This pregnancy was, in some ways, one of my most challenging (out of 5 babies). The root of this is, of course, the fact I have been working way too hard, and I became very sick in the wintertime for an extended period, something I really hadn’t experienced before. I even considered at one point seeking professional medical advice–especially since so many friends and acquaintances suggested I do so, but I knew there was nothing anyone could do for my severe unceasing and ongoing cough, fever, and sinus infection, except for prescribe antibiotics that I wouldn’t have taken anyway–and in retrospect I am very glad I chose to let my body recover in its own time.
Actually, this was my first pregnancy consciously undertaken entirely outside of the medical system. With my previous babies, I had attended a few of the requisite prenatal sessions at the hospital, but each visit with medical professionals had left me feeling anxious and stressed out, especially as I would invariably end up declining most of the procedures and testing they recommended, and having to essentially argue my case for each informed decision. I have never found any of the prenatal care offered by conventional sources to be in any way helpful, or useful, or even inoffensive.
So as always, I simply ate as impeccably as possible, and my belly grew as it should. I also checked my blood pressure at the pharmacy a couple of times. Always very low.
So while I was sick and tired during much of this pregnancy, I also felt incredibly safe, and free. I never had to fight or argue with anyone who was trying to convince me to succumb to ultrasound or doppler technology. I never had to explain repeatedly to anyone that I would not be drinking orange kool-aid in order that they might then tell my that my body doesn’t like that very much (the inane glucose stress-test). I never had to lie about my “due date” in order to avoid the insane pressure to be induced. I knew that my baby was fine, and I know that my babies like to arrive at around 42 weeks.
Maybe on account of having had so many babies already, the round ligament pains that began at around 30 weeks were intense, and only intensified as I became more pregnant. But with the responsibility for Horus and Treva, and the new businesses I have been working on, and of course, our main focus which is building our new anagama kiln and preparing for an exhibition of our work in Vancouver, not to mention renovating our barns and taking care of our zoo (dogs, cats, chickens, ducks)…there has been a lot going on, and plenty of distraction in the form of hard labour. But I have also felt overwhelmed, and quite severely grumpy at times.
We have been fortunate enough to have had a fantastic crew of people working with us on these various projects, and over the last couple of weeks of this pregnancy, Mike, Jeremy, Bradley and Stacy would show up every day, astounded that I was still pregnant. They learned early on that it is utterly pointless to exhort me not to carry heavy things, dig big holes, sand floors, and generally act like a superlady. “You’re some kind of woman, Yo”, said Stacy a couple of times, which I thought was hilarious and totally endearing. I do believe that the delicacy of pregnancy is mythology, and one of the reasons why I am so hardy is my insistence on ignoring all that silliness. But truthfully, balance has never been my strong point, and I tend to veer towards intensity in all areas of my life. I know I could have slowed down at certain junctures, probably saving myself some suffering. Oh dear.
In many ways, my birth process began three weeks before this little one was born. Every evening during almost the month leading up to the birth, I was rocked by powerful sensations that made me believe, on several occasions, that this was it. I also had some painful ligament pains under my ribs, and what felt like a bowling ball, digging into my chest. It was for this reason, that I decided to go and visit Amy, my dear friend and a wonderful independent birth attendant here in New Brunswick. I joked with Amy when I arrived at her house one balmy evening, that I just wanted to see my “doctor” once before this birth, so that she could confirm that my baby is head down, and I could be on my way. But when I lay on a blanket in her backyard, and she palpated my abdomen, we were both simultaneously hit with the revelation that it was a good chance that this baby was not head down. Horus and Treva were both fully engaged in my pelvis weeks before their birth, but this little guy sat up and out, and as I said, the pressure under my ribs was hefty.
Of course, an ultrasound would have shown precisely whether or not this baby was head down, but after a good cry, and a phone call with Gloria, who trained me as a doula 12 years ago, and who remains my mentor, hero and friend, I had come to terms with birthing this baby from whatever perspective he preferred. I also consulted with my friends, midwives Nat Arsenault and Virginia Frazier, who both reassured me that I could birth my baby just fine at home whether or not he/she was head down. In any case, I don’t believe ultrasound is safe, and I predict that over the next 20 years, despite the phenomenal amount of money sunk into ultrasound machines and technicians, we will all be questioning the practice of subjecting unborn babies to that technology to the extent that we do.
On the morning of the 8th of August, 2012, I woke up irritable, and things went a little bit south from there. I was annoyed with Horus and Treva for being boisterous happy kids, and I was deeply annoyed with Lee for a variety of petty issues. Mostly though, I was annoyed with the fact that I was still pregnant, and frankly suffering a little bit under the thumb of the heatwave that had persisted for weeks here in NB. We had been spending much of our time down at the river, or else in the swimming pool at the Evandale resort (one of the last remaining original steamboat inns along the Saint John River) just down the road. But mostly we spent our days at home, the kids in the sandbox or on the trampoline, while Lee and the boys laid bricks, and I worked on the renovation of our studio/gallery. Lee and I were both spending our nights and early mornings in the studio making work for our upcoming firing. But on this day, I had had enough. After loading the kids into the car and driving them to Gagetown for lunch, I came back and went into a minor tizzy over the fact that the garbage upstairs had not been taken out (oh no!!) and then after our crew left for the day, I announced to everyone that I was no longer interacting with anybody, and I marched upstairs and promptly fell asleep. I napped until around 8pm, when I was woken up by a birth sensation that just somehow seemed slightly different than all the others. When I went to the bathroom and saw some blood, I knew it was time.
Lee had just put the kids to bed, and had gone back out to the kiln, so I ran downstairs and called him inside, then I phoned my good friend Katie, who lives 5 minutes down the road in Pleasant Villa. She arrived within minutes, and we all went to work. As if by magic, the kitchen was cleaned, much of the junk outside hidden, and everything generally ameliorated. Katie hung up my pile of clothes in our bedroom, and even fulfilled my nonsensical requests to have some random photographs hung in the hallway. All of this activity was punctuated by my periodic birth sensations, and a little bit of anger processing. I cannot give birth in a negative state of mind (can anyone?) so I complained a little bit, and then talked myself down as things started to heat up and speed up. The kids were awake by now, and Horus too, was in a terrible mood. “I don’t like this! Go away everyone!” he ranted, mirroring his ridiculous mother, and at one point I lost it, demanding that someone “Get that kid out of here, or help him change his attitude, because I cannot tolerate being spoken to like that right now!!!”, at which point Lee took him downstairs. Fifteen minutes later, my sensations were coming on one after the other, and when Horus reappeared, he was transformed back into my sweet, attentive, courteous son. He came over and held my hand, telling me he loved me, and that he was happy to be here at this birth. Throughout, Treva was delightful, although there was a bit too much climbing on Mum. When the intensity increased even more, and I wanted Lee to hang on to, I decided that we should call someone else to come and focus their attention fully on the kids, as Katie was dealing with A/V stuff, and the kids were becoming a bit too wild for me to handle. We called one good friend who didn’t have wheels, and I instructed Lee to search my phone for Emily’s number, and then my new friend and midwife-in-training Sarah’s number, and we thought about calling Amy, but it was late and she has her own brood…and then at that point Treva jumped on me, and I roared for everyone to be very quiet, and then the sensations kept coming, and I felt as though I had to push, but I then remembered the possibility of a bum-first baby, and I held back, then Katie took Horus out of the room for a moment, and then another sensation, and I felt with my fingers the tightness of the still-intact amniotic sac, and it was moving quickly, and then I was pooping, and then calling for Lee to deal with the poop, and then worrying that the poop was meconium, and then another sensation, and that unstoppable urge, and the burning, then a splash of fluids, and I was diving head-first off the bed, and Lee ran over and he called out “a head!!! Ok!!” and then Katie and Horus ran back into the room, and I pushed again, and everything fell out, and Lee–unable to help himself–called out “it’s a boy” and I turned around, and lying on the bed was my child and half a second later he was crying and pink and perfect and gorgeous and Horus and Treva were next to me, and I cried and told our baby how much I love him, and I told everyone how much I love them, and Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you God.
Felix Alexander Clark was born at 10pm, August 8th, as Mercury left its retrograde–a Leo and a Water Dragon (his papa is a Fire Dragon). Felix–which in Latin means happy, joyful, fortunate and successful– is big and beautiful, with downy lanugo on his back and shoulders, and a fine fuzz of brownish hair. His skin is unbearably soft, and he is nursing and pooping with abandon. At 2 am on August 9th, we tied his umbilical cord off with some dental floss and his Daddy cut him loose with his knife. He is completely adored by his big brother and sister, who have been stroking and kissing him incessantly, and we, Yolande and Lee, are ecstatic.
Thank you God, the Great Spirit, Life-force and Love. Thank you to everyone who helped us, friends and family. Thank you Katie, for being such a wonderful friend and doula, Thank you Amy, Gloria, Sarah, Stacy, Mike, Jeremy, Bradley, Sam, Wes, all of you.