Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Birth of Ryan

Sixteen years ago this dear man-child was born.  He was a gift is the only way I can see it.  A little miracle.

My Love had had a vasectomy within months after our last daughter was born in 1985.  Yet less than ten years later I was having the worst case of mommy yearning.  It fell on me in waves of tears and sobbing, of grief that I would never carry a child again, to feel the flutter of life, to watch my belly grow and undulate, to give birth, to hold a newborn in my arms.  One should never have a vasectomy so soon after a birth and really I wish we both had waited and talked at length, at least a year later, if we would ever in our wildest dreams imagine wanting another child.  Why would we?  We had three beautiful girls who filled us with joy!

With much talking back and forth, waiting, and more talking my Love decided he would have a vasectomy reversal.  We found an incredible Dr. who did the surgery and blessings upon us he was back to 100% of his sperm count months later.

Me....I was another story.  At 34 when he did the surgery I felt there would be no problem getting pregnant.  After all, our girls were conceived the very month we tried.  Still, month after month passed and year after year with no pregnancy.  We were disappointed but tried not to dwell on it.  

Three years later in 1995, I realized my period was late.  I hadn't even bothered to count anymore as that dang period just kept coming.  What was the point?  Yet here I was almost 2 months late.  Happy, ecstatic, overjoyed and relief!  My Love and I had joked that if I wasn't pregnant by 40 he would have to get another vasectomy as we figured by then it was not  meant to be.  He wasn't looking forward to going under the scalpel another time.

Pregnant.  We didn't tell any one right away, we wanted to make sure of this.

We shocked many of the family and it was jokingly thought that the "milkman" must have done it!  They couldn't believe that my Love would have done a reversal.  

Next was finding our midwife Peggy who had been with us for our last two daughters.  Where oh where was Peggy now?  Quickly I found that she was a midwife with Kaiser hospital.  What will we do as we don't belong to Kaiser?  Would we do a home birth as we did with M.?  I wanted to and then I wasn't sure since we didn't belong to Kaiser and what would we do if I needed to go to the hospital?  Would Kaiser even let me go or would I have to go to our local hospital into the emergency and be treated as an outcast? 

With great reluctance we began a search for another midwife.  What I learned was the midwives were a scarcity in our area and mainly only worked through the Kaiser Hospital.  Insurance companies didn't want to insure midwives except at an unreasonable fee.  My how things had changed in 10 years.  We thought of the two nurses Lindy and Robin who did doula work when I was pregnant with E. and maybe they had become midwives.

As luck would have it we found that Lindy had become a midwife and worked through Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley.  Home birth didn't seem to be so easy because of the insurance sadly.  Still as long as I had a midwife I knew that it would be alright.  I had E. in the hospital with Peggy and it was a beautiful birth.  

Meeting Lindy after such a long time was a memory door opening for me.  Her face looked the same but her hair had gone to a lovely silver grey.  Still petite and soft spoken she and I visited back to the year that she came to our home when I was in labor, checking me, coaching me till we decided when it was the right time to go to the hospital.  She was only going to stay for that time at our home but as so often happens with a birth, it is not something you wish to leave till a baby is in a mother's arms.  

In all honesty, Lindy had huge shoes to fill with my not having my beloved Peggy as our midwife.  Two births with her, she left a indelible mark in my heart.  

My pregnancy went well with only one issue which was R. being breech towards the end of my term.  Thankfully he turned and his wee head was in the right position.

The night of his birth, one week late, we had just crawled into bed (can a pregnant woman crawl into bed?) preparing my pillows to support my huge belly.  Our time to watch him him move in the tiny space he had left to move in.  I felt like a whale, a beached whale at that.  Then the most odd sensation happened and I knew at once my water had broken.  This was exciting because in three births my water had never broken on it's own.  So this is how it feels.  My Love and I laughed and became giddy with joy.  Tonight was the night!  He went to tell our daughters that soon we would be going as their little brother was ready to come into our arms.  The time: 10 P.M.

We called my parents who were to come and stay with the girls for the night.  Within a short time my contractions came on in regular intervals.  My uterus knew the drill.  Did I remember after 10 years though?  Would it all come back of how and what to do?  How to breathe through my contractions?  It was then that Peggy's voice filled my head...her words..."down and out"....I heard her just as if she was right next to my ear, softly and calmly comforting me.  

We left for the hospital which was about a 30 minute drive from our house.  The roads were quiet thankfully.  Alta Bates is a huge busy hospital with a large parking garage.  The walking felt good as we approached the doors.  

I wasn't exactly thrilled to be back in a hospital.  I would  have preferred to be home.  I just kept telling myself and my Love, that the birth was to be our way.  Lindy understood too.  My sister by marriage would be meeting us at the hospital as she would be taking photographs for us.  Of course once inside after we checked in, they told me to sit in a wheelchair to go up to the Maternity Ward.   Why?  I wanted to walk, I wanted to stop when I had a contraction.  I wanted to lean myself into my Love's arms, hug him, rock and moan.  Rules...rules.

Once up in Labor and Delivery we were given our room.  Lindy came in and of course we all were excited.  At last baby boy was really on his way!!!!  Lindy checked me and I was dilated to 5 centimeters.

A nurse came in and said that they needed me to wear a fetal monitor so they could run a strip to check his heart rate.  Okay...I will oblige this rule though I did not want to lay on the bed for a half hour.  I certainly didn't have to do this when I had E. in 1983.  It was uncomfortable to lay there through my growing contractions.  I wanted up, I wanted to move and sway into my hips, I wanted to be anywhere but laying there on my side keeping a monitor in place with a big strap, breathing, doing my soft moans.

Finally they took it off but of course the nurse really wished I would keep it on.  The rebel in me refused.  We wanted to be left alone.  Let me labor in peace.

My labor was rapid and relentless.  Steady contractions, lengthening, growing in their waves.  Peggy in my head guiding me.....I realized a panic coming over me and I found myself becoming fearful.  After so long I had forgotten how powerful labor is.  I couldn't find a comfortable position.

This fear works against a laboring woman.  To watch a woman in labor you need to see in her eyes what she is thinking.  You need to hear it in her sounds that she makes. You need to see how her legs, toes, arms and fingers touch and reach.  She needs someone to breath with her.   She needs someones eyes filling hers.  Closing your eyes only can lose you in a dark and lonely place and make you feel frightened when active labor pours over you.  I felt adrift from my Love and Lindy.  Every time the fear tried to undermine me I heard Peggy.  I could have been totally alone in that labor room because a part of me was.  My Love didn't seem to realize this.  It was then that I cried out for drugs.  I felt I couldn't do it.  I begged for an epidural.  Of course my Love and Lindy knew I that I didn't want any drugs.  No, I really did!  Peggy in my head calmed me.  She "awwddd" with me, keeping my mouth loose like my body wanted me to.  A woman's body knows how to give birth, it's the mind that needs to be calm and trusting of this natural process of giving birth.

And then I hit transition.  A tidal wave fell over me and I feared I would not be able to go further.  How do I collect myself?  I was fully dilated but I didn't know if I could push.  The mind gets in the way.  Wait and the time will tell you when the urge begins.  It will happen.  I know the time will come to release and to be fully in the moment.

I tried being on my hands and knees, but no this wasn't working.  I tried on my side but no this wasn't working either.  I tried to squat and felt awkward and off balance.  

Back up on the hospital bed on my back with the head raised and pillows.  And there I began the pushing.  I might as well have been giving birth to a huge watermelon or a cannonball.  My request for a mirror came just in time to see R.'s crowning.  My mind connected that at last my labor was coming to an end.  Now would be the time to bring him out to our arms.  

As was the pattern with my tipped uterus, this fourth birth no surprise, R. would be a posterior presenting baby like his sisters.  Back labor and a baby facing the opposite way of a normal birth.  

That moment just as full crowning happens, just as you feel that you can take no more, just as you must let go, that head pops out.  The odd moment of knowing that there is no going back and a child will slide into a world of air, to be released forever from the amniotic sea and of the comforting mulled sounds of my body.  Now his shoulders must slide out one side first.  The last push and out he came with a whoosh of fluid.  A big boy indeed.   R. weighed in at 9 pounds 2 ounces.  He was healthy and beautiful.  Our son so wanted had come to our arms.  The world could have fallen away and I would have never known.  

His birth was at 1:15 A.M., March 27th, 1996.  My labor a mere 3 hours though it felt like many hours more.

Bliss.  That was my word of R. in our life.  Nothing could have been more blissful.  There I lay, baby on my bare skin, the warmth of his and mine, bonding, blending, beginning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Doing the right thing

Mother by Marriage ~ Photo by Megan Frasheski

These past many months have been challenging for my husband's parents and siblings.  The relentless aging process for his parents and how to do the best you can for them as you keep them safe.  The process of this is quite different than with my own mother who set up literally a Fort Knox to keep her family out of her protection.

Mother by marriage (MBM) remains at the Assisted Care and is doing well there.  She still has a the hip wound that refuses to heal and now she has been to a Wound Specialist to aid in the care of it.  Last week the Dr. had to reopen the wound as there is a pocket that won't close up.  I won't even write about what they did as it makes me queasy to even think about it.  

Father by marriage (FBM) mentally is fading....quickly.  It was a success to keep him from driving but that was with some rather humorous ways that he tried to get back behind the steering wheel.  Brother by marriage (BBM) ended up removing the batteries from both cars and that seemed to work even though FBM keep calling to say he needed to go get a battery and would we take him to go buy one.  Then he ended up taking a cab and going to buy one by himself!  My sister by marriage (SBM) was visiting MBM when who should stroll in but FBM.  Big shock when he mentioned that he drove himself.  I failed to say that his license was taken away two weeks before via his Dr.'s recommendation (only because we all had to pressure the Dr. to understand that FBM should not be driving and at last he agreed it was dangerous for him to be behind the wheel).  

My Love went and bought two Clubs that go from the steering wheel to the brake pedal and slipped in the garage without FBM knowing and installed them in both cars.  FBM thinks that the DMV came and installed them!  So now we know he can't drive.  Wheewwww.

We have a caregiver go by the home everyday, and takes him grocery shopping as well as on short errands.  She has also driven him out to visit MBM.  

It's not easy learning how to parent a parent.  I've said before it is not for the faint of heart.  You have to be strong, you have to let go everything you thought of about your parent as the one knows how to tend to themselves.  It takes time for both sides as well as lots of redirecting and patience.

FBM is much like my mom in that he is difficult and can get quite nasty.  I'm glad my mom is beyond that point.  For now my Love and his siblings are learning just as I did how to tackle the onslaught of constant phone calls, demands, flowery four letter words this way and that, the crying, the yelling, the lack of hearing and the understanding that dementia brings with it.

Today an example of how hard it can be to deal with him.  We get a phone call from FBM that he wants to go to Costco.  My Love says he will come pick him up and take him.  A couple minutes later and BBM says he is going to pick up FBM as he wants to go to Costco.  Mmmmhmm.  See, FBM just starts calling.  He doesn't remember if he called or not, he just dials numbers.  We assume then that BBM will take him and my Love doesn't need to go.  5 minutes pass and BBM calls us to say the FBM is mad because he wants to go to Costo and BBM doesn't think there is anything he can't get at the local Safeway and doesn't want to drive him all the way to Costco.  My Love tries to explain that FBM just wants to get out and what is the big deal of not taking him.  They hang up.  Another 5 minutes pass and BBM calls to say that he has left because FBM wouldn't write a list and he wouldn't take him without one.  My Love tells him "Dad can't write a list"....well BBM refused to do the the right thing and said dad is unreasonable.

My Love right now is off to pick up FBM and take him to Costco.  Yes, it is a 1/2 hour to FBM and a 1/2 hour back to Costco, maybe an hour at Costco then 1/2 hour back to FBM's home and then 1/2 hour back to our home.  Maybe.  It might be longer but it will get FBM a chance to get out of the house.  To visit with his son on whatever level it may be.  It will be walking without a list to get who knows what.  Sometimes you have to do this.  It may seem a waste of time but for our elder folk it is all they have to think and do on a given day. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

When we were little

There is something special with old photos of when you were a kid.  I put this together awhile back for my brother for his birthday.  Just felt like sharing it today.  He is my family and I love him.  He's here through thick and thin.  Smiles and tears.  He's my big brother.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ready for a ride down the Grand Canal?

I'm sharing a video I took while we were in Venice ....  if you like, visit my other blog Snapshots on My Journey to see.


Friday, March 2, 2012

The girl with the bracelet

She sat next to me in my Crafts Class.  She was pale skinned, with long wavy hair that sometimes looked unbrushed, slight of built and quiet like I was.

I had switched to the Craft Class because the Chorus Class disappointed me.  Over the summer we had moved to this town and I was less than happy over leaving my friends.  They would all be in their Freshman year at the High School and I was in a three year Middle school.  I couldn't even call myself a Freshman, I was a 9th grader.  The year was 1972.

She didn't talk readily but would give a demure smile if you spoke to her in greeting.  Her eyes looked haunted and sad as though there was something she was not able to say, and not knowing anyone at the school I could not ask what was her story.  At 14 I didn't have the best social skills of making new friends and frankly I didn't want new friends, I wanted my old friends.

Our class was in a large, high ceiling room with a kiln room in the rear.  We sat at high desk tables on stools, two by two, making clay bowls.  Our teacher with his laid back ways, allowed us to talk while we worked.  Her table was the only one with a vacant stool.

Day after day we sat working on our bowls, not saying much.  Sometimes she had dry, crusty looking lips and her eyes looked like she had been crying as they were red and watery.  She never seemed to have any friends in the room who would come up and talk to her.  In some ways we shared the same isolation.

I noticed that she wore a bracelet but it was not a decorative girls type of bracelet.  It was of silver in color with writing on it.  I asked her one day what it was.  She told me it was for her boyfriend who had gone to Vietnam.  He was missing and she wore this always and never took it off.  I didn't know what to say and muttered a "oh".   That was all we said as we worked.

She wore a POW-MIA bracelet.  A young man off to war missing in action.  Her sadness was understood by me of what I thought she might be feeling.  Or so I thought.  I too had lost a boyfriend when we moved.  He as well had moved away and we had tried to correspond thinking we would still always be boyfriend and girlfriend.  It felt tragic to me not being able to see him, hug him and kiss him.  I did not know what tragic meant.

Tragic meant for her maybe never seeing the man she loved.  For he was a man, not a teenager, sent to fight, drafted.  How could she love one at her age who was so much older than she?  What did her mom and dad think of this?  How long had he been gone or was missing?  I had questions in my head but I lacked the courage to ask her.

She had been absent for a few days and I wondered when she would be back.  Our class project now was working on leather belts, pounding on the head of a tool with a small hammer to create designs of our choosing. By now I had made new friends at the school as well as in this class and was accepting to a point that this was where we lived in this new town.  I still dreamed that somehow I could convince my parents to let me move back to our old town and live with my girlfriend's family.

She was gone a week.  When she came back she looked more frail and pale that before.  It saddened me to see her so.  I asked her what happened, had she been real sick?  She looked at me with old eyes and said "I had to stay home because my baby was sick".  I was speechless.  She had a baby?  She was 14.  In my world you don't have a baby at 14. 

She told me that she missed her boyfriend so much. That he was the father of their little girl.  It was hard to raise her child alone even though she lived at home with her mother and father.  She had not seen him for a year.  She did not know if she ever would.  She did not know what would happen with her life but here she sat making a dumb leather belt, going to middle school as a 9th grader and not to High School.  She was a young teen mother and not married.  

This was my wake up call that life can be tragic beyond a break-up of a boyfriend at school because he liked another girl over you.  This was more tragic than having to move away from your friends.  I didn't have the maturity to understand what she might be going through but I could be her friend here and now.

I didn't get to know her any more than in that class. Sometimes the shallowness of our teen years keeps us from wanting to reach out beyond the girlhood rules of friendship.  The girls I began to hang out with cheered me up and accepted me.  She didn't have time to be a teenager to do what teens do. To go to the movies or shopping.   I didn't see her again when we all finally moved on to 10th grade and at last to High School.  

I am haunted by her memory all those years ago. 


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