Interview

June 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I was honored to be interviewed for today’s The Gift of Giving Life Virtual Book Tour stop by my dear friend, Christy, who blogs at Dizzlefig.  I loved what Christy had to say about birth and the book:

The fact remains that every one of us in this world is here because a woman gave birth. The beauty and magnitude of that fact are too often ignored. Birth is amazing, miraculous, and heroic, no matter how it happens. The process by which we become parents SHOULD be celebrated. The brave and talented women who collected these essays went to great measures to include ALL types of birth stories here: from unassisted home births to hospital cesareans to adoptions, and everything in between, including the pain and loss associated with infertility, miscarriage, traumatic birth experiences, and abuse. You will find yourself in these pages, and, if you are like me, you will also find your Heavenly Parents, and especially Heavenly Mother, who I believe has a special stewardship over earthly mothers.

Read the rest of her post HERE.

Four centimeters

May 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

For months I had been writing things like this in my journal…

“Right now I just feel so drained. I feel like I give and give and give until there’s nothing left.”

“I am exhausted. I want to sleep for two weeks. I so need a break.”

“I am so run down, so overwhelmed, so out of reserves. But what can I do except just keep swimming?”

“I need a break. Big time. So much.”

Little red flags were waving in front of my face for quite some time. And then Mama Birth posted this:

I think that selflessness and sacrifice are beautiful things- and I think they can purify us and teach us. But I also know now that a woman needs balance. . . . Babies need a mother who takes care of herself and the other people she loves and who herself is nurtured in her relationships.

And it was another little red flag, another messenger saying, “Girl, you need help. You need a break. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.” (Thank you, Sarah). But, unfortunately, those little red flags just kept on waving, and I just kept on running myself into the ground. I could feel myself sliding into depression, and it scared me. I have been in that dark place before, and I did not want to visit it again. Looking back, I can say that the damage was already done. A body chronically depleted of sleep and sapped of vital nutrients through chronic stress is going to have a very difficult time functioning, let alone functioning cheerfully.

Three is a magic number

April 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Today my third child turns three. (Remembering his birth gives me warm fuzzies every time. Happy sigh.)

If I could freeze my kids (temporarily) at certain ages, I would choose the 3’s.

Three months. I adore 3-month-old babies. They are so happy, so smiley, so cuddly, so easy to “wear,” so squishy, so absolutely marvelous.

Swiftly flew the year

March 3, 2012 at 4:01 am

I swear each baby grows faster than the one before. And I want to savor their infancy more and more with each one. I wish they could stay tiny and wrap-able a little longer. If you’re in the mood to re-live the lengthy, surprise-filled birth story, click here. And here’s a pictorial review of my baby girl’s first year…

The birth that changed the world

December 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I love that one of the most celebrated events in earth’s history is a birth.

I’ve posted before (Away in a Manger) about what that miraculous event might have been like, based on Jewish laws and customs from Biblical times. Of course we don’t know exactly what happened when Mary gave mortal life to her Son. Sometimes laws and customs are laid aside when circumstances require. But how wonderful it would have been to witness that birth! I fantasize about it often.

I love the following new videos depicting the events surrounding Christ’s birth. One of my only laments is that we aren’t privileged to see Mary laboring or giving birth. Below you’ll find links to the videos and a few of the things I loved about them. Each one is only a few minutes long. If you like them, you can download them to share with your friends and family too. Enjoy!

Angel Foretells Christ’s Birth to Mary-  I love the casting of Mary. I love how she seems to live and move and breathe on a higher plane. I love her humility.

Just keep swimming

September 8, 2011 at 4:54 am

[Trigger warning: This post contains loss.]

Almost five years ago, four friends went fishing in a small motorboat on a cool November morning.  Kimball and Steven were brothers. Steven brought his wife, Catheryn. The other was a friend. At first, the lake water was like a sheet of glass, calm and serene.  After a few hours, however, the wind picked up and so did the waves.  The fish started biting like crazy.  One after another, they brought fish in, not realizing that the waves were slowly filling the boat.  Suddenly, just as they noticed the too-deep pool of frigid water in the bottom of the boat, it sunk out from under them.

Based on the low temperature of the water and the distance to the lake shore, none of them should have survived.  All of them were praying their hearts out.  First they swam together toward the marina, crying out for help as loudly as they could.  Then Kimball realized that they were swimming against the current and needed to turn around and swim the other way.  He swam ahead to tell Steven, who said, “You think?”  Steven swam ahead to where Catheryn was.

Kimball thought that he was telling her the change of plans and that they would quickly follow.  He turned in the direction of the current with his friend, looking back repeatedly as the current carried him further and further from where his brother had been, unable to see them any longer, wondering whether they might have chosen to keep heading toward the marina to look for help in that direction.  As he swam, he heard these words over and over in his head: “Just keep swimming… just keep swimming… just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”

Half of them made it miraculously to shore and survived, half of them moved on to the world of spirits.

Family (birthing) history

July 31, 2011 at 3:29 am

I was pondering my ancestors recently and got wondering about their birthing experiences.  How cool would it be to go back in a time machine and watch our ancestral mothers giving birth?!  The closest I could get, however, was to look through some of the histories I have in my family history file.  Most of them are sparse on birthing details, but it was still fascinating to imagine-in what the stories lacked.  Much of what I found was heartache and loss, but I also found so much courage and strength as well.  Here are a few snip-its…

My great-great-great grandmother, Inger, came to America aboard a ship with her husband and her three (living) children from Denmark in 1866.  At the time, Inger, was pregnant with her fifth child. Here is the account of that child’s birth:

On board the ship coming to America a baby boy was born, 26 May 1866 to Inger and Andrew. He was given the name John B. after the captain of the ship. The baby died the following day and was buried at sea. . . . They had left one little grave in Denmark and now to lose their baby and not even be able to give it the burial they wanted to was very hard to bear. Conditions on the ship were not at all good. They came as steerage passengers, it was cheaper but more unsanitary and the trip took from 8-12 weeks

The birth of a book

July 8, 2011 at 8:22 pm

As my fellow book-collaborator, Felice, often quotes, “Everything is gestation and then birthing” (Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet). Our book, The Gift of Giving Life, has been gestating for over two years. First, just the seeds of an idea were planted in many of our minds, then one took action, and the right people came together with the skills and passion to bring the project forward. I echo these words, posted by Felice:

The book has surpassed our greatest expectations. We are so grateful to all the women who sent us their stories and who have helped contribute to the book in many different ways. We are also grateful to all the men than have contributed and supported. This projects has been inspired and blessed at every turn and we look forward to getting into the hands of LDS women, birth attendants, care providers, and birth junkies of all faiths everywhere who are interested and invested in the sacred nature of birth.

The estimated due date for the birth of this beautiful book is November 1! We can’t wait to share it with all of you. Visit the book’s blog to find out how you can enter to win a free copy.

Surrender, part 5

May 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I’ve debated off and on whether to post about this. I guess you can tell which of my inner-dialogue teams won.

My birth story didn’t end with my daughter’s birth. Some things happened afterward that I would say were an extension of that birth. They’ve been sitting on the back burner in my mind, waiting. I suppose I’ve been holding them back because I just wasn’t quite ready to process them yet. Pondering and writing this post was an intense journey of realization and discovery and spiritual revelation. I don’t know exactly why I feel like I need to share it, but I do. What follows is a little graphic and a lot personal. If you choose to comment, please be respectful. Here goes…

My uncle somehow always seems to know when I’m pregnant before I make it public knowledge. This last time, after we shared the news, he said, “I think you’re having twins.” We laughed.

Surrender, part 4

March 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

With my three previous births, the transition from 7 to 10 centimeters took me deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of my consciousness.  As I pulled further and further into myself, I would dig for any reserves of strength and endurance.  Simultaneously I would be taken up and outside of myself to distant spaces somewhere between earth and heaven, almost completely oblivious to my actual physical surroundings and anyone in them.  Between contractions, I was typically extremely relaxed and motionless with my eyes closed.  Basically, during transition, I’m usually simultaneously high and sedated from the influence of massive amounts of natural opiates (endorphins).

But there I was… nine centimeters with baby #4…  and my head was still firmly on this planet?  I’d never experienced anything like this before.

After checking my cervix, Mary suggested that I get up on my knees, leaning over my birth ball, to encourage the baby to descend, and do some nipple stimulation to get some good “mean” contractions coming.  In retrospect, I can tell you how wise and merciful it was for her to encourage those “mean” contractions.  Endorphins are an important part of the birth process, and they’re released in response to pain.  Minimal pain, in my case, translated to minimal endorphin release—not the ideal way to prepare for a mini-person to squeeze through my lady parts.  Pushing has always been the easiest part of childbirth for me because I’m usually swimming in natural opiates.  This time, Mary could tell (and I could tell) that I was most definitely not swimming in opiates.  So, nipple stim we did.  That’s when my doula arrived with her camera and started snapping pictures.

Knowing how soon the birth would be upon us, we also called for my five-year-old daughter to come upstairs.  Before I even became pregnant, she told me she wanted to be my doula the next time I had a baby.  She’s my little “birth junkie” and could watch birth YouTube videos with me all day long. 

Surrender, part 3

March 16, 2011 at 12:28 am

I needed to take my time writing this birth journey. In part, because it felt like writing it down was placing it squarely in the past, and I didn’t want it to be totally over.  But also because it has taken me all this time to process the experience, and yet I’m still processing it as we speak.   Birth is unpredictable, raw, and real.  Sometimes it can be just as traumatic as it is beautiful.  How do we convey all that complexity of experience with words?  How can we describe it?  These words in a blog comment from Kassandra were so spot-on:

There are so many layers to your birth story because there are so many different parts of yourself experiencing it.

It is such an incredibly rich spiritual experience, a full on physical sensation and accomplishment, and an emotional rollercoaster changing from moment to moment, with a different focus depending on what part of it you are trying to convey. Is it about the outcome? Is it about the moments? Is it about how you felt during, or afterwards? It’s everything… and it will change depending on who you are telling and why.

This birth was, at once, the absolute easiest and the absolute most difficult of my children’s births.  It was both gentle and jarring.  As I mentioned in part 1, I was initially disappointed.  There was no dreamy, on-another-planet, endorphin-filled build to a climax—something I’d become addicted to since my first birth.  It felt sort of like I got cheated out of one of the best parts of giving birth unmedicated.  Robert Louis Stevenson has said, “And the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets, to find where the joy resides, and give it voice, far beyond singing.”  Coming to peace with this birth has been just such a poetic process… finding where the joy resides and figuring out how to give it voice and make it sing.

Surrender, part 2

March 12, 2011 at 1:41 am

As I mentioned in part 1, much of the magic and spiritual richness of my daughter’s birth happened in the cushion of time surrounding the actual birth experience, particularly the weeks leading up to her birth.  While all my other children came 5 to 10 days early, this baby chose to make her appearance 5 days “late.”  As we waited, wondering when our baby would be born, we were once again called upon to “surrender.”  I took comfort in reading the words of a wise and wonderful nursing professor, Lynn Callister:

Waiting denotes an active process . . . requires continual self-examination, constantly trying to become more worthy, and ever-deepening and progressive discipleship of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, a yielded will and consecration of self. (“They That Wait Upon the Lord”)

And the words of my friend and book collaborator, Heather:

In Hebrew the word ‘wait’ is also the same word for ‘hope.’ . . . A woman waiting for a child . . . has a unique opportunity to put her faith and trust in the Lord and demonstrate her willingness to wait upon the Lord’s timing. When she learns to be patient and hopeful she opens herself up to receive miracles and great spiritual gifts.

Surrender, part 1

March 7, 2011 at 4:55 am

Trying to get words on paper to describe my fourth baby’s birth has been a challenge.  I’ve told the bare bones condensed version more times than I can remember now, but to find the words to infuse the story with all of its detail and intensity and emotion… every time I thought about making an attempt, I found myself paralyzed.  My feelings about the experience seem to change daily as well.  As I’ve relived it and processed it in my head over and over, the words and feelings associated with the experience have ranged across a broad spectrum—sometimes positive, sometimes negative, sometimes neutral.  Fortunately, as the event recedes further into memory, my feelings about it grow more and more positive and peaceful.

Initially, in the first few days after giving birth this time, I felt a lot of nostalgic longing for my first home birth experience. It had been so magical and spiritual (especially in retrospect, I’m sure), and the weeks after that birth had been even more wonderful.  This birth, however, was so utterly different than I ever expected or visualized.  Before I even had a chance to wrap my mind around the fact that it was happening, it was already over!  And, I must admit, those brief moments of “happening” were intense enough that I felt, for the first time after a birth, a bit traumatized. There also wasn’t time for so many of the things I had hoped to do during this birth experience—lots of private time with my husband, time in the shower, time visualizing and meditating on my baby, etc.  I only got to wear my birthing necklace for what seemed like a few minutes, and I had envisioned spending hours with it draped on my neck as a reminder of the love and strength being lent to me.  So this birth was initially a bit disappointing to me despite the fact that it all went “perfectly” in terms of health and clinical details.  I feel so ungrateful now as I type those words, but I’m just keeping it real.

It’s a start

March 5, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I’ve finally done it.  I’ve finally written the first paragraph of my birth account.  It felt almost like pulling teeth, but I did it. And here it is…

Trying to get words on paper to describe this birth has been a challenge. I’ve told the barebones condensed version more times than I can remember now, but to find the words to infuse the story with all of its detail and intensity and emotion… every time I thought about making an attempt, I found myself paralyzed. My feelings about the experience seem to change daily as well. As I’ve relived it and processed it in my head over and over, the words and feelings associated with the experience have ranged across a broad spectrum—sometimes positive, sometimes a little negative, sometimes neutral. Fortunately, as the event recedes further into memory, my feelings about it grow more and more positive and peaceful.

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