Mothering Pregnant


I am logged onto my computer for the first time in a long while and thought I would post a long overdue update. Where to start?

Tuesday, 8/9, Marshall, and I went to the midwives because I suspected that I was slowly leaking amniotic fluid since the previous morning. I really should have packed a bag and brought Adam, since they had me head directly to the birthing center. We called Adam and waited for him to come. He brought an old friend (temporarily here from Kuwait) to keep Marshall company until my in-laws arrived (they were away on vacation, but headed back).

The midwives started me on a slowly increasing drip of pitocin to induce labor, as I was not dilated, effaced, or ripened. Nothing. Just leaking, slowly. It was ok in the beginning, but became the most intense, utterly exhausting experience of my life. I was also monitored continously (with remote monitors, primarily) and was on antibiotics since they did not have the results of my group B strep test and the baby was premature, and my water had ruptered days before.

It was completely unlike my previous birth experience. I felt completely unprepared. Blind-sided. In the beginning, I tried to rest. Then when things picked up, I hummed, chanted, walked, rocked, bounced, hung out in the labor tub, showered, and clung to Adam. Toward the end, I could not cope with the back to back artificial contractions and feared losing consciousness a few times. After begging for help, I was given a small dose of Fentanyl to make me relax between the contractions. It was recommended since it wears off after 30 minutes and is not supposed to effect the baby the way others do. It was like being trapped in my own body for those 30 minutes; I was not able to actively work through the contractions.

After 30 hours of labor and two incredibly strong, whole body pushes on the birthing stool, Harper Hawke was born and in my arms! He rooted around, latched on and began nursing right away. Our placenta was beautifully heart-shaped. Although he was born at 36 weeks 4 days, he displayed no signs of prematurity except jaundice and being small at birth (7 lbs 1 oz, 18″). I had a sore tailbone, but was in great shape otherwise.

I longed to be home all through my labor. Missing Marshall was so horrible, I began campaigning for discharge as soon as possible. My in-laws stayed with DS1 at a nearby hotel the first night and he came and visited regularly. The attending pediatrician had been concerned about Harper’s “prematurity”, the length of time that my water had been broken, my unknown GBS status, and Harper’s weight, and bilirubin count.

We were finally discharged on Saturday, 8/13. We visited with our regular pediatrician on Monday and were admitted for phototherapy Monday and Tuesday. Then we pushed really hard to go home. We rented a bili-blanket and Harper had to wrap up in that at home Tuesady night-Thursday.

Once all that was behind us and we were all home together, unfettered by cords and lights, we really began enjoying our babymoon. Marshall is doing well with everything and is adjusting to sharing. We are never apart, so the almost week-long seperation was really hard on us. He wants to nurse whenever the baby does, and that is a real challenge. He is getting the hang of letting Harper nurse first then when he switches sides, Marshall slides in and holds the baby while they both nurse.

Harper is sweet and super snuggly. He loves to be close and tries to follow his big brother’s voice with his eyes. He is now almost a pound heavier than when he was born, and is losing his yellow hue. Seeing DH and DSs all sleeping next to me in the big bed is one of the most beautiful things I have ever beheld.

Adam was incredible during the birth of our sons. He is always strong and gentle. Tender and stable, he reminds me of what is real and important. I am more in love than ever before.


Peeking In

I asked my GP if I could have my quantitative hCG levels checked, last week. I wanted some reassurance that this pregnancy is progessing in a healthy way.

Tuesday’s hCG level was 71,000 mIU/ml. I had blood drawn again on Thursday. The levels did not double in a 48-hour period, as my GP wanted, so she scheduled an ultrasound for Friday. I was trying very hard not to be worried. I know that an ultrasound is a more reliable/accurate way to test pregnancy progress, but I had wanted to avoid any early ultrasounds.

I went to our little, local hospital to have the ultrasound. I really had to fight back fear and sadness, as I knew it was premature. The ultrasound tech measured the gestational sac and said that it measured at 5 weeks, 1 day. I know when this baby was conceived and that was off by a week and 2 days. My heart sank.

Then, she turned the screen toward me. She had detected a nice heartbeat at 133 bpm! That was so wonderful to see.

The tech consulted the radiologist and came back to us. She had mismeasured the embryo. We did the ultrasound over again, and the baby measured exactly as expected; 6 weeks, 4 days!

Emotions Pregnant

In The Family Way

I am five weeks pregnant. The estimated due date, based on date of conception is September 5, 2011. Labor Day! Joy shines bright within me most of the time with trepidation wafting through, a bitter haze.

I have all of the reassuring pregnancy symptoms including extreme fatigue, nausea (if I allow myself to go too long without food), a strong attraction to all things sour, and breast tenderness when nursing Marshall. I do not mind these discomforts when they occur during the course of a natural, healthy pregnancy.

I have eliminated all forms of caffeine. Boy did I miss my cuppa for the first few days. I never miss chocolate or alcohol. But, tea and coffee are really hard to give up at first.

I am really focusing on enjoying pregnancy today. I cannot change the course of things by worrying or imagining what could go wrong. I want this baby. I need this baby.

Emotions Loss Pregnant


Keeping my hands busy these last two days has seemed so critical. Perhaps if I am up to my elbows in suds cleaning something or if my fingers are covered in flour from making a pie crust, they won’t remember what else they held so recently.

I talked with our midwife, today. She wanted to check in and see how I was feeling. And, I said honestly that I did not know. She recommended taking a couple of months “off” to heal and think.

Emotions Mothering Pregnant


Damn it. I am bleeding. I am trying very hard to remain optimistic and calm. But, the reality is that I am scared.

I had some minor spotting on Saturday then red blood on Sunday. No bleeding on Monday or Tuesday. I am bleeding again today.

I had an ultrasound on Monday. We saw a gestational sac in my uterus that measured at 4/5 weeks (right on track). There were no abnormalities observed. So, an ectopic prenancy was ruled out. One cool thing was that the tech showed us that my left ovary was responsible to releasing the egg that was fertilized.

I had blood drawn for beta HCG quant testing. On Monday the level was 3682 mIU/mL and today it was 7,066 mIU/mL. Those numbers are right in the healthy range and the rate of increase was ideal.

So, I have to take it easy. No heavy lifting or acrobatics. That is not a simple task when you are the caretaker and playmate of a wild and curious Marshall-boy. I will retest blood on Friday and have another ultrasound on Monday.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” Baruch Spinoza

Mothering Pregnant Spiritual

Full of Joy

A little seed of joy is growing within me. I am envisioning this little life in a very unscientific way. Instead of an embryo embedded in my uterus, I see a sparkle. A glimmering orb. Like the fireflies of my childhood dreams. The glow pulsates; a tiny heartbeat.

I send prayers and wishes that this little life grows stronger and stronger within me. That I will be able to hold within me this sweet one. That we will not have to seperate until we can look eye to eye and breath the same air.

Our loss earlier this summer taught me many, many things. One thing that I learned was that joy is never too “new” or “young” to share. It was and is a strage experience to mourn the loss of a little person that virtually noone else even knew existed. I decided that if I ever had the honor of holding life within me again, I would not hoard the treasure.

So, here it is:

I am pregnant! I am 4 weeks pregnant. I am ecstatic.

Loss Pregnant


As I sit in my nest wet with tears, I am moved to attempt to express my profound sense of loss. I am grieving, sorrowing, mourning. This envelopes me and I must allow it to, so as not to become calloused, brittle, hard, or cold.

For the last two months a flickering flame of hope, a joy grew deep within me. Life in my womb again suffused me, and by extension Adam and Marshall with such happiness. Each night we snuggled together, dreaming family dreams.

I have been nauseated, overly-sensitive to odors, tired to the very bone. I have avoided most foods that I typically find joy in; cooking is unbearable. But, it was all in the course of something beautiful and exciting. Knowing that these symptoms would pass as my belly swelled comforted me through even the worst wretching. As these symptoms persist but the flame is extinguished, it is a cruel mockery.

I have not ever known loss like this. It is so very different than the death of a friend or an older loved one. Memories keep them very much alive in my mind and heart. But, this little one was so new that I can grieve only the future. The potential. It is a very solitary sadness. Even my Lover can only marginally sympathize as this had been something so very much between me and our unborn child.

The medical community calls this a missed miscarriage. We went in on Tuesday for a “dating ultrasound” to measure the baby and confirm the estimated due date of January 4, 2011. We were excited with expectation of seeing the little heart beat.

Adam and Marshall stood by holding my hand as the radiology tech glided the tool over my already expanding belly. She took measurements of our little baby but did not say much. She switched over to a internal tool, and I knew that there was something wrong. Then, she called in the radiologist who repeated all that she had done. They asked me to redress and told me that they would be right back to discuss the results.

I hid for a moment in the sanctuary of the bathroom. Then, removed the hospital gown and pulled on my maternity jeans. They already seemed inappropriate. I knew what I had seen; uterine sac, a sweet little fetus. A lack of movement.

The uterine sac looked sound and healthy blood flow, the fetus measured 2.5 cm, so the dating was as expected; 9 weeks. But, no heartbeat was detected. Whatever had occurred was very recent; within a day or so. The radiologist was gentle and professional. He assured me that this was not due to something that I had done. That he was so sorry.

I needed to get out of that small, dark, tomb-like exam room. Into the light. I needed to breathe fresh air and kiss my Marshall’s soft blond hair. To feel Adam’s warmth. I needed to be reminded of what was real and good. My ears buzzed with “chromosomal abnormality”.

My options were laid out to me by my gentle and sympathetic PCP and then again by my kind midwife. I choose to wait. To allow my body to recognize the loss. I trust the wisdom of my body. Meanwhile, I hold my still, unborn child within me for just a little while longer.

Mothering Pregnant

On a Hero's Journey

Our birth experience was truly beautiful. Adam and I have considered ourselves parents from the moment that we found out about Marshall’s conception. Here is our story. I had been experiencing prodromal labor for weeks. But, on Sunday, May 18th, I felt different. I felt ready. I sensed that the baby within me was ready.

Strong contractions began in the afternoon and I wanted to keep them going. So, I prepared for labor by applying oil of evening primrose to my cervix, having wonderful loving, deeply meditating, performing steady labor inducing acupressure on my hands and feet, rocking on my trusty exercise ball, cooking and eating some lovely high-protein salmon, spinach and quinoa, drinking copious amounts of water with Emergen-C , eating lots of juicy pineapple that My Love prepared, cleaning, dancing, taking Rescue Remedy and trying to rest. Adam and I watched The Kite Runner and had a good cry (Well, I cried. Adam’s eyes looked suspiciously moist. Perhaps it was just our allergies…).

I had no concept of time, during our birth experience. It was only afterward, during discussions, that Adam filled in the times and details. As is true in the other aspects of our life together, he was always there. Holding me, reminding me of lovely places that we have been to together, inspiring me, and keeping me hydrated. He was my birth guardian and his gorgeous eyes my focal point.

At around 10:00 pm, my contractions were very strong and regular, coming in 3-5 minute intervals. Adam packed up the car and we headed out for our 45 minute drive to the birthing center at Dartmouth Hitchcock. When we first got there I was examined by a nurse and then the on-call midwife (not the one I really wanted). My contractions had slowed to between 5-10 intervals, so the midwife told us that we should go home to rest. I was deep into Laborland territory, so I had to rely on Adam to be reasonable. He told the midwife that we would like to stay, due to our 45 minute drive home. So, I was given a warm blanket and told to try to rest, as much as possible. I could not rest. I felt the strongest urge to move, but I tried to conserve energy.

The intensity of the contractions made me feel sick to my stomach, so Adam helped me to the toilet. To our surprise, my water broke! I took a shower and Adam helped by cleaning up and walking back to bed with me. When the nurse came in to check on us, we told her that the bag of waters had burst. She seemed unsure, so she went and looked into the toilet and saw little flakes of the baby’s vernix suspended in the water. That confirmed in their minds that this was real labor!

We were transferred to a birthing suite, right next to one of the deep labor tubs. Adam suggested that we get into the tub. We spent the next two hours in that wonderful water. The lighting was soft, the walls were painted with wispy, Maxfield Parrish-like clouds. We were left alone to labor in privacy with only occasional visits from the nurse to check the baby’s heart rate. We listened to some soothing ambient/trance and Adam held me as we rocked in the tub. When I got too hot to stay in any longer, we got out.

During the two hours in the tub (I thought that we had been in for 20 minutes), my cervix had gone from 3 to 9 cm dilation and was now 100% effaced. I labored on the toilet, the rocking chair, the shower, the exercise ball, walking, swaying, squatting. I hummed and vocalized the whole time, finding that deep thrumming, hmmms, and ohms, were the most productive.

When I was ready to push, I tried the squat bar and then being on all fours. I was not comfortable with either of those options as I felt unstable on the bed. I was beginning to feels worn down. When the midwife left the room, the well-meaning nurse directed me to a supine position, with my feet supported by her and Adam and me pulling back on my knees. Classic movie labor position. I shut down completely, thinking “This is the opposite of what I feel like doing”. I knew that the birth outlet was now 30% smaller than when I was squatting. She asked if I was afraid of something and I began to cry. Adam said, “This is not how we envisioned it. She does not want to push while laying down.”

I had been attracted to the simplicity of the birthing stool and asked if I could use it. That was so much better. I felt secure and grounded. Ready to push, with gravity as my aid.

After pushing quietly for some time, the midwife told me that while this had been a lovely, tranquil experience so far, but that this was a big baby and I was really going to need to dig deep and PUSH with each urge. Adam held me under the arms, whispering in my ear and giving me encouragement.

Our midwife guided my hand to feel our baby’s silky little head, crowning. I found stores of energy and was anxious to hold my child in my arms. The midwife encouraged me to get louder, to grunt and growl. She placed her fingers on my perineum and told me to focus my pushing into her hands. I felt our baby really begin to descend. And with one long grunt and push, I felt the baby leave my body.

I reached for the slippery, blinking baby and pulled the baby up on to my chest. The midwife said, “See what your body can do! You have a perfect vagina.” I love that woman!

I looked down into the very face of pureness. The baby’s silky, dark hair swirled around a somewhat conical (I thanked the babe for adapting so much) head. Little cowlicks swept the hair. Tiny hands wrapped around my fingers as I pulled the baby to my breast, and said to this new, yet familiar face, “Hello, mini Adam.” The hairline and little face was so very much like my dearest husband’s. The nurse asked us if we had looked “to see what it” was. A perfect little penis indicated that we had a little son.

We welcomed Marshall Leif into the “outside” world. When his cord stopped pulsing and all the blood returned to his little body, Adam cut the umbilical cord that connected us. He brought the baby to a warm, lit area of the room to check him all out and recut the umbilical cord, it was very long.

While cuddling our little son, I delivered the placenta, our shared organ. It did not want to leave my body, but after pitocin, and coaxing from the midwife, it was expelled. She spread it out on a little table beside the bed and showed all the parts to us. What a fascinating thing!

Marshall was alert and interested in the world around him, right from the start. Lifting his head off of my chest and turning his tiny head toward Adam’s voice.

I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to birth in such a natural, holistic way. Childbirth is a profound rite of passage, not a medical event (even when medical care is part of the experience). I hope that sharing our story will encourage other women and their loving partners to explore all the possibilities, to take charge of their healthcare, to question the “norms”, and ultimately, to birth in their own way.




So, today is the estimated due date. I saw the midwives, yesterday. All looked good. It is always miraculous to hear the baby’s heat beat! My cervix was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced and the baby’s head is nice and low. The sutures on the baby’s head can be felt through the bag of waters. The midwife said that I was looking very healthy and prepared for labor any time. They cannot predict the date or time, so they do not even try.

The question was raised by her as to what I wanted to do if the baby was not born by the 41.5 week mark. They typically induce after that, because of increased risks to the mother and child. I do not feel comfortable with the thought of artificial induction. So, we agreed that an ultrasound and non-stress test would be performed at that point to check the amniotic fluid levels and the well-being of the baby. We would then decide how to proceed.

I did allow the midwife to sweep the membranes, in the hopes that that would move things along. She inserted her finger(s) into my cervix and swept from side to side, pulling the membranes (bag of water) away from the mouth of the cervix and the lower uterus, and in the process stretching and irritating the cervix. Sometimes this will generate local production of prostaglandins and enough of the necessary hormones to start labor. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 attempts to begin labor. Many women find this to be a very uncomfortable, if not painful, procedure. I felt fine during the procedure with a cramping coming later in the day.

I have been drinking red raspberry leaf tea, throughout my pregnancy and have increased (in the last week) the concentration and frequency so as to prepare my uterus for a nice strong, smooth labor. Red raspberry leaf tea is a uterine tonic used by Native Americans for thousands of years. It tones your uterus by helping to “focus” your contractions. Its job is to help my uterus do more effective exercising. It does not “cause” contractions and can be safely used throughout pregnancy. It is contraindicated for those having complications “just in case”, however, by most doctors who do not understand its use. Many women safely use it from the moment they learn they are pregnant at six weeks until months after delivery. It helps to tone the uterus after delivery as well, shrinking it back to size more quickly and reducing bleeding.

I am also now taking evening primrose oil, in the hope that that will further prepare my cervix to stretch. Evening primrose oil is an excellent source of prostaglandins, which readies your cervix for labor. From my research, I found that it can be taken orally as soon as 34 weeks, and can be applied directly to the cervix at full term (36 weeks). The general recommendation is two 500mg capsules per day until week 38, at which time you increase to 3-4 per day. The entire capsule can be inserted vaginally (inserted just before bed, it will dissolve before the first time you wake to use the bathroom), or you can use the oil on your fingers for your perineal massage, then also rub on your cervix (assuming you can reach it). Applying directly to the cervix is optimal, but the beneficial ingredients are absorbed through the external skin or the stomach also.

So, the waiting begins. I cannot wait to hold this loving baby in my arms. To see the baby in Adam’s arms will be the sweetest gift of all. A reward without measure.

Curious Pregnant