Mavis was born on a Sunday. It was her due date, so naturally, we weren’t expecting her to arrive that day. On Saturday, I cleaned all day. I went and bought a new book, expecting to go overdue. I made a beautiful home cooked meal and I snuggled my oldest at nap time. I think she knew it was time before I did. We tucked her in and before going to bed, I went into her room, stood over her and watched her breathe. I brushed hair from her eyes and re-tucked her in. I didn’t know it but it was the last night she would be the baby.
At 4 a.m. I woke peacefully to some contractions. I’d been having false labour with this pregnancy since 35 weeks, so I tried to go back to sleep. But something was nagging at me. So I got up to be sure they were false and drew a bath hoping to calm things down. The light pain stayed consistent in the tub, something that hadn’t happened before. But I remained in denial that Mavis was coming.
I returned to bed, my mind whirring. I had a constant confidence this entire pregnancy. I was sure that she wouldn’t be early. I was more certain her arrival would be quick. And I was sure that she’d be big and squishy. But that confidence in the wee hours of the morning suddenly vanished. All of a sudden, I was unsure of my ability to birth this baby. Unsure I could manage the pain at home. Even more, unsure that labour would be the quick birth I had suspected.
By 6 a.m. I decided to wake up my husband. I wasn’t in a lot of pain, but contractions were still rhythmic and I told him I thought we might be in labour but I was unsure. We decided to go lay on the couch together for an hour. At 7 a.m. I was still unsure, but pain was increasing so he woke up Isla and I fed her breakfast while he called our midwife. She had an appointment that morning to attend in the south end and said she would follow up with us later to see if things were progressing. We decided to call my husband’s aunt to pick up Isla. At 8 a.m., my sister, Lindsay arrived and Isla headed out with her aunt. I could no longer sit because the contractions were painful, but I could lean against our dining room table and talk through them fine, so I didn’t suspect being anywhere close enough to birth.
Lindsay was great at making me laugh and keeping me distracted. My husband tried a few things to help set the mood, like music, while Lindsay helped me time contractions. They were 2-3 minutes apart, but occasionally 5-6 minutes. No real consistency, so I again brushed off that we were close to labour. Around 8:30 I asked Corey to draw another bath. Pain was getting intense and building in my belly. When I got in the tub, I expected the pain to dull and was surprised and a little scared how they suddenly changed and became incredibly strong. I looked at Corey, at this point crying, and told him I wanted to go to the hospital and that I didn’t think I could handle this amount of pain for another eight hours. I was scared I would only be about 3-4 centimeters and that there would be many hours left at this level of pain and that frightened me. Slowly but surely, my calm facade was diminishing. I asked him to page our midwife, Jerren, again and tell her I wanted to move to the hospital for pain relief, even though I had only been in active labour for two hours.
When Corey reached Jerren she was nearly at her appointment but when he told her what was happening she suspected I was in transition at 7-8 centimeters. At that point in labour is usually when women will ask for something for the pain. Astoundingly, I had gotten there in four hours of labour. She told us not to get in the car and that she would be there momentarily to check me. She said it was likely I was quite far along and wouldn’t make it to the hospital.
When she arrived I got into our bed, which we then realized was far too soft to labour in, and Jerren checked me. I was at an 8, with no hope of reaching the hospital or getting an epidural. We decided to stay home.
At this point, I was in astounding pain. With every contraction, my whole body tensed and I closed my legs together, clenching. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was preventing my body from relaxing enough to allow baby to enter the birth canal. Standing in the bathroom at the sink, I was crying as Corey and Jerren rubbed my back and tried to get me to relax. Jerren recommended sitting on the toilet to try and release some pressure. It was incredibly hard to sit but I remember our midwife telling me to allow my body to relax. She told me I was strong and that I could do this, I just had to feel my baby. She went to prepare some items in the bedroom and a few minutes later, I had a big contraction and I could have sworn I felt that last lip of cervix fall away. I knew we were ready without anyone checking.
The urge to push had begun, so I stood up and slowly walked to the bedroom. We couldn’t birth in bed, so I stood at the foot of the bed. Leaning into a pillow, I finally let go, giving my body a chance to do what it needed to. It was 10:15 when I began to push. I screamed into a pillow and bore down really hard. My legs were shaking and it was hard to stand but I felt an intense feeling deep in my heart. Mavis was right there and I COULD do this. I had done this before. I stopped saying I can’t do this and drummed up the last bit of perseverance I had left, and I pushed hard. I could feel my baby sliding into place. I could feel my body open up. Worst of all, I could feel the fire burning as I stretched to accommodate her. Jerren asked me to reach down and feel my daughter’s head, because she was right there. I said no, because I was scared and because I was focused.
On the next contraction, I made it my goal to get her head out. I pushed with everything I could muster and I felt my body tearing trying to get her out, but I pushed through with newfound strength, knowing it was almost over and she was nearly here. Mavis was the perfect motivation. Her head was out but my legs were giving out, so I tried to close them. Jerren and Corey gently told me to open them again so to give her room. The next contraction my husband got ready hoping to catch her, but as I pushed I heard Jerren say that she thought Mavis’ cord was around her neck. I pushed hard as Corey backed away to let Jerren catch. All it took was one good push and she fell into Jerren and Corey’s arms. The pain was instantly gone and there was only sweet, sweet relief. I cried out as I looked down to see her. A great shock of black hair and the chubbiest cheeks I had ever seen. Her eyes were blinking open and shut.
I was so happy to finally see my daughter. I felt like I knew her, which was a different experience that I hadn’t had with my first delivery. We waited until her cord stopped pulsing and then Corey cut it while my sister watched. Mavis was crying and I was talking to my newest daughter gently telling her it was okay, that she was here now. Jerren asked Corey to take off his shirt and gently handed Mavis to him for skin to skin while she cleaned me up and we delivered the placenta. It was amazing to see it and your cord together and appreciate that, like you, I had grown that organ to sustain you while you were inside. The biggest shock of the entire birth was weighing you. My first baby was a petite 5lbs 2oz. I had torn twice during that 4 hour labour. And here was my second babe, Mavis Sylvia Skye, a whopping 9lbs 2oz in two hours of active, precipitous labour, and not a single tear.
I had done battle with my body and my mind for the most intense few hours of my life and I felt like a million dollars because we came out on the other side, whole and both in the same world.
Submitted by Katie Burt.
Photographs taken by Lindsay Duncan.