Thursday, June 02, 2011


Three of the most emotional moments of my life were when I gave birth to Elle and to Little A and to the twins.  The excitement, the fear, the happiness, the relief, the overwhelming love, they all combine into a ball of pure, raw feeling that nothing else can compare to for me.  For two of those births I have been lucky enough to have my best friend Jen there with me.  She was there reassuring me when I started to cry "I'm so scared!" when Little A started to crown.  She was there holding my hand when I was getting stitched up after my c-section with the twins.  She's been with me through two of the happiest/scariest/most wonderful moments of my life and a few weeks ago I was able to be with her when she gave birth to her second child.

Jen wrote her birth story and I am beyond honored that she has chosen to let me share it with you.  I hope you enjoy it and please, give her some love because my girl, she is a rock star.

Twilight descends, while the smell of wood fire drifts in through the open windows. I am contracting, more forcefully than the dwindling waves that teased me this morning. I am restless, moving about with a subdued but excited energy. My bath a few minutes earlier was relaxing, soothing, and seemed to make the contractions space out to the point of nearly disappearing. Upon stepping out of the tub, however, the waves returned and were stronger than before. I start timing, and am surprised that the rushes are coming every two to three minutes, and lasting a minute in length. Hopefulness blooms into knowledge that we will be meeting our daughter soon. The contractions quickly evolve from mild to uncomfortable, and I find a deep moan escaping me with each one. I sway my hips side to side, rocking the baby within my pelvis. Nathan and Amelia are outside, enjoying a spring evening bonfire. I choose to remain alone in this early hour of labor, enjoying being the only one to know what is about to happen tonight. But soon, I realize that I am working hard. I summon my family indoors to shower and finish packing, and to get ready for our hour-long drive to this babe’s place of birth. Amelia is both excited and anxious, a mix of bitter and sweet in this evening hour. She is worried about me, but excited about the birth. Her sweet words of “Mommy, are you ok? I’m sorry it hurts.” melt over me like a soothing balm to a burn. I finalize plans with my best friend Jen, who is serving as birth photographer and labor support. She will drive to us, and then follow us on the journey to the hospital. As we wait, my discomfort intensifies and thirty minutes feels like hours… finally she arrives, and we head out on our journey. I’m thankful that the change of scenery and being on the move means a shift in my body as well… contractions space out to ten minutes apart. I feel like I am running a long-distance race, setting mile markers for myself along the way : one-fourth, halfway, nearly there. Navigating while Nathan drives is a welcome distraction. Somehow the dark night and lack of traffic makes the drive seem so much faster than in the past, even with labor upon me. We arrive at the hospital, and are directed upstairs. Welcomed by a nurse, I change into a gown and am monitored for a short while to make sure baby is well. Lying on my back is so uncomfortable, and feels so unnatural. I am meant to be upright at least, but what my body really hungers for is the birth tub. Susanna, one of my midwives, walks in to greet me. Tears wet my cheeks instantly, I think mostly in relief that this really indeed is happening. Now we are done monitoring the baby, so I can get up to labor as I please. I ask that the birth tub be filled, while I continue with the hard work of birth. Nothing feels good… not the birth ball, not bending over the bed, not standing still. The closest I come to comfort is rocking rhythmically in the rocking chair, keeping time to the metronome within me. With each contraction, my legs involuntarily straighten and shake. At last, I am told that the tub is deep enough for me. I step in and drop my round, full body into the deep warm water.
Instantly I feel my face soften, my muscles release, and my breath deepen. I manage a smile, a joke with my friend and even a bit of laughter. Amelia has, in the meanwhile, fallen asleep. Nathan and Jen take turns keeping me company, and I seem to be able to relax fairly well between contractions. During contractions, I don’t want them to talk to me or touch me… but rather to simply be near me. Soon, however, the relief I feel from the water is challenged by the intensity of my labor.
 I find it nearly impossible to give in to the discomfort which washes over me, my legs tensing up once again. It seems that I relax the best in between by floating on my back, but seem to be able to work better with the pain if I flip to my knees in a supported semi-squat. Soon, however, I realize that this position magnifies the ever growing pressure in my pelvis. I find that I am starting to make guttural sounds with the rushes, and am even pushing slightly against my own efforts to fight it. It has only been an hour and a half or so since Susanna told me that my cervix was 3 centimeters open, so I can’t imagine that I am even close to being dilated enough to push. My nurse checks me, and amazingly I am already 6-7 centimeters. From this point on, every bit of my effort during contractions is focused on NOT pushing. I manage a few contractions with breathing and am able to keep from pushing, but it takes every ounce of my strength. It is unpleasant to fight this urge but I know the reasons why it is important for me to do so. Renee, one of the other midwives, has finally arrived to support Susanna at the water delivery. I look to her with pleading eyes, and call out to both women with the mantra “Help me…. Help me…” each time a rush comes. They are truly, in this moment, fulfilling the meaning of their vocation – midwife means “with woman”. They are with me. I say over and over than I can’t do it, I can’t go on, but I see Susanna nodding her head “yes” to me with a sweet and silent strength. Renee confirms and encourages with words. Once again, I start to push against my own will. This time, I cannot fight this freight train that is barreling through me. I am checked again, and can push. It feels so good to work with my body. I feel the baby within me rocking herself out of me with each push. Amelia is quietly ushered into the room and sits with Nathan in the corner, watching intently.
 The contractions pick up, and I don’t feel like I am getting any rest periods. It feels best to keep pushing, and I nearly forget to breathe as this stage reaches its peak. I hear the words “Jen, you’re going to have this baby in the next two contractions”. Disbelief is my only reaction. Already? So soon? We’ve only been here three hours! Indeed, Susanna is right and I feel the intense burn of crowning. Suddenly the energy in the room shifts, for the baby is presenting with a nuchal hand. Not a dangerous presentation, but certainly a challenging one to be facing in a birth tub. With some twisting, pushing and pulling – a primal scream escapes me and my baby is lifted to the surface of the water and placed on my chest.
 Little eyes look up at me and I am astounded by this new yet familiar creature that is clutching to my breast. My daughter. Sweet little Olive… newest love of my life and holder of my heart.
No longer are we one being… no more will I feel her stretches inside of me and the tapping of her hiccoughs. Amelia cuts the cord, sobs of joy escaping her. Nathan and I are crying, too, so overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. We are a family redefined, the final bookend in place. We are not quite what we were before, yet not something entirely new. All I know is that we are, in every sense of the word, complete.
Thank you Jen.  Thank you for letting me be there with you and for sharing this and for bringing Olive into this world because she is lovely.


Jen said...

I'm SO glad you could be there with me, Jen. Your support was so important to me, and the photos you took are something I will always cherish. You're the best.

Krissy said...

This is so wonderful...

Stimey said...

Oh, yay, congratulations! She is beautiful, as is Jen.

Anonymous said...

Wow...what a touching memoir of Olive's birth. That is something to treasure forever, and as Olive grows up and understands how she came to be, she will also treasure those words. Kudos all around to everyone who was present at this magical time. DIL Jen, fantastic pics as always!
Love to all... MIL, Judy

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