Updated: Oct 31, 2018
This account of my first child's birth was recorded in a journal dedicated solely to her, written in November 2009 (about one month postpartum). She was born at home, in a water tub, after about 19 hours of labor. She weighed in at 9lbs 6oz. I experienced severe tearing and nearly hemorrhaged.
I didn't know it until years later, but I experienced about 10 months of intense PPD and felt traumatized over what seemed to be a fairly routine, textbook birth. Saidie's birth story was the beginning of a major wake-up call, and for that, I will always hold these memories as sacred and dear to my heart:
Saidie, delivering you and bringing you into this world has transformed my life. It was your birth and my rebirth. I want to share the story of your delivery and my deliverance.
Being the oldest child takes a lot of courage, I think. You'll be a pioneer in so many aspects of life, but first and foremost, you were the first to open my womb and birth canal--no easy task! We both worked harder than we've ever worked before just to get your little body out of mine. Your siblings are already in your debt. Their path is already that much easier. My labor began Sunday night, October eleventh, around ten o'clock. Earlier, Nana Sorensen* had stopped by to visit and check up on me. She was staying at your Auntie's waiting for me to have the baby. My good friend was also over and we were all chatting and enjoying my homemade brownies for dessert. When Nana left that night, her last words were, "maybe I'll be seeing you later this evening!" I laughed and said, "Yeah, wouldn't that be great!"
I suppose at that point I was a little skeptical that you would ever come since you were due October sixth. I had resigned myself to being pregnant forever! With our guests gone, Daddy and I pulled out an old puzzle from the game closet and spread it out over the kitchen table. Your dad is a master at puzzles! I like to do them, but mostly enjoy just watching him do them. But as the evening progressed I became increasingly aware of what I thought felt like menstrual cramps...and they were coming and going and getting stronger each time. Ahh! Was it for real?
Nic and I debated whether or not we should call Mom and tell her to come back or if I was reading too much into these "labor pains". So we started timing them. Yep, about every 3 to 5 minutes, like clock work, another contraction would hit. We called Mom Sorensen and Mom Bremer and suggested they head over sometime soon. Mom Bremer drove down from Logan that night and arrived here in Provo around 2 am. Camille, your Aunt, drove up from Cedar and arrived shortly after. She was Nana's assistant for your birth. So everyone was there that needed to be there and my contractions were coming on quite a bit stronger now.
...I continued laboring through the night. My mom and Nic stayed awake with me through it all. We tried working on a puzzle, but it did little to distract me. The only thing that got me through each contraction was when your Daddy would push with all his strength on my lower back. For some reason the pressure would relieve my pain immensely. Monday had arrived and the day progressed right along with my contractions up until about 3 o'clock. That's when they were becoming extremely intense and I then got into the birthing tub that we set up in our bedroom. Ah, the hot water felt divine! I felt immediate relief, which I so needed as I entered transition.
Everything went remarkably well. The only hang up came after I had been pushing for about half an hour and not making much progress. Vickie realized that part of my cervix hadn't fully dilated and was preventing your head from coming out. This was probably the hardest moment of the entire delivery, when I had to stop pushing, get on my hands and knees, and just go through contractions again. It felt like I was going backwards and I became very discouraged, which caused me to lose focus. All I could think about was the pain, and on one contraction I fairly lost my rhythm entirely and burst into tears.
I suppose it was my own Gethsemene moment, feeling completely incapable of going on, asking that this cup be taken from me. That's when Vickie had me lay back down in the water, Nic supporting and holding me from behind, and she manually reached up and pulled the lip of the cerix back that had been blocking your way. Then I could resume pushing, for another hour. Camille held up a mirror for me to see when your beautiful head started crowning, but I couldn't focus on it. Every time I tried to look I would start to lose my rhythm again. I had to keep my eyes closed in order to bear down. Your Dad was my salvation. He was able to push on my back and practically hold me up each time I pushed. I truly believe labor is meant for a husband AND wife to endure together, because I needed your Dad physically and emotionally.
Finally, after the most intense pain and emotion I'd ever felt, a tiny, beautiful baby was delivered and laid onto my chest. I instantly checked to see if it was a boy or a girl, but strangely I couldn't comprehend which one it was! I was so in shock I had to ask everyone around me, "Is it a boy or girl?" And it took hearing "It's a girl!" several times before it fully sank in. A girl! I have a daughter? This is my beautiful baby girl?! Your Dad and I just held you in awe. I was sobbing out of sheer elation. You were so beautiful, Saidie. You didn't cry or fuss. You just laid there, wide eyed, looking around trying to take it all in. Your umbilical cord was shorter than most, Vickie said, and so I couldn't pull you up to my chest all the way until after the cord was cut. Nic and I got out of the tub and I laid down on the bed, still holding you. And in this dreamlike trance all I could think was "I have a daughter."
Unfortunately, I still hadn't delivered my placenta and was evidently losing quite a bit of blood. I had transferred over to the bed, by this point, with a lot of assistance from everyone, and Vickie kept urging me to push, but I think I was in a state of shock. Everyone seemed very far away except for you...I gave one last all-out push and finally delivered the placenta. Vickie did have to stitch me up considering I tore almost to my rectum. It's funny how I could take it all in stride at that point. Stitches? Bleh. What are a few stitches after what I just went through? I did have to stay in bed for half a day before I could even make it to the bathroom. I was too weak to even sit up. Your Dad and Grammy had to support me just to walk down the hall and back. We made a great team, you and I.
I know I was in a state of shock for the first few days, one moment dancing on the clouds in euphoria and the next sobbing in fear that I would utterly fail you as a mother. But anytime I got too down or discouraged I would just look deep into those wide, gorgeous, trusting eyes and I would somehow find the strength to go on.
I don't fully know why but when I was pregnant with you and people would ask what gender I wanted the baby to be I would always answer that I didn't care one way or the other, but I felt more prepared for a boy. I felt deep inside of me that if, in that moment of delivery, it was a little girl, that it would be extremely emotional for me. And it was! Perhaps I knew how much my own mother had sacrificed for me, how important a role she's played in my life--was I ready to be that for someone else? Was I capable of loving my daughter in the way I needed to be loved from my mother? It was perfect, Saidie. Of course you were a girl! It couldn't be any other way. You've opened me up to a whole new capacity of love.
Bless you for that!
*My mother-in-law is not just the Grandmother of my children, but she was also the midwife that assisted all four of my children's births.
Thoughts on Saidie's birth, nine years later (we just celebrated her ninths birthday this week!):
Now that I have the gift of hindsight, and because I've had almost a decade to process Saidie's birth, I now recognize this experience as the catalyst for my feminine awakening (I explore this further in another blogpost "Birth was my BODHI"). During my pregnancy I remember being asked all the time, when people learned that I was choosing a home birth, what "method" I was going to use. When I told them "the push-the-baby-out method", I got a lot of nervous looks. I didn't fully understand the need for having a method. Women were designed to give birth and I just trusted that I would know what to do in the moment. I did read a few books and watched a couple documentaries that my midwife/mother-in-law recommended. And, as sort of a last ditch effort to prepare, I joined a yoga class at about 8 months pregnant. Mostly, I didn't have a lot of fear of childbirth in general. I had been exposed to really positive birth experiences from oldest sister's home births. Then I married the son of a midwife and was regularly exposed to empowered women that were actively involved in their birth decisions. I felt ready!
What I see now is that I was riddled with fear. It wasn't fear of childbirth, though--it was fear of opening up and letting go. I never understood the correlation between the physical process of opening up (through childbirth) and the emotional process of opening up (letting go of suppressed emotions and traumas). So my daughter's birth proved to be jarring, traumatic, and life-altering. But it set me on a profound course of self-discovery, healing, and research. By the time I became pregnant with my second baby, a boy we named Avery, I was ready to try something new. I was anxious to not repeat the traumatic experiences of my previous birth. (see "Avery's Birth Story")