The Birth of Scarlett Rose

** WARNING: Birth is graphic.  View the following at your own risk.


Scarlett Rose Morguess

June 23, 2012 6:46 p.m.

7 pounds 5 ounces, 20 inches

I became pregnant with my seventh baby at the age of 44, this after my husband, Michael, had undergone cancer treatment for stage 3 colorectal cancer two years prior, which included intensive chemotherapy and pelvic radiation.  To say that this pregnancy was a surprise would be quite an understatement; my age alone made it seem somewhat unlikely, but we were under the impression that his cancer treatment had left him sterile.  Our family felt complete with six kids, and we were thankful that Michael’s cancer was in remission, so the idea that we would have no more children was fine with us.

After a week or so of mood swings and crying jags last October, however, I decided to take a pregnancy test just to rule that out as a cause of how strange I was feeling.  I was absolutely certain the test would be negative, but I needed to see that just to be sure.  It was positive.

I cried.  How could this be?  I was too old, I had no business being pregnant.  There was no way this could end well.

When I called my midwife, Sue, who had been here for Lilah’s and Finn’s births, and who had also become a dear friend who gave us so much support through Michael’s cancer treatment, she laughed.  She was sure that this was a miracle baby who would someday do something phenomenal.

I spent the entire first trimester being really scared (and nauseous), sure that I would miscarry, or that it would come to some other bad ending.

But it didn’t.

By the time the second trimester rolled around, I was feeling much better physically, and I felt myself relax and stop thinking about bad omens.  Right around the time my nausea disappeared, I began to feel those little flutters of movement.  Wow!  I was really going to have another baby.

We opted not to undergo any prenatal screenings to detect disorders or birth defects, despite my advanced age and the fact that Finn, born almost four years ago, has Down syndrome.  It wasn’t a difficult decision for me; I didn’t feel that knowing anything ahead of time would be of any benefit to me or to the baby.  I was glad to have not known about Finn’s Down syndrome until after his birth, and I wanted the same opportunity to just enjoy being pregnant this time around.  I figured that our family was strong enough to deal with whatever surprises this baby might be born with as well.  We did opt for a mid-pregnancy ultrasound just to rule out obvious physical anomalies that would preclude a safe home birth, and it was then that we learned we would be having another little girl.

The whole pregnancy went by really quickly.  I guess that happens when you have a passel of other kids to keep you busy.  I settled into being pregnant and reveled in it.  I felt really good and could hardly believe how smoothly things were going.

The biggest concern was my blood pressure.  I’ve had blood pressure issues throughout my last few pregnancies, and I was diagnosed with chronic hypertension about two years ago – hereditary (my dad had it) – and have been on meds to control it for about that long.  With medication, a high protein diet, and supplements suggested by my midwife, my blood pressure stayed in a nice, healthy range throughout my pregnancy – until the last couple of weeks.

Around 38 weeks, my midwife went out of town for a few days, my blood pressure started rising, and I came down with the flu – all at the same time.  That was stressful! She was in Nashville, and she and I were in constant contact via text about my blood pressure, and I was able to bring it down somewhat after a couple of days, but from then on it continued to go up and down and remained a big concern.

On Wednesday, June 20 – two days shy of my due date – I woke up with some bloody show.  This was a promising sign; it meant that labor probably was not very far off.  I happened to have a prenatal appointment scheduled with Sue that morning, and she checked me and said I was dilated to 1 cm – which really means absolutely nothing, but at least it satisfied my curiosity.

My blood pressure continued to rise and fall.  By Friday, June 22 – my due date – the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been experiencing for so long were finally becoming real contractions, but they were pretty irregular, ranging from ten to twenty minutes apart.  Still, I thought it was a sign of progress, and I went to the bakery and bought a “birth day” cake in anticipation of the big event and put it in the fridge.

Sue came over again late in the day.  She and I talked and I agreed to have her check me again and if I had dilated any further, she would strip my membranes to see if she could get things moving.  I had, indeed, dilated a little more, so she did a membrane sweep.

For a few hours after that, my contractions picked up.  They were definitely more intense, and consistently ten or so minutes apart.  Michael and I went to bed, half expecting things to really pick up during the night.  I slept fitfully; the contractions were waking me up from time to time, but they actually had gotten farther apart.  By morning, Saturday, June 23, it seemed that whatever had started up had now mostly stalled out.  I was feeling a little frustrated – was this going to be another drawn out start-and-stop labor like I had had with Lilah? – but also sort of okay with it; I figured the baby would come when she was ready.

Michael and I ran some errands in the morning – mostly to kill time, I think.  We came home and fed the kids lunch and then decided to go for a walk.  While we were out walking, Sue called me on my cell phone.  She was still very concerned about my blood pressure, and talked to me about risks associated with maternal hypertension.  Placental abruption was the biggest risk and the biggest concern.  She emphasized that the best thing would be for the baby to be born as soon as possible, and she wanted it to happen that day if possible.  Suddenly I was scared.  Placental abruption? Now I had to consider the possibility of death for my baby and/or myself?  Sue said, “I love you guys too much, and have watched you come too far, to allow a bad outcome.”  Michael was scared, too.  Was this a situation that required transferring to the hospital?  I didn’t want to do that unless absolutely necessary – I knew without a doubt that if we went to the hospital, my blood pressure would shoot through the roof just from stress and anxiety, and they would immediately put me on Pitocin and probably Mag/Sulph, and the entire thing would spiral downhill with interventions and it would break my heart.  I trusted that Sue would send us to the hospital if necessary, and she hadn’t, so it wasn’t necessary.  But we needed to give my labor a kick-start and encourage this baby to come out and meet the world.

When Michael and I got home from our walk, we figured we had better get things set up just in case.

Sue came over mid-afternoon and she, Michael and I sat down and talked about our options.  I was having strong but sporadic contractions, and she checked me again and found that I was dilated to 5 cm.  I asked her about breaking my water, and she said that she’d rather not unless I was in active labor.  She suggested castor oil.  I wasn’t thrilled with that idea because I had taken castor oil to get things moving with Lilah and remembered the effects.  Sue said that her experience has been that castor oil gets active labor going within two hours usually.  I absolutely didn’t believe that was going to be the case with me – my contractions were twenty to thirty or more minutes apart at this point, and I just couldn’t imagine that things would pick up considerably that quickly.  It was worth a shot, though, so I agreed.

So we sent Michael to the store for the ingredients for Sue’s Special Kickstart Labor Shake: castor oil, OJ concentrate, and vanilla ice cream.  She threw it all in the blender, and I drank it at about 4:00 p.m.

Then we waited.

Kevin was down the street at a friend’s house, Joey was running around the neighborhood from one friend’s house to another, and Michael took the girls to swim at a neighbor’s across the street.  To kill time, Sue and I chitchatted for a while, and then we started watching home birth videos on YouTube.

Michael texted me a few minutes after 5:00 from the neighbor’s house to see how I was doing, and I told him my contractions had picked up a bit but they were still 10+ minutes apart.  My friend Lisa texted me at about 5:30 and I told her that my contractions were picking up some.  I still thought it was going to be quite a while, and I was prepared for it to stall out again.

Michael came home with the girls at around 5:45, and Daisy got into the shower.  Suddenly, my contractions started coming on stronger and closer together.  By 6:00 they were no more than a couple of minutes apart and incredibly strong.  Every time one would hit, I would drop down on all fours because that seemed like the position to assume to deal with the contractions best.

In no time at all, the contractions were coming fast and hard, one right after another.  I began to panic.  I yelled for Daisy to get out of the shower because we needed the shower connection to fill up the birth pool.

I was trying to get undressed, but the contractions were coming so quickly.  “Shit!  Here comes another one . . .” I moaned.  “Fuck, another one . . .”  Sue said, “Why don’t you let me check you just to see where we are?”  “No, there’s no time, I’m there!” I said.  Clearly, the baby was coming.  Sue helped me get a bathing suit top on and into the pool, and being submerged in the warm water was a relief.

I remember thinking, “I hope it just stalls out now, I hope it just stalls out now . . .” but the contractions kept coming, one right behind another.  I couldn’t believe how fast this was happening.

We sent the girls out of the room so I could focus, and because I didn’t want to scare them with all the noise I knew I’d be making.  I had screamed my way through Lilah’s and Finn’s births – the truth is, as big a fan I am of natural birth, I’m not one who will claim it’s a peaceful or serene experience.

Sue checking baby’s heart tones

I felt my water break in the pool, and suddenly my body took over and the pushing started.  It is the wildest thing – completely beyond your control, that bearing down with everything you have.

Somehow I managed not to scream through this one.  I moaned – loudly – “No . . . no . . . no . . . I can’t do it . . . I can’t do it . . .” while Sue and Michael kept saying, “You are doing it.”  I just wanted it to stop, to be over.  I was on overload, every cell of my body working to get this baby out, and truly feeling like there was no way I was going to survive this.  Melodramatic, I know, but damn – giving birth just pushes you to your limits.

I could distinctly feel the baby – especially the round, hard shape of her head – moving down and out.  Though it felt like it took an eternity, the truth was that I pushed through two contractions – just a few minutes – before my daughter was born.

Sue’s labor notes read: “6:45 – head out; 6:46 – body out.”  Scarlett was born with a nuchal arm, meaning her hand was up against her face, so her head and arm came out at the same time.  I don’t know if that added to the intensity of it, but I can’t imagine it didn’t.

Sue went out to tell the kids that their sister had been born.  They were all playing in the front yard and didn’t hear me make a peep, and it had happened so quickly from the time they had left the bedroom that they couldn’t believe she was really here.


I sat in the pool, enjoying the weight and warmth of my baby in my arms, marveling at the improbability of all this, until the placenta was ready to come.  Michael cut the umbilical cord, severing the physical tie that bound Scarlett and me for all these months, and took his newest baby girl.

Sue helped me dry off and get into bed, and when I put Scarlett to my breast, she knew exactly what to do.

Sue didn’t have the flannel sling that goes on her baby scale, so she improvised with this shopping bag, which will have special meaning to my book club:

Then the initial newborn exam.  She looks healthy and beautiful in every way.

I absolutely love that the kids were right there to meet their new sister right away.  Home birth is truly a family affair.

Look at this old chick who just had a baby.

I look at the lines in my face and think about how far and wide my life has taken me, and I am amazed that my body can still do this, and I am thankful for all that I have.


39 Comments on “The Birth of Scarlett Rose”

  1. Alyson
    June 26, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    Oh Lisa…just beautiful…thank you for sharing everything with us..I am crying..lots of love Morguess family!!

    • Tara
      June 26, 2012 at 2:05 am #

      Wonderful story, Lisa! Congratulations! She is SUCH a beauty…like her mama!

    • Kelly
      June 27, 2012 at 3:28 am #

      I have been following your blog and also on and I just think you are an amazing woman and mother! I also had a natural birth and it is truly an amazing experience! Welcome to the world Scarlett Rose.

  2. Nichole Bradley
    June 26, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    You are amazing!! Thanks for sharing, crying now.

  3. Darla
    June 26, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    What an angelic little girl…another blondie and I just love her name Lisa! Congratulations…..I am overjoyed for you and in tears. I wish you a fast recovery!

  4. Maggie
    June 26, 2012 at 3:14 am #


    And to Scarlett Rose: Welcome to the World! You’ve been born into a family that loves you and will care for you. You will eventually learn the language, you will eventually learn to operate this body. Life here is a wild ride, and a fun one. Enjoy!

  5. Julia/Chimmy
    June 26, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    Lisa – you are such a beautiful person. What an incredible story – from start to finish. Congratulations my friend. Much love to you and your family.

  6. Gretchen Gear
    June 26, 2012 at 3:27 am #

    Congratulations Morguess family 🙂 Lisa, what a beautiful story you have shared with the world. Scarlett is so precious, just like her mommy.Your family is amazing…

    We will continue to hold you close in Oregon, and follow your wonderful adventures as a family of nine! Wishing you a speedy recovery and much joy.


  7. ladycoop
    June 26, 2012 at 3:33 am #

    Congrats!!! Beautiful story!

  8. Tara Marie Hintz
    June 26, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    Sitting here completed moved and overwhelmed with such joy! Welcome to our world Scarlett Rose…..Congratulations Michael and Lisa & Family. Many Blessings for a magical journey…..

  9. Aussie Sarah
    June 26, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Oh Lisa, what an amazing birth story! Thanks so much for sharing! LOVE the photos, I adore them! Happy Babymoon! S x

  10. Inger Klemm
    June 26, 2012 at 4:33 am #

    So happy for you all. She’s beautiful! Thank-you for sharing:) LOVE the name!

  11. Sally Needham Hiatt
    June 26, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    Beautiful story my 6th was born with a nuchal arm, yeah it definitely made it more intense, Im currently pregnant with my 7th child and was wondering how you felt about the “increased risks” for us “older moms of many” Im here in the UK and might be risked out of the homebirth that I want (and my first homebirth) Im happy to do it in a hospital if I have to but I would love to try doing it at home 🙂

  12. Rebekka K. Steg
    June 26, 2012 at 7:56 am #

    That is so amazing, thank you so much for sharing your story! And congratulations to you and your family on your beautiful baby girl. I’m so grateful you didn’t have to go to the hospitals or have any complications.

  13. Anna
    June 26, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    I was so looking forward to this birth story and savoured every word of it. Thank you for letting us on this beautiful mystery! Seeing the pictures of precious Scarlett holding on to her mama is just amazing.

    Congratulations to all the Morguesses! Lots so love from Cambridge England.

  14. Janet
    June 26, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    WELL DONE MOMMY! And well done to everyone else who helped you through this amazing experience. You are truly blessed to have these wonderful memories. And you have really beautiful children! Congratulations and much love and happiness to you and your whole family.

  15. Beautiful! Crying!!! (says this 38.5 week preggars momma with her second baby). Congrats! Can’t wait to see Scarlett grow up. =)

  16. mostlytruestuff
    June 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Yay! Congrats! What a beautiful post. So glad that everything went well!

  17. TUC
    June 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Couldn’t wait for this post!!! I loved reading about Scarlett’s birth… felt like I was there with you (especially since I did pool births too, and my son was born with his fist up against his head too.) The photos are beautiful and really capture the moments. I am so happy for you!

  18. Addie
    June 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    congratulations, Lisa, she is beautiful

  19. talkbirth
    June 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    How beautiful in so many ways! Congratulations! Welcome to the world baby, Scarlett.

  20. Holly F.
    June 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing them Lisa!

    Congratulations Morguess Family and Welcome Scarlett Rose!

  21. Asha
    June 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    Lisa!!! Wonderful birth story!!! She is so cute!!!! Congratulations to the whole family!!!

  22. Amy
    June 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Wow….what a beautiful birth, congrats on your new baby girl! Your family is so cute 🙂

  23. Kristi
    June 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Lisa! She is just beautiful! Congrats on your new baby girl! You did it!!!! Welcome to the world baby Scarlett!!!!

  24. -Di
    June 26, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Awesome Lisa!!! I am a member of the “advanced maternal age” club, (AMA-as my insurance likes to call it), and have been following along on your pregnancy with Scarlett, and just want to say that you have truly, been an inspiration. I know you weren’t setting out to have a baby at 44, but you did, and you did it courageously. Thanks for sharing your journey. Congratulations to you and your family.

  25. Stacey
    June 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Thank you so much, Lisa, for sharing your journey with us! She’s gorgeous, you & Michael sure make beautiful babies together. And I know you keep saying there won’t be another, but if there is…. do Hypnobabies.

    How is Kevin doing? I noticed his body posture was rather aloof, so I hope that was either his standard teenaged boy pose, or that he’s coming around.

  26. Vonda
    June 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Awwww, how sweet is she? If you are like me, I bet you were looking her over when she popped out. My daughter Halle, was born 19 months after Noah (Ds) and I was checkin her out from head to toe, looking for every sign imaginable that goes along with Ds. When the doctor came in and said “we know there are some issues with your son, and we just wanted to tell you, that Halle seems to be okay”. I said “I already know, I’m a pro, and can spot a child with Ds a mile away”. lol. Scarlett will be the best advocate for Finn. Even though she is much younger, she will teach him more than ever!!! Congratulations!!

  27. Samantha
    June 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Congrats!!!! so beautiful!!!!

  28. Marcy
    June 27, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    You amaze me Lisa; you are beautiful as always. Congratulations, she is beautiful like all your children. Michael looks like a proud Papa:)

  29. Jennifer Varanini Sanchez
    June 27, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    BEAUTIFUL in every way! LOVE this post so much!

  30. Sam
    June 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Huge congratulations, beautiful little girl, love her name, gorgeous family. Enjoy this special time…

  31. Ellen
    June 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Beautiful! Congratulations!

  32. Meredith
    July 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I just love reading your birth stories, Lisa, especially the way you incorporate the pictures to help tell the story 🙂 My absolute favorite pic is the one where it looks like she’s hugging you 🙂 So precious! Congratulations on your beautiful baby girl 🙂

  33. Carolyn
    November 7, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    How very wonderful it must be to have a surprise baby! Enjoyed reading about it and seeing the pictures. Cannot imagine having seven children, but my grandmother had 10.

  34. katrina
    November 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Reading your story gives me real hope. We lost our little boy to down sydrome only 3 months ago. I have recently found out I am 8 weeks pregnant and worry all the time that the same thing could happen again.I have a healthy son of 13 and a healthy daughter who is 2 but losing a child was so difficult and i can only hope things will be ok this time. What a beautiful outcome, I have tears streaming down my face. Thank you for sharing your story X


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