baby

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My Liberated Lines

A few weeks ago I mentioned my participation in Liberated Lines Love, the Instagram-based four week writing course offering daily prompts that helped me to free my words and express the love that moves my heart and animates my spirit.

Today I will share the fruits of those four weeks, bits of cavernous emotion frozen into the compendium of my Instagram feed, because they mean something significant to me and because I want another record of #liberatedlineslove. If I ever get around to it I will turn these photos and their captions into a memory book. Something for the shelves.

I am desperate to remember this time in my life, February 3-28, 2014. Not only the last 20 days of my pregnancy with Skyla and the first five days of her life, but the act of liberating my lines. Softening, opening and allowing as life changed so quickly that I could see it happening. Like the time lapse of a flower blooming.

I’m trying to hold onto time though it won’t last. Like drinking water from your hands. Though you can’t see the cracks, water slips through them faster than you can drink. No matter how tightly I grip time, time escapes me. I cannot hold onto time, I can only let it go.

Writing in the throes of transformation, writing to understand and learn from and celebrate the unfamiliar, this keeps me grounded. But I lose sight of my way when I spend too much time looking back over my shoulder, clinging to memories, closing my fist around time only to find my hands are empty and they will always stay that way. When we leave, we will bring nothing with us.

So I am not going to re-read every post I wrote, I am not going to edit. I copied and I pasted and in a moment I will hit publish. I will let time carry me far away and in that far away place I will build upon this foundation. The best is yet to come.

Below you will find all of my Instagram photos I tagged with #liberatedlineslove and their associated captions directly below.

I hope you enjoy reading these little love letters as much as I enjoyed writing them.

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We do not have perfection we have one another. Peace comes and goes like new souls through my body. Emotions take us inward, dreams take us forward. Hold me by the hand and I’ll hold you by the other hand and we will draw one another outward. Towards expression of truth and the freedom of expansion. We can fly, buttressed by love. I believe that. #liberatedlineslove #bump #love #believe#amwriting (This is a #latergram from my maternity shoot–I got the photos last night so I’m still high on them and wanting to share, hope it’s okay to break the rules on the first day of the course!)

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My sister made this cowl with her own two hands. She knit this cowl like I knit the bones of my daughter. Flesh and blood and yarn. The embrace of the womb like the warmth of the wool. Protected from the elements and bound by love. #liberatedlineslove #pregnancy #sisters

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This little lady. When she says “mommy” my world rearranges. #liberatedlineslove #pingandswell

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I woke to an alien glow on the other side of the curtain. It was Her. And She peeked into my dining room as they sat eating oatmeal. Stillness. I savored it, and I took a picture to save Her reflection for later.#liberatedlineslove #sunshine

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The space where I plan to birth my daughter, where she will emerge from deep within me, towards the light of the sun. An ordinary room waiting patiently for the extraordinary, humbled by natural wonders.#liberatedlineslove #homebirth #waterbirth#pregnancy #crunchymama

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I waited and searched and prayed for the fun today, entertaining slivers of doubt that I’d ever find fun again. Until I saw this tiny lady tromping around the house in plastic high heels and a cocktail dress from my college days. This must be the new brand of fun.#liberatedlineslove #fun

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I have not seen my child’s face and yet I know it. I have not held her in my arms but I have held her in my womb. The weight of her body fills me with longing and purpose. For I am a vessel. She is here, a feather floating in our midst, resting so quietly that we have moments of forgetting. My baby and I, we coexist peacefully, easily, one breath and two bodies. No empty spaces between us. We whisper secrets without making a sound. We will spend years pushing and pulling and sustaining one another. But for now this is a gestating love. #liberatedlineslove#pregnantlife #pregnancy #38weeks #motherhood#mamalove (photo credit: 7 year old Emile)

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I let go. Muscle by muscle, bone by bone. Responsibility slid from my shoulders while steam ascended from the effervescence. Quiet cravings. I looked down at my swollen belly, I looked up out the window, and though I’d found stillness I wasn’t alone. #liberatedlineslove #pacificnorthwest #north #metime #spa #selflove #pregnancy #meditation

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Water + sky. City + snow. Crepes + tea. Sunday + morning. Tired + happy. It all adds up to love. #liberatedlineslove #snow #seattle #bellevue

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The snow melts. A steady drip in the background of our stay-home day, the change that never stops ticking. We have nothing to do but we find a lot to do. We tickle and we play hide and go seek and we read books. We break rules and we make messes and we scold and we clean. We chase and we cry and we think about nothing but today and one another. We want nothing but today and one another. #liberatedlineslove #family #home

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There was a girl. Free as a bird. The abundance of the earth ran through her veins. She traveled and lived and worked in exotic places. Her worldly possessions fit into a backpack. On this particular night she mixed drinks in styrofoam bowls. She balanced the bowl on her head and posed against the backdrop of a brilliant Thai beach alongside her cousin and roommate and best friend. She got high on the sunset, intoxicated by the drink, hypnotized by the scalloped sea. The girl is me and not me. The me before marriage and motherhood and responsibility. I will never be her again and yet she exists as a layer of who I am today, a woman with a heart divided, a woman with more than 10 fingers to lose. A woman who does not drink more than one nor kiss strangers nor ride without a helmet. I miss her though. I loved her life and its infinite possibility. #liberatedlineslove #thailand #travel

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I made a memory box once upon a time. I filled it with relics of my earliest years, reminders of my purpose, my child self intuiting the nuances of my future needs. The paper journal I sealed with a metal lock. Poems about the inside of me and the color purple. The proclamation that I would grow up to write books. The long-winded handwritten notes to and from my best friend. The twists and turns since then have both held back my hair and left it tangled. The wind carried me away and I carried me home. Back to my journals and books and the written word. Where passion nourishes as it consumes. Like falling in love every day. #liberatedlineslove #amwriting #childhood #writerslife

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This is a story of fear. In my heart, fear is sitting very close to love. Fear does not waken me at night, but when I awaken, fear keeps me here. Alone, hungry. The time has come to unwrap the fear. Name the fear. Hold the fear. Listen to the fear, to the beat and the center and the source of it. It is a fear of the pop. My bag of waters breaking. Fear of the tightening. My uterus contracting. Fear of the pain. My body squeezing. Fear of the space. The bones of my pelvis widening. Fear of the power. The life force siphoned into my core, the force of a life coming through me. (To read the rest please visit my blog, link in profile.) #liberatedlineslove #love #fear #childbirth #naturalbirth #homebirth #motherhood

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These evenings at my desk feed the hungry parts of my mind. I become free from external demands, free from monotony, free to get lyrical with letters. Whether I write one paragraph or one thousand words, I get somewhere. I feel something. Soon I will have a babe in arms and everything will change as it always does. And though I will miss my quiet evenings, I will savor the transience of motherhood. My stories will wait while babyhood waits for no one. Here’s to the ebb and flow, the flame that flickers and grows, the expansion of existence. #liberatedlineslove #amwriting #pregnancy #pregnantlife

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Is it cold and dreary or light and happy? Are we tired or are we awake? Are we lazy or are we relaxing? Are we surviving or are we thriving? The answers may be irrelevant so long as we open our arms to the sky and drink the wild air. #liberatedlineslove #duality #seattle #pacificnorthwest

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This little girl is her mama’s first baby and as she anticipates mama’s second baby (and daddy’s third baby), she is missing her own babyhood. She begged me to strap her into the infant seat. She wants to nurse again. She wants to be carried. She wants to be a big girl but she also wants to be a baby. I want her to know there’s no one like her, no one who can take her place, no one who can pull us apart. I want her to know she will forever be my baby. #liberatedlineslove #duality

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Open up, let it out. Beauty starts in the center, flowing outwardly, sliding down your petals, landing on fingertips and the edge of my heart, coloring dreams outside the lines. #liberatedlineslove

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Good night blue sky with your swaths of gauzy white and burning ball of energy. You make me want to be great like you. #liberatedlineslove

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Bits of color on this gray-soaked day. My interior self reflected in the flat sky and bare trees outside my window, every moment and every branch saturated with an aura of anticipation. #liberatedlineslove #pregnantlife #pregnancy #39weeks #spring

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Motherhood is belonging so completely to another person that you don’t mind their helplessness, their neediness, their naïveté. You ache to be a servant to them. Helping, caring, teaching, holding. Whether or not the child came through your body or to you through other means, it is this giving of self that makes a mother. Every day I dream of being a better one. More selfless, patient and kind. I know my second daughter will change me, perhaps as much as my daughter and my stepson did before her. I can’t wait. But I will have to. #liberatedlineslove #pregnantlife #pregnancy #39weeks #maternity photo credit @hellojessicaho

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There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than spinning conversations around dreams; falling in lust with the future and in love with possibility; pointing our hearts in the right direction and praying our minds and our feet will follow, up and over the hills, down and through the valleys. Flanked by patience and perseverance, supported by the ones who love us, our built-in fans. Sometimes we forget how to dream, a loss of faith that numbs the soul and tangles provenance, a loss the entire universe must bear. For there is no one else with the same gifts to bestow upon humanity, no one who can dream your dreams for you. As for me. The beauty I love is writing and mothering and healing. I dream of publishing my novels, stories that engage the intellect and spark greater awareness. I dream of healing with tea, herbal tonics to enhance the human experience. I dream of raising happy children; and tonight I dream of holding in my arms the one inside of me. #liberatedlineslove #dream #pregnantlife #pregnancy #motherhood #writerslife #amwriting #fiction #truth #herbs #tea

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I have no shortage of desires, no absence of dreams, no limits to stand behind. Sometimes I wonder if I want too much. And yet all of it blurs into the background when she needs me. She comes first. She holds my heart. My dreams, perhaps they exist only in the context of my love. #liberatedlineslove #dream #family #love #motherhood

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No better way to spend my due date than reveling in my beautiful soul sister and her brand new baby boy. This is what bliss looks like. This is where I’m headed. #liberatedlineslove #pregnantlife #pregnancy #40weeks #baby #newborn #love #friendship @christianaspeed

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My new mug says to live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering. Currently I am sipping on herbal tea I mixed myself for expecting mothers like myself. Red raspberry leaf and nettles and peppermint among others, herbs filling each cell with Mother Nature’s balancing life force. I am riding wave after wave of practice contractions, not true labor but rather a tightening of my center, a gripping in my body, a sign of what’s to come. A babe in my eager arms. And though my body does not let me forget she is coming soon, I cannot know how soon. But I can make the wait into something beautiful, something worth remembering, these last moments before my world changes forever. #liberatedlineslove #pregnantlife #pregnancy #40weeks #amreading #herbs #herbaltea #tea

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She looks just like her big sister here. Life is a series of miracles with love as the source. I am wading through the thick of it. #liberatedlineslove #newborn #baby #love

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Day 3 of bliss. This tiny lady lived inside of my skin. I’m not sure we can comprehend the miracle that keeps our planet spinning on its axis, the intelligence that weaves love into life. #liberatedlineslove #baby #love #newborn #motherhood

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New mother veteran mother postpartum haze. Dark circles pale lips old clothes. Failed naps tiny cries sleepy smiles. Sore nipples cramping uterus more blood. Jealous sister proud sister proud father. Up all night awake all day still going. Shocked awed blissed out. Beautiful baby gorgeous baby pretty baby. Unreal too real perfectly real. Kiss kiss kiss snuggle worry. Eat in bed write in bed read in bed. Gray sunshine rain. Pray comfort nurse. Overwhelmed by sweetness by harmonious exhaustion. Heaven on earth heaven sent blessed. Love that passes understanding. #liberatedlineslove #love #motherhood #newborn #baby

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My life revolves around this signal, this wide open mouth, this quiet quest for nourishment. A reflex honed by years of evolution into something we consider normal, something we don’t stop to ponder or question because the answer comes to us upon an instinct. Extraordinary intelligence deemed ordinary. #liberatedlineslove #baby #newborn #motherhood #ordinary #love #breastfeeding #nursing

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Reflections on water, shadows on glass. Streaks of light, patches of snow. Naked branches, blur of trees. Yellow bleeding into gray into blue. Earth interrupted by steel and concrete. Sharp edges of rock meeting sky. This is where I am. This is what I see. The same landscape punctuated by different colors every day, every moment. An ordinary sight made extraordinary just by noticing. #liberatedlineslove #ordinary #seattle #bellevue #pacificnorthwest #nofilter

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It all comes down to this: they teach me how to love myself. In their innate perfection, I can see reflections of my own. For I am also someone’s beloved daughter and I, too, started out this way. Tiny and pure, round cheeked and curious, the world offering itself at my feet. Maybe I walked away from it, maybe I ran in circles, maybe I stopped hearing the whispers from my heart. But no matter where I’ve been or where I go, I will always return to my roots, the place where possibility reveals itself as infinite. Where my authentic, perfect self resides. The girl who loves thick books and writing words, old trees and the sky on a sunny day. #liberatedlineslove #daughters #sisters #motherhood #love #selflove

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The Love-In

photo 4Often when I hold Skyla in my arms, I look at her and murmur to myself, “oh my God.”

And I really am talking to God when these words come out of me, marveling at God and with God as my daughter’s beauty strikes me speechless and thoughtless, capable only of perceiving oceans of love for this tiny pillar of light sent from the heavens.

She’s so small and sweet and by the miracle of the universe, the grace of God, the magic of life, she came to the earth through the warmth of my body to join our family. We have been entrusted with her care, and in exchange, she blesses us with her love.

Blessed. Blessings. Bliss.

I remember the morning I discovered my pregnancy, how the early summer light filtered into the bathroom and Giovanna ran barefoot in the backyard. I ate a fried egg and avocado with salt and pepper for the first meal of my pregnancy, and then again 10 minutes later for the second. I read about prenatal nutrition while Giovanna splashed in the plastic pool. We went to the health food co-op and I bought expensive vitamins and organic groceries.

I remember the evening of that day, when James came home and saw my prenatal vitamins on the counter. He didn’t miss a beat.

“Are you pregnant?”

I was pregnant for 40 weeks and 3 days and now I have this perfect little person to show for it. She’s often attached to my breast or snoozing in my arms or sleeping in her hammock or strapped to my chest or being kissed by someone who loves her. She smiles and giggles in her sleep, she throws her arms out frequently when she’s not swaddled, she searches her surroundings in silent wonderment. When she awakens and I am not immediately present to scoop her up, she calls to me in warning before she starts to cry. James says I could recognize her call from the call of a thousand other babies. He’s right. He gets a kick out of Skyla’s affinity for me, her reactions to my voice and the unparalleled calm she finds in my arms. He respects the mommy-baby bond. He works long and hard so I can stay home with our little girls. I am grateful.

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The days pass in flashes. Some moments are about surviving, others are about savoring. James’ paternity leave will be over soon. He called these past few weeks a love-in. I don’t want them to end. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything but take care of my babies and read books and steal little moments to express the words trapped in my mind, planted by my muses. Memoirs for this blog, messages for my loved ones, chapters of my novel.

Life makes so much more sense when you discover what really makes you happy and you focus your energy upon it. When you whittle your attention down to the tippy top of your priorities, the simplicity of being. The squeak of your newborn. The kiss of your child. A good song or book or movie. The contentment of your partner. A visit or phone call or email from a loved one. A homemade pot of soup. A cup of tea. A spot of sunshine. An afternoon nap. A nice comment on your blog. A decent page written. A plot point revealed. A memory recorded. A baby in your arms, drunk with your milk, her face moving in sync with her dreams. The silky underside of her feet in the palm of your hand.

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The Story Behind Skyla

“Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.”

- Rumi

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I already had the name Skyla on my list. I knew I loved it. And obviously I have a thing for the sky (hence my blog name). But the task of naming a child does not produce immediate answers, at least not for me.

When I saw this quote on Instagram from heathercooperloves, which was a re-gram from adonnrowley, I took a screenshot. Every time I came back to it, I got tingly.

We don’t have to conform to standards or fit into boxes or worry about the outcome. We are here to do things that make us feel  good. We are here to enjoy the rainbows, bask in the sunshine, bathe in the ocean, gaze at the stars. We are here to cry in the rain and listen to the clouds and cling to one another in the storm.

We don’t have to take this life so seriously. Failure is a myth, the prison walls are made of fear. We can fall and get up as many times as we want. We can fly without crashing. We need not hold back or be afraid or stifle our truest, wildest, happiest dreams.

I hope I can teach my beautiful biracial daughters to live like this.

I want them to push against the boundaries built by modern society. I want them to break through the glass ceilings and make their own joy. I want them to create anything and everything they want. I want them to follow their hearts and believe in themselves, because we are all as big as the sky.

Just as we chose Giovanna because “God is gracious,” we chose Skyla to remember that we are limitless potential, bound by limitless love.

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A Home Birth in Pictures

“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth” — Dr. Christiane Northrup

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I’m not sure I fully explained in my birth story how good it felt to be at home, cared for by my midwife and my husband and my doula.

Natural, safe, private.

All of my wishes considered, all of my needs met.

Birthing at home is not for everyone, but it was a beautiful choice for me.

I won’t try to explain why because these photographs, taken by Jessica May Photography in the first moments after Skyla’s birth, provide a window into this tender morning, better than I can describe in words.

Aside from the few posed photos, I had no awareness that Jessica was there with her camera. I was operating in another dimension, completely wrapped up in my new baby.

I suppose I am still here. Life will never be the same. It just keeps getting better.

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The Home Water Birth of Skyla Winter

“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”

~ Laura Stavoe Harm

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This is the story of the at-home water birth of my daughter, Skyla Winter. The details are intimate and plenty, which I willingly share with the ether in hopes of dispelling the myth that birth is anything but a sacred, empowering and normal physiological process.

Saturday, February 22, 2014 started the way a Saturday should. I slept in and woke up hungry. Two days past my due date, my hunger had escalated. My belly stretched and my stomach grumbled.

Still, I was happy. I practiced patience. I dressed in a tight shirt to savor my bump and we headed off to breakfast at our favorite neighborhood cafe then to a park with big trees where I sat in the car while James and Giovanna braved the Seattle rain. After that we went downtown to the shopping district to make a return, and then to the Central Library to read children’s books. By then I had become very aware that the Braxton Hicks contractions were not slowing down as they usually did, but speeding up. I hoped, but I didn’t count on anything. They could stop at anytime.

At home I had the urge to clean, a sign of impending labor but nothing I took seriously since I’d been feeling this way for a while. I’d grown a bit obsessive about keeping the house as tidy as possible. I wanted to bring my baby into a neat and peaceful environment rather than a cluttered and chaotic space. I couldn’t control when she came, but I could try to be ready for her. Even if it made me slightly batty.

As I moved through the house the Braxton Hicks became tighter and more frequent. I took a break, lying down to see if they would stop. They didn’t. Around 6 pm they were coming every 3-4 minutes. Not painful but slightly uncomfortable, a hard gripping in my center. An hour later, when they still hadn’t slowed and after I’d confirmed with my friend (and former doula!) that her second labor had started like this, I sent text messages to my midwife, my doula, Giovanna’s birth buddy and my mom. Just a heads up, I said. It could happen tonight, it could not. My midwife agreed, they could change or they could stop. And so I put Giovanna to sleep in her bed, I sat on the birthing ball, I read, and I waited. When the contractions did slow down I ignored my disappointment and drifted off to sleep.

By the time I woke up I was joined in bed by both James and Giovanna. I went to the bathroom and while slipping back under the covers I felt a small gush of fluid in my underwear. Similar in size to the gush I felt when my water broke during my first birth, but without the accompanying pop nor the subsequent blood. I checked the time. 11:30 PM. I investigated, smelling and feeling and pondering. If my water had broken, I needed to know. I’d tested positive for Group B Strep, a normal bacteria in healthy adults but one that causes infection in (1 in 250) babies as they pass through the birth canal. When antibiotics are given the risk decreases to 1 in 4000. I needed to get the antibiotics sooner rather than later if it was, in fact, my water that had broken. I sat on the birth ball and swayed my hips and wondered if the contractions would start on their own, like they did my first time around. If they didn’t, what would I do? How would I know?

My prayers were answered. I’ve never been so happy to welcome pain. The contractions started 20-30 minutes after I’d felt the leak. Cramping so slight I didn’t know for sure that it was real. I waited. I moved the air purifier from Giovanna’s bedroom into our bedroom and turned it up to drown out any potential noise. I gathered my candles. I set up the iPod speakers. The cramps became more apparent and they were coming about every 3 minutes. At 12:33 AM I paged my midwife, I woke up James and I alerted the rest of my birthing team. When my midwife, Chenelle, called back I told her that I thought my water had broken but I wasn’t completely sure because the leak was so small and there had been no pop or blood like before. But regardless, I was feeling crampy at regular intervals. She agreed that it was probably my water and she would come right over.

This was happening. I didn’t need to swallow my excitement.

Solveig, who lives close by, arrived first to my candle lit lavender oasis. Solveig would be my doula. She is not just my doula but also my soul sister and the soccer teammate of my 10 year-old self and the classmate of my high school self (one year we had 5 out of the 7 classes together) and the sorority sister/roommate of my college self–among many other things. She probably couldn’t even tell I was in labor. The contractions were mild enough that I could easily talk through them. My midwife, Chenelle, arrived at 1:15 AM and began to move in all of her supplies. Her assistant, Marquita, a midwifery student, arrived 5 minutes later. When asked, Chenelle said she would not check the dilation of my cervix, not then and probably not at all. I had done this before we would follow the cues of my body.

My body was in charge. It was my body that would get the baby out. Alone but very much not alone.

A few minutes later came Jenna, who would take care of Gigi should she wake up (hence the term birth buddy). I grew up with Jenna, we’ve been best friends since the first day of sixth grade, inseparable until we graduated from high school, still inseparable in spirit. In middle school we created an alter ego of our combined personalities. Her name was LUNA, the LU from Lucy and the NA from Jenna. Our adolescent selves had no idea this is the spanish word for moon. Now, well over 15 years later, there we were. About to welcome my child by the light of the moon.

James had started filling up the birthing tub by using a hose connected to the shower and also by boiling water on the stove. Jenna went to work to help him and Solveig played with my hair to help me relax. Everyone knew just what to do, just what I needed. I played my birthing playlist at a low volume and we spoke in loud whispers and I crossed my fingers that Gigi, separated from us by a door, would sleep though it. I knew Jenna would take good care of her if she did awaken, and maybe drive her to Grammy’s house if she wanted to go, but I also didn’t want my girl to lose a night’s sleep. Losing sleep can throw off a little person for weeks.

And so I labored like that for a few hours though it felt like only one hour. Eventually I moved off the ball, searching for a better position, a position that would allow me to relax more fully between contractions. I started to get the shakes and I needed to manage them. During my first labor I didn’t get shakey until transition (the period right before pushing) which made the most painful stage nearly unbearable. Of course the whole thing is nearly unbearable yet you bear it anyways. Because what choice do you have? No matter what you do, those rushes keep coming to take you away. There’s no escaping.

It took every ounce of concentration, focus scraped from the deepest caverns of my physical body, to smooth out the tremors. Even breathing and long exhales helped. If I lost focus for a moment, my limbs responded with twitches and tremors. There was no time to think about the pain, there was time only to breathe. I alternated between wide-legged child’s pose and all-fours. Solveig waved lavender essential oil under my nose and applied pressure to my lower back during the contractions which worked some kind of magic.

As Marquita approached to take the fetal heart rate once again and I moved onto the edge of the bed, I felt a pop in my uterus. It was strange and alarming. I told Chenelle but she wasn’t concerned. I went to the bathroom, said hi to Jenna in the hall, and there it was, the first sign of blood, my cervix opening.

After this, everything sped up. Moaning through the contractions helped me to cope, as did Solveig’s encouragement by moaning along with me. James hovered in the background, coming in to give Solveig a break and then receding back into the shadows. While some women rely on their partners completely for labor support, I feel most comfortable having my husband present for emotional support but not responsible for helping me to manage the pain. I need a professional for that, specifically a woman who has studied labor and childbirth. And I recommend that every pregnant mother hires a doula. These women provide invaluable expertise and morale. They remind you that birth works. I know I would have survived my births without the presence of my doulas, but would I have looked back upon them with such fond memories? Would they have gone so smoothly, so quickly? I can never know, but I do know that I love my doulas and I am forever grateful to them for being with me–and James–as we welcomed our children.

I digress.

Marquita gave me permission to get into the birthing tub at about 3:45 AM (see a photo of the tub at the bottom of this page). They had me waiting as to make sure the water did not slow the process. After the next contraction my clothes came off and I submerged my body in warm water, not unlike my baby submerged in the warmth of my womb. I found myself floating up and down with each contraction, moving with the rhythm of the mysterious force that rippled through my body, squeezing my baby down towards the earth. Solveig held me through each rush, her arms hooked under my shoulders so that I could let every muscle relax, every muscle but my uterus which seemed to have harnessed every unit of life force in Creation. I became aware of a clenching in my rear end which was exactly what I knew not to do. How can a baby come through if you fight the opening? Immediately I let it go. Through the thick of the pain, I focused on softness and allowing.

Though the water was merely body temperature, the power tearing through my core generated heat, escalating my discomfort. A cold wash cloth on my forehead soothed and calmed. As did Solveig’s words: you’re doing such a good job, mama. And the quiet presence of James, bearing all the reverence for birth a man should have. The shakes had finally dissolved, swallowed by the smooth caress of water, an element essential to making life.

I made a life, her flesh and blood built with my flesh and blood, and the water would help me to welcome her.

The contractions worked me, turned me inside out. Some of them came right on top of each other. The pain turned me into a wild animal, living purely in the moment. I wasn’t thinking of the prize at the end and I had no way of knowing how close we were. I did not know it, but I was in transition.

When I felt my baby’s head descend down the birth canal, I said, I can feel her coming. And Solveig said that’s right, she knows what to do. Recalling those words brings tears to my eyes. My baby knew where to go just as my body knew how to make her; my doula knew what to say and my midwife knew what to do.

On the next contraction I felt her come lower, which was both frightening and promising. I’d anticipated this stage the most, this homestretch, this opening of my body. It would all be over soon. I could think like a human again, I could foresee the future. A future that included this tiny person emerging from my loins.

Spontaneous pushing began. There was no stopping my body from bearing down, the urge uncontrollable, and like God, greater than myself. I remembered this feeling well from my first labor, but unlike my first labor in the hospital where the nurse checked me before I was allowed to keep pushing, no one questioned my body’s lead. (And I did not tear in either birth, which is more likely when we push in response to the natural urge rather than when directed.) I told them, I’m pushing. This began at 4:20 according to the labor flow sheet. Chenelle appeared on the other side of the tub and I felt so much gratitude for her smiling face and her capable hands ready to catch my baby.

With my baby on the brink of life outside of my body, my body stretching to accommodate her passage, I felt the power of the universe pushing its way through me. And it wasn’t painful in the way you might imagine it to be, but rather it was momentous. My pelvis opening to its edge, my baby’s life hinging on my ability to push her through. But I couldn’t push without the help of the contractions. Waiting for the next rush, with my baby’s head engaged in my pelvis, I asked aloud, where is the next one? Those few seconds between stretched and stretched, like my perineum.

I wanted her out. Chenelle could see her head. She felt for a cord around the neck and announced no cord. I reached down and felt for her head. I pushed and I grunted and I spread my legs and held my thighs and I used my abdominals as I had been mentally and physically and spiritually preparing to use them for months.

When Chenelle said, you’re going to get her out on the next contraction, I knew I had to make it true. I gave it everything I had, and then I gave it more than I thought I had in me. Motherhood seems to often require us to give more than we think we have, doesn’t it? We find ourselves continually surprised by our own capacity, leading us to the question: what else is possible?

And then, at 4:34 AM on Sunday, February 23, 2014, the rest of her head broke free into the water and her little body slipped out. In my excitement I reached down to grab my baby from Chenelle’s hands, and when I pulled her up to my chest, perhaps too quickly, the cord broke. It broke! The cord was too short to bring her past my belly and I broke it. Chenelle clamped it shut with her fingers and called to Marquita in an urgent tone for a clamp. I had wanted to keep the cord attached until it stopped pulsing but this no longer mattered. All that mattered was that we were both okay. And we were.

I held her squirming little body and marveled at her pink rosebud lips. She didn’t cry and I like to think she didn’t cry because she knew she was in the arms of her mama. Marquita slipped a hat on her head and they covered us in towels. Eventually they helped me out of the tub and sat me on the birthing stool where I pushed out the placenta and the midwives pushed on my uterus to help it contract. I knew that it hurt somewhere, but I barely felt a thing. My baby was here.

My baby is here.

Some other things I’d like to note:

Everything sped up like crazy once I heard that “pop” while moving around during a contraction. Proof positive that labor goes quicker when the mother is not confined to one position.

My sweet Giovanna slept through the entire birth and did not wake until 7 AM! She is a light sleeper and rarely sleeps through the night even at 4 years old (hence the trip from her bed to our bed), but the white noise from the air purifier kept her in a peaceful slumber. Now she tells people: when I waked up, the baby was born! 

When I went past my due date, I practiced trusting my body and my baby, I knew that she would come at the perfect moment. And she did.

Jessica of Jessica May Photography recorded the hours right after Skyla’s birth, including the moment Gigi emerged from sleep to meet her baby sister, and I am so thrilled to share some of them with you. So stay tuned for the next post.

At-home birthing tub

Giovanna’s beautiful bedroom transformed into my birthing suite.

Please comment below or reach out via email (lucy [at] lucilleinthesky [dot] com) with any questions you may have about giving birth in the water or at home or with the help of a midwife and doula. If you live in the greater Seattle area and are interested in using my midwife or doula for your own prenatal care and birth, I highly recommend both of them and would love to pass along their contact information.

 

 

You Came Into My Life Four Years Ago Today

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To Giovanna on your birthday,

You came into my life four years ago today and I knew you already. Your cheeks. Your eyebrows. Your will.

You came into my life and shook all the pieces into place. When I became your mama many other things became clear. Who I am and who I want to be, what I want to do and why I must do it. Things I’ve always known somewhere but left unknown because not knowing is sometimes easier.

You came into my life and brought with you a spark. A flame in the seat of my heart, a magnetic force field between us. Once physically connected, our spirits have been and will be attached for eternity. For now, we are slightly codependent. A phase equally challenging and temporary, both of which pale in comparison to the beauty of it. But you will not always shout “mama!” when I pick you up from school and you will not always say good-bye with a long row of kisses. I have to also believe that I will not always miss you the way I do now (or I might end up stalking your elementary school).

You came into my life and you sped up time. Never before have days passed so quickly. Never again will you be a baby. Never again will you be three years old. You say things a certain way, many times a day (“okay, mama?”), and each time a little piece of me melts and molds into joy, gratitude, wonder. You exhaust me and you energize me.

You came into my life and the pitch of your voice captured me, captivated me. It still does, every day. Though peace and patience often eludes us, we are all trying. I am searching for ways to be a better mother to you. I will never stop searching.

You came into my life and you taught me about my biggest flaws. You act as a mirror. You help me to hear my own voice and in hearing my own voice I am able to better understand myself. As you grow up and I grow up, we will evolve and transform according to the knowledge and wisdom collected along the way. I will try to teach you as much as you teach me.

You came into my life and you made me a mommy. Someday you will understand the magnitude of this shift and the power you hold, not over me alone but over the entire universe. The world is yours, my baby. You’re four years old and you’re already on the fast track to taking as much of it as you can hold in those hungry little hands. I love watching you grow.

With all my love,

Mama

Expansion

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” 

Albert Einstein 

34 week bump

Too many times to count, I have accidentally woken my daughter because I like to watch her sleep.

And she is a light sleeper. One creak of the century-old floors and she stirs.

I have never learned my lesson.

When she was a baby, my check-ins were like a compulsion fueled by nerves and the settling of a very heavy love across my heart.

Getting her back to sleep was a slow process then, as it is now. My precious few minutes of uninterrupted time interrupted by my own anxiety and addiction.

I am addicted to her sweetness. To Giovanna in still life, my daughter at rest, her skin shining with fleeting purity. Perfect innocence eventually and inevitably covered by years on this planet.

By the grace of the universe, I am going to have another baby soon. A delicate and helpless creature sent from the heavens. The ultimate responsibility and joy. The reality of it squeezes my heart and sometimes my throat.

I’ve spent the last several months preparing. Today I am less than six weeks from my due date. I have entered the homestretch of pregnancy. The intensity mounts along with the downward pressure of a tiny human rooting herself into this earth.

I can feel her. A person living between my heart and my pelvis. She elbows me in the hips and kicks me in the ribs and wedges herself into awkward positions, small but sturdy bones prodding my side body. Bones knit from my own flesh and blood.

She rests in water, folded and floating. She fills me with warmth, with the truth of who I am and the miracles happening within me, the miracles happening every day.

I wonder how I will be with this next one. Will I be so desperate for a break that I will let her sleep? Will I chill out and trust in the universe? Will I have as much energy as I did with my first? If I don’t have the energy, will I look until I find it?

I can feel my heart expanding. Exploding. Life growing, family growing, love growing.

The best part? My people, my husband and my stepson and my daughter, could not be more excited. And it makes me feel good and special that our baby lives within the context of my body. That they tickle my belly when they want to tickle the baby and they kiss me when they want to kiss her.

Oh, Motherhood. My challenge, my privilege. You’re about to change my life again. Bring it on.

Big Brother’s Wish for Baby

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Dear Baby,

I hope you learn the abc.

I hope you aren’t afraid of the [dark].

I hope you love your family.

I hope you get good at games.

I hope you laugh at your mom and dad.

I hope you never forget your friends and family.

I hope you ignore mean kids.

I hope you become a [great builder].

I hope you respect [true] love.

I hope you grow to [be a tall girl].

Love,

Emile

Your Brother

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Come On Universe, Let’s Do 2014

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What are you leaving in 2013 and what are you moving towards in 2014?

My sister-in-law posed this question on Facebook, and it inspired me to to think carefully about what I want for the New Year.

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In a nutshell, I am leaving behind…

distraction
self-doubt
fear of scarcity

And moving towards…

greater discipline
stronger intuition
incredible productivity
unprecedented creativity

A lot of great things happened in 2013. I published articles with several well known websites. My blog traffic hit a new peak. Herbal Philosophy was featured in New Beauty Spa+ magazine and on Gilt City, and is now available on Amazon Fresh. I sold more tea than ever. I traveled to California, Oregon, NYC and within this beautiful state of Washington. I got pregnant with my second daughter. I wrote fiction and non-fiction. I sent query letters. I got acceptances and rejections. I put myself out there. I exercised and I took care of myself. I spent time with my beloved family and friends, both near and far. I opened my eyes to a beauty I’d once taken for granted. I got inspired. Over and over and over again.

I want more of all of this for 2014. And then some.

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I want to go to bed at a consistent hour so that I can jump out of bed in the morning rather than hide behind my eye covers. I want to witness more sunrises from my desk. I want to write in the mornings. I want to manifest greatness rather than fear it. I want more time with friends in real life and less time online. I want more presence with my children and less screen time. I want to eat more whole foods and less processed foods. I want a cleaner house but I want to spend less time cleaning (Come on, universe! Anything is possible. I believe!). I want more mindfulness and less mindlessness. I want to be proactive rather than reactive. I want to worry less because I will trust the universe and my intuition more. I want balance and clarity and progress.

Ask and you shall receive.

I want to…

think less, meditate more
worry less, enjoy more
iPhone less, read more
shop (online) less, journal more
procrastinate less, finish more
Facebook less, focus more
fight less, love more

Perhaps most of all?

I want less censorship, and more wild and free and abundant creativity.

What are you leaving in 2013 and moving towards in 2014?