fiona, part one

I was just looking at my phone history to see what sort of text conversations were happening one week ago. They were something along the lines of: “If I don’t have this baby soon, I’m in ‘trouble.'”

Jameson was born hours before his due date rolled around.

William was born hours after his due date.

Beatrice waited a whole four days before labor kicked into gear.

And this baby? Well… Dates can be wrong, but you go with what you’ve got, and according to calculations, this baby was happy as a clam, despite the Big Bad Forty-Two Week mark that was quickly approaching. Sometimes I’d have a contraction that would make me perk up and wonder, Yes? Maybe? Then long minutes, hours, would tick by, and No. Not it.

Thursday, when I was 41w4d along, I met with my midwife and we discussed Options. When she left, I knew I had a few days to do my best to walk and take baths and drink tea. And I knew that Monday morning, she would call the hospital to make arrangements for me to go in and get things rolling.

Here’s the deal: I don’t hate hospitals. But I do home births for good reasons, one of those being a deep preference. Giving birth in a hospital isn’t my first choice, but getting an IV, pitocin, EFM, and all that could lead to? Really, really not my first choice. But [deep breath], God is bigger than all of that. I know that. I knew that. But I had to remind myself. A lot. Things don’t have to go my way. Sometimes they don’t for good reasons, for reasons I can’t possibly understand and simply have to trust in the perfect Father who holds my life in His hands.

These are the thoughts that would go on in my head while I walked briskly, mile after mile. (Because, as an aside, I felt really, really good right until the end of this pregnancy. I was incredibly thankful for that. Floradix? Liver? A walking regimen all 9 months? Whatever the reason, it was a gift.)

There were plenty of mornings waking up and feeling “hope deferred-ish”, as I told Ryan. And then I would remind myself, don’t hope in labor today. Hope in God. (Hope in God never leaves you with a “deferred-ish” feeling.)

Anyway, that Saturday, we had the option of having my midwife stop by in the evening to strip my membranes, or we could just wait till Sunday, when she was planning on coming and pulling out all the stops — herbs, membranes, you name it. We just couldn’t decide! Saturday or Sunday. Or Monday in the hospital? Were we getting ahead of God? Gah! I just couldn’t sense what was the right decision. My hormones, which had stayed amazingly in check for 9 months, were suddenly clouding everything. Take it away, Ry.

He made some last phone calls for advice, and finally decided Yes. Tell her to come tonight.

At 7:08, she texted to say she’d be at our house in an hour or so. I let my friends and family know what we’d decided, and then got a game plan together. “Okay, kids. Here’s the deal. In an hour, Regina is coming. We need to clean the kitchen, pick up the house, get pj’s on, and be in bed by then. Let’s go!”

And — I kid you not — no sooner had I stood up to start cleaning up from dinner than a contraction hit me. And another. And another. In fact, the whole time I was tidying, they just came faster and faster. It took me a bit to realize what was going on, and when I did, I just couldn’t believe it. Didn’t believe. Just cleaned faster and more furiously, thinking I should just ignore them rather than get my hopes up? But they were there. I’ve always been a bit excited when labor started, in spite of the looming ordeal, but I’ve never, ever been so thankful. Really? Really, we decide to go ahead with stripping the membranes, and Boom! Labor starts? Really? One more day of trying every trick up our sleeves, knowing none of them were sure guarantees of anything, and Boom! God steps in? Really? I wanted to cry, but I was just too surprised to even do that.

Ryan was out mowing the lawn — we all have our Before Baby priorities! — and although I was tempted to ask him for help with kids, I decided to let him keep mowing, and I’d just keep moving. There were a couple of snippy moments I had to apologize for, trying my best to explain to them that I was just getting really uncomfortable. Jameson seemed to understand, and got very busy going the extra mile on my behalf.

We all sat together on Beatrice’s bed to read Jemima Puddle-duck. Ryan came in, and I told him about the contractions. Regina arrived and smiled at the news. I finished the story, tucked them all in bed, and — deep breath — got ready to move on to the rest of the night. Here we go!

beatrice’s birth

Beatrice was born 5 days after her due date; this was her giving us a clue, I suppose, that something was different this time (Jameson was born hours before his due date, William hours after.) Everyone who’d been guessing “girl” all along was even more sure, I suppose. I still didn’t have a clue about gender. All I knew was that I was overdue, and there was no telling how long I would be pregnant for. I settled in for the potential long haul.

Tuesday morning Ryan announced that I would have the baby that day. “I can feel it in my bones!” he declared. I don’t know why he thought that, but it was true that there were signs of labor — though I didn’t worry too much about them, knowing it still could be days or weeks away.

We dropped Jameson off for a tent overnight at Papa’s house, then drove to Kevin and Liz’s house for dinner. Somewhere between bites of yummy pork loin and sweet corn, I began having contractions that felt legit — not too intense, and spaced far apart, but worth noting. After walking downtown for ice cream cones, I finally said something. I knew I needed to get home and go to sleep, just in case this was for real.

Mom was already here when we pulled in the driveway, washing dishes and straightening things up and telling us to get to bed. I got to read a bedtime story to William, hugging him tight and enjoying one more “baby” William moment. Then I headed to bed.

And, oddly, my contractions started getting farther apart. I had never experienced that before, and didn’t know what to think of it. Rather than worrying too much about it, I just tried to sleep.

At 11:30, a very intense contraction woke me up completely. Ryan immediately noticed the difference in my breathing. We timed a few (still not very impressive, I thought), and he called Regina to let her know things seemed to be intensifying.

And that’s when time sort of stopped. Just like with both boys, as soon as labor began in earnest, it went into overdrive. I tried to walk around more than I have in the past, though I have no idea how long that lasted for. It seemed that in no time, the contractions were longer than the space in between. I became aware of people arriving, lamps being switched on, candles being lit, and equipment being arranged, but mostly, I was just aware of waves of pressure, Ryan, and my mom.

It was so intense. I know that goes without saying, but then again, what else is there to say? Labor is so much work on so many levels, but for me, the most important work of labor is staying on top of my thoughts and attitude. Relaxing is so important, but it would be impossible without first getting control of my thoughts. This time around, as I’d prepared for the birth by re-reading some favorites, I was impressed by a story of one rather scared first-time mom, who overcame her fears by realizing her body was incredibly capable of making way for this baby. She chanted to herself, over and over, “I’m going to get huge.” I thought of her as waves of tension rolled over me. It feels like everything in you is being squeezed and compressed, but I know that what I need to concentrate on is opening — relaxing completely and willing my body to open stronger, faster, more efficiently. There were a few peaks when I just wanted to lose it — scream and yell and curl up in a ball and be done. And I had to tell myself to just hold on, or I’d waste a perfectly good contraction, and why on earth would I prolong this agony when I could actually help it along?

And so, wave after wave, with Ryan gently touching my jaw, my shoulders, my palms — reminders to me to relax — and my mom pushing so hard on my lower back through the worst of the contractions, I just pictured OPEN.

I could feel the baby moving down, and the pressure on my spine mounted. My third baby, and still, I could not believe how ridiculous that pressure was — but then again, even as I was thinking that and wanting to be a bit angry, I realized a little body was pushing against my spine, trying to make its way out, and you know what? Suddenly the pressure makes sense. (I’m pretty sure that’s when I started moaning “ba-by”, and Ryan thought I’d gone coo-coo.)

Wary of premature pushing, I laid on my bed and just endured as much of that as I could before finally being sure that, yes, it was time. We’d planned on kneeling at the end of the bed, but Regina really wanted me to try laying on my side — a gentler option for someone who has a tendency to bleed too much. She must have seen worry on my face, because she gently reassured me that she didn’t think it would mean more work for me. I trusted her completely, and suddenly there was a little flurry as everyone got ready for the big arrival — and I silently wondered if I could remember how to push. For the first time, Regina took control, coaching me clearly through that climactic and somewhat crazy finale. I utterly amazed myself by being able to not push at her command, something I thought I would never be able to do. My waters broke, the head crowned, a pause, then the head, and finally — oh, the most wonderful feeling in the world! — the last push, and a baby. “A girl!”, Ryan announced.

A girl! I sank into my pillows in utter exhaustion, overwhelmed by a wave of thankfulness for making it through, and wanting to weep with joy over this new wonder — all in the circle of excitement and joy of sisters and friends, mom and midwife, and of course, Ryan. What a welcome to the world Beatrice had!

4:52am. Slivers of pink were lighting the sky outside the bedroom window. She cried immediately, and then nursed like a pro. The birth “party”, who had all watched so quietly, now sprang into action, bringing me Shepherd’s Purse tea, juice, warm towels for my shaking legs, wool socks, a hat for the baby, watching timers for the apgar scoring, massaging my stomach, and cheering me on for that last stage. They were amazing. It was amazing. My body delivered a baby! Isn’t that just amazing?

I couldn’t say enough about my experience with Regina. This delivery was, by far, the most gentle on my body, and it’s all thanks to her. She had me pumping iron-rich foods and Floradix for months to prepare my body for a blood loss, and, between that and her hard work after my delivery, what a difference it made! Twelve hours after giving birth, I was standing in a shower by myself, shampooing my hair. I have never been able to even come close to that before. And thanks to her wisdom regarding delivery positions, and her coaching, I didn’t tear at all. I was amazed by how phenomenal I felt. I was walking back and forth to my living room the very next day!

And of course, I can’t say enough about giving birth at home. I am so thankful to have found Regina. Laboring in my own house, being surrounded by supportive friends and a capable midwife, and feeling no pressure to do anything other than follow my body’s cues — it’s just so amazing. No cakewalk, of course, but amazing.

A healthy delivery, a healthy baby — blessing on blessing. I am so thankful.

baby news

Baby #3 is growing — fast! There are so many kicks and wiggles these days, and my belly is huge already! Before I know it, summer will be in full swing, and it’ll be time to dust off the Moses basket and wash the teeny tiny diapers.

Since moving back to upstate NY last year, I’ve had my ear to the ground regarding birth options, knowing I’d have to cross that bridge sooner or later. A few weeks after this baby made himself known, I started looking for real — and wasn’t very encouraged. I followed every lead I had. I scoured the internet, using every search engine and forum I could find to locate an upstate midwife. I really, really wanted a homebirth. I just kept holding out hope, but by week 18, it was getting pretty hard.

I was trying to come to terms with what seemed like the only option: finding a cooperative doctor and hoping for the best in a hospital. I knew I could trust God in that scenario. But I was so disappointed.

Finally, realizing that if I didn’t act soon, I wouldn’t get accepted by anyone as a patient, I started making phone calls and scheduling preliminary appointments.

And then Ryan had a brilliant idea: “Why don’t you call your old midwife down in NC and see if she knows of anyone who’s running under the radar?”

Sure enough. After searches that said the closest licensed homebirth midwife was in Ithaca, I found out there’s one in Canton, NY. My jaw dropped.

Too good to be true?

We tracked down her phone number (Ryan did, because she’s no where on the internet), and just a brief chat — her mellow voice, her pace, her no-nonsense brand of friendliness — made me jump up and down a little.

And when she came — because all of her visits are house calls!! — I almost cried. The first time we heard the baby’s heartbeat, I was laying on my own couch, with Ryan and the boys and this incredibly easy-going woman who just sort of slipped into the family room like an old friend.

She dots her i’s and crosses her t’s. She’s careful and cautious and courageous. She’s incredibly informed. She’s been through the wringer. She’s everything you expect from a lifelong advocate of natural childbirth.

And most of all, this has the distinct fragrance of gift from the Lord, dropped right into my lap. Really. A little miracle, just for me.