Margaret’s Birth

Around 11pm on Dec 23rd, I go to bed feeling light contractions. Being right around my due date, I suspect I am in early labor. They diminish around 4am, so I think it must be a false alarm. I want to stay busy and give the kids a fun Christmas Eve before baby gets here, so we bake sugar cookies and carry on with the day.  By evening I start to have very mild contractions, about 15 minutes apart, but the intensity is so low that I keep doubting that it’s “the real thing.”

Right before dinner, we decide to open stockings with the children. My in-laws are staying downstairs and we send Letta to call them upstairs. My mother-in-law walks in, eyes wide and troubled.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” I immediately ask

“Grandma and Thom were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. They are both dead.”

We are all completely shocked, and I can’t help but burst into tears. Aside from the suddenness of her death, I am overwhelmed by the surreality of her death being so close to the birth of our baby. We all gather at the table and try to talk through what’s happened and make calls to inform family. My contractions completely stop. It must have been braxton-hicks after all, I think.

We eat dinner and start to get the kids ready for bed. After bathtime, I experience two contractions that are “real” and 6 minutes apart. It’s 8:30pm. I walk into Letta’s room where my mother in law is reading to Letta.

“Mom, I’ve had two that are 6 minutes apart” I grab onto Letta’s toy cupboard as the next contraction comes. “I think I should call the midwife” Right after I say that, my water breaks.

I immediately call Cindie (my midwife) and my labor is suddenly in full swing. There’s nothing like those first few REAL contractions that make you start to shake in your proverbial boots when you realize I HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN. Letta is jumping up and down completely over the moon that WE ARE HAVING A BABY. Meanwhile, I’m texting my mom to get over here asap and sending my sister a “last selfie on the toilet before I give birth.” I turn off all the lights in my room and labor in my bathroom doorway using a contraption Micah put together using a pullup bar and moving straps (I thought I had a picture, but you’ll just have to use your imagination). Micah walks in to check on me in between filling up the birth pool and getting things ready. I grab onto him and “labor dance” through the next few contractions. it’s GETTING REAL.

Cindie finally arrives at 9:30pm and tells me I can get into the tub because I definitely look like I’m about to have a baby. I use the bathroom one last time and end up throwing up everything in me. With this being my 3rd birth, I realize I always throw up during transition and it’s another sign that, yes baby is coming NOW. My second midwife wants to take my blood pressure but Cindie tells us we need to get out of the bathroom NOW because we don’t want to have this baby in the toilet.

I get into the tub and am struck full force by my LOVE/HATE relationship with waterbirth. I have loved all my waterbirths, and could not imagine it any other way, but the moment I get into the tub I hate it and I can’t figure out HOW to labor in the water. I keep trying different positions and start pushing, but it seems too early. Like Elcho’s birth, I’m feeling out of control. I’m labor wailing. After a few particularly difficult pushes, I sink back into the tub and glare into the distance.

“this is sick. this is sick that a person has to push a baby out of their body.” i whisper hoarsely

“No, it’s natural. It’s beautiful.” my midwife reminds me

“yes, yes it’s SO beautiful” I say sincerely, in a unearthly state of laboring only laboring mothers can know. I start to cry pitifully and immediately reprimand myself, STOP IT, I can DO THIS.

Just when I think it’s not happening. This baby is not coming down. I finally feel her head. I’m ecstatic and terrified at the same time. I start to feel what I have only heard of as “the ring of fire” and I’m freaking out “MY PERINEUM. HELP MY PERINEUM”  I’m begging Micah and my midwife to get their hands down there and prevent what I’m imagining would be my privates ripping open violently. (spoiler: I did not tear at all)

Suddenly in the midst of all the insane, fast laboring I have a reprieve. It’s the most beautiful, albeit uncomfortable moment where you know you are so close to having your baby in your arms, but you know you still have one (or two) pushes left. I focus on relaxing and breathing, allowing myself to stretch for the delivery. “Thank you, Jesus. thank you, Jesus” I repeat over and over.

The next contraction comes- I push her head out. “I need her whole body out!!” I scream. Second push, she’s born! Oh sweet, euphoric relief! I’m weeping and smiling at my beautiful, slippery baby girl. Born on Christmas Eve at 10:32pm after two hours of wild labor.

Margaret Noelle Takeko Kubo // 7lbs 3oz

**In loving memory of Mildred Margaret Redding Thompson “Grandma Millie”**

 

 

Elcho’s birth

Around 7pm, Letta goes down for an early bedtime. Micah and I sit and eat dinner by ourselves, a rarity in itself. I tell him I am feeling crampy, and that we are probably heading into early labor.

Micah leaves for work and I get into bed to snuggle Letta for the last time as just the two of us.

10:30pm – Can’t sleep, I have two contractions that tell me THIS IS THE NIGHT! Micah arrives home from work.

10:45pm – my water breaks. I tell Micah to tell work he will not be coming in the morning. I assume (if things go “quickly”) we will have the baby around 7am (haha).

I call my midwife to tell her my water broke. My midwife, who was with me for Letta’s birth, says she is just on her way out to a birth, so she will call my other midwife. We are both sad that she will not be able to be there. She listens to my next contraction and says she will tell Katrina (my other midwife) to head over right away. I tell her that there is no rush as my water just broke, and I could be in labor for a long time (15 hours from water breaking to birth with Letta). She assures me that with my second baby and my contractions as they are, baby will be here soon.

I update Micah, but can barely get through talking because of my contractions. Surprising that they are already so intense when I feel like I just started. I stop ever few steps to hang** and go through another one. With my last birth, I could not find a good labor position and had to try new things each contraction. But this time, I just get in the rhythm and pretty much do the same thing through the rest of my contractions.

**hang: depending on where i am at the moment, i find the nearest ledge or railing and anchor my arms. I transfer most of my weight to my arms and let my lower body “hang” but usually my feet still touch the ground, just barely. depending on the intensity of the contraction, I hold that position with Micah pressing on my lower back, or i say “NO TOUCHING” and handle it by myself, usually figure 8s with my hips. The “hang” is probably similar to the “labor dance” but since Micah was running around trying to fill up the birth tub, and I was scrambling to get things ready too, I needed to be solo for the most part.

12: Letta wakes up confused, but excited that everyone is awake and moving around. (From here on out, I have no idea what times things happen up until the birth)

My mom arrives and starts the last-minute room prepping. Micah is working on filling up the tub. I am hanging everywhere. Micah’s mom arrives and takes Letta downstairs. Katrina (midwife) arrives and starts setting up her supplies. She tells my mom to prepare the bed for birth because at the speed of my labor, it seems we may not even be able to have the water birth. I really hope I can still have the water birth, and see that it is filling up quickly. As soon as it’s high enough to get in, i do.

It’s TOO HOT!!!!! in reality, it is probably perfect temp, but for me, in labor i am TOO HOT and scream at everyone to MAKE ME COLD. they wet wash cloths in cold water and place them on my back and face and that provides some relief. But I am still a crazy laboring mama and keep screaming every now and then that IT’S TOO HOT MAKE IT COLDER.

Letta’s birth was SO peaceful. It was hard, yes. But I felt so in control for the most part, and I had so much time to breathe and take it all in. But this is FAST and FURIOUS and I really can’t seem to get a handle on how intense it all is. Micah gets in the water and helps me labor. I am thinking I can’t do this, this is too much. Right when the doubt sets in, just like that, I transition and I must start pushing. But it’s SO SOON, i can’t imagine having a baby this soon. (probably around 1am, only 2.5 hours from starting labor)

I look at my midwife and say, “I have to get this baby out.” surprisingly, she says “okay, that’s okay. you can.” (my memories aren’t clear, but I am sure I got out at some point and she checked me.) I don’t know how I am going to push the baby out when I can’t imagine he’s made much progress in 2+ hours. But i do what my body tells me and start pushing. Some of my thoughts during pushing:

his head is SO BIG**. I cannot get his head out! There is no way this baby is moving down the birth canal.

**he was coming down with one hand on the side of his face. this makes a significant difference in baby head pushing.

but, just when I think he isn’t moving down, they tell me they can see his head. Up until this point, everything has moved so quickly and felt out of control.

“I want to push him out, but before I do, I need to get a handle on all of this” i say

I try with everything i have left to slow my body down. this baby is ready to come out, but the opening of my vagina is not ready. (With Letta, she was crowning for awhile and I had time to stretch before she came out, so I did not tear.) I KNEW that if I pushed him out at that moment, i would tear.

“You can push him back in” my midwife says

0_o  (??!?) It seems so counter intuitive, but I hold my hand over his crowning head and gently push him back. I try to relax and allow the opening to stretch out. After a contraction i say,

“I am ready. should i wait until the next contraction?”

“It will actually hurt less if you can push him out in between contractions.”

“really?!” (learning many new things about birth this time around)

I push with everything i have left, Micah and my midwife catch him and put him on my chest. My baby boy is here!!

I am shocked he is here so soon. 1:54am, 3 hours later.

“He’s here!” I scream to our moms, “Bring Letta!”

I’ll never forget Letta’s look of wonder when she first saw her slippery, tiny, naked baby brother. For her, for all of us, it was love at first sight.

Elcho Zev Kazuo Kubo, 7lbs 7oz January 17th, 2014.

The betrothal

Not a great photo, but this was our "first date," about 5 days after we met. We sat in that booth, pulled out Micah's black moleskin date book, and wrote down "wedding?" on August 20th, 2011. (spoiler: we married on that day)
Not a great photo, but this was our “first date,” about 5 days after we met. We sat in that booth, pulled out Micah’s black moleskin date book, and wrote down “wedding?” on August 20th, 2011. (spoiler: we married on that day)
DSCN0757
Day 10: our last day together before being apart for 4 and a half months. fake smiles :(

January 17th, 2011: After our ten days together, Micah arrives back in Seattle and tells his parents to drive him to my parent’s home from the airport.

In the room I would later birth our first child in, Micah asks my father for my hand. He says yes.

Later, Micah writes to my father:

“this is the weightiest decision i have ever made.
yet one i have never been more sure of.
as i believe He is willing, i wish to belong to Katrina.
to love her as Christ loves the church, and gave Himself for her.
i have every intention to marry your daughter, nothing less.
i needed you to know.
and to gain your blessing.

thank you.”

DSCN0746

And then the proposal…

May 27th, 2011

I really regret wearing my sheepskin booties. SFO airport is hot and muggy, and after 13 hours of flying I really wish I had a pair of flip flops. Hours before my flight to Seattle, I try to nap.

“Katrina Ong, please report to your ticketing counter”

Am I dreaming? Did I just hear my name from the airport speakers? …again. No, this is definitely not a dream.
I grab my bags and start speeding walking,
where i am going, i have no idea.

A slight twinge starts to creep in and l try to ignore it.
He is here. somewhere.
I pick up the nearest airport service phone
“uhm… my name was called from the speakers, where am i supposed to go?”
“ma’am, you need to leave the terminal and go to your ticketing counter. they might have found questionable materials in your luggage”
What??? I pick up the pace and my feet are on FIRE (sheepskins…)

Finally, I find the counter and put myself in line. Then I hear him say,

“what are you waiting for?”

My suspicion is correct.

10 days together, 4 months apart; now, I see my betrothed. We hug awkwardly (we are still new to each other). People shuffle luggage and conversation around us.

I smile, he stares.
he kneels.

in the middle of the San Francisco airport,
I say “yes”

Travelers slow down and some turn to watch, a boy in an army uniform and a girl with sheepskin booties.

we sit outside watching rental car shuttles and cars pass,
He opens a mini bottle of champagne the stewardess gave him when she heard why he was flying.
Two plastic cups celebrate our engagement.

We sit, knowing without saying, it is perfect.
After all, in an airport we first met,
we said “yes”,
and in many airports, we will spend many hours to come.

Talking babies and naming our son

Golden light streams in through the large windows by our wooden booth, calming the busy restaurant and shuffling tourists outside. Our first date, we share a salmon salad.

He is quiet tonight, which surprises me after hours of road trip chatter driving from Arthur’s Pass to Queenstown (~6hrs). Looking back, I recognize he was beginning to be himself; becoming comfortable enough around me to be quiet.  at that time, i thought something was bothering him.

I try to grab his attention by saying,

“So, you know, I’d like to have kids. right away.”

he continues looking out the window. slowly takes a bite of salad. then, casually replies:

“me too.”

The next day, I put my feet up on the dashboard, trying to relax in the mid-afternoon heat. rugged, colossal mountains around us, a moment alone, we talk about our families.

“I was very close with my grandfather, especially after caring for him his last four years. I am naming my son after him- Elcho.”

I look out the passenger window. Our son.

DSCN0731
At a botanical garden in Christchurch with our friend’s toddler *foreshadow*

 

30251_398642586414_1961345_n
Before Micah and I met, I facebook stalked him (of course) and saw this tagged photo of him. That guy knows how to hold a baby. this pic got me, I tell ya.

 

In which, we both know

The second day we spend 6+ hours (quiet, sleeping hours. not road-trip-conversation-hours) driving up to the north end of the South Island (Nelson, for those familiar). We set up camp and head to the beach just before sunset.

We sit side by side, our backs resting on a wood pallet anchored into the sand. Our arms touch, but we don’t move. almost purposely, as if to make some kind of point.

“do you know why I am here?” he asks

“yes, I think so” I say, looking at my feet. The familiar feeling of sand between toes, coupled with the quite unfamiliar feeling of sitting next to a stranger who you suspect will be your husband.

“We look good on paper…” he says with a vocal shrug

“What do you want?” I finally ask, unsure of the question myself

his answer:

“to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

and I know.

——————————————————

The next morning, we take a boat out to hike the Abel Tasman. Four hours of walking ahead of us, we start really talking it all out. Although nothing was clearly defined in our cryptic conversation the previous night, the feeling of we-are-to-be-married still hangs loosely around us. it’s almost so crazy that it’s just funny at this point. two strangers on a beautiful, long hike throwing out premarital questions left and right.

At one point, we completely stop walking and he asks,

“Do you have feelings for me?”

“I… feelings don’t matter”

he nods. we continue walking.

The late afternoon glows as we end our hike. We squeeze into the backseat of my dinky car and start back to camp. he puts his head on my shoulder.

That night, after my fellow tent mates retire for the night, Micah and I head up a little hill. cliche as it may be, we sit under the stars in the warm summer breeze.

“this is heavy. this, this is the rest of our lives”

“I know. do you?”

“I know, too.”

————————————-

some say they got to marry their best friend. for others, it was love at first sight. not us. for us, feelings follow the decision. now, we have the next seven days to fall in love in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

wanaka beach
Young and in love at Wanaka beach

A bit of backstory

Micah’s sister, Danya, and I graduated from university together. A few months after I moved to New Zealand, she emailed me and suggested that I write to her brother who had just joined the Army and moved to Tacoma. I knew that she had a brother, and I must have seen him once or twice on campus. So I wrote him.

Oct 25th – first letter

First week of letters: we wrote back and forth, every day with a couple of pauses. our letters were not shallow, but they were not deeply involved either. daily recaps, questions here and there.

but still, there was something.

November 9 -Two weeks into the writing, I did something reckless. my reckless nature had always been a vice, but in this situation proved to be a blessing in disguise. I asked Micah if he would come visit me during my summer break in January.

November 18 – I sat in bed with my two roommates. it was after bedtime hours and the stillness that follows hysterical laughter settled in. I felt uneasy, a heavy but tickling weight.

“I think, I’m going to marry Micah”

December 9 – Our first skype chat. We spoke for almost two hours, which for Micah was a BIG deal (if you know him, you know)

After our skype chat, I backed off a little. Not because I did not enjoy talking to him in real time, but because I began to feel the reality of what this friendship could mean. I needed to pause, and I did. I took a weekend (without telling him) to pray about it. He emailed, but I did not reply. Then he emailed again (and apologized for emailing again without waiting for reply). His latter email was “time sensitive” because he needed to put in his leave request and wanted to make sure that my invitation was still open.

I was terrified when he made it clear he was actually coming. flying across the map, to SEE ME. I wanted to reply,

“no, actually, HAHA i was kidding and it’s not a good idea for you to come. i mean CMON, we are just internet pen pals and yeah… it would be awkward and i’d like to just gallivant around NZ with my friends because that is waaaay more comfortable.”

but, the voice told me not to be afraid, and i replied:

“Micah,
Sorry for my delay in response.
The invitation is still open.

Bravely,
Katrina”

The first night

The hostel is clean and busy, but not crowded. I put my pack and things on a bottom bunk and, for him, reserve a top bunk opposite mine. 10pm, I can’t sleep. His flight is scheduled to come in at 2am. I should rest, but who would?

His flight is delayed, and my eyes are tired from the bright lights in the waiting area. 2am: I can’t decide whether or not I should find a seat. Do I want to be sitting or standing when he walks out? I put my purse down. Pick it up. Put it down. Ugh, it’s muggy in here. Finally, I sit, but inside I pace.

Then, I see the olive drab field jacket. The jacket I now hang, pick up off the floor, or off the back of our dining chair regularly. The one that was his father’s. At that moment, it is just a jacket. A bit big on him, his body almost sinking into it from travel fatigue.

“him?” is my first thought

We hug awkwardly.

Dark and rainy in the middle of summer, we might as well be in Seattle; but, we are in Christchurch. I unlock Wendy, my beat up two-door corolla, and we sit finally – strangers.

“Am I dreaming?” he breaks the silence.

I drive.

The hostel is dark and almost everyone has gone to bed. I know where Micah’s bunk is and he does not. I have no choice, but I also know that I won’t regret it. I hold his arm and guide him through the dark, silent room. Strangers sleeping all around us.

“Goodnight”

—————————————

A few months later, Micah writes to me about that first night meeting:

“you reached for my arm in the dark.
i would have given you my hand.
and
Katrina, had you but asked it of me,
i would have given you my heart
then and there.”

The first letter

Geraldine, New Zealand

October 25, 2010

Dear Micah,

My name is Katrina. I am your new pen pal.
Let’s start it simple:
How was your day today? (Tell me everything you’d like share. I’d like to know.)

Sincerely, Katrina

—————————————————————

Two and a half months after I wrote those words, we awkwardly hugged for the first time and the following night established that, yes, we were to be married.

Ten months after I wrote those words, we were married in the garden of an old hunting lodge.

KuboWedding

Nineteen months after I wrote those words, trembling, we first held her – slippery, wide-eyed, dark haired.

Letta_birth

Some may think our story is crazy, others beautiful. Here’s to our unreal, crazy and mostly beautiful life.

How we met series-

Part 1: The first night

Part 2: A bit of backstory

Part 3: In which, we both know

Part 4: Talking babies and naming our son

Part 5: The betrothal

Letta’s birth

letta-birth

A few weeks before my birth I got a phone call from my dear friend, Blythe.
Blythe mothers four [update: now, five] beautiful souls, all born in the water.
Her words and voice played a special role in my birth.
She reminded me that birth is spiritual-
a place to meet God.
Any woman who has birthed knows that you visit a deep place within yourself;
a place you need never go except when bringing life into the world.
In this place, He meets you, prepares you, empowers you,
s a n c t i f i e s 
you
I meditated over this weeks prior to my birth.

IMG_4713-2

and here’s the story…..

Thursday night was cool but not cold, a light jacket was all we needed to enjoy the clear night.
Micah sat and read while I bounced on the birthing ball.
40 weeks and two days pregnant. I didn’t expect to have her that night or even that weekend.
But, about 10 minutes into our little night out in our backyard, I felt an odd sensation.
I immediately stood up from the ball and thought, I just peed myself…

“Micah, I think my water broke.”

“Oh?”

I was not immediately excited, but rather focused.
I am going to have a baby in the next 24 hours. I need to do the dishes. And sleep.It was around 8 o’clock,
A few minutes into doing dishes, I looked at Micah.
He seemed focused too.
Then I got just a little excited

“We’re going to have a baby in the next 24 hours!”

We finished dishes and started packing up things to take to my parent’s house.
I planned to have my birth in my old bedroom downstairs.
(My own home would have been my first choice, but my insurance didn’t let that happen.)

We got into bed around midnight and I hoped to sleep and rest up before the big day.
That. Did. not. Happen.
Contractions picked up and laying down was not comfortable at all.
I tried the different positions I had been practicing in bed,
no no no.
I needed to get out of bed.
Went to the kitchen, made a PBJ, and walked around the house.
Dark, lonely, pre-birth state.

Around 4am, I just couldn’t take the anxiousness.
I didn’t want to be at my house anymore, I want to be where I would be birthing.
I woke Micah up and told him we needed to go.
(sometime in all of this I threw up all over the bathroom, just a few inches away from the actual toilet bowl… my amazing husband cleaned it all up while I labored / washed off in the shower)
I slept the half an hour drive to my parents’ house, waking slightly through each contraction.
“dream contractions”

After arriving and getting settled, I told Micah to go back to sleep to rest up for the active labor.
my sister arrived, we went downstairs and again, I slept through more of the labor.
I’m not sure what time it was, 8 am or so, I decided I could not sit/sleep through the contractions.
In fact, I didn’t know what I could do.
By this point my contractions were what I would call,
Powerful.
Not the birthing ball, not standing, not laying, not kneeling, not sitting, not moving
….not much left..
the shower!
I could not hold the shower spout so my lovely dear sister helped me through dozens of contractions holding the water to my back and changing water pressures.
instead of “just getting through” or tensing through the contractions,
I let them overtake my entire body
knowing, that each contraction was preparing my body for the birth.

After a few more hours,
I had to get in the tub.
I didn’t know how much longer it was going to be,
I thought a lot longer, but i just needed to be in the water.
As soon as I got in, I was desperate to get out.
the contractions had changed and I waddled to the bathroom

“Micah, I think I feel like pushing”

I was confused… how can I feel like pushing so soon?
My midwife was not planning on arriving anytime soon
and it felt too soon to start pushing. but then again, I had no idea.
Micah’s mom came down and told me that if I felt it was time to push,
I was probably ready to.

Quickly, between contractions I called Blythe,
“I’m at 9cms,  I’m about to start pushing and I needed to hear your voice!”
Her words were a jumble of cheering and laughing and crying.

Pushing was by far my favorite part of labor.
Having a purpose and mission during each contraction was empowering!
I pushed for a little under two hours, though it felt like 45 minutes.
At the very end, I knew my control would be crucial in preventing tears.
I closed my eyes, believing and knowing I could take this as slowly as possible…

her head was out!
I reached down into the waters and touched my baby’s hair
we were so close!
Slowly, very, very slowly..
breathing and controlling my urge to push when I was not supposed to
And then it was time
Last push and she was out…
quite quickly and slipped into papa’s hands along with the hands of our caring midwife.
I reached for her immediately and hugged her to my chest
All 7 pounds of slippery, birthy goodness of a newborn
“Oh my baby, oh my baby” I said over and over

I could hear my mother and sister crying and laughing
My mother-in-law asked for her name

“Letta…
Baby Letta”

Named after my mother’s grandmother.

The rest is a warm collection of sacred emotion and intimacy.
But then again, so was the entire experience.
Having finished the written account, I realize words cannot adequately describe

the miracle of birth.