A baby birthed, a mama re-made, a dada proud, a family expanding.
There are so many words, and yet so few, because the feelings overwhelm, and how does one use words to truly convey the settling deepness of motherhood?
I confessed something out loud to my husband less than a month after my 3rd babe was born: for the past 9-10 months, I had been depressed.
And it really was no surprise to him. He had watched it. His wife, who had been strong and determined, who was becoming something more beautiful than ever, suddenly began to shrink away with hollow eyes as her body swelled with new life.
There was beauty in it – there always is, in life being made. But a light that had been burning bright whittled down to just a flicker.
Her soul was heavy. Here was another baby. Wonderful, sweet, divine, meant to be. But, another one, nevertheless.
It was good to speak it. To look at the bit of grief and sadness I had harbored during that time and just let it be known for what it was. It wasn’t a great secret anymore. It wasn’t a secret at all, I realized.
But it is scary to admit that you could have such sadness while carrying such life inside of you, when everyone around you is so very happy and excited for you, when you know you should be, too. And you are, but it is difficult to explain, because you are split. There is a pocket of doubt and grief you can’t just happy away.
I was so sure I was done. No more. So content with my two strong children. Baby things drifted out of the house. Then the sickness. The test. The line. The scream. The realization of what it meant.
I stopped pursuing so many things. I became a little cold, cut off, unable to feel like I did before. I was easy to set off. I was so sick and tired.
Then things got better. I started getting excited. A baby! Who doesn’t want a baby? So many others I know have lost babies, not been able to have babies…how could I complain? I felt strong again. Ran, worked out. Still, ate too much sugar. But I felt good. I always feel beautiful when pregnant, even though my body ached more this time than I had previously experienced.
Fast forward to September 29, 5 days before my due date. I had been experiencing weeks of prodromal labor.
It was evening. I had been getting contractions for weeks, but finally, they were really hurting, they were getting closer together. 3 minutes apart, 1 minute each. This went on for 4 hours without changing. The midwife rushed to our house.
2am. Music playing, lights glowing, birth pool blown up. The house was clean and peaceful. My hair was done nicely, I was in pretty underwear. She checked me. 100% posterior. She almost couldn’t find my cervix. I almost didn’t believe her. I wanted to cry, but I was too tired.
This was my third child. How could I not know what real labor felt like? This was real. I had to breathe. I was exhausted. I went to bed. Two hours later, I awoke. A very strong contraction out of nowhere, blindsided. But, they were unpredictable. 10 minutes here, half an hour there, maybe longer. I lay in bed and breathed through them, wondering how I could go on if this wasn’t real labor.
We walked. We shopped. We went to the park. They still came, but randomly, each time I wasn’t prepared for the intensity and I almost cried through them. I told my midwife at 4PM what was going on. She didn’t say much. I don’t think she wanted to give me false hope.
I went home and went to bed at 6PM, very tired. I was woken up by a contraction every 30 minutes or so. We watched part of a movie at 10. I went to sleep around 11. Woke up again at 1AM. 1:30AM and I crept into a tub of warm water – I had to stop these or I would go mad. Warm water, relax, rest, breathe. I leaned my head back against the hard tub side and cried and thought This has to turn into real labor, or I will die. It did, and suddenly. 5 minutes apart, HARD contractions. At 2AM we started timing.
Blow up the pool.
I’ll call the midwife.
Oh thank God. I will have a baby soon.
The tub felt so good.
I labored. I breathed. I was exhausted.
But baby was finally coming.
I couldn’t eat.
I must be close.
My hair is a wild mess. My skin feels red and yellow and splotchy.
You need to eat.
I take a sip.
I take a tiny bite.
Check the cervix.
Your body isn’t working hard enough in the tub, the midwife said.
I weakly get out, dripping.
I lay on my side on the couch and can’t be quiet anymore, it is too intense.
I moan. I try to stay in control.
I have never vocalized before in labor. I always found strength in the quiet, the secure and predictable breaths.
I feel angry with my midwife, but also I know this is how I will meet my baby. I tell myself it is ridiculous to be angry. Anything to stop this.
I switch sides. Then, sit on the toilet.
I am shaking my legs and moaning through the contractions.
It is hot, the heat lamp is on. My husband pushes on my lower back, he is nauseous and I am thankful for him.
Finally, I get back in the tub.
Still, a lip.
My heart sinks.
I muster my strength and push through it. It is the worst feeling I have ever felt.
It has been 8 hours since my midwife first arrived. I am so tired. I am ready to push.
But it is the hardest time pushing I have ever had. The progress feels slow, even though they tell me it is going well.
Why won’t that head come, I wonder. I am feeling it, him, down and back up again. I am pushing with all my might, I want him out so badly.
Finally, I feel the head crowning.
My midwife reminds me to slow down.
I was going to catch him, catch my baby. But I can’t. I can’t even open my eyes.
I hold my legs and scream. Not because of the pain. Because he comes out quicker than I thought he would.
I was going to be in control. I am scared I tore. I jump, startled.
Then I slow.
My midwife eases me down. It has been 23 minutes. She says, wait.
Just hold him under the water, it is safe.
Look at your baby.
He is coming to you.
I begin to melt inside.
And as my abdomen which housed this babe for 9 months collapses, my heart swells and expands and it is over.
I still have an image seared into my mind of this moment.
Time stood still as I peered at his peaceful face through the surface of the water, his body still attached to mine by that pulsing cord, slowly and gently coming closer and settling my heart and loose insides.
I close my eyes now and try not to imagine it too deeply, afraid the true memory will fade. If there was one thing I wished I had a picture of, it is this. But also, I’m afraid that if I had an image, the recalling would not be so special.
It is one only I have. A mother’s keepsake, tucked safe within my chest.
Credit: Photograph of mother and child by Sara Krebsbach Photography | http://www.sarakrebsbach.com
All other photographs by author