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My Birth Story

Dear Jackson, 

The Poem
Well, your birth story actually started about a decade or so before you were born. I wrote a poem entitled “When My Child Chooses Me” back in June of 2003, which is almost 10 years before you were even conceived. This poem reflects that you have been thought of, prepared for, desired, prayed for, and loved before you entered my womb. 

The Ob Prediction
Now fast forward almost 10 years. I am dating your father, Mclean Raleigh Harbour. We had been dating for over 2 years and about to become engaged. I am also 37 years old and wondering if I will get to see your sweet face anytime soon. Both of us wanted a child so I did a little pre-baby medical check-up. My OB-GYN, Dr. Laurie Green, told me to expect to get pregnant in three to six months. And more importantly, I shouldn’t worry if it didn't happen right away. Well, your father and I mentally decided to start trying back in January of 2013. However, we didn’t really try or get our acts together (if you get my drift) until April of 2013. The only real month that we tried during the right time to get pregnant, we got pregnant. It was pretty amazing. I even remember the moment that we conceived. 

The Meditation Retreat
I should also share that earlier in the month of April, my friend Sameera and I decided to go on a daylong meditation retreat. She knew that I wanted to get pregnant, and we both thought meditation would do the trick. The meditation was focused on Buddhist loving-kindness and was the perfect energy for clearing my mind and renewing my energy. I think that it helped open me energetically to get pregnant. It enabled me to receive you.

After the meditation retreat, I was meditating and chanting pretty regularly. During one of my meditations, I had a baby’s face appear to me with fun, bright, mischievous, dancing dark eyes. From the energy and the feeling I received during the meditation, I knew it was you. And I also knew that you were a boy.  
    
The Psychic Prediction and Conception
A few weeks later, I met with Sameera in Noe Valley, San Francisco for a birthday lunch. She told me that she had a dream about a week or so ago that I had a baby and we were in San Francisco with our strollers. She said she was taken aback by the dream because she knew that I wanted to have the baby in Los Angeles. However, in the dream, we were specifically in San Francisco. I thought the dream was cool and a good sign that you were coming. When I found out I was pregnant, I tracked back the timeframe when I conceived and it lined up perfectly and magically with the night that Sameera had the dream. 

The Engagement 
Your father had plans for us to become engaged the weekend after my birthday, which was on May 7, 2013. So, the following weekend, we went to Pebble Beach with the dogs. It was a nice weekend and, to my surprise, he proposed by the ocean at Seal Beach on Friday, May 10, 2013. We shared the news with our families on Saturday, May 11, 2013. On Mother’s Day Sunday, we had brunch with Raleigh’s aunt and took our first set of engagement photos. During the drive home, I started feeling unwell and hungry at the same time. I asked Raleigh to stop at Carl’s Jr. for a fish sandwich, which was gross. (This request was completely out of my character, so Raleigh thought something was going on.) When we got back to our home in San Francisco, I started picking up on strange odors. All of these clues led me to take a pregnancy test; just to make sure I wasn’t pregnant is what I said to Raleigh and myself. Well, it turned out that there was a slight faint line. I couldn’t believe it. I was barely pregnant but you chose to show me that you were here on Mother’s Day. I connected with your sweet spirit already. To make sure I wasn’t crazy and keep confirming my happiness, I took pregnancy tests every day for over a week. The positive line just got darker and darker. So, we were barely engaged and now pregnant. 

The Ride
You made yourself known from the first meditation to the first feeling of queasiness. And you gave us a couple of scares along the way. I had some spotting in the beginning so my OB-gyn had me come in for testing to make sure you implanted in the right place and that you were growing, growing, and growing. I went through a serious of blood tests and ultrasounds. Although nerve-wracking then, it is pretty cool now because I have pictures of you when you were barely an egg. I spent the next 24-25 weeks of my pregnancy nauseous or vomiting. It was pretty rough. I was vomiting going to and from the train to get to work. I finally got smart and started taking a taxi or having your father drive me to work. Although I felt pretty huge, it took awhile for you (my bump) to show. And I became all belly. Everyone was really excited about you. People from work, namely Carol, bought me maternity clothes and really supported me. My friend, Bola, would make sure I had food, Tylenol (for headaches), Pellegrino, and crackers for the nausea while I was at work. 

120-Day Soul Ceremony
One of the best parts of my pregnancy was the small, 120-day, soul ceremony that I had for you. It was put together by Sameera Rana, one of my closest friends and spiritual running buddies. Both of us love Kundalini yoga and yoga teachings. In the yoga world, the soul enters the body on the 120th day after conception. It is this day that the woman becomes a mother and the fetus becomes a baby. I believe that your soul entered my womb on August 13, 2013. The ceremony was held at Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco on Saturday, August 17, 2013.  My mom, and my friend Anytra attended the beautiful event. Sameera had us read my poem, "When My Child Chooses Me," recite Kundalini meditations, and say prayers. We also listened to uplifting music, tried beautiful teas, and had yummy little sandwiches. She also got us these amazing cupcake desserts. She thought of everything to make this time special for you and me. 

The Operation – Surprise, Surprise!
Well, my nausea finally stopped around the end of my 25th week. I was starting to feel great and my belly was getting big! Well, on the Monday of my 27th week, I started having pains on my right side near my stomach. I also started throwing up again. I went into work on Tuesday but felt pretty bad by quitting time. That night I couldn’t sleep, or eat, and was vomiting again. The on-call nurse told me that I had a gastro virus (stomach flu) and to take some medicine and go to bed. I didn’t sleep all night. So, the next morning we headed into the hospital for answers. After hours of tests and ultrasounds, the doctors finally figured out that my appendix was enlarged. I needed an appendectomy immediately. So, within two hours of figuring out what was wrong with me, we were on the operating table. I was so scared because they were going to have to drill holes into my stomach where you were and put us both to sleep under general anesthesia. It was also rare for a pregnant woman to have major surgery. I think the odds are like 1 in 2000 a year. 

The surgery went well. They removed my appendix. We both woke up from the general anesthesia. Because of all the drugs and the surgery, I started to have contractions and go into labor. The doctor had to give me drugs to stop the contractions and keep you in my womb. It was pretty scary because you were barely viable at 27 weeks. And since labor had been started, it was more likely to start again pre-term. I stayed in the hospital for about a week. It was challenging walking again and I was in a lot of pain. I finally got better and was able to walk around to go home. 

While in the hospital, the doctors and nurses made a big mistake with my fluids given by the IV. They gave me way too much – to the tune of 25 extra pounds of fluids. I left the hospital looking and feeling like the Klumps. My legs and arms were huge. I was so swollen. I couldn’t wear my shoes. I ended up returning to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe due to the water pressure surrounding my lungs. My body had difficulty handling the extra weight. I was in the hospital for another two days. The doctors gave me a diuretic that started the contractions again, which then had to be stopped. It was a zoo. And I only loss about a pound or two from when I entered. I left the hospital before they could do any more damage. 

I sought the help of eastern medicine and treatment. I ended up getting several acupuncture treatments from Seva Simran Singh Khalsa of Got Kundalini. And he also prescribed Chinese medicinal herbs for me to drink, which were a natural diuretic. Within a little over a week, I lost about 18-20 pounds. His natural system had me going to the bathroom and releasing all the water. It felt so good to return to myself and my old size. It felt like a cruel joke to be fat and overweight during my pregnancy when I had been small and even underweight for most of it. 

Because of the appendectomy and the water complications, I qualified for medical disability and was off work. I stayed off work for the remainder of my pregnancy and through my maternity leave. Your father and I didn't want to chance anything happening to you or another pre-term labor scare. I found out later that although I qualified for medical disability and maternity disability payments because of my condition, I didn’t get them because I was a federal employee who didn’t pay into state disability. 

I also changed doctors. I went from CPMC California big shots to CPMC St. Luke’s with midwives and doctors. In the new practice, they loved having doulas and were supportive of natural childbirth. I was really turned off by how aggressive CPMC doctors were during my appendectomy and related problems. We were called “CPMC Refugees” because we transferred into the practice at 30 weeks. Also, Dr. Green was not that responsive and didn’t give very good client care. She didn’t even know that you had turned breech despite me telling her that you had been seriously flipping around. I am glad and trusted my intuition because Dr. Norrell was the greatest support during the last weeks of my pregnancy.

Birth Helpers & Upside Down Little Yogi
We hired a team of doulas named Amber Dawn Hallet and Alexis Cohen to assist with the birth. They were great. Each had their own specialties. Amber specialized in Abdomen Womb Massage and Alexis specialized in hypnotherapy. I really appreciated their services and their support during my pregnancy. 

We also went to Hypnobirthing classes with Gabrielle Cohen of Pranayama Mamma to help with the actual laboring process. We had taken the McMoyler Method classes because they provided the basics of birth and an infant CPR class. I wanted to feel prepared. The hypnobirthing classes were more spiritual. Your dad really wasn’t interested in the process, but it helped me feel better about birthing naturally, which was my goal. 

I also did a lot of yoga during my pregnancy, specifically prenatal kundalini yoga. I had an awesome teacher by the name of Guru Dev Khalsa. My kundalini yoga practice sustained me during the pregnancy. I did a lot of yoga, chanting, and meditation. I specifically did the "Initiate Your Child Meditation" to uplift the frequency of you and me. And since I knew you were a boy, this meditation helps to balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain. I also said special prayers during this time like Kirtan Kriya, Adi Shakti, and Pootaa Maataa Kee Aasees ("Mothers Prayer"). I spent a lot of time singing. You were my yogi baby!

The doulas and Gabrielle were also helpful with giving instructions to turn you face down. We found out around 29 weeks that you were breech. You were sitting up and had your legs up by your head. In fact, you looked like a little yogi because your foot was up above your head in a yoga pose. I did lots of things to help you turn around. I did Rebozo, spinning babies, meditation, talking to you, chiropractics, acupuncture, and the old wives trick. Basically, I put a cold bag of frozen peas on the top of my belly (where your head was) and a warm heating pad on my pelvis (where your butt was). This would cause you to move around a lot. I really think that’s what worked because you flipped head down. 

Baby Showers
Since we had the appendectomy and all of the complications, we had to cancel the November 2, 2013, Denver baby shower. I was really bummed because it would have been really pretty, traditional, and would have given a lot of my family the opportunity to meet your father. 

So, because we passed up the Denver baby shower, I was determined to go to my shower in Los Angeles on November 16, 2013, which was thrown by my good friend, Leticia. Although the shower didn’t end up being the coed shower, I had hoped, it was really fun because all of my closest friends were there. We had a fun time and felt really blessed by our friends. 

And we also passed on the EPA baby shower, which would have been held on November 23, 2013. I didn’t go back to work so I felt really weird going into work just for a shower. Plus, they were being so understanding. I didn’t feel like they needed to do anything more. We all agreed that having one after you were born would work well. 

Too Big and Too Much Water
As I am sure you will not be surprised to know that you always measured big during the pregnancy. In fact, due to your growth and size, the due date was changed twice. I went from January 27th to 26th to 20th. And the last time, the OB split the difference because it was like 10 days difference. You were growing and growing and growing. During the last couple of weeks, I had to go to the hospital two to three times a week for non-stress tests because I had too much amniotic fluid. The doctors wanted to make sure that you were ok in there. 

Well, the multiple ultrasounds and checks revealed that you were a pretty big baby. In fact, you were measuring more than 100% in the abdomen department. So, in addition, to weight and length, you were measuring very big around your belly. In fact, you looked a little bloated. The medical diagnosis was called macrosomia.  The doctors expressed concern with you getting stuck during labor. Apparently, there is a direct correlation between abdomen size and shoulder size and width. They were concerned that you would get stuck and your shoulders or collarbone would get broken during delivery, called shoulder dystocia. So, the doctor said I could try for a natural birth but any slow down or stall in labor, which happens more than 80% of the time, they would assume that you were stuck and I would have a c-section. 

So, after all the previous concerns about you and your health, your dad and I didn’t want anything to happen to you during delivery. I consulted with several doctors and my friend Sameera, who is a doctor. Everyone said the safest route was the c-section. So, despite my fears and my hopes for a natural birth, we decided to have the surgery. 

Your Birth
On Monday, January 20, 2014, we went to St. Luke’s Hospital to have the caesarean section. Although we weren’t sure if the surgery was going to take place on Sunday, Dr. Norrell wanted to perform the surgery and fixed it for the 20th, your actual due date. We headed to the hospital around 7 am in the morning. All of the nurses knew me because of all my visits to the hospital for the non-stress tests. My doula, Amber, showed up for support. She was great because she explained everything that would happen, step-by-step. She also asked the nurses and doctors for some extra time to do a special meditation before the surgery began. It was really beautiful and we talked to you before you came out. She really put me in a good space before going into the operating room. 

I had my crystals on my wrist and in my hand. I also had the aromatherapy scents from essential oils on before going into the operating room. I felt prepared for the next step and I couldn’t wait to meet you. I just wanted you to get here safely. 

The next part is where things started to go a little wrong for me. The anesthesiologist didn’t like the IV that the nurse inserted into my hand. So, she is frantically in the OR trying to give me a new IV. She stuck me with a needle and had blood spraying everywhere. It took her three times before successfully getting a new IV line going. She also did my spinal tap. She told me that I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs in about 5 minutes. Well, those minutes came and passed and I could still feel my legs. So, I told Dr. Norrell and the attending nurses. They were concerned because the anesthesia was not right. So, the anesthesiologist wanted to give me general anesthesia because you can’t give more in the spine. The problem was that if I was given general anesthesia then your father couldn’t be in the room during the delivery or the doula. And I couldn’t see you being born if I was under general anesthesia. I would be knocked out the whole time. This delivery was becoming so far from the natural birth that I wanted. My only other choice Dr. Norrell gave me was to have her try to start the cutting and then stop and give me general anesthesia or a narcotic if it got really bad. 

Well, all I can say is that you were worth the pain. It was absolutely the worst pain that I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I felt them cutting and tugging and everything. I don’t remember much but the pain and then finally seeing your face as they pulled you out. Then, everything was dark. The next thing I know I was awakened and they were putting you on my chest. You are amazing. You were so cute and beautiful. And I loved you immediately – from the first moment that I saw you. 

And you immediately crawled on my chest to my breast and started nursing. You knew exactly what to do. It was amazing. I knew that I never wanted to be without you – ever. I honestly have never felt the love that I felt for you for anything or anyone. It is the greatest love that I’ve ever known. 

We spent the next days in the hospital, while I started the rough road to recovery. We did lots of skin-to-skin contact. And you never left the room without your dad or I (because I couldn’t walk at that time). We were, and still are, so in love with you. 

We had a few visitors at the hospital. My good friend Sameera and Imelda came by. They brought a birthday cake and beer for us, which were my two wishes. It was awesome. Raleigh’s mom, your Mimi, came by the hospital to visit. And my San Francisco Buddhist mom friend, Jonetta, also came by to visit on the last day before we left the hospital. 

I'm so thankful that you chose me and that we are doing this life together. 

All my love forever, 
Mama

Written January 19, 2015