The plans and preparations for our baby girl had been under way – really since before she was even conceived. At 38 + weeks, I felt fairly certain she would come before her “due” date, but hopeful she might wait for my mother to arrive. Emotionally, mentally – I was ready; with just a few things left on the list “to do.” I suppose she decided that the final cleaning of the apartment wasnʼt needed, that I shouldnʼt teach my last weekend of classes, that it was ok that all the stuff had not yet arrived, and that it would just be us.
In the early morning of her birthday, I awoke from a dream where I was in the final moments of pushing her out into the world. My midwife, Maria was there, but so was my Mom. I realized later maybe it was a symbolic message from the subconscious plane that she was here with me in spirit, and if it was time, then it was time! I went to the bathroom and passed my mucus plug. It was a little shocking, not knowing what to expect, and I didnʼt know what that meant was next. Being 3am, I only had google to turn to, reassuring me that how it looked was normal, and that labor could begin within hours, but maybe not for days. However, it was fairly soon after that the surges began – rhythmic in patterned waves of cramping, tightening and calming, followed by movements and kicks from within. They were coming every 8-10 minutes. I sat with them on my own for the next couple hours, knowing we were in for a long day ahead, and letting Tom sleep. I got familiar with the patterns and how to breathe through them. At 5am, Tomʼs alarm went off, and I told him the baby was coming. He asked if he should go to work. I told him no, that she would be here today, and to go back to sleep for a bit. By this time, the contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart. After 6, I called Maria, got up and began to prepare – canceling appointments and commitments for the day and days following, tying up final emails for work. We ate breakfast and began to get our space set for this day, though we didnʼt quite know how it would unfold. We cleared away floor space in the living room and set up the birth tub. Just before 10am – I knew I wanted to walk. It was perhaps the shortest, slowest walk Iʼd ever taken, just down the road, but it felt good to move, and contractions began to get stronger, longer and closer together – the magic three-fold signal that labor was progressing. I needed to stop walking when they came, and we were officially timing them at this point.
We returned home and Tom filled the tub. Having been consistent with surges for over an hour, we called Maria, and she came soon after. She set up to observe and coach from afar at first. She checked my blood pressure and listened to the babyʼs heartbeat, both during and between contractions. Tom and I worked with some of the positions and tools we had practiced to help me through each wave. I have a pretty high threshold for pain and discomfort, along with a hefty toolbox of coping techniques – I donʼt think Tom or Maria could sense the true intensity (which paled in comparison to later surges, but was intense), as I calmly, quietly moved and breathed through. Tom was still going about his self like we werenʼt quite there yet. I remember Maria saying, maybe more than once, that this still looked like early labor. I know that sometimes early labor can last a long time, but I could sense that things were moving forward. Maria later said she knew things were amping up when I began to vocalize through the surges.
My blood pressure was teetering on the edge of the acceptable rate, especially during contractions – and it seemed like one would come on every time we started to measure! I lay on my left side on the couch to calm and lower it. We had explored this in the final days of my pregnancy and felt fairly confident that there was not a concern of preeclampsia; the rest of the symptoms werenʼt there. But lying on the left side continued to help, so we continued to use it. It was on the couch, I remember my water broke – not a huge gush, but wetness. We tested with a strip to show the navy blue presence of amniotic fluid. Yep! I donʼt think we ever checked my cervix until much later, before I began pushing. I alternated between the couch, the toilet, hands and knees on the floor or holding on in a doorway, breathing and moaning through while Tom or Maria pushed on my back. Everything I had eaten at 7:30 that morning and even the liquids I had tried to get down since were coming up. Vomiting was no fun, but Maria reminded me it was a good sign, that the baby was closer. I think I threw up three or four times.
We lost Tom for a bit as he dealt with the aftermath of the cat jumping into the birth tub quite surprised to find it filled with water. Nugget was sopping wet, Tom was very upset, and I couldnʼt help but laugh (I think I at least managed to do it silently). That cat in the end was the only one who ended up getting to use the tub! Things begin to get a bit blurry here – I suppose this was transition. The sensations more intense, the resting breaks fewer and shorter. I lost sense of time.
At some point, we moved to the bed. Maria asked me to let her know when I felt the urge to push and checked my cervix. I remember hearing eight centimeters and not too long after, the urge to bear down could not be avoided. Maria said I was fully dilated! I remember her calling Kelly, the second midwife, to come, and she came fast – but Iʼm pretty sure I was already pushing when she arrived. Me on the bed, on my side; Tom behind me helping to hold my legs; Maria and Kelly coaching, prepping the room, and continuing to listen to the babyʼs heart and take my BP. I was really sweating here, working so hard, resting as deeply as I could in those quick moments between. There was a point that I changed position and sat on the birth stool to push for a bit. It felt like I was pushing forever, but in reality, I had a 14-hour labor with about 4-5 hours of intensity, and less than an hour of pushing. The pushing was the hardest part for me – some women say at the point, they feel relief, but it was anything but. There were definitely moments when I at least thought to myself “I canʼt do it any more.” “How much longer will this be?” “Oh fuck, this is too hard.” I guess I did not ever say any of those things out loud. But I remember Maria asked me to reach down and feel our babyʼs head, and each time I did – there was more of it there! This definitely got me through, as I otherwise had no idea if I was really getting anywhere. I just felt fire, pain, the depth of pushing with all I had – feelings and effort far beyond what I had imagined. Tom would tell me she was coming too – everyone kept letting me know that we were moving forward, as I otherwise felt like I was floating in an unending ocean of intensity. The sounds I made were primal, guttural, and louder than I expected to be. My throat hurt for a couple of days afterwards. We moved back to the bed at some point for the final moments of the birth. I didnʼt really remember that, but Tom reminded me later. Itʼs perfect, since I myself was born in my parentsʼ bed too.
Oh that moment of relief did come when her head was fully out, and Maria was helping her shoulders to slip out. The pushing became infinitely easier – I reached down, and Tom and I were guided to together pull our sweet girl out and up onto my chest. We lay there, the three of us, taking each other in, taking her in. She was a bit blue, but crying and breathing. They were checking her, checking me. I was shaking, breathing deep, holding our baby girl in complete awe of her presence and what we, she and I, had just done. The cord stopped pulsing, and Tom cut it. Her color was becoming pinker; she was waking up to her life. I handed Robyn to her Daddy so I could deliver the placenta. I remember a feeling of dread that I had to push more, but really I didnʼt – it fell out, splashed out, with more blood than I think anyone expected. I was given a shot of pitocin to help contract the uterus and slow the bleeding. They measured, and discovered it really was the normal amount lost after all.
I lay back down with Robyn on my chest, to be checked and stitched up, another painful experience of a different kind and magnitude. Tom went into the other room to begin texting and calling family and friends. He first exclaimed something like “this place is trashed!” as though there had been a wild party. There had been - a birthday party. . .the miraculous arrival of a new being. Of course it was messy, raw, and I wished my Mom were there to help him clean it up! I asked Tom to call my parents – I hadnʼt spoken to anyone since before noon when I was in early labor letting everyone know she was on the way. It was at this point sometime after 5pm. Robyn had been officially born at 4:51pm and weighed 7 lb, 7 oz, measuring 20 inches long. Again, time was not linear to me, not important – although now looking back it gives perspective to the experience. My dear friend is in labor as I type this, and knowing that about six hours ago her contractions were strong and five minutes apart – gives me some kind of sense of where she is now, as I await the news.
I think we were left to rest on our own for our first night as a family of three sometime just before 9pm. Kelly had left after I rinsed off in the shower and was able to successfully pee! Maria made me a delicious bowl of the Indian food everyone else had eaten for lunch and finished cleaning up. The two cats, likely pretty freaked out by the dayʼs events, took their places – Nugget by our sides and Jasper far away in hiding still. Before Maria left, Robyn latched to my breast for the first time and nursed. This babe, now on the outside, was still drawing on, depending on my body for life and nourishment. That was a fulfilling moment. We took some pictures, sent some final texts, and slept. That first night of her life was a strange and still moment in time – somewhat surreal and totally pure, soft and quiet. The days and nights following have continued to present new lessons, experiences, sounds, smells, sensations...the change from one to the next is incredible. And though there is so much to drink in, never again will there be that quality of the first night, the first moments, our awareness held by the magic of brand new life.