I Can’t Stop Crying | A Complicated Conversation that I would rather have with you in person but feel compelled to write about tonight

Today, in a landmark decision, the Texas State Governor cancelled Medicaid funding in the state of Texas for Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in the United States. The Governor has made it clear in his written statement that the state of Texas firmly supports both women’s healthcare and unborn life.

Other states are mired in legalities over this topic, and everyone is bursting at the seams with their own opinion and idea of whom we should support, and how.

Abortion is, and will continue to be, a complicated conversation, and a legislative battle in our country.

When I was a senior in college, I worked at Super Target. It was our first year of marriage. I worked full time to support us, while Benjamin was a full time student. I was also finishing a few senior-level classes and my senior thesis.

A co-worker at Super Target had four children, all grown and around my own age.  I remember talking to her one day about being a newlywed, and we got on the topic of birth control.  I was saying something about how we were being extra cautious not to conceive at this time of our lives – both still in school, about to graduate in less than a year, and myself being the only income (besides my husband’s work study job, which we all know how much those pay!).

She lightly said something to the effect of, “Well, if anything unexpected happens, you can take care of it easily.” She told me after she and her husband had two of their children, they conceived an unexpected third. They were poor, and she was beside herself at the idea of another child, at that time of their lives. So she had an abortion. Later in life, they went on to have two other children, when they were more financially stable. She encouraged me that I shouldn’t worry about birth control too much, because there was another option for an unwanted pregnancy.

I sat in my chair in the Super Target clerical office, completely stunned. I guess I had naively figured most women who have had an abortion, when they are “all grown up”, they probably regret it, or at least wonder about their baby.

I couldn’t help but wonder…. she had four healthy adult children. I’m guessing she loves her children, and has grandchildren from them whom she also loves.  I couldn’t reconcile the idea that one of her children, who would have been just as amazing and precious as the four living ones, never had a chance. If she had birthed all five of them, and lost that middle child when he or she was five, or ten, or eighteen – would she have had the same nonchalant attitude about that child?

If you are reading this and you’ve had an abortion, I love you. Whether you feel it was the right decision and stand by it; or whether you regret it and can’t forgive yourself for it; or whether you have mixed feelings and thoughts because…. it was complicated then, and it’s still complicated now. The last thing I will do is judge you for your reasons and your decision. Judgement doesn’t breathe love, and love is what is breathed into every human life at its conception.

We don’t fight civil wars anymore over issues that tear our country apart. Instead we post Facebook articles, write hashtags, send emails to our Senators, listen to media tell us what to think, gush with like-minded friends and un-friend people who don’t agree with us.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I documented my pregnancy in a weekly photo blog. We had waited ten years of marriage, and I felt I had been waiting my entire life, to have a baby. We purchased an iPhone app called Sprout that gave us insight into what was developing with the baby on a week-to-week basis.

 

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By the time a woman misses her period and takes a positive pregnancy test, the cells are in place that form the base of the child’s brain. The baby is the size of an apple seed.

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By ten weeks old, the baby is the size of a radish, has a head and skeleton, and can be seen in a sonogram DANCING.

……………………………………………………….

I don’t generally consider Facebook – or any online format for that matter – to be the right place to express my deeply held values or discuss inflammatory and complicated topics. I prefer to have deep, meaningful, heartfelt conversations face-to-face, where I can hear your story, you can hear mine, and we can understand each other. The human touch is key to resolving conflict; and Facebook, email, and text message don’t do a great job with that.

You don’t have to agree with me to be my friend. I don’t have to agree with you to be your friend. I have friends of many faiths, genders, and nationalities. Our friendship or our business relationship doesn’t hinge on our agreement about a slew of topics (otherwise, who would have friends?!).

What I want to be, as a human and a Christ-follower in this world, is to be part of the solution to the problems I see. I can’t fix the world. I can’t even fix myself and my own kids! The solution for me, is to support women, to support mothers, in the ways I know how. To be a playful partner to children around me. To be a better friend. To be a better parent. To love people who are lonely. To continue wrestling with the possibility of foster care or adoption in growing my family.

Because God is love and love comes from God. And there’s a lot of hurting people who don’t feel loved right now. Born and unborn. Those people – all of them – are where I am called to love and serve.

So today, I can’t stop crying. For the babies. For the mothers. For the lonely people in our world today. For a raging conversation that tears friends and nations apart. For a desperation to see life and freedom where there is death and darkness. Oh God, would you give us more of Your love. Would You help me express more of Your love in this earth. The world needs Love.

Noel is Born! | The Birth Story of Tobi

*** Photo Credits…. First two photos from Jax’s birth taken by our birth photographer Ann Marie Itschner. She was not available for Tobi’s birth. The birth of Tobi was photographed by Monica Barrientes. I edited them, with Monica’s permission. My sister Mercy Persyn took photos during the newborn exam, shown at the end of this post. Just wanted to give credit to our awesome photogs ***

*This is a birth story. There aren’t any “R” rated images, but it’s a birth story with birth photos and descriptions of body parts.*

When I wrote the birth story of my firstborn, I had a reader comment, “You had a traumatic birth.” Other readers said the intensity of my story was just how they remembered their own labor.

I was surprised by the first observation.

I wrote the story of Jax’s birth the only way I could find to do so – from the inside not the outside. From the intense and insane thoughts that rattled my brain and body as I labored and delivered a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn at home without medication.

Photo of Jax’s Birth by Ann Marie Itschner
Photo of Jax’s birth by Ann Marie Itschner


My overriding thought during Jax’s labor was the sensation that I was dying. It wasn’t that I believed I was dying; I just had no other way to name the intensity of pain. Yet somehow, at the moment my brain was saying, “I’m dying”, another part was saying “Open. Open your body, swing your hips, open to let this baby come through.”


I don’t feel traumatized by Jax’s birth. In fact, the intensity I experienced is rather normal for first-time un-medicated births I’ve seen. Horribly painful and I won’t lie about it.

Yet conversely, intensely rewarding. I am SO proud of myself for delivering a 10 lb 4 oz firstborn baby at Home, without medication. I am SO proud that my body can do this. That most women can too.  I was SO happy to be at home, in my own safe element, surrounded by people I know and love. No one to take my baby away from me except my family. No one to do things to me without my consent. No arguing for my birth experience to be preserved. My own room, my own bed, my own peace.  And my son, born into this safe, peaceful place.


I’m a birth photographer. I’ve observed births of all kinds. Difficult natural births, and easy natural births.  Traumatic hospital births and healing hospital births.

I’ve seen many natural births (home or birth center) that were easy.  These moms made birth look like a walk in the park. Or a comedy show.

I’ve seen laboring mothers hiking stairs at 9 cm, making everyone in the room crack up at 10 cm, and making not a single sound of pain while laboring or pushing. I’ve seen babies born naturally and quickly – from first contraction to delivery in less than an hour – without medication or intervention.

I’ve seen mamas who make natural labor a comedy show with a dramatic happy ending.

While my experience with my first born – that of intense pain and a sensation of dying – is an experience many women share; so too is the peace and ease I’ve observed in many of my clients.

During my pregnancy with Noel (our womb-name for our second child), I kept my mind open about the delivery. And I prayed for it to be quicker and easier.

To summarize my labor and delivery with Jax, from a medical event perspective…..

– 10 hours of total labor, 8 hours of that was active (very painful) labor, 1 hour of that was pushing.
– Third degree tear to my perineum (not from his head but from his elbow when he pushed his arm out after his head emerged), which required a lot of stitches and a lengthy healing time.
– Hemorrhage that required IV fluids, methergine, and pitocin to stop the bleeding.
– Postpartum fainting.

This time I wanted to experience a shorter labor, no tearing, no hemorrhaging, and no fainting. I also hoped for a water birth.

…………………………….

My labor story with Noel began Monday evening. I attended a church class that met in our home, and left early. During the meeting, I could not get comfortable in any sitting position, and was antsy and anxious. I slept fine that night (as well as one sleeps at 39 weeks pregnant), and woke Tuesday morning, still uncomfortable all over. I did not consider I could be in labor, but hoped I didn’t have many days of pregnancy left.

I took a walk outside with Jax about 9:30 in the morning.  He rode his tricycle. The tightening sensation of the Braxton Hicks was still painless but seemed rather regular. Just for grins, I decided to track them in an iPhone app, during our walk. They were regular (every 3-5 minutes, and around 1 minute long), but didn’t hurt.  That timing was the same way I began labor with Jax, but it hurt almost right away.

We got back from the walk, and I continued pacing around the house.  Standing still was uncomfortable, even though I wasn’t in pain.  My mom kept telling me I was in labor. I kept saying I was antsy and uncomfortable, but couldn’t be in labor since it didn’t hurt.

At some point I called Benjamin to come home, because I was too agitated to take care of Jax.  I managed to bring all the birth supplies from storage in the closet, out into the birth room, and get Benjamin started on setting up the birth pool.  He and I took another walk, knowing by now, that today was indeed the day.




We called our midwife, Robin around 1:30 in the afternoon (oddly enough, we called her about 1:30 in the middle of the night last time!).  I had several dreams during my pregnancy that I had an easy birth with my baby, and it was so quick and easy that Robin missed it. I didn’t want that part of the dream to come true!

Robin and her assistant ShaeLynn arrived by 3:00 in the afternoon. She checked and I was already 6cm dilated! I couldn’t believe it. I was in pain at that point, but it was bearable. And I had my full presence of mind. I could talk between contractions. I could even talk during them, saying things like, “This sucks. Why does labor have to hurt so much?!”


As a photographer, I know we’re not at the end, until the mama stops talking, and has to fully concentrate. She zones out from the world, and enters a mental labor land. I knew I wasn’t there yet, and had time left. But I was relieved it was already SO much easier than last time. Last time I thought I was dying by 2cm, and this time, I was merely convinced “labor sucks” at 6cm.

By 4:00 pm I was in the birth pool. My mom coached me during contractions. She also read me amazing Scripture verses she had prepared for this moment.






Benjamin was in the water behind me, holding me up, just like last time. My sister Mercy arrived, and would intermittently coach me, or give me water or juice to drink.  They put a fan on my face because I was too hot in the water tub (just like last time).  At some point, I vomited (which I also did with Jax, but early in labor compared to late in labor this time). Eventually the second midwife, Julie, arrived, who I had not met before.





“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby, that He may remain with you forever.” John 14:16




“Don’t be afraid, he said, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong! As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger.” Daniel 10:19

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

“The Lord said to him, Peace be to you, do not fear. You shall not die.” Judges 6:23




“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.” Isaiah 43:1-2

When she read that one, I immediately knew it had to do with my perineum, and crowning, and being able to pass through that “fire” without “burning” (tearing / damage to my perineum). I asked her to read to me a few more times and felt so much strength.




“There is nothing to fear, for I am with you. Do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes I will help you, yes I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand!” Isaiah 41:10





About 4:30pm, there was an unexpected knock on the door. It was my friend Elisha, who hopes to one day have kids and have natural births. She was picking up a bag of gluten-free flour she needed for a recipe.

She had tried to pick it up the day before, Monday. She called Monday afternoon, checking to be sure she could stop by to get it. I was napping, and had my phone turned off. I didn’t get her message until late that evening, and called to apologize. She laughed, “I figured you were in labor.” I laughed too. “No, no, not in labor; just napping. I’ll put it on the porch for you. Pick it tomorrow when you leave work.”

Now, here she was, arriving to pick it up, knocking on the door. And like she joked, I was in labor! In labor, in the main living area of the house. She opened the front door and unknowingly stepped into a delivery room!  I heard someone say she had come in, and laughed to myself.  During my pregnancy, I considered inviting her to the birth, but wasn’t sure if she would want to come.

Now she was here. And at 9cm, I still had the presence of mind to say to her, “Hey! I’m 9 centimeters! Wanna stay and watch a baby be born?!” She stayed.

Around that time, I began having a certain pressure behind my pubic bone. My midwife thought the pressure was the water bag, and the sensation was the baby rocking his head trying to break it. She said, “You can keep doing what you’re doing, and eventually it will break. Or I can break it, and this will be over pretty quickly.”  I waited a couple more contractions, then asked her to break it.

She says it broke with the slightest pressure of her finger. Then she grabbed the crown of Noel’s head,  gently pulling and tilting his head into proper position.

With my water broken, the full pressure of Noel’s head was against my cervix. The pain escalated, pushing me over the edge. I felt the sharp knife-stabbing my insides that I remembered making me scream with Jax, and I flopped around in the tub, trying to escape it.  I hit the intensity of the “I’m dying” wall.  At the same time, I knew I was SO close. It wouldn’t be very long like this.  Ten to twenty minutes passed, then I could feel my body instinctively begin pushing.

It’s one of the lovely things about natural labor, and out-of-hospital labor. You don’t have to wait for the doctor to show up in order to deliver the baby, and they don’t have to “verify” you are fully dilated before “allowing” you to push.  The midwife is always there. And she can tell by a mama’s labor progress and physical/vocal expressions, whether or not she is ready.  I had only two vaginal exams in Noel’s labor, and the last one had been less than an hour ago. When my body was ready, I didn’t need anyone’s permission, and I didn’t have to wait. I followed my body’s cues, pulled my knees up, and pushed.

To my midwife’s records, I pushed less than ten minutes.  To my memory, I pushed four contractions total.








I’m a highly sensitive person when it comes to my body, touch, smell, taste, and physical sensation / experience.  With each of my son’s births, there is a “defining moment” physically, that I can repeat in my memory. It is rich, beautiful, and raw.  I can recall that moment at any time, and enter it again in my mind. It is a sensation of my primal self if you will.

……….

With Jax, that moment was when his body slipped out of me. I couldn’t actually tell when he was crowning, or when his head emerged. I’ve heard crowning described as “the ring of fire”, and I didn’t experience it with Jax at all. His entire hour-long passage down my birth canal felt like tearing and burning, and it was not distinguishable from being inside, to being outside. I did however, feel a great sense of relief of pressure when his head emerged.  I paused, asking if he was okay, touching his head, waiting for another contraction to be able to push him out.  When it came, and his huge 10 lb 4 oz body slipped out, that was my most visceral sensation.  I felt as if I could feel every part of his little body – every shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, bony and bumpy and poking me, and yet slithering, slipping out of me.  I grabbed him under his armpits and tried to bring him up to me, but Robin stopped me. His cord was only long enough to lay him across my hip.

………..

With Tobi, pushing out his head was the most visceral sensation.  I felt the pressure as if needing to poop, and remembered that I needed to push “down”, just as if trying to poop.  His head quickly progressed under my pubic bone and into my birth canal, and it was such an intense pressure. I was thinking to myself in shock, it feels like I’m pooping a grapefruit. That is SO. MUCH. PRESSURE. Pooping grapefruit SUCKS.  I knew it was his head, but it was such a different sensation that Jax.  I REALLY wanted his head to get out fast, because I was not liking the feeling of his head pressing my bones and body apart.  It was maybe only one or two pushes with that intense grapefruit-in-my-bowels sensation, before he was crowning, and Robin told me to stop and blow, to avoid tearing.

She had been worried my whole pregnancy about me tearing again, especially since the old tear had formed some white scar tissue that wasn’t stretchy.  Benjamin worked on rubbing the scar tissue with some oil, in the weeks preceding the birth, and I’m sure that helped. Plus prayer. Always prayer.

I was glad for her alerting me that it was time to pause my powerful pushes, and wait…. I submissively blew short panting breaths, waiting, holding back, allowing my perinium to stretch slowly and gently over his head.  At the next contraction, I pushed again, and his head emerged.  Relief!

And again, the three minutes of eternity. Waiting.  Joyfully rubbing my sweet baby’s head, hoping he was okay under the water, even though I knew logically he was still getting oxygen from his cord inside me.  I knew how close I was.  I caressed and massaged his little soft head under the water, tickling his little ears and feeling his wispy hair under my finger tips. I felt happy and elated.


Then another contraction, and his body.  Robin was holding onto him, and it felt like she was twisting and yanking his body around to get him out. She tells me it was just the baby, moving and turning to emerge.

Then, he was out of the water. I grabbed onto him and pulled him up to my chest. I threw my head back in joyous relief, and held my baby.  One arm around his back, the other under his bum.

With my hand tucked under his bum, I touched his skin and felt that he was boy.

With a laugh, I yelled loudly, “IT HAS BALLS!!!!!”

Later, watching the video, I nearly crawled into a hole when I watched that part.  It’s not like me to yell. Or be crude. Or refer to body parts by slang instead of correct terminology.

But labor removes your inhibitions, sort of like being drunk, and there I was, yelling to the room, “It has balls!”














With Jax, I tried to keep an open mind about our baby’s gender, but this time, I couldn’t help hoping for a boy.  Jax has been such a delight, and we both felt he would love having a brother to play in the dirt, and drive toy cars, and tractors and bulldozers. Not that a girl can’t do those things.  I was so happy he was a boy, just like I was happy with Jax.

Tobi Mitchell was his name. We announced it.  Tobi with an “I.”

I yelled, someone get Jax back in here!  My dad had been watching Jax. They had come in the room minutes before when I was pushing, and Jax asked to go back out of the room. I was making too much noise and it frightened him (he was almost three years old).  My dad and Jax came back in, and I breathlessly told him a baby brother was born, Tobi. Noel was his name before, but now that he was born, and he was a boy, his name would be Tobi.

Tobi was born at 5:51 pm.

If I count from my walk that morning with Jax, I was in labor eight hours.  But if I count active labor from when Robin arrived, I was in active labor around three hours. And pushed for less than ten minutes.

The news got better. I had a day time labor. I had water birth! I didn’t hemmorhage. I didn’t tear!!!!!

My mom said it was the most peaceful labor she had ever seen. I was thrilled with how easy it was compared to Jax.  It had only been intense for around thirty minutes or so.

I was also thrilled that Tobi came at 39 weeks (Jax was 40 weeks), and was born in November.  We had called him Noel since his due date was early December but I really wanted a November birthday for my baby.  And here he was.  Two days before Thanskgiving.

We had two birth photographers on-call for us, friends who were willing to shoot for me at a reduced rate.  We called both of them earlier in the day, and it was a toss up for a while, who would come.  Finally Monica was the one. And oddly enough, her family was celebrating Thanksgiving on that day! Even though Thanksgiving wasn’t until Thursday, they were celebrating on Tuesday. She put the turkey in the oven, and drove to my house. What a special friend.


Just the right day at just the right time. He was born on November 25, the same day of the month as Christmas, just one month earlier!















Oh to hold my sweet son after just a few short hours of intensity!
Oh to have two boys!

To not be pregnant any longer when I had been so uncomfortable the past few days and weeks. To have a November baby!

To deliver him in the water in front of the Christmas tree.

To have my family and friends surrounding me!

It was everything I wished and prayed for. I clung to this tiny little one, rubbing his back to help the oxygen flow into his lungs, caressing his body still smooth and slippery from vernix (which Jax hysterically calls vinegar).


And oh to have childREN not only a child.  In that moment, the world was perfect and I would not change a thing. 

My sister Mercy, who is in nursing school, cut the cord and got to hold Tobi.  Benjamin held Tobi, and Jax got to check him out.  Our friend Tina arrived, just minutes late. Maybe we will remember to call her in time to see the birth of baby #3!

In the meantime, I delivered the placenta, and got out of the tub feeling like a million dollars.  I requested a bag of IV fluids, to prevent dehydration and fainting – just in case.  After the IV bag was finished, I felt even better.  Robin checked me to be sure I didn’t need stitches, and I didn’t!  Our friend Tina showed up.  Benjamin called his mom and insisted I say hello on Facetime. I love my mother in law so much, but was not up for talking right then ha!

Then, I WALKED back to my room. After Jax was born, I was hemmorhaging and fainting, and Benjamin carried me to my bed. This time I walked all the way across the house on my own two feet. I was sore, but I felt amazing.

One of the things I love about having a birth photographer, is they capture things 1) that I would have otherwise forgotten and 2) that I didn’t even see happening – like Mercy, Jax, and Tobi hanging out in the other room with new toys my parents bought for Jax.






























Tobi weighed in at 9 lb 8 oz, and 21 inches long.  Just shy of Jax’s 10 lb 4 oz and 22 inches, but also a week shy of Jax’s gestational age.

My sister Mercy is studying to become a nurse. She’s also been married a bit over a year, and is eagerly anticipating the day when she and her husband can start their own family. Between those two things, she wanted to help out with Tobi and snatch him up any chance she could.  She was a huge help.






By this point, it was nearing Jax’s bedtime. Someone gave him a bath. He started getting cranky. But he did so well. He was sweet as could be with his new brother. He gave him lots of kisses, and checked out Tobi’s latch.  Jax was still nursing about three times a day when Tobi was born, so they were going to have to learn to share. We had talked about it while I was pregnant. I was so proud of Jax, watching him transition to a big brother.




I love this sequence of the four of us.  It reminds me of so much of what I love about home birth.  Peace. Family. Rest. Cuddles. Security. Safety. Usually at this point in the hospital, the baby is taken away to the nursery for several hours.








There’s also something special about the relationship with a midwife.  By the end of one pregnancy, you feel close to them.  By the end of the second, she feels sort of like a second mom.  Robin’s expertise makes me comfortable to do this huge life work at home.  She is wise, educated, calm, and knows which calculated risks are safe, and which ones not to take.  She knows what to watch for to signal a crisis, and can act promptly and calmly in any scenario. She handled the complications after Jax’s birth with great skill.  I can trust her to take care of me and my babies, and that is such a peaceful feeling.










Our lovely birth photographer Monica went home to eat some cold Thanksgiving dinner!  My sister Mercy took the rest of these photos with my camera.











I am special. I was born at home!

Jax’s birth was not traumatic for me, but it was physically painful and mentally difficult.  It never occurred to me during his labor to ask for drugs, or to ask to go to the hospital.  It wasn’t an option on my radar, and it somehow never crossed my mind.  I do recall wishing there was a labor “light switch” so I could just switch off the pain for a while. I just wanted a break, for a few minutes, or hours, then I would be ready to finish up again later.

Tobi’s birth was everything I could ask for. All the people I wanted to be there were there, except my sisters who live out of town.  He was born in the water, in front of the Christmas tree. I didn’t hemmorhage, or tear, or faint. His labor was so easy and so much less painful.

I look back on his labor and delivery with great joy. I can almost laugh inside with the exuberance of how perfect it was. I can recall that it was horribly painful, but it was such a short time, less than thirty minutes, and by that point in my labor, I knew exactly where I was, recognized the sensations, and knew the crazy pain would be over soon.

I got the boy number two I had been hoping for. I held him in my arms, on my chest, and never wanted that moment to end. So much relief. So much joy.

The hormones that create labor also flush the mother’s body with ecstasy when she meets her baby – it is an emotional experience of freedom and delight comparable to none other.

I feel blessed. So blessed, to have this kind of amazing birth.

There were so many prayers for all of this. When Tobi was 36 weeks and still feet first (not a safe position for vaginal birth), I was nearly in a panic. I wrote this post, where I had to surrender my hopes and dreams for his birth.

I had laid my hands on my belly, and spoken to him in a rather firm voice, “Noel, this is your Mommy talking to you. We love you. The world is a safe place. It’s okay for you to come when you’re ready. The Bible says children are to honor their parents. This is your Mommy talking to you, and I’m telling you to turn around. Put your head down where it belongs, and stay there.”  Days later, at a 37-week sonogram, he was head down, and stayed there, and delivered that way.

After this emotional journey of surrender, I was given the greatest gift – to have the birth I dreamed about, the son I dreamed about…..  What joy. Thank you Jesus.

Dear Noel… Time to Surrender

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Dear Noel,

At thirty six weeks along, you are still my squirmy one.  So squirmy in fact, that we have to get a sonogram this week, to see if there’s anything in particular that is preventing you from getting positioned properly.  We have been praying every day, and have people praying for us, and I’ve been talking to you and doing little exercises, in efforts to get you either head-down or butt-down into my pelvis.  You seem to enjoy flipping and swimming a bit too much at this stage where we are nearing the time of delivery.  I’m praying you will cooperate soon!  We really want to be able to birth you safely in our home, and we need you to be properly positioned in order to do so.

Your Daddy had a dream about you not too long ago… in the dream you were born easily and quickly.  He didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl.

I had a dream a few weeks ago as well, after his dream, about your birth.  In my dream your Daddy was with me, and your Grandmama, and I was laboring peacefully.  Your big brother Jax needed to go potty, and for some reason it was our midwife Robin who took him to the bathroom.  While they were gone, you slipped out of me in an easy delivery.  You were a boy – I remember looking between your legs to see, first thing.  You were smaller than your brother was when he was born, but still chubby.  I looked in your face, and you looked like him too, but yet different at the same time.  Robin and Jax came back into the room, and I was apologizing to them for delivering you so quickly while they were gone.  I was trying to get Jax to come over to see that you were a boy!

Then just a couple days ago, I dreamed that I was holding two boys in my arms – you and Jax.  He was a baby, like I was re-seeing him as a baby, and you as a baby at the same time, but he was still older than you.

The funny thing is, while I was pregnant with Jax, your Daddy and I both had dreams of having a girl baby!  So despite these dreams, I’m not convinced of your gender!

I AM convinced that the Lord wants to encourage me in this season, to trust Him to bring you safely and easily into the world.

I’ve been kind of drowning in fears… in the what-ifs…. what if you will not turn properly and we have to go the hospital and have a cesarean birth.  What if the placenta is in the way and you can’t get in a good position, or they can’t even do the cesarean properly, and have to do some crazy incision that will prevent me from having more children born naturally in the future.  What if I go into labor and you aren’t in position, and we are in a hurry, and something scary happens to you.

I’ve been praying and asking the Lord for your safety, and for a safe home birth, trying to trust him and not allow these scary stories and images to flood my mind.  One thing I realized, is that after the birth of Jax, I felt a bit invincible.  My body had grown a healthy 10 lb 4 oz baby, and my body had delivered him safely at home, without medication or intervention.  If I could do that, I could do anything!

Natural birth, and even home birth, has been such a goal for me, and something I’m passionate about.  Perhaps it had even become something like an idol.  That there’s no way you would find me delivering my babies in the hospital, or by any means other than God’s created means of my body.  As I talked with God, I realized I needed to surrender that too.

I need to surrender my hopes and dreams and my passionate soapbox, and be ready to surrender this birth to whatever it needs to be.  To say, Yes God, I will serve You and believe You even if I don’t get to deliver this baby at home.  I can still love and follow You, and trust You, even if I have a cesarean.  Even if something happens and this has to be my last biological child.

Even if I were to lose this child.

I will be able to find a way through the grief and devastation, to keep believing You are God and You are good, to keep giving up my life for You and Your cause.

I don’t say any of this tritely, because it’s one of the hardest prayers I’ve prayed; one of the toughest journeys I’ve walked through in my mind.

The amazingly beautiful privilege of delivering you in our home, in front of the Christmas tree, surrounded by peace and family and friends and tears and laughter… is one I still pray and hope to have.  But I have to be willing to surrender that image for a sterile, lonely, medicalized one, and still know that God loves me, loves You, and is taking care of us.  My heart has to be tender before Him, and this is what a tender heart looks like – full surrender to Him.  Yes, faith and belief that He can do anything, that He listens and responds to our prayers, that I won’t give up asking for what I believe is His perfect plan, but that I will also be ready to love and serve Him if it ends up differently than what I prayed for.

So this dream I’ve had, I’m allowing it to die.  The dream of dim lights and soft music and warm water around us.  The dream of pushing you out into my arms, and everyone discovering your gender together with a gasp of surprise.  The dream of my family surrounding me, and photographs capturing twinkling lights around us, while our eyes well with tears and our throats with laughter, as you enter this world in the coziness of our own space.  The dream of your big brother being there to watch you arrive, to see you coming out Mommy’s bottom, like we’ve been explaining and talking about.  The dream of uninterrupted time with you that doesn’t involve a host of sterilized strangers and you being taken away from me for even a split second of time.  The dream of you coming into this world without a drop of medication in your tiny system.

These dreams don’t need to die because they won’t ever happen.  We are praying with gusto they still will indeed happen.  They need to die because they can’t be my idol.  They can’t be more important to me than trusting God with my life and yours.  They can’t prevent me from loving and seeking Him if they don’t come true.

So I love you, dear, dear, dear Noel.  I love you as much as it is possible for me to love you while only being able to feel you squirming inside me, and caress from the outside of my body what might be your foot or your forehead.  And I surrender You to Jesus. I surrender Your birth to Jesus.  I surrender my body to Jesus.  I surrender all our hopes and plans and dreams, to His glorious and amazing power.  I trust that He can get us through anything.

I trust that in anything, we will make it because He Is and He Was and He Always Will Be… God.  I trust that HE is the best gift.  Indeed, you are not the best gift.  A beautiful natural birth is not the best gift.  HE is the best gift.  Knowing Him, being loved by Him, being close to Him.  So we draw near.  I draw near, your Daddy and Jax and I, we draw near to Him and His love, to have HIM.

He is all we need.  He loves you more than we do.  He can be trusted.

Maternity Fashion: How to Keep Your Style While Wearing a Bump – THIRD TRIMESTER

I’ve written about maternity fashion for first trimester here, and second trimester here.  This is the final post on third trimester.
The thing to remember at this stage of pregnancy, when you’re feeling sweaty and uncomfortable, having increasing trouble sleeping, and putting up with a daily onslaught of comments ranging from, “Are you SURE you’re not having twins?” to “ARE YOU SURE you’re not having twins,” to “You haven’t had this baby yet?” to “When are you due again (was it yesterday?)” to “ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY sure you’re not having twins,” here’s the thing you have to remember:
This precious, precious little one is going to make it all worth it.  And with the sense of humor God instilled in the universe, you will exchange your sweaty pregnancy body for a drippy-lactating body; your firmly shaped baby-belly for a squishy, lumpy post-partum belly; and lots of trouble sleeping for no sleep at all, topped off with a bazillion comments about how freaking adorable your little one is and are they sleeping through the night yet?
And once again I will repeat, oh the precious little one that is worth it all.  Oh the joy they will bring to your days.  And just like the awkwardness of toting around a pregnancy belly, a puffy face, and swollen ankles, the sleepless nights of early parenthood, too, will pass.  It is for a season that seems long in the moment and short in the past.
Hang in there, mamas!
Overall third trimester fashion tips:
1. If you have any remaining ability to still wear non-maternity blouses or dresses, rock it.  However, pay attention to lines like bra lines or pregnancy boobs popping out of things, panty lines in your dresses, etc…. Being pregnant comes with a lot of imperfections, but you can embrace those curves while smoothing them out.  If the weather allows it, wearing a thin cotton tank under a fitted shirt, or a belly band over the pants and popped-out belly button, will help smooth things out.  I used Ingrid and Isabel belly bands during my pregnancy, because of their high quality and durability.
2. Your face inevitably changes.  Looking through these photos, I can see the beginning of “pregnant face” at about twenty weeks, but by thirty-four weeks, I was having to photograph my face at different angles in order to be happy with how the photos turned out. The good news is your face is probably the first thing to go back to looking normal after delivery, and should do so within a couple days, depending on if you had a lot of IV fluids during a hospital stay (which will add a few more days to losing the puffy look).  You can feel better about how you look by taking care of the parts you CAN control.
3. Comfort becomes increasingly important.  If the weather is cool enough, leggings or tights under a tunic or short dress can be wonderfully comfortable while still looking put-together.
4. You may need to invest in new shoes, if your feet or ankles experience swelling.  I needed new shoes by about thirty-two weeks ish.  I opted to purchase two pairs of flats that were dressy enough for work, but casual enough for daily use – a brownish color and a silvery color since those two seemed to look good with everything.  I had one pair of Crocs flats that also fit until the end of my pregnancy.  I couldn’t wear flip flops because the straps pressed into my swollen feet, plus it really showed that I was swollen, and I got tired of people freaking out over my ankles.  I wore a lot of thin pants at the end, to help hide my ankles.
5. You can still look and feel beautiful. In fact, I guarantee that you look prettier than you think you do.  Other people don’t see the imperfections the way you do, and the bigger your belly gets, the more attention it gets than your face anyway.  Once the baby is born, people hardly look at you anymore because they are too busy looking at the precious tininess.

6. Decide when it’s time to lose the “fitted-under-the-belly” blouses.  You may make this change based on a glance in the mirror, or based on how many twin comments you get in a day.  As long as belts are still comfortable against your ribs, I think they look great all the way till the end.  You will need skinny belts though; wide ones won’t do.  Preferably 1/4 to 1/2 inch at a maximum, or a soft sash or ribbon is even better.

29 Weeks. Dress: Old Navy (not maternity, but two sizes larger than my normal size). Necklace: thrifted. Belt: Ebay. Tights: Walmart or Target. Boots: Ross.  I can’t do the ankle-height booties that are so popular right now – they look like hooves to me, especially on my size 9.5 feet.  But these boots were a short length that was comfortable to wear without being so low they turn me into a horse.

30 Weeks. Blouse: Old Navy (not maternity, but the ruched sides made it an awesome maternity blouse). Cardigan: Old Navy. Skirt: thrifted (not maternity, super stretchy waist). Boots: Ross. Necklace: gift, from India. Belt: thrifted.

31 Weeks. Blouse: I don’t remember, not one of my usual stores… super stretchy and soft, not maternity. Cardigan: consignment, also not maternity. Necklace: fabulous, gift from my boss from New Mexico, real turquoise and various handmade beads. Pants: Craigslist, maternity slacks. I bought a pair of black, brown, and grey dress slacks off Craigslist early in my pregnancy, before they fit.  It was a great purchase as I wore them daily to work.  I paid more than I wanted to for them, but they were still cheaper than buying new high-quality maternity dress slacks, and I definitely got my money’s-worth out of them.  Shoes: thrifted, one of my all-time favorite thrifted finds, red leather retro-looking heels that fit perfectly and were my favorite brand of dress shoes, Gianni Bini from Dillards.  I paid $10 for them, and $16 to have them repaired where some of the leather was fraying.  Which is also to say that high-quality leather shoes can almost always be repaired by a good shoe shop.  I’ve saved many a pair of lovely shoes by sending them for a $10 repair.

I included the close-up belly shot here, to show the transition happening with fitted blouses.  In the first and second trimester, fitted blouses are your best friend. As you get further into the third trimester, they definitely show off your belly still, but it becomes a question of how much you want to show off your belly, and how many questions about triplets you want to field that day.  I was hitting the transition point here for sure.  As you can see, the following week’s photo my belly actually looks smaller, which is just a matter of how I dressed.

32 Weeks. Cardigan: thrifted (Gap), Blouse thrifted, Belly Band (showing under my blouse) Ingrid and Isabel, Pants maternity slacks Craigslist (see prior photo), shoes brown leather heels from Gianni Bini, Belt thrifted.

The cropped sweaters started looking good around this stage of pregnancy. They worked to visually shorten my torso, which seemed to make my belly appear a bit smaller.  This blouse that isn’t fitted-under-the-belly also helps visually shorten my torso and belly size.

33 Weeks. Blouse: Gap (not maternity), Necklace Ebay, Belt Urban Outfitters, pants Craigslist, Shoes Walmart.

Although I was slowly moving away from fitted-under-the-belly blouses at this stage, I wanted to photograph this blouse I had worn repeatedly during my pregnancy.  I had a gift card to Gap Maternity from a friend, and this was one thing I bought with it.  It was incredibly soft and flowy, and not hot to wear.  It was from the non-maternity part of the store, and was a size extra small. I guess they intended it to be worn like a short dress or something, because it would have been absolutely enormous on me if I wasn’t 33 weeks pregnant.  There was room for me to wear it right up until the end.

It is belted at the empire waistline, because I think this is such a wonderful look for pregnancy.  At this stage however, you may be feeling pretty constricted in the ribcage area, depending on how your baby and placenta are positioned.  I was lucky in that my placenta was at the top of my uterus, under my diaphragm and ribs, so I never experienced baby kicks knocking the wind out of me. If he kicked straight up, I couldn’t even tell.

Also, I use Ebay when I have a specific item I’m searching for.  For example, a gold leaf necklace, or a skinny silver belt.  I could visit a ton of stores before finding the exact item I have in mind, or Ebay usually yields it with a ten or fifteen minute browsing keyword search.

34 weeks. Cardigan, thrifted (Gap), Blouse Old Navy (not maternity, I think a regular size L maybe), pants Craigslist maternity slacks, Shoes Crocs Malindi, Necklace thrifted.

Eventually I couldn’t wear these Crocs anymore, as the sling back strap would press into my swollen feet. You can tell in this photo that my feet and ankles are merging.  It was getting hard to hide.  Around 36 weeks, I had slight signs of early stages of preeclampsia, but after treatment from my naturopath and lots of prayer, the symptoms all disappeared and I had a safe, normal home birth.

The looseness under my belly looked best on me at this substantial-belly stage of pregnancy.  The cropped cardigan helped to raise up the eye off the belly and visually shorten my torso.  I love, love this necklace.  I only have a few very-large necklaces in my wardrobe, and they always seem a bit overwhelming when I put them on.  But when I see them in photos, they just look fabulous and really bring vibrance to an otherwise simple outfit.

35 Weeks. Scarf Old Navy, Cardigan consignment, Blouse Liz Lange Target maternity), pants Craigslist, shoes Ross.

I usually say I don’t like purple, but then I realize I have a substantial amount of plum in my wardrobe, and it’s a color I really enjoy wearing.  This is the ivory blouse I wore backward in an earlier second trimester post with a black and white skirt.  I wore it front-ward for this outfit, since the scarf was drawing attention and I didn’t want to overwhelm it.  The cardigan also has little cut-outs on the bell sleeves, so there was plenty of detail here already.

My poor puffy feet.
My poor puffy nose.

36 weeks. Blazer: thrifted (not maternity, two sizes larger than my normal size). Blouse thrifted, not maternity. Pants grey cords Ebay. Shoes Crocs Malindi.

Again, the crop-length jacket really helps here.  This blouse was non-maternity, but had an empire waistline and a generous hemline, making it ideal for a maternity blouse.  It had a bunch of different colors in the pattern, so I was able to wear it many different ways.  I like using one item with a pattern on it to draw together the colors of the rest of the outfit.  The plum colored shoes here are one of the colors in the blouse.

37 weeks. Blouse, thrifted, not maternity. Tank Old Navy, Skirt gift from a friend, maternity and so huge and stretchy that I was only able to use it right at the end, and still had to use the belly band to hold it up. Shoes, Ross. Necklace, gift (some kind of rock/stone on the pendant).

Wow. Really swollen here.  It actually got a bit better after this week, but this was probably the peak of the swelling.  I really wanted to stop wearing shoes at all.  I got a couple “huge” comments this week, which for the record, isn’t a word a pregnant woman likes to hear.

For the rest of the photos in that week, I knelt down on the ground to hide my feet, so I wouldn’t get comments on my blog.

Also, after seeing these photos, I decided I should definitely avoid blouses that fit completely around my belly for the remainder of my pregnancy.

38 Weeks.  Necklace and bracelet, consignment, real coral, one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.  Blouse Old Navy, not maternity. Tank Old Navy. Belt Ebay. Pants Ebay. Shoes Crocs Crocband Loafer.

This blouse was a size XL but was thin cotton and flowy and soft.  If I hadn’t belted it, it would have been waaaayyy baggy under my armpits.  But it was comfortable and seemed flattering at this end-of-the-road stage.

I have never cared for my profile in photos, because it makes my face very angular.  However, at this stage of pregnancy, when my face was so puffy, my profile was actually what I preferred over a straight-on shot.  That’s not really something you can manage in real life, what angle to view your face, but if you’re taking photos at this stage, it’s worth considering.

My son was born six days after this photo, one day before we would have taken my 39 week photos.  As it turned out, after our midwife gave him a thorough review when he was born, she concluded that I was about a week further along in my pregnancy than we were calculating.  His conception date had been a bit iffy, but she felt like she could determine once he was born, which of the two possible dates it was.

So I actually delivered him with a couple days of “40” weeks.  However, I still only “thought” I was nearly 39 weeks, which made it emotionally easier to still be pregnant.  I was prepared to go 42 weeks without induction, since that is the law in Texas during which time you can still deliver at home with a midwife.  As any full-term pregnant woman will tell you however, she doesn’t want to be pregnant one day longer than she “needs” to be.  We chose natural labor and natural home birth for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the over-use of induction in hospitals, leading to many unnecessary cesarean surgeries.  That said, I sympathize with every woman who is emotionally “done” with pregnancy.

So my 39/40 week outfit looked like this: (photos taken by my amazing photographer Ann Marie Itschner out of Kerrville).

And for all the twin comments I received during my pregnancy, it was a bit of relief to discover that my son was 10 pounds 4 ounces at birth, plenty big enough to have been a set of twins.  I lost 20 pounds the day he was born, from him, placenta, water, blood, etc.  And my ankles were back within 24 hours which was such a relief since I have always liked my feet!

I had fully intended to do some post-partum photos, because in many ways, it’s harder to dress THAT body shape than a pregnant one.  Chances are, your belly looks somewhere between three and seven months pregnant still, but it is loose and floppy instead of round and firm.  If you are breastfeeding, your nipples are extremely tender and sore and you would ideally want to walk around shirtless everywhere so no fabric touches your nipples.  Luckily both these things should last just a few weeks, and your belly will regain a sense of normalcy after time, and the nursing soreness will fade and become and easy and delightful nursing relationship.

I am now 22 months post partum, and not yet pregnant with my second child.  I would say that my belly looks now about like it did when I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first child.  It is a bit poofier than it ever was, even though I weigh the same as  I did then. I don’t exercise at a gym, or do special exercising at home, so I imagine it could look different if I did some working out.  But that’s not on my priority list at the moment.

My breasts went through so much change… Pre-pregnancy I am about a 34AA cup size, barely fitting into push-up/padded style 34A bras.  During my first trimester of pregnancy, I increased to a size 36C, and wore that size for the remainder of my pregnancy.  When I was first nursing, in the few weeks while your body doesn’t know if you need enough milk for a singleton or quadruplets, I experienced some engorgement and have no clue what my bra size was.  I didn’t wear a bra during that time, as it was too constricting.  I just wore a loose nursing blouse, and when I went out of the house, I wore a scarf that draped over my breasts to conceal anything showing through.  I guess that wouldn’t work in the summer, but I haven’t crossed that road yet.

I am now 22 months post partum, and still nursing my son at bedtime, nap time, and wake-up time.  I’m probably a size 34B, but nursing bras are stretchy and don’t have the distinct measurements that normal bras do.

I’m proud of the changes my body went through, and the permanent shape-changes that remain with me.  My body was meant to be used, it was designed to carry, nurture, and nurse babies, and it has done so (well one baby, not plural yet).  It has been serving some of that purpose, and shows marks from that use.  And that’s okay with me.

I have been so thin my whole life, primarily by genetics, and I never really liked my body or thought I was beautiful.  It was pregnancy, and all its crazy changes and lovely curves, that taught me to love my body, for how it looked, for what it can do.

So while fashion focuses on what we can do to our bodies externally, pregnancy is also a time to emotionally process how we feel about our bodies, good or bad.  I hope it becomes a time where you can enjoy your changing shape, no matter what size you were or are or become.  I hope the strength your body shows in growing and delivering a new human into the world (by the grace of God), can help you love your body more or begin to accept it for the first time.

We might be dressing the outside, but our hearts are on the inside, and our perception of ourselves is something that can blossom during this season of pregnancy, with all its loveliness and all its flaws.  This is me.  This is you.  Thank God for our beautiful, strong bodies.

And if you’re just here for the fashion, but curious about the birth of my son, I blogged about that too.
Birth Story short version
Birth Story long version
Two days old (the cute baby pics that make you remember why you’re pregnant after all)

| Filed under birth, fashion, God moments, health, pregnancy

Grandmama and Me

  

My mom, “Grandmama” to her grand children, is amazing.  Jax has the privilege of growing up in her home (for now).  They see each other every day.  Several days a week, she gives me a ten or thirty-minute break and carries Jax off for adventures.  They take walks in the neighborhood, or play with toys in the living room, or use his swing in the backyard.  She’s a busy lady, so I’m grateful we’re close enough to see her in little snippets of time like this, without having to clear a big block of time out of her, or my schedule.  It’s perfect, really.  And when I have a hard day, or have something exciting to share, I grab her for five or fifteen minutes and we chat like the friends we are.

We’ve always been friends, and mom/daughter, at the same time.  I don’t think I ever heard her say, “I’m your mom, not your friend.”  It was just a smooth transition.  When I needed a mom, she was my mom.  When I needed a confidant, she was there too.  We’ve only become better friends as I’ve grown up.  And of course, becoming a mom myself has put everything she’s ever done for me into an entirely new perspective.

In the hours that it took for me to journey into motherhood, she was there.  Encouraging me, breathing with me, praying gently in tongues for me.

And holding Jax for the very first time.

(I realize these birth photos are a bit intense due to the emotion and pain clearly involved.  Perhaps they are more intense to me because remember what those moments were like.  But I’m still so, so, so, so glad we had Jax at home.  And I’m incredibly glad my mom was there, acting as my doula, helping me get through.  If we had been under the care of an ob/gyn, I doubt I would have been allowed to deliver vaginally, or go into labor on my own, because of Jax’s size.  They just don’t realize how amazing the female body is, and how amazingly well a big ol’ baby’s head can mold and come out just fine.  And they underestimate how strong and powerful women can be when they are supported and believed in, and have a medical team doing the right things to bring a big baby into the world.  And how even if your big baby’s elbow tears you a bit, you can recover and heal, and share your story of strength with all the boldness of a man boasting about his weight-lifting record or deer-hunting trophy or fish-catching tale.  Because they ain’t got nothin’ on pushing a baby out into this world!).

End of soap box.  Back to my mom.

What a treasure a mom is.  I am eternally grateful for mine.  I’m so glad she put up with me through my stubborn, strong-willed childhood and my teenage angst, and all the tears I shed in the first few weeks as a new mom myself.

We were laughing the other day about some of those memories.

When Jax was somewhere between four and eight weeks old, (I think), I tried out Baby Wise for two weeks.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a feeding/sleeping model for infants, designed with the goal of helping babies sleep through the night.  It works amazingly well for some parents, and not at all for others.  At the time, I was desperate for Jax to nap longer than thirty minutes at a time, and to nap somewhere other than in the baby carrier on my body.  I was convinced he would still be taking thirty minute naps all day long, attached to my body, when he was four years old.  And if I didn’t change things now, that was my terrible destiny.

The two weeks I attempted Baby Wise techniques were some of the worst of my experience as a young mom.  My Mommy was compassionate, wanting to support me in finding my own way, while providing bits of advice here and there.  Some of her advice I implemented, others I modified or tried at different times, or in different ways, or not at all.  She was always gracious in supporting me in how I was choosing to do things at the time.

A great example of this was during the terrible Baby Wise weeks.  Baby Wise methods want the baby to sleep at certain times and intervals, corresponding to feedings, and not to sleep at other times and intervals.  I had been trying to get Jax to nap as directed, in his crib, and at the appopriate time.  It was failing miserably.  The family was eating lunch or dinner or such together at the table, and Jax was in his swing.  I was eating like the starved breastfeeding mom that I was, and not paying attention to him.  My mom glanced over, and commented sweetly, “Aww, he’s falling asleep.”  She knew I had been trying to get him to nap for several hours, and it hadn’t been working.  Startled, I looked at Jax, and indeed, he was falling asleep.

“No!”  I said abruptly!  “He can’t fall asleep now!  He has to stay awake!  It’s not the right time!”  My mom gave me a confused, eyebrow-raised expression, then walked over to the swing and pulled Jax out.  Bringing him to the table, she bounced him gently and looked straight into his face.

“Jax, you can’t go to sleep right now.  I know you’re really tired, but your Mommy says you can’t go to sleep.  You have to stay awake for her, okay?”

I knew she was subtly teasing me, but supporting me (keeping him awake) at the same time.

Yesterday we were remembering those first few crazy weeks, and laughing over this memory.  My mom-to-a-seven-month-old self is already laughing at my mom-to-a-two-month-old self for waking up the baby because it wasn’t “time” for him to sleep.

Even this past week, one afternoon I was trying to get him to go down for a nap.  He’d been awake for hours, and had been giving me sleepy signs for more than an hour and a half.  I had nursed him to sleep twice, only for him to wake up when I put him down in his crib.  He had two separate ten-minute crying bursts where I left him in the crib, hoping he would realize how tired he was and just GO to sleep.  I was sitting at my computer, unable to get anything done, because I could hear him wailing on the baby monitor.  Twelve minutes passed, which added to the other bursts, totaled about thirty minutes of crying, and I thought to myself, “What am I DOING?  He’s not going to sleep.  He might be sleepy, but he’s not sleepy enough to go to sleep right now.  He’s miserable, and I’m miserable.  What war am I trying to win here?  It’s not a battle, and we’re not pitted against each other.  What I want is for him to take a nap.  What he needs is to take a nap.  But he’s not right now.  So pick him up, and when he’s ready for a nap, he’ll take one.”

I picked him up, and an hour later he finally took a nap in the baby carrier attached to his Daddy.  Who LOVES to have Jax sleep attached to him.  In fact, he laid down on our bed and napped while Jax napped on top of him, cozy in the carrier.  Everyone wins.

Things got so much easier for me as a mom once I realized I needed to just follow my intuition about what my baby needed, and do what WORKED instead of worrying about how it was supposed to work.

And you know what?  Now he takes two naps a day, in his crib, and almost every day, the first nap is an hour and a half, and the second is an hour.  With a few months of patience, we got there.  And doing what worked made the journey a heck of a lot more peaceful.

Maybe with a little more practice, someday I might be as amazing as the Mommy who raised me.

| Filed under birth, jax reilly, stories of my life

Postscript to a Birth Story

It’s been four months since I pushed my first born out into the world.  Four months since I touched his skin for the very first time.  Three and a half months since I wrote his birth story.

And I still have a few things I want to remember about it.

I remember hearing my mom praying for me.  Praying in English.  Praying in tongues.  It was somewhere in my consciousness.

All those things I thought and felt, and wrote, about how it felt….especially when I felt like I was so out of control, screaming, falling apart, not handling things well…. When my mom and I talked about the birth days later, she said I wasn’t really acting that way at all.  She said I cried out and seemed out of control only three brief times.  The rest of the time, I was so calm, breathing through each contraction.  Holding her gaze, concentrating on the breathing, resting during the breaks.  So calm that when my midwife said I was between eight and nine centimeters dilated, my mom didn’t believe her.  She figured the midwife had measured wrong.  I was too calm to be that far along!

It’s amazing how many women I’ve spoken to who had a similar experience.  They felt they were losing it, but everyone around them said they were working hard, but calm.  Your conscience is in such an altered place, and there’s entire conversations going on in your head that you don’t have the strength to verbalize to the people around you.  So your perception, and their perception, are world apart.

Here’s what my midwife had to say on Facebook about my birth.

March 11 at 2:16pm near San Antonio 

What day is it today?? This past week has been a huge blur. Yesterday 2 more of my babies were born – back to back as we say. In case anyone has lost count – these were babies # 9 and # 10 in the last 27 days! Baby #9 is a perfect BIG baby boy – 10 lbs 4!! – to warrior mommy who worked very hard to bring her first child into the world. Every struggle was absolutely worth it and mommy and son are doing very well. Baby #10 is a beautiful baby girl – 7 lbs 8 – a beautiful butter birth! She’s welcomed by her big sister and 3 big brothers! I finally to bed this morning at 1:30 am after 43 hours of no sleep and non-stop work!

Jax would be baby #9.  By the way, a “butter birth” is an easy birth, according to a midwife.  Also, I had no idea until I read this post yesterday, that she hadn’t slept for 43 hours.  She is amazing.


When my mom arrived in our birth room, she asked Robin how I was doing.  Robin calmly answered, “I think it’s harder than she expected it to be.”  It was.


I’ve thought a lot about what women say about natural birth being empowering.  When they accomplished it, how it changed their self-perception.  For some with a prior negative experience (often a unexpected cesarean or a vaginal delivery that ended with a lot of unexpected interventions), a subsequent natural birth is a healing experience for them.  One friend said she was able to realize that she wasn’t broken.  Some women who have been sexually abused, find vaginal birth brings them emotional and mental healing, as the abused parts of their body experience something so joyful and right.  That’s powerful stuff.  Another quote I’ve read is that women have a secret.  And it’s not that birth is painful; it’s that women are strong.


For me, I’ve seen so many beautiful births, and seen so many different women “do it” who didn’t think they “could”, that in a way, I knew I could.  I doubted it many times during my pregnancy.  What if I couldn’t do it?  But I had the privilege of seeing so many women overcome, press through, and with excellent midwifery care, have healthy, safe home births, I knew it was possible for me too.

No, I had no idea how painful it would be, since every woman experiences labor differently.  And I didn’t know how long it would take.  It was more painful, but took less time, than I was expecting.

But re-reading my birth story four months later, I ask myself, “Wow, was it really that bad?  I don’t think it was that bad.”  I know it was, or I wouldn’t have written it that way, but I’ve already forgotten, sort of.

I didn’t choose home birth because I wanted to prove something to myself.  Or because I needed emotional healing.  Or because I wanted to feel empowered.  I chose it because it is the safest way for a low-risk pregnancy to complete.  

This excellent article analyzes multiple studies investigating the safety of home births for low-risk women.  It discusses the “what if something happens” question, which is what most people ask when they hear you are having a home birth.  It reviews multiple studies, and concludes that professionally-attended home birth, following professional prenatal care, is SAFER for low-risk women and babies than hospital birth.

On a note that isn’t my soap box, I’m glad we took Bradley Birthing classes.  They were NOT enough to get me through labor peacefully – my mom (acting as my doula) counting my breathing with me did that – but they did provide education.  They definitely gave my husband peace, because he knew what to expect.  He was never afraid or out of sorts during my labor the way I’ve seen some other husbands who didn’t know what to expect, or what to do to help.  That alone was worth it.  The connection with other couples desiring to have natural births as well, whether home or birth center or hospital, was also encouraging, since you get so much flack for having a home birth.

It’s funny, really.  Because the U.S., with our huge rate of hospital births as compared to home births, ranks 29th in the world for maternal and neonatal fatalities surrounding birth.  The countries losing the fewest mommies and babies have the greatest percentage of babies (nearly 30%) delivered at home by professional midwives.

Back to the birth of Jax.  Do I feel empowered?  In a way.  More so, I feel connected to women who have birthed babies, in any fashion, in any location.  The experience of carrying a child, then bringing him into the world, is truly indescribable.  I feel more connected to my mom, to my sisters, who have shared this breathtaking experience.

I do feel proud.  Proud because women are strong.  Because I am strong.  Because mainstream America doubts that we can do it.  Doubts that our bodies are strong enough.  And we are stronger than the doctors believe.  They do cesareans now if they think your baby is over eight pounds, because it might be too big for you to push out.  Really?  Tell that to the moms I know who have delivered eleven pound babies at home.  Tell that to me, after I delivered a 10.4 lb first born.  They told that to one of my petite friends who didn’t get to push her first born baby out after 20 plus hours of induced labor.  She’s since had three amazing home births.

Women are strong, and we need to believe in ourselves.  We need America to believe in us.  To learn to treat birth as something beautiful, amazing, and DO-able.  No matter how you choose to deliver, I believe it should be something supported by knowledge and strength, not fear.  I wish we could eradicate the fear that plagues obstetrics.

Everywhere I go, when people comment on how big Jax is, I say how big he was at birth, and I say that I delivered him at home.  And I say that it was amazing.  Because it was.

| Filed under birth, soapboxes

The Day We Met | A Birth Story

The perspective of earth. Of depth.
Of suffering
Of relief.
Of emotion so raw
and sensation so powerful
only another woman who has journeyed through them knows.
Not from the outside;
From the inside.
I can’t get comfortable.  It is bedtime, and I need rest, but I feel so restless.  These Braxton Hicks are bugging me in my lower back.  Perhaps laying on my right side.  No, back to the left.  Nothing is comfortable….
9:30 pm. March 9, 2012.
Could I be in labor?
It’s so unlikely.  I did pass that small clot of mucus on Monday while I photographed Nicki’s labor, but there’s been nothing since then.  And this whole week my Braxton Hicks have been a bit more crampy in my lower back, but my friend Melissa had painful Braxton Hicks for a month leading up to her labor.  Then her labor only took three hours.
I’ve got to stop thinking and find a way to fall asleep.
I’m probably not in labor.  So I’ve got to get a normal night’s rest.  It might be the weekend, but Saturday morning comes early, and I’ve got a lot to accomplish tomorrow.  And even if I am in labor, I know very well it could last twenty hours or more, and be completely exhausting.  So I HAVE to sleep…..
When Robin checked me today, I was 80% effaced and two centimeters dilated, and Beta was at zero station, but I could be that way for weeks before labor starts.  I’ve got to get some rest.
I have to pee.  Again. I’ll be so glad when this endless peeing is over.
I’ll just get up and walk around a bit; that will tire me out….
I’ve got to sleep.  Robin told me, if I thought I was in labor, to get some sleep.
This bed is killing me.  It’s like a prison.
My lower back hurts so bad.  In fact, it wasn’t hurting at all when I was walking around, but laying in this bed is so painful I can’t take it any more.  So much for the Bradley class relaxation crap.  I’m doing every relaxation thing we’ve ever practiced, and it all involves laying still on my side in bed.  And laying on my side in bed is so painful I can’t take it anymore.
I have to get some rest.
“Pop.”  Crap. Was that a pop?  Was that the infamous water pop?
I feel wet.  I feel wetness dripping inside me.  Crap. I didn’t want my water to break first. It makes labor so much more painful.
When Robin checked me, she did say there was a little bubble of waters bulging above the baby’s head.  Maybe that’s all it is.  To the bathroom.
Okay, clear thick fluid draining out.  A tablespoon?  Maybe two? Must be that little bubble.  Okay, maybe this really is it.  I better text Robin.
11:00 pm.
Yes, Robin, it’s clear.  It’s odorless.  No blood. Nothing yellow or green.

“Get some sleep.”

Yeah, I already knew that.  But it feels better to sit on the toilet.

Another Braxton Hick.
Okay, now THAT is bloody show.  It’s not a lot of it, but it’s definitely it.  Clumpy, thick mucus,clear with white stringy stuff and blood in it. Okay.  This might be it.  Don’t get excited.  This could take a while.  Text Robin.

“Get some rest.”

Ha. Right.

This bed is killing me.  Rest.
I can’t rest.
Relax.
I can’t lay down.  It hurts.  I’ve got to get up.
If we’re having this baby tonight in this living room, I need to clean some things up.  And if this baby comes tomorrow, then I’m not going to do my weekend laundry, so I should sort the laundry and get it started.
Standing and leaning on the laundry basket’s wooden handles. Rocking my hips, eyes closed.
I should get out the birth supplies.  They’re in the nursery closet.  On the other side of the house.  That’s too much work; I can’t do it.  I should at least get my dress on.  It’s really a swim cover up, but it makes a great short dress.  I picked it out for labor.  I can at least get it on.
They’re just Braxton Hicks.  That’s all.
This could take along time.
I think this is labor.
It’s probably not labor.
But I had water pop!  And bloody show!
I can’t lay down.  I gotta pee.

……………………………

12:00 am.

I should time a few of these.  Just in case.  I have that contraction app in my iPhone….

One minute long.  Three minutes apart.
One minute long.  Six minutes apart.
One minute long.  Three minutes apart.

With every one of these stupid contractions I have to pee. Might as well sit on the toilet. Rocking my hips on the toilet. Eyes closed, neck extended, head facing the ceiling.  Need to breathe through them.  Gotta relax.
Can’t sit any more,it’s too intense.  Standing in the bathroom, fists pushing against the bathroom counter, leaning forward, head hanging down, rocking my hips.  Always rocking my hips.  Starting to moan.  Breathing isn’t enough anymore; I have to moan.
Ow ow ow ow….I can’t take it anymore!  I need help.  “Help!” “Benjamin!”  “I need help!”
Poor thing, I tried to let him sleep as long as I could.  Now it’s the middle of the night, and he’s going to be exhausted too.  He’s such a deep sleeper.
I don’t know what I want you to do.  I just need help.  Please help me.
1:30 am.
Oh yes, pressing on my hips, thank you, that feels SO much better. At least those classes taught us something helpful.  Wow, that makes such a difference.
Gotta pee again.  Rock my hips on the toilet.  Don’t look away from me, Benjamin, please, look in my eyes.  I’m sure I look crazy, but I have to see your face.  It helps me get through.
I want to try the ball.  That doesn’t really help.  But oh, when you press my hips, that helps so much.
I gotta lay down.  This hurts.  I don’t know what to do to make it stop hurting.  Maybe if I lay down.  I can’t lay down, on my hands and knees, leaning my face into the bed, my bottom in the air.
 
I don’t know if we should call Robin.  Ow ow ow ow…..!!!Okay, maybe you should call her.  But what if it’s too soon?  OW!!!  Okay, call, please.
Do we want her to come? I don’t know.  I probably have so far to go.  But maybe since it’s so intense already it’s moving fast.  I don’t know.  OWW!!!! Okay, tell her to come, tell her to come……
I spent so much time imagining this.  Imagining how painful it would be.  Taking every piece of pain I’ve ever felt and lumping it all together, then exaggerating it as much as my imagination could.  This is so intense.  This hurts so bad.  This is already as bad as I imagined it.  How far do I have to go?  Maybe things are moving fast and she’ll tell me when she gets here it’s moving fast. It hurts SO bad.  I told myself I would feel like I was losing my mind. That the pain was the only part of me that would seem to exist.  I’m already there.  How much worse is this going to get?
………………………..
2:10 am.

Three?  I’m a THREE? I’m going to die.  I’m really going to die.  This is already just as awful as I imagined it, and I have SO FAR to go.  I can’t do this.  I can’t do this.  You’re not supposed to say that yet, but I really can’t do this.  You’re not supposed to feel that way until transition, but it’s already so horrible.
My stomach, my stomach hurts.  I’m going to vomit.  It’s normal, thank you for reminding me.  I know it’s normal.  Actually, it wasn’t so bad.  I usually hate puking, but that wasn’t so bad.  It kind of felt better.
And again.  My juice. That awesome Odwalla juice, there it goes.

…………………………….

4:00 am.

How long has it been?  Can I please get in the tub?  Is the tub ready?
My sister Esther is here.  Her daughter Isabel.  I don’t know when they arrived; but they’re here.
The tub.  I need to get in the water.  Why isn’t there enough hot water?  Please don’t make me wait any longer…..
My mom is here.
Six.  Only a six? Please, that’s not good enough.  I need this to be over.  I feel like I’m dying.

5:00 am.

Oh the water, the water feels so good.  It’s so hot!  I’m so hot; I can’t be this hot.  Please, make it cooler, I’m so hot.  I feel like I’m suffocating.  Please, I’m so hot…..

I thought the water was supposed to make it better.
Maybe this IS better.  Maybe it would be worse if I wasn’t in the water.  Maybe it’s helping and I just don’t know it.  It hurts so bad.
Benjamin, please, I need you here with me.
My mom wants to help me breathe.  Anything.  Anything. I’ll do anything that will help. This is horrible.  This is so awful.  This is so many light years worse than I anything I could possibly have imagined.
Benjamin,PRESS!  Please don’t stop pressing my hips.  It doesn’t make the pain go away,but it helps SO much.  PRESS!
Breathe in two three,breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow.  Rock my hips in the water.
I feel like I’m dying.
My body is splitting apart.  My bones are being pushed apart and they’re cracking.  I just need this to be over.  I need this to be over.  I feel like I’m dying…..
My photographer is here.  Oh, I’m so glad she made it, all the way from Kerrville.  She didn’t miss it.
………………………

6:00 am.

Eight.  Please, that’s not enough.  I need it to be more.  I need it to be over.  Eight isn’t good enough.

Breathe.  My mom will help me breathe.  I need help.  Help to bear it; it’s so awful.

Breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in….

 

 

Breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, OW OW OW OW AHHHHH!!!!!

I can’t!  I can’t get a hold of myself!  I can’t! The baby, the baby’s head is pressing down between my bones, I can feel it.  Oh, when he does that it hurts SOO bad I can’t, I can’t breathe, I can’t stay on top of it, I can’t, I CAN’T!  It hurts SO BAD!  Please, please help me.  Please, I need it to be over.
Breathe in….this one’s not as bad.  Breathe ow ow ow ow, breathe in two three, breathe ow ow ow ow… Rocking my hips, swinging my body back and forth, back and forth in the water.

 

My body has taken me over. I’m like a writhing, caged, tortured animal.  My mind is disconnected from my body and I can see me from the outside, writhing. Screaming.
I know they don’t want me to scream.

 

 
Joi is here.  She’s such a strong person.  I need her strength.  I’m so weak. I can’t do it.

Oh baby, I know you need to come down, but when you press down into me, oh it hurts so much worse than I can bear.  I know, I know enough about all of this, I’m not supposed to scream. High noises are bad.  But when he presses down into me, oh it’s just unbearable, I can’t breathe.  It feels like my bones are splitting apart.

AGHGH!!!  I hear them saying my water broke….how would they know?  I’m IN the water?  Ooohhh that made it hurt so much worse….I can’t, I can’t…..

 

Do I want to meet this baby?  NO.  Please no. Just make it stop.  You think I want to, but I don’t.  I just want it to be over.  I don’t want to meet him; I just want it to stop.  Is there something you can give me to make it stop?  I feel like I’m dying.

Something felt different.  I think I’m pushing.  I think I heard my voice make a pushing sound.  It helped a little, that different thing.  Maybe I can push soon.

7:30 am.
They’re going to help me push.  They’re going to let me push.  Pulling my legs back, pulling my knees out to the side. OWWW!!! GAHH!! Didn’t everyone say it felt so much better?  This is even worse, oh it’s so much worse.  I can’t push.  I can’t push into that pain.  Pushing makes him move down, down where it’s splitting my body open, I can’t push him into that pain, please, please don’t make me.  Please make it stop. I just need it to be over.  This hurts so much worse than it did before.

I know, I’m not supposed to scream, but I can’t, I can’t help it, it’s too much.  I can’t bear it.
Why can’t I be on my hands and knees?  Please, it helps.

Benjamin, PRESS!
Okay, I’ll get out.  I told you it didn’t matter to me if I delivered in the water or not.  I’ll do anything you want.  Anything you want to make it be over.
No, no, no, ow ow ow OWWWW GAHH please, no!  Oh, Robin,you’re hurting me SO BAD.  Please, I just need a break.  Why can’t I have a break?  I just need a break.  I can’t keep pushing into this pain, oh pushing him down and he’s ripping open my body. My skin splitting and tearing.

 

 

 

 

You can see him?  I can see him in the mirror.  Two inches of the top of his head.  He’s still so far in there.  I still have so far to go.
There’s a baby there.  I forgot.  That’s my baby.  I have to do this for him.

I practiced these Kegels.  You can cheer me on, but I know exactly when I’m doing it right.  I can feel it.  I can feel my muscle grabbing his head and pushing him down.  It hurts SO bad.  When I do it right, I can feel it, and it is the worst pain of all.  I have to do it.  I can’t.  No!  I can’t push anymore, the contraction is gone, please don’t make me do it anymore.  I have to.  I have to do it.  It’s the only way this is going to be over.

Gahhhh!  His head is out.  I know it’s out.  I felt it like a “pop.”

I never felt him crowning.  I never felt the ring of fire.  It felt like tearing and burning and grating off my skin all the way down.  It wasn’t just at the end, it was all the way down, like all my skin was being peeled away.

Oh that felt so good to have his head out.  That feels so much better.  Yes, I want to touch him, I want to touch his head.  Help me touch him.

He has hair.  I can see his hair.  I was bald when I was born, but my baby has hair.  Dark hair.

I can hear you.  Esther, I can hear you laughing and crying.  Laughing and crying at the same time.  I can hear all of you, like a distant choir, a chorus in unison cheering me on.

No, I can’t push; I don’t have a contraction.  Is he okay?  Is my baby okay?  Why aren’t I having any more contractions?  I can’t push without a contraction.  Is my baby okay?
Okay, I’m ready, it’s coming, I can push again.  OWWWW! AHHHHHGGGHHH!!  I can feel every little bony part, his shoulders and elbows and knees, I can feel everything slipping and sliding out of me.  So slippery.

 

My hands, touching your skin, holding you under the shoulders, drawing you up to me.
Then in shock….“You’re a BOY!”
“You’re HUGE!”
I know, I just held Nicki’s baby earlier today, and he was eight pounds, and this baby is SO much heavier!  He’s huge!  And he’s a boy!
8:28 am. March 10, 2012.
I have a son.  I have a firstborn son.  We have a firstborn son.  He’s here. It’s over.  It’s over.

Benjamin, say it, say his name, say his name.
Jax Reilly.
He’s a boy.  We have son. Thank you Jesus, thank you, thank you Jesus.  He’s mine. He’s crying, oh he’s crying, he can breathe.  Oh you’re in my arms.  You’re on my chest.

Just like all the photos I’ve taken at other mommy’s births.

This is the moment I was waiting for.  My baby. My baby. My baby.

……………………………
A few days ago, on Monday, I photographed Robin’s daughter, Nicki’s labor.  How beautiful it would be, to photograph a mother midwife delivering her daughter’s baby, her grandson.  But Nicki’s labor unfortunately ended in transfer to the hospital and a cesarean. Nicki’s son is strong and healthy, and everyone is recovering well.  But it wasn’t the way they wanted things to go.  It is so rare that Robin has to transfer anyone to the hospital; it was a bittersweet experience for the family.
For me, it was a gift.  I watched Robin be mom and midwife for her daughter.  I watched her and her assistant midwife, Joi, use their vast skill and every trick in the bag to bring this baby out safely at home.  Buthe just didn’t want to come down.  They were amazing.  Nicki was amazing, Robin and Joi were amazing.
Robin was so concerned for me after that.  She didn’t want me to be afraid that my birth wouldn’t go well.  That we would end up in the hospital.  She was afraid that experience, so close to my own delivery, would frighten me.
But it gave me so much peace.  I didn’t even realize, I had an emotional wall up toward Robin.  It wasn’t her, it was an association I had with any medical type personnel.  Like they were the enemy and I had to protect my baby from what they might do to him. Why did I lump her in with my fear of hospital birth and doctors?  I didn’t even realize I had.  But this, seeing Nicki’s labor.  Watching Robin work.  I can trust her.  I really can trust her.  She’s on my side.  Like my mother would be on my side, working to protect my baby, to protect me.  She is so skilled.  She did everything possible.  I can trust her.  What peace, what peace, knowing this.  Everything is going to be okay.
Oh but the look on her face when I passed that mucus clot during Nicki’s labor!  She and Joi had just come from a birth before Nicki’s, and if it would have been three in a row.  They were exhausted.  She kept telling me to be careful.  She was so concerned.  For her sake, I’m so glad my baby waited five more days.
……………………………
Friday night, I had put a clove of garlic in my vagina, to help with a mild yeast infection.  It wasn’t until near the end of labor when it finally floated out of me, probably after one of the times Robin checked me. I remember seeing it floating on top of the water in the birth tub and asking someone to take it out.
A washcloth fell from either my forehead or Benjamin’s into the water.  I asked them to take it out, because it was floating around annoying me.  No one listened to me (I wonder now, did I really say it out loud?).  I grabbed it and threw it out of the pool as hard as I could.  Esther had to clean up the mess.
…………………………….
I have personally known women who said, “I really couldn’t call it pain; it was just intense.”  I have seen women deliver babies in very short periods of time (less than an hour, or even just a few minutes), who would say they were in pain for only a short time.  Others who had hard labors, but minutes after the baby arrived, were saying “It wasn’t that bad.”
No one experiences labor the same, and even for the same person, no birth is the same.
For me, it was so many light years worse than anything I could have possibly imagined.  I kind of hate to describe it this way on the internet, because I still am convinced that home birth, and un-medicated birth,is the best and safest thing for mommy and baby.  And it is beautiful.  Powerful, painful, beautiful, worth it.

I won’t do it any other way.  I will choose this same indescribable experience again, because I am still convinced it is the best way.  I would never trade the pain for the hospital experience of fear and helplessness, and the side effects of the drugs.

And it’s not all about the labor anyway.  The prenatal and postpartum care from a midwife is amazing enough to justify home birth for that reason alone.  I spent an hour at every appointment with my midwife’s undivided attention.  All the appointments (including postpartum)were at my home, on my own bed.  I texted her a hundred times during pregnancy and postpartum with silly and serious questions, and I always received a response within an hour.
And after it’s over, things are so much different at home than at the hospital.  No one took my baby away when he was born,because he was too small, or too big, or too cold, or his blood sugar was too low, or they wanted to immunize him with vaccines I don’t believe in.  I didn’t have to go anywhere when I was in labor, and I didn’t have to go anywhere afterward to get home.  No one woke us up in the middle of the night twenty times to take our temperature or our blood.  All my family could be here, in the comfort of our home.  There’s just no comparison.
………………………………………
As his body was birthed, I tore badly.  His head emerged well, without tearing, and his body was still in the “correct” face-down position.  Babies usually make a small turn from face-down, to face-to-the-left-side, allowing their shoulders to rotate and exit the birth canal.  My baby was a bit over-eager, and turned instead to the right side, then did a full rotation all the way back around to the left side as he exited my body.  As he rotated, he put out his elbow, sliding it across my perineum above my rectum. It caused at least one third degree (into the muscle) tear, with multiple tears all across the area.  I quickly lost a large amount of blood through the tear site, much more than I was losing from my uterus.

…………………………………….
Something is wrong.  I can tell by their voices.  It’s not the baby.  They’re working on me; something is wrong with my bottom.
Ah, the placenta.  It’s out.  Everything is out, oh I’m so glad.  I asked the photographer to capture the “tree of life” on the side of the placenta the baby sees.  I hope she remembers.

8:41 am.

…………………………………..
They lifted me off the birth stool and laid me flat on my back on the floor.  Herbs under my tongue, ugh,then Pitocin, to stop the bleeding.
………………………………….
I need someone to take the baby, please take him from me. They’re hurting me.  I can’t breathe.
…………………………………
Esther held him for the first time.

Then they wanted him skin to skin.  Benjamin held Jax to his chest.  I looked up and saw Benjamin wearing his brown bathrobe, Jax’s little head peeking out.

They carried me to my bed, laid me flat on my back.  Oh how good it felt, laying on my back.

Things are better now.  I get to nurse him.  WOW, that hurts!  He is so strong!  I had no idea a baby could latch that hard.  He’s nursing well, what a relief.  Sweet boy.
We can rest now, I can hold you.  Hold you to my chest and watch you nurse. 
Precious, precious day.

 

  

……………………………..

I asked Isabel if she was okay, if she wasn’t frightened. She said cheerfully, “Oh, I’m fine! Just sometimes you were really loud so I had to go out of the room for a while.”

Oh, and they brought me Mexican food…enchiladas verdes….I was ravenous.

The newborn exam.  I’ve been waiting for this! 
Twenty two inches long!  Monstrous!  Ten pounds four ounces!  Crazy! He took all of us by surprise. Robin says she hasn’t been that off in a long time.  How did my body do that?  My firstborn, almost ten and a half pounds! 
Forty weeks.  You weren’t early after all.  Your house measured big all along, and my ovulation chart was a bit hard to interpret. We weren’t completely sure of the date. 
Full term.  Our due date must have been off a bit; you’re not early, you’re full term.  What a big boy.

 

 

 

 

 

Vernix: just a bit
Lanugo (downy body hair): present on the back of your ears, shoulders, neck, and back. So soft.
Other hair: eyebrows good, eyelashes good, full head of hair, medium brown color, about 1/2 inch in length. Makes you look like a little boy already!
Ears: super cute, nicely laid against your head, your right ear has a slightly unique shape in the middle, but it might flatten out over time.
Eyes: steel grey (typical newborn)
Cheeks and Lips: soooo kissable
Fingers and toes: Twenty total, all perfect, nails long and sharp on your fingers!
Male parts in place and well formed.
Chubby thighs and adorable all over!

 

 

Tabitha and Matt arrived from Houston with the kids.  Daniel arrived with Aidan.  My Dad arrived with Tita.  Everyone was there except Priscilla and Mercy,about six hours away, driving home from college.  Tina arrived, crying.  She had been invited to the birth but didn’t get the messages in time.

  

 

My dad read out loud what we had written about Jax’s name, its meaning, and the Scripture verses we selected to speak over him prophetically.  He got choked up.  Everyone listened intently.  I cried (duh).

……………………………….
It took a long time to stitch me.  So glad the family has Jax.  They get to take turns holding him and enjoy him.  The tear almost went through to my rectum, but it didn’t. Thankfully.  That meant we could stay home and Robin can repair it. Lidocaine spray, Lidocaine injections. She did such a good job making sure I couldn’t feel a thing. 
It must be bad,really bad.  Because she won’t answer my questions about how bad it is.  She won’t say how many stitches it took.  Between ten and twenty?  Um, probably.  A full length of slow-dissolving suturing thread.  My tailbone and legs ache SO badly from being propped up in a position for her to stitch me.  Please, I can’t lay like this anymore.  Please just let me stretch my legs out.
Finally, finally we are done with messing with my poor bottom.

…………………………………….

And then things went downhill fast.  I tried to go to the bathroom, and basically passed out while sitting on the toilet.  Robin, Jean, and Benjamin were with me.  My head sagging to the side, my eyes closing,Robin telling me, “Stay with me Joy, stay with me!”  Telling her I couldn’t.  Jean waving something under my nose, saying my name over and over again.  Robin giving me an injection of methergine.  Oxygen mask.  Coming to, then falling away into darkness again.
Things are not good.  I feel separated from my body again.  Like I can see myself from the outside.  I can see I’m not stable.  They are afraid for me.  But they know what to do.  Robin knows what to do; I can trust her.  I feel safe with her.  I’m at peace.
Back to bed, still with oxygen.  Now with IV fluids.  My veins are collapsed and she keeps sticking me for the IV.  Robin is so tired, I can see it.  She came from a birth right before mine.  Said she only had time to shower.
Finally feeling more like myself.  My vein with the IV in it collapsed again, fluid in my arm. Please, don’t catheterize me.  I can’t handle that, just let me try to go to the bathroom again. 
Stabilizing.  Feeling more like myself.
………………………

 

My baby.  Our baby. Our son.  He’s adorable.  I can’t get over how freaking adorable he is!  Look at him! Beautiful.  Handsome.  So big! So sweet.  He’s perfect. He’s here.  I’m in love.  Praise to our Father in heaven.  I couldn’t be more thankful.

 

First four photos taken by my sister Esther.  Remaining photos taken by the wonderful Ann Marie of Ann Marie Itschner Photography.