I strongly dislike due dates. As much as I try to downplay "the date" as a magical day, it's pretty hard to ignore. Both of my boys were "late" and Poppy was "early" so I was really hoping we'd have a girl/boy pattern here and this baby girl would be early as well. Forty weeks of pregnancy were to be completed on May 17th, a Monday. I felt really good through most of this pregnancy, and even at the end I was ready, but not miserable. On Sunday night I started having some mild contractions, not strong, but something different than the Braxton-Hicks I'd been having for months. In the past, "those" contractions have never preceded real labor by more than a day or two. I got up Monday morning feeling like there was a good possibility that I'd go into labor that day, and thought it would be funny to have a baby actually born on their due date. Erik stayed home from work and I was able to rest and relax some. My mom, dad, and sisters were all "on call", waiting and ready to come and help when we needed them.
|The Belly, in the "fullness of the time" , the day before she was born.|
|Peregrine and Poppy after their rehearsal.|
We got home, put the kids to bed, and decided we'd better get some rest too. Since it was the end of the day I hoped for a decent night's sleep and that "real" labor would hold off until morning. I lay down in my bed, arranging pillows, trying to get as comfortable as possible. Just as I would drift off to sleep I would have a contraction. They seemed to be coming about every 15 minutes, and getting stronger as that long night wore on. Being tired, I just lay on my side, breathing through them, sleeping in between. I frequently got up to go to the bathroom, and every time I did it would bring on more contractions. With all of my other labors my water had broken prior to or at the onset of labor, so even though the contractions were strong and regular I was still a little unsure as to whether this was "it" or not. I kept thinking it would really kick in if I got up and walked around, but I just wanted to sleep. As the night passed the contractions got closer together, but were still only about ten minutes apart. Through all of this my husband slept peacefully beside me, apparently unaware of my turning from side to side and numerous visits to the bathroom. I figured I might as well let him sleep, as he'd need all the rest he could later on.
My sister Alyssa had emailed me before she went to bed, saying she'd be up for a while and if I needed anything to let her know. I considered calling her or my parents, thought about asking her to bring over her yoga ball for me to sit on. But, as much as I wanted to have this baby, I really, really wanted some sleep first! So all through the night I slept in short stretches, in between contractions. They grew stronger, so strong that I was gripping my pillow with one hand, my prayer rope in the other, my fingers moving over the knots as I tried to focus not on the pain, but on Jesus, my strength and the giver of mercy.Finally at about 5AM I was tired of laying there trying to sleep; I decided it was time to get up and test my theory. I woke up Erik, who kicked into gear. Sure enough the contractions started getting a little closer together. I sat in my rocking chair for a while and I think Erik made me eat some yogurt. I remember leaning on the counter, moaning, and Erik said that we needed to call the midwife. He's been with me through enough labors to know that if I'm moaning, it's intense, and if it's intense, it could happen quickly. My contractions were still only about 7 minutes apart and I think I argued with him a little, saying the midwife would just tell us to call back when they were closer together. We called my parents to let them know what was going on and then we called the midwife, Michelle. Sure enough, she talked to me and I guess I wasn't too convincing, because she suggested I take a shower or bath and call back when they were coming faster.
In the time it took me to walk to the bathroom and get ready to get in the tub, I was having a contraction, a strong one, every two or three minutes! Erik called her back and told her we were going to head over, as he wasn't comfortable waiting any longer. My mom and dad got here quickly, and Erik and I, along with my Mom and Poppy, all left for the birthing center. It was a beautiful spring morning, and we got there about 6:45AM. The nurse checked me for dilation and you can imagine my surprise when she said I was at 8 centimeters! I figured it wouldn't be long at all before we would meet out little girl.
I got into the tub, where I hoped to finish off labor and give birth. The water felt great, so relaxing; unfortunately a little too relaxing, as my contractions slowed down to about five or six minutes apart. It felt good to have a little break, but I had a hard time getting into a comfortable position and after a while I had to come to terms with the fact that the water wasn't "working" for me. The rational part of me knew I needed to let go of my desire to give birth in the water and try something else. Michelle, the midwife, had actually just delivered another baby that morning, so she arrived while I was in the tub. She had such a calm presence; I really appreciated her quiet manner and how hands-off she was. Erik was right there with me, of course, and my Mom and sisters, Alyssa and Gloria, were also there, offering strength, encouragement, humor, and sips of coconut water. My sweet little Poppy would run in every few minutes and say "I love you Mama" and bring me cards she was making in the other room.
We've all been at each other's births. I have the best sisters in the world!
|Poppy brought me a Poppy... I was surrounded with such love.|
I got out of the tub, (with some help!) and tried hanging on the squat bar for a while. It didn't escape my notice that the foam covering the bar had bite marks on it. Contractions at this point were very strong, and I think I moaned and sung and probably even roared a little through them. I leaned over the edge of the bed for a while, puzzled and beginning to feel a little frustrated that it wasn't happening more quickly. Michelle felt for the baby's position and said that she was still pretty high up, even though I was so far dilated. She suggested I walk some more, or that she could break my water. As much as I'm in favor of letting things happen naturally, I was very tired and knew that breaking the water would probably help bring baby down. After she broke the water, I labored upright for a few more minutes, and then Michelle suggested that I try laying on my side. At this point I was feeling the urge to push.
|Intense for both of us... getting closer.|
The details become a little fuzzy to me at this point. I found laying on my side awkward, but, well, pushing is never comfortable! I usually feel a great sense of relief when it's time to push, like I can finally put all that energy into something instead of just trying to breathe through contractions. And while pushing is never easy, this time it was extra hard. I was seriously doubting that I was able to do it. I remember really roaring, so much that my throat was hurting, and my mom told me to tuck my chin. All of my strength, all that was in me, working, pushing, giving birth, bringing my baby to the light...
|Love and joy!|
My mom took this and you can see the beads of sweat on my face.
And she moved through me, out of me; I always think that is the most incredible sensation! She was born at 9:21AM, just about 2 1/2 hours after arriving at the birth center. Erik caught her and placed her tenderly up on me, all warm and wet and new and beautiful. Joy filled my heart, filled the room. The moment of so many expectations, so much hope, had come to pass and our precious baby girl was in my arms. Poppy got up on the bed to admire and meet her new baby sister, and everyone joined in the thanks and happiness! It was a moment I had envisioned for so long; one of the sweetest memories are those moments when you hold your baby for the first time. It's so fleeting and yet indelibly imprinted in my memory.
|My Mom and my girls.|
Our little Pearl had no interest in eating for quite a while. I just held her close, snuggled up against me, enjoying sweet rest and the indescribable wonder of her. She was strong, healthy, perfect. There were a few details I only learned a little later. In the last moments of labor my eyes were closed and I was very internal. I didn't know if Erik had gotten to deliver her or not, as he has with our last two. I was so glad when he told me he was the one who lifted her up onto me. The midwife also said that Pearl was born posterior, or face up, which I think explains why pushing was so much harder this time. I didn't have any back labor in spite of her being in that position, and thankfully, I didn't tear either. I also didn't know that Poppy had been very upset at seeing me so animated and loud at the end. Alyssa had stood just outside the door with her as I was pushing, and Poppy cried and told her that she never wanted to have babies. (She apparently has that wonderful quality given to women, the ability to forget the pain of labor. She told me this morning, when I was teasing her about not growing up, that of course she will grow up because she wants to have a baby! I'm glad she wasn't traumatized for life!) Alyssa also told me that two men from the laundry service were in the hall collecting the laundry and got a real earful! I bet the birthing center is one of the more interesting places they service.
|She weighed in at 7lbs 6oz, our smallest baby by an ounce!|
After a while my sisters and Mom and Poppy left and it was just Erik, Brigid, and I. We all snuggled together in the big bed, just resting and enjoying the quiet. I slept for a while and Erik held our sweet bundle. We had several hours together, uninterrupted, before they even weighed her. I loved the atmosphere of the birthing center; it was so peaceful, homelike, and comfortable. Late in the afternoon my parents brought the other kids over to meet their new little sister. We left the birthing center around 7PM, a family of six! My parents took Peregrine and Poppy to spend the night, and so it was just Erik and I and "the littles". Our priest came over to offer special prayers for little Pearl, our newest blessing from God.
|Welcome to the family, little one!|
And so went the story of our dear Brigid's birth. It was totally unlike any of the other kids' births, unique just like her. We are so thankful that everything went well and that God chose to bless us with this precious little girl. Thank you all for your prayers and love!