Tuesday 12 June 2012

Memories of Birth: Calm Amidst the Storm

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

With the newest little one's arrival quickly approaching, I find myself thinking more about what his or her birth will be like. Will it be the gradual unfolding that was my first son's birth? Will it be fast and crazy like the unexpected arrival of our second? I imagine it being somewhere in between, but then when do our children's births go quite the way we imagined they would?

Despite their births not being quite what I pictured - the first because I didn't know what to expect, and the second because who could expect that? - I have fond memories of each of them. And with each, there is one moment that stands out from the rest.

Labouring in Confidence

My oldest was delivered naturally in a teaching hospital, as witnessed by an unexpectedly large crowd of residents and nurses who wanted to observe what was for them a rare opportunity, a woman birthing without the use of pain medication. His labour was 10 hours long, with half spent at home and the second half in the hospital. It was during the five hours I laboured at home that one memory particularly stands out.

When my contractions began at one o'clock in the morning, I quietly moved out of our bed and settled myself on the floor with my laptop and a book. I tracked my contractions on my laptop while attempting to concentrate on Cornelia Funke's Inkspell. I had adored the first book in her Inkheart trilogy but just couldn't seem to get into this second one. I spent the next three hours like this, getting up when I needed to stretch or use the washroom.

Around four o'clock in the morning, I remember sitting there feeling a wonderfully peaceful sense of calm confidence. I felt intimately connected with this child who was about to make me a mother. The city was asleep; it was just the two of us there labouring together in the silence of the predawn morning. His delivery was getting closer. My body was doing what it needed to. I was content to wait and breathe through the continuing unfolding.

It was then that one of our cats ran through the room and across the bed, waking up the soon-to-be daddy. He saw me sitting there on the floor and asked what I was doing. I'm in labour, I replied, but I'm doing fine. Go back to sleep.

Five years later, he still teases me about that. 'Go back to sleep,' he scoffs. As if I could go back to sleep and leave you labouring on the floor by yourself. And a good thing, too, as it was not long after he awoke that the contractions intensified and I began to need both his emotional and physical support. It was the excruciatingly painful drive to the hospital two hours later - easily the worst part of the entire labour, delivery included - that first made me consider the idea of a homebirth for any subsequent children.

Cherishing the Peace

We did indeed end up planning a homebirth the second time around, although fortunately my reasons for choosing one had by then extended far beyond simply avoiding the painful drive to the hospital. I looked forward to his birth, picturing low lights and quiet music as I laboured in our tub with my husband, son, and midwife close by.

Reality, however, was a far different picture. This child would have been born at home whether I'd planned for it or not, so fast and unexpected was his birth. One contraction-filled week past his estimated due date, I ignored some more mild contractions in favour of going to bed. I went into the bathroom to get ready, but was instead hit with a sudden hot flash and an excruciatingly intense contraction that broke my water. Thinking that the labour process was finally beginning, I called for my husband to phone the midwife and let her know.

While he was on the phone, a second intense contraction hit. Immediately after calling for my mother-in-law to prepare the tub, I realized that it was wholly unnecessary; the baby had just descended through the birth canal and I could feel his head beginning to emerge. I managed to get myself onto the floor on my knees, leaning on the bathtub, as the rest of the head pushed through. By this point, the midwife had instructed my husband to hang up and phone 911.

One more intense contraction and the rest of the baby was delivered into my mother-in-law's hands. (I don't think she has quite yet fully forgiven me for this. She was there to watch our older child, not to deliver a baby, and hadn't even wanted to be in the room when it happened! Poor woman.)

If things had been crazy up to that point, they were about to get even crazier. The paramedics arrived. The firefighters arrived. Two very large paramedics crowded into our very small bathroom. This wasn't what I had envisioned! Where was the soft music? the peaceful quiet? my midwife??? Instead I was on my knees in my now very messy bathroom, trying to ward off a nervous paramedic who wanted me to lay down, of all things, on the cold hard bathroom floor.

And then the moment happened. The paramedics stepped out of the bathroom. My husband and mother-in-law were busy talking with them. It was just me and my new son, alone together at last. I looked him over, adoring him and his newborn perfection. There you are, I thought. It's good to finally see you. I felt another small contraction and my body delivered the placenta in the quiet peace of that room. I savoured the calm for another moment, gaze locked with that of the pink baby in my arms. Through all the craziness, I hadn't yet let him go.

Then I allowed the moment to pass. I called the paramedics back in to let them know that the placenta was here and I was ready for them now, but I carried that quiet peace with me until, at long last, everyone was gone and we had settled into the familiar comfort of our silent bedroom. The craziness was over and we were now a family of four.

Wild child

They say the third child's birth is a wild card; personally, I think they're all wild cards. We plan for this one to be born at home with our midwife present, but things will happen the way they happen. Que sera, sera. I don't know what this child's birth will be like, but I know that however it happens - fast or slow, gradual or unexpected, at home or in a hospital - there will be one such moment to hold onto and cherish.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. I remember reading your 2nd birth story awhile back and *loving* it. It still cracks me up that your midwife had your husband call the paramedics ;) Wishing you the perfect birth for #3!!

  2. Wow! I loved reading about the two births. I can't imagine one as fast as the second one, but it nearly made me cry as your wrote about grabbing those moments of peace in all the excitement. <3

  3. Woo! What an adventure! Can't wait to hear how #3 makes their arrival.

  4. My good friend actually caught her neighbour's baby, much like your mother-in-law caught yours. She went over in the middle of the night to sleep at her neighbour's house, while her neighbour and her husband headed to the hospital to have the baby. Only the neighbour only ever made it as far as the garage, and while her husband called 911 my friend ended up being instructed to pull down the underwear of a woman she only knew casually and to catch the baby. She DEFINITELY hasn't gotten over that - but she does feel a special connection to the baby.

  5. Wow, your second birth sounds crazy! I'm glad you got those moments of peace between the intensity of the birth and the medics. I hope your next one is a nice easy 4h -- long enough to get your midwife there, not so long to be excessive and drawn out. -- Erika@cincodemommy

  6. Ah! Lovely moments in the midst of all the hubbub of birth. I'm glad you held on to your baby despite the paramedics.

    Here's hoping your third birth is more of the calm variety! :)

  7. Wow! I love your birth stories! I would have loved to have had a home birth, but either way - I know that moment about which you speak. Le sigh.

  8. That was too funny!! Lovely moments though!

  9. When I checked into the hospital to delivery my first, I wasn't quite as far along as I'd hoped. I think I was maybe 4 or 5 cm. My doctor was working and I told her I might go back home and try again later. All she had to say was "you'd like to do that car ride again, then?".

    This post is just lovely. May your next baby have an equally touching experience. And may you avoid the dreaded car-ride.

  10. I, too, felt the calm in the midst of chaos with Sylvi's birth and it was glorious. Glorious. I wish that upon you again with this upcoming birth!

  11. Haha! I love it how you told you husband to go back to sleep :) Legendary! Your super quick delivery is something I wish for myself next month when I give birth :) Except for all the audience...mmm... I’d love it to be fast and sensual.

  12. I had never thought to think of what moment I most cherish from each time I've given birth. But then it was easy to realize which moments those are for me — they're the moments I go to first, whenever I remember each child's birth.

    I look forward to reading about your next birth....