New Resident at Our House

June 22, 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

Generally it's not clear to me where Time goes, all things considered.

And then comes a day like June 17th, during which the earth is obviously still spinning but suddenly there's some kind of vivid, punctuating event. And just then, as Calvin might say, things go KA-POW! In that moment it's like Time officially stands still.

Our new baby girl was born early on Father's Day morning. At 7:32am: KA-POW!

--Eliza Ruth was born at home into a loving circle of friends and midwives; Ben and Jem made it into the room about three seconds after she came out.
--She was 6 lbs 3 oz and 19.25 inches long.
--She was birthed “in the caul,” and emerged very speedily and gently, all things considered.
--Her name is Eliza Ruth Amaral, and it makes my bucking-the-patriarchy-sensibilities very happy that her name honors both male AND female ancestors and relatives. :)

Here's a photo of our new youngest family member:


It's really kind of crazy that less than two weeks ago, I birthed a real, live baby. Who was completely attached to and part of me...and now, after seven forceful and crazy hours of labor, is attached no longer. I had this image in my mind right after Eliza was born of a bullet train composed of billions of tiny tentacles of light. The train was LIFE, and while it zoomed through space the tiny light tentacles kept splitting off and making new ones, which eventually also made new ones before flickering out themselves. And all the while the whole train was just zooming and zooming, even with all the light tentacles doing their own things, giving birth and dying constantly.


During Eliza's birth, I was in touch with the cliché of how my body was only a vessel through which Life was doing its thing. Kind of liberating, to lose most of my ego for a night. Also in retrospect, the birth was nearly perfectly empowering, and not only because I pushed a good-sized baby human out of my vagina under my own steam.

I was pretty scared of giving birth again. I knew what I was getting into, but it's not like I've been at my peak of strength for the past several months, and there was worry about what Nervous Breakthroughs can do to hormones, including birthing ones. I was not excited about spending an exhausting 24 hours in labor. So I'm pretty glad it's over, and that my body and the baby's body both did their things with no medical interventions or drugs, and that incredible pain can morph into incredible beauty in nearly the blink of an eye.

Eliza was three weeks early, just like each of her brothers was. I should have known she was coming because on Saturday morning I got this incredible urge to clean the kitchen--and not just wash the dishes, but also to scrub the counters with Cream Soap, get the grime off the top of the range hood, finish making all the sauerkraut that I'd been putting off for days, and to finish off preparing that half-gallon of coconut water kefir.

On Saturday evening, our friends came over to play “Settlers of Catan.” For the first time ever, we finished the whole game...and by the end, I was having to seriously concentrate through the contractions.

By the time midnight rolled around, I was pretty certain that sleeping wasn't in the cards for that night. And thus, another overnight labor began.


Laboring to birth my babies makes certain things dissolve slightly (language skills, ability to use my knees), while other tiny experiences feel so intense that the memories are imprinted practically on the backs of my eyeballs.

It was so still, that night before Father's Day. In early labor I had this thought that I hadn't made a card for Jeff. And then I thought, I guess this baby will be his father's day gift! One of my sweetest burning-bright memories from that night, before things got really intense, was opening my eyes during a contraction and seeing Jeff's eyes seeing me. We were listening to Lior's “This Old Love”, and I was thinking that contractions are sort of exactly the same as and entirely opposite from making love.


I was proud and happy about several aspects of this baby's birth, especially the ways in which I labored alone for a couple of hours before dawn. I didn't want to be alone at first. I was worried that if I rested, like Kate (our midwife) suggested, that labor would slow down, that the whole process would take too long, that I would somehow not be doing things “right”. It was about 3am, and mom was on the phone saying sleepily, “Well, this is a surprise!” And then she said I should rest and sleep: 'I slept in between contractions during Jake's birth, and that's what gave me the energy to do what I needed to do.”

And so I slept, in a strange sort of animal, non-sleepy way, sitting in the backwards-knees way that Jem often sits. I was leaning over the yoga ball and rising up onto all fours when a contraction came. And then, when I saw the first bits of light in the window, I knew it was time to get up. I sidestepped up and down the front steps while the sun rose. I paced around our house like a cat. I had this peculiarly primal urge to organize my yoga mat into a symmetrical nest in the corner, which I did on my hands and knees, in between contractions. I did a lot of peeing. I doubted a lot during the whole process, but in retrospect I see that my body actually knew what to do, even despite the worry. I could feel my cervix opening and opening, and I could feel the way I could accept the sensations and sometimes even make them less painful.


I wonder what life-in-general would be like if I could approach it the same way I approached Eliza's birth. It is crazy, when you don't want to do something but absolutely HAVE to surrender; maybe that's why people sometimes describe giving birth as a transcendent experience. I was really aware of this mental state this time, the strangeness of resignation coupled with strength. My mind could only think about one thing at a time: Where to sit. Maybe I will move my hips. I wonder if I will want someone here right now. It appears that I am thirsty. Mom said to 'push the pain away'. I don't want to have to do this!!!!!!! Now I have to anyway...

Kate said I was fully dilated, and I decided this was my signal to make something to happen besides these freaking contractions. But when I checked...I couldn't even feel the tiniest BIT of baby up there, not even a tiny part of a head, NOTHING. Oh lord, I REALLY wanted this baby out of me. And then, despite our plan to have Jeff do the baby-catching, I was GETTING that baby out, even though nobody realized she was coming except for me, and even though Jeff definitely wasn't in position yet. It was one crazy and wild push, and even though my eyes were closed I felt for her head, and could feel the amniotic sac bulging between my fingers before Kate swiped it free from the baby's mouth, and you better believe that I howled as the rest of Eliza's body slithered out.

And that was her birth. It was like a switch flipped then, from Excruciation to the Present Moment, from haze to the crazy high of meeting our daughter after all these months of knowing her on the inside.



“She's the cutest baby in the whole world!”

“My costume's going to be humongously great!”

After an unfortunate Playground Incident during which some kids were saying unkind things to Ben, Jeff and I told him about the phrase concerning Sticks and Stones. “But words DO hurt,” Ben maintained, “in a different way... Like when I'm trying to go to sleep at night, and I can't stop thinking about things I don't want to think about, an' my throat hurts.” Falling asleep is _much_ better now, isn't it, though? Jeff asked. “Yeah, but it still hurts,” Ben said. Is it like the 'lump in your throat' when you feel like you're gonna cry? I asked “Yeah,” Ben said, “it's like that.”



Getting ready for the Ithaca Festival Parade: “I wonder if there will be a Really Pretty fire truck...”

Listing potential persons who might have been capable of a particular thing, including “...Even somebody who's dead or soil!”

Did you know the baby was coming this morning? “I knew when I was sleeping, 'cause of the screaming...” But you remembered that it was an okay-kind of screaming, right? Were you scared?? “No, I just thought, 'I should go see what's going on, 'cause I wonder if there's a baby!'”

Concerning a New Baby Sister: “Her head is so soft and rubbable!”

“I'm even bigger now 'cause I stretch out my feet!”

“When two people are going around in a circle, they're BOTH in front!”

There's a verse in “Oh, The Places You'll Go!” that reads, “...You have brains in your head./You have feet in your shoes./You can steer yourself/any direction you choose.” Jem's commentary: “...Except up or down!”

“When I think of something a teeny bit scary, my chest BEATS.”

What was the funnest part of your day? “Working on wheelies!”

Arranging the shoes on the front door mat: “All the shoes are a flower!”

“I wish that I was born first! 'Cause then I'd be oldest.”


Recent Things we've done Besides Having a Baby (needless to say, All Events and Movies-Watched were Prior to The Birth)

--Attended the Ithaca festival parade.
--Are watching our gardens grow, particularly Ben's Very Diverse plot and our attempts to grow artichokes.
--For the first time in two years, Ben (and the rest of us) are eating fruit! This is a Very Big Deal, and I'm mostly calming my heart palpitations because Ben is SO much better than he was at the beginning of GAPS, and is not having meltdowns lately, and so conceivably if he is finally able to digest fruit then it is also giving him Good Antioxidants and he is still healing up with every passing day (that thump thump thumping is my palpitating heart, in case you were wondering).
--Went to hear Lindsey Buckingham play at the State Theatre, the boys' first real concert.
--Jem has suddenly and successfully begun a personal quest to pronounce “R” and “L” sounds.
--Dad and I took a Mushroom cultivation class, and I'm currently trying to figure out how to have time to try growing stropharia in my garden beds. Maybe this will be a project for next year.

We watched and read:
--”My Super Ex-Girlfriend” (super corny and fantastic movie)
--“Life Without Bread” (very interesting research concerning low-carb diets)
--“The Beginners” (High-brow film-sort of movie)
--“October Sky” (After watching this movie, I have concluded that I am quite glad not to have grown up in a coal mining town)
--“Cloud Atlas” (Jeff really liked this)
--“There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled” (a compendium of some Really Funny essays concerning travel)
--“Freakonomics” (we're still in the middle of reading this aloud...and I'm thinking that probably Eliza's arrival has put a slight crimp in our book-reading)


And that's all the news that my frazzled brain can assemble for now. Please send good thoughts our way, to encourage Eliza not to scream for hours during the night...and in the hopes that Jeff and me can function on less sleep than would be entirely optimal, all things being equal...and for my hormone roller coaster to settle down to Calm even without the benefit of regular, optimized levels of sleep...

Overall, we are a happy and healthy and incredibly lucky family, as this crazy business called Life continues. We are super grateful for our family and friends who are helping out with dishes and meal preparations and Moral Support, etc. etc. etc.

And many good summer wishes are heading your way, from all five of us!