February 14, 2002

12:16 a.m.

7 lbs. 13 oz.

One tired, but happy, Mama! The midwives--what a team! (Note the date above bed.)
Together in the family bed The three siblings "Nai Nai" with grandchild #7!

Jack's Birth Story or "I Gave Birth in the UK!"

If there's one thing that I've learned from Jack's birth, it's never to say "been there, done that" again! From the start, Jack has given me surprise after surprise, from his unplanned conception, to dealing with giving birth in a foreign country, to a labour and delivery that were vastly different from his siblings. Initially, I couldn't conceive (sorry) of giving birth here, especially after coming from Santa Cruz (the birthing capital of the world, right?) and given our previous experience with hospitals here. So right from the beginning, I planned a home birth, something I had always dreamed of. In the UK, there is no "shopping around" for a midwife or OB. All your health care is taken care of by your GP and the clinic where s/he practices. Each clinic has a staff of community midwives, who are responsible for the prenatal care (I never once saw a doctor). An obstetrician is assigned to you at the local hospital, should you need to see one. I was extremely fortunate in that the midwife whom I saw regularly was a real gem; Ally and I hit it off right from the beginning. My midwifery team consisted of 8 women total. Obviously, I did not meet them all, but I became closest to Ally and the head midwife, an older woman named Cherry. I hoped that when the birth came, I would have at least one or the other present. The one thing that I was determined to have was a birthing stool, which I had used for both Calvin and Bonnie. I was very surprised that that is not a standard piece of equipment here, given that my local hospital had a pool for water births, and in some communities, the midwives can set up a birthing pool in your own home. I was able to track down a company that hires out birthing stools, so I had one in my room all ready to go when the time came. The problem was, when would that time come.....? I was 8 days overdue when Cherry phoned to see how I was doing. Then she said, "Bing, if you don't have that baby by Sunday (17th) you'll have to go into the hospital to be induced." I told her later that she scared me into labour! Sure enough, that evening, the contractions which I had been experiencing for weeks finally kicked in, and when Cherry showed up at 9:45 p.m. I was 7 cm. dilated, which thrilled me, as it took Bonnie only 45 minutes to go from 7 cm. to birth. Well, Jack had other ideas. But first, I welcomed 4 (!) midwives into our bedroom. Not only was Cherry there, but so was Ally, Sheena (the midwife who was actually on call that night) and Claire, a student midwife who was observing her first home birth. It was a bloomin' party. It took another 2 1/2 hours for Jack to appear, mainly because instead of slipping through the birth canal nice and smoothly like Calvin and Bonnie did, he twisted and turned his way, or, as the midwife put it, "corkscrewed" his way down. Needless to say, it was NOT a pleasant feeling. I had shooting pains in my back and the right side of my abdomen because of pinched nerves. I found it difficult to sit on the birthing stool for long, so I alternated between that and getting on all fours on the bed. I don't think I could've managed without Byron. With each contraction, all I could say was "Hand, hand" and I would clutch his hands in a death grip. About an hour before Jack was born, I started to panic that I was losing stamina, and that if I didn't get to the pushing stage soon, I wouldn't be able to make it. I was most afraid that he would get stuck. I even agreed to try "gas and air" (oxygen and nitrous oxide) which is very common here in the UK. It is completely harmless and helps take the edge off the pain for some women. But not for me; it actually made me nauseous, so I was only able to take 2-3 puffs, which didn't do a thing. But I was almost there, and once I got to push, I knew I was home free. He emerged slowly, so that I didn't even tear. I have to say that the midwives were brilliant, absolutely fantastic. Calvin and Bonnie were woken up immediately after Jack's birth so they were there right away. Yes, Bonnie was initially disappointed that she didn't have a sister, but she, and Calvin, are totally besotted with their "didi" (younger brother). They are a tremendous help to me.

My favorite room in our house is the "library". I sit in our easy chair nursing Jack and I can look out the French door into the side garden with a view of the church. We're having beautiful weather here now, and as I sit rocking in the peace and quiet I am overcome with how blessed we are, and how perfect Jack is, and how the world stands still when one is nursing a newborn. I told Byron that I feel like a first-time Mom again, and even though I've "been there, done that", somehow this time around the emotions and sensations are much more heightened. I suppose it's because I don't take it for granted as much anymore. Jack is such a gift, in so many ways. And, by the way, he looks just like Calvin, only his nose is bigger!

Many, many thanks for all the good wishes that you have sent us, dear friends. May we all be so fortunate to experience such joy and blessing in life.

P.S. Our bedroom was built in 1663, and I like to think that Jack's birth is only one of many through the centuries (!) that have taken place there.

Jack is named after Byron's maternal grandfather, John Donovan Strong, and my "uncle", Van Lung.

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