Thursday, February 17, 2011

It takes one to know one

I feel like there is a certain stigma attached to women who are non-custodial moms.  Before I fell into this category, I used to wonder quietly..."I wonder what she did to lose her kids?"  Are non-custodial moms all bad?  Of course not!  Before I became one, I assumed that moms who didn't have custody of their children either didn't want their children, or had their children stolen by fathers who just vanished into thin air with the kids.

Now I know the difference.  Since I lost custody of my three older children, I have learned that there are THOUSANDS of women who have lost custody of their children at the hands of an imperfect family court system.  Justice was supposed to be about, well, Justice!  These days, Justice might still be blind, but her vision gets miraculously clear when money is shoved in her face.  He who has the most expensive attorney wins!  Money can't buy you happiness, but it sure as heck can buy you a judge...and a guardian ad litem if you so choose.  Unfortunately for me, and my kids, I couldn't afford to bankroll either of them.  But, I digress.

I've found myself fibbing out in public, more so lately than ever.  People will see me with Tristan and ask, "Is he your first?" I proudly say, "No, he's my FOURTH!"  Usually I get an "Oh my, you don't look old enough to have four!", followed by a, "How did you get a kitchen pass to leave the others at home?"  Sometimes I tell them they're with their dad, and they will assume that means at home, where I live.  Sometimes I just tell them that the other three are in school all day.  (Which isn't a lie at all...they really are in school all day...just in school 900 miles away).  I just don't like to get into the story of how it all happened.  Because trust me, it would take a while to explain it.  One day I will put it all in my memoir, but for now...I just really don't like to get into the details.  Especially with people I hardly know.  On more than one occasion, I have mentioned that I have three older children who live out of state with their dad.  That remark usually earns me the slot of "deadbeat mom" and I'm dismissed from that person's realm of friendship.  I assure you, I'm no deadbeat.  I pay child support like any absent parent should.  I see my kids regularly, often more than what the custody arrangement calls for.  I even chaperon field trips with them from time to time.  Yet, still, it is assumed by most people who don't know me, or my situation, that I'm a bad mom because I moved away from my children.

The truth is, the courts actually do NOT favor the mother.  Perhaps the next time you come across a mom who doesn't have custody of her children you'll pause before rushing to judge.  In all likelihood, that choice was made by an imperfect court who knew neither her or her children, not by the mom herself.  In the meantime, I've come to realize that it doesn't really matter what other people think, and not everybody I meet needs to hear the whole story.  So, for now, the little white lies to the strangers don't really matter.  Those who are closest to me know what happened, and the struggle I went through with my choice to relocate.  Those who were my true friends stood behind me and supported me through it.  My children will one day learn the circumstances of it all as well, when they're old enough to understand.  Until then, I have to continue to ensure that they know how much I love them and that my doors are always open, whenever they are able to decide for themselves in front of the courts just where they want to live, and with whom.  It may not happen until they're 18.  It could happen sooner.  Who knows?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tristan's Amazing Home Birth Story

This post is soooooo long overdue.  My handsome little man will be 4 months old in just a few hours.  I can't believe how fast the time has gone!  It all began about 2:30 a.m. on October 8th.  I was fast approaching two weeks past my "due" date, and growing increasingly anxious with each day.  Then something started to happen.  It all began about 2:30 a.m. on October 8th.  I woke up to run to the bathroom in the middle of the night for probably the 9 gazillionth time during this pregnancy.  When I laid back down, I thought I felt a slight twinge of a contraction.  I figured I was probably just imagining things again, so I forced myself to go back to sleep.  When I woke up early the next morning, I was still feeling the same type of twinge...and thinking it might be just a little bit stronger.  Hmmm...Is today going to be the day??  I wondered.
I ate some breakfast and went about my day.  I tried to work, but I remember being VERY easily distracted.  I had some homework that needed to get done, but again...distracted!  So, I decided to run out and do a few errands with my mom who was in town, awaiting Tristan's arrival with me and Tommy.  I drove us to Kohl's and we walked around and did some shopping.  I picked up a bunch of stuff for Tommy's future new home in Afghanistan--sheets, towels, etc.  I found a couple of adorable baby outfits that I just had to have for Tristan.  Mom picked out a couple of tops for herself.  Oh, and I found a great robe that would be awesome for right after the birth.   While we were walking around the store I found myself having to pause to breathe a little bit through the contractions.  At this point I was sure I was having contractions, but I was still thinking that it was going to stop and not progress.

When we got home, I was putting everything away, and Mom had already volunteered to make dinner-beef and broccoli out of the Weight Watchers cookbook.  Tommy had been checking in with me all day via telephone and was home for the day from work.  I went into my office to finish up the last assignments for the week for school, all the while having to stop and breathe through those contractions.  I don't remember exactly what I was working on, but I DO remember that I felt a lot of pressure to get it done!  I finally finished up the assignment and shut down my laptop for the evening.  Mom finished dinner and I was REALLY interested in eating...until I walked into the kitchen.  All of a sudden I decided it might NOT be such a great idea to chow down at dinner.  So, I retreated to my bedroom and called my midwife instead.

Pam was wonderful.  When I called her, she at first told me to call her back when they ( contractions ) got really hard.  She was out running errands herself.  Then she called me back within the hour (I'd say it was around 7 pm by now) to tell me she could come whenever I was ready.  I told her we would call her in a little while.   I started to really time my contractions at this point.  I was feeling very anxious, not really knowing what to expect.  Even though I had three other children, never had I attempted to give birth at home, without an epidural or any other "modern" medical treatments.  Tommy was starting to get really attentive towards me and help me through the contractions.  Then around 9 pm I asked Tommy to call Pam and let her know I needed her.  She was at my house with her daughter and assistant, Muraiha, within 15 minutes.  They brought all their equipment in, with Tommy's help, and began to set up shop in the bedroom.  I continued to bounce away on my exercise ball, whilst wearing my snuggie.  What a sight I was!


Pam came out and was sitting in the living room, watching me work through the contractions.  I remember her telling me to try to relax during the contraction and not tense up so much.  Boy, that was really tough to do!  I had to put all of my effort and concentration into that task.  Pam decided it would probably be a while, and she had forgotten her book at home, so she asked if I minded if she ran home to get her book.  I was fine with that, and she left Muraiha there to keep an eye on things.

Soon after Pam left, I asked Muraiha to check me.  I was really curious as to how far I had come, and how much further I would have to go.  By now it was around 10 pm.  Muraiha checked me and she said I was around 3-4 cm.  Bummer!  I decided I needed a good soak in the bath to help get me through the contractions.

Tommy was amazing.  He held my hand through the contractions, even through my "death grip".  He heated the water up when I asked, ran and got the fan for me when I got too warm, kept me covered with a warm towel when I got the chills, and continued to time the contractions for me.  At this point, timing wasn't really necessary, but it was helping me to stay in a rhythm and pass the time quickly.  Before I knew it, it was 1 am. I had been in that bath for nearly 3 hours!  During that time, Pam had come back and was continuing to check the baby's heartbeat and check in on Tommy and I to see how we were doing.  I was feeling a lot of pressure, and the jets were starting to really irritate me during the contractions--both the pressure of them and the noise of them.  I decided I was ready to get out!  Tommy helped me out and helped me to get dressed.  I decided I wanted to bounce on the ball, so he rolled up his mechanic's stool behind me and applied lots of pressure to my hips and lower back, and was constantly massaging my neck and back in between contractions.


While he and I were in our bedroom "laboring", my mom, Pam and Muraiha were out in the living room chatting and hanging out.  It was so peaceful here at home.  There were no intrusions, no loud was awesome.  I wouldn't have known they were out there if Pam and Muraiha hadn't been checking in on me every now and again.

I bounced away for quite some time and was getting zero relief between contractions.  I was starting to feel a ton of pressure and told Tommy to tell them that it was time to push.  Pam and Muraiha came back in to check me.  I was at 9 cm finally!  Pushing was just around the corner...I was exhausted, but excited at the same time.  I started out trying to push on my back, just because that is the only way I knew how.

This was clearly not going to work.  Gravity was working against me.  I asked Pam if I could change positions.  Muraiha suggested hands and knees, kind of like a squat.  Tommy supported the front side of me, while Pam and Muraiha applied counter pressure warm compresses with a little EVOO to help me out.  That felt AMAZING!  I pushed, and pushed, and pushed.  It didn't feel like I was getting anywhere except tired, and fast.

I was getting lots of encouragement from Tommy..."you're doing great babe...come on, push a little can do it..."  Oh my goodness it was driving me NUTS!  I just shushed him..."SSSHHHHHHHHHHH" I kept repeating.  He was like, "What?".  I told him to be quiet.  He got the picture.  I was trying to be as nice as possible.  I didn't want to be the mean, screaming lunatic that is so often portrayed in film and television in birth scenes.  And I CERTAINLY didn't want to remake the scene from The Backup Plan with Jennifer Lopez.

I continued to push and finally felt like I was getting somewhere.  I dug my grips into Tommy's shirt (and apparently his bladder, so he told me later) and pushed with everything I had left.  Finally!  Tristan was being born!!  Tristan entered this world at 3:50 am on October 9th, 2010!

Tommy was still in front of me, and I got myself turned around so he was sitting behind me, supporting me (as he had been throughout this entire labor...heck the entire pregnancy!).  Apparently he was snapping pictures of the few men I know who can multi-task!

What a joyous occasion!  Every ounce of tired left my body.  I was feeling such a rush!  I couldn't believe at the amazing feat my body has just accomplished!


Tommy did his daddy duty and cut the cord...what a beautiful moment.


I delivered the placenta, and in the meantime was attempting to nurse this beautiful little boy.

Afterwards, Muraiha helped me into the shower so I could get cleaned up while Pam, Mom and Tommy got the bedroom cleaned up, bed stripped down and put back together and the laundry started.  When I got out of the shower, my room looked like nothing had ever happened.  All of Pam's equipment was even packed up, with the exception of the few items they would need for Tristan's exam.  Muraiha started to do Tristan's exam once I got myself settled back into my cozy bed.

The exam wasn't rushed at was so cool to experience birth from my favorite bedroom.  I was so excited to find out how big my little man was.

Oh my little guy weighed in at 9 pounds!  I couldn't believe it!  9 pounds and not a single solitary tear!  Thanks to Pam and Muraiha!!


Once the exam was done, Tommy and I were left to enjoy our new little family, in the peace and comfort of our home.  I honestly can't compare this experience to anything else I've ever done.  This was Tommy's first ever birth experience and I have to say he is definitely a home birth advocate now.  I would never do this any other way (unless medically necessary, of course) again.  I feel somewhat empowered by the whole experience, and I really feel that it brought Tommy and I even closer than we were before.  He was my rock during the labor, and I was so impressed with how he was there for me.

Tristan Davis Bowling
Born October 9, 2010 at home
3:50 am
9 lbs, 22 inches