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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birthing From Within

I have had such an interesting journey in just the last few days that I am curious about what is unfolding for me this time around.

I mentioned in my last blog that I was about to start work with a doula. And work we did. I have chosen to have a doula present at this birth for many reasons, but primarily because I need there to be one person there intimately familiar with birth and able to support both my hubble and myself as we journey this next precious little soul into being. My choice was made easy by finding a woman who is deeply spiritual, strong and earthy, like a tree with muddy roots, and with a mothering energy that easily moves into warrior when the need arises. I need that and I trust that. She has already taken me to some deep places and I am grateful for the work that we are doing together, even when every atom of my being tries to shut down and run in the opposite direction rather than face the anger and the sadness that run so deep in me.

In addition to this work, the hubble and I had an almost child-free weekend as we embarked on our Calmbirthing journey with the gorgeous people from About Birth. The lovely Lael has been a friend for a good few years now and I am always amazed at how deep she can take me with just a few intuitive comments. Our calmbirthing classes were amazing and in just those few hours spent with lael, something deep within me shifted. I finally allowed myself to see that not all of Lily's birth was a failure, which is how I have most often viewed it and where much of the grief around motherhood stemmed from. Some tiny prompt from Lael sat with me all that first night as I practised the calmbreath and somewhere, in the depths of the night, an amazing insight arose. My birth with Lily was difficult. My waters broke at 11.30pm at night and I went straight into the most intense and excruciating pain I had ever experienced. And no, I'm not exaggerating. The problem was an undiagnosed posterior baby and so I was sure that something was 'wrong' with me, which sent me spinning into fear. Fear is not a good labour companion. However, in the next 6 hours, I managed (without any professional support and with only two beloved but equally bewildered loved ones present), and deep in the grip of both terror and pain, to dilate to 5 cm. Basically, the hardest centimetres to dilate are the first 5 and I did it whilst fighting tooth and nail instead of surrendering to the process of birth, which I might have been able to do had anyone told me that what was happening was normal and not a potential disaster. Now, this might not sound like much but what occurred to me was that if my amazing body was powerful enough to still dilate to 5cm, while flooded with adrenalin and with me unconsciously working against it's every physical need, then what might it have done if I had felt safe and had been able to surrender? It might not have made a difference to the amount of dilation, but it would most definitely have made a difference to the amount of pain I experienced and to the fear and worry I journeyed with. And so, with some astonishment, I finally realised that I had done amazingly well to get so far without help and without guidance regardless of all the interventions that followed. If there had been one person there who could have told me to change positions, to try and breathe with the contractions, to stay calm - I may have been able to do it all without intervention. However, that was not mine and Lily's birth journey. But it reassured me that no matter what state I am in mentally, my body still knows what to do and how to do the work of birthing. If I can simply show up and try to remain calm and not let the fear take me, then this birth can be everything I want it to be, even if I end up having to take a different route to the one I planned. As Lael put it, "it's not where you birth your baby, but how you do it that counts." If you are present and calm, then that baby will have the best entry into the world, even if your choices are limited by unforseen circumstances, and she should know. She's had it all in birth - a forceps delivery like mine, a beautiful home waterbirth and a last minute caesarean with a footling breech in severe distress. It gives me hope and with hope comes a feeling of anticipation. A feeling of almost looking forward to the journey of labour and birthing as an opportunity to complete the journey.

It's also interesting that this past week, in the lead up to my calmbirthing work with Lael, has been an exercise in facing many of my fears for this pregnancy head on. During my last midwifery appointment, while they were measuring my belly, the midwife got that look on her face that every woman dreads. It's a mixture of confusion, worry and tension that leads them to say, 'I'd just like to get a second opinion on this...' before returning with a second midwife. The reason for the concern, as it turned out, was that the first midwife couldn't get an accurate reading on the bump due to, what she thought, was an excess amount of fluid around the baby. The second midwife, whose hands were soft and warm and gentle compared to the hard poking hands of the first, measured with ease and gave her opinion. There was some discussion about the amount of fluid and whether it was 'too much' and the second midwife seemed unperturbed but said come back in two weeks rather than four and we'll see how we are doing then. Now the upshot of all of this is that I then confronted the first midwife with a few questions designed to get to what the problem was. Reluctant though she was to share. It turns out that there is a condition called 'hydramnios' or 'polyhydramnios' which is an excess of amniotic fluid in the third trimester. Apparently, amniotic fluid increases until around 34 weeks and then slowly decreases towards birth. The worry with excess amniotic fluid after this time is that it 'can' cause some birthing issues such as a cord prolapse during labour or placental abruption. The baby is not in any danger due to the excess fluid in pregnancy but there is also a risk that the excess fluid indicates a problem with the baby - such as chromosomal difficulties or a gastrointenstinal blockage causing the baby to be unable to swallow the fluid as they normal do. I wasn't sure what to do with this information so late in the pregnancy, so I left it at that and went home. If there is still excess fluid next week, then I will be referred for a sonogram to measure the amount of fluid and check the babies development. Once that has been done the results will dictate what sort of 'risk' I present to the birthing centre and I may be referred over to the main hospital for the birth, reducing drastically my risk of having a waterbirth.

It's a lot to take in. Possible birth defects with my child, the risk of another highly interventionist birth and of being potentially encouraged towards a ceasarean to prevent calamity. All of my fears - BANG! - right there in my face at 32 weeks pregnant. And I didn't spin out. I'm quite proud of that. This is not to say that there is not niggling worry but I simply chose to remain focused on the outcome I want for this baby - a gentle birth - and allowed myself to recognise that, as I have no control over the ultimate outcome at this point, there is no sense in worrying myself to death about it. What I feel instinctively is that I am being given an opportunity to face these fears, deal with them and let them go, come what may at the conclusion. I can only be present with the 'what is' and allow the journey to unfold with as little stress from me as I can manage. What I can do is remain present with this little one, realise that the medical profession, including the midwives that work in the birthing centres, are educated in a culture of fear regarding birth and that any possibility of risk, no matter how remote, will cause them to take appropriate steps to prevent danger to mother or baby. That is their job. It does not mean that what they fear WILL happen, just that they must take precautions against the 'what if's'. I can live with that. I have to. What I don't have to do is take on their fear. My feeling at the moment is that the baby is fine. I am fine. I carry a lot of water in pregnancy, just like I did with Lily and, as I had a private midwife then, it may be that this is what it was like with Lily but no-one noticed or it didn't concern them enough to mention it. I do remember having a very late scan (due to choleostatis in late pregnancy with Beanie) and it showing that she had an olympic sized swimming pool to play in even though she was overdue.

So, what else can I do but trust that this is part of the journey, a gift of fear to move through and an opportunity to shift yet more uneccessary silt before the real work of labour and birthing this child comes into play. I am learning the uncomfortable art of sitting with all that is unknown in my life and learning that all I can do is breathe, trust, pray and wait. What will be, will be and I cannot know why, or where this path will lead me until I arrive.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And Also This...

This made me feel calmer and more centred just listening to it.

I Hope You Dance

Ok, I realise that the above may reveal a little more about me than I might wish. I would therefore like to justify my choice by saying two things. I am not a fan of country music,(I find it one of the more self indulgent types of music and therefore a little hard to stomach, though I do love the titles of the songs ('If You Leave Can I Come To?' and 'You Ran Away With My Best Friend And I Sure Do Miss Him') and I admit to having a soft spot for 'Sweet Home Alabama'). Secondly, it was a little text reminder from a good friend in the UK that reminded me of this particular song and why I had apparently played it "over and over" during a very difficult time in my life. The friend in question is about to get married and I can't be there as I'm due the same day as her wedding! She intends to walk down the aisle to this song and I think, given everything she's been through to get to this place in her life, it is wonderfully appropriate. So there you go. Justification over.


In other news, the bump has dropped. I have another eight weeks to go and apparently the bump dropping has given people carte blanche to comment constantly about how low it is. I literally couldn't get away from one woman who insisted on commenting (with horror) on how low my belly is and how high she carried her son until the week of the birth...and then I got a play by play of how big he was and how small her pelvis was and how it ended in a caesarian...yadda yadda yadda. Why do people do that? I mean, I get that they think that it's forming a connection and that maybe it's interesting to share birth horror stories with pregnant women (thanks) but many of these comments are tainted with a kind of obnoxious attention. As if by comparing themselves to me and coming off more favourably, it makes them better people, their choices better or their experiences better. It pisses me off a bit to be honest. *sigh* I think that given how complicated life often is and how tiring being pregnant is, we should be left alone to enjoy (or not) our individual experiences of pregnancy without people feeling it's their solemn duty to point out anomalies, imperfections or share unbidden their most intimate birthing experiences with us. Is that too much to ask for?

On top of all of that I have been feeling a bit wibbly in general. This pregnancy has rushed by with unseemly haste and I am now standing on the threshold of the next birth/death gateway with my new bubby. I am aware that I have dropped early. I am also aware that I may not get to enjoy the fullness of the next eight weeks because it could happen at any time. And I. Am. Not. Ready. Not even close. I meant to do so many things differently this pregnancy. I did. I meant to meditate regularly and do pre-natal yoga. I haven't. I guess I'm learning to accept that this is just the way I am but it's not going to help me when D-Day arrives, is it? The pelvic instability thing has worsened and the back ache has deepened, which has meant that my mobility has been compromised and the nature of the instability means that the yoga poses that I am most drawn to, are the ones which would make the instability worse. *sigh 2* I feel trapped in a large body that is becoming less workable and comfortable by the day. Add to that the fear that I might go into labour early and have a premmie baby with all the intervention that will bring about, and you have one nervous mamma.

The baby's got hiccups. It's very cute.

Anyway, I don't want to rant on. I am not in a very calm or centred place right now. I am slightly unnerved by the swiftness with which everything is moving and how unprepared I am for everything that is to come, despite my best efforts. I'm about to start working with my doula this week and that gives me some hope that we can get to a place of, if not peace, then relative calm before the upcoming birth. I am also due to do my Calmbirthing classes this weekend, so at least there will be one new tool in my birthing repertoire this time.

I sound panicked don't I.

I just want this birth to be a good experience for me and the baby and I know how badly things can go wrong. I'm trying to focus on the things that will help me to bring about a better birth but I guess it's natural for the fears to come up first, to have some attention given to them, before they pass away. At least that is what I am hoping.

More later.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nesting in the Eye of the Storm

Well hello there.

What a weird and wonderful couple of days it's been. In this tree-like womb we call home we have been literally bombarded with torrential rain, high winds and hail stones the size of golf balls. And no - I'm honestly NOT exaggerating. In fact, we always thought that it was an exaggeration when people said that - until they hit our side (plastic) roof on Friday afternoon and punched 37 holes in the one side and 5 in the other AND cracked one of our skylights. Then we saw the golf ball sized pieces of hail up close and personal and filmed them, and the damage they caused, for posterity. And insurance claims.

And then came the downpour and the use of every kitchen utensil that could hold water. At one point we had 18 different receptacles on the floor and it was still like wading through a toddler's pool to get to empty them. It was WET people. Very, very wet. And we mopped and emptied and mopped and emptied some more. We had to heave armchairs and tables and furniture out of the area as we held umbrellas in our hands. It was actually quite comical. By the time evening came we were very sore, stiff and more than a little damp. We retreated to a hot bath and slept fitfully whilst dreaming of water flooding the rest of the house. Thankfully, this did not turn out to be the case. The floor was wet, the buckets, saucepans, mixing bowls, baking tins et al needed emptying but it was contained to the little outdoor/indoor sunroom area and all was well, relatively speaking.

Yesterday, the hubble spent the day up on the severely battered roof trying to patch holes with duct tape, parcel tape and tarps in the hopes of reducing some of the water intake due in the second lot of storms predicted for that afternoon. Thankfully, when the next torrential downpour arrived (and boy did it ever) there was not the predicted second round of hail. I'm not sure what's left of the roof would have survived to be honest. The repairs didn't hold up all that well. Sadly, it turns out that tarp is not waterproof but the tape did pretty well. However, we did see the return of most of our water containing receptacles. And this morning, well, let's just say that we haven't been in there yet, but when we do we'll be needing our wellies and our mops. Again.

And what did I do when not mopping and moving bowls around to catch drips? I nested like something demented. Yes. I went under the house, dug through all the bags to find the 'unisex' baby clothes that have been stored under there for nearly 3 years, brought them upstairs, mooed through them very slowly, often saying to the hubble, 'Oh. Look at this one. Can you believe Beanie used to be so small?' before moving on to the next cute, teensy little outfit or pair of bootees or minute pair of socks. And then it was to the washing machine. Many, many loads of tiny clothes later and mamma had to move all of her clothes out of all the drawers previously known as hers, to make room for the newest tiny little space invader when it arrives. In just a mere 10 weeks. Oh, so many tiny nappies and tiny outfits and tiny bunny rugs and that's just the stuff that will work for both sexes. There are two more bags under the house of just GIRL stuff. If I have another girl, I'll have to move house to fit all the stuff in! Where in God's name did I used to put it all? Seriously!

And then there was the washing of the car seat, the washing of the car seat covers, the buying of the new booster seat for 'big Sis', the washing and storing of the pusher, the purchasing of a new 'Arm's Reach Co-sleeper' from ebay and the driving out to Braeburn to pick it up. Thankfully, that was the hubble's job. Except that they forgot to pack the most vital piece of the co-sleeper puzzle - the mattress and so we will have to go back and get that or get them to deliver it to the city, as it's a 4 hour round trip for us to get to them again. Still, I'm very excited by the co-sleeper - it's very convenient for a co-sleeping mamma like myself. I just roll over and pick up the baby to breastfeed in the night and then pop him/her back in the co-sleeper when done. No fuss, no drama, just maximum amount of sleep between feeds and a very happy baby.

The hubble also spent the long weekend painting curtain rails, fitting curtain rails and putting up curtains. It's only taken us about a year to do the family room. Now we have to do the same for the living room.

It's odd to think that in just a few more weeks there will be a new little brother or sister for Beanie. A new little life to care for and love and hopefully not screw up too much. I somehow can't really get my head around it. It seems too, I don't know... immense. Our girl is already the centre of our Universe, how will that work when there is another little love-bug to share that Universe with? We both think that Beanie will be an amazing big sister. She's such a compassionate, caring and switched on child already and she is so tapped into the baby. She kisses the belly every day and says good morning or good night or I love you to the baby. She draws pictures of me with the baby inside of me. She talks about the baby with me and seems to understand the whole process much more clearly than any other 3-yr old I've met. No doubt there will be a few teething problems but overall, we're not anticipating much in the way of sibling rivalry. It will be interesting to see if we're right.

And so, here I am. Big, round and expectant in more ways than one. Trying to cope with other types of water's breaking and beginning the final countdown to this pregnancy journey's end. May it all be just a (minor) storm in a DD Cup in the end.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Feeling Disconnected

Just discovered this amazing new voice (new to me!) and am being spirited away by it's ethereal beauty as we speak. Anyway, just wanted to share.

And speaking of sharing. Is anyone out there? Whilst I don't write for anyone but myself on the whole, it's nice to get the occasional comment and recently there's been a howling empty void with not a single nice cyber-voice to fill it. Uh-oh, am I getting needy now? Just wondered where everyone had gone?

Things have been pootling along as normal recently except for an increasing sense of disconnection from everything on my part. I'm 28 months pregnant (somewhere around 7 months or so) and have yet to really drop into this pregnancy in any discernible way. It's not denial. I KNOW I'm having a baby - he/she is kicking me quite distinctly as i write but I just haven't had the time, (or perhaps found or allowed myself the time) to really connect with what's going on in any real way. Lily is, as always, the centre of my Universe. Everything I do seems to orbit around her and her needs and I don't say that in a resentful way (well, not today at any rate!). It's more that a demanding, curious and energetic three yr old is difficult to ignore, even when I try really hard. This new bub that grows more energetic by the day has had short shrift when it comes to my attention. Maybe that's just the way with second children, I don't know. Certainly there are times I am concerned about how I'm going to juggle the demands of two very different and very needy little people at the same time and not lose the plot. I remember how much time I had for my pregnancy with Beanie. I talked to the bump all the time, spent time meditating and preparing for her arrival. The most I've been able to do is spend one weekend in an insane amount of nesting - which is surely a little early given that I've got at least another 13 weeks to go. Lots of cleaning and bad tempered planning and nagging the hubble to get things out from under the house and buy me a new chest of drawers etc.

I have even been interviewing Doulas (people who are there solely for the emotional and spiritual support of the birthing woman) and that has been bringing up some interesting emotions for me. There is one woman I like who I think I could work well with, but I'm wondering how I'll let anyone behind these tall walls I tend to erect when I feel unsafe. Sol-y-Luna could tell you what I'm talking about I'm sure. She's been with me on this journey before. However, there have also been several big 'No's' for me too. All these different energies that are around birthing women and all of them do the same job essentially - their blurbs are the same, they all offer the same services with the same platitudes. It's a little like fishing in a vast ocean and trying to catch a specific type of fish. The right fish for our little birthing aquarium. Right now it feels a little overwhelming.

Still, there has been precious little space in my heart, mind and soul created for this new little being that's already over half way to arriving. It concerns me a fair bit. I don't want to go into shock when the baby arrives in the physical, feeling like I am not ready. It's not so much a practical readiness, we still have all the stuff from Beanie's early days. I just don't feel present with any of it. Like it's all happening to someone else and I'm just the one experiencing the extreme discomfort of late pregnancy. Hoh yes! It's bloody uncomfortable. I'd forgotten how much. Perhaps, on second thoughts, I AM in denial? It seems so huge, to be bringing this new life into the one that already seems crammed with life. Lily is such a huge character and I'm often such a reluctant mother. Not for lack of love. The love I have for my girl is more than I can bear sometimes, it's so intense and sometimes a little scary. It's more for lack of understanding or time or my ability to be present with 'what is' and not fight the process of mothering and being a mother so much. I fight for peace and calm where none is to be found and that is the source of all my suffering. Struggling to be somewhere other than where one is, is the source of everybody's suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. But the acceptance, that elludes me. Often. Like, every day. Surrender. Well, we've already been there and not done that, haven't we? I don't do surrender. Oh, i want to. Really, I do. But it's just so hard to let go and trust. And maybe that's where this disconnection is coming from. I can't seem to let myself go into it and trust that wherever this next part of the journey takes me, all will be well. Because, will it? Will it really be ok? Will I cope? Will I be held in those moments when I most need to be held? More importantly, will I LET myself be held when I most need to be held? Will I be able to show up and do the work of labour and birthing and mothering this most precious of bundles? Can I do this again? Give myself over to the absolute power of birthing and raising another independent little soul. Can I take on that responsibility and not fuck it up?

Disconnection seems an obvious option now, doesn't it? All these huge questions. All these undulating nebulous queries that will, if I let them, take me deep into this pregnancy journey and into this child's life. No wonder I'm road runnering in the opposite direction. It feels heavy just to write about them and have them there in black and white for me to look at. I don't want to fail again. That's the God's honest truth. I don't want to fail myself or this child like I feel I have failed Beanie. And yet, what choice do i have but to be my flawed, unfinished, unsure self? There is no-one in here but me. Now THAT's a scary thought. Or a liberating one, depending on how you look at it.

See what comes of self-reflection?