I want to be eloquent. And I want to give full justice to this moment but somehow everything I write seems inadequate.
So here are the bare bones of it and I’ll put some meat on them over the days and weeks and years to come.
Because radiant and optimistic life is here in the form of a small girl with a triangle mouth and dimples in her wrists and golden strands woven through fine dark hair.
And I can hardly breathe for the gratitude and the love for a milk-blissed baby girl.
As pretty much the entire universe knew, we were 5 days overdue. The night before she was born, I told Brian that I thought this baby was going to be bigger than Anne (8 lbs 11 oz) and Joseph (8 lbs 10 oz).
Turns out I was right.
I woke with my first contraction at 2:20 a.m. They started out at 5 minutes apart and so I woke Brian and, given my past history of quick labour, we called my mum and dad to get the tinies. It turned out to be a good decision because Anne woke up almost immediately. Brian called our midwife, Joy, and she arrived just a few minutes after my parents did. I will never forget how excited Annie was. She was absolutely vibrating with joy and anticipation (Joe was sound asleep) and on her way out the door, Joy, turned on the doppler to check the heartbeat and when it rang out, clear and loud at 135 beats a minute, Anne rejoiced at the bottom of the stairs and I heard her say, “Oh! I get to hear the baby’s heartbeat one last time! I can’t wait to see her!” They bundled the tinies into their car and we were left to the hours ahead.
My contractions were 4-5 minutes apart already. All I could think was how thankful I was that we had chosen to have a home birth because the prospect of having to get dressed and get in the car, drive 15 minutes to the hospital, do check-in at admissions while going through contractions under fluorescent lights in front of God and everybody just sounded horrible. But instead here I was – my own home, my own things, my own familiar nest. I was so relieved.
Our other midwife, Cheryl, arrived along with their midwifery student, Tania, to observe. By 4 in the morning, we were set up. Brian filled up the birth tub in our living room right in front of the fireplace. The room was dark and quiet. I asked Brian to turn on some scripture songs to listen to. I got into the tub and my contractions slowed right down to 6-8 minutes. So I got back out and walked a bit and they went right back to 4 minutes.
By 5, they were much stronger and I got back into the tub. I find great comfort in water and found that it made a big difference in my pain management. I would lean against the side of the tub into Brian’s arms for the contractions (he thanked his high school football coach often for teaching him a good three-point stance as he maintained it for almost 2 hours!).
At 5:30, I was 7 cms and got up to walk again. At that point, Tania was excited because she thought she was about to witness a birth without the water breaking. The baby was descending but my water hadn’t broken, the amniotic sac was just coming along. This was almost identical to my labour with Joe so I knew that that was not going to be the case. Sure enough, as soon as I stood up, my water broke and I immediately dilated the last couple of cms.
Joy asked where I wanted to deliver as we were right by my bed but I wanted to be back in the water as the contractions were more manageable there. I climbed back into the tub, the intensity increased and I blasted through transition in about 10 minutes. It was definitely requiring all of me to stay focused during this time and I am incredibly thankful for Brian’s support and the coaching I received from Joy and Cheryl to slow down the process to make it more manageable. Pushing began in earnest at 6:10 and at 6:15, our baby was born.
Joy and Cheryl passed the baby in the water through my legs to me and I pulled her up and out of the water, collapsing on the side of the tub.
My laughter was uncontrollable (probably a bit hysterical, if we’re being honest!) and Brian burst into tears. They covered her with a warmed towel and a hat and after a few moments, Brian looked to see if it was a boy or a girl. He said, “It’s a GIRL!” and that sent all of us off again into gales of laughter and tears.
I couldn’t stop thanking God for her. She was bright eyed and quietly alert. No screaming or scurrying. She gave a couple of little cries but just seemed happy to join the party and was simply taking us all in with her wise eyes.
The release and “high” of that moment is beyond words. Beyond words.
After a bit of time together, Joy and Cheryl wrapped her up in a dry, warm towel and passed her to Brian. He carried her into Anne and Joseph’s room and laid on the bed with her, drinking her in for that first half hour (he’s still a bit dizzy from that, I think, the old softie). Joy and Cheryl helped me out the tub, wrapped me up in blankets and we delivered her placenta and then got all stitched up. I had only a second degree tear this time, no doubt thanks to the amazing coaching and support I received. A baby that size can do some damage but I was overall very fortunate.
Then I went to my own bedroom and crawled into bed. That’s another nice thing about water birth – you’re squeaky clean! So I crawled into my sheets and Brian came in with our daughter. We began nursing right away while we called everyone to say that she had arrived, safe and sound.
When Joy came in to do the assessment, the bets began on how big she was. When the scale registered 9 lbs, 13 ounces, I nearly passed out in disbelief (how is that even physically possible?!) while Brian was absolutely gobsmacked that this girl had deposed him from his throne as The Biggest Bessey Baby (he was 9 lbs 12 oz). She was 22 inches long. And her head circumference was 37 cms. *faint* No wonder it was a more intense delivery for me! The entire labour was less than 4 hours.
My sister arrived first. She got a good snuggle with the baby in and heard the basic details before having to head home to nurse Ariana. Then my parents arrived with the tinies. They hadn’t told them if it was a boy or a girl, wanting to let us be the ones to say it. Sure enough, they appeared in my bedroom door, eyes as wide as saucers and the look at their faces when they saw her, when we invited them to come meet their new baby sister will stay with us forever. They were simply dazzled, counting toes, squealing over her every noise and twitch.
When we told my parents her birth weight, my mother really did burst into tears! It was quite funny. And then of course, she cried again later when we told her that we had decided to name our daughter after her. I loved being able to say her name out loud at last, Evelynn Joan, our radiant and optimistic life, our God-loving heroine was here at last.
They stayed for about an hour, all piled into the bed with us (talk about family bed!) and our beautiful midwives cleaned up everything! By the time they left at 9:30, the tub was down, the floors were cleaned, the laundry was going, the counters cleaned and everything tucked back in its proper spot.
At 9:30, Brian made me breakfast and we had a cup of tea (does food ever taste as good as it does after you work so hard?). We just opened our bedroom window to listen to the water outside in the creek and enjoy the fresh air. We laid Evelynn between us and simply thanked God, marveling over her every dimple and crease (there are a lot of them) and falling in love with her. She nursed most of the day and we just stayed in bed. The tinies came back that afternoon for another short visit along with my sister’s family. We talked the whole birth over again and everyone got a chance to hold her. Joy came back that evening to check on me and Evelynn and all was well.
Since then, I don’t think I’ve left the house yet. Brian and I had a two day “baby-moon” on Saturday and Sunday, just us three to bond. Those two days will likely be one of the greatest memories of my life; just a peaceful, quiet, loving and intimate two days of learning Evelynn, nursing her, seeing her skin-to-skin for hours with her Dad, eating, being cared for and even watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night. It was like life pressed Pause for us for those two days.
The tinies came home on Sunday night and now we’re finding our new normal. It can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes to think about next week but right now, I’m making my only business Evelynn and I guess we’ll figure out the rest (like how I am going to care for a newborn with two other tinies also needing their mumma by myself) later. My milk came in yesterday and I’ve been a hormonal, weepy mess ever since but I can see the other side of it.
I feel a bit love-drunk.
Thank you for loving us so well, friends.