Today my baby turns 17. Where did the time go, hard to believe, seems like just yesterday she was learning to walk, wearing the same yellow tutu every day, small enough to nestle comfortably on my hip and cling to me as I held her.
I don’t think I’m the only mom who, on her child’s birthday, thinks back to that child’s birth day. Abby was my fourth, and the only one born at home. I’d thought about a home birth before but hadn’t been brave enough to go for it. After I had Claire, number three, I boasted that if I ever got pregnant again, I’d do it. It was easy to say, since I didn’t plan to be pregnant again, but when Claire was eleven months old, it happened.
We chose the first midwife we interviewed and never looked back. I went to one appointment at a women’s clinic to set up hospital back-up in case it was needed, but other than that there was little to no testing. I’m a worrier by nature, and wondered whether my midwife’s hands-off philosophy might cause me anxiety, but it was quite the opposite. With so few tests performed, there were no results to wait and worry about.
My midwife was calm, caring, and quietly confident about the whole process. She put me at ease. I’d already given birth three times and been fortunate enough to be able to say I enjoyed the experience. I was looking forward to doing it again.
We’re people people, and I planned to have a full house for the birth, just as I had at the hospital when Claire was born. Then, my husband, two older children, and a close friend were all in the birthing room. My mother came, too. During labor Claire had tachycardia, a minor complication which was easily fixed by hydrating me, but still resulted in the medical staff’s insistence on extra vigilance with the fetal monitor and a tense discussion between my husband and the obstetrician in which he (on both our behalf) refused use of a scalp electrode. My mother became so agitated she had to leave. In spite of the fact that she’d had four children of her own, she couldn’t deal with being there. Or perhaps it was because of that fact–her hospital births hadn’t all been smooth sailing. Whatever the reason, I debated about whether to invite her to Abby’s birth. I didn’t want to deal with her worries and anxieties in the birthing room again. In the end, I decided her presence was more important than my ambivalence.
She and my aunt arrived in the morning, a few hours before Abby was born. My husband, my older children, a couple of friends, the midwife, and the midwife’s assistant were already there. Rather than waiting around in the birthing room the whole time, my kids were free to come and go as I labored, to go about their business of work and play infused with wondrous anticipation about what was going on in the next room.
Claire, a few months shy of two, stuck close to me for much of the time, intently watching, quiet and transfixed. We had talked to her beforehand so she knew what to expect. I’ll never forget the moment when I was kneeling on the bed, mid-contraction, and Claire climbed onto the mattress to carefully place under me one of the absorbent pads we had on hand to protect the sheets.
When I knew the time had come I told the midwife’s assistant to rally the crowd. In they came, and surrounded me with a tight circle of love and support as Abby entered the world. The midwife, present and unobtrusive as ever, handed her to me without saying a word so we could discover her for ourselves. Claire, who knew that the baby’s first action in the world would likely be nursing, looked intently at her sister and said, “Baby, baby. Nurse. Nurse.” Which, of course, she did.
Perhaps most surprising of all was my mother, who’d been completely relaxed and conversational with everyone since she’d arrived, and who stood beaming in the birthing room. With that glow about her, she headed downstairs to finish the work she’d started in the kitchen, and shortly thereafter I was relaxing and tandem nursing in my own bed, being served an Italian feast.
Now many rich, full years have passed. It’s time for me to go downstairs into my kitchen, to make a feast of strawberry and nutella crepes to celebrate Abby, whose birth day I recall so fondly and vividly. Happy birthday, baby, and love to you, always.