March 18, 2001, 8:44am
Arden is our second child, our second daughter, an amazing gift, and a wonderful little sister to her big sister Kealey, whose birth story appears early in this book.
The whole time I was pregnant with Arden, I was in disbelief a lot- even though I could see that I was pregnant and feel the baby moving. I had a hard time believing we’d actually have a baby at the end of the process. I had a very hard time sensing who this child was, but when I think about it, I thought the baby was a boy- mostly because the pregnancy felt so different than the first time. I also was very nervous that this labor would be very quick and chaotic- the start of life with two children! However, when I did consciously slow down and go inside myself- once at 20 weeks and again 4 days before she was born, I felt the calm, and strength and trust that brought me through the process.
My due date was March 17- St. Patrick’s Day- and being Irish, I was thrilled and hopeful that this child might manifest some aspects of her Irish heritage- red hair, freckles, a St. Pat’s birthday. But since our first daughter looks almost solely like her Swedish side of the family, I thought there was a good chance that this child would also look very Swedish. So, if we could at least have that St. Patricks Day birthday….I was fond of the idea…
…So fond, that I actually decided to drink some castor oil on the morning of March 17. I read Spiritual Midwifery and actually drank 3 doses over 3 hours as suggested. It was not nearly as gruesome as I had always heard about… Around 2pm, no signs of labor in sight, I suggest to my husband that we all go walk at Ocean Beach- it’s an uncommonly beautiful, blue sky- an almost warm, almost spring day in San Francisco. My mind is scattered, more than I realize, and it’s almost 4pm before we get out the door. As we drive over to the beach, I feel really uncomfortable and confined and almost insist we turn back and go home. But I have to pee so badly and the bathroom at Beach Chalet is closer than home. He drops me off at the entrance and I waddle in as quickly as a woman of my size (and state of mind) could. I feel tremendously better after peeing and resolve that I really want to walk on the beach and feel the energy and calm and power of the ocean. It’s a spectacular afternoon and I manage to walk for about an hour before feeling like I have to get back home. Still no clear signs of impending labor, so we decide to get spicy Thai food from Marnee Thai- there’s still 6 hours of St. Patrick’s Day left…
We bring the food home and light our three candles- the fourth sits dark, quietly waiting for the new baby’s arrival. After dinner, I sit with Kealey and notice that the abdominal pains I’m experiencing have some regularity to them and involve my whole uterus. I sit through a few more and start to wonder whether we should call the midwives and support people- I felt a very quick labor was likely and didn’t want to somehow deliver before the midwives arrived. Maria told me to go to bed and see what happened. I called Joan, who was making St. Patrick’s Day scones with her sister in Millbrae, and told her things might be starting. I felt very sheepish about asking her to come over before things were gangbusters. We decided that she and her daughter Orla, 7 years, would come soon, and spend the night, so that if this was real no one would have to mobilize in the middle of the night. We got Kealey to sleep around 9:30pm and soon after, Joan and Orla arrived. We got Orla to bed and then Joan and I stayed up and talked for awhile while Craig puttered about in the kitchen and laundry porch. Finally, I looked at the clock and saw that it was midnight- St. Patrick’s day was officially over. I checked to see what Craig was up to- he was ironing all of our napkins! I figured my nesting, maternal energy was really affecting him. (He had also set up the birth tub so that it was ready…)
Finally, everyone went to bed, our house full of people excitedly anticipating the birth. Sure enough, I woke up at 3am, knowing that labor had truly begun. I enjoyed a few contractions in the dark quiet, talking to the baby, assuring him/her that we were ready and that he/she would be safe and strong for the passage. Everyone else was still sleeping, and I got up and went to the bathroom a couple times, plotting when I would awaken Craig and call the midwives, hoping to wait until approximately 6am. Around 4am, I felt things accelerating and knew I needed to wake Craig, who woke Joan and called Maria, Clark and Beth. As I sensed everyone arriving quietly, I felt my attention shift inward. Heather Joy arrived and sat in front of me, on the floor, gentle and wide-eyed and encouraging while I sat on the edge of my bed, moaning to the baby with each contraction.
I could really feel how this labor was marching right along- not too fast, but no long pauses. Maria checked me around 6:00am and said I was 7cm. At 7am I was fully dilated and they said I could get into the birth tub to push her out. It took a few minutes to mobilize to get out of the dining room. A contraction hit just as I got there and I yelled out- making low but loud, powerful noises to match the intensity of what I felt. I looked outside the dining room window just before crawling into the tub and saw the neighbor’s magnolia tree in full bloom. Its spectacular color and beauty washed across me and permeated my awareness. I thought the baby would be here in 2-3 pushes and I realized someone would need to wake Kealey up. Amazingly, she had slept through everything up to this point!
Kealey entered the room and was in this amazing space. She approached the tub gently and confidently and offered my water from her special water bottle. She watched a contraction and then, not phased at all, calmly asked me if I wanted her to massage my heart. It was an incredibly dear, spontaneous, aware offering and I really wanted to say yes, but massage was low on my wish list at that moment. She conferred with the midwives, wanting to get into the birth tub with us at the earliest possible moment.
The pushing contractions were intense and powerful and in the water, they felt deep and right. Between contractions, I could totally space out and relax in the water, imagining that I was lounging in a natural pool at the base of a waterfall. I’d been pushing for awhile- maybe 45 minutes or an hour, and I was surprised that I wasn’t feeling the “ring of fire” yet. I thought that maybe I was just losing my focus in the final phase and told myself to get with it and finish the job. Maria later told me that after watching about 4 or 5 pushes and seeing how effective they were, she realized that this was probably a big baby and started to prepare herself.
Finally, I felt the baby at the opening and with a few more pushes, she was finally out! I had always envisioned that I would be totally aware and reach down and pull her to me, watching her “swim” for a few moments before drawing her close (Instead, I spaced out until she was on my chest). When she was finally out, I was so relieved and thankful- Maria’s assistant, Heather Joy, caught the moment on film- and it truly captures the joy and relief of the moment.
We had Kealey check to see whether the baby was a little sister or brother, and when she said “It’s a sister!” I almost died- I thought she was wrong and looked down myself. I was so thrilled to welcome another little girl into our family. Hmmm, no wonder I could only think of little girl names during the pregnancy…!
Kealey climbed into the tub with us and we enjoyed a few minutes of being a “water family” before I had to get out and birth the placenta. Everyone was marveling at how big the baby was and, her hair was definitely red! Maria and Heather Joy dried me off and comfortably settled in the chair and I nursed her and just soaked it all in. Arden was born at 8:44am and the day, Sunday, was just coming into fullness and beauty- very different from Kealy’s 1:30am birth- things got quiet and still for a few hours before the excitement began again!
Maria and Heather Joy did the post-partum exam and gave me one stitch for my tiny vaginal tear. Finally the baby’s newborn exam where everyone guessed at her weight- I guessed 9lb 12oz but Craig said she feels like “a crate of zucchini”- atleast 10lbs. Maria put her in the sling and sure enough- ten pounds exactly! Wow- it never occurred to me during labor that I would have a big baby and I’m glad I didn’t know. I would have worried about whether I could do it. Just trusting my body and welcoming the comfort and support of the water, and having a team of my closest friends, family and Maria and Heather Joy, to whom I would trust my life- and our wonderful home- I can’t imagine a better way to welcome our wonderful daughter. She has been an incredible gift and Kealey has been a fantastic, loving big sister. Parenting two has been so much more joyous than I expected. Our charm shows a person with a hand and a heart- symbolizing Arden coming into circle of waiting hands and hearts.
Love Always & Thank You