Scott and I were told recently that we were very positive people, that our outlook on life was refreshing. I can't speak for Scott, although I have an inkling that a large part of him has always been pretty positive. I do, however, know that I have not always been this way. The kernel was always there, as it is in everyone. But for many years it struggled to survive under the weight of my negative, dark, and extremely abusive thoughts. Recently, two things have been bouncing around in my community of people, as well as in my own mind. Those things are body image, and living in gratitude. For me, the pain of one led me to the joy of the other.
Several friends of mine with girls Zoe's age (5-ish) have been bouncing around stories of our daughters not only using the word "fat," but using it in reference to their own sweet, beautiful five year-old bodies. Ugh. And so it begins. My own journey through body image trials has been a long one, and one that is not even close to being finished. It is an issue that I will likely turn over and over again in my psyche until the day I die... although I do hold out hope that I will be rid of it before then. Already, approaching forty, I feel relief from some of the psychic weight of my own weight. I just don't think about it so much. My clothes look good, I know I'm beautiful, and - most importantly - the warrior inside me, the mama bear that protects myself as well as my children, fights a valiant fight against those negative thoughts that were so all-encompassing through my teens and twenties in order to allow me to be a better mom to my children. When I bargained with the powers that be that I wanted to have a baby girl, I promised that I would teach her that she is perfect and beautiful just they way she is. Any way she is. At any given moment. And how could I do that if I didn't believe it about myself?
I began that spiritual work many years ago. And believe me, this is very much spiritual work. How arrogant of me to think that I am a fat piece of shit? (Oooh, those words sting, don't they? They make me cringe now, but I used to say those words to myself just about every minute, of every day, for many years.) In the face of the Creator that made me, in spite of the Divine that lives inside me, how can I believe that? After a bout with clinical depression in my late teens / early twenties, I worked with a wonderful therapist in San Francisco for five years. I learned so much about myself, but continued to be mired in the self-hatred that has become so common for full-figured women in our culture. I took a few years off from therapy, and then began working with my beloved life coach in San Francisco. It was finally through her that I identified that Warrior Woman inside me. For the first time that I could remember, after about two years of working with her, the negative voices were gone. I had banished them, because in no way did they serve me. I still struggle with those voices from time to time (Why, hello, hormones of pregnancy!), but generally I am rid of them. Hallelujah!
Once that tremendous feat was accomplished, my next challenge was to get a grip on my other thoughts and prayers. Have you ever heard the sayings, "Worry is a negative prayer," or, "Worrying is misuse of the imagination?" Well, it is absolutely true. I started reigning in my negative thoughts and worries, focusing instead on the positive. Instead of thinking, "I really don't want my job to suck," I started thinking, "I'd love to enjoy my job!" This shift has been pivotal, and I believe it is what has allowed me the great fortune of getting on the correct path. And what is that correct path like? How do I know I'm on the correct path?
I know because things are a lot easier when I'm "in the flow," or "on the path," or whatever you want to call it. Life is pretty peaceful here. This is not at all to say that we don't have our hardships. We certainly have been faced with some really scary shit in the last several years. But we haven't allowed ourselves to be mired in worry. We have done our best to see these bumps in the road as just that. We lost a job because we are supposed to be somewhere else. We had that fight because it forced us to come together again after we had been drifting apart. But above all else, we know we will be okay. This is really important.
Somehow, I have always been able to touch into this belief that everything happens for a reason, and it always happens for the best. Great discoveries and transformations can come from situations that seem, at the time, like they are horrible and scary. Perhaps this is because my mom always instilled in me the unwavering belief that we would be okay. I used to worry about intruders when I was a little girl, but my mom just said to me, "Well, has that ever happeend to us before?" My answer: "No." "Well, it's not going to happen tonight, either." She had such a strong belief in God, and specifically in those special angels assigned to us kiddoes. I think it rubbed off a little. Even as early as my teen years, I was shown over and over again that, even though I might not be able to see the reasons why in the moment, even the crappy things that came my way had a higher purpose.
The undercurrent of everything in my life is a constant stream of trust in the wisdom of the Universe. I trust that the right path will be made apparent to me. I trust that God is conspiring with me to help me fulfill my higher purpose in this world. I can't always see what that is, but that is not worrisome to me. I *know* that great things are in store for me, and for Scott. And I am incredibly grateful for the blessings of the wonderful life that I have been afforded. Right now, in this moment, I am overflowing with gratitude. I cannot express to you in words how amazing that is. Although I don't feel entirely comfortable disclosing to the world the hardships we have encountered recently, suffice it to say that God's grace is good. I had prayed for some acceptance about six months ago, during a time when that felt impossible to attain. In very timely fashion, that acceptance came right before it was called upon and put into action. And this hardship no longer felt so overwhelming. Instead it felt like an opportunity for great expansion.
I have not always been able to speak so positively about the course of my life. A few years ago, I attended a 'life class' of sorts with my coach and about 10 other people. As we did that work together, as we dreamed together, I was skeptical. I could not see how this was going to make any difference for me. Even as I was putting together my dream book I was thinking, "Oh please. If this really works I'll be amazed." Well... I've been amazed. Over and over and over again in the years since then. I did the work — starting with gratitude lists, meditations, dream books, and moving on to the more challenging task of trusting in God and the Divine with me in the day-to-day — and the shift in my life has been tremendous.
So now, even in the hardest of times, I am mostly able to live in a blissful state of gratitude. I do not claim to be perfect. I can complain and bemoan with the best of them, and usually with quite the snarky, colorful, and sarcastic flair! But the undercurrent of trust is always there now. I do tend to it, and I still have to work at it. But generally, I am so grateful for my life. I am grateful for the strong body I have that has birthed two 10 pounders. I am grateful for my supportive, sweet, and forgiving husband. I am grateful for my wonderful neighbors who add so much richness to our home life. I am grateful for the opportunities I've been given here to serve and support other mamas. I could go on and on. But above all, I am grateful to be able to access such a deep well of gratitude. It's a good place to be.
I had the great fortune of getting to spend some time with the women in my family - ALL the women in my family - this past weekend. We used to do an annual 'Girls' Weekend,' but that has fallen by the wayside as the economy has taken its hit, and our lives have changed. This past visit was a little bit of a Girls' Weekend, a little bit family reunion, and a little bit a celebration of my sister, Sharon's FIFTIETH birthday!! Woo hoo!
We had a wonderful time together, and it has left me feeling super grateful for this time in my life.
I am married to a wonderful man, I have two beautiful and healthy children, we are not suffering financially, we live in a sweet home, in an awesome neighborhood, in a great part of the country. If someone had told me 15 years ago this is what my life was going to look like, I would've spent far less time and energy worrying and feeling sad and conflicted, as I often did in those days. Plenty of other people in this world are not nearly as blessed as I am, and I really do my best to stay in a place of gratitude and joy for the things that I have.
Someone remarked to me yesterday that they saw me as a very positive person. I have not always been this way, and it has taken years of cultivation. Now, it is an every day - every moment - practice to STAY in the present moment. Don't fret about the past, don't worry about the future. I try to stay in the Here and Now, because I am acutely aware that These are the Days (beware: music videos from the 90's are kinda funny). As I sit here with my infant son smiling at me, and then look to my little girl that I can't even call a preschooler anymore (!!), I know that these days are fleeting. I swell with gratitude.
I took a moment during the weekend to feel especially grateful for my sister, Sharon. When I was growing up and getting to an age where I was making memories, Sharon was still at home with me. When she was 16, I was Zoe's age (5). What a great combo! A teenager who loves kids, and a kid who adores her big sister. We developed a very special bond that extends all the way to today, now that I am 38 and she is 50. For this special birthday, I wrote her a letter. I read it to her at her birthday celebration on Saturday night, not only to share with our family the love that I have for her, but also to get her back for the toast she wrote for me at my wedding that made me cry. Ha! I wanted to make sure she had a written copy of it, and I thought it only appropriate to shout it out so as many people as I could reach could be witness to her awesomeness...
As you turn 50, my hope is that you look back on your long, really REALLY long life so far (heh) and can see clearly how much you mean to those that you love. There may not be scores of us, but that is just a testament to your singular focus on those of us lucky enough to be in your inner circle. When you love someone, you give them your all. No one could hope for a more generous – generous of time, generous of energy, generous of love – friend or family member.
You are the glue that holds our family together. You are always keeping us in mind in your daily life – from the postcards you used to send to Grandmommy, to the birthday and Christmas gifts that you are taking such care to pick out for us all throughout the year, to the heartfelt poems, to the phone calls just to say “hi.” We are so incredibly blessed to be able to call you our sister, daughter, niece, or Shasha. I have not known another person in my MUCH shorter life (haha!) who has held the importance of family with such esteem.
What you have meant to me is more than I could possibly say in just one simple letter. When I was a baby, you loved me to pieces. When I was a preschooler, I know you spent countless hours playing with me. Now, having my own preschooler, I can more fully understand and appreciate the patience that took! But also, I see the way that you adore my daughter, and I know that you adored me the same way.
When I got older, you held me in your heart through the roughest of growing pains, and shared with me your own experiences in confidence so that I did not have to suffer by repeating your history. It made me feel so important, to be so important to you. I believe that some large part of who I am today, was because of you and the love and respect you showed me, even in my most awkward and self-esteem-less moments.
And now that I am an adult, we have grown closer as sisters in a deeper way. We have a bond that I share with no one else on this earth. I can share things with you that no one else will understand the way that you do, because in so many ways we are alike. And how incredibly lucky am I, to be like you! After all, that’s what I wished for so many times growing up… just to be like you.
And so it continues! You are Fifty and Fabulous! I hope I am as fabulous as you are when I’m fifty.
I love you! Happy Birthday, to my intuitive, kind, feminine, loyal, generous, and sassy Sis.
If you missed it, you can read Part One of the birth story here.
I think sometimes I forget what an awesome privilege it was to birth on The Farm. After living there for six weeks, it sort of lost some of it's mystique. I had become close with my midwife, I knew the farm property from walking it endlessly each day, and had familiar relationships with the teachers at the farm school along with some others that we came into contact with regularly. The Farm itself is a little mecca in an otherwise... um, how shall I say this... culturally desolate? area of Middle Tennessee. We would have to travel a half hour to get anywhere, and over an hour to get anywhere where there was something more than strip malls. We not only saw the wonderfully farmy aspects of the farm, but we also saw the less appealing aspects of the surrounding area, which could not be avoided due to the necessary evils of groceries and restaurants. (And believe me, hanging out for 5 weeks with nothing to do but wait made the breaks in monotony provided by restaurants a welcome relief - even scary Chinese buffet-type restaurants.)
But then, I look in my Ina May's Guide to Childbirth book to do a little research for a friend, and read through the stats of the births on the Farm from 1970-2000. Emergency transports, 1.3%. Postapartum depression, 1%. Fifteen sets of twins born vaginally. Maternal mortality, 0. Continued breastfeeding among the women of The Farm, 100%!! And these numbers do not 'risk out' any populations of birthing mothers, like hospitals do. I am so unbelievably privileged to have been afforded the stellar care that has provided these outcomes year after year. There is no doubt that my experience would have been very different had I chosen to birth anywhere else.
No hospital would have "allowed" me to go to 43 weeks, and the consensus among the three midwives present was that Jack looked clinically to be a 40-41 week baby. He was not 'late' in appearance, and had he been born two weeks prior, he could have been premature. That would have been a likely outcome had I chosen a hosptial birth, because I would have been watched closely due to my weight and prior diagnosis with Zoe of gestational diabetes. Even with the best of the best natural birth care providers in San Francisco, they were powerless to stop the pressure of the OBs on staff to induce starting at 40 weeks (she was born at 42 weeks + one day because I fought tooth and nail to trust my body and go into labor naturally).
The attitude of my midwife, Pamela Hunt, was supportive but also cautious. I somehow expected to have a super laid back, kind of hippie midwife who just trusted my body to do what it is meant to do. She certainly trusted my body, and from the very beginning would smile at me and say, "This time is going to be so different. It will be so much easier for you, Shelby," when the subject of Zoe's birth came up. But she also recommended I get an ultrasound at 18 weeks when I was having what I suspected to be bad gas cramps (pregnancy is so dignified!) and ligament stretching. She just wanted to be sure it wasn't anything else. She also kept a watchful eye about my sugars and gestational diabetes. At 15 weeks, she had me start testing my sugars and adjusting my diet accordingly. Pamela kept an eye on my weight gain, but didn't really have to as I actually lost weight and eventually only gained about 10 pounds during my pregnancy. She was my biggest cheerleader, and most kind confidante. We felt an instant connection upon meeting, and we now love each other dearly. It is weird that she is not a part of my everyday life with Jack, and I miss her very much.
Even though Pamela and I both thought this birth would be so much different than the last one, some things about it were and some weren't. I had prelabor rupture of membranes with both labors. Both my children got stuck for one reason or another on their way out. And neither of my babies came directly to my chest to hang out for a couple of hours and get used to being in this world.
At some point during the whole placenta extravaganza, they did bring Jack to me to show him to me, all wrapped up in blankets. I remember not really giving a crap, because I knew by then that he was ok and I was working on my own issues at that point. Now, looking back on it, I just feel sad. I am still mourning the loss of being able to have my baby handed up to my chest for that awesome time of falling in love with my newborn. I didn't have that with Zoe, and I didn't have it with Jack, either. It's the single thing that I was most looking forward to with Jack's birth, and it wasn't meant to be. Sure, he ended up being healthy and so did I. I am eternally grateful for that. But that does not negate my feelings of grief over not getting to experience that bliss as so many other women have. I know what that moment can be. Jack is my last baby. I will never have that. And it makes me sad.
As I was getting cleaned up and ever-so-slowly making my way over to the bed, Zoe woke up. Melissa happened to go upstairs to use the bathroom and Zoe was up already to pee. She called Scotty up to the bathroom, and he told her that our baby was born! He says that her eyes were like saucers - she was so excited! He brought her downstairs and readied her to do her job, which was to announce whether the baby was a boy or a girl. She reached the bottom of the stairs and stopped short - she forgot her necklace! You see, when Sherry, my best friend, had arrived at the farm a week after we did, she took Zoe into her room and closed the door. In that same lovely pink room where she stayed during her visit and I held my breathing son for the first time, she gave her a crystal charm and necklace that had been hers since she was a child. She explained that the crystal could give her courage if she believed in it, and that she was giving it to her to wear during the birth of her baby brother or sister. Zoe took this very seriously, and still says to this day that things have magic if you believe in them. I love that Shery taught her this lesson. I live by it, and it has served me well. Anyway, she ran back upstairs and put her necklace on, then ran back down.
As Scott would recount this part of the story later, this was very special time between him and his daughter. My heart goes out to my dear husband. He had just been through watching his son born seemingly lifeless, and his wife possibly bleeding to death. The thought certainly crossed his mind that he might be left behind to raise Zoe himself. What a horrible experience for anyone to have to go through, and he suffered from mild PTSD for a few days after Jack's birth. Upon seeing his daughter's healthy and happy face, he melted a bit and reveled in the normalcy of being with her and the closeness of their bond.
They hung out in the kitchen, and everyone was instructed not to call the baby and "he" or a "boy." Zoe was VERY intent on doing her job, and we didn't want to let her in on the fact that we all knew it was a boy. She knew mommy and daddy knew, but we let her think that no one else did, and that she was making the announcement to everyone else. Stacie let it slip a few times, I think, but Zoe didn't notice. As she was waiting, she decided she wanted to refill her water glass...in the kitchen sink...where my placenta was awaiting inspection and storage. Oh yes. So Scotty heard, "Um...Daddy...?" when Zoe saw what was in the sink. Ha! He calmly explained to her what it was, she took note, and they went on about other things. I'm constantly amazed at how our children take our cues from us. If it's no big deal for us? It's no big deal for her. Whew!
Once I was propped in the bed, cleaned up, and with Jack in my arms, Zoe and Scotty came in (with Scott averting her eyes from the blood-filled tub) to the bedroom. She climbed up and was so completely in awe of her little brother. She had already told Scotty that this was the 'best day of my life' and now got the chance to do her Very Important Job. We pulled the blanket away and she said, "It's a boy!" followed up with a half-whispered question to her dad and me, "But...why is it all stripey?" She had mistaken the umbilical cord for his penis, but we set her straight. She sat on the bed and I set up her up with the Boppy so that she could hold her little brother for the first time. She was so proud.
We had a few quiet moments in that pink room. I tried to nurse, but Jack wasn't interested. And then he started to cry. He had been wide awake since first starting to breathe on his own, but now he was breathing pretty quickly and was crying and agitated with only short breaks in between crying spells.
When Jack had been born not breathing, everyone in the cabin went to his side except me, and eventually Laura came back to sit with me. As it should be! There were two midwives and two midwife assistants there at the time, but we were missing the midwive that usually attends with Pamela, Deborah Flowers. She is a Certified Nurse Midwife as well as a NICU nurse, and had a shift in the NICU at the hospital starting at 6 a.m. So she had declined to attend Jack's birth in favor of sleep. Ah, the best laid plans! Upon realizing that a resuscitation effort was necessary, Laura was set to the task of getting Deborah to our cabin. She called first - no answer. So, she hopped in one of the cars in the driveway, and drove over to her house. Having lived in that home herself at some point, luckily she knew her way around in the dark. She found Deborah in bed (with earplugs in to help her sleep!), and woke her up to bring her back to the cabin. She arrived just four or five minutes after Jack was breathing on his own, and hooked up the O2 to the flow inflating mask to do CPAP, forcing oxygen into his lungs at a steady rate which helped 'fluff' his lungs out further and his breathing became easier. She was a repeated voice of calm for Scotty during this time, and she stayed on hand until she felt Jack was doing ok.
When Jack started crying and wouldn't stop, the midwives became concerned. I tried to calm him, but people were in and out of the bedroom trying to clean up the INCREDIBLE mess that had been made the prior few hours. (The floor of the bedroom was awash in water, the rug soaked, among other things.) Pamela came in to discuss with me the possibility of taking him in to the hospital to get him checked out.
The thought of this was horrifying to me. I mean, absolutely horrifying. It was snowing outside now, the car seat wasn't installed yet (and when Scotty told Pamela that, her response was, "Oh that's right! We'll have to put him in a damn car seat!" wishing that he could just be held and snuggled during the car ride as they used to do back in the day), but most of all I discovered I would have to stay behind until morning because I was in no shape to make the ride. I used my lesson from my childbirth prep class with Michelle of B.R.A.N. I asked Pamela - What are the Benefits to taking him to the hospital, what will happen there? What are the Risks of not taking him to the hospital? Was there another Alternative to taking him to the hospital? Could we do Nothing, or wait a little while? My answers were that she thought he might have an infection. I said that he didn't have a fever, and she said that is actually a late onset sign of infection, but that high respirations were an early sign. The risk of not taking him was obvious, that he had an infection that could be dangerous if we waited to get him to the hospital. The alternative was to wait a little while, and I asked if we could please do that. She relented, but I later found out that the only reason she did that was because Deborah was there and agreed that waiting a little bit would be ok.
During his crying bouts, I had noticed a growling in his tummy. Intuitively, I felt that his crying was about gas of all things. What newborn has gas within an hour of birth?? But this intuition is what allowed me to feel comfortable with keeping him at the cabin with me instead of sending him to the hospital. I mentioned this concern about gas, but it was brushed off at the time. I remember this time with tears in my eyes. Jack was wide-eyed, and had the look of a terrified wild animal on his face. His eyes were darting all around the room, and he just looked so helpless and fearful. I could not cry about it at the time, as I was being Strong Mommy. But man. Just writing it about it now brings tears to my eyes. I wanted so badly to make it better for him, but couldn't.
Jack and I were finally left alone for long enough then for me to have a 'Come to Jesus' talk with his little spirit. I said, "Hey little man. You need to calm down, baby. If you do not calm down, you will be taken away from me, and I know that you and I need each other right now. So please, calm down a little." At that point, he was a good little baby and did as his mommy asked. Pamela was able to get some normal respiration rates, and Deborah stayed until she felt comfortable that Jack was doing well and didn't need to go to the hospital. That was until 4 a.m. And she got up an hour later to work her 12 hour shift at the hospital. She was our angel, and I am forever grateful that she stuck around to see us through this rough spot. In between when the suggestion was made to go to the hospital and Deborah gave the green light to stay home, Scotty and Zoe went up to bed to get some rest.
Somewhere in there, Pamela let me know she was going to be staying the night, and that she had called a postpartum doula that lived on The Farm to come and help us. And now enters another angel onto the scene at the Swan Center Cabin. This woman, Marilyn, was so incredibly lovely. With her long, long gray hair in two braids down her back, she sat in the bedroom with me and Jack to be with me, and to help hold him if I needed. She held him while I got up to use the port-a-let, and just so that I could change positions and give my tailbone a rest from being propped up, first on the floor, and now on the bed. We chatted a bit, and then I rested while she sang the most beautiful blues and bluegrass to Jack. She had a low and gravely voice that was a balm for my soul, and I know for Jack's, too. He just cried and cried, and she and I took turns holding him and loving him while Pamela got some rest on the couch.
Eventually, Pamela came in and asked if they could take Jack into the living room so that I could try to sleep a little bit. Not wanting to be separated from him, but desperately needing some rest, I relented and they took him into the next room. I fell asleep at 5 a.m. listening to him cry, and Marilyn singing to him. She lay on the couch with Jack, eye to eye with him, singing to him and loving him, until 8 a.m.
Then, he pooped.
As any of you with children know, the subject of newborn poop is not only acceptable adult conversation material, but it is often regarded with great excitement and detail. Jack's first poop was dark brown, and very soft. You're thinking, "That's not normal." And you would be correct. A newborn's first poops are usually black and very sticky, not brown and sort of soft. The conclusion is that he must have swallowed water - either amniotic fluid or tub water - at some point during his birth, which made its way through his digestive tract - slowly and painfully - for the first eight hours of his life. In addition to that, he probably swallowed some air from the resuscitation efforts. Poor baby. Once he pooped? He was a completely different baby.
I think the cheering and ooh-ing and ahh-ing - and the lack of Jack's crying - was what woke me up. Pamela brought Jack in to me. He was still wide-eyed, but now he was calm. We managed a pretty good nursing session, and he pooped one more time. That little boy stayed awake for many more hours, not succombing to sleep until 2 p.m. He was awake for the first 14 hours of his life. Once he fell asleep, he slept a good long time. The great thing about working with midwives as opposed to OBs? I was not asked to wake him to nurse. I did check in with Pamela about that, but she assured me that it was fine to let him sleep and that he would wake when he was hungry. I think we nursed again sometime later that evening, a few times the next day, and then by Sunday we were up to about every 3 hours . This was all following his cues, and not forcing anything. How awesome is that?
(Jack thinks it's pretty awesome. This, by the way, was also the smile that he gave Marilyn when she made her visit to us five days after he was born, as soon as she spoke to him.)
That first week postpartum, I did not want to let Jack go. He was in arms for that first week and more, only being put down to be changed. It just seemed wrong to put him down, and I couldn't imagine sticking him in a swing or a bouncy chair, as I knew we had done often with Zoe, and indeed do with Jack now, too. Each day brought visitors - Pamela came twice on Saturday to check on us, and then once a day after that. Stacie, Melissa, Laura, and Marilyn all stopped by in the subsequent days as well.
We recounted the birth story each time, picking up pieces that we didn't remember or hadn't known about along the way, like Stacie taking her socks off, or letting it slip that Jack was a boy after Zoe was in the room. We also ruminated over why Jack was not breathing, and I believe the consensus was two things: he was stunned from being yanked out of me, and/or the cord had been wrapped around his torso and shoulder and may have been compressed when he got stuck. Pamela was very sure to inform me of the appreciation I owed Deborah, because Pamela was ready to take Jack to the hospital. If Deborah had not stayed, Jack would have been a transfer, and my recovery - and feelings about my birth at The Farm - would have been very different. Oh Lord, to have had to fight the fights I would've been faced with had the hospital gotten their hands on Jack. I shudder to think it.
My postartum recovery was a little rocky because I had lost so much blood and was pretty anemic. For the first few days, I was happiest staying on the main floor and not using the stairs at all. If I did go upstairs, it was very slowly and I still was out of breath by the time I made it to the top. The anemia continued to slow me down considerably and also make me weepy for about four weeks. I'm glad that I had my placenta encapsulated and took it during that time. I cannot imagine what my recovery would have been like without it. Oh, and the easy part of recovery? My perineum. I never had to use a sitz bath or a peri bottle. I had one small, 1-cm tear. A 'skid mark' as the midwives call it. Compared to the last time, where I was coming out of the bathroom crying almost every day for weeks due to a partial 4th degree tear and eventual granulation tissue, this was heaven.
As it stands, I am so happy with my experience at The Farm. Does that seem weird? I hope not. Even though we had some of the same stuff happen this time around as last, I do not have to wonder if things might have been different had I chosen more supportive care providers. I had the best in the world for me, and that I know for sure. The way that things played out was the way it was meant to be, for whatever reason. And I do believe there is a reason behind the ways that we birth our babies, for everyone involved - for mama, for baby, for partner, and even for the midwives attending.
Who knows what would've happened had I not chosen The Farm, and Pamela as my midwife. We will never know, and I don't care to speculate. But I do know that it was one of the best experiences of my life. Who gets to take a six week chunk out of life with their family to live in the beautiful country and be surrounded by a like-minded, loving, and kind community of people? Not many. But we were this fortunate. And I want to take a minute here to thank everyone who helped that to happen.
I want to thank...
My midwives, midwife apprentices, and doula - Pamela, Stacie, Deborah, Melissa, Laura, and Marilyn. Oh for so many things. There aren't words.
Zoe's teachers and The Farm School, for entertaining and TEACHING my daughter! She loved going to school there, and still talks about Peter Principal out of the blue every now and then.
Maggie and Rosie, for SO many playdates and - holy cow! - for all the newborn diapers! I didn't get a chance to look through them well while we were still at The Farm, but Imse Vimse's and Little Beetles - wow. Too kind. We've thought of you every time we've used them. Also, thank you for letting us camp out in your basement to watch the NFL playoffs. Who knew it would be so hard to find someone on The Farm with cable?!
Bri, for vacuuming my house while I ran around in my nightgown trying to pack up our lives!
Kimberly, Brandon & Harper, for staying in our house and taking care of the doggie while we were gone. What a blessing to have a family that was happy to be so flexible and available to help us for all six weeks!
Scott's employer, for their patience and flexibility during our time at The Farm. It was near impossible for Scott to continue to do any work, with our spotty internet and his horrible cell reception.
My employer, SweetRush, for more than I can say.
Nic and ABH for so many things - for fetching Sherry from the airport, for bringing flowers, for hosting us when we made a prenatal visit, and for just being willing to help out whenever I asked. Unbelievable.
Nic, Nancy, and Marijune for being on deck to come out to The Farm to be Zoe's doula during the birth should Sherry have to leave. We ended up deciding against bringing anyone new into the cabin after Sherry left, but these folks - especially Nancy - stood waiting in the wings, ready to drop everything and come to our aid.
My sister, Sharon, for coming out to visit us twice. I was happy to have someone else know what our experience looked like in person, and thrilled that you were able to come out and meet Jack in his first week of life.
My mom for making it possible for us to stay as long as we did without having to cut and run, and also for dusting my house and mopping my floors after we arrived home. (Go, Mom!)
My mother-in-law, Jean, for coming out with her van to help us pack and haul all our crap home. And man, after six weeks of living there? We had a lot of crap.
My neighbors, for bringing us food every other night for the first two weeks that we were home, and for the friends who did the same in the following week. (Bri, Kira, Kelley, Sally, Adele, Maria, Sarah, Marva, Melissa, Marijune - thank you so much!)
Lori del Mar, for our work together. Throughout the years, it has fundamentally changed the way I move through this world for the better.
Star, for both giving me the distraction of helping you out with some of the stuff that was going on for you at the time, and for listening to me cry and vent a few days before Jack was born. Even though we don't manage to talk all that often, I am so thankful that you are my friend. And I know you always will be.
Michelle, my SF midwife, for so many things. For all the pep talks, for all the stats and information, for all the sparkles and magic sent from across the country, and just for being you, Michelle. You were often the only one I wanted to talk to about anything that I was going through, and you were always there for me and happy to support me. I am sad that you couldn't be there with us, but you were still an integral part of my experience with this birth, as you were with Zoe also.
Everyone who sent us labor juju, prayers, lit candles, thoughts, and/or energy work. I found it infinitely helpful to know that so many of you were rooting for us.
Sherry and the Hedstrom clan. Sherry changed flights too many times to count in order to try to be there for Jack's birth, and still it was not meant to be. She did countless loads of dishes, and provided company on numerous walks and was on one occasion the only person able to drag me out of a very, very dark hole. She provided unwavering support to all of us, including Zoe, and the time that we all spent together is a slice out of life that I will always cherish. Her family - Zelda, Andrei, and my little Fisher girl - kept the home fires burning, taking over all of her many responsibilities for the entire month that she was gone. What an unbelievable gift. I cannot wait for you all to meet Jack.
And finally...My husband. Nothing I could write here could adequately express the deep gratitude I feel for having married someone who so whole-heartedly supports me, understands me, and believes in me. Without your UNWAVERING love and support, even as I was doubting myself, this experience on The Farm would not have been possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you for dreaming this dream with me.
I may have more thoughts about The Farm as days go on. It was such a special experience, and I don't want to forget a bit of it. Jack is here now, and he is a happy, smiley, giggly little three month-old. I fall in love with him all over again ever time I look into his little smushy face. We can look back fondly on the 5 weeks of waiting that we spent there now, even though at the time it could be tedious, and challenging, and at times quite incredibly boring. We tried very hard to stay in the present, knowing that this was an experience of a lifetime. I think we achieved that, and I will forever be grateful to the woods of Middle Tennessee and the Farmy folks that live there, for holding the space for me and my family to bring our last child in from the womb world to this one.
Ok, ready? Here we go... I am writing this for the birth-minded individuals that I know follow this blog. For some of you, this may seem like too much information. I am a birth professional, and my story is of great interest to birthy people because it happened on the world-reknowned Farm. But if the specifics of birthing are not your thing, then feel free to skip to the next post. Seriously.
It has taken me a while to feel like putting pen to paper to record the events of Jack's birthing. The decision to go to The Farm was a very serious one, and one with which I'm sure not everyone would agree. In addition, there were some things that happened that might make some people judge me for having made this choice. And man, don't we all hate to be judged. It also took me a while to be able to process some of my feelings - and my grief - about this, my last birth experience. But ultimately, the writing of this story is for those that have been excited to hear it, and for myself. It has been cathartic to get it all down in writing, and I feel ready to share it.
At about 38 weeks I started having bloody show, and had three different midwives tell me to high-tail it to The Farm about three weeks before we had planned to go. Our departure from our home was a whirlwind, and I will always remember my friend Bri stopping by to drop off a belated Christmas present... and staying to vacuum my house! We packed up our lives, and drove the 5 hours to our cabin at the Swan Center on The Farm.
You can read more about the cabin and our accommodations in many previous posts on this blog. In short, we spent 5 weeks on The Farm before I went into labor - at 43 weeks. It was a long and sometimes excruciating wait. Our lives were much more 'on hold' for this baby than if we had stayed at home, and it called into question SO many things... our finances, my spiritual health, our decision to come to The Farm, and the strength of my marriage, to name a few.
On Thursday night, the day before Jack was born, we went out to a nice restaurant that we hadn't visited yet. I had steak and fried green tomatoes, and a lovely glass of wine. Before we had gone out, on the recommendation of Michelle or Star (which one of you was it? I can't remember!), I did a 'Spinning Babies' inversion to try to get Jack out of my pelvis and then settled back in, in the hopes that he would find a better position to place more pressure on my cervix and get things going. It's just a 30 second inversion off the couch, and then I got up and swiveled around on my birth ball for a few minutes
In the middle of Thursday night at 2 am., Zoe woke up and was walking around the room (we shared a room with her), which woke me up. I got her to lay back down, and she promptly started coughing. Sleep being at the premium that it was at 43 weeks pregnant, in a frustrated huff, I gathered my many pillows and threw them at the top landing of the stairs to wait for me until I was finished using the bathroom and heading down to the bedroom downstairs away from the coughing. I took a few steps down, turned around and leaned down to pick up the pillows... and felt liquid gushing down my legs. Excited, I ran back up to the toilet, sat down, and used one of the swabs that Pamela, my midwife, had given me to verify amniotic fluid. Yay! It was positive!
Since Jack had been sitting so high (-5) in my pelvis, my instructions were to call Pamela if my waters broke and lay down to wait for her so that I could avoid a prolapsed cord. We both knew it was best to avoid vaginal exams after my waters released, but the danger of a prolapsed cord was by far more important than the risk of infection. She was as careful as possible. So, at 2:30 in the morning, Pamela came over to our cabin and checked me out. I was 3 cm dialated, and all was well.
I wasn't having any contractions, so I listened to my Rainbow Relaxtion hypnobirthing track and actually managed to go back sleep. I did partially wake throughout the morning to crampiness, but nothing that was regular or strong enough to keep me awake. As the sun came up, it scared the crampiness away and we went about our day, checking in with Pamela every now and then.
At about 2pm, Pamela showed up on our doorstep and said, "Well, it's been 12 hours now. It's time to get this party started, Shelby." So, I opted for homeopathic caulophyllum as a gentle method to try to get contractions going. Pamela left saying that she would be back at 5pm whether I called her or not. I placed a call to Michelle, my homebirth midwife friend in San Francisco, to ask whether I could take Calms Forte while in labor. This homeopathic induction stuff felt tantamount to throwing myself off a cliff, and I was feeling pretty anxious and bitchy about it. She said that it would be fine, and I was SO THANKFUL. I took some Calms Forte and headed out the door.
Scott, Zoe, and I walked the roads I had walked many times before with Sherry in the drizzling rain, and I began taking the caulophyllum every 20 minutes for the next two hours. I had my first mild contractions out on our walk. When we got home, I made a pot of pennyroyal tea to also help things along. By 3:30 I was having contractions about every 45 minutes or so, that were about 1.5-2 minutes long.
This is one of the gifts of this labor as opposed to Zoe's. Early labor. The part where you have contractions every now and then, but otherwise can hang out with the family and be excited for the arrival of your new baby. I enjoyed this time, walking with my not-for-long family of three, hanging out with Zoe, and chatting with a midwife apprentice named Melissa, who we called at around 3 to come over to keep Zoe busy and be her sibling doula. I swirled my hips in circles while standing, and while on the ball.
As I suspected, my contractions did not really ramp up until after Zoe went to bed at about 8:30. At that point, they were about a minute long, every 3-5 minutes. At about 10pm, I felt like I had to poop but couldn't stand sitting on the little porta-let we had in the downstairs bedroom, which was next to the back room where we had the birth tub. Pamela suggested an enema, and although I was not thrilled with the idea, I agreed. And then, ladies and gentlemen, I was off like a shot. For those of you who have sensitive bowels, as I do, if you ever want to speed along a labor just take an enema. I went from being able to 'horse lips' through contractions while standing and leaning against Scotty or the wall, to having to vocalize - LOUDLY - through contractions, and still only standing.
Meanwhile, after Zoe had gone to bed, Scotty and Melissa started filling the birth tub. Due to our R2D2-sized hot water heater, we also had to boil large stock pots of water on the stove and dump those in. It took about two whole hours to fill the tub. At some point during this time also, the other apprenctice midwife, Laura, arrived. She acted as my doula while Scotty was busy with the filling of the tub. Apparently there was music playing. I didn't notice it, but Scotty was sure to put it on without asking, because last time around he asked and I practically screamed NO at him. Later on, I remarked that I wished I had had the music on. So, music this time.
By about 10:30, the tub was ready and I was VERY ready for the tub. Before I got in, I had to endure the excrutiating task of laying back for a cervical check and to check Jack's heartbeat. I was at 9 centimeters, and Jack was doing great. Woo hoo! Everything was moving very quickly, although I was careful to block thoughts of 'time' out of my mind, knowing that it wouldn't be helpful. There were no clocks close by, and a couple of times I thought to myself, "Wow, this is going fast! But, maybe I just think it is. Maybe hours have passed and I just don't know it... Whatever."
Scotty and I got into the tub - me on hands and knees, leaning over the edge of the blow-up tub, and him behind me, holding a hand on my tailbone for counter pressure. Surges became stronger and stronger, sometimes seeming to have no break in between. When I said something like, "I'm not getting a break!" Pamela would respond with, "That's great! That means your baby is getting closer!" During my pregnancy, we often joked together about how midwives rejoice in pregnant women's misery. (Not because they are sadists, just because thos uncomfortable feelings usually mean the baby is coming soon!) Eventually, I was practically screaming through contractions and thinking that hypnobirthing is SO not me! Ha! I really feel like I need to push against something, in this case my voice, to get through.
This is a good spot to stop and let you know about some things that I decided prior to this labor. They were:
- I will listen and do whatever my midwife tells me to do. - I had not done this so well the first time around, partially because I didn't feel I could completely trust my care providers (not you, Cynthia or Michelle, but the overarching hospital and OB on staff), and partially because I was fearful during labor. This time around, I was sure to align myself with the best care providers I could think of in order to remove that distrust for this birthing. I was in the best hands possible, and could trust that whatever Pamela told me to do was the best thing and I could give over control in her care.
- I will go towards the pain. - Some birth professionals don't like to use the word 'pain.' For me, it is not a word that scares me, and it best describes for me the feelings during labor. As a second-timer, I know that going towards the pain brings me closer to the end of the pain and the birth of my baby.
- I will wait for the urge to push. - The first time around with Zoe, I was told I was complete and could start pushing, so I started pushing. But I never - EVER - felt the urge to push. I never felt that 'throwing down' kind of feeling. I think this is part of why I pushed for so long (6 hours) and tired out so much, which resulted in pitocin and a vacuum extraction.
There were times when my vocalizing would get too high and screechy, and I would hear Pamela's voice from what seemed like 'the beyond' saying, "Keep your voice lower, Shelby. You're going to hurt your vocal chords if you don't." And I would listen. As I got closer to pushing, I would also start to whimper a little and sound a bit pathetic in between contractions. I would again hear her voice saying, "Ok, Shelby. Let's take a big cleansing breath. Let it all go with the exhale. You're doing great." And I would listen, and it made a world of difference. Just thinking about her voice now is calming to me.
Unbeknownst to me, the other people in the room with me were really worried about Zoe waking up. I was not - she had her white noise machine on and was 2.5 floors above us. Nor could I really care at that point. But they were exchanging glances with each contraction and subequent yell on my part, and were strategizing about what they would do if she walked in. They decided that they would cheer me on and tell me how great I was doing, so that she would clearly see that my screaming was a GOOD thing. It would've been pretty funny to go from the quiet supportive environment to a cheerleading section in there...
(This is actually a picture texted to me by my beloved friend, Michelle, in the week before Jack was born, to cheer me up. She had written this in the sands of Ocean Beach, our old stomping grounds, and the sands that I had walked so many hours when I was waiting for Zoe to make her grand entrance 5 years before.)
...but it was never necessary. Melissa or Laura would every once in a while go up to check on her, only to find her fast asleep.
Once I was in the tub, Pamela called the assisting midwife, Stacie, to come. She lived about a half hour away, so needed some lead time to get to the cabin. She arrived at around 10:45, and soon after I started feeling the urge to push. SO COOL! I mean, it was still hard and uncomfortable and a little scary, but I there was no stopping the pushing at this point. With each contractions, I pushed twice to try to get Jack out into the birth tub. Scott was positioned behind me in the tub, and the midwives were giving him instructions on how to protect my perineum so that I would't tear. He was catching Jack's head as he was emerging, significantly more and more with each push.
As he recounts the story here, he was so excited and proud to be the one catching his own baby! He really felt privileged to be holding this responsibility during the birth of our baby. And when everyone was saying that with each push I was making great progress, he changed the tone to other types of encouragement. You see, with Zoe, everyone was telling me that with each push I was making progress. FOR SIX HOURS they told me that, and eventually I called bullshit. He knew that's not what I would want to hear, so I started hearing things like, "You are so strong!" He's a wise one, that Scotty.
After about a half hour of pushing, I heard lowered voices behind me. This is never good. Apparently, my pushes had stopped making progress, and (as I later found out) Stacie had the overwhelming feeling that Jack needed to come out immediately. I heard Pamela's voice from the abyss saying, "Shelby, honey. We need you to flip over... right now." Laura got on the other side of me, and while still leaning on the edge of the tub I reached my left arm around behind my back to catch her arm reached out to support me, and I heaved myself over onto my back in the tub. This all took about a hot second, as I knew this was an emergency situation. This was the Gaskin Maneuver (Contrary to popular belief, the maneuver can be accomplished by turning over from a prone position to all fours, OR from all fours to a prone position. Either way rotates the baby to an un-stuck position.), which meant that Jack was stuck and in danger. It's amazing how quickly a mama can move when it's necessary.
From there on, things got a little crazy.
Stacie removed her socks (we laughed a lot about that later), and jumped into the birth tub with me (of course, fully clothed). She reached down, hooked her fingers under Jack's armpit, and pulled him out. She was so apologetic about it hurting me, but at that point I wasn't really feeling any pain and just wanted him to be safe. When he came out and onto my chest, he was blue and had no tone (he was floppy). He did not start breathing right away, nor did he start getting color quickly. Stacie had me turn him over onto his back and hold him above the water in the tub, and started massaging his chest and giving him puffs of breath. Pamela came over with the face mask and bag, and started giving him air that way. Stacie then said she was sorry, but they were going to have to cut his cord and take him ot the bedroom to help him start breathing on his own.
It was mayhem, as they had moved a lot of their supplies into the birth tub room but then needed to move them back to the bedroom. There was a lot of back and forth, yelling for clean towels and a flat surface and a myriad of other things. All the while, I lay exhausted and stoic in the birth tub. As I had been holding Jack out of the water for his first bout of CPR, I certainly wondered whether he was going to make it or not. I thought, "What if we went through all this, and his little spirit wasn't meant to be here?" A very calm, quite voice told me that was not the case, and I felt comforted by that mother's intuition. I somehow knew he was going to be ok.
Pamela has recounted this time as a time of stability and calm for herself and Melissa, who was helping her with Jack's resuscitation. Everyone else was running back and forth checking on him, and then on me, and gathering supplies and such. But Pamela and Melissa, who had been an L&D nurse and had assisted a homebirth midwife for a time - although this was her first birth on The Farm, were required to remain calm and were in their own zone as they helped Jack breathe with a "breath 2-3, breath 2-3..." for a good 5-7 minutes until Jack started turning pink even before he started taking breaths on his own. He had very quickly acheived good heart tones on his own, and from the moment his cord was cut he was getting oxygen into his lungs.
I should also mention here that the Divine had a hand in so much of what happened at this point in Jack's birth story. First, Sherry had to leave the Monday before Jack arrived. She had been such a help to us, and we were really hoping she could be there for Jack's birth and to help us by being Zoe's sibling doula during the birth. When that could not be the case, Melissa became Zoe's sibling doula, and Melissa ended up being incredibly necessary in her assistance of Pamela during Jack's resuscitation. Laura and Stacie ended up being busy elsewhere, which I will get to in a moment. Another blessing was that Pamela and the midwives had just recently received one of their twice-yearly trainings on neonatal resuscitation. Mary Lee Lemley comes down from Vanderbilt University with her $40,000 doll simulator to teach, and this past time had really put Pamela (they are friends) through the ringer, not letting that million dollar doll become stable for quite some time. All of this training was fresh in her mind, and ended up being invaluable in the case of Jack's birthing.
As it turns out, when he was born his heart rate was at 30 or so. A newborn's heart rate should be anywhere between 120-160. Immediately, however, his heart rate started rising, and in no time was back up to his norm of 140. But he still was not breathing on his own. Pamela, Stacie, and Melissa were in the next room, giving Jack oxygen to help him breathe. Every now and then, Stacie would come into the room where I was, look me straight in the eyes, and say, "Your baby is doing fine. He just needs a little help breathing. He's going to be fine." Scott was in the melee as well, trying to help find things and eventually tickling Jack's feet to try to stimulate him and yelling for him to open his eyes and breathe. I can't imagine how terrifying this was for him. After 10 of the longest minutes of our lives, Jack started breathing on his own. But it only got better...
Because the placenta was not coming. I was having no urges to push, and even when I did push nothing happened. After only about 5 minutes or so, Laura called to Stacy, 'Um, Stacie? Can you please come in here?" The tub had filled with blood so we couldn't see the bottom. They tried nipple stimulation, but Stacie quickly determined that I needed to get out of the tub. She deflated the top ring, and they helped me out of the tub and onto the floor, propped up on pillows on the short flight of three stairs up to the kitchen and living room of the cabin. She once again looked me purposefully in the eyes and said, "Shelby, it's ok to let go of your placenta. Imagine your placenta releasing from the side of your uterus." She tried to place an IV, and with my 'rolly veins' it took her three tries, with the IV eventually needing to be in the crook of my elbow which forced me to have to keep my arm straight. Not ideal, and she was again very apologetic, but I didn't really care at this point. After Scott ripped down the curtain and curtain rod above me so they could hang the IV bag from the screw that had held it to the wall (how's that for a homebirth moment?!), they gave me fluids and pitocin to try to keep my blood pressure up and get my uterus to contract enough to birth the placenta. Meanwhile, I was filling chucks pads with blood, and the placenta was still not being born.
With everyone worried that I was going to hemmorhage and have to be emergency transported to the hospital, Stacy reached in and did a manual extraction of the placenta. It wasn't too far up, and I was so high from my own hormones that I didn't even really feel it. She was successful, and then the biggest placenta they had ever seen was born. !! It had two lobes, and upon further inspection later on, one side was very healthy, but the other was a little calcified. This was probably the side that was hanging on and wouldn't let go of my uterus.
I spent the next hour or so trying to crawl my way to the bed where Jack was, just ten feet away. I had lost so much blood that every time I tried to make my way there, I'd start to black out and have to put my head between my knees. I spent a large part of that time on my knees leaning my arms and head on the seat of a folding chair. I believe Laura and Stacy were there on the floor with me, supporting me as best they could. There was no option to put me on a stretcher and carry me over there, and standing was not an option at all for me. Finally, I was able to make it to the bed and roll myself up onto it. They brought my son to me, and put him inside my nightgown, between my naked chest and his blankets. We were finally back together.
This is the story up to Jack's birth, and there is more to tell from here. Some details to fill in from what has happeend so far, a lot of answers to questios you may have about what I've written so far, and some more on the moments that followed. I will post Part Two of Jack's birth story tomorrow.
It has been a really long time since I first mentioned putting pen to paper to write the story of how Scotty and I met. It being our 8th wedding anniversary today, I thought now would be a good time...
In the Winter of 2000/2001, I was a crazy person. Yes, I admit it. I had lost a bunch of weight, and was having a blast on the dating scene in San Francisco. By the time I got to the end of January, I was little disenfranchised by the whole thing. I had met a few guys that had potential, but with each of them I had discovered some deal breaker within a few weeks, and had been forced to stomp mercilessly on their hearts. What? I can't help that I'm beautiful! Heh. I was still seeing some guys for fun, but had pretty much resolved to take my profile down off of the dating web site.
Then I got an email from a guy from Indiana. He didn't have a picture up on his profile, but everything else looked good. What he wrote was something like, "Hey - I think we have a lot in common. I really like your profile." Blah blah blah, maybe we could chat. But for me? No picture = No date. So I responded with, "You seem like a good guy, too! Send me a pic." He did, and it was a picture of a pretty cute guy with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. I wasn't one to email and chat forever before meeting someone. I'm not one for wasting my time. You can't know if there's chemistry if you don't meet in person, so I suggested we meet (somewhere with lots of people around, of course).
Having just arrived in California the prior October, Scott asked around his circle of friends for a good place for us to meet. He decided on the International Cafe in the Lower Haight, and we made a date for a Saturday afternoon, I think around 2 or 3 o'clock.
I wore a black sweater with a tight jeans skirt and some cute black chunky heels. Scotty was wearing a red plaid shirt that he had borrowed from his friend, Cassidy. We met up outside the Cafe, and although I know we were both happy with what we saw, the first words out of his mouth were - ready? - "I thought you were a blonde?" !!! Seriously. My picture on the site was with blonde highlights, and Winter had come so the blonde highlights were changed to red. I laughed it off (lucky for him!) and we headed inside to get a beverage. Beer, of course. And the rest is history.
We sat in that cafe's outdoor courtyard for over two hours talking about everything under the sun. I distinctly remember falling in love with him right there and then, and thinking that this could not be true. He must have felt the same, because from there we made our way up to the Upper Haight's Magnolia Brewery to meet two of his closest friends, James and Shannon. We joked around with them for a bit, and then I stepped outside to make some phone calls....canceling the dates that I had scheduled for that evening, and the following afternoon (I kid you not. Hey, I said I was a crazy person!). There was no way anyone else was going to hold a candle to this new guy. No point in wasting anybody's time, right?
From there, we left and went to Zare, another restaurant in the Upper Haight that has since changed hands several times. We stopped by my (hot little convertible) car on the way there, and I sat on the church steps on Masonic and changed into my black boots because it had gotten a little chilly. We were seated outside, where there were lots of red Christmas lights strung about and romantic candles at the tables. We were deeply into each other, and it must have shown. Our server's name was Michael. At some point during our meal there, he stopped short and said, with a twinkle in his eye, "Are you two married?" We laughed and said "No." He responded with, "Wow. Well, come back and see me when you are.* I believe you two are going to have a long, happy life together." This, in and of itself, is a little bizarre. But what was more surprising, was that neither one of us was freaked out by him saying that. We both knew. We already knew.
After dinner, we went out for an awesome night of dancing, and when Scotty finally - GOOD GRIEF, FINALLY!!! - kissed me well after midnight, I saw fireworks. Truly and honestly. Yes it does happen, and it happeend to me. The next day, I met all of his best friends at a Super Bowl party at Cassidy and Kelly's house. The next weekend I helped him move to Oakland with Matt. A few weeks after that I was helping him move in to my apartment back in SF, where we lived for the next 9 years and started our family.
There were many things in those first few weeks that were completely magical and surprising to both of us. We could literally read each other's minds, and all signs were pointing to that long, happy life together that Michael had so wisely predicted. After about a month, we took our first trip of many to Mendocino, where we professed our love for one another. That trip is something that we both remember with a fondness that has not diminished in the slightest, even after eleven years of being together. The flowery wallpaper of our hotel room, the view of the ocean from our window, the walks through the cemetary and the town in the mist of the pre-dawn morning, climbing out onto the rocks of the headlands and sitting with our legs dangling over the surf while we shared our lunch. The picture that I have on my desk - and have always kept on my desk - is one that I took that very weekend.
Cut to about a year and a half later. We had talked about getting married plenty, and I knew we would eventually. I wasn't concerned about rushing things, and neither was Scott. We were having a BLAST partying it up as DINKs (double income no kids) at a bunch of super fun underground dance parties, and making regular trips up to Mendocino to decompress. We spent a considerable amount of time with my best friend, Sherry, and her husband, Andrei. Each year for a few years in a row, they decided they wanted to spend their wedding anniversaries with their friends, out and about in San Francisco. The first year, we went to a restaurant on Geary called Cafe Riggio and then went dancing. The second year, we went to that same restaurant.
We were all having a great time, laughing and catching up. About fourteen of us enjoyed our meal together, and it was about time for some toasts to the anniversary couple. Scotty got up to give a toast, which in and of itself was not unusual. But then, he started talking about he and I and our relationship. And in my head I was all, "Oh come on, Scotty. Stop talking about us! This isn't about us! It's about Sherry and Andrei!! So embarrassing..." and then I heard him say, "...and that's why I'm glad that you are all here to witness this special moment for Shelby and I." Um. What? He then got down on one knee, told me he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and would I marry him?
Gulp. I was floored. He managed to completely surprise me. Not easy to do! Of course I said yes! I did the whole fanning-myself-with-my-hands-to-try-to-keep-the-tears-from-falling thing and was blissfully happy and said yes yes YES! He presented me with the sapphire and diamond antique ring that I wear today, and we enjoyed the rest of the evening with our friends. I still feel so blessed to have found a guy who would propose to me in front of so many of our loved ones.
We returned to Mendocino 3 years later and were married in the company of all our closest friends and family. We heard from many that it was the best wedding they had ever attended, and that everyone could feel the love. It was palpable, and it was - along with our children's birth days - one of the best day of my life. Scott sang 'our song' to me (I Will Be There - I had only ever heard him sing it to me, and still to this day have never heard anyone else sing it.) at the reception, and Sherry wrote a song and sang it for us. I still have the words of that - another gift she and Andrei gave to us - framed and in my living room. My sister, Sharon, wrote a beautiful poem for me and it made me cry. Scotty and I danced a choreographed dance to 'Can't Help Singin' by Jacqui Naylor, and I surprised my daddy by learning to jitterbug. He flung me all over the dance floor to the Sinatra at the Sands version of "How you look tonight."
Like I said, it was one of the best days of my life. I cannot imagine doing this journey without my Scotty, and I am forever grateful that he stopped by my profile and dropped me a note. We have truly enjoyed each other - from our party days in San Francisco, to our family days in East Tennessee. He has been the perfect partner at both of our children's births, and is the most amazing father. Our marriage is not without its rough edges, as they all have, but we stay strong because it has always been clear that we are meant to be together. If there ever was such a thing as soulmates, we are it.
So, Happy Anniversary, Scott! I love you more than anything, and I'm so thankful to be your wife. To many more years together...
*We did, indeed, return to Zare after we were married to say hello to Michael. He was always happy to see us, and we were very sad when the restaurant changed hands and we lost touch.
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