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About A Boy

As I write this my almost 4-week-old son is sleeping on the couch next to me. He went from 2 days to 4 weeks in about 10 minutes. I can’t believe how fast it’s going with this one. I want so much to write about our family being 4 and the transition from 1 to 2 kids, and maybe with any luck I’ll get there. But for today I want to tell my boy’s birth story. It was the birth I wanted: healing, empowering and it was a VBAC!

I wrote in my last post about the fear I had about going for a VBAC birth. Those fears had largely lifted as I approached my due date—partly because my midwife, doula, husband and close friends were so optimistic and partly because I kept doing the work–I want to say that to anyone walking through fear. Keep doing what you know to do: meditate, walk, draw, chant–whatever is your portal to faith walk through it every day and it will start to replace the fear. Or so it went for me. I felt excited and surrendered as Jan 6 approached. I had lots of talks with Baby about staying put for a while because Luciana was getting her immune system very strong and catching everything there was to catch. Sky and I both caught pieces of her string of bugs, and I wanted Baby to arrive in a healthy family. So we made it through moving (we bought a house right before Christmas–I know, ideal timing) and the holidays and deep coughs and diarrhea and food poisoning and then it was January 6. I was due.

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photo by Jamie Street

I attached pretty much no significance to my due date with Luciana. I know it’s a guess and in Europe it’s more like 42 weeks and you’re due. But for some reason when Jan 6 hit I began to panic a little. Irrational fears like I wasn’t ever going to go into labor and I’d be induced and it wouldn’t work and down that road….I realized there was some part of me that still wanted to control how this birth went. So I prayed to let go some more.

One of my favorite yoga teachers says that 24-48 hours before a woman gives birth her aura gets huge. I saw her 2 days before my due date and she said the baby wasn’t coming yet. One should not, I assume, stress about one’s aura expanding if one wants such expansion, but of course I did. On Tues (Jan 7) I took a walk on the beach. It was a beautiful moody California winter afternoon; I was listening to the playlist I’d made for the birth, and suddenly I had the sensation that I grew 6 inches. Then the feeling that my feet sank a foot deeper into the sand. And that there was more space on all sides of my body. I don’t know if that was my aura expanding, but it’s what I now imagine it might feel like…..

On Wednesday morning, Jan 8, I sat down to my regular morning meditation.  I’d been having Braxton Hicks and very irregular contractions for a couple of weeks, but as soon as I closed my eyes and started to breathe, I felt one that was definitely stronger than anything I’d felt in this pregnancy. But whatever. Then some minutes later I felt another one. OK. So I checked the time and waited. Another one. Another one. They were 6 minutes apart and 30 sec long. I went out to the living room and told Sky maybe possibly something was happening but I wasn’t sure. And knowing me I’d have the baby on Saturday. Luciana took 4 days, after all. So we went about our day: Sky went to work, I got Luciana ready for music class. And all morning I felt these semi-regular but totally manageable contractions. I let my midwife and doula know and everyone said we’ll wait and see.

By afternoon they were stronger–still manageable but not as much. I wanted to walk and take a bath. So Sky came home, we called Luciana’s  babysitter who came over, and I did those things: walked, took a bath, walked some more. The bath made the contractions go away; by the second walk I felt nothing, so we sent the babysitter home and figured that was a warm-up round. Sky had the good sense though to ask my mom to spend the night just in case. We told Luciana there was a chance we wouldn’t be here in the morning, that the baby might surprise us tonight, just in case. Mom came over and around 9:00 I went to bed.

I woke up at 11 and something was different. I couldn’t lie in my bed with what I was feeling. I got up, started crawling around on the floor; Sky woke up and timed a couple. 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in length. It seemed like active labor, but still I wasn’t sure. There were no other signs (ie water breaking, losing my plug, etc). Around 1:30 I got in the bath and Sky called Debbie, our midwife. Upon hearing me in the background she said, Sky, hang up and drive to the hospital.

The car ride was miserable. Those of you who have labored in a car know that. I had my Hypnobabies on and it was still miserable. But luckily it was 2 am and we got there fast. Then there’s me on hands and knees at the check in desk, ear buds in with mantras playing while Sky tells them I’m here to have my baby.

Debbie and our doula Khefri got there right after we did. Debbie checked me and I was at 6cm. With Luciana I didn’t progress past 4cm. That was the scariest moment for me: her checking. I was scared I’d be a 2 and this would be a repeat of before. That I was 6 was a moment of relief, excitement, belief– I wanted this so much. I knew there were no guarantees, but learning I was a 6 I grinned. In the midst of strong active labor I almost laughed.

What I remember about the next several hours is the dark room, the nurse I loved, the rosewater Khefri sprayed that was heaven to me, that all I wanted was to be on the floor, that I was so so so so thirsty. I remember Khefri and Debbie making me a nest of blankets and pads on the floor so I could lie there in between contractions when I would crawl and squat and rock and breathe. I remember the HEPlock which I loathe but as a VBAC mama needed to have.  I remember at some point I couldn’t talk anymore so I would hit my own back as a way to tell them to please press it because the pressure was so crazy there and  I didn’t know how to take it.

What I will say about Hypnobabies is this: I would not call my experience of childbirth easy and comfortable. I would not say that my pressure waves, ie contractions, felt like big hugs. But I LOVED Hypnobabies. It had done so much to prepare me for the time I needed to let my mind go completely and trust my body and I experienced that to a greater degree than I knew possible. I witnessed my body take over. It knew when and how to move, when and how to rest; I couldn’t control it if I wanted to, and though it was so rigorous, challenging, and YES painful, the atmosphere in the birthing room was so calm, so sweet, so peaceful. Hypno was a huge part of that, as were the mantras, which soothed me when I was resting and kept me in a state of openness and surrender. Or so Sky tells me, since at about 7am when I was 9.75 cm and stuck there I hit that wall I hear women hit: I said I can’t do it anymore and started to cry.

There was a little lip of cervix that wasn’t budging. This isn’t unusual; I remember hearing about it in birthing classes for both kids. But that lip wasn’t moving and there I was, almost fully dilated, really wanting to push, and technically not supposed to. The pressure in my back was like a giant boulder splintering into 4000 pieces every few minutes and I’d started to yell a lot and grunt like a wild beast. Debbie and Khefri reminded me to take the energy of my breath down—that sending it out like that was the opposite of the grounding energy I needed to get the baby out. With their help I breathed differently, stopped yelling, and labored some more. Debbie then said it was OK to push a little, that maybe that would help that anterior lip move. Sky supported me in a squat and I pushed in what I hoped was a moderate amount. My water had broken shortly before, but as a thin trickle rather than a big gush. The baby had some of the amneotic sac in front of his/her head and Debbie thought that the “balloon” of water was perhaps lessening the baby’s impact on my cervix. I agreed to her breaking that water bubble; she did and I pushed a little more. It was light out now and I remember I wanted to see the light; didn’t need the room dark anymore. I’d switched to more energetic music and I didn’t want any blinds closed. I needed the light –needed something to kick me into the next gear.

I went to 10. It was 8am. Maybe it was seeing dawn and knowing I’d been up all night but I wanted to get on the bed. I climbed up and squatted. Then I lay on my side and pushed there. Baby made good progress in that position, but I kept rolling more towards my back. It seemed I wanted to be there, so Debbie angled the bed up. Sky held one leg, Khefri held another, and that’s where I was when my baby was born. At 10:25am. For 2.5 hours I pushed. What I remember about that is the feeling that in between pushes I thought I was going to hurl myself, Exorcist-style, off the bed. My back siezed up and it was more than I could ever think I could bear. I remember that feeling of closing my eyes and sending every ounce of myself down, down to where the baby was, down to get the baby out, down and down and down. All I could think was down. I remember praying in between and Sky showing me a picture I’d brought to remind me to pray and let go. I remember pooping. God, in labor you do that a lot. Some got on Sky! That is a whole new level of intimacy.

At 9:30 Debbie told me the baby’s heart rate was dropping during contractions. If Baby didn’t come out soon I’d need to consider a vacuum and if I didn’t want that it could be another C-section. I didn’t freak out. I wanted a completely intervention-free birth, but my baby’s health was so much more important. She told me there was a doctor in her practice already at the hospital, so she would come instead of my backup OB. I feel like that doctor was an angel. She came in and I instantly adored her. She, like Debbie, was so calm, and there was something fierce about her. She said the baby looked fine–right after Debbie brought up the vacuum the heart rate recovered–I guess he wanted intervention-free too:)– But she said she was going to stay and keep an eye on things. So I pushed some more. Then she and Khefri started counting when I pushed, and I’m convinced that got my baby out. I knew Baby was progressing–Debbie talked me through it all and Sky was like a Seahawks fan at the game last Sunday–“OHMIGODTHERE’STHEHEAD!THEHEADISCOMING!THAT’S ITMYLOVEICANSEETHEHAIR!” at which point I, determined my genes were more dominant in this kid said, It has dark hair, right? To which Debbie replied It’s looking pretty blonde….those Nordic genes of my husband’s are insane.

Anyway, baby would come down then retreat a bit, and this went on and on. We were waiting for the push that got the head out and it stayed out, but it kept slipping back in. More counting, more pushing. My face felt like it had been squeezed into a miniature version of itself I had crunched it so hard-this was not the graceful breathing my baby out, this was animal primal every ounce of strength and courage and endurance I had. I talked to the Baby, said Down, Baby, Out, Baby; I focused all of my attention down in my body. I’d lie on the bed in between and one would start and I’d lie still for as long as possible breathing slowly and then there was no choice–I’d have to push again, so hard and for so long.  I was ready to stop at 6; they counted til 10 or 11 and I swear to you every time I thought I can’t go any more but they were counting so I did and Baby emerged a little more.

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labor photos by our awesome amazing doula Khefri

Finally I felt the ring of fire, and honestly I thought what is the big deal about the ring of fire? Yes, it burns, but I’d take that for an hour over what I was feeling in my back. They had the mirror in place but I, for one, can not push that hard while keeping my eyes open and trying to look at anything. So I did not watch my baby being born. But I remember the feeling of the head coming out. Coming out of my body. Which still barely makes sense to me. There is nothing logical about labor and birth; nothing my rational mind can wrap itself around. And that is so so beautiful. The head was out and to me it felt like the body shot out in a fast gush. I remember crying out with relief. Sky says it was actually slow and fluid and graceful, and that Debbie so skillfully guided and turned the baby and then Baby was born. And then Debbie said, Melanie, this is your baby. Reach down and lift your baby. And as I lifted that wet slithery body and saw a wet matted blood-flecked head, Sky said it’s a boy! Oh my god it’s a Boy! And I said Hi Baby, hi hi hi hi my love hi baby i love you baby we’re here baby you made it baby i love you baby. Sky is weeping next to me and after a few moments of holding and loving and staring at this baby I yelled out My Vagina F-ing Hurts! and that, my friends, was the truth. Not to mention that when I looked at it a couple of hours later upon going to pee it looked like a baboon’s. Things are back to normal now, rest assured.

baby born

It’s a boy. Henrik Wilde Meltzer, and lots of the time we call him Huck. (Though I love the name Henrik and I call him that too but I am crazy about Huck for a little boy). Born Jan 9, 2014 at 10:25 am.

huck day 1 by kristina

photo by Aunt Kristina

He took a long time there at the end because 1) the cord was wrapped around his leg as we learned after he was out–hence the heart rate dropping and the bungee jumping he was doing by coming down and retreating back up and 2) he was 8 lbs 15 oz. That is a fairly large child, and definitely larger than Debbie or I thought I was having. 8.15 and 21 inches long. He’s already out of newborn clothes and acts like someone who’s been here much longer than 3.5 weeks. His birth taught me that I actually can do anything. I do not need to stop when it feels like it might break me in a dozen pieces. If it matters to me I can keep trying and what will be will be and it will be right. It taught me I am capable of getting out of my head, something that is often hard for me, and that my body has more wisdom than I can fathom. Truly. And more strength and resilience–I didn’t tear and recovery has been so so fast. It taught me to lean on others–I needed my team in the birth room. There is NO WAY I could have done that without them. And it’s made it easier to ask for and receive help since Huck was born.

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also by Jamie Street

Huck. He is heaven in a onesie. We spent one night in the hospital, and Sky actually went home that night to be with Luciana and bring her over the next morning, so I had that first night alone with my little man. When I was pregnant I thought he was a girl and if I’m honest I wanted him to be a girl. Now I know it was him the whole time and I had no idea the love I would feel for a He. I am just so smitten with my boy.

The transition from 1 to 2 is wild. It’s been hard for Luciana. It’s been hard for me. It’s so much change. And that’s for another post. It is also what everyone said: you watch your heart expand and love more. One can, it turns out, always love more. Thank you, Huck, for choosing us as your family. I love you so unbelievably much, my beautiful beautiful boy. And it turns out (if you read my last post) that anything is indeed possible.

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 and yes, by Jamie Street. We really like her.

 

 

 

 

 

What If

I’m almost 30 weeks with this baby! So we are GETTING READY. I am a nesting machine (why it took me 2 1/2 years to put the shelves up in the bathroom that make all the difference I will never know!) and Sky and I just finished the birthing class we took for this one. We took a class this time because I’m going for a VBAC after my very unexpected Cesarean the first time.

One of the things that happened when I was in labor with Luciana is that I got scared. Very very scared as things didn’t go the way I planned. And I couldn’t get back to a place of calm, of faith, of center. I knew this time I wanted more tools because whatever happens, birth clearly takes one to the edge of what is bearable. I was confident I could handle anything last time, and instead I was completely leveled. When we chose our doula this time (ours from last time has moved away), we chose someone deeply spiritual who’s strength is undeniable when you meet her. She suggested a hypnobirthing class and I went for it–I trusted her from the second I started talking with her and wanted to try what she prescribed. Not so that I can guarantee an outcome, but so that whatever happens I can stay connected to the joy of what is underway. The class been wonderful–for any mama out there who responds well to mind-body work I recommend it.

Last night, in our final class, we read something in the materials that almost made me cry. It was a passage on What-Ifs, and how many of our What-Ifs are negative: what if I can’t, what if the worst happens, what it what if what if….and this was about WHAT IF our what-ifs were our dreams come true. What if, for example, birth is the most tender loving perfect moment of my life. That kind of What If has been the theme of the last few weeks for me.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of all this wonderful self-hypnosis and positivity and visualization, I found myself  f***ing scared. And it felt really big. And it wasn’t going away. And that scared me because it felt like “here we go again” into the fear cycle that was present with my first birth. Without going into the whole thing, the realization I came to (with lots of help from a spiritual teacher)  is that to have the birth I want to have with this baby is a huge change. My only experience of birth is what I’ve been through. I want pretty much the opposite this time, and that’s asking myself to embrace the notion that change of a wildly drastic nature is possible. On one level, I wasn’t believing it could happen, and on another it seems I wasn’t sure if I wanted it. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like change because it brings about, well…..change. What if I accidentally lose what I love in my life? Does anyone else relate to that? That change feels scary because it feels like there’s a risk of throwing out the good with the expired?

But what is change was brilliant? That change doesn’t mean I lose everything–the things that are working keep working; the things that are good stay good. I just change what I want to change and it’s light and fun and an adventure and the result is unknown but that’s beautiful too….rather than it being a scary trek through a haunted forest.  The teacher I mentioned always says “What if it’s possible….” What if it’s possible I can change the things that I want to change and the things I don’t want to change don’t change……. What if it’s possible….What if…..

So preparing for this birth has become about realigning a part of my soul which has wanted realigning for a long time. As I write this it seems so obvious. It’s something so important and so personal to me that no surprise it brings up old stuff and that it’s a gateway to a transformation in me. I’m using the tools I know well like yoga,meditation and walking to stay connected to my vision of What If, and I’ve discovered others that are integral to my days. Wayne Dyer’s Ah and Om meditations are beautiful. Though I love so many kinds of music, I keep being drawn to mantras and our western equivalent, sacred choral music. Every time I add a song to the birth playlist for the baby it’s in this vein (though there is some raise-the-roof gospel and one Band of Horses song in there too). This seems to be what this child and I respond to together. I came up with an image that feels like what I will feel like if I welcome change and fly with it, and I connect to that every day. I do my Hypnobabies homework faithfully (I am an A-student after all). I’m noticing that genuine excitement is starting to replace wary hope.

And I’ve been writing more, too, which is like that windshield wipe you give your car first thing in the morning when you climb in and it’s covered with condensation. Writing in my journal, writing in the one to Luciana, writing in the one to the new baby. I’ve been asked to write some fun online articles (here on Mind Body Green and the MyYogaWorks blog ) which have had me articulate part of the process of reaching for center as a mom. Today I am loving living in the What If. What if…..?

 

ramona-4

photo by Ramona Trent from my last pregnancy

 

*For those of you in the LA area, Lara was our Hypnobabies teacher and we love her!

 

 

 

Blessing for a New Mama

 

One of my best friends is due with her baby girl in 3 weeks. One of the women in our circle organized a small shower for her, and as part of the shower everyone wrote a blessing for our friend. Here’s mine for her, pulled from so many corners of the last 2 years.

 

I pray that you

Recognize every day what a beautiful divine incredible mama, woman, goddess you are.

Trust your instincts. They are probably right.

Let people help you. We want to.

Give yourself time every single day for the rest of your life to bask in the presence of your child; to be amazed by her; to need nothing more than to sit on the floor and breathe her in.

Remember that she has a loving amazing God and you don’t have to be that

And (your husband) make some time for the 2 of you as the love you share is such a powerful influence on your babe.

Love yourself through what may feel like failures but are both of you growing. There are no last chances.

Celebrate the moments, days, weeks you feel like supermom. You are!

Adore your body for her miracles. You will teach that to your daughter simply by living it.

Fall in love with bubbles all over the bathroom, mud all over the floor, toys EVERYWHERE because this is your child celebrating life.

Laugh, hug and share stories daily.

Accept there are moments you won’t want to do any of it, and that these will pass, especially after some sleep or a bath (yours not hers)

Smile after the 8th trip into her room after bedtime as she comes up with yet another request. This is her wanting to be with you just a little more.

Find time—though probably not at first—for solitude.

Trust your God more than you ever have and allow the miracles of your life to unfold in ways unfathomable before motherhood.

 

mary cassat blog

 painting by Mary Cassat

The Other Side

I made it back. As I write this, my suitcase has not, but I’m going to remain hopeful, and meanwhile, I’m with my daughter. That is far more important than having my favorite clothes and makeup and hair products and jewelry home with me.

The trip was extraordinary. If we’re Instagram friends you know this: the dreamlike scape of Mallorcan cliffs and sea, the extravagant events our friends hosted, the late nights and deep sleeps. I treasure that Sky and I had that time together,  and that wrapped up with it were visits with some of our favorite people in one of Earth’s more magnificent places.

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And it was so hard to be away from Luciana. I did not know what it was to miss someone like that. I never for a moment felt I made the wrong decision, but I had to pull make-up miracles on one of the nights because my eyes were puffy from shedding more tears.

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I imagine I’m the only person ever to weep boarding a plane to Mallorca

She did great. My mom took care of her–and she and my mom are BIG fans of each other–, her babysitter came for her normal shift, and I did all I could to keep her world and routines as close to unchanged as possible. You saw the book I made for her; every day Mom and/or Carmen (aka babysitter from Heaven) added to it. They filled in what went on that day, how Luciana felt, things she said. I wrapped a present for her to open every night, and apparently most nights she took the Gift of the Day to bed with her.

I opted not to Skype….think it would have been too much for both of us….but we talked on the phone for a few minutes each day.

And then Sky and I came home. The day after our return she had more mini-tantrums than usual, and who can blame her? I have a feeling it took a lot of energy to navigate both parents gone, even with a narrative to help, and I think I would have fallen apart too when my mom came back. We’ve settled in now, and Sky and I get to witness leaps she took when we were gone. Her sentences are more elaborate, her imagination on fire. And we snuggle a lot. She’s been waking up extra early and wanting to sit in her chair and talk and cuddle and watch it get light outside, and we’ve been giving in. We can reinforce wakeup time in a few days.

What I learned from this: it was fine. Of course it was; we knew it would be; but still. And I don’t need to go away like that for a long long time. With baby 2 coming in just over 4 months, something tells me I won’t be having the chance to anyway:)

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PS: I just got the news my bag made it to LAX.

 

Away

I am going away in a few days without Luciana, something I have never done before. This was a hard freaking decision because I’m just that mom that doesn’t like to leave. I’ve never spent one night away from her, and now I’m spending 5 on the other side of the world. (To be fair, Sky and I did go to an LA hotel once, but we left after bedtime and were home at 7am. She didn’t register we’d gone.) One of Sky’s best best friends is getting married in Mallorca; the trip has to be quick because of Sky’s work; and the events are all late at night on an island with high cliffs. So taking a 2-yr-old for 5 days and dealing with jet lag and said late events and high cliffs seemed really hard for everyone. I sobbed when I realized the thing to do was take the trip just the 2 of us, which I’m sure some years from now I will laugh about, but I did, I sobbed, and I’ve gotten weepy whenever we’ve talked about it since.

Which is not to say I’m not really really REALLY excited. Sky and I haven’t spent 24 hours together just us since Luciana was born, and something tells me it’s going to be another 3 years at least before we get this kind of time together again. And did I mention we’ll be on MALLORCA?

But how to prepare Luciana? Who hears everything, gets everything, but doesn’t have a sense of time the way that would make telling the story of Mama and Daddy leaving and coming back a lot easier. I didn’t know. Several months ago I talked to the woman I did our mommy&me class with, and she told me to make a book for Luciana that tells the story. I loved that idea. And so I give you….

trip 1

I made it in about 2 hours (these aren’t all the pages) and I cried pretty much the whole time. The following morning I woke up at 5am and went into the bathroom and sobbed for another 45 minutes, to the point that Sky asked me if I wanted to cancel the trip. Most third graders draw better than me, but it turns out my stick figures and bubble vehicles work just fine for a 2-yr-old.

trip 2

Sky actually had to go over to Europe early

trip 3

I have to say, I am proud of this book. As we’ve been reading it, I can see her making sense of the story. She’s a little on edge in moments these days–Sky’s already gone and that is the beginning of the story—but she talks daily about how mommy and daddy are coming back veeeeeeeery soon. And how much fun she’s going to have with my mom who’s taking care of her. What’s hilarious and perfect to me, too, is that as I’ve read her the book the story has gotten easier for me. I couldn’t get through the first page without crying a few days ago, and now we breeze through it, adding details and anecdotes.  I made it for her, but it turns out I’m getting as much from it.

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trip 4

Sometimes you do things because your heart tells you it’s right even if the feelings surrounding that rightness are sad and scared. I know this is right. I can’t wait to hang out with my husband and log some hours of sleep and see a part of the world I might not be back to for years and years. And read and write and go to crazy fun parties and have some time with the baby in my belly. Luciana, I know, is going to be great. I don’t think my heart would have given me the green light if that weren’t so. And I know I will too. I’ll see you on the other side with a full report.

 

 

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