Something amazing happened to us nearly 7 months ago. Our home birth was such a blessed experience that it threw me into a fit of writers self doubt and created a rather unintended 7 month maternity leave from this space. I still do not feel qualified to tell you about this, but I feel strongly that the story must be told. I doubt that I can do this justice, but I will try. Sometimes when something is so simple, so beautiful and so divine, it’s impossible to capture.
The story really begins about a week before Christmas when the, then, 4 of us were gathered together for bedtime stories and prayers. We finally told the boys the name we had picked out for the baby, and the preschooler gets a glimmer in his eye, leans down to the huge belly, and says, “I love you, _____! You will be born on Christmas.” Hubby and I, of course, start explaining to the biggest little guy that we don’t know when the baby will come. We really didn’t want Christmas to come and go and have a big brother disappointed about the baby not arriving.
A couple of days later I get a gentle and heartfelt request from a friend of ours who is to be preaching at our church on the Sunday before Christmas; she wants to know if I am willing to stand before the congregation as an example of how pregnant Mary was while traveling to Bethleham. I happily agree, and on Sunday morning at the beginning of her sermon, I lumbered out into the middle of the aisle and found her arm firmly around my shoulder holding me up. I was honored to be asked to serve as such a model; I had spent all of advent identifying with Mary, and I know now that I will never think of her or advent the same again after this past year.
I didn’t share with you all at the time, but in the last few weeks of my pregnancy, my blood pressure rose a bit, just to the limit of what is considered safe to deliver at home, and as the days ticked past, everyone started to grow a bit concerned about our birth. On the Friday before Christmas, we faced the reality of a hospital delivery if we hadn’t gone into labor by the weekend’s end, and I found myself praying that we would just have the baby. I was also hoping to have a relatively normal Christmas morning with our two young boys, but that was secondary to a safe, home birth. Christmas eve, my birthday, came and with it most of our usual family traditions. We celebrated my birthday with brunch at our local Whole Foods while flakes fell outside to be closer to home just in case. We attended an evening service at our church (where people I only know by face in passing greeted me with “not yet?” and “still waiting?”) and made our usual cheeseburgers on the grill at home for dinner. Two very excited little boys were tucked into beds, and we went to work readying the place for Christmas morning. I slept well that night and don’t recall waking for a relatively normal round of contractions in the middle of the night. I do remember getting into bed at 11 pm and realizing that I had neglected to assemble the tator tots wrapped in bacon for breakfast the next morning; I got back up to make it happen. I then crashed into bed praying we would celebrate Christmas with honor and have a baby soon after.
Christmas morning was exactly what we had planned, and all of our normal Christmas morning traditions ensued. The boys and I sat at the top of the stairs while Hubby checked to see if Santa had come, stockings were explored, presents were opened, and a breakfast of eggs, homemade cinnamon rolls, and tator tots wrapped in bacon was consumed. After the general dust had settled, Hubby headed upstairs to finish getting himself ready to go and put the finishing touches on a gift he was working on for his parents. I sat leisurely at the dining room table with the boys picking at the crumbs left on my plate and watching the boys finish up their breakfasts while I mulled over cleaning up the kitchen, and I had a contraction. It was not a stop me in my tracks I’m definitely in labor kind of contraction, but something about it got my attention and I noted the time. It was just after 10 am, and about 10 minutes later I had another one. I don’t know why, I have regular rounds of contractions with some intensity that sometimes even make it to 6 minutes apart for weeks before we actually have a baby, but this had the internal labor indicator on alert. I let Hubby know what was going on and started working on clearing the table and cleaning up the kitchen. I’d been awakened by contractions just like these a few times over the last couple of weeks during the night, watched the clock, and never bothered to even wake Hubby up. This was some how different, and I instinctively knew it.
After a 3rd contraction about 8 more minutes later, I told Hubby that we might want to start making a few calls, and when the next one was a bit more intense 6 minutes later calls to grandparents and the midwife, Cheryl Gates, were made. We normally head out to Hubby’s parents’ house for the remainder of Christmas day, and we were in the process of slowly getting everything and everyone cleaned up and ready to go when we aborted our mission to instead stay at home. I remember telling Hubby at one point that we needed to just stay put until we saw this through, either to a baby or to slowing down and ceasing, which ever happened. Grandma and Papa said they were on their way.
Hubby left a message for our midwife, who texted me back. During the exchange of both text messages and a short conversation, we agreed that she would take a quick shower and then be right over. Given the my propensity for super fast labor, we chose a midwife who lived quite close to us. Cheryl and I also agreed that we would call her if she needed to come more quickly. This was at about 11 am.
Shortly after this the contractions reached an intensity that I had to pause for, so I decided to head upstairs where I could labor without little boys pulling and climbing on me. I headed to the bathroom to labor for a bit, and I remember that there was a period of time where my poor husband ran up the stairs to check on me and back down the stairs to be with the boys over and over. I also remember telling him very shortly after I went upstairs to call our midwife and tell her to come NOW; I went on to tell him when she asked him why, that it was my what my gut was telling me. My labor was progressing in my classic fashion, each contraction came about 2 minutes faster than the previous one until they were 2 minutes apart, and the contractions lasted about a minute.
At some point after Hubby’s parents arrived to tend to the Christmas day madness associated with 2.5 and 4.5 year old little boys running around downstairs, I decided that I should move from the bathroom to our bedroom, where we planned on actually birthing. I distinctly remember that as I came out of the bathroom at the end of the hall, Cheryl appeared at the top of the stairs. I waddled (no walking at this point) into our room and she followed; she started spreading out covering for the bed. I climbed up onto our bed and labored on hands a knees for a few minutes. I always have back labor, and hands and knees is generally my chosen position. At some point Hubby turned on music for us, and he sweetly remembered me telling him “I could labor to this” a few nights earlier and put on Waterdeep. I remember having my usual trouble catching my breath in the short time between contractions, and telling our midwife that I wish it would just slow down so I could have a short break. I also remember a song that Lori sings coming on and saying, “Thank God for Lori Chaffer”. I remember feeling like it was never going to end.
Then, after about 6 or 7 contractions in our room my water broke, and I had the urge to roll over and lay down. The next contraction came quickly, and I had the urge to push. Two contractions later we had a baby. I remember them telling me “It’s a boy!”, and I remember all the bustle of rubbing and warming a tiny, blue, boy. I remember holding, snuggling and nursing, too, but, honestly, the next hour or so is pretty much a blur for me. I blissfully drank orange juice and the mess of birthing was whisked away from under me. The little guy arrived at 12:02 pm, just under 2 hours after the first contraction.
Shortly after his arrival, our photographer, a friend of ours, Josh Solar, arrived too. He’d planned on photographing the birth, but he lives a ways away, and things happened fast that morning. All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Josh. He also put together an amazing slide show for us that still brings tears to my eyes. You can see it here.
After we’d had time to get things cleaned up, the big brothers were invited up to join us and meet their baby brother. It was touching to have them climb up on our bed, dressed in matching shirts they’d gotten for Christmas, and see their tiny little baby. After greeting him, touching him, and spending time with him, (and us), they watched as he was measured and given his newborn exam. Then they headed back downstairs to get ready to go to grandma and papa’s house for the rest of the day. Their brother weighed in at 7 pounds 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long.
Hubby’s parents also came up for a bit to meet their newest grandson; they now have 4 boys and not a single girl in their grandchildren count! They graciously offered to take the older boys home with them for the rest of the afternoon and bring them back, along with dinner for us, in time to go to bed.
Apparently while grandma got everything ready to go, our eldest was able to sneak back upstairs for another peek at his newest brother and some snuggles with his mama. I even shared my OJ with him. Eventually the boys and their grandparents took off to be with the rest of the family, our photographer, Josh Solar, went home, and our midwife headed out as well leaving the two of us and our newest tiny addition in a blessedly quiet house. The rest of the day melted away in snuggles, the challenges of nursing a tongue tied kiddo, and naps. Even with the challenges, it was bliss.
Grandma and papa brought the boys home later that evening with dinner for the two of us. I listened as Hubby got the boys ready for bed, and then I heard the distinct sound of them tromping up the stairs to tell mama and baby brother goodnight. I longed to go down and tuck them into their beds, but stairs were forbidden that first day, and I enjoyed hearing Hubby read them stories, sing them songs, and answer their questions.
Even in my postpartum exhaustion that first night, I was fully aware of how perfect the day had been. Even the tiniest details all fell into place exactly as they should; from big things like going into labor at home, to tiny, little things like just the right song at just the right moment, the entire day was exactly as it should be. Every prayer, even things I hadn’t thought to pray for, was answered. We couldn’t have asked for a better new beginning, and we are so very thankful for all that God did for us that day. Our tiny guy’s biggest brother was right; he did arrive on Christmas!