The Summer of Us

Dear Iris,

What a summer. Since May, it’s been you and me. I had high hopes for this summer, and to be perfectly honest, it’s been a lot harder than I expected. I think we’ve done pretty well, considering. The basement was finished, disrupting our routine and our space, and kicking us out of the house for days at a time. I’m pregnant with your baby sister, which has been hard on both of us. I can’t carry you around as much as you’d like, it’s hard for me to get down on the floor to play with you. I’m exhausted all the time, my patience is running on empty, and well, you’re two. Two is a rough age for everyone. I’m learning as we go to be a stay at home mom and I’ve stumbled at times. It’s been hard to be outside because I am always hot. Oh, and we just experienced the worst heatwave in something like 20 years.

I know you probably won’t remember much that happened this summer, but I think we’ve had some pretty good times. We had lots of play dates with friends. Your tantrums over not wanting to share your trains were epic, funny at times and frankly, mortifying at others. We spent a day at the beach. We spent a night at a hotel and you were thrilled that we all shared a great big bed. We took walks and swam in the pool.

We “played trains” for hours and hours and HOURS. You fell in love with your new playroom. You got a big girl bed and you picked out polka dot sheets and your “big girl circles blanket.”

We rode on a train!

We went to a baseball game.

We went to a carnival, and you rode cars and monkeys and horses and your favorite – the big slide.

We ate ice cream and gelato. Lots of it.

We laughed a lot and we cried a lot – both of us. The summer has been a roller coaster, and we rode it with gusto.

But the summer’s not over yet, kiddo. Still to come? We’re going to install new carpet, get a new roof, and oh, we’re going to have a baby.

We’ve talked a lot about your baby sister. You’ve put your hands on my belly and felt her move. You’ve been genuinely interested in her. It melts my heart when you talk about her.

The truth is, I can’t fully prepare you for what life will be like when your baby sister comes. Because honestly, I don’t know. When you came into our lives, we were wholly unprepared for the life force that was you. When baby sister comes, our family will change and our home will change. We will go from a threesome to a family of four. We will have to renegotiate who we are – to each other and to our newest member. It will be hard for you because you will not be our only baby anymore. It will be hard for me because I will need to figure out how to give you both what you want, what you need and what you deserve while still making time for myself and for your daddy. We’ll all learn by trial and error and it won’t always be pretty. But we’re family, and family is complicated and messy and imperfect. It’s also safe and comforting and warm. And tied up in all that complication will be even more love in a house that is already bursting at the seams with it.

Iris, you’re going to be a big sister! That’s a big, important job. I don’t know how to be a big sister. I don’t know what it’s like. I’m a little sister, so I won’t totally know how you feel when your baby sister comes into our lives or when she gets bigger and wants to play with your toys and borrow your clothes and bug you when you’re with your friends. Life won’t always seem fair as you blaze the trail of being our firstborn. I won’t always do or say the right thing. I won’t always have the answer. In fact, I’ll probably have fewer answers than I’ll want to admit.

I do know that I’ll always make time for you. I’ll try my hardest to be sensitive to you, your things and your space. I hope you will understand that she’s going to adore you, even as she’s driving you bananas (and she will). I hope you are friends. I hope you’re kind to each other. I hope you are allies. I hope that many, many years from now, you get together as old ladies and reminisce about life with daddy and me. I hope you laugh and smile when you think of the years that we all lived together as a family.

I hope you always know that no matter what your baby sister does or who she is, you are loved as much – and more – than ever. She will never take your place in my heart and in our family. Once upon a time, you saved me. No one can ever take that away from you. No one can ever take that away from us.

Life is about to change in a big way. For all of us. But we have each other and we all have so much love to give. It’s going to be great.

Hold onto your hat, little girl.

With love,
Mama

– ALW

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I Want to Complain

I want to complain about being pregnant. My belly feels impossibly huge and I am getting more uncomfortable by the minute. I can’t bend at the waist or carry my toddler. I am starting to feel nauseous again, and I am always, always, ALWAYS hot. My back hurts, my hips hurt, and I get terrible headaches. I am so tired.

But I am incredibly lucky to be carrying this baby. I can’t wait to meet her. I love to feel her kick and squirm inside of me. If I’m totally honest, I’d never let someone else carry her for me. Right now, she is all mine. I know the pain of loss. I know the disappointment of trying month after month without success. I know the constant stress of going through pregnancy in a panic. And so far, things are going great. Time has flown. I still worry. And when I feel the first kick of the morning, I silently thank my baby girl for letting me know she’s okay. I am thankful and so happy that life led me to something I didn’t even know I needed.

I want to complain about being a stay at home mom. I’m hugely pregnant and even small tasks are tiring. I don’t get a day off. I need a break. It’s tedious. Sometimes I feel like the bad cop, correcting and saying “no” all day long. I’m exhausted. I work hard all day long, yet society at large doesn’t value what I do. I had no idea how difficult it would be.

But I am incredibly lucky to stay at home with my beautiful daughter. I get to hear all the hilarious things she says and the silly and wonderful songs she makes up all day long. I get to “play trains” – and even when I’m TIRED of playing trains, I could be doing a lot worse. We can stay in our jammies all day and not brush our hair. We can take walks on a Tuesday morning or go out for ice cream on a Thursday. We have play dates with friends. We can lounge around and read books or look for acorns in the yard or swim in the pool. We get to take naps every day. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it’s the most important job I’ll ever do. I am trying every single day to be better for my daughter.

I want to complain about finishing our basement. It’s taken weeks longer than planned. There were workers in our house for over a month, cramping our style and making me feel like I was in the way in my own home. There is dust everywhere and everything is out of place. It feels never-ending. It’s a giant, draining, messy pain in the ass.

But we are incredibly lucky to be able to make these changes to our home. We are doubling our living space. We are adding value to our house. We have worked hard through the years to have the means to make these much needed changes to our lives. We are turning our little house into a home and giving our whole family space to live and breathe and grow. So many families have to make due with so much less. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to create the space we need and want.

I am 30 weeks pregnant. I am a stay at home mom to my toddler. We are working to finish our basement.

It has been so much harder than I expected.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

– ALW

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

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

Before I Even Ask the Question

Before I even ask the question, I know the answer and I believe it with all my heart. I really, deeply do.

I know that my heart will explode with as much love, adoration and amazement for my baby girl as it did with my baby boy a year and a half ago. I do, I really know this and believe truly believe it.

But I still ask myself the question: how am I going to have double this love, adoration and amazement for another babe?!?

I have 10 weeks to go before we welcome our second kiddo, a baby girl, into our family. While I get the ‘sweats’ thinking about having two children under two years of age, I keep wondering how am I going to possibly love another kiddo as much as I love E?!?

Worth the wait

When E was born, through the haze of coming out of an emergency C-section after days of induction and laboring, and four hours of pushing, my heart exploded. Right there in the operating room. Then it exploded again as I finally got to hold him. And then again when I saw him finally feeling like myself again post-op.  And again when he opened his big brown eyes looked at me. And again when we got the hang of nursing. And again and again…

All of E’s ‘firsts’ have made me boil over with love and pride of his sense of accomplishment. And mine. And his papa’s. E is now a running, chattering, funny, loving, and adventurous little boy who hugs and kisses my pregnant belly. He tells me there is a baby in my belly. And in his. And in his papa’s. He continues to amaze me and makes me laugh everyday. Really, he truly does.

It took me some time to find my feet as a mama. Now that I am comfortable with my ‘mama legs,’ I wonder how my confidence as a mama will change how I will love, adore and enjoy our baby girl. I wonder how seeing our baby girl and all her ‘firsts’ through the eyes of her big brother will change how I see and feel love, adoration and amazement. My guess, it will only increase the frequency of my heart exploding.

The thing is, I am so full of this love, amazement and adoration; I can’t imagine doing it again and have this sense of fullness double. Really, I cannot imagine it.

NVC and big brother-to-be

And yet, I cannot wait.

– NVC

Plan C

It’s been a while.

Five months, in fact, since I sat down to write something.

The truth is, I’ve been avoiding it. It’s been nagging at me, but I’ve forced it out of my mind.

To put it mildly, there have been some other things to occupy my thoughts.

Since I last blogged, my life has, in the wise words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “been flipped turned upside down.”

We started off the year with a decision. After some serious thought about some big questions, we decided that we would be done having children. We would live our lives as a family of three.

Sometimes all it takes it to lay it out. To clearly outline all the pros, the cons, the expectations, the fears, hopes and feelings. Inevitably, when I get it all out on paper, my true feelings emerge so easily it’s as if there was never really a question in the first place.

My husband and I talked and talked. Could we truly be happy with just us – the three of us, in our little house, on our busy street, with our annoying dogs, in this lovely town? Undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes.

Iris

I couldn’t have been happier, more relieved. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. We could move forward, grow up together, make this little home our forever home. It felt right. It felt comfortable. I felt lighter in the knowing, in the deciding of something that had weighed on me for some time.

But truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

And it’s true, life can throw a curve ball. In this life, we don’t always get to stick with Plan A. Especially after, say, too many drinks at a birthday party. We are lucky to live in a country that still, and hopefully always, offers us choices. When Plan A fails, we are able to move on to Plan B without much worry or concern that our best laid plans have gone awry.

But sometimes, Plan B is simply not enough. It is too late. It is inexplicably, inconceivably not in the cards and and we are faced with Plan C.

I am pregnant.

I found out 10 days into the new year, and since that day, everything has changed.

I fell into a depression, the worst I’ve ever experienced. I sought help, and started to see light again.

We looked at moving away from our beloved Madison, back to family in Illinois. We decided, in the end, to expand our small home here, in the place that we love, though too far away from the family we love. Our basement is set to be finished in June, nearly doubling our living space and adding a third bedroom.

After much agonizing, countless tears and a gut-wrenching goodbye, I quit my job to become a stay at home mama to my Iris and baby-to-be.

When the time came for my 20-week ultrasound, we walked back into the scene of the worst day of our lives with our hearts in our throats. To our happy relief, we are having a healthy baby girl.

And now, five months into the new year, it’s starting to feel like life is falling into place again. I have some catching up to do – with friends, with writing, with myself. I’m taking baby steps back into the world as the new me living this new life.

The spring has been unseasonably cold. But it’s slowing warming up.

And today, the sun is shining.

– ALW

Birth stories

I’m doing a call for birth stories from both women and men. Have an experience you’d like to share? You can get in touch with me at firstsmilesandtears [at] gmail [dot] com or post a comment below. Starting in June I’ll post stories. They can even be anonymous.

Miss Red at one week

Photo taken of Miss Red at one week by the amazing Anya Wait.

– MD

A Year of Parenting

Fall always brings out the reflective and nostalgic in me. Now this fall, for the first time, I reflect on my first year of being a mama.

Pregnancy. Childbirth. Sleepless nights. Your child’s laughter. Parenthood. It all changes you from the tips of your toes to deep in your soul.

Looking back at my year as a mama, here are a few bits of what I have learned:

1. Sleepless nights suck.

2. Laughter is key.

3. But sometimes you just have to cry it out.

4. I knew my husband was amazing before we were parents. I have since learned that he is an outstanding dad. My son is so lucky to have him as his Papa. So am I.

5. Snuggling my baby, even in the middle of the night, makes my heart full.

6. Watching my husband put my child to bed after I tried and failed is the best feeling of relief and yet it will make me sigh every time.

7. I will always be there for my child. As in ALWAYS, no exception.

8. Friends make it all so much easier. Sharing the tales of parenting reminds me that the crazy, hard moments are actually normal.

9. People are so kind and so generous to a new mama and a new family. I seize the opportunity to pay it forward.

10.  Watching my child experience wonderment – through food, music, experience – is the most uninhibited, organic and, usually, joyful sight.

11.  I never knew the feeling of selflessness until I had a child.

12.  What and who I think I can count on will always surprise me.

13.  Finding community of mamas was harder than I thought and yet, turned up when I least expected it and needed it most.

14.  I have found that there are other ways to trust my body after pregnancy. And no, I did not find it in childbirth.

15.  C-sections suck.

16.  Bodies are amazing. My body (and me) grew a human. Then it produced food for said human. That human grows from a tiny ball of baby to a roaming, running, babbling toddler all in one year. Amazing, I tell you. Truly amazing.

17.  The early days, weeks and even months of being a mama were very foggy for me and felt surprisingly lonely. I didn’t expect that, but will be more aware the next time.

18.  I worry more as a parent than I ever thought possible and far more than I ever expected.

19.  Raising a boy to be a good man is a challenge I take very seriously every day.

This is what a feminist looks like.

20.  There is nothing more heart breaking than to see your kiddo sick. They have no idea what’s going on and there is often little you can do to really make them better.

21.  Even when I feel completely clueless, finding ways to make parenting choices with confidence and without judgment is essential.

22.  Being a mama is the hardest and most rewarding job I ever could of dreamed of.  I can’t imagine my life without mama-hood.

23.  Watching my baby dance warms my soul.

24.  It really does take a village. I am so grateful for ours.

25.  I am conscious every day not to wish the time away. I am SO excited to hear his first sentence, to see his first steps, to tell his first joke, to meet his first friend and to be a big brother. Today, however, I am enjoying the present.

It’s been quite a year. The most amazing year. As my baby is about to complete his first revolution, of many, around the sun, I am ready to celebrate. I can’t think of any other way than to throw a party and celebrate with our village our first year of parenthood! We made it! My hubs and I will surely exchange a super high five.

Happy (almost) birthday baby E!

– NVC

A Healing Birth

I’ve written here before about my first experience with natural childbirth, which was, though uncomplicated, for me a bit traumatic. I wanted to try to do it again, though, and I did.

I am not militantly pro natural childbirth. While I do believe it is the ideal birthing process for both mothers and babies, both times I told myself I would welcome drugs if I needed them. And frankly, I don’t know why and how I didn’t use them the first time.  Maybe at every moment I felt I had gone too far to turn back now.  Maybe I was completely out of my gourd. Or maybe my convictions run deeper than I think.

At any rate, I approached things very differently this time. I went with a midwives group and I worked with a doula, who, in my opinion, earned her entire fee just by being with me for the car ride to the hospital, not to mention seeing me through my contractions as I was shuffled from room to room and down hallways and on and off an elevator once we got there. And my labor itself was very different- I woke up one morning at three thirty and lay there listening when the birds started up at four, watching their dark shadows move outside our windows. My contractions started at five and, after only two hours in the hospital, my son was born at ten forty-five.

And it wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong—for the last forty-five minutes I was asking for an epidural, but I hesitated (because I did NOT want to have to lie down on that bed!) and then it was time. And then J was born.

We don’t plan on having any more children, and I confess that my predominate thought throughout much of my labor and pregnancy was, “Thank God I don’t have to do this again.” I relay this with no small degree of guilt, since so many women, some of my friends among them, have not conceived and carried children with the ease that I have.  But there it is. 

But in the days after this baby’s birth I’ve been feeling differently about some things I will never do again. I will never have that moment of joy and—in my case, anyway—overriding relief the moment someone places my newborn child in my arms.  I will never have the surprise of first seeing their faces, and of knowing whether we made a boy or a girl.  I will never feel the bliss of holding my baby in my arms as I am wheeled through the cool hospital hallways to my room, feeling no pain, feeling nothing but happiness.

My doula says that there is something known as a healing birth: a positive birth experience which can ease and even heal the pain of a traumatic one, and I believe that this is what I have had.  She says that sometimes women even get pregnant with the specific aim of having such a birth, hoping to harness its power.  I don’t think I would go that far, but I am so grateful for this experience. When I think of my second childbirth experience, I feel nothing but joy, and now when I think of my first one I feel mostly pride.

– AC

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