Monday, March 24, 2008

Stopped by a Cop!

Yes, I got pulled over this evening. It was one of those days, really. Bryan was out on a gig that paid only $50 but was something he really *wanted* to do...I took Anna to the allergist this morning and literally the minute I came back, he left me home alone with the kids for the rest of the day (12:45 p.m. until midnight, that comes out to less than $5/hour, indeed).

Anyway, in my effort to refrain from killing my beloved children, I stacked our day chock-full of activities. First, we ate lunch and they colored with markers (always a hit) while I did some work. Then, we went to a local farm and gift shop, where we always like to see Polly the Pig and get a homemade cookie. We bought earrings for our former au pair, who is coming to visit us tomorrow.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening in Walden with Lisa and her kids. Her husband was also gone, so I brought over pancake mix (Nature's Path Flax Plus Multigrain Pancake Mix), a box of chicken and apple sausages, and a package of cooked nitrite-free bacon. The kids played and we made dinner (Lisa made fried apples, which were delicious on the pancakes). Lisa had to leave for a meeting at around 6:45, so I stayed alone with all 5 kids until her husband got home just aftter 8. I considered it a very small exchange for being able to spend the afternoon there.

I packed all of our stuff into the van, then loaded each child. Simon wanted to go to sleep. Gabriella cried at first, then settled down. Anna was her usual chatty self. On Stone Castle Road, I passed an unmarked police car going 47 in a 30 mph zone. I knew it immediately and started pulling over before he even had his lights on.

Simon perked up, wanted to know what was going on. I was very calm and told him the police wanted to talk to Mamma but not to worry. We sometimes use "the police" as a threat to get Simon to follow instructions, but he seemed able to tell that we weren't in any trouble. When the policeman got to my window, I was still rifling through the glove compartment for the vehicle's registration, but I had the insurance card all ready. I opened my wallet to give him my license, and he spotted my military ID. Ah, that blessed little card saved me again!

It wasn't a totally wasted stop fo rthe policeman, though; I'm sure he got quite a laugh out of the few minutes he spent with minivan smelled terrible (my fault, I'm not sure what I ate but it wasn't agreeing with me), and Anna (age 5) was saying from the back seat, "but mom, you always drive that fast, sometimes you go even faster! Did you tell him that you usually drive faster?"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Boycott Nestle

Last night, I was on stage during my first concert since having Gabriella. I will admit that this return to the workplace has been the easiest of the three, mostly thanks to Gabriella herself -- she's sleeping well, handling our short separations very well, and generally keeping her mamma at ease...for now.

Anyway, as we were beginning the last portion of the concert, the conductor of the children's choir that was singing with us took the microphone to offer appreciation to people who made the event happen. Part of his announcement was a special thanks to the sponsors who partially underwrote the concert -- Nestle Waters/Poland Spring.

My face got hot and I'm pretty sure the shock I was feeling was obvious. Bryan looked across the band at me and seemed pretty amused, but I wasn't happy. We boycott Nestle products -- and we're serious about it! There I was, on stage, performing for an event that was partially underwritten by Nestle! I can only hope it was just the water they provided, not any money. I can also hope that posting this blog entry somehow cancels out the fact that I had to stay on stage!

If you have any interest in why this produced a knot in my stomach and caused my thoughts to race for the rest of the concert, follow this link.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Miracle of the Midwife

The first time I picked a midwife, to attend the homebirth of my second child, I just wanted someone who would be nice to me and allow me the freedom to labor and give birth as I wanted to, without drugs or interventions. Of course, I wanted her to be skilled and experienced. Julia more than fit the bill, and she saw me through the later half of my second pregnancy. She arrived at my home less than an hour before my son was born; and her presence was absolutely necessary, as he needed her help to get out of my body.

This time, I sought two things in a midwife who would attend the homebirth of my third child: a strong personality, and a comfort level with shoulder dystocia. My opening words to Martha when I first spoke to her were "Before I decide I love you, can you please answer one question for me? How do you feel about shoulder dystocia?" Her answer was very simple. "Well, it's only a problem if you can't get the baby out." Silence followed for a few seconds, then she continued, "...and I know how to get the baby out, so I don't think shoulder dystocia is a problem." I knew I had found my midwife.

Martha saw me through my entire third pregnancy with a placidity I had never seen before in a woman. At every visit, I was energized by her strength, confidence, and unbarred trust in pregnancy and birth. I listened to stories of the births she would attend for mothers no other midwife would touch -- home VBACs, older mothers, mothers with histories of pregnancy-related medical conditions. Martha's confidence comes from her extensive experience and knowledge of the pregnancy and birth process, but also from her faith in each mother she supports. She knows that we all want the very best start for our babies, and she trusts that our bodies and our intuition will lead us to successful outcomes.
She had far more trust in me and my body than I did.

After my experience of giving birth to Simon, I held a lot of fear about whether I could give birth to another baby. I spent my pregnancy focusing on growing a smaller baby, trying to eat intelligently, exercise when I could, and sleep. Taking care of myself was a top priority and as a result, my third pregnancy was also my easiest. While I carried fear, I also knew that being at home, with Martha, was the very best chance I had for the most positive outcome. The concept of a hospital birth felt foreign and disconcerting.

I called Martha much eariler than I knew I had to, only because I knew that her proximity alone would free my inhibitions enough for labor to do its work. I had been in a holding pattern of labor for several days, but I knew Wednesday would be my baby's birthday. On Tuesday evening, I let Martha know that labor had settled in, and, in her calm, unemotional way, advised me to sleep and call her when I couldn't sleep through the labor anymore.

Martha arrived after 11:00 on Wednesday moring, with her sister, who was visiting from out of town. The most animation I ever saw in Martha was when she spoke of her sister, Etta, during my last prenatal visit, so I invited Martha to bring Etta along if I went into labor while she was in town. I was only 3 cm dilated and contractions were very bearable, so Martha and Etta left to get some lunch while I busied myself arranging food for everyone to eat later.

At around 3 p.m., my mood visibly shifted and Martha strongly suggested that I get into the birthing tub. I was reluctant; I wanted her to check my progress. She assured me that, if it was too early, my body would tell us and I'd get out of the tub again. Getting into the tub was the right thing to do.

Just before 5 p.m., I was feeling tired and characteristically impatient. I wanted to know if my baby was a boy or a girl. I wanted the contractions to stop hurting. I wanted to know if this baby was going to get stuck on the way out. Martha demonstrated no signs of urgency and didn't seem to care whether the labor went on forever. Her trust never failed and her patience was infinite, but she caved to my desire for information and checked my cervix. 7 cm. I was making progress.

Martha didn't touch me again until my baby was born. She didn't break my water in spite of my having been in labor all day. She didn't tell me I needed to make some more progress soon or I would face an intervention. She sat, chatted, and smiled a lot. She checked my baby's heartbeat one time after my water broke; Martha knew that the umbilical cord was low because she heard a "whoosh, whoosh" pulse in one place on my belly, and a "thump, thump" pulse a bit higher...but she was not concerned.

In my previous two births, I received the assistance of the birth attendant near the end of my dilation. In my memories of both labors, that cervical induction, as it's called (manually moving a lip of cervix past the baby's head to faciliate descent), was the only experience of real pain I had. I was waiting for Martha to do this again, but she didn't...she knew my body would do what it needed to do, in its own time.

In our discussions about shoulder dystocia, Martha had let me know that she would ask me to push my baby out from a hands and knees position if she determined it was stuck. My labor was keeping me in a reclined-sitting position, and I felt that this was the position in which I needed to push the baby out. I felt the head descend and pushed like hell. I was determined and terrified and relieved all at once, and Martha was silent and calm. I knew my baby's head had been born, and I was waiting for Martha to direct me to turn over to help loosen stuck shoulders. When she said nothing, I second-guessed her. I had screamed my baby's head out, I think in expression of the fear I had about whether I had grown another barrel-chested baby, but Martha and Bryan were both extremely calm as they looked at the baby's head. What I couldn't see was that my baby emerged facing my right thigh, then turned face down after a few seconds. Her head stayed pink and did not retract as Simon's had as it turned dusky purple. They knew my baby was on her way out safely.

I pushed again and my baby was born. Martha only unwrapped the cord from around her body and pushed her through the water toward me. I gave birth to my baby almost completely unassisted!

The miracle of the midwife is that, by doing nothing, she had done something so incredible: she restored my trust in my body's ability to grow a baby and give birth to it. Her presence gave me the confidence to let my body labor; her proficiency gave me the space to labor safely and effectively, and her trust gave me the gift of birthing my baby without even the slight interventions I had been conditioned to believe I needed.

Once again, my experience of giving birth changed my life.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Miracle of the Helpers

To say Leila and Julia were the "icing" on the cake of our experience of Gabriella's homebirth would be a grand understatement, unless we were speaking of such cake/icing combinations as lemon meringue pie (really useless without the meringue!), or carrot cake without the cream cheese frosting.

Several weeks before our baby was expected, Bryan and I discussed what we would need help with during my labor and during the birth of the baby. For Simon's birth, we enjoyed the support of two family friends: one was there to care for Anna, who wasn't yet two, and the other took some much-cherished video of my labor. Neither of those women would be able to attend this birth, and our network of support people didn't include anyone with the kind of availability we'd need (any time, day or night!) who also fully embraced our choice to give birth at home. We could not allow someone who questioned the practice of homebirth into our space; the negative energy would have been unacceptable.

I initially sought the counsel of my online parenting group. Did we need a doula, or were the things we sought "beneath" the expertise of a doula? Were there untapped resources we weren't considering? I am terrible at asking for help. I am always happy to offer help and do anything for someone in need, but I am very uncomfortable asking others to support me. On the other hand, we knew we'd be financially tapped out after paying our midwife (thank you, Keller, for jeopardizing our chances for reimbursement from TriCare...) and hiring a doula would not even be possible for us.

Martha, our midwife, suggested I contact Leila, a midwifery student at Yale. Leila is from Rockland County and had attended some births with Martha over the summer; I had the opportunity to meet her briefly at one of my prenatal appointments. Leila was working on a project for her degree in which she photographed the faces of women in various stages of labor, to illustrate that those facial expressions could be used as another tool by a midwife to gauge how far along a mother's labor was. Martha felt confident that Leila would be glad to photograph and perhaps even take video of the labor and birth for us. Since we did not get Simon's birth on video, we really wanted to record the entry of this baby into the world.
I contacted Leila and she was very excited. She offered to bring her friend Julia, also in the midwifery program at Yale, to be in charge of Anna and Simon. The two young women came to visit us after Thanksgiving and we knew instantly that they would bring wonderful, positive energy and four helpful hands to our birth party.

When I knew I was in labor, I called Leila to let her know it was time to make the 2-hour trip from New Haven to our home. I had awakened her after a late night (even though it was after 9 a.m. when I called her!) but, such will be the lifestyle of a budding midwife! She and Julia arrived and made themselves at home with us.

The support they provided went far beyond caring for Anna and Simon or documenting the labor and birth. Each of them checked in with me periodically, offering exactly the words of encouragement I needed to hear. Indeed, Anna and Simon felt cared for and will remember the day their sister was born as a day they got to spend drawing, playing, singing, and enjoying the company of their friend Julia. The photos Leila took with our camera were fabulous and we're certain the ones she took for her praxis will also leave us in awe of the beauty and miracle of labor and birth.

Words cannot express how magnificent the birth video turned out. There were a few minutes of video taken each hour as labor progressed, so we can see how I was doing as the hours wore on. The birth itself was captured in its entirety, but there is never a moment where the viewer can say "oh, there's Diana naked!" Somehow, the camera angles and lighting worked in our favor and we are undistracted as we watch Gabriella Cecelia enter the world, under the water, gently and peacefully (except for my screaming as I pushed her out). Anna and Simon's excitement is palpable on the video, as well. The video will be a huge piece of our family's history forever.
After the birth, Leila and Julia, who were both thrilled to witness our homebirth, stayed on hand to support me; as well, they made light work of cleaning up so that we could enjoy our first hours with Gabriella as a complete family. Bryan, Anna, and Simon all stayed on the bed with me and the baby. None of us could take our eyes off of her, she was finally here!

If we have another baby, Leila and Julia will themselves be practicing midwives. We are wondering how we'll possibly have another baby without them. Their roles were so significant, so vital to the experience being as whole and perfect as it was. I am unable to find a gesture that will adequately thank them.