Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Mike Blake, Reuters
I have been avoiding the news.

When he was elected, my disbelief rapidly glommed on to my depression, reinforcing the nihilistic feelings I was having about things being so far from okay.  2016 was not the best year for me, and it was coming to a spectacular, flaming ending before my eyes.

It wasn't just him, but the people who gained strength from his ridiculous, improbable winning gambit.  Who gained courage to be cruel and inhumane and violent.

My words escaped like prayers.

Please, don't let this be who we are.

I thought I was seeing the worst parts of humanity.  It turns out, I'd set the bar far too high, and there was still an abyss beneath waiting to swallow us up.

I mean, I knew there could be worse.  I just didn't think that worse could happen here.  Now.

I have been avoiding the news because it's not funny anymore.

Not that it ever was, but I have felt largely like it was just a bad period we had to power through.  At first I assured myself he'd never make it through the full four years, how could he?  Law after law trampled, but 18 months in it hasn't happened and he just grows more and more dangerous.

My mom told me, she has been through bad times in her life.  That things happening now reminded her of the politics, struggles, activism of her earlier years.  Politics always swing back and forth.

It seemed like maybe if we breathed, we could get through this and that the nightmare that is our 45th president would pass.  Someday, we would wake.

I pinch myself, but I'm not waking up.

When I was in middle school, I read Number the Stars.  I think maybe I read it more than once.  The periods in history that have most engaged me center on times when humans forsook one another, because to my heart it is incomprehensible.

I did not learn about the Japanese Internment Camps in school.  I was in my late teens before I heard of their existence.  That I knew people whose parents had been there was incomprehensible.

They say that history repeats itself, and... here we are. 

The same and different both, the underlying abandonment of the love in our hearts and the kinship of humanity abundant.

I have been avoiding the news because I don't know if my heart can take even a single word, a single photo.

Children.  Babies.  Younger than my babies.

Alone.  Frightened.  Untouched, uncomforted, undone.

Even without firsthand accounts, without the images of tents and single file lines, without the maddening tweets our supposed leader shares, I feel a scream rising in my throat.  I try to swallow it before I gag, and find myself legitimately fearing I might vomit.

My heart, my soul, writhe with the unfeelable, the primal terror of families separated, of children alone, of mothers mad with the absence of their babies.

I have been avoiding the news because I will cry, and if I cry I may be washed away by tears that won't stop.

And still I know those tears will not be enough to wash away the horror of hatred, fear, racism, privilege, and inhumanity.

I have been avoiding the news because I don't know what to do.

I am unsettled, I am unfocused, even with all the avoidance I could muster, I cannot stop thinking about it.

I don't think I want to talk about it.  I don't think I can be civil or polite or in any way rational.  I don't think I can be very coherent.

There is no angle from which you are right by persecuting people, by punishing children, by imprisoning babies.

Fuck policy.  These are people.  If we are not here to help each other, what are we here for?

Please, don't let this be who we are.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Dear Danny,

As I sit down to write this, it is hard to know where to begin.  I feel like the words I could use to describe you are almost limitless.  You are fierce, smart, loving, talented, sensitive, and feisty.  And now, you are 8 years old.

You are my goofy little guy, and 'little guy' is one of the most common terms of endearment we use for you.  I'm also fond of little dude.  Your body is still small, but your personality and your spirit have always been bigger than that body can contain.  Your smile is contagious, and once you warm up to people (it usually takes about 20-30 minutes), you are friendly and talkative.  When you were little, I used to take you to the mall and we would walk around, and it was such a joy because everyone who saw you caught your smile.

You are curious about the world, and you want to try everything.  Except pizza bubbles.  The other day you screamed because your slice had a crust bubble and insisted on removing it from youor plate before eating the rest.  Sometimes at night when you're not wound down enough to fall asleep yet, you just ask questions, most of which I don't know the answers to and some of which I do.  What is a nebula?  How old is the universe?  Why don't we dump our trash into volcanoes?  When was the sun made?  What killed the dinosaurs?  What if screens had never been invented?  Why hasn't there ever been a woman President?  When is Trump going to get arrested?  Why are there so many questions in life?

8 years later, you are still connected to me at the hip.  I don't remember it well, but when you were a baby, you used to refuse to sleep unless I was holding you.  Now, 4 feet tall,  you still scramble up into my lap on a daily basis for cuddles.

It's been just over a year since you started taking piano lessons, and gosh, you amaze us all.  You have picked it up so well.  You go to lessons twice a week for 30 minutes now, and this spring you have done the Washington State Music Teacher Adjudications where you played some memorized pieces for a visiting professor level musician, and Guild Auditions, and got glowing feedback from both.  Your spring awards recital is coming up in about a month, and I can't wait to see how far you've come since last year.  You look so serious, but also seriously cute, in your little black suit.  We're at the point now where you need a real piano so we're looking into getting some movers to come and bring the piano down from Grandma's house to our house for you to practice on.

You have also started taking art classes once a week after school, and you're always looking for blank paper to write or draw on.  Scott and I got you some Fimo clay for your birthday, and I'm sure you'll find something amazing to do with it.

You are reading A Wrinkle in Time, which is advanced for your age and slow going, but you saw the movie with Grandma Edie and really wanted it.  You spend a lot of computer time doing coding projects on Scratch.  You absorb things like a sponge, and it seems like you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to, and you put your mind to so many thing!  I recently took up cross-stitch, and you wanted to try it too so you've been working on your very own little fox in a 3" hoop.

You still get frustrated sometimes when you can't do something perfectly or exactly how you imagine it in your head, but it's gotten less so as you have gotten older.  I can't imagine where you will be in 5 years, 10 years.  I am eager and curious to see where you'll end up focusing your mind.

In October, we were able to move out of Grandma's house and into a little blue house down the street from her.  You have your own room for the first time in a long time, and now we have a little family, me, you, Scott, and Danny.  Scott has been the most amazing addition to our family, he takes you both to school and picks you up afterwards.  We have settled in pretty nicely, and on the weekends you go see Emily and Megan and have a great time there too.  We have a regular schedule and a rhythm and in the past year we have worked really hard to have more boundaries and structure for you and your brother.  It is so hard for me to say no to you guys or enforce things, even 12 years in, partly because things were so crazy and unstable for so long, and it was just the three of us.  Scott has been a huge help and support for me, and it has been sweet and wonderful and heart-filling to watch you both develop your own relationships with him.

The first 5 months of 2018 have gone by SO fast.  I feel like I blink and suddenly a month has gone by.  I'm a little worried that now that we aren't struggling as much that time will just fly by, and I'll look up and you'll suddenly be a grown up.  I have been feeling very nostalgic about both of your babyhoods recently, and it's just so hard to believe that you were once so small.

Parenting is hard.  There are struggles - I guess the biggest ones right now are trying to get you to sleep through the night and dealing with some physical things you've got going on.  But, we are slowly making progress on both fronts, and even though sometimes I feel like I'm failing, I think that you and Sam are mostly turning into good people.  Having Scott around has been really great, and having Megan around at Emily's just means more adults who care for you and teach you how to be a good human.

I love you so much.


PS You just told me when you grow up you want a Lamborghini Egoista! 

Firsts This Year!

First Live Event of Note:  Dan TDM Meet & Greet and Stage Show at the Paramount Theater


Favorite Book:  The Zack Files
Favorite Song:  Remember Me from Coco
Favorite Board Game:  The Game of Life
Favorite Video Game:  Roblox 
Favorite TV Show: Raising Hope
Favorite YouTubers:  Real Life Lore
Favorite Food:  Pizza
Favorite Dessert: Ice Cream
Favorite Thing to Do Outside the House: Woods Coffee, Rocket Donuts, Spark Museum, Riding your bike
Favorite Subject at School: PE
Best Friends:  CJ, Parker, Parker, Caden, Tucker, AJ, Kobi

Birth Story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Silent Dance

April 2018 - Rainbow Lodge Retreat Center - Silence Exercise

The sound of the creek, water flowing over stone.  The song of movement, water bringing life to the world.

The sunlight, bright.  After so many months of cumulus filter, now it is pure, warm, and energizing.

New growth is sprouting, leaves unfurling, green and slightly shiny like they have been carefully polished with wax.

The almost symmetrical chalices of tulip blossoms, tall and strong, glow red and yellow, edged in orange.  Inside, the surprise of a dark greenish blue star, soft pistol rises from it's midst.

Muted, thick green leaves spread wide and cradle dew as it imperceptibly heats and rejoins the sky.  Thick stalks sway lazily in a gentle breeze.

The sky is that perfect blue that you almost forget during winter.  Soft white clouds journey lazily across the gaps between the trees.

We are surrounded by pines, older than I can imagine.  Slow your gaze, and take in the fronds hanging from the branches.  They are dancing, slowly, lifted by a barely there current they swing away then back to where they began.

It is quiet, quiet by human terms.  In this peaceful reprieve, the world is still full of life and movement.

We are all part of a dance so much bigger than our voices.

Monday, May 14, 2018


 Dear Sam,

It's almost impossible for me to believe that you are 12.  I have been thinking about you growing up a lot, because now it seems like you're solidly into 'not a little kid anymore' territory.  One of the things that fascinates me the most about right now is that I can remember being your age.  I have memories of years before that, but from 6th and 7th grade on... that's when I feel like I can remember everything that happened.  I think about myself then, what life was like, the feelings I had, and I wonder what you will see in 25 years when you look back on right now.

I was so nervous about you starting middle school.  I didn't start middle school until 7th grade, and even then I think I was a little bit nervous about it.  At the parents night in the fall and the orientation when we got your schedule, I found myself full of anxiety about you being in that big school.  5th grade wasn't really the easiest year for you, and I was really worried.  I realized later that I was also remembering all my feelings when I was worried about middle school and not wanting you to go through that.

Well, it turns out I didn't have anything to worry about.  Middle school suits you, it seems.  On the first day of school, you lost the paper I'd printed out with your locker combination and class schedule on it.  You came home and told me that you lost it, but you still found all your classes and remembered your locker combination!  There have been some hiccups with homework and schoolwork, but when your first report card came home, there was a vast improvement from your final report card of 5th grade.  Your grades jumped, and you even received a 1 in art.  Which is sort of the equivalent of an A, but apparently letter grades are out.  I am so, so proud of how hard you've worked, and how much responsibility you've taken for managing school.  You're not perfect, but when I look at how far you've come, I am astounded.

In October, we were able to move out of Grandma's house and into a little blue house down the street from her.  You have your own room for the first time in a long time, and now we have a little family, me, you, Scott, and Danny.  Scott has been the most amazing addition to our family, he takes you both to school and picks you up afterwards.  We have settled in pretty nicely, and on the weekends you go see Emily and Megan and have a great time there too.  We have a regular schedule and a rhythm and in the past year we have worked really hard to have more boundaries and structure for you and your brother.  It is so hard for me to say no to you guys or enforce things, even 12 years in, partly because things were so crazy and unstable for so long, and it was just the three of us.  Scott has been a huge help and support for me, and it has been sweet and wonderful and heart-filling to watch you both develop your own relationships with him.

I think my favorite moments are the in-betweens when we just get to hang out for a few minutes and talk about our days and what happened.  On Tuesdays I pick you up from Coding Club and we talk on the way home, and sometimes at night when you're going to bed or on Wednesdays when Danny has piano we get to hang out and talk.  You tell me about your days, what you did in school, and the book you are reading.  Sometimes, I try to read them too so we can talk about them.

This year for your birthday, you didn't have a party.  You told me you  just wanted to have a couple of friends over, but then you decided all you wanted was your family birthday dinner.  You, Danny, Me, Scott, Megan, Emily, and Grandma Edie went to Red Robin, then over to Pure Bliss, where you had a delicious cupcake and opened your presents.  You recently finally got your Nintendo Switch by reaching your goal to save up $100 towards it.  You got some games and Grandma made you a sweet hoodie.

I have some trepidation about the coming years - teenagerhood, hormones, increased responsibilities, more opportunities for trouble or being led astray.  But I think that in your heart you are a really good kid, and I hope that the family and support that we have built for you will help you to find yourself and grow without losing your way too much.

The first 5 months of 2018 have gone by SO fast.  I feel like I blink and suddenly a month has gone by.  I'm a little worried that now that we aren't struggling as much that time will just fly by, and I'll look up and you'll suddenly be a grown up.  So, for now, I'm just cherishing that you still let me hug you, that you still let me lie next to you in your bed at bedtime when I'm feeling extra tired, that you still want to play games and hang out with me.  No matter how big you get, you'll always be my baby.

Here's to another great year, and things just getting better and better.


Firsts This Year!

First Live Event of Note:  Dan TDM Meet & Greet and Stage Show at the Paramount Theater


Favorite Book: You're currently reading the Red Pyramid Trilogy and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and seem to be really liking them.  You also read a ton of 39 Clues books in the past 9 months.
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Song: You still hum video game songs the most.
Favorite Board Game:  Fluxx, Unstable Unicorns
Favorite Video Game:  I asked you and you said "IDK" then sent me a gif of someone in a blue bodysuit shrugging.
Favorite TV Show:  You've been watching Futurama again lately.  You still love Bob's Burgers and The Simpsons and you have also watched all of Gravity Falls recently.
Favorite YouTubers: Alpharad
Favorite Food:  Pizza, mac & cheese, grilled cheese
Favorite Dessert: Ice cream, Oreos
Favorite Thing to Do Outside the House:  Pokemon Go, Coding Club
Favorite Subject at School: Art
Best Friend: Ashaan, Aedan

Birth Story

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Danny's Birth Story

In looking back through my birthday letters to my boys this year, I realized that I hadn't yet posted their birth stories on this blog.  In honor of each of their birthdays this year, I'll post each of their birth stories here.  This is re-posted from the Born in Bellingham blog I ran for a while, so I originally wrote it around 5 years ago, using some of my original telling and adding a few additional details.

In the three and a half years between having my first baby and getting pregnant with my second, I became a bit of a birth junkie. I HAD felt empowered by my birth, amazed that I'd done that. In reading more information and other people's birth stories, though, I came to realize that there were other choices. I read a lot of birth blogs, and then I watched "The Business of Being Born." I was hooked. I was incensed. I hated that I'd been so afraid of labor and birth when it should have been something to look forward to. I hate that we don't educate young women as to ALL of the choices available to them when it comes to birth. I hate how our country seems to view all of this as a medical condition, and I hate that people think they need a doctor when in many cases a midwife is more than enough support.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to do things very differently. I asked a long time family friend who is a hypnobirthing instructor and doula for a recommendation, and I hired a midwife. We took hypnobirthing classes. I watched tons of videos on YouTube and read hundreds of birth stories - all positive, all empowering and amazing. I couldn't wait for my birth, to really feel the power of doing it myself this time. I trusted my body.

At 30 weeks I realized I was not comfortable with my midwife. I am generally very confrontation-phobic, and I have often sat back and just accepted something because it was easier and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. This time, I didn't. I realized that I absolutely did not want someone attending my birth who I was not comfortable with. It would have been setting myself up for discomfort and problems during labor. Luckily, I found another midwife I'd heard good things about who had room to take me, and as soon as I met her I was 100% happy with my decision. I connected with her in a way I hadn't with the first woman. We planned to have the baby at our local birth center, about 20 minutes from our home. I thought about a home birth, but we were living in a house owned by my father in law and I knew the only place we'd be able to set up a pool would have been in the kitchen, and I really wanted to be able to be in the water, and didn't want to have my baby in the kitchen. We were also 25 minutes from the hospital, and I felt more comfortable being closer just in case.

My due date was on Mother's Day, May 9, just 7 days after my older son turned 4 years old. It came and went. I was unhappy and uncomfortable. I had been having some practice contractions in the evenings, usually for about an hour and 8 or so minutes apart, then they'd stop until the next night.

On May 10, I woke up got Sam ready for preschool. I went out to Thai food for lunch (my husband plotting to feed me spicy foods) and then shopped for my husband's birthday presents since his birthday was the next day. Pretty early in the day I started having a few contractions - about one or two every hour. They were very spaced out and not very intense, but it was something different to be having them throughout the day instead of just in the evening. I was hoping that this was a good sign. I met Sam at the bus after school around 4:00 and we played outside until my husband got home around 7:00 after dealing with filing a police report because his car had been broken into at work. Since he'd had a bad day, I decided he should open his birthday presents early, so he did that and he and Sam had some cake.

Just before 8 pm, I started having some regular contractions. They felt a little more intense than my usual nightly contractions, and I started hoping that it was for real this time, but I was cautiously optimistic because I didn't want to get my hopes up only to have it not be the real thing. At 8:20, I started timing with the contraction timer on my phone. For the next hour, my contractions were 40-60 seconds long and between 7 and 12 minutes apart. I felt skeptical that this was really it because they were so far apart, and at the least thought that it would be quite a while before we'd be heading to the birth center. I was wondering if my water would break like it did with Sam, and I texted my Mom and sister that this "might be it."

There was a lot of doubt in my mind about how I would know when it was "real" and how long to wait before calling people or heading to the birth center. I knew that the "rule" was 5-1-1 - contractions 5 minutes apart, a minute long, for at least an hour, so that's the guideline I had in mind in regards to calling my midwife. I later realized I was supposed to call her when they were 10 minutes apart to at least check in according to her written instructions since it was my 2nd baby, but it would not have impacted the situation in any way. At this point, my husband was getting nervous. He kept asking me how far apart the contractions were and if they were getting more painful, but I didn't seem worried so he didn't push it.

Around 9:40, a little under 2 hours into it, the contractions got closer. For about 30 minutes, they stayed around 5-7 minutes apart and a minute long. I was starting to wonder if I was a little crazy for opting for a natural birth because they were getting pretty painful. I also realized at that point that I literally had no memory of having ANY pain during my first labor despite the fact that my family told me that I was in pain, and I said I was at the time. My husband asked me if I was able to talk through the contractions since we knew that was another good indicator in terms of heading to the birthing location. At that point, I was lying on the couch on my side and was still able to talk through them. I tried listening to my hypnobirthing CD, but quickly realized that it was not going to work. I couldn't relax. I got up from the couch and turned if off, emphatically telling my husband "This is NOT going to work!" I think if my labor had been longer and I'd had more mild contractions for longer, it would have been great. If they'd been spaced out further it would have been nice to relax in between.

My husband was packing a bag for Sam so we could drop him off at a friend's on the way to the birth center and getting a few things for himself together. I walked around the house, stopping to sway and moan during contractions. I was still very calm, and my husband was moving at a medium pace. The contractions were not really regular, and weren't getting closer together and he was thinking about how long my first labor had taken.

Suddenly, around 10:15, the contractions got very hard. They were coming every 2.5 - 3.5 minutes and I was no longer able to talk or walk through them. I was vocalizing through each one, moaning and trying to keep my voice low and remember to breathe deeply instead of panting or yelling. I picked up my phone and found myself on my knees in our family room with my elbows on the couch. I called my midwife and told her that it was time and we would be there in 20 minutes. She said she would meet us there. I was sweating and felt my body working hard at that point. When we looked back later at the contraction timer, my contractions had gone from being 10-12 minutes apart to 3-5 minutes apart in less than 10 minutes.

My husband was running around the house a bit crazily now, trying to get everything in the car. At 10:25, he called my Mom and told her to meet us at the birth center, and was about to carry a sleeping Sam out to his carseat. That's when my water broke. It was a completely different experience having my water break while in hard labor, I was caught off guard by the loud pop and flood of fluid. My husband heard it from across the house and called out to ask if my water had just broken. I could barely answer him. As soon as my water broke, my contractions were one on top of the other. That's when the pressure started.

I barely remember walking to the bathroom, one room away from where I was. I sat down on the toilet, and I could hear my husband rushing around to get ready. At this point, I knew that we were not going anywhere. I could feel my body bearing down with each contraction, I was pushing and there was no stopping it. I knew there was no way I was getting in a car. At this point I was yelling during the contractions, and my husband came into the bathroom. He told me I just had to stand up and walk to the car, and I said "I can't." He thought I meant I thought I couldn't because the contractions were painful, and was getting frustrated because he didn't understand.

I remember saying that it hurt. After only 7 contractions that were right on top of one another - probably about 10-15 minutes on the toilet - I reached down and felt my baby's head. I said, "he's coming, he's coming right now" and my husband asked what he should do. I told him to put down towels and I got on the floor on all fours with my arms on the side of the bathtub. My husband asked again what to do, and I said "catch him." And he did.

After four pushes, the head was out, and after two more, our second baby was born in our home into his father's hands. Sam slept on the couch through almost the whole thing, only waking briefly when I roared during the final pushes. I sat down and turned around, and my husband handed me our baby. I wrapped a towel partway around him, but honestly was a bit in shock. My husband swept his mouth out and made sure he was breathing. He looked up at me and he didn't cry, he just made a few noises, enough that I knew he was fine.

Daniel John was born at 10:55 pm on May 10, 2010. He was 8 lb 3 oz and 20 inches long. I held him skin to skin in my arms and my husband rushed outside to call our midwife and the people who were headed to the birth center to tell them to come to the house. He stayed fairly calm until he started making the calls, then started to get shaky and called my Mom twice. Our midwife arrived at our home about 15 minutes after Danny was born. She looked at the placenta, which I had already birthed, and clamped his cord so that my husband could cut it. Holding him for about 30 minutes after he was born, skin-to-skin, without any interruption was amazing. Once we cut the cord, our midwife helped me up to my bed and my Mom and her husband arrived. Soon after, my stepdad and my sister also got to our house.

Our midwife weighed and measured Danny and we wrapped him up in a couple of sleep sacks and a blanket because he had gotten a little cold from when I was holding him without a blanket on him. She stuck around for an hour or two and made sure we were all okay. A couple of hours later I got up to go to the bathroom and sit so my husband could clean up the bed and get it ready for us to sleep in. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mess to clean up (one of the reasons I HADN'T planned on a home birth!), so it took a few minutes. We did have chux pads on the bed, but they were insufficient. I was feeling VERY dizzy and weak, and my Mom started to get concerned. After I sat for a few more minutes and had a couple of bowls of cereal we decided that it was just a combination of getting up from bed too soon, the adrenaline rush wearing off, and not having eaten since lunchtime. With all the commotion, my midwife forgot to remind me to eat something before trying to get up, and it didn't occur to me apparently.

I moved to the floor in the bathroom, and then when the bed was done I got up to walk across the hall back to bed. My husband helped me up, but when he turned around to get something from the bathroom I was in the hall and passed out. It was really weird, I have never passed out or fainted before and I just felt my body become SO heavy and fall to the floor, then I woke up and it just felt like it was morning and I'd woken up. I crawled over the bed and climbed up, and I felt okay. Luckily, I didn't hit anything on the way down!

Danny slept like a champ, which was nice since I didn't fall asleep until after 3:30 am and he slept for a good 5 hour chunk. We had so many other people around, he just got passed from person to person who loved him. Despite the mess, I love that I had my baby at home and just like my first birth, he was surrounded by people who love him immediately as he came into his life in the outside world. It was kind of great not to have to go to the hospital or anywhere and just be at home.

My recovery was more difficult with Danny than it was with Sam, I think because he came so quickly that my body didn't have time to adjust. I didn't have any tears or stitches, but I was just really, really sore and spent most of the first week on the couch. My stomach muscles hurt a lot until my midwife suggested binding my stomach, which I did with an elastic type back brace I happened to have in my house. After wearing it for 24 hours there was a huge difference, and she told me that in a lot of countries they do that for all women after birth.

In the end I had two very different birthing experiences. Both were wonderful in their own ways, but it never stops being fun to tell people about my unplanned, unassisted home birth! Now I encourage all women I can to educate themselves and decide what they really want - you can have the birth you want, even if sometimes it happens differently than you'd expected.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Sam's Birth Story

In looking back through my birthday letters to my boys this year, I realized that I hadn't yet posted their birth stories on this blog.  In honor of each of their birthdays this year, I'll post each of their birth stories here.  This is re-posted from the Born in Bellingham blog I ran for a while, so I originally wrote it around 5 years ago, using some of my original telling and adding a few additional details.

I was 25 when I had my first son. We had trouble getting pregnant, but after 2 years, our 4th attempt at IUI worked, and we were finally pregnant. We took the standard class that the hospital offered, a few sessions that didn't tell me much that I didn't already know. I was so excited at becoming a mother, but I was really scared of labor. All I heard were stories about how much it hurt and how afterwards it was "like hamburger down there." Not exactly inspiring or encouraging. My birth plan was basically to try and do it without medication, but I fully acknowledged that I had no idea what my pain threshold is since I've never really had any painful experiences. The most physical pain I'd ever felt before that was probably getting my tattoos.

My due date was May 2, and the day before I was feeling really nervous. I was ready to meet my son, but one thing I did know was that I did not want to be induced. I really wanted labor to come on naturally. I was feeling unsettled about my doctor appointment the next day because I knew the subject would come up. That night, my husband gave me the choice of going for a walk outside around our apartment complex or of sex to try and get things going. I chose the latter because the idea of a walk was just too much! We're both night owls and ended up going to sleep around 1 am.

At 3:30 am I woke up and as soon as I was awake, I realized that I'd been awakened by my water breaking. I sat up in bed and made my husband go and get me a towel. I went into the bathroom and the fluid was clear, and after that I was leaking fluid slowly, and gushing a bit during contractions. At first, I didn't even realize that what I was feeling were contractions. It took three or four crampy feelings exactly 20 minutes apart for me to realize what was happening. I did not have any contractions or Braxton Hicks at all before I actually went into labor.

I was so excited, and even though I was tired, I liked the dark and quiet of the morning. I called the hospital and they told me that I should come in since my water had broken but that I could shower and have something to eat first, no rush. I was too excited to shower, but we took our time getting ready. The drive to the hospital was nice, no cars on the street and everything was very quiet and still in the early morning. We walked into labor and delivery around 5 am. I had filled out the paperwork ahead of time, so we got right into a room. At that point, my contractions were about 6 minutes apart.

The nurses told me that depending on my progress they would probably want to start pitocin around 9:30 (6 hours into my labor). I put on a gown and robe and walked the halls, leaning on the railings when I had contractions. My Mom and sister arrived around 6. As the contractions got stronger and harder, I started to re-think my ideas about having a natural labor. Around 7:30, my doctor came in and did my first check and found that I was 6 cm dilated. It was really convenient that my doctor's practice was located in the hospital, so it was very easy for him to come down and check on me. After that, my contractions continued getting longer and more difficult, but spaced out more. I know now that is something that happens to some people, and doesn't necessarily mean progress is slowing, but I did not know that at the time.

Around 10 am, my doctor told me that we could either keep waiting or we could use pitocin and move things along. This is where my journey completely diverges from my current opinions. I know now that the pitocin was not necessary, but I wasn't informed or empowered to make that choice at the time. I did know that pitocin can make contractions come on fast and hard, so I told them I wanted an epidural before they started the pitocin drip. I got my epidural and they started the drip sometime between 10:30 and 11:30. Around noon, my friend/photographer arrived as well as my stepdad. At 12:20 they checked me again and I was still only 6-7 cm dilated. At that point, the nurses suggested that we kick everyone out and try to rest. The hospital I was at was very quiet and calm, and I had the overhead lights off with natural light streaming through floor to ceiling windows. I listened to Sarah McLachlan and went to sleep.

At 1:15 I was awakened by an oxygen mask being placed over my mouth and nose. In retrospect I have no idea why that was necessary. They told me that the baby's heart rate was sporadic, and upon doing an internal exam they said that the reason was because it was time to push - I was 10 cm and ready to go! We called my family back to the room and around 1:30 I started pushing.

Because of the epidural, I was on my back on the bed. There were no stirrups, so I was holding my legs as I pushed. The lights were still out, and I did very little talking. My husband made jokes about it being a 'silent birth' ala Scientology since Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes were all over the news at that time.  I was not in pain, but did feel an urge to push and a lot of pressure. My family was there to encourage me, but I didn't need them to talk to me, just be in the room with me to help bring our baby into the world.

After 1 hour and 40 minutes of pushing, Samuel Denn was born. He weighted 7 lbs 6 oz, was 20 inches long, and had the fullest head of white blonde hair I'd ever seen. They placed him immediately on my chest and let him stay while I birthed the placenta.

We stayed in the hospital overnight, and were unsuccessful with breastfeeding. I found out later that I had a litany of medical issues including insulin resistance, PCOS, high testosterone and hypothyroidism that affected my ability to get pregnant and to produce milk. I tried many things, but never got more than a few drops out of either breast. My doctor had never checked my breasts while I was pregnant, or told me that the size and placement or the fact that there was not an increase in size might not be good signs. I never had any idea that some women could not breastfeed, or had low production, or any of that.

We went home the next day, and I was shocked at how easy my recovery was. My muscles were sore and tired, but I felt fairly good. None of the vagina horror stories I'd heard held true in any way, and things went back to normal fairly quickly. Even though I have different ideas now about birth in general, I am happy that I had such a good hospital experience with my first birth!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Thing About Triggers

The thing about triggers is that you don’t know them.  They are lying in wait until the trap is sprung and you are caught gasping for breath in a swirling, rising tide of emotion.

I did not know that the ultrasound would be more than I could handle.  I went to the appointment alone, thinking it was routine.

I did not consider the mental challenges of all that is wrapped up in those parts of me: my womanhood, my motherhood, my sexuality, my identity, cradled low in my body, warm and undisturbed.

She says the wand will be ‘inserted like a tampon,’ but I wonder what kind of tampon she’s ever seen that is a foot long and requires lubricating jelly?

I watch the screen in the dark, my legs spread and eyes searching for any familiar shape in the static grey.  I see the IUD, there in place, signaling the end of my journey and desire in motherhood.

I recognize the c-shape of the walls of my uterus, the nursery my body prepares month after month.  Last time I saw a picture of it, there was a baby swimming there and despite the lack of wanting to ever see that again there is a specific, longing melancholy to knowing I don’t grow babies anymore.

She presses the wand around the curves and bends of my insides, my organs grudgingly make way for this intrusion as a sharp pang of pressure travels down my leg.

I am frozen in space as I try to remember to breathe.  

I see the familiar darkness I’d become so well acquainted with in another life.  I watch as the mouse moves, dotted lines measuring the empty space where eggs mature and release, top to bottom, side to side, empirically judging normalcy.  I am time traveling; each blink brings flashes of multiple ripe follicles clustered like grapes, shots given to force the release of microscopic eggs, tiny syringes full of the best swimmers manually inserted through a minuscule tube.  I hear whispers of prayer after prayer after prayer for that magical binding and division of cells that would make me a mother at last.

There was a time when this was routine.  But that was a different time, and I have not considered that I am a different person now.  I have not considered that in finding myself mentally and physically, in opening my heart and embracing my nature, there is a new discomfort with this invasion.

I have not considered that now I am dealing with new possibilities, demands and recommendations, unsure and sad and still figuring things out.  That right now I don't trust my body, my hope wanes and my love for it has been hiding. 

In the dark, I watch, unaware of the filling of my mind with the past; infertility, longing, marriage, a life that is dead and buried but somehow moving and writhing beneath my surface.  

Nostalgia is not always sweet.  Bitterness creeps and winds, choking out happiness and okay-ness, invasive vines on the life I’ve built.

Finally, she pulls the wand out.  I wipe the foul smelling jelly from my pubic hair and put my pants back on.  I wash my hands in hot water and soap, but hours later it will creep into my nose when I move them too close.

It takes a few minutes for me to realize I’ve been caught.  I walk to my car and get inside, and as I begin the text I am fine, but by the time I’ve finished typing, the tears have come.  The sky is grey and dripping and my eyes open, emotions pour from me like a flash flood.

My heart cries out in confusion, pain, and longing.  The sobs are primal but familiar, and there is a voice inside me that wonders how I can ever possibly stop.  I think maybe I will just cry forever.

The thing about triggers is that you don’t know them.

I would have gone with you, he says, and held your hand.

I didn’t know it was going to be upsetting, I reply.