On the morning of Valentine’s day 2015 my husband Brett and I were most likely two of the first people in America to awake. He was anxiously dressing for a half-marathon he didn’t train for and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of our second daughter.
I’d just had my last prenatal appointment a day or two beforehand with my midwife Teresa, and she told me to settle in. She predicted that this Little Woman #2 was probably getting more cozy womb-side than her older sister did. Though she told me this, my body said otherwise.
As my husband scooped up our Little Woman #1 to load her into the car, her honey blonde curls and caramel toned limbs draped over his shoulders. We were headed to the starting line before it was even 4am.
I remember gazing up at the vast navy blue morning sky dusted with luminescent constellations and feeling a small twinge. I didn’t want to throw Brett off his game anymore than he already was. He would have 13.1 miles to think about whatever last words I said to him in this moment. And I didn’t think they should be, “Love, I think today is the day where you will need to do repetitive hip squeezes, heated back massages, and then catch our second daughter.” So I stayed mum and put the keys in the ignition.
As I rode back home with my sleepy girls, one inside me and the other behind me, I prepared myself for the day’s events. I reminded myself to take each moment as it came and to go on with my day as if nothing exciting were going to happen.
Once home, Little Woman #1 and I snuggled back into bed. About an hour later I set a chair out in our front driveway to watch the runners pass. Brett told me the day before that he’d be looking for me along the route. So, I made sure to be there.
By the time he came racing by I had felt a few more twinges. I simply smiled knowingly, waved, and cheered him on as my night vision pierced the darkness.
Another hour or so passed and I loaded myself back into the car to pick Brett up at the finish line. I had fixed my hair into tight French rolls accented with a bright pink scrap of fabric. I wore my favorite silky teal kimono, secured firmly above my belly and headed out. By this time the twinges were becoming twangs of pain.
As Brett made his way to the finish line, my daughter and I cheered and ran to give him a huge hug and kiss. He quickly began recapping on the entire race. How he felt as though he would collapse just moments before seeing us and how he got a major cramp during the last mile that slowed him down by at least 20 minutes.
We hopped into the car and I spill the beans. The look on his face is pure shock. We’d discussed previously that this might happen. That he’d possibly be up before the sun, run one of the most intense races he’s ever done, and then head home to find out today is the day. But of course, he never suspected that it would come true!
As we headed back into the house I felt myself relax (kind of) and give in that this was labor. Around noon I was fully embracing each pull and stretch of my uterus. We prepared lunch, ate, and all laid in bed. About two hours into our siesta my body told me to get up. I grabbed my laptop and turned on my favorite Pandora station, WorldBeat Radio. I swayed at our kitchen counter with all the lights turned off, with only the glow of the laptop. Every so often I’d squat down and take some deep breaths. I sipped water and focused on relaxing my face and jaw.
This was how I wanted to labor. In quiet, peaceful, security. My family was lying soundly in bed, no one was observing me, and I was under the spell of the Gypsy Kings.
Around 3pm my husband arose and we began to make small talk. He knew that I didn’t want to talk about the obvious. I would ask for help when I was ready. He secretly called our midwife to tell her my status.
About an hour later I decide to step into our shower as I notice more intense surges of pressure begin to strap me in. I transition between squatting and cat cowing beneath the hot spray of the shower and the relief is magical. I call my husband in to time the contractions and he does his best. At the same time I ask him to begin timing, I ask for him to do lower back counter pressure.
After about 30 minutes of this, he whispers that he thinks we should head to the birth center. I refuse. I want to be sure that it’s time. He gives in to my request for about another 10 minutes and then strongly encourages me to get into the car. He and Little Woman #1 will be waiting there for me, he says. I do a series of about 5 loopty-loos between the front door and the toilet before he finally takes me by the hand and puts me in the car.
As we head down our bumpy island road I feel my body squeezing my insides like a tube of toothpaste in regular unrelenting intervals. With each pulse I arch my back over our center console and my husband steps harder on the gas.
We arrive at the birth center to the smiling face of my doula. She ushers me out of the car and my husband grabs our daughter.
I crouch down low at the nurse’s station and my midwife gives a knowing glance. Without hesitation I’m taken into the room we chose ahead of time and within minutes I’m squatted in front of the bathroom toilet. Someone has offered my older girl some Trisquits and she snacks as she waits. My husband washes his hands and I give about 3 strong pushes. As my eyes are closed I hear everyone cheer. I look down and there she is. Her soft gluey skin resting inside her papa’s strong callused hands. I’m stunned. I thought I had so much longer to go. I sit down right there on the floor and the lights are dimmed low. The four of us huddle in close together and tears stream down my face. I thank my husband, midwife, and the staff for their gentleness.
After about 30 minutes we all head to the comfy queen-sized bed inside the room. Brett and Little Woman #1 both take off their shirts. Little Woman #2 balls up tightly next to her papa’s chest and her proud sister leans in to give her a kiss. I gaze over at our new family and the charming place where we all met.
“This is how birth should be” , I tell myself.