Hi, Carol. I just had this really strong premonition that you had the baby... or that you're having the baby. Call me back.
I think my water broke, I told him, and pulled down my pants.
Then I stood up, and the floodgates opened. Greg was out in the hall and I called out to him, No, No! I was right, I was right!
I sent Greg down to the hospital coffee shop for a cider donut, you know the kind. Homemade, greasy, with cinnamon sugar all over the outside. When he came back he reported that they were sold out of the cider donuts, but handed me a hearty replacement: a 4x5 inch brick of crumb coffee cake-- with about 1/2 inch of cake and 3/4 inch of crumb topping. At this point, my contractions were really kicking in, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and between contractions I wolfed down this gigantic piece of cake-- 47 grams of fat, Greg later informed me-- and I was on my way.
At a few select times during the intense part of my labor, I thought about what was happening for real, almost as if for the first time during the pregnancy. I am going to have a new baby, I thought. Someone to love and keep and hold. This is going to be a new member of our family. Each time I had these coherent, obvious thoughts, I would begin to cry hard, and my tears and snot would pour down as I sang myself through the contractions and prayed that I was right.
The pressure increased, it had been seventy minutes since the good labour had started. I was having those thoughts of wanting to escape, of being desperate for a break, of the pressure being too much for me.
Oh, I remember saying. The pressure. The pressure.
Do you want to push? asked the midwife.
Do you have to check me? I asked.
No, she said. I trust you.
What magic words. I was in charge of my body. I started to bear down, but not with intention, just as another counter pressure to the surges as they threatened to knock me flat. I was intimidated by the intensity of this labour-- it was already so much more difficult than Aoife's, and within the first three half-hearted pushes she had been born, and this baby was not. I had not slept in two days. My legs and arms ached. I was exhausted. I wondered if I had the strength.
Then, I felt it. That burning, tight feeling. There actually was a head. This was happening. I was going to push this baby out, and I was going to do it now.
But I was still in this awkward position-- on my hands and knees, head smashed into the bed in front of me. I didn't want to give birth like this, where I could not see my baby be born, where she would not be able to slip out onto my belly in one, smooth, uninterrupted move. So I tried to change. I asked for the squatting bar. They set it up for me, Greg and Pam, our midwife, and I managed to eek out one miserable contraction with half-hearted, incredibly-uncomfortable pushing until I flipped back over into the original position. Then I tried to side-lie, with the same result. Everything I tried landed me back on all fours. Apparently, this was how this baby was going to be born.
So I went for it. I don't know how many pushes it took. One moment I was pushing by choice, and the next moment I was in the zone where you can't stop pushing, where the contraction ends but you are still going at it with all your might, where the burn is so intense that you can't figure out what is compelling you to keep at it because all you want to do is make it stop. The funny thing is, because of the peculiar angle I was in, my midwife and my husband did not know that I was going for it in earnest. And so it wasn't until the head was, maybe, halfway out that I heard an exclamation of, Oh my! You've got a head here! and then I saw Pam's hand shoot out to the nurse's call button and cry, "Trudy! Come now!"
Trudy, as you may recall, is our fairy-godmother nurse turned family friend who has been present at the births of all of our children. You may not be surprised to learn that she just so happened to be assigned a shift-and-a-half, from 7-7 on that day. So yes, she was there, and she rushed into the room just as the head emerged. I felt that moment of sweet relief but the pushing kept happening despite my will to rest, and another huge, overwhelmingly intense stretch assured me of the easy birth of the shoulders, and then I felt it-- that amazing, fast rush as the rest of your baby's body tumbles from you with apparent ease, and then the void.
In this moment, I leapt. Remember, I was on my hands and my knees, and more than anything I wanted this baby on my belly. So I turned, lifting my leg over my baby and her cord, dancing myself around in a pirouette of sorts. I landed on my back and the baby was there, below me and being lifted onto my belly. Her face was tiny and elfin, and she cried weakly as I pulled her to my breast. Trudy laid a warm, soft blanket over her body. My baby scrunched her nose and opened her eyes. I cried for joy.Look at her face, I said. Look how beautiful her face is. She is so cute.
Suddenly I realized that while the tiny, elfin face with delicate features had led me to declare her a girl, I had not actually checked. Imagine if a mother's first words to her son were implying that he was a girl. But I checked, quickly, and I was right, it was a tiny girl on my chest, and she was, indeed, beautiful.
Oh, how my heart sang. Sang to the trees, the earth, the stars. Sang to the spirit of Charlotte, to the voices of Liam and Aoife, to the energy of Greg, my companion and soulmate, anchoring me to where I was at.
I covered the baby with kisses as her body changed from the blueish cast of birth to a rosy, warm pink. I kept asking if she was okay, and they kept telling me she was, she was wonderful, perfect, lovely. I was so emotional. I was so surprised. This pregnancy, the fact that it took a while to come, the fact that I was so guarded for the whole 8 months of my knowing about it, I really hadn't expected the sweet, mewing baby who now lay across my chest, still joined to me by her pulsing cord.
But she was there. My beautiful new daughter, ripe and ready. My third little girl. My fourth little person. A sister to Aoife, who here on earth had been sister-less. A baby for Liam, my nurturing, sweet little angel. Another child for me to pour myself into, to give everything to, to feel everything for. The addiction of mother love is amazing.
We gazed at her for a time, amazed by her pixie-cuteness and alert state. She was wide eyed, looking around, serene and calm. The lights in the room were very low, our music was still playing (the Cold Mountain soundtrack...) the nurse and midwife were cleaning out their things, preparing to leave us for a time. It was heaven, pure heaven. That moment, that I have been blessed with now three times, where I lie there in utter bliss, a pulsing, new life in my arms, knowing that it doesn't always turn out this way.
Does she have a name? the midwife asked. She did, and it was what it is, but suddenly it seemed like too big a name to give such a tiny, miniature girl. I pictured Fiona as this brazen, blond toddler fighting fiercely for her turn to ride the scooter and chasing around her much older siblings in the backyard. But this tiny creature? The name seemed so big... I voiced my worry, but Pam confirmed her name. I see Fiona as such a small, delicate thing. It's five letters, so small, for the three syllables... I think it's perfect. And so it was a done deal, her name was what we had chosen for her on a steamy August night by the lake in Ontario, and she became my little Fiona Clementine.
And since then? It has been absolutely the best babymoon ever. Liam and Aoife absolutely love their sister. This I did not expect-- this instantaneous love for her. They adore her, they climb into bed with us and curl themselves around her, letting their lips graze her soft cheeks, loving the feel of her latch when she "kisses" their cheeks in her hunger. They marvel over her tiny fingers and toes, they want to hold her all the time. In our 8 days of being home together, our only issues have been whose turn it is to hold their "newborn baby".
And Fiona? She is a quiet little mouse, peaceful and serene. She is rhythmic and predictable, sleeping nearly all the time now. She wakes, stretches, poops, is awake for a few minutes, roots quietly, eats, and sleeps again. She has yet to cry, and with the exception of two car rides and the obvious diaper changes, she has not yet been put down in this life. Wrapped in somebody's arms at every moment, it is no wonder that she sleeps peacefully, looks around serenely, and needs only to open her little mouth like a robin before she is fed. I love the little family that surrounds her and the life we are making for her. I feel unbelievably blessed. I am emotionally and mentally prone with gratitude, kissing the earth below me in thanks for this gift of life that I cherish beyond explanation.
Fiona's placenta-- cord side-- the tree of life.