Gabriel's Birth

This moment right here, that is what makes 43 tedious hours go blasting out of your head. The hand around your shoulder, the weight being released, the tiniest of loving bundles in your arms. The inhale and exhale of sweet, sweet relief. The bursting of love through each of your veins. Your toes calmly on the floor. Waters out. Head out. Body Out. Placenta Out. Cord is cut. I love you, I love you, We love you exchanged.

That lopsided bump in your belly is removed, no longer will the butt be out of position on the right side. No longer will that bundle of feet be in your left rib cage. No longer will your head be unengaged after a full night of climbing stairs, nipple stimulation, cohosh and hip pain. The story of our baby is coming soon, oh so soon is now over, the excitement of anticipation passed. The moments are real and they are here and must be savored at every sip.

We rejoice at healthy heart rates, at low blood pressure, at drinking gallon upon gallon of water. We ingest what we can, a sandwich here, a mango there, a bowl of yogurt, an egg. The naps are short, but deep, "how long was I asleep?" "20 minutes" "Oh, it felt like 2 hours." The sleep of waiting. Waiting for a contraction to start. Waiting for a contraction to stop. Holding on just a bit longer. Just a bit longer. Waiting for the baby to turn. Waiting for castor oil to take effect. Waiting for the contractions to get stronger, stronger. And strong enough to get into that tub of warm, warm, buoyant water. And peeing and peeing and peeing all along.

The tears are real that are shed. They are of frustration. Of sadness. Of fear. And of grief. They are complete, soul shaking heart wrenching release. They are the tears you shed alone in your bedroom in the middle of the night with your husband on your side. They are vulnerable. These tears attack you, they flood you, they are primal. You release them and in comes another wave. Another contraction to fill your face, your shoulders and abdomen. Goodbye tears, and hello to the job at hand. The work of birthing this baby.

And the joyful moment comes, not of birth but of dilation. The moment where you can no longer lay down, the moment when your husband goes to wake the midwife. The moment 40 hours into labor. The moment when he says "It's happening." And "How do you know?" And "She has the look in her eye." And everyone wakes up and we see the depth occur. We watch the burden shift. And the decision is made. And the weight is lifted. And I smile, a genuine, real, miraculous smile. And I get into the healing waters. And then the surrender occurs.

For giving birth is transcending. I succumb to a trance, my mouth opens, my eyes bug, my body shifts. I bear my weight through an ankle and a toe. I let go of my body and release. The pain is all encompassing, transforming and temporary. It is something that is complete in my body in those moments. Just keep drinking the water, rocking the pelvis, reaching and releasing. I cannot even see the baby at the end, I just know it is my journey. My passage-way. My experience to move this body through my own. For I am a divine being. I am a miracle, and in turn we are all miracles and I create that in my moment of birth.

And divinity comes as my husband rubs my back. As I push through my legs, my arms, this little soul just keeps coming. And I can feel a head and a sac of waters coming. Closer and closer with every monitored moment. Closer and closer to when our baby will arrive. And I can feel the head coming, I know how soon it will be. I remember how briefly I will feel this way. I am grateful for the small, deliberate strokes across my mid-back. I am grateful for my feet resting against my husbands lap. I am thankful for this beautiful pool of water.

And then. Just like that there is a head. A father watches as his child's head emerges. Rest: one, two, three, four. Relief and pleasure and kindness and happiness in the very middle of our home. And push: two, three, four. The bundle of shoulders and limbs and butt and tummy and knees and feet come plopping out in one great tremendous jumble. Into a fathers lap and a midwives hands. We rise into the oxygen all 5 of us, we all take that first breath, cry that first cry, untangle our bodies from one another. All hands on deck, all souls delighted, all of us through a mother's legs, into a mother's arms, and over the wall of a birthing tub.

And there we are together. Delighted. Exhausted. Full. Tears get erased by smiles, get erased by joy, get erased by warmth. To look at your face, at your baby, your love of your life. The pleasure of friendship. A homecoming for us each. A love for us all. A happiness that's shared and shared and covered and uncovered and here we are. The one of us, the two of us, the three of us.

And the four of us as sister is reclaimed. We see you are a boy, and here is your brother. And you are a big sister. And we love you. We love you. We love you. We love you each and every one. Our family complete, our family united. At long last our family is here. And we are at home and we are in love. Because I love you. I love you. I love you.

Finally one day, without conscious recognition, I'm more lethargic and tight. I'm so heavy I want to crawl everywhere except I can't get down to the floor. I'm not hungry. I've read all my books. I spend the day sighing. There hasn't been much internal activity today either, and I'm a bit concerned. A friend observes that it's probably the calm before the storm. Lord knows it's been building.

I eat an early dinner and retreat to the tub. Today I thank my body for doing its work while I sit around. I encourage the baby, with an edge of desperation, that NOW it IS time. Please?

Warm and pink, I'm in bed by 8. My beloved comes to bed at 10:30 and we are restless. There are twinges and pangs again. It's subtle how the adventure draws towards completion. The choreography of the ancient dance is graceful. That may sound absurd given the grunting and hollering involved, but a laboring woman is a work of art.

Shortly after 11, I nudge Rob and request he turn up the heat and could he get the phone? He's in the doorway before there is a knowing "OH!" His footsteps echo down the dark stairwell.

I'm perching on the lip of our claw foot tub talking to the midwife. The twinges have become moans already. Given the three hour labor of my second child, it seems likely that this one is following suit. We agree she should come now. Luckily, she lives ten minutes away. I don't vividly remember the arrival of the other two midwives. One will arrive in a half our or so. The third comes five minutes before I deliver.

I hang between the sink and tub, ramming my head into Rob's chest, pulling on his shoulder. My eldest is up. She checks in and disappears. My son will be up soon too. The room is filled with the neon blue glow of our borrowed space heater. I shuck my fuzzy robe and sit on the throne to rest. Royalty indeed! I arch as another wave clamps onto me and my waters release. It is a wild and familiar smell. I think I laugh.

My midwife suggests we move to the bedroom. It is a very long walk. I collapse beside the bed, knees sliding on the blue pads spread on the floor. I take handfuls of blankets and pull them each time I begin to growl. My kids are on the bed. We are eyelevel. They are intensely calm.

There are a lot of forensic details that seem to constitute a birth story (NO, I didn't need stitches and YES the placenta is in the freezer) but it isn't cataloged in my memory that way this time. I didn't watch the clock. No one checked my dilation progress. I tapped into a primal connection with every mother before me. I floated in surreal sacred space following my body's lead. Numbers have no place in this story.

When my son hears about the night he separated from me, he will hear how the women held juice to my mouth and that in the middle of things my four year old went to fetch his hat. He will be told about my first impression of his still unseen head: slimy and lumpy. I remember saying "I can do this! Oh God! Oh God! I know I can do this!" I remember bracing for his shoulders, thinking they would be worse than his head. I remember the slippery bundle passed into my arms. I laughed and cried and looked to everyone at once. We were overwhelmed, triumphant and relived. But it is weird to be suddenly empty.

Isaiah is a beautiful eight pound boy with dark hair, a sneaky dimple, wide hands and crazy hair. He is complete and pure.

The first week in our "bed womb" we receive visitors, take naps and marvel at every squirm and sigh. I'd forgotten that babies can dream with their eyes open. When I venture downstairs again, it's like I've been on vacation. Having had two hospital births before this amazing homebirth experience, I can only say WOW. My recovery was super fast. I loved having food from my kitchen. It was totally stress free and marvelous to have my kids bouncing on the bed. I'm still blissed-out!

Birth is a majestic process and I'm honored to have done it three times. It is astounding to be so changed overnight and then learn our new place in the world. Looking into clear newborn eyes? Well, it's the closest we get to heaven.