Gia and Dave

Dominic's Birth, August 2003

Nine months ago I pushed so hard. I cried and strained to see you for the first time. I could feel your head coming out-covered with hair. I cried and said, “Come on baby.”

But that is the end of the story. It all started days before; three long, hot days before. 

On Sunday night I was just getting ready for bed. My big belly was swollen so I couldn’t see my feet. When I did see them they were puffy and sort of purply-red. I was tired and excited. I knew you would be coming soon; it was only a week until your due date. As I lay down I felt something wet beneath me. I knew this was different wet then regular pregnancy wetness. I knew I felt different. I called to your Papa, “Honey, I think I’m leaking.” He replied, “What! You’re leaking?” I went to go sit on the toilet and after going pee-for like the twentieth time that day-I put on some new underwear, put a towel on the bed and tried to get some sleep. 

A few minutes after midnight I woke up with a sudden urge to pee. This wasn’t uncommon, but since I’d had leaking earlier I could tell this wasn’t just a normal midnight bathroom run. I sat on the toilet, felt more liquid leak from me and then started to find the information sheet for Rights of Passage Midwifery. I woke up your Papa, who was snoring away. He didn’t want to wake up, but when I told him I had leaked again, he was instantly awake. He sat up in bed while I called the number. I got a message, so I told them I thought my water had broken but I was not feeling any contractions yet. I tried to go back to sleep. A few minutes later Rights of Passage called back. They asked all the standard questions: Was the fluid clear, what time did it happen, was I feeling any pressure or cramping, etc? She said, “Try to get some sleep, if you’re contractions start coming regularly call back.” Early that morning I called back. I was having contractions. Not regularly but enough for me to wonder what was happening. I called Nancy and left her a message. She called back and we set up a time for her to come over later that morning. This was the early stages of labor and I was excited and ready. 

It was so hot those three days. It was record temperatures all over the Bay Area. It was so hot I didn’t want to go outside. We called everyone letting them know the news. The baby is on its way, we’ll keep you updated, be prepared to travel. Even though we’d planned for all the family to be here since it was a Monday we kept getting the same response, “I’m not sure we’ll be able to make it, but we’ll try.” We walked around Safeway that day because they had air conditioning. I had a contraction in the chip isle and your Papa held my hand while I breathed. Your Nonno and Grandma were here visiting from South Carolina. They sat drinking juice and coffee at the tables in the front as I walked up and down, back and forth. Your Nonno read the paper and for a little while your Grandma walked with me. We picked up some juices and vitamin waters and snacks. I drove Grandma Juju’s car back to the house while your Papa stayed with his mom and dad. Your Papa was worried about me driving, but I knew I’d be fine. 

Nancy wanted to get labor started. It had been a day since my water had broken and still the contractions were not very close together. I was having them about every 10 minutes so it was so hard to sleep, but other than keeping your Papa and me awake they weren’t doing much to help along your birth. I was tired from not sleeping and it was still so hot. I didn’t want to walk around outside. I didn’t want to do much of anything. Nancy came and went. She went to Rainbow Grocery and picked up some herbs to help the labor progress. She recommended that we try Castor Oil. It was disgusting. Your Grandma Juju was here. She came back and forth from Alameda having taken time off work. We had her car for errands and she helped make some of the gross milk shakes laced with castor oil that I drank so slowly. Your Papa was tired from all the contractions but he stayed awake, making sure I was doing okay. Rubbing my back when there was pain. Walking up and down 19th Street with me as I moaned and rocked, breathing deeply. The castor oil made me have stomach cramping which lead to diarrhea and I think I barfed. I showered afterward and the water felt so nice pounding on my lower back. The contractions were getting stronger but they weren’t any closer together yet. 

Nancy started me on the herbs. I had to take them every twenty minutes. Grandma Juju and Papa timed everything with my little digital watch that I got for Christmas from Jason. I choked down the herbs and slowly the contractions started getting much stronger. My back was killing me and the only thing that helped was lots of pressure applied to my lower back. I tried walking and rocking back and forth. I tried squatting and lying down. 

Your Papa was watching me so closely that he hadn’t had a chance to eat anything. Nancy went out to get some lunch and your Papa went down Castro to get some burritos. As soon as he left my contractions started to get stronger and closer together. Poor Grandma Juju did her very best to keep track of the timing while also rubbing my back and making sure I was okay. Your Papa looked a little scared when he came back. Things had changed while he’d been gone and I was in a different place than I had been before. 

I was so tired my eyes did not want to open. I was hot from the weather. Nancy was here along with Grandma Juju, Kathy and your Papa. Everyone had been called. The contractions came stronger and stronger. I tried to get in the birthing tub we had set up at the end of the bed, but it wasn’t very comfortable and it made it hard for your Papa to rub my back. I remember being in the tub with Grandma Juju rubbing my back and I cried out for your Papa. All I could think was that I needed him right then. 

I got out of the tub and labored in the living room. Papa and I tried to nap for a few minutes but the contractions were too close together for me to sleep. I was so tired. I was naked because it was so hot. There was a fan blowing air but it was too hot for that poor fan to do much good. I kept thinking, I wonder how much longer it will be. I can do this if it isn’t that much longer. 

It was much longer. Much, much longer. More people came. Aunty Erika came after she finished class and Erin, the other midwife, came and brought rescue remedy and some other tinctures to help with the pain. I squatted on the birthing stool. I rocked back and forth holding on to people. I was passed from person to person because I couldn’t stand myself. I was so tired. I cried that I wanted to go to the hospital. I was done doing this at home. I kept thinking that if I went to the hospital then it wouldn’t hurt anymore and it would go faster. Grandma Juju reminded me that by the time we made it there got checked in and all set up, you would already be here. The contractions were so strong they took my breath away. All the women around me would breathe slowly, sort of humming and I would remember to breathe too. Over and over we hummed and groaned together. I got back in the birth tub and threw up. I was helped back out and got on the bed. Nancy checked me and I remember wishing so hard that I was close enough to start pushing.

Hours later Nancy checked me again. She asked if I needed to push. As soon as I heard those words my body pushed. For a long time I pushed on the birthing stool. I pushed standing up. I pushed lying on my side and on my back. I tried to go on all fours but I was too tired. More people started coming. Aunt Aki and Aunt Becky were here. As I was getting close I wanted Grandpa Dog. As soon as I thought it he was here. Grandma Ellen and Aunt Mel were with him. They watched from the stairs as I pushed so hard. Nancy put a cutting board under my butt so I would push against something. Aunt Aki sat behind me to hold me up and Papa held one leg while Aunty Erika held the other. Nancy and Erin kept checking the baby with the Doppler and checking my temperature. I had oxygen through a mask because I felt faint. I was so tired I couldn’t open my eyes. Nancy said, “Gia, you have to look at me, open your eyes.” I did but I don’t remember seeing anything. 

Nine months ago I pushed so hard. I cried and strained to see you for the first time. I could feel your head coming out-covered with hair. I cried and said, “Come on baby.” I pushed and Nancy said, “Ring of fire.” Aunt Aki told me in my ear, “This part is going to sting, but it only last a minute and then the baby is here.” I could hear all the voices around me; I could feel all the anticipation. I was working so hard to push you out. All of their words of encouragement were helping me push. I pushed and it burned so bad. It was quick though and then your head was out. I could feel you and soon your whole body was out. You were on my tummy making muffled sounds, eyes wide open looking at all your family, there to love and support you and welcome you to this world. 

As soon as you were born I was wide awake. I felt energized and ready for anything. I looked at your Papa and said, “You’re a Papa now.” I cried and hugged you while Nancy and Erin cleared your nasal passage and gave you some oxygen. They kept checking you and I asked if you were all right. You were wet and warm and by far the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My heart ached with love for you and my arms wrapped you up, holding and cradling you. 

Your birth opened my eyes. Your life has made mine so much more enjoyable and worthwhile. It is so hard for me to think that you are one year old. One year ago I pushed so hard. I was so tired my eyes could not open. You were born and I was filled with energy; energy for our new life together. You were born with your family surrounding you, loving you and urging you on. I will always be here with my love and support, welcoming you to be your own person and urging you to, “Come on baby.”

Transient

Ava's Birth, April 2005

Purple and a little blue you entered this world. Face slick with fluid and shiny. I was standing, feet planted and holding onto your Papa, gripping him so I wouldn’t fall down. That is how you finally arrived but it was a few hard hours before you finally made your grand entrance – before you were finally home. 

Sunday afternoon and my belly is tightening. I can feel you getting ready. I take a breath and then another feeling cramping that may be contractions. I am so excited for you to come but it is so early and I’m a little worried you will be too small and not ready for this world physically. You push and kick and I continue with the cramping every 20 minutes for about an hour. Your Papa calls Nancy and she and Chanti come over to see what’s going on. Nancy goes over what it means to have a baby at 37 weeks, what challenges you might face and some of the steps we may need to take once you’re born. It is not too early, but it is still early enough. 

They suggest we go for a walk and they sit while we walk down to the park and around the neighborhood. My contractions slowly subside as we make it to the library. They are still there, but I can feel them going away. When we get home I am still having contractions but after a little while Nancy and Chanti pack up. You are not ready for this world, at least not yet. 

It is Sunday again, one week later. I had yoga this morning – stretching my body feels so good. I love to go and relax and breathe in the class, surrounded by other pregnant bodies and the gentle guidance of Marissa. I told them all about my false labor the week before, everyone oohed and ahhed and gave support to you when you do arrive. 

I am folding laundry, one of the green faded towels when I feel a pain in my lower belly. I feel my big belly and it is like a rock. I sway my hips and bend forward with my head on the foot board and my back outstretched in a modified downward facing dog position. My face is towards the ground. In through my nose and out through my mouth – I can do this, we can do this, I am ready and I can feel that you are too. Help me get through this Minnie, help me, help you find your way home. 

It is Sunday afternoon and Nancy and Chanti have come over. We are making a regular thing of this Sunday afternoon ritual. They check me, I do a pee test and wipe some fluid that I feel on my leg with a special strip that tells us if it is amniotic fluid or not. It is, but just the tiniest amount. My water has not broken, not yet. 

They suggest a walk and this time your Papa and I go alone. We walk up Santiago, up the big hill. He holds my back when a contraction comes – his body, like mine remembers the last time, remembers what helped the last time. We make it up the hill and see these huge bushes of purple flowers. The stems are sticky but easily break as I pick a few and put them behind my ear. We walk down through the park, past the baseball diamond and the small playground next to the Montessori school. I don’t want to because of the noise and traffic but we walk back down Taraval. Past the shops, to our house – up 29th to our red steps. The contractions are strong but I can feel them separating a little. I don’t think it’s time yet. Nancy and Chanti pack up, Nancy leaves a few bags behind – no one else is expected to labor tonight. 

Later that night they start again, this time with more rhythm, more intensity. I rock and sway trying to alleviate some of the pain, I put my back against the door jam, and I think I feel a little more water on my leg. Papa calls Nancy. She comes over and checks me I am 3 centimeters dilated but my contractions are strong when they come and they are about 6-10 minutes apart. Maybe tonight is the night you will come. After a while of sitting in the glider chair and talking to Nancy, I go to bed. I need sleep, your Papa needs sleep and Nancy takes up residency on our couch. I want to make up the air mattress for her but she says she prefers couches and is a pro at couch sleeping. 

Every 10 minutes or so I wake up with more contractions, your Papa wakes for some of them and rubs my back, I try to remember to sleep, I think about you getting ready to come out, I think about your brother sleeping soundly in his room with Grandma Juju, I think about how Nancy is close if I need her, I listen to your Papa’s snoring. I push him in his back so he will wake up and rub my back – there is another contraction. 

Nancy comes in once an hour to check on me. To make sure things are going okay. Quietly she slips in takes some vitals, slips back out. A few hours pass and it is morning time. Your brother is still sleeping with Grandma Juju, your Papa is just waking up, and Nancy comes and checks me. I am 5 centimeters. Miranda, Nancy’s daughter needs to get ready for school. Your Papa and I listen to the familiar instructions of how to take the Black Cohash and Yellow Cotton root herbs. I start the bath as your Papa measures out the herbs. Nancy leaves to go get Miranda off to school, your brother wakes up and eats some breakfast; it is early morning in the seven o’clock hour. I get the first round of herbs and decided to get in the tub. The contractions are in my back and they hurt, maybe the tub will feel good. 

The water feels so nice, warm and cozy but the contractions continue. Papa checks on me a couple times and I am like a beached whale, unable to get my whole self in the water. My knees are out, my belly is exposed, the shape has changed some since yesterday – you are getting ready, we are getting ready, but it’s not quite time yet. 

All the phone calls are made. Your Papa lets people know that it is starting. With your brother’s labor it took so long that I wonder if people know to rush this time, to hurry or they may miss it. I worry that it is rush hour traffic on a Monday morning and that your aunt Aki won’t make it in time, that is will take much longer than the usual 3 hours from Mendocino for your Grandpa Dog and Grammy Ellen. 

I haven’t been in the tub for long when the contractions start coming faster. I can hardly catch my breath between. I call out for your Papa and he is there. Call Nancy I say, hurry I can’t do this much longer. Those familiar words reflect in my mind Transition from the last labor. I can’t imagine that I am that far along yet, not yet, but those words signal that you are coming, that you will be here soon. I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this anymore, make the pain stop. I am upset because I didn’t think the pain would be in my back this time – you are in the correct position and my water hasn’t even broken yet – this is all happening so much faster than I had anticipated. 

Soon Chanti is there with her long scarf; your brother has gone out with Grandma Juju and Micky. Nancy calls Maria to let her know she’ll be needed soon. Things are all happening so fast, I try to breath but the contractions are so painful. Chanti tries some pressure points; your Papa rubs my back. I sit in the glider breathing, I lay on the couch, I lay in the bed, and I walk around. Nancy and Chanti monitor your heart rate and check my blood pressure, they take my temperature. Before I know it more people are there: Aki and Grandpa and Grandma and Grammy and your other aunties. I am drinking lots of vitamin water and getting really sick of the flavor. My groin injury hurts every time there is a contraction, every time someone says I need to move from one place to another. I see Grandpa Dog standing behind the couch, I see someone sitting in a chair by the window, I see Maria’s striped shirt and Chanti’s long colorful scarf, I am tired of doing this I keep saying, I am tired and I can’t do this. Nancy, I can’t do this anymore please make the pain go away. 

There is a humming in the room I am trying to hum too. Everyone is trying to help me through this pain and the humming helps. Low groans help and back rubs and lying down. It is decided that Maria will break my bag of water. I am so worried it will hurt but it is just more pressure and another contraction and my back is killing me. My water breaks, finally and the pain increases so much more. I feel like I need to push but when I do and from sitting on the couch your heart rate has dropped. Nancy is concerned, she and Maria and Chanti have a whispering conference, and I am worried you are in danger – your heart rate is way too low. 

I am moved to a standing position. Your Papa has to hold me up because my groin hurts so much, and I feel so tired. I don’t want to stand but I hope it will help you get in a better position. I am pushing with all my might. My legs bring me to a squatting/standing position I can feel your Papa’s back tighten I know he will be sore later. I push two times and I feel the strong burning the feeling that reminds me of the sound of meat going onto a hot grill. Your head is out, purple and blue-ish, your face is shiny and wet with fluid. Nancy says to reach down and get you but I am too tired so your Papa reaches down with Chanti’s help and you come slipping out into their arms. 

We are on the couch, two separate bodies, attached by a cord your placenta is still waiting to come. You are on my chest and I am so exhausted I doze off looking out the window. I can’t believe it is still morning. I can’t believe how fast this all happened. Your big brother is there with a stunned look on his face. Your purple face slowly changes to a better color as Grandpa Dog worries that there is something wrong. He keeps talking about how he was so scared because you were bright purple. Your Papa is going to cut the cord but I ask that Grandpa Dog do it - a passing of the generations a carrying of the torch and our heritage and history. 

Your Papa leans into me and asks what your name will be. It is just us in that moment. Ashby or Adeline he asks, “Ava” I say and tears fill his eyes. We had already discussed Magri as your middle name but we add Nancy too because of all the work Nancy has done to help us realize our dreams and the help she has given us with both of our children. Your full name is announced to everyone. Every body says what a beautiful name it is. Ava, so simple but so full of promise and so strong – I can not imagine you with any other name. 

Slowly all the after birth procedures are done. You are weighed and measured, checked and re-checked. I take a shower and get some comfy clothes on. We nurse for the first time. I eat something and people are busy around the house – getting Dominic some lunch, packing up supplies, making food, washing clothes and getting the bed set up. I curl into bed, so tired and so worn. You cuddle on my chest skin to skin, under the hot towel and under the warm blankets. Our room is cozy with the light coming through the windows, the door shut, resting together. Our two separate selves still connected but now you are your own being. Your Papa rests next to me we take a nap and my thoughts slowly fade away. All is peaceful as I hear clanking in the kitchen and low voices. I drift off to sleep knowing that all the hard work, the pain and the pushing was so worth it because our baby is here and safe. You have arrived with lightening speed and you have completed our family and made us whole. Ava, our girl is home.

Transient

Nadia's Birth, April 2010

“I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready...” or so the song goes. Years ago at one of my first births as a doula the Tracy Chapman song had been playing in the background of a beautiful but tough natural childbirth in the hospital. The midwife had cried, wiping tears with her sleeve to keep her gloved hands at the ready. On that night the music played while an amazing little girl entered the world. On this night I sang the words in a scratchy voice, almost moaning them out of me as I waited for the next contraction, for you to be born. 

I was desperate to garden. I almost couldn’t keep myself from venturing down Sloat boulevard to the garden center to pick up flowers. The day was running long and late and dinner needed to be made but after getting your siblings from school and dropping off carpool we headed to pick out plants instead of home to make food. After a quick clothing change and a search for gardening gloves your big brother and sister helped me unload the car of plants: french lavender, johnny jump ups, white bacopa, a couple ferns. The colors were all purple and white with just a hint of yellow. They were the colors that spoke to me while pushing the loaded cart around Sloat in the late afternoon sun. Mimi requested some big pink bush which just didn’t seem right and Dominic asked about some water lilies but we don’t have a pond so we stuck with what we had and as we dug in the dirt back home everything felt just right. 

I had gardened that bit of earth several times before but things had always died or the gofers had eaten them. This time I was really pleased to see all the plants filling in nicely and placed well. I hoped this garden would grow. With dirt covering my knees and your brother and sister ready for a shower, dinner and bed we cleaned up the side walk and went inside. The sun was still above the horizon but it felt like night was starting. It felt like it was time to settle down. Half in the bath and half out, rinsing my feet and knees of sandy dirt I twisted around with a great heave to get my other foot in the tub. Just as it hit the stream of water I felt a gush and was suddenly covered in warm, thick water. Planting out the front garden was my last task of nesting. You were ready to come. 

Throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy you had changed position frequently. You were floating in a lot of amniotic fluid and everyone thought you would be less than 7 lbs when born so you did flips and turns and lied transverse for days while we did everything to turn you head down. Unlike most transverse lies you were positioned with your back up so there was concern that if my water broke first we were at risk of cord prolapse. That was why at 6 pm I was in knees to chest position, tilting my head to the phone receiver talking with Nancy while surrounded by the biggest pool of amniotic fluid I had ever seen. I tried to feel if I could find cord between my legs. I couldn’t feel anything but Nancy headed over just incase to make sure you were head down. I called your Papa next, still on the floor, hoping he’d be home soon. 

After getting Dominic and Mimi out of the shower your Papa came home and soon Nancy arrived and checked me. I was 3 cm dilated and you were head down. After getting the big kids off to bed we made a plan for the night. A walk, some food and some rest if we could. 

Our neighborhood is not the best place to be walking around in at night. I called next door and asked Shae if she would go walking with me to try and get contractions going in a better pattern. We walked for about 40 minutes and on our way home Shae asked if I was having any contractions. I said yes, every 2-3 minutes it felt like. She wanted to hurry me home because with her third baby the whole labor had been less than an hour and while she thought it was cool to be having a homebirth, I don’t think she was prepared to catch a baby on the street that night. After saying our good byes I headed inside and we started calling all the family to let them know what was going on. You were on your way but things looked slow. They could come if they wished, it would probably be tonight. 

The next morning I woke up frustrated. Not only had you not been born but now we were into day two of labor and the contractions had completely stopped. After a good strong pattern the night before when Nancy had come over everything had stopped and I’d gone to bed. I was up a few times with contractions strong enough to keep me awake and ended up sleeping in the glider chair instead of the bed because it was more comfortable to be upright. The morning was noisy because family had come in the night. Making beds where they could, finding blankets and pillows, piling in with the kids in their rooms. Aunt Aki was making eggs in the kitchen when I finally came upstairs. “No baby?” she asked, “Not yet” I replied. We called Nancy after breakfast and talked about the plan. Walks, herbs maybe some castor oil if needed. I spoke to you quietly, “Please come before we have to try castro oil. It’s just too gross.”

With the first two labors the herbs had worked within the first couple doses. This time I felt like I was taking the herbs and nothing was happening. I was still leaking fluid, you sounded great on the doppler and all was well. I was getting really frustrated that the process was taking so long though and that labor wasn’t picking up on its own. I was having a really hard time having everyone in the house so we asked Grampa Dog and Grammy Ellen to take the big kids to the zoo. Aunt Aki seemed to know that we needed space so she went along too and Grandma Juju said she’d check in later after some appointments she had throughout the day. I used the breast pump to do some nipple stimulation to get contractions going again. Papa and I sat on the couch and talked about why things weren’t picking up. I said I wished everyone would just go home and come back later. This didn’t feel like the first two times where I could tune everyone out and only find them when I needed their support. It felt overwhelming to have all the people around. I wanted it to just be Papa and I but family lived too far away to send them home. 

We did everything we could that day to get into labor. Nancy checked in by phone and when contractions started again she came over. Every time she came contractions slowed down and she went home again. We walked, did nipple stimulation and took herbs. Nancy said maybe in the morning we should try castor oil; she brought a bottle over. 

Everyone went to bed around 9 pm. I was feeling bad that all our family was stuffed in our little house waiting for the big event and putting their lives on hold so they could witness your arrival and it still felt like nothing was happening. Aunt Aki was awake with your Papa and I, it felt good to have her support and I thought, “This would be nice, just the three of us. This doesn’t feel too crowded.” We watched silly TV and around 10 pm I felt like going to bed. Contractions were mild but I could feel them so again I got in the glider to sleep instead of the bed. I put my feet up on the ottoman and covered myself with several blankets. I went to bed thinking how much I didn’t want to take the castor oil. I spoke to you and said I was ready, ready for you to come, ready to meet you. 

I woke up with sharp, very strong pains in my back. It wasn’t going away. I gripped my belly and felt that it was hard. I tried to breath but the contraction was not going away. I finally managed to get out of the glider to wake your Papa and said contractions had started. He asked if I wanted him to time them. I said there wasn’t any time between, it was only one long contraction. “It just won’t stop” I said, “Call Nancy, I want this to stop, if she comes it will stop” I tried to joke. 

I was groaning loudly and trying to breath. Grammy Ellen came downstairs to see if she could help. Your Papa asked if he should call Nancy and I told him no, keep pushing on my back and Ellen could call. Ellen tried her best on the phone but I was so irritated to hear her not explain to Nancy what was going on. I knew Nancy would come but I wished I’d been able to talk so I could explain that this was so fast, that it was all happening right now. I felt like being on hands and knees was easier and Papa could push on my back well so I tried that for a while on the bed and when Nancy came she checked me. I told her I didn’t want to know how many centimeters if I wasn’t very far along and after the exam she said, “You have some more to go.” I got off the bed and labored some more but it still felt like the contractions just wouldn’t stop. I wished them to go away but I also told you to hurry. This hurt so bad, still in my back like the first two but it felt stronger and more intense than I had remembered. I couldn’t leave my body as I’d done with the first two, leave enough to let the contractions happen without noticing them so much. This time I felt present and clear. Clear that I didn’t want to do this anymore. 

I begged Nancy to check me again. She really didn’t want to. I tried to make myself sound as stern as possible and told her she needed to check me. I was ready to go to the hospital and get the epidural. I had seen many epidurals placed, I wasn’t afraid of them like I had been before being a doula and student midwife. I wasn’t afraid of the hospital, we could just go. I knew in my head how silly this all was. I was negotiating something that was never part of the plan but in that moment I was convinced that doing something was better than staying home. I really didn’t want to feel the pain anymore. 

Nancy told me later that she didn’t want to check me because during the first exam my cervix had been so tight and only 4 centimeters that she was concerned there would be no change. It hadn’t been very long, maybe 10 or 15 minutes and she knew I would be disappointed and insist on going to UCSF if she told me how far along she assumed I was before the exam. “This is great Gia, you are seven and a half.” Nancy said.  

Your Papa tried to reason with me as soon as he heard. “Listen, if we can just get in the shower it will all be...” I wanted none of it. I threw myself off the bed knowing that I would endure the contractions coming. Knowing that there wasn’t time to get to the hospital for pain medication. I knew you were on your way and in my labor addled mind I thought, only 1.5 more centimeters. I can do this for 1.5 more. My math was off but it got me off the bed and into a new frame of mind. I got in the shower and let the hot water run over me. I started singing Tracy Chapman, a song from a birth long ago. “I’m ready, I’m ready...” I groaned and said open and down through each contraction. I tried to find the space between to take a rest but they were still coming one on top of the other. Papa pushed on my back and I moaned. I liked the shower because it was small and no one could be in there with me. I wanted to be alone or maybe alone with Papa to have you be born. I was still feeling overwhelmed by all the people in our space, waiting and watching. 

I suddenly felt the urge to push. I hadn’t been in the shower very long but I threw myself out of the shower. Everything felt very extreme. I felt abrasive and rude when talking and my body seemed to throw me from one place to the next at any urging. Papa said to be careful not to slip on the wet floor. I didn’t care about the wet floor I needed to push. It was time for you to come. Nancy checked and said I was complete. I’m ready I thought. I’m ready. 

Exhausted I wanted to lay on the bed. My back was still killing me through each contraction and in between. I tried to push while on my back. I moved to my side. Nancy kept saying I should just stand up. Remember that Mimi was born while you stood up she kept reminding me. Finally I agreed to try the birth stool. In between contractions I felt like I threw myself over to the birth stool. Ami was in front of me, Jessica and Moana each had an arm. I felt so tired and worn I leaned heavily on them and pushed. I remember thinking that finally my doula friends had arrived and knew what they were doing. Jessica held a cold wash cloth to my forehead just right and Moana whispered, “That’s the way.” Grammy Ellen kept trying to put my hair out of my face with a clip and it was very irritating. I finally just said to leave it and groaned into the next push. I could hear Nancy talking to Papa behind me. I felt a strange pulling, tugging and swelling but not the ring of fire. I half groaned, half sang, “I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to let the rivers wash over me...”

You were born into your Papa’s hands. Every time he tells someone that he caught you his face lights up in the most astonished and wonderful way. We had talked about him catching you throughout the pregnancy but he had always seemed hesitant and not all that interested. I was so glad Nancy didn’t have her gloves ready, that his hands were right there to welcome you to the world. We had asked everyone who we invited to not speak after you came out but to hold a silence to welcome you while your Papa and I welcomed you with words. You were passed to me as I sat, lopsided on the birth stool and I whispered your welcome.  

Everyone looked at you, so small and curled up into yourself. We took guesses as to how much you weighed, most everyone around 7 - 7.5 lbs. I moved to the bed with you because during the birth and the pushing I got a big hematoma on my left labia. You felt perfect snuggled into my arm, against my chest but the hematoma ached and burned. Ami smiled and said we’d never guess how much you weighed. 8 lbs 5 oz in total. We were all surprised and amazed. You looked so small but you were the biggest baby of all three of our kids. 

Slowly everyone trickled out, to bed or back home. Jessica stayed a long time helping me to the bathroom, filling my water cup over and over, dosing out arnica and helping me shower when I was ready. Nancy stayed to check on you and make sure the hematoma wasn’t growing. You nursed and we dozed. This is my favorite part I thought. Having the baby here, being home and having no where to go. It was barely morning when Nancy and Jessica headed home. Your siblings and relatives were asleep upstairs and your Papa was sound asleep next to us in bed. We snuggled close and I whispered to you, I am so happy you’re here, I love you.