Posts Tagged ‘joy’

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…]

Elijah’s Birth Story, Part II

We awoke with the sunrise and I realized the contractions were still present, although not as strong as when we went to bed. It was unseasonably warm in Tehachapi—in the upper 50s—for a January day. We gathered the dogs into the car and headed to a favorite breakfast spot, a local diner named Kelcy’s. I remember we sat down at 8:05am and I ordered hot tea. We had our familiar waitresses—Terri, a feisty woman who liked to participate in the local community theater, and the Other Lady, who had a hairdo like Alice from the Brady Bunch and a tattoo on her forearm that always surprised me. Breakfast felt warm and intimate. I kept having contractions, and in some ways it felt like Rob and I had this amazing secret that nobody else knew. We were having biscuits and gravy, the people in the booth next to us were ordering banana cream pie for breakfast, and—oh yes—a baby was on his way. Can I have more honey for my tea, please?

By the time breakfast was over, I figured I was having regular contractions every 9-10 minutes. It was still very early, but things were undeniably regular and predictable. My parents let us know that they were on their way up with Annette. I had told Rob earlier that I feared that the excitement of the parents arriving would probably stop the contractions altogether, so when my mom asked if I was still contracting, I replied, “Not really.” After all, I didn’t want to get her hopes up. Or mine for that matter.

We spent the next few hours puttering around the house, joking, laughing, enjoying our time together. The carload of grandparents-to-be arrived around 11am, and we joyfully spent some time catching up with Rob’s mom. She had brought Robert’s baby book, and as we looked through I couldn’t help but wonder what our baby would look like. Would he be dark like Robert? Fair like me? Have a lot of hair? Have green eyes?

There were several moments when I had to sit back and settle into a contraction, concentrating hard on not letting anyone notice. Robert would glance at me knowingly. The surprising thing was, though, that they weren’t going away. I wasn’t timing them and still assumed that they would peter out like the other times. I even convinced myself that they weren’t getting stronger, even though I increasingly had to run to the bathroom or conveniently take the dogs outside to weather them, hunched over, breathing deeply. I figured that I was imagining what I wanted to happen. Certainly they would disappear as soon as I acknowledged them.

Yet there finally came a moment—or, rather, a stronger contraction—that I couldn’t hide. My mom was walking by, and I bent over with a “huhammmmmmmm….” and my mom instinctively just reached over and rubbed my lower back. “I can’t hide it anymore, Mom!” I moaned. “I’ve been contracting all morning!!!” So the cat was out of the bag. And, as it turned out, they didn’t go away. I was in labor.

We contacted Christy and she reminded us to call her again when the contractions were five minutes apart, one minute long, for one hour, and I was unable to talk through them. Rob suggested I take a shower, which sounded like a great idea. The warm water soothed me, and I liked the idea of entering labor feeling clean and fresh. It was in the shower that I had the first contraction that brought me to my knees—literally. It wasn’t that it was excruciatingly painful, in hindsight, but rather that it just felt natural and much more comfortable to drop to my hands and knees as the pressure-filled wave crested within me. Rob stayed by my side, coaxing me to relax and being the rock that I knew he would be—and have known him to be—all along.

Once out of the shower, I decided that hands and knees felt like a wonderful way to have contractions. So we got our exercise ball and a foam gardening pad and I spent time with the family for the next few hours. Every four minutes or so, I would drop, knees on the foam pad and upper body resting or rocking on the ball.  The mood was light hearted, and Robert timed the contractions on his watch while my dad timed them on the computer. It appeared that things were picking up speed.

One beautifully light and happy moment of these hours happened when Rob decided to wear a shirt that I had gotten as a free Labor Day promotion from a maternity shop. The shirt read, “Labor Day, How Hard Can It Be?” Because it was a woman’s shirt, it was very tight and effeminate-looking on my strong, masculine husband—the perfect way to make the whole household erupt into laughter. He was such a good sport, and wore the shirt until late into the night when things got a little more serious.

Finally it came time to call our midwife Christy. She came over and she, Rob, and I went back into our bedroom. She did a cervical check and I was about 2 ½ cm dilated, which showed that we were still very early in the labor process. But the contractions were strong enough, and she could tell things were happening. She suggested that I stay in bed and try to rest for as many hours as possible.  She would probably be back later that night, and asked Rob to keep her updated. By now, it was dinner time and the parents were cooking a roasted chicken in the kitchen. The contractions were getting stronger for me, and as Christy left I asked Rob to let the dogs into the room so I could labor a bit with the comfort of my beloved animals. Sugar, who had become very protective of me throughout the labor, seemed anxious and worried. She kept watch at the foot of the bed while I labored. Zoe, on the other hand, curled up on the bed right in front of me. I knelt by the bed during contractions, and she bent over and put her head on my shoulder. My two dogs, both filling different roles, both looking out for their mama. I was touched.

At one point Rob came in with a plate of chicken and some of the other food from dinner. I remember eating a little, but not being very hungry. I was urged to eat, and I knew I would need strength, but I just didn’t want to eat very much at the time. I tried to sleep a little between contractions. My parents left for the hotel after dinner, and asked us to call when things began to show signs of more progress. Now it was simply time to be patient.

Our birthing tub had been set up for about a week, but we had waited to fill it. Now the time had come, and we took out our brand new food-grade hose as instructed and hooked it up to the water heater. The idea was that the water heater would empty into the tub, we’d wait for it to refill, then we’d empty it one more time (which would fill the tub to capacity). The tub was designed to keep the water warm as long as we needed it.

There was, however, a flaw in our plan.

We had assumed that the hot water heater would actually drain, well, hot water. It didn’t. At best, the water was lukewarm.

The water had reached about halfway up before we realized that it wasn’t going to work. And the heating mechanism in the pool was only designed to maintain heat, not to actually heat the pool up. Frustrated, Rob drained the pool and we brainstormed other ideas. I suggested that we hook up the hose to the shower spigot and try to fill it up that way. It worked, but only partially. By the time the pool was full it was still only about 92 degrees. Not warm enough to labor in comfortably, and not warm enough to birth in. I even tried to get in it for a few minutes, and the swirling hormones combined with the below-body-temperature water made me shiver uncontrollably. We realized that this was probably a mistake and Rob quickly suggested I jump into a hot shower to warm up. I jumped out of the pool, anxious to have hot water warm me up…yet as I climbed over the lip of our bathtub into the shower, we both realized that this time our tub-filling had, in fact, drained the hot water heater. There was no hot water left.

Shivering, I crawled back into bed and covered myself with blankets. The contractions were getting quite strong now, and we were getting close to the time when we would need to call Christy. Although I’m sure his composure felt inwardly rattled, Rob suddenly transformed into a super-human birth coach. In the hour that followed, he managed to help me through the threshold toward more powerful contractions, decided to try to add boiling water to the pool, and kept Christy updated right until she walked through the door. Annette put a pot of water on every burner of the stove, and together she and Rob poured pot after pot of boiling water into the pool in an attempt to warm it up. Rob was determined to make sure I could labor in the tub.

It worked.

And, in retrospect, I feel it important to note that without that tub, my labor would have been much, much harder. That tub was my epidural. And my husband and his mom made sure I would have it. I will always be grateful for that effort.

Christy arrived at the end of their boiling-water efforts, and from this point on the details begin to feel a little hazy. I remember the lights being dim, but Christy suggesting we dim the room even more. I remember also getting into the pool almost immediately after her arrival. A little while later, the assistant midwife Robin also arrived. I felt very tired when she walked in, and managed a weak hello.

Shortly after Robin’s arrival, I realized I wanted my mom. It didn’t matter to me whether or not she was in the room, but I needed to know she was in the house. I needed to know she was there. They called my parents, and soon my mom came in to help Robert encourage me. It lifted my spirit enormously.

At some point, we decided to switch from dimmed lights to candles. We lit the candles on our wall, and the room suddenly had a reverent, intimate glow. At times, I labored quietly and at other times needed to moan loudly. The contractions were getting closer together and more powerful. Throughout each and every one, Robert knelt by the pool and coached me through them. Sometimes he would hold my face, sometimes my hands. Sometimes I would simply hold onto him. He soothed me and encouraged me with soft words, telling me he loved me and that I was doing a great job. He worked through fatigue and concern and his own discomfort from kneeling.

We spent several hours this way. Every few contractions, I would moan “ooooowwwww,” and Robert and Christy would remind me to say “ooooohhhhh” instead. They reminded me that the contractions were strong, but not painful. The contractions were strong, but I was stronger. I would be okay.

Most of my nighttime labor was in the tub. We only took a few short breaks for me to jump out, towel down quickly, and run shivering to the bathroom. I felt the pain and the power both—they blended into one another and did not contradict. I still managed to crack some jokes and make the midwives laugh despite pleas for me to rest and sleep. But I loved the experience, I loved the intimacy of that room. I wanted to relish in it, to wrap my soul with it and savor it. Laughter seemed most appropriate.

Sometimes, when the contractions got strong, I would take Rob by the hand. “You ready???” I would say. “Here we go!” It really felt like a team effort. At one point, Rob had me visualize a ski slope. “It’s just like one of the most challenging runs you ever did,” he said as the contraction began. And as it continued, he helped me to visualize the thrill and exhilaration of the slope, right down until the end when I slid to a stop. I wasn’t one for visualizations, and in fact that was the only one I did. But it worked.

As dawn approached, we began to experience what were the strongest of the contractions to that point. The midwives agreed with my suspicion that I was reaching transition, the shortest but most painful part of labor when the last of the cervix dilates. My mom came in and asked if I wanted my dad to get donuts, and I thought that it was a good idea. She let slip that it was about 5am, so the donut shop should be open—at which point both midwives seemed to slap their foreheads, as they had gone to great efforts to keep me from knowing the time throughout the night. I smiled inwardly, knowing that my mom hadn’t meant any harm. And I liked knowing that the night was almost over.

Gratitude

The weather has finally warmed up around here, and the hills are beginning to slowly shift to a gentle golden color. We’ve spent most of this week assembling our chicken run (hopefully we’ll be done by tonight), and it has been so fun to watch our eight girls learning how to become hens. Their chick peeps morph every once in a while to a sound that Rob has aptly nicknamed “proto-cluck.” They’ve grown bigger in two weeks than I could have ever imagined. And all around our homestead seems to whisper: “Life.”

I can’t help but be filled with a deep sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the friends we’ve made up here so far, gratitude, for the land, gratitude for the animals in our care. Underneath all of it is the ever-present awareness that none of it is really “ours,” but I feel so lucky that we have been entrusted with this little space of earth and life for this small amount of time. I intend to do right by everything that has been put under my care. I intend to do my best in helping it to fulfill as much potential as possible.

We’ve now been in this home for six months. Hard to believe–it seems like only yesterday that we were pulling furniture out of snow-covered trucks. The more we do with the land, and the more we expand our family (we arrived with cats, then added a dog, then bees, now chickens…what will be next?), the more I feel like this is exactly where we were meant to be.

Take, for example, this fine sight:

It’s good to be home.

Whew!

The bees are coming, and we’re ready for them.

We spent the weekend putting the finishing touches on the hives and creating some wind-breaks that won’t blow over in our sometimes 75-mph gusts.  We painted the hive a light yellow. The paint is necessary to seal the wood, but it has to be a light color. Dark colors will absorb summer heat, and that’s not good for the bees–they work very hard to keep the hive at a perfect 95 degrees.  Thus, a lighter color makes that job a little easier for the workers who spend their days regulating temperature in the hive.

We’ve added a top feeder, instead of a front-entry feeder (makes it harder for the nectar-substitute to be stolen by other insects/animals). We also added a queen excluder, so the queen won’t be able to get into the super that will have the honey frames (you don’t want eggs in your honey!).  The bees are set to arrive Friday, and we’re waiting with great anticipation.

Also, we’ve finally got a few answers about our poor Sugar, who is still not feeling very well:

Turns out she has a little protozoa infection. We’re going to get medicine for her in the next few days (unfortunately the vet who finally figured it out is 2 hours away in LA), and she will hopefully be as good as new in a week or so.

Finally, I’m immersed in one of the best and hardest classes of my life. I’m translating more Greek and thinking more critically than ever before. My professor is notorious for being an enormously hard grader–so I’m needing to constantly remind myself that I am there to learn, not get letters in a grade book.  But the class has re-awakened that seminary fire in me, and I’m grateful. It makes the commute a little more bearable!

Our seedlings should be in the ground in the next few days or so. I’ll keep you posted.

The Hillside

 

The other day I was taking Sugar out to the backyard for a break from housework and a little fun throwing ball. As soon as we stepped out the back door, her ears perked up and her back arched. She stood at full attention, eyes fixed on the hillside. The air was still and cold, the clouds hung low, and the light was dimming in the early evening. I squinted, following her gaze, and then the hillside began to move.

There is a herd of cattle that comes down every so often into the area just beyond our back yard. This was the closest I had ever seen them–not twenty feet from where I was standing. And yet they blended so well into the hillside. They were hues of beige and light brown, but it was the calves that drew the most attention. They were snowy white and hopping around happily, completely unaware that potential predators had just walked out a back door just a few feet away.

Of course, the threat to them was, in reality, very low. I was in awe and my dog was a bit frightened by the large, slow moving beasts. But there was a beauty of that shared moment. Together we stood, Sugar and I, breathing in this piece of unhindered nature, of wildness, of countryside. I felt happier and more fulfilled watching a herd of wild cattle on a hillside than I ever did in the fast-paced life of the city.

After an eternal moment, the adult cattle noticed my presence and began to usher the younger ones back up the hillside. The blended back in to the landscape, perceptible only by flashes of moving color. Andthen,  just like that…they were gone. I breathed a word of thanks to them for our brief encounter, and then led Sugar out to the front of the property for a game of fetch.

It’s good to be home.

Planes, Demolition, and Sugar

 

Hey folks! Happy New Year. I feel ashamed that it’s taken me this long to get back into the swing of things, but so it is. We had a wonderful time in New Jersey, and arrived back in California stuffed full of homemade cookies and lots of love. It’s good to have such amazing family on both Rob’s and my side; the hard part is that they’re spread across 3,000 miles. I wish I had Superman’s gift of flight and supersonic speed. Perhaps I’ll ask for it next Christmas, it would make visiting so much easier!

Leaving the homestead for 10 days was a bit nervewracking considering all of the bathroom excitement of December, but everything was fine when we returned home. I have to admit: I was really happy to be returning to this place. Often when we used to return to LA and our noisy apartment, I would be filled with the urge to get back on the plane and fly far, far away. But it felt different when the wheels touched down this time. I was anxious to get back here. I wanted to see the land again. I wanted to hear the silence. Even the challenges of gutting our bathroom and all the other projects that need to be done (it’s a long list; we made it on the plane) seemed doable and even enjoyable.

We got right to work, visiting our most frequented spot in Tehachapi almost immediately (Home Depot, of course!). Rob ripped off the final remaining wood panels from our bathroom ceiling and I got to smashing in the drywall by the pipes for the tub/shower. We’ll have to have our plumber replumb those pipes–he’s coming to assess the situation today. We also had a tub/shower delivered since the old antique clawfoot tub shall never set its clawfoot in this house again (if somebody hadn’t bought it, I’d swear I would use it for a flower pot). This weekend my dad will help us hang drywall on the ceiling and walls, and in a week and a half Rob’s dad is flying out from NJ to help us tile the floor and walls.  Once again, these daunting tasts are made less daunting through the help of family.

Finally, our latest news is the new addition to our family. No, no baby yet, but a beautiful dog named Sugar. She’s about a year old, gentle as can be, and is getting used to the new rules of the house. So far she’s gotten along fine with our cats, is responding well to us teaching her commands, and is making sure we get back in shape through her energetic walks twice a day. Those Christmas cookie pounds will be gone in a couple of days at this rate! We’re happy to have her in our home and are both still getting used to the different pace of life that comes with having a dog. It’s true–they require a lot more attention than cats. But it’s also good preparation for what is to come–hopefully, the chickens, the bees, the goats, the garden. All will demand our attention in a new way, and we’re preparing ourselves for that.

So life continues to change, or perhaps it continues to change us. We’re being shaped and molded by our experiences here. And I say with honesty and joy: I like who we’re becoming.

Getting Closer

house_pano_compressWe took my parents up to the house on Sunday and gave them the grand tour. We also got a closer look at the details of the place–we went inside the root cellar, took a peak inside the jacuzzi, gave a the chicken coop a once-over. The grape vines might be able to be salvaged, but they haven’t been watered in a very long time. There’s also an unused foundation that may someday turn into the goat barn–who knows! Some fruit trees are already planted, but I think we are going to expand the orchard. The chicken coop will need some protective wiring around the area. I can’t wait to watch the sun rise out of that kitchen window.

The potential just seems to ooze out of every element of this place. I can see all the different possibilities of what we can do, and I am still in disbelief that this is actually my life.

The best possible scenario is that we move in over Thanksgiving weekend. And we will be giving thanks indeed! For now, a slow and steady pace of work will be necessary for the short run. Juggling seminary and packing will not be easy. But, in a strange way, I’ve always enjoyed packing. The potential and hope of the new place always keeps me going.

At this time of year, it gets around freezing at night in Tehachapi. I’m going to have to find a good winter coat. This isn’t the Southern California beach weather anymore, Dorothy!

Each day gets us one step closer.