my sister and her children showed up to the hospital. She just hugged me and told me I was a warrior, that she was amazed I had done this and that she would have been too scared to trust the process. She kissed and nuzzled her nephew and watching the two of them, I felt the anxiety melt away. Something bigger than us had conspired to bring us through this together as sisters and I was suddenly so grateful that she had been there after all.

Baby M

We grew a little together that day, when my son came into the world.

– HS

Simon’s Birth Story

My birth story with Simon has some similarities, but was overall totally different than Isaac. My pregnancy with Simon was mostly uneventful, unless you count all of the events and activity of caring for a toddler while pregnant. I had some more physical pains while pregnant with Simon, I knew he was going to be a bigger baby; I could feel it and could see how much bigger I was getting. Simon was incredibly active in the womb. He rolled and kicked so early and fiercely, my belly looked like waves of activity and the kicks would actually startle me with pain (so very much unlike Isaac in the womb).

Simon was due October 22nd, 2009. On October 8th, I was 38 weeks along. Dr. Jenny checked me earlier that week and I as 3cm dilated and 75% effaced. This was similar to what had happened with Isaac so I didn’t really think much of it. That night I started having regular contractions around 9pm as I was going to bed. They were about 6-7 minutes apart and eventually moved to 4 minutes apart and I was starting to have to focus on breathing through them a bit. We picked up the bat phone around 11:45pm or so and called my mom to come down from Appleton to be with Isaac. Rick was busy getting our stuff together, which we had not really done yet because I really didn’t think I would go into labor this early.

Well, it turned out to be a false alarm. By the time my mom made the two hour trip (in 1.5 hours) my contractions had stopped and all signs of labor had disappeared. Disappointed, we all went to bed. The next morning I went to another OB appointment where I found that I was now 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. She stripped my membranes, which did nothing and I decided to stop working that day. I didn’t want to make the same mistake of not enjoying the last bit of pregnancy since we had already decided this would be our last. I also REALLY wanted a natural birth with no pitocin, no epidural, no IV.

So I went home and for the next two weeks, I rested, watched movies, had special time with just Isaac, went for long walks and ate ice cream. At my 40-week appointment I was one day past my due date, still 4 cm and Simon had dropped into 0 station. My OB, Dr. Jenny, said she couldn’t believe I was not in labor. I was basically in early labor, having contractions (like I did with Isaac), but they were again ineffective. Dr. Jenny said she was on call at the hospital the next day and that I could come in and she would break my water if I wanted. I told her I only wanted to do this if she was really, really confident that I wouldn’t need pitocin. She reassured me enough that I decided to go for it. My mom came down again from Appleton and we got everything ready for Isaac and for the hospital that night.

The next morning at 6:30am, Rick and I ate some peanut butter toast for breakfast, gave Isaac a huge hug and a kiss and left for Meriter Hospital. We arrived at L&D and it was really quiet. They admitted me, took us to our room. We had called our doula the night before to let her know and she met us at the hospital around 7:45am. We were originally going to have Hannah be our doula again, but she was out of town, so her back-up Patsy came instead. At 8:45am the resident did an ultrasound to confirm that Simon was head down and anterior, which he was. 9am, Dr. Jenny came in and broke my water. Rick was taking a poll of the hospital staff about how big Simon would be. Dr. Jenny felt my belly and guessed that he would be 8lbs 3oz. My labor RN guess the same.

Rick and I walked the halls a bit, but I immediately felt the contractions pick up and a lot of pressure. Back in our room, I decided to labor on the birth ball, which worked great for me. My first really painful contraction was at 10am. I was having some back labor and Patsy and Rick provided counter pressure and massage which worked great!! I was really in control of my breathing and was so happy to be managing the labor pains.

Rick was amazing; he stayed so calm and provided so much support, physical and otherwise. Patsy helped me listen to my body and do what was most comfortable, which ended up being on the ball, leaning forward onto the bed. We made plans for me to get into the tub, but all of a sudden I decided to get up on the bed. I was having a lot of back labor still, so being on all fours was the best in terms of comfort. Dr. Jenny came in at 11:30am to check me and I was 8cm. After she checked me, I kind of lost it a bit. I started having crazy, transition contractions and then just started pushing. Dr. Jenny came back 15 minutes later and I was 10cm. I continued to push for a couple of minutes, but Simon’s heart rate was not recovering after each contraction.

This is where my memory is very foggy. I don’t really remember how it happened, but all of the sudden I was on my back and they were getting the vacuum suction ready. At 12:00pm the vacuum was in place and I was told that I got 3 pushes otherwise a c-section would be in order. This was more than enough motivation for me. One push with the vacuum and Simon was out. At some point during labor Simon had flipped because he came out sunny-side up, which explains my crazy back labor.

12:05pm on October 24th, 2009, 8lbs 3oz (just as predicted!).

NG and Simon

He wasn’t crying at first and I looked up and saw that the NICU team was in my room waiting in case there was a problem. I started to freak out a little and I remember asking over and over if he was okay. They finally put him on my chest and he cried the biggest cry. His little hands grabbed on to my chest and as I snuggled him he settled down.

Baby Simon

He was just perfect! Because of the vacuum and my initial freak out, I didn’t let them take Simon from me for almost 2 hours. We snuggled, nursed and got to know each other. From my first painful contraction to his birth was 2 hours and 5 minutes. I was so happy to have been able to have this kind of birth. It was important to me and I was on a birth high afterwards. My two births were very different and I learned a lot about myself through both of these amazing experiences.

–        NG

Isaac’s Birth Story

[Editor’s note: I’m so thankful PW shared her birth stories of Ben and Petra. Today, another mama shares a birth story of her firstborn. Want to share yours? Post below and we’ll get in touch. – MD]

In the 39th week of my first pregnancy, I was tired.  I was tired of being pregnant, tired of being hot, and tired of waiting. It was the end of August 2007.  We had been trying to have a baby for several years and we were so close and I couldn’t have been more impatient.  If I could, I would go back and whisper in my own ear that I should enjoy the sweetness of this waiting.  It is cliche, but the past almost 4 years have flown by and in some ways I regret not relishing those last moments of being pregnant with my first born.

My uterus had been described by my OB as irritable, which my husband, Rick, found hilarious and instead called it my pissy uterus.  All this really meant is that I had a lot of contractions, starting around 18 weeks.  The were never serious or cause for real concern, but they became more annoying the further along I got and anything would set them off.  Too tired, too much exercise, not enough water, laughing…really anything.

That last week, my 39th, the contractions continued, but they were getting stronger and more regular.   I lost my mucus plug at work on Wednesday, August 22, which just happens to be Rick’s birthday. I really thought I was going to go into labor that night.  We went out to dinner to celebrate and I ate very spicy Thai food to bring on labor. Of course nothing happened.

The next day I had an OB appointment and I was 4cm dilated and something like 80% effaced. They hooked me up to the monitor and I was having regular contractions, but they were not painful so we were sent home to wait.  We decided to take a long walk, eat, rest and get things ready to go. I had called my doula, Hannah, and she suggested we keep ourselves busy, but also rest if possible.

At some point Rick and I decided to make cookies that we would take to the hospital with us.  We didn’t have all the ingredients so Rick went out to the store.  He jokingly said on the way out the door that my water would probably break while he was gone. I, of course, thought that was ridiculous. Two minutes later I sat down on the couch and felt (and heard) a pop, followed by the sensation that I was wetting my pants. I went to the bathroom to discover that I could not stop the liquid and my water had indeed broken! That was at 7:30 pm.

Rick got home with the cookie ingredients and we called my OB and the doula again. Because my water had broken, they wanted me to come to the hospital.  We took our time because my contractions were not getting any stronger. We met our doula at L&D triage at Meriter Hospital at 9:10 pm (Thursday, August 23rd). There was a lot of intake and admission paperwork and questions. I continued to have regular but ineffective contractions. Baby looked good on the monitor, so we were encouraged to walk and be active with the hopes of getting labor going. Baby’s heart rate was monitored by Doppler every 30 minutes. I was told that if no progress was made by 6am, they would want to start pitocin to induce contractions. We walked and walked and walked and walked. We rested, ate popsicles, we walked. Bounced on the birth ball, walked, rested, walked. Repeat. My doula tried some acupressure and massage to get labor started to no avail.

6am came and so did the resident with the news that I was still only 4cm and they would start the pitocin after I was given the opportunity to shower and eat something. They started the IV at 6:30am. I rested in bed until 8:30am when the first contraction hurt. I meant to say HURT! I was up out of the bed trying to figure out how exactly I was going to deal with this pain. I even remember asking Hannah, how long we planned on doing this. I got in the tub for a while and that did help some. I was checked at 9:30 and had progressed to 5 cm, this did not impress me much as I was struggling with the pain and intensity of the contractions. The RN continued to increase my pitocin drip. By 10:45am I was not coping well, I could not control my breathing, I did not get a break between contractions and after another check I was still only 5-6cm. I was also having some involuntary pushing because the baby had descended all the way and I was having so much pressure to push without being fully dilated.

I then demanded an epidural.  This was not what I wanted, but at that point there was no other option for me. After the longest 45 minutes of my life, the epidural was placed at 11:30am, after 3 attempts (giant need pokes in my spine). They checked me again at 11:45am and I was 10cm. For those keeping track, I went from 5cm to 10cm in ONE HOUR. This explains the unbearable pain I was having and I kind of feel like a rock star progressing 5cm on pit without pain meds.

I wouldn’t chose to do that again. I had amazing pain relief with the epidural and was able to rest or “labor down” for about an hour or so while my support team ate lunch. I started to feel a lot of pressure (not pain though) and wanted to push. I was told the baby’s head was “right there” and ready to go. I started pushing at 1:20pm. This part I enjoyed. I was reasonably comfortable and the pushing was going really well. There is even a picture of me smiling while pushing.

Then the most amazing thing in my life happened, one last push and Isaac Richard Gamble was born at 1:57pm on August 24th, 2007, all 7lbs 3oz of him. He had tons of dark hair and the sweetest cry I have ever heard in my life.  He looked at my face as if to say, ‘oh there you are Mama’ and it has been true love ever since.

NG and Isaac

This was not the birth experience I had wanted or expected and for a long time struggled with parts of it.  But it was my birth and now looking back I am at peace with it. I have also come to realize that a babies birth can in some ways reflect their what their little personalities are like. My two did. Stay tuned for my second birth story.

Isaac

***Please note that while Rick is not mentioned much during this birth story it is not because he wasn’t there or wasn’t helpful.  It is because my memory of Rick during labor is not a visual one so it is kind of hard to put into writing what his experience was like.  I will say, I have tactile memories of him.  Holding my hand, holding me up, rubbing my back, calming words, helping me push, his arms around me as we held our son together for the first time, unwavering support.

–        NG

Petra’s Birth Story

This birth happened differently than Ben’s birth, but both were very positive experiences. Ben was 9 days late, and Petra was 4 days early. At about 8AM the morning of Wednesday June 3rd, my family was sitting at the breakfast table eating scrambled eggs when my water broke. I didn’t believe it at first because it wasn’t much; I just thought I had wet my pants. So we all moved forward with our respective days. I ran errands with Ben: we shopped Wellness Wednesday at the Coop, went to the car mechanic and returned books the library. I was leaking the whole time and after a while I came to realize that my water had broken. At the library, I told Ben, ‘I think that mom is going to have the baby today.’ Another woman at the library overheard me and looked a little shocked. Ben and I headed home and called my mom whom was to look after Ben. I tried her home line 9 times, and she didn’t answer, nor did the machine pick up. I tried her cell 4 times, and finally left a message for her to call me back.

Once we got back to our house from the library, I got in touch with my mom and despite her ‘on call’ status she had decided to clean her office that day and unplugged her phone and answering machine. I also called my husband who also didn’t answer either his work line or his cell after repeated calls and a very foully written text. I finally had him paged at work and told him that I was in early labor and he asked me what I wanted him to do about it. Fueled with a lot labor energy and annoyance at both my mom and my husband’s unavailability on the big day, I told him ‘why don’t you figure out what the fuck a husband does when a wife is in labor and DO THAT!’ followed by me hanging up. I don’t usually lose my cool, but I figured this was the time for a little tantrum.

By the time John got home and my mom arrived, it was about noon and we put my son down for a nap. The contractions up until this point had been really mild, much like those I was having over the past few weeks. I could easily talk and walk through them. I called my doc and she said I should labor at home for a while, but that given my fast birth with Ben, that I needed to be ready for things to move quickly. And because my water had truly broken at 8AM she said that she wanted us at the hospital by 8 PM. Around 1:30, the contractions were getting a little bit more tough, but not unmanageable, but I decided that we should head into the hospital. I figured that Ben would be up from his nap soon and I just didn’t want to both parent and labor. And by that time we had just completed getting little things done around the house – laundry folded, compost out, toys put away. I wanted to be done with that part, out of my house, and focusing on labor.

We got to the hospital around 2:15 and I headed into triage. The nurse measured me at 5 cms and contractions were not too unmanageable. They weren’t the usually on/off type of contractions; they had more of a constant and irregular pattern. I just hoped they were doing their job. I finally got to the point where I needed to be quiet and focus through them, and just about this time I was in the birth suite, around 3:30.

The nurse drew a tub, and both she and my doc were confident that I was going to go quickly and they told me that the minute I had pressure/urge to push to tell them so I could start pushing. I was relieved to hear them say this because with Ben they weren’t ready for me to push and I had several contractions with pressure during which it was excruciating NOT to push. In the tub I had tough regular contractions. I really had to focus and stay in the moment with them. They were easiest if I stared at a point in the water, took a big breath and sighed/vocalized though them and thought ‘Do your work!’ as in ‘contraction please work to open my cervix!’ The contractions were worse when I fought them, didn’t focus, and was out of the moment wondering ‘how dilated I was.’

The doc came in and wanted to measure me. I got out of the tub and up on the bed and I was thrilled when she said 8cms. This was about 4:15. The nurse and the doc both reiterated that I needed to alert them when I felt pressure/urge to push. The nurse dissuaded me from getting back into the tub because she thought there wouldn’t be time to get me out of the tub. So I stood up and had my hands on the bed (modified hands and knees/feet) and John put pressure on my sacrum during contractions. Things got a little blurry from here on in, but John reports that I also labored on the birthing ball but didn’t like it. He also said that I texted my friend Brinnon to tell her that she didn’t need to pick me up for carpool the next morning, as I wasn’t going to make swim practice.

And finally on one of the contractions I felt a major urge to push. Of course the doc and nurse were not around and I asked John to get them. He walked out too slowly for me so I yelled ‘RUN!’ and I also started yelling loudly that I had to push. They all arrived and helped me onto the bed. Dr. Jenny checked me and told me that anytime I was ready to push I could. For me, unlike many other women, pushing is the hardest part. For me, it is not a relief, but rather it is the most painful place I have been and is filled with psychedelic colors and hallucination. So during the next contraction, I was crying because I didn’t want to push, but I couldn’t stop myself and the following contraction I truly bared down. The nurse had one leg and John had the other, I tucked my chin to my chest, held my breath and pushed really hard. I heard the doc say that the head was out and there was no way I wanted to wait for another contraction to push again so I kept pushing and out came the shoulders and the whole rest of the body. They told me to reach down and pick up my daughter (who was fully screaming before she was even outside of me).

Petra

Petra June Westmont was born a 4:44PM on June 3rd. She was a beautiful healthy 7 pound baby girl.

– PW

Ben’s Birth Story

Editor’s Note: this month I’m featuring birth stories. I personally found giving birth to be the most empowering thing I’ve ever done, but was surprised while pregnant that you have to look for positive birth stories. We have some lined up – even from a male perspective – so stay tuned. This first one is from PW. – MD

I was overdue and scheduled for an induction on Wednesday February 7th, 2007. I was hoping to go into labor on my own terms and was lucky enough to have had that happen. The day before my scheduled induction, I had a nice day planned for myself. I knew it was my last day as a pregnant, “just me” so I wanted to really enjoy the last moments. I ran some errands, took the dog to the groomer, and hung out in the Barnes and Noble quilting book aisle for a good hour and a half. I felt contractions on and off all day, but after weeks of experiencing these, I wasn’t buying into and ‘oh this might be it,’ mentality.

I had a nap planned for that afternoon and got in bed at 1PM with a good book. I awoke at 4PM and had a contraction soon after, not a braxton hicks but the kind that feel like menstrual cramps. Again, I didn’t think it was true labor. Either way, I resumed my afternoon of packing the last few items for the induction the next day, taking the garbage out, and taking one last shower. After the shower, I decided to lie back down and record the contraction duration and interval to see if there were any pattern. Sure enough they were about :45 sec long and 8 mins apart. I decided to resume getting ready, still not knowing that I was really in labor. I continued to keep track, and the contractions got closer together by a few minutes and around 5:30PM I had bloody show. This convinced me that labor had started.

I continued tying up loose ends around the house, but a bit faster. For example, earlier that day, I had placed a bid on an item on eBay which I won around 6PM. I went online to pay for this and it turned out that the seller only took cashiers checks or money orders so between contractions I wrote an email to the seller explaining that I was in labor and it was unlikely that I would get a check in the mail for a few days. Funny little loose end to be tying up!

My husband got home from work around 6:45 and I told him this was it. Around 7:30PM I was done getting the rest of my things together and headed for the couch. Around 8PM we called the doc and she said to come in or labor at home. A big part of me wanted to get to the hospital and get settled in our room and work at laboring there, but we stayed at home until about 10PM and then got in the car to go to the hospital. I remember saying to my husband on the way to Meriter that if I were around 4 cms I would be thrilled but if I were only at 2 cms (I was 1 at 36 weeks) I would be pretty upset because I knew we would be in for a big long night.

John dropped me off at the emergency room entrance of Meriter (the main entrance was closed), I talked to the desk and told the receptionist that I was in labor. During that moment I wasn’t having a contraction. She told me to wait and they would send someone down from triage. I sat in a chair and proceeded to have a couple contractions. A nurse came out the waiting room to get a patient for the ER, saw me mid-contraction and told someone to get a wheelchair and get me up to triage right away.

Triage was crowded and the nurse told me to wait on the bench outside the triage door. I said that I needed a minute to get out of the wheelchair, because I felt a contraction coming on. The nurse saw that my contractions were serious enough to get me into a triage bed soon after that. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor and while sitting on the bed in triage I proceeded to have a double contraction that I couldn’t help but to scream the f-word over and over again, loudly. The rest of triage, while crowded was pretty quiet. My string of expletives was a crack in the silence and the nurse came to check my cervix soon after that. She said I was 7 cms with a bulging bag of water. I was so happy that I cried for a moment and gave my husband a high five. But I knew that getting from 7 to 10 was going to be hard work.

Soon after that they moved me into my room and got out the birthing ball. I ended up preferring to stand. They drew a bath for me and I got in. The resident measured me then and said I was at 81/2cms and told me this was my last chance for pain meds. Because things were going so quickly, I decided against pain meds. For me, this was an easy decision. While the contractions were painful, I didn’t feel that the labor pains were unmanageable.

Soon after the measurement, I felt like I had to go #2, I mentioned this to the nurse and she said, ‘no, you don’t have to poop, that is the baby’s head. And the feeling you are having is the urge to push.’ She told me that I was not yet far enough along to push and gave me some breathing instructions to get through it, ‘hee, hee, hee, hooo.’ I really did not enjoy this part, because after a few contractions I just couldn’t get my body to stop pushing. The doc came in and measured me, she told me I was at 10 cms and that it was time to push.

I was up on the table and they taught me how to grab the backs of my legs and put my chin to my chest and push. This was the hardest part, I thought. I was to push 3 times for each contraction. After about 20 minutes of pushing, my beautiful 7 pound 3 ounce baby boy was out onto the table. All that I could think was that I couldn’t believe that he was already here! I thought that we were going to be in for a long night of labor and using all of the gadgets and birthing balls and enduring a long night, but no, my beautiful baby boy was right there on my chest at 12:45AM.

Ben

I LOVED holding those first moments. It was a very blissful and challenging event.

All told, I labored from 4PM to 12:45AM the next morning, 8hrs and 45mins.

– PW

p.s. stay tuned for PW’s birth story about her baby girl, coming tomorrow! Want to share your story? Post a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

It’s Just What I Waited For

“Watch me as I graduate

As I move on in my life, it’s really great
[that is my favorite part, mom]
It’s just what I’m waiting for,
Now it’s time to Graduate…
March 2, 3, 4 and march. March 2, 3, 4 and march.
Watch me as I graduate,
As I march around the room, it’s really great
It’s just what I’ve waited for
Now it’s time to Graduate”
Henrik has been singing this song and marching around the house most every day for the past week [not really for practice; it’s just so darn catchy, and I think he’s proud of himself]. He has been a mixed ball of emotional disaster these past few weeks as he inches towards his last day as a Kindergartener. Big long notes about how much he loves Daddy and Mommy and pictures of him with us (and no Abbott I might add. Not even going to speculate on that one). Regression in school (behavior-wise, that is), Giant tears at dinner and accusations of being tricked (you said I can’t have dessert but there was never really dessert to begin with! Why are you TRICKING ME?!) I’m reminding myself that they say that the end of the school year can be hard on kids. Fear of the next grade, fear of missing friends, fear of having to make new friends. Fear of the Unknown.

A dear, dear, dear friend of mine had her first baby late last week. As I try and answer her questions about those first vital few days life – because it’s all a mystery to her – I start to anticipate what is ahead; It all comes rushing back to me. The first time I held Henrik after his lightening speed entry into the world. How I felt bringing him home, how I wanted to be the best parent I could be, how I cried and cried and cried and called my husband in fear, in confusion at only week three. Those nights that he cried all night and I just wrapped him up and rocked him until we both re-fell asleep; me, too, with tears running down my cheeks.

From baby to boy

Those days seem years away  – and they are. Yet part of me can’t help but be confused how we got this far. People always say, “oh, they grow so fast! You can’t get that time back,” and my reply has always been – “trust me, I remember each and every day, it isn’t going too fast.” But this year, it all changed. H leaves every morning for school. He comes home and can do things that he couldn’t when he left. I don’t know how he learned it, I don’t know who taught it to him. Most of the time it’s good – and sometimes I’m shocked and a little (ha!) embarrassed. The next day we have the same challenge of getting our shoes on, the same rush to the bus, the same conversation during dinner, the same bedtime routine. Days fly by, one by one, and I don’t even know it.
Someone said to me today – “at some point they turn from little boys into *boys*” and it occurred to me for the first time that this is happening. I feel like we just got to *little boy* and now we’re already movig into *boy*. As new mommas with teensy babes, we spent many (too many) days in tiredville and unknowns. Then somewhere along the way the littles didn’t seem so fragile, and they turn into full-fledged babies. We waited on every word, every crawling moment. Soon they were walking and talking toddlers – and with opinions and naughtiness they turned into little boys.
Kindergarten is for *little boys*. But First grade is for *boys*.
I have no doubt that H gets it, too. The magnitude of getting big hasn’t been lost on him, but as he marches around the room singing his tune with this friends next Tuesday, he’ll have a huge smile on face, and I fear that it will finally be my turn with the tears.
– EC

Love and Affection

I don’t believe that every mother loves their child or children. It’s a fact that many people don’t like to think about, yet sensationalize when stories of women leaving their children for partners, killing their children while suffering from post-partum depression, or simply leaving, happens. And that doesn’t even take into account cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on children.

This post isn’t about tragic realities. Have you ever been in love with another person? And you know how you walk around, smugly thinking, “No one could possibly be as in love with another human being as I am with this person?” Well, you’re wrong. You’re also right. It’s only your thoughts and experiences and there are infinite more combinations and realities.

The same holds true for children. Someone can look at a parent yelling at their kid on the playground and think, “Wow, they clearly don’t love their child as much as I love mine.” And maybe they’re right. Or maybe the kid is being a total snot and the parent is running late to pick up a sibling and she works two jobs. The answer tends to be simple and not so simple.

Giving birth to Miss Red and seeing her for the first time rearranged every atom in my entire being. It was powerful, scary, challenging and everything and nothing of what I thought it would be. I remember my first trimester of pregnancy, around week 15, something in me clicked, and I started loving the little creature in me. I shared that with my BFF and she was so excited. I started talking to the growing person inside me in my head, and imagined a warm, amber-colored light always shining inside. While taking prenatal yoga, in each pose I would chant in my head, “I am Divine. I am Divine.”

I loved Miss Red immediately. Absolutely. After 44 hours of labor and delivery, I would have done it again in a heartbeat. And that love has only grown. It hasn’t stopped yet and I know it won’t. I just do.

What surprises me about being a parent is that she loves me. It’s not that I don’t feel worthy of love; that’s not it at all; it’s that I’ve created a bond with someone based on circumstance. In teenager or adult love, you choose whom you love. With this, she came to us. She jumps into my arms after I put on her pjs, wrapping her arms around my neck, giving me a big squeeze, “Mama, I yuv you so much!” Really? Me? But I get to be your mama.

"Mama, I pick you a flower."

I will never take this love for granted, in a way that I can take CH’s love of me for granted. I think this is typical of people who have been together for nearly 11 years – there is a true devotion and deep love for one another, and even though we express our love for one another daily, we’re not jumping into one another’s arms or run toward one another in excitement when we come home. Having Miss Red is a reminder that there are such different forms of love, such different ways to share emotion.

My parents separated when I was little and soon after started dating other people. This gave me great anxiety, and I remember repeatedly asking my mother, “do you love me more?” And she would say, “there are different kinds of love.” I didn’t get that then, but can understand now. I don’t feel that way, but I understand. And who knows if she would give the same answer today. While I always knew that my parents loved me, and showed me great affection, I didn’t always have as much attention as I needed, but I also have a tendency to pull inward. But then there are kids who have a lot of attention from their parents, but not the love or affection. Or love and attention but not affection.

My hope for Miss Red? That she always, always knows that her mama loves her, cares about her, and has arms open for her whenever she’s ready to jump.

– MD

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