Last night my son and I shared a few quiet moments, right at the same time in the deep of night when he was born. His hair was wet and slicked back from his bath, and although he is much taller and thinner and seems woven in many spells over the last ten years, the spiritual offering seems the same as the night he was born.
Nels has had a hard six months or so. At least that. As he has suffered, so have I. There is little one can do about this. At times my life has felt like drowning; knowing I have a responsibility, doing my best, but floundering all the same.
When I fell pregnant with this child, my mother uttered a horrible fortune: “Don’t get your hopes up.” She thought – I suppose – to save me from pain should I miscarry again. As if anything anyone could say could alleviate pain like this! Never say that to someone: don’t get your hopes up. It’s utter rubbish.
My son and I joined hands all those years ago when he was first born. We were awake when all others fell asleep. Like friends on an adventure, on a starry night. Time has not always been kind. I remember him then, though, on that night. He was a dark wet jewel, and perfect, and a Promise when he was born. Later he bloomed into a sunflower.
In a way my mother was right. Hope is only fleeting; it flowers from the same tree as despair. Faith is real. There will be a time Hope will die and those are dark days. But Faith, one can cling to it and resist drowning.
Your heart will break and things will fall apart. But if you can’t have Faith today, then no one can grasp it tomorrow.
My son is Tomorrow.
I gave birth to my son ten years ago today. Every year I post his birth story on this date. Several families have told me the story has influenced their birth choices; several women that it was the (beginning) inspiration for their home birth! I am humbled – and, as always, grateful.
Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story
Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia [/Phoenix]
1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long
April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?
A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.
April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing
My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.
Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.
April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote
Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.
April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!
Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful to very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of the child’s head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.
April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born
With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of my baby’s long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding my child to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. The child is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby in my own home, with my own power.
April 7th, early morning – getting to know you
I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my newborn away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the delivery of the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.
I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with my first child, too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with my daughter’s birth, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. My daughter Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.
My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.Read More
A week from today, we are hosting a swim party and a birthday party for my son. We are celebrating his 10th birthday. If you are reading here, and you are a local, and you haven’t been invited but would like to be – let me know. We will be having a lovely luncheon after swimming, and it should be a wonderful gathering.
We made a Wish List based on things Nels wants, or loves. Last time we did this, for my daughter’s birthday a month ago, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. It ended up working out very well. She didn’t receive any duplicate items and she didn’t receive any gifts she didn’t love, and doesn’t use.
That said, mostly as we approach this celebration – his actual birthday is April 7th – we are grateful not just for our comfort, our home, and the extras that make life fun – but for our loved ones, and for the incredible honor of enjoying this life together.
Some portraits of Harris that Nels took the other night:
Today my oldest child turned twelve. She and I took a wonderful morning swim together; then Ralph and I treated her and a few of her close friends to a turn at the rollerskating rink. We brought the kiddos home for gift-opening followed by one of her favorite dinners – spaghetti and meatballs with green beans and homemade garlic bread. Ralph made up a delightful cake. All in all, a day on the quiet.
All in all, a good day.
But – I’ve felt this odd sense of sadness as well.
A decade ago my first counselor predicted I’d go back through my own childhood, as I watched my daughter grow. This was true as she reached age two (which was an important age for me); and while I watched this unfold, I remember thinking it might happen around age thirteen, as well.
I hadn’t thought about that conversation, or that counselor, for several years. But now the day has arrived, and the time has come.
Twelve years old, things were getting rough for me. They didn’t get measurably better for a very long, long time.
My daughter is not me, though. She is herself. I remind myself of this.
Yesterday Phoenix and I joined Ralph and Nels at a local brake shop; we were seeking a quote for his car. The moment, and I mean the moment we arrived at a table to sit, an older, odd-looking fellow came right up to our daughter – RIGHT up to her – and started speaking at her presumptuously. She huffed this angry little huff and turned her back right on him and walked away. It couldn’t have been a more pointed message had she said something aloud. The man kept talking, and raised his voice to get her attention – but she didn’t turn around.
I stood between the man and my girl, my heart. I said aloud, “I guess she doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.”
I could easily see how my daughter had responded; at the same time, I felt stunned. I was surprised at her unfailing intuition. I know I didn’t have it, not at her age, and not for many years. I am still rebuilding it. I’d been trained to listen to any old (or young) creep who wanted to bend my ear, or tell an overlong story, “flirt” or “compliment”, or talk at me in whatever way he pleased. I learned this not at my father’s knee (he wasn’t such a boor – thank God); but I’d learned it from other elders. And as the fellow finally stopped talking and drifted away again, I had an odd feeling of disconnect observing my daughter’s instincts.
A little while later, she and I leave the shop. As we step into my car I ask her: “You didn’t do anything wrong – but I’m wondering, why did you walk away from that man when he began talking to you?”
“I have a right to when I feel uneasy,” she replies simply.
I put the car in gear and blink back tears. She is her preternatural calm, as usual. She is that fierce ice storm. She is that loving girl who slides her left hand into mine, and finds the New Wave pop tune she loves on my iPod. She says, “I want to sleep with you tonight.”
My wish for her isn’t just that she is loved, and cared for, and fed, and kept safe – but that she is kept safe where it matters most; in her own heart. When it comes down to it, she will be the one keeping herself, she will be the one caring for herself. I will be gone some day but maybe I live on in her breast.
She is growing herself up, and everything is as it should be.Read More
My wee daughter turns twelve tomorrow.
We made up a wishlist today, for her friends spread out near & far who might want to send her something.
She is a wonderful, generous young woman.Read More
I have like, ten minutes to myself. Ten minutes since Ralph and the kids went off somewhere, before I have to hop in my own car and head to a meeting.
Second day in a row swimming a mile (or near-mile) and the swimming doesn’t make me tired, at least not while I’m doing it, which is kind of thrilling. I just keep going. And going and going. An endurance feat for me – not a sprint. My breathing is now intuitive and I do not gasp for breath. This is fast improvement since about ten days ago when I (re-)started swimming.
Hot shower; body oil, clean clothes. Feeling wonderful.
Back in the car; hot coffee in the thermos. It’s sunny out and I’m cheerful. My son and I head to my volunteer shift, music loud. Coming up on three years of this volunteer work. A good day today, like it usually is. Leaving a week bit early to take the kids to the dentist. Flowers for a very dear friend, today. Home to bake banh mi for dinner, wash dishes, put away laundry. Back in the car. Taking a homemade cake along to a meeting.
I like giving gifts on my birthday.
Body tired, mind at ease. Works well.
But something is on my mind. Some little thing… anxiety. But regarding what? Financial problems? I don’t think so. My children? Possibly. Just: how much work Life is, in general? Yeah, probably.
The anxiety… I wait for it to pass. Sometimes I find the root of these things – often, I don’t. I merely keep breathing, and keep my mind focussed. Today: on the nose of a blue kickboard. This evening: on the next bit of housework, or cooking, or bill-paying, or correspondence.
Whatever is next.Read More