I knew I was ovulating the night of December 16th. Later on that night I said to him firmly “It better be a girl”. He assured me that I would not become pregnant and I was being over paranoid. I took it to mean that he didn’t want another baby (I didn’t either, but we weren’t trying to not try) and he was projecting his paranoia onto me. Having already accepted the fact that I would indeed be pregnant, it took presenting him with a peed on stick showing two lines to convince him. “It better be a girl” I said for the tenth time that next month.
I once again found opposition to my plans to have the baby at home with no outside assistance. My husband was my only ally, and we were the only ones who had confidence in the normal birth process. My due week came and went, and the pressure was worse, having to listen to suggestions like: “Have the baby in the car by the side of the road so it will look like an accident and then go to the hospital afterwards.” I don’t think many people who had even accidental roadside births relished the highway rushing past the backseat as the most idyllic place in which to give birth. There was no way in hell I would do it on purpose! Another popular one was “You guys can barely feed the children you have. It would be a selfless act to give this baby up for adoption” - a roundabout way for having to birth inside the magical walls of a medical institution, where machines that go ping falsely allude themselves to safety.
If I believed in anything at that point, it was birth itself. I had given birth three times before, the last by myself in the privacy of my bedroom, with only my arms to welcome my dear babe to the world. My first birth, the most medically managed one, was a disaster that nearly resulted in death for my son. My second birth was the clash of the titans: Medical know-it-alls vs. a despondent, very pregnant woman who only knew that she wanted to just hide from the world.
For the first time ever in a pregnant state of being, I wanted it all to be over with. I was uncomfortable, only at 41 plus weeks or so. I often repeated “She’s never going to come out!” which seems silly to say but many a pregnant woman will sincerely believe it at times, so please respond with empathy. I also of course was convinced it was a girl this time, and my speech was peppered with female pronouns. On September 20th, 2004, after performing my much practiced ritual of examining every square centimeter of used toilet paper, I spotted what looked to be stringy bloody mucous. Finally, something! This of course was after several weeks of painless contractions, or baby hugs if you will. All day was more of the same on and off contractions, but I found myself fully preparing for things to really kick into gear by taking an afternoon nap.
By around 10:00 PM, Dave was home from work for the night and we were sitting on the couch eating dinner. I was still pretty comfortable but very sure the baby would be coming soon. When I had to suddenly stop talking to get through the next rush I was convinced the baby was finally on her way. An hour later I found myself pacing the house, leaning on the counter, and somehow I recalled that belly dancing originated as a labor dance. With the counter as a partner I danced my way through many contractions, moving my hips in a simple figure-eight motion. Yes, I can say this really did help. Dave decided the best thing he could do was get some sleep and he stayed on the couch while I retreated to our bedroom.
It was the first cool night after going through a long hot southern summer, so I opened our window and a breeze kept coming right in, keeping my head cool. I settled into a spot on the floor at the side of our bed, in front of the window, lounging and sleeping between each rush. I had every pillow and blanket available piled around me to keep me comfortable and I sipped on water to keep myself hydrated.
It didn’t that seem much time had passed before contractions were right on top of each other. I was getting loud enough for Dave to wake up and come kneel by my side. Once again, I had back labor, and soon was laboring on my hands and knees (in the same spot of course). I asked Dave to try to massage the spot on my lower back that hurt, but as soon as he touched me it made my whole body spasm so I said forget it don’t touch me!
In the back of mind where my conscious self still lingered and observed I knew transition had hit. Still, I hit a point of despondency, looking over to my husband and begging “I just need a break. I just need a little break”. In all of his infinite wisdom he replied “I don’t think you’re going to get one honey” as gently as he could. Talk about not what you want to hear! I then said “Ok, I am going to throw up now” and he instantly disappeared and reappeared with a big white bucket. I was nauseous, but never did throw up.
I instinctively knew that the baby would be coming very soon. I don’t believe I felt an urge to push but I decided to go ahead and try a little push and “ahhhh” that felt so much better! With my knees on the floor, and pillows and blankets piled up on the bed in front of me, the conscious pushing quickly became the primal, overwhelming rush that nothing could reign in. My next memory that stands out well was Dave, peering at my bottom with only the bathroom light to see by, said “I see the sac!” I thought, or perhaps said “Oh, of course, because my water hasn’t broken at all!” It was funny how the simple logic went through my brain at the time as basically “Well, no duh!”.
Finally I felt the familiar stretching, and while roaring into my pillow, pushed her head out. In a matter of seconds, knowing there was no way I was moving from where I was, I growled “CATCH HER!” Dave knelt at the ready, and I’m sure he felt like he didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing, which was alright as all he really had to do was make sure baby didn’t just plop onto the floor. I screamed into my pillow a prolonged ”Get out!“ and with one more irresistible push and she slid right into Dave’s waiting arms, and I heard a resounding “Kersplash!”
“What do I do?” was the first thing I think I heard. “Just hand her to me” I said as a turned over to sit on the floor. After Dave pulled the rest of the amniotic sac from her, she was right in my arms. Sure enough, we discovered, I was snuggling a newborn baby girl to my chest! Dave was soaking wet and thoroughly overjoyed. Only then it fully occurred to me that she had in fact been born in the caul.
She was quiet and alert, though not yet breathing and the cord was still pulsing. I watched her pink up though after a time it did seem that her hands and feet were still purple and this started making Dave nervous. He started asking questions like “why isn’t she breathing?” and “is she ok” and I’m not sure if I felt more like he was making me nervous or if I was simply getting totally annoyed. I put my hand around her cord and could still feel the blood pulsing through so I relaxed. Soon she was breathing on her own and sputtering and gurgling a bit. Just as I did when my son Liam was born two years earlier, I put my mouth to her nose and mouth and gently suctioned out a little bit of mucous, and everything was fine, as I knew it would be. Dave dashed out of the bedroom and back in again and announced that it was a quarter after four in the morning, September 21st, 2004.
It went with out saying that her name was Rhiannon Morgaine, and I felt that I had waited a long time to get to be her mother, and her body with spirit was with us at last. Still practically stunned I was holding a baby girl, I started taking her in as we got her wrapped up and snuggled next to my breast. She had tons of dark hair and I had never seen one of my babies covered in so much vernix. Dave produced a camera from thin air and we took her first few pictures. She mouthed at the breast but seemed to want to spend time looking around more. The placenta was born uneventfully a few moments later, and I started feeling the urge to move, so we grabbed the baby shoelaces from the previously boiled and now cold water as well as a small pair of scissors, tied off the cord in a few places, and I had Dave cut the then lifeless cord. I believe out of four children, that was only his second time getting to do that.
A bath was already going and I couldn’t wait to get in. I eased up with baby, and eased into the tub with her, and we happily soaked for only a few minutes. She seemed to not like the water after a bit, and I felt a little tired, so I handed baby girl to Dave , pulled the drain plug, and started a shower. While rinsing off some soap, I saw that blood was steadily running down my legs, and down the drain, and I no longer felt tired: I felt dizzy. I grabbed a support bar in front of me, finished rinsing off as fast as I could, and carefully stepped out of the shower, saying “I need to lay down and I need to nurse the baby, now.” I felt very matter-of-fact, even calm, but knew I had to get settled right away.
I had the bed prepared for possible labor but definite post-partum use, and had Dave give me the baby and I laid down right away and put her to my breast where she latched right on. I told Dave to pile up some of the blankets by my legs so I could get them above my head. I never passed out, but it seemed within minutes we were both sleeping soundly.
A few hours later I woke up and discovered my bottom half was drenched in blood. Leaving Rhiannon behind, I rolled onto the floor, my head swimming, and crawled into my bathroom only several feet away. I enjoyed that first celebratory pee, and noted somehow through the haze that nothing hurt at all, nothing was even sore. Then, plop, a fist sized clot or piece of placenta passed into the toilet - I’ll never know because I didn’t really care about inspecting it closely - bleeding immediately ceased to a mere drip, and I felt immensely relieved and wanted to just crawl back into bed with baby. I somehow managed to get into some fresh underwear and cloth pads, baby stirred, I snuggled and nursed her, and we both were asleep once more.
I only remember the next few days as being filled with little energy and much sleeping. When I was awake, I ate like a horse and nursed the baby, changed her, and she seemed to be content to be sleeping as much as I was. That was all I did, besides gulping down water, oh, and changing pads. When I finally emerged from the bedroom, I found I could only be awake and up and about for exactly one hour before I’d feel dizzy and need to sit down and fall asleep again. After almost a week, I started feeling like my old self again.
Giving birth to my son Liam all on my own was a powerful, life-altering experience. With Rhiannon, it seemed she just slipped right into our lives in a normal and expected fashion, but her birth is just as special to me. I appreciate all of the unique things that came of laboring on my own in the quiet dark with a gentle breeze on my face.