My third birth was a good birth. It was well attended: two midwives, a midwifery student, my doula and my husband. Celeste and Rosa Maeve, my first and second-born daughters, were brought home at 9 centimeters to see their baby sister arrive. It was Celeste who cut the cord. I labored in the daylight, something I had hoped for, and we spent much of the time talking and laughing as the light gently left my home. My third daughter was born at 7:47pm, seven minutes after sunset. It was a good birth indeed, and I believe that (for everyone else in the room) it was even fun. Someone ordered a bacon-pineapple pizza at crowning.
I had prodromal labor for two weeks prior to giving birth. I was so tired of being unsure, of waking up with contractions in the night, thinking that perhaps I would be meeting my baby that day, only to watch another day pass. Being in my body became like being caught inside the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. For me, birth truly was the Wolf, the thing I feared most in my pregnancy, not because I believed for one second that there would be complications, but because my memory for pain is so acute, so visceral. I have heard other mothers say, “You forget; if you didn’t forget the pain, you might not do it again.” In all three of my births, I have experienced one moment (just one, mind you) in which I thought for certain my soul might in fact be being torn from my body. And those moments have stayed with me, written too deep to erase.
One of my aunts joked, “You know, there is a place you can go, called a hospital, in which they will give you something very wonderful called an epidural.”
Alas! I don’t know any different. I gave birth to my first child at home: no matter how great the pain of labor, there is simply no going back for me now. A good homebirth is too splendid. That impossibly painful moment, the moment in which I hear my own scream and wonder if its coming from somewhere outside my body, is such a small price to pay for all that I receive in return.
In the late afternoon on the day she would be born, I sent a text to my midwife, something along the lines of: I will be pregnant FOREVER, I will NEVER go in to labor, I will never NOT be pregnant, I’m never EVER going to have this baby. It is probably important to mention that I had yet to pass my due date and therefore no good reason for all the histrionics. As I waited for my labor to finally become real, I felt like I was waiting in line to ride a roller coaster, becoming increasingly anxious, lurching forward ever so slowly. Am I going forward at all? Is the line even moving? Is anything happening?
My midwife was as patient as ever and assured me of the normalcy of everything that I was feeling. I sent all these same complaints to a dear friend (who also happens to be a doula) and she volunteered to bring me a chai latte. While it may have been crystal clear to everyone around me that my pregnancy would very soon come to an end, I maintained my belief that my baby would never come out.
Guinevere Maris was born four hours later.
I knew her name in pregnancy, although I fought with it. I’m never opposed to unusual names, particularly when it comes to my own children. And I am comfortable with them blossoming into somewhat unusual people. Uncommon, that is. “Still, isn’t it too pretentious to name your kid Guinevere?” And yet it was clear that Guinevere would be her name (the name came to me in every form, in dreams, even in a commercial) and now that I’ve seen her and held her on the outside of my skin, I know how well it suits her.
Little G is only three weeks old today. I have no clue who she will become, but I can tell you that she has been my most pleasant newborn to date. Gwen is patient, receptive, and graceful. Also, her hair is the most surprising strawberry color. She was nearly born in the caul, were it not for my demand that my midwife break my water at the last minute. To Hell with my magical-born-in-the-caul-baby, I said. Do anything to get her out.
Since her birth, I have been living in a strange heaven. I finally know the experience of postpartum bliss that I’ve heard other women gush about, which is interesting considering that my life is harder than it has ever been before. My days are long. Words cannot express the fear I felt at the beginning of pregnancy, at the dread of having a newborn, a 2 year old and a 4 year old in my care all at once, knowing that my husband would be nearly unavailable as he gets our farm business rolling.
I am astonished to admit that my transition to three children is going really well so far.
Guinevere’s arrival has mostly quelled my fears, not because I expect things to be easy from here on out, but because mothering is transformative like that. I know beyond a doubt that I’m not the same mother I was 4 years ago, or even two years ago. I’m hardly the same woman I was just four short weeks ago: I couldn’t possibly be. Bringing a baby into the world is an experience all too great to leave you unchanged, no matter how many times you do it.
I’ve also learned how to manage my expectations: I’ve long forgotten the person who expected ample time to herself to get ready each morning. I’ve long let go of the part of myself that felt entitled to sleeping in on Saturdays. I’ve had a tiny bit of practice at this point, and as with any other job on Earth, a little experience helps. I do not love Guinevere any more than I love my other children. And yet her arrival has heralded so much love: I suppose its fair to say that I know how to love all three of them better. I’ve released my resistance. I have so much more room for loving them, maybe because my own needs take up considerably less space. My happiness is no longer something that only happens at naptime, when I finally have an hour to myself. I mean, I fucking love my quiet time, don’t get me wrong, and I would absolutely love more of it. But I no longer hold the belief that my life or my Self is something that only happens once my kids are tucked in. This is my life now. I’m all in.
Note: This post was originally published in my local column, Mothering Honestly, in Mommy Magazine.