Sunday, April 02, 2017

Theresa and Brad engaged

This wasn't my most graceful photo shoot, as it was the last one I did (at 8.5 months pregnant) before taking a break for a few months, but it was still a winner. From the Presidio to North Beach, it was filled with light and color. And from Theresa to Brad, it was filled with laughter and love! These two have a tenderness and a giddiness that is infectious!

* I'm still months (read: over a year) behind with getting my new site and blog together, and since Verité is no longer a thing I've been feeling like I shouldn't post on that blog anymore. So mostly that means I've simply not been posting much of anything anywhere. But with baby #3 now on the scene I don't have super high hopes for the new RKP site/blog to get done anytime soon so am trying to put some things up somewhere! Thus the reason for seeing some wedding-related stuff on this old blog.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Clementine's Birth

Clementine is my bonus baby; I didn’t think she would exist.

I’ve always loved the idea of a family ever so slightly chaotic in size, meaning three, but Shawn liked the idea of one, so two was the clear compromise, and I was completely good with that. We were super happy as we were and I honestly never felt the desire to push the matter. As much as I loved the idea of three kids, I knew it made no sense. We don’t have enough money or space or time for the two we already had. So even though there was a minuscule ache when I saw families with three kids, I was totally fine with the fact that we were done having kids. And we were, in fact, solidly done. We got rid of all our baby stuff, bought the perfect family of four car, Shawn got two symmetrical tattoos, representing the two of them, on each of his only two arms, and then- and this is another long story that I won’t go into here- but essentially, completely out of left field, no--out of somewhere outside the ballpark, Shawn opened up the conversation and left the decision in my hands. The evolution of my decision process is yet another long story, but basically, I would have assumed that Shawn being on board would have lead to an easy “let’s do this”, but turns out it was a much tougher decision once it was actually on the table. After about eight months of going back and forth every few days, sometimes every few hours, I decided to “give it three months”. I didn’t actually think it would happen, but like a religious zealot or a teenage girl or something, I was just sorta like, “we’ll see what happens”. When my doctor was removing the IUD she let me know that the chances of getting pregnant in that timespan were unlikely and if I really wanted it to happen I needed to give it longer than that (and go on the medication I had to be on to get pregnant with the other two), but I was like, if it doesn’t happen without the med then it wasn’t meant to be and I was strangely super confident that any later than three months from then, and I’d be uninterested. So, I was giving the universe a little chance (or something completely illogical along those lines). And then, I got pregnant the next day. Literally.

When I first took a test it was a bit unclear, so I spent the next 7 days avoiding taking another one. I think the idea of either result scared me. If I took another one and it was obvious that this was happening, I feared I would freak out; all the reasons for not doing it that I’d obsessed over during the prior eight months rushed to the forefront of my mind. If I took another one and learned there was no zygote in there, I feared I’d be so disappointed; I was quickly running out of chances. But I think my fear was tipped slightly to the “this is really happening” side of the scale. And when it was confirmed, my reaction was definitely more along the lines of “What the hell did I just do?” There might have even been some confused tears in the days that followed. Shawn accused me of being a Brexiter, “You voted for this!” he reminded me. I know, but I didn’t think it would actually happen! (Brexiter, indeed). And then I got excited again.

 Given this was my bonus baby, I felt like I had this unexpected opportunity to have the birth I’d always wanted and I got serious about having a home birth. I’d read a lot about various types of birth in my prior pregnancies, and I was sold on the idea of having her at home. But I knew the idea still scared Shawn and I knew my mom would hate it and I knew I’d have plenty of other people around me who would likely think I wasn’t being very smart. But the more I thought about it and researched things, the stronger I felt about it. So I started by bringing it up at my first prenatal doctor’s office visit. I kinda assumed the standard response would be “we don’t recommend it”, but the nurse actually responded very positively and let me know that in fact, some of the doctors in their very office had opted for a home birth. I went to one more visit at my OB’s office. She gave me a recent paper on home birth and I took that and several others I’d come across and presented them to Shawn. We read, we talked, and at around four months we decided to plan for a home birth. (As a side note here, that guy deserves some serious acknowledgement for finding it within himself to explore this idea that initially he felt pretty uncomfortable with, just because he knew it mattered to me.)

I completely get that a home birth is not the right approach for everyone, but I had lots of reasons why I loved the idea, and medically, it made sense for me. I had great experiences at the hospital with both of my other deliveries but the more I read and learned, the more I felt home birth would be a safer, more peaceful, and more empowering experience for me-- less unnecessary intervention, more ability to make my own decisions and let things progress more intuitively, a giant warm tub, my home--"home" has become more and more powerful to me both in its actual and symbolic nature and I loved the idea of an event with this level of importance happening there, Berkeley and Wren being able to be a part of it, and the freedom to surround myself with humans who, in various ways, bring Shawn and I inspiration, support, love, strength, and comfort.

Making that initial decision to have a home birth was the more difficult one, but the decision about who to have attend the birth felt much easier. Maria was the only midwife I even met with. I know some people interview several before deciding on the one that feels like the best fit for them, but I had known so many people that used Maria and raved about her, and while I didn’t feel like I had this immediate connection with her, I just liked that she had sorta a no-nonsense air about her. She was confident and so clearly capable and I thought, yep- she’ll do just fine!

So to get to the actual birth, on Wednesday February 15th, I was three days overdue. I was feeling a bit indulgent about my schedule for the day; I had basically a full day to myself to run errands and focus on my body and baby. (I would usually be working on Wednesdays when my mom has the kids but truthfully I’d barely worked the last few weeks as my mental focus had shifted to nesting!). I realize going to Home Depot without kids is not exactly “Living the Dream”, but it’s something I rarely do so it felt indulgent. I had an acupuncture appt for 1:30; my midwife had actually suggested I start going to them a few weeks earlier, but it kept conveniently not working out. (As much as I didn’t want to increase the likelihood of having to go to the hospital due to going way past my due date, I also couldn’t really get behind the idea of nudging her to come out any earlier; this was mostly for selfish reasons as each day before she arrived was a chance to maybe cross one more thing off my to-do list! But also, because Berkeley and Wren were both 12 days late, I just sorta felt like “my babies like to be extra well done- I should let them”). So when my midwife’s father-in-law passed away and she was on the East Coast until the 8th, I postponed scheduling the acupuncture, and then when Jamae was out of town for work from the 9th-12th, I postponed again, and then how hard is it to share your birthday with a big holiday, so I postponed until after the 14th. It’s funny--I had literally jokingly told a few people, “I’m planning on the 15th” just cause it was the first day, post due date, that seemed convenient for me. So I went to the acupuncture appt., and I don’t know what was happening there, but it definitely felt like something was happening as the baby was moving all about during the session. I left there and had a nice little lunch by myself and then went to the antenatal center for my NST appt. The nurse there, Martina, who I would sincerely like to be friends with, told me in that I’m-probably-not-supposed-to-say-this voice that she felt like it would be soon, as I was having contractions every 5-8 minutes. I knew that I had been having a lot of them, but since they mostly weren’t painful, and since a lot of times I was busy and likely not noticing, and since it had been happening on and off for days/weeks, I don’t think I’d noticed it was quite that consistent. But something about her relaying that information made my mind shift. I left there around 4:30 and kept hearing the words “every 5-8 minutes” in my head. I got home and then Wren and my mom and I headed down to Lucette’s house to go get Berkeley. It was a really beautiful evening out and I enjoyed the walk.

Around 7:00 Berkeley and Shawn went to go deliver belated Valentines to a few friends and I think I was starting to feel a little bit more goings-ons at this time because I remember trying to decide if I would feel better driving the car around or getting Wren ready for bed--both sounded like more movement than I was excited about. I opted for staying home and getting Wren ready, and when they got back home I was in bed reading with her, being slightly more insistent than usual about her not crawling on me.

As awkward and uncomfortable as climbing in and out of a bunk bed is, and as exhausting as chasing a 3 year old around with a toothbrush is, continuing to fumble through the whole nighttime routine with the girls for the entire 9 months of pregnancy was a point of slight pride for me (you take it where you can find it, you know), so when I excused myself from lying with them for the night, it probably should have been a sign something was different. Yet I was still in denial. I was just gonna go rest in my bed. Around 8:30, even though I was still half convinced this was just another spell of the same contractions I’d been having sporadically over the last few weeks, I thought I should maybe start timing them. I did this as I read one of my childbirth books (which looking back makes me laugh a little; I’ve always been a last-minute crammer when it comes to studying). After an hour of them being mostly 4 minutes apart, I still wasn’t convinced. There was a few in there that were 8 mins apart and one that was 13 and I kept thinking, I bet the next one will be 13 again. Liesel just happened to call me that evening to see how I was doing and even though there was a minute of our conversation that I had to be silent due to the increasing intensity of the contractions, I was still telling her it may be nothing. I finally decided to just text Maria at 9:30 and let her know lots were happening, but, you know, nothing to be concerned about quite yet :) I’m not sure why I was in such denial. I somehow still wasn’t quite ready. One more day would be perfect I thought. My mom spends the night on Wednesdays during the winter and I was, for some reason, stressed about the idea of her bed being set up on the couch if the baby were to come that night. (I know that makes no sense- your mind does weird things when your body is doing weird things). Shortly thereafter, I decided to take a shower and as I got up to do that, I conceded it was happening. So Shawn called Maria and Jamae. After I got out of the shower, I quickly got to the place where I was no longer quite aware of the things happening around me and my focus went inward.

I don’t remember the order of all these events but I think Maria got there first (around 10:30) and came in to check on me but she just told me to keep “doing my thing” while she got set up. When she came back a bit later to actually check my body she said I was at a 6, but super soft and that things would progress quickly.

Fun Fact Side Note: I love the smell of lavender, but I had lately become obsessed with it and put it in the diffuser all the time. A few nights earlier I literally got up in the middle of the night to put some oils in a roller so I could roll it all over my neck and arms and then trap myself under the covers and breathe it in as much as possible– it was like some crazy consumed drug addict move--googling how to make the best lavender scent combo at 1:00 in the morning and then hot boxing myself under my covers to make the effect more powerful . . . But on this night, when I lay there on the bed laboring, trying to relax myself with lavender in the diffuser, I quickly wanted to barf and couldn’t stand the smell ;)

I wanted to throw-up for a while. I had some medication ready for this since I knew from my last two labors that I spew, but Maria suggested I wait just a bit, and oddly the sensation went away after a while (and Piper’s birthday cupcake stayed inside me).

I then got really focused on peeing. Every time a contraction came I had to pee so bad and I would think, k after this one I’m gonna go. But with both this and Wren’s labors, they happened so quick and were so intense that there just wasn’t much of a break in between them. I had barely recovered from one ending when I could tell the next one was going to start. And I couldn’t seem to remember my plans for those tiny breaks . . . which is weird now that I think about it; it was almost like my thoughts were most clear when the contraction was happening. I would have a thought about what I wanted or needed to say or do once it was over, but then it would end and I became completely lame at relaying that need, like I couldn’t even remember it. After some time though I was finally able to say I needed to pee, but I kinda wanted to cry because I simultaneously knew I wouldn’t be able to get to the bathroom. In my laboring mind, I felt I was in this impossible situation. Luckily someone, I think Sue, suggested I sit on the birthing stool right there next to the bed and just have one of those medical pads underneath, so finally “in between” contractions I stood up to do that and I remember Jamae saying, “this is gonna be a different sensation”, and then one second later I was like “Hell yes it is- this was a terrible idea! Put me back on the bed!” But after I peed on the piddle pad like a well-trained Terrier, I ended up staying there for a few contractions leaning over on Jamae’s shoulder, then on Shawn’s, and then I made it back onto the bed, despite wondering why my bed was so effing high off the ground?!

Shortly thereafter Maria asked if I wanted to have the baby in the tub, and even though I knew it meant moving again I said yes. I think I almost surprised myself with that answer because although the tub was where I wanted to be, the idea of having to get there, 30 feet away in the living room, truly seemed impossible. But again, somehow it happened. I can’t recall who helped me get there or what the trip looked like, but soon I was there, and I hesitate to use the word “relief”, but I think I felt some version of relief right away. The warm water felt like it took just the teensiest bit of edge off. And it gave me the sense that I could fully let go. I’m not sure how long I was in the tub before she was born, maybe 20 minutes, but I know there was almost no break in between the contractions. Yet from that short period of incredible pain and intensity, I have a few clear memories. I could feel Jamae behind me and Maria and Shawn on either side of me and I remember opening my eyes a few times and seeing these glimpses of people and love in front of me. The first one was a little vignette through the opening of the kitchen door; I saw Liesel’s face and upper body and I could tell she was at the stove boiling water. I instantly recognized this scene as something I had wanted. Part of what attracted me to a home birth was this more “traditional” setup of being surrounded by wise and strong women who were very comfortable around birth and whose positive energy and confidence aided the process. In the weeks prior when I was “planning” out the birth, I had this vision of a bunch of knowing women all doing their part. And catching that little glimpse of Liesel at the stove just felt like, “yep, this is perfect”. It’s weird to think I could have such a satisfied thought at a time like that, but I distinctly remember being aware of that for the shortest of seconds. And then there was more. I opened my eyes another time to see Jenny holding one of my dogs (who otherwise probably would have gone crazy). Another time to see Courtney taking pictures. And eventually another time to see my mom, guiding my two daughters to the front row. It felt like something out of a tightly-edited movie trailer, where they were skipping through 90% of it and just highlighting the parts that made the story matter most.

Being able to verbalize my desire to have the girls woken-up is another thing that happened in that short time and for which I was so grateful. This was another instance where every time it felt like I was in the heart of a contraction, I would think, k- when this one is over I’m gonna tell someone to wake up the girls, but then the contraction would ease slightly and the words just didn’t come out. It felt like this happened over and over again. But eventually I spit it out, and I’m so glad I was able to figure that one out. Having Berkeley and Wren there was another high-on-the-list reason for wanting to do this at home. We tend to be far removed from birth as an everyday part of life in our culture. I think many people’s first experience with it is when it is actually happening to them (or their partner). And by that point it feels slightly too late to be able to think of it as something completely natural. While there are obviously huge advantages to much of the medicalization of birth, there has also been some significant losses. And I feel like one big one is that we don’t grow up witnessing birth in our families and communities, which in the long run makes things harder on everybody. And I became attached to the idea that I could create even the smallest bit of normalcy around the event for my daughters. I wanted them to witness the birth, on a more global level, as just another part of life, something that would help it not seem so foreign when it happens to them or someone they love someday. And I wanted them to witness it, on a more personal level, as the transition into this next phase of our life as a family. Having us all present felt meaningful.

My water broke at some point after I was in the tub. It’s a huge pressure release, and I remember almost thinking it could have been the baby, but I opened my eyes for a second, and saw only water mixing with water. I spent a brief moment being amazed by how much water was coming out and with what force! I was in a tub of water so technically I couldn’t really see how much was coming out but it felt like my fire hydrant of a vagina had just had the lid popped off by months of insane pressure build-up. It’s really a fascinating sensation. So with no baby in sight I realized I still had more to do. And it felt impossible. It’s weird how I could have such little sense of how long it was going to take. I think one of the things that makes the pain feel so unbearable is not having a sense of how much is left. Somewhere along the line I started saying “I can’t!” I later told Shawn half-jokingly that I was disappointed in myself for having “a bad attitude”. I felt like I wanted to be all “ROAR! I CAN DO THIS!” and “I can’t” was hardly that. But Maria later said something great- it was along the lines of, “I don’t hear those words as what they literally mean; those are just the noises of birth”.

So after my water broke Maria said the baby was going to be born soon. But I’m under the impression that people just say these sorts of things to encourage you to keep going, and “soon” could be like 30 more minutes. So I wasn’t hearing it as all that great of news. But when I could hear I was grunting, I knew it would in fact be the real kind of soon, so even though they feel almost other-worldly and a bit intimidating, I was happy to hear those fierce noises coming from inside me.

I know some women feel like pushing is the hardest part but for me it’s so much better than laboring. It’s the part where “your body just knows what to do” really earns its platitude status. In laboring I mostly just feel like I’m enduring. But with pushing, it feels like I’m actively getting the baby here. And more than anything, it was simply amazing to feel that much power running through my body.

I really pushed maybe three times. I pushed, and then I pushed her head out, and then her body, and that was it--all the months, all the preparations, all the pain, all the people there, all the prenatal vitamins, all the everything . . . and it was finished in a second. I was almost in shock that she was there. But there she was, at 11:37. I pulled her up on my stomach (or maybe somebody did that for me) and I started crying. But I don’t actually think any tears came out. It was a strange cry. I was making all the movements and sounds of crying but without any of the tears. I loved her immediately. I loved her dark hair and her perfect little tiny body. Once I could see her face, I could see she looked so very familiar. I thought it might be my own baby pictures that she reminded me of, but maybe it was the other girls’ faces I was seeing. Although I still wouldn’t admit it out loud for another day or two, I knew she was Clementine. With both Berkeley and Wren I definitely felt I needed to wait and meet them before naming them. I referred to each of them as “baby” or “it” the whole pregnancy. But with this one, I secretly called her Clementine pretty much the entire nine months.

So I sat there, feeling completely limp except for the minimal effort it took my arms to be strewn around her tiny body, and felt relief and love and joy and mercy, the definition of her name. I also felt a bit traumatized afterward; I think I had this vague sense that someone was gonna make me go through it again, like I just couldn’t quite believe it was over. I was sincerely frightened it might happen again. But I had that little body in my arms so it kept reminding me everything was ok now.

After 10 minutes or so Shawn took the babe and I went to the birthing stool to deliver the placenta. And then I went and got in my bed. Someone handed me the baby and Shawn and the girls crawled in next to me. Shawn highlighted this moment in his rendition of the story as well, but just as it was for him, this was a stellar moment for me too. I loved that we were all right there. The family bonding was so immediate and so physical and so in our space--the FIVE of us cuddled and oohed and awed at each other and it was heaven. Eventually the girls went back to bed, people kissed us goodbye and started going home, somebody brought me some food, Janae came over and took some pictures, I had crazy shakes, the midwives took all their measurements and notes, we dressed the baby in her pjs, and we all fell asleep. It felt so peaceful.

The next morning the girls climbed back in bed with us first thing and simply couldn’t get enough of their new sister. After lots of holding, they went off to school--it felt slightly strange that we were just continuing on with our life as usual. I half thought, we stay home for Christmas, and this seems at least as big as Christmas, but at the same time it felt appropriate as a welcome to life with three kids. There’s a little less time for everything and half-ass is the new standard M.O as we learn to adapt to squeezing everything and everybody in.

By the end of that day we officially named her Clementine Jay. I’ve loved the name Clementine since before we were pregnant with Berkeley, and before each of the other girls were born, I suspected they would likely be named Clementine, but in the end it just didn’t feel exactly right for either of them. (Wren was even “legally” named Clementine for like 3 minutes, until I started crying and called the office back to tell them that was a mistake. I loved the name, but Wren was just so clearly Wren, I couldn’t shake it). When I thought we were only having two children, as silly as it sounds, I was sincerely sad that we wouldn’t get to name anybody Clementine, so once this bonus baby was in the picture, her name was an almost sure thing. I did entertain a few more ideas on the list, mostly Maple (not Mable, but Maple, like the donut :)). I think that name is adorable. And I love Fern, but it’s too much like Wren, and I still very much like Poppy, but really, like I said, I’d secretly been calling her Clementine for 9 months already. And here’s the point I’m trying to get to: It feels a little fate-ish that the name didn’t work out for either of the other two because nothing felt more appropriate given the climate she was born into. Both Berkeley and Wren were born under President Barack Obama and I expected this one to be born under President Hillary Clinton. How wonderful would it have been to have those two faces of progress be the little thumbnail pics under “President of the U.S. when I was born” in their three baby books! . . . But instead . . . I cried so much when Trump won. I cried and cried and cried. I cried harder than I’ve cried over most things in my life. I took it so very personally. Over the following weeks and months I became even more sad. I was sad about all the obvious obscene and depressing and hurtful things that were transpiring, but more close to home than that, I was sad that I was pregnant. I obviously knew that once I was with her for one second I wouldn’t be able to imagine life without her, but the fact remained, I was not feeling good about bringing another soul into this world that was so clearly suffering from a major deficit of love and that was in need of so much attention. My resources suddenly felt grossly finite. Having Trump as president is gonna require so much more of everybody. I felt that now more than ever the world needs people who are going to spend their energy fighting, not people whose energy is being used up by caring for newborns. It was depressing to realize that I would not have chosen to get pregnant had I known Donald Trump was going to be president. I know my attitude should have been more “Now I have all the more reason to fight- because of her … and She’s gonna be the change! … and We’ll just have to raise her to be the new Hillary Clinton! … etc.” And that was of course there, under the surface. But on the surface, I was feeling much more of all the other stuff- lame for the time I knew I wouldn’t be committing to the resistance, overwhelmed at the task of having to explain so much hate to small people, irresponsible for taxing the planet with another human, a planet which would already now be suffering from far less protection. (In addition, and I realize it may sound dramatic, but I have these images of us being in a nuclear war and me needing to run away from danger and having too many kids to properly protect all of them. And this breaks me. I’ve read about these scenes in a hundred different autobiographies from people living in places with lesser forms of government, the type we are most certainly nudging our way toward) . . . I want nothing less than to turn my beautiful birth story into anger about Trump, but my point in starting this paragraph was that this feels like an appropriate time for more mercy, for more clemency, for Clementine. She might very well have been Clementine either way, but naming her Clementine under his presidency feels like our own little act of resistance. It feels like, No! We will NEVER buy into the idea that there is no place for leniency, that we have to protect ourselves by shutting others out, that punishment must be served, that second-chances are weak, that there is not enough to go around, that we have no obligation to the least of those among us. You are the flipside of merciful, and you will not last. Your ways will not prevail. You will be proven a hateful and ignorant sorry excuse for a man who is on the wrong side of history. We are raising an army of small people and teaching them to be the exact opposite of everything you are. We will teach them love and acceptance, respect and thoughtfulness, mercy and clemency. In name and in body, we are adding one more person to the movement against you! . . . It felt extremely good to name her Clementine.

And Jay- Jay is after our dear friend Jason, Shawn’s best friend since 5th grade. Ironically enough, this is the only one of our childrens’ births he hasn’t been at, but he has more than earned a name in our family. He is our family. Berkeley and Wren would rather stay home than go to a friend’s house if he’s coming over. Despite having decided not to have kids himself, he doesn’t hold back at all when it comes to the attention and time he gives them. He’s smart and loyal and thoughtful and I couldn’t be happier that my child has his name.

I feel like I could go on and on with this birth story (Not sure why, as I don’t think the other two were this long) but that’s it, I’ll be done. She is 4 weeks old today and I am so in love with her. I simply can’t get enough; I hold her all the time and stare and smell and snuggle and stroke and probably smother, and stare some more. Maybe I’m more aware of how fleeting the time is or maybe I just know there is less of it to begin with, but I’m soaking her in like mad. She’s also made me more aware of the need to soak in the other babies as well. I’ve already had some panic attacks fearing we’ve done this whole thing “wrong”. There is no way around the fact that by bringing another person into our home, we have less time/energy/money for everyone here. I see the parents of only children and have moments where I feel a bit stung with jealousy at all the time and attention they are able to give their child- all the solo explanations of life, the bedtime presence and listening ears they can offer while the child falls asleep rambling. I want to shut out every other part of the world and give each one of them my full self.  But such is not possible. I just pray that in some other way we can do right by both her and her sisters. I pray we will make up for the lack of time and money and energy with the power of siblings and a loud home. It seems like an ambitious prayer, but it’s what this whole decision was based on.

The End.

*  Coco and Jenny took some iphone pics (above), and Janae came over a little later and took these ones of us recovering and settling in (below).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Albert and Andrea and Madeleine

Back in 2011 Maria and I photographed these guys' wedding. And then just last month I got to photograph these guys' little person. Madeleine is the perfect combination of both Albert and Andrea. She's smiley and sassy, smart and loving, a performer and a cutie.
I love when I get to check back in with the people whose wedding I photographed. It's such a big event to be a part of in someone else's life that when it's over it often feels unfair- like the movie just stopped part way through and I don't know what happened next! Which is why I get genuinely so excited to hear from my old couples; it's like someone just handed my my nachos back and started the reel again!