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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for Spirituality Category

Birthing Ariadne, Part Two: The Induction

[part one]

PART TWO: The Induction

Luckily, Shaun managed to switch his usual Sunday evening shift for a Sunday day shift — meaning on that stressful night, when we were waiting to find out if we’d be parents sooner rather than later — he got to be home with me to try and keep me sane.

We truly had a lovely evening together, and looking back, knowing how it all ends — I’m so glad we did. It felt like we were standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to keep our balance: one the one hand, we could go in to the birth center on Monday and end up being kept, induced, having a baby sooner than expected. On the other — all this fuss and worry might be for naught. We might be sent home, and end up laughing Monday evening in our living room about how keyed up we were over nothing.

So I wanted to make an effort to be sure that if this was our last night home together, we really made space to honor how special that was. Shaun set up to grill — it’s always one of our favourite ways to spend an evening. He did his special chicken marinade and grilled squash and zucchini, so we had a healthy meal, and we enjoyed the summer evening as we had so many other summer evenings — the little brick patio, Shaun grilling and singing as he always does, the sunlight in the blue sky, the wind rustling the tree branches.

The other thing I wanted to make sure to do, even if we weren’t sure how the next day would go, would be to get a few final belly pictures. My gut had started talking to me loud and clear in the last few days, and as the days went on, I really started listening to it. I didn’t know for sure what would happen the next day, but I felt pretty sure the next time I was home again, I wouldn’t be pregnant anymore. Shaun and I had had our beautiful maternity session with Rachael, but those pictures had my belly covered and not super defined. I really wanted some pictures that showed of the glory and majesty of a pregnant belly — which meant hugeness and stretch marks included. I snuck off the couch for a few minutes, long enough for Shaun to snap some bare belly pictures of me with Baby Girl inside for what might be the last time. (And in retrospect, I’m so glad I have these pictures, have captured my big, beautiful belly, those last few days of Baby Girl safe and snug inside me.)

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Sweet Emi came over later that night, to have one final pep talk and strategy session. All along these last couple days, Emi had been so supportive and just an absolute rock. She kept reminding me — this is not you. This is nothing you’ve done or not done. You’ve been one of my best doula patients ever, I’ve not had to worry about what you’re eating or doing, you’ve done such a great job taking care of yourself and baby, and this is just something we can’t control. It was everything I needed to hear, over and over again, as I continued to blame myself.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part One: A Change in Plans

I’m going to tell you the story of how my daughter was born. And the birth story I’m going to tell you is almost the exact opposite of the birth that I hoped for, prayed for, and prepared for.

The birth story I’m going to tell you is simultaneously one of the best and one of the worst experiences of my life – and it’s taken me a long time to accept that it can be both. This story is one I’ve struggled with telling ever since it happened – one I’ve chewed on every single day, trying to break it down into digestible pieces. I’m not going to pretend part of me doesn’t regret how it went down, that sometimes I don’t wish I’d made different decisions, or that the universe had dealt me a different cards so I didn’t have to play the hand I’d been given.

But then I’m also going to tell you how I’m all right with what happened – how even though it was scarier than even I’d expected – parts of it were still so magical, so breathtaking. How I mourn the loss of that empowering, natural birth I worked so hard for – how I still struggle with guilt and fear and confusion – but how, on good days, I understand how every single step was necessary to get Ariadne here safely, and keep me safe, and how we did everything in our power to make her birth as spiritual, celebratory, and emotional as was possible under the circumstances – and how much I believe we succeeded, considering what we could not change.

This is a birth story, and it’s my birth story – meaning, I’m going to be as open and frank and detailed and long-winded as I want. You’ve been warned!

PART ONE: A Change in Plans

I find it important to note – I had an almost textbook healthy pregnancy. For 37 weeks, I was a healthy girl carrying a healthy baby. Aside from some anxiety and depression issues early in my first trimester (unrelated to being pregnant), and the typical pregnancy ailments – my baby and I were healthy and risk free, for almost our entire pregnancy.

I struggled so much with this; all throughout the pregnancy, but especially in the beginning. Part of me just didn’t believe that I was capable of being pregnant. It had taken us a little longer than expected to get pregnant, and felt such a shock when I learned I was — and some of that shock spilled over into the actual pregnancy. I doubted that I could do this, that my body could do this – for no reason other than that self-doubt that plagues us all. I believed all other women could have healthy pregnancies and healthy births with healthy babies, but I doubted myself. Surely something was wrong with me. Surely I would mess this up, surely I would find a way to ruin this. Surely I wasn’t good enough to be trusted with this gift. I’d wanted my baby so badly for so long – I was terrified something beyond my control would take her away from me.

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Church.

Stillness was one of my words for 2017. Cultivating stillness — not necessarily remaining still, but making sure to find time to slow down, or stop. Scheduling that in, making moments of quite and peace a priority. I am a better everything when I am making self care a priority. We are all better, calmer, more patient with each other, when we focus on creating moments to stop and simple be quiet with ourselves, to check in.

We have not been very still this month. We indulged in a rather lazy March, taking time to slow down almost to the point of stopping. Not rushing, not living just to survive and put one foot in front of the other in front of the other. So, you know, that meant we were behind on everything, in April. So these last two weeks have been working weeks, actually following through on tasks and making sure we do projects that have been on the to-do list for a little while. I’ve undergone some major changes in my work, dealt with some situations. Did a lot of making choices and deciding what was most important to me, weighing my priorities.

We’ve been busy, we’ve been working hard, being responsible. Pushing ourselves to be social and productive. And we were tired.

So — finally, I got some comp time for working on-call. Our plan was simple — the same thing we always do if we actually manage to both get a day off and good weather and no pressing demands. I went to work for a couple hours, came home, packed up my family and headed over the river to Lake Glendale.

Taking trips, even shorter ones, with a baby can be — well, complicated. There’s a lot more planning than there used to be. We try and be minimalist in our packings, but we also like to be prepared for potential-probable situations. And you know, trying to stick a time table with Baby can be laughable. If you really need them to nap before you leave, and they usually nap at 9:30, you can bet the day trip will be the day she decides she doesn’t want to nap at 9:30.

But although we aren’t experts, we’ve grown enough in our parenting chops over the last 8(-almost-9-ugh)months to the point where we know we can handle it. We know Ari will get fussy at some point during a longer jaunt out, and that we are capable of handling that. We will try all the tools in our arsenal, and if for some reason, those don’t work, we’ll get inventive new ones until we handle the situation. And, if worst comes to absolute worst, we can always go home. Has any parent not had that moment where you went, ah, this isn’t worth it, and left your shopping cart or the drive-thru line or the party early, and just went home. It’s rare, these days, and I’m so grateful for my baby girl’s empowerment and growing patience — but it’s nice to know it’s always an option.

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The drive went smoothly, Ari had had a little nap but not for long that morning. She started to think she maybe-kinda-coulda been a little sleepy on the drive, fussing here and there, but generally content, easily distracted. The sky was that stupid spring blue, like audacious with those big cartoon clouds. The fields were full, golden flowers, white lacy ones, tall grass. We had the radio playing, we took our time we did not rush. We arrived and found the park nearly empty. Already, sitting on our picnic blanket, the pines stretching overhead, the dogwoods fluffy — we realized how still it was. We didn’t have radio or TV or phones or internet or conversations or gossip to distract us.

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A Mother’s Blessing

We had all had rough days.

Some of us had had rough weeks, some of us were ill or in pain, or had emotional issues troubling us.

When I first realized this, getting ready in our bedroom in the early evening, I — of course — worried. Worried that we would all be too tired to enjoy ourselves. Worried that my dear ones had stressed themselves out, trying to pull together this Blessingway in my honor. Worried that our hearts would be in the right place but our bodies might not cooperate.

I dried my hair, and after I finished, I heard car doors slam shut outside. My girls were here. I didn’t bother with mascara — I knew there would be some sort of tears at some point in the evening; tears of emotion or joy or laughter or overwhelmed gratitude. I threw on the dress I’d worn for maternity pictures, earlier in the week, figuring I might as well get some more use out of it than just that one single occasion, and then I headed out the front door to the front porch.

Already, my ladies had hung a bright tie-dyed sheet of Lauren’s, blocking most of the party space from view. They would allow me behind it, but they wouldn’t let me help with anything, so I decided to park it in a chair outside the curtain and let myself be surprised when they’d finished setting up completely.

I didn’t feel great, I’ll admit it. I’d had an emotional day, more stress than I’d expected, and my hormones ready and rarring to escalate every emotion to its highest level, even when it wasn’t called for. Physically, I had pushed myself a bit farther than I should have. My back was killing me, my carpal tunnel was causing both my hands to ache, and my poor pregnant feet were certainly reacting to doing chores all day and the summer heat. Worst — my Braxton Hicks contractions were really amped up that evening — I was trying to catch up on my hydration, and sit still to let my body rest — but they were intense, and frequent. Not regular, or painful — never quite enough to make me actually worry about actual labor — but close enough that one or two times throughout the evening, I had an inward moment of, if this keeps up, we might turn this Blessingway into a Birthingway. (Luckily, that didn’t end up happening, and at the end of the night, with plenty of water and my feet propped up, everything returned to normal.)

So I sat, and listened as my friends called to each other, working together to transform the porch into a little wonderland for a few hours. Lauren turned on some music and it spilled out into the evening air.

Suddenly, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. Whatever I had been upset about all day, whatever I apprehension I had for the evening’s festivities — it all faded away. The sun was not yet quite beginning to set, but the hour drew nearer. Beyond the porch and the trees of the neighborhood, the sky flared from blue to rose and amber, and the last of the afternoon sunlight cut angles across the porch, shining through that tie-dye sheet. Suddenly, everything felt exactly as it should. I was happy to be there, happy to have my girls there to celebrate with me. Happy to have my husband inside enjoying some dude time, happiest of all to have my daughter kicking and wiggling in my belly as I waited.

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A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Ariadne* –

Later, when you’re older, when you know me better as a person and not just as a spirit, your first home as you do now – you’re gonna hear that I had a hard time talking about you at first, and you’re going to think that’s insane. You’re going to think, Mama never shuts up. Mama never stops talking. Mama has advice and a story for every situation, there’s no way she could possibly have ever felt tongue-tied or at a loss for words. Hopefully, by the time you’re old enough to read and understand this, you’ll know that you, above all other things that exist in this universe, I could go on and on and on about you, that I will never ever stop talking about how wonderful you are – and so you’ll find it strange that before you arrived earthside, I struggled to talk about you.

It’s baffled me too. You, whom I wanted for so long. You, whom I have dreamed about for years. You, who every day grows stronger and bigger and more of a real person, a real little human, and less of a dream in the corner of my heart. Why is it that I clam up when it comes to expressing how I feel about you? Why is it that I want and I want and I want to write to you, and I barely can? Rarely, and even then, only with great effort and gentle cajoling.

I thought about it some, this past week or two. I thought about why. The truth is, all along, since your daddy and I found out we were expecting you – when I tried to think about writing to you, I felt this great, immeasurable, flood of nameless emotion. I call it nameless because it was too many things at once. Too many feelings to name, too much intensity to bear witness to for more than the few seconds I considered expressing all that, and then rejected it because it seemed too hard.

Me, who never has a problem expressing my feelings. This is me — and maybe I don’t have a ton of practical talents, but one of the few is definitely giving voice to emotion, to expressing not just how I feel but how other people feel. Capturing the intangible and leashing it down with specific phrases and examples. This is what I do, this is who I am – I talk about life and love and sorrow and joy and I find a way to express that which others struggle to.

And yet – when it comes to you, my darling, I often find myself at a loss for words. Because how do I express even the idea of you? I anticipated you and wanted you for so long, and then for so long I feared I wouldn’t ever get you. I still fear it, sometimes. I still sometimes think that you aren’t real, that this is a joke. That someone, at some point – the instant I really believe in you – will tell me I’m mistaken. Despite this big belly, the way you dance and wiggle all day long, making my stomach jump and twitch; despite hearing your strong, steady heartbeat week after week at the midwife’s, seeing your little face on a sonogram screen – I’m still scared someone will take you away from me. I’m scared to love you, because I’m afraid the instant I truly believe I am being gifted this opportunity to be a mother, that I am being trusted to bring you into this world – you will be taken away from me.

But week after week, we carry on. We are steady together, you and I. I jump at every chance to freak out. Little worries flit into my brain and dig themselves deep there, and blossom as little sprouts of anxiety. Yet we have been so lucky, so healthy, as I said – so steady. We have had almost nothing to worry about, really and truly. I can come up with one hundred thousand remote possibilities to worry about; if and it could happen – just ask your daddy and your Auntie Emi and your Auntie Laureny, bless them, who have had to talk me down off the ledge more than once. But those fears never ripen, they never come to fruition.

And so here we are, sitting pretty at 35 weeks. You have made my belly round and taut, and it pokes out of my tank tops and shorts at night. You kick and wiggle all day long, today you squirmed so much that I had difficulty eating my lunch, I could barely lean over to dip the spoon in the bowl because you wouldn’t stop moving.

Last week, at our midwife appointment, Candie said, we just want to keep her in there for at least two more weeks, but after that – if she does come, the efforts to stop labor are more invasive than the risks of letting her coming. Meaning – although we plan to let you cook up until 42 weeks if you’re happy and content and Candie’s fine with it – that in as few as two weeks (now one) – you could feasibly be with us.

Every day that passes, you are stronger and your brain is bigger and your lungs are heartier. Every day and week that passes from this point, you are more and more likely to be just fine, no issues, if you were born. Two weeks from when I’m writing this, you’re considered full term.

More often these days, my focus is on the reality of you. For all I have ordered you nursery furniture and washed all your little clothes and folded them, for all your baskets packed with socks and headbands and wash cloths – for all that work I have done, you have not seemed real. And now, with as few as two and at most, eh, sevenish weeks left – I must accept – you are real. You are happening. You are coming, and you are going to be our daughter.

There are a hundred million things I’d like you to know. There are a hundred million truths and lessons and kindnesses I’d like you to learn and experience. Sometimes, I worry more about how I am going to teach you about the goodness of the world despite its harshness than I worry about any other practical matter.

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