I have been wanting to write about this for about three years now. As the days draw nearer and nearer to the birth of our son, my thoughts are turning toward the event of giving birth. It is such a mystery to me that we are allowed to participate in the actual process of bringing a human life into this world. Babies seem so other-worldly, as if they have just seen God and still carry the fragrance of everything that is good and pure and sacred. To hold a baby, knit together by God from threads of the deepest love inside of you, and to know this baby is yours is completely life-changing.
I felt well-prepared for the birth of our first daughter, Rosie. I had read about natural childbirth (The Bradley Way) and had endless conversations with mothers about their own experiences in labor. I felt strong and healthy, ready for the moment that would change my life forever. I felt that I would be having the baby very soon–we were a few days past due, so Randy and I decided to hang around in Toccoa for a while. We went to a little coffee shop. I had just read Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman and was making notes about it in my journal. I drew a portrait of Randy.
I wrote about seeing Rosie. Nothing much was happening, so we decided to take a long walk. It was December and cold, so we went to the Wal-Mart in Toccoa and walked around for an hour or two. While we were there, my water broke–not all the way, but just a little bit. I wasn’t exactly sure if it was happening, and I didn’t feel any different, so we decided to go on home and get some rest. I slept through the night, woke to mild, achy contractions in the morning. I thought I might be in labor but wasn’t sure. We called the clinic and they said to come on by before they closed so we wouldn’t have to go to the ER unnecessarily. My midwife checked and said that it was amniotic fluid and that I needed to go straight to the hospital. She said that since my water broke the night before, I only had about 3 hours before they would need to give me pitocin to get things moving. This was not in my birth plan, and I got pretty scared. I felt that I could handle labor if it was natural, but I was afraid of how any intervention would affect my ability to bring this child into the world. We got to the hospital around 6:00 p.m. We were up and down, walking, in the shower, on the birth ball. Around 8:00 or 9:00, my midwife broke my water completely. Things got really intense and I remember feeling like I might really die. I never realized that pain could be like this. It terrified me. I told Randy I felt like I was dying. About that time, I was able to get into the tub. Immediately, I had a little more mobility, and my body was able to completely relax in between contractions. They were coming on really hard and fast, and I really felt that all I could do during them was stay alive. I had probably been in the water less than 30 minutes when I began to push. It was amazing how my body knew exactly what to do. I was so relieved to be doing something. I think I pushed for about 15 minutes. Rosie was born beautiful, with eyes open. Randy was the first person she saw. He said that it was like making contact with an alien. He loved her instantly and knew instinctively how to care for her from the first moment he laid eyes on her.
I was up and walking around minutes after her birth. It was the most surreal experience of my life. I had gone to what really felt like the edge of death, and then 30 minutes later I was up and walking around. The intensity of birth completely threw me. I had felt so prepared. But it threw me. All I could think about for days was, “I can never do this again.” Rosie was a precious newborn, so sweet, so full of life. I loved her. I was so thankful to have her. But I was also scared to death of ever experiencing labor again. Nursing proved to be another horror to live through. Every three hours for two months it was torture. I am so thankful I had friends who had had similar experiences and gotten through it. I know I would have given up. But we made it through, and little by little, I forgot about the pain.
Randy and I decided that we wanted Rosie to have a brother or sister. We decided to leave it in God’s hands as to when our next child would be born. I didn’t expect to get pregnant so soon. Rosie was 10 months old when I found out we were going to have another baby. All of the fear and dread welled up inside me, and I was terrified of going through birth again. I tried to deal with it, tried to talk to people about it, but nothing made it feel better. I prayed and asked God to help me to bring the children he wanted me to have into this world. Through a conversation I had with my midwife, I had the idea to make a birth journal. In it, I wrote/drew/cut and pasted everything that ministered to me and that I wanted to think about during labor. I felt that it was so important. I spoke about my fear in church, and all the ladies prayed for me that I would have perfect peace. I began to speak that over my life and my baby’s life. I wanted to name her Paloma (Dove, in spanish) in faith that she would be a symbol of peace for me. I prayed that God would give me deep peace and great joy at the birth of this baby.
I was ready to face it again. 40 weeks pregnant, and ready to get through it all. Someone told me that if I ate spicy food I would go into labor. We ate at El Jinete, where I ate more chipotle sauce than my mouth could handle. We went home, said goodnight. It didn’t seem like anything was happening. I woke up with a strong contraction at 1:00 in the morning. I felt that this might be it. When it was over, I told Randy to get our stuff together just in case, and I grabbed my cell phone. About 4 minutes later, another contraction. Stronger. I knew this was it. I called my parents and told them to come on over (They were staying with Rosie while we went to the hospital). I laid as still as possible, the contractions coming on strong about every 4 minutes. I called the hospital and said we were coming. It took my parents about 20 minutes to get to the house. By that time, the car was packed and we were ready to go. I said goodbye to my mother, thinking that at one time, she was the one who was leaving to give birth to me. I laid in the back of the car while we made the 20 minute drive to Toccoa.
When we got there, everything was taking forever. Pointless questions, multiple checkpoints. When they checked me the first time, I was 4 cm dilated. This discouraged me, because the contractions were already getting pretty hard to deal with. While the nurse was checking me, my water broke. They wheeled me into a room. I saw my midwife, and I knew it was going to be okay. When we got in the room, I made Randy go back out to the car and get the cd player. I made a cd of songs I wanted/needed to listen to during labor. A wonderful nurse stood beside me. I sat in the wheelchair, flipping through the pages of my birth journal, breathing through contractions. Randy came back and put the music on. My midwife was filling up the tub with hot water. I asked if I could get in. At this point, I could hardly bear it. Everything was strangely clear. I got in the water. Within minutes, I started to push. I remember feeling like time was standing still, knowing that it was almost over, that she would be born (and out!) in just a few moments. She was born, beautiful, healthy, perfect at 3:36 a.m. I could not believe it. I remember thinking, “I could do this again.” It was an amazing answer to prayer. She was instantly loved by us all. Rosie was so happy to have her. I remember thinking how normal life felt after about 2 days home together. The transition from one to two was really easy for us. Nursing was a breeze this time around. I was so happy. I felt that God had used this little child to give me peace. And that through her birth, he healed me from a fear that was rooted deep in my heart.
I look forward to writing another birth story soon. My prayer is that God will bring this child into the world safe, healthy, and in his will, and that I will reflect the love He has shown me through the process of labor. I love my children. And I am so thankful that God has allowed me to share in very act of His creation–physically bringing them, through my very body, into this world. It is such a beautiful mystery.