Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rachel's homebirth video

Have you all seen this? It's the homebirth-promoting movie my friend Rachel made after having her third. She just revised it to enter in a maternity video contest. Check it out; it's really fantastic. Then rate it highly!

Eventually I hope to make my own, though I don't have film footage--it happened too fast for me to remember to call my friend next door who films births!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More of Jem

These are in reverse chronological order, today through Sunday, two to four days old!

We also think he looks a bit like this guy (shown here with a younger Willa):
and a bit like this guy:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jem's birth story

We are so thrilled to tell the world that Jem Cady Bywater has joined our family!

Here's the full story:

My water broke Friday evening, walking home from a delicious and apparently fortifying meal at Chase's Daily with Rob's mom Margy, who was in town for a B&B weekend we got her for Christmas (lucky timing!). We got about a block when I said, "Oh!" and went into the library to check that indeed, as I suspected, my water had broken. Willa said, "I'm a little bit worried about you, Mama" and Margy offered to go get the car, but I felt totally fine and we walked the lovely, short walk home in beautiful spring weather with my water breaking all along the way. I explained to Willa that our baby might be coming in April instead of May as we'd thought, and Willa said, "I hope this baby keeps swimming, Mama"--a reference to her stillborn brother--and commanded, "Keep swimming, baby!" as she has many times before.

We arrived home, and Rob and I put Willa to bed, sent Margy up to Searsport and stared at one another in amazement. Were we really in labor?! It didn't seem possible! Two and a half weeks early! And we were not ready!

So we called the midwives, who said it seemed pretty likely we would have our baby in the next few days, if not that night, and said they'd go to bed and wait to hear further. (They also reminded me that I was sneaking ahead of three mamas actually due in April!) We also called Ava, our doula, to let her know what was happening. I caught my dad and sister Ravit before shabbat started to let them know. And then we hustled around cleaning the house, ordering a car seat online, and various other things we had yet to take care of. My water kept breaking throughout the evening, but I felt totally fine and relaxed. I was having some bloody show, too, which was thrilling since it took days of labor before I had any with Willa, and seemed like a sign things were actually closer than they felt. We watched 10 ceremonial minutes of A Room with a View, since it's the movie we were watching when my water broke at the beginning of Willa's labor, and then went to bed. Rob fell fast asleep but though I felt calm and wasn't having any real contractions yet, I sort of lay there restfully waiting for what might happen next.

By 12:30 AM or so, I was having contractions that were getting a bit hard--not terrible, but not so fun to lie down through. I waited to see if I had a few in a row, and when I did, I woke Rob up and we started keeping track of them while reading in bed. We did that for about an hour, then called the midwives to tell them what was up. Since my contractions were still really manageable, we said we'd check in with them again in a little while and Rob started getting the tub set up. About an hour later, the contractions were getting a bit more difficult, and we realized our tub liner had ripped and Rob couldn't get the hose hooked up, so we called them back and told them we were ready for them to come, and Ava, too. (Ava was also going to be Willa's birth buddy, and we were a little worried Willa might wake up in the night, so we wanted Ava there as soon as possible.) My contractions were between 4-7 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds: a textbook early-active labor for me, for once!

By the time everyone arrived--my midwives Donna, Ellie and Anna, and Ava--it was probably 3:15 AM and I could not talk through my contractions, though I have to say they still did not feel so horrible to me and I didn't believe I was particularly close to having a baby. During each contraction I wanted to moan, lean on someone and have someone else press on my tailbone. I went around everyone in turn. In between contractions I felt FINE and we were all having fun, telling stories and joking around. They also kept checking the baby's heartbeat, which was perfect every time. At one point I asked, "Do you think I'll have this baby before it's time for me to go back to sleep?" because I wanted to put my contact lenses in to see the birth but not if I was going to be told to go back to sleep first! And after Willa's incredibly long labor, it seemed possible this kind of labor could last for days. But everyone looked at me like I was crazy.

Pretty soon after that the contractions were hard enough that I decided I wanted to get in the tub, even though I was worried it was still too early since I'd have so long to go (it was probably about 4:45 AM by this time). I called my friend Rachel in NYC and told her she should take the first morning flight from NYC if she wanted to come, even though she'd "probably" miss the birth.

The tub felt great, though they had to keep filling it with pots of hot water from the stove because our water heater kept running out. The baby was moving throughout labor, jumping and twitching, which was very reassuring though strange! (I don't remember noticing whether or not Willa moved during labor.) My contractions, which had been getting more intense and closer together, slowed down a bit when I first got in but then picked up again. Then they started getting harder, and I started feeling "pushy." I was making a lot of noise: calling the baby "down down down," growling like a warrior, moaning "yes yes yes." I saw that Ellie was taking a stethoscope out and asking for a baby hat which seemed to mean they thought I was close but I still couldn't believe it, even though at this point the contractions were quite hard to bear. In between I still felt totally normal and lucid and was keeping track of everything going on--Ava giving me wonderful counterpressure during every contraction, the morning light coming in, with an incredible sunrise over the bay right outside the double doors where the tub was set up, birds chirping, the conversations everyone was having. I even made a joke about Maisie, our dog, who slept in a corner in her bed the whole time. I said, "She's thinking, I had SIX at once. What are you complaining about?"

But finally, at the very end, I was serious even in between contractions. I felt very much in charge of what was happening--my midwives mostly stood back and let me do what I was doing, though at one point I asked Donna to check me, because I still did not believe I was very close. She told me I was pretty much fully effaced and the baby was at +2 station, and that I would be having my baby very soon, but I remained unconvinced, even as I started working on visualizing my baby descending and summoning all the power of my contractions to go low and out. I felt like I had a choice: I could either fight the pain and pressure and energy and tighten up, or I could surrender to them and bring my baby out sooner. I chose the latter. I both tried to push and release as much as I could and do it gently. I screamed--really screamed!--through several contractions, calling out "I love you, baby!" Later Donna told me I pushed for about 40 minutes.

Finally I felt the head and said, "It's coming!" It was really painful but also so exciting. I told Ava to go wake Willa up and they came back in (about 6 AM, her normal waking time, and she actually slept through the night and all our company and noise, which was a blessing!). Then I pushed the head out which was a huge relief and then waited a contraction and birthed the rest of my baby. Donna and Rob had their hands in the tub to catch him, but ultimately we think it was me who gently brought him to the surface. He was born at 6:12 AM.

Once again I had a baby with a strong but uncommonly short cord (this has been true for all three of my kids, and we don't know why!). It was maybe a foot in all. He was crying a bit off and on but not as much as Donna and Ellie would have liked, so Ellie suctioned him a bunch of times with the DeLee and an aspirator. This went on for a few minutes, which was a little nerve-wracking: I kept asking if he'd be ok, even though it also seemed like he was definitely fine, since he was moving around and squeaking. My contractions came back and I birthed the placenta really easily very shortly thereafter. Because of the short cord we clamped and cut pretty soon--Willa did the cutting--and then we asked Willa to announce the gender once we flipped the cord back. "It's a boy!" she said. Wow. We couldn't believe it.

The midwives checked me out--I was fine--and then turned to him. He did look like a baby due May 12--he was covered in vernix and fur and had floppy ears and smooth feet and was a little small at 18 3/4 inches long. But when they weighed him we saw that he was 6 lbs. 12 oz.: not bad! The midwives cleaned up the house, made me tea, made sure everything was in order and went on their way. Rachel and Margy both arrived shortly thereafter.

It took us most of the day to decide that the name we'd picked out awhile back--Jem Cady--would work for this surprising, early arrival. I think Rob and I were both still in a bit of denial and also were not actually anticipating a boy! But finally we knew we didn't like any other name as well and it was bothering me not to call him anything. Willa said, "He's Jem Cady!" and so he is. "Jem" is from To Kill a Mockingbird, a book (and film) Rob and I both love and which I reread in the days just before Willa was born: Jem is the name of Scout Finch's older brother, a boy who grows to care deeply about social justice. It's short for Jeremy, though Harper Lee (and we) don't use the long version. Cady is from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a social activist in abolition, suffrage, feminism and mothering. We felt that if we had a boy it was important to link him to issues of gender equality. Plus we like the name. Jem Cady: a little bit farmer, a little bit cowboy.

Anyway, he's here; everything's going well; he seems to have a real knack for nursing, much to his mother's relief; today (his first full day of life) was unbelievably gorgeous here in Maine and we're looking forward to adjusting to our new life as a family. We are extremely grateful to our midwives and doula and friends and family near and far who have supported us and "held the space" for us during a sometimes anxious time of it after our last son, Day, died at 31 weeks in utero. We think Jem looks quite a bit like what Day would have looked like. We feel so blessed to have this new boy with us.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Really? In April?

My water broke about an hour ago. No other signs of labor yet, but I've been feeling close for a few days and apparently this means it could be soon. Hmm. I sort of don't believe it. Wow. Really? Could this baby come in April?

I'm full term, so there's no concern about that. I just thought I had at least a week before I got to start thinking about having this baby.

Wow. Wow again. Send all your healthiest, liveliest baby thoughts our way...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm in the paper! Again!

Me and the poetry blog I'm doing with Rachel--which we should have an exciting announcement about soon!--are covered in the local paper today.

I have been in the local paper--just mentioned in passing, mostly, or with Willa, but still--an alarming amount, considering we just got to town a few months ago. I'm just glad I haven't been in the police blotter yet.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


My midwives hosted a beautiful Blessingway for me today, a ritual held to help women prepare spiritually for their births and the crossing over into mothering a new baby. It was an incredibly special day.

The women gathered, my closest friends here in Maine, were all mothers themselves, and all except one had homebirths (the one who didn't had a birthing center birth during which she crawled around on all fours during labor and caught her own baby in a squat, so she's right there with us homebirthers!), and some of them had homebirths in homes without running water, and two of them were homebirthers who had babies who died.

It was actually really important to me to have these friends there whose babies had died, because honestly, we're in a special sort of club, those of us who have children after having a child who died, one that moms who have not had a stillbirth or a neonatal death can't totally comprehend, I think. And my Blessingway would not have felt complete or honest without this very genuine understanding that I am not another kind of mother: I am a mother who has had a baby who died. I am so grateful for all the friends who were there today, because all of them are examples to me of mothers I admire and respect for a variety of reasons, but I am especially grateful to my friends who have been to the place I have been and could see me through this next part of my journey with that experience shared between us. And to my midwives, who are the kind of midwives who have likewise been able to be present and attentive to the possibility of death as a part of birth. (Not even all midwives are able to do this!) And the kind of midwives, and friends, who made me a Blessingway loaded with meaningful ritual and powerful female energy.

So now I have a twig wreath full of symbols and gifts from these women hanging in our bedroom, and a necklace strung with beads that these women chose for me to represent their own children and families, and string bracelets on both wrists which were connected to lengths of string that all of these other women are also wearing to protect me and be with me through my birth. I feel very blessed indeed.

I have more or less one month to go, folks.

Tomorrow, since everything around here is closed for Easter and we have no other plans, I think we're going to do some prepping for the birth and baby--set aside some birth supplies, order some stuff online, etc. I'm so excited to be in this place at long last, the place where I have to start getting ready for the possiblity of a new addition to our family.

* *

Oh, and we just celebrated Passover, and hosted two seders, which was a first for me (and obviously for Rob!). It was fun, though I missed being with my family. But Passover--and Easter (Willa participated in the Belfast egg hunt today, held in the park just blocks from our house, and had a great time even though it was gray and cold)--mean spring is coming, and new life, and flowers are starting to sprout all over town, and today on the way to the Blessingway I passed a field with baby lambs nursing their mamas, and as it was with Willa, it's such a lovely time to be thinking about bringing a new baby into the world.

Now if it would only get above 48 degrees for once.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy National Poetry Month!

Linda Buckmaster, Belfast poet laureate, and I launched our Poems Downtown project yesterday. I chose poems appropriate to 22 businesses in downtown Belfast (which is about four blocks long) and the merchants put them up in the windows, and then yesterday Linda and I went around and read them as part of a "spring is here" downtown business celebration. (There were also wandering minstrels in the form of a large fiddle band, and some women dressed in masks, and the stores were giving out cookies and such--fun!) We began in the cafe of the food co-op: Linda called everyone to attention as they were eating their lunches and I read Wendell Berry. Everywhere we went, people seemed to be really happy to hear poems. Wonderful Belfast!

Here are some shots from the project:
Sandburg's "The Hammer" at the hardware store; a Lucille Clifton poem about her mama for Yo Mamma's Home decor store; Linda reading Molly Tenenbaum at The Good Table.

Ron Padgett's "The Love Cook" for Darby's restaurant; a poem about knitting for Heavenly Socks Yarn store. And a Denise Levertov poem about a broken sandel for Colburns Shoe Store, the oldest contiunally operating shoe store in America.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Another funny Willa/homebirth propoganda story

So we met a woman who asked us, "Do you know if your baby is a boy or a girl?" (Everyone loves to ask this.)

Willa answered, "No, because we haven't been to the hospital." (I've explained to her that people who know whether their baby is a boy or a girl have to go to a hospital and get it checked on big equipment.)

The woman said, "Well, no, you haven't been to the hospital yet. You will when it's time for the baby to come!"

And Willa answered, "No, we're not going there to have our baby, either! Tra la la!"

And yes, she actually did say "tra la la."

The woman just said, "Oh...."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New pics (even ones of me!)

I promised photos in my post earlier today and here I am, delivering on time (let's hope the baby follows suit).

Here's Willa in her fancy party dress (sadly, the only time she's worn it so far!) on her way to her friend Abi's birthday party with her Dada while I was in Wyoming. Note, too, the birthday bow, complete with rainbow-colored cupcakes on it.

Below are some photos from Maine Maple Sunday, an all-state celebration in late March of the running of the sap. We hauled up to Steuben, in Downeast Maine, past Mount Desert Island, on a very chilly day, to Painted Pepper Farm:

where we heard a folktale about maple syrup in a tipi and petted some of the resident baby Nubian goats, from which the farm family makes fudge, chevre and artisan goat's milk gelato (oh, yeah, this is Maine, alright!):

We underdressed Willa in cotton socks and rain boots, and her toes got cold and she had a meltdown, but was luckily healed by the restorative powers of gelato.

And, because you asked, here I am today, at thirty-fourish weeks, all dressed up for a screening of a birth film at the local library that I organized for tonight:

I'm enormous, n'est-ce pas? This is one sticky-outy baby!

Happy April Fools' Day!

Here we are celebrating April Fools' Day because it means we're in APRIL and we're that much closer to MAY and spring and the baby and all the rest of it. It also means we're in National Poetry Month. Hurray to all of that hopeful stuff!

Not much news to report: Rob and I are just trying to get through as much work as we can before the baby comes, and I am inching ever closer to being able to order up my cloth diapers and the rest of that fun stuff. Willa is teaching us songs she's learned from Montessori. Maisie is eager to get outside and sniff the grass under all the melted snow.

For April Fools' Day I posted a satiric message through the Citizens for Midwifery grassroots news message. Anyone interested in a political birthing moment click here.

I am huge, huge, huge.

Hopefully, pictures of me, pregnant as all get-out, and of the super-fun Poems Downtown project I've done with Belfast poet laureate Linda Buckmaster to follow soon.