Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Breaking Plans: An Unnatural Birth Story

My husband is older than me, with an 18 year old daughter of his own. So when we discussed having a baby, he was a little freaked about flipping the hourglass. That said, he took a leap of faith and decided to go for it--with one promise from me: if he helped give me the amazing gift of mommyhood, we would have ONE and only one.

I think that knowing this was the only time I'd ever be pregnant, feel my baby kick, go through the birthing process, etc. helped me appreciate every party of it that much more. Knowing this would be my only birth, I became obsessed with reading about the birthing process. I wanted to know what others had gone through and what they wished they had done differently. I decided I wanted a natural birth, and found an amazing hospital in my area with a team of midwives that specializes in natural births, but makes other options available.

Fast forward to 2 days past my due date. I wasn't just pregnant, I was SUPER-PREGNANT. I had chipmunk cheeks, cankles, giganto feet, the whole deal. I was ready to get this labor thing on! Sadly, as my due date came and went, I started feeling less and less like labor was approaching. That night, I watched TV, rolled into bed, and fell asleep. I awoke at 1AM to the realization that my pants were wt. I jumped up and waddled to the bathroom thinking, "surely I didn't wet myself...? Could it really be...?" After hovering over the toilet for 5 minutes while liquid continued to trickle out, I alerted my husband. My water had broken, it was finally happening. Today we would meet our baby girl!
I eagerly called my midwife, and her advice was to put on a pad and see if I could go back to bed because I would need my rest. Well, a pad was really NOT going to cut it because the fluid just kept on coming. So I fashioned myself a diaper out of a towel (think Sumo wrestler style), and sat on the edge of the bed grinning. Today I would meet my baby!

Then the contractions came: 3-5 minutes apart right from the get-go, although the pain was tolerable at first. My husband and I chose to labor as long as possible at home, so we set about doing laundry, cleaning the house, and chatting excitedly about what was to come. The pain went from bad to worse. When I could no longer talk through contractions (at about 5AM), we decided we would both feel better if we headed to the hospital.

As soon as we made it to the room, I got checked (almost completely effaced but only dilated to a 1. Boo!), then hopped into the water therapy tub. It was like heaven. I labored on all fours in the tub and moaned my way through each wave of pain and pressure that coursed through my back and lower abdomen. Every hour I had to hop back on the bed for some monitoring. I hated this time because laboring on the bed was intensely painful without any means of moving through the contractions.

After 5 hours of this off and on monitoring, they check me again--dilated to a 3. This was not good. I began walking the halls with my husband, pausing during contractions to lean forward against the railing and roll my hips like i was hula hooping. This was the only thing that seemed to help. I was in a meditative state and kept telling myself, "your body was MEANT to do this!"
At my next monitoring session (about noon...hour 11 of labor), i was told that the baby's heart rate was dipping drastically every time my contractions peaked, and i would need to stay in the bed so they could keep an eye on baby. Stay in the bed? But I HATE the bed! The bed inhibits me! But I knew this was no longer about me--it was about my baby. So I lay in the bed, enduring each contraction without the ability to move. i began vomiting when my contractions peaked and was told if i kept vomiting I would have to get an IV of fluid (something I did not want...I wanted to be able to stay in the water therapy tub!) I threw up. They gave me the IV. Then baby's heart rate dropped low enough to alert the nurses. Things got blurry. i was told to turn on my side and bring my knees up to my chest. I was given oxygen. I began to cry.

This was NOT the birth experience I had in mind--crying, scrunched up in an uncomfortable position with an IV in my arm and an oxygen mask on while my family looked on in horror. I asked about pain management options. My midwife encouraged me to weigh the decision before jumping in, since my birth plan dictated that I wanted a natural birth. I opted to check my progress first and then decide. After 12 hours of labor I was dilated to a 5 (the halfway point). Epidural PLEASE.

I was afraid I would be disappointed in myself or that I would disappoint others by this decision. But you know what? After my epidural, I was more present. My husband actually said, "welcome back." Apparently, I had not spoken in hours. While I could still feel the pressure of the contractions, my epidural gave me the opportunity to spend those last quiet moments alone with my family and husband before bringing my one and only child into the world. We dimmed the lights, cleared the room, and turned up the music--Ray LaMontagne's "Let it be Me". As the song played, my husband and I looked into each other's eyes and cried. We knew our lives were about to change in the most amazing way.

Looking back, I'm glad my birth went exactly as it did. I got to experience the intensity of natural labor, and then have the soft, sweet, quiet moments that the epidural afforded before the pushing started. I couldn't have planned it better myself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dear Everleigh (2 Months!)

Dear Everleigh,

Today you are two months old. And colicky. They say colic is defined as unexplained crying that lasts more than two hours. I define it as not being able to sooth my baby enough when she is upset. Upset about being out in the world. Upset about too much stimuli. Upset about digestion. We really don't know.

This month I had to return to work and leave you at home with Daddy and it's been bumpy. You've been nursing, but you don't like bottles--they're just not the real thing. And I don't blame you.

To try and make you feel better, Daddy and I hold you most of the time you're awake. We bounce you up and down lightly, or sway side to side. We give you warm baths with Mama. We swaddle you and sing you little songs we write off the cuff to try and make you happy. Sometimes we take you out on the porch and let you feel the sun on your face. You seem to like this best of all. When we're really desperate, we run the vacuum, because you like the hum it makes.

And you cry and cry and kick your legs out in pain? frustration? gassiness? And we just keep on loving you.

This month has been the hardest yet. I love you so much and I feel so lucky to be your Mom. It's been so sad leaving you each morning to go to my job, especially knowing you're home crying and missing me. But when I get home, I cannot wait to scoop you into my arms, nurse you and hug you and kiss you and breathe you in.

I love you, Ev-Wev.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

That Time I Got In-School Suspension

Looking back, it's almost funny but not quite. It's pretty crazy because historically, I am a RULE FOLLOWER. I freak out if someone encourages me to bend 'em just a little, because I have a deep-seated Christian childhood fear of getting in trouble. I'm talking over stupid things. I am highly conflict avoidant and mostly choose to do "the right thing" to control the overwhelming guilt I would inevitably feel were I to wander off the path.

But here is a story I was thinking about the other day for some reason. This story is of a time I totally wandered off the path. Kind of. And really bad things happened. Kind of.

I was 15, a sophomore in high school at the strictest southern baptist private school this side of the Mississippi. I had a friend, Amy, who was 16 and had a junker car. Being with her equaled freedom. We could listen to 311 and bob our heads and feel alive. You know that 16 year old feeling?

Well, another girlfriend in our class decided to have a co-ed Halloween party that year--a major deal for most 15 year olds, but especially for some super repressed teens like us. Boy-girl party? OMG (oh my goodness), we MUST attend.

Flash forward to 2010--my parents are pretty relaxed. They drink in moderation. They go to church, but don't make a big deal of it. They're republicans but are OK with the fact that me and all my sisters are liberals. We can joke about sex in front of them or getting drunk or voting for Obama, or the fact that one of my sisters was a lesbian for a minute in college. It doesn't phase them.

Now back to my high school years--they refused to let me attend this party because boys would be present. Seriously? It was actually being chaperoned by my classmate's mother, whom they had met and everything. And she wasn't one of those weird moms who dressed like a whore and gave her kids vodka. She was an upper middle class stay at home mom who had planned all kinds of games for the party and so on. but the more I brought it up, the more they refused to let me go.

So I did what any teen would do. I told them I was going over to Amy's house and then Amy and I drove to the party. There's more here--my "boyfriend" at the time was supposed to be there that night too. I put boyfriend in quotes because neither one of us could drive, so we never went on dates or anything and his parents really disliked me for some reason I will never understand. So this party was a big opportunity to spend a little time with him outside of school. Very nervewracking!

Amy and I got ready for like an hour and probably put on way too much makeup and hairspray. I wore the cool wide leg skater jeans I had recently purchased. This was a big deal too because the school required that we wear skirts below our knees, dress shoes, and shirts no more than 2 fingers below the collarbone. Seeing everyone in street clothes was a new discovery. I wanted people to discover I was a badass.

So we got there, and sure enough, the host parent was actively involved in all the games, there was punch and cookies and so on. Then--a scavenger hunt. We were to break up into teams and go around the neighborhood looking for items on the list. I got into a group with my boy toy and some other friends and we hit the streets. We were free of parents and games and rules. We still didn't cuss or do anything wrong. Then when we got to the main road, I don't know what came over me, but I suggested that we moon a car.

I had recently been to a girls-only party at my best friend Laura's house where we got bored and flashed some cars with our little training bras on. It was funny. We laughed so hard we cried. We were oblivious to the fact that there are perverts and creeps out there. We just thought it was funny to shock people.

So my suggestion at the scavenger hunt was based on the memory of this being super funny. And me and 3 guys volunteered to do it. We stepped forward and when we saw a car coming, they mooned the car and I flashed em (with my little baby bra on). It was such a rush we did it a few more times. Living on the edge.

We left that night and I got a little kiss from my boy before going. I was on cloud nine.

Then at school on Monday everyone was talking. "Did you guys really flash cars?" "I can't believe it!" etc. I hadn't thought about the fact that news would travel. It seemed like an isolated incident. But apparently, word travels fast. It was the buzz of the school. And like good Christian school kids, we were immediately thrown into a panic about getting in trouble. By lunch word on the street was that the boys involved had turned on me and already gone to the headmasters office and confessed and implicated me.

I felt sick. I felt dizzy. This was not happening. I went home "sick" and received a call at home from my headmaster saying he knew why I had really left school, and he was going to call my parents and he wanted them and me in his office tomorrow. So I broke down and told my parents. They were actually more upset that I had lied to them and gone to the party. The flashing thing seemed like a joke. The first thing my dad did was laugh. But then they got serious.

We went the next day to see the headmaster and he told me that what I did was terrible. That the boys had confessed but I had not, which was even worse. That it was "a boy thing to do" and it was more understandable that they boys had done it but he could not see how a Christian girl could have done such a thing. He told me he did not think I was saved. He gave me in-school suspension for 2 weeks and made me apologize in front of the entire school, and stated in front of everyone that I was being punished for "something I did with 3 guys", which of course sounded WAY worse than mooning a car. He kicked me off the cheerleading team (even though the boys were allowed to continue playing basketball). Mind you, none of this was done at school or on school grounds. It was at a private party at someone's house. Didn't matter. He said we represented the school even when we were away from school. I think I even said, "I'm pretty sure the people in those cars had no way of knowing what school we attended." But it didn't matter. I was basically given a red "A" to wear.

I wanted to leave that school so badly and go somewhere else. I had always made good grades and been a good kid. Suddenly, teachers were looking at me differently. I started getting in trouble over everything. My dresses were scrutinized for dress code violations. I was labeled a bad kid. I cried every night and begged my mom to let me switch schools. But she said, "you can't always run from your problems. Sometimes you have to stay and face them." So I did.

I stayed the rest of the year and was treated like a second class citizen. After witnessing my struggles for a whole year, my mom agreed to let me switch schools over the summer to a slightly less ridiculously crazy christian school in town.

For awhile afterwards when I asked to do something with friends, my dad would say, "keep your shirt on" but other than that, the wounds healed :) You know what though? I still felt hurt typing out this story, 13 years later. Not ashamed about what I did--I was a stupid kid--just hurt at the way I was made to feel. That's Christian love for you!