Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Solstice!

December 22nd, 2008

Happy Solstice!
For the first time in our recent memory, we are actually celebrating the winter solstice with snow! Yes, even in Lhasa there wasn’t much snow to speak of in December (much too arid for snow). And Portland did not just get a light dusting or ice. This was a major wallop of a storm – some are calling it a snow hurricane – that left over 10 inches on the ground in Portland and most of the Willamette valley. This is very, very rare for ‘the valley’. Talking with one of our neighbors (as we were delivering our baked goodies to all our immediate neighbors – something Jason has always wanted to do), she told us that she’s been living here since 1997 and never seen anything like this blanket of whiteness before. Another person who Leigh talked to said that she’s lived her for 31 years and never seen this much snow!

Snow has always been one of Jason’s favorite weather events because it means play – snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, etc. This time however, it is as one friend calls it ‘urban snow’. And urban snow seems to be far more annoying and inconvenient than mountain or forest snow.

In fact, this storm knocked us out of our plane. We were supposed to head back to Atlanta last Sunday. The storm hit on Saturday and we weren’t going anywhere! At least we found out about our flight being cancelled before getting to the airport. Three hours on the phone with the airline companies from home is much more comfortable and enjoyable than hours untold at the ticket counters with hundreds of other stressed out, annoyed, hungry people. Luckily, we were able to rebook for the 26th. And though it is mightily disappointing not to be with Jason’s family for Christmas day, it is after all only a day and we can have Christmas anytime, any day.

This being Ayla’s first winter, it is already turning out to be quite a memorable one. When she was born, she blew the power grid for the birthing center and surrounding blocks. And now here she is bringing the winter blast of frost and snow. Ironically, on her first walk around in the crisp and crystalline air, she was none too impressed and voiced her displeasure vociferously. Hopefully, Ayla is not the Hindu Goddess of inclement weather reborn and this winter will not be a barometer of climatical (yes, we did just invent a new word) events in her life.

Well, I think it’s inevitable. Being new parents, all we want to do is talk about our ‘perfect’ and ‘precious’ and ‘darling’ daughter. Just the other day at dinner, we asked each other what in the world did we talk about before Ayla joined us? Apparently, nothing too important.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the bragging first and foremost.

In the last four days, we have marveled at her bright, awe-inspiring, heart-melting, full-face smiles. They are the full embodiment of joy and pleasure. It is easy to lose one’s inhibitions quickly and start making silly faces and nonsensical yet musical rhymes when we get such a rewarding response. In fact, one will do just about anything to get that precious and perfect smile to her face. Such a glorious reward and take away almost all the fatigue and frustration that comes with caring for a small baby. We have seen smiles before that reflected her inner contentment, but these are truly social, interactive communications with us (and the outside world). Apparently, she must have seen the smiling or laughing on TV, because we really don’t like to do either! In fact, she learns a lot through imitation, such as sticking out her tongue like we do or mimicking primitive sounds such as ‘Aaaaa’. The little horsey sounds, the naying or whinnying, that escapes her is all her own, however.
The sacred days of newborn have passed. Though we are sad that the very special cocoon like and timeless period immediately after her birth slipped by so quickly, we are now excited and eager to see what she will do next. Her development progresses steadily and she continues to grow outward from her little being into the world, shy and slowly but with confidence and security. It seems that one day she just acquired the ability to follow the sound of a rattle by first moving her eyes and then following with her head. And this she’s done several times.

Almost two weeks ago, Jason experimented with introducing her first toy, a fuzzy, soft brown bear. She seemed to immediately recognize the face and became quite still, almost mesmerized by the bear. This relationship has expanded now to the point that she will smile and talk with Mr. Bear often. We believe she remembers Mr. Bear and now likes to interact with him during play times. His presence has been appreciated during wake periods after naps especially, giving Ayla a trusted friend to welcome her back from the sleepy worlds.

A game of sorts has developed during diaper changing sessions. On the window sill, next to the changing table, there is a jade tree plant close enough to Ayla that she can see it and sometimes touch it. Lately, Jason has been encouraging her to reach out consciously and touch the plant, cheering her every time she succeeds. This has encouraged her to continue at virtually each session on the table. And this has also evolved from simply reaching out and touching (which could be anything from the forearm to the back of the hand scrapping or knocking the plant) to Ayla actually reaching out grabbing the plant with her closed hands and bringing toward her. The grab and pull has arriving!

If Dad has been stimulating her motor skills, balance and coordination, Mom has been stimulating her cognitive and verbal abilities. She reads books to her everyday. The Hungry Catepillar, Good Night Room, The Wistful Unicorn and On the Day You Were Born are all favorites right now (not that Ayla can really tell any difference). She also recites rhymes, either traditional or spontaneous. And this coming from a woman who previously spent whole days reading and writing in silence.

Music is also very present in her surroundings. We want Ayla to grow up with rhythm, tone and a love for music. Luckily, Ayla loves to dance and move around. She loves movement. She can get very fussy with you if you stop moving or sit down or be still. The princess likes to be entertained! She especially loves dancing to reggae with her Papa, who is determined that her first word will be RASTARFARI (with fist thrown in the air)! Mama also likes to sing and dance the jazz standards, Ella Fitzgerald being a mainstay in the rotation. Of course there’s the bluegrass and the world drumming and classical guitar as well. Not to mention the simplified synthesizer symphonies found in the Baby Einstein collection we have been given. We’ll wait until she hits her Terrible Twos or Terrorizing Threes before introducing Zepplin, Sabbath and Ani DiFranco.

And who freakin’remembers nursery rhymes learned over 20 years ago?! We have spent a good deal of time researching and relearning many children’s rhymes, such as The Wise Old Owl, Patty Cake Patty Cake, Rub a Dub Dub (Three men in a tub??? What’s that about?), Ring Around the Rosey (BTW, why is it that so many songs for children are about death, disaster, illness, plague and falling cradles?) and Baa Baa Black Sheep. It’s been a lot of fun to revisit these and remember which ones were our favorites growing up. Jason’s were The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Its Raining Its Pouring and Jack and Jill.

In other firsts, we went on a walk for Leigh’s birthday – Ayla’s first time in the woods. Though she slept through the miles of moss and ferns, she did awaken long enough to appreciate a sunbeam or two under a tree. The perfect ambience for her afternoon latté.

She has also learned the steps leading up to breastfeeding and will patiently suspend any fussiness after Leigh lays her down on her lap and reaches for her shirt. The beginnings of anticipation and routine!

Not everything is rosy in the land of firsts. Ayla has not enjoyed being introduced to the bottle. And neither has Mama or Papa for that matter. We have tried to get her to take a bottle 3 or 4 times at this point and none of the bottle sessions have been very successful. Most of them have been frustrating to her and her parents (especially Jason who really wants to help take some of the feeding load off Leigh). We think it’s a combination of waiting too long to introduce the bottle, having the wrong nipple and not being more consistent with trying. That said, we will continue to try different times, techniques and nipples until we can get some success. It will be important to be able to feed her independent of Mom, but it’s not like we can really explain that to her right now.

What’s with the sizing of baby clothes?! You’d never figure out her age by looking at her labels. She wears anything from a 0-3, 3-6 or 6-12 depending on the brand. This totally undermines the drawer organization that we spent so long figuring out. She has, for the most part, outgrown all newborn sized attire. Not surprising really when you figure at her last weighing (only a week ago) she tipped the scales at 11 lbs 2 oz and was an amazing 24 inches long already! That’s average weight for her age but in regards to her length she tops the charts in the 95th percentile. She likey the boob juice!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Pay attention to where the burp cloth is and where Leigh puts Ayla...classic!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

One month old!

I don't really know what to say. There's so much to tell. We love her more and more every moment. (Yes, sadly...all the cliches are true!)

There is much joy: She is growing into her body more and more each day. Smiling is just around the corner. Her coos are heart-melting. Every time she looks at us, there's more of her looking back. She is starting to reach for things (spastically, but consciously). She is mimicking facial expressions. She is more alert and orientated when awake. She is growing denser and a bit longer. Her journey has just begun and it is just so amazing and such an honor to be witness.

The real magic and meditation is in the details of our lives, the moments that make up our current journey. We hope to write more soon. Just trying to keep up with photos and a couple videos (and the diapers - oye!).

It is definitely not all roses, of course. She has her monster moments. But overall, all is beautiful and wondrous.

I mean, how can you not love this! (see movie)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Prayer for Ayla Jade

Moving and Beautiful Words and an Aspirational Prayer from my dear friend and Tibetan studies colleague, Damcho, who is ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The below was composed for Ayla on her birthday, and published on Damcho's blog at http://yearinindia.blogspot.com/ on November 6, 2008.

wonderful new beginnings have already taken place today: it was with great, great joy that i learned that this world community has another member, who i am sure will contribute greatly to its beauty: ayla jade sylvia, the child of my dear friend (and fellow tibet site seminarian) leigh sangster.

i received word that leigh was in labor early this morning, but later in the day somehow found myself suddenly moved to express in words some aspirations for the child. when the message of ayla's safe delivery came through, i learned that this spontaneous aspirational prayer for her was composed just 15 minutes after ayla began her life outside the womb. (makes me wonder just what sort of karma baby ayla and i have together!)

in the hopes that you who read this will add your voice to mine in making this aspiration for ayla, i include it here:

dear baby, even before you develop the words to name this experience, may you always recognize that you are surrounded by love.
may you always carry in your heart the knowledge that this precious life you have now is only possible within a matrix of kindness and caring linking many, many others to you.
as you acquire language, may only the words for happiness, delight, love and joy be comprehensible to you, and may the words for suffering and unhappiness make no sense to you at first, because they do not match any of what you have known yourself.
just as you caused joy for many people in many directions today just by entering this world we all share with you, may you continue to be a source of joy and peace to all those around you, awakening love spontaneously in all who see or hear you.
may you live always within the embrace of that love.
may your actions always reflect the goodness that is your deepest nature.
may your life be long, and full of meaning and wonder.
may it inspire others.
may you be happy, dear baby.

Best and Worst Firsts (a selection)

Day 1… - too beyond words
Day 3 – First car ride; coming home from Alma Birth Center, sleeps through the car and introduction to her house and into the family bed.
Day 3 – first visitors, Auntie Deb and Auntie Dana!
Day 4 or 5 – Ayla loses her first eyelash! Alas, The degeneration of the human body! Woohoo, we make a wish for her!
Day 5 – Magical Mystery Poop! That she has excreted a massive amount of meconium-ish breastmilk-ish poop is evidenced by Jason's threefold changing of his own clothing before we can figure out how it keeps getting on him! She managed to propel it out the back of her diaper, on through between two blankets and out onto the (black and concealing) bedspread, meanwhile remaining completely clean herself.
Day 5 – meets her first baby friend, Elling Spiers!
Day 5 – Midwife Kate gives first in-home postpartum check-up.
c. Day 6 – smiling in her sleep. Is she remembering past lives? Remembering her last meal? She’s barely had her eyes open; how visual can her dreaming be?
Day 7 – Midwife Brandee comes for check-up and repeats weighing twice to double check and yes, she has regained her birth weight (minus one ounce) in just one week!
c. Day 9 – her ear cartilage is noticeably firmer, transforming from a perfect paper-thin pink wing close to her head to a perfect fleshy appendage
Day 10 – First time out of the house. Having (along with mama) hardly left the bedroom, we bundle up and venture out into the backyard. Stepping into a ray of sunshine, this Portland native girl squints her eyes and turns away.
Day 11 – First Bath! We should not have wondered how she’d handle it: Back in the warm water she curls into fetal position and relaxes.
c. Day 12 – vomit! Far more traumatic for mama than babe
Day 12 – We go to the Portland Saturday Market for Jason to pick out his ‘welcome to fatherhood’/’thanks for being such an awesome birth partner and life partner’ cedar flute. Ayla’s second car ride and first public outing. Maybe also her first time (aside from the trip home) being fully dressed in clothing (yuck).
Day 13 – Meeting and Blessing from Yangsi Rinpoche. Ayla’s first Tibetan lama’s blessing outside the womb, she is very open-eyed and calm.
Day 14 – First time back to Alma, this time for two week check-up! She’s reached 9 lbs 3 oz, and everyone remarks about her beauty, peacefulness, apparent vigor and enjoyment of the milk!
Day 15 – Grandma Miller arrives! they meet at the changing table; appropo of the weeks of laundry ahead
Evening day 15 – Yeast infection strikes baby bum! Pure Misery ensues!!
Day 15 – 19 – Total Number Diaper Changes = 112. Perhaps her first Guinness World Record.
c. Day 16 - face breaks out in tiny pimples. What, that radiant, luminous skin doesn’t last forever?!?
Day 17 – met her first newborn friend, Luis Filipe Martin Malcom Marley Wild-Camara, then 5 days old! She looks huge and so much more awake compared to him, and compared to our memories of her 12 days previous.
c. Day 20 – her eyes are increasingly focusing further away. Looking into them is less like a bottomless pool, she seems to recognize us by sight even more.
c. Day 21 – She's three weeks old and for the first time in months that we don’t go to Alma for a weekly check-in.
c. Day 22 – Dramatic feats of hand-eye coordination: seeing, focusing, reaching out towards and actually touching the diaper wipes box lid, then repeating with jason’s hand.
Day 23 – I feel twice that it was not a random jerking arm movement but rather a real hug I received.
Outgrows at least one brand of newborn/small diaper covers
Day 24 – Thanksgiving! Longest outing so far – 4 hours at two friends’ homes gatherings. Lots of love came Ayla’s way and she was very quiet, sweet and wide-eyed.
Day 25 – 24 hours recuperation from the stimulation of the day before, and also perhaps gassy
Day 26 - First for Daddy and Grandma Miller: whispered cheering for Georgia Dawgs as Ayla sleeps in grandma’s lap.
Day 26 - Stayed awake, alert and looking around for an entire neighborhood walk.
Day 26 – SMILED AND LAUGH-LIKE SOUNDS! We’ve believed we’ve seen smiles, or proto-smiles, already, but this was unambiguous! Mama and Daddy were laughing and she joined right in!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Motherhood as Bodhisattva Boot Camp

(I've decided to make public some passing thoughts on the spiritual path as related to motherhood, as a few friends and I try to start a community of women for discussions and support in Portland, and since I have felt in my own pregnancy, birth and early postpartum that there is a dearth of positive stories and models in our culture. Sharing some honest reflections maybe is a step I can take towards more realistic, and affirming, understanding.)

Glimpses of a Spiritual Path from My Wanderings in the Deep Postpartum Forest, or, Motherhood as Bodhisattva Boot Camp

Labor and birth are easier than the third week postpartum

In labor, there is a very clear goal, only one ‘right’ result and one job to do. When the baby cries, there is no one answer, or maybe there is no answer, for ‘what’s wrong?’ or ‘what do I do?’ Unlike labor, when the baby cries, there is no team of cheerleading experts coaching, supporting and, once on the other side, congratulating me on a job well done. The exhausting efforts of birth are less than 24 hours of exertion, and followed by life-altering emotional (and hormonal) highs! But the cries of her painful yeast infection, endless diapering and sore nipples last for days and days and bring only more sleep deprivation.
For a spiritual practice, surely there is no better place than motherhood, where there is no more place for attachment to results, rewards and praise.

Heartbreaking Love

Pema Chodron and others have spoken of the heartbrokenness of the bodhisattva path, the wounded, tender heart. I have never really understood this presentation; loving-kindness, compassion, and virtuous interactions with others are feel-good things. The presence of lamas and their tangible good qualities is restorative and inspiring to me, and in my imagination my future self who has cultivated compassion and generosity and the other paramita emits joyousness without clinging. ‘Heartbreak’ has sounded too much like suffering.

But when my baby has cried, and I mean really from her depth expressed some utter misery and appears as utterly inconsolable, I have had a taste of this heartbroken state. I cannot but sob with my urgent, intense need to end her suffering, impervious to any other considerations.

I think it is the other side of the spontaneous, uncontrollable, immediate, unwavering and un-diminishing intense love that is ignited in that sacred first week. I felt blessed, fortunate, full of joy to have experienced such unselfish and unmediated love.

These moments of purely spontaneous feeling of love and compassion for the other must be akin to those attributed to the bodhisattva. I am awed when I think of beings like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whom I have seen stop mid-sentence to weep, so moved by his practice of Shantideva’s teachings on compassion and bodhicitta in this world, who have this kind of spontaneous, selfless feeling for all beings, not just their own child. It now seems, in comparison, as though any past experience I have had moved by suffering or motivated by compassion has been merely cultivated, generated, produced through some process of thought and cumulative reflection. I also acknowledge that the spontaneous, genuine response of the new mother in me is fleeting, limited to this one little being who has never harmed me or been selfish, and is subject to my degrees of sleep deprivation and patience. Nonetheless, it is a tremendous gift to cultivate, and I am sorry that Ayla offers me such precious opportunity for growth at the expense of her own comfort. Perhaps my attempts at awareness and contemplation will go some way towards re-paying her.

Bonding and Letting Go

The birthing process is showing up in reverberations elsewhere. In Ayla’s struggle to get out a poop there is strain, possibly pain, and discomfort, holding her breath and panting, movement to ease or stimulate the process: labor. The co-existent dichotomy of intense bonding and letting go is sure to be another throughout our lives together. In giving birth, the yearning to bring out the baby is not merely as an end to the physical torment but too the desire to finally cradle, see, hear, smell the little being that’s been occupying my belly, dreams, thoughts and conversations for most of a year. The ordeal resolves with that fulfilled desire only through surrendering, letting go, refusing consciously and deliberately again and again to give in to the instinctive reaction of wanting to avoid displeasure and seeking self-protection. I have struggled to allow moments of letting go of the intense attachment I feel to Ayla just to let others, even her father, hold her. I know she needs some undisturbed time ‘alone’ to discover her body and her world for herself, requiring me to let go of my need for her, even as that bond gives her the security and confidence to explore.

Detached or Overly Identified, It’s Still an Ego Bruising

When Ayla cries, I feel proud when I can quickly and calmly and tenderly soothe her. More often, my ego gets challenged by feelings of inadequacy when the cries ratchet up rather than fade away. I feel guilty and cold when I react as a detached witness, analyzing possible causes and alleviations of her situation, hardening to her sounds of distress to preserve my own capacity to respond, my own emotional stability. I feel too vulnerable to be her protector when I become too identified with her, and her wails are met by my own unleashed flood of tears. I have to ask myself how much my motivation to get her to calm down is to alleviate my own annoyance, frustration or pain, and to what extent I genuinely care only for her happiness. I don’t expect to only feel the later 100%, but I am embarrassed to catch myself weighted to the former sometimes.

mama in training, october 25, 2008

Giving Thanks

To everyone who thought of us throughout our pregnancy, labor and birth, and first two weeks with Ayla, we extend our heartfelt Thank You!

I've felt so supported and encouraged by everyone, and the belly received so much love as it grew and wiggled. I have no doubt that your positive contributions were among the causes of the ease of the pregnancy and the safe happy outcome of the birth. During the hours of labor I was also aware of the presence of those who love us; Ayla and I worked hard, but did not suffer.

I'm sorry to have not replied personally to each of you yet, but your emails and calls have been very much appreciated. In the first week it was especially sweet to stay in bed with our daughter, napping and starring at each other and enjoying Jason reading your notes to us. As infatuated as I've been with the little bundle of snuggling delight, days in bed can still be a bit lonely, and so hearing from you, and knowing even just her picture was bringing joy to others too, meant a great deal. We extended the precious cocoon of sacred, peaceful, intimate time into the second week, as my healing continued and Ayla didn't seem to mind lounging around, milk dripping from her chin, getting even more squeezable chubbiness. A special expression of YAHOO! for those portland friends who've keep our refrigerator well stocked and belly's happy with their visits that nourished us body and soul. We've now begun to venture out into the world again a little, and some of the charm of reveling in her every breath and gesture is wearing a little thin in those middle of the night fussy hours….we're making the transition from 'newborn' to 'baby' (already!). This week my mother is here achieving unprecedented feats of copious laundry and cooking, and holding the babe a couple of hours a day so I can enjoy a long shower or trying to remember which of my pre-pregnant jeans was largest. Ayla continues to unfurl and emerge in the most stunning ways, engrossing her papa and I for countless hours, but we aspire to be not only good parents, but also remain good friends to those we love, and hope to stay in touch well with you all.

The Best and Worst Firsts, Why Labor is Easier than Week Three, Bathing Beauty Video, and other parental musings on some memorable landmarks of the journey so far, will appear at www.aylajadesblog.blogspot.com. There is also a link from there to photo galleries of "the precious one", to which Jason has been regularly adding updates, which is www.picasaweb.google.com/aylajadesangster . Please make a note of/bookmark these addresses if you'd like to keep up with us this way; we won't be jamming your inboxes with future notices of new posts.

Lastly, we were gravely remiss in that first email announcing her birth and naming to not have dedicated several gushing pages of praise to our three midwives and the birthing center. I feel so incredibly fortunate to work with them; truly blessed to have experienced their transformative and empowering model of pregnancy and birth. You probably all know that since I and baby are healthy ("low risk") we were able to plan an all natural 'home birth' (at their house, not ours), drug-free, with lots of movement and time in the warm water. Though it turned out to be a difficult labor due to the baby taking the scenic route or whirling dervish way down and out, I never have questioned the safety, beauty and power of our birth team or our ability to welcome our baby in a calm, supportive, loving environment. Melissa, Kate and Brandee at Alma Midwifery have taken extraordinary care of us – I simply cannot express how amazed I am that what they do and offer even exists, and then how incredulous and unjust it is that every woman doesn't have the experience I have had, doesn't even know to expect it as a normal, healthy way to birth. If anyone out there is considering birthing options, or wants to know more for any reason, I'm happy to share more of my experience and research. It's my new favorite subject!

Very best wishes to you all, with Lots of Love and Bountiful Gratitude at this Thanksgiving time,
Leigh (and Jason and Ayla)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Almost 3 weeks old

I never thought it was possible. To love something so completely, so deep and so immediately...I've always thought that I've had a big heart and a big laugh. And both come easily to me and I feel they are great strengths. But I was completely unprepared and knocked up by the total and immediate immensity and intensity of my heart's opening to Ayla. To say that she already has her Daddy wrapped round her little (perfect) fingers is a grand understatement!

She is the definition of precious and perfect. And so absolutely present and in the moment. I mean she could be wailing and really pushing those new lungs to their limits (because of hunger or cold diaper wipes or lately a yeast infection) and then the next moment that "suffering" is gone, immediately replaced by contentment, awe, confusion or just being.

The way she will stare so intently at something or someone. I mean really gaze wholeheartedly at the world around her is so amazing. Such a powerful reminder of how to really "BE" in the moment. Where your senses are everything and you are so intent on something - vision, hearing, taste, etc - that nothing else enters the mind. It's transfixing and pure mediation to watch the Baby TV...

And that's another thing that is so incredible about being with Ayla right now - there is no mind or ego! A little Buddha she is now (until we inadvertently but almost unavoidably teach her out of her innate Buddha-hood). She has not formed a sense of "I" or seperatness from her world. She doesn't "know" that she is Ayla. (Mabye on some level she is beginning to recognize the syllables "Ay" and "La". But honestly, I think she's going to think her name is Precious or Beautiful the way Leigh and I call her that all day everyday.

Just today she did two really incredible, simple yet powerful developmental acts. The first was when I was holding her and I made the "A" sound, she immediately responded with the same sound! She is a great mimicker and has been following our facial expressions with the greatest interest. So lately I've been practicing the vowel sounds with her. A...E...I...O...U...with A and O being the easiest to at least facially mimick if not verbally mimick. But today she totally repeated "A"! It was awesome.

Then Leigh was telling me later she was laying on the bed with her and the baby wipes were sitting there very close to her face. Leigh could tell that Ayla could see the box, was focused on the box. But then she actually reached out and touched the box! After a second of looking a bit confused, or at least puzzled/curious, she did it again! Her fine motor movements are still quite a ways off from being totally dialed in but to reach out and interact with her enviornment like this...well, I know it sould totally small and minor, but it's huge to us, the proud parents!

Ayla is beginning to look around a lot more and actually focus on objects, actually "see" them. I am constantly wondering what she "thinks" or how she processes her input. Especially when she is sleeping and these instantly there, instantly gone facial expressions flit across her face. What is she dreaming about? What do babies dream? Previous lives? Colors? Light and dark? Her mental vastness and lack of egotisical borders is truly inspiring and Leigh and I are both full of rapture and awe.

Ayla is doing really well, physically too. She is growing so fast! She weighs over 9 1/2 pounds (that's 2 pounds in 2 weeks). We just went over to visit a newborn baby to some friends of ours from birth class. Their little boy was born 6 days ago and weighed 7 pounds and change. Ayla is only 2 weeks older than him and totally seems to dwarf him already! She is a chunck! Guess Leigh's pumping out the goods and when its an all you can eat buffet ON DEMAND...As one of our midwives said on seeing Ayla for her 2 week check up, "That is one HEALTHY baby!".

She is still mostly sleeping, eating and shitting. But she's really, really good at all three of them! When she sleeps, we swear she's made of rubber. Just draped over an arm or a belly or hanging off an abdomen and snoring away. And it doesn't matter where she is or what's going on around her. It could be loud or quiet or light or dark, sleeping the hours away...Reminds me of my college days. Ayla is at her loudest when she eats. Its hilarious. All kinds of snuffling, snarking, squeeking, cooing, sucking, slurping, burping sounds. And with both hands on the boob, I swear she's already saying "I can do it!". And I know it may sound cruel, but when she gets her "Poop Dance" going - arms flaying, red faced concentration, brows furrowed, legs pumping and occassionaly going straight out and then coming back in, with all kinds of grunts and pushes - Leigh and I just crack up and encourage her on with "You can do it honey!" and "Push it out baby!" and "Squeeze and squirt little Ayla!".

She has totally changed our lives. We both feel like our entire lives have really just to prepare us for now - being parents to her. Everyday is another miracle and another moment of pure joy/love/awe... Of course there's little sleep and sometimes moments of total frustration because we don't knwo why she's upset and fussing. But like Ayla, we have learned to let those moments go. They are part of it as we figure this out. Besides the incredible thrill and inescapable bliss that enters your soul when staring at her far outweighs any temporary inconvenience.

We are savoring and honoring this sacred time. We are blessed. We are in love. Ayla is our new life and we welcome the rebirth!

One Love.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ayla's First Video!

She ain't doing anything but being a beautiful newborn...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just hanging out...

Just chillin' with ma and pa on a Monday night!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The first first of many firsts to come...

Please welcome to this world AYLA JADE SYLVIA SANGSTER!

Ayla (pronounced A-La) joined us on Monday, November 3rd, 2008 at 7:25pm after 20 hours of labor. She was born in the water. She weighed 8 lbs and 5 oz and is 21.25 inches long. She has a full head of dark hair (no surprise there! - the only question now is will it be straight or curly?).

We have been so blessed. She is the most beautiful being we have ever seen. We are 100% in love and engrossed.
Between tears of joy, we just stare at her. She is amazing! Even her poops are wonderful!

I could go on and on, but I'll spare you for now...

Photo galleries are here - http://picasaweb.google.com/aylajadesangster/


The name game -

Many of you have been asking about her name. So, here goes an attempt to explain. Leigh and I had agreed that if it was a boy the name would honor my side and if a girl the name would honor Leigh's side of the family. Since we didn't find out what she was going to be before birth, we had a boys and girls name picked out. For the girls name, Leigh new she wanted to honor her grandmother Edna Sylvia . After struggling for a while to come up with something and then having our initial couple of name choices come up too often in recent babies we knew or heard of, we took the letters of Edna and Sylvia from a Scrabble board and just started making lists of Boggle like combinations. As soon as AYLA came up, we both went "OH, that's really nice!" Seeing the name on the board also reminded me of the Clan of the Cave Bear books that I read years ago where Ayla is the main character. The character Ayla is strong, compassionate, beautiful, independent, very intelligent, patient, a leader, a uniter and a very powerful healer.

After writing several names down from our little game, we took them to the bookstore and began to look them up. Ayla is Hebrew for "deer or gazelle". Ayla is also a feminine Hebrew name meaning Terebinth (Pistachio tree). This tree grows in the desert, is very hearty, can survive long droughts, gives food and shelter to travelers and has a very extensive and deep root system. Another recorded Hebrew meaning is "goddess". When we found out that Ayla is Hebrew and celebrated in the Torah, we were happy her named also reflects Leigh's family Jewish heritage. In Turkish, Ayla means "Moon glow". The name may have its roots in Old Persian, where it means "moonlight".

We found Jade in a book and again, both of us immediately went "Yes!" Not only does it go really, really well with Ayla (we may call her Ayla or Ayla Jade), but it has significance to us as well. Jade is a rare occurring stone that can be found in only a couple places – SE Asia and Guatemala. Guatemala in 2001, I first started collecting jade. It was also immediately after that trip to Guatemala in 2001 that Leigh and I met and began to fall in love. Jade has rarity and beauty and color - green has been a very powerful and symbolic color for Leigh during her pregnancy, both for the lushness of Portland and the natural world and for her Buddhist meditations. It also reminds us of Asia. Jade comes from the earth. The jade stone is healing. Jade encourages practicality, wisdom, mental peace and tolerance of others. It can rejuvenate during periods of stress, reduce fears, banish negative thoughts and increase a person's capacity for giving and receiving love.

Lastly, Sylvia is to honor Leigh's paternal grandmother, Edna Sylvia Neuman Miller per Jewish traditions of naming babies for beloved family members who have passed away.

Ayla has already brought us so much joy and happiness. We can only imagine this to continue and expand as she grows and continues to teach us how to be parents. We are so very thankful for her and Leigh's health. She is precious and beautiful and we are so in love. Sometimes we just have to look away because its so overwhelming!

Leigh and Ayla continue to recover from birth. The birthing was long, difficult and incredibly beautiful. Leigh is now more rested but still sore and stays to the bed. Ayla sleeps often but eats well too. I bustle about taking care of both. The bonding between us continues to strengthen and we are still adjusting our sleep schedules (unfortunately).

We would like to thank everybody who has been so supportive to us in the months leading up to this little precious angel, especially the last few weeks. We felt your love and prayers as Ayla was arriving and since and the three of us or full of gratitude. We look forward to Ayla bringing joy not only to us but to you and to the world as she grows.

We are very, very proud and happy mama and papa.
With light,
Jason, Leigh and Ayla