Thursday, September 27, 2012

9 months!

I read something when I was pregnant that said that humans, unlike most other animals, are born completely dependent on their mothers. They cannot move to escape possible danger which also means that they can't seek out their own food, although Eddy sure did figure out a way to shimmy towards me in the middle of the night like a heat-seeking missile even when he was brand new. This book suggested that human babies have an exo-gestational period of 9 months in which they gain mobility and learn to manipulate food. Now, I'm not quite sure that Eddy could survive on his own if we plopped him in a forest - who would hug him when he bonks his noggin?? - but he certainly is a much more independent little creature than he was 9 months ago.

In a nutshell (I always picture Mike Myers as Austin Powers when people use that phrase), 9 month old Eddy is:

eating bits of food with his hands, crawling at an impressive clip, responding to more and more words and signs, getting in to cabinets, pulling himself up on furniture, constantly practicing his standing, sleeping for longer stretches, petting and grabbing Lucy, tossing and turning in his sleep like a real human, pointing very purposefully at objects he notices and wants, talking about his Mama and things that look like his Mama and things that remind him of his Mama, engaging in story time before bed by touching pictures and looking at the words, and playing and playing and playing all day long

He had his 9 month well baby visit today and he is weighing in at 23 pounds (75th percentile), is 29 3/4 inches long (95th %), and his head is making his Papa very proud at 19 5/8 inches ( >98th %). As a point of reference, my head measures 23 inches. So he's roughly 3 feet shorter than me with a head that is almost the same size. When the doctor was going over his stats and percentiles, she looked at Tim and said, "I guess you have a pretty big head, right?" And just as was predicted, he is thinning out just a tad as he becomes mobile.

We took Eddy's picture in front of The Tavern this month, which has the address 922. We celebrated my birthday and Eddy's 9th month on September 22 and marveled at the fact that he has been with us on the outside as long as he was on the inside.



Hey, is that a little thing on the ground?
It is! Sweet! I think I'll put it in my mouth.


And, holy crap, it's nearly time to start planning a first birthday party.







Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eddy Waymon, A Birth Story

I realized soon after Eddy was born that I was very intimidated by the thought of his birth story. I was worried that my words wouldn't do the day justice. I think about this day, and this story, everyday. I look at the pictures everyday. I have sat down over a dozen times with the intention of punching it out but my worry gets in the way. Well, worry be damned, here we go. 

I am plugged in to headphones, listening to the playlist that was queued up for immediately after Eddy was born. It's been 9 months since that day and I still feel it in my bones. In the best kind of way. I guess it's a bit appropriate that I am finally 'delivering' this story that I've been chipping away at for 9 months. It took me that long to grow a human. And that long to grow his birth story.





The last guess written at our shower and the only one with this date.

There is no dramatic pivot. I can't offer you a comedic twist. All I can hope to offer you is a glimpse into the most important, beautiful, soul-shifting day of my life.

If you want the short version, it goes something like this: woke up early, moaned, pushed really hard, had a baby.


If you want the details, read on.


I must start with an introduction of the key characters of the day.


Tim - now referred to as Papa. The only face that I needed to be able to see all day. My husband. Eddy's dad.

Michele - our midwife. Wow. I'm so happy that we found her. She showed me my own strength. My mom has always said that her midwife changed her life. Ditto.

Genevieve and Cindy - Michele's apprentices and also our midwives. The three of them make an unbelievable team.

Sara - my best friend. I was present at her home birth nearly a year before Eddy's. We've been through a lot, but nothing compares to this.

Ali - our amazing, brilliant, and generous friend who also happens to wield a mean camera. This day's beauty was captured in a way that I am forever grateful for. She is also a fellow home-birther.

And last but certainly not least, my mom, Eddy's Cookie - Not only the reason that I am here, but also the reason that I am here telling the story of my own home birth. For me, she is the original home-birther who introduced me to the amazing power of a mom nearly 23 years before it was my turn.




The most wonderful time.


Our day began at 3:00 a.m. I was used to waking up several times during the night to eat or use the restroom but when I awoke this time, things felt very different. I suppose that when it's your first time to experience early labor, you can't be certain that it's the real thing and I wasn't. I sat up in bed for a few minutes and it wasn't long before Tim woke up to see what was going on. When he asked I said, "I'm not sure. Something feels different." This jolted him upright and he asked, through the grog, "Really?" I told him that it could be a false alarm so I was going to take a shower and see if the warm water falling on my belly might calm things down. Since Tim woke up, we had established that these "waves" were coming about every 3 minutes. My contractions were already 3 minutes apart. I had always heard and read that things started gradually, with contractions 8 or 10 minutes apart. Or it started by waking up in a pool of fluid. Not the case for me.


I made the shower as hot as I could stand and tried to keep things normal. It crossed my mind that this might be my last shower of the day so I oughta, you know, wash my hair and stuff. Just after I rinsed the conditioner I had my first contraction that brought me to my knees. While I was down there, the water getting cooler against my back, the thought of I'm going to meet my baby today washed over me. That realization was more overwhelming than I ever imagined it would be - and I had been imagining it for a long time. I remember noticing that it was December 22 and I almost felt like smacking my own forehead. 22 has long been my lucky number and the fact that I hadn't even considered that my baby knew this seemed all of a sudden ridiculous to me. I called Tim in to help me out of the shower and asked that he get the exercise ball for me to bounce on. As I sat on it, I brushed my teeth, put lotion on, and even blow dried my hair. I was calling the contractions out to Tim and he kept time. I came back into our bedroom and asked him for the update and he said, "Still 3 minutes." Nothing had slowed or calmed so I told him that I thought it was time to call Michele to see what she thought.


Tim got her on the phone immediately and she asked for the details and then asked to hear one of my contractions. After one had passed, I got on the phone with her and reiterated what Tim had told her. I suppose I expected a hurried list of things to do or signs to look out for or notes to take, but instead what I heard was, "Well, this is very exciting! I'll call Cindy and Genevieve and let them know and we'll be there shortly." That was the moment that things really felt real. The alarm had officially been sounded. I was in labor.


It was around 4:30 when I called my mom who was in San Antonio visiting family. My exact words were, "Mom, I think it's time to get this party started." She assured me that she was up, would hop in the shower, grab a bite, and be on her way.


I then sent Sara a text that said, "Maybe having a baby today" to which she replied, "Ok, love - keep me posted! I love you so much!"


Tim took over the communication at that point, asking Sara to keep Ali in the loop.


The wheels were in motion. My birth team was being assembled.


Our girl watching over our new baby.
I continued to labor on the exercise ball while watching the morning news in the living room. My contractions remained consistent but were still easy enough that I could talk in between and a little during. Genevieve breezed in very bright eyed at about 5:15, gave me a reassuring look that said she was happy to see me, and asked if she could check me and the baby out. I was progressing nicely and baby's heart tones sounded beautiful. Cindy arrived shortly thereafter and immediately said, "I just knew you were going into labor soon!" I'd had an appointment with them the day before and would have a contraction - what I thought were still Braxton Hicks - just about every time they touched me. Looking back, I was obviously in labor already. 



Tim had started asking if he could take a shower. I think he was anticipating a long day and I told him that I wanted him to wait until my mom got there. I needed him within reach and could only imagine him not being there briefly as long as she was there. She and Sara arrived within minutes of each other and Ali came soon after. Tim was granted temporary leave. Michele arrived, gave me and the baby a quick check, said everyone was doing great, and from there it seems that things really took off. Maybe my body was waiting for everyone to be in place.




Michele suggested that I try relaxing in the bath because my contractions were growing stronger each time. She showed Tim how to keep me warm by covering my belly with a towel since I was far too enormous to be submerged completely. I climbed into the warm tub, Tim covered me and I let a few contractions pass. I think I was expecting immediate comfort and relief based on what I'd heard about laboring in water but being in the tub made me feel very slippery and out of control. I felt a very strong urge to feel grounded, rooted, and being unable to stabilize was unsettling. I didn't spend long in the tub before I got out and moved to the couch.



Between contractions, I was getting cold so a nest was set up for me. Contractions were growing more and more intense and I was pulling more inside of myself with each one.

Sometime between the bath and the couch, things shifted into primal mode. Bits of my animal self had been peeking out here and there but when it officially took over, oh man.



Many little girls dream of their wedding day. That is their fairy tale. Not me. I dreamed of the day that I would get to have my baby at home, just like I had watched my mom have my brothers at home years before. It was all happening but in this fairy tale, I did not turn into a princess - I turned into an animal. One that moaned and groaned and crawled and grunted. At this point in the story my dialogue stopped. I stopped using words to communicate, only mono-syllabic sounds and head movements. This is when something else took over, something beyond my consciousness, something that told me to save every ounce of energy for getting my baby out.  


I guess I did get one more full sentence out. Earlier in the morning, Cindy made a breakfast taco run for the team - definitely not for me because I was having trouble keeping down water and apple slices. Tim quickly inhaled a taco and after clutching his shoulders through one powerful contraction, I looked at him a said, "Go brush your teeth." 




I felt a very 'out of body' sensation for much of the day, like I was watching a home video playback of me having my baby. It was like wedding day haze times a thousand. My memory from this point on is spotty and is pieced together by these beautiful pictures. The first time Ali showed them to us, I sat trembling at the amazing images that so perfectly captured the day - not trembling with a memory of pain but trembling in awe. The love that was in my house that day could have filled an ocean.


The team plus Ali behind the camera.

Checking heart tones: beautiful.


Ali said that this was my labor face. Not as beautiful as I had imagined it would be but definitely matches my determination.
Not only was Ali responsible for documenting, she was just as much a source of strength.

Seeing pictures of my best friend and my mom cradle my head and guide me through a contraction is indescribable. I have said that labor is like getting a glimpse into a parallel universe where you are watching yourself and have knowledge of all that is happening but no control. While I was in it, I know I needed their strength and encouragement even though I may not have been aware of whose hands were comforting me at the time.

One of my favorites from the day.

I have a memory of being in the kitchen during a contraction and seeing a clear blue sky outside. I stepped into the backyard and noticed that the chilly morning had turned into a beautiful day. I had one giant contraction outside, crouching down on my knees and letting it all out. My brother, Cory, later pointed out that he heard kids playing outside during the afternoon and wondered if they had been outside then and heard me. My I am Woman, Hear me Roar moment.




Given the ever-important task of hanging with Lucy.
She's so beautiful. And probably wondering, "Is my mom okay?"

While I was pregnant, I read parts of Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth and in one story a woman wrote about how she slept between contractions to get rest. At the time, I thought this was completely ridiculous and probably hippie mumbo-jumbo. I'll be darned, I fell asleep between contractions. This memory came to me a few days after and when I asked Tim about it he said I was most definitely sleeping between contractions. I will forever marvel at the things my body did that day and how it found the energy to keep going. When Michele noticed me getting sleepy she suggested a shower to help me perk up.




I kept my finger here for much of the day. My "direct line".
I have another memory of Michele suggesting that we turn on some Beatles. She and I share a love for them and I think she knew everyone could agree on that choice. I had long debated what music I wanted playing while I was in labor and thought yoga-type meditation music was good but when it came down to it, I let it play out on its own. Surprising if you know me. I did, however, know exactly what I wanted playing after the baby was here. Ali took over the record player, first putting on a few Beatles albums and then John Lennon. After the first song, Yoko Ono's voice came screeching out and Ali quickly turned it off. I very clearly remember thinking, "Nobody should've ever given her a microphone."






Working in shifts.





When I started feeling the strong urge to push we moved into the bedroom. I remember seeing that the clock on our dresser read 3:00. I had watched Sara have her baby girl, Olivia, at home nearly a year before and she was born at 3:19. Seeing the clock, I thought, "Oh wow! Maybe our babies will be born at the same time!" First-time-mom wishful thinking, I guess. 19 minutes of pushing? Hardly.





I was 8 centimeters dilated but my water still hadn't broken. Michele suggested to Genevieve that she break it to help things progress. I had a fear that it would hurt and Genevieve saw this and assured me that I wouldn't feel it. She was right. She used a tool that looks exactly like a crochet needle and I didn't feel a thing. They did another check of fetal heart tones - still beautiful - and things picked up considerably from there.



Pushing my baby down and out was by far the most out-of-body time of the day. I remember pushing with all of my might and then pushing even more but the entire time I felt like I wasn't pushing as hard as I could. I felt like I was looking down at myself in my bed trying to figure out how to push harder but couldn't. I alternated pushing in a squat position on the side of the bed and pushing while lying on my back. My mom was on the bed, hoisting me between positions. A few days later during Cindy's followup visit to our house, she told us that she witnessed the true meaning of midwifery while in our bedroom watching me labor. My husband was by my side coaching me, my mom was literally supporting me, my best friend was holding my hand and willing my baby out. This was a team sport. She said it was her favorite Christmas present that year. Mine too.





Looking at images of the whole team watching me, hands touching me, every one in the room trying to help me push, I see how it's all possible. While I was the only one in the house with the physical power to do the work, my efforts would have been defeated without every other person. When your husband and 6 women who have had babies at home are telling you that you can do it you believe them. Even when you don't believe it yourself.





Michele was encouraging everyone to let me hold my own legs back to get leverage during pushes. All my effort was causing me to sweat quite a bit and I couldn't get a steady grip on my legs. I didn't want to say, "I can't get ahold" because I knew that I may only get out the words, "I can't" and was determined to never say that so I just shook my head furiously at this request. She also had me walk to the front door and touch the door knob every few minutes. While it seemed like a marathon at the time, I am thankful for the downward pull of gravity.






She actually jumped on the bed during one big contraction. Trying to help I think :)

Having watched babies be born, I knew this was the part of labor where I was taking one step forward and two steps back. During each push, my baby's head would peek out and when the contraction ended, it would retreat back in. The excited looks on everyone's faces (except for mine) are premature. They think, "There it is!" and then it's gone again. For onlookers, it can be a very frustrating time. When the midwives told me to reach down and feel my baby's hair, it was at first exciting but after a while I thought, "Okay but when will it budge from that spot?"




From left to right: excitement, extreme exertion, excitement.
Almost there.

It's a brilliant design, labor. Just when you're about to say, "I don't think I can do this," just when you think you've pushed all that you can, something incredible happens: it ends. That glorious head finally makes it's way out and then a little body squirms out quite easily and the room erupts. I told Michele this a few days later and she said that it's great preparation for motherhood. Things are hard and then they're harder and then they're so hard that you want to quit -- and then something amazing happens, like they laugh or smile or say your name or hug your neck.

4:30 pm



Just like that.

My baby is here.


The head is out.


The pushing is over. Well, almost.



Tim caught our baby. Michele was close by and covered the baby quickly with a receiving blanket and asked, "Are you ready to call it, Papa?" When she removed the blanket, Tim responded, "It's a boy!"



Of course it is.


The answer that we didn't know for nearly 9 months was so obvious. And so worth the wait. My son. My beautiful boy.


Tim placed him on my belly, his umbilical cord not quite long enough to reach my chest. I felt immediate relief when I saw and felt his size. Thank goodness a big baby came out of that giant belly. I had worried that a tiny little thing was going to come out but he matched. The midwives told me that on my next contraction that I would deliver the placenta. It came out easily and I was able to bring my baby a little closer to my chest. Immediately after he was born, we realized why that pushing was such hard work - he had come out with his right fist against his cheek, adding that much more to the circumference. His little hand was a bit blue for it. He also slept with that little fist against his cheek for months, leading us to believe that it was probably his preferred position for some time in utero. 




His father's son for sure.

I spent so much time imagining this moment, shutting my eyes so tightly and trying to picture what my baby's face would look like. I don't think it's possible to know this moment before you are in it. In this moment, our bedroom was the center of the universe. Time slowed enough to listen to first breaths, to watch a little fist turn pink, to memorize the shape of a tiny nose and perfect lips.

And although it's all brand new, I felt like, "Oh, I know you."


To hold your new baby, to watch them see you, recognize your sound, to see them root around for their first meal is like first-hand, ancient history. Another brilliant design, every miniscule nuance meant to validate your hard work and to bring value to the pain that was present just minutes before.




And to erase it. I had heard and read over and over that the moment you see your baby the pain of labor vanishes. While I was in the trenches, I had some crazy thoughts.
This baby will be an only child, I will never do this again. I totally get epidurals. If someone walked in the door right now and said, "I can make this go away..." Moms say this is worth it but how the HELL will this ever be worth it?

But it does vanish. It is worth it. And I pray that I get to do it again.



That first meal was beautiful - a rare frozen in time moment that I was aware of while I was in it. I knew to let that moment penetrate my being so that I could bring it up in the future and recall the feeling. He still nurses in that position from time to time and when he does it takes me right back. He nursed for a while, I studied his parts and learned how he felt on the outside, and my birth team started the flurry of texts and phone calls to spread the good word.



After he had finished eating, the midwives cleaned him up a bit and then started his newborn exam. It was just me and Tim and our new baby in the room at the beginning but when they got to the weighing and measuring portion they let us know that it would be a good show if we wanted to invite everyone back in. We had a private moment where we agreed on the name we'd been holding onto for months. We had both said previously that we would wait until we met our baby to commit to a name - wait to meet him and see his face and make sure it felt right.


The midwives called my mom, Sara, Ali, and Cory back into the room and Tim's parents had arrived in the meantime. I announced, "We would like everyone to meet our son, Eddy Waymon!" More erupting.


I love a home birth weigh in. That little sack of baby with tiny feet peeking out. My healthy boy measured 8 pounds, 12 ounces and 22 glorious inches. And I still wonder, "How'd you fit in there?"





As I watched the midwives measure, watched everyone marvel at his wonder, learned more about this tiny human that was in my belly only hours before, it hit me like a truck. The joy and overwhelming relief came immediately when he came out but to watch the room shift its focus from me to him is when everything flooded.


There's my baby. For the whole world to see. And he's perfect.



Then Cookie brought in a cupcake with a single candle in it and we sang 'Happy Birthday'. What an important birthday it was. On that day a baby was born, a mother was born, a father was born, a big sister was born, grandparents were born, aunts and uncles were born. I got through the song until we said "... Happy birthday, dear Eddy" and that's when the lump in my throat took over.

I floated through the evening. Night fell, the Christmas tree glowed. We settled in for our first night as a whole family in our cozy bed.


And that's where we all woke up, too. It wasn't a dream. In the span of a day we had added a new piece - a piece that seemed as though it had always been. Best morning ever.


Matt, my brother and my stepdad, Gus would arrive by morning from Colorado and my Dad would finish his trek from California to meet our son. I can't be certain but I have a feeling the road was open and the weather was cooperative. Just for a time, all roads led to our house.


Every day that has passed has put me further away from this day and has allowed me to watch my son grow. Every month brings me closer to the anniversary, birthday, of the day I became a mom. It has now been nearly the same length of time that I grew him inside of me that he has been a part of our world, and today is my birthday.


Hardest work I've ever done in my life.


Most life-changing work I've ever done in my life.


Couldn't have unfolded any more perfectly.


Worth every every moment.




There ya have it, Eddy. The day you were born.


Happy Birthday. To me and you.

*****

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

Bob Dylan



all photos taken by the incomparable alison eden.