Thursday, June 30, 2011

How He Came to Us

Hugo was a baby who was quite comfortable with living on the cusp of birth. There were many days towards the end of my pregnancy that I would settle down for the evening (which is typically when I go into labor), and sure enough, my body would start laboring, gently, but persistently, and I would say, "Well, okay, this is the night." I would rest, wait, and sometimes even call the midwife, but usually over the course of the evening my surges would calm down, and I would just fall asleep. Repeat the following night. And the next.

You would think that as a woman who has given birth to two children and is now a birth instructor for goodness sake, I would have some sort of special knowledge about the exact moment that my baby was coming, but labors are mysterious, unpredictable, and unique. I was always comfortable, always relaxed, and very aware that my body was preparing for the birth every evening: and during the days, life went on as usual.

The day before Hugo was born was an active one. My sister and I took the kids and walked down to the local elementary school for a book sale. Ben came home a little early, and we took the girls for a walk-- which ended up being a long walk (down to our favorite burger place and back). I wasn't wearing a pedometer that day, but I guess I clocked in around 6 miles or so all things told. I had energy, the weather was simply gorgeous, and I knew that walking was the single best thing to prepare me and the baby for labor, so I went with it. And it seemed like this baby needed a gentle nudge to actually go through with the whole birth thing. He was just happy as a clam hanging out in the womb.

We stopped on the way home to visit with some neighbors and let the girls play, and when we finally piled in the front door, Ben got the girls ready for bed and my surges started-- and I mean they really started. They were nice and strong, and much more akin to surges I felt towards the end of both of my other labors. Oh boy. I called the midwife, birth assistant, and my sister, and said, "Come on over!" With a third baby, you just never know how quickly they might come.

Well, remember how in previous nights nights I would feel surges, and over the course of the evening they would calm down? About an hour later, we were in the middle of a pleasant evening in our back yard-- Ben and I in the tub, the birth assistant and midwife chatting with Irene and eating yummy snacks. The weather was lovely and cool, the atmosphere perfect, but my surges were gentle as a lamb and slowing way down. I didn't necessarily mind-- my midwife had assured me that one woman had a midwife come to her house and set everything up four separate times before the baby really came-- and, contrary to what you might expect, these types of labors are actually more common with each consecutive child. So one false alarm wouldn't be the end of the world. But I did have a feeling, resting labor aside, that this was the night. I had everyone stay.

We spent a beautiful evening relaxing and resting together: unlike previous labors where I have told Ben he could just go to sleep and we would wake him when it was baby time (what can I say? I'm usually an independent laborer), I had him stay with me. We got out of the tub and walked around, and a little after midnight, I told Ben that maybe we should go for a little walk. There we were, puttering around the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, me stopping to lean on him and breathe through surges. We must have been quite the sight, me in my birthing dress, his eyes heavy for want of sleep.

When we got home the student midwife was arriving, and Ben did decide to lie down for a bit. My surges were still so mild that I felt guilty having everyone there. "Why don't you just lie down?" the midwife suggested. Sometimes that's all that it takes to get a labor rolling. And I did. And it worked. A little after 2 in the morning, I was back in business. I started noticing those benchmarks I tell students to look for: changes in body temperature, stronger surges. I clung to my breathing, and it carried me through beautifully: in a labor that, despite its long start, ended up being quite swift (3 hours of what some might call "active" labor), my surges could have easily gotten the best of me. Even the strongest surges stayed manageable so long as I focused on my breath.

Around four in the morning, I called the whole crew into the bedroom: midwife, assistant midwife, birth assistant, and sister. "Stay," I told them. This baby could come at any moment. Our wonderful midwife, the same midwife who attended Lily's birth, got all of her supplies ready. And everyone else just sat quietly in our dark bedroom. The girls were asleep a few feet away from all of the action. Ben massaged me, and, he later confessed, took a little catnap. It was such an intimate environment, perhaps the most so of any of our births. I breathed, first deeply, and then more vigorously. I breathed the baby down the birth path, and just as our midwife was suggesting that perhaps I should get back up and walk a bit ("The baby's head is coming," I whispered to her: even the most skilled midwife can have trouble identifying the progress of a hypnobirth), Hugo was born in two surges, just as the sun was rising. Everyone gathered around the baby as he was gently emerging, and Irene stayed by my side encouraging me through it. And just like that, he was with us: mild, sweet, and with a very full head of dark hair. Although, really, he had been with us so much longer.

All of our babies seem to be born over the course of the night, so sorry for the lack of pictures of the labor itself! These pictures are from the first few hours of Hugo's life, once that sun finally did come up. And for those curious about terms like "surges" or "birth path," they are simply slightly more positive and, I believe, accurate descriptions of traditional things like "contractions" and the "birth canal." Of course I'm biased, but I absolutely recommend hypnobirthing to anyone in the market for a birth class-- and if you are interested in the book, let me know, because I always have a few loaners circulating.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27

Perhaps I'll give this a try: a few pictures, few (if any) words. I think even as I ease into the full-time care of three children three and under, I can handle that. And you'll have to pardon the scarcity of Hugo pictures. When he's not relaxing on a table under a tree, he is usually being carried in a pack by me. You'll have to trust he's still cute as a button. XO

Friday, June 24, 2011

Please Excuse

my relative silence in this space. Where a few weeks ago, I used to fill quiet moments with things like writing, knitting, reading interesting things, or making things, I now seem to spend just about all my free time staring at every cute little inch of our newest family member. The fact that the other members of my family join me in my pastime doesn't help. Perhaps one of these days I'll lose interest, but more likely I'll just learn to do my other hobbies while he is napping. In the meantime, thanks for your patience. I'm sure you understand: just look at that cute baby!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Lady of the House

I'm so glad that someone is tending to the day to day things around here.

Things like washing,

and drying the dishes.

Making sure the baby is fed,

and very well loved.
Thomas More once said that "The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest." I think this lady of the house understands his sentiment. What would we do without her?

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Birth of a Father

Holding your first baby always comes as a bit of a shock. I mean, what do you do with this thing?

And then, somehow, with time, you start easing into the role of parent. You learn the simple lessons, like the value of going with the flow.

You learn to delight in new experiences,

and the fact that your two arms can actually hold two babies.

Or that your two arms can hold one toddler, while your back holds a baby.

You learn how to be an amazing play partner,

adventure partner,

and a very funny teller and listener of secrets.

And then one day someone like, say, your wife, will be looking at you and utter: "My, but isn't he the most natural father?"

And that you are, my dear.

Friday, June 17, 2011

These Past Few Days...

have been spent
::sleeping like a puppies all over the house (okay, this pertains mainly to me and Hugo)

::planning out exactly who gets to hold the baby at any given moment (and let me tell you, there is a lot of competition) you can see...
...::making new friends

::receiving huge amounts of generosity, delicious meals, and love from friends and family. We truly are so lucky.

::handling a sweet sleepy baby, and waiting in earnest for those few moments that he is awake.

::falling in love with this amazing person and giving thanks for the gift that is new life!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hugo Benjamin

Hugo Benjamin
8 lbs 9 oz
Born at 5:14 this morning
in our bedroom
and very quickly engulfed by a lot love.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thumb Twiddling

(my terrarium: looking good, don't you think?)

We have perfected the art of waiting around here. There was a week of restlessness: of my body clearly warming up for this labor, but no baby, and a whole family that was tapping its fingers and wondering when the time would come. We got every. last. thing. ready.

There were a couple of nights that we went to bed thinking, "Surely, this baby will come tonight." But then the night came and went, no baby came, and we woke up still very much in the middle of the waiting game.

(our current baby)

And then, after many such nights and days, we came to the beautiful zen realization that this baby will come when he's ready, just like every other baby, and we have nothing but time to wait and enjoy the process. My body has been doing lots of getting ready, but in some ways the end game of this pregnancy has been so kind: no hip pain, good sleep, lots of support from loved ones.

(canisters on the windowsill, having been put to good use)

So somewhere in there we realized that we can just celebrate these last days of our family being a family of four: of Ben and I being parents of big-kid toddlers. Of course that makes us no less eager to hold this new little life in our hands, but it has made the intermittent days so much more fun. There has been baking, reading, many long walks, and Ben and I have rocked a couple of crossword puzzles. We have played outside, tackled a few little projects here and there, and, yes, I have collapsed and just rested, too (okay, this has happened a lot).

(Lily's quilt: still awaiting finishing, but wrinkled and put to good use)

One of these days we will find ourselves in a whole new stage of our family life: blissful evenings of holding a sleepy newborn baby, silliness brought on by lack of sleep, getting to know a new little being. Oh, I can't wait! But I guess I have to, and that's okay.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thrifted Diversions

Over the past few weeks, whenever I go to the thrift store, I gather little things here and there to entertain the big girls when this little one arrives. Above: a wealth of children's books, several of which we have already gone through one (or many, many) times. I was so pleasantly surprised by how many beautiful classic books I was able to find.

A bag of clothespins, part wishful thinking about finally putting up a clothes line in the back yard, part un-toy, particularly for my little Lily.

There's something so wonderful about being able to get special little presents in such a thrifty fashion! What have your thrifting adventures brought you lately?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Nursery

This past weekend, we embarked upon the project of getting every last thing ready for the baby. Carseat in the car (which now means we have three carseats across the back of our little sedan! Woo hoo!). Snacks ready for the labor and birth. And (this one is my favorite!) room ready for the baby. You know us: the thriftier, the better. So we pretty much used things that we already owned to decorate and prepare the room.
Here's the old garage sale rocking chair I used to nurse and rock both Zosia and Lily.

I hung a few handknit items on the walls as decoration because they're just so little and cute. And, of course, a little rocking chair (painted from the thrift store) next to a box of books for my two little mama's helpers-- now they have something to stay entertained while I'm nursing the little one.

The box is filled with favorite books, old and new... perhaps I'll inch it closer to my big rocking chair so I can take a look, too.

Our tried and true changing table, stocked with cloth diapering supplies as well as disposables (for nights, or when we go out of the house).

I made some little pendant flags-- the material, I admit, I purchased at the fabric store, and then I just sewed together little triangles and bound them together using some double fold bias tape.

And then here's the baby's little corner-- complete with nursing chair, a shelf (for me to keep some books, a burp cloth, or a water bottle on), and a lovely gifted painting from the talented Annie.

We have a cute vintage book of french children's songs, and we have it open to a favorite around here: Fais Dodo, Colas, a song about a big sister singing her brother to sleep. Just perfect, don't you think?

I will admit, I love sitting in this room-- the tiniest of the whole house-- just imagining our little one here with us!

The calendar is clear, the house is ready, and now all we have to do is joyfully wait. I think there are few spiritual practices more challenging and rewarding.