When my son Emmett was just 3 months old, my menstrual cycle started up again. Which meant that I was ovulating. Which meant I could get pregnant. They say this shouldn't happen so soon postpartum if you're exclusively breastfeeding your baby, but I guess my uterus didn't get the memo. When Emmett was about 6 months old, Eric said, "He's getting so big! Maybe we should have another one". Since he had been adamant about having only one kid until this moment, I jumped on the opportunity. I thought three kids would be right for us, so two was a good compromise. A couple of months later, Lily was created.
I'd been feeling off for a week-ish, but I waited a bit to take the test. One evening we were giving Emmett a bath and I was ready to know for sure if this was a baby. I snuck over to our ensuite bathroom and peed on one of the tests I had leftover from my previous pregnancies. The two lines showed up pretty quickly, and they were definitely solid. I grinned. Hi, baby.
I went back to the splashy, giggly bathroom still grinning. I showed Eric the test. He knew without really looking at it what I was saying, as it was beaming all over my face. "Really?! Oh my god!" And the bathroom now echoed with our joy and laughter, on top of Emmett's.
The first half of the pregnancy is kind of a blur, as I was busy chasing a very energetic toddler through it all. But it all comes back to me clearly once we hit the 20 week ultrasound. (This part of the story can be found in full here.) We found out that our baby had a small right arm, with only two or three digits. So the second half of the pregnancy involved grief, acceptance, love, growth, and specialist appointments.
It didn't take me too long to get to a place of peace, knowing that I was going to love this baby exactly as she was. I trusted that she was entering the right family, and that we could handle this. We could be the parents (and big brother) she needed. I wrote her a letter, and that solidified it for me.
Little Lily Bird,
I love you so much already. Every time you jump or move inside my belly I feel it. I am excited to meet you, and to watch you grow up. You have a really fun Daddy, and a very loving, silly, stubborn, smart big brother. We all love you, and always will. We just found out that you might be a little different from other kids. You are an extra special surprise! You have two eyes, two ears, and two legs, with ten little toes, just like the rest of us. And you have one special little arm. You are so beautiful. I will always be here to help you when you need help. I will kiss you if you hurt. I will sing you a song if you are sad. And I will smile every time you show me your beautiful smile.
My estimated due date was November 27. Having gone 8 days "overdue" with Emmett, I was prepared for a December baby. But on Sunday morning, November 29, I felt what was definitely the beginnings of the birth process. I carried on, as we can do in early labour, having conversations and completing tasks. I even went to the pharmacy, accompanied by my mom and my bestie Steve. I had to pick up a prescribed cream for Emmett, who had a rash on his face. I remember Mom and Steve walking WAY too fast across the parking lot, chatting away. I waddled along slowly, pausing every now and then to lean on the brick wall of the plaza and breathe through a sensation.
When we got back home I wasn't talking anymore, unless it was absolutely necessary. I was going inward, focusing only on what my body was doing, and how I could help it along. My wonderful sister-in-law came to pick up Emmett and Steve, who were going to her place for a sleepover. After a flurry of well-wishes and goodbye hugs, the energy in the house shifted as I fully sunk into active labour. My dear teacher Whapio calls this "Entering the Veil", in her deeply intuitive Holistic Stages of Birth.
Our plan was to have our baby at home, with the support of my mom and our midwives. We'd done this together a year and a half before, and Mom and Eric knew exactly what kind of support I needed. They quietly slipped into their roles of hip squeezers, gentle encouragers, and lower back pressers, keeping me as comfortable as one can be in the birth process. Eric filled the birth pool, and he was so pleased to see the relief on my face when I got into it.
Around that time we called the Semiahmoo Midwives to see who would be joining us. Christy was on call, the newest member of the crew. She came over right away, and checked on my progress. Then she called Jennie to come, too, since it seemed our baby would be coming soon. We were pumped about this, since Jennie had been the midwife who supported us through Emmett's birth. (That story here).
I don't remember much about this part of labour, nor did I ask anyone to keep any notes about timing, progress, etc, so that's not going to be a part of this birth story. What I can recall is that I spoke in languages I don't consciously know while I was in the birthing process. I felt fully safe and supported in my home, which allowed me to open and become completely lost in the altered states of consciousness that birthing invites. I know that I smelled sweat, and it was mine. I recall being asked if I could get up to try to use the toilet, and finding it so hard to get off the bed and walk. I remember puking after the midwife ruptured my waters. I remember my mom kneeling beside me on the bed while I pushed. I was on my knees, leaning forward on a tower of pillows. I recall Eric's presence on my left side, strong and reassuring. I remember telling Mom to stop blowing on my neck when she was coaching me to breathe. I remember the whole house smelled like the beef stew cooking in the crock pot.
And I remember meeting my baby girl.
She was born, and the midwives laid her on the bed beneath me. She cried right away. They told me I could reach down and pick her up if I wanted to. And I sure did. I held her like that, as I came back from the depths and the heights of wherever my mind had gone, to say, "Hi, my baby girl. There you go. I've got you. Hello, little one. Yes, yes. What is this great big world, hey my baby?" as she cried her first strong cries in my arms.
After a couple of minutes, Jennie helped me to lie down. Unfortunately, my brain wasn't yet back to the state of understanding simple instructions like, "roll onto your side", and I flopped back into Christy's sterile instruments that were laid out at the foot of the bed. But it all worked out fine. As Jennie said, "We're nothing if not adaptable!" I know that she said this because Eric made a sound recording of Lily's first cries, and it's a blissful 3 minutes and 44 seconds of her first moments outside my womb. Listening back to it, I appreciate the silence of the midwives for the first two minutes. After that they spoke quietly, and only when needed. All that can be heard is the conversation between my baby and I, with echoes of love and wonder from my Mom, and tearful laughter from Eric. We have only a few blurry photos that Mom took at Lily's birth, so the sound recording is a treasure.
At some point Eric took a good look at Lily's little arm and said, "Trees, she's got a thumb!", and we all celebrated that fact. That would mean she'd have a pincer grasp, which was a blessing. We also saw that her two little fingers were fused together.
She was perfect.
And I was a stinky, bloody mess. After I birthed the placenta, I handed Lily off to Eric and had a wonderful, non-pregnant shower. I've since learned about the 'golden hour', and the benefits of spending the first hour (or more) of a baby's life skin-to-skin with them. But I have absolutely no regrets about giving up that golden hour to have the most satisfying shower of my life. I washed off the blood and the sweat, yes. But I also washed away any lingering doubts I'd held onto about mothering this baby. I was all in. I was ready to love and protect and nurture her with everything I had.
It was around 10PM by this time, and my sister-in-law and Steve popped by to meet Lily, and to give another round of hugs. The midwives stayed to clean things up and to do all of their checks for me and Lily, making sure that my bleeding and her breathing were healthy and normal, and then they quietly left. Mom went home, too. Eric and I were left to marvel at this new person we had decided to bring into our family. Just as she is.