By Morning’s Light
Here I begin, sitting on my bed writing quietly, looking over to my little son who is sleeping all snuggled and warm in the same bed he has been sleeping in since the day he was born. The same spot actually, where he emerged from me and gently alighted before I eagerly scooped him up into my arms. He was a lot smaller then! How he has grown already, it gives me such a great thrill and joy, and pride.
So much time has passed already, but I remember it all like it was a moment ago, just as close to it as I am to our birthing space, it will always be sacred to me now. Along those lines, I will never scrub out the spot of blood that resulted on the mattress. It would seem to be blasphemous now, like destroying a great monument. It’s a nice little testimony to what I accomplished that morning.
I pushed Liam Sinn out into the soft light of dawn breaking through our window November 22, 2002. I saw him come out and saw him behind me, before I actually looked at him with my physical eyes. It was as if my third eye or my mothering spirit left my body the moment of birth to make sure he was alright and had a comfortable landing. It was such a brief second, not even a second, but I remember this so well. I remember him all curled up and purple, wet and laying on his left side. As a child I had once been told, “Behave, I have eyes in the back of my head to still see what you are doing!” I would laugh at such a thing. I think there is something to that now. My physical body so wrapped up in birth, my love for my son so great that I needed to leave it behind for one brief moment to take a peek and see what he was doing.
The day broke and almost immediately the candle that had burned beside me the whole night through snuffed out in a tiny billow of smoke. What a night it was!
I spent most of my pregnancy pretty certain that I would still be very pregnant come December. After a night of ever so light but lasting squeezes on my tummy, I decided to not get so excited, that such nights could happen again. But I started getting together my newborn things, washing the clothes, folding and refolding, and resorting. Restacking diapers to my liking…wondering with anticipation which one I would reach for first, marveling at how small they were. I gave my boys lots of extra hugs, knowing that the days of “just you two” were soon going to be over and I wanted them certain that I would of course love them all the same after the baby was here. I put together the cradle (which has since proven handy for storing folded blankets), got out the baby basket, and lined it with its linen. I took naps on the couch. I refilled my trusty large plastic water glass yet again.
Normally my nesting includes manic, eat off of the floor cleaning but I had gone through that a few weeks prior. I tidied a bit and decided to be content with that. After a few full days and nights of a squeeze now and then, I went to the bathroom one morning, and went through the ritual of examining the toilet paper. Expecting to see the usual white paper, my jaw dropped at all of the blood tinged mucous. No, more like half blood and half mucous. All day it was the same, I was amazed! I went through so many emotions. Excitement, exhilaration, worry, calm…and I went to bed that night, still pregnant. I wasn’t ready for it to be over. My pregnancy had been so special, so untouched, I had just gotten to love my belly so much, I didn’t want to see it go. I knew I would miss feeling my baby kick me. I always miss feeling my babies kick from inside.
The next morning we went about our usual routine, getting my boys changed and dressed and making breakfast, and going to rest on the couch while they played. I still felt light squeezing on and off. With each one I thought that no, I won’t feel another one for a while yet every twenty minutes or so I’d feel another. Dave and I decided to take a trip to the mall so I could get a chance to walk around and pick up some last minute baby things. We bought a new car seat and I picked up some bassinette sheets for the basket. I spent a while looking over the cute little baby clothes but decided I had enough for three babies as it was. We then went to a restaurant and I knew while sitting there eagerly awaiting my order that I would be having little baby soon. I remember my lunch was so delicious! I ate every scrap and crumb of my broccoli, rice and shrimp that had a side of an interesting mustard like sauce. And that was after eating a mushroom heaped salad. Afterwards I took Donovan and the stroller and walked about the mall some more, noticing it felt good to keep walking through yet another squeeze. I kept smiling to myself and leaning over to talk to Donovan about things we walked past. It was such a wonderful feeling to go about as normal while secretly being in labor. I must have looked like I was walking on air, if that is possible for a very pregnant woman. Full of food, baby, contentment and life, it was a wonderful feeling I will never forget.
I was however happy to get back home. Dave and I debated whether he should go to work or not, and finally I told him he should go, things felt the same as they had all afternoon. He left and I put in a video and took a wonderful nap, while the boys settled in on the couch with me I am sure they also left and got into some mischief which is common for them. I woke up, tidied the house a bit and put together a quick dinner for the boys. Dave kept calling asking if he should come home and it made me laugh. I kept saying things are the same…but closer together? I wasn’t sure. He asked how far apart contractions were and I said I honestly didn’t know. By the time I was giving the kids a bath I knew my labor was gathering up full steam. I suddenly had an anxious feeling of wanting to get them tucked into bed so I could have some peace.
It was almost 8:00 p.m. when I was standing next to the changing table stuffing a prefold into a pocket diaper, I didn’t feel a pop but I just felt a release, a sigh, a drop…I was glad to have been wearing a cloth pad for my mucous plug to catch all of it. I still questioned if it was really my water and stood there for a minute in a thoughtful daze while Donovan got antsy just laying there with a naked behind, poor thing. I still can’t get over the fact that with my first two I absolutely knew with out anyone having to tell me when my water broke yet there I was with my third baby in my belly and wondering if I had really just peed. Oh well…I suddenly felt an “urging” like it was “time to get these kids to sleep or I’ll go nuts” sort of feeling. I soon kissed and hugged them, tucked them into bed, and admiring their sweet little faces by the light of their small bedroom lamp, I told them I loved them and goodnight.
Dave called again and I told him he probably should come home. I settled on the couch and watched some television to distract myself from myself for a while. I ate a snack and laughed at the silly sitcom jokes – marveling at each squeeze and happy that they kept on coming. Dave wound up making it home in no time flat. By 9:30 (and I knew it was 9:30 because my favorite show Will and Grace was on) I found the television was no longer distracting and I needed to walk and move around. I was even putting it off! The couch was comfortable but physically sitting was not. So I got up and walked around the house, refilling my trusty water glass that had sat by my side my whole pregnancy, stopping to lean on a counter or dining room chair. Dave, unable to sit still for more than three minutes, left to go to the store and get some shoelaces and scissors, as I remembered we didn’t have them yet. I had honestly thought I had a few more weeks. Some prophet I’ll turn out to be.
When he got back my friend caught wind on-line that I was laboring and gave me a call. We chatted and laughed for a while and she decided that when I could no longer talk through a contraction she should let me go. “Throw the phone across the room if you got to I’ll totally understand!” I laughed some more, and we said goodbye. I was glad to have heard her voice. I often wonder what direction my birthing path might have taken with out me having her in my life for the past three years. But I also believe many things happen for a good reason, and we were meant to be strong and supportive friends.
Dave decided he had a full day and got into his flannel penguin pajamas (I always remember what my husband wears while I’m in labor, it’s odd) and went to bed, but not before finding some candles and lighting them about the house for me. The candlelight was lovely, just right. I decided the bathtub was calling my name, so I filled it up and got in. The water was wonderful but my tub is just too small to truly get comfortable in. I even plugged up the overflow drain so I could get more water to stay in it, which helped. I rested my head on a towel and dozed off for a while. I awoke to feeling very uncomfortable and very sleepy. I dried off, and carting towels with me to catch leaking water that came with every contraction, I threw on a flannel and crawled into bed. I didn’t really lay down however, I had three pillows that I stacked one on top of the other and leaned my weight forward onto them and my knees, letting my belly drop down out of my back. And the back labor began.
Sleep, contraction, shake Dave awake, hum and groan and breathe with the back contraction, go back to sleep. What I now believe to have been around 1:00 a.m. I was staying more awake than I was sleeping so I got back up and went back into the bathroom…
All night it went something like this. Fill up tub, try to get comfortable and snooze, get out of tub, sit on toilet and rest on the hamper with a pillow and snooze. Fill back up tub, get in, realize it was just too small and get back out. At one point got very sleepy and just wanted to sleep or escape. With each contraction I rocked back and forth, not side to side, but back and forth, using my feet to guide the rest of my body slowly, rubbing my own back with my own hands…After a while I decided that wasn’t working and went to get in the shower instead of filling the tub. This was the hardest part.
I had to talk myself through each contraction by saying “I can do this.” Sometimes I said “I can do it” or “I am doing this!” And it sounded like a rhythm word song – “I can do it I can do it I can do it god damn it I can do it I can do it I can do it…” There see I did it! Over and over again. If labor is riding ocean waves, then I am the one who seems to crash upon the rocky beach at times. I once was swimming in the ocean when I was a child, and a violent wave had caught my body and pulled me under water, thrashing me about like a rag doll, dragging across the sandy bottom – I had no control of my arms or legs – I just instinctively waited until I felt the familiar rhythm of water catch me again to know it was safe to rise to the surface to breathe and swim. This is what it reminded me of – no control, just getting tossed about, waiting for the break in order to catch my breath and my bearings once more.
This was where I thought of the hospital. I had a nice conversation with myself then….Jesse I said, there is nothing in the hospital you need – you are fine! My alter ego replied “But Jesse, this hurts!” Jesse I said again, the hospital isn’t going to make it any better! Jesse said “But they have drugs!” I said “No, I don’t want to do that, and besides” I say, “Jesse is right, think of a pain it will be to get the kids awake and dressed and think of how tired Dave is he will not be a happy camper if he has to pack up the kids and go and besides riding in the car during labor sucks remember the last time you did that?…” And I stopped there, and never thought of leaving my house again.
I got out of the shower and went to sit on the toilet again, getting annoyed that I was becoming really nauseated. I went to the sink and in a matter-of-fact fashion made my self throw up. Feeling better, I then went to the bedroom for a change of scenery, kneeling on the floor at the foot of my bed where I rode out a hellish transition. Then, I heard the kids waking up. I shook Dave’s foot to wake him up, telling him to get them breakfast. I asked what time it was – 6:30 a.m. – Wow! I thought he was joking…I clambered onto the bed at that juncture and held myself up on the side of the cradle next to our bed. I was tired, I was ready to be done. My body shook uncontrollably, making my singsong laboring voice sound like a spooky ghost haunting a house. I tried not to wonder how much longer this would last. Starting to get loud…the kids came in to investigate. This the only time I smiled towards the end. Dave ushered them out and closed the door. He kept running in and out to see how I was doing, and I gather he was satisfied that I was fine and he went back to the kids every time. Shake, sing, shake, sing, over and over again.
Finally I saw that light at the end of the tunnel…that sudden change in feeling, both physical and emotional. I had just resigned myself to hours of more hell when I suddenly wondered if I felt like I wanted to push, or was it my crazy imagination. I took the energy that was shaking out of every limb and strand of hair on my body and directed it downwards. Not much came of it, or so I thought, but it felt a little better, so when the next big wave hit I tried again. That felt much better! Then, my conscious thoughts could no longer control what my body wanted to do once more. I had to push…soon I felt my baby in my birth canal. I gasped, yet again surprised by what was happening. It was a wonderful feeling. My body pushed but I breathed through it, I suddenly had had the thought I was going to tear. Breathing, singing (as if a ghost can sing) then roaring…I pushed…he slipped down, then back up again! This pissed me off! But I loved the feeling that I could feel my baby where he was, not out, yet not in.
I was now in the middle of my bed squatting on my feet and holding my self with my hands. I clearly remember just squatting and arching my back, shoulders wide and stretched back while pushing, then swinging forward, catching myself with my hands, and I pushed again. I reached down, and I felt him crowning. Finally, he was crowning! “Come on baby!” I roared, again, “come on” I sobbed and sang. After a good push and an earth shattering roar – the birthing roar you would think of having been echoing around the world – his head was born. I gasped again, with joy, seeing his purplish scrunched up face. One last final roar, and the rest of him was born. Liam had a good two inch plop from me to the nice soft bed. I immediately sat behind where he was and scooped him up into my arms. He was so big, so purple, so precious to me. I scooted backwards and leaned up against the wall, rubbing his back and giving him kisses, stopping only to take in the sight of him in my arms. It seemed like he was caught on something…I slipped the cord that was wrapped around his body from his back and up over his head, and pulled him closer to me. I had a great, well thought out speech saved for his arrival -”Hi Baby! Hi! Hello Baby! What d’you think?” Liam just looked around until his eyes fixed upon mine at the sound of my voice. I could feel him starting to breathe, and he sounded and felt a bit raspy. Amid my many kisses I put my mouth to his nose and sucked out a bit of mucous and spit it over us, and went back to my welcoming squeals of wonder and rapture. I watched him turn from purple to pink, I felt something etching upon my mind and soul, I felt how clammy and warm he was, I smelled his wonderful smell that seemed to be filling the whole room.
Dave came right in, was it thirty seconds later or two minutes later? Liam let out a cry, I thought “Oh! You’re cold!” I had Dave fetch the blankets I had folded and it was right then I realized something, I looked down to see we had another boy! “We have another boy!” I exclaimed. We were both ecstatic, it was the most exhilarating moment of my life.
We carefully wiped and wrapped him as much as we could with me still clinging on to him, and put him to my left breast, he seemed to know right what to do. It was about then I realized Liam’s bottom half and myself were covered in meconium. I pondered it for a few seconds but figured he had done it within moments after his birth, and was nothing to worry about. Suddenly the afterbirth contractions were so great I had to breathe through them. Air rushed in and out of my mouth, I whispered “water” then said “water” and finally “WATER!” Wonderful Dave would grab my water glass, still on the nightstand from the night before and put it to my lips. I was feeling a bit stuck not having birthed the placenta, and getting uncomfortable having sat in the same spot for a long time. Finally, with out much ado, I gave a bit of a push and the placenta arrived.
Then soon my two boys came in to the meet their new brother, Donovan didn’t think too much of anything but Kieran was fascinated with Mommy holding a new baby. His eyes were as wide as saucers, and later on that day he couldn’t wait to hold his little brother. (When we told him his name was Liam later on Kieran said “Oh Lamb! Baah! Bahh!” and got a good laugh.) Dave bought in the pot holding the laces and scissors that had been boiled the night before and set aside. I looked the cord over, and pointed out the knot in it with a great amount of fascination. It had long since been cold and limp, and I was eager to get up. So Dave asked me where on the cord he wanted me to tie the laces, I pointed about where they ought to go, and he tied them on, one about an inch away from the baby and one about four inches away. He surprised me then by handing me the scissors to cut the cord my self. And so I did, it seemed fitting, that after having done everything else all on my own, that I be the one to separate my baby from the lifeline I grew along with him, that had kept him thriving for all of those months.
We wiped him up a bit more, found him a clean hat and also found a fleece blanket and I then let Liam cuddle with Dave and the boys while I took the most rewarding shower ever. I felt like I could run and jump around, I felt terrific, nearly normal. Later on I was a touch sore in the ribs, and a bit sore between my legs, but it was nothing that made me so much as grimace.
I realized how weird it felt not having my baby inside me, and I hurried as fast as I could go so I could return to my son. Dave blew me away by cleaning up the bed and stripping the sheets off, and I had him toss everything in the tub and I filled it with cold water. He’s queasy with blood but he stripped the bed and I filled the tub with cold water and threw the linens in there. Soon I cleaned Liam up again, putting a diaper and shirt on him, and wrapped him up in a blanket – soon Liam and I were snuggled on the couch sleeping while Dave took the boys out for the afternoon. A perfectly ordinary day had begun, but what a marvelous start it had!
Liam was born around 7:40 in the morning on the 22nd of November and weighed about 10lbs! I still can’t believe I really did it, everything went so beautifully, it was almost ordinary and simple really. To look upon my baby and think back for a moment to when I first held him sends all of the same wonderful feelings rushing through me. I believe I will carry the wonder and pride of my birth with me until the end of my days.