More than just our story, I wanted to use this as a THANK YOU to you incredible people who had so much to do with Jackson coming into the world. I never realized what went on behind the scenes for a child to be born or how much the right care and support and encouragement can do. I don't want to imagine this day without the love or influence or company of any one of you.
John - my husband, my son's father, my love, my clarity. Bringer of midnight root beer floats, the one who can always make me laugh. :)
My mom, our son's Grammy - the inspiration for everything I am and do as a mother! She is the epitome of everything maternal and just down to earth goodness.
Samanda - our natural birth class instructor who helped us tame our "tigers" and own our birth experience.
Lauren and Jessica - our amazing midwives. An unbelievably skilled and supportive team.
Teresa - our good friend, doula, and the most knowledgeable and patient nurse you will ever meet.
Valerie - a dear friend and the talented gal behind the camera. I am so grateful I had the foresight to ask her to be at our birth, and that she had the kindness to say yes. My only wish is that I had her at home and the birth center with us for all the early stages of labor too. Next time, lady!
The week after my due date was the longest week of my life.
Not because I had a new little baby to take care of, mind you.... but because I didn't. And I was done being pregnant. Maybe it was just me, but I rode a surge of excitement and preparation right up until that magical day, the 15th, when that baby was supposed to come... and then I completely spiraled. Looking back now, I have no idea why it was so depressing. Obviously I was going to have this baby, and I kept telling myself it was for the best to wait until he was ready to come. But during that week, I really did feel like he was never, ever, ever going to be born.
God has this funny, poignant way of using every important event in my life to show me that His plans are not my plans; that His are better, and always worth waiting for.
So yes. Our beautiful baby was, in fact, born. And this is that story.
9 long days after my due date, I drove myself to Wal-Mart for some impulsive snack food shopping (don't judge me). I figured if I had to be pregnant for yet another day I may as well eat whatever I wanted. As I walked out to my car with my multiple (stop judging me) bags in hand, I felt my first real contraction.
I had been having Braxton Hicks for months, but that one was different. They always say you will know when it's for real, and I did. I went home and texted my husband and sister: "Definitely having some strong, crampy contractions today. Hopefully this is a good sign!" As the day went on, I had a couple more of those contractions but they were very few and far apart. I decided the best course of action was to be in denial. So I made dinner and John and I had the last normal, quiet evening we would have for a while, and we went to bed.
Another contraction woke me at 2 AM, more uncomfortable this time. As I lay on my side and hugged my pillow, I thought faintly to myself that this, finally, might be the beginning and maybe we would meet our son soon. I knew I should get as much rest as possible so I stayed in bed, drifting in between sleep and contractions.
At 5:30 AM I got up to use the bathroom - and passed my mucus plug. I had truly never been so excited to see something in a toilet. I woke John and he advised me to text Teresa and Jessica to let them know. I did, and both said it sounded like today would be the day! Their affirmation was what it took for me to finally believe that things were truly happening. It turns out they were -almost- right.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend, John had already planned to stay home from work that Friday. We spent the morning making sure we had everything we needed packed and ready to go, calling/texting family, and then we just relaxed. We watched The Office and talked and hung out and ate food, just like a typical Williams day at home - except I was on a birth ball most of the time, and had to take breaks in the conversation to breathe and relax through a contraction.
My contractions confused me, because I had always thought it would go like in the movies - once you start having them, you kept having them consistently closer and closer together. Mine were all over the place that day. They would come 10 minutes apart, and then I would have a few 5 minutes apart, and then one 7 minutes later, and then one in 2 minutes. I didn't know then (thank goodness), but our child was going to take his precious time coming into the world. I started to gauge them more by intensity than timing. I had been handling them fairly well by myself all morning, but by mid afternoon they started to become more intense. I knew when I no longer could laugh at anything on The Office. That was when John got to start utilizing his birth partner skills, rubbing my back and applying pressure through the contractions. At 4 PM they had finally become fairly consistent at 4-5 minutes apart and we decided it was time to head to the birth center.
My mom met us at the center and we settled in. My contractions were back at 6-7 minutes apart once we got there and I felt a bit deflated. I remembered reading in Ina May Gaskin's Guide To Natural Birth that the women who give birth at "The Farm" were always going for walks during labor to get things going, so John and I went outside to walk. While we walked, I can remember thinking about how the women in the book got to labor walk through the shady woods, surrounded by trees and nature - and here we were walking alongside the highway, through parking lots and a little strip of grass, with traffic whizzing by and a dog barking at us through a fence. But every time I paused and my husband held me and we swayed through a contraction, I wouldn't have traded that time together for all the farms in the world. I had him.
We went back inside. It surprised me how much the time in between my contractions felt, and yet didn't feel, like normal life. My mom went out to grab dinner for John and herself (at this point I didn't feel much like eating). They sat and ate. I rocked on the birth ball. We listened to music and talked about how we wished we would have thought to bring playing cards. I would squeeze John's hand when a contraction came and lean onto his lap. Then when it passed we would sit up and play with Play-Doh (yes, our "sculpt your cervix" Play-Doh from birth class with Samanda). I'm not kidding.
After a few more intense contractions, a shower sounded nice. I just wanted anything that would help make the contractions, which were intensifying again, a little more comfortable. Almost as soon as I got in, I threw up pretty much everything I had eaten that day. And then everything kicked into a higher gear.
I chose to not have my cervix checked during my entire labor, but if I had to guess I would say I dilated the remainder of whatever centimeters I had left very quickly while I was in that shower. And with every contraction I drew further and further into myself.
Thank God for water. I have distinct touch memory of how sitting in the shower felt. John spraying the hot water on my back. Shivering with the intensity of the contractions and the shock of the cold air on my skin whenever it wasn't in contact with the water.
Since the time we arrived up unto this point, we were left very much to ourselves so I could labor how I wanted. I was thankful for the privacy. But I could feel we were getting closer. John walked me back into our room to the tub, which had been filled while we were out. Our team began to unobtrusively surround us.
From this point, it is so hard to write a cohesive story - another reason I am glad for the pictures. Almost as soon as I was in the water, I was in what Samanda had called "labor land" - a place you can't realistically imagine until you're in it. I think I was still in transition. I had no concept of time passing, no conscious awareness of what was happening around me. Quiet voices kind of floated around my head. I remember feeling like I was no longer physically able to open my eyes. All that mattered was inside of me.
I could feel how vocal I became during those contractions, but it was like hearing someone else inside of me that I never knew was there. John reminded me to keep my sounds low and open. I don't know how well I did at that. I was an animal for these remaining hours, and I was going to roar out my baby.
I had heard a lot of women say pushing was a relief in labor. For me, pushing was the most difficult part of my entire birth. The urge took over my entire body. Jessica and Lauren showed me how to curl my bottom in to help the pushing become more effective, but I didn't feel like I made much progress. Jackson was stuck. I pushed for what felt like the entire night, which was actually around two hours. Long enough. I found myself talking to my baby, pleading with him to come out. It felt like my body needed more energy than I had left.
This ^ , in a picture, is why I knew I wanted my mother with me on the day I gave birth. My mother who is strong, who did this 8 times (!), who understands, who feels no shame in calling on Jesus for our strength. She and John were my mainstays, holding me up in prayers and love.
Finally I was told it was time to get out of the tub and sit on the birth stool for a while, hoping gravity would help Jackson come down. I'm pretty sure when they asked me to get out of the tub I flat out said I didn't want to. The air outside the water was freezing and I couldn't stop shaking.
After a few minutes sitting and a few more pushes, he was close. I got to move to the bed. Jessica held one end of a rebozo scarf and I clutched the other, leveraging her strength against the force of my pushing. This was the classic "you can do it!", everyone-surrounding-pushing-pregnant-lady-on-the-bed moment, the one you see in the movies - except in the movies, labor and birth only last for about 30 seconds. At this point I had been in labor for at least 20 hours and I. was. exhausted. I felt like I had nothing left and my pushes were weak.
Jackson's heartbeat was slowing. No one told me this directly until afterward, but there was a sense of urgency I could faintly feel through my fatigue. That was when Jessica firmly told me the only words I can distinctly remember. "Christina, it's time to push your baby out." That was what it took. I had everything I needed. In that room surrounded by my husband and midwives and friends, I knew every single one of them knew I could do it. They were ready for me to do it. Jackson was ready for me to do it. And no matter how tired I was, it had to be done. With everything I had left, I pushed through the pain of exhaustion, of a "ring of fire", of tearing. Soon they could feel his head. Someone's hand guided mine and I reached down and touched my baby's sweet, darling head of hair for the first time. Right then I knew I was made to do this.
The most amazing thing about birth is that right when you think you can't, you can. Right when you feel you are at your weakest, somehow you have never been stronger. Right when you feel you have nothing left, you are given all you need.
Slowly that little head and neck came out, with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around it, and the rest of him came quickly after. Immediately Jessica and Lauren deftly rotated his little body and unwrapped his neck and at 12:22 AM, twenty-two minutes into his proud Grammy's birthday, he was out and he was ours.
Mine. Ours. God's. Nothing can prepare you for this first look, the incredible disbelief, the feeling that somehow your heart is now outside of your body and you can never be the same.
Jackson Robert. I had imagined what you would look like for much longer than the 9 months it would take for us to find out.
Jackson was put on my chest right away. He let out a few small cries just to say "we did it" and then settled contentedly against me. Wide-eyed from the beginning, as if he couldn't wait to see us too.
They say right afterward you forget all the pain. It wasn't exactly so - my body was absolutely spent and I hadn't delivered my placenta after half an hour, so I was given a little pitocin to help. I had to maneuver into a better position to deliver it, so Daddy got his first chance at holding Jackson.
Then there were stitches, and then I finally got the chance to forget it all. And then I truly did.
I cannot explain the peace I felt as we snuggled up next to our tiny miracle, resting after the hardest work of my life. Later came the sense of accomplishment, later the empowerment, later the gratitude for a safe birth. All that mattered in that moment was that moment, because in that moment unconditional love wrapped us up in its arms.
8 precious pounds of baby.
And that, Jackson, is how you were born. My hardest and best and most life-changing work. 3 months later as I write this, there still aren't words to do justice how blessed I feel. I get to be your mom. I get to watch you grow. I get to discover with you. I get to hold your little hand while it is still little.
I can't believe how much I love you. I can't believe how much I am loved.
The day you were born was beautiful, and every day since has been more beautiful still.