It’s been an entire year since I’ve written. This past year has been life-altering: filled with welcoming our son to this world in May. My heart (and mind) haven’t been ready to try to pen the emotional flow of pregnancy, birth, and life-after. It has been a sacred year. It has been a year that felt like five years. A year that completely and totally shattered my preconceptions, that broke and re-molded me, that helped me find peace all while handing me a deep sense of mama-bear-worry. A year.
I wasn’t ready to write, until today.
So, I think it’s only fitting that I try to put to words our son’s birth and the last year.
First, you all should know that I’m a planner. According to my plan, I wasn’t supposed to have a baby until the end of the school year. I was going to finish my Master’s and voila! newborn! Yes, laughable…but the truth. So, when I gave a presentation at my job on the farm in July and felt like I was going to faint, I knew something was off. I had a spare pregnancy test (again, for a few months in the future when we would be “trying”) and had a fleeting thought….maybe I’ll just take it.
I remember the moment when the second line appeared. I sat on the back steps of the house unable to fully breath. Really? BUT THIS WASN’T MY PLAN.
I truly believe God planned this pregnancy to be unplanned. It was the blessing. Since I was not in control at the start, I more readily accepted that I never was in control. So, when I spent weeks upon weeks hugging the toilet (or carrying trash bags in my purse for the unexpected morning sickness), when I realized I wasn’t finishing my Master’s on time, and when we decided to wait on choosing a name for our little one until after we met (which would never EVER have happened in my planning mind), I rolled with it. I wasn’t in control–God was.
We were fortunate to have a health pregnancy. The 20 week ultrasound was indecipherable (how can anyone know what that black and white blur is??) but we heard the words “healthy,” “blessing,” and “BOY.” Watching each month tick by, we waited–expectantly. We travelled as much as we could: to Nevada, California, North Carolina, and Hawaii. I continued to try to prepare my mind and heart for birth. I was scared of the unknown, of the pain, of whether I would be able to birth my child naturally. I was scared that God was continuing to teach me what a loss of control really looked like…
One day shy of 36 weeks, a Sunday, I woke with cramping. I begged my husband for donuts. We settled on a trip to Krispy Kreme. By the time we got to the taste of sugary, North Carolina good-ness, I felt terrible. I paged our midwives. I made it to church, threw up, and then spent the entire service in the bathroom coaxing myself through the shock of potentially having contractions. We hadn’t packed our bags. This wasn’t part of “the plan.”
And then the contractions (or whatever they were) stopped.
By Good Friday (three days before my due date), the cramping started again. This time I was ready. Again, breathing through the service. The cramping continued, on and off, for several days–through Easter. I called in to work to let them know I wouldn’t be in. My husband stopped working, thinking labor was imminent.
And the contractions stopped.
Two weeks slowly crawled by. I tried every tale that induces labor: acupuncture, homeopathics, spicy foods, walking, yoga, pineapple. Nothing worked. I painted our bathroom–desperate to encourage our little one to make it into the world. Just so you know–standing on bathtubs while two weeks overdue won’t bring a baby either. We went through testing and another ultrasound to ensure everything was still OK. We heard the words “healthy” and “a LOT of hair.” By 41 weeks and 6 days, a Sunday, our midwives decided to encourage our little one–partially because my, ahem, “plan” of being at a birth center would end at midnight when I, officially, hit 42 weeks, and partially because they knew I just couldn’t wait another day. To my foggy, I’m-done-with-not-having-my-body-to-myself brain, the midwives were going to give me some liquid concoction of herbs whose only known side effect was to bring on labor. Bring it.
The cramping started again about nine hours before our scheduled trip to meet the midwives for my special bring-on-labor cocktail. I shooed the twinges away and tried to catch my final hours of sleep, all while anxiously focusing on the cramps–are they consistent? Are they getting closer together? Could this be it? But then, again, the cramping had come and disappeared so many times that I merely believed it was just another ache and pain of carrying a baby.
The 45 minute drive to our birth center was long and silent, my husband holding my hand. I remember trying to center myself solely on breathing through the little twinges, as if I was practicing for the big ones and giving myself a little pep talk. It was surreal and strange not going into labor as I expected. I thought I’d be at home for hours during early labor and then have a difficult, long ride to the birth center. I didn’t think I’d have a deep, reflective conversation with the midwives or go out for Thai food while waiting for labor to start post-liquid-concoction. I also didn’t think I’d be 7 cm dilated and not know it or that my “cramps” were actually contractions. But there you have it, I wasn’t in control.
Birth was hard, but nothing beyond what my only-child imagination had dreamt of. I think I must have spent most of the birth with eyes closed and shoulders clenched…because, well, I really only remember voices and my shoulders still ache 3 months post-birth. Beautiful voices compose my memories– of Alissa, our doula, counting during the pushes and sweetly pulling my hair out of my face (note to self: have hair long enough to fit into a ponytail or short enough not to plaster itself over your squinted eyes); of Christine, our midwife, squeezing my hand and telling me I could do it; of Taylor, our midwife, making eye contact (one of the few visuals I remember) and telling me I was doing awesome in such a strong way that I truly believed it; of my dear, loving husband holding me, never leaving my side, and repeating over and over and over what a good job I was doing. I remember promising myself that I would never, ever drink lavender colored Gatorade again. I remember thinking, when I dropped into the warm birthing tub, that I just might fall asleep and slip under the water. I remember hating, with every ounce of my body, the person who designed a birthing stool….Actually, I still hate that person.
And I remember when Taylor said that I had been pushing for four hours.
That moment is blazed in my brain, because my eyes opened and it was dark outside. Apparently, hours had passed. Taylor gave me an ultimatum: two more pushes and, if nothing changed, I needed to go to the hospital.
I really didn’t want to go to the hospital. That wasn’t part of the plan. My brain moved from focusing on each breath to a whirlwind of panic and frustration. I put all of my energy into those pushes: mentally begging and pleading with my body, our little baby, and God. In a moment, I also surrendered and told myself that if nothing changed I had done my best.
Funny thing, all of my releasing of plans hadn’t prepared me for the final hour of labor. God, truly, wanted to break my sense of needing a plan and being in control. The ride to the hospital was, well, as you can imagine–terrible. And, when the OB told me that my son, in spite of her best efforts to move him, was just not turning, I was mad. The OB confidently told me she thought a C-section was best as I sent every mean thought her direction through my squinted laser eyes. Did I want to talk it over? No. Was this the way I imagined the birth to go? No. Did I want to continue to labor? No. Was I willing to consent to a C-section? Yes.
This was the first time during labor that I felt out of control, even though it was one of the few moments where I made a decision and was in control. I was surrounded by nurses and doctors that I didn’t know. Although my doula, my husband, and the midwives were present and by my side, I felt utterly alone and scared. Hospital policies prevented anyone in the operation room while they gave me anesthesia. I believe God orchestrated a wonderful nurse to be present as I struggled accepting this new reality. She didn’t leave me while they gave the anesthesia–she stood, eyes locked on mine, encouraging.
And then, clarity returned; eyes opened. I watched the clock, realizing that my arrival at the hospital occurred past midnight and I was officially 42 weeks. I remember commenting on my doctor’s shoes (yup–that’s right). In fifteen minutes, they were pulling our son out.
After hours upon hours of remembering to breathe, I lost my breath when I heard our son’s cry. I ached to see and hold him. The nurses swooned “look at all that hair!” and decidedly announced that he needed a blues name to match his scruffy voice. My husband said “oh my gosh, he looks like my dad.”
Our boy was big, pink, and healthy. His hair swirled in a black wave atop his head. In an instant, I felt utterly in love, unprepared, and mesmerized by this little being that had been hidden inside of me for so long.
I realized that I had just been a participant in a miracle, entirely out of my control.
Our midwives, Taylor and Christine