Friday, December 22, 2006

Toddlerness Turns Two!!!

I can't believe she's two already!! Well, I kind of can...because she's been acting like a two year old for almost a year now...but wow, time FLIES.

I've put her birth story on my blog here: and for a real trip, contrast her birth story to that of her brother: . Both stories are of "ideal" births, but look how different an "ideal" hospital birth is from an "ideal" home birth. I thought when Boyness was born that it was the best birth could be, and certainly, it was about as good as any hospital birth can get. But it is incredible how different it looks after putting on my rosy-colored homebirth-glasses and reading it again.

So now, reflections on Toddlerness.

Oh, where to start!! She wasn't the easiest of my three as a baby, but she came close. She wasn't trouble until she started to learn about that lovely little concept called "autonomy." And then, well DAYM! no stopping her! She is stubborn, strong-willed, clever, and mischevious. My child much?

She is my solstice child, born on the longest night of the year. Or, as my mom says "she brought with her light, the longer days, rebirth, hope." A tad too dramatic if you ask me, but a very pretty sentiment. And she certainly is a child of fire and energy. A FORCE in a way that neither of the elder two have been. Oh, yes, they had a phase wherein TODDLER might as well have been tattoo'ed on their foreheads (and "yes, I have a TODDLER" on mine, although the gleaming stripes of dried snot on my shoulders were almost as good). I'm not normally a believer in astrology, but when I found out that Toddlerness resides right smack-dab between Saggitarious (fire, adventure, exhuberance, optimism) and Capricorn (earth, acheivement, "powerful resilient energy") I had to wonder at the accuracy of this assessment. It is said that there are two types of Capricorn: the garden goat and the mountain goat. Well, damn, my Toddlerness is a mountain goat for sure! If I could get her to keep her little feet on the ground just 1/20th of the day, I'd be happy!

Anyway, Toddlerness is two today. And oh my, is THAT ever wild! How did two whole years go by! I have friends here who have known her since BIRTH, others since she was teeny tiny - practically her whole life. And that's crazy, too. It is a happy little "loved" world that my Toddlerness is growing up in. The happy-childhood fantasy that I WANT for my kids. I almost can't believe we're so lucky as to have it.

The Birth Story of Naomi Melelani

Naomi’s Birth Story

There is both much and little to this story. Little, because Naomi was simply…born. A beautiful waterbirth; a short labor and very short pushing stage; a beautiful baby, 7lbs 2oz, 21 inches long. Much, because for something so profound, the memory lies for me in emotions, which can never be conveyed whole from person to person, and thus the experience for others must lie in the details; and when my own emotions fade in the hormonal fog of new-motherhood, I will need the details to bring them back.

On the morning of the 21st my waters sprung a light leak – something I did not recognize at the time, but a thin mucous continued its way slowly out of me and when my midwife did a swab while I was in labor, it was definitely amniotic fluid. Still, at the time I was unaware that labor was soon to be upon me, so life proceeded as usual on the 21st. We finally got a Christmas tree, and my children and I spent the afternoon stringing up lights and decorating (finally). Tree decorated and house re-cleaned, we took our baths and headed off to bed – it was as I lay there, wide-awake at 10pm, squished between hot little bodies on a twin mattress and waiting for my children to sleep that my first obviously labor-contraction found me at last, the familiar ache in my back told me that this was it, no more practicing. Still, I did not take it too seriously. Even as it was followed 15 minutes or so by another similarly strong one, and another.

By the time my husband arrived home at around 12, I had decided I was in labor and had begun to get things ready. I told him I thought the baby would be born in the morning. We planned to prep the kit and the bathroom and then try to get some sleep. But contractions picked up significantly as we spoke and cleaned, and at 12:30 I called my midwife and asked her to come over.

Contractions came and went, but I had recently found an analogy that I found very helpful – if I were to take a difficult but pleasant hike, and instead of focusing on the pleasurable aspects of the experience would instead dwell on the unpleasant aspects, even if it was the most beautiful location in the world I would be obsessed by the difficulties of breathing, with the burn in my legs, with the sweat on my back, with the tiredness creeping up as I walked. So it is with labor, and so I enjoyed the time between contractions, talking to my husband, making neat little arrangements with the birth supplies, talking with my baby, or sitting quietly on the couch. Contractions were spaced far apart, and it honestly felt like I had started labor before time began, that they had collected themselves slowly but surely, years apart, then months, days, hours, and finally now, minutes. I don’t know how far apart they were, because time then was unimportant to me. I just know I experienced them, with much time between. A few were more difficult, and I needed to stop and sway and breathe deeply through them, but most were nothing more than a dull ache and tightening.

Perhaps it is some essential but cruel paradox that I, who enjoyed this process, would experience it briefly while for some who find it excruciating it would last days; but whatever the reason, this stage of labor lasted just over 2 hours for me. Somewhere in that time, at around 2am, my midwife arrived along with her partner. They complimented my belly, complimented me, and brought their things in quietly. I agreed to an internal check and was 7cm, but my midwife told me that it was not my cervix holding my baby in, that it would easily stretch to accommodate my baby even if I were to push her out now – instead, it was simply a matter of waiting until my body told me it was time. I was told that I was doing beautifully, that I was handling things so gracefully, and it meant a lot to me to hear these things.

And so I went about my labor process as they prepared and filled the pool, as my husband got the children up and awake and explained things to them, as everyone got settled in. Between (and sometimes through) contractions I continued doing little things, talking to the children, showing my MW where this or that thing was. Somewhere around 2:30 the pool was halfway full and I felt myself to be approaching the climax of labor, so I got into the pool. The warm water was soothing, but I was at the very height of labor, and spent the next couple of contractions with eyes closed, slowly breathing out deep breaths while my husband poured warm water over the exposed portion of my belly. After a gentle suggestion from my MW, I added ever-so-little pressure to one of the contractions and felt my baby move down. And then, it hit me, the *need*, absolute, undeniable, primal, and for the first time in this labor, truly painful – to push. My midwife, who had not forgotten my desire for a hands-off birth and was at that point sitting quietly on the couch across the room, said ‘just go with it,’ and I did, and all at once she was crowning. I reached down and felt her head as it started to come out; I moved my tissues with my hands and sighed her head out of me. In some very distant part of my attention I noted my son and daughter a few feet away (they were sitting on a couch, just a few feet from my own feet) watching quietly and just a little excitedly. A few moments later, a little extra push brought the rest of my baby into the world, and oh the relief I felt; a relief so profound that for a few moments I forget there was a baby there in the water, until my midwife quietly reminded me; “pick up your baby.” I held her and she felt so tiny, and was so alive, so whole and healthy and complete – she turned pink right away, cried that mewing newborn-cry with almost glass-shattering intensity for a few seconds, and then seemed to fall asleep.

And so, Naomi Melelani was born at 2:50 am on December 22, 2004.

Her cord was long; longer than my legs, but very healthy. She remained attached to me, anchored still to my uterus, for long minutes while I marveled at the small sleeping body on my chest. Her head perfect and unmoulded, her fingers long and graceful, hair dark, her body still largely covered in a thick layer of vernix. I noted as if from a distance that there was a lot of vernix floating around in the water, but not a drop of blood. I felt my abdomen and could feel the placenta there, quite large actually, and my midwife had a moment of worry over a possible twin (yes, it was really large – plus I had a muscle spasm at just the right moment to worry her), but that worry quickly faded. I had to push out the placenta – it did not simply slip through as the placentas of my other children had. But it came out without problems.

My midwife clamped the cord and my DH cut it. The water was now very bloody and I was ready to get out, so I did get out and showered and half-dressed while DH and the kids held and loved the baby. When I got out of the shower I was shivering and my midwife and her partner brought me some heat packs and warm towels, and we set up in bed. I asked to be checked – no tearing! And Naomi was checked, too, and checked out as perfect as I thought her to be. We lay there, naked skin to naked skin, for a long time, visiting and then nursing, my new daughter’s 7lb, 2oz body sticky with vernix in places, smooth and warm in others. Just before my midwife left at 4:30 she put on Naomi’s first diaper and wrapped her in a warm blanket while I put on a night-shirt, and then we settled in for the night; my children, my husband and I, all snuggled up in bed. We called a few relatives with our news (some of them disappointed we had not called during labor so they could be there, but we were happiest by ourselves), and my 4.5 year-old daughter Rebecca wanted to talk to everyone and tell them about how when she got older, she wanted to have a new baby in the water just like mommy. But finally we settled in and slept far into the morning, all warm and happy and together.

There is more, much more, that I could say, the story of Naomi’s birth growing into the story of her first days and my recovery; but I will end the story-telling here. I will note instead that there is nothing negative to say. Naomi is astoundingly healthy and astoundingly happy; she cries when we take off a diaper but never otherwise, she hasn’t shown even a hint of jaundice, no bruising or trauma, is eating and sleeping and pooping and peeing and everything a newborn is supposed to do. Sometimes she opens her eyes and seeks out the voices she hears, studying the faces of those she has spent months hearing from the womb. But mostly she sleeps, most comfortable laying on her side with one fist to her cheek, the other arm flung up, shielding her face. She spends hours deeply asleep in her daddy’s arms, and more hours sleeping curled up next to me in bed. She is such a peaceful child, and I wonder sometimes if it is that she has had such a peaceful birth, free from the traumas small and large that my others experienced during and after their births. Or if simply being at home, her family unstressed and peaceful, means that she can’t pick up on the stresses of others the way that my other children so obviously did.

I cannot sing the praises of homebirth or waterbirth loudly or strongly enough. After this experience, I look back at the natural-but-hospital-based births of my two older children and resent anew every blood-pressure reading, every washing (Naomi hasn’t been ‘washed’ yet, her skin is soft and smooth and clean without the ‘benefit’ of soap and water and scrubbing), every needle-prick-just-in-case. I look back and loathe the feelings I experienced, the self-consciousness, the powerlessness, the be-a-good-patient-submissiveness. If my son’s birth came close to everything a hospital birth can be, then my new daughter’s birth comes close to everything that birth itself can be, with nothing to look back upon and wish different. Three days later, I still feel like the most blessed person in the world; high and happy and ever-so-much in love.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I'm up too early again this morning. Damnit. I've got that bleary, muscles-don't-work-yet feel about me. At least the kids aren't up too.

You see, my husband lit a real rager of a fire in the woodstove this morning. It actually began to set fire to the wood that he had placed on top of the woodstove (this usually dries out the wood...for those unfamiliar with woodstoves - it is NOT supposed to catch fire up there). So he woke me up: "Niki, I'm going to be late for work and I'm getting later because I can't leave the fire alone."

I begin my mental grumbling "always fucking wants that fire watched supposed to be hot what the hell can't you just get a grip and let it go everyone says woodstoves are hot supposed to be hot WTF do you mean I've gotta watch it you're fucking insane let me sleep go take your damn shower."

But the setting-things-OUTSIDE-the-woodstove-ablaze component of this one got me worried enough to drag me out of bed. How bad is it when you're SOOOOOO bleary that you don't even want to make coffee yet? Ah, but I have good news: I forced myself. I've got half a mug of coffee down the chute, and I might just muster the energy to be civil to my children when they awake.

And an update: approximately one hour after lighting the damn thing, with all the windows open, it is 83 degrees in here. "OMG, are you sure you'll be warm enough" my ASS, MIL!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oh The Weirdness

I, yes, me, the amazing woman who never goes anywhere without her children, went shopping ALONE yesterday. Yeeehaw!!!

But that's not the weirdness I've come to report. Here it is:

I am walking towards Target and I see what looks like a minor accident. Come that a DOG in the driver's seat? Why yes, it was. A german shepherd had aparently put a tiny elderly sports car in neutral and rolled it into somebody's truck. And was sitting there la-dee-da - I'm a dog in CHARGE, man! - as Mr. Truck laughed his ass off. Oh, it was great.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Little Excitement!

OK, so the storm on Thursday was TERRIFYING for us. Those who have been to my house will know why. For those who haven't, let's just say that the dude who built the house didn't seem to see any point in removing any trees that weren't immediately in his way. So yes, 3 feet from our bedroom window stands a cedar that must be over 100 feet tall (I am horrid at estimating this kind of thing. I figure I could stack my house several times before I got to its height though.) and there are quite a few more in very close proximity. They are tall and healthy, and last summer Bernie-Landlord had the most suspicious of the maples removed, so we were slightly reassured about THAT, but we spent all night listening to the trainlike wind noises, hearing the loud swells approach for a mile or so through forest as they approached us. We heard the gunshot-cracks of large wooden things breaking, the percussions of large things falling. We tried to go to bed at midnight, figuring that there was nothing we could do about it anyway, but it was impossible to sleep while we were laying there fearing that the house would cave in at any moment. We finally decided to forget this trying to sleep shit, and sat there wishing for structural integrity instead. At one point we heard a gunshot crack and a large object falling rather near the house, and we hastily grabbed children and herded them towards the center of the house. But it didn't fall on us (it missed the shed by a tiny bit). In fact, nothing fell on us at all.

But the power did go out. And I did indeed go to finals on Friday anyway, largely because I just wanted to get it the heck out of the way. The drive was a bit of an adventure, and we ended up having the final exam in my assessment partner's home (which may be why her blood pressure was about 10 points higher than usual...), which was great...not only did she have power, she has the rocking-est bathroom ever. phone proceeded not to get signal at home and people proceeded to call me and think I'd died in my little house amongst the humongous trees, and that sucked.

And we proceeded not to have power until this morning (Monday), and that sucked too. But we had the woodstove (heat) and had filled a few canteens (water) and had about 40lbs of frozen meat in the freezer to sustain the cold in there, so we pulled through without having to even throw out any food. Between the woodstove and a fire outside, we were covered for food, and the lanterns that our Puyallup friends gave us were plenty for light. We were pretty well set for a decent amount of time.

On Sunday night, though, we decided that enough was enough with this not-showering thing, and headed over to BIL's house for the night. Ahhhhh...showers. I hadn't gotten around to mine yet when the power went out on Thursday, so I went from Wednesday morning to Sunday night without a shower. And so did Fran. And the puddle-loving, mud-pie-making children. WORSE THAN CAMPING. OMG I think the only time a shower has felt so good was after that camping trip from dustbowl hell last summer.

And BONUS! sFIL and MIL, who had decided to check in to the Comfort Inn after their house hit 50 degrees and MIL's elderly mom (who has diabetes and extremity problems) started to turn blue, invited us out to eat last night. Now, we'd packed every food item in our fridge and freezer to bring to BIL's house and were well set for food, but it isn't every day that a family as poor as ours gets to go out to eat, so out we went. I don't know whether it was because our expectations were low or because our server ROCKED (she was awesome about Tony's dairy allergy, got him some separately prepared things because, for example, the salad dressing had dairy...I never would have guessed...) but we actually had a GREAT time at the Olive Garden, of all places.

So our power came on this morning, according to NeighborSusan, and we'll head over there once Fran gets off from work. For now I'm stuck at BIL's but there are totally worse places I could be.