I’ll be 39 weeks on Wednesday, and I think baby is coming sooner rather than later. Which means I’ll have to give up my dream of him having a Leap Day birthday. Oh well 🙂
With Potamus, I had 10 days of early labor signs. My midwives don’t normally do checks, but I requested one. To confirm what I already knew: I was dilated. Yes, if you Google “can I feel myself dilating,” the answer is “no,” but I did. I was 4cm for 10 days.
And I felt it again this time. Last Thursday night. Like a pap smear scraping from the inside. Menstrual like cramps. Ping ponging between feeling constipated and having diarrhea. And the incredible urge to fight through the pain and clean the entire house: nesting.
I’ve heard that labors follow similar courses, so I’m not worried that it’ll happen tonight, but I’d be surprised if baby didn’t arrive before Sunday. That would be about 10 days like last time. I won’t be surprised if it’s on Thursday, though, either. It feels sooner, rather than later, but I’m hoping to get through a few more days of work…to wrap up things for the next 6 months.
Today I woke up and my belly was lower. Not dropped like first time moms, but the lightening in my rib cage makes me breathe easier, and I had my first full meal in like 100 years. So yay!
It’s scary and exciting to think that this could be it. We went out to dinner tonight as a family of 3, and we just kept saying, “this might be the last time. Next time it might be as a family of 4.”
It’s the pinnacle pose in Bikram’s series, designed to use every muscle in the body: trikonasana, or triangle pose. It comes about 45 minutes into the sequence, right after I’ve built up a sweat and am breathing hard. In my first few weeks of yoga, the instructors corrected my leg positioning (open them up wider!), but then after that first month or so, I just…haven’t done the posture.
Sure, I try, every once in awhile. But to be honest, with my legs spread that far apart, trying to sink down into my pelvis, it feels like I’m going to break in half. The sweat pools make my feet slip, and I fear losing control. So, with the justification of being tired from a long workout so far, and not wanting to hurt myself, I’ve sat out of this pose. For the last 7 months or so. Only trying it sporadically, and then giving up, because really I don’t even want to do that pose.
But a week or so ago, I went to a posture clinic at my studio, and something profound happened when he was explaining to focus more on the arms in the posture, specifically the top arm reaching it up, and when I tried it I was able to sink down into the pose for one set on each side. I felt super proud of myself! And when I told the owner, Gina, about my breakthrough, she was really excited, and said something profound: sometimes trauma is held in the hips.
I had told her that when I sat down in the pose, it felt like my pelvis was going to shatter, and the feeling was EXACTLY like how I felt right before Potamus was birthed out my tiny little vag-hole. The whole concept that this pose could be bringing up birth trauma felt SO REAL, and it actually helped me to even verbalize that…yes…two and a half years later I can say…my birth experience was traumatizing. Was it amazing in the result? Yes. Was the whole thing taking only 4 hours and feeling completely batshit out of my mind traumatizing? Yes. Was having my water break and him come crowning out in one fell swoop amazing in retrospect? Yes, who wants to do hours and hours of pushing? But was it fucking scary in the moment? YES!
And in triangle I’ve been feeling that. Hot. Sweaty. Tired. Completely overwhelmed and knowing the rest of the class stretches out ahead of me. Sinking into my hips and feeling just like I’m going to give birth again. Totally trauma held in my hips.
I have no idea what this information will do to change my pose. Maybe I’ll try it more and be easier on myself. But knowledge is power, and I hope to use it to my advantage!
I love reading about birthing stories. Probably because the whole birth story thing didn’t really come into my consciousness until I was out of college. So when I got pregnant, I read A LOT. I love reading the Getting it Out Birth Stories over on Offbeat Families, and read many birthing technique books while pregnant. And I’ve read a lot of good stuff, but there was something so strikingly raw and real about this article S. Lynn Alderman’s Ugliest, Beautiful Moment (Or, Fuck Ina May) over on Mutha Magazine. I’ll be putting some excerpts here, but you really should jump on over and read the full article, it’s hilarious…
Six years ago, I set a goal for myself. And, technically, I achieved it. I had a baby and didn’t use any medicinal pain relief while she was born. And you know what I have to say about it? Fuck Ina May, that’s what.
I learned of Ina May Gaskin’s famous guide to natural childbirth while sharing homemade kale chips with a friend during a ConsciousMama moon retreat. Just kidding, that is completely untrue. I don’t know how I heard of it, but I bought a faded copy with dog-eared pages and told myself that lots of women had read it and had wonderful, peaceful birth experiences. I told myself that their good juju would magically pass to me as I gazed at the photos that they had also seen, of beautiful hairy women blissfully pushing out their babies, surrounded by other beautiful hairy women with half-smiles on their beatific faces.
I wanted my labor to be like this. The first pregnant women I ever knew was in my office post-college. She already had one child, and was pregnant with her second. She passed out candles to all her lady friends to light when they’d heard the news she was in labor. She said it would help her channel her inner light and focus during labor. She was a yoga instructor and so calm and I thought that image was beautiful. But my labor was so fast that there’s no way anybody would have had time to light a candle. Having had zero experience with pregnancy or laboring, I tried to imagine myself like my former co-worker, blissful, meditating on light, calling up the mothers before me.
Except, that didn’t work.
But inside my head, I could not believe what was happening. How painful it was. How terrifying. I felt helpless. And degraded and humiliated by there being witnesses. And at the same time, I felt so, so alone. I remember at one point saying, completely out of my mind, “I don’t understand why no one is doing anything to help me! Please help me!” Della reminded me that what I was feeling was the baby coming. That I was doing just what I was supposed to, having the baby, right then.
My labor was 4 hours long. 6 if you count the time we thought it started, and called the midwife to let them know we were on the way to the hospital. My thoughts were racing by the time I was in the triage, and because I assumed that my labor would be twelve plus hours, when we were a few in I thought that I would never get through it. I should have known that with a history of anxiety that when the labor intensified I would PANIC inside myself. I wasn’t prepared for the panic.
In not too many pushes, really, I finally got that baby out. And let me tell you what. I didn’t care if it was a human baby, a gorilla or a Cracker Jack prize. I just wanted that thing OUT of me. There was a hush. “Sunnyside up!” the doctor said. Instead of face down, like in 90-something percent of births, the baby was face up, with a bruised eye and forehead from pressing through my pelvis the wrong way. And then Luke said, “It’s a…girl!”
Was I flooded with love and amazement and whatever, cue swell of music? Yes! Did I gaze at that darling girl’s face for the next 12 hours, unable to sleep? Yes. Is she still, joy of joys, my precious, funny, hilarious Phee? Yes, she is. Yes. Yes. Yes. Sunnyside up was a telling beginning for her.
I am grateful that she and I were well and healthy. It is no small thing to have a baby, however routine it seems, since some woman somewhere does it every five seconds. It is an amazing thing, truly.
But here is why I am mad. I also felt completely flimflammed. For all my preparing, I wasn’t prepared at all. And I felt ashamed about it. I felt that I let my daughter down by being scared.
I laughed when I read that she didn’t care if it was a gorilla or a cracker jack prize. Because that feels so true, but also I know I would have been sad if it had been a Cracker Jack prize. Because the crazy experience of love flooding through me as we put Potamus on my chest is unreal and totally worth the pain and panic and fentanyl induced dreaminess. As far as achieving my set out “goal” of unmedicated, I did not succeed, but it was a small blip on the radar. Not so, for many of my friends, who experienced emergency c-sections because of complications in their labor. To them I had achieved what they could not…a vaginal/natural birth. And for them, I wish I could say:
So I’d like to offer an invitation to any woman who wants to join a new team to take into birthing rooms or forest glens or wherever. A team called “That shit is totally crazy and you don’t have to ‘handle it’ because the baby is coming no matter what and I’ll be there to hold your hand quietly or to let you scream and that’s okay. However you get through it is a victory and I am so proud of you, sister.” Maybe something shorter.
Tomorrow I am turning the big 3-0, which means that I have been kickin’ it on planet Earth for three decades! Whew!
I normally get crabby around my birthday. It’s happened ever since I could remember, and I didn’t really understand the correlation until I was an adult and in support with other adoptees. I wrote angsty journal entries as a teenager that would often ask my diary the question, “is this because I am adopted?” and now, as an adult, I can unequivocally say, “yes, it is.” For most people, birthdays are celebrations of birth, but for me, a celebration of my birth is also a bittersweet reminder that my birth resulted in a separation from my mother, father, and all my extended family. For the longest time I didn’t really feel born, more like I had simply somehow poofed into existence here, like an alien arriving from a different planet. And, until I was 25, I did not have any pictures of me, as a newborn. There was a few taken a few days later, but none of that moment, the one where I took my first few breaths and was held by my parents. But, when I met Father J, one of the first things he did was pull the two pictures of me that he had, out, and gave them to me. Two pictures. That’s all I have. One of me in my mother’s arms, she is not visible, except for her iv marks, which is strangely appropriate and sad, as a foreshadow of things to come and come and come. And one of him holding me. It’s been doubly exposed, though, as it was either taken over previous film or vice versa. Which is also appropriate…a life captured and then gone to be replaced by something different.
So, this week, I’ve managed to oscillate between feeling excited about my upcoming joint birthday party with Potamus, and pissed off. I’ve mostly felt pissed off. I’ve sulked and tromped around and thrown mini-internal tantrums. Because, I didn’t really understand the importance of a birth day or a birth story until I gave birth to Potamus. I wonder if I should simply start celebrating his birth as my own, since the day he was born, was the day I became a mother. Maybe in the future I will simply start celebrating my birth on the 2oth, as it was both the day I became a wife (anniversary) and a mother (birth of Potamus). Hey, I kinda like that idea.
But here I am, an individual, who was earthly born out of my mother’s body on December 13th. In Scandinavian tradition, the 13th is St. Lucia’s Day, typically thought to be the darkest day of the year, which is celebrated with children wearing crowns of candles and bringing their parents hot coffee and cinnamon buns. I think it appropriate that I was born on this day, and have loved the tradition and symbolism since I was a child. In fact, I created elements of this tradition in my wedding, with a red sash and crown and wedding favors of Norway Spruce.
But in so many ways, 3 decades have gone by quickly. I’ve gotten to meet lovely people, and have had many many adventures. From spending a year barefoot, to river rafting in the Ganges, to riding in the Fremont Solstice Naked Bike Ride. I have a lovely group of friends, a comfortable home to come home to, and a sweet little family that I have created with Boof. I have so much to be thankful for, and am looking forward to the next 30 years. But growing old and looking back is still hard.
Potamus has been around for almost a year, and I have yet to send away for his birth certificate. I know that I need to, and the paperwork really isn’t THAT burdensome, but part of me feels so much hesitation to do it. In some ways I am scared to get a copy of his birth certificate and to see mine and Boof’s name on it, listed as mother & father. In even stranger ways, I’m worried that I will get a copy and NOT see our names listed on it.
My emotional reaction to something so simple as a birth certificate stems from my very own birth certificate. Because, my birth certificate is fake. Well, amended at least. For most people, their birth certificates are an accurate reflection of their birth story. There are lines for mother/father, time of birth, attending doctor, hospital the birth happened in, etc. But, for me,the birth certificate that I am allowed to have is not a historical document. It is a government falsified document that was created to reflect a storyline from years ago that perpetuate the idea of adoption being ‘as if born to’ the adoptive parents. So, instead of reflecting what actually happened (being delivered from Mama E’s body), it lists Mama L and Daddy B as my parents.
“But, they are your parents”, is an argument that I get from the general public. Yes, they are my parents. But they are my adoptive parents. They have adoption decree that is a legal piece of paperwork showing that they are my parents. Their names on my birth certificate is a government way of trying to change the storyline. My mom did not give birth to me, she is not even there in the hospital when I was born, so why is she listed as such? Has our country gone the ways of 1984 and begun to re-write history? Because, no matter how many times you write it, or the government writes it, my mother did not carry me in her body, nor did she expell me from her body in a birthing process. Maybe I “grew in her heart,” but this is a birth certificate we’re talking about.
But my historical record DOES exist. The original one, with Mama E and Daddy J’s name on it. My birth name. The factual events of my birth story listed.
And I can’t order it.
I can’t see it, by government law. Even though I am an adult, I cannot order my own original birth certificate. Not even a copy, one that couldn’t be used for anything.
But you know who COULD order a copy of this historical document? Mama E or Daddy J. Even though I am an adult, I have to have my biological parents order my birth certificate for me.
In that way, I am still considered a child under the government’s laws, which is why I have been working to get the law changed. Because, when Potamus is grown, he will be able to order a copy of his birth certificate, so why can’t I?
Potamus, the day he we was born, from my body 🙂 (he looks huge, but he was only 7lbs!)