Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the birth of a mother of two

One week ago a mother of two was born. I have been nervously anticipating the birth of this new mother for a long time, even before there was even a pregnancy in place to make her a reality. I have worried about who she will be, if she will be kind and loving enough, if she will be sane enough to safely and successfully raise two children, if she will be brave enough. I have worrying about the pitfalls and mistakes of the past, and conjuring up new ones I haven't yet experienced. I've been looking forward to meeting her, getting to know her, learning to love her. As my belly changed and grew over time, I looked forward to experiencing again the perfect love that bonds us to our children, even as I feared what this change would bring.

Last Tuesday I woke up feeling like the change was about to happen. Little signs were beginning to appear. We had all guessed that the baby would arrive mid-week. At breakfast, Dora said "memember mommy, the baby is coming today". The three of us spent the morning out at Bent Creek, walking in the woods with the dog, eating peaches. We ran errands, had lunch and a little nap, and headed out for more fun - just Dora and I. We went on a wild goose chase all over town looking for a place to swim - the pool was closed, Dora didn't want to go creek wading at UNCA, so we ended up at Splashville, me sitting in the shade on a towel while Dora ran through the fountain with another little girl she befriended. I sat there feeling contractions start, casually beginning to keep track of them to see if they were coming as regularly as they seemed. 

My friends Aurelie and Mandy came over for dinner while Brian was out at a rehearsal. About halfway through making baked spaghetti squash with fresh tomato sauce for them, I had to turn over preparations to my friends while I rested between contractions. I wasn't really sure this was labor - it was all starting so different than it had with Dora - and I was dreading what was becoming more and more apparent: a night-time labor. I do not like being up all night (which probably makes you wonder why I have kids at all) and I hated the thought of laboring when I should be sleeping. 

I ate a bit of dinner, already feeling nauseated, and started getting very weepy and anxious about little Dora. Should I send her home with Mandy since this could be labor? Should I keep her and then have to wake her up later? I could hardly bear to see her leave. I had known this moment would be really emotional and it was. She was excited about sleeping over with our friends, so it was an unceremonious goodbye for her. For me, the bittersweetness and overwhelming emotion of that moment will stay with me forever. I ached watching her leave. 

I called the doula, called my husband, waited on the couch with my friend Aurelie, dozing between contractions and noting how much more intense everything felt this time around. By 10:30 or so, I really needed help getting through each contraction. Brian and my doula, Stacey, arrived around this time, and shortly thereafter I said that we needed to go to the hospital. The night air was cool and I had the window open on the way there, Brian driving painfully slow as the contractions came one after another, only a couple of minutes between them. I was 5 cm on arrival, and I knew we did not have long before our baby would arrive. 

Once in our birthing room I had to be on the monitor for 20 minutes, which I thought would be the end of me. I didn't really want to ask for drugs, exactly, but every contraction was so painful and so incredibly intense that I felt sure I could not go on. I thought if someone could die from pain, this could probably do it. I felt like I was being broken in half by the pain, and I couldn't even begin to communicate with Brian or the doula about what I needed. With Dora, I had been able to go into this very internal, almost animal place to meditate through the pain. I tried over and over to get there with this birth but had a much harder time disconnecting than I had, maybe because things were moving very fast. 

I got in the tub after the monitor, and the first contraction in the tub was easy. I relaxed, I guess, and the ones that followed were even more intense and painful. I had only been in the tub for a few contractions when I told the doctor I would need to push soon. She checked me and I was 8 cm. Everyone left and just Brian, Stacey and I were in the room. All I could do was hold their hands tightly for each contraction. At one point, Stacey stepped out for just a moment, and I turned around in the tub. At that moment, my water broke with great force, and I felt the baby's head come down quickly. I went through transition in about 60 seconds. I was screaming, throwing up, pleading for help, and my poor husband was pretty scared I think, trying to find someone to help us. Everyone returned in a rush and said I'd have to get out and get to the bed, which sounded like being asked to run a marathon at that moment. I got to the bed and immediately began pushing, without even thinking about it - the body and the animal had taken over. 

The doctor suggested I slow down, take breaks between contractions, but I could not. I made loud noises and in my mind hoped that no one else in the neighboring rooms had yet to deliver, for my vocals would probably scare them completely. I remember being relaxed, quiet, focused when pushing Dora out, and that it was intense but not truly painful because I just couldn't feel anything anymore. This was the opposite, other than the focus. I felt everything, and the pain was so intense all I could do was try to end it quickly. I pushed our baby out in 8 minutes. 

The baby was placed on my chest and everyone was laughing. Brian and I were crying, and he told me that we had a son, a baby boy, which I had known in my heart all along. He did not cry instantaneously and was taken away for a moment to be roughed up, and I could hear him crying. He was brought back to us soon, lots of hair and bright blue eyes, just like Dora. He looked a lot like her to me, but bigger, rounder. His head was perfectly round, like a c-section baby, because he had been whisked through the birth canal so quickly. We named our son Oscar William Turner, born at 2:10 AM on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, weighing 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and measuring 20 inches long. 

And now I am that mother of two, born last week. I am muddling through this transition, trying to be everything that both of my children need and so far feeling fairly unsuccessful at it. Dora is incredibly excited about having a brother - when she met him she said, "I wanted a boy and we got a boy!" But she is angry with me, "sad" about me, missing our time together. I miss it, too - miss focusing on my little sidekick, doing things with just her, snuggling her in bed. 

I was prepared for the intensity of the newborn days because we've done it before, and in many ways Oscar is an easier baby than Dora was (so far at least) - sleeping a lot and eating well. What I was unprepared for was the rift that would form between my older child and I, the way that not only would our time together be shortened but also the quality of the time changed. It is getting easier now that family has gone home and there is no audience to observe Dora's bad behavior, her screaming at me and slamming doors, but it's still there. 

When Dora was born one of the things that I wrote about was how it changed my marriage, how it felt a little like a bucking wedge being driven into a fireplace log, splitting us apart so we could work together more strongly, burn more brightly for our new family. Maybe this is what has to happen to Dora and I. Maybe our relationship will be made even stronger through this, by being pushed apart this way we'll be drawn even closer together in some new way, joining forces as the women in our family, taking care of the boys, doing girl things together, having our special "girl" time that only she and I can share. 

I know that having a sibling will be a wonderful thing for her, and I know that my family now feels whole and complete, as if a final missing piece has been added to our little puzzle. I always thought I wanted another girl but now that Ozzy is here I see how perfect it is that he is a boy. I know that what I heard is true, that our capacity for love is endless, that I love these two children completely and fully. I do not know how my relationship with Dora will evolve but I do know that we will find a way to always be close, and that though I may be an imperfect mother of two, all of us will be bonded together by a perfect love, even as it changes and grows over time. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

4 years ago

Four years ago today my sweet girl came into our lives. It was an incredible day, and our lives have never been the same. Every day my love for her grows even more - it's amazing. 

Since today I'm not only celebrating Dora's birthday but looking ahead in great anticipation of another birth, I spent last night tracking down what I wrote about Dora's birth a few days after the fact. Back between 2007 and 2009 I wrote many blog posts on MySpace about being a new mother - over 100 pages worth - and this is one of the first posts. I've always felt guilty about not completing a baby book for Dora, but when I look back at all those pages of writing I realize that her baby book is just in a different format. I'm so thankful to have that record - and perhaps someday she will be happy to have it, too.

Happy Birthday sweet girl - you are everything to me! 

10 days ago written on August 14, 2007

The big day finally arrived! On August 4, Brian and I welcomed our daughter into the world. She arrived a few days past her due date, so we were starting to get a little anxious - mostly because our doctor wanted us to consider induction, even though we didn't want that. Luckily, and with some help from some eggplant parmesan, things got started on their own. My water broke at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and by 6:30 I was having good contractions. I got out of bed - we had tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep and just spent the time talking about how nauseated with anticipation we both were, and laughing about how sensitive both of our stomachs are - and started walking around the house and packing for the hospital.

I had planned to bake a chocolate cake for the baby while in early labor (just one of many awesome ideas in Birthing From Within) but I didn't. I was too busy timing contractions, trying to stay calm, and packing. At 8:30 we called our wonderful doula, Jo, who came over and helped me relax and focus. Between her, Brian, and yoga breathing, I stayed pretty calm, shed a few tears, and agreed that we should go to the hospital around 11. When we arrived I was already at 5 cm, and I knew then that I could get through the labor without drugs as we had planned.

The next few hours are kind of a blur of various positions, drinking lots of Gatorade, crying out a few times in pain, and mostly trying to maintain my inner focus and breathing. When I was able to stay focused and breathe carefully, the contractions were very manageable. Other times they were not so manageable, but then Jo and Brian would talk me down from the ledge and we'd get through it. I got pretty nauseated and threw up a lot, which wasn't very nice. At one point I had to be put on oxygen and have IV fluids, which was very uncomfortable, but otherwise the intervention was minimal.

The nurses and doctor were so supportive and wonderful, though. No one ever asked me if I wanted drugs, which was great. After just 5 hours at the hospital, I started pushing. At 4:51, our daughter was born! We were so thrilled when we learned we have a little girl - what an exciting moment. I will never forget it as long as I live. Looking at Brian and sharing that moment with him was so perfect - everything I had hoped for. We named her Isadora Marie. Isadora was Brian's idea - we liked the name and it is also a nod to family names Isobel and Dorothy. Marie as a middle name is a long tradition on my side of the family. The name fits her perfectly, because she isadorable:)

Pictures and more to come soon. For now we're just trying to catch our breath and learn about each other. We feel so blessed to have a healthy baby and to have had the experience we wanted. Never again will I let someone tell me that I can't do something, because I proved to myself  that you really can do anything you set your mind to with the right preparation and support.. I had great support from my wonderful husband and the doula, and that made a huge difference.

Welcome Baby Isadora! We've been waiting for you:) 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

tell me

Dora's new thing as she's going to sleep at night is to ask me to tell her things. "Tell me about what we're going to do this month." Or "tell me about when the baby is bigger and I am bigger." And "tell me about when you were a baby." Judging from the chatter coming from her room right now, I'm not sure how well this actually works for getting her to bed, but it's sweet anyway, and tonight it made me realize something I needed to figure out. 

I have been moping around and writing and worrying a bit recently about not being able to focus just on Dora anymore, about becoming a mom again and having to let go of the luxury of one child. I am really excited about this baby, and having another child is something we want, but it's not without heartache by any means. Last night after work, Dora was being so good while I made dinner - coloring and talking to me. While dinner was in the oven, I sat by her coloring desk and watched her, crying over her sweetness and charm and feeling guilty and sad and scared all at once about how a new baby will disrupt this. 

I've tried to explain to her that there will be a lot of work that I have to do with the baby at first, that mommy will be busy a lot and she'll need to spend time with daddy. I think on some level she's a little worried about this, because she has been extraordinarily difficult and needy lately, especially at night, but for the most part she just talks about how excited she is that the baby is coming. 

So tonight when she asked about what will happen in the next month, I was blathering on about helping me with diapers and baths and feeding the baby. Then she asked me to talk about when she and the baby are bigger, like she knew or perceived that she needed to remind me that there is more in our future than just newborn chaos, that there will be a time when they really play together and become friends. I talked about blocks and the train set and, eventually, Uno (the latest craze in our house). And then I said, "you'll be a wonderful big sister. You and baby will be great friends, and you'll take care of each other." And it made me remember one of the reasons I really wanted to have another child in the first place - to give my children to each other, to give them each someone other than Brian or me to be tied to, to love, to trust, to navigate through life with, to take care of, hopefully for the rest of their lives. It's not to say that I don't think that only children can have this through friends and cousins and other ways, because I certainly do think they can. But I still wanted to give that sibling tie to my own kids, if I could, if the stars aligned to allow it.

Snuggling with Dora again tonight to try to get her to bed, my belly was pushed up against her back and baby was kicking against her. She's asked me before to lay like that so she can feel the baby move. Already they have a connection, one that is probably already more powerful then even the sadness I feel about letting go of this time. Being reminded of that connection doesn't necessarily make me feel any less bittersweet about this, but it does add a new dimension to this jumbled up mix of emotions I'm feeling.

I saw a postcard today about a book project that asked, "what does love look like"? Well - that's it, I guess. Taking care of each other, being connected to one another, learning from each other even when one of us is only 4, loving each other even when it's hot and past bedtime and mommy is so incredibly tired and pregnant. Love looks like sharing the rest of your ice cream cone when mommy drops hers on the floor. Love looks like playing cards one more time before bed, because secretly you love it just as much as your kid does, or maybe more. Love looks like answering silly questions while we fall asleep, making up stories from our own childhoods, the baby kicking up against us, saying goodnight in its own little way.