On Feeling Inadequate as a Parent

As I watch my sweet oldest boy turn more and more into what some might call an angsty teenager – I recall mySelf at his age.

Not so long ago, I was his age….and not long after that, I was pregnant and giving birth to him.  I was 18 the year he was born.  The only child of only children, I’d never been around kids, never babysat.  I only ever held a baby once, briefly and awkwardly, before I held my own precious child.

I tried my best at the time, but I knew I felt deeply inadequate for the task I was up against – raising another human being, when I had barely even begun to become my own true Self…

I comforted my completely befuddled teen-mom-self with thoughts like, “At least when he’s a teen, we’ll get along great, cause I won’t be so out of touch with him like my parents are with me…  It will be great – we’ll bond over music and I won’t force him to do things he hates, and I will welcome his friends…and I will have peace then, if not now.”

Not only did I miss the point of Living in the Moment, then…but I recognize now, how so absurdly naive it was for me to think that way:

Again and again, every moment, every phase of development – I realize more and more how very little I know.

How presumptuous of me, to ever think that I could “learn it all in time”…

But also, I’ve learned that It’s Okay.

His path is not mine to control, whether by threat & force, or by leading him with stifling, sugar-coated coercion down the road that looks most promising…least painful. I have to recognize, the older he gets, that his path may very well include a foray into what, in my opinion, looks like dire misery – but his lessons and his choices are not mine, and do not define me as a person.

I can lead him, guide him, love him so much it hurts – but I cannot ultimately make his choices for him.

It doesn’t get easier as they get older.

I dunno who made up that lie.. You trade diapers and sleep deprivation for much deeper, more profound, less tangible worries, the older they get. You have to make peace with who they’re becoming, and realize that so much of it is out of your hands, by the time they are 10+ years old. The million moments of babyhood and toddlerhood, whether you manage to keep the exasperation out of your voice as you read The Runaway Bunny for the 30th time…they add up to huge things, somewhere down the line.

But we can’t know what, or where.

Our kids know us better than we know ourselves, and sometimes that in itself can trigger us. As they grow, they might have memories of profound, pivotal, defining moments in their lives….that we are unaware of. What seems insignificant to us might be Earth-shattering for our child – and we won’t always be aware of it.

So if you’re feeling unprepared for this huge, monumental task of parenthood – feeling like nobody told you exactly what would be required of you….feeling often, like you’re not quite up to the task? Well, that’s good. Nobody can ever prepare themselves for parenthood “enough”.

There is no such thing as enough.

You give it your all, and then, incredibly, again and again – you find that more is required of you – so you discover more of yourSelf, and learn and grow alongside your children.

They don’t need you to be perfect – they just need you to be real, and willing to grow alongside them.

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Parenting is the most immense personal growth journey you can embark upon, in my opinion.

You just have to be open and willing to let it transform you.

Inspired by my friend, Cherise.

Perfection and apologies

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog, and part of that has to do with perfection–or the lack thereof, actually. I figure if i can’t write a “perfect” blog post, then I just won’t write one. But that’s stupid. There is no such thing as a perfect post, or a perfect anything–so why and how did we get so conditioned to think in these terms? And why are we so hard on ourselves??

I read something recently that called any explanation a hidden apology, and that really resonated with me.

I used to be the master of explaining. I could come up with a bunch of reasons why I did or didn’t do X, and would be fully prepared to explain each in detail to any random friend, stranger, or internet troll who challenged me. It was that way when I went veg. It was the same when my kids got older and the question of homeschooling and then unschooling came up. Even when I had a toddler sick with pneumonia, I was stuck in the mode of explaining, defending, apologizing to everyone about my choices. About what exactly the nurse said to me, and why I didn’t feel comfortable accepting their treatment recommendations, etc..

When I would encounter certain people, “interrogators” who would question my choices zealously, looking for any flaw to exploit in my reasoning, this would produce a fight-or-flight response in me. I’d either go into overdrive, finding internet links and research to back my response–or I’d just be incapable of responding–feeling that anything I’d say would be used against me.

What it really must have looked like was that I was wishy-washy, that I only had external, empty motivations for behaving and believing what I did.

The fact is, I can give you a thousand logical reasons why I believe what I do–but probably lots of people could defend the opposite position. Ultimately, however, none of those reasons matter to you. They won’t resonate with you, and they won’t convince you to change your own reasoning (at least, not on its own!).

Your opinion of my reality is not the same thing as my reality. It doesn’t define it, and it certainly doesn’t create it. I don’t have to feel responsible for creating a good impression of my reality in other people’s minds. My happiness is not contingent on other people sanctioning it–telling me it’s “okay” or “not okay” to feel happy. I can choose happiness and embrace fulfillment on my path, regardless of whether the rest of society tells me it’s perfect, allowed, or legit. And I am.

I am deleriously happy with the life I’ve created and the choices I’ve made–even the ones that don’t make sense, even the ones that might appear to be “wrong” from someone else’s perspective.

So if I don’t write out a paragraph-long explanation for every article I post on facebook, or be able to clearly articulate exactly why I do the things I do, it’s not because I don’t have my reasons. It’s just that I am too busy enjoying my life to want to spend so much time trying to bring others into alignment with my choices.

I am Who I Am. You are Who You Are. No apologies. That’s just as perfect as it gets.

Success and the Myth of Grades

School influences one’s real-world success.  Now, this is true–but not in the ways that one would hope.  I grew up being pushed–driven–to succeed in school.  Even before I was old enough for school, my parents pushed me to learn, to read, etc.

In school, I quickly learned that it was absurdly simple to get the coveted A-grades that everyone pushed for.  Graded work–especially competitive graded work–creates an environment where the grade is more important than the work done to achieve it.

So rather than take risks and try something interesting, students are more likely to play it safe to achieve a higher grade.  This effectively curtails any expansive, challenging work undertaken by students on their own, beyond what is assigned to them.

As far as excelling at “grade level”–the very idea of “grade level” is bogus.  Who decided that multiplication was a 3rd grade skill, for example?  100 years ago what constituted 5th grade level work would stump a good deal of college freshmen today!

If a kid today is getting “good grades”, what it really means is that he’s good at jumping through the hoops of public schooling.  He might know how to write an A+ book report, but he might not be aware of how to think critically about the content of that book as it applies to situations outside of graded academia.

For the “smart kids” (however we’re defining that), getting straight As might translate into never taking risks or challenges, because that might threaten his GPA.  Even in college–how many students choose the easy, “safe” topic for their term papers instead of choosing what lights their passion–but might be controversial or harder to prove their point with research?

In my opinion, this has the danger (or perhaps, the socially engineered result) of turning out people who are more likely to uphold the status quo than challenge it; more likely to submit to authority or seek “expert” advice without question; more likely to passively wait for instruction than figure something out on their own.

In our society we speak admirably of the self-starter, the visionary, the go-getter–but these sorts are becoming more and more rare every day.  Those who truly seek knowledge will not be concerned with letter-grades or a culturally defined version of “success”–they’ll be out there taking risks–and most likely failing multiple times–to better their understanding and improve their results.

School does not teach people to succeed in these terms–only in terms of A+ and “good job!”  You have to be willing and able to fail–a LOT–in order to truly push the boundaries of what you’re capable of.

The Exhaustive List of Homebirth Supplies

If you’re having a homebirth with a midwife, she’s probably provided you with a list of supplies–or a pre-made birth kit–that you should have on hand.  However, if you’re birthing at home without assistance, you may wonder what supplies and items would be worth having on hand to maximize your comfort and peace-of-mind as your labor time nears.  Of course, birth can and does happen without any special equipment at all, and things work just fine.

Nothing on this list is essential, really–and it’s good to keep that in mind.  You shouldn’t be stressing out in week 39 because you’ve run out of honey and can’t find a local source for red raspberry leaf tea!  Sometimes less is more.

However, if you’re a planner like me, you might like to research all your options beforehand, just to make sure that you’ve got the best shot at being deliciously comfy throughout your entire birthing and postpartum process!

Pre-labor:

  • Spare vinyl shower curtain or painter’s drop cloth–this can be spread on your bed weeks in advance, in between the mattress pad and fitted sheet, to protect your lovely mattress from getting soaked in the event of your water breaking unexpectedly–or if you’re planning on laboring in bed.
  • Birth ball—Make sure you get one that’s the right size for your height. You can sit on it, lean over it, bounce and do hip circles on it. You can also cover it with a blanket if you don’t want to feel cold vinyl against your skin. Laboring with the aid of a birth ball is so much more comfortable! It also helps baby descend and get into optimal position before labor even starts.
  • A stethoscope or doppler–You and your partner can both learn to listen for baby’s heartbeat with either of these devices, and you can time baby’s heartbeat as well.  This may prove to be an excellent skill during labor.
  • Red raspberry leaf and nettle tea–both are excellent for the female systems and rejuvenate you during and after labor.  You can make up huge, iced pitchers of this tea and sip it like a sports drink.
  • Old sheets for your bed/birthing area–they are soft and comfy because they’re so worn-in, and if they get hopelessly stained (maybe you ran out of peroxide?), you won’t cry if they get thrown out.
  • Birth affirmations–you can write your own or find some that resonate with you on the internet.  Here’s some of mine.  You can print them out and have your partner read them to you while you’re laboring, or pick one or two to memorize and chant as mantras during contractions.  You can even record yourself speaking them aloud and play back the recording during labor.
  • Candles and a lighter or matches–A beautiful, naturally scented or beeswax candle can be a great focal point during contractions, and adds calming ambiance to your birthing space.  I’d avoid mass-produced candles or synthetic scents, because who wants to bring a brand new baby into a chemical soup for his first air-breathing experience??  I avoid incense for that same reason–although an oil burner can be used to naturally and gently scent the air without being overwhelming.
  • Alcohol–for disinfecting scissors if you plan on cutting the umbilical cord. (You don’t have to cut the cord at all if you choose not to—read on to learn about Lotus birthing!)

Early labor:

  • Chux pads–or puppy “training” pads–or just a bunch of old towels.  Birth is messy business, and sometimes there just aren’t enough clean towels available!   Plan on at least a box full of these–more if you want to avoid lots of laundry!
  • Blow-up tub pillow–if you want to relax in the tub while in labor, it’ll be so much more comfortable to have a soft place to rest your head!  A folded-up towel would work, but it would get wet and mushy, and slide into the water, etc.
  • Arnica–You can get a cream, a homeopathic remedy, or a cooling gel–any of which can be helpful.  Arnica is typically used for bruising and muscle fatigue.  Some women swear by arnica cream or gel for cooling the “ring of fire” during crowning and pushing the baby out.  Other women say that taking the homeopathic remedy throughout their labor takes the edge off of contractions.  As for me, I made an oil infusion with dried arnica, and used the oil as a belly rub during bouts of prodromal labor, or whenever I was exhausted.
  • Bach Flower Remedies Rescue Cream–this stuff is a homeopathic calming remedy, and in the cream form, it’s excellent for getting back rubs from your partner, or rubbing it into your temples to soothe a headache.  Some women also swear by Rescue Cream as the perfect aid for dealing with the “ring of fire”!
  • Bach Essences Rescue Remedy–you can get the pastilles or the drops, but either one is a great way to help you “chill out” as you’re approaching transition–AKA the “I can’t do it anymore!” stage of labor.  Nice to have something tangible to combat those feelings with.  If you’re especially concerned, the specific Bach essences of Hornbeam and Oak are also very helpful in relieving feelings of despair and exhaustion, or a feeling that you can’t go on.
  • Neroli oil–This scent is very calming and relaxing; however, pure essential oil of Neroli is rather obscenely expensive, so this is one instance where I recommend buying a synthetic version.  You won’t be putting this on your body, just using it for aromatherapy.  You can fill a misting pump-bottle with plain water, and add a few drops of Neroli oil.  Then  you can mist your pillows or the air in front of you.  This is also a nice, portable remedy if you find yourself in a stressful situation while away from home.  My daughters claimed my bottle of Neroli spritz after the birth, dubbing it Sweet Dream Spray.
  • Clary sage essential oil–This oil can be used in an infuser for aromatherapy or added to a carrier oil for massage into the belly during labor.  Clary sage is said to help induce labor, or else speed a slow-progressing labor.  I used this both aromatheraputically and as a massage oil–I simply added a few drops to my arnica infusion.  Don’t use this one before you’re full-term!

Birthing:

  • A hand mirror–It might be just the encouragement you need to see your baby’s head when she starts to crown–and besides, how often do you get the chance to see something like this??  The very first glimpse of your baby is unforgettable.
  • A crock pot, metal mixing bowl that fits inside of it, and clean, soft rags (or those birdseye prefolds!)–to make hot-oil compresses.  This is my favored method for dealing with the “ring of fire” and baby crowning.  Set up the crock pot ahead of time in your birthing space–with water in it, and the metal bowl inside, sort of floating on/in the water.  When you’re in labor, have your partner turn it on WARM (not high, no matter how slowly you think the oil will heat up!!), place the rags inside the metal bowl, and pour the oil over them, saturating them.  You can use plain olive oil or create an herbal infusion ahead of time (store it in the fridge for freshness).  I used fresh ginger root to good effect.  The ginger and the heat bring blood to the surface of your tissues, helping it to expand with ease.
  • Ginger root, calendula, comfrey, or other herbs (if you’re making an infusion)–Use cheesecloth to make a sort of “teabag” for your herbs, and allow it to steep in the oil at room temperature for 12 hours or so, or in the fridge for a day or two.  To use the compresses, your partner will take two warm, oiled cloths out of the crockpot and hold them against your perineum as you’re crowning–or you can do this yourself if you’re able to.  Makes the “ring of fire” much less intense, and helps you avoid tears or skid marks.
  • Warm blankets–Set aside a pile of things that you think you’ll like to wrap the baby and/or yourself in right after the birth, and let your partner know that once you’re in active labor, toss them into the dryer.  That way you’ll have deliciously warm receiving blankets and a bathrobe to slip into as soon as your new addition is here.  I think it’s a nice way to give baby a gentle transition from his world into ours–skin-to-skin with mama, and a warm blanket over both of you.
  • Camera–Even if you think you wouldn’t want photos of yourself in labor or giving birth in a million years, I highly recommend having your partner or a friend take some.  How many times in your life will you experience these moments?  Capture them.  You can always erase the memory card later if you REALLY want to.  Just don’t forget the batteries!!

Postpartum:

  • Something to cope with the possibility of postpartum hemorrhage—a hemostatic herbal blend will work, or you can just arm yourself with the knowledge that consuming a piece of placenta has dramatic and near-immediate effect on stemming hemorrhage bloodflow. Even a small piece of placenta held in the cheek or under the tongue, like a homeopathic pellet, will transfer powerful hormones to the brain and body via your capillary system, telling your uterus to clamp down and stop bleeding.
  • Peri bottles—I liked to have two of them–one for warm water and one for a soothing herbal blend.  Both are used to help you urinate more comfortably right after birthing.  You can also reuse any squeezable plastic bottle, such as a witch hazel bottle.
  • Peroxide–I like to have a full bottle on hand, because this stuff is excellent at getting out blood stains.  Just pour it on and watch the magic happen.  You never know when you might need to rush to the bathroom–and drip on the carpet on the way there.
  • Witch hazel–this stuff is divine!  It’s basically the only ingredient in Tucks pads for hemmorhoids, and even if you don’t have those now, you might have some for a day or a week after pushing out baby!  Witch hazel is also safe to use on your girly bits, and it’s incredibly soothing, cooling, and great for reducing swelling in those first few days and hours.  It’s also cleansing, which is always a plus.  How to use it, you ask?
  • Cotton rounds–Squirt witch hazel on these and use instead of toilet paper or wet wipes.
  • Cloth menstrual pads–soak one in witch hazel and lay it on top of a dry one–then place in underwear and sigh in comfort.
  • Gerber birdseye prefold diapers–Use these in place of cloth pads the first few days when bleeding is heavy–or soak them in witch hazel!
  • Nori seaweed–Believe it or not, seaweed is excellent at healing tears.  This kind is what you woudl buy to roll sushi in–it comes in dry sheets in a bag or jar.  Just get a piece wet, and use it almost like tape to “paste” a tear together.  This is what midwives often use in lieu of stitches.  I wish I’d known about it for the one birth I needed stitches for–getting stitches down there is awful!
  • Honey–If you’ve just got “skid marks” or minor tearing, honey is excellent to use.  It’s antimicrobial and promotes fast tissue regeneration.  Civil war nurses actually used it for soldiers on the battlefield!
  • Dark colored, comfy, fuller-cut undies.  No fun trying to “balance” a postpartum-sized pad in flowery white tanga panties.
  • Sitz bath–Warm water to sit in might be just the thing to soothe a sore bottom.  Try to have your partner set it up for you–otherwise, by the time you get around to setting it up yourself, you won’t really need it anymore. 🙂
  • Herbal blend for the sitz bath–If you want to splurge, you can get some lovely pre-mixed herbal blends from companies like Earth Mama Angel Baby.  These herbs are brewed like a strong tea, but then placed in the sitz bath, bathtub (great for your skin and perineum while you relax with baby!), or even a peri bottle.  Again, ask your partner to set this up for you, because you’ll probably be so busy nursing and cuddling that you’ll forget to do these little nice things for yourself.
  • After-Ease (by WishGarden Herbs)–This is an herbal blend for soothing afterpains, those contractions you get after birth that signal the clamping down of the uterus as it shrinks back to pre-baby size.  These often get worse after every baby.  Mine were awful even after my firstborn, and so I don’t recommend messing around with these.  They tend to get worse when baby nurses, and they can make you miserable if you don’t have something to deal with them.  If herbals aren’t enough to provide relief.
  • IBUPROFIN.  Up to 800Mg, every four hours. This is one of the few times in my life that I happily embrace allopathic medicine.  Take it or leave it!
  • Peppermint essential oil–this oil can be used aromatheraputically to help your bladder release, if you have trouble urinating after childbirth.  Very helpful!
  • A large bowl—to catch the placenta, so that it can be looked over to make sure it’s intact.
  • Large freezer bags–if you don’t have a plan for your placenta yet, you can freeze it for weeks or months while you decide.  Once thawed, it will still be useful for just about anything except encapsulation.  There are lots of options for what to do with your placenta, even if you’re not lotus birthing or encapsulating it.
  • Watercolor paper–this thick, fibrous paper can be found at art and hobby shops, and it’s excellent for making placenta prints.  You can use paint, or the blood of the placenta itself.  Either one makes a lovely print, although if you’re planning to encapsulate, you will of course want to avoid paint!  Have this on hand before the birth, and make sure to have your partner remind you that you want to make placenta prints!  It’s easy to forget in the bliss of the moment, and there’s only a small window of time during which you can make them 😉
  • Supplies for placenta encapsulation, if you’re doing it yourself. Read all about that at PlacentaBenefits.info.
  • Supplies for care of the placenta during a Lotus birth, if you’re planning on that.  More on Lotus birthing here.  And here.
  • Alfalfa tablets, and/or liquid chlorophyll—Perhaps you’ve been taking liquid chlorophyll throughtout pregnancy, which is helpful with your iron levels. Alfalfa has a very high content of Vitamin K—the clotting agent in human blood. Increasing your intake of Vitamin K in the weeks before and after baby is born will assure a healthy amount of Vitamin K is being transferred to your baby via breastmilk. Also, a Lotus or partial Lotus birth will ensure baby gets all the cord and placental blood she’s supposed to, lessening any concerns about Vitamin K or lack thereof in your newborn baby. More on the Vitamin K issue here.
  • Fresh, yummy juice–No, I don’t mean the shelf-stable, over-sugared kind!  Get a friend to bring over fresh fruit and greens and whip you up a super-nutrient smoothie.  This will energize you right after the hard work of birth.  Juicing helps to make nutrients more available by breaking down the tough cell walls of plant foods–especially greens–and it’s a quick, easy way of downing some healthy calories.  You can even add a piece of placenta to the smoothie for dramatic reversal of heavy bleeding!
  • Lots of frozen, nutritious meals–or an arsenal of good friends and family on call to prepare your family dinner for the first few days or weeks after the birth.  You need to take care of your body, and hopefully you can ask for and receive help.  Having access to healthy meals that you don’t have to prepare is worth so much right after a birth–it’s the best new-baby gift you can receive!
  • Birth-day cake—and perhaps some wine to share with friends!

For Baby:

  • Suction bulb or NoseFrieda–During a natural birth, the compression of baby’s chest after the head is birthed is often sufficient to clear the airway of any mucous and liquid, but again, on the chance that baby needs some extra help clearing out, it’s great to have this on hand.  For what it’s worth, I highly recommend the NoseFrieda over a bulb syringe, because it’s much more gentle and comfy for baby.
  • Inkpad and acid-free paper–to capture those precious first footprints.  I’d recommend having several sheets of paper to make multiple copies.  Baby feet don’t tend to hold still for perfect footprints!  And, that page in the baby book?  Maybe after you’ve made a bunch of footprints, pick out the best ones and cut/paste them into the baby book.  Otherwise your baby book might just get smeared with ink on that page.
  • Small bottles of olive oil–you can buy a big bottle and then separate a few out into empty sample-size lotion bottles or whatever you have on hand.  Olive oil is great for the skin in general, and putting olive oil on baby’s bottom in the first few days helps tremendously with cleaning those uber-sticky meconium poos off his tender skin.  Otherwise you’ll have to rub rather hard to clean him up (yes, even with warm cloth wipes), and neither of you will enjoy that!
  • Thermometer–good to have on hand just in case, especially in the early days.  A low-grade fever might be nothing, but it might also be the first indication that something’s not right with you or baby.
  • Fish scale–Use this with a ring sling, and you’ve got an accurate baby scale!  We picked ours up at a big-box store for about $12 (ridiculously cheaper than an “infant scale” or even a postal scale–although if you’ve already got either of those, rock on). Just don’t forget to weigh the sling separately and then subtract its weight!
  • Powdered goldenseal root–This herb can be bought in capsule-form, but don’t bother taking them.  Goldenseal is a natural cell proliferant and is also anti-microbial.  This makes it perfect for packing into deep wounds–or healing baby’s cord stump!  Goldenseal dries out the cord and helps it to fall off quickly (2-4 days on average), while alcohol (the doctor’s recommendation for cord care) actually preserves the cord stump, making it take longer to heal.

I’m quite sure I’ve left out a few things, but as I mentioned already–birth can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it!  I hope you find this list useful–even if you end up using none of it!

Oliver’s Story–A Healing Freebirth

The pregnancy:

Number five, unexpected, coming fast on the heels of my mother’s death–I was not in a receptive state of mind for being pregnant.  My due date calculations were also hazy this time.  I had a very short cycle in February, but chalked it up to stress.  Later I decided that must have been implantation bleeding.  I finally took a pregnancy test at the end of March, and I cried a lot in the beginning.  Working with all the data we could collect, we figured that my due date could be October 26th at the earliest or November 11th at the latest.  Basically a two-week window.  We went with the latest date, since I tend to have overdue babies (having once had a 43-week pregnancy), and assumed I’d go in for an ultrasound if I ended up making it to the end of that two-week window.

To say I was having trouble integrating the idea of another pregnancy, another baby, would be an understatement.  I had been looking for work.  The plan was that I would work while my husband finally got to finish school; find another, better job–something.  Also, and just as important–I knew that I had a lot of unfinished business to deal with mentally and emotionally, because of my traumatic third birth.  Even though I went on to have a perfectly lovely homebirth with my 4th baby, 2.5 years later, I didn’t feel like I’d processed what had happened to me prior to that.  My third birth was intended to be a freebirth, but turned into a hospital nightmare at the last moment.  As time went on with this pregnancy, I knew I couldn’t “just” have another homebirth with the same midwives in attendance.  I had to face my pain and fear, and try to reclaim some of what had been taken from me with my 3rd birth experience.

Luckily, my freelance work puts me in touch with a large number of people.  As I became closer with several midwives, doulas, and birth specialists in the area, I realized with delight that I’d found a tribe of women who felt similarly–and strongly–about birth empowerment, and freedom.  Several of these women were very positive and supportive of freebirthing, and said that if I wanted them to come to my birth, they were happy to be there in whatever capacity I wanted or needed at the time.  This felt like a wonderful balance–so we agreed that I might call any or all of them if I felt like I needed friendly support, midwifery assistance, or anything in between.

As for the actual pregnancy, I started showing early.  Then I was measuring ahead, even though I wasn’t gaining a lot of weight.  We started joking about twins, and then thought about it more seriously as I approached 30+ weeks.

My birthy friends palpated me and listened for double heart tones, and eventually we all decided that nope, it was just “a lot of baby” in there–and perhaps some extra fluid.  Also, I was carrying this baby anterior as opposed to posterior (facing forward)–the first anterior baby out of all my pregnancies, so it stood to reason that I’d look larger.

As usual, I started having prodromal labor pretty regularly in late September–quite a ways off from my “due window”.  I should have known that it was just “fake labor”, but every time it gets more convincing, and I was already tired of being pregnant!  In all, I had at least six “false starts”–in other words, times where I was really convinced it was real labor, only to have it fizzle out hours–or even a day or more–later.  I was dilating long before actual labor started–the last week and a half of pregnancy I was actually dilated to seven centimeters (yes it’s possible–especially in “grand multiparas”–women with 4 or more prior pregnancies)–and very impatient by then!  I had had bloody show multiple times, and even took castor oil twice, but to no avail.

I was also very hopeful and expectant of having an 11/11/11 baby, since that was at the latest end of my “due window”, and would be such a cool, spiritually significant birthday.  I was convinced I was in labor on the 10th, and well into the 11th, but then it fizzled out again, and I was really discouraged.  On top of it all, my “baby’s” 2nd birthday was coming up that week, and I was really upset to be “still pregnant” on his birthday!

During ALL of this waiting and wondering, I was so grateful to be free of the feeling of being a watched pot; having to submit to unnecessary, fear-driven procedures; or worse–being perceived as a threat to some care provider’s comfort (or convenience!) level.  I also allowed myself to go back and really think about my 3rd baby’s traumatic birth experience over these long weeks and months of waiting.  I finally let myself relive that experience, and I was able to write down her birth story for the first time.  It was incredibly healing and, I think, very necessary in killing those “paper tigers” that may have interfered with my having a peaceful birth this time instead of a fear-filled one.  I never doubted my decision to freebirth throughout this entire pregnancy.

Finally, finally, on the 17th, I was having my usual rounds of “annoying fake labor”, but somehow, my mental state was a bit different, a bit more balanced and calm.  I went to the grocery store and had to deal with some heavy contractions there due to the walking.  I’m sure people were staring at me–I didn’t even have to ask for help out at the register, the staff were on it!  That evening the contractions were not as bad–at times barely there–and I was still feeling oddly zen and calm.  At this point, I knew that castor oil had only a very mild effect on me, but I did think I could use a clean-out–so I took a very small amount, perhaps half an ounce, and continued to go about the evening.  We had fallen into a pattern of staying up late after the kids were in bed, so it wasn’t unusual for me to be reading or on FaceBook at 2 or 3am–which I was.

I think around 3, we decided to go lay down–my hubby to sleep (for what he later said he knew would be a power nap!), and me to read.  I’d been reading Starhawk’s The Earth Path, alternating with John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education–both intellectual, non-fiction books that could effectively take my mind off whatever it was trying to obsess about in a given moment.  So I read, and dealt with contractions here and there by following the labyrinth pattern of a Celtic snake mandala on my wall, still not at all convinced it was labor–or if it was, that I had many hours if not an entire day ahead of me.  However, around 4 or 4:30, my husband woke up as if is alarm had summoned him, and started asking how I was feeling, organizing things around the room, etc.  I was a little surprised he wasn’t sleeping, and just assumed he was having insomnia–I kept reading.  After a bit, he asked if he could do anything for me, noticing that I was having to pause and breathe thru contractions here and there.  (Which had happened before during “fake labor”, so I still wasn’t thinking anything was different!)  I thought a moment, and said I wanted to take a bath.  He ran a bath for me, and hung out in the bathroom with me as I soaked in the tub.

Very quickly–maybe before I got in the water–things picked up in intensity.  I sat in the bath for about thirty minutes or so, and eventually I was vocalizing thru contractions.  Looking back at my last birth, I must have been tense, because I found myself having to yell through contractions for quite awhile–getting louder and higher-pitched, and having to be reminded to breathe and change my tone–keeping it low–to relax.  There was none of that this time–I was able to breathe and “ohhhh” and sigh my way through contractions.  At the time, I thought it meant I wasn’t that far along–but now I realize I was just in a much better mental state, and so was managing the sensations with more calmness.

Suddenly I decided I’d had enough of the water, and again, upon standing, things got even more intense.  My legs were shaking, and I could barely get wrapped up in a towel and back onto our bed, even with my husband’s help.  My body didn’t quit shaking for a few minutes, and as I was sitting on the bed, my husband asked if I wanted to call anyone.  I responded from “labor land” with a panicked, wild-eyed NO!  At this point, I knew that the act of calling someone and trying to explain or label the moment we were in would just derail the energy.  I started saying things like “No, no, no more….I don’t wanna do this anymore,” and “I just wanna go to sleep,” and then laughing with my husband in between contractions, because I knew how absurd I must have sounded and looked.  I kept reaching down, hoping to feel the effects of pressure that signaled that birth was imminent, but still mostly expecting this to be another “fake labor” that would soon end (!)

I think it was at this point that our two-year old woke up and wanted to see what we were up to, which made things a bit stressful for my husband–but I was only scarcely aware of anyone’s presence or absence at this point.  After handling about five contractions with the whining and shaking, I reached a momentary peak-point of panic–I grabbed my husband and looked at him wildly, saying “I’ve got to get a hold of myself!” or something to that effect.  He said something like, “Yes, just calm down, breathe–you are in control of your body”, and in that instant, I was.  The shakes stopped and I was able to take a deep breath and found myself back in a place of calm, heightened awareness.

He left the room for a moment, and this time, when I reached down, I could feel something that was definitely “not me”–it was the bag of waters bulging from within!  You have no idea of the relief and gratitude I felt in that moment–finally, something that proved I WAS in labor–this was it!  When he came back in the room, I clumsily explained that the waters were bulging, with a huge, blissful grin on my face.  I think it was around 5:45 or 6am at this point.

Another contraction with me in a squatting position, and the bag of waters practically exploded all over the bed–really forcefully!  They were clear, with small speckles of something that looked like vernix–I remember noticing that, because I was supposedly 41 weeks at the very earliest, and you don’t see vernix with post-dates pregnancies.  I only had a second to have that thought before I was absolutely consumed by the next contraction–I threw myself forward into a hands-and-knees position, and before I knew it, my body was pushing.

It was wonderful, without anyone to tell me to push or to assess my dilation, because the obvious thing to do was to just listen to my body and follow its cues.  I didn’t really push until I could feel the pressure of the head at the rim–instead I breathed and sighed and allowed the baby to move through me.  Instead of feeling this frantic, crazed need to “get the baby out of me!”, I felt that I needed to take it slowly and cautiously.  I felt the baby’s head as it put pressure all around, and I intuitively put my hand up to use gentle counter-pressure at the site of an old tear, concerned about it worsening.  I laughed inwardly as the absurd thought crossed my mind:  What if baby turned breech at the last moment, and hubby’s not telling me–because this baby feels HUGE!

My husband watched and helped from behind, making sure baby’s head came out gently and carefully.  AT this point I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but my husband encouraged me to keep going, that I still had to get the body out.  He’s excellent at knowing what to say without worrying me.  Later he explained that he was concerned that baby needed to get out quickly, because he had already started trying to breathe, but the pressure on his body from not being fully birthed yet was giving him trouble.  Another moment or two, and baby was born safely into Daddy’s hands!

Since I was on my hands and knees, baby and husband were both behind me.  I looked down between my knees and the first thing I saw was a pair of balls–“It’s a boy!”  I exclaimed!  Again, my husband knew just what to NOT say–nothing can compare to that feeling of seeing for yourself the gender of the child you just birthed into the world.  He gave me that joy instead of telling me before I saw–what an incredible moment!

I felt so incredibly blissful, empowered, healed, validated–I’d finally had the birth I always wanted–the birth that I scarcely believed was possible to have, especially after my 3rd birth.  The time was 6:20am–less than an hour after I finally decided it was really labor!

Hubby woke up the other kids, and we decided that now was the time to call someone!  It occurred to me that it’d be really great to have a midwive’s assessment of my bottom.  Even though we hadn’t weighed him, we both agreed that this was a really big boy, and I didn’t really know if I’d torn or not.   I called my friend Olivia, who came right over to check me, and we all happily chatted about our incredible birth experience!

As we talked, baby nursed, and let go of several large poos before we had a chance to weigh him.  He was 10lbs 14oz–over three pounds bigger than any of my other babies–and this was after the poo!  Then Olivia checked me, and to my delight, I didn’t have any damage that needed stitches–which was even more impressive considering I’d needed stitches with my last baby, barely an 8-pounder!  It really goes to show that your emotional state directly influences the capabilities of your body–even in moment-by-moment situations like childbirth.  Also, Olivia and I agreed that due to the vernix all over him, and other telltale signs of gestational age, that this baby was most likely a 39-weeker!  Certainly not even a day overdue–despite my crazy dates.  (Good thing he didn’t go overdue, or he would have been bigger!)

We didn’t cut the cord until over two hours had passed, so that baby could get all the benefits of the placental and cord blood before they disconnected.  I love the concept of lotus birth (leaving placenta and baby attached until they gently and naturally disconnect, anywhere from 2-10 days after the birth); however, the health benefits of placenta encapsulation were too great for me to pass up.  Placenta helps tremendously with postpartum bleeding, increasing your milk supply, and keeping postpartum depression at bay–and all three of these are things I’ve struggled with in the past.  So, we compromised with a partial lotus birth.  Olivia had sterile scissors, and we chose a piece of embroidery floss to tie off the cord (white, cold and limp at this point), and she cut it for us.  Neither of us wanted to do it!

For most of the pregnancy, we felt like baby was a girl, so we had several names picked out:  Delilah or Natalie, Emma or Catherine…but not really any boy names!  We had considered Oliver for our last baby, but hubby said he didn’t like it.  However, he immediately brought up Oliver for this baby, saying that our last one didn’t look like an Oliver, but this one did!  He has dark hair and olive skin, like my side of the family–quite different from our other tow-headed kids.  We finally decided on Oliver, with my maiden name as his middle name–honoring my family, since the family name won’t be carried on further.

This birth story was difficult to put into words, because so much more than can be described in words went into it.  It’s also not really a complete story without the consideration of my third birth to highlight the significance of this experience.  I feel so incredibly blessed, fortunate, and empowered–in love with my amazing husband and all of my beautiful children, in awe of my incredibly supportive friends, and filled with gratitude to be experiencing the dynamic energy of this moment with those dearest to me.

Love ~ Peace ~ Power ~ Oneness ~ Trust

Welcome to the world, Oliver!

November 18th, 2011

6:20am

10lbs 14oz

20.5 inches long

Birth Affirmations for Peace and Ecstasy

I am the embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the Mother Goddess, the Bringer of Life Force to the Earth.

My body is imprinted with the wisdom of the ages, to birth babies as we have done for thousands of years.

I relax, open to feeling the energy of this moment in all its divine power.

I allow and welcome the waves of cosmic energy to swell within me, break on the shores within, and wash away any anxiety, pain, or fear.

The flowing life-force energy cascades through me.

I am a channel for this loving power-flow, opening a sacred portal between worlds.

I feel the power within me, surrounding me, and know that I am strong.

I surrender to the cosmic flow of the universe; feeling it, observing it, riding the waves of divine energy.

Fear and pain are washed away in the ebb and flow of these cosmic waves.

My body is wise and strong.

As the pressure builds, I feel my body opening, stretching, surrendering to the waves.

I am blooming like a sacred lotus flower, creating a space between the worlds for my baby to come through.

I am enveloped in divine wisdom and love.

My body is sacred, and I trust its ancient knowledge.

My mind is free, my heart is light, and my spirit is one with this child–with All That Is.

I trust in the rhythm of my body and my baby.

I am unafraid, at peace; and I welcome this experience with courage and strength.

I put my trust in the Divine Wisdom of the Universe–in all that is.

There is no way out but THROUGH.

There is nothing to fear–only LOVE.