I had imagined the day you would come for a while now. Naturally and beautifully. With a full head of hair and a calm spirit. A baby boy, (even though we didn't find out for sure until you were born) that I had been lovingly calling Ezzie for a while now when I would cradle my belly. Yet, nothing I could have imagined or can write into words now can pour enough light onto what we experienced that snowy night when you were born.
I was 40 weeks when I had the first signs of labor that night. I started shaking with adrenaline and had mild contractions through the night. We thought you were coming the next day, a Monday. Your dad took off work and helped me work through contractions. No baby. I labored through Monday night. Every 13 minutes. Every 7 minutes. I would start breathing heavily and humming and your dad would wake up and press on my back. No baby. Tuesday, dad went to work. No contractions. No baby. Tuesday night I labored through the night again timing the contractions. Every 7 minutes. Every 12 minutes. No baby. This whole part for me was a blur and still is. The prodromal labor droned on. I thought it was never going to end and that I would labor without any relief. In vain. Without you at the end. I couldn't see you in it all. I hadn't met you yet, but you were coming. God just had a different plan.
Day three of contractions, Wednesday, and still early labor signs. I pleaded with God that you would come that day. That He would sustain me and give me the strength to have the natural birth we prayed for after three sleepless nights of anticipation and my body contracting to maneuver you in the right spot. It was the day the snow started to fall and would continue to fall into the night as you were born into the world.
Our doula, Angela, came over that day around noon to try different exercises and positioning to progress labor. The contractions would ramp up and get closer together but then stop. It felt like a long chunk of time and I was getting tired. We called the midwife to tell her I was laboring but she could tell it wasn’t time. Angela suggested a nap so I went back to our room and cried out to God in desperation asking him to renew me and to restore my energy. I pictured the Psalm 23 God letting me rest, inviting me to the pasture and laying with me beside quiet waters as I calmly let the contractions come and go. I woke up refreshed and we decided to brew a cup of "labor day" tea (i.e. a highly concentrated red raspberry leaf tea. 20 bags to be exact). I drank 2 sips of the tea and almost immediately switched over to active labor. We called the hospital again. This time the OB answered and as he heard me work through contractions which were intense he said, “um yes, I think it’s definitely time to head to the hospital.” We were about a 10 minute drive but with the foot of snow it would take about 20 minutes.
Your dad and Angela started packing the car and scraping off all the snow that had accumulated while I labored through contractions which had all the sudden become 4 minutes apart. I distinctly remember getting in the car and pulling out and the neighbors were leisurely walking in the middle of the road to sled. I remember saying out loud, “Don’t mind me I’m just in labor here!”
During the car ride, I had my most intense contractions so far and they were coming fast and not letting up. (We would later find out that I transitioned in the car to the last stage of dilation.) I remember putting my head on your daddy’s shoulder and my legs completely straight in my seat and screaming through them.
We arrived at the hospital around 6pm. Your dad dropped me off at the front of the hospital. Angela and I walked in as I was working through contractions and he met us with the bags. We got checked in and settled in our room but Cara, my favorite midwife, was with another patient. They asked if I wanted the OB to check me. At that point I just wanted comfort and familiarity so I wanted to wait for Cara. An hour or so later she came to check me. I didn’t want to know how far along I was in fear of being disappointed so I had her tell Angela quietly. She asked if I wanted an IV port and I said sure.
Brett, our close (soon to be closer) friend and photographer showed up and was a comforting sight. Labor slowed down and they suggested I take a shower to reset around 9:30pm. Once I got in, I instantly felt refreshed and ready for the next stage. I asked your dad why they hadn’t come to put in an IV in and he said I was very far along. I asked how dilated and he informed me I showed up at the hospital at 9.5cm and was ready to push. *insert wide-eyed / anxious emoji here*
Something in me switched and I was ready to meet you. I tried pushing in the shower. On the birthing stool. On the squat bar and nothing. No urge to push. I started to wear myself out willing my body to take over. My legs started to cramp. I got really tired and cold. I started to think I wouldn’t make it through pushing even with all the coconut water and peanut butter in the world. They started to worry I wouldn’t be able to sustain once real pushing started. Cara and Angela agreed that we needed to try something new. I had two options: get an IV with pitocin to make my contractions stronger and increase the urge to push or Cara would physically go in and coach me and tell me where to push. Cara knew how much I wanted to do it completely unmedicated. I think she knew it would motivate me. I said absolutely not to the pitocin, focused in on my contractions, and signed up for the second option without really knowing what I was getting myself into.
The next hour and a half I would push productively with Cara’s attentive help and calm spirit.
I remember Angela saying “pressure is good.”
I remember the feeling of my body taking over and what a productive push felt like.
I remember the encouragement from your Dad that he could see the top of your head.
I remember Cara saying how much hair you had and if you were a girl we would need a bow. I knew you weren’t a girl.
I remember they brought the mirror to encourage me but I only saw how far I had to go.
I remember hearing the sounds coming from within me. Deep and loud and guttural.
I remember feeling like this was the hardest thing I had ever done.
I remember your dad saying that Cara was gowning up and they were bringing in the baby warmer.
I remember losing sight of you during pushing and forgetting there was life at the end of the suffering.
I remember hearing another warrior mama laboring in the other room and then hearing her screams stop as her baby was brought into the world and started to wail.
It brought me back to you. Soon I would see you and touch you and hold you and finally know you.
I remember resting in between those final contractions. Cara told me to keep my legs wide because you were right there. I would meet you soon.
I placed my hands on my unswollen belly that now felt so different because you had moved so far down to welcome your little body into the world.
I remember pulling my legs towards me, gripping hard on the back of my knees and flexing my feet.
I remember that final push. You slipping out of my body, forever on the outside now. Cara bringing you up to rest on my chest and being in shock as if I never really grasped that a baby would come out of this whole experience. That laboring and suffering would bring me you.
You were here. You were beautiful and loud and looking right at me. You looked at me like you knew me. I asked your dad if you were a boy or a girl and he said, “a boy.” And I replied, “I knew you were Ezra.”
(All hospital photos: Brett Seay)