Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some thoughts on labour

I had some notes I wanted to share regarding my experience with giving birth to Riley. Nothing too profound or earthshattering, but some stuff I experienced. I had been afraid, sometimes, that I wouldn't be able to handle it. Or that I wouldn't be able to do it. It seemed to be so intense from other womens' descriptions, and I'm a fairly intense person, but even to me it seemed too much. It wasn't.
-it helped immensely to experience only the present moment. I did not anticipate the next contraction or the next few hours or the next stage, but rather focused on NOW. One contraction at a time, one breath at a time, one pause between contractions at a time (those pauses are golden)
-it also helped immensely not to focus on numbers or time. I have noticed before that when deep in a moment of creativity such as painting, writing, cooking, or the more creative moments of parenting, I lose track of time. I think I remember learning in University that the sense of time passing is housed in the left brain, and that when deeply immersed in creative right brain activities one loses that sense of the passage of time. Giving birth, I think, is similar in that it is not something that can be done with the cognitive, intelligent, cerebral brain. It is instinctual, animal, and primal, and thus a departure from the cognitive opens the pathway for your body and instinct to give birth more effectively. I lost track of the passage of time to the point where my midwife asked me 'how long ago' my last contraction had been and I literally had no idea. I couldn't even harbour a guess. I also consciously tried to avoid thinking about or knowing how dilated I was, or how many hours I had been labouring. Or pushing. I desperately wanted to watch the clock while pushing but I forced myself not to. Afterwards I had to ask how long it had been.
-Everyone wants to know about the pain. Yes, there is pain. But it was not pain that drove me insane, or made me afraid, or tore me apart. The contractions were painful but purposeful, and never so painful that I couldn't handle it. What was more difficult than pain was simply the WORK involved in those hugely strong uterine muscles contracting so strongly for so many hours--I was tired. Near the end of the first stage of labour I wished once or twice for an epidural not to escape the pain, but simply to have a recess from all the work.
Like running a marathon and just wanting to SIT DOWN for heaven's sake, but being on a treadmill that forced me to keep running.
-my body surprised me. It is SO STRONG! It is capable of amazing even my mother, who has seen thousands of births as a labour and delivery nurse for many years, and certainly capable of amazing myself who has never seen a birth other than Riley's. I also amazed Brent. He couldn't believe I had completed the marathon process, nor how strong I was. This was cool. If I can do THAT, I can do anything.
-My labour support was unbelievably powerful. I had both of my midwives there, my mom, Brent, my sister, and Ayden. At all times, no matter what position I was in or where I was facing, someone was there. My focus was almost entirely inward, but knowing they were there made an enormous difference for me. If I reached out my hand, someone took it. If I opened my eyes, someone smiled at me. If I spoke, someone heard me and responded. It sounds so basic but it made all the difference to me and I can't emphasize enough how much I believe this made possible the experience of pushing a 10 lb baby with a very round 37 cm in diameter head out of me. I was running a marathon on a treadmill but I wasn't doing it alone.
-The intensity was great. I'm an intense person, so it suited me. I loved it! Immediately afterwards I remember declaring "I'm done! Never doing that again! Glad I did it but once is enough!" This was shortly after being stitched up and hobbling around the bathroom trying to pee out of a stunned urethra. But by the next day I absolutely wanted to do it again. Again, again! I kept telling Brent, "I can't believe it, I know you think I'm crazy, but I want to have another baby!" His pat answer? "I think it's a little early for that to be possible." I didn't mean TODAY, batman. But I did mean sometime.
We'll see.
-the placenta was so cool. It wound up in our freezer because I couldn't bear to throw it away (I always thought people who kept it were kind of bizarre). In retrospect a photo or two would have sufficed, but that didn't occur to me at the time. In fact I'm quite bummed I don't have a photo of it. Now it's a lump in a black garbage bag in our deep freeze. I don't think a photo would do it justice at this point! Maybe I'll plant a tree and bury the placenta under it. We'll see. Don't worry folks, nobody is eating the darn thing (some people do. Ick).
-I wish I had MORE photos of those first minutes, and first hours...but I think I've determined that no amount of photos will ever suffice. What you really want is not to forget a single moment, and to preserve it all forever, but that is simply not possible. Photos or no. What did people do before photography? Oh, so many lost moments.
-The first few weeks are a bubble of babygazing. I wanted no one else but Riley. I wanted no one else to hold him (except Brent and the boys). I didn't want Riley to sleep separately from me, or to put him down even to have a shower. I think this bubble time is crucial for mommy-baby bonding. It sets the foundation for a lifelong relationship. There really is no feeling like a naked baby on your chest, I have to say. Skin to skin. We had to get used to each other on the outside, which is a big change from having him on the inside.
-I had him. I did it. I didn't want drugs, or a cesarean, or to quit while in the midst of labour; it was intense, but I did it. I'm proud of me.
-I also sent out an email to my closest female friends when I went into labour, asking for them to pray for me. Many times I thought of those friends and felt their support while I was labouring. This was a great source of strength for me.
-I was curious to see if I prayed to Mary while giving birth; I thought I might want to since she's a strong figure in Christianity and since she's a woman and gave birth. I was surprised. Old habits die hard: I've never been Catholic so praying to Mary has never been something that comes naturally to me, or seems to make sense (why talk to another mortal when you can talk to the Divine itself?). I prayed a lot, but always to Jesus. I just wondered if I would really feel He understood, having been incarnated as a man and being referred to so often as a He in my religion's tradition. But never once did I feel like He didn't understand. I just felt His love, and a sense that He had equipped me to give birth and knew that I could do it.

I think that's all. I may add more at another time.
xo to you all

Survival and then some...

Since Riley was born I've had people in the house to help me at all times. The only exception to this has been when someone takes the older boys out of the house on an adventure, and then I'm left with just Riley--who is a full time job in and of himself, but just ONE full time job, and not three as is the case when one has all of the children (the day I wrote the 'shitty day' post I had both Riley and Matthew...but that is a subject for the next post, as it deserves its own). Brent has been on holidays since August 20th so after my mom left we've been a team 100% of the time.
This afternoon he left me to go participate in some fracking fantasy football draft thing I know little about (and care even less), except that it took away my partner in crime for the last nine hours.
Dudes. I was SO AFRAID.
This morning in church I was trying hard to believe I could pull it off...
if 12 hours of labour with Riley taught me anything, it was to take things one step at a time, so I decided to do that this afternoon. Stave off anxiety by living very fully in the present moment (for what is anxiety but a wholehearted attempt to throw oneself across time into a future we have no control over?).
It worked. Oh joy, it worked.
We finished lunch, which Brent made for us before taking off, and then packed and departed for the park. I'm sorry to say I drove, but I'm still healing from a marathon or three (did I mention those 12 hours of labour?) and we must sometimes make the environment pay for our need to survive an afternoon with three small boys and a very sore bottom. Instead of feeling guilty, I just let that one go! It is 1.5 kilometers to this particular park from our house, so a bit ambitious to walk to at this point.
We spent two hours at the park. The boys played, I sat on a blanket, Riley slept, ate, and slept again; we walked through the park to Ayden's Elementary school to check out the playground there. I took some gorgeous pix on our Canon 35mm, and a few on our digital (I'll share tomorrow), and then we headed back to start supper. I put the big boys in front of a movie and Riley in his vibrating, bouncy, entertaining chair, and made supper. Nothing too fancy. Riley was fussy. He wanted to eat, no, sleep, no, eat, no, fart, no, eat, no, sleep, no, play, no, poop...this type of fussiness usually indicates that he's tired, but the farts were keeping him up and I couldn't devote a half an hour to bum patting and pop on-pop off for comfort breastfeeding, so that was a bit trying.
But I got my dinner made, and it wasn't the end of the world that we ate at 7, and the older boys were so good.
Then the older boys got into a bubble bath and I bathed Riley on the counter in the same bathroom, so all three were miraculously clean at the same time! And all three were totally happy, because all three LOVE baths.
Bedtime was a bit interesting. Three boys and a breastfeeding pillow AND an adult CAN fit into a toddler bed for storytime--or so I discovered!
I told Brent he owes me chocolate. He just phoned.
But really, here is my take on the day:
This was my test run. I'll believe I can do it if today is successful. Definition of success: all four of us are reasonably happy and calm and have our needs met most of the time. WILDLY SUCCESSFUL!
I can do this. I CAN do this. I can SO do this! I can do three. Whoopee! It's so good to know! I can just let that anxiety slip right off my shoulders and relax into the present, now that I know I can handle it.
Thank you, Jesus.

From my booklet of Ayden quotes

"Mommy, did you know, God is even inside your NOSE!?"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pix out the ying yang

Games afternoon

A rare shot of Matthew holding Riley (he's generally too busy to bother holding him, though he sure likes to pat, tickle, or touch him)

Matthew tucked Riley into bed...too cute...

My friend Keli and I (K lives in Ireland and is here for a visit)

Riley occasionally gets gassy and is most comfy in this we both fell asleep like this and Brent got a pic

Matthew's new boots

Mommy's wakeup call

The boys 'fishing'

Riley fast asleep in my sling

Brent took the big boys to the PNE last week and they had a BLAST

My cousin Sara and her son Kaleb (along with Breanne and Jacob, friends of ours) came to visit. This is Kaleb with our two big boys, watching a movie

Riley and Sara

I'd rather be naked


Kisses for mommy

Riley's first walk

Friday, August 29, 2008


This was actually yesterday, not today. Today was decidedly UN shitty. Which was nice.
Yesterday was prefaced by the fact that, two weeks ago on August 16th, my mom was in a parking lot in our red '95 Toyota Corolla and a guy in an SUV backed into her and did some mad damage to the front side area of that car. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the SUV driver claimed full responsibility and paid our deductible without protest. It was his fault, but sometimes people try to argue their way out of things like that and without witnesses you're hooped. But we were not hooped.
Yesterday at 1 p.m. we got our car back, repaired.
Yesterday at 1:30 p.m. I was rear ended in our 2006 Toyota Matrix, with Riley and Matthew in the car with me. Mad damage to the bumper and hatch door. Plus, someone rear ended my vehicle in their carelessness with my brand new baby and my three year old in the car. LOOK WHERE THE FUCK YOU ARE DRIVING, PEOPLE. I can't handle this.
This accident was also entirely the other drivers' fault. No contest there. I was stopped in a line of traffic and she plowed into the back of me. Still! In a matter of less than two weeks, both of our cars were wrecked by other people! I should be thankful it cost us nothing, but it shook me up.
This accident and subsequent exchange of information (during which time the other driver saw me crying but did not apologize for her carelessness) made us late for Matthew's first speech therapy appointment, which appointment costs $150.
Then we went to the mall to bring the boys to see the Wonder Pets, but it was lame. The Wonder Pets did nothing except stand there for photos.
Then at 4:30 I went to see my midwife and cried the entire appointment because I was so stressed.
My midwife must think I'm crazy (really she doesn't; and I didn't cry the WHOLE appointment, just some of it. My hormones are getting the better of me some days...this happened to be one of those days).
It also rained most of the day.


Today was much better, thank heaven. The sun came out in the afternoon, Matthew, Riley and I went for a walk (my first attempt since delivery), and Matthew and I spent some solid quality time together, and I was much more peaceful.
But still, I had to share with you my aweful day.
I'll post some pix tomorrow of life with Riley xoxoxoxoxoxxo

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Got Milk?

A milk letdown is when milk, upon being asked for, travels down from the alveoli at the back of the breast to the ducts near the nipple, ready for sendoff. Of course, letdown happens when baby is nursing (several times each nursing session). But it also happens with other stimuli.
These are my body's favourite things to letdown for:
Riley's cry
Riley's smell (including his dirty laundry)
Rileys snuffling, grunting, or snorting
Skin to skin contact with Riley
opening the freezer
hearing ice crack in a glass
cold air anywhere near my chest
Ayden crying in earnest
random letdowns if Riley has not fed in awhile

other women have told me of these letdown triggers:
squeaky doors
the sound of their breast pump
violin music
the cat's meow (seriously)

Ah, milk. Breastmilk is so nutritious a two year old can get 50% of its nutritional needs met by nursing. Scientists are now researching the potential in stem cells found in breastmilk. A baby exposed to germs will have antibodies specific to those germs made in its mother's milk, even if the mom herself was not exposed to the same germs. Hooray for nature!

Monday, August 25, 2008

holy cow, i've lost 23 pounds in ten days! this is wildly unprecidented! It took me a year to lose that much last time! riley is doing well, the boys love him tons (though are showing some signs of crankiness at this big life change). brent broke his toe last week but is limping around without complaint, doing a lion's share of kid and housework while i heal.

notes on pix posted yesterday: I was IN labour when those final belly pix were taken--very early, obviously, since i'm still smiling and engaging with the world. the pic of ayden was in the hospital while he patiently waited ALL night to see his baby brother be born (and then opted to leave at the very end). as you can see, he's delighted with his baby. he described the hospital experience as 'very fun!' and spoke only in positive terms about being present for most of the birth. i'm glad we gave him the option. i'm confused as to exactly why he left at the end...i'd suspect that he just got overwhelmed after no sleep and wanted to leave, but i'm not entirely sure. i've tried to debrief with him since, but he just says it was fun, but he missed matthew. he knew he always had the option to leave, so i guess he simply opted!
there is a very fuzzy picture of the five of us reading stories saturday night--fuzzy or not it was too cute to pass up posting.

i will post some notes on labour when i have a chance...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

my days

time slows down when you have a newborn in your arms.
my days are full of newborn baby smells. milk. poops. fresh laundry. sour milk pukes. the freshest, most fragrant skin on earth. breastmilk breath.
also, newborn baby textures. soft skin. tiny, downy hairs. milk letdowns. wet puke puddles in my hair, on my pyjamas, in my bed. a soft body sharing patches of warmth on my arms, belly, breasts, face.
sounds. 'mm-mm-mm-mm' as he nurses. tiny, short breaths stitched like thread across the space between us. grunts. squirts. burps.
beauty. his eyes, skin cheeks, hair sworls, feet, bum, flexible ears, tummy, and nape are fascinating visions of perfect, ethereal beauty. he's so beautiful that i can't sleep. all i want to do is watch him.

when his brothers are here, and awake, and their perfectly abundantly noisy selves, it feels crazy chaotic, but with an undercurrent of peace. smell my baby. he's the answer to the search for world peace. bring me armies, one by one--one breath each of baby newness and war will be finished.
if only.

so my days are filled with deep breaths of baby, warm cuddles, feedings, and baby gazing.
love, love, love.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Riley Alexander Smith Vose

I've been busy lately! Look at what we did...created and birthed the most beautiful 10 pound, 2 ounce bundle of miracle the world has ever seen! My water sprung a slow leak Wednesday morning, and I had mild, erratic contractions throughout the day. Around 5 p.m. labour really settled into a fixed rhythm, and my contractions changed so I knew they meant business. They started off 2 minutes apart, 45 seconds long, which surprised me. I expected more downtime between them! I couldn't lie down with the contractions, they were too painful if I did that, and also too painful if I sat. So mostly I just walked, or stood in the shower. I tried to sit down on a stool in between, to conserve energy--labour is work enough without having to stand the entire time!! I was able to relax so completely that my labour was pretty effective. 5 hours for the first five centimeters, and three hours more until I felt an incredible urge to push. Then, after almost three and a half hours of pushing, at 5:09 a.m. on Thursday, August 14th, out came Riley! (Who had no name for upwards of 12 hours as we debated and considered which name suited him best!) He is heavy, and round, and long...newborn clothes don't fit him! My first thought when my midwife put him on my chest was, "Wow! He's huge!" Head circumference 37 cm, chest 38 cm, and 57 cm long. He got stuck mid chest, so my midwife had to hook a finger under his armpit and pull him out at the very end, and he needed some resuscitation but he came around pretty quickly. His cord had been compressed behind his shoulder in that last few minutes when he was stuck. I also tore some, because of the quick rescue and the extra stretching from my midwife's hand reaching in to hook under his shoulder. But I tell you, having had a c-section and now going through labour, I'm so happy to have had a successful, natural, unmedicated labour and delivery, and I definitely preferred labour. It's work, and it is intense, and it hurts. But it is powerful, and empowering, and positive, and beautiful, and awe inspiring to be a part of this birth of an individual. So beautiful. C sections can also be wonderful and beautiful, and with Ayden mine was a positive experience, but it's not empowering in its process, because in the truest sense of the word, someone else births your child FOR you. And the recovery sucks. The natural process is powerful and intuitive. It was very amazing and I feel VERY blessed to have been able to experience it. In fact I want to do it again! We came home from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. Riley is the sweetest, most content, happiest, easiest baby in the world. I'm thanking heaven.
I'm thanking heaven, anyways. While taking deep lungfuls of yummy newborn skin. Best perfume in the world.
Love, love, love.