Category Archives: family

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

I read How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones because it was sitting there, and I’m glad I did. It’s a quick (but not necessarily easy) read. I was immediately drawn into the narrative. He shares what feels like a really authentic account of what it’s like to grow up Black and gay and how and why that felt like a death sentence to him.how we fight for our lives

The confusion, innocence, curiosity, and angst of childhood felt really authentic to me—though his experience seemed even more exacerbated by his firm knowledge that he was *different*. Later, the sex is explicit, and there’s a lot of it, and at times I wondered if it was gratuitous, but in the big pictures, it really did serve an important purpose in the story. And anyway, it’s about a young gay man, so yeah, there’s going to be some sex.

About two thirds or three quarters of the way through the book, when many authors lose their steam, attention to detail, and sentence-level care, this book picks up, ending powerfully as the author’s relationship with his mother contextualizes and heals and, although imperfect, a clear love story emerges that feels true and healing and heartwarming.

The ending is surprisingly, as it becomes clear that this author has achieved the sense of self that he’d been searching for—in some unlikely ways and places that simultaneously feel familiar. I too have suddenly and unexpectedly wept with strangers.

The book made me much more reflective of my own education, especially my undergraduate degree, an experience that, for me, has inexplicably evaded much analysis or meaning making from me. This book also made my world much smaller. I identified with this man in that I too went to a state school on a scholarship, and although it wasn’t the fancy private school to which I had received a partial scholarship, it offered an important education still the same.

Because the book was not too demanding of my time, I googled some of people listed in the acknowledgements section. I read Sarah Schulman as an undergrad! I didn’t realize Roxanne Gay has a PhD in Rhet/Comp like I do! I didn’t realize it was from Michigan Tech, a sister school with my own PhD program that often exchanges “talent.” Not only did the book’s journey resonate with me, I also had the sudden sense that these people were actually my people. This felt like…my circle.

This is a story of a gay black man, but the journey to reconcile the love and harm inflicted by one’s family, the journey of navigating the first years of adulthood (college) and settling into one’s authentic identity amid wildly conflicting pressures, the community we find, the family we choose is the stuff of life and something with which every reader can identify.

planting the placenta

Today I finally planted the placentas that I saved from both of my hospital births. I kept them in case I was struggling postpartum and wanted to have them encapsulated. Fortunately, I never ended up needing to use them postpartum. So, I stored them in the freezer for months with a plan to bury them. I learned that once you have them, there’s no turning back. I moved across two states with a placenta in a cooler on ice. I started to have my doubts about keeping them, but what else could I do?

Finally, it is springtime, and I am settled, and I am planting my first orchard: apples, pears, apricot, and peach. It is time.

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a new fruit tree for the orchard

To begin, it felt like a chore. Get trees. Remember to get the placentas out of the deep freeze so that I can work with them tomorrow. Dig holes. Do it all quickly before the babies wake up from their naps.

I’m so glad I did it though. It was a beautiful and surprisingly introspective process. When I opened the containers, they were so fresh, like I had just given birth. Everything slowed down. The memories of my pregnancy, of growing and birthing these beautiful babies came flooding back as I prepared the placentas that connected us in every way. It was bittersweet to let them go. To put them in the earth felt like letting go of the most physical connection I have with my boys. It’s something I’ll never get back.

I hope I’ll remember. I hope sometimes when I am in the orchard, I’ll slow down, and I’ll remember the absolute miracle of life and the life changing gift this experience of motherhood has been to me.

How fitting that today is also Earth Day. Happy Day!

A’s birth story

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A was born at 7:44pm on December 5th, 2019. He was due on December 1st, although an early ultrasound read a Nov. 30th due date, I rounded “late” to give myself more time. I did the same last year with L. Given a family history of long gestations and big birth weight babies, I wanted to avoid induction pressure as much as possible, while still being relatively accurate and medically responsible. I was in labor with L on his due date—not late at all! However, during this pregnancy, I was bombarded with so many stories of people barely making it the hospital with their second babies and stories of early babies that, despite knowing better, I began to think that I might have a quick, early labor with this baby too. But first, let me back up.

I found out I was pregnant around the middle/end of March 2019. (A few days before, I had submitted an application for my dream job in Oregon.) I was still nursing 8 month old L around the clock and had not yet start my period. So, my only indication of pregnancy was implantation cramping, which happens during a very specific window of time after conception, and, in my body, is a very specific feeling that I’ve only felt twice. Thinking of it now, I cannot draw up the memory of the feeling. But, I know it when I feel it. I noted the date, told T I thought I might be pregnant, and loaded L in the car and made the drive from Driggs, ID to my home in Utah. Around that time, I had also just received word that Grandpa H was dying of kidney failure. Mom met me in Utah, and we began a week of tender visits with Grandpa as his kidneys failed, and then he passed away. Privately, I began taking pregnancy tests and saw that first faint line get darker with each test. I told both T and my mom. Although this pregnancy was a surprise and came to me much faster than my first pregnancy, I felt strongly that this was a precious miracle baby, and I was grateful for the timing. Questions about if and when to have a second child were suddenly no longer a concern. This was how it would happen. This was the answer.

Shortly thereafter, in mid-April, we made our first trip to Louisiana with L. The trip went well, but I felt that first trimester exhaustion and had an upset stomach the entire time—something I never felt with my first pregnancy. When we returned, I had my first prenatal appointment, where the due date was confirmed, and we did prenatal testing to find out, “It’s a boy!” Around this time, I also learned that I was a finalist for the job in Oregon. So, once again, I packed up L, and we made the long trek to Oregon. I felt great the day of the job interview, but it was taxing. I continued to struggle with first trimester exhaustion, upset stomach, and also scheduled nursing sessions with L throughout the day.

Shortly after returning from Oregon, in early June, I was offered the job. I accepted, and by mid-June, I made arrangements to put my house in Utah on the market, with a goal to sell it within a month. That process required cleaning and trips to Utah and packing up my life (once again). My mom came for another visit, which coincided with my uncle Roger’s sculpture reveal at This is the Place Park in Utah. Mom helped me pack, then T came to Utah at the end of July to help finish packing and load my belongings into storage pods, which would be shipped to Oregon. During this time, I was also house shopping in Oregon, via video walkthroughs with the realtor and my mom’s visits to properties. I made a few offers, until finally finding the home I would buy at a great location.

I spent the rest of the summer enjoying my time in Idaho with L, taking long walks in the stroller with him and generally enjoying the slower pace that life there affords. In mid-August, I found childcare in Oregon and moved in with my mom temporarily while I began working at my new job. I also saw the house that I was in the process of buying for the first time. Buying the house ended up having several unforeseen setbacks, and the one month I was supposed to stay with my mom turned into three months. I had repairs and updates completed, and I moved in during my third trimester, only a month or so before A was born, with the help of my mom and T and other family members.

I mention all of this to indicate the intensity of this entire pregnancy. While staying with my mom, L and I shared a small bedroom. He began daycare for the first time, he caught every cold imaginable, and so did I. Antibiotics were even required at one point, and while I was sick, I had regular, painful contractions that made me wonder if my baby would arrive early. T was also supposed to arrive and stay about a month before the due date. However, work obligations kept him away several weeks longer than anticipated.

In the final weeks of pregnancy, I felt huge. I was huge, gaining 65 pounds this time. By far the most difficult part was caring for L while pregnant. Tasks like lifting him, changing him, getting him in and out of the car seat, and putting him in this crib sometimes felt impossible. I held him not on my lap, but beside me now—a emotional transition as I began to feel what it would be like to not be able to fully baby my first baby as much as I had in the previous year and a half.

My due date came and went. At the 38 week mark, I began nesting and became much more motivated to finish unpacking the house. The few weeks previously were spent moving and unpacking too, but I was tired and less motivated. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, I’d finished enough of the interior of the house to feel satisfied and ready for baby.

The due date came and went. I felt uncomfortable at night, tossing and turning, but never went in to labor. At 36 weeks, I was dilated 2-3 cm. At 40 weeks, I was dilated to 4cm. One night, near my due date, I had a wave of hormonal nausea and a painful contraction, followed by another painful contraction. I told T that I felt certain I was in labor, and I tried to sleep. I awoke the next morning. Contractions had faded away. I wasn’t in labor after all.

At around 2:20am on Thursday, December 5th, I woke up feeling uncomfortable. I was struggling with the bedsheets and felt a pop or a shifting in my uterus. Steady, painful contractions started right away. After about an hour, T and I made our way to the hospital, while Mom stayed home with L. I arrived around 4am and was at 4-5cm. About an hour later, I asked for an epidural and the anesthesiologist arrived around 6am. Contractions were not regular (between 3-7 minutes) and never established a regular pattern, which is what happened last time too. I couldn’t talk during the contractions and had to moan and close my eyes and sway to get through them. The anesthesiologist encouraged me to get the epidural then based on my pain level. However, the epidural was not so easy. This time, the anesthesiologist was unable to easily place the epidural. This was not a problem last time, but this time they thought it might be cause of mild scoliosis, which was the first I’d ever heard of it. I did get a severe headache last time, which doctors thought might’ve been the beginnings of postpartum preeclampsia, but the anesthesiologist felt certain that it was a spinal headache. My last epidural did leave my legs completely paralyzed for the duration of the epidural, so I guess that’s not normal.

After three attempts, a second anesthesiologist was brought in. She was tried a fourth time, and then was able to place it the fifth time. (She said it would be her last attempt.) I was so, so grateful that it was finally successful! Especially since I ended up having another very long, slow labor, just like last time. It was definitely not the fast second baby that so many had warned me of. My mom showed up at the hospital around 9am, after getting L ready and taking him to daycare, where he would spend the night, since baby arrived at 7:44pm, which was after L’s bedtime, and the following day. It felt hard to have L spending the night away for the first time, but it was our only option, and at least he was familiar with the daycare.

After the epidural was set, I waited and rested. There was talk of breaking my water (more) because it might have already broken a little. There was talk of Pitocin, which I eventually got, because my labor stalled out again once I had the epidural. After a long day, with little progress, the obgyn came to the hospital after a full day in the clinic and had me labor in hands and knees (more like child’s pose) since I had so much more sensation and mobility with my legs with this epidural. Then, she was going to break my water, but baby had shifted, and she didn’t feel comfortable doing it. After laboring awhile longer, she broke my water. A short time later, I was complete and able to start pushing. Although I had spoken to the obgyn about it, and the birth team, and put it in my birth plan, I was cued to curl around my baby and do purple pushing. Personally, I hate this method of pushing. I feel no leverage in the lithotomy position, and it feels like a frustrating and an unproductive waste of energy. I tried pushing in this way again, at the insistence of everyone in the room, but felt nothing but lack of oxygen and straining in my face and neck.

The obgyn suggested the squat bar, since I had so much mobility in my legs. This pushing felt very productive. After one push, I felt baby’s head move down significantly. I told everyone that the push felt productive. I was then made to lie back after the contraction. Lying back felt unnecessary and bad because baby’s head was descending so much now. With the second contraction, I got up on the squat bar and pushed the baby’s head out. At that point, the medical staff started yelling at me to stop and to lay back. Again, this did not feel good. I could tell that something was wrong, and they began to break down the bed and prepare for delivery. Since this was expected to be such a big baby, I guess they thought that pushing would take awhile. In the meantime, I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I wasn’t too worried, but I was hyper focused. I thought maybe the baby was a surprise breach. Once they were ready, they began yelling at me to push again. Afraid of what was going on, I pushed with all of my might. I knew I was tearing. I knew it was going too fast. I knew that if I could go slower and ease my baby down, it would be better, but I felt I had no other choice but to listen and push because my baby might be in danger. Within just a push or two, trying with all of my might to get the baby out, my baby slipped out of my body and into this world.

I said I wish I’d been allowed to stay in the squatting position. The obgyn said she couldn’t deliver a baby upside down. I said, you might’ve surprised yourself. The obgyn said the urgency was that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. However, later my mom told me that the urgency was that the umbilical cord actually came out first, which can also be dangerous. Despite some lingering bad feelings about the pushing and delivery, the mood in the room was pleasant and celebratory. I would have guessed the baby was having breathing problems because he didn’t seem to cry or breath as much as L did when he was born. However, L was the one that needed oxygen, while this baby was fine. It just goes to show that I’m not a baby doctor, and mother’s intuition is not always right. This baby’s face was quite swollen. His hair was dark. He looked very different than his brother did at birth. He weighed 9 lbs 10.2 oz and was 21.5 inches long. He felt so tiny in my arms. It was hard to believe he was actually slightly bigger at birth than his brother was. How are they ever this small? It’s impossible to remember, until a new baby is placed in your arms again.

I held him, and within the first few hours, he began to nurse. As is common with big babies, he had low blood sugar and needed to be supplemented with small amounts of formula. I felt that the hospital’s standard for blood sugar, hydration, and bilirubin was impossibly high and that most babies probably have to get formula while there, which makes me feel sad for all of the breastfeeding mamas in there. Since this was my second baby, I felt less stressed about formula derailing breastfeeding. But, it was a stressor nonetheless.

L came to meet his brother the next evening. He was sweet and curious. We left the hospital the following day, without a name. Going into labor, we had a few top contender names picked out, but after 48 hours, none of them seemed right. After a few days at home, and a lot of work, and deliberation on our part, we finally found his name.

This baby came to me easily, naturally, and without any effort. I knew my body in birth better, so as labor unfolded, it felt familiar. Breastfeeding, sleeping, holding, even moving my own body was easier and more familiar the second time around. I didn’t yet know him, but he smelled and felt perfect in my arms, and I loved spending hours with him snuggled up against my belly while he slept—easy love.

2019: year in review

Last year I said that 2018 was the best year of my life. 2019 might’ve topped it. In early 2019, I had a six month old baby. I was still up every two hours or so throughout the night nursing my him. I was on a very strict, allergy-free diet and was therefore wire thin. I was finding my stride as a mother, but I was still very tired. I was living almost entirely in Idaho, enjoying a cozy winter inside while the snow fell outside. I took my baby on walks on days that weren’t too cold, and I read the same baby books to him over and over again.

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In March three things happened. I applied for my dream job in my home state. Then, I felt the twinge of implantation that is unlike any other feeling I’ve ever felt before. I couldn’t describe it now, but I knew it when I felt it because I also felt it when I became pregnant with L. The other thing that happened was I received news that Grandpa was dying. Mom and I both drove to Utah to spend time with him in his final says. I quietly took pregnancy tests and watched the thin pink line darken each day.

In April, we made the trek to Louisiana to introduce L to his extended family. It was a lot of work, and I was exhausted from early pregnancy, but I ate two muffulettas and other delicious foods and felt sick to my stomach a lot. We also attended a friend’s wedding. Then, I flew back on my own with L. The flight was only between Dallas and SLC, but it was exhausting. I had to nurse him while sitting next to a (very considerate) older man and was constantly diligent, feeding L, entertaining him, and praying he would take a nap. He was so much smaller then!

In May I had my first prenatal appointment to confirm my pregnancy and determine my due date—Dec. 1st. I also drove with L to Oregon to interview as a finalist for that dream job I mentioned earlier. There, I interviewed around my nursing schedule, feeding L between meetings and a teaching demo. The interview went well, but I was still quite tired from nursing a baby and also being in the first trimester with my second.

By the end of the month, I was offered the dream job. Normally I make pro/con lists for any big decision, but this time it didn’t seem like I was making a decision. I just put my house in Utah up for sale and made plans to move. My house sold quickly, and I made an offer on a small house in Oregon with a few acres, sight unseen. Meanwhile, I spent a long summer in Idaho, still taking my baby on long walks and reading books to him. By now, life with L was much easier. He was doing great, and I was getting more sleep.

In August, I moved to Oregon and made plans to stay with my mom for about a month. That month turned into three months. I lived in an house that was not baby proofed, sharing a room with my one year old, who was a loud, fussy sleeper, while I slept on a loud, squeaky mattress. During that time, L started to go to daycare for the first time, which meant I was hauling my increasingly heavy pregnant body up early every morning, getting my baby to daycare, and then driving to work. Near the end of my pregnancy, this routine became increasingly impossible. Getting L in and out of his car seat was particularly hard.

After my new home closed, I waited a few more weeks for new wood flooring to go in. I updated light fixtures and added a shower the a bathroom. Then, I orchestrated two sets of movers and U-Hauls, and I moved into the home that I imagine I could live in for a very long time.

At last, I moved into my new home with only a few weeks left before my new baby would arrive. On December 5th, I welcomed my second son (that story is forthcoming). I spent the final weeks of 2019 enjoying my new baby, my angel, and adjusting to a wonderful new life with a newborn and a toddler.

L’s birth story

39745114_10217350126411587_1642003359181307904_nOn July 8th, 2018, my partner T and I invited my grandpa (L’s Great Grandpa Hunt) out to an early dinner. Since I was 40 weeks pregnant and had felt indulgent in the final weeks of my pregnancy, I decided to keep it going with an all-you-can-eat buffet at Chuck-O-Rama—a nice new one in nearby Lehi. We sat for quite awhile eating and talking. Grandpa and T could eat very little, but I indulged, especially on the mini cinnamon rolls. The conversation was slow and pleasant. In my last weeks of pregnancy, I was incredibly pleasant, and slow, and calm, and docile like a cow.

That evening, I felt a little excitement, but it was indiscernible from other excitement I’d had in previous weeks. That weekend I had the urge to tell my mom to drive to Utah from Oregon, but I brushed it off thinking I was still days or maybe even a week or more away from delivery. My mom had the same impulse that weekend as well.

Earlier in the day, I’d walked my usual, daily walk along the lake path and listened to my childbirth affirmations—which had been my daily routine for weeks. After summer school was over, and I was mostly alone in Utah and keenly aware that this was the last time I would be alone for a very long time. T arrived the week before my due date in anticipation of L’s arrival. The days were hot. I was still happily mowing my new lawn weekly with my new electric mower.

After dinner with Grandpa and T—it was a Sunday night—I went to bed as usual. Relatively quickly, I felt crampy and unsettled in bed. Soon, I realized I was having real contractions. I’d had a few very mild Braxton Hicks and some aches and pains earlier that I’d timed on a childbirth app. So, I began timing these contractions a bit, but also trying to sleep. If this was labor, I wanted to rest up in the early stages. If it wasn’t labor, I still wanted to try to stay rested. The contractions intensified, and, for the next 2-3 hours, I had to breathe and focus to get through them. I let T know that I was in labor, but told him he should still try to sleep. I texted my midwife, my doula, and my mom to let them know. Though it was late, my mom began preparing to drive to Utah. My midwife, Rebecca, told me to contact her when my contractions established a pattern. My doula, Robynne, was attending another birth, but began making arrangements to have a backup take over, so she could be with me.

My water broke a little after 2am on July 9th (L’s “due date”). There was a dark greenish tinge in the amniotic fluid. (While it looked like meconium to me, my care providers weren’t so sure.) Everything intensified, and I immediately woke T for support. We had not yet installed the car seat, so I asked him to install it in case of an emergency. He also brought me towels to put between my legs when resting in bed and a small table to lean against while laboring on the toilet. My contractions were two minutes apart, and sometimes closer, and I began to vomit into the toilet because of the intensity (and I do not throw up easily!). On one hand, I felt calm. I knew what was going on and felt that I was managing the pain effectively. On the other hand, I recognized that I now I needed support, and so I texted my doula and my midwife to let them know. Things did feel a bit chaotic during that time. My contractions were erratic. They’re supposed to establish a pattern. In fact, in all of my time birth education, I’d never heard of them not establishing a pattern. They can speed up, slow down, or stay consistent, but they’re always very measurable. Mine seemed all over the place. I also continued to leak amniotic fluid and vomit. I felt the need to move back and forth between the bed and the toilet, and I also felt the need to sop up my messes with a towel, while crying, but staying calm, and also feeling very excited and ready to meet the person who would be my son.

I labored mostly alone through the early morning hours, and my doula arrived around 7 am or maybe later. It was such a relief to have her there. Her counter pressure was so comforting. My contractions began to ease up. I felt restful. But, I also started to feel some worry. I’d labored pretty intensely all night, but I could feel that my body wasn’t changing very quickly. As a doula, I had supported women, especially first time moms like myself, who had labored for days. I knew that if I was fated for such a labor, I would probably want the support of a hospital and an epidural. That had been my “Plan B” all along. If I my labor progressed steadily and I could deliver in 8-10 hours or so, I wanted to give birth at home. If it extended much beyond that, I knew I wanted more medicalized support. I expressed this concern to both my doula and to T. They both reassured me I was doing great, that I didn’t need to transfer, and that we should stay at home. So, I continued to rest and to labor, with support, and wait for my midwife to arrive.

My midwife Rebecca arrived in the late morning, and began setting up. It was around midday when she checked me, and, after over 12 hours of labor, 10 of those hours were intense after my water had ruptured, I was still only dilated two centimeters. This information did not surprise me necessarily. While my contractions felt very intense, I felt that my body was changing very gradually. After some internal worry, I finally told my doula that I was really considering transferring to the hospital. My doula and T reassured me once again, but I began to feel a certainty. Finally, I told my midwife that I was thinking about transferring to a hospital. She seemed a bit surprised. She told me my options. I could stay, and she could give me something to help get my labor going. Or, I could go to the hospital. This exchange was a bit awkward. My midwife, whom I’d had a somewhat strange relationship with up to this point, was supportive, but she also said, “You’ll pay for it now, or you’ll pay for it later,” regarding my pain in a labor at home vs. my pain and an epidural in a hospital setting. I became increasingly sure of my decision. I felt peaceful. It was an early act of mothering where I was the person in the room who knew the right answer for me, my baby, and my body.

After a bit more deliberation, I finalized my decision to go to the hospital. I had heard good things about the AF hospital—it was nearby, and I knew it was compatible with my insurance. So, I transferred there. The midwife called the hospital to let them know I would be arriving shortly. I stepped into some gray leggings and pulled on a loose dress with the help of my doula. Then, T drove me in my car. The car ride was manageable, although I had to breathe through a contraction every time he hit a bump in the road.

Throughout the morning, T had been in touch with my mom as she drove to Utah from Oregon. Shortly after we arrived at the hospital, my mom arrived at my house to drop off her dog, Jaxn, and a few perishables before coming to meet us at the hospital. She arrived at the hospital not long after we did, and I was so glad she would be there for the birth.

The intake process was fairly fast. T gave them my name, birth date, and insurance card, and we were whisked away to a birthing suite with a bathtub, which I knew I wouldn’t use because at that point I was there for the epidural. I got settled into the room. I was feeling some relief because we had arrived safely, and I could focus my attention back on to my labor. The midwife provided information about my transfer to the nurse on duty and then bid me adieu.

I contemplated whether or not I should get the epidural right away because contractions had slowed again. However, with (very little) encouragement, I went ahead and ordered the epidural. After about over 14 hours of active labor, and 12 hours after my water broke, I got the epidural. It was probably another hour before the process was complete, and the pain relief kicked in. While I was still sitting up from having the epidural placed, and the anesthesiologist was cleaning up my back, I felt a strange suction feeling travel up my spine from the site of the needle to a piercing pain in the back of my neck. It then immediately moved on to my head, where it stayed in the form of the worst headache I’ve ever felt in my life. That pain was still far less than the pain of contractions, which was already decreasing thanks to the epidural. I told the anesthesiologist, and everyone in the room, about the headache, and the anesthesiologist got a little defensive and immediately said that it wasn’t because of the epidural. I found this comical. Of course it was because of the epidural! I said I wasn’t mad at him, and the pain relief was helping with the contractions. At the staff’s instruction, I leaned back in the bed, and, after a time, the headache began to fade and was much more manageable within an hour. I had a dull headache on and off throughout the rest of my labor. The epidural meant I also needed IV fluids and a catheter. That was all set up.

When I was admitted to the hospital, they found that I was still dilated to a two. After a few hours with the epidural in full force, the on call doctor, Dr. H came in to talk about my options. He wanted to start Pitocin, and I agreed. Since I had an epidural, I was less afraid of the intensity of Pitocin contractions. Since my labor was going so slowly, I knew I would be at a risk of an c-section if I labored too long. (Most hospitals won’t let women labor for over 24 hours after the water breaks.) So, we started Pitocin and continued on and off with it until I delivered. When it intensified my contractions, I needed more pain relief from my epidural. Whenever I’d push the button, the pain relief was effective, but it would also cause an uncomfortable numbness that sometimes lasted several hours. When L didn’t handle the Pitocin well, they turned it off, trying again a few hours later. We continued like this through the evening, and all of the following night. I hadn’t eaten since Sunday afternoon. I hadn’t slept since Saturday night. And yet, I was alert. I wasn’t hungry, and I sipped the water that my doula offered like a champ throughout my entire labor.

Some nurses were fine. Some used unnecessary fear mongering. In the early morning, around 4 am, they stopped checking me. I think this is because if I was complete, they didn’t want to bother a doctor at that hour, and they didn’t want to be in delivery during shift change if at all possible. In the early morning hours, L showed some signs of distress, and I would need to shift positions to help him. Eventually, before I started pushing him out, the nurse gave me oxygen to help with L’s signs of distress. I liked having the oxygen and used it throughout the pushing stage delivery.

My backup doula, Ashlie, arrived and took over at around 6 am. After shift change at 7am, I was finally checked an hour later, and they found that I was complete. I think, based on the pressure and way I was feeling, that I had been complete and ready to push since maybe 5 am or so. After it was determined that I was complete, I was allowed to start pushing. Before giving birth, I knew that sometimes women had to wait for a doctor to arrive before they pushed. I thought I might be able to start pushing when I felt ready. However, as it turned out, I absolutely needed coaching to push out my baby.

The nurse instructed me to put my chin to my chest, hold my breath, and push. This is called “purple pushing,” and it felt very counter intuitive to me. I tried to push in other ways, pushing down through my throat and through my core (opposed to curling), and this felt more powerful to me. My mom thought it looked wrong though, and the nurse thought it was strange, so I tried it their way for awhile. But, that continued to feel strange to me, and I felt weak pushing in that way, so I shifted back to the way that felt strong and intuitive to me and continued to push that way until I pushed my baby out.

We started out using the hospital’s birthing bar. The nurse had never used it before, so my doula showed her how. My pushes with the bar were not very productive, but I also wasn’t very supported by the nurse, so we removed it and moved into a traditional lithotomy position, with someone holding each leg, and a nurse sitting between my legs, monitoring the situation, and telling me to push each time I had a contraction.

It did not feel like I’d pushed very long before the nurse said that L’s head was showing and that he said hair! (He had very little hair.) In a few more pushes, T and my mom were able to see L’s head starting to come out as well, but only during a push. Finally, as I neared delivery, the nurse had me stop pushing so that she could get the doctor. So, once again, I had to wait to push. And again I was surprised that I was unable to really push productively without external support.

The doctor arrived, Dr. A, the table was broken down, and the neonatal team arrived. I commenced pushing until my baby’s head was out, and not going back in between contractions. I reached down and felt him with my hand. My mom was able to see him. I became more aware of T’s presence in the room as he saw his son for the first time, and there was a noticeable shift as he instantly transformed into a dad.

Finally, I knew the time had come for my baby to leave my body. I pushed, and before I could catch my breath, was told to push again. I felt pulling and pressure, and, at 10:59 am on Tuesday, July 10th, the doctor pulled out my baby with the turning motion that babies make as they are delivered. The feeling of having my baby leave my body is one I hope I’ll never forget. I could feel his power and his energy and his spirit transfer out into the world. It felt inevitable, essential, and profound. That 9 lbs 7 oz comfort in my belly slipped to the outside world, coughing and sputtering, and them crying softly. I reached for him with outstretched arms and held him to my chest, skin to skin, with tears streaming down my face. Our spirits reunited on the outside.

L gave me so much power and strength throughout my pregnancy. He blessed me with some of that power that I still feel today. It’s the strength I had to lift my heavy baby when I was postpartum and no longer had any abs or a pelvic floor to speak of. It’s the strength I had to endure the ongoing pain and slow recovery from childbirth. It’s the strength I have to lovingly rise again and again and again at 3am to feed my baby. It’s the strength I have every day to show up and be a mother.

looking for signs

I’m pregnant, and before I was pregnant, I imagined that I would document the experience thoroughly in writing, since it’s my mode of processing, communicating, and creating. But, I haven’t wanted to write much about the experience, and I’m not exactly sure why. I think it’s because I have no words. I’m impressed with women who can write about pregnancy and the journey to motherhood. However, most of what’s written is more matter of fact or medical or humorous. To me, the experience isn’t entirely any of those things–it certainly isn’t medical and it isn’t funny. It’s a completely physical and spiritual thing. It’s so entirely unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced that, like I said, I have no words. I can say that I love being pregnant. I’m one of the lucky ones who actually feels better pregnant–warmer, stronger, more connected. There’s also a delightful and ongoing sense of celebration between me, my family, friends, and even with smiling strangers out in the world. More than that, though, I am awestruck. Constantly. Every day.

bumps_2-1-1.jpg

a crop of my bump from my maternity photo shoot

Now that I am nearing the end of my pregnancy, I finally (after a busy move, and travel, and prepping a house and nursery, and work) find myself with long days of solitude. These are perhaps the last days I’ll have to myself for a very long time, and certainly they are the final days as my old self–the self before I am a mother and before I am always and forevermore caring for a child on the outside. I am savoring this time. I’m enjoying long quiet days, where I can indulge my whims moment to moment. And in these moments, I find myself looking for signs. First, what day will the baby arrive? Do I inherently know? I find myself looking at the dates on the calendar, each neutral and blank. One of these days will be the day that I experience childbirth for the first time. One of these days will be my son’s birthday. One of these days will be recognized now for the rest of my life.

I try to walk for a few miles on a beautiful trail that skirts the lake each morning before it gets too hot. Each day, I become more familiar with the route. I watch as new wildflowers bud out and bloom. I see new animals: birds, cows, horses, and deer. I notice plants that I think are sunflowers. After a few more days, I confirm that they are sunflowers. Then, I hope I will be able to see them bloom. I wonder if they will bloom before the baby is born. They begin to bloom. I step out of the shower and rub lotion over my belly. I put on a pair of underwear that I like. Will I be wearing these underwear when I go into labor? Will they be ruined?

Each day, there are more signs and questions. If I am to examine my intuition closely, I would say that I still have time, that birth is not exactly imminent. I still have a “to do” list that I’m working through slowly, but steadily. For now, I am satisfied to remain pregnant. I feel big and hot, but good and vital and very alive and still very comforted to have my son growing safely inside me.

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende

This is basically Alaska’s version of A Prairie Home Companion (the Garrison Keillor version, not this new stuff). More specifically, it’s like the “News from Lake Wobegon” section of the show, which also happens to be my favorite part. (P.S. I thought Sara Watkins was going to take over the show. I love her speaking voice. I think the replacement needed to be a woman who sounds sort of like a church lady.)

Anyway, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town by Heather Lende is full of that same kind of down homey, good timey accounts of a few births, a lot of deaths (Alaska is a dangerous place, and there many of untimely deaths), and some other stories in between.

For whatever reason, this was a slow read for me, even though the short chapters should make it very readable. I also found some of reflection to be cheesy. There are religious overtones, and, in my opinion, those are always difficult to pull off, and this was no exception. By the end, even though these townspeople are clearly beloved, I had a hard time differentiating one old, dying, charismatic local from the next.

That said, it’s still worth the read, but maybe only if you’re a fan (secretly or otherwise, of A Prairie Home Companion), if you’re from Alaska (I’m not), if you’ve visited Alaska (I have), or if you crave to be immersed in an idyllic, close-knit community that has the kind of face-to-face social interactions that some of us may still remember from before the days of social media (I do).

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

This is not my genre, but if Louise Erdrich writes an dystopic end-of-times novel, I’ll read it. While I haven’t read The Hunger Games, or even The Handmaid’s Tale, Future Home of the Living God seems to borrow from those of these themes and images. While I’m not well versed enough in the apocalypse genre to say for sure, I imagine that Erdrich’s work here does not expand the genre in terms of imagining what that world might look like, how it might function.

What I did love about the novel was that it tackled political issues and questions in ways that were artful and beautifully written. Erdrich seems to instantly and effortlessly create characters that are at once unique and familiar. She’s also just a master story teller, although there seemed to be some long scenes and plot points in the last third of the book that didn’t seem to expand the narrative. I trust Erdrich though, and perhaps on a second read, I would recognize the reasoning behind the plot in the last third of the book.

There were some great moments in the last third too though. For example, I loved how some of the characters evolved. I liked some of the surprises. I appreciated the commentary. I liked the way it ended.

Here were a few lines I liked:
The title, obviously. They don’t get much better than that: Future Home of the Living God

“An Announcement That Brought Incongruous Joy” (45).

“So do I love him at last? Child, I need him. It is hard to tell the two apart” (80).

A long section on how men smell (82).

“Where will you be, my darling, the last time it snows on earth?” (267).

Further reading:
Raids on the Unspeakable by Thomas Merton

Kateri Tekakwitha: Mohawk Maiden by Evelyn Brown

and possibly, The reason for crows : a story of Kateri Tekakwitha by Diane Glancy

2017: year in review

2017 was one of, if not the, worst years of my life. I got sick (for the first time in my life, really). Weirdly sick, and doctors couldn’t figure it out, until finally some fringe health workers said maybe stress, maybe anxiety, maybe adrenal fatigue, but still nothing certain. So, after all of the scans and doctors appointments that showed nothing, I took lots of supplements, and ate green salads, and was very still and gentle with myself for several months. It was isolating. I was fearful. I laid on the couch a lot. I read books. In fact, I read a lot of books last winter to pass the time, which ultimately helped me heal, I think. (My 2017 reading list is posted here.) Slowly, my strength returned. Slowly I began to exercise again. Slowly, slowly.

Despite that cloud hanging over my head in the first half of the year, lots of good, and beautiful, and life changing things happened in 2017 as well. Just as I was regaining my strength, I traveled to Portland, Oregon in March, to present at an academic conference. Then I took a trip to Spokane, Washington (I love that city), then a trip to Tri-Cities, Washington, then Moab to hike through Arches, then lots of time in Driggs, gardening and working and writing, then back to Oregon for my cousin Valerie’s wedding and good time spent with the kiddos, the Stampede, more gardening with my mom, riding lessons (I hadn’t been on a horse in years), a few trips around the pond on a paddle boat with my dad and nephew, a tiny raspberry harvest from my tiny new raspberry patch, and a conversation that had my heart pounding in my throat and ended with him saying, “Ok,” ejc’s visit (twice), along with Piper, a trip to Teton National Park, and the Table Rock hike, despite horrible smoke from forest fires last summer, a tiny huckleberry harvest (that actually took forever because—huckleberries), a road trip through Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas to Missouri, for some art, a train depot, and wandering through Kansas City, MO, and a return to Little Sweden, then the total solar eclipse viewed from an overlook in the Idaho mountains, an experience that completely exceeded my expectations and changed my perspective on what the world was capable of, then on to Mom’s fall visit, and I loved having her here, and then back to Oregon for my cousin Gina’s wedding (where I was maid of honor for the first time!), a little more time with my family in Oregon, and then back to work, and then back to Spokane (I love that city! (even though it was unseasonably cold this time)) to present at another conference, and then teaching my last class of yoga for the foreseeable future, and then on to Florida, where I walked in the warm Atlantic surf in December, and napped my way through a road trip in Alabama and on to Louisiana, where I spent some time with people I will probably know forever, and then back to Oregon for a really charming, idyllic Christmas week, with lots of baking, just the right amount of snow, and good visits with my family, and lots of good news and good cheer to share.

Cheers to a happy new year, everyone.

sherewin

my 2017 “best nine” from Instagram

 

A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn

I can’t remember where exactly, but Goldie Hawn’s book, A Lotus Grows in the Mud was recommended to me while I was reading some respectable piece of literature, and so I ordered it and set it aside for a month or so. I finally got the chance to read it over spring break, and it was surprisingly delightful–thanks in no small part, I’m sure, to “co-author” Wendy Holden.

Lotus Grows In The Mud

image from powells.com

Hawn has led a fascinating life, and her book really tries to get at some of the wisdom she’s gained in this life. And, you know what? Some of that wisdom was pretty darn inspiring and insightful.

Here’s what impressed me–Hawn follows her purpose, even when it is not obvious, even when she has doubt, even when others criticize her and roadblocks threaten her faith.

When I think about my purpose in life, I often have doubt and uncertainty. However, the predominant narrative one hears about one’s path is that it is easy and clear. But, that hasn’t been the case for me. I was an English major because I liked reading, but that seemed incidental. Now, I’ve made an entire career out this. I love practicing yoga because it is good for me, but a lot of times I phone it in, or have to talk myself into going, and sometimes I don’t go at all. I’m never the most flexible, most enlightened, or coolest person in the class. Still, I trained to teach yoga, and I’ve been teaching it since 2008. Most days when I enter into that classroom to teach, it feels really, really *right*. Same goes for the garden, for writing, for my friendships, for My Love.

So, I loved the message of her book. She was brave. She did hard things. It made me feel like I could be brave. I could do hard things–all while making a living and having Kurt Russell unexpectedly waltz in and save me in the final hour and then stay for the remainder of my decades. Yeah, I’ll have what she’s having.

In perfect timing, just as I finish this book, I see that Hawn is teaming up with Amy Schumer in a new film called Snatched. It looks lovely and hilarious, and I can’t wait to see it. I love seeing mother/daughter duos (that’s in the book too).