I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pretty in pink

Dahlia from yesterday's market
I have to tell you right up front that I am a little bit self conscious about following up last week's post. So many of you told me how eloquent it was and when I went back and read it, I wondered how in the world I might approach today's post. It's never easy to decide what to write about, and when you've got such an appreciative audience, it can be just a bit daunting. Performance anxiety, I guess. So, be forewarned: great posts are few and far between. I'm just gonna lift the lid and see what comes out.

The baby was born in the apartment below us on Thursday. I was on a hike all day long and heard from Smart Guy about the strange sounds emanating from their apartment. I knew the baby would be born at home, because they had hired a midwife. Midwives don't get to work in hospitals, unfortunately. Our next-door neighbor filled me in that it was to be a "water birth" and was apparently quite successful. I saw pictures on Facebook after the birth and learned that a little baby girl was born at 7:15pm, so all was quiet by the time we went to bed on Thursday night. I'm so glad it was a girl; I'm not at all sure why. There was a picture of the baby showing four generations of women; all three mothers were wearing exactly the same smile.

I was present at a home birth once, many years ago in Boulder. My friends had invited me to attend, and I was a little nervous but glad to be invited. By the time I arrived, their doctor was present who was a friend of the family. They already had a three-year-old boy, Lev, with whom I had spent a great deal of time, babysitting and the like. He had been born in a hospital, and the parents decided that a home birth might be less traumatic this time around.

Although I had no actual duties to perform for the birthing, I was able to help with Lev until the time came for the actual event. It was an amazing sight, to see this infant emerge into the world. He was blue and didn't cry out at first, since the cord was wrapped around his head. The doctor cleared his nasal passages and he began to cry, much to the relief of everyone present, and he turned pink immediately. He looked huge to my eyes, and it turned out that he weighed almost ten pounds! The mother, Rochelle, was a tiny thing who didn't weigh much more than a hundred pounds herself. But once it was over and mother and baby were cleaned up and wrapped in warm dry clothes, the radiance on Rochelle's face was what I remember the most. It was a transformative moment, experiencing the presence of a new life in the world.

We humans have been giving birth in various fashions since, well, since the beginning. As I wrote about my own experience last week, the fifties and sixties in the United States were among some of the more unsettling occasions, where the mother was removed from the event as much as possible, turning it over to doctors and nurses. I suppose it was thought that this would be better for all concerned, but I sure don't think so. When I think of the difference between coming into the world in a warm nurturing environment and the bright lights and sterile environment of a hospital operating room, there is simply no comparison. Our first moments of life separate from our mother should be sacred and cherished. I never even got to see my son for several hours after he was born, much less hold him.


Yesterday's weather didn't allow for any skydiving, so I went on the Saturday walk and enjoyed a cup of coffee with the ladies afterwards. The weather today is a little better, and I've looked at the web cam a couple of times wondering what is in store for me today. My week is always better when I've been able to get in a skydive or two, since it's an activity that I enjoy so much and know that the days are numbered for us to get up in the air. By the end of October, the season has shut down in this part of the world, and September is right around the corner. I saw a maple tree yesterday that has flame-red leaves already. So soon? It seems so quick, the summer season winding down. In October I will travel to Lake Elsinore in California for one last flurry of skydiving for the season, and then I'll decide whether or not I will continue the activity in 2014. You know I probably will, but I'm reaching the time when I need to carefully consider whether it makes sense.

Now I realize that those of you who never had made a skydive might think it NEVER makes sense, but that's because it's not familiar to you. Being in freefall and flying my canopy are events that are as commonplace to me as driving a car is to most of you. Remember when you were first learning to drive? It was terrifying, at least it was to me. Until I learned how to navigate that powerful machine and became accustomed to highway speeds, I was in a state of hyper-awareness whenever I was driving a car. I still feel that when I need to get on the interstate and travel at speeds higher than my comfortable around-town pace. It's easy to become complacent when we are behind the wheel of a car, and that's dangerous. I spend three hours on the highway when I travel to and from Snohomish, probably the most hazardous part of my day. Really.

Okay, that's it. I lifted the lid and that's what came out. Now I can begin the rest of my Sunday, as my tea is finished and my partner continues to snore softly next to me. My laptop will bring me the news and the blogs that my friends have written since I last checked. Then I'll read the Sunday funnies online and continue with the rest of my day. My morning meditation is complete, and my thoughts are turning to other things. At this point, I always offer a quick prayer to the universe to give us all another wonderful day on this beautiful blue globe we call home.


Rian said...

DJan, the only birth I've ever attended (beyond those of my own 3 children) was my first grand daughter's. It was in a hospital, but not in a delivery room. I guess they call it a 'birthing room'. And beings it was my daughter giving birth, I found it scary... even though she laughed and talked throughout the whole episode (miracles of modern medicine)... and was given the baby almost immediately. But it was an experience I won't ever forget. I'm glad everything went well for your neighbor's delivery.

Friko said...

The idea of witnessing a birth makes me feel slightly queasy; strange, really, I’ve had two myself. Mine were relatively easy and both were in hospitals, with the babies coming to me afterwards all cleaned up and wrapped in soft blankets.

I am a coward, that’s probably the reason.

This habit of yours, of musing over a day, life, your happy activities and the universe in general is a wonderful way to start a Sunday. It seems to me that it sets the day apart and sets you up for it too. And maybe even the whole week?

Putting down your thoughts as they come must have a calming, collecting effect. Carry on writing, whatever comes will be worth reading.

Linda Reeder said...

By now I'm thinking you are on your way to the drop zone. It looks good enough here out of my window at , wow, 11:00 already!
I have had a slow morning, actually slept in till almost 8:30, without pain. Amazing for me. I ate left over waffles with fresh nectarines and wild blackberries for my late breakfast, not my usual light healthy fare. I wanted to check in with you before going outside to pick and arrange new bouquets of flowers for the house.
I will think of you hopefully jumping out of airplanes, and you can picture me at the stadium by 4:00 this afternoon, setting up displays, then marching to the match, and then cheering on the Sounders along with 67,000 of my closest friends, and a few Portland foes. We all have our own crazy thrills.
Let the lazy, hazy, crazy days of August continue.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Back in the good old 1950s and for a while after that, women were just supposed to stay in their place. It was more convenient to medicate women so the doctor could control as much as possible about the birth process. I was amazed to see how good Abby looked just a few minutes after giving birth to each of the grandbabies (and just as glad that she didn't invite two sets of grandparents to watch the whole process).

Red said...

The topics in this post are far apart...birth and sky diving. Your field of expertise is very wide. I was a home birth with a Physician in attendance. Two of my Mom's friends were also there.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that birth was a good one. My friend's baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Her midwife was late in arriving so her inexperienced husband had to help with the delivery. Ah, well, this sort of thing could happen in a hospital, as well. Best wishes to your friend and her family!

Arkansas Patti said...

Hope Smart Guy didn't have to endure those labor pain groans. That would have been hard to listen to, not being involved.
I was the first one in my family born in a hospital. Everyone else was home born.
Seems a lot of folks are reverting back.

Jackie said...

If I wrote like you, I would never ever think of going back and reading or re-reading anything I wrote. What you "pen" is exactly the way it should be done. I have an image of you typing away on your keyboard...your words coming effortlessly as you type what you think. I can only say that I wouldn't have you to write any other way. Also, I know that you are up early...(and I sleep late like a slug)...and I admire you for that...and so much more. I'm glad we met. Your blog is a bright spot in my day. Thank you for your words....always.

Linda Myers said...

I witnessed a birth once. I was a labor coach for a young woman who was releasing her baby for adoption; I worked as a volunteer for the agency and I had been working with her for several months. It was miraculous. I remember thinking, "That's just how puppies look when they're born." Duh.

My own two children were adopted, so they were quite clean and nicely dressed when we picked them up from the agency. One was three weeks old; the other was two months.

Sally Wessely said...

Witnessing a birth is an awesome experience. I watched one of my grandchildren being born. That is a special treasure for me for many reasons. But when I think of others watching while I gave birth, thankfully that was not done in those days. My husband was there in the delivery room with me for the last three births. By then that was allowed. Talk about performance anxiety! I prefer no audience at such a time. If I had it all to do over again, I'm not sure I would even have my husband in the room.

This was a great read. Sunday mornings, I can always count on something special from you.

Rita said...

I've never been there when anyone else was giving birth (only myself), but I would think a home birth would be a lot more natural and calm. What a privilege to be there. :)

I love your musings before you start your day. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you for sharing with us your experience of a home birth. I've never been at one nor have I ever visited a hospital after a baby was born and seen a newborn in the nursery there. But these words of yours rang so true in my heart: "Our first moments of life separate from our mother should be sacred and cherished."

If only our moments each and every day were both scared and cherished. To do that we need, I think, to live in the present--to be alive to the moment--and that's not easy to do. But living in Presence and the Present is something that draws me forth into growing older.

I left a comment on your posting for last week--Sunday the 18h. Just so you know. Peace.

River said...

I wish I'd learned more about birth before I had to do it for the first time. Babies 2,3 &4 were much easier. I was there to welcome my first grand daughter into the world and I will never forget it. It's the most amazing thing, nothing eclipses it.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I was fully awake for both of my daughters births. I was there when Grandchildren Maddie and Adam were born. We were too late for Noah's birth, Savannah was a C section and we were not allowed, and Paige came to quick.
I felt honored to be welcome at the births and formed an instant connection with the two grands that I was there for...not that I don't love the others. I do love them all:)

Buz said...

In my mind you have become a serious writer, Jan, and if you ever wanted to supplement your income by writing, your transition into that world would be a relatively easy one. If nothing else, you have already written your memoirs ten times over.

I envy your skill. I know it's the result of much work, much regular writing over the years, and your success is one of many things that are currently causing me to write more seriously, and much more regularly (although I've been writing a lot of stuff you won't be seeing on my blog).

Love you, Sis. :-)

Buz said...

I'm behind the times, so this might be old information to you (I'm guessing it might be because you sometimes refer to writing as meditation), but I recently started reading "Writing Down the Bones," a relatively well-known book about writing by Natalie Goldberg, and I have thought of you more than once during the reading already. If you haven't read it, I'm recommending it.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

That your partner sleeps so soundly as you meditate early in bed beside him is remarkable. Hubby and I are not able to carry that forward. I have to remain still as came be in order for hubby to sleep. He has no ability to sleep very deeply.
I have learned to use the spare room when I am up early so as to keep the peace. Lack of sleep makes him very short fused:(
Baby one was 5 weeks early and I was not prepaed!