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

Posts for Jeannie Category

Birthing Ariadne, Part Three: An Agonizing Decision

[part two]

PART THREE: AN AGONIZING DECISION

During that long night, a few things started to worsen in my condition — not terrible things, but small little warning signs. My urine output had gone down, they’d been monitoring it all night as it can be a sign of kidneys shutting down, and mine had lessened in the wee hours of the morning. I’d also developed a headache — another symptom of preeclampsia.

Around seven AM, my nurse T was off duty and she brought in a new nurse, K, to give her report on me. Listening to the long list of what was happening to me and what they were doing about felt a bit discouraging again, particularly when T looked over at me and asked, is there anything I’m forgetting? I mentioned the headache, and the nurses told me they’d get me some Tylenol to help.

Now that I had had Nurse T for a 12-hour shift, I was attached to her similar to the way I’d been attached to Kristin the day before. You never know with nurses, I’ve found they either tend to be super wonderful, or super frustrating. I’d tried really hard all night to be super positive and friendly and polite with any of the nurses who checked on me — as much as I could, out loud, even I was feeling grumpy inside. So far, I’d had excellent experiences. I was nervous to be meeting a new one — but K was absolutely fabulous, and played a huge part in my birth experience that day and the next.

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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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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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A Two-Month Letter to My Daughter

[Previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

Just the other night, your papa said, man, she’s been here eight weeks. Just eight weeks.

Eight weeks felt like an eternity. Or I guess what I mean is, the actual time you’ve been here with us feels like an eternity. To say out loud, eight weeks, two months — those phrases sound like a short amount of time. An impossibly short time — surely, you’ve been with us forever? I remember my mom, your grandma Marmee Suh, saying to me while I was pregnant, once she’s born, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without her. You won’t be able to remember what it felt like to live life without her. It’s so true. It’s only been eight weeks — the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of years and decades. But now that you are here and we have spent a good chunk of time with you, I really can’t remember what life was like before you.

I suppose you could say some of the newness of having a baby is worn off.  I still have moments of that holy wonder and shock — this is my child, I made her, she belongs to me and I am  her mother. But they’re spread out through the day now. Every single moment isn’t a moment of wow, woah, how anymore. We’ve settled into our roles as mom and dad and daughter, and while your papa and I aren’t experts yet, we seem to have managed to learn how to take care of you well enough to the point where some (some!) of the time, it feels easy and familiar.

I am cherishing every minute I get with you these days. I will admit, there were a few days here and there, around weeks five and six, where I got a little — not burnt out, exactly. But I felt more comfortable in my mothering skills, and I’d had weeks of being home and taking care of you, and I took it for granted, a little. I set you down whenever I had the chance. I tried to buy a little extra time in bed snoozing before I got up with you. I still loved being with you and being a new mom — but I was happy to have my arms free, or get more accomplished during the day. And then it hit me that this maternity leave home with you won’t last forever, and I was coming to the final weeks home alone with you every day. I really thought about what it would mean to leave you with others for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Do my 40+ hours. I couldn’t imagine it. I’d known it was coming, all along, but I’ve been dreading going back to work after having you literally since I was pregnant.

I won’t focus on that now, because we still have some time left, and I want to enjoy every minute, instead of weeping off and on all day long like I did that day. After that day, I stopped taking this new mothering time for granted. I knew my time with you would be limited once I went back to work, and so the more menials tasks of taking care of you stopped seeming like chores. It is a privilege and a delight to rock you to sleep, even at four in the morning. I am lucky to have you fall asleep on my chest, and I spend even more time looking at you, drinking you in, stocking up all these memories for when I go back to work. I’ll be wearing those moments of bonding like armor as we all transition into this next stage together.

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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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