Everything about my third pregnancy, from the moment I saw two pink lines, was different. This unexpected surprise who had me nauseated for 20 weeks just so happened to be a baby girl. I spent my days caring for two busy boys, watching my belly swell and wondering what she would be like. What it would be like to have a daughter. Her due date was estimated as May 1 and since her brothers both came early, it never even occurred to me that we would ever make it to May.
Yet here we were five days into May, three days of false labor and one tired, anxious mama.
Other than uncomfortable contractions, there were no signs of birth. She was positioned high and hovering above my pelvis, head down with her toes stretched up into my ribcage. No cervical thinning, and no dilation. I had a fully decorated nursery and drawers full of clean, pink newborn clothes. I had neurotically scrubbed our toothbrush holder and had the urge to replace all of our couch pillows (which I did). I made my husband paint a gray accent wall in our living room and hang a photo gallery where somehow five frames turned into 20. She still wasn’t born, and I was running out of rooms to redecorate.
Monday, May 5, 2014
I woke up to contractions…
The boys and I had breakfast as I timed my contractions, seven minutes apart. My husband took the day off and we spent a lovely (contraction-filled) afternoon at the science museum. We made it home for naps and the contractions subsided. I was very frustrated, and began having legitimate thoughts of being pregnant forever. I was running out of childcare options and the unpredictability was eating away at my soul. I called a good friend who had given birth to her fourth child a few weeks earlier. I asked her to tell me down to the tiniest detail how she went into labor in the middle of the night.
I was determined to do the same as I climbed into bed that night.
A sharp contraction woke me around 1 a.m. with several more to follow. Ten minutes apart, nothing to get excited about, so I tried to rest. An hour later I was still pretty uncomfortable so I decided to get out of bed. The moment my feet hit the floor the contractions intensified. By 2:30 a.m. they were five minutes apart and growing in intensity. I woke my husband and called our doula; it was finally time to meet our baby girl.
It was 3:30 a.m. when we arrived at the hospital and met our doula at the front door. A comforting feeling washed over me when I saw her. We had done this before, the three of us. Like someone who knows what you take in your coffee, she knew how I labor and what I needed. As I stood and rocked my body through each contraction, my doula rubbed my lower back while my husband reminded me to breathe. After it passed, we would be back to chatting and laughing. The triage nurse smiled when she saw us and said, “I’m going to go ahead and put your hep lock in because I’m pretty sure you’re staying.”
We were then greeted by a midwife, who happened to be someone I’d never met before. She was calm and laid back, thankfully not the cranky, stern midwife nor the one who smiles too much. She checked me and determined I was 5-6 cm dilated.
As the contractions got closer, my husband let me crush his hand while my doula pushed on my lower back to counteract the pain. I stopped chatting as the pain flooded my mind. I said things like, “I can’t!” as I shuddered knowing all too well that I could and I would.
I felt like I was stalling at the peak of pain and frustration, so I asked the midwife to check me. She rolled her stool behind me as I stood and right away she said, “Oh, she’s right here! There is just a tiny lip of cervix I’m going to push back….”
Water gushed at my feet, my daughter’s head engaged, and I needed to push. Right then. I just NEEDED. TO. PUSH.
I flipped over onto the bed and pushed once with my husband bracing me. I was completely inside myself at that moment. I heard a nurse mention that my daughter’s heart rate had dropped the same moment my fingers found the bedrails to hold.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and told myself I would meet my baby.
I pushed and as her head was coming out I remember thinking, “This doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as last time.” Most of her body was out but everyone was yelling for me to stop pushing.
Her umbilical cord was short and wrapped around her shoulder and her neck. Her legs and feet were still inside me, her cord twisted and taut and yet, she was screaming the most reassuring cries. The midwife quickly untangled her and pulled her the rest of the way out. Her cord wasn’t long enough to place her on my chest so she stayed low on my abdomen for a minute or so before the cord was done pulsing and clamped.
The two pushes. The panic of her heart rate and the cord. The waiting to untangle. It was all mere seconds but felt like my life was moving in slow motion. I could barely hear anything other than my own thoughts as I contemplated the enormity of having a daughter. Raising my boys felt so natural from the minute I was pregnant with them, but I’d spent the last 40 weeks and six days praying my daughter would go easier on my heart than I did on my own parents.
May 6, 2014 6:26 a.m.
One year ago, my daughter was born just as the morning sun kissed the sky. When I saw her, something inside of me simultaneously softened and sparkled. With the births of each of my children new layers of motherhood emerge in me. The joy and elation of bringing a new person into this world is equally as heart-bursting each time. But for this tiny girl, I would become her beacon to womanhood. The person who will hopefully teach her, through loving my own self, what it means to be both strong and beautiful. That responsibility felt different, and wondrous, and surprisingly comforting.
A daughter. A little girl welcomed into a newly-formed family of five where the only thing I know for sure is this: For each new soul, there is always more love.