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This letter was written to Gus by our amazing friend and Doula.
There is a tale - of Indian origin I believe - of an unborn child. He stands vigil at the gates to life and ushers in the souls of his older siblings, helping to safely navigate their passage towards birth. Once his brothers and sisters make it to the other side, only then does he initiate the journey of his own birth. This may explain why shortly after the arrival of Maximus Power, while your parents discussed the possibility of a vasectomy, your mother became unexplainably upset and teary. I can see her holding her beautiful newborn thinking, “We said we were done, but I have this feeling...” She felt your presence even before you began your journey home.
Its a long standing tradition in the theater to call the actors out for a curtain call when the show is finished. Usually, they take a collective bow and say good night as the curtain closes. However, every once in a while, when the audience is particularly moved, the show is outstanding, and the energy is high, the audience will call out the actors for an Encore - a final moment to commemorate the night and show their delight, awe and appreciation. After five perfect Acts (Chris, Lucas, Evelyn, Reid and Eleanor) and an exciting Finale (Maximus), you took to the stage for an Encore to mark the end of one story and the beginning of a new one.
The moment your Mom and Dad knew they were pregnant, they began sending emails to assemble their trusty birth team: Cori the midwife, Sarah the doula, Elizabeth the birth photographer and Jon the dearest neighbor and friend. They sent cheeky messages that read “Since Max was the finale I think we’ll dub this one encore. Are you free mid February?”
Your mother spent her pregnancy taking excellent care of her health. She ate well, exercised and was very mindful about her time and energy. Your parents were already seasoned home-birthers and were determined to give you the gift of a calm, safe, unmedicated birth. As with most Power children, your Valentine’s Day due date came and went. No one was surprised. Nine days later, after a few uncomfortable evenings of Braxton-Hicks contractions, your Mom knew it was time. Contractions started on the morning of February 23rd. The sky was clear and bright and the invisible stars in the sky had recently click over from Aquarius into Pisces.
By 9am, your parents were making phone calls and alerting their birth team to your pending arrival. They didn’t need any help right away, but they wanted to give everyone a chance to make arrangements for the evening. The day wore on as your parents busied themselves with preparations. Finally, around 5pm, they called everyone to the house. Contractions had kicked into high gear and you were ready to meet your family.
February 23rd was the first day of 2012 that reached 80 degrees. It was a day that promised a return of mother nature’s bounty. The pink evening sky went dark purple and your parents decided to go for a walk together. Walking encourages the contractions to be strong and efficient and is a wonderful way to stay loose and calm during labor. One of the boons of taking a quiet stroll was that your Mom and Dad were able to have a little alone time away from the distractions of the house, the children, the computer screens and your anticipatory birth team. When they returned, your Mom looked tired. She smiled at everyone in the kitchen as she made her way up the stairs to her bedroom where a warm tub of water awaited her.
By 9pm, your mother was showing signs of strong effort. She was floating in the water, staring at her hands folded in front of her forehead and taking steady focused breaths. Around her, midwives scribbled notes and took your heart tones. Your doula sat quietly on the sidelines with a tall glass of ice water and your Grandma Gail sat cross-legged on the floor close enough to attend to your mother’s every need, but far enough away to give her space. Your father tucked his body close to the tub and gently touched your mother as her contractions increased in intensity. Every once in a while the clinking sounds of cooking utensils could be heard downstairs. Your siblings and Miss Jon were hard at work on a celebratory birthday cake that would later be eaten off of the counter by the family dog.
Your mother’s past birthing style always tended towards the quiet and contemplative. She seemed to be handling your labor in a similar manner until 10:10pm when she began to make low grunting sounds. Everyone noticed her vocal compressions and knew that your arrival was not far off. She began to move around the tub, trying to find a comfortable position without much success. She explained to your midwife that while the pressure was great, she could not feel that tell-tale pressure of your head - a feeling she knew well from her previous births. She asked Cori, “Why does it feel so different? I have no urge to push.” Your midwife took your heart tones, which were strong and steady. She did not have an answer for your mother, but noted in her notebook that you were still very high in the belly.
Even though your Mom was confused by the sensations, she knew you were close and called your older siblings into the room to witness your birth. Evelyn and Reid came first. They were terribly excited, even if a bit scared. Evelyn watched as your mother began pushing you out. She covered her mouth with her hands and looked at Grandma Gail for reassurance. Reid was not phased one bit by your mother’s obvious effort and grimace of pain. He was thrilled and even giggled through the difficult pushes. Your Grandmother moved to the edge of the tub and your father kneeled behind your mother as your head crowned underwater. Cori announced that you were still surrounded by the membrane that contained you and all your amniotic fluid in the womb. Your waters had not yet broken. Cori also noticed that your foot was tucked up by your head. No wonder your mother had felt such pressure while you descended. Your mother gave one strong push and delivered you into the hands of your Grandmother who caught you as if she was a professional midwife. She raised you up until your mother’s hand clasped your body as it came free of the membranes.
Being born “in the caul” with membranes still in tact is considered very lucky in most cultures. Your mother clutched you to her lower chest but realized that she could not pull you any further up out of the water. Your umbilical cord was very short and as you were still attached to your placenta. Cori took a good look at you to make sure you were stable. Because you were protected by the membranes until the end of labor, you were perfectly formed with a round head reminiscent of babies born by C-Section. But you were oddly quiet. No grunting, crying, chirping or clucking.
Your color was also a bit concerning - not the oxygenated pink you expect from newborns but a little on the dusky side. Your midwife took your heart tones, which were good and then suctioned your nose and mouth with a bulb syringe. Still no sound. She then rubbed your back vigorously and encouraged your mother to do the same. After a good roughing up, you made a few cries, pinked up and alleviated everyone’s concerns.
Once you were safe and released from your short umbilical leash, your father updated Facebook to let the hundreds of friends who had been following along all night know of your happy arrival. Eleanor was brought into the room shortly after your birth to meet you and cover you with kisses. She announced to everyone that you were “pretty” and that she loved you. She was ecstatic.
In the half hour that followed your delivery, you christened anyone who touched you by pooping on them. By 11:20pm, you were diapered, clothed and tucked in bed with your family listening to Evelyn read “On the Night You Were Born”. After the story, which brought tears to the entire room, you nursed with your mother and allowed the family to pass you around for hugs, kisses and awe-inspired gazing.
At last, the Power Family was complete. You arrived on a beautiful Thursday night in February, 2012 - the Chinese year of the Dragon. Augustus, you are the standing ovation. You are the uproarious curtain call. You are a magical transitional creature much like the Dragon, which represents your birth year. You’ve ushered in a new era for the Power Family.
A beautiful birth.
A bountiful family.
A brilliant ending.
This is SUCH a beautiful story, Alison. I loved reading it. How wonderful and special to have a woman in your life who is obviously not just a doula, but also a friend, that she would write something like this for Augustus. It really does sound like a perfect birth experience, and an amazing 'encore' for your family. Being born in the caul definitely does mark him as special. Congratulations again! I'm tearing up.
Thank you to the SSMC makers for my beautiful siggies!