Goodness, I can’t even believe that three entire months have passed since the birth of our little Skylar. And also? I forgot how difficult postpartum can be! The beautiful miracle of a med free delivery followed by my body realizing just what had happened to it a few days later, a crazy case of thrush, night sweats and a few weeks of hormonal tears. But through it all it’s amazing how addicted I’ve become once again to the newborn snuggles and how long his little smile can keep me mesmerized and craving more.
With each birth there’s been a different experience, a different story. With my first, through the trauma of an unexpectedly early induced birth due to preeclamsia came the beautiful and bright soul that made me a mama. With my second, and with my desire for his first encounter with the world to be completely different than the experience my girl and I went through, and maybe the hope for “normal”, we went from water break to med free delivery in a matter of a few hours, even through the hiccups that always arise. And because “normal” is such a funny word when referring to the amazing miracle that takes place as life begets life… and also because I don’t think any two births are completely alike, I’ve learned that there really isn’t a “normal” to go by, every story is unique and magical in it’s own right. So in like fashion, my third has a story all his own.
Let’s back up a bit shall we?
It was a Friday night, we had plans to go out with friends, but it seems my body had other plans for me that night. After a couple weeks of the daily contraction or two, these felt different, or maybe not such much different as it was the fact that there were plenty more than two. Still, contractions were random and far apart, usually an hour or more between each and I opted to rest at home, needing more than anything to cuddle with my two older littles. And by needing, as that’s such a simple way to put it, I mean it was an urgent and essential craving to be with them and breathe in every moment while I could still hold this pair, one in each arm. Now I realize why I felt that urge so strongly, and I’m so glad I didn’t downplay that need as some hormonal whim, because it would be my last night as a mother of two.
I awoke around 6am on Saturday morning with my cell phone in hand, the bright screen illuminated to the labor tracker that stayed by my side, like a waiting best friend, counting the minutes of each contraction and adding up the time between them. Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep that night, save the hour or two of sweet relief between each one… I’d fall asleep and stir myself awake with each bit of pressure, hitting the little start button and then drifting back off to dreamland once the pain of each contraction diminished.
“I think we might be going to the hospital today.” I casually mentioned as my husband roused from his sleep. I’d never been the type to make too big a deal out of little things, and I didn’t want to get myself worked up and excited, only to let my excitement balloon deflate and get sent home to wait… so a shower was my next course of action. If rest and sleep didn’t diminish the contractions, then maybe a relaxing shower would. But here, I only proved myself wrong, because by the time I made it out of the shower, contractions were averaging thirty minutes apart. My water had yet to break and contractions weren’t close enough together to call the doctor, so we slowly started packing up the car with the essentials.. and I prepped for my 37 week photo for the weekly maternity series I’d been documenting! Yes, the last photo was taken through contractions, literally… because by the time the shutter was clicking they had sped up to less than eight minutes apart. And also? BURNING. Things were now hitting intense and the fiery pain that shot out from my lower back to the rest of my body stopped me in my tracks. With one final contraction following the photoshoot sending me to throw up in the bathroom, I’m sure I looked like some scary, animalistic version of myself while wheezing out, “We need to leave NOW.”
As our car swirved around the short mile of road between our home and the hospital, I eked out a text to my parents, letting them know that we’d most likely be meeting Skylar that day. Once parked, Chris helped me walk what seemed like a never-ending stretch of concrete towards the hospital doors, even though that never-ending stretch was pretty much right in front. I didn’t think I could make it. Even with two previous deliveries under my belt, I hadn’t felt contractions like this before. With each one, which were now hitting in waves on top of one another, the lower half of my body was on fire, burning from front to back and any movement just seemed to magnify every bit of pain. So I had what any sane reaction would be… just stop and melt into a puddle on the pavement beneath my feet, because I just knew that any step forward was close to impossible at that point. And yet, each time one foot landed in front of the other, it was confirmation to me that mamas are capable of amazing things. It was knowing I needed to get to a safe place to deliver my sweet one that made me move forward.
Even with a near delivery, or at least meltdown in the parking lot, I think I must have a look of calm on my face when panic begins to set… because the sweetheart at the counter proceeded to check me in, asking for ID and other information after not finding me in the system. Meanwhile I’m breathing and heaving and wondering where the dying cow noises from within me are coming from but hoping they’ll let her know just how dire the moment really is. Eventually she meandered through her checklist and they were ready for me. It was 8:22am.
I heard the slightly muffled question of, “Do you know if she’ll want an epidural?” as I changed in the bathroom and as I heard the word, “no,” the answer my husband had been prepared to give, I yelled through the door a very decisive, “Yes!” I like to feel birth for as long as I can stand it, and was determined for Brayden’s birth to have his delivery completely med free, mainly because of complications from my first. This time around, if there was going to be much time with the fiery pressure that had replaced every muscle in my body from waist down, then I wasn’t sure I could handle it on my own. And learning that I was dilated to six meant that there should be plenty of time for it.
My wheelchair rolled from triage to delivery, and I climbed the bed that would change me, ascending the metal bars and thin mattress of the delivery bed as a mother of two, and would leave it as a mother of three. Breathing through every spasm of torment, and white knuckling Chris’ hand, I closed my eyes. I was there for a reason, for this very special reason, and all the questions and noise, all the rushing and flurry of nurses, beeping machines and needles didn’t need my attention at that moment. My heart knew what my mind, what my body, needed. At that moment I needed to feel.
I felt the strong hand of my husband grasping mine tightly and through it I knew his immense love for me. I felt the squeeze of my body preparing to do something hard, yet something it was created to do. I felt the fear and hope and joy over being a mother again.
And then I felt more. Through wide eyes I told my nurse, “I feel the pressure.” If you’ve ever delivered, you know exactly what I mean… and so did she. Her eyes opened wide to match mine and through an incredulous glance she asked, “THE pressure?” Suddenly I was being checked and the room transformed, lights came on, my feet were propped up, nurses were on the phone and stepping into the hallway yelling for a doctor, any doctor. I was paralyzed. Words couldn’t escape my mouth between deep breaths and now I had to push, my body needed to push, and yet no one was ready.
I was hot. The fire purging my body finally began to show in beads of sweat on my forehead… and it must have somehow converted my speech to that of a native just learning English because through an exhale came, “Need. Rag. Now. Please. Head.”
Somehow, someway, Chris new exactly what I meant because he asked the nurse for a washcloth for my head. And by exactly, I mean mostly, because within seconds he began to dab my head with a wet washcloth and for some inexplicable reason, that made me want to vomit. Suddenly my calm breathing became, “STOP. Don’t touch. No!” And I think I almost laughed at myself for sounding insane and also bluntly barbaric, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t laugh, or talk, or cry, or make any more weird animal noises while lamazing. I could only be, and breathe… sort of.
A doctor ran in the room, catching gloves from a nurse on his way to me, and it was time. Push one came went, and the doctor said, “Stop breathing and just push on this one.” So I did. Push two happened and with all that feeling, I felt my beautiful, perfect, darling boy make his way into the world.
It was 8:42am. Twenty minutes had ticked around the clock since we passed the threshold of those hospital doors. I’m so glad I didn’t melt into the pavement outside of them.
I saw my son’s perfectly pink body held up for a beautiful dreamy moment and he was on his way to my desperately waiting arms when his nurse whisked him away. He had come so quickly that there were a few worries, and so I waited.
While the physical pain of labor was gone and replaced with a wash of relief, and shivers, over each muscle and nerve in my body, the emotional pang of worry was almost worse.
That first cry was heavenly and I knew it was a good sign. We watched as he was checked… his heart, his lungs, his breathing… asking far too many times, “Is he okay?” I wanted to see him, but there were too many nurses in the room, so Chris snapped pictures on his phone, running between that little warming bed and my side to show me. Mere minutes felt like hours, but he was given the all clear and I felt the weight of his 6 pound, 4 ounce body in my arms.
When I held him, finally, my heart turned to liquid love right inside of my chest. His eyes opened and bore into mine, and in that moment, everything else faded away. The steady beeping of machines around me, the patter of baby nurses and mama nurses busy around the room, the chatter between my doctor that had arrived seconds after Skylar’s first breath to deal with the afterbirth and my delivery nurse; all quieted… the room seemed to move in a whirl of silent slow motion around my hospital bed. It was just us. Just us and those eyes, searching each other and finding what we needed. Every bit of that mama love that was poured into him in utero came back to me like a flood through those eyes that held mine in one steady glaze. He searched my heart and found his place, right where he was meant to be, and we fell in love with each other, my son and I.
Also, I was the hero of the hospital, getting high fives from nurses on the way to the room we’d be staying in. Looking like superwoman to my husband. And so grateful I could have the natural birth I ultimately wanted.
The plan was for my friend Briony to be there with us, capturing it all, the candles flickering and music crooning, the pained face of labor and our first tender moments, and yet we all know things don’t always go according to plan. She first waited at the house with Aliyah and Brayden until someone made it to relieve her… we texted about three close friends when we were on the way to the hospital. Since WE barely made it to the hospital, we were surprised how quickly she arrived after his birth and I’m so grateful for these first sweet moments together.
Within hours of kissing my two wee ones goodbye that morning, while trying to look normal and not like a pained rabid animal, they were able to come meet their new baby brother.
It was an amazing day. One of the happiest days of my entire life.
And I think it was for them as well. Aliyah fell into her big sister roll, again, smoothly and naturally. Loving Skylar seemed like something she’s always done, something she was meant to do. And big brother Brayden was so happy to meet the newest member of our family… and to check on me. “I’m sorry Skylar hurt your belly, mommy,” he’d say to me, after knowing the morning I had. Upon learning everyone was okay, he settled into his roll and slowly warmed up enough to kiss his little brother.
Brayden kept asking when the party was going to start. After a while we realized that we had been telling him this was Skylar’s birth day and so he was expecting a whir of people and balloons… and cake. A sweet nurse brought in warm chocolate chip cookies for the kids and we sang Happy Birthday to our littlest man. A sweet day indeed.
As a mother of three, my hands are full. But my heart is even more.