Elsa’s Birth Story:
Elsa Bernadette Wildwood was born in the “early morning sunshine”, as big sister Oona would say, of May 6, 2013. She made a splash into this world at 6:24 am in a warm birthing tub in the comfort of our own home.
I had woken that night at 2:03am with contractions coming frequently. I quickly woke up Jake so he could help me time them. They were consistently around 40 seconds long and coming every 2 minutes or so. I was feeling them in my lower back, as I had with Oona, but this time, also in my pelvic area. Things seemed to be really happening so Jake woke up my mom so she could help us get things ready. My mom had driven up with my dad on the weekend so that she could be here to help out with Oona when labor started. My Dad had left on Sunday afternoon, and it seems she had gotten here at the perfect time because my labor started Sunday night.
We spent that Sunday visiting a May Day festival in Montpelier. There was a lot of walking and hiking that day, and it’s possible that might have jump-started labor. I’d been feeling some contractions here and there, but I’d been feeling Braxton Hicks contractions for the last two months so I wasn’t surprised, though I did have a feeling this baby might come early.
Before bed that night, I was feeling a few more painful contractions and knew that I might wake up to find myself in full labor. I watered the plants in the upstairs living room knowing that they might soon be forgotten.
As predicted, I did wake up with contractions coming regularly. Jake called the midwife after he’d woken my mom and began preparing for a home birth. He put on a pot of coffee while my mom stayed with me and helped with the back pain when contractions came. I drew a quick fortune from a deck of animal oracle cards to distract myself and got the “eagle” which was a card representing strength and courage. I also went on the computer and let a few family and friends know labor was underway. I’m sure they wouldn’t see these messages until the morning, but I thought it would be a nice surprise when they woke up.
Jake put on some Hawaiian music he had downloaded for the birth and worked on moving furniture and rugs so he could bring the mattress in from the bedroom and set up the birthing tub. As the contractions grew stronger, I needed someone there to rub my back as they hit. I tried to keep mobile, circling the room in between each contraction. My mom and Jake took turns, in between running around grabbing things for the birth. My mom made me toast and an electrolyte drink to keep me strong during labor. I nibbled and sipped in between contractions. The Hawaiian music was a good reminder to rock and sway during each contraction. Oona woke up once from her sleep, but one of my helper fairies quickly put her back to bed.
When my midwife, Katherine arrived, she set right to work getting things ready for the delivery. She did not ask to check my cervix and I did not ask her to. I found this a relief and much easier to not know how much I had dilated. Now I had three sets of hands to help me during contractions and alternate getting things ready. The birthing tub had to be filled from a hose from the bathroom sink, but also with pots of boiling water. Everyone worked tirelessly bringing the pots of water up as they boiled. It took a while to fill and I worried I might not get to enjoy the benefits of it.
The midwives assistant, Karen, also arrived somewhere in here. During contractions I moved over to the tall counter in our living room and leaned up against it while someone continued to rub my back. In between, I moved about, gently swaying when I could or meditating on my birth alter. I held the large rose quartz my friend Megan had given me at my blessing way for healing power and looked at the pictures Oona had drawn for Mama and the baby. I tried to remind myself that this would all be over soon, and I would have a beautiful baby to love. I also kept telling myself to “open up”. This was the mantra I had told myself to use.
I was starting to get tired walking around, but found it difficult to sit with the back labor. Just as I was starting to feel worn down from the contractions, the birth tub was ready and Jake and I climbed in. It was such a relief on my weary body and slowed down the contractions briefly to give me time to center myself again. I had grabbed hold of a string of beads made for me at my blessing way and tried to channel their energy and strength for a moment. I glimpsed a little bit of twilight through the window, and for a brief pause, everything felt right with the world.
Everyone but Jake and I had left the room for a minute. Jake had switched the music to Doc Watson. We laughed when my strand of beads fell apart in the water. A favorite song came on, “I Gave my Love a Cherry” and we sang along to baby. I couldn’t have imagined stopping to sing a song during my first labor, as the pain had completely overtaken me. But being at home, and the relief of the water, gave me a second wind, and it just felt right to sing a little song. We even had a few minutes to laugh and relax and be mesmerized that very soon we would be bringing our little girl into the world.
When everyone returned the contractions were starting to come on stronger again. Before I knew it, my body felt a strong urge to push and I couldn’t hold back. There was very little time in between the surges now. It was so intense. Jake held me from behind, and I grabbed tightly to one wall of the birthing tub and gripped tightly to Karen’s hand. Katherine tried to draw me back into my breath and had me focus on her eyes. I screamed out, “Tell me what to do!” She tried to keep me focused on her and my breathing. As I continued pushing, she told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head if I could and to use that to help me guide the baby out gently. I did this, and was surprised at how much it helped my pushing to know where the baby’s head was. I continued to feel for the head with each push, and it allowed me to push for longer than I would have if I didn’t know where the head was. I remember talking to the baby during this time… telling her it was time to come out, that I was ready for her and telling my body to open up. Katherine kept saying, “make it big”. I did scream out a few times in panic and pain and then tried to bring my moans lower again. I was amazed that Oona did not wake up during the pushing stage as there was a whole lot of noise going on! Finally I felt the baby’s head immerging into the water. It was amazing to feel her little body so bundled up as she came out of me into the world. They allowed me to pick her up myself and draw her to my chest, which was also an amazing experience. I never felt so in control during my first labor. I held my baby and told her I loved her, and Jake started to sing another favorite folk song that we sing together, “Whose Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot”. I joined in too. It just felt so right. I had forgotten to even check to see if we really did have a little girl, and suddenly remembered. I held her up for a second laughing, and yes, it was confirmed. I held her in the water for a while they splashed water on her back and waited for the placenta to come out. They left the placenta attached after the placenta had immerged. After getting out of the water, we laid down on the mattress we had put of the floor with our new baby girl. She nursed pretty soon after. Little Oona came wandering out of her bedroom, as if she knew this was the perfect moment to wake up and meet her little sister. She had a big smile on her face, but after coming to see us, quickly went to find her toys.
The placenta and umbilical cord remained attached while I held my little girl and nursed her. When it was time to cut it, we’d all had a good long pause to take in this new life. Karen clamped the cord, and Jake cut it. My mom and Oona blew out the candles that had been lit on my birth alter. After a little bit shy of nine months and 4 and a half hours of labor, Elsa Bernadette Wildwood had finally come to join us in the world!