when i learned to play the guitar, ben harper’s music was the bulk of what i covered. i was dwelling in nostalgia land a few weeks back, and pulled out this old favourite. this one’s dedicated to my hawaii girls. i love you.
for this NEW YEAR, i need to finish (or at least continue) the healing process related to the events surrounding our birthing day. for the past 1.5 years, i have started and stopped this account numerous times. there is a lot more to write, so much omitted, but i’m feeling the push to do make this very private account public today. i’d like to state for the record that i still do TRULY believe that in most cases, women can experience normal, healthy, happy, and safe natural birthing experiences. my case is an anomaly and if you believe this same way and want to keep your mind free of any negative or scary birthing stories as you prepare for you personal, natural birth, please do not read. my intent is not to warn or create fear, but simply to share my account while working towards personal healing.
LoVe & NaMaStE, jess
6 weeks ago, my life was changed in a way i was not expecting. most life changes turn out to be that way, i suppose. emi victoria salmon garbett made our family of 2 a family of 3 on july 2, 2012. it wasn’t the new addition to our family that rocked our world, but how she came into our lives that rocked our world.
my original plan for this baby was to bring her into the world at a birthing center, all natural, with midwives; the thought of being at a sterile, germ-filled hospital, with doctors and people i didn’t know, pushing me to have a birth the convenient way rather than how i wanted sounded terrible and created mega anxiety. well, the first phase of letting go of what “i want” began the night before i hopped on a plane to canada for christmas, and began bleeding profusely. i was sure it was a miscarriage, but after a hospital visit, discovered i had uterine fibroids, and still had my baby. the midwives i had been meeting with in their wisdom (after learning that the fibroids were blocking my cervix) transferred me to a doctor’s care and advised me to birth at a hospital and would potentially need a c-section. bummer times a thousand. however, i tried to deal with it, and move forward with the new plan. i attended a “hypnobirthing” course with david and planned to prepare myself for the birth i wanted regardless. i learned some amazing skills, and felt such peace and joy while attending my classes; i gained a deeper awareness of the beauty, magnificence, and spiritual experience that birthing is. i learned the importance of releasing the negative and fearful views and expectations of birthing. in moments of personal yoga therapy, meditations, and prayers, i had some beautiful, revealing insights about why my body had these fibroids, and felt powerful and real connections to my baby. interestingly, at one ultrasound appointment, it was discovered that the fibroids had shifted and it would now be difficult to have a c-section and i would most likely need to deliver vaginally. “yes!” i thought. “my meditations are working!!” i loved being pregnant. i loved preparing for birth. i felt like eating right, exercising, getting lots of rest, singing to my belly, practising affirmations, and clearing myself of my emotional baggage was a wonderful gift i was giving to my baby. it was my most important job and i loved it.
on sunday, july 1, i arose from my bed with nervous excitement at 5:30 a.m, after experiencing infrequent surges throughout the night. “this is it! this is the day!” i thought. i left the room quietly, to allow david some more sleep, and practiced some of my breathing techniques, gentle yoga poses,meditations, a bath, and other tricks up my sleeve throughout the day, david helped me continue to practice these things, as well as feed me, massage me, walk outside with me, encourage me, and leave me alone when needed. as challenging as the day was, i mainly felt empowered and excited that i got to experience something that would not only bring an adorable baby to me, but something that was only available to me as a woman. i was excited to practice “gentle birthing” and focus on a birth without fear. every surge brought my baby closer to me!! i felt pretty cool to join the ranks of goddess women who have done this since courageous mother eve. my surges began to be a little more consistent and intense in the early evening, so david called my friend/mentor/colleague/doula/mother/sister/etc terri to come over, as she was to act as my other birthing companion. by this time, trying to maintain my smile and humour between surges was incredibly challenging, as was practicing my skills during the the surges. david’s parents came over at one point and his father administered a blessing to me, which helped bring some peace and comfort to me. around midnight (19 hours later) the surges were at the “3-1-1” ratio (david had been diligently keeping track), and we giddily grabbed my bag, waddled to the car, and drove to the hospital.
at the “check in” mandatory examination, we were told i was dilated to a 4 and not effaced. we were put into our birthing room, where we promptly filled up the tub so i could labour in there to find some relief. unfortunately, it didn’t bring the relief it had brought me at home. i got in and out of the bath, and on and off the toilet multiple times, and didn’t want anyone around. after some hours, i was feeling a great deal of pain, and just wanted to be alone and would feel extremely agitated whenever david or terri attempted to help me. i was feeling pain throughout my body–not just in the isolated area. i was also bleeding a lot–and were told this was normal and not to worry. i was, however, worrying. not necessarily about the bleeding, but about the physical and emotional angst i was experiencing. in hindsight, i think that during the time in and out of the tub, i knew on some deep unconscious level that something wasn’t right, and the worry and pain i was feeling (and would be feeling) was beyond what i could personally handle with all the birthing techniques in the world. but i kept trying. somewhere in the wee hours of the morning i requested to talk to someone about my medication options–which was completely against what i wanted for myself and my sweet baby in all my plans originally. but i was losing it. david, being the total supportive partner he is, encouraged me to go just a few minutes longer whenever i’d ask about medication, reminding me that in our classes we learned that when a labouring woman felt she couldn’t take it any longer and asked for meds, that was a good thing because usually the baby wasn’t far behind. i wish that was my case. i finally received an epidural, and was super annoyed at how it numbed half of my body to the point where i couldn’t feel anything, yet wasn’t really working on the other half. i felt deflated by then, as i didn’t feel “strong enough” but got some rest finally.
during this time, my sister and her spunky family were driving down to utah from oregon. she arrived early in the morning and came to help out with the labour and birthing process while her family played in the hospital courtyard. I was so grateful to see her; she is and was a rock, a support, a focused, hard-working, insanely loving and loyal protector. the doctor had not yet arrived, and there was a shift change for the nurses. i was checked again and told i was only 4.5 cm dilated. huge frustration emerged that i had been labouring so long but not progressing. and major annoyance at all the staff coming in and out of the room. My anger, frustration, anxiety, pain, and fear increased with all the traffic and new faces and clinical approach. as a side-note–WHAT WAS I THINKING choosing to birth at a university hospital??? the constant changing of staff that i hadn’t consented to being there, loss of vital, imperative information in the process, and me feeling like a vulnerable, naked guinea pig was NOT part of my birthing plan. so much for a quiet, reverent, loving, spiritual process. i almost started laughing at one point when a brand new resident doctor came in, along with her intern, and they BOTH had to check my cervix, because the intern was being tested on if she could tell how far along i was. NOT awesome. i’m pretty sure throughout the day i made a few snide comments (hopefully under my breath??) about all the “professionals” that had to wander in and out of my room. super bug.
annnyways, a while after my sister arrived, i hadn’t progressed very much, but the doctor was on her way and told the nurse to have me start pushing. it was so hard for me to hear these words, as i had wanted to listen to my body to tell me when my baby was ready to come out, and follow my body’s lead. yet now i was supposed to push on someone else’s order and i was numb from the waist down. ummm, how was i supposed to push when i couldn’t feel anything?? besides that, i was wanting to use the hypnobirthing lingo and NOT push, but “breathe” the baby down when SHE was ready. so much for that. by this time i was quickly feeling all my power fading away…this experience was the opposite of magical, beautiful, earth-shattering (in a good way) and empowering gentle and natural births i had read about and watched clips of. I attempted to hold on to whatever measly bit of power i still had, and stated out-loud (in hindsight, really silly of me) that i still wanted to try birthing in an upright and natural position; to me, laying on my back just seemed like the best way to defy the helpful nature of gravity. my loving supports (and seemingly checked out nurse) agreed. we tried having people behind me and to the side holding me up while i grabbed onto a birthing bar, with my legs so numb i kept falling down despite the helpers. We tried other positions as well, all to no avail.
at one point, i was facing the top of the bed, trying to hold myself up against the pillows with people all around me. this is the moment i lost it, and the line between life and death started to become thinner. I think this is when my body started going into shock. I knew i couldn’t do the task at hand any longer, and felt myself fading. i remember looking at my dear sister, her face inches away from mine, her concerned and loving eyes staring into mine, her voice gently reminding me to breathe, and i began to cry. sob. And totally go limp and let go of trying. i cried and cried and my body gave up on me. a sharp pain started to rise into my chest and neck. breathing was becoming a chore, and then seemingly impossible. the next conscious moment i remember i was in a different position–now facing the other side of the bed (not sure how i got there without the use of my lower body…) again looking into the eyes of another dear soul terri. i knew i needed more help than i was being given at this point. this wasn’t a normal birth. i verbally stated (or at least i think i got the words out) while starting at terri, “help me!!” i couldn’t breathe, the pain was dramatically increasing. i remember thinking “i wonder if this is how my dad felt when his appendix burst.” again, on some unconscious level, i knew that something inside of me had burst. but by this time, i couldn’t verbalize the thoughts in my heart and head. No energy, no will. my eyes were rolling back in my head, and that felt good. my head was swaying from side to side, and that felt good. but it was all beyond my control. my body was doing what it needed to to keep me alive. my conscious will was not doing any of it. i remember my doctor, upon seeing my rolling my head back and forth, asking me if i was doing this to alleviate the pain (probably wondering and hoping that it was some “strange” hypnobirthing technique). i think i choked out a “no”, but inside i wanted to laugh at her, yell at her, tell her i had absolutely NO control as to what was happening. i wanted to scream to the room “WAKE UP YOU IDIOTS!!! don’t you see what’s happening?? i can’t handle this pain! i can’t breathe!! i am DYING. i need help!” but i couldn’t. i then remember being on my back, head at the top of the bed again. at that point i was deep in some sort of communion with God, telling Him that i knew He was taking me back, grateful for that, and requesting that He please do it sooner than later, because i couldn’t take the pain anymore. i told Him that i would love to meet emi in heaven if she needed to come with me, but if it wasn’t her time, i knew david would be an excellent father and she could stay alive with him. i remember vomiting a few times, not to find the usual relief that comes with vomiting. at some point an oxygen mask was put on me. i know now, intellectually, that i needed oxygen, and my sweet baby did as well, but at the time, it felt totally intrusive, and i felt claustrophobic and seemed to make my breathing more strenuous rather than less. i kept pulling at it, trying to tear it off so i could breathe, but getting in trouble for it and having it put back into my nose, being told it was helping me breathe. I didn’t believe or feel that though. i remember some people trying to tell me to breathe my birthing breath…and i just couldn’t.
i’m not sure how long i was in and out of consciousness, but in the early afternoon, i looked up and saw a big crew of people in the room; i remember the faces of worry, fear, even horror, and heard the doctor say, “we’re taking the baby out with forceps. we need you to push to help us” (or something of that nature). i attempted to push, and don’t remember much after that, other than a loud cry and sounds of happy relief. At 1:50 pm on Monday, July 2, 2012, my warrior princess baby arrived. (ps, that’s 32 plus hours of hard labour peeps.)
i didn’t have my baby brought straight to my chest as i had so desired. i didn’t have the chance to keep her warm on me and re-connect with this little (huge) soul that was inside of me. i wasn’t able to attempt to nurse her right away. i didn’t even see her. i was back out of consciousness. my sweet husband, sister, and friends (by then my dear friend jenn had joined our circle) made valiant efforts to bring baby girl beside me, but i am told i would say “no, i can’t” or just turn my head away. my sister told me that she brought baby girl to me at one point and i said “i’m sorry you had to go through that.” i don’t remember any of these moments. i do remember looking up now and then to see tears in the eyes of those i love most, and whispered, anxious conversations. i wanted so much to tell them, “don’t cry, it’s going to be ok” but i couldn’t. a few times dear david was at my side crying and repeating, “i’m so sorry. i’m so sorry.” my wonderful brother in law nathaniel gave me a blessing at some point; i do remember this. i don’t remember any of the words, but vividly remember the feeling as he wept and whispered the blessing directly to me, in my ear. i’m not sure if anyone else heard or not. i received another blessing at a later time, from david’s brother bryson. i am so so grateful for these men who used the gifts of the priesthood to offer comfort, safety, solace, healing, and peace to me. i’m even more grateful for the women who were there with me, and those who weren’t, who were also blessing me, directly and indirectly. i know the prayers and heart thoughts and powerful healing energy of these amazing women were non-stop during my time in the hospital.
my sweet baby girl was ripped away from her momma immediately, and didn’t feel my arms embrace her for a couple days. luckily, she had the most incredible wet nurses-my sister felicity and sister in law cynthia. i am so eternally grateful for them for selflessly providing her the nourishment and nurturing she needing in that dark time. luckily, she had the most amazing father, who was able to bond with her immediately. in the hours after the birth when i was conscious, i was a miserable, wretched woman in agony; others attempted to assist me into more comfortable positions to no avail. the worst of the physical pain were the multiple attempts to remove what was left of my placenta. the nurse would push on my abdomen, sending large amounts of blood shooting out of me, not yet realizing my uterus had ruptured, and assuming (i am told) that the blood meant there was still placenta. she would do this on a regular, frequent basis (10 minutes, 1/2 hour?? i don’t remember), much to my horror. i remember screaming, crying, writhing in agony, trying hard to push her hands away, begging her NOT to do this again!!! i couldn’t believe this pain was being inflicted on me…it didn’t feel real in a way. i felt like a complete victim–like i was being beaten after i had been raped. that’s the best way i feel i can describe my birthing experience at the hospital. not gentle, not calm, not spiritual, not intimate, not just a few loving people like i had so hoped and prepared for. the opposite of all those things. “please, please go AWAY! don’t do this again! please, i beg you…make it stop!” my pleas fell on deaf ears. i know now they were doing their job without the full information of what was truly going on, and probably felt terrible about inflicting pain, but it seemed they were sent straight from hell to make my life experience as excruciating as possible while the devil laughed on. i just wanted to die, and was angry that God didn’t just take me already.
the moment of relief came when a new doctor arrived and basically told me that an ultrasound (i don’t remember having it done) showed that there was “fluid” in my abdominal cavity and they were going to do an exploratory laparotomy surgery right away. hallelujah!!! i knew that surgery meant i would receive the succour i needed by being able to, in a way, finally just “die” for a while and not feel anything. bring it on!! it breaks my heart now to say it, but that was the happiest moment of the entire day. not the birth of my sweet baby. the emotional pain lingers… moving along…the doctor requested that i sign a consent for surgery. i laughed (at least inwardly) because my arms weren’t working to be able to sign anything! terri held my hand with the pen in it and signed for me. meanwhile, poor david was on the phone with our doctor (who had left the hospital after the birth), who was explaining to him the options; david was more concerned than me about a surgery, with all the risks and possibility of potentially having to do a hysterectomy, but obviously consented. i don’t know what filled the time from 1:50 pm until 10 pm when they began the surgery, other than pain and prayers. i’m still confused about why it took so long to discover that this wasn’t a normal birth, and that some extreme measures were needed after the birth. the surgery went well…the team of surgeons discovered that my uterus had torn in 2 places, front and back. they didn’t have a definite reason why this happened, but some ideas. they were able to stitch it up without having to do a hysterectomy. other’s prayers were answered, my life was spared, and now the healing process could begin.
as i have researched and read about similar experiences, i’ve learned that my experience was truly nothing short of a miracle. in most cases, either the mother, baby, or both will pass away within MINUTES if a rupture is left untreated. i know there are some important reasons why baby emi and i had to go through this, and are still on this earth…i don’t know the reasons…but i know they exist. i spent the rest of the week in the hospital recovering. haha. i laugh as i write that. hospitals to me are SO counter-productive when it comes to healing and recovery. (do i sound like a broken record yet for my feelings about hospitals?) at any rate, that’s where i was, and i truly AM grateful for the medical assistance i received. however, that was the most horrible week of my life. nausea, extreme pain, side effects of the medication, no sleep, being interrupted when finally sleeping to be poked and prodded, not being able to stomach any of the hospital food, not being able to walk, let alone go to the bathroom by myself, etc etc. the worst part though, may be the guilt i had when i thought of my emi; i didn’t feel any connection to this baby. i only saw her for brief periods of time here and there (she was released after 2 days in the hospital, and taken home to be with our family), and when she wasn’t there, i wasn’t thinking about wanting to be with her…all i could focus on was my pain. here was my brand-new angel baby who i had spent 9 months preparing for physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and i couldn’t even muster up the appropriate enthusiasm, empathy, or excitement to see her. every time i realized this, the guilt grew. i was comforted by knowing that emi was being cared for, fed, and loved to no end by her aunts, grandparents, and my friends, yet this dynamic created negative feelings for me also.
sparing the gruesome details of the week in the hospital, the sunday after emi was born, i was released from the hospital and we all went to live at my in-laws for the following week. emi was the picture perfect example of “it takes a village to raise a child.” i am SO grateful for the amazing people in my life who cared for, nursed, and loved her as their own. i can’t imagine being a single parent, or not having the support of family, friends, and community when going through a new birth, let alone a traumatic birthing experience. i feel so blessed in this regard. yet at the same time, this was not how i had envisioned the first couple of weeks for my baby, husband, and me, and there were many moments of sorrow, frustration, anger, irritation, and helplessness. i knew everyone was only there to help us, but i was so very upset that i couldn’t do ANYthing for emi (in my mind at the time…i realize now the error of that thought). i was annoyed that i wasn’t able to make decisions for myself or my baby. she didn’t feel like she was mine; it was a strange and surreal feeling. it was almost as though she belonged to everyone else, and they were trying to help me spend some tidbits of quality time with their baby. i became increasingly irritated at people’s well intentioned advice. i wanted to do things MY way, and be home in my home, isolated from everyone, with no one but my (equally traumatized) amazing partner and baby. i wanted to bond in the way i had dreamed. i wanted everything opposite from what i was experiencing and what i had experienced. talk about feeling like an entitled 3 year old. “i WANT it!!!” talk about eating an entire humble pie.
since that week, there were many times when i continued to feel like emi wasn’t my baby…like i didn’t have the same baby in my arms that i had in my tummy all those months. during those times there was no connection…she continued to feel like she wasn’t “mine”. one day while feeling this, i had the insight that this sweet girl indeed wasn’t “mine”; she belonged ultimately to her Heavenly Mother and Father. in a sense, she is on loan to me, but her soul belongs to them. this was a powerful and comforting reminder for me. during those times, i also felt pretty useless as a mother…i continually felt as though emi was so bonded with david, but not me, and that he did a far superior job of parenting than i. i felt like i had no clue how to care for this little baby. i felt like i was in training, being watched by everyone in my life. i longed to jump into the drivers seat of my life rather than be stuck in the passengers seat; unfortunately, my recovery didn’t allow me to do that in the way i wanted. re-enter humility. enter in life’s important lessons of giving & receiving, gratitude, honor, acceptance, forgiveness, repentance, giving up control, working through anger and fear, becoming as a little child, etc. i am, now, very grateful for the lessons i’ve learned and the lessons yet to learn from this birthing experience. at times i fall back into sadness, anger, “why me”, and feeling ripped off by the experience and what it means for my future (lack of) birthing experiences. and this is ok too. i am grateful to have these “negative” thoughts and feelings as well, and that i’ve come to a place in my life where i am entitled to these as well as the “silver-lining” moments only, and don’t feel guilty about them anymore.
one of the beautiful things about baby emi is that she is so very aware of me, of her surroundings. she is a kindred intuitive soul. i have felt the comforting reassurance that emi understands that what we went through was traumatic, and doesn’t hold me responsible at all. i have felt her forgiveness towards me for being not the mother i desired to be the first year. emi is a patient soul who brings peace and joy where she goes. i believe there is a BIG spirit in her little body, getting ready to do BIG things on this earth. i have had humbling, hard moments where i feel completely empty, lacking, insecure-where i feel like the child and emi like the wise parent. those moments when tears stream down my face and i attempt to avoid her gaze but she steadily looks at me intensely with those eyes (ahhhh those big eyes! melt!) and stares deeply into my soul and tells me, “it’s ok mama, it’s ok. this is but a brief moment. i love you. we’re ok.” emi is my miracle, every day.
she. is. amazing.
oh maya. you speak to my soul. re-reading this poem AFTER being a mother this year, i wept. understanding a little more the HUGE sacrifice, heartbreaks, joys, tears, fears, fulfillment, longing, hoping, prayers, discouragement, guilt, LoVe, unmet desires and dreams, self-control, willingness to be hurt, humility, STRENGTH, and so much more of my own mother, and her mother, and all the mothers before that throughout the history of time. so much more to write…but i will save my own experiences for another day.
here is the poem:
MOTHER: A Cradle to Hold me (Maya Angelou)
It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.
During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had
A larger life which included me,
Among your other concers,
For I had a life
Which was only you.
Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.
I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever
That one day you would have to stand
And where would I be?
You smiled again.
I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned,
I admit, quickly.
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.
You thought you knew me,
But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But i did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every movement,
Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing
On a breeze,
While a sob lay
At the root of your song.
The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.
You were always
The heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee,
Sweets of open laughter.
I loved you even during the years
When you knew nothing
And i knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch
Of teenage wisdom
I spoke sharply to you, often
Because you were slow to understand.
I grew older and
Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.
Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.
I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire, and to love.
I thank you, Mother.
I love you.
auld lang syne
a new day. a new year. wishes that we all work to make this one better than the last. i resolve to get more MuSiC recorded this year. here is the first offering of the year. love to all xo jess
we attended an absolutely incredible dance concert (ririewoodbury) that a couple of our beautiful friends were in last weekend. i fell in love not only with the various dances but also one of the songs used. it’s called “i found a reason” by cat power, and is a velvet underground cover. naturally, i wanted to do a cover of the cover actually, i truly couldn’t help myself. i NEEDed to sing this song once i got home. i’m still producing tears when i hear her sing it. i think why this song is so touching to me is because of this little thing going on called pReGnaNcY. lots of thoughts and feelings flowing. “come, come come, come come to me” is a call to my unborn wee babe, in all faith and hopes that she will be born smoothly and healthily. longing that “what comes is better than what came before” for her and i. “i do believe in all the things you see” a desire to be able to empathize with her always and see from her perspective even when i don’t agree. “better run, run run, run run to me” a quiet plea to my loving life partner to continue to keep his eye on the prize: me.
funny how a generally confident woman can have her world rocked by pregnancy…arise feelings of inadequacy, not good enough, fears about parenting and connecting, un-processed anger, body issues, wondering how and why your partner continues to stay with you when you are often a big (literally) mess of ever shifting emotions, physical complaints, etc etc. lots more. despite all of this, i feel lucky that i recognize my stuff, and am trying to do what i can to pass along LOVE and HOPE to this little girly than FEAR that does nothing but stifle us and keep us stuck.
with all of that, here’s my rendition of “i found a reason” for my wee family. thanks for reading.