The night you were born changed my entire life. Yes, we had planned the birth, planned to have you at home, practiced relaxation techniques - me more than your daddy, but nothing could prepare me for how I was going to feel about this entire experience.
It all started at around 4:00 on the morning of July 31, 2011. My son came into my room, crying, and as I sent him back, I realized that I was having a very mild contraction; more than Braxton Hicks, but nothing that registered in my consciousness as labor, or even something to be noticed.
As I went back to sleep, I had about two more contractions over the span of the hours prior to the dawn breaking that were enough to rouse me. I knew then. It was like a quiet secret all to myself. I had a very comfortable feeling we were going to have a baby that very day. Little did I know that 8:00 would come complete with a very uncomfortable little boy throwing up. The day found our feet hitting the floor in a hurry. As I softly moaned through another contraction, Matt helped get Gavin settled and was trying to figure out where Gavin "drank too much water" from. Turns out, his only experience with throwing up came from swimming lessons. Matt took him, with a bowl, to the living room and turned on a long movie, Cool Hand Luke that they could watch together while riding out his nausea. No matter what we gave him, it came back up. Poor soul fell asleep in his arms partway through the movie.
I got up, and right away, got a load of maternity laundry started in case we needed to transport and I needed clothing to go with me, got a shower and vainly dried my hair to look nice for later, ate breakfast, and kept moving. I got the huge stack of dishes on the counter washed and in the machine for drying, then started picking up clutter, and vacuuming the floors.
All of that in the span of a couple hours, and I swayed through the couple of contractions I had, moving my hips to help get the babe in position. I smiled at the thought that this felt so different from my first labor. This was all to keep me upright and distracted while doing so. I called my best friend because I could no longer keep this secret to myself. She offered to bring over dinner to ensure I wouldn't have to worry about cooking and asked if anyone was taking care of Gavin. I told her we had it handled, and not to worry, as it was still very early first stage, this may well take either hours, days, or a week. I was still easily talking through them, and able to stay upright, so I did. I texted the midwife to just give her a gentle heads up to keep her phone handy.
It was around noon, the house was clean and ready, and I was able to sit and relax with my boys. I had been drinking to stay hydrated, and eating when hungry to stay fueled. (Tuna fish and crackers for lunch? It was the easiest option without cooking.) I simply knew that we were having a baby, and wanted to stay in front of labor while I still could. I laid down for a nap on the couch to keep my rest up. I had three contractions wake me up that required stretching and a bit more focus. Deeper relaxed, I kept saying to myself, reminding myself that my uterus was doing much work to help make room to bring my baby here. Slowly the process took over.
Around 3:00, I woke up from the nap, well aware that I was in full blown labor. Every time I sat up or moved, another contraction would follow, and they were getting to be more intense. We had moved from officially 40 minutes apart to about 10 minutes apart in that seemingly short span. I sat on the ball for a while, and Matt was making plans to run out to get food for the house and dinner, as well as supplies for Gavin.
I took Gavin to the bathroom with me while Matt had a surprise from our neighbor saying our dogs had gotten loose before he was able to leave. Gavin hung with her for a few minutes while I sat on hands and knees in the bathroom floor, waiting for the dogs to be secured, and Gavin to return to me, and Matt to hurry to the store so he could come home. My world became very small. The tiniest details of our bathroom. The text on the spines of the books on the back of the toilet. The way the fibers looked on the bath mat.
Gavin sat with me in my own little universe while we got through both of our ailments together. He rubbed my back, saying "it's okay Mommy, it's okay". Sweetest of little boys. Larissa made it with baked ziti to my house, took one look at me, took action to get Gavin fed, and then made me eat a few bites of food as well. Thankfully, since I was not in my right head to feed the hunger that had been plaguing me for a while before. She heard me deal with more contractions than she was comfortable with, tried a couple of different techniques for help with coping, then softly demanded that I call my mother; that it was time, and Gavin is going to need more care than she and I could provide. I agreed. One more contraction, and I was able to call her, and did so, quickly, so she would not have to hear me deal with one. I told her things were picking up and getting serious, and I needed her to come and care for Gavin while I labored. She did so, cheerfully, and I hung up and moaned through another wave. Larissa, bless her heart, would have stayed, but my boy being sick was making her sick, so she had to make a quick exit the second Matt came home.
Things were rockin' and rollin' and this is where my memory gets a bit fuzzy. Tara, the midwife, called and listened to me for a few minutes. She had been calling all day in intervals to check and make sure I was coping well, eating, drinking, also to check on my body processing labor and not producing bad things like excess blood and the like. I had had no bloody show, no waters breaking, no mucus. The only thing I was relying on was my emotional sign posts, and the intensity of contractions. No, I had not been timing them, just guessing how far apart. I purposely stopped looking at clocks very early on in labor just so I didn't stress the numbers. Once she listened to me handle a couple of contractions, she concluded that I was far enough along to need assistance, and instructed me to call Cecilia, the Doula, and get her on the way as soon as I could. I hung up with her, called my photographer who heard me simply speak and told me she was on the way (apparently, I was appearing very ready to have a baby, while I was thinking I might have a long time left to go). I called Cecilia, but from a text we shared earlier, I knew she was teaching class and couldn't be free until 9pm, but I left her a voicemail anyway. I had not looked up in what felt like a very long time, and I was vocalizing through every wave. I found myself standing in the door frame of the bathroom, utilizing my fist at the small of my back, pushing against one side of the frame with my full back, the other with my feet, counter pressuring my way through. They were coming on top of each other. I was not freaking out, but I knew birth was going to be imminent.
Matt was listening to me, and asked if he should fill the pool, I could only nod. He left and got started. I got through a few more, and he returned to tell me that the pump would not work to get air into the pool. I could only shake my head, while inside I was not wanting any bad news, but couldn't find the words to tell him so. He left again to finangle a solution to our problem, and called my mom to ask how far away she was, and to inform her that the pump she loaned us wouldn't work. She was about 20 minutes out, but heard me in the background and, in a very worried tone, asked how far apart I was. I growled at Matt upon the asking that I thought I was about 3 to 5 minutes apart. Mom hurried.
Once she got here, she immediately broke out a watch and started timing. She quickly found out that I was 2 minutes apart with 30 seconds in between waves. She proceeded to ask where the midwife was and freak out a bit since we were alone; all she could see was us catching a baby by ourselves. I don't think she could have ran a marathon to get the nervous energy out of her. She physically supported me through a couple of waves, and I hung my body onto hers for one; it was nice to not have to hold myself up. My universe was still very small, and I had long since closed my eyes to all the light and energy going on around me. I needed to be alone. I needed to have people support me. I needed to not be touched. I needed to have someone to hold me. I needed to have silence. I needed to have someone tell me I was doing well. I told Matt that I was pretty sure this was not my greatest idea, and that this was really painful. He did what men do best and told me that we were in the thick of it now, and it was a tad late to back out of laboring. I agreed, and turned back inwards as another (another) wave came crashing through. I kept thinking that my uterus works. My cervix is working. I felt everything up front and in my thighs as well as my abdomen. It was the most intense thing I have ever gone through. I somehow still thought that we had a while to go. I also knew with my self doubt that transition was coming, and with that thought, up came dinner. Bingo. My tell tale sign that pushing was coming up on the horizon quickly.
The pool was announced to be ready, and with that, I somehow hauled my body into my bedroom to change from my nightgown into my tankini top that I bought especially for the occasion. I clipped my hair up, and hauled my body back down the hallway to climb into the warm waters. Off went the overhead light, and I finally caught a small break as my body adjusted to the therapeutic heat of the birthing waters. I was able to grasp the handles and allow my body to float a bit. I, at this point, had no idea how many people were outside on my porch turned waiting room. All I knew was as soon as my mom arrived, Gavin was whisked out to be watched by caring hands. People were coming in and out. Matt sat across from me in his chair. My body adjusted and the waves were back to one on top of the other. Stephanie came through the door and with a caring smile and soothing voice came down and said hello on my level. I remember looking in her eyes and feeling a bit of relief that at least all of this will be captured in a beautiful way, and she was just in time. She made her own introductions to those in the room, and with that, I was back into laborland.
I was constantly announcing start and stop to my mom, as she was still timing. I couldn't get comfortable. I wanted to run away from my body. I was writhing when all the sudden, at the peak of another, my mom took my hands, and held her head close. I so needed that. I needed anchoring. I needed to re-center, and I needed the hands of support at just that level to hang onto; I needed a piece of something outside myself to help keep me out of my own way. My head needed to be reminded to relax, that my contractions are not stronger than me, because they are me. My mom's hands did that.
This woman's work.
With that realization tucked into my head and heart, the next thing I remember was the midwife's assistant, Tonya, arrived. She made her introduction, but I never looked up, I just weakly waved. Late labor sounding; low, but getting louder. I kept trying to keep my tones low in my gut this whole time. The lower the tones, no matter the volume, the more relaxed the body gets during each wave. Thankfully, my consciousness kept that nugget of wisdom handy. Tara came through the door not much later. More introductions and hellos. She got down to business and got the doppler out for the first check in my labor. Heart tones were great. She took my temperature and blood pressure, and upon satisfaction of those numbers, proceeded to set up her equipment. I pointed her to the direction of the Birth Kit in my bedroom, as Matt had already brought out her other items in the big bin. The next thing I remember, Cecilia walked through the door, and immediately took place right next to Matt's chair on the stool he had set up in front of me for his seat. He happily sat in his recliner instead. During each wave, I reached out and asked for hands. That simple touch was so healing. I got Matt's fingers and Cee's hands. I squeezed the dickens out of Matt, and tried to hold Cee's as gently as my hands would allow during the moment. The baby's hearttones were being checked every couple minutes; it was only mildly distracting since nobody was asking me to move out of my little world to accommodate them.
I was fully aware of every conversation going on around me, yet, I could not contribute, nor did I want to. It was rather nice to, in between waves, just lay there, and be. Be supported, be taken care of, be looked after, be cheered on. Cee mentioned my "perfect Bradley relaxation", then rubbed her finger over the one wrinkle I had in my forehead. Having had it made known to me, I melted it away, and relaxed further. Deeper relaxed. Another wave came through, and I toned my way through it, but this time, I had to tone differently; my mouth needed to change shape, my throat needed to sound out. My mom cracked the joke that I sounded like Dori doing whale impressions; while funny to the rest of the room, I could only glare at being disturbed. This went on for a few more waves, my varied toning, hands anchoring me, upper body hanging over the side of the pool, knees supporting my working body, sweat starting to bead on my face.
Then it happened.
At the peak of a wave, I grunted out loud. This caused a knowing look between the midwives and doula. "Candice, can I check you, please?" The one and only check during my labor of my cervix. Tara was having a time trying to get in there under the water and in my current position, I finally just declared that checking in general is not fun, and to go ahead with however it had to be done. Surprisingly, I felt nothing while she checked. It was then declared that I was complete, and effaced. Baby was nice and low. Pushing could commence at my leisure.
Low and slow, that was what I kept repeating in my head. Each wave brought about the uncontrollable urge to push with it, and for once, my body felt like it was working with me instead of me working against it. I visualized in my head, and arc, and at the start of every wave, I was at the bottom of this arc, as I continued up, I would start to push, doing my most effective pushing at the top of it. Slow. Effective. Slow.
I regained consciousness for a moment and looked straight up in front of me. I was greeted by a warm smile from Cee. She proclaimed, "you're doing it, Candice!" Indeed, I was. I sunk back into my world pretty quickly. But I was doing it. Female hands holding mine, guiding me through. Female hands reaching into the waters for measurements, confirming life is coming. It was really wonderful to not hear people yelling at me to push, or counting to 10. Somewhere along the way, during a push, I felt my membranes release. "Something broke" I said, even though I knew immediately what "something" was. I seem to remember more waves in between, but my memory jumps to as Tara was providing perineal support, she was noting the position of the baby, and gently guiding my pushing to slow down to avoid a tear. Slowly, at her direction, I started to puh-puh-puh my way through with shorter, gentler, but controlled pushes, to help me stretch evenly. While this was going on, Matt had a lot of different questions about the baby, including her hair color, but never once got up to check. Cee happily gave him a play by play of what I was going through, as he kept telling me to breathe at the top of a pushing contraction.
I worked quietly. It was intense work, but good work, and I knew this, even in the thick of the fog.
I was asked if I could turn over for heart tone readings, but I could not. I could not move my body from the position that was working. They had me move my leg out, and maneuvered to get low enough to hear, moved away when I was pushing, then came back when it was over; this was the one heart tone I could not hear right away, but Matt, and everyone else, heard the faint heart tone that was good and strong. From having two babies, Matt had learned to tell the difference between maternal and fetal heart tones.
I could feel myself stretching with each small push. Stinging, stretching, burning, but once the muscle stretched initially, it did not sting nearly as much on the next push. I could feel her head stretching and coming down. I felt her brow present, and all the fears of having an arm present with it went away. I knew she was textbook perfect at that point. I felt her brow come through, then her face, her chin, then I felt her rotate. I knew I'd have her out soon. Upon rotation, the neck came through, then one shoulder, another rotation back, and the other shoulder. She easily slid into the warm birthing waters.
One hour after the birthing team walked into my home. Eighteen hours after labor had begun.
I was overwhelmed and wanted to touch her, to hold her. As Tara brought her up, I was trying to turn around and catch a glimpse of my prize. She came out of the waters with healthy, strong cries; the sound that will bring tears to any new mama's eyes. I had to pull my leg up and over the cord, once thick and pulsing with life, now empty and white as it put what was left into my daughter. I held her. In the warm waters, we connected, and I drank in her scent from the top of her head. I marveled at her beauty, and her small size. She was wrapped into a fresh pink towel and a little white hat put on her head, as I was hoping to deliver the placenta shortly after her, so I wanted her connected. The special bowl for catching the placenta was retrieved, and we waited while I adored the newest creation to come earthside. More hot water was added to the pool, and as the warmth flooded around us, my heart poured over in elation. I couldn't believe that I was finally face to face with the one that I had dreamed over for so many nights before.
Time was ticking by, and after half an hour and only cramping to show for waiting, I made the call to cut and clamp her cord to get her to warmer, and drier, settings. Matt was not all that interested in cutting, but my mom was all about it. Two hemostats were placed, scissors passed, and with a loud "clack", we were now two instead of one.
Gavin was briefly brought in to see her, but, like any two and a half year old, all he saw was this really awesome pool, in his living room, and wanted in it, right then. Because he couldn't, and he was feverishly sick still, he was ushered back out to be taken care of by family outside. Thankfully it was a nice, warm summer night. Now to get back down to business, and get this organ delivered. One full glass of gatorade later, I was regaining strength and endurance. While I leaned over the side of the tub once again, I started to sweat as the water was now hot again, and all I could feel was cramps again as my uterus did its work of detaching, and expelling it. Mary made her way next door to my elderly neighbor's house to make her debut with them. It was quick, but it felt like an eternity that she was gone. 15 more minutes passed, and no placenta to be seen yet. So we decided to come out of the water, with a plan of moving me to my bed, and giving it a bit more time before we give it a shot of pitocin. Getting out of the pool was about as graceful as getting in. After gathering myself around a chux pad, I waddled my way down the hallway to my bedroom to finally lay down and get out of my wet top. This also provided prime opportunity for skin to skin with her, and to see if we could get her to latch to get the oxytocin flowing and my uterus to clamp down. Then, with one giant push, and a sloosh, out it came into the bowl. One hour and twenty one minutes after she was born. It never felt so good to be done before.
My abdomen now soft and fleshy, an empty vessel that carried her. It was time for a warm shower and to get cleaned up. It took a bit of help to get me neatly into the shower, but once in, water flowing over me felt so nice, however, I was in a hurry to get back to my little pea pod. I'm pretty sure that was the fastest shower I have ever taken. Tara was giving me instructions as I was showering for care during this time and afterwards for my body. Once out, I was asked to urinate. That was the hardest part of this whole thing. To control that muscle and make it work was an almost impossible task. Tara turned her back and turned on the water in the sink in an effort to help my mind over matter. I finally was able to dribble, and thus was able to get up and get back to my kiddo. I was so happy and proud that I was up and moving within moments of giving birth. I was not broken. I was not beaten up. I was a mother, a woman, and capable.
I was swimming in a sea of pink with all the towels around us. My mom found a brush and brushed my long, wet hair. I finally got her to nurse; her latch was perfect, both lips flanged out. Time seemed to stand still as everyone waited and watched, making conversation. Her newborn check was about to take place as a hot plate of ziti from Larissa was brought in to me and I handed her over. I chowed down, not realizing how ravenous I was!
Tara checked over every single detail of Mary; nothing escaped her notice. She observed, and made note of everything to Tonya, who was writing it all down. She was so gentle with her. Matt stepped forward to help weigh her; the one question everyone had burning in their back pockets. Gently, she was placed into the sling, and held up in the air.
6 pounds, 9 ounces. 19 and 3/4 inches long.
One vitamin K shot, and a lot of pictures later, everyone was making their way out and saying their goodbyes. It was around one a.m. I was completely over the moon and swimming in a birth high. It was a wonderful place to be.
I spent many hours in the night, next to my mom, simply beholding the wonder of what just took place. She stayed the night with me, in the same bed, all three generations in the same space.
The warm July night in which you were born, we all rejoiced.
Birthing Story: Mary Ayn Rae Young from Candice Young on Vimeo.