Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's funny.  You can be waiting for something wonderful to happen for a really long time.  Days go by, weeks, and months, all at the speed with which they would have passed even if you were not waiting.  But it's those final days and hours, when the arrival of your gift feels so imminent...that pass with almost painful sluggishness.  Every second seems to linger and loiter, and taunt.  Your rational mind tells you to enjoy the time.  Appreciate the anticipation of being on the brink.  Savor every moment to the bittersweet end.  And sometimes you can do that.  But sometimes the "next thing" looms so brilliant and beautiful before you that it overshadows all the moments surrounding it.  

Such is birth.

That brilliant and beautiful moment.

No matter how many times I experience it.  No matter how much struggle or pain it brings.  It's the brilliance and beauty that my heart remembers.

I woke up on the morning of May 6, 2013 with slightly uncomfortable contractions about 10-12 minutes apart.  This had been happening nearly every morning for several days though, and I knew they would subside as soon as I got out of bed.  I lay there for about an hour, visualizing my body preparing for labor, and wiling it to continue its work even after I rolled myself out of the bed.  Just as I expected though, as soon as I got up it stopped.  I led the kids through morning chores, loaded everyone in the van, and headed to my mom's house to go through the kid's clothes that I have stored in her attic.  Aunt Carol and Mimi made them a yummy brunch while I sorted and sifted through boxes and bins.  For the two hours we spent there, not one noticeable contraction passed through my body.  I left for home with plans to do some laundry, clean my house, and hit the gym before dinner time.

I arrived home around 12:15pm.  A few minutes after 12:30 I got on the treadmill (the first of my two planned workouts for the day) and set it at my regular pace.  Within the first three minutes I had to cut the speed in half because a shockingly uncomfortable contraction gripped my back and belly.  I thought little of it, assuming I just needed to slow down.  Less than 5 minutes later, it happened again.  Something just felt different about these.  Not like the practice my body had been doing for months.  I knew when my back felt them too, that there was a stronger chance that they meant something.  I walked around the house for awhile, not really timing anything, but noticing that they were coming about every 4-5 minutes.  And noticing that they weren't polite little pains. I sat on the birthing ball and they spaced out some, but didn't stop.  Checkpoint #2, they didn't go away when my activity changed.  Justin was at work preparing for an important presentation he had the next day, so I was slow to contact him and share the recent developments.  Right around 1:00 I texted him and told him that I was having some "decently uncomfortable" contractions, but it wasn't urgent and I would keep him updated.  Over the next hour they became more and more intense, and moved to 3 minutes apart.  I took a shower, because no matter how much pain I was already feeling, there was no way I was going to have a baby unshowered and with hairy legs!  A little after 2:00 I was feeling confident things were progressing and I called and told him he should maybe head home.  I texted my mom and said I thought today was the day.  About that time I also informed my midwife, Lucy, that I was having contractions, but that she didn't need to rush over.  Over the next 20 minutes I texted friends who planned to be present for the birth, just to give them a heads up that things were happening.  Everyone wanted to come right away.  But I put them all off, saying no one needed to hurry.  Justin arrived home around 2:30, saw how real the labor already was, and called Lucy to tell her to ignore whatever I had said and go ahead and come over.  When Lucy arrived at 3:00, contractions were about 2 minutes apart.  She asked how I was doing and I told her "great!", which is what I had been telling myself as my own cheerleader for the previous couple of hours.

Sometime between 3:00 and 3:45, most everyone else arrived.  My mom, Dana (Lucy's apprentice), and my friends Lori (and her daughter, Ayla) and Alli.  It wasn't long before I could concentrate on nothing other than the work that my body and mind were doing to bring this baby to meet its family.  Justin was rubbing my back and pressing it as hard as he could as I breathed through the surges and held a picture in my mind of my sweet baby descending.

When my friend Anne Marie (and her 6 kids) arrived, I heard her voice in the house and felt her touch my back, but I wasn't even able to open my eyes to see her.  Sometime around 4:00, I got into the shower, looking for something to relieve the pain and pressure.

While in the shower, I was fully aware of when my labor changed to the transition stage.  I began vocalizing during each contraction, that low moaning sound that Justin loves to laugh about after every birth.  I was talking myself through every wave and settling myself during every break.  The pressure became intense, surging all the way into my legs until I felt that I could no longer stand.  I knew I needed to lie down.  So I left the comfort of the warm water beating on my back and went to my bed.

Justin continued to press on my back, though nothing really offered much relief.

The pressure rapidly intensified.  I began to tell myself that it was time.  My body agreed.  My water had not yet broken but I knew the baby was so close, and I knew that if I just changed positions then my water would likely break and we would be minutes away from meeting our baby.  So I took all the strength I could gather and sat up, pulling myself onto my knees.

And it happened. A POP and  rush of fluid.  And right away I felt the urge to push.  I sat there on my knees, leaning onto Justin's back while he acted as a stool propped on his elbows in front of me on the bed, and felt the little one descending through my body.  I heard encouragement from the crowd waiting behind me (11 other people in the room, including a few kids).  I knew the moment had arrived.  That brilliant and beautiful moment that overshadows all the others.  I pushed slowly and deliberately, easing her head out, then gave one more small push and a sweet little precious baby girl bursted into the room, bringing relief and unspeakable joy with her.  Lucy unwrapped the cord from her neck as I melted onto the bed in exhaustion and brought my gift to my chest.

Over the next couple of hours, friends and family and brothers and sisters basked in the joy and beauty of this much anticipated new life.  Baby girl and I relaxed in an herb bath together.  And she was weighed and measured.

The waiting was over.  The next wonderful thing had arrived.  

On her third day of life she received a name.

Dahlia Dove Nanette Allen. Our stunning flower.  Our peaceful bird.  And her Mimi's namesake.

May 6, 2013, 4:32pm.  6 pounds, 1 ounce.  19 inches.

Daddy calls her Dahlia or Doll, and Mama likes to call her Dove.

Thank you, Lord, for this much anticipated gift.  And for her journey into my arms.  Even amidst the pain...something brilliant and beautiful for my heart to always remember.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

After what has seemed like an endless stream of cold winter days, today was warm and beautiful.  My little boys shed their shirts, my little girls donned their swimsuits, and no one gave their shoes even a passing glance as the whole giddy group of them tumbled over each other out the back door and into the sunshine.  They spent the day splashing each other with still-too-chilly water, flipping on the trampoline, shooting baskets, practicing their music accompanied by the sound of the breeze through the trees, swinging, running, catching ladybugs, and laughing.  Pale skin got kissed by the sun and a precious two year galloped through the greening grass with a bare hiney and a carefree giggle.

After finishing my morning chores, my 8 months pregnant body was already exhausted well before lunchtime.  While the kids played with Legos on the front porch I snuck stealthily out the back door and settled onto the empty trampoline to relax.  The sun on my face warmed me and the soft wind quickly lulled me to the edge of sleep.  But it wasn't long before I was found.  My sweet Asa, who always has a desire to interact and engage, assumed I was bored and needed something to do.

"Hey Mama!" he said excitedly as he bounced over to me, jarring me out of my peaceful aloneness.
"Hey Ace...." I knew what was coming....
"Want to play catch with me?"
"No thanks, buddy, I'm just going to rest a little bit."
"Ok, then, how about we find a basketball and play HORSE?"
"'m pretty tired.  Big baby in my belly and all that, you know?"
"Aw, come on Mama, let's do SOMETHING..."

I continued to resist.  Not really feeling too guilty about it, honestly, because a Mama deserves a few minutes to rest, right?  I convinced him to lie down with me and let me use his back as a pillow.  We lounged together as I drifted back into my state of limp body and blank mind. Ah...sweet quality time.

Unless you're a 9 year old boy.  Then it's just plain boring.

"Asa, why don't you see if any of the other kids want to go to the creek and play?"
"I already asked them," he replied with a dejected frown, "no one will go."
"You could go by yourself."
"That's no fun, Mom.  Hey!  I know!  You can go to the creek with me!"  I didn't even have to open my eyes to know that a big smile and shining eyes were looking at me expectantly.
Somehow the "no" on the tip of my tongue magically transformed itself into a "sure" on its way out.  And just like that, I was committed.

I rolled my awkward bulkiness toward the opening of the trampoline, ungracefully plopped onto the grass, and slowly made my way into the house to get my creek boots.

Somehow, in the 38 minutes I had taken to relax, my house had been destroyed by mischievous little ones.  Ok, they were actually just hungry little ones who had decided to fend for themselves when they realized that their mama had forgotten that it was well past lunchtime and any attempts to bring her out of the sunshine would likely be futile.  The place was a wreck.  Something in me will not allow me to walk out of my house and leave a mess like that behind, so I went straight to work.  And my persistent and now very excited Asa was on my heels the entire time...

"Are you ready yet?  Are you ready now?  Should I get the nets?  I'll go find a bucket.  Want to take the wagon?  I need to put my bathing suit on!  Don't worry, it won't be too cold for you.  Is it time now? Are you almost done with this?  Can we go?  Can we now?  Huh, mama?  How about now?"

I finally finished cleaning up, pulled on my boots, put Julia in charge of Juni, and slowly trudged out of the house with Asa.  It wasn't that I had a bad attitude about going.  I just didn't know if I could muster enough energy to make it all the way there.

Asa skipped ahead of me dragging the wagon with the nets and buckets and bubbling with excitement.

He smirked at me when my unbalanced body caused me to teeter on the rocks and made fun of me when my crawdads kept getting away.  But for the hour we spent together at the creek, I knew there was no place he would rather have been.  He showed me all the best spots to catch the biggest crustaceans.  He told me about the mudsucker fish he once caught that was as big as his hand.  He talked on and on, telling me stories of the day he caught so many crawdads that he couldn't lift the bucket, and the time he put a little one in with three huge ones and came back to find the big bullies eating the poor tiny creature.  So many stories I had never heard before.  So many moments that excited him, that I had not been a part of.  Asa had invited me to play at the creek with him so many times.  I'd gone on occasion.  But usually with my mind on everything else I "should" be doing instead.  Today, though, I was there with him.  In the moment.  As much I enjoyed hearing his tales of past adventures, I was struck with the realization that I don't just want to HEAR my children's stories from them, I want to LIVE their stories with them.  When my kids are grown and we relive their childhoods together, I want as many recollections as possible to begin with "Mama, remember when..." rather than, "Mama did I ever tell you about the time....".  I want their memories of me to be not of a mama who stayed dry and watched them from a distance, but of a mama who jumped in the creek and let the freezing water fill her boots and the crawdads pinch her fingers.

We have but one childhood together, my children and I.  And it isn't meant to be watched.  It's meant to be shared, enjoyed, lived.

I know I can't experience every moment right beside them, though.  So I will encourage them to explore the woods with their friends.  I will kiss them happily and wave goodbye when I leave them to make memories with their grandparents.  I will watch from the sidelines as they score goals, run races, and win awards.

But when those special moments come, and I know I will recognize them, when it's my turn to run and play beside them, to lean down to their level and see the world through their eyes, to shoot baskets, to fall in the creek and laugh at myself...when it's time to live the adventure, I want to be the mom who joins in without hesitation.

The stories that they will remember for the rest of their lives are being written on their hearts today, mama.

Let yourself come alive on the pages!