Tag Archives: birth

the big One

13 Dec

One year ago this evening, we were on a snowy freeway, heading home from a day in Anacortes, making jokes about giving birth in a snowbank on the side of the road. When I awoke at nearly 3:00am — fewer than six hours after arriving safely home — I had no idea that I’d be a mother before the sun came up.

That morning, my body’s efficiency — my own innate and unwavering knowledge of what to do (or what to allow my body to continue doing) amazed me. Being so totally powerless to biology, to oneself isn’t something I’d have guessed I’d enjoy, but I got out of that birthing tub feeling like I could do it all again, immediately, and love it just as much. My birth experience was a lucky one: short, comfortable, in the most perfect venue I could imagine (can you think of a hospital that would welcome an already-pushing woman with a warm bath, dim lights and candles? Or a home birth you don’t have to clean up [yes, this heavily influenced my decision; I am lazy]? Didn’t think so.). Of course, the luckiest part of my birth was the result: the tiny, bald grouch we got to take home.

Every day of motherhood, at least so far, is different. Some are so good I feel almost as triumphant as I did when they first plopped George onto my chest and I knew I had done it. But those days wouldn’t be so great without the converse: the sleep-deprived, rainy, shit-on-your-clothes days when you’re begging an infant, please, just tell me what to do. I’ve found, though, that despite the insistence that I’d forget childbirth — the “so the species can go on” half-joke that serves only as one of many sexist scare tactics pregnant women and mothers face — what I’m forgetting instead are those regrettable, difficult why-won’t-you-end days, in favor of the wins.

This year, I’ve gotten to know myself in a different way. I’ve become less self-conscious in order to be present with my child. I’ve made stupid faces and funny noises and sung in public and been (mostly) unconcerned with how I look to all but one little person. I’ve changed my expectations, let my sleep, my free time and my body be temporarily hijacked. And, you know what? I’m doing a good job. He’s a happy, loving, trusting, communicative, confident boy. Not afraid to make friends with strangers, proficient signer who’s finding his words, giver of unsolicited kisses, giggler and enthusiastic try-er of anything.

The way we all begin is common by definition, and in the past I may have been tempted to apologize for parenthood’s inherent cliché, but having a child has given me an appreciation for our individualities, for the fact that we each have a story. George’s started a year ago and I’m a lucky sucker for getting to be a part of it every day. Celebrating birthdays is one of my favorite things to do, and this is the big one. The big One.

Happy birthday, chicken. I love you the most.

(black and white photos by Tiffany Burke. Hire her; she rules.)


controlling birth

18 Jul

There are so many easy ways to fuck over women. I rewrote that line about fifteen times before deciding that is precisely what I mean to say, so I should just say it. It starts during adolescence with — well, a million things, but not all pertinent to this discussion — hormonal birth control. At a time when our bodies are coursing with hormones already, new ones that make us do crazy, crazy shit, make us un-live-with-able and prone to falling in and out of love with just about anything at the drop of a hat. When I was fifteen, a different song changed my life every 45 minutes. You want to argue about how this right here is the best film ever made? TRY ME. The hem of my pants seems to be 1/4 inch shorter than it was last week which means I am the fattest, ugliest, most worthless person in all of humanity’s long history — and WHAT’S THAT? You aren’t contradicting me heartily enough SO YOU MUST AGREE. So, when someone suggested that I try hormonal birth control to ease my hellacious cramps, considering that someone was a physician, I assumed he wouldn’t lead me astray. I didn’t smoke and I wasn’t over 35, so the only two risks explained to me didn’t seem to apply. Oh, but funny thing: there were these other risks he forgot to mention. The risk of totally going off the deep end when the naturally-occuring hormones already in your body take offense to the introduction of these johnny come-latelies and the ensuing hormone war leaves you suicidal and obsessive-compulsive. I was told repeatedly to “ride it out” while my body tried to normalize, but eventually I weighed the positives and negatives and darned if debilitating uterine pain wasn’t the better option. Enter “natural family planning.” A terrible, stupid, why-did-they-do-it name that makes you sound like an Evangelical Christian. Are you an Evangelical Christian? Sorry; I am not. Neither am I anti-hormonal birth control. I just think it’s something that adversely affects lots of women who can’t figure out what’s wrong with them. I also advocate for women knowing as much as they can about their own bodies because this makes us healthier (most importantly) and smarter consumers (secondarily), meaning we can’t be railroaded into sub-optimal care by our doctors/midwives (god forbid!)/ARNPs.
Natural family planning began my interest in women’s health and my own reproductive system. I come from a staunchly feminist, pro-choice family so this was no real revelation. Women’s issues were always discussed and reproductive rights are something for which my mom and I have both fought, basically, forever. Being able to identify where I am in my cycle is something that has saved me money, headache and heartache. It also quite literally saved my sanity and I know I’m not alone in that. For a pretty comprehensive guide to NFP, maybe try this book out (the publisher of which is not paying me but is welcome to, wink wink, nudge nudge).

Now we’ve come to way #2 to give women the screw job.

First, though, let’s have an interlude to discuss our president. I voted for him. Grudgingly. I told myself that no viable candidate would ever align with my beliefs. And this guy would at least maintain the status quo. HA! Good one, Obama! You got me.

People are such wackadoos when it comes to reproduction, especially reproduction that does not include them. You’ve got the president willy-nilly mandating that impoverished, sick women have to carry a pregnancy to term despite a still very legal medical procedure meant to protect them from exactly this situation. You’ve got crazy nutsos who are free to adopt 500 children if they’re so worried about babies, but prefer to birth twenty of their own and take them all to picket outside of Planned Parenthood. And then, there’s #3:

Forcing women into birthing situations without their consent, by preying on their love for their unborn child. Just as it’s not okay to get someone drunk and sleep with them, it is not okay to ply someone with threats and horror stories and expect them to make an informed, well-thought-out decision. The spectrum of loving motherhood is broad, and includes not only the excited, doting, round and glowing mama-to-be but also the mother who is staring down the barrel of birthing a brainless mass of cells that will somehow make it to full term. Both of these women deserve to have their wishes respected, their health considered, and their lives valued above convenience, prior engagements, fear of lawsuit or personal politics. Wait. I need to say that again. The spectrum of loving motherhood is broad, and includes not only the excited, doting, round and glowing mama-to-be but also the mother who is staring down the barrel of birthing a brainless mass of cells that will somehow make it to full term. Both of these women deserve to have their wishes respected, their health considered, and their lives valued above convenience, prior engagements, fear of lawsuit or personal politics. Women’s choices need to be heard and respected. Women’s birth plans need to be adhered to. People need to stop doing unnecessary surgeries and giving drugs unnecessarily just to make it home in time for 30 Rock.

In case you couldn’t tell, the recent threats to women’s health and rights are really bothering me. If they are bothering you, too, please take action here. If they are not bothering you, please try putting yourself in the very realistic situation of having little money, a debilitating disease and an unexpected pregnancy that could result in a special needs child and a serious and potentially irreversible deterioration of your own health. If I’ve alienated you with this post…well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

george’s birthday

10 Jun

I’ve told George’s birth story more times than I care to count. At times I’ve been shy to share it because I truly feel that it was the ideal experience, and this is not in line with what most people consider to be “normal” for women, for childbirth. I can’t commiserate with those who had 70-hour labors or eventual c-sections, who say that childbirth is totally miserable but worth it. I came out of the experience wanting to do it again. Not eventually, right away. I say this not to be a braggart, but because I am coming to realize that it bears saying, and repeating. Women do not need to fear childbirth the way we’re taught to. Of course, some people will say I make these statements from a pretty sweet position, and I do. I was lucky, but I also let my body do its job, and was rewarded.
Three days before I gave birth, I looked like this:
We spent the day before I went into labor (and, coincidentally, the day George was born) in Anacortes for Jess Lynch’s craft fair at the Adrift. It was a long, tiring but fun endeavor and as the fair wound down, it began to snow. Hard. Beautiful, big white flakes. The first (and, it turned out, last) snow of the Winter. I was momentarily excited, then remembered we had to drive home. We quickly said our goodbyes, Jess ushered us out the door and we made it home as the snow started to slow. We walked in, lit the Hanukkah candles and crashed.
At 2:45 I woke up with what I thought was mild cramping, no big whoop. I woke Nathan to say I was getting in the shower for some relief. All the ladies I had asked about labor told me I would know when real contractions hit. Without a doubt. YOU WILL KNOOOWWWW, they said. Ominously. I did not KNOOOOWWWW, so I figured this was not “it.” Like a fool, I parked the iPod outside the shower and tried to time what I had decided were not-really-contractions. I am still shocked that the iPod survived my waterlogged hands reaching out every two (that’s right, TWO) minutes to restart the timer.
When I got out of the shower it was about 3:30. I told Nathan to call Winni, our midwife, who told me to try to get some sleep and call her in the morning. We both assumed I was mis-timing the not-really-contractions.
I was experiencing what I’d consider fair-to-middlin’ menstrual cramps, so I took to walking laps around the livingroom, into the bedroom, and back. In about 45 minutes, those “fair-to-middlins” turned into “okay, ouches” and almost immediately thereafter turned into hi I am having a baby right here in the living room. We called Winni back and she told us to GO NOW.
So — somehow, in all my preparation, I had not completely packed a bag. My bag, inexplicably, contained graham crackers, a note to “remember the popsicles,” a pair of hilariously impractical underwear, a nursing tanktop and two outfits for the baby. Nathan cobbled together an outfit for me, helped me into some pants and my coat and I went outside to stand in the cool night while Nathan put stuff in the car. The air was so incredibly refreshing, and I realized that I was having a snow baby, just as I had predicted. Poor Nathan’s mantra during that car ride was “don’t push; please don’t push.” I must’ve looked like the stereotypical lady in labor, huffing and puffing to make the urge to push lessen. For the record: nothing can make the urge to push go away. Not all the movie-style breathing in the world.
We walked into the birth center and Eloisa, the midwife who miraculously temporarily lived in the basement, appeared to welcome us into our candle-lit, warm and cozy room. There wasn’t much time for pleasantries. We said hi, she told me to strip and she checked me — 100% effaced, 100% dilated, ready to go. She started the tub water and I got the go-ahead to push. NOTHING in my life has ever felt physically better. I eased myself into the water and any pain I had been feeling was gone. The pressure of the baby was there, but the relief of the freedom to push and the soothing warm water made everything better. Eloisa was invisible to me as I pushed; she was just an encouraging voice from somewhere behind us, telling me I was doing well. A few pushes later, I felt her put pressure on my perineum and she told me the baby was crowning. One more push and he was out; 20 minutes of pushing, total. As Eloisa capped him, sucked out his nose and mouth and put him on my chest, Winni burst in, having been slowed down by the snowy roads, missing the birth by only a few minutes. It was 6:08am, about 4 hours after the first signs of labor.

I won’t go into detail, but after he was born I bled a lot, I had a small tear. But I never felt like I was in anything less than completely capable hands.

We hung out in bed, called around, sent photos from our phones. Winni got me some tea and we chatted about What the Heck Fest. We got the (still unnamed) baby dressed, and headed out about noon, into the gorgeous, clean, snowy day.