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

Posts for Shaun 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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An Eleven Month Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

My darling, you are eleven-months old – you’re still my little baby, but you’re on the cusp of becoming a big one-year-old girl, my little toddler. Every day, it seems you are more and more a little girl, and a little tiny bit less a baby. It is, as this journey has been the entire time, both lovely and heartbreaking to watch.

At eleven months, you are a fiery little girl, full of personality. You have been particular and sensitive since the day you were born, and that hasn’t changed a bit. You want things – clothes, food, activities, comfort – to be just so, and anything less is unacceptable. I remind myself this will be a good quality to have, when you’re older, picking out dates or clothes or jobs or colleges. Right now – it’s a little exhausting. You are so sensitive, so easily touched by the people and energies, the sounds and smells around you. All I can do is grin, a little chagrined, and say, I wonder where on earth she got that from?!

Also, we have this new cute dress from the Farmer's Market.

You are very clever, finding loopholes to the boundaries Papa and I create for you, mimicking our actions and sounds, and grinning with pleasure when you succeed. You are cheerful, for the most part – I swear, I don’t know any other baby who laughs as often and with such gusto as you do. You delight in being delighted. You laugh, and then you give a little grin, a little check-in glance to Papa or me, that was funny, wasn’t it? I’M funny.

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A Ten Month Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

I know I could get up and go put her down in her crib, have some hands-free time to read or write or at least fold laundry -- but she passed out so sweetly after a bath and eating, and Fellowship of the Rings is on TV, and I've got a footstool under my feet. After all the running around we've been doing the past few days, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.

Dear Ariadne,

About a month and a half ago, you and I were at our friends the Hensels’ new house. You and I drove out to see it for the first time — you cried the whole way. I got maybe 15 minutes of fart noises and coos, and then that devolved into 20 minutes of irritated-at-still-being-in-the-carseat cry.

But — we wound down a long country road, pulled in, you calmed. Smiled at everyone, waved. We settled in for a long visit where you played with (erm near) Norah in the floor. She made up stories with your toys, she had a princess who was baking strawberry pies for you and me to sample. We ate haphazardly in that way only friends-who’ve-become-family can — sprawled out here, there, everywhere.

Man, I really love this age, your Uncle Travis said, somewhere around nine or ten months, suddenly, it’s like they’re a little person, and they can interact with you and you can figure out how to make them happy.

Nope, I said, shaking my head. Disagree. This age has been really hard for 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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