May Baby

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My May baby.  As you made the conviction that you were ready to be born into this world and slip today, May 19, 2016 from eternity into this strange design of time and measures, I ate the first cherries of the season.  Once again and forever, these cherries taste sweeter when I talk to God.

At around 12:45am, some cramping woke me up but I didn’t think much of it since I’d been having irregular cramping for weeks.  Plus, my due date was still three days away and I’d been convinced because of Qohelet’s birth that there was no way this baby was going to play by the rules either.  But after about an hour of laying in the dark under almost-full moon-shine while the mild rushes came about every ten minutes or so, I asked Joshua not to go to work today.  We heard Qoey stirring so while my husband went to put her back to sleep, I boiled water for tea and stacked a bunch of towels, hydrogen peroxide, wash cloths, Chux pads, and sterile gloves on the kitchen counter.

For the next couple hours under a strand of Christmas lights, I laid on the futon breathing through the 8-7-6-5 minute apart contractions while during the breaks, Joshua rubbed my back and prayed the rosary.  I thought it so lovely that I was able to spend these early hours of labor chewing on cherries and sipping raspberry tea.  The Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, and Glory Be’s added to the serenity of what was going to be a sacred day for our family.  I had been relatively fearful about this day compared to Qoey’s birth because now I knew what the out-of-this world pain of labor felt like and what I’d have to endure again.  Last time when the first of the many back labor contractions hit me, I was told that it was my time to suffer with Jesus on the cross.  Now with the sweet cherry juice, I also swallow the truth of what it means to give your enemy not only one but both cheeks to strike, to face the pain with a cutting perspicacity that reminds me of Psalm 91.  “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but evil shall not come nigh thee.”  Baby and I were going to get through this birth experience by going straight into it.

At almost four we decided to call Heather, the midwife, because everyone had told us that second babies usually come in half the time as the first, and since she lived about an hour away; I just felt like we should give her a heads up and get her input.  After listening to me breathe through a contraction, she said she’d shower and head over.  I have loved her organic way of doing things all throughout the pregnancy.  She didn’t weigh me, I never had an ultrasound, she didn’t test my urine, and only pricked my finger to see my iron level once.  Prenatal visits had all been at our house and consisted mostly of her putting her hands on my womb to feel the baby, checking my blood pressure and Baby’s heart rate, and just talking about anything on my mind.  Even after the birth, at our three-day postpartum checkup, Heather came by and stayed for an hour and a half revisiting the birth from her perspective and opening up about her calling to the midwife vocation, akin to a priest being called to a religious life.  So before we hung up the phone, she said that there’s no need to time the contractions anymore but to sink into a space filled with prayer and rest.

When she arrived we continued what we were doing while she checked heart rate and blood pressure, then took a nap on the alpaca wool.  At around six our daughter woke up and the contractions pretty much stalled.  I felt like her presence pulled me up to the surface as I thought about her needs like I did every other day.  I felt bad about calling the designated baby-sitter, Amy, so early so I decided we’d have an hour of family time and then make the call.  When I talked to her on the phone she said she’d take Qoey to school with her that day since she had to work but didn’t hesitate for even a moment to come and get her.  What love!

With Qoey out of the house, we were all able to reestablish our intent for the day and while Heather and Joshua ate scrambled eggs and veggies and I had my four bites that I had promised Heather I would eat for energy (I didn’t want to eat anything but the cherries); I put the Mantra of Avalokiteshvara on the stereo and chanted, bent over the birth ball.

After breakfast Joshua began the birth tub scenario (“It’s always a comedy,” says Heather) and sure enough we would also not let that prophecy go unfulfilled, as we soon learned that our shop vac didn’t blow, but only sucked.  So Joshua began filling it manually with our birth ball pump and the “elk call” wheezes this made coupled with another anticipated forty-five minutes or so of this “music” was enough to send Heather laughing and out the door into town to grab a cup of coffee.

By the time she returned, the tub was blown up and my contractions were stronger, so I changed music to Arvo Pärt and other ethereal songs and just groaned heavily and low through all the waves, remembering from last labor to send the energy downward.  Since the back labor was not bad like it was last time, it actually helped to walk around and sway from side to side.  At one point Heather said softly and full of meaning, “You’re dancing with your baby.”  My love for Baby throughout labor was overwhelming.  Any time Joshua or Heather mentioned something like, “We’re going to be holding the baby in our arms today,” a wave of love crashed over me and I would start a gentle cry, knowing this was the truth.

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The tub comedy continued when for some reason they discovered the water heater was only feeding cold water into the hose.  Luckily Joshua remembered from shutting off our water when we left town over Christmas (high-altitude living, haha) that there was a hot water tap in the crawlspace.  And I was oblivious to all of the logistics of water birth by this point, when I didn’t want to even hear music anymore.  I just know I was so relieved when Heather said I could now get into the tub, which didn’t make the contractions any more bearable but was extremely relaxing in between them, with Joshua beside me offering sips of grape juice from our daughter’s neon cup.

After laboring for an hour in the water, Heather thought I should get out and try different positions, because at that point the body had adjusted to the water and temperature so that it no longer had an analgesic effect.  The contractions were coming one on top of the other by now, and while I was in the midst of an especially long and hard one, I looked pleadingly at my husband right as a huge gush of water came out of me and nervy-Joshua jumped back with surprise.  “Your water bag broke!” exclaimed Heather. “This will increase the pressure.”  Not something I wanted to hear in the throes of this pain but I knew I couldn’t stave off the inevitable either.

Soon I was back in the tub and I intermittently had the urge to push during contractions. This sensation was confusing to my body and to Heather, who at one point said, “If you’re going to push you’re going to need to lift up your leg.”  So she checked me and saw that there was still just a tiny amount of cervix in the way, creating all the confusion.  I still had work to do.  Joshua helped me to breathe through the pain and laid cold wash cloths on my forehead, because I was being shaken by the energy of the surges and allowing it to escape out of my mouth rather than focusing it downward.  How did Jesus do it, offering up his other cheek?  It’s one thing to preach it when your pain and enemies are in the periphery, but when it’s happening and the persecution and suffering are real, and they’re actually nailing palms and feet into wooden beams, how is it possible to do what you said you should do?  How can one be so pure?  Like birth, a miracle.

A few contractions later Heather checked me again and said I could trust my body to push now: the cervix was completely out of the way.  But I was scared.  As I felt the baby’s head enter the birth canal, my mind and body remembered what it felt like to do this excruciating part.  I said no.  The contractions stopped.  Heather knelt next to me and looked me in the eye and said, “Amaya, it’s your baby.  Your baby’s coming.”  She said some other affirmative words about the women who throughout time have ‘danced this dance’ and about how hard this ‘gift of labor’ really is, but unconditional love was all I needed to remember.

As she went to get another pot of water to pour into the tub, this love fueled me through the oncoming wave and I knew this was it.  With Joshua right behind me, sweet good God, I felt the baby move down and I wasn’t going to stop this movement.  I screamed with pain letting Heather know that this was it and she ran over as I guided the baby’s head out.  “Help me!”  And I cannot believe it that afterward Heather said it was four minutes in between the birth of the head and the birth of the rest of the body.  I guess it was a grace that it all seemed to happen so quickly, within seconds.  The baby’s arms were crossed around the shoulders so Heather had to reach all the way in, hook her hand under the baby’s armpit, and pull the baby out.  I felt the searing pain of the tear as the baby was completely born and Heather lifted the baby from the water and onto my body.  “Praise God!  Our baby!  Our baby!”

That first glimpse of those eyes — that little squirming thing inside me has eyes! — and the feel of the warm, slippery, body against my chest, and oh, the first time you hear your baby’s voice… I just want to do it all over again for this moment alone.

But the gifts keep coming!  Just this morning, a week after our second daughter, Salome Medo, came into the world, the sunrise rays poured into our bedroom as the two of us woke up peacefully lying next to each other and I nursed her; while my husband laid Qohelet next to us and gave her a bottle of mama’s milk I pumped yesterday.  I held my older daughter’s hand.  Bountiful milk and love flowing through this family these days, as Qoey kisses her sister’s tiny, soft head and says, “I love you, Mei Mei.”

My May baby, we are blessed.

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Qohelet and Salome

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© 2016, Amaya Engleking

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30 comments

  1. Awkward Babble · May 26, 2016

    What a beautiful read, thank you for sharing this ❤

  2. Angeline · May 27, 2016

    Beautiful indeed!

  3. Anonymous · May 27, 2016

    Beautiful story, Amaya. I have sent this over to your Dad.

    • Gospel Isosceles · May 28, 2016

      Hi Ann, thank you so much for reading and commenting. (I didn’t know you could do that without a WordPress account.) Please do share this with him. We look forward to seeing you and getting to fall in love with your beautiful new granddaughter!

  4. Saturated In Seattle · May 27, 2016

    Reading this, I felt as if I was not only witnessing your miracle unfold, but experiencing parts of it as well. My stomach muscles clenched, tears ran down my cheeks and I smiled as I read that she has your eyes! That moment—the moment we see our baby, hear their voice, feel their heart beat against our chest…there is nothing in all the world that can possibly compare. Congratulations. I am so overjoyed for you and your family!

    • Gospel Isosceles · May 28, 2016

      You’re so sweet to, once again, walk beside me and experience the breadth of life. Now we both are mothers of two daughters! xoxo

  5. jillyange · May 31, 2016

    This was truly such a beautiful birth story! What a testament to God’s glory and love for His children as you brought Salome Medo into the world and now you are able wrap your arms and love around both your children. I love your honesty in having fears knowing how difficult labor is after your first baby! It’s so true. As excited as I am to one day labor again, your words brought back truth…that it is so much work, but so worth it for those first few moments…I feel like I could do it over again and again. Congratulations and enjoy these extra special but fleeting moments of postpartum.

    • Gospel Isosceles · June 7, 2016

      Hi Jill, thank you so much for reading. It really is like a mini miracle, often overshadowed by the great one of birth itself, how quickly we forget what the actual sensations of the pain of pushing the baby out feels like! It’s God blessing us, like not letting us know the day and hour of certain future events, letting us just bask in the glory of the present. And there’s nothing like the present moment of the first time you get to hold your baby! I hope you are enjoying your first year with John Fredrick, and I’m looking forward to more posts of yours.

  6. Anonymous · June 7, 2016

    What a beautifully written account of a wonderful labour of love. Many congratulations on the birth of your lovely daughter (she’s so perfectly chunky like our little girl was!) and how wonderful to see the two sisters together 🙂 They are going to have such a ball! Enjoy this new chapter in your family adventure! 🙂 May your faith continue to strengthen the bond between you all! Congratulations! Llongyfarchiadau!

  7. Anonymous · June 7, 2016

    Hi Amaya! Hannah here from Wales (in the yurt). What a beautifully written account of a wonderful labour of love. Many congratulations on the birth of your lovely daughter (she’s so perfectly chunky like our little girl was!) and how wonderful to see the two sisters together 🙂 They are going to have such a ball! Enjoy this new chapter in your family adventure! 🙂 May your faith continue to strengthen the bond between you all! Congratulations! Llongyfarchiadau!

    • Gospel Isosceles · June 13, 2016

      Hi Hannah, thank you so much for reading; these birth stories are really held in a tender place in my heart and it’s so wonderful to share with friends who understand. I hope you’re enjoying your summer!

  8. earthmamaflowerchild · June 7, 2016

    Congratulations and what an absolutely beautiful birth story! I am so proud of you after reading it and I can feel the love that runs through your whole family.
    My daughter had to be born via c section because of breech presentation, and I was heartbroken. I had hoped for a medication-free birth with a midwife. It was everything I never wanted her birth to be. I really hope my next child can be born at home!

    • Gospel Isosceles · June 7, 2016

      There are competent midwives out there experienced both in VBAC’s and in breech deliveries at home. I remember our midwife, Heather, saying that breech births are actually the most straightforward because the babies just “fall out” (very rarely would she have to reach in and get them as she did with our little Salome.) So I hope you don’t let breech presentation deter you from a home birth. Just find someone you can trust to be there for you along the way. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words, and I just want to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog and that I look forward to reading more summer adventures in what sounds like a paradise!

    • Hey, I'm Cat! · June 11, 2016

      I can relate- I had planned on a home birth with my first, and even after finding out that my baby was breech, my midwife was ok with going forward with it, but labor wasn’t going well and I ended up having to go in for a c-section. It was incredibly disappointing (you can read about it on my blog if you want https://mrspfenning.com/2016/03/03/the-story-before-the-vbac/) but 16 months later I was able to have a VBAC at home, in the living room of my tiny apartment. A lot of people thought I was crazy or brave for having a home birth after cesarean, but I knew it was best, and my midwife was so encouraging. Of course our best birth plans don’t always go as planned…but sometimes they do! 🙂
      -Cat

  9. Hey, I'm Cat! · June 11, 2016

    Thank you for sharing! Reading it brought me back to December when my own little girl was born, and I hope that I can put her birth story to words as well as you did here!
    -Cat

    • Gospel Isosceles · June 11, 2016

      Ooh, I look forward to reading! I thought it may have just been a pregnancy thing, reading all these birth stories, but nope; I still weekly check the tags ‘home birth’, ‘water birth’, ‘birth’ and ‘free birth.’ Haha, maybe I should be a midwife:) Thanks for reading, Cat.

  10. Vicky · June 29, 2016

    Simply beautiful, a wonderful read. Congratulations.

    • Gospel Isosceles · June 30, 2016

      Thank you Vicky, and congratulations to you again for sweet Olivia Rose.

  11. PursuePeaceBlog · July 3, 2016

    Such a different birth story from my own as I spent mine induced in the hospital. Amazing!!!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Gospel Isosceles · July 8, 2016

      Each birth is special and given your God-centered aspect on life and the way you write, I would very much like to read your son’s birth story. Thank you for reading.

  12. Tim · July 15, 2016

    My dearest Ada,

    Every birthday, five every year for every child for as long as each child was at home, Nana would “Tell the story of my birth!” Your children, Qohelet and Salome, will cherish these blogs as long as they live, sweet Amaya. (I also hope, in Nana’s honor, that they will want to hear it every year as well.) I have a couple questions. See below:

    I screamed with pain letting Heather know that this was it and she ran over as I guided the baby’s head out. “Help me!” And I cannot believe it that afterward Heather said it was four minutes in between the birth of the head and the birth of the rest of the body.

    First, did YOU YOURSELF guide the baby’s head out??? How is that possible!!
    Second, I had no idea it would take four minutes from head to toes. That seems awfully long. What is normal? What was Qoey’s comparable time?

    • Gospel Isosceles · July 17, 2016

      I love you, Dad. Relatives’ writings from the heart are the greatest treasure, and if you have any journals or drafts of your Pomp’s Pillar and other good ideas, I’d love to look at them. It is my hope that the girls will be pleased to read their birth stories.
      I just had my hand on Salome’s head and this position helps to direct the pushing. And the four minutes, seems long to me too, but Heather looked at her watch at 1:36 when Salome’s head was born and then again at 1:40 when she was completely born. Because of her difficult position and ‘getting stuck’ and Heather having to reach in and guide her out, this was an unusual birth. Usually, as with Qohelet, baby’s head is born and in one more contraction, around thirty seconds later or so, out comes the rest. Can’t wait to do it all again;)
      Thank you so much for reading and for the encouragement in writing.

  13. Ellyce Leduc · December 1

    Congratulations right back to you! This is a beautiful story she will one day read and treasure.

    • Gospel Isosceles · December 1

      Oh, thank you! Did you write Azalea’s and Olivia’s birth story? You can also read about my oldest daughter’s birth, titled, ‘A Daughter’s Birth, A Family’s Birth.’ I appreciate your comment,

  14. Gospel Isosceles · May 19

    Reblogged this on Gospel Isosceles and commented:

    “Little Lomy Loo” turns one today and she’s wobbling around pretending she’s Janis Joplin with her deep “blues” scowl she’s had since infancy, or eating dirt or dandelions, or giving me open-mouth, ready-to-nurse kisses on my cheekbone. And believe it or not, I’m nostalgic for her unmedicated, home water birth! Here is the full story for anyone needing the inspiration or who is curious about the miracle of birth.

  15. oldepunk · May 19

    what a beautiful story about the birth of your child. Thank you for sharing and God Bless!

  16. rothpoetry · 7 Days Ago

    You are blessed with a lovely and beautiful family!!
    Dwight

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