Tuesday, February 16, 2010

PantheaCon Wrap Up

This is from my previous, now defunct blog.
Original post date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So O’bee, Rowan, and I spent an extended weekend at PantheaCon, the largest pagan conference in the US. We hosted a Feri hospitality suite that had a couple events, attended workshops and rituals, and introduced Rowan to the larger pagan and Feri community.

Many thought that we were nuts bringing a newborn (and me) to the Con so soon after birth. I am still recovering, and Ro needs to be fed at least every 2 hours. But I didn’t think it was that big of a deal- after all, at home, we have to juggle the parrots’ needs with the baby’s- and that prioritization would not be necessary in the hotel. We only had to care for the baby, and we had help with the suite events we hosted. When he was sleeping, we could attend workshops and such with him in tow. When he was hungry or fussy, we had baby time in the room. It went surprisingly well.

I attended much fewer workshops and events at this ‘Con than any of the previous ones that I went to, but that did not bother me in the slightest. There is a level of sacrifice (and here I must note that this word’s original meaning is “to make sacred”) that comes with being a parent, and oddly enough, it is not one that I resent (at least not this weekend, anyway!). Before Ro was here, I may have guessed that I would be slightly resentful or at least wistful to be “missing out”. But to be honest, I was getting something waaaay better staying in with my baby.

O’bee kept checking in with me about going to things and switching off parent duties. We did that really well. But often, I was just fine staying in the room with Ro and letting him go off and do something at the ‘Con. The first day, we arrived in time for the 1:30 programming, but I wanted to get everything settled in the room (and get the limited edition books from Harpy Press as soon as they were available). So O’bee went to Morpheus’ workshop while I attended to Ro and did the vendor room with Ro in tow.

I did not get to an event until 9 pm that evening- The Red God Revel (an ecstatic Feri ritual). O’bee saw me off, then went back up to the room with Ro while mama got some woo time. It felt so good to dance the whole thing! The God was present and palpable, and I was lost on a wave as I danced around with a few hundred others.

On Saturday, I went to a pagan parenting panel (with Ro in tow) and was delighted to meet others in my situation. It became clear that more and more parents are bringing their kids to P’Con and raising them in different pagan/pan/polythestic/magick traditions. There are people to meet up and share ideas with right in my backyard! The panel talked about issues that are brought up being a religious minority (esp. one that is demonized), teaching sex positivity to our kids and the consequences of that (CPS is often called if kids know the names of genitalia or talk to other kids about sex or masturbation, for example), teaching kids your religion or no, etc etc. O’bee joined me towards the end of the panel and we headed up to the Pagan Alliance suite where they had said they were holding a kid-friendly space for parents and their spawn to meet and get some lunch. We met some other parents we didn’t know before who also live in Oakland, and will be getting together sometime soon! (editors note: I lost the contact of one couple that I really wanted to meet up with and sadly have been unable to connect with them since!)

I was going to attend another Feri workshop after that (Anaar’s Mana and the Witch’s Cone of Power), but Ro decided to fuss a bit, and I decided rather than stress him out by testing the limits, I would leave before it started. He was ready for more boobie, so upstairs we went.

That was the last thing I did publicly on Saturday- I was quite content to camp out in the room with Ro and watch Bill Maher on HBO.

Sunday, I made sure I fed Ro early so that I could get to a 9 AM workshop on public service in the pagan community, a panel featuring Macha Nightmare, Ivo Dominguez Jr., and Sam Webster. I was glad that I went- I promoted my elder project, PEARL, and got a few good volunteer leads and also connected with a few people that will help further the project as well.

That night, I went to the Feri Tent Revival with O’bee and Ro. He breastfed as we sat on the periphery and did quite well. One thing Ro does when he is startled is that his arm flies up (even though he stays asleep)- and when people shouted “blessed be!” and “halle-fucking-lujah!” at the revival he did this more than once. It looked like he was testifying! LOL

We did try and push doing two things in a row- after the tent revival, we tried to do the “Yes, They Are! The Queerest of the Gods” ritual play. We got through about half when I personally had to leave. Ro would have made it through- he had access to boobie and was covered so the lights did not bother him. But Mama was sore. I am still in recovery, and my perineum, which is stitched up and cut by how fast Ro came out, was aching after last night’s dancing and that days walking. I was done.

The last thing that I attended was a dream workshop with Anne Hill, and I took notes. She approached the workshop not only for dream analysis for yourself, but also as a tool for clergy to help their congregants. Very informative and helpful!

We saw so many Feri folk who were so happy to meet Rowan after getting the play-by-play his whole pregnancy. Many of these witches did spells and prayer to help us with problems in the pregnancy and with the birth. I am so grateful to them for their care and concern and effort. it was wonderful to be a part of a larger community that embraced my son even before he arrived.

We headed back north and stopped by DRGN’s for an hour or so for his birthday celebration before picking up the parrots and heading home.

I learned more about my son over the weekend. He knows how to ask for what he wants- he does this through fussing noises, looking toward me, sending mental images to me, and finally (if I am being dense or slow), crying. He is not quick to cry, but it is his last line of defense.

He is REALLY upset when someone else is in control of his body. He hates being changed, whether it is clothes or diaper. He also does not like abrupt position changes. I suspected that his first bath was going to lead to tears, and it did (that happened today, our first day back from the ‘Con, since his umbilical cord had fallen off). Boy, was he upset about bathing. I think this indicates a spirited independent child who is going to be quite the handful!

We were worried because the day before the ‘Con and the first day of the ‘Con Ro had not pooped. I called my midwife panicking, because according to WIC, he should be pooping 4 times a day! I want him to thrive and put on weight. Was he not getting enough? Was he constipated or worse? We quickly ruled out constipation (or worse), as he would probably be miserable and crying. Judi (the MW) asked me to measure my breastmilk to make sure I was making enough. I recently bought a tincture to help me make more if I needed to. She reassured me and said that he may be one of those babies that poops less. As long as he was getting 2 oz + at this stage, he was probably fine. We would know for sure when he was weighed again.

Thank the gods that the next day, he pooped. And when it arrived, it really arrived! The first poopy diaper was like 3 poops in one. Then he pooped twice more that day. Since then, he isn’t up to 4 per day, more like 3, but I am less worried. I think he is starting to normalize.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A New Parent's Reflections

This was copied over from my now defunct blog.
Original post date: Sunday, February 7, 2010

So Rowan is a little over a week old and we are busy learning about one another. He is already an extraordinary person- he surprises me each day. Mostly his demeanor and expressions are very serious. The wheels are turning in there, I just have no idea what the 'lil guy is thinking!

Our little man is not fussy- you might even call him an “easy baby”- if having any completely dependent newborn is “easy”, that is. He is actually patient, makes a fuss/cries only when we have not followed his cues for eating soon enough or if we move him from a comfortable spot he wanted to stay in. He also hates to be changed- either diapers or clothes, so there are fusses at those times. But he is easily cheered after it is over, and I understand being upset over the lack of control of your own body. That must suck.

Yesterday, I learned that he will often put eating on hold for too long in lieu of sleep. We took an extra long nap before going on a quick jaunt to the lake (and the car ride always puts him to sleep, as does being swaddled in the moby), he ended up not waking and asking to eat and I just didn’t think about it. (I have been following his lead about food, feeding him when he asks.) But when he got home- OH! He was soooo hungry and upset after waking as we got him out of the car seat.

He didn’t know what to do with himself. He wanted the boob so much and was trembling and turning red when it was right in front of him. He couldn’t seem to settle down enough to take it because he was so worked up. It took a good 15 minutes to calm him down before he was focused enough to simply eat. Poor thing. We won’t do that again- even if he is sleeping, I’ll wake him if he hasn’t eaten in 3 hours, come hell or high water!

He is starting to show the most amazing facial expressions. My favorite of course, being a smile. He goes through a repertoire of these when he sleeps- each different emotion flickering across his face for a couple seconds before being replaced by another. These are accompanied by REM, so I wonder what he is dreaming about. It’s heartbreaking to see the really sad face he makes- I think it must be about being alone in the NICU without human touch and lots of needles and things being stuck into him. He falls into REM so quickly, too. It’s amazing. Yep, I sit around a lot now and watch my baby sleep. Good times!

Last night, I was so tired and sore (still recovering from pregnancy and birth- my insides feel like someone beat them with a baseball bat as they return to their normal positions inside my body, and the stitches and perineum are still sore as well) and could not get comfortable in bed. Rowan woke and asked to nurse, which I first attempted lying down. This sometimes works, but he is so small that my boob is bigger than his whole head and I end up contorting in weird ways to get the nipple position correct and sometimes it is more trouble than it is worth.

So I ended up sitting up with him on a pillow and nursing that way. But he wanted to do that slow lingering nursing he sometimes does, falling asleep on the boob intermittently so that it takes an hour plus. And I was in pain and unhappy. So I kept tickling him to keep him sucking and after 20 minutes, I placed him in the co-sleeper bed. Up until last night, he has slept with us in the big bed, which is working out fine for the most part. But I just wanted to stretch out, relieve my pain, and not worry about Ro in the bed!

Well, he was not happy. As I say, he is not a fussy baby, but he made quiet fretting noises and reaching out with his arms to find me. And then he sent me a thought (yes- I believe that)- it was of him, alone, in the NICU bassinette. He had no one to cuddle with and love him. He was lonely and scared. My heart broke and I immediately scooped him up and brought him next to me in bed. I was immediately rewarded- he looked deeply into my eyes (we keep a nightlight on for him now, so we can see getting up at night) and smiled the biggest smile I have seen on him ever. He was so content to be near a source of love and fell right to sleep. “Fuck the pain”, I thought. “He sleeps here, next to me.”

His umbilical cord still hasn’t fallen off, but it’s close. After that, we are free to bathe him. They did a bath at the hospital to get off more of the meconium, and he hated that. I hope it was a function of meconium being hard to get off and being in the NICU, rather than hating baths in general…

The birds are insanely jealous of the baby and have to have two humans supervise them when they are out with the baby. We hope that after a while they will accept their new flock member. Especially Tengu and Rah are aggro right now- Lullah is fine as long as she gets played with, she doesn’t care.

There have been a parade of people stopping by to meet Rowan and drop off food, which has been awesome. His first visitor was actually in the NICU- Cornelia Benevidez was in town and came by because she felt as though the labor must be finished- she even found out we were at SF General instead of UCSF (we hadn’t posted an update yet)! She did a blessing for Rowan while he was still in his oxygen tent. Cholla came by our house with borcht from the folks at Thermalia, Wolfy, of course, has been with us as the doula, making us food and such, Justin came by to make us tacos last night and see his Godson, and tonite Ben is coming as well. We are planning on taking him to see his Godmother Julia very soon as well.

Today we pushed the limits to see how he would do and took him to the Oakland UU church service. He did not fuss at all, actually, even though we both looked at one another with dread as the moment of silence began. We both had the same dreaded thought that he would choose that moment to start wailing or something. But nope- he is a sweet tempered, patient baby. Where in the hell did he get that from?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

All About Rowan's Birth

(copied from my previous blog, original blog date February 4, 2010)

So Baby Rowan was born on Saturday, January 30th (the full Wolf Moon) at 3:41 PM at SF General Hospital. Nothing about this birth was according to our plan, but it turned OK anyway.

Our plan was to birth in a birthing center in SF (Sage Femme) and if we had an emergency, we would go to UCSF (because of our private insurance). Anyone following my pregnancy knew it was rife with medical “issues” that caused stress but never materialized into actual problems after all. First, at 19 weeks, an ultrasound indicated a “complete placenta previa” meaning I could kiss my VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) goodbye unless it rectified itself. And the doctor assured my midwife that because of the placenta’s positioning, it would not fix itself.

So, my partner and I called upon our spiritual community for prayer and magick to move that placenta. We envisioned it moving up and back along with hundreds of others all over the world. We had our second ultrasound about 6 weeks later and lo! Completely out of the way, paving the way for a VBAC!

Then came the “low amniotic fluid” scare. My third ultrasound indicated very few “deep pockets” of AF, which could be a problem that means the placenta isn’t doing its job, and could harm the baby. Now, all throughout my pregnancy, it should be noted that my midwife was on me for not staying hydrated enough. My bladder being the size of a walnut and having to get up hourly (I shit you not) to pee (even from a sound sleep) was unbearable after a while. So I was simply not drinking enough. Plus, the last ultrasound indicated that fluid was indeed flowing quite nicely from the placenta and it was healthy. I saw this new extra test as another freaking medically-imposed burden, as the baby was healthy and moving and all my test results were good.

They did the AFI test and said I was low but fine. Since it was low though, they recommended getting at least one more before my due date. I did not follow that advice. I got one after I was a week overdue, as is customary. In fact, the day I went in for the test, I had started laboring, and my contractions were 15 minutes apart during the testing. The labor had been triggered by my MW’s pelvic exam the day before, which indicated that my cervix was soft and fully effaced, and I was at 2 cm already.

Shockingly, the AFI test this time indicated NO fluid at all. None. Now this was a problem. I was advised (lobbied hard, actually, by 4 nurses and 2 doctors) to stay at UCSF that day and get an induction right then and there. I was not prepared to do that. I had a million loose ends to clear up before having a baby! My animals needed to go to caregivers, I had student loans to pick up to pay my rent, blah blah blah.

So I checked out “against medical advice” and told them that if my labor had not kicked in by tomorrow naturally, I would come back for the induction they were so trigger-happy for. Sigh. An induced labor in a hospital was looking more and more likely, and one intervention often leads to another, causing a cascade of treatments ending in C-section. I was nervous about that.

Back at home, after a day of errand running, the contractions stepped up quite a bit. At 3 AM, they were more painful than the prodromal labor I had experienced the week before (I had 4 days of “early labor” that never progressed the week before). And these newer, more painful contractions got much closer together.

Still, my MW was unconvinced over the phone that I should come into the birth center. Since I had never labored before in actuality (my previous C-section followed a several hour induction that did not work- I never dilated at all), this birth was going to be more like a first birth- and could be days at this level of labor. I was probably better off going to the hospital, she indicated- getting pitocin to get a baby out that may be in danger. I was crushed. I wanted a chance to labor in a non pathology environment, ya know?

Judi, my MW, could tell I was upset by this pronouncement. After a few minutes, she called back and said- “How about you come in to the birth center around 2 PM, and I’ll examine you. If you are far enough along, we can try to birth at Sage Femme- but we really do need the labor to begin in earnest today- for the baby’s sake. No amniotic fluid is dangerous. If you are not progressed, you can head over to UCSF.”

I was thrilled just to get the chance. I knew (don’t ask me how- I just did) that I would be dilated to at least 4 cm when she examined me. In fact, I was at 5 cm. Now Judi was prepared to take the labor seriously! She started to monitor the baby during contractions and was immediately dismayed. His heartbeat was dropping way too low (70 BPM) during contractions to be safe for him. He needed out of me, and fast! An ambulance was called, sending me into a hospital panic.

The paramedics insisted that I go to SF General instead of UCSF, as it was closer, and this was a real emergency. So I wound up in a hospital I never visited before. Scary. We (Judi the MW, Wolfy the Doula, and I) arrived in the ambulance and O’bee followed in the car with our stuff. He actually got there before we did!

They wheeled me in and all of the sudden, my support team was gone. I was being wheeled into an OR (gulp) for examination and 12 or so doctors and nurses are all talking to one another (not me) about me. It was scarily reminiscent of the first C-section and it was freaking me out. “Why am I in an OR?” I demanded between contractions. “I don’t want a C-section!” “Where are my people?”, I kept asking. Hardly anyone talked to me directly, and kept examining me and talking to one another about what to do to me.

Eventually, Judi got a nurse to give her scrubs and ran into the OR and appeared upside down over my head as I lay on the table. She was invaluable- as she was the only one there I knew and trusted. She ran interference and translated for me. Thank heavens for Judi.

Luckily, they decided to fully examine me before cutting me open. They learned that I had dilated to 9+ cm during the short time between Judi’s exam at 2:30 and then. I had successfully willed myself to open open open! I was happy when Judi told me I had a window of time to try and push myself, before they opted for a C-section. “Make these contractions count”, she said.

So push I did. Holy Fuck, did I push. I had three more contractions in which to push the baby out and I have never felt anything like that in my life. Nothing in birth class or in reading books prepared me in earnest for what it felt like or the extreme nature of my situation. Judi was amazing at helping me keep my focus and directing my pushes and breathe out my ass, not through screams and moans from my mouth.

It was around this time that O’bee (my partner and the baby's father) also appeared in the OR- he got there to witness the actual birth and see me split apart to bring our son into the world. I was too dazed to register him at the time verbally, but I remember thinking, “he wasn’t here just a minute ago…” I was glad he was able to get in- not just to see what birth is like, but now he would be able to be with the baby after he was out, since I could not be.

After the second set of pushes, they let me know that they were going to guide the baby out using a vacuum extractor- not much, just a little. After that third round of pushing, he was finally out. I could not believe it. They immediately took him away to examine him and I stayed lying down, and the placenta plopped out of me.

The baby was covered in meconium (prenatal baby poop-eew) and they worried that he had swallowed and inhaled it as well, possibly leading to an infection. They immediately removed him from the OR and passed him through a window where they began suctioning him. O’bee followed the baby to supervise the activities (and make sure they didn’t circumcise, vaccinate, or do other unwanted things to him). I was merely able to view a crowd around the baby and hear his crying while this was going on.

I ended up tearing a bit, so I stayed in the OR (impatiently) while they worked on the baby. As they were wheeling me out to recovery, I asked, “When can I see my baby?” They responded that he was having trouble breathing and he needed oxygen in the NICU. As soon as I was able to not be in bed, I could see him there. ARGH!

Again, my plan was to bond with the baby, skin-to-skin within the first hour of life on the outside, and start to breastfeed. “When will that be? An hour? Two?” They responded that in a few hours they would be happy to wheel me there, but that I had lost a lot of blood and they were making sure it slowed down first for my own sake.

I was taken to a room and my doula was there to help. I stayed there impatiently until we were told that I could see the baby in the NICU. I got into a wheelchair so that I would not gush blood everywhere (gravity is not your friend in this regard post-partum!) and Wolfy wheeled me there.

Rowan looked so small, and was attached to an IV (sugar water, for energy, since he could not feed right away) and monitors for his heartbeat, breathing, and oxygen saturation in his blood, as well as being under a little oxygen dome. He had very little human contact that wasn’t poking, prodding, or against his will. I was a little choked up seeing him like that. I stroked his little hands, and got as close as I could to him, hoping that he could focus and see me.

They then told me what the plan was for him- they were gradually cutting back on the amount of oxygen in the mix he was breathing, all the while monitoring his blood saturation. When I visited, he was on a mix that was 40% oxygen, and regular room air is 21%. Once he was down to 21% and his saturation stayed in the ninetieth percentile, he would not need to be in the NICU anymore. He was also being given several antibiotics, since the meconium issue reared its ugly head. But after the oxygen was resolved, he could get his antibiotics without having to stay apart from me.

At about 5:30 AM on Sunday, he was finally wheeled into my room, where he stayed with me for the rest of my hospital stay. I was so happy to be able to hold him and start breastfeeding and bonding. That first night, my doula stayed in the hospital with me, and O’bee stayed at a friend’s in SF (I am only allowed one overnight person at a time). When he arrived the next day for visiting hours, he got to see Rowan and do skin-to-skin contact right away.

We were there for 2 days- to ensure both baby and I recovered fully and to be sure the blood cultures of the baby’s didn’t grow anything funky that needed to be treated. While we were there, we got great tips on breastfeeding from several people- lactation consultants, my MW, and some nurses that really worked out well. By the time I left, my milk was starting to come down and the baby’s latch was great.

We got home Monday afternoon and were so grateful to have time to sleep as a new family and slowly acclimate to our new way of life. On Tuesday, I picked up my birds and we started to resume what would become our normal life.

My pain is present but manageable. I don’t know exactly how many stitches I ended up having, but I need pain meds to get around right now. Hopefully, they will heal quickly and stop aching soon. The baby is doing great- eating up a storm and we lucked out- he is mellow in temperament and not fussy.

That’s good, because I plan on doing PantheaCon again this year, this time with a newborn in tow!