One year ago today I was in labor. All day, from contractions that started in earnest at midnight until the sprout was born at 11:58pm. While my water broke on the evening of the 15th, there is no doubt that the 16th is his Day Of Birth.
Despite all of the trying and hoping and planning, the classes and reading and shopping, I was not prepared to be having a baby. I like to think that was due to his arrival three weeks ahead of his due date, but the truth is that I probably would have felt completely out of my element at any time. Okay, yes, it would have been nice to not have missed the last class sessions that covered active labor, postpartum issues, and how to take care of your newborn, that probably would have helped a bit. Thankfully my partner had read ahead and we had two amazing midwives and an acupuncturist to help me through the rest of it. Emotionally, though, I am certain that some part of the reason my labor lasted 24 hours was my resistance to the reality that I was actually having a baby RIGHT NOW and was soon to cross over that line between my established comfortable life and my new unpredictable life as a mother. (I’m pretty sure the rest of the reason was the sprout’s elbow, which seemed to be lodged somewhere around my kidney for the duration of my labor, right until he arrived with his hand tucked up on his cheek.)
Yet with all of that swirling around, I knew that I could birth this baby the way I wanted to—in my home, in water, without interventions—and when the time came, I did. In the end, I was strong enough and I was able to connect with that knowledge and use it. There is a lovely quote by one of our midwives in a recent profile where she states her desire for women to understand that they are capable of handling birth because the strength of the contractions is nothing more than the strength of their own bodies. We are not separate from the process: birth is not something that happens to us. Birth is something that we do, or that our bodies do for us if we let them. When the sprout was finally born, I knew that it was time: he had been in there long enough, he was ready to come out, and it was my responsibility to make that happen. I did, and he was born into a pool of water in our home just before the next day arrived. He was tiny and blue and covered in cheesy vernix, and absolutely the most lovely little being my partner and I had ever seen. By effort and grace, we were among the lucky ones: I found the strength to make it to the end at home, and the sprout was just barely large enough to be full term and not need to be transferred for observation.
Despite being absolutely exhausted, I can still remember that first night so clearly. Holding him (I kept offering him to my partner, and our midwives kept reminding me that he needed to stay on my chest while he adjusted to being in the world), marveling at this tiny but feisty part of me that was now on the outside. Handing him over to be measured and weighed, assuring my partner from the other room that there were small outfits in the baby’s dresser drawer if he just kept looking (the sprout was still swimming in the smallest one they could find), and cradling him on my chest when we slept for the first time as a family of three.
And here we are, one year later. That tiny little baby is gone, and I can see how people end up with more (and more) children as I find myself missing that newborn, fiercely at times. Now we have an older baby who weighs nearly four times as much and is on the verge of becoming a young child, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He is delightful in so many new ways, and the fact that they are the same ways that every baby delights all parents takes absolutely nothing from the experience of watching him grow and become himself. So happy birthday, sprout. We’re glad you’re here.