My daughter Adelaide Rose was born on a brisk fall morning in November, a Tuesday. And, although much anticipated, it was completely unexpected and absolutely perfect. So much mystery had surrounded Adelaide for so long. What would her sex be? How much would she weigh? Were all her fingers and toes there? But, most importantly, when would she be due? Although dates are so relative, especially with first time moms like myself, her arrival time seemed especially shrouded in mystery. Our original guess of late October had come and gone. Now shoulder-deep into November, I had resigned myself to going about my daily life. Waiting, it seemed, was especially cruel, and the monotony of day-to-day life was a perfect sanctuary.
Monday, November 15th, I awoke in the morning to a small surprise. All along, at my prenatal appointments, my midwives Kelley and Amy had been asking me a standard set of questions. We were all waiting for indicators that labor might start soon. One of those questions was, ‘Has your mucus changed at all? If you see something like egg whites, labor may be close.’ But, alas, nothing! I checked each time I went to the restroom for weeks and weeks. No mucus, whatsoever. But, on Monday morning, to my surprise, was one solitary thick standard of mucus, clear in color and exactly like egg whites on my wad of toilet paper. Another couple of hours, and again, more mucus. I was a little excited. Once was a coincidence, I determined. But, twice seemed like something noteworthy. I immediately emailed Amy. She wisely advised that labor may be imminent. But, although I was excited, I was also in mild disbelief. I had been expecting for so long, it seemed impossible that I would ever deliver. I almost foolishly thought I would be pregnant forever.
So, I went about my daily life. I waddled through two different grocery stores. I set chicken in buttermilk to fry for dinner the next night. I strangely bought an entire cache of music on iTunes. I did boat loads of laundry. I scrubbed my bathroom sink. And, when my usual bed time came and went, I thought nothing of it. I was engrossed in a book until 1 AM when I realized that something was… hmm… different?
How can I describe it? For the last month, at least, I had been experiencing prelabor contractions, mostly mild in nature, sometimes completely constant throughout the day. And Monday was no different. But some time around 1 AM, I felt a contraction wrap around my waist like a belt, radiating from the front of pelvis throughout my lower back. It wasn’t any more ’painful’, just different, and it took me by surprise. Something was happening. What, I didn’t know. But, sure enough, another contraction and another. And interspersed, bouts of loose bowels. Was this more prelabor, or the real deal? At home alone, I was determined to remain calm, to sleep through what I could. I didn’t want to be the girl who cried wolf. So, I laid in bed and let the waves roll over me. I began to wonder about their regularity. Certainly that would tell me whether this was really was labor, or not. I went online to find a contraction timer, which I loaded onto a portable device. Then I laid in bed timing the contractions, chanting to myself, ’The pain I am feeling is not causing me injury. I am opening up like a flower.’ After an hour of timing, the contractions were 5 minutes apart and 1.5 minutes in length.
My husband, Dan, it happened, was working on location in Marysville. I didn’t want to call him unless it was certain I was in labor. But after timing the contractions, it seemed like this was the real deal. The fog I was previously in lifted. I really wasn’t going to pregnant forever! And it was time to call my husband. At 3:30 AM, I made the call. And, by 4:20 AM, he was by my side. Having someone else there made me realize that the contractions had progressed. I could not talk during one. I couldn’t focus on anything else in that moment. My whole world was breathing myself over that hill, and then letting go.
Dan asked what he could do to help. I was sitting on the edge of the bed with him and I said, ‘Could I just squeeze your hand next time?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ And when the next one came, I did. I squeezed so hard. And the peak came, and then… whoa! Instead of sliding down the back side of the hill, it climbed higher and peaked again. It took my breath away. I thought something was wrong. We needed to time these contractions again. 2 minutes apart. 1 minute apart. Quicker and quicker. At 5 AM, in a mild panic, I gave Dan the okay to call the midwives. And then, it was all I could do to find a comfortable position. I tried the toilet, leaning against something, squatting, sitting. I crawled around on my hands and knees, afraid to stand. But, nothing helped me get back in the zone. I was confused. I had been confident that I could handle the early part of labor. Where had I gone wrong? I couldn’t get on tope of things. I know now that I was actually transitioning. Early labor had come and gone. But, at the time, I thought this was only the beginning, not the hardest part, and my confidence was shaken.
Amy was on her way by 5:20 AM, I think, and by 6 AM, Kelley and Amy were both there. When Amy arrived, she reminded me to bring my vocalizations down a few octaves. Keep them low. This helped. I staid on my hands and knees, rocking and moaning.
I had planned to have a water birth. But, the tub wasn’t filled yet! Dan started filling the tub in earnest at 5 AM, after he called the midwives. He could sense something that I could not. Things were moving fast! I thought we had more time. But, by the time Amy arrived, I wanted nothing more than to get in the tub. Surely it would bring the relief I was looking for, and would help slow things down. It felt out of control. I just needed a small break, regroup, catch my breath, and then back on top of everything. Amy checked my dilation. 7 centimeters. I’m not sure whether the tub was really ready or not, but at some point, I just climbed in. The relief was incredible! And I labored on my hands and knees in the water for a while until I felt a change in the contractions.
I no longer felt discomfort, but an incredible desire to hold my breath. I remembered from all my reading and research that this could only mean ‘pushing’. Pushing already? Can this be? I asked the midwives. Amy and Kelley checked me, and I was fully dilated. I was given the green light. I could really push! And when the urge came, I let it take over me. And, the only way I can describe it is to say how surprised I was at its similarity to having a bowel movement. Of course, it is incredibly more intense, almost primal, and with a completely different purpose.
This is where time escaped me. I literally stopped thinking.
Amy and Kelley were encouraging. Sometimes I responded. I was little more surly then I had thought I would be. I could see Dan by my side, but I couldn’t focus on him. All of this was like a dream. My brain was chanting, ‘push, push push’. My whole focus was pushing and making progress. I Did this on my hands and knees until someone suggested I try a seated position so I could pull back my legs as I pushed and lean back and relax when a contraction passed. This worked out well, as the midwives could check me easily and watch for the head.
Labor really is just that; labor. And I was getting a little tired, very quickly. I was overwhelmed in a way I had not expected. But I was encouraged by feeling the bulge of head between my legs, like a football sitting there waiting to be passed to the next player. It was satisfying, this feeling. I wanted it to progress slowly to prevent tearing, to be gentle. So, I let it sit there as long as I could , only pushing when my body commanded. Amy offered perineal support, which helped even though I fought it (for some reason). I was willing things to slow, until, like a cork, ‘pop!’ That precious head came out! And then, slowly, the shoulders. A cord was wrapped, and then unwrapped. And then, I willed another push or two, and the body came slithering out, without any real pain or discomfort.
Dan caught Adelaide in his hands, and brought her up out of the water. Even blue and full of vernix, Adelaide was beautiful. And then, on my chest, she already felt like I had known her my whole life. The magic of skin-to-skin contact! We were bonded. All the waiting was gone. She was perfect in every way. I was in complete bliss, satisfied by the feeling of family unit. Dan and I and Adelaide were all together at last. I spent the next day with Adelaide and Dan and family, snuggled in bed, enchanted by her every move.
From start to finish, I felt a sense of calm and beauty about my pregnancy and the care I received. It was not more evident then on the actual day of birth where all the pieces fell into place. A little girl, with all her fingers and toes, weighing 7lbs. All my questions were answered. And so, I am convinced that birth really is natural. My body was really meant to do this. Nothing that took place was something I couldn’t handle. And as Adelaide made her transition into the world, I did too, with the kind of pride only a mother can feel.