Snow White Was Kind of AWFUL

I’m a Disney Princess lover and a HUGE fan of all things Disney. I’m not ashamed to admit that I know the words to all the songs and have sung “Whistle While You Work” as I clean up the house in spite of the fact that I can’t actually whistle. Naturally, as a mother I have gone from just being a closet Disney fan to fully embracing my Disney obsession. Hey, when you have little kids it’s so much easier to justify being part of the Disney Movie Club and buying up all the DVDs every time there’s a sale.

Well, last week I sat down with my almost-5 and almost 2-year olds and put on a classic: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I know that the film gets a lot of criticism for the whole “unconsented kiss” thing, which okay, I GET it. I’m feminist and I’m BIG on consent. But just to get this out of the way, Snow White KNEW the prince! She even told the Dwarves that she “fell in love” and that “he was so romantic, I could not resist” and that “someday my prince will come”.

What does that tell you? Well, it’s pretty clear that he’s her true love. He’s not some random royal dude riding through the forest and coming across some girl he doesn’t know; he’s clearly someone who is destined to break the spell/curse later on. In the original tale that wasn’t the case, and actually it’s a LOT creepier. Snow White is about seven years old when the dwarves take her in. It’s clear that “time passes” but not so clear how MUCH time passes. For all we know it could be seven years (making her 14) or ten years (17) but still she’s a freaking teenager. And this prince comes along and he says “hey, I like that pretty girl in the glass coffin. Give her to me and I’ll take her to my castle to put among my other weird ass trophies” or that’s how it comes across when I read it. There’s no kiss, but the jolt of the coffin his men are carrying bumps the piece of apple from the sleeping girl’s throat and she wakes up. Then there’s this whole thing where they call the wicked queen to the castle for the wedding and make her dance to death in iron shoes from the fire, but whatever.

The point is that Disney thought that it might be better received if the prince kisses Snow White because he’s sad to have lost the girl he’d been searching for all that time. The dwarves likely allowed it because this guy is clearly the prince Snow White sang about. And the kiss is the freaking antidote to the curse! It says so right in the witch’s spell book.

“The curse of the sleeping death can only be broken by love’s first kiss”. Not sure how that would work if Snow White didn’t have a true love before biting into the apple, but it doesn’t say “until some random dude comes by and kisses the victim” so what exactly is the problem here?

Consider the viewpoint of the prince for a minute; he thinks she’s dead. He’s kissing the girl he loved goodbye and is surprised that she wakes up. Yay, happy ending! The prince came and they were reunited. He’s not some random guy, they had a (brief) history and the beginning of the film to set up their story and Snow White obviously was waiting for him to come find her someday. This is not the story one should be criticizing for lack of consent. The original fairy tale, certainly! The one Sleeping Beauty is based on, again definitely! But the Disney version is NOT that and there’s so many other things I take serious issue here with!

What could be worse than a kiss that breaks a spell? Well, for one thing Snow White is TERRIBLE!

No, really, she is just AWFUL! Her shrill voice aside, here’s the things that really make me wonder if that sweet exterior is all an act of a sociopath or at the very least a spoiled brat.

She plays with the prince’s affections

Okay, so this might be one of those “it was a different time” sort of deals, but I really don’t get the whole love story of her and the prince. She’s singing at her wishing well, saying “I’m wishing for the one I love to find me today.” So what happens? The prince rides by, hears her, and hops the wall of the courtyard to serenade her. And she runs away! I don’t get that.

She could have stayed and said “hey, my stepmother dressed me in rags and treats me like a slave. I’m the true heiress to this kingdom. You should take me away right the hell now and then together we can wage a war and take back my kingdom!” But does she do that? Nope!

She runs up to her little tower, plays the shy little maiden and he’s pouring his heart out to her in song in pure Disney style. And she kisses a bird, has it fly down to him to kiss him on the lips, and then she just closes the curtains and leaves him there. He’s standing in the freaking courtyard of a palace he wasn’t actually invited in, and Snow White doesn’t even seem to care at all. Oh no, she’s just going to play hard to get while her stepmother stares daggers at them from another window.

The queen is an actual WITCH! She could do anything to that prince that she liked. She could cast a spell on him to make him fall for HER. She could turn him into a wild animal. She could kill him or have her guards kill him right in front of Snow White. I’m having a very hard time suspending belief here that the queen would actually have let the prince hop the wall without any guards or hired assassins coming out to kill him. And this is even MORE unbelievable when she later discovers that he is literally the antidote to her curse on Snow White!

Queen Captures Prince

WHY would she not have had him killed? WHY would Snow White have even put him in that position? Is this an old-timey thing? Were women really supposed to demure even if the guy was potentially in danger of being locked in a freaking dungeon full of skeletal remains of prisoners who were clearly starved to death and had pitchers of water just beyond their reach?

Thirsty prisoner

Which brings me to my next point…

Snow White HAD to know that the queen was evil

It’s never explained what exactly happened to her father, the king, but technically this IS Snow White’s kingdom. SHE is supposed to be the one in charge of things. Yet somehow it’s accepted that she’s to become a scullery maid. So she’s working WITH the servants and we all know that servants would be privvy to a lot of the seedy underworkings of the castle. Somebody had to be noticing that people were going into the dungeons and not coming out. Probably GOOD people, too, because an evil queen isn’t likely to punish evil people for doing evil things because HELLO, EVIL!

Book ends

Are they made into her own macabre decor for her dungeon?

What exactly is “the penalty” if her underlings fail her anyway? Is it death? Probably, but not specifying HOW is part of the mystery. If you look in the background of the dungeon scenes there are a LOT of skeletons. Who were those unfortunate souls who wasted away to nothing but bones? Were they servants who were perhaps fond of their true monarch and had somehow tried to put Snow White on the throne? Did Snow White know about them? Did she ever wonder what happened to them? Did she just turn a blind eye?

Seriously, this queen is so clearly bad news and Snow White is just all “la la la, singing a song about having a prince come find me even though I am the rightful heiress to this kingdom”. She could have rallied the servants to her cause. She could have gotten word out to SOMEONE who was loyal to her father. Hell, if she wanted a prince so badly she could have sent out envoys in secret to go out and tell every other monarch that she needed a husband and they might all have banded together to free her and kill the queen.

Snow-white gangster

But noooo, that’s not our princess! She would rather sing to the birds and scrub the stone steps of a courtyard; and seriously that makes even less sense! Honey, you’re outside! The steps are NEVER going to stay clean so maybe just sweep them off and call it a day, okay?

scrub steps

She didn’t care what happened to the huntsman

Okay, so she’s off in the glades with the huntsman who was basically threatened to kill her or else (“you know the penalty if you fail”). Obviously something very bad will happen if he doesn’t do what he’s told to do, but he risks his neck for Snow White because she’s his Princess and he isn’t willing to kill an innocent girl.

Snow White learns that the queen wants her dead. So she runs away into the woods. But does she even think of that huntsman again? Does she wonder if he’s okay? Is there an unfinished sequel where she goes back to her kingdom after waking up and asks if the guy is okay because clearly the queen figured out that he tricked her? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THAT POOR MAN???? Did the queen kill him and his entire family before setting off to find Snow White? Was it on her to-do list after crushing the dwarves with that boulder? Did Snow White ever think to reward him for sparing her life and telling her of the queen’s plan? Somehow I doubt it because she’s very self-centered and seems to just expect others to do what she says because she’s Snow-freaking-White. Did you not listen to the beginning of that song? Well, let me refresh your memory…

She didn’t freaking clean the house, the animals did all the work!!!!

Let’s get one thing straight: Snow White did fuck all and expected a bunch of forest animals to pick up the slack for her so that SHE could have a place to stay (maybe) with the owners of the house she just broke into. She knocks on the door, nobody answers.

“Guess there’s no one home,” she says before inviting herself in through the front door. She sees that the house is a disaster and starts tsk tsking the fact that nobody has ever cleaned the place. “You’d think their mother would–” she starts off saying.

Their mother would WHAT, Snow? Get off her lazy butt and clean up the place to your standards? Now my house isn’t nearly as bad as the dwarves’ cottage, but I’m sure that the washing machine covered with dust would probably just as easily offend your precious princess eyes. Seriously though, you’re in a cottage that is dirty but nobody is home to actually clean because they are out working. Do you think they have time to clean? NO! And did YOU even have time to clean the whole place by yourself? Probably not, but then YOU didn’t have to waste so much time and energy DID YOU? NOOOOO, you just had your animal friends whom you JUST met do all your work for you.

“Now YOU wash the dishes” she says to the animals by the sink, “YOU tidy up the room” she says to another bunch of critters, “YOU clean the fireplace” she says to the next group, “and I’LL use the broom”!

First of all, HOW is that a fair deal? Okay sure, let’s have forest animals do all the drudgery of washing the dishes, cleaning the cobwebs out of the ceiling beams, and meanwhile here’s this spoiled little rich girl twirling around with a broom and a dust rag and singing her little song. She piles a bunch of clothes onto a young buck and doesn’t even bat an eye as he stumbles out the door to drop this load of washing into the pond for her. And who is washing that laundry? NOT Snow White! Heavens NO! She is far to perfect to be concerning herself with actual scrubbing and leaves that to the raccoons and the turtles. The birds will hang her washing for her on the line to dry! She’ll sweep the front step and keep singing away as the animals do all the work she said she would do.

And then as a reward for all that work she goes upstairs and falls asleep on the beds without even bothering to turn out the lights or put on her own blanket, because why bother doing that when you have furry slaves at your beck and call willing to do every little task for you?

snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs-34

To add insult to injury, those poor little forest animals didn’t even get to rest after all the work they did. They had to hightail it out of the cottage not even 5 minutes after they climbed onto the beds for a nap.

Snow White doesn’t give a damn about the dwarves’ safety

Grumpy is the voice of reason here. He points out that the queen is evil and a witch and she could “swoop down and wreak her vengeance” on all of them. Snow White doesn’t seem phased by this. “But she doesn’t know where I am” she replies cheerfully. Then she bribes them with baked goods and a clean house knowing full well that they would agree to that (and also knowing that she has an army of forest slaves at her disposal). But we ARE talking about Snow here, and maybe she just is oblivious to her privilege in this case.

She is also pretty damn bossy for someone who is essentially a house guest

Okay, is it gross that the dwarf men don’t wash their hands? Yes. Did Disney just want to make a silly song about washing and eating with manners because it’s a family film? Also possible. But the way she goes about her request is pretty much a demand. What would you say if you invited someone to stay with you and they immediately pulled rank and told you that you couldn’t have a bite to eat until you made yourself more presentable for dinner?

Personally I would remind that house guest whose house it is!

She treats her servant animals like crap after all they did for her!!!

I just can’t get over this whole animal servant thing! If I could train my cats (or even my kids) to do all my chores for me while I cheerfully sang a song MAYBE I might understand Snow’s motives a little better, but I really don’t think I will ever understand WHY they put up with her after this!

So you’re a little exploited forest animal working for your new unquestioned mistress who somehow controls your will by singing. You’ve worked your little paws and beaks and tails off for her gain and then you see this creepy old woman in the forest coming toward the house. You sense immediately that she’s evil and try to warn your mistress. But instead of thanking you, she shoos you away and scolds you. She takes the creepy old lady into the house even though she has been told numerous times in the past 48 hours (or less) that the queen is a witch and can disguise herself as anyone and that she wants to kill her.

Now if I was that forest animal I would be thinking “you know what? SCREW THIS BITCH!” Before she came along life was just fine. At least there won’t be any more dishes to wash or laundry to scrub!

But no, these forest animals are much more forgiving than I would be and they run off to the mine to tell the dwarves (who are also slow at figuring out what’s going on) and then what do they get in the end for all their trouble? Snow White leaves with the prince. It’s back to the forest for you, little animal slaves! Snow will have human servants to boss around in her new palace. Which brings me to my final issue with this princess…

Snow White doesn’t care about her own people

The queen is dead. Presumably the king was dead long before this adventure began. So while Snow is slumbering in the forest for a year or more (it was never specified how many seasons passed) the kingdom Snow abandoned when she ran into the forest has been without anyone to rule it. What happened to that kingdom? Shouldn’t Snow have had the prince take her home to her OWN castle first? Would that not have crossed her mind at all? Even if she’s super keen on marrying this guy she met once a year ago (or longer) because of true love or whatever, she should still think about maybe stopping by her own lands and making arrangements to have them tended to while she joins the kingdoms by marriage. I know Once Upon a Time addressed this, but THAT Snow was way more awesome than this animated first draft of the character.

I don’t even see them as the same person because the OUaT Snow was at least considerate enough to LEAVE so her friends wouldn’t be in danger. THAT Snow willingly took the apple, knowing she would be under a curse, because it would save the people she loved.

 

 

But this one is either a closeted sociopath who likes to force others into doing everything for her, or she’s just incredibly stupid and can’t see her own privilege.

Snow_white_09

 

 

 

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No More Time Outs! What Happened When I Stopped Punishing My Kids

We need to reframe our thinking when responding to our kids. When I stopped thinking of my kids as giving me a hard time and started seeing they were having a hard time, I was able to respond to their feelings instead of their behavior. Peaceful Parenting really does work!

My child is not giving me a hard time… My child is HAVING a hard time

 

About a month ago I made a bold decision that surprisingly no one challenged me on. I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t see the post, didn’t read it, didn’t care, or if they were just so shocked by what I said that they couldn’t think of a response that would be diplomatic enough to express their disappointment with me.

Whatever the reason, NOBODY has commented on that post and I haven’t heard a word about my new approach to discipline–or more accurately, the complete absence of it.

I will admit right now that I haven’t had a perfect transformation (yet). I still yell sometimes and there are still those moments when I want to just give up and MAKE my son behave. But I haven’t given into that strong urge that stems from my own lack of emotional regulation and for that I’m freaking proud of myself!

It’s been a rather interesting several weeks using this new model of parenting and it helps that I’ve been reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids every night and using the new tools that I’ve found in the chapters as well as in “The Whole Brain Child“, the latter of which I photocopied and taped to the cupboard doors in my kitchen. My son isn’t magically transformed into an obedient child, but things are definitely easier than they used to be. To put it simply, when I got rid of punishment I got results a LOT faster and with far less drama!

Power Struggles are Disappearing

It wasn’t always enough to just offer him the choices or calmly tell him what he needed to do. At certain times of the day (the morning, before mealtimes and a few hours before bedtime) it didn’t matter how nicely we asked him to do something (even something that he would probably want to do, like turn off the TV to get dressed and go out with Dad), he would put up a fight. He would scream “NO, Little Shithead!” He would throw things if we stepped in and just turned off the TV on him. He would turn a simple request into a huge power struggle and our default solution was always to tell him that if he didn’t stop right now he would lose his privilege we were offering him (“that’s it! NO park/bedtime story/treat at the grocery store/going out with Daddy later”).

I always hated that ultimatum because it was as much a punishment for ME as it was for our kid. If he lost special Daddy Day then I lost Special Mommy By Herself For a Few Hours Day. Lose the bedtime story and I lose that special time where it’s just me and my son settling down to read. No treat? Great! Now we’re dealing with a hungry AND angry kid in the grocery store who keeps whining for a treat anyway.

It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t working. And it made life SO stressful!

So what happened when I took those threats away? I turned the request into a game. No, seriously, everything I wanted him to do that he didn’t want to do has become a game when the initial request is met with unreasonable defiance.

Doesn’t want to pick up his toys with me? “How fast can you pick these up? I bet I can beat you to it! Oh no, you’re so much faster than me! Oh no, you’re going to win! Uh oh, I’m almost done…oh no! You beat me because now your sister is helping you! Yay! We’re done! Now we can go and play your game! Good job!”

Doesn’t want to brush his teeth? “Race you!”

Doesn’t want to put something in his room? “Can you do it before I get to 30 counting? Oh wow! You got it done in 24 seconds!”

Fight anger with more play time!

Sometimes the suggestion of a game wasn’t enough. Sometimes he was just so crabby and he would hit me. In the past I would immediately send him to time out in his room. He would scream and throw things and hit even more. I would spend an entire afternoon fighting with that child to stay in his room and stop acting out. I would take every single toy he owned and put it in my room and tell him he could have them back when he stopped hitting or throwing things. He would just get angrier. He would hurt his sister, he would hurt the cats, and he would hurt me.

I don’t punish him or even react to him hitting me anymore. I stop, I take a deep breath, and then I attack him…playfully!

I channel all that frustration with him and transform it. I say “THAT’S IT! I HAVE HAD IT! YOU’RE GONNA GET IT NOW!” I say it in my “fake mad voice” and then I grab him, thrown him to the foam mat that I lay down in the living room and I tickle him until all his hits and kicks and “mad” is out of his system.

It releases his frustration, he stops hitting, and then afterward he’s more willing to play my clean up game.

When he can’t calm down I change his focus

We have a big tree in our yard and squirrels live in it. When my son is bouncing on the couch and I need him to stop but he’s too wound up I no longer MAKE HIM sit. I don’t threaten, I don’t even yell. Yelling never worked and would lead to violent outbursts in the past. Obviously trying to calm him down would mean that the last two tactics I use (game playing and wrestling him into “submission”) would rile him up more. So I pretend there’s something outside the window.

“Shh!” I say. “Listen! Quiet! Watch!” I point out the window at the tree. “Did you see him?”

My son will stop and look out the window (there’s nothing actually there, but he thinks there is) and I keep watching. I tell him in a whisper that he has to watch and be quiet.

Sometimes he’ll spot a bird or a cat I didn’t see, other times he’ll say “he went home” and either way he has stopped jumping on the couch. He’s calm and I can then tell him “hey, would you like to do a craft/color/work on your letters with me?” And he will settle down to work on something quiet.

 

These are just some of the things I’ve started doing with my son instead of punishing him (his sister is only 22 months old and so wouldn’t be punished for anything right now anyway) and I am amazed at how much better the days are going.

Sure, he’s still got an explosive temper and he doesn’t always want to do what I ask him to, but he’s also ONLY 4 YEARS OLD! And he’s doing much better than a lot of kids his age; the final visit with the child development specialist confirmed that last week. She actually said “I’m not needed here; you’ve got this!”

As for whether or not my son is actually learning to control himself, well he was playing with his sister and she destroyed his block tower. He said “Mommy, she broke my tower but I didn’t hit her, no.” And when he has accidentally hurt me or even hit me out of anger HE is the one apologizing and it’s without me having to say anything to him. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Mommy” he’ll say. “I didn’t want to but my body was controlling me”. He gets it. He is working on his impulse control and the older he gets the easier it will get.

What about the baby?

His sister is probably going to be my biggest “experiment” but I don’t know if it would be an accurate comparison because she’s more laid back than her big brother was at her age. Their personalities are like day and night, despite being raised nearly the same way.

I do know that it is easier to calm her down when I acknowledge her feelings and just give her a hug.

“I know, that scared you”

“Yeah”

“You want to go play now?”

“Yeah”

“Okay, go play”

 

Progress, Not Perfection

I will say this now: I am NOT a Perfect Parent. I don’t aspire to be one either. I am still learning and I don’t plan to ever stop learning. But one thing that this new approach has shown me is that I am finally making progress after years of not knowing how to handle my spirited child(ren) in their most difficult moments. More importantly, I am no longer as frustrated as I used to be. I don’t yell as often as I did. I am actually succeeding in my goal not to spank.

Today my child tested my patience. EVERYTHING was a battle. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to redirect him, wrestle and tickle him, or cuddle him. He was just in one of those moods where NOTHING works.

But even when I was about to lose it on him, I was able to stop. I got SO close to that breaking point when I would normally storm off and lock him out of my bedroom or worse, spank him, and I DIDN’T DO IT.

I grabbed him, I dragged him into his room, I threw him onto the bed. I was SO angry with him because he would not stop hitting me or his sister and he BIT her. He had called me a “Shithead Mommy” and I was DONE!

But I stopped. After I threw him on the bed I stopped. I laid down on the bed with him and I just held him. He was crying and saying how sorry he was and begging me not to hurt him because he knew that he had pushed me to my limit, and instead of telling him he was to stay in his room until he was ready to calm down, I just lay there. I held him. He started to cry and I picked him up, no longer feeling that rush of adrenaline, and I rocked him.

And after he was finished crying he wanted to watch a movie in his room so I put on Fern Gully.

Did he act up again after that? Well, yes he did. He’s 4 and he’s dealing with some really big emotions. He needs to feel safe again after all that punishment he’s faced in the past. All those times when I would send him to his room and yell and take his toys hardened his heart. He was scared to cry so he acted out with anger instead. But he is acting out LESS than he used to; that’s the difference. He’s calming down faster than he did a month ago.

A few hours later I told him that hitting isn’t okay. I said “I’m learning to control my body and you need to learn to control yours. What can you do instead of hitting?” And then we came up with some ideas on what we can do.

It’s WORTH The Effort!

It’s going to take time, a lot more effort, and a lot more patience. But I’m confident that I will be able to get him to a point where he won’t need to repress his emotions and he won’t need to hit to release any frustration. Considering that emotional regulation is what’s severely lacking for many males in our society, this is HUGE! If I can raise my son to know how to control his anger AND deal with his feelings, then I will be doing every woman he ever dates a huge favor. I will have succeeded in raising a man who will not EVER hit a woman OR use his size to intimidate or control her. I will have raised a man who also won’t hit or bully others to get what he wants and more importantly he will go into parenthood with a gift of emotional regulation. He will have a new parenting model that will benefit my future grandchildren.

So yes, this new way of parenting takes a lot more creativity, patience, and it’s time consuming. I’m not going to get results overnight. He isn’t going to immediately comply with every request I make, but the long-term goal has always been to raise a MAN who will do right in this world because it’s right, not because it’s expected. My goal is to raise a human being with true empathy and compassion; someone who won’t “just follow orders” because someone evil is threatening him into compliance. I want to raise human beings who question the authority when the rules are unethical or marginalize a group of people unfairly. I want them to stand up against injustice and to recognize that injustice. I want them to smash the patriarchy!

The very LAST thing I want to do is raise another asshole like the ones I see on social media all the time. And if I do my job right, maybe, just maybe humanity might not be so doomed after all.

Genital Mutilation is NOT a “Personal Choice”

There is NO good reason to cut the genitals of a healthy newborn baby boy. It's not a "personal choice". It's not a "controversial subject". It's culturally sanctioned genital mutilation for no good reasons. Educate yourself and be on the right side of our brutal history.

 

There’s a parenting group of which I see the same tired questions over and over again. It’s a topic that gets censored by the moderators almost immediately, and when I see these posts I have to be very quick at delivering my information before the comments get turned off. Often comments get deleted, and it’s the comments that are AGAINST this “choice”. Only it’s not really a choice.

Breastfeeding or formula feeding is a choice.

Co-sleeping or sleep training is a choice.

Home birth or Hospital is a choice.

But cutting off a healthy piece of your child’s anatomy just because it was once considered “cleaner” is NOT a choice.

Routine Infant Circumcision is Genital Mutilation

I don’t care what your “reasons” are. Unless it was medically indicated to fix an issue that could NOT be fixed any other way, it is genital mutilation. You are choosing to cut the genitals of your baby boy.

It’s uncomfortable to call it what it IS, which is why someone came up with a fancy term “circumcision” to describe the brutal process of strapping down an infant male and removing his foreskin.

And I REFUSE to frame THAT as a parent’s “personal choice”. Sorry (not sorry) but if you have to ask if you should cut your baby boy you are expecting in however many weeks, then I will tell you NO! I will not be kind about it either. I will call it “genital mutilation” and point out that we don’t remove the clitoral hoods off of baby girls.

I know that there are many “reasons” why people do this to their boys. Note my use of “to” instead of “for”. It’s not FOR them. Trust me, no man who learns what was robbed from him at birth would choose to have a sensitive part of his anatomy amputated for reasons more to do with misconceptions, misinformation, superstition, and cultural bias.

In the U.K. there is a very low rate of circumcision. It baffles the people there that North Americans routinely cut their boys’ genitals at birth.

Information on this subject isn’t just reserved for medical professionals; you can freely access it on the internet. There is a reason WHY Canada’s health insurance doesn’t cover it unless it is medically indicated. There’s a reason why parents who want to do it have to pay out hundreds of dollars to do it.

IT. ISN’T. NECESSARY.

The Reasons To Do It Aren’t REAL Reasons

Before the threads on the parent sites get “shut down” and the parents who ask the questions can be properly educated, there are a lot of stupid, outdated reasons that the defenders of genital cutting like to state as a reason for other parents to cut their baby boys’ genitals. You know, because THEY did it to THEIR sons and have to justify the decision rather than simply accept that they didn’t know what they didn’t know at the time, they know better now, and while they can’t change what happened they can recognize that it was wrong.

When you know better, you DO better. Unless you choose to deny that you know better.

Well I’m not here to protect fragile human ego. I have an answer for all these “reasons” and I have logic on my side. Here’s the ones that are said most often:

“It’s cleaner”

NO, it’s NOT “cleaner”. There is nothing “clean” about having a wound that may be bleeding inside a diaper with feces and urine. You know what’s clean? An intact penis that hasn’t yet been retracted because the foreskin is still fused to the glans (like a fingernail) until such time as the child naturally gets older and is able to painlessly retract it himself. Until such time, you just wipe like it’s a finger and don’t worry about it. Much like the vagina is self cleaning, so is the penis of an intact male.

“Well I heard of a man who had to do it at 70 because the care aids didn’t clean him properly and he got an infection”. So rather than teach care aids and other health workers how to properly care for an intact patient you would rather cut off a healthy part of their anatomy as a baby when they have no say over the matter? Yeah, because that makes sense, sure! Why hold our staff to a higher standard of care when we can just cut the genitals of our baby boys so that they don’t need it done when they’re in a retirement home?

“I want him to look like his dad” You know, that makes perfect sense! My husband has a tattoo on his shoulder of a dragon so I think I should take my 4 year old to the tattoo parlor next week. You know, so that they “match”. Seriously though, this is a stupid reason to mutilate your child. You want to perpetuate something of which your mate had zero control over and subject your child to that same violence and loss of full genital function so they can “match” each other. Buy them matching outfits or give them matching haircuts. Leave your child’s penis alone.

“It prevents STIs” So do condoms, and they don’t involve loss of full genital function or potential complications from unnecessary surgery.

“It’s a personal decision” You’re right. The only problem with your logic is that you can’t ask your unborn/newborn son whether he wants to be strapped down to a board and have part of his penis cut for your own preferences. So how about you just wait until he’s 18 and old enough to decide for himself and ask him if he wants part of his genitals cut off and see what he says to that. After all, it’s a personal decision.

“If you don’t cut then it’s more work” Nope. Don’t retract. Don’t let anyone else retract. The foreskin will retract on its own when the child is older and then they can take care of it themselves. That might not even happen until puberty. Outdated misinformation on this subject is why doctors might still tell you to retract the foreskin, and if the doctor is telling you to retract then please educate them on intact care so they don’t tell some other parent this wrong information.

“If you don’t cut then they’ll get an infection” Only if you forcefully retract the foreskin. See above.

“It’s not as attractive” Gross that you think a mutilated penis is more attractive. Even more disgusting is that you care about the look of your child’s penis so much that you would wish to mutilate them just to adhere to your standards of attractiveness. That’s like insisting your daughter get breast implants because you prefer large breasts.

“Well everyone in our family is done” So break the cycle of forced genital cutting at birth and make a change. Once upon a time “everyone” used to sell their daughters into marriage in exchange for land or titles. “Everyone” used to accept that husbands had authority and could beat their wives and rape them because they had the marital right to sex. “Everyone” used to turn a blind eye to child abuse. This IS child abuse. END IT.

“It’s part of our religion” Look, I KNOW this isn’t likely going to mean much to you since it’s coming from an atheist, but I have to point this out anyway: if your religion requires you to cut off part of your genitals then maybe you should question that a little more. Maybe ask yourself if that part of the text should be abandoned in favor of the overwhelming evidence that this practice is harmful. Because I don’t care if it’s in a religious text: if there was a passage that said you could kill and eat people that wouldn’t fly in today’s society. Genital cutting isn’t religion. It’s mutilation.

“But if I don’t cut him and he has to have it done later it will be more traumatic” If you don’t retract and don’t let anyone else retract there is a slim to zero percent chance that he will “have to” be cut. Also this logic is stupid. More people get appendicitis and yet we aren’t taking out everyone’s appendix at birth “just in case”. We don’t cut off breasts just in case they become cancerous. We don’t take out tonsils “just in case” they get infected.

Genital Cutting of Newborn Boys NEEDS TO STOP NOW!

gloria circ

There are many, many people who have realized that genital mutilation is wrong. Many doctors are against it. Midwives are certainly against it. The government has decided to stop paying for it unless it is medically indicated. Parents who are educated on intact care continue to speak to new parents and tell them “NO! Don’t do it!” There are parenting forums that will not even tolerate any pro-genital cutting talk. But then there are the forums that are most definitely on the wrong side of censorship and they delete the wrong comments and shut down the conversation because it’s “controversial”. NO!

Abortion is controversial. Unassisted birth is controversial. But genital cutting should NOT be controversial. Genital cutting is wrong. It is wrong like slavery and marital rape are wrong.

I’m not blaming parents who cut their boys when they didn’t know any better. It was something that the founder of a breakfast cereal really pushed for because he hated sex. Thank god carbolic acid to the clitoris didn’t also catch on!

But NOW we have so much more information than our parents and grandparents had access to. Any doctors still pushing for this bullshit procedure are doing so BECAUSE IT MAKES THEM MONEY.

Genital cutting continues so that the dishonest people who are unfortunately in the medical profession can make “easy” money.

And if bodily autonomy, loss of full genital functioning and sensation, and the fact that it is NOT medically necessary are not enough of a reason for you to reconsider routine infant genital mutilation, consider the fact that babies die from this. Babies have lost their genitals from this. Babies have complications from this. The pain of genital cutting can interfere with breastfeeding. It can lead to painful adhesions and require further operative procedures.

None of these things are worth it just so your son can look like his dad.

Educate yourself and spare your child the future knowledge that the medieval and barbaric practice of routine genital cutting was something you chose to do to him as a baby even though other people told you not to do it. Because it’s been proven to be unnecessary, fewer people are subjecting their infants to this horrific practice. Which side of history will you be on? 

 

 

I’ve Decided to Stop Disciplining My Kids and This is Why

The truth is that the old strategies don't work and never did. Spanking, time outs, reward charts and removal of privileges doesn't teach what I really want my kids to learn and it doesn't address their emotional needs. Instead of the parenting pop culture practices of disconnection, "Discipline Without Damage" reaffirmed that the real answer is RE-connection. And I have attachment theory to back me up on this radical decision not to discipline.

I am going to say something incredibly controversial and entirely counter-culture to what centuries of parenting pop culture considers to be the mark of a “good” parent.

I am no longer interested in disciplining my children.

I will not do time outs, rewards charts, take away privileges, send them to their rooms, take away their toys, ground them, or do anything else to punish them for their “bad” behavior.

I know what you’re all going to say. I am (not) sorry to say that I no longer care what you say about it.

My Kids, MY Choice!

Much as I chose to breastfeed my children on demand and not force them to wean, or as I chose to bed-share rather than “train” them to sleep through the night, and much as I didn’t push the potty training issue with my son and let him set the pace, I am going to do what FEELS right instead of going by the “status quo”.

I am going back to how I parented when they were babies. Remember: babies cry because of unmet needs.

My babies rarely cried except when I was trying to placate the other adults in my life who seemed to think they knew better than I did about what my child needed.

When I tried to force my son to sleep in a crib instead of my arms, because of the external pressure from other parents who looked at my son’s need for my arms as a “problem”, I suffered the pain of hearing him cry. My heart hurt as I forced the disconnection against every instinct I had and against everything I knew about attachment theory.

I eventually decided after three days that I wasn’t willing to put in the work to sleep “train” my child. I wasn’t willing to do it because I didn’t believe in it. I was only doing it because people told me that I was “supposed to do it” and thankfully my stubborn and intuitive nature and temperament served me and my children well. I was able to say “fuck that shit” and go back to what worked.

My children thrived, eventually slept through the night while in my arms, and at four years old my son was willingly sleeping in his own bed in his room with fewer and fewer nights of climbing into bed with me.

Potty training was much the same. The more I pushed the issue in deference to the other adults who told me that my two year old “should” be pushed into it, the more he resisted. It was a battle with this little guy who would show such emotional distress every time I tried to get him to sit. I didn’t agree with the methods, knew they weren’t working, but I kept at it because that was what other people told me I “needed” to do.

When I backed off and focused on HIS feelings, he came to the decision almost overnight at three years old that he was ready. And I didn’t have any of those “regression” moments that were considered to be commonplace for children. He just decided “I’m ready to face this and Mom says it’s okay to wait if I need to” and that was it.

Because “Discipline” Doesn’t Work and Never Has

The one holdout though was discipline. I KNEW that no matter what I did, it wasn’t working. I have been blessed (NOT cursed) with a child who is smart enough to know his own mind. He KNOWS just as I do that all those discipline strategies are quick fixes. They are slapping Band-aids on the actual problem while not addressing the root cause. You can’t slap a Band-aid on a cut finger and expect it to heal if there’s still a splinter embedded in the skin, and you can’t expect a time-out to “work” when the child still feels like they haven’t had their true need addressed.

It took me going to see a child development specialist about my son’s behavior to figure out that my problem isn’t me OR my son. Not really, anyway. My problem is that my attachment parenting strategy was working as it was supposed to, but then when he began to “act up” as was appropriate for his age, I fell back into a terrible pattern of behavior: I started subconsciously trying to appear “good enough” for OTHER people and stopped being “good enough” for the only one that mattered: my son.

I stopped listening to what he was telling me with his behavior: “I’m sad/hurt/frustrated/overwhelmed” and instead focused on extinguishing the behavior itself. I didn’t address his feelings, I told him “no, that’s bad. Stop.”

No, REALLY! It Didn’t Work The Way You Think It Did!

And then I put him in a time out. Or I took away his toys. Or I yelled at him to stop crying and carrying on. Or in my worst moments, I would spank him. I HATED when I would get to that point because I don’t believe in spanking. I don’t care what any of my relatives say, SPANKING DID NOT WORK!!!!

They’re about to say “well you stopped the behavior! We only had to warn you…”

Yes. I stopped the behavior. I disconnected from you, stopped caring what you thought, decided you were “mean” and didn’t want to behave for you. My name calling and sass-back was my way of showing you just how much I didn’t give a damn what you thought. I openly rebelled against YOU because I wasn’t interested in “earning” your praise. I didn’t see your love as unconditional. And if I “stopped” misbehaving, it was only on the outside. On the inside I was thinking ugly things about you. I HATED you. I might still harbor some resentment toward you, which is why I don’t tell you things and why we aren’t as close as we could have been.

I learned to behave in your presence to avoid punishment. I didn’t have any desire to behave for you if I didn’t perceive your authority and I didn’t have any desire to behave for you without that “fear”.

I don’t want my children to behave out of fear.

Contrary to Popular Opinion, I Am NOT “Fine”!

Do you know what “fear” gets you as an adult?

It manifests as a desire to sacrifice your own needs and happiness in order to keep people around.

It means not telling your boyfriend that you are struggling to pay half the bills every month because you don’t make as much money as he does. So instead you silently suffer and go into debt until finally you’re in way over your head and he says “why didn’t you just come to me sooner? I would have helped you.”

It means not telling your parents when they’ve stepped over the line and made you feel less than capable as an adult, and instead you bottle up all that resentment and hurt and feelings of not ever being “good enough”, and then you overcompensate for that by trying to do MORE than you’re actually able to do. And then you fall short in some way and they say “well clearly you can’t handle that much stress” and you take it as an attack and get immediately defensive. Or you don’t unleash it on THEM, but instead your spouse says something that triggers what THEY would say, and you attack out of fear that your spouse is also criticizing your ability to handle things.

It means deferring to the “expert” midwife who tells you that you “have to” have a hospital birth, so you don’t question it even though your gut instincts are telling you that something isn’t right about what they’re telling you. And then you give up your power and regret that choice for the rest of your life.

It means that when you finally start to find your voice at nearly thirty years old you have this overwhelming need to “prove yourself” and tell off everyone who questions you because damn it, they never listened to you as a child but they are sure as fuck going to listen to you NOW! You WILL NOT be ignored!!!!

I Just Needed to Be Heard

When I was a child growing up in my dad’s home a constant phrase I would say in the face of an unfair punishment was “I just want to be heard.” I would say it and scream it and write it. I would feel this sense of betrayal whenever I wasn’t “heard”. My dad didn’t have the benefit of the knowledge I have available to me now. When he was going to university and studying attachment theory it was still in the early stages of discovery. He was able to do better for me and my brother. I benefited from his learning from the age of eleven to adulthood and my brother benefited from the age of seven to adulthood. The difference between him and I is so profound. He was this explosive, volatile little boy when he was younger. He would tear apart his bedroom, scream, throw things, threaten me with actual weapons, and was just incredibly frustrated and temperamental. We were all worried he would end up in prison if he continued like this.

My dad worked with him. He used the new-found knowledge of child development to emotionally regulate my brother. By the end of his teen years he was transformed! Today you wouldn’t guess that my brother was ever like that as a child; he is a completely different person. He is calm and able to handle any conflict without violence.

I was late to benefit from these lessons. I spent the first eleven years of my life not being able to trust in my attachments. My dad gave me the psychology textbooks and I was able to understand the WHY of my fears of abandonment and my need for approval even as it warred with my need to be my own person apart from what everyone “expected” of me. It would often result in me doing the bare minimum of what was expected with no real desire to do any more, and then I would explode “it’s NEVER enough for you!”

It took becoming a mother for me to address this, and even today I am still trying to work on these issues of being “good enough”.

When You Know Better You Do Better

And so it came to my seeking help outside of the family that believed in discipline/extinction of behavior and turned to the child development specialist. She gave me three books to read: “Rest, Play, Grow”, “The Whole Brain Child” and “Discipline Without Damage”. Each one of them came out long after I left college and I have discovered that my learning of attachment theory was on the right track, but there’s so much more that has been discovered since I last cracked open the textbooks.

There’s been plenty of studies brought to light that spanking doesn’t work and is actually damaging. I know very well what a lot of my relatives have to say about that because they love to share those memes about how kids don’t “respect their elders” anymore because of all these parents “refusing to spank”. Well, I have news for them: it DOESN’T work! And spanking ME did NOT earn you my respect. In fact, if you spanked me often for any misbehavior and you’re wondering why I don’t have a strong relationship with you, that’s why. Nobody RESPECTS a bully; they FEAR the bully. Big difference.

Here’s WHY kids aren’t showing “respect” anymore: they aren’t connected to their adults. They also lost their fear because that big invisible man in the sky that some people believe in no longer holds any fear for them either. Yes, I went THERE. What is the concept of God if not a bigger “parent” for the adults who grew up only knowing how to “fear and obey”? That’s not true morality; that’s being good out of fear of punishment. And people then justify their asshole tendencies as being from a “moral” standing.

We Can No Longer Deny That There IS a Better Way 

Well I don’t want to parent my kids to fear and obey. I don’t want my kids to behave just to please others. I want them to develop moral character out of an innate desire to be kind and loving and to do that I have to address their feelings. I can’t stifle them or stomp them down or ignore their needs to “be heard”. I can’t “make them” behave. I will NOT force my kids to comply and I will not impose my will on them. I will treat them like people. They are little people with big feelings who need to be heard so that they can cry and then move on to the learning part of the experience that caused them distress.

Mental illness is so prevalent in our society and is blamed on everything from technology to toxins to GMOs, but then a book comes out that states that MAYBE the way we were taught to parent our children might be causing these issues, and it’s backed up by studies and brain scans that were not available to us twenty years ago, and yet people dig in their heels and say “but I’m FINE!”

No, you’re not. If you think about your feelings when you were a child, and I mean REALLY think about them, you will realize that you didn’t learn how to handle your emotions; you learned how to “suck it up” and bury them. You learned to just follow orders. And then you grew up and either blindly followed the status quo or you “un-learned” that obedience but might struggle with your emotional regulation when faced with stress.

I’m Going Back to My Instincts

I have always been introspective. I know instinctively when something isn’t working. I knew even as a child that any punishments weren’t “teaching anything” and that I would just do what I was going to do the second I could get away with it, or else I’d think “they just don’t get it” and close myself off emotionally. I put up walls of ice and it has taken a husband and two children for me to bring those walls down and start to identify my triggers and where they’re coming from. I can stop and think about the WHY of my feelings and address that need so I can come back to myself. My children are still too young to do that work themselves. Their brains are not developed enough to stop and think before they do something and considering how even adults can fly off the handle when they’re overwhelmed it is RIDICULOUS to think that children were EVER actually capable of controlling themselves. They can’t. They need our help to do that.

When I address my child’s need for me to “hear” them and validate their feelings, I get a better response. My kids calm down faster, they hear me, and I can redirect them to doing what I need them to do.

When I yell and threaten and punish, my kids yell and scream and act out. Hitting them teaches them to hit me back when they’re angry. Yelling at them causes them to scream at me. Taking their toys causes them to no longer care if they have any toys to play with. They disconnect from me, harden their hearts and put up the same walls that I did decades ago.

I don’t want that for them. I have the knowledge that discipline in that way doesn’t work. I don’t want to bully or bribe my kids into behaving for me; I want to address their emotional upsets so that they can stay connected to me and feel safe to come to me. I want them to want to be good for me because they can safely express their emotions as is developmentally appropriate.

So thank you, but I won’t be disciplining them anymore and I no longer care what you think about that.

My children don’t “need” a spanking; they need to be heard and loved.

After almost 5 years, I finally decided to publish his birth story.

It’s been a long time coming. I have had this sitting in my Evernote inbox for over four years now. My son turns 5 years old this year in May. He will be starting kindergarten this fall. I have gone through birth trauma counselling, worked as a birth advocate since my son was about 16 months old, taken my power back and had an empowering homebirth. That homebirth baby turns 2 at the end of March.

I have written extensively about the trauma of my son’s birth and how many regrets I have over it. But right after I had him, before I had fully processed the full experience and extent of the buried feelings I had over all that happened, I wrote out his story. At the time I didn’t understand why it took me 3 days. At the time I saw the traumatic parts as “normal”. I thought I was “lucky” that I had “made it through, uncut and unscathed”. I felt it could have been so much “worse”. I hadn’t yet learned the extent to which I had been lied to, manipulated and coerced by the system. I hadn’t yet learned that I had the right of informed consent and refusal and I hadn’t yet learned that much of what was in my records was bullshit. I hadn’t yet sent a letter to the College of Midwives to register a complaint and had a response that basically boiled down to “sorry you feel so traumatized, but because your records say you were okay with a hospital birth there’s nothing we can really do. You know, because someone who wasn’t YOU wrote down how they thought YOU felt and it’s documented to cover their ass”. So yeah, nothing came of it. But I really didn’t expect anything to come of it; you don’t spend 4 years as a birth advocate, digging through the statistics and hearing the stories all too common and heartbreaking, to know that the system is rigged. The important thing is that now I have MY proof that the odds are not in my favor and that in order to change things I have to go directly to the mothers who get screwed over and I’m okay with that. I firmly believe that if I tell enough women to be on their guard, a lot of them will listen and say “this is bullshit! I’M in charge here, NOT the system! How DARE they tell me what I can or can’t do to birth MY child!”

But this isn’t about what I know now. I’ve gone over that topic so often that it’s ingrained in my poor husband’s brain and the first thing that pops into his head when he’s talking with other parents about anything baby related. No, this post is about the mom I was in the first few weeks after the birth, when I was still trying to figure out motherhood and was still high on the new mother hormones and hadn’t really examined all too closely what my real feelings were. It’s the mom that still felt that making a fuss over a vaginal delivery when other moms had to have csections would make me seem like I was ungrateful or selfish. It was the mom that still was “playing nice” and thinking her trauma wasn’t really “that bad”. I didn’t have the framework yet to really understand that “good enough” wasn’t actually good enough for me. I didn’t yet understand that I gave in when I didn’t have to, that I let someone else tell me what to do and that I hadn’t had to do THAT either. I didn’t know what I didn’t know; which is much like a lot of mothers and indeed it’s WHY so often birth advocates can hit a wall when talking to women who don’t KNOW that birth can be awesome. It’s NOT something to “just get through”. Thankfully (and I cannot express enough how grateful I am to her), my midwife gave me the words of wisdom I needed to help me unlock those feelings so that I didn’t go and “birth trauma” all over any other mother who might have told me that I deserved better. She said “it doesn’t matter WHAT happened; if YOU feel it was traumatic then it WAS.” So when I was thinking that maybe I didn’t belong at the birth trauma group session after the post-partum drop in, she helped me see that I DID belong there. I hadn’t realized until then just how much the birth had affected me. I hadn’t been able to process it fully when she had asked me 3 days post-partum how I felt. I had been too tired and too happy at NOT being cut to really put too much thought of introspection into why it was so hard for me to get certain images out of my head or why I kept saying “but next time I can have a homebirth so it’s fine. Really.”

And this was the outcome of all those unprocessed feelings. THIS was the birth story I wrote. And after I wrote it, I never looked at it again. I never shared it. In fact, even typing this now, I haven’t read it. I won’t be reading it until I copy and paste the whole thing in here and start adding pictures.

I have lost count how many times I’ve read and shared my daughter’s story, but I am so very aware that my son’s gets no attention other than to point out everything that was wrong about it. I just couldn’t bring myself to share it. I didn’t want to remember.

But he’s turning 5 years old. My daughter is turning 2 in March. I’ve done so much work for other women. I’ve probably healed about as much as I ever will. It’s time I read it, insert the commentary where it needs to go, and move on. Anything in bold type is my current thoughts as I re-read through this, knowing what I know now.

Hunter’s Birth Story

Thursday morning I woke with cramping that was dull and menstrual-like. I ignored them for as long as I could, but by 3:30 pm they were becoming very sharp and were about 9 minutes apart. I called my doula and she was on the phone with me from 4pm to 5:30 and by then my contractions were coming 6 minutes apart. She came to the house around 6pm to help me through a few hours and when they hit the 4-5 minute mark we went to the hospital to be assessed. I wanted to be assessed at home, but Jules was on call the next day and therefore needed her rest and I didn’t know at the time that cervical dilation means nothing so I thought I “had to” be checked. She advised us to just go to the hospital, and I was having such sharp pains that I had to lean over the back of the seat on my knees because sitting was just too uncomfortable. The 5 minute drive to the hospital was brutal. I thought for sure that this was it and he was coming that night.

We get to the hospital and I’m in horrible pain with the contractions still 4 minutes apart. But then things started to slow down to 6 minutes again because I didn’t want to be there and progress slows when I’m stressed or scared, and because I had a record of NSTs I had to have another one in the triage while waiting for the midwife. Eventually she arrived. I was checked by a midwife with her own practice who was filling in for one of the midwives I was seeing who had been on sick leave. She said I was at 2 cm, and I was like “WHAT?” Because I was at 2 cm Tuesday when I’d had my membranes swept. I could NOT believe it; I had been contracting all day long and had all that prelabor for almost a week, and NOTHING had changed at all! Or maybe I had been at 6cm and then closed back up because I was in pain and didn’t want to be there. I tried not to let that discourage me, and at her suggestion we picked up some Gravol, Tylenol, and ice cream for me to have later. Thankfully my fear of being in the hospital overruled any notions of being admitted in early labor. I took my Gravol and Tylenol when we got home, had a bit more pizza to eat, and then went to sleep. I would wake up every 2-5 minutes with a hard contraction that I would have to shake my legs and hips to get through. By about 5:30 I could no longer stand it; I couldn’t sleep anymore, they were back to about 4 minutes apart and I was feeling so much pressure and pinching on my cervix. So probably back to 6cm and had I stayed in the pool at home he would probably have been out by lunchtime. My doula stayed with us for a few hours but had to leave around 8am for her family’s fishing trip, and I was resting on the bed for a while, out of my mind with exhaustion. We got a few very nice pictures from my labor though.

labor

Around 10:30 that morning we went to the hospital and Tyler had to get me the wheelchair and help me into it. While I was waiting I had to lean against one of the pillars between contractions just outside of the hospital. An older lady stopped and asked if I was okay, and I said “I’m just in labor”. She was very nice and rubbed my back, talking to me and asking me if I knew what we were having and if this was my first baby. She stayed with me until Tyler came back, and wished us luck as I was helped into the wheelchair.

We got up to triage and I was admitted immediately, getting a “room” with a window. I stared at the trees swaying and alternated between sitting on the birth ball provided and rocking on the bed. I was checked again, this time by Jules, and she told me I was 4 cm. All that hard early labor and I was only at 4cm! Well, I probably closed up again by going to the hospital and putting up with more cervical checks. I was seriously starting to wonder if things would ever progress, but she said that I was going to be getting a room soon and that things would progress. I begged for a room with a tub, because I wanted to labor in water. I honestly thought that would be enough, and that things would get better.

While we were waiting, Tyler had to go get our stuff from the car, put money in the meter for parking, and get the cooler with our food. I told him “RUN” because with our doula no longer helping me and everyone in the maternity ward being super busy, I was laboring on my own (Good! I need to be alone). I needed my husband (No, I just needed his protection). He was the only one helping me get through these contractions, and they were getting so hard to handle. I was in so much pain, and my back was starting to hurt on one side, which I thought was due to being hunched over (Nope. Back labor). I also had to squat down really low because there was so much pressure and with the contractions coming so hard and fast it was excruciating. I had NO idea that this was NOT normal. I thought I was just progressing really fast and that he would be out in a few hours (he probably would have been if I hadn’t also been fighting against labor-stalling adrenaline).

Anyway, Tyler gets back and we overhear the nurses saying that if I delivered “soon” it would have to be in triage because there were NO rooms available. Well that probably halted any progress I had been making and closed me right back up again! Apparently this was a very busy week for babies and there was another woman laboring hard next curtain away from us. And interrupting my rhythm/concentration. I prayed that I would get a room and that it would be with a tub. Thankfully my wish was granted. Jules came in around 11:30 or so and told me that they were moving people around, discharging some of the moms that had their babies the day before, and that I would have the room with the tub in about an hour because they just had to clean up. It was music to my ears. In the meantime, she also tried to get me to take a blood test. Correction: she intercepted the nurse on her way to do the initial routine bloodwork and had to get me to refuse it myself in order to get them to go away…but way for the hospital to add more adrenaline/fear to my labor. I said “I don’t need one. I’m O positive.” She explained it was to check my hemoglobin count, and again I said “I had one at the beginning of my pregnancy and the test for anemia at 8 months. I’m fine, they said it was high. I can’t take a needle right now; not with these contractions. I can’t relax enough.” Pretty sure I was bitchier than I sound here, and also very frantic/desperate to get them to go away. She let it go, and that was it. No needles. I was so grateful for that, because knowing NOW that my contractions really were that hard, there was NO way I would have been able to relax no matter how much I tried. I really could not handle anymore stress in that moment. I’m glad they didn’t force the issue on me. I’m glad they respected my informed consent and refusal after badgering me three times but really, once should have been enough.

So about an hour later, the tub room was available. Tyler moved our stuff over and Jules helped me walk down the hall. It was a LONG walk and I was in so much pain, but I managed to do it without stopping. I am amazed by this now because of how hard those contractions actually were. They weren’t, actually. The perception of being in the hospital made the pain far worse than it needed to be. Most women probably would have doubled over or fainted or something, but I got to the room and Jules and a nurse helped me into the tub. I stayed in that tub even though the water was not helping. The bathtub was too small and the water didn’t even reach my chest unlike the birth pool which was glorious. I was in so much pain and as the contractions got harder and my back was spasming I had to get up and move to my hands and knees. I still wasn’t handling things well; they were just so sharp and the pain in my back made it so much worse. I said “I want the gas. I need the gas.” Tyler asked me what the password was, because we had agreed that I would use a code word if I truly needed anything to help me through the pain. “Tuxedo,” I said without hesitation. “Give me the gas.”

They got me a huge tank of it. I thankfully knew just how to breathe it in. So the gas worked REALLY well, after only a few deep breaths I was feeling better. I could feel the contraction but the edge was gone. I could handle it. The gas IS awesome.

I don’t know how long I was in there for. Time had ceased to exist and all that was there was the hollow echo of my nature/instrumental CD, with the soft music and crashing of the waves. The gas was my ritual. I would breathe it in the second the contraction started, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe it out slowly in a sigh of relief. “Remember to only breathe in the gas during a contraction, Honey” Tyler’s voice echoed from seemingly far away. I nodded my head to show I understood. But there were no breaks. I only would stop to take a few sips of gatorade from Tyler’s water bottle, which he offered me every ten minutes or so. As soon as I took in the oxygen, the gas would start to wear off, and the contractions were strong again. And I would remember where I was. I would quickly inhale three times to take it away, and then I was good. By 4pm (which I only know it was because there is a text on my phone from Tyler to my doula) I was asked to lie on my back in the water for another check. I sleepily maneuvered myself and nodded my head, gas tube still pressed between my teeth, and let my midwife check me. I felt hardly anything at all and only heard her say “she’s at 7 cm”. I sighed in relief. I was in transition. Nope. Things would go fast now, I thought to myself. I knew transition rarely lasted more than two hours…

…except in my case where it lasted four. Somewhere in the haze of timeless oblivion that were those four hours, Tyler told me he was going down the hall to use the bathroom (he didn’t want to disturb me by going in MY bathroom). I nodded my head sleepily, not really caring at that point. I was in my own little world where nothing could hurt, frighten, or upset me.

I started to feel pressure building up and checked myself (because I was curious to feel where I was at, and because I have no shame when it comes to my own body). I could feel his head, or possibly just the bag of waters, (bulging waters) and I knew I was close. I also remember that at that time the contractions were even harder and I would suck in the gas much faster, then let out a scream like “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” over and over again at each exhale into the tube/bottle. I was also bearing down, trying to get my son low enough that I might be able to “trick” the nurse into having me deliver in the tub. Pushing waaaay too early because I didn’t know any better and thought the bulging waters was the head. Unfortunately they figured it out and I had to be moved (I wasn’t making as much progress as I thought I was, either). Jules and the nurse tried to help me from the tub, but I couldn’t stand up on my own. The pressure was so far down and my legs were shaking so bad. They had to take away the gas (ripped it away, more like) to bring me back to myself, and the second they did the pain hit. And reality set in again that I wasn’t at home where it was safe. It was SO hard to get out of the tub and they wanted me to walk to the bed, which wasn’t really that far, but with the amount of pain I was in it felt like forever just to get out of the bathroom.

“I need the gas,” I sobbed. “Please give me the gas.”

“You can’t have it yet,” was Jules’ constant reply. “We have to get you in bed first.”

Hello trauma! HUGE trigger warning coming up here!

Oh god, it was so hard. And Tyler wasn’t back yet (I couldn’t fight them off on my own) and the midwife and the nurse couldn’t lift me up on their own and I wasn’t able to lift myself. My legs did not want to go up that high because my son was pressing against my hips and I’m tearfully screaming “please just give me the fucking gas!” because at this point I’m hysterical. I’m leaning over the bed, and they keep telling me to get up onto it, and I physically can’t do it. Then, even though my eyes are shut tight and I’m in so much pain, I sense Tyler’s presence. I feel his hands under my arms. I feel him lift me up onto the bed. I hear his voice telling me softly that everything is going to be okay. It still hurts and I’m still having trouble moving into a comfortable position on the bed (that fucking bed!!!!), but now I have him. He’s holding my hand and he’s telling me it’s time for us to meet our son. No it’s not; that trauma just set back any chance that the fetal ejection reflex was going to happen any time soon. I open my eyes and look at the clock across from my bed; the time is 8pm.

I’m on my side, I’m trying to push with everything I have, and nothing seems to be happening. Because it’s not actually time yet and all that stress isn’t helping things! It’s suggested that I move to a semi sitting position and though it’s hard to get up on my own, Tyler helps me and the head of the bed is moved up so that I’m basically on a large recliner. I’m able to make more progress this way, but it’s still taking a lot longer than I thought it should have (Because it’s NOT time yet). It’s been at least an hour and the fetal monitor is back on me (therefore I can no longer MOVE), along with my blue and pink colored bands from all the NSTs that I’d had in the last few weeks. I can feel my son’s head but it’s not enough to get him to crown. The nurse mentions that in my birth plan I wanted to touch my baby’s head as he crowns, and asks if I’d also like a mirror to see what’s going on. I hadn’t thought about this when I was writing out my plan. The idea hadn’t been too appealing then, either, but I nod my head because yes, I do want to see. Turns out that at that point I couldn’t see anything at all. I saw some bulging of my outer labia, but other than that, nothing. I felt defeated.

“Why isn’t he OUT yet?” I cry in frustration, slamming my head back against the bed. “I just want him OUT! Come out, Baby Hunter, everyone’s waiting to meet you!” I’m sobbing now. This is so hard, and a part of me just wishes that they give up and wheel me in for a C-section. Obviously this kid isn’t going to come out on his own, and I must be too small and weak to get him out. Well there’s some of that birth trauma coming out in my words and thoughts. I’m told to push HARD and I look up at Tyler because I really need to borrow strength from him. I don’t have the gas. I don’t have anything at all to block the pain, but I have him. And somehow, he is all I need. I look into his eyes, and they are glistening with tears. A few stray ones fall from his beautiful hazel eyes and trickle down his cheeks. He is holding my hand, letting me grip him as tight as I can, and I am pulling on his arm to anchor myself. He tells me softly “push, honey, you can do it,” and instead of screaming and cursing at him the way the women in the movies all seem to do, I am tearfully telling him how much I love him.

I push hard with each contraction, sometimes screaming “aaaaaahhhh” or “oooooohhhhhh” and keeping my mouth as wide as I can. Other times I’m taking a deep breath and making strangled sounds as I try to hold it and push harder. I don’t even notice the pain anymore. It feels so much better to push during the contraction than to not do anything at all, and I’m trying SO hard to get my son to crown (and working against gravity and fighting my adrenaline). Finally I hear Jules saying “yes, yes, just like that. Keep doing that. You’ve got it!” and I feel like I’m making progress again. The heat of the hot compresses on my perineum also help a lot with numbing the pain and I can feel myself stretching. Interesting how I don’t note that my water broke around this time. Jules asks Tyler if he wants to see the head. I’m a little freaked because OH MY GOD, my husband is going to see his “pleasure hole” being used for a completely functional purpose and he’ll never be able to UN-SEE that. But he looks anyway, and he’s amazed by it, not freaking out. He comments that our son has a lot of hair, and I’m told I can place him hand down to feel it for myself. There is a lot of hair, and I picture in my head a little baby boy that looks just like Tyler, and I’m able to focus on that instead of the pain. It really is comforting feeling their little heads.

When the contractions stop I’m told not to push, because I also specified in my plan that I wanted to avoid tearing as much as possible, as well as avoid an episiotomy. So I’m blowing and panting until the burn subsides, and then I push again. He is still not out.

“Get him out!” I’m crying. “Please, Baby Hunter, just come OUT!”

“YOU have to get him out,” Jules is reminding me. “You have to push hard and he will come out.”

“I AM pushing,” I scream at her in frustration. “I’m doing everything I can, but there’s no damn contraction to help me right now and I NEED the fucking contraction!”

It’s been over a minute and the contractions have slowed down. I’m stressed out again and the fetal ejection reflex isn’t going to help me because my body senses this isn’t a safe place to birth. I’m told I have to give small little pushes without the contractions, because otherwise I’ll deliver the head too fast and will surely tear badly. So I try, and things are happening so fast now that I can’t handle it anymore. I need to stop for a few seconds, because I can feel the stretch and I KNOW I am going to tear. I can feel it up high and I’m panting again. I don’t want to push until this burn goes away, but now it’s been three hours. And there are 3 fucking OBs outside my room wondering why I haven’t been taken to the OR yet and one OB is tapping her foot inside the doorway. It is 10:30 at night and Jules is telling me that I HAVE to push past the pain. I have to risk this tear. There’s only so much she can do to keep the wolves away and her time is almost up. The baby has crowned and my bag of waters has burst like a water balloon right as he’s coming out, and it has meconium in it. Which isn’t a big deal because he’s not in my uterus anymore, he’s on his way OUT; but again I didn’t know that it wasn’t a big deal at the time and the hospital protocols are STUPID here. The baby is stressed. Nope. He has to be born NOW. Only because the OBs are about to “pull rank” on my midwife and she’s already pushing her luck farther than most would dare.“This is the obstetrician,” she tells me, directing my attention to a woman standing beside her. “If you don’t get this baby out in the next ten minutes, she is going to give you an episiotomy because he can’t stay on your perineum any longer.”

“I can’t” I cry. “It buuuurns. I need the gas, please. I promise I’ll be able to get him out if I can just have the gas first!”

“Honey, you can’t have it anymore,” Tyler tells me through a thick voice choked with pain and guilt that I have to go through this. “It’ll hurt him; he’s in distress. You wanted to do this naturally, remember?”

I MEANT NO DRUGS OR INTERVENTIONS! I wanted to scream at him. I NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT NOT USING THE GAS! But somehow I know he’s right; I can’t cut off my baby’s oxygen supply (Um, no, he would have been fine at this point) and I might end up doing that if I gassed myself right now. So I nod weakly, tell him I love him, and I push with everything I have left. I feel the pressure of my son’s head as it moves forward. I grip onto Tyler with both hands and I try to block the pain as I feel the top of my vagina tear just a little, with tiny “pops” on either side. After that, things go fast. His head is out and Jules is turning his shoulders, (probably the most traumatizing part after getting the head out) and I give one more long, hard push. I feel such relief, the pressure is gone and there’s a huge gush of fluid and they’re telling me I’ve done it. My son his immediately brought to my chest and he’s crying but he’s here, and I’m crying because I’ve done it. I got my baby out. Yeah, but not without trauma. He’s perfect and so beautiful and I have him squirming in my arms. The nurses wrap warm, heated blankets around us and I’m stroking his hair and telling him how happy I am and how much I love him. Then I look up at Tyler and I tell him that we did it; we have our baby boy, finally. “I love you so much,” I tell him. Tyler has tears in his eyes again. I will never forget the smile or the glistening of his eyes or how I felt in that moment. I loved him before, but now it is twenty times that or more, and all doubts that we can survive anything are gone. He is mine forever, and I am his, and the birth of our son will forever be etched in our memories. And guide us to do so much better next time.

Hunter birth

When it’s all over and the cord has stopped pulsing (I wanted to delay cord clamping so that my baby could get all his blood from the placenta) Jules asks Tyler if he wants to cut it. He decides he doesn’t want to do it, but that I should have that honor. So I freed my own son and then I hold him for a few more minutes before the pediatrician takes him to assess whether the stress of being born has affected him. He has an apgar score of 9, he’s perfectly healthy and most definitely NOT an IUGR baby. No shit! All those tests and ultrasounds we had to have had been completely unnecessary; the only good thing about them being that we now have a ton of late ultrasound pictures and got to hear his heartbeat a lot. Way to find a silver lining though. The bands I wanted to keep from the NSTs were sadly soiled during the birth, so they had to be thrown out. I think my doula snapped some pictures of me with them on the night before though, so at least I’ll have the picture of them to show my son someday. I hate that picture because it symbolizes my confinement within their institution.

Anyway, after he was checked out and determined to be fine, I got to hold him again and attempt a self-latch. He took to my breast immediately and I was surprised that it didn’t hurt at all. It was just a gentle little tugging sensation and I could have happily fed my child all night. But I had to be checked now, and that meant that the baby had to go to his daddy. Tyler took off his shirt and took our son in his arms, placing him against his skin and covering him with a blanket. I watched the two of them bonding together on the glider across from my bed, and breathed through the pain of the exam. Jules informed me of what I already knew; I had some tears by my urethra and clitoris and while they were mild, she wanted the OB to check me out just to see if I needed stitches. She froze me first, just by squirting the medication over the tears so I didn’t have to have a needle. I told her that IF I needed stitches that I would like to use the gas again, and she agreed.

I did NOT need stitches. Though in my records the OB notes her disagreement with my refusal on that. It was up to me whether or not I wanted to heal on my own. Note how I think this was a lucky break instead of my right to informed consent. I was told it would sting when I went to the bathroom, but I said I’d deal with it. Anything was better than subjecting myself to more trauma. So they left me alone with my little boy and my husband, and I was told I could go home as early as 9:30 the next morning just because my son’s vitals would need to be monitored due to the stress of his birth. LIES!!!! I was given two Advil and two Tylenol for my afterpains. I was still weak and shaky but otherwise fine. I did have some fluid in my right ear, which was annoying since I could barely hear anything from that side. But I was happy, I felt very little pain, and I could sit up and stand with help. I was also able to eat two pieces of leftover cheese pizza and down two cups of milk.

Tyler’s sister, mother and father came in shortly after to visit, and I kept my blankets around me. I was only wearing the mesh panties and a huge pad as I fed my son and the nurses cleaned up the bed and changed the sheets. By 12am I was eating another slice of pizza and talking on the phone to my dad, nana, and finally my mother. Tyler continued to text everyone else on our call list, and at 1pm I decided to get ready for bed. Tyler and I swaddled our baby boy in blankets and put him in his bassinet for the night, then went to our respective beds. I would have liked to sleep on the pullout couch with him, but sadly there wasn’t a lot of room. I was told by the nurse to get up to pee, but I didn’t feel the urge at all. I humored her, trying to go right into my pad, but I shook my head and said “my bladder’s not full yet. I must have emptied it in the bath.” She said that was fine, but that I would have to try in a few hours.

Sure enough, at 5am another nurse insisted I wake up and go to the bathroom. I still didn’t feel the urge, but she told me she would do an ultrasound to see if I had a full bladder. Left out the threat of the catheter for “noncompliance”. I rolled my eyes, told her it wasn’t necessary because I could feel it now that she was pressing on my belly. I told her I needed to be in the bathtub to relax and she left me in there. I tried for what felt like forever. I massaged my belly, because sometimes that helps when I feel like I’m under pressure. I knew that if I didn’t go in the tub, she was going to catheterize me and there was NO WAY I was going to let her do that. Oh, wait, there it is. Gotta love the way they made it seem like I had no choice. My poor lady bits had been through enough as it was and I knew that it would be far worse with all the small tears. Of course in hindsight, I should have asked for a cloth to cover those tears up, because holy shit that stung like a bitch! I forced my way through it, breathing much like I had in labor to get through the pain. At last I was finished. I floated in the tub for a few minutes longer, looking down at my slightly protruding belly. It was so soft and only a small bump remained where my uterus was shrinking back down to its proper size. After I felt clean again, I pulled the cord for the call button and had the nurse help me out and get me into clean underwear, a pad, and another pad full of cool black teabags. I would later learn from my midwife that the teabags promoted healing and took away the sting of the tears, and that this was something unique to the hospital. Apparently a nurse had come up with the idea a few months before and the trial runs had been a success. I certainly felt instant relief so they MUST work pretty damn good.

I was wide awake even as she helped me into bed. I had chosen the night before to leave the gown off, because I have always preferred sleeping naked, or at the very least topless with just my panties. It was also far easier to feed my son, but my arms were so weak that I needed the nurse to bring him to me and prop him up on my nursing pillow. The fluid in my ear was finally gone and I could hear again. Tyler was still sleeping, but I grabbed my phone after the nurse put Hunter back in the bassinet, and I snapped a picture with it. I tweeted it to my best friend, and while it wasn’t the best picture (it was still semi-dark outside and I couldn’t turn on the lights and wake Ty) it was the best I could do at the time.

At 9:30 I was ready to go home. The pediatrician on staff came to check Hunter’s vitals again. He was a little cold (because he was sleeping in a plastic box all night instead of in my arms where he belonged) because Tyler and I had just finished changing his diaper and dressing him in the only onsie that was small enough for him. Apparently everything else I’d packed was too big on our son, but we had lots of blankets to keep him warm. The doctor suggested we have some more skin-to-skin time, and Tyler and I sort of had to figure out which one of us would have that privilege because we BOTH love holding our baby boy. Tyler pointed out I needed to eat breakfast, and I conceded defeat because he was right. I watched Tyler in the glider, snuggling our baby against his chest, and again I couldn’t believe how much love I felt for them both. I ate slowly and watched them rocking together. I ate as much of the scrambled eggs as I could and drank a cup of milk and a cup of orange juice, but my stomach was queasy from settling back down and I couldn’t eat anymore. The doctor came back in to check on Hunter and he was fine. Not long after another doctor came in. She greeted us both and explained she was here to test Hunter’s hearing, but that she couldn’t do so until he was thirteen hours old.

“I understand you’re in a rush to get out of here, and I wanted to catch you before you left,” she said. She asked if we wouldn’t mind staying another night, because she couldn’t do the test this early and she was off at noon. How nice that she was concerned about what was more convenient for HER schedule. I smiled politely and explained that no, we were going home. I said “We live five minutes away and my husband is here to take care of me. When we arrived yesterday at 10am there were no rooms available. Someone had to give up their room for me, and I have a room with a tub, which not all rooms have. It would be selfish of me to stay here when I feel fine, and even if I was moved to a different room, it’s still taking that room away from a mother who needs it.” And I didn’t want to stay another night in that hellhole anyway.

So she agreed to schedule an appointment for us to come back later in the week. Just like they do with homebirth babies. WHY didn’t I think about that? Tyler and I stayed until noon because they brought lunch and Tyler wanted to eat, even if I wasn’t up to having anything but water at that moment because their food was gross. Then we finished packing our bags and his dad came up with the stroller and car seat. As we passed the nurse’s station I told them “We were in Room 23; so a tub is now available for anyone who needs it.”

As soon as we got home, I had Tyler bring Hunter to my chest, skin-to-skin, and when I wasn’t feeding him, Tyler was holding him and I was eating or tending to my other needs. We adopted a system for diaper changes where we would BOTH change and wipe, and that made it easier for us both to have help and learn how best to accomplish the task and keep our boy calm (he didn’t like it the first few days). At night I would nurse him and fall asleep reclining on the couch with him still at my breast, or I would find him curled up on my chest while I was lying in our bed. Jules has assured me that this is perfectly fine, and that mothers in other countries always sleep with their babies. It’s only Western cultures that use bassinets, and in all honesty I’ve found I’m getting a lot more sleep with my son ON me, still at the breast, than if I have to wake up and put him down in his bassinet. Thankfully I had a midwife who could tell me all this shit so I didn’t lose sleep and unknowingly mess up breastfeeding in those early weeks when I knew nothing. Besides that, I usually don’t wake up right away. It’s just so easy to fall asleep while nursing him, and it’s comforting for him to snuggle against his mommy. Tyler will also fall asleep with our son on his chest, so I guess co-sleeping works for us; at least for now.

So that’s my birth story. I’ll post again soon about the first week, but right now it’s 8pm on Friday night, close to the time that I hit the second stage and was moved to the bed to deliver my son. And how aware I was of that time of day for weeks on end. I need to eat, feed the cats, and cuddle with my baby boy some more. Right now he’s sleeping beside me on the couch, enjoying the evening sunset as it pours in through our large picture windows. He is perfectly content and so peaceful to look at. I am in constant awe that this beautiful child has resulted from the love Tyler and I share together. I often joke that we had a hell of a fun night creating this perfect child, and that he would likely be traumatized if he knew that Mommy and Daddy had been quite naughty.

But until that day arrives, I am going to enjoy this tiny baby and hold him as much as I can get away with. He won’t be this size forever, and there will come a time when he won’t want me to snuggle him anymore. I will be sad when that day arrives, and I’m sure Tyler will be too. I got all the snuggles with him and will take what I can get while I still can.

It’s truly amazing how far we’ve come. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine ever being a good mother. Tyler was worried he wouldn’t be a good father. I freaked out when I first read that pregnancy test. Tyler had his moments of fear that he wouldn’t be able to support us and there were moments early in the pregnancy when we doubted that we could do this. And then the months passed and we felt his first rolls, his first kicks, his first wiggles as he got bigger. We heard his heart beating, saw him on the ultrasound, watched my belly jerk and move with the force of his little body pressing against it. I felt his feet in my ribs and his head down below. I felt his hiccups and spent many nights talking to him and telling him how much I loved him. I sang to him, Tyler placed his hand on my belly every chance he had, and we looked at baby gear together. We painted his nursery and got it ready for him. I cried when he didn’t arrive on his due date, then rejoiced when I realized he would be here on May 17th, six months to my birthday. My favorite number and his godmother’s “magic” number. I spent two days in labor, a week in prelabor, and three hours pushing him out. I worked hard, and through it all I had the support of his daddy to help me through it. Now it’s over, but at the same time it’s just beginning. We have a family of our own now, in every sense of the word. And it’s SO fitting that a love that is as pure, beautiful, all-encompassing, enduring, and powerful as ours is has brought forth this sweet baby boy who hardly fusses at all unless he’s hungry or needs to be changed or burped. He’s not even a week old yet. Give him time…He looks up at us with his beautiful eyes and though they all say that babies don’t smile until a few months old, I see his soft smile on his lips every time I hold him. ❤

 

The Video Game That Almost Ended Our Marriage

Don't play video games with your spouse if you can't give (or take) directions. Just don't do it.

Just a few weeks before Christmas my husband suggested we “test out” the playsets for the Disney Infinity we had bought for our son. His reasoning was that we could earn a few fun items for him as a surprise, since the Pirates of the Caribbean playset was probably going to be a little challenging for a four year old. It should be noted that we were severely underestimating our son’s abilities here, and he ended up schooling US on the game mechanics the same day he got the new pieces. But we didn’t know that yet.

We were tired, we were bored, and we really wanted to play the game. It seemed like a good idea. It would be fun, relatively simple, and we would be actually DOING something together besides falling asleep watching Netflix.

The thing about testing out a new area of a “world” is that we had no idea where the fuck we were going. I had woefully overestimated the usefulness of the “go here, moron” arrows that lead the Disney characters to their next objectives, and so I just assumed that my husband would figure out where he needed to go. To put it bluntly, I didn’t bother waiting for him to catch up and I often wandered off to do my own thing. I would be mindlessly collecting items and he would be like “hey, get your ass over to this ship so we can GO!”

Don’t Play Video Games With Your Spouse If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going…

I have ZERO sense of direction. I should mention that now, because that’s very important. I mostly wander around aimlessly on game maps and go by landmarks. Where am I? Well, see that thing I’m standing beside on my side of the screen? Go there. How did I get there? How should I know? I just followed the arrows and that’s where I went! Pay attention to where I was and know how to retrace my steps? Uh, no, sorry, didn’t do that. I followed the arrow. What do you mean that now because I got there first the arrows aren’t directing you to where I am? No I can’t come back to get you! Why? Because I DON’T KNOW HOW I GOT HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE AND I’LL GET US BOTH LOST!

Wait! Where ARE you? How did you get there? I don’t know where that is! What do you mean it’s over there? No, I’m nowhere near there. No, I have no idea…wait, how come I can’t just jump down here? Well THAT’S stupid! They should let people just jump! Look, can’t you just get to ME? Here, take my controller and take me to you then because I give up.

Well we get to Tia Dalma’s island and that’s pretty much been the conversation between us up until that point in the game. I’ve already gotten lost once when he took the lead and tried to get me to follow him to our ship. I have already shown him that I cannot follow directions; a reminder of all the other times I fail to follow simple directions in our marriage because I have a tendency to run on “autopilot”. I’m so used to just doing things on my own that I have a real problem shifting from that default setting and letting myself be “led” when it’s probably a better idea to just go with his plan in the first place.

In a nutshell: this is bringing out all our worst qualities and communication issues.

Especially When You Also Suck at Navigating

Things get worse as he tries to get to where I ran off to without him and he keeps asking me HOW I got there and what HE needs to do and I am ZERO help because honestly I just followed the arrows. I have never been on this map before. I know absolutely fuck all as to what I’m doing; I’m about as clueless as he is. The only difference is that my gaming style is vastly different from his. He likes to KNOW what he’s doing (like with most things in life); I just wing it (also like most things in life). I NEVER know what I’m doing, dude! How did I beat your ass? I pressed a bunch of buttons that did a super cool move and then I just mashed the shit out of it. How did I beat half my games? I button mashed the shit out of the “attack” commands. Strategy? What’s that? No strategy aside from “hack and slash at monsters, kill monsters, use any healing items/team mates as healers and magic users”. I don’t dodge attacks, I just keep hacking and slashing until you die. You can’t GET an attack in if I kill you before you can use the attack.

So he’s lost, he’s now getting extremely annoyed with my non-answers to his questions and my lack of any directions other than “just go that way. No, not that way. I guess maybe this way? No? I don’t know, there was a bridge and a gate…no, I don’t remember where it was. How should I know whether or not you already passed it? I have no idea where you are. You’re sure the arrows aren’t showing you the right way?”

If You Can’t Drive, DEFINITELY Don’t Play a Game That Requires Driving…

He finally convinced me to get on the little boat in the water (and thus ABANDON THE MISSION I WAS ON IN FAVOR OF GOING TO GET HIS ASS TO THE ISLAND I WAS ON–WASTE TIME) and then tells me to row to him. I have NO idea how to get the boat to move in the right direction because this game is so new to me and I am a shitty driver on land or on sea, and especially when I don’t know the terrain/map very well. So I get “stuck”. I can’t turn my boat around because I don’t know how and he’s getting MORE annoyed with my inability to help him or even do a “simple” thing like “drive a boat”. Well, to be fair, I am much better on land. I can jump and run and hack and slash on land. On the road or at sea I have to rely on technical strategy and…oh to hell with it, I’ll use HIS words: I have to “THINK instead of just DO”. That’s not my specialty. I don’t do thinking games unless it’s a puzzle, but even then I’m usually faking my way through those or cheating with YouTube videos to show me how to do it. HIS games are all racing and first person shooter games. HIS games require thinking before doing; they are not my games.

Be In the Mood To Kick Each Other’s Asses to Diffuse the Tension

So back to the clusterfuck that was this game, he finally takes my controller from my hands to make my character meet up with his character. The arrows fix themselves so that we both now are being led in the right direction. We get on land and he immediately slashes at my character.

“Hey!” I shout; indignantly I might add.

“You pissed me off,” he shrugs.

I unleash my masterful sword techniques on his unwitting character and Davy Jones’ fish men look on in confusion because we’re killing each other instead of going after them and the treasure they are trying to beat us to.

Don’t Try to Do a Puzzle Without Communicating Your Intentions…

The next part of the level was…a puzzle. Yep. And much like the boat incident, I’m used to just doing things and letting the pieces fall as they might. My husband gets to that area and starts pressing random trigger spots, messing up my progress and irritating the shit out of me.

“Well, we need to communicate,” he says.

Clearly. Isn’t that what every relationship expert says? Well, here’s the thing about being in a relationship for almost ten years or more. You get lazy. You get REALLY bad at communication. You’re tired, he’s tired, the kids have worn you down and you just get into this bubble of thinking the other person should just KNOW what you mean. You’ve been together for TEN YEARS! Shouldn’t they KNOW by now, without you having to say anything?

And in this case, he can SEE the screen! He’s looking at the same thing I am! Can’t he figure out what I’m trying to do? It’s NOT rocket science! It’s not a cup on the table or a pile of laundry on the floor; he should be able to figure out that if I’M jumping on that ledge to climb the statue HE should be doing the same thing. But no, he’s not following me and then he asks “how did you get up there?” and I’m like “I followed the arrows”.

“How did you get to the other end of the island so quickly?”

I. Followed. The. Arrows.

A Relationship Tester Not Seen Since Mario Party…

He did not follow the arrows. He did not climb the statue. He did not slide down the rope to the other side of the island. And the kicker is that if you do not follow your team mate in THIS playset, you can’t take the ship out to sea. You can’t do shit without the other team mate getting back to the ship too. There’s no option to force them into your area like in the Toy Story playset where if I wanted to go to the Goo Volcanos/Cave I could just go there, and my son or husband had the option of hitting the square button and joining me no matter where they were on the map. That homing beacon was a lifesaver for all the times they got their asses lost on the map and I needed to get shit done. But there is no failsafe in the original playset of Incredibles/Pirates/Monsters Inc.

Perhaps Disney realized the error of their ways when marriages imploded and siblings murdered each other and families were torn apart in a violent bloodbath not seen since Mario Party became a thing? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that after we gave our son the games and I played through the maps with him (and we did eventually beat the Pirates game) that my husband walked in the door after work, took one look at the screen and the level we were currently jumping and climbing and hacking and slashing (and mastering) our way through.

“Is that the same island that we had trouble on?”

“You mean the island that almost destroyed our marriage? Yep”.

Our son chimes in and tells his daddy how we beat the game and killed the bad guys and the Kraken is our friend now and helps take down the ships.

My husband asks how we did that.

“We followed the arrows, Daddy.”

Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers. How Each Milestone is a Blessing AND a Curse.

Yes, it gets easier. It also gets harder in a whole new way you don't realize until you're in it.

Babies suck. Toddlers suck. Preschoolers really suck. Oh sure, there’s some joy in there too, but each stage comes with new milestones that you can’t wait for them to reach, and then you’re eating your words. Don’t believe me? Either you don’t have a toddler yet or you’re in denial.

1) Mobility. You spend so much time carrying around this helpless little human who just wants to be in arms that you begin to long for the days they can take themselves places without you having to carry them. “Oh what a grand thing it will be to have them mobile” your naïve new-parent self says as you rub your aching back. But then it happens. And suddenly you have this little creature who takes off the second you set them down on the floor to rest your aching back. And oh look, they’re headed straight for that breakable object or piece of paper to put in their mouths or any other number of things that are NOT the millions of baby toys you brought out in hopes of entertaining them. And then they can walk. And they can REACH things now. And they learn how to RUN. And they are FASTER than you. You do laps around the house trying to catch them. You long for the days when they were in that baby carrier and unable to get into shit all the time.
2)Eating Solids. You’ve got a baby at your breast. Or you’re mixing bottles. Either way it’s a constant job just keeping them fed and happy. And you think “oh, I can’t wait until I can just set food down at the table and have them eat it, and not have to do this anymore. And then it happens. And the poop gets grosser and smells. And then you might not be changing their diapers anymore but you’re wiping their butts. And then you’re also fighting with them to EAT THE GODDAMN BREAKFAST THEY ASKED FOR BECAUSE THEY DECLARED THEY WERE HUNGRY AND ACTED LIKE YOU WERE STARVING THEM. In THEORY, they should eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. But instead they’re hungry, have a bite, then say they’re full. Then you shrug and try to take their plate. They scream that they’re hungry. You give it back. They don’t eat. A part of you dies inside and soon you hate mealtime and don’t care if your kid is eating the same apple from three hours ago because at least it will finally get eaten.
3) Talking. You long for the days when your baby stops crying/screaming and can actually tell you what’s wrong so you don’t need to guess anymore. “Oh how much easier will life be when that day comes,” you think to yourself as your baby is screaming in your ear. But then it happens and soon your kid not only knows HOW to ask for what they want, they know how to DEMAND it. They SCREAM it, and you can tell them that they can’t have what they want and it will bring on epic tantrums and “I don’t like you!” and “bad mommy!” From what I remember of my teen years, the hell is just beginning. Are we sure that King Triton didn’t secretly pay Ursulla to take Ariel’s voice? I won’t judge him harshly if he did.
4) Dressing. You spend the first 2 years trying to wrestle a squirmy baby/toddler into their clothes. It takes a lot of effort. Half the time if you’re not going anywhere you leave them in a diaper and the other half they’re in their pjs because the effort is just not worth it. And then magically one day they can dress themselves and you think “yay, less work for me.” Except they can now DRESS THEMSELVES. Wait, wasn’t that kid in a different outfit a few minutes ago? Yes, yes he was. Where is that outfit? On the floor, and the floor is dirty because he used that shirt to mop up the juice he spilled. So more laundry for you. YAY! Wait…why are you taking off your shirt? No. No, honey, that shirt is CLEAN. There’s nothing wrong with it. Oh. You want the Batman one instead. Yeah, I see that, but you don’t need to throw the other one on the floor…yeah, okay fine. Don’t mind me, I just work here.
5) Getting their own snacks. You’re constantly having to fix meals and snacks because your toddler is hungry and you think “won’t it be great when they can get their own snack out of the fridge?” because then you won’t have to be up all the time to do it for them. Except that now they can HELP THEMSELVES TO THEIR SNACKS. And sure, in theory you could put one of each thing in their “snack drawer” and they can go in there for their snacks. But kids are smart and they mock your attempts to be reasonable. I told my son he could have ONE banana and hid the rest up on the top of the fridge. I thought he would respect that rule. I was wrong. Your kid knows where you’re hiding the rest of the snacks. Your kid will sneak the rest of the snacks when your back is turned. It will not get easier as they get older. How do I know this? Because I recall all the times my dad tried to cleverly hide the package of Oreos and I found that shit, snuck 6 more cookies and if he was planning on having a snack after me and my brother went to bed, well let’s just say he’d have figured out that I had found his stash when he opened a half empty bag that had been just bought the day before. If you want to hide the snacks keep them in your room…except that won’t work when they’re older. I found that stash too. You’re screwed. We’re ALL screwed.

50 Reasons You Got My Voicemail

 

voicemail
I spent 15 minutes yesterday trying to record my active greeting for voicemail. I came up with several variations of saying the same thing, the gist of which is of course, “PLEASE, PEOPLE! I HAVE SMALL CHILDREN! TEXT ME IF YOU NEED AN ANSWER NOW, BECAUSE THE VOICEMAIL YOU JUST LEFT HAS DISAPPEARED INTO THE DEEP BLACK ABYSS OF MY INBOX TO RESURFACE ONLY IN DIRE NECESSITY” followed by “IF YOU’RE NOT FRIEND OR FAMILY AND I DON’T ALREADY HAVE YOU IN MY CONTACT LIST, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SANITY-DRIVEN LEAVE A MESSAGE BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WILL NOT CALL YOU BACK BLINDLY, SO IF IT’S IMPORTANT THEN DON’T JUST ASSUME YOU CAN CALL BACK LATER. THERE IS NO “LATER” WITH SMALL CHILDREN”. And in coming up with these variations as my three year old started screaming in the background for the hell of it (and further illustrating my point) I came up with this list of reasons why you REALLY need to just text me and hope I’m going to be checking on my various mobile games or snapping a picture of my kids being cute in the next few minutes.

1) I went out last night and left my phone in my purse. It is now dead, because the battery life on mobile phones is short.
2) I took it into the bedroom with me when I went to bed last night. In the middle of the night Homer finished his latest quest/task and I was alerted of its completion so I turned on the “do not disturb” feature. My phone has been silent all day and I have forgotten I did this. It is also buried somewhere under the blankets because I couldn’t be bothered to put it back on the nightstand.
3) My three year old had it this morning when I handed it to him to get some extra sleep. He turned off the ringer and it is now buried in the blankets of the bed.
4) My three year old was watching Paw Patrol on my phone and drained the battery. The phone is now dead and buried under the blankets. I will find it several hours from now when I realize I haven’t heard my Simpsons go off all day, after I tear apart the rest of the house. Said phone will then need to be charged for a few minutes before it even turns on.
5) My three year old was practicing his amateur photography skills with my phone. I now have 900 new pictures of the cat, the floor, the TV, his foot, and my phone is also dead.
6) My three year old somehow managed to turn my phone ringer off AND hit “do not disturb” and then left it between the couch cushions.
7) I took my phone back from my three year old and put it on the charger. I forgot to check to make sure that not only was the ringer back on, but that the volume was turned up and “do not disturb” was no longer in effect.
8) I remembered to turn the ringer on and check “do not disturb” but failed to check the volume.
9) I remembered to turn the ringer on, check the volume and disable “do not disturb”, but the charger was doing that thing where the cord wasn’t in the right spot and my phone that was 15% charged failed to charge anymore. It is now dead. I will find its corpse hours later when I need to use it, and curse the gods.
10) My phone is still in the charger in the kitchen. I can’t hear it though because I’m in another room and the kids are screaming for the hell of it.
11) My phone is in the kitchen, I’m in another room, and I can’t hear it because I’m yelling at my three year old to stop hitting his cousin/jumping on the couch/swinging his toys around where his sister is crawling.
12) My phone is in the kitchen, I’m right beside it, but I still can’t hear it because my three year old is screaming that he’s hungry (even though he just ate a whole apple, an orange, and his lunch is still sitting uneaten on the table) and I’m holding a screaming, teething baby.
13) My phone is in the kitchen but I’m washing the dishes. If I like you I’ll call you back after I’m done…if I remember.
14) I was downstairs doing laundry and didn’t bring my phone with me.
15) I was feeding the baby and my phone wasn’t within reach.
16) The kids were napping and I turned the phone on silent. I am currently playing Simpsons, but I don’t want to risk waking them by answering the phone as that might cause my son to suddenly sit up and ask “Daddy?” and then my peace is broken.
17) *I* was napping. The phone is on silent. I’ll call you back after I wake up, if I remember.
18) You called before 10am on a Saturday. You are not my husband. Therefore I turned the phone to silent and went back to sleep.
19) It’s lunch time. Maybe not specifically that time of day, but the kids are having lunch and I just sat down.
20) I seriously JUST sat down. My phone is in the kitchen. Call back later or text me if it’s important.
21) I didn’t recognize the number. If you’re a friend or family, text me so I know you’re not a telemarketer.
22) I was on the other line and didn’t want to end my conversation prematurely.
23) I was on the other line and can’t figure out how to effectively put one person on hold and switch over and then back.
24) I was on the other line and didn’t recognize the other number, so I ignored you. Seriously, TEXT ME!
25) I was actually out shopping, phone was in my purse. In theory I should be able to hear it, but I have small children and stores are noisy. In theory, communism works too.
26) I was out shopping and my phone was in my purse. I forgot which zipper compartment it was in and by the time I was able to dig it out, you hung up. If you wait 5 minutes before calling back and don’t leave a voicemail (if you’re family or friend) then I might just call you back to see what you wanted.
27) In digging my phone out of my purse I then accidentally dropped it. By the time I picked it up you were gone.
28) I was out shopping. My three year old had my phone. He hung up on you because he was watching Paw Patrol or taking pictures of his feet. In his defense, you interrupted him 😉
29) I was at the park with the kids. I can’t hear the phone over the sound of kids screaming everywhere.
30) For some reason the phone was stashed in the diaper bag. By the time I realize this and dig it out, you will have hung up.
31) I have determined that your number is not any that I know or SHOULD know, and that you are a telemarketer. You will further prove my theory correct by not leaving a voicemail.
32) I am in the middle of the chaos that is dealing with small children and just CAN’T deal with another person right now.
33) I’m changing a diaper.
34) I’m trying to placate the whining three year old and don’t have time to answer the phone right now.
35) The kids are napping and I finally have a moment’s peace. I’m not cutting into my break time to answer the phone unless it’s super important. In which case, text me.
36) I’m in the bathtub. I’m not getting out.
37) I’m in the shower.
38) I’m with my husband. We’re busy. If you want to avoid a graphic description you’ll stop asking questions.
39) It’s date night.
40) It’s Mom’s Night Out.
41) The kids pushed me past the edge and I went to bed at 7pm when they did.
42) My husband is home, I’m not expecting any calls today and I didn’t feel like getting up to answer the phone. If you’re in my contact list I’ll text you.
43) I don’t feel like answering the phone. Text me.
44) I’m pissed at you and am now freezing you out.
45) I know why you’re calling and don’t have the information/answer you want and don’t feel like explaining that to you.
46) I got a head’s up from a mutual friend/family member that you would be calling. I need time to think about what I now know you’re going to ask me.
47) It’s easier to just NOT answer the phone right now.
48) I’ve reached my quota on dealing with other humans today. Try me again tomorrow. Or text me.
49) I don’t like you and don’t feel like pretending I do.
50) You’re calling at a time when I specifically warned everyone I would be busy. This could be a meeting OR I could be watching Game of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars etc. Either way, phone is on silent.
More than one reason can apply. Either way, if it’s important, TEXT ME! Answering the phone takes effort and while I’m in the trenches with small children “effort” is reserved for things that are actually worth it. Also, if you pocket dial me, and I actually answer the phone, I will KILL you.

An Intense, but Healing Home Birth: Mckayla’s Birth Story

Part 1: Prodromal Labor

After months of discomfort from SPD and sciatica, as well as nausea and the overall exhaustion, I finally hit 37 weeks and could relax. My daughter could safely be born anytime at home, as planned, and though I’d had a rough pregnancy there were no complications. My midwife was completely supportive of my plans, I had a doula, I had my husband and I had my small support network of friends. It was at this time that I first started having back pains, more nausea, and generally I felt “off” as if labor would start soon. I monitored these symptoms, but didn’t think too much of them. At 37 weeks and 4 days I had some more nausea, and the next morning I woke at 6am with a terrible back ache that felt like early labor pains. I tried to ignore them and crawled into the queen size bed I often shared with my son until 9am when they became more insistent than before. So I got up and went into the master bedroom to tell my husband that things might be starting soon. He asked if I needed to call my doula yet and I told him no, because I was sure things were still too early. But I DID want to get the rest of our home birth supplies, clean up the main areas of the house, and basically prepare our home for the birth. The pains were steady and constant throughout half the day, and I did my best to just ignore them and clean up the house. I swept, picked up clutter, washed dishes, and brought all the linens into our bedroom from where they’d been stashed in my son’s room. I put a plastic cover on the mattress in his room and double made the bed, just in case. I didn’t anticipate my water breaking as it hadn’t broken until he crowned, but as this pregnancy was SO different I decided it was better safe than sorry. Through all this nesting my pains didn’t increase until 6pm, exactly 12 hours after they’d first started. I guessed that things would pick up again in 6-12 hours. My cervix was very much posterior, I had not yet lost my mucus plug, and I had no bloody show, so I was pretty certain that I was still in very early labor or possibly pre-labor like I had been with my son. I could be days, even a week away from active labor. So I took two Tylenol and a Gravol and went to sleep.

At 6am I awoke to period-like cramps. They remained consistent and I was quite nauseous. I ate some scrambled eggs and did my best to just go about my day, resting and eating when I felt the need. I texted my doula to let her know what was going on, but told her I didn’t need her to come out yet as it was still early. At 9am the pains were a little stronger. I took a nap and my husband finished up cleaning the house and putting up the sheet near our front entrance to our living room for privacy. We checked off the last of the supplies and bought some more groceries. I rested comfortably but at 3pm I couldn’t sleep anymore. The pains had increased and I felt that these were just not going to go away. I called my sister and told her that it might be a good idea for her to come take our son for the night, as he was getting anxious and I might go into full-blown labor. She took him at 6pm and I was sitting on my birth ball, trying to take my mind off the pain in my back, hips, legs, and abdomen. At 9pm they again became stronger. My husband and I watched a movie to take my mind off it, and because our son wasn’t home we took his mattress out of the bedroom and placed it on the floor of our living room so I would have a more comfortable place to watch TV or a movie and cuddle with my husband. We went to bed and at 3am contractions had become harder to ignore. I timed them as 5 contractions in 10 minutes, because they were irregular in their intensity but definitely getting closer together. By 6am they had become 4 contractions in 10 minutes. I texted my doula and told her that she might need to come out soon, if only to bring the last of our birth supplies and the pool liner to start setting up the pool. Upon checking myself I noted that my cervix was still posterior and I could barely reach it. There was no bloody show, but my mucus plug was starting to come loose. I figured labor was days away, but with the intensity of the contractions it was best to send my son to his grandmother’s as my sister had to go back to work. So around 4 pm she brought him back, my doula went home to feed her kids dinner, and by this time my contractions had started to slow down anyway so I could eat and get some rest. I spent some time with my son, having him look through baby clothes with me and talking to him about his baby sister. It was peaceful having him home, but I knew that he was also getting anxious and that it was best he go with grandma. So she picked him up at 6pm and I spent the rest of the night with my husband. We watched another movie, went to bed, and even made love to try to get things going.

Things had slowed down completely by morning. I was still having some pains, but nothing had shifted and I accepted that like the last time with my son, this wasn’t it. Besides, I was only 38 weeks and it was best to wait another week anyway. So we brought my son home and I slept with him in the master bedroom, while my husband took the bed in the living room so as not to disturb me. It made the most sense as the bed in my son’s room had a very high bed frame and with my SPD it was hard for me to get out of bed to use the bathroom. The master bedroom however had a low mattress and an ensuite bathroom, which made it easier for me in those last few weeks. By Thursday, contractions had completely stopped. I consulted with my midwife on whether it was best to just go back to my normal routine and watch my sister’s kids during the day, and she agreed that I should maintain normalcy. So on Friday the kids came back and I resumed life as normal.

That weekend I had on and off cramps and contractions, but nothing had really changed. I accepted that I was in prodromal labor and simply chose to ignore it when I could and just do my breathing and exercises with the rebozo sifting to try to make myself more comfortable. I decided that I wouldn’t be in labor for real until I had my bloody show. For the next several days things alternated between back pain, cramping, contractions, nausea, and exhaustion. I rested as much as I could during the day and nested when I had the desire to do so. At 39 weeks I started having more nausea and exhaustion. I ignored it best as I could. There was NO way this kid was coming on Easter Weekend; I reasoned with myself. I was extremely tired though that weekend, and I slept for most of it. Contractions were mostly in my back and made me sweat. I felt that another week of this was likely in store for me, but I texted my doula, told her that I was still in prodromal labor, and that I was at least coping well. I was fast approaching my due date, and I was getting antsy. Would I have my daughter this week, or would she arrive at 41 weeks like my son? I wasn’t so sure I liked the idea of having her a week “late” anymore; all the prodromal labor had really been frustrating me, and even though I was more informed than most women and had a vast support network of women who believed in birth and were cheering me on, it was still exhausting emotionally. I was ready for this baby. I continued to drink my red raspberry leaf tea every night and dutifully took my vitamins. I had my husband do some rebozo sifting just to get her to move off my bad sciatic nerve and give me some relief. On Monday, the cramping had stopped once again.

 

Part 2: Nesting, Early Labor, and Finally Active

Monday morning, the day before my due date, I woke with a lot of energy. I had this overwhelming desire to clean up the house, and once again make preparations for this birth that I was so sure was a week away. But I just couldn’t shake that feeling that I needed to prepare anyway, so I cleared off the clutter on the kitchen table, washed dishes, washed the towels and linens, and made a quick grocery list of items I felt I needed, including more Powerade. When my husband told me “but we have 3 bottles in the fridge still” I told him that we needed more. I reasoned that IF this baby came over the weekend, then I would need every ounce of those drinks for hydration in labor AND for breastfeeding afterward. So he went out and bought everything on the list and I set to work on organizing the last of the supplies in the closet. Labor didn’t start that night, although I did start to feel very nauseated the next morning. I spent most of the day lying on the mattress in the living room while my son, niece, and nephew played and watched their shows on Netflix. Thankfully my sister had an appointment that day, so she picked the kids up early, just after lunch, giving me only six hours of babysitting instead of the usual ten. This freed me up to go to my son’s swimming lessons. By that time I just had some cramping in my back and I was still nauseated, but it was manageable. I figured that labor was still a week away, so I did my best to just ignore it, but after WEEKS of prodromal labor I also gave my daughter a few pep talks, telling her that it was time to come out. Her due date had arrived, and her time was officially up. Mama was tired, Daddy was more than a little worried, and her big brother was getting anxious and wanted to meet his baby sister whom he’d seen growing in my belly for so many months. I went to bed that night with the same dull back cramps and nausea, drank my tea, curled up with my son and went to sleep.

At 3am I awoke to some sharp contractions, lasting about a minute long.  I tried to breathe through them and go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I texted my sister to let her know not to bring the kids. This was the text I sent at 3:28 am:

Ow. Ow. Ow. Can’t sleep through these. Keep trying but not working. Also nauseous. I think this is it. Will see how things are at 7am.

I also texted my doula at 5:04 am:

I haven’t been able to sleep since 3am. Tried many times but just can’t sleep through these. Still about 7-10 minutes apart, but there is a sharp point to all of them. I think I remember this. Tightening in my pelvis mostly, and have gotten stronger over the last few hours. Waiting until 7am  to see how much stronger, but pretty sure this is a shift now.

By this point I was hungry, and lying in bed was just too uncomfortable. I had tried to time the contractions, but they were so irregular that I soon gave up and just downloaded an app. I timed them by each contraction that had an actual peak, meaning that I basically ignored the early start of each one and didn’t have an actual idea of how long they were. However, based on the seven contractions the app had timed, it suddenly popped up on the screen “Go to the hospital”. I rolled my eyes, because obviously I wasn’t going to go to the hospital AT ALL! And besides that, the app said they were only seven minutes apart. That was still early labor. If this app was telling women to go to the hospital so early then it was clearly a stupid app and I wasn’t going to use it anymore. Instead of “going to the hospital” I just got up out of bed and grabbed the other half of my sandwich from the night before. My husband was sleeping on the mattress in the living room and asked me what was wrong.

“I can’t sleep,” I said. “And I’m really hungry.”

“Come lie down with me?” he asked, patting the side of the bed and pulling back the blankets.

“After I eat,” I told him.

I finished a few bites of my sandwich, but since I still felt sick I couldn’t eat the whole thing, so I put it back in the fridge. Then I climbed into bed. As if my husband had read my mind, he started to initiate sex and while I still had contractions they were just strong pressure in my belly and didn’t hurt anymore. I was able to get twenty minutes of sleep before they started up again. It was 6:30 and I had thought it had been closer to 7am.

“Any change?” he asked. It was one of the most constant questions in our home since my prodromal labor had started. We had started to mark my “progress” by whether or not anything had changed from what I’d already been through. I said I wasn’t sure. But they WERE sharp. I was getting nauseous again and while I felt it was still early, I suggested that my husband set up the pool.

“Should I go to work?” he asked. I wasn’t sure. I told him that I would text my doula after texting my sister, because obviously if things were this strong then it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to watch her kids that morning and she needed to know before 7am.

Me: OWWWW. Yeah, it’s labor. Not sure how fast it’s gonna be, but this is not easing up AT ALL. I maybe got 10-20 minutes of sleep and only because Ty helped get my mind off it at 5:30.

Her: Ok

Me: F-ing hurts. I forgot this. And I think I need to time them again. Feel like they are closer.

And how can I be hungry an hour ago and then get nauseated again? This sucks.

I continued to deal with the intensity, all the while my husband was setting up the pool. While he did that I climbed back into the bed. Our son woke up in the bedroom, calling for me. My husband brought him out and asked him if he could cuddle with mommy, because she was hurting. I was grateful that he could read my mind; I felt I really needed a distraction, and cuddling up with our sleepy firstborn was a good one. But the contractions kept coming and I couldn’t lie still for long. My sister continued to text me, asking whether I’d had a bath. Telling me that she went through this with her daughter too, and had her by 11am. I told her that I had long labors and that wasn’t bloody likely, but that this hurt a lot and it sucked, and I probably had hours to go before I even hit active labor. I texted my doula and told her what was going on and that my husband was setting up the pool. I also said that he was going to go to work, but that I would need her help while he was gone, just so I wasn’t alone with my son and things got too intense. Right after I sent that text, I felt so nauseous that I ran to the bathroom and dry-heaved into the toilet. Because of the force of the heaving I had toilet paper between my legs to catch any stray urine that might be leaking at the same time, and when the heaving finally stopped and I wiped myself, the tissue was streaked with pink mucous. My bloody show had arrived at last. This was it.

I came out of the bathroom and told my husband that I had my “show” and that I was going to text my doula again. He was hesitant to go to work, so I asked her what she would suggest. Because he would only be ten minutes away and she’d be here with me, she said he should go work as much as he could, if only for a few hours. He would be home for lunch, at which time we would decide if he could finish up the day or stay home with me. I distracted myself by fixing myself and my son some oatmeal, watering mine down so that it would at least go down easier. I prayed that I wouldn’t throw it up; I was still extremely nauseous with every contraction.  I sat on a white towel on the bed, so that any show would be visible, and so I wouldn’t get it all over the sheets as I lay down to rest when I needed to, and sit up when I needed to. I found that I had to change positions several times, often a different position through every contraction. The pain of them would dissipate if I found the “right” position, but the intensity and pressure remained. My son rubbed my back and talked to me, telling me it was “okay mummy” and I did my best to smile for him. I didn’t want him to be afraid; this was what I wanted him to see—that birth wasn’t scary. That birth was natural and that mommy was strong. That thought got me through the tougher parts of the contraction. I’d breathe deeply, sometimes moan, but for the most part I was in my “labor trance”. My female cat was going insane at the door, scratching and meowing as if she wanted to assist me. She had gone berserk the day before as well, as if she could sense that I was in labor. It was even more proof that she shared that mother-bond with me, and since I’d been there for her labor and birth (as if she gave me a choice; she wouldn’t let me leave the bedroom) she felt I needed her at mine. It would have been amusing if I wasn’t already in so much discomfort.

My doula arrived a little after 8:30 and let herself in with the house key we’d lent her. I was sitting on the ball at this point, trying to take some of the pressure off my legs. We did some more side lying inversions and did what we could to help position my daughter and take pressure off my back and hips, but she remained fixed in where she wanted to be, and since my labor seemed to be progressing at least we decided that we would just focus on making things as comfortable as we could. I labored some on the toilet, on the ball, standing up, sitting down, on my hands and knees…really, any position that felt right in the moment was the one I got into. My doula was a great support for my son in this time. She showed him how to “rub mommy’s back” and showed him the birth pool while at the same time keeping him from climbing into it.

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I popped chicken strips in the oven for lunch and set the timer for 25 minutes on my phone so that we could go out into the front yard. My son needed to burn off some of his energy and it was a beautiful, warm spring day. I thought it was a perfect day to welcome my daughter into the world. I sat on my ball, did some swaying, and just enjoyed the sun. It had been months since I’d been able to fully enjoy being outside, and now that it was spring the sun had finally come out and I could walk; today my daughter had decided to give my poor nerves and muscles a break, and I was enjoying every second of my mobility. After the timer went off, we returned into the house for lunch. My husband came home soon after that, bringing with him a frozen lemonade for me and coffee for himself and our doula. He asked if there was any change, to which I told him that there WAS, but that it was still early enough that he could return to work. I just wanted him to put our son down for his nap first, because at this point lying down in bed sounded like torture. I had a midwife appointment that day at 3pm, which I wasn’t certain I would go to now that labor had started. We decided to go for a walk around the block while my husband put our son down, and as we walked I told my doula how much more relaxing this was. I was SO grateful that I wasn’t in hospital. I knew from my research that they would not have “liked” my labor pattern. They’d have pressured me to “do something” and speed it up. They would have wanted to hook me up to the monitors. But at home I was coping well even when the contractions were quite powerful, and I was free to do as I liked. I wasn’t on anyone’s clock or timeline, which meant that even if labor was long no one would really KNOW that except for me, my husband, and my doula.

At 2pm we had to make a decision; go to our appointment or call the midwife and let her know that labor had started. The thought of getting in the car was detestable; I’d been in the car in early labor with my son and it had been excruciating. I called the midwife clinic and got through to the receptionist, who then got my midwife on the phone. I told her what had been happening, mentioned that I had my bloody show, and while it was minimal it was still consistent. I told her that there was NO WAY I was climbing into the car at this point, and that unless things got very intense between now and 5pm when clinic hours were over I wouldn’t need her to come out right away. I just wanted to inform her because I was going to miss my appointment and simply re-schedule it for her to come out to the house after clinic instead. She said she’d be over by 5:30 to 6pm to check on me. My husband went back to work to finish up the day, and my doula stayed until 5pm when he got home. She went home to make dinner for her kids and said she’d be back later if the midwife said I was making progress.

When the midwife arrived she assessed my progress. She asked if she could check my cervix, which I had earlier decided I didn’t want, but now I was just too curious for my own good and I wanted to know. So I consented and she said I was 3-4 cms! I couldn’t believe it, because after checking myself earlier in the day I couldn’t even REACH my cervix. Things really WERE moving! I figured I would have my daughter by morning.

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My husband came home from work soon afterward and when I told him that this was labor he took our son with him to the store to pick up some groceries and other things we might need for the next day or two, in case we were in for a long night. When he returned an hour later the midwife suggested we fill up the pool. I was SO relieved; I had been waiting to use this pool for weeks, and the thought of being able to relax in the deep, hot water sounded like heaven at that point. I texted my doula to let her know to come out; it was 7pm, exactly 12 hours from the time when my show had first started. My husband put our son to bed soon after the pool was filling up, and my doula arrived not long after that. I climbed into the pool and felt immediate relief! It was everything I’d imagined it would be, and while I was in there I felt another shift. The contractions were a lot stronger; some even pushing into my bottom. I could feel myself opening up through them, and I had to vocalize through them. I kept my sounds low, my mouth open, just as I’d read to do from all the natural birth articles and books I’d read over the last two years; it really DID help. When I needed to empty my bladder I would go to the toilet and sit through 3 or 4 contractions, and they’d become even more intense, almost like my body wanted me to push through them. I kept my pelvis open and very gently I would push enough for a trickle of urine to come out. It was so slow that my midwife had to ask me if I was peeing or if my water had broken. I assured her that hadn’t happened yet; I was hoping for a caul birth, after all. I didn’t want my water to break until I was at least pushing if it was to break at all.

By 9pm things started to slow down. I consented to another check, but it was so painful and I didn’t like it. I was still 3-4 cms and the midwife suggested we try to get things moving again. She had already called the hospital, and I was “on the clock”. Being that she was still newly certified she had to follow their “rules” and though everything with me and the baby was fine, she knew that if there wasn’t progress soon she would have no choice but to consult an OB. We all knew what would have happened then, and we were on our guard. I tried different positions and exercises, but the contractions didn’t seem to change in intensity and by midnight it was clear to everyone that I was getting tired. I was also hungry again, so I ate the leftover chicken strips, had some cut up strawberries while resting in the pool, and drank as much water as I could. My midwife checked me again and I was 5-6 cms during the contraction, but would then close back to 3-4 afterward. She knew that things would likely not progress any further; I was tired. I needed sleep, and my body was going to give it to me.  She decided that this wasn’t labor; that I was still in prodromal labor and that once again my body had tricked us. I KNEW in my heart that this wasn’t true; I knew from my reading that my “abnormal” labor was just how my body did things, and that likely things would pick back up after a long rest. I’d been at this for 24 hours, I reasoned. My baby wasn’t stressed; the midwife confirmed that for me. I was fine; baby was fine. I agreed to take a Gravol and some Tylenol and go to bed. It was 2am and I had been laboring for 24 hours, possibly longer considering things had been strong when I’d gone to bed, but I hadn’t thought anything of the pelvic pressure at that point.

“If things DO pick up again AND you call me, I will have to assess you again,” my midwife said calmly. “If you haven’t progressed, then we will have to consult an OB, and I KNOW you don’t want to do this, but we might have to break your water and consider induction.”

I didn’t like that at all, and neither did my husband. We agreed that everyone would go home, get some rest, and I would sleep as long as possible. I climbed into bed and got a call around noon from my midwife. By this point I had decided that I would tell her things had stopped completely, and for now they had, so it was easy to pretend it had just been more prodromal labor. I grabbed my sandwich from the fridge, ate it in bed, then slept for a few more hours. My son was feeling sick, so he slept soundly beside me. At 2pm I finally got up. I had some very bad cramping and my cervix hurt a lot, which I simply attributed to the cervical checks I’d had the night before. I already regretted them, and I was angry at myself for having been so stupid as to think they’d “mean anything” in the first place!

My husband decided that he’d slept enough and went to work, intending to finish up the rest of the day at the least. I continued to eat and drink, as I was starving. I put on Paw Patrol for my son and laid down on the mattress in the living room for a bit, but the cramping was getting worse. My husband returned home half an hour later; they had sent him home for the day as they knew he was tired and that I had been laboring all night. It was a good thing they did, because it gave us time to discuss something that had been on my mind: what were his thoughts on NOT calling the midwife until I was in transition or just before I started pushing? Would he be okay with that? It turns out that he had been thinking the same thing, and he just wanted to know what our doula would say about that idea. I KNEW she would be all for it, as she was supportive of that plan when I’d first brought it to her before I’d found my midwife. But I texted her anyway, and she told us that we would simply need to sign a waiver in the event that the midwife didn’t arrive in time and we were facing an unassisted birth. My husband was okay with that, because he had it in his head that our doula would catch if necessary. Little did we know how close we would come to doing it all on our own…

Part 3: A Fast Labor and Birth

Around 5pm I ate the last of the hamburgers that my husband had made a few nights before. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable sitting on the chair to eat, as I still felt a lot of pressure on my cervix with these cramps. But then it hit me; these had a sharp peak to them and weren’t cramps at all. I sat still for a few minutes, monitoring them. Nope, definitely NOT cramps. I texted my doula to let her know that I was likely picking up again and the contractions were STRONG, just like they’d been the night before when I’d gotten into the pool. I felt I needed to empty my bladder, so I went into the bathroom and had another strong contraction on the toilet that I had to vocalize through. My son followed me in there, worried. I told him I was singing, and asked him to sing with me. That seemed to calm him, and it was a good thing, because I had another one right after I told him that. When I wiped, the toilet paper was streaked with blood. More bloody show, and it was a lot more present than it had been last night. I had a few more contractions in there, and sure enough there was more show present. I knew that my body was opening up again, and that since I’d already gotten to 6 cms the night before it would likely go faster this time. I figured I would have my daughter by morning.

I texted my doula to let her know that I needed her for at least an hour, just to keep the pool warm and so that I wouldn’t be alone. My son had his swimming lesson at 6:30 and my husband was still going to take him. He was anxious leaving me, but it was easier knowing that our doula would be here. They really ARE an asset when it comes to home birth; especially a long labor such as mine. My husband had been able to go into work, get groceries, take our son to lessons, and basically just continue a normal routine for much of my prodromal and early labor.

When she arrived I was already in the pool. She read the records my midwife had left on the counter, telling me that during the cervical check my cervix had opened to 6 cms on contraction but then closed up. She said that the baby’s heart did not decelerate and had remained steady, that I had been coping well, and that there were no issues. Basically, she explained, my midwife had wanted to close that file up for the night as badly as I did, and by agreeing it was prodromal labor the hospital had taken me off the board. I was, as far as the health authority was concerned, NOT in labor. So I could just relax and do my thing, and we would call my midwife when I got closer to the end. I was thankful that I was off the clock; that I had a supportive birth team; that I had done all my research and read all those empowering birth stories, and that I was confident enough that I could trust my body to do what it needed to do. I simply had to LET IT.

My doula stayed until 8pm when my husband put the mattress back into our son’s bedroom and put him to bed. Things hadn’t progressed, though contractions were still quite strong. We figured that things would remain this way for at least four hours or more, and probably pick up at 3am or in the morning. She went home to give us some time to ourselves, thinking that maybe what I needed was some time to just rest and relax with my husband. Soon after she left, my husband asked if it would be alright to head to the store. He said he’d be back in 15 minutes or less, and I let him go because the water was hot enough that I didn’t need him right that second. While he was gone I had a few more powerful contractions, though I don’t remember how many. I used the toilet, found more show, and then went back to the pool. I had another contraction and leaned back in the water just as my husband got in the door. Immediately I felt his hands on my shoulders, and I leaned back into him. Having him there, helping me get through these was all I seemed to need. As he cleaned up the kitchen I rested between contractions and made sure to drink lots of water and go to the bathroom as I felt I needed to. I had a bowl of cold water filled with washcloths and I reached down over the edge of the pool to place one on the back of my neck. My husband called his mother, who was now home from work, and told her that we might need her to take our son in the morning if I hadn’t had the baby by then. While he was on the phone, things really picked up. He rushed to my side and rubbed my arms as I vocalized long and low, taking four deep breaths between each vocalization. This one was my strongest yet, and it was SO sharp and SO intense that I sobbed at the end of it. I also had to push through this one, and my bottom had a lot of pressure. I wondered if this was transition, and didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. If this was what the next two hours were going to look like, I needed my husband to call my doula NOW. According to the time on my phone, when my husband texted her, I hit transition at 11:22 pm. While he was texting her, I had another one. This time I REALLY had to push, and it was FIVE vocalizations and then I suddenly reached a higher pitch as I felt a sudden pop of water pressure at my urethra. It shocked me out of my trance and I knew right then what had happened. I told my husband “My water just popped” and my husband thought I meant the pool. I shook my head. “No, my water broke.”

“What?” he asked. “I can’t hear you.” I had been talking into the edge of the pool and my arm, because I was leaning so far forward.

“MY WATER BROKE!” I said, lifting my head.

He was still texting my doula. My water broke at 11:29 pm.

My husband panicked and asked if we needed to call the midwife. At first I thought that I would get an hour’s break at least, or maybe my water had broken too early.

“Not yet. Not yet.” I started saying, but then I felt another contraction and some burning as her head started to come down. “YES!” I cried. “She’s coming!”

My husband was in shock and couldn’t believe it. He asked if I was sure, and I said “SHE’S COMING NOW!!!!” I could feel her head pushing upward, and I knew that I could NOT be on my hands and knees; it was far too intense and she was coming way too fast.

I wanted to see if there was meconium, but aside from the “slight discoloration” my husband mentioned (which was the amniotic fluid mixed with my show) there was nothing. Relief swept over me; my daughter would be fine, and if the midwife didn’t get here in time I could handle it. I couldn’t say the same for my husband, who had looked over and nearly had a heart attack.

“Oh my god, Baby, her head is RIGHT THERE,” he exclaimed, starting to freak out. I told him I already knew, that I was okay, and to just call our doula and midwife.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” he moaned.

I put my hand up (the one that wasn’t touching her head) and told him “It’s okay. I’ve got this.”

Everything was burning and I was very thankful that I was in the water because this baby was not slowing down at all. With every contraction I had to pant through it, because they were doing all the work of pushing my daughter out for me and if I pushed with them I knew I was going to tear. Soon the midwife arrived. She used the Doppler and assured me and my husband that the baby’s heart was still fine, even with the force of which she was being born. She asked my husband to call for an ambulance, which again sent him into a panic until she assured him that there was no emergency; she just needed backup, and our second midwife wasn’t here yet. While he called 911 and waited for the ambulance outside, I was panting beautifully and the head was almost out. My midwife barely touched me at all; she just placed her hand in the water to make certain that the head wouldn’t hit the bottom of the pool. Another contraction and the head was out; I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I had some time to catch my breath…then the shoulders were forced out with another powerful contraction which made me cry out in shock and surprise. I couldn’t believe it; she was out. My midwife lifted her out of the water and placed her in my arms, telling me to be careful because the cord was short. I sank lower in the water to keep warm, staring in awe at this tiny baby girl who hadn’t cried yet but was definitely alert. I cried for her, saying “I did it!” I couldn’t believe how intense and fast it all had been, but now suddenly she was here! The EMTs came in with my husband in time to see me holding her, and that’s when she let out her first little cry.

“So are we going to the hospital?” One of the EMTs asked.

“No,” I said, “It’s a planned home birth. She just came so FAST.” My midwife explained that we’d just needed backup, but that they could leave as soon as our second midwife arrived. The EMTs congratulated me. I was sore and tired, but high on endorphins and oxytocin, and I felt as if FINALLY I had healed from the trauma of my son’s birth. It was true: WHAT happened wasn’t as important as how I felt about what happened. This birth could have been traumatizing to someone else, but to me it was an empowering experience. I had been able to move around and just do what I felt I needed to do in every moment. I made every decision in my prenatal care. I’d even come close to delivering my own baby, without any assistance. My body was AMAZING! It currently hurt a lot, like a horse had kicked me in the crotch, but it WAS amazing. The best part was that in birthing my daughter I was able to see and know in my heart that everything I’d read and started to believe was also the truth: Birth WORKS. Had I been in the hospital, under constant monitoring and subjected to the regulations and restrictions in that institution I am sure that my story would have been very different, and the birth far more traumatic than it ever needed to be.

 

 

Part 4: After Birth

My daughter was still not ready to nurse right away while we were in the pool, and when the cord finally stopped pulsing we had it clamped. I forget if my midwife cut it (my hands were full) or if my husband finally decided to. I know that they had asked him, and he’d been a bit squeamish, but I was so busy looking at my little girl that I didn’t notice who actually cut it. I do know that afterward, because she still didn’t want to nurse and I had a gush of blood, that my husband took her and gave her skin to skin and both my midwives helped me from the pool. I was a little dizzy, and after considering it for a minute or two I decided that I wanted the shot of oxytocin/syntocinon to help deliver the placenta. Gravity on its own didn’t seem to be dislodging it, and I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital to have it removed manually. They readied the couch for me, placing down the plastic cover and the old bed sheet and towels, and I got onto my hands and knees. I passed a few clots, and finally I felt the placenta coming out. I had to cough a few times because it was so big, but it was all intact and my bleeding slowed after that. After the clots and placenta were removed from the towels and fresh ones put down, my doula arrived and took pictures of my husband holding our daughter. Then she was brought back to me to nurse, and she took to it immediately. Of course since we hadn’t weighed her yet that meant that she was cheating on her birth weight, but none of us were too concerned about that. The midwives filled out the paperwork and her birth time was pronounced to be 11:40pm based on the time on our oven clock. But since it was a few minutes ahead, her actual birth time was closer to 11:38pm; she had wanted to be a March baby and probably thought this labor and birth would have been too cruel a joke to play on us had she been born after midnight on April 1st.

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My son woke up very briefly and my husband went to get him. He brought him out to see his new baby sister nursing in my arms, but our boy was so tired that he just snuggled back into his shoulder and we decided we would wait until morning. We did the vitamin K shot while I nursed, then my husband took our girl to be measured and weighed. She was 7 lbs 14 oz and about 21 and a half inches long. Her head circumference was the same as her brother’s, in the 90th percentile at 36 cm and she was an ounce heavier and half an inch longer! While my daughter was with my husband the midwife examined me and found that I had two small labial tears that needed stitches. I was anxious at first, but when I talked it over with everyone (most of all my husband) I determined that yes, I did need them. My daughter’s head had not molded at all, and with how fast she came out I wasn’t surprised that there was some damage. Fortunately they agreed to numb me as much as possible with the lidocaine, and after squirting as much as they could I had the stitches done. It was easier to relax on the couch, in the comfort of my own home, and afterward I did feel much better. I also was hungry, so upon learning that there were NO pizza places open at 2am, my husband went to the 24/7 drive thru at McDonald’s and I had a ten piece chicken mcnugget meal with a coke (because why not?). I figured the caffeine would at least encourage my bladder to get full faster, since I had emptied it constantly in labor and knew I would need to pee before I went to bed. An hour after I ate I had my midwives help me up and I went into the bathroom to have a bath, pee, and just relax for a bit while my husband got to bond with his little girl.

I could FEEL my bladder this time, which was something I hadn’t been able to do with my son, and when I was finished in the tub I put on my underwear and pad, wrapped myself in a towel, and climbed into my own bed. My daughter slept soundly beside me.

The pool was drained, the linens bagged for washing, the towels in another Rubbermaid tub for washing as well. Everything was cleaned up, I was comfortably lying in bed, and the midwives and my doula left around 4am. Since I’d only been awake since 2pm and had taken little catnaps between contractions in the early evening I was still wide awake. I tried to sleep, but my brain wouldn’t shut off. Eventually, around 6am, I finally did sleep.  When I woke up again it was past 9am. Our son had awoken and when he heard the baby’s cries I overheard him say “baby out! See baby!” My husband brought him into our room, and he immediately lay down next to me and his new sister. The four of us remained in bed for over an hour, just cuddling and talking, with no interruptions and no sense of urgency or feeling like we needed to go anywhere; I was thankful that I’d trusted my instincts and chosen to birth my daughter at home, because in that moment there was nowhere else I wanted to be except right here with my family. Though the birth experience had been longer, more intense, and more painful than with my first, it had been exactly what I’d wanted; a perfect birth the way it was meant to unfold, with complete trust in my body and what it was capable of doing. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way! ❤

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So You THINK You Want Another Baby? A letter to my future self

To my non-pregnant future self,

Hey girl. So if you’re reading this then it’s likely two or three years into the future and your last baby has either weaned completely or she’s about to. And you’re probably looking back on her baby days with nostalgia and tears in your eyes because you will never ever have another baby in your arms nursing at your breast.
Yeah, I know how much you love the baby snuggles on your chest; the milk drunk sleep that follows a nursing session. I know you’re probably remembering when she was fluttering inside your belly, and how magical that time was. You’re probably remembering that moment of elation when you finally gave birth, and how the oxytocin was flowing to the point that you were overwhelmed with love for that tiny baby, same as with her brother.

You’re probably looking at all the cool things that happen in birth with fascination, wishing you could do it over again and try for some of them. Well, I’m here in the past/present at 39 and a half weeks pregnant with said daughter, and I’m telling you lady to CUT THAT SHIT OUT RIGHT NOW! Seriously, STOP IT! WE ARE DONE! NO MORE!

See, I knew that you wouldn’t remember this shit, because you sure as hell didn’t remember it with your son. You forgot the pain in the ass that was having to pee every five minutes. You forgot the pain in your ribs as he hung out there for the last month and a half. You forgot the prodromal labor. You forgot the excruciating back spasms you got at 25 weeks. You forgot how goddamn itchy your belly got. The exhaustion. The roller coaster of emotions. And that’s just for your son. He was the EASY pregnancy!

With your daughter, the baby who is growing up before your eyes, it was worse. OH it was SO much worse. I’m pretty sure that had you known ahead of time what you would go through with her, you would have stopped at your son. Nature is a tricky son of a bitch for making us forget. Well, I’m going to remind you right now, while I’m still IN this hell that is pregnancy. Because girl, you seriously need a wake up call if you think that going through this AGAIN is worth it!

You planned this one; I know. I remember how you got your first period in 33 months after your son was born. How awful it was; how furious you were. How you vowed to get pregnant right the fuck now, so that you could skip it for another 33 months or longer. Look, I totally get why you did that, but your son was barely two years old when you made it your monthly goal to get yourself pregnant. And yeah, you and the husband had a hell of a month and it totally worked, but here’s the thing about that “working”.

You were sick from conception to 16 weeks! We’re not talking “throwing up in the toilet” but the queasiness did NOT go away. You ate, you felt like shit. You didn’t eat, you felt like shit. You constantly felt like you were going to throw up. You dry heaved and gagged, and SOMETIMES you had a bit of relief, but most of the time, this was your existence. It sucked. Oh? You think that Vitamin B might help? It won’t. Magnesium won’t touch this sickness. Diclectin just makes you drift in and out of consciousness for 16 hours of the day. You might escape this hell, or it might be worse. What if you have another girl instead of the son you’re envisioning right now?
No? I haven’t talked you out of it just yet? Okay, well say you avoid the sickness this time…you have other issues, lady!

You can’t escape the extreme fatigue. The kind that has you lying on the couch unable to wake your ass up, and meanwhile the toddler is wreaking havoc all around you. Remember the cocoa powder your son spilled all over the floor. Remember how you couldn’t even get up some days to do laundry. That tired feeling sticks with you right into the fifth month, then comes back at the start of your third trimester. And know what ELSE comes up in your second trimester????

Remember the back spasms! I KNOW you thought it was a fluke with your son; that you just pulled something. But it is SO easy to aggravate that muscle and nerve; you know, the one that causes pain worse than labor, that causes you to throw up uncontrollably while at the same time aggravating your bladder or worse? The pain that sends you to the hospital to get a shot of morphine just so you can sleep, even though the second you wake up again you’re going to throw up. The pain that causes you to not be able to eat anything, or stay hydrated, or MOVE at all, THAT pain is a guarantee, my friend! It’s something to do with your uterus moving out of your pelvis; that shit just messes you up for a few weeks and no matter HOW careful you are, that spasm WILL happen. You think you can avoid it? You have two kids now. You’re more likely to injure yourself TWICE! And while I’m on the subject of back pain…
Yes, you have a damn good chiropractor. You probably COULD budget for that again. But you need to remember that SPD gets worse with every pregnancy, and there was NOTHING she could do except keep things somewhat “comfortable” for you a few days out of the week. Your hips and groin still ached and some days the sciatica was so bad you couldn’t walk without it feeling like a knife was stabbing your thigh. You sometimes has it so bad you couldn’t sleep. The bigger you got, the worse it became. By your 8th month it felt like your leg was being torn from your hip as you tried to walk. The hell that is SPD was SO debilitating that you couldn’t do much of anything. Shopping trips had to be cut short. You couldn’t go for walks outside. You couldn’t lift your son. Laundry and dishes piled up; toys were all over the floor because you couldn’t get down there to pick them up. Woman, I will seriously CUT you if you even THINK about putting us through that again!
Oh, and if all that hasn’t convinced you, how about this? Prodromal Labor. Remember what a BITCH that was the second time around? Well guess what? It’s worse with every pregnancy you have. So “early labor” contractions from 37 weeks and ramping up to “active labor” contractions as you got close to 38 weeks, and then stopping, and then starting up again, and then stopping, and feeling like you have to puke during some of these sessions, and the hot flashes, the night sweats, the pain in your ribs from the strength of the contractions in addition to tiny feet always finding their way in there…yeah, it might be WORSE if you are stupid enough to do this again!
What I’m trying to get through to you is that labor and birth are the EASY part! Hell, we can deal with that no problem; especially when we’re having a home birth. But that other stuff lasts for ten months! It’s ten hellish months of pain and misery and sheer exhaustion, and that last month is the one that sucks the most because of all the prodromal labor and the SPD!
Look, I’m sitting down at the table typing this out in our comfy chair, and my left thigh is throbbing because our daughter is lying on the sciatic nerve. You know, because our babies drop early and yet don’t seem to get into a nice position that doesn’t cause us pain! My belly feels like it’s stretched to the limit and I’m so uncomfortable and just want real labor to start. I’m not even 40 weeks yet, and I’m DONE! Seriously DONE! And I know that in 3 years, when I’m YOU, I’m going to be looking back on this time and forget all this discomfort and this DONE feeling I have right now, and I’m going to be considering something incredibly stupid!
Well, this is me, your past/present self demanding that you stop this right now! You don’t want to be ME in this moment. You really, really don’t. If your husband has not had that vasectomy yet, I urge you to go grab his welding tools and do it yourself. Cauterize those fuckers and spare nothing! Or just make that appointment with a urologist for him and tell him he’s fucking going, because we are DONE! Our reproductive system is screwed up enough as it is; we are not getting surgery and risking it being even MORE screwed up! And for the love of god, woman, remember to keep taking that pill! Because I shouldn’t have to remind you what ELSE comes back when you’re fertile again.
Yeah, didn’t think so!