Just over a year ago, I thought I heard God speak to me. Just over a year ago, I thought I was going crazy.
In the relative quiet of the night, alone in bed, I wondered if maybe I was just dreaming – but that dream sure felt real, and sent an electric shock through my body. I though I'd heard Him say another baby was coming – a baby boy.
In the weeks after this, I pushed it to the back of my mind, sure that it had just been a really strange dream. Then, after months of irregular cycles I had an abruptly normal one…
…and days later, the pregnancy test I took early in the morning, well before anyone else awoke, turned positive.
The feeling that I must be slightly crazy hovered with me throughout this entire pregnancy, which is why there is no other way to start Phoenix's story.
I was overjoyed to get that positive pregnancy test – though that joy turned to fear just a few days later, when I started spotting. Something told me that though there was blood, this baby's soul was strong, and not to worry.
A few days passed with no more spotting and I started to breathe more easily, slipping into the early days and weeks of pregnancy feeling grateful and blessed.
Thoughts of the “dream” I'd had months earlier kept coming to me, right up until a true dream came to me one night – a dream where my baby told me his name.
I doubted my dreams. I doubted my intuition…
…but signs kept coming.
I kept seeing the color orange.
I kept seeing his name.
On books, pictures, on the back of trucks driving down the road.
I wanted very badly to meet this littler person, but I was afraid – afraid of being mistaken, afraid that my intuition was actually broken.
I attended births all through my pregnancy, and they served as a source of strength to me. Watching women birth their babies in power gave me power and trust in myself. That carried me, even when doubts crept in.
It's funny to say that on baby #8, I felt so many doubts, but I did…
At 37 weeks I knew that the baby had dropped really low. I didn't feel great. We had my home visit that week, and Kathi felt like the baby was really low too, telling me maybe I'd have an early baby this time. I can almost smile thinking back on that now…
…but then maybe it's still too new, and I still remember how I felt.
The next day I went to the grocery store and stocked up on plenty of good food. I got out my Brewer Diet chart* and started crossing off every box.
Within a couple of days I felt a lot better. The baby seemed to move back up some, and I was much more positive.
That's a good thing – because I was going to be pregnant for quite awhile longer!
At my 39 week visit we made an appointment for the next week, which I never thought I'd actually make it to…
…that weekend I thought maybe things would happen on Saturday. I was walking the trail around our land when I saw something in the dirt. I squatted down and pulled out a small tile – a piece of a game one of the kids had left. It was an orange “7”
That same sense of shock rippled through my body.
I thought it meant the baby would come that day – the seventh day. And orange…
That wasn't to be, however. Midnight came and went. I started to feel anxious – of course I wouldn't be pregnant until the next Saturday… I hadn't been “that pregnant” since my first baby, almost 16 years earlier!
I thought maybe I was going crazy, and all the “signs” I was seeing were just signs of me losing it 😉
That day and the next few were hot. Incredibly hot for northern Michigan. Many homes up here, including ours, don't have central air because though the summers are hot and humid, they're not insanely hot. It was insanely hot and the heat in the house was oppressive. I kept thinking to myself “a phoenix needs to be born in fire” – and still kept wondering if I was a little crazy.
Scott could tell that I was feeling anxious, and I'm forever grateful that he was really tender to me for the next week – sitting through cheesy chick-flicks every night, driving me into town for my appointment (the one I never thought I'd make), and just being patient with me being perpetually distracted for that week.
The heat wave broke with no baby, and I was doubly glad for my patient husband.
Tuesday evening I had contractions start to get regular, and I texted Kathi that they were picking up, but upon getting in bed they stopped. Scott decided to inflate the birth tub and just leave it set up, empty. I texted Kathi the next morning that obviously the contractions had stopped!
Fast forward to Friday morning. I woke up not feeling much different, but when I went to the bathroom and wiped, I saw a little bit of mucus on the toilet paper.
A few minutes later I went back in to check again – sure enough, there was mucus and it was tinged a little red. I went out front, grinning from ear-to-ear, and told Scott that maybe my body had NOT forgotten how to go into labor. I texted Kathi that I'd had a little bloody show.
We'd planned to go to the grocery store because they were having some nice specials and Scott asked if I still wanted to go. I decided to go because I knew I'd kick myself if “nothing happened” and I hadn't gone. So we dropped by the library (where the librarians commented on me still being pregnant – I love them so I forgive them!). While there I went to the bathroom and had a huge gob of show come out. Gross but YAY!
We went on to the grocery store and ended up standing around for a bit because the grocery store's electronic registers went offline. It's probably good that we did because it helped to pass some time.
I wasn't having any contractions.
We got home and had lunch, then I decided to try and nap. By this time I was having no contractions and no more bloody show.
We had Shabbat dinner early because Yom Kippur was to begin at sundown and I wanted to get a good meal in (I wasn't planning to fast, but others were). I tried to stay peaceful and know that my baby's timing was God's timing. Some contractions had started.
I had to get up from dinner to go to the bathroom and after going, the contractions stopped.
I felt discouraged. I gave Kathi a call around 8pm to let her know what had been happening and how things were not happening. She comforted me and told me to give her a call in the morning if things didn't pick up. I was so grateful to know that I could call her again – just to know that somebody was there to listen if I was struggling with the waiting.
I went to bed right after getting off the phone. I was vaguely aware of contractions starting to come as I tried to drift off. I think I was in a half-sleep, half-waking place, thinking that these were the last days I'd be pregnant, and then I would know, for sure, if my intuition had been right.
Scott came to bed at some point after me and I became more aware of the contractions.
Finally one hit and I knew it was a real one – I had to scramble to sit up in bed because I knew that lying down would be intolerable. Scott literally JUMPED out of bed at that point and started to get the birth tub filling (it was still inflated in the middle of our family room!).
I got out of bed and went back to the toilet. That felt familiar – my body emptying itself out, contractions coming, power building. This was definitely it. This baby was coming.
I spent some time wandering a little at this point – I think it was around 10:15pm. I walked out front to watch Scott working on the tub, but anytime a rush started, I rushed back to the bathroom where I leaned on the counter. I really liked the counter.
I have a little stuffed animal cat that Scott gave me shortly after we were married – it always sits on our bed. I carried this cat around with me at this point, just holding onto him to have something to squeeze as the contractions came.
It was leaning on the counter, holding the toy cat, that I told Scott “okay, you can call Kathi…” He said he was already on it (he called Kathi at 10:52 pm), and brought me the phone after a moment so I could call Colleen, our birth photographer. I had texted her earlier in the day, too, so as soon as she picked up the phone she said she was on her way.
I kept wandering between our bathroom and the den, making a beeline for the bathroom counter with each contraction. I was out front, looking through the kitchen window, when we saw headlights in the driveway.
I knew that was Connie, because she lives only about 10 minutes away from us. I was really glad that she had arrived.
I was back in the bathroom, on the toilet, when she came into the bedroom with her bag. She looked at me, smiled, and said “it's time for baby!” It is one of my favorite memories of the birth.
She did a quick check for baby's heart tones and all sounded good.
It's at this point that time starts to get fuzzy for me. I kept going back and forth. I had put down the stuffed animal by this time and things were getting intense enough that I needed Scott to stop when a contraction came.
He was busy because he'd realized that his plan for filling the tub wasn't going as well as he'd thought it would, and like with Corwin's birth, he ended up filling the tub with buckets!!
Kathi and Ninotte arrived together at 11:30 pm (I only know this because of the labor record!) and Colleen shortly thereafter.
At this point things were really strong and I had to hold onto Scott during the rushes, resting my head on his chest after to catch my breath and be ready for the next one. He'd lit the candles on the mantle, and I watched those flicker. I had moved out of the bathroom at this point and leaned on the side of the birth tub.
I really wanted to get into the tub but worried the water level wasn't high enough. Kathi told me she thought it would be okay, so I took off my dress to get in. Just then, another contraction hit so I had to wait through that one.
Finally I slipped into the tub and it felt nice. Contractions spaced out just slightly, giving me a little relief. I knelt by the edge of the tub during the contractions, and moved to the center between them.
This was really nice – the tub was an inflatable one and had a soft bottom. I liked sitting between the contractions. I could feel the baby's head was so very low; I was definitely sitting on it!
At one point they told me that Ninotte was going to add boiling water to the tub so I moved aside for her to pour it in. The hot water flowing over to me felt SO good.
A contraction started that just didn't stop. It got more and more intense as wave after wave of it rushed over me and I held on to Scott and moaned until I felt my waters open. I said that my waters had broken and remember hearing somebody say “okay” in a gentle tone – I think it was Kathi.
At this point I had no idea where anyone was except Scott, but I knew that everyone was there supporting me and was grateful for their presence. The contraction kept right on rolling and I was pushing…
…pushing so very hard.
It was so incredibly intense and I was rushing right along with it, lost in the power and knowing at the same time that I was so very powerful. I could feel my arms shaking as I held onto Scott and I flashed upon my favorite birth, some nine months before, and drew strength from the strength of the memory of how strong that mama was in labor.
I reached one hand down and felt my baby's head coming…
…it was all fire, the fire of a baby's soul burning into this world, and I gasped a faint “peace” to help my body soften, then stepped into that place of eternity and intensity and strength and roared my baby's head out.
I could not believe the awesome pressure as my baby descended and the head was born and I'm sure I was loud enough to wake anybody who had been sleeping…
…but then the head was there. I stopped roaring and was rubbing my baby's head, talking to my baby. The intensity and pressure were still there, in this continued suspension of time as my baby was half in, half out.
The contraction had stopped, and I knew that I needed to wait for another one. The baby's head just stayed. Thoughts flashed through my mind, and I wondered where Kathi was, and if I should call her to help.
But then I knew that I needed to just wait. To wait for this baby's timing. I talked to my baby, telling my baby to come.
Then another contraction started, more intensity. I felt my baby's shoulders turn, spiraling through the dance of life…
…and then there, in front of me in the tub, was my baby.
I reached down immediately and brought baby up to my chest, putting one arm between baby's legs to support the body…
…and I could feel before I ever saw.
I could feel his sex, and I knew that I was holding Phoenix.
I knew the voice I had heard had spoken the truth. The dreams I had had were real. The feelings, the intuition. This baby had made his presence known.
I was humbled.
I sat back and turned him toward me and said “Hi, Phoenix” softly…
…and I heard Scott give a little laugh, because for the first time out of all of our babies, I had been right and he had been wrong!
Phoenix was born at 12:25 am, 26 minutes after I got into the tub. He had arrived on the seventh day of the week, the day I never thought I'd get to. Shabbat. He had arrived on Yom Kippur. A blessing that blew me away, humbled me, and touched my soul in ways that are impossible to describe.
Phoenix looked at me and started to pink up immediately. I rubbed his little feet and talked to him, so sweet and beautiful. He had SO much vernix on him – it's hard to believe he was 6 days “late!”
My bottom felt really sore, but as I looked at him, I had no idea how big he was. To me he was just beautiful.
I remember Kathi looking at me with a joyful smile – she is really the only one that truly knew the struggles of my pregnancy with him – my self-doubt and worries. Things I could share only with a midwife who loved me and listened so very well. That is why I love Kathi, and that is why I love midwives.
They listened to Phoenix's heartbeat and all sounded good. The kids started to come out at this point to meet Phoenix; Cassidy came first carrying Sadie. I had woken everyone roaring him out! Soon all the kids were out front around the tub and there was joy and love at meeting the new baby. I cuddled and treasured him, singing to him.
At some point Kathi wanted to confirm he was a he, so we all peeked between his legs and he definitely was!
My placentas tend to be a little slow in coming, and after a half an hour I wanted to get things finished up. Connie gave me some angelica tincture to help encourage the placenta, and I told Kathi I would get out and sit on the birth stool for the placenta.
They got that set up and I stood up to step out of the tub, holding Phoenix while supported. As soon as I lifted my leg over the side of the tub, I could feel the placenta coming and I said “it's coming NOW.” Sure enough, the placenta flew out, which tugged the cord and Phoenix started wailing! I flashed back to another birth where the placenta had flown out as the mama stepped out.
I sat on the birth stool and cuddled Phoenix while the placenta was taken care of and Scott cut the cord. Then Scott held Phoenix for the first time while I was helped to the bed – fortunately our bedroom isn't far to walk!
Once there I cuddled with Phoenix and Scott and I were given some sweet time alone with him while the midwives and kids chatted out front. Cassidy made me a post-birthing meal, which tasted very good!
When we did the newborn exam I was literally blown away by Phoenix's weight: 10 pounds, 10 ounces! His head was 14 3/4 inches, but his chest was 15 1/2 inches…
…I realized then why I had felt such incredible pressure as my body opened for such an incredible little (big!) guy.
His birth was such an incredible experience for me. It felt so familiar and at the same time, so very different, than the births of his siblings. It was really an awesome experience…
…and I am still in awe of Phoenix, the blessings he brought with him, and the answered prayers that rode earthside with his soul.
Phoenix Arthur Burgess, born safely at home; 10lbs 10oz and 22in
b. September 30th 2017 | 10 Tishrei, 5778 | Yom Kippur & Yom Shabbat – we are blessed
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home”
*I show the chart on this video