Saturday, February 25, 2012

She-Ra no more: Birth number four.

She’s beautiful, healthy, whole, and adored.  But mama just feels kind of old and tired now. As I rested in bed those first days and read magazines and nursed my newborn, my attention was suddenly stolen by ads for anti-aging balms and wrinkle creams. It dawned on me that I wasn’t a 25-year-old –first-time-mom any more and I had some experience showing up on my face. I wanted four children since the time I decided I wanted children at all. Having the last baby gives me a sense of closure and a sense that time has indeed caught up with me.
three sisters... but proud
As I look back on my four births, I have found a way to describe each of them.  My first was about the journey through the unknown and proving to naysayers that I could indeed do birth without pain relief.  It was also about discovering that birth is one part of the equation and recovering from birth and learning to breastfeed were also parts of the equation I wish somebody had mentioned.
intro to motherhood
Births two and three were about finding my groove, correcting misperceptions from my first birth, and doing it even better than before. When they were over, I felt like doing a touch down dance.  I felt powerful and undaunted.  I was high on the experiences.
two's company

then there were three
Yet birth number four was so different. I could feel the difference during my pregnancy. I had a lower tolerance for pain, less stamina, and a lot less to prove. When labor started, I was excited but worn out. When horse lips and blowing raspberries got me through other births, this one required the invention of whale-song (that my hubby heard for a few days afterward even though I wasn’t singing anymore). While my other births centered around and in a tub, this time the tub wasn’t the relief I wanted it to provide. Somethings were the same. My husband was amazing. Like a man in his element, he is the ultimate “dude-la”.  I always wonder how other women do it without a husband like mine. He remains my hero through all four births. My friend and doula, only a few weeks behind me in her own pregnancy, gave me the consistency I needed through this last birth.  Having been with me for births two through four, her presence gave me confidence and a sort of walking record of what helps me and what doesn’t. Still, with all this support, I was so crabby this time, so full of complaints and woe-is-me attitude.  All I can figure is that my body was done doing this, that my mind wasn’t in the game, and that I was glad it was the last time.
oldest and youngest
I wanted to say that I couldn’t do this. But just as I was about to utter, “I can’t do this anymore,” I had to stop myself and rephrase it.  Why? Because my lovely 9 year old daughter was witness to this birth. We have a saying in our house when the kids complain that they can’t do something, we always reply, “Kellers can, Kellers try.” So I said it was hard and I just wanted to rest. When I let my midwife check me and she found that I was “only” 5 cm dilated, I could have had a very demoralizing meltdown was it not for the history of birth number 3 in which I was “only” 6 cm dilated, but then pushed a baby out 20 minutes later. I am not sure exactly how much time it took between 5 cm and pushing number four out, but it was less than an hour. Less than a very long feeling hour, but still not exactly an average chart of dilation. Then she was here! Just like birth number 3, my doula had to fetch the midwife in time to catch. As much as I tried to savor the last time the gates of my body threw forth a life into this world, I was just plain tired. Don't get me wrong, I was also pleased and relieved.  I held my new daughter in great happiness and joy. I nursed her and she nursed greedily and again it was a throwback to my first attempts at nursing a newborn: it hurt! How could this be after my 9 years of breastfeeding experience? Now, three weeks later, it’s a non issue.
first time big sister
 When I look back, my last birth is a good birth in the catalog of births. I was surrounded with people I trust, and the outcome of a healthy mother and healthy baby was a success. As I regain my energy and my enthusiasm for the new normal in our home, I am delighted with my history as a birther, but also delighted its history. Thus, if wrinkle cream is all I need to “face” the future, I have no complaints. Finding time to apply a cream daily- well that’s the challenge, and in the end nowhere even close to a priority. Savoring my baby is my true impulse. Loving my family and its new shape and personality is my pleasure and life’s work. What a wonderful blessing it all is.

connect four