Let me tell you a story about an end and a beginning. This story takes place over a very short period of time, only twelve hours, but being as it was the end of Life As We Knew It, the beginning of Motherhood for me, and the beginning of Life for you, it is a significant one. It’s the story of our journey through your coming into this world.
The night before you came to us your Papa and I went out for our friend Jimmy’s birthday. I had come to terms with waiting and being patient for your arrival, so I was feeling really relaxed, but tired. I joked with Jimmy that I wished you had come on his birthday for him (the 25th), but that I didn’t see it happening any time soon! I let him have a feel of my belly, but it was so hard and contracted we couldn’t get a good feel for you at all.
That night Papa and I went to bed around 12:30am. Had I known what time you’d wake me up, I would have gone to bed much earlier. At 3:00am I woke up for a pee and really struggled to get to the toilet. I thought something felt strange, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I dismissed it and went back to bed. I laid there drifting between sleep and wakefulness. I was meant to go to the farmer’s market with my friend Skye and I kept half dreaming I was texting her saying “ABORT MISSION! I’m in labor!”
Then it all started. At 330am I felt a gush of something. It happened again. And again. It reminded me of when a garden hose gets turned on and water is working it’s way through some air pockets. Glug. Glug. Glug. So I got up and went to the toilet again. I saw my pants were saturated, so I walked back toward the bedroom grabbing a towel on my way. I woke Papa as I sat on the towel and handed him my pants. I could see by the look on his face he didn’t really believe it was time until we both saw another big gush come onto the towel. That was it! The excitement hit and we knew we’d be meeting you soon! We thought to get a few more hours sleep, but it just wasn’t going to happen. The gushes kept coming and I was way too wound up. I started praying for the strength and calm I was going to need.
Leading up to 5:30am my contractions became more regular. They weren’t very intense at this point, but I timed a few and they were less than 4 minutes apart. My body was doing everything it was meant to do! Up until then I hadn’t wanted to call Lisa, but when we realized how regularly the contractions were coming, we knew it was time. We called Lisa and she didn’t answer. I knew there was another woman just past her due date and I told Papa “I bet she’s at the other birth!” She was, but the baby had just been born and she called us a few minutes later. Actually, you’d be the third birth in 24 hours that Lisa and Hannah attended.
We packed up slowly. We had to take your Grandparent’s car because our car-seat wasn’t installed yet and theirs was (I hadn’t bother bugging Dad about it because I thought we had more time!). We had some disposable diapers for you so we wouldn’t ruin your cloth ones with meconium. I threw one on to absorb the fluid still leaking out of me, hopped in the car with towels underneath me too, and we were on our way. By the time we left the house it was 7:00am.
I hated the car ride to Lisa’s place. That 40 minutes in the car with a seat belt on were torture for me. I just wanted to be able to move! Finally we got there, we let ourselves in, and Papa started to unpack the car. I knelt in front of the coffee table and used it to rest my head as each contraction came. They were getting stronger now and as I rested my head I’d move my hips and breath. Hannah arrived and we all chatted happily. The contractions slowed, so we all got more quiet and they started back up again.
The contractions picked up pretty quickly, especially when I sat on the toilet, and by the time Lisa arrived she didn’t think we’d have time to set up the pool the way I was looking. So, I labored on. I got on hands and knees and moved with the contractions.
I rested in between. I tried standing but didn’t like that. At one point I laid on my side on the mattress with one leg resting over the couch. Dad laid with me. The whole time I labored he was so attentive, grabbing my hand, whispering encouragement in my ear. Later he told me he tried not to over-load me with talking because he remembered me commenting on a birth we watched. I didn’t remember, but apparently I noticed that the father was over coaching the woman and said if I were her I’d want to smack him. Dad somehow did find the perfect balance and managed to say just the right things at the right time.
At one point the strong contractions that had caused us to suspect I’d be pushing soon seemed to go on forever. During this phase I was feeling pretty nauseous with each contraction and threw up 3 or 4 times. Also, I knew a contraction was on it’s way because I’d start shivering as if I were cold so someone would cover me up, then during the contraction I’d be sweltering and throw the covers off.
I wasn’t aware of time because there were no clocks around–thankfully. But, I knew it had been a while and I was having an increasingly hard time working with the contractions instead of against them.
Lisa checked your heart rate and you were doing just fine (she or Hannah only did this 3 or 4 times during the whole labor). She asked me what the contractions felt like and where they were because she saw me bearing down with them. It helped me feel better during, but I didn’t feel it was helping you move. I was surprised at what a hard time I had describing the sensations I was feeling and where they were. I felt a little foreign in my own body. She asked if I wanted her to have a feel of my cervix and I said yes. She felt a small lip on the stomach side of my cervix and thought filling up the pool was in order at this time. I happily agreed since I was starting to feel tired and like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Later I found out I was in this transition for more than 4 hours.
In the meantime Dad and I laid down again and we drifted off between contractions-yes, it IS possible to sleep between contractions believe it or not. During the contractions we’d both wake just enough to get through one.
I was surprised and relieved how quickly the pool got set up. I gladly got in and Lisa told me to float as flat on my back as possible and relax as much as possible to allow for the lip to move. She went to take a rest while Hannah watched over me with Dad. They rotated wash cloths from the fridge to pat me down. That was such a relief feeling the warmth of the pool and the cool of the cloth. All of a sudden my body started to do something different. I’d have one big contraction and let my body follow it’s instinctual movements, some bloody show would whoosh out into the pool, and I could feel the cervix opening. I felt it right where Lisa had touched the lip of the cervix.
Finally I felt like switching positions and got onto my knees.
It was hard work. There was an internal war going on in my head. I was caught between “I just want to push this baby out” and “I don’t want to push. It’s too hard!” At one point I had to keep reminding myself that every push would bring you closer. Eventually I felt like I wanted out of the pool because I was feeling too hot. Back to the bed. Lisa and Hannah brought over a mirror (a huge one!) so Papa and I could see what was happening. Your father was amazed. We could see your hair and a teeny bit of your scalp. We both took a turn taking a feel. Papa got a little teary. The pushing went on for a while and my instincts were to push into my feet and lift my butt up. It was a good thing Lisa and Hannah were there to tell me to relax and bear down. Even after they told me several times and I knew it felt right, I had to keep reminding myself because up would go my butt again!
Finally I decided to go sit on the toilet. This was when things really started happening. You were crowning more and more. Lisa started to explain to me what I’d have to do if I chose to stay on the toilet. I don’t even know what she said because I was in such a daze, but I know I thought “hell no!” and got off the toilet and onto the floor. I was on my hands and knees and Papa was behind me. He was looking underneath me to see what was going on. I could hear him saying things and I knew he was excited and blown away by what he was seeing. Lisa and Hannah were in front of me and they were shining flashlights, taking pictures, and trying to see what was going on too. I later joked that I felt like a car with people buzzing around my chassis! I didn’t mind though because it was all so exciting and, well, I had other things to worry about in that moment! I continued to push.
When your head was working it’s way out those last few pushes I have to tell you I wasn’t prepared for that level of pain. Thankfully it didn’t last so long. A lot of women call this the ring of fire–the moment when the head emerges. I don’t remember the “fire” sensation so much as feeling like I’d rip in two and, sorry to say, my clitoris would burst. It sounds horrible. It was! But it was over fairly quickly and I forgot about it fast because when your head came out you were crying like a little lamb. It was the sweetest thing I’d ever heard. I could hear you, but not see you, and I could feel the reverberation of your little mews all the way up my birth canal! Amazing.
I remember sitting there on all fours thinking “okay, that’s done. Oh wait, there’s still the shoulders and body. I thought they just slid out a few seconds later with the next contraction? Where’s the next contraction?” I was there for several minutes waiting, with no urge to push and your head out, hearing you mew. Finally the next contraction and a few pushes and there you were!
Hannah pulled you in between my legs, unraveled the cord from around you, and placed you in front of me. I saw you in all your beautiful glory! A girl! You were born at 3:16pm. I picked you up and sat back to rest in the door jam.
Papa and I both just stared at you and touched you as Lisa and Hannah faded into the background. You cried and squealed for several minutes. We knew your lungs were working!
Those were the sweetest cries we’d ever heard. We just sat there in awe talking to you. A few minutes later I was ready to move to the bed. I used more of the disposable diapers for all the blood.
Pausing there for a moment, I want to tell you part of your birth story that didn’t happen in the same room we were in. I have a sister-friend, Breana. We were born the same day and met while I lived in California. You’ll get to meet her one day. On the day you were born I had sent her a message telling her you were coming, but I didn’t know she was away for the weekend for a woman’s retreat with about ten of her friends and no internet! A mutual friend of ours, Danielle, saw on Facebook that I was in labor and called the retreat center. They left a message on a community message board and Leah, another friend of ours found it. She went running through the woods to tell Breana. I know several women in the group and they talked about us and thought about us. It was night time where they were, and around the same time you were crowning this is what Amy told me was happening:
Imagine this: a natural hot spring pool made of river rocks, evergreen boughs creating a natural canopy over us as we slide into the hot water in the pitch black of night. We all rest for a moment and we start …talking about you and sending love to you and someone suggests we Om for you. So Savvy begins, and soon the entire pool and meadow next to us is filled with the loving vibrations of our voices and energy as we “Oooooooooommmmmmmmmm”. After 3-4 Oms, we stop and savor in the precious few moments as we dwell on you and Paul and that sweet baby preparing or freshly being born. It was pitch black except for one small flashlight held up by the side of the pool.
What an awesome energy for you to ride into this earth on. That was some powerful womanly energy and knowing that fills my heart with Love and Joy. You were welcomed as a woman by strong, loving, mothering women’s energy and surrounded by the Love of your Mother and Father.
Jai (Victory)! I feel so blessed that you came into the world this way.
To finish up your story, I laid down with you for a while. Dad and I just stared at you. A short time later (maybe half an hour?) I delivered the placenta. It was super easy, but at that point I was so sick of pushing. We left you attached for quite some time as we continued to bond. When the time came, Hannah tied off the cord and Dad cut it (he had a bit of a hard time at first). As he was cutting I cried for the first time saying “well, you’re really on your own now–that’s the first of many letting go moments for me” which didn’t really make sense since you and the placenta were already birthed, but I suppose it was more symbolic.
At some point your father was holding you and having a good look into your eyes. We had talked about your name and settled on two choices: Adelle and Elise. I had been extremely drawn to the name Adelle. He hadn’t liked it much but had agreed to keep it as a possibility because I felt so strongly about it. As he studied you he asked me what I thought your name should be. I was feeling so happy and dreamy that I wasn’t in a big rush to name you. I figured it would come soon enough. You can imagine how surprised I was when he came out and said “You’re no Elise. You’re an Adelle.”
Lisa checked me out and I had no tears-just a tiny nick. We decided to bath you in the pool as you were absolutely covered in blood and vernix. I was too so Lisa and Hannah gave me a sponge bath. I felt like a Godess–one who’d just been through the trenches of war!! We all got take-away Chinese food. After we’d eaten and a few hours had passed Lisa and Hannah left us to be alone together as a family for the first time.
We drifted off to sleep, you laying on my chest.
And that, my darling daughter, is the story of how you came to be on this earth and the beginning of your own journey toward Womanhood. It’s a beautiful story and one I hope to tell you many times.
You have our Hearts and our Boundless Love always, Mama and Papa
Shawna moved with her husband to Australia when she was 5 months pregnant. She has been in Adelaide for two years and has been lucky enough to be able to stay at home with her daughter. She loves writing and has shared many experiences on her blog — although in recent months she’s struggled to find the time or energy to write after chasing around a toddler!