March 26, 2012

What the Water Gave Me

I met her at the hospital at noon. Her contractions had already started — at around 6 that morning. By the time I got there to meet her, they were irregular, coming on with fierce pain that stabbed her lower back (due to the baby's posterior position) and made every muscle in her body tense up as she wailed. I immediately suggested that I apply acupressure. Marybeth, the midwife, stopped in and greeted us, and immediately suggested we start walking the halls, to get labor into gear. We walked for two hours, and Maddy gripped the wall and handrail, as each contraction came upon her, and I stood behind her, leaning into her back with both hands planted firmly into her spine, adjusting the location and pressure as she guided me. 

After what seemed like forever, the midwife examined her and determined that she was still only 3 1/2 centimeters dilated — a half centimeter away from "active labor," which would keep her from using the Alternative Birthing Center — the whole reason she had been driving 20 miles to this suburban hospital in the first place. Options were discussed:  just wait and see. go home. nipple-stimulation. And the dreaded P-word, Pitocin. The midwife favored starting a Pitocin drip, as she was concerned with risking exhaustion, as this was a first birth and the labor could be long. She doubted Maddy's stamina, as she was already quite tired and irritable. Marybeth told us that using any sort of intervention would prohibit Maddy's eligibility for the ABC. Sobbing tears and a flood of emotions came at this point, and the midwife left us to discuss things and make some decisions.

We decided to check into a standard L&D room (we had been in a triagé up to this point) and give it a few more hours before considering Pitocin. In that time, I told Maddy I would do everything possible to get her into active labor. After some pleading, they were able to check her into the one room that they had that had a water birthing pool. But I wasn't going to let her get into it...because now was not the time for relaxing. Now was the time for cranking things up. What followed was a hot shower, breast-pumping for nipple stimulation (which releases oxytocin into the bloodstream) and another hour of walking, followed by more pumping while sitting on a birthing ball. At this point I could tell that the contractions were intensifying and we were getting close. One more hot shower, a few hands and knees position contractions and it was clear that she was now in very active labor.

As the midwife came back in to examine her, Maddy was now asking for Pitocin to get things going, not realizing that she had already moved into active labor. When we got the news that she was at 7 centimeters, we were overjoyed that we had crossed the major hurdles without any drug interventions. They began to fill the birthing pool, as labor quickly intensified. Still applying acupressure with each contraction, I tried to counteract the enormous pressure on her pelvic bones. When the pool was finally full, she got in and got into a comfortable position, her head resting on the side of the pool where we placed a towel and I slipped one arm under her head for added support. The water seemed to bring her exhausted body a measure of comfort for what would be the final stretch. As each intense contraction came, the midwife and I encouraged her and watched as her body finally surrendered and as she begged for it all to be over, the baby's head crowned. Amazingly, she pushed slowly, but for a mere 15 minutes and didn't require any stitches afterward. Her beautiful son was born at 10:21 pm — Diego Cosmos.

Being a birth Doula for the first time felt like the most natural and intuitive experience in the world to me. It was definitely a "bucket list" item for me, and I feel truly blessed to have been able to share this experience with my good friend. We are now bonded in a sisterly way that I cannot begin to describe. I am hoping that I will now find other opportunities to support women in natural childbirth with empathic and supportive care.

March 20, 2012

Seasonal shift

And so it has come to pass. The moment when I would find myself face to face with The Nurse and her new girlfriend in a social setting.  Only...we didn't actually come face to face because her awkwardness with the situation became clear to me within moments of my arrival. Which was strange to me — afterall, I was the one there unaccompanied. Shouldn't I be the one feeling awkward? So, we weren't going to say even a courteous "hello" to each other. Fine. I stood back, secure and in my element, and took it all in. I stood like a tiger in the corner and watched them edge around the room, carefully avoiding any eye-contact with me, but being sure to make the appropriate lovey-dovey gestures, because they knew I was watching. If there's one thing I've got, it's amazing powers of perception, and as I watched, I suddenly saw her as totally pathetic. And that, at least, is something I can have pity for. And if I'm being totally honest, it doesn't hurt when you are showered with compliments and yes, not so kind comments about what the new girlfriend looks like from mutual friends. Hey, I'm only human. And the shift happened, and it was huge. HUGE! It came like a ton of bricks being lifted off of me all at once and suddenly I could FLY! Seven months since our breakup, and I had been tested in fire and come out on top. I looked and felt amazing and it showed. In fact, I've never looked better, on the verge of 40. I'm excited for my future, for all the amazing possibilities that come with Spring. Love is in the air, all around me, and it's exciting.

March 14, 2012

Seven Devils

And now all your love will be exorcised
And we will find you saying it's all better now
And it's an even sum
It's a melody
It's a battle cry
It's a symphony
~ Seven Devils, Florence Welch

This is all a process, this grief. And anyone who has been through it — surrendered to it fully like I have — knows that it's somewhat like exorcising demons from one's body. There are more than one and you don't know exactly what they're gonna look like or when or how they're gonna rear their ugly little heads. Some take over your body — with tears, with physical pain, with true illness and affliction and deep and lasting physical scars. Some take over your mind — with sleeplessness, with memories, with anger and regret, longing, fear and untold sadness. And some infect your very soul — destroying your ability to hope, to love, to trust again and to see those things around you anymore.

For seven months I have battled these seven devils — with constant prayer, meditation, therapy, self-reflection, music, friends, good healing food, exercise, and by surrendering to the process of feeling it all rather than letting those devils breed within me. I will exorcise them. I will win my life back. I will smoke them out. And my heart will be more capable of loving and sharing and trusting than ever before.

I cannot choose the timetable. I cannot choose the highs and the lows, though I battle to keep every inch of ground I gain. I hold tight to each moment of grace that bolsters me through each moment of despair. It is a gift. I am so grateful for the love of friends and family that surrounds me and fills me with hope each day. I have not allowed myself to jump into a romantic relationship — and though I suffer loneliness and bouts of doubt about whether love will ever make an appearance again in my life, I know that so far, I have made the right choices for me. Because I have made each decision with my integrity at the forefront, I trust that the universe has good things in store for me, when the time is right. Something beautiful awaits me...but I must be patient for it.

The sucker-punches still knock me down...with an anniversary, a memory, a chance meeting.....but I will never be afraid again. Because I got up each time a little stronger and a little more ready to strut like an Amazon.

March 12, 2012

After awhile

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises
and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child
and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much
so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn… 

~ Veronica Shofstall, 1971 

Just one year ago, she wept in arms and made promises that she would never keep, and I built a future around a dream that could never be. While I surrender to my grief, and make peace that I will not find love again, I take comfort in the love of friends and family that surrounds me and the grace that somehow helps me to continue to hold my head up each day. Making lemonade out of a lemon-life, on my own. Or as Alanis Morissette would say, "you lose, you learn."

March 11, 2012

Walking the dog

A gorgeous day here in Chicago...and I found myself at the dog park. It probably wasn't an accident that I found myself there...maybe I was searching for answers, for closure — hoping that somehow the "connection" that I imagine psychically links lovers would ring out in her heart like the Bat Signal and she'd find herself drawn there too, to find me in all of my despair. Perhaps I only dreamed that connection existed from the very beginning, or I demand too much from the universe. Can one know when their soulmate is in pain, is broken, is crying out? And at what point is that connection severed — if it existed at all? All I know is that I am still, seven months later feeling it, overwhelmed by it even, and it angers me, fills me with sadness and despair, and yes, regret. I know some of this simply has to do with many of our anniversaries are marked around this time of year...and it weighs heavily on my heart. May I find peace soon, and know that I am loved.