This is the story of how our son Finnian came into the world. He was born at home, in water, under the full moon and falling snow, on St. Patrick’s Day. While I carried him in my womb for 37 weeks, I carried the hope of him in my heart for many, many years.
From very early on in my pregnancy, I had a gut feeling that our baby would be born under the full moon. My due date was 4/6, and given that many first time mamas go late, my midwife Kathy and I agreed that going into labor during the 4/15 full moon was quite possible. And so it was. I set my mind on 4/15 as “the date” and carried on with my pregnant life. But while we were busy making plans for our April home birth, our baby was making some plans of his own…
On Saturday, 3/15, Jay and I ran a bunch of errands and I felt especially exhausted. I remember struggling to find a comfortable position as I rode in the car. Everything hurt, and I was huge! We came home that night, took a hot bath together, and just enjoyed a lovely evening as a couple. In retrospect, it was a very romantic “last night” as just the two of us, although we had no idea it would be our last night.
I awoke early Sunday morning (3/16) to very mild yet consistent “cramps”. I didn’t call them contractions because contractions are what women in labor have, and I was weeks away from labor, so these were just cramps. Ha. In addition to the “cramps”, I also woke up with some anxiety and fear on my heart and mind. I cried to Jay that we were running out of time (ha!) and that there was still so much to do in the weeks remaining. The house was a disorganized mess, as my shower had the been the weekend before and we now had SO MUCH STUFF to cram into our one bedroom apartment. I expressed that I needed to feel at ease in our space, but all I was feeling was anxious. I also started worrying about how this baby was going to come out of my body. It all felt so impossible.
Jay heard me, he held me, he validated my feelings, and sprang into “fix it” mode. Within a few hours, the remaining birth supplies had been ordered, the car seat had been installed, the house cleaned, the baby stuff sorted and organized, and I felt so much better and at ease. While he was nesting, I made a birth necklace with beads that were given to me by a group of fellow expectant women who were all due in April. These women had been a tremendous support to me throughout my pregnancy, so making the necklace with their beads allowed me to focus my energy and feel connected to this group of strong, pregnant women. I drew strength from it, and felt empowered to consider myself a strong, pregnant woman, too.
By mid-afternoon, I felt more in control and was able to relax into a place of faith that everything would unfold exactly as it should. I acknowledged my fears as they came, but did not give them much energy. The “cramps” continued, about 5-8 minutes apart, but they were totally manageable, so I thought they were Braxton Hicks or just general 3rd trimester crampiness. I had absolutely NO CLUE that I was actually in labor.
After lunch, maybe around 2:30, Jay and I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood. It felt great to get outside, move my body, and breathe in the fresh, cool air. The “cramps” eased up a bit, or at least felt different as I moved with them. When we came home, I decided to google “March 2014 full moon” just for fun. What I saw on the screen both terrified and tickled me. “Oh my GOD! The full moon is TONIGHT!!”, I yelled to Jay. That was my first clue that I might actually be in labor. Not the morning panic and nesting, nor the steady contractions all day, but Google telling me that the full moon was on the rise.
Ironically, our doula Jessamyn came over at 4:00 for our pre-scheduled second prenatal visit. When I told her I had been having cramps all day, she encouraged me to call my midwife and alert her. For some reason, I still felt hesitant to do so, as if calling it in somehow made it official. But I decided to make the call anyway and give Kathy a heads up, both about my “cramps” and about the moon. When we ended the call, I said, “See you Tuesday” (for our scheduled prenatal appt.), to which she replied, “or maybe tonight”. Gulp. It was right around this time that I started calling the cramps what they really were: contractions. Both Kathy and Jessamyn encouraged me to go on with my night and to stay in touch as things either progressed or fizzled out. I was sure things would fizzle out, because, well, it was mid-March. Not mid-April.
After Jessamyn left, I settled in on the couch, watched a movie, and timed the contractions. They were coming about every 5 minutes and lasting 45-60 seconds. They got a tiny bit more intense, so I decided to take a candlelit bath. The warm water felt deeply relaxing, and the contractions slowed down to every 10 minutes or so. Jay was sitting next to the tub, and I remember talking about how I needed to go into the office in the morning to finish up my work and get my personal belongings. And then a contraction would come and remind me that I was in labor. I was straddling two worlds, not fully committed to either one. Also very much in denial that I actually was in labor. I still thought things would fizzle out and that *real* labor would happen in a few weeks.
Eventually, I got out of the tub and we had dinner around 9:00. I had my regular, full appetite, and ate a huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs and salad. Contractions were back to every 5 minutes and slightly more intense. Somewhere around this time, I accepted the fact that I was in labor. But I thought I was in very early labor, and that I’d be at it for at least another 24 hours. I was a first-timer, after all! Our midwife agreed that we likely had a long night ahead and encouraged me to try to get some rest. So after dinner, I decided to head to bed and get some Zzzzs despite being really uncomfortable. I took a shot of Benadryl to help me sleep and hoped for the best.
Once in the bed, we realized that we hadn’t prepped the mattress with layers of plastic as we’d been instructed. My initial thought was, “eh, we’ll do it tomorrow when labor is for real”, but Jay clearly had more senses about him and stripped the bed while I was on one of MANY trips to the bathroom. I came back, helped him make the bed with plastic and two layers of sheets, and continued my attempt to sleep. Not so much. Jay slept, but I was wide awake, contracting with increasing intensity,and making constant trips to the bathroom.
In retrospect, I felt very alone during this part of my labor. Despite the intensity, I still thought I had a long road ahead of me (seriously, everything I learned in childbirth classes flew out the window), so I wanted Jay to get his sleep so that he would have his energy for “real labor”. Up until that point I had been managing and felt somewhat in control, but laying there alone in the quiet, dark night, I began to feel that control slip away. I wasn’t afraid, but just very present and aware of the power rippling through my body. I did not fight it, but began to let go. It was like stepping into an ocean of fury, knowing that the waves would come crashing down on me, but being okay with that, welcoming that. While I felt very alone, I think that’s exactly what I needed to begin to surrender to the power. No other person could do it for me. I had to go it alone.
No longer able to stay quiet, I began vocalizing and moaning through the contractions. Low, slow, and deep. I was very uncomfortable and rather restless. I got up to pee once again and noticed that I had lost my mucus plug. I woke Jay up and asked him to call Kathy to let her know. This is where things got murky, as I was not in a position to self-report my status anymore. I was deep in labor land. Despite the contractions being very close together and sometimes having two back-to-back, my mind was not on duty and I was unable to communicate that to Jay. I was also still operating under the assumption that I was in early-ish labor. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. He called Kathy and reported (through me) that contractions were still 5-7 minutes apart. False. Even as I heard those words come out of my mouth, I knew it was false but could not correct myself. It’s as if someone else was speaking on my behalf and my mouth was taped shut. Had Jay been awake with me, he would have known that things were more intense than I was able to articulate and that I was no longer a good gauge of where we were in labor. Not that I ever was…
Kathy encouraged us to try and get some rest. I wouldn’t call what I got “rest”, as I was lost in the space / time continuum and have no concept of where or when or how. All I know is that at 2:35 am, my bag of waters burst open with a pop and a gush! Thank God we lined the bed. I was shocked at how much fluid came out of me, and how hot it was. The experience woke me up on many levels. All of a sudden I was back in my mind, fully alert and very aware that I was about to have a baby. I felt primal and almost back in control again, but more like I had total faith that my body knew exactly what to do. I just had to get out of my own way and let it do it’s thing. I needed to be in the tub, immediately.
Jay started the bath and called our birth team to alert them. They were all on their way. As soon as I got in the tub, I felt tremendous pressure and had the urge to push. It almost felt like I needed to have a bowel movement, times 100,000,000%. The contractions were INTENSE, but I surrendered and let them overtake me. The more I tried to control what was happening, the harder it was. So I let go. It was like the power of God was barreling down through my body; the heavens and earth, storms and seasons and oceans ripping through me, the cosmos and all of creation expanding and contracting inside me, all at once.
On instinct, I began to vocalize the Hindu mantra OM (Ooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmm) with each contraction. This is the perfect example of my body knowing exactly what to do. I just opened my mouth and low, slow, deep and loud OMs came out, one per contraction. I don’t usually OM in my non-labor life, so it really came out of nowhere. It was as if I had to externalize the power I was feeling internally, and OM was the only sound / vibration that came close. Rather than a mere victim of the power overtaking me, I became a part of it. This helped to ground me and gave me a purpose and something to focus on. It’s impossible to feel panicked and tense when repeating OM. It keeps the face soft and open rather than tight and tense. Despite the pain, I felt a deep sense of calm. I was in the zone. In between OMs and contractions, I took sips of water, and gently reminded myself that I could do it, that I was doing it. I was birthing our baby.
Our birth team arrived around 3:30 / 4:00 am and checked the baby’s heart rate, which was great. I remember feeling Jessamyn drip warm water on my back. Such a small thing but it felt SO good and relaxing. I also remember telling Alison, our midwife’s assistant, that I was ready to move into the birth pool. Right. We had all of these great plans for the birth, including me laboring in a large, luxurious pool, but none of them panned out. Alison chuckled and said, “There’s no time, your baby is almost here!” I think this was the first time I realized the timeline of things and that I would not be in labor for another 12+ hours as originally thought. I also remember saying a few times that I felt the urge to push. This is the great thing about the midwifery model and especially about homebirth: there was no panic, no urgency, no one yelling “PUSH!!!”. It wasn’t a problem that needed to be fixed. It was a natural process that seemed to happen without intervention or without me doing much pushing at all. Again, my body just knew what to do. So I let it.
It was surreal; I actually felt my baby move down with each contraction, the intensity increasing as he crowned. It was a brief but memorable sensation and I learned why women call it “the ring of fire”. Aptly named. I wasn’t aware in the moment, but Kathy, Jay, and Allison were all out of the room at the time, moving cars that were double parked, setting up supplies, herding crazy cats and the like. It was just Jessamyn and I. While they were gone for those few minutes, the baby’s head crowned and completely popped out, which was a total shock. I remember my eyes flew open at that point and I looked at Jessamyn, who reassured me that everything was ok. In childbirth class, we learned that the head often moves down and then back up, and can take a while to come out. Not this baby’s head! He was more than ready to come out.
Luckily everyone returned just in time for the final contractions. With one last push, our baby wiggled out and was born into this world. It was 4:33 am on March 17th. I swooped him up onto my chest and was absolutely shocked and elated. I could not believe that our baby was here, that labor was over, and that I actually did it! I gave birth! It was the highest high. Jay and I locked eyes and were overcome with all of the emotion, shock, and joy in the world. If it weren’t for the cord that connected us, I wouldn’t have believed that this perfect little baby actually came out of me. It was all too much.
We just sat there, completely shocked and in awe, holding and rubbing the baby before we thought to check the sex and discovered that he was a HE! After a few more minutes in the tub, we carefully got out (still connected by cord) and moved to the bed, where Kathy stitched me up from a small tear and Jay cut the cord, once it stopped pulsing. Kathy weighed and measured him (7lbs 8 oz, 19 inches) and checked him out head to toe before officially declaring him “perfect!”. We then settled in for our babymoon. Kathy and Allison made us breakfast (and fed me!), cleaned up, helped establish breastfeeding, and went over what to expect in the hours and days ahead. Then, just as quickly as they swooped in, they packed up and left us to snuggle and bond as a new family. THIS was why we chose to birth at home. As they were leaving, Kathy gave us one last instruction: fall in love. And so we did.
Our doula Jessamyn, whom I had grown very close with throughout the pregnancy, had to leave soon after the birth to get her daughter to school. But she came back a few hours later and brought us flowers and stocked our home with delicious, nutritious food. She also made sure we were cozy and comfortable in bed with our new baby. I will never forget that. She went way over and above and made us feel so loved, supported, and cared for as a new family.
After she left, Jay and I looked at each other with amazement, exhaustion, and love. We had been waiting for this baby, our baby, for so very long. And just like that, here he was. Years of struggle, over in an instant. And so that’s the story of how our beautiful son, Finnian Thomas Stewart, came into this world. And the story of how our family was born. And it all happened under the full moon.
Thank you for reading.