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Monica Bielanko
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Charles In Charge: The Birth Story Part I

To say that giving birth naturally in my home is the greatest thing I've ever done and likely will ever do isn't really an exaggeration. Unless I lift a car off someone in the next couple decades or otherwise save a life in similar dramatic fashion, giving birth to Charlie in our living room is a highlight.

Not only was it miraculous because it brought me my son, the third love of my life, but it taught me a lot about what I'm capable of if I let go of fear, follow my heart and mind and allow my determination to lead the way.

The decision to give birth at home wasn't conscious, it was the result of all I have learned over the past several years (while writing for a major parenting website) and, once pregnant, just seemed like the obvious course of action. I had, of course, watched The Business of Being Born and studied articles like this one in the NY Times called American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World, but out of all that what sticks in my mind the most is a small incident that occurred when I was giving birth to Violet.

There I was, lying on my back, legs spread to the high heavens that surely exist above LDS hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah when the door to my room whipped open and a janitor strode in, looked directly at my, uh, blossoming flower, grabbed the trash basket, dumped it into the larger bin on the janitor cart, put it back on the floor and exited the room.

Oh, hi, janitor. This is my vagina. Vagina, that's the janitor.

It's not a huge deal. Especially when one is in the throes of transition and attempting to push a human from one's lady business. But the situation, to me, is indicative of what giving birth in a hospital is like. Although both our first two children were born in hospitals and we very much enjoyed the experiences, I tend to think it's because we didn't really know better. The janitor crashing my daughter's birth is a small example of the larger problem I see with hospital births. Giving birth didn't feel sacred or respected, as every childbirth should, I felt like cattle. Ushered from one high price room to the next, a fleet of nurses poking and prodding me at all hours, laughing at my shy desire to attempt to give birth without an epidural. "Nobody wins a medal for a natural childbirth, honey."

I was not in control of the greatest moments of my life. I was at the mercy of strangers who were at the mercy of ridiculous hospital policies created to avoid a society that has become insanely litigious. And a lot of the things they end up forcing on you aren't even policies, just standard procedures that you can turn down, you just don't know you can.

You have to be strapped to all this equipment at all times!

You don't. Intermittent monitoring is just as effective and with all the monitoring you're forced to lie down and stay pretty still which means all you can really focus on is your contractions. I gotta move around, baby!

You must not eat anything but ice chips or popsicles!

Total bullshit. Want a sandwich? Eat a fucking sandwich. You wouldn't tell someone to run a marathon but skip breakfast, would you? Yeah, there is some concern that if you need a c-section you could aspirate on vomit after being intubated but as Medical News Today notes, in modern obstetric practice most doctors are using regional anesthesia as opposed to general anesthesia thereby avoiding intubation and the risk of aspiration. Bottom line? Eat those Doritos if they get you through the next two contractions, sister friend.

Get on your back to give birth and then push until the veins in your face explode and paint the walls in blood and even then they'll all still be screaming PUUUUSH at you.

Giving birth on your back is solely for the benefit of the doctor. It's the best position for him to get up in there. However, lying on your back not only reduces the size of the pelvis significantly, but it puts pressure on the vena cava, which reduces blood flow to the baby and your lower body. So, unless this position feels best to you, do your own thing, sister. Squat, on all fours, whatever rocks your world. I gave birth on my side and back, kind of like I was sliding into home plate.

We're going to tell you when to push because we know better than you!

There is a video of me giving birth to Henry that shows me pushing so hard at the behest of a doctor and nurses you think my head is going to pop off my neck and explode, cartoon-style. So unnecessary! Newsflash! Your body knows what it's doing! Just like when you avail yourself of the facilities after a large dinner, you'll know when to push! In fact, pushing so hard can make you tear more and is just generally not a good idea, even according to the World Health Organization which also, by the way, agrees with me about restricting food during labor and also calls constant electronic fetal monitoring a "practice which is frequently used inappropriately."

Wake up! I need to take your vitals!

More hospital policy crap. For the love of Christ, lady! I just gave birth and I'll be going home with a fussy newborn soon, LET ME SLEEP.

Here is a $50 Ibuprofin for your pain.

Seriously. Read this article. It will blow your mind.

You're NOT going to breastfeed? Shouldn't you at least try, for your baby's sake?

I've written about this enough on Babble so I'm not going to go into it here. Yeah, "breast is best" until it isn't. And for many women, it isn't. If it isn't best for mom it isn't best for baby, The End. Stop bullying and respect every new mother's choice.

All of the above, coupled with the fact that, after two induced labors and subsequent epidurals, I had an overwhelming desire to experience going into labor and childbirth naturally as millions of women before me have, I determined that a midwife and a home birth was the way forward.

Uncomfortably Numb

At 5 she is old enough to articulate the fact that she wishes Dad were sleeping at home at night.

At 5 she isn't old enough to comprehend the complex logistics of the two adults she loves most in the world deciding to separate and so, for now, she thinks he goes off to write or "work" as we often call this crazy-ass thing we do on the Internets.

Dad's going to work. Really it's no different from dads who leave the home every day for 8 or 10 hours to work. But it is different.

He still drives them to or from pre-school, stopping at the park on the way home, is often at the house to fix breakfast after they wake up or make their dinner in the evenings before reading a couple stories or watching some cartoons. Either way, her blunt questions and our evasive responses are heartbreaking.

Mostly I feel numb, though. Long stretches of numb interspersed with grenades of pain. I watch my life unfold in much the same way I observe tragic news stories about strangers. That's so sad, I think and then I move on.

Onward and upward. Or sideways. Just so long as I'm moving. Gotta keep moving. The baby is crying, the kids are watching me.

I think about the sadness but I can't stay there. He's always been better about acknowledging emotions. I can't bring myself to let the sadness infiltrate insides that I have under lock and key and booby trap and anything else that will help keep my emotions in check so I can hold this whole thing together. It can be and often is confused with being unemotional. But last week a therapist told me I'm a very emotional person I just hide it well. I think that's what she said. I can't be sure because I was busy nodding indifferently while avoiding her hawk eyes.

During the worst of the labor with Charlie I envisioned myself swimming underwater in the ocean. Aqua everywhere, the surface - a kaleidoscope of blurry shapes and colors - flickering far above me, schools of crazy looking fish darting past; silvers, blues, yellows and greens flashing in the sunlight filtering weakly down from above, seaweed dancing erotically, and my heavy, exhausted body floating along feeling so fine, so free. I was aware of the pain but it was almost like it was happening to another person, I could hear Serge and the midwife talking but they sounded far away, like listening to neighbors' muffled voices through a shared wall.

I feel that way a lot now but it isn't the peaceful escape it was during labor, it's a heavy numbness that comes on quick; a morphine injection to the upper arm. When I can't think another thought, when my chest cavity feels like it's imploding around my fractured heart I feel myself sinking underwater. Everything is muted except for my thoughts which are loud, so loud.

There is no way around these things I'm experiencing. No shortcut, no avoiding. I've spent a long time avoiding so many emotions that they're clogging my insides and now I'm choking on them as I puke it all out.

But at night, as the wind howls around my windows, my newborn son makes his clicking insect sounds and the dogs snore, I stare at the ceiling and acknowledge that mingling with all the pain is relief.

We are two angry people whose jagged edges have rubbed each other so raw we're hemorrhaging.

"Stop interrupting me," I hiss at him when he steps on my sentences, anxious to make his own point without listening to mine.

"You're a mean person," he shouts at my back when I turn away from a conversation I can't continue to have, the same conversation we've been having for months.

"Would we have even gotten married if we really got to know each other?"

"That doesn't matter now. We've been married for ten years."

"It shouldn't be this hard."

"Marriage is hard. Life is hard. Deal with it."

"But it shouldn't be this hard, should it?"

"Stop talking so loud, the kids will hear you!"

"I can't have this conversation anymore. I just can't."

"I just need space, I don't even know who I am anymore when I'm not reacting to you. My personality has become one big reaction to you."

"I don't even know how to answer that..."

How Mama Got Her Groove Back

Writing about weight loss on the Internet is tricky, at best. When it’s baby weight you’re talking about getting rid of you can pretty much bet you’re going to piss off someone. Either you’re trying too hard to lose weight because you should love your body as it is, stretch marks and all, or somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing to lose weight or you’re lying about how you lost weight or you’ve lost so much weight you shouldn’t lose anymore and you’re fat-shaming anyone bigger than you – a veritable minefield of controversy ripe for the Internet masses to detonate. Here’s the thing. This is my story. That’s all it can be. I’m just throwing it to the Internet winds and maybe some of it resonates with somebody and that’s great.

To continue reading and check out the first full-body photo of me in all my postpartum glory, click on over to Babble.

37 Years/1 Month


She's A Jar With A Heavy Lid

What a bunch of nice folks y'all are. Well, most of you, anyway. Some of you are sad. Anyone who actively attempts to kick someone when they're down is subhuman. But you already knew that. You know it every time you look at yourself in the mirror. Just know if you're a dick here I'll delete your comment with the quickness. I used to feel obligated to let all comments stand in the interest of this being a place where I solicit them and because I'm generally interested in hearing your opinions, even the negative ones, but not anymore. If you're typing a comment to be a jerk I just giggle that you wasted your time crafting your little hate missile and then hit delete on your sad sack ass while feeling all drunk with power and stuff. BUH-bye.

So. Yeah. It's a relief to get that off my chest. It's kept me from wanting to write here for months.

It may seem strange to you that this comes so fast on the heels of giving birth to the amazing Charlie but the separation preceded his birth by several months. Additionally, for anyone to suggest we decided to have a baby to 'fix' the marriage is dumber than someone who would actually have a baby to fix a marriage. Newborn kids are hell on marriages, anyone who's had one knows that. Shit, kids in general are hell on marriages. And then somewhere along the line they become the reason so many of us stay in unhappy unions for decades. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Like I said, autopilot is a dangerous thing. You live out your life according to some plan you have set in your head. Our marriage is fine, this is just how life goes, let's have that third baby we've both always wanted because we're getting old. Maybe your marriage isn't horribly bad but it's rarely all that good. You don't hate the other person but you aren't in love with them anymore and so you stay because of kids or the thought of leaving is scarier than the thought of staying or the marriage is like a business and you can't close up shop just now or you don't want to die alone or you just had a kid or you had a really great vacation together so maybe things will be different or you don't want to disappoint your own seemingly happy parents or you can't afford to separate or negotiating your way through a divorce seems too daunting so you open another bottle of wine and turn on the TV...Whatever the case may be.

Every decision to separate or divorce is an intensely personal one and each person's idea of what circumstances should or shouldn't lead to divorce are vastly different. Anyone on the outside looking in at the dissolution of a marriage can only speculate on the circumstances.

Simply put, however, after months of evaluating whether our marriage, us being together, was a positive for our kids or a negative I determined that it had slid over the line into being a negative. We are not setting a good example for the most important people in our lives and I don't know that we ever can while living together within the bonds of marriage. In fact, I'm reevaluating the entire notion of marriage. I don't know that it's a state of being I'd subscribe to in the future. Not in its traditional state, anyway.

I don't know what the future holds. I'm scared as hell. And the recurring thought that Violet, who is 5, is my only child that will vaguely remember her parents together is a sledgehammer to my chest a thousand times a day. This partnership and family we've spent ten years building will never be something my boys know. I was also 5 when my parents divorced. But I feel wide awake for the first time in a long time. Amidst all the heartache is the reassuring notion that I'm living consciously, that I am actively seeking a content, happy life and not slogging unhappily through the days. I want Serge to be happy too. Life is short. So short. I don't want to wake up at 50-years-old and find I've spent decades in an unsatisfying marriage just so I could prove to myself that I'm not my parents.

So. That's where we are. But enough about me. What about you? Do you believe in marriage? Where are you in your marriage? How long have you been married and what are you learning about yourself, your partner, your life?
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