Thursday, September 18, 2014

Letters to Milo - 1 Month

Milo, my love...

You're a month old today - mine and Papa's third anniversary. We are in awe of how much richer your presence has made our lives; the ways in which we have fallen hard for you and the ways in which watching the other care for and love you has made us fall harder for one another. Our family has been on such an adventure already, in the month since you made us three, and our future together promises many more adventures. Papa and I can't wait to show you the world.

In our first month together we have already seen so much of both myself and Papa in you. You stretch and reach and yawn just like me. Nearly everything else is your Papa. My favorite is the way you move your hands; in particular, you will loosely ball up your hand in a fist, save for your index finger which points out with a slight curve, which is a mannerism all Papa's. I love how much you are like him already. What fun it will be for me to watch the two of you become best friends!

You have grown so much in a month! You had us worried there for the first couple of weeks though. You and I struggled quite a bit with nursing in the beginning and you were not getting enough to bring you back up to birth weight and you just kept dropping. We finally had to supplement with formula for awhile to pack on some calories and get you bulked up. Once you were getting a full tummy, though, the weight piled on in no time and you haven't stopped since. You are now strictly getting breastmilk, though it is still through a bottle, and not 100% my milk, yet. Someday, I will tell you about the beautiful gift that your Uncle Luke and Auntie Jen gifted to us, but for now just know that your sweet friend Felicity is watching out for you.

Already this month you have rolled several times from your belly to your back. Unfortunately, I missed the very first time because I had hidden myself away in my bedroom to pump, while your Grandma and Grandpa Ford, Auntie Liz, and Papa were all playing with you during tummy time. I vowed I wouldn't let pumping stop me from missing out on anything else! At first we thought maybe it was a fluke, but you have rolled over several more times since then, so I really don't think it was.

No small thing, that head of yours.
Impressive that you can hold it up for so long already, kid. ;)
You are so strong already, baby. You can lift and hold your head for several seconds, maybe even minutes at a time, and you have even started to gain some control here in the last few days. You are SO alert and I think you suffer from a case of "don't-want-to-miss-out-on-anything-itis".

Also in the last week your social smile has started to make an appearance. It is the most heart-meltingly sweet thing I've ever seen. I have yet to capture it in a picture because I just want to soak it in when it happens. You've even started to interact with us a bit. Kisses and raspberries will elicit that smile right now.

Overall, you are an extremely content baby. You mostly keep your cries to just letting us know you have a need. We are so thankful for that. You eat about every two hours during the day and you go for a couple of four hour stretches at night. Which, again, Papa and I are very grateful for. 

Baby-wearing is a Mama's best friend!
When we go out, Papa or I will wear you and we are all loving that; all three of us love the closeness it offers and Papa and I love the ease and hands-free-ness of it. I'll even wear you at home so I can get a few things done while still giving us some great bonding time. Three cheers for baby-wearing!

I am loving being at home with you during the day. I'm struggling a little with figuring out the best way to feed you, pump, feed myself, and take a shower. But this is only the first week of just you and I hanging out while Papa goes to work. For the most part, it has felt pretty natural for me...after all, this is THE thing I've dreamed about and wanted for as long as I can remember. I am just tickled pink to finally be able to BE a stay-at-home-mom. And not just any SAHM...YOUR mom. 

Darling boy, we can't say it enough, but we love you with all our hearts and souls. Our first month together has been an absolute dream and we are deliriously happy to have you here in our arms. 

To the moon and back, baby,


Monday, September 15, 2014

Milo Andrew - A Birth Story, Part 2

My little Lost Boy
Read Part 1 of our birth story. Even more words in Part've been warned.

It was time to push and only half of the birth team was there. You were coming so fast, love, that Mama & Papa weren't sure Jamie, Fawn's apprentice midwife, was going to make it in time. There wasn't a lot to be done about that were coming with or without her.

Fawn asked Mama to move from her position on the bed on all fours to lay on her left side and try pushing like that. Mama moved into position and when the first contraction came she bore down and felt you starting to come down. Papa was right there, holding Mama's hand, in her ear encouraging her and vocalizing his belief in her ability to do this. You and Mama and Papa worked together in this position for about 10-15 minutes, before Mama decided it was no longer comfortable. So she moved to a sitting/half-reclining position and this was how you were ultimately born.

At some point during the pushing, Jamie arrived. Everyone was relieved and so happy she had made it; Mama and Papa wanted their team there! 

Mama's water had still not broken at that point and (thankfully) Fawn never even suggested breaking it. Clearly, that didn't need to happen because labor was progressing so quickly. The midwives and Papa could see the bag of waters bulging out every time Mama pushed, which was a trip, according to Papa. Fawn and Jamie knew that when it did break it was going to make quite a mess, so they were prepared with PLENTY of chux pads. About halfway through pushing (which lasted a total of 1 hr 15 large part because the bag of waters was acting as an airbag for you and your big head), Mama felt (and heard) a giant POP! and yelped as the water gushed. Fawn, Jamie, and Papa all jumped back. Everyone laughed (in the middle of pushing, can you believe it?!) and knew that things would pick up at this point. Mama later described the water breaking as a Super Soaker spraying out from...well, down there (again, apologies for the embarrassment, but it's part of the story). 

Mama continued to work hard to get your big 14" head out. About 7 minutes before you were born, Fawn listened to your heart-tones and found that they had dropped quite a bit and were not coming back up. Mama had to get you out right away. So for 7 straight minutes she pushed with all her might to bring you into the world. There was a moment where she felt she couldn't possibly keep pushing (not because of the pain, but the stamina it required to push for 7 min straight) but your Papa was right there, with absolute faith in her ability to do it and he wouldn't let her give her up. Fawn and Jamie were also so encouraging and worked to help Mama get you out. 

At 8:02 AM, you emerged and Mama and Papa heard your sweet, plaintive cry for the first time. Fawn brought you up to Mama's chest and Mama was just in awe of you, sweet boy. She laughed and cried and Papa also cried. Mama and Papa spent the next 20 minutes in a cocoon of wonder while they got to know you and fell in love with you. You were perfect. Beautiful. Unbearably sweet. And HERE. You had finally arrived. Mama and Papa had waited for you for so long and they could hardly believe that you were actually in their arms. 

Twenty minutes later, Mama delivered the placenta and Papa cut the umbilical cord, which was quite long. They were in a haze of love and peace. Everything was quiet and Fawn and Jamie just went about their business and mostly left you with your Mama and Papa to get to know one another in peace. The Ford family of three were given their space to process and be together. It was beautiful and exactly what your Mama and Papa had longed for when bringing you into their world. They are so grateful to have been given that gift, one they do not take for granted.

After about an hour, Fawn and Jamie came back in to weigh you and measure you and take all your other vitals. You were a hefty 8 lbs 12 oz, according to their fish scale (ha! Later that day we had you weighed on a real scale by a lactation consultant who said you were 8 lbs 8 oz. That is your "official" birth weight, but there will always be a bit of a debate on that. ;) and 21 1/4 inches long, with an APGAR score of 9. Just so perfect. This was about the time we finally decided on your name, Milo Andrew. 

The midwives then stitched Mama up (she had some very light tearing, from that big ole head of yours) while you and Papa spent some time bonding skin-to-skin. It was still so quiet and peaceful. When that was finished, they gave Mama some tips to get started nursing, but you were not terribly interested. You just wanted to sleep. You were so tired from your journey. (You and Mama continued to struggle with nursing for the next week and a half, even with the help of Fawn and the lactation consultant and the pediatrician, but this is a story for another time.)

When the midwives were done with all of that, they cleaned up and packed up their supplies and left you and Mama and Papa alone together to continue to get to know each other, with the promise to return the next day to check in. And just like that the Fords were no longer two, but three.


Some reflections:

Those last 7 minutes of pushing were experienced quite differently by Mr. Ford and I. Leading up to our due date, Fawn had encouraged me as we talked about what to do should we need to transport to the hospital, to just focus in on my body and my job, which was to continue to breathe and work through each contraction and to let her worry about everything else. So, when she said we needed to get Milo out now, I just went into that mode. I focused on what I needed to do which was push. I wasn't worried at all. I had absolute faith in my midwives and trusted them entirely to make the right call. And in return my whole support team had faith in me and my body to get the job done. The level of trust and belief in one another in that room in those moments was something unlike I've experienced very often. I knew we were all going to be just fine. 

Mr. Ford told me a few days after Milo was born as we were continuing to process the birth experience together, that in those moments, he was scared. He trusted Fawn, but I think he had a better idea of the urgency that was behind her words when she said "We gotta get him out now". We have since decided, after processing together and also debriefing with Fawn at one of our follow-up appointments, that it was good for him to have that sense of urgency because it spurred him to give me the encouragement and final nudge I needed to bring our baby into the world. 

And here's why this moment actually reinforces my belief in home birth, rather than scares me off of it: I think that had we been in a hospital, my water would have been broken for me even, though it was entirely unnecessary. More than that though, I really believe we would have ended up with a vacuum extraction or forceps intervention...or worse. None of these things were necessary and my midwife knew that. She knew that I, my body, and my determination was strong enough to get him out and she knew that we were not in a crisis situation. What was happening, though not necessarily normal, is not an uncommon occurrence in childbirth. She knew what she was doing and because of the relationship we had built throughout pregnancy, she knew I could do it. And she knew that Andrew would encourage me through it, so she and Jamie could focus and do what they are trained to do. To be frank, I felt safer and more confident being at home than I think I would have in a hospital. 

I have lots more to say on midwifery care and home birth and why we chose it as the right thing for our family, but that warrants its own blog post (and I promise that will come soon). I will say though, that it is not for everyone, and that is more than okay. More than that though I recognize that the fact that we even had the option of a home birth is a result of a great amount of societal privilege. It's a disparity that I would love to see remedied...I would love to see more women and families even have the ability to choose a home birth. As Jamie said in one of our birth classes, I am an advocate for home birth, but more than that I'm an advocate for women being empowered to make the informed choice for themselves.

Ultimately, our birth experience was just what we had dreamed of and hoped for. We are acutely aware of the reality that this was not guaranteed to us and that not every family is afforded that same opportunity...Milo's birth stands in stark contrast to that truth in a very real and raw way. We do not take the gift of his birth for granted. 

That moment in our bedroom, in the early morning quiet, when our two became three was a thin place where the veil of heaven was lifted and we glimpsed the holy. In that moment I physically FELT and knew in my bones and in the rawness of my body the core truth of my faith: resurrection. It is imprinted on my soul, my heart, and my story. I am forever changed. I'll be peeling back the layers of how my body embodied resurrection in a deeply human way for a long time to come. 

In childbirth, I was given the gift of being fully present in my womanhood and I came out the other side more completely inhabiting this body and the beauty of my womanhood. In this way, I also more viscerally understand the incarnation of Christ in a human body and in the motherly nature of God. In childbirth God has affirmed my identity as a woman and that my personhood as a woman has something to teach the world about God's character and God's nature. I can only assume that Motherhood waits to teach me ever so much more about those truths and so many others. I am changed on a soul-DNA level.


Milo, you are loved and you are enough and you are loved you are loved you are loved. So deeply and truly loved. To the moon and back, to infinity and beyond.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Milo Andrew - A Birth Story, Part 1

Warning: SO many words ahead. 

Darling boy. 

Finally, finally you're here. 

From the moment they placed you on my chest our world and our hearts cracked wide open to welcome you in; to share in this little life we have built. It's a simple life, but it's ours and it's beautiful. And now that you're here, it's a more complete life. 

Will you let me tell you a story, baby doll? The story of your entrance into our world? I'll try not to embarrass you...

First family selfie
During our 39th week together, Mama started to get really anxious to meet you. She knew she needed to be patient and let you decide on your own when you were ready, but that's not to say she didn't do a few things to encourage you. She started walking more, swimming at Mamie and Papi's house (they bought a house with a pool in anticipation of you, darling. They, and Papa, can't wait till your big enough to play in it), and taking Evening Primrose Oil. Several days passed with no sign of your pending arrival. 

At 39 weeks, 6 days Mama and Papa had a great dinner at Mamie and Papi's house and watched a few episodes of Jen Hatmaker's reality show on HGTV. Mama started to feel really tired and uncomfortable so they decided to head back home. When they got home, they got distracted by a puzzle they had started earlier in the day to pass the time till you came (your parents are super cool people). Mama was increasingly more uncomfortable as they sat there and worked on the puzzle, but it never crossed her mind that it could have been the first signs you were on your way. She's still not sure if that's what it was. Finally, they decided to go to bed.

At 1:57 AM, Mama jolted awake with what she was 85% sure was a no kidding contraction. It felt like a really bad menstrual cramp (I realize that will never mean anything to you and probably just embarrass you, but there it is. It's part of the story.) She got up to go to the bathroom and then waited to see if it would happen again. About 10 minutes later, sure enough, another contraction. She waited through a few more contractions, which were about 10-15 min apart, over the course of an hour. At about 3 AM, she woke Papa up to let him know that you were coming to greet us. They called their midwife, Fawn, to let her know labor had started and to make sure that the light bleeding Mama was having was normal. (It was.) She told us to try to go back to sleep which Papa thought was a great idea. Mama knew that was not gonna happen. 

What you can't see is that this is a cat puzzle...
I think we thought we were being clever as we are NOT cat people.
It wasn't long before she realized that this was happening and happening quickly. You were not wasting any time in finding your way to us. Mama woke Papa up again and let him know that he needed to start to prepare the bed. He also started timing the contractions.

I suppose I should interject here that you were born at home. More on the whys of that choice at another time.

Mama spent the next hour and a half laboring quietly and peacefully, in the dim lights of her bedroom. The only position that was really comfortable for her was bent over the edge of the bed, swaying and breathing through the contractions. Occasionally, she would lean on Papa's chest and they would slow dance. Papa was the most amazing coach and partner. He was right there for every contraction, rubbing Mama's back and encouraging her through each one. Between each contraction, he rushed around to prepare the bed, and he did his best to get the birth tub ready. They soon realized they would not have time to make use of the birth tub. 

Fawn and her apprentice, Jamie, had told Mama and Papa that when contractions had been consistently 4 minutes apart for an hour, that was when they should call to have them come. By the time the contractions were consistent for an hour, they were 3 minutes apart, so at about 5:15 AM Papa called Fawn to let her know that contractions were 3 minutes apart and she should probably come. Fawn sounded a bit skeptical that Mama was already that far along, but she said she would come. Fawn arrived about 5:45-6 AM and she checked Mama to see how far along she really was. Everyone was surprised to find out that she was already fully dilated after about 4 hours of laboring! Fawn asked Mama if she was ready to push to which Mama replied "Not yet!" She needed time to process that this had happened so quickly and mentally prepare to push and meet you. After about another 30 minutes, it was time to push and help you make your entrance into this big, scary, and wonderful world.


Just a few reflections on the story up to this point (part 2 to come later in the week).

We spent MONTHS in pregnancy preparing for what we were expecting to be a 24 hr/30 hr/LONG labor. Everything we read and everyone we talked to said that for first time moms, this was normal. We took a Bradley Method course to learn and practice techniques to get us through the long labor successfully as a team. Everything we do in life is a team effort, from the mundane things to the major life moments, so Bradley was tailor-made for us. Mr. Ford dove into the role of support head first. He amazed me all through pregnancy at how involved and curious he was about the whole birth process and the role he could play in helping the birth of our child be the successful, natural, intervention-free home birth we desired. I fell more in love with him in pregnancy as he sought to serve his growing family in this way, and we drew closer together than ever before. 

So when labor actually started and progressed as quickly it did, we were surprised, to say the least. We ended up not needing most of what we had learned and practiced and only used a fraction of the birth kit we had assembled. It certainly helped to be so prepared, though, because it felt as though we were just trying to mentally keep up with what my body was doing. Being so prepared allowed us to just default to what we had practiced without having to think about it too much. 

Catastrophically happy.
It all felt very dreamlike and surreal, as it all started in the middle of the night and I felt very outside of myself the whole time. The contractions were certainly difficult, but again, I had prepared for something much more painful and HARD, so it was strange to me to not be too phased by them. It's hard to describe without sounding nonchalant and dismissive of the very real difficulty of laboring through contractions, which I certainly felt. It just...I don't know...felt NATURAL for me to be experiencing these labor pains. I don't know if it was because I was just trying to mentally keep up with what my body was physically doing that I didn't have time to really FEEL the pain, or what it was; it just felt as though I was always meant to DO this thing. I was so ready and it just felt...natural. Yes. That's the best way to describe it, I think. I felt peaceful and in control and capable and strong. Frankly, I FELT the truth that God has embedded on my heart and in my soul that I AM a Woman of Valor. There are just not sufficient words to explain it and I feel as though I'm grasping at them now, so I'll just leave it be. 

Stay tuned for Part 2.