Saturday, November 9, 2013

Isaiah's Birth Story

As amazing and empowering as birth is, it is so very much sweeter to emerge on the other side with an amazing, empowering birth story. Because, let's face it, birth is many things, but easy will never be one of them. Birthing a baby pushes you to your edge. And then moves that edge a little further. And it is precisely in this space between edges where incredible empowerment as well as complete and total dependence on your loved ones is born.

I knew my son was on his way at 4 PM on Tuesday afternoon. Dear friends were visiting from Boston and we had spent a lovely afternoon catching up and witnessing the miracle of our children engaged in peaceful play. I bent down to pick a toy up from the floor and felt...something wet. We'll leave it at that. A trip to the bathroom confirmed what could have been nothing, really, but what I immediately sensed was very much something. I went straight to Sisay, already rushing on adrenaline, and told him I thought this was the beginning. I wasn't having any regular contractions- just the occasional Braxton Hicks that I'd been having for months- but I texted my midwife and gave her a heads up. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that this was happening. Soon.

Our friends went home and I spent a frenzied hour or so cleaning up the house. The nesting impulse on home birth hyperdrive. The past week I had been consumed mostly with tasks such as: MUST CLEAN TOP OF CHINA CABINET BEFORE BABY ARRIVES and NEED MORE BASKETS FOR BABY STUFF!! Both obviously very crucial. This whole third pregnancy was mostly very laid back until of course I realized that he was actually going to come out in a couple weeks and I'd best be getting it together, like, NOW. Once the birth supplies were gathered though, it was hard to reign myself back in. Nor did I really want to because God is it satisfying to have a clutter-free top-of-the-china-cabinet. And when will that ever, EVER be a priority again?

Ok, back on topic. By 9 or 10 PM I was having semi-regular contractions every 10- 20 minutes apart. The kids went to bed and Sisay and I tried to sleep, but I was far too hyped up to be very successful. Our midwife, Brenda, arrived around 11, kindly making the 1 1/2 hour drive down the moment I said, "It would make me feel better knowing you were here." She had her doubts, I'm sure. Irregular contractions that could just as easily have been more Braxton Hicks practice runs with no other clear indicators. But she sensed my certainty and trusted it. After all, I had known Violet was coming (also two days before my due date) in very similar fashion, she would later tell me. We chatted for a bit, then she went to take a nap in the guest room too. I gave sleep my best effort once again, but ended up in front of the wood stove with a cup of chamomile tea and a novel. I was at the end, and it was good, so it provided a much needed distraction from obsessively counting the minutes between each rush.

By midnight, it was intense enough that my body and my brain had submitted to the process and I actually did manage to sleep for a bit between contractions, a sure sign that things were progressing. At some point (1 AM? 2?) everyone was up. The tub (or rather, kiddie pool) was filled. Birth supplies were gathered and organized. Hands were squeezed (crushed) at regular intervals. Lindsay, our other midwife, arrived somewhere in here too. The girls wandered out of their room a couple of times, but went back to sleep until around 4 AM. Then Sisay brought them downstairs to my parents, where they all tried to sleep for another hour before realizing the utter futility in that.

By this point, I was--ahem--singing quite loudly and holding quite tightly to some combination of Sisay and our midwives. This being baby number 3, Sisay had the foresight to remove both our wedding rings. It was also around this point when complete and total dependence surfaced. If Sisay left to go to the bathroom or get a drink or add more hot water to the tub, a part of me panicked a little wondering what I would do if he wasn't back before the next contraction. With him by my side, I knew I could stay on top of one wave at a time, no matter how high each rose. Without him...I felt like a tiny boat tossed about by an overwhelming ocean. He was my anchor.

I got in the water at around 4:30 or 5 and the warm weightlessness offered some relief, though at this stage the line between contraction and non-contraction was heavily blurred. As we got closer and the baby descended further into the birth canal, they spread out a bit, but lengthened and intensified. I had the sensation of both being very present and completely removed. For 90 seconds it took every ounce of focus I possessed to stay on top of the wave, and for the following 4 minutes I would fall deeply asleep. It's a surreal experience- having everything and nothing to do with the mysterious process of birthing a baby. My baby.
I felt his sweet little head through this last phase, the still-intact amniotic sac, his thick matted hair, my increasing dilation. The temptation to push was great, and I did so a couple times before I really should have. Brenda checked me to be sure and told me to breathe through the next couple. My water broke then and in the following (two?) contractions I pushed his head out. Apparently I was also pushing his head back in with my hand, you know, because it felt basically like I was breaking in two.
“Don’t push,” Brenda said.
‘Don’t push?’ I said, confusedly. For a moment, his head half-way out of my body, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.
“My hand is here, supporting you.” She clarified. “You can move your hand and push out his head.” And I did just that.  The cord was wrapped tightly around his neck, too tight to slip over his head or past his shoulder. When the next contraction came, Brenda coached, I would push his body out and she would somersault his entire body to untangle the cord. I’m not sure if I actually waited until the next contraction. I just know pushing out his body was much harder than his head. My throat hurt for two days from the scream that accompanied that final effort. I felt his slippery body leave my own and suddenly my son was on my chest. It was 6:05 AM.

His presence was strong and maybe that was why I never panicked, but his breathing was absent. For what felt like an eternity but wasn’t more than a minute, Brenda and Lindsay sprang into action, suctioning his mouth, filling his tiny lungs with air, rubbing his body. Sisay was beside himself, pacing the room, praying out loud, barely breathing himself. For reasons I can’t fully explain, I knew this little one was with us.  I talked to him, coaxed him to take a breath, willed him to cry. He was listening, I was sure. And then came that first whimper, followed by a full-bodied and beautiful cry. I cried right along with him.

In shock from the cord around his neck and some mucus in his airway, Isaiah recovered quickly. The two of us made it out of the tub and back to the couch, where he settled right into his full-time job of nursing. He took this very seriously, nursing right through the delivery of the placenta up until his first introduction to his sisters and grandparents.

Sisay brought Samaya and Violet up a little before 7 and they reacted exactly how you would expect; quietly amazed and at a loss for what to do or say. With some encouragement from Sisay and I, they carefully approached their new brother, touching his still wet hair and satin skin, kissing the top of his head. Regardless of how much knowledge you have of the actual mechanics involved, the arrival of a tiny human being into your family is nothing short of magical. I can only imagine what it is must be like when you are two.

Both girls are completely smitten with their brother, begging to hold him every chance they can get. Violet is clearly struggling with some very strong middle-child emotions, involving crazy acts of violence, diabolical defiance, refusal to sleep without an epic battle, and ruthless harassment of her older sister. To Isaiah, though, she offers nothing but love songs sung in very high octaves and gentle kisses.  

Ten days into life on the outside, and Isaiah is proving himself to be an excellent sleeper (though slightly better in the day of course), ridiculously good looking, and a generally mellow little fellow with a hearty appetite. He went from 8 lbs. 8 oz at birth to 8 lbs. 6 oz. on day 3 to almost 9 lbs. on day 6. That’s 10 oz. in 3 days folks. Having an out-of-control milk supply is probably the best problem one can have, and I am so grateful for it.

This story cannot be complete without mention of the man I so wisely married 6 years ago. Let it just be stated that never did a more capable house-husband walk the earth. He can wield a laundry basket and load a dishwasher as good as any work-at-home mom. But more impressively, he has gotten up with the girls without complaint, sometimes before 5 AM, for the past 10 days after a harrowing night with a newborn. And then has the good humor and coherence to play ‘restaurant’ and serve up plates of banana pancakes. Every single morning. Those last couple hours of sleep are the best gift I could ever receive.

Let us also not forget about the grandparents, who took the girls during the birth and who had them all morning today so I could write these words. They are our constant source of support, child care, and hot dogs.

We have also been tremendously blessed by a community that has brought us dinner every evening since Isaiah’s birth. Truly, the love and support surrounding us is palpable. 

No doubt this honeymoon stage will end, Sisay will go back to work, and reality will set in. But I hope I remember to be grateful every day.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Samaya started school a few weeks ago at the public elementary school in our town. I know. I thought I'd be homeschooling too. But never has such a tough decision been so completely and utterly confirmed as this one. In true Samaya fashion, she informed everyone who would listen that she was not at all excited about this prospect. Actually, she wasn't going. Secretly, when her only audience was a two-year-old singing 'Old Me-Donald' on repeat and me, her mother, she would say...the same thing. Except with barely contained excitement, a giant nervous grin, and occasional rapid jumping--the pogo stick kind. If you aren't familiar with the intimate workings of Samaya's brain, they generally follow this pattern:

1. Encounter new situation.
2. Various variations of 'HELL NO' and 'Over my dead body' ensue.
3. Unimaginable and terrifying (and terrified) protest.
4. One toe, then two feet in the water.
5. Good riddance, Mom and Dad! It was nice knowing you!

So, yes, the bloodcurdling scream that issued forth from her small body when I dropped her off that first morning threatened to shatter my heart, but I did my very best to hold it together. I reminded myself that she had been begging and pleading for the past three hours for me to 'just make it time for school already!', that countless signs pointed to her readiness for this experience, and that in a couple days she would most likely have fallen deeply and madly in love with the whole school thing.

I was wrong. Twenty minutes later as Violet and I are paying for our raw milk at the health food store, I get a call. It's her teacher. I see as I'm answering the phone that there is already a missed call, also from the school. I will later learn it is the principal.
"I got to the phone as quickly as I could!" she exclaims.
I suck in a little more breath.
"Samaya's doing fine! She came into the classroom a few minutes ago and went straight to the rug to string beads."
"Oh! Ok!" I say. "I thought this conversation was going to go in the opposite direction. Thank you so much for calling!"

So it took twenty minutes. I was betting on a few days, but I'm working on being wrong more often and this was a welcome opportunity.
The principal was slightly more forthcoming in her voicemail. Apparently it took herself, the guidance counselor, and a couple other teachers to calm her down and allow her to 'vent her feelings' (code for 'wait her out.') Then they walked her down to her classroom, at which point she acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. This was a Friday.
On Monday, I braced myself for another, if slightly milder, scene. The whole school gathers in the gym for morning meeting before going to their classrooms (parents are encouraged not to linger), but this time I stayed with Samaya until she was settled in her room. I'm sure they were more than willing to bend the rules after getting a taste of just who they were messing with. Amazingly, I left the building without so much as a tear. On the way to the car, Violet, in awe, declared, "Mommy, Samaya is so brave now!"
By Tuesday she had decided that the ed. tech in her class was her new best friend. I handed her off at the door and received barely a glance in my general direction. A few days later, she wrote this poem:


I love school
I hold Mrs. Dube's hand every day
I sit on the letter "S"

My dad, the ever proud grandpa, submitted it to the local paper and it was published in the Sunday paper a couple weeks ago. Basically, she loves it. So much so that only the language of poetry could even begin to hint at her true feelings.

As for the rest of us, we are equally enamored. Violet with her newfound SPACE, which in turn has brought a tranquility to her being that no one previous to this would EVER have associated with her. Sisay, you know, because he's a proud daddy. And he gets to go on field trips to the fire station and have lots of (tiny) ladies hold his hands. 

And me because it has brought routine and structure into our every day that I so desperately needed. It may sound silly, but having to be out the door by 8 AM is the BEST thing that has happened to my sense of well-being. And my children's hygiene. I can proudly say that they have never bathed and certainly never brushed their teeth as much as they have this past month. I thrive on imposed structure. I fall apart without it. Just look at my second child's teeth as proof. Here I've been thinking for the past 4 years that my life is so hard because motherhood is so hard, when really I just needed a principal to tell me, 'If your kid is late, she'll have to be buzzed in at the main door and marked as tardy.' So far, the child has never been late and only once did I forget to tuck a note in with her snack. Not only that, but the things Violet and I accomplish all before 11:10! Playgroups! Grocery shopping! Story time! Actual walks outside! 
This past Monday, my parents took her to school because Sisay and I were away for our anniversary, and the teacher told Sisay she knew we were out of town by the state of Samaya's hair. Awesome. You know, I'm thinking a poem is the only way to adequately convey my newfound accomplishments and pride...

Today I brought my daughter to school
Her breath didn't stink and her hair looked cool
Even her sister was wearing pants
A jacket, though? Not a chance
It's all good cuz there's heat in the car
And this mama's feeling like a rock star.

In case the readers are unaware of the actual feat involved in getting pants on Violet, my dad picked up Samaya from school on Monday accompanied by a small person in a t-shirt and underwear. 'There was absolutely NOTHING I could do!' he declared. 'She's more stubborn than you!' 

Needless to say, Samaya's least favorite days are Saturdays and Sundays. I, on the other hand, feel like I can once again embrace the beauty of pancakes and pajamas knowing I damn well earned it.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013


We've been in our home for six months now. And we LOVE it. Here are some reason's why:

1. Because of the way the afternoon light pours onto the wood floors and my daughter's afro.

2. Because of the open plan containing the kitchen, dining area, living room and children's area all circling around the central wood stove. Oh how I love heating with wood. 

3. Because the front door opens onto our very own deck just feet from the vegetable garden, the grandparents' entrance, and gorgeous outdoor dining. 

4. Because the girls have their very own (shared) room for the first time.  

5. Because we have our very own room in four years. Until Samaya comes in at 10. And Violet somewhere between 2 and 5. And the baby is born in November. 

6. Because we have our very own trees. TREES! In which to hang tree swings...

and hammocks. 

7. And because of the daily delight of discovering newly emerged blossoms. 

 lilies, bee balm, and clematis



morning glories climbing our garden fence.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


This little girl turned four over the weekend. We celebrated with sprinklers, fruit kabobs, chocolate (alright, it was carob) cake with pink frosting, pin the tail on the donkey, hammocks, pinatas, and presents. Sisay made her a tree swing for her birthday (this girl LOVES to swing) and the kids all had a blast taking turns on it. It's the new cool place to be. I gave her the book I made at the same time that I made Violet's book. The text is a poem/ love letter I wrote for her when she was a baby with some new lines added to bring us to four. We've also been enjoying building forts with her awesome (and handmade!) fort-making kit. Thank you to all who celebrated with us and showered loved on Samaya. She was positively glowing (and loves ALL of her thoughtful gifts!) It was truly a day filled with joy. 

The Violet Book

This was supposed to be Violet's birthday present back in February. Let's leave the blame out of it and focus on that fact that when she's 30, she will never remember it came 2 1/2 months late. Nor does she have any clue now. Nor will anyone remind her of this fact in 28 years. Here are a few excerpts. Two things will quickly become apparent:
1. I am so clearly not a photographer.
2. The following will make little sense to you if you are not at least a little familiar with Violet and her namesake Olivia.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A new baby

So it turned out there was a baby in my belly during my brief reacquaintance with the Baha'i fast. I lasted four days, after which I felt just bad enough to be suspicious. And so I took a little test and discovered I actually was not as independent, certainly not as autonomous, as I thought I was. Then I ate breakfast. And lunch. And raw liver and fish eggs and high vitamin fermented cod liver oil and raw yogurt and cheese and meat and fish and lacto-fermented stuff and butter and pastured eggs and this multivitamin...basically this diet:

Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers

  • Cod Liver Oil to supply 20,000 IU vitamin A and 2000 IU vitamin D per day
  • 1 quart (or 32 ounces) whole milk daily, preferably raw (
  • 4 tablespoons butter daily, preferably from pasture-fed cows
  • 2 or more eggs daily, preferably from pastured chickens
  • Additional egg yolks daily, added to smoothies, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, etc.
  • 3-4 ounces fresh liver, once or twice per week (If you have been told to avoid liver for fear of getting “too much Vitamin A,” be sure to read Vitamin A Saga
  • Fresh seafood, 2-4 times per week, particularly wild salmon, shellfish and fish eggs
  • Fresh beef or lamb daily, always consumed with the fat
  • Oily fish or organic lard daily, for vitamin D
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil daily, used in cooking or smoothies, etc.
  • Lacto-fermented condiments and beverages
  • Bone broths used in soups, stews and sauces
  • Soaked whole grains
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits
Minus the soaked whole grains. The girls and I have been on the GAPS diet for the past 9 months for various health reasons (namely systemic candida and ridiculous fatigue.) Basically this means we've been grain-free, potato-free, and sugar-free. It also means probiotic supplements and foods and it's supposed to mean lots of bone and meat broth, but we've certainly fallen off the wagon with this one in recent months.

The lovely part about all this is that I'm in better health than I've been in for a long time and I was already eating most of the foods in the list above. So though I may not have been prepared for those two little lines at 5:30 in the morning, my body had certainly been preparing itself. (Virtually no morning sickness!) For this and the fact that Violet will be nearly three-years-old when the baby is born (early November), I am eternally grateful. (I am equally grateful that Samaya and Violet are 20 months apart, especially now that they are each other's best friends, but I never EVER want to do that again.)

Enough about food and more about this baby:

-Immediately after finding out, Samaya repeatedly asked if she could pee on a stick.
'Why?' I asked her. 'I'm pretty sure you're not pregnant.'
 'I know, Mom. I just want to see ONE line.'

-Samaya and I have enjoyed pouring over the book, A Child is Born, which is most definitely not the updated version and is certainly the 1970s version. Basically this means the amazing photographs of life inside the womb are timeless and beautiful and the text and bizarre photographs of pregnant women at one with nature and couples cuddling is wildly amusing. And luckily completely over Samaya's head.

-We heard the baby's heartbeat last week. It was amazing.

-Samaya announced a while back out of the clear blue that if it's a girl, we should name her Solana. I don't know where she came up with that, but we're all sold.

-A boy's name is proving to be trickier. And if I don't come up with something in the next six months, I'm terribly afraid Sisay will name him Toby. He's been taunting me with this name since Samaya. -There's nothing horrible about it. In fact, I like Tobias. The problem is, who is going to actually call him Tobias? And Toby sounds too much like a dog's name to me.

(Please please please forgive me if you or your child or your loved one is named Toby.)

So Toby has been the only circulating name, until yesterday when Samaya declares her choice to be 'Mac.' This one she says comes from Clifford (the children's TV show.) I text this to Sisay at work. The conversation goes like this:
'That is nice. Mac Taylor Sabera.'
'How about Mac Donald Sabera,' I counter.

We just can't settle on anything. I guess that means the perfect boy's name is still out there waiting for us.

-After we heard the heartbeat, Violet decided she was going to pretend she totally knows what's going on. At least a couple times a day she asks to see my belly, then emphatically proclaims my giant outie belly button to be, 'CUTE!' She's also fond of telling complete strangers in the grocery store that, 'Mommy, baby, belly!' (Not always in that order.)

-We told my dad the news about 10 minutes after we found out when he came upstairs to steal coffee. His response:
"Ooooohhhhhh, no!"
(His excuse was that 1) it was 6 AM and 2) that he was looking at it purely from a babysitting point of view. I'm not sure how this makes it better.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fasting Again! Finally!

Today was my first day of fasting in five years. The last time I physically fasted I was at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel doing so alongside people from all over the world. What an amazing experience. And how truly enjoyable to break the fast all together, sharing delicious food so lovingly and creatively prepared by a team of people. One really, really enjoys the act of eating when you are spiritually alive and physically empty. Appreciation. Gratitude. HUNGER.

So, why was today my first day of fasting?

Yesterday was Violet's 'No More Milk' party. The day I nursed Violet for the last time, baked her a strawberry rhubarb crisp, sang her the 'No more milk' song to the tune of 'Happy Birthday,' and gave her this sweet book. Which she slept with and even carried with her to my bedside in the middle of the night. She took it well. A little emotional, but that is most nights. She's a volatile child, more so when she's over-tired. 

I cannot tell you how very ready I am to have my body back. It's not because I'm selfish (though I most definitely am.) It's because it didn't feel like a service anymore. It felt more like resentment with flecks of annoyance and occasional anger thrown in. And those are not the feelings I wanted to pass on along with my milk to my sweet precious little girl. She is still my baby. It's just that she is not my infant anymore. It didn't feel right. And I knew I could love her more, better, if I didn't feel like she was taking something away from me that I no longer felt I could give. 

It was a similar process with Samaya. Me knowing I was done months before I followed through. Mostly because I struggle with seeing through my own mommy eyes and not through the mommy eyes of another.* I wanted to be that crazy mother who nursed them until they they were 3 (or more!) I would let them self-wean, respecting that it was theirs just as much as it was mine. Well. It turns out that respecting my own boundaries and needs leads to a far better mama. Sure, breastmilk is nourishing. But  you know what else is nourishing? A mother who isn't physically, mentally, and spiritually depleted. I'm certainly not blaming my current state of depletion solely on breastfeeding for the last 3 1/2 years. But I am saying that I've reached a turning (breaking) point in my life in which it is painfully obvious that if I don't start taking ridiculously good care of myself...well. It's going to get ugly. And folks, it is already very, very unsightly. 

And so with eagerness, I jump at the opportunity to participate in the Baha'i 19-day fast that began on March 2nd. (Rainn Wilson just wrote a great article about it here.) A chance to feed my soul, re-establish prayer in my daily routine, focus on some spiritual qualities that sorely need focusing on(discipline! detachment!), and use all that time that would have been spent preparing food or eating food to instead be present with my babies. While thinking about food. 

*O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.           Bahá’u’lláh

Sunday, March 3, 2013


We had a pretty awesome Ayyam-i-Ha party at our house Friday afternoon to celebrate the last day of the Baha'i festival of Ayyam-i-Ha; four days dedicated to gift-giving, charity, and hospitality immediately preceding the last Baha'i month (19 days) of fasting from sun-up to sun-down. (Then comes Naw-Ruz--the Baha'i New Year!) Belonging to a Faith that is pretty darn new in terms of world religion and virtually ritual-free, means families and communities have the freedom to create traditions, change it up whenever they feel like it, and explore various ways of celebrating, commemorating, honoring, and worshipping. Having young children, I am always trying to create a deep love, excitement, respect, and understanding of various aspects of our Faith. Holy days (plus Ayyam-i-Ha--not exactly a holy day) provide the perfect opportunity to nurture their spiritual identity. So this is how we got our Ayyam-i-Ha on this year:

Funny Photo Booth

Fruit Kabobs

The obligatory Ayyam-i-Ha Puppet Show

Followed by four activity stations based on Maggie's four days of celebration: 

1. Peanut butter pinecone birdfeeders (service to the birds!)

 2. Cookies (One to eat, one to give away. Our new neighbors 
each received a finger-print riddled plate.)

3. Decorating flower pots
4. Planting flower bulbs


We had a potluck dinner followed by the much anticipated pinata.

Nothing like a pinata to bring joy to a child.