note to my readers: I tell long stories. If you want to skip to The Story (without the precursors and prelabors), scroll down to the asterisks, where the contractions of her final labor-time (3 hours, only 2 of them at home) start, and I’ve added asterisks again where I move back from The Main Story to musings.
It was such a new, strange, and wonderful experience, waiting for Alice. First of all, I decided before conceiving to hire the Sacopee Valley midwives to attend our birth, although both my boys were born at home unassisted. Secondly, I have never had such a schedule in mind before when I was welcoming a baby. Yet, I had a trip to Idaho planned at 37 weeks, and my parents were renewing their vows at 38.5 weeks â€“ so don’t come too early, baby! Then, my older kids’ father had originally planned to take them on a long vacation starting the 8th of July (they tried to bump it up to the first, but I said no, so it was happily rescheduled til August in the end). So, there was the feeling of, â€œDon’t come too late, baby!â€ Then, there’s the matter of the kids’ schedule. Weds – Friday and some Saturdays, they’re at their dad’s. I wanted her to come when they were home to meet her.
So, my normal feeling of hanging out at the end of a pregnancy, just waiting for things to happen as they will, was not present this time. There were Times It Should Happen and Times It Should Not. Alice, blessed little one that she is, accommodated this for us.
Normally, I expect a few nights of laboring before the final stretch happen, and there was none of that until the night after my parents’ vow renewal. The Sunday before she came, for about 5 hours I contracted pretty hard, getting my body ready. This was about a week before her birth. I hadn’t timed contractions previously â€“ Morgaine’s water broke before labor, and then the boys were born unassisted and I never felt a need to time anything. This time, we had asked some wonderful midwives (Sacopee Valley Midwifery) to share the birth with us, and I was torn between wanting to call them if it was Time, and not wanting them to make the drive of over an hour if it wasn’t. We times the contractions at lasting 60 seconds, about 2 minutes apart from start to start. Brenda was wonderful when I called, and offered to simply come regardless, as she could hear that the stress of the Question to Call was far more pressing than the waves I was having. In the end, I decided to wait, and around 3:30, things tapered off. I set my sights on Saturday, June 26 as the Perfect Day for baby to come â€“ the kids would be able to spend the most time getting to know her with me. Friday, I got the water heater fixed and the painting finished and picked up my kids. At 11pm, the waves began to come; I took a walk, made some cookie dough so there’d be high protein snacks for us and the midwives should our baby come that night, got the birth tub ready, and around 1, decided to head to bed again to rest while I could. (I was resting on the couch until 15 minutes before Orion was born, and in bed until an hour before Isaac was born.) By 2:30, things were intense enough I was feeling hopeful and decided I’d call the midwives in an hour. At 3:30, everything slowed down â€“ I came back downstairs, feeling a little sad, baked some cookies, did some cleaning and laundry, hoped things would move. They didn’t.
In the morning I called Brenda again, mostly to chat. I told her about the laboring; told her Jonas had checked my cervix and I was about 4cm dilated; and generally talked out my feeling of wanting baby to come on this weird timeline. Aside from lovemaking and long walks, was there something else I could be doing? Brenda went over various levels of encouraging labor, and my reaction to the suggestions reminded me that much as I wanted baby to come â€“ I wasn’t willing to evict her from the womb. I hadn’t even hit my â€œdueâ€ date yet. I would wait.
Morgaine and I walked to the library and to Aroma Joe’s, about 2-3 miles round trip, I think. I figured the walk couldn’t hurt and there’s a book she’s been wanting. Orion went to my parents’ house to visit for the day; I dropped Morgaine off at a birthday party. Jonas and I snuck away for a few short minutes to try and encourage labor before we left for the Strawberry Festival with Isaac.
At 3 pm, as I began driving to the Strawberry Festival, the first wave came, strong but not intense. Another, and another, regular but not overwhelming, just distracting. At the gas station, Jonas took over driving the ten minutes to the festival, and things were intense enough I didn’t want to walk far, so we spent a while looking for parking. We had our strawberry shortcakes and I decided to go home; contractions were quite sincere by now â€“ but first, I had wanted to get gifts for our midwives from the artisans, so we stopped at a beautiful glass stand that had caught my eye on the way in, and I found myself gripping the table with the waves as I waited for the artist to wrap the gifts we chose. On the way to the car, I had to stop walking and close my eyes and breathe several times when the waves came. It was about 3:30 now. A few people asked if I was all right â€“ â€œYes,â€ I told them, â€œI’m just having a baby.â€ Then I’d giggle inwardly at the resulting expressions. I asked Jonas to stop at the Herbal Path on the way home to pick up some homeopathic cohosh and I took a dose in the car; I’m a bit of an agnostic about homeopathics, but I knew it couldn’t hurt and I didn’t want the labor to stop.
When we got home, Isaac went to play in the back yard and I got in the bathtub. I had Jonas setting some things up for me â€“ a nightgown, a glass of water. He set my birth music to playing on the laptop. I dabbed some Clary Sage oil on my wrist so I could breathe in the aroma; for me, it’s the smell of birthing. I wasn’t all that certain she’d be born soon; it seemed too convenient and I didn’t feel â€œclose.â€ (Of course, except with my first, I’ve never felt â€œclose;â€ rather, I’ve just waited and then they’ve come.) I expected things to peter out again, yet decided that if by 5:00 the waves were still coming, I’d call the midwives.
Somewhere around 4:20, Jonas took Isaac and went to pick up the kids; I sang and rocked and talked to baby; told her I wanted to meet her; talked with her about our home and her siblings. At belly dance on Thursday, I had noticed that the rib circles I was doing seemed to be moving baby down a bit, so I did some rib circles in the tub. The waves got more intense after the rib circles, and I found myself really breathing through them, contemplating getting out to warm up the birth tub, when I felt my water pop with a huge gush. I couldn’t believe it â€“ baby was really coming! And probably today, the day I had wanted it to happen!
I had no idea at this point how long I had â€“ with Orion, I had about 5 minutes after my water broke. With Isaac, it was 45. (Morgaine’s broke before I went into labor.) Both boys came much faster than I expected. It was about 4:40. I called Brenda to let her know my water had broken; I was laughing and crying and overflowing with joyful excitement. Then I called my husband to let him know he shouldn’t dawdle on the way home, and wondered if the kids would end up missing the birth after all.
I got out of the tub â€“ I wanted to walk; I was still somehow worried things would stop. I carried a towel with me to lay on the floor so it would catch the fluid that came with each wave. I added hot water to the birth tub. I called Morgaine’s friend’s house to let her know she should be ready and waiting for Jonas when he came to pick her up. I grew tired quickly of worrying about amniotic fluid on the floor, so I went outside to walk in the yard. I pulled on a nightgown, grabbed the towel and phone in case baby came, and I walked and sang between the waves. I noticed the raspberries and blackberries were ripe and ate some; when a contraction came, I held onto whatever was nearby and bent and rocked and let the fluid drip to the ground. The family came home and laughed at me â€“ â€œShe’s in the back yard singing songs and eating berries and hugging trees,â€ my husband told my mother when he called her.
At this point I was having a hard time standing through the contractions, so I came inside to get into the birth tub. It was about 5:15. Jonas sent one of the kids in with a cookie; I tried to eat it but couldn’t manage more than a bite. Shortly thereafter, I heard Brenda arrive, caught her eye and waved during a contraction, and put my head back down. These HURT. I didn’t remember Isaac’s labor hurting so much. It was a lot more work than I had expected â€“ ridiculous, I know, but true. I talked to baby, and as I began to vocalize more, I worked on turning the moans into words so I my growls wouldn’t frighten the kids …. â€œCome, baby. Hi, baby. Ooooh, baby.â€ My Morgaine sat nearby on the loveseat, reading her book. Isaac sat on the couch, occasionally calling out â€œI love you, mama,â€ or rubbing my back, or kissing me on the arm. Brenda sat quietly by the tub, except to ask once if I wanted the windows closed (I didn’t. I wanted the sunshine.). I narrated my labor to her a bit, and at one point I told her my back hurt (I was worrying about a posterior baby getting hung up in my pelvis). She asked if I wanted her to put pressure on my back; I said I didn’t know, and so she was quiet again, and her quiet assured me that baby would, of course, be fine. Jonas was in the kitchen calling in to me periodically about what seemed like the most complicated pizza phone order ever â€“ or it seemed so, as he kept asking me for help and input until I finally hollered at him to deal with it himself; I was pushing out a baby. Orion popped in periodically trying to coax Isaac outside â€“ he didn’t want to be inside when the baby came, but didn’t seem to want to be playing alone, either. By now it was perhaps 5:45.
Gradually, the contractions became pushing contractions, and those led to greater pushing waves that lifted my body up. I couldn’t feel baby coming down the way I had felt her brothers, and I was fearful that my body was pushing before I was ready, against a cervical lip or something, but I breathed and relaxed my pelvis as the contractions wracked my body and tried to stop worrying. Brenda told Jonas to tell the boys baby was coming and to come in if he wanted to see the baby born, and things got a bit blurry as our babe made her way out of my body. As she crowned, I put all my effort into calling â€œHead!â€ so Jonas wouldn’t miss the birth. I was afraid I hadn’t spoken the word well enough, so as her head made its way out, and as my skin split open a bit, I called â€œHead!â€ again, and reached down to pet baby. I felt her ear, felt no cord, felt elated that our baby would be here in a moment! Brenda asked if she could feel, too, and she did, also checking for cord, then we waited a moment for the rest of baby to come.
There was our baby!!!! in the water, and I reached for her, pulling her out facedown and holding her to me. It was 6:07. Brenda listened to her heart and lungs and asked me to rub her up a bit, so I did, rubbed her and talked to her and encouraged her to breathe a bit more. Jonas was impatient to know the gender, but I wanted to wait until I felt like she was settled well into the world with us first. I hadn’t realized how much I expected a boy until I looked for a penis, saw none, and had to look again at her little yoni. â€œWe have a baby girl,â€ I told him. He stood on the far side of the birth tub; I asked him to snap some photos while I waited for the placenta. Isaac came in at some point, and Maureen, our second midwife, arrived. Like Isaac’s placenta had, this one got a bit hung up when it was mostly out. Brenda encouraged me to twist it to release the caught up membranes, but I was burning where I had torn, and the cord was short, and I didn’t want to twist it. I finally gave up the waiting and handed baby to Jonas and stood up, so that maybe the change of position would help. This with a small twist brought it out, and we got out of the tub.
We cut the cord fairly quickly; Orion was bothered by the placenta and I was bothered by the short cord, so after about 10 minutes I was ready. Her first few hours felt chaotic; I found it hard to settle on the couch; I was bleeding quite a bit still and didn’t want to soil the loveseat knowing I’d have to clean it later, and I am badly unused to having a room full of people (even wonderful people) postpartum. The kids slept through their siblings’ births previously, and for the two homebirths, I had no midwives. It’s always been quiet, dark, dawn when the babies have come.
Isaac was ready to hold her fairly quickly; I think he was the first one, then Morgaine. Orion was a bit put off by the vernix and her newness and waited to hold her until the next day. They were impatient for us to name her; I was impatient to settle and get to know her, but I was frustrated by the bleeding and mess.
Eventually, I passed the clots that were causing the extra bleeding and was able to relax with our new babe
and get to know her a bit. Our midwives looked her over and weighed her at 8 pounds, 4 ounces â€“ the smallest of my babies. It was about 11 when we went up to bed, and we still hadn’t named her. Though her daddy and her brothers and her sister slept, I was able to spend most of the night getting to know her â€“ she lay mostly awake most of the night, nursing and chatting in the soft, sweet way she has.
Around 6, the kids started waking up and coming in, and we chatted about names again. Morgaine was pulling for Ivy Kim, and we settled on that as her name, briefly â€¦ until about 8:30, when I was comforting baby and called her â€œAlice.â€ A few minutes later,
Morgaine also found herself calling her â€œAlice.â€ I looked at Jonas â€“ â€œMaybe she’s an Alice after all,â€ I said. We asked the kids (Isaac was set on Alice Tansley as her name) and they all agreed, so finally, we named her, Alice Tansley, after two of her great grandmothers. (Also in the running was Elizabeth Florence, after another great grandmother, but she didn’t look or feel like an Elizabeth to us.)
Starting again with a newborn is beautiful. Watching through the eyes of my older children, and through the eyes of my husband, who has never had a newborn before, makes it all extra special and joyful. They’re already each forging a different relationship with our Alice; it’s amazing watching it happen. This is their fourth sibling to be born in the 5 years I’ve been separated from their father, but the first I’ve been able to watch them with; it’s such a joy, welcoming this baby into our family, and I am so grateful to Alice for coming when I asked her to, so they could spend several days getting to know her before it was time for them to leave for their dad’s house.
I don’t really know how to end this story, since it’s a story without an end, really, but I’ll stop here, especially as my sweet baby is stirring and will want to nurse again shortly, and then she’ll probably have more stories to tell me, and I don’t want to miss them. I will add a last thought though â€“ during the first two rounds of pre-labor, I felt the pressure of calling midwives, of involving another person in my birth, was overwhelming, was perhaps giving up my birthing autonomy, was perhaps inviting complications by causing me to overthink everything. Friends who ha
d also birthed unassisted wondered why I was hiring a midwife to be with us â€¦ but it felt right to do, from the beginning, and, I was so very, very glad to have Brenda’s presence at the birth (and Maureen’s, afterward, though she got here just after Alice was born) setting the scene. As she sat quietly nearby me, my husband stopped hassling me about pizza, the kids took her cue to be still, and she made sure everyone who wanted to be present when baby came, was. Just as my first three births were, this was exactly as it was meant to be, and it was beautiful.
We are blessed, to live in an area where homebirth is well protected, and there are several homebirth midwives from which to choose. Because of this, I was able to find midwives who jive with my birth philosophy; midwives who believe that birth happens, that the body will work as it ought, who I could trust to handle an emergency should one come up but also trust to expect no emergency; to leave my body alone to do the work of bir
ng. Having midwives who believe in birth was a delight and a privilege. I loved my unassisted births, but if I have another baby,
I will ask them to come again.
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