Where Whine Meets Wine

The Doula Houla

I know, I know, you’ve been waiting with baited breath. Just waiting for me to write another post. Pour out everything about how my weekend went. Surprisingly, I don’t feel like it. I know, I know…it’s weird. I think that it all just feel really personal, and maybe I’m not ready to share that just yet. Sound strange coming from someone who blogs? Yeah, felt a little strange saying it.

Yesterday, I spent a full hour staring at the screen. Never getting more than the above paragraph out. I still feel like I’m at a loss for words. Helping someone birth, and apparently, even the preparation for doing so, is much like giving birth yourself. It’s emotional, it’s physical, it’s beautiful. And it’s very personal.

My weekend was so incredibly amazing. I was truly surprised at the diversity in women. And I don’t mean just racially or culturally even. There were all ages. While I was not the oldest, I was definitely not the youngest. Actually, I was probably in the top half of the age bracket. Another thing that surprised me was that half of the class were not mothers. They just loved pregnancy/pregnant women, babies, and birthing. And wanted to learn more about it.

Let’s face it. For those of us who are mamas, our birthing stories are highly personal. So much so, that they affect how we feel about ourselves. A mama who had a birth that left her feeling like Wonder Woman? Well, studies have shown that it can turn a previously low-self-esteemed woman into someone with much more confidence in herself. A woman with good self esteem and then has a birth that made her feel out of control and like it happened to her (rather than something she chose), well, studies have also shown that that will knock her self-esteem down a few pegs.

I think that I am also more aware of my role, as a doula, in doing all that I can to make sure that it’s a birth they can look back on in pride. Always keeping the How will she remember this? in the forefront of my mind as I offer suggestions and support. Obviously, I can’t birth for them. And births can kind of have a mind of their own… I’ve certainly had a birth that did not go the way I’d planned in my mind. It’s all about support.

I have received some awesome support this last week. Support of my friends encouraging me (and saying they’ll use me for their next babies!), my husband who listened to me unload and process through all the information and feelings at the end of each late night. Support of my family who kept my babies for a weekend. (The kids had a blast. I’m still feeling the repercussions of being separated for so long. I feel like it was too long- for me!) I am thankful for the wonderful women I trained with (and the oh so amazing wonder woman who led our training). They were a support, a help, a community. Some women had some great stories about birthing their babes, and others shed tears as they told theirs. As women, I think when our births don’t go according to plan, we tend to feel like failures. I mean it’s birth, it’s kind of what we do. What our bodies just know how to do. There is a lot of deep-seated emotions that go along with the thought I failed at something my body is supposed to be able to do instinctively, on its own. 

If you can’t tell already, I’m still processing some of my own feelings about birth. I’m learning to let it go. To accept it was it was. And to focus on some positives. Like the fact that when I wasn’t scared out of my gourd in previous births -especially my first- I felt like a rock star. I labored quietly in the night, letting my hubbyman get some sleep. I was relaxed enough to sleep in between contractions during the day, so much that the day seemed to go by quickly. I labored at home. I moved around. My water broke just as we were going through the gates to get on base (military). An hour and a half later… I was a mother. And he was perfect. And I felt like super woman. Like I could do anything. I birthed a baby, ok, that’s somethin‘.

The next two births left me with beautiful, perfect, healthy babies… and a little bit disillusionment of the medical world. I felt like this long, intensive, informative weekend helped in that aspect. Not that I now have unshakable faith in the medical community, but it was healing to hear of midwives, Drs, and nurses who have done things to protect the process I so fiercely believe in.

There is a secret in our culture and it is not that birth is painful but that women are strong.

-Laura Stavoe Harm

That is not to imply that if your labor didn’t go as planned, or it wasn’t what you wanted, that you are not strong enough. (Feel like that’s not a helpful quote for women? I can see why- read this.  The truth is that the quote actually is from an essay talking about how we need to talk more about our births. You can read about it here.)

After my weekend, I feel like that quote resonates. Even though I did not feel strong during the birthing of my last baby, looking back, faced with insurmountable odds and lack of support (outside of my  hubby and doula)… I birthed my baby. And that’s what really counts.


Blessings Abundant

Ok, so I started out by doing a “know your blogger” survey, but I felt like you knew nothing more than my pets’ names afterwards. So then I started going back and forth on ways to tell you about me… but I’ve decided that I’ll share myself as posts continue, and so this post is really just what’s on my heart right now.

Blessed: my life has been more blessed than I ever dreamed it could be. Not in ways you might see just to look at my family and I, but trust me it’s there. We all know people who just seem to be “lucky” -always getting the promotion, winning the prize, finding the lost treasure, and while we are so happy for them- we don’t fit in that category ourselves. Thankfully my husband loves a good fight, because over the course of our marriage we’ve had lots of those. Not with each other (well, maybe some of those too) but with people and companies we’ve dealt with. It’s kind of the if-it-can-go-wrong-it-will kind of thing. We’ve got oodles of that. Important thing in the mail… it’ll get lost at least twice. And then sent to the wrong address. Cancel an account. They’ll continue billing us for MONTHS without ever sending a notice. Even after we’ve called multiple times. These kinds of things have become the norm for us. So if you’re wondering where the luck or the blessings happen… I am too. Ok, that’s not entirely true. We’ve been blessed with each other in our marriage, we’ve been blessed with our children. We have family and friends who are blessings and bless us frequently. Maybe we’ve always known that we were blessed in those departments, but this last year we have had out eyes open to just how lucky we are.

I’ve always wanted kids. For as long as I can remember. The kind of person who you know probably within minutes that I adore children and would have as many as hubbyman could handle. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a period of time (but not more the few years in between high school ending, going to college, and getting married) where I thought a career was on the forefront of my life’s horizon. And then I got married. And all of the sudden it was like everywhere I looked there were babies. And I wanted one. Bad. Hubby tried to keep those feelings pacified by getting a pet. But he was on nights and I worked days, so we got a cat… turns out it didn’t help. In fact, it kinda backfired. So during his deployment in Japan, and probably out of loneliness, he agreed to try for a baby when he got home. We had a very short time line. Obviously that wasn’t a problem. We knew I was pregnant in less than 4 weeks from him coming home.

Pregnancy, for me, unfortunately, wasn’t the dream I’d envisioned. Instead of “pregnancy glow” I had IVs keeping me hydrated because I was so sick and couldn’t keep anything down. Hubbyman says I smelled like I had applesauce coming out of my pores. I probably did. It was pretty much the only thing I’d eat because it was the easiest in reverse. And that was all 9 months. With all of my children. It’s a blast. Needless to say, for me, they’re more like 9  months of guilt for not being all happy and glowy. But the birth… well, let’s just say I’d rather give birth than to feel the way I feel all 9 months of pregnancy! Biggest E’s birth was amazing. I was so proud. Of him and myself. Miss E’s birth was also good. The Dr’s missed it, but the important people were there and that’s what really counts.

Figuring I’m just saying my children are my biggest blessings? I’m getting there, I promise. (and yes, they are my biggest blessings, but that’s not completely the point) After MissE, hubbyman felt like he was done having children. After all, as pretty much everyone we came in contact with would point out, we had one of each, why would we want anymore? While I always assumed I’d have kids, I never really thought of a number. Since Big E and Miss E are only 18 months apart, the early months/years were… well, the first couple months were a struggle. Just as I started thinking that maybe I was content with just two, I had a miscarriage. I’d only had an inkling that I could be pregnant, when it was over. I was so, so very devastated. And it was then that both hubbyman and I knew that we would have at least one more. While we had no idea it would be so soon after, we knew it would be eventual. 4 short months later, we knew we had Littlest E on on the way. I was a nervous wreck. I just had this feeling that I couldn’t shake and assumed it was because of the way my last pregnancy had ended. By 8 weeks we knew that where the umbilical cord inserted into the placenta was not centered like it’s “supposed” to be, but was on the top of it, over a placental lake (or a pool of blood in real people terms). By 20 weeks we knew that he was very small. 13th percentile small, 5 weeks behind my very accurate dates small. By 24 weeks he was now a week AHEAD of schedule. And while that was a relief, I still had that nagging feeling. My midwife was so nonchalant that even when I brought my mom (who is an OB RN, a doula, lactation consultant, parent educator, and infant massage instructor….you get the picture) along on a visit to ask questions, Mom was satisfied as well. Let’s fast forward through the rest of the pregnancy, the rest of the midwife visits, and ultrasounds I had. But let’s pause just to mention that they wanted to do frequent observations, but still continued to tell me there was nothing to worry about. Riiight. Like any woman can really know something COULD be wrong and not worry about it… it’s pretty much engrained in our DNA that we’re going to worry. So worry I did. But I also prayed. I prayed more in those 9 months than I have my entirely life previously combined. And I’m a prayer.

Enter his birth. (11 days early instead of the 10 days overdue like his siblings) We get settled in the room and I’m about to jump in the shower or go for a walk when the nurses start freaking out, because they’ve FINALLY gotten ahold of my charts. And right there in black and white it says that his umbilical cord is only attached by 20%!! Twenty freakin’ percent! Are you kidding me?! Apparently that was something they didn’t think I needed to know. Like the fact that I should have been on bedrest the whole time and not MOVING and lifting and emptying boxes! UGH!!! Obviously, it still makes me a little angry… Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. After hours more of labor since I was now stuck in bed and not “allowed” to move around or walk or anything else that helps both labor’s progression and natural pain therapy and with them awaiting a C-section (because of the insertion the fear was that it would become unattached when my water broke and he would essentially bleed out). Ethan entered this world (and not via Csection, thank you very much Dr. do-it-my-way). Pink and screaming and very healthy… tiny (less than 6 pounds…3 pounds less than Biggest E!), but healthy. And then came the placenta. The umbilical cord was NOT attached. I repeat, not attached. It had some veins coming out of it that had hooked on to either side of the top of the placenta with the middle of the placenta crumbling. Between my mom and my grandma they have over 50 years of OB nursing between them and they have NEVER seen a baby born with a 0% insertion, because they just don’t survive in utero. In fact, they sent it to pathology to study. (Starting to get the picture?) Medically speaking, there is no reason why he had that growth spurt and then continued to survive. Unfortunately, our adventure did not end there. Even though they knew my placenta had not been whole… they didn’t check for more pieces, or watch my bleeding. Even after I’d repeatedly told my nurse that I’d never had this much bleeding with either of my other children, let alone the fruit sized blood clots. FOR HOURS. Until I could no longer even sit up without passing out (over 4 hours later) did they even ask a Dr to come and consult. Unfortunately, he had a laboring patient down the hall and didn’t want to take the time for a proper DNC (which means going to another floor for operating and putting me under)… so without doing that he decided to just do it in my room, for an hour… using various painful techniques trying to pull the little pieces of my placenta off my uterus. After reaching the point I could not take anymore and having already told him so, repeatedly, only to have him make comments referencing my apparent pain intolerance. Telling me that if I would just settle down he’d be able to do it, how it was no big deal, not a painful procedure, among various other insults. I said all of my labors have been well over 12 hours and all of them have been without any form of pain medication. I know and can handle pain, thank you very much… and while I am willing to endure it for my babies, I am not willing to for you. Finally, at 3 in the morning, they had to take me up to surgery to have an emergency DNC done. While it means I was bleeding for a very long time, it also meant that my little peanut had more time to eat! And eat that boy did! Thankfully my milk supply was already pretty much in (I could hear the big gulps and see the milk on his face)… that’s probably a big part of why he was able to thrive so well. So…that awful night (unfortunately there was more awfulness that occurred, but I just highlighted the most important) and 2 blood transfusions later… we were both alive.

So…long story short…or long story, shorter than whole long story, but still long… After hubbyman had his vasectomy (for multiple reasons but a top one being that after all my in-room specials I’m left with holes and scars and would likely have a very hard time maintaining pregnancies. So the vasectomy was our way of making it our choice, and not something that was taken from us.) he and I got to enjoy some quiet time without “the big kids’ while he was recovering. And during a conversation he asked, “When is our lucky break?”  Suddenly, I felt the knowledge welling within me. Not that I believe God gives us “bad luck” or anything like that, but I know, for us, Littlest E is our luck, all rolled in one. He was, and is, our miracle. And we would not trade all the bad luck, or hard times, or long, obnoxious phone calls for him. Ever. He is our lucky break. He is God saying, even among the rest of the crap you have deal with in this life, I’m still here. Thinking of you and protecting you. And He knows the important stuff.  He knows me. He knows that on a daily basis I will look at my son and think of the miracle and the blessing he is, which in turn makes me think of the miracle and blessings Big E and Middle E are to my life. And my hubbyman. And our parents, and siblings… and all the REAL blessings our life contains. No matter how long I’ve been on hold to resolve the latest issue.

Littlest E at 6 months and 20 lbs

*I would also like to add a very special thank you to all our friends and family who kept their thoughts and prayers with us through Littlest E’s pregnancy. (Not to mention all the meals our family and church family provided!) The blessing of it is not lost on our family.