For home school, I try to have my kids write something in their journals several times each week. I let them pick what they want to write about, and they usually come up cool stuff. In the week after my baby was born, we mostly took a break from “school,” but we did have the kids write in their journals a few times. It was my 10-year-old’s idea to write about Hope’s birth. As soon as I found out what she was doing, I was eager to share her account on my blog. At first she didn’t want me to post it, feeling a little self-conscious. But I’m so glad she decided to let me go ahead. With her permission, I will transcribe her journal entry here:
On the early morning of Christmas day my parents woke me up and told me that my mom was in labor and said if I wanted to come I had better get up and find something to bring. So I changed, got my water bottle, some snacks, and a magazine my parents gave me.
That’s when I dropped my pants.
Funny how few circumstances there are when going bottom-less in front of other human beings is totally appropriate, but childbirth is one of them. I was ready to get in the tub. So I settled into the warm water, my husband held my hand, and Cherise knelt beside us and started pouring water over my belly. A few moments later, Mary came and stood at the foot of the tub. She must have known somehow that I was still feeling guilty about giving birth on Christmas, and she knew I needed a way to let that guilt go. The words she said to me… oh those words… those beautiful, beautiful words. Perhaps I’m not quoting her exactly right, but she looked straight into my eyes and said words very similar to this:
There is no greater gift to God’s service than what we’re doing right here right now.
As soon as her message penetrated my heart, it was as though the guilt instantly released its grip on me, and I began to cry. It was a massive, monumental, beautiful release. I sobbed, “Thank you…” and Mary didn’t skip a beat before responding, “Thank YOU.” Cherise and Mary both encouraged me to cry and let it out. This was the first time I had ever cried in labor, and it felt good. Releasing those trapped negative emotions allowed my body to move forward, and the contractions became even stronger.
My midwife partners and I at the The Farm learned by observation and experience that the presence of even one person who is not exquisitely attuned to the mother’s feelings can stop some women’s labors. All women are sensitive. Some women are extraordinarily so. -Ina May Gaskin
Apparently, reading Ina May Gaskin is a great way to boost oxytocin levels. My contractions had fizzled out when I curled up in bed to read, but within twenty minutes or so they were back. I kept reading for a while, but eventually I turned off my lamp and slept through the waves. As I slept, I noticed the contractions, but they were never strong enough to wake me completely.
Sometime around 4:00 a.m. my husband got up with an earache. I decided to get up too and start timing my contractions again. It was not the ideal time for him to be sick (ha, is it ever?), but I did my best to make him more comfortable with all the various natural remedies up my sleeve. It was looking highly likely that we would be having a Christmas baby, so he promised he would focus on supporting me despite his aching ear.
I really didn’t want to call my midwives. It was Christmas morning! And I especially didn’t want to bother them if it was just a false alarm. I waited until contractions were coming between 5 and 10 minutes apart and lasting a minute. And finally I bit the bullet and paged them. Amy was the one who called back (she was on-call until 7:00 a.m.). I told her I felt like maybe I was holding my labor back because I wasn’t yet at my birth location, so I felt like I should probably come in. She said that was fine and that she would meet us at the birth center.
[The first part of Hope’s birth story is HERE.]
As I wrote in the first installment of this story, giving birth is such a multi-layered experience. And what a woman is feeling has such a deep impact on how the birth unfolds. With that in mind, I can’t really give the full scope of what I went through with Hope’s birth without sharing some deep emotional upheaval I experienced a week before. In my last post I shared one layer of my pre-birth emotional state: fear about letting my baby come out. Today I’ll make Brené Brown proud with some hard-core vulnerability and share another layer.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust. -Psalms 91:4
With each of my births it has gotten harder and harder to write about the experience. A birth carries with it so much depth, so many layers of emotion. I feel like human language doesn’t have the capacity to truly encompass or articulate the profundity of it all. At the same time, I think that writing is an important way to process intense experiences, and I value having a record of important events. So, despite the weakness of the written word, I am sitting here with my baby strapped to my chest and my birthing music playing in the background with the intent of documenting my fifth venture into giving life.
I was afraid to let her come out. Having this baby inside of me had been such a peaceful journey. As my belly grew, my mental health steadily improved. I felt so stable. I felt so safe. But giving birth was going to create a lot of inevitable upheaval. And I was afraid of what was going to happen to me. Would I plunge into darkness again? Would my stable, happy world crumble to pieces as it had more than once before? Would I be able to give my baby the love she deserved?
In the weeks leading up to the birth, I spent a lot of time processing those fears. And I knew that those fears could potentially interfere with labor progress if I didn’t figure out how to let them go. When I woke up early in the morning on Christmas Eve with contractions, I felt a bit of panic. And when I used the bathroom and noticed the blood, I knew I had to finally come to peace with letting this baby come out of my body. My husband comforted me for a bit, and then I told him to get some sleep. I texted several friends and family members about the bloody show and mild early labor contractions. Then I sat in the early-morning glow of the Christmas tree and meditated.
Science has suggested that it is the fetus itself who signals the start of labor. This is related to certain proteins in the baby’s lungs, but proteins aside, it does seem fitting for a baby called Hope to choose Christmas morning for her birthday.
I really didn’t want to give birth on Christmas, but give birth I did anyway. :-) The experience was so many unexpected things, just as this pregnancy and all of the past year has been. I have never been so emotional during a birth, never before cried, never before vomited, and never felt so supported. I have never been filled with so much gratitude even amid the hardest pains. Most of my tears were just that… thankfulness… to my birthing team, to my baby, and to the Divine forces at work. I will post the full birth story later. Still processing.
Last week was crazy busy. That was probably true for most of us. Now that all the Christmas preparations are finished, all the holiday events have been attended, homeschool is on break, and my school-employed husband is home for at least two weeks, I feel like I can finally mentally, physically, and spiritually prepare myself for my baby’s birth (I’ll be 38 weeks tomorrow). On Thursday afternoon I told my husband, “All I want to do for the rest of the year is take baths and showers and sleep and meditate.” He said, “I can support you in that.” I said, “Good answer.”
The other day I was looking for ideas of how to nurture myself during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Google brought up a few things, but nothing was quite what I was looking for. So I bagged trying to get ideas from other people and decided to just do what my soul wanted me to do. Here’s a list of the things I’ve been doing to prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for my upcoming birth.
Tonight I felt a mixture of emotions. But nestled in among all of it was something profoundly sacred.
Sitting in my living room with some of my favorite people, I found my mind and spirit figuratively drifting around the room. Everyone was occupied with something at the moment, engrossed in their individual tasks. I continued to float, caught up in the beautiful arrangement of “Away in a Manger” playing in the background.
And then, suddenly, the room felt different. And even though I was surrounded by people, it was as if instantly everyone else sort of faded from my awareness, like they were inhabiting a different plane than where I found myself.
But I wasn’t alone.
I knew there was someone in the room that I couldn’t see. I instantly started to cry, suspended in that powerful awareness for several moments. When I “came back,” I looked around from person to person to see if I was the only one aware of what had happened.
Finally I caught my friend’s eye and whispered, “There’s someone here. I don’t know who it is,” with tears falling down my cheeks. As the awareness made its way around the room, others joined me in my tears. Then it felt heavier, as though it was not just one presence but many presences stepping forward to make their energies palpable. My friends felt it too. “There are so many who love you here,” they said. The Truth of it all pierced into my heart, and I wept even more. I can only guess at who my visitors were. No one’s identity felt clear. But their love was undeniable.
I feel like life is both speeding up and slowing down at the same time. This week I will be 36 weeks pregnant, and I can feel myself moving into a sort of dream-like liminal space as my baby’s birth approaches. At the same time, life is so busy that the days fly by, and I don’t feel ready to walk through the doorway into the life where I’m a mom of five and waking up every few hours to feed a baby. But walking through that doorway isn’t really optional, so here I go. In other news… here are six things that have been on my mind these days…
I don’t doubt that the Internet is full of posts like this. I haven’t checked. But apparently humankind is in need of more reminders, so I’m going to put another post out there.
Everywhere I go, people seem to feel compelled to say things. I’m not necessarily surprised, but it is still somewhat mind-boggling to me what people feel comfortable saying to pregnant women. Some of my favorite courses in college were linguistics-based, and I’m pretty sure I remember learning that dogs, babies, and pregnant women change the boundaries of human interaction. There was a fancy linguistics term for this phenomenon, but it escapes me at the moment. (If you happen to know what I’m talking about, I would adore it if you could remind me of this fancy linguistic term.) Basically, if you happen to be pregnant, with a baby, or with a dog, people will be more likely than normal to speak to you (or touch you/your baby/dog). People let down their guard more when they’re around pregnant women, dogs, and babies. I’ve especially noticed this while wearing my babies.
Sometimes these pregnancy interactions are pleasant. Older women often tell me about their daughters who are due to deliver or recently delivered. Men often offer to help me carry things. I don’t mind these kinds of interactions at all. But some of my day-to-day interactions leave me feeling, well… HUGE… or even more huge than I already feel.
Dearest Humans, I love you. You aren’t trying to be insensitive. I get that. But let me just offer a few suggestions that will make all the pregnant women you encounter so very appreciative.
Back in September, before we had even pulled our kids out of school, I started perusing homeschool stuff on Pinterest. I think that’s where I first heard about Tinker Crate. After we officially started homeschooling, I spent even more time on Pinterest adding things to my “Homeschooling” board. Truly I don’t know how anyone did homeschool before Pinterest. There are so many amazing and free resources out there. Thank you, interwebs! I love that we can all have access to and benefit from the ingenious ideas of people all over the world. I knew that I wanted our homeschool experience to include lots of hands-on learning, so I knew Tinker Crate was something I wanted to “pin” for future reference.
Basically, Tinker Crate offers a monthly subscription for hands-on learning projects for kids. The company creating these projects has crates for several age groups: Koala Crate (for ages 3-4) and Kiwi Crate (for ages 5-8). Tinker Crate (science, technology, and engineering projects) and Doodle Crate (arts and crafts projects) are for ages 9-16+. These kits are great for anyone, not just homeschoolers. (p.s. They didn’t ask me to do this review. One of my FB friends did.)
I have children ranging in age from 4 to 12, but I wanted the projects to be challenging for the older kids, and I felt like my building-all-the-time 6-year-old was beyond what the Kiwi Crate offered. So, after finding a Pinterest coupon code for 30% off my first order, I went ahead and took the Tinker Crate plunge. Since then we have received two Tinker Crate projects in the mail.