The birth of this blog begins with the birth of a baby. First, a little bit of background. This story is about the birth of my 8th child. I, myself, am an 8th child. My birth however was very different from this one. I was born in a hospital, taken from my mother with moments after birth and placed in an incubator with lights to treat my jaundice. That’s where I stayed for almost a week with my eyes and hands covered, screaming my lungs out, and isolated. That event created the foundation for me to provide a different experience for my daughter.
This baby was due on Tuesday May 22, 2012 but I was sure it would come early. For 3 weeks I was sure that “Today is the day!” but it never was. There was false labor, a bit of blood but no baby. AAARRRGGHH! But when the due date actually arrived I was at peace with the idea that this child would come at the perfect time and that she/he really would eventually come. I thought perhaps that my mother needed to be at the birth and she was scheduled to arrive Saturday evening, just a few days after my due date. (She was traveling from Arizona where she had attended the wedding of my nephew Trevor.)
As the days of the week passed I wondered if this was what Hell would be like: past your due date, eternally pregnant and hiding out because you know you’ll slap the next person who says “No baby yet?”
Saturday morning at 2 a.m. I woke up with a hard contraction. It felt real but I’d had a few of those in the past few weeks so I wasn’t ready to declare I was in labor. Dale woke up and watched the clock for me while I breathed through each contraction. After an hour of regular contractions we decided to get up and get things in place for the birth. I assumed that we were several hours away from anything serious but, of course, I hoped that it would happen quickly.
I brought the birth kit from the bedroom into the great room. We pulled out the kiddie pool I planned to use for the delivery and started to blow it up. I went downstairs and cranked the thermostat on the hot water heater. I knew I didn’t want to run out of hot water for that pool. We shut all the blinds and I pulled out the Yanni CD I’ve used for every birth since the beginning. (I NEVER EVER play that CD except at my births. I don’t even like to think about what could happen if I did.)
The contractions kept coming as we filled the tub with water. I really wanted to get in but it wasn’t full so I kept pacing back and forth and breathing. I sent Dale to the grocery store to get some cold cereal just in case the kitchen, which is located just off of the great room, was unavailable for breakfast. He returned with a variety of horrible, unhealthy cereals which I knew would send my children over the moon with excitement and sugar induced intoxication.
At 4:30 a.m. I told Dale to call the midwife. I was feeling a little bit spacy which is a sign for me that I’m about to enter that “other world” where a woman must go to pass through natural child birth.
We woke up the girls (Vashti, Hannah and Miriam) who all wanted to attend the birth. Miriam was too tired to wake up so we let her sleep on while Vashti and Hannah watched me breath. I wanted them to see that birth was a beautiful part of life. I also wanted them to believe that women are strong and capable of giving birth naturally. They may make a different choice when their time comes but I want them to have a choice. Teaching girls to fear birth and telling them that it’s so terrible that it’s best to be avoided is a terrible disservice, IMHO. To have a true choice I think you need to know the facts and risks with each option rather than painting one as pain and risk free and the other as tortuous and dangerous. There are risks and rewards with each. Now, back to our story . . .
The midwife arrived at 5:30. I had been in the pool for about half and hour and it felt soooo good. It had also stalled the labor which felt sooooo good. But I knew I had to get things moving again. My midwife, Cathy O’bryant, checked me and I was hoping for some happy news like, “You’re almost to transition!” but instead she said, “The outer om is at a 3 but the inner om is completely closed.” The words “completely closed” are not what a woman in labor ever wants to hear. I wondered if I was right and that my mother would be at the birth. The prospect was disheartening since she wasn’t due to arrive for 12 more hours. I also dislike having my midwife around for long periods of time and I would never have called her if I didn’t think I was within a couple hours of delivery. Now all my expectations changed.
Cathy advised me to get out of the pool and take a walk. She asked me to put a homeopathic something or other (witches brew, probably) under my tongue to help get things going. She then sent me out the door to walk.
I took Vashti with me and walked up and down the cul-de-sac across the street from our house. We would walk, a contraction would hit, we would stop, I would breath, the contraction would stop, and we would walk on. I must admit that with each contraction I thought, “I totally understand why a woman would want to go to a hospital to give birth and not feel this. I totally get it and honor that choice. Why am I doing this?”
Hannah, Dale and Vashti all took turns walking with me up and down the street. It was so sweet to have my daughters encouraging me and telling me things like, “You can do it, Mom” and “I’m so proud of you” and “It’s going to be so worth it when the baby gets here.”
Around 6:30 I headed back inside. By this time the other children were awake and getting hopped up on sugar from the cold cereal. The boys were excited because they knew that the plan was for them to head over to a cousin’s home during the birth. With cold cereal and the prospect of a day spent playing with cousins they were in very good moods.
I continued to labor in the great room leaning on my big blue birthing ball I’ve used for each birth since Hannah. I had several strong contractions but they weren’t as long or spaced out the way the midwife wanted them to be. They were 3 minutes apart and 30 seconds long. She wanted them to be 5 minutes apart and 1 minute long. Hmmmm. I wasn’t sure how to do that. Cathy asked if I wanted to get back into the water. I said I wanted to wait. I had another hard, deep contraction. Dale tried to put counter pressure on my lower back but with his neck injury and weak arm it was more annoying than helpful. Cathy said she wanted to check me. I told her I wanted to go to the bathroom first.
Dale had the foresight to go with me to the bathroom. I sat down and peed then had a hard contraction. (Ouch, ouch, ouch) Dale asked if I was ready to go back. Cathy was setting up to check me in my bedroom across from the bathroom. I told Dale felt like there was something in my bowels. (It turns out it was a baby.) I remember thinking that we probably needed to call the cousins soon so that the boys could leave. Then I started to push!
Cathy noticed the change in my breathing and rushed in the bathroom. “Are you pushing?” She asked. I nodded. “Don’t push!” she ordered. “Breathe deeply.” I did. “Do you want to have the baby here? We can deliver you here on the toilet.” I shook my head. “Let me check you,” she said as I raised myself up so she could. “You are complete. This baby is here. Do you want to go into the bedroom?” I said I wanted to go back to the water. So with that we got my pants off, Dale grabbed one arm and she grabbed the other and we ran down the hall, through the kitchen (with everyone still eating breakfast) and into the great room. I jumped into the pool and with the next contraction heard, “There’s the head! . . . There’s the body! . . . It’s a girl!”
She was lifted from the water as everyone began to grasp what had just happened. I had been leaning on the side of the pool to push so I had to get turned around so that I could hold her. As I settled in I told Isaac that he could leave if he was uncomfortable seeing me. At first he was but soon he was at the pool loving and admiring his new sister with everyone else. The baby and I were pretty much covered with towels to keep up warm while we waited for the placenta.
It was such a beautiful moment to have all my children gathered round me as we welcomed this new little one into our life. Esther, as we would choose to name her, was not interested in nursing right off but rather wanted to just look up at everyone. Dale commented that it was as if she was thinking, “I recognize your voice, and your voice, and your voice . . . “ She would look deeply at each person and then turn to another. She was so alert and aware. She was already trying to use her neck and take it all in.
This moment, of her being surrounded and supported by the many people who love her was such a healing moment for me. It was so unlike my own birth and kind of an emotional “do-over” per se. I’ve wondered if my own birth experience is what so deeply motivates me to create a different experience for my own children. Is that why I insist on a peaceful, loving home birth even though it hurts? It’s after the birth that I remember why I love to birth at home: the peace, serenity and pace of allowing that occurs is unlike anything I’ve seen in a hospital birth. I love it.
Thus, we welcomed Esther Noelle Pelo Allred on May 26th, 2012 at 7:55 a.m. She weighed in at 7 lb. 10 oz. and was 22 inches long. It looks like she’ll have blue eyes and auburn hair. She is peaceful and oh so loved by all.