I could have gazed into her eyes forever but she yawned, squeaked, and slowly drifted off into the most peaceful of sleeps.
It was quiet there in the birthing center at the hospital. The lights were dimmed and nurses were rounding in hushed tones. Across the hall I could hear the familiar thumping of a fetal heartbeat on a monitor. Sometimes I could hear the shuffling of a laboring momma, walking the halls, just like I did a few short hours earlier.
I looked back down at my daughter. She was just over twelve hours old. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and I couldn’t have been more at peace. How else was I supposed to feel? I was holding a dream come true.
A squeak and a yawn and I was brought back to my bed, in the very room that we welcomed our second daughter. In the room where our older daughter helped to coach me through contractions. In the room where my mom timed the waves that would eventually bring her a fourth grandchild. In the room where I fell in love, all over again, with my husband, as he fed me my turkey sandwich while I held our minutes old baby.
I took in the calm. The past 24 hours had been a whirlwind. I went from being a 37-week happily pregnant, albeit uncomfortable, person to a new mom, all over again. The tiny girl in my arms was, just a few hours earlier, nudging my ribs with her toes and getting into position to be born.
All the day before I had been having contractions. They were not painful; they were just the contractions I had struggled with for so many, many weeks previously. The difference was that now, at 37 weeks, the baby was able to thrive on the outside. I had just started to let my guard down, find peace in the last remaining moments of this pregnancy, one that would almost definitely be my last.
By bedtime I was exhausted and my back was achy. I jokingly asked my husband if he could take Monday (the next day) off so we could have one more day of weekend. “Only if you go into labor!” He joked back. I laughed. That day had not felt like the day before labor would start. I remembered the day before our first daughter was born. I just knew she was on her way. That day, Sunday, was not that day. I said good night and headed to bed to start my nightly tossing and turning.
Somewhere around midnight I had finally drifted off only to be woken two hours later to my tiny inhabitant doing barrel rolls in my belly. I laid in bed, staring out the window at the tree in my neighbor’s yard. Half of the leaves had fallen off and the remaining ones were shifting from brilliant yellow to a subdued brown. I had been watching this tree for weeks, knowing that once the leaves had all fallen, our baby would be coming. A small but very distinguishable popping feeling very low in my abdomen interrupted my foliage filled thoughts. I knew instantly that my water had broken.
The next two hours were filled with excitement and fear, phone calls and last minute house prep. Eventually our small car was filled with a very excited family, everything we could need for the next couple days, and a whole lot of love and anticipation. Off we went to meet our newest family member.
We had just decided a week earlier to include our daughter at the hospital. Originally, she was going to stay home with Grandma. After talking with friends, each other, and my midwife, we decided to bring her and my mom with us. You would have thought we had told her she was headed to Disney to meet the entire Frozen cast, she was so overjoyed. We realized, after making the choice, that it was the only thing that made sense for our family.
As we settled into the room where I would deliver, I could not have been more confident in our choice to include my mom and our daughter. I was at ease and not the least bit anxious, exactly what I had dreamed for this birth. My labor and delivery with our first was filled with fear and anxiety. So much so that it ended up clouding my memories and making the entire experience a blur of incoherent moments. I vowed to stay present this time, to be in control of my experience instead of just a fearful victim of the pain.
By morning my labor had not progressed much, I was still in very early labor, my pain was barely worth mentioning. The decision was made to fully break my water (the pop had been the product of a small leak that set off labor but did not allow it to progress). It wouldn’t be long now; we were going to meet our baby.
I took to the halls of the second floor, walking and chatting in between contractions. My husband, mom, and daughter all took turns walking with me. My husband would hold me through the pain, rubbing my back. My mom and I shared moments between the breathing, finding great amounts of gratitude for each other’s presence. My daughter would hold my hand and quietly stop when I did. She would remind me to breath by taking slow, deep breathes next to me, gently squeezing my hand.
“Good mommy! Good breathing!” She would say, defying her mere four years. When the pain threatened to take over my control, when it threatened to take me from being resent, I would look into her eyes. I would ask her to give me a kiss, or just breathe with me. I found strength in my family. They, whether they realized it or not, gave me the ability to have the birthing experienced I so desperately yearned for, one that I so desperately needed. Their calm and reassuring presence got me through labor.
The last phase of labor went very quickly. We decided to have my mom and our soon to be oldest daughter go for a walk while I delivered. Within a few minutes I was holding our tiny new child. I did it. We did it. Our dream had come true; my personal dream of a positive birth experience had come true. Overcome with gratitude and love, I held our baby and my husband and I cried.
We are a family of four now. Our oldest has slid into the roll of big sister in a way that we could have never anticipated. My love for my family has grown more than I thought was possible. My respect and adoration for my four year old is immeasurable. My gratitude and adoration for my mother is at a place it has never been and I could have only hoped for before this experience. I am humbled by my amazing husband; I adore him with every fiber of my being. And, our new baby, the center of it all; the missing piece of our puzzle. She completely completes our family.
And you. My readers, my supporters, my friends. You all rode along as we experienced this journey. I will forever be grateful for the emails and Facebook messages. The congratulatory words and hugs when we crossed paths at the grocery store. You have all kept me believing in the light when the darkness threatened to take over. Thank you.
As I finish typing this up, I feel a tiny hand touch my leg. Our three-day old baby is napping on our bed next to me. As soon as she felt me next to her she let out a content sigh. I wonder how much more my already overflowing heart can handle. Then, my four-year-old comes in, climbs onto the bed and kisses her sister and says good night.
“What was your favorite part of the day?” I ask her, like I do every night.
She looks up from her spot next to her sister and smiles, “Spending time with my whole family. All FOUR of us.”