Whirlwind

These days, every hour counts. The days are rich and full. To-do lists are as endless as laundry but I am rejoicing in the sweetness of it all. I’m sorry that my posts are sporadic, as my opportunities to write peacefully are few and, like now, usually take three times as long as they used to because I am quietly typing one-handed with a sleeping babe on my lap. But life is happier and busier than ever.

Elijah is now a whopping four months old. My squinty, wrinkly newborn is gone and has been replaced by a cooing, plump, joyful little boy. He is a calm and cerious child, but delights in our time together. There’s just nothing that melts my heart like his smile when he sees my face. For that reason alone, I hope time slows down and that he doesn’t grow up too fast. I know my presence won’t always bring immediate joy, so I want to cherish this time when I can make all bad things go away with a comforting word, a smile, a nursing session. I understand now what it truly meant when my own parents would tell me that if they could have protected me from the hurts of the world, they would have. I would do anything to keep this child’s sense of innocent joy.

He is my life, pure and simple. I never knew I could love this much.

And the rest of our lives is a whirlwind of work and play. We now have 5 working hives, 3 of which are in very good shape, and the other two of which the outcome remains to be seen. Our original hive is struggling with typical bee pests–mites and moths–and we are doing our best to manage the problems organically and without chemicals. It is hard.

My little one is stirring so my time draws short, but needless to say that life is good. God has blessed us, and my heart overflows with gratitude every day. I never knew it could be this good.

Advertisements

My First Mother’s Day

This is my new favorite holiday. We celebrated with cards and gifts, a nice brunch out and I had the joy of a long, luxurious shower while Rob watched dogs and baby. But really, I didn’t need any of those things; it would still have been my favorite holiday. It was my first Mother’s Day.

Elijah Dolan, my beautiful son. We prayed for you for so long. It has been the biggest honor of my life to watch you grow in these short four months. Every day you learn something new. Your eyes see things with wonderment and awe. You are discovering how your body moves and works in the world, how to interact and how to react. There are still things that feel frightening: waking up is sometimes difficult and scary when you have been in a deep sleep. The other day a sudden movement caused your back to crack and that was a new and unexpected sensation.

But mostly your discoveries are exciting and fun. And lately, you’ve been wanting to tell me all about them. You are trying out new sounds and shapes with your mouth. You are enjoying playing with your hands. As often as I can, I try to introduce you peacefully to new sensations: together we learn about soft things, smooth things, cool and warm things, furry things, wet things. We talk about shapes and colors and animals. We listen to different sounds, and I hold things like peanut butter to your nose so you can experience different smells. I never knew that such simple things could bring me such joy.

I know that, when you are grown, you won’t remember these times. But I hope your heart will. I know this is true with my own mother–that I realize now how much my heart remembers. I don’t have a particular memory of being held, cuddled, kissed, changed, bathed, or tickled. But my mom and I have a bond that was forged from those intimate, loving moments. Eli, I hope the same will be true for us. For I love you more than I ever thought this imperfect human heart could love.

My first Mother’s Day as a mom. At least, in the typical fashion. Last year, so soon after the miscarriage, I feared I might never be a mother. But it was five days later that I found out little Eli was already in my womb. So I suppose it’s technically my second Mother’s Day as a mother! Either way, it’s better than Christmas.

Hiving Day

Last weekend we hived two new packages and attempted to install a new queen into our failing swarm hive. We’ll see today how everyone turned out!

I am continually impressed by how the amazing cohesiveness and intuitition of a honeybee hive. The more I study them, the more I want to learn. The more I want to truly be a bee-keeper and not simply someone who has bees. These bees and the way in which they help our land, our food chain, and even my own sense of responsibility as a caretaker is growing in its importance to me.

I’ve already arranged with a local farmer to teach some beekeeping courses this summer. We planted some buckwheat in the yard and are doing our best to keep the failing swarm hive going. We’re even on the waiting list for another package of bees in May–and, if everything works out (the swarm survives, our original hive requeens properly, our two new hives do well, and the waiting list hive comes through), we’ll be a five-hive property. Very exciting.

My goal for this year is to prepare for a mentorship program next year. It’s so important to me to have an education-based business model, rather than a sales-based one. Good business is built on relationships.  And, for us, good caretaking is built on helping others to learn from both our mistakes and our successes. Not to mention I love being a teacher–but, of course, if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that! 🙂

I’m hoping to update our business website as well today!

Bee Happy

Hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again when the beekeeper really starts rolling. We have an order arriving on Thursday which will contain two packages of bees and one extra queen, which will hopefully round out our small homestead apiary to four hives. Since I did such a poor job of updating you once my pregnancy hit me full force, here’s the rundown of our exciting bee-happenings from last year.

After we started making the honey, we realized we had a really good thing on our hands. We purchased a small hand crank honey extractor and harvested the surplus honey from our hive. All in all, we got almost 40 lbs. of surplus honey, plus plenty left over to feed the bees over the winter. Harvesting was sticky and fun, and through the generosity of our friends at Tangleweed Farm down the road we were able to sell some of our bounty. Here we are at the farm’s Open House selling our goods:

The sale of our honey was such a success that we had a whole email list full of customers. Our smaller, second harvest of the season was sold out before it even hit the shelves. This year, we’ve already had people asking about our honey, so we decided to make a go of expanding the business a bit.

In addition to the honey, I’ve started tinkering with beeswax products as well. So far I’ve made some basic lip balm and have just ordered some supplies to play with the recipe a bit. I also hope to try my hand at candles, soaps, and some healing salves–all using our girls’ honey or wax.

Of course, it’s tough to do this without mentors. There are no local beekeepers that we know of that can really show us how to do some more sophisticated maneuvers like rearing our own queens or collecting pollen to sell. So a lot of this is trial and error. But we’re reading everything we can get our hands on and luckily there is a large support system for small scale beekeepers on the internet. And we’re having a lot of fun.

Who would have ever thought, when we began dreaming of our own homestead, that I’d be a beekeeping gal who makes my own lip balm, collects eggs from the backyard coop each night, and gave birth in my own bedroom? Not me. But thank God for these blessings–I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The New Normal

Elijah’s Birth Story, Part V

 

The next days and weeks were filled with joys and challenges, as is the case with any new family. Christy and Robin stayed for a total of almost 24 hours, battling exhaustion at the end to make sure Elijah was healthy and ready to spend his first night safely in our arms. Breastfeeding was a challenge for the first five weeks or so due to some TMJ issues that Eli had as a result of his grand entrance. My in-laws stayed with us for the first four weeks (or I should clarify: Rob’s mom stayed for four weeks, Rob’s dad came the last of those four weeks) and helped immensely with our transition. My body struggled a bit regaining its strength and thank goodness that Annette was there to help me with the cooking, tidying, and laundry that was necessary as Rob went back to work. It was a time when we were figuring out what our new “normal” was going to be.

I am asked constantly if I would have made a different decision regarding homebirth if I had known the end of my labor would be so difficult. This question always surprises me–perhaps because I simply can’t imagine a labor and birth process any other way! I loved laboring at home, with my family and my animals and my own room. I loved being able to eat or drink or move whenever I wanted. I loved that medication simply wasn’t an option, and that I needed to rely on my own strength and bodily signals to help Elijah emerge into the world. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, at times it was painful. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not something that needs to be feared or avoided. I feel so much intimacy with the threshold between being in this world and being in God’s embrace after this experience. In many ways, it is a paschal experience. Birth and Death and Life–and trusting in God to guide us over those thresholds–hold such a sacred, delicate balance.

Being able to share this experience with a midwife is also something that I will always cherish, and the attention and care that she gave us is something that I think every woman deserves. When we were still seeing an OB/GYN, we were lucky if an hour’s wait in the waiting room led to more than a ten minute visit. We had to try to remember every question and cram it in, because obviously he was hurried and had other patients to see. I’ve heard stories from my friends about their OBs not even remembering their names or the circumstances of their pregnancies. Our experience with Christy was so different. She came to our home, and would listen to Eli’s heartbeat while I was laying on my own couch. She would sometimes have dinner with us, and we would talk at length about any question or concern or anxiety I had. She sacrificed many Friday nights with her own family so we could do after-hours appointments that Rob could attend. And in the hardest moments, I trusted her implicitly because we had built that relationship throughout my pregnancy.

Every woman who labors decides how they want to do it, and this is not the forum for saying what I think everyone should or should not do. It is simply my way to express what worked best for me and my family. I hope that every woman gives thought to such a choice. We have more strength than we give ourselves credit for–many women I have talked to have said they couldn’t imagine laboring without medication. And yet in doing so, they sacrifice feeling some of the most undeniably unique and intimate sensations a person can experience. Pain doesn’t always have to equate to suffering. Pain isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s a gift.

These days, I’m enjoying this new world as a mama. Being a witness to my son awakening to the world is a holy experience, one I am honored to experience. I’ve begun to see my relationship with my own parents in a new way, and likewise, with God. Elijah truly is a miracle. I pray that I may learn to gaze at God the same way Elijah gazes at me.

The adventure has only just begun.

Elijah’s Birth Story, Part IV

I was told that from the time the options were presented until the time we made a decision was about an hour. But all I remember from that time was lying on the bed next to Rob, sleeping deeply in between contractions and waking to endure them. I lost all sense of time. I had no idea what to do.

Then, suddenly, I remember waking and saying, “Let’s do it.” I felt a renewed sense of strength, and a decision needed to be made. Avoiding a decision would still be a decision, and it wouldn’t stop any of the discomfort from continuing. All I knew was that something had to change. I felt—albeit momentarily—strong enough to handle whatever consequences would come from breaking my water, whether that meant a hospital transfer or harder contractions. I looked to Rob to make sure the decision was also alright with him. It was.

Within minutes, Robin had checked Eli’s heart rate and then Christy had broken my water. We waited with bated breath as Robin re-checked his heart rate. The moment felt huge, even through my exhaustion. I felt the gravity of the results. Would I have a hospital birth, or a home birth?

Just as it had been the whole time, Elijah’s heart continued to beat strong. This kid was quite the fighter. If he could do it, so could I. We were in this together, and inwardly, I told him so.

I braced myself for the contractions to increase. It was time to move back into the water. The next hour was a blur. The contractions were strong and difficult. I slept in between. Robert, Christy and Robin continued to be my support team, and there were times when all I saw was Robert’s eyes, grounding me. I felt anxious, I felt despair, I felt hope and desperation all at the same time. I wanted to see my son. I wanted it to be over. But I also felt lost.

I stopped speaking. The only way to communicate became through nods or shakes of the head. I had to conserve all my energy, and talking felt like it used up too much. Besides, there were no words for these moments. It existed outside of time, outside of language. It was raw and primal and real, and the only way out was through.

I began to feel an enormous pressure descend toward my bottom. Some say it feels almost like a bowel movement, and in some way it does, but it was also different. The pressure began to increase with each contraction, and I couldn’t hold it back. I was afraid to push too soon this time, and I told Christy so—I told her also that I couldn’t hold it back. I didn’t know what I was waiting for, but I also didn’t know when the risk of re-swelling my cervix would have passed. I held the pressure at bay to the best of my ability.

The time finally came when Christy asked if I wanted her to check my cervix to see if there was any progress. I told her I wanted to wait a few more minutes. I needed to mentally prepare myself, and I wanted to be sure that I held that pressure off as long as possible. But after only a couple contractions, I couldn’t wait any longer. I asked her to check.

Before the check, I went to the bathroom. Christy and Rob talked softly outside. While in the bathroom, I secretly thought to myself, “If I haven’t progressed any more, I might need to go to the hospital. I’m just too tired.” I thought about relief from the pain. I dreamt of having a hospital around the corner. My resolve faltered, I feared the worst. I imagined that Rob and Christy were talking about the same thing (which I later found out wasn’t the case—they were discussing the positive aspects of my progress). I laid on the bed and looked to heaven. Please God, I whispered. Please. I looked once more to the purple letters on the wall. Support me, whatever the news is.

Christy got a distant look in her eyes as she concentrated during my contraction. Finally, she said, “There’s only a little bit of cervix left, and I think you can push past it. Let’s try on the next contraction. I want you to push when you feel the contraction coming on.” I felt relieved but not out of the woods. As the contraction began, I pushed. “Yep…” Christy nodded. “Yep. The baby was able to move past that last piece. Wow, you’re a great pusher, Stacia. This baby is going to be out in no time.”

Part of me couldn’t believe it. Was it finally time? “So I can push whenever I want?” I asked.

“You’re free to do whatever you feel like,” Christy replied. And it was then that I finally began to really feel what a “pushing contraction” felt like. It was something that I could aid, but couldn’t stop. Some women say that they felt a great sense of relief when the pushing started, although I’m not sure I can say the same. It didn’t necessarily feel “good,” but I can say that I was glad for the change of pace and the sense of progress.

I pushed for a few contractions on the bed. It was hard work, and I began to break out in a drenching sweat. I almost couldn’t believe how much I was sweating! It seemed to seep out of every pore of my body, from my scalp to my toes, dripping down my face and arms. I decided it was time to move back into the birthing tub for the final time. I wanted to give birth in the water.

Strange as it may sound, I could feel Elijah moving down the birth canal. I felt his progress physically, and I felt the emotional connection between us deepen. I would finally see this little man face to face—the one who had been kicking, elbowing, hiccupping, and back-flipping inside me for so many months. This was his final movement inside me, the last page of this first chapter in his life. A new adventure was about to begin.

After about 50 minutes of pushing, I began to feel the stinging sensation of his head emerging. I quickly told Christy and Robin that it was beginning to sting. I remember thinking that Christy seemed surprised for a split second, and then she and Robin disappeared briefly into the bathroom. They emerged quickly after, and Christy stood behind me as I began to push Elijah’s head out. At the time I was on my hands and knees in the pool, and Christy was monitoring Eli’s heart rate every other contraction. It remained strong until his head was halfway out, at which point she told me to flip over after his check. His heart rate sounded slower to me—a fact which she later confirmed—and I needed to reposition. After I did, it went back up immediately. His head emerged fully after two more pushes, then his shoulders, and finally the rest of his body. It was over. My son was born.

Christy caught him and immediately put him on my chest. I felt his little warm body, and was surprised at the thick layer of sticky vernix. It was hard for me to get a good look at him because of the angle he was at on my chest, but in many ways I was filled with disbelief. Was this really my son? Was the labor really over? What now?

During the many months leading up to his birth, I had pictured that moment over and over. I had imagined crying, or saying something like, “My son! My son!” and being flooded with overwhelming emotion. But the truth was, the physical and emotional exhaustion of the experience kept such an outpouring at bay. There would be time to process the emotions later; for now, the main feelings were relief and disbelief. I was looking forward to figuring out exactly how I felt, but I needed a little time.

 Elijah was remarkably calm–one of the benefits of waterbirth and delayed cord clamping. I couldn’t believe it. He was finally here, this warm, squishy bundle in my arms. He was so dependent and helpless, and I was now responsible for making sure he felt safe and protected. I knew instantly I loved him, although it took a few weeks for me to be in love with him. I think this is mostly because it was my instinctive mommy-sense that loved him, but it took a while before I began to know who I was loving. The instinct to love came first, and the choice to love came after.

I held him for about 15 minutes as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and as the midwives monitored his color and breathing. Then, after cutting the cord, Elijah was handed to Robert and I was helped out of the pool and onto the bed. I felt like I was finally returning to my body, and was aware of its separate-ness from the world for the first time in about twelve hours. My world was no longer my body’s sensations. It was now wrapped up in a little bundle on my husband’s chest.

[The last part, Part V, coming tomorrow…]