Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guest Mama: Gwendolyn's Birth

I'm so excited to share on this blog the very first story of a natural home birth! My guest mama writer is Mikah, who previously wrote Adelaide's story. After overcoming a difficult first birth to son Harvey Danger and then successfully giving birth to Adelaide Kay via unmedicated VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian), Mikah took things under her own control even further and decided to deliver her third little one, Gwendolyn Dare, with a midwife and doula in her own home. I have to admit that the idea of giving birth at home is divine--what I wouldn't give to be in my own sheets, pattering barefoot slowly through my own kitchen, rummaging through my own fridge, and not in a hospital following the births of my children! I haven't made that leap though, and as we are thinking we are likely done having children, I will just have to relish the stories of my home-birthing friends. Without further ado, please read the story of Gwendolyn Dare's birth, told in the words of mama Mikah.
The Birth of Gwendolyn Dare
I am holding on to my beautiful water-born baby as I am trying to find the words to describe her entrance into this world. Because she was born in the water and because of my love of fairy tales, I have decided to call her my little mermaid.

I woke up with a very uncomfortable contraction around 5:15AM on Thursday, September 4th. I lay there for a few minutes and decided to get up and have something to eat just in case this was it. I ate and rocked back and forth on my ball for a few minutes. Contractions were coming, but were very irregular. I went outside and walked our long driveway. My husband Jarrod woke up and we talked about what was happening. He wanted to stay home to get things ready. I insisted that he went to work. I was so unsure that this was the day because of the irregularity of my contractions. After he left, I went back up stairs to lie down, and I fell asleep for about an hour.

My children, Harvey and Adelaide, woke up. We had breakfast and got dressed. I was still contracting irregularly. The contractions were intense enough that I would have to stop talking during them. My babes had a hard time understanding why I wasn’t answering them at times.

I phoned my midwife Dawn around 8AM to tell her what was happening and see where she was doing clinic that day. She was in Oklahoma City, which is two hours from me.  We decided to give the breast pump a try to see if we could get the contractions to organize themselves. I turned on a movie for us to watch while I used the pump. It seems that soon after is when my contractions did start to even out to around 10-15 minutes apart. However, between taking care of two toddlers and the tidying up I was doing, I was not timing them and focusing on them as I should. I changed our sheets, swept, vacuumed, changed diapers, and prepared lunch as I normally would, leaning on the furniture and swaying my hips during contractions.

I talked to Jarrod and told him I was still unsure. We decided that he could leave work after lunchtime, and that I should call him to let him know. At 2PM I wrestled the kids up the stairs for nap time. Contractions were so strong at this point and about seven minutes apart.  I was able to lay Adelaide down, but did not even attempt to get Harvey down for a nap. I needed my husband. At 2:45PM, I called Jarrod to come home and called to update Dawn. I told Dawn I would call her in an hour to update.

Jarrod found me lying in bed with Harvey.  When he got there, I think I realized that I had been holding my body back. As soon as Jarrod got home, I was able to relax and labor the way I prefer. Having him home freed me to focus on the work my body was doing. I turned on some music and got on my ball. I inhaled essential oils and eventually got in the shower to let the hot water run on my back. While in the shower, Jarrod set up the birth pool with the help of Harvey, who was so fascinated and excited about “the baby being pulled from the water.” I was in the shower when I noticed just how fast things were moving, contractions rolling in at 5 minutes apart and so strong. It had only been 45 minutes, but at 3:30 I called my birth team and said that I needed them to head this way.  They were still in OKC at the time.

I dressed and got back on my ball. Jarrod joined me upstairs as I leaned on the bed, swayed on the ball, and held his hand through contractions. Jarrod told me he needed to finish getting the pool ready. He helped me down the stairs. My dad came home, concerned about the pain I was in. I again sat on my ball and leaned on the chair. Jarrod had a hard time with the pool. The pump we borrowed would not work right, hoses leaked, he forgot the liner, and the hot water ran out. He was problem-solving this while stopping to hold onto me during contractions, which were about three minutes apart now.  My sweet three-year-old son held my hands during a few contractions and offered me a drink of chocolate milk. The milk was not what I wanted, but I was amazed at his perception that mommy needed to just hold someone’s hand.  Then I threw up; I knew I was getting close, probably in transition. I really began to focus on the words of the music in the background. I can remember, “Take the World, but give me Jesus.” As contractions rolled and crashed in, I took comfort in those words and surrendered to what my body was doing.

Harvey helping out during a contraction
 My friend Adrea and her daughter Bailey arrived at about 5PM. I could not talk or even look up to acknowledge them. Adrea sat quietly, offering help where she could, and praying for me. Bailey helped keep the kids occupied in the next room. The pressure began to build up and by 5:30 I could not sit down during contractions. Adrea and Jarrod were boiling three pots of water at a time to fill up the pool.  At 6PM I told Jarrod that I was close and to call the midwife to see if they were lost. Because of construction, they were still about 20 minutes out. My mom arrived at around this time as well.

So, in the living room of the house I grew up in and the house Jarrod and I were married, I got into the pool ready to bring my baby into the world. The water felt so amazing. I do not talk during labor but I was able to look at Jarrod and say, “This feels wonderful.” The warmth helped soothe my back labor and the water made it easier to move and change positions, which is normally incredibly difficult for me this far into labor. They continued to bring in hot water from the stove at my request. I was able to lean back to rest and quickly move to my knees during a contraction. Jarrod knelt just on the outside of the pool and I would put my head to his and hold his hands to ground myself. To help relieve the pain, I began to follow my body’s urge to push. I kept looking at the clock knowing that soon the midwife and doula would be here.

Around 6:20PM the midwife Dawn and her doula assistant Brandy arrived with smiles and set to work. Dawn told me I was doing great and that she would check me if I wanted. Brandy quickly came in to check the baby’s heart rate. Baby sounded great and was very low; I could tell by were she held the Doppler. Dawn came in to check me at my request. I was at 9 ½, very soft, my water was still intact, with baby’s head at a 1+ station. Dawn told me to do what I felt was best. I told her it was more comfortable to push. I stayed leaning back for a few minutes to prepare myself, then moved to my knees and leaned over the side of the pool and on Jarrod. I began to push, gently because honestly my body was doing most of the work.

My water broke and it was clear. After that, things went so fast. I continued to lean head to head with Jarrod and pushed. It was so gentle and controlled that Jarrod had to ask if I was pushing. I told him it hurt and then I felt the ring of fire, so amazing. It was then that I put a little more effort into my pushing. Dawn said she heard me moan and rushed in. I said, “The baby is coming!” and out came the head. Jarrod went around to catch the baby and I had to ask if they were ready before pushing out the body. I quickly turned around and grabbed baby. We were all so happy. I looked up and my parents were beaming and in ran both Harvey and Adelaide.

A warm towel was quickly thrown over us. Brandy sucked out the baby’s mouth. I then got to look and see what little person we had been given. A little girl, with long black hair, born at 6:37PM and her name is Gwendolyn, my little mermaid. She was born just 17 minutes after the birth team arrived, beautifully and gently. I was amazed at her, especially her hair, and we talked about how different she looked. I relaxed there in the water as we waited for the cord to quit pulsing and to deliver the placenta. I let her do the breast crawl and begin nursing, which she took to right away.

Gwendolyn, eyes open

I have normally ended my birth stories here, but I must add to this because the care and attention I received from Dawn and Brandy was wonderful. I wish every woman was treated with such respect during and after birth. Delivering in the water was very protective of my modesty, which I did not think was possible during birth.

After I delivered the placenta, Dawn and Brandy helped me out of the pool and got me on the couch. Her daddy and family held Gwendolyn while they checked on me. I had no need for stitches and I told Dawn she was my hero for telling me this! I just rested on the couch while baby doll nursed and was held skin-to-skin. Every 15 minutes I was given an herbal remedy to ease after-birth pains and my blood pressure and temperature were checked. Dawn and Brandy cleaned up the pool and my parents cooked dinner. All of her measurements were done right there close.  Then Dawn sat with me and wrote out her birth certificate info and did her footprints. They helped me to go to the bathroom and got me ready for dinner. Brandy also went upstairs to prepare my bed and bathroom. When I went to bed that night, everything was so neatly set up and easily accessible. I think she might have even wiped our toilet down. Brandy also delivered my placenta for encapsulation. They stayed for several hours cleaning and caring for baby and me. The next day, Dawn came back to our house to check on us.
Open-mouthed kisses with sister Adelaide

The Danger loves his newest little family member
 I have spent the last week trying to breathe in every bit of Gwendolyn’s newness. Her birth was perfect. Giving birth is hard work and requires everything you have, and eventually you have to surrender yourself to the amazing creation you are.

**Mikah chose to utilize services from Moments of Bliss Midwifery.**

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Boy's First Official Race

The proud mommy

The pep talk from Pop
The gun fires
 (notice Grammy pushing George and Van in the blue double stroller to the right!)

The little brothers

The big finish

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pop Quiz

Which of these things has happened in the last week?

a. Van spat up a dead fly.
b. Silas wore the same outfit two days in a row, unwashed in between.
c. George enjoyed a sucker at 9:30 one morning.
d. I ate a big piece of chocolate cake whilst watching "American Ninja Warrior" until 1AM during a night of single mommyhood.

Okay, fine, you got me. They're all true. In my defense, Silas asked to wear his t-shirt and shorts to sleep in, and the next morning as I was frantically getting ready for work I saw him already dressed and thought, "Yippee! One less thing to do!" Four hours later it randomly hit me that it was all the same clothes. As far as George, we were on day four without daddy, I was on the phone dealing with strange and unsettling extended-family medical circumstances, and it seemed a great way to keep him quiet for a couple of minutes. As far as Van, there's no telling. I'd like to think the boy is a master at killing flies in mid-air. Most likely, however, he just found a dead one on a windowsill. I have since detailed my windowsills.

I'm a little scattered at times, but I still can rock this mommyhood thing. Just ask these guys!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Hand Tied

Last week in the news, one of the primary topics (sadly) was the hacking and leakage of nude photos of several female celebrities, most notably Jennifer Lawrence. Images that were taken by these women and were intended for private, personal use were hacked from their cell phones and put on the internet for a world of Peeping Toms to see. Apple has reported that the leakage was not due to a vulnerability of iCloud, but the images were taken from online storage devices that I can't begin to explain. See BJ's blog if you're interested in that techy kind of stuff.

Much of the response to this exploitation seems reasonable to me: a large number of individuals see this as a breach of moral conduct on the part of the hackers, believe that the hackers should pay for their crimes (yes, I said crimes), and do not place blame upon those whose photos were stolen. There is a subset of society, however, that immediately lashed out at Lawrence and others, blaming them for their role in the 'scandal' and admonishing them to do better next time. I won't even link to these latter articles because I don't want to draw further attention to them.

The complexity of problems within this culture is too large in breadth to expand upon here, but much of it boils down to one very large dysfunction: the sexualization and objectification of women. It is undoubtedly one of the largest problems that our society has created, and it is also one of society's biggest stumbling blocks in terms of social progress. If women are not viewed as more than what they can do for men sexually, then this country is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. We will never succeed and reach our potential as a collective unit if one half of us is limited by the other--generally speaking, as I am fully aware that there are decent, active men working to silence the idiots amongst us.

Why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? The 'blame the victim' mentality held by so many people, including many women, is as damaging a notion to the women's rights movement as has ever existed. Doesn't a woman have the right to wear the clothes she wants without being held responsible for how it makes a man feel? Doesn't a woman have a right to have a drink too many and not get sexually taken advantage of? Isn't it unfair that a woman gets raped by a turned-on male who says he couldn't help himself because she was 'asking for it' by the way she looked or the way she flirted with him? Doesn't it suck that a woman can get raped by a man and, when she tries to press charges against him, the fact that she was drunk is a strike against HER? And here, with the Jennifer Lawrence situation, isn't it scary that a woman can take nude photos in the context of a private relationship, have those photos unethically hacked, and then we turn to her and chide her for not being more responsible, for not having stronger passwords or for having a nude photo of herself in the first place? Imagine this for a moment: replace the words "Jennifer Lawrence" with "small business" and replace " nude photos" with "financial statements." If a hacker got into iCloud and accessed the financials of a business, then blackmailed that business and made their account information available for all to see, that would be a legal issue. What in the world is the difference? Is it because Jennifer Lawrence is a person and not a business? Or is it because the nature of what was leaked is not as important as money---it's only the body of a woman?

So, again, why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? I think it's because, in acknowledging those rights, society has to embrace the notion that women are individuals with faces, aspirations, and personalities--and sacrifice the deeply, long-held notions that women are just faceless bodies, just hot commodities to compare or disparage, just bitches when they're angry and hos when they're participants in sexual activities, just punching bags when others are angry. When we as a society can learn that a woman has a voice and right when it comes to her own decisions and her own body, and that her body is for herself to share with whomever she chooses, then a huge number of problems in this country will begin to subside. We will see less violence against women. We will see less pornography. We'll see more women contributing with their full potential, in whatever way they feel most enriched, and we will see more fulfilling sexual relationships. We will see more legal action when women are sexually exploited, and we will see less blaming the victim when sexual assaults do take place. We will see a return to the normalization of breastfeeding in public, because people will reject the notion that breasts are purely sexual objects and thus won't be disgusted and uncomfortable with the idea of using boobs to feed babies. We will essentially see a country operating with no hands behind its back, with all of its brains and talents being used to drive us full-throttle into the betterment of life for us all. Be you female or male, use your voices, and use them for good.You may be surprised to find out just how loud and strong they are.

Sesame Street approves!

For a similar past musing, check it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My Three Sons

My three kids and I can't go anywhere in public without some smiling stranger saying to me, "Wow! You really have your hands full!" I hear it at least once every single day. I never mind hearing it. Typically my boys are quite well-behaved as the stranger makes this remark, so I know it's meant as a genuine salute, if you will, and not a passive-aggressive jab at my lack of parenting skills or rowdy crowd. My favorite is always when I only have two boys with me and BJ has the other somewhere else, and a stranger still makes that comment. "Hahahaha!" I roar. "Two kids is nothing! You should see the baby/middle child/oldest brother (insert child that is not present)!" As I told the lady who commented at security in Boston Logan Airport the other day as I was making my way through with Van, if I only have one kid with me, I practically feel like I have none at all. My hat's off to parents whose children outnumber mine, because I know from experience that you're rocking it!

There is never a shortage of funny moments in our home these days. There is also never a shortage of wrestling children, kid-centered outings, crayons underfoot, spit-up on the burp cloth, Eggo waffles in the toaster, coloring pages taped to hard surfaces for display (taped haphazardly by the artists themselves), costume-wearing, and toad/bug touching. Brotherly love and cooperation are often found, but sometimes are conspicuously replaced by threats of bodily harm when an errant hand crosses a couch cushion line. This physical kind of love and display between the boys is something I am beginning to get used to. As a girl who grew up with a sister and a fairly gentle brother, the idea of wrestling just for fun initially appalled me. I fretted, watched closely (okay, hovered), and often broke up the 'fighting' because I was uncomfortable with it. Now I realize that it's kind of just nature's way. My two little bears are allowed to roll and play, within reason, as long as life and limb aren't at stake. I would also add 'valuables' to the at-stake list, but who am I kidding? Anything pretty worth displaying in this house has either been rounded up into boxes, broken, or never bought in the first place because--let's face it--I'm a mother of three young wrestling boys. Pollyanna's Aunt Polly would have a conniption at my house.

Images can pretty much sum it up from here. I love this life. Admittedly, it's often best participated in with a glass of wine in hand. Just kidding. A cup of coffee is usually sufficient.

Spiderman trying to figure out how to drink water with no mouth hole

I call this artfully-arranged exhibit "Superheros in Motion: An Exploration in Colored Wax"
First time on the beach! Plum Island Beach, Massachusetts
Not too shabby for a four-year-old boy, if I do say so myself.
Bustin' a move, as he is often wont to do
There is no feat too great.
Museum day with Daddy

About the turkey kielbasa he stated, "That be so big! It's longer than my life!"

Weekend with cousins in Dallas, ages 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0

Piled on Grammy

Eleventh anniversary dinner at Mutt's Hog Dogs with Van--like I said, one child is practically no child!

Sometimes even Pop needs a breather when dealing with this crowd.
Blurry image, but captures the excited mauling of Van in the airport as he and I arrived home from Massachusetts