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Annie, Almost 42 weeks

I gave birth last Friday – leap day. We have a beautiful baby girl. We are enjoying our time with her immensely. She is named Charlotte Joan Harold and weighed 7 lbs 14 oz.

Labor was either long or short, depending on how you look at it. I first started having contractions on February 12th. They were regular but easy to handle. We were not quite ready so these contractions spurred us on to get it together. We gathered our birth supplies. We pumped up the birth ball. We ran to the attic for baby blankets and baby clothes. We alerted the members of our birth team, including Mary Beth Harris who volunteered to photograph the event! We cleaned the bathrooms and straightened the downstairs in preparation for midnight guests… who never arrived. The contractions stopped as we sleep soundly. I later found out the three of my students gave birth on February 12. These must have been sympathy contractions.

On February 16 (our estimated due date), contractions visited us again. This time while Eric and I were at a movie theatre for the first time in two years! Oddly, we were watching “Juno”. Again, sympathy contractions (for the pregnant main character of the movie) – more intense, also at regular intervals – they stopped as we snoozed.

I began to notice small details of each day just in case they became important to our birth story. On February 19th, we saw an incredible double rainbow. On February 20, we watched the lunar eclipse. On February 22, I took a picture of my children in a peaceful moment as my daughter read a book to my son. On February 24th, we watched the academy awards and timed my strong and regular contractions. As you guessed, these stopped as we slept! February 27, I sat atop the birth ball dealing with powerful contractions deep in my pelvis. Again, I contacted our midwife but slept soundly.

We were now becoming anxious. This was one of those moments you realize it is easier to teach about birth than to do it! We had chosen our midwife because there was no arbitrary deadline for birth. I told myself again and again what I tell my students, “If you can go on with your daily life – go on with it. Labor will resume at some time.”

On leap day morning, I was again having those intense contractions, deep in my pelvis. I went on with my daily life but I did request that Eric stay home from work. I stopped and leaned over the kitchen table and swayed when I felt a strong one. My children played under the tunnel that my body formed. A couple times, I asked for Eric’s support and we formed an A-frame.

Finally, I called Tammi (our midwife) to inform her of the contractions. I told her that I would need a “Trust Birth” bracelet like she wears if these contractions did not lead to birth because I was ready! We agreed that she would come in an half an hour. With the next contraction, I began to chant. Eric was familiar with this sound. He knew the birth was near. He called Tammi back (at 11:17 AM) and asked her to hurry!

My self doubt presented itself with my question, “Can we do this without Tammi?!” as I kneeled and leaned over the cocktail table in our living room. Eric replied, “Of course, we can.” (Good coach – he later told me he was quite worried about that scenario.) At this point, I let go and Charlotte came down quickly. I told Eric that either the baby was coming or poop! He pulled down my sweat pants and exclaimed – “It’s poop!” As if 6.5 years of living in a house with diapers prepared him for this moment, he whisked the poop away and continued to rub my back. A second later, Tammi walked in and threw off her coat. She instructed Eric to move the shower curtain between my legs and instructed me to go SLOWLY. From this cue, I knew the baby was there. We called for my 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son who were in the other room. My daughter came in as Eric was receiving the baby. He looked her over and handed her to my between my legs. It was 11:29 AM.

I was in somewhat of an awkward position kneeling. I had planned to be in the side laying position. Mainly, I was surprised by the quick arrival. I think I was still in shock when I met Charlotte. I remember asking my son if it was a boy or a girl as we had prepared for this to be his role at birth. (He told me it was a boy.) I didn’t gather the baby into my arms and rest it on my chest. I just knelt there rubbing her and looking at her while Eric and Tammi prepared a more comfortable spot for us to unite. I also started shaking. I know this is somewhat common but it was new to me and, again, surprising. Charlotte had some blood on her so I felt a little disappointed that I had torn. (Later found out that I did not – yea) Because of these things it was a less immediate greeting than my other three children received but we all bonded well shortly after.

When I look back on this pregnancy and birth, I am thankful I was in the excellent care of midwives. I never had a vaginal exam or a sonogram to peek at the baby through the entire pregnancy. I didn’t take a gestational diabetes test. I was not told that there was a higher risk when a woman of 40 years (not officially until later this month) give birth. My health and the baby’s health was not questioned simply because I was 42 weeks pregnant. I was able to give birth with the loving care of midwives who were at my home for only 4.5 hours. I was not separated from my family for a minute. I wish this experience were more common in our birthing culture. Maybe if Charlotte gives birth one day, it will be more common thanks to the work you all do so well!
Annie Harold, Arlington