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the second pregnancy

Before Birth

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Before Birth

Dear Isla,

I could give birth to you any day now, and little by little I feel more prepared for this to happen.

The house gets cleaner every hour. I’m relishing in Lorelei’s sweet snuggles, knowing that soon she won’t be the only little girl who needs my arms around her. I find myself bringing my collection of crystals to the forefront of my entertainment center and nightstand, because their beauty calms me and reminds me that nature and its processes are purposeful. Your blankets are wrapped around me as I sleep in hopes of filling them with my presence, so that when you're wrapped in them after birth you still know I’m with you in every way I possibly can be. Your tiny clothes are washed and folded (many thanks to your grandmother and a friend for helping me achieve this during a time of barely manageable pain and stress). The cradle is made. New plants have replaced those that died as a result of the never-ending California heat (many thanks to your dad, who turned the soil and planted aloe and succulents in the box that was too high for me to reach or climb to in my current physical state).

All of this, and more, has been done for you, Isla. Your impending arrival has completely taken over my day-to-day life. I want things to be perfect for you and our family when we come home from the hospital, not only because that’s what my nesting urge is telling me I want, but because there is something about you that has taken hold of me even though we haven’t truly met each other yet.

I know that the moment I look into your tiny eyes, I will know. I will know what it was that drove me to near insanity as your due date came closer and closer. I will know what it was that made me connect with your sister on an entirely new level, one that will connect the three of us as women, sisters, and daughters in ways I never knew possible. I will know what it was that made my heart and body feel as though they couldn’t possibly do what was being asked of them. You are a force. You are more than just a sweet soon-to-be newborn baby; you are the physical creation of your father and I; the image of our love, capable of being held and witnessed. You are one with your sister, as both of you came from my womb and have felt my love and anxiety from deep within me, and both of you will know what it is to be parented by your father and me. You are a blessing, and a gift.

kaitlin coghill doula writer be always blooming

We hope we teach you love, understanding and grace. We hope your days are filled with fun and peace; with inspiration and imagination; with silliness and contentment. We hope you arrive in this world safely, and that you feel comforted in our arms after the journey that is labor and birth. We hope you feel as nourished by my breast as you did by my entire body for the past nine months. We hope you and your sister are everything to each other, and that you never feel alone.

And yet, despite the excitement that has fully taken over my body and mind at this point, I still feel worried. I am a bit worried to lose sleep again, as I know what it does to me emotionally. I am a bit worried to lose control of the cleanliness of my home again, as I know what that does to my controlling nature. I am a bit worried to be needed by two little people at the same time, as I can only imagine what that will do to my desire to please everyone that needs something from me, and to care for my babies at all costs. But I trust that wisdom comes with age and experience, and that we as a family will work together to maintain each other’s well being during the challenging times, such as the days where all of us are hungry at the same time yet we all require different forms of sustenance, or the nights where we all have trouble sleeping. And I trust that the good will always outweigh the seemingly bad.

Plus, your grandparents live just a few blocks away, and your grandmother has been the best example of what a mother should be. I know that I have her support both physically and emotionally, and because of that I know I too am capable of being a mother of two.

Please come soon, Baby Isla. We both know there’s not much room left in my little belly nest, and I want you to see how wonderful life in the light is. I want you to know how it feels to be comforted by your father’s arms, and to be kissed by your sister’s soft little lips. But most importantly, I want you to see that you are loved by more than just me, the woman who carried you in her womb for months on end, the woman whose heartbeat lulled you to sleep, and whose love of ice cold water woke you up a few times a day. There are so many people who can’t wait to meet you. You are special, you are loved, and you are wanted.

So, so wanted.

Love,
Mama

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Mother/Daughter/Sister

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Mother/Daughter/Sister

My husband and I recently found out that we will be adding another sweet baby girl to our little family, and we couldn’t be happier. That being said, there was a slight (and I mean very slight) feeling of discontent at the discovery of our baby-in-utero’s presumed sex. The thought of having a baby boy was exciting because mothering a son is unknown to me, and my husband of course wants a son because, well, what dad doesn’t? On the other side of the spectrum, we can relax a little more now that we don’t have to worry about accumulating a bunch of new baby clothes and accessories, nor do we have to research things like the risks and benefits of circumcision or how to change a diaper without getting showered in urine. We are happy with the news we got that day, and all is fine in our world (at the moment/knock on wood).

When I spoke to my mother-in-law on the phone about the big news, however, I came to realize something far more important than any of the above. She told my husband and me that she was so, so happy that Lorelei was going to have a sister because having a sister (or multiple sisters as is her case) is incredibly special. I thought about what she said for a while. She was so right. The bond I have with my sister is kind of indescribable. The way we support each other, challenge each other, love each other, respect each other and accept each other is beyond understanding. There is nothing comparable to the bond shared between two girls who become women together; who share beds and clothes and parents and family gatherings; who unconditionally admire each other during their best and worst times; who always have the other’s best interest at heart despite past misunderstandings; who teach each other important life lessons, like how to be their best selves and how to be honest in all relationships; and who comfort each other during times of shared sadness and grief. I need my sister so much that he thought of losing her breaks me and literally brings me to tears (even as I type this), and thus the thought of giving a sister to my first daughter also brings me to tears, because she will now get to experience one of the most intense and rewarding relationships that life offers.

The passion between sisters is intensified by the relationship they have with their mother. A mother is a guiding force, a symbol of strength, love and ultimate selflessness. On my first official Mother’s Day after Lorelei was born, my sister gifted my mother and me a necklace that is a simple golden ring with smaller rings connected on each side, which in turn are connected to thin chains that are joined together by a clasp (see picture at the very beginning since I'm not very good at describing jewelry). She got herself one as well because it is meant to symbolize the way the three of us are connected (the bigger ring at the center symbolizes our mom and the smaller rings symbolize us). I wear this necklace daily so that I will never feel alone, and never forget how important our relationship is.

My sister and I have always been drawn to the comfort provided us by our mother. She has taught us so much about life and how to live it, and even though my sister and I lead very different lives we are all three connected in a way that is quite difficult to explain. We care very much what we all think about the decisions we all make because we thrive on the feeling we get when we are supported by each other, and we know that none of us would lead the others astray. Knowing that such a loving and caring support system is there for us when we need it is ridiculously comforting. I’m not afraid of bad days or difficult life challenges because I know both my mother and sister have my back and will go out of their way to help me, and I them. It’s rare to find friends like that, at least it was for me, and to grow up with that kind of trust shaped me as a wife and mother.

Having family members as my best friends (my dad included) is very life-affirming. I was given to my mother by God, or the universe, or whathaveyou; she didn’t choose me and I didn’t choose her, and my younger sister didn’t choose us either. And yet, we are all three perfect for each other because we shaped each other, and that kind of bond is irreplaceable. I will do my best to give my daughters what my mother gave my sister and me: a best girl friend, a love unknown to many, and a sense of belonging in a world that often seems very unforgiving.  

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Life and Death

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Life and Death

I spent the first three days of last week helping a friend through the birth of her first baby. Since her baby was a week overdue, she was induced on Sunday, and I spent the following days with her and her boyfriend to guide them through her labor and delivery experience. It was slightly intimidating but immeasurably rewarding, and I felt even more confident in my decision to pursue a career in birth education and “doula-ing” (though I’m opting for the role of postpartum doula as opposed to that of a labor doula).

Although I have personally experienced what it’s like to go into labor and give birth, I had never witnessed someone else give birth, nor had I witnessed the induction process. Both were incredibly eye-opening, and to be relied on for information and support during one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences a woman could have was truly life-affirming for me. I befriended both sides of this new baby’s family and put my own pregnant-woman needs aside as much as I physically could during the almost three-day induction process. Only going home to sleep, I could hardly even do that as I anxiously awaited texts and phone calls announcing any major change that would require me to hurry back to the hospital. I was so amped on the experience that my closed eyelids were literally twitching uncontrollably, and sleep was essentially impossible. The exhaustion brought on by my own pregnancy didn’t phase me, and for that I was extremely thankful.

After the baby was born (sunny-side up, which was super impressive), I spent some time with the new parents to help them get adjusted to holding their new little family member without being fearful, and to help mama start the ever-intimidating first breastfeeding journey. I left soon after that to give them time to introduce the baby to close friends and family, and for me to reunite with my own family. I had done my part and felt completely satisfied with the type of working mother I had become.

As I left the hospital, I spoke on the phone with my mother-in-law who told me that her father, who had been suffering from cancer for two years and had decided to forego further treatment after the initial chemotherapy was unsuccessful, had taken a turn for the worse and most likely had no more than two weeks left in his life. I stopped by my husband’s work to eat some lunch and discuss what we should do as far as going to visit his grandfather. The two days we could chose to visit were either the following day or this upcoming Sunday, and we decided that the three of us (Lorelei being the third) would drive to Banning (near Palm Springs, a two-and-half-hour trip) the next day to go say our goodbyes. It was very important to us that we are there for Ryan’s mom and grandmother and aunts and everyone else close to this situation. We had both seen the death of a grandparent before (we were in the room with Ryan’s fraternal grandmother when she passed three years ago) and were not at all afraid of what we would see when we arrived in Banning.

Despite our certainty, I cried the entire 30-minute drive home. I was overwhelmed with what I had just experienced (seeing the beginning of the first day of a newborn baby’s life) and by what was happening to Ryan’s grandfather, one of the kindest, funniest, sweetest men I’d ever been lucky enough to spend time with. I was overwhelmed by the idea that the beginning and end of life are such definitive moments that no one can really control, and that my babies are going to die one day and I am going to die one day and Ryan is going to die one day and that there’s a chance I might have to spend the last days/months/years of my life without Ryan. It was all way too much for me to process when I was surviving on two hours of sleep and a lot of unhealthy food while trying to grow a baby in my uterus, so I took a long nap when I got to my mom’s house, where Lorelei was staying while Ryan and I were working, and felt a lot better about everything when I woke up. That being said, I’m still somewhat haunted by the thoughts that crossed my mind on that drive home. 

Nevertheless, we left the next morning, packing only what we’d need for a one-night stay at my mother-in-law’s, and hoped for an easy trip...

“Easy” is not a word that I should even say out loud anymore, let alone think. Lorelei was desperate to get out of the car and walk around a little less than halfway through the drive, so we got off the freeway and took her to the first food place we could find: McDonald’s. When a mother becomes desperate to not have to hear a screaming toddler in the car for more than an hour, she will, without giving it a second thought, feed that toddler French fries. She’ll even go a step further and get said toddler a happy meal so she will have a new toy to play with. Luckily the toy in this happy meal was a plastic Furby with googly eyes and Lorelei was thoroughly entertained. I was also personally amused by the fact that Furbies are still a thing.

When we arrived to Ryan’s grandparents’ house, the mood was slightly tense, but only  because things with his health were changing so rapidly. One thing I love about Ryan’s family is their complete selflessness. All three of Ryan’s grandfather’s daughters were there to help him and their mother, and they were all in very positive spirits. I felt very comfortable with our decision to bring Lorelei to say goodbye alongside us because she wasn’t being exposed to any negativity whatsoever. Instead, Lorelei enhanced the environment with her obliviousness to the situation. She was running around talking about the things she saw in the living room, eating chips and asking her Grammy (Ryan’s mom) to hold her. She explored the backyard and made friends with some duck lawn ornaments. She would curiously and happily peek at her great-grandfather resting in his bed and waved goodbye to him when it was time to leave. It was truly touching to see her sweet personality shine through what is certainly a sad situation.

The next morning, we found out that Ryan’s grandfather had passed away. This was a shock to everyone because we all thought he had at least a few more days ahead of him, but we felt the timing was serendipitous. We were able to say goodbye to him just in time, and he was able to pass before his health deteriorated to a point where he was unrecognizable. Ryan and I were also happy to be at his mom’s house when she received the news. It’s important to us to support the people we love, and it meant a lot to us to be lucky enough to be so close when this important event occurred. Needless to say we decided to stay another night and enjoy a day with Ryan’s brother and his girlfriend at the beach and pool. The weather was beautiful and it was nice to take a day off from normal life to really take in all that had happened so far in the week (which was truly a lot). The only downside is that we didn’t bring enough stuff to carry us through a two-day stay, so we had to go bathing suit shopping (miserable) and wear the same clothes over and over again (annoying). We also ran out of diapers and Lorelei had to run around naked while Ryan drove to the store to buy some. We are never so unprepared when we travel, so it was a little bit frustrating. All I can really say is, thank God for Target and end of summer swimsuit sales at local surf shops.

As all of this was going on, Lorelei had become a lot fussier and I noticed a few little bumps on her face. I didn’t think much of it (I thought maybe they were brought on by the heat), but when she woke up hours earlier than she normally does on the day we were supposed to leave, the bumps had multiplied and she seemed pretty miserable. In fact, she cried for the majority of the long drive home and Ryan and I were definitely at our limit when it came to anything that involved elevated stress levels. So I made a doctor’s appointment that was to take place as soon as we got home because my momma intuition was telling me Lorelei had hand, foot and mouth disease, an annoying but somewhat harmless disease that was making the rounds where we live. After enduring an unbelievable amount of traffic, a screaming toddler and some serious lack of sleep, Ryan and I went our separate ways, him to work and me with our still-screaming daughter to the doctor.

Long story short, I was right. Lorelei has hand, foot and mouth disease and her throat was covered in blisters. So, after a week of helping someone give birth and saying goodbye to a very beloved family member, I was quarantined to my extremely messy home to take care of my poor, sick Lorelei until this viral illness ran its course. Though adults don’t usually get HFM, I did, and it was the worst illness I have ever experienced - ever. 

I feel very challenged as a human being, and also very tired and constantly hungry thanks to my pregnancy. I’m sure everything would seem much more manageable if my brain were allowed to rest a lot sooner and a lot longer than it’s usually able to, but it’s not, so now that I’ve vented to my computer while watching mindless television, I’m going to rub cocoa butter all over my expanding belly (…and butt) and mentally prepare for what tomorrow may bring. Hopefully it brings a nap and a housecleaner. 

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