Thirteen years ago today Céline was born. Céline and I are celebrating this special birthday right now, on a short trip with my mom, just the three of us.
On this very special and significant day I want to share with you Céline's (home) birth story, written from my mother's perspective.
I love how all these pieces of Céline's story fit together. My mother witnessing her birth (my only labor and delivery she was able to be present for) and then now, sharing this milestone birthday together.
Céline's birth story is written as a letter, to me. My mom wrote it years ago, when Céline was still a baby. It was originally published in a natural birth publication in the province where we lived at the time.
This letter holds a special place in my heart, you'll see why. My mother's example and her own memoirist writing is part of what motivates me to continually write our family story, in journals and here at FIMBY.
I'm just so honored to share this with you today.
February 7, 2000
It's Monday morning, and I'm getting into gear for the day. Thanks again for letting Dad and I invite ourselves for supper last night. It was mostly an excuse to come and play with Céline, our precious firstborn granddaughter. Though it's already eight months ago, my heart revisits the awe and privilege of being at her birth and the joy of sharing our bond of motherhood.
That day you announced your pregnancy seems like ages ago; your Dad and I were thrilled, but not surprised. When you told us about your inclination to have a home birth, again we weren't surprised, but thrilled? Truthfully, we just weren't sure what to think. Before we could embrace this decision you and Damien had made, we needed more information and time – which you gave us, but I didn't come to a resolution until one night, after I had lain awake mulling it over. I thought to myself, “Renee and Damien are intelligent and informed, they love this baby dearly (even more than me) and it's their desire to give this wee one the best possible setting to be born in.” Bearing in mind, Renee, your wish to be able to choose the kind of care you'd receive when delivering your baby – and the fact you and Damien had prayed about this decision – a home birth was okay with me. From then on I had peace about it. I just knew that God, the creator of this special little person, would give you strength, grace and protection when you would need it most.
9:00 P.M., May 21, 1999.
It was quiet in the car, as I drove alone to your house that night. I felt calm, contemplative, wanting to absorb every sensation of this experience I'd been invited to attend. But another part of me was excited and apprehensive, as I anticipated your most rewarding but most intense mental and physical workout ever.
When I got to your place, about 10:00, all was dark and still. Damien met me at the door, telling me your contractions were getting stronger, lasting longer. You were upstairs crouched on your bed, working your way through one of them. I wanted to rub your head, give you a hug, a physical expression of empathy – but you didn't want to be touched. I knew then you were well on your journey, a path that only you could travel.
I was a bit uncertain as to what I should do; was I ever glad to see the birth attendant, Cathy, arrive. When I met her at your place a few weeks ago I could see why you had such confidence in her, and in keeping with my first impression, she worked calmly, efficiently, getting things ready for herself, for you and the baby. I was glad to be put to work, helping tape plastic sheets on the floor, layering blankets, towels and baby clothes in an electric blanket, sterilizing syringes. Things I could do to help you, not wiping your face with cool clothes and rubbing your back like Damien was, but nurturing things to make you and your baby comfortable. Mom things.
Once the “set” was ready, I felt total assurance in Cathy's ability as she focused on caring for you, encouraging you, monitoring the baby's heartbeat. I watched from the hallway, so I wouldn't be in the way. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle this part, seeing you in such all-absorbing, bone-stretching pain. It was difficult: sharing your agony, yet distancing myself from its intensity, knowing I could not change this, your rite of passage into motherhood.
I was so proud of you. For digging deep within to find the resources to work through the contractions. For not losing control when you were wondering how much longer it would take. I had actually given that considerable thought. What if you felt like you just couldn't go any longer without medication, or that you changed your mind, you did want to be in a hospital after all? You never expressed either one of my concerns – which knowing your determined will, really were unfounded anxieties. You were strong. You had prepared yourself. When you needed another focus, Cathy read the Bible verses you had written out. Or she'd say a prayer to God, that He would give you strength to carry through ... there was such a peace enveloping the marvellous, miraculous event that was happening ... it made it all feel so right, so natural.
Being in a hospital setting, my labour and delivery experience with you was quite different. But one thing we had in common, and that was a lot of back and hip pain. Your Dad rubbed my back so hard he got blisters. I empathized with Damien as he offered to do anything to make you more comfortable. You didn't want to be massaged much, but gladly accepted his offers of water and high carb sports drinks. Though your marathoner Dad would not have wanted to be there, he would have been so impressed with his daughter who was “going the distance.”
A surprise for me: I was asked to boil water. That's the detail I think of when called to help a mother have a baby at home – probably from watching “Little House on the Prairie.” I never knew exactly what they needed it for, but Cathy used it to make a strong ginger root infusion. Once we could see your baby's head showing (those little swirls of dark hair), Cathy dipped cloths into the ginger “tea” and laid them around the opening, to help it relax and stretch more easily. I kept a steady supply of hot water, all the while wondering how much longer you had to go. I was actually thankful you weren't in a hospital. Here in your own home, you had the freedom to be in any position that felt best for you. Standing up, kneeling by a chair, leaning on your husband. This last part of labour was the hardest for me to watch you agonize through. After almost an hour of seeing that beautiful little circle of head, Cathy's advice to push hard rather than talk through the pain paid off. It wasn't long after that. With yet another serious push, leaning against your husband who had been there loving, helping you the whole time, you delivered your baby.
1:18 A.M., May 22, 1999.
Renee, I'll never forget the music of that immediate cry. Cathy had been there to catch your baby, wrapping it up in one of those warm blankets we had ready. You had such a look of awe and relief as you sat on the bed, where Damien and you cuddled your wee one and found out you had a baby girl. She was perfect: no scrunched head or purple look that so many people told me to expect. Her journey into the the big world had been in an atmosphere of peace and calm – the same way she was quietly looking around, as though checking out her new home. As you held her, Cathy instructed Damien where to cut the cord, this one quick action making his little girl at one time totally independent – and dependent. I felt tears and a tight throat as I watched you love your baby. My girl had a baby girl – she was now a mother, and I knew you'd be a wonderful one.
Damien announced that the baby's name would be Céline Renée; suited her perfectly. As the two of you got acquainted with her, I helped Cathy clean up your room, then prepared your bath. I couldn't resist giving the already sparkling tub another scrub. Céline was so new and “fresh” that it had to be just right. You were so comfortable with her, gently washing her, putting her to your breast and telling her how amazing she was for knowing what to do. That scene of the two of you bathing will always be a treasured memory. Céline wasn't the only hungry one, so while you finished bathing, I made the rest of us an early breakfast of tea, scrambled eggs and English muffins.
Dawn's light was showing as Cathy said good-bye, with a promise she'd be back later that afternoon (that made me feel relieved). I was ready for a rest, but first I took a peak into your room and the three of you were almost asleep, Céline cosily tucked between her Mommy and Daddy. It had been so awesome. Renee, you were the Mother; you'd had a natural childbirth at home, and you'd given me the priceless privilege of being a part of it. Thank you.
Less than a year, and Céline is securely lodged within our lives. I was right, you are a wonderful mother, and also learning how to manage the rest of life with baby. By next weekend I know Papa and I will need to see our little “peanut” again. How about I cook this time, and you come here for supper. Let me know if Sunday is okay. Love you lots; have a good week.