It was just around 9:30 PM on the winter solstice when we finally installed our carseat. After waiting almost a month for it to reach us due to a shipping mix-up, we were grateful that it had arrived before our baby girl. Standing in the kitchen afterwards, we stroked my belly and told her that she could come now, that we were finally ready.
For the majority of my pregnancy, I said that she would arrive on the winter solstice. Call it wishful thinking, intuition, or just my personal brand of crazy, but I loved the idea of her coming on this auspicious day. Every time I envisioned her birth, it was then that I saw it happening. At the same time, however, I’m not big on creating expectations that may lead to disappointment, so I kept myself open to the fact that she could come anytime — her due date was December 31st.
We went to bed around 10 PM that evening and at 11:55 PM, I woke up to pee. Except, I realized half-awake, I had already peed. I waddled to the bathroom and felt myself getting wetter. In retrospect, I remembered hearing a small “pop” when getting into bed that night, which I barely even acknowledged in the moment. Austin, my husband, called out to make sure I was okay — I guess I’d moved to the bathroom with more urgency than usual.
“I think maybe my water broke?” I said, voice wavering. Even though we took classes and read a ton of books, I couldn’t quite believe it or wrap my mind around it. We both were hesitant to admit I was in labor — it was the point of no return. I called my mom, who, thankfully, stays up much later than I, and told her what I was experiencing. During the call, I felt my first contraction. That’s when I knew — it was happening for real.
I asked Austin to draw me a bath and we started timing contractions. They grew with intensity so quickly and I struggled to hold onto my breath before I knew it. When I wasn’t having a contraction, I listened to and chanted mantra, breathing deeply, and doing my best to stay present and excited for what I was experiencing. The contractions themselves felt at first like menstrual cramps, but quickly evolved into intensely overwhelming and painful. Going in, I’d already decided to be un-medicated if possible. But if I had been at a hospital, I don’t know if I could’ve turned down an epidural.
Early on, Austin was massaging my back and snuggling me. As the intensity grew, though, I didn’t want to be touched much at all. While I labored, Austin juiced fresh oranges for me, gathered food, prepped our bags for the birth center, timed contractions, and made sure the bath stayed warm (I was in and out). Every time I felt that I was becoming ungrounded, carried away by the intensity of it all, he brought me back, reassuring me with his presence and words.
Around 6 AM, we finally gathered ourselves and began heading to the birth center to meet our midwife, Cherie. I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible, and when we arrived around 7 AM, I was just at 6cm dilated. It was raining out, so Cherie had me walking in circles around the birth center, which is actually a historic, Victorian home. Austin escorted me around the house, making sure that I held onto my breath and kept my eyes open and shoulders relaxed through each contraction. After a while, Cherie checked my cervix again and we moved to the bathroom. I labored through a few contractions on the toilet, bringing baby girl down and getting ready to push. At the end of the last contraction spent on the toilet, I made a noise that indicated to Cherie that I was ready to push, so we moved to the bedroom.
With my feet on either side of the bedpost, my hands holding the post, and Austin behind me, supporting my weight, I squatted deep and began pushing. I focused on my own exertion so as to not become overwhelmed. After fifteen minutes or so of pushing in this squatting position, we moved me up onto the bed where I felt my baby girl’s crowning head, lightly stroking her hair. I kept pushing with each contraction, so ready to finally meet her. All I remember from this time, outside of my pushing, was Cherie saying aloud that my perineum was resistant, but that baby girl would be here very soon. Finally, she slid almost entirely out of me and I glimpsed her tiny body. The cord was around her neck, so Cherie calmly untangled her and then, with one last push, she was out entirely and in Austin’s arms. Immediately, everything calmed — I so thankful that she was really here and that the pain of labor had come to an end. They placed her on my chest, Austin crawled into the bed next to us, and there we lay as a family for the very first time.
It wasn’t long after that when they began asking me if I was ready to push again. Blissed out, I shook my head and jokingly said, “I don’t need to push anymore, I already had my baby!” But I knew I needed to deliver my placenta still. That part, however, I don’t remember at all… I was too caught up in the presence of our baby girl — Juniper Leigh.
Because I had a couple of small tears, I received stitches while Austin and Juniper snuggled each other. In retrospect, this was the hardest part of the entire birth for me. It was mentally challenging for me to go through it. Physically, it was not so bad, as I was numbed beforehand.
After about an hour after birth, I asked Juniper if it was okay now for Austin to cut her umbilical cord. Once he did, we packaged it up and handed it off to be encapsulated. We all were fed, my feet rubbed with lavender oil, and slowly cleaned up to head home. Juniper went through the routine tests and measures, then was deemed perfect (which of course we already knew) and we were cleared to return to our nest.
Austin drove us home so gingerly, and when we arrived, we were greeted by my mama and sister as well as Austin’s mama and sister. After cooing over how unbelievably amazing Juniper is, we headed into the bedroom to get cozy and rest.
It makes perfect sense that we would enter into labor after the longest night, the Winter Solstice, and that her arrival would mark the start of lighter, brighter days to come. She is sensitive, strong, sweet, attentive, yet a deep sleeper, and loves to snuggle in bed between Austin and I. Her name, Juniper Leigh, means the eternally youthful spirit of healing. And its fitting, as her presence here is like a sweet medicine that brings us joy unlike anything else we’ve ever known.
Juniper Leigh Ferguson: Born on December 22nd at 8:43 AM after 8 hours of unmedicated labor and thirty-ish minutes of pushing. 6 lbs. 15 oz. and 20 1/4” long.