I know I’ve been absentee around here. It’s been super hard to get back into the flow of things while balancing life as a mother.
She is 13 months old now, walking, and beyond precious. She loves books, and we spend a lot of our day together reading. She also loves to eat, play in the rain, and collect sticks while she’s running barefoot outside.
I love her tremendously, and though I usually end my days physically and emotionally exhausted, I am so thankful to be watching her grow and learn and smile.
I’ve had little time to devote to writing, hence my lack of posts, but I’ve had plenty of time to keep up with my reading. I’m hoping to sit down in the coming weeks and whip out a bunch of book reviews.
Another thing I’ve been spending time on is planning a total revamp of my blog here. I’m looking for ways to make things more organized and professional.
I want to post more book reviews and possibly find some authors who are willing to let me interview them about their stories and the writing process. I think it would be so much fun to have more connections with other writers, especially since I’ve left school and feel cut off from the writing community. I have some people already in mind, and am really excited for anyone who is willing to join me in this.
So, hopefully, in January I will have everything around here all neat and tidy with a bunch of fun, new content to post.
Learning to balance my free time has been a challenge. I don’t want to miss out on her. My own childhood was so incredibly lonely, and I would hate to give her a similar experience. I do miss writing and blogging, but I know it will come back, it’s her childhood that I can’t put on hold. I won’t believe it was wrong to give her my full attention this past year. I want so badly to be the kind of Mother she needs. ❤
It was around 6p.m. on August 7th, 2017. I was eating the chili I’d made, watching a soccer game with my husband, and the Braxton Hicks that I’ve been feeling all day are not going away with water and elevated feet. In fact, they were starting to hurt a little.
I looked at Tim. “Honey.”
He put a spoonful of chili in his mouth and mumbled a “Hmph?”
“Maybe we should start timing these. They’re hurting a little.” Then I added hurriedly, “Not a lot. Just a little. Like a dull far away ache.” I was still 38 weeks pregnant and in prime false alarm territory. The last thing I wanted was to be “that pregnant lady,” waddling into the hospital at zilch centimeters dilated. Though I suppose I wouldn’t have seen the maternity nurses shaking their heads derisively at me when I waddled my way back out.
Tim just nodded at me as he opened up the contraction app. He’d downloaded it over a week before and had already been playing with it when I had bouts of Braxton Hicks. But those went away when I drank water and put my feet up. These…
After about an hour he says, “They’re coming 6 to 10 minutes apart for about 30 seconds each.” We looked at each other for a minute.
“It’s probably nothing,” I said.
“Maybe,” he replied, his eyes beginning to brighten with anticipation.
I chewed my lip, and said slowly, “but still, maybe we should finish packing the hospital bag. You know, just in case.”
Tim nodded and we set to work. I stayed mostly seated with my feet up, telling him when the “not” contractions started. At around 8 o’clock, I was beginning to panic. I was texting the midwives, trying to sound calm, hoping they weren’t judging me, because clearly this was just a false alarm. Really! I mean, they were getting more painful, and closer together, but it wasn’t real. Statistics show that most first time mothers are at least a week late.
I called up my mother-in-law. My voice was shaking. “Hey Mom? How much longer are you going to be at Ikea?” An hour away. I felt like an idiot.
“We’re just finishing up. Why? What’s up?”
“Well…I…I mean it could be nothing. But we’re timing them and they’re pretty regular. And they kinda hurt. Just a little! Not a lot. Like a mild period cramp.”
“Oh Rachel!” I can hear the excitement in her voice and it turns my stomach. My fear unclenches a little when she assures me they’ll come right home. Even if it’s a false alarm, I’ll feel better if she’s in the house.
Two Benadryl and several hours later, I’m laying on the sofa downstairs in legit pain. Too much pain to sleep through pain. My mother-in-law and my husband are packing the car. I fall into a rhythm that only measures time in “how far apart are they now” increments. Then I’m getting down into the back seat of the car to start the ride I’ve been dreading.
The ride itself was not that bad. My contractions were still around 5 minutes apart, which means that for a 45 minute ride, I only had to deal with 9 of them. It was the mental part that plagued me. I was still terrified it was a false alarm (a ridiculous fear at that point based on all available evidence). Or worse, that it wasn’t, but I’d show up there and the midwives would tell me that I was only 1 cm dilated despite my increasing pain level.
This was all I could think about as they checked me in. This was all I could think about as I waited for the midwives to come and assess me. It sent my blood pressure through the roof and lessened my chance of coming off the monitors for a water birth. The exhaustion of already being without sleep since 5 am the previous morning was taking its toll too. These two things combined made me ask for an epidural and decline a room with a birth tub. I didn’t have the energy to “ride the waves” much longer.
After being assessed, I was told I was in active labor. No one told me how far dilated I was, probably because I’d told them I was afraid of not being dilated enough. I later discovered I was 4 almost 5 cm. By the time the anesthesiologist came in I was nearly 7.
Once the epidural was in place, I dozed through the rest of labor, but didn’t really sleep. It was hard to drop off when I knew that soon I’d be meeting my baby. I’d predicted that all those music playlists people insisted I’d want during labor would go unused. I wanted one of the two things I always knew I’d want. So Tim set up a soccer game, and we waited to the music of whistled off-sides and the faint cursing of spectators picked up by the cameramen.
At about 2:23 pm they handed me my screaming baby girl.
I don’t remember what I said when they gave her to me. I think I may have told her I loved her. I know I tried to sing to her, but I was crying too much. I do remember thinking how shocked I was that her head was lovely and round. I had been warned that vaginal births often gave way to alien shaped heads. I remember thinking that she was massive and I couldn’t believe this huge, tiny person had been inside me until a moment ago.
And I remember noticing her hair. It was blonde. Very blonde. Platinum blonde. Everyone who saw her in the hospital remarked on it. Don’t ask me how, because I wasn’t aware I had any blonde genes. My husband has them, sure, but we’re all brunettes in my family, and more dark brown than light. Only time will tell how much it will change and darken, but right now it’s a remarkable mystery to me.
As they wheeled me from the birthing room to our recovery room, I passed the desk with the check-in nurses. They smiled at me. I lifted the baby a little and said in a tired voice, “Well, it wasn’t a false alarm.”
I promise to sacrifice my comforts for your safety.
I promise to protect you.
I promise to cover you with prayers and love.
I promise to do whatever I can to assure you that the love I have for you is real. That may not always be comfortable for either of us, because the honesty inherent in true love demands some payment in pain, but…
I promise to create an atmosphere of acceptance in our home that makes the ugly truths easier to hear.
I promise not to be perfect. It would be a lie to admit anything else, and I love you too much to lie to you. Since I know I can’t be perfect…
I promise to be humble before you and God, so when those inevitable failings disrupt our relationship, or if I should break any of these promises I’m making, I will never be too proud to admit to you that you were right, that I am sorry.
I promise to say I am sorry.
I promise to let you find your wings, to explore, to question and even rebel if you need to, so that when the day comes and you leave my protection to walk your path alone, you will understand who you are and why God gave you life.
I promise that no matter where your path takes you, there will always be a home for you in my arms.
Welcome to our family, my little darling.
Eliana Grace Svendsen, born at 2:25 pm on August 8, 2017.
7 lbs 10 oz, 19 3/4 inches
Unless I go late *crosses fingers and looks pleadingly towards heaven*
Things I can no longer do:
Bend over (but squatting is good practice for labor, right?)
go up or down a flight of stairs without feeling incredibly out of control and off balance (I was a consistent stair tripper BEFORE I was 8 months pregnant)
Write (my vocabulary is more or less…uhh…well I…I lose words sometimes)
walk without waddling
get through a week without having a serious OHMYGOSHWEARENOTREADYFORTHISBABYATALL breakdown
Things that make me laugh:
my complete 180 from a severe butter aversion in the first trimester to a now two week butter craving
the way my belly rocks and rolls with Little Baby’s attempts to stretch more space out of me
my strangely affectionate feelings for each new tiny stretch mark on my lower abdomen (which are all happening below the horizon of my bump so that only a mirror or my husband can reveal their presence)
along with that, the nightly stretch mark count (*rolls up shirt over belly and says excitedly* Buppy! How many are there now?)
The sounds that come out of my mouth when I try to roll over in bed at night
Things I hate:
The sounds that come out of my mouth when I try to roll over in bed at night
Trying to obey the midwives advice to avoid eating excess sugar and carbs while simultaneously craving funfetti cake, sugar cones with scoops of vanilla ice cream, and warm bagels with thick gobs cream cheese
The insomnia induced loss of vocabulary (“Honey, I left that thing I need by the thing in that room. Can you get it for me? Thanks, Babe.”)
The need to invoke an I-can-cry-for-no-reason-if-I-want-to rule
the weird warnings I just discovered on the back of my prenatal vitamins which tell me not to take them if I’m pregnant or nursing
Things I love:
My husband’s tireless devotion
My family’s boundless patience
My husband’s increasing giddy smiles with every installed car seat, erected bassinet, and load of fresh baby laundry
The generosity of friends and family at our baby shower
The prayers and love of so many people
Things I’m excited for:
The look on my husband’s face when he first sees her
Life on the other side of pregnancy and labor
Little yawns, toes, fingers, lips, and wide curious eyes
With Little Baby constantly reminding me of her imminent arrival by hearty kicks and punches, it makes sense that I’d devote a portion of my summer reading list to books on parenting and childbirth.
The first book I tried was one I’d been encouraged to read by several sources. I was even handed a free copy of it on my first visit to the midwives, but ended up giving it back because I already had a copy sitting on my bedside table at home. It was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.
I actually purchased my copy of this book before I even got pregnant. As someone who was terrified of the process of pregnancy and labor, I’d seen and read many places that it was important to fill my mind with positive birth stories to combat my negative notions. This book was recommended so consistently that I bought myself a copy and eagerly began to read, hoping it would allay my fears when I finally got my positive pregnancy test.
The first half of the book is all personal birth stories from women that gave birth on “the Farm” which is the birthing center that Gaskin set up. They are meant to encourage and inspire women towards the beauty and bliss of natural home births with a midwife. But for me, these “positive birth stories” were completely ineffectual. It seemed like many of these women had some kind of complication, some nearly emergent complication, going on during their labor. They all ended up giving birth to happy healthy babies without medical intervention. That, I believe, was the point of them telling their stories. Look what I did without a doctor. I mean, it was touch and go for a while, but it was all fine! Yes. Right. Lovely! But instead of reassuring me, these stories just set me on edge and gave me a longer list of “what ifs” for my still unknown labor and delivery story. *shakes head* I call that a fail at positive birth stories.
Gaskin’s book read to me like a three hundred page advertisement for why you must have a home birth with a midwife and avoid hospitals and doctors. I skipped over the chapters at the end that warned me about the probably hidden mortality statistics for pregnant women giving birth in hospitals. I needed encouragement, not more reasons to fear. And while I highly respect Gaskin for the trail she blazed promoting better childbirth options in this country, I really could have done without reading her book. Especially when taken in conjunction with another book I read, The Positive Birth Book written by Milli Hill.
This book, seriously, was an absolute sleep-saver for me! It opened up with the author explaining how desperately she wanted to be pregnant, but how utterly terrified she was once she saw the positive pregnancy test. Everything about her emotional state echoed mine. She compared it to sky diving. You’re in the airplane, looking down over the distant ground, and you know you have to jump eventually; it’s too late to turn back. You feel guilty for telling people you’re terrified now that you’re actually pregnant. You’re supposed to be happy. Meanwhile, everyone is laughing themselves silly for the look on your face after they’ve told you about all the horrors that await you through pregnancy into parenthood.
This inspired Hill to start The Positive Birth Movement out of which grew her book. It walks through all the stages of labor, the most common complications, the ins and outs of cesareans, and tips on adjusting to the early days postpartum. All of it was told with an upbeat candor that truly brought peace to my thudding heart. This could happen, but this is why it will still be okay.
Another aspect of the book that I loved was how she shied away from the common idea of 3 stages in labor. She described it in 14 stages to make it all as clear as possible, a method I found a lot more beneficial than how Gaskin addressed it in the second half of her book. She also mathematically broke down the average percentage of time that most women are actually in terrible pain during natural childbirth. The average woman is in labor 8 hours and only 23% of that time is spent having contractions. Even if I don’t turn out to be average, just reading that lessened my fear of labor by leaps and bounds.
The whole of that book had that effect on me. I loved it, and if I could recommend any one birth book to a new mother, it would absofrigginlutely be this one.
On the whole, I’m still not in love with this pregnancy thing. I have fatigue issues, mood swings, and a weird stress induced on and off again appetite. Though oddly enough, I have this wacky feeling I had all of those issues BEFORE I got pregnant. *tilts head and squints thoughtfully*
On the positive side, she’s a healthy little monster, if her constant kicks and squiggles are any indicator. Timothy and I call her Squirmy Wormy. I love her so much it makes my whole heart ache.
After losing Little Baby number one, it was initially difficult to let myself love her the way I wanted to. At times I just would try not to think about her. I was afraid to hope that she’d stay. I was afraid to repeat what happened before, that my still childless arms would just forever dream of holding my baby. I would choke up with every attempt to sing her a lullaby, scared that I’d mar another song in my memory, so that every time it plays all I can think of is the little angel forever out of my reach.
This lessened after our 9 week ultrasound. After I saw Little Baby dancing on the screen, I let my heart go, but slowly, like a kite testing the currents in the wind. Once it caught the updraft, I began to soar and tears became part of the flight, along with a daily prayer of God please let me keep this one.
“I love her so much,” I say to Tim.
“I know you do. I do too.”
“Do you ever feel like there’s no more room? Like, I’m afraid when I see her, that I’ll just shatter.”
“You won’t,” he says. “You’ll just get bigger.”
On the days when the fear is bigger than the hope, I’ll hold onto Tim and cry.
“You really believe we’ll meet her,” I ask.
“Yes, I do.”
“How can you be sure though? Weren’t you sure with our first one? God took him anyway.”
He said, “I don’t doubt the sun will rise every morning. It’s the natural order of things. It’s the natural order for her to come out and meet us. That’s what I believe will happen.”
So I sing to her. Every day, at least one song. I try to wait until I feel her moving, hoping that she’s awake to hear. Sometimes she rolls to the sound, like she’s dancing along. Other times, she goes still, and I’ll wonder if she’s asleep. But as soon as I stop she’ll give me a few good thumps. Applause? Or maybe she’s learned that the music starts up again once she moves.
I like to think she likes listening to me sing. I like to think she’ll remember the sound in August when they finally lay her against my skin and I sing to her softly. I like to think she’ll stop crying, that she’ll know the sound of my heartbeat, and in that moment she’ll understand what I mean when I say, “I love you, Peanut.”
Not that I’m taking sole credit for that. My husband ran me back and forth to every class, my mother-in-law encouraged me and proofread my writing, most of my professors were sweet and sympathetic to the challenges I had this year, and God held me up and gave me just enough strength to get through it.
But it’s over! *sighs long relieved sigh of relief* Next is the part where I chill, read, and write while I prepare for…THE ORDEAL! *DUN DUN DUUUUUUUNNNNN*
In all honesty, I try not to think too much about labor. That doesn’t stop me from occasionally laying awake at night, thinking to myself that, one way or another, this little person has to come out of me. I have a few girlfriends with children who have been super encouraging, but they are the few. Can anyone tell me the rationale behind the many and the bold negativity freaks who sneak attack you with horror stories about childbirth?
They lurk behind soup cans in the supermarket: *cans clatter to the floor as they shove their red faces forward* OHMYGWALLYMOSES! I just read about this woman who gave birth in her car! IN HER CAR! Can you believe it? Never even MADE it to the hospital.
They hover beside you in the library: *in a stage whisper* Oh! I thought you were due in June. Well, August is nice too. *snorts prematurely at the hilarity of their next comment* Only you’ll have to go through the heat of the summer. The WHOLE THING.
They spontaneously pop into being, uncaused, from nothing while you’re clipping your toenails: You’re due when? How can you BE so YUUUUUGE? *sees husband working at computer* Is THAT the father? Oooooooh! *nods knowingly with a wry smile* That’s why you’re so big. That baby is going to be a 12 pounder. *pats my belly* Good luck pushing that monstrosity out of your…
Don’t they think about the fact that I might already be concerned about some of these things? I mean, am I the only pregnant woman who wonders what she’ll do if she wakes up to find out she’s one of those wacko’s that sleeps through labor only to meet her baby, blinking up at her between the sheets. Or that labor will be the excruciating horror that all these lurkers warn me about, and my heart will just give out entirely during it. And yes, I also worry that my husband’s hearty viking ancestry has placed the heir of Thor into my womb, complete with pink Mjölnir. It’s my first. It’s all unknown. That’s freaky on it’s own. And most lurkers appear to be women with children. If they’ve already been there, don’t they know to shut up?
Lurkers aside, I’m just trying to enjoy this for what it is. Labor is inevitable now, but in a way, I’m looking forward to it too. I mean, after THE ORDEAL I get to kiss my little girl’s face. I also get to watch my husband kiss her face. I’m pretty sure both those things will make it worth it.
*lurker pokes head in through bedroom window, waggling a finger* Not if you’re… *sound of flamethrower and terrified screams drown out the rest of their sentence*
So, if you need me for the next few months, I intend to be curled up with my growing baby belly. We will be reading lots of books, drinking gallons of water, and trying to do a complete rewrite of Immortal Bond before tiny persons and William Paterson eat up all my leisure time.
*weak voice floats from garden below broken window* Yeah, and you’ll never sleep again either.
NOTE TO READERS: This blog has a zero tolerance policy on pregnancy lurkers and their snarky negativity. Any and all pregnancy lurker comments found in the comment section will be moderated by the delete button and a flamethrower. You have been thusly warned.