Seraphina’s Birth Story On the day that Seraphina was born On the day that Seraphina was born On the day that Seraphina was born The angels sang and they blew on their horns And they danced and they danced They smiled and raised up their hands On the day, on the day that Seraphina was born
I thought for sure that you would be a Holy Week baby. We weren’t sure about your due date – late March seemed a good estimate. So with Easter early that year, March 23 I thought maybe you’d be born on Good Friday or Easter. On Good Friday we did the Stations of the Cross walk from Woodland Church to the Woodlands Cemetery that I had planned and led 2 years earlier. This year I did not lead it since I was anticipating your arrival. It was very cold that day. I was wearing my puffy winter coat zipped up and wished that I had gloves. Daffodils were in bloom but the cold wind definitely made that March day feel more like a lion than a lamb. There were about 20 grown up people gathered in the church side yard and bunches of kids in back packs and strollers and wandering around. Everyone had a plastic bag to pick up trash along the way- a tangible way to remember that Jesus picks up the garbage of our lives. When we were all walking up 41st St. from Baltimore to Chester suddenly Reuben Wetherbee had a panicked look on his face and said that he didn’t know where Perry was. Perry, the youngest of their 4 children, was only 2 and a half. The last place Reuben remembered seeing him was on 42nd and Baltimore. I was towards the back of the group and immediately I turned around and began searching for Perry. Malachi and Zora were with me and we were calling his name and looking around. When we got to 42nd and Baltimore I wondered if he had wandered to Clark Park. So I took off running tripped on the curb and landed –PLOP- on my nine months full belly of you! Malachi was beside me and said, “Oh, Mommy I wish I had caught you.” My friend Eun, who is a medical student, came beside me and checked me over to make sure that neither you nor I were hurt. There was a yellow jacket University City security guard on the corner who asked me if I was OK. I said, “Yes I’m fine, I’m just so worried about Perry.” I just sat there on the cold red brick sidewalk and began to weep. Crying with the stinging pain of falling flat on my belly, crying for little Perry and his parents, crying with relief that you were safely cushioned in my unbroken amniotic sac, crying with embarrassment that I had fallen splat on the sidewalk and crying for finally feeling a sliver of the suffering that Jesus endured on the day of his execution. In the Traditional Pre-Vatican II Stations of the Cross, which has details that aren’t in the biblical narrative, Jesus falls three times. I turned to Susie who was kneeling beside me with great concern on her face and smiled, “Remember this when they make me a saint.” My cell phone rang. It was Michael. Perry had been found and was fine. Collective sigh of relief.
I was so relieved that I did not go into labor that day. I came home and napped. Then I called Christy. I was not having any bleeding, fluids or contractions just a small abrasion on my tummy and bruised knees. I had felt you wiggle and roll around plenty since the fall so I knew you were OK. Christy encouraged me to take some arnica and get some rest. I am so thankful that I did not have to rush into the hospital for an ultrasound. I’m glad that she and I both trusted that everything would be all right. What a relief to not add more fear and anxiety to an already stressful experience.
Easter Sunday, still pregnant. I was achy all over from the fall. I think that I had tensed up all the muscles in my body and they were taking their time to relax. The bruises on my knees made it really hurt to do pelvic rocks. At church I just rolled my eyes and sighed at anyone who said, “You’re still pregnant?” No, actually I’m just fat the baby was born yesterday. I felt so tired of being pregnant, of people asking me how I was doing, when it was due, and are you sure there’s only one baby in there? One person thought I was in labor because I was rocking and swaying and bending over so much. I knew that you were low down because the Tuesday before Christy had checked me and I was almost fully effaced, a centimeter dilated and your head was at plus 2 station. I could feel your head so low inside me and I thought that if I just kept rocking and moving you would have to just come on out.
March 25 was a full day. My belly was huge and I could feel your head low in my pelvis. I wore my stretchy beige corduroy pants and a beige shirt with a white T-Shirt over it. I thought about how novitiates in various religious groups often dress all in white as an outward symbol of spiritual purity. I felt light and energetic that day. I knew that you would be born soon and so I did as much as I could to not think about how much I wanted to go into labor as I had been hoping for the past 2 weeks. The sky was bright blue and beautiful.
In the morning Zora and I brought Rice Crispy treats to Malachi’s school to celebrate his birthday with his class. Then we drove back home and Zora spent the afternoon at Susans. Then Malachi came with me to see Christy- any minute now we agreed. We stopped at Ross and I bought Malachi walkie talkies for his birthday. Then we drove to CHOP to have his cast cut off. He had broken his arm jumping from the monkey bars 3 weeks earlier and getting his cast cut off was a huge treat. When we got back to the van I realized that I couldn’t find my keys because they were still in the ignition in our locked van. Michael biked over to unlock it. Then we got home and I whipped up some homemade Mac and cheese and smoked weenies for his birthday party. Jonah and Caleb Sim Laramee came over with their mom and dad and Coretta came over too. She took a picture of me standing beside the strawberry shortcake which looked like a beautiful pile of birthing leftovers. I wanted so badly to pour out the delightful contents of my heavy womb like a lovely cake. I noticed that I kept having contractions at dinner but I was able to eat and talk and laugh right through them. Malachi fell asleep quick and sound by 9 o’clock but Zora couldn’t settle. She noticed that I kept pacing and changing positions. Michael had just gone out for 10 minutes to drive Coretta home. When he came back I said- “Fill up the tub I am in labor!” The rushes were coming strong and steady. I called Coretta and told her to come back over. I called Christy around 9:30 and had to pause when I was talking with her. Michael had to call Jessica because at that point they were coming one after the other and I couldn’t talk through them at all.
Zora was awake and aware as ever. She hopped to work, helping daddy fill the birthing tub. She grabbed all of her bath toys and took off all her clothes- what fun! She played happily in the filling tub while I paced the hallway, stopping to moan and lean on the wall, Michael, the dresser, the door jam whatever could hold me as I felt my insides stretching and your body pressing a way out. I would step in the birthing room and smile at my 3 year old birthing nymph carrying on without fear of all the sounds that mommy was making.
Jessica arrived and soon after Coretta and Christy were there. I was not paying attention to time. Coretta and Jess poured pots full of water into the tub to help fill it since the hot water heater had emptied and needed to take time to heat the next tank of water. I just kept thinking I wanted to be in the tub. So I got in when it was filling. Zora was in there with me gently tapping my back. She gently touched my breasts and said to Christy, “Tisty, do you have some cream for my mommies na-na?” That made us all laugh. I thanked her for thinking of me and trying to help me feel better. I assured her that I was OK but that I was going to make some even bigger sounds pretty soon so that we could meet the baby soon. Jessica brought over the meditation that I had painted in anticipation of your birth. It was an image that looked like a flame or an opening vagina and it said from Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you be strong and be of good courage do not be afraid, neither be dismayed for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” She placed it where I could see it and that brought me comfort and encouragement.
I got out of the tub and sat on the edge of the futon leaning back on Michael. My contractions seemed to be getting further apart but deeper and stronger when they came. I would lean back and fall asleep on Michael between them. My mind would wander and I would be dreaming and then I would wake up bend forward and moan then lean back to let my mind wander when it was over. At one point between contractions I was thinking about the story of the prodigal son and I wondered what the word “prodigal” meant. So I asked Michael “Why do we call it the story of the prodigal son, did Jesus ever use the word prodigal, what does prodigal mean?” He just held me close and said he didn’t know. He told me later that he wanted to go downstairs and research the answer to my questions but decided it might not be the best time. Good call.
We moved from the futon to our bedroom. I paused in the doorway and said, “It’s too much, it hurts too much!” Coretta couldn’t believe what I was saying. She knew I had been through labor 2 times already. But I had never delivered this baby who still had to make that short trip from my womb to my welcoming arms. At some point Christy told me that it was midnight now so the baby wouldn’t have the same birthday as Malachi. I was glad, I knew you would be born very soon. Michael sat on the bed behind me and I sat in front of him and leaned back on him. I moaned so deep and loud and long I was amazed that Malachi slept through it all since our bedrooms are adjoining. Karen arrived and I heard her whisper to Christy that the tub was ready. I said “Yes, yes, I want to get into the tub.” When I got up I saw bloody show and my mucous plug on the chucks pad on the bed. I asked Jessica to wake up Malachi and bring him into the birthing room since he said he wanted to see the birth.
Somehow I got from our bedroom to the tub. Surrounded by warm water holding me in a comforting embrace bathed in grace- the tub felt like heaven. I wanted Michael in there with me. He doesn’t like water too hot, he wanted to just lean over the side but I insisted so he got in anyway. What love. Zora wanted to get in too but I told her it would be too messy and crowded. She stood on the side, rapt. Malachi sat on Jessica’s lap. Coretta was there too. On the next rush I felt a pop and a gush- my water broke it was 12:10. Your head was so low. I said that I wanted to push. Christy looked in my eyes and said I could just catch my baby if I wanted too. I was so glad that she didn’t say I needed to be checked and that no one told me when and how to push. We all knew it was time for me to push. I knew that she and Karen trusted the process. I opened my legs and put my hands between them and felt just the tiniest tip of your head. I pushed again and there was more of you. Christy’s hands were there too, supporting my perineum and she noticed that your hand was there too- uh oh! Christy took your hand and gently guided it back in and kept her hand there to support me. I was afraid that I might tear again but she and Karen both assured me that I was stretching beautifully. So one more push and gush and there you were in my hands in the water, up quickly up to the surface and crying lustily in my arms. It was 12:20. My hands here between your legs, were you a boy or a girl? I pulled out my hands and they were covered in thick black meconium. Even a handful of poop could not steal my bliss. I checked again you were a girl, my sweet Seraphina Rose. I got out of the tub and you were quiet, peaceful, looking around. I still needed the placenta to come out so I put you on the breast to help that process. You were a good strong nurser. It took half an hour for the placenta to come, what a relief it was healthy and all in one piece. After getting cleaned up and moving into our bed you were weighed and measured. What a big girl 8lbs 8oz and 21 inches long. And I tore only so slightly that there was no need for stitches! Praise the Lord!