6am Sunday morning – in our usual spot on the couch, Maelle and I, soother and Bunny Bear snuggled under a blanket. A feeling that my brain calls a contraction is very slight and not painful in the least. I had had these for the last couple days and paid them no real attention. We sit for about an hour. A sweet, warm, quiet hour broken up by three contractions. “That’s not nothing I suppose”.
10am – church. “You look great!” “So, no baby yet?” “Still hangin’ in there?” “How are you coping with this heat?” Trying to be kind, smiling, shrugging and sighing when required. I feel fine. A message from the hospital chaplain, about healing. Searching for clarity rather than certainty. Looking back, how meaningful – we didn’t know that our own Clairity was about to arrive! The so-called contractions haven’t gone away, and are about ten minutes apart, but no stronger, and not regular. I mention it to no one, of course. I imagine, with horror, what it would be like if my water broke at church. I have visions of hysteria and excitement and panic. TONS of advice, and 50 people watching me give birth…I shudder and push the thought from my head.
On the way home I mention to Nathan that I’ve been having contractions all morning. “What!?” I told him they weren’t painful, but they were there. “Ignore, ignore, ignore”. “I know! I know! I know! It’s a little hard when it’s your body,” I say. We know, we agree.
1:30pm – naps. Slept for a good two hours and woke up with the contractions still there. Still not painful though. Still in denial.
We had plans to go to Luke and Rachel’s for supper – “one last visit before the baby comes”. We debate. What will Luke say when he finds out I’m in labour at his house? Oh well. It will do me no good to sit at home and wait. All of this discussion with a flutter in my heart – could this be it? Ignore, ignore, ignore.
5pm – Contractions five or ten minutes apart on the drive over. Should we say I’m really “in labour”? We don’t want to freak anyone out, and what if it’s nothing? But what if it’s something? Better to be upfront. Better call Kaley too. Something is happening, whether it turns into real labour or not.
Throughout dinner it’s easy to act normal when the contractions are happening, and no one seems to notice them. It’s my secret, though ignoring them is now out of the question for me.
8pm – kids are in bed, we’re playing games. Remembering Kaley’s labour, playing Ticket to Ride between contractions. We play Outbreak. “Can you tell when I’m having a contraction?” I ask, almost mischievously. No, everyone agrees that I’m doing a good job of hiding it, though I’m sure my grimaces are becoming obvious. My excitement is growing and I’m actually enjoying this. The anticipation is building.
10pm – better head home. “I should try to sleep, in case this is really something”. Still really believing it might possibly be a false alarm. Quick trip to the bathroom before we pack up Maelle. The toilet often seems to have this effect on labouring women – “this is real, this is serious, and this isn’t going away”. Rachel insists we leave Maelle. “If nothing happens, I can bring her back home in the morning.” After some protesting we gratefully agree. What good friends we have.
The car is not a fun place to labour. “Yup, this is it! For sure.” A quick call to Kaley to confirm that we are on our way to pick her up and the wheels are set in motion. I run in to Kaley’s to use the bathroom. Aaron is all smiles and his excitement is contagious. I have two contractions in the time it takes me to pee. Okay, they are getting close together and acting normal isn’t an option. Stop and breath through them. “We’d better call the midwives”, I say, but we decide we can wait until we get home. Still talking and joking between contractions no problem, but they’re about three minutes apart by now. This gradual progression is so different than the first time so I still believe the birth is hours away.
11pm – At home, upstairs and the real work begins. Nathan calls and speaks to the student midwife, Rebecca, who asks to talk to me. Not a chance! The time between contractions is too short and I am really in the thick of it. Questions about how it feels, how long this had been going, how long the contractions last and on and on. They eventually agree that she’ll aim to be there in an hour. “No, no, no” I respond, “please tell her to come now!”. Though I don’t think the baby is coming soon, I know it’s a bad idea to wait – I can’t get through this without her, I needed some support. I insist she come right away. Alright, she is on her way. While we wait, I work, leaning on the bed and on the ball, though the pain was so much more than I was expecting. How can it hurt this much already? I worry.
When they arrive, Pilar, the midwife, and a student, Rebecca, they assure me that I’m doing fine – great in fact. “You’re going to have this baby very soon” Pilar says. I’m on my hands and knees on the yoga ball and I can tell she is serious when she starts setting up all of her equipment in high speed, giving quiet instructions to Rebecca. Rebecca is going to have to step up, because Pilar seems to think the baby is going to be born before the second midwife arrives. Without even checking me she says, “Rosilee, your baby is going to be here in minutes“. She can sense my panic and is trying to reassure me, but I simply don’t believe her. I know there are still hours of work ahead of me. But if the pain is this bad right now, there is no way I am going to make it. I am afraid and losing control.
Pilar asks me if that last contraction felt different, but I’m not totally sure. When the next one comes I agree that it is time to push. The urge to push is not clear, the way it had been with Maelle, but I can think about little other than how badly I am coping with the pain. I am starting to scream. I’m overwhelmed with the thought that I won’t be able to handle it for much longer. I am scared.
Someone says they can feel the head “right there”. I ask to move onto the birthing stool so that I can feel where I’m supposed to push. They hesitantly agree, rushing me into position before the next contraction. They are starting to explain how I’m going to pant through the next contraction, undoubtedly in the hopes of slowing things down a bit. The talking continues but time suddenly stops. For that first pushing contraction I was holding back – not pushing well, not really letting go and opening up. Let go, I thought, don’t be afraid of the pain, just open up and let the baby come out. The world came back into focus and … the baby was out. The baby seems to actually fall out and I am sure no one was there to catch this lightening fast baby. I was not in position and no one was ready. But here we are. There is a baby. 12:05am, July 9th, 2012. They promise me the baby did not hit the ground.
The baby is being passed to me, but I can’t hold on. The process is not over. I am in total shock, I am terrified, overwhelmed and shaking. There is no satisfaction, no relaxation or overwhelming joy and love. There is only shock – shaking, weakness, fear and so much pain. I ask Nathan to take the baby. I’m glad he gets to hold the baby right away. I move to the bed and it slowly starts to hit me – the baby! The baby is here! I am shaking and shaking and shaking and still scared. I don’t understand what just happened. Where was the anticipation? The pushing, the waiting, the longing, the hard work with glorious breaks and then more hard work? Where was the pushing through the pain, the determination with a wonderful prize at the end? I am confused while everyone else is amazed and overjoyed. And why is there still so much pain? The contractions seem to continue and so does the confusion and disappointment. All while holding my brand new baby.
Nathan and the midwives help to calm me down and someone checks if the baby is a girl or a boy. It’s a girl. A girl!
I start to look at her, to embrace her as real. She is really here, with us, in my arms. I take off my shirt so I can hold her skin-to-skin, trying to give her the very best. I feel that I, my feelings, my body, my reaction, have already betrayed her. There seems to be so much blood and so much pain but I try to focus on the baby. Her name, her weight (she’s tiny!), her length. Kaley taking pictures, the baby’s amazing apgar scores, all the vernix, no stitches! All of these moments come and go. Medication, instructions, questions, cleaning up, calling friends and family. The slow realization that it is done. And finally, sleep.
Here you are baby girl. Baby two, in the world, brand new, shining and real. Claire Elaine. Bright light, coming out of the dark. Lighting, coming out of the storm. A message, a miracle.
The strength of motherhood takes many different forms, and finding it is not always easy. Claire Elaine, bring your light, bring your clarity, bring your life to our family. We need you.