They say that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth. But the truth is so multifaceted that, really, there are an infinite number of sides to every story. I ask myself, is this your birth story or mine? I guess that since we were both living it one body it is our story.
Ben, my sweet boy, this is MY version of our birth story, my truth. Yours may be different, and that’s ok.
It’s a beautiful story. One of triumph and loss, celebration and grief, togetherness and isolation. But mostly, it’s a love story.
Unlike for your sister’s birth (remember, she was also born at home, but not on purpose), this time we were set up for a home birth so I had lot’s of support; a midwife, Leopi, and a doula, Gingi. Leopi had the most beautiful accent that I couldn’t really place. She had such a loving presence and touch. I felt completely safe in her arms. Gingi, also known as the smell good fairy because she brought essential oils with her, was also very knowledgeable about pregnancy and labor. I loved the way her voice sounded, calm and relaxed, and the way she wore beautiful jewelry and blue eyeliner. And, of course daddy! He was my constant companion during labor, getting me water and making sure I was comfortable. And let’s not forget sister Grace, who stayed asleep the whole time! This was my dream team.
On August 15th at 4:35 you came sliding into this world after 45 minutes of “pushing.” Except it didn’t feel like pushing to me. It felt like my body was contracting and releasing to slowly rock you out of me. Daddy was there, waiting with open arms. He caught you and was so excited to see that you were, indeed, a boy. He and Leopi had been giggling that I was already rocking you, even before you had exited my body. Because with each contraction they thought, “OK the head is coming.” Then you would slip back inside. You did this for almost an hour. And I loved every second. I loved feeling how strong my body was. How it knew exactly what it was doing. How, in that moment, there was not one iota of fear. Total trust.
And then you were here.
But really, you had been here all along. Even though the doctors will say I carried you for 39 weeks and one day, really, I have been carrying you inside of me much longer than that.
I married your dad for so many reasons, one of which is that I saw YOU inside his eyes. I have been bonded to you since you were a little star baby, waiting to be manifested in physical form. I talked to you long before you were on the inside of my body, when you existed in the everywhere. And you answered in a warmth deep inside my belly. It felt like a smile. And you are the smiliest baby I’ve ever met. (As of this writing you are 4 months old and already full of so much gladness my heart can barely contain itself with all the love I have for you.)
After you were born I remember feeling your thick pumping umbilical cord. I was surprised by how big and firm it was. It had almost completed its job of connecting the two of us, but we still let it pulsate for the next 15 minutes just to make sure you got ALL that it had to offer. And then, with a big smile, daddy cut the cord.
But let’s back up a little bit, to the moment my water broke. I remember being really excited and it was right then that I knew I had two choices, I could either stay in my excitement, which can sometimes turn into anxiety for me (What if I have postpartum depression again? What if I can’t handle having two kids? What if we have to go to the hospital?), or I could go into labor land. The second option was my choice. I had daddy call all the appropriate people: midwife, doula, Jessie, and our parents and then I lay down in bed and went into my zone.
Leopi and Gingi both got to our house quickly and began setting up their equipment. My contractions were in full swing and I was handling them very well, using my breath and my meditation practice to stay calm and relaxed. At one point Gingi suggested I get into the shower and that sounded like a good idea. Normally, the water in that bathroom doesn’t stay hot for very long, but this night the labor gods were with us. I took an hour long shower. The whole time daddy was offering encouragement and water even though he felt like he was going to pass out because of the steam. He had lit some of candles and the room had a cozy feeling. Eventually I got out of the shower and got back in bed. But then I had to go to the bathroom. I realized that I really like to labor in the bathroom. The privacy and the toilet were both comforting. This was, after all, where your sister was born!
And then, the moment came where my contractions became more intense and I let out a guttural grown. Leopi said that it sounded like I was pushing. I told daddy that I was cold and he got me a hot water bottle. It felt like a warm hug as I held it to my chest. I decided to get on all fours on the bed and that is where you were born, all 7 lbs 4 ounces of you.
I held your wet slippery body against my own and already I was in love. I kissed your head and looked into your eyes. “He doesn’t look at all like Grace!” I said. (Now you do!) Leopi mentioned her concern that you were grunting and she rubbed your back vigorously. I didn’t think much of it until she asked Gingi to get the oxygen. Then I started to worry that something was really wrong. After an hour of labored breathing, she suggested we go to the hospital. So with concern and overwhelm, daddy made the same call he made when Grace was born: 911. I remember feeling like this had all happened before. Seeing the red lights streaming in through the windows, not knowing if my baby was ok, walking down the stairs holding my hour old baby in one arm and the EMT’s had in the other. Even the same fireman showed up, Gerry Blue. He said, “Hey Doc. Congrats” to daddy and gave him a fist bump.
The ride to the hospital was a blur as was the two days you spent there. The doctors gave you antibiotics and oxygen. I hated being separated from you. The reason we wanted to have a home birth was for that sweet bonding time after you were born when I imagined all four of us being in bed together for several days. Instead, we had to go to this cold, sad place where they stuck you with needles and where you had to lye in a plastic crib.
They had us sleep on a cot in another room and I woke up every 3 hours to try to nurse you. The second night we were there we woke to the ground shaking beneath us. More rocking! This time it was an earthquake! Daddy and I held on to each other. He looked at me with frightened eyes, “Are you ok?” He knows that the two things I hate most are hospitals and earthquakes. I ran to you to make sure you were ok. Of course, you stayed asleep the whole time, but the nurses were pretty rattled.
That day one of the doctors said to me, “ It wasn’t so bad being in the hospital was it?” “It was horrible!” I said. And with total dismissal she said, “No, it wasn’t that bad.” I thought I was going to scream at this point. Everything was so out of my control.
Finally, we got to take you home. But you had tongue tie AND lip tie (making nursing very painful), just like when Grace was a baby, so we didn’t stay home for long. The next day we took you to a dentist to get your frenulums lazered. Even after the traumatizing procedure nursing was STILL painful. I was devastated. I nursed Grace for 17 months and it hurt the whole time. I didn’t think I could do that again, but I was hell bent on nursing my baby. We called the lactation consultant, Amrit, and she said she would come tomorrow. Which meant that I had to nurse you all night in excruciating pain. It was terrible. The next morning Noni took Grace to the park while Amrit worked with us. She talked to us about latch and made a few adjustments to my technique and it made all the difference. Now you nurse like a champ!
I wish I could say that everything was rainbows and butterflies after that but we continue to have our ups and downs. I remember that one time your sister came home from a playdate high on magic mushrooms (yes really!) or the day that you just didn’t sleep longer than 45 minutes! or the time I thought I was going to murder daddy for asking me if he could go out partying with his friends and then was too tired the next day to parent.
But we also have our really good days too. And those are the days that I cherish and will remember. Ben, you will always be my little baby and I will always be your mama. Those are the things that matter most. That and love. Always always love.