Archive for April, 2011

I concluded my previous post, “Snow Place Like Home”, with my resignation and late realization that I had absolutely no control over when our third child would arrive and placing faith in God that he would allow our little one to be born as perfectly as possible in the midst of record snow storms, family illnesses and inaccurate due date information. Just minutes after writing the final sentences of that reflection, Jaime called at 12:12 am on January 30th from her mother’s home and told me to come back over to the house. Our baby was coming.

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August 2005 marked the end of our first year in Montana and our first wedding anniversary. It was also the month we ran across an article in the Missoula Independent entitled, “Let Your Monkey Do It.” The article was authored by a husband and first time father who wrote about the experience he and his wife had in deciding on a home birth over a hospital delivery. The piece was our first exposure to Ina May Gaskin and her natural childbirth philosophies including her encouragement to women to not let “your over-busy mind interfere with the ancient wisdom of your body.” In her recommended book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Gaskin observes, “Monkeys don’t think of technology as necessary to birth-giving; Monkeys don’t obsess about their bodies being inadequate… Monkeys don’t do math about their dilation to speculate how long labor might take… Monkeys in labor get into the position that feels best, not the one they’re told to assume.”

The author summed up Gaskin’s advice, “Your monkey is a way to remember in the throes of labor that natural childbirth is not only possible, it’s, well, natural.” Despite Jaime being told in her teens that she may not be able to get pregnant, it appeared my wife was a perfect candidate for a home birth. In addition to being a strong, adventurous and vibrant young woman, a home birth would prevent her from succumbing to “white coat syndrome” and her rational fear of unnatural medical interventions. After reading the article we quickly became convinced that home birth was for us; a decision facilitated by living in granola-friendly Missoula.

But our home birth plans were arrested when in January 2007, we learned we were pregnant, just one month after moving to the East Coast. Natural childbirth took a backseat to simply finding someone willing to provide prenatal care despite the fact that my new employer-based health insurance would not be activated for another month. God guided us to a practice, who medically-minded as they were, assisted us with Clara’s arrival at Yale New Haven Hospital on September 30, 2007. Though the birthing experience was beautifully memorable, we had to constantly fight to protect Jaime’s space and our birth plan during the delivery and were less than enthused about returning to a hospital for our next birth experience.

Despite being well insured throughout the second go around, Shepard was also born at Yale New Haven Hospital as the highly litigious and traditional New England culture yields very few midwife/home birth practices and there were no such practices accepting new mothers at the time. I should add Shepard was nearly born in the back of our Ford Explorer, as he entered the world less than ten minutes after our arrival to the hospital. Our doctor had flatly declined to acknowledge that Jaime was in active labor just four hours before he was born and then on the way to Yale we got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour resulting in what Jaime refers to as the “worst hour of my life.”

Needless to say, when Birth and Beyond contacted us midway through this third pregnancy offering an opening for their home birth and midwife services, I could not have been more eager to sign up. However, insurance only covers the cost of one midwife and for safety purposes, the practice requires two midwives to attend and assist the birth. The out-of-pocket cost for a second midwife plus all of the supplies, kits, herbs, etc. totaled over $800, and thus the mutual decision to move forward wasn’t automatic as there were brake rotors in need of resurfacing, a dental crown in need of fitting, an oil tank in need of refilling, student loans in need of repayment etc. I felt strongly this was the path we should be heading down, but I also wasn’t the one about to give birth.

Jaime maintained a positive view of home birth, but presented a number of realistic barriers and concerns at our particular juncture. In addition to the financial setback, she was right to point out that our century old home is not an ideal place to give birth to a child in the winter. However, she was most concerned with losing the opportunity to get some rest at the hospital for a couple days away from Thing One and Thing Two and the associated trappings of motherhood. Noticeably, our initial reservations failed to include the incessant record setting blizzards and the resulting transportation dilemmas that would present themselves in late January. Despite these concerns, we decided together to move forward with Birth and Beyond feeling that a home birth was the best choice for both baby and mom.

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Jaime’s contractions started on Friday evening, January 28th, four days after her “due date”. We took Clara and Shepard over to Nana’s house believing we were in for a long but memorable night. As we prepared to head back home after dropping the kids off, Jaime received strength-giving hugs from her mother and Garrett, the type of embraces that emanate the deepest love and transcend words, thus none need be spoken. We arrived home ready to deliver but our little one was not yet ready to arrive. Jaime’s contractions remained 10 minutes or more apart lasting between 20 and 30 seconds, but did not progress. Jaime made the decision to lay down to rest and fortunately rest became a few hours of needed sleep.

Saturday the 29th began with contractions starting again at 3:00 am. But for the next six hours, the contractions remained at least 10 minutes apart. We prayed, ate breakfast and Jaime commented how nice it was to be able to drink her tea while it was still hot, as the kids were still at Nana’s and not present to demand multitasking. On both Clara and Shepard’s birth days we had done a fair amount of outdoor walking prior to delivery, and we decided to take a winter approach to this tradition by heading to Planet Fitness in Meriden in an attempt to walk the baby out on treadmills. We walked for 45 minutes, but instead of progressing labor, the exercise appeared to be stunting it. Unlike our first two children whose arrival was hastened by movement, this baby seemed to be of the opinion that the right time to be born was a time when Mom was not shoveling snow, carrying 30-plus pound children up and down the stairs or participating in any type of aerobic activity whatsoever.

As it seemed Baby Fisher 3 might just be waiting for Mom to just sit down and relax, we attempted all manner of lazy recreation. We heard once on NPR that hens are more prone to laying eggs when listening to the Blue Danube Waltz, and Jaime derived so much joy from this fact that she periodically would listen to the composition while pregnant with Shepard. However, with a recent computer crash limiting our music library, we instead sought birthing inspiration from Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” with lyrics such as “I’ll find strength in pain.” We resorted to a favorite pastime of watching movie trailers online. Jaime took particular joy in watching the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean 4, strongly identifying in labor with Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow who self-referentially exclaims, “Did everyone see that?! Because I will not be doing it again.” Finally, Jaime got cozy on the couch and started reading “The Invisible: What the Church Can Do to Find and Serve the Least of These” by Arloa Sutter, easily trumping my decision to get in touch with my inner child while playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii. But the authentic inner child seemed no closer to coming out.

At the end of the reproductive process, lounging about the house had Jaime feeling lazy and extremely unproductive. She cited the old adage that a “watched kettle never boils” and grew visibly restless. I believed Jaime should continue to rest, but consented to actively waiting for the birth of our child by continuing to live our lives. We ordered Trackside Pizza and headed back to Nana’s house to feed and pick up the kids. After dinner, we made the decision that I would head back home with Clara and Shep while Jaime would remain at her mom’s home for the night to relax. I put the kids to bed and got to work writing “Snow Place Like Home.”

Just as I put the final touches on the blog entry after midnight, I received a phone call from Jaime. It was time. There was determination in my wife’s voice and I quickly got ready to leave by packing all of our home birthing supplies and extra bed sheets. Nana and I would trade places, she would come over to be present for the sleeping kids and I would help Jaime with welcoming our newest one. Early on, we had entertained the idea of the home birth occurring at my mother-in-law’s home before deciding on our place; evidently our decision had been overruled. This was comforting though, as there was sufficient winter parking at Blair’s place for the midwives and her home already had positive birthing vibes from our previous pregnancies as Jaime had completed the majority of her active labor there on both occasions. As I left to meet my wife Nana reported Jaime was humming the “Happy Birthday” tune through contractions to welcome the baby.

I arrived shortly after 12:30 am to find my wife kneeling in the living room with her head on the couch, quietly breathing through a contraction. Jaime had again been woken up by her contractions and they had been rapidly increasing in frequency and intensity. The midwives had already been called and the first arrived close to 1:00 am when Jaime’s contractions were coming only three minutes apart and over a minute in duration. However, the introduction of a new energy into the home seemed to slow Jaime’s labor down.  As the midwife checked my wife, her contractions slowed to a pace of every five to seven minutes.

Jaime decided to take a shower and headed for the bathroom. The midwife consulted with me and gave her estimate that Jaime would give birth around 9:00 am. I had seen my wife do this before, so I politely disagreed knowing we were close, but apparently I was not convincing as the midwife called her backup and advised a delayed arrival to get some additional sleep until Jaime’s labor progressed. I checked on my love as she continued to hum “Happy Birthday” in between contractions during the next half hour. The midwife asked Jaime how many contractions she had during her 30 minutes in the shower, and Jaime replied there were four but did not elaborate. Based on this report, the midwife was confident her estimate of the birthing process was accurate, but did not take into account that Jaime is not one to care about statistics nor is she prone to letting on to pain. My wife later told me there may have been more than four contractions and that at least two of them had been extremely intense signaling things about to come.

The midwife suggested Jaime lay on her side to get some rest. I sensed Jaime, now deep into stealth transition mode, wished to express vehement disagreement with this plan, but did not have the energy to do so and instead chose to comply with the proposition. She laid down embracing a pillow and closed her eyes. Like the eye of a storm, Jaime’s face swept over with calm and she appeared to be falling asleep. As we approached 2:45 am, I remember thinking that perhaps the midwife was right. Maybe my wife was asleep, the midwife certainly seemed to think so as she headed for the kitchen to prepare some food. Then I saw Jaime’s hand. While her face remained serene and she did not make a noise, her hand was slowly yet powerfully grasping the pillow in a downward stroke that reminded me of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Jaime later reported she had read it would help while giving birth to think about other sensations in an effort to take her mind off the labor and she was fiercely trying to experience the softness of that pillow in lieu of birth pangs.  She also informed me that when she appeared tranquil and silent, she had been internally repeating her favorite birthing mantra of “Open like a flower” trying to embrace the pain and refusing to be afraid. During this period of pseudo-sleep Jaime reported there were another four contractions, the worst of the worst, throughout which she remained stoically focused on her work at hand without making a sound.

With no overt signals to interpret, and Jaime seemingly resting, I decided to make a quick trip to the restroom. After a minute or so, I started back for the living room only to meet my wife in the hallway as she was on urgently on her way to the bathroom. I assisted Jaime with getting there where she sat down on the toilet in reverse placing her head and folded arms on the tank. Jaime quickly but quietly whispered, “I hate this part.” I began to suggest that she could change laboring positions, before realizing that she was talking about the actual birth itself!

I looked down to find our baby’s amniotic sac still intact, but about to burst and when it did, I won’t lie, for a split second thought perhaps our child’s head had exploded. I quickly came to my senses as Jaime yelled for help from the midwife. Jaime was now standing and began to lean on me for support. I crouched down a bit to help her rest on me as the midwife sprinted into the bathroom. I was awestruck as I saw our baby begin to enter the world; a scrunched beautiful face captured my heart and attention. Jaime gave her last energies to pushing the child completely out as gravity helped expel the newborn inches from the ground before some fine receiving work on the part of the midwife caught our baby and handed her to mom.

There can be no more heartwarming experience than to watch a mother hold her child for the first time. Jaime beamed at our baby with genuine unconditional love that immediately melted away all of the pain and discomfort of the pregnancy. The child took its first gasp of air with a who-sized yelp. Our midwife was visibly in shock at Jaime’s incredible delivery and stated she would catch 18 more of Jaime’s children. She admitted to thinking Jaime had been asleep and that she had not caught a baby without gloves in a decade, but had responded in the moment with incredible skill and decisiveness. I could not have been more in love with my wife and was eager to find out whether our child was a boy or a girl.

From the beginning we had decided to wait to find out the baby’s sex, but I never wavered in believing the child would be a girl based on a number of similarities to this pregnancy and Jaime’s pregnancy with Clara. Therefore, I was elated, but not surprised, when I confirmed that we had a little girl. She was born at 2:51 am and weighed in at 8lbs. 6oz. using the midwife’s old school fish scale which looks a little like the baby bags storks are always depicted as carrying. The little one was 21” long, but I don’t remember her head circumference as after three children I remain unsure about why it is an important statistic. They don’t even make Padre hats that small.

As all of our incredible kids have done, the baby alertly and immediately began to breast feed and was already forming an amazing bond with her mommy. Jaime was already beginning her recovery process by downing “Labor Aid”, an electrolyte replenishing salty lemon water and honey concoction she described after birth as “everywhere I want to be.”As the midwife began asking Jaime if she would like a tour of her recently delivered placenta, my mind began to be occupied with names.

Mom snuggles Lucy shortly after her arrival

We have waited to name all of our children after meeting them and stand by this process. The front runner going into the birth had been Evangeline, whose meaning is derived from “The Gospel”, and we had planned to call her “Evie.” But as we met the little one, it quickly became clear that this was not Evangeline, but was naturally Lucy.  Lucy means light and was a natural etymological match to Clara which means bright, fitting as every night before bed since Clara’s infancy I had been singing, “See you tomorrow morning, light bright” in a remix of sorts of a line my father used to sing to us before bed. Additionally, Lucy carried extra significance as my maternal grandmother, Lucille, was a spiritual rock in our family, before her untimely death on my birthday in 2009. I loved that the strength of my grandma might have an opportunity to live on in her great-granddaughter and was very pleased when Jaime, who had the last say on this final round, was the first to suggest that we name her Lucy.

The next two hours went by in a blur as we enjoyed our time alone with Lucy and processed her amazing home birth, a process that had been truly protected by God and come about at just the right time. Perfectly as possible indeed. Jaime began getting some much needed and well deserved rest and I dozed off for about an hour around 5:30 am, waking up at 6:35 am again just to hold little Lucy. Not one to waste an opportunity, Lucy warmly greeted me by peeing all over my stomach. I like to think she was marking her territory and I must confess my little girl, I’m all yours.