Friday, March 2, 2012

Welcome Eli Willam

Eli William greeted the world just over one month ago, the morning of Wednesday, January 25, 2012, happy and healthy at 7 pounds, 14 ounces.  This sweet, precious boy has added a whole new dimension, and so much love to our family. He's also been reminding us of those so many things you tend to forget as your youngest child grows farther from the baby days: how impossibly small and helpless a newborn babe is; how irresistible those tiny fingers and toes really are - and how absolutely terrifying it is to clip those tissue paper thin nails; how the smallest coos and grimaces can inspire the deepest love, awe and sometimes outlandish worry; how your body and mind stumble in that dreamy daze when you reach what in any other circumstance would be an intolerable state of sleep deprivation. And he is already teaching us so much: that our capacity to love is limitless; that experience really does make things seem (a little) easier; that when you feel completely overwhelmed, just pretending you are calm can go a long way towards getting you there; that even in those moments when the toddler is tantruming, the baby is crying, the dog is barking and you really have to pee, somehow you manage to handle it all - and on a good day, maybe even with some semblance of grace.

After my first pregnancy with Ava, which concluded with a c-section for her breech presentation, I found myself in the position of being a mother without ever having experienced labor or even a 'real' contraction. While this isn't so strange, really - many women become mothers without going through labor be it due to scheduled c-section, adoption, as a same-sex partner, etc - I admit that, to me, it did feel strange, and a part of me was left longing for the experience of laboring and birthing my child. And even as vbac was presented to me as an option this time around, for much of my pregnancy part of me still never fully believed that I would have a vaginal birth. On some level I was convinced that something unexpected would once again get in the way of that.

My experience with Ava's c-section birth was nearly as positive as it could have been and I was grateful to be able to come to terms with the fate of her birth weeks before it came to pass. I softened my wishes for the 'perfect' birth and accepted our reality of what would still be a beautiful birthing of our beautiful girl. And so I was hesitant to once again get my hopes up for a birth that was more in line with my original ideals. Eventually, with the help of Will and the rest of my caregivers, I began to hope and believe that I could do it this time.

Honestly, I was surprised when at 30-something weeks our midwife told me Eli was head-down. Ava never got there. She remained confidently head-up for the final months of the pregnancy. No acupuncture, moxibustion, pelvic tilts, homeopathy, or ECV could convince her otherwise. And, indeed, she followed that trend after her birth - always insisting on a vertical orientation as an infant, and walking before learning to crawl. So, perhaps the hope started there, when I learned for the first time that Eli was in position. And that confidence grew as he remained in head-down, and my efforts shifted towards rotating him into optimal fetal position.

Nature and life continually teach us not to get too attached to our expectations - I try not to form too many of them, since it is rare that things turn out just as we envision (and often I do think this is a good thing, since our imaginings can sometimes be limiting). But it can be so hard when deep down you really do want things to go a certain way...

I am so grateful that Eli and I were able to have our vbac, though I certainly could not have predicted our birth story. In life I tend to move very slowly - in my thoroughness it can take me a long time to complete things. Apparently, this is the way my body births. After two exhausting days of early labor, active labor finally began on the morning of the 24th. With the progress we had made over the prior two days, it seemed the rest of the labor and birth might be swift. 24 hours later, including 5 1/2 hours of pushing, baby Eli was born into his Dada's hands. The whole process took over 72 hours. Now having gone through both a cesarian and vaginal birth, I am amazed at how much easier (for me) the recovery was from the latter. And I am so grateful to have experienced the amazing amazing experience of laboring and birthing as it has been done by so many women before me.

While at first glance it may seem like it's just mama and baby doing the work, so many people come together to make for a successful birth. I am convinced that had I not had my dream team of caregivers, Eli's birth story would have turned out very differently. Had Mimi and Poppy not been here to care for Ava such that I didn't have to worry about her well-being and could focus completely on what my body needed to do, had our doulas not been there to help me relax and cheer me on through the long nights without sleep and the toughest contractions, had the nurse and all others in the room not kept up their exuberant cheering for every single push during those long 5 plus hours, had my midwife not had the patience and trust that we were making progress, that baby was doing ok, that I still had it in me to last through those 3 days of laboring, had Will not been so supportive and invested in my birth experience to be there with me every step of the way despite his exhaustion, I'm certain the ending of our story would have been different. So, I am grateful to all of you, and to modern medicine that helped me in ways that allowed for much needed rest and relief at crucial times. And I am so grateful to you, baby Eli, for hanging in there through it all and staying strong the entire time.

Slow and steady goes it. Apparently this is my mantra in birth as well as in life.

Now we are home, day by day figuring out our new rhythm as a family of four. First with help from family, then just mama, dada, big sister and baby, and now, as Will gradually returns to work, myself adjusting to being a mama of two. And Ava adjusting to her transformation from only child to big sister.

Birth is so much more than a two-person equation - through Eli's birth, so many new roles and relationships have been born. We look forward to getting to know and love this precious boy more and more in the years that lie ahead. And we look forward to getting to know ourselves in these new roles as they deepen over time.

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