I can remember having a conversation with my midwife Ellen when Christian, my first, was about a year old. We were chatting about random things when she pops up with this thought: "I think a cancer girl would be a nice addition to your family". (Think, zodiac signs.) I have no idea if she'd remember saying that but for some reason it always stuck with me. Cancer girl, I contemplated ... nurturing, earthy and calm. Sounds nice! When October rolled around the following year, I waited until about 3 days before ovulation, threw on my hottest lingerie and wiggled a seductive finger "thisa way" to Frank. He'll tell you he had no part of this, but in my mind, this "cancer girl" was already a done deal! Without taking a single test at all, my pregnancy was confirmed after 19 days of high temperatures using the sympto-thermal method of NFP. I was pregnant and due between July 19- 23 depending on calculations.
Having had such a fulfilling experience with our midwife the last time, we begged Ellen to provide our prenatal care and attend our upcoming birth. She had to give this decision some serious thought. While a 7 mile distance separated us the last time, a move to Ohio had taken place since, and from her front door to ours was now exactly 2 hours. We begged harder and finally, she agreed to take care of us.
I felt blessed to have enjoyed a fantastic, healthy pregnancy and convinced myself this had to be another boy. I carried the same, craved the same things and felt the exact same way I did the first time.
On Sunday July 10th after a typical church and lunch Sunday morning, I jokingly asked Frank how cool it would be to have our baby tomorrow on 7-11. Better yet, what if the baby was BORN on 7-11, AT 7:11 and WEIGHED 7lbs 11oz? He playfully rolled his eyes and told me I shouldn't be so superstitious. Of course my baby would choose his or her own birthday, but that lucky 7-11 was still swirling around my mind.
July 11th about 4:30am - I awake to dull achiness. Yuck. Walking around and a couple of loads of laundry later, I'm fine so I go back to bed.
6:00am - Christian wakes up uncharacteristically early. He normally gets up at 9 or 10am. I take the opportunity to get up and make breakfast and spend time with him. Little did I realize that this would be the last quiet morning, just him and I.
12:00 noon - We both nap.
2:30pm - We both awaken. I have a super faint bloody show and more dull achiness. Better call Ellen to fill her in. She is working on some home improvement project. I tell her "Don't come now, it's not that bad, I'll call you back in an hour". MISTAKE! (but I don't know that yet) I have my very first contraction while on the phone, and another 2 minutes later. I manage contractions and walk/breathe through them just fine. At one point I can remember laying on my bedroom floor, working through a contraction. My sweet almost 3 year old little boy lays down face to face with me, strokes my cheek and says so reassuringly "It's okay mama, my tummy hurts too."
I've now totally lost track of time. I call Frank to alert him that I'm in labor. I ask his schedule, and he informs me that he has a 4:45 patient coming in and asks if I can wait. I tell him I'm not sure. I'm sure I'll be fine. I'll call him back. Before I know it, contractions start to get pretty intense. Crap! This place is a mess! I start vacuuming in preparation for my birth team's arrival, which is not working for me too well. I am on all fours now working through contractions mid-vacuum line, and I call Frank back, sounding panicked, mostly just to get sympathy. Frank tells me to call someone, anyone, to come over to help with Christian. I think I'm fine so I don't.
I manage to call Sam, my doula, a little later and ask her in the most pathetic of voices, "Sam, can you come over???" Sam is in nursing school and happens to have an exam right then. She goes to school, pleads with her instructor who completely disregards the urgency of the situation, so Sam (bless her heart), agrees to take a big fat ZERO on my account, and walks out of class. My other doula Holly is somewhere in the middle of wild, wonderful West Virginia, in transit on her way home from picking her kids up from camp. Sam calls Holly on her way over, but Holly thinks that maybe I don't really want her here since I didn't call myself. Oh Jeez Holly! Get here - QUICK!
Next I remembered that I haven't showered yet and lots of people are coming over to see me naked. I jump in and suds up. That shower felt awesome, and in the shower I stayed. I sent Christian down to unlock the door for Sam. I am at the point now where my body is in total control, not me. Sam's voice was heaven and calls out "Chris, I'm here!" and I immediately thank the Lord because it was not the situation in itself that was scary, it was that I couldn't keep tabs on Christian very well, with labor coming on so quick. Sam assesses the situation and tells me she could hear me from outside - with the windows all closed! To be fair, the windows aren't great. They're kind of thin. Sam goes to get the birth ball for me to lean on in the shower. I am on all fours. Sam is now IN the shower with me, rubbing my back and squeezing my hips. Yes, the shower is running still, where does one find such great friends?
Somebody at some point calls Frank the husband and Ellen the midwife to let them know that is baby is NOT waiting for anyone and that while things are progressing quickly, they are progressing normally. Totally unknowing to me, Frank has since called off the rest of his patients for the day and is driving the one hour drive home at 90 MPH, praying to God he doesn't get pulled over while listening to the Christian radio station for good measure.
I hear Holly arrive and I can feel the comfort that brings to all of us. One more set of eyes, one more person to help. Sam mumbles some stats and facts to fill Holly in and although I'm not aware because I'm wrapped up in laborland, there are "holy shits" and "WTF's" being mouthed in silence behind my back. Who cares. I love, trust and feel safe with these women. These aren't just ANY women. These are both intelligent, educated women with experiences both personal and professional that hold a lot of weight in the world of mothering and childbirth. Sam was well on her way to becoming an RN, IBCLC and has been with LLL for 17 years. She is a doula and mother of 4 - 3 were home VBAC's! Holly is an LPN, mother of 4, 2 born at home, childbirth educator and doula and even though she didn't know it then, was on her way to becoming a midwife assistant herself.
I'm not sure if they make onion sandwiches, but if they do, that's exactly what Holly ate for lunch just before she arrived at my house. Holly whipped open my shower door, got down to my level, locked eyes with me, and said with more authority than I've ever heard her use "Hey, there is no reason for all that noise. Use your energy to bring your baby down with sways, moans, breathing." She may as well have said "Hhhhhey. You got any more hhhhhonions? I could really use some hhhhhelp cutting up some more hhhhhonions so I can have them hhhhhandy." (Note to self: Have mints available at next birth.) We laugh our asses off about this now, but I really though at that moment, if this kid didn't kill me, then surely it would be death by onions. And Holly is a really hygienic person, so this really came from left field. *Whew* I closed my eyes, rocked my hips and thought of my baby. I was snapped out of my trance by the strangest sensation. It felt like someone was half way up my can, followed by a discreet "Oop! A little peanut butter!" Confusion. I didn't have peanut butter recently. There is no peanut butter upstairs, what is she talking about?! Then the sudden humiliation. OMG! No way. Did I really? And by the way, if you have any ideas as to how to repay the friend that has just taken the liberty of wiping your fanny, please comment below. There are just no gifts ... no words .... I love Sam.
The really good news was that there, in my spacious tiled shower, where my two great friends were helping me deliver my baby, one still half naked and partially wet from the hot running shower, somebody's head was sticking out of me! But ... already? Where is the midwife? Where is my HUSBAND? My baby was already being born, whether we liked it or not, whether we were prepared or not, whether I thought I could do it practically alone or not. A tiny new life, with jet black hair and wide eyes (what a view that must have been) fully alert, was well on it's way! Holly told me that on the next contraction I could push my baby out. That contraction never came, we just sat there for what seemed like a long long time, probably 30 seconds. Finally I got too impatient and pushed the baby the rest of the way out in one swoop! Holly caught the slimy new thing and instructed me to swing my leg over the cord and sit down. Finally, the intensity of the situation was subsiding just a little since the baby was all the way out. I just sat and observed. This baby looked different then the last. This one had very strong features, a very Romanesque nose and that hair - just black as black can be! The cord was really short, so much that I could hardly bring the baby up to me. The girls claimed that they never saw the sex of the baby, but I don't see how they wouldn't have known by then. Even if they did, they did what they SHOULD have done, which was to let ME discover it and announce it first. THAT is what is right! Man, do I LOVE those women! They just get it, they just know.
10 minutes later a frantic Frank enters the room with a look of "What just happened in here??". "Well, what is it?" he asked. "It's a GIRL!" I exclaim with tears in my eyes! There she is, the cancer girl, born on 7-11. A dream come true! I finally had the chance to rinse the conditioner out of my hair, so I finished up my shower and noticed the bittersweet feeling of an empty belly, but a heart swollen with love and appreciation.
She was born around 5:15 pm - we forgot to look! Just in time for dinner! And speaking of dinner, I had a tray of lasagna downstairs in the fridge that Sam threw in the oven. We left the new baby girl's cord intact for a long time, and I delivered her placenta via the midwife over speakerphone. What a circus! Our baby was pink, alert, breathing, perfect! Apgars 10 and 10.
Ellen finally arrived 45 minutes later. I was WAY off on that timing, and I take full responsibility for not telling her to head down sooner. But how should I have known I'd have a 2 hour 45 minute labor?? It was a whirlwind of an ordeal, but this birth taught me more about trust, the birth process and my body's capabilities than I'd ever realize. I had no tears, no stitches, no trauma and birthed her on hands and knees hugging that birth ball, the way that felt right.
After Ellen's newborn check, the birth team threw in some laundry, cleaned up, and brought plates of dinner up for all of us to enjoy while we got to fall in love with our newest family member. One of my best friends, Shayla, arrived then, to check out the new addition and to bond with the family. I smiled an appreciative smile, as I watched from my bed, as she got out of her car with a huge tote of girl clothes. We're not finder-outers, didn't have a single ultrasound, but we were covered! (I love you, Shayla!) A couple hours later, I was in Christian's room installing his bed frame so he could sleep in his new bed that night. Okay, truthfully, I was afraid Frank wouldn't do it right so I wanted to do it myself, but the picture we caught always gives us a chuckle!
When our baby girl was one week old, we named her Francesca (after her daddy) Alexa (after St. Alexander). She was 7lbs 6oz and 20 inches, black haired and blue eyed! Six years later, she has proven to be exceptionally nurturing, which is helpful since we added two more siblings after her. She is also very calm and reserved. We are blessed by her presence. Happy 6th Birthday Francesca Alexa, my beautiful girl!
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