Cameron’s birth story.

Disclaimer:  This is long and fairly unedited.  Also, I am a strong advocate of natural birth and it is what I have strived for during both my pregnancies and subsequent births.  However, as long as women are informed about all their choices and what they are entitled to during labor, birth and delivery,  I think each woman has the right to make her own decision about what is right for her without fear of judgement or shame.  Every woman has the right to her own birth story.  This is mine. 

On the morning that Cameron was born, I took Casey to story time at the library.  I felt some minor cramping in my lower abdomen and a few sporadic, short contractions throughout the morning but nothing that made me think we would be having a baby that day.  When we got home from story time, we played for a bit and took a walk in the stroller. I had a few minor contractions as we played and walked, 15 minutes apart but not continuously.  I didn’t think much of those either except to shower and try and rest a bit while Casey napped.  But when I sat down to rest everything seemed to stop and I felt restless.  I needed to move.

When Casey woke up from his nap, I convinced him to take another long walk with me in the stroller.  I let him watch videos as we walked.  It was a beautiful, fall day.  The leaves were turning stunning colors of gold, red, and orange and the sun was warm as we meandered through the blocks around our house.  I was having fairly steady contractions every 10-15 minutes but they only lasted about 30 seconds and I was able to continue to walk through them, breathing deeply and occasionally leaning over the stroller handles to ease my lower back.

We got home around 5 and I puttered around for a bit.  When Alex came out of his office at 5:30, I told him that we should see if his mom could watch Casey tonight just in case.  I still wasn’t convinced that this was the real thing but “just in case it isn’t a false alarm” I thought it would be easier to plan ahead to have Casey stay the night with Nana and Papa. (Who would have thought we would have a baby in our arms in less than 3 hours?!?!)

I continued to walk around, playing trucks with Casey, clearing out the dishes from the sink, picking up and generally working through each contraction.  At 6 I began having steady contractions every 5 minutes.  It still felt good to walk and Casey held my hand as we walked in circles around the house.  Other times, I felt best leaning against my birthing ball for support of getting down on my hands and knees.  At one point, I was on hands and knees vocalizing a low “ooooh” as the contraction washed over me and Casey got down on his hands and knees and “oooh”ed with me…moral support at its finest.

Alex got off work around 6:15 and took Casey over to his mom’s house shortly after.  I was having steady contractions and yet I still wasn’t convinced that this was the real thing!  I felt like they should be stronger and longer even though they were coming so steadily. With Casey I labored at home throughout the night for 12 hours and it was a gradual increase in intensity and strength so I figured I had a while to go.  Except I was feeling slightly nauseous and emotional.  I cried as I watched Casey walk out to the car.  In the back of my head it occurred to me that these were the things that happened when women were in transition (the nausea, the crying, thoughts of doubt) but I brushed that thought aside.  Surely I wasn’t that far along.

While Alex was gone, I gathered our bags and everything else we would need by the back door, ready to be loaded into the car when we decided to be on our way. By 6:45 I had been having steady contractions for about 3 hours and they had increased to every 5 minutes over the past 40 minutes.  In the next ten minutes they picked up to every 3 minutes and I was having to squat down, fall to my hands and knees or get into a doorway and hold onto one side as I let me body lean against the opposite side for support.  It was at this point that I called the emergency number for the midwives.  Alex came back in as I was talking to Suzanna, the midwife on call, and I had to hand the phone to him because I just couldn’t talk to her without starting to cry.  She said it sounded like I was definitely in active labor and I could come in to monitor how baby was taking contractions or stay at home for a bit longer but, she emphasized, “it could happen quickly.”  I told her I was inclined to stay at home for a bit longer but would call when we decided to come in.

By this time it was about 7:00.  I had three more contractions, each requiring me to lean against Alex or a wall for support.  During each one I told him we should go ahead and leave for the hospital and after each one I changed my mind that we should continue to wait for a bit.  Part of me still felt as if they should be lasting longer. We left the house at 7:09.

I had three contractions in the car in the ten minute ride to the hospital, two walking in after we parked.  I tried to close my eyes and shield my face from the lights of the entrance as we stood at the desk getting checked in.  I still was not convinced that I was close to having a baby and didn’t want anything to cause my labor to stall.

We got to triage and I managed to change into the hospital gown and give a urine sample, as requested, and then I hat two strong contractions.  The second one left me on my hands and knees and I told Alex to “go get the nurse NOW!”  It felt like forever by the time they returned and I told the nurse I was feeling a lot of pressure, as if I needed to push soon.  I think she was surprised to find me on hands and knees (I heard her mention it a few times later on) and she immediately called in the resident intern, as the midwife had not arrived at the hospital yet.  He asked if he could check me and finding my already dilated to 7 cm, they immediately moved me to a birthing suite. I refused a wheelchair and walked through the hall, into the birthing suite and crawled up onto the bed on my hands and knees.  It was approximately 7:45, 7:50. They managed to get a monitor on me to listen to the baby’s heart beat.  They asked if I still wanted them to fill the birthing tub, as I had originally planned for a water birth, and I nodded although I did not feel like moving off the bed or being in any position except my hands and knees.  They asked if I wanted an IV and I refused because I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting still long enough for them to put it in.  The intern came in with a second nurse and as they were getting everything ready, I was continuing to have strong contractions and feeling the need to push.  The nurse, Kristin I think, was excellent, coaching me to pant through each contraction to keep from pushing and panting with me and rubbing my lower back and I worked through each one. The intern checked me again and finally the midwife arrived. “She’s at 9 cm and the baby’s head is right there,” I heard him tell her.  Then I heard the words that every laboring mother loves hearing (words that make me tear up as I write this)- “Just a few more contractions and you’ll be holding your baby.”  I panted through maybe 2 or 3 more contractions, resting my upper body on a pillow in between.  I was still on my hands and knees on the bed.  Alex sat next to me holding my hand.

And then Suzanna told me that with my next contraction I should just listen to my body and do what it told me, that it was ok to push.  And I did.  I pushed twice more before they told me to just hold my breath and bear down and then all of a sudden they were handing me this tiny, slippery baby boy up through my legs. He gave out a lusty cry even though the umbilical chord was wrapped loosely around his neck.  It was 8:16, an hour after we had arrived at the hospital.

The next hour was a blur.  Movement all around me but my eyes were only on Cameron. Cameron Alexander Claeys, who made us wait a full 41 weeks and then arrived in a flurry.  I am still in shock at how quickly his birth happened, even sitting here five days later.  This is just the story of his birth but the actual processing of it will take a while.  It was so different from Casey’s birth, so different then anything I had expected. It was so fast! I knew more this time about what was actually happening during the birthing process and this birth felt much more controlled then my first.  I was acutely aware of feeling each moment, visualizing him moving down the birthing canal, seeing in my mind’s eye what my body was doing and what it needed to do with each contraction, each push.

By all accounts, the speed of this birth should have left me breathless and dizzy.  Instead, I found myself feeling calm and energized as Alex and I held our second son for the first time.  Shortly after he was born, as we were taking the first pictures, Alex looked at his phone and said “The last message I have from my mom says to let her know when we go to the hospital.”  I looked at him and laughed.  “Well, let’s send her the first picture!”

I was surprised at how good I felt over the next few days in the hospital, especially in terms of my overall energy and pain levels. This doesn’t mean it has been easy.  I am still healing.  My body is still in shock from transitioning from being pregnant to not pregnant so quickly.  My hormones dropped quickly after we arrived back home and they are still up and down. I don’t like to sit still but I know that it is important to give myself time, to take care to meet my emotional and physical needs if I am to be good mother to both a toddler and a newborn.

The past few days have been a roller coaster of emotions as we begin to settle in as a family of four, build new relationships, find new routines.  The reality of parenting a toddler and an infant has hit me heavily some moments leaving me tearful and crept up on me gently in others, filling me with breathless warmth.  Each day, each moment brings a new challenge to be faced, problem to be solved.

There is more to learn, more to say but that’s it for now.  Thanks for reading and if you made it this far, you deserve these sweet baby pictures.

40 Weeks

40 Weeks has arrived.  I don’t know why I didn’t think we would make it to this day.  Like Casey, this boy seems more than comfortable hanging out in mama, despite my repeated conversations with him about the benefits of vacating the premises.

But it’s all part of a normal, healthy pregnancy and I’m thankful that I get to experience it. There were so many times during this pregnancy when we were put to the test, when I steeled myself to deal with the abnormal, gearing myself up for a “worst-case-scenario”.

Our most recent surprise occurred at 37 weeks, when baby boy #2 all of a sudden appeared in a breech position.  He was literally straight up and down, with his head up by my ribs and his butt lodged down in my pelvis.  Although I have been a strong advocate for natural birth since I first became pregnant with Casey 3 years ago, I was now facing the good possibility of a c-section if we couldn’t get him to flip back around.  I became instantly prepared for this, a small part of me even hoping for it just to get all of this anxiety over with.

At 38 weeks I underwent an External Cephalic Version where a doctor attempts to manually flip the baby to a head down position by physically manipulating it’s body position.  In other words, he actually pushes the baby’s body around by pushing on the outside of the uterus in an attempt to change the baby’s position.  This was as uncomfortable as it sounds, especially since he really had to dig down in order to lift baby boy’s bottom out of my pelvis in order to get him to raise it up and turn.  But he did it!  Dr. Raj Vito Shah successfully got our baby boy to turn into a head down position and I am so grateful for this.

So now here we are at the 40 week mark with a perfectly healthy, head down baby boy.  I feel prepared and even excited to embark on my second natural birth, literally just waiting in anticipation of those first few lightning bolt sensations that let you know that labor is beginning.  I try not to imagine it too much because every time I do, I simply go back to Casey’s birth and I know that this birth will be different.  It will be it’s own and I just want to remain open to however it progresses and allow myself to remain in touch with my instinctive knowledge of what I will need to do, how I will need to move, to get through each moment, each breath, each contraction in order to reach that final moment, that last push, that signifies an end and a beginning all at once.  We are simply waiting for that moment when we can finally hold this baby boy in our arms.



We took a walk today because we both needed it.

We went truck-spotting around our neighborhood. He held my hand the whole way.


We walked slowly and chose our path as we went.  I breathed in the crisp autumn air and let my worries float away on the wind.  I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and felt the sturdy trust of his hand in mine.

As we prepare for battle it is important to focus on the peaceful place of stillness we hold inside, the place of love that will bring us home.

This past season has been one of testing- testing my faith, testing my patience, testing my trust.  With only a few go before we welcome baby boy #2 into this world, I cherished this quiet walk with my firstborn.  I hung on his every word as he told me how rain drops came to be on the fallen leaves along the sidewalk, how good the the breeze felt, when he explained how the bulldozer and backhoe worked, how the bushes tickled his hand as he walked past.  I tucked away the memories of him tasting the rain water, jumping with his shadow, and the way he jumped and the big grin that appeared on his face when the “big semi truck” honked at him after he waved at it.




On the way home he turned to me and silently asked me to carry him by raising his arms up to me.  And I did, even though it was hard, even though I’m very pregnant and it got hot and the sciatic pain my right leg and hip began to act up.  I carried him all the way home with his head resting on my shoulder and his eyes half closed as if he knew that this was just what I needed- to hold him and breathe him in and feel him relax against me as if I was his only tether to this world.



Nest and Rest


34 weeks and the time to welcome this new baby feels like it is right around the corner!!

The past two days I have felt equal but opposing forces compelling me to both nest and rest. I have had the unflinching urge to clean, clean, clean. I look around and cannot find it in me to sit down in the evening until I have picked up every toy, wiped down every surface, cleaned every dish. This morning I woke up, gathered my supplies and my favorite helper, and deep cleaned both of our bathrooms. I scrubbed them down from top to bottom and backed out of each so they could dry without a single fingerprint left behind. I made a list- room by room, step by step I listed each small thing that has yet to be done.

I put Casey down for a nap and then I sat down with the intention to take a quick break and get back to it. But I made a cup of tea and put my feet up and now here I am with an incredible sense of exhaustion, an almost magnetic force keeping me from standing up. “Rest, rest, rest” cries this little voice inside of me.

I still have 5.5 weeks until my due date but it feels like the time is closing in fast and there is still so much to get done. I felt this way when I was pregnant with Casey too, except then I didn’t realize I was capable of so much. Now, I know that I am so much stronger, so much more capable, so much more able and while that knowledge brings me comfort and strengthens my resolve, it also makes me terrified that I won’t live up to my own expectations.

So here I sit with these two opposing urges, to nest and to rest, trying to find a balance between the two. I know my body needs rest as much as it needs movement- it needs a balance of both to stay healthy and strong and prepare to bring a second life into this world. I also know how much satisfaction I get from creating- the actual act of sewing and making things for my little ones, for other people’s little ones, for my friends; the physical act of creating a comfortable, clean home for my family, finding a shelf for every book, a bin for every toy, a drawer for each piece of clothing and a space for every picture I have yet to hang.

Nest and rest. Nest and rest. Time is closing in but it is still there. There are still days and weeks stretching ahead of me and with trust and faith I know that each day will open up to me exactly as it should and guide me to the proper balance so that I may nest and rest exactly as much as I need to both stay healthy and cross each and every things off of my list.


I would miss so many beautiful moments, like this one -chasing butterflies,  if I didn’t give myself space to rest and relax!!

Perfectly Imperfect Days

I had plans today. I had a list prepared and an itinerary. We actually got to sleep in and I got out of bed with high hopes that today was going to be a good day. Today was going to go as planned, filled with smiles and laughing and jokes and conversations about trucks as we drove about town, checking things off our list one by one.

I had to let all of that go today. I had to fold my list and tuck it away for later, revise my itinerary and change my plans. Today was not the day for it all.

It started out with a battle over breakfast. He wanted cake (leftover birthday pie) and I wanted him to have something at least slightly nutritious. Half an hour later he had a small sliver of pie next to his piece of french toast with blueberries sprinkled on top of it all.

Things were going along fine as he helped me go through and reorganize my sock drawer (which a small black spider decided to run into yesterday, propelling me to either burn the contents and start over or pull on rubber gloves and go through it piece by piece). We even caught the garbage truck as it rumbled down our street, leaving the front door swinging as we raced outside to run along beside it.

And then on the way back home, he tripped in his oversized cowboy boots and skinned his knee and this turned into a 45 minute temper tantrum. No, he did not want a kiss or a band-aid. No, he would not put on socks with his boots. No, he would not put on flip-flops but once he finally did he was terribly upset all over again when I called them his lobster flip-flops (because they have lobsters one them…) and not his monster flip-flops (because apparently the lobsters are actually monsters).

I held him as he cried, as he screamed at me, as he attempted to get his way. No, I would not go outside until he calmed down. No, I would not stand up but would gladly sit and hold him until he felt better. No, I would not let him hit me. No, I would not leave.

We read a story because he saw it on the wall and wanted to read a story and we rocked in the rocking chair until his eyes finally closed and his ragged breathing finally evened itself out.

I took a deep breath and let it all go today. I let my plans go, I let me anger fall away, I allowed myself to accept that this morning was hard, that I was not a perfect parent, that this was not going to be a perfect day…except that in a way it was. It was a perfectly imperfect day of Motherhood.

Being a mother means that sometimes you have to let it all go, let your plans change, allow yourself to get angry and then forgive yourself, stick to your guns even when it’s hard, even when it means holding a screaming child, wanting to burst into tears yourself and feeling like you have no clue what to do and then just continuing to sit there and be present, to keep going. It means laying in a toddler bed, in the middle of the day or in the middle of the night, with your body scrunched around theirs, your head resting half on the headboard and half on your arm which is falling asleep and you have to pee but still you don’t move because they need you to be there so they can relax and fall asleep. And when their eyes finally close and their breathing evens out and their hand, which has been ferociously gripping the neck of your shirt, finally falls softly away, you stroke their hair with tingling fingers and still you don’t move because as you stare at their peaceful, sleeping face, you feel the tremendous love you have for them. You feel the soul shaking, heart shattering love that rocks you to your very core and you simply can not imagine being anywhere else.

This is motherhood. These are the perfectly imperfect days.


Broken Dam

I don’t know when it happened-
when the dam broke.
A trickle widened into a crack,
brick by brick the walls fell away
until one day the entire structure gave way.
The contents poured forth
washing away the divide.
There was no longer any separation
nothing dividing the halves
nothing to keep one side from embracing the other.
There was no longer anything holding them back.
The topography changed in an instant,
quietly, unnoticed even, to those not paying attention.
But to the sole witness,
it happened with a roar,
a flash of light so totally blinding
it caught her off guard and she was forced
to catch her breath,
to close her eyes, to blink,
in case it wasn’t real-
In case it hadn’t really happened at all.

Palms to sky

Tonight, I held his hand as he slept
and his hand filled my palm
and I remembered another night
when I held him as he slept
and his tiny hand wrapped around my finger
and my fingertip filled his palm
and I imagine another night yet to come
when he will hold my hand as I look up to him
and my hand will fill his palm.
My son.

We walked outside in the rain today.
He ran in front of me and knelt down in the puddle
pajamas and all.
He fell to his belly and laughed
as he splashed the muddy water upon him.
His baptism.
I let the raindrops fall upon my shoulders
and turned my face to the sky
and let the rain wash away a thin film 
from my bedraggled body.
My renewal.

Palms to sky
I stare at the blanket of stars above me
reaching out as if to pluck one off
like a piece of lint.
If only I could bring one down
and put it in my pocket
and surprise him someday
as we stand in darkness
and he tells me he is afraid.
If only, then, I could pull the star
from my pocket and put it in his palm
so he would always have a light to lead his way,
a star to guide him through the darkness
when he is afraid
when my hand is no longer there to fill his palm.