Breast Friends Forever

Sophie, drinking her midday smoothie.

Sophie, drinking her midday smoothie.

I recently saw one of my best single girlfriends (shocker!) and of course, Sophie was in tow. Magically, she sat quietly and played with her toys while I lived vicariously through my friend’s exciting, unpredictable life. (She goes on vacation! She goes to restaurants! She gets dressed and leaves her apartment with nothing but a bag and her keys and maybe a coffee in tow! She sleeps without being fondled by hungry lips! Whose life is this?)

We chatted on her floor, curled up like primates. Midway through the conversation, I felt my breasts balloon, signaling it was time for Sophie to eat. I pulled her to my chest, mid-sentence, and popped a boob in her mouth.

If you are a breastfeeding mom, you don’t think a lot about this action. I do it in public, at home, on the phone, wherever. I’m not flashing anyone – I’m simply nourishing my child (well-covered, of course). And yet, you’d think I was stripping while shouting derogatory words due to the eye shielding and embarrassed looking away this causes by some. It’s as if they’ve been blinded by the sun.

“You’re still breastfeeding?” my friend asked. Incredulous. Almost tinged with a hint of disgust.

“Um, yeah.”

“How long will you do it?”

“Until my body doesn’t produce it or she lets me know… Who knows? Could be three years.”

“Three years? You’re not going to be one of those moms whose child can unbutton your blouse, are you?”

“Well, I don’t wear blouses. Or buttons. So we should be good.”

I’ve never been able to understand the disgust with breastfeeding or phrases that start with “one of those moms.” The people who make faces about breast milk are the same ones who have guzzled from a cow’s boob from the time they were young. Except those boobs are attached to dirty machinery, which are often infected with puss, radioactive particles or even flame retardants. Tons of bacteria. Not to mention dairy is incredibly hard to digest. But this is normal, despite the fact that we are the only species to drink another species milk.

Yet, because I give my child the food that was provided for her around the clock (no machinery or pus included) for the past nine months, I am icky.

As my friend Lauren and I took our little ones to the zoo a few days later, both carefully snuggled in their Ergos, Sophie drifting amidst the sea of monkeys and lions, we stopped to feed our babies. We happened to find a bench by the monkeys. As I fed my daughter, I watched them caring for each other, smashing what looked like poo against a window and eating it from the streaked glass. I studied their sad eyes and hunched shoulders. I wondered how happy or miserable they were, or if they might have been separated from their young.

A different kind of mother.

A different kind of mother.

As we focused on a mother sitting by us, eating that green looking dung, I looked at her nipples.

“We have the same nipples,” I joked.

As if in response, she got up and moved, her ballooned, very wrinkled vagina on full display.

“She is one of my people!” I exclaimed. Why didn’t people find her offensive? Vagina and nipples hanging out, pressing against the glass, practically blinking at people. Eating poop no less! But no one was judging her. They were photographing her.

It’s a fine line to discover what is “socially” acceptable as a mother, and there’s no more touchy subject than breastfeeding. It just so happens that it’s not for everyone, and while my life would be so easy if Sophie had formula or I pumped (you mean someone else could feed her???), it’s simply not an option. This is part of my job – the part that I love the most. Her lips opening and searching wildly and then clamping down with such relief, she sighs. Her free hand slapping my chest, probing my face, or curling up next to her chin. Her heavy eye lids as she slips into a milk coma. Her signal of being done as she pushes away from me in search of other pursuits.

Will I ever regret losing sleep, not having more sex, not spending more time with my hubby, not going to movies or to as many restaurants as I want in order to take care of my (barely) still small child? Never.

I have the rest of my life to to have sex, take trips, sleep, work, take naps or do what I please. My child is just a child for only a few more months. I will only be able to cradle her on my Boppy for a little while longer, and each time I pull her to my chest, I am trying to memorize every detail: how I missed that second nail; how the back of her hair is forming a devil’s tail of wispy blond; how she has leftover smoothie dried to her nostril; how the gray of her eyes is being tinged with hazel; how her cheeks are dry; how her teeth have grown even more, changing the entire shape of her mouth and smile.

Years from now, it will be nearly impossible to conjure these memories. Will I be able to remember what breastfeeding even felt like? How she literally gives me the female version of blue balls as she gets me to the let down only to pull away like a tease? What a phenomenon it is that a full breast can be emptied in five minutes and that she can play for hours subsisting on those few ounces; how I don’t have to purchase or use machinery or water to give her what she needs – I simply make it, without doing anything at all. What a miracle.

To me, it is the only choice, and I will miss it when it’s gone.

I know I’m only nine months in, and having a child walk up to me and demand my boob might feel different in a year. Or perhaps my body will decide it’s had enough before then.

But, as I’ve learned, I’m not predicting what will happen. Or bragging. Or setting anything in stone. I’m just taking advantage of one of the only free things left in this world, which happens to be the best thing for my daughter: me.

But, like my fellow friend, the monkey, I am simply following my nature (thankfully, my nature doesn’t involve slapping poo against a glass window and eating it) because it feels right to me and to my daughter.

And that’s all that matters.

For now.

9 Months In, 9 Months Out

Happy 9 months!

Happy 9 months!

Dear Sophie,

Today, you are nine months old. Today, you sit, playing independently with your toys, screaming “Mama” anytime anyone comes within two feet of you. You have eight teeth, blondish hair, gray eyes and a world of personality. You can sit, stand, crawl and take sideways steps holding onto various pieces of furniture.

You’ve gone from sleeping through the night to feeding at least four times. You kick Alex in the back and sleep horizontally between us, our bodies forming a sleepy H.

You paw my face and say “Mama” at least 100 times per day. You follow me around, you cling to me. It seems I am your world. And for as much as I roll my eyes at times or vow that I would trade my right eyeball for just five minutes alone with a glass of wine (someday!) and a novel, I know you will only need me for such an infinitesimal amount of time.

So, I respond to you. I sometimes make you wait just to test your patience (yeah, apparently you have none). Every time you say “Mama” I say “Dada,” suddenly eager to hear another word coming from your lips.

You giggle. You eat oats in the morning, smoothies at lunch and vegetables or legumes for dinner. You observe. You shove everything in sight into your mouth and never ever ever stop moving – even in sleep.

Together, we carry on conversations. Mostly “ahs” and “oohs” and “Really, Sophie?” “Look, Sophie!” “What’s that, Sophie?” “I love you, Sophie!”

All day, I watch you, I care for you, I feed you, I bathe you, I put you to sleep, I set you on the potty, I take you off the potty, I do laundry, I try and keep you stimulated, I let you wander.

For nine months, you have been my world, and I have been yours.

When I think of the nine months it took for you to grow inside of me… all the moments of uncertainty, all the hours spent wondering, “What will this be like to have a baby? Like… forever?” I really can’t believe you’re here. And I must pat myself on the back – just a little, for just a moment. I have fed you every single meal every two to three hours, 24 hours per day, for the last nine months. And I am proud of myself. Nursing is by far the best thing I have ever done, and I have no plans to stop soon.

People ask if I can remember what life was like before you. I immediately say, “Oh God, yes.” Because I had 30 years without you. I had three decades to do my own thing, to sleep, to be spontaneous, to come and go as I pleased. I had time to grow and take risks and only focus on myself (I’m really, really good at that, apparently).

When you were born, you started at 0 (though shouldn’t you technically have been 9 months old????). You have only been breathing for 270 days (though after choking on a piece of apple last night and watching your face turn purple and stop coughing, I literally thought my world was coming to an end. Thankfully, I reacted immediately and you were able to get it swallowed. Back to purees we go.).  Your eyes have only focused on the world around you for a mere nine months, and  yet it feels like forever…

How our worlds have shifted to accommodate you. How our bed has become smaller, our world brighter, our smiles more meaningful. How I have become a more ragged version of myself: sometimes confined to our condo, leaving faucets running, burning oatmeal, feeling so tired I literally lose my balance when I bend over to pick you up (Is it a tumor? Positional vertigo? Who would feed you if something happened to me? Maybe they can find a way to extract my milk, even after I’m gone…).

Sometimes I just want to curl up into a ball and cry. Other times, I am so filled with energy, I want to strap you to my chest and go run a marathon. I want to show you the world.

But mostly, I want you to know us now. When I think of you in your teenage years (Oh, Christ), I realize Alex and I will be in our mid-40s. Will we still be cool, in shape? Will we have our sense of humor, our wits? Will we still be struggling? Will we be leading the lives we have always wanted to live? Will you be an only child? Will we still have a small family? Will we be super affectionate? Will you still have lungs like a dinosaur? Will our lives ever be quiet? Will we even want them to be?

As I hear Alex struggle to get you back into a cloth diaper, and my parents patiently waiting to go get coffee on their impromptu visit to Chicago – I feel grateful. I feel grateful for the exhaustion, the struggles, the uncertainty, the absolute trial and error that is raising a first child.

Am I doing it right? Am I doing enough? Are you growing the way you need to be? Are you stimulated? How can everything fall back on me all the time? Can I please get some help – just a little, for just a little while?

You look at me and smile.

“Happy nine months,” I say.

You grin, your teeth clicking together in a massive under bite. “Mama,” you say. “Mamamamamama.” You crawl over to me, slapping your palms on our dark hardwoods and reach up your arms. I scoop you up effortlessly. You stroke my cheek. “Mama.”

Suddenly, it’s the sweetest word I have ever heard, from the only girl I will ever unconditionally love.

And just for a second, because of this child, because of you, all is right in the world.

You have tipped the balance, you have answered every question, you have given me pause. You have allowed me to be present, to stop thinking, to just do and not think.

You have given me a bigger purpose than myself.

For this, I thank you. I love you. I respect you.

I appreciate you.

Dear Sophie,

Thank you for choosing us.

The Quiet Child

photosop

Right now, Sophie is sleeping. She has been sleeping soundly for almost three hours – a rarity these days. As I obsessively peek in on her, watching the swift rise and fall of her chest, I contemplate lying with her. They always say you should nap when your baby naps, and yet, the cruel irony of not being able to sleep when she sleeps always astounds me. While I am literally so tired I can feel it in my bones, sleep still will not come.

I try and snuggle in beside her anyway and my mind races: This is your one chance to sleep for today. You know she’s going to wake up at 2:00a.m., ready to play. Sleep. Sleep now. Sleep hard. Sleep forever. Or you’re screwed.

My mind plays with me, suddenly awakened to the wild monkey chatter of my brain – and I am doomed as the conversations in my head take precedent and I get up, frustrated and exhausted, but still eager to tackle the other tasks of the day.

It’s so strange being in the house when Sophie is sleeping; how the quiet takes over; how I miss her idle chatter and the movements of her – the ordinariness of our day. I love that my family is small and quiet; that Alex has a sensitivity that can almost be touched and held. I love that he is quiet in the mornings (when I am a chatty Kathy) and that I can hear the bones of our condo settling and the train passing as I leave to go to the gym each morning. I love the silence of our lives, and I embrace it.

As Sophie continues to grow, I ponder all that she’s not getting right now in terms of socialization. While she sees plenty of adults, numerous strangers and her little “boyfriend” Atticus weekly, she will not get the social aspects of daycare. Sometimes I feel these kids are more well-adjusted and easy going than children with stay-at-home moms; sometimes not. While she won’t be thrust into a huge family, where members pass her to and fro like a bread basket, I am coming to think of socialization in different terms. And after chatting with my friend Nikki (who recently read a very interesting article on socialization and homeschools her children), I am not worried. You hear parents often saying their child is just a bit shy and needs to come out of his shell. To me, the shell can be the very best part. It can often lead to massive creativity and imagination and most importantly, contemplation, which can reveal all kinds of traits.

I was a painfully shy child. So much so, that my parents thought they were going to have to take me to a specialist (and look how well I turned out!!!! Insert obvious smiley face here.). The fact that I would have rather played with one friend versus 20 was just one aspect of my life; or the fact that I loved staying home on the weekends with my family, making pancakes, enjoying “music” night where everyone played an instrument or building giant pallets in front of the fireplace, where we’d watch movies and fall asleep. It’s just who I was (and ironically, who I still am today).

I love to be home. I love my close personal friendships and I love building intimate relationships. I would much rather make dinner and have a good conversation than be out at a party – and I’ve always been like that, even in my twenties. Perhaps that’s why parenthood doesn’t seem like such a shift in my thirties. And while I sometimes get nervous in social situations and I sometimes feel like a giant loser that I don’t have 30 friends I “hang” with on the weekends, I am okay with being a bit of an introvert. It’s why I chose to be a writer (before being a writer meant promoting yourself and “putting yourself out there” so shamelessly).

In a world that embraces extroverts above everything else, I like being introverted. Some of our greatest thinkers are introverts (though there are countless who are also extroverts). I love being a thinker; I love getting my thoughts down on paper or sitting and reading a book, or the contemplation and inspiration that come with a hard workout when I let my mind wander and creativity strikes.

And I love watching these traits in my child. While she can be loud and giggly and boisterous, she is very much an observer. She watches everything (and I mean everything) and tries to emulate whatever she sees. I can actually see her learning, and it’s in her quiet moments that she is stringing acts together to make a motion; to remember; to fall and learn; to correct herself. She is now consistently using her potty; a skill that even a week ago was a foreign concept, but now she sits quietly, smacking her lips and waiting to do her business. Once done, she smiles so proudly and waits to be taken off, cleaned up and put in a fresh diaper (and God, is this saving us so much money!! It’s ridiculous and awesome.).

As I tiptoe back to the bedroom before she awakens, I watch her sleep. I watch the sequences of her dreams pass through her eyelids and in the quick twitch of her hands. And though her body is mostly still and her voice quiet, I know her brain is working overtime; her body a demonstrative being that is growing and regenerating and creating; one in which the most magic is being done in her quietest moments, just as she silently grew for 40 weeks inside my womb. What happened there happened without words or loud gestures. It was in the softest moments that growth occurred and a miracle was formed.

But as the months fall away, I realize that soon Sophie will be talking – and with her voice, I know that nothing will ever be quiet again.

Until that sweet chatter invades our lives, I enjoy the heaviness of a quiet afternoon; the feel of a good book; or the sweet promise of a good night’s sleep (someday, right???). It’s been the thread of my life for so very long, and still, even in parenthood, it is my compass.

The quiet is my guide.

My Post-Pregnant Life

Sophie Leona Holguin

The house is quiet. The washing machine whirs, the soap nuts safely tucked in their pouch as they clean Sophie’s clothes. She hiccups in her little chair, having been fed and changed. She yawns, a bit of milk residue clinging to her tongue. Neruda chews on a buffalo tendon. The heat sizzles outside. I press my palm against the window and feel its buttery warmth on the other side.

It will be another day spent indoors with my little one, as the temperature soars. Alex works diligently on his computer at our dining room table (thankfully working from home today so he can help out). Slowly, I feel like I am getting some sort of routine in order – albeit, just during the first part of the day. Alex now wakes at 5:00a.m and heads to the gym in the silent Chicago hours. He returns just as I am nursing Sophie, and then I head off in pursuit of my own sweat session at 6:30a.m., so happy for those few minutes alone in the car, listening to music and the quiet thoughts of the city before it jumps alive at 9:00a.m.

At the gym, I revisit certain exercises that have been dormant for the last 44 weeks. I feel the weights in my hands, feel my body dying to jump and twist and turn, but I am patient. I do just enough but not too much. I move and bend and stretch and feel this new body – this new body without my baby inside it, this body that is removed from what it was, but isn’t too far away from something great.

I will get there.

At home, I make my VEGA ONE shake, packed with power greens, almond milk, blackstrap molasses (to combat any blood loss), oats, and the protein powder. I pour a cup of decaf french roast and check my emails for the day. An hour later, I make a batch of pancakes, this time a new recipe from Heather Crosby’s YumUniverse. I wolf down four and long for more. They are delicious.

Lately, life comes to me in strange bits and pieces. While everyone is meeting their deadlines and rushing off to meetings, I am sitting on the couch, a boppy around my waist. I am providing food, changing diapers, giving kisses and baths and memorizing every square inch of my daughter. I am reading books (both for myself and to her) and writing when I can and eating and talking on the phone and drumming up ways to contribute more financially. I am pondering and gesticulating and over thinking. I am oversimplifying my life and yet making it more complex just by doing “nothing” at all.

I am in some sort of time warp where real life suspends above me, dangling just out of reach like an onion on a string. And yet, this feels real. It feels dense, almost as if I can hold my responsibilities in my hands.

Lunch time chimes. Somehow, we are out of food again. I am craving the vegan quesadillas Alex whipped up the other night – I could eat them daily.

For now, I will kiss my little girl and go hug my husband. I will take pleasure in the simple things, because they will not always be this simple. I will live for that first giggle and a string of unending smiles; I will enjoy the personalized homemade mug, full of coffee, my friend gave me and the promise of writing a good story and my husband’s voice. I will enjoy the cool breeze only reserved for early morning and the daydream of a much needed vacation with my family. I will savor the way the light hits the window and makes everything more tender than it is.

I won’t forget to be excited by the small joys in life.

Because it will make the bigger ones all that much easier to identify.

Life with a Baby

Day 1 – May 30, 2012 3:51a.m.

I look at you, this minute being who has been powerfully fighting inside me to come out for 52 hours. My contacts are dry. I haven’t eaten in what feels like years. I am in desperate need of a shower. The area between my legs has been through a war. I peek down at my stomach and run a hand across the skin. You are no longer there. You are snuggled in my arms, sleeping, content, beautiful. The only word I can think of when I look at you is: mine.

Day 3 – June 2, 2012

Our stay at the hospital comes to a close. You have been exceptional, save the one night we couldn’t console you. Your strength astounds. The way you can move your neck and arms and practically roll yourself over. Already. You are a newborn, yet you aren’t new at all. You are familiar and strange and perfect and magical. Your eyes, which are so large and wide, seem to be searching for something. I marvel at how natural Alex is with you. I try and avoid mirrors. The only thing I want to look at is you.

Day 5 – June 4, 2012

Post-partum has hit. I cry for no reason and for every reason. I feel connected to you and yet like you are a stranger. I feel so happy and so lost at the same time. I don’t want my mother to leave. I don’t want Alex to go back to work. I feel like I won’t ever be able to do a good enough job for you… how will I manage this on my own?

Day 7 – June 5, 2012

We took you to the pediatrician and he said you were a perfect baby. My thoughts exactly. When I hold you, I feel complete.

Day 9 – June 8, 2012

I look down at you. You bring one securely wrapped fist up to your face. Your nails are sharp, even though I’ve clipped them twice since you’ve been home. I have the scratches around my breasts to prove you are getting enough calcium.

As I take in your every feature, I am overcome: why is your face getting that baby acne, what’s that goop in your eye, why did your cry all night last night, for no reason, when you’ve been such a good sleeper? Should we be taking you out yet? When can I exercise? How can I pay more attention to my dog? How will I ever do this when Alex goes back to work on Monday?

Hormones continue to rage as I stay in pajamas all day with leaky breasts and my boppy, balancing my precious little girl on me in various ways. The hours pass in the blink of an eye. Time is reduced to feedings, or if you’re wet or dirty.

This person needs me.

But what do I need?

Day 11 – June 10, 2012

If I could bottle your smell, I would. Why do babies smell so good?

Day 13 – June 12, 2012

The blues have passed. You have started to smile. We are learning your likes and dislikes. You seem to grow by the second. You grunt and fart like a grown man. You coo, especially while nursing. You get more beautiful by the day. I miss my parents. Skype doesn’t do our visits justice.

And my one repeating thought, which plays like a record in my head: I can’t believe you’re mine.

Day 15 – June 14, 2012

Today, I left you twice – once to go to the gym and once for a business meeting. I felt like myself and yet somehow empty. I couldn’t wait to return and breathe your scent and kiss your full cheeks. And yet, it felt good to be on my own, to stretch my limbs and begin to reconstruct myself again – for you.

I’ve been waiting for you my entire life, and I never even knew it.

Sophie, my daughter, my love, thank you for choosing me.

A 52 Hour Labor of Love: My Epic Delivery

Sophie Leona Holguin. 7 lbs. 15 oz. 20 inches long. Born May 30, 2012 at 3:51a.m.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

3:51a.m.

I look in the mirror set in front of me. My face is crimson. I’ve been pushing for two hours. Somehow, after much protest, I’ve ended up flat on my back, with my knees in the air. I’ve been going at this for exactly 52 hours. I can see her head crowning…

“Almost,” I tell myself. “Almost.”

“It’s a conehead,” Dr. Lin says. “A really big conehead.” After her head is out, it takes five more pushes to get her body to escape mine. I have never been so exhausted. 52 hours. 52 hours of contractions. 52 hours with minimal food and fluids. 52 hours without sleep. 52 hours of relaxation, fear, agony and bliss. 52 hours to change a life.

The doctor hands her to me. There is a collective gasp as I clutch her to my chest, unsure what to feel, so exhausted I can barely keep my eyes open. I see the large cone coming at me, sprinkled with dark, beautiful hair. I see her face, crumpled and serene. But she is not crying. She is slightly blue. She’s been stuck inside of me for far too long, and rather than bonding with her like I’d planned, she is whisked off to get things moving. The cord is clamped. The pain, the hours, everything vanishes as I watch them take her from me, as I hear myself ask that dreaded question: “Is she okay?”

And the silence that ensues. But she is okay. She is better than okay. She is perfect. Already, I know that she is a fighter. We have waged the ultimate war together. We have had one of the longest journeys to meet each other, and from here on out, nothing will ever be as hard as our journey to get her here.

After this, I can do anything.

They bring her to me, freshly swaddled. I touch her face. I clutch her long fingers with the beautifully shaped fingernails. I look at Alex and my doula, Stephanie Gordon, and my mother, who has been watching from the corner of the room.

“Holy shit,” I say. “I did it.”

Life has arrived. And she is beautiful.

Monday, May 28

12:30a.m.

I wake with forceful contractions. This is a process that has been going since last Wednesday, when I went to the doctor and she checked me. I lost my mucus plug and began getting contractions. My best friend, Nikki McFadden, even took the Megabus up on Wednesday night, as we figured labor was imminent. Five days later, we were still waiting. But when I woke, they were getting stronger and closer together. I texted my doula and she told me to let her know when they were 5 minutes apart. I stayed up with each one, rocking and moving and getting into the rhythm of things. At 3:18, they intensified. By 6:30, I thought she should come over and by 9, she was here, and the two of us began our epic journey together… none of which I could have done without her. She was with me every single step of the way, as was Alex. My support team. My saviors.

We went on walks. We danced, we moved, we exercised, we listened to Hypnobabies (all you mothers-to-be out there – DO this. It was another savior on this road to birth.). Stephanie and Alex would rub my back and allow me to rock with the pressure waves as they came every 2-3 minutes.

As I had tested positive for Group B strep (a healthy bacteria in your gut that can colonize when pregnant and pass vaginally to the baby. If it does – which is less than 1% of the time – it can have serious consequences), I was trying to wait until my water broke to go to the hospital. The moment I got to the hospital, they would hook me up to antibiotics to prevent a possible infection to the baby. I was trying to avoid unnecessary intervention.

But as the night wore on, the contractions stayed 2-3 minutes apart, about 1:30 in length. They were getting stronger. Alex and I took a bath to try and calm and relax me. I was handling each one beautifully and wondered if this could even be false labor, as I figured the pain would be much, much worse. But I was almost enjoying it. Being at home, listening to music, moving with each one…

I knew I could do this.

We decided to go to sleep that night. I figured in the middle of the night we would be going to the hospital. I had my 40 week doctor’s appointment the next day at 9:30, so I figured worst case, I could go and see how dilated I was. At midnight, I woke with the most intense pressure waves yet. I got out of bed and stayed in the bathroom, writhing in agony, unsure if I should go to the hospital.

I decided to wait.

The next morning, they continued and we decided to pack our bags and head to my regularly scheduled appointment. I had a protein shake… my last meal. Had I known, I would have eaten a house.

I dealt with the contractions in the car, breathing as best I could. We got to the doctor and my doula and Alex went with me. My doctor checked me and saw that I was at 6 cm. I was a little disappointed and didn’t understand how I’d already been in labor over 30 hours and was only at 6. She said my water was bulging and she could literally have broken it with her fingernail.

She looked at me. “This is what I suggest. Go admit yourself to the hospital, get your water broken and have this baby in the next two hours. I know you can do this naturally, but what gets to people is the exhaustion.”

I nodded. I was sleep-deprived and physically and mentally drained. I decided to do what she suggested. We left, intent on breaking my water on my own. Nikki, Stephanie and I took a long walk around the hospital, over near the lake. I tipped my head up to the sky and placed my hand on my belly. This was it. The last moments of pregnancy, the last moments before I met my daughter. We walked and breathed and I moved through each contraction, willing my water to break. It didn’t.

At the hospital, we had to go to Triage because Labor and Delivery was full. We were ushered to this awful room where a very bitchy nurse told me we had to start the antibiotics and I’d have to have them for at least 4 hours before they broke my water. I told her no, that’s not what my doctor said. We argued, and miraculously, my contractions stopped. I’d heard about stressful situations halting labor, and I felt myself begin to panic.

I had her call my doctor and luckily, our room was ready upstairs. The contractions came back, and our room had a beautiful view of the lake. They gave me the Penicillin and then capped my IV so I could move around frely. I put on my own clothes and Stephanie and I begin dancing and listening to music and walking around.

Dr. Foley entered (a doctor I had not liked upon previous visits, but who turned out to be perfect for the first part of my delivery). He checked me and saw that I was already 8 cm – just from the walk over. I felt myself get excited, intent on breaking my water myself.

He said he’d check back in a couple of hours to see where we were. I was on a mission. Stephanie and I did walking lunges and played my labor playlist, listening to Tool and rap and everything in between.

My nurse was amazing. She’d had 4 natural births and even had one child in Venezuela. Both the doctor and nurse couldn’t believe I was up, laughing and walking around at 8 cm. I was proud of myself for how long I’d hung in there – how beautifully it was all progressing and how, in a matter of hours or less, I’d meet my little girl.

Stephanie fed me bananas and blackstrap molasses for energy. We roamed the halls and waved to my family. I breathed and let the pressure waves take over my body.

Finally, the doctor checked me and decided to break my water. The fluid was clear and he said things should really progress. I stood up and instantly felt pressure and the urge to push. I could tell her head had dropped and I told the nurse I felt pressure.

She checked me and said I was fully dilated. There was just a tiny cervical lip left. “I’ll go get the doctor!” she said.

I looked at Alex and Stephanie, beyond excited. This was it. We were finally here, after nearly 40 hours of hard work and nonstop contractions. I was exhausted but knew I could muster the strength to push my daughter out of me.

The doctor came back in and examined me. He furrowed his brow and said I’d dropped back down to 7 cm. I looked at him, bewildered.

“What? How?” I asked.

He felt around and said that her head felt transverse (her head was facing sideways) and wasn’t lining up to go straight down. He said he’d give it a bit of time to see where we were at. (Stephanie is convinced it’s Ina May’s “sphincter law” – I was so relaxed with the female nurse, but the moment his hands went forcefully inside me, she thinks he shifted things.)

I felt exasperated. What had just changed from when Mary checked me to now? I slowly got up, slightly discouraged, and that’s when everything changed. Suddenly, the contractions came hard and fast – but they were unlike anything I’d experienced prior. They hammered my entire body, causing convulsions from head to toe. They lasted two minutes in length with approximately 3 seconds between. Three seconds.

Each one was harder, stronger and literally shook my entire body. In all my life, I’d never felt anything like it. I got into every position I could think of and nothing helped. I began to get desperate. I endured this excruciating agony for two hours, unable to breathe, unable to get any sort of break.

“This isn’t normal,” I moaned to Alex. I gripped his shirt, his collarbone. I dug my face into his chest. “Please. Please help me. I don’t know what to do. Something’s wrong.”

We tried to take a shower. We tried to get me on a birthing ball. We tried all fours. The sounds coming out of my mouth were not my sounds. I couldn’t see through the pain. I couldn’t move. I wanted to die.

Finally, the doctor came in and told me he wasn’t sure the baby was going to fit (apparently my pelvis is extraordinarily small – something they might want to tell you BEFORE you have a baby) and that I was probably looking at a c-section. Everything was going wrong and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even get thirty seconds between these contractions. He needed to check me to see what was wrong, but I was literally writhing in agony.

He gave me three options: give me a narcotic that would help a little but not really do much for the pain and would most definitely pass along to the baby; give me an epidural, so he could at least examine me and see what was going on, or do a c-section to get her out of there.

I couldn’t make a decision. I couldn’t even see where I was at. I was begging for the pain to stop. Enduring two hours of this, I was at my limit. Alex and Stephanie were right there with me, but they were helpless. I just kept saying, “This is my worst nightmare,” over and over again. But I needed the pain to stop, so I chose the epidural. Something I don’t believe in, something I was certain wouldn’t even work, since pain medication and me don’t get along and medicine never worked as it was supposed to.

I was beyond dejected and sad and scared. I just knew something was wrong. They made Alex and Stephanie leave and called anesthesia. A cocky woman came in and hammered off a million details. I tried to block everything out – to think about the health of the baby… what would the effects from this be? I didn’t want drugs, but I didn’t know what else I could do.

When I received the epidural, I was in the worst pain of my life. They had to give me something before the epidural to try and take the edge off the contractions. I gripped the doctor’s shirt and held the nurse’s hand. Right when they stuck the needle in, I had the biggest contraction and thought I was going to pass out. They were asking me all types of questions about the epidural – if I felt it too much to the right or left. I could barely make sense of anything. Once it was in, I felt my legs go numb (one of the worst feelings) and the contractions eased, but not fully. I wasn’t even in relief – I was beyond upset and afraid something was really wrong with me or Sophie. Immediately, they had to hook me up to bags of fluid. I was flat on my back, and they inserted a catheter. After over a day of free movement, I was sedentary. I felt tears well up and I pushed them away.

The doctor let it fully take effect to see if I could relax and then checked me. I thought with two hours of that pain, I had to be ready to push, but I was still at 8.

And then the culprit: Sophie’s head, which should have been down, was coned  and turned to the side. So, every time my uterus would contract, her head was slamming into my pelvic bone instead of going straight down. My body was getting the signal that she was ready to be born (for almost two days at this point!!!!!) and my uterus kept doing it’s job, working overtime to get her out, but her head and face were just at the wrong angle.

So he tried to maneuver her head (something I can’t even imagine him doing had I been in that much pain naturally) and thought he got it a little, but he said he’d give it some time to see if I could relax enough to let my pelvis widen and fully dilate. That’s what else he didn’t tell me – my pelvis is very small and he was convinced I wouldn’t be able to deliver vaginally.

I was in a state of disbelief. I was exhausted, still scared and wondering what was going to happen. I asked him honestly what he thought and he said he thought I was looking at a c-section. I asked him to talk me through it, as that’s the one aspect of childbirth I’d never planned on.

He told me what was involved and then bid me adieu for the doctor and nurse switch. Dr. Lin (the doc who once told me childbirth wasn’t natural) took over. Surprisingly, he was the perfect person for the job. He examined me and saw that I was at 9 cm. He said there was just a bit of cervical lip that wouldn’t go away, but he would give it some time. And he wasn’t certain about her head changing position.

But, he was optimistic that perhaps once I got to 10cm, things would work out. I had a new nurse who was very supportive, and we decided to wait it out. At this point, I just wanted to go to sleep, but after a few hours, things still hadn’t progressed, so Dr. Lin asked if they could start Pitocin. He really didn’t want to, but at that point, he thought it might speed things along. The moment they gave me the Pitocin, the epidural stopped working completely on the left side.

Suddenly, after a bit of relief, it was right back to that writhing pain. For an hour, I attempted to change positions, to breathe, to move, but my right leg was completely numb. The anesthesiologist kept giving me new doses of medicine, but nothing would work. .

After numerous hours, I had progressed to 9 ½ centimeters. And that’s where I stayed for the next FIVE hours. (I wonder why – I was flat on my back, hooked up to tubes and beyond stressed.) My body was beyond exhausted. I was in excruciating pain, I was hungry, and I just wanted to meet my baby. Stephanie and Alex were attempting to talk me through it, but I didn’t even care. I felt myself become despondent, and then, the floodgates opened, and I had an absolute breakdown.

At one point, the pain was so bad, I was on my hands and knees (barely able to feel my right leg but I could feel everything else) and I lost it. I cried like I’ve never cried in my entire life. (Stephanie is convinced this is the best thing that could have happened – that I just let go – that birth is all about letting go and I wouldn’t have been able to deliver her vaginally had I not had that mental break.) I told them I couldn’t do it, that I just needed to get her out of me, that I was so exhausted, that I physically couldn’t do it anymore. Stephanie was right there with me, as was Alex, and they both tried everything they could to soothe me. I could not stop crying. I couldn’t escape the pain and exhaustion and agony and fear that somehow, I just couldn’t get to my baby. She felt like a faraway concept… like I’d gone through all of this for nothing. Finally, I asked for my mother.

Dr. Lin had other deliveries to attend to, so they got a midwife on call to help me. She was a godsend. She had me on my side and did a vaginal exam. She kept her hands inside me for three contractions, trying to maneuver that cervical lip away. She was calm and composed and said, “I think Sophie’s head straightened out and she broke through that lip. There’s a bit left, but I think you could try and push.”

And then they explained the problem with pushing with my cervix still intact. I could try and push but if it made my cervix swollen at all, we’d have to stop and go to a c-section, because it could rupture my cervix. So, obviously, I wasn’t excited to try and push. I was so discouraged and figured this would be false hope. That, and I had no idea how I was going to get any energy to push.

They left me on my side and Stephanie pulled out every trick she knew to psyche me up. The nurse and her held my legs and Alex was right there with me, amazing and stoic, and they all encouraged me as I tried to push for about 30 minutes. The nurse told me I was pushing perfectly and finally, Dr. Lin came back in. It was 1:00a.m. at this point. I was dehydrated and could barely keep my eyes open, despite the constant barrage of coconut water, regular water and tea.

Dr. Lin checked me and said, “Let’s do this.” The cervical lip had disappeared, my cervix was fine, and he said all things were a go. Somehow, I still didn’t believe him. I was still in writhing agony and couldn’t imagine pushing like that. The anesthesiologist came in and I told her I didn’t want any more medicine because the last dose had made me nauseous and had given me the shakes, but she gave me one more dose anyway.

Just when I needed to feel the contractions, the epidural took effect and I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t tell where or how to push. I couldn’t even lift my legs. They positioned me flat on my back with my knees back (a position I swore I’d never be in because it works against gravity) and the doctor asked to see me push.

We waited for a contraction, which, of course, had slowed to every three minutes, and then I pushed three times during the contraction.

Dr. Lin said it was perfect, and I’d have her out in 15 minutes. Though that was far from the truth, it’s what I needed to hear. Apparently, my pelvis was small, and it took two hours to get her out. I have never been so exhausted in all my life. I was not even excited. I felt myself drifting to sleep between pushes. I physically had nothing left.

But I could feel the doctor’s encouragement. Stephanie, who had also been up for 52 hours, pulled every trick in the book to psyche me up. Alex was right by my side, encouraging me with every breath. My mother stood in the corner, a silent beacon of hope. They moved a mirror in front of me, dimmed the lights, and I started to focus on the end result – a baby in my arms. I took deep breaths and pushed as hard as I could for ten counts at a time, afraid my head might rupture, afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it, afraid of her getting stuck, afraid that all of this was a strange nightmare.

Her head kept coming down and I was so close every time to getting her to crown. The doctor was stunned at how strong I pushed considering everything I’d been through. He knew just what to say and he was brilliant at massaging me so I didn’t tear. And everyone’s spirits were so high during the pushing – the doctor was encouraging and was making jokes about me having the next one in two hours. I looked at Alex and said, “Absolutely not. Snip. Snip.”

Finally, the dose of the epidural wore off and I could feel everything (just in time for her to crown and come out). Her head took some time, but I got to reach down and feel the soft, dark hair on her head. To see her emerging was amazing. Once her head was out, he really had to maneuver the rest of her. It took five more pushes to get her out.

I thought when she was born, I would cry. That it would be like all of those moments I’d seen on television. But, instead, I looked at this person who’d grown inside me and felt… I’m not sure what. Relief. Pain. Exhaustion. Something like love.

And now, over a week later, as my body heals and this little girl sleeps beside me, it is hard to remember a time that came before her.

I have a newfound love for my family, and a respect for women that can never be measured or quantified.

But I did it. I weathered the storm, rode the waves, and came out on the other side.

And I have a daughter. Her name is Sophie Leona Holguin.

And she is mine.

 

Sweet 16… Thoughts on Becoming a Mother

Sophie’s coming home outfit!

16 days until departure…

After almost 38 weeks of waiting, gesticulating, worrying, living, being and pondering what this transition will be like, I have learned ample things about myself (some good, some bad), found some invaluable new friends, a plethora of opinions (some slightly unwanted) and a newfound belief in my ability to birth and parent my own way.

To sum up my pregnancy in a word would be impossible. Its intensity, fragility, strength and consistency have humbled me. It has forever transformed me, and I want to remember a few key things:

1. I never knew you could love someone you’ve never met.

2. Sometimes, even now, I actually forget that I am pregnant. I will be lost in a project and go to jump up and realize that I have a basketball attached to my ribs.

3. I am proud of myself for going to the gym 6 days per week throughout my entire pregnancy. Though the intensity has been lower, it has been my one constant with Alex. We will rise at 6:00a.m., shrug into our gym clothes and drive the short distance to the gym. While in the car, we talk and prepare for our days. At the gym, we separate to do our own workouts and reconvene an hour later, talking about what we did. At home, I make our protein shakes and prepare our snacks/food for the day before I kiss my husband’s sweet lips and send him off to work. It has been a calming presence, and I know a routine that will inevitably change.

4. I have been the “opposite” of many pregnant women throughout this pregnancy: no food cravings, no swelling, no heavy sweating, no constipation, no fatigue, no huge boobs, no nonstop crying… I’ve been myself but larger. A few more aches and pains, a few more limitations, and a world of gratitude for what is going on inside me. For someone who never wanted to get pregnant, I have marveled at how carrying a human around with you changes you; how the landscape of your world alters, and how your capacity to love grows infinite and vast. I feel very lucky.

5. I am excited for labor (or more expressly, my birthing time). If I could do it again, I would have chosen a home birth. The constant conflict with the doctors and what feels natural for me has been hard, and I am grappling with going to the hospital and the possibility of medical intervention if things don’t transpire according to their timetable. But, I am going to make the best of it. The end result is Sophie. That is all that matters.

6. I trust in my body’s ability to do this. It knows how to birth a baby. I just have to go along for the ride.

Yesterday, as I walked around the neighborhood, clearing my head from a full day of writing and editing, I thought about how odd it was that my solitary walks would soon come to an end. It’s no surprise that I have always been somewhat of a loner… I love crawling inside my head with thoughts and feelings and letting them transpire to a page, or curling up in a chair with a book. I love the quiet. I love passing time with words. I love conversations where you don’t say a thing.

But, the thought of wearing my daughter close against my chest throughout my days, supplying her food, showing her the world that I have come to love and know excites me. Letting her father teach her all the things I cannot, letting Neruda lick her at every available second and her grandparents smother her with affection – I can’t think of a greater next step to take in this world.

We have been on this journey almost 38 weeks now, Sophie. Right now, as I type, you are writhing inside of me, seeming to grow with every waking moment. Earlier this week, when I did a Reiki session with our doula, she said your energy was amazing; that your aura is huge; that you are a giver.

I already know these things, even before you are here, even before I have kissed your sweet cheeks or held you in my arms.

As I count down the days until your birthday, I have a feeling I will meet you sooner. You, like your mother, seem impatient to see and do all the things you are meant for.

You are my single priority, even though I have not yet met you.

You, my second brain, my other breath, my competing heartbeat.

You, my daughter, my child.

My world.

Mind Over Labor

On my nightstand, I have a thick stack of books, mostly in the realm of birth books. Though I haven’t gotten through all of them, I have garnered many useful tips/tricks for the big day and after.

One of my favorites, Mind Over Labor, by Carl Jones, provides helpful tips and imagery for having a natural birth and getting through it in an enjoyable manner. My top faves?

1. View childbirth as a sexual experience. So often, we think of being pregnant and giving birth as a medical condition instead of what it is – a sexual, natural experience. Our bodies actually respond in much the same way to childbirth as it would to having sex. Trying to see your birth in this way can shift your level of pain tolerance and even give you a different perspective for the big day.

2. Find a “special” place. Once contractions hit, it’s nice to have a mental place to “check out” to in your head. This could be anywhere that brings you peace and comfort, whether it’s imaginary or real. At first, I was planning on Paris or Switzerland – two of my favorite places, but then I realized that one place I absolutely adore and am so calmed by is the beach. Every year since I was little, my parents have taken my brother and I to the beach. Over the past few years, Alex has joined us. It’s a place where we are all together. From the beautiful condo to our excruciating workouts on the beach, our slow, enjoyable bike jaunts down to get burritos and peruse the cool, indie bookstore, it is something I look forward to every year. Because we aren’t going this year, imagining it in my head during labor as my “reward” will help me think about life after Sophie is here – and how I can pass this tradition on to her as well.

3. Imagine each contraction as gold. Carl suggests imagining each contraction as gold – that your womb and uterus are filled with light and warmth. Gold is such a strong mental image – as the “waves of pressure” take hold, if you can imagine each moment filled with gold and warmth, the pain can be abated and you can have a more positive association with what’s happening.

4. Trust that your body knows what to do. Our bodies are made to do this. Women have unassisted births all the time. Instead of fighting against the pain of labor, give in to it (yes, I’m sure this is easier said than done – I will soon find out!). Just turn your brain off. Become in tune with your body and realize that with each wave, your body is preparing to give you what you’ve been waiting for these last 40 weeks: a child.

5. Eat good food. If you’re having a hospital birth, you can’t eat once you get there. I find this ludicrous, as you are expected to perform the most difficult physical task of your life, and yet you can’t eat! So, stay at home as long as possible. Once labor starts, fill up on iron rich, high energy foods that will sustain you and give you plenty of energy throughout. Try and stay adequately hydrated and eat early on, since you may feel nauseous and not interested in food at all as labor progresses.

6. Imagine your body opening. A powerful image is to imagine your cervix as a flower, opening and widening with every contraction. If you can actually “see” your body opening and preparing for the baby to just slip out, this can ease some of the pain and fear along the way.

Never underestimate the power of our minds to completely alter an experience. It’s up to us how we deal with every situation, from mundane daily tasks to the momentous event of giving birth.

One of my favorite “preparatory” exercises is below. While it doesn’t relate completely to labor, it gets your mind in that positive place where you can do anything you believe in. Period.

Exercise for the day:

Tonight, before you go to bed, instead of running over your massive to-do list for tomorrow, imagine absolutely everything you want: where you want to live, what job you want, who you want to be with and how you want to spend your days. Let these feelings flood your senses. Imagine only the good. Feel like a kid again. See every wild, massive dream to the end. Play it all out. Don’t put any limits on what you want. See how your breath changes, how your mood shifts and how you fall effortlessly asleep.

Night is a perfect time for imagination. If you are expecting, it’s also a perfect time to imagine your labor and birth as an enjoyable, but temporary experience. Imagine your body opening, imagine the serenity surrounding your birth and imagine what will come after. Think about the creature comforts of home and how, pretty soon, this will only be a memory.

Need some powerful food to freeze after the big day?

Try this delicious tempeh chili, using my chili recipe (below). Simply purchase a block or two of tempeh, slice it into strips and place in a frying pan with enough water and some Bragg’s liquid aminos to cover the tempeh. Cook until water is absorbed, then mash and crumble with a fork. Throw in with the pot of chili and serve with a gluten-free pasta and top with some Daiya cheese (optional).

POWER CHILI RECIPE

Warning: this dish is chock full of fiber, iron, and protein, so be prepared to be satisfied for hours on end! 

Hard Truths at 35 Weeks

35 weeks pregnant... and counting.

Today, I am 35 weeks pregnant… give or take a week, according to the doctor’s calculations (I should be further along) and mine (I am right where I should be). As this pregnancy winds down, and I buckle a bit beneath the new impending shifts and weight and minor hassles of a rapidly expanding baby, I am struck by some hard facts… about myself, about my life, about my daughter, who is so forceful in her movements, she can move a pillow off my stomach, if resting there.

1. I cannot wait to get my body back. This is probably the mantra of every pregnant woman in history, but for me, it has numerous meanings. Yes, being pregnant is difficult. It’s a change. It shifts your body into unrecognizable proportions, all while doing this inconceivable, magical thing. My daughter came from a set of testicles! My daughter grew inside my womb! I have two brains inside me! In what world does this compute? How are we all here by the same divine result of science?

When pregnant, you get a different sort of attention. The world is a little bit kinder. You are allowed to go a bit slower, to take it slightly easier, to be nicer to  yourself. These things will be missed. However, the main reason I want my body back is the freedom to hug my husband as hard as I want to. To lay behind him, all pressed together and warm. To jump in his arms, to wrap my legs tightly around his waist and to just stay there, inhaling his neck and whispering into his ear. To take a dive and land on my stomach on my bed – which is my favorite reading position – and sip ice water and read a good novel, and dig my belly into the firm, pliable material of our Tempur-pedic mattress. I cannot wait to jump up if needed; to walk for miles and miles and miles. To do pull-ups and burpees and backbends. To be impulsive in body – to take off running, just because I can. To get back to the shape I am comfortable with, to have workouts that leave me drenched and proud of what I’ve done for myself. These are the things I long for and will never again take for granted. While I have not yet adapted a waddle, I am still slower moving, and the world from this pace isn’t quite as fitting for me… I want present motion. And I want to be fully present in it, in mind and body.

2. I will miss Sophie’s movements. Feeling your child writhe inside you has to be the most ethereal experience imaginable. What starts out as a flutter swiftly turns into rhythmic movements and then, as they grow, a full torrent of heels and knees and elbows using your womb as a playing field. I don’t know why it hurts when she punches me on the left side as compared to the right – why some of her movements literally take my breath away and others comfort me like a warm cup of tea. Why, if I haven’t felt her for a while, I will gently shake my stomach – as though it is a separate entity – and wait for her gentle rolling which will soon turn sharp and insistent as she pounds against me.

I think about that first shower post-birth, how I will have to come to terms with the fact that there is no more human being inside me; that I can’t keep her safely tucked with my organs; that the world, in all its glory and uncertainty, will now be her home, and it is our job to keep her safe, if not safer, than where she is now, inside me. It is a harsh reality – and one that I think will take a bit of time to come to terms with. How often will I press my hand against my belly, forgetting that she’s not there? How often will I gingerly sit up in the middle of the night, realizing I don’t have to be careful? How long until my stomach goes back to normal and this pregnancy fades from all-encompassing to a story I will tell?

3. I am terrified and yet not scared at all for parenthood. Depending on who I’m talking to, my conversations vacillate between a calm assuredness – an innate feeling of just going with the flow – and this disbelief that in a few weeks, we will be housing another human being with us for the next 18 years. How does one, whose thirty years have bordered on extreme independence, setting her own schedule, enjoying a strict routine, and the constant need for accomplishment, shift into the unknown? As I was in bed last night, reading, I tried to imagine the co-sleeper beside me, the impending knowledge of having to wake in just two hours to feed her, and then again, and again, and again, for the next few months of our lives. I tried to imagine the fatigue; tried to put it on like a big overcoat, and yet I couldn’t quite grip the fabric. It was just out of reach. In my imaginings, we are happy. We are happy to oblige our new roles; we are made for it. We are doing the work of being parents, but are also remembering to be husband and wife.

I think, in the grand scheme of life, there is no preparation for becoming a parent. There is no class or must-have list or suggestion or conversation that can ready you for what lies ahead. Because your journey is yours – it’s singular. It won’t mimic anyone else’s. And just as Sophie has her own set of genes and will be predisposed to certain behaviors or signs of health, the only thing I know is this:

Somehow, even before she is here, we are a family: Sophie, Neruda, Alex and myself. There is nothing scary about that. Her name, said on a daily basis, feels as comfortable as saying my own. What was our world without her? Just as I can’t imagine a time before Alex, before his sweet words and tender eyes and grand, romantic gestures (just last night, as I shot up in bed with the worst calf cramp – only my second from pregnancy – he immediately jumped out of bed and spent the next ten minutes soothing me and massaging it, gently working my foot into flexion), I can’t imagine a time before here. Before now. Before us.

No matter what happens – how hard natural birth will be, how smoothly or unsmoothly things progress – we will get through it because we are a family.

It is my own truth, and not revelatory, as families populate our world. But for me, it feels as a child would on Christmas, during that first Christmas of your life when you really understand what it’s all about. You wake with anticipation. You rub the sleep from your eyes. You tiptoe down the hallway, the scent of blueberry muffins and bacon and hot coffee prepping you for what’s ahead. You enter your living room – your plain, boring living room – which has been transformed. Now, beyond the brown carpet and white walls, it houses countless glittering presents, all hidden from you in shiny, red and silver paper. The lights from the tree flicker dimly. The sun is not yet up. A buttery softness drapes itself over everything. There is a warmth in your toes and fingers, that tingle of anticipation. The flash of the camera pops as your parents capture your expression. Later, they will mark the backs of the photographs in pen: Christmas 1986. You smile shyly. You shake with excitement. You fall to your knees in front of the bright display, wondering which is first, which is last, which will be the present you’ve always longed for.

And then, with a deep breath and the exhilaration of the unknown, you dive in.

I am ready to dive in. With my family.

And I have never been more excited. For it all.

Ghost Town: Population Me

Easter Sunday.

Outside, the sky is bright. The birds chirp. The wind blows. And yet everyone seems to have gone missing. To the gym and back, to brunch, a walk in a new park, where Alex dove to pick up golf balls that had been hit too far out of the driving range. Deep, expanding breaths. Entwined hands. Screaming children. Running dogs. Trees with large, pink blossoms. Raw, buttery sunshine sinking into our skin. My pregnant belly, swathed beneath a very thin blue and white shirt. My uncanny resemblance to an Easter egg.

Later, after naps and food and conversation, I took Neruda for a walk, and I was the only one. As my small, spastic puppy weaved back and forth across the concrete like a blind man’s cane, I reveled in being the only body in this great metropolis that is Chicago. The trees swayed. I walked past the brownstones and condos, the cars parked in random driveways and on street corners; shards of glass that glittered from street side; grass, freshly cut, that reminded me of childhood. I tipped my face skyward and breathed deep. I touched my belly, straining as it is, to make room for my rapidly growing little girl.

“Thirty-three weeks,” I whispered. “We’re almost there. It’s just you and me, kid.”

I miss my grandmother today. Easter was her favorite holiday. She would painstakingly hide Easter eggs all over her massive yard and make the adults and children hunt for them. Perhaps there would be candy inside, or a five dollar bill. Regardless, our bellies would be full of a proper Southern brunch, and the hunt never grew tiresome, no matter how old I became.

How I miss her rituals and the smell of her skin.

Lately, my life has been quiet. I’m suffering from a case of writer’s block, something I’ve never before experienced. I blame it on my brain being elsewhere, yet I am going to relax and just go with it. There is nothing else to do.

I am learning to revel in the absence of things – almost more than the presence of them.

Having recently purchased Wayne Dyer’s newest tome, Wishes Fulfilledand recording his three hour PBS special, I find it so fitting – his message. If I could bottle it and wear it around my neck like my most prized possession, I would.

But, for now, I rewrite some of the words/sentiments that resonated with me, and put these questions and observations out into the world. I imagine a day when I can share and pontificate with Sophie about such things – I hope she will be a free thinker. I hope she will always lead with her imagination.

Important things to ask yourself:

1. What do I expect from myself?

2. Who am I?

We think that who we are is what we have or do; what our reputation is. We think we are separate from everyone else and that we must “prove” who we are by achieving and accumulating.

Where did this come from and why do we play along?

He also spoke about children. “The easiest way to build a children’s intelligence? Read them a fairy tale. Want them to become even more intelligent? Read them more fairy tales.”

In our realistic adulthood, we might scoff. “Why? Why instill that sense of dreaming and irrationality? They quickly learn life is not a fairy tale.”

Who says?

Everything comes from our imagination. There wasn’t an object built in this world that didn’t begin in someone’s mind. And yet, in today’s world, we are all about the logistics. We are all about doing what’s right and getting the right job and having stability.

But where’s the imagination? Everything begins with imagination.

Two sentences that stuck with me:

1. “Place something in your imagination and then live from it.”

2. “Never allow any thought into your imagination that you would not want to materialize.”

I was floored by this statement, mainly relating to pregnancy. Once a big proponent of the “what if” factor, I have let that go until this last trimester, when I constantly wonder if she’ll be healthy, if she’s moving enough, if I’m eating the right things, if we’ll be able to make it work, if I can do this naturally.

Why am I placing such thoughts into my imagination when I have the power to materialize every thought into actual existence? Thoughts are things.

I need to clear out the junk.

So, that is my mission from now until this baby is born. Clear out the junk. Live from my imagination. Be happier and more relaxed, even as these damned hormones are coursing through me like a river and sometimes I want to punch something or scream for no apparent reason.

But mostly? I want to smile. Laugh. Love. Be light. Be kind. Be loving. Be present. Be aware.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

And speaking of imagination, this delectable (and easy!) nondairy chocolate ice cream will have you thinking it’s the real thing. No imagination required. First discovered on Heather Crosby’s YumUniverse, I’ve been making it for the past year and always look forward to its creamy consistency! Perfect for an after dinner snack, top it with berries and nuts and go to town.

Nondairy Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients:

10 pitted dates

2 Tbsp. almond or peanut butter

2 cups water or nondairy milk (I prefer unsweetened almond milk)

1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

1/4 cup raw chocolate or cacao powder

1. Toss all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy (may take a few minutes). Pour into a glass container and put in the freezer, uncovered, until well frozen. (Times can vary from 1 hour up to 4.)

2. Have an ice cream maker? Pop mixture in freezer for 5-10 minutes and then follow the directions.

Enjoy!