Thursday, July 31

Labor, She Roared

Having been down the labor and delivery road for the first time two months ago, I'm still grappling with the fact that the majority of well-wishers ignored or shied away from hearing about my experience. All of the attention was on the baby, and of course that should be the main focus, but having gone through such an intense experience, it should be shared and celebrated.

When someone did ask, they generally were competitive about it. "How long were you in labor?" "14 hours." "Oh, that's not bad. I was in labor for 22, and then I had to have C-section ..." etc. I felt no cooperative, sharing moment between women who asked about my labor, and with many, many women going through it at least once in their lives, it should be a source of connection, not competition. It should be a source of enlightenment for those who have not given birth. It should be shared.

So here's your challenge: tell a labor story. Yours, your mom's, your best friend's. Ask them what it was like, how they felt. What surprised them? How scared were they? Did many people ask their labor story? Let's share these stories because they deserved to be told. Moms deserve to be honored. Labor, She Roared.

Post a comment when you've blogged about so I can add a link to your story. If you don't have a blog, post your story in the comments. And if you're just curious and have questions about labor, let 'em rip. Labor shouldn't be a secret, and this is my effort to honor the experience.

Electronic Goose's story

Friday, July 25


"When Carleton was three months old, Henry had realized that they'd misunderstood something. Babies weren't babies, they were land mines, bear traps, wasp nests. They were a noise, which was sometimes not even a noise, but merely a listening for a noise; they were a damp, chalky smell; they were the heaving, jerky, sticky manifestation of not-sleep." -Kelly Link in her amusing short story, "Stone Animals"

Bean days

Wednesday, July 23

Walk in the park

Bean and I went for a walk in Menotomy Park this morning. It's a fantastic wooded area with a lake where children play and make forts from fallen tree branches, adults hike, and dogs run free. I'm so glad we have this place, and it's only a 15 minute walk from our apartment. More cities need planning like this, incorporating green play space with compact mixed-use developments.

We found out I was pregnant within two weeks of my leaving a job, starting a new job, moving out of an apartment, and moving into a new one. That weekend, we took a walk through Menotomy Park for the first time and Hubby snapped the above picture. It feels like I'm completing the circle now when I take Bean through there. She loves staring up at the trees. I have a feeling if this fascination of hers with trees continues into her childhood, people will think I forced it on her.

No mas car?

We might finally be getting rid of our car.

It has been sitting, just sitting, in the parking lot for more than a year now. We haven't touched it: it's been wonderful. We purposely chose to live near (almost in) the city, and pay higher rent as a result, so we could use public transportation. And now, without any action on our part, our landlord's friend is interested in buying it ... only he won't pick it up.

He came by right when Bean was born to look the Pontiac over, and in the two weeks that followed, he test drove it and negotiated the price with Hubby (technically it's his car, since he owned it before we even met). They agreed on a price, and now we're waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for him to pay up and drive off. I can't wait anymore. I've wanted to get rid of that car for longer than we stopped driving it. It's not even worth much, it's just the presence that bothers me.

Speaking of public transportation ...

I took the bus and subway at least four times each weekday for the duration of my pregnancy. And on the weekends, I often took mass transit even more frequently. Other than my feet, it's the principal way I got around. Guess how many people offered me their seat as my belly expanded and my feet swelled up? Just guess.

Four. No joke. These people in Boston are unbelievable. Unbelievable. I wouldn't think of not standing up for a pregnant woman. In fact, while pregnant, there were several times when I would stand up for a more pregnant woman--and meanwhile, the other passengers would just watch us. I particularly hated it when the riders would look at me and quickly look away. Like you don't have to stand up if you pretend I'm not there.

Other than the rude riders, I'm so relieved to solely be using mass transit, and finally (hopefully!) getting rid of this car. It makes me feel like I'm living my values, rather than just believing them.

Tuesday, July 22

Greening update

I wanted to stop using paper towels and start composting; those were my goals right before Bean was born. I haven't accomplished the composting at all--finding plastic containers and a drill are beyond my abilities right now--but we have reduced our paper towel consumption considerably.

We took the first step by using a hand towel for napkins instead of paper towels. The habit that is hardest for me to break is reaching for a rag instead of a paper towel when I'm cleaning. Habits, really, are at the core of change. People just get comfortable in their routines and habits and they forget to question. They forget, sometimes, to change, or perhaps how to change.

My strawberry and basil plants are flourishing; I keep meaning to take and post a picture of them.

I did manage to read two books in June for Green Bean's reading challenge. I hope to post my reviews before the summer's over! One more item on my Hope-To-Do list.

Bean's crying now while Hubby makes tacos. I better go to the rescue.


"You cannot remember the weight of your son, nestled for the first time on your belly, his umbilical cord still pulsing, or the way his newborn head smelled like something that belonged to you. You can't recall, because now there is only this: when you press your nose into his blond hair, your boy smells of cut grass and shampoo and vanilla cookies. He squirms from your arms and runs naked across the lawn toward the hose. He wrestles with the spigot, and water splashes his knees. You can't help staring at his little body, so lithe and agile, frog belly floating out in front. You watch him squat to inspect a June bug and then race toward the garden. When he flops down on the grassy path, where wildflowers flutter like prayer flags, you lie down next to him and feel the earth spin. You cannot remember giving birth now."
-"The Things You Forget" by Christina Rosalie Sbarro, from The Sun's August issue

Thursday, July 3

A doctor or a midwife?

SuzyQ has patiently waited for a response to a question she raised last month: why a midwife?

I knew from the get-go that I wanted a drug-free ("natural," though some are offended by that term) delivery. The stereotypical busy, uninterested OB/GYN in a sterile white room filled with beeping machines just didn't say comfortable to me, and I knew that would be essential for relaxation. Certainly all OB/GYNs don't devalue and depersonalize the mother and her partner, but they are all medical trained and therefore more apt to prescribe medicine as the be-all, cure-all; to be preoccupied with other patients; to deliver in a hospital setting; and to order a C-section. I needed someone that said warmth, compassion, caring, understanding ... I needed someone who would be there for the whole process, not just the end of the pushing and periodic check-ups. I wanted a warm, dimly lit environment where I could play my own relaxing music (ocean waves for Bean) and it was important to not have medical equipment in the background (research has shown the mere visual or auditory suggestion of medical equipment or intervention/drugs makes for a dramatic increase in the use of it during labor).

I knew my options of midwives varied: they range from almost no scholarly background to specialized nurses or certified nurse practitioners (CNPs), which is what I selected. I wanted to avoid the hospital (too impersonal, sterile, close to medical equipment ...) but I didn't want to deliver at home (it's an apartment, I have three pets, and it's my first child so I didn't feel comfortable enough being that far away from medical help if I needed it). I looked online a bit and discovered the lucky coincidence that I live near a birthing center in Cambridge. The birthing center is an old Victorian house with waterbirthing tubs in each bedroom and it's right across from the hospital in case you need emergency attention. Perfect option, since it was a midpoint between home and hospital.

My insurance covered midwives (most do; I think midwives are generally cheaper than doctors anyway), so I picked up the phone, took a tour, meet the midwives on staff, and started going to monthly check-ups. My midwife gave me all kinds of great advice (yoga poses, Kegels, breathing, etc.) and made me feel like a human being. Not a take-a-number-have-a-seat type of setting.

If I had to do it again, I would have a midwife again and even consider a home birth. The most comfortable part of my labor experience was the time I was at home -- by far. I was in almost no pain for those eight hours and I was completely relaxed (which makes the cervix dilated go much quicker as well).

Bean's crying; gotta run. Hubby has off -- happy Fourth, everyone! Celebrate one of the few nonmaterial holidays left! -- and is making blueberry pancakes. We went for a walk in the rain earlier this morning. Love having him and baby home together.

Thanks for being patient, SuzyQ! :0)

Tuesday, July 1

It's an Aria world

Fair warning: this will be short and sweet, because she's starting to do the fussy-sleeping dance on my chest.

Aria was born on June 2 in the early afternoon. I was in labor about 14 hours, most of which was spent at home, pacing my hall. When I arrived at the birthing center, I was already 8 cm dilated, and they were astounished at how calm I seemed. I felt calm, and I felt drawn inward ... I probably appeared lethargic, but I was inside myself, if that makes sense. (I might not be making sense. I'm averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night--and not in a row.)

The midwife drew water for the birthing tub, and I labored in there for about an hour or two. Time meant nothing to me; my husband's giving me the estimates now. It was nice to be in the water, but I didn't like my position in there and the pillow they'd given me to support my head was super annoying. The midwife broke my water in the tub, and the pain really began then.

I moved to the bed shortly after she broke my water, and she discovered a "second bag," (a second bag of water or the remainder of the first?) which when broken, out came meconium (a sign of fetal distress) and in I went to the hospital. They transferred me on a stretcher and I remember feeling the sun hit my toes and wondering if the wind would sweep up and reveal my naked body to the passing cars.

Once in the hospital, I was pushing for about two hours before Aria was born. When she came out, they tell me, she had one hand raised up by her forehead, like a flying Superman come to save the day. (To this day, she strikes that pose in her deepest sleep.) My first glimpse of her was blurry, as the emergency pediatricans whisked her away and I didn't have my glasses on. My first real look at her was in my smiling husband's arms. She was, and is, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Despite the show of meconium, she was perfectly fine, and somehow I knew she would be.

I was proud of myself for not using any drugs, not even the Motrin they prescribed for the afterbirth pains and cramps. I was surprised by how few people were interested in hearing the labor story (the focus is really entirely on the baby, but it feels like giving birth is such an intense experience that some attention should be paid to that experience, a tribute somehow ...) or even asked how I was. I was also surprised at how long and not fun the physical recovery was ... it's been four weeks now, and the bleeding has just now subsided. I wasn't prepared for the afterwards, I guess.

I didn't end up using any HypnoBirthing techniques, just their philosophy: this is natural and you need to let go of control and trust your body and your baby to get through this process. The fear of the pain of giving birth is, I think, more than the actuality of it. Once you eliminate the fear--or at least cut it down to size-- you are left with an incredibly intense, but definitely do-able, experience.

I call Aria "Bean." It's strange; she and Fetus are two different beings to me, not really connected. I had been worried I would call her Fetus since we had been using that name for so long, but no. I do miss Fetus though, those tiny kicks and peaceful moments in the morning listening to the birds, imagining, sensing, just being. I can't miss Fetus for too long, though: Bean wakes me out of that fog.

Breastfeeding, on a side note, is much harder to master than it appears. I'm determined and it will get better, but my nipples were pretty upset with me for a few weeks there.

Thank you all for your good thoughts and wishes. I probably won't be blogging much this summer, but I am going to try to keep up with reading your blogs.