Nina's first baby, Nikita, was born by emergency caesarean. Asya, her second baby, was born at home in 2001, and Sonja, her third child, was born at home in August 2006.
A family of five wild turkeys crossed our hillside the morning I labored with our third child.
I picked up a turkey feather from the roadside this afternoon, the third day of Sonja's life. A long, dark gray feather barred with brown. This has been a summer of wild turkeys, dozens of them, rushing through the treetops or disappearing into the woods as a car passed. This was my first outing since the morning of her birthday. The milk has come in, throbbing in my chest and drenching my shirt every time Sonja suckles at the other breast.
According to Native American belief, the wild turkey symbolizes both gift and sacrifice: the bird that gives its body to feed the people. The animal medicine felt very fitting on that morning: a group of five on the day our fifth family member was born. And isn't birth always both a gift and a sacrifice?
The obvious metaphors are child as a gift and the mother's suffering as sacrifice. But giving birth is itself a gift so huge one longs to do it all over again, for this child or many more, the same way or a dozen different ways. Perhaps the sacrifice is to relinquish the babe that has become so much a part of my life and body, so close I know its every movement. And the gift: to hold her in my arms, to have her with me in a new way. Thank goodness caring for a new baby is so intense, so sensual holding, feeding, changing, sleeping next to her. Otherwise the end of a pregnancy would be too big a loss, losing half of oneself.
The biggest lesson of this labor was the leap into the void, the moment when I let go completely. In the space of one contraction, my cervix went from 7 cm to pushing. A few minutes later, she was born.
My labor began after an acupuncture treatment. The baby was already 12 days late. "Acupuncture won't start labor off unless the baby is really ready to come," my midwife Melissa told me. It was the most grueling acupuncture treatment I've ever received. Axel used six pairs of needles: in the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, a point in my ears, in the big toe, in the shins, and two pairs in my belly. In previous acupuncture treatments I have never felt more than a light vibration at the needle site. This time, some of the needles caused a dull ache; others felt like an electric shock. The needles just below my navel didn't hurt, but the baby reacted to them with violent kicks.
"We need to make it uncomfortable for the baby," Axel said.
It wasn't so much the pain of it I can stand quite a lot but somehow the emotional energy from the treatment was very disturbing. I found myself in floods of tears halfway through. Perhaps this signalled the hormones of birth building up.
We were spending the summer in Vermont, a place full of family and memories for me. We stayed in my mother's summer house, where I spent many of my childhood summers. My grandmother, now 91 years old, still lives nearby. Two of my mother's three siblings also live not far away.
Sergei and I had spent a lot of time debating the living arrangements, and the pros and cons of being far from our home in London for this birth. I had been pining for Vermont and family for years, and at a certain point in the pregnancy it came to me that it was the place I wanted to spend the summer and bring this child into the world. The baby was due in mid-August. In order to travel while the airline would still allow it, I took my maternity leave from the financial firm where I work six weeks before the due date. Sergei couldn't take so much time off from work, so I traveled on my own with the children. Our son Nikita, who was 7, and his sister Asya, 5, left school in London three weeks early.
Arriving in early July, we spent a few weeks visiting my dad's family farm in upstate New York, then stayed at my grandmother's house in North Pomfret visiting other relatives. But by the end of July I was eager to settle where I planned to give birth. I needed to feel at home there. I hadn't lived in the white clapboard house on Barber Hill Road since I was 14, the year we came back from Russia. My father had taken a sabbatical from The Washington Post, and was writing a book about his four years as Moscow correspondent. I have fond memories of that time, and still feel connected to the house through helping to renovate it. I still point proudly to the pegs I helped put in the floorboards, and the wallpaper I chose and helped to hang in my bedroom. It didn't take long for me to feel comfortable here.
Sergei had arranged to take a whole month off from work in London. His parents wanted to spend time with their grandchildren, so we found a place for them to stay nearby. We considered having them stay with us, but we didn't want them underfoot, especially around the time of the birth.
I had hired a midwife sight-unseen following a thorough search via Internet, email and a number of telephone interviews. I chose Melissa Deas for the gentle and loving way she spoke about pregnancy and birth, as well as her self-sufficient approach. Before I arrived in Vermont in July, we had monthly phone 'check-ups' which I scheduled after each of the check-ups with the independent midwife I had originally hired in London.
I finally met Melissa a month before my due date. She works out of her house in Bristol, Vermont, nearly two hours' drive north from Pomfret. The only closer homebirth midwife I really liked, Ruth Richardson, was already booked up by the time I found her. She agreed to be our backup midwife. (Under Vermont regulation, a homebirth VBAC must be attended by two licensed midwives. Even though I had already had a successful vaginal birth following the caesarean, Ruth still needed to be there too.)
When I walked into Melissa's house for the first time, I was surprised to find not one but three women waiting for me. Melissa introduced herself and her two assistants, Heather and Olympia.
"One of my assistants will attend your birth with me," Melissa said, "Heather will probably come with me on the day. But I wanted to make sure you got to meet Olympia, too."
Heather was about my age, with two young children. Like me, she came from a previous career in the financial industry, but had recently enrolled in a midwifery degree program. Olympia was in her early twenties, grew up in California, and had been volunteering with Mexican migrant workers before apprenticing with Melissa.
More people I didn't know? And someone else had invited them to my labor? Shortly after this introduction, I burst into tears. I liked Melissa, but I was uneasy about the idea of extra people at the birth. After I got home that evening, I phoned her back and said I wasn't comfortable with Heather coming to my birth, but that it would be okay if Olympia came. Something about Heather made me nervous I felt she had the same over-educated, over-articulate vibe I have myself. Too left-brain a person to have at my birth. Olympia felt calm and sunny to me. She exuded warmth.
During the following month I saw Melissa every week. I loved that 1 3/4 hour drive across the state, over a mountain pass and into the little hippie town of Bristol. One week, both Melissa and Ruth visited us in Pomfret to make sure they could find the way when they came for the birth.
Pregnancy in the US was a completely new adventure! I decided for my own peace of mind to check out all my hospital options, in the unlikely event that I had to transfer. I felt I would be more easily able to lay aside any worries if I knew where to go if necessary. At a certain stage in the pregnancy I had been concerned that the baby was breech. I fully expected it to turn before the birth, but I felt that before I left for the US I needed to be sure I knew where I would have the baby if for some reason it hadn't turned. My London midwife was comfortable attending a breech at home. But under Vermont regulation, homebirth midwives are not permitted to attend a breech homebirth. I did actually locate a small hospital where the midwives and doctors said they would accept a vaginal breech birth in their birth centre, so I felt I could confidently travel to the US knowing I had all the bases covered. I also contacted Dartmouth Medical Center, the largest local hospital, where I planned to transfer in case of an unexpected emergency. I made an appointment to register with a consultant just in case. The visit was amusing. The new Dartmouth Medical Center is an enormous citadel a few miles outside of Hanover, New Hampshire. I found my way through a labyrinth of elevators and passages, and was duly shown into the consultant's office. I explained my complicated story: that I lived in London, was planning a homebirth in Vermont, but had come to see him to make sure I was registered at Dartmouth 'just in case.' After asking for a few vital statistics, the consultant asked me to lie down on the bed so he could check the baby. Without even asking my permission, he began to squirt conductive jelly on my middle. Apparently it never occurred to him that anyone would object to a sonicaid. Fortunately I could see it coming, having had a number of ultrasound tests before.
"Is that jelly for the sonicaid?" I asked. "Please would you use a pinnard or fetoscope instead? I don't want to expose the baby to high-frequency Doppler ultrasound."
"What's a pinnard?" asked the pimply young medical student who was observing the appointment. The consultant explained to him, but had to confess that he had neither a pinnard nor a fetoscope available, but that if I didn't mind skipping it, that was fine with him. He advised me that it would be far preferable to have the baby in hospital, and said he was sure I would find the birth suite to my liking.
"Could I take a look?" I asked, so he gave me a personal tour.
"I hope we'll see you back here for the birth," he said as I left.
"I'll send you a postcard to let you know how it goes!"
Earlier, I had spoken to another Dartmouth OB by phone, a woman who attended 'high-risk' births. I wanted to know the hospital's policy on breech birth. This doctor had told me that, though no one could absolutely force a woman to have a caesarean for a breech presentation, that it was hospital policy, and that they considered a managed breech delivery to be very dangerous. (So do I! 'Hands off the breech' is the safest way.) By the time I managed to reach her on the phone, the baby had actually turned head down, so it felt to me like a fairly moot point.
Her response pretty much summarized the American hospital approach.
"No, you're absolutely right to ask," said the doctor encouragingly, "It may be head down now. But you can't trust those babies!"
US homebirth midwives work in a very different environment from independent midwives in the UK. In the UK, midwifery is an established part of the state healthcare system, and many independent midwives initially train in the national health system. In the US, in contrast, midwifery has been marginalized. Homebirth is ten times less common in the US than in the UK, according to the most recent statistics I could find 0.4% in the US, vs. 4% in the UK. (However, Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire take a very progressive view of midwifery and homebirth, and have established a licensing system which means that homebirth is both legal and relatively widespread.) As a result, American homebirth midwives tend to be very safety-conscious, and very self-sufficient. Unlike my independent midwife in London, who expected me to continue with the NHS's routine prenatal care as well, Melissa did everything herself. She was able to draw blood to test my iron levels. She was used to using a fetoscope instead of a sonicaid to listen to the baby's heartrate. (I had had a struggle with my London midwife, who was accustomed to using the Sonicaid for convenience.) Melissa gave my mother and my husband each a half-hour lecture on unattended birth, just in case she didn't arrive in time. (With a 2-hour drive, this was not a luxury! But even families planning to go to hospital ought to know how to birth at home. Birth is never predictable.)
It was probably acupuncture that brought things on, since my labor began 14 hours later. Perhaps the baby would have come then anyway. The night after the treatment, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. feeling something wet between my legs.
"Oh no, my waters have gone, and I'm not in labor," I thought. It turned out to be more of the mucus plug, which had begun to come out over the last several days. An hour later I began to feel cramps. By 4 a.m. I was having contractions. They came every 3 to 10 minutes, and lasted 20 to 30 seconds at first. By the time the rest of the family started waking up around 7:30, they were lasting 30-40 seconds, and still coming at about the same intervals.
Sergei got the children dressed, and they all drove up the road to buy the paper. I put on my new hiking boots and went for a short hike up the hill to see if the light of day would end the contractions so I could get some sleep, as I had during my labor with Asya.
It was an exquisite morning. I walked up the road a few hundred yards. At the edge of our property, I turned off the road and up the hill, backtracking towards the house. It felt good to go up such a steep hill. I paused to breathe through contractions when they came. They already felt fairly intense. The grass was heavy with dew, and my feet were soon soaked. I tried to remember every detail. Spiderwebs in the grass sparkled with dewdrops. The trees in the old orchard held a few dozen green apples. The last dairy cows left our pastures ten years ago, and the barbed wire has all but disappeared among the old stone walls bordering the neighbors' property.
The contractions continued. I counted through each one "One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand ..." I climbed over the top of the first rise and looked down at the white clapboard house, the old garage, flowerbeds, green lawns, the swing I hung for the children the week we arrived. "This is going to be a daytime labor," I thought. "Maybe we'll meet this new person before tomorrow."
A new experience. With Nikita, I had intermittent contractions all day, but never experienced strong labor at all. He was born by caesarean, leaving many unanswered questions. I labored in the dark with Asya, two nights in a row, with a day's rest in-between. She was born around 4 a.m. on the second morning. I had expected this labor to be similar.
At the treeline I came upon a prickly bush covered with bright oval-shaped orange berries. I picked three sprigs. All the plants I encountered that morning made me think of fall. I brought home an autumnal bouquet: twisty, dark stems of dried seeds from the rhubarb bed, purple burrs ripening on a leafy stem, crabapples, green, orange and red berries. "I thought this would be a summer baby. It's notit's going to be a fall baby."
I set my bouquet in an earthenware jug and took a picture of them to remember the day. Then I called Melissa.
"I took a walk to see if the contractions were going to stop, and they haven't," I reported.
"The other thing you can do is take a half-hour bath. If it's going to stop, that will sometimes do it," she said. (I was half-expecting this pre-labor to stop, as it had in my previous labor, and didn't want to make Melissa drive the two hours to Pomfret if nothing was happening.)
"Okay, I'll report back after the bath," I said, somewhat reluctantly.
The contractions melted away in the hot water. I climbed into bed, hoping to fall asleep again after my sleepless night. As soon as I began to drift off, a new contraction began rolling in like gathering surf. After a few more, I got up again. No use.
Sergei had gotten breakfast for the children. I ate what was left of the oatmeal. Mum picked up the kids to take them up to Raya and Misha's, their Russian grandparents, who had rented a cottage a few miles up the road from us for the month of August.
"Call me if you need anything," Mum said. I had talked with her about supporting me during the birth. But in the event, I didn't really want her there. It had been the same with my other labors in theory, I liked the idea of her being there. But she managed to miss all three of my births. I think I must have wanted it that way.
"Olympia and I are going to come on down to you in a few hours," Melissa told me when I called her next. "Seems like things are moving along."
After the children left, Sergei and I took a walk up the road to the gate of Evergreen Glen. He talked on and on about trips we might go on someday, something he'd read in the paper, what a colleague told him. All I can remember is that I had even less to add than usual. "I wish he'd stop talking," I thought as I paused behind him on the road to breathe through a contraction. Walking up the road, the pain in the small of my back seemed not to let up even between contractions. Sometimes I held his hand through them, mostly just went through them on my own, counting to 30 or 40 over the peak. They seemed to be getting gradually longer and stronger. Probably I should have asked him to be quiet, but at the time I was too absorbed by what was happening in my own body to give directions.
On the way home, we sat down on a huge quartz boulder at the turn onto our road. It was such a relief to feel something solid under my bottom. Finally, a break from the pain in my back. We must have sat for 5 or 10 minutes. I had a few contractions, but they felt gentler.
Around 2:30, soon after we got home, Melissa and Olympia arrived, sooner than I had expected them. As soon as they arrived, my contractions ceased. "It's because I have an audience," I laughed sheepishly.
'Don't worry, that often happens," Melissa said.
Sergei drove off for lunch with his parents and the kids, to give me time to settle with the midwives. Melissa checked my dilatation at 3:08 pm. I was only 3.5 cm. I was a bit disappointed the contractions had felt plenty strong to me.
We sat out on the steps in the sun. I wept with Melissa about my sadness at Nikita's cesarean birth, how I wished I'd been able to give him a better birth. I felt it was because I was so upset that he cried incessantly for two days after he was born. She said it was healthy that he cried, he was releasing the upset he felt, which meant he wouldn't carry it with him. It felt right to acknowledge my sadness about the caesarean during this labor.
The contractions still hadn't come back, so I went upstairs to try to take a nap, since I'd been up since 2:30 am. Melissa and Olympia tactfully went outside to wait.
Almost as soon as I lay down, the contractions started up again. I lay down through a few, but it soon became too uncomfortable to lie still. I felt hungry, and got myself a bowl of cottage cheese and peaches, and a large glass of iced rooibos tea.
Melissa and Olympia were sitting on the lawn in the sun, reading the paper and talking. It was too hot in the sun, so we moved the garden chairs into the shade. I wanted to walk and move through contractions, but Melissa advised me not to if it made them seem more bearable. I should do whatever made the contractions more intense, even if it hurt more. If staying still did that, then it would make them more effective. (I'm not sure I agree with this advice. If contractions are more bearable, it seems to me it might make them more effective, because I would have to expend less energy trying not to panic, and might be able to go into the energy of opening more.) Melissa suggested I try to squat during contractions. She and Olympia took turns holding me up in a supported squat through rushes.
I threw up all the cottage cheese and iced tea on the grass near the swing. That afternoon the grass was strewn with early yellow leaves. "The vomit will blend in with the leaves," I thought.
Sergei drove up. He held me through some contractions, and I leaned over him sitting in a chair for some.
Ruth, the backup midwife, arrived. She and Sergei went upstairs to begin filling the pool. Looking back on it, I wish I hadn't let him walk away so soon. In the end, that was the only time that he was really supporting me during the labor, and it wasn't necessarily his fault that he wasn't there more. Maybe I should have let him be with me. I liked being able to hug him during contractions, he's so solid. Later, when I was pushing Sonja out, he asked if I wanted him nearer (he was sitting in a chair in the corner), and I said no. I don't regret his not being next to me at that point, because pushing was so overpowering, I didn't want any distractions. And I don't think he would have wanted to get too close. But I could have used his solidness near me earlier.
The pool started leaking. Sergei came out asking where to find the water pump. "In the room downstairs," I told him. He and Ruth bailed out the pool and started over again just around the time the sun sank below the edge of the hill. That's when the air always feels cooler and mosquitoes appear. We moved inside, around 7 pm according to Melissa's notes. I needed the toilet, so she and I went into the downstairs bathroom. She suggested I try taking a shower while the others filled the pool again. I went to the toilet, but I felt almost afraid to get undressed and try something new. The contractions were so strong, the prospect of any change was frightening. It felt such a struggle to get through each new rush. "Can I really do it? How can I bear this?" I thought during each one. I felt panicky each time a new one came roaring in. They began with a strengthening ache in my lower back that reminded me of the early rushing of the surf around the ankles as a wave starts building up. "This one's going to drown me!"
'That's one contraction less that you need to get through," Melissa said after one finished.
'Thanks a whole lot!" I thought. "Infinity minus one is still infinity!"
I got into the shower, and for a little while it felt good, though the water was only lukewarm. All the hot had been used up, and now pumped out the window, trying to fill the pool the first time. I dried off and put my dress on again, shivering after the cool shower. Melissa helped me climb the stairs, a frightening prospect in the middle of contractions.
"Let's check you out," she said. I clambered onto the bed. Only 7 cm. Only 7? After all that pain?
"You'll be in transition soon," Melissa said.
"You smiled when I said that," she told me the next day.
"That means I'm almost there!" I was thinking. I pulled off my dress and, with Melissa supporting my elbow, climbed into the pool. It wasn't that deep, but it still felt good. I expected it to take the pain away completely, as it had during Asya's birth, but I still felt the intense pain in my lower back. Olympia was leaning over the pool. I grabbed her hand and pressed it to my back as hard as I could. I needed help, I couldn't get enough leverage on my own back.
"Want me to come closer?" Sergei asked.
"No, it's okay," I said.
"Visualize your cervix fully open, passing back over the baby's head," Melissa said then.
I was stepping into the birth pool.
"Visualize the baby's head entering the birth canal."
For the first time during this labor, I let go into the next contraction in spite of the pain. Up til then I was struggling to keep it together, to stay on the edge of the cliff, not to panic, not to scream, not to let the pain take me over. This time I leapt into the void. Transition happened in the space of that one contraction. By the end of it, I was pushing. Unlike the hour I spent pushing Asya out, this time pushing still hurt. It was acutely painful in a different way from the stabbing in my sacrum. I had to let it happen.
"Yes!" I shouted with the next push. It felt as though my whole body would turn inside out. A new wave of pushing rushed through me. "No," I whimpered. I was afraid. Then corrected myself as it came on stronger. "Yes!" I knew I had to affirm and accept this powerful process. With a pop and a bit of a sting, like a balloon bursting, I felt the waters breaking, and felt the whoosh as the fluid flowed out into the pool. I was on hands and knees in the pool, which was only about a third full. I pushed a few more times.
"I'm not going to miss feeling the head come out this time," I thought. I put my hands down, and as I pushed, there came a soft, bulging curve out between my legs. It felt too soft to be the head, all slippery. It slipped back in as the rush ended. Another rush came on, stronger and stronger. It was irresistible. I felt the burning stretch in my perineum as the head pushed against it. I did my best to think soft, to think gentle, as Melissa had told me I needed to to prevent tearing. I pushed again. Oh! This time the bulge didn't go back in.
"The head's out!" I said in surprise.
"Lift your bottom up!" Melissa said. "I've got to check for a cord."
"You surprised us!" Melissa told me afterwards. "I thought, 'Well, I guess she wanted to catch this one herself.'"
The next push went on, and on, and on shoulders, belly, long legs. The baby swam out into Melissa's hands behind me, and immediately began to cry. Who had just been born? I turned and awkwardly raised my leg over the baby and cord, and took it in my arms.
"I love you," I said to the small, surprised face with wide open eyes. The little body felt soft.
Gos of yellow vernix floated out into the pool.
"I wonder who this person is," I thought to myself. "How wonderful to meet the baby as itself, before anyone defines it as 'boy' or 'girl.'" We all had decided this was going to be a boy.
I wanted to be sure to find out this baby's sex myself. That was a small regret I had about Asya's birth our midwife announced she was a girl before I'd had a chance to find out for myself. "This time when the baby comes out, I don't want anyone to tell me what it is!" I told all the midwives, Sergei and the children.
I felt between the legs. I felt a soft little bottom, and two little bulges more like a vulva than a scrotum. I wasn't totally sure, but it felt like a girl. I held the baby to my breast for her to suckle.
"The breathing sounds a little wet," Melissa said. "I think we need to suction her a little."
I looked at the baby's bottom. It was a girl.
"You promised not to tell me the sex!" I complained the next day.
"I usually refer to babies as 'she'," Melissa said. "And then it turned out it was a girl, and I thought, "Oh shoot, Nina will think I gave it away!"'
"It didn't matter, I already knew," I said.
I held the baby in the pool for awhile. I think Melissa suctioned some mucous out of her mouth and nose while I held her, but I didn't really notice. Someone put a hat on her to keep her warm. Melissa was concerned about the baby being warm enough, so she asked me to get out of the pool. It was only part full and the water wasn't very warm. Supported by the midwives and still holding the baby, I climbed up onto the bed.
Then Sergei called the rest of the family. The two older kids and three of their four grandparents were a few miles up the road in North Pomfret, having dinner together and waiting for news. A little earlier Sergei had called to say it would probably be awhile yet and here she was already. Ten minutes later the whole family arrived downstairs. Sergei went down to see them. He planned to shoo his parents away until the next morning, but I asked him to let them wait downstairs while the children came up to meet their new sibling.
The children tiptoed in, their faces lit up with joy. Each carried a bouquet of wildflowers. "We picked them when Papa called," Nikita said.
They gazed in awe at their baby sister.
"So soft!" breathed Asya, gently stroking the baby's arm.
The placenta hadn't been born yet.
"Try giving a really good push and see what happens," Melissa suggested. I didn't feel any contractions, but I gave a push. Out slid the placenta onto a pie plate. Once no more blood seemed to be flowing through it, the children helped to clamp and cut the cord. I pulled off and ate a small piece of placenta to help my uterus clamp down, and we kept the rest for later.
(Nikita and I examined it in great detail a few days later, sitting on the step in the sun. Fascinating to see all those membranes and blood vessels that had protected and fed the baby all those months. Later I fried up a piece of it for supper. Before I ate it, I thanked Sonja for nourishing me as I had nourished her. I offered my mother some of this ritual meal, but she politely declined. The rest of it I planted under three baby rosebushes.)
Melissa examined my perineum. "Yes, you've had a bit of a tear," she said. "She came out with her hand next to her face. That usually causes a tear, when the elbow comes through. That was the first thing I saw. Then I saw that the baby has dimples."
I put on a t-shirt and pulled up the bedclothes for the grandparents' visit. Grandpa Misha was the most astounded of all. When his two sons were born in Moscow in the late 60s and early 70s, no fathers were allowed at births. Often fathers didn't even see their babies until several days or a week later. He got to see his new grandchild less than two hours after she was born. The two grandmothers were delighted, too. After a brief visit, they all tactfully left.
Once the grandparents had left, the midwives weighed the baby. Eight pounds, sixteen ounces. Because it was a second-degree tear towards my anus, Melissa and Ruth decided to give me a few stitches. Sergei held the baby, and Nikita watched intently while the midwives worked on me. Asya felt sleepy, and went off to bed.
While Melissa, Ruth and Olympia were in the room together, I had a feeling of being enveloped in their care and love. There was something very special about that trinity of women at the birth. The photos taken that evening are hazy and a little out of focus, almost as though there were haloes around. It felt that way to me.
By 11 pm, everyone had gone. Nikita and Asya were sleeping in their room across the hall, and Sergei was downstairs in the guest room. I gave the baby a change my first time using the new cotton diapers I'd ordered earlier that month. Then the two of us settled into the big double bed. I left a nightlight on so I'd be able to see to check her and change her during the night. I kept opening my eyes to look at her and listen to her breathing. When she woke during the night, I nursed her and we both went to sleep again.
The bed is a big, handmade platform bed, higher than most I've slept in. I had been tossing and turning in it all summer with only my belly for company. (I had banished Sergei to the guestroom downstairs early on, because I was sleeping so badly and the weather was terribly hot.) I would wake every few hours in the last weeks of the pregnancy and look out the window as the moon crossed the sky and dawn slowly rose over the woods. Two full moons had crossed that window while I carried her, and now here she was in my arms. A very peaceful feeling.
The next morning, the children came in early to visit their new baby sister. So little and perfect. Of course they squabbled over who got to hold her first. I reminded them that she wasn't going anywhere, so they'd have plenty more years to play with her.
Later that morning, Sergei and I discussed her name. We'd been so certain the baby would be a boy, we hadn't even made a short list of girls' names. But just as with Asya's name, we both had the same idea: Sophia, in honor of her paternal great-grandmother. The baby's nickname would be the same as her namesake's: Sonja. We also quickly agreed on the middle name Brook, in memory of Sergei's uncle Mikhail Bruk, who died in 2003. We chose the English spelling, first because Uncle Misha spoke perfect English, and always called himself Michael Brook when traveling abroad. 'Brook' for me was also a reminder of the little stream that runs past the house on Barber Hill Road, and of the beautiful sunny afternoon I spent next to it, laboring to bring my daughter into the world.
Home Birth Stories
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Home Birth After Caesarean
UK VBAC/HBAC (Home Birth After Caesarean/ Vaginal Birth after Caesarean}) group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ukvbachbac
Home Birth Reference Page