A polyamorous quad welcomes their first child

Guest post by Micah Taylor
Connor and family — from left to right: Ian, Micah (the author), Aimee, Michelle.

This is not a “normal” birth story. Which makes sense, since my family is not a normal family. Please note the lack of quotes that second time — it’s with good reason. While every birth is unique in its own way, and thereby not “normal,” most families in the United States welcoming a baby go through a fairly similar experience. And we had some of that, but when you are a family of four polyamorous adults, nothing is “simple,” “easy,” or “normal.”

On April 2, 2011 our little Munchkin came into this world, caught in the loving hands of two of his parents while a third held his mother. We were surrounded by a top-quality, professional staff made up of midwives, nurses, and our doula. His entry into this world went exactly as we wanted, with minimal intervention, surrounded by love and full of hope for the future.

This is meant to be the story of his birth, from the point of view of one of his fathers. You’d have to ask the baby for his, and since the only language he knows at the moment predominantly pertains to breastfeeding (which consists of various noises and sucking motions, up to and including full throated cries) — mine will have to do. The best place to start is the last full day our Munchkin was in his mother’s womb: April Fool’s Day, 2011.

Aimee’s due date was Friday, March 30. We’d all been anxiously waiting for the big day seemingly forever. For most of the previous three weeks, every little exclamation from Aimee was met with the same question, “Are you OK?” from one or all of her partners. How she didn’t kill any of us is testimony to her prodigious patience.

Friday began like any other day in our household. In the middle of the day, Aimee had a well-visit with our midwives to see if anything was going on. Since we knew we were so close to baby-time, I elected to work from home on a paper for class, and to drive Aimee to her appointment.

At the midwife appointment Aimee was between one and two centimeters, so all of the practice her uterus had been up to was doing something. The nurse cautioned that things could stay like this for a few more days, or she could suddenly open up and give birth in a few hours. With that in mind we went home. Around 8:25pm, Aimee gave out an exclamation that was not as little as before. Then another. She was painfully cramping along with the Braxton-Hicks contractions. This was something new.

It suddenly occurred to us that maybe we should time them. The first one we marked was twenty minutes between cramps, then half that, but we weren’t very good at keeping track. Like a good geek girl, Aimee got a little app for her iPhone that created a log of her contractions. Push a button to start the timer, push it again to stop, and it created a handy dandy log of your use. She fired it up and started using it to get good data.

Her contractions were six to eight minutes apart, 30 to 50 seconds in duration. If this was early labor, we knew it could be a long process, or even stop. Ian and Mich went to bed, determined to rest in case it was the last good night’s sleep they’d have in awhile. Aimee was too uncomfortable to really sleep, so she and I bunked down on our sectional, watched movies, and settled in for a long night.

Friday night was a very long night.

Aimee timed her contractions while I kept vigil. To keep ourselves distracted, we watched movies most of the night. These movies took us up to about 3:30am, Saturday morning. We were now seven hours into early labor. There was no doubt now that this was it. The contractions were coming every 5 minutes for at least a minute in length. By the 5-1-1 rule, it was time to go to the hospital. For those of you unfamiliar with this law of pregnancy, it is the golden standard for pregnant women. If contractions come every 5 minutes, last for 1 minute, for 1 hour, then you are in labor. If they aren’t, or haven’t gone that long, then you aren’t.

The problem, of course, was that it was nearing 4am. We were already exhausted, and had an unknown number of hours ahead of us. So we switched from movies to music, and tried to get some sleep. We “slept” for three hours, at the most. In reality, neither one of us slept terribly well, or very long. I might have gotten an hour and a half of real sleep, the rest I was half conscious, listening to Aimee softly moan. She didn’t sleep at all, not really. She was resting, trying to relax, but no real sleep. How do I know this? Remember that handy-dandy iPhone app she was using? There is no break in the record of her contractions, which means she was awake and using it all night.

At this point (around 7am Saturday morning), Aimee had been awake for almost twenty-four hours, and in labor for eleven of them. I point this out because my admiration for her just went up, which is saying something, as the rest of the story will show.

Around 6:30, Aimee woke me up. We quickly consulted her contraction log, and I went to wake up Ian and Michelle. Then we called Barbara, our doula. During the night, I had collected our pre-packed bags and moved them to the front door. At 6:26am, I announced to the world via Facebook that we were heading to the hospital. We left the house at 8:23. In between, we showered, dressed, slopped the animals, and called our family members.

We arrived at the hospital at 8:36. We checked in, and were sent to a screening room for monitoring. Aimee was about 2cm, and her contractions were about the same as they’d been when we left the house. The nurses instructed Aimee to walk around for a couple of hours, to see if activity kicked her labor up, or if it would slow down or even stop.

The rest of our horde met me at the cafeteria. After we fueled up, Aimee went back to doing laps. With Barbara’s encouragement, Aimee took out her yoga mat and started doing poses. Two hours of walking and yoga go by quickly, especially when you’re tired. She went back in for another check, and was at 3 cm. According to the nurse, 1 cm every two hours was normal for this stage, which meant Aimee was officially in active labor. We were admitted, and taken upstairs.

By the time we made it to our room, we were all hungry, since breakfast had been four hours before and none of us had eaten much. Excitement does that to the appetite. I had just tweeted to the world that we were safely ensconced, and could update the folks at home more quickly and easily when I got sent off to the cafeteria to hunt us up lunch. I made it back to the room around 2:30, but all Aimee could swallow down was a few bites of a protein bar. At this point, her contractions were coming every two to three minutes, lasting for a minute or more, so to her, it felt like she was getting no break at all.

Aimee labored like a champ, and here is where Barbara really demonstrated why every pregnant woman should have a doula. She gave expert advice on positioning, encouraging Aimee to shift positions frequently to prevent fatigue. She had, of all things, a piece of shelf liner (the rubbery mesh kind that keeps things from sliding around), that she used to hold up Aimee’s belly. Taking the weight off of her, for even a few minutes at a time, was an invaluable relief. And I cannot underestimate how important her presence was for Ian, Michy and I. She took the lead on helping Aimee through the beginning of her active labor, which kept the rest of us physically fresh for when Aimee needed us later. She also taught Aimee a technique to use sound to stay on top of her contractions. They harmonized together, at a low frequency (kinda like a modified “OM”), to help her stay focused. It worked amazingly well, almost to the very end, when the pain and frequency finally began to overwhelm her.

Barbara and Aimee would harmonize through her contractions, and eventually we all took it up, taking turns being her physical and emotional support.

The next few hours were a blur. Aimee’s contractions were almost non-stop at this point. Barbara and Aimee would harmonize through her contractions, and eventually we all took it up, taking turns being her physical and emotional support. Around 3:00pm, she was hit with the strongest contraction yet, and her control faltered for the first time. As it passed, she told us that she peed “a little.” When a woman’s water breaks in the movies or on television, it’s usually portrayed as a gush of fluid. This is rarely the reality. Aimee was much more typical. She leaked a bit, fairly consistently, for the next two hours.

Ironically, right before that contraction, we were talking about getting Aimee out of the clothes she was wearing to the hospital. She settled that question for us! At this point, Aimee again asked for the tub. She’d asked for it earlier, but it wasn’t available. We changed Aimee into a skirt and sports bra, and prepared to walk her to the tub room. Before we left, the nurses checked her cervix again. She was at 7cm.

Knowing that the end was in sight, we headed off to the tub on foot. Unfortunately for the rest of the unit, it was on the complete opposite side of the ward from us. Aimee had two contractions in the hallway. We must have been a sight, four people helping to support one laboring mom, two nurses trailing behind, stopping every few minutes to moan in tandem in the halls!

The tub was instant relief. It was a free-standing tub, with high sides and a hand sprayer. It was theoretically mobile, but in practice they kept it in the same room most of the time. The water was warm and waiting for us when we got there. I know Aimee would have stayed in there and given birth if they’d let her. She really liked the tub. After one contraction, she tiredly exclaimed, “You guys are awesome.”

It seemed longer at the time, but we were only in the tub room for about thirty minutes. The nurses kept checking in with Aimee while she was in the water, asking her how she felt. They kept asking if she felt pressure, like she had to go to the bathroom. Aimee was so far out of it at this point that she didn’t understand why they were asking. She reported that she felt pressure, so they moved us back to our room. Mercifully, we transported Aimee back in a wheelchair.

Once back in our own room (about 3:45pm), Aimee got back in the bed, on her hands and knees, and continued to labor. They were coming in a constant wave at this point. The nurses began monitoring them more regularly; blood pressure for mom, heart rate for the baby. Both passed every check with flying colors. About ten minutes after we got back in the room, our midwife said to Aimee, “You’re ready to push!” Aimee, becoming more unaware of her surroundings with every passing minute, replied, “Really? I can do that?” The nurse chuckled, “That wasn’t a question, it was a statement. Your body will know what to do.”

Her voice was starting to break, the humming replaced with exclamations like “Come on baby!”, “Get this kid out!”, “I can’t take anymore!”, and “Jesus Christ!” and other more colorful expletives.

She was right. Aimee started pushing at 3:58pm. Ian supported her upper body, Mich and I stood on both sides. The nurses faded into the background. Barbara helped with ice, but from here on out, our family was pretty much running the show. With each contraction, Aimee pushed, with very little coaching or encouragement. More fluid came out, more harmonizing happened. It was getting harder and harder for her to stay on top of the pain. Her voice was starting to break, the humming replaced with exclamations like “Come on, baby!”, “Get this kid out!”, “I can’t take anymore!”, and “Jesus Christ!” and other more colorful expletives. At one point, I pointed out to her that her Catholic was showing, so the next contraction was met with, “Oh Gods!”

After about a half hour, Aimee’s poor legs had finally had enough. She’d spent much of her labor on her knees, either over the bed, a yoga ball, or in the tub. We coaxed her into lying down on her side. Once she was laying down, she again said that we were all awesome, and got down to the serious business of birth.

We first saw his head about fifteen minutes before he was born. Each push brought him tantalizingly closer. The nurses kept back, letting Aimee and us do the work. Every few minutes, they’d check the baby’s heartbeat, but otherwise, we could have been at home alone. Twice, they encouraged Aimee to reach down and feel his head, to prove to her that her suffering meant something.

Every time Aimee pushed, I glanced at the clock, wondering if this was the minute he would emerge. Ian joked that we should have gotten a pool going. Michy held up like a champion, being strong for Aimee when she needed it most. At about 4:55, our midwife asked if we (Michy and I, since we were in position), wanted to catch him. A few minutes later, the Munchkin was fully crowned. Time slowed down. At 5:04pm, Aimee gave a prodigious push, and the baby’s head popped out. Liz (the midwife) guided Michy and I to catch him. Aimee screamed in pain and relief, and with one last bit of encouragement, pushed for the final time.

Our son entered into this world, caught safely in the hands of his father and his little mother together, while his Dad-E held his mother safe and strong. Afterward her three partners milled about in stunned pleasure, alternating between taking pictures and stares of pleased bewilderment. And lots of hugs and tears. We started making phone calls to far-flung family and loved ones, letting them know that the baby had finally arrived. Aimee’s parents arrived about fifteen minutes or so after Connor was born. They came into the room expecting to see their daughter still hard at work. What they got was their little girl nursing her little boy, and the waterworks began to flow.

Time continued to pass by in a blur. There were tests, eating, nursing, visiting friends and family, sleep, and more nursing. Barbara gracefully bowed out about an hour after Connor was born, wanting to give us time to just be alone. We hugged her goodbye. Aimee’s parents left after a little while, to spend the night in a nearby hotel. Aimee had her first real meal in almost two days.

Before we knew it, we were heading home.

Comments on A polyamorous quad welcomes their first child

    • Thanks for your kind words! I wrote this in the first week after he was born last year. He’s a 17 month old toddler now. Which means we’ve got some stories. Hard to believe it’s been so long so quick!

  1. I would really love to read an article about the dynamics and technical aspects of raising a child with four parents. Who calls who what and when and all of that. It would be very interesting.

      • WOW this ended up being long-winded, sorry about that! But hurray for offbeat mama being a place to discuss this stuff!

        No judgement whatsoever to Indra (I’m curious too and I bet it’s a pretty natural and common curiosity!) but I had a strong enough feeling when I read this question that I had to write about it! I suspect that this might (only might, depends on the people being asked) be one of those things that doesn’t always feel great to be asked all the time.

        I’m not quite sure how to word why, but I’ll give it a shot:

        Right here on this site I think, I’ve read of lgbt couples, who – whether two dads or two moms – find it intrusive to be asked (again and again sometimes) “oh, which one is the biological [or worse, “real”] mom/dad?” They just want to be viewed as full, equal, loving parents, without being questioned by perfect strangers on how they conceived.

        Another aspect – the decision might be simple and comfortable and maybe they’d be happy to just share it… but it also could have been a very complex, challenging decision with really hard emotions involved. Or both! Just like with a conventional couple, maybe there are painful infertility issues involved somehow, or huge extended family drama, or who knows what other (MANY) possible factors, that might make that feel like a really loaded question.

        I guess I just feel like, even if it’s ok to ask the question (cause being curious, asking questions, sharing with each other in ways that open our minds and hearts – this is wonderful stuff), it might be important to honour the very private nature of that information when asking. Like, “Hey, I know this might be really personal and maybe you don’t want to share it on the world wide web, but IF you don’t mind, I’m really curious: “Between the 4 of you, how did you decide who would be the biological parents?” And then if they wanted to answer that, it’d be up to them whether they want to divulge who was the final decision as part of that story.

          • I get that, but I also think when people choose to share their story on the Internet that some privacy goes away. The question itself can be useful, especially for other folks in a situation who might want to know how others discussed it.

        • I thought a lot before posting my question. The parents are free not to answer if they don’t want to, but I assumed this freedom was implicit so I did not to state it. I was very curious about this particular aspect of the experience and I imagined other people were too. I did not intend to invade anyone’s privacy or cross any lines.

          I would consider all four people to be full parents but it sounds like 2 people played a specific role in the process that the other 2 didn’t.

          • I thought Micah told us this indirectly when he said that the baby was held by “his father and his little mother together, while his Dad-E held his mother.” I don’t think it particularly matters to us who is biological or not, but I think he gave us hints in this passage so we wouldn’t have to ask. (Also, I love “little mother” and “Dad-E”!)

          • IMHO, even though everyone absolutely has freedom in what they decide to disclose, and that does not always need to be said, SOMETIMES, if it’s a reeeally personal, potentially sensitive matter, it is worth putting that out there, just for the sake of honouring the unknown feelings of the person receiving it.

            That said, just because you didn’t say that stuff doesn’t mean anything bad about you. When I read your comment, I definitely didn’t think of it as crossing lines or think it was “bad” to ask or anything. It just seemed like an innocent, valid, curious, question.

            It just got me thinking about that KIND of question as an issue worth talking about.

          • SarahP picked up on what I was trying to subtly lay down. I am the biological father of our first child. We’re planning more, probably within the next year. For our first child, it came down to a group decision. Aimee and I have an extremely close relationship, and we decided as a family that she and I would go first. There are a lot of factors that went into that decision that are completely beyond the scope of this comment. And for the record, none of us are offended by that question. We used to get it a lot. At this point, our friends and family already know. In public, we just look like two “normal” heterosexual couples, so we rarely get noticed.

        • We have a two mom family, and I get tired of gracefully answering, “who is his real mom?” questions. I think its irrelevant, especially to people who don’t know us well. Well said.

          • There is a man I know of who met my ex-sil when she was two months pregnant. He took her to all her Dr’s appointments, held her hand during labor, got up in the middle of the night to bring her to the hospital when the baby was born with serious heart defects to mom could breastfeed, mourned the loss of a ‘normal’ baby when Kasey was born with Down’s, sat there during surgery and was the one that Kasey pointed to and said Da-da.

            And people say that he’s not the ‘real father’… yeah right. I look at all families that way now- there is DNA and there is love. One does not make more or less of a parent than the other.

            The writer is in a poly-family. He loves all three people as his family members. He loves that child as a dad, as does the other male in the quad.

    • I second this. Bio-parents aside, how do you decide who helps out in the evenings? Who ends up on the pick-up list for school trips? The idea of literally an entire, loving village helping with the baby is just such an awesome, yet foreign concept to me, that I’d love to hear more about day-to-day events. Any chance you can get Micah to write another post in a few months?

      • I can answer most of your questions, but not quickly or easily. As I said in another comment, I’d be happy to open the door on my family’s life, assuming folks here are interested in reading about it and the folks in charge want me to. 🙂

      • I’m also curious to know about the legal issues surrounding this sort of family dynamic. Who has power of attorney over the child? Who has legal hospital visitation rights? Who is considered the legal guardian at school etc? Is there a way to write up legal documents that would allow all four parents to share the same legal rights to their child?

        • A lot depends on where you live and what the laws, hospital policies, school rules, etc are. The short version is the bio parents hold all legal rights and non-bio parents get what the bio parents give them. In most parts of the US it is not possible for a child to have more than 2 legal guardians (it is possible in California, Britain and I believe Canada, though the process is difficult and usually used for step parents).

          Bio parents can give non-bio parents standing ‘in loco parentis’ fairly easily, which will give them hospital access etc, but that does not actually give the same legal rights. However most hospitals, schools, etc are used to non-nuclear family styles, so even if poly is new, more than 2 parents are not, and they adapt. The general attitude I have found from schools is that the more adults interested and active in raising the kids, the better.

    • I would be happy to write about that. We’ve been making it up as we go along. We know lots of poly people (naturally), but not very many that began a family together like we have. We know lots of blended poly families, who entered into their relationship(s) already with offspring, but only a very few who had children after they got together. So if the Offbeat Mama folks are paying attention, if y’all would like me to do some follow up posts, let me know.

  2. Oh wow! I’m so glad this was posted here!!
    I saw the photo and immediately thought to myself “Hey! I know that quad!” I’ve been CRAZY interested in hearing your birth story, but a little too shy to ask, hah! If I may ask a personal question, how did the staff react to your family make up? We’re hoping to have a birth center birth, but I’m nervous that in the case we need to go to a hospital we’ll be met with some friction because of our relationships. (Our secondary relationships aren’t to the formality of making up a quad or triad, but I don’t want anyone to lessen their significance at the time of birth, you know?)
    *sigh* Now I really wish I was going to TB this year!

    • We had a hospital birth. When my doctor seemed iffy about a second man arriving in my birthing room (she asked if he was my brother) I told her that he was my boyfriend. She’d already met my husband. That was enough for her. She didn’t ask any more questions, and treated him like she would any other partner. Hospital doesn’t necessarily mean close minded.

      • I’m glad to hear it worked out well for you! I’m mostly concerned because if we’re in the hospital it means that an emergency situation came up. I’ve also had some difficulty with the local hospital staff during other “emergency” situations and while I know it may have zero bearing on our birth situation, my pregnant-brain tends towards paranoia, LOL. In any case, it’s comforting to know it went smoothly for others.

        • I would highly recommend, if not full medical powers of attorney, a legal, notarized document allowing people not the biological parents access. In our triad, the only thing that happened with the birth of our first child was some raised eyebrows when the “other mother” (me) was the one to stay overnight with bio-mom and baby, but when our second had to be in the NICU for 5 weeks, I was not allowed in to see the baby without the permission AND presence of one of the bio-parents, which was not helpful when trying to coordinate NICU visiting time with time for the sibling to not feel ignored/neglected/etc. And I live in a fairly liberal city (Seattle.)

          The hospital won’t necessarily honor it, but it is more likely to be able to smooth over stickiness if it is clearly prearranged.

    • Amanda, if you couldn’t tell from this post, my life is a fairly open book. In the future, feel free to ask me anything you like. just make sure you want to know, because I most definitely WILL tell you!

      This post was originally three separate posts on my personal journal. I spliced it together for Offbeat Mama. In the original, there was a long bit about why we chose to go to a hospital rather than do a home birth, and why we chose the hospital that we did. The staff at our hospital was fantastic. They took us at face value and never said a word. I think it helped that we went with the midwives attached to the hospital for all of the prenatal care, so when it was time for the show, we were surrounded by women who knew all four of us, had worked with us for months, knew what we wanted, and helped make it happen. So I would urge you to do the same. Figure out where you want to give birth before you get pregnant, so you can lay the groundwork. And invest time in your relationships with your health care professionals, so they see you as people, not just patients.

  3. I’d love to hear more from this family as the kid grows. While I’m fully in support of same-sex marriage, I don’t know enough about polyamorous relationships to have formed an opinion on that yet. I want to hear more!

  4. This is truly a beautiful family what a cute wonderful story. so many children have parents that do not love them enough to stay in the picture and this baby is blessed with four, it is the most amazing family congratulations to this loving family.

  5. I find that I am touched by every birth story I read (especially here on Offbeat Mama), but this story along with the amazing photo has really moved me. It seems like Aimee was literally surrounded by the love and protection of her family during childbirth, and I can see the same love and protection for the little Munchkin. I don’t think any kid can ask for more.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. It is so cool to hear a different perspective. I agree with all of the other commenters that I would love to hear more about your family and parenting.

  7. I love hearing from a male point of view! What an awesome story to share, its clear that the little one was welcomed into a family full of love and support, and I hope we get to see more as he grows!

  8. So amazing! That little man was born into and with so much love! And I love hearing from the nonbirthing partner’s point of view. Congrats to all the parents! It was a very touching story.

  9. Thanks for sharing a beautiful story. Having done my own ‘walk the corridor with two husbands, nurses, and entourage while contracting every 3 steps’ the image of the group of you stopping to moan in chorus is hilariously vivid (in a wonderfully good way).

    It sounds like a great experience and it’s wonderful you were all able to be a part of it together.

    • It was a portable jacuzzi tub. Hospital policy prohibited water births. Don’t know why, as we would have happily stayed there. But that’s how that hospital does things.

      • That’s appalling, I can’t believe that. What a strange policy. I really do wonder at American Maternity Policies you know, they seem so anti-nature. But I am glad you all had a positive birth experience in general.

  10. This is awesome and I’d like to join the chorus of people saying MORE INFORMATION PLEASE! Two of my best friends are in two separate poly relationships, each of them very different and wonderful in their own ways. One of them is considering having kids in the not-TOO-far future and I’m seriously fascinated with the minutae. I just think it’s so cool to learn more about structures and setups that are different from what we’d normally hear about. Variety being the spice of life and all.

  11. The “labor tub” as opposed to a “birth tub” is very common in lots of hospitals. It has to do with the hospital’s insurance policies–and varies from state to state. I know all hospitals in my state prohibit the actual birth happening in the tub. I know that it’s a pain, but I’m just really excited that hospitals here are even moving in that direction. Changing the way some practitioners think about birth will be a long, slow process. But, in my area, I can definitely see the change. Even in the last 2-3 years.

  12. I just read this and man, the happy-tears are flowing! I’m a secondary in a poly relationship and my lover’s primary is pregnant, AND she’s a midwife.This was heartwarming and awesome. Thank you for sharing and congrats!

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