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Letter to My Daughter January 30, 2012

I did not know you yet, but, there I stood – gazing at the 2 pink lines, on the pregnancy test I had taken. My heart pounded; beat with the anticipation of adding to our family . . . and the uncertainty of things unknown.

Time passed and I eagerly replenished our supply of cloth diapers, receiving blankets, and wraps.

Suspense. Grandma, Tia, and of course your father and brothers; all waiting with me . . . waiting for the ultrasound tech to announce, “I’m 95% sure it’s a girl!” My heart skipped a beat – I had so wanted you to be a girl; even though I would have loved you and wanted you regardless.

Baby at 22 Weeks Gestation

Months passed, soon it was November and I knew you could arrive at a moments’ notice. Still, I feared. I feared your labor would be days and days like your brothers’. I feared the pain of natural childbirth, I also feared the alternative. Every night for weeks I thought you were coming. Every night I grew tense with fear of labor and the contractions left me. I thought it was you who was not ready; but, really I was not ready.

Baby Bump at 27 Weeks

December 8, 2011. I was aware of you all day as my body prepared for you – ever so gently. Your home contracting every 30 minutes, beginning around 10:00 A.M., I was aware, but, relaxed and I did not think you were coming.

“You are dilated to 3; maybe you won’t need your appointment next week.”

“I will be pregnant until next year,” I joked back to the midwife; but, you held your own punch line for that one.

7:00 P.M., painting pottery for your siblings teachers. I squatted, pleading with the boys to put their paint brushes away as I picked toys off the floor, now the pain and tightening of my womb intense and painful, and every 10 minutes . . . I tried to hide it.

Tonight was different. I was calm, prepared, accepting and anticipating.

Chinese delivery for dinner, kids in bed, I slept and dreamt of holding you in my arms.

December 9, 2011, 1:00 A.M., I had tossed and turned and could not sleep, the rhythm of your imminent arrival had returned. I longed for my mother, within a few phone calls my mother and sisters arrived.

2:30 A.M., “You need to either sleep or walk and get things moving faster,” came the wisdom of your grandmother – one who had birthed 8 children and assisted many more infants into the world including your brothers.

4:30 A.M., laundry was folded, house was clean, contractions were steady, but, no more intense. I lay against the warmth of your father’s chest  . . . you must have felt him; I laid there for only a few minutes before labor intensified.

5:30 A.M. I had no doubt; you were on your way. I hoped to meet you before midnight.

6:00 A.M., eggs. The smell was sickening, but, I did it for you and for me – I knew we would need the strength. Somehow I consumed them, pausing ever 5 minutes to rock my hips through contractions while your father or grandmother placed pressure on my back. Coaxing you to please turn – I knew your shoulders were perpendicular to mine and you would have to turn . . . but, you were comfortable.

7:00 A.M., labor seemed to nearly stop as we made our entrance to the hospital – strangers staring at me all the while as if I were some sort of comedy act.

7:30 A.M., I wept. Rivers streaming down my cheeks. The pain was great, the contractions were long. “Why are we crying?” Our midwife asked empathetically.

“I cried, “I’m just afraid it’s going to be so long – I can’t do it;” and I thought to myself, “I should ask for an epidural now.”

“Get the crib ready, she’s 7 centimeters already,” Midwife said to the nurse.  A wave of strength washed over me. I thought, “She’ll be here by late tonight – I can do this.”

Midwife Encouraging Me, Discussing My Plans for the Placenta (I had it encapsulated) and Suggesting a Family Member Catch Baby

Still, the contractions were intense – I had read a full bladder slows dilation so I decided to venture to the bathroom. The bathroom was 10 feet away and it must have taken 3 contractions to get there. I had planned to shower, but, suddenly that seemed impossible. I returned to the bed. My father and your father on each side – lifting me and placing their warm hands on my back with each and every contraction . . . it seemed everyone knew exactly what I needed and when I needed it.

“Do you want your water to break naturally?”

“You can do it; I just want this baby out.”

Midwife tried to break your water, the fore water broke and seeped a little; the pain was excruciating. “It will break on its own and your labor is moving along well,” Midwife encouraged me.

“Do you feel an urge to push? You can.” I did not. I wanted you out, but, I had a strange patience and I thought I wasn’t ready – this time you were not ready.

Finally, I tried to push – and I pushed and pushed and pushed . . . and still you did not come. I heard talk of getting me on hands and knees. I did not want to move, but, I knew you needed to move.

On hands and knees I rocked, side to side, swaying. Hoping to ease you passage to the outside world. Still, you were not ready.

“Her head is out!” rang the voices of your grandparents, father, aunt, and midwife. I did not look, and somehow could not feel or believe that your head was out. I was focused, determined to hold you in my arms – determined to rid myself of the burning pain.

I had no sense of time, but, contractions came and went; and finally I felt your shoulders, body and legs slip out in a single motion you were born into your grandmother’s arms . . . the feeling I had been pushing for, longing for and the relief that I needed . . . it was only 10:11 A.M. – just over 24 hours and only 5 hours of intensity; you knew just what your mama needed.

I felt I was dreaming as people crowded around and turned me to my back; placing you against my bare chest. I stroked your long hair, and vernix coated skin, pausing to lift your leg and proclaim, “She really is a girl!”

My Sweet Baby (still attached via umbilical cord), warming on my chest

Minutes ticked by, but, all I saw was you as everyone else and everything else faded into the background. I loved you – instantly.

The pains came; I knew it was time for your placenta to deliver – time for your father to cut your last tie to life inside my womb. Still, they let you lay on my chest – I relished every moment with you. I felt so strong and empowered . . . we had done it – a completely natural birth in the hospital; an experience that had gone above and beyond anything I had imagined or dreamed of.

Mama and Daughter Bonding Time & First Breastfeed

I hope and pray that someday, in God’s perfect timing; you can have your own empowering birth experience – whatever that means to you.

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Everything is Perfect January 29, 2012

Mmm…the sweet scent of your vernix coated skin…

Thump, thump, the song of your cry beats  my heart.

The room swirls like steam escaping from a pot as I rip my gown off and pull you close; warmth, love, fulfillment, as I nestle you against my bosom.

My heart flutters with anticipation as I place your tiny mouth to my breast, and you gently suckle yourself to sleep – I could leave you there forever; gazing at your shoulders moving with each breath and feeling the tickle of your sweet tongue against my nipple. You were born to breastfeed.

Tonight…everything is perfect.

Your eyes dance, dance with a newborn’s love as you and your older brother share my milk; one on each breast, bonding with each other, bonding as family…

Tandem Nursing the Boys

I imagine you nursing as a toddler; I wonder what you will call mother’s milk. I feel I could breastfeed you both forever.

More-milk-more-milk-morrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre-milllllllllllllllk…the breast pump sings as I pump every few hours storing away every precious ounce of gold I can harvest before returning to work.

My freezer is full. I am confident. I am confident that I will breastfeed you exclusively for a year.

“9.99, will that be all?” I hear, as I try yet another bottle and nipple; I feel so flattered, yet so frustrated, that you refuse all but one bottle and nipple for my breast. That’s mama’s boy.

A single oceanic tear rolls down my face, the taste brings a flood…nobody understands. I work, I attend school, I spend hours on the road; I have pumped in shower stalls, toilet stalls, closets, kitchens, and even automobiles to the sound of tractor trailer horns…yet, at the end of the day I bring home enough for a single feeding.

I am not giving up. Water, oatmeal, herbs, mid-night pumping sessions; it has been almost 3 months and I am willing to sacrifice everything.

My freezer stash is empty. I feel like a failure as I begin sending the “outlawed” substance with you to daycare.

Then it happens. My worst nightmare. Suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, swallow, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, swallow, cry… My stomach churns as I coax you to drink a half bottle of formula after breastfeeding.

I massage, shake, squeeze, and suspend my breast over you. Still you do not seem satisfied. My heart is slowly breaking. My bank account drains and my stress level rises as I resort to a supplemental nurser that you refuse because you appreciate an authentic nipple, and how can I blame you?

1…2…3…4…the number of weeks you nursed at night. 5…6…7…8…9…the number of weeks I pumped to maintain supply and tried to convince you to latch on, and you screamed, bit, and clawed me. 10…11…12…the number of weeks it took me to reach closure.

Three months of fighting you; breaking every cardinal rule of respecting you and loving you so that I could avoid facing my own failure. Yelling at your brother, resenting my pump, resenting my husband, resenting myself, resenting you. How long might I have battled before I pushed everyone I love away?

Tonight…

You are 9 months old. You are beautiful, healthy, thriving. We gaze into each other’s eyes…bonding. You let go of the bottle. I hold the bottle to your tiny mouth and your silky infant fingers stroke my chest, arm, face. This is the most peaceful feeding we have shared in months. It is now that I realize, I have not failed you, I have not failed at breastfeeding, I am not a failure.

I am strong. I am a woman. I am a mother – a GOOD mother. I am YOUR mother. Nothing that happens in our relationship will ever change that. It is TONIGHT that I promise to RESPECT you no matter what comes our way. We are BOUND, eternally.

Tonight…I let go; and everything is perfect.

I never got a picture of myself “bottle nursing” him, but, here is a picture of us bonding not long after this was written.

My Little Man now, at 2 1/2