This beautiful girl, our little Mairead, came on Thanksgiving.
She seemed to be coming for days. I went to the New York Hall of Science with D., driving through the slightly insistent but random contractions, stopping to sit and rest the gravity pull on the belly whenever I could, and enjoying the delicious aloneness with my boy before the storm hit. We had greasy empanadas and chicken soup and made our way home. I thought sure she'd come, but she didn't.
By 10 pm i seemed to be having regular, 8-10 minutes apart contractions, so T. and I furiously finished cleaning out and papering the drawers of the chest we'd bought, set up the changing table on top, filled the drawers with all the gowns and onesies and blankets and socks, until the room seemed finally ready. We called the midwife to let her know and she agreed we should drink some wine and go to sleep. We didn't have any, so we drank champagne. I slept off the tipsy buzz, and she didn't come. In the morning I woke up to a silent, still belly.
The next day I went to pick up the laundry, and to buy disinfectant wipes at Winn Discount, and laughed with the owner about my sudden antibacterial impulse, then I went to do one last big shop at Fairway and stopped to bend with the pain and force of a strong contraction over the cart a few times. I lugged the bags to the car and also went to Brooklyn General where Catherine, the owner and a midwife, came in and saw me mid-contraction while perusing some yarn and said, "are you in labor?"
"I guess so, but it's been like this since yesterday," I said. She put her hand on my tight basketball of a contracting belly and said, '"that's a big one. You'll have her tonight." I went home and sat in the glider and rocked and wrote in my journal. There was a sense of calm expectation.
By dinner time I was tired, slow, heavy, ready to lumber to my nest and burrow in, release my civilized self, my doings and thinkings, my previous life, my mostly-non-bodily-conscious self and join my cells and blood and muscle and sinew and become their servant. I knew now that I was ready to give birth. Perhaps if no one had been there and with no maternal duties to perform I would have gone into real labor sooner, but there was still work to be done--children to be fed and bathed and read to and nursed and put to bed. There was too much noise and action. The nest was still busy and demanding. I needed silence and stillness and maybe darkness especially, to do the work. I wasn't thinking this, of course, but looking back I can be aware of it. Somehow I got through dinner, bath, and bedtime. We took some video at bedtime with the kids, and then I went right to bed myself, at 8pm.
At 10 I woke up to strong contractions, somehow more ornery and serious than any before, though still 10 minutes apart. Then they were coming sooner and getting a bit stronger until, by midnight, I thought perhaps something was really happening and I should call Miriam, the midwife. By 12:15 I knew I should call. In the middle of the call my water broke. But still I said, let me call you back when they get closer. I still imagined we were hours away. But 10 minutes later I called back and said, yes, come. By the time she came I was relieved she was there. I think she got there around 1am, but I'm not sure. The next hour and a half seemed like fifteen minutes, maybe half and hour. I went from being able to speak between contractions to beginning to hold on for dear life as what felt like a city bus moved down inside me from somewhere in my middle to somewhere near an opening. I felt her move down through me with each contraction. Big chunks of movement, a cinderblock being shoved into place. Laying on my side on the bed, holding onto T. He started to worry when I began to bite his hand. It become unbearable. Miriam heard the shift with the first contraction that started the change because my bellow changed. "That was different," she said as she came in the room. Soon I was ready to push and with one huge contraction and several pushes, she was out. I remember the first feel of her head. It's silkiness like no softness I've ever known. Animal, damp and slick and the shape of newness and otherness. So exciting and marvelous I have stroked her head every day since, eager to capture a tiny flash of that memory. She was only partly out and then she was out.
Giving birth at home is the most curious and comforting combination. Without the disruption and ceremony and event of going to the hospital, minus all the new people and sensory overload of that experience, the stillness and quiet of homebirth has always been a surprise. That moment when everyday life becomes momentous is blurred so the momentous-ness becomes part of the everydayness, just another day at home, only one after which nothing will ever be the same, only it also will, only it won't . It was especially lovely this time to have the baby come in the middle of the night. After months of dithering about who to have come to take care of the children when I was in labor, we needed no one, and got to be alone in our own bed for the whole time, in the stillness of a cold, November night. Then the sweeties came in and we were all together in our bed and then back snuggled in their sleepy beds, and then we woke up and it was Thanksgiving and four days of solitude and holiday-hum going on outside while we got to hunker down with our new little being.
A few minutes after little M. came out, while I was still stunned by being on the other side of the waiting and actually holding our little brand new human, Miriam said, "want me to go get the kids?" And suddenly D. was running in, and then E. in Miriam's arms, looking a little more sleepy and surprised. I was surprised she would let Miriam bring her. They marveled and kissed and then we got down to waking up grandparents in several states. At 3 am, Grandma had just woken up to read in Florida, at 3:30 Pop Pop said "hot dog!," and Nonnie was up and packing for Pakistan at 4:00.
In between, the placenta was delivered, T. cut the cord, Mairead had her first meal, everyone else ate cereal, and the weighing and measuring was done.
She was held