Five months. I can't even begin to believe it's been Five months since that eventful evening where my heart exploded and grew a million times over. And three months since I chronicled the beginning of this story.
And why have I waited so long to get this story out and write? Fear. Fear that my simple words will do an injustice to the beauty of birthing new life. Fear that I might leave something out or forget, simply forget. And yet, the longer I wait, the more that fear becomes a certainty, the sweet memories beginning to feel more like a dream than reality. And so I write. I have to. I want to...
We pulled up to the hospital, the bright lights like a beacon in the dark of night. My heart was racing, my stomach full of butterflies. I felt like was at the start of a blind date, ready to meet the one I'd been imagining and yet... hesitant. I loved being pregnant. LOVED it. Though I could hardly keep a thing down the first three months, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. The knowing, the feeling of someone else with me. Even if I was alone, I wasn't. And though I couldn't wait to stroke my lips on his delicate skin, kissing him, holding him, loving him, I knew this time of it just being 'us' was about to come to an end.
While we waited for our midwife to arrive, a timid nurse with a shy smile came to the room to prep me. The room was relaxed while she wrapped the heart-rate monitor around my arm until the velcro held it securely in place. The machine hummed as it placed pressure on my arm and then released. The nurse's large brown eyes made contact with mine, and I knew. Her eyes said so much though her lips never parted. Something was wrong.
Before I knew it, she started it up again and the machine began humming that monotone tune. Numbers popped up on her screen and I soon began hearing questions like, "Have you been having headaches today? Dizziness? What about shortness of breath?" To which all of my answers were the same, "I've felt fine all day, no symptoms." And I really did, I felt fine. A little too fine. I was hardly even feeling the contractions that were showing up on the monitor. If this is how it's going to go, it'll be easy, or so I thought.
Soon the colorfully frocked nurse excused herself.
It didn't even feel like a moment had passed yet before our midwife popped her perky head into the room. After a quick hello she proceeded to check my heart rate manually. The result was the same. Staying close to 190 over 140. Dangerous. Extremely dangerous for me and for my precious cargo.
Jeannie, our midwife, held my hand and looked me straight in the eyes, though I was trying not to look back. I didn't want to hear what was about to come next. "I know your birth plan, and I know what you want. I also know that this is too serious for there not to be medical intervention and I need to go consult with the physician. We have to do something, we have to intervene... and soon."
My mind quickly left this place where the playlist we'd spent hours perfecting was purring sweet lullabies as background music, where the lavender and other calming oils I'd brought were wafting through the air, where our baby's "going home" outfit was chosen and laid out ever-so-carefully. Instead it raced back to that place of limbo where it had been once before, after the birth of our daughter, when I couldn't hold her little beating heart next to mine or fall asleep listening to rhythm of her soft breath, in-out, in-out. A place where I was discharged and sent home empty-handed while she slept in a crib manned by nurses in lieu of her mommy and daddy rocking her to sleep. A place where I had to follow specified times to visit, instead of nestling her into the crook of my neck for as long as either of us could handle.
It hit me, it hit me hard. This isn't what I'd planned. I'd been through this before, and determined that I would make it through without the assistance of medications or medical intervention. At that moment I just wanted to hold my baby. I wanted the lights off of me, the beeping of the monitor to stop, the whispers and the diagnosing to fade into the distance. It seemed liked we had waited for this moment for so long. The wanting to get pregnant, the loss of life within me. Getting pregnant again. It was finally time and it wasn't supposed to happen this way.
I closed my eyes and a rogue tear escaped and ran down my cheek. It felt hot. I noticed his hand gently stroke my face and with it, he took that tear away. My husband, my rock. His whisper was the only thing I could hear at the moment, everything else had faded into a blur. "Don't fear," he said, the calm demeanor of his voice making it even easier to adhere to the words. "Everything will be okay, just don't get into fear."
At this point, I still don't know what the doctors were going to do to intervene. We waited for my blood to be drawn with my midwife calling to check on the status in this overcrowded hospital. Delivering babies must have been the trendy thing to do that night.
The waiting seemed to last hours, though only moments had passed. This stage of labor was perfectly beautiful, relatively painless and not moving forward, it seemed. We'd watch the contractions take place at their expected times, laughing and joking in between. I was happy that I could still laugh, though my mind was only partially present. It still wandered off on it's own little way, wondering, and sometimes worrying, of what would be. Of what could be.
I was ready. Oh so ready.
And then the thought came, What if I meet my baby before the doctors do anything else? And so I asked. I was assured that the baby would be fine, and the faster he came, the better off we all would be. Chris and I put our hands on that sweet little babe we were ready to hold, nothing but stretched belly skin between us. "Come on, baby," we echoed, "We're ready to meet you. It's time." It was at that moment that a gear shifted into high and suddenly I noticed all the commotion of the room. The nurses bringing in the bassinet and warmers, a table being prepped with necessary tools, my midwife walking in and gowning up, the blood pressure monitor humming it's stale tune, and then... OH HELLO THERE CONTRACTION, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PAINLESS CRAMPS?
The rest just continued on in that fast lane. I jumped from a 6 to a 9 in what seemed to be a matter of minutes. My vision began to cloud over with pain as contractions jumped over on top of themselves with no time for relief in between. I remember my midwife coaching me like a champ, all the way through, and suggesting I get up on all fours to try and "rock" our baby down the birth canal to help the contractions do their work. I remember that switch from lying on my back to getting on my hands and knees felt like forever because I had no respite or time to catch my breath to move. I remember my husband's strong arm guiding me when I told him I couldn't move. As I planted my face into the pillows at the head of the bed the room became quiet save the cheers of "You're doing awesome!" and "That's it, keep it up!" And those words, each and every simple little word was like a beam of light shining from the end of the tunnel. The end of which tunnel I couldn't see, and just hearing their voices, their positivity, I knew they could see it and were just pulling me closer and closer.
I just moaned and leaned on every word that came out of Chris' mouth. Literally. My eyes were closed, my head burried in pillows and I was waiting with abated breath for his next nudge to inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. At this moment I just climbed right up into his voice and nestled myself snuggly there. And there is where I wanted to stay, because the alternative seemed much harder. His hand pressed on the small of my back relieving pressure and his voice calmed the tension.
Suddenly they tell me to roll over, it's time. It's time to meet my son. It's time for this long awaited dream to finally be realized. It's time for our lives to be changed for the good, again.
I began to cry. And push. But the burning, oh the burning. I squeezed tighter my already closed eyes and murmured, "I can't do it, it burns." I remember my midwife grabbing my attention, making me open my eyes and lock onto hers. "I know it burns. You can do this. Your baby is coming. It's time to meet your baby," she chanted. And so I focused, again.
One more push.
And then, because Chris wanted to help catch our baby and that was part of our plan, she said, "Reach down and grab your baby." And so we did. We caught our baby. My mind was so tuned in to her voice, coaching me through the pushes and I reacted, we both did. My hands, his hands, both reaching down and bringing the tiniest little slippery baby up to my chest as they wrapped him up. I couldn't let go. I held on tight and they let me, for as long as I wanted.
I fell in love... deeply, ferociously in love. My new little one opened his eyes and locked on mine and electricity flooded through my body. I knew he was mine, and what was even more spectacular, he did too. It was a high like nothing I'd ever experienced, and though I was exhausted, it was as though a jolt of vitality ran through me.
We did it. We totally did it. I almost couldn't believe it, but I was so blessed to be able to deliver my baby drug free. They didn't have to intervene, and we had our healthy, whole, happy baby. I was so proud that my mind was clear and I was able to mentally be there through this delivery. That I went in ready, and though there was a hiccup, we overcame the challenge. I was so blessed to hold him right away, for as long as my heart desired, blessed that I couldn't take my eyes off of him... that he was right there for me to stare at, to admire, to love. Blessed that just a couple of hours after walking into that hospital, the life that was growing inside of me, that I spent all that time dreaming of and talking to, was now safely in my arms. Blessed that I could nurse right away and that he latched on without a hitch, a dreamy moment I wished for both of my babies and was finally able to experience.
We are forever changed. Our story has changed.
He has changed everything.
The birth was photographed by my dear friend Briony.