Today is my daughter Oona's 12th birthday. I am reposting this blog in honour of her exhilarating and magical birth. Enjoy.
On the eve of my third child's birthday, I feel moved to write out her birth story. Oona is my second daughter, and in the wee hours of the morning, she will be 11 years old.
Oona's pregnancy felt different from the others. My first trimester nausea was quite intense, and I had a lot of food cravings. I used to HATE cilantro with a passion. If it was in anything that arrived in a restaurant, I'd be unable to eat it. With Oona's pregnancy, I craved it, and it now remains one of my favourite tastes. I wanted lots of bitter greens with apple cider vinegar dressing. Green apples were appreciated too. And bacon. Oh, sweet bacon. The only time I didn't feel nauseated was when I ate bacon. Boy, did that ever make my family happy, because it's not a food we eat a lot of! I also craved the occasional sour peach candy, which, to this day, is Oona's favourite sweet. I had an aversion to clothing, so in the morning my kids would laugh because they'd see a heap of all my clothes beside my favourite chair and thought it was hilarious I'd sit there bare naked at night. I had a lot of fatigue...a really deep feeling of tired in my bones. It was hard to get things done. But otherwise, everything went well. My son weaned at 3.5 years, claiming the milk tasted yucky, on condition that I knew he was planning to start up again once the "real" milk came in when the baby was born. He let go of that idea a week before she was born, which made me relieved, because I spent a couple years tandem nursing, and it's not easy.
I am so grateful for this birth, as it healed so much for me as a woman. My first birth was lovely. a homebirth that went beautifully, though the second stage was extremely challenging, my daughter deciding to come out star gazing. I had to squat for 3 hours, intermingled with belly dancing, to get her down and out. My second child, my first boy, was even more challenging. Also occiput posterior, I experienced back labour I didn't have with my first. Back labour, for lack of a better word, sucks. The labour was a couple days long, far harder to cope with in terms of pain, discouraging because I was stuck at 5 cm for over 12 hours (which I know is not that long compared to some I've seen, but for me it is one of the hardest things I've done in my life) and I ended up being asked by my midwife to transfer to the hospital, where I birthed naturally a few hours later. That birth left me feeling discombobulated, like there were some physical and emotional issues I needed to explore, saddened at how profoundly those things, in my case, affected the birth of my beautiful son.
Oona is six and a half years younger than my first child, and 4 years younger than my second. The choice to birth at home was a no brainer. Homebirth was not legal at this time in Quebec, but I knew a very skilled and experienced midwife who was committed to providing this service to those who wanted it, and for her, I am deeply grateful. I had no ultrasounds, ate a supremely healthy diet to correct some blood sugar fluctuations I had, which were discovered by my midwife, as I did no glucose tolerance testing. I was in a great space emotionally, and felt well surrounded by a loving community of women friends. I had become aware of the principles of optimal fetal positioning, and made sure I didn't slump backwards while sitting, as was my usual habit. I was also reading and doing the yoga exercises in the late Jeanine Parvati Baker's book on prenatal yoga. In late pregnancy, it felt great to squat, so I did this a lot when my baby felt well positioned. I was studying psychosynthesis psychotherapy at the time, and was doing a lot of guided imagery work, as well as working hard on old emotional patterns I wanted to transform.
I did this work because I wanted to prepare for the potential for another long hard birth. I wanted to know that if it was as hard as the one before, I'd have the tools to get through it as gracefully as possible. I also received some osteopathic bodywork, which I feel really helped contribute to aligning my body to make contractions more efficient.
One thing I felt was crucial to my birthing was embracing it as a spiritual, as well as a physical/emotional process. I wanted to make that expression more intentional, so I asked my women friends to have a ceremony for me, a Blessingway, in which we sat in a circle, sang songs,and attached ourselves together with yarn to symbolize our sisterhood of birthing women(which was cut so each of us wore a yarn bracelet...the ladies wore them in support of me, and were to cut them off when the baby was born). We shared the most precious moments of our births with each other to create really positive energy, and I was massaged and given gifts of power objects to put around the house to help me remember my strength and power as a birthing woman, knowing I was connected in love to my sisters. I received things I still have today, and am so grateful for them all. Melissa gave me a poem about birth which still moves me to tears when I read it. Vanessa gave me a pair of big smiling lips on a little pedestal she fashioned out of fimo clay, and told me to remember, "loose lips means loose bottom." Brigitte gave me some worry beads, Rachel, a mother of twins she didn't know were twins until the second baby came out, gave me a beautiful drinking glass to remind me we all symbolically drink from the same cup as we are called to the dance of Birth. Heather gave me the thing I think I used the most in Oona's birth, which was a note card on which she had written birth affirmations, given to her by her midwife Gloria Lemay. The one that resonated most with me was "contractions are healthy for me and my baby." Because, as many of you know, it can be easy to forget when the going gets tough. I received other things too, all of them carefully placed around my home.
About a week before Oona was born, I had a very strong aversion to leaving the house much. I felt a little fearful going too far. I was obsessed with keeping things clean, so I spend a lot of time keeping on top of the mess a family of 4 and a big dog can make. I also had a home job doing data entry for a newspaper, as I wasn't going to be able to attend births for awhile. The day before Oona was born, my husband had plans to see a band play at Barfly, a bar/venue not far from where we lived. I really didn't want him to go, because I just had this feeling I wanted him home. I normally never have any problems with him going out for a few hours with a friend, but I really hadn't wanted him to leave. He reassured me, though, saying he had his pager, he was literally a 5 minute walk away, he wouldn't be going until the kids were already asleep, and would not be drinking alcohol. Except for a sink full of dishes, the house was cleaned to within an inch of its life, and I still had a bunch of data entry work to do anyway. So, even though I was grumpy about it, he went.
From about 11pm until 3am, I spent most of my time squatting on a chair in front of the computer, trying to finish up my work. We were a family of night owls. Our kids were home schooled, and both of us had jobs that were flexible with time, so we didn't need to get up early. I was having some intermittent waves of cramping, nothing that made me feel like the baby was coming then, though it made me think I would probably be having a baby in a few days. The weirdest thing was that I was having hot flashes every few minutes. They were intense sensations, but I rather enjoyed them, because they were different. I figured my hormone levels were getting quite ready to have a baby soon. After I finished working, I left my perch on the chair, and went to have a bath with some nice oils. I completely relaxed in there, and practised some deep breathing. All the hot flashes and cramping were gone, and I felt wonderful, ready for bed. Because I took an oily bath and was a nest-y pregnant woman, I scrubbed out the oil residue in the bath with baking soda to make sure nobody would slip in it the next day. Then I went to bed. While I turned back the covers (because when I'm pregnant and ONLY when I'm pregnant, my bed is perfectly made when I'm not in it), I had a strange flash on an image of a really happy little nine month old baby crawling on the kitchen floor. I figured I was really tired.
As I relaxed into a doze, my husband came home. I heard him go to the computer to check his email. Then I had a contraction. A BIG contraction. I looked at the bedside clock: 3:45am. Phew, I thought. I put it out of my mind and tried to get back to sleep. A couple minutes later, the same thing, and then it happened again. I got up and announced to my husband I was in labour. "oh, so you think the baby will be here by tomorrow night?" I thought, given my birthing history, he was jumping the gun a little, but I said, "yeah, possibly." I had another contraction which made me need to focus and breathe and I said, "oh, I am so NOT in the mood to be in labour! I'm so tired, and just want to go to bed!" My husband, who is really good at distracting me with humour if I'm annoyed, got me into a better space. We were in bed, me on my hands and knees, he sitting beside me, giggling. I would have contractions that made me need to stop, rock my hips, and follow my breath, but nothing I would call painful. He did point out that he was surprised how close together the waves were coming.
I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, as my body was trying to create maximum space for the baby, and on the way started shaking uncontrollably, feeing really cold. I noticed I was bleeding a little, which assured me that I was definitely in labour. Up until then, I still wasn't sure. The contraction on the toilet made me emit a sound that alerted my husband...a mixture of a whimper and a yell. He came running in. "I KNOW that sound!" he said. "I'm calling Vanessa!" Vanessa was a dear friend I had chosen to help support me in labour. But Vanessa was not answering. The next day we discovered that even though she had been sleeping by the phone, she had not gotten the repeated calls because of a wire problem. Mitchell started getting stressed, because he was worrying about the kids waking up with nobody there to hang out with them while I laboured. He tried our next door neighbour and good friend Rachel. No reply! It turned out later that as he was trying to call her, she was receiving a fax from France. I could hear him running around muttering curses under his breath at the fact that nobody was answering their phones.
I went into our office where he was sitting and said, "Call the midwife." He asked, "REALLY? Are you sure you want her to come now?" I said that she absolutely should come, because it was feeling hard to cope, and I wasn't sure how I was going to handle such a long labour without some support. Given we couldn't get touch with my appointed doulas, I just wanted her there. Mitchell dialled and handed the phone to me, but there was no way I could talk to her. I just said, "tell her I feel the baby really low." He hung up and said she was on her way, and I had a huge contraction that made me almost drop to my knees except that Mitchell was behind me and held me up so I was in a supported squat. I felt like I had to push, which was ridiculous, because I was having a long birth. I told Mitchell everything was just far too heavy, and that I was going to hop in the shower to get a handle on myself. It wasn't that I was in a lot of pain. The contractions were totally manageable. It's just that they were really STRONG, and fast. It was hard to catch my breath, and I was afraid I was going to burn out, given that I was going to be having a long birth and all.
In the shower, I felt fantastic. I just allowed the massive waves to roll over me. They made me bellow, "Oh...my...GGGOOOOOOOOOODDD!!!!!!!" with a growly grunt at the end of them. I was not suffering, just thinking this was awfully strong pretty quick, and that I was being a bit dramatic considering I was just beginning labour. I was chanting to myself, "Labour is healthy for me and my baby, labour is healthy for me and my baby." and laughing, because it was so crazy. I started to feel a little faint from the heat, so I hopped out. As I walked towards the bed, I had one contraction I will remember for the rest of my life. It was huge, and painful. It filled me with a vision in my mind of wanting an ambulance to come and run over me to knock me out in a way that wouldn't do any harm to my baby and me, so we could wake up and the birth would all be over, Baby safe in my arms. Just one contraction of abject desperation. I got onto the bed on my hands and knees, and the next contraction alerted me to the fact that I was indeed having the baby. Not hours later at supper time, but NOW.
I saw a little naked child run past my vision into the bathroom, and then she came out. I begged her, "Kayleigh, Mummy is going to push out the baby, and I'm SO thirsty! Please get me some water." So she did. She assured me that my son Misha was okay. He had heard me yelling and had been scared, but Kayleigh, big six year old she was, assured him that it was just Mom having the baby and that everything was okay (Kayleigh had witnessed a couple labours before). He was apparently hiding with his head under the covers. Mitchell had gone out of the room, still trying to call people. I told him to start warming the baby blankets in the oven. The next contraction, I was clearly pushing uncontrollably, no pain anymore whatsoever. I got a teensy bit afraid for a moment, thinking, "the baby is coming with no midwife here. What if something happens?" But I have a guide who seems to come to me when things are chaotic birth-wise in my life, usually professionally. But the voice was here just for me. In my right ear it whispered, "you know, if the baby is coming this quickly, everything is fine." I calmed right down. No fear, and no pain. I called my husband back in the room, and told him to forget the blankets and just to crank the heat in the bedroom, as it was mid January. I pushed, and my daughter went, "oh, here it is! Wait, it's a big bubble!" My waters had not broken, and I was pushing out a big water filled balloon. The image of a giant bullfrog filled my mind. I also looked at the dishes in the kitchen through the bedroom door and thought, "ha, those ain't never gonna get done now!" The next contraction I wanted the head out. There was no pain as she crowned into her water bag. By this point, I intuitively was just lying back against some pillows, which was most comfortable. I pushed a little to move the head out and it felt GREAT when she emerged. We watched a well positioned little baby fill the water bag. My husband looked into my eyes and said, "Lesley, you know about these things. What do I do?" I said, "oh, just catch her," and then as her shoulder came out the water bag broke away in a bug rush of fluid, and there she was, pink and yelling. Healthy. Safe. Born into her father's hands, and put right onto my belly, where we covered her up with lots of blankets. I looked at the clock. 4:28am. 43 minutes from the first labour contraction. We were over the moon. I was in shock. It's over?! But it hardly even started! My husband was so excited, and so happy, "Oh my God, Les, you DID it..you DID it!"
The doorbell rang not long after and Mitchell ran to get it. While he was telling the midwife the baby was already born, Kayleigh asked me if it was a boy or a girl. Because it was so cold, I was in no hurry to unwrap the blankets and discover the baby's sex. I was just enjoying the moment. I figured we'd wait until the midwife came in. She looked shocked to see us all there, and I started babbling in French about how fast it was, even though I usually struggle in French. She took a peek at the baby, and we discovered she was indeed a girl. The placenta was born, and after she had nursed for awhile, we cut the cord. I had not torn. My son Misha stomped into the room and said, "I didn't want her to be born today, I didn't want it to be a girl, and I didn't want it to have brown hair!" and then he stomped out. We couldn't help giggling. He came back in soon, though, drawing pictures for his new sister. We called our nephew Jeremy to tell him he had a new baby cousin, as we had promised he'd be the first to know. Then we called my mom, who was shocked at how fast it was.
When the midwife left, Mitchell went to crawl in with Misha to comfort him, and Kayleigh, the baby, and I tried to sleep, but we couldn't. I told Kayleigh she could lie by the baby and love her all she wanted, that there would be plenty of time to sleep later.
The next morning, I had a dream, and awoke with the name "Oona" echoing in my mind. It was not a name we had considered, but in the dream I had flashed on a young woman I had met at party once. She was sitting crossed legged in the middle of a busy room, just serenely looking around. My friend asked her her name and she looked up at him with a sweet, beautiful Pixie face and said, "Oona." My friend said, "indeed." You know that feeling you feel when you've met an aptly named person? Well, my baby had this same fairy energy, and I announced her name to everyone. My husband said, "really? You want to call her that? We never talked about that name." And I said, because I knew it would sway him, "it rhymes with Baboona." That sold him. He snuggled her and called her his little Baboona, and we've never looked back. Oona is orginally "Oonagh",and from the sources I looked at, it means "fair" as in beautiful, and "healer". I learned later on that Oona is also Queen of the Fairies. I did not know that when I named her, though a more Fae child you would be hard pressed to find.
I buried Oona's placenta by a tree in our back yard in the summer. She grew into a laughing, sweet, easy going brown eyed baby. She nursed well, but was always slow to gain weight. But she always thrived, and has always been healthy, so I just attribute it to her Fairy roots.
Our first year together was an intense love affair. We got off to such a beautiful start, and I swear my Babymoon didn't wear off for months and months. My first baby was about my becoming a woman and a mother, about inspiring me to find my path. My second baby was about discovering incredible intuition, and bringing through a soul who was so familiar, I've known him forever. Oona, my third, showed me what my love looks like, and what the power of intention has the potential to create.
I made Oona a hazelnut torte with coffee buttercream filling and purple whipped cream surrounding the whole thing for her party. She has 4 friends over now for a sleepover. For a present, she wanted purple streaks in her hair. They look quite nice. She is a tiny little girl, a good head smaller than all her friends, who, at 11, are mostly taller than I am. She still loves to snuggle and spend time doing things with me. She loves to just hang out. And she is fierce. She can score four goals in a soccer game, and doesn't let herself get walked over. I am a thoroughly blessed and happy mother. I am enjoying these last few years of precious childhood, because in the next couple of years, she will be transitioning into teenagehood, and I will probably not be as important in her world. And that is well and good. I know our foundation will bring us through anything.
Happy Birthday, Boo! I love you.