Another home birth story

Guion, Moses, and I are very pleased to welcome the newest member of our family: Felix. He arrived at 6:44 a.m. on Saturday, July 31, in the following fashion.

We went to bed early on Friday and tried to wind down. I wasn’t feeling like anything was happening and was feeling frustrated. Even though Friday was his official due date, I was very tired of being heavily pregnant at the end of July and hopeful that we would have another timely boy (Moses arrived the day after his due date). Aside from very regular Braxton-Hicks contractions, nothing else seemed to be happening.

As we read in bed, we suddenly discovered an apropos moment of “meta-confluence,” the made-up term that Guion and I use to refer to a strange reference or resonance found in two different works of art or media. Guion was reading W.G. Sebald’s novel The Rings of Saturn, and I was reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s new history of the Sackler dynasty, Empire of Pain. Within a page of each other, Sebald referenced St. Felix, and Keefe mentioned that Arthur Sackler named his second son Arthur Felix. Guion looked at me and said, “It’s a sign. He’s coming tonight.” I still didn’t believe him, but I wanted it to be true.

I was very restless in bed, so Guion went upstairs to sleep in the guest room. Even though I’d closed my eyes for an hour or so, I woke up around 11 just wired. I was wide awake and full of energy. I even had the completely illogical and completely out-of-character thought that I should just get up and go for a run (at midnight, 9 months pregnant). It was around then that contractions started to feel a little painful and crampy and I got up and started preparing the house for a birth. I started timing them a bit myself and then walked upstairs and told Guion to wake up; things might be happening for real.

Even still, I was in denial. My contractions were coming about two minutes apart and picking up in intensity, and I was still telling myself that maybe this wasn’t the real thing. When I called our midwife to give her an update around 2:30 a.m., I asked her if maybe I was just in prodromal labor. She just started quietly laughing at me on the phone. “Prodromal labor, that’s a good one,” she said. “No, this is real.” Within an hour, our same birth team for Moses had assembled: Kelly, our fantastic midwife; Sara, her marvelous assistant midwife; and Meredith, our God-given, extremely gracious doula.

I spent the early part of labor standing and bouncing on the birth ball in the kitchen. Pacing the kitchen and gripping the counter was comforting to me. I was trying to meditate on the famous image of the Hokusai painting of the wave, which I had just seen the night before at my parents’ Airbnb. Visualizing the contractions as riding that precise wave was partially helpful. Guion and Meredith rubbed my back and pressed my hips and encouraged me through each intensifying contraction.

From there, I moved into the living room, where the birth tub had been set up, and this provided some welcome distraction and relief for a time. I wasn’t able to stay in one place for long, though, and soon moved back and forth from there to the bathroom to our bed. In contrast with Moses’s birth, which was frankly a traumatic fog (even though an ultimately positive experience), I felt so much more lucid this time around. I knew what to expect, and I knew it would get harder before it got easier, but I wasn’t as frightened.

Another difference with this labor and Moses’s was the fact that this time, I experienced much longer periods of rest between contractions. This alarmed me some, as I worried I was regressing or not bringing Felix out into the world in the right way. But the rest was very welcome at the same time.

I continued moving around the house and felt that things were intensifying. I focused on changing the register of my yells, which had been so high-pitched with Moses, and trying to send them down and bring Felix out. I would still resort to high screams from time to time and have to correct myself repeatedly, but I think some of the more primal yells began to become effective. Guion remarked afterward, “You tapped into something… wild.” I remember feeling so grateful that my parents had taken Moses to sleep at their Airbnb that night, just as a trial run, because I definitely would have woken him up with my “vocalizations.”

I returned to the tub for a few pushes but felt like I couldn’t stay there; I needed a stronger, more stable position, and I felt like standing. I got out of the tub and told Guion I wanted to stand and push. With my arms wrapped around his neck and shoulders, I pushed and, praise God, Felix’s head came out. At this moment, I heard him start to cry, and the birth team all started laughing. I couldn’t see it, of course, but they said he was swiveling his head around like The Exorcist, looking around and wailing, before the rest of his body was out. In another blessed push or two, he was out. Sara caught him and handed him to me and guided us to the sofa, where we rested and marveled.

This time around, I felt so much more joy and relief and accomplishment, due in large part to the fact that Felix took about six hours (and only about 45 minutes of pushing), compared with 23 hours with Moses and nearly 5.5 hours of pushing. Felix was a whole pound bigger than his brother, clocking in at 8 lbs., 10 oz., and yet the birth and recovery have already been so much smoother. Power of the body being ready the second time around, I suppose!

We’re so grateful for another positive, affirming, and empowering home birth experience and for the incredible support of our midwives and doula. Moses is mildly interested in his new baby brother and adapting well to the new environment, thanks to a lot of help from my parents this week. (He seems to be much more excited about the present that “Felix” got him: a tool set.)

We’re resting well at home and enjoying figuring out what the two-boy life looks like, filled with gratitude and that still-familiar mixture of exhaustion and awe.

Baby bunnies

Baby Rabbits
Source: Flickr, user craiglambert

I remember searching for and finding handfuls of baby bunnies in freshly dug warrens in the Blaker’s back yard. Their house backed up to ours and we shared a fence line. Mrs. Blaker was a rather inattentive woman. She yelled a lot at her mean kid, smoked constantly, even when she was pregnant. But on a whim one day, she bought a few rabbits from a pet store.

She let the rabbits roam free in her back yard without food or cages or attention. After a few months,  as the old cliche would tell you, there were dozens of rabbits. They had become more or less feral. They started digging complex tunnels through the yard, where they would give birth to their plentiful young, finding shelter from the weather and the hawks. They ran around in their self-made, fenced-in village, completely unchecked.

When the Blakers were gone during the day, we would climb over the fence and go searching for the rabbits. I like to think that we kept them from becoming completely feral, because we handled them so often. We’d sneak them baby carrots and celery from home. We would gently and carefully retrieve the adorable, fluffy babies from the warrens, sticking our skinny arms down dark, animal-made tunnels, feeling gently for a warm ball of velvety fur. Miraculously, we never got bit. We’d sit back there and cradle these bunnies for hours. It was a paradise for an animal-crazy child like myself.

One of the Holland lop does gave birth to a beautiful litter of white and dusky brown babies. At this time, Mrs. Blaker finally realized she had a rabbit problem on her hands and started advertising free bunnies to the neighborhood children. We convinced our parents to let us get one. It was our first real family pet, because fish and finches don’t inspire too much affection; kids want something fuzzy to love. Mrs. Blaker invited a bunch of us little girls in the neighborhood to come play with the bunnies, probably to tempt us with them while our parents were unaware. Our bratty friends, Jennifer and Allison, started physically fighting over a pretty chocolate-colored bunny, grabbing at it like it was a doll, and snapped its legs. It died the next day.

We were mortified and swore we’d never play with them again. The next morning, we quickly picked out a sweet white-and-brown male from the litter. We named him Spencer (maybe because I’d been reading a kid’s version of The Faerie Queen? I don’t know) and told all of our friends that Jennifer and Allison were never allowed to hold him. I felt a great sense of pride that we had rescued him from his quasi-feral, neglectful situation. Dad built Spencer a big bunny mansion, a two-story hutch that sat against the fence. When we let him out, he would run against the fence with his still plentiful relatives. He once got bit in the face by his uncle and his little velvet nose was forever split in two.

Spencer was the best pet. We liked to think he played hide-and-seek with us. He playfully chased us around the yard. He never bit us, which was incredible, considering how we (especially Grace) tortured that poor bunny. Grace liked to smuggle him inside and put him in doll’s clothes, zip him up in purses and swing him around. He was always good-natured. He lived for many years until one winter, we found his still, frozen body on the ground floor of the hutch. I remember wondering if we had failed him, if we should have let him live inside, if we didn’t love him enough. I imagine these thoughts, a specter of Spencer, will always resurface when any animal of mine dies.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Spencer and to my god-bunnies in the United Kingdom, Indy and Felix.

Monday Snax

This weekend has been a whirlwind, as we are house/dog-sitting for friends, and because we bought this:

Our new car

So. Yes. It is a lot of fun. Driving to work this morning was actually very exciting. Lots happening! Guion also got the part-time job he wanted at the Wine Guild, so we are thrilled about that. I’m still feeling a bit blurry and hazy from the weekend, so here are some Snax with a lot of caffeine:

A Night with Nettles. Grace took some photos of Nettles‘ recent concert at the Tea Bazaar. A very good show. (Grace’s other photos from the family trip to town can be seen here. For all the Baby Charlie fans out there, there are some amazing shots of him.) If you’re in town, come see Nettles on Friday night at JohnSarahJohn. They’ll be performing for an art opening by Matt Kleberg. (Como Say What?)

Yet More Charts That Should Go with Debt Discussions. Yes, the economy is tanking again, but we should cut down on the griping. See exhibit 1: Americans pay some of the lowest taxes of any developed country. (The Atlantic Monthly)

God’s Blog. God wrote a blog post and is subsequently subjected to all of the crazies on the Interwebs. Not even God can catch a break from those virulent commenters… (The New Yorker)

Wellness Wednesday: Yoga and Why It’s OK to Suck at It. Nina, who is so sweet, makes me feel better about being terrible at yoga. I should start practicing again. (Naturally Nina)

Mariachi Band Serenades a Beluga Whale. This is all over the Cool Lady blogosphere, but I will join them in adding my delight over this clip. It will make you happy. I promise. (Door Sixteen)

Felix’s Felicis. Natalie got a bunny, named him Felix, and broke my heart. I want a bunny! Not as much as I want a dog, but almost! I think Felix and Frances should meet and fall desperately in love. (Peregrinations of NJM)

The Last Thylacine. This is one of the strangest-looking animals I’ve ever seen. It’s a marsupial, but it looks so much like a proto-canid. Those stripes! Sad that it’s extinct. (How to Be a Retronaut)

How to Achieve Uncluttered Without Going Bare, Cold, or Minimal. Such clear and salient advice for people like me, who will be living in small spaces for a while longer. Highly recommended for renters like us who don’t want to live in a place that still looks like your college dorm. (The Small Notebook)

The Filming of Breathless. Guion is a huge Godard fan and this is one of the first of his films that I saw. It’s magnificent and these behind-the-scenes photos are really enchanting. (A Cup of Jo)

Document: Woolf’s Letter to a Young Poet. Virginia Woolf writes a brief review and encouragement to her nephew on his poetry. (The Paris Review)

In Which Vladimir Nabokov Navigates Hell for Lolita. Yes, the protagonist is very icky, but I think it’s one of the greatest novels of all time. Even Nabokov had a hard time convincing people of this, though, as you can see from his letters about the book, compiled here. (This Recording)

To Go-To Snacks of Literary Greats. A series of cute illustrations of what the big writers liked to eat while writing. I don’t think Michael Pollan can be called “a literary great,” but it is interesting that he likes to drink his tea in a glass. I remember seeing that on Food, Inc. and wondering about it. (Mod Cloth blog)

Good News for Wombs: U.S. Paves Way for Free Birth Control Everywhere. All I can say is: It’s about damn time. Look at you, America. Finally catching up with the rest of the developed world! (Good)