iris sage

October 19th, 2016, I was one week past my due date. I woke up at half past four, stumbling into the bathroom, and was surprised and elated to find the hint of a contraction tightening in my lower back, and pooling in my lower belly. A few moments after that, I felt the familiar stingingprickling of excitement; I’d just experienced (what I would soon find out was a mere portion of) my bloody show. I hopped back into bed, huddling in close to my husband, our excitement building as we lay and volleyed ‘what if’s in low voices to avoid waking Eli, and rested for what might be ahead.

Seven o’clock rolled around, and I once again discovered that I was having steady contractions, each lasting 30-45 seconds, every ten minutes, though none were particularly painful or anything more than a nuisance. Although I was hopeful, I didn’t get want to get too excited; this could have been the third false-start labor in the ten days prior, so I was hesitant to announce anything with certainty.

Around 9:30, the contractions continued steadily, so Mario called out of work, we began getting the house ready, and Tenika came over, ready to take as many pictures as possible, while my sweet mama made sure Eli was well looked after and happy.

As the day progressed, I seemed to be at a standstill; although my contractions were consistent, they stayed stubbornly at 5-10 minutes apart, 30 seconds to 1 minute long, and without any real pain.

Never in my life have I been so desperate to feel pain, because it meant seeing our little girl.

We kept in contact with our midwife throughout the day, and although she was hopeful—largely due to the consistency of contractions despite no pain and the presence of what ended up being five rounds of bloody show—we were all hesitant to have her make her way to the house. After all, this was the third time my body had begun to contract. Why make her drive an hour for no reason?

This went on until three that afternoon. No seeming progression, no real change, and no little girl. By that time, I’d begun to feel a bit hopeless, and a bit betrayed by the body that had done so much better this time around in pregnancy, that had been stronger and healthier—the body I’d been so much better attuned to.

We talked with our midwife, who recommended several movements, a strong brew of jasmine tea, and a clary sage belly massage. We immediately implemented all of them, and by seven, baby z (so named for her stage of development when we confirmed her presence: zygote) had completely descended into my pelvis, I was 100% effaced, and had dilated four centimeters.

Although contractions were, by this time, difficult (if not impossible) to speak through, they were still stubbornly refusing to provide the force needed to break my water—the bag of waters visibly straining and bulging in an attempt to burst. By ten, contractions had grown painful, and I was eager for relief in the pool. I stepped in with Mario and found incredible, immediate relief. For the next three hours, I labored primarily in the pool, relying on Mario for some movement.

Throughout everything, I was gloriously, mercifully permitted and encouraged to move. I breathed through cat/cow on my hands and knees, lifted my chest and hips and let my head fall back, rolled my hips over a birthing ball—each movement a blessing from my body, finding ease and space and breath.

As midnight drew near, the pain became immense and for a few moments, I questioned my ability to give birth. Contractions built and crested one after the other, some peaking three times before offering a 10-second reprieve and rising again. I was exhausted in every way, my resolve waning, every muscle in my body quakingtremblingshaking, every movement requiring concerted effort. Falling into Mario’s arms at the end of each contraction was my only real solace, the only source of warmth and comfort my body could find.

Suddenly, the pool was too stifling, too confining, and I moved back to the ball, rolling my hips back and forth back and forth, dipping and pressing outward at the peak of each contraction, heart wide open, head back, legs thrown open, almost begging her, willing her to come swiftly. And then, in one powerful, undeniable urge to push, I finally felt the dam burst and saw and felt my water break, a beautiful bursting forth of hours and hours of pain and frustration. Quickly after, I fell to my hands and knees, my body telling me, definitively, it was time to meet her. On hands and knees, I inhaled, then exhaled, letting my breath leave me in a low, long growl, pressing deep and long and hard.

The pain was thick and full and so desperately craved for and with the exception of one awed “motherfucker” at the immensity of the pain, my sounds were relegated to deep long inhales, and the almost primal howl of a mother being born and reborn. For ten minutes, this was our rhythm, hands and kneels inhale, bear down press back growl exhale, again, and again, and again.

And then suddenly, she was here, spilling out of me in a single push, passing into my midwife’s hands, then quickly into her daddy’s outstretched arms, and finally into mine, at 1:12 AM on October 20th, 8 days past her due date, all dark hair and dark skin, furry shoulders, lower back, and ears, a wild little creature with alert, curious eyes, and impossibly long, slender fingers and toes.

The minutiae of the hour that followed is already hazy, a series of smiles and cups of blessedly cold refreshing orange juice, placenta delivery, nursing, and questions—but most of all, overwhelming joy and relief at having our little girl in our arms after such a long wait, healthy and strong, knowing our little boy was safe and so near, only a thin wall separating us as a family of four.