Fourteen days.

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Two weeks old today!

Two weeks in the whole spectrum: bliss, fear, magic, exhaustion, connection, longing, a million tears, but most of all, two weeks in deep love. 

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The doctors are talking about us going home, and although there is nothing more I want, it also scares me. Ulv is feeding better from the bottle all the time (he cannot breastfeed because of his cleft palate, I pump so he gets my milk exclusively), so things are definitely looking brighter. At least for today. I have learned from the last 12 days that things can change from sun to rain quickly here.

And while I wait, I hold him close and fall deeper in love all the time.

In thick and thin.

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From our first summer together.

He comes to visit every day, and when he leaves I miss him. Yes, I have cried in the parking lot. 

Little wolf.

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Why so serious, little wolf?

I know it looks harsh with all those tubes and plasters on his tiny face, but he doesn't mind them. And most importantly; they help him to breathe (the one on his right) and feed (left). And when we go home, the feeding tube will be taken out, and the breathing tube will come out as soon as his lower jaw and tongue have developed enough so he doesn't have trouble breathing (probably some time in the first few months). And although at first I felt bad for his face being hidden behind all this, all I see now is him: Those beautiful eyes, the cute button nose, the soft skin and silky hair, and that smell, oh it is the best. I love him so my heart will probably burst. ⭐️

He is here!

Our beautiful baby boy came earthside in our home Saturday morning, after an amazing birth. His name is Ulv (means Wolf in Norwegian), and he his big and strong and so beautiful!

He is born with a complication called Pierre Robin sequence, so we are at the hospital, and will be for some time. I keep him close and big progress has been made already, so although many tears have been shed these days, I feel positive.

And most importantly, I am head over heels in love and so blessed to be the mother of four amazing children. I am rich.

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Slow life.

The days are spent at home now; we're all bimbling about trying to not be impatient, doing farm chores and harvesting, going for slow walks, saying hi to our animals, playing, reading and cooking, trying to keep the house tidy for the big event. These days are a slow stream of serene family life, waiting for one of the biggest changes we shall ever experience together.

The contrasts of life, nothing short of amazing.

Stocking up.

Although summer was a slow starter this year and the heat didn't come properly until July, the garden is giving us lots of goodies now. These days we are busy harvesting a lot of it to keep for wintertime: berries (redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, cherries, gooseberries), peas and beans and I'm making salve and oil from lavender, yarrow and calendula, so we have flowers hanging to dry or stored in jars. The tomatoes are ripening, the herbs are big and strong, and we have had many meals with kale, carrots and broccoli. The whole family works together to provide the food that will be our treasures in the freezer through the year, and it feels so good to stock up on all that goodness and get ready for winter. Farm life is the best thing ever.

(click on the images to see them big)

The waiting game.

38 weeks pregnant now, and the days fill increasingly up with excitement, wonder and waiting for our little one. 

Photos: Wenche Wendelborg (our dear friend and very own birth photographer, yay!)

Tribal life.

A year or so ago something happened on Facebook that made it worthwhile dropping by there for me. Based on common beliefs, dreams and ways of living, a group of people gathered to form what we for fun call "the tribe". The basis is, amongst other things, a book written in the 70ies by a woman called Jean Liedloff - and to me and Mr. Payne it is the most important book we have ever read. It is truly a life-changer. While reading it, we were made to think through both our own childhoods and our ways of parenting, and it spurred reactions both of grief, frustration, awakening and relief for us. It is a book I want to buy to all people - and especially to everyone who are or will be parents. The book is called The Continuum Concept. Read more about it here

So anyway, this virtual tribe has been living and growing for a while, exchanging knowledge and ideas about so many things - not just parenting the continuum way (and attachment parenting, which might be more familiar to the general public), but healthy eating and growing your own food, living off-grid, homeschooling and unschooling, birth rights, and more. Last week I met some of these wonderful people in a big garden for a day of talking, eating lovely food, and just hanging out. I also had my first blessingway - which is an ancient native american tradition where women sit together and symbolically bless the pregnant mother and her unborn child, preparing for the passage of birth with love and support. Oh, and then I had the most wonderful full body pregnancy massage from one of the women who is a doula (I will dedicate a post to two of these special ladies later, keep posted!).  It was just really lovely, a day full of joy, sunshine and inspiration. I am so happy to have met these people. Love!

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Me getting the symbolic blessing-thread around my wrist. This stays on until I have had the baby - and all the women in the circle have one too. Photo by Maren Sjøtveit / Tilstede Fotografi 

Summer bliss.

Because we have started a dog motel/kennel on the farm this summer, we are not going on any lengthy holiday. Lots of dogs living with us make it difficult to go anywhere as a family, so I have taken the kids on some day trips here and there. Like a couple of days ago, we went to our friends' lovely cabin on the coast and went out to an island. Sand, salty sea and sun - what more could you ask for, really?

Ps. We were there last year, too. Remember this video?

Preparation has begun.

The thought of giving birth again has gradually the last few weeks gone from a fun and exciting idea, to becoming a reality I have realised I have to go through. I cannot escape it - not that I want to either! - but it dawned on me that preparing for the job ahead is due. I have to go through those contractions (rushes), I have to allow for cosmic forces to sweep through me, I have to jump on that storm again. Noone else will do it for me. 

Having been a photographer at twelve births since I last did it myself has made me even more in awe of the job than before, and it has prepared me in a very positive way. The more births I was present at, the more excited I got about doing it again myself, especially after I got pregnant. And yes, I do remember what it feels like, very vividly actually - and both physically and emotionally. 

I have had four previous birth experiences.

My first baby was lost to me, born too early only half way through the pregnancy. The birth was real, took a long time, and was tinged with sadness, disbelief and fear. A perfect little boy was born and imprinted on my heart, always.

Ronja's birth started out great; despite the sadness of the year before, I was positive and excited and happy going into labour, I wanted to do the job, I believed in myself. I wanted to do it all naturally, without pain relief except water and acupuncture. She came after about six hours of labour - a big beautiful girl weighing 4.7 kilos and measuring 55 cm, born three days after the due date. I was ecstatic and felt like superwoman. Unfortunately I lost a lot of blood because the placenta wouldn't come out, so I had to be operated and had a blood transfusion. This scared me, although I wasn't really aware of it at the time. I was too happy about becoming a mother, I didn't offer it much thought until the next time I got pregnant and had to face the reality of birth again. 

After having talks with a midwife and going through what happened in Ronja's birth, I felt prepared and happy enough to go into another birth experience. Freja was born a week before the due date after a quick and intense birth that lasted about a an hour and fifteen minutes from the first real contraction. I was so proud and empowered, my body did everything "right", no abnormal blood loss and I felt so fresh afterwards. Freja was 4,1 kilos and 52 cm of pure bliss.

When Falk was in the belly, it was decided that I would be induced. Because I make big babies and the previous births had been quick, the local hospital were happy to start the birth two weeks before due date. I agreed and felt they took good care of me - but in retrospect and after having read a lot of literature about birth lately, I think we could have just as well waited. Being induced increases risks of interventions such as forceps, vacuum and c-sections, and it is said that the contractions with synthetic hormones are rougher and more intense to the body than if the natural oxytocin (the love hormone vital to birth) gets to flow naturally and unforced. Luckily, my body triggered easily, the birth was uncomplicated and quick and I had another empowering birth experience. Falk was born after one and a half hours of very intense contractions, weighing 4 kilos and measuring 52 cm two weeks before the due date. I felt strong and great and on top of it.

This time we have decided to birth this baby at home. We have a wonderful midwife (www.jordmor-jutta.no) who comes to us for the prenatal checkups. The whole family gather as she feels my belly and listens to the baby's heart, the kids get to know her and love it when she comes. They will all be home for the birth, so knowing the lady who will be here is such a wonderful thing. I feel like including them in this is so natural and right; having a baby is a family event and not something we need to stow away and keep away from them. My mum will also be here for the birth and be available for the kids if they don't want to be there or feel worried about what's going on. We talk a lot about what is going to happen and have watched some nice birth videos to prepare them for what they might see. So far, it feels good to do it like this. 

After only having birth experiences in hospitals and with strangers as my caretakers, a home birth feels like an utter luxury. Not having to go anywhere when the birth starts, being able to snuggle up with my husband in the warmth of our own home, having my mother here (plus a close friend who will take photos) and most importantly, having a midwife who we now feel we know and who knows us - these things make me look forward to this birth. Yes, I know it's a job that will demand a lot, and that I have to do it, but coming past those thoughts I think it will be a wonderful experience. I have done it before and can do it again, and this time with the love of my closest ones around me. 

My tips for birth preparation include:

reading books by Ina May Gaskin (whom I had the honour of photographing last year, look here) & Sheila Kitzinger - I especially recommend Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Spiritual Midwifery and Birth & Sex

practising birth focused self-hypnosis (HypnoBabies, for example)

watching films like Orgasmic Birth, The Business of Being Born and Birth Story

and watching positive birth videos from other birth photographers. 

 

Sleeping outside.

Although June was cold this year, summer finally came with July. Lovely warm days and soothing nights (ok, some nights have been too hot for a poor pregnant woman). We put a big old bed out on the back deck, and Mr. Payne and the kids have slept there quite a few times the last weeks. I prefer to lay my heavy body on my own bed at the moment, so I've been staying in, but waking up with the birds singing and the sun shining through the cherry tree does sound lovely. Freja also said she woke up one night to see the huge full moon shining right above her, like gold in the sky. Nature, it's right outside your door.

Epilogue.

Came home from her funeral this afternoon, walked in the garden and found that one peony had blossomed. I have waited for it to blossom for a long time, I love peonies. It's the first one of the summer, and somehow it seems so perfect that I found it and picked it today. She loved plants, flowers, gardening, everything from nature.

It's been a week filled with tears, a lot of thinking, fond memories and a heavy heart - and all the while the sun has been shining so strongly down on us, giving us those perfect summer days. We are right in the mix of life, whether we like it or not.

I am going out to watch that sunset again, now.

Peace and love. 

Saturday, June 27th 2015.

I don't know how to start this letter. Not because I wasn't prepared, because in a way I was, but not that you would go so soon and so suddenly. 

Twenty years of knowing you is over. Twenty years of so many different memories, so many different times, periods of less contact, then new chapters with new bonding and other circumstances. We always found back though, even now, this last summer. And though we knew that you were leaving, that this was the last one, we made plans. Small plans, just to see each other, and we talked about photographs, that I would take your portrait. But there was not enough time, because today you went on that last journey.

A couple of weeks ago, you came here on the farm, it was a beautiful summer day and we sat outside on the porch, drinking coffee and talking. We talked about sad things and happy things, about funny memories and new perspectives. After you left, my husband said that it sounded like we had such a good time. That made me happy. And the things you said then, they resounded in me, they have done since then. You knew you were dying, and yet you were so happy, so cheerful, so grounded. So unafraid. You said that this spring had been the most beautiful spring you had ever experienced. That your senses were so much stronger, as if you absorbed the world with greater hunger and more joy than ever before. You were completely unsentimental about it, because you were so alive then, so here and now. And you said that the more adversity you lived through, the easier it became, as if you became stronger than it all. Your body was giving way, but your spirit would never break, and that's what you saw, and that's what you tried to comfort all of us with. That it wasn't sad, that life is beautiful, no matter what, every nuance of it.

And so today, you flew. After our friend called me and told me that you had gone, I remembered my dream from last night: I was walking around in your neighbourhood, looking for your house. I couldn't find it.

I went to the hospital to see you today, to say goodbye. It was raw and yet so peaceful, and as I sat by your bed and touched your skin, it was clear to me that you had left, that what remains is just a shell. And the contrast was so stark; I was there with a belly full of new life, with you just a few hours after you had passed. Life, in all its diversity and untouchable mystery. 

This evening, I sat on the front porch and watched the sunset and the valley like so many times before, and I thought, What a beautiful day to leave this world. And although I felt so sad for you, the beauty you left behind in words and spirit made me feel thankful. I got to know you, and walk by your side in moments of this journey.

Thank you. For everything we shared and for what you taught me.

Love!

Midsummer: Rain, sun & swings.

It's become a lovely tradition: We spend midsummer night's eve with friends, either here or at their farm (which we used to rent before we bought our farm!). Delicious food, a bunch of friends playing and talking, that beautiful never ending summer light  - and yesterday, a rain shower so refreshing, all the kids went dancing in it. 

Goodbye, James!

Two and a half months went by really fast, and James has now left us for new pastures. It was a great experience for us all, and we have made sure some important Norwegian lingo is taken out in the world. Like promp, for example. How can you live on a farm in Norway without knowing that? (google it if you're not familiar)

You will be missed, and we will meet again. Bye-bye James!