Melt My Heart to Stone

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When my husband and I decided to have another child, I wanted to be sure my prenatal and birthing experience was going to be exactly what I wanted, on my terms. This would be the last baby, I wasn’t going to settle. I was going to deliver in a birthing center with as little intervention as possible, and when insurance told me they wouldn’t cover a birthing center I haggled with the billing department to work out a payment plan we could afford. I was determined. I was finally going to have all the things I didn’t get with my older two children.

I was going to be asked what happened next, not told. I was going to get my golden hour after delivery. I was going to have meditative music playing and strive for a water birth, or at least a water labor. I wasn’t going to have monitors beeping at me, I wasn’t going to have a team of nameless nurses in and out of my room telling me what I could and couldn’t do while my body did what bodies have been doing for billions of years, and I wasn’t going to be stuck in stirrups or told I had to birth my child laying down.

For the most part, I got my wish.

I was supposed to begin my maternity leave at the start of the new year. Unfortunately, my company went through an unexpected and unforeseen restructuring just before the holidays and I ended up staying on to be sure my clients didn’t fall through the cracks. Two days before my due date I met with my boss and my maternity replacement to make sure everything was in order and I could finally stop checking my email and social media accounts.

My older two children were born five days before their due date. As that date came and went, I joked that I would be that 5% who delivered right on time. Especially considering I was due on my ex-husband’s birthday. When my due date rolled around my friends began texting with baby checks. True to my instincts, my water broke at 10pm on my due date. My son made me wait all day but he was finally on his way, right on time.

My middle child was induced with an epidural and my oldest is fourteen, so I haven’t felt a contraction since 2005. I remembered that they hurt. A lot. But I also remembered when my water broke I didn’t feel any contractions for hours afterwards. I knew my third might come faster than my other two. What I didn’t know was just how much faster.

At 10:40, I started to feel some discomfort and told my husband we should let my midwife, Nicole, know I was in labor. At 11:45 I was 4 minutes apart and 1 minute long so we slowly started making our way to the car to head to the birthing center. We got our Go Bag, tidied up our bedroom, said goodnight to our other kids, called our back up and contingency baby sitters, and left. It was 12:25am when we pulled out of our driveway.

The birthing center is 40 minutes from our home. We were driving for less than 5 when I turned to my husband and said “I don’t think we’re going to make it.” He looked at his timer. My contractions had jumped to 2 minutes apart, 90 seconds long. I did what I could to lie down in the passenger seat and make myself as comfortable as possible. I don’t know how he did it, but my husband managed to drive well over the speed limit, time my contractions, hold my hand, and coach me through the peak of each wave of pain.

There’s a time as we transition from the first-stage of labor to the second where our contractions may slow and weaken a bit. At one point, I had a glorious 5 minutes between contractions. I had no idea how important those 5 minutes would become.

As we exited the highway onto the peaceful town streets, I realized driving a charcoal Ford Explorer that is often mistaken for an undercover police officer was working much to our favor as my husband sped through red lights with complete disregard for speed limits. We are extremely lucky it was the middle of the night and the roads were nearly empty.

The birthing center is located directly under my midwifery practice, a place we had obviously been countless times throughout the pregnancy. I had been having weekly appointments for the last 4 weeks. My husband has flawlessly pulled into that parking lot each and every time. Not this time. This time he almost missed it, and when he managed to get into the parking lot he proceeded to drive right past the entrance to the center. He then failed to unlock the doors so he could get me out of the car. I wish I could remember the number and creativity of the profanities that came spewing out of my mouth. This man had managed to navigate two highways and some back roads at the speed of light, but couldn’t figure out how to park the car.

It was 12:57 when I somehow managed to walk in the door. Nicole greeted us and knelt on the floor with me as another contraction dropped me to my knees.

“You’re here. You’re okay. I’ve got you.”

She helped me carefully walk less than 20 feet into my birthing room. The tub was filling, the nurse was waiting, and Nicole was telling me everything was going to be okay. Another contraction hit and I had to push. This time when I fell to my knees I was clawing at my clothes and begging my husband to take off my shoes. My son was crowning.

At 1:06am, on the floor between a birthing tub and a plush queen-sized bed, Stone Michael Richard made his grand entrance into this world. He was completely silent as Nicole placed him on my chest. There was no aggressive rubbing, no bulb syringe, no patting on the back to clear fluids and force a cry. He was allowed to be born on his own terms and in his own time. And I couldn’t be more grateful. He coughed a few times, let out a little whimper, and nuzzled into me. He was here.

Snuggled into bed with my husband and our new son, the lights were dimmed and we were left alone. We napped and snuggled and nursed completely uninterrupted. When it was time, we were asked if it was OK for Stone to get his Vitamin K. We were asked if it was alright to take his footprints and get his weight. We. Were. Asked.

I didn’t get my meditative music and I didn’t get my birthing tub. What I got was so much more. I got a village.

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