My daughter Mary gave birth last week to her fifth daughter and our eighth grandchild. Baby Claire was born at home on Sunday morning, the day after St. Patricks Day, and 36 hours after an unexpected ice and snow storm in New York City.Mary started having strong but irregular contractions early Sunday morning. Her midwife and I arrived around 4 am. Mary paced the floors for several hours with no change in the contractions. At 8:30 she got into bed and slept for an hour. The life of Marys little family went on. I made hot chocolate, we ate breakfast, the little girls (all four of them) were terribly excited. There was endless chatter about the soon to be born baby. Cate, who is 2, insisted on wearing a party dress and party shoes. It was peaceful and beautiful: sun shining, drifts of snow in the garden, returning birds clamoring to be first in line at the bird feeder. The champagne was waiting. The refrigerator was overflowing. The laundry done. Everyone knew this was a special day.Mary woke after an hour with super strong contractions and worked hard for 30 minutes, then she vomited twice, the second time simultaneously pushing her baby into the world. Eight year old Nora noticed as the babys head emerged that her little hand was next to her face. It all happened so fast!The little girls surrounded their mother and the new baby delighting in every detail the little ears, the eyes, her hair, her tiny toes, long fingers and big feet, her sweet mouth. Claire was vigorously nursing 3 minutes after the birth and the big sisters moved in close to watch her. They felt the still pulsing cord and noted rather indifferently the placenta when it emerged 30 minutes later. Shortly after the birth Cate asked Party bags, Nanie?? Of course party bags&today is most definitely a birthday party. Nora noticed how dirty her mothers feet were (all that pacing) and quietly set about washing them, and then massaging them with lotion. Each of the little girls attended their mother and their new sister in ways that were special and spontaneous. I helped them dress Claire&Nora diapered, Cate put the little hat on, Molly put the tiny undershirt on, and Maggie was in charge of the sweet pink outfit. Life moved effortlessly on: a trip to the store to buy candy and treats for those party bags, making lunch, champagne, helping Mary into the shower and changing the sheets. The difference between even the most family centered hospital birth and this birth was monumental.My nursing students had a hard time with the idea of children at birth. If all I knew was medical birth in a typical American hospital I might feel the same way. Hospital birth is scary. But normal birth is not medical birth, and birth at home is not scary. Normal birth is a family celebration.
Photo by Spigoo.