It was an unseasonably warm day, much like today, but in 1999, when weather like this was so rare as to be a miracle.
I waited to pick up a pregnancy test until after my hair appointment that, not wanting to give up my annual birthday ritual of highlights, but knowing that I would, if there had been a someone, to consider, inside.
A year had passed without two lines on a stick.
My first miscarriage was six-years earlier.In May of 1993.
The second–in November–of the same year, on the day of Uncle Joe’s funeral.
A son had come two years later, and now a second soul was knocking on the door, but I hadn’t found the key.
I stopped at Rite Aid with my fresh highlights and purchased this month’s pregnancy test.
I stopped at the Post Office too.
A yellow notification card.
A high school friend. A cd. Stevie Nicks.
Once home, I peed on a stick. I pushed play.
I called my husband. And my sisters.
No one was there.
I pushed play again, and hit the repeat button, and turned up the volume and opened the French doors and stepped outside, into the yard, onto grass, instead of snow, and danced and twirled and laughed with the mountains and the woods and the sky. In rapture.
It would be months before this song became an anthem.
He was born just in time.
A week early.
She held him in her arms before she died.
His life and this song became our balm.
I never dreamed of a homebirth, never even imagined it or knew it was something that people chose to do. I had been brought up in a medical family–with three generations of allopathic physicians, and I assumed births took place as they should–in the hospital. This is where my mother gave birth to each of her nine children, and where she enjoyed the few days break from keeping house and caring for a newborn (not to mention siblings.)
By the time I got around to wanting a child, I was the same age my mother was as a parent of four. Having grown up in this large family, “blessed” as the eldest, I was in no rush to become a parent. I had my share of diaper changing and late night feedings by age of fourteen, and I had few illusions about the institution of motherhood; and loads of skepticism; that is until I was denied entry into this vocation.
Up until that time, I had viewed motherhood as some necessary evil, some hurdle I had to cross in order to pass into proper adulthood. Thus, I took it for granted that motherhood would be there waiting in the wings, whenever I was ready to succumb.
I was somewhere in my mid-twenties, unmarried, when it hit me. BABY HUNGER. All of the sudden, I HAD to have a baby. It didn’t matter that we were still renting and that my boyfriend had just gone back to school. The urge came on so strong and so unreasonably that I had to restrain myself from thoughts of swiping one.
As the primary breadwinner, it was completely impractical for me to get pregnant until my partner had his degree so instead I read everything I could on pregnancy and motherhood and being READY.
During that time we planned a wedding and fantasized about relocating to the mountains and living in a log home.
At 28, I couldn’t wait any longer so I convinced my husband to “start trying” before he graduated–since babies took nine months to be born anyway.
A year later, we still weren’t pregnant–and when we finally did conceive, I miscarried at the end of the first trimester. I hadn’t known that that was a possibility either.
Suddenly plans and jobs and certainty made less sense to me. We left our home at the shore and moved to the mountains of Vermont where we conceived–right away–only to miscarry again at 6 weeks.
When we were emotionally prepared to try a third time, we knew we needed something different–and that’s how we found Mary. Mary was a Naturopathic physician and a midwife–but mostly she was smart and caring and attentive.
Although she only attended homebirths, Mary agreed to work with us into the second trimester when she would turn us safely over to an MD. By that time however, we had fallen in love with her–and couldn’t imagine anyone else delivering our long-awaited baby–even if that meant we had to have a homebirth.
This third pregnancy was just as tricky as the previous ones–with a month of bleeding in the first trimester, early contractions in the second, and a challenging delivery in the third.
My son’s labor began at home on a rainy Tuesday morning–two weeks earlier than expected. It started with a sharp kick and the breaking of waters, followed by minute-long contractions, five-minutes apart. By the time the midwife arrived, I had already dilated 8 centimeters.
It was then that Mary discovered that the baby was breech–so she made arrangements for us to be transported over the mountain to the nearest hospital.
When I was rolled into the Emergency Room, the staff couldn’t believe that I was in labor–let alone in transition. With Mary at my side, I was calm and present and clear despite the mounting anxiety.
After some negotiations, they permitted Mary and my husband to accompany me into the operating room where my exquisitely planned homebirth was transformed into an emergency c-section.
The doctor on call had to yank my son out of the birth canal–along with all of my preconceived notions about how motherhood and I would become one.