(Deep breath, now. For
Brevity: Not. My. Forte.)
As the mercury makes its slow descend, we here in the valley of the sun are all squirming with excitement. Stretching, we wiggle our fingers and toes, ready to spread out in the warm sun and cool breeze. Park days are back in business again and every weekend is crammed with events and activities of all sorts as everyone rushes to take advantage of the (finally) cool weather. There’s glee in the air, anticipation and the feeling that life is going to be good again.
Me? I lumber. Like a bear I push my snout along the ground, sniffing. I want to fill up with food, growl, find a cave and sleep. Because it is time to rest.
It’s funny how I feel this instinct, for someone who has grown up in the tropics and spent so many years there.
Perhaps I am connecting with that rising spiral of melancholy in me. The season is turning. Wafts of chill weave through our days and evenings and all around are signs of farewell– Is that leaf trembling to break free, to return to Earth’s embrace yet again? As I flip through the calendar, the pending onslaught of the holiday season, the jingle bells, the ho-ho-ho’s, the cheer and jolly-holly and the glittery holiday dresses and the potential of social occasions makes me want to crawl under a rock. I love my friends but I am also a hopeless anti-social freak. The holidays tire me out. The red, green, gold and silver merchandise, already populating the stores in looming numbers, makes me nauseous. I want to be in a little hut in the woods.
A sensation of hollowness fills my heart. Memories surge and tears well up. I miss him. Terribly much.
Yesterday I was at the hospital again. It was funny to be back again after nine months. It was almost like a circle was completed. Lyra was born here, and this time we are back to hang cranes in honor and remembrance of Ferdinand. The day before and that morning I felt a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat. So I was really thankful to have some support, moral and physical. Two other families joined us and we had a beautiful morning spreading out the painted rocks in the River of Hope and hanging up the cranes. It went smoother than I had expected- the ribbons needed no extension. When we needed a longer ladder and nurse Vicki went to borrow one from the maintenance guy he said due to liability issues he would have to be the one on the ladder. Still, he pulled down some branches so the kids could participate in hanging, and there were many lower, accessible branches for them to hang the cranes. It just felt so wonderful. I wish the pictures had turned out better. I am going to take a photography class coz I need to do better with my picture-taking, but here they are:
The garden prior:
Putting up the cranes ( every single soul there helped, I cannot tell you how heart-warming it was to see the kids participating):
And the garden after:
Not part of the garden but the memorial ceremony extends outside of the garden onto a lawn are with some trees so we hung some cranes there too:
The kids had pictures taken before a tree:
(kiddo in-front found a cool-looking bug and re-located it in the plastic box that held some painted rocks…)
A crane against the light:
And pictures of the painted rocks in the dry river bed:
(The kids -and moms- in our homeschool group painted some rocks too.)
The red rock in the picture above was painted by C, who lost her sweet baby girl Betty Sue, in May this year. C was there to help with the cranes and we both wore necklaces in memory of our babies. Over the months I have slowly gotten to know C better and I am so glad for the opportunity– I like her a lot. Anyways, the story here is that she set her rock down and one of the kids set down a rock next to hers. That rock was sent by Melka from the lowlands. She had painted a star in honor of Ferdinand and wrote in the local language the words “star voyager”. What a beautiful and moving coincidence that these two rocks are set together!
I’m kinda glad that this is done with. It had taken so long, as nurse Vicki commented. I saw some hospital staff stopped to look when the cranes were being hung, and their expressions spoke of… amazement and wonder. The garden was indeed transformed, and even if one day the cranes are going to be faded or ravaged by the rain, they were at least once beautiful, and we had warm memories of hanging them up.
Today she is nine months. I think it’s time I compile the notes and tell her birth story.
Her birth was my re-birth. All those months I hid away from the light. (Remember seeds need the dark soil to encourage sprouting?) Fear chewed and hope fought her way in. It was hard, and yet when I surrendered it was easy. Still, I would not have been able to have done it alone. I thank my family, my friends- including you, denizens of the Internet, who had walked along. You have no idea what all those words and support meant to me.
About a month before her arrival, I wrote these to the two women who would be supporting me at Lyra’s birth:
I get flashbacks, yes. Intense, heart-wrenching. But I think it is because the closer the time comes for this new little soul to arrive, the more intense my need to grieve and mourn for Ferdinand. Because it cannot be more glaring how this new life is the result of a tender one lost. Whatever the connections, whatever the Mystery within, the questions and answers, I will never know, probably not for a long time, so I try to accept, and not expect. I accept the pain of the memories, and I accept the gratitude of this time, this opportunity to do it again, to try again to bring a new life to this realm. I accept the long labor I may have; I accept all the pain and discomfort as my body gives way and open up. I accept the flabbiness, the looseness, the lack of control over everything. I accept achy breasts and tired arms. I accept warm pee and smelly poop. I accept midnight wailings and untimely spit-up’s. I accept joyous exhaustion. I accept overwhelming grief, all over, once again, after this new little one has arrive. I accept my heart bursting open. I accept brokenness.
Fear finds me, for sure. The unknown of what may happen haunts me. But there is no other way but to lurch forward into that mysterious darkness. They say, Jump! and then you will see the safety net beneath. So, I jump. No other way, and no turning back.
And four days before her birth I wrote:
I have no more fears. I think so. I can tell you I am prepared for her birth, as much as for her death. Not because Ferdinand died, but because, I know she, only she has sole privy to the choice that she is going to make. She is not going to come alive because I want her to, because I so desperately need her to. I do not own her, never did and never will. I trust, all trembling, to the road ahead of me that I have to walk. I trust, i surrender. I will be strong, yet yielding.
And I will tell you another secret. I am not so much prepared for the pain of childbirth. No.
I let go that it has to be painful. I let go of its names and labels.
I will just experience all that it is. Its whereabouts, its depths and width and breadth and sensation, but I shall not empower it by naming it. I will not ignore it either. Just let it be.
And I believe it can even be easy, joyful, ecstatic. Maybe, who knows? I will take it all, as it comes.
Fear and courage came in waves, much like labor contractions. Then there came the struggle of whether I should go in for an induction.
I remember the last time I went in for monitoring her heartrate spiked and stayed elevated for a good twenty minutes. That was unusual and made us very anxious. I still remember R saying, “I think we oughta get her out earlier. Maybe tonight.” But our midwife assured us that what transpired was normal (who freakin’ believe in “normal” after your baby has died?) and that in any case- the lesson of not-being-in-control being driven home to us- they have no beds for induction for the next two nights.
I had a cervical check that day and did not stop bleeding. By late afternoon I was concerned enough to call our midwife and was asked to go to triage.
After two hours we were sent home. The bleeding was not “usual”, the nurse said, but then the heartbeat was there. *shrug* What else is there to do but to wait to exhale with relief, or for the world to collapse once again? The nail called The-Lesson-of-No-Control was being driven deeper into our heads.
But wait– they will have a bed for us, two nights later. Come in around midnight, they said. Lovely. Now we get to plan. Ha.
The plan is to use a cervical gel to get things going. To nudge the body along, to coax it to yield the ripe baby. There will be three applications. After each application, I was to lay supine for an hour, trying not to pee. Then I will get up and walk for 45 minutes. Then I get checked again to see what wonders the gel had created.
We were both tired when we arrived. Sleep weighed heavy on our eyelids. Despite being excited, nervous, scared and nearly insane, we were very sleepy.
First application: nothing happened. Her movements actually slowed down, she wanted to sleep too; it’s midnight for goodness sake!
Second application: still nothing. We both started to doze off. Nurse was sure third time will work! If not, said she, you go home.
Third application: for the entire hour when I was laying down, NOTHING happened. R and I looked at each other, disappointed. I started to draft in my head what I will post on my blog and what to say in my email to all my friends who have been chewing on their fingers and toes. R said he was starting to welcome the notion of beng horizontal in our own bed.
Before sending us out on our walk for the final time, the nurse said, “Just go for 30 minutes.” In other words: get ready to go home and come back again two days later.
Sighing, we stepped out of triage. I stopped in-front of that wall that had tiles with baby names on it. Babies who had died. I could not help noticing there were a few last names that repeated themselves. Then the contractions started to kick in. It was about six in the morning. We were cold, tired and hungry, but the baby was ready for some action right about now.
I could not walk properly anymore, pounded with contractions. Had to remember to breathe. I thought I was going into a panic. What is going on? Is this for real?
Thirty minutes later, we dragged ourselves back to triage, looking like we just returned from a Halloween party- both of us with dark circles and bags under our eyes, haggard and doubled over, me with blood stains on my hospital gown. I headed straight to the bed to curl myself into a ball while R informed the nurse that “it seems like something is happening now.”
After about an hour of latching onto the bedrail in writhing pain, they finally moved us out to triage to a room. I think by then we had called Leigh and Mani, the two most wonderful, fabulous support, ever. Mani was at Ferdinand’s birth and I knew I needed her to be there for Lyra’s. She is my calm-my-heart pill. Leigh, is the valley’s doula-diva and a sweet friend. She was going to drive for an hour and drag a water tub for me to relax in. I will not get my water-birth but at least I get to labor in water- or so it was planned.
Pressure, pressure, pressure. I tried to remember to breathe, to relax, to not yell. They poked me to run antibiotics as I was Strep-B positive. And something else. I was not comfortable and I remember thinking to myself, it’s still a long ways ahead, she’ll probably be here tonight.
Mani arrived first, then Leigh. Only to be ignored by me. I had to focus, my back was about to break and I needed to pee but everything had to stop for me to breathe through the ramming contractions. My midwife Janice came in. I love her. She is confident, motherly and has a sense of humor that I liked. Janice asked the nurse a few questions and nurse told her I was probably about 8cm dilated. Janice checked and then she looked at us and said, “She’s complete!”
OK, that pump crazily pumping water into the tub was shut off. Janice asked for her birth equipment, got changed and everyone got into place. I said I needed to pee and Janice would NOT allow me to go to the toilet. “The baby is going to come out into the toilet!” Do it here, on the bed, she told me.
“I can’t!” I said gently yelled back.
“Yes, you can, just do it, I’ll hold a towel under you.”
Holy cow, say what you may but I absolutely do not possess the talent to pee while everyone is watching me. I tried, but I could not.
I tried to get comfortable, I wanted to squat or kneel. With every contraction I was told to push, but suddenly I was quiet. I felt still. I wanted to wait for her to come on her own.
“It is OK, her heartbeat is strong, it is ok,” Janice assured me, and I felt my tears surged. I needed to hear that even though I could not believe in that totally. I realized that in that moment, I was in a bubble that had brought me back to Ferdinand’s birth. I was birthing again, and perhaps another dead baby. Janice’s words brought me back to the present.
The kneeling position did not work. I tried to push to break the waters but it was not happening. Janice offered to break my waters and I agreed, in great relief. I needed help. With my first birth I was furious that they even dared suggest they break my waters- I wanted everything to happen by itself. But this time, I accepted that I needed help and was only grateful that it was offered.
The fluid was clear, and as Janice reported, all was fine, all was good. “The baby is ready,” she said.
All the while, Mani and Leigh and R were doing all they could to help me be comfortable. The room was dimmed and the atmosphere was just intimate and sacred. I felt that Ferdinand was close by, waiting, his hand and Lyra’s, entwined.
As the contractions started again I started to push and it was just hard! My heart was burning with anticipation, love and desire; it wanted to leap out of my throat. I closed my eyes. “How long will this take?” I wondered. It was a little after nine. Only about two hours since contractions kicked in.
Crowning. I reached down and touched her head, moist, warm and sticky. That gotta be real. I asked in my head, “Are you doing ok? Are you ready to meet the world?”
And then I lost all control and started to scream- I cannot do this! I was just a screaming banshee. Forget grace! I was tired, in pain and everyone was trying to help me, bless their hearts, but I was just screaming in their ears– I cannot!!
But that all changed when I heard Janice say, “OK, no crying now, and no more whining. The baby’s shoulder is stuck. You need to push now and help her get out.”
That did it. That lit the fire under my butt in my belly and it was time to give all that I’ve got. With one warrior cry after another I pushed, my heart racing, and unknowingly, my entire being was praying, pleading, “Please, be safe. Please, be born alive and well.”
And, not long after, she was unstuck and born. She cried. And I cried too.And I think everyone else cried. No dry eyes in the room, as they say.
Finally, she was born. And laid on me. She was so warm and her face was all scrunched up. It was a rough ride and she was not holding back her complaints. She looked so much like Ferdinand. Time and space did not seem to make sense. I felt I had given birth to Ferdinand all over again, but this time he was alive and screaming.
But no, it was not him, it was Lyra, our sweet, sweet darling baby whom we had waited months for. I held her, close, gentle yet tight, and I smelled her, that sweet smell of birth, of life. About that time, I felt Ferdinand leave the room, his job done.
That was my fastest and most intense birth ever, and I am grateful for that. I do not believe that cervical gel worked. I think Lyra just decided she was ready to get out, and get out fast. And I am glad for that. I am so glad. Welcome, baby.
First day of your life, and pouting in your sleep.
Being kissed by your sisters.
The two days at the hospital after the birth all I knew was fatigue. And disbelief. I was elated, boosted by birth hormones, but I was also shrouded by disbelief. It was only when we brought her home that she felt real. And it was only when I saw her in our house that brought me deep sorrow, for not having Ferdinand. My joy will also contain a wisp of sorrow, a feeling I am getting used to. When strangers coo over Lyra I wish I can talk to them about Ferdinand, but I did not want her to be shadowed, so I just remember him in my heart silently, and every time I feel his hand over my heart, whispering, “I know, I know.” Every time I would wish that Ferdinand would have received that delightful attention too, but I have to remind myself that as a parent, one of the most important things to remember is: what you want may not be what your child want. We are connected, but also separate, each with his destiny to be fulfilled.
Lyra’s recent pic.
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