Cascading Over the Precipice
Your birth was a series of moments that accumulated, stacking one on top of another, leading me up, up, up until I found myself cascading over the precipice, thrust into an exhilarating free fall before landing peacefully in another reality.
Saturday, June 25, 2:30pm
Your induction is scheduled for Monday. I will be nearly 42 weeks pregnant at that point (or 43 weeks, depending on which due date you go by), which, in terms of gestational timeline, is on the far end of the medical community’s comfort level. My OB has been wonderful, doing everything possible to give me the chance to go into labor naturally. Being induced was the last thing I wanted for us, but my thoughts are with you and getting you into this world in the healthiest way possible. I also know that I am exhausted and in pain. I’m not sure how many more sleepless nights I can endure and still be an effective laborer. I lean on your papa’s shoulder and say “I think I just need a little more time. Lyla and I can do this. I know we can do this.” I call my OB and she agrees to push back my induction until Friday, provided I come in each day for a biophysical profile. I agree, relieved. I make it my mission for the next few days to stay rested and nourished. I meditate and talk to you.
Wednesday, June 29, 12:03pm
I lumber upstairs to get dressed as your grandma is on her way to pick me up for lunch. For the past three weeks we have been calling you our mermaid, so content you seem to stay in your underwater world. I bend over to pull on the one pair of pants that fits (sort of) and notice a small stream of liquid trickling down my leg. Then a gush. Then a deluge. I squeal and burst into tears. You are coming, naturally, on your own. Your papa races back home to find me perched on the front steps with a drenched towel between my legs, beaming.
Wednesday, June 29, 3:08pm
I’ve been walking through the birth center for an hour, trying to get contractions started. The on-call doctor (not mine) started me on the dreaded “Pitocin timeline”—I have until 4:00 to show some cervical change before the cascade of interventions that I had wanted so badly to avoid will kick in. My cervix is only dilated to 1cm. I’m starting to have some contractions—not strong, but regular. I tell your auntie that I need a break. She lovingly tells me I need to keep walking. I do.
Wednesday, June 29, 4:11pm
My cervix is dilated to 3cm. I go to the bathroom and feel your head drop like a bocce ball into my pelvis. I immediately start cramping— hard. “Thank you,” I whisper.
Wednesday, June 29, 6:15pm
After walking for another 2 hours I’m having strong contractions. With each one I slip deeper into a place of concentration, a place of connection to you. I roll back and forth on the birth ball, flanked by your papa and auntie. Papa plays Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluia” and I feel hot tears stream down my cheeks. We’re there. We’re in active labor. You and I are doing this.
Wednesday, June 29, 8:05pm
I’m laboring hard in the tub. My body adjusts to the intensity of each contraction just in time to prepare itself for the strength of the next one. I breath, grunt, hum, vocalize. The vibrations of my voice feel soothing and give me more power to stay on top of each surge. (Little did I know they soothed you, too. I would hum in the same way to put you to sleep weeks after your birth.) I ask for your papa to come in. He sits on the edge of the tub, tentatively putting a hand on my shoulder, then quickly retracting it, unsure of what to do. His touch brings me out of my place of concentration, so I ask him not to make physical contact. I tell him that I just need him there. He doesn’t have to say or do anything. I feel his gaze on me as I work through each contraction.
Wednesday, June 29, 10:15pm
After a series of contractions that leave my thighs trembling, I abandon my current position (on my knees, draped over the end of the birthing bed) and sit for a moment with my legs dangling off the side. A wave of hormones and adrenaline hit and I start convulsing. Auntie and Doula Robyn hold my shoulders so that I don’t fall. The shaking takes me by surprise, but after it ends I feel more focused and energized. A contraction comes and I surge forward. I’m spontaneously pushing. The nurse checks me and I’m fully dilated. You are kicking more forcefully than ever. I’m not surprised when the nurse tells me that your heartbeat is strong and regular— you are tolerating labor well. We are both thriving in this moment.
Thursday, June 30, 12:15am
I’ve been laboring down for two hours, letting each contraction guide my pushing. The spontaneous urge to push is the most powerful sensation I’ve ever experienced. I feel strong, in control, totally connected to you and my body. This is the hardest I’ve ever worked— at anything. You continue to kick as you glide down the birth canal. Auntie, Papa and Doula Robyn are taking shifts holding my legs and encouraging me. I know you are coming. There is no need to rush your arrival.
Thursday, June 30, 12:40am
The pace of my pushing changes. I hear someone say “I see hair!” and the tone in the room shifts. The nurse calls for back up and I realize that doctor has not arrived yet. The nurse asks me to resist the urge to push, to “puff” for the next few contractions. I “puff”, but the next contraction pushes your head through the opening. You are fully crowning. Everything in my being— in my universe– at that moment is telling me to deliver you into the world. The sensation is primal, it’s out of my control— I have become the pushing. With the next contraction I give a strong push and you come sliding out onto the bed— head, shoulders, body. We cascade over the precipice together.
Thursday, June 30, 12:49am
In the moment between delivering you and feeling your glorious little body on my chest, I’m in an exhilarating free fall. As you land in my arms, I feel myself land in this new reality. “Lyla! I’m your mom!” I exclaim through tears of joy.
Thursday June 30, 12:55am
I peel my gaze away from your lovely eyes for a moment to see Papa cut your cord without hesitation. He has a glow of pride I’ve never seen before. Your long fingers wrap around one of mine and we are both completely drawn into you.
Thursday, June 30, 2:20am
We’re back in our recovery suite. As I share the good news with your grandpa by phone, you stare at me through the side of your clear bassinet with those big, curious eyes. You are magical. Every fiber of my being wants to jump out of bed and hold you to me, but I don’t trust my exhausted legs and the pain from my birth injuries has begun to take hold. Your papa gets back from fetching our things from the delivery suite, gently removes you from your bassinet, kisses you on the forehead and hands you to me. The three of us embrace and I understand the meaning of perfection.
Monday, July 4, 6:50pm
You’ve been in the outside world for four, almost five days now. I’ve spent most of my time those first days holding you, learning your ways, taking you in. We are celebrating 4th of July at your grandma and grandpa’s. You’re sleeping through your first raucous Blake/Westmoreland/Bouchard card game, snuggled in your grandma’s arms. I pick up a stack of photos your grandma took the day you were born. As I flip through them, my heart fills. I feel your grandma watching me from across the table. When I look up, our wet eyes meet. In that moment, I understand what it means to be a mother.