Giving The Gift of Fearless Birth
Charlotte was four months away from her fourth birthday when I told her the news.
Charlotte was immediately excited, she didn�t have a concept of how or when or where, but she knew in an instant something magical was going to happen. Mommy was going to have a baby.
We were sitting on the back patio, the morning was April First. Life sung out through my belly and Charlotte wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me hard. I explained to her that the baby was growing in my tummy and that it was going to take a long, long time. She lifted her shirt up and showed me her belly.
I realized that she was in for a long curious wait. I was only approximately a month along.
I had read in various places that it�s better to tell children about the arrival of a new baby later in the pregnancy. That the wait is too long and confuses young children. How could I do that though I thought.
I spend day after day with her talking about the blue sky and having picnics under fluffy clouds. She�s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before going to bed. We bathe together, sleep warmly next to each other. We giggle and play and make Popsicles together.
Charlotte's my best friend. And so she�s the first person I told when the home pregnancy test said Positive.
I bought a calendar to help her understand how long a baby growing was going to take. We talked about what the baby was doing inside of me, and which parts the baby was growing that week.
She seemed to understand everything exceptionally well.
Sometime in late summer Charlotte and I started watching home birth videos together. Charlotte witnessed handfuls of births and we talked about the mommies and how she needed to relax to have babies. One day I instinctively told Charlotte, "Mommy will not be hurt. Don't worry about mommy, I will moan and breathe, but not be afraid. Babies can�t be born safe if I am afraid."
Once in a while I would also turn on A baby story, a show on the discovery channel about a couples having a baby. I would joke around to my friends that I watched that show to torture myself.
The births were almost always a frightening disappointment. Mother�s tied to IV�s and monitors. Tired husbands who often times stand clueless to what a woman needs. Doctors and nurses breaking waters, inducing, discussing cesarean section and giving narcotics to laboring mothers.
I used this as an opportunity to teach Charlotte what birth should not be like.
One day Charlotte really became angry while watching a video we had. It was a birth in a birthing center, that was suppose to be natural. However much of the birth was quite intrusive and unnatural. There were lots of people standing around the mother, nurse midwives and various family members.
Charlotte got upset. I didn�t understand why. She started hollering, "We not go there!" She said to my amazement, "We not go there, we stay here and those people not be here."
Apparently Charlotte wanted to stay home as much as I did. I reassured her that we would stay home and "those" people would not be there. She told me that she would help me. She made me so proud that day. I felt so good about how her and I talked about pregnancy and birth and babies. I knew that this experience would be so good for her. I had no doubts that she would be unafraid and helpful during the birth.
In late September of 1999 Charlotte turned four years old. In early October we went shopping for supplies. We bought some Chux pads (large square pads of cotton, with a plastic underside) to have for easy clean up, we bought some herbs and also a stethoscope.
We rushed into the bedroom with the stethoscope. I easily picked up placental sounds, the umbilical cord and then the babies heart beat. Thump, thump, thump, as fast as the babies heart could go, pumping blood through his or hers tiny body. Charlotte then listened with great contentness.
As my tummy swelled her curiosity blossomed. As the baby started becoming fierce with acrobatic talent Charlotte squealed. No longer was pregnancy something Charlotte and I talked about. Pregnancy was something so real we could touch it.
Charlotte loved to put her rubber ducky on my belly to see if the baby could kick it. The baby always did and Charlotte would laugh and laugh. Charlotte begin lifting up my shirt in public and saying, "Feel my momma�s belly, there�s a baby in �dare."
Charlotte wanted to listen to the baby with the stethoscope so often that I had to hide it.
We waited and waited. Once in awhile Charlotte would get impatient. All I ever had to do was explain to her that the baby has to decide when to come out, or the baby wont be strong enough to live and be healthy. That would stir a few weeks of patience into her.
Halloween rolled around, and at the last minute of us leaving the house for a "safe street" kids Halloween fair I had an idea. Lets paint my belly like a jack o lantern I exclaimed!
Charlotte thought it was the funniest idea. I safety pinned my shirt up to expose my whole fat belly. Charlotte helped paint my whole bare belly Orange and we painted a black happy jack-o face. The paint, just regular acrylic craft paint, stayed in place very well. It didn't start trying to peel off until at least 6 hours later. We had a hoot. We went to this fair where there were literally thousands of people. Lots of kids pointed, a few people looked on as if I shouldn't have my naked belly out in public. But, the majority thought it was cute and stared and smiled. Some people at the fair in charge of a costume contest begged me to stay, but we had to leave early. Later I called my parents over and they laughed so hard when I opened the door that they almost fell over.
Late November rolled around, and still no baby. Now I was anxious. I wasn�t sure when the baby would come, but I thought maybe around Thanksgiving. No baby came even still.
It was now December.
On the night of December 16 We laid cozy in bed watching the Lion King. I remember thinking as I drifted off to sleep, what a perfect night to have a baby.
At 8am December 17 my husband and I jumped up when a huge loud POP. It literally shook the bed and sprung me to my feet.
What was that? I realized I had felt the pop, and it came from within me. Did my water break? I felt a little bit of watery moisture. But there wasn�t a gush. Yes my water had broken.
Charlotte woke up about 20 minutes later and rushed to my side. I said mommy�s having the baby. She was so excited, but at the same time she acted like it was no big deal. She totally had the attitude like this was something that happened everyday. I was calm. She was calm. This was the perfect way to have a baby, and I knew it.
She held my hand and listened to me breathe. I labored on all fours mostly I was on the bed with pillows supporting my upper body. I was defying gravity a bit, but it felt good, so I did it.
I was in another world, yet totally aware of what and who was around me. I felt light and blurred and in tune and aware. I could hear my husband or Charlotte asking me questions but many times I could not answer. Sometimes I would jus shoo them away.
I remember charlotte walking around in pajama pants and no shirt. She had a box of cereal in her hand and she munched away watching me contently. At about 9:30 am she went and watched Lion King, but came and checked on me about every 15 minutes. Twice she brought me water, with out any prompting from anyone. She also once placed her hand to my forehead and said, "babies coming momma."
She then trotted off to watch her movie again.
At about 10 am I felt the baby moving down through me with great pressure. I was squatting on the bed with a chux pad under me and Charlotte watched as a little blood dripped from between my legs. Charlotte said, "What's that mommy?"
Between my moaning and groaning I tried to tell Charlotte that the blood was from inside of me and it was supposed to do that.
At about 10:30am I picked myself up with all the strength I could muster and wattled to the bathroom.
Charlotte, Scott and our dog Eskimo followed.
I grabbed a hand held mirror and announced that the baby was crowning.
I showed Charlotte the babies black head of hair that was pushing it�s way out of my body.
She reached out and touched the babies head.
She exclaimed, "The baby is coming the baby is coming!"
I let my body do all the work and wasn't pushing at all. The process was slow, but not painful or frightening. It felt so natural and unobtrusive allowing my body to use it�s subconscious instincts to give birth.
After two or three minutes of waiting I grabbed a wash rag and held it against my vulva to wipe up a little blood. Charlotte chimed in, "oh, your washing the baby momma, is that what your doing."
Although I couldn�t respond to her the sense of humor and comfort was immense. Having Charlotte by my side was comforting and she was so adorable. She kept chanting, "Come out baby. Come out now."
Finally a vast tightening uterine hug fell across my belly like a tidal wave. I took a breath, moaned and my body pushed the babies head out. Then a minute later, once again without conscious effort the wet pink slippery baby slide into both my waiting hands. The baby let out a tiny triumphant cry.
Charlotte was exclaiming "The baby, the baby!" And I was hollering and crying, "We have a baby boy! A little baby boy."
Five minutes later Charlotte watched as the placenta slide out of me. It happened unexpectedly in one swift motion, accompanied by a sprit of blood. She walked over and said, "Mommy, your bleeding a really lot."
She said it twice until she was closer and really peered at her brother up close and all dried off. She wasn't at all afraid of the blood, but now her attention was totally diverted. Once she saw him she kept saying in a soothing whispery voice over and over, "Oh, he�s so little, the baby is so little."
I took a shower quickly to rinse off. I then sat on the couch with my breasts exposed out of my warm fuzzy robe. Charlotte was trying to help her brother and attempted to push his head towards one breast. I told her he had to find it by himself. He started latching on and then losing the nipple a few times. Again Charlotte would try and push him closer to me and he wailed in search of nutrient rich colostrum. She held the top of my robe open making sure he had plenty of room, it was then I looked at her and said, "Charlotte you are the best little midwife I could have ever had."