EIGHT WEEKS

April 15, 2014

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holding my huckleberry for the first time, 36 hours after he was born

The thing I can’t wrap my head around is that some women actually choose to have their babies delivered by c-section. For me, that was never even a consideration. I skipped over all the chapters – even in Spiritual Midwifery there are chapters – pertaining to hospital deliveries, and almost especially I did not read about surgical deliveries and or recovery therefrom. Why would I? I was giving birth at home.

Up until a few hours before my baby was born, I had been exclusively cared for by midwives during the course of my pregnancy, with the exception of the initial prenatal visit with my beloved OB in Los Angeles. And this being my first non-obstetrical pregnancy and therefore my first experience as a patient of midwifery, I had little reference by way of either expectation or practice. So I went with it, and since everything seemed fine, I didn’t ask too many questions.

To be honest, I really loved, and still do, the idea of compassionate birthing. Being a person of strong physical constitution, and also one that vehemently believes in the natural abilities of the body, it was very easy for me to accept the idea that biology know best, especially in the case of mothers growing babies. Plus, I’d already had two relatively healthy pregnancies and did not expect for this one to be any different.

In many ways, this pregnancy was similar to my others in that I was blindingly nauseated for months on end. But it stood out to me mostly because I was so aware of, and so grateful for, being pregnant. In spite of how awful I felt all of the time, I loved every second of carrying a little baby in my belly. And I most certainly was not ready for it to be over, and so suddenly.

It’s been eight weeks since my tiny guy was born the only way he was able to be, through emergency surgery. I walked into a hospital with a question, and did not leave until five days later, after what was easily the most emotionally intense experience of my entire life. I had absolutely no intention of giving birth within the walls of a hospital, and yet without a hospital and a highly skilled team of doctors and nurses, my baby would not be alive. In a matter of minutes, I faced one of my biggest fears without even the slightest bit of advanced preparation. And little by little, I’m getting through it.

At my six week check-up, my doctor (I sort of adopted the physician that helped me through my labor, more on that later) informed me of a condition I developed during pregnancy that is the primary cause of stillbirths. There are a variety of reasons as to why this particular condition can arise, including the baby compressing his own umbilical cord for a period of time, and both the baby and I will have tests over the next several months to rule out any serious complications.

The good news is that, for the most part, we are both doing really well. That baby of mine is fattening up rather nicely, and all thanks to my boobs, which is quite an accomplishment when it comes to premature infants. He’s starting to coo, and I’ve spotted a few smiles peeking around the corners of his sweet little mouth.

We are both, however, still rather sensitive. The baby, well. The baby wants to be held. Which makes perfect sense given the shocking and most traumatic way in which he entered the world, but which also means I don’t get much else done other than nursing and cuddling a baby. Also, sleep. We have not yet established our rhythm, meaning I’m pretty sure we’re both totally exhausted.

As for me? I can’t touch my scar without crying, and from a conflicted place of deep sadness and profound gratitude. It is not a pretty wound; it very clearly illustrates the urgency of the situation. I experience consistent, throbbing pain throughout my lower abdomen, which I’m told can last for an entire year. I’ve yet to wear anything with a waistband. And I’m constantly leaking breastmilk.

In reality, I still haven’t completely processed what happened the night I delivered a baby over a month early, while strapped to a gurney, completely knocked out from general anesthesia, and in front of at least a dozen people I had never met. I’m not sure I ever will. The truth is, I’ve learned a lot more about myself from this than I would have from a home birth, including my ability to handle devastation with grace. I discovered strength I didn’t even think I had, and I felt loved and cared for completely. As the days pass, I still feel those things. But they’re joined with feelings of grief as I mourn the loss of the birth I wanted.

Ultimately, I did not get pregnant so that I could have a home birth. I got pregnant so that I could have a healthy baby, and that is exactly what I have. An extremely cute one, to boot. And as much as I’ve yet to recover from the circumstances of his birth, I’d do it all again this moment just to bring him into the world. Because truly, he is a miracle.

HIGH // LOW // THANKFUL

April 4, 2014

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photo by jamie street

I’m not exactly sure where the rest of March went, but I’m pretty certain most of it was spent nursing? It definitely wasn’t spent sleeping. Or cleaning, ahem. But it most definitely was spent cuddling a certain scrumptious baby who, by the way, is a whole fifty percent bigger than he was at birth. Meaning, he’s a solid six and a half pounds, which doesn’t sound like much, but I assure you. He is b-i-g.

So, April! A new month – and a new season – calls for a new series. We’ve had a tradition in our home for the last several years, one that began as a way to engage the kids in meaningful discussions around the dinner table, in which we each declare our highest, lowest, and most thankful moment for that day. I thought it might be fun, on a weekly basis, to bring that same idea to this space….

HIGH: Without a doubt, the highlight of this week was when my tiny guy told me his very first story. To be fair, he didn’t tell me, he told my friend Kelli. But I was there! And it was precious.

LOW: I received a certain, and most unexpected, electronic correspondence on Tuesday. I’ve been wrestling with how to respond all week, and it is only after much meditation and a good ol’ fashioned gabfest with a couple girlfriends that I was finally able to gain a little perspective and therefore at least begin to be able to address such an offensive message.

THANKFUL: I am always grateful for the wonderful man in my life, the one who loves me and cares for me in a way that no other person ever has. But this week, specifically, I’m beyond thankful for his continued support in all of my random – and sometimes entirely harebrained – creative endeavors. That being said, I’m pretty sure what I’ve got cooking is chock full of potential, but my point is that without him, I’d never be able to entertain any of these wacky ideas that occupy my brain. Also, he’s the best dad ever, so there’s that.

We’ve got a few exciting things happening over the next few weeks, including a visit from Babe’s sister, and a quick trip to the desert to catch one of our favorite bands. But mostly, our days will be spent soaking up every last second of this blissful, hazy newborn phase. All the sleep in the world couldn’t compare to the sweetness of the past six weeks. I may be exhausted and a bit out of sorts, but I’m ridiculously happy and in love with this cute little family of mine.

ONE

March 17, 2014

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And just like that, the first month of his life has passed. And what a month it was, full of surprises and challenges and so much love. The kind of month that changes you in such a way that you can barely remember what it was like before.

To celebrate this milestone, we gave our tiny guy his very first bath. And let me tell you, he was not impressed with the gesture.

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He was really upset about being wet.

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Turns out, there aren’t many things that make my Huckleberry friend angry, but diaper changes and baths are at the very top of the list.

He’s a remarkably peaceful baby, generally content and easily soothed. Of course, he loves his mama’s arms most of all, followed closely by daddy’s chest. He is always happy to be worn, skin to skin, in my Solly Baby Wrap, and has his very own cozy spot in nearly every room of our home. In fact, he’s napping in his wooly-lined Moses basket right next to me as I type this, all bundled and smelling fresh.

Because he’s still so small, our main task is to get his weight up, which means we’re on a strict feeding regimen. He and I spend a lot of time together learning our nursing habits, which is fine by me because nursing a baby is one of my most favorite things in life, ever. We had our first bottle-free day today, a huge success in the world of premature infant nutrition. Tomorrow, we’ll see his pediatrician – a young doctor who was present at his birth – for our fifth (yes, fifth) weight check since being discharged from the NICU. Fingers crossed we’re over five pounds!

Life with a brand new baby is a lot of things, and not all of them easy. But life with this brand new baby is nothing if not spectacular.

Oh, Roux Huckleberry! Thank you for choosing our family, for bringing your sweet spirit and positive energy into our home, and for being so darn cute. Everything is better because of you. We love you so.

11/52

March 16, 2014

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“a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, for 2014″

Emet Preston: His wise eyes.
Jade Eloise: Mama’s little helper.
Roux Huckleberry: 27 days old.

It was about this time, exactly one month ago, when things got very interesting. The hardest part about being admitted into UCSD Medical Center was having to contend with their silly flu season policy, which prevents any person under the age of 12 from entering the hospital. Of course we weren’t aware of this until we’d arrived with both big kids in tow, dressed in their pajamas because it was past their bedtime on a Sunday night.

Kissing their sweet faces goodbye, and not having a clue as to what was going to happen next, was just about the hardest thing I’d ever done. That is, until a few hours later, when I was forced to face my biggest fears and most terrifying demons, in order to bring that precious tiny guy into the world.

But here we are, four weeks later, and nothing makes me happier than those three little people. And my handsome fiancé, of course.

I am so damn lucky.

THE 52 PROJECT – AN UPDATE

March 14, 2014

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“a portrait of my children, all three of them”

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks over here. With everything that has happened recently – a nearly ten day hospital stay, a new baby, a handsome fiancé, and not a lot of sleep – my personal projects have fallen a bit by the wayside. I had the most noble intentions when it came to this portrait series, and it seems that at this point, I’ll just have to take what I can get and work with it as best I can. Which, not for nothing, seems to be a current theme in my life.

Emet has wanted a baby brother for as long as I can remember, and seeing how much he loves and cares for the newest member of our family is absolutely priceless. He takes his role as the oldest very seriously. Whether he’s reading to his sister, or fawning over our tiny guy, the love he has for his younger siblings is unsurpassed. Jade is over the moon excited about having a baby in the house, being the little mama that she is. The days since bringing our bundle home from the hospital have been full of so much love and so many tender moments, my heart can barely contain it all.

Did I mention that I’m not sleeping? I’m not sleeping. At most, I’ve gotten three consecutive hours since the baby was born. Whether I’m being woken by soft newborn cries, or the sharp sting of too much milk in my boobs (sorry, but it’s true), one way or another sleep escapes me entirely. Surprisingly, I haven’t lost my mind completely. I have somehow managed to get the big kids fed and off to school in the mornings, and to keep our house relatively tidy. Ok, the mister gets most of the credit for keeping the house tidy, so I guess what I mean to say is that I’ve managed to not destroy our house, which is kind of the same thing, right?

We’re beginning to find our rhythm, and I’m slowly climbing out from under the weight of all these thoughts I have swimming around in my head. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to spend so many months planning and visualizing one kind of experience only to have the exact opposite come to pass. And I’m a sentimental gal, meaning it’s far too easy for me to be swallowed whole by what ifs and whys.

Tonight was supposed to be our last date. We’d planned on seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel, and enjoying one last fancy meal together. The chances of us actually making it to the theatre to catch this film are slim, let alone getting out for a grown-ups only dinner anytime soon. We did, however, steal away to a favorite local spot for lunch today, and the baby slept through the whole meal. It sure felt like a date. A date chaperoned by the smallest, sweetest person I’ve ever met.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though I was caught completely off guard, and rather unexpectedly, I’m finding my way back. And I’m a better, stronger person for it.