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

Posts for Life 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 Four: Birth

[part three]

PART FOUR: BIRTH

I still couldn’t believe those words – I believe I need a C-section – had left my mouth, and then I had to say them again, about 45 minutes later, to the doctor when she returned. In the time in between, I felt a curious sense of relief, this lightness like a huge weight had been taken off of my chest. I felt that I had made the right decision – that voice that had been shouting at me louder and louder to listen to my instincts quieted for a while.

Telling the doctor what I wanted and why was difficult, again. While she and I had our differences then, and have had differences again since, I do firmly believe she had me and my best interests at heart. I believe she was listening to my midwife when she said I really wanted a natural birth, and that’s probably honestly why she let me go as long as she did – under different circumstances, without my midwife’s warning, she might have called for a C-section earlier, but she wanted me to have the chance to birth the way I wanted, even if that wasn’t her way. Even on that day, I understand we had a sort of impasse of worlds, different outlooks and lifestyle, and I didn’t waste a lot of time trying to explain too much to her. I told her the basics of my decision, and after some discussion, she agreed we would do it.

I had thought maybe things would move very quickly at that point, but this wasn’t an emergency caesarian. They had to get the staff, wait for an open OR, to prep me – we had a bit of time, still, before the moment would finally arrive and I would have my baby in my arms.

That time in between ended up being a really beautiful, loving time, and I’m so glad we had it. Lauren arrived back from the dance studio, and just sat by my side and held my hand for a while. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. I felt safer and stronger, having her back with us, having her hold my hand and not say much, but look me in the eyes and tell me silently that she believed in me.

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All of us – Shaun, Lauren, Emi, Jeannie, Kristin and Mama – sat and just – talked. Processed. We discussed everything we had just talked about, all over again, and the more we talked, the more I felt convinced this was the right decision. I was able to calm myself, and gather my strength again – because what was about to come was almost scarier to me than giving birth vaginally might have been. I remember feeling very peaceful during this time, and very grateful for everyone there.

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A Six Month Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

Time flies by in the blink of an eye.

We know this. We are told this, from the instant we announce we are pregnant. We are told this even more frequently once our babies arrive, as the days slip into weeks, and the weeks into months, years. We are told this as if we didn’t notice, as if this first year of our babies’ lives didn’t already feel like it slips through our fingers like grains of sand.

You are six months old. Six months, half a year. I find myself wondering where the last six months have gone, where the entire month of January has gone. I was there for it, I know I was, I lived it – but now we’re coming to the end of January, we’ve hit that six month, half-year milestone, and I feel like I have no idea how we got here.

The words I picked as my guiding meditations for this new year, 2017, were stillness and cherish, and both of them were inspired by you, my darling. Parenthood – being working parents – slams you into hyper-drive. Every moment requires an action or a task from us, we are constantly preparing or anticipating or reacting or recovering. It’s easy to buckle down and really just barrel through the days, to just get our blinders on and do what we have to do without thinking about it.

And yet here we are, our baby is six months old, half a year old – it has been six months since the day you were pulled from my belly and placed on my chest, and I cannot believe it. I see you growing and becoming this sweet, funny little girl, and I don’t want to miss a moment. I want to snapshot every second with you and store it away forever, because you are six months today, and soon you will be a year, six years, sixteen years. I will always look at you and think of that little fairy baby laid fresh and screaming on my chest.

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A Five Month Letter to My Daughter

[Previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

Well, my daughter, this month has been a rough one.

Not because of you — of course, my darling. You have continued to be the most charming baby I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with, and I’m not just saying that because you’re mine and I made you from scratch. You grow even more happy-natured and joyful by the day. Just when I think you can’t get any more smiley or sweet, you do.

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No, this month has been a hard one for me, as your mama. This was a month where I barely felt like I got the opportunity to enjoy the privilege of being your mother. This was a month where I felt I spent the majority of the time running and running, and a few times a day, I stopped and shoved a boob in your mouth before bouncing you to sleep, and little else.

There was the emotional struggle of you being underweight, which I talked about here, and the decision to occasionally supplement a formula bottle here and there. (And I’m pleased to report that your follow-up appointment went great, the doctor was very happy with your progress, and told us to keep doing exactly what we were doing — nursing at every opportunity, pumping at work, and feeding you a formula bottle twice a day when I’m working to ease the strain on everybody.) That was a lot of emotional and physical stress on me, and then, you know, it’s been December, and Christmas, and all of that hoopla.

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I wanted very much to make your first Christmas a beautiful and special occasion, and I do think your papa and I succeeded in doing so — but it’s been an exhausting month. I felt overwhelmed by my work — particularly busy for this time of year — any time I’ve gotten close to getting caught up, I’d have to leave my desk and run to pump. I get up early, early in the morning to rush to get myself ready and rush to nurse you as long as possible, and rush to get out the door remotely close to on time. The week I had to be at work by 7 AM every day really almost killed me. I came home on lunch, long enough to nurse you and stuff food in my mouth before I was back out the door again. I came home after work to enjoy the last few precious hours of your awake time before putting you to bed for a couple hours, waking you to nurse again, and then tumbling into bed myself. And then there have been all the Christmas celebrations, with friends and family and work and church. Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy to have those demands on my time. I’m happy that we as a family share a rich and full life with so many people who loves us and enjoy spending time with us. Not every family has the opportunity to star as Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus in the annual live nativity. As your papa said, you got to time that just right to get that invitation. And I’m always so happy to gather our friends together at this time of year, your Aunt Ali home for a visit, and meeting your Uncle Ryan for the first time, being passed from lap to lap at a Christmas get together just like the little scraps of paper we played the movie game on.

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But all of that wore on me. I wanted in my heart to be joyful and light, but instead I felt dim and heavy. Listless and unenergetic. Snippy and short-tempered. Traits that don’t normally characterize me, not by a long shot.

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A Four Month Letter to My Daughter

[Previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

When I was pregnant with you, there were a lot of things I prayed for you. There were a lot of things I prayed specifically for you as a baby.

When you’re pregnant, people love to give you advice. They love to tell you all their horror stories. It felt like I had a lot of people telling me how hard parenting was, especially with a newborn, an infant. (It’s so worth it, they’d always add, but it’s soooo haaard.) Your papa and I had a lot of friends and acquaintances telling us all their stories about how their baby didn’t sleep at all, or only slept for two hour stretches. We heard stories about babies with colic and with gas, babies with acid reflux. We heard stories about babies with allergies and mamas cutting out specific foods for months and months at a time. We heard about cranky babies who just had trouble adjusting.

When I was pregnant with you and hearing this stories, I started to pray — please let her be a good sleeper. Maybe we’ll have one of those magical babies who sleeps through the night fairly early on. I started to pray, maybe we’ll have a baby who eats great and has no issues with gas or allergies. Maybe we’ll have a baby who’s happy and content, with no health problems.

Then I thought to myself — we can’t possibly get that lucky. We can’t possibly get ALL of those things in one baby. We’ll be lucky if we have just one or two.

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Baby girl, you are all those things. Your papa and I know what incredibly blessed and lucky parents we are, what a beautiful and perfect baby you are.

It’s true. We’ve seen signs of it all along, since birth when you were so alert and strong despite being so small and skinny. We’ve seen your personality developing over the last four months, we’ve seen you hit milestones right on target, we’ve dealt with you daily in a variety of situations and we’ve seen you be as easy-going and charming as it is possible for a baby to be.

I guess I thought that was normal, up until this fourth month. I just thought you were a typical baby — you’ve still had your crying fits, your public meltdowns, sure. If you get too tired or overstimulated, you’ll cry. We’ve battled over the carseat, off and on — sometimes you love it, sometimes you scream the whole way home. So I thought you were a fairly typical baby, granted one who is generally happy-natured — but one who is fairly typical as babies go.

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Sometime this fourth month, I started to listen to stories other parents were telling. I knew we were lucky with your nightly sleep pattern, but I didn’t realize how lucky. I heard how parents with babies and children older than you were still getting up several times a night. I didn’t realize that most babies weren’t as cheerful as you were in so many situations. I didn’t realize so many parents had so many issues with when and how much to feed.

You’ve been such an easy baby. Some days are hard, yes. Most days are long and exhausting, but we could have it so much harder. Your papa and I get enough sleep — we’re not well-rested, true, but we get enough. Our mornings are early, and we are constantly doing something — laundry, putting away milk, washing bottles, nursing you, soothing you, changing you — but we have it so easy in the grand scheme of things.

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