Just after midnight on April 2, one week past her due date, our little Maisie Eliza entered this world. She weighed 10 pounds 1 ounce (my biggest baby by quite a margin!) and measured 22 inches.
The past 9 months
Before I jump to the more exciting part of Maisie’s birth, I have to briefly mention my pregnancy. This was my most difficult pregnancy. From day one, I was more exhausted with this pregnancy than I ever remember being in my life. I initially attributed this to having lots of kids close in age and to the fact that I was still nursing Elliott full-time when I got pregnant. Obviously, these contributed to my fatigue, but it wasn’t until much later in the pregnancy that we discovered my stored iron levels were really, really low. Suddenly, everything made sense. The tingling legs and arms, the extreme energy crashes, the pale skin, the faint spells, and just plain ole tired…all. the. time.
In addition to the low iron, I also had bad hip pain. I saw a physio-therapist, and while she gave me a few tips, I mostly just had to limit what activity I could and just deal with it. As a pedestrian, this wasn’t always easy.
Because of the difficult pregnancy, I had to make some choices. I wanted to be as available to my kids as possible. Because that was my primary choice, I had to save every ounce of energy for my family and home. And because I had little energy to go around, I had to basically not do anything else. Even with that choice, Brian had to take on a lot of extra home duties. He truly carried a huge load of the pregnancy with me by doing so much for us at home.
It was a long pregnancy. Particularly the last three months. Throughout it all, the reminder of the beauty and gift of new life was the light that I held on to. That God would bring beauty out of difficulty was something I clung to.
When I was 38 weeks pregnant, we found out my mom had cancer in both breasts. This is difficult news to get anytime, but in the final days of pregnancy it was particularly emotionally difficult (cancer is such a scary word). My mom had a week between her appointments and her scheduled surgery so she came for a visit and we hoped Maisie would be born. She was here over the due date, so it was entirely possible–my last three births were a week early–but it was not to be. My mom left, and on Tuesday the day before I went into labor, she had her surgery. (We just found out this week that the surgery was successful and that all the cancer was removed. We are so thankful!)
The decision to have a home birth
This is my 5th child, but my first home birth. After the awful ambulance ride to the hospital and barely getting there in time for Elliott’s birth, both Brian and I decided we wanted to consider birthing at home.
Here in Scotland, home births are an option through the normal healthcare system. Meaning it is no extra cost, the midwives and prenatal care are identical, and the birth itself is quite similar as in the hospital here you have no medical interventions unless there is an emergency.
There was a brief time when because of my low iron it looked like I might not be able to have the option of home birth, but with the supplements and whole lot of green smoothies, we managed to get my iron up enough to have the okay from the midwife.
When asked how long my labor was, I’m not quite sure what to say. The intense part of labor was very short. But I had a lot of pre-labor leading up to it. In reality, looking back I think my body started to shift into labor mode on Monday afternoon. I started having contractions that were quite intense that never completely went away at that point. Both Monday and Tuesday evenings I went to bed wondering if this would be the night, but it wasn’t until Wednesday night that I actually went into full labor.
All of this pre-labor made me a little concerned that things would go quickly when it finally happened because that is what I had done with Elliott. Little did I know how quickly!
On Wednesday I started having more intense contractions but they were very sporadic and I was still doing my normal days activities. The kids and I even managed to make an Easter craft.
Brian came home at dinner time, as normal. I made dinner and ate with the family. I was losing hope again at this point as nothing seemed to be going anywhere. In fact, the contractions were less frequent. I had pretty much decided that it was going to be another night of waiting. Brian did all of the getting kids ready for bed routine as I rested, but that was more from exhaustion from the day, than any sign of labor picking up. I read aloud to the kids and we put them to bed as usual.
Somewhere around nine o’clock we decided to time the contractions as they seemed a bit more consistent, though still not very intense. They were consistently 10 minutes apart, so I again got hope that maybe, just maybe this might be it. I was fairly skeptical, though, as I had had them this consistent a couple of times before in the previous days and nothing had materialized. We decided that as soon as they either got more intense or closer together we would call the midwife.
Nothing changed and I decided I may as well go to bed as it obviously wasn’t going to happen, when sometime after 11pm, everything changed. Oh my goodness! It was as if someone just slammed on the gas pedal and zoom, we were off. Wow, wow, wow! It was intense, it was painful, and they were coming fast.
Brian kicked into action mode and I was completely focused on my labor. There was nothing I could do to help get ready at this point. Brian ran some water for me to get in the bath. I stayed in there about 15 minutes I think, though time at this point was elusive to me. I remember asking Brian if we were going to have an April 1st baby or and April 2nd and he said “Oh definitely April 2nd, it is way past 11 already.” Well, we did have an April 2nd baby, but not by nearly the margin we thought we would!
Olivia woke up which panicked me briefly. Thankfully, Brian was able to calm her and let her know that Mommy was having a baby and we needed her to go back to bed. Olivia isn’t always terribly lucid in the middle of the night but by God’s grace, she did exactly what Brian asked her and went back to bed and asleep. Oh how grateful we were!
Brian had called the midwife and let them know that they needed to come quickly, but we had no way of knowing which midwife was on call that night and therefore how far a drive she had. We live in a rural area and some of the midwives live a fair distance away. Unfortunately, the midwife on call that night lived about 45 minutes away.
After the initial few minutes in the water, I labored almost entirely standing up. We have a towel rack that was just the right height to bare down on during the contractions. Between that and leaning in on Brian, I did almost the entire rest of my labor standing. I didn’t plan this, but having gravity as my friend was the best thing I could have done for the big baby that I was about to birth.
Shortly before Maisie arrived, I moved back to our bedroom and got on my knees next to the bed. I buried my head in a pillow and bit on a cold, wet washcloth while working through the most intense part of my labor. Partly because I was aware that I absolutely didn’t want to wake the kids, and partly because that is how I focus when in intense labor, I didn’t make a sound.
By this point, Brian was fairly sure the midwife wasn’t going to make it so he had a few minutes to mentally prepare himself.
All I said was, “I feel her.” Thankfully, Brian understood that to mean she was coming right then! He was prepared and as calm as if it was the most normal thing in the world for me to be giving birth in our bedroom with absolutely no-one there to help. He was seriously amazing!
At 12 minutes past midnight, in the dimly lamp lit bedroom, Brian caught our precious baby. All 10 pounds 1 ounce of her! She gave us a healthy cry almost instantly, letting us know all was well. For just a moment everything froze for me. I couldn’t believe we had just had a baby. There in our room. By ourselves!
Brian helped me up into the bed and then laid Maisie on me. The next moments were some of the most beautiful moments of my life. It was so quiet. The kids were all sleeping soundly. We were quietly waiting for the midwife to arrive. It was just Brian, me, and Maisie. I soaked it up. Maisie still attached to me, but on the outside of me. It was so incredibly peaceful.
After the midwives arrived, things were still very calm. I was so grateful for their calming presence. They didn’t rush in hurried because they had missed the birth, but immediately put us at ease that all was indeed well. It was all very calm. They were in no rush, but eventually Brian cut the cord, and they helped with the delivery of the placenta and did all the post-birth procedures, including weighing Maisie. I was shocked at her weight! My largest baby prior to Maisie was 8 pounds 11 ounces! I was very grateful for the midwives. I couldn’t have asked for a calmer birth experience. It was surreal.
Maisie is the Scottish (Gaelic) diminutive of Margaret which means pearl. A pearl is a precious gem that is cultivated in the roughness of a shell. Maisie is the redemptive gift that has come from a difficult pregnancy. I think of that every time I look at her and say her name.
One of the meanings of Eliza is God is satisfaction. Whether there is joy or sorrow, or cancer, or low iron, or fatigue, or hip pain, God is our satisfaction. And He was.
One of the the amazing things that I keep thinking about is how my body just did what it was supposed to do. Because I had no midwife there to give me suggestions of what to do, I just followed my body. It truly was instinctive like I’ve never experienced in birth before. I worked with my body, and my body just told me what to do. I’ve heard people say this about birth, but I had never experienced it quite like I did this time.
The other thing I am constantly amazed at is how Brian just followed my cues. This was by far the most silent birth I have ever had. And while I just quietly followed the cues of my body, Brian quietly followed my non-verbal cues. And it worked. We were both so aware of what was happening and yet almost nothing was said until she was out. There is so much I could say about Brian, but I’ll just tell you that he loved me so well in those moments and in the days since.
God created our bodies in such an amazing way to be able to do this thing called giving birth. And I count myself truly, truly blessed to have experienced it now five times.