Halloween Hangover

Every time Gavin eats sweets, I remind him to listen to his body and listen to his stomach, so that he knows when to stop. He is actually usually really good at this, and stops himself before he completely gorges. Not so much on Halloween this year.

Here is the conversation we had when he woke me up the next morning with a stomach ache.

Gavin (holding his stomach): Mommy, I can’t hear my stomach. I ate too much candy.

Me (waking up): Huh?

Gavin: I couldn’t hear my stomach. There was too much noise when we were trick-or-treating, and my tummy was shy, so I couldn’t hear it.

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Gavin post Halloween candy binge

 

The Perfect Birth

Recently, I read this great lady’s birth story, and it inspired me to write my own. I had a natural birth, a home birth, something you hear very little about in this day and age. Some people think it’s a crazy thing to do, and can’t understand why anyone would choose this, since hospitals are so much “safer.” Me, I felt so much safer at home. Hospitals scare me. They are for sick people. Pregnancy and childbirth are not illnesses. It probably helps that I was born at home, caught by my father. Knowing my mom could do it gave me confidence that I can, too.

I want people to know that birth without medical intervention is possible. Not always. I have many friends who wanted natural childbirth, but circumstances didn’t allow it. I was blessed in this way, to not have any complications. I pray my next birth goes as well. I truly believe that it really, really helped to be in my own home surrounded by a team that completely supported me going at my own pace and reinforced the belief that my body knew exactly what to do. I also want to say that perfect does not mean effortless. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And also the most rewarding.

July 12, 2009:

My due date. I am scared and excited and so over the constant heartburn. My boyfriend, Danny insists that we buy a birthday cake to welcome the little bean. I go along with his idea, because…why not? We head to the local bakery, where he special orders a mocha cake. We stay in that night, watch a movie, and eat some cake. I go to bed late as usual, because I’m a night owl. I don’t go into labor. I didn’t expect to. It’s my first baby, and everyone is always talking about how first babies tend to come late.

July 13, 2009:

I awaken at 5 AM to cramps. I’ve been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks, but this is the first pain I’ve felt. It feels like strong period cramps. I throw up and wake Danny to tell him I think I’m in early labor. I can’t get back to sleep. The cramps come every 10 minutes, last about one minute each time, and they are difficult to sit through. This pace remains steady all day. I watch a few movies, and try to keep my mind distracted. I remember my midwife’s advice, to try to go about my life normally and ignore early labor as much as possible, because it can last a long time. I don’t go for a walk. I don’t want to even leave the house. It is really difficult to ignore what’s happening, and I don’t feel in any condition to face the world. I throw up a couple more times this day. I am a puker, as my midwife says. I had morning sickness until halfway into my pregnancy, and continued to vomit sporadically throughout the remainder of it. My midwife warned me that women often throw up in early labor, and that it is important to keep myself hydrated and nourished. We call her at some point, and she urges me to eat. I eat turkey BLTs all day, because it’s the only thing I want and can stomach. When we call her again towards the end of the day, she tells me to soak in the tub and maybe drink a half of a glass of wine, so I can relax and sleep tonight, as the labor doesn’t seem to be picking up. I follow her advice and get to sleep around 11.

This first day of early labor is one of the hardest parts of labor for me. I feel like I am about to fall into a rabbit hole, and I can’t fight it, and have no idea where it is going to take me, except that it will be painful, very painful.

July 14, 2009:

I wake up at 4 in the morning to stronger contractions that are happening closer together. They are too strong to sleep. After suffering alone for a while, I wake up Danny and tell him I think it’s picking up. I sit on the yoga ball, and he works pressure points on my lower back through the contractions. It hurts. We are timing the contractions, and they are happening three to four minutes apart, lasting from 45 seconds to a minute. Sounds pretty active, right? Well, we think so, and call my midwife around 5 or 6 to let her know. I’m on the phone with her, describing what’s happening when I feel a contraction coming on. She says she’ll hold on until it’s over. I breathe through it silently, as I’ve been doing to manage the pain. When it’s over and I get back on the phone, she asks me if I had the phone on mute. I tell her no and she says, “You were kind of quiet. I didn’t hear any moaning or anything.” I tell her, yes, I was just breathing, and she replies, “You’re not in active labor yet. I know it’s hard, but try to get some more sleep and call me in a few hours.”

I am amazed and disillusioned. If this isn’t active labor, how bad is it going to get? I gather a mountain of pillows and lay in a kind of elevated child pose on top of  my bed. I keep breathing through the regular contractions. I actually manage to sleep for a few hours. Gradually, I find myself getting into a zone. I wake up for the contractions, breathe through them, and then go back to sleep until the next one. By 9 AM, I am on the floor of my room, with pillows, still in child pose, still sleeping between contractions, only now I am moaning a low hum and counting slowly through them, because they are definitely getting stronger. Danny keeps timing them, and checking on me. He suggests several times that we should call the midwife again, but now I don’t want to. I don’t want to see anyone or deal with anyone except for this. I am in it. I put him off again and again, fine to be on my own alternately sleeping and moaning through unbearable but transient pain.

My midwife calls me at 9:30, but I don’t pick up the phone until she calls again at 10:30. She needs to let her team know what to plan for the day. We let her know the labor does seem to be moving along. She listens to me through another contraction and agrees. She shows up at about noon, and checks my cervix. When she sticks her fingers in, I watch her face shift from resigned to hopeful to sure. She then tells me that I was only at 1.5 cm, but she was able to pop me open to 4 or 5 cm. She explained that often women may have scar tissue that slows the opening of the cervix, and a little bit of manual touch can help one to move past that. She told me my active labor had just begun, as I was now past 3 cm. I continue to disagree. It had been happening for hours!

From this point on, my memory is very general and a bit hazy. My explanation for this: endorphins. My good friend, Serina showed up soon after the midwife. She is an acupuncturist and masseuse, and she and Danny worked pressure points for pain through every one of my contractions. This didn’t take the pain away, not by a long shot, but it helped. I was groaning a low animal groan through the increasingly painful contractions. They were coming very regularly, and after every one, I would feel so much bliss that the pain had passed.

Let me talk for a minute about the pain. I cannot remember it on a physical level, because of the special powers of selective memory. I can tell you I have never felt anything like it before. In the pit of my core was a pain, a wrenching, a squeezing that was all-encompassing. It was amazing, this pain, and I was completely awed by it. The only saving grace of this pain, the only thing that made it bearable, was that it was transient. Also, my body found a way to deal with it. Endorphins do not numb pain, but they did put me in a trance-like space that got me through it.

My midwife Cindy checked me again, and said I was at 7 or 8 cm, moving right along. Throughout the active labor, I was sitting on a big leather chair under the window in our upstairs hallway. I seemed to not want to move from that position, nor was I able to tell anyone where I wanted to eventually birth. I could not think that far ahead. Eventually, we decided to move a futon to the floor in front of the chair, so I could birth there. Cindy’s first assistant showed up around this time, and we decided to call my sisters, who were planning to come, when it was time to start pushing.

Cindy asked me a couple of times if I was feeling the urge to push. She also said it seemed like I may be getting close because I was “a little less with them.” I suddenly did feel the urge to push, and Cindy said she would check my cervix. Just then, my water broke, onto the chuck pad and leather seat, and it was clear. The urge to push passed for a while, then, which Cindy said is normal after the water breaks.

At some point, my sisters and Cindy’s second assistant arrived. I was naked and surrounded by seven people, completely uninhibited. I could care less what anyone thought of me, which is funny, because I think this is one of the things I was most nervous about before I went into labor. I was afraid of losing control, afraid of where I would go and who i would become, and who would witness this. When the time came, I felt like the belle of the ball. All of these people were waiting on me, and I was this magically amazing birthing woman, as beautiful as I will ever be in my life.

Eventually, the urge to push came back. Cindy checked me again and found a little cervical lip. And the hardest part of labor began. Cindy tried to open my cervix while I pushed once, but my cervix tightened around her fingers, so she immediately backed off, and told me not to push anymore. I guess if you put too much pressure on the cervix before it is fully dilated, it can swell up and prevent the baby from passing. She then told me to go take a shower with Danny. In the shower, I got nauseous and threw up. Luckily, one of the assistants got there in time with a bowl! I got out of the shower and leaned on the bathroom counter.

This is when I got hit by one contraction after another, with no breaks. Complete hell. I wanted to crawl out of my body. I had a very visceral sense of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, squeezed so tight with no way out. There was no comfort, and I couldn’t do it, and it would never end. Then I was anguishing on my hands and knees on the bedroom floor. I remember Tiffany, one of the assistants, saying to me, “You’re almost there,” and I was thinking, “Screw you! I am never going to get there!” Something felt very wrong. This kind of sensation couldn’t be right.

Luckily, it was temporary, even though at the time it felt like forever.

They helped me back to the futon in the hallway, and I panted on my hands and knees to keep from pushing. Cindy kept saying she would check me again, but kept holding off. At some point, I yelled, “I’ve gotta push!” Cindy told me to let it happen if I couldn’t resist, so I did that for a couple of contractions, not actively pushing, but not resisting it either.

After what seemed like an eternity, Cindy had me roll on my back to check me again. She was happy to report that I was fully dilated and the baby’s head was RIGHT THERE! I laid partially reclined on my back, with Danny sitting behind me for support. I pushed for about 30-45 minutes; it took a while to get the hang of it. I had to learn to stop vocalizing and instead focus all of my energy down there. They propped up a mirror so I could see the head, and everyone around got really excited, and kept exclaiming about seeing him crowning, but I could care less, honestly. I just wanted him the fuck out of me.

Finally, I felt a sharp pain, as his head popped out, and tore me just a tiny bit. From there, it was smooth sailing. Cindy turned him so his shoulders slid out easily, and suddenly he was in my arms!

It was all worth it immediately. I fell in love with his little face, and could not stop saying, “He’s so cute!” I had been a little bit afraid to meet this little being growing inside of me. I’d never been comfortable with newborns, and was afraid I would feel weird with him, and that he would be blue and cone-headed and ugly. It was kind of like a little alien growing inside me. But that all changed the moment I saw him, completely. I was surprised that he was pink and his head was a normal shape and he was perfect. Complete bliss, as I have never felt before, oceans of love engulfed me.

And they have never left.

The placenta came out painlessly with the next contraction. Once this was complete, Cindy relaxed, and stated with satisfaction, “The perfect birth!” After I held our baby skin to skin and got him to latch on for a bit, they had me hand him off to Danny so they could sew up my small tear. They brought me food, which I ate ravenously, with the hunger of a starving animal. I had eaten very little all day (maybe some yogurt and ice chips basically), and if you’ve paid attention, had slept very little for days. I was famished and exhausted like never before.

My mom and stepdad came over after I was sewn up and showered. We weighed the baby, and then celebrated with champagne and the rest of the birthday mocha cake. Gradually, everyone left, and Danny and I were alone in the house with this tiny little being. And then the real adventure began…

Gavin, 3 days old

Gavin, 3 days old

 

Don’t Take Anything Personally

the-four-agreements-1

I know I’ve mentioned recently that I have been using hypnosis to help me stop grinding my teeth. There are a lot of theories as to why people grind their teeth. The ones I have heard the most are: an unaligned bite, stress/anxiety, and repressed anger.

I think all of these apply to me, but the one I have found myself wanting to explore the most is repressed anger. Earlier in my life, I was pretty passive, and I had to learn through experience to stick up for myself. Part of this was owning my anger. I realized that anger is raw passion, waiting to be harnessed as a powerful creative force. I learned to listen to my anger, to let it tell me where my boundaries lay, to let it teach me how to protect myself from predators.

Time has passed. I have grown older, stronger, and more confident in myself. I have moved beyond individuation and into service. I felt good with myself, satisfied with my own personal quest, and decided it was time to give myself to my career and my family.

I had a baby. And I fell in love looking at his innocent face in those early days, and was sure he could do no wrong, ever. I would look at older kids, making trouble, and knew my kid would never act like that. Nope. Not my angel.

He’s changed. I mentioned before that I think he just got his 4-year testosterone flood a bit early, and I am having a really, really hard time right now. The yelling in my face, the hitting, the throwing. The, “One more chance,” pleas a countless number of times. I have been trying everything I have up my sleeve: offering incentives, using consequences, talking, asking him what he needs, giving more attention, behavior charts…I could keep going. In short, I have used everything I know except physical discipline, but I have to admit, there have been plenty of impulses to use that, too. It is only my personal pledge and plenty of willpower that stop me from going that way. And my husband, of course, who grabs the wheel when I feel myself going off course.

I don’t know if I am being too hard or too soft. Should I just never give him any second chances, maybe? Have I leaned on that too many times, so that he does not respect the limits I am setting? Or maybe I am being too hard. He’s in his room crying right now, way past his bedtime. I put up the gate and let him know that one more hug means one more hug, and he needs to go to sleep now so Mommy can unwind.

I feel so bad, seeing him stressed out and alone in his room, just wanting closeness and comfort, and I wonder if I should just let him come into my room so that he feels completely safe and supported, because, you know, that’s what the attachment parenting method preaches. And I feel incredibly frustrated because I just need some down time, and I am not getting it, because he is testing me to my core.

Back to the repressed anger and the teeth grinding. Yesterday, I was having a great day. Great mood, optimistic, productive, grateful. Last night with the little guy was a wringer. I can’t even remember right now, or don’t want to, but I ended up using every consequence I have yet to use. We are in this standoff right now, it seems, regarding who’s the boss, and I know he needs authority, but I also feel like I am breaking his spirit.

Anyway, by the end of the night, I noticed my jaw was incredibly tight. Talk about repressed anger. I can’t throw my anger at my child, I know, I need to keep a hold on it, and it is ending up in my jaw. I have been getting incredibly frustrating with this little guy who has somehow already learned exactly how to press my buttons.

And then there’s compassion. And taking a step away and seeing things from a different angle. I’ve been thinking (after he finally gets to sleep), that maybe it’s not about finding an outlet for repressed anger. Maybe it’s about not getting angry in the first place.

A while back, I read a book called The Four Agreements. I am sure that many of you know this book. One of the agreements is, “Don’t take anything personally.”

A lot of this getting angry stuff is all about me taking things personally. A lot of the stress and anxiety is about me taking things personally. In fact, I may even go so far to say that ALL of the anxiety, stress, and anger I experience is completely about me taking things personally.

A client at work likes me, or doesn’t like me, or does well, or fails horribly, and I take it all personally. I hold myself responsible for all of this, doubting that I am good enough, skilled enough, knowledgeable enough to be a resource for them. News flash: it’s not about me! And when I indulge in these anxious self-doubts, I am taking away from the absolutely BRILLIANT work that I do with these amazing, totally capable individuals.

My kid acts out, testing limits, as is completely developmentally appropriate, and I think, “He is doing this to me.” A car cuts me off in traffic, and I get pissed about them disrespecting me, instead of thinking maybe they’re just in a big hurry, or maybe they’re just generally inconsiderate, and does it really have to ruin my moment, this moment that I will never have again? Do I really need to miss this speck of time when my son will be this small, because I am busy brooding about how he is acting disrespectfully? Maybe, just maybe, can I give him limits without engaging in a power struggle in which no one can win?

So, I pledge it now, and I will hold myself to it. Do Not Take Anything Personally. Nothing. It is not about me. Even if someone has a problem with me, it’s not me. It’s just one of the traits that I exhibit. Constructive criticism is merely a tool I can use to refine my character. It is not about me. It is not about me. It is not about me.

By the way, in the middle of this post, I did finally go make peace with my son, and I think (dear God, hope!) he is sleeping.

Wish me strength, readers, and lots of patience. 🙂

Bedtimes conversations with a preschooler

Gavin: Mommy, where did you live when you were a kid?

Me: I lived in a house in a place called Indiana.

Gavin: Ok (nods head knowingly).

Me: I lived with my mom, who is your grandma, and my dad, who is pop-pop, and my sisters and my brother. Then, we all grew up and we don’t live together anymore. But we do get together for holidays and birthdays.

Gavin: Mommy, but you will always be my mom.

Me: Yes.

Gavin: And I will always live with you.

Me: Well, when you grow up, you might want to move out. A lot of people do when they grow up.

Gavin: Ok, I will…but where will Daddy live?

Me: He’ll live with me.

Gavin: I will stay and live with you and Daddy forever (smile).

Innocence meets reality

“The only things worth living for are innocence and magic.”   ~David Gray

This weekend, we went apple picking. As we left the house, I pointed out the leaves falling from our Catalpa tree, and Gavin said, “The leaves are falling because it’s Fall!” And I told him we were going apple picking because it’s Fall, too.We drove up the coast, and then 4 miles inland into the beautiful, rolling farmland hills.

The weather was perfect, and Gavin filled up his canvas Sesame Street bag excitedly. It was his first time picking apples, and he was overjoyed that he could reach them, from the dwarf trees. D, Gavin, and I tested the apples as we picked, passing them around our circle of three. They were delicious, perfectly crisp, and sweet with just the right amount of tartness.

The afternoon was pure bliss. In moments like these, I can see through my son’s three year-old eyes the wonderment of something so simple. The unfiltered joy of biting into a freshly picked apple on a beautiful Autumn afternoon. Because he is so innocent, he still sees the magic in everything. He reminds me of it, too.                                                  Image

Sunday night, we were driving home, and the full moon had just risen, and it hovered low in the sky, big and shining brightly. Gavin was sleep deprived, ready for bed, and started whining about being in the car seat. We distracted him by pointing to the moon, and telling him to watch and see if it followed us home.

We turned a corner, and Gavin spied the moon up there, still in his sight. “It is following us!” he yelled in excitement. The rest of the way home, he avidly looked in all directions every time we turned, and he kept a running broadcast. “It’s not there! It’s not following us. There the’s moon! It is following us!”

There is something so precious about this age, this beginning to understand, but everything is so new, and there are no mental files, no past references to sift through to make sense of something new.

He has such a zest for life, and eagerness to learn, to understand, to experience. And complete trust, or a lack of fear.

I miss this in my life. I can remember feeling like this in my late teens, maybe into my early twenties. I wasn’t as naive as a three year-old, of course, but, I had this sense that there was pain and there was suffering “out there,” while my family and I were in some kind of a bubble. We were blessed. Tragedy could not touch us. I still felt immortal, almost. I knew that death would affect me at some point, but that point was far, far way, so far that it wasn’t real.

It’s real, now. It became real to me when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the young age of 62. She will turn 68 next month, and I am slowly watching her lose all of her faculties, one by one. I see my mother shrinking away. She is a tiny, minuscule speck of the lively woman she once was.

I miss that feeling that nothing can touch me. I miss the innocence I had around pregnancy and childbirth, just a year ago, when I started trying for Baby #2, with a deep trust in my body’s ability to grow a baby successfully, before I experienced the miscarriages and all of the complications that continue to accompany them.

What I don’t miss is the illusion of immortality. I am beginning to really grasp my mortality, and it makes me more alive. It makes me more like my son: appreciating every moment, eager to learn and experience, in awe, seeing the magic in “simple” things. It is scary to face death, more terrifying than anything, but so incredibly deeply grounding. It is so bitter, but then the flavor kind of grows on you, because it is medicine.

And, really, we have no choice, so we might as well embrace it.

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