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Elijah Bean - a birth story

My water broke at 5am yesterday morning, but it was a slow leak which was quite different from the waterfall deluges I had come to expect with my other two children. For this reason, and also because it was five in the morning, I waited an hour to call the midwife. I was crampy but not having real contractions yet, and I wanted to rule out the possibility that I was having a reaction to all the Shrove Tuesday sausages I had eaten the night before. It's not like I routinely wake up by peeing the bed after I eat sausage. But pregnancy does weird things to the body and you can never be too sure.

I called the midwife at 6am, and she got here before the kids woke up. Harvey woke up first, a little after 7am, and he found me hanging out in the bath. By this time I was having contractions 15 seconds long and 5 minutes apart. They weren't too terrible, but they were enough to make me close my eyes and clench my fists, and Harvey was very excited to see that something was happening. He sat with me in the bathroom, and after each contraction he exclaimed brightly, "All done!" and "That was a short one!" I was overwhelmed with feeling grateful for Harvey, my sweet compassionate firstborn, especially when Dan came in to offer breakfast and Harvey said "I don't want to leave Mama."

Then Zion walked into the bathroom, looked at the two of us, and burst into a plaintive, "I WANT TO GO TO GRANDMA BETH'S HOUSE!" We had a pizza play-date already scheduled for that morning, and the way Zion saw things it looked just enough out the ordinary that he was worried about a disruption to his plans.

I didn't want to mess with their schedule, so I gave the boys the choice. Do you want to stay and watch the baby being born? or do you want to go to grandma's? Even with Harvey's doula tendencies, there was no question in either of their minds. If the baby was not going to emerge from the womb holding two personal-sized pizzas, then watching the miracle of life was inferior to grandma's.

Grandma came and picked them up at 9:30am, and I was a little sad to see them go. At the same time I was starting to have contractions so strong they made me cry, so I was equally happy to be the sole center of focus in the household. Without the boys to distract him, Dan did a champion's job of filling the birth tub and taking care of me. Within a half hour I was in warm water sipping lemon juice from a straw. Another half hour later I was holding a baby.

We do these things quick around here. As long as the kids were at a play date, I figured I'd do the hard stuff first and get in the maximum time for relaxing.

In all respects this labor went better than my previos two. It was quick, but not emergently so, which meant I had longer to face the intense sensations that made up the experience. As for the pain, all I could think of was that gospel song, "Oh sinner man, where you gonna run to?" Left, right, in or out of the water, there was nowhere I could run to hide from the awful thing that was happening inside of my body. "Run to the sea," I thought to myself, "Sea will be a boiling." No shit.

Imagining the end times made me feel a little bit better about my predicament. Also I conjured up an image of the Lord presenting his face to the smiters (incorrect biblical reference, but whatever) and those two things together made me think I could probobly bear up under a few minutes of suffering.

As it turned out the whole thing was quicker than I expected, so that the contractions that threw me into the revelations-style reverie only lasted 20 minutes, and the two pushes that followed surprised all of us with their finality. The midwives rushed a bit getting on their gloves, but this time they believe me when screamed "THIS BABY'S COMING!" and there were plenty of hands in the water to scoop up the baby, perfectly pink and crying and beautiful.

his cute newborn face

the new baby at about an hour old

Of course, at first I thought they were handing me my beautiful baby girl. I saw his sweet face and curly hair, the lower half of his body obscured by my arms, and I thought: here she is, the sweet little girl who's the answer to all our prayers.

Because before we conceived the children were praying EVERY DAY for a baby girl. "Please give Mama and Dada the seeds of a baby gu-guh" they said. How could God not listen to the sweet prayers of blond children?

And because we tried to maximize our feminine chances by timing conception four days before ovulation...

And because the baby in my belly was smaller and made me much sicker than the other two...

I thought for sure this one would be a girl. I didn't even have any boy names picked out.

I waited a few seconds for my arms to stop shaking. When I thought I had control of my limbs again I lifted the little body towards me to check. "Are you a boy or a girl?" I asked, almost for forms sake. And what did I see? A beautiful, feminine, LIGHT baby boy.

mama and another not-girl

At this moment I was glad that my kids were not present, because I cried and I cried and I let myself feel the full weight of disappointment. The long wait of pregnancy. The agony of labor. Did my family need another boy? Had I failed them all?

And though life is long and we might get the baby bug again, or we might just screw up and slip with birth control, I had really intended to make this pregnancy my last. I thought so many times over the course of this last year: this being pregnant thing is just too much. It's not even fair to my kids. It's not fair to deprive them from motherly consortium for so many evenings in the pursuit of "planned" illness.

And so I mourned a lot of things yesterday. Not only the loss of pink frilly baby clothes which I intended to buy. I thought:

I'll never watch my child in a dance recital

Or braid long hair

Or teach someone how to put on makeup.

I'll never help anyone get ready for prom

Or shop for a wedding dress

Or stand beside a birth tub holding my daughter's hand, telling her I did this and it's going to be okay.

And then I thought: Well, maybe it's better if I don't have a girl, if I clearly have such horribly oppressive expectations for her entire life trajectory.

The kids got home from grandma's and were excited to meet the little one.

"I wanted a girl," Harvey said to Dan.

"I know," Dan said. "We all did." There was a respectful pause. "But this baby is cute too."

Harvey and Zion hold their new baby brother.

The baby made some newborn mews and the boys both giggled. "I like his noises!" Zion exclaimed. "He sounds like a kitty!"

"His hands are so tiny," said Harvey, kissing them. "I love you little baby."

And just like that my sweet sensitive (surplus) boys teach me how to be loving. By holding lightly to expectations. By facing surprises. By looking at what's actually in front of them and smiling at it and then getting distracted by toys and a huge blow up birth tub in the room.

yes, it was emptied.

This is the family I love. The real people God's given me to be with and to be surprised by and to constantly challenge my expectations. It makes me glad I don't get to plan everything out myself. As much as I think my plan is the best. Real life has a way of being blessedly different.

candyland with baby Elijah


Very sweet, and I'm sorry for the no go on a girl and also super happy for another awesome baby boy.
Also, can you be the one to teach Lily to put on make up? I suck at that! ;)

It would be an honor ;)

Congratulations to you and Dan and Harvey and Zion and the grandparents. And thank you for sharing your story, as well as the photos. Hope we can get to your neck of the woods this spring to see you all and Elijah.
love you.

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