I spent my forty-first birthday exactly as I wanted: sleeping in, then rising up for leisurely coffee with Ralph. After my morning practice the four of us set to a deep clean of the house. The kind of deep clean where we pulled down every curtain, shampooed the (single) rug (we own), dusted, mopped, and cleaned the bathroom. My bedroom bureau was scrubbed and my little shelf for my Buddha wiped down with a soft, damp rag – in fact, each Buddha on my main floor got a cleaning as well. I lit charcoal in the brazier and burned resin incense; we put the cats out and aired out the quilts and washed all the bedding. We opened up gifts, each tenderly wrapped and with handwritten salutations and well-wishes.
In the late afternoon I traveled to a studio and held a yoga class, as I’ve done years in a row now on my birthday. I felt so alive on the mat tonight; our instructor led us through deep twists and triumphant standing postures and one-legged forward folds. My toes tapped through the music I’d set – a playlists of songs from 1977, the year of my birth.
I changed into my jeans and hoodie and slouchy cap straight from yoga; Ralph and the kids picked me up and we drove straight to Olympia, to a little Chinese restaurant with the best vegan entrees, comfort food. Almond chick’n, smothered in gravy and alongside steamed vegetables. And crisp lemonade – I was so thirsty after working out.
We shopped at Target and Nels and I sang on the way home – my thirteen year old son loves Lana Del Rey and has memorized every lyric and vocal flutter and soar.
Home and after a shower, chocolate cake in bed. My body feels indescribably good this evening and the comfort of my home is like a soft blanket I fold over my body, close. I do not like solitude so much, per se, but I do love having time for introspection and respite.
My little family cares for me so very well. I only hope they’d say the same of me.
Living with teenagers is about five thousand percent more peaceful than all the jokes and nasty comments led me to believe; and it’s sure been a sight more fun than my own teen years. Both children, unschooled and with only my direction on housework, have a sense of purpose and relatively companionable demeanor every day. I can’t remember hearing either say they are bored, ever. Boredom isn’t really a thing in our home. Not yet. I sometimes wonder when they leave, how I will do with that. They have been the drumbeat, everything to me, going on sixteen years.
Beeps started a new quarter at college this week; their last full quarter, as in spring they will only require ten credits. My stomach clenches a bit as there was so much I’d wanted to do for Phoenix for their sixteenth birthday in March; for their graduation from college in June, and there is little I can afford. I’d like to secure them a car, I’d like to throw them a party or two, and I’d like to buy them a few lavish gifts. As it is, we are down to one car in this family – which is less than ideal, leaving me stranded at home most days – and the car we do have has engine and brake problems.
I have learned how to discipline myself and calm my thoughts, when these kinds of difficulties arise. I know my children are perfectly happy and healthy and my hopes for them might be too specific or might not come to fruition in any case. It takes discipline for me to accurately assess our lives and make a plan. It takes even more discipline not to beat myself up, for being unrealistic, for thinking I could have done something spectacular for this spectacular child.
Nels cut all his hair off except a long topknot and today he confidently forwarded me a video tutorial for me to twist his blonde waves up into a bun. He is building a Minecraft mod and learning coding, stealing any bit of time he can from his father. Ralph comes home tired at the end of the day and I’m tired from working in the cold and I’m a bit stir-crazy from being cooped up and I put my arms around my husband and kiss him and feel how every part of his body feels good against mine. And I then count backwards on my fingers, I ask myself if I balanced everything just right: if I took care of my social life and my creative life and my physical life (daily yoga!) and my household and each child and my marriage and maybe even the pets or paid a bill or two. And most days I come out okay.
I was thinking about how I’ve poured so much into these kids and how I don’t regret it at all. And that’s another thing I count at the end of the day and look deeply, thumbing through the pages and knowing that’s still how I want to do it.
For tomorrow, then: finishing a pair of trousers and cooking up lunch and making a dinner for guests, and then wrestling into the arms of my husband where I can let my hair loose and lay on his shoulder and take respite and then it’s another weekend.
My kids’ shoes end up: in my bedroom, on the bathroom floor. As relatively tidy and supremely well-behaved as my children are, they are nevertheless creatures of comfort: discarding clothes before taking a luxurious hot shower, or slipping off shoes before crawling in bed next to me to cuddle. They leave off on their errands to game – I hear shouts! of laughter from downstairs – and leave their clothes here and there. If they were adults I was forced to room with, I would find it all very irritating. As it is, these mundane remembrances are a comfort to me. I know when they leave my home I will miss them so.
“Are you okay?” my son says, at dinner. We are the only two left at the table and he is helping himself to a third serving of pasta. I tell him Yes, I am just tired and he says, “Put your hand here,” indicating the table between us. His long hand rests on mine – preternaturally beautiful fingers, and long nails. Then, shortly: “I need this to eat,” he smiles, removing his hand and crossing his right over so he can still comfort me.
I am okay, sure – but I am mentally very tired. I am meeting once a week with a small business consultant. I am in couples counseling every two weeks; I take one of my children to therapy every other week from that. It isn’t as if I’m particularly worried in all these concerns, but they very much require a special focus on my part. I am still reeling from the kids’ transition into their teenage years – which is absolutely nothing like the dour, cynical predictions would have had me believe, but is nevertheless a sea change – and I am experiencing the sadness of finally, finally no longer having a family bed. My husband’s car is once again tits-up – and mine is on the last legs for its brakes. My mother is selling her home, after five generations of lives passing through the old Victorian. A family friend dies young and this brings up, for me, horrible memories.
There are many glimmers of goodness in this time. My older child is happier, a brief calm sea. They hold and hug and kiss me several times a day. The younger is a bit more volatile – a surprise, given his sweet nature – but I am gentle with him and he is good at coming to his sense and apologizing. And so, for that matter, am I. I put no small amount of concentration onto helping their father connect with them. He is gone for hours each day, after all, and misses the many opportunities I have.
On the turn of the dime it is absolutely fall, no longer summer. Even the warm days have a dampness and chill in the air. It’s incredible to me, as it was so very hot just before the break. Ralph finished painting the house during our driest spell. In a week or so I’ll pull all the summer clothes for storage and bring out my winter coats in preparing for the long, dark winter to come. As it will, whether we are ready or no.
Flu shots today. One stoic, one pensive and needing a hand-hold.
We struggled so much financially, when the kids were small. Thinking about it now, this might have been the best time for that sort of thing. Children don’t need social status, and they don’t worry about the future (until we show them how). They need food, warmth, play and rest, love and attention, and opportunities to explore with their beloved carer at their side.
Ralph and I managed all that, amidst varieties of hardship and calamity that brings to mind the adage: “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”
I’m thinking of this past, now that my cupboard is full and we have pretty reliable hot water and I don’t worry as much. It seemed like things got better pretty easily, but of course I’ve worked hard, and of course we’ve had good fortune besides.
We are in our final weekend before Phee’s second year at college. The children are both very engrossed in their exploits: Nels has been alternating between gaming online – and playing outside with the neighborhood gang. His schedule has gracefully morphed to perfection: he is up only a few hours before the rest of the boys get home from school, and in that time he cleans up, breakfasts, and does his morning chores. He plays with the boys until they go home, and then he’s online until I get him away, after I’ve done my own daily work.
Crawling into bed in the wee early hours of the morning, my son and I are watching Scooby Doo on Zombie Island. “Do you think that’s a real ghost?” I ask my son, during the rousing beginning caper in the film. “No,” he replies, sounding like the teenage boy he’s growing into. He knows how Scooby Doo works – come on, mom!
But I turn and look at him in the light from the screen, and I can see he’s smiling.
This last week my son took care of kittens at a friend’s, while the family was on vacation. Tonight was his last night “on duty”, so the four of us travelled up the hill to help – I, to play with the kittens while my son cleaned their litter boxes. My daughter drove the BMW with Ralph as passenger; Nels and I walked so Hutch could get a walk too.
It’s a steep trip, and for me a slow one. The summer night air is balmy and gorgeous; I can feel at the edges of my restlessness and know I am working too hard, too much. I am not slowing down to enjoy all that I can. I have dozens of bills – medical bills, veterinary bills, and household bills – and I’m letting these things creep into my mind. They’re my responsibility, true enough, but somehow it’s twisted and they occupy my head.
My children, though, still have the right sense of proportion about things. My daughter picks a cornflower before dinner – she is thrilled when I put it behind my ear, peeking out from beneath my head wrap. At dinner, in the booth of an Italian restaurant, she triumphantly slides in next to me than comes in close and holds my hand, her fingers wrapped around mine. I am often stunned how this little daughter, who was a blonde little thing with beetled-eyebrows and a sharp voice, has turned into this lovely bloom, this slender reed. A strong woman and a gorgeous one; a fierce and compassionate bloom.
At home my sewing studio is well-organized. I am halfway through a project today; I hang up my rulers and click my scissors onto their magnetic storage bar. I open the door to my son’s little computer room. He’s curled up on his chair, gaming. He is eating popcorn from a paper bag and his little bundled body in a too-loose striped shirt fills me with an inexplicable surge of affection. “Get dressed – we’re off to dinner,” I tell him. “‘kay,” he responds, his eyes on the screen, his hand reaching out for me. The kids are always hugging, reaching out for me, holding me, kissing me. My most profound blessings.
Later, on the walk down from our last kitten night – the family returned home while we were there, so we got to exchange warm salutations – I tell my son about tonight’s meteor shower – the Perseids. He is as joyful as if he’s never seen a meteor shower before, smiling and looking up, his hair shining blue-white in the light of the waxing gibbous moon. I think to myself I want to feel the way they feel, I want to see the world the way they do. I want to know I’m as beautiful as they see me. I want to return to that Place they inhabit. As long as they walk beside me I know there’s a chance I can.
When I was thirteen, one evening during a week-long family reunion we went out as a crew to a drive-in theater. I remember what was showing – Bird on a Wire and Arachnophobia. (Great drive-in fare – and not films I’ve felt compelled to revisit later, either!)
The adults in the family smuggled us in. My brother, sister, a few cousins – we hid in the back of a pickup. The adults were probably half-lit, or at least they hadn’t thought it through. We underpaid, pulled into our spot, and everyone tumbled out. At that point the wary drive-in employees – probably teenagers themselves – came over and required payment for all attendees. I seem to remember it was a very near thing – we almost didn’t have enough. I remember we weren’t able to get snacks for the films. I remember worrying about this. Because I was a kid, and the adults in my life didn’t have their act together.
Today I wonder at my parents, aunts, uncles – that they could be okay with this sort of behavior. It isn’t that they were full of avarice or greed. My family was always the generous sort, and very kind. But I suppose like most other families, their morality was relative. They didn’t care too much about other people, when they wanted what they wanted. Most people behave like that at one time or another.
I’ve tried to raise my children differently. I never wanted them to see me take advantage. I didn’t want them to learn that way of life. Not just because it isn’t kind, it isn’t right, it isn’t fair to others. But because it’s a scraping way to live – always thinking of the next grift, hoping for a rescue, hoping to not have to be responsible for one’s share. Hoping things go my way. Feeling “cheated” when Life Happens. An acquaintance the other day – who found a large amount of currency but didn’t get to keep it – because someone else saw them pick it up. And the thing is, for just one moment (or maybe longer) this person thought that money SHOULD be theirs. Because they live life thinking they don’t have enough. Scarcity. It becomes a way of life if you’re not careful.
I don’t want to have that mind. I don’t want to grasp. I don’t want to live in a fearful state, if I can help it.
Today my neighbor shouted at me, as I walked to my car. When I went to see what the matter was, they seemed very upset. They told me our cats had been climbing on their (new) car, and had made muddy pawprints and scratched the paint. I listened, and responded with feeling – “Wow – that sucks.” They talked a little longer – angry, but not telling me anything new.
I told them, I am open to your suggestions.
To my surprise, this person had none. They hinted they would “make” me pay for a new paint job on their car, and take pictures of our cats. (I’m not sure why they wanted to do that, except they seemed determined to have a fight.)
They then told me my daughter had been rude.
This, perhaps, is the only moment I felt my own anger rise. My daughter is unfailingly courteous, and conducts herself with a calm that adults sometimes find threatening. My neighbor was obviously upset and resentful, and had allowed adrenaline and rage to get the better of their faculties.
I held my tongue at this slight against Phoenix, though, while I made sure to listen. Not to argue. I thought of the ten cats or so that aren’t ours, who roam the neighborhood. The ones who climb on our cars, and run around under the deck doing cat-things, and scratch up our stairwell, and kill little birds and voles. I thought to myself what my mind would be like, if I were to get angry about all this and try to find these neighbors out and shout at them. I thought of “townie” life – a neighbor on one side with a sad, neglected dog who cries out during the day. A neighbor on the other who lets their dog wander around urinating and defecating in the neighborhood.
I thought, What would it be like if I were angry about all these things?
I thought, What if I cared about something like a car more than my responsibility to all living creatures?
So, yeah. I can’t help my neighbor much. I let them know I would not consider it rude if they were to make their grounds less hospitable – to shoo the cats. In a neighborhood full of cats as ours is, perhaps a car cover or parking in the garage might be an intelligent solution. I did not share this thought, as it seemed my neighbor wasn’t ready to move past their anger, not at this time.
One thing I thought of: we can keep our cats indoors. I wouldn’t do this just based on someone else’s car, but we had been discussing already for other reasons. In fact, Phoenix and I had been talking about it this morning! So, when I went back over to my neighbor’s later in the day, I expressed my desire to have a harmonious relationship while we lived near one another, and my hope an indoor cat solution might work for all of us (note: they hardly seemed mollified at this offering).
But, I said – “I’m not sure that will solve your problem.”
Because I can’t really solve my neighbor’s problem. Not their real problem.
But I am glad I don’t have problems like that, myself.
Suddenly my work life has ramped up. I have sewing work for clients; I have three freelance writing assignments. I have started developing a pattern line. I have officially been given my first web design project.
It’s funny. I entered the workforce in a semi-serious way under a year ago; now, if I’m not careful, it could swallow me whole!
But: I am careful. Today besides my work, I take the time off of the “me” stuff. I make several hours’ worth of time available for volunteer commitments. If I can’t put aside what I’m worried about, and focus on what someone else might want or need – I am lost indeed.
I stand outside a rain-soggy building for a bit. My husband has bogarted my keys and I can’t let anyone in. People need to come in, need to talk, need to get services. I am friendly enough but I refuse to worry much about the delay. I did my best today and today? I don’t have a key.
Today at noon my husband and eldest were already out of town, on a trip to do their own volunteer work. My son, asleep. His current best friend, a lanky boy of eleven who lives up the street, stopped over to pick Nels up for a swim date. I ask him if he can wait a moment; he smiles and twists his body and says “Sure.” I climb the stairs, open the door, and ask my still-sleeping son into wakefulness. Then I ask him – does he want to jump out of bed and accompany his buddy, to go swimming right now. And of course: he does. He pulls on a long-sleeved shirt I sewed him last month. He brushes his teeth, he asks me to pack his towel. My son is now a young man. He has a phone, he texts me. He mans his own schedule with deference to ours.
It all happened so fast. He was a baby when I started this journal!
It’s late. From my bed, buried in blankets – this selfsame boy. Not too old to forgo cuddling, holding me close, calling me his Little Mama, his Little Beak. No one can speak to me the way my children do. I am unsure if anything smells as sweet as my son’s hair, as his warm and brown little neck. He is still so thrillingly beautiful to me, and I couldn’t have invented it, couldn’t have made it happen on my own thoughts or dreams.
Today my lithotripsy procedure was moved up a few hours. As it worked out, the family and friend who’d planned to accompany me – to give me moral support and to drive me home – weren’t able to be there. I got to check in alone, fill out paperwork alone, receive my IV alone, and be wheeled into general anesthesia without saying goodbye to anyone.
It suited me, to be honest.
Illness, accident, and then death: they come for us all. When I arrived at the hospital I parked my car in the sunshine and looked out over my beloved Aberdeen. Any time could be one’s last; I suppose when heading off for a drug-induced near-death sleep, it’s as good a time as any to appreciate these sorts of experiences. I wouldn’t want anything different. I am happy with what I have.
But of course – I woke again, and lived to see another day.
And now that I’m home, and the house is quiet, I’m thinking on how quickly life changes. We have yet another mama kitty here in our home, with her five (thankfully healthy) little two-week old kittens. My children are navigating teen- and preteen-life and there have been a few surprises: some pleasant, and some less so. My halftime job is heading into a period of intensity: Friday, a man screamed at me on the phone, for no other reason than he is a very unhappy human being and he thinks abusing a woman in the clerical field will make him feel better.
A friend of mine passed, suddenly, on April 27th. My heart still hurts over this one. Thanks to the internet, and a passionate community of friends, I have been able to trade stories, to see old photos, and to process the grief. It is a welcome experience. I need people. Maybe on the terms that suit me best, but I need them all the same.
Then home. And housework, laundry, filing papers, paying bills. And kitten handling and maintenance. Life’s a full time job!
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.
With my husband and eldest gone for the weekend, it was a slow and steady, and homey couple of days for Nels and I. We embark on more than one walk together, including a quiet midnight mile. I make simple food – tomato soup and sandwiches, cut-up fruit and crudités. I stay home instead of go out. When I do run an errand or go to a meeting, I leave my son home with explicit instructions. A bit of housework but not much. He is content to play, all day long. He and the tribe of preteen boys in our neighborhood are happy to be outside. They have some huge blow-up punch-out dummy, and walkie talkies.When the other boys go home, Nels comes in and fixes a snack, and hops on his computer.
Today, we feed a bunch of these boys whatever they ask for – as it turns out: popcorn, Doritos, popsicles, chocolate chip cookies, cherry Dr. Pepper, and 7Up. I laugh because their parents probably make these things the occasional treat, or only let them eat them after they’ve had something else. In the neighborhood I know the kids like me, but who knows what their parents think. For one thing, my youngest is unabashedly touting the vegan lifestyle. Today a tot comes up to me with a huge glass and large eyes and says, “Can I have some almond milk?” as if it’s the most special treat there is.