Monday, March 26, 2012

Remembering Now

Dear Hannah,

I've often wondered what things you'll remember from your wee childhood. You won't remember the first smile you cracked when you were 5 weeks old, the way you snorted while nursing, your very first strawberry or your first pair of shoes. You probably won't remember Japan - at least as your own memory - or the wonderful people who knew you from the day you were born. I don't know if you'll remember me reading chapters from "The Little Prince" to you each night before bed or singing "Baby Beluga" while you splashed with your chubby legs at bath time. But I have a feeling that some of your earliest memories will be from this crazy, adventuresome time. So let me refresh you on your fourth year.

This was a year of distinguishing fantasy from reality . . . of "Ladycorns" and Nightmares, monsters and imaginary friends. You tell us there is a white squirrel named "Squirrel Bob" who lives on the ceiling fan in your bedroom, and each night you have to kick him out of your room so he won't make noise and keep you awake. While certain stuffed animals frighten you at night (namely pigs, cats, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar), you still sleep with a menagerie of unicorns, rabbits and dinosaurs on your bed. You are adept at prolonging bed time each night, and a part of me believes it is because night time is the only time you actually sit still long enough to let your imagination really run wild! Because of this fixation on monsters, your favorite bedtime stories are those by Mercer Mayer - "There's a Nightmare in My Closet," "There's an Alligator Under My Bed," "There's Something in My Attic," and "There are Monsters Everywhere."

You have a love for all things shiny and fragile. While you are unusually gentle for a four-year-old, you do have your clumsy moments. One of my favorites happened recently, when I found you wandering the house when you should have been taking a nap. You were looking for me, because you had disassembled my marble egg-shaped kaleidoscope given to me by an old boyfriend. I can only imagine you holding that tiny treasure up to the the light and turning it while gazing at the crystals and mirrors within, and wanting to know exactly what was inside that was making those intricate patterns. So you broke it open, stuck your finger in the lens hole, and found yourself with a marble egg stuck on your index finger. I would have scolded you if I hadn't been laughing so hard.

You also have a love for music and theater. Are we at all surprised? We can find you singing most times of the day - sometimes actual songs, and sometimes just a melodious stream of consciousness or blow-by-blow of whatever game you are playing or world you are building. I call them "Hannah's Rock Operas," and they are a thing to behold. We often ask you to perform for our guests, and you oblige us with an original, never-heard-before medley. We are of course proud of our little performer, but there is one thing I would impress upon you, my love. Please never believe that life is a performance. By all means, play pretend, try on on different hats, and sing and dance to your heart's content, but I implore you to never feel that acting in a way that is not you will make you more friends, or make people love you. Your thoughts and feelings are the most beautiful, genuine expression of yourself.

This is a magical time in your life, little one. You inhabit a world of romance, butterflies, fairies, acorns, sandcastles, bubble gum, marbles and the color purple. If I were to choose your very first memory for you, it would be the magic. The adventure. The exuberant love for everything moving, breathing, shining, singing. You, my daughter, are a sparkling light of possibility. Every morning when I hear you open your bedroom door and stomp down the stairs, I wonder how you will have changed. Before you come into our room, I close my eyes and remember the girl you were the day before - the length of your hair, the size of your feet, the funny way you pronounced certain words - and then I send light and love to the girl you were and open my eyes to the beautiful girl you are now. Your pajamas are a little shorter, your toddler tummy a little smaller, and you have inevitably learned 20 new things overnight, including the proper way to say "burp" and "unicorn," much to my chagrin. You are growing into a stunning human being, Hannah. I couldn't be happier that your are ours.


Music Credits: "Love, Love, Love" by Avalanche City

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Welcome Home, Son

Please forgive me for the mushy sentimentality that might take place. It has been almost a month since Rowan was born, and while he sleeps and Hannah colors ponies on this rainy Sunday morning, I'm finally feeling grounded enough to write what I remember from his birth. To be honest, the birth happened so fast (an hour and a half of labor? Yes please!) that it has taken me some time to come to grips with the reality that it happened, it is over, and he is here. He is here. Here he is.

Rowan: A tree of protection; one that offers strength against adversity, symbolizing growth and rebirth. Also known as "The Whispering Tree" which has secrets to reveal to those who would listen.

Shepherd: A leader; one who guides.

His was not only the one name we agreed on, it was the name that quite perfectly described what he has been for us. After overcoming so much heartache and adversity in our lives, during my pregnancy with Rowan I truly felt protected, at peace, and guided toward a new, happy life with my family. This little person nudged us to the content place in which we now dwell. Hans has a steady, satisfying job. I have more students than I know what to do with. Hannah has grown into a beautiful, independent little person. We have a home. We have come Home. There is no place I would rather be than right here, right now, with those I love surrounding me. Growth and Rebirth, indeed.

Please click on the link to view this on a larger screen on Youtube. I don't know why it's so tiny here!
Music Credits: "Welcome Home" by Radical Face

So, here are all the nitty gritty details, for those who have asked. 

Following suit with his sister, Rowan came to us three perfect days after his "due date." With a due date of February 11th, we joked about having a Valentine's baby, but I never thought that's the way it would happen. On the morning of February 14th I was having contractions that were 10-15 minutes apart, and would sometimes go 30 minutes with nothing happening. To try and get things moving, I suggested to Hans that we take a walk. A friend of mine had graciously offered to take Hannah to preschool, so we had 2 hours to ourselves. "No way!" Hans cried, "It's too icy out there."

"So hold my hand. I don't care. I'm going with or without you."

Ten minutes later we were out the door. The sidewalks and roads were treacherous. We giggled at how silly we looked - this bundled-to-the-max overdue pregnant lady and her rather slim husband, slipping and sliding our way down the street. We decided to go to the library, where we had some books on hold (he a graphic novel and I a knitting book, of course). It was only a 5 minute walk, but it was exercise and fresh air, which was exactly what I wanted. While in the library waiting for Hans to complain to the librarians about a particular book being kept in the reference section (and thus unavailable for check-out), I suddenly felt extremely overheated and hungry. I had a few contractions that felt like more than Braxton Hicks, but thought of nothing other than getting back out in the cool air, and home to the three slices of cold pizza I had squirreled away to the back of the refrigerator for my lunch. I urged Hans to hurry, and finally we headed home.

My water broke shortly after arriving at home, but my excitement was muted, both because my contractions were next to nothing, and because I remembered Hannah was born a lengthy 12 hours after my water had broken before. Nonetheless, I texted my midwife Suzanne (what a lovely name!), and she quickly replied that she was on her way from Shawnee. In the meantime I ate the aforementioned 3 slices of pizza and casually checked facebook and pinterest for distractions, with no heavy or regular contractions. At the time I was thinking, things probably won't pick up until this evening, so I might as well relax while I can. Suzanne and her assistant Nicole came and checked his heartbeat, set up the oxygen tank and their supplies, then we twiddled our thumbs and checked watches for a few minutes, waiting for a contraction to come. Nothing. Suzanne perfomed a few midwifery tricks to get labor started. First she had me smell sage oil, then she gave me an herb the name of which I cannot remember, then she pushed several pressure points on my ankles and feet, and then she attached a Tens Unit to the small of my back, to help deal with contractions when they came. When things still weren't happening, they decided to go to lunch. Suzanne said to contact her when anything changed. Otherwise, she would check back in 4 hours.

My intention was to take a nap. Hannah returned home from preschool and ate lunch shortly after Suzanne and Nicole had left, and as Hans put her down for a nap and I prepared to lay down, my contractions suddenly grew more intense - to the point that I couldn't speak through them and had to practice my breathing technique (a combination of singer's breathing and hypnobirthing "sleep breathing"). When Hans saw me concentrating so hard, he said "should I fill the pool?" My lack of a coherant answer was answer enough, and he set to the task of filling, prepping, and calling the midwives back. They returned with record speed and helped me into the tub and its relaxing warm waters.

From the time I entered the water to when Rowan was born was about an hour and 15 minutes of what I can only refer to as "intense relaxation." The room was dark and damp, and somewhere along the way Hans had started playing calm Native American flute music in the background. To hear him describe the scene, our bedroom had become a shrine of overwhelming feminine energy. He said it was almost intimidating for him to be the only male in the room. My sister in law Kerri arrived next. She was to be our "Hannah guard" if needed, and my birthing coach if available. She took over the task of applying counter pressure on my back as I breathed through each wave. I was sitting on my knees, and it felt like Kerri's counter pressure was actually pushing the baby downwards. And that is how I would describe what I was feeling - pressure. Not pain. I felt like a pressure cooker, and each time the pressure rose, I blew it out with my breath, and Kerri directed it downwards with soothing hands.

Our little boy was born in no time. 3 very long, drawn out breaths and he was out, swimming around in the water with me and singing with anger at the indignity of leaving his little cocoon of warmth so quickly. There were no other hands holding or touching him for the first hour of his life. After 15 minutes I delivered the placenta - a "lotus birth" - and his cord was not cut until I had cuddled, loved and nursed him for one hour. During that time Suzanne, Nicole and Kerri quickly and efficiently emptied and deflated the tub and cleaned up. Just when they finished, Hannah woke up from her nap. Yes, it was that perfectly timed.

The only minor complication I can name was when I fainted in the shower shortly after, but I blame myself for not telling them I was feeling light headed, and that I probably should have eaten something before getting up. Aside from some marvelously purple welts on my lower back, there was no harm done there.

I hope this story will be a beacon for women who are considering a home birth, but might fear the unknown. If I had one word to describe Rowan's birth, it would be "unencumbered." In the comfort of our home - with no florescent lights, hospital gowns, probing fingers, unnecessary procedures and interventions - we brought a healthy boy into the world, and when all was said and done, ate a home cooked meal and slept in the comfort of our own bed. What's not to love about that?