The Other Side of Pregnant

414485_10151108980017583_1202952274_oWe’re at the Niagara house as I write this, and I love this place. It’s gray and misty today and the back forty looks like a painting with the tall grasses a rich palette of umber and golden. I’m watching my family pass around little Noah who is snoozing peacefully in their arms, and my girls are curled up on the sofa with Faerie Tale Theatre playing on the television. My life feels very rich.

In my vast amount of pregnancy reading, there seemed to be lots written about how the bonding process isn’t always instant. I had no worries about bonding with my baby. I knew when he came out into the world I would feel very connected to him, and feel very natural about my role as mother. What I didn’t count on was how much love I would feel for him. I love this little creature with every ounce of my being and I feel that he is completely a part of me, which I guess is true – I grew him with my body, and with my body he continues to grow. Deep in my heart, I know he knows that I am where he came from, and that we are connected by blood.

With parenthood comes the knowledge of the very deepest kind of fear. Never before have I been so aware of my own mortality, or of the finite amount of time we have in this life. One of the easiest triggers for my postpartum tears was contemplating how soon my little babe would grow out of his tiny clothes, how fast the passage of time would fly, and how one day he’d be in the world without me. I cannot imagine a time when I can’t just reach out and touch my son, and yet that is exactly how the natural course of things unfolds. We create lives, we nurture them, and then we set them free to find their own way. I want this little man of mine to experience all of the richness and love that his own life has to offer.

This love I feel is so profound that now I understand why people unflinchingly say they would do absolutely anything for their children. This love is the deepest ache I’ve ever felt, and that ache is compounded whenever I think of my own mother, and any of the moments when I was unkind to her. I cannot imagine that anyone has ever felt for me what I feel for little Noah, and the realization of that love is the most humbling thing I’ve ever felt. I hope my children can look at the scope of their parents’ love one day and feel like they are worthy. For me, it is only through having children who are so beautiful and inspiring that I feel like I’ve done anything to deserve a love as deep as a mother’s love.

My heart is on my sleeve now. If I feel like compassion is hard to reach, I merely think of my baby and then think of how each person (hopefully) has a mother who loves them as I love my little boy. I think of how they were once perfect and unmarred by life’s heartbreaks, and how they received such deep and simple comfort in their mother’s arms. With my stepdaughters I feel a true sense of sadness, realizing that I missed so much in not knowing them when they were babies, and I understand so clearly now the bond they share with my partners. I know how despite loving them with all of my heart, and knowing I want their lives to be filled with love and happiness, there is something unique about shepherding a tiny life from conception on.  I understand the huge risk my partners took in deciding to let me be a part of the girls’ lives.

Have you had friends who’ve had children, only to vanish from your life, forsaking you for the company of their new parent friends? I now realize that this choice isn’t personal. The experiences of childbirth, postpartum hormones, insane new sleep schedules, and early breastfeeding woes are not unlike having survived a traumatic event. You are left raw, and changed forever by what you have felt and seen. You need the company of other survivors who know what it’s like to glance up from the dinner table when your baby coos, only to burst into tears as you realize you’ve created this magnificent little life and he totally depends on you. We probably don’t give our child-free friends enough credit, but I think we’re afraid to speak candidly about these feelings and experiences in case we frighten them, or worse, have them judge us.

I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to make a baby. Now, on the other side of baby-making I have few regrets. Each step I’ve taken has led me to the path of motherhood, and I feel confidant in my abilities and so very blessed to be able to give life. My child has three amazing parents, two unbelievably brilliant and beautiful sisters, three adoring grandmothers, three proud grandfathers and some truly golden aunties and uncles. We have the means to provide for our children, we have a wonderful network of friends, an incredible school family, we live in a beautiful house in the heart of a beautiful city, and we are healthy enough to enjoy the life we are living. Without the mistakes of my past, I would not know the success of my present, and this present really does feel like a gift.


Birth Story, Part Two

My last post left off just before I demanded that we make our way to the hospital instead of continuing to labour at home…

For nine months my heart had imagined a spiritual birth where I was at one with my body. Now that labour was here, I knew I needed the sweet, sweet relief of modern science in order to bring this baby into the world. I thought about my girlfriends who had managed to deliver without drugs and I wondered what kind of hocus pocus allowed them to do this and not suffer from PTSD. Downstairs our children had returned from their play dates, and the grandmothers were still holding court. We couldn’t pack up and get out of the house fast enough. My contractions felt like they were starting to come every three minutes and panic was really starting to take hold.

I was in my pajamas because we thought it would be smart to just wear what I was going to wear to push to the hospital and with the only maternity jacket I own wrapped around me, it wasn’t enough for the cold night air, but I was barely aware of this by this point. I got into the car, and the grandmothers followed in their own grandma-mobile.

Once in the grandma and children-free shelter of our vehicle, I came totally unhinged. I made animal sounds. I swore like a sailor. I turned into one of those labouring women from television or the movies – noisy, crazed banshee women. I didn’t understand why the drive was taking so long, or why the route had so many potholes. I ranted and raved and after what felt like about two hours (but was really only about fifteen minutes) we arrived at the birthing centre.

Nekky dropped us off and went to sort parking. Sarah helped me to the door. We were right near the lake at St. Joseph’s and the wind was howling. I could really feel the cold now. Managing contractions while your body is rigid from the cold is a very special kind of hell. As luck would have it, we arrived ten minutes after hours and the birth centre doors were locked. Our midwives had warned us of this possibility, and had gone ahead to prep a room and meet us there to let us in, but they were nowhere in sight. Instead, we were trapped outside with two women who were soon terrified of me as I began to scream and pound on the doors with both fists. Finally, some poor lady with her young children came along and as they exited, the doors slid open to let us in. The children stared at me in horror.

We stood at the admitting desk for about eleven years while everyone behind it ignored us. Finally our midwives appeared. I clutched at one of them and said, “I NEED AN EPIDURAL.” She gently removed my claws from her arm and said, “I suspected that might be the case and we’ve already given the hospital staff the head’s up.”

As the midwives led us to our birthing room, I clung to the railing along the wall with each new contraction. I was making angry jungle cat noises at this point I think, and still swearing my head off. It was like Tourettes, I couldn’t stop. As we rounded the corner these little mocha-coloured children shuffled slowly out of a room to see what the commotion was. They peered at me curiously with their big, liquidy brown eyes as I was seized with another contraction. I gritted my teeth, trying with all my might not to frighten them. “The children…” I whispered, now sweating profusely. “The children….”

Finally we were in our room. As I realized I couldn’t wear my “birthing pajamas” and get an epidural, I began to strip off all of my clothes and put on a hospital gown. Or perhaps Nekky or Sarah did this for me? I can’t recall. What I do remember is how long it seemed to take before the anesthesiologist came (which in reality was only about half an hour). I needed to let them take blood and get an IV started before I could get the epidural. The blood taking was no problem, but our student midwife did something funny with my IV and blood began spraying all over me, and all over the bed. My left hand was dripping with blood. It didn’t hurt though. Or else maybe I was in so much pain, it didn’t feel like it hurt. For reasons that escape me, she neglected to clean me up, but the feeling of blood caking under my fingernails was lost amidst the contractions, which were now about a minute apart.

I don’t know why nobody bothered to check how dilated I was when we arrived at the hospital, but I’m glad this oversight occurred, because I’m pretty certain they would have forgone the epidural if they had. I think it was pretty close to pushing time, based on how I was feeling. Finally a tidy looking Asian man named Steve arrived with my salvation. He prepped me and froze me and assured me he would try to avoid putting the needle into where my tattoo ink was. I kept having contractions, and so he kept needing to pause. At one point the contraction was so violent I moaned “FUUUUCCK” and Steve apparently had to suppress a chuckle. I’m glad my back was towards him. I noted with this last contraction a very strong urge to push – like I had to take a big poop. I said nothing about this though because nothing was going to keep me from the sweet relief that Steve had to give.

Once the epi was in, Steve stepped back and waited to make sure the magic would happen, and happen it did. I cannot convey to you the vast, vast difference between drug free and drugged up labour. The pain literally vanished. My contractions went from feeling like someone was prying me apart by pulling my pelvis in either direction with a tractor to feeling like a gentle tightening of my pelvic region, not unlike a kitten curling up in my lap. I looked at Steve and uttered the first non-offensive sentence to leave my lips in about two hours; “Thank you so much.”

Then it was party time. I was back to my old self. I was better than my old self, having been rescued from the brink of insanity. My jokes were the best jokes I’ve ever made. I was witty, and charming, and ready for anything. Nicole, our labour nurse, was my BFF and my son might possibly be named after Steve, my savior. We waited for Dr. Pham, the lovely OBGYN on call (the midwives had to ‘hand over’ my care until the baby arrived with the introduction of the epidural) to come and check my dilation. She appeared, and she looked about my age. She was very friendly and confidant, and informed us that I was 10cm! The midwives wanted me to wait until the baby descended a bit more to start pushing, but Nicole didn’t want to wait because of how long it had been since my water broke. She kept asking if I felt pressure in my bum, but Steve was so thorough that my bum could have been anyone’s bum at that point. Nicole and I both agreed that I wouldn’t be feeling anything in my bum for many, many hours.

And so the pushing began. Dr. Pham was busy with another delivery, so the midwives took over with the help of super awesome Nicole who I really felt was my touchstone. So weird that I would feel more connected with her than with the midwives I’d built a relationship with for nine months. I think I felt on some intuitive level that she really “got it” and knew what was happening for me and for the baby, and she seemed so much more confidant than the midwives. Now, in my mind I wanted to push without straining too hard, so my first pushes involved trying to imagine pushing with my abdominal muscles while exhaling slowly. I laugh at this now.

The midwives looked at me, puzzled. They said, “We need that thoracic pressure caused by bearing down and holding your breath.” I began to push while holding my breath and the resulting feeling was like an eyeball might pop out or a blood vessel in my brain might explode. I was very glad we were in the hospital in case either of these things happened. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. The onlookers kept seeing the baby’s head crowing, but then it would disappear again. The midwives kept telling me to push down towards my bum, but all instruction was useless because I couldn’t feel a damn thing below my waist. I tried in vain to visualize the process. I tried different pelvic tilts. I tried, and tried, and pushed and grunted for TWO AND A HALF HOURS.

Dr. Pham returned to see what the issue was, and why the little guy wasn’t budging. The head that everyone thought they were seeing was actually only a part of the head. Baby was on his way to a pretty awesome cone head because he was stuck on my pubic bone. The doctor gave me two more tries but warned me if this didn’t work she would have to go in with the forceps. Since I couldn’t feel anything, my main concern was how this would mark up the baby, and so I asked Sarah if she could photo shop out the forceps marks in the baby pictures. Then I started to remember that eventually the epidural would wear off. Nicole assured me she was a pro with forceps and everything would be okay. They both told me that the “baby was getting tired” which I already knew because I could hear it on the monitor. This is happy language that means that the baby’s heart rate is slowing down very dangerously.

Now the people in the room were starting to rush about. Some new nurses had appeared and were prepping the baby warmer and some other equipment that I tried not to think about because I knew it was for emergency resuscitation. The giant, silver forceps were placed on a stand in my periphery, a gleaming reminder of why I had to make the next pushes count. Sarah leaned over me and said, “Do NOT let them use those salad tongs in your vagina.”

As the next contraction came on, I gathered all of my strength and concentration. I glanced at the prayer beads that my brother-in-love let me borrow and asked the powers that be to aid me in my efforts. With no less than six people cheering me on (plus two grandmothers who were peeking into the room behind the curtain) I grunted and strained and pushed with every fiber of my being. The crowd said, “There he is! He’s coming!” and then suddenly I heard wailing. Noah’s head was finally out and he was ready to announce his arrival before any of the rest of him could be born. Imagine a tiny head sticking out of my vagina, screaming. Dr. Pham looked at me and said, “Would you like to pull him out?” Stunned by the prospect, I stammered in the affirmative, then reached down and put my hands under his hot, slippery little arms and lifted him from my body onto my chest. Nothing else in my entire life will rival the elation and triumph I felt in that moment.

After Noah came out, there were hands everywhere cleaning him up, cleaning me up. I was oblivious as they set about their business, so long as my baby stayed on my chest. Sarah cut his umbilical cord, and I delivered the placenta without any difficulty. Then Dr. Pham set to work sewing me up, as I ended up with a second degree tear. She assured me that this was quite common, but there is nothing common about the amount of time it seemed to take her to restore my hoo ha to its former glory. I felt a bit panicked about the amount of time she was taking, and she explained that the repair had to be done in layers, and that she wanted everything just as it was. United in this common goal, I decided to focus on something else while she finished her job. She warned me not to let myself get constipated or I would tear my stitches. I banished all thoughts of trying to go to the bathroom in any way from my mind because this simple task seemed really terrifying.

The rest of the next twenty-four hours remains very fuzzy. I know someone took Noah to the warming table to weigh him and check his Apgar scores (which were 9 at both intervals!). I know Noah and I tried our first breastfeeding latch (the fact that he left me with nipple hickies should have been my first warning that something was wrong there). I know it took a long time for my bleeding to slow and my uterus to harden, and I needed some oxytocin to help this along. I know we waited forever for the epidural to wear off.

The midwives informed us that we’d have to transfer over to hospital care and stay another 24 hours because I wasn’t ready to be discharged, and if we got caught mid shift-change, we were stuck with hospital policy. Strangely, when they went to inform the staff there was no nurse on the ward, so our poor, exhausted midwives got stuck staying with me. They went to rest in the on-call room, and I tried to sleep, but I was completely wired. Nekky rested in a reclining chair with Noah on his chest and Sarah was passed out on the sofa. I just watched everyone and tried to wrap my brain around everything that had happened.

I took stock of myself and realized I was covered in DNA; meconium from where the baby had his first poop on my thigh, blood caked all over my hand where the IV went awry, dried amniotic fluid, and god knows what else decorated my hospital gown and myself. I continued to move my legs and feet as much as I could to help the feeling return. There was no way I was leaving the hospital without a shower.

Eventually the midwives came back and told me they were just going to try to get us out of the hospital, rather than make us stay another 24 hours. I begged for a shower, so they helped me to my feet and got me set up in the washroom. I moved slowly and carefully, and eventually I was clean again. When I emerged, Nekky and Sarah were awake and they were being hustled to get the baby dressed and to pack up our things. I started to get the feeling that we were being smuggled out. In the parking lot I noticed the dusk sky was pink and a few stars hung out by the thin sliver of moon while the sun began to take over the next shift. The midwives helped me into the car with a big hug, and then the rest of the ride home was spent staring at my beautiful baby resting peacefully in his car seat.

At about 7:30 am we walked into our house. Everyone was awake, including the girls who got to meet their brand new baby brother. I really don’t remember any of this, but I do remember going upstairs and napping for a couple of hours. I imagine everyone else used this time to pass around Noah. The entire day floated by like a bit of a dream. I was surrounded by our close family, and really just trying to take it all in and rest after the incredible intensity of labour. I kept pulling myself into the moment by smelling the soft little head of my sweet baby, and I knew that I would never, ever think of myself the same way that I had before my water broke.

Schnooville is presently overrun with subjects like poopy diapers and breastfeeding challenges, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I work through these subjects here. I promise whatever I write about will be entertaining, because every day I am humbled and amazed by what my life has become.



Birth Story Part One

Time is in fast-forward now, and the hours and minutes have lost all meaning to me. My time is tracked from feeding to feeding, and each free moment is spent eating or bathing or napping. Writing seems to be sitting and waiting for me to return, and so I try to steal a moment here and there to remember the events of the last month. I want to try to paint a picture for you. Especially for those of you who are pregnant, are thinking of getting pregnant, or have already been on this wild ride.

In the quiet 4:00 am moments, my bedroom is cast in a soft amber glow by the new night-light that is always on. It’s warmer than I like for sleeping, and warmer still with the hot flashes I get while nursing. My hair is unruly, with my overgrown bangs sweeping in waves around my brow like the horns of a barn owl – a look made complete by my decidedly owlish glasses, now permanently smeared with lanolin cream, which I’ve been priming my nipples with after each nursing session. I am nodding off intermittently as a tiny, perfect little man-person is feeding from my body, resting on the deflated skin-pouch that was once my magnificent baby belly, and before that the average thirty-something mid-section that I hope will one day return. I breathe in his smell and the tears prickle behind my eyes because I know that all too soon this moment will be gone and he’ll be too big to tuck under my arm.

Each day is a deliberate choice to stay in the moment and savor every precious second of the sweet smell of my son’s head. He’s resting now in his high tech swing, and as I take this time to write I realize that these are a few more moments when I won’t get to drink him in.

How did we get here?

The nine-month journey came to an end (or a beginning) on the first day of my 39th week of pregnancy. My water broke at 3:30 am on Friday October 12th and Noah Nekky Jamal came screaming into the world at 2:22 on Saturday October 13th.

Friday night I was snug alone in my bed when I awoke to realize that my water had broken. I knew this would happen on one of the nights when I was alone, and that was okay. It was in fact this beautiful, peaceful moment of reflection where I was able to really come to terms with the fact that in a matter of hours our son would be here.

‘They’ are right, there is NO mistaking when your water has broken. Any confusion is dispelled by the fact that the fluid continues to flow no matter what you do, and in my case this continued through the entire day and night until I was pushing out my baby. I had started sleeping both with a towel and a waterproof puppy pad under me, and so at least I was prepared for the mess. I rang Daddy and Mama S who were just upstairs, and they came down excitedly. We all three attempted to fall asleep again in my room, but I think only Mama S was successful at this because she can sleep anywhere, under any circumstance. I was far too excited for sleeping, but at least I made myself lie down and rest.

At a more humane hour of the morning all three of the grandmothers were dispatched and made their plans to head to our home with Daddy’s sister Nadia who would be our caregiver for Hannah and Ayla while the rest of us were at the hospital. We told the girls what was happening as soon as they were up, and they were nearly too excited to go to school. Fortunately (and coincidentally) we had arranged play dates for each of them that kept them out of the house until just before bedtime. Mama S was home from work for a doctor’s appointment too, and Daddy’s father was on a plane flying to us from Africa. Noah has some remarkable timing I think.

The day unfolded slowly. Labour really didn’t show much progress beyond some very mild cramps for more than half the day. We walked around the block, I did some yoga, I used my birthing ball to open my pelvis, we had a Grey’s Anatomy marathon as the grandmothers chatted and enjoyed tea. The midwives came to confirm that my water had actually broken, and then suggested I might try some castor oil to speed up contractions, as I was nowhere near what they call ‘active labour’. After they left, Sarah and I walked three blocks to the near by Shoppers Drugmart with our moms in tow to get some castor oil and some snacks. I took the castor oil with a shot of oj when we returned home.

Soon my contractions began to get a bit stronger. I began to crave the quiet of my bedroom, so the three of us retreated there. This is when the details start to blur a bit for me now. We continued watching television for a while, but soon we had to switch to music because the TV became annoying. I hooked myself up to a TENS machine for a while, but within half an hour I also became annoyed with that sensation. Dinner was ordered for the grandmas and the rest of us. I ate some rice, and started to become annoyed with everything, including our food options. I began to run out of comfortable positions for the contractions, and the various relaxation techniques I had learned began to fail me. The midwives were dispatched again.

Here, the contractions began to work their way deep into my self. I considered each one and tried to take them in stride, but it was impossible to not think about the contractions yet to come. I breathed. I thought about opening up. I tried to surrender. Inside my head a little voice said “I think you better really, really think about what you want to do here because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” This voice felt like it knew what it was talking about, but I wanted to wait and see what the midwives had to say.

I think at this point I looked good to the outside eye. I think I looked like I had things under control, and that I was managing well. I didn’t feel that way on the inside. I felt like someone about to weather their first tornado. It wasn’t fear of the pain yet to come that gripped me, but the intensity of the actual pain I was experiencing. I seemed totally unable to find a way to ride each wave of sensation.

When the midwives arrived, they checked me and I was only 2cm dilated, but fully effaced (my cervix had completely thinned out). This could mean things would happen quickly, or it could mean that we were many hours away. They told me that I had still not begun active labour, and realizing that I was having a hard time with pain management, suggested that I draw a bath and hang out in the tub to see if it would help my body relax so I could deal better with the contractions. I thought of all of the serene water births I had witnessed via Youtube and conceded.

The tub did nothing to help with the sensations. I felt like an angry cat being drowned in a sack in a pond. Nothing could make me at ease or comfortable. This is when I began to want to leave my body. I began to utter phrases like “I don’t…” “I can’t…” “help me…”

Soon I couldn’t stand to be in the water a second longer. I looked at Nekky and Sarah and evoked the ‘safe word’ we had decided on that meant our original birth plan was about to change.  It meant “You guys, I straight up need drugs. For real.”

After the bath, the midwives checked me again. I was 5cm. The student midwife told me I had some options, we could me stay home and labour another FOUR HOURS or so, or we could head to the hospital. I tried to imagine four more drug free hours and I said “Hell no, we’re going to the hospital.”

Stay tuned for part two, where I unleash the beast within and scare a lot of strangers…

16 Days

A Little Tin of Chocolate

I began writing this blog in 2008, fresh after a breakup from a very complicated relationship, and filled with excitement because I was about to embark on a solo vacation to Paris. Life felt pretty huge and terrifying then. I was raw with emotion, and apprehensive about what the future held for me. When I returned from my trip, I would have no place to live, and I’d be facing the realities of being single and thirty-something.

I drank Paris in, and fell deeply in love with a city that I always suspected would have a special place in my heart. Because I was on a very tight budget, I allowed myself only a few token souvenirs, mostly purchased at a well-stocked supermarket and the Parisian equivalent of Winners. One of these mementos was a tin of French drinking chocolate, so I could enjoy the delicious little ritual I had created for myself each afternoon no matter where I ended up back home in Canada.

When my new family and I combined our households, the chocolate tin came with me. I hadn’t expected the chocolate to survive, but the tin was pretty so I imagined we could use it for storage in our kitchen. French chocolate is resilient though, and to my amazement still tastes as good as it did when I first bought it almost five years ago.

On Tuesday night, A and Daddy made us a post-dinner hot chocolate and marshmallow nightcap, and all five of us sat around the table enjoying it together. As I gazed at the faces of these beautiful girls who have been one of the greatest gifts of my life thus far, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Strolling through the aisles of that Parisian grocery store, trying to choose just the right thing to bring home, I had resigned myself to believing that children and family were a long, long way off and perhaps something that were not meant for me in Schnooville. But now I sat surrounded by my family, (a family I have chosen against all odds, and a family who freely chose me despite all of my flaws), drinking that Parisian chocolate and ready to burst with another brand new life who gets to go through each day with these wonderful people. I feel no fear about this huge milestone because my heart believes I am exactly where I should be, with the people I need most in my life.

Look defeat in the eye and love yourself even harder. Tell disappointment that you deserve better. Treat your broken heart to vacations and decadent chocolate and trust that somehow, probably in the most unpredictable way, it will all work out. If you believe that you are lovable, the love you crave will find you.

H & A Enjoy Some Tummy Time:

20 Days

Trying to keep my feet up. So swollen and weird.

Cervix Says…

What a unique and complex challenge this third trimester business is. Not only are the physical challenges quite remarkable, but the mind warp of hitting 37 weeks is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Pregnancy is a great teacher for the control freak. Each morning I wake up wondering (read: hoping) that I will go into labour, and then I must push this thought to the very back of my mind so that I can function through the rest of my day. I am not really known for my patience, and there is something really humbling about realizing that nobody, not nobody can predict when this baby will decide to make his entrance.

So I am trying this “living in the moment” business, which is insanely hard for me. For much of my adult life, the kind of work I’ve chosen has me always three steps ahead of myself. With labour, once the nursery is done and the bags are packed there isn’t really much left to do but wait, and try to deal with the realities of what is happening to my body now that this little guy has dropped down into my pelvis.

Here is a list of things that I’m working on to help pass the time.

Improving my gait – Walking is supposed to be excellent for bringing labour on, so I’m trying to be active. However when I walk now, I look like George Jefferson, waddling and flapping my arms behind me. I am actively concentrating on tucking in my pelvis and finding a stride that won’t leave me winded (so that when I enter the house, I can still bellow out ‘Weezy, I’m home!”)

Naturopathy – Our midwives sent me home with my ‘birth binder’ after my last appointment. Among many other useful things were some natural tips to help prepare and encourage labour. Here’s what I’m doing, and please note NONE of this is a good idea before 37 weeks, nor am I a doctor or healthcare professional recommending you do any of this:

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – 5-6 servings a day to help strengthen my uterine muscles and stimulate contractions

Evening Primrose Capsules – 1000 mg 2x per day to help efface my cervix

Acupressure – self administered on two specific labour-inducing points. This seems ridiculous, even to me

Pineapple – nobody anywhere has proven that this works, but people everywhere swear that it does. I am mostly just using labour as an excuse to gorge on pineapple

Hands and Knees Time – I spend 15 minutes a day with my ass up in the air in child’s pose. This is supposed to help the baby turn and settle into optimum birthing position. Cat stretches and rocking also work in the hands and knees pose. Daddy has requested I always work on this when he’s around to watch, which can lead to…

Various Oxytocin-stimulating activities (use your imagination) to help bring on contractions

Event Planning – What? Does that seem crazy to you at this very pregnant point in my life? Yeah, me too but all three of us wanted to see our families for Thanksgiving, and we had to spare ourselves all of the running around and driving. We decided to host dinner for 20 people at our place next Monday. Either the plans go smoothly and once our pre-planning is done I get to sit with my feet up surrounded by family while Mama S and Daddy do the bustling, or the baby comes and there is no party to host. In which case we’ll have a 23 pound turkey up for grabs. We’ve insisted on pot-luck to reduce the insanity, and I think it will be lovely to see everyone in our home. The real challenge will be relaxing and doing nothing because I have a very, very hard time with this (as evidenced by planning a dinner party for 20 people at 38 weeks of pregnancy) I hope they don’t mind paper plates!

‘Working’ – I’m trying to be productive with my duties for our family business. I can’t focus my brain on ANYTHING for more than ten minutes right now, (except writing, it seems) so this is actually kind of hilarious. I keep telling myself SOME work is better than NO WORK. My boss is hopefully sympathetic because when I’m not working, I’m growing his son.

Napping – Oh my god, how I love a good mid-day nap these days. One hour is all I need, and one hour is all my poor bladder will allow me. With this spotty sleep I’m experiencing, it’s really a necessary part of my daily routine so that I can make it through the rest of the day without crying, or making anyone else want to punch me.

Deep Breathing & Relaxing – At several points throughout the day I will pause and just see where my body is holding tension, and then I breathe and will those places to relax. This exercise is particularly useful through my Braxton Hicks practice contractions, and through a new phenomenon I like to call the Cervical Ninja Chop. I’m really not sure exactly what this is, but it feels as though the baby is suddenly and forcefully bashing his head into my cervix. There is no warning here, just sudden shocking pain and me doubled over the counter/shopping cart/back of the sofa etc. Fun times.

Setting Timers/Alerts/Alarms – Timers are my friends right now, because I cannot remember ANYTHING. Timers tell me when to switch the laundry loads, and when my crazy herbal tinctures are ready to drink, alerts remind me of appointments and tasks that I have to complete, alarms tell me when to wake up and pick up the children from school. I’ve even worked out a system where I must climb the stairs to pee every hour. It feels like I need to pee EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY, and so if I wait an hour between visits, I don’t have to be disappointed when all of that climbing yields only a miserable little trickle.

Reading – I’m working my way through the last of my pregnancy books, and moving on to books about breastfeeding and early infant care. I would read other stuff, but pregnancy, breasts and babies are all I can think about, so there really isn’t much point in trying right now. The more I read about labour techniques, the more I realize that NOBODY actually knows what to do, and cannot possibly be prepared in advance for the experience of birth. There is real comfort in this – I have all of these tools and techniques, I know exactly what happens to my body at each stage of labour, but I have no idea what it is going to feel like or what my body will surprise me with and everyone else who has ever birthed a baby is in the exact same boat. When I read my birth plan, which I wrote at four months pregnant, it seems really funny to me now. My new plan is to relax as best I can, embrace what’s happening, and try to get out of the way of my body so it can do it’s thing.

Labour Play List – We’ve got two on the go; a mellow and relaxing one for during early and hard labour and then a Pushing Playlist. The Pushing Playlist may not ever make it into rotation, but it’s funny to work on. There is a lot of Zeppelin on that list because Mama S says I’ll need some good ass-kicking music by that point. Daddy and I listen to tunes while we work and yay or nay them.

And with that, I’m feeling so restless that I can no longer sit in this chair and type. Time for a stretch and round two of the Raspberry Leaf Tea. Please dear mommies of the Interwebs, share with me your secrets for not completely losing your shit waiting for baby to come!

The Big Happy

My pregnancy app told me to have a pajama day today, and after surviving a birthday party in our smallish house with twenty-five of H’s friends and cousins yesterday, this is exactly what I did. Who am I to argue with technology?

So today consisted of me padding around in my Nick & Nora flannel pj pants (Japanese parasols) and a new maternity tank, with my one and only maternity jacket (a grey zip up hoody) to keep me cozy. I packed up all of the birthday treasures in a large basket, stored the gift bags and tissue in our storage closet downstairs and tucked the cards away for keepsakes. I spent much of the day wrapping up the last bits of my Coquettes work and doing laundry. I think with some practice I’ll be able to walk away from the Coquettes work, but the laundry will always be there.

I love doing laundry. It’s the only chore I really like, and I know this will seem weird, but I always feel really close to my family when I’m taking care of their clothes. Folding their socks and sweaters, I think about each of them and what they mean to me. I think about how much the girls are growing, and how they’ve moved through so many different sizes since I met them. I think about Mama S and how strong and brave she is, and all we’ve been through, and where we’re headed. I think about Daddy and how I never get tired of spending every day with him working, living, and dreaming. Now I’m washing lots of tiny things for baby, and that brings a new kind of bliss.

Now it’s the end of the workday, and while dinner is in the oven (shepherds pie) I’m stealing a couple of minutes to write. A Facebook friend tipped me off about a live Mumford & Sons concert as part of the iTunes Festival and so now that’s playing in the background as the girls mill about and Daddy finishes up his work. The kids are totally into the music (A is presently dancing naked, waiting for the washer to stop so she can have her shower). I love this band. Their music is so uplifting and beautiful, and it’s kind of the perfect soundtrack to this fall day. Tidying in the kitchen and glancing up to see my family all bopping their heads to the music just filled my heart suddenly and unexpectedly with floods of love.

The very best people, the people I surround myself with, are the people who make me want to be better than I am, either because they inspire me with their work or by virtue of their warm and wonderful hearts. H’s birthday party turned into a bit of a family hang out after her school friends left, and I got to spend time with some dear friends and close family, unwinding together and eating our way through the rest of the food. I feel so, so lucky to have such incredible people to surround our children with love.

This week my goal will be to focus on our family business, keep really active, and continue with the various housekeeping tasks that need tending to before baby arrives. I want to finish up the homemade baby book for Noah, and spend some time writing in various journals. Most of all, I want to relax.

30 Days

Real Labour Stories

This morning I’m trolling through Facebook profiles of old friends and acquaintances that are recent mommies, and their baby photos are melting my heart. I can’t believe that I’m only a month away from meeting this amazing little being I’ve been GROWING IN MY BODY.

I used to really pride myself on the creative things I’ve accomplished in my life, but really nothing compares to making a person. For me, that was always a goal I wanted to achieve, but as I approached my mid thirties it seemed more and more like a pipe dream. I believe whole-heartedly that women everywhere can achieve great and wonderful goals without ever procreating, but to look back on darker times in my life when I really believed I would never have the chance to even try to get pregnant, I feel pretty damned grateful.

This morning at about 5:45 I awoke with my first for real, full-fledged contraction. I think it was like a super Braxton Hicks or something because I shifted positions and it eased up. There haven’t been any more since. It was unlike anything I’ve ever felt, different than cramping for sure. I felt my entire midsection give a squeeze, right down to my pubic bone. It didn’t hurt, but it did make me marvel at what the real deal might possibly be like.

I fell asleep watching ‘More Business of Being Born’ which is a follow up mini series to the Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein documentary ‘The Business of Being Born’. The particular episode I was watching featured various celebrities talking very candidly about their own birthing experiences. It was really touching and honest. I was seriously impressed with model Gisele Bundchen. She spoke of the whole thing as a very empowering, spiritual experience, and she seemed to have mastered the art of staying calm and relaxing through the birth. I figure if she (who has not been blessed with my wide birthing pelvis) can squeeze out a person so serenely, then surely so can I. My grandmother birthed twelve babies, so I’m going to believe that I’m genetically primed for this kind of work.

I am getting nervous. Not afraid, because I really do believe that I can handle whatever happens, and I’m prepared to do whatever needs to be done to bring the baby into the world safely, but I think I can say there’s some fear of the unknown setting in. I think it’s comforting to know that every single experience is unique, and that just because some people had a hell of a time, it doesn’t mean that I will. I think if I keep focusing on the spiritual and very positive elements of birth, it will help tremendously.  Everyone seems to swear by Hypnobirthing, and while I like the idea of deep relaxation, I found this book impossible to read because it’s so, so fruity.

So many of you have babies of your own. What kind of mental prep or labor coping tools did you and your partners employ?