I imagine that, somewhere out there, a few of you kind readers are worrying that I have perhaps gone just about one month past my due date. Fear not! Baby has arrived and is in fact two solid weeks old — it just took me a while to tell you!
Introducing our darling…
Born April 12 at 6:54 am
10 pounds, 2 ounces, 22.5 inches long
~ The birth story ~
I wanted to believe that I was keeping an open mind as far as what my birthing experience would be, since, after all, every baby is different etc. etc. But I have to admit that Chickapea’s birth felt extremely long after my very sudden and quick experience with Peabodee. I realize that I was, after all, expecting another fast go. Looking back, however, and reflecting on what was basically a ~8 hour experience, I can acknowledge that it was a reasonable length and not in any way extreme (other than the fact that he was, shall we say, a sturdy little fellow).
The thing is that he had just been sitting so extremely low. It was hard to believe, when the time came, that it could be anything other than a precipitous labor. I believe that even my midwife, Cindy, was anticipating that the baby would come promptly, given his position (and the precedent). By the time things got going, he basically was sitting right there. With Josephine’s wicked fast arrival fresh in our collective memory (see what I did there?), we were all ready for another explosive event.
When I reached 41.5 weeks (some of you perhaps got that oh-so-flattering glimpse of me goofing off with my ginormous belly around 41 weeks), we had at last hit beautiful, spring weather in Massachusetts where I was camped at the homestead/LMLD headquarters/my mom’s house for the anticipated home birth. The time seemed ripe. (By the way: boy was I glad to skip over my due date when it turned out to be the middle of a full-on snow storm on April 1! I was not mentally prepared for a winter baby, thank you!)
On the morning of the 11th, I told my mom and Rosie that I thought “this was the day.” I also noted somewhat wistfully that I preferred the 12th to the 11th (sorry, all you odd numbers fans.) but oh well; it seemed clear that I should put an end to all the waiting and pull out the big guns. At her previous visit, Cindy had already dropped off a dose of – wait for it – the tincture.
I took the first dose in the morning. It was in a little bit of a different mixture and didn’t taste quite the same as I remembered it. Incidentally (I’m guessing) it also didn’t have the immediate effect that it had two years ago. Cindy came by in the afternoon to have a listen to the baby’s heartbeat, take my blood pressure, and drop off another dose of the tincture. (By the tincture I mean the same partidgeberry tincture that had had such a powerful effect on me back when Peabodee made his sudden entrance [and about which I claim no expertise, nor am I making any kind of recommendation so please don’t go crazy with herbs and then blame me].) She had arranged her day so that she could stay within a safe distance of me once I had taken it, in case we had a repeat of last time. So I went ahead with the second dose.
Six hours since the first dose and nothing seemed to be happening. The Artist came home early from the studio just in case things would be imminently cooking. Nothing happening. Advice from Cindy was to step up the rate of dosage. The Artist and I went on an uphill walk to the nearby orchard, walked around through it, and came back down (a neighbor told me later that her husband had seen us and could tell that the baby must be about to arrive — apparently it was an identifiable labor-inducing walk). I felt what had previously seemed impossible: Chickapea shifted yet lower than he’d been sitting for the past few weeks and even lower than I’d felt him in recent days. I hit the last of the tincture and wound down for the evening. Still no action.
Now, to be fair, when it was Peabodee’s turn, I took the tincture in the evening and then before bed, and had him in the following morning. So it wasn’t entirely unsurprising that it looked like this baby would be coming 12+ hours after the first dose. Still, it wasn’t as dramatic an impact as I’d been hoping for and expecting.
When the Artist and I headed to bed, it was with some disappointment at the anti-climatic nature of the day. I was fairly confident, however, that there would be excitement by the next day (or that it would be a crazy few hours before midnight). But we didn’t end up settling down early and, sure enough, I did feel things pick up around 11pm. At that time I went ahead and gave the Cindy a call and she and her assistant were in the house and settling into the “birth room” within 20 minutes. I’ve never had the experience of deciding “it’s time” — either to get to the hospital or to summon the midwife — so I was second-guessing myself the whole time we were waiting and – angst! – felt that things were dying down by the time she arrived. But I just set my focus on inviting the baby to come and The Artist and I got a bit more rest. I did note with satisfaction that it seemed impossible that the baby would arrive by midnight, and so I’d get my wish of an even numbered birthday for Chickapea after all.
[5/9/2017] Updated to say: That night was a night of a full moon! Definitely didn’t realize it at the time. What do you know about that.
By around 1am I was feeling surges coming pretty close together and I felt ready to have a baby in arms pretty shortly, so we headed to the “birth room.” The two midwives had been catching some sleep but they sprang up immediately when we came in and were ready to go. We kept the room dimly lit and got settled in for what we thought would be quick work. I took a shower and then came and sat on the big exercise ball to breath through very manageable contractions. The mood was cheerful and excited. Although they were coming pretty regularly and close together, the surges seemed very manageable and I breathed and moaned through them comfortably, perking up after each one enough to chat and laugh with the others in the room.
Cindy was watching me with pleasure, in her kind way, telling me that she could see how these surges were aligning the baby very well for labor (he’d been “well tucked” in position for many weeks) and that the baby was low. As far as I could tell, we were all waiting for that one big moment of transition and then it’d be on to pushing and we’d be meeting this little stranger at last!
But then that initial phase actually lasted a long time.
And then that “moment” of transition turned out to be… hours.
It was weird (or, at least, it just felt weird to me): the surges became extremely strong and gradually moved to a level where it took all my focus to get through them while remaining relaxed and keeping up energy. Between them, however, I’d be completely fine and calm. They got increasingly intense while also spacing apart. At around 3 or 4am, I was in a semi-reclined position on the bed, bellowing (at least I thought I was bellowing) through contractions but then resting for full ten-minute intervals in between. All four of us were actually dozing off after each one. If I had had more awareness of what was going on, I would have been thoroughly confused. Cindy assured me that they were productive, but it was hard not to feel like I was stalling out. And I wasn’t sure how long I could keep up the level of intensity, even with such restful breaks in between each one. All the moaning and intentional breathing was drying out my mouth, so I was drinking water periodically.
Finally I asked for guidance about some different positions and my impatience kicked in a bit. We did some dancing around: I got on my knees on the bed and leaned against the cushions on the back and groaned/bellowed/hollered into the pillows. I stood over the table and groaned/bellowed/hollered over the table. I lay on one side and then on the other, pulling my knees up towards my chest. I leaned into The Artist and moan-yelled in his ear. Eventually I began to be discouraged and lose heart when I felt wave after wave after wave — waves that were like the absolute most difficult part of either Finnabee’s or Peabodee’s birth — and expected to feel baby’s head right there… but no baby was coming and it seemed that nothing was actually getting done. Dawn was breaking and I’d been working hard, as had The Artist.
Finally, it was suggested that The Artist sit at the foot of the bed and support me from behind while I squatted on the floor in front of him. Cindy went ahead and checked while I was in a squat (I actually can’t remember exactly what she was checking for) and discovered that the baby’s hand was up by the head. I might have expected that such a bulletin would have freaked me out, but actually my internal response was something more like “Oh. Hand. Whatever. That explains things. Please let’s just have the baby already.” Feeling her checking me escalated the feeling of the contraction from Stampede of Horses level to Stampede of Horses on a Freight Train, which, surprisingly, was a good thing. I just wanted to feel that something was getting done. I told her so and she reached back again, helping the baby to crown and doing whatever magic it was that midwives do to maneuver the hand out of the way.
Around this point, I heard my dad and Bridget (who was home on Easter break) leave for 7am Mass. The window of my room was open and I thought, vaguely, “poor them, they’re hearing me bellow and it probably sounds like WWIII in here. Sorry guys!”* I also thought, vaguely, “Oh good, it must be only around 7. I’m relieved that this hasn’t taken as confoundedly long as I was thinking it had.”
I also thought, vaguely, “this squatting business is getting old, as is all of this labor nonsense. This baby is humongous. I’m out.” At which point, I stood up with the full intention of leaving the baby behind (it’s ok: Cindy’s skilled hands were right there and I knew baby would make a safe exit). I didn’t know if it was an advisable move but it’s what I had to do, instinctively, and I just needed this experience to be over. So with a final roar — truly, I have never projected so much volume in my life, I’m sure — I stood and delivered my child with The Artist holding me up from behind (poor guy was still sitting; no one had been warned). I noticed that both midwives were making a funny noise at me and then realized that they were instructing me to shift from my bellowing to saying “fwuh! fwuh! fwuh!” and breath the baby out. The Artist jumped out of the way and I sat on the bed and was handed a big, beautiful, purple boy who was yelling heartily. My husband was joyfully exclaiming “it’s a boy! It’s a boy! It’s our Sebastian James!” he leaned over and gave me a proud kiss. I was just sighing and thinking, “of course it’s a boy. Oh my gosh that was so hard.”
I held my baby while The Artist took hold of my one elbow and the assisting midwife took hold of my other one and they pulled me up on the bed so that I could recline. Bastian** began nursing immediately and looked just like Finnabee right after she was born.
The delirious love set in a little while later and I’ve been utterly smitten ever since.
*For real, I bellowed so much. My voice was hoarse through much of that day. I was completely convinced that everyone in the household was going to be scarred over the sounds that had woke them in the wee hours and kept them awake well into the morning. As it turns out, only a few of the adults had witnessed what they described as “moaning.” All the rest of the kids were enjoying some music in the den with their Habipti and Aunt Rosie when the baby was actually born. So: cheers to the old house and its thick walls.
**We had been intending to call him Bastian ever since we decided on the name (which was a while ago). We didn’t anticipate that his cousin Nora would, adorably, nickname him “Bash Baby.” We love it. So we’ve been calling him a mixture of Bash, Bastian, Baby Bash, and, occasionally (in the case of The Artist, who always steps up the nicknaming game), Sea Bass.
Thanks to all of you who were remembering us in your prayers! We’re back at the Chesternest now and settling in as a family of five – and grateful for it!