A few night's S+ I sat with our backs against the couch in the living room as the sun set. Rowan was sleeping. The light blurred from yellow to purple to dark, and I lit a a tiny trayful of candles. The room and my hands still smelled clean and sweet from Rowan's bath and massage. We weren't ready to turn on the light. Outside, the palms and sweetgums blackened. I thought about how--even though I'll probably be awake at 2 a.m.--there's no way I'll actually make it outside to watch the meteor shower. And I didn't even worry about how that thought aged me.

Mostly I was thinking how great the light was. I clung to the mood, and I didn't want to turn on the lamp. The transition to night happened slow and smooth while we watched it.
So much unlike changing hemispheres and home overnight. Going from having a home to: uprooted. You can spend months knowing that you're about to move and change your life completely. But it's only visceral when that last flight takes off and touches down in your new local airport. You can feel the clods of earth still stuck to your toes. Those are the clods of familiarity, and they help you survive the replanting.

But my eight-month pregnant feet swelled to ham hocks on the flight over here. Soon afterward, we went from being two to being three. You can only prepare for motherhood so much. And you don't have to switch hemispheres for it to transform you, utterly. When a mama gives birth to her baby, she inevitably rebirths herself. Clumsy and shock-eyed at first, she quickly learns she's a superhero (however irritable she may be on occasion).
When we did turn on the light, it was time. The change felt right. But I wasn't ready to lose that connection with my husband. Sure, I wanted to blog. But we played Mancala instead, skipping the tie-breaker game, cuz Rowan woke up. That means Rowan slept for a couple of hours straight, which is very good for him! (It's really time for us to do something about his sleeping. I just don't know what we'll be able to handle, but that's another story.)

This post really doesn't have much of a point. Except to say how slow or fast things move. And that all this stuff happens whether we watch it or not. Ready or not.

How am I--all of a sudden--a mommy blogger? It infuses everything I do. I didn't intend that to happen on the blog, but here it is. Me and all my big fat motherhood. Maybe you can even feel it in my absences.

I don't think motherhood will obsess me forever. (Will it?) For now, it's what I breathe. We do other things too. Like go to dinner parties, celebrate tons of birthday, visit friends and try to get dance parties started by playing the right music, try to find a new place to live on craigslist, go for walks, listen to Pandora. It's just that Rowan is in all that, and in so much more--which is devoted only to him. 

I do like these kitchens and kitchen-cleaning tips. And I have to see this Oliver Voss statue, and read this book (coffee + book chick). And watch this movie (dolce vitae). But I guess I'd rather write about this huge transition I'm experiencing. It didn't transform me overnight. But day by day I feel myself blossoming. I'm more patient than I thought. And there's so much love. And in my finer moments, all love. It's kind of limitless.

I think it all started after we arrived to the States, and we entered a Motherhood maternity shop, and the woman greeted us warmly: Welcome to motherhood. On the inside I burst out sobbing and needed kleenex; on the outside I shuddered two fine tears and squeezed my husband's hand.

around the sun.

It’s a time of great change for our family, and I’m looking at it as a new leaf for me as I celebrate my life. Which is to say, I enjoy a birthday right after Linden. 

A year has zoomed by, and suddenly my baby is near toddling. It’s apropos that airplanes are Rowan’s favorite thing to draw right now (and for the past several months). For my birthday, he drew me airplanes. Serkan let me sleep in like a teenager, even though it meant we’d have to hike closer to home—not in the mountains as planned—and brave the midday heat. I awoke with a kiss on my cheek from Rowan and a happy birthday whisper-song, sung through a smile so long it tinied his eyes. 

We picked up some stone fruit from the farmer’s market on the way to the trail. We walked down down down to the American River. The trail was mostly shaded and we found a patch of shade by the river, where we ate hard boiled eggs, toast, peaches, and plums. Since we were totally alone, and it was hot, and it was my birthday, we skinny dipped. Cold! Refreshing. Rowan practiced pressing his face in the water, because he’s a penguin. Linden paddled the water with his hands and toes and stuffed his mouth with rocks and sticks at every turn. 

On the way back up up up the hill, Linden slept on me again. Rowan walked the whole way with a good attitude and kept step with his baba. We dropped the kids off with beautiful friends, and mama and baba enjoyed a peaceful, slow dinner. We talked about our dreams for the near future. How our journey to this crossroads has taught us about the kind of life we want to live. It’s exhilarating and deliberate, like leaping into an icy river (Inhale! Excite!) on a hot day (Exhale. Enter.). Breathe. Release.

one year.

Dear Linden,

Last night in the wee hours while I lay restless, you deep asleep on a separate pillow. From that distance I could still breathe in your sweetness, less sweaty tonight and more sweet. I thought about how I wished I’d planned a birthday party for you, I should have made you a doll, how I read more books with your brother. How I still read more books with your brother. How I just need to slow down.

A year ago today around this time, I was organizing your baby clothes and bringing them to our bedroom. Rowan sat on the floor with me and helped sort. You were eight days early; we weren’t quite ready. But everything about that morning spent nesting was slow. You were born into the water and into my arms. You spent the first few months mostly in my arms. I tried to remember how quickly it all seems to go.

When you were four months old, I started back to work. My chest tightens just to think of it. 4 months. You were just a baby! I’m lucky to work remotely, so I could still breastfeed frequently. And even then, to be apart already at 4 months is heart-wrenching. Your baba handled it with so much grace, and he still does. He wears you several times during the day, and you take half of your naps snuggled against his heart.

This year you visited Turkey and Wisconsin to meet the rest of your family. You learned to sit, turn over, and crawl, to pull yourself up and reach what you may. Anything in your path is quickly grabbed and thrown behind you, over and over again. You love knocking down anything that appears to be organized neatly. You bang everything together. In the music class we go to with Rowan, you follow what we do with the instruments and you dance.

You eat everything; it doesn’t matter if it’s food. Your pointer fingers find detritus on even the most well-vacuumed surfaces. Putting rocks in your mouth is a game to you. Over the past week or so I started to shake my head when the rock is making its way to your mouth, and sometimes you’ll put it back down instead. During meals, you show your excitement during blessing by banging on your high chair tray. Sometimes you’ll humor us with by giving the official “more” sign, but mostly you bang the table when you want more of something.

You make airplane and car noises just like Rowan. You love to be outside, to visit the chickens and point to the birds at the feeder. You love to climb stairs. And when you see an ungated stairway, you runcrawlrace to it with purpose. Your hands slap the floor quick quick quick as you squeal with delight. When you reach the stairs, you look back to us and laugh, just to make sure we are watching as you giggle your way up the stairs.

You love your big brother so much, you wave your arms and grunt when you see him. When we are reading books together and you want it to be in your mouth, Rowan brings you a board book to chew. He tells you what sounds each animal makes. He tries hard not to grab things from your hands, and when he does, he usually trades you a substitute. Rowan builds towers for you to knock down, and he tells you stories. He was the first to mention your birthday this morning: Today, is our little baby Linden one year? Aww you’re such a big baby, Linden! You’re not even a baby anymore. Oh my sweet boys. You’ll both always be my babies.

This morning, we measured you both against the wall in Rowan’s room. We hung the birthday bunting. Rowan and I wrapped your present together. I’ll assemble the lime cake with lavender whipped cream. It’s not as dense or as healthy as the cranberry bread cupcake Rowan had on his first birthday. But it’s probably more yummy. We’ll sing, and Rowan will help you blow out your single candle and open your package. We’ll watch the slide show of your birth that baba created for my birthday just in time for yours. (Thank you!) We’ll dance. We’ll take it slow. We’ll love. We’ll grow.

Happy birthday, sweet baby. Thank you for sharing your life with me. 

Linden Sol’s Birth Story - May 26, 2014

Getting There: The Prologue

This could start with: Contractions started at 4:27 in the morning. But it really begins with the birth of Rowan Sky, my firstborn, my teacher, crazymaker, joy; and our cesarean birth. The short of which is this: Serkan and I moved to the USA from Chile when I was 7.5 months pregnant. We didn’t have our own space, and stayed with my aunt. Much was up in the air. I remember saying I felt OK with this at the time, but looking back I wonder what the hell were we thinking?

We planned to birth at a birth center, but the presence of meconium at the 19th hour forced us to transfer to the hospital. And an “emergency” cesarean for breech presentation. The backup midwife mistook his head for butt. The main midwife went to Arizona to deliver her grandbaby. I never got a good feel off of either of the midwives, but I trusted my body. I know now that Rowan never turned; his breech position concerned us late in my pregnancy until he magically flipped, and I stopped doing my baby positioning exercises.

I’ll stop there. Who’s birth story is this anyway? Well it’s Linden’s birth story from my perspective since he can’t type yet. But it’s also my story, my HBAC (home birth after cesarean) story. And that’s why it starts with Rowan’s birth and my navigation through recovery.

With Rowan, I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. That was that. I read a couple of other homeopathic pregnancy books, but this was the Bible. I felt strong in my body; my body knew what to do. But after someone cuts open your body to deliver your baby, that trust sinks. This is a truth I didn’t start to palm until about a week before Linden was born, a time plunged in an undercurrent of doubt.

After Rowan, we experienced two miscarriages. One unplanned baby and one hard-won baby. The first miscarriage happened at 11 weeks; baby was due on 6/1/2013. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I started looking into birth options. I decided on two homebirth midwives in our little apartment, a frightening decision at the time and a giant relief.

Rowan was 20 months old when I started to miscarry. We were by ourselves at home. It was October 2012 and I was cutting butternut squash to make soup. That morning I’d gone to yoga and Rowan and I just got back from a long stroll. A couple weeks prior, we’d found out the baby stopped growing. [I was offered Misoprostol [Cytotec] to speed up the process. I went for this option; I didn’t feel emotionally ready to just wait it out, since the baby appeared to have stopped growing a few weeks prior. I would not make that decision now.]

I just thought I had a stomachache and continued to knife the squash. Soon I was curled up on the couch, moaning through contractions. Rowan didn’t know I was pregnant, but he was a super birth partner. He held my hand and breathed with me. He looked into my eyes. When I asked, he brought me water from his sippy cup, the only water he could reach. When Serkan got home, I moved to the bed. The whole thing took about 4 hours. I ate pasta that Serkan prepared while leaning on my side in bed. Then I went to the bathroom and felt something mouse-size leave my body. I peeked before I flushed, but I chose not to see.

A few months after that, we started trying to have a baby with no luck. Then I got pregnant again and miscarried at 6.5 weeks in August 2013. That baby was due on 4/14/14. Rowan still talks about me falling on the trail at Caples Lake while holding him, getting picked up by my friend Annie to sit in some plants off the trail, then fainting. He also asks why I was crying at our old house. I think it was the first time he’d seen me cry hard. I was crying, Serkan was hugging me—I didn’t need words to tell Serkan what happened—and Rowan was on the sidelines asking: Mama, Why you crying? He again didn’t know I was pregnant. Bleeding from this miscarriage stopped very quickly. We tried again immediately, and conceived Linden, who was due June 3, 2014.

[After talking with many midwives and doing more research, I do think the cesarean made it more difficult for me to make and keep babies, especially given the invisible scars that come with difficult births. As for the Misoprostol and our difficulties to conceive after taking it, I have no proof the two are linked, but I am suspicious.]

During the first mc pregnancy, I had ordered lots of used pregnancy and homebirth books. Most of these books arrived after the first miscarriage. During the second pregnancy, I was already finishing book #1 when I miscarried.

With this baby, I still hadn’t fully embraced that this was a viable pregnancy even after I’d reached the second trimester. We had told Rowan immediately this time around, even though it was hard for me to believe in the pregnancy. I thought telling him would help make it true.

But I was busy at work and didn’t look into birth options. I knew I was planning a VBAC, but figured the Kaiser midwife would be fine. I started looking up home birth midwives in the area several times, and hesitated. And hesitated and hesitated some more. Around 20 weeks, I started interviewing and decided on home birth, again a giant relief. Once I chose a home birth midwife, I started reading books and grounding myself in the pregnancy. This is really happening. I was psyched and yeah a little scared.

I ordered “Hello Baby,” a book on homebirth for young siblings, and read it over and over with Rowan. At one point in the book, the midwife and auntie babysitting the youngest sibling leave. Here, Rowan would cry and ask why they were leaving. A heartbroken-sad cry. “But you’re not going to leave, are you?” I’d say, “No, honey. I’m not going anywhere,” and wonder why that part was so confused and sad to him.

One insomnia dark morning while I stargazed from our bed, it dawned on me: When he was born, I left him. No skin on skin and then hours before I could hold him. He remembered—at least bodily—his cold lonely introduction to this wide world.

I bought tons of vitamins and several pounds of herbs to prepare my own pregnancy tea. I did prenatal yoga several times per week. And I worked hard. I knew I needed to back off, but I waited till maternity leave—a month before my due date—to start centering myself. All was fine, and then it hit me. …After we bought the birth kit and started rounds of evening primrose oil, perineal massage, and Birth-Prep.

…After one of my closest friends lost her baby, Simone Esperanza, at 41 weeks. Our babies were supposed to grow up together! That could happen to me too. Birth and death, those close relatives, aren’t supposed to overlap like that. Elena birthed her nearly 10 pound baby, knowing she was dead. She had been planning a homebirth too. It’s the kind of thing I’d read about in forums when looking up facts about miscarriage. The kind of thing that would jog tearful rivers and I’d think nothing could be more difficult.

At some point I had started a Blessingway letter for myself. My mom appeared in the letter prominently. A surprise to me, until another friend reminded me that birth and death really are so close, and that they do touch. And that I am becoming a mother again. It’s natural to remember and long my own mother. But I thought I had finished the mom work I had to do. It’s how I got to Chile, how I eventually met my husband. And why didn’t these mom issues come up with Rowan? Simply, because I hadn’t yet crossed over into momhood. And postpartum with Rowan, there was nothing I wanted more than nutritious food and to be a mothered daughter.

Part of sending this mother blessing letter out into the world—requesting love and a bead or talisman—was to send love. Of course I sent the letters late, but I did receive some thoughtful loving things in the mail, virtually and physically. One in particular was a necklace from my surrogate mama Donna. It had a heart with the word ‘daughter’ on it. This was left to her by her mama who passed away the year before.

There’s something about a mom’s love. And generally speaking, I think no one can love you like she does. So it is a big deal for that love to cease to exist at a young age. I was 14 when I became a motherless daughter, and my mom had been very sick for a couple of years before that. I’d lost the role of daughter long ago and with it some semblance of being deserving of love and nurturance. The necklace reminded me that I too am a daughter and deserving of everything that a new parent would want for their little girl.

And yet. I was freaking out, even while researching VBAC successes. The stuff that is supposed to be encouraging only made me more scared. Higher risk of uterine rupture. OK everyone fearmongers  you about that one, even though that risk is extremely small, and there are serious risks with cesareans too, especially multiple cesareans. I started worrying about my death more than that of my baby. What would Rowan and Serkan do? How could I do that to them? You are more likely to have a uterine rupture with certain placements of the placenta. I couldn’t find my placenta report! Where is my placenta? I wrote to the Kaiser midwife and she sent me the report. All was well. But what about my surgical report? I never got that info and now it was too late. How did they stitch me back together? Young doctors are notorious for single-layer suturing to save time, even though it is proven that this increases risk of uterine rupture with future pregnancies.

My midwife suggested I try to attend at least one ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) meeting before I give birth. Get some of that good vibe juju from women going through the same thing. It helped! Talking about my surgical report qualms out loud to people who viscerally understand made all the difference. If I were to find out I have a single-layer suture, will that make me want to go the hospital for birth? Absolutely not. During those first 20 weeks I’d feel physically ill just going to my prenatal appointments at a non-hospital.

I was also writing some long emails to Elena during this time. One of them mentioned all the issues I found myself needing to work through, including my mom and the fact I was VBAC. I acknowledge that it may have been inappropriate to write to the woman who is grieving the loss of her baby about difficulties I’m having preparing myself mentally to give birth. It somehow seemed OK at the time and I thank her deeply for sharing her strength with me.

The night before I went into labor, I read a note from Elena. I was up late baking mini banana chocolate chip muffins for the freezer. It said something like this: Funny you mention your mom. I was just talking to Lane about that last night. I knew when you left the slumber party so early in the morning that your mom had died. And I still regret never mentioning anything about it.

Elena and I have talked about this before. But at that moment, it floored me. I wanted to write back right away. But I also wanted to give Elena some breathing room. I wrote in my journal instead.

Before I went to bed to write, I picked up my Masters’ thesis book of poems titled “Sing to Me.” About a girl struggling 14 years after the death of her mother to make sense of it, her start to grieve.  I hunted for the poem I wrote about the party, the sad daughter who "didn't go to the door [who] dressed quickly and gathered [her] things and walked through the living room of sleeping bags and girls [her] shoulders as straight as [they'd] ever be into this shamed sort of womanhood."
On the way I spied many heartbreaking poems, which would be written so differently if I were to try them now. I kept thinking about the young woman writing these poems: She is so sad. While literarily questionable, I am so happy that, at 28 years old, I was able to bear witness to the 14 year old girl walking the threshold to motherloss. And write it down! And that I can do the same for the so-sad woman on her journey through its heartscape. Whenever those girls need some love, I have a tangible path to find them. That’s totally worth getting that MFA in poetry.

The party was the first weekend in high school. We had just moved to Gilroy from southern California during the summer. I didn’t get to go to my 8th grade graduation in Westminster and I didn’t know anybody in Gilroy. It was a hot, dusty summer. Pale gold hills backdropped the heavy scent of garlic. Some old friends of my parents saw an article about a woman with cancer in the local paper, celebrating the new oncology ward on No Name Uno Street. They didn’t recognize her picture; but they recognized her name: Eileen Poyhonen. They got in touch and introduced us to one family with a girl, Rachel, my age (it was her birthday party), and she introduced me to Elena. It is remarkable that I was invited to that party at all.

I wrote in my journal that the oddest part of that period in my life was that nobody talked about it—not inside or outside of the home. Our worlds had broken open, and we inherited a disease. I’ll call it information leprosy. We were only allowed to be fine. I like to think that I got good at that role, but it’s a horrible burden and a horrible role to be good at. And that’s still what I do. I feign fine, even when I’m not.

The Birth

But if I’m going to get this baby out, I have some tending to tend to! I sailed the waters of my VBAC, my mother, myself. I journaled love and paper-airplaned it out to the world.

Later that morning, at 4:27 on May 26, 2014, I awoke with my first contraction. It really was a wave. Nothing like I remember my contractions with Rowan, which floored me from the get-go like punches and which started at 5-6 minutes apart. I can’t believe this could be it. Am I ready?

Love = Open. That’s what I wrote 3.5 years ago in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Just go back to sleep and let’s see if another wave comes. I couldn’t sleep. I facebooked a friend to say happy belated birthday. I thought of the birth bracelet from the ICAN meeting and the bead from a new friend that I still needed to string. I had another contraction 10 minutes later.

I jumped out of bed to string a bracelet. I dug out a new pack of markers and opened the package of notecards we’d bought the day before, so I could draw birth affirmations with Rowan. I nearly tripped over the belly cast we’d sculpted only 12 hours before. I got back in bed with the markers, cards, string. I tied on the bracelet. Around 5:30, I wrote to the midwives, Randi and Jaslynn, and our friends, Teresa and Ozan, who would watch Rowan during the gnarly parts of labor. But I couldn’t stay in bed for the affirmations. Soon Rowan woke up, and I was managing contractions, reading him books, cleaning, canceling appointments, and arranging the birth space.

Around 8 or 9 my water broke. With Rowan, labor started when I felt a kick a pop a gush, which woke me from my slumber. Seriously it felt like Rowan kicked the bag open. I remember thinking: Maybe I’m just an early water breaker type of mama. I’m not sure if the contractions got stronger after the water breaking. I was still managing them fine alone.

I sat with Rowan in his bedroom sorting through baby brother’s clothes and sizing them, deciding which ones to take down to the big bedroom. He took a particular interest, as always, in the socks. He mittened them on and proclaimed the starry yellow ones his and the blue ones for baby brother.

Contractions slowed when I sat to sort. I wrote Randi to let her know that contractions were slowing down and that I would go for a walk to get them going again and then jump in the shower. But I kept working instead. Serkan made a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, cucumber, olives, tomatoes, and toast with almond butter and honey. I ate this over a long while in between arranging.

During a contraction or two I had to tell Rowan: When mommy is doing this (leaning forward on the counter, moaning, and rocking my hips), please don’t ask me questions. I can be more attentive to you when I’m not doing that.

Around 11, I texted Randi to tell her that contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. She said they’d head up and be at our place around 1 p.m. To let her know if they get stronger. I texted back: Wow. Already? They were based in Folsom, about 35 minutes away, and I didn’t want them to make multiple trips up to our home in Placerville. But a while later, I wrote to say: OK. These are really getting intense. I am getting in the shower now. At some point around that time Serkan also texted Ozan and Teresa to head up from Davis, about an hour away.

I’m not sure why I felt so adamant about wanting to shower. I was about to get into an eventually bloody birth tub after all. I just really wanted to wash my hair. But once I finally got in the shower, it was hard to get out. It was hard to remember to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. My inner mantra: You need hot water for the tub; you need hot water for the tub; you need hot water for the tub. This is what made me finally climb out of the shower, after “just one more ‘wave’.”

I stepped out, toweled up and yelled for Serkan. “I’m going to need you now. Like fuLLY. SQUEEZE MY HIPS AND PRESS YOUR THUMBS INTO MY BACK!” Breathe. Whew “Thank you.” I remember being surprisingly polite throughout labor. Because you know, less is usually more. Panting for “thumbs, more thumbs, more pressure” is way more effective, than: Babe, can you please throw your whole body weight into the pressure you put into your thumbs while squeezing my hips with the rest of your hand as hard as you can AND not lean up against me?

We made it to the bedroom, I put on a nightgown, and we towered up all the pillows. I leaned on them and put my butt up in the air. I just wanted to slow this labor down, since it was still just Serkan, Rowan, and I. At some point the midwives were in the room setting up the pool. They entered quietly to keep the sacred quiet of labor quiet. Everybody who entered whispered. I felt so thankful for their reverence and respect.

The day was warm, but not hot, with a magnificent wind. After a recent heat wave, I worried that our bedroom would be way too hot. All the curtains were drawn, but their sheerness filled the room with sweet light and a feeling of rightness. The long turquoise ones billowed in and out, like waves.

(In the quiet days postpartum, when the birth aura of the room was still strong, I’d watch the curtains skirt in and out as if in a twirl as if in a breath. Their calm dance and grace mirrored the love in the room. Somehow magic to me as the sight united with the background wind chime and bird song, leaves shushing, chickens cooing, the cars and airplanes and garden power tools doing their thing quiet and loud, kids playing far away. My baby breathing next to me on the bed. I didn’t want to leave the room, but life and big brother made me. For the first week, though, we ate all our family meals together in the bedroom.)

The midwives went to work fast, inflating the birth tub aka kiddie pool. Little did I know that so many colorful fish would surround me. Rowan ran to get his boat to float in the water as it filled. Someone convinced him to take the boat out when there was enough water for me to get in. He did so without complaint. Then he asked to get in. Someone said that was up to me. And Serkan said not right now. That was the right answer.

At this point, Teresa and Ozan hadn’t arrived yet, and—I found out later—the midwives were wondering how this would play out with Rowan there by himself. He wasn’t phased by my mounting loudness during contractions. When Rowan’s lovely caretakers arrived, they whisked him to another room. He returned when Jaslynn invited him to meet his baby brother.

Normally we would have had the tub beforehand to be able to inflate it in early labor. But we didn’t, and the kiddie pool was the emergency backup. It is larger in diameter and doesn’t fit the tub liner we’d bought. This also made the water shallower than normal. That and my shower which sapped us of a fair amount of hot water made for a very shallow birth tub. “I just want my bottom in the water.” Randi suggested I recline on my side. I did that until the hard ground underneath made my hips ache more than I cared to take.

I tried hands and knees while hug-leaning on Serkan and over the side of the tub, but the ground hurt my knees, my butt wasn’t in the water, and the contractions felt less intense that way. I finished transition naked in the tub semi-reclining with my back against Serkan’s chest. He straddled me with his legs, and I held them during contractions while he tried to do that thumb-pressure-hip-squeeze maneuver in this more awkward position.

Jaslynn frequently brought me water and coconut water. At the end of it all, they were impressed by how much I drank. Yet, while I was drinking, I felt like I couldn’t get enough out of the straw. She took care of both Serkan and I, offering liquid and wiping our brows with a cold washcloth. They teased that it looked like he was the one in labor for his profuse sweating. I guess it was still a fairly warm day, and yes, Serkan was working hard. We tried turning on the ceiling fan, but that made me cold, so we turned it off. Meanwhile Jaslynn continuously boiled water on the stove and poured hot water into the tub. Slow going.

Shortly after I was in the water, I had the go ahead to start pushing. I felt like I needed the ‘go ahead’ because with Rowan I had an immense urge to push for hours while I was only dilated to about 6 cm. I was told to blow raspberries at the urge. But it was so primal, that seemed impossible. This time, though, the urge wasn’t as strong, but I tried to make the most of it. I felt good and I never hit a wall or felt like I couldn’t continue. Randi said: Why don’t you see if you can feel his head. Reach in there toward your belly button. I lit up. My expression said Yes! Serkan said, Really? Are you sure? Yes, a head of the softest hair. I felt for that head of hair after every contraction. Randi told Serkan to feel it too. I should ask him what he experienced at that moment.

Amid faraway sounds of Rowan chasing chickens, yelling at Cloud to come back, and getting hit by the ball while playing basketball with Teresa and Ozan, I pushed. I pushed for a little over an hour, and it’s hard to say if I felt the head descend. During a push, Randi said she could see his hair and that it was dark. I wanted to see! Rowan was strawberry blonde when he was born.

Apparently around the hour mark is the when the midwives start really coaching the pushes. I got a lot of: Push harder, Heather. It’s harder than you think. I know the birth books say to breathe the baby out, but it’s harder than that. You have to continue past the burning sensation. I was deep in laborland thinking the gamut: Seriously? “Breathe the baby out. Slow down during pushing” was going to be one of the affirmations for my wall. I don’t even feel the ring of fire. Are they in a hurry? (It was Memorial Day Monday.) Are they worried? Should I be worried? Chill out, guys. I’ve got this.

Randi would pull down on my perineum during pushes, and that helped a lot. The urge would pick up again toward the end, almost like doubling the push. I’d get to the end of the urge, and then get an all new one that was even more powerful. That second push was what they wanted to see! And I could only give them that with the help of my body pushing, not me willing myself to push. Then Randi got out the mirror. At first I couldn’t see anything at the angle and didn’t have the energy to say so. Then I could only see that I had torn a contraction or two before. I’d felt it happen, and that bummed me out. Then Serkan spoke for us, and Randi corrected the angle of the mirror. During a push, I could SEE how close our baby was to being born. If I could just get over that lump of middle head, he’d be out!

I was in a semi supine position that I never imagined I’d be in for this birth. I thought I’d squat. I’d been doing a lot of prenatal yoga squats. Serkan pulled back on my legs during these final contractions. I held the skin back around my vagina to try to pull it over our baby’s head. And I pushed. Hard. And I did it! Our baby’s head was out. Halfway out. And I had to wait for the next contraction to push out the rest out of his head.

And then one more or so for his shoulders. I was hoping after the head was out, the rest of the body would shoot out of me with the next contraction. But Randi assisted his shoulders out. That part took longer than I’d imagined, and I had a few seconds of shoulder dystocia fear. Maybe I’d read too much.

Suddenly my baby was on my chest. They say I pulled him out of the water, but I have no recollection of how he got there. I was crying and trying to catch my breath and belief that this baby was really here with us. Through tears, I squeaked, “I’m your mommy.” The first minute or so just seemed so involuntary. Like I couldn’t control what I did. I cried a cry of sheer relief, disbelief, and gratitude. My baby shook in my arms, an extension of me and my shaking. He was covered in vernix, which I never got to see or feel on Rowan. And then he belted out a hearty cry. I started to sing my version of “You Are My Sunshine” without crying.

Randi asked if they should get Rowan and I said, Yes! Please. And Rowan met his little brother. He touched his head. He beamed. He walked out of the room and returned with his boat. He sailed the boat in the water for his little brother. He asked why the water was so red. Randi answered something true about birth being bloody.

They gave me something to help the placenta contraction come. Randi gently tugged on the cord. I guess it had already been over 10 minutes. I was feeling ready to get out of the water and change positions. I can only imagine Serkan was hoping for the same. Birthing the placenta wasn’t hard, but I do remember feeling like I was done pushing. It was a great relief to be placenta done. Soon after, Serkan cut the cord. Rowan watched, his obsession for placentas and umbilical cords heightened. Some blood spattered on us.

Jaslynn prepared a throne of pillows for me on the bed. They helped me out of the water and into the bed. This is where I really breastfed our boy for the first time. I tried in the water, but it was still early. We were skin to skin and both blanketed with warmed receiving blankets. My baby's eyes were open and we stared at each other. I completely missed that first golden hour with Rowan. After the midwives cleaned and cleared out the pool and everything birth related, they weighed, measured, administered the vitamin K shot, and clothed Linden in the bed right next to us. Jaslynn gave Rowan, Teresa, and I a placenta geography lesson, before taking it home to encapsulate it for me.

There are a few pictures of Serkan, Rowan, and I looking down at our new baby. I tear up just thinking of these pictures. So many memories make me need to reprocess my beginning with Rowan. I had no idea there was so much work to be done on that front. When a mom has had a psychologically painful birth, people just point to her healthy baby or change the subject. They don’t want to hear the pain in her eyes. So you learn fast that, just as with every loss, it is a closed subject. You have a new human to care for. That takes up most of your time.

Later that evening, Serkan was away talking to Ozan, and I was talking with Teresa. She gave me the report of how Rowan was during the labor. When my screams got real loud, Rowan’s face lit up and he said: That means baby brother’s coming really soon. Rowan normally slept in the bed with us, but unbidden, he told Teresa: I’m going to sleep in my bed tonight because baby brother needs mama. When Serkan was getting Rowan ready for bed, Rowan asked if baby brother was going to cry a lot. Serkan said that he might. So Rowan said, OK. I want to sleep in my bed. Normally, I do all the bedtime routines, and I just figured that Rowan would get in bed with us. He lasted two days outside of the room with frequent hollers for daddy from across the house. Then we brought Rowan’s mattress into our room, into a perfect nook. We also hung a long scarf above the bed, so it’s like a little fort.

My new peace is wind chimes, sleeping baby grunts, the washing machine swishing diapers, the toddler singing selfmade lyrics to no one in particular and asking: Mama, do you like my singing, a good song. Rowan, I love your singing. Linden, I love your smiles.

I love that Rowan is part of Linden’s birth story. He was there. And if he doesn’t remember it someday, there are pictures of him meeting his baby brother for the first time. Covered in vernix and still attached to his placenta still inside my body. I loved that I could labor and get our space ready without having to worry about going anywhere. I loved that everyone there approached the event quietly, reverently. I believe love brought about Linden’s labor and infused the room he was born into. As I travel further and further from the early postpartum days, I want to try to deliver that love, gratitude, joy to our family.

Dear Rowan: I am always here and there.

Tonight you asked for daddy to take you to bed. That means I won't be seeing you guys again until I silent myself into bed with you. I'll scoot you to the middle to make space for me. And even though I'll be way too tired, I'll stretch the headlamp over my head and read one of the books on the floor next to the bed. Right now I think I know which book that will be. But by the later of the eve, I might just want to learn about random backyard plants that we can eat. 

You are growing up so fast, I've lost a year of firsts. You've gained a year of firsts, to which no time is attached. Your mom, the writer, has not written any of it down. Part of me doesn't know how it happened. But that's like me you'll come to see. Gold intentions manufacturing dust. And summer flower garlands eventually hung. Felt birds to grace the feeder branch, yet unhung. Half finished fish.

But now I'm just cutting myself short. We do so much together. Most of the time, we just be. I watch you color and paint. You tell me what you're drawing. The friends. The waterfalls and trains, mountains and airplanes. The octopuses with 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 7, 8 arms, and the odd seahorse. I used to do all the drawing. (You have taught me everything I know about the mighty steam engine.) Now, though, I mostly sit.

There are times I want to bottle the moment. To be able to open it whenever I want to hear it sing. One morning down by the river, you were throwing rocks into the water like you always do. I leaned on a rock with my feet in the water, where you wanted to throw your finds. I pointed to where to throw them--away from me. You told me to move out of the way, please. I found an even better boulder and reclined, while you tossed rocks and wowed your excellent splashes.

In the sun, I could feel the right side of me burning, and I said that we would have to move to the shade and eat strawberries soon. As I write this, I smile. I understand why you dropped all the rocks in your hands and ran to the backpack. But at the time, I was mentally preparing you for a transition, which I presumed you would fight. Strawberries. But red red strawberries and green green grapes. What other magic could we possibly need?

We sat in the shade of a cliff, the one right below our house. The two stone chairs Daddy placed there a few weeks back still stood there. I took one and offered you the other. We sat and watched the river, slurped fruit and listened to the birds. You offered me strawberries, and held my leg or my arm or my hand the entire time. We were in the flow, so close, so quiet, so connected. To each other, to everything. We do not need a time machine. 


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