aya pearl

“A miracle is just a shift in perception from fear to love. “

When I look back on the conception of Aya, it was a moment of purity and perfection in my life. We were in Kaua’i, across the road from the ocean. We had Indra with us, and we were saying goodbye one more time to Laurie with our family present. Everything about that moment felt magical. It was like we were on a higher vibration. I look back at the moment and think of sunshine and peace.

When I discovered I was pregnant, I felt complete joy. I’d felt her magic with me – I was not surprised. Somehow I knew and was happy in a way I’d experienced few times in my life.

What I learned in this pregnancy and in the birth were maybe some of the the most poignant lessons I’ve ever learned. Let go. I had such an incredible birth and pregnancy with Indra that I started holding on tightly to replicating that with Aya. With Indra, I didn’t know anything and had no expectations. With Aya, I wanted the best for her so dearly that I added anxiety to my already depleted state. I’d wanted a home and to be settled and feel peace. But she taught me, more than any other time in my life, when to fight and when to let go. I was so tired I didn’t feel like I had any more fight in me, but I found it for her. When it was time to let go of my expectations, I did it for her too.

The night before I went into labor, I knew something was happening. I had a feeling. There were the physical symptoms of the body releasing and relaxing, but so was my psyche. My emotions were heightened. I was open and raw. I don’t know that I felt ready, this time I had more fear. I had more self-doubt. I didn’t feel as supported.

I went to bed knowing that things were shifting. Some time after 4:00 I started having regular but mild contractions. I didn’t wake Ezra, but when he woke after 6:00 with Indra, I let him know things were starting. I let Amy (my doula), mom and Jen (my birth photographer) know what was happening, but thought I had some time. Not really thinking about it, I nursed Indra. I knew that nursing released oxytocin but I wasn’t thinking about that. Quickly I had strong contractions but they soon subsided. So I let Indra nurse on the other side. In hindsight, why? I knew things were changing but she was still my main priority, and I wanted this moment with her. I still wanted to take care of her. This brought on a whole new flood of contractions and Ezra suggested I not wait and to have my mom come for Indra now.

My mom came around 7:30 and was worried about me. I brushed the concern off, I was consumed by what I was feeling. I said goodbye to sweet Indra and tried not to make a big deal of it. But my mom called and expressed her concerns… I was so hot and sweaty. I was in labor of course, but there’s something about having your own mama around that makes you feel vulnerable. Ezra shared this call with me and it made me more honest with myself about what I was feeling. Until this point I’d figured I was in early labor, that I just needed to get in my groove. The first couple hours was nothing, so how could this last hour be much different?

I talked with Amy and said I was thinking about heading to the hospital. She reaffirmed she was there to support me when I needed her. Because we were having this conversation did I want to try a bath or something different first? It was up to me. I got in the bath but all of a sudden I felt pushy. I was so hot and my body wanted to push. Ezra thought maybe we should try timing contractions. I remember being on my hands and knees in the bedroom and I couldn’t figure out where they started and ended. I was in one long contraction.

I decided to go to the hospital. It didn’t cross my mind that I’d have a baby soon, I just didn’t know what else to do. There would be no beautiful laboring pictures at our home. There was no time to adjust to what was happening, it was time to go. Ready or not.

By 8:30 we were in the car and I texted Jen, that I was feeling pushy. She said she was on her way!! We pulled up at the hospital and valet was not a service on Saturdays. So Ezra ran inside and got a wheelchair. A woman at the front desk wheeled me quickly to the elevator as Ezra ran to park the car. I was trying not to push in the elevator. Then I tried not to push while I was checking in to the maternity unity. I was wheeled to Triage and in the room alone, swaying my hips and groaning and feeling a bit out of control, my water broke. It was a comical sound, and I wish someone else had been there to tell me if it had been audible to their ears or just something I’d felt internally.

After that everything happened so fast, it’s hard to remember the sequence. Ezra arrived and they checked how dilated I was. I was complete. I was stunned. As they wheeled me to a birthing room I asked if I could get in the tub and they laughed saying there was no time. These next minutes were a blur. I was on the table pushing and Aya’s heartbeat must have dipped because they gave me oxygen and had me change positions. They gave me a bar to push my feet against and a strap to pull on but it wasn’t productive. I needed to squat. I remember Gerry, the midwife, saying two more pushes and when that passed I was disappointed. I wanted to accuse “you said two more pushes! I should be done.” I tried to keep calm and just focus. When things became so intense so quickly at home, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this, at least unmedicated. But now in the hospital it was never a thought. I knew I had to just focus on the next push. Then the next. I had sensations this time that I’d not felt with Indra. The ring of fire was a real thing. Aya seemed to get a little stuck and then she made her way out.

At 9:27 Aya Pearl came into this world sunnyside and eyes wide open. My sister called it auspicious and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. She came into my arms in a hurry. A labour of just four-and-a-half hours. My whole body was shaking. I forgot to wonder if she was a girl before they announced it. I was so flooded with emotion, a bit overwhelmed, and in shock of what’d just happened. I kept saying, I can’t believe its over. It felt like one minute I was pregnant and sleeping and the next I had a baby.

Something about Aya just feels like magic to me. I feel she will continue to surprise me and show me my strengths and weaknesses. She came into the world awake. She was quiet, eyes open and looked around. I cannot wait to see what she does with this life and learn who she is.

maternity photos

“The secret to having it all, is knowing you already do.”

My friend Cait took these beautiful photos. I wanted a few images to remember this time and how special it was. I had everything I could possibly want, and I was so grateful for it.

back to minneapolis

“It’s ok if you fall down and lose your spark. Just make sure that when you get back up, you rise as the whole damn fire.”

I was so happy to be moving back to Minneapolis. It felt like we were moving forward. The past year had been rough. A lot of moving around. A lot of sadness. A lot of loneliness. We got an apartment for the beginning of May. We went back up for an appointment and refresher birth class and started to get settled in.

But first a week at Nana and Papa’s getting spoiled.

Our new digs. It was not my dream home, but it was a home, and I was grateful for it. All of our family helped us move and then it was just the task of unpacking and taking nice walks around the small lake in our backyard.

33 weeks big!

Everything about this time was bittersweet. I found myself very anxious about the future. I was so worried about my sweet Indra. She is such a sensitive being. She had still been sleeping with us, and nursing and hadn’t spent a night away. The day of our birth class, Bethany watched her for 6 hours – that was the most I’d been away from her! Shortly after, I asked my mom to take her one day a week. Partly for me, but mostly so that Indra would be used to being away longer when I went into labour.

My sweet little strawberry eating girl

Celebrating Mother’s Day. It was a little anti-climactic but we did get out for a short walk.

We’ve discovered popsicles!

I loved going through pictures and seeing tons of these selfies from Ezra’s runs. He bought a new stroller so he could take Indra out. I’m pretty sure she loved the special wind-blown time! I’m pretty sure Ez was buying her treats too.

She looks like she’s not enjoying this, but I’m betting she asked to be carried. We took walks frequently to the nearby brewery, where Ez could drink beer and Indra could run around outside.

Things were changing fast. Indra no longer slept next to me in bed. Then even that changed and Ezra took her out of the room and I slept alone. This was a very hard time for me. I wanted a baby and I wanted Indra to have a sister. But it was a challenging time. It was difficult sleeping, and eating and managing my stress. Maybe it was too much moving around, or gaining more weight than I wanted, or just worrying so damn much about Indra. But these last couple months of pregnancy were not joyful ones.

This sweet sweet girl!

The day after we got back from our travels I had a midwife appt. Perhaps it was because I was dehydrated, or exhausted from jetlag or just stressed with all the moving. But I had a slightly higher blood pressure reading. The midwife decided to tell me everything that could go wrong if it went higher. This stressed me WAY out. From that time on, I had higher readings. Never at home, only in the office. Words like preeclampsia and induction started getting thrown around casually. Then we found out baby was breech. I couldn’t believe it! They said we’d have to do a hospital birth. I knew I was fine, but now the breech. I went into a tailspin. I had what I think was a panic attack. This was not how I had been envisioning these last months to go. I felt heartbroken and responsible. I started spending my weeks doing spinning babies exercises, inverting myself, doing moxibustion. I had acupuncture appointments and chiropractic appointments on top of two weekly midwife appointments. It was like a part-time job. I had never felt so defeated.

But still there was this silly one to help me keep perspective.

And Ezra was so amazing to me in this time. He took off work most days for me to go to appointments. We found out I wouldn’t be covered at the hospital with my same midwives, so we had to switch midwives. I was four weeks away from my due date and I was starting over. I cannot explain the level of despair I felt during this time. I was worried about my health and the baby’s health. I was worried someone was going to want to induce me. I just needed something to start going right.

My gardening helper. First plant the tomatoes, then water the banana tree, next put babies on the pansies.

And then things did start to shift. I switched care and had the good fortune of meeting Carrie, a really incredible midwife. She listened like no one else had been listening. She still made me do blood work, but let me stop the stress tests, and I could start coming in only once a week. She helped me make an appointment with a doctor who was really great at ECVs. All I wanted was a vaginal birth at this point. Not just for my sake, but for the baby’s. I had read way too much on why this was beneficial. I was frustrated when people told me to stop worrying about it. Carrie agreed I shouldn’t just throw up my hands without a good fight.

My doula Amy came with for the procedure. She has this presence that just encourages (maybe even demands) you open and release. I sobbed as she played calming music, and sprayed palo santo, rubbed my feet and put a flower in my hair. At the time it made me uncomfortable. I just wanted to disappear. But this was just the healing and support I needed. I was so used to feeling like everything was out of my control. The tears of self-judgement washed over me and I left with that exhausted cathartic feeling, that only a good cry can give. Oh, and I left with a baby head down!

We got together with my birth mom friends from Indra’s birth class. I felt so lucky to still have that support system. The kids were all so cute together.

Found more cute selfies on the camera!

What’s summer without playing outside in the water!

There were many walks to the park and along the path.

There were also many early mornings where Ezra let me sleep in and he took Indra to Starbucks for yogurt and granola. Notice the pjs and kitty shoes that were her latest obsession.

I was starting to look at each weekend as possibly the last as a family of three. I wanted to soak in that time as much as possible. I never did get preeclampsia and my blood pressure readings went down. They had me stop doing blood tests and confirmed, that yes – I was just getting nervous at my appointments. This left me feeling validated and stronger and more confident again. Just what I needed after one of the worst months of my life and heading in to labor.

Oh my heart.

After Indra was born the birth center made homemade bread with honey. I was sad that I wouldn’t get that this time and Amy suggested I make some. She’s so brilliant! And so here is Indra helping to make bread for after labor. Stirring and kneading… maybe with a little help from her feet. Ok, now I was ready.