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Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Letter for Emerson on his Birthday

*Warning: The following is Emerson's Birth Story. Although it's not terribly gory, it is detailed. So, if you're a birth junky, like me, read on. If not, read this one instead.

I wrote this for Emerson just before his first birthday...9 years ago.

May 12, 2001

My sweet baby Emerson,

You were due on June 18, 2000 ~ Father’s Day. That day came and went without you…then the next, and the next, and the next three until Saturday, June 24. I woke from a sound sleep at 4:45 AM, and I remember my first thought was, “Huh, why am I suddenly wide awake? It's still dark out.” About 30 seconds later I had my first contraction. I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness. This is it. Here we go.” I had a sudden rush of anxiety as I realized there was no turning back and there was no slowing down. The contractions started strong and were coming about every 4-5 minutes. Within 10-15 minutes I was quite uncomfortable lying down in bed. That’s when I woke up Daddy and got into the bathtub. While in the tub I realized that the most comfortable position for me was on my hands and knees. I suspected that you were posterior as you had been on and off throughout my pregnancy. I was experiencing the painful back labor that is common with a posterior baby. On my hands and knees gravity helped to keep the back of your head from pressing against my lower back. My contractions continued to come pretty close together (about 3-4 minutes), and they were quite strong. At about 5:15 Daddy called Grammy and Leslie, our midwife. I felt a little silly calling them when I’d only been in labor for 30 minutes, but labor was progressing quickly. I was already to the point where I had to moan with contractions. I promptly threw up when I got out of the tub. They say that helps with dilation.

Once I got out of the bathtub, I had a really hard time finding a comfortable position to labor in. My back was aching, but I felt too heavy to hold myself up on my hands and knees with no where to rest my head. With Daddy's prompting, I waddled out into the pre-dawn air and got into the Jacuzzi in our backyard. In the Jacuzzi I was able to kneel on the bench and lean on the edge. This took the pressure off my lower back while giving me a place to rest my arms and head. And the warm water felt heavenly.

It was about 5:30, and it was so lovely and relaxing to be outside. The sun was just starting to lighten the foggy summer sky. Birds were singing their beautiful morning song.  It seemed as though they were singing just for me, offering praise and encouragement and blessings for the new baby. (I have since learned that the bird I associate with Emerson's birth day is the red breasted robin singing his summer song. He sings it during the month of June in our area and only at dawn.) The scent of orange blossoms and jasmine floated in the damp morning air, and still the contractions grew stronger.

By 6AM my labor was quite strong, and I remember feeling like I wanted the reinforcements to arrive. I said to Daddy, “Where is everybody?” At that point I actually felt the vague and distant urge to push, “I think I’m going to be pushing soon.” I saw the look of panic on Daddy's face as he said, “Are you serious?” Cole woke up right about then and came out to partake in the festivities. We had talked with him a lot about the birth, and when when we asked him if he knew what was happening he said,  “Mommy’s having ‘tractions.” Of course. He wasn't phased at all.

I think it was about 6:30-6:45 when Grammy and the gang arrived. I was glad to see them and I think Daddy was more than a little relieved. Leslie and Iris arrived about 7:00, and we were glad to see them, too. Over the next hour I continued to labor in the warm water with my head resting on my arms. Cole got into the tub with me at least once and drove his cars on the Jacuzzi edge. I threw up in the planter a couple of times. Daddy kept himself busy videotaping and bringing me water with a straw. My mom, sister and the midwives took turns holding my hands and stroking my hair.

At one point someone asked me if I wanted to birth inside or if I wanted to stay in the Jacuzzi. We hadn’t planned a water birth, and I was concerned about the chemicals in the tub. After a short discussion, we decided that a lightly chlorinated hot tub was probably a relatively sterile environment, and it was decided. We would have a water birth. Ahhh, one of the many joys of a home birth: spontaneous decisions on delivery locale. I was especially excited not to have to walk anywhere at 10 centimeters dilated.

By about 8AM the contractions were quite intense, and I remember saying to Daddy, “I forgot how painful this is. Is it too late for drugs?” I was genuinely disappointed when he whispered, Yes. The urge to push was still vague, but I was fully dilated so I spent the next 15-20 minutes trying to find a comfortable position in which to push. I finally settled on the same position that I’d labored in. I had a little break from contractions during transition (they call that the calm before the storm), and I was able to dose in Daddy’s arms for a few minutes. (He’d gotten in the tub with me.)

While I pushed, Auntie held my hands, and Daddy stayed in the tub with me. It was really sweet to have him right there, experiencing everything as closely as he could with me. He rubbed and caressed my back and from time to time felt your head to see how much progress we were making. Leslie stayed at the edge of the tub and let us have our baby together. It was lovely. As you were crowning, Daddy felt your amniotic sac bulging in front of your head. It didn’t break until your head was nearly all the way out. They say that's good luck. At one point I remember saying to my sister, “I gotta get it out!” and that’s when your head was born. Leslie leaned over the edge of the tub to help your shoulders emerge, and then the rest of your body was born into Daddy’s waiting arms. It’s hard to describe the physical sensation of the moment when your baby makes an exit from your body. It’s like a cork popping or a dam bursting. It’s so intense, and for a second you feel as if you’re falling. I remember yelling out, “Oh, God!” as you went shooting out of my body, and the intensity was startling as you catapulted into the world. I was so glad, for both you and Daddy, that his loving hands were the ones to catch you and bring you up out of the water and into the morning air. It was 8:58 when you took your first breath. At some point Cole had taken off his clothes and was in the Jacuzzi with us. There we were ~ a new family of four. It was lovely.

During your birth, it seemed like life in our charming little town had paused in sweet anticipation of your arrival. A few minutes after you were born a big truck pulled into the alley behind our fence, loaded up some stuff, and drove off. In the distance someone started a lawn mower. You were born on June 24, 2000 at 8:58 AM on a foggy Saturday morning on the Central Coast of California and life continued on around us. It was the most beautiful birth day.

My summer birthday boy just turned 10, and is he ever the most delightful 10 year old around. He's playing water polo and trying out a little tweenage attitude. Dave and I keep impressing upon him that it won't serve him...this isn't our first rodeo. But it's all fun. 

We love you, Em! Happy Summer Birthday! 


Tina said...

Our birth stories become even more precious as the years go by don't they? Love your story and happy b-day Emerson!

TRS said...


Dina Wildfong said...

Your writing is amazing, Heath. I loved reading both Cole and Emerson's birth stories. We'll have to talk when Jon and I get pregnant. Hopefully in the near future.

Mama Booth said...

Happy birthday to your sweet boy. :)
Thank you for your openness on home birth. It was one of the reasons I chose to birth Jonah at home. You are so inspirational.
P.S. I updated our blog URL. Come check us out at the new addy. :)

karen said...

how I love a good birthing story. I don't even know where you guys are living--mexico? monterey? but it's always fun to read about your adventures...