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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Raphy's Birth Story Part 2

I know you all (my two readers!) have been waiting on bated breath waiting to hear the rest of Raphy's birth story. I can't say that there hasn't been anything on my mind (more on that later), but I figure that it's better to get this all written down before I forget it. Some details are already a bit foggy! So, without further ado, the most exciting conclusion to my fifth pregnancy!

One thing that I have been very blessed with is a good instinct about when my labors would start. On Tuesday evening, April 8, I just had the feeling that I might be having a baby the next day. It felt like that moment when you are on a roller coaster and the train is plugging away to the top of the hill, click click click, and then, there's a brief moment before you go back down. That sort of sigh, that breathless, almost weightless moment when the real ride is about to begin. I must say that what followed was really a roller coaster.

I told Nate about my instinct and he encouraged me to try an get some rest in anticipation. I did try to sleep, I got a few hours, but woke up in the wee hours of the morning. This is very familiar to me as it followed the same pattern as the labors with Frederick and Cordelia, but that is about where the similarity between labors ends. For a few hours, my contractions were pretty consistent. They were increasing in frequency and seemed to be going the way they should be. I called my midwife, Cindy, and let her know what was going on. By about 9 that morning I was ready for her to come. I didn't want her to miss it! She arrived, but by the time she got there, my contractions had petered out. It was a bit discouraging, but I was still in that mindset where I wasn't really ready to be giving birth. She checked me, and I honestly can't remember how far dilated I was or anything, but it was still fairly early. She went home and told me to keep her updated.

I had contractions off and on all afternoon and got in a short nap. My dear friend Marcie came by and picked up the kids when the girls had returned from school. More contractions and more contractions that evening. Nate made soup. I didn't want to eat it but I was starving and tired, so I did. It was good. Nate and I talked in the quiet house. At this point, I was getting rather discouraged. I would get lots of contractions, then they'd stop. I experienced a bit of this during labor with Frederick, but I always felt like I was moving forward. I just didn't feel like I was getting anywhere.

Eventually, Nate tried to convince me to get some rest, again. I tried laying down at around 11 pm that night. I couldn't. I was uncomfortable and just couldn't understand what was going on! Why weren't things progressing? They were, but I just had no idea how much! I did some googling, as is my way, and read several women's experiences with this stop and start labor. I was resigned to the fact that Wednesday wasn't the day and maybe Thursday wouldn't be either. I felt reassured that it was within the realm of normal and that many women have a similar labor pattern when they have already had multiple pregnancies.

I decided once again to lay down when we got a call from Marcie. Frederick was very upset and would not fall asleep at their house. I had figured that might happen, and by 1:30 am he was back at home. We tried lying down with him, but my contractions were starting to get intense and it was extremely difficult to just lie there. A bit after 2, Nate tried to get me to call my midwife. I should have listened! I kept saying "not yet", because I didn't want her drive all that way for nothing. Again! (She would have done it happily, but it was just my insecurity talking). After about an hour of very intense contractions and Nate telling me that the contractions were "definitely doing something", I finally called her. I think Nate knew that I was moving toward transition, but he is gentle and kind and I think he wanted me to make the call and not step on my feet. It was nearing 4 am when I called her (she probably knows the times better than I do!). It was going to take her 2 hours to get there, and I just got the feeling that she might not make it about a half hour after that call was made.

I had sort of planned to do a water birth. I say sort of because it sounded interesting and I thought it might be helpful, but I didn't really go into it with my heart set on it. After I called Cindy, I wanted to take a shower/bath because I remembered how calming and helpful it had been with my last labor. As I was sitting in the bath, Nate hooked up the hose to fill up the birth pool. I hadn't really thought the whole warm water thing through. Ha!

4:30 am. Then it came. Pop! My water broke. Here's about where I start to freak out. My water doesn't break until the very end. Cindy was still at least an hour away. I was still in the bath an the fluid looked clear. I tried to calm down. Nate was still filling the pool. I got out of the tub and dried off. I told Nate that my water broke. My contractions were very intense with very little break in between. Poor Frederick was awake because of all the commotion watching Spiderman cartoons. I stood in the hallway outside the bathroom and would lean against the wall when the contractions would come. Standing was the only position that felt comfortable for me. This went on for about 20 minutes. Every contraction telling me that baby was going to be here. Soon! In the back of my head, I knew we were going to do this on our own, but I kept thinking I needed Cindy there. She'd tell me what to do!

It was probably about 4:50-4:55 when I started to feel the urge to push. Other ladies may understand that sometimes that comes along with feeling like you need to use the rest room. So, I went to sit on the toilet, after about a minute sitting there, I knew the baby was right there. I got off the toilet, knelt down with my hands on the side of the bathtub. I yelled at Nate something akin to "I'm pushing!". He came over and I pushed. Raphy's head was coming out. I reached down, something I had never done before and felt the top of his head come out. i remember feeling his squishy hair and then another contraction came and he just sort of fell out. Thankfully Nate was there to catch. Frederick was outside the door, watching, completely baffled by what happened. Raphy looked around and I rubbed him and just kept saying things like, "Hi baby!" and "I did it!". Nate ran to call Cindy to tell her that the baby had been born. We weren't sure of the time, exactly, but it was right around 5 am.

Frederick, still in the hall, was a bit reluctant to come see the baby, but he did and he approved and said it was a "good baby".

After a few minutes, I moved to the bed. Cindy and the other midwife, Nancy, arrived about 20 minutes after he was born. He was a little blue for her liking, so he got a bit of oxygen and the room was warmed up and he looked great. We were all a bit baffled by the fact that he was born with a very intense looking rash. It looked like chicken pox several days in. We contacted the pediatrician's office and they recommended we transfer to the hospital.

Sigh. I must admit that it was very nerve wracking and stressful to be back in the NICU. I had to mourn a little bit because I missed out largely on the first couple days of bonding that I wanted. In the end, after testing negative for everything, just like I thought would happen, his final diagnosis was pustular melanosis, a benign newborn rash. Funny, because it was exactly what Dr. Google told me! It was fine, though, and everything worked out in the end. A real roller coaster.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Different: A Birth Story (Part 1)

To set the scene a bit:

It was maybe six weeks after my mother passed away. More grief. More sadness.

More baby?

Yes. Pregnant.

Ready or not, we were going to have a new baby. I wondered if my mother was laughing somewhere about it all. She seemed to have hinted at it more than once when she was sick. Perhaps she knew the future better than I did. And yet, it was hard to accept. Another child borne through grief? I guess that's what we do around here. Looking forward to new life forces you to make steps ahead, too. No waiting around. No stagnating.

Then I realized when this new little bundle would be due. Early April, maybe mid-April if the babe made us savor pregnancy like its siblings. Great. April. The month we lost our son. The month we lost an uncle. And, most recently, the month we found out we'd probably lose my mother too. 3 out of 4 years made me, well, a bit superstitious. I started to assign more significance than I probably ought to a month that generally symbolizes rebirth, resurrection and regeneration. A good month, right?

My pregnancy was fairly standard for me. I have been incredibly blessed to have had healthy pregnancies. Incredibly blessed. This time was a struggle. Life seemed in tumult. Things that I have had before in pregnancy were gone. The floor felt like it had been pulled out from under me and I had to find a way to gain some stability on my own and with the help of my little family. Without too much detail, it was hard, but I am grateful for those wonderful souls who stepped in to support us.

This time was different indeed.

I contacted C. She had assisted with both of our boys and now she was my primary midwife. The familiar face was comforting and I enjoyed some great chats with her.

Still, there were moments that gave me pause. More than one thing happened in a similar manner to what had happened in my pregnancy with Phineas. There were moments that I felt like I was treading ground that was all too familiar. For whatever reason, I felt more nervous, less self assured and less trusting than I had during my previous pregnancy with Freddie. I thought that it would be the other way around. Still, I prayed everyday. I prayed for the health and safety of my baby, that I would bond, that I would be ready for whatever happened and that the baby would arrive safely. I felt reassured that these things would be granted to us.

The day we had the ultrasound was a turning point. My midwife wanted to check the position of the baby because he had chosen to be in an unusual one, not unlike his siblings! Though, I didn't know he was a "he"! I was 36 weeks and I had convinced myself that this baby was a girl. I think I wanted a daughter to name after my mother. It would be poetic, right? I had guessed correctly with 4 out of four of my other babies, how could my intuition go awry? Very quickly, though, we discovered that I was completely wrong! Nope, another son! There was something exhilarating about having a complete surprise. It isn't that I really cared about the sex, but I could not wipe the smile off my silly "but I'm always right!" face. On the drive home, Freddie held the ultrasound pictures tightly and Nate and I named his little brother.

The final weeks went smoothly and while I was still nervous (hey, I know what unmedicated birth is like!), I finally accepted the pregnancy and could prepare to meet my third (third!!!) son.


Monday, April 21, 2014


Long time, no blog. But....

This is Raphael Joseph.

He is now 11 days old and is perfect and cuddly. He had a pretty wild entrance into the world (which I do plan to write about), but he's doing great.

I spent a good deal of my pregnancy with the notion that we'd have another girl. (Hey, I've been right 4 times before!) Now that he's here, I couldn't imagine anyone other than my new little redhead.

As for our name choice (we had a name picked out for a girl, but not a boy!), the conversation went about like this-

Him: So, what do we like?
Me: Well, my favorites haven't really changed. Abraham?
Him: I'd prefer Gabe to Abe. Gabriel?
Me: Well, I've always liked a different angel's name. Raphael?
Him: Yes, that's it. That's his name.

This is only a slight exaggeration, believe it or not. We decided over about a 10 minute conversation.

Raphael means "Healed by God" and we definitely could use a bit of healing in our lives. Joseph is Nate's middle name as well. It means "God shall add (another son)" and it felt quite appropriate for our third son.

Birth story soon, but for now, I am just soaking it in.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

What to say when you don't have the words.

Today, I was talking to my sister. She has been writing songs. They are beautiful. She is speaking about our mother's death. Yes, my mother died. I have ached to write something, but each time I sit down to try, I can't. I don't know why. Maybe I haven't found the words, or they haven't found me yet. In April, she was diagnosed. Brain cancer. She fought. She fought hard. But in June, she had moved on. I miss her terribly.

This is what I wrote for her memorial, though my words have been few since. Maybe they will find me.

Anyone who knows my mom has likely been acquainted with her affinity for The Muppets. Through the hallways at Cal State, her Muppet and Sesame Street CDs might be heard from time to time. She would joke that people might think she was crazy, but I think she enjoyed the fact that it drew people into her office and that it brought a smile to their faces.

She would often be asked who her favorite Muppet was and without hesitation she would reply: “Kermit”. She loved the song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” where Kermit is ruminating about identity and accepting yourself even if sometimes you feel you fade into the background. I think she enjoyed the character of Kermit and how he was always trying to manage the madness around him and allowing other people to shine. My mom knew how to do this and yet, deep down, she wasn’t fully a Kermit. No. My mother was a Gonzo. Why is she a Gonzo? Well, let’s examine the evidence.

After Kermit meets Gonzo he asks himself: What is Gonzo anyway? “He’s a little like a turkey. Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much.” The other muppets classified him as a Weirdo, or a Whatever. Gonzo was unique. There was never any doubt that my mom was as well. There is a quote from a movie that I enjoy where someone something to the effect of “when you start out in life standing out, you just keep on standing out”. My mom embraced her “differentness”. She couldn’t help the fact that she was tall, striking, and redheaded, but she embraced it fully and started to stand out in other ways as well. The way she walked with purpose, her commanding voice that when she sang you could hear her from far away. Her whistling any tune she had heard. Even in expressing herself, she would sound different. Her large vocabulary and unique writing style certainly let you know it was her. A family favorite being “Nice evasive maneuver, Matthew!” after my brother had a near miss on a sledding adventure. Even if, perhaps, she worried about being ordinary, it was clear she wasn’t. And, like a friend said, “did I mention she had red hair?”

Gonzo is well known for his many ideas. Sometimes, it wouldn’t work out so well, but it never spoiled his enthusiasm or desire to try again. Once before a stunt, Floyd Pepper asks Gonzo “Do you think it will work?” to which Gonzo responds, “No! Isn’t it terrific?” Our mom was always full of ideas. Even when she was ill, I would get phone calls from her that would start out, “I’ve got a couple of ideas for you....” Even when something wouldn’t work out, her mind would still be percolating on something new or thinking of another way to approach a problem.

Gonzo and Kermit are both known for being fearless. Kermit for leaving the swamp and pursuing his dream and sharing it with others. Gonzo for his stunts and generally living his life on the edge. She was ahead of her time in many ways which I think carries with it a great degree of fearlessness. She was certainly not afraid of being herself. The only time she seemed to fear anything was when it regarded someone she loved and cared about, rarely was it fear for herself. She’d shoot herself out of a cannon if the situation called for it! I think she inspired others to be fearless as well, to go after what they wanted, the way she did.

How do we remember such an individual? Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas. Be yourself, don’t be afraid to be daring and follow where your heart and your mind lead you. And even though she is no longer in our company, in the words of Gonzo: “We can hold onto love like invisible strings”.

So whether she was being a Kermit and bringing people together or a Gonzo and pulling off feats that are unexpected, I’d like to say in her own words, “What a character!”


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