I met you on a Thursday.
I had woken up, like any other day, to the sounds of your brother in the room next to mine. We spent our morning the way we normally would. Breakfast in bed, playing. I had forgotten entirely about Wolf’s speech pathologist. I had missed a call from her, she’d left a voicemail to say she was outside and to ask whether it was alright to park in the driveway. I had yet to set up Wolf’s new bed, a double mattress that was still on its end, leaning against a crib April and I had struggled to set up for you. The room, our whole apartment, was in disarray. Toys everywhere. Always. I dragged the mattress into the hallway, quickly picked up the more obtrusive toys, and changed Wolf out of his pajamas. By then we were two days past your estimated due date and I was too pregnant to care very much about how the apartment looked or what somebody would think of it. I changed into jeans and went upstairs to let her in.
We spent the hour, our last session, talking about what the next steps in Wolf’s care would be, and then chatting about babies. Nearing the end of our visit I was starting to feel uncomfortable, but assumed it was from sitting on the floor. A few times I felt pain, but didn’t think much of it — though I probably should have, seeing as your due date had come and gone. After she’d left I texted my mom from the bathroom to tell her I thought that labor would be starting soon. She called from work and we talked about how I was feeling, the intermittent pain and overall discomfort. I hadn’t realized it, but when she said it I knew. I was definitely in early labor. I suddenly felt afraid and very much alone. After hanging up with my mom I tried calling my sister, but she didn’t answer. She soon called me back to tell me she was on her way, all the while Wolf was pulling at my legs wanting to be picked up. I felt overwhelmed.
I carried Wolf around, more or less pacing, until April got there. Marlene, my mom, and Scott arrived soon after and I felt perfectly at peace surrounded by my family. I’d forgotten to note contractions and began to at the suggestion of my sisters. I’d been noticing contractions for a couple of hours at that point, but they weren’t very strong yet and we continued to talk and laugh through them.
I felt like I needed Scott to stay nearby. He, my sisters and I were on and around the bed keeping track of contractions.
After a while we decided I should call my midwives. My contractions were a few minutes apart so they decided to get ready and start heading over. The midwives I’d been seeing for the duration of my pregnancy were sleep deprived so I’d be seeing two that I hadn’t yet met as well as a student midwife. They each came separately and as they arrived they introduced themselves to us all and began setting up things they might need for the birth. They bring with them equipment to resuscitate baby if necessary as well as IV fluids which had frozen in the midwife’s car. April boiled water to place the bag in to thaw. While one midwife was finishing setting up, another checked my blood pressure and listened to my baby.
I was glued to my “birthing ball” (an exercise ball I’ve always had which gained a new purpose) and leaned on it during contractions.
I didn’t pay much attention to the time and spent most of my labor not having any idea what time it was. The light in the room was changing and I remember noticing at one point that this labor felt longer than Wolf’s. My contractions felt increasingly stronger and I couldn’t move much during them. If I wasn’t already resting on my ball, I couldn’t get to it once a surge had begun and so I’d stay in whatever position I happened to be in. I remember during one contraction my leg was hanging off the bed and while the position was very uncomfortable, I couldn’t move so I just suffered through it. I felt a little anxious, but not exactly in a bad way. I wasn’t afraid or worried something would go wrong. I had total confidence in my ability to birth my baby. It was more a feeling of excitement. I was excited to meet our baby, but the feeling of apprehension I’d been having throughout my pregnancy (and especially toward the end) were still there. I was nervous about what having two babies would be like. Wolf is high needs and I was worried about how I’d manage to continue to give him the attention he needs while also taking care of a newborn. These thoughts were present, but I tried to acknowledge them and let them go so I could focus on having the peaceful birth I’d wanted and planned for.
Scott was a comforting presence for the duration of my labor and I leaned on him often when I needed a boost in confidence.
My contractions were becoming quite strong. I found it helpful to lean on my ball and vocalize through them. My birth playlist had repeated a few times so we had other music playing, my old iPod on shuffle. A Lil Wayne song, and Tom Petty’s Last Dance With Mary Jane. I tried to visualize ocean waves growing and ultimately crashing, imagining my contractions were doing just that, but all I could see was a beached whale that we saw in Newfoundland when I was a child. It was a bizarre and somewhat unsettling image.
I knew we were getting closer to it being time to push. I was starting to feel pressure during contractions and each was becoming more intense than the last.
My midwives periodically listened to my baby, but remained mostly hands off. Midwives have a wonderful way of putting the birth experience back in the hands of the mama.
When I felt like I had to start pushing, I told my midwives and they checked my cervix. Unlike my experience giving birth in a hospital setting, this was only the second time during labor that my cervix had been checked. As anyone who’s given birth vaginally can tell you, having your cervix checked for dilation during labor is wildly uncomfortable. For me, it feels as if all sensation is heightened during labor so any touch feels electrified. I was relieved to hear the confirmation that I was, in fact, ten centimeters dilated and that I could push when I felt like it. My midwives were encouraging while still allowing me to listen to my body. I can’t tell you how nice it was to have nobody yelling, “Push!” at me at a time when what I need most is calm, gentle support.
I felt most comfortable on my knees and after about fifteen intense minutes of pushing, pausing, and pushing again relief finally came. Once my baby’s head was out I paused for a minute or so and waited for the next contraction. I knew the hardest part was over and that after the next surge I’d be holding my baby at long last. When that contraction came, I pushed a final time and all at once was overcome with relief and joy. I heard my mom and sister say in unison, “It’s a girl!” They both sounded surprised, and I think we all were save for April who had been saying for months she thought I’d be having a daughter. She even bought me pink cloth diapers. My midwife caught my baby and handed her to me between my legs. I held her to my chest, still kneeling, and looked down at her scrunched face. She was already opening her eyes.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, how I’d feel the second time around. Would it be as overwhelming, all those feelings all at once? The best feeling, that birth high. It was. I was instantly in love with my daughter. My daughter. What an unusual feeling, total disbelief. People were moving around us, my midwives and family. My midwives were checking on us, but once they felt sure we were both okay they stayed out of the way and went about their tasks of note taking and observing us. I was so grateful to them for giving power back to me, for letting this be our birth, our moment. I felt completely safe with them, but they made me feel so confident, like I could do it all on my own. With all these people around us, I could only see her and Scott. Scott’s fist to his mouth, his other hand holding his elbow. Tears in his eyes, looking at his daughter. I’ll remember it forever, that look. The way he stood there with his family, so proud and in love. We’ve never been perfect, not even close, but I couldn’t be more thankful that he’s their father. My best friend and my partner in birth and beyond.
I didn’t feel rushed like I had in the hospital. I got to kneel there on my bed holding my daughter, reveling in the relief and ecstasy of having had this awesome experience. After a while my midwives helped change pads and position me more comfortably, leaning back on pillows.
Scott leaned over us and studied his baby’s little face. Her long fingernails and wrinkled brow. The way she smelled. I felt at home with him there above us. We had delayed cord clamping, but the time had come for dad to cut the cord.
After the cord had been cut, we spent more time skin-to-skin. Scott and I stared at our daughter, memorizing this point in time, all her little features. She was so alert, already nosing around looking for my breast.
She spent a while at my breast, nursing and falling asleep. Soon my midwives wanted to weigh her and take her measurements. We got her into a cloth diaper, zeroed the scale with a clean cloth diaper, and made guessed as to what she’d weigh. By this time Scott’s dad and step-mom had arrived so there were quite a few guesses. I think the highest number was eight pounds and a few ounces. She surprised us all weighing nine pounds and three ounces! It started to make sense why pushing felt so much more difficult with my second baby. Wolf was born weighing only seven pounds.
After being weighed and measured, then dressed and swaddled, Scott finally got a chance to hold her. After handing her to Scott, April took me to have a shower. She helped me walk and get into the shower. Stood outside the shower stall to make sure I managed alright. While we were in the washroom getting me cleaned up and dressed, Scott made sure everyone got to see and hold our daughter.
I had needed two stitches and was feeling sore, so after showering got back into bed. My midwives stayed for an hour or so, checking my blood pressure and our temperatures periodically. Once they felt confident we were perfectly fine, they finished up with their paperwork, went over a few things with me, and said goodbye. They each hugged me, told me how well I’d done and how proud I should feel (I totally did, and do!). Having midwives was a healing experience for me. Birthing in the hospital had been traumatic in some ways and having this wonderful, peaceful, gentle home birth felt like redemption. Shortly after they’d gone, Scott’s family said goodbye and started their long drive home. My mom planned to stay over with Wolf, who was finally asleep, and April stayed over pretty late before heading home herself. Marlene had to get home to her own family. I was so glad my sisters had been there for the birth of my daughter. It was a really lovely feeling, being surrounded by family. After my mom went to bed, Scott and I spent the end of the night talking and eventually fell asleep ourselves.
It was a beautiful day and I’m so grateful to everyone who made it so special.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have an unassisted home birth. Maybe next time?
All of the photos in this post belong to April Bonia. Please do not use them without permission.