Mel is a combustion guru turned full time mom, who spends her days caring for red-headed boys while juggling duties as business manager, freelance writer and baker. She’s a breastfeeding, home-birthing mama with a passion for community, cooking and writing,who’s completely smitten with her car-nut husband Kevin.
It was a frozen, flurry-filled winter evening—I’d been contracting since before dinner, wondering if this was yet another tease or real labor in the making. We bundled up, piled into the Tahoe and headed downtown for the tree lighting. After tucking Michael into the stroller, blanketed and comfy, we trekked from the beach parking lot to Depot Park. Naturally, I had to pee within forty-five seconds of being immersed in winter's night. Sensations of glee and anticipation warmed my soul as we neared the park. The festivitieswere in full effect; the jubilant smiles and bustling bodies were contagious. I fell in line atthe porta johns while Kevin pushed Michael in the stroller, pointing to this and that in an effort to entertain him. Missions accomplished. The chilled air felt lively against my cheeks while logging laps around the park. Contractions were becoming more noticeable and rhythmic, but I didn't want to get my hopes up for fear that an adrenaline spike may thwart labor, if it was, in fact, in progress. Santa made his appearance, the tree was lit, and we snapped a few photos of one another kneeling next to Michael in his stroller, commemorating the family outing. After all, it might very well be our last as a family of three.
On the way back to the truck I made a concerted effort to walk through the contractions, telling Kevin it might really be labor. He smiled in hopeful agreement.***Kevin put Michael to bed. In the bathroom, a bit of bloody show sent my emotions sky-rocketing, but I quickly regained composure. Before leaving the toilet I texted my midwife and birth photographer, noting that contractions were rhythmic, some mucous had passed, and that I planned to go to bed and see what might ensue. This was the natural-birther’s textbook response to said symptoms. My type-A personality invited pragmatism to stifle the anxiousness that birth was imminent.Kevin set up the birthing pool, just in case labor kicked in during the night, and I readied myself for bed in hopes of getting some sleep. Kevin joined me post pool set up, and found sleep as I tossed about. After two hours of discomfort and a jaunt in the recliner that offered no relief, I resigned to a couch downstairs. I was graced with two hours of slumber before waking with acute pains in my cervix, which I attributed to poor sleeping position. But by 3am, it became evident that those pains were actually contractions; timing them revealed that they were five minutes apart, every time, prompting me to prepare my last supper (before birthing).Cottage cheese, a protein shake, an EmergenC packet in some water—I walked around, used the bathroom. A brief glance in the mirror had me thinking, “Perfect—this is perfect! My hair looks great, it’s my birthday—this is perfect!” “Kevin,” I entered the bedroom to wake him. It was 4 a.m. “Can you fill the pool, and text Jenny? Contractions are five minutes apart, about a minute long every time.” After some snorting and tossing he was up and at it.Making my way back downstairs, I held my excitement in check. “Just focus,” I reminded myself. I paced in the kitchen, stopping to lean against the island, swaying my hips through contractions, laboring peacefully waiting for the birth team to arrive. Paris-the-dog barked, announcing the 5 a.m. arrival of the birth team; the front door opened in the midst of a contraction—I was kneeling on the living room floor over an exercise ball, wearing only a shirt and mesh underwear. Wanting to make a joke about mystate as the midwives rolled in, I thought better of it and resolved to focus on labor.
I made my way into the pool around 6 a.m. Warmth. Comfort. Labor should always be so peaceful. Sounds of muffled whispers and the shuffling of objects and papers filled the air, but I filtered them out, focused on relaxing.Labor was surprisingly peaceful (boring?) for the next three hours. At one point I asked, “Jenny, is it going to stop? Am I really in labor? Is the baby going to come?” “Yes, your baby will be born today,” my midwife replied. Stunned yet elated I stared on at the tree and the decorated mantle, drinking in the beauty of the day and my surroundings, waiting to welcome my baby Earthside.
Before long, labor was feeling quite the antithesis of boring. Transition was in full effect. Despite the knowledge that I’d soon meet my baby, I was overwhelmed, unable to find relief. In mumbled whispers I said, “Kevin, I can’t get comfortable, ask Jenny what I should do.” He relayed the message to Jenny, who replied, “Mel, listen to your body. Your body knows what to do.”That’s what Jenny was there for, to remind me to trust my body, my baby, myself, especially in the face of uncertainty. After shifting and enduring discomfort for a few more contractions, I found my way to hands and knees, a position that felt good. My body knew what to do, indeed.I was pushing gently at the end of contractions; the relief it offered confirmed it was the right thing to do. Readiness needn’t be measured in centimeters, only in the body’s response to an action. Soon my uterus took over, much to my surprise and dismay. “Why is my uterus doing that?” I barked. “My body is pushing the baby out,” I cried; exasperation consumed me. “That’s okay; it’s supposed to be that way,” someone replied. I wasn’t convinced, but the primal aspect of birth was upon me: ferocious, fast, all-consuming. Growling and moaning much like an animal, I tolerated the work of my uterus against my will.
“Touch your baby’s head, Mel,” Jenny said, presumably in an effort to distract me from the war I’d entered with my uterus. It worked; I listened. I reached my fingers just inside my vaginal opening, pushing through the fluid trapped in the still-in-tact bag to feel the head. It centered me. I waited in agony for the next contraction, and then the next. Uterus furiously pushed and the head was out. Next came the shoulders. “Reach down and pick up your baby, Mel,” the sweet sound of Jenny’s voice permeated my brain, distracting me from the intensity of the workout I’d just endured. Feeling trumped all. Vision had no place. Still kneeling, my hands pushed through the water, searching... I leaned back against the marshmallow-y wall of the pool and simultaneously brought my warm, velvet-covered baby to my chest. Relief. Victory. Peace. The work was done.Silence was the only sound. My hand explored the area between two long, scrawny legs. “A boy!!!” I screeched. My heart burst; unadulterated emotions—love, happiness, joy, peace, and gratitude—poured from my eyes and mouth as I held my baby closely. What could be sweeter than this, discovering my new baby, the baby I manufactured and loved before I ever held him in my arms? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Love, sweet love. The miracle of life. A healthy, peaceful baby boy.
Colin James. Born at home December 9 at 10:05 am. My birth-day birthday gift.