What’s your resolution?

So, last year I resolved to be more present. For lack of a better phrase, I failed. Badly. But in my defense, I got pregnant at the end of January, went through a challenging pregnancy, packed, moved, gave birth, and just tried to keep my head above water for the better part (ok, all) of 2011. The year was a total blur.

Not 2012. I’m determined to not let that happen. This year, I will not only find ways to be more present in my friendships, my parenting, and with myself, but I will also add to it intention. I need to stop letting life smack me upside the head, and start taking it by the hand. I don’t believe I can necessarily accomplish one without the other.

And, to top it all off, I want to be braver. I already think I’m a pretty ballsy person, but I’m not sure that balls=bravery. I find that I often play it safe, choosing the less controversial, the less adventurous, the safer options. Not this year. I’m 32, and I’m ready to push the envelope even more than I already do. I’m not sure what challenges this will involve, but I’m excited to find out.

I’m not crazy enough to try to commit to another 365 photo project, but I will be reviving my 52 project. You can look forward to seeing those pictures highlighted here on the blog.

I’d also like to begin to accept submissions for uplifting birth stories. They don’t have to be homebirths, but they do need to be positive. I know SO many women who’ve had such varying experiences, all beautiful, that I want to share those in one place. Bonus points if you have photos, since y’all know how much I love pictures.

And did I mention that I signed up to run the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in June? You know, just a half. Just 13.1 miles. And I hope to journal my training here, and share more about my running journey.

So, you know, not much. Just a few little things. How ’bout you? What are your resolutions this year?

Editing to add: I’ve challenged my whole family to a 365 project of sorts: 365 miles in 365 days. A fun, sort of competitive way to get healthy as a family (my brother, sis-in-law, and parents are in on it). I have a feeling a few of us might go double or nothing…

Struggling

I struggle with so many things as a parent; we’d be lying if we said we didn’t. I struggle to get my toddler to eat, my big girl to stop dawdling, my littlest to sleep. I struggle to run 2 miles, to hold a plank for a minute. Somedays I struggle to get a shower or eat breakfast. But these are physical struggles, and I know they can be overcome with hard work and perseverance.

But this is not that sort of struggle. The one I’m wrestling with these days, under the surface of all the other daily struggles, is my belief system, and thus, the beliefs we raise our children with. We’re not very religious people. Spiritual, yes. Religious, no.

We were both raised with a bit of a mishmash of religions. Me, everything from Presbyterian or Mormonism, Judaism to Catholicism (seriously, all of that, one childhood). Michael, raised in an Ashram with world religions all around, but Eastern religions pervasive.

Neither of us gave religion, or what religion we’d raise our kids with much thought. We didn’t think we’d need to. Raise your kids to be good people, et voila, it’s all good. But what we forgot is that we live in a religious society, one where Christianity is everywhere, and we’d encounter religion constantly.

Ryan came home from school the other day with a little rhyme about making the #7: “Through the sky and down from heaven, that’s the way to make a seven.” Of course, she wanted to know what “heaven” was. And here’s where I start to bumble. For someone who’s pretty good with words, I was at a loss. Because really, I don’t know what heaven is. What do I believe in?

I tried to explain as best I could: dying (which is still a tricky concept for her), up above the sky, where God is. Oh, wait, God. There’s another subject she’s unclear on. Again, because I am. (and none of this is to discount Michael’s role in all this, it’s just that I’m the one home, so I get the big questions that usually require immediate answers) Ryan’s told us before that God doesn’t exist. Which probably means I got a little too existential with one of my explanations, and little Miss Literal took it to heart. OK, fine. But God does exist. Maybe not literally, but in some sort of bigger way, something bigger than us, must. Humans have named that God, and given it a (male) persona, but I don’t know if I believe that.

A sweet friend posted a link to a blog the other day; it seemed quite appropriate for Christmastime, and certainly rang true for me.

Women can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God. There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.

(http://deeperstory.com/incarnation/)

It’s what I find wrong with so much of religion; it’s all about men, and how men have made it, forgetting the very humanness of birth.

Michael and I have major issues with organized religion, and we’re both pretty clear that we don’t believe in Jesus as savior. But beyond that? But you can’t raise kids on what you DON’T believe in. I feel like I need to define my beliefs, and maybe it’s less for the kids and more for myself. And maybe I don’t think beliefs can really be defined in such a quantitative way. Maybe I need to explore Buddhism more. Sometimes, I’m quite jealous of friends who have such defined belief systems. It would certainly be easier for me to have one. But I don’t.

Part of this has come up as a natural introspection post-birth. Birth really does bring out the spirituality in so many of us. Part of this is due to the holidays, and our desire to create traditions for our kids, and wondering how to define them without the context of Christianity or Judaism (Solstice?).

So, where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I did find two books that might help: Raising Freethinkers: A practical guide for parenting beyond belief and Parenting Beyond Belief: on raising ethical, caring kids without religion. I’ll let you know where this all lands as it evolves.

What I do know, is that I believe in goodness, and family, and love. And the sun and the moon, and that it all keeps turning. And as the Mamas and the Papas sang, “to everything, there is a season, and a purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Giving Thanks

It’s the cool thing to do this month. Apparently. I’ve been busy and missed the memo that I was supposed to update the world as to what I’ve been thankful for each day.

However, in our house, we’ve been practicing thankfulness, gratitude, and the beauty of fall, all at once.

Have you heard of a tree of gratitude?

It can be done any way you like (we found inspiration here). We found branches in our yard, plopped them in a vase, cut “leaves” with my paper punch and used strips of fabric to tie them on.

The idea is that you write something you’re thankful for. Not every day, not in any sort of prescribed way, but rather when the mood strikes you. The idea is to remind yourself of what is really important as we head into this holiday season. In our house, we’re finding this especially important with a nearly 6 year old who wants/needs everything.

We also invited our friends who joined us for our “welcome Asher/warm our house” party to add what they’re thankful for. Really, anyone who comes by our house is welcome to add to it. We’ll save the “leaves” to read next November.

So, what am I thankful for? In the grandest sense, community. I’m SO grateful for the wonderful community we’ve found in the area. I never expected it, and cannot express how overwhelmed I’ve been with gratitude these last many weeks.

Thank  you. May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude, family, friends, and, of course, good food.

Hindsight is 20/20

(alternately titled: “If I knew then what I know now”)

You see all of those trite quotes all over the interwebs saying things like “dishes can wait, babies don’t keep” and “they grow up before your eyes” and la la la. And you think, no, the dishes are going to drive me insane, or that laundry just won’t fold itself, and the baby can just be there for a minute.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 6 years, is that you lay that baby down for “just a minute” and then she’s off to kindergarten. And reading on her own. And enjoying a very wiggly tooth.

Or you set her down and she climbs to the top of the [insert tall item in your house here]. And she insists on “my do it”. And then she asks politely for a snack. And would you please read Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Or you set her down, and suddenly she’s a month old, and trying to smile (and making all kinds of awesome expressions in her early attempts). And trying to push up on her arms. And weighing 10 pounds.

And I know, this time, just how fast it will go. And I didn’t honestly think I’d care, and I do find myself looking very much forward to a time when she’ll be able to coo, smile, sit up, play with her sisters, sleep through the night, etc. Because I know IT WILL HAPPEN.

And I have to remind myself to let her be. To let them all be. To let them all grow as they must, and not rush them at all. And that’s hard. But having already seen two of them grow and change SO FAST, this time I know the growing is inevitable, and obviously a good thing, but I know to enjoy what we have while we have it.

Maybe it’s because Asher is the last (oh yes, she’s it. swear.). Maybe it’s because I’m watching one kid learn to read, one kid learn to speak, and another learn to smile. And I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.

 

Welcome Asher Eleanor!

I’ve been debating how to start this story…it seems so typical, so normal, and yet, of course, as with her sisters, she deserves her tale written out. And it is miraculous, like all births are. And it is silly, like births in our house seem to be. And, as is the trend, it is written with a baby in a sling, by a tired, vaguely incoherent mama.

As we’re both sitting here, wondering how we ended up with THREE kids (much less three girls!), I’m literally left wondering how I’ve got this tiny baby in my arms. Again. I know, I’ve been in denial for quite some time about it all, and even blogged over at Motherhood Unadorned about my feelings towards this pregnancy. And I’d LOVE to say it’s all roses and lilies now that she’s here, but I’m not sure. Yes, Asher belongs here, clearly. And yes, much like when Finleigh arrived, and when Ryan arrived, she just fits. But I’m still left wondering – how the hell did I end up with a third child?

We had plans to head to the pumpkin patch on Sunday. I really, really love fall (I’ve surely blogged about that before), and Halloween, and my birthday (on the 24th – you can send presents), and despite knowing I’d be 39w pregnant, I was excited to go to Enumclaw to hang out with some friends and do the patch with the girls. Finleigh was teeny last year, and enjoyed watching it all, but couldn’t partake. Ryan remembered it all and was SO excited to go back. I just love to take photos of it all! We joked that baby better wait, as Enumclaw is about an hour from home, and how would that explanation go to the police/fire/paramedics? “Please drive past 4 hospitals to deliver this woman to her home so she can give birth?” Um, yeah. But, as nothing was happening that morning, we hustled our buns together and got out of the house. I had some suspicions that it would be soon as I’d done a massive grocery trip the night before, and insisted on having chicken chili in the crockpot before we left, but you know, just because I teach this stuff doesn’t mean I recognize it in myself. We’ll get to more of that in a bit.

The girls had a blast at the pumpkin patch, and we had fun warming back up at our friends’ home nearby. They had delicious homemade soup that was a teensy bit spicy (I should have guessed…) and the girls played hard. We got home, all in one piece, and without a newborn, and settled in for our usual crazy, zany dinner/bath/stories/bedtime routine.

I always spend a fair bit of time in my classes talking about what things parents can do at home to kick start labor. It’s an amusing topic and always gets the class laughing: walking, exercise, spicy foods, sex. Yes, sex. What gets your baby in there will get your baby out! And, since I was quite done being pregnant, well, yeah. And as expected, contractions started shortly thereafter. But I expected them to fizzle out…after all, just because the other two came at 39w (ish) didn’t mean I thought this one would. I half expected her to wait until Halloween!

About two hours later, I called the midwives to chat, and see what they thought might be happening with these contractions. See, she’d tried to escape at 37w, and I wasn’t really enthusiastic about calling them back out for nothing again. But, neither of us was really excited about having another unassisted birth, either. Michael was totally amused at this point – this was basically a total repeat of Finleigh’s birth, only with slightly less disbelief from me. We thought, yes, maybe early labor, as I was clearly dealing well and could move and talk through these, but should try to go to bed soon and maybe take a shower to relax. I watched one more episode of Big Love (love that show) and then showered and went to bed.  I remember sort of sleeping through contractions, and feeling them but not waking for them, and thinking that if they didn’t keep me up, then they weren’t anything. Really, at this point? Really, Katy? Now we’re talking about 5 hours of contractions and you still don’t really think you’re in labor?

At 2:30am, I woke up to a stronger contraction, and got up to hit the bathroom. I went back to bed, thinking this STILL wasn’t really it. I laid in bed, drifting in and out of sleep for another hour, and then the contractions got more intense. By 4am, I woke Michael, and we decided it was time to call the midwives back. They asked if I thought they should come, but I had to hand the phone over to Michael to tend to a contraction. I’m sure the conversation was something to the effect of, “yeah, um, you need to come now”.

We moved to the living room, and texted a few friends who wanted to join us. I was still thinking we had a while at this point. Contractions were strong, but not unbearable, and I was dealing well. I kept telling myself that I can do anything for ONE minute (though they felt longer). Of course, doing anything for ONE minute every 30 seconds for any length of time starts to SUCK. And then when you realize you are having an even harder time coping, and you are no longer quietly breathing, and you can no longer stand on your own, and you’ve got to hold on FOR DEAR LIFE to your partner, that yep, this is labor and you’re going to have a baby in the very near future. Of course, at this point, I’m still thinking that I’ve got a while, and why the hell do I give birth at home where there’s nothing stronger than ADVIL??

And then, holding onto Michael and trying to CLIMB to the ceiling, I hear the MW say that she thought I was pushing. Pushing? Brilliant!! I should totally push! That might be fantastic! So I pushed. And I was really glad they got the plastic table cloth under me as I announced that I was peeing. Nice, right? Birth is the great equalizer, folks. One of the MWs said she was taking my pants off (what’s with me trying to give birth in my damn pants?), and I remember her trying to actually get my pants off my ankles and me saying something to the effect of “leavethemthefuckalone”. I was pushing. One LONG push. One LONG contraction that really didn’t seem to end. Except it did. And there was her head. I reached down, instinctively. This was the first time I’d ever done that. I felt her head: soft, hot, velvety. Her cord was wrapped around her neck, and the midwives were working it off. And then I had to push again. I pushed hard. Harder than I did with Finleigh…I worked for this kid. One huge, long, hard push (or four, I don’t remember), and out she popped.

7 pounds, 5 ounces, 20″ long. At 5:20am, October 17th. As the sun was thinking about rising on a beautiful, cold, clear, crisp fall morning. My favorite kind of morning.

I crashed on the couch, exhausted, elated, and still shocked. I’m pretty sure Michael was equally shocked, but I honestly have no idea. We didn’t talk, I hardly talked to anyone. I labored. And then I birthed. With so much wonderful support, but in my own world the whole time. I couldn’t have done it without any of them, but I did it alone. If that makes sense. I just laid there, on the couch, with her on my chest, shellshocked. I had a baby. She’s here. In my arms. Michael went to get Ryan, and we both hoped she wasn’t disappointed that she missed the birth (again). This time, she’d get to see the placenta!

She was elated to see the new baby…her new sister. She asked what we were naming her again. Oh yeah, her name! We’d been quiet on the name this time, since we shared her sex. And because I wasn’t entirely sold on it. But now that she’s here, it’s perfect. It suits her to a “T” and suits our family quite well. It “goes”.

Asher Eleanor.

Asher means “fortunate, blessed and happy”. Eleanor means “light” and is the name of my great aunt, my dad’s Aunt Rene.

We are, indeed, fortunate and blessed to have this sweet girl join our family. We were surprised at her intentions to join our family, but are truly, truly blessed to have her here with us.

We also find ourselves truly, truly blessed with friends and family and friends who have become family. Though no one made the birth (again- we’re just too quick for that), we had so many sweet people be a part of Asher’s first day. Lindsay came to say hi instead of heading out for her morning run, Kirsten skipped half a day of work to feed us and hang out with our big kids, and be a part of a very, very normal birth (which I know was insanely difficult, and also, hopefully, cathartic), Ruth took our biggest sister out for a special outing on her own, and so, so many others have helped in tiny, countless ways. I don’t know that any of you will ever really understand how important our “family” here in Seattle is.

Asher truly, truly is a blessing to us all.

STILL pregnant

No, this is not a comment on comments made…in fact, most friends seem to feel like this pregnancy has flown by.

I, on the other hand, do not feel as such. It seems as though I’ve been pregnant FORever.

A friend pointed out tonight, and somehow this was the first it dawned on me: our lives have changed ENTIRELY in the last 9 months. Since last February, we, as a family:

celebrated Finleigh’s first birthday

found out we were (unexpectedly) pregnant with our third

had our condo on the market

finally got our “maybe house” and moved

Ryan started kindergarten

bought a new (to us) minivan

sold off all of the REgarding Peanut inventory

and, soon, will have our third girl join our family.

It’s no wonder I’ve been reeling lately. It’s no wonder Michael has been on edge. And really, it’s a wonder the girls have been as awesome as they have been with all the stress we’ve had.

But to be honest, this has been an easy pregnancy. I worked out up until 35w. I’ve had very few aches and pains, and have really been pretty comfortable. That said, I’m whiny, cranky, and I’d much prefer to give birth over being pregnant. Now, at 37w, we’re excited to meet this little girl, and introduce her to our friends and family.

I know our lives will continue to grow and change over the years, and that staying stationary is never an option, but I would love (LOVE) to settle, just a little bit, into some sort of routine, just so we can all breathe a bit.

{all photos are taken by my AMAZING photog friend Chantelle of http://www.livelovelaughphotographblog.com/}

First day of Kinder

Yep, yesterday, we sent our first baby, our Peanut, to Kindergarten. One small step for her, one giant step for mom and dad.

It’s so much more than just a first day of school. It’s the first day of her joining the public school institution; of US, as a family, joining that institution, and is the beginning of the next 13 years of her life.

I did good yesterday. I hid behind my camera, focusing and f-stopping to avoid crying. It worked. I got great shots and held it together. Of course, now, writing this, the tears are pouring. Can I blame it on the pregnancy?

She loved it though. She made a little friend, sat next to some boys on the bus (was disappointed to not find a girl to sit with), and enjoyed her teacher, Mrs. T.

Test Drive

Do you ever feel a little like you’re still test driving the life you’re living? I know that sounds strange, and maybe very un-“live in the moment” but occasionally I feel like I’m still trying it on, seeing if it fits, and tossing it back on the ground as if it doesn’t quite work for me.

Yes, I know, I have 2 kids and one on the way. One who’s a bit of a surprise, and still I sometimes think “oh my, am I really going to have 3 little girls in all of 7 weeks?” Yes, I know I have a house now, which makes me feel rather grown up, but again, like I might be a bit of a poser. Yes, I am a landlord now, again, making me appear much more grown up than I feel I am. And these are only a few of the things that make me feel like I’m still trying on this life. Still test driving it to see if I want to buy in…except someone else (myself, actually) already bought it and gave me the keys. And it’s what I have, so I drive it.

Where the heck did all this come from? It definitely started with test driving minivans last week. Three kids doesn’t really leave you a whole lot of options for toting them around, and though a station wagon could fit all the necessary carseats, it wouldn’t leave a lot of room for groceries. So minivan it is, but man, it felt strange driving one. And will continue to feel strange. Part of me wants to camp it up, embrace it and go all “soccer mom” on it. Part of me wants to RUN to the Audi dealership and buy a TT that I can’t afford and won’t hold all of my kids, but damn, would be fun to drive.

It could be that Ryan started Kindergarten this week. That Finleigh is wanting to learn to use the potty and saying about 10 new words each day. That we are having our house painted. That we found renters for our condo. That I’m due in all of 7 weeks.

Or it could just be that some days, some weeks, I feel like I’m just a kid, trying on the grown up clothes and finding they’re still kinda big, they still look a little silly, and I still have a lot of growing to do before they’ll really fit.

This photo says 773 words.

celestin by ~oye on deviantART.

I stumbled on this image the other day on Pinterest and it’s been haunting me ever since. Likely not so much because I’m pregnant right now (or maybe it is) but moreso because of how much, and how often, I think about the state of maternity care in our nation.

Though I understand the photographer was simply paying homage to another photographer, using her newly born nephew as the subject, I find it speaks VOLUMES about birth in hospitals. And yes, I recognize that this post may piss people off. The good ones usually do. They touch nerves, they elicit guilt, they bring up memories you’d might have rather not remembered. But the truth is that our maternity care is abysmal, we’re doing it to ourselves (yes, even those self-selecting OUT of hospitals), and we can change it, if we just choose to open our eyes to what’s really going on.

Maternal Mortality in the United States falls behind 40 other countries at 11 deaths per 100,000 live births. It’s defined as the death of a mother, from a number of various causes, within 42 hours after giving birth (1). Severe bleeding/hemorrhage is listed as the top cause of death. One of the most used drugs during labor in American hospitals is Pitocin. Why? Because it (can) speed labor up (why, I ask, must labor be sped up and not allowed to go at the pace the woman’s body deems it should go?). One of the side effects of Pit is post partum hemorrhage (2). Ironically, it’s also administered by midwives FOR post partum hemorrhage. The drug works, much like our own natural oxytocin, to create uterine contractions. This can be a good thing, or it can be a very, very bad thing.

The use of Pit often leads a laboring woman towards an epidural a lot faster than she might have gone on her own (if at all). Pitocin contractions are notoriously intense, moreso than oxytocin contractions, and can come on stronger and more suddenly than a woman’s body (and baby) are ready for. So she asks for an epidural. Though epidurals are considered generally “safe” by the medical community, they introduce a whole host of other potential problems to a labor (3). It is extremely controversial to say that the likelihood of a cesarean delivery is greater with an epidural, but it appears more and more that this may be the case. And, though a cesarean is again, generally considered a “safe” surgery, it is still major surgery. And with that comes another host of potential side effects, including blood clots and anesthesia issues, and placenta previa and accreta for future pregnancies (4).

Maternal death is highly preventable. Highly. If modern obstetrics would just LEAVE BIRTH ALONE, and let it develop as it needs to, most of the time, it would be fine. The WHO believes our cesarean section rate should be at 10-15%. It’s currently above 35%. I refuse to believe that all of those are true, true emergencies. Yes, I know, yours was. I understand that, and this post is not to undermine your birth, how you’re processing it, or how it has been retold to you. What’s hard for me to process is how many women are told their c/s was an emergency, needed to happen, baby might die, and it’s largely because of how we care for women in labor in hospitals. Care providers push, nudge, outright force babies out of wombs before they’re ready, and we are left to believe that our doctor saved our sweet baby (and likely ourselves) from the throes of evil, scary, deadly labor. Except that many of the hospital interventions LEAD TO that “life saving” c/s. Again, I DO NOT wish to undercut YOUR experience, how YOU felt about it, or how it makes YOU feel. What I wish to highlight is the culture surrounding birth, and how it’s so much more about an institution (a patriarchal one at that, believe that women are simply not capable of doing this whole “labor thing” without modern science to help it along) rather than an individual. And again, until the institution can change, there’s little hope for women and babies.

So where the hell was I going with this little lesson in the “snowball of interventions”? I was getting to the picture, and what it said to me.

And to me, it shows a newborn, alone, on a hospital bed and I wonder, where’s mama? Because I don’t know of many mamas who’ve just given birth and would voluntarily leave that sweet baby, lying there, alone. That is, quite possibly, the most tragic thing I can think of.

Hello, Second Trimester

And welcome!! How I LOVE you so…

Today, at 14 weeks exactly (yes, folks, THAT is the official start to the 2nd tri, not 12w) I am not tired. Nope, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m blogging instead of napping. For the first time in 12 weeks, I’m not crashed out on the couch like a narcoleptic whale (ok, still a tiny whale, but whatever). I have regained an hour (ok, two, who am I kidding) back in each of my days!! Oh, the possibilities!! Oh what I might do with my time!!

Sew? I do have a handful and a half of projects that I’d like to work on.

Like this (see, something for me!!):

Or this for Finleigh:

Or this for Ryan:

Or this for baby:

And, the bonus is: I MAY ACTUALLY GET TO DO SOME OF IT!

And I get to run. And I get to go to Stroller Strides. I might even make dinner and clean my house (hehe, probably not though). I’m looking forward to having the energy to pull out my camera more (especially with the sun making an occasional appearance).

So, yes, second trimester, though you mean I get even bigger, I welcome you…I welcome being able to feel the baby move more easily (just little pops here and there, but know in a matter of weeks it will be my constant companion), I welcome my belly growing larger, I welcome the increase in appetite (seriously, i eat ALL day long), and I celebrate the return of my energy. How I’ve missed you so.

Welcome back.