It’s been a month or so, that we’ve been Four rather than Three And Soon To Be More. As with every aspect of my life since Starfish was born, I feel like I’ve inadvertently hit the fast-forward button somewhere, and can’t find it to slow things back down. Honestly, I can barely believe that was less than three years ago. The way our family has grown, in number, obviously, but also in strength, in the little rituals we create daily that weave a net that holds us together, has been amazing to watch. Certainly beyond anything I had imagined way back when The Boy and I embarked together on our adventure to be a family.
For those who are interested, the birth story is below the next picture. For those who are not, I present our little Sprout at 4 weeks. In so many ways he has the same facial expressions and postures as his big sister. (The sleeping victory arms return! Notably though, this kid also added flamenco posture to the mix. We might have a dancer!)
My first few weeks were spent in a painful dichotomy: simultaneously marveling at all the wonderful baby things that I had forgotten from Starfish’s infancy… and mourning that I had never documented them, and would never be able to now that she is already so much bigger. The smallness of hands and feet, the impossibility of complete fingernails (which seem to grow by the minute!), the softness of baby hair, the tinyness of the happy voice cooing and burbling contentedly. There is no way to bottle any of this, and witnessing daily, hourly, at every minute all the things I was so sure I’d never forget for Starfish, yet inevitably did hurt so much. I’m still caught in moments convincing myself I’m not a failure as a mother for not remembering.
Mostly, though, I feel what I’ve felt pretty much every day since Starfish was born: that things are amazing, so much better than we’d ever hoped for, that they can’t possibly get better. That this is it, this is where perfection is; can we please just freeze time forever? I can’t count the number of times, after tucking Starfish in at night, that I’ve wished for her to stop growing up, to just stay her amazing, affectionate, hilarious toddler self forever. Holding Sprout, I find myself knowing that can’t happen, but still urging him to please not be in such a hurry to grow up. The mantra of every parent: I need more time.
Of course, it is not in the nature of these little humans to be patient, or to allow their emo parents the leisurely space to really soak up the moments of their youth. Given Starfish’s fairly punctual arrival, I had planned for my last day of work to be a little over a week before Sprout’s due date. Apparently my intuition for these things is pretty good, because not 12 hours after finishing at work, I woke up to a familiar, rhythmic tightening. It was 4am, and things seemed to be pretty spaced out still (maybe every ten minutes or so; I didn’t actually time) so I stayed in bed, figuring that either it was my body practicing, or if not, that I could get a little extra rest before the main event.
A little after 6, I woke up, noted that the contractions were still partying on, and with greater frequency. Feeling slightly bad, I gently woke up The Boy to tell him I was in labour. After a groggy “Are you sure?” he was up and dressed and we were faced with some game-time Adulting: where was this baby going to be born?
After Starfish’s somewhat ad hoc appearance, The Boy had requested that this birth happen at a hospital. I was undecided, though I had packed a hospital bag. I wanted to respect his wishes but also… really wanted another home birth. Slightly exasperatedly, The Boy suggested I call the midwives, and make a decision quickly while he went to give the Smelly a quick walk. As I went through my ablutions, I thought of the 25 (ish) minute drive to the hospital, the strength of my contractions, and wasn’t sure I could handle half an hour of sitting in a car. I thought of Starfish sitting with The Boy in a hospital waiting room somewhere, bored, hungry and possibly frightened*. I thought of the cold snap we were currently in, and the fact that we still hadn’t re-installed the infant car seat. I picked up the phone, relieved that this time it was my midwife who would be with me, and told The Boy when he walked back in that I wasn’t up to the car ride, and that the midwives were headed to our house.
*Note to self: If I need to pack a hospital bag again, plan for child entertainment. And snacks.
What a difference medical help made! My wonderful midwife was at our home in no time and helped to set up camp in the baby’s room. Checking in on the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler periodically was surprisingly reassuring, and things progressed quickly, as with Starfish. The second midwife arrived around the time when things were getting intense. Once again, I favoured labouring on all fours, on the bed. One difference in this birth was that I felt my water break during the pushing — it was a powerful signal to me both of progress, as well as of experience. It felt wonderful to have some idea of what to expect, and obviously to have the medically-qualified help there with me. I had wondered if having people there, talking to me would prevent me from “retreating” into my body and just letting the birth happen, as it had with Starfish. It turns out these ladies know their business, because although they talked to me when necessary, making occasional suggestions, and giving gentle encouragement, once again, my right brain was doing the driving.
And thank goodness for that! At one point during the pushing (I had no sense of time), I commented that this birth seemed harder than the previous one. We had the “why” on that a few minutes later: Sprout had decided to present sunny-side-up! My midwife suggested I try lying on my back. After more pain and effort than I remember for any part of Starfish’s birth — I remember thinking that yep, this baby is a fire sign! — my midwife exclaimed that his head was out, and his body slid out a second later. Sprout was born!
Sprout’s birth weight was identical to his sister’s, though where Starfish had been almost white with goo, he had almost no vernix on him. A little more hair than Starfish, no storkbite, and slower to latch and nurse, though he got the hang of that pretty quickly. Honestly the first two or three days, I felt dazed with such a tiny creature next to me. My hands couldn’t remember Starfish ever having been that tiny, and with so much less focus during my pregnancy on the “welcoming” of this new life, there were times I wasn’t entirely sure he was real.
Does that sound horrible? It’s true. Since those days, as with Starfish, Sprout has gotten bigger, more solid, and has chiseled his own space in our little family. His big sister has been wonderful with him, giving hugs and kisses at every opportunity, asking with concern if I should be feeding him whenever she hears him cry. The Boy and I both worried (and still do) about her getting less attention, specifically from me, but thus far, everything has gone so much better than I could have hoped. This girl of ours amazes us daily with empathy, her understanding, her big-hearted actions.
Sprout’s arrival was peppered with so much serendipity. We’d been searching for weeks for a bed for his room, and only just acquired one the week before his arrival. (In fact, The Boy only put it together two or three days before.) We had planned on picking up a mattress for it the week after Sprout’s birth… lucky us that the bed we ended up buying came with one! My parents had planned to come up the very Saturday that Sprout arrived, and although they did, they were too late to watch Starfish while we headed to a hospital, which also contributed to my decision to stay home. Their presence after his arrival has also been very helpful, I’m sure, in Starfish’s not feeling too neglected. I’m grateful for nearly every aspect of this birth: feeling so supported and safe was wonderful. Knowing that Starfish was just a few steps down the hall with her dad, relaxed and happy, also did wonders to let me focus on the task at hand.
Little Sprout, welcome, welcome to our world! We already know you’re in good hands, as your big sister wraps you up in her enthusiastic love. We hope you’ll grow up to love her right back and that you’ll add to our ever-changing family web with your own quirks and character. We can’t wait to see how you will change all of us, as your sister did before you. Know always that you are loved, and always will be, Sprout. Welcome home.