Monday, January 7, 2013

Will I love my second as much as my first?

This question has plagued my pregnancy with the same annoyance as a  mosquito buzzing in my ear during the summer.  We were a family of three.  Soon to be a family of four.  So far I gave all of my love and attention to one child.  Soon I will have to give it to two.  I was used to meeting one child's needs.  Now I will have to meet the needs of two.  Probably at the same time.  I loved being a family of three.  I loved our family dynamic.  I loved my strong connection with my child.

Will I love my second just as much?

I have the most amazing relationship with my first born daughter.  It took time and effort to build it. It took commitment. It took lots of quality time spent together.  I set a goal before she was even born.  I will do my best to get to know her.  I will do my best to be a great mom. My entire heart belonged to her.  My love for her indescribable, deep, intense, unconditional and beautiful.  She was the best thing that has ever happened to me.  We made an amazing mother/daughter team.  She complemented and challenged me at the same time.  Our relationship was complex.  It was ever changing and fluid.  It was one of a kind.

Will I love my second just as much?

I tried to wrap my mind around it.  It was a challenging concept.  I spent many evenings trying to figure it out.  Sometimes my head was spinning.  Sometimes it made me cry.  The anticipation of change was the difficult part.

Will I love my second just as much?

As weeks of pregnancy passed by so did my fear.  It slowly dissolved. At the depth of my being I discovered a new feeling.  It was fresh, fragile and breath taking.  It slowly sprouted to the surface.  It was sweet, intense and made me feel intoxicated.  It slowly took over my being.  It was very familiar.  It had the same vibrancy.  The same intensity.  Upon closer inspection I noticed my heart did something incredible.  It divided itself in two.  I now had two hearts to love my two daughters.

And I knew I will love my second just as much.

As I caressed my growing belly I connected with her.  My new daughter.  Deep inside in the amniotic ocean.  Gently rocked by my breath and soothed by my heart beat.  Her presence so strong.  So tiny but powerful.  So patiently growing and waiting to be born.  She was not yet born but already was my whole world.

And I knew I will love her just as much.

I never forget the moment when she was born and placed on my chest.  When we first gazed into each other's eyes.  My heart instantly melted.  I was high on love.  It was just as magical, special and wonderful as it was with my first one.

Love is amazing.  It transcends any dilemma.  It flows effortlessly.  It is pure.  It is intoxicating.  It is healing, uplifting, energizing, calming, inspiring and nurturing all at once.  When you add another child into your family your family expends.  Your mind, consciousness and your love expand as well.

Love is always there.  It helps to endure any challenge.  It helps to face another day. It helps you to look within and discover that all you need is an open heart.  Open up to the possibility of love. That's all you have to do to invite it into your life.  It's like an ever flowing river.  There is always enough for everyone. Love.  It's there.  Just open your heart.

                                  32 weeks pregnant with my second daughter Ivy Elizabeth.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First days of Motherhood

When I was pregnant with my oldest I daydreamed how peaceful my life will be with a newborn.  The lazy Sunday mornings sleeping in together.  Running errands with her in my arms.  Gently rocking her to sleep at night.  Myself looking fresh as a daisy.  Basking in the glow of new motherhood.  My body bouncing back to its pre-pregnancy state few days later.  Needless to say my expectations were different than reality.

Discovery.  It was all about charting the new territory. That feeling of realization when our midwives left the house "Honey where are the instructions for this baby?"  The abundant lessons of 4 am, which carried deep wisdom.  The steep learning curve.  At the same time the absolute awe with this tiny being.  So perfect.  We were speechless.  Our hearts exploded with love.  This unconditional,indescribable and most beautiful love that we've ever felt.  That amazing connection and bond.  This tiny being is our child and we are her parents. She belongs here with us.  Our lives changed forever.

And then came the hours spent feeding, burping and rocking the baby.  The endless pacing.  Surly this baby must sometime go to sleep? My heart jumped out of my chest every time baby made a sound.  And when she cried it was like a million dollar race to get to her.We were the typical nervous first time parents. Roller coaster of emotions.  This is the best thing that happened to us but at the same time the most challenging.

When Ivy our second was born we were in an entirely different space.  We were dare I say relaxed? With our eldest we had everything ready; her clothes, baby blankets, assortment of toys, books and other baby paraphernalia ready at 7 months pregnant.  With Ivy there was no sense of urgency but knowledge that somehow we'll all get it ready in time.

Motherhood second time around is definitely more relaxed but it comes with its own set of challenges.  For us it was the division of time and attention between our two kids.  How can I attend to my baby and meet my toddler's needs at the same time? Why is my toddler most demanding when I need to nurse the baby? It was as if I never sat on the couch before.  With a newborn you are pretty much couch bound.  Apparently it was the best time for Bella to jump around and try to climb the couch me included.  I had no choice but to master nursing while walking, giving Bella a bath or getting her snacks.  I got pretty good with handling things with one hand.  And then I found my baby carrier.  My old and trusty Moby Wrap that I've also used with Bella.  It now came really handy.

What I loved the most about this time was the birth of sisterhood.  Seeing Bella become an older sister was the best gift.  The loving simile on her face when she first met Ivy.  The nurturing touch when she placed her hand on her cheek.  The sparkle in her eye when she looked at Ivy.  The way she sang to her.  The sweet things she would say to her "Ivy you are my best friend.  You are such a cuddly baby.  I love you so much.  You were my best wish come true." My heart melted over and over again.

Having my husband around for two weeks was great.  I'd focus on the baby while he took care of the toddler.  It was bliss.  The hours spent holding Ivy in my arms, gazing into her eyes and enjoying the special breastfeeding relationship that we were establishing.  Figuring out breastfeeding took the most time.  As most mothers know sometimes it works instantly and other times not.  For us it took 6 weeks to get it right.  Since then nursing became my favourite part of being a mother.

Things got a little more hectic upon my husband's return to work. In the midst of adjustment there was one silver lining.  We were very fortunate to have our dear friend Lara as our Post Partum Doula.  The practical skills, knowledge and resources she offered were invaluable.  She helped me to work through some early breastfeeding challenges and helped to build my confidence so that I could succeed. She took care of my toddler in a fun and creative way ensuring that I had time to rest or nurse my baby.  She helped in ways I didn’t even anticipate.  She cooked meals for us, walked my dog, did the dishes and helped to tidy up.  She brought joy and a sense of relief to our household with her calm spirit and thoughtful demeanor. I'd recommend hiring a Post Partum Doula to any new mother.  I'd not have enjoyed these first few weeks as much as I did if it wasn't for Lara.  I'd also not be in such great place if it wasn't for my friends and my mom's help.

The great thing about motherhood is that you get better at it.  You find your routines.  You get to know your children.  You learn how to prioritize.  You learn how to fit a shower in your day and find a moment to have a cup of tea.  It eventually gets easier.  Your baby starts sleeping longer.  You start feeling better. You get to see a special relationship develop between your children.  You settle into being a bigger family.  And you find yourself breezing through the day with a smile on your face.  Well on most days anyway.

                                                    Ivy in a Moby Wrap at 3 weeks old.

                                                    Bella meeting Ivy for the first time.

                                                       Ivy fits perfectly into our family.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I chose guy friends until I got pregnant.

Before I was pregnant I had many guy friends.  We talked about sports, art and music. We drank beer and ate hot dogs.  There was no drama which comes with girl friends.  There was no cattiness nor jealousy.  A guy friend was just as fun to go shopping with.  He knew what looked good on a woman.  A guy friend was up for a skiing trip without worrying about having the right outfit.  He listened to my ramblings and responded with logic. He  laughed it off and carried on with whatever we were doing.  A guy friend meant that we would just have fun without picking everything apart.  A guy friend did not raid my closet without returning my clothes.  He did not steal my boyfriends.  He did not gossip behind my back.  He did not get offended if I had a different opinion on something.  And we never showed up to a party wearing the same dress.

It all changed when I was expecting. When I got pregnant I ditched beer and hot dogs.  I drank lemon water and ate hummus instead.  I marveled in my changing body.  I loved to feel my baby kick.  I picked out colours for the nursery.  I cooed over cute little baby outfits.  I no longer went skiing. I did yoga.  I was no longer rational.  I was emotional.  I no longer related to men in the same way.  I related to women in a brand new way.  It was a sisterhood like I've never experienced before. There was a silent understanding of what's it like to wake up at 3 am craving pickles and jam.  Exhaustion with a coma like fatigue? Yes that's normal.  How about nausea from morning 'till night? Yes that's common.  Would my guy friends understand? Probably. Would they relate? Not so much.

I embraced this new found relationship like scorched earth embraces rain.  I relished it.  I found joy in it.  I knew it was monumental and that it would change me forever.  Caressing my growing belly I realized that there was nothing sweeter then being around this powerful life giving energy.  My belly grew and I grew in ways I haven't anticipated.  I went from hanging out with guy friends at the university to a mature pregnant mother. My professional life shifted as well.  I no longer desired to teach regular flow yoga laced with masculine energy.  I yearned to teach prenatal yoga, which was softer and full of feminine energy.  I dove into hours of study and eventually got certified as a Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Teacher.

I still see my guy friends now married with children.  They are all outstanding partners who have walked the path of pregnancy along side of their women.  As families we get together, make delicious dinners or have picnics in the summer.  Do I connect better with the women in my life? Absolutely.  We are linked with the invisible thread of motherhood.  We support one another.  We grow together.  We love our children.  I learned  how to surround myself with strong, capable and empowered women. Be it an expecting mother, mother with a child or simply a woman who is overcoming fertility challenges.  We are still  all connected.
I celebrate the power that is female energy.   It's after all where all life comes from.

                                  My prenatal yoga class at the Yoga Center of Burlington. 
                                                                       Winter 2010

                                 My Mom and Baby yoga class at the Yoga Center of Burlington.
                                                                       Summer 2010

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ivy's Beautiful Water Birth.

Ivy was born 8 days past her due date on Wednesday, September 5, 2012.  Just like her sister she was born at home with one small difference-she was born in water.

I experienced prodromal labour or false labour for two days leading up to her birth. I had mild contractions every 10 min apart, which came and went.  I know I wasn’t really progressing after my midwife’s assessment on Tuesday afternoon.  I was still 2 cm dilated since my last check on Friday.  I’ve been waiting to go into labour for a week now. I tried to gently nudge my body with acupuncture, spicy foods, walking, etc to no avail.  I even had a stretch and sweep and still nothing. While I know that babies are born when they're ready it still doesn't make it any easier to go over. I had to trust the innate wisdom of my body, my baby and the process of birth.

During prodromal labour I alternated rest with activity.  I ate Thai food and watched movies with my husband Armando who took time off work to be with me.  I had a visit with Angie my Doula who kept me in good spirits and reassured me that sooner or later my baby would come.  I also had a visit with my friend Michelle who gave me a lovely reflexology treatment for labour induction.  I talked and texted with my dear friend Lara who kept things in perspective for me.  I was surrounded with wise, loving women and that’s what made a world of difference to me.

True labour came on Wednesday, September 5th.  It all started when I woke up at 7:30am although I felt few strong surges in my sleep.  I noticed that my contractions came regularly every 7 min.  I told Armando “this is how I remember labour feels like!”He was as excited as I was.  I took a shower and leaned against the wall with each surge.  It felt incredible to finally be in labour.  Even though it became a little harder to talk through contractions I was still comfortable and at ease.  I used HypnoBirthing ®  breathing and relaxation techniques as I got ready and put on make up.  It was funny as I had to pause every time I had a surge.  It took a while but I finally did it.  Armando made me breakfast.  I wasn't very hungry but ate it anyway for the sake of energy.

I then listened to my HypnoBirthing ®  Cds as I sat on a birthing ball.  I was lost in the surges, which came and went like waves in the ocean.  They were more profound than with Bella but manageable.  At 10 am Armando checked on me and noticed that I was now moaning through contractions.  He exclaimed "this definitely is it!" He timed few surges and told me that they came every 5 minutes.  He gave me a nice light touch massage, kissed and hugged me, and offered words of encouragement.  It was lovely to once again share this experience together uninterrupted, in the comfort of our own home, on this beautiful sunny Indian Summer day.

An hour later Armando suggested to text Angie.  I gave her an update and asked her to join us.  Meanwhile Armando filled up the pool with warm water.  I really looked forward to labouring in water.  Research shows that the use of water in labour helps to cope with labour sensations and makes it for a gentler, less traumatic birth.  I got in the pool shortly after 11 am.  My surges now were coming every 3 minutes. Armando called our midwives and they said they would be right over.

I submerged into the warm water and it felt delightful just like it did when I was labouring with Bella.  The water was soothing and inviting.  It immediately helped me to relax even more.  Any tension I had melted away.  Angie arrived at noon as I  breathed through a contraction.  She sat down by the pool and smiled at me.  I was delighted to see her and chatted with her for a bit in between surges.  I felt comfortable sitting upright with my knees bent and my feet to the side.  It all felt very casual.  There was no rush just a sense of ease on this lazy afternoon.  Angie found a HypnoBirthing ®  track that I really liked and told me how great I was doing. 

Lucia my primary midwife and her student Laura arrived at 12:30pm.  After an initial assessment she cheerfully told me that I was 8 cm dilated.  I was in total disbelief.  In my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined that I would be this far along.  I thought I was around 4-5 cm.  I somehow got myself through active labour and transition while putting on make up and sitting on the ball? I was amazed once again with the effectiveness of HypnoBirthing ® .  

I continued to labour in the pool while Lucia and Laura set up their equipment. They also called Sarah my secondary midwife who came soon after. The surges now were almost on top of each other, paramount and robust.  I was still coping well. I felt I wanted to push for a few contractions now and so Lucia told me to go with that sensation.  It was now 1:15pm.  I asked her to break my waters since they were still intact. 

After it was done I moved into a semi sitted position.  Armando was right outside the pool supporting me.  It was the same position as with Bella only this time it was in the pool instead of my bed.  My body remembered what to do.  I focused on bringing my baby down with all of the wise women encompassing the pool.  It was remarkable.  I got so much encouragement and support.  Angie in her angelic voice reminded me not to be afraid and Lucia encouraged me to trust my body.  Armando whispered to my ear that I have done it before and I could do it again just as easily. 

It was intense yet exhilarating at the same time.  I exclaimed “let’s do this!” and worked actively with my body.  Ivy was born 20 minutes later at 1:45pm into the warm and luxurious waters.  The feeling was incredible!  Ivy was placed on my chest and we embraced her.  She was 8lbs of pure perfection!  She was calm and alert and snuggled right in. Ivy just like her sister was born into calm and loving environment.  Her birth was so gentle. I’d do it a hundred times over if I could. Birthing in water felt so natural. It was effortless and buoyant. We couldn't be happier with the way it unfolded. We instantly fell in love with our new baby girl just as Bella did when she met her the very next day.

Few minutes after Ivy's birth.  Daddy cuts the cord.

Peaceful with Mama.

Ivy Elizabeth 8lbs-first exam right on our bed.

My amazing support team-Angie, Lucia, Armando and Sarah (Laura took the photo.)

Isabella and Ivy.  September 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Isabella's Lovely Home Birth.

My first daughter Isabella was born 6 days past her due date on August 29, 2009.  It was a blissful and very enjoyable 6 hour birth. My birthing began at home at 2pm.  I was sitting at the dining room table writing in my pregnancy journal when I heard a loud pop followed by a movie like gush of water.  Going into labour naturally was so exciting!  I really wanted to avoid a hospital induction knowing that it may cause a chain of other medical interventions.   

I called my husband Armando at work and then my Midwife to let her know that my water broke.  She said it may be a while for the contractions to come and to call back when they get 5 minutes apart lasting 1 minute for 1 hour.  My contractions came while on the phone and I instinctively knew things would progress quickly.  When I got off the phone I took a moment to honour and acknowledge the beginning of the birthing process.  I established a long, deep breath, and played the Birth Affirmations CD.  My contractions were mild, close and consistent coming every 7 minutes.  I could talk and walk through them.  My friend came over to pick up my dog Ronin for the night and we had a lovely chat.  She thought it was funny that we were hanging out while I was in labour.  She wished me well, took Ronin and left.  Armando arrived soon after and we started to organize our home.  It was a perfect late summer day.  There was a lot of sunshine coming into the room where we've set up the pool, and a warm breeze blowing in through the open windows.

Two hours later at 4pm I noticed my contractions began to intensify and when timed they were 5 minutes apart.  I was moving into active labour as I could no longer walk or talk through them.  I got into a shower.  Armando called Diane, the Midwife, and then finished setting up. We joked how we left it all to the last minute at almost 41 weeks.  I guess we both thought early labour would take hours, maybe even days, giving us enough time to get everything ready.  As Armando tried to remember how to set up the bed, I continued to relax with each surge, breathing, taking my awareness within, and listening to my body while feeling completely relaxed and comfortable.  He ended up making the bed look and feel perfect and then somehow found time to make me a delicious iced tea, which I was sipping throughout the labour.  What an amazing guy!  

I was still in the shower when Diane arrived.  I got out and she did a cervical exam and told me that I was 4 cm dilated.  She advised that I get in the pool, which my husband had to finish filling up with pots of hot water as I used up all the water when I took the shower!  I laboured in the pool for the next 2 hours, listening to my HypnoBirthing CDs, which were absolutely phenomenal in keeping me calm, relaxed and in control.  I was on my hands and knees, rocking my pelvis, circling my hips and leaning against the pool's edge.  I thought active labour would feel unpleasant or uncomfortable but instead it was quite the contrary.  I was in heaven, dancing with my body, breathing with each surge, enjoying energy pouring through my mind, body and soul.  I was very relaxed and comfortable the entire time.  Armando was right behind me, whispering words of encouragement and love as well as massaging my back and shoulders.  He poured water on my back and my belly.  It felt so good and sensual!  I absolutely loved labouring in water.

I was letting my body do its work while focusing on breathing through my surges.  The more I relaxed, the better I felt.  Relaxation is the key as it encourages the production of two powerful hormones: oxytocin and endorphins, which are responsible for making us feel good.  Due to profoundly deep relaxation through breath, movement, HypnoBirthing techniques and my husband's loving presence, I was now experiencing pure bliss.  Each surge felt better than the one before.  It made my whole body radiate with love.

Two hours later at 6 pm I felt the energy in my body shift.  I felt an overwhelming urge to push.  Diane did another cervical exam and I was now 10 cm dilated.  I could not believe it!  I was expecting for surges to get much more intense or at least somewhat uncomfortable  especially through transition, but again there was none of that.  All I felt was bliss, making transition my favourite part of labour.  When I began to feel "pushy", Diane, who was my secondary midwife (my primary, Lucia, had a weekend off and all other Burlington Midwives were at births!), called a midwife named Wendy from Oakville whom I've never met.  She arrived shortly after and I immediately knew that I'd like her as she had a calming and peaceful presence.  Both Diane and Wendy commented on how well I was handling the surges.

I proceeded to push on my hands and knees in the birthing pool, wanting to deliver my baby in water.  However, I felt I needed to work with gravity more and so  Diane proposed I get out and use a birthing stool that she had set up nearby.  I really liked it.  Being out of the water helped me to use gravity in a more efficient way as I was now in an upright position.  Armando was standing behind me, massaging my shoulders, whispering loving words, reminding me that my body and baby were working in perfect harmony.  His encouragement was wonderful as it took me a while to get the hang of pushing.   I transitioned onto my bed and tried a few different positions there.  I finally settled into semi-sitting with Armando holding me from behind.  It was so great to be able to lean on him, knowing that he was there to support me, not only physically, but emotionally, too.  His HypnoBirthing practice made him a perfect birthing companion.  He knew exactly what to say at the right time.  He has helped me to actualize the calm and perfect birth experience that we both wanted.

It took me to 2 hours to move my baby down and out and she was finally born at 8:20 pm.  I caught her with the help of my midwives and I placed her on my chest.  She was just perfect, very calm and alert, weighing 7lbs 11oz.  She did not cry much at all and immediately began to pink up.  We whispered the words of welcome, embraced her and met her gaze as she looked into our eyes for the very first time.   There was so much love in the room, and so much happiness.  It was the most amazing moment in my life.  As Armando and I kissed, we felt complete, at last united with our little girl.

I felt so good after having Isabella at home naturally.  It was such a positive and empowering experience.  I remember saying "I can do this again!"  It was such an incredible accomplishment,one that made me feel like I can do anything.

Few seconds after Isabella's birth.  
Feeling alert and energized.

Bonding with our beautiful baby Bella.

Isabella Avalon  7lbs 11oz