One.

birthday cupcake

so much magic in my third child.

my little rubber band; expanding me, catapulting my spirit in divine light and shadow-play,  and always, always bringing me back.

his eyes are two little question marks, assessing and calculating and figuring things out.

my son, my body is still your main source of nourishment.   it seems fitting that i sustain you for your first year of life.   it took quite a while to gestate and bring you earthside.  and so, it should take awhile for us to begin the first of our many separations to come.

but, always connected.  breath, blood, extended arms, stories clinging to plasma and circulating back and forth.

you shriek.  alot.  this is your preferred method of communication.

soon, the tiny feet that work to steady you will be moving one in front of the other.  and new vantage points will be yours for the taking.

what i’ve learned from you in your first year:

  • i can survive being a human pacifier {you don’t like binkys like your sisters did}
  • anger is sometimes best if breathed out through the nose instead of the mouth
  • learning about life by sitting on a hip or being worn in a carrier or held in arms is unparalleled
  • that by watching me bake almost every day your first “real” word would be: HOT
  • not only is love boundless, it breaks boundaries
  • you guide me to slow down
  • being a mother to a son is a sort of precious that cannot be put into words
  • not to struggle
  • how a baby can totally nurse in downward dog pose
  • that you can “encourage” little baby curls by wetting the hair and winding it around your fingertip {sometimes you get the “mama salon”}
  • boys really ARE “different” than girls.  and that it’s totally okay.
  • it takes the fire department about 3 minutes to get to our house {more on that later}
  • you are infinite gift upon infinite gift in my already blessed life.

thank you for choosing us, lyric.  thank you for coming here.  thank you for participating in life with a fervor as deep as my favorite chocolate.    the way you weave your love and playfulness throughout our lives keeps us laughing and loving and running in to scoop you up the moment you awaken from a nap.

we simply cannot get enough.

one year was good to us. so, so good.

the night before your birthday, as the house slumbered under the desert moon, your sisters each half-awoke and made their way into our room to sleep.  upon a nest of blankets and pillows they dreamed.  my heart inflated to its edges knowing that our entire family was cozy in one room, as the hours crept closer to the time you began your journey of birth last year.

on your birthday, we woke up about 15 minutes after your birth date time.  but, the way i figure, we were snuggling into bed together at that time last year and that seemed fitting since i was waking up with your smiling face next to me this year.

we sang happy birthday to you a few times and you clapped your hands and laughed.

i cried when i read this, our dear friend jeanette’s beautiful account of your intense, fast, operatic entry into the world.   lyric, she gifted us with this.  can you believe words can be so powerful? {bonus:  when you have a best friend who is both an incredible photographer and a brilliant wordsmith, you get one helluva birth story & photo combo}

we invited the same circle of friends over who celebrated with us the evening you were born.   you ate your first cupcake.  it was supposed to be red velvet but mama  poured what appeared to be red food coloring in the batter.

it was yellow.

the batter looked EXACTLY like your foamy, fluffy breastmilk poop.  greenish yellowish.   i thought this was hilarious serendipity on your first birthday.  we certainly have had our share of poopy diapers.   but it tasted yummy so we had our “yellow velvet” cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

and, once again, last night we all slept in the same room to close out the milestone of your one full revolution around the sun.    the morning after your birthday, you awoke first and chattered to rouse your sisters.   kaia climbed on the bed with you, and in a slow whisper said, in the same bittersweet tone she’s heard from me:

“One. Years. Old”

**************************

mama isn’t ready to call you a “one year old”.   if time didn’t exist (does it exist?) and someone told me to quickly estimate how many suns have risen and set since you were born, i’d think a moment and honestly guess roughly 180.   six months.     certainly no more than that.

but love has a way of rushing in and sweeping us up into its swollen, brilliant, crystal blue current.

i am along for the ride of my life.  and you, my lyric, are beside me.

holy. holy. holy.

wholly. wholly. wholly.

ours.

i love you, son.

happy day you were escorted by you daddy from womb to my arms.   never will that memory fade.

this moment...

yours from dawn till dusk and every moon-rise,

mama

********************

a song, strummed and sung to you by a dear friend the night you were born…

Forever Young – Bob Dylan

May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong

…And may your song always be sung {you are my song}

…May you stay forever young

*********

and a video montage.  ignore the glaring error of his year of birth. ha – mom brain.

Immersion: Part Two (Lyric’s Birth Story)

Lyric’s birth story, like most stories, really starts much earlier than the morning that surges began.  Leave it to me to translate 2 hours of active labor into an 8 page birth story.   Consider yourself warned – ha! (Part One is HERE, though most of it is recapped in this post)

At the end of the post, I’ve included a link to a slideshow of his birth.  There ARE photos of me in labor (i.e. nude, boobs, yoni) as well as photos of Lyric’s head being born.   If you want to view real, raw photos of birth, then watch it. :)  The photos that are included in this blog post are not graphic.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

From my journal:

Thursday, June 3rd (39 weeks)

At approximately 5pm, I noticed I was very tired and laid down while the girls played.  I felt the overwhelming need to nap.   I called Jason around 5:30 and hoped he’d be coming home soon so I could rest.  When he told me it would be another hour, I became grumpy and then dozed on and off for a few minutes.  Around 6:15, I started to feel that baby making big movements and noticed cervical twinges.  It felt like baby was applying lots of pressure and I started to wonder if perhaps this was a sign of things to come.

6:45pm Jason arrives home and I tell him I am feeling “pre-labory” and “heavy”.  I start to fill the birth tub in hopes of just relaxing in the warm, deep water.   I then go to the bathroom where I wipe and notice thick brown mucus and discharge.   I am shocked (having never has this discharge in other pregnancies) but also excited.   Thinking that this could be a sign of imminent labor, I begin tidying our bedroom.  I want to change the sheets and pillowcases.  Jason begins cleaning the house and by 8:00 pm I am floating in the birth tub, laying hands upon my belly and whispering a blessing to baby.  I write in my journal:  “Baby, are you ready? Exhale.  I am.  We are”.

I awaken the next morning feeling really good, wondering when this mystery baby will decide when to join us.  I go about the days excited, but not too anxious.  I continue nesting, cleaning daily and ensuring every bit of laundry is clean and put away.  Our bedroom stays tidy in anticipation of the birth.

Monday, June 7th, Evening (Due Date)

Before going to bed, I tell Jason “The baby feels really low, like it’s doing a lot of work.  I am feeling many cervical twinges”.

Tuesday, June 8th 1:30 am (40 weeks)

I am awakened from a dream in which I was hearing the phrase “So you think this is it?” and I head to the bathroom.  While using the toilet, a large glob of mucus drops into the toilet along with a lot of bloody show.  I put on a pad and start to feel anxious energy building in my body.  I snuggle back into bed and my body starts to shake with nerves.  This is my body’s dance, something that occurs prior to each of my labors.  I ask Jason to hold me so that my body can get grounded again and relax.   I finally calm down and fall asleep around 3 am.     The next morning, I continue to have bloody show as well as cramps on and off.

Wednesday, June 9th 12:07 am

I am trying to fall back asleep after being awakened by the feeling of surges that I have to breathe through.   Wanting to sleep, I decide to get into the warm birth tub for about half an hour as a means to relax my body.   I had two much more manageable surges in the water and felt relaxed enough to go to sleep after midnight.

Thursday, June 10th, 2:00 am

I wake up with an intense surge and get out of bed.   Got into the birth tub around 2:30 am and experienced sporadic surges every 8 – 10 minutes.  I really wanted to go back to sleep and got out around 3:30 am.  I ate a granola bar and drank some juice and noticed that the crescent moon was gorgeous and bright.    Around 4:30 am, I finally fall back asleep and rest until 7:45 am.

———–

My cervix is no more than 1 cm dilated despite the obvious changes my body is going through.  The not being too far dilated is normal for me (I have yet to dilate further prior to labor in any pregnancy).   However, I start to ponder how I’d been losing my mucous plug and having bloody show for almost a week now.      While I know this is normal for some women, it is new to me and thus my mind begins to spin and swirl.  An air of concern enters my body as I continue to wonder about the mystery of my impending labor and birth process.    Worrying is not something I normally indulge in, so I try to really listen to my intuition around this baby and birth.

As a doula having attended upwards of 80 women in birth, I know how I would respond to a client of mine in the same position: “Awesome.  Your body is preparing perfectly.  All will unfold at the exactly the right time.”

But this is ME now and my doula hat has long been thrown to the wayside.  I think back to all the early pregnancy dreams I had in which the theme was public bleeding and miscarriage.   Is it possible all this blood is a sign of something MORE?

Thursday, June 10th, Evening

My good friend Jeanette offers to take the girls to her house to spend the night.   We take her up on the gracious offering, welcoming a small respite and hopefully good night’s rest.   I plan on having Jeanette photograph the birth, so if labor begins she and the girls will just head back up to our home.

Jason and I order a pizza and watch a movie in bed together.  Before falling asleep, I focus on the baby and silently commune with my child:

“Baby, if this is how it’s going to be…the bleeding, and my worrying, then please, I think it’s time for you to come.  Let’s just meet each other.”

I awaken every 45 minutes on the dot and use the restroom each time.   More blood each time.

Friday, June 11th, 3:50 am

I awaken, lie still in bed, and feel a “POP” deep in my belly.  I know this feeling very well.  I also know this means birth is imminent now.

Baby has listened.

And I never bleed again from this point on.

————————-

I had known, in my very core,  that this birth was going to be fast.  Perhaps faster than I could really handle.   And that scared me a bit.

I quite like the endorphin build-up that occurs in labor.   I cling to that laborland, trance-like, altered state that endorphins bring on.   I look forward to the rest between the surges, the few minutes in which my breath returns to a calm and centered rhythm within my chest.

But Lyric’s birth would not send me to that misty, mystical place.    Lyric’s path was to be different in more ways than one.  Lyric’s birth would peel back my layers and leave them exposed and raw and vulnerable.

I knew this as soon as I felt that “POP” and surges began to build within my body just minute later.  At first, they were smooth and easy.    An hour later, by 5:00, I began floating on my side in the birth tub, singing lines from songs in order to steady my breath.

No pain still, but there is a lingering crampiness in my lower belly that I’d never experienced before.   It never fully let up and was just plain…annoying.   Feeling the tight and slightly fiery sensation while I was attempting to relax my limbs and breathe was more difficult that I could have imagined.    It really messed with my ability to focus and let go.

In between surges, I find I am not able to rest fully like I had during my previous labors.  I struggle to find a position that works well and I realize that I am just going to have to deal with whatever comes my way and figure it out in the moment.

By 6:00, the surges are coming quick and with a primal ferocity.   I also begin the vomiting that happens in each of my labors and have a bowl at the ready, which floats in the water in front of my face.   I think “My last meal was pizza, just like my last meal before I went into labor with Indigo.” Thankfully, all that really comes up is liquid, thanks to my good hydration habit.

At some point around this time, I ask my husband to find the Rescue Remedy and gulp some down.   I make a quick mental note:  Rescue Remedy is my “transition” request in labors

This pace is beyond me.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

I have Jason place a quick phone call to request my friends’ presence.    Jeanette acts as my liaison, invoking the call tree to gather my other tribe members.  I simply do not even have the presence of mind or body to be able to utter any non-critical words.

My deep moaning and drawn out “ommmm’ing” has begun, once again being the most constant and reliable coping technique I’ve found.  I like the vibrational sound that it brings into my whole body, which really functions as a distraction technique.   Coupled with the fact that I submerge my ears underwater while floating, I almost feel like I’m trying to accomplish sensory deprivation (quite hard when a train is barreling through your body).

Members of my birth tribe arrive and it takes everything I have simply to muster a half-smile in acknowledgement.

Approx. 7:00 am or so

The girls have just arrived and come in the bedroom to say hello. They act as if this is just another day in the life.    After a quick greeting, my friend quietly takes them to the living room to play and watch a movie.

My friends are all there.  I sense them and feel them and notice their quiet smiles.  I hear them moan with me and feel them touch my back and grasp my hands and brush my hair gently from my face.   I even hear them say nothing, if that sounds possible.  I can hear their respectful silence, their space-holding as I navigate through this immersion.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

One holds a camera, one offers a tootsie roll pop and a sip of water, one holds my hand, one pours warm water slowly down my spine, one nods in acknowledgement and love as I exhale after a surge is over.

I ask Jason to get in the tub with me and he obliges.     He sits on the soft edge, gently holding my hands in his face as I moan and stare wide-eyed into his tender eyes.     This is INTENSE.  Tumultuous.    Having Jason right there in my space was a must; his energy grounded me and kept me from spiraling uncontrollably out of my body.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

I sense a shift in my body.   My moaning is now even deeper and lower, into my core.    It becomes a growl.   I decide to screw relaxing and start to push with the peak of my surges.

“Pushing.  Body is pushing”, I announce to the room.    In truth, it was not the spontaneous urge like I’d felt with Indigo.   Instead, it was a conscious and deliberate decision I made, based on the increased pressure in my pelvis.  It just felt RIGHT to bear down.

I grab Jason’s collar and give way to my baby and the sounds that emanate from my throat.    Pushing feels so much different with this labor, like something I am doing just for relief.  But I am not feeling as much physical feedback and progress as I recall feeling during Indigo’s birth.   It is almost just a means to an end.

Jason continues to sweetly and quietly offer words of encouragement.   His calm energy soothes me when it can, and his love and respect for the process never waver.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

Surges are coming every minute and a half or so.   I decide to try a new position. The tub has a built in “seat” that reclines and so I mumble to Jason to get behind me to support me.   I lean back on him and reach out to grab any hands that will take mine.   I steady my feet on the soft edges of the tub and, with each surge, growl and groan and exhale out the enormous, overwhelming sensations that are expanding my entire body.

I am in shock at the intensity.  I am frustrated that I feel out of control and almost unable to cope.  I am wishing for some respite.  My mind feels wild and my body unstable.   I am not worried, not scared, but simply stunned beyond belief at this speed-of-light labor.

This is what a vertex (head down) baby feels like against your cervix? NOW I truly know.

During labor, the faces and voices of all the amazing women I’ve witness give birth flashed like lighting through my mind.   I felt a renewed empathy and understanding and awe of each of them.

At one point, I realize that I still need to get baby guided under my pubic bone and this is when labor really shifted for me.  Because I pushed with all my might, the muscles in my chest tight, a howl that I imagined forcing baby down into my birth canal.

I reach down and feel inside and touch a bit of baby’s head.   A wave of relief rushes over me.   I nod and smile, acknowledging my own work.  I lean back on Jason and then ask for our daughters to be brought it.

It is time.

————-

The first thing Indigo says as she walks in is “Can I get in?” referring to the birth tub.   The girls are happy and at ease as they stand by the tub and watch me morph into something they’ve never seen:  a mama-beast, a wolf-woman, a tigress.   They are not scared or intimidated in the least.  Kaia sucks on the lollipop that I’d taken licks of earlier in labor.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

Suddenly, I feel like a tornado is twirling inside of me and my eyes become huge in surprise as I lean my head back onto Jason and say “OH! OH! OH!” over and over.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

A friend guides my hands down below, whispering “Leigh, you’ve always wanted to feel this”…

And oddly, it’s only then that I truly realize:  My baby’s head is crowning and then, in one swift motion, out.

Under the water, I cup my baby’s fuzzy, smooth head in my hand.

“Oh my baby! Our baby! Sweet baby!” I proclaim.

Surges relent for a minute and I take in the sweetness of the moment.    I manage an ecstatic smile as I sink back into Jason’s strong embrace.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

When the surges come back again, out of nowhere I begin to sing: “Baaaaabbbbyyyyy…baaaaabbyyyyy”. My voice draws out the word and raises a few notes towards the end.  There is even some vibrato included.

My friends say that is when they lost it, my photographer friend snapping photos through tears.

I didn’t viscerally recall this moment until after he was born, when they reminded me.

Lyric.  He was my song in those moments.  My chorus.  My ode and opus.

I await the much anticipated feeling of his body slithering out of me and into my hands.   But after a few pushes, something changes.   I shift from touching my baby’s head and saying “Sweet, sweet baby.  I love you, baby”, to feeling my first recollection of pain.

It is as if a jackhammer is inside of me, prodding my pelvis with a huge back and forth force.

I scream “Baby! Oh GOD, ouch baby!!! COME ON, baby!” I get mad, frustrated, whimpering.

This is when I stand up.

7:41 am

I place one foot on the edge of the birth tub and push with everything I have.  Jason steadies his hands beneath our baby’s head, ready to catch.   His body doesn’t slither out and I am screaming and at this point, ready to be done.

The baby has a nuchal hand (arm up by his shoulder/face) and once that is out I feel incredible relief.  Jason does a stellar job of supporting his body as it emerges.   Shockingly, I didn’t even tear.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

And just like that, he is born and I am no longer making a noise and Jason holds our baby to his chest and says…

“Oh Leigh…it’s a little…boy”

And, still standing and not yet facing him, I slap my hand to the water and yell out in frustration “Jay!!!” (what I call Jason).

And he calls back quietly “Leigh, I’m so sorry.  I was just…so excited”.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

——————

For months prior, I had been clear with everyone present that I wanted no one to tell me the sex of the baby.  I wanted to cuddle that mystery baby to my chest first and, in my own time and at my own pace, discover if it was a boy or a girl.

So, in the moment, I was a little ticked.  Now, it’s just a memory we laugh at together.  How could Jason NOT have been excited? It was his authentic and lovely reaction to the sight of his first son!  And honestly, I forgave him the instant he passed our baby to me and wouldn’t take that moment away from him if I had to do it over again.

I turned around, sat down in the water, and Jason handed me our son.

I pulled him in a deep embrace to my chest and sobbed, my body heaving with joy and gratitude.  So many emotions bubbled over and spilled into the tub that morning.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

I rubbed his back and we talked to him and soon he let out a healthy cry.

I was in shock.  That my labor had begun. That it was so fast.  That he was vertex.  That it was over.  That we had a son.  A SON!

Kaia even announced to the room “He has a wiener!!”

The girls stood next to the tub and admired him as my tears continued and I floated his little body in front of me in the water.  He was perfect.  Absolutely beautiful.  And all ours.

About 15 minutes later, I got out of the tub and cozied onto the bed where I eventually pushed out my placenta.   One friend did placenta prints for me while the others cleaned, cooked a gourmet breakfast, and tended to me.

Lyric took to nursing right away and our girls sat on the bed, oohing and ahhing over their new brother.    It is beautiful to lie in your own bed, with your own family surrounding you, as you decompress from the birth of a new soul.   I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

Shortly after birth, my dear friend whipped me up a placenta smoothie, which I sipped in a few big gulps (it tasted surprisingly yummy and mostly like the strawberries she blended in with it).

Lyric was officially named while we lounged on our bed, surrounded by our kids and our friends.

Later that night, my friends arranged a birthday party for Lyric at our home.   Our house was filled with the smells of a home cooked meal and the sounds of total love and companionship.   A song, written just for me, was strummed out on the guitar and sang with joy.    My friend Jeanette presented us with a framed photo she had taken at our birth, just 12 hours prior.  We all clinked our wine classes, blew out the candles to a birthday cake, and toasted to the arrival of Lyric Hawthorn.

That week, friends poured in and out of our home stuffing my freezer with hand-made frozen meals, cleaning my house, doing loads of laundry, taking my girls to the park, grinding my placenta into pills and chocolates for me, and showering us with a deep love.

THAT is how every woman – every family – deserves to be treated after a baby is born.   Jason and I have been brought to tears of humble gratitude on more than one occasion as we talk about that postpartum period.

————-

Lyric arrived in a hurry, obviously ready to meet us.    I don’t think my emotions and thoughts ever caught up with my body that morning during labor.   Five weeks later, I am still processing his 3.5 hour start-to-finish birth.  It was too fast for little ol’ me.  1 cm to baby in arms in under 4 hours.  Not the fastest labor on the books, certainly.  But for me, a vast and new experience…and it was just PERFECT.

His birth forced me to cross a new threshold.  It reminded me that even when a situation seems beyond your contol, little things are being done behind the scenes to bring everything full circle into your heart.  Control is an illusion, after all.   Sometimes, in order to grasp something, we must first let GO of everything else we are holding onto.

Creating space.  That is what birth is all about.

His birth rocked me to the core and made me love that core in a more profound way than ever.

Pushing on my own accord, birthing his head into my hands, sweeping him into my arms while still in the water…all those things were incredibly powerful and empowering.   There was a few brief moment, when I held his head in my hand and the rest of his body was still inside of me, that I felt a wave of ecstasy.   All was right in my world.  All is still right.

Immediately after he was born, I said “I’ll take a breech baby anyday!” as Lyric’s birth proved to be the most intense yet for me.  But I do think that the speed and ferocity of his birth is what mostly contributed to it being hard to manage (though that hard, bony head against the cervix didn’t help!). I felt like a floundering fish at times, a zombie at others, and a screeching hawk during other moments.

But really, I’ve come to remember:  when CAN you really manage birth?

It is handed to us and we take it breath by breath, one moment at a time.   It unfolds while we unfurl.  And all we can do is surrender and let our vessel – and our baby – guide us to that precise point of arrival.

Creating space.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

——————

More insights and lessons will continue to reveal themselves in time, as occurs with each of my children’s births.

Five weeks out and I can say with honesty that YES, I’d do that again.

Bur right now, I type this as Lyric lies shirtless next to me, snoozing.   He is our sweet gift, our mellow ball of pure white light, our promise of abundance and unconditional love.   He seems to need so little and gives so much.  I am reveling in every bit of his gazing, cooing, peaceful spirit.

We are blessed beyond belief by our triad of children.

Thank you for coming, sweet Lyric.  You’ve made me a mama again (to a son!).  And there is no greater honor than that.

Photo by Jeanette LeBlanc Photography

Click below to view the slideshow of Lyric’s birth.  Remember:  Photos are graphic (in the “beautiful” graphic way) and definitely don’t have any body parts blurred out. :)

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