Sunshine looked at the calendar on Saturday, December 9th, and said, “Baby is coming today!!!” I laughed. I’d written “EDD” on the calendar and explained it to her a few times, but apparently the girls still expected their brother on his due date. Lily and Jade were equally disappointed that Baby was still keeping us waiting by the end of the day.
I worked on rearranging the girls’ room, as we’d found a new dresser for them to replace the bookshelves and cubes we’d been using. By the end of the weekend, I had cleaned the bathrooms, finished the girls’ room, and made sure all the baby stuff was ready. We also took the girls to the sledding hill.
On Monday morning, I decided it was time to give Baby a few hints about arriving. I called my friend Anna to ask her for her labour cocktail recipe, and then planned a spicy Indian meal for dinner. I added a pineapple to my online grocery order for good measure. When the hospital called to book an ultrasound for me in case Baby hadn’t shown up for Friday, I just said yes. I had no intention of spending my morning down at the hospital checking up on Baby; I wanted to be holding him.
At noon, we ran to the airport to pick up my mom, who was coming to visit for a week. She helped me run a few errands on the way home. About mid-afternoon, as we drove, I felt something across my tummy that made me glance at the clock. It was a bit harder than the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having for the past weeks, but not quite labour yet. We picked up my grocery order and headed home, and by the time we got home, I knew that I wouldn’t need the pineapple, castor oil, or spicy East Indian food.
While Mom and I danced back and forth in the kitchen, making chicken tikka masala and cauliflower coconut curry, I tried to time contractions. They were still irregular. In the evening, I walked Sunshine to her dance class (despite her protests), as it gave me a chance to shake Baby down a bit more and call Anna to say labour was starting. I knew she’d send a message to the rest of the moms in our group. As labour progressed, the thought of their prayers and emotional support encouraged me.
At supper, I mentioned casually to my mom and husband that Baby was on his way. I had a samosa and a bit of chicken and cauliflower, but I wasn’t really hungry, especially since I knew that labour would bring the food back up anyway. The girls liked the chicken, so it was a good thing I didn’t need it to start labour, as we failed to make any of the East Indian food very spicy!
I kept moving through the evening, going to my room to do squats if a contraction was really hard. The older three girls got themselves ready for bed on their own and started an Adventures in Odyssey tape. Sunshine was excited to be sleeping in the recently rearranged blue room with her sisters, as it has the tape player and Daddy had found them more Odyssey tapes. I helped Pearl into her jammies, turned on her owl projector for her, and asked my mom to sit with her for a bit.
At 8 pm, I paged my midwife to let her know that labour was going well. Contractions were four minutes apart. I got out my hot water bottle and sat in my rocking chair, praying and rocking through contractions. When my husband got home, I told him the midwife was on her way and went to have a shower. She arrived and set up her things, and was ready to check on Baby and I when I got out of the shower. (Our condo, unfortunately, seems to have a small hot water tank.)
After that, I laboured mostly in the bedroom. My second midwife arrived, and they chatted quietly about their equipment and what they needed. My husband got cold wash cloths for my face as labour began to make me hot. He refilled my juice and ginger ale for me, and reheated the hot water bottle to put on my back or stomach. When I began throwing up, I took it as a good sign—labour was getting harder and would soon be over.
When Baby had failed to arrive for his due date, which was the Feast Day of St. Juan Diego, I had looked up the saint days for the rest of the week. Tuesday was Our Lady of Guadalupe, which seemed like a cool feast for a birthday—and part of the reason I decided to encourage labour to start on Monday. Hanging in our bedroom is a white stone picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe which we got in Mexico, so as I sat on the edge of my bed between contractions, I tried to pray and focus on her rather than the pain—or the clock.
As my contractions continued, I got tired and impatient. I just wanted to be done and holding Baby. I asked my midwives about breaking my water and they agreed. I went for a shower again, and began to feel like I had to push. After a few more “pushy” contractions, I got out of the shower and returned to the bedroom. I had been excited for pushing to start, as it meant labour was almost done, but now it was just hard and painful. I reached down to feel Baby, thinking he should be nearly out, and he wasn’t. I knelt by my bed and put my head down on my arms and wanted to cry.
My midwives remained patiently, quietly encouraging during this time. I stayed mostly at the side of the bed, doing squats as I pushed because that’s what felt good. For a while, I had laboured in the bathroom, straddling the toilet or standing up to lean on the sink (and hope it was installed well!). Now, I tried to stay where the midwives could see and help.
Finally, finally, Baby was getting close and the ring of fire began. My husband got more washcloths—cold ones for my face, hot ones for my bottom. When Baby’s head came out, the midwives said something about his cord. One asked if I could get on the bed. I hesitated, unsure what she meant—how was I going to move with Baby halfway out?—and then with another push, Baby was in my arms. His cord was tucked behind his arm and he howled his protests while the midwives worked to untangle it so that I could lay down and snuggle him.
They threw a warm towel over both of us, as I began to shiver now. My mom, who’d gone to bed earlier, heard Baby’s cries and came in to see him. The girls thankfully slept through all the noise (both mine and Baby’s!). We rubbed down Baby as he continued to complain. My mom cut his cord. Then she watched as the midwives weighed and checked him, and I went for my last shower.
Joey was almost nine pounds at birth, bigger than any of his sisters by a full pound. Maybe that’s why pushing felt longer and harder than with any of them! Despite that, his was also my shortest labour: around six hours, compared to eight for Pearl and ten for the older three girls.
By midnight, Baby and I were tucked into bed with warm blankets around us. I was still cramping badly, but otherwise tired and happy to be holding him. My mom went back to bed, and the midwives gathered their stuff and did their final checks of us.
It was lovely to have my mom to help for the next week. She woke up early with them and got them breakfast while I slept in. I napped every day with Joey while she took the girls to the park or swimming pool. She also cooked and cleaned for us, so that I could save the freezer meals I’d prepared for the week after she left. She was able to come to the girls’ Christmas music recital, and helped me get groceries for Joey’s first outing.
And so now we are a family of seven! Our minivan is full and the girls are delighted with their baby brother.