welcome rowan skye yalin!

First. Let me just say, he's perfect. Thank you so much for all the love you've been sending in my absence. Oh, let the love run over and spill spill spill. I did have some working through of things to do soon after the birth. What newly mom doesn't? It's impossible to prepare for that roller coaster emotional time. No matter how much you read about it, no matter how much you think you know, how much you think you're prepared.

{my dimples and papa's man hands}
Rowan Skye Yalin was born on January 27, 2011 at 03.17 a.m. -- 8.12 lbs and 21 inches long. This is the story of his birth and my processing of it. Here's the uncut version, because... well, who has time to edit stuff right now?

Dear Birth Experience:

Every parent has one of you. And for me you’re not what you’re (supposed to be) cracked up to be.

You kicked a cramp that broke my water on January 26, four days after my California due date. You probably remember my oh oh ohs waking up my husband around 7.30 in the morning. I tried to put the weeks of birth center classes and advice to good use: Go about your day as if it were any other. I took a shower right away. And right away the contractions started. By the time I started to prepare oatmeal, they rushed in stronger, flooring me to all fours for 30-40 seconds at a time, every 4-5 minutes. Now, birth experience, that’s pretty close together for early labor.

S + I called the birth center; they suggested we take a walk. Prior to labor, I looked forward to a daytime event where I’d walk and hug S for support during the contractions, which would likely come 10 minutes apart.  But now taking a hike was not real high on my list.

So we labored on in our room. My aunt returned from her walk and finished preparing our cereal. I ate the oatmeal. I threw it all up. I ate a popsicle. Threw it up too. Drank water. Couldn't stomach that either. Between contractions I sat on the birth ball and rocked or tried to use the bathroom. S, the champ of all birth partners, helped me through each contraction while packing up snacks, drinks and the rest of our bag for the birth center.

Around 3.00 p.m., with the contractions lasting longer and still 4-5 minutes apart, I started to panic. Birth experience, I was sure this would be one of those babies that slides into the world real quick like. And we still had to drive 40 minutes to the birth center in San Francisco. I kept thinking of rush hour. We cannot get stuck on the Bay Bridge. Please, don’t let me have this baby in the car.  We called the Center and said we need to come in now.

S got me into the car, and we drove. I wanted to get there quick and for S to drive there slow. Oh, and rumble strips of the Bay Bridge, I didn’t like you before and I’m certainly not a fan of you now. I was super dehydrated when we arrived to the Center, so they hooked me up to IV fluids. One of the midwives checked my dilation: Five centimeters. Score! I could stay there and labor.  Rumble strips no more.

We’d had an acupuncture appointment that day, which we obviously had to cancel. But the acupuncturist, Andrea, was still there when we arrived. She offered to stay with me if I wanted, and I said, of course, you know, if she wanted. And, boy, am I ever thankful for her kindness, touch and presence. She must have stayed with us seven hours or so. Applying pressure to my back or doing some pressure points on my feet. Between Serkan and Andrea’s massage and susurrus reminders to moan in a lower pitch (which helps open passages; high pitches and screaming tense them), I kept heart.

For hours I’d had back labor. And then came the urge to push, everybody telling me: Don’t push! Blow the pushes away. Andrea coached me through most of them. I cannot begin to describe how difficult it is not to push when your body is already pushing. So I won’t even try. With that wicked urge, dear birth experience, I thought for sure I it was almost over. I’d dip into the tub soon and meet our boy shortly after that. So when they checked me and I’d only opened up another centimeter, I said that’s definitely not what I was hoping to hear.

Next thing I know, I go to the bathroom to find meconium. Baby’s unmistakable first bowel movement, which can also be a sign of baby distress. (You wouldn't be able to see this if your water hadn't broken yet). Since the birth center doesn’t do meconium births, this meant I had to go to the hospital. The midwives said I could stay and labor there for a while, but that I would have to go to the not-so-close hospital to have the baby. I opted to leave right then and there, horrified at the thought of having those contractions in the car. 

{the fam}
Being in labor is like swimming into a different world. With no idea of what’s going on outside. Voices and movements fluid around me. Music, dim lights like a cave. Then nightfall and moaning turns to blowing. Slow world. Hours of now. People help me into positions and wheel the IV beside me to the bathroom, hold drinks with straws to my lips. I am grateful, I am hardly there.

They’d prepared the backseat of our car for the trip to UCSF hospital. Somehow I made it outside to a dark alley-like Capp Street. Cold and buzzing like batteries. Hello, car seat scooted over to the window and draped with my pillow. I cupped the pillow and child seat with my body, knees in the center of the back seat. Someone bent my feet to 90 degrees and shut the door behind me. Serkan started to drive, following one of the midwives to the hospital.

Do I even need to say that this was the most excruciating car ride of my life? As I was hunkered over the car seat, using what I could of my leg and stomach muscles in order not to tip or lean, I decided: If we are going to the hospital, I am going to get an epidural. But, birth experience, even as I thought this I swear I wasn’t completely convinced. When they got me out of the car, I started to throw up again. Which I hadn’t done since we arrived to the birth center. Remember how I thought I would be one of those laboring ladies who eats peanut butter during the final push? Um, yeah.

Our Plan B birth plan clearly states that we shouldn’t be offered any sort of pain intervention. But the first thing the nurse asked when we arrived to the labor room was if I wanted anything for pain. I paused. And said, Yes. Naturally. Our midwife, Sasha, encouraged me that whatever I choose to do at this point is perfectly OK. That I’ve been very brave. Thank you, Sasha.

After they placed the epidural, I moved out of the labor zone and into hospital land. I was able to hold conversations and even laugh a little. I wondered how I would push this baby out, if I was so numb. I wondered how labor could progress this way. Sasha said that with some rest, my body would continue to open, and I’d soon be holding our baby.

Then the doctor came to check me a la ultrasound, just to be sure. Our acrobatic son was trying to come out butt first. Hence, the urge to push. (Had he never turned? Was that him turning head up again this past week? So moot right now.) Doctor told me that there was pretty much no way they’d deliver him vaginally, a surprise breech / meconium baby meant a cesarean for me. I signed all the consents with ethereal signature.

I shook. And shook. They said it’s a normal occasional side effect of the epidural. But the truth is I was pretty freaked out. Alone in the OR while they prepped me. I threw up on the operating table, waiting for S, and asking anybody for a napkin. S arrived with his sterile gown and beanie to hold my hand. I calmed. Swimming again in my own world. I wished I could talk. After a while, they said congratulations. I wanted to cry and share a moment with somebody outside me. Feel touched. But it was difficult to feel anything, except cold. So I shook. I heard our baby boy cry and I shuddered some tears. S crossed the blue curtain into the sterile space of my belly to meet our son. He cut the cord, so far away from my womb. Someone held baby up to my face. His eyes so big, so blue. A weak finger stroked his cheek. 

{sometimes i think he looks like both of us, sometimes i just can't tell}
Oh, the funny stories about what goes on behind that blue curtain while they are cutting and closing. They say things, like No no, not like that. They count stitches or staples or whatever they are doing. They remember how fat baby’s legs were, how large his head. That was a big baby.

I told S to go to the nursery with baby, to stick his pinkie in baby’s mouth. Someone was supposed to get Sasha, so she could come in and stay with me. But nobody ever did, and after S left, my shaking kicked up. I could feel something happening in my back, maybe it was just pressure. But I shook and shook some more. The anesthesiologist added something to the stream of medicine and I fell into a twilight sleep. I came to without the shakes, but every time I turned my head I saw a shoe bag full of placentas. Heather: Don’t look at the placentas, don’t look at the placentas.

Birth experience, I know birth is unpredictable. We tried to plan for you, we educated ourselves. Lots of people don’t even have a preference about how they want their births to go. I did. Since day one, the hospital environment scared me. I resigned myself to a hospital birth in Chile, but when we moved to California, options opened up by the doorful.

I saw baby Rowan Skye for a couple seconds after he was born. And then again more than 2.5 hours later. The skin to skin contact and first introduction to the breast, immediate bonding and falling in love were delayed. I’ve no doubt that bonding with a cesarean is different. The hormones released right after birth are the same hormones humans make when they fall in love. But I’ve still fallen head over heels for this little guy, if a little differently, slowly.

So, birth experience, even though you’ve given me the most perfect being I’ve ever met, I say it’s OK to mourn you. There’s so much to process after giving birth. Even if it was an easy, ideal birth, the body has been through a major trauma. There’s a new life relying utterly on us. And while, pregnancy gives an idea about what hormonal changes are like, post partum hormone shifts are completely different. Having a completely opposite birth experience than I’d hoped for… well… it was hard. Not to mention the subsequent spinal headache from the epidural and the infection in the incision.

For days I healed my body without rest, simultaneously learning how to be a mom. I couldn’t get in or out of bed by myself. I could barely pick up my son. After we left the hospital, S did everything for me. Cooked me food, brought me water. He handed Rowan to me for breastfeedings. He held Rowan’s tiny hands out of the way, while I directed his latch. (This breastfeeding business, by the way, is the clumsiest natural I've ever known. In that there’s a big learning curve. I’m 21 days in and those first 30-60 seconds of latch still make me wince in pain.) 

{rowan's most awesome outfit from auntie claire; juicy couture with skulls and crossbones}
Now that you’re behind me, birth experience, I’m happy to say that my fear of hospitals has lessened significantly. And it’s getting better every day. Rowan spends more time with his eyes wide and quiet alert. We’re able to go for brief walks with him. I love Rowan’s baby noises, the squeaks when he’s sleeping, the gulping and double breath sighs at the breast. I’ve gotten used to his cries and the ache they produce in my nipples. Every day and every night, we share our little adventures. And so we move on.


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