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We haven't had any problems with raccoons since we got our chickens a year and a half ago.  But a couple nights ago, a raccoon went after them in the coop. 

We had actually gotten pretty lax, and forgot to latch the door to the nest boxes.  I heard the dog in the yard behind us barking pretty loudly, and then some really loud squawking.  Luckily, we were around and in earshot.  I turned on our backyard light and ran out on the deck, scaring it enough that it retreated to our side fence, where I saw it.  (Ann was nursing Madeleine through all of this.)

I went back inside to grab a flashlight, and it had moved to the tree just next to the coop.  I stared it down for a while, and then decided to spray it with water from a hose (I got it pretty good).

I later found a pawful of feathers just outside the coop (see the photo).  Looks like they came from one of our chicken's necks...yikes!  Otherwise, the chickens seem to be just fine.  Needless to say, we'll be more vigilant now about keeping the coop locked every night...

 
Ann's water broke at 4am on 7/8/2006, and contractions started at around 2am on 7/9. We were pretty excited, as they were under 5 minutes apart when they started, and over 45 seconds. But over the next 60 hours, the contractions alternated between slowing way down and speeding back up, and Ann only got a couple hours of sleep.  We tried a whole number of options for encouraging labor, stopping short of castor oil.  We were becoming concerned that Ann may get too exhausted to push the baby out if the labor didn't progress more quickly, and of the greater potential for infection with the water breaking over 72 hours earlier (or perceived dangers and hospital protocol if we had to transport later).

On the afternoon of 7/11, we decided to leave home to go with our Plan B, to give birth at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco with their Homestyle Midwifery group.  The main decision point to do so was to get pitocin to encourage Ann's contractions.  And indeed they did.   Ann went from 4 cm to 10 cm in about six hours, and then pushed for 2 hours and 13 minutes.  To everyone's surprise (there was no good way to tell before the birth), Madeleine came out in "posterior brow asynclitic" presentation, forehead first, facing up and tilted to the left. That only happens in 1/1000 births and means the head is coming through in the widest possible angle. We found out later that obstetrical textbooks say it is almost impossible to give birth vaginally in such cases and it usually means an automatic C-section. (Only 3 in 10,000 are born that way vaginally.) Well, Ann pushed her out without pain meds, but ended up with 70+ stitches because of the fourth degree tear it created.  The birth was apparently the talk of the Labor & Delivery floor the next day as none of those who worked there had ever seen such an occurrence. 

Ann did an amazing job through the labor and birth.  Her sense of humor came through, and the midwives wrote down some of her choice quotes on her charts ("I am woman, here me roar!").  She startled everyone an hour after the birth when she jumped up to start pushing out the placenta... she must have had some good hormones going! 

While we obviously would have preferred a home birth, we were happy with our decision to go to the hospital, and felt that the "home-style" experience at St. Luke's was the closest we could have come to our desired birth at a hospital (despite some minor annoyances with hospital protocol).  There was a great midwife there and a very helpful midwife in training who capture much of the later labor and birth on camera and videotape.  Our midwives were able to pretty much do what they would have with us at home, and one of them caught Madeleine as she came out.  (In the end, we went through the entire pregnancy and birth without ever having to see a doctor.)
 
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Our chickens laid their 1,000th egg while Ann was in labor.  Our midwives were quite amused.

 
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Madeleine Grace Canavese was born on July 11, 2006 at 10:23pm (shown here in an outfit given to us by our friend Lori).  While we planned to have the birth at our home in Alameda, Madeleine had other plans.

It turns out that she came out in a rare (1/1000 births) anterior brow presentation—posterior and forehead first.  In addition to  causing back labor, it resulted in Ann getting 70+ stitches.

It's taken us a while to get the news of the birth out, because of our hospital stay and since our two main computers went out within a week of the birth. 


  • Weight: 7 lbs, 2 oz.
  • Length: 21 inches.
  • Head: 13 1/2  inches.
  • Location: St. Luke's Hospital, San Francisco

And, yes, she is a girl.  Ann and 80% of our friends and inquisitive strangers were convinced Ann was carrying a boy.  Of course, Paul knew she was a girl. 

As we have just started to get to know Madeleine, we have found her to have a strong personality and good strong lungs.

Her Name

The name Madeleine (in different forms) is found in both Paul and Ann's family tree.  One of Paul's Italian great-grandmothers was named Madeleine.  Ann's paternal grandmother was named Madelyne and a maternal great-grandmother was named Magdalene.

We liked the idea of naming her after a strong female character in the Bible and Madeleine is a French form of Magdalene, derived from Mary Magdalene.  While many erroneously label Mary Magdalene as a sexual sinner or the prostitute about to be stoned in John's Gospel, there is no biblical evidence for this. On the contrary, Mary Magdalene was a very positive and faithful disciple of Jesus.  She is considered the "apostle to the apostles" for spreading the word to others after the resurrection. Indeed, she is the only person whom Jesus is said to have appeared to after the resurrection in all four gospels. Some scholars even believe that Mary Magdalene was the "Beloved Disciple" given a prominent role in John's Gospel

As for her middle name of Grace, we were quite aware of all the grace we experienced through Ann's pregnancy carrying Madeleine and especially the labor and birth.  The word also came up again and again in many different contexts and conversations in the last days before the birth.  We also think she'll appreciate that middle name amidst all the other syllables that make up her name.

 
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We stocked up on chicken feed a couple weeks ago, thinking that we wouldn't want to worry about it soon after the birth.  It turns out that we have to go all the way to San Leandro (Mike's Feed and Pets) to buy it.  You'd think it would be easier to find chicken feed in the Bay Area.  Sheesh.


We usually buy a fifty pound bag for about $10 (this time we bought two).  The chickens go through it in two to three months, depending a little on the season.   We also feed them chicken scratch (cracked corn and wheat, which they love as a snack), grass clippings, the odd spider we find, and kitchen scraps (if you're nearby and have leftovers that are getting old, drop them by). They also forage in the yard, eating worms, grubs, fruit that has fallen from our trees, camelia petals, and whatever else they can find.

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But the largest part of their diet is the feed, which has a good mix of nutrients and protein to support their egg laying.  We also have been giving them oyster shells, which gives them calcium for strong shells.

 
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Lots of people keep asking about our birthing tub—what does it look like, how does it work, how big is it, etc.  We rented an AquaDoula tub from someone in Oakland.  Basically it's like a collapsible small hot tub. We set it up in the corner of our bedroom and filled it for a trial run recently.

It takes about an hour to fill it with hot water, from a hose run from the kitchen sink. There is a heater we plug in to maintain the temperature at around 100 degrees.  When you're done with it, you pump out the water through the same hose (our new Fuji apple tree got a good drink when we emptied it the other day).

It's an option to give birth inside the tub, although we're imagining just using it for during contractions leading up to the birth.

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There are several folks in the East Bay that rent them and they are becoming more and more popular because women attest that they ease labor pains and make it easier for them to feel comfortable by taking the sensation of their extra weight off.