by Ann J. Hines
© 2003 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor's note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 50, Summer 1999.]
Photo by Patti Ramos
We were too excited to sleep, so my husband and I decided to take a late night walk under the waxing moon. We reflected on our situation. Everything was in place—our invited loved ones had arrived for the event, our midwife was on alert, and the house was stocked and ready. We felt completely at peace. The mood was relaxed and festive. We were merely waiting for the star of our show to arrive.
When my contractions began Tuesday night, they were regular, but were still of the "practice" type intensity. So we tried to get some sleep before curtain call. When they became too strong to sleep through, my husband, mother and father sat up with me. We paged the midwife about 3 a.m., and she arrived shortly. How fortunate I was that I did not have to go out into the night for a long car ride. I stayed in my comfortable, familiar surroundings and the birth team came to me. I labored in and out of the big bathtub as I wished. The fluid feeling of the warm water all around me was like pain medication soothing my tension. When the sun arose, I took a walk outside in the spring air. I drank red raspberry leaf tea, and laughed at my family's jokes in between surges. When I felt a contraction coming on, my supporters all tuned in with me to help me keep mentally on top of the wave, talking to me and holding my hands or rubbing my back. The constant presence of those I loved around me, giving me their love and attention, strengthened and carried me when I felt my own strength failing. I felt like they were giving me their energy and heart, and no one uninvited interrupted that circle of peaceful strength.
When we reached the final act, my husband and I got into the tub and together, as a team, we worked with my body to bring our baby into our arms. I felt the long hair on her head with my fingertips as she crowned, and I felt exhilarated and encouraged by the contact. My grandmother and father joined the four of us already in the room to see her grand entrance.
Amidst the soft exclamations of joy from my family, my husband lifted her out of the water and laid her on my chest. I cuddled her closely and stroked her tiny arms and legs as the midwife suctioned her mouth and checked her vitals. As I cooed and crooned over her, she ceased crying, fixing her clear, bright eyes into my tear-dampened ones. She heard her daddy's voice from the opposite end of the tub, and turned her head completely around to focus her eyes on his. She knew who her parents were. Mere moments after taking her first breath, Elaine was fully alert and able to communicate with us in her own way.
When we were ready, I was helped to the bedroom, and the three of us, a new family, cuddled into our own bed. My husband and I smiled at each other over our real-life cherub and listened to her little noises as she slept. And then we all slept.
We were unaware of the midwife checking on mother and baby's status and others quietly cleaning up and preparing food. The entire experience was calm, and I felt at ease and in control at all times. I knew my wishes would be respected and I didn't have to worry about those details. I thought only of my new family. No one interrupted our intimate reverie. We didn't miss a moment of those precious first hours, bonding and loving our daughter.
Elaine came on her own time schedule, not the midwife's, the doctor's, or even mine. I was free to roam about my home according to my own comfort level. It was a very private event, with no strangers around me. Her first meal was the "liquid gold" from my own body, specially formulated just for her, and just at the time she needed it. Most of all, the entire event took place in surroundings familiar not only to me, but also to Elaine. She was welcomed into the security of voices and noises she had been hearing for months already.
Ann J. Hines, Ph.D., lives in Pace, Florida (Pensacola) with her husband and two children. She operates Preventive Health Care Services, a nutritional counseling practice and lending library. She enjoys being a full-time mom and military wife, gardening, and attending her friends' births.
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