Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gentle Birth Passage

Whether in a hospital or at home, the birth process does not have to be an event of craziness and confusion. The harsh reality is that in a hospital, it often tends to be just that. With the birth of my 4th baby just days away, I have been reflecting lately on how different my experience with each type of birth has been. My oldest baby was born at a hospital. The process of it was very scary. Before being transferred to the hospital, I was quietly laboring at a near-by birthing center. Once I got to the hospital, everything changed. I was given drugs I didn’t want, I was treated like a sheep being shuttled through the “process,” no care thrown my way of who I was or what I really needed. The next day, I ended up with a cesarean which could've been avoided, and I can only imagine what the event felt like for my daughter, as it was a traumatic experience for me.

But even deeper than these thoughts are the ones which have made me stand firmly on the side of not only a natural birth passage but a gentler one. In many hospitals, you are just a number, another customer paying big bucks to have “all-knowing” doctors tell you what to do and when while birthing your baby. Gone is the idea that birthing a baby is a natural process and that your body and your baby know what to do. Gone is the idea that the process should just be left to happen on its own, without charts and time frames and putting everyone in the same box with the same labels on how to “treat” this “medical condition.” Gone is the idea that that tiny little being inside of you needs to be cared for with gentle hands and patience. Delivering babies is just another part of the job description for a lot of doctors and that idea shows in the way they handle your delivery.

Part of what I don’t get about a hospital delivery is why they’re so quick to cut the cord, weigh him, scrub him clean of not only the blood and fluid of birth but the vernix which protects his skin, all in an attempt to make the baby “presentable.” In reality, a tired momma right after birthing her child, just because he is her child, could care less about how he looks or what he weighs at that exact second.

The following is something I wrote while thinking about one of the main reasons why I choose to have my babies at home with a midwife whom I trust to be there for me and my baby, for as long as it takes and with every ounce of her being – one who not only understands my desire for a gentle birth passage for my baby and the least stressful experience for me but desires it for me as well. I realize not everyone has the type of delivery encapsulated in the first scenario below but at the same time, I refuse to risk that I will have that scenario ever again. Of course, there are many good medically-grounded reasons to have a baby in the hospital. I just don’t have any.

Close your eyes and imagine that you are a tiny little being, floating around in the warm dark waters of a safe environment. You sense a distant light from the outside sometimes but you are otherwise free to enjoy the darkness, the quiet swooshing sounds of your surroundings and the warm water which brings you life. For much time you are like this, always comforted by the movements around you and the brilliance of your own existence.

Soon you sense that it is time to leave this place. You are a little afraid but you know it must be done and somehow you know that on the outside, there will be someone who will continue to keep you safe, and sustain your life. The passage is trying and often frightening but you know you can make it.

Suddenly, you’re surrounded by stark light and people in white coats, everyone talking loudly and rushing around. You’re quickly pulled from the entrance to what was once your little haven of warmth. You’re tethered to something, something which brought you everything you needed while swimming around in those waters. But you are hurriedly detached from this and whisked away to be scrubbed and washed, the warm waters and gentle movements quickly becoming a distant memory. Traces of your old home are cleaned from your body and you start to feel a little cold. You’re moved and flipped about so many times. They weigh you on a scale, the metal icy against your delicate skin. They suction you with a foreign object – everything is so scary to you.

You’re finally wrapped in cloth but it is nothing like what you’re used to. You’re desperately searching for that being who you know is there to keep you safe, but you can’t find her. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, you are placed in her arms. You feel sort of lost, like you don't know that you're home within those arms. She looks at you and cuddles you close as you snuggle against her, exhausted and hungry…..

Now imagine that instead of being greeted by stark light and frantic movements once you leave your safe haven, you are greeted with gentle hands and quiet whispers, encouraging you to make the last few efforts to come out. It is still dark in your surroundings except for maybe a few flickering lights which soothe you instead of frightening you. You are immediately placed with the one who keeps you safe, your mother, warm against her breasts and skin, her smell a comfort you knew you’d come to experience. You’re massaged gently and feel warmth penetrating from your mother’s body deep into your own. The cord which you have been tethered to inside your haven is still attached, still pulsing into you with vitality. You’re even given a chance to suckle, to gain strength after a trying passage.

Later, after the initial journey is over, you are gently wiped clean a little but left with a layer of beautiful vernix to help protect your delicate skin. The cord is finally cut after the pulsing process is over. The whole time, your mother is close, you can feel her and smell her and she is there, protecting you as you knew she would. The memories of your haven are slowly fading away but in their place is the comforting reality that you are definitely at home in her arms.

In a few days (who knows maybe even tomorrow) I will be giving birth to my 4th child. I am both scared of and excited for the labor and delivery process. And at the same time, I am anxious to give this baby a gentle passage into his new world. I could care less how much he weighs right when he comes out or how he looks…. I ache with every fiber of my being to hold him the second he is born – sticky blood, icky fluids and all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Momma, Writer

I used to write more - When my life was all about me and my daily task list made no mention of changing diapers or chasing after small children. Ah, yes, I remember that time, a time when I was not interrupted by tattletaling or "mommy, I need..." Mommy did not exist as part of my identity yet.

And I could sit and write and spill out all my thoughts, even in the middle of the day. And I'd be surrounded by a silence that I could dive into and drown myself if I wanted to, discovering fragments of me as I swam through my thoughts - silvery and gleaming like the scales of a fish. It was a time of huge reflection, one when I often lost myself a dozen times but only found me again just a few. One when the rawness of my nature poured out around me..easily flowing, unencumbered by sticky hands to clean or hungry mouths to nurse at my breast.

I could soak for hours in a stillness, finding my way through an emotion - the Sadness, a happy thought, fearfulness of my future....And I'd purge myself of so many things just by putting ink to paper. I could find more time, as much as I needed, if I wasn't satisfied with the first release.

But there were no tiny fingers pulling at me to help them, to hold them, to love them.
And there were no beautiful blue or brown eyes shining with innocence, tearing up my heart with their convictions and love.

And I was lonely. Yes, back then I was so lonely. I had all that time but no one to share it with. And I was not needed. And I did not feel loved. I had no idea who I was. For my words did not tell me much more than how I felt and what I wanted, and now that I think about it, underneath those words I somehow always spelled out a desire for a family, babies to love, little hands to hold.

My words often painted pictures of a broken life, which needed something more than I could give it on my own. Then with a flex of God's hand, a blink of His eye, I was moved beyond that life to this place, to this moment, to this me.

And I am a mommy. My list of daily tasks does include changing diapers and chasing after children. My children.

And I write when I am able to. For now, it is enough.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Fish Tale

Since we moved into our house almost 3 years ago, we have enjoyed so many wonderful things about it, including a very nice-sized fish pond in the back yard. But we have since learned that owning a home, particularly with such an extravagant water feature, means sparing lots more attention than we initially anticipated. So, over the last year especially, we've been having various issues with filters and pumps and the whole system for our pond needing to be replaced. Don't get me wrong, there are several up-sides to having the pond. On warm summer evenings, and even during the day, if we're outside, the soothing sound of running water is definitely a nice background distraction. The fish, which numbered around 25 when we first moved in, are the only pets we own at this point and it is a fun experience to see the different sizes and colors of the fish, bright oranges and shiny blacks flicking their tails as they swim about, their cute little mouths often bobbing at the surface waiting for food to be thrown in. The best part is the mesmerized look my children get whenever their attention happens to fall on the pond and its inhabitants.

But today, I am sad to say, was a rather depressing day as we spent most of the afternoon trying to remedy the biggest issue we've had so far with our beloved pond. Over the past few weeks, we've been noticing the water level receding much faster than natural evaporation would allow. At first, we thought there was a tear in the lining. After weeks of just filling the water level back up and letting it go because of being too busy, my husband decided to work on it yesterday. We went out to Home Depot the night before to get some sort of sealer for the liner to fix what my husband thought was the problem. Yesterday, he drained most of the water in the pond, leaving enough for our fishy friends to comfortably swim around in, and put the sealant on the liner. After a little while, he filled the pond back up, commented on how clean the water was looking - the cleanest it had been in months - patted himself on the back, and went about doing other various yard-related tasks. This morning, however, on his way out to mow one of our properties, he found the pond almost completely drained of water, the poor fish flopping around helplessly. The water was UNDER the liner, making the liner bubble up, creating many trenches and crevices in which later we'd find some of our fish who, sadly, would not make it.

This was a hard lump to swallow for me as a mom. Not because we've been having these issues and I have 10 billion other things needing my attention, or because I felt sad for the fish dying. I mean, I was a little sad, particularly because I felt we should have worked on this issue sooner and maybe they wouldn't have died. But the main reason why I choked on this particular situation while out with our three children today, was because other than a brief mentioning months ago of why my mom's cat was no longer around her house, my children really haven't had any contact with the issue of death. It's a very difficult concept to explain to children age 4 1/2 and under, and I imagine even some older children and adults often stumble over at least the why's of such a serious part of life.

My husband, Joe, kept trying to spell the word 'dead' instead of saying it but my very smart 4 1/2 year old knew exactly what was going on, as soon as she saw the first fish on my pool skimmer being carried away from the pond. Somehow she just understood it was not alive any longer, and not only did that part make me sad but it made me wonder how much of an understanding of this type of thing is naturally within us somewhere, placed there by God's hand as He formed us in our mother's wombs. And how do we lose that ability to understand such things and when?
We found about 10 fish in all that were definitely dead by the time Joe got to them. My daughter didn't seem too phased by the idea of the dead fish and thankfully, I didn't really have to explain much. Not very many in-depth questions were asked by her or her 3 year old brother. They innocently accepted the fish's plight, whether they truly understood it or not, and went about watching their daddy continue to try to fix the pond.

We also had 2 fish who didn't seem like they'd make it, one of which I was half-way across the yard with before I noticed it was still breathing (or trying to). But we put them in the buckets where he had placed all the other fish and so far they're doing okay.
My husband thinks he figured out the true culprit for the water draining and has returned the fish to their proper home. The kids have moved on from the temporary distraction of the dead fish and our catastrophe with the pond. And I am still trying to discern when exactly it will be that I have to sit down and really explain to my kids that its not only cats and fish that die.