Fare you well, Dad.

My dad passed away unexpectedly on January 16, 2020.   He felt unwell at Christmas and it was discovered he had cancer of unknown origin throughout his abdomen that had metastasized and  was very aggressive.  He was gone in three weeks time – dying on my parent’s anniversary.  Below is something I wrote to read at his memorial service.

As a kid at camp I used to relish the letters I got from my dad.  Pulling their yellow legal pad pages from a scribbled-upon envelope, I’d dive into what my dad had to say.  A man of few words, I savored those that came in writing.  They were a window into his mind…and I was curious.

He would tell me about the happenings in a voice that took its inspiration from Ken Kesey and his stories unfolded in a lyrical and beautiful way.  It wasn’t often you would hear how my dad’s mind worked.  He kept so much of it inside, maybe deeming the words blunt tools to express a much more wide-reaching and intangible reality that he observed keenly, and often without comment, until the end.  He called himself a Buddhist sometimes. I always liked it when he did. It seemed to refer to a belief he had that our moments in this life are just a blink in the yawning span of time and space and consciousness.  I believe that.  I think maybe he did too.  Other times, he would say that we have one life and you live it to the best of your abilities.  Do good where you can.  Be good to people.  And that was also his truth.  He was, as Whitman would say “Large.  He contained multitudes.”  That was really the truth about him. He contained multitudes.  Devilish, whip-smart with a memory and a sense of history and justice that only a fool would argue with.  He was bullish, comically grouchy, yet so tender that as our cat Smokey lay dying, he fed him tuna juice from an eye dropper.  I sometimes struggled to understand him – he fit no stereotype I knew.  He marched to a different drumbeat – possibly more of an oompapa beat – or the Czech punk band we listened to endlessly after he visited my sister studying in Prague. He was a connoisseur of culture and the interesting things life offered. I recall trying to explain to him once how rap was poetic – he needed to listen to the lyrics.  He should try listening to 88.9 and see if he liked it.  He shrugged, unconvinced.  But, a few months later I found my station programmed into his car. I remember driving with him on North Avenue, and he circled the block at least twice watching a cop who had pulled over a black man – just to make sure that nothing unfair or dangerous happened to the guy who had been pulled over.  He was a person who didn’t make excuses, didn’t complain, helped people, and did his best to be useful.   He asked me last summer to help him move some bags of leaves and dead plants out of the garden.  I walked down the steep walls of the ravine to gather the bags, and when I picked them up, they disintegrated. They were OLD – must have been sitting there for weeks.  I don’t know how long they’d been there, but he thought it was HILARIOUS watching me struggle and curse and swear.  He laughed at me!  I shot him a look that was decidedly not nice. When I insisted on getting new bags and finishing the job he hadn’t finished properly, he told me I was just like my mother.  There was a twinkle in his eye when he said it, and I knew (despite my annoyance) that it was the highest compliment because he thought the world of my mom, Diane.

 

I’m still in shock about how quickly my dad left us.  He used to insist on guessing what was in his Christmas gifts.  It was an elaborate show of shaking, weighing, and knocking on the wrapped gift to understand how it sounded, and by extension, what it might be.  I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a hollowness in my soul. It feels like I am shaking, and knocking, picking up this box of grief to attempt to understand what it is and how my life will look going forward – trying to understand its shape and weight. I wish we could have had 20 more years with him.  I wish my kids could really know him as a Grandfather.  I wish he had been able to travel more – making friends along the way as he always did – with a fire-breathing bagpipe player in Fremantle, a wealthy Irish landholder at a dance club in Dublin, or a waiter who he tried to sell my sister to in Spain.  But I’m incredibly thankful that he spent so much of the time he had on earth investing in me and my sisters and our family.  We were so lucky to have him. He was a good man, a complicated one too, but I loved him so much.

On the morning he died, I sat there with him trying to find words to communicate how grateful I was for all he’d done.  He stopped me.  “Just hugs” he said.  Above all, love was what mattered. Fare you well, fare you well, Dad. I love you more than words can tell.

Solipsism of Motherhood

Maybe solipsism isn’t the right word.  It’s hard to say, but the thing I know is that sometimes being a parent is a lonely and isolating place

Sure, I’m almost constantly in close proximity to either one or two small beings when I’m home.  They actually sleep ON me.  They stick their small, warm hands into my shirt or climb under my dress or slide a hand in my sleeve to inhabit my very clothing and to be that-much-closer to me. They have crafted a calendar that allocates mommy time to either Will or Cody so that we could all stop fighting about who gets to sit next to or on me during any given meal.  I truly feel so loved.

That said, I also sometimes feel unable to breath.

Parenting takes so much of me.  I sometimes feel awash in lists of things I have been meaning to do or things I hoped for that I have yet to morph into reality.  Last night I awoke at 1:30 am after falling asleep putting kids to bed.  I woke up and for some reason, unable to sleep,  went on a long trip down memory lane via my own Instagram.  I watched myself grow babies and birth them and manage the chaos of bringing new life into a home that literally had a wall missing. I watched as my job changed when faced with elements of workplace discrimination at my former employer after having my second kid – an all too common, yet personally devastating slide into dysfunction.   I watched an empowered me get my dream job and try to leave that trauma behind.  I watched myself try time and again to assert a place for ME in the mix, whether by signing up for a race, or doing a Beachbody challenge, or getting a membership at cyclebar.  I saw a lot of failure there at those moments, but upon revisiting it was left feeling impressed at my perseverance. Tonight I found the time to write this blog in the window between work and meeting a friend for a happy hour that I planned and scheduled five months ago.  I often marvel that there was ever a person within me that could take the time to do self-reflection and write about it.  Yet, that person is still here…just buried under myriad other responsibilities.  And, I mourn her absence.

Please never take this to mean the joy of my children is lost on me.  They are the literal lights in my life and the fact that I don’t write here often is an absolute reflection of my current priorities – they are topmost on the list.  Blogging is not.  But, reflecting and recording ones life is something I value.  Something I care about.  Recognizing that  my needs are low on the list now doesn’t mean they don’t matter and I want the record to show they do matter.  Moms matter.  Our harried lives and our reflections matter.  And the fact that motherhood can suck so much out of a person, yet they continue on, matters.

I have been in what I’d consider a low point in my life – mostly struggling with my thyroid, but having it manifest as a general malaise about all things, a lack of confidence in myself, and an overall sense of barely keeping up on a treadmill that shows no signs of slowing down.  I’m fighting a deep exhaustion that sucks my will to take action.  I am feeling unable to move the needle in my life and hanging on by a thread as a result.  I need a recharge, maybe it’s a tweak in medications, or maybe its something that reignites my connection to my dharma and meaning.  I don’t know.  It is also winter and I’m staring into the dark at 5:30 pm.  These are probably not unconnected things.

I’m leaving now, to have drinks with a friend who I reached out to 5 months ago seeking connection.  I hope we find it tonight and going forward.

 

 

And, now this!

Hello.  My name is Kat.  I used to write in this blog on a semi-regular basis.  I’m back to try to keep my writing mind sharp and relay my observations on life.

What is my life these days?  So many things have changed even since my last post (over a year ago!).    As I write, I’m sitting at work on my lunch. I am tired.  My two year old has recently begun climbing out of things – his bed, his gated bedroom, down the stairs in the middle of the night, and into our bed or the playroom where his Super Wings reside…  He’s an early riser.  By early, I mean this morning he work up at 3:40 AM for the day. So, life has me feeling sleepy.

But, I’m a mom.  I persevere.

I have been in and out of doctor’s offices over the last two weeks.  My thyroid is out of whack – or something is. I blame the thyroid because it has been underactive since I was a teenager.  But that hasn’t stopped me from living an active life…until lately.  I am tired, achy, can’t lose weight, foggy brained, cold.  I got a “great” recommendation from my last endocrinlogist – get a gastric band, he said.  Those are really effective!  So, here we have come in life to the moment when I’m told after a lifetime of being pretty high energy (3 marathons, 6 half marathons (one at 20 weeks pregnant), I climbed Katahdin 5 months pregnant, I’ve biked from Montana to Seattle.  I’m not a slug!)  the only solution to my myriad health issues is a gastric band.  No tests.  No referral to a nutritionist.  No acknowledgement of my previous eating disorder that at one point had me well below 100 lbs.  Just, a gastric band recommendation.

Then, enter the text from the ex.

Yeah, you know.  Just a text from my ex boyfriend with whom I haven’t spoken in about 6 years.  He’s in town.  Let’s clear up the past.

Ha! Righto.  Of course, universe.  Let’s just let all these things coelesce right now to see if I can be driven off a cliff.   I mean, why?  I have this all processed and tucked neatly in a box in the corner of my brain and we have to go open that up now?   Does this seem like a good idea?  Not really.

I just wonder sometimes.  When all the weirdities of the world line up to confront you at one time, it seems to be a reminder to get back on track.  So, I have been nurturing myself a bit.  Sleeping more, stepping aside to breathe, giving my body what it asks for.  Because I feel like the universe has something up its sleeve and I want to be ready for whatever’s coming.

 

Nobody asks you

Nobody really asks you how the transition to two kids is after a few months.  It’s as if the early stage, where – let’s be honest – you’re entirely sleep deprived and likely very hormonal, is reflective on the reality of life with two kids.  But, I’m telling you that the pure exhaustion of having two small children hits you later.  It’s the sustained, relentlessness of it all.  The 3.5 year old who screams just for fun, and the teething, and the constant toys and rough housing and cleaning and feeding and changing diapers.  It’s a never-ending thing.  The baths, the wiping buns, the making of and cutting up of every meal, the vigilance, the arranging for, the sniffing, and asking probing questions, and trying to recall how to respond appropriately when one kid chucks a truck at the head of the other with no remorse. I spend 8 hours + each day at the office – where I have had the hardest year to date professionally – and it is like a sanctuary of peace and tranquility because I don’t have to pick up spilled food, wonder why my couch is making horrendous noises, decipher what the sticky mess on the floor might be, or clean and dress wounds.  I am just. so. tired.

 

The end.

 

Cherry tree

Every spring in mid-April, our cherry tree erupts into a pinkish-magenta lattice-work of flowers that covers our front yard with a beautiful, fleeting, serenity and lusciousness.  It is a welcome to spring that brightens our street and blows dust off the cobwebs of winter in my soul.

Each April, I reflect on the first time I viewed that tree.  I biked over to Rick’s house, early in our dating.  As I turned off of 13th onto his street and approached his house I remember seeing this tree and the beautiful, warm terra-cotta look of the house.  Immediately, this guy who I met at a race wearing an old hoodie and smoking a cigarette appeared to be very different from what I’d assumed him to be.  His beautiful old house with the flowering Cherry tree told me something else about Rick – about his care, his conscientiousness, and about who he is deep down – someone who buys a house in his twenties and in his thirties is debt free.  “This guy is no slouch”, I recall thinking.  His home gave me the sense of his eye for design, his diligence and care for the things that are his, and for the things he wanted to have in his life – me, I’d hoped.

Each spring when the cherry tree erupts into bloom I remember falling slowly and steadily in love with Rick, winding the road that took us across continents and oceans and eventually right back to where we started. And I smile now to see our two little boys and sweet dog  playing beneath the tree.

 

Why Don’t You Have a Daddy? …and other mortifying things your kid said.

I’ve toiled over the idea of writing a mom-blog.  So much of my life is anecdotes about my kids.  It only seems right for me to put paper to pen (so to speak) and document these moments.  Sadly, the thing about the years when you have littles at home to write about, is that you have no time.  Ever.  Full stop.

But, lately there have been some gems spouting from the mouths of babes.  Like the subject line, spoken to a friend at school just as his single mom walked in to hear it.    In these moments, I just cringe because I’m certain it will get worse before it gets better.

But, also spouting from the mouths of babes these days? Well, from Will mostly a “mama” or “dada”  as he tri-pod crawls around the house and stuffs avocados into his mouth.  But, from Cody I get my full compliments for the day – usually by 7 AM.  Lately he’s been brimming with, “Mama, you’re so beautiful” or, “Mama, you smell so nice!” or, “Mama, you’re a great ‘nuggler.”  And in these moments, every other bit of threenager angst that radiates off him falls away and I am sure, without a doubt, that he is an angel sent to Earth for the benefit of my  ego.

I constantly read mom blogs and lamentations about how hard it is to be a working mom, and hell it’s all true.  I’m exhausted.  I’m fatter than ever.  I feel like I’m not committed enough to anything. I’m never without bags under my eyes.   Half the time I’d struggle to recall the last time I shaved my legs and I used to be a daily shaver. But, each night I spend playing with and taking care of these little people who I made with my favorite person.   It’s a freaking miracle and it’s like riding a tsunami crest–constantly wondering when it will all come crashing down in disaster.  But, I love it.  I really do.

 

 

Bliss. Surfing, and bliss.

As it always does, the beach scene as viewed from the surf line up seems serene and remote.  Even here, amidst a cacophony of colorful umbrellas and a brass band stationed inches from the water mark of the rising tide, horns trumpeting a tinny Mexican melody.  With my feet dangling in the blue as I straddled my longboard and the subtle rise of the rollers beneath me I felt at peace.

My relationship with surfing is a bit complicated.  I love it from a distance, and then when faced with imminent  breaking waves I’m occasionally timid — unsure of my place among the throngs of people who call themselves “surfers.”  And, this Mexico trip was no different.  The day we arrived, Rick raced to the beach and rented a board.  I watched him, content to bob in the surf for hours.

But, when I did grab a longboard and head to the breaking waves the following day, I was greeted with the familiar and welcome sensation of paddling on to the breaking face of a gentle wave — the bouncing rush of momentum when the struggle to catch the wave morphs into a gleeful breakneck slide down its leading slope.

Rick and I marveled over it.  What is it that makes it so addictive? I think maybe the fleeting nature is what gets me most.  It is the ultimate flow moment when you stand up on a wave, focused on nothing but riding it to its completion.  The sun and mariachi on the shore, and bobbing heads in the tide all morph into background static as you angle your board to the breaking wave and attempt to trace the line between racing down the face and hanging near the lip.  It is one of the those meditative activities that, through no effort on your part, immediately brings your mind into a profound state of concentration– and bliss.

So, yeah.  That was Mexico.  Bliss. Surfing, and bliss.

 

 

Resolutions and Reflections

The intervening time between my blogs about New Year reflections seems increasingly short.  Time slips away as life with two little people in it gets busier and more wild by the day.

Today, January 3rd, Will is seven months old.  The little sprite truly is a ray of light.  His facial expressions are an everlasting source of enjoyment as he vacillates between focus, confusion, interest, and joy.  When he looks your way and breaks into a smile, his whole face lights up.  Even Cody is at times overcome by his cuteness.  Just  yesterday, Rick told me about how he was driving my car and the boys were in the back and Cody burst out saying “Dad, Will is just SO cute!!”  He is a  loving soul.  We all revel in his cherubic warmth and sweetness.

And on the subject of birthdays, tomorrow Cody turns 3.  Somehow to me, this birthday is truly a milestone bringing Cody into childhood in a more full sense.  He isn’t a toddler or a baby now.  His world is real and changing and the experiences he has each day feel to me like they are making him into the person he will be.  Cody is a bright, inquisitive, and creative person who makes observations on life that astound me.  His grasp of language impresses me each day, and he soaks in the information around him and is able to spit it back out in new and different contexts.  I love hearing how he makes sense of the world.  Just yesterday, he told me that he was taking a car to bed to “nuggle” with it, and that would leave another one with me as long as I “was the scarecrow” and would not let Will put it in his mouth.  Scarecrow, huh?  Sure, bud.  I can be the scarecrow for you.  He is a caring older brother, keeping me posted on whether Will is hungry, fussy, tired or in need of a diaper change.  He loves his little brother and wants to help me care for him – even in a sometimes nagging way.  For his third birthday, Cody has requested a sprinkle party.  I don’t know exactly what that will be, but it’s planned for next Sunday and I have fun fetti cake and sprinkles in bulk at the ready.

For me, trying to write about the year almost has to be a sampling of vignettes.  I don’t have the time or energy to lay them out more fully.  So here are some moments that captured 2016 in all it’s intensity and glory:

  • Rick, Cody, me and my baby belly hosted about 30 people at our house the morning of the Women’s March last January.  Our teeming lot gathered, readied ourselves, and rolled out and on to downtown with donuts, coffee, and protest signs in hand.  It was a moment of empowerment and joy in a year of challenge.
  • I presented to the Denver Transportation Symposium on the Federal Boulevard outreach program we led, focusing on the School Ambassadors program that won a an APA Colorado Award.  It was exciting to present on our work, and hilarious to watch folks try to focus on me despite my giant pregnant belly.
  • I unsuccessfully tried for a VBAC for Will’s birth. I didn’t get the birth experience I wanted, but got 85% of the way there and can say with certainty that I had a real and valid shot at a vaginal delivery.  I learned that barring some miracle, that’s just not in the cards for me – whether due to the previous scar tissue or just an oddity of my pelvic dimensions.  I’m still trying to understand what that means for me and for our future.
  • I took 5 months of leave to be with my family.  Part of that came before the birth, but most of it came after.  It was a huge blessing to have that time and I will never regret the special moments that I was able to share with my kids and the time I was able to spend focusing on them without the distractions of work in the back of my mind.
  • Work presented me with a new path – I shifted away from Strategic Communications and back to environmental planning.  The shift was a long time in the making, but sadly, was precipitated by a lot of weird stuff that felt bad in the moment, feels bad in retrospect, and which I am still trying to understand in full.  I learned some hard lessons about myself, what I want in my coworkers and peers,  and my priorities and values in the workplace and beyond.  I am happy with my new role and excited about the future.  I’m happy I’ve been able to build strong connections in my company that allowed me to smoothly shift out of Strategic Communications when the time came to get out.
  • We finished remodeling our house!  Our new kitchen, laundry room, and upstairs bathroom are awesome.  Many months of dust, drafts, challenging contractor dynamics, and old house challenges finally got us the kitchen of our dreams.
  • I’ve truly had a wonderful year with Rick.  On a regular basis I look over at him and marvel out loud about the fact that I’m amazed I still like him with all the crap this year has brought us.  Still, and more so than ever, he makes me laugh, feel cared for and respected, he listens to me, and he is my partner in this wild ride called parenthood.  I can’t say enough about how lucky I am.  Plus, I think he’s so handsome.  🙂

 

 

 

Just for a moment, let’s be still.

Soft lights under the cabinets illuminated a mother dancing with her infant son in her arms in a nearly dark kitchen. The breeze of a cooling September night, drifted in and cascaded around the two.  The quiet of the evening was broken by the soft, lilting chorus from the nearby speakers, “Just for a moment, just for a moment, let’s be still…”  The baby laid its head on his mother’s shoulder as she swayed.

Perfection.

 

A Story of Will

I was browsing in the granite aisle.  I was feeling the chill of an overly air-conditioned warehouse full of huge slabs of stone, when I stopped and closed my eyes to breathe through a contraction.  I looked at the contraction timer I’d downloaded earlier in the day, and sure enough…they were regular and about 6 minutes apart.  I looked over to Rick to relay that information.  After being induced with my first when I went two weeks late, and knowing my family history of going to 43 weeks or more, I was reluctant to believe this was really it.  We both pursed our lips and tried to play it cool, but it seemed more and more like this was labor.

We finished up our granite shopping and made our way home though late afternoon traffic on I-70.  The regular contractions were slightly uncomfortable, but not enough to  make me squirm in the car, so we talked through our plan if they continued.  My mom, who was ready and waiting at our house, would take over if we had to leave for the hospital in the night.  We had written out the information she needed to watch our older son, so we felt like we just needed to determine when the time was right.  Until I got a more sure sign that labor was imminent, I was operating under the impression that this was just a false alarm – as I’d experienced a few times with my first.

At about 11 pm that night, as my contractions worsened I went to the bathroom and found that I had bloody show.   This seemed like just the sign I’d been waiting for.  I texted my doula, told her my contraction pattern, and she decided to drive up and see us. When she arrived, Rick was pacing and antsy.  As the contractions worsened, he worried that we needed to go to the hospital.  When  Stacey arrived, however, she sat down to watch the contractions herself and after about 20 minutes of watching me as I sat on my birth ball she agreed that we should make our way to the University of Colorado Hospital, about 25 minutes away.  Rick had loaded our bags in his nervousness, so we hopped in the car and made our way there – which was a rough ride for me, as I clutched the door and console trying to ease the back labor I was experiencing in the car.

We arrived and checked in.  They took us to triage to determine whether I was ready to be checked in.  After a brief check of my cervix, my midwife said we’d need to wait a bit longer before they would check me in.  She welcomed us to pace the halls, or head home and come back later.  We were a bit confused as to why we couldn’t stay, but decided that our home, which was undergoing a kitchen renovation and housing our two-year old, would not be a restful place.  We booked a room at a hotel nearby and went there to rest and ride out the labor a bit further.  My husband laid down to sleep.  I, on the other hand, laid down to close my eyes, but every few minutes would leap up to ride out a contraction.  I couldn’t handle them lying down.   This continued for about 4 hours, until my water broke and we headed back to the hospital.

This time we were checked through with no issue.  We got into our labor room and hunkered down.  I was awfully tired because it was now morning and I’d not slept.   My doula wanted me to ride through several contraction while lunging with one leg on a chair.  I did that in an effort to bring the baby down in a non-asynclitic way.   But after a while, my tiredness was getting to me so we moved to the bath.  There, my laboring consisted of me dozing off between contractions.  It sounds insane that one could do that, but my body was in some sort of energy conserve mode.  I’d wake up as the contraction started, ride it though, and then lay my head back and sleep.  Apparently I was even snoring.  I did this for a bit in the tub and it was lovely and gave me some rest.  Then my doula suggested I start dancing.  Some people might think it a strange thing to do, but given the way my first birth went I was game for anything that would get me the VBAC I hoped for.  I had hired te best doula I could find and I wasn’t about to ignore her advice. So, we danced.  I did hula-like moves for what felt like several hours.  The hope, in all this, was to avoid what had happened with my first – a posterior and asynclitic babe, resulting in a cesarean.  My entire pregnancy had been targeted toward this goal. I’d been doing months of chiropractic, religiously sleeping on my side, taking probiotics, reading voraciously, exercising – and it felt like it might just work.

As the contractions began getting stronger, somewhere deep down, I knew that I was experiencing back labor.  With each contraction I’d squirm uncontrollably to take the pressure off.   I decided that something to take the edge off might be nice.  I asked if they had some laughing gas, and before long  had a mask that I could use to “make the contractions not bother me as much.”  The anesthesiologist (who I maintain was a Seth Rogan doppelgänger), was very honest about the fact that nitrous does not mask the pain, but helps you handle it better.  It did.  And, before long I had made my way to a point where I was very tired, wanting to push (well, that had been going on almost since I checked in because the baby was SO low), and wondering if I had the stamina for transition.  I was starting to consider an epidural, but I hadn’t had a cervical check in several hours so Rick suggested that before I go for medications, we should see where I was.  Well, it turns out that I had gone right on through transition without too much drama and was fully dilated!  This was fantastic news!

I started to push.  I was good at pushing!  My midwife was psyched seeing the progress my baby made with each push.  She said she saw the head move nearly two inches each time I gave it my all.  They were readying me to meet my baby any minute and I was thrilled.  There was a part of me that had assumed I’d never get this far, and here I was pushing and being told the baby would be out very soon.  I was elated.  I’d heard people say that pushing felt good.  It does, in the sense that you have some agency in what’s happening, unlike in the earlier contractions, but I can’t say that the sensation was enjoyable.  I was ready to see this baby and have it be done!

After about 45 minutes, the midwife voiced concern that the baby was moving back each time I pushed – more so than normal.  And, worse, the baby was having late heart rate deceleration.  This is language I’d heard before with Cody – not good news.  They called the OB team and a pediatrics team into the room where I was laboring.  Soon, it was just me, Rick, my doula and about 12 doctors, nurses, and other support staff.  About this time I began thinking how grateful I was for having grown up playing sports because without that, I doubt I’d have handled the chorus of 15 people around me yelling and urging me to bear down between contractions nearly as well.  I was also glad for my health and fitness, because it was a lot of work after already laboring for over 24 hours!

The OB introduced herself and told me that they were here to help me get the VBAC I wanted.  First, she felt for the baby’s position.  Posterior – again!  And, asynclitic – again.  She reached in and attempted to manually turn the baby but it was unsuccessful (and very uncomfortable because I was still unmedicated).  They offered two options then – forceps or a vacuum – to help move the baby into a better position.  Vacuum was their recommendation and so we went ahead with it.  A vacuum assisted delivery involves attaching a vacuum pump to the baby’s head to help pull and re-direct it during each push.  So, at the next push they attached the vacuum and I pushed with everything I had.  The OB was literally standing and pushing with one foot on the edge of my hospital bed to help her pull, but the vacuum popped off.  It was a VERY painful experience with no medications and the amount of pressure that she was exerting as she pulled down.  It felt altogether different from just the contractions and pushing alone. Apparently, many women who have a vacuum assisted delivery already have been given pain meds, but I was completely unmedicated and the nurses kept having to remind the OB team of that as they were pulling.  Though I handle pain well, it felt like they were going to rip me apart.  I can’t really even describe the feeling of being on a bed, with 15 people who I barely knew, surrounding me in a state of undress I would never otherwise be in, pushing as hard as possible, with the OB pulling as hard as she can – a sensation that feels like it will rip my insides out, akin to trying really hard to extract a cork from a wine bottle – and everyone yelling at me to push, and bear down, and curl around the baby.  It was insane. Like, definitely not the birth scenario I imagined even when readying myself for the challenge of VBAC.  A second attempt at the vacuum resulted in a pop off.  And finally, my third and last chance.  My midwife and doula both looked at me gravely before the contraction hit and said I needed to give it every ounce I had (as if I hadn’t already been doing this through the two previous attempts).  The contraction started, and I curled hard around the baby as I lay on my left side, giving over every fiber of muscle in my body to the pushing.  The contraction began to wane, and I kept pushing to keep the baby from sliding back, but as the OB pulled, the vacuum popped off for the third and final time.  The OB and my midwife slowly approached my head and said that the time had come to move to a cesarean, they asked my permission as I panted and collapsed onto the bed, exhausted, and I said yes.  In seconds I was being wheeled out of the room, too tired and overwhelmed to even realize that Rick wasn’t with me.  It wasn’t until they were prepping me for the spinal block that I realized he was nowhere to be found.

Back in the OR, I was too exhausted to be upset at the need for a c-section.  I was hanging on, sitting on the edge of the bed through the strong contractions waiting for my spinal to kick in, which took a few minutes.  Soon though, they had me on the table and pulled the curtain up blocking my view, explaining that they would move it down when things calmed as the baby was born – the hospital had a gentle cesarean option!  I was so thrilled.  But, that time never came for me…

Soon Rick was at my head, and I could tell something was happening on the other side of the curtain.  I assumed they’d tell me when they started th surgery, but they didn’t and it was underway.  It was going slowly.  Very slowly.  As I later learned, when they cut me open they found an abdomen cemented together with very bad scar tissue from my previous cesarean.  So much so that they were forced to do the internal incision higher on my uterus as the scar tissue had cemented other organs and tissue in place over my previous scar.  It was a lot of work to get in, and when they did, Will was in bad shape.  He was in the birth canal, so he had to be pushed out from below and pulled by his feet from the incision.  It was obviously not an easy birth, and it took a lot longer than my first surgery.  I was beginning to fade in and out of consciousness on the table by the time Will was finally removed.  He didn’t cry. The room was very quiet. They didn’t show him to me or Rick.  All I saw was a limp baby being rushed to the other side of the room where a table was set up for resuscitation.  It says something about my mental state that I was so sleepy and figured it would all be ok.  My recollection of this period was several people around Will working hard with a CPAP and doing CPR, Rick shaking above me and crying and sternly telling me not to fall asleep – though the drugs were saying the opposite.  I can’t give you a clear story about this piece, and whenever I ask Rick about it he gets so emotional he can’t really express how he felt.  It was very hard on him seeing Will and I in such precarious positions.

Finally, after several minutes they got Will breathing.  He had an APGAR score of 1 at birth, and 5 minutes out he was a 7, but he wasn’t totally out of the woods.  He spent a night in the NICU because breathing wasn’t coming easily for him.  Me, they stitched back up and wheeled into the recovery room.  The OBGYN took a moment to try to share with me that if I choose to have more children, I will need to have a c-section, because at this point between the new incision placement and the scar tissue it is too risky not to.

I certainly didn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation we faced during Will’s birth.  Each time a doctor visited me they asked in a low voice how I was doing because I’d had a traumatic birth.  To me, honestly, the birth had been a mixed bag.  I was incredibly happy and proud to have labored through what I did, unmedicated and without interventions.  When it came to having had the vacuum assist and eventually the c-section, it seemed to me that I had given the VBAC my all including months of chiropractic, herbs, probiotics, exercise, and working in advance with a team of exceptionally talented people.  I felt confident that under those circumstances, if a c-section was needed then it was truly a necessary intervention.  That said, it wasn’t until a follow-up with my doula that the gravity of the situation struck me.  She said “In situations like yours, we have to be glad for the option of c-section or you and Will wouldn’t be here.”

Wow.  I could have left my toddler without a mom, my husband without a wife, and died in childbirth along with my baby. Holy shit.

So, there has been much to process in the follow-up to this birth.  New life, an expanding family, potential mortality, and the higher risks of choosing to have another baby in the future.  Honestly, this has been much of the reason I haven’t written about Will’s birth. I vacillate between feeling scared, triumphant, bewildered, and this unshakable feeling that I am a let down.  That, in the evolutionary scheme of things, I’d be a dead-end if it weren’t for surgical intervention.  It is a feeling I wrestle with daily.  As I workout and try to get back to a place of fitness and health postpartum, I wonder if this is me recovering and healing after my final baby?   Would be best if I never have any more babies?  The risk is bigger than I’d like or than I anticipated, and I sort of feel that I should just let things lie as they are even though I’ve always wanted more kids.  I am really struggling to get my head around this.  And, I think that though I know now the experience of laboring and feel proud I was able to handle it – I also feel that it is more obvious than ever that something is amiss inside me that causes my babies to be poorly positioned and therefore makes vaginal birth a real challenge.  But what is it?  Why can nobody answer that question?  And now, two surgeries in, I’ve foreclosed any previously available options where I might have been able to correct the issues…

But hey, I know that wading into these questions only causes me to go in circles wondering about things I’ll probably never have answers to.  I have two beautiful, healthy kids.  I am healthy and healing. These are the truly real, concrete, and important things.   But, man, birth really brings out a lot of dark, weird stuff – exposing your insecurities and challenging your self-confidence while also bringing these wonderful beings into your life.  What a crazy thing life is.

I wish I could say more.  As I said, I’m still dong a lot of processing internally and wondering what it all means for me and my family.  I will do my best to report of this more regularly here.  I feel it is important to share this information, though I’ve found it incredibly hard to talk about.