Friday, February 22, 2013

Ever been madly in love with a teenager?

I wrote this almost 4 years ago, when McKayla was starting high as she recieves letters from college, and we make plans for her senior prom, and graduation; I can't help but feel my heart ache. It reminds me a lot of labor and how the pain was so purposeful, and worth it. I call her my "trial and error" child, because everything I know about being a mother is because of her.  She was the one who taught me what true love really means. She is the first person I would ever have truly given my life for, the very air I breathe, my own heart. Now, as she stands at the crossroads of her life, I can't help but hope I have done enough. I have always been honest with her about everything. I have never shielded her from my own weaknesses or sins. I have shared my heartaches and mistakes with her, in hopes that knowing that I have struggled; she would not have to.
She is the most beautiful girl I have ever known, and I am so proud of her....

(August of 2009  Mckayla Grace, my gracie girl, starts high school)

I can't help but me choked up today, as McKayla (our oldest) started High School. I watched her get ready, put on her make up, flat iron her hair, bee bop to the car (fight with her brother about who gets to sit in the front )  and ride quietly as we headed for school.
I was doing just fine. I didn't act sad in front of her even once.... but I did get some of those "you are embarrassing me" sighs, even though by then we had dropped off Mason; and she was the only one in the car (so who was I embarrassing her in front of?). I just asked once if she wanted me to park and get out or just drop her off. ;)
Anyway, I did start to panic a little when we pulled up and there was a mound of kids (some bigger than me) standing outside the school waiting for the bell. "Oh my Gosh", she is going to get out of the car and she will be standing there alone. My heart was pounding. I told her to quickly text her best friend so I could drop her off close to Macey...there is safety in numbers, right?
So she hops out of the car. She said "Love you" and that's all it took. The tears came, and they came, and they came. I called Jason thinking it would calm me down. I pulled it together long enough to ask him how the little girls did (starting 2nd and 5th), he was in charge of taking them. He said, "great, how bout Mckayla" and that's when I started sobbing. Seriously sobbing, like I can barely talk sobbing. He was laughing because he knows I generally have thicker skin than that (he who cried on Liv's first day of kindergarten). But not today. I actually started having flash backs of McKayla. I remembered her first day of Kindergarten. She screamed and cried because her sock seam didn't line up exactly with her toes, making herself late to school. Then half way through the day I got a phone call from her principal telling me she tried to run away from school to her Nana's house which was about a block away, because she was "ready to go".
Anyway, it got me to thinking about how fast the time goes. I remember my Lamaze teacher telling me to "soak it in", words I echo in my Lamaze classes today, but sometimes it's easy to forget how fast time really does go until your baby(weighing a little over 4lbs at birth, perfect in every way, sassy, and spitting fire from day one) jumps out of your car with a designer purse strapped to her shoulder and you realize what "soak it in" really means!

"You are the poem I dreamed of writing, the masterpiece I longed to paint.
You are the shining star I reached for in my ever hopeful quest for life full filled. You are my child. Now with all things I am blessed."
~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Should I embrace being called the epi-doula....

I am so annoyed. Okay, so yes I am a doula, and of course I believe in natural birth. Some of you may not even be aware of the fact that I gave birth to each of my children naturally. However, I still have not recovered from the rapid birth of my youngest.
It is funny because he came the quickest, and the recovery was the longest, emotionally anyway.  I am not a believer in telling birth stories to frighten others, so please be reminded that this was part of my journey, and I do not want it to scare anyone....
I was 4centimeters dialated for nearly 3 weeks and I was scared to leave my house. I was petrified that my water would break at Target and I would just have to lie down in the paper goods isle and pull off my pants while shoppers rubber necked to catch a glimpse of what has become so dramatic, but truly is just as normal as having a bowel movement....
I asked, more like begged, my Obstetrician to induce me....STOP THE PRESS, yes the doula said the 'I' word.  I really wanted my labor to start in a controled enviornment, does that really make me such a hypocrite?  I have been educating woman on the dangers of elective inductions for years....and still here I was begging.....
"Ok", my doctor finally said. "If you are still pregnant on Monday, we will break your bag of water".

Monday came and I was still pregnant. I headed to the hospital for 8am check-in. My doctor came and greeted me, as I signed all the consent forms and answered all the questions, "yes, I have electricity, yes I have a car seat, no I don't want an IV" etc.
Dr. E, said he would go across the street to his office to see patients and come check on me at lunch, if I didn't need him sooner.  He went ahead and artificially ruptured my membranes (broke the bags of water), by now it was close to 9am, and hurried off to his office.

Let me remind you, or educate you, contractions are  supposed to be gradual and intermittent. I have taught this for years....and it was a FAT LIE!!! 

Imagine that early labor is the green, active is orange, and red is transition. Transition is the hard part, shortest, but hardest. The green is the walk before the run, orange the jog, and red the sprint......

My body took off at the sprint. I had no build up, no time to gain control, or to relax.

9am my water broke, 9:18am my son was born. Caught by the nurse and my friend, Marci.

I could not even believe he was here. I felt as though I had just ridden a roller coaster one handed, flying from my seat.

This is my only birth I think I may have "needed" an epidural.

If you read my article in Dallas Child Magazine, you know I believe there is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is purposeful, and manageable....suffering is neither. 

So, this is the picture that annoyed me. What annoys me isn't the statement, or the picture itself....what annoys me is the judgement it implys, or creates.  So do the women who chose medicated births 'regret' their births? Umm, NO!!! Of course they don't regret the birth of their baby and if they do, I think it has more to do with medication or no medication.....

I have been a part of so many births, do the medicated births mean less in my opinion....ABSOLUTLEY not!

I embrace it! Yes, I believe in epidurals when needed, even inductions when needed (or in some cases wanted), I also believe in educating, supporting, and empowering women so much that no matter what path they choose in labor, they do it without judgement, and without fear!

Women are powerful people and no two mother's are ever born the same.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Death came first for me....

Thirteen years ago I began my career as a doula. My very first year I “dove in” and attended 6 births….I thought I was knowledgeable enough, I mean I had given birth 3 times myself, I had attended the workshop, been checked off by doctors and nurses….surely I knew enough to make a difference.

Looking back, I knew nothing about anything, except that I wanted these women to experience the best possible birth scenario. It took me many years and many births to understand that their ideal birth experience and what I would consider my ideal experience would never match up….
What was being a doula all about for me? I was a hospice nurse before I became a doula, helping patients on their journey out of this life. What had I learned and seen as a hospice nurse that could help me on my new path? How could the years I had spent holding someone’s hand while they drew their last breath compare to watching a new baby take air for the first time? Well, what I know is that everyone of those experiences where I witnessed the calm, peaceful, feeling of a soul leaving this earth to move on to the awaiting paradise, where his or her ancestors awaited, was one of pure honor.. A feeling of true joy would pass over me as I washed them one last time, brushed their hair, closed their eyes, and placed their hands beside them. Why did I feel that peace?  I know now it was because from the second I met them as patients, I began informing them, educating them and their families about what to expect; I would bathe them and guard them closely to insure their dignity and comfort.  I would advocate for their wishes, even when they could no longer speak.  I knew when the time was near by the sights, smells, and sounds. I knew when to let family know to say their goodbyes.  Some would hold on, waiting for a daughter, a mother, a friend, and not let go until then. Some would lose faith and hold on for fear of what was (or was not) waiting on the other side, and some, most of my patients, would slip softly away.  However it happened, it was their journey.
My peace came from knowing that I did all I could to calm their fears and allow them a hand to hold and a voice to whisper “It’s okay”. My heart was full in knowing that they left this world knowing I would be beside them until their last breath…

So how on earth is birth and death the same?  How could someone even compare the two?  I get it, it sounds morbid, but I have to assure you the two are very much the same.
When I am invited to a birth I have learned that it is not about me or what I believe.  It is not always about having a non- medicated birth and it is not my goal to change the minds of mother’s who want the opposite of me. I believe it is my job to offer information, education, and peace. Peace happens when the fear of the unknown fades away. When you offer a mother the tranquility of knowing that all is well and that everything that she is experiences is normal, her heart is calm. When you allow her to have the information to make choices, she will never look back and regret the choices she made. Faith, after all, is by definition; believing in something when common sense tells us not to….We all know how hard it can be to have faith, especially when we cannot see what awaits us on the other side…meaning when you are in labor, felling contractions, it is hard to imagine there is truly an end in site. Even I, after having 5 children now, could not get over how incredible it is to push another human being from my body. Even I had to be reminded by my doula, whispering “It’s okay”, that I could indeed, get through this labor and delivery.
If there is anything I would never want to do alone, it is give birth or die. I know I want as much information about starting life, for my children, and about ending life for me and my loved ones. Those two things are the biggest things we will ever do in this lifetime….breath and stop breathing.

Now, I have walked hundreds of miles with women in labor, done thousands of hip presses, and as I call them “ghetto adjustments” (thanks to the amazing Autumn Gore, DC for teaching me), arranged many a leg into the pretzel position, fed ice chips while, holding a leg and a camera in my other hand, poured water over a belly in a bath tub even though my hand was, surely, going to break off at the wrist. I have guided relaxation, given acupressure massage, offered advice on herbal supplements and touched more boobs than any heterosexual women (outside of my profession) would ever care to admit.
I can tell when a woman is in real labor just by the look and smell of her, and dilation by the sound. I know that just like my hospice patients, mothers will wait to dilate if they are not relaxed, comfortable, or surrounded with the people they want.  I know that some are still working through “letting go” of control. Others will just let their babies slip softly out….however it happened, it was their journey.

I know now why my calling as a doula came to be…not because I was looking for my life’s work but because it knocked on my door.  I am so glad I answered this call to service. I am so blessed for the witness I have been privileged to bear. I have seen the hand of God work in the two most beautiful and vulnerable times in life and will never forget any of the hands I have been honored to hold.

Often times, a family will say to me “I couldn’t have done it without you” and my reply is always “ Yes you could have, but thank you for inviting me.”