Friday, September 26, 2014

That's the way: A birth story

Full Disclosure:

1. This is a birth story and a fairly lengthy post at that. If you are not into that sort of thing, I suggest you stop reading now and come back some other day when I have pretty pictures for you instead.

2. After extensive research and careful consideration I decided to give birth naturally, without medication, in a birth center, guided by midwives and my husband, this does not mean that I think everyone should. If you had a baby in a hospital/clinic/at home/or in a flowery meadow, with or without epidurals/c-sections/, with a doctor/nurse/midwife/etc, and you had a great experience and a healthy baby, I am happy for you. 

This is our story.

The contractions woke me up on May 17 at 5:30 AM. I was pretty used to the Braxton Hicks hitting hard, but these felt different so I woke Tim up, he reminded me what we learned in our birthing class, he said "The contractions are 10 minutes apart, let's see if they get longer, stronger, and closer together." Longer, stronger, closer together, I thought to myself as I tried to drift back to sleep knowing that it would be the last good rest I would get for a while.

May 17 this year happened to be garage sale day for Kempton Hills, pretty much the biggest neighborhood garage sale in this town. Three of my friends were going to be selling their goods and I had already offered to bring them coffee around 9 AM.
Something I learned from my birthing class, birthing books, and my midwives, is that birthing is a natural process and it needs to be treated as such; I knew I was in labor, but as far as I was concerned it was business as usual. Tim and I woke up again around 8 AM, got dressed, grabbed some coffee, and off we went to deliver it {no pun intended}, and other than the fact that we were timing the contractions, no one was the wiser.

One of the interesting things about mammals in general is that by the time they are close to giving birth they nest, and when the time comes, they isolate themselves into a place where they feel secure enough to birth their babies. Humans are no different, so after I dropped off the promised coffee I headed back to the place I felt the most safe, where I wanted to labor for as long as possible, my home. At this point the contractions were 6 minutes apart.

I remembered reading in one of my books that certain women who are in labor bake cookies as a way of relaxing and letting their bodies carry on with the process with as little stress as possible. Those women know that it is time to call the midwife or go to the hospital when they let the cookies burn because they cannot focus anymore. Knowing that the baby was going to be  early, and that my mom's flight was not scheduled for another week to come help out, I thought it would be nice to make something I could freeze for Tim to eat afterwards, so I set out to make chicken pot pie.

Somewhere along prepping the ingredients and kneading the crust, I was very much aware of using my breath the way I learned in birthing class to 'ride' the contractions. Every so often Tim would stop to grab my hand and 'hee, hee, huh' with me until the contraction passed. By the time the pot pie was ready the contractions were 4 minutes apart, then the phone rang, it was my parents. My mom listened to me breathe, timed a couple of my contractions, and asked me to call the midwife because they were now 3 minutes apart. It was time to go.

At the birth center I was told I was 5cm dilated and 100% effaced, yay! I did half the work at home and now it was baby time! From this point on things got very real very fast, I know what happened but I have no idea how long things lasted.  I was in my own world. I was there but at the same time I wasn't.  I closed my eyes and moved by instinct, felt by instinct, my body contorted in whatever ways it needed to in order to allow the baby to pass through, and I knew better than to fight it. With Tim by my side coaching my breathing, keeping me hydrated, and encouraging me, I just gave in to it, I became, for lack of a better word, an animal whose 5 senses were on high alert. Sometime around 6cm my water broke on its own.

Something that sticks out in my mind is the gentle guidance the midwives provided. I opened my eyes from time to time and one of them would be there suggesting we try the tub, or the birthing ball, this position, or that one. "That's the way" - They would say - "You're doing it" as they checked on the baby's heartbeat.

At some point when the contractions were coming very much longer, stronger and closer together, the midwife asked me to step into the shower. The water pressure helped for a while until all of the sudden, the lightning came. I call it lightning because I have no other way to describe what it felt like. It was like  a mix of pain and electricity running down my spine and legs. I was only standing because Tim was holding me and praying over me. {Yes, Tim was in the shower with me. For better or worse, remember? That man deserves a medal!} I was in transition.
And then it happened, my body wanted to bear down and push, I had no choice, I HAD TO push! But alas! my midwife checked me and I was only 8cm dilated so they got me on all fours in the tub full of water, and asked me NOT to push.

This is where all the birthing classes paid off. You see, they taught us this handy little breathing exercise where you blow or 'puff' your way out of trying to push, and that, my friends, is the HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE. Only a woman who has felt the urge to push a baby out of her body knows that asking her not to push is pretty damn near impossible. It's like asking anyone not to breathe. They don't call it an 'urge' to push for no reason. Around an hour later we managed to make it to 9 and shortly after to 10cm. Hallelujah!

Unfortunately for me, at this point I had exerted almost all my energy in trying to keep that baby inside, so pushing was a challenge. I could feel my body giving in to exhaustion, and I remember thinking that my baby was probably exhausted as well, so I kept on saying "It's ok baby, mama's got you, mama's got you" while I visualized the baby going through the birth canal.
It was only the thought of my baby's well being that kept me going while I slept between contractions. No, this is not a joke, I would actually doze off until the wave of a contraction would wake me up to push.

I pushed for 2 hours on my back, on my side, and all fours. I was starting to get worried, I had no idea how long I had been there but I knew it was a while, so I looked at the midwife and said "Do not send me to the hospital", to which she replied "You and me, we are going to get this baby out".

She put me on the squatting position leaning on Tim, the same way we practiced in class, and she had me push long and hard until both midwives and the birth assistant squealed with emotion because they could see the baby's head. I reached down to touch it, and that was it, I got all my energy back. My baby was right there! I pushed with all I had left in me until I heard "Stop pushing, stop pushing!" Tim and the midwife pull me on to the bed,  the midwife yelled "push" and she pulled the baby out.

Both midwives and the birth assistant moved fast covering the baby and immediately setting him on my chest. At this point no one had called the sex, and as you might recall, we wanted it to be a surprise, so I asked "What is it?" and Tim said "It's a boy!".

What I am about to describe is the most surreal moment of my life, even now thinking back this brings tears to my eyes. The baby was crying on my chest until he heard my voice. I said "it's ok baby, mama's got you, mama's here"and then he calmed down. It was pure and unequivocal magic, and absolutely the best moment of my life. My baby knew me!

After the placenta came out and Tim cut the cord, the three of us were left alone for a couple of hours to ride the high of love we were on. When you don't have pain medication, there is a release of endorphins following labor, AKA Best. High. Ever. We decided on the name Benjamin right there and then we cuddled, Ben held his papa's finger, and he nursed.

Some women say that you forget all about the pain the minute you see your baby, I beg to differ. Labor hurts, your bottom is sore for weeks, and months pass before you feel like yourself again, but I haven't forgotten about any of it, nor do I want to. Labor took me to places I never thought I would conquer physically and mentally, it allowed me to share with Tim in producing a miracle, and it empowered me as a woman, not to mention the insight I gained of the incredible way our Lord designed us to bring life. I am not saying that I will have another baby, but if I did, I would do it the same way all over again.

On May 18, 2014 at 12:23 AM, at exactly 39 weeks, and after 19 hours of labor, Benjamin Finley Conrad was born, and this mama was too.

P.S. All pictures taken by our birth assistant and lactation consultant, Victoria Lindeen.
P.P.S. For the most kind, caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable team of midwives click {{here}}

"Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life." Ina May Gaskin

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#12monthsofben: 4 Months

Benjamin is 4 months old. 
Likes: Bath time is still his favorite time of the day, he enjoys being thrown in the air, and tickle fights are hilarious to him. Talking in high pitched voices is a fave, and he's finally relized that tummy time can be fun, not something I invented to torture him. 
Dislikes: He has a love/hate relationship with the bumbo. He wants to sit up so badly! He has figured out he can roll over but he's not a fan of it yet. 

This month my baby decided he was done with being swaddled to sleep and he graduated to the sleep sack. He figured out he can reach his feet, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time before he learns to take his socks/booties off, just when they were finally staying on his feet in the first place. 

We have a doctor's appointment next week, and I am anxious to see how much he's grown since last time we measured and weighed him. 

I thought he would be sad that he wouldn't have my long hair to pull anymore, but in true manly fashion, he didn't even notice I cut my hair. Men!

Monday, September 15, 2014


I knew I wanted a change in the beauty department as soon as Benjamin was born. I felt different, the long hair was not me anymore, but when I approached my hair stylist about it she recommended waiting a bit, you know, to make sure it wasn't just my hormones making me crazy.

Truth is, my hormones did make me crazy, but they had nothing to do with me cutting my hair. My life as I knew it changed and darn it, so should my hair! I took her advice nonetheless and waited impatiently for 4 months, until my hair started falling in chunks thanks to the aforementioned hormones. That was my cue, it was time. 

I looked at every possible haircut for inspiration and brought it up to the board, AKA Les and Steph. 

And then this happened.

Eleven inches. Gone. 
I won't lie, it was a bit scary, but it was also liberating. The scissors took the last 3 years of my hair life with it and now we start anew. 

So there's that. 
YOLO, my friends, YOLO. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Babies don't keep

These pictures show what a huge part of my days consists of. Benjamin has rocked my world, made me fall in love head over heels, and taught me the value of stillness. The bags under my eyes are worse for wear and my house is less tidy, but my arms are always full, and oh, how I wish they would forever remain this way!

This poem by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton is everything. Every word. Every day.

Mother, O mother, come shake out your cloth,
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing, make up the bed,
sew on a button, and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
she's up in the nursery blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
lullaby, rockabye, lullabye loo. 

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
pat-a-cake darling, and peek, peekaboo.

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew, 
and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.

But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo,
look! aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue? 
lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
but children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow,
so quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goodbye summer

We closed the season with a road trip, a cabin, ice cream, barbecues, games, and a lake.
Thank you friends for coming, celebrating, and watching Ben for us. 

Ready or not, here comes fall!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My best year yet

This time last year I was turning 30 and I had no idea the incredible year that awaited me. Both, professionally and personally speaking, the first year of the third decade of my life started and ended with a bang. Definitely my best year yet. 

I am thankful for my life and the people who surround me, especially those three little monsters: papa, baby Ben, and Sandwich, who graciously offered to step into the picture in representation of Lio, who still has not come to terms with the fact that  Ben is here to stay, and therefore refuses to appear in family photos. Cats! Shake my head.

Here's to the blessing of turning a year older in a healthy body, living in a great state, surrounded by the love of incredible people. The Lord's goodness and faithfulness are not lost on me. 

He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you - Deuteronomy 7:13
P.S. This is the first year I did not plan my own birthday celebrations, Tim said he would take care of it. Let's see what he has up his sleeve.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

top: Target, tank top: MNG, shorts: J Crew Factory, sandals: Target, sunnies: Ray-Ban, panama hat: market in Ecuador

I did not plan it this way, but I am so glad we had a summer baby. Our little family had the chance to have my parents visit during the best part of the year, we were able to learn to use all our outdoor gadgets, stroll around in nice temperate weather, and even enjoy family picnics right off the bat. I have always been more of an autumn kind of girl, but this summer has been so good and so special to us it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to watch the fireweed die, and pull sweaters out every now and again because the chill of the wind is starting to creep in.

So before the last of the warm weather leaves us, I find it necessary to wear all the shorts and dresses I won't see for another year. You know what else? Sandals! Because soon enough my toes will be buried under Smartwool socks, boots, and snow.

But not today. Today we wear shorts, stroll on sunny trails, and sip on Pellegrino limonatas. Live on summer, live on!