I’ve been floating on that post-birth cloud that only the miracle of new life brings. Soon enough, or perhaps it is happening already, I will slowly float back to the ground as Holden and I navigate the fourth trimester together.
The joy, pain, awe, intensity, shock, and gratitude of Holden’s birth are still so near to me. Andrew and I have been like cloud gazers pointing to the sky and marveling at the shapes and patterns displayed as we recall his birth.
The clouds are slowly drifting to make room for new stories and memories to be formed.
April 22 2017
It was an ordinary Saturday that began as most do. We woke with more ease and less rush. I had already surpassed 37 weeks and 5 days which was when our first son was born so I adjusted my mindset for this pregnancy to not anxiously anticipate labor any moment until closer to 42 weeks so that I would patiently wait for this baby’s own timing.
My MIL texts me: “Are you feeling anything? Contractions?”
I respond: “No contractions…he feels lower though. I could see going into labor tonight or being pregnant for weeks still haha…I have no idea anymore.”
I was 38 weeks and five days. Andrew and I took Eli, our two-year-old, to the aquarium in the morning and then out to lunch. We told Eli that we would get him ice cream on the way home, but he soon fell asleep in the car.
Andrew and I stole spoonfuls of Eli’s ice cream until it was almost gone. We all laid down once we got home in the living room. Eli woke up, found his toy doctor kit, and put the stethoscope to my belly to “check baby.”
I walked around our backyard as I had done many times this pregnancy. The last few weeks of this pregnancy were remarkably different than my first pregnancy with Eli. Even when I was extremely active with walking, squatting, and cleaning, I would not even get one Braxton Hicks contraction this time. I was expecting prodromal labor like I had with Eli for two weeks.
I began to feel pressure. A burst of excitement filled my heart and mind. After not feeling any signs of labor, I was overjoyed to feel my baby move lower in preparation for birth. Because of my previous experience with prodromal labor, I thought that labor would be far off.
A contraction. I felt a real contraction. I told myself that I would not tell Andrew about any contractions until it became completely obvious I was having them without even exchanging words, but I was too excited. We stood in the kitchen as I leaned over the counter, and he looked at the clock to note the time-just in case we would want to remember this moment.
We put Eli to bed. I rocked him in my arms as I dreamed of tonight being the night, but quickly stopped allowing myself to dream too much. I still had a lot of pressure and could feel that Holden was low, but there was no time-able pattern to the contractions that seemed to be fading away. I could still move freely and focus on everyday thoughts and tasks so I talked myself out of thinking labor could be near.
Suddenly, intense contractions bringing me to my hands and knees hit me. I welcomed these 15-30 second contractions, but their short length and inconsistent nature made me think active labor was still far in the future.
I tried lying down in bed for the night to see if I could sleep. Instead of drifting off into sleep, being alone in the darkness of our room with these contractions scared me. I didn’t want to be alone anymore.
I knew in that moment that tonight actually could be the night. I got Andrew, and we decided to watch a show together. Soon enough, I told him to turn off the TV because I could not stand the noise anymore. Contractions seemed a bit more intense, but still under 30 seconds long.
I texted my midwife Laura: “I’ve been having contractions for a few hours but they haven’t been consistent…and now I can’t remember when exactly I should call you?…I think they’re starting to pick up but I’m also not sure if it’s prodromal labor.”
I called Laura. I debated after I texted her whether or not I should even call thinking it could just be prodromal labor. On a deep, intuitive level, I must have known that it was time. I told her what I had been experiencing including my doubts about it possibly just being prodromal labor. She told me that she could leave now to come over or I could wait to call her if I wanted more time alone with Andrew to see how things progressed. I was leaning toward waiting to call her back.
After she explained when I should call her back, Andrew said, “Yeah, I think we are already at that point.” She said that she was going to leave right away then.
I sought the peaceful and familiar darkness of our bedroom. Andrew unlocked the front door to welcome Laura in once she arrived before coming to my side. It was as if unlocking the door unlocked anything holding me back from fulling going into active labor.
Contractions were suddenly much longer and more intense. I could barely talk. I felt as if everything was in fast-forward. Previously, I had imagined hours of laboring around the house, but I now knew I would not be leaving the room or maybe even the bed without our baby being born first.
Laura quietly arrived and found us. I was relieved to know she was here, but could not focus on anything but the intense contractions. I did not want to make eye contact with anybody. I was in my own birthing zone. She came to my side acknowledging that labor must have gotten more intense since I had called her. She found Holden’s heart rate in between a contraction.
I felt my body gently pushing. “I think I’m pushing!” I said in slight disbelief. I knew that my body was pushing, but I couldn’t believe it.
I moved to a smaller bed in our room that we had set up specifically for labor. I felt the welcomed release of my water breaking with the next contraction. I felt my baby move down. I felt like the pain was too intense. I felt like this couldn’t really be happening so quickly.
“I can’t do this. I’m not doing this anymore,” I said multiple times. Even in the moment, I almost laughed at myself for saying that because my body was involuntarily pushing even more strongly. I was doing this. Any words of fear were met with gentle and quiet encouragement.
I did not want to leave the bed because I could not imagine walking over to the tub at the time, but with more encouragement, I got into the water. Peace and relief instantly filled my body and soul. I felt Holden moving downward with each contraction.
I felt his head and with the next contractions, he was born into the water. I pulled him onto my chest in complete awe.
I looked at his face and thought, “It’s you. It’s always been you.”
There we were: in the water surrounded by Andrew and our midwives.
There we were: held in a space of love, safety, and respect.
There we were: in the same room where I had dreamed about this moment for so long.
There we were: in our first moments apart yet still connected.
We moved out of the tub and onto the bed where I soon birthed the placenta with Holden on my chest.
Holden weighed 8lbs 14oz and was 21 inches long. Just a few hours after active labor started, Andrew and I found ourselves lying in bed with our newborn baby drifting off to sleep in the bassinet next to me. There were details of the birth for which we had prayed specifically, and in God’s amazing goodness, came into being in ways we cannot fully express our gratitude.
Eli woke up after sleeping through his baby brother’s birth. Andrew brought him to our room to meet Holden for the first time. Eli was amazed by every movement Holden made and even ran downstairs and back up to bring him a toy.
Just as clouds do not suddenly disappear, it’s hard to find the right ending to Holden’s birth story.
We are out of those hazy, magical hours immediately after birth. My milk has come in, the adrenaline of birth has worn off, and the clouds are slowly drifting.
The sun is shining through, and I’ve never felt more tired and alive all at once.
“There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” -Sheryl Feldman
Birth experience and photographs submitted by Carolyn F.