By Gabrielle. Freshly Picked B-A-N-A-N-A-S overalls are too cute.
Rachel wondered if my readers would be interested in her birth story as told by her husband, Ben, and I couldn’t answer yes fast enough! A home birth in France is interesting enough on its own, but hearing from the father’s perspective is quite endearing. I truly hope you enjoy hearing Ben’s side of the story.
Also, Rachel mentioned that home birth in France is borderline illegal and that very few families do it. So the fact that the Abbotts found a midwife in Brittany who would do it felt like a miracle. Yet another interesting aspect of this story! Enjoy, Friends.
Wednesday was a blustery day. Red in the morning, sailor’s warning. Rachel had been having irregular contractions since about 1:00 am, so I dropped Ingrid off at school and Henry and I went to get some last minute supplies: extra yogurt flavors, crepes, slippers, branch pruners, toilet paper, and salad dressing.
The arrival of the mucous plug at noon announced that the baby had confirmed its ticket. Ingrid had a half-day at school so our neighbor, Gaetane, brought her home briefly to say goodbye to Rachel and the surging baby bump and to pick up Henry. Like usual, they gave lots of kisses and then sprinted out the door. “Next time you see Mommy, the baby will be here!” Gaetane and Sylvie took care of them all evening and into the next day. It’s good to have good friends.
Rachel was calm and focused for the next couple hours and we prepared the house between surges – it’s hippie, but I do like that term better than contraction. She had a list of things left to do: clean the bathtub, sweep the floor, put the shower curtain under the bedsheet, and eat some canned peaches in light syrup.
I was planning on documenting the labor more closely so I could overshare dimly-lit, bare-chested photos on my blog and Facebook, but by 3:00 pm things cranked up to 11 and there was no time. I was on the phone between surges finalizing the arrangements for the kids and accomplishing other essential tasks, like eBay and Clash of Clans. Rachel was less than happy sharing my attention and gasped at the end of a particularly heavy wave, “Throw the window out the phone right now.” I didn’t correct her syntax but reminded her that we still needed to call our midwife Emmanuelle. I did so at 3:56.
Rachel lost her waters (as they say in French) at 4:04 and I gave Emmanuelle another ring to check on her arrival time. She was lost in front of a home furnishings store. Life is hard when your address isn’t indexed on Google Maps and is just called “Les Forgettes.” Rachel was feeling pretty overwhelmed at this point and the surges were feeling more like contractions. “I just want Emmanuelle to be here. I am really resisting the contractions.”
At 4:34 Emmanuelle arrived – half Mary Poppins, half Mata Hari – in a fitted orange corduroy jacket with an oversized duffel bag. She slipped into our bedroom and kissed both of our cheeks. She checked the baby’s heart rate and gave us a reassuring smile to know all was well. Rachel was at 7-8 cm, but the baby was still high.
The next two hours were like a strange grown-up version of ring-around-the-rosy. Rachel preferred to take the surges on her feet, but desperately wanted to lie down between labors. She would nestle in the pillows while Emmanuelle and I caressed her back and belly and then would announce “UP” when a surge was a few seconds out. We would heft her onto her feet, dance and sing together, and then collapse back onto the bed. Rachel became increasingly more determined, and less and less fearful. It was amazing to watch her talk herself through the hard moments and communicate with the baby. We were praying, and Emmanuelle told us afterwards she was asking for help from on high as well.
By 6:30 the baby was working with us and Rachel was almost completely open. We were on our knees leaning on the bed. Emmanuelle said there was still a lip of cervix left, which she explained was “best to leave there and let it happen on its own, but if you want I can help it over the baby’s head. If so I’ll have to leave my fingers in there during a contraction.” Rachel bared the white of her eyes and said, “Give me some time to think. I’ve got to get my head around it first.” I figured the upside-down metaphor was a sign and we didn’t suggest it again.
The sunrise didn’t lie and the weather was dramatic with strong wind and pulses of rain. There are lots of such days that pass without remark, but when a baby is being born it seems like a sign. Our little birthing room was warm and humid, a womb protected from the tempest outside. We got into a good rhythm with me jiggling Rachel’s rump – her idea, for the record – and the baby moved through the birth passage in just a few minutes.
At 7:11 a baby stuck its head out. At 7:12 a baby slipped into my arms. It was a boy baby with dark hair. He gave a little squeak and opened his eyes. Emmanuelle rubbed his back, I kissed his face, and Rachel talked to him. He let out a cough and some gentle cries, and we wrapped him in my t-shirt and a towel.
Mommy was relieved he was here, and baby was calm and zen. 3.8 kilos, 37 cm head, and 55 cm long. Who knows what that means in real units, but whatever.
The next morning I picked up Henry and Ingrid from our friend’s house so they could meet their brother. Ingrid was hoping for a sister but after she met the little man she said, “Oh well!”
“You need to hold his head and neck cause it’s floppy,” Ingrid explained to Henry. Henry was concerned about his “pumice” until we explained it was just his umbilical cord. Hanging out never felt so good.
Thanks to all who lent a hand or a thought from near or far.
I think this is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in some time: “The sunrise didn’t lie and the weather was dramatic with strong wind and pulses of rain. There are lots of such days that pass without remark, but when a baby is being born it seems like a sign. Our little birthing room was warm and humid, a womb protected from the tempest outside.” Just stunning.
It makes me consider all the details only I remember about my births, and the ones Ben Blair recalls. It’s lovely to compare and contrast those accounts every once in a while, right? Do you ever do that, too? Has there been a detail you’ve forgotten that your partner remembers clear as day? Oh. And do you live in a place where home birth is frowned upon? I love to hear your stories.