My 30th birthday was on Sunday. About a month ago I decided that I would like to do 30 blog posts in 30 days to celebrate my 30th birthday. At first I thought I would start before my birthday. That idea got washed away in the tide of baby/child/house/self/family care and I thought I would start on my birthday. I almost did, because I sat down to write an update post and ended up writing my whole birth story on my birthday. That was a great gift to myself! In the end, I’ve decided to write 30 posts in the next month or so, but I won’t keep a tight deadline of 30 days. I am really excited to give myself the gift of time, and honoring my creativity and need to write. I can’t wait to see where the next 30 posts take me!
For now, here is the story:
These past few months have been a bit extreme in the scope of our experiences, but truly full of blessings. In the months leading up to the birth of my youngest daughter, Zeecee, Mo was offered a job in California out of the blue. We had been happy with our life in Miami in many ways, but he was less than thrilled with his job there and I was really not enjoying all the driving I was doing while homeschooling. We have both always wanted to live on the West coast and have tried several times to find viable work options out here, to no avail. Our first choice had been Vancouver Island, but after spending two weeks there in 2013 we realized that it didn’t feel like the dream we wanted to pursue any more. It was a bit of a letdown, since we had had it in mind for so long, as sort of a carrot to work toward. We had mostly put aside the West Coast idea and worked to move forward in our life in Florida.
The job opportunity coming out of the blue seemed to offer a special choice to us. It wasn’t great timing, since we would have to rush to move just before the baby we were expecting would be born, or wait and move after. Mo wanted to go before, I was in love with my midwife and friends in Florida and wanted to wait. Neither decision was ideal, moving to a place without very many friends or close family nearby is always a challenge. I felt that with two older kids homeschooling and expecting a new baby it would be impossible for me to pack up and move in a matter of weeks, then land without much support on the other end. I knew that giving birth in Florida with the support and love of friends and family there would be easier in certain ways, but harder in others, especially since Mo had to be in California on a certain date. Either way we knew we couldn’t predict exactly what would happen.
Thankfully children and especially new babies make it clear to us that we are not in control of the unfolding of events. The more important, scary, and seemingly needing to be well planned and controlled the event, the less control we actually have. I worked so hard to let go of my illusions of control, even as I was sure that the baby would come early, just to make the move easier on us since Mo had to start work in California on August 18th. My due date was August 7th, so I figured she would arrive a week (or maybe three weeks!) early. Early enough to give Mo some time with her and me some time to recover before he had to leave, but not early enough to eliminate the possibility of the homebirth I had been planning, or to cause any health problems. Consciously I knew I wasn’t in control, yet I had it all planned out with wishful thinking.
Lo and behold, in the way of life and love and babies, she waited until a full week past my due date.
I tried everything during that week. I saw the chiropractor every other day. I had acupuncture every day. I wept with joy and sadness and fear and bravery. I held my children in my arms. I went on so many dates with my husband that we had nothing left to say to each other across the table of our favorite restaurant, and just held hands while watching mindless action movies, maybe hoping the loud sounds would startle the baby into coming. We talked to her, we asked the kids to talk to her, we sang to her, we offered her kisses if only she would come into our arms. We prayed and walked miles on the beach, trying to jostle and appeal to her. I floated on my back in the bathwater warm Florida Atlantic and watched the sunset over the land while Mo laughed with joy at the sight of my huge round belly glistening atop the sea. I embraced the chaos, I was full of love, I was sure I was open in whatever ways I possibly could be.
My cousin who had come to help with what we assumed would be the postpartum recovery had been with us for a few days already, and my mom was arriving the following day. It was four days before Mo was set to leave and we had had enough. We visited the midwife at 8pm and talked about our options. I wanted to know what our last resort would be. It was apparently showing up at the hospital where my midwife had connections with a very pro-homebirth doctor who would be willing to dilate my cervix with some kind of a balloon and potentially still send me home to labor. Instead, my midwife gave me an exam and was able to manually dilate my cervix slightly. She gave me a bottle of castor oil as a next-to-last resort, and we headed home. I started having contractions about 20 minutes apart. I rested, we talked, we were sure that this had to be the time because we were out of time.
Around 1am the contractions stopped so I took the castor oil and went to sleep. I tossed and turned on the couch then woke up at 6:30am feeling one of the effects of the castor oil. After about an hour, the effect we were looking for kicked in and I started feeling contractions. They started strong but not overwhelming, about 10 minutes apart. By 8am they were five minutes apart and I was sure it was really happening so I called my midwife. She told me to call her back at 8:30. My labor was progressing quickly and by then I couldn’t speak very clearly on the phone so she began to hurry over. She told me not to rush, sort of kidding, but I could hear from her voice she was just hoping she would make it in time.
The castor oil had kicked the labor into high gear and we were a bit surprised but so excited and going with the flow. Then whatever we might have called the flow turned into a torrent and by 9:15 I was literally screaming because the contractions which might be considered waves were crashing over my head. I couldn’t get a handle on the pain which might be considered intensity but lets be real, it was pain. Mo had taken my cousin and Ella to my lovely friends house in the next town over. By the time he came back it was really real, and I had no idea what to do. My blessed midwife and her assistant walked through the door seconds after Mo, and I managed to walk into the front room where we were planning to give birth. The women were calm and assertive and started coaching me through the contractions which at this point were basically running into each other. I remember standing between them, seeing the morning sun through my closed eyes, tears squeezing out, fists clenched, trying to breathe through the intense pain. My midwife said I was going to to pass out with the way I was breathing so she told me to bring my breath all the way down my body, to let myself open and go in the same direction as the pain instead of holding myself and bracing against it.
I sat on the yoga ball in front of the couch while my midwife’s assistant held a hot compress over my lower belly. Bless her heart it was the most helpful thing I could have imagined. She rubbed essential oils on my thighs, she cradled me in her arms like a child, she supported me in a way I couldn’t have asked for. Meanwhile my midwife who has been attending births for over thirty years held the space and gave directions, overseeing every motion and just fully attending to the moment. Ben had decided he wanted to be with us for the birth so he helped Mo blow up and fill the birthing pool with water. As soon as the pool was ready I felt the baby moving down and I decided to get in. I knelt and leaned forward against the inflated wall, resting my face and arms over the edge. The hot water held me but I didn’t float. I felt a contraction and this time it really was like a wave, and I was able to ride it instead of getting washed under. I felt the baby’s head but I was mentally in another place so I think I very mildly said something like “the baby is coming” and I’m not sure if anyone heard me or realized that I meant right at that moment because I felt quite calm and peaceful at that moment. One more contraction came and I gave a strong push, and our sweet baby was in my hands. I pulled her out the rest of the way, lifted her above the water, and held her in my arms. She began breathing right way, and the next few minutes are a blur. I know that I was helped out of the pool and over to the bed, we were wrapped in towels and blankets, and she laid on my chest and tried nursing right away. She was so very calm and never cried, just looked around. I had asked for Ben to leave the room once I got into the birthing pool because I didn’t want to be distracted and felt that the moment of actual birth was maybe too much for him. We called him to come back just after she was born and he and Mo and the midwives and I were all filled with so much joy to see our beautiful baby we had waited for.
Stay tuned for the full story of Mo flying off to California three days later, and how our life is unfolding now that we are all reunited on the West Coast.