By our 3rd date, I knew I wanted to make babies some day with this blue eyed man. I was only 21 at the time, just a neonate myself, but I knew he was going to play a special part in my life. We followed all the rules, finished college, traveled, went on to graduate school in separate cities, but eventually found our way back to each other where we lived on my mother in law’s houseboat on the east side of Lake Union. Pure Magic. Love, water, Seattle during the mid 90s – a great time of life ! I patiently waited for 4 years before convincing Tim it was time to have our first. Amelia. A few years later came Elle, and then you all know the rest of that story … our mighty blessing Charlie showed up last.
Since about the age of 18 I have been captivated by birth. Strange I know. What 18 yo girl becomes obsessed with birth. But for me it was not exactly just birth that intrigued me, but the role of the woman who guided at the birth, the midwife. I remember when I shared with my mom that I wanted to become a midwife, she was annoyingly perplexed, and told me that that was something a 40 year old woman becomes, not and 18 yo. Although she had a point, her dismissal of my calling felt harsh to my young soul.
As most of you know, I found my non-linear path to midwifery starting in my 20s, but this is not what I want to write about this morning. More later. This morning I want to write about Elle’s birth.
Elisabeth McChesney Northern was born at 9pm on November the 12th 2001. A few short months after 9/11, a time no American will ever forget. She was nine days late, nine long days. Possibly a sweet little clue she gave us that she would be doing “LIFE” on her own terms. Amelia was right on time, typical first born daughter behavior. Because I was past 41 weeks, my midwife swept my membranes during the prenatal visit and scheduled us for an induction later that afternoon. It was an odd feeling to schedule a birth, it just felt unnatural… kind of like when middle aged couples schedule sex… not my style. But I was ready to have her and so I agreed.
Her birth was quite swift. After one tablet of cytotec, my contractions escalated into 5th gear. Thankfully Monti had arrived just in the nick of time as my husband does not handle birth well. Ironic, I know. In fact, Tim almost missed Elle’s birth all together because he was experiencing similar contractions of his own, of his lower intestine… in the public bathroom. Ohhhh Timmmy.
Monti led me into the warm water where I labored for another 20 minutes or so and then I felt an internal pop. It is a strange sensation to feel your water break when you are already in the water. That was all it took, Elle was barreling through full steam a head. Monti pulled the emergency cord and the midwife ran in to check me. I was not having it. My reflexes took over and pushed the midwife’s arm away from my body. Some how I made it out of the water and onto the bed. Some how Tim miraculously returned from the bathroom, the nurse rushed in to assist, and I delivered Elle, with the help of my tribe.
“I did it!” I remember crying out as I held Elle to my chest. With Amelia, I had begged for an epidural during transition. My weakness haunted me after ward because i had planned to to experience birth without anesthesia. My second labor was an opportunity to prove to myself that I could do it. Thank god she came so quickly, otherwise I would have surrendered again. Unbearable.
There are a lot of moments during the birth of a baby that I cherish both as a mother and as a midwife. The feeling of triumph, the warm coos and tears from the family as they lay eyes upon new life, and the sheer grit of the female spirit. But as a mom, my most cherished memories of all three of my children’s births was the first night alone with my baby in the hospital after all the hubbub had settled down. It is difficult to describe because I do not really know if there are words to accurately express this moment. The closest word I can find is “primitive”. There is nothing that compares to the experience of snuggling down with your baby, a kind nurse quietly attending, skin to skin, and with every sense of your body…. taking in your creation, God’s creation. Her silky skin, her warm breath, her smell, her movements, and her tiny pink fingernails… all of it. Soaking her in, locking her in for life.
As with each of my babies, I had created a play list for the upcoming birth, part of my plan for coping with labor. Always planning…. My first night with Elle, I spent on the couch that was meant for the dad’s. Tim had gone home to Dragon Fly Ranch, to be with Amelia and the birthing bed was meant for birthing not sleeping. It was a dark stormy night in mid November, the wind was howling and I could hear the swaying of the barren maple trees outside of my birthing suite. I started my playlist quietly as an attempt to drown out the hospital noises. As I began to take in my newest baby girl, Blackbird sung by Sarah Mclachlan, began to play. Do you know this song ? Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise. Black bird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see, all your life you were only waiting for this moment to be free, blackbird fly into the light of the dark black night…. Chills, full body chills. Elle was my baby black bird, but I just did not know it yet. Or maybe, just maybe, I was Elle’s baby black bird… and God had sent her to help me fix my broken wings and learn to fly. God does work in mysterious ways, wouldn’t you say?