“I think I had better go lie down. I think that may have been a labor contraction…” I was standing in our garden next to the raised beds talking with my Dad about the garden. Contractions had been getting more and more frequent for the last week, but had yet to turn into real, belt-tightening-feeling labor contractions. As a second-time mom, I’m told that’s common to have a lot of “warm up” contractions.
The previous night I slept only a couple of hours. The contractions kept me awake, along with the hard bowling ball in my belly that made lying down uncomfortable. I gave up and enjoyed the stillness of night. I made blueberry pancake batter that Jay could cook up for Juniper in the morning. Then I contacted my acupuncturist, Megan Rose, asking her if she had any availability the next day to see me. I didn’t know how many more sleepless nights I could take since I knew very well how much energy you need for labor.
Megan reassured me that River wouldn’t come unless he too was ready. She did all the major acupuncture points that encourage labor to begin. Lying there quietly with the tiny needles around my body felt like a beautiful ritual – an ancient way of inviting my swelling belly to do its work and let me meet my baby.
It was only two hours later, at 2:00 in the afternoon, that I was standing there next to raised beds talking to my Dad when I felt the first real labor contraction. My Dad gave me a big hug, told me he loved me, and made his exit.
I called my sister to come get Juniper, so she could have her sleepover with her cousin as planned. Jay called our lead midwife, who told him what we expected – let her rest, keep tracking the contractions, and check back in with me as they get longer and closer together. Jay also called my Mom, who we had planned to be with me for labor support just as she was during Juniper’s birth. She’s managing life with cancer, but I know she won’t be with us forever. That made it even more important to me that she was here for this big life event.
Passerby by Luluc played in the background. I was lying on my side in bed while Juniper colored next to me, taking breaks to rub my back or jump on my legs. Soon enough, Juniper was settled with my sister and I could finally fully embrace the labor that was swelling inside me. My contractions were so intense so quickly that I couldn’t escape them.
Jay had been in frequent contact with our midwife since I had clearly skipped early labor altogether. They had told him we could leave for the birth center in 30 minutes, but I soon said, “We need to leave for the birth center right now.” In late labor, the contractions are intense enough that you don’t want to talk anymore. So at this point, anytime I said anything everyone immediately responded.
As I stood up to make my way to car, I could feel there was no longer a concave between my lower belly and my pelvis. It was now a straight line. The baby was descending.
The car was barely stopped in front of the birth center when the back door opened and our assistant midwife put gloved hands on me saying, “Renee, we have to get you out of the car right now.” I had three contractions just on the way from the car to the birthing tub in the Fern Room at Alma Midwifery‘s birth center. I was sweating and the lukewarm water felt hot to me, but I got in anyway. I then grabbed my Mom’s hands, who was sitting on the step outside the tub, and squeezed them through each contraction. Jay was right behind me in the tub. Midwives were moving quietly and swiftly, surrounding me with a sense of comfort and care.
I reached the point in labor where I didn’t think I would make it. I was so tired from so little sleep and so quick and intense a labor. I wrapped my arms around the cool outside of the tub and wondered how many women had come before me to hug that tub for dear life in those rough waves of late labor.
I uttered, “I don’t think I can do this…” and everyone around me said some version of “Yes, you can… You are strong… You can do this…” Kori said, “Honey, you’re already doing it.” I asked the question I was so afraid of hearing the answer to: “How many more pushes??” And my lead midwife gave me the response everyone wants to hear when they ask that question: “Only one or two and he’s coming out.”
I felt him coming out and knew that relief was just on the other side. I looked down and could see him emerging from me into the water. With the final push, I reached down into the water and grabbed my baby as he left my body. I brought him up into my arms as that massive wave of relief washed over me. I sat back with him in my arms, just above the water, and stared at my new love.
I didn’t know it at the time, but baby River was in my arms ten minutes after our car came to a screeching halt outside the birth center. I felt the first contraction at 2pm and was holding him at 7pm. Holy moley.
He was grey in my arms and looked so surprised to be in this entirely new world – like he was just waking up. Kori was right over my shoulder saying, “He’s just fine, Renee. He’s just getting used to this all.” We rubbed his back and I studied his every feature. It was probably only a matter of seconds, but it was like a little eternity waiting for him to fully embrace this new life. And then it happened: he started to cry and his skin changed from grey to pink.
The rest of our experience at the birth center was as blissful as we wanted. We ate Lebanese food for dinner from Nicola’s. In the morning, we enjoyed a massive breakfast spread from Utopia Café of pancakes, bacon, corned beef hash and fresh fruit. Everything you eat following birth is pretty much the most amazing tasting meal you’ve ever had.
We were discharged late morning, but felt ready to be back in our nest with my little Juniper. It was a magical moment when they met for the first time. This little guy doesn’t know the huge amount of love he’s in for – whether he wants it or not. It’s been a non-stop cuddle and kisses fest. (Here’s the story of Juniper’s birth, in case you’re interested!)
River Edward Wilkinson was born on 7/11 weighing 7/11. It’s amazing how your heart feels so full after your first child. With the second, it just doubles in size instantly. He’s amazing and we’re blissfully settling into our new life as a family of four.