Thursday, February 12, 2015

a call for compassion

I recently took a facebook break. I've never done that before, but I was inspired to do it because one of my friends had in the past and she found it to be an insightful time. She was taking another "break" and I jumped on her bandwagon.

Articles and blogs about the vaccine debate had been flooding my feed. (Before you stop reading this post is NOT about vaccines!) More than anything I read about the diseases or shots I was disturbed by the attitudes of people. People read the opinions or worse, the real life experiences of fellow humans and feel entitled to judge, to argue, to blame. To debate their belief or experience, to debate the choices made by another human.

I find the lack of basic human compassion both shocking and disappointing.

Regardless of the topic, this trend to judge, shame, argue, debate and impose is ever present.

I have seen it in regards to everything: birthing choices, health choices, schooling, co-sleeping, breast and bottle feeding, discipline, spirituality and religion.
Most of the comments I've read, a person would NEVER dream of saying to another persons face, stranger or not. I have never once shared my story with someone in person and been met with the kind of abuse and hate I see happening online.

Where are people's compassion?

We live as though we believe it would be great if we could control everything; sometimes our comments imply we even wish to control the decisions other people make. But do we really want that much responsibility?.. including being at fault for any undesirable consequences? Are we really so sure we are absolutely "right"?

We want to believe we can control the aspects of life that are simply UN-controllable. It would be amaze-balls if people could say definitively, without a doubt it is ALWAYS best to X-Y-Z... But we can't, because we have this beautiful thing called variety, and uniqueness and choice; and nothing is one size fits all.

The good news is I can control me. I can be mindful of my thoughts, association, beliefs, and choices. I can do my best to make the right choices for myself and my family, and I can do others the honor of crediting them with the same best intentions; thereby choosing Compassion... even if for no other reason than it feels a whole lot better.

I can be open to learning, to the possibility that I could be wrong. I can realize that when I click on a link to read someones story, it is not my right to be angry with them, to argue them, or to shame them. When I read someone's story, it is my right to realize that it is just that it ~ is THEIR STORY, and it is just as true and valid as is my story.

Hopefully I will choose Compassion over Judgement.

This is a call for COMPASSION!

Imagine you are looking the person in their face. Hearing their voice. Seeing their tears of loss. Let compassion be more important than being right or justifying your own choices. Realize that everyone has so much more going on than you can possibly imagine, and show Compassion.

IMAGINE our grandmothers getting together and judging one another as harshly as we do online. Our grandmothers had this thing called community. Person-to-person connection. Face-to-face hugs. Sharing and support.

Am I being idealistic? Probably, and still I just have. to. say. something.

So after my two week facebook break, I logged on to add some photos... Only to feel like I needed to write this and take another break. I got sucked into the news feed, which surprise surprise is still full of vaccine debate, and hate, and people calling each other ignorant and other names. No one is "hearing" each other. No one is using their senses to feel or offer support. No one is stopping to think about the real, live person on the other side of the screen who has their own very real stuff going on; their own just-as-valid reasons as you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unschooling / Natural Learning ~ For The Win! (Even With Dyslexia)

Not so long ago, only 3 short years, I was writing in this space about my daughter's learning disabilities. She was in the process of having her learning assessed.

To catch you up, the results showed, she has dyslexia (reading), dysgraphia (writing), and a math disability that I can never remember the official name for. Having her assessment done was a huge decision, again, one which I wrote about at great length. I'm writing today because I believe it's important to continue to tell our story. Choosing the learning path of unschooling/natural learning can make one feel lonely and misunderstood at times; and certainly having a learning disability or raising a child with one (or a few) can also feel isolating at times. It is with my daughter's permission that I continue to share our story.

Three years ago, when she was diagnosed, the focus of conversation was often on "interventions"... What program, tutor or therapy would address her deficits? At the time, I felt very frustrated at our lack of available resources. We live in a small town, and many of the things suggested simply were not available where we live. 

I felt insecure and afraid sometimes that my daughter may not get the help that the experts felt was essential. 

So what happened next?

She spent one year working at a small farm, and creating art in a local pottery studio.
How did this address her needs? These are not exactly recommended "interventions". 

A professional could probably break it down; but an educator, I am not. I am simply a mom; so I can only speak to what I saw, and what my daughter has been gracious enough to share with me as I'm writing.

After her initial diagnosis, I saw relief. I saw relief at having a name for a problem she knew was there; but had not been validated. Before her assessment, she carried frustration and anxiety. She knew she was different. No matter how hard she worked to be like her peers, she couldn't be. They knew it, and she, unfortunately felt it. I witnessed her negative emotions turning inward, against herself; I think that was the most concerning. She is bright and gifted, but all she could see were her short comings. It is for this reason that when parents ask me about assessments; I, in turn ask about the child's emotions. How does the child feel about them self? Are they noticing and feeling the differences? Are their peers noticing? Is it affecting their relationships with others and with them self?... But I digress.

Having a name for her difference meant when she felt it, she could say "oh, that's my dyslexia". When friends or family noticed her struggle she could explain, "it's because I have dyslexia."
A diagnosis relieved her of feeling that it was because she didn't work hard enough, or feeling that she must be stupid. No, she has a brain that works like people who are given a dyslexic brain. No shame needed.

I asked my girl what about working at the farm helped her. She says having a routine helped her to improve her sequencing. Talking to the animals helped her by helping her to feel understood. Building a relationship with the horse, and being able to communicate through the bridle helped. She says that when riding the horse, her and the horse would share their anxiety. Not exactly a traditional dyslexia intervention. 
With the lack of resources, we continued to approach her learning the way we always had: with the belief that she is built to learn; she is endowed with the wisdom to know what she needs. Her work on the farm inspired her to want to make a movie on the farm. She tacked writing a script with passion, and confidence; and while her spelling, punctuation and penmanship were impressively behind her peers, it didn't matter - to her or to us.

At the pottery studio too, she got to experience success. She has always been gifted visually. Here she got to create and develop her talent in this area. Again, she was inspired to make things that incorporated script. Her "output" as it would be called by the Powers That Be, would have been extremely low if we consider that what was recommended was intensive 2-5 day per week of official interventions.

My daughter's healing was first, emotional. Her confidence and self-esteem had taken a big hit. This time was for her to feel success. For her to own her diagnosis; and to feel our confidence in her.

The following year, we did find a tutor. She wasn't in our town, and traveling to visit her proved to be costly and sometimes due to weather, just plain impossible. Again, what was recommended, was at least twice per week. It just wasn't realistic for us. So we tried once a week; which eventually turned into only twice per month. Overall, she did not have very many visits. My daughter would work with her tutor for a total of 3 hours each visit; one of which was spent riding her horse! To begin with, my daughter admits she wasn't thrilled at the idea of working with the tutor. She says she agreed to it by accident; that I asked her about it while she was distracted. She says she imagined that working with a tutor would be like spending time with someone who wanted to change her. Seriously, just take a moment and digest that.

Once she started working with her though, she found that she really liked her. She was a really nice lady with whom she connected. And of course, riding never hurt her motivation!

The next year, she had no "interventions" at all. Wait. That's not entirely true. The school we work with, generously set her up with a program for kids with dyslexia, for me to work through with her. It was a FAIL. Frustration reared it's ugly head once again. Her confidence and our relationship was taking a hit. If I had continued to act out of fear, I would have pushed it longer than I had. Thankfully, we acted in favor of love and peace instead.
She spent the year devouring every book she could get her hands on: she has read the whole Little House series, Little Women, The Bread Winner Series, the first 4 books of the Lemony Snicket Series, the old Peter Pan, 3 of the Mysterious Bennedict Society, BFG, and both of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books, James and Giant Peach, The Hobbit.... the list goes on and on...
She also joined a belly dance group, and choreographed a dance for our group, and continued learning violin.

If I've learned one thing the most, it's that when it comes to learning; Emotion is Everything!! It is at the root of our motivation and success. Positive feelings, inquiry and passion create learning. Period. So "intervene" with activities that create these emotions and learning success will follow.



Last year, despite being granted an exemption, my girl chose to participate in the standardized testing.With the help of a scribe, she scored in the average range! Go figure that.

This year marked the fourth year since her first assessment. The Powers That Be felt she was due for an updated assessment. She jumped at the offer. Unfortunately, she misunderstood what this was all about. With all the obvious progress she had made she thought it was possible that the examiner would tell her she no longer had dyslexia! So when the results came in showing all of her vast improvements, all she heard was that she still had this difference. She was incredibly disappointed; but with some time and reassurance she has gained a better understanding.

I'm the most excited to share with you what I believe is the most amazing thing about the results. This is the main reason for this post...

As I looked down the list of official recommendations, it may as well have been a list of activities she was already engaged in. Creative writing and drama- she has organized a group of our local home learners to prepare a drama. She has written a script, and is actively directing the rehearsals. She has discovered online creative writing forums where she has been posting a story she has been working on. Continuing to learn violin, to improve her decoding and fine motor skills. Non-competitive sports, where a motion is repeated, such as belly dance. Obviously, there were other very simple recommendations for us. Things like giving her a quiet space to work in.

We are so grateful to have found a fantastic tutor to work with her this year. She has approached our girl with a curious, respectful, and co-operative spirit. When she asked our girl what her learning goals were she said spelling, punctuation, printing and math. All the things, unbeknownst to us that would appear as the exact areas needing improvement. She has proven to me again and again, that she is so connected to her intuition. Together they have been working towards these goals, not with a program as their guide, but positivity, inquiry, and passion.

So, what's my point?

~Do what works for your learner: approach their learning journey with curiosity and respect; with value on their emotions as the ultimate guide. Negative ones to indicate something is not right and positive to say "Keep going! Life is good!"
~Don't fear the assessment. And certainly, if your child is showing signs of suffering emotionally, get it done! Find out what exactly is going on for them; and some clues as to what may help! If nothing else, a diagnosis can validate for them what's happening in their world.
~Lastly, most importantly, and most difficultly: trust your learner. Trust them to know what they need and how they need it. Because if we allow them the honor and space to be tapped into who they are, they really do know.

Friday, May 23, 2014

No Statistics Needed

I haven't written of our learning journey in a while. I am inspired to do so today though because of something I heard; an "alarming" statistic. Ready?
If a student is not reading at their grade level by the end of grade three, they have only a 25% chance of graduating. 

Are you not alarmed??!
I'm not.

I'll admit I felt a little surprised at first. Maybe even a little offended. Why you ask? Because this statistic is talking about MY children! After I digested it for a few seconds though; I realized that as unschoolers this study has nothing to do with my children or our values- it's rather arbitrary. I found myself asking a lot more questions.... Who did this study? What was their motivation? Was this stat designed to scare me, as a parent? Or to put pressure on schools and teachers? How does it apply to children with dyslexia, like my girl? And how does it apply to natural learners like us? And... does it matter?

It's funny, as a natural learning, unschooling family we trust the learning process to unfold as a part of our human nature, but occasionally we will read something or hear something about learning, or school or success that gets us thinking and talking. This statistic was one of those things.

Here's why this study doesn't scare me:
I know my kids best. I trust them to be the brilliant, learning creatures they were designed to be. Period. That means that if they learn something later than their peers, it's irrelevant. Conversely, they learn a lot of things before their peers, or even some things most people may never learn. Also irrelevant. Comparison, in my experience is fear driven, and only leads to negativity- even if one comes out ahead, negativity is often the result. Better to breathe and enjoy the ride.  Appreciate individuality. 
Fear is not a good motivation to learn anything. Joy and positivity nourishes learning! Not to mention, feels so much better- why not choose that?!

Next, this study is assuming we all believe that graduation equals success. Guess what? I don't buy it. Graduation does not necessarily equal success; it does not equal happiness. Graduation does not guarantee good communication skills, good relationships with people, good work ethic. Graduation definitely does not equal self-knowledge,(by far one of the most important things to develop, imo) or having a direction in life. It doesn't even mean having the basic skills one would equate with having graduated- reading, writing, spelling, and math. (Thankful for spell check, this high school grad's spelling is atrocious!!)

This study is designed to appeal to the group of people who value graduation as the standard goal for our youth. I am not one of those people. My goals for my learners are a little broader. My belief about success is a little different; success is knowing yourself, being confident- your strengths and weaknesses, your goals and dreams, your beliefs and values. Success is knowing how to be happy in life; how to have good relationships; how to breathe and enjoy the ride.

If my Learners graduate, it will be because they valued graduation as being an important part of their success. Certainly, it is valued by our culture as a starting point, and could serve some purposes. However, if they do not graduate, it will not be because they were "late readers", it will not be because we are poor financially (which evidently is also considered a risk factor), and it will not be because they have learning "disabilities". It will be because they have another way to measure their success; it will be because they know who they are and what they want. It will not be something that happens out of default; or fear driven by comparison to peers. As natural learners, their success will come from learning to work with their nature. Living joyously and true to themselves.

I have faith in our brilliant design. It brings to mind the words of John Holt:

"Fish swim, birds fly; man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to ‘motivate’ children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."

Just as I trust a fish to know how to swim, and a bird to fly, I trust my children to think and learn. I trust their designer to have given them gifts and abilities that will serve them well. No statistics needed. I can trust them to do the rest.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wealthy with Gratitude

***This is the post where I cheese it up and write all the "typical" things poor people go on about. You know, all the stuff about how we're so rich in other ways. yup, that's what this is.***

But first, zoom out, go to big picture. On a global scale, we are not even close to poor. Not even close.

We own our home! Not a shmancy home. A town home, big enough for us to each have our own bedrooms. Big enough to house my art studio. Not huge, not fancy; but enough.
How many people do NOT have that? It's incredibly sad to be aware of; and we, here in Canada are considered poor. I have relatively new flooring, and freshly painted walls. We have indoor plumbing; a roof that doesn't leak, and heat. But we are so hard done by?

We have healthy, organic food everyday. Three meals worth, and quite a few snacks too. I consider us so blessed. The poorest we've been was a few years ago, when we were down to a can of sardines, and a pack of crackers. Not even kidding. We gave thanks for it; and unbelievably, even the kids ate it. The next morning, not one, but two family members brought us food. No one knew we had run out; and yet now we had food. More than a little faith strengthening.

We have clothes. Not always new, not always the best; but a few times a year we do all get something new. And we're all pretty happy with that. Friends and family are kind and generous enough to hand-me-down to us, and we're thankful. Their giving helps make our life better. (I wonder what the appearance conscious teen I used to be would think of that?!)

I'm thankful to have spirituality in my life;
to guide me, provide hope and cushion fears -
helps us try to keep our priorities in order.
I'm thankful to be able to spend the majority of my time with my family everyday.

I get to be the one to witness my littles growing up.

I get to hear their questions, and search for answers with them. I get to see the moment it all comes together and makes sense. I get to play with them, and pray with them. I get to tuck them good-night.

Our family is blessed enough to have all our needs met; both spiritually and materially. So while some would definitely consider us poor, I feel rich with gratitude!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I Could Never Do That..."

"I Could Never Do That..."

"I could never homeschool or unschool"

"I could never eat gluten-free"

"I could never have a homebirth, co-sleep, or nurse well into toddlerhood"

"I couldn't stand it if my husband were home all the time on a disability, while I worked part-time"

"I Could Never"
I've heard this phrase many times, have you? Sometimes I hear it in my own head. In fact, most of the above I have heard in my own head, at some time; and yet these are some of the things I have done that I am the most proud of, and the most thankful to have done.

This has me thinking, maybe "I could never do that" serves a purpose. Maybe it's us challenging ourselves. Maybe it's us saying to ourselves "Would I want to do that? Would I value that in my life? Would I have the circumstances to do that?" Maybe it's us, taking an idea and making a judgement on it for ourselves personally. And maybe some personal growth comes from that. Maybe whatever it is doesn't fit into what we would envision for our life; or maybe it could; or maybe it already does. Maybe "I could never do that" isn't as final as it sounds, if a persons mind is up to questioning it's truth.

When I hear my internal voice say "I could never do that" I tend to answer myself with a bunch of questions. "Is that really true? Could I honestly not do that? What would happen if I did?" And eventually sometimes the answer is "Well, sure of course I could do that." or "Maybe I just don't want to".

This is what I feel is the sad part; I think that sometimes when someone's internal voice says "I could never do that", and we believe it, and we are selling ourselves short.


We are each made so incredibly beautiful, capable of so many things. Why limit ourselves with "I could never"?


We've also been given this beautiful gift of freedom to write our own stories; sometimes "I could never" is stealing our freedom.


So these are the kinds of conversations I have with myself. (As if you needed that peak into Crazy-town!)
But here's the thing, sometimes, I hear "I could never do that" from others. It's as if they are hearing what I'm doing, and their internal dialogue of "I could never do that" spills out. Not to be offensive, but sometimes hearing that can feel a little, um, discouraging... yeah, let's go with that.

I bring this up because most recently I've been hearing "I could never do that" in relation to adoption. That's right. I said it: adoption. Go ahead a take a moment to digest that. Admittedly, it's HUGE. It's a gigantic, life-altering chapter that we are choosing to write into the story of our life.

Adoption is an active process of jumping through hoops, (and more hoops) to qualify. It means we are opening ourselves up spiritually, emotionally, and physically to welcoming a new member of our family.

When we began this process, I was feeling pretty private about it; not telling very many people because I anticipated all the variations of "I could never do that" that I could be hearing. I wanted to block out any discouragement coming my way. I didn't want to hear the not-so-great experiences people hear or have had. (Why are we so quick to share the sad stories? Is it a warning? Is it meant to say "Listen, you are investing and risking a lot, and you could fail"... as though we are not acutely aware of that already?) I wanted to protect my heart from those who would be unsupportive. But here's the thing, this process has involved my heart, mind and emotions. It's in my conversations and even my dreams.
This is me, taking the scary leap of openness. We are expecting! This is exciting news! So for goodness sakes, Please be happy for us! I feel so grateful to have many friends have been super-supportive.

I'm finding this process very similar to pregnancy. We are bonding with the idea of our new child, as any family would be. Granted, it's a different process; we are opening our hearts to many outcomes: a boy or girl, of many races, and under the age of 5. A child who may have had something of a life before us. A child who needs a loving family. Evidently, this sounds crazy to some.
I'm going to be brutally honest, mostly the unsupportive responses consist of a mix of *silence* and concerns about money.... sometimes with a sad story about ministry involvement thrown in for good measure.... and of course no conversation about anything out-of-the-box would be complete without "I could never do that." *Please, don't think of me as being hostile about this. I just want to put it out there, that none of these are helpful responses.*

Our family has purposely built a very happy out-of-the-box life by doing what others swear they could never. And that's cool, cause we all get to participate in the writing of our own story. I'm sure I would have a really hard time living another persons story.... (one of school and curriculum, and full time work...) but I could, if I had to, or if those things were things I chose.

I do have one "I could never".

I could never close off my heart to a child who needs a family, if it was in my power and ability to give them one. I have never stopped imagining our third child coming to us through adoption. We have always, as long as we've been a couple, held that in our hearts and minds as being of so much value. It has always been in the works for us. So as much as you could never... I guess I have one too. And now it's in the open.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Through the eyes of a child...

Since becoming a parent, I have developed this pesky habit of seeing the world through my children's eyes. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it can sometimes inspire a passionate post such as this one, advocating for children.....

I have re-written this post I recently saw on facebook. When I saw this I felt deeply disturbed by it. Here is my re-write:
I have made a promise to myself that I will not be a spanking parent;
I will be a respectful parent.
I will try to see the world through your eyes and have empathy for your experience of life.
I will view my role as your parent as a sacred honor to be lived up to.
As the adult, with more experience I will choose to control my impulses to hit, yell, or humiliate.
I will be creative and learn to communicate my feelings and hopes.
I will try to understand and be respectful of your limits and my own.
I will try to create an environment of Love and Respect so that Love and Respect are what you know.
I will try to lead by example.
I will not blindly accept the parenting script passed down to me, I will question it,
and write my own.
I am sure you will make plenty of mistakes, we all do. 
You will have lessons to learn, we all do.
 I hope that you will trust me enough, to share your life with me.
That when you make mistakes, you will trust me to treat you with kindness,
so you will not be sneaky.
I hope that you will be open to receiving my guidance.
 I know that you will not always like what I have to say, and I will do my best to be okay with that.
I will be open to learning from you, because I have learned that you have a lot to teach me.
I purpose to live a mutually respectful life with you, because
my connection with you is so incredibly important to me.
My hope that you will choose for me to be a part of your adult life, because I am your parent (noun). And I love and respect you.

My mother told me that we were firstly God's children; that we were on lend to her AND that she would have to be accountable for how she treated His children. *That's wisdom*

I think part of the reason I feel bothered by the trend of posts humiliating children and condoning disrespectful treatment, is that I can't figure what the motivation is for this kind of thinking. The basic message seems to be "this is how I was raised, and I'm fine". Combined with an underlining feeling of frustration with one's children. This seems to be a call for parents to pat each other on the back, and give each other approval.

***I would feel ashamed if my adult children use the word "survived" in relation to the way I treated them; I would prefer for them to feel that they "thrived".***

Not so long ago, when Olivia was maybe 5 or so, a few of the unschooling mothers called me out on sending her for "time-outs." They didn't call it abuse, or anything like that. I had reasoned, at least I wasn't spanking! These Strong mothers did ask me some questions; I'm thankful that they were brave enough to speak up on behalf of my daughter.

*What was going in her life that she was struggling?
*What exactly did I think she was thinking about while crying in her room?
*Did I really believe she was thinking about the "wrong" she had done?
*Or was she wondering why the person she loved and trusted the most was sending her away, withholding love and attention from her?
*Did she have the ability to do what I was expecting of her?
*Did she feel loved and valued by the way I was treating her?

I felt terrible. I had been awakened to seeing discipline through her eyes; awakened to seeing myself through her eyes.


I can't help but I wonder how this kind of parenting will look through the eyes of our children as they become more aware?

I wonder if they will wonder why so few people spoke up on their behalf?


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Beginning of Liv

My daughter, Olivia, is nearly 12, and I have never written her birth story. I have written countless birth stories for other families. But I've not written my own.

My son's birth story I'll save for another day. His story I remember in great detail, and have told and re-told to him with pleasure. Putting Liv's story down, quite honestly feels really scary to remember, and to share. 

Perhaps, it's because I was a very different person then.

Perhaps, it's because what I remember was not at all what I believe birth to be about. Perhaps, it's because what I remember most

is a mish-mash of doctors, nurses, drugs, IV bags, clocks and fear.

I was 19 when I got pregnant. I knew nothing really about pregnancy, and even less about giving birth. Some of my friends had had babies, but now that it was going to be my turn, I felt terrified at the thought of birthing. I was convinced it would be unbearably painful; a belief that was confirmed by many a horror-birth story.

My pregnancy was far bumpier than I had imagined. I had 9 months of morning sickness. I took small doses of gravol the whole 9 months; except of course for the 2 weeks I took a stronger prescription drug! A drug I knew nothing about; all I knew, was that I liked my doctor, and hated feeling so sick.

I didn't think much more of it than this.

This is who I was,

and where I was,

in my mama-growing.

It's Ironic to think I felt SO guilty over not taking pre-natal vitamins; but felt alright about taking these drugs. Almost all I could keep down was gatorade, simple sugars, poutine, and ice cream! Oh, and the meds of course...

I had the routine ultra sound, and it showed something to be concerned about. It was something called a Chorioangioma. I was told it was a growth on the placenta. A growth made up of blood vessels. A growth that would keep on growing. A growth that could steal blood from my baby; it meant that the baby and I could possibly bleed out at birth.
But of course I was also told not to worry.

I saw an OB for some follow up visits; and was sent to many more ultra sounds to track the tumors growth. I was so scared of a poor outcome; I felt like all I could do was pray.  

Pray for a healthy, strong baby.

Pray for healing.

And pray that we would both come out the other side alright.

Secretly, we knew that we were having a girl. I started to call her LIV, meaning "Life" in Scandinavian. In some way, I thought it would keep me focused on giving her Life.

Around the same time, I started having intense pains after I ate. Yet another ultra sound showed that I had developed Gallstones. I was told that often this problem would settle down after the baby was born, but there was a chance I would need surgery after her birth. *sigh* I started needing to take painkillers for the attacks; and was told to avoid all fats. This didn't leave much nutrition-wise, and far more drug-wise than I would have liked; but I knew no other way.

Sometime before 37 weeks, I started having preterm labor and so spent my fair-share of time on bed-rest. At around 38 weeks, there were no signs of labor, and I was now dropping weight. This feels like a big deal when all you've gained is 19 pounds, and you started at only 123 pounds. Our doctor suggested inducing labor and we agreed to it. We had planned on having a natural labor and birth; but at this stage I felt so afraid, and sick, and exhausted.

Somehow, I imagined that the induction would be the only intervention; 
somehow I thought having her now would mean we would be okay.
Our doctor advised us that interventions are usually like a set of dominoes, one leading to the next.
I thought, or at least hoped, we would be the exception.

It's really hard to type this, exactly as it truly was because now I can imagine it happening so many different ways. I can imagine making different decisions at every turn. I can imagine re-writing the story as it could have been. But that wouldn't be the real story. That's not how it happened.

We went into the hospital on a Thursday morning,

and I had the gel to induce labor. I was monitored for a bit and then sent home. When I say "home" what I mean is a friends house. We were staying with friends cause our home was an hour away. Now here's where it gets blurry. I'm pretty sure I got gelled a second time, and sent "home" for a few more hours.... when we returned to the hospital, not much was happening. I had been having contractions; to me they felt painful. Strong isn't the word, just sharp, and spuratic. I was hooked up to an IV for fluids, antibiotics and a pitocin drip. 

I was able to walk around, bathe and shower. 
I think I was managing the pain alright.
I was breathing, and listening to music I had brought with me.
I remember the nurses being refreshed that someone was actually using the cd player!

As I remember it, I had some visitors. My parents, Auntie and some other family. My mom stayed and my friend/doula stayed. The combination of pain, exhaustion and what felt like so much time passing made the nurses drug offerings more welcome. "Inductions are harder," I was told, "no need to be a hero."  Sometime Friday morning, my waters were ruptured by the doctor. I was at 3 cm, after 24 hours. It's probably a good thing I didn't realize that this rupture meant the clock was started; I would have 24 hours to deliver this baby according to hospital policy. I continued right on laboring, as I had been, only now I was SO tired, and not allowed to use the bath tub. Something about "bacteria", I was told. My husband was so wiped, that I remember the nurses bringing HIM heated blankets and telling HIM to rest. **Still makes me smile.**

I had felt really against having an epidural. Even then, I realized that epidurals increased my chances of needing a cesarean; and I didn't fully "buy" that it didn't affect the baby. Sometime around 5am on Saturday morning, our doctor was in to see us again. She was very motherly and kind in the way she spoke to me. She told me that I needed to accept an epidural so that I could get some rest. She feared that when Baby was ready to be born, I would be too tired to birth her. I heard nurses muttering something about "Baby's heart rate" and "cesarean" something, and "24 hour mark."

I remember having to let the drugs wear off while waiting for my epidural.

I remember feeling contractions with only gas to help. I remember that, and my friends eyes and voice, 

"Look at me. Look right here. You are doing so well, and you are so strong. You are so strong." 

I was glued to her eyes, and her breathing;

and it felt like an echo "You are so strong". 

It echoed and I sent the wish inside to Liv

I was telling her "You are SO strong." 

I remember begging to know how long until she would be born; I was convinced everyone knew except me and that they were all keeping it a giant secret! It's funny the things you can believe in labor-land!
The pain I felt at 4 cm was worse than anything I felt with the completely natural birth of my son 5 years later. This pain was coupled with fear and exhaustion. So much fear. Fear that our Baby might not be okay. I think I must have prayed for most of my labor.

Finally, epidural in place, I slept.

Saturday morning, around 10 am, I was fully dilated. The nurses and doctors had been turning down the epidural; I was told that I could start pushing anytime I felt the urge. I felt no urge. I felt... Nothing. Only numbness and anxiety. Again, I heard someone mumbling something about a "c-section" and "too long", and "within the hour." It was as if I had been slapped awake. "C-section...." echoing.
And so with the All-powerful, All-knowing Clock staring me down, I announced "I feel like pushing". I was lying, of course.

I watched the machine to tell me when I was having a contraction and I pushed. And everyone in the room counted to 10. And it repeated this way until our Baby was born, at 11 am. At the time I felt blessed to be spared from the pain of crowning; the pain that I was sure would be unbearable. I was also so grateful to have at least been able to feel the contours of her face as she was born. ***I didn't have the energy or the sense to wonder if I had missed out on anything.***

I got to hold her for only a couple of seconds.

She was early, and not really ready for this world yet. 

She was quite full of mucus, and was hard to suction; her jaw clenched shut. She needed oxygen and help to get breathing. The pediatrician and nurses fussed over her. While I feared for her still. She had that gunk they put in babies' eyes, put in her eyes; and a shot of vitamin K shot into her leg.

I was directed to "cough" out the placenta. When the staff looked over my placenta, it looked fine. It looked like a healthy placenta, and the place where the tumor had been was healed, a calcified lump. No signs or trace of extra blood vessels. This was a phenomena they hadn't seen before. I stared at it for a moment, reflecting that this is what all the fuss had been about.

I thanked Jehovah for healing us,
and allowing Olivia to come safely into this world. 
We had many, many more lessons to learn,
and Olivia has grown me into a Mama I'm proud to be.
I will be forever grateful to Jehovah for her;
and grateful to Olivia for teaching me the meaning of Love, Courage and what it is to be truly Strong...
(among other things...)