A day early. Not a day too soon.
My due date was September 2nd. Due dates, as I understand it now, are somewhat educated guesses, based on potentially inconsistent cycles, that may lead us to know the approximately four week window in which the baby is likely to join the world. Yes, not exactly a precise measurement. Babies choose to be born when they need to be, when it is their time. As pregnant Mama, I never held onto the due date as anything more than a pretty good estimate. I just wanted our baby to know s/he was welcome here.
In the end, now our most profound new beginning, all of these potentially faulty, pseudo-scientific, fully leading indicators would prove to be mostly right. I was “early” – by one day.
Our beautiful 7 pound 13 ounce baby boy screamed his way into the world on Labor Day, September 1st at 4:38 pm.
So, why all the focus on the day anyway, when this story is about my birth and our baby boy? Well, I didn’t start labor on Labor Day. I started on Saturday night, around 11:30 pm. After some 44 hours in labor our son chose Labor Day, just as Ben and I chose one another three years before when we met at a dinner party that very evening. Of course, we believe this to be an early sign of his genius. This belief binds us to a chain, back through the generations, of parents sure that their child is the most brilliant, exceptional and thoughtful child ever born. Seeing fit to have me in labor for 44 hours and to wrap it all up on Labor Day, a holiday, also demonstrates a promising sense of humor.
My birth experience doesn’t live, though, in any of the dates or details or post-birth interpretations. It lingers the hazier spaces between words where I could unleash a deep growl and find a quiet I had never experienced. The two days of labor was the space granted for the two of us to invite the baby to arrive and with that, to move from pregnant to parent, from couple to family. By choosing to labor and birth at home, no one outside of us would name the stage of labor or urge an intervention to move it along when I despaired that surges would never cease. And, I did despair. And, Ben found the words and the connection to bring me back to present, to nothing wrong, to everything on course.
We were nimble, with few, but powerful tools - each other; a big full tub in the center of the baby’s room; our presence and all the inner work we had done to get to this day; phone consultations and then the presence of our gifted midwife Maria Iorillo; my Mother’s supportive mien; and a whole lot of time. We used every one. We found a slow groove doing what Ben dubbed the middle school dance, swaying slowly together through the minute-long contractions that would come quick, then slow, then quick again. When my hope turned to deep doubt, I asked again and again when Maria (our midwife) would come, bringing with her the light at the end of this long tunnel. I was still looking for some outside indicator that birth was happening. And then I wasn’t, realizing that naming doesn’t always help, that saying I moved from this phase to that, knowing how open my cervix was, or even counting contractions, are at best reflections of the thing that is birth, not the birth itself. The exquisite pain and power of birth created more than the space for him to arrive. It created the space for us to arrive.
And, now, six days later, I sit on the very day bed turned sofa where our baby was born, as he and Ben sleep peacefully in the next room. I finished nursing only a few minutes ago and felt him drape his limp arms over my shoulder as I burped him and carried him back to bed. I watched his flickering eyes close and saw his face still. My heart melts once more.