All through the end of my pregnancy, and most especially the last month, I said, “Never again, never again, never again.” I told Peter to remind me of this moment, those words should I ever get the baby fever again. (And through my labor I thought the same… Plus some added thoughts about Cesarian sections, epidurals and such.)
And then she was in my arms. And I thought, “Oh, I could do this ten more times.”
Because those moments, those hours, those first days are so incredible. I’m processing them so much differently now as a second time mom than I did as a first time mom. Perhaps it’s knowing what a baby entails, or perhaps the fact that I’m more grounded in who I am as a mother, or perhaps the fact that her labor & birth was so much easier. This time, I could see the pure miracle of it all more clearly.
Another Mom friend once said to me, “A sperm meets an egg, and then six weeks later, out of nowhere… a heart beats.” Which just sums it up entirely. All the science in the world can’t unlock, or explain away the mysteries, the layers and the miracle of a new life. The miracle of which is made so powerfully clear when that life has grown within your own body.
For weeks before my labor actually started I felt like I was in labor. Every day brought on at least one false alarm, discomfort that only grew stronger and stronger, sleepless nights and utter exhaustion. My midwife told me that women who have already birthed can have labors that begin in “fits and starts,” stopping here or there to give your body rest. So I suppose all those false alarms, hours of contractions that just dissipated in the end probably made my actual labor and delivery shorter. But for a 41 week pregnant Mama, they were mentally exhausting.
The day I actually went into labor, I told myself, was another one of these days- another day of false alarms and false contractions. I was having contractions (powerful ones by this point) on and off throughout the day, but not regular enough that I thought it might this time be real. The night before I had been up again, sure this time that labor was coming, as I had very real contractions for several hours around 1am that just… stopped. The next morning Otto and I played in the yard, ate ice cream on the deck, and I gave him his first big boy haircut. By the end of the day I was wiped and as soon as Peter got home I went upstairs to rest. My doula sent me a list of natural induction remedies, and I called my midwife, frustrated and ready to have a baby.
My midwife told me that it sounded like my body was gearing up, but that perhaps the baby wasn’t in a great position. She suggested laying on my side and then getting onto my hands and knees to try and reposition the baby. As soon as I did this a couple of times contractions started again. I laid upstairs timing them, knitting and reading, still not believing this was real as the contractions didn’t seem to be coming at regular intervals. Over the next hour they began getting closer together, and feeling more powerful. I got into the shower, letting the hot water pour over my lower back which was so relieving. I started to notice that the contractions seemed to be coming pretty regularly and closer together at this point- as did Peter who was on the other side of the door. I got out of the shower, dressed and called my doula and midwife (still telling them I wasn’t sure if it was real this time.) Peter called our childcare to be on the ready.
On the phone with my midwife, I told her my contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart, but that I was working through them and doing fine at home. I thought my water had broken a few minutes before while in the bathroom, but I wasn’t sure. When another contraction swept through me she said, “That wasn’t five minutes. You should probably call your childcare. Remember that second babies can come faster. And if your childcare doesn’t get there in time… just bring Otto with you.” At this point I started taking things seriously and letting myself believe that this time I was actually in labor.
We called our friend Amy to come over and put Otto to bed and she was at our house in about 3 minutes. Otto, who had seen me working through contractions, and been told that I was “doing hard work to get the baby out,” (what we told him would happen when it was time) was beside himself with excitement. He talked non-stop in Amy’s arms about who would hold the baby, that Mommy and Daddy were going to the hospital, etc., as Pete gathered our bags and I worked through a few more contractions by the front door. We left the house about 8pm.
In the car my contractions slowed, and a little bit of panic set in- I feared that labor would stop again. When we arrived at the Birthing Center though, they started back up as I waited by the front door and my doula reminded me that sometimes when things are happening our contractions will slow. Inside I was hooked up to the monitor, and continued to work through contractions on a yoga ball. My midwife came in to check me and said I was about 4 cm’s dilated and 80% effaced. Over the next few hours I went from shower to ball to tub and back to the shower. As I was getting in and out of the tub I told my nurse and doula that I felt like these were pushing contractions. “That’s good!” my nurse said. My instincts were telling me that the baby was getting close, but looking at the clock my brain was telling me we hadn’t been there long enough.
Getting out of the tub, I headed back into the shower. I don’t think I was in there very long when the contractions started feeling a lot more intense. One came, and with it, a ‘pop’ of water, and in that moment I could feel the baby coming. Those next few contractions (and the noises I made with them) had my doula and nurse alert and at the door, and calling in my midwife who was attending another laboring/delivering mother as well. My brain and instincts were battling it out- my brain saying that it hadn’t been doing this long enough, while my body feared my baby slip out right there onto the bathroom floor.
My team led me out of the shower and my midwife asked where I wanted to give birth, did I want to avoid tearing? (And also told me that baby had hair!) In the moment, leaning heavily on my doula, I told her I was fine there, but luckily she encouraged me onto the bed. Unbeknownst to me at the time, part of my cervix had gotten in front of the baby, and being on the bed on my side allowed my midwife to help ease through that issue.
I didn’t push for long.
All told she was in my arms after pushing for only 15-20 minutes, at 11:05, only 3 hours after we had left the house, and 2 hours after being only 4cm dilated. I remember feeling elated it seemed so much easier than with Otto, and I said, “I did it!” Then asked Peter to look to see if the baby was a boy or girl.
I bled more than normal (which I’m told can happen when babies come fast), but I had a great team and the bleeding stopped. My tail end ached. Both of these I’m told happen when babies come fast.
Those moments- those – hours those days after birth are one of the gifts of motherhood, I think. When the world makes utterly clear that it’s all so much bigger than us, so mysterious and so miraculous. The moment when what was once a bundle of multiplying cells, is now a tiny human being breathing on your chest and searching for nourishing milk.
The moments-hours-days, when everything outside the miracle of life is trivial, and you simply hold your child, in total awe.
A gift. A miracle. A mystery that even science cannot explain or unfold.
My son’s little sister.
The next day in the hospital room I started crying (not surprising for a woman whose body is undergoing tremendous hormonal changes, I know.) My little boy is already no longer my baby. In the weeks before Lilo was born there were moments when it hit me, he’ll never nurse again, never be this small again. My baby is gone, and every day that goes by he moves closer to belonging to the world and no longer to me. So I wept that my daughter, so tiny and perfect, too will grow. One day she’ll crawl. And then walk. And then talk. And somewhere along the way she’ll stop nursing. And then both my babies will be growing and moving into their roles as citizens of the world.
No longer mine alone, though always, always, my miracles.
This moment, Lilo nestled on my chest as I write, is only here for what seems less than a moment. And now this one. And this one. Every moment is fleeting. Each moment that passes my children are another moment older, a tiny bit more grown.
So I’ll soak it up, as much I can. For I know already that you forget how tiny they were when they came into the world. Forget tiny details about what they smelled like, how their tiny mouths searched for your milk. Already those minutes-hours-days of reeling from the miracle of it all are passing me by, replaced by the daily needs and rhythms of our new family.
I understand the gift a little more fully now. And know too that the body aches and exhaustion of pregnancy, followed by the hard, painful work of bringing a child into the world are worth it, 100 times over. Because that miraculous moment will never happen again. Nor any of the moments to follow. They are here just for now, to be soaked up, before our children grow and we forget how mysterious and miraculous it was to bring them into the world.
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