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

Posts for Breastfeeding Category

Birthing Ariadne, Part Six: Reflection

PART SIX: REFLECTION

There were so many parts of this birth story that were hard to write — and this final section has become one of the hardest. The truth is my feelings on my birth change, sometimes from day to day — depending on how I feel, my general mental health, what kind of comment someone has made lately. Every other post in this series has been 90% ready to go for weeks — but I keep coming back to this one. I keep feeling like I haven’t said enough, or I haven’t said what I meant clearly, or that there’s another message or lesson I need to explore.

Months have passed since I gave birth to Ariadne. Although I began writing her birth story the first week we came home, as I am finishing it, her first birthday is on the horizon. Before I had my own baby, I wondered why mothers waited so long to share their birth stories. Weren’t they burning to share their experiences, their joys and pain? Now, I understand. Now, I realize what a transformative, life-changing experience birth is, whether it happens perfectly as desired, or is massively derailed. It’s not so easily tossed out for the world to digest – sharing your birth story is incredibly overpowering, intensely vulnerable.

I found, the deeper I got into my birth story, the more confusion I felt. Even in the first weeks home, I was moved to tears – sobbing tears, neither wholly of pain nor of joy – when looking at pictures from our days at the birth center, when trying to put into words the huge wealth of emotions I felt that week. My birth struck me as a many-layered experience. Parts of it were painful in the extreme, both physically and emotionally. Parts of it were beautiful, spiritual, and empowering, despite the frustrations. I struggled – do struggle still – how to make peace with this juxtaposition, this dichotomy of the two very different sides to my birth that somehow inhabit the same space of my heart.

Even just writing my birth story forced me to face the parts of my birth that I found painful, disappointing – even traumatic. Writing this has been a form of therapy, certainly – but there were times I did not feel up to the task of working through the disappointment, doubt, and guilt that I felt during that week, and have felt from time to time since. The idea of sharing my birth story makes me feel intensely vulnerable. Giving birth is both the most vulnerable and empowering time of a mother’s life, and sharing our weakest and strongest moments takes a lot of guts, and a lot of strength.

I confess that I delayed writing and sharing this post, because at times, I feared people would judge me. Directly after my birth, I did not feel much doubt about the decisions I’d made. At that point – the aftermath was still very evident, from the huge bruises on my arms to my hideous feet still grotesquely swollen from the magnesium to the follow-up doctor’s appointments to make sure my blood pressure came down and stayed down, and that I remained out of danger for a stroke or seizure. It was easier to take the danger of my ill health seriously, in the first weeks after I gave birth. The scariest moments, the biggest risks and dangers had left their mark on me, physically, and they were not easy to forget, at first. For a few weeks, I continued to feel justified in every decision I had made, because the evidence of their necessity was printed on my skin.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Five: Postpartum

[part four]

PART FIVE: POSTPARTUM

While I had been finishing up in surgery, Shaun had gone with our daughter back to the birth center. While Kristin stayed in surgery with me, Nurse K helped Shaun to do some skin-to-skin of his own with our daughter Ariadne in a quiet room. He sang to her and held her all alone for a good fifteen minutes, and I’m so grateful he got to have that time as well. Skin-to-skin promotes bonding between baby and parents, and it was important to us that both Shaun and I got to experience that.

After his alone time, he and Nurse K took her to the nursery, and my mama, Laureny, Jeannie, and Emi got to see her for the first time. Everyone was both in tears but also couldn’t stop smiling, watching Shaun bring her close to the windows so everyone could see her. He sang to her as he held her, then they got her a cap and a blanket before returning her to me in the recovery area.

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When I returned from the recovery room with Ariadne, they had moved us into a different birth suite for some reason – I’m not really sure why. I don’t know if that’s standard procedure for after C-sections when rooms are available, or what. (There had been a lot of construction in a hallway just outside my room too, drapes and drills and ladders, maybe that had something to do with it too.) For whatever reason, when they wheeled me back to a new room, the change felt nice. The other room had become a place of strain and worry, and this new room was a place of joy and ease.

One of my biggest regrets about how my birth ended up was this time back in the room. Not that it was bad – but at this point, I was exhausted and doped up on pain medicines. I wish I had been a bit more clear-headed for my daughter’s first few hours earthside, I wish I had had that rush of adrenaline that comes with a natural birth.

As it was, I was pretty out of it. Yet again, I kept passing out, often in the middle of sentences. I had my daughter on my chest, with my friends and family gathered around, glowing, beaming, looking at her – I remember Laureny’s face in particular, the sunlight from the window framed her face in a sort of halo, and she beamed at my daughter and me – and I kept ordering myself to stay awake, but was drifting in and out. Still, Laureny and Emi and Jeannie and Mama all cooed and awed over my daughter’s little pointed elf ears, her head of hair, her dark serious eyes. Even from her first few minutes and hours on earth, Ariadne was such an alert and aware baby, looking at everyone, taking them all in, seeing and learning her grandmother and her aunties, her mama and papa.

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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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Humility.

I love my daughter more than anything else in this world, and I would do anything for her – and sometimes, I’ve learned, that anything I’ve promised to do is to humble myself and ask for help, to take an action I don’t necessarily want to take but become aware I need to take.

Motherhood teaches us humility in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we learn humility when we have baby puke or baby poop on our hands and clothes, and we can’t clean it off us until we take care of our child first. Sometimes, we learn humility when our child is having an epic meltdown in the grocery store and everyone is staring and we have to just patiently pass items onto the conveyor belt to get the shopping over and done with so we can get the screaming child out of there. Sometimes, we learn humility because we have a plan in place – a mothering plan, a parenting plan – and we are physically incapable of following through with it.

The last one? That’s me. That’s the lesson I’ve learned over and over again since I’ve become a mother. It’s apparently the lesson I need to learn the most, because it keeps coming back and reminding me I haven’t studied hard enough yet.

I’ve said this before – if sheer force of will were enough to get things done, I would never be behind. I would always have my ducks in a row. My spirit is always willing, but the flesh is weak. Or, perhaps more aptly – there’s just a world outside my stubborn, strong-willed self. There are other people in the equation. There are jobs and obligations and traffic and people whose priorities are not my priorities, and visa versa. I have a will, and I am determined to find a way – and the truth is, that lesson that I have to learn over and over again – is that just because I want make something happen a certain way doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way. I can fight and fight the inevitable outcome as hard as I want – I will eventually have to humble myself and learn the lesson.

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