And so labor began, and with it, a flood of thankfulness that I’ve never had before. Hours later, while in the throes of hard contractions, I would find, “Thank You, thank You so much,” coming to my lips. Wanting to have a baby at home, rather than being induced at a hospital: Sort of small potatoes when you consider the degree of needs in the world. And yet, He heard and cared and moved, just in time.
Since it was “only” 8pm, I decided to just move as much as I could. Contractions had begun with a bang (a bit sporadic, but about 2 minutes apart right from the get-go), and I figured I could work hard and get this baby born without pulling another all-nighter. I’ve just never been good at those!
So the first friend arrived from down the road — an RN who got to do some of the nitty gritty (and somehow acted like she was the one being blessed? I have the best friends.) I took a bath, which is totally unlike me, put on cuddly clothes, and started to slip into my labor zone — wherein I become completely unaware of time, surroundings, people, activities… Fairly quickly, I was having to focus through contractions. I kneeled at the foot of my bed and thought how perfectly cushioned my rug pad is. Ha!
My sister and mom came. Friends gathered. Liz’s brand new baby cried in the kitchen, and I smiled through contractions. A baby. That’s right. This is about a baby.
This girl? Amazing. She just knows what to do, where to be. Loving and serving.
Minutes slipped by. Intensity mounted. The baby kicked and wriggled, and I just wanted it to stop. It felt like a roller coaster, inside out. Heart tones were fine. Trips back and forth to the bathroom, to my knees, to my side on the bed. Labor is timeless, and so is the middle of the night. There’s something peaceful about that.
It was hard. Harder than usual? I think yes. My hips hurt. I wanted to be done. I tried to laugh when I said that, knowing how silly that sentiment sounds, knowing I couldn’t be done. Knowing I had to just keep going.
I think it’s because of the books and simple diagrams I’ve read, but for whatever reason, I’ve always been able to sort of track my body’s progress. Maybe everyone can? But four babies later, at some point, I knew I should be feeling that little baby body descending, pushing on my spine — and it wasn’t. Hard, strong, almost undoing contractions. Longer, harder. Blocking all thoughts but Thank You… Relax… Hips burning oh, so much. (Little testimony: at one point I laid down out of exhaustion, but could barely handle the pain in my hips. I just burst out, “Oh, Jesus! Please help me with this pain! I can’t handle it!” And the next second, it was gone. I could have laughed, I was so blessed! Like the Holy Spirit giving my hand a little squeeze and saying, “Hey, I’m here.”) I followed my instincts and ended up hanging from Ryan’s neck (I have no idea how he survived the night!) through waves of contractions. Laying down sounded all wrong, even though it’s always been my favorite way to labor, and I only laid down when exhausted, and when my legs were just giving out. Finally, Regina suggested someone hold my belly during the next contraction — and yes! That was the engagement I was looking for! She pulled out a wide cotton scarf, and we got super hippie, as Ryan would say. Ryan held me up from behind, Regina held the scarf under and around my belly while she stood behind Ryan, and after several powerful contractions, things were finally heading in the right direction. Time to push.
I laid on the bed to deliver, as had been discussed and as is best, given my history of bleeding. There was the scurry of instruments, warm blankets, flashlights, people positioned here and there, a sister being sent to get the boys from their beds, and Regina’s firm voice saying, “Now, I’m going to coach her, and I want to be the only voice in the room doing so.” I love that. I suddenly feel like I don’t have to do this alone; she’s completely involved and ready. Pushing contractions came, and for the first time since Jameson, I had to really think, Now, how do I push? My body wasn’t taking over, but I figured it out — after a moment of slight panic! Two contractions, and everyone excitedly cheered me on, telling me of progress that I didn’t feel. I tried to not worry that this may go on forever. Third contraction, and my water broke. Relief; progress was happening. Next contraction, and I called out, needing to know she was still with me, “Regina, tell me what to do!” I remember feeling the head crown, and my courage failed. I forgot. This is hard. Can I do this? There is no choice, though, and grace rushed in. Okay. No turning back. The head crowned. Regina’s voice, my mother’s voice helping me. Those voices. They are amazing. My mind just latched onto them, and the sensations of my body faded into the background. Then a head, born. A cry! But they were still telling me to push. Push. “Push, Danica!,” my mother said firmly. Yes. Push. Okay. I can do this. And a body. The cheers and elation. A wailing baby passed up to me, laid in my arms. “A girl!” Everyone celebrating. Me, sinking into my pillow, marveling, exhausted.
And of course, that’s just the beginning of the flurry. Now there’s warm towels, and helping hands getting this sweet new baby to nurse. Regina working fast and intently to get the placenta delivered and all bleeding stopped. Two big brothers, taking turns being held up to see this sister who was just born into the world before their very eyes. And all in a general hubbub of laughter and joy! The midwife’s assistant was so blown away by my birth “crew”, and why wouldn’t she be? Sisters who love each other, friends who love each other like sisters. What a gift.
And me. Eight hours later, still amazed by it all, by the timing.
When I finally fell asleep two hours later, I was feeling stronger than I ever have before. Regina’s game plan of a preemptive shot of pitocin immediately upon delivery made all the difference — as did loads of Floradix and liver. I never had the waves of chills and shakes that I had other times, and by the time everything was cleaned up and the baby examined and dressed, I was ready to walk to the bathroom. That might not sound like a big deal, but to me, it was huge! Sunday night, I was walking about without the least bit of dizziness. Just amazing. Another answer to prayer!
Another girl. Another girl! She was perfect. Her nose looked like she’d been in the ring with Rocky, her fingers were long and slender and delicate, and her toes! They looked like a row of sugar snap peas, all perfect and round and sweet. She was grimacing and making faces as she was born, and cried before her body was even delivered. And she made my heart melt. I will admit: I am stingy with my new babies. There is nothing like those first few days of carrying a brand new baby close to your heart, snuggled on your chest, everywhere you go. It’s where they belong.
And her name, Fiona Elspeth: I have loved the name Fiona since I was a teen, but when Beatrice was born, well — she was Beatrice, not Fiona. But this girl. This was the one, and it makes my heart happy every time I hear someone say her name.
Fiona. Pure. White.
Elspeth. Pledged to God.
So her name became my first prayer for her: That she would be one guarded by purity and a covenant with her God.
Welcome to the world, sweet Fiona. You are a miracle and a wonder.
(As for the baby engaging, scarf tricks, having to push cerebrally rather than instinctually — well, that’s all for another post. Plenty of thoughts!)