Breathing Lessons & Birthday Tales

Twenty six years ago there were no reality television shows and certainly none dealing with childbirth.

I know that may be difficult for some younger readers to imagine, but it is true.

No one howled their way through their birth experience with a room full of cameras committing it to permanent memory and the filmed versions of  labor and delivery I watched while pregnant looked nothing like my experience.

In the tidied up childbirth videos I saw prior to my labor, women breathed their way through the pain seemingly without fear or loss of control. Babies were delivered straight into the mother’s waiting arms before the umbilical cord was even cut and happy tears were always present as the mother cuddled her child for the first time.

Those were the stories I saw and I expected my own would mirror what I viewed in class.

I chose a physician who had used midwives ten years longer than any other medical group in town and did everything I could to prepare for the big day, but despite all of my reading and preparations, nothing really went as I’d planned.

Let’s gloss over a due date that came and went, waiting until ten days had passed. I was prepared for that as first babies are often late.  And let’s just skip past the 52 hour labor that everyone says you forget, but my daughter would groan that I never have.

Let’s talk instead about fear.

Let’s talk about what happens to the happy tears you expected when your first glimpse of your baby is from across the room surrounded by medical staff instead of looking down at her in your arms.

Or when they say things like ” She looks pretty good, but her Apgar score is not a high as we’d like.”

Of course fear is not an emotion that disappears when you learn the issues have resolved and your baby is fine … every parent knows that getting them here safely is just the first step.

Parenting is a bit like a complicated recipe where adjustments have to be made all the time to keep the cake from falling before it’s finished or the soup from being too salty.

Add too much of this or too little of that and it can be easy to make a total mess of it.

There have been loads of resources to help guide me along the way, but without knowing it the most useful may have been some of the breathing lessons I first learned in childbirth classes.

I have shared my daughter’s birth story many times over the last twenty-six years and I have always talked about how those deep breathing lessons let me down.

It’s funny that only now can I see how they important they have actually been.

Learning to pause and breathe in and out deeply has been a huge part of my journey and those happy tears that were so elusive on the first day … somewhere along the way I discovered that one must let go of fear to make room for joy.

After being out of the country for her last few birthdays, I am ” over the moon ” excited to be in Atlanta to share some of this special day with my daughter.

Happy Birthday, Miranda.

photo

There are links to Miranda stories on this date for each year that I have been blogging. This one from last year has links to the earlier years. The one titled, 8:03 can be found here and it is probably my favorite.

 These photos were taken by Miranda’s father.

22 Years Ago – A Baby Girl

Twenty-two years ago, I was in the hospital having just given birth to my only child. I didn’t know it at the time, but this precious gift would steal my heart like no one else ever could. If you’ve followed my blog for any length time, you’ve seen snippets of Miranda scattered throughout my posts. I’ve tried to protect her privacy as much as any proud mother can. If I had my way Gifts Of The Journey might end up looking like a mommy blog as I could write post after post about smothering, I mean mothering Miranda over the years.

It is difficult for me to remember sometimes that she is grown now. Miranda is the same age I was when I was finishing my tour of duty with the Army and some days I have to remind myself that while 22 doesn’t seem all that old to a mother’s heart, she really has grown into a lovely quite capable young woman. With each conversation we have lately, I am able to see that she is doing just fine without a lot of input from me these days. That makes it easier to step back and enjoy her in a whole new way.

While I will not be with her physically this year, I will be ichatting with her in a few hours so seeing her on camera while we speak will have to do for now. When she was a baby, I used to kiss her all over her sweet face telling people I was stocking up for the days to come when she’d be too big for my exuberant displays of affection. While I’m sure I could still embarrass her with the delight I feel when close enough to smother her with the kisses she’s too old for now, today I’d settle for a big birthday hug and wish I was close enough to deliver it.  Happy Birthday baby girl!

beauty1

Below is the post I wrote last year for her 21 birthday…I wanted to share it again today as she turns 22.


M snowflake kiss

8:03

In a few days, my precious daughter will be twenty-one.

That’s twenty-one years since I heard a chorus of voices in the delivery room saying in unison, “ 8:03.”  Exhausted by a labor that had gone on for over two days, I remember thinking for about half second, “okay, so it’s 8:03” before realizing that the medical team were all marking time of birth.

So there it was, a Monday morning in September when my world changed forever at 8:03.

Married only three months and pregnant at twenty-six, I worried about how ill prepared I felt in my ability to parent anyone.  Even though I had joined the Army at eighteen and done more adventurous things by twenty-one than some people do their whole lives, I worried incessantly about the most basic of things…being a mother. That changed quickly as I held her that first night after everyone had gone home and we were completely alone for the first time.  I whispered my fears to her as I told her who I was and where I’d been. I told her I’d do my very best, but I was bound to make mistakes so some things we might need to learn together.

As you can imagine it was a very one sided conversation.  I talked, she stretched and yawned and then she slept…doing all the things a newborn does naturally.  Holding this tiny person in my arms, I made a promise to love and protect her and to stay open to the things she might teach me too along the way.  Life lessons come from unexpected places and the gifts that come from opening yourself to loving someone else deeply despite your fears can create a ripple effect that has the potential to positively touch the lives of more people than we realize.

Letting go, I learned what it’s like to love another without reservation, sweet unconditional love… no matter what.  My daughter, born four days after my twenty-seventh birthday has been the best gift of my life.  A blessing from the beginning, I learned how to love others by loving her first.  I expect she may take a look at this post, but it won’t be the first time she’s heard me say this. I’ve been telling her whole life that she has been the best blessing of mine.

Happy Birthday, baby girl – make a bold wish with those birthday candles and blow!