Sunday, November 29, 2009


Baby Fiona lies on my lap. Her big blue eyes are gazing at me. She is wrapped in my new, beautiful linen sling, snug to my chest. She is content to just sit. How lucky I feel to have such a blissfully happy and mellow little girl.

I can't believe this go round. I feel absolutely intoxicated by this baby. I know that I instantly loved my other children but I don't remember feeling so enraptured ever before. I sit on the couch and hold her and breathe in her quiet, milky sweetness and I am in tears before I know it. Is it because she looks like all of them put together? Is it because there is more Charlotte in her? Is it because my three years and seven months between babies made me more prepared to sit back and just love?

Or, is it because there is more love in our house? At night, when I tuck Liam into bed, he likes me to lie Fiona in bed with him, so he is spooning her. He wraps his arms around her and nuzzles her fuzzy head while I sing him his favorite Balkan lullaby. Tonight as I sang, I saw him close his eyes and say to her quietly, I love you, little sweetie.

Oh, oh, oh. Does that just breed more love, or what?

Today Fiona is the age that Charlotte was when she died. Fiona was 8 days early, and Charlotte was 8 days late. So those put together make 16 days, which is how long I have been blessed to hold my third sweet girl for so far. If only something had made little Charlotte make her entrance at such an hour, she might be asleep upstairs right now. My lucky Fiona Clementine. I am so grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A moment to share, because it isn't all easy...
The day we arrived home, joyful, exuberant, but yes, exhausted. The four grandparents were here, the children were overflowing with love, and a beautiful lunch was served. After we finished, I was so exhausted, and I knew I needed to lie down and sleep.
Everyone was just cramming in to hold that baby. They all wanted a turn, and there wasn't enough of her to go around. So of course this is logical, I leave her downstairs, and I go have a little nap, right?
This baby, this child I have carried next to my heart, literally, for nine months? Leave her downstairs? It seemed impossible to do. But yet, I had to do it, right? I needed to let them have their time with her. They were her family, too. I would go, and I would sleep, and then I would have her back.
I started upstairs. Halfway up I felt that feeling, that tight, empty feeling in my belly. That yearning, that loneliness for my baby. I could smell her on my skin. I wanted her back. A deep shudder went through me, because this was all so familiar.
Then I was up in my bedroom, alone, and calling for Greg. Huge sobs racked through my body because I remembered this feeling, this yearning. How did it feel so much the same? I knew this little girl was there, she was right nearly before my eyes, yet I missed her, I wanted her desperately and I could not take that nap without her in my arms. Smelling her, feeling the void of where she had once been in my belly brought back that visceral emptiness and had rendered me helpless to my grief all over again.
My calm, rational, un-hormonal husband took charge.
She is your baby, he said. You should have her.
He went downstairs and fetched her, and I wrapped myself around her, tears soaking her hair and my breathing shaking her tiny form. I missed Charlotte so much, and here was Fiona. Here in my arms. This was where she needed to be.

Downstairs, I'm not sure what they thought, or what they said. I'm sure they all wondered why I needed to have that baby with me while I slept. But fortunately for them, they don't understand. And I'll bet some of you do.

For some reason, I have found that I am sadder about Charlotte with this little one than I was with the others. Sadder about Charlotte, and more fearful about Fiona. I don't know why.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Beginning

Did anyone notice the title of the last post, a Warm Wind? I posted it more as a feeling, but then when I opened the blog today the absolutely obvious literary connection made me smile so heartily to myself... let me know if you caught it, too. So sweet, and clearly subliminal since I only caught it myself today.

I want to post about the birth of my sweet Fiona, more as a way of documenting it for myself than because I think all of you need to know every single detail... It's long and has some graphic photos, just as a warning...

First, on the night of the 11th, I had my first real night of terror. Liam woke up to pee at about 1:30 and I got up with him, and I could not get the baby to wake up after I lay back down. I spent about half an hour poking, taking deep breaths, and trying to be zen about it before I went downstairs and got some orange juice to try to stir things up. Another half an hour went by with close to no movement (I think there was actually some, but I wanted a lot) and I was beginning to panic. Should I go in? How would we tell the kids? How could this be happening again?

Then, quite suddenly, I sneezed, loudly and hard. And that baby gave a thump, and a whirl, and she was all over the place. I lay down, relieved, but said to myself and to her, I can't do that again. I can't do this night after night. This baby has to be born.

So the next night, supper was in the oven, and I was busy typing e-mails to people (like Sally) telling them that I really had no feeling that this baby was coming soon. The phone rang, and it was my good friend Pete calling from Vermont. I asked Greg to let it ring. "He's just calling to ask if I've had the baby yet, " said, feeling discouraged. "I'm not in the mood to tell him no." So the phone rang, and then stopped, and I logged off the computer because I could smell that the casserole was ready and the clock said 4:57 and I was in the mood for a nice, early bedtime that night. On my way to the stove, I scooped up the phone and pushed the button to listen to the message, and while I pulled the casserole out of the oven I heard just what I had expected:
Hi, Carol. I just had this really strong premonition that you had the baby... or that you're having the baby. Call me back.

I groaned, and I pulled a spoon out of the bucket of utensils behind the stove, and stuck the spoon into the potato gratin.

It was at the moment of contact, spoon on potato, that I felt the gush.

Greg was standing next to me, and the kids were in the other room with his mother, who conveniently happened to be over for dinner. I grabbed his arm and dragged him into the bathroom.
I think my water broke, I told him, and pulled down my pants.

Now, this is absolutely bordering on TMI on a blog, but to me it's a little comical, so I have to include it. Those of you who have had babies know that there are all sorts of things that gush and squish out of you in those last few weeks of pregnancy, and for the few days prior to this one I had been losing pieces of mucous plug bit by bit. So when I sat down to "check" on what had felt like a gush, I saw this thing, and it was soft and wet and slimy and I looked at Greg and I said, Oh, no. Sorry, I was wrong. I was disappointed. Obviously too good to be true.
Then I stood up, and the floodgates opened. Greg was out in the hall and I called out to him, No, No! I was right, I was right!

Most of you know that this is how my labor with Charlotte began, and it was at this critical moment, at the rupture of membranes, that my little first daughter lost her life. So yes, this was terrifying for me perhaps even more than it was exciting, but I was prepared. I was calm. I took a deep breath. Greg's mom was there, in the other room. All we had to do was get the bag and drive 10 minutes, and I could be on a monitor. We gently and calmly told the kids what had happened, and we got into the car, and we drove.

My baby, sweet Fiona, she wiggled the whole way there. She needed me to know all was well, and it was. When we arrived they hooked me up to the sweet monitor, so I could hear the galloping hoofbeats of her little heart, and she was alive and well.

You have to remember, the midwife said to me, as I lay there on the monitor, that statistically for a baby to come into the hospital in labor with strips (heart tracings) as good as this it is basically 100%. Basically, I thought, thinking of all of you. But there was a part of me that believed her, too. I had made it, right? I needed to believe that.

So then began the waiting. My water had broken, and for the first few hours I could feel the increasing pressure on my cervix, I was crampy and bleeding and contracting periodically. I walked the halls for a few hours to try to get things going, but I could feel that whatever was happening was not prodicing any remarkable effect. Things began to dwindle, until there were essentially no contractions at all. By 10 PM my midwife suggested that I try to get some rest, and that they could in fact augment my labor with some slowly administered Pitocin in the morning.

This was good news to me. As a VBAC, because Liam was a c-section, I was ineligible to be induced with Pitocin, and I took that to mean no vitamin P ever, for whatever reason. But it turns out that with a buttery-soft 4-5 cm cervix, and ruptured membranes, they would give me a little-- bit by bit-- so I could work towards that natural delivery. I didn't know how long they would give me to get things going, and I didn't want to take any chances. But I did want to try to avoid the C if I could.

So at 6 AM they started the drip. By 3 PM I had progressed.... oh my goodness... 1 cm. Fortunately I had not been working for this. Despite feeling contractions to some degree, I have labored before and I knew they were not strong enough to be doing much of anything. More than frustrated I was becoming impatient; it had been 22 hours since my water broke and I wondered if or when they would tell me I couldn't wait any longer. Not wanting to know, I never asked when that would be.

At this point, the midwife asked me if I wanted her to try to stir things up a bit, and of course I said yes. Who wouldn't? So she went in and stretched my cervix some more with her hand and reached as high as she could and scraped and stripped and rucked up everything within reach. She kept apologizing, knowing it was uncomfortable. Bring it on, I said. Bring it on.

It was a quarter past three. I was hungry, really hungry. The midwives let you eat, but the nurses, guided by the anesthesiologists, don't want you to. I wanted to eat, but (imagine this!) also err on the side of caution knowing anything is possible. So I hadn't eaten much in the 28 hours before this point... not since a waffle brunch the day before. Suddenly I felt this burst of energy, I knew this baby was going to come, and I knew I needed to eat.
I sent Greg down to the hospital coffee shop for a cider donut, you know the kind. Homemade, greasy, with cinnamon sugar all over the outside. When he came back he reported that they were sold out of the cider donuts, but handed me a hearty replacement: a 4x5 inch brick of crumb coffee cake-- with about 1/2 inch of cake and 3/4 inch of crumb topping. At this point, my contractions were really kicking in, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and between contractions I wolfed down this gigantic piece of cake-- 47 grams of fat, Greg later informed me-- and I was on my way.

What followed was fast, furious, and amazing. It got fierce immediately following that last bite of cake, I'm not kidding. Suddenly I was doing it again-- this was my third, true, unmedicated, unfettered-by-tragedy labour, and I knew just what to do. It was a familiar, beloved, dreaded friend. Suddenly I was right in the midst of it all over again. I went into that zone where I was coherent, calm, and present until I would feel this vague, tingling feeling that would tell me something was coming. I would press my head into the bed, which I had raised, and I would find the tone center of the song on the CD player and let it ricochet through my body in the lowest octave I could find. Greg's job was to push with all his might against my tailbone, a kind of counterpressure that this particular labor demanded, and of course I can't say why (ten days later I can still feel the bruising from this unusual method of surviving a contraction). I experimented with some different positions but with the same result-- each time I found myself in any other position, as soon as that feeling swept over me that another contraction was on its way, I would frantically flip back over, head into the bed, unable to tolerate any alternative. This went on, as labor does, with me completely unaware of the passage of time. There were just the contractions, and the calm between, and the pounding of the baby's heart, steady all the while. I was having this baby. For real.

At a few select times during the intense part of my labor, I thought about what was happening for real, almost as if for the first time during the pregnancy. I am going to have a new baby, I thought. Someone to love and keep and hold. This is going to be a new member of our family. Each time I had these coherent, obvious thoughts, I would begin to cry hard, and my tears and snot would pour down as I sang myself through the contractions and prayed that I was right.

The pressure increased, it had been seventy minutes since the good labour had started. I was having those thoughts of wanting to escape, of being desperate for a break, of the pressure being too much for me.

Oh, I remember saying. The pressure. The pressure.

Do you want to push? asked the midwife.

Do you have to check me? I asked.

No, she said. I trust you.

What magic words. I was in charge of my body. I started to bear down, but not with intention, just as another counter pressure to the surges as they threatened to knock me flat. I was intimidated by the intensity of this labour-- it was already so much more difficult than Aoife's, and within the first three half-hearted pushes she had been born, and this baby was not. I had not slept in two days. My legs and arms ached. I was exhausted. I wondered if I had the strength.

Then, I felt it. That burning, tight feeling. There actually was a head. This was happening. I was going to push this baby out, and I was going to do it now.

But I was still in this awkward position-- on my hands and knees, head smashed into the bed in front of me. I didn't want to give birth like this, where I could not see my baby be born, where she would not be able to slip out onto my belly in one, smooth, uninterrupted move. So I tried to change. I asked for the squatting bar. They set it up for me, Greg and Pam, our midwife, and I managed to eek out one miserable contraction with half-hearted, incredibly-uncomfortable pushing until I flipped back over into the original position. Then I tried to side-lie, with the same result. Everything I tried landed me back on all fours. Apparently, this was how this baby was going to be born.

So I went for it. I don't know how many pushes it took. One moment I was pushing by choice, and the next moment I was in the zone where you can't stop pushing, where the contraction ends but you are still going at it with all your might, where the burn is so intense that you can't figure out what is compelling you to keep at it because all you want to do is make it stop. The funny thing is, because of the peculiar angle I was in, my midwife and my husband did not know that I was going for it in earnest. And so it wasn't until the head was, maybe, halfway out that I heard an exclamation of, Oh my! You've got a head here! and then I saw Pam's hand shoot out to the nurse's call button and cry, "Trudy! Come now!"

Trudy, as you may recall, is our fairy-godmother nurse turned family friend who has been present at the births of all of our children. You may not be surprised to learn that she just so happened to be assigned a shift-and-a-half, from 7-7 on that day. So yes, she was there, and she rushed into the room just as the head emerged. I felt that moment of sweet relief but the pushing kept happening despite my will to rest, and another huge, overwhelmingly intense stretch assured me of the easy birth of the shoulders, and then I felt it-- that amazing, fast rush as the rest of your baby's body tumbles from you with apparent ease, and then the void.

In this moment, I leapt. Remember, I was on my hands and my knees, and more than anything I wanted this baby on my belly. So I turned, lifting my leg over my baby and her cord, dancing myself around in a pirouette of sorts. I landed on my back and the baby was there, below me and being lifted onto my belly. Her face was tiny and elfin, and she cried weakly as I pulled her to my breast. Trudy laid a warm, soft blanket over her body. My baby scrunched her nose and opened her eyes. I cried for joy.

Look at her face, I said. Look how beautiful her face is. She is so cute.

Suddenly I realized that while the tiny, elfin face with delicate features had led me to declare her a girl, I had not actually checked. Imagine if a mother's first words to her son were implying that he was a girl. But I checked, quickly, and I was right, it was a tiny girl on my chest, and she was, indeed, beautiful.

Oh, how my heart sang. Sang to the trees, the earth, the stars. Sang to the spirit of Charlotte, to the voices of Liam and Aoife, to the energy of Greg, my companion and soulmate, anchoring me to where I was at.

I covered the baby with kisses as her body changed from the blueish cast of birth to a rosy, warm pink. I kept asking if she was okay, and they kept telling me she was, she was wonderful, perfect, lovely. I was so emotional. I was so surprised. This pregnancy, the fact that it took a while to come, the fact that I was so guarded for the whole 8 months of my knowing about it, I really hadn't expected the sweet, mewing baby who now lay across my chest, still joined to me by her pulsing cord.

But she was there. My beautiful new daughter, ripe and ready. My third little girl. My fourth little person. A sister to Aoife, who here on earth had been sister-less. A baby for Liam, my nurturing, sweet little angel. Another child for me to pour myself into, to give everything to, to feel everything for. The addiction of mother love is amazing.

We gazed at her for a time, amazed by her pixie-cuteness and alert state. She was wide eyed, looking around, serene and calm. The lights in the room were very low, our music was still playing (the Cold Mountain soundtrack...) the nurse and midwife were cleaning out their things, preparing to leave us for a time. It was heaven, pure heaven. That moment, that I have been blessed with now three times, where I lie there in utter bliss, a pulsing, new life in my arms, knowing that it doesn't always turn out this way.

Does she have a name? the midwife asked. She did, and it was what it is, but suddenly it seemed like too big a name to give such a tiny, miniature girl. I pictured Fiona as this brazen, blond toddler fighting fiercely for her turn to ride the scooter and chasing around her much older siblings in the backyard. But this tiny creature? The name seemed so big... I voiced my worry, but Pam confirmed her name. I see Fiona as such a small, delicate thing. It's five letters, so small, for the three syllables... I think it's perfect. And so it was a done deal, her name was what we had chosen for her on a steamy August night by the lake in Ontario, and she became my little Fiona Clementine.

And since then? It has been absolutely the best babymoon ever. Liam and Aoife absolutely love their sister. This I did not expect-- this instantaneous love for her. They adore her, they climb into bed with us and curl themselves around her, letting their lips graze her soft cheeks, loving the feel of her latch when she "kisses" their cheeks in her hunger. They marvel over her tiny fingers and toes, they want to hold her all the time. In our 8 days of being home together, our only issues have been whose turn it is to hold their "newborn baby".

And Fiona? She is a quiet little mouse, peaceful and serene. She is rhythmic and predictable, sleeping nearly all the time now. She wakes, stretches, poops, is awake for a few minutes, roots quietly, eats, and sleeps again. She has yet to cry, and with the exception of two car rides and the obvious diaper changes, she has not yet been put down in this life. Wrapped in somebody's arms at every moment, it is no wonder that she sleeps peacefully, looks around serenely, and needs only to open her little mouth like a robin before she is fed. I love the little family that surrounds her and the life we are making for her. I feel unbelievably blessed. I am emotionally and mentally prone with gratitude, kissing the earth below me in thanks for this gift of life that I cherish beyond explanation.

Fiona's placenta-- cord side-- the tree of life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Warm Wind

Breathe deeply, and feel the bliss that has so saturated every ounce of my being that it must emanate across the entire earth with its magnitude.

At 5:07 PM on the 13th of November, Fiona Clementine was born into my waiting arms and is absolutely perfect.

(Fiona, one minute old)

Together at last (on the outside)

She is 6 lbs, 12 oz, 20 inches long, and she is a peaceful, quiet baby who is alert and cozy and beautiful.

I am so, so happy.

And the weight off my back is inexplicable. This combination of ecstatic joy and relief is really unbelievable.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The blessings of the universe...

A mystery arrived in the mail yesterday, a brown package with my name penned on it in unfamiliar print. I opened the package, curious. It is so rare now that something unexpected happens.

And this was, truly, so very unexpected.

For inside the little, brown envelope, carefully sealed with tape, was the one thing that I really (greedily) felt that I needed for my baby, and did not have. Really.

A history on my mothering would indicate that I hoard certain things, knowing in my heart that in some circumstances you need just the right thing. I hoard cloth diapers, and I hoard babywearing devices. I have Ergos, and slings, and wraps galore, but there was one thing missing from my roster-- my favorite thing to carry a brand, new nursling in is a ring sling that is just the right size for me. I have one ring sling, but it is too big for me and works better only for a bigger baby in a hip or kangaroo carry. I can't nurse in it. When Aoife was a baby I borrowed a smaller one and it never left my body for 4 months, but I no longer have access to it. Many times during the past few weeks I have lamented not acquiring that just-right sling for me, so I can nestle up my new baby with ease, nurse on the go, and be anywhere with my newborn.

So can you guess what was in the package? That exact sling, in a beautiful, blue jaquard linen print. It is heavenly, gorgeous, and exactly right. I feel spoiled.

Here is the best part, the part that made me literally just about weep. One of you reading this knows what I am going to say. Because do you know who sent it to me?

One of you. Somebody I have never even met. My heart nearly broke and fell on the floor to feel this gesture, this motion of the warmest love from somebody who I do not even know in person. I am so grateful for the motion alone, not to mention the gift which was somehow the only thing I really wished I had for this fourth babe of mine.

So here it is, a huge thanks, and my love back to you for this lovely tribute. I shall wear it with pride, with the hope of ALL of you tucked inside it warmly and safely.

(now may the future occupant of the sling please reveal him/herself...wouldn't it be great if that were my next post?)

Something new...

Here is some of Erin's amazing photography... she captured my family beautifully several sunny weekends ago...

So now I have something else to fixate on.
Now, I want to say outright that I know that the only important thing is whether or not the baby is born healthy. How many times have I thought to myself, "It's not about the birth experience, but the otucome..."

And now, I'm choking, trying to maintain the willpower NOT to eat my words... because I know that they are true.
Starting tomorrow, at every single hospital in Western Massachusetts, there are NO children under 18 allowed in the hospital to visit patients, because of swine flu. As far as my research has led me, there are no exceptions, and no loopholes. It is just plain NO. No kids. Nohow, no way.

So my little, sweet children, who have been expecting and preparing for the past seven months to witness their new baby's entrance into this world, will not only miss out on that greatest moment of life, that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them to see that child be born, but they will not even be able to SEE the baby once it is out!

Oh, I know I should not care. It will be a day, maybe two, and then (god willing) a lifetime of memories with this child. But I do care, and I'm sad that my vision of a family birth will not materialize.

To be truthful, it's not the birth that vexes me, but the aftermath. I was very willing to let go of the children being there at the actual birth-- there are any number of circumstances that might have prevented that, and I expected that once things started rolling, time would tell whether the children would really attend. But I never imagined that it would be more than an hour or two before the grand reunion... and now we're talking, how long? I am tempted, if I have an early birth, to discharge myself hours later, but I want the surveillance that the hospital staff offers.

And, to be honest, I also want that day or two to lie in a sun-lit room, with total control over my visitors, with no laundry, with no meals to worry about. I look forward to that honeymoon. The two times I have taken a healthy baby home, I have worried intensely about the baby upon discharge-- and I'm certain that would only be heightened if I left early.

The only upside is, that it gave me something else to think about as I lay in bed last night, waiting for sleep to come.

I wonder if Liam would fit in a suitcase...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

37 weeks, 4 days

Okay, I admit it.
I have arrived at the point of no return.
I am scared shitless and I want this baby to come out RIGHT NOW.
It is fully cooked, all grown, ready to be born and I don't feel patient or zen or anything like that anymore. My power of mind to withhold anxious thoughts is waning. The baby is alive right now.
I want it OUT.
There is something about the fact that the entire zone within which the baby might be born now falls within the next month--- even if I were to be a full two weeks late, which I would never allow myself to be, a month from now it would all be settled.
And that's how I view this-- not that, a month from now I will have a baby, but that a month from now I will know.
I will know what the outcome is, I will know whether I am growing my family or shattering its very core, I will know if I have given my living children a gift or a lifetime of heartache.

I need to know. I hope I will not have to wait too much longer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I am stunned and saddened because something that I wrote on this site, weeks ago, made a good friend feel judged, hurt, and angry.
Oh, how hard it can be to negotiate this delicate territory, and how hard it is to feel deeply ashamed.

How is it that something so private has become so public? That in my time (almost 2 years!) of writing this blog, I think I have revealed its existence to only several people yet somehow people I never imagined have found it and read it.

This blog has served as a forum of release for me-- to talk about myself honestly, from the roots of my babylost motherhood, where I am constantly trying to balance the normalcy of my life as the mother of two young living children with the absolutely earth-shattering beginning of my motherhood. I hate to say I don't consider the feelings of others when I vent the things that strike me as difficult about the everyday. But sometimes, it appears, I do not.

If you are babylost, and have living children, you know this feeling: you have good friends, and you love them and trust them and you talk to them like therapy and let them surround you with themselves. But somehow there are still moments where you are sitting on the other side of a glass wall, and you are not like them. Even if you could find the words to say, it would not mean anything, and would set you apart or ostracise you.

Or, worse---
Make them feel as if you were judging them, when really you are just looking at the entire world through the glasses of someone with a child in the grave. I can't judge someone who has never lost a child, because they do not have the same critical evidence upon which to make their decisions. I can make my own decisions, and I can say with great certainty that I would never make a decision that someone else has made because of my own life experience, but since that person has a different life experience, that does not mean that I think less of that person for having made her own choice. We all weigh the evidence we have to make our decisions. It's all we can do.

And, as I have said over a thousand times before, is there not always that streak of envy -- envy of the innocent-- that runs through anything that could be perceived as judgment? Where really what I want to do is just live the life of the carefree? Where really, when it comes down to the truth of it, there is NOWHERE I'd rather give birth than in my own bedroom, but I can't do it because of what I've lost? (This just pulling the most obvious example out of the air, but there are dozens more where that one came from).

I feel like sticking my head in the sand, like re-reading the entire blog from start to finish to pull out and delete anything that somebody might think of as judging. I do not think of myself as the judging type, and it makes me cry to know that I have been perceived that way.

Jealous, yes. Definite in my own choices, yes. But I fear for myself as a person if I am judging.