Sara was kind enough to share her birth story with us. THANK YOU!!
I folded up the purple towels yesterday. Buried in the Moses basket was a baby blanket and my birth bag. All that was left in it was a single plastic drop cloth and two packets of Emergen - C. My corner of the neatly prepared birth supplies lay in a tangle on the floor - four weeks of stepping around it and glancing at what remained. I couldn’t pick it up and put everything away. It was like dismantling an altar - sacrilege. It meant moving on from the birth. It meant taking another step away from the miracle. It meant fading memories and sensations. It meant loss and grief and mourning for what was gone.
I love to cradle Harrison’s head and his little round bum. I know those same shapes - I held them inside of me and my body wrote the details of them on my soul. I knew at 39 weeks that we were close, 40 weeks closer, any day now. My body was stretched and tight and sore. I was ready to meet this baby. Even though we danced and talked together I needed more and the waiting to see this baby’s face and hear it’s cries and feel it’s breath on my cheek made me anxious.
Memories from my last birth had stayed with me. I was afraid of the pain and pushing and recovering. I thought of screams and blood and even at 41 weeks I didn’t feel ready. I expected the baby to come on the weekend. We inflated the pool, sorted through supplies again, and prepared my birth space. I made this birth space a shrine. I wanted to be surrounded by beauty and love.
My sweet friends held a mother’s blessing for me. Surrounded by candlelight they made charms and beads for me. I had a silhouette drawn and they decorated it with birth wishes and blessings. We feasted and laughed and the support I received that night stayed with my until my baby was in my arms. I placed their candles around my room along with tokens from previous pregnancies and births. A photo of a great grandmother, a belly cast from my pregnancy with Elliot, necklaces and bracelets adorned with beads from previous mothers blessings. I was ready.
Waiting is hard. Waiting to look into those new eyes and see that sweet spirit. Waiting to confirm whether it was a boy or girl. Wondering if that painful contraction meant something was happening. Hoping my husband would be home when labor started. Praying I would find the challenge and meet it and be refined.
After a few false alarms I resigned myself to surrender to the unknown. Labor would start eventually. There was certainty in a birth and a baby. And there was probably no way I was making it through another week so the certainty was soon.
I was just concerned about Jay working so far away and going to a conference in the mountains. He was too far away and a storm was coming and I was worried. He called as soon as he was done with his presentation and on his way. I was counting the minutes but at that point I knew it would all be fine. I have had short labors in the past but never under an hour and he would be home soon. I relaxed and took my heavy body off the couch where I had been quietly taking it easy all day. I went outside and watched my children play while the sky got darker. I chatted with neighbors and was relieved to see my husband pull up safely. Life was good! It was even better when Jay suggested Chinese food. He joked he would ask to get it extra spicy but I didn’t want heartburn so he picked up our regulars. I devoured the Mongolian beef and almost choked when the first bite went down - I guess we didn’t have to ask for extra spicy. The stars must have aligned because this was the spiciest we had ever had - and it was delicious.
We spent the evening relaxing and went to bed around 10. I woke up around midnight with a painful contraction. Another false alarm so I went back to sleep. There was another one, and another. I took nothing seriously because in the groggy semi-sleep state I was in time meant nothing. Had it been seconds between them? Or hours? I woke Jay up and told him to tell me how far apart the contractions were. He said they were about 4 minutes apart. I decided to stay in bed until I absolutely couldn’t deal with them anymore. That was pretty immediately though. Jay got up to get the birth pool ready and I got out of bed to wander around our dark quiet house.
I ended up in the dining room where I leaned on the counter and rocked back and forth with each contraction. They were very intense but I was still having a nice break in between them. I called to my baby and told him to come. I prayed and closed my eyes and tried to see the burning inside myself.
I went back into our bedroom to check on the progress of the pool. It wasn’t ready yet to I sat on the toilet to wait. Immediately contractions started coming stronger. Jay chatted with me through the open door and I leaned my head on our cold bathroom counter to moan through another contraction. These were strong and with every sensation I tried to look forward to the next. I knew each one was bringing me closer to the end. I felt deep pressure and reached in to feel how close my baby was. I could feel almost half of his head. I knew it wouldn’t be long until he was here. The pressure of the toilet was strong - too strong I thought. Even though I knew that position was helping I had to move.
I got up to check on the progress of the pool. The room was hot and I went to Jay’s arms for comfort. He whispered to me that it would be over soon and reassured me that I was doing a great job. He turned on some of my favorite music while I made sure the candles were glowing throughout the room and paced around the pool watching it fill up with steaming water.
Elliot woke up around this time and sat on the end of the bed just watching. He put his head in his hands and I looked into his big chocolate eyes and told him the baby was coming. He didn’t seem to concerned - he just smiled. I took him into my arms and enjoyed our last few moments with him as the baby of our family. I was worried now that he was awake. I didn’t want to be bothered while I was in the water but we were blessed and he just wanted to watch. He was quiet and helpful. He brought me cold drinks and rubbed my head.
Around 1am the contractions got much stronger and much closer together. I knew I would need the pool soon. It was almost full so I jumped in and it was instant sweet relief. I closed my eyes and relaxed my body. My arms were draped over the side of the pool. Elliot held one of my hands and Jay sat with his head next to mine. I took a deep breath at the start of each contraction, closed my eyes, and hummed along with my music. It was the same music Elliot was born to and I thought of each song and wondered which would be playing when this baby was born.
Jay offered counter pressure for my back but I wasn’t desperate for it yet. I wanted to wait until I felt it was absolutely necessary. I knew how exhausting for Jay it would be and I really needed him present. I didn’t want to waste it. I knew no measure of time. I didn’t know how long I had been working. I had no idea how long the contractions were or how close together they were. I was lost inside myself feeling a sense of warmth and peace deep within and knew I was close to that place where my baby was coming from. Was he ready? Was I ready? Who was he? Would I know him? I rubbed my big belly and breathed into another contraction. I hung on to Jay and buried my face into his neck. He was warm and familiar and whispered to me about our plans and hopes and thoughts for this birth and this baby. Elliot sat quietly just holding my hand. The breaks between my contractions got smaller and smaller and soon it seemed like I had no time to recover. Jay decided to call our friend Michelle at this point. She was coming to photograph the birth.
I was trying to think about the baby during these intense moments with the contractions coming on top of each other. I concentrated on his movements and my breathing, imagining I was sending him life and love with each breath. I talked to him and I felt like we were working together and conscious of each other. It was amazing. I could feel a lot more pressure and reached inside and I could feel his whole head with my bag of waters in front of his head pooling up like a limp water balloon. I had a lot of anxiety about the upcoming pushing stage and I was trying to stay positive. I prayed that I would have confidence and strength and health. I talked to the baby and in between contractions I would sit back and lean against Jay and smile to think of how close we were.
I started to put a little bit of pressure into a contraction to see how it would feel. I held my breath a few times with each contraction, not really pushing but putting a little bit of pressure into each sensation. I didn’t really feel any progress but the slight pushing eased the intensity of each contraction. It was around this time (1:45) that Michelle got there. The contractions were coming with very few seconds in between them. They were intense and I decided I was having this baby. I started pushing with intention and it didn’t feel like I was making much progress. I reached inside to feel the baby’s head come down but my bag of waters was still intact and when I pushed it just filled up with more water, creating more pressure, but not doing much to help the baby move down. While I gave some light pushes with the next contraction I broke the bag of waters and immediately the baby started moving a little bit. I felt his head and I could feel lots of hair. This was so exciting to me after a bunch of bald babies and I made Jay feel it. I could feel the baby working with me and slowly moving out. His head was right behind my pubic bone and it would slip back it would come down but slip back with each push. I had my hand on his head which felt so much better for some reason. I decided that it would be more effective if I moved to a squatting position. I apparently announced this to everyone and Jay tried to help me up but it felt horrible. I couldn’t move during the contractions and I wasn’t really getting a break between them and it felt all wrong. I told Jay no - no I wasn’t doing that and went back to my previous position.
I reclined on to my side again and braced my feet against the other side of the pool. Jay was holding me and trying to press on my back and I was being quite loud. Elliot started to get a little bit worried so Michelle went to grab Anicka to come sit with him. I told myself this was it. I needed to keep the pushing up. I couldn’t stop when I felt intense pressure. I thought of my mothers blessing and the strength my friends had shared with me. I thought of my previous births and I looked at the poster my friends had made. There was my big bellied silhouette and loving and powerful messages decorated it. We had talked about my birth fears - namely pushing. My friend had counseled me to just surrender and she had added that to my poster. I kept my eyes on the poster and told myself to surrender. Jay said I was whispering it while I was pushing. This gave me the strength and courage to really do it. I thought of my birth with Elliot and my midwife telling me to just use all my energy and push through it. I knew this was the only way out of course so I did. I gave in. I surrendered and I worked up all my energy and I pushed and he slid right down. I held his head in my hands as it was born. I stroked his hair with my fingers and started to say that I needed another contraction so I could push the rest of him out. It was so intense I didn’t feel like I could wait. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long because before I could really finish the thought another contraction was coming and I was pushing my baby out into my hands.
I held him in my hands as he came towards me with his arms outreached. I pulled him right up into my arms. He was here and he was beautiful. Michelle and I said, almost at the same time, “he looks just like Jay!” while Jay was telling us it was a boy - something I hadn’t noticed or even thought to check. I immediately felt better. I was launched into a birth high by my flooding hormones and emotions. I was completely unaware of everything else in the room except for my husband’s arms around me and his tears and my sweet pink baby snuggling into my arms. It was thrilling and exciting and I felt amazing.
The placenta was birthed soon and it was intact and healthy and perfect. The room was warm and smelled like cinnamon from a candle a friend had given me. I felt surrounded my love and warmth from my friends and family and the candle seemed to symbolize that. I wrapped the baby up and passed him to Jay so I could have a quick shower. It felt so good to stand up and see my feet and stretch out. I got dry and warm and snuggled up with my new little guy in bed. He had been trying to eat his little fist so I nursed him and he ate for about an hour. I was eager to see how big he was so when he was done we weighed him 8lbs 9.5 ounces. We measured him the next day and he was 20inches long. A couple hours after he was born we cut his cord and dressed him and snuggled him up for bed. Blessedly the kids all went back to sleep and our first night was filled with rest for all.