Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

six weeks old

what a blessing this little girl is--such a calm and sweet baby. it is so hard to imagine life before her!

we love you, isla louise.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the guest house

mysteriously, this poem keeps making its way to me. thanks to jessie for reminding me of it again. what important words!

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Saturday, October 04, 2008


i've gone through so many feelings since that overwhelming feeling of joy at feeling isla released from my body and placed gently on my chest. i think what i felt most after giving birth was shock--it had all happened so quickly, and had happened in a way i hadn't really believed possible. after my experience laboring with noah, and my inability to birth him vaginally (for no very clear reason), i still held a strong doubt deep within that my body would be able to birth this little girl naturally. maybe it was because of this feeling that i worked so hard to set up the ideal VBAC environment for myself--that somehow the outside circumstances would work to accomplish something that my body on its own couldn't do. in the end, i don't know where to give credit: to isla; to my body; to my midwife, doula and husband; to god; to the hospital; to happenstance? i guess the why doesn't really matter, though. what matters is what happened, and that it was a beautiful thing.

my biggest post-partum psychological hurdle has been dealing with the fact that i had an epidural, an intervention i know to be very invasive, scary and potentially dangerous, but which i chose nonetheless. at a check-up last week with my midwife natalie, i told her i felt embarrassed by my choice, that i felt like a failure and that i hadn't upheld the standards of the natural birth community i like to align myself with. mostly i felt weak, as a woman. why couldn't i do what women all over the world do every day, many with much less support than i had?

natalie's idea was that when i entered transition it was almost as if i were suddenly back in time, laboring with noah. she suggested that my body remembered how difficult, long and fruitless that process had been, and that i expected the same thing to happen again. how could i trust what she told me--that i was progressing quickly, that i would be pushing soon? that hadn't happened with noah, and a big part of me didn't believe it would happen with isla either. so i panicked. i froze into my fear, not working with my body, not letting anyone help me process or move forward. it wasn't until the epidural lessened the intensity of the pain that i was able to relax a little, to regain hope and to progress with the work of birthing my baby.

i don't know if things could have gone differently. maybe if i'd worked harder at letting go of the negative experience of my labor with noah, then i could have moved forward more easily in the altogether new experience of my labor with isla. maybe i should have had a better plan for how to deal with my potential fear and paralysis. maybe i shouldn't have given birth in an hospital setting, so as to eliminate the options of pain medications. (though this really isn't an easy option with VBAC, nor do i necessarily believe it would have been safe.)

or maybe i should just accept my experience for what it was: a very positive experience overall, with a brief middle phase of extreme pain and fear. whether or not epidurals are a good idea in general isn't really the point. i think for me, this time, this particular medical intervention did something very useful, which was to allow me to move beyond my fear and work with my body to push my baby out into the world. it was also helpful that i was able to focus on bonding with my brand-new baby while my vaginal tears were being repaired.

i'm thinking now about how to integrate my two birth experiences into my potential work as a doula. i still feel a little too emotionally vulnerable to imagine moving forward in my doula certification just yet, so i'm trying to use this time to process what i have felt and what i imagine other women might feel. i do like the idea that i have had some semi-uncommon experiences (an ovarian cyst, an OP baby, an epidural, a cesarean section, a VBAC, etc.), and that my experiences can help me understand the emotional and physical reactions of other women coping with similar things. but exactly how to do that best... i'm working on it! (and i'd love to hear ideas and perspectives from you!)

Friday, October 03, 2008

isla's birth

the day i went into labor with isla started out about as perfect as i can imagine. saturday the 30th was a beautiful, warm late summer day. aaron, noah and i went to our favorite donut shop and then brought our treats across the street to whatcom falls park. noah played on the playground and then we went for a leisurely walk across the falls and through the woods. noah and aaron raced and climbed, and we munched wild blackberries. we felt so happy and relaxed, and noah especially seemed so carefree--just wandering where he liked, us following along. i felt strong and healthy, enjoying the braxton-hicks contractions i was getting as a reminder of the presence of this new little one. after our walk we came home and noah and i had a nap.

later that afternoon, our brother and sister-in-law colin and nicole came down from surrey to spend a fun-filled evening with us. we planned games, movies, a walk downtown for ice cream, a home-cooked meal, haircuts, etc. in the early afternoon i went to the bathroom and was suspicious when i saw what i thought was my mucus plug. i called sarah, my friend and doula, who told me this was a great sign of things moving forward, and to call her when i felt more strongly that things were happening. colin, nicole and i made a trip to trader joe's for supplies, where i had to stop once or twice to breathe through a contraction. i didn't want everyone to get worked up for nothing, so i tried to lay low and see how things progressed.

we got home and aaron whipped up some baked tortellini, which suddenly did not sound very good to me. i didn't eat much, and afterward mentioned that i felt pretty sure that i was heading into labor. everyone got really excited, and aaron channeled his energy into getting a buzzcut outside from nicole. noah got one too, and i tried to watch but eventually had to move into the living room and concentrate on my contractions. there was still talk of walking downtown for ice cream, but i could no longer imagine enjoying the trip. colin and nicole took a newly-shorn noah for ice cream, while aaron and i got ready to head to the hospital. sarah came over then and helped us out the door. i felt sad saying goodbye to noah, who looked worried and knew something crazy was happening. but i was so glad that colin and nic (and soon grandma) would be with him all night. they said he did fine after we left and slept well.

the drive to mount vernon was better than i expected--quiet, dark and calm, with just me and aaron and the new baby slowly moving down inside me. i had a few contractions but managed them fine. checking in to the hospital was a little stressful, since my contractions greatly increased as i moved. we spent the first little while in "triage," where a nurse did an internal check to determine my dilation. i was nervous about this, since they usually don't admit you unless you're at least 4 centimeters, and we definitely didn't want to drive back home. but she determined that i was 4-5, which was awesome! when i labored with noah, it took me what felt like forever to get to that point, and here i was already there and it hadn't been bad at all.

we then slowly transferred to our labor/delivery/recovery room, where i was hooked up to an IV for antibiotics, since i'd tested positive for group b strep. (i only ended up getting one dose during my labor, which meant in the end we had to stay at the hospital a bit longer, but that i had fewer antibiotics to contend with in my body.) i was also hooked up to the maternal and fetal monitors, but through a telemetry unit which let me move freely and be in water. right away i wanted to go into the tub, which we did. it felt great.

our midwife, natalie, came while i was in the tub, and i remember the few hours in there as quiet and peaceful. when a contraction came, either aaron or sarah would put pressure on my back, where i was still strongly feeling the contractions even though this baby wasn't posterior. in between contractions, the four of us would talk--about nursing, midwifery, VBACs, toddlers, life, etc. i remember feeling (though i was hesitant to verbalize it), that if labor was going to be like this the whole way, i could definitely manage it. it wasn't easy, but i felt like i was keeping on top of the contractions and could continue, as long as things stayed the same.

of course in labor things do not stay the same, which is really the point. after an hour or two in the tub, i felt my bag of waters break and empty into the tub. it was a strange feeling--a definite pop and and a release of fluid, all during a contraction. it was around this point that natalie asked me to come over to the bed so she could check my dilation. they also wanted to monitor me again out of the water for a little bit, as the monitor hadn't been working very well with my position in the water. so i hauled myself over to the bed.

(i will say here that i was impressed by the flexibility of the hospital staff to work with what i wanted, within what they are mandated to do for VBACs, including continuous fetal monitoring. our nurse was very open to creative positioning of the monitors, which allowed me to do whatever felt comfortable. she also let us know when the monitors weren't picking up the baby's heart rate very well, but in a calm way that didn't elicit panic. she just asked that we try a new position.)

i climbed out of the tub and onto the bed with much effort and many contractions, which became stronger since my water had broken. natalie checked my dilation and concluded that i was about 7-8cm. everyone was impressed at how fast things were going, but i felt heavy with the weight of those 2-3 more centimeters i had left to go. suddenly things were incredibly intense and i moved into a place of fear and panic. hello, transition!! even though i knew theoretically what to expect from the transition stage of labor, in reality it was still a physical shock. what had seemed manageable in the tub no longer did. i was paralyzed with pain and fear. the next hour or so went by in a fog--of very strong contractions that i was still feeling intensely in my lower back, one after another.

i began asking for an epidural, which request no one took very seriously at first. i'd asked sarah to remind me when labor got rough that i really hoped for an unmedicated labor and birth. she reminded me, and i wanted to kick her. natalie kept telling me how quickly things were going, and that i would probably be pushing within an hour or two. i didn't believe her. i kept saying, "i can't do this," and everyone would respond with, "you are doing it!" i remember learning about this "helpful response" in my doula training course, and i resented everyone for using it. easy for you to say, i thought!

eventually i began to cry, and begged them to take me seriously. aaron heard me and told the others i was serious. they requested the anestesiologist. waiting for him to come, i was no longer coping with the contractions at all, barely breathing through them and physically rigid. i felt paralyzed. i remember sarah at one point grabbing the icon of mother and child i'd brought with me, and shoving it near my face. "look at this!" she said, and i pushed her away. now this thoughtful effort strikes me as incredibly funny. not even faithful mary and her angelic little boy could help me then!

it seemed like a long time before the anesthesiologist came, but was probably about half an hour. i didn't feel the effects of the epidural immediately, either, and when i did it was a lessening of feeling but not a total numbing. the anesthesiologist couldn't figure out why i wasn't having total pain relief, but whatever went "wrong" with the epidural was actually just right. i'd hoped that if i did end up with an epidural, it would somehow be less strong than the one i'd had with noah, so that i could still feel enough to push effectively. i got my wish! the medicine calmed me down enough to focus on my breathing and to use my contractions for effective pushing. which happened pretty much right after the epidural was administered. natalie hadn't been lying after all!

i probably pushed for about an hour total, using each contraction but still not totally sure of what i was doing. natalie was good at giving direction, and everyone else would encourage me each time. the nurse set up a mirror at the foot of the bed, and it was incredible to see my body progressing toward letting this little baby out. even when her head was visible, i still barely believed that she would come out of me this way, that it was possible. but it was! and it seemed so natural when it happened--first her little head, then her scrunched-up face, then her shoulders and her wiggly body. natalie lifted her out and up to my chest right away, which was incredible. after a few minutes aaron cut her cord. i tore a bit, and while natalie stitched me up aaron and i bonded with isla. (thanks to the epidural for my calm during this time!) she nursed right away.

what a fast process! from the time earlier in the evening when i was sure i was in labor until isla's birth, only about seven hours had transpired. so much more reasonable than the almost 24 hours of labor with noah!

aaron and a brand-new little girl

long arms, long legs, long fingers and toes!

sarah and tiny isla

big brother noah having fun in the hospital room

Thursday, October 02, 2008


isla was born in the summer.

today it is october, and it is autumn. a whole new season.

it feels like a new season in our lives, in the best way. it is our new little girl, of course, but also a slowing down, a meeting of ourselves again.

aaron and i are getting to know one another again. we are making plans: for more time together, for adventure, for learning, for creativity, for beautifying our home.

noah spends so much time reading and learns new things every day. among them, kissing with his lips, not his cheek, and making a "kissing sound" for accompaniment. he kisses isla now many times a day, and is gentler with her. he sings. he eats broccoli. he has great sympathy for those who are hurt or sick. he loves band-aids still.

noah and aaron are two peas in a pod. they have been having many adventures together while mama and isla nurse, rest or nest.

isla smiles now, and smirks. her eyes are often wide (and are a deep blue). her hair is redder. she grunts. she enjoys diaper-free time. she is likely twelve pounds already, busting out of her tiny newborn clothes. she is a very calm and sweet little girl.

today is cool and rainy. the house is messy. isla is sleeping on my belly in the moby wrap, noah is not napping in his room. it's time to make chocolate chip cookies.

3-3-3-go! (a movie)

wherein noah wears aaron's old teddy in the sling, and asks grandma and grandpa to count down for him to race across the room (starting with 3, not 1).  whenever he wears one of his animals or dolls in the sling, he wants to race across the living room!  (i do not model this behavior with isla.)  :)

broken barn (a song)

noah sings a version of the broken barn song he and grandma made up.

fire truck (a song)

noah sings a version of his fire truck song.