2.30 am: Fast asleep, my eyes popped open to the sensation of little stabs in my lower abdomen. I had been experiencing period-like cramps all week, so I thought that maybe this was more of the same. I laid in bed for an hour, monitoring each twinge and tweak and realized that they were coming at regular intervals. I woke Jacob up.
"I think I'm in labor!"
"What should we do?"
"Go back to sleep!"
3.30 am: Jacob slept while I moved in and out of sleep and tackled strange dreams. My contractions were gentle enough at this point that they were a simple humming in my belly.
7.00 am: The contractions were intensifying--a mallet beating on a drum--and I woke Jacob up for support. Still groggy eyed, he helped me time the length of each wave, brought me cool water, and rubbed my back. Drum beats in my abdomen. Six minutes apart. With each swell of pressure, I knelt on the ground and put my head on the floor. I tried to release tension in every muscle while silently repeating the word "surrender." Between contractions the world was clear and calm. I sat up and talked with Jacob about the spirit that was en route to our family. I felt hopeful and strong and capable.
10.00 am: After a few more hours of laboring, I knew it was time to gather our support team. We called our doula and Jacob's mom. I also sent a text to my dear friend KaRyn who then informed a close group of girlfriends that baby fig was on his way. Jacob and each of my girlfriends lit a candle in honor of my labor and upcoming delivery. I felt so loved by this powerful symbol of support and solidarity.
10.00 am-3.00 pm: For the next five hours I labored in our basement with Jacob, our doula, and my mother-in-law. With each contraction, I knelt down and rested my head on the ground or in Jacob's lap. No other position would do. With his hand on my back, Jacob spoke affirmations that we had learned in our Hypnobabies course. The sound of his voice helped me focus through each pressure wave, and I was able to release any fears lingering in my body. With each wave, Jacob placed a warm rice bag on my back while the doula used the strength of her body to put pressure on my lower back and hips. It was a heavenly release from the pain. I was vaguely aware of my mother-in-law's hands on my shoulders. A feeling both familiar and comforting. Those five hours of laboring were marked by a godly stillness and an undercurrent of love.
3.00 pm: When my contractions were about 3 minutes apart, I decided it was time to head to the hospital. Seeing as it's only a few blocks from our house, it only took us 2 minutes to drive there...a monumental mercy for a laboring mother. When we got to the hospital I had several contractions on my way up to the labor and delivery floor--one at the entrance to the hospital, one in front of the elevator, and one at the check-in desk. I could feel the force of each pressure wave surge through my body--this time a cacophony of gongs and cymbals.
3.00 pm-6.30 pm: Once in the triage room, I asked the nurse not to tell me how many centimeters I was dilated. I didn't want to feel anxious about how much further I had to go. (I later found out that I was already dilated to 8 cm!). After monitoring my contractions, the nurses led me into the labor and delivery room.
My doula started a bath while my mother-in-law hung my affirmations on the wall. My midwife arrived and waited quietly while I labored in the tub for an hour.
The tub was too small to get very comfortable, so I ended up doing the rest of my laboring on the bed. Jacob held me while I collapsed into his body with each contraction.
6:30 pm-7.25 pm: I was dilated to 10 cm but I wasn't feeling any urges to push. My water still hadn't broken, so I asked my midwife to break my water at which point my contractions became a grand symphony. I moaned out with each wave, my voice just one small part of the music that was flowing through me. With each contraction I bore down with every bone, muscle, and cell in my body. It was the most exhausting thing I had ever experienced, requiring me to dig deep, deep, deep into my core for some untapped well of fortitude. After each contraction I would fall back onto the bed and ask, "Are we almost there?"
Finally, Ezra's head emerged; the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around his neck. The midwife quickly and carefully pulled the cord off and invited Jacob to bring Ezra into the world. Jacob pulled Ezra's slippery fish body out of mine.
Neither Jacob nor I could believe it. Our baby fig had made his earthly arrival.
7.25 pm-later that evening: The medical staff were concerned about Ezra's coloring and breathing, so I was only able to hold him skin-to-skin for about 60 seconds before they ran him down to the nursery to assist him with his breathing. Jacob followed Ezra and the nurses while I stayed behind to finish my laboring. My mother-in-law and I awed over the placenta and talked about the miracle that had just occurred. In that moment I felt so profoundly aware of my place in things, so clearly cognizant of my role as a woman in this divine life circle.
After they stitched me up, the nurse wheeled me down to the nursery to join Jacob and our baby. Jacob and I sat next to Ezra and held his fragile fingers while he took in life-giving breaths with the help of the CPAP machine. We watched the flush return to his body. We sat together silently. A family. Feeling as if God had taken up a permanent residence in our hearts.
*All photos courtesy of Liminal Spaces