Friday 16 June 2017

Perfection: A birth story

I spent Saturday cleaning. The day before had been surfaces - cupboards and bathrooms and showers and toilets and whatever else appeared not quite perfectly clean. Saturday was floors, sweeping and mopping and scrubbing and washing mats until finally the house felt Ready.

Our fifth precious one was due on Sunday, but our last three had all been 5-8 days overdue so I wasn't holding my breath quite yet. I was predicting her arrival for the following Sunday, Father's Day. I did want the house to be Ready, though, just in case.

At 6:00 am on Sunday, I woke to crampy contractions, as I had each morning at 6 am for the past few days. They were irregular and minor and I paid no attention to them.

At 9:00 am, I went to the bathroom and discovered the slightest bit of bloody show. I crawled back into bed and told my half-asleep husband that the baby was coming today. The contractions continued to be crampy, irregular, and minor.

I had a shower around 9:20, during which the contractions become strong and regular but short. They stayed that way while I put clean sheets on the bed and folded a load of towels.

At my husband's prompting, I paged the midwife at 9:50 and again at 10:00. She called back to say that she was at another birth but would send another midwife from the clinic. We had discussed previously how much I did not like having a stranger in my home as the second midwife during Min's birth, so my initial reaction was are you KIDDING me?? But then she told me who it was; it was a midwife who had been part of my team for Kai's insane unplanned unassisted birth, so that was okay then. I was already quite fond of her and would be happy to have her be here.

After hanging up, we started timing my contractions at 10:15. They were consistently about 45 seconds long and 2-3 minutes apart. I was leaning on the dresser or on my husband and rocking through each one. They were strong but felt productive and easily manageable. We called the midwife again at 10:56 because she still wasn't here and things were feeling pretty serious. She said she was a few minutes out and to call her if the water broke. Less than 5 minutes later, my water did indeed break and we called back to let her know.

It was now 11:00. With my water broken, I knew the baby would likely be coming within the next couple of contractions. I moved to the shower, laid down a couple of towels, and got onto my hands and knees. The next ctx hit and it was strong. I lost my focus and allowed a bit of panic to set in and fight against the ctx, and while the baby did move lower, there was no crowning yet. After it eased, I managed to get one of my legs up so that I was in a better position. I calmed myself down, re-focused, and when the next ctx began, I worked with it and the baby was delivered entirely - head, followed by the slightest of pauses, and then the rest in one smooth motion, there into my waiting hands. It was 11:07 am, just over two hours from the time I had told my husband the baby would be arriving sometime that day.

At this point the midwife was on the stairs. So close, but once again we had unexpectedly had an unassisted birth. The baby began crying immediately. After resting there holding the baby for a couple of minutes, I looked at my husband and asked, "shall we check?" We unwrapped the towel and discovered, to my surprise, it was a girl!

We had a name for her before she was even conceived. Each of our kids had hoped we would have a girl. I would have been delighted either way, but I was grateful that our other daughter would have a sister.

I needed to shift positions, so I asked that we cut the cord now. Kai stepped forward and helped the midwife do so, and I handed our little girl to my husband. I moved into a more comfortable position and the placenta came without difficulty a few minutes later. I showered and moved into our bed. The midwife checked us over and both baby and I were fine.

The morning had been perfect. Everything had gone absolutely beautifully. There were no paramedics and fire fighters as with Kai's birth, no feeling of being swept along by the contractions as with Ell's birth, and none of the difficult decisions that came along with Min's birth. We had deliberately chosen this time to only have my husband, our kids, and the midwife there for the labour and delivery. We may have missed out on the midwife by a minute, but it was perfect anyway.

For our previous three homebirths, we had always included a dedicated support person for the kids. This time, however, we felt comfortable forgoing that (although I did have a wonderful friend on-call in case things did not proceed smoothly and an adult was needed for the kids). I am grateful that we made this choice. There was no pressure, no deadline. In the days prior, there had been no nervousness over whether the baby would arrive before whatever family member was coming to take care of the kids. No one was staring at their watch waiting for me to go into labour before they had to catch a plane back home. There were no extra voices or eyes in the house while I focused on birthing our child. It was simply perfect.

We had, as always, prepared the kids for the homebirth in advance. The kids had been in and out of the room during labour and knew that they were welcome to be there for the birth if they wanted to. Jay had been leading the midwife up the stairs and came into the bathroom just as she was born. Kai had been offered the opportunity to be there after my water broke, but had replied that he was listening to an audio book (C.S. Lewis's "A Horse and His Boy") and to please come get him after the baby arrived (all the laughter and tears at how perfectly "Kai" that reaction is). Ell and Min were both there, along with my husband, who had been, as always, a wonderfully supportive partner throughout the labour and delivery.

Our newest child (nicknamed Zoe in this space) is now five days old. Our first few days have been spent snuggling close as we rest, leaving everything else alone for a while. The world will wait; we will emerge when we are ready. The lovely husband is caring for each of us wonderfully. Zoe and I are working on getting a good (pain-free!) latch - after four other babies, I wasn't expecting this particular challenge, but here we are and we're figuring it out.

I am so grateful for the blessings of these past few days - her beautiful birth, her beautiful self, and each beautiful member of our family.

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