As the afternoon progressed, the painful area on the left side of my abdomen increasingly began to ache. It made it easy for me to tell when I was having contractions, and I even began feeling like I had to concentrate and breathe through some of them. When I was 8 centimeters the midwife recommended I have a small dose of pitocin, and my sisters said my monitor went from slightly irregular contractions to obvious, regular contractions that came on quickly and peaked for longer. Thankfully I only had to deal with the ache in my side, and I tried to relax and enjoy the moments as much as I could.
The nurse explained that when I was complete I would start to feel pressure all the time – not just during contractions. So I waited. And waited. And waited, expecting to feel the constant pressure she described. It never came, however, so I never requested to be checked until I finally couldn’t tolerate the pain on the left side of my belly. We had briefly discussed the possibility of the anesthesiologist returning to “top me off” with my epidural, and the nurse said that before we did so she’d check me to see how close I was. A surprised look crossed her face and she said the baby was “right there” – I was complete, the baby was fully descended, and I was ready to deliver imminently.
At that same moment the midwife returned for a status update, and it quickly became apparent that I’d be pushing soon and would be welcoming our daughter into our family at any moment.
I will never forget that moment – the moment I knew we were going to make it.
We had done it.
Six years. Three losses. A hundred injections. Tens of thousands of dollars. Millions of tears. I had carried her through nine months of pregnancy with no complications. We had gone through labor together, just me and her, and she was ready…
ready to be born,
ready to meet us,
ready to join our family.
I felt a little bit silly, but I couldn’t help myself and started crying – tears of sweet relief, tears of anxious anticipation, tears of awe that we did it – that I was actually having another baby.
Oh, I cried!
Between tears I asked Tahd to switch my ipod to its “birth” playlist, a collection of songs I selected especially for the arrival of our little girl, another one of those details you have the luxury of planning when you wait six years for something to happen. Amidst the transition I asked the midwife if I should be pushing yet and I fell in love with her when she told me we couldn’t dream of pushing until the music was right. I hardly knew this woman and she didn’t know our story much (if at all), yet she knew by instinct exactly what we’d need to make this birth picture perfect in our eyes.
When everything was perfect – Martina McBride’s “Anyway” setting the scene – the pushing began.
You can spend your whole life buildin’
Somethin’ from nothin’
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway
You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway
Can I just say it’s hard to push and cry at the same time?
Truthfully, the crying won out at first. The foundations of my whole world were shifting with each new contraction, and it was almost as though my tears needed to push away every bit of fear before my body was ready to push the baby out.
I knew I’d get there. I just needed to have a moment.
Eventually I asked for a mirror and when they brought it in I realized she really was right there.
I asked if I could reach down and touch her and marveled at the strange firm-but-squishy texture of her head. It was not at all what I expected! I pushed with everything I could muster, every single bit of energy I could find, but it was hard to focus when I felt numb from the waist down.
Maybe twenty minutes in the midwife finally suggested a small episiotomy and by that point I really didn’t care what they had to do to let me meet my baby. Actually, first she teasingly threatened me that if I didn’t push her out right away she’d have to make the snip. I don’t think she banked on fact that I really didn’t care if she did one or not – cut or don’t cut, in my estimation, as long as I get the baby! One tiny incision was all it took, and progress immediately began.
One request in my birth plan was that if possible Tahd or I help “catch” the baby. In that moment my birth plan couldn’t have been further from my mind, but once again my midwife became my hero when she asked – after she had guided out the baby’s head – if I wanted to reach down and pull my baby up onto my chest.
Even now, even just remembering that moment, it takes my breath away.
I cannot describe the pure enchantment of lifting my own baby from my body and onto my chest. Her wet little body wriggled in my hands and I worried that she’d slip out of my grip and onto my belly. But she didn’t.
Instead – while tunes of “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” crooned on my ipod – she slipped effortlessly from her warm, safe internal home of nine months to an external cocoon of love on my chest where I kissed her and snuggled her and wept over her and whispered sweet nothings in her ears about how much I loved her and how long we’d waited for her and how absolutely perfect she was in my eyes.
She was here.
She was ours.
She was mine.
She cried, but not much, and the tears she didn’t cry I’m sure I made up for with my plentiful happy, joy-filled tears. My baby was here. On my chest. In my arms.
I loved every second of those magical moments.
I’d live them again in a heartbeat.
They were worth every single breath we breathed while we waited for her these last six years.
She laid with me for the better part of an hour, chest to chest and covered in a jumble of blankets and hospital gowns and towels and peace. We snuggled and nursed and snuggled and nursed, and I honestly have very little recollection of what happened in the meantime. I have vague recollections of the whole placenta fiasco (in which it apparently didn’t want to be delivered so the midwife had to manually help it along and I got extra pitocin as well as some iv antibiotics because of the “trauma”). I also remember that several times I asked Tahd if he wanted to hold her, and he said the sweetest words to me…
I want you to have as much time as you need.
He knew. He had walked beside me on this onerous, exhausting journey and even though it hadn’t impacted him emotionally in the same way it had me he knew the considerable healing unfolding in my heart as each second ticked by with her in my arms.
But when I did finally give her up?
It was beautiful!
I didn’t even mind (too much) that she was all the way across the room!
The other moment that took my breath away?
Brother meets sister.
I had wondered for 9 months how Gabe would react to a sibling, and mostly I expected him to be pretty nonplussed, more concerned about Legos and Star Wars.
I was wrong.
He was excited – so, so excited to meet his sister. We weren’t sure if he’d want to see her before she got cleaned up so Tahd went out and gave him the choice, and he didn’t want to wait. I had no idea what to expect, but oh! Precious!
He was so proud to hold her, so proud to “brother” her.
I didn’t know how I’d feel about a 7 year age gap. But the moment I saw it? It’s a beautiful thing!
Not having a brother myself I can only speak from observation of others, but I’m told no brother-sister dyad is complete without a little torment.
Gabe delivered, even before Isla was an hour old!
We finished up our stint in the delivery room by sharing Isla with others who are nearly as in love with her as we are…
Uncle Corey and Auntie Amy
My other brother-in-law was also there but I don’t seem to have any pictures of him!
Dear friend, Faith, who didn’t feel well but I really wanted there
It was the most perfect day, the most perfect ending to a difficult chapter, the culmination of growth and beauty and lessons learned.
I can’t wait to see how the next chapter unfolds!
Welcome, Isla! Oh, how we love you!
The instant of birth is exquisite.
Pain and joy are one at this moment.
Ever after, the dim recollection is
so sweet that we speak to our children
with a gratitude they never understand.