I woke up on that Wednesday morning around 5 am and I could just tell it would be the day. I had that familiar feeling of strangeness you get in the hours before labor, when you don’t feel bad, but you don’t feel quite right. I’d also had a membrane sweep two days prior, and had been dilated halfway for weeks, so I was ready. Sure enough, at 6am things began with true contractions so I got up and got ready. Justin woke around 9, at which point my contractions were only about 5 minutes apart. I asked him if he wanted to have a baby, and he grinned.
My parents met us at the hospital, as it was our plan to have them in the delivery room. I was still very calm and collected at this point, just so ready for the next step in this journey.
Soon after we were admitted my contractions changed. Suddenly I felt everything in my back. It was unlike any pain I’d had in my previous two labor experiences. Our midwife checked me and said Phoenix was face up, which meant the back of her head was putting pressure on my spine, causing back labor. During my entire pregnancy with Phoenix I had been adamant that I wanted a natural birth. I’d made it through Sloan’s labor without meds and I wanted to do it again. So, we had the discussion about back labor and the potential need for an epidural in order to have the strength and energy to continue through labor. Everyone joked about the safe word Justin and my OBGYN had chosen at our last appointment- “Banana”. I was sure I wouldn’t give in, but my certainty only lasted a few hours.
We tried laying down, then the birthing ball, both were too painful. I settled into standing at the foot of the bed and rocking my hips back and forth while my midwife applied pressure to my lower back through contractions. Labor continued this way for a while, until I could barely stand up. I began to realize I wasn’t going to be able to make it without meds, I was getting too weak from the pain. I knew my spine couldn’t tolerate it much longer, let alone while pushing. I looked up at my mom through tears and said, “I can’t”. She asked if I wanted a “banana salad” and I nodded. We joke now that the nurses who weren’t privy to our code word probably thought we were nuts!
While we waited for the anesthesiologist, our midwife suggested I try being on all fours so I climbed up on the bed. I couldn’t even make it through a single contraction holding myself up anymore, and I collapsed onto the pillows sobbing. I was frustrated, and disappointed. Sad that I had caved, that I wouldn’t get another natural birth like I’d dreamed of. In that moment it all felt like too much, but ultimately, I just wanted to hold my baby. My grief over Sloan, and my discomfort in labor had me longing intensely for her to be in my arms. Suddenly I started not to care however that came to be, the end goal was Phoenix, she would mean joy, healing, and comfort where we’d felt such a void for so long. That’s all that mattered.
After the epidural things moved quickly, our midwife broke my water, my OBGYN arrived, and not long after I was ready to push. Phoenix was born at 2:39pm on May 30th, 2018, into her daddy’s hands. They placed her on my chest and my eyes welled with tears.
“She looks like Sloan” I said, suddenly feeling the overwhelming presence of him. She didn’t cry at all, it was as if she knew she was meant to come into our world with ease and comfort.
(Birth photos taken by my dad)