The Story of Birth: Part 2, In Which Josie Arrives

>>Read part 1

It’s true that your mind and body forget labor. I made sure to write down the story of Josie’s birth within the first weeks of her life. Almost a 10 months later, I recall almost none of the pain of labor. I know it existed, the same way I know Josie used to be so tiny, but there seems to be a gray blur where the actual memory should exist.

I do know that giving birth at Mountain Midwifery absolutely contributes to my pleasant memories of labor and delivery. I had an amazing birth, for which I feel incredibly thankful. I know this is not everyone’s story.

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Our midwives had advised us to ignore early signs of labor for as long as possible. So when I laid down to take a nap that Sunday afternoon and thought I felt a contraction, I ignored it and tried to fall asleep. Josie was still moving around in my belly. After an hour of laying down and 3 more mild contractions, I gave up on the nap. But I was hesitant about telling Bear that I thought labor had begun.

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Almost 2 hours after my first contraction

Every 2 weeks, since week 14, we had been taking pregnancy photos. This was the day we were due for week 40. So I found Bear outside to prepare for the photo and told him I thought I was feeling the beginnings of labor. After we finished taking the photo, Bear asked if I thought it was really contractions I was feeling. I told him it was different than anything else I had felt, but that I had no idea, because I’d never done this before!

Bear asked if we needed to start timing the contractions and I thought it was too early to begin timing and paying attention. So we watched Netflix for a few hours to pass time and distract myself from the mild contractions.

That evening, I had had plans with my friend Christie, an amazing massage therapist, to paint with me in my studio. I texted her that afternoon that I thought labor had begun so she should check in before coming over. Since my contractions remained manageable, Christie offered to come over and rub my feet and bring me anything I wanted. Turtle sundae in hand, Christie arrived around 8. She reminded us that it was the super moon eclipse night and the three of us went outside to view it. I remembered asking our midwife if the full moon would bring on labor. She had said there really wasn’t any effidence that there was a correlation.

I am convinced that Christie rubbing my feet, concentrating on the pressure points in my ankle, which connect to the uterus, were what helped my labor go so quickly later on. Her foot massage, and girl talk, were nice distractions as the contractions intensified. She kept asking if we should be timing contractions or calling yet. I assured her, it wasn’t time. I continued to use my breathe through each contraction, focusing on the sensations in my feet.

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A couple hours before Josie was born

Bear later told me that when Christie went to leave, she told him that he needed to start timing my contractions. I drew myself a bath and Bear joined me in the bathroom with the contraction timing app pulled up on his phone. I had to tell him when my contractions were starting and stopping. I labored in the tub for about an hour and then got out and got dressed and returned to the bathroom.

The midwives at MMC had told us to follow the 3:1:1 rule in determining when to call the birth center. This meant, contractions every 3 minutes, lasting 1 minute for an hour. Bear noticed my contractions had gotten more frequent and closer together very quickly. So at 10:20pm, while we hadn’t hit the 3:1:1 rule, Bear called the midwife to check in. I continued to labor on the bathroom floor. I remember Bear telling me that the midwife on call would be Aubrey and giving him a thumbs up from the bathroom floor where I was laboring on all fours.

The midwife said to call again in 30 minutes and check in. Bear proceeded to gather the bags, make a sandwich ( I had insisted that he needed to think about his own needs during delivery because I was not going to be able to take care of him or worry about him.) Our chocolate lab was 1 week post knee surgery, so Bear gave him his evening medication and let the dogs out. He sent our neighbor a text, notifying them that the baby was on the way and could they please feed the dogs in the morning.

While Bear did this, I continued to labor in the bathroom, timing my own contractions with the app. I brushed my teeth and thought about how I’d never gotten my nap in for the day and unsure how long labor would last. I had a particularly intense contraction, sending me to the floor again and my water broke! I called out to Bear and he looked over the contractions. I had had 4 more contractions in 10 minutes. He called the midwife and updated them and we were told it was time to make our way in.

I changed into dry clothes and Bear pulled the car out of the garage and loaded it up. As I sat in the car waiting for Bear to lock up, I called out, “did you remember to make your sandwich?”

We only had a 10 minute drive to the birth center. Caught at a red light, Bear asked if he should run it. I told him we were fine to wait. He later told me he thought I was going to have the baby in the car, my contractions were so intense.

I remember looking at the dash clock and noted it was 10:40 when we arrived. Jenna, the nurse helped me into the birth center. Sine my water had broke, Aubry didn’t do a cervical exam. In fact, we never did do one for the pregnancy.

I felt nauseous and vomited my last meal-so glad it was only ice cream! I needed to pee, so I was helped over to the toilet. When I had finished Aubry suggested I continue laboring on the toilet, if that felt good. It did. She suggested I sit backwards and use the handrail for leverage. Bear came and sat next to me and held my hand. We were left alone in the bathroom area in our room and someone began drawing a bath. At one point, Bear asked me a question, I just looked at him and said “what?” He laughed, he could tell I was in ‘labor land’ (a term we had learned in our birth class at MMC) and unable to focus on anything else. I remember being aware of the moment, a bit like I was observing the whole seen from above, watching and unable to interact.

As my contractions passed through my body, I pushed up on my legs off the toilet and then sat back down again. With each contraction, I looked forward to the intensity ending and knowing a break would come. The midwife offered breathing tips and suggested I focus my energy downward. The usefulness of the toilet as a laboring aid passed and I was ready to move. The sling was suggested, but while they were adjusting it for me, I decided I wanted to get in the tub.

I climbed into the tub and felt nauseous again. This time I only threw up water because I had been drinking so much and it was the only thing left in my stomach. The nurse put some essential oil on a cloth under my nose to help the nausea, and then put the oil in an oil diffuser. Feeling better, I got comfortable in the eater, submerging almost my entire body. Bear reached across the tub to hold my hand. As my contractions came, I rolled onto my side and placed a hand on my belly to make it through. I continued to focus on my breath and to remember “this is temporary.” I remember wondering how an epidural could help anyone through the painful contractions. I felt like nothing could diminish their intensity.

LW_etsy_StrongEnoughI could hear the nurse, midwife and Bear talking, but they felt worlds away, like there was an invisible wall between us that I could not pass. My thoughts still processed through my own head in a very clear way, but there was no way for me to communicate to anyone. I hear our midwife tell Bear that my blood show had happened. I just listened and continued through my contractions.

I began to feel pressure on my vagina. I wondered if i was allowed to begin to push. Would someone tell me it was time, like in the movies? With each contraction my body pushed more. The midwife had me roll over in the tub and told me I was doing a great job. I assumed it was fine for me to continue to push since I wasn’t being told otherwise.

Our midwife announced “Lexis, your baby has hair.” I reached down and felt the soft hair floating in the water and giggled. Another contraction and my body pushed again. I didn’t have to try to push, by body was deciding for me. The head came out and I was asked to step out of the tub and kneel on all fours on the floor. Out of the water, I had to put more effort into pushing the body and finishing the delivery. And then our dark haired baby was laying underneath me.

My first words to our daughter were “I love you so much.”

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6 days old, photos courtesy of Rachael Grace Photography

The Story of Birth: Part 1, When It Comes Too Easily

A recent conversation with my yoga teacher inspired me to write about Josie’s birth and the guilt we can feel for things going well. When things feel like they have come to us easily, we have a hard time acknowledging them or taking credit for it. We hear how hard of a time someone else is having and feel we should keep our good fortune to ourselves.

Me and Josie, 30 minutes after birth

Me and Josie, 30 minutes after birth

I told my teacher how smoothly labor and delivery went for me and about the mama I’d encountered in breast feeding support group. After planning a natural delivery, this woman had ended up with an epidural and a C-section after 44 hours of labor. I had kept my birth story short: it was a good, natural delivery at a birth center. I felt I needed to keep my wonderful birth story to myself for fear I would make others feel bad for their less than perfect experience.

Having never been pregnant, my yoga teacher, and another student, admitted to being scared about birth. I shared that at the beginning of my pregnancy, I would get tremendous butterflies in my stomach at the thought of labor and delivery. I was incredibly anxious at the idea of having to deliver that baby out of my vagina. And I worried that if I were this anxious now, how would I find any calm in delivery?

It’s natural to have these feelings about an experience you’ve never had before. In fact, I even think it’s part of the pregnancy process. In preparation, I had set the intention to be open to however our baby decided to arrive. I had heard enough stories about birth not going as planned, that I hoped to save myself some of the disappointment friends had shared with me. That didn’t mean we didn’t have our own plan of how we hoped it would go. But hearing the stories of early delivery, unexpected C-section, use of forceps and pushing for hours with no progress, it seemed to me that birth had a way of being exactly what we did not want.

Our plan was a natural delivery at Mountain Midwifery Birth Center. After a couple of years of no faith in my body’s ability to do what it was supposed to do-make a baby, I needed to be in an environment that supported and believed in my female body. I wasn’t interested in any of the drugs available for labor and delivery because I have a low tolerance to medications (NyQuil makes me loopy) and I wanted to be present for the birth of our baby. Of course, part of being open to the process, meant I was willing to accept the possibility that we would end up in a hospital, medicated. But I knew if that were the case, it was for the safety of me and our baby.

We were required to take a series of child birth, breast feeding and new born care classes at the birth center. Courses I was all too eager to participate in. For an event that is unknowable, I wanted to know everything I could. The child birth classes didn’t focus on a specific method of delivery, but rather educated us about the phases of child birth and what to expect. After finishing our classes I didn’t feel those butterflies about labor. In fact, I felt excitement and confidence.

Me and Josie 7 hours after birth

Me and Josie 7 hours after birth

It’s easy for me to say, I was lucky, I had an easy pregnancy. But it wasn’t luck. I must take credit for the work that I did. One of the big things I did was focus on listening to my body. This meant taking naps when I was tired, a luxury I was able to indulge in because I work from home.

Additionally, yoga was a very important part of my birth preparation. Because I have the best yoga teacher, I chose to continue my regular class rather than attend a prenatal class. Every 10 weeks I’d notice a shift in my body’s ability to perform a pose, but I’d listen to my body, make a modification or hang out in child’s pose. My dedication to yoga helped maintain my body’s strength-I was doing crow pose 5 days before Josie’s birth- and enabled me to practice my breathing and centering myself. Often times, in class, I would tell myself that this was practice for labor.

The final part of my preparation was regular chiropractic care. For most of my pregnancy I went in monthly to get adjusted. For the last several weeks, I went in weekly to ensure my pelvis was aligned to encourage optimal fetal positioning and easier delivery.

I’ve come to see that all of the choices I made while pregnant have had a direct impact on the delivery we had, as well as how our little Josie has begun to develop outside the womb. When it comes too easily, we think it’s luck. We forget about all of the intention and preperations we have put into things when it all goes well. But we are all too eager to notice our intentions and preparations when things go poorly. We label this as failure.

 

>>> Read part 2

Full Term

Josie arrived at 12:04am on September 28th, just about a day after her due date. A date we purposely didn’t share. Instead, we told everyone we were due at the end of September, rather than sharing our actual September 26th due date.

Babies rarely arrive on their due date and we didn’t want any additional anxiety as we prepared for Josie’s arrival. Instead, we wanted to approach impending labor with as much sense of calm as possible. Even as labor began at 2pm on September 27th, I waited over an hour before sharing this with Bear. We took our 40 week pregnancy photo, the final photo in our pregnancy journey and of our baby snug in my belly.

40 weeks of pregnancy

After laboring at home until 10:30pm, Josie was born at Mountain Midwifery Birth Center just 8 hours after we took our 40 week photo.

The Challenge of Painting My Own Nursery

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It turns out, myself and my husband are the worst clients for mural projects.

I am my own worst client because, in theory, I can create anything. This opens up so many options. It’s so much easier when a client comes to me with their idea. My husband makes a terrible client because while he appreciates the work I do, he also doesn’t totally get it. He likes things simple. Everything I showed him had “too much going on.” I had to explain that because I was going to be painting white on a large pale gray wall, there needed to be lots of lines in order for it to make any impact. He had a hard time looking at a mini black and white drawing and seeing how it could look on the wall.

NurseryI knew that I wanted to paint something with an outdoor theme in our nursery. This at least helped narrow things down a bit. But then I spent months debating about which wall I wanted to paint. All the while thinking I didn’t want to be painting when I was too big. I did work on some small sketches, featuring motifs that I was interested in working with. It wasn’t until we had all of our furniture that I was able to make a decision about which wall to paint.

Bear really liked the trees on a father’s day card that I had given him and I really liked the mountain scape I had previously created for a Make My Notebook collaboration. Using these two as inspiration, I set to work creating a mountain landscape.Nursery2As I began to finalize the sketch, I got out my pencil and eraser to make sure I had everything placed where I wanted it to be. Finally, Bear agreed to a sketch that I showed him. Or perhaps I had worn him down.

Nursery4I usually paint very intuitively on my murals, but this one ended up being more planned out. Maybe that’s because it’s actually very much in my nature to plan things. And because this was to be in my own home, the planner in me came out.

Since I was painting 7 months pregnant, it helped to be painting in my own home, where I could take my time. I painted for as long as I was comfortable and stopped. Sitting on the yoga ball and only having to paint the lower part of the wall helped as wellNursery3

Since completing this mural, I’ve found myself exploring this same mountain motif in my other work. It’s always fun to see how one project can inform others.

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Art Maker’s Denver with Jessica Swift, 1 Year Later

 

I’m a bit delayed in sharing these photos. Almost a year in fact! But as this year’s Art Maker’s Denver approaches, I was reminded of my time in class last Fall. I took Jessica’s Swift‘s stamp making class. It had been a dream of mine to take a class with Jessica and I was thrilled to find out she’d be teaching in Denver.

I particularly enjoyed watching her demonstrate and create in front of us. As she worked, I could clearly see, “that’s a Jessica Swift painting!” It’s so fantastic when an artist’s style can be seen from the very beginning.  ArtMakers

We learned how to turn our drawings into carved stamps and then create lush backgrounds with layers of paint and stamping.

ArtMakers2I didn’t create any finished paintings in class that day, but I went home with several started paintings. Of the 3 backgrounds I started, almost a year later, I’ve only finished one of them. I’ve become a bit attached to the wolf. A totally different animal to show up in my painting, but appeared because of a spirit animal card I pulled in class.

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The one painting I finished, I actually completed not long after class. And really in the end, there is barely any trace of the work I did in class. Initially, the painting had a Tahiti feeling to it. But I didn’t like the temple I had created, so I quickly brushed paint over it to wipe it away.WaitingForMyShipToSailI was left with what looked like the sea, so I worked with that and started painting things in. I posted an in progress photo on Instagram and a client of mine loved it so much she wanted to claim it for her daughter’s room. I asked how I could finish it for her, offering a fabric border or the addition of text. I loved her suggestion of outlining the images in white and adding my doodling drawing.

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Easy Nursery Collage Wall

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As we get closer for baby to arrive, I’ve had the urge to make some progress in actually getting things set up in the room. There are a few projects that will wait until after baby arrives, when we know if we have a boy or a girl. This includes choosing a rug and sewing a curtain for the closet.

In preparation for decorating our nursery, I’ve collected items from around our home that I thought would work well in a baby room. Some items were created by myself, both recently and in childhood.  The rest of the items were created by others or collected over the years. I didn’t feel like I needed to go out and purchase specific nursery art, nor did I want something overly childish. After all, my tastes are what will matter most for awhile. Once baby starts to grow and have preferences, I can change things up.

I read a tip recently to trace your frames on to newspaper and cut the shapes out and arrange it on the wall. It’s an easy way to get the right arrangement and spacing.  I used my leftover sketches from my winter mural project and cut my paper to size. I had actually arranged my items on the floor, so I just looked at my arrangement on the floor and tapped up the corresponding shape. IMG_5149It was easy to then measure the backs of the art and mark directly on the paper where the nail needed to be placed. I hammered the nail right into the paper and pulled the paper off once the nail was in. This left me with a clean wall and exact nails!IMG_5174This is definitely a technique I’d use again for creating the perfect collage wall.

When creating your own collage wall, choose a variety of shapes and sizes, making sure to have 1 or 2 large focal items. Get creative on what you’d hang on the wall!  See below to find out where everything on this wall came from.

NurseryCollageWall1. Self Portrait, 1989, framed by my mom for me in high school // 2. Artwork by Robyn P. Thayer // 3. My Handprint, 1989 // 4. Be The Breath Plaque // 5. Light Switch Plate from Bear’s Childhood Room // 6. Vintage fabric in Embroidery Hoop, borrowed from my studio // 7. Vintage Yarn Art Alphabet, purchased several years ago // 8. Lion, 2014, Lexisworks // 9. Two Deer, 2013, Lexisworks // 10. Fabric Tree Art, traded at a craft market several years ago // 11. Wood Bear, baby shower gift created by Bear’s uncle.

 

Quietly Growing a Baby Belly

Since January, I have been quietly growing a baby belly. I haven’t been one to announce immediately that we were expecting or share every photograph taken. Our journey to pregnancy has been a long one, full challenges and tears. When we found out we were pregnant in January, we shared the news with our family, but kept this very special miracle to ourselves. We wanted to savor every minute and keep it for ourselves.

As our second trimester began, I was happy (and more confident) to share with friends in person. But I didn’t want to share it with the world via social media, in fact it took me until 24 weeks to finally share with my Lexisworks Facebook fans that our baby was on the way. It was 28 weeks before I shared the news on my personal Facebook page.

There are still days that I find it unbelievable that we are indeed pregnant and that come the end of September, we will meet this baby that we have waited for so long. I know we will be different parents because of this journey. I also know that while I would not choose the heartache that came with this, I see how it has prepared and changed us for the better.

Now that we are in our third trimester, with less than 12 weeks to go, I think about how different these last few weeks feel compared to those first 12 weeks. Baby is very active, there is no wondering about what is happening in there. There is still worry, of course ( I’m told THAT will never go away.) But I try to remember that I am completely taken care of and to let go of that worry. It does not serve me. Instead I think about meeting our baby and what he/she will look like and how amazing it will be to hold that tiny baby.

Over the last 28 weeks, we have documented my growing belly so we can remember this very special time. Since that first 12 week photo, we’ve taken photographs every 2 weeks. Now as we begin our third trimester, I’m curious to see how much bigger I grow!Lexis