I am not a writer, and I feel wholly inadequate telling this story. In fact, it's been written and rewritten many times already. I can't seem to find the words to describe how peaceful and beautiful Sophia's birth was. During this pregnancy, I read lots of birth stories and watched birth videos. All of those mothers seemed so courageous and brave. The thought, "What if I'm not?," kept ringing in my head. Here's the thing, I am not. I am not any more courageous or brave than the average gal. I don't hold any special skills or abilities that make me "good" at giving birth naturally. I am just a normal woman....probably a little less courageous than most...definitely less pain tolerant. I've been known to cry over stubbing my toe. Seriously. I do not like pain, and before going into this birth I was afraid. But, all of those fears washed away as labor set in and the work of getting a baby into this world was before me. The pain of birth is unlike any other pain. It has a magic and a mystery to it....a plan and a purpose. Surrendering to that plan and purpose was the key for me.
Around 4 am on September 1st I started having sporadic but intense contractions. We assumed they were just "practice" contractions and would end soon. Since they were too painful to sleep through, I got out of bed. I started a blog post about our week (which had been great and so very full of nesting). I was going to tell y'all about the appointment with our midwife and time spent at the park the day before. I had pretty pictures to share of my oh so full belly....
Levi took this one, and I am in love with it.
There were going to be stories of our little adventures...
But, that post was set aside and forgotten when the contractions became more regular and intense. They were 5 to 7 minutes apart for about an hour. Every time one hit I felt the need to hold onto a table and squat, so that's what I did. I was still convinced I wasn't really in labor, but I figured it was a good time to practice. Advice that our doula, Jenny, gave me kept running through my head. A few weeks before Sophia's birthday, Jenny came for a visit. That evening she told me something that stuck with me. She said that she was never capable of surrendering to pain, so she always found it easier to surrender to God and his plan. I had been given similar advice before, but there was something about the way she said it that made it click for me. So, I practiced surrendering with each contraction. Little did I know that this wasn't practice but the real thing. 6:30 am came around, and ouchie, ouchie. Those contractions started rolling in at 4 minutes apart and 60 seconds long. I woke Stephan at 7, and thirty minutes later we called our midwife, Norma. I still thought it would end soon. Norma didn't. On her way to our house, she called Jenny. After this point, time became a bit of a blur.
Norma arrived, and started setting things up. She told me that she wanted to check how far along I was but there was no rush. She would check me when I felt ready. I wandered around the house finding birth supplies and calling my mom and sister. During contractions I would lean over or squat. Jenny arrived and immediately started doing hip presses to alleviate some of the pain...oh so wonderful. It wasn't too long before I felt okay being checked for dilation. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know the results, but curiosity got the better of me, when Norma looked pleasantly surprised and said that I was really coming along. I was 4 cm and 85 % effaced. I was beginning to get excited yet still a little wary. I was afraid the contractions would end, and then I'd be sending everyone home. Can you say, "denial"?
Instead of ending, the contractions began to really pick up. Walking around and chatting were no longer so comfortable, and I finally began to really believe we were going to meet our baby. The birth tub became very appealing. Water felt good....really, really good. To everyone's surprise, I hit transition shortly after getting into the pool.
How do you like the fishies? ;)
Things were moving along very quickly, but it all felt natural and peaceful. I was being allowed to follow my body's lead. There was no hospital frenzy, no strangers wandering in, no monitors and iv's to restrict me, and most importantly no nurses telling me that I wasn't really in labor. I was focused and relaxed. The times when I felt my focus slipping, Jenny and Norma would immediately pick up on it. They knew exactly what to do to get me back to where I needed to be.
When transition ended there was a relaxing lull. Norma checked to make sure I was fully dilated and effaced. I was. But, this is where things slowed down...way down. Notice there has been no mention of my water breaking. That's because it hadn't broken yet.
After the lull, contractions began again. They were hard and long. I felt a lot of rectal pressure. Classic pushing contractions, right? Wrong. Despite the rectal pressure, I wasn't feeling that undeniable urge to push. Norma suggested that I try pushing anyway with the hopes that my water would break. After a few ineffective pushes, we opted for another strategy....waiting. I got out of the tub and labored in lots of different positions....waiting and waiting and waiting. When I grew tired of standing, sitting, and squatting, I would lie down on the bed to labor on my left side.
Eventually, Norma considered breaking my water (something she almost never does), but then she changed her mind. She believed my contractions were strong enough, and they would do it for us. We just had to wait. Despite all of the pain, a peace came over me when this was decided. I knew it was the right thing to do. God would take care of everything in his own time.
As the contractions grew more and more intense, I stayed on the bed. Norma was at my feet, and Jenny and Stephan were on either side of me. I could hear their prayers, and kept saying my own....with every contraction surrendering to God's plan for this birth. And, finally at the very moment that I thought I couldn't go on any longer, I suddenly realized that I was pushing. That undeniable urge had struck. Norma and Jenny simultaneously said, "Now that's a pushing contraction!" It wasn't long before my water broke. The relief I felt at that moment is indescribable.
Contractions really started to pick up at this point, and pushing was well under way. Within 30 minutes Sophia's head crowned. I reached down and felt her for the first time. Norma instructed me to stop pushing and to just breath my baby out. I stared intently into Jenny's eyes. I gripped someone's hand. As soon as I started to follow Jenny's breathing, Sophia's entire head was out. Norma was telling me to slow down, but I wasn't pushing. Out flew the rest of Sophia. At 2:55 in the afternoon this girl was ready to see the world, and she was not about to be breathed out. The feelings that rushed over me as I saw her for the first time were truly incredible. Talk about an all natural high. And, then finding out that the baby I'd been carrying around for nine months really was a girl. Sweetness. Pink thoughts started twirling about in my head as she was placed on my stomach.
After the cord quit pulsing, Stephan got the cutting honors.
And, then I was able to really hold her in my arms. Sophia latched on like a pro as we waited to deliver her placenta.
I'll spare you from the photos my sister took of the placenta. But, for curious moms to be, delivering the placenta is nothing like delivering the baby. Promise.
After lots of sweet nursing and cuddling time, we were ushered into a warm herbal "tea" bath. Sophia looked like she had landed in heaven. I was certain that I had.
And, that is the story of how an incredible new life took her place in the world. But, the real story is just beginning to unfold...even as I type.