sábado, 22 de novembro de 2014

Birth Story Version 1 of ?, Chapter 1 of ?

Taken away to another world, wave after wave

I’m never quite sure if this story is better told in English or in Portuguese. It was almost entirely lived in Portuguese, if there is such a thing, but I know that I am able to express things in English that access parts of me that Portuguese does not. And I am curious, as I have written about this in Portuguese before, but not in English. Thus, I feel my words may surprise even myself. Especially myself.

So all right, another birth story. Another one!  But no, to me it is the only one, the only birth story to come out of my womb and my 10-month-old ovalish belly.

The end of the pregnancy was as gradual as the waxing bump, or so it felt. With an initial series of bumpy, stop-and-go crampy days, then a build-up of doctor’s appointments and serious concerned faces as the “you’ll probably won’t need our next appointment” turned into “well, now I need you to come in every other day”…and the “each birth has it’s own schedule” turned into “why don’t you schedule some acupuncture and let me do this little maneuver here on your cervix?”…And that 41st week dripped by in increments of wait…wait…wait…ping, pong, ping.
41 and 1 day.
41 and 2… 
41 and 2 and half…
Every contraction I felt set all systems into full alert and I had to control my eagerness and joy at the possibility of that being “IT”. But it never was.

41 and 2 and three quarters…

What happens at 42, I wondered, do I explode? Do I implode? Desperation starting taking over me, as the words c-section started to hound my plans for a home birth. “BIG BABY” was another classic.  Perhaps you are diabetic? Let’s just be sure, let’s submit you to 1000 tests which just happen to be your greatest phobia, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. And they were.
BIG BABY, said the ultrasound technician, does your doctor KNOW about this? I would call her right away!
BIG FRICKIN ME, I would retort in my mind, BIG MOM, just suck it up! But no, of course I said nothing.

So then…

41 2 days and 9/10ths….
Plus a brew of chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, and many other things that might sound fine separately and in homeopathic doses, but on this particular Friday evening, was a concoction meant to churn the stomach, taste buds and eventually, my uterus.

And so it did. The tightening of the belly started up once more, and once more I had to curb my enthusiasm – be careful, I said to myself, it could be more of the same…but it wasn’t. One after the other. One, after, the other. Little waves. No rhythm though, or regular intervals, but they were there to stay.
Slowly everyone was activated. Husband, check! Doula, check! Midwives, check! The doula/my good friend came over first and would stay till the end. One midwife of the pair came to check up on me and perform one of the maaaaaany checks that would take place over the next X hours.
I can’t even say how much I was dilated (or not dilated), but it is enough to say that I was still in very early labor, and that she would only come back once active labor started, after 4cm. So she left, and I spent that night enjoying my contractions and getting used to that tightening sensation. Finding positions, finding mind-body connections that helped…I learned to zone out completely, give in to the pain, and thus I slept during some intervals, all through the night.

And then, morning came. Light, sunshine, renewed energy. The other midwife came and another dilation check.
Some more progress, small, but it was happening. However, we seemed to have entered the initial stages of active labor, so the midwives took turns staying with us that Saturday, never leaving us alone.  
I did not feel discouraged and felt like rolling up my sleeves and saying, alright, let’s get this started!

And from here on I have really hard time with the timeline. Something like this, ready?
All family and close friends were informed of labor in progress (as I said, my end of pregnancy had become an issue of concern and quite the SUSPENSE topic, when will it be, when will it be?? So there was no one who was not aware that a baby was supposed to be coming out at any moment, THEREFORE, it was impossible to hide the news, as people called and texted).
So Ezequiel spent quite some time updating and tranquilizing people: all is well, labor is progressing, no, no baby yet, all is well, etc, etc, a loop of the same answers.
And then…pain got worse, I remember lots of throwing up during contractions. I remember the taste of vanilla ice cream, I remember straws, I remember honey, I remember the shower, I remember finding perfect positions on the bed, propped up with lots of pillows…I actually liked lying down, even though it’s supposedly one of the worst positions. Being on all fours was unbearable, I remember that too…
And I remember that evening started encroaching and someone asked if I wanted another check…and yes I did!! I felt like I was about to get an A plus after so much hard work..so I laid down and had that horrible check done and…
No change.
No change.
Hum.
Ok then.

And the messaging got more intense, the phone calls to my mom, who was beside herself with worry and after a few hours of not updates thought to herself: Well, that MUST mean the baby has been born!! Of course! And so she came over unannounced to the apartment, toting my grandma along for the show. What a disappointment for her to see me still in labor, what a fright and horrible reaction she had…the entire atmosphere of patience and calm and concentration started crumbling.
So now there was that. There were my own concerns, my own process of getting through the contractions, trying to understand what another night in labor meant, and the concerns of the entire world following me via text messages. And my mom. And grandma. Who were now also wedged into the little tiny apartment.

That night I threw up a loooo-ooot, I remember that, but I also got back in the zone and was able to forget everybody there. I didn't want to know about time, time was absolutely relative and irrelevant. I got into my lying down hypnotic state with pillows everywhere and dove into the pain as each contraction took over.

All
 night
   long.

And morning came. Again. This was getting old.
However…
Sun, light, open windows…
one more check…9 cm!
I remember shouting, Hallelujah!!  Yes!
There were even broken waters in the middle of another great heave, gushing with new life.

All motors started running again, enthusiasm took over all who had spent the night dozing on and off on the couch and chairs:
Let’s turn on the incense, put on the red-tinted light bulbs, fill the bathtub for pain relief and possible birth, this is it, this is IT!
I was ordered out of the apartment to take a walk. Yes, a walk around the block on a Sunday morning after 2 sleepless nights and an entire day in labor, still having strong contractions, dripping amniotic fluid, hair a mess and a ghastly exhausted look on my face. But off I went, if it was going to help this along, I was going to do it…a very slow and intense walk around the block…in this absurdly ridiculousely bright sunlight I felt had nothing to do with my world at that moment. What was that, sunlight? Sunday morning? I felt like if on another planet completely.

We went back to the apt, and I got in the water, the wonderful, wonderful warm tub of water.
I was told – hey, from here on, you will start to feel the urge to push, go with the flow and do what your body tells you, ok? She’s going to be born!!

Ok, no problem, go with the flow, go with the flow,
And yet…
Where was the flow?
Absolutely no pushing urges.
Ok, that’s ok, it can take a while, they said.
And so some hours went by.
Hmm, they said.
Are you sure? No pushing sensation?
No...
Absolutely sure??
Yes…well, ok..maybe? (I really wanted to be feeling something, ANYTHING, it seemed to be very important to them)
They started teaching me about this so-called-urge, push down there, breath and push down…Let’s lie on the bed so that we can watch you do it and see what's going on.

Of course, my mother got nervous once more and paced back and forth in search of “WHAT TO DO”  and what “WAS NOT BEING DONE”. She panicked, basically, and the midwives were panicking because there was this person questioning their every move and my labor was not progressing in a form they were familiar with. Nothing was going as they expected, but since I was still ok, and the baby was still ok, we were moving on (despite my mother wanting me to go the hospital ASAP).  


Now the IV-part.
They explained:
Hey, look, you’ve been in labor a long time, we’re afraid your uterus might stop contracting due to exhaustion, we better be safe and hook you up to Pitocin just to get things moving along again (my time in the tub had seemed to slow everything down).

IV? Panic inside me, but hey, if this is what it takes, here we go.

IV?
PURE HELL.
The contractions came in little block formations, uniform, one after the other, like punches to my soul.
Punch, punch, punch, no time to breathe.
With each one I was coached: Breath! Push! Down! Push! More! There! Breath! Oh – no, not like that! You’re not doing it right!

And that lasted a while until I got fed up and exasperated, how could I be doing it WRONG if it was something that supposedly was an URGE, something that would take over me so strongly that no earthly force would be able to stop me?
Where was the urge? And I began doubting the whole process.
The IV was unhooked, I needed to rest, and everyone needed to regroup. Anxious midwives huddled in corners talking, avoiding my mother who paced back and forth in her anger and concern.
I went to the bathroom, where Ezequiel tried to give me a pep talk, about how much I wanted this, about how much we were close (we were able to see her head during the pushing, but it always scooted back up again when I was done). He started saying how I was being influenced by my mother and blablabla, Everything everyone said from there on had become one big drone.
One flat sound against a flat wall of me not being able to hear myself anymore.
There’s no shame in going to the hospital
Are you sure you don’t want to try the IV again?
You’re so close! Don’t give up!
You can’t do this anymore, you’ve done all you could
Droningdroningdroning.
I cried on the toilet, sad, pathetically drenched in sweat, practically naked and completely tired of caring who saw what or what I looked like. I felt like the apt had been divided into sides and I was on the verge of making one side win and the other one lose.
So fed up.  
I wanted it to be over.
I wanted it to be over.
Game over.

Meekly I said – hospital.
I was met with resistance, I think one of the midwives almost started crying, Frustrated, confused, mad?
Hospital please. I need this to be over.
I got in the car, feeling nothing at all, numb. I sipped on my Gatorade and had absolutely no concerns about feeling contractions in the car, as I knew it was over. And in fact, it was. No more contractions came.
Quick summary of hospital:
My OBGYN came, so nice, so kind, such a relief amidst all those worried and tired people who had seen me throw up too many times and had stuck their hands inside me too many times.
Are you sure, Maya, this is what you want? We can try Pitocin again.
No.
I was adamant, I was desperate, we would NOT try that again, it was absolute agony.
But even so, I think the nurses put it in as protocol (??) and as soon as I felt the contractions I started shouting like a 2 year old – No, no, no, no, what is this?! No, no, take it off, take it off!! I had lost all self-respect.

And it was off.
And I was gowned.
And I was injected with anesthesia….sweeeeeet anesthesia. I melted into the inevitable and the relief. Someone take care of it now, I am done. I put it all in your hands, sweet lady doctor.
Surgery.
Surrealness.
Baby coming out in less than 5 minutes, being shown to me, me saying “she’s real??” and then baby gone. Me gone. I started shaking, I started bleeding, I was in whole new world.

Hours later I stabilized. Hours shaking and watching the world from my horizontal viewpoint, watching Ezequiel pace back and forth with Cora tightly wrapped in hospital blankets (that’s right, we forgot to pack for the hospital, we had NOTHING). Grateful I didn’t have to hold her. I just wanted to lie there and never have to do anything ever again. Much less think about the fact that there was a baby to care for now. That was completely un-thinkable at that point.
Eventually we went up to the room, and that was the start of a whole ‘nother story. Breastfeeding began, blood transfusions took place, pain, pain pain and terrible c-section sensation when getting up, sitting up, lying down, going to the bathroom, uuughhhH!!)

One day I’ll get to chapter 2, as I know the ending has left many questions and a sense of sadness, but it was sad for me, as well as abrupt -

- so nothing more appropriate.




terça-feira, 2 de setembro de 2014

Good Enough


There are days where I have to recruit myself to be nice. Something along the lines of, "Hey, come on, be nice to her, say three nice things to her, I think she deserves a break, some mercy from her own self, don't you think?"

Like I said to my therapist yesterday, I write ten things on my daily to-do list, get 20 things done, then it's 11pm and I put 5 more just to top it off, actually thinking it's possible, or that I am an endless well of energy and resources. No matter the 25 items on the list, I end the day feeling like I'm lacking, still feeling like it's never enough, like I'm pursuing some sort of incredibly elusive white rabbit.

There's no use making a list of everything that got done today in the effort of making me feel good about myself, it's something that's happening in a place unaffected by lists and their rationale. A place that just looks at distorted images in the mirror and crazy never-ending demands and expectations.

So out of another place, that which makes me realize how tired I really am, I choose to have a bit more mercy and lay off the never-ending lists.
For tonight, I am enough. I am enough. I do enough, I try enough, I am good enough. And really, there is no enough, that is the real trap and error in thinking. Good night.

segunda-feira, 30 de junho de 2014

Field notes on a bilingual Cora

Lots of people are curious about raising Cora bilingual and find it "sooo cute" when she spits out her interwoven dialect. Here are some notes of how this process has been unfolding, for those who are interested: 

She’s turning bilingual before our eyes. It used to be she would only say one name for an object – in whichever language she caught onto first – so she would say “pé” but not “foot” and “shoe” but not “sapato” that sorta thing. But this last week I’ve been noticing her “duplicating” her words, so she’s been saying “grande” as well as “big”- in other words, somewhere in her brain, she has understood that these two words have the same meaning, but work in different systems. I also notice her switch her language when interacting with me and when I change what language I address her in. It’s pretty interesting. There’s a whole system in her brain that is activated and calls up English or Portuguese. However, there are still “holes” in each language which she covers up by activating the same word in the other language. In other words, we’ve got a whole tower of Babel situation going on here, and depending on who’s around her, they do not understand one darn thing. But I do. I understand it all and am so in love with watching language blooming for her, and I LOVE being fluent in Cora. 
She started calling me Mommy, where before she only called me Mamãe. That was a complete heart-melting moment for me. It’s interchangeable, but I wonder if she’s transitioning to Mommy, because I call myself Mommy when I talk to her. We’ll see!
More loose examples:
Mamãe graaaande, Cuncun, baby!  She say’s “baby” to mean “little”. Hehe. Cute or what?
She’s saying “happy” too, except it’s Appy, because the H sound is not coming out yet, so that also means that, in Portuguese, she says ATO for “rato”
She says “yes” like “ice”, but more like “eeeesss!!””

Oh, and the best one yet – she’s using “has” – like, Cuncun has teddy! Before she only said “Cuncun tem” And verbs are starting to gain a past tense too…she’ll say “biu”’for abriu, or “pegou” “trouxe”…In English she’s not using that many verbs yet (just has, fall, up and down in the sense of go up and go down, and the beginnings of an "is" before adjectives) so I don't really know yet. But she was using the possessive s before, but she sorta stopped doing that. Where do these things disappear to? 
And it's the darndest thing the things she picks up on and how they pop up maaaany days later - I had no idea she had noticed or understood something, and then she goes and uses it spontaneously, I was not actively trying to teach it to her. I can't think of an example right now, but it happens al the time. Oh, "boat" is an example, I think I mentioned it once in a book, not giving it much thought because, hey, it's not like we see boats around our house here, so I thought she wouldn't be able to grasp the concept…but then we went to a place near the lake and she keeps repeating something I can't understand, until FINALLY i get it - BOAT!! She's saying boat and frantically pointing it out! 
Every day brings about so many new words and funny new phrases and combinations of languages, that I'm taking it for granted, stopped seeing how amazing that is. I try to always remember and register some of the more noteworthy examples, or just plain cuteness. 

quarta-feira, 11 de junho de 2014

You make me a better person

Baby girl.

You make me be a better person. But not for the reasons you might think. Not because I have to be self-less and patient and caring and etc etc…
No…it's because with you I cannot run away from all the darkness deep inside me. I am confronted with it every day, every day. And in order to provide you with the above mentioned patience, caring, time, presence, etc…I have to deal with the darkness. You make me move through it, dance with the shadows, really feel the fear. There is a lot of it. But I realized I can co-exist with fear, I can admit to being afraid and continue breathing, while looking for different paths. Being your mother takes me to this edge, many times over, and it's this edge that is making me grow.


segunda-feira, 26 de maio de 2014

The waters at 20 months of Cora


I am apparently doing better.
Better put, I am practicing the fine art of resilience. I keep bouncing back, bouncing back, bouncing back.
There are moments, there are days, when I feel like I'm drowning in myself, eternally swimming to keep my nose above water. There are moments, there are days, when things are okay, just floating along perhaps even enjoying the sun. But I would love to get to a beach, really, that would be ideal.

I get confused easily, dazed easily, my feet not quite on the ground. Or, to keep the metaphor going, floating in a large expanse of some strong liquid which alters my perception of up and down and all around.

I think so much about mothers, about mothering. I see women on the street with children, and I see how invisible they are, these mothers going about their daily lives. Does anyone ask how they are, what they are going through? Does anyone realize what is happening? I worry about mothers getting enough support, about people speaking out on the issues of motherhood beyond the superficial things we get advice about on sites and blogs and just in every day conversations. In ever woman I see, I see a story that is going unseen. I wish I could do something more than just worry about this.

So here, at home...
What I have beed doing, Cora-wise, is just taking it a day at a time, and facing this work at home experience as an experiment in early child education. After struggling with the idea of pre-school, no pre-school (and all the strings that come with it - financial, family configurations, cora and mine's emotional selves…) I have backed down from the idea, for now. For now. 2015 will tell another tale, perhaps. Or even next month. I don't know, honestly.

So we have at home pre-school…and I feel it helps me keep focused, remember where my feet are and even have fun with the whole thing.

We paint.
We play with beans and containers, spoons and cups.
We read books.
We eat. We snack. We experiment with new foods.
We practice our English.
We go to the park, we see ducks and monkeys, sticks and grass.
We go to the playground, we dig and bury our feet in sand and get absolutely filthy.
We take showers together and play with buckets and rubber ducks.
We snuggle. We nurse. We nap.
We color, we scribble.
We clean the house, sponge and cloth and brooms in hand. She is quite the organized and clean girl, I love it.
In the morning, there is iaiá, some afternoons, for about 3 hours, her grandma fafá.
And in the midst of all that, there are the cartoons, the pretending to be a duck/cat/dog/elephant, the chasing her around the house, playing hide-and-seek and just other silly-nessess.

And somehow, somehow...I find ways to translate, to type type type away. I honestly don't know how this keeps happening. Week after week, jobs get done and Cora keeps growing and I am not losing it completely. It could even be said that I am thriving in my own mayaesque way.




segunda-feira, 14 de abril de 2014

Since we're on the topic...

I've decided I have to get back to writing, for my own sake, for my psyche's sake. Several teachers told me, long ago, that writing was to be a path for me. And it really was, but I lost it somewhere along the way, amidst other priorities. But not completely, it has always been present, ever since as I can remember myself as me.
And writing about what I'm going through now, seems like a reasonable way through - a path, if I may.

Today was neither here nor there in the grand excitement of my roller coaster emotions. It just was. Duties were fulfilled, Cora was tended to, the hours flowed by almost completely gracefully.

However, there is a glitch coming up on my radar. Easter. Frickin Easter Holidays. FOUR WHOLE DAYS of HOLIDAY.

Have I mentioned I have a loooot of trouble with non-weekdays? With vacations, weekends, holidays - ever since Cora was born? I mean, I had this sort of trouble when I was a child, too, but then I learned to value free time and it ceased to be an issue. Until Cora was born. Then what happened? Routine became my saving grace - knowing what to count on became central to my sanity, for there is so so so much you cannot predict, at least a routine in a familiar place with familair people, in my safe corner of the world - it helps tremendously when I'm dealing not only with a baby, but with my own mind and its flights of fancy and extreme anxiety. Routine is my pacificier.

I have no idea what is to be of this holiday. I am dreading it, I am trying not to make it worse than it has to be by fretting, but I also want to take preventive measures, realistic measures, to help my own self out, since I'm the one who knows myself best.

We'll see...I'll keep this updated, because I need to, for me! I need to tell my own story and regain my voice, my many voices, I guess...VOICE, I miss you. I've got to stop caring what other people think or don't think, or whatever. This is, in grand part, what the blog is about. But I DO care about people who care and would like to share how they care (rhyme much?). That will mean the world to me.

domingo, 13 de abril de 2014

Its Ugly Head is Rearing


Mothering with depression. (Or anything with depression, for that matter)
Sucks.
Sucks.
Sucks.
I´ve had a long history with depression and anxiety disorders of many sorts, and ten years of being on on and off again medications of all sorts...and then I had a baby.

And I was able to taper off, to embrace my need to breastfeed her the purest of milks, to not haze my perceptions or days with the meds...
But that didn´t work for too long. Because, let´s face it, I am still me.

And recently, I have been struggling especially hard. The thing is, serious depression, yet non-debilitating depression, is really tough as well, becasue you´re out there, functioning, so it doesn´t really seem that hard, now does it? But there are days when all I wish I could do is sit in a corner and cry, cry, cry. My chest gets heavy, my mind comes to a halt, all sorts of negative voices stir up and emotionally whip me down to my metaphorical knees. And there are days when I can´t believe I got through it, that all was done, that it´s over...but then it´ll all start again in a few hours. Where is the relief?
I am so tired, guys. So tired. I feel caught, I feel misunderstood by those closest to me, I have trouble trusting that I am accepted and loved no matter what, that this too shall pass, that this does not define me, that this is what medication is for, don´t feel guilty...but guilt and negative future thinking is a bloody inherent part of this condition, so yes, I am struggling. There are days, and nights, especially, when I am running on close to empty, next to nothing but faith alone. Thank God faith can take someone a long way.