It's funny. You can be waiting for something wonderful to happen for a really long time. Days go by, weeks, and months, all at the speed with which they would have passed even if you were not waiting. But it's those final days and hours, when the arrival of your gift feels so close...so imminent...that pass with almost painful sluggishness. Every second seems to linger and loiter, and taunt. Your rational mind tells you to enjoy the time. Appreciate the anticipation of being on the brink. Savor every moment to the bittersweet end. And sometimes you can do that. But sometimes the "next thing" looms so brilliant and beautiful before you that it overshadows all the moments surrounding it.
Such is birth.
That brilliant and beautiful moment.
No matter how many times I experience it. No matter how much struggle or pain it brings. It's the brilliance and beauty that my heart remembers.
I woke up on the morning of May 6, 2013 with slightly uncomfortable contractions about 10-12 minutes apart. This had been happening nearly every morning for several days though, and I knew they would subside as soon as I got out of bed. I lay there for about an hour, visualizing my body preparing for labor, and wiling it to continue its work even after I rolled myself out of the bed. Just as I expected though, as soon as I got up it stopped. I led the kids through morning chores, loaded everyone in the van, and headed to my mom's house to go through the kid's clothes that I have stored in her attic. Aunt Carol and Mimi made them a yummy brunch while I sorted and sifted through boxes and bins. For the two hours we spent there, not one noticeable contraction passed through my body. I left for home with plans to do some laundry, clean my house, and hit the gym before dinner time.
I arrived home around 12:15pm. A few minutes after 12:30 I got on the treadmill (the first of my two planned workouts for the day) and set it at my regular pace. Within the first three minutes I had to cut the speed in half because a shockingly uncomfortable contraction gripped my back and belly. I thought little of it, assuming I just needed to slow down. Less than 5 minutes later, it happened again. Something just felt different about these. Not like the practice my body had been doing for months. I knew when my back felt them too, that there was a stronger chance that they meant something. I walked around the house for awhile, not really timing anything, but noticing that they were coming about every 4-5 minutes. And noticing that they weren't polite little pains. I sat on the birthing ball and they spaced out some, but didn't stop. Checkpoint #2, they didn't go away when my activity changed. Justin was at work preparing for an important presentation he had the next day, so I was slow to contact him and share the recent developments. Right around 1:00 I texted him and told him that I was having some "decently uncomfortable" contractions, but it wasn't urgent and I would keep him updated. Over the next hour they became more and more intense, and moved to 3 minutes apart. I took a shower, because no matter how much pain I was already feeling, there was no way I was going to have a baby unshowered and with hairy legs! A little after 2:00 I was feeling confident things were progressing and I called and told him he should maybe head home. I texted my mom and said I thought today was the day. About that time I also informed my midwife, Lucy, that I was having contractions, but that she didn't need to rush over. Over the next 20 minutes I texted friends who planned to be present for the birth, just to give them a heads up that things were happening. Everyone wanted to come right away. But I put them all off, saying no one needed to hurry. Justin arrived home around 2:30, saw how real the labor already was, and called Lucy to tell her to ignore whatever I had said and go ahead and come over. When Lucy arrived at 3:00, contractions were about 2 minutes apart. She asked how I was doing and I told her "great!", which is what I had been telling myself as my own cheerleader for the previous couple of hours.
Sometime between 3:00 and 3:45, most everyone else arrived. My mom, Dana (Lucy's apprentice), and my friends Lori (and her daughter, Ayla) and Alli. It wasn't long before I could concentrate on nothing other than the work that my body and mind were doing to bring this baby to meet its family. Justin was rubbing my back and pressing it as hard as he could as I breathed through the surges and held a picture in my mind of my sweet baby descending.
When my friend Anne Marie (and her 6 kids) arrived, I heard her voice in the house and felt her touch my back, but I wasn't even able to open my eyes to see her. Sometime around 4:00, I got into the shower, looking for something to relieve the pain and pressure.
While in the shower, I was fully aware of when my labor changed to the transition stage. I began vocalizing during each contraction, that low moaning sound that Justin loves to laugh about after every birth. I was talking myself through every wave and settling myself during every break. The pressure became intense, surging all the way into my legs until I felt that I could no longer stand. I knew I needed to lie down. So I left the comfort of the warm water beating on my back and went to my bed.
Justin continued to press on my back, though nothing really offered much relief.
The pressure rapidly intensified. I began to tell myself that it was time. My body agreed. My water had not yet broken but I knew the baby was so close, and I knew that if I just changed positions then my water would likely break and we would be minutes away from meeting our baby. So I took all the strength I could gather and sat up, pulling myself onto my knees.
And it happened. A POP and rush of fluid. And right away I felt the urge to push. I sat there on my knees, leaning onto Justin's back while he acted as a stool propped on his elbows in front of me on the bed, and felt the little one descending through my body. I heard encouragement from the crowd waiting behind me (11 other people in the room, including a few kids). I knew the moment had arrived. That brilliant and beautiful moment that overshadows all the others. I pushed slowly and deliberately, easing her head out, then gave one more small push and a sweet little precious baby girl bursted into the room, bringing relief and unspeakable joy with her. Lucy unwrapped the cord from her neck as I melted onto the bed in exhaustion and brought my gift to my chest.
Over the next couple of hours, friends and family and brothers and sisters basked in the joy and beauty of this much anticipated new life. Baby girl and I relaxed in an herb bath together. And she was weighed and measured.
The waiting was over. The next wonderful thing had arrived.
On her third day of life she received a name.
Dahlia Dove Nanette Allen. Our stunning flower. Our peaceful bird. And her Mimi's namesake.
May 6, 2013, 4:32pm. 6 pounds, 1 ounce. 19 inches.
Daddy calls her Dahlia or Doll, and Mama likes to call her Dove.
Thank you, Lord, for this much anticipated gift. And for her journey into my arms. Even amidst the pain...something brilliant and beautiful for my heart to always remember.