My husband and I love those shows where they throw a guy out in the wilderness and he shows how to survive in seemingly impossible situations. The more I watch them, the more I realize that I likely will never need to survive in the Sahara or the Sub-Arctic. I do however find myself feeling on an almost daily basis as if I've been cast out into a strange world full of obstacles to tackle and unknown creatures to cope with. This will be the chronicle of one woman trying to survive the jungles of parenthood.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unplanned Sabbatical

     If you look at the date of this post as opposed to the date of the last post you'll see that a rather long time has gone past without a post. In fact the last post was about the annual Big Latch On event which we're planning to attend again this Saturday so it's been just over a year (I wonder if I could get away with just reposting that one again with the new dates). You'll also see no mention of why I've not posted in so long. I thought for my first post back, I should take the time to introduce you to the reason for such a long, unannounced break. The little darling in the picture below is our newest blessing; we'll call her Sweetness. We found out we were expecting her just about the time last year that my posts stopped and due to the fact that we weren't sharing that news with most of the people close to us right away, I figured it was better safe than sorry and avoiding posting all together would prevent any slip-ups. By the time we chose to share our joyous news around 20 weeks I decided I was tired and busy enough being pregnant and keeping up with two little girls that I'd just wait until baby had arrived and we'd all suitably recovered before trying to get back into the swing of things with blogging. Well, now I'm back with a goal of getting in at least one blog a week for the time being! I figured an appropriate first post back would be sharing our birth story so if you're squeamish about the details you may want to just look at the baby pictures and move on. 
Angela, the photographer from Simple. Creations Photography came by while we were still at the birth center and did some beautiful newborn portraits of Sweetness in spite of the fact that she didn't want to cooperate!

     You're probably wondering why we waited so long to tell our families we were expecting. Part of it was just wanting to keep the news as just belonging to our family for a while but also there was the fact that Sweetness was one of identical twins and her sister died in the womb very early on for unknown reasons. Because they were identical and as we had no way of knowing if it may have been the result of a genetic flaw that could have affected both girls we waited until our "big" ultrasound to tell anyone other than a small handful of close friends from church who supported us during those long weeks of waiting. When the day for the scan arrived, everything looked text-book perfect other than the fact that she was already measuring a big ahead of schedule by their guess. Once we knew for sure that the lost twin would have been a girl we named her Julia, one meaning of which is "young" and also because she was conceived in July and I wanted to choose a name that honored her short life rather than acknowledged her death. The babies' gender was actually quite a shock to Survivordad and I. In spite of the fact that we were both cheering for another girl, we both had strong feelings that it would be a boy who showed up in the spring. Only 2 1/2 year old Sugar got the gender right as she'd insisted all along we'd be bringing home another sister.
     We chose an out-of-hospital birth this time at a local free-standing birth center with a fantastic direct entry midwife, apprentice midwife and student midwife.  If you live in the Portland, Oregon area and are looking for a midwife for either a birth center birth or a home birth I can't speak highly enough of the women at Alma Midwifery. We saw the same team of women for hour long appointments throughout the pregnancy and I've never felt that level of respect and dedication from a care provider before.  It was a fantastically different experience from the traditional western medicine world of obstetrics. The birth center itself is a gorgeous old Victorian house fronted by a gated garden and ringed by a building containing the midwifery clinic and some other small businesses. 
      Sweetness arrived at 39 weeks and 5 days on April 14th after several weeks of anticipation, a full week and 3 days later than Spice and 2 weeks 2 days later than Sugar did. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. on the button and felt a strange, high pop at the top of my uterus. I am fairly sure it was a sharp kick that resulted in a tiny tear in the amniotic sac that only lead to a small amount of  leaking as her head was already so low. At 6:01 a.m., after 3 solid weeks of wimpy, barely have to pause contractions every 10 - 15 minutes I felt the first serious contraction which was rapidly followed by another.  After a short mental conversation with myself about the fact that no, it probably was not just intestinal cramps (which I'd convinced myself the contractions were with both of the other girls) I got out of bed and used the bathroom. Survivordad knew something was up as he was starting to get ready for his 7 a.m. shift at work and I let him know that he probably shouldn't be going today before I called the midwife to talk about heading in to the birth center and left a message for our good friend who's been there at all the girls' births. 
     SurvivorDad got the girls up and dressed with some very minor pointing and prompting from me in between contractions while I slid on a comfy skirt and shirt and we all loaded in the car. It was lovely to be heading for a place that they were welcomed to be with us for the birth as we didn't have to stop and leave them at the sitters. They'd already been well prepared for the big event with videos and information as a bonus of Mama being a childbirth educator in the making is she's got lots of good visual aids. In fact Sugar was so well prepared that a couple months earlier when asked by a kindly, older cashier at the grocery store if the stork would be bringing her a baby sister she replied politely with, "No, my mama will go to the midwife and go HOOAH and push our new baby out her vulva." Not so lovely was dealing with contractions that were slowly going from 2 minutes down to 1 minute apart while sitting in the passenger seat of a minivan and fighting weekday-morning freeway traffic. 
     We finally did arrive and I was by that point feeling some pretty major pressure. There were no last minute baby-belly photos as planned, I just wanted to get up to the beautiful birthing suite where I knew three very gentle women and a large tub of warm water were waiting. After a few quick words exchanged with the midwives, I used the restroom (at which point I was already feeling pushy although I tried to talk myself out of that fact too) and stripped down to the manky old nursing bra I'd worn to bed the night before and crawled into the tub. The black nursing tops I'd ordered specifically to wear in the tub so I'd look halfway decent in my birth photos stayed tucked firmly away in my bag and I had to have one of the midwives pull my hair back for me as I couldn't get myself together enough right then to do it myself. One of the girls got an "in labor" picture on their little fisher price camera and it was the only one taken before baby was actually crowning.  My friend rushed in just a few minutes before I started really pushing and made it just in time to settle down and talk the girls through the actual birth.
     SurvivorDad managed to get my cd playing for me on the cd player there and that was an amazing help as I could just focus on the baby and the music. Everyone just let things happen as they happened, letting me do whatever felt right at the moment and I ended up flipping from a semi-sitting position onto my hands and knees in the water. Over the course of 5 pushes total spaced out over 3 contractions, baby girl girl first crowned in the caul, then emerged with her head in precisely the intended position and finally arrived fully at 8:46 a.m. to the words of  The City Harmonic - Manifesto. The entire labor had lasted less than three hours. The midwife passed her between my knees to my waiting arms and I flipped back to my back and snuggled her close. As the midwives subtly checked her over on my chest I remember being amazed and overwhelmed at the instant and total sense of possession as I felt for her that had been absent at the hospital births of the other girls where the emphasis was on how long I'd be "allowed" to keep the baby on my belly before they were whisked away to be suctioned and examined while the O.B. dealt with me. 
     We relocated to the bed with some assistance and delivered the placenta (thankfully intact after having experienced a D & C to deal with retained placenta at the last birth).  My good friend cut the cord as hubby has never had any desire to do that part of things and Sweetness and I got lots of time to cuddle and start working on nursing while the midwives dealt with the blood loss that seems to be the norm for me when it comes to birth. I ended up getting a few shots of pitocin and after passing out in the bathroom (yay for the midwife apprentice who caught me before I slid to the floor) I also got an i.v. of pitocin and fluids but in spite of all that I felt 100% better than I ever had after delivering a baby before. When all was said and done, she  was a full 23 inches long and weighed in at 10lbs 3oz, 13 ounces heavier than Spice who'd been 13 ounces heavier than Sugar.  I had no tearing and my only pain at all was from a sore tailbone which I suspect had less to do with the actual birth and more to do with transitioning in the car for forty minutes with all the pressure of baby's head on that area and from the pretty heinous afterpains that pitocin and nursing bring on but they were doing their job. At no point while we were there did anyone ever tell me to pass the baby off or touch her or me without asking permission and explaining exactly what they were doing and why and then leaving me the choice of whether that was ok.  
     The big girls got to spend the afternoon with us meeting, holding and cooing over their new baby before SurvivorDad left to take them to our friends' house where they'd be staying for the two nights I was still resting up at the birth center. After the midwives felt that everything had settled down with my bleeding they left me in the care of the fantastic postpartum doulas there who spent two days helping me to and from the bathroom, checking our vitals at our convenience, bringing me snacks and meals at request (so much yummier than hospital food) and brewing me nettle iced tea.  One morning while I was there I got to enjoy a postpartum massage and the masseuse also gave Sweetness a sacro-cranial adjustment to help ease any issues from where her head was still molded from the birth. I remember laying in bed one night snuggling my sleeping baby and looking out my second story window down on the gated garden and feeling like a character in one of those old stories who's been given sanctuary at an old fashioned convent with the feeling of peace that pervades that space. The primary difference being that the patient, loving women caring for Sweetness and I were not wimpled nuns but rather pierced, tattooed, unshaven hippies which was just fine in my book.
     When the time finally came for us to go home I snuggled Sweetness close in the ringsling and walked with SurvivorDad and our doula out into the grey, drizzly Portland morning and snuggled her down into the waiting carseat for the first time. As happy as I was to start our life as a family of five instead of four I definitely didn't have that same relief to leave that I'd always had leaving the hospital with a baby. I got to go home feeling alert and well-rested and other than some lingering fatigue from the blood loss and anemia I felt ready to face the added challenge of a new little creature in our own particular parenthood jungle.

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