This morning, a moment after my husband left the bed, I sensed our son climbing in beside me, under our comforter and quilt. He came in close to me and, half asleep, I put my arms around him as I’ve done thousands of times. We held one another close for a while, then we turned away from one another and fell back into our own kingdoms, our own sleep sanctuaries. For all the years we’ve known one another we’ve shared sleep, every night.
I think this is so incredibly special.
My son turns twelve today. I used to think of twelve as the “age of accountability”, the age of reason according to Scriptural sources. Later I discovered there was no such age set-upon in the Bible. But the impression has stayed with me. At twelve I remember coming to believe I was more a citizen of the world. I remember feeling by turns fierce and gentle, elated and despondent. I talked back to my teachers and was reprimanded. Twelve was the age where I began to sense this was bullshit. I also began to experience depression. This is The Way Things Are?
My children are given more freedom than most, at least in this country. I am glad of this. It hasn’t always been easy to live so differently, but it has been the right thing for us. All of this experience is showing, coming to fruition, as they near adulthood. It has helped heal me, as well.
This time last year my son was in his first year of public school – his only, so far. This morning as I stroked his hair – right before or after I took the above picture – I told him, “I’m glad you’re not in school this year.” He asked, “Really?” and I responded, “Yes, because I missed you.” Then thought a beat, and added: “and you seem happier now.” And he said, “Oh, yes.” without hesitation.
It came to me that his choice to stay enrolled for a full year was a fair-minded one on his part. He stuck with it and gave it a shot. He has learned more through that process than I could.
Today as I type this, and my son finishes sleeping, I am doorman to a host of boys in the neighborhood – three, one of them twice. They all want him to play. They want to tell him happy birthday.
Perhaps the most precious thing to me about Nels this last year concerns these boys. When we first moved in, several of them were throwing rocks, catching voles and cutting their heads off, smashing insects. That sort of thing. I felt a reflexive anger at these boys but then tried to soften. After all, it was their fathers who hadn’t been teaching them better.
From the beginning, my son was a model of different behavior. I remember early on in our tenure here, he rounded up a few boys in our backyard raking leaves. As they unearthed humus they came across large soft caterpillars, and the boys began destroying them. Nels intervened, told the boys not to harm them. He made a little hut out of twigs, with a hydrangea roof and a small square of dried moss as a welcome mat. He relocated every grub there and within only minutes the boys did the same.
Several months later these same boys are kinder. One of them today, as I talk to him in the doorway, spies a spider dangling from the doorknob. I tell the boy to relocate the spider to the nearby bush. “Spiders like bushes,” I tell him, and the boy does so, without hesitation. These children have learned our cats’ names and are very tender to them, instead of chasing them or grabbing them.
It occurs to me that children are quicker than adults to want to do better, to leave off old harmful habits. They just need to be shown, with love, another way to do it.
Now my son showers, and watches a bit of Minecraft on YouTube. He makes some breakfast and walks the dog as he waits for the dishes to finish their cycle. I know that after he finishes his morning routine, he’ll be outside all day playing. I know even if I catch him up and apply sunscreen that in a couple weeks he’ll be brown as a nut. This time next year he will be taller than I, if not sooner.
I would cry a little bit and sometime today I expect I will.
Every year I post Nels’ 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! Thank you to all who read. Much love, to you all.
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.