This account of my third child's birth, a son we named Leif, was written about two weeks postpartum. I wrote his birth story in a journal dedicated to him, and addressed to him.
He came as slowly as the shifting seasons and as fast as lightening. I experienced several weeks of prodromal labor, until he made a dramatic entrance all at once. He was born en caul after 2 1/2 hours of labor, weighing in at 11lbs even, my biggest baby!
Only two feet away from me and sleeping peacefully is my sweet little two-week old baby. That's you, Little Man. I wonder if your dreams are exciting or intense because you grunt and squeak and moan off and on. I seem to recall that Avery did this as a baby, too, but perhaps not quite as much. We love it, and you've done it since the day you were born.
It's only been two weeks but it seems we've known you and loved you for much longer. My pregnancy with you had it's hardships but for the most part was ideal. The first trimester brought with it the familiar nausea, but I only threw up once. The second trimester was a dream--the nausea passed, my energy was high, and i had a cute, round tummy. The third trimester brought sleepless nights, awkwardly fitting clothes due to my burgeoning belly, and aching hips. It was the last few weeks of carrying you that seemed the longest. i could tell you were "riding low" by how much pressure I felt on my pelvis and hips and I had to wonder how it was you didn't just fall out of me. I had a lot of early labor set in the week or two before you came. Every night, quite predictably, i would get contractions around dinnertime and they'd peter off by midnight or earlier. This was exciting if it meant the actual labor would go faster, but it was terribly frustrating for me emotionally. I would get my hopes up that "maybe this is the real thing!" only to have the conractions stop and I'd have to go to bed disappointed.
Truly, when the night came that it was the real deal, i was almost too skeptical to believe. But on a Thursday evening at about 7:30, I finally admitted that these contractions seemed a bit harder than usual and they were coming on a lot closer together. Nana was already here at the house with us as she'd been waiting, very patiently, for the previous ten days for you to make your arrival. So she started setting up her supplies. I called Grammy and told her to come on down, and then decided to take a shower while Dad tucked Saidie and Avery into bed. Avery fell asleep fairly quickly but as I was getting out of the shower Saidie yelled from her bed, "Mom! Are you having the baby?! Can I come watch??" She was no fool! So we let her come out and be part of the whole experience. Sometime after eight o'clock Nana checked me to see how progressed I was. I watched her eyes get big and she sort of laughed in shock as she said, "Well, Stephanie, you're dilated to a 9 and fully effaced, and your bag of waters is bulging!"
We knew it wouldn't be long. I continued to labor on the birthing ball while Dad and Nana filled the birthing tub. But we only had it halfway filled before the hot water gave out and I was needing to get in. There was just enough water to do what needed to be done.
My memories may not be entirely accurate at this point as I experienced everything while in "Labor Land" and had endorphins pumping through my body, but as far as I recall I had only five or six more contractions before I was pushing. Dad was invaluable during those contractions because though they were few--they were profound. The last one was so intense that even with Dad massaging my lower back i felt completely depleted. I hung over the side of the pool and just wept for a few brief moments. Once I had let myself grieve the pain, I found new strength come into me and knew it was time for you to be born.
At Nana's advice I ever so slowly came fully back into the pool and laid on my side. I pushed. I breathed. I pushed again. Already, you were crowning! That was profoundly motivating news, realizing that I was almost to the finish line. Another push. Perhaps it was one more after that--how can I be certain--then all at once I'm holding you, enveloping you in my arms. I can't stop kissing your face or saying "My boy! My sweet little boy! Look at my boy!"
Nana and Dad are pulling back the bag of waters that you brought with you at birth. Nana said the bag didn't break until after your shoulders came out. Being born en caul isn't very common. What does it say about you?
We snuggled in the pool for a little while longer but eventually made our way onto the bed. It wasn't long before you found your way to my breast and nursed like a professional. Vickie marveled, as she cut the cord, just how long the umbilical cord was--almost 1/4 longer than most. It was also rather cool to see the placenta with the bag still attached. I was able to see the little chrysalis that was your home all these nine months.
I required one stitch and nothing else--not bad for delivering all eleven pounds of you! Grammy showed up somewhere in the midst of all this, amazed at how fast I labored but ecstatic to meet you. Auntie came a little later, too.
I loved that first night we spent together--just you, Dad, and me tucked into a warm bed. I felt like how an exhausted Olympian must feel, so weak yet so jubilant. I couldn't wrap my mind around what had just happened. How did it happen? Where did you come from? How was any of this possible? Did you really live inside of me just hours before? I know of nothing more miraculous and awe-inspiring than the birth of a child. It blows my mind every time.
Thoughts on Leif's birth four years later:
With two previous births under my belt (quite literally) I had learned a great deal. I had signed up for a Yoga Teacher Training certification program and one week later discovered that I was pregnant. Initially, I tried to back out, explaining how overwhelming pregnancy usually was for me, and I wasn't sure if it would interfere with my level of participation. But my yogi mentor encouraged me to view it through a different lens: what if this immersion could become a special PART of your pregnancy?
Huh. What a thought.
Needless to say, I signed up and took the course. Yes, there were times that I had to excuse myself from the group discussion to vomit in the bathroom. And, yes, my physical participation was somewhat modified, but ultimately, my mentor was right--the yoga had become an integral part of my pregnancy experience. I was attending the kundalini class every week, practicing meditation, breath work, developing a personal practice, student teaching, and diving deep into philosophy all while my body changed and evolved. Instead of feeling like my experience was limited compared to my classmates, I instead felt privileged to get to experience this immersion while in my pregnant body. What an incredible gift!
I didn't know just HOW incredible until years later, but I would look back again and again to those months at the studio. Why did I feel so much happier during that pregnancy than I did with my earlier ones? Why did I have so much more energy? Why did my body feel strong and flexible at the same time? Why was my baby's birth so fast, and my recovery so smooth?
Once I started asking those questions, answers flooded into me. That was where Bodhi Birth moved out of the spiritual realm of my heart and started pouring out into the physical realm. Yoga illuminated the potential of what birth could be, and I yearned to share it with anyone who would listen to me. (next: Baby #4: Rowan's Birth Story)