Friends, I have no idea where these days and weeks have gone. River turns 8 weeks old in a couple days and honestly? We cannot believe it. I haven’t blogged here mostly because I had no idea time was rushing past me (the other reason is because colic has ruled the house). Things are finally better, my head is above water now and I need you to know River’s story. This is the beginning of how she came to be. I wish you could each meet her and lock eyes and feel your spirit rumble deep inside you. For now, here is how it happened.
At one week past my due date I hit that place where you just can’t take it anymore. I remember sitting on my Grandma Pearl’s quilt and sobbing and asking God what more I was going to be asked to endure. How could I possibly wait any longer?! Related: It’s really too bad I’m not more dramatic.
Once I passed that day, I settled in to the overdue place and felt truly free. It was a really beautiful time, almost quiet as a whisper, and looking back I miss it like you miss that Christmas morning magic
before things begin, or that anticipation right before you stepped down the aisle. It was a once in a lifetime time.
The deep places those extra days carved into my heart have been filled with baby and wonder now. I felt no need to “hurry things along” and tried none of the labor-starting tricks. I just waited.
Soon the waiting is what got to us. Because we didn’t know the baby’s gender, we felt suspended in a place where we had no idea what our lives would look like or what kind of people we’d be after we met the baby. Would we be parents to four boys? Or would we finally get to raise a baby girl? I have been known to have an existential crisis on a regular basis, especially while pregnant with a baby girl, so my identity as a person felt wholly wrapped up in these potential paths of life. Obviously most of this is because of Mabel. We wondered what this next chapter would look like in the context of the daughter we lost, and I continued to surrender fears as I remembered my last labor – with Mabel – had been so very different. The unknown seemed to strangle me at night and kept me tossing and turning. I knew the time was near.
From Sunday (Oct 2nd) to Wednesday morning contractions increased in frequency and length, but never got painful. I basically had no idea what my body was really doing, because I’d never had a pain-free early labor. Things were slow, but so lovely. My kids were with my dad and my husband, my mom and I took walks in the sunshine and enjoyed the peaceful slowness that this baby was giving us. Little did I know how fast things would go later on! We were planning a home birth (it would be my 4th time at home) so we didn’t even have a worry about when to go or not go anywhere. We just stayed. We ate. We slept. We watched movies. I labored effortlessly.
It was around 8:30am on Wednesday Oct 5th (13 days past due date) when my contractions became more intense and painful and I woke up to a big painful contraction,and just thought “wow, finally active labor has kicked in!“. We called my midwife to come over and we started filling the birth pool. A couple hours later I felt the baby burrow down lower into a very decisive “ready to be born” position and it was the first time I’ve ever felt such a thing. I think because usually I’m in a lot of pain when that baby burrowing happens, I’ve never noticed it before! It was cool and weird (sortof felt like the baby would just burrow her way on out!) and was the beginning of me feeling every single thing that was happening inside my body. It was a perfect parallel to what my mind is like and how I am – so completely aware and always rolling thoughts around in my mind over and over and over.
By around 1:30pm I hadn’t had any obvious progress so we decided to have the midwife check me and I was 4.5 cm dilated but she didn’t feel like I was in active labor yet. I tended to agree, since even though contractions were still going, and were slightly painful, it wasn’t anything like “real” labor just yet. I could still chat in between contractions and I just knew in my spirit active labor was still eluding me. My midwife said I was about as close to active labor as one could get without *actually* being in active labor. So we decided to try and give things a little nudge. I rubbed castor oil on my belly just before 2:30pm and what seemed like 5 min later, contractions were intense, 4 min apart and a minute long and I was in the birth pool and not talking to anyone anymore. I had crossed another threshold.
Before I knew it, contractions became 2 min apart and 1+ min long. They were extremely intense and I would go to my happy place mentally and surrender and just try and let go and not resist the pain. For some reason staying in that surrendered place was a lot harder for me this time around than any other labor. I was so aware of everything I was feeling, I knew I was having some extraordinary ligament pain in front and I kept feeling like I wasn’t completely letting go. I would later come to find out that there was a reason I felt this way!
I started to feel a little pushy at the end of contractions, like my body was wanting to push…but intuitively I didn’t feel like it was time to push yet. This conflict bothered me enough that again, I felt like I wasn’t letting go completely. At this point things were hurting A LOT and I felt confused and a little panicky. My midwife swooped in and said she was checking me and I discovered that I was 8-10cm because I had a cervical lip. If not for the lip I would have been at 10cm. Aha! This explains that feeling like I wasn’t completely letting go – the lip was the manifestation of that. This also explained why I felt pushy but wasn’t ready (a cervical lip hurts pretty badly, and pushing against it hurts epic bad). My midwife said “find the place that hurts the worst, surrender to that spot“. That little direction was all I needed to stop being wild of heart and just focus.
Here’s where I feel like things begin and are over with all at the same time. The amount of emotions and thoughts that raced through my mind I can hardly begin to put down into words. The following all occurred within 8 minutes:
Suddenly my water broke and BOOM contractions back to back without a pause. I immediately began pushing her out, and out came her head. My midwife said “ok let’s take it easy now, baby’s coming pretty fast, you can take your time” and asked me if I wanted to reach down (to feel the head). I said “NO!” and my body kept pushing! I was on my knees in the pool, and I felt the rest of the baby be born and heard my midwife say “Look down, here’s your baby!” and I looked down to see the baby somersaulting through my legs in the water. I brought the baby up, started to pull her to my chest and then paused. I had an epic “Lion King” moment where I held her up in the air and said “IT’S A GIRL!!” and then brought her to my chest and relaxed into the water in a whirlwind of what-in-the-world-just-happened.
That was it. In 8 minutes, I went from 8cm to birth. Boom.
I will spare you certain details, but let’s just say stitches were involved and I couldn’t walk for weeks. Ouch.
I can just tell you snippits of thoughts I had in those first moments, because coherent thought eludes me still. It all plays out like a montage, and I feel like there’s an Adele song in the background as the soundtrack. Looking at her face. Relief that she was healthy and in my arms. Amazement that she was a SHE. I sobbed with the reality of just those first two things. Then the relief of being done hit me, and WOW. To be done with that labor!! Cut to a scene of us weighing her and seeing she was my biggest baby by a landslide. Cut to scenes of me up all night alone with her as she couldn’t sleep. Cut to weeks of colic screaming and trying everything in the book, slow recovery on my part, and the past two months being sucked into a time vortex where I have no idea how these days have gotten away from me. Cut to now, with her sleeping longer stretches at night, no more colic episodes and me having my spirit rocked again and again by this little wonder babe.
You need to know she smiled the first day she was born. This is significant, because every other baby of mine took many weeks or months to smile (my oldest didn’t smile until he was 4 months old). You need to know she was awake for over 4 hours right after she was born, just looking around at people. Taking in everything. We looked at each other and locked eyes many times. I feel butterflies when we connect like this still today.
I gave birth to my soul. Do you know what that is like? It hurts sometimes when she cries. Not the normal mama-oh-no-my-newborn-needs-me kindof hurt. But the kind of hurt where I feel the emotions of her, Mabel, myself, all us girls. It’s a good kind of hurt. It makes me feel eternal and remember my God and my life and the big picture. Her eyes are where it’s at.
I get why she seems so serious sometimes. I practically faint with glee when she gives me big gummy grins. I see her eyes soften from a perplexed frown into a knowing look because I’m her mama and she just spotted me across the way. I still, at almost 8 weeks old, cannot believe I get to hold a daughter.
Her brothers are so madly in love with her, I fear I’ll never be able to justly write about it. They kiss her, walk her around, sing to her. I feel her energy ease when she looks at them. She is special, and all of us know it. Her brothers know it. They feel it too. They love her so deeply it feels unbearable and I drown in it and dog paddle my way to a piece of something floating in the water so I can get air, just to have their love drown me all over again. It’s like that.
River Promise is our miracle baby. Our diamond in the pitch. Sometime in 2010 through many moments and minutes and hours of prayer, God promised her to me. He promised when I found out I was pregnant that this baby would be ok. That any time I got scared I could simply fall back on that Promise. When I had bleeding in my pregnancy, I looked to that Promise and breathed. When I decided not to have any ultrasounds I remembered the Promise and I breathed. When I got scared yet again because she was overdue, I remembered the Promise and I breathed. When the anxiety and fear of labor wanted to linger in my mind, I remembered the Promise and again, I breathed.
The bible talks about rivers of Living Water flowing from our bellies. That Living Water is the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. Breathing. I knew when I was pregnant that this baby was my Spirit baby. We changed our name choices from more old fashioned (granny) names because they didn’t fit – we needed something ethereal. Something spirit.
This baby was going to be named River whether boy or girl. Since we got a girl (of course we got a girl!) her name is River Promise. Our Promise baby, our Spirit baby. Breath of life. She is all of it. She is here.