One question I’ve gotten a lot (aside from “Did you have a c-section?”) is “Did you know Moira was going to be ten pounds?”
No. We had absolutely no clue whatsoever. I measured small; I gained about 20lbs. That’s all. And I drank a lot of coffee trying to keep up with Maggie. My guess was just under eight pounds. So when I looked down at Moira for the first time I wasn’t really thinking about her weight, although she did look exceptionally plump.
Moira had a short cord, so once she was resting on me she couldn’t get much higher than my belly button. It was pretty incredible: I had read that babies placed on their mothers would instinctively gravitate toward the breast and latch on, which was exactly what my hungry little lassie was trying to do. For my part, I just shivered uncontrollably. All that adrenaline was flooding out of my body and I realized the window I had insisted on having open to cool me was making my shakes a hell of a lot worse.
While we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and for me to stop chattering we called our parents. My parents had some advance notice but we surprised my father-in-law during his Rotary meeting. The nice thing about Moira’s time of birth–12:13pm–is that it was just past 7am on the East Coast of the US. Perfect time to make calls. Much was made on Skype about her head strength and the roundness of said noggin–no conehead for my Moira. But come to think of it, it was a sizeable melon indeed. The cord stopped pulsing and Tom gave it a snip. The midwives took a glance at my ladyparts: no damage. Not a single, solitary tear. No stitches necessary. Both of them cocked their heads and said “Well, would you look at that?”
I like to imagine they were seeing a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
And then the moment of truth arrived: the scale came out. Because this is England, we got the weight in kilograms first–just shy of 4.6. I tried to do the conversion in my head and paused–I’m notoriously terrible at math. So the answer I was getting just couldn’t be right. Tom was the one who pulled up the conversion website and confirmed it:
Ten pounds, two ounces.
To say I was blown away was the understatement of 2011. It took the full part of three days to mentally reconcile what I had borne. In the meantime we just quoted this scene from Grosse Pointe Blank to each other except substituting “pounds” for “years.”
The rest we found out later: twenty-one inches long! A FIFTEEN-INCH CIRCUMFERENCE HEAD. Y’all, I have eaten pizzas that were meant to be shared with other adults that were smaller than my child’s head. But yeah. Ten! Pounds! I said to Tom “You know…I am going to crow about this a little, because this is the most impressive physical act I have ever performed.”
TEN. And don’t forget the two ounces.
I didn’t know it then, but that’s when I crossed a line. You can’t have a baby at home or have a ten-pound child without being something of a novelty; give birth to a ten-pound baby in your bedroom without so much as a belt to bite on and not need a single stitch? You, your kid, and your ladyparts have just punched your ticket as the main attraction at the birth freak show. That was a hell of a conversation stopper at Thanksgiving–you could almost hear the needle scratching off the record when I truthfully answered “Ten pounds. No, no c-section; born at home.”
Everyone I called fell into two categories when they asked about Moira’s size: they jokingly guessed ten pounds and then reeled in shock or they thought I said “seven” and had to be corrected. It was a good time. My Nana accused the midwives of having a broken scale; Tom’s aunt taught our British midwives the American idiom “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
I harp on her size for two reasons: a lot of people congratulated me for bravery and said they couldn’t do what I did. I will be the first to admit that if I had known, had any inkling at all, of her size, I might have thrown in the towel. But I don’t consider myself especially brave. Homebirth isn’t for everyone; neither is drug-free labor. I know how awesome that epidural feels; if that’s what you chose you will find no judgment here. But don’t underestimate the power of what your body can do. The second reason is to say that the lack of…er, “collateral damage” was entirely due to my midwives convincing me to assume positions that utilized gravity and engaged strong muscle groups. Left to my own devices I may very well have needed sutures because I would have stayed on my side and then semi-reclined to push. So make of that what you will.
At any rate, Moira’s birth was a transformative experience. The midwives drew me a bath and we washed her hair, dressed her, and I got to soak for a bit. My bed was made and ready for me. Maggie came upstairs and immediately dismissed her new sister for her brand new baby doll, a gift “from Moira.” The plush purple number Maggie named “Violet Snowbaby” was far more interesting to her than the new baby. We made a few Skype calls throughout the afternoon but mostly we just watched Pixar movies in our bed–a new family of four. Moira slipped into our lives like she had always been there; a calm, round, perfect peach of an infant who only asks to be loved on and snuggled and fed copious amounts of milk. After the daze of Maggie’s birth combined with our first-time parent nervousness, I didn’t know it could be that way.
I had no idea that having a newborn could be this good. But oh, it is.