"The root of the word courage is "cor" - the Latin word for heart. Courage originally meant 'to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.' Every time we choose courage we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver." - Brene Brown
This has been a year of courage for our family. For dada, as he takes on a new turn in his career, for the kids, as we move across the world to a tiny island where everything is slightly off from the culture to the temperature, for me as I take on work at an organization that is unlike any I have worked with, as I contemplate sending the kids to school while trying to publish a book.
And all while creating and birthing a tiny new human.
After Evergreen's birth I had decided, pretty early on, I can't do that again. The risk of endangering another child that for some reason can't quite find it's way out of my crooked uterus in any easy sort of way. The risk to my heart breaking in two if something did actually for real go wrong.
Dada and I both felt this way, for several years.
But somewhere around year three of Miss Evergreen's life I found myself thinking I was pregnant. And when I wasn't I found myself quite disappointed. I started picturing a round headed blonde haired boy in our family. A baby in my arms. In a little tiny house we had built ourselves. I pictured myself with a big tan belly. Somewhere warm. Painting.
But no. I thought. We can't do the baby thing again. For one, my heart. For two, I'm just not getting pregnant, and being the close to 40 age, maybe that was just what it was. What was meant to be.
And then. The summer of courage started.
The move to my parent's farm, never easy admitting the need for help, and we needed it.
Then the crazy decision. Are we finding a farm here. Or moving...to Hawaii. What? Huh?
DUH DUH DUH.
And it was so so stressful. Figuring the move out. But we did and we came and we pushed through. And it was so so hot, the hottest summer in 30 years, even into October and November.
And we pushed through.
Really, the definition of courage above is what I have wanted for this writing space. Where we as mamas, as parents, can come together and say. Yes. Some days parenting sucks. Some days are magical and fantastical. But some just aren't.
And this was one of those up and down years for us.
So much bad.
So much good.
Push on, stay vulnerable, stay open to goodness in the world. Don't shut down. Tell your heart.
And Valor's portion in the story. He is, clearly, the so much good.
But after Evergreen's birth. Well, my brain was ready. What are the chances of that happening again, I told myself. I had always said I'd do a birth center if ever again we were in need of such a choice. But, here on the island, no VBAC's are allowed, anywhere. Unless one flew to Oahu, leaving behind family, for weeks on end, to wait for baby. So, we found a wonderful midwife here on the island. And my brain was confident all would be well.
My heart, though, was still terrified.
And we all thought with so many third trimester contractions he would be early, even too early. And then the days passed by. And my midwife said past 41 weeks she wouldn't feel comfortable delivering him at home. We were devastated, at first. And then panicked. I sobbed to Steve we should just go get a c-section now and be done with it. Clearly my body didnt know how to go into labor.
On Tuesday all this anxiety turned into a panic attack. The baby was sluggish in my belly. What if...I sobbed to Steve on the phone. I was alone with the kids. Little man came in, then he was crying, but I couldn't control my anxiety any longer.
Our midwife came to examine us, I was nearly 41 weeks. He was fine. Heart beating. Just asleep.
We went and got an ultrasound to check fluid levels. All as well. Then to see our family doctor. Baby seemed fine. I was dilated. He would be willing to deliver for us at home past 41 weeks but he too was concerned about size and the possibility of shoulder dystocia, as in Green's birth.
But then, in one of those strange moments of total clarity, I woke the next morning and I knew I couldn't deliver this baby at home. Too many variables. And only a few days to go.
But what to do?
So, going out on a limb, we called the birth center, run by midwives but attached to a hospital, in the middle of the island, 45 minutes away. Steve asked anonymously. If my wife, who has had two VBACs, were to come in, in labor, would you deliver her?
Thirty minutes later the head of the center called us back and asked to talk to me.
It's your body. She said. No one is going to make you get a c-section here. Trust your body. You know how to do this. Go get a stress test on the baby twice a week. And wait. He will come. And we will be happy to deliver him. Be at peace, her exact words. Be at peace.
And suddenly I was.
I packed away the tub of birthing supplies and instead packed a bag for the hospital. For me and the kids. The kids. Crap. Oh, Steve said, a smile on his face. Al and Sandy (old family friends from California, my first boss when I was 16) live just 15 minutes away. I bet they would watch the kids. He called. They would be happy to, day or night.
This was Wednesday morning.
We had a plan.
Now to relax.
Thursday came and went.
I was emailing all the birthy friends I knew. What do I do? Any magic moves?? I lunged and did inversions and walked and prayed. I. CAN'T. ANYMORE.
One of our old midwives from Minnesota emailed me. Don't get hung up on how big he might be. If he is in a good position (and I knew he was, hanging out on the left, faced the right way) he will come out.
I tried to let that sink in. Tried to remember. Be at peace.
And then. Friday morning. I woke up to contractions. At 4:30am. Dammit I thought. They aren't real. And I am not going to get back to sleep.
And then a huge surge hit, as I lie there. Feeling. Everything.
I got out of bed. Got dressed. Packed snacks for the kids. Adrenaline already kicking in. Walking around the kitchen. The dim light creeping into the house. The ocean a hazy line in the distance out the windows.
This was maybe 6 by now. Kids up and roused by 6:30. In the car by 7.
My God. The most painful car ride of my life.
The contractions were now every 2 minutes, lasting a minute long, and so intense I had to hang on to the bar above the door and lift myself up with each one.
At one point I closed my eyes, the rising sun out of my window. With each contraction I would just feel the sun on my face and try not to moan out like my body wanted to, knowing three pairs of wide-eyes in the back seat were watching mama closely.
|yes. i actually took this picture while in labor in between contractions.|
Sunshine. Sunshine. Sunshine. I chanted to myself. Steve finally pointed out. twenty minutes left. Contractions two minutes apart so only ten contractions to get through till we get there. K? You can do that!
So I counted down.
We got to the center, finally found were to go. A bit of chaos where do we go. Finally I get out and bark at him. Just RUN Steve! GET A WHEELCHAIR AND COME AND GET ME! Ha. I may have let out four or twelve obscenities as I waited. Little Green in the backseat pressing her hand against mine where it lay on the window as I stood outside her door, sweating, the morning sun now warm on my back. I love you. I mouthed through the closed door to them. And then the hospital attendant came out with a wheelchair. THANK YOU LORD JESUS. (Our friends arrived minutes later to pick up the kids for us. So amazing.)
Inside I was wheeled to a room immediately, stripped down, and checked. Steve explained our story. Oh, yes, they knew about me. Welcome. Let's have a baby. We love VBACs, our lawyers don't, they laughed, but we do. Oh and you are 7 cm dilated, no one would make us ship you to Honolulu anyway.
I signed a consent form, while in transition, no I do not want this baby cut from me. Thank you very much.
The midwives surrounded me with their calm, including the head midwife who runs the center, who had urged me to find peace. Their confidence surrounded me. You can do it mama. There you go mama. Let it out. Let go. Just ease into it. Ease out of it. A doctor came in and introduced herself. And stayed. Telling me how proud she was that I was doing this. VBACs are awesome. You can do it.
More than any labor Steve was my rock in this one. I clung to his neck as he held up my weight for the long hour between transition and when baby had worked down into my pelvis, picturing the sun from our ride across the rocky landscape of the Kona coast line and strangely using that word, sunshine, to calm me.
I know it was healing for both Steve and I, to do this, so closely, together.
But it was intense. I did take a shot of something or other pain relaxant drug, that lasts an hour. Transition was so intense, and then the waiting for him to come down and rotate. This baby was as anxious to get out as we were to see him.
But it wasn't time. Until suddenly it was. My strength gave out. I had lunged and lunged and stood and swayed, legs lifting with each contraction onto my tiptoes, body heaved forward onto Steve's neck.
(Yes, my calves still ache five days later! And yes, dada was sore for days too.)
I couldn't stand anymore. I collapsed onto the bed. Then they said, try lying on your right. I had a bit of cervix left that was keeping baby up. I heaved my rock solid belly over, screaming out in pain (I was a screamer with this one...) and then rolled back. They checked me. I heard talk about another shot of magic syrup. Then suddenly the doctor said, listening to my grunting noises, no lets push.
It was like the clouds had opened and the Alleluia chorus was pouring through her mouth.
YES. LETS DO THAT!
She waited for the urges to swell. Okay, its coming, I said.
One push. His head is right there, keep going.
Two pushes. Look at us mama. Keep your eyes open! Get her leg. Other leg. Pull tight, focus your energy.
Three pushes. Look at me. The doctor said. Keep your eyes open. Feel your baby. He is right here.
Four pushes. His head. He's here. You did it mama! Keep going!
Five pushes. Everything you have! Almost! Almost!
And then the crunchy slimy feeling. And then a baby, on my belly, my trembling hands reached out to him. Talk to your baby. Tell him you are here. And then a little cry. A little whimper. I pulled him to my chest, held him close, whispered to him. Mama is here. Thank you for coming.
Because he had come.
Our baby of Valor.
Valor Kieran Francis. A name decided as we sat with the birth certificate papers in front of us, pen in hand. Yes. It's quirky. But. We have to name him this name.
And the doctor came to me the next day, swooning over baby his blonde round head, and then his name. Perfection she said with a gasp. Because that is you! A mama full of valor.
And all in all. I have to claim that.
|dada got him a Hawaiian lei, fit for a prince...SWOON...|
|first attempt at opening his eyes...|
|well, hello there.|
|how he was in my belly the whole last few months...|
|The Last Belly. 48 hours before he was born.|
|empty belly. |
Thanks for growing me this baby...