Our First Birth

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Fall 2012: I was pregnant for the first time. I had plenty of “mom” friends but none who really discussed birth. Sure, we talked about sleep and foods and car seats and even babywearing. But birth? Not so much.

I read Ina May. I loved my growing bump. I made plans for a natural hospital birth, plans to breastfeed, and plans to rock my first year post partum. Looking back, I still pat myself on the back. I really did a lot “right” in terms of education. I knew how labor and delivery drugs could affect me AND my baby in terms of recovering, bonding, and nursing. I knew I didn’t want them.  What I see now, is that I never made a plan. I set a goal, a BIG goal, and assumed that wanting it enough would get me there.

Spring 2013:  Sometime in my third trimester, I was informed my due date was off. I accepted the fact blindly without asking why they shifted it. A handful of appointments later and suddenly I was past my due dates and the world was ending. I was sent for an ultrasound and a non-stress test. I was measured repeatedly and suddenly grilled about my diet and exercise regimen.  My membranes were swept without my permission (OUCH) and an induction date was set.

I was so stressed. I wanted to have that fun story to tell about when I went into labor or when my water broke. I did not want to have my “fun” story start with drugs that I never wanted to begin with.  But I was scared. They told me she was big and I was small. They told me I had entered a phase when complications start but couldn’t actually tell me WHAT complications.

So I did what any good soon to be mama who was SCARED would do; I capitulated. I showed up for my 7am induction appointment.

Have you ever heard of the “cascade of interventions”?   That’s what happened to me. Textbook.

Pitocin….too much pitocin…not enough pitocin….contractions on top of contractions….not allowed to eat food…scared….unsupported….

Literally a full day went by. I remember lying facedown in the hospital bed hoping that my uterus would rupture and kill me. The amount of pain I was in was unbearable because there was no break from it and nobody to tell me if I was safe or not. I remember hoping I wasn’t safe and that death would be imminent. I know this sounds dramatic but I really didn’t want to go on. I didn’t want an epidural and relief from the pain; I wanted to be done with it all. There was no cell left in my body that wanted to be a mother anymore.

The cascade continued: epidural…pushing…resting….pushing….internal monitor…exhaustion….no more options…..34 hours later….c-section.

I know now that my recovery was swift and uneventful, but it was horrific from my side of the story. Everything hurt. Breastfeeding was a nightmare. Everything hurt. Breastfeeding continued to be a nightmare. Everything continued to hurt.

I don’t think people say it enough so let me tell you: everything hurt. My epidural caused a slow leak that left me with vertigo and horrible migraines for over a YEAR. The epidural also left me with phantom back pains that were basically surprise shots of lightning up and down my entire spine. I still experience these, sometimes so violently that I have to stop what I’m doing to breath through them.  My ribs were broken in the process of getting my very stuck baby out of a very small incision. They hurt me off and on for over 18 weeks and one has never re-fused so it hurts me often, sometimes multiple times a day still. My guts felt like they were falling out of my body, held in only by a row of staples and sutures. My genitals were swollen and disfigured from 5 hours of pushing and having a catheter for days. I couldn’t pick anything up if it wasn’t already sitting in my lap and being drugged up on pain medications, living in the drug-fog made me so upset.

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So yes, “in the end” both mama and baby were “healthy” but that’s actually a sack of shit. I was not healthy, even when most of the aches and pains went away. The first year of my daughter’s life involved nursing woes and moderate to severe post partum depression. My daughter was puffy and swollen. She cried all the time and was the worst sleeper known to man. I had horrific PTST anytime I thought about my birth experience and every single time I heard another mother recount the same story, it broke my heart and gave me nightmares for weeks. Healthy? No.

But I did eventually go home with a baby who I thought was the bees knees. I loved her and I wanted to be able to love her fully and be her best mama.

G and I hit our turning point a few months after her first birthday. (There was no party; I was not up to it, still.) By that second summer, nursing was a breeze and was a way we stayed connected even through the budding toddler-issues. We went to the farmer’s market, laughed at the dogs, and I started to feel really whole and capable as a mother for the FIRST TIME since she was born.

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I also found a community, online and in person, of moms who supported each other and tended towards the “crunchy” side of living. These moms first started to introduce the idea of birthing as something normal, natural, and goddess-like. I will fully admit the first few times I heard their triumphant birth stories, I scoffed and moved on. They surely were idiots whose main focus for being placed on this earth was to have no feeling in their abdomens and huge vaginas for their kids to fall out of, right?

But then I started seeing that a huge amount of these wide-vagina’d mothers were just like me. They had the same birth story to tell the first time and the opposite story to tell the second time. They used words like “healing birth” (which to me just sounded like doped up suicide) and talked about births where they were surrounded by women the entire time they labored and pushed. I started actually considering another baby. I looked at my daughter as she played at the park with sets of siblings and cried when she had to come home to zero siblings.

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And just like that, I had baby fever.

One Pan Cheater Banh Mi

This is adapted from a very simple recipe in the “Better Homes and Gardens One Pan Recipes” 2014 cookbook. (Side note: I am a sucker for the “cookbooks” sold next to magazines at the Safeway checkout stands and they always disappoint. Imagine my surprise when I unearthed this gem during the dining room KonMari and found it FULL of recipes that were awesome or easily adaptable!)

So first things first because I really never can just dive into the recipe: This is “cheater” banh mi because the veggies are cooked and not just pickled and it doesn’t call for any “exotic” veggies like daikon radish. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them, of course!

This recipe would be fantastic over herb rice if buns aren’t your thing. They are a REAL treat here in our house. Poor G begged to eat one from the second they hit our cart until the moment I shoved them all into the oven.

Also, if you follow the recipe as written, realize that it isn’t dairy free and gluten free unless you specifically use DF and GF buns, bread crumbs, and soy sauce.

A final note: This recipe calls for so little of each ingredient that it is super affordable to go all organic/grassfed/etc.

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Ingredients:
-1 egg
-1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
-3 tbsp soy sauce
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 lb ground beef
-3 medium carrots
-1 medium onion
-3 tbsp brown sugar
-3tbsp rice wine vinegar
-9oz fresh spinach
-6 hoagie buns

Directions:
1. Set extra large skillet to medium.
2. Lightly beat egg in medium mixing bowl and add breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp soy sauce, garlic, and mix well. Add in ground beef and form into 1-inch diameter meatballs. Being precise isn’t important but I got about 30 meatballs total.
3. Cook meatballs in hot pan for 10 minutes. Roll around every few minutes to encourage browning all over. I used a heavy, well-seasoned cast iron. If you use something else, be sure to lubricate with oil or butter!
4. Meanwhile, wash and chop the carrots into matchstick pieces and slice the onion thinly. Remove the meatballs from the pan (they won’t be quite cooked through) and add the veggies. Cook for 4-5 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.
5. Add the brown sugar, remaining soy sauce, vinegar, and meatballs to pan. Stir to coat and cook for a few minutes to rewarm the meatballs. Top with spinach and cook just enough to wilt. Turn off heat and cover.
6. Toast buns and serve!

Full Term!

I am in a state of disbelief but here we are! (And I do apologize for not updating for over five months……)

The last half of this pregnancy has literally flown by.  Between opening a new business, konmari-ing our house, and keeping up with G, I couldn’t tell you where the weeks all went.

Send some good birthing vibes our way and I’ll update with photos as soon as she’s earthside!! Thank you for all the love.

Babies

I originally started this post as a pregnancy update, but as I started to free-write, something else entirely came to me. So, I’m going to do an abbreviated update and then transition to something heavier. 

Update:
About 16 weeks along and so very glad to be done with the first trimester. With G I always wondered what the point of defining trimesters was, but this one is teaching me! With this rainbow baby, I lost weight and was consistently exhausted, nauseous, and emotional until right about 13 weeks. The second trimester brought mild weight gain, a marked increase in energy, and an improved attitude. I am still dealing with surprise bouts of nausea and some really fierce food cravings but am starting to truly have more good minutes, hours, days, than bad. My pregnancy insomnia also seems to be abating; I cannot emphasize how alarming it was to be getting less than four hours of sleep per night.

The belly is extremely present now and difficult to hide. Maternity pants and stretchy skirts are a necessity, and feeling baby thumping around in there are all making the pregnancy feel persistently real.

We found out on Father’s Day that we’re having another GIRL and sorted clothes and started preparing the nursery space in our room.

This pregnancy has been so beautifully peaceful and simple and mostly relaxed. I don’t have any fear about the actual pregnancy or delivery. We have a lovely medical team. G is ready to be a big sister. I have blissfully forgotten how little sleep one gets with a newborn….  🙂

The Heavier Part:
Many well-meaning folks have asked me if I’m excited about “Baby Number Two”. The answer is a wholeheartedly enthusiastic, “YES!!”  followed by a silent, painful, “but this is baby number three.” said only in my head and my heart.

And I know very well that nobody means to hurt me or make for an awkward time. I do know that through and through.

So what’s a mama to do? Be the downer in the room by talking about my dead baby when friends and family are only excited and happy about the next one and trying to show us love? To nod and smile and later carry the heavy guilt of letting a child I loved be forgotten?

Because all the love and light and excitement and anticipation and blessings I feel now for this babe, I’ve felt before. Twice. The first time gave me G. The second time gave me a miscarriage and a severely broken heart. But just because that life ended before I could hold it didn’t mean the love and longing ended. The love and longing also are not transferable; what I feel for this baby is not just a continuation of what I never got to finish with the last.

So this is me remembering my lost babe. This is me saying:

“I loved you, sweet babe. You were real. You were significant. I miss you. My happiness for my children will always be paralleled with a sadness for never having had the chance to know you and see you. You are my second baby even if I can’t acknowledge that out loud every time I talk about our family. My grief for you has dulled and smoothed out into a small stone lodged in my heart. I think about you every day and it doesn’t hurt me as much as it did when it was a glass shard, but I still think about you and wonder. I will always touch your sisters’ heads and wonder what yours would feel like too. I’m sorry, every time, that I’m not brave enough to force others to remember you as vividly as they will know your sisters but this is my small attempt. I love you as much as I love them.”

Birth and Pregnancy Shaming

This post of mine has been a long time coming, but I’ve struggled severely with how to illustrate my point without just ranting like a crazy woman. I still don’t know if I’ve walked that fine line or not, to be honest.

Birth and Pregnancy Shaming:

Everyone has their idea of what is “right and proper” for birth and pregnancy. Everyone believes in their own choices (hopefully) because they are the choices that are “best and safest” for their unborn child and themselves.

Fortunately we have an overwhelming amount of science that makes some things quite clear; avoid certain drugs, don’t drink alcohol in excess, don’t smoke, don’t stew in hot tubs for hours.

Unfortunately we have even more muddy or unclear science. There are studies that “prove” that caffeine causes miscarriage. There are studies that show it doesn’t. There are studies that show it is good during pregnancy. We have studies that demand women sleep on their left side for 40 weeks. We have studies that completely disprove the left-side business.

So why all the shame? Why all the fear mongering?

I’d like to suggest something novel: The next time a mother is doing something you don’t agree with for her pregnancy or birth……..keep your mouth shut.   If you can’t do that, when you open your mouth, offer to walk her dogs or mop her floor or mow her lawn or rub her shoulders. If you can’t do that, stay away from her.

Because you know what we DO have hard science on? The effects of stress and fear on labor.  We know, without a doubt, that mothers who spend their entire gestation period being shamed, flamed, and guilted by people who ought to be lifting them up, statistically have harder, longer labors that are more likely to result in needing surgical interventions.

My final note (sorry, it ain’t short):

If someone trusts you enough to talk about their pregnancy and/or birth wishes with you, don’t violate that trust unless you know beyond a doubt that what they’re choosing is inherently dangerous.

Example? Birth plans. I hear over and over that they’re ridiculous because birth is unpredictable.  News flash…everything in life is unpredictable. When you go on a roadtrip, you still map out your route, make hotel reservations, and scope out tourist attractions. Yes, you might hit a deer just a few hours after leaving your house and you may never see the tourist attractions or make any of your hotel reservations. So guess what; you’re still NOT RIDICULOUS for making plans. Recently there has been a rash of birth plan shaming on social media. Either the plan is too long or too demanding or has poor grammar or has verbage in it that could be off putting/offensive/alarming. But the rub is that you know nothing about that mother, her previous birthing experiences, or her birthing location. You don’t know if she feels the need to frame things a certain way to try and make a point. Further, how is posting screen shots of her birth plan to mock her going to help? How are sarcastic comments about her plan being dismissed by her medical professionals going to help? Even if she never sees your comments or your shaming, you are putting shame out there for other pregnant women to see and to wonder if they’ll be your next target.

Saying that the only important birth plan is “Healthy baby and healthy mother” is small and diminishing of the complete birthing experience. Birth trauma is real and extends far beyond the physical ramifications of having a human removed from your abdominal cavity. If your wishes for your birth were never considered or respected, it can most definitely have an effect your future births and even your ability to bond with your baby.

Another example: someone wants a homebirth. Assuming they have a good midwife, homebirths are as safe or safer than hospital births for mothers who are deemed good candidates for homebirth by their midwife.  Does the thought of homebirth terrify you? Why? What do you actually know about homebirth statistics? Did you know that in most countries midwife homebirths are covered by insurance? Did you know that your fear of homebirth is YOUR problem and that is isn’t the job of any pregnant woman to help YOU deal with YOUR own internal issues?

These are only a few of the many options that mothers are shamed for. Scheduled repeat c-sections, choosing to never try to breastfeed, wanting to breastfeed to normal term, pain medications, eating one’s placenta, etc. Yes there are pros and cons, risks and benefits to each.  Some mothers genuinely want or need help doing their research to feel affirmed in their choices, but many do not want your unsolicited opinions.

I don’t very often ask other people to not stand up for their “beliefs” but this is one of those rare cases where you will probably only do harm in a backhanded way.

A Loss, A Surprise, & A Choice

A Loss: 

Many of you know that at the end of February, we had a miscarriage after over a year of trying for a second baby.

My first pregnancy was easy. We had to try for years and years, but once I saw those two pink lines, I never had fear or apprehension. I never threw up or peed my pants. I just had an easy, happy, exciting pregnancy.

With the second, I felt the same. Mostly just that I needed to get the house cleaned and organized and sort the newborn clothing out of the bin full of clothing that just didn’t fit G anymore. I was sicker but not unbearably so.

So when I started bleeding at nine weeks, I was dumbfounded and still didn’t even suspect miscarriage.

It really wasn’t until I saw an ultrasound with no more baby that it really hit me: I had lost my second baby. I was alone, caring for a toddler and a dozen other living creatures,and my baby was gone. Was I going to have to watch another year of charting and negative pregnancy tests go by before I got another chance? How the hell was I supposed to tell my husband that the baby was gone when he returned from deployment? It all made me sick and sad and sorry.

And despite my best intentions, it made me bitter. We are a happily married couple. We own our house. We have stable income and a happy toddler. And darn it, we WANTED another baby. It seemed like every day, a dozen friends who weren’t sure if they were ready for parenthood announced their accidental pregnancies and grew round and gave birth.

A few months have passed and my yearning for another baby hasn’t waned a single bit but the bitterness has.

A Surprise: 

And I find I’m pregnant again. That fast.
And I’m not happy. I’m not excited. I’m bitter again. I’m scared. I’m angry. I’m recalling how much I loved finding out I was pregnant the first time and the second time. And now it’s the third time and the joy is gone. I have a baby the size of a grain of rice in my belly and a hot coal the size of my heart in my chest.

I’m so scared of losing this one. I’m honestly believing I can’t make it through another loss.

I’m intensely resentful that I’m not immediately happy. I’m sitting on the floor of the dirty bathroom sobbing with a pregnancy test in each hand.

A week has passed and my bouts of crying are being replaced by bouts of happiness here and there.

And then I’m bleeding again.

I’m sitting on the floor of my now clean bathroom sobbing but my toddler has fallen and needs me to get my act together. “It’s not fair,” is all I can think. “It’s not fair.”

It’s Friday and the clinic can’t see me until Tuesday. I’m intensely mad now, for not finding a midwife sooner. But some part of me didn’t think this pregnancy would stick anyways so I was dragging my feet in every way.

I spend the weekend as a pendulum, swinging wildly between absolute rage and the bluest sadness I’ve ever encountered.

It’s Tuesday and all I can think as I strip from the waist down is that I now know what an non-viable pregnancy looks like on the ultrasound. It looks like what it is…it looks misshapen and flat and boring. Nothing is moving; it is, indeed, lifeless.

I’m talking to the tech and I’m feeling proud of myself for keeping my shit together. I’m not sobbing, I’m not angry. I’m hoping I’m affable and composed but assuming she’s put on her polite-hat since she knows what’s coming as well as I do.

I’m lying on the table quietly and my head is ringing, trying to find the words to tell everyone that there’s no baby. I’m putting my feet in the stirrups and scooting down to the edge with the crazy notion that this shouldn’t be so hard because I’ve had practice.

And then I look at the screen and there’s a baby. A baby. A head, two arms, two legs, and a small yolk sac. And I want to throw up because that’s worse than seeing a lifeless blob and knowing it’s all over.

And then the tech is laughing gently and telling me there’s a heartbeat and I’m due on Christmas and the baby looks lovely and she’ll hurry up and finish the measurements so I can relax.

I’m sitting on the floor of my somewhat dirty bathroom sobbing with an ultrasound print in my hand. I can’t understand why I’m not happy until I realize the last time I felt this way. The last time I was sobbing like this was when I was mad for being in love with someone I had to say goodbye to. I wasn’t in love, truly, until I saw that wiggling baby with its wiggling arms and tiny stubby legs and giant beating heart. And I’m still believing that I’ll never get to hold this baby that I’ve been allowed to fall completely in love with.

A Choice:

I choose to celebrate this tiny life, no matter how long it might be.
I respect those who don’t share for fear of miscarriage but that makes me sad too. We should celebrate and share, even if there is a possibility of loss.

I choose to stop worrying about my heart. Loosing this child at any time will hurt. But it will not hurt more or less if I worry more now. It will not hurt more if I share before the end of the first trimester. It will not hurt more if I don’t keep it all a secret.

I choose to be full of love and joy and thanks.

I choose to make plans and to wash newborn clothing and to buy the designer maternity jeans I coveted my first pregnancy when they pop up on sale.

I am choosing to savor every day that I have with my children and I choose to not worry about what “might” happen.

I have chosen to love this baby as much as the one I birthed over two years ago and to plan for both of their futures equally.

EDIT:
In my sleep-deprived haze, I forgot to add something very important!

The clinic had two doctors review the scans after I left. They both agree that the bleeding is caused by a small, asymmetric subchorionic hemorrhage that they both believe is no danger to the pregnancy no to me. I was hoping to avoid ultrasounds completely after having G but I am grateful beyond words that we have this technology when it is needed.

I cried (this time at work, not in the bathroom) many tears of joy.

I am still crying tears of joy and fear. But mostly joy.

I am lifted up by all of the love that has been freely given to us since I published the original blog. Thank you is not enough.

I will keep everyone updated.

Genesis

Genesis

Here it is….the beginning of the blog.

I’m still figuring this all out: a new blog platform, new topics, and new lifestyle so bear with me and send me comments and suggestions, please.

xoxo
Andria (and G)