what casper's first month has taught me about my self-love

Becoming a mom has exceeded my expectations for both the good and the bad. I remember nearing the end of my pregnancy and having moms caution me to "enjoy it now while you still can" and I really didn't get it. Isn't having a baby the greatest joy of life? Yes, I know it's hard but doesn't the bliss make up for the challenges? After 9 months of pregnancy I came to accept it and was prepared for a good challenge anyways. I typically would tune out these enlightening voices that would heed me warnings about how I'll never sleep again or watch a movie again or eat again.

Obviously every mom's experience is going to be so unique (and that's part of what makes this whole thing so difficult too). Along with warnings of the challenges of momming, many women also warned me about labor. I found my experience to be really different than they made it out to be - in the best way! So it's possible, then, that lots of moms really do find it a fun and adventurous challenge when their baby finally comes along. If, in the past month, you've asked me how everything is going, you've likely received my go-to answer which is that being a mom is 100x harder and more challenging than I could have ever prepared for and that, if it could somehow ease the difficulty, I would go through labor again a few more times. This is a far cry from what I expected myself to be saying during my first four weeks with Casper: sentiments like "I am totally blissed out and love being a mom" and "I love him so much I cry about it every day." Oh, yes, I am crying. But not always happy tears and because I'm bursting with love. Much more often, tears of desperation and because my hormones are bouncing from one extreme to the next.
Danaea Li photo

Typically, the feedback I receive is in reference to the lack of sleep many moms experience in the first few months: "Oh yeah, it's so exhausting -- make sure you sleep when the baby sleeps!" But for me, my struggle has less to do with the lack of sleep and more to do with the sinking feeling of losing my freedom. Nothing in this world could have possibly prepared me for how a baby would make me realize how incredibly tight I hold on to, and nurture, my love of myself. No one could have convinced me, before having Casper, the extent of which I love to love myself. If I haven't learned anything else this past month, I have certainly learned how selfish I am.

When Casper is working "according to my schedule" - i.e. when he goes for a nap and stays like that for 3 hours so I can shower, or wash the dishes, or write a blog entry, or when I take him out and he's peaceful and I can contentedly stare at the sun or catch up with a friend over coffee - when those things work out, I am like "hell yeah, I love my angel baby!" But when Casper interferes with my time and my "plans" and I can't figure him out - i.e. when he stays awake from 3 until 10 no matter how hard we try to coax him to sleep and I can't even sit down and eat a proper dinner with Lucas for an entire month - it really feels like Casper is "inconveniencing" me. I know that sounds bad. And it is. He is just a simple baby with simple needs: food, boob, me, and sleep. It doesn't feel good to admit that I sometimes look upon him like he is interrupting my world. He did nothing to deserve that emotion be felt towards him.

Danaea Li photo
So needless to say, I've had to have a major shift in my mindset. Everyday I pray for grace and pray that I may cheerfully view my day as a Casper-day where my needs may get fit-in somewhere instead of a me-day where Casper's needs get fit-in somewhere that works. I resurrect the simple, yet powerful, statement I heard everyday as a camp counsellor from our camp director, Greg: "Be Amazing Today!" Greg encouraged us staff that when we are sick or exhausted or have a bed-wetter or family drama or camp relationship drama (ha!), that it all takes a back-seat in lieu of the one magical week our campers are there to experience. His urge to us was that our physical and emotional needs as camp counsellors were to get put to the side every hour of every day so that we could give 100% Amazing to our kids. I never thought about how much that would return as the same attitude I need to have as a mom.

Today, on Caspers one-month birthday, I am so grateful. Not grateful for a perfect text-book child who runs like clock-work. Because that ain't Casper. But grateful for how my little peanut has opened my world up; for how he's taught me about this massive weakness I carry around. I always had it in me but never the opportunity to come face-to-face with it in such a real way. I'm grateful, as well, for the forgiveness I receive when I am unable to look at the task with cheerfulness in my heart. He still wants to come to me when he cries and smiles at me when I sing to him or talk to him. He is God's grace on my unworthy attitude and for that, I am eternally and altogether grateful.


casper david's debut

Throughout my pregnancy, and especially in the last few months, I was eager and interested to hear birth stories. I don't just mean the ones taken from Ina May's Guide to Childbirth of women birthing without fear; I mean all birth stories. The "scary" ones didn't really scare me the way that some people warned me they would. I think there is something so beautiful about how every person's story of how they arrived here is so different and so unique and I love listening to mothers re-live the day they met their precious babies. This past week, our first week with Casper, has been such a whirlwind and I want to make sure I remember details from the day he finally greeted us so I thought I would share in a post on a blog that doesn't really get much use anymore. It's a story of learning patience and grace and gratefulness for my body and it's one I am so encouraged by - I hope you are too. Here is my birth story for Casper David Lawrence, born Tuesday, April 28th, 2015. It's a long one cause it was a long process - you've been warned.

Saturday, April 25th, daytime:

This was a particularly difficult day for me to be overdue with Casper. It was a beautiful day outside but I was sore and tired and just needed space to mope so I wasn't enjoying it. At 10 days past my due date, there were no signs of distress in either me or Casper -- fluid levels were great, the non-stress tests showed Casper's heart activity was as it should be, and I rarely went an hour without feeling him moving and kicking away which was constant reassurance that he was still happy in there. I didn't have a great reason to be upset. But at my 41 week appointment, my cervix was still high, posterior, and closed. Additionally, at the amniotic fluid checkup I had two days later, the tech made a remark about how the baby didn't even slightly drop yet, which she claimed normally happens around 38 weeks. With each passing day with no signs, my hopes that my body was going to naturally go into labor were dwindling. I felt pulled between the wisdom from childbirth pioneers like Ina May to trust my baby and my body, and the practical advice from others that I should consider being induced for fear that my placenta will essentially shut down and stop nurturing the baby. It wasn't that I was so tired of being pregnant -- but more the idea of having to make this important decision once if I made it to the 42 week mark. Do I wait or do I induce? I certainly didn't want to put my baby at risk but I also wanted to heed the wisdom that my body will do what it needs to when the time is right. I started to feel some very mildly painful tightenings that day and spent a large part of my afternoon on the patio with my journal just asking God to bring me peace about not knowing, to forgive me for not trusting, and to help me, in these times of confusion and frustration, to continue to trust in his goodness. After all, all I truly wanted was for my baby to be safe and in my arms. That's the perfect ending to any birth story and one that dimmed the importance of the means to how we were to get there.

Saturday, evening:

Lucas and I decided to take in the final Canucks vs. Flames playoff game. We went to the nearby pub, Hyde, since we don't have cable. When we got there I went to the bathroom and to my surprise, I lost my show (click with caution - it ain't sexy), which gave me great excitement and so much hope! It didn't mean that I was in labor but it was a sign that things were moving -- and it was God's nudge to me that I needed to give up my illusion of control. I came out of the bathroom and, with tears welling in my eyes and a huge smile, I whispered to Lucas as discretely as I could the update. Because we took the prenatal course together (best thing we did!), he too knew that this could mean things were in motion. Once the Canucks pulled their goalie and the Flames scored on an empty net, I was over the game and wanted to go home especially now that I knew I might really need the rest.

Sunday, April 26th:

In the morning when we woke up, the mild contractions I was experiencing Saturday started to get a little more intense and a little more frequent. Still, we decided to go to church and go on with our day, running a few errands and spending time playing scrabble and making food with my mom who is visiting from the East Coast. Meanwhile, I was still experiencing the mellow tightenings and beginning to need to breathe through them a little more thoughtfully. I didn't want to get too excited so, at the time, I didn't admit that I was in early labor but looking back, I totally was. By dinner, the contractions had really slowed down, almost completely stopping altogether. I thought to myself "must have been false labor" but by bed time, they were in full force, and I was only sleeping between them waking every 8-12 minutes to breathe through these powerful tightenings. Labor really rarely is not how it is in the movies! Lucas would occasionally wake up from my achings and ask me if I needed anything. I didn't. I just was excited this was moving along. I told him to text his boss that he wouldn't be able to come to work on Monday.

Monday, April 27th, daytime:

This day was similar to Sunday just with slightly more intense contractions and things picking up a bit more. By mid-day, it was more difficult to continue conversations or walk through them. We decided to go for a late-afternoon stroll down in Olympic Village. Lucas packed some snacks and we walked around -- me stopping every few minutes to ride out the contraction. It was funny to be in labor in public but I didn't care. It was fun. In between contractions we entertained light conversation and joking around and thanking God. Things had been remaining the same for about 4 hours so I called Renee from Acumamas to see if I should get her to come over for a home visit to give me some points to get things moving. Her advice surprised me: she advised us to go home, have a bath and a small glass of wine and pop some Tylenol to try and slow things down to get some rest. Her suspicion and gut feeling was that labor was going to go full speed ahead by the time it started to get darker outside (apparently that's a thing?!). I was hesitant for fear of disrupting the process, but trusted her advice. I came home and spent 45 minutes in the tub to get contractions 15 minutes apart and Lucas and I laid down in bed, me with the TENS machine attached to my back, and slept between contractions for about 2 hours.

Monday, 8pm:

When we woke up, we decided to get things moving doing all the things they say-- lunges, stairs, sex (like you needed to know that), and an interesting series of poses called the Miles Circuit which is great to get the baby in the correct position. By the time we were done, I was undeniably in labor! My contractions were becoming more intense and closer together.

Monday, 9:30:

Lucas made a snack -- my favorite munchies like crackers and cheese and cut up apple and carrots and hummus. We watched some of episode 2 of Netflix's Chefs Table and Lucas was in charge of pausing it when I was having a contraction - I was at the point where I couldn't handle the stimulation! In between them, I was as happy and chatty as ever. I definitely was noticing the waves of contractions and how they intensified and then mellowed out -- they would get more intense for about 3-5 contractions and then taper off in intensity as my body was responding to the pain with its built-in endorphins. The body is such an amazing thing. Lucas kept asking how I was doing, and I kept responding with, "you can handle anything for one minute" which was wisdom I reaped from many Bar Method classes (and also Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt who says you can do anything for 10 seconds... ha!). No matter how intense a contraction was, after it was over, it was the best feeling ever. And even during the contraction, it was only truly unbearable right in the middle as it was peaking which was maybe all of 15 seconds of it.

Monday, 11pm:

I could no longer watch Netflix and was trying to stay active and moving around at this point. Anything sitting or lying down was horrible. Lucas suggested we call the doula as he was running out of tricks for me.

Monday, 11:30pm:

Marie, the doula, came over and it was a game-changer! Throughout each contraction, she continued to apply pressure on my low back/tailbone area, she set up a great little seating position on the birthing ball with my upper body drooping over a huge stack of pillows on a chair, and started getting me to breathe lower into my abdomen with low-toned noises. I had hoped I wouldn't sound like a cow mooing during labor, but that's exactly what I sounded like and it totally helped and I totally did not care. Lucas went to rest for a few hours as Marie helped me through the new stage of labor. She massaged my whole body and in that few hours, I was so grateful we decided to hire an RMT Doula. What a massive blessing! Lucas says that before Marie arrived, it sounded like I was enduring the contractions, and after he woke up from his nap, that I was conquering them.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2:45am:

Marie had been writing down my contraction times and durations, and we finally decided to call Cora, the midwife. The time had come. I reported to Cora (my actual hero) all about the past few hours and she said she would be over in a bit. I woke up Lucas to tell him the midwife was on her way. When she arrived, she observed me through a few contractions, had a listen to the heart beat, and took my blood pressure. We decided to go into the bedroom so she could examine my cervix. I was nervous this would be a bad report - that my cervix would still be pretty closed. However, at this point in time, I really  began to trust the process and whatever decisions my team would be helping me make. I was so relieved when she reported that if we wanted to make our way to the hospital we could -- I was 4-5 cm and, as she said, in the beginning of active labor. Marie geared us up for the ride by helping to make sure I would be comfortable in the truck. She sat in the back with me and kept applying pressure every time I would have a contraction. I only had to endure about 3 or 4 in the truck - thank goodness. It was horrible. Lucas dropped Marie and I off at the entrance and went to go park the truck. I was registering myself in at the desk as Cora tried to finagle us a room with a tub. I had told her earlier that I was interested in water birth although I hadn't fully decided that would be my route yet. I met my nurse, Alyssa, who lead us to, as I like to refer to it, the honeymoon suite of BC Women's & Children's. It was so big with a shower and a tub with both sides open. It was so beautiful. The nurses and staff kept commenting that I didn't seem like I was in labor due to my calm and chatty disposition. It made me feel powerful and at peace.

Tuesday, 4am:

my mom helping me through my transition
We filled up the tub and I got in it to labor for a bit as Lucas put on the new Sufjan Stevens album and the the doula dimmed the lighting in the room -- it was honestly so peaceful. The team just kind of sat around and let me do my thing and Cora even took a lunch break. I had a little massage spikey ball which I would squeeze between my palms during contractions. Lucas also sat beside the tub and I squeezed his hand lots. The warm water slowed things down so by the time the water had gotten cold I got out and we decided to do some walking around the unit to pick up the pace. Alyssa gave us the grand tour -- probably her attempt to distract me. It was around this time my mom showed up and I was so happy to see her! It wasn't a part of the "plan" to have her there for the labor but it just worked. Marie showed my mom how to apply back pressure to me so she was able to help me through a few contractions. It was such an experience to have my mom there since she's never experienced labor herself. Around the same time mom showed up, I decided to do something wonderful -- happy gas! During contractions, I would just inhale and exhale. They warned me that some people feel dizzy or nauseated from the gas, but I felt neither. The small trance it put me into, along with Marie and my mom's pressure applied to my low back, made my transition so smooth and manageable. It was exactly what I needed. At this point, Lights acoustic album was playing.

Tuesday, 6am:

After a particularly difficult contraction, I asked Cora at what point do we know when it's time to push and she responded that she would examine my cervix in about an hour to see where I am at. I had one more contraction, and knew in my heart that an hour was too far away -- I asked if it would be possible to check now. Lucas, my mom, and Marie all left the room. I continued to inhale the happy gas as Cora examined my cervix and I was vaguely listening to her and Alyssa nonchalantly chatting about my cervix and the progress of the baby's descent. She reported to me that my cervix was gone -- it was time to push. As I reached for the gas, Alyssa pulled it from my hand and broke the terrible news to me that I wasn't allowed any more gas. It was go time.

Tuesday, 6:30am:

Lucas came back in and mom and Marie stayed outside. I only wanted a few people there for the pushing. I changed into my nighty I brought so I could push without having everything exposed and in the open. Lucas and I were hugging and I was crying and telling him that I was afraid. I was! I had no conception of getting this far and hadn't really gone there in my mind yet. I tried the squat bar on the bed for a little while and I remember my first contraction when I was instructed to push, I had no idea what I was doing! My pushes were so weak and I didn't know how to bear down yet. Being as I'm a pretty private person, I wasn't really feeling the squat bar as I felt too exposed. Yes -- things like that actually crossed my mind at this point! Ha! They told me to try the toilet (ok TMI for some people but it's apparently a great place for many women in labor as the feelings can be... similar to what you normally do on there. You get the idea.) It was here that my water finally broke (hooray! And no mess to clean up!) but I didn't like being on the toilet either. I knew I wouldn't be delivering the baby there and I wanted to get comfortable wherever I would be finally pushing out the baby. I also felt the ring of fire here and remembered a few times hearing that water birth can really help ease the burning sensation on your perineum. I told the team that I wanted to do a water birth. Lucas was instructed to run the water and I headed back into the tub.

Tuesday, 7am:

I was in the tub alone for a bit pushing kind of on all fours when Cora asked me if I still wanted Lucas to come into the tub with me. I forgot I had even mentioned it to her. I looked at him and saw the pure terror in his eyes at the idea but I knew that with him, I would be so much stronger. I knew also that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both of us to experience something so insane together. I said yes and he put on a brave face along with his swim shorts. We sat with him behind me, my back to his chest, and I pulled against every push on the backs of his thighs -- it really felt like we were doing it together and I praise him now for his tremendous effort even though he
wasn't really doing all that much. It was here that I began to truly doubt my body -- can I do this? Can this baby actually come through me? During contractions, I needed the constant cheering of the midwife to really motivate me to use all my strength to push. And as I recovered between contractions, the nurse, who was a new one at this point named Cara, my midwife, and Lucas just kept telling me what a phenomenal job I was doing. It was gold to my ears. It was everything I needed to hear and more. I trusted and ate up every word Cora spoke at this point as she said "this is going to feel really intense and it's very normal -- everything is going beautifully and you're doing such an amazing job!" I started to trust in my body and in the circumstances. This is when my mind really left my body and I truly let my body take over. Nothing matters anymore -- not how ugly your push face is, not how your husband has never seen your lady parts like this before, not how loud you are. Casper's heart rate was being continually monitored and stayed at at steady 140bpm the entire time. The nurse kept saying "your baby is doing so well and is so happy!" Cora asked me to reach down and touch the baby's head as I pushed so that I could sense the feedback of him slowly poking out with each push and then sucking back in after. It was weird for me! I can't say I loved it but it did make me smile when she told me Casper had hair and I could feel it. I made a joke that his fuzzy head will make up for his dad's receding hairline.

Tuesday, 8am:

I was started to feel impatient -- I wanted to know the baby was crowning or something so I could feel close to the end but I was afraid it might still be far away. Because the length of time between contractions was getting longer, Cora asked Lucas to do nipple stimulation on me and he agreed to it. It sounds weird but it really helped move things along! I could feel my perineum moving outwards as the baby descended. Cora told me that because my perineum was particularly strong and thick, that it wasn't stretching as easily as it normally would be. I actually requested an episiotomy (I was in a hurry to meet him at this point!) and luckily, my midwife knew that I did not truly want one and kind of deflected my request. She said that the baby coming down and then back up was helping with the stretching and that it would be fine. I knew that meant I was probably going to tear, and just hopefully it wouldn't be too bad. With Casper's head crowning, holding on to the backs of my own legs now, I exclaimed "I don't think I can do this" and they kept reassuring me I could and I would. Lucas even had the nerve to say "this is the only way" which I didn't want to think -- I wanted to think there could have been some way out. But I knew he was right. I could hardly wait for the next contraction to push my baby out so I wouldn't have this burning feeling any longer and I could finally hold my son!

Tuesday, 8:28am:

With the next contraction, I pushed out Casper's head and with one final breath and push at the very tail end of it, his body. The feeling of the baby coming out is so incredible -- he almost shot out like a cannon.
the face of pure relief

Cora lifted Caspers slippery little body out of the water as Lucas and I scootched ourselves upright in the tub as she placed him on my chest. He was plush and soft and lovely and, as he cried and coughed up water, I couldn't do anything but stroke and kiss Casper and thank God in complete awe and wonder. He cried for about 15 seconds and then looked up at Lucas and I as if to question if we were the ones he was looking for. Everything was right.

My birth experience with Casper ended up being beyond my expectation and imagination. I can say with whole-hearted honesty, that it was not painful the way I thought it would be. It was purposeful and powerful and, yes, it was intense, but it was intense in such a different way than, for example, the way peeing is now intense (ouch! Yes I tore in two places as suspected). It was supernatural really. I can truly say I've never looked at my body with such respect, love, and appreciation. A big part of my story was learning to trust -- trust myself, my gut feelings, my body, and God.

Even though it was slow to respond and kept me guessing, my body did pull through in the end. And I had the longest early labor ever but I credit that to how well I was able to cope with the pain near the end. I am so beyond blessed for my story of how Casper got here. Our birth stories are uniquely ours, and they are so special.

I hope you share this story with anyone who has gone a week or more passed their due date and feels discouraged. A story like this one on that Saturday morning would have gone a long way in making me feel confident and assured so I hope it gives someone else a similar sense of positivity!