I almost called the midwives that morning to tell them this was The Weekend. I had talked it over with Gary, and said if we could choose, what would be the best time for baby to come? He was in a Navy school and wouldn’t be able to take paternal leave until the middle of the month, and she was due on the 8th; he said Friday the 5th, or some time that weekend. It was the morning of Thursday, June 4th.
Three years ago Jakob had been born at home, with the same nurturing midwives that were attending this second birth. I had had a full 24 hours of gentle pre-labor before the midwives came to Jakob’s birth, and then I had true and actual labor all through the night until his birthday happened at half-past 6 on a Thursday morning.
Now it was another Thursday morning, and I was planning for a birth. If the baby comes today, I don’t want there to be dirty dishes, I thought, as I scrubbed the kitchen spotless. I’ll need food. I made two loaves of paleo almond spongebread, four batches of paleo carrot muffins, a mountain of bacon-wrapped pecan-stuffed dates. It seemed like now I was feeling something, an awakening in my belly, but it was hard to tell because couldn’t I just be imagining it, from wanting it so hard?
I was teaching yoga that evening; every Thursday, I taught a power yoga class at 5:00PM. My students infused me with love and inspiration – how long will you teach before baby comes? they asked me, joyful for my joy. Until the very last minute! I promised hopefully. I wanted to squeeze in every class I could.
Jakob was going to stay with Auntie Cass while I taught yoga. I packed him toys … and then clothes, and extra undies, and some money, and when I dropped him off I buckled his car seat into her car and told her, just in case, what if he stays here with you tonight…? I wondered if it could really be True!
I was signing students in for class. The owner of the studio, a gracious and humble yoga practitioner, helped me with the details. If you need me to teach class today, she reminded me, I came by just in case! I chuckled and said Nah, it’s fine. And then I thought, should I ask her to teach, and just go home now? But that seemed such a waste, I was already here; and anyway, I wasn’t really having a baby yet, actually. I kept poking my stomach – is it getting hard? Is that a contraction, or did I just flex a muscle by accident? Vagueness!
The class was incredible. The students were on fire. A mother and daughter were there, visiting from out of town. They decided to take a yoga class on their vacation, and bought clothes for it that morning. Everyone was excited about my belly and the promise of joy! I was moving between the students, assisting their poses, watching them blossom and unfurl. Then, yes, definitely. That was a contraction. I used the lightest touch to guide fingertips in Virabhadrasana II, and as I stepped away from the student’s space, yes, another one. Wow. I kept moving, talking. With a firm grip, I guided a student into her most expansive Trikonasana and she expanded more when I moved away, owning her pose, and I began to sweat because whoa, I can still speak, but breathe.
They all settled down for savasana. I gave them final adjustments as they slipped into a deep, conscious rest, recovering from the poses. For the first time as a teacher, I rolled up my mat and put it away during savasana; I put my blocks back on the shelf. I sat down to wait, and then slowly recalled them to wakefulness. Smiling and congratulating me, they all said We can’t wait to hear when you have the baby!!! I said, I take a picture of every class in my mind, and I wonder, is this the last class before baby comes? I’m taking a picture of you now!
The next teacher was already in the lobby, getting ready to check her students in. I had heard her come in. I walked from the studio into the lobby and, pulling the door closed immediately behind me I said, “My water just broke.” And the split second I said that, it did. June leaped from the desk. Oh my word! What can I do! I asked for a yoga blanket, and she brought me one. I draped it around myself and sat down, getting my phone out. I could feel Life now, wrapping easily around my abdomen and then gently squeezing, squeezing. I think I’ll call the midwife.
The students were excited, thrilled, everybody anxious to help. June said, What can I do? What shall I do for you? I went downstairs to the entry and sat on a chair, I didn’t think I could stand. I called the midwife and told her I felt fine to drive home, they didn’t seem very strong, I don’t really know, I don’t think there’s a big hurry or anything. I called Gary at work. He immediately headed home. There’s no big rush, I reassured him. There’s a big rush for me! he said. Later, the visiting mother and daughter recalled this moment as the highlight of their trip.
I got in the car to drive home, June offering to take me if I needed. I felt fine, and they weren’t so strong I couldn’t drive. I called Mom, and she was pleased. I hung up and then, Strong. It’s only a fifteen minute drive, but the lights were so long. Then they seemed awfully close, the contractions. I started noting the time each contraction started. By the time I got home – golly, three minutes, maybe four minutes apart, was that even possible?
Gary was getting the house ready, pulling out my birth supplies. The diffuser was sighing softly with essential oils. I took a shower. I kneeled down when I got out, to ride the contraction over, and then I pulled a shirt on. I was sitting on the toilet, gosh it was comfortable there. The midwife came in the house, and I knew she was near me but my eyes were closed so quiet inside, so peaceful in here. I made a sound because that seemed like what she would be expecting. She padded softly away and I heard her murmuring with Gary. “Beautiful … just fine … ”
I came out to the living room to visit. She was setting her things up, unloading her bag. I felt a little guilty. I hoped I wasn’t unnecessarily alerting everyone, maybe over-dramatizing my contractions. I would just feel so badly if she had to pack it all up and go home and come back later! Let’s listen to heart tones, she suggested. Whenever you feel ready. I reclined on the couch and she was listening. The other midwife arrived, and they smiled and approved of the heart tones. Baby was positioned just right!
I was sitting on the floor. My eyes had closed again, better to stay in here. It seemed so bright outside. Can somebody turn out this light? It snapped off. I should have babies more often! I could live like this! I think the midwife apprentice came. I think I was rocking maybe, and groaning through some of the contractions, or making heavy kind of dramatic-sounding sighs.
Can I sit on the toilet? They said yes. Gosh, it just feels so good to sit there. No pressure on the tailbone or anything. I was going through each contraction sort of curiously. I want to move through these, it’s a nice rest in between, just feeling the squeeze and the tautness.
Gary, I said in a tiny voice, and he was there. I had to speak just right, so small so I wouldn’t use any muscles by accident. In between surges of strength in my belly, I said, Could you put … Jakob’s little stool … by the bed … and lay a towel on it? It took so long to speak, but I couldn’t explain myself or open my eyes, because of using Energy. Then I moved out and kneeled on the stool, draping across the bed, and that felt so much better although comfortable didn’t exactly fit, but there I was, and Gary sat in front of me and I could hold his arms so I didn’t slide off.
Did I hear you push? said the midwife. She must be crazy, because I have no idea, really. It seems like I only just got home, and we must have hours and hours to go, maybe another day, so probably not yet. She’s coming in the room. Yes, the head is right there, she said, and like what? I’m not thinking lots of thoughts, just feeling, and just breathing as far down as I can like Pranayama, yoga here, in the bedroom, in the dark, with my eyes closed, making whatever sounds feel the best, and pulling on Gary’s arms, and I open my eyes just one second to see his face and then it’s better to close them again but he’s smiling at me, and she says behind me, Breathe down, breathe down, then push, we want to slow this down, and she had essential oils in a spray bottle because I had asked her to, and in between my teeth grinding together I say to her, Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it, so I can follow her words exactly with my eyes closed and not have to think up if I want to breathe or not, then, push, and head, and shoulders and the whole baby is here and I flop back onto towels because our floor is hardwood, and I pick baby up. Baby is in my arms.
I close my eyes, and lean my head back. The best and purest kind of exhaustion flows through me as I fold naked, slippery Baby in my arms. Two rivers of emotion rush side by side as I feel utter contentment and joy and Finished. The other river is sorrow and grief because some of my dearest friends had this moment stolen from them by Fate and the memories of the little souls are imprinted on me forever.
Then I look at Gary, who has such a face of love and joy. I don’t remember seeing the midwives but they were there. Somebody had a flashlight. I wanted to see if our baby was a boy or a girl, and when I pulled the towel back they shined the light and she was Camille.
I stood up with help and held my baby. She was still tied to me with the umbilical cord. She was born and not born at the same time, she was in two worlds. The blanket of the bed was pulled back and some absorbent pads laid there, and I crawled in so relieved to rest, so happy. So happy. The midwife helped me pull off my t-shirt and then Camille nursed, she knew her job. More contractions, the placenta, and then more contractions but softer now, because the uterus has to get small again and wait for the next baby.
The midwives went about their tasks – the mysterious and magical things that happen when a new soul emerges from the waters and welcomes us to care for it. They went over their notes in the living room while Gary and I rested on the bed. It was 9:30 – it had only been two hours. And I ate, I ate so much! The muffins, the bacon, nectarines, I drank water, I feasted! It wasn’t yet midnight when they tucked us in. Gary had sent a message to Cassandra, and Jakob was spending the night there and he was already asleep and Cassandra said he had so much fun playing and watching a movie. Baby curled up on my chest, unwashed, the vernix drying on her skin, and the three of us slept until morning.