It has been three months since Miles came into the world. We have enjoyed a peaceful time together, mostly snuggling – first in our family bed and later on our couch. He eats a lot, sleeps almost all the way through the night, and every time I look at him I am in awe of how deeply in love I can be.
Three days before Miles came into the world, my midwife called me while I was on my way to the chiropractor. Lab results were in – and my platelets were continuing the moderate decline they had been maintaining for almost my entire pregnancy. That, combined with the baby’s rising weight and our not-so close proximity to a hospital, indicated that I might want to get the show on the road sooner rather than the predicted July 7th.
At that point, I started to realize that I was much closer than I thought to meeting the foot presently lodged in my liver. I had accepted (and even enjoyed) being pregnant, but that maybe I wasn’t quite ready to be a mother. I had sewing projects left to finish, stuff left to buy, lazy days left to spend!
The next few hours were a blur as I got adjusted, found some castor oil, and went home to contemplate the dive that I knew was at the end of this climbing roller coaster. Once my husband came home from a round of end-of-school celebratory drinks with his colleagues, we made a collaborative list of last minute tasks. I lost (most of) my anxious thoughts in the whir of the sewing machine as I finished the last sewing projects I deemed necessary before the baby came.
I eventually succumbed to the reality that I faced a potentially life changing smoothie. Taking the castor oil was very anti-climatic. The expected intestinal upset was delayed, and the desired uterine effects never showed. I made an appointment for some acupuncture the next day and parked myself on the couch to ride out my upset tummy and slide back into a sweet denial that I would have another week or so to luxuriate in my hugeness.
The next day’s acupuncture session ushered in a definite energetic shift. I remember all of a sudden feeling ready – like my body, my breath, my mind, and my heart were all fully prepared to welcome this baby. I stood up after the treatment with a beautiful feeling of being effortlessly grounded in my impending task.
I woke up on Wednesday and continued acting on my late nesting instincts. Sewing projects were completed, surfaces were cleaned, and my inbox got a final emptying. I took one dose of castor oil in the early afternoon. Two hours passed with no fanfare. I decided to give it another hour, then two, before finally taking another dose. Aside from some unpleasant digestive rumblings, nothing happened. But I was ready! My energy, it shifted! I resigned myself to sleep on the couch again that night just in case I needed quick access to the bathroom.
After two hours of deep sleep, I awoke at midnight on June 28th with a strange pain in my lower back. I definitely wouldn’t say it was the worst pain I had ever experienced. Blaming it on the less than ideal sleeping arrangements, I sat around for a few minutes and tried to breathe into the unpleasant sensation. The pain was coming in waves, but in my sleepy state I didn’t really notice a pattern. All I knew was that my belly felt rough and my back was killing me, and I just wanted my husband to comfort me – so I yelled for him to wake up. Bleary-eyed, he emerged from the bedroom and sat with me until the next wave came. Then the power went out.
The pain seemed to subside a bit, so I insisted that it was OK for us to go back to bed. This short lived idea ended when the area around my sacrum started to singe. The only relief came from having my husband press on it, which finally raised my suspicions that I was in labor. I made it through the next contraction and called my midwife.
Before I could get through my apology for calling so late, she told me that she had woken up just a few minutes before with the notion that I might need some assistance. I told her my symptoms and she agreed that it was time for her to make her way to my house. I hung up and relaxed a bit, thinking that all I had to do was ride out the contractions until the professionals arrived. My husband started setting up the birth tub, and I began pacing back and forth to deal with the contractions.
One or two contractions later, I started to feel like I needed to use the bathroom. I sat on the toilet, but nothing happened. I got up, paced around, and came back to sit. My body bore down a bit, and lo and behold I felt the baby’s head starting to push against my perineum. I dashed out of the bathroom and called my midwife again, panicking a bit this time. She calmly let me know that she had not quite left yet, and that I was going to have this baby without her. I will never forget hearing those words!
In the meantime, my husband was outside getting our camp stove to heat up some water for the birth tub. I ran to the front door and yelled for him to come inside. With headlamp in hand (thank goodness), he rushed in to the news that he was about to deliver his own child. I thrust the phone at him, mumbled something about putting it on speakerphone, and gave up the last shred of ability to control myself or anything about the situation. At that point, there was no fear or excitement or anything in between – I was solely focused on the task at hand.
The midwife’s instructions to lay down came clearly over the phone. I laid right down on the floor in the very position I was afraid of being forced into at the hospital: flat on my back, knees bent, feet flat down. My body took over and started to push the baby out. I don’t remember feeling the “ring of fire” or really being in pain at all at that point. I just remember feeling this incredible force well up inside me as I bore down.
Everything was happening so quickly, yet the stamp certain moments left on my memory has left me feeling like everything happened in slow motion. My mind had so thoroughly stepped aside to let my body do its work that the sequence of events is still not completely clear.
I heard my husband tell our midwife that the head was out. Emotion was flooding back as I delivered the rest of his body. At some point during the birth, my husband had to tear the amniotic sac since my water had never broken. He completed his tasks as well as any medical professional – even though it was his first time even holding a baby. He and I were both relieved to hear our baby’s sweet first cry. My son was snuggled on my chest mere moments after that, then we were both snuggled under whatever towels and blankets we had at the ready. Time came to a standstill. The only things that mattered to me were close by, safe, warm, and happy. For forty five minutes or so, I just gazed at my son in the dim candlelight until the midwives arrived.
Time remained as one fluid moment as I obediently followed instructions to complete the birth process. At some point after the arrival of our healthcare team, the power blessedly came back on. My husband cut the umbilical cord, separating me physically from my son for the first time in over nine months. I easily stood up and walked a few feet to one of our dining chairs to deliver the placenta. Then I was told it was time to get stitched up, since I had quite a bit of tearing. I could tell from my midwife’s mannerisms that she was unsure whether this could be repaired at home, but all I cared about at that point was not having to leave our house, which would penetrate the bubble of energy created by the birth that I found myself luxuriating in. I still would have given something precious (perhaps not my firstborn, though) for a slightly more comfortable arrangement: my feet did start to fall asleep during the two hours my legs spent slung over the cushioned backs of chairs.
While I was being stitched up, my husband and son were snuggled in our recliner together under a quilt made by a dear friend. While I am sad that we missed the sensitive period for the first nursing session, I can see the profound effect it had on their already close and unique relationship. Still, I was disappointed when we put the baby on my breast and he couldn’t latch on. He was also so sleepy – as were we – that we left the breastfeeding attempts for when we all had a bit more rest. The need for medical assistance had passed, so the pair of doctors said their goodbyes and left us to sleep in our bed for the first time as a family of three.
Since then, our son has changed so many times that I can already hardly remember what it was like to have such a new life in the house. He eats like a champ, sleeps through the night, and is getting chubbier by the day. I love waking up to him snuggled next to me, his preferred sleeping position from day one. I love feeding him, even through latching issues, oversupply, and an overactive letdown. I love petting his sweet soft head and sniffing his sweet smelling breath. And although it has definitely been an adjustment, I love everything about being a mama because of the constant reminder I now have to embody love wherever I go.
To read my husband’s side of the birth story, check out his post on Offbeat Mama!