Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year...

...thank you all for being such amazing examples of support and love throughout this year. It's been a year, I can tell you - a lot of firsts, a lot of mourning, a lot of newness: coupled with new life growing inside me once again - a miracle I didn't know would be possible.

Here I am, sitting here at 11.47pm on the 31st December 2009 - getting ready to post this at 12 o'clock. Thinking about this time - Isobella isn't here yet, but this is still her time. I'm done with cleaning and running about like a headless chicken - for at least the next day!

Random fact I wanted to put down before I forgot: Isobella had a biophysical profile done on Tuesday at which she measured around 7.5lb. During that profile they were looking for at least 30 seconds sustained breathing movement - something she does quite a lot - I feel it from the outside. Well, she wasn't really into doing that - and we waited a long time! I wasn't in the least worried though - since I'd felt it. But, in the middle of watching for her breathing, I asked the tech to go down to see if we could see her face...

Well, there she was, firmly wedged into the bottom of my pelvis - VERY low, and you'll never guess what she was ever so busily doing? Sucking on the wall of my uterus - no fingers involved! Oh yes, she was ever so busy and enthusiastic! Big sucking movements, just going for it - it was so completely sweet! I thought "oh, you're going to be a hungry one on the outside, aren't you?!"

I'd eaten a baked potato with cheese earlier in the day and apparently, the flavors of the foods you eat turn up in the amniotic fluid - so perhaps she's going to be a cheese lover, like me! Anyhow she obviously likes swallowing amniotic fluid because her bladder was hugely full! Ah, the things I don't want to forget!

And now here we are...quietly approaching 2010. It's 11.58pm and I thought for a long time "I would love to go into 2010 holding my baby..." - and she's not here yet. However, she is in my tummy, awake and moving about and so really, I AM holding her after all...

Soon enough, she will come out and I will be holding her in my arms. I can't wait. Bring on 2010...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

38 weeks, 1 day...

Here we are. This is me and my enormous belly just yesterday at 38 weeks, 1 day! I feel SO much more pregnant than I ever did with's crazy, really!

...and here I am, hiding the bump under a shirt that is labeled "maternity" but which I am so past. I think I need clothes that are labeled "tent" at this stage...

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday at 3.40pm, and found out I was...nowhere near ready to go. Again. Which is somewhat vexing because at this stage I do feel rather stuck in pregnancy limbo: I'd hoped to have made a little bit of progress as far as "readiness" were concerned at this stage, but it doesn't look much like it. I've been having regular contractions, but they don't seem to be doing much to my cervix... In fact at the NST yesterday, I was having contractions 2-3 minutes apart. Ah, me.

The biophysical profile showed a nice, big, healthy babe - she looks to be measuring (if you take her thighbone measurement) around 7.5 lb - but, if she takes after me, she's torso-heavy in terms of length, so that could mean a heavier baby. It's good - I'm glad she's measuring nicely!

Now, can she come out, please? My lovely OB is on holiday next week - this throws a potentially rather serious spanner in the works because of course, I turn 39 weeks on Monday. He is gone until the 11th - my due date. If I go into labor next week spontaneously, I will be fighting a cesarean with the remaining doctors unless labor times itself beautifully during the day - which of course, is unlikely! I don't want another cesarean...I want a VBAC. I will be very upset if I have another cesarean, no matter the comments of "oh, but at least the baby is healthy" etcetera - there's a whole ton more to it than that - a whole ton.

So I am waiting today for a 'phone call from my OB, who is getting in touch with a doctor friend of his in the cities, to see if anything can be done as far as some kind of manual cervical dilation is concerned. We shall see.

However at this stage, I am thinking we're probably going to have to ride this out at least until he comes back from holiday in two Monday's time.

Problem is of course, you have about as much chance of getting baby to stay in, than getting her to come out. It's all such an enormous gamble...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Isobella's Time...

Here I sit, at 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Still pregnant. It's Isobella's time now.

I say that with a great amount of emphasis. It's Isobella's time now I say. We've passed a big point now. Josie would have died yesterday. I would have held her overnight and then given her to the funeral director this morning at about 10am.

I cannot properly express what a huge milestone every minute - every second really - since yesterday morning at 7.56am (well, earlier, when she died) has been. This is new time now - Isobella's time, all of her own. This is a new passage of time not written by her sister. The time which was spent by Josie as well was by no means a horrible time, of course, but it was poignant - so very poignant. My body remembered every minute of the day since conception and told me "at this point in Josie's pregnancy..."

Now my body has take steps into a new place. I am in a big field at the end of a beautiful forest and I can see a new sunrise coming up over an enormous valley. The grass is green underfoot and the atmosphere is fresh; light and covered in dew like a new spring day. I can look behind me and see Josie; almost see me sitting on a rock some 30 feet away, cradling her in the pre-dawn glimmering. Then I can look ahead to the sun, shimmering over the horizon and bathing me in warmth. My belly is alive - it's full of this little baby who like her sister, is vital, but, unlike he sister, is going to come out whole, and healthy...

She is going to open her eyes and see what I it is good that I am here, in this beautiful place. It's good that I made the choices I made to ensure we ended up here, and not at the bottom of a big, black pit.

I know that my time with her in my belly is limited now - not long now until she comes out. And come out, she will, in her own time, induced or not. I don't think it matters any more if I am induced or not: I will, and she will still work in harmony and we will prevail together as mother and daughter.

I can't believe how far we've come. This pregnancy has been amazing: so quick, yet so slow in so many ways. Looking back to the beginning, it seems like such a long time ago - so far away from now. But, then I think of the interim, which I have spent mostly trying to do worthwhile things, and can remember all of the days as though they were yesterday. Now here we are, she and I, full term and ready to embark on a wonderful new chapter in life.

And you know what? The most incredible, amazing thing is this: many people feel cynical about life - they believe that being positive involves rose-tinted glasses and denial. But I can tell you now, sitting here, that it's not true. Life IS beautiful. Life IS amazing. You've got to find the courage to surrender to that fact and admit it to yourself - acknowledge that there are things you cannot control. So don't try.

The secret is this: let go of all but the most real things. Your family; your babies, living and in the beyond; sunsets; sunrises; the spread of the earth; true friendships; an apple from a tree. All these things are real. You will always have these things if you choose to nurture and cultivate them rather than choosing the other, unreal things. So, in essence, we all have everything we need...for free. We have the meaning of life in our hands and in our hearts every single day. Just got to let go...and let understanding in: and it will come in.

And as I sleep, wake, go on, making Isobella's time here today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, I feel reality more and more. Smells are coming back to me. Sounds are coming senses are waking up again and it feels...amazing.

Tonight, I'm up later than usual because my friend B is having her baby boy as we speak. She lost her son, Duncan, last year and now here she is, birthing her new little one and with him, all time from then onward - a new time. This event has infused through to me across the grand web of life that covers the Earth and now, I can't sleep. Instead, I am sitting here listening to some birthing music and just...

...being with her and her little boy tonight, as the page turns.

Perhaps I won't go to sleep until he is born. Perhaps I will, and will dream of his birth.

Either way, I will be treading the same path very soon. Isobella and I...

Friday, December 25, 2009

37 weeks, 4 days...Merry Christmas!

That's me at 37 weeks exactly, this past Monday...

Well, I am officially MORE pregnant than I've ever been before in my life today! This morning at 7.56am would have been the equivalent gestation to Josie's birth, and here I am, this afternoon, still hugely pregnant, cleaning the kichen on Christmas day with a squirmy little girl in my tummy! Of all the milestones, this honestly has to be the most significant. Now, it's alien territory - new territory - from here on out.

Who know: perhaps I'll suddenly start sporting HUGE stretchmarks? I have no clue - my skin has never been this stretched out before...

We had the baby shower last weekend - which was...wonderful! It was so fun! My sister in law, B, came down and arranged the games, which were super excellent! We got a whole bunch of wonderful stuff - everything we needed. Even a pack 'n' play from my friends C and A! Wonderful! Really, I am very ready for Isobella to make her entrance now.

Here I am, being the model for the "how big is it around her belly?" game: incidentally, that measurement was 41 inches...

Once again, posing the belly so that people were able to gauge an estimate of it's bigness...

Here are about half the people there, in our living room. I think almost everyone we invited came, bar one who couldn't make it and had told us beforehand, and one who'd come down with tonsillitis. So we had a great turnout! Afterward, a couple stayed and we drank cocoa and ate chocolate until later in the night...

Here I am, playing the "what's in the pillowcase?" game - there were twenty baby items in the pillowcase, and we had to remember and write them down, simply from the feel... I got seven, I think. Winner got 14!

Last, but not least, here we all are, posing goofily by the Christmas tree last weekend.

So, Happy Yule, all of you - may the best wishes of the season be with you not matter what your spiritual beliefs are! I hope that, even if this is the first season without someone you love, something beautiful happens at least once to help you remember that actually, life is pretty amazing... Because it really is, isn't it. Big hugs to you all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

If I had only known...

...that this would be your last week alive, Josie, I would have maybe done some things differently.

I am now 36 weeks, 4 days pregnant with Isobella. I gave birth to Josie at 37 weeks, 4 days at about 7.56am under general anesthesia via cesarean. She'd probably passed at about 7.15 or so, I think. I thought I'd felt a last movement in the car, but that might have just been her relaxing once she'd gone... that was as we were approaching the last turning on the interstate before the exit to CR13... I remember the sunrise in the car, and that last movement, which was probably not what I thought it was because we'd lost the heart rate already. Though at the time, R felt sure she couls still hear it, faintly. I couldn't though...I could only hear that awful static...

Then at the hospital, more static... Then the ultrasound machine and nothing...then the internal exam...the catheter...the drips on both arms; the straps; the undressing by several people; the anesthesiologist (who came to see me afterward because he was so sorry about my baby...) and then being told to take deep breaths of oxygen because it was good for my baby... Good for my baby...who couldn't breathe...because she was trapped inside me in a river of blood...

God it's hard sometimes, it really is. I really miss her.

Now here I am at this stage of pregnancy again and, remembering everything I did. Let me lay out the time line of Josie's last week or so, alive:

10/4 - (Equivalent of tomorrow) - we had a midwife appointment, and took some pictures...

Josie, if I'd known, I would have taken more pictures...

10/5 - Sunday - I washed clothes - so many loads of laundry - and made sure all your things were ready for you.

Josie, if I'd known, I would have talked to you more and wouldn't have done all that laundry so frantically, instead choosing to rub my tummy and speak to you...

10/6 - Monday - I took pictures of all your things, so proudly, to show my family thousands of miles away your stuff!

Josie, if I'd known, I would have gone for a long walk in the Autumn colors and we would have been together in peace and quiet for a little while...

10/7 - Tuesday- Your Daddy and brother set up your crib at my behest because I knew it wouldn't be much longer until you came: I'd had signs for about a week and a half by then, that you were on your way. I took a few pictures and thought it looked like a lovely nest for you...

Josie, if I'd known, I would have lain in bed with you, in the light of your little lamp, and we would have been able to have a conversation...

10/8 - Wednesday - I got my laptop and went upstairs, to take a bath in the sunlit bathroom there. I knew it would be my last for a while because I'd have my hands full with you, so I was going to indulge... I had a contraction in the bath which in hindsight wasn't quite...right.

Josie, if I'd known, I would have taken more baths with you... If I'd known about the contraction pain being wrong, I would have gone to the hospital...

10/9 - Thursday - We watched movies for the night and chilled out.

Josie, if I'd known, I would have spent the night with you, talking to you, being in touch with my body and with you, and thinking so many loving thoughts every second...

10/10 - Friday and the day of your birth and death - I started being in pain about 2am or so, I think. I thought it was normal and labored through it, never making a sound, taking a bath for the pain, which helped. I didn't even wake your Daddy up until about 4.30am. We called R a little later on. Your heartbeat sounded great. I labored in the birth tub, with your Daddy. We have one picture (I put a box over the boobs in case of strange visitors...but I wasn't wearing a black box!). Your Daddy looked proud and apprehensive. There was light in his eyes. I haven't seen that light since you died. Not once. I used to see it all the time. I wonder if it will ever be back.

About 6.45 or so, I started feeling lightheaded in the birth tub. I got out, and almost passed out in the bathroom. Suddenly, your heart rate went to 80bpm. We got dressed for the hospital and had one last check on the way out of the door. Your heartbeat was back up and sounding wonderful again, so we decided it as simply a case of a strong contraction. We went back inside, I took a shower because I was hot. I got out, and R checked me. I was at 3cm, which was not right.

Then we couldn't find your heartbeat any more. Only some kind of echo. I only heard static. We were in the car to the hospital quick as a flash. It was just after 7. It was too late...

Josie, if I'd known, I would have given my life to save yours. I would have torn into myself without anesthesia with a spoon if that's all we had, to get you out.

But that's the thing. Nobody knew. And that's the greatest thing "they" never tell you: sometimes, nobody knows. Adults aren't all powerful. Mummys don't know everything, all the time, even though they will have you believe they have eyes in the back of their heads. Had we been in hospital already, it is likely (according to the doctors) that the outcome would have been the same... Doctors are powerful, but, they lose people still.

Had we been able to know, somehow, you'd still be here. I know you know that we would have given anything to save you. Had I known this week would be your last week, I would have enveloped you with as much love as I could possibly have mustered up.

So in honor of you, the rest of this pregnancy will be spent making sure Isobella is absolutely saturated with love, at the possible expense of most other normally important things around here...

I love you little Josie; I love your sister as well. You're my babies; my girls. My heart.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

36 weeks...almost there!

Yes we really are! Check out the bigness!

I am 36 weeks, and 1 day in these pics. Granted, I'm now 36 weeks, 3 days - but I'm glad I waited to give an update, because of my fabulous and wonderful doctor's appointment yesterday... But before I go into that, let me post this belly out picture to give you a true impression of my vastness at this stage (amazingly, some people still say "oh, but you are SOOooooo tiny!" which is clearly their attempt at a joke...

...because I am in no way "tiny." I'm just not. Come on people, there's no way you can tell me there's a little, itty-bitty 5lb'er in there. Do you have any idea where my internal organs are Because I know where they are, and they aren't occupying a single iota of that big belly up there...

Anyhow on to that lovely doc's appointment.

I went in at 8.30am yesterday morning for my first non-stress test (NST). For those among you who are not aware of what this is, let me explain: an NST is where they take you, pop two sensors on your belly (one for uterine irritability/contractions etc and movement; one for fetal heart rate) and sit (or lay) you down for about 20 minutes or so, so monitor the babe.

Point of the whole exercise is to get a good reading of what said babe is up to in there: and, if babe's heart rate is consistent with movement. If babe falls asleep, they buzz him/her with a buzzer (or poke, or make you drink something sugary) to get him or her to wake up and move about a bit, and see what that does to the heart rate. This is all to figure out how healthy the baby is. Basically, you want to see nice heart accelerations and decelerations, corresponding with a good amount of movement. Etcetera.

Well, Bella hated that doppler for her heart - as soon as it got put to the belly, she launched an almighty body movement against the other movement/contraction sensor and tried to fling the damn thing off my belly altogether. She really did not like that thing at all! It probably really annoyed her little ears...

So, we remained on there for about 40 minutes in total. Of course, the entire time I was there I thought, from moment to moment: "just don't stop beating, little heart" - so the whole "non-stress" part of the test was a complete joke: I was stressed out, alright! Not loony-stressed, no - but not calm and relaxed in Hawaii-beach-sipping-coconut-margarita-style calm, either. Since, when you've had a doppler placed on your pregnant belly and heard...nothing; you can't ever be completely sure that won't happen all over again. Oh, for the innocence of that first pregnancy again...

After that, my wonderful doc (who I truly do adore - he is a gem) told me we would take a quick look at the placenta on the ultrasound. He is (naturally) getting to a rather nervous point now: probably more nervous than me, actually. He really doesn't relish the prospect of history repeating; neither, of course, do I - but I can understand his worry. So, we went into an ultrasound room and a tech came to start the ultrasound.

We looked at her head, one of her "orbital sockets" and then the heart, which, as usual, was loud. It sounded about 135 beats a minute or so. She was chilled now, being off that annoying doppler! However, that's where everything went a little haywire, because her heart rate kept measuring out at 268 bpm visually. It didn't make a darn bit of sense, so my doc came in to have a go. Sure enough, he could only get an ultra-high reading too. It sounded slow; it measured fast.

So then all of a sudden (in manner of a movie theater fire, when a good film is cut in half; the lights go on and everyone is told to exit in a "calm and orderly fashion") plans changed. I was told not to freak out, but that they were going to admit me to labor and delivery for monitoring because of a possible tachycardia issue with Isobella. I promised not to freak out, but then of course, my heart started pumping and by the time I got to L&D, my blood pressure was up to 130 over 90, and then 130 over 101. Not so great.

So there I am in a hospital gown, in bed, once again with those two little sensors on my belly (Isobella must have been livid), wondering if I am going to be made to go on bed rest because of high blood pressure or - even worse - be told that, because of this heart irregularity and the high blood pressure, I was going to have to deliver that day by induction or - horrendously - cesarean again!

I thought to myself "well, I'm 36 weeks, 2 days. She may well not even have to go to the NICU. But then she might if she has something screwed up in her heart... Oh gosh, I really don't want her to have to go through this..."

But instead of visibly panicking, I asked for toast, fruit juice and water, and the remote. I sat there watching true crime programs and looking completely under control. Naturally though, I kept glancing up at the monitor - I had a couple of nice contractions - or pressure/birthing waves as we call them in the Hypnobabies world - and that was exciting! I continued living, watching the minutes tick by and Frasier (who incidentally, had no furniture in his apartment that episode) - then a couple more true crime shows.

In the end, they had me hooked up for about 2.5 hours. I got to eat lunch in the hospital and peruse the menu for things I might like to eat when I come in to give birth... My doc came in then, after a while, and said everything looked nice and calm - nothing wrong at all. So who knows what happened in the first place... He made me promise to call if anything "weird" happened, which I promised - but then he made me promise again! I promised, promised, promised! After that, my friend (and midwife; and doula), R came to meet me at the hospital - I had been planning to go to hers, and was going to call after my 8.30am appointment: but, since I never called, and had apparently disappeared off the face of the planet, she'd called my cell, which I'd had a nurse retrieve.

I think I'd call for a pin-prick sized amount of blood, at this stage, I really do.

Then I got to get out... As we stood in the car park, R got a call from a client, who'd just finally gone into real labor: so, off she went to attend the birth, which went off beautifully and without a hitch, later that evening (congratulations!).

This whole episode though, got me thinking about just how close this birth really is. It made me realize that the car seat was not installed: I installed it today. It made me realize I didn't have mini travel-sized containers of soap and shampoo and conditioner: I went and bought them immediately afterward. It made me realize I needed to clean my house in readiness for this child: I did...

...I shouldn't have done so much cleaning, because afterward I hurt like hell: and felt dreadful this morning after a crappy night's sleep spent laying on my right hip, which now wants to spontaneously dislocate in public places, without warning. Fun.

But ah, at least now I am prepared. The bags are packed; the car seat installed (properly!); the tiny, last minute things bought; the house cleaned and vacuumed rather well. All is now done.

And it's about eleven days, give or take, until my week 38 milestone... That's not long. I go back in to see my doc next Wednesday, upon which I will be checked for "readiness." I have embarked upon an EPO consumption mission to attempt to ready my body for delivery...

It's all go time now, boys and girls... We're reaching the end of this rugged road. We really are.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Isobella's little face at 35 weeks and 4 days...

Here we are! Here's the little face at the growth scan yesterday...

She's measuring in at about 6lb, give or take - according to the (notoriously inaccurate) ultrasound. Mind you, I totally believe that is true - minus perhaps an ounce: and apparently, according to the studies, the mother's point of view is more often than not more accurate than the ultrasound. Some people reckon she's going to be big at birth; some people reckon the same size as Josie.

I think she will be just over 7lb at 38 weeks: so, if that's when it's go time, I reckon we'll have a 7lb 2oz - 7lb 5oz baby. Josie was 6lb 6oz, but I do feel bigger now than with her...

Anyhow everything is looking GREAT with the placenta, cord, measurements, kidneys, tummy, head, abdomen, everything. Nice, active baby and it all seems to be stacking up nicely. She's flipping between right and left occiput anterior, which is fine. I called ROP before going into the ultrasound room and was correct! Yay for external palpation!

She is VERY far down in my pelvis now, hence the half head shot - we would have had to go down into my pelvis with the wand if we'd wanted to see her whole head. As a result I am getting wonderful pressure sensations and twanging pains as my body gets ready for delivery. It's all good. It's doing what it ought to. My hips have gone from being in different states, to different sides of the world, however, and I click whenever I walk - something to do with relaxin influxes so frequently in the last two years (that's the hormone responsible for loosening the joints in advance of birth). So that's a bit uncomfy, but, it's not the end of the world.

Anyhow there we are - isn't she a doll!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

35 weeks and counting...

Here I am again, at 35 weeks and one day! I missed my deadline for pics by one day. But really, how much difference did it make? Probably not much. So, here I am on Tuesday of this week...

What have I done this week in terms of baby prep? Well, I allowed myself the luxury of once again obsessively going through all the baby clothes, arranging them this time in size, just like I did with Josie. I told myself I wasn't going to go that nuts this time, but hey presto, here we are at 35 weeks, and I am totally that nuts.

I also took the bedding off the crib, and put new bedding back on the crib. Here's the evidence to that little venture. Plus, I (uselessly) set up the baby monitors and switched them on for no reason. Actually there was a reason: so I could stand in the kitchen later at night (H goes to bed earlier than me most of the time as he has to get up earlier) and chuckle at H snoring and making funny noises... Ah, the boredom of late pregnancy.

Can you spot the little butterfly hanging up there on the right? If you like, you can check out one of the first posts I ever made: it had a picture of Josie's crib in it (the same crib of course) and you can see the similar butterfly hanging up in hers...

I also packed the hospital bags. Here is our cat, Smokey (one of them - we have four) sitting with the socks, booties, mittens and blankets for Isobella. Since it's winter here in MN, we need to make sure that she is well bundled...

Here is the selection of teeny tiny clothing we have for her. Might seem like a lot, but there's only so long I want her wrapped in a scratchy hospital blanket: and if they keep us for the full three days, she ought to have a few bits and pieces in case she gets bored wearing the same thing...or has a poo explosion...or something! Okay fine - I just could choose. But the pink thing on the left is a really warm snowsuit. Since it's going to be extremely cold, she'll need that. The bundle on the bottom left is a baby cocoon and matching hat made for Isobella by a really good friend, Shelley - thank you Shelley!

Here is the extent of Isobella's wardrobe. Isn't it disgraceful how many clothes she has? I mean seriously, this is pushing the extreme. Plus, there are a few more outfits in the closet. But honestly, I don't feel bad because just the joy of getting to dress up a a baby is...well, it's going to be so wonderful. It really is. Poor thing will probably change outfits seven times a day, though. That rainbow onesie was made by another really good friend - Shannon - thank you Shannon!

So, that's the size of it. I have an ultrasound tomorrow. We're going to be checking on placental issues and all the rest. Then, non-stress tests for the remainder of the pregnancy once or twice a week.

I am so glad tomorrow is nearly here: honestly, I've spent the last 2.5 weeks since the previous doc's appointment just praying she'll make it to this ultrasound. It's completely irrational really, but this stage is rather scary. I have no real reason to be concerned. But I so want her to be alright. I just can't wait to visually see this placenta firmly attached. I just hope the cord is still completely free-floating: goodness knows I don't need another reason to stay awake at night, even if it's a benign, and common issue. Somehow, nothing seems benign or common any more.

Hopefully soon I will be just another "common mother" with a "common" and healthy child...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

34 weeks and thinking...

Well actually, I'm technically about 34 and a half weeks now: it's taken me this long to get my act together and post!

I was thinking yesterday about the way we all process things, depending on our genetic and environmental coagulation throughout the years, and my thoughts drifted onto child loss - most specifically, how child loss is processed differently by different people.

It is curious, as I look around, at my immediate family how differently I see them going through grief - or not going through grief. I have seen religion play a major role here, in my immediate surroundings, where religious beliefs have been used as reasons for things happening, or not happening. Or, where religious beliefs have been used as a means to get the person through the grieving process and life in the aftermath of child loss.

I myself am a total Earth worshiper. I believe this Earth is magical in itself, and gives to us everything we need. I look around me in every season and see what beautiful things are produced - from snowflakes in the winter, to bright summer evenings, to the fruits we love to harvest in the autumn and make things out of (I love elderberries and apples, around here). I see the magic of love between people on so many different levels; the communication between us and the animal companions we have and for me, that is evidence enough for wonderful things going on in the world. I've never really in the whole of my life felt the need to belong to a mainstream organized religion - but, that's just me. Conversely I don't see anything wrong with wanting to belong to any larger religion: it's just not me.

So for me, life and death are interwoven: they're intrinsically joined to one another, faded into one another in a gradient and to me, neither can be separated from the other. Trees die, and their wooden bodies add mulch to the surrounding forest floor. Plants die, adding minerals to the soil. Animals die, also adding nutrient. We are animals, in the end. Then, plants spring up from the earth; we eat the plants; we grow. We live, we die, the whole mechanism goes on and on.

Emotions also come into play, naturally. I suppose if the mechanical aspect of the continuity of life is the black and white outline, emotional components would provide the color within. We feel love, sadness, joy, despair...all of this. So, tied up in the natural process of birth, death and rebirth we have the colorful washings of emotion.

For me though, it's important not to let go of either the outline or the colors within. As important as the emotions within, the outline of life is the factual, tangible truth. Life and death happen. We conceive new life; and there is death.

So, in my mind, qualifying the death of Josie was not impossible. I never found her death impossible to believe, beyond the normal scope of grief and the associated mental injury of the grieving process. Her death was what it was: my brother had died of the same cause. She had died. She was now in the earth along with all the other things, animal and plant, that had died in the past.

Along the same vein, I never had trouble with blaming anything other than the literal source of blame - ever - again, beyond the initial grief. By that, I mean I did not ever sit about and wonder why "God" had "done this" to me. Since I don't believe the Devil is real, I never had trouble with the belief that something "evil" had happened, either. I didn't have a deity to be angry with. The only deity I believe in being our mother Earth, who is naturally black and white and gray and everything in between: I couldn't be "angry" with her because life and death is in her nature.

So for me, acceptance was not something I had trouble with. Not at all. I felt at peace fairly quickly with the death of my daugher - but of course, that does not mean to say I felt at peace with her being gone. Do you see what I mean? There is a difference, I think. I miss her terribly and especially now at the end of this pregnancy, with all the hormonal influences, I cry over her sometimes because of a combination of sadness that I can't hold her, and remembrance of this time in my pregnancy with her. The love never, ever leaves you. It's the same as holding a living child: that child is forever with you, but empty as air - there's nothing to pour your love into, so you have to find something else to hold the love.

I choose art, and writing, and talking, and just a little extra love for other people as my outlet for the love that would have gone to Josie. Perhaps that is why they say "losing a child will turn you into a more compassionate person" - you have this leftover abundance of love that keeps flowing throughout life. But, that is, only if you reach a level of acceptance. Without acceptance, you're pretty stuck really.

And that's what I see around me: varying levels of acceptance. Some are like me - not necessarily the same religious or spiritual beliefs, but they're come to a level of understanding. However, many haven't. Including some people who are really close to me.

I see this frustration with "God" all over the place. This "why did He do this to me?" and "I'm really pissed off with God" and "I don't understand why this had to happen to me." These are all questions that I never really thought of. I've never really had the mind to have to find a reason for everything. I suppose it gets very hard if you do believe that "everything happens for a reason" - because then you have to justify something awful happening. Can you ever really be sure your justification is correct, though, or are there perpetual, lingering doubts?

I've had pressure from some extended family members and acquaintances to get married before the new baby arrives, as though we, as a couple "owe" something to a God. Or, as though, curiously, a God took our last child because we were not married. Naturally that makes no spiritual or logical sense to me at all. How can it? At the same time, they profess that my daughter is an "angel" in "heaven" or that "God wanted her back because she was too perfect/wasn't meant to live..." Again, these explanations make no sense at all to me - they're foreign to me. They might be nice for someone else but as far as I am concerned, my daughter isn't sporting wings, watching over me or protecting me. She's at peace forever, that I am sure of - and I'm happy with that. What's so bad with being at peace forever?

Anyhow, so, around me, people are stuck in various stages of the grieving process because they have been hampered by their own spiritual beliefs. Unwilling to let go or change their minds about their beliefs - because they are afraid that these beliefs are the only things getting them through - they find themselves trapped in terrible wranglings between themselves and the God they were always sure was out to protect. I feel very bad for these people. I can only imagine the mental pain that must inflict.

Alternatively I do also have people who believe that a God is there to be with them through the pain. I find, looking at these people, that their realities are much more relaxed; much more peaceful.

So I suppose it can go either way. Perhaps it's just best to be flexible in one's spiritual outlook...

Anyhow enough ruminating: I am 34 weeks and 3 days pregnant today. In my pregnancy with Josie, I'd be the equivalent of just over a week away from the day I realized that my body was not tolerating the stress well at all - 35 weeks, 4 days, losing my plug and having some indications of early labor - which led to my being released from my crazy ex-job two weeks earlier than previously planned.

We're reaching the end of this journey here - it's not long. I can remember everything I was doing at this stage of my pregnancy with Josie - almost day by day. The last week of work would be spent getting up at 3.30am every day (driving two hours to a location just outside the cities), and going to bed sometimes as late as 11.30pm. Finally, my request for help had been granted and help had been sent - but by this time, it was almost too late. The problems in my district had been ignored for far too long - upper management had been making serious mistakes... I was going to pay for it in a lot more than a corporate-slap-on-the-wrist sense. After all, shoving blame and too much responsibility on to colleagues further on down the line only works until someone dies...

So here I am at 34 weeks exactly... It won't be long now...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Josie's life...

Giving thanks for Josie's life with us here - one Thanksgiving beyond her birth and death. We may have lost her, but we will never fail to acknowledge her as a little person...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giving Thanks...

It's really only been recently that the meaning of this festival has properly hit me. We don't have it in England, and all the "Pilgrims plus Native Americans" stuff didn't really strike me to begin with.

But nowadays, I get it. I also get the newer message - that of simply giving thanks - and I like it. We don't have a day simply to give thanks in England: we have a harvest festival many times, but it's not on a set date. So for me, Thanksgiving is much like a harvest festival. I sat there this year, gobbling food and really, feeling good about life. Here are a couple of pictures of my family, being thankful on Thanksgiving...

Last Thanksgiving...not so much. Actually last Thanksgiving hurt - a lot. It really stung. Christmas wasn't so bad - my sister N and brother F came to visit and it was lovely. But Thanksgiving was pretty awful. I remember being in a lot of emotional pain. My mother had just left a few weeks previously and I had no baby to hold.

So, when the adverts, or the people, or the stores said "think of what you're thankful for this holiday!" I had some real trouble. Remaining positive was possible on every other day than Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving itself, the walls came kind of, crumbling down, so to speak.

I remember telling H I really couldn't be thankful that year. I couldn't think of anything to be thankful for. Not on that day. Every other day I could be grateful to be alive, but not on Thanksgiving.

I drove out to the cold, cold graveyard where my daughter slept under the ground, and left my car running next to her plot. It was dark by this time, and I'd just taken off and left everyone in my house because I couldn't hold the tears back any more. I drove out there and listened to public radio, sobbing and sobbing into a box of Kleenex next to me in the passenger seat. The heater was warm; the temperature outside was freezing.

Suddenly, a medley of Shaker hymns, arranged a Capella by a composer called Kevin (can't remember the last name) came on the radio and they were just beautiful - rich, warm voices filling my ears.

I opened both windows and turned the music up for my baby, who couldn't hear... I turned those Shaker hymns up for all the babies in "Babyland" where she was buried and played them out across the dark, cold evening. I sat there and cried the whole way through. When the hymns were over, I put the car into gear, rolled up the windows and with one final look at the semi-fresh earth of my baby's grave, I drove back to the house.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Isobella's Birth Plan...

Well, I gave this to my very wonderful doctor this afternoon and he accepted it all! The only glitch, he said, would be if I went into spontaneous labor on my own in the middle of the night and came in - the staff on duty would probably want to c-section me and there'd be a fight. But, apart from that, here it is...


J's Birth Plan - baby Isobella Mai

Hello lovely ALMC medical professionals!
Welcome to my birth plan. I understand you probably get a lot of these but very much request that you read this and please, try to accommodate me and my baby as much as humanly possible. Please understand that this plan is written from two perspectives: a mother, wanting a natural, vaginal birth after a cesarean; and a mother wanting a natural, med-free birth after the death of her daughter from complete placental abruption on October of 2008. I really want the most natural, normal, loving circumstances for this birth, and for this child to be brought out into the world in a calm, peaceful way as opposed to a dramatic, traumatic way. This birth plan then, is written with the intent of making this as likely as possible.

With that said, I understand more than many how unpredictable life can be. If I should need surgery, we will come to that when we come to it. In the meantime however, here are the thing that I feel would make birthing really great for Isobella Mai (my baby) and I. Thank you so much for reading and I appreciate all you do.

  • Please - no constant asking about pain meds or epidurals: I will most certainly ask for these, should I feel I need them. I would much rather have support in my natural childbirth, and a little cheerleading!
  • Please use "pressure" instead of pain whenever possible because I am using self-hypnosis (Hypnobabies) to help me with birthing, and want to allow myself to think of the contractions as a lot of pressure, rather than abject, sheer pain and terror!
  • I would like to wear own clothes - sarong for comfort (will still allow doctors access but will make me more comfortable).
  • Please let me have an extra long drip so that I can move around.
  • Please give me the freedom to use the bath or shower, the birthing ball etc.
  • Please give me the freedom to labor in any position.
  • Please, give me the freedom to push the baby out in the position I feel most comfortable in. I promise I won't try to give birth on the roof, but I'd like to be able to, for example, give birth in a squat if that feels right.
  • Please, no episiotomy - I would much rather tear.
  • If at all possible, I would like to be able to dim the lights.
  • When pushing, I'd like to be able to push when it "feels right" - as much as possible. Please, please, no counting to ten...
  • Please let my birth partner catch the baby if he can!
  • Please let the umbilical cord stop pulsating before it is cut. I'd really like Isobella to get all her blood.
  • When baby is out, please place her on my chest - I want to bond with her straight away unless there are emergency medical reasons why this cannot be so.
  • Please, when she is out, do not whisk her off to "give me a rest". Ideally I would love to be able to breastfeed to allow the placenta to come out without a problem.
  • Also, because of the circumstances of the last birth, I really would like Isobella and I to be allowed to bond for at least a few minutes before weighing, measuring, and all the rest of the standard procedures. I really want to be able to spend those first moments looking into her open eyes.
  • After baby comes, I'd love to be able to be the one to dry her off and wrap her up. Please don't bathe her and dress her for me - again, these moments are not something I got the chance to experience before, so I'd like to be able to do this myself.
  • I'd like to room in with my baby at all times. There will always be someone there with me if I need to rest.
  • If Isobella should happen to have to be taken to the NICU for any reason, please let my birth partner go with her and be with her as much as possible.
  • If I should happen to have a cesarean, please, once again, let me be with my baby immediately afterwards as long as no complications exist. As you can imagine, the last time was very traumatic and I would not like to be separated from my child this time. I'd like to be able to breastfeed as soon as possible after the birth.
  • I plan to breastfeed!

I do believe that is about it: as you can tell, I strongly believe in the natural power and the natural progression of birth, even though it did not go as planned the last time. I feel calm about this birth, unafraid and very much ready. Thank you once again for reading and for helping me!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lights in the darkness...

I bought something today. Recently, buying things has been...not happening very much because my income hasn't allowed me to go out on any large shopping trips that didn't involve buying groceries. But, it's not been a problem for me because I don't really want much in my life - my needs are very few. I prefer experiences - always have. A karaoke session in a nice bar with nice people; visiting a beautiful place for the first time; seeing people I love; watching a wonderful movie with someone special...spending time sitting on the beach at sunset when there's no-one else there.

But yes, I did buy something today.

When Josie was buried, we had to make the heart-stopping decision of what to dress her in. I was told at the hospital what they chose - on the morning of the third day, I think - the Sunday. Her funeral was the Monday. She wore this beautiful fancy dress and underneath, a pair of white, velvety sock-pants with bunnies for socks - ears and all. It had a little white bobby tail on the tush and was so sweet. I remember looking at them, holding them up and washing them in baby soap during my pregnancy, because I couldn't wait to dress Josie in those little pants in particular.

So, she was buried in them. H's ma took pictures but I've never seen them. She wore makeup and her little soul had gone. One day I'm sure I'll see them: but who knows.

Anyway the children wanted to bury something with her as well. It was this little Carter's light-up butterfly. It was very soft and tied onto the crib. When you pulled it's tail, it twinkled red in the wings and set off the music box, which was not electronic - played Brahm's Lullaby.

The children wanted to bury it with Josie because it lit up, and they thought it would be very dark and scary underground. They're so practical.

So we buried it with her and every now and again - the more I get to the end of this pregnancy - I thought of that little butterfly twinkling away down there, with it's little red lights. I wanted another one just like it for Isobella - some connection to her sister.

The more I thought about it, the more I really wanted it. The more essential it became. Then of course, the item was so hard to find - nobody had it any more - it wasn't even being made. But the other day I happened to find it on eBay with the help of a dear friend of mine... Today, I bought it. I have to wait now to pay for it until I get paid again, but it's going to be there for Isobella.

And you know, I feel so emotional about it. Out of everything we buried with Josie, that was the most poignant. Twinkling and lighting up in there forever, in the dark, under the ground. I somehow knew that if I didn't get another one it just wouldn't be right. Something should be Earthside as well - something just like what was buried, like some kind monitor...something to connect to. Like Inanna's servant, Ninshubur. Except of course, little Inanna/Josie isn't coming out of the underworld - she's gone to a different place...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Isobella dancing in her Iso-Belly...

Birth beads, and 33 weeks today...'s the big 33 week mark. I felt my tummy this morning, laying on my back as Isobella awoke from her little slumber, and there were bones, legs, arms, head, butt - just so palpable because I was so relaxed. There is undeniably another little human being inside me - not soft, but fully formed, with feet, and ankles, and little fingers and toes; nails; hair; eyes - eyelashes... She's really in there.

Right now, as I sit here, she's active. She is less bouncy than her sister, but still a very active baby, which is fine with me because I do believe part of Josie's bounciness was caused by my stress.

So, she is coming soon. In many ways I believe that this pregnancy my attitude has been different about bringing home a baby. Last time, the whole way through my biggest fear was losing the baby to a placental abruption - it was almost uncanny, the way it happened. I bought things for Josie, but I did not read about newborn baby behavior; how to change a nappy/diaper; how to bathe her... I knew it would come instinctively if I got to hold her alive at the end of it all. So I read in detail all the way up to the end of my pregnancy: but also knew she would come early.

Well, as it would happen, she did come early, and she did die as a result of an abruption. Do I believe in fate, or that it was "destined" to happen? Nope - I believe that's a load of rubbish (and I do still have to put up with the mindless "well, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. God probably wanted her back straightaway and now she's an angel in heaven..." BS) - but, it was uncanny how my intuition didn't allow me to read beyond the birth.

This time, I'm almost all the way through Sheila Kitzinger's "Understanding your Crying Baby" and a number of other early development books. Naturally, one cannot ready everything about a child's development all the way up to 18 before the little one's even born, but I do believe this time, something in telling me I actually need to be prepared to bring an infant home with me.

I got the birth beads sorted out this weekend for my due date club - there are sixteen of us participating and five of us (including me, of course!) wanted their beads pre-strung. So, I spent until about 3.30am on Saturday/Sunday morning making necklaces with beading wire and clasps. It was the first time I'd done anything like that, I am am *fairly* confident in them! People sent some really nice beads. I strung mine with a few others I had around, and the result was thus:

The necklace is very comfortable, so I've been wearing it more or less ever since. Also, I made and decorated little bags for everyone to put their finished necklaces into. They're all done now - I used fabric paint to write a the month and year on the bags. I hope everyone likes them and that nobody who I send a parcel to has to put memories in the bag along with the beads. May all the babies thrive and grow...

I also took a couple of more "arty" pregnancy pictures. One is below:

Last week, we set up the exactly 32 weeks. Nothing bad has happened yet, which is wonderful! I say that with a shred of irony, since so many say "just in case, " you know? But, I needed to take that plunge. Not acknowledging her was not an option.

Which is why, additionally, we are having a baby shower before she comes. My last baby shower was going to be be October 11th, 2008. We lost Josie in October 10th. We have to be optimistic and we have to celebrate this little life, our little Isobella. Having a baby show will not kill our baby. So, we are going to have one: not that we really need much!

I think that's it for now. I have been trying to videotape her squirming inside my belly, and I think I have a few decent shots of that, so I will make a short video and upload it to OneTrueMedia or something like that - I'll post that later...

Not too much creative, emotional writing today: much too spent being pregnant! But, I'm all about keeping everyone in the loop: so, that's what's been happening with me... Now, over to you...