People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

A Very Good Day

Damn, but it’s been serious around here lately! I need a reprieve from the sadness and heartbreak and anger, and what better reprieve could there be than to tell you the happiest story from my personal story bank?

It was 7:00 am on July 24, 2002 – my due date. Brian was sound asleep next to me when my alarm went off and I hit the snooze button at the same moment I realized I was having a contraction.


I dozed back off and when my alarm sounded again, I was having another contraction.

Very interesting!

I hit the snooze button again, but this time, instead of going back to sleep, I lay perfectly still, thinking, “Oh please oh please oh please let this be labor!” The alarm went off again, but this time, no contraction.


I got up to go to the bathroom and on my way there, what’s this? Yes! It’s a contraction! And then, a minute later, when I was on the toilet? Bloody show! I could actually hear my adrenal glands pumping hormones into my blood.

I, being the lady like and very delicate flower that I am, pumped my fist in the air and shouted, “Fuck YES!!!” It was such a precious moment.

Brian didn’t wake up because he’s one of those men who can sleep through anything, so I did what any smart partner of such a man does when she needs his attention: I grabbed hold of his ass and squeezed.

“Is it time to go already?” he asked. He had already started his paternity leave but we had to get up and take the kids to their summer program.

“No,” I said into his ear, “but I thought you might want to know we’re having a baby today!”

“So I can sleep for twenty more minutes, right?” he mumbled.

Men are stupid.

We took the kids over to their summer program and while I was contracting the whole time, I was concerned that it could all stop any minute. Was that one stronger? Did I go longer in between that time? Is it time for another one yet? I was driving myself (and maybe Brian, too) kind of crazy, so we decided to run some errands. We bought groceries, dropped off a stack of rental movies, and pretended that we weren’t beside ourselves with excitement.

Finally, at about 11 am, we landed at Borders. I thought the baby was being too quiet and I wanted something sweet to eat to wake him up. I was eating coffee cake and drinking juice when Brian said, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

“OK!” I responded, all cocky with my fabulous ninja labor skills, and Brian walked away.

Then, while I was sitting in the crowded Borders cafe all alone? I had the first real contraction of the day, plus? The baby chose that moment to wake up. Bam! He shoved one foot into my lungs. Wham! He punched me in the bladder. Owww!

Brian came back from the bathroom and I told him, “You’re not going anywhere without me until this baby is born.”

“OK,” he said, “but you’ll have to come with me if I need to poop.”

“Yeah, well, you’re going to see me do way more than poop today,” I said, “so I guess that wouldn’t be a big deal.”

From that moment on, I knew without a doubt that I was in real labor. Like a freight train, real labor is. We decided to go home and get ready to have a baby.

Now, I have this labor problem. I never once thought labor was going to be easy; I never anticipated that it wouldn’t hurt. I did, however, have this weird notion that I would be fully functional – you know, doing stuff – right up until the very end. This resulted in a mad dash during every one of my labors. Every single time, I was caught short, surprised that I was very busy laboring, and only laboring, so early (not really; just from my skewed perspective) in the process.

So this whole “getting ready to have a baby” was more than a little involved. The only drawback to a home birth, for me, was the necessity of extensive preparation. It was my due date and nothing was ready. I had the necessary gear, but it was all in bags at the back of our bedroom closet because I’d been operating under the assumption that I would do all those last-minute things while I was in labor.

Just like I’d never packed a hospital bag for Jacob’s birth. He was born in December but when I was getting him dressed to go home, I discovered that I’d packed three hats and no socks.

Know what I took to the hospital when Abbie was born? My pillow, a paperback novel, and a giant bag of sanitary napkins.

I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of a girl.

We got home and I was, by then, very busy with labor. My mom got to our house and, thank God, she’s never flown by the seat of her anything. She took in the general state of un-preparedness and got to work. She sent Brian to inflate the birth pool, threw a load of baby blankets and clothes in the washing machine, and made our bed with a giant sheet of plastic.

Me? It’s July, remember, and I was massively, monstrously pregnant. I felt like I might melt into a baby/mama puddle instead of giving birth, so I was leaning over the back of a chair, swaying and moaning through contractions, with our big fan blowing a hurricane right at my face.

I hung over the back of that chair for a long time, and finally my mom said to me, “I think you should call the midwives. You’re closer than you think you are.” She was sitting across the room from me on the couch, Jacob on one side and Abbie on the other (Spencer’s mom had come to pick him up.).

“No, no, I’ve got a long ways to go. We should wait,” I said.

Another contraction grabbed hold of me and while I swayed and moaned and chuff-chuff-chuffed my way through it, Jacob asked, “Why is she making such weird noises? Is she having the baby right now?”

Abbie, alarmed, said, “She can’t have the baby while she’s standing up! It’ll fall on the floor and bust its head!”

Don’t laugh at the peak of a contraction. Just take my word on that one.

By 1:00 pm, we were all there: Brian and me, Jacob and Abbie, both of my parents, and our midwives Julia and Mary Lou. Oh, and our little dog, too. We all went out to the backyard where Brian had set up the birthing pool.

Why the backyard? No idea. Remember how I don’t plan? I never told anyone where to put that pool, so they set it up where it was least likely to make a mess.

I climbed in the pool and Brian pulled a lawn chair over so he could sit next to me. For the next three hours, I rode the waves up and down, up and down, up and down. Shoulders relaxed, release the muscles, voice low, let it happen. Everyone was very quiet. Now and again, Mary Lou would whisper to me, “Release everything. Let it all go.”

The kids were in the house, watching cartoons with their grandpa, but every now and again they’d come check on me. Brian whispered to me, “You’re doing great. You can do this.” When I really started to struggle through the contractions, I knew I was close to the big finish, so I gave myself pep talks, “I can do this. I’m a bad ass. I’m tough. I can do this.”

At about 3:30 pm, I heard the phone ring. Or maybe I didn’t; I don’t really remember, but shortly after that, I heard my dad say my name. I looked up and he held the phone out to me, “It’s for you.”

“What?” I said.

“It’s for you!” he said, pushing the phone closer to me.

Men are stupid.

At about 3:50 pm, some of the contractions felt a little pushy and then, suddenly, I was up on my knees, out of my late-labor stupor and Mary Lou told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head.

I did just that, and there it was: his slippery, wrinkly head, right there. He was so close, and I gave myself one last pep talk, “OK, I can do it. I’m almost done. I can do this!”

And then I did.

Julia caught him and pulled him out of the water, untangled him (He had a very long cord and it was wound around his neck, arm, and body.), and put him in my arms at 3:59 pm.

I was half aware of Brian saying, “He got the red hair! He got my red hair!” Mostly, though, I was looking into Carter’s squinched, surprised face. He wasn’t breathing, but he was still getting everything he needed from the cord. Julia suctioned his nose and mouth and he let out a good holler, though he didn’t open his eyes.

Jacob and Abbie were standing with their grandpa, each of them hanging onto one of his hands. Abbie was crying and Jacob, trembling from head to toe, asked, “Are you sure that’s our baby? He doesn’t seem like he’s ours.”

Mary Lou showed me the true knot in Carter’s cord and I went cold with what-if fears, but they were short lived. We all moved to the bedroom where I got in bed with Carter and fell in love.

Head-over-heels, stupid, goggle-eyed love. With no hospital procedures to interrupt us, no strangers or unfamiliar smells or strange sounds to distract me, I fell. His red hair smelled like rain. I was so utterly enchanted, the world outside of my bedroom fell away. Jacob and Abbie asked to pet the baby, my dad took pictures, the midwives weighed and measured Carter (8 lbs 4 oz and 22 in), and I barely noticed.

Later, after my mom helped me take a shower and Brian made me eggs and toast for dinner and Jacob and Abbie had gone to their dad’s house, Brian and I got in bed with our new baby. I nursed the baby and we took turns holding and kissing him. My mind was quiet, full of nothing but the smell and feel of  this new creature, this perfect red-haired baby made of rain.

Dozens of times while I was pregnant with Carter, I joked that I would have the perfect birth. I said that I would wake in the morning in labor and my baby would be born before dinner. I never thought he would be born outside; that was just a bad ass bonus.

My wish for every woman is this: every pregnancy a wanted pregnancy, every birth completely your own. As it has been written, so may it be done.


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61 comments to A Very Good Day

  • Coming from someone who had a horrible birth story and no bonding with my child whatsoever (because of healthy/safety), this story is absolutely amazing. I got chills and tears or joy for you. So wonderful.

    • I am hoping in big ways that you will have a safe, joyful birth next time! Hoping, too, that your heart heals over the trauma of Jax’s birth. The doctors and nurses might not understand that your feelings matter, but I’m here to tell you that they do, and you deserve to have sensitive care!

  • Oh wow… what a beautiful birth story! Ha! Ad I’m having contractions right now! Good times. But seriously – totally bad-ass!

  • Pua

    That’s an amazing story! Such a perfect birth! I love it! I’ve debated having a home birth but since I’ve had high risk pregnancies with both of mine now, my husband is completely against the idea. Maybe if I carry this one to term, he’ll be up for it the next go around.
    And when I do know I’m going into labor this time, preterm or not (but especially if it’s full term), I’m going to let out a big “FUCK YEA!” because you inspire me.

  • Awesome! When you said you’d had a baby in the backyard, I assumed it was by accident … but this sounds perfect! I wish I had a backyard so I could have a baby in it.

    My one birth was pretty far from what I wanted (though I feel lucky to have done it without drugs and not gotten a c-section — they were threatening me with Pitocin halfway through) and the next time, I am having a homebirth for sure. I have wanted one since I was a teenager, but my husband objected. Once he saw what a PAIN the hospital people were, and how everything that needed to be done was done by ME, he agreed to have a homebirth next time. I even have a midwife picked out! All I need to do is get knocked up. 😉

    Thanks for posting this; it’s wonderful.

    • Yeah, I’ll admit it – I totally play up that whole outdoor part like it was a big deal. In fact? I was on our covered porch. I hope you get your dream birth next time!

  • That was beautiful! I hope one day if I ever have children that I can do a waterbirth. I don’t know if a homebirth would be possible due to medical complications but I would love for my story to be much like yours.

    • It IS possible to have a great birth in a hospital. I’m not so much pro-homebirth as I am pro-family-centered-birth, wherever is safest and most comfortable for every mother and family.

  • Dude. As if you weren’t awesome enough. 🙂 *high five*

  • What a beautiful story to wake up to this morning.

    I absolutely loved giving birth to my children…birthing processes so similar, but also so vastly different. I would have ten more if it weren’t for the whole pregnancy part. Their births are the high points of my life.

    Your description of the immediate and intense love you felt for Carter–your sweet little baby, made of rain–was just lovely.

    Thank you for sharing and reminding me of my own beautiful moments.

  • So beautiful. My mom had five of her six kids at home and I was lucky enough to be there for the last three. She and stories like this inspire me and make me want a home birth all the more. I pray that once I decide to start having kids my pregnancies are low risk and I can have a story very similar to yours.

    • I hope so, too! I love to hear my kids talk about Carter’s birth, and I love even more when I hear them say things like, “Not everybody HAS to be born in a hospital, you know,” to their friends. I want them not to do things the way I’ve done them, or the way most people do them, but to think for themselves. I think they’ll be like you and consider their options, which makes me so happy!

  • What a story! In the backyard! Wow. I loved the whole thing. How old is that baby now? Thanks for taking my request for this story! molly

  • just curious…where the neighbors watching? cause that would be an awesome story to tell at the next block party!

    • I never even thought of the neighbors until after, but when I told some of them I’d had the baby in the yard, they were surprised. They never heard anything; if I’d been screaming they might have come to check things out, but as it was they were oblivious.

  • LCW

    I had a different birth experience, but it was perfect in my eyes. Your birth story sounds awesome and I kinda wish I could have been there!

    • I was really sad when we sold that house because Brian and I were married in the same yard where Carter was born. I’m so glad you had a perfect birth; that’s what I want for every woman, wherever and however that happens! Home, hospital, or center; medicated or not; whatever, I want every woman to have her own safe, wonderful birth story, though I know that most women don’t get that. It makes me sad.

  • I giggled, laughed, and cried through this story. I love how you write- thanks for sharing Carter’s birth story with us.

  • Mary Beth

    It’s beautiful stories like yours that make my pendulum swing closer and closer to home birth if/when we get around to another one. It is exactly those strange sounds, smells, and procedures I wish to avoid.

    “I, being the lady like and very delicate flower that I am, pumped my fist in the air and shouted, “Fuck YES!!!” It was such a precious moment.” –>SNORT!


  • What a great story! Loved it!

  • thenextmartha

    What a great story. And you ARE a bad ass.

  • Ah..lovely.

    Love the phrase about your mom: “never flown by the seat of her anything.”

    Such a joyous story. Would that they all were so.

    Women in labor, even screaming incoherent women, are a pretty bad-ass bunch in general.

    You are an AMAZING bad-ass, though!

    • Thank you, and I so agree – few people are more powerful than laboring women. When I was having my daughter, they took me to the delivery room and told me to move from my bed to the delivery table and I thought, “What are they gonna do, make me?!? No!” So I stayed where I was and had my daughter there.

  • Amazing birth story. Just so incredible.

  • That is the most beautiful birth story I’ve EVER read. SO inspiring. My birth story was absolutely the opposite. I’ve learned so much since, though, and plan to take matters into my own hands with the next. The instant bond part is beyond my wildest dreams. Breathtaking. That’s what i want.

  • Wonderful story! It almost makes me want to give birth outside.

  • Ashley (Shleemama)

    Thank you for sharing. This was so great to read. Made me smile ear to ear. How special being able to do this all at home w/o any medical intervention. Great job Mama!

  • My mom had many of us at home, and I have never really talked with her about what she felt in those moments. I should.

    My own experiences? Were nothing like this. Although my second daughter’s hospital birth . . . was lovely.

    My first daughter’s birth? Made it very difficult to work up the courage to do it a second time.

    Although I am glad now that I did.

    And I am glad that you have this amazing story and memory. Because it’s so powerful to read of other women really owning that moment. Sigh.

    Love that.

    • I’m incredibly grateful that I have this memory of Carter. I have so many terrible, frightening memories that involve Carter, it’s good to have such a powerful, perfect one th put on the other side of that equation.

      I hope someday to hear the stories of your daughters’ births. Birthing is the most extraordinary thing many of us do in our lives; it makes me terribly sad that so often it’s a traumatic experience.

  • Holy shit this story is awesome! Seriously! I have goosebumps all up and down my arms. I had the opposite of this experience and I WANT this experience (although, perhaps not at home. I’m askeered since my next will be an attempt at a VBAC.)

    Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  • So wonderful! Although I laughed at your fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.

    With my first, I had a suitcase so big you could’ve snuck an entire family into the hospital with us and still had room for the necessities. And E arrived six days EARLY. And my second, I had an entire list of hour-by-hour instructions about my first child printed out for my sister so when I had my second she would know EXACTLY what to do with him.

  • Beautiful story!

    I wondered over after reading the tweet from Pretty All True. 🙂

  • Ashley (@theatomicmommy)

    Wow just read this one.

    I have never had a home birth, because I’m such a wuss, but this is beautiful.

    My newest is only 5 mos., but so quickly those very first feelings all but fade. Because of remembering tonight it makes me want another, and maybe I will. Maybe I can be cool enough to have mine outside, too. 🙂

    • Honestly? I’m a wuss, too. I’m scared to death of hospitals! I HATE people messing with me. I HATE not knowing what people are doing and why. Mostly? I have very serious authority issues (as in I have a habit of telling bossy medical professionals to go to hell) and I’m much better off if no one tests me on that point.

      Yes, the thoughts and feelings fade fast! Not long after Carter was born, I wrote a much longer version of this story for another site. I’m so glad I did that because without it, I’m not sure I would remember how I felt as well as I do.

  • I just read this tonight (going into your archives, having a lovely time reading you when I should be finishing the packing for our vacation – I’m a bad bad girl). I had no idea that Carter is so close in age to my twins, born July 29th, same year. What a lovely birth story. I can see how important it is for you to have had this perfect moment in what has become so hard a journey with your troubled son. Looking forward to the luxury of more time once the kiddos start school again, so I can have the pleasure of catching up on your back-story.

    • Thank you! Yes, it was the most perfect day, like a dream, and I’m so grateful that I have that, before all the hard stuff started!

      Carter has been back at school for several weeks and my big kids went back last Wednesday. Back to school is like Christmas for parents, isn’t it?

  • I am so envious I could die. School around here does not start until… (drumroll here) MID-SEPTEMBER. Yup, Jake has a whole month (August 13th – September 13th) with no school, no structure, no services. Boys are fighting like cats and dogs and I’m ready to throw in the towel. OK, time to back away from the computer & sleep.

    • Ugh. Yeah, that’s really (REALLY) hard. One of my favorite things about Carter’s little private school is that it’s year-round, so summer is only 6 weeks long. Same number of school days per year, but w/o that unbearably looong summer.

  • I got chills reading this. So different from my experiences. I wish I had yours! What a fantastic story and memory!

  • […] I’ve considered taking Carter’s homebirth story down. That day was wonderful; I am so blessed to have had that experience. I hate the idea, though, […]

  • […] can describe the delicious feeling of a naked, slippery newborn babe? When Carter was born on that July day—at home, surrounded by my parents, my midwives, my husband, and our children—I […]

  • Awesome story! I have 4 children, none of which were home births. By the time I had my 4th I wanted one, but my (now ex) husband was in the army and we lived on base at the time, and they believed (at Ft Bliss, TX) that home birthing was an act of child abuse, and there were actual cases where the child protection agency was called and children taken away for their protection, so I was scared into having my last child at the army hospital. Her birth from first contraction to end was 45 minutes long lol.

  • Krista

    Beautiful and sweet and funny and tender, all of it.

    My Noah was also born at home, same year (he is 14).

    I had wanted a waterbirth, but since we were keeping our plans private, we deflated the pool the day before.

    Of course.

    And so, the next morning at 5:30 when my water broke in the shower–we were not entirely sure–my hubby tried to reinstate the pool. The pump was not cooperating.

    Of course.

    I was blessed with a four hour labor, our daughter, then 6, announced we had a boy, and aside from a few stitches all was bliss. I only had one small moment when I doubted myself.

    The irony is if I hadn’t had a rough hospital birth with my daughter, I wouldn’t have gone to a homebirth.

    From two weeks on, my son became “absolutely NOT my daughter”. He deals with learning disabilities, glasses as a baby, asthma, anaphylactic food allergies, chronic migraines, and cyclic vomiting syndrome (which we think is finally under control!!!)

    I myself have chronic pain, auto immune diseases, disabled due to a spine that is falling apart. Thank you for your article “Dear People”….I felt like I was reading the first 12 years of my son’s life and how people responded.

    Blessings to you and yours!

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