Monday, November 09, 2015

My Decision

This letter is being mailed out today, though I wrote it about a year ago. In the intervening period, wherein I was too lazy to fix my printer and find my stamps, I have become more firm and confident that this is the right step for me. I know many of my loved ones will receive this news with sadness, but please trust me that it brings me joy. Changing my life to live more in accord with goodness, love, and a more just world feels simply wonderful.

I have so much love for people who have been part of my Mormon journey over the years. To my LDS leaders during my youth who may be reading this, thank you. You saved me. To my still-beloved ward family in Philadelphia, I have nothing but respect and love for you and the work that you do. To my current LDS community of faithful saints, funky saints, and ex-saints, I so appreciate the role you've played in this journey of mine. 

I'm ready to officially make mormonism part of my past self--and it's a significant part, with a whole lot of beauty and pain mixed in there together. I am absolutely loving everything making up my present and future life. 

Anyway, here's my letter: 

"Dear President ________,

I know this must be the type of letter you do not look forward to receiving. I am writing to resign my membership from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want my name permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the church. Please process this immediately and send me notification when my records have been completely removed.

I have thought carefully about this decision for many months, and feel a great deal of peace and joy in taking this step. I do wish to make it known what has lead me to this point, because I believe only good can come from a deeper, more sincere understanding of the way church doctrines and practices can harm its members.

I have written about my thoughts and experiences in various articles for several years, as I have strained to reach a spiritual and emotional place where I could in good conscience maintain my membership in the church. I am enclosing several of those pieces with this letter. If you would like to discuss any of it with me, I would be more than happy to meet with you in person to do so. Please understand, however, that my decision to resign is firm, and any conversation will be for the purpose of building greater understanding, not for trying to change my mind.  

As a brief explanation, I have three primary areas of concern regarding the church.

1)   Women are relegated not only to second-class status in this life, but to eternal subservience in the hereafter.

2)   Church financial and business practices are harmful, exploitative, materialistic, and woefully distant from the beautiful concept of Zion found in the scriptural canon.

3)   The church’s treatment of the LGBTQ community is completely intolerable.

I was born and raised in the church, and believe me when I say it was the absolute center of my life into my early adulthood. My loyalty to the church teachings and leaders was fierce. I sat on my high school’s seminary council, held teaching callings, served as Young Women president, and faithfully paid my tithes and offerings until the age of 22. Please understand that no outside source or organization could have dampened my faith. My path to today began in May of 2007 when I received my endowments in the Salt Lake temple. The teachings there, about the role and worth of women, devastated me to my core, and launched a very painful faith crisis that lasted for several years. I have found that most male leaders of the church have almost no understanding of what makes the temple so painful for many, many LDS women, and so I have also enclosed an article written by my friend which discusses those concerns very thoroughly. This article is called “The Mormon Priestess.” It lays out very clearly the principal reason maintaining my membership in the church is not an option –core Mormon doctrine does not entail true equality and salvation for women.

My first child was born in September of 2013, and that was when I knew with surety that I would eventually be resigning my membership in the church. I simply will not allow my son to be taught the damaging things the church currently espouses. The recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, one of the founders of Ordain Women and a friend of mine, and the church’s new policy ostracizing LGBT members and their children, were the culminating events that pushed me to actually take this step. But my internal conviction that I no longer wanted my name on the records of the church comes from many earlier events: the duplicity with which the church PR department treated myself and many other women in April 2014 when we asked for admission into the Priesthood Session of General Conference; the church’s hate-filled involvement in Proposition 8 and battle against full equality for the LGBT community; billions spent on a high-end shopping mall that takes no account for the ethics of any of the companies invited to share their products there; dismissive and arrogant letters received from the church curriculum department when I wrote in to address my concerns with Young Women’s manuals in my position as a Young Women President; the layoff of hundreds of custodians who used to care for church buildings; the lack of transparency in church finances; and innumerable instances of inequality and hurt, too many to list in a simple letter.

Despite the above, I do not feel bitterness towards the LDS Church. I am grateful for the positive influence it had on my life during my adolescence. I have been edified and benefitted by many different church teachings and church programs, and always valued the community of my local wards immensely. But I no longer feel comfortable having my name formally affiliated with the organization, and feel hopeful and excited about taking a path in the future that does not include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As I mentioned, I am very willing to meet with you in person to discuss these concerns, with the goal of increasing understanding. I have many dear loved ones who are members of the church, and sincerely hope that drastic changes can occur to make it a more uplifting organization for all of its members.

With love,

Natalie Hamilton Kelly"

Friday, November 01, 2013

And then a tiny person suddenly existed

As a preface to our birth story, I want to explain our birth choice. 

For Robert and I, deciding where we wanted to give birth was really easy. We knew we wanted to enlist the service of a midwife and have an out-of-hospital birth. When we started research, we discovered a beautiful little birth center only a few blocks from our house, with a team of amazing midwives, and the choice was obvious. We are very fortunate in that we have a lot of friends and relatives who have gone down this route before us, who shared their knowledge with us, and were always supportive of our decision. We had just a couple people look at us with terror or massive confusion when we said we wanted to do the birth outside of a hospital (BUT WHAT IF SOMETHING HAPPENS?!?!?!), and not infrequently, other women would look impressed/doubtful and say something like, "Wow, you're so brave." So I want to explain why we made this choice.

I didn't do it to be brave. I didn't necessarily do it because I think it's healthier or safer (though I do think it would be great for women to have more access to education about all the different childbirth options). I didn't do it to access my inner feminist goddess, or to be powerful, or to prove that I'm super tough and a badass. Here's the biggest reason: I hate hospitals. They make me feel icky and unwell, I can't imagine me being comfortable in one, I hated the idea of not being able to control who was coming in and out of my room, and the idea of being hooked up to machines of any kind made me feel ill. Here's the honest truth: when I found out I was pregnant, the prospect of labor and birth terrified me. Like, panic attack level of terror. I felt trapped and anxious. I knew that I could not get through the experience unless I could really relax and get comfortable. And so for me, the hospital was obviously out. (And, during the course of my pregnancy, I managed to gain more confidence about childbirth and my ability to do it, with the help of friends, midwives, and a fantastic hypnobirthing class.) 

We are super, super happy with our choices and it was absolutely right for us. But I want to be clear that I respect the birth choice any woman makes, and hope that all women have the information they need to make the best choice for them. I have loved ones who have had amazing hospital births with an epidural and the whole she-bang, or un-medicated hospital births, or home births, or c-sections, or unassisted births, or "oops it happened on the way to the hospital" births. 

So with that out of the way.....

Disclaimer: The main person I wrote this story for is myself. I want to remember this experience forever. And I want to remember the details, the kind of stuff people don't talk about. So, this is really thorough, long, and full of lots of, um, fluidy kinds of details that might not be everybody's cup of tea. Birth is pretty darn fluidy, folks. So if you read on, you'v been warned. :)

Our birth story begins with lots and lots of waiting. I had asked my mom and my younger sister, Laurie, to come to Seattle and be with me during the birth. They arrived when I was at the 39.5 weeks mark, and from that moment on, we were pretty much just all in hold our breath and wait mode.

We tried everything to get labor going. All the tricks. We walked and walked and walked, I took all sorts of herbs, did acupuncture and cupping, evening primrose oil, chiropractic adjustments, everything. We even composed original music for this little guy to encourage him to come on out. 

Nothing worked.

When I was 41 weeks, our midwives started talking about what our options would be if he wasn't here by the 42 week mark. At that point, they transfer care to a hospital, because more risk factors come into the picture. The thought of giving up our beautiful birth plan was really hard on me. Robert and I had spent quite a bit of time sitting in the birth center just the two of us, getting familiar with the space. I knew every person there really well, and what their personalities would bring to the birth. I was just crazy in love with the idea that Robert would be able to carry our little boy home in his arms, and just felt horrible at the prospect of having to put a tiny new baby in a carseat to drive home from a hospital. And, I was not confident that I could physically handle childbirth after induction without medication, and I hadn't mentally prepared myself for that experience, and all the hard work I'd done to feel confident in myself and ready for this moment seemed in danger of being wasted. I cried a lot for the couple days we had to think about it. 

On Wednesday, September 4th, At 41.5 weeks, we had a checkup with one of the midwives, Heather. We were hoping I would be at least a little dilated (I'd been doing ALL THE TRICKS!), and that she would be able to sweep my membranes. This is a natural way to sorta jumpstart labor by manually jostling the uterus to release certain hormones. But your cervix has to be dilated a little bit for it to be possible. The exam had an outcome hard to hear. Heather couldn't sweep my membranes because my cervix wasn't dilated at all. It was definitely soft, but not open yet, and the baby wasn't quite down in the proper position. At 41.5 weeks! That was discouraging news, especially the day before Laurie was scheduled to leave. 

Laurie had had to request time off of work to be here, and only had two weeks. I REALLY wanted her to be there for the birth, and to be able to meet her nephew. I kept thinking to myself, "I bet I'll go into labor right when Laurie needs to leave for the airport." 

And yep, that's exactly what happened.

On Thursday, September 5th, we met up with another friend who is pregnant to catch up and hand off some baby stuff we wouldn't be needing. We got lunch at IHOP, and around 4pm, I started to feel kinda crappy. I just felt bloated, I was dying to take my pants off so that I could relieve some of the pressure I was feeling in my pelvis. But I had no idea initially that I was in labor, I just felt kinda gross and crampy in that region, which was a sensation I had all the time during pregnancy. I had been asking everyone, "What does it feel like when labor starts?" Most women just answered, "I can't really describe it. You just know." Folks, I did not just know. I just felt bloated and crampy. I made everyone finish up their food fast and we headed straight home. 

Laurie had to leave for her flight in about an hour at this point, and I really really wanted to get in one last card game or singing session. But I sat down on the couch and my body just pulled me into a doze that I couldn't get out of, even though I was saying to myself the whole time, "Get up, this is your last chance to hang out with Laurie!" While dozing, I realized that the weird sensations I was feeling weren't constant. They were coming and going. I still wasn't sure they were surges (the word we used instead of "contractions"), because I expected the sensations to be more in my belly area, and these were all in my pelvis, and sometimes my tailbone. But just on the chance that they were surges, I decided to try some of my hypnobirthing techniques that we had been practicing for weeks. I did the long, slow inhale and long, slow exhale when each sensation started, and noticed it gave me some relief. That's when I started to suspect something real was happening. 

Realizing I might be in labor jolted me out of my doze, and I was able to see Laurie off. It's always hard for me to say goodbye to Laurie, but especially at that moment. Baby has some serious making up to do with his aunt. 

While Robert drove Laurie to the airport, I called Heather, who was scheduled to be on call the rest of that week. I explained to her what I was feeling, and she said it didn't quite sound like active labor yet, but that something was happening. She told me to try and rest, and to time the intervals between my surges at some point to get a sense of where we were at. Robert started timing them when he got home, and they were pretty irregular. They ranged anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes apart, but usually lasted for somewhere around a minute. Our plan was to transfer to the birth center at the "4-1-1" point--when the surges were about 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour consistently. We decided to settle in for a long night. 

The different tools we had learned during our hypnobirthing class were really invaluable. I had spent a lot of time reviewing the "positive birth affirmations" while we were in this never-ending wait for labor to begin. A few of them were very powerful for me throughout what would end up being a very long labor. 

"I am relaxed and happy that my baby is finally coming to me."
"I turn my birthing over to my baby and my body."
"Each surge of my body brings my baby closer to me."
"I feel a natural tranquility flowing through my body." 

And the one that really saved me:
"I meet each surge only with my breath, and my body is at ease." 
I also really, really relied on the surge breathing technique we had learned in our hypnobirthing class. First, I tried to relax deeply between surges. When a surge would start, I would let all the muscles in my face instantly go limp. (This was relatively easy to do because, again, we had been practicing for WEEKS.) Reading a lot of natural birth stories, I had realized the importance especially of keeping my mouth relaxed, and I made a point of slightly dropping my jaw during each surge. My mom and Robert quickly caught on to my "surge face." 

Each surge breath, I inhaled as slowly as possible, deep into the belly, while keeping a rapid count of 8 going in my head again and again. When I felt completely full of air, I would exhale just as slowly, trying to reach the same count. So a surge would begin and my internal count would begin, "one two three four five six seven eight one two three four five six seven eight one two three four...." and exhale for the same. When I was most relaxed. I was able to count to eight 4 or 5 times. 

I paired this counting with a visualization I had crafted. The visualization suggested by hypnobirthing is to imagine a balloon in your belly that slowly inflates with each long inhale then floats gently away with each exhale. I just couldn't make that imagery work for me, it felt too passive and weak. After experimenting with several different images, I realized that water was a really powerful image for me, and that I needed something that included a sense of opening. 

So with each surge, I imagined a large, rocky cavern, with glittering, sparkling walls. Each inhale brought in a rush of cold, clear, powerful water that would totally fill the cavern. With each exhale, I envisioned the water rushing back out like the tide, each time pushing away a little more of the sediment to the cavern entrance, so the opening would get bigger and bigger with each breath. With each inhale, I invited a sense of power and strength with the rushing waters. Sometimes the effectiveness of this visualization was a little overwhelming, and I could feel the surges really amp up in intensity. But each exhale brought such relief, and I just clung to that sense of opening. 

As the night wore on, the intensity of the surges increased. My sense of time was all wonky, but I think by about 10pm, they were usually about 5-6 1/2 minutes apart, and usually at least a minute in length. By this time, I wanted quiet during the surges, as opposed to earlier when I didn't mind casual conversation going on around me, and my mom and Robert caught on to that. They tried a few times to apply pressure or massage to my back during surges, but I just really didn't like it. Pretty much the only touch I wanted during surges was a light tickling touch up and down my arm. Anything else felt like it was adding too much pressure. 

As we approached midnight, something pretty unusual for Seattle occurred. A giant thunderstorm settled in. The silence of my labor was broken by HUGE claps of thunder. Huge. And frequent. I did not have much sense of how time was passing during all of this, so I don't know how long the storm lasted, but it seemed like the thunder was booming in the room forever. I think some time around 1am, my surges reached their greatest intensity yet. It was crazy to feel such powerful sensations in my own body while riotous claps of thunder cracked right outside our windows. I tried to welcome the tremendous sound and used it with my visualizations to add even more power to my surges. I felt so ready to do this, and wanted to really invite the whole thing to progress. Even though the baby wasn't born that night, I still think of him as my little thunder baby. 

At one point, the surges started peaking in strength right when they started, instead of gradually easing in. I reached the hardest stage of my labor so far. I had a harder time relaxing between surges because my body got all shaky. First it was just my legs that felt really shaky. I was sitting on a recliner, a position I'd been comfortable in many moments throughout the night, but my legs just started shaking like crazy, like I'd caught a major chill. I tried whispering to Robert what I was feeling, but we didn't know what to do to help. I could feel the shakiness making me tense up, so I really tried to relax. I would go through one of my instant relaxation meditations I'd been practicing, and my whole body would go still for just a few seconds, but then the shakiness would start back up again. I had read that having your legs (or whole body) jiggled could help with loosening muscles and releasing tension, so I asked Robert to start jiggling my legs. That felt good, but it didn't help with the shakiness. Soon, the shaking spread, and for a few surges, it was my whole body. I could feel my back and neck muscles shaking uncontrollably. I could not get the convulsions to stop. The thunder was still roaring away outside, and the whole world just felt incredibly chaotic in that moment. I really felt like I was losing control, and nothing seemed to help it. 

Then, a sudden wave of nausea hit me during a really powerful surge. I had one second to call out for the garbage can, which someone placed before me right in time. I vomited really powerfully for a few minutes. I could feel the strength of the surge causing me to heave. I totally emptied my stomach. 

And what do you know, as soon as that happened, the shaking totally disappeared. I can't say I particularly liked throwing up, but it was so great to be able to release the tension in my body again. 

After that, the surges remained quite intense, but I was able to stay on top of them again. Robert called Heather (I think around 2am.... God bless midwives!!!) to report on our progress. I remember feeling really anxious about the shaking, because I hadn't seen anyone else talk about that in their birth stories, or read about it in any of the materials I'd looked at. I kept quietly telling Robert, "Make sure she knows about the shaking. What did she say about the shaking?" She reassured us that it was completely normal, and normal for it to be followed by intense vomiting, and that made me feel calmer. It was so reassuring to know that we were talking to someone who was familiar with all the details of our pregnancy, who had followed every step of this labor so far, who would be there through the whole thing. I knew I could really trust what she said. 

We'd had a checkup scheduled for that Friday morning, and she said she would come to our house at the scheduled time instead of us going to the office. (Again... how amazing are midwives? Coming to our house for a checkup! So great!)

We sent my mom to get some sleep in the living room, and Robert laid on the bed next to the recliner. We wanted to time the surges again, so he held my hand, and I would give him a gentle squeeze when one started, and again when it stopped. They were still about 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 minutes apart, and usually about a minute long. He was SO great. Since they were usually a minute long, he was able to give me really helpful cues, like, "You're about halfway there," or "Almost done, good job sweetheart," or "It should be winding down now." I was really intensely focused during the surges, and it was a relief every single time he told me I was almost done. He was just so there with me, second by second, really in tune with my body and what I was feeling. 

At some point, I kinda just sunk into super, super deep relaxation. I didn't always remember to tell him when a surge ended. I was barely aware of anything but my breathing. I felt like I was in some sort of trance. I don't think I actually fell asleep (but I can't be sure, since time was so distorted), but I often found myself using my surge breathing continually, even between surges. The repeating count of 8, with the image of the glittering cave, and the long inhales and exhales were all really pretty hypnotic. I became aware that Robert had fallen asleep on the bed next to me, and just continued on in my trance-like state through the surges. I am so glad I was able to reach such deep relaxation, because I'm sure it gave me the energy I needed to make it through the next day and a half.

The surges had calmed down by sunrise. I was feeling calm and excited that things were obviously happening, but also pretty worn out. I decided I needed a break from intense internal focus and another way to relax temporarily. I woke up Robert and asked him to play some songs on the guitar. He sang to me and Baby for a while, and we sang "I hope you dance" together. It was really sweet and calming.

The surges had slowed down by the time Heather came to our home the next morning (I think around 11am). She was fantastic. She made herself right at home in the little nesting environment we had set up in our bedroom. She checked my vitals and listened to the baby's heartbeat and said everything sounded great. She encouraged me to try and eat when I could that day (I had tried to eat a couple small, easy things throughout the night, but nothing had stayed down). She said that she had seen labors like this before, and that often, they calmed down during the day, and intensified again at night. She predicted this would happen for us, and said I should try to just eat and rest as much as possible during the day.

We had one decision to make during this visit. I had to decide if I wanted her to do a cervical exam. The reason I wanted her to do it, besides being able to see if I had progressed at all since the exam two days earlier, was that if I had dilated, she would be able to sweep my membranes. I really wanted to do anything we could to speed things along at this point. 

But I knew that if she did the exam, and I wasn't any further along than before, after doing so much work all evening and night, I would be really discouraged. That news would be very difficult to hear, and I didn't want to bring myself down. Heather's intuition was that my labor was going to naturally slow during the day, and pick back up again in the evening. I decided to skip getting checked, and just trust that my body was doing what it needed to be doing.

My labor did definitely slow down during the afternoon. My mom made some delicious ham and white bean soup from scratch (lots of protein for energy) and I was able to eat a whole bowl of that, plus a few other small things throughout the day. Best of all, during the afternoon, I was able to nap in short stretches. My surges became much gentler, and spread out to about 9 or 10 minutes apart, and I was able to sleep for about 20 minutes at a time for a couple of hours. 

During the day on Friday, I also took some time to sit by myself and talk to Baby. I told him we loved him, that we were ready for him, that his home was prepared, that we couldn't wait to see his face and hold him in our arms, and that now was a good time for him to come. I know it's silly hippy stuff, but in the moment, you're pretty much willing to try anything, and I really wanted to encourage him to come out. :) 

One other funny thing that started during the late afternoon on Friday... I started hiccuping at the end of every surge. Every. Surge. The pressure would ebb out of me, and I would hiccup two or three times. (And, incidentally, get a little burst of horrible heartburn. Have I mentioned how much I hate pregnancy?) This lasted until I started pushing. Robert thought it was hysterical, and his humor about it helped to lighten the mood for me when things were really intense. 

Just as Heather predicted, it all picked up again in the evening. I went right back into it, with the breathing and the visualizations. When the surges got stronger again, I at one point wanted to try sitting in water to relieve some of the pressure. But our bathtub at home is just standard size, and I sat in it for about two minutes before I decided it just felt too cramped and immobilizing, so Robert and my mom had to help me back out.

By the late evening, my spirit had sunk a bit. My body was tired. I felt like I had been handling the surges really really well for over 24 hours already. I had been doing a lot of work to keep my mental and emotional energy positive and focused. And even though the surges were manageable and I really felt like I was kicking ass at meeting them calmly, it's not like they felt good. Robert called Heather and she told us to come to the birth center around 10pm so she could use the equipment there to check on Baby's status more thoroughly. 

Before heading over, I started to feel discouraged. I still hadn't felt a major change, and I just didn't know how much longer I could keep my composure and energy. I felt like the surges being so constant, and having been going so constantly since the day before, was really wearing me down. I didn't tell anyone I was feeling low because I really wanted to keep all my outward projections positive, but I definitely went to the birth center kinda desperate for good news or help. 

Our trip there was a little silly. The birth center is only three blocks from our house, but the first half block is a steep hill. I had Robert drive me up that portion, then my mom took the car while he walked with me the rest of the way. Walking (and even standing) definitely made the surges come more frequently, and several times during the short walk, we stopped for a surge. Robert would hold out his arms and provide me an anchor, and I would rest my body on them while my head cradled into his shoulder. I just wish I could adequately describe how much physical strength I got from his support. He physically held me up through so much of labor. 

At the midwives' office, I put on a fetal monitoring belt and we were able to see that Baby's heartbeat was beautiful and perfect and strong. He was moving a ton (actually, he was super active during the majority of my labor), and my surges were coming in, still, at about 5 1/2 to 6 minutes apart. 

Then, a sign of progress finally occurred. I went to the bathroom at the birth center, and lost a good portion of my mucus plug! (Sorry, I told you the details would be fluidy... just you wait.) Heather had the same conversation with us that we'd had in the morning, about the pros and cons of checking my progress. At that point, I decided that the extra "oomph" sweeping my membranes could give me outweighed the potential downside of not having progressed, so we decided to do a cervical check. 

She checked for about 10 seconds, and then delivered some good news. "Sweeping the membranes is something we do to ripen a cervix that is only one or two centimeters dilated. But you don't need it, because you are 4 cm dilated right now." 

I could have cried I was so happy to hear that. Robert gave me a big hug and my mom might have actually cheered. Heather also reported that she couldn't feel the baby's head because my water bag was super super tight and was pressing down really hard on my cervix. She said it was tight enough that even just a little pressure from her would have probably broken it. We wanted it to be able to rupture naturally when it was ready, and she predicted that things would move along much faster once that happened. 

We decided to head back home for the time being, but I left feeling much more invigorated and ready for the next phase of this. 

I think the walk home is what pushed things to move super fast. I had to stop every couple of minutes for a surge (yeah, my surges were super inconsistent the whole time. There was never a totally regular amount of time between them, and I think that is why it took us so long to realize things were actually moving). The "peak" of the surge started to come right at the beginning again (and still ended with a couple of hiccups). It took Robert and I quite a while to walk the three blocks home, him holding me up all the way. My mom drove the car slowly alongside us the whole way in case I needed a ride. I can only imagine how odd we would have looked to anyone who happened to see us. Luckily it was super late at night, and nobody passed by. 

When we got home, Rob helped me get in the "polar bear" position on the bed to relieve some pressure from my hips, and then stepped out of the room to do something. While he was gone, I had a really, really powerful surge. I could really feel it reverberating in my whole pelvis, lower belly, and lower back, and it felt like it lasted a long time. I called out for him to come back, and realized that without someone there, I felt afraid. 

Robert came back, and I grabbed his hand and told him I really wanted him to stay with me. I told him I didn't want to be alone for a surge again. From that point on, either he or my mom was with me for every single one.

We got back into our routine--I moved from the recliner to the birthing ball to the bed, changing positions, doing my breathing, focusing on being relaxed and limp and open while they both supported me. I was sitting in the recliner, which we had covered with a shower liner and sheet, when I felt the tell-tale gush of liquid. My water was breaking! Finally! This was at about 1am. It felt like a ton of liquid, but not as much as we'd expected, so at first we weren't sure if it was my water breaking or just more of the mucus plug coming out. Robert decided to time my surges again to gauge where we were at. They became much more intense. They were still 5-6 minutes apart and slightly irregular, but now they were lasting much longer. Like, 2 - 2 1/2 minutes each. 

Folks, a 2 1/2 minute surge is no joke. Getting through each and every one of these required a lot of energy. I could feel myself tensing, so I asked Robert to help me do one of our deep relaxation techniques we'd practiced. He had me envision a thermometer filled with clear liquid that poured slowly from the top of my body down to my toes as he counted down from 40. I was able to really relax deeply and conserve some strength. (And my mom was super impressed at what a great team we made.) 

I felt pretty sure that my water had broken, and I kept feeling more liquid gush out with each surge. Robert called Heather and she told us to come back to the birth center. My mom had already prepared every little thing we would need, and between the two of them, all of our bags were in the car. Robert helped me walk there, and I surged like crazy just during the small walk down our apartment building hallway. When I got into the car, I felt the shakiness from the night before starting up in my legs again. I did NOT want to start driving feeling that way, even though we only had THREE BLOCKS to go. (I have to keep laughing, because this whole three blocks thing is so minor and small, but man, did that distance feel daunting for those couple of days.) I also did not want to vomit. I told Robert I needed help relaxing again. He walked me through a quick countdown from 5 to relax my whole body, and I was able to be instantly loose. The shaking went away and we made our short little drive. 

Walking down the short sidewalk to the birth center after getting out of the car, we had another humorous moment. My water bag was still steadily leaking. Robert and I were standing right in the doorway of the birth center while I had another surge, me in my long black dress and slippers, leaning against him. I whispered to him, "I can feel amniotic fluid dripping down my legs." It was really funny to me at the time, and those small moments of humor were really wonderful. 

We got into the birth center, and Heather and Faisa (a student midwife assistant) were there waiting for us. The lights were dim and the setting was calm.

Faisa had a small doppler machine, and she checked on Baby's heartbeat, which was still strong and steady. She did a quick check, and I was ecstatic to hear that I was now dilated between 6 and 7 centimeters. This was real, this was FINALLY happening!

My surges were still almost entirely in my pelvis, sometimes my lower belly. I knew they were getting stronger and that I was opening because during the surges, I could feel a lot of pressure pushing my hips apart. It felt like people were grabbing my hip bones on either side and gently pulling them apart. They were hard, but it just so clearly felt like my body was opening that I was really encouraged, and felt like Baby was really getting close.

I had heard wonderful things from so many people about laboring in water, so I asked them to fill up the big birthing tub they have there. I was so excited to get in the tub. Robert helped me in, and the warm water felt really good.

While I was sitting in the tub, Heather squatted next to it and started talking. She told me that she and Faisa had looked at the pad I'd been wearing, and it seemed like there was a small amount of meconium in my amniotic fluid. (Meconium is the baby's "first poop." If they get distressed in the womb, or stay in an exceptionally long time, they might poop while they are still in utero, and then they could aspirate the meconium. This could potentially make a baby extremely sick and be quite a serious emergency, so any trace of meconium in the fluid is treated very seriously.) They wanted to see a bigger sample, so my mom raced back home to retrieve the sheet I'd been sitting on when my water bag first broke.

Heather was *so* calm. She was fantastic at explaining things to us, pausing mid-sentence when I would start a surge, and picking right back up, making everything really clear without causing any fear or panic or pressure. She explained that the amount of fluid seemed small, and that it was also really dissolved. Since it was dissolved, and the baby's heartbeat was still so strong, she said the chances that he had aspirated any were very slim. 

"At this point, I am going to offer a transfer to a hospital. If the meconium were thicker or fresher, I wouldn't offer, I would be making a recommendation. Right now it's just an option for you to think about." 

I asked her if they would be able to do any suction on the baby there at the birth center, and she said they would, but they didn't have the high-powered equipment a hospital did, that we would need if the baby was really sick. I asked her if she and Faisa would accompany us to a hospital if we did decide to transfer and she assured us they would.

I just felt really confident and safe there at the birth center. The thought of going to a hospital, where people I didn't know and who didn't know me or my pregnancy would be telling me what they thought, and going over worst case scenarios in the hospital-speak that I hate, took away that feeling of security. Baby's heartbeat was so strong, and he was moving around like a gladiator. We decided to wait for the time being, and I was grateful that we could feel so comfortable with that decision because of Heather's steadiness in talking us through it. Now we had a reason to check on the baby more often, and from then on Faisa checked on the baby's heartbeat with her doppler about every five minutes. 

Folks, that's every five minutes for six hours, squatting down around a laboring woman, holding a small machine, and finding the right spot to listen to a heartbeat. She never once told me to change my position or do anything to make it easier for her. However I was sitting or squatting or kneeling or standing, she just made it work, completely working around me and prioritizing my comfort. 

Have I mentioned how amazing midwives are?

I had been in the tub for less than ten minutes, and I just couldn't make it work. I couldn't get in the right position because my feet or knees would slip around, and the water did nothing to relieve the pressure of the surges. In fact, sitting in the water, the surges started to be much stronger in my back, and that felt pretty awful. I tried it out for probably 5 more minutes before I asked for help getting out of it.

Before I could get out, I got hit by another big wave of nausea. At this point, with things being so intense, and me being so tired, I pretty much only communicated in a whisper. Robert was right next to me every single second, and he made sure everyone knew what I needed. I said I was nauseous, and my mom grabbed the garbage can we brought from home. Faisa quickly replaced that with a metal barf bowl, which would remain my faithful companion until I started pushing. I threw up and then held up my arms to be lifted. 

I got out of the tub and felt freezing, which I whispered to Robert, and my mom threw a warm robe around me. 

I remember standing against Robert, one leg in the tub and one out, a robe over my shoulder, resting on him during a surge. The surge ended, I hiccuped, and Robert laughed and explained the hiccup phenomenon to Heather and Faisa.

Based on how I was feeling, and the fact that vomiting had started again, Faisa said I was in the "transition" phase of labor, where you dilate from 8 to 10 cm. I sat down on a chair with Robert in front of me, and thus began what was definitely the most difficult part of my labor (and probably the most physically challenging three hours of my life).

Wow. Transition. I wish I could describe what made it so intense for me. The surges were incredibly powerful. They peaked immediately, and the peak lasted a long, long time. I don't remember if we timed the length of the surges at this point, but it felt like they lasted forever. My pelvis felt so crowded and full, like it was going to burst open. Every surge, I would feel a strong circle of pressure around my whole pelvis, all the way back to the tailbone, and incredible pressure all the way to my lower belly. At the hardest moments, it felt like there was a basketball between my hip bones, full of air, pushing my bones out, and that someone was jostling the ball around. 

I was sitting in the chair, with my mom, Robert, and Faisa circled around me. (Unbeknownst to us, there were two other women potentially in labor at the moment, and Heather's midwife partner was out of town, so she and Faisa were looking at an incredibly busy day, after we'd already interrrupted her last two nights of sleep. She was in the outer room of the birth center resting with her ears open, and Faisa handled everything beautifully.)

My mom had q-tips doused in peppermint oil, and would hold them near my face whenever I felt nausea, which would make the urge to heave ebb away. Faisa was telling me I was doing great, holding her doppler machine, bringing us Baby's heartbeat. And Robert was anchoring me to the earth. 

My shaking had started up again. I did NOT want to lose control, and with the intensity of the surges, I could not handle the kinds of convulsions I'd had the night before. With my feet planted on the ground, I told Robert to push down my legs. They felt like they were going to shake away into the sky. He kneeled in front of me, placed a strong hand on each thigh, and held them down. I asked him to press down harder and harder, to the point where he was worried he would actually hurt me he was putting so much weight into it. He started sweating with me, putting his whole strength into keeping my legs from shaking. I needed him there so badly. He kept my body still during surges, and I ran through my relaxation techniques silently in between them. 

After a while, I needed a change in position, and gestured, murmured, whispered something about wanting to kneel on the ground. The angel people around me threw pillows under my knees. Robert was so in tune with me every second, and asked in a whisper where I wanted him to be. I don't know if I even intelligibly answered, but he ended up in front of me where I wanted him, where I could rest on him between surges. Eventually I rotated around so my torso was resting on the low mattress in the room while I kneeled on the pillows on the floor. 

The surges at this point were just so hard to bear. I couldn't believe the power I felt within my own body. I felt like I was going a little bit out of my head, and started to feel pretty desperate. I knew I only had two more centimeters to go, and things were so intense that I felt like I had to have finished by now. How could there possibly be more of this? I kept weakly asking, "Faisa, am I done? Is he coming? Is there anything you can do to help this?" I was just dying for someone to tell me I was fully dilated and that the baby was descending now and I would be done soon. 

I knew a lot of women find moaning during surges helpful, so I decided to try that. I would moan soft and low during a surge, trying not to let it turn into a scream. It didn't bring me any relief, and I felt like I just lost myself in the moan, and the pressure in my body just built. I was still regularly leaking amniotic fluid, and at one point, I think I peed all over the floor. I also remember that once, nausea hit me so fast that I didn't even have time to call out for a bowl, and just turned my head and emptied my empty stomach a little more onto the floor. Yeah. Labor. Not sexy. 

Honestly, it felt like too much. I distinctly thought to myself that if I was in a hospital, and someone offered me an epidural, there is no way I would have turned it down, even though the idea of getting into the proper position on a hospital bed for something like that made me shudder. Hell, if someone had offered me a c-section, I wasn't sure I would have turned it down. Having my belly cut open and the baby out and the pressure gone seemed like a wonderful idea. (I had been in labor for somewhere around 36 hours at this point.) In my head, I started thinking to myself, "I can't do this. I cannot get through this." 

My mom was on one side of me on the bed. A huge chunk of my hair had fallen out of my ponytail and kept sticking to my sweat-covered face. Her loving fingers stroked through my hair, gathered the loose pieces, and held them off of my face. Her other hand wiped the dripping sweat of my face with a cool rag between every surge. 

Robert was on the other side of me. I think he could tell I was struggling. He was right next to me, softly stroking my arm. He kept telling me I was amazing, he was so proud of me, thanking me for bringing our baby to us, telling me the baby was close and would be here soon. At one point, he kept whispering to me over and over again, "I love you so fucking much, I fucking love you so much right now. I love you so fucking much." I could hear so much emotion and feeling in his voice. 

I thought about how much these people loved me, how much faith they had in me. I thought about what Laurie would say if she had been there as planned: "You got this! Kick it's ass!"

I knew I needed to get a grip on my thoughts and talk myself through this. I started thinking to myself, "This is so hard, this is so hard, and I'm going to kick it's ass."

I was so afraid I couldn't do it, so I started saying out loud, "I can do this, I can do this, I can do this." Immediately a chorus of voices surrounded me, "Yes you can, you're doing great, you've got this."

I realized that I had lost the focus on my breathing, that the moaning actually made me feel out of control of myself. Every time I would moan I would tense up my whole body, and I had totally lost track of my relaxation. 

In my head, I started going through the mantras that I needed.

"I feel a natural tranquility flowing through my body. I feel a natural tranquility flowing through my body." 

I focused on how soft the pillow under my torso was, and just let my whole body go limp into it. 

When I could feel a surge coming:

"I meet each surge only with my breath, and my body is at ease." 

It was so hard, but I forced myself to count during my inhale again and try to breathe in slowly. I couldn't even always get to eight one time, and the inhale, bringing in air, seemed to increase the pressure. But the exhale, oh the exhale! It felt so good when I let the air slowly out of my body. It took off so much of the pressure. I started reminding myself (all this silently, in my head) "Use the exhale, use the exhale, use the exhale." I could tolerate the longer inhale because I knew the exhale would bring me such relief. 

I stopped moaning, and that helped my muscles feel so much looser. Instead of sitting up when I felt a surge, I willed myself to stay down on the pillow, meet the surge only with my breath, and keep my body at ease. ("My body is at ease. My body is at ease. My body is at ease.") It felt so much better when I was able to keep the muscles in my back limp. I was able to find a few moments of rest between surges. And during surges, I was able to breathe the tension almost all the way out. I just couldn't get the leftover tension out of my feet; so a couple times during every surge, my feet would slap against the solid floor. 

I couldn't communicate to anyone what I was attempting. They all just knew that I got quiet and much calmer, and I think they thought the surges had become more gentle. They most definitely had not. What had changed was that I once again felt like I was on top of them. I felt like I was in control of myself, so I could let them happen and go with them, instead of feeling like it was an uncontrollable force happening to me.

I knew I just had to get through transition, and then I could start bringing baby here. With each exhale, I imagined the walls of the cavern just busting up and breaking apart with the rush of water, totally totally open and ready. 

This whole transition period lasted about 3 or 3 1/2 hours. I think Faisa probably knew it was just about go time, and she brought Heather back in. 

I never exactly felt that strong uncontrollable urge to push some women talked about. With our hypnobirthing training, I had planned to very gently and patiently breathe the baby down instead of actively pushing or forcing. The sensations had distinctly changed. I asked if I would be able to feel the baby's head, and Faisa told me to go ahead and feel if I could. I reached up there, but honestly, I didn't know what I was feeling. I could feel that I was so open and soft, and I could feel something there, which in retrospect was probably the baby's head, but it was so soft and squishy that at the time I wasn't sure. 

Heather told me I could start trying to move him down. I very gently pushed a tiny bit, and I started to feel something small slide downwards. It was small and moving fast, and I wondered for a second if the baby's hand had slipped forward and I was feeling that. But after a second, it came out, and it ended up being a piece of my ruptured water bag. I was still leaking some fluid at this point, and as this phase of labor started, large pieces of the membranes came out. 

This had been going on for only a few minutes when Heather sat down calmly to talk to us again. 

They had looked at the pieces of the membranes, and there was now a lot more meconium, and it was much thicker. Heather told us that at this point, she was recommending a transfer to the hospital. She explained very calmly that if the baby had breathed in any of the meconium, he would need serious attention immediately, and the hospital would be the safest place to be. She said we would know as soon as he emerged if he had, because he wouldn't be able to scream. 

Now, Faisa started checking for the baby's heartbeat after every single surge. That little doppler thing was on my low belly constantly. 

Heather told us there were a few possible scenarios. We could drive to the hospital for a birth there, but there was a risk he would be born on the way, which would be even less ideal. If that seemed likely, it would be better to stay at the birth center and be prepared to move him immediately if needed. She wanted to get an idea of how fast the delivery would go, so she wanted to feel the baby's head while I pushed to see how much he was descending. 

At this point, I hadn't really tried pushing vigorously. I think my body was pretty worn out (39 hours of labor at this point!), and I was just taking a small reprieve after the insane intensity of the transition. I attempted pushing a little, but really hadn't worked up to it yet. I didn't know exactly how to push. 

Heather said that she felt we could probably make it to a hospital without the baby being born, and said she recommended it. 

I know this sounds super scary, and I guess it really was. But I was just so focused, and really living in my body, that I didn't actually have any emotional strength left to feel fear. I only said two things. 

"I can't get in a car." (Because wow, that would feel horrible.) Heather reassured me that if I had to, I could, and they would help me.

"Can they call an ambulance and have it be on standby?"

Robert thinks it's really funny that I asked that. The answer is no, ambulances don't do that. 

Heather was just amazing in this situation. She was calm and straightforward and respectful. She was completely in tune with my energy level, and knew that there was no way I could process information during a surge. We had this whole conversation in quiet, soft tones between my surges. She was just very calm and steady, and I felt like we were in really good hands. 

I don't really know what happened next. I think my mommy instinct must have just clicked on, because all I knew was that I was getting that baby out, and that he was coming out here. I started pushing, and now I discovered that getting vocal added a lot more power to it. 

I did not have the capacity in me to make the decision about what to do. After a surge, Robert told me we were staying where we were, and I just felt total trust and confidence in his decision. I felt safe with Heather and Faisa. My mom affirmed that she felt good about that. So my pushing really started. 

I didn't just get vocal during pushing. I woke up the neighborhood. I knew lower sounds helped with being open and loose, so I just bellowed insanely loud in low tones. Heather said that with the change in my pushing, she didn't think we would have time to make it to a hospital, and that staying put was now definitely the right decision. 

Pushing was such a strange sensation. I didn't really feel surges coming that told me I needed to push. My body just kicked in and suddenly, I was upright on my knees by the bed and pushing and bellowing. 

I went on like this for about ten minutes, and Heather gave me feedback. She told me my effort was good, but that I was putting too much energy into my yelling. She told me to use the power of my vocalizing, but to move it back, into the back of my throat, like a loud grunt, without holding my breath. I tried this and felt a dramatic difference. I can only describe the sounds I was making now as what you might imagine the moos of a dying cow would sound like. But it worked. 

I wasn't really consciously thinking of very much at this point. I was just getting that baby out. It felt so good to feel things progress more rapidly when I changed how I was yelling, and I wanted to do more. I asked Heather if there was anything I could do to make it faster, and she said I could try the squatting position. 

In a flash, Robert was sitting in the low armchair, and I was squatting in front of him, my arms resting on his knees. Now, I could really feel things moving. Pushing now felt so effective. After a couple of minutes in this position, Heather told me she was going to place her finger on the place I needed to push during my next surge, and that if having it there drove me crazy, I should just yell "Out!" and she would move it. She placed her finger right on the back of my perineum just for one surge, and it was so, so helpful. I realized I had been pushing too much into the front, and I really needed to push in the back. Really, it felt exactly like trying to poop. Realizing that was so helpful. I could feel the baby's descent speed up even more. 

After some time (maybe 10 minutes? I really have no idea), I realized that my feet and legs had totally fallen asleep (squatting when you are a pregnant lady who weighs a bajillion pounds and has been up for days and has been able to eat mostly nothing while doing intensely hard work is no joke). I whispered that I couldn't feel my feet. Heather said I needed to move up onto Robert's knees until my legs could handle squatting again. I went up on Robert's knees, and he held me while I pushed for a few minutes. Then I said "Down", and hands were under my arms to lower me back into a squat. When my legs started tingling again, I would say "Up" and the hands were back, lifting me onto Robert's lap. It was like angels were listening to my whispers and carrying me. 

I got excited when I felt that telltale burning around my perineum. Tons of the birth stories I had read mentioned feeling that right before the baby started crowning. I think I might have excitedly said, "Heather, I feel burning." 

I remember asking if I could see the baby's head, and they said, no, not yet, but it was close. Faisa kept checking for the baby's heartbeat while Heather held a flashlight and a mirror under me so that Robert and I would be able to see when the baby crowned. Everyone was excited and smiling and encouraging me. I can't believe there were only four people there. I had so many hands helping me and doing so many things, I don't know how they did it. 

A real intimate excitement coursed through Robert and I when we could see the baby's dark hair as his head started crowning. Robert kept saying in a whisper "That's our baby Natalie, our baby is coming." My perineum was burning, and I knew I was going to tear, but I didn't care, I was getting that baby out. 

I became vaguely aware of Heather telling me that I was losing more blood than I should and that she would give me a small injection of pitocin in my thigh after the baby came out. I nodded, but all I heard was, the baby is coming out soon!

I watched the baby crown and just pushed like a crazy woman during every surge. Every single push, I wanted it to be the push that would get him out. Watching him crown in the mirror was incredibly motivating. He was right there! My baby was right there! (I also remember distinctly thinking, when I saw my body stretching wide open, "Holy cow, I am so glad we did perineal massage. We should have done more perineal massage!")

I was up on Robert's knees, and his arms were around me. I felt his head buried in my back, and he was whispering through his tears "Our baby is coming, that's our baby." 

I felt that last push. The baby's head came out and his whole body just swooshed right out after it into Faisa's hands, with no extra effort needed at all. 

In the next second, I felt just a split-second of relief as a newborn's wail came into the room, and then this wiggly, slimy, dark-haired bundle was up on my belly. 

A tiny person suddenly existed.

Robert was crying with his arms wrapped around me, holding me as I held our baby and we looked down into his face together. Baby's mouth was open in a great big wide circle, and I noticed right away how wide and big and RED his lips were. His little tongue was shaking in his giant open mouth, vibrating from the force of his screams.

There is not a single moment in life that can ever compare to that one. 

At some point, I remember Heather saying, "I'm giving you the injection" and sticking a needle into my thigh, but I didn't feel a thing and I wasn't really aware of anything else happening. 


After a couple of minutes (or seconds? I really have no idea), we were helped over to the bed. I was holding Baby in my arms and we were still connected by the cord. Robert sat on the bed and I laid against him, the baby still in my arms. I remember the first time he opened his eyes, just inches from my face, and looked right at me. The overwhelming fact of his existence really hit me. I loved him so much I could have just died from it right then and there.

We were both still mostly in a disbelieving haze, but Heather and Faisa were super busy. I came back down a little bit and started to become aware of my body again. 

I couldn't believe how much blood I could feel flowing out of me. There were absorbent pads underneath me, but every few minutes they would be soaked, and the midwives would have to ask me to do the impossible and lift my pelvis just an inch or two so they could take out the soiled pad and replace it. My body felt completely drained. Lifting my tailbone just those two inches was Herculean. 

I could have cried when they started massaging my belly to help stop the bleeding and ready for the delivery of the placenta. People don't talk so much about what happens after birth, and I want to make sure I share that part of the story as well. 

My exhaustion hit me with a sudden force. Robert was sitting next to me now, as I reclined on my back on some pillows. I didn't know if I had the strength to keep my arms up, so I said weakly, "I need someone else to hold him now." Robert had a brief look of uncertainty as he reached for the baby. Heather was there to hand the baby over, and position Robert's hands protectively around his neck and head. I got to see my husband take our baby into his hands for the first time. Our son is the first newborn baby he ever held. 

Heather asked if Daddy wanted to cut the umbilical cord, to which he replied with a vigorous "No!" Grandma jumped in to volunteer. 

I was suddenly very back in my body. And that body was tired and achy and hungry and thirsty. My mom jumped into action to take care of me. She had been giving me sips of water throughout this whole long process, but my thirst was crazy now. She brought me a water bottle and I weakly drained it. Heather said I needed to get some calories, and I sipped down a glass of the pear juice my mom had packed. She gave me a few pieces of cheese, which tasted incredible. I was really hungry and thirsty, but I was so exhausted that eating and drinking required quite a bit of effort. I said I wanted a peanut butter sandwich, but we hadn't packed the peanut butter, so my mom ran to our apartment to get it, and I had a PB&J in no time.

In the meantime, the midwives were telling me I had to deliver the placenta, which just seemed like the most cruel thing in the world. It felt horrible to have them pushing on my belly, even though I knew it needed to happen. I told them I was having small cramps, and they told me I needed to try to push again during one of them. It took me several tries. I could not figure out how to work those muscles anymore. It was like they had been entirely used up in the 45 minutes of vigorous pushing I had just done, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to make them push again. It was also really hard to push in that reclining position. How do women lying in that position push out a baby? 

I finally figured it out, and one weak push was all it took to get the placenta out. (That was a weird sensation. Just a big slimy blob sliding out. It felt like passing a gigantic blood clot. TMI maybe, but I've never read anyone else describe what that's like, and I feel like it's important.)

Heather and Faisa had to clean me up enough to check my tear and do any necessary stitches. All my internal resolve and strength was gone now, and when they had to touch those tender areas, I mostly just wanted to cry. They numbed the area, and then Heather stitched up my one small tear and one small rip.

Eventually, Baby made his way back to me. I held him against me, and Heather said I should try to nurse him. She helped me hold him up, and he looked into my eyes with his beautiful perfect face and latched for the first time. And I almost died again. He's been a total champ when it comes to nursing since the very first try. Breastfeeding him is pretty much my favorite activity in the whole world. 

He was born at 7:58am on Saturday, September 7th, our 42-week mark on the dot. At some point in this process, we also weighed him and measured him and did all that stuff. 

The conclusion: 10 lbs, 22 inches, and perfect in every single way. 


I feel so positive about my birth. It was HARD. It was not gentle or easy. I have never worked so hard in my life. My bottomside felt like an exploded mess when it was done.

But I would not do a single thing differently. (Except for having Laurie time her trip to be there!) 

My support was amazing. Heather and Faisa were so steady and calming. My mother anticipated everything I might need, and still managed to think about taking the occasional picture for us. 

I had my husband's strength anchoring me to the earth, and angel hands lifting me up to the sky. 

About four hours after Baby was born, we made our way out of the birth center to a sunny mid-morning. My mom started getting together all of our things. Robert got me into the car, and Heather stayed with me while he went back to get the baby. While we waited for my mom to come back out to drive me home, a little family walked past that knew Heather, and knew about the birth center. We told them we had just had a little baby. 

Robert came out carrying Baby, and the two small children looked up at the bundle in his arms excitedly. Robert crouched down so they could see his face. 

The little girl, maybe 7 years old or so, really liked looking at him. Robert stood back up, and before they walked away, she called out Baby's first blessing. 

"Hi little baby. Have a good life!"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

5-Year Plan

So, I've got the next few years of our life all figured out. I just have to convince Robert to go along with it all. Tell us what you think.

We're going to get out of Seattle as soon as we finish up our work here. I'm hoping that is within the next year. I would love to move at the end of our 9-month lease, next March.

At that point, we put all of our stuff in a U-Haul, take it to Utah, and hang with family and friends for a few weeks. We haven't seen our families in ages, and we haven't spent a good solid chunk of time with them for years. It would be nice to just be there with no deadlines, no obligations, so we can just see all the new babies and partners and houses and everything. Then we leave our stuff in storage, bribe some of the aforementioned family and friends to watch our kitties for a while, and take off with one-way tickets to Guatemala.

Why Guatemala? Lots of reasons. For one, I'm sick of being pretty good in Spanish, but not fluent. I want to just learn it! I want to speak it naturally! I know I'm close, and I feel like a little immersion would be enough for me.

Guatemala is uniquely suited for this because it has loads and loads of language schools. There is one in particular, PLQ, that seems perfect. It's cheap, it offers one-on-one classes and meals and housing with a local family, and it has a radical orientation towards local ownership and social-movement building.

I envision us taking classes there for 3-4 weeks. I've heard this is enough time for someone who knows no Spanish to get the conversation basics down (Robert has long wanted to learn, but hasn't had a convenient opportunity to do so). And I think it would be enough time for me to feel confident striking out on our own in the region.

After school, I'd want to wander the region for a while, possibly working on a farm, or even volunteering with the Guatemala Solidarity Project, a movement of poor campesinos trying to stop privatization of their lands.

I see this phase of the plan as lasting 3-6 months. We'll know when we get there how long we want to stay.

When we're done there, and some of my wanderlust is sated, I'd want to come back to Utah, hang out with family and friends for a few more weeks, then start to apply for grown up jobs and start a career. We'd move to a city where we both have opportunities, work for a while, get a car, work for a while more, then have a baby!

Does this sound like a good plan, or what? Rob's not so sure about the time in Central America. He's open, but unsure. Any of you that wants to nudge him for me, please feel free to do so. :)

A New Barrio

We have moved again!

Last year, we were the landing pad for a few folks who moved up to Seattle from Utah. My sister, and then her friend, were striking out to a new city on their own, and they lived with us for a while before getting settled on their own. They have both moved on and gotten their own places, so we had to get out of our pricier 2-bedroom and into a place for just us and our furry little monsters .

For our first two years in Seattle, we lived in a neighborhood called Queen Anne. It's a nice neighborhood, really beautiful, really quiet and safe. It's also just a little boring, and a little out of our price-range. While apartments were affordable, the stores, restaurants, and cafes were for people decidedly above us in income. As a result, we didn't go out as much as we would have liked, or had to spend quite a bit of time commuting to other neighborhoods to catch up with our friends.

Our apartment, also, was completely devoid of sunshine. We lived in a unit on the northern side of the building, right at the ground level, and our view consisted of one vine-covered cement wall. Direct sunlight literally never entered the place. This is a pretty solid recipe for depression in a city where it is so often dark and gloomy when you go outside.

We decided to get to a completely new part of the city. After an apartment hunt spanning several very cool neighborhoods, we stumbled upon one in a part of the city that we had never really looked for intentionally - Seattle's International District, a variation of what many cities would call a Chinatown. We found a place, loved it, and now we live across the street from a place with some awesome Hong Kong-style dim sum. :)

We are SO much more connected with the rest of the city via public transportation, we have good food just oozing out of our eyeballs with all the restaurants nearby, and the apartment itself is just great. We have a dishwasher, brand new hardwood floors, and, I almost die of happiness just typing this, a washer and dryer in unit.

Meet: The Avenger, and the Destroyer.

I needed really strong names for them to convey their importance in my life. :)

Best of all, we are in a corner unit, and we have gorgeous windows all along the eastern and southern walls, so the place is just flooded with light.

Enough light that I can try my hand again at keeping something other than kitties alive:

The kitties don't seem to be excited about eating the blossoms yet - that's how they derailed my brief attempt at growing tomatoes before.

All in all, it was a very providential move for us, and we are super excited about it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Seattle is Pretty

Autumn has long been my favorite season. It's hard here in Seattle, because Autumn is when the rain starts, and I've been dreading the onset of the rain so much that when signs of fall started, I sorta panicked and wanted it to go away. And yes, the rainy days can be pretty crummy. But every once in a while, a sunny day breaks through, and the beautiful glory of Seattle shines through. It's a really beautiful city, on its good days. Here are some pics that were taken of the park directly across from our apartment just last week.

It's not quite Philly's Clark Park, but it's a gorgeous little bit of woods.

That's pretty much the view from my bus stop every day.

The other view from my bus stop.

Looking out over Kinnear Park to Elliott Bay and beyond.

Elliott Bay is so sparkly! Ooh!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


(Big Life Changes)

After a lot of talking and planning and strategizing and scheming and thinking and stuff, Robert and I have come to a big decision.

He is going to, for the time being, withdraw from school.

This has been an idea we've been toying with for some time. Moving to a new city is always hard, and coupled with transferring to a new school program, it has been a rough transition for him. The style and attitude of the Graphic Design program here has been pretty incompatible with Robert's studying, learning, and creative style. What I hated to see happening was watching Robert's love for his field dwindle due to his frustration with his program.

Oh, and we're $70,000 + in debt. Just for his school. Sad face.

So yes, he's out, for now.

We're excited about the possibilities going forward. He's looking for jobs in his field, and he really seems to be qualified for quite a few of them. We're sending in applications this week. If he gets a job and starts gaining experience in the field, we won't worry about going back someday. But if we find that employers really do insist on that degree paper, it will be really easy to re-enroll him.

He's also going to be able to spend a little more time learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone, in preparation for our upcoming trip to Suramérica. And, he created a really deep and amazing comic book character when he was younger, so I'm going to become his writer and we're going to see about establishing a little webcomic. Stay posted for further details.

Anyway, keep us positively in your thoughts, and wish Robert luck in his many exciting adventures, directly ahead!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

And the lucky winner is.....


Yep. We're going to Santiago, Chile for our fabuloso free vacation. We'll be there for a grand total of 7 nights next March.

We picked Santiago for a few reasons. It was pretty high on my list initially, but we were worried that it might not be very tourist-friendly after their major earthquake earlier this year. But after reading some reviews and talking to some folks from there, it looks like it'll be just fine.

I'm mostly excited for the chance to practice some espanol. Actually, on second thought, I'm mostly excited for the food. No, scratch that, I'm mostly excited for the amazing culture and beautiful landscapes.

Okay. I'm just excited. Big time. For everything. The flights and the hotel are completely booked, so we're going, no matter what. It will be our first time really using our passports (still don't think Canada counts), so we figure we'll do it with a big bang.

In preparation for our trip, Robert is beginning to study Spanish with Rosetta Stone. Buena suerte, mi cariño!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Okay, okay, so we suck at this. My bad. And Robert's bad. Especially his, cuz look, I've written way more than him lately. :P

So, some fun stuff we've been up to lately.

We went on a trip to Vancouver! Amazing city. It feels slightly similar to Seattle, but I think I actually like it more. It felt very international. We heard SO MANY different languages being spoken all around us, more than you do even in New York. There was Chinese, and Punjabi, and Spanish, and French, and Arabic, and lots of them that we couldn't recognize. Purty cool.

Also, Stanly Park is super neato. We came across a whole den of raccoons there. I always thought raccoons had a reputation for being scared and slightly dangerous, but these fat little things just wandered right up to us. There were also gorgeous white swans; and, oh yeah, HERONS. How often do you just see herons hanging out right in front of you? Very cool.

I think my favorite part was the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge, which leads to the beautiful Lynn Canyon Park. A little park away in the mountain, with some beautiful hiking and a gorgeous river.

I knew I wanted to get out of town. (If you read just the front page of this blog, it's pretty obvious that that's been the main thing on my mind for months now.) But I thought I wanted to get out of town to get to another city. I am a city person, heart and soul. What I didn't realize was that I was really missing some good time in nature. Getting out of the city, and into the woods, did wonders for me.

I especially enjoyed being by the river. We made a friend in Philadelphia who was actually from Seattle, and was obsessed with water. I think water is cool and all, but I didn't really understand her love for it. Then I moved to Seattle, and after a few summers here, I can really start to see where the addiction can come from. On a clear sunny day, you are always just a couple of blocks away from a stunning vista of crystally blue water, gently heaving over the monstrous depths. It's really pretty cool.

But I grew up with rivers. We didn't have many impressive bodies of water in Northern Utah, so rivers were it. I loved their power, their sound, the crashing falls, and the smooth pools. And hiking along a river put me in touch with the type of peace I used to get out of nature in my childhood. And that was nice.

So there, there's a piece of our exciting life.

I'm making a list of other things I want to write about on here, so hopefully we'll stop being so boring. And I bet if Robert got some adoring fan mail, from all of our zero readers, he'd write sometimes too. :)