This is a story that I’ve waited a very long time to tell. I only hope my attempt at conveying its immense significance is adequate enough for the special, lifelong place it holds in my heart. And so it goes...
Sunday, January 31st, 2010, started out like any other day. Andrew and I woke up and decided that we ought to go stock up on groceries before the baby arrived. We assumed we had at least a week since her due date was set for February 3rd. So around 3:00 pm, we hop in the car and head to Costco. At this time, I had began to feel what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions about every 30-45 minutes. I didn’t think much of it because I knew those could go either way...slowing down and lasting for days, or speeding up into active labor. I certainly didn’t believe it was the latter; surely I had a few more days! After walking around and shopping for over an hour, having to stop a few times to let the contraction pass, we headed home.
As the day progressed, the contractions slowly started to get closer together. Mandy and Neal came over for dinner and I decided to succumb to a craving and bake a batch of delicious brookies (brownies with cookies baked on top...to DIE for). After eating nearly half the pan myself, I was exhausted and felt like getting some rest. Noticing that my contractions were now about 15 minutes apart, I decided to text my Midwife and ask her if there was anything I should do. She told me to take a bath and drink a glass of wine...um, no twisting my arm there! I did so and instantly felt better. She said the contractions would probably slow down at that point and they did. I then crawl into bed to try to get some sleep. Lo and behold, they decided to speed up and began increasing in intensity as well. Sleep was not happening and by 1:00 am I realized they were now 8 minutes apart and becoming quite painful. I woke Andrew up and said, “I’m not positive but I think it’s time to have a baby. You gotta get up and clean the kitchen!” He hopped up and did so with a smile.
At around 2:30 I had come to the conclusion that this baby was coming and it was time to take action. I actually hesitated before calling my Doula because I felt guilty that it was the middle of the night. I decided that a text message would be better than an abrupt phone call so I sent her one saying that I believed it was time. She wrote back instantly, as if she were already awake and waiting, saying she was on her way! I also sent a text message to Shanna so that she could head over to start documenting this special occasion. Summer, my Doula, also contacted the Producer of the TV show so that they could head this way. Everyone showed up around 3:00 am at which point I was pretty uncomfortable.
By this point, time seemed to evade me completely. An hour felt like a minute and vice-versa. I labored mostly in the living room on our couch with Summer rubbing my pressure points behind me and Andrew always close by encouraging me and letting me squeeze his hands until they were bruised. He even had a contraction tracker app on his iPhone that helped keep us on track with the progress. I barely noticed when the camera crew showed up and started filming. I was in the “zone”, incredibly focused and the contractions were so intense that I wouldn’t even have noticed if a shirtless Brad Pitt walked in the front door.
We stayed in contact with the Midwife, Christy, and she instructed us to head to the Birthing Center when my contractions were 2 minutes apart and 1 minute long. That seemed to happen very quickly because before I knew it, we were getting in the car. It was about 5:15 when I reluctantly got up off the couch to get in the front seat of Andrew’s car. The camera woman rode in the backseat to document our journey. Let me just say that it was the longest and most painful car ride I’ve ever experienced. Unbeknown to me, once we arrived at the birthing center and Christy checked me, I was already dilated to a 9!! I later figured out I must have transitioned in the CAR, which was why it was so incredibly difficult. I must say, I was quite proud of myself and a little rejuvenated when I learned I had dilated to a 9 all by myself and was about ready to start pushing.
I then decided to get into the birthing tub to see if the warm water would alleviate the tiniest bit of my discomfort. Boy did it. I stayed in the tub and pushed with every contraction for about an hour. When Christy checked me and noticed some bleeding, she decided it would be safer for me to get out of the water for a minute so she could better asses the situation. When I was on the bed being checked out, I had a sudden, strong urge to push. Christy encouraged me to do whatever my body was telling me to do....so I did. With that next push, out came Olivia’s head! Christy unwrapped the umbilical cord from her neck and told me to push again. I did and she popped right out! She was born at 7:41 am on Monday, February 1st. That moment was one of the most empowering, emotional and memorable moments of my entire life. I felt on top of the world!
I accomplished exactly what I set out to do from the moment I discovered I was pregnant. I gave the ultimate gift to my baby and myself by giving her the most gentle beginning possible. I did it 100% drug free and without unnecessary medical intervention. I allowed my body to do what it was built to do...birth my baby in a safe and healthy way surrounded by the people I love and trust. I honestly couldn’t have taylor made a more perfect labor and birth situation. It was certainly beautiful in every way. Did it hurt? Absolutely! But my visualization techniques really helped me to keep the perspective that it was pain with purpose. I kept my thoughts and energy focused on the ultimate outcome of holding my sweet baby, so in doing that, it made every twinge of pain and discomfort that much more bearable.
Once she was born, they immediately put her on my chest where she instantly lifted her head, looked at me and then found my breast. It was the sweetest thing in the world and I could do nothing but stare at her with shock and adoration. After about 20 minutes of bonding, Andrew cut the cord. They Midwives the proceeded to draw an herbal bath for mommy and baby. That was my favorite part. It was relaxing, promoted healing for me, and gave Olivia and I the chance to look each other in the eyes and start a bond that will last for the rest of our lives. My eyes tear up just thinking about it. After our bath it was time to order some breakfast for Andrew and me and head back to the room to rest. My entire family was waiting in the wings, more than ready to come see this precious baby girl. We spent a few moments with them all, everyone getting the chance to pass the baby around and spread their love, before it was time for me to breast feed and then attempt a nap.
Andrew and I stayed there and rested for a few more hours, consulted with the breast-feeding specialist, and then decided to pack up our sweet baby and head home! That was a surreal moment. We were actually driving home with our new daughter, to be alone for the first time. Scary and exciting at the same time. We carried her over the threshold with pride on one shoulder and our hearts on the other. I was overjoyed to finally have her home.
The whole experience was a day I will never forget. I had the most astounding support group behind me every step of the way for which I am forever grateful. A BIG thank you to Christy and Summer for being there to insure the safety and comfort for me and my baby. Also to Shanna for taking the time to share such an intimate, emotional and life-changing event with our family. The photographs you took were nothing short of awesome and I will treasure them always. I know someday, Olivia will too!
And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my husband for being the biggest support of them all. I knew beforehand that he’d be amazing, but he far surpassed any expectations I might have had. He never left my side, he encouraged me at every moment, and he never complained when I squeezed the blood out of his hands. Even since her birth, he has stepped up and taken initiative to sooth her, calm her, feed her and change her, all the while doing every bit of the cooking, cleaning and taking care of me while I heal. I knew I married a good man but seeing him as the ultimate caretaker and father has only made me fall deeper in love than I ever thought possible. I love you, Andrew, and I’m the luckiest woman in the world to have a man that might make other men question their own ability to care for another with such selflessness and love that you make me feel every day. Thank you for giving me the most precious gift in the world...unconditional love and a beautiful family.