Thursday, June 25, 2009

Surprising Leif

Leif is surprising everyone.

He came much later than expected--by thirteen days. He was much bigger than expected--by nearly a pound. He came in a labor that was much longer than expected; and catalyzed a recovery that was quicker than expected. He is much calmer than expected--given his energetic action in the womb; and he has nursed, peed, pooped, and cracked a grin much earlier than expected. The last remnants of his umbilical cord have been smellier than expected.

Yet what seems to surprise people most is that he was born at home. I caught him myself. Not many babies in the U.S. are born at home. Why at home?

For us, the decision was a carefully pondered answer to a simple question: what conditions will make the best birth outcome the most likely?

As for the best outcome, experts across the board agree. Where possible, for the health of baby and mother, a vaginal birth without drugs is best. A mom's body works with the infant to choose an optimal birth time, making a delectable soup of hormones to ease the way. The hug of the birth canal stimulates a baby's internal organs; its flora prime a nascent immune system. Medical procedures, while sometimes necessary, interrupt a complex dance of physiological and chemical changes that science is only beginning to comprehend, not to mention emulate. If possible, it is best to go without.

What then would make the best outcome the most likely? The answer is not obvious, for in our current culture of fear, we tend to reason in reverse. We ask: what could go wrong? We tabulate the possible tragedies and seek to minimize our risks. From this perspective, giving birth in a hospital seems safer for the technological monitoring and emergency rescues it makes possible.

However, when learning to drive, we are taught that focusing on the tree we don't want our car to hit makes a crash more likely. Or as Jessica knows, looking down while urging a horse over a jump makes it more likely that the horse will miss it. The same can be said for birth: if we are focused on what could go wrong (while looking to hospital machines and personnel to tell us), then we are not attending fully to what will help the birth go right. Giving birth, like any significant human act, benefits from our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual as well as physical presence.

In my case, the answer was further complicated by the fact that my first birth was a C-section. Since 2003, administrators of small hospitals around the country have decided not to allow women to have Vaginal Births after a C-section (VBAC). The reason: the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that hospitals offering VBACs have an anesthesiologist on the premises at all times--a difficult feat for a small operation. As a result, many local hospitals are not allowing women with a previous C-section the option of a vaginal birth, fearing that, if anything goes wrong, they might be sued. So it was for me. All that our neighboring hospitals would provide me was a C-section. Otherwise, I could drive an hour plus in labor to a medical center in Albany.

The pieces fell into place. What environment would support me best in being present to the birth process of my own bodily self? Home. We decided to give birth on the farm, under the supervision of a skilled, licensed midwife and her assistant, free to focus fully on the birthing process.

Knowing what we know now about Leif's birth, we are so glad we did. For given his surprises, it is clear to us: we needed to be home to succeed with this birth. If we had been anywhere else, Geoff and I could not have been as together; I could not have gone as deep into a meditative space. Using the cycle of breaths (see Jan-Feb 2008), I became the earth mother, feeling the plates of my pelvis shift open to release new life. I could attune to the process, listening and enabling, aware of the baby moving and of myself transforming, enroute to a beautiful birth.

Yes we were lucky, as anyone who gives birth is. But we were not just lucky. We created the conditions that would make the best outcome the most likely. It is how we want to live.

In the end, at his beginning, Leif surprised us too: he gave us exactly what we wanted. And more.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hello from Leif!

Yes, I am here!

I know I took a while, but good things do take time.
Besides, I had a lot of growing to do.

I am 8 pounds 10 ounces and 21 inches long!
I have a nice large head.

Mom and Dad and I worked hard....
and then Jordan, Jessica, Kyra, and Kai were all there to greet me when I came out.

It was great on the inside, but I think I am going to like it here too.

My lovely feet.

More soon!

Leif LaMothe Gee
Born at home on Sunday, June 14, 2009, 9:03 PM
41 weeks and 6 days

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Birth Watch 5

Everytime the telephone rings, we are sure it is the stork, calling to tell us that our bundle of joy has arrived. We placed our order months ago, shouldn't it be here by now?

Truth be told, the waiting is getting a mite harder. It would be easier, I think, if it weren't for those pesky expectations.

Yes, I've been expecting for months now. But I have been expecting a delivery somewhere on or around my "due" date! Sure, the first three children were all late, but the fourth popped out right on time, an efficient fellow. I was thinking that he was a trend, not an exception.

So much for thinking.

So I try to breathe away my expectations and just enjoy. Receive. Trust that the little one will come when he or she is ready. Mom is healthy. Baby is healthy. No problem! And then I experience another contraction... which pulls all those expectations right back into view. How about now?

Tired of trying not to expect, I take a different approach. As Geoff says: "Sometimes babes need to listen to their mommies." So I try talking to it and sending it pictures of the way out. It's really not so bad out here--a little noisy perhaps, but kind of nice too!

Perhaps I need to learn a different language.

Meanwhile, today was a beautiful day. We had no plans. No where to go. Nothing to do, except wait--I mean, enjoy. And so we did, topping it off with a long and lovely swim at a nearby pond.

Did I mention that we are ready?

Birth Watch 5

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Birth Watch 4

It looks like June 11 is going to go the way of June's 1 through 10.
Nothing yet.

Sometimes it feels a bit like being stuck in one of Zeno's paradox: where every increment of progress made towards the goal is half the distance of the one before, such that the journey is infinite and the goal ever elusive.

Will we ever get there? To the time After the time Before? To the space There that will then be Here?

There are signs, but small ones. Incremental ones. Ripples of possibility.

We are waiting for the wave that will carry us all the way in....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Birth Watch 3

Due date plus ten.... and counting.

The time that was supposed to be Before is now After.
The time that was supposed to be After is still Before.

It is a strange suspended time in between....
waiting for someone who is already here.
Just not yet.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Birth Watch 2

What is there to report?

It is raining (finally).

Corn plants throughout the county are sprouting (perkily).

Jordan and Jessica have only one exam left (thankfully).

Geoff & Kai went to the grocery store (happily).

Yesterday's radio interview with Montana is available in the sidebar (easily).

I went back to the health club for another last pre-birth swim (gratefully).

And the wee one is moving (exuberantly),
which probably means.... not today!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Birth Watch 1

This small traveler has always had an impeccable sense of timing. I should trust it by now!

It began to grow just after I submitted What a Body Knows for production, and was due to be born the same week as the book came out. It took root in the fall, when every other living thing was pulling its energy inward and underground, preparing for spring birth.

The morning sickness it stirred paced me through an endless editing process, ebbing just in time for me to be able to imagine dancing Genesis. Over the winter, its pull on my eyelids narrowed my focus to the writing I so wanted to do on a next book--farm life love. The first pass is now done.

Then, as the due date approached, it did not come when Jessica was on her environmental club overnight. It did not interfere with Jordan's community service project. It is not keeping Kyra from today's much-anticipated field trip to the Washington County Fair museum and ice cream shop. It refused to interrupt the interviews I have scheduled, last week or today (check out WKXLO in Lewiston, MT at 12:15 EST)!.

Already, it is proving capable of finding its way through the family maze.

Now it is one week late. So what do I do??

One of the personnel at the health club where I have been swimming--a woman with five children--told me that her fifth was thirteen days late. While waiting, she was so frustrated that she took down the changing table.

I can think of some other things to do!

Meanwhile, Jordan and Jessica have exams through Wednesday which they don't want to miss. Given how considerate this little one is, I am thinking... maybe Thursday?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Waiting Still

What do you do when you are waiting—waiting for an event that could happen any minute, that will require your utmost concentration and strength, that will radically change your life, inside and out, and over whose timing you have no control?

How do you start any activity knowing you might be interrupted? How do you make any date knowing you might not make it? How do you live while waiting for a birth?

I keep thinking that this is the last time. It is the last time we will clean the house; the last time Geoff will go to the grocery store; the last time Jordan will mow the lawn; the last time I will bake bread, go swimming, do laundry, brush teeth… take a breath. And then it isn't.

I keep thinking that the wee one will blossom with this round of spring’s flowers.

First, nearly three weeks ago, there were the dandelions, short and pert, their sunny yellow heads bobbing in the breeze. Kai called them “dandys” and protested ferociously when Jordan set out to mow them down. “They’re so beautiful!” he cried. Would this child be a dandy? No.

Then there were the lilacs, my favorites, exploding in white and purple on either side of our house. Their soothing scent filled our sensory spaces for several days, until these short-lived blooms yielded to a cool rain. Would this baby be born in lilac? No.

Then came the buttercups, golden dots swaying in the meadows amidst the lengthening greens, their sweet and shiny leaves beaming back at the warming sun. Would this small traveler reflect the sun? Nope.

Then came the irises, growing in large clumps behind the house, blue-white, white-blue, and soft yellow, their animal-mouths eating the air. Would this one be breathing soon? It’s not too late!

What next? The hydrangea will be blooming sometime in July.

Then, on Tuesday morning, June 2, due date plus one, I receive an email from a woman named Gina Cloud inviting me to do a radio show with her later that day. I jump at the opportunity, before fully cognizing that “later” means 8-9 PM, Pacific Daylight Time. Past my bedtime! I spend the afternoon teased by every cramp and contraction. How can I go into labor now?! Please no! I vow not to schedule anything else until after the birth.

I sneak away from evening chores for a nourishing nap, rocked to sleep by contractile waves. Finally, as the hour hand slowly reaches its mark, I breathe a sigh of relief. I know I am going to make it… and then I have the most wonderful time! Gina is terrific. Once we sign off the show, I am ready! But nothing is happening. The womb seas are as flat as a placental pancake.

Ah well. For a podcast of our radio show, click HERE!

You can also subscribe to Gina's show through iTunes (search for "Gina Cloud") or visit the Contact Talk Radio website, and download her "June 2, 2009" show!

Here we are today, due date plus three. I glance out the window this morning to see a family of geese, four fluff balls flanked by two parents, floating across the pond. So when will we hatch?

Jordan and Jessica happen to be studying the reproductive system in their eighth grade biology class, and this morning they are scheduled to watch a movie of a baby being born. I’ll bet the movie won’t be late.

It is a beautiful day.

How about now?