Today we share the third birth story of a three part series. Each of Lillian’s babies have a unique story, but in this story of her third baby, she shares the raw emotions and physical challenges that even a veteran home-birther must face to bring another sweet baby earth-side.
The Birth of Vera Bea
By Lillian Keil
It was early Wednesday morning, and I couldn’t sleep. Being 9 months pregnant, I was no stranger to middle-of-the-night restlessness, but this time it was different. My back was hurting in a precise kind of way I recognized as contractions. I never have noticeable contractions until I’m in labor, so even though the backaches were not intense, I figured it was probably our baby’s birthday.
I got out of bed around 4:30 and felt a burst of energy. I put away all the dishes and laundry, tidied the fridge, took out the compost, and started cleaning the inside of the recycle bin and trash can- something I literally had not done since moving into this house a year ago. At one point I was even cleaning the railing of the sliding pantry door with a q-tip. I tried to move the washing machine so I could clean behind it, and all the banging around woke up my mother-in-law. She claims she discovered me with a huge grin on my face “like Christmas morning.” The contractions were consistent and slowly getting stronger, but I was trying to wait until a reasonable hour to contact my doula and my midwife.
I finally sent them both texts around 6am, finished responding to a bunch of craigslist ads for our rental houses, and tried to spend some quality time with my older kids. We had breakfast and played for a while before Simon had to leave for school. I started to feel really tired when he left, so I left Porter with his grandmother and tried to sleep between contractions. After an hour or so Jason came in to check on me, and I started crying. The excitement was wearing off, and I was remembering what hard work it is birthing a baby. I’d looked forward to my other labors, but having had two natural (read: excruciating) births before, this time I felt I had nothing prove. My attitude about labor was a kind of grim resolve. I tried to focus on anticipating the first few hours postpartum, when I would get to hold our daughter and eat donuts.
My mood lifted when my mom and sisters showed up. My sister Marion suggested we go for a walk, so she and I set off with Jason and my sister Rosie. When we left I was feeling totally confident, but by the time we got a ¼ mile from our house the contractions were coming faster and stronger- sometimes less than 2 minutes between them. We took a break and made a massage train in the middle of the park near our house, joking about how funny we probably looked and whether we could get a stranger to jump in at the end of our massage train.
We started walking again, and suddenly nothing seemed funny anymore. I realized going so far was entirely overambitious- the contractions were so painful at this point that I was literally on my knees whimpering on the sidewalk near Simon’s school. This would have awkward under normal circumstances, but it became totally mortifying when I realized that Simon’s preschool was getting out a half hour early, and all the moms I know from school started walking by with their kids. I tried to look ‘normal’ but it was pretty obvious what was happening.
Jason ran off to get the car and drove us one block home. I made it inside and collapsed on our bed. I was stayed there on my side silently until my dear friend and doula/photographer Ciara showed up. We called the midwife and agreed that maybe the walk had temporarily worsened my labor and decided to check in again in half an hour to see if things would slow down at all.
Things did not slow down. The contractions were really hurting, and I was screaming through them until Ciara coached me to breath or make low moans. The big kids would pop in the door periodically, and I was so happy to see them. I could clearly feel the baby descending which I’d never felt before. I felt the urge to push and starting yelling, “Where the fuck is the midwife?!” Jason called her, and she rushed over to our house – thankfully her office is only a few blocks from our house. I asked if she wanted to check my dilation before I got in the birthing tub and she said sternly, “I don’t have time to check you because you are about to have a baby and I need get set up here.”
She was right- our girl was born in the water only an hour later. But it was a looooong hour for me. I was feeling super impatient and saying the things I always say during labor like, “why isn’t she here yet” and “what’s taking so long?” The birth assistant showed up (an emergency room nurse at her first ever home birth!) and checked the baby’s heartbeat, which was reassuring. My mom, mother-in-law, sisters, and Jason were all in the room and they were so affirming and helpful. Everyone kept saying how powerful I was, how well I was doing, and how great I looked – ha! Meanwhile I was thinking, “I hate giving birth” and saying “no no no no” every time I had a contraction – to which the rest of the room kept replying, “yes yes yes!”
My bag of waters was still intact. My midwife offered to break it, but I decided to wait and see if she would be born in the sac. The burning, the tearing, the unsatisfying work of pushing, the popping of my water… and then out came her head! I didn’t bother to look or feel for her head; I was so focused on finishing the damn thing. I pushed her body out and they put her in my arms at 2:26 pm. Relief!
Ciara took many beautiful photos, but this first one best depicts how I remember it…
I wasn’t totally convinced she was a girl until I saw it for myself. She looked exactly like her brothers, only a little smaller, and I loved her instantly. I got a shot of pitocin, delivered the afterbirth, and was still in the tub with her when the boys came in to meet her. They even got to see their dad cut the “food cord” and examine the placenta, which they’d learned about while I was pregnant. The midwives helped me move to the bed, then everyone filed out to eat some Cuban sandwiches. Jason and I laid on the bed together, looking at our daughter and talking about how perfect she was and whether the name we’d chosen for her fit.
Vera means faith, and Jason had discerned the name for her at sunset on top of Mt Pilchuck this summer. (To mark the occasion, he built the cairn in the photo below.) There were a few contenders for middle names, but looking at her we settled on Bea, which means “bringer of joy.”
Today our Vera Bea is one week old, and already she’s living up to her names, restoring our faith and filling our home with happiness. We are so, so blessed.
Without further ado…
A huge thank you to our families, friends, and midwives who have been so kind and supportive this week. You have made our first days as a family of five so sweet!
Welcome to the world, Vera Bea. We love you already!