Posts Tagged ‘eve’

Can’t Get Enough

November 16, 2010

Eve’s ability to communicate with us, both verbally and non-verbally, has exploded recently. Her spoken vocabulary includes: Yes, No, Thank you, Uh oh, Come here, and Stop it. As for non-verbal vocab, she has recently started signing Sleep, Change (as in diaper change), All done, and her super duper favorite: More.

Eve loves to have more. She asks for more while sitting in the high chair. She asks for more while running around the living room. She asks for more while nursing. She asks for more in her sleep (and if you haven’t seen my chubby-cheeked toddler mash her fists together while simultaneously making her Completely Unconscious Face* you are missing out).

Sometimes – well, okay, most times – I don’t know what she’s asking me for more of. More Cheerios? More tickling? More cuddles? I have no idea. I ask her of course, to confirm what exactly it is that she wants, but she hasn’t learned how to tell me that just yet. But it’s coming. I know that it’s coming.

This stage in her life is nothing short of amazing to me. Of course, she’s been communicating with us since the day that she was born, but the past week has found our ability to speak to each other on a completely new and exciting level. She understands far, far more than she can say with either her hands or mouth: she knows who her PopPop and Mama are (my parents), she knows who her Uncle Footrest is (my brother – his name is not actually Footrest; there’s a story behind that nickname), she knows what her shoes and socks are and that they go on her feet, she knows that her arms – and not her feet – go into the sleeves of her coat.

All very small things, of course. But I remember when she knew of nothing but milk and warmth and darkness, and the sound of my husband’s voice. I’ve been there to witness every change, every learned thing, every developmental step. Watching my child grow and change has been like watching a house be built, brick by brick, step by step, one nail after the next. I can’t help but know and love the minute details because I remember the person that she was, before those minute details started to build the person that she is.

Lately she has been testing her (and our) boundaries. She pretty much blatantly ignores us 95% of the time when we tell her not to something (which is almost always something that she has never been allowed to do and is fully aware is not something she is allowed to do – like standing on the couch or throwing her uncle’s DVDs on the floor). We’re doing our best to be calm and consistent. She’s doing her best to be…well, herself.

And I’m okay with that. I love her self.

*For some reason, her lips stick out quite profoundly while she is asleep. She already has very thick lips thanks to Marcus and me, and while she is unconscious this feature is particularly and adorably exaggerated.

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Blech

September 27, 2010

We spent the weekend in the hospital with poor Evie, who caught some sort of bug and lost a lot of fluid from both ends. She ended up dehydrated and requiring an IV. I hope that the process of sticking her to give her the IV was more traumatic for me than it was for her. I couldn’t help but question my actions as I held down my crying (with no tears – she was too dehydrated to make tears) and screaming child while the nurses wiggled a needle around in the back of her tiny hand. The IV success rate was 20-25% – most of the attempts to get a working IV failed either entirely or shortly after taping it to her arm.

Of course we tried less invasive methods to hydrate her first, but she wasn’t interested in nursing, drinking milk from a cup, or drinking Pedialyte. We did manage to get an ounce and a half of Pedialyte into her with a syringe, which she promptly puked onto the hospital floor. All of the sticking did manage to do one thing – it eventually upset her badly enough that she nursed and nursed and nursed. She did get better after a couple of days, with the help of a little bit of saline and a lot of exclusive breastfeeding.

Everything turned out all right, and today she has been playful (although a touch clingy, which is understandable after all the stickings from strangers). But I have to wonder if I could have done something better. The nurses mentioned something about strapping her to some kind of board in order to place the IV, which is what they apparently normally do with very young children. I insisted on holding Eve myself, and even though it upset me to do it I have to hope that it was better than the alternative.

Here’s hoping that the rest of the week is significantly less shitty.

Turnabout and Fair Play

September 16, 2010

I know that I’m not the only one who wishes she could respond to ignorance more quickly and with more cleverness.

All too often the only response I have to someone (this is in meat-space, mind you; I feel pretty satisfied with my online responses to jackassery) is a shocked look, a stammer, or a mumble. Despite the fact that I SHOULDN’T be surprised at someone’s rudeness, I frequently am. And it’s not because I didn’t know that people could be such jerks; it’s just that I rarely expect that level of upfront rudeness until it’s smacked me in the face. And then even after it’s happened, in the moments afterward I wonder if I could simply be taking it the wrong way. I wonder first if there’s something wrong with ME rather than THEM.

While we were on vacation last month, a strange white woman started cooing at Eve, who was toddling about in her little blue peace sign flip flops. She asked her in a high-pitched lilting voice, “Can I take you home with me?” I personally think it’s weird to ask to take home someone’s kid, even jokingly, but enough of my friends, family, coworkers, and complete strangers have done it by now that I figure it’s normal enough. So I didn’t mind that; in fact, I was smiling because Eve was smiling at the woman.

Then things got genuinely bizarre. The woman added, “You want to come home with me? Do you want to do my dishes? How about wash my laundry?” My mouth dropped open, Eve just smiled at her, and before I even had time to fully process the fact that this white woman had pretty much just asked my black child if she wanted to be her domestic servant, the woman had already turned tail and disappeared.

In mere seconds, the interaction had gone from casually friendly to racially fucked and I said nothing to defend my child. My brain was still going “Wha-?” as the woman’s back turned, and by the time she was gone, I was already questioning myself and doing whatever mental acrobatics I needed to do to convince myself that THAT HADN’T REALLY HAPPENED.

I’ve never been very good at defending myself against the microaggressions that I receive from whites. Most of the time it happens too quickly for me to process and respond, and the times that it isn’t, I’m not able to just flippantly tell the jerk about hirself. Every time it happens, I must weigh the consequences of my possible responses, because people of color do not have the option of standing up for themselves without paying a price. Sometimes I deem that it’s worth it: I won’t get fired, hauled into HR, thrown out of the organization, or blacklisted in my field for speaking up or speaking out.

Most of them time I decide that it’s not worth it. I could say something, but I don’t, because I need this job, I enjoy this organization, I really want to work with the local lactivists even though they’re overwhelmingly white and therefore bound to sideswipe me with their privilege.

I don’t think that it makes me a bad person, choosing not to fight those battles. But I do wonder if it makes me a bad mother.

I don’t actually think of myself as a bad mom, for the record. I just can’t help but wonder how many times the damage to Eve caused by my inaction outweighs the perceived benefits to myself.

My Favorite Name

August 25, 2010

On more than one occasion, someone has asked me what my daughter’s name is, then seemed either a little surprised or very, very pleased with the answer.

Overwhelmingly, the people who have been happy to hear Eve’s name are Christians. They have assumed that I decided to give my daughter a good old-fashioned Biblical name. They don’t realize that I’m an atheist.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate the Biblical nature of Eve’s name. The mythical Eve was an agitator, an uppity woman; she sought knowledge and truth even when it meant disobeying the greatest known authority. She did not just blindly accept what she was told, and like most revolutionaries, she was punished severely for it.

But my Eve was not named for that mythical mama. Not even close.

When I was younger, I was an X-Phile.  I watched the show faithfully every Friday night (or Sunday, when it moved), and called my best friend (check out her blog! it’s fascinating and naturific!) during every single commercial break to geek out over Scully and Mulder’s latest drama.

My all-time favorite episode is what taught me the word “exsanguinate,” which at 12 years old I used entirely too frequently (I used to be kind of a show-off when it came to big words). That season one episode was centered around a pair of evil homicidal clones, and I used to rent the tape from Blockbuster to watch it over and over.

The name of that episode? Eve, of course. I don’t know if Eve is going to want people to know that she was named after an X-Files episode, or of she would rather they think it Biblical. Either way, I hope that she grows to love her name even half as much as I do.

Birth Day

August 17, 2010

[I originally wrote this shortly after Eve’s birth on August 17, 2009. Enjoy!]

My daughter is here. After 39 weeks of waiting, wondering, and worrying, she has finally arrived to meet us, and I could not be more happy with her.

The night that my water broke, I told our friends C and J that Marcus and I were going to try to “get this baby outta me,” which is code for “We’re gonna bone and hope that helps somehow.” The last time we’d had sex, I’d started having contractions about 30 minutes later, which lasted all night before petering out at 6:30am. Since it was several days later and my body was presumably a little more ready, I was hoping to have even better results.

The sex was fun, silly (as usual), and – as far as I could tell – not helping at all. An hour afterwards, I was only having very weak and sporadic contractions, nothing that felt like it was doing any good. I decided to go to bed, in the hopes of maybe waking up in labor. Marcus wasn’t ready for bed and so he stayed in the living room.

I’d only been lying in bed for about ten minutes when I realized that something felt strange. I felt full somehow. I shifted my weight and suddenly a rush of fluid came out of me and totally soaked the bed! I was powerless to stop the flow and after an awkward WTF moment, I called Marcus into the bedroom. He turned on the lights, saw the mess on the bed, and then things suddenly became very, very real. We were going to have a baby – and not in a month, a couple weeks, or a few days. We were going to have a baby SOON as in TODAY.

It was 2am when all this went down. I paged the midwife on call, which happened to be KT, and she assured me that we didn’t have to go to the hospital immediately if we didn’t want to. We could still follow the original rule of thumb – staying at home until my contractions came at 5 minute intervals and lasted at least 60 seconds each. The fact that my water had broken meant that we couldn’t stay home indefinitely – if I didn’t begin active labor within 12 hours, I would need to come in and there would be the possibility of induction to get the party started.

We elected to stay home. After all, if we were going to play the waiting game, why not do it in the comfort of our own place? Marcus finished packing our hospital bag while I lay on the bed with a towel between my legs, another towel under me, and a large trash bag under that towel. We then tried to go to sleep; Marcus actually managed it, but there was no way in hell I could sleep. I was still having puny sporadic contractions which I could have easily slept through, if not for the fact that I couldn’t turn my brain off. I wanted to go to the hospital, even though nothing much was going on. I just felt like I really had no idea what the fuck I was doing, and I wanted to be in a place where people DID know what they were doing.

Marcus didn’t really want to go to the hospital any earlier than necessary, but he could see that I was anxious and sometime after 5am we called my parents to have them come get us. We got the hospital bag and diaper bag, filled the cats’ food bowls, and bid them farewell for the day. We were both pretty sure that I’d be having that baby later that day and returning home from the hospital on Monday. Pfft!

We arrived to check in at the hospital around 6am. My midwife checked me and I was disappointed to learn that I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced – there had been no progress since my last prenatal appointment despite all the excitement. By then my contractions were still entirely sporadic in their length and frequency, but they were strong enough to make it difficult for me to speak through them. We were taken to our room, where I snacked on granola, fruit, and juice to keep my energy up for the coming ordeal. Mom and Dad just hung out for about an hour before going back home.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, my contractions began to get stronger, last longer, and come more regularly. Marcus was an incredible birth coach; he supported me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Since I wasn’t getting any drugs to help with the pain, I was not confined to the bed or catheterized, so I took advantage of the ability to change positions, walk around, bounce on the birthing ball, and shower. I probably got in the shower about 20 times, desperate for the bit of relief that the hot water gave me. Marcus was, again, a fantastic support; he allowed me to hold onto him or squeeze the crap out of his arm or even punch him if I needed to (it wasn’t angry punching, it was holy-shit-this-hurts-so-much-I-can’t-even-help-myself punching) while breathing through each contraction. He breathed with me. He sat behind me on the bed and held me, or he sat in front of me and let me hang onto him – whatever I needed. He helped walk me to the bathroom to pee and helped change the pads that I had to wear to absorb all the amniotic fluid I was losing throughout the day. He was there.

At around 4pm, I began to lose my resolve. I had been awake for 24 hours at that point (and more like 32 hours if you didn’t count the 40 minute nap I’d taken Saturday afternoon) and in labor for 14 hours. The contractions were frequently coming in clusters, meaning that I would have 2 or 3 in a row with absolutely no break in between. I was tired, I was in pain, and I started to cry. Marcus, of course, talked me through it by telling me how proud he was of me and by reassuring me that every contraction was a step closer to meeting our child. I just cried. I never did say that I wanted to give up, that I wanted to ask for the drugs – but I was thinking it and he could see that.

At 6pm my midwife KS (KT’s shift had ended only a couple hours after we arrived at the hospital) came in to check me again. I was so disappointed when she told me that I was 100% effaced and 4cm dilated – just one centimeter more than I’d been 12 hours ago! She reassured me that my body was doing exactly what it needed to be doing, but I couldn’t really hear her. I was in too much pain and I wondered again if I should just give it up. But the thought of quitting made me angry, since I’d already spent 7 hours in prelabor and another 9 hours in early labor; the thought of all that time and pain spent just going out the window didn’t appeal to me at all. I asked KS when I could get in the birthing tub and her answer disappointed me: generally not before 7cm, or else we risked slowing or stalling my labor entirely. Fucking GREAT. It took me 12 hours to dilate one centimeter, and I still had 3 more to go before I could even get in the tub???

Still I labored on. At 10pm I broke down crying again. I felt like I couldn’t do this. It hurt so badly, it was taking so long, and I was just SO TIRED. I’d only managed about ten minutes total of sleep in the time since we arrived at the hospital, in tiny micronaps between contractions. All I could think about was getting into that fucking tub, about having some RELIEF. The birthing ball only made things more intense (and it kind of was supposed to, it helps open you up and dilate even more), the showers could only do so much, and walking from just the bed to the bathroom necessitated two or three stops in which a strong contraction would wash over me. The tub was the only thing I hadn’t tried yet (besides the drugs, of course), and I was convinced that it would be amazing once I was in it.

Soon after my last crying jag I started to feel a lot of pressure, as if I really had to take a shit. I felt and knew that such an attempt would be a bad idea, so I ignored it for as long as I could. After another hour of contractions, the pressure only increased and soon I was calling the nurse and asking to see my midwife again. I told her what I was feeling, and as I expected, she told me to hold it and not attempt to poop. She paged my midwife and it seemed to take forever before we heard back from her again: KS knew what was up with me, but could not come see me yet, as she was about to deliver another baby.

I was devastated, but what could I do? I didn’t know how long this other woman would take to birth her child. I didn’t know how long I could hold on and not give into the pressure to bear down. Each contraction brought with it a breath-stopping wave of pain that ended with an unrelenting urge to start pushing. It was excruciating.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, KS came back and checked me again. I was only dilated to 6cm (FUCK! I thought), but that was apparently good enough to start filling the tub. Time again seemed to crawl by as the tub took FOREVER to fill up (the water pressure was pretty low): at least an entire twenty minutes, which in throes-of-labor time feels more like a fucking year. And even after the tub was filled, I had to wait while they checked the temperature and adjusted accordingly.

When the water was finally ready, I took off my t-shirt and panties (I’d chosen to labor in my own clothes rather than a hospital gown), and KS and Marcus helped my naked self into the water. It was warm, and comforting (although not as comforting as I’d hoped), and it was around this point that I realized – REALLY realized – that this baby was going to come out of me and that there was only one way for it to do that.

I asked KS if she was going to stay with us, and to my relief the answer was yes – she would be with us until the baby came. I continued my labor in the water, at first with the jets on, but eventually I turned them off as I found the noise irritating. I continued to claw at my poor husband’s arm as I breathed through each contraction, and KS coached me from the side, reminding me to relax, to untense, and to let the contractions do their job – to open me up, to widen me out. Now was not the time to tense, to close up.

I practically begged KS to let me start pushing – the need to bear down had only increased in the past hour. She said that I could start pushing – a LITTLE – and after a few useless and fruitless attempts on my own I realized that I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. At one point, in between yelling “Shit!” and “Oh fuck!”, I cried out, “I don’t know how to have a baby!” KS told me, “Of course you do” and guided me, told me to pull my legs towards my body with my hands and not to try to push as if I were trying to poop, but as if I were trying to pee. After a couple tries I did pee, which is how we all knew that I was doing the right thing.

Things accelerated very quickly. I went from 6cm to 8cm to 9cm in almost no time at all. Eventually I was just short of 10cm, except for a little lip in my cervix that was in the way of the baby’s head. KS kept a finger inside of my cervix, holding that lip down, while I pushed. And after several attempts she said the magic words to the nurse: “She’s at ten centimeters.”

Instead of waiting and letting my body do the work for me, I suddenly had work to do. Realizing at that moment exactly what I had to do – that I had to push this baby OUT – was fucking terrifying. I was way, way, WAY past the point of no return. I felt like very little was in my control at this point, and for a person like me, that is scary. The only thing I could do was to push or to not push – and to not push would only postpone the inevitable. It wouldn’t change a damn thing in the end.

There was a full-length mirror on the ceiling above the birthing tub. I watched myself in it as I dilated, and I watched myself as I pushed. I don’t really have the words to describe what it was like to witness my labor from that point of view, except to say that I hope fervently to be able to do the same with the rest of my children. Towards the end of my pregnancy, as my belly grew, I’d developed a habit of just looking at myself in the mirror several times a day. It was so strange to see how my body had warped and changed, it was fascinating to look at myself and see almost a stranger. Watching myself give birth was like that, only magnified a thousand times. It was like watching a stranger, and it was a struggle to reconcile the fact that the body in the mirror was actually, really mine. The person screaming and writhing in the tub was really me. What I saw in the mirror remains the most vivid memory of my labor, and it’s the one I recall most frequently.

At ten centimeters, we were down to business. Whenever a contraction came over me, it was my cue to start pushing. When they stopped, I could stop. After each push, I asked Marcus and KS what they’d seen, what had just happened. “I can see the top of your baby’s head,” KS told me. I asked her if there was any hair, and she said yes, lots of it. I smiled at Marcus and said, “Told you so.”

KS then told me, “You can reach down and feel it.” And so I did. It was a beyond strange, to feel soft, thin, silky hair where normally there was, well, my vagina. I gently touched the top of my child’s head while she was still inside of me – touched her for the first time! – and it was soon afterward that KS called the nurse into the birthing room to tell her that in a few more pushes, the baby would be here.

The last pushes were difficult. Even with KS massaging my perineum and doing what she could to stretch me open even further, it was difficult. It hurt. It burned. I could feel her head stretching me open with every push and I SCREAMED with the pain. And finally, her head was out! I looked down and could see it between my legs. KS yelled at me “Push again! NOW!” and I looked up above me, into the mirror at myself and my child, and I pushed one last time. And then she was out.

I looked down again and there was a BABY in the water with me! KS placed her in my hands while she messed with her equipment. I stared at her, shocked, as if I’d forgotten exactly what this whole pregnancy and childbirth thing had been about. The water which had only moments before been clear was full of blood and there was a dark mass on the bottom of the tub that I later found out was the baby’s first stool – she’d passed it during her birth. Marcus got to cut the cord, which spattered blood all over my neck and shoulder, but I was too flabbergasted to care.

Just minutes later, Eve was whisked away by the nurse and Marcus went with her. Her Apgar scores at one and five minutes were both 9 – almost perfect! She screamed like a banshee while the nurses weighed her and did whatever else they had to do, but she calmed down when she heard Marcus’ voice. KS helped me out of the tub and back to the bed, where she helped me deliver the placenta. I asked to see it, and got to feel the amniotic sack and poke at my placenta, which basically just felt like a big hunk of raw liver. KS then stitched me up; birthing Eve had resulted in a second-degree tear through my perineum that reached almost to my asshole. I was grateful, then, that I had forgone an episiotomy, which would have cut through my perineal muscle instead of just my skin.

Eve Marie was born underwater on August 17th at 1:47am, almost 24 hours after my water broke. With my husband’s support, I was able to have the birth that I have always wanted. Now that I’ve done it once, and know what I can expect out of the experience, I feel certain that I can do it again. One of my anxieties over the past nine months has been worrying over whether or not my birth experience would end up traumatic or even just not something I would be happy with. I feel really goddamn lucky to be able to say that the entire experience, and the end result (who is currently in her father’s arms, crying for my milk), is absolutely, undeniably, unbelievably perfect.

The Worst Night

August 10, 2010

During my last month of pregnancy, my midwives estimated that the baby I carried was about 7 pounds. But when she was born, she was almost nine pounds – and that was a week before my due date! She was also born with the cord around her neck, and although I’d wanted to have skin-to-skin contact with her immediately after her birth, she was taken away in the next room to be looked over by the nurses. She screamed like a banshee, surprising even the nurses, and calmed only when she heard Marcus’ voice.

Eve was not given to me to nurse until she was at least fifteen minutes old, after I had been stitched up by my midwife. She latched on easily and nursed like a champ. I was instructed to nurse her every two hours for 30 minutes on each breast. She was very jaundiced, which was likely exacerbated by the fact that our blood types do not match, so we were told to supplement with formula as well, and that the formula would help her get rid of the bilirubin much more quickly than my own colostrum would. We were concerned with nipple confusion, so rather than giving her a bottle, we fed her the formula with a syringe.

The day that we thought we were going to be discharged from the hospital, we were told that they weren’t satisfied with Eve’s bilirubin levels and that she would have to be admitted to pediatrics. They said phototherapy would help get it out of her system and that we would possibly get to go home the next day. We were also told that only one parent could stay with her overnight in pediatrics – not both of us.

I started to cry when they told us that we couldn’t go home, and when they wheeled in the cart with the UV lights and made us put her in it, alone and screaming and naked except for her diaper, my heart was broken. They put a mask over her eyes to protect them from the lights, and to my dismay it kept slipping over her mouth and nose. I did not know how to console her; I could barely even touch her. She had only ever known closeness and in that box she was all alone. Even though we had never intended to give her a pacifier – again, due to concerns about nipple confusion – we relented because it was the only thing that seemed to calm her.

[Description: Eve as a newborn, wearing nothing but a diaper, lying beneath ultraviolet lights with a small foam mask covering her eyes.]

What followed was the most hellish night that I have ever had as a parent. Eve was admitted to pediatrics and Marcus went home. I spent the next twelve hours nursing her on one breast for half an hour, nursing her on the other breast for half an hour, topping her off with formula, pumping for twenty minutes to relieve my engorgement, changing her diaper. Then I’d try to sleep for a few minutes. And all the while I kept fixing that damned mask that I was sure would suffocate her. And that was every two hours starting from the beginning of the first nursing session.

This was how that night went:

10:00pm to 10:30pm: Nurse the baby on the right breast.

10:30pm to 11:00pm: Nurse the baby on the left breast.

11:00pm: Give formula.

11:10pm: Pump.

11:30pm: Clean pumping equipment, bottle and label milk for storage.

11:45pm – 12:00am: Get some sleep.

12:00am – 12:30am: Nurse baby on right breast.

12:30am – 1:00am: Nurse baby on left breast.

And so on, for twelve hours. This is not even counting the times that I had to fix her mask which was literally about every five minutes. This was at only 3 days postpartum. By the time Marcus returned the next morning I was dehydrated and ravenous (both detrimental to my milk supply!). The only thing that got me through the night and kept me moving was fear: fear of Eve suffocating beneath that horrible mask, fear of not reducing her bilirubin levels enough, fear of not going home and having to do it all over again.

It was one of the single most horrible nights of my life, a living nightmare, and certainly the worst since she was born. This is the first time that I’ve even been able to look at that picture of her since last August, and it still makes my stomach turn just to think about how powerless and alone I felt and how vulnerable that she was.

Superwoman

August 9, 2010

In the moments immediately following Eve’s birth, as the tub filled with blood and I held her (per my midwife’s instructions) with just her head above the water, I felt like a superwoman. Despite the fact that we had not attended any birthing classes, I’d managed to have the med-free birth that I have always wanted. I had been saying for years that I would use no drugs unless medically indicated, and for years most people who found out my intentions (I did not just volunteer the information because of the negative response I almost always received) were sarcastic, discouraging, and dismissive.

Even at my own baby shower, at one point I was surrounded by half a dozen women who were saying, “Yeah, right, good luck with that.” My mother-in-law rescued me with four simple words: “You can do it.” It was hard, finding a way to say, “I will” when almost everyone around me insisted “You can’t.” As my pregnancy progressed, I started to feel like a liar.

While reviewing my birth plan during my final month of pregnancy, one of my midwives asked which birthing class we had taken: Bradley, Hypnobabies, something else? The truth was that, due to money and time constraints, we had taken no birthing classes. The look on her face said it all, but she tried to assure me, “Okay, I’ve seen some women accomplish a med-free birth without preparation.” She made it sound like a remote possibility…but at least to her, it was a possibility. And that was something.

My water broke spontaneously around 2 in the morning and by the time we arrived at the hospital at 6, I was contracting strongly enough such that it was difficult to speak. It was uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful. That changed pretty quickly, and I spent the next twenty hours in the longest physical trial I’ve ever had to endure. My contractions did not follow the pattern that all the books said that they would; they never became regular, and I had clusters of contractions for almost the entire time.

I did not sleep, except for minute-long micronaps in between contractions. I cried a couple of times, mostly out of exhaustion. I showered several times every hour, letting the warm water run over my lower back, where it hurt most (I had back labor but didn’t realize it until long after I had the baby, when comparing birth stories with another mom). I begged the nurses and the midwives to let me get in the tub, to let me push, to let me put an end to this pain.

Why ever in the world did I volunteer myself for such a difficult experience? I had several reasons:

  • I’ve never liked taking painkillers, for any reason. I have a fairly high threshold for pain. I refused all meds even during my recovery after Eve was born.
  • I did not want to risk an escalation in intervention. Use of an epidural decreases the chances of a successful vaginal birth considerably, and major abdominal surgery was not on my list of things I’d like to have.
  • Use of painkillers significantly inhibits the endorphin response in the laboring parent. Birth was not only painful and frightening for me, but it was painful and frightening for Eve, and reducing my endorphin release meant that Eve would not have the benefit of sharing those hormones with me.
  • I wanted to be able to walk, shower, eat, and drink during my labor.
  • I did not want to risk interfering with breastfeeding.
  • I wanted to give birth in a birthing tub.
  • After a while, I just wanted to see if I could really do it.

After all of the self-doubt and nervousness, after the pain and tears, I did do it! I felt high for days after Eve was born. I was not a superwoman because I gave birth the “superior” way (I didn’t), or because going med-free made me a better parent than one who chooses an epidural (I’m not), but because I trusted myself to do something difficult and then by God I fucking did it. I’d been told for over a decade that I would never have the strength to do it and then I did it anyway. And it felt wonderful.

—-

I do not recommend attempting a med-free birth without preparation, make no mistake about that. If you can afford it and if you can find the time, do it. Not everyone has a choice (we really didn’t at the time). But if you do have a choice, take the classes. Even if you don’t intend to have a med-free birth, still take the classes, because shit happens and nobody is guaranteed painkillers during their labor. I can’t imagine going into labor with the expectation that I will have an epidural only to find out that the anesthesiologist isn’t going to make it in time. Be prepared.

August

August 2, 2010

My name is not August, although that is the handle I’ve chosen for this blog. August is a month of significance for me. Shortly after my husband and I bought our first home, our condom usage started to become erratic. It was kind of exhilarating, toying with the risk of pregnancy as we were, and after talking to each other we decided that we were open to whatever happened. We weren’t trying, but we weren’t preventing either (P.S., “not preventing” counts as “trying” no matter what you try to tell yourself).

It only took two months. Back then, my period was like clockwork and I could usually predict it within a two hour span. It was twelve hours late (I told you! Clockwork!) so I tested merely out of habit. It came up immediately and undeniably positive.

My due date was in August. We were beyond thrilled, and so was everyone else. I did a lot of reading, so I knew that miscarriage was not rare, especially so early in a pregnancy. Everyone kept referring to the eventually baby in terms of “when” and I always corrected them with an “if.” They told me not to worry, not to be so paranoid.

Two month into my pregnancy, we went to see the heartbeat for the first time and…there was no heartbeat. I had miscarried sometime around Christmas and hadn’t even known it. That quickly, it was all over.

It was the worst time of my life. I spiraled into a depression and Marcus and I fought frequently about whether or not we should try again. In the meantime our contraceptive use was spotty; sometimes we used condoms and/or withdrawal, and sometimes we didn’t use anything at all. I was angry, bitter, depressed, and just so full of sorrow for all that I’d lost. It was the worst and darkest time of my life.

We started trying again in earnest in June. My due date in August came and went; mostly it was a normal day, until the night fell, when we wept together in the dark.

Months passed and my period came with dismaying regularity. I started to fear that there was something wrong with me; after six months of spotty contraceptive use followed by 5 months of no contraceptive use, I should have been pregnant. Finally, after Thanksgiving, we got the positive that we wanted. I was pregnant again. And I was due in August.

Eve was born on August 17th, 2009, twenty-four hours after my water broke at home. This month is her month, and while I still think about my miscarriage and even occasionally still cry over it, August is no longer entirely associated with the memory of loss. It’s the month in which I first heard my daughter’s cry, first looked into her eyes, first touched the hair on the top of her head, first brought her to my breast. She transformed a time of sorrow into a time of joy, and we will be celebrating the anniversary of the day she introduced herself to us in just a couple of weeks. She has changed and grown and given us so much since last August that I can hardly believe it.

This month is our month, so expect a fair amount of Eve-centric posts this month. She is a wonderful little person and I’m looking forward to sharing more about her with you all.