“I turned into the neighborhood and the first thing I heard was an ice cream truck. I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle to myself at how cookie cutter it was. Some of us start from neighborhoods like this with the ice cream truck cruising through, the stay at home moms and cul-de-sacs…some of us do not. But this is where Becka has found herself and chosen to plant her feet firmly into the ground.
I pulled up to the house and she opened the door before I had even gathered my stuff from the car. Tea in hand, a big smile on her face, she was beautiful even the day of her birth. We hugged and I walked into their home thinking to myself, “Here we go! It’s going to happen here, soon!” It’s no surprise that Becka had been baking cheesecake and getting dinner ready. She was calm, but there was also a sense of excitement about her. Sylas was running around in his favorite outfit, his underwear, asking a million questions. Jay was there looking a little anxious, but solid and he’d remain that way the entire birth.
I greeted Sherry, the midwife, whom I had not seen for 14 years. She looked exactly the same, still the petite firecracker mother that we all knew as girls. “Remember me?” she said with a big smile on her face opening her arms for a hug. “Of course I do!” I said, remembering her big house with the huge bucket of Schwan’s vanilla ice cream, kids in the kitchen making enough eggs for everyone and the pond down below with oversized fish swimming around like dark shadows.
Becka went to take a shower and I made a grill cheese sandwich for Sylas, trying to keep him in the kitchen as my helper so we could give Becka some space. I set him outside on a bench and he started pulling long strings of cheese from his sandwich. “Cheese,” he kept saying and he’d stand up on his little bench looking into the window to the bathroom pointing and saying, “Mommy”. I thought about how confusing it all must be to the little guy, how in a few hours his life would be forever changed.
Becka called for Jay from the bathroom and Jay came and got Sherry. Becka was starting to bleed and it was time to get the birth tub ready. Imagine putting a big purple pool in your dining room with a little boy in awe wanting to swim around in it. Sylas was so curious. He asked Jay over and over about the pool. He was so hoping he’d get to swim in it, but we just kept saying it was for the baby and mommy.
Becka came in from the bathroom in a swimsuit top and got into the tub. Her tattoos decorated her belly, back, shoulder and arms. She was starting to have contractions, but in between there were jokes and smiles. The mood was so relaxed, so safe. It was surreal to see the process begin. I thought back to when we were 11 and I had taken her to Catholic Camp with me. I’m not sure how, but we found ourselves in the basement bathroom of the church. She had informed me it was time to shave my legs and showed me how to do it from the sink. Here she was again teaching me, showing me another part of womanhood I’d never experienced. Only this time she was about to show me how to give birth.
She labored for a while by herself in the tub with Sherry checking the baby’s heartbeat and seeing how much she was dilating. Her contractions started at about 3 minutes apart, but quickly got down to 1 minute. Her friend Sarah arrived. They had given birth in the same hospital two weeks apart in the same room, the same bed. As the contractions got more intense Sherry filled up the tub more and Jay sat in a chair next to the tub with his legs in the water. Becka labored facing Jay. His fingertips going white as he rubbed her back and she almost seemed lost in his chest during the contractions. Sarah rubbed and pressed on her lower back to relieve some of the lower back pain she was having.
When the intense labor started I kept thinking that the click of the camera would annoy her at some point. I waited for the moment when she got pissed and told me to go away. It never happened.
When Sherry knew she was close she had Becka turn around and explained exactly what was going to happen and told her that she would be getting in the tub with her. Becka had a few more contractions in that position and then I could see the baby coming. Sherry explained what they were going to do between each contraction. Becka focused so intently on Sherry’s face and you could just see the determination there. I didn’t know this could happen, but the baby was born in the caul. It wasn’t broken until his shoulders emerged and on the next push he was lifted up into her arms. That moment was really beyond words and I just remember Becka saying, “I love you so much”. He was born at 8:57 pm.
He was so peaceful when he came out he didn’t really take a breath for a good two minutes. He was still getting oxygen through the umbilical cord the entire time, but it didn’t happen the way I expected. You think they come out screaming, but it was like this little guy had no reason to. Sherry gently rubbed his back, rubbed his chest and gave him a couple breaths and then he finally made a sound and decided to breathe. Then she let him float in the water for a little bit and he stretched out his arms above his head like he was stretching out for a good nap. Once he floated for a couple of minutes she handed him back to Becka and helped him latch on. He nursed right there in the tub.
I have to admit I was afraid during those two minutes where he wasn’t breathing. I expected him to cry immediately and take a breath as soon as he surfaced. When Sherry was rubbing his little chest and back, giving him breaths, I just kept thinking to myself, “come on baby, come on baby, breathe”. And he did, in his own time, at his own pace and not out of fear or pain.
Everyone seemed to be relieved he was here. Becka and Jay touched his fingers and toes, inspecting his little body. Becka was saying how the final push is such a relief. “I’m good at having babies,” she said smiling down at the little guy. After a little bit of nursing Becka got up and went into the shower. Sherry handed the baby to Jay. Jay didn’t say much at first just looked down at him. Then he seemed to get concerned and asked if he was doing okay. He asked me to look at the baby and I reassured him he was fine. He had a great pink color to him. Jay was concerned about fluid in his lungs so I told him to hold him in a burp position and he let out a little sound when he put him upright.
Sylas soon came to the house and Jay sat down in a chair so he could show him to Sylas. Sylas looked surprised at the water and was asking where his mom was. Jay called him over and introduced him to his little brother. Sylas didn’t quite understand and didn’t really look at the baby for more than a second. We tried asking him to look at the baby’s nose and the baby’s hair, but he didn’t quite understand. Jay put his ear next to the baby’s mouth and checked his breathing again. That care and concern was so heartwarming to witness.
Becka came back out from her shower beaming and tried again to introduce the baby to Sylas, but he still wasn’t too interested. He was more interested in handing me blueberries and blackberries and grabbed a snack for himself off the plate. They weighed and measured the baby. He was 8 lbs 15 oz and 21.5 inches long.
Looking back on all of this, I know I was meant to witness Jaxsun’s birth. The timing, the invite, it all worked out just the way it was supposed to. On a personal level I think it’s part of my experience so far. I dive in when I’m ready and at other times I have to test the waters, step by step. Motherhood isn’t a dive in experience for me and it’s one I never thought I would experience, much less be open to purposely choosing. But the universe has it’s ways of deciding things for you and gradually over time with experience, some slight suggestions, other’s a fat whack across the face…you’re guided the direction you’re meant to go. Even this liitle boy’s name isn’t lost on me. It’s all a piece of the puzzle and a lesson I’ve got to learn. It’s not a stretch to say it changed me. It did. I find myself more grateful, more appreciative. I can close my eyes and be thankful for each day I’m given. We all start out this small. Only some of us start out as lucky as little Jaxsun…at home, in comfort, in love and peace.”
Eva Carper & Becka Gahan
*About the midwife: Sherry , the midwife and amazing woman that assisted this birth has delivered over 2200 babies. She actually delivered Becka’s brother! She is a gift and a blessing to any mother throughout the entire pregnancy. Her website is: http://sherrydress.com/
*Jaxsun was not only born in the caul, but that it was a full moon and a meteor shower that night as well. August 12th, 2011 was a big night for the little guy :