She's one month old today. My daughter! I still have moments of disbelief as I watch her sleeping in my lap. Ten months ago adding another person to our family was the last thing on my mind and now here she is; soft, beautiful, and exactly what we didn't know was missing.
That Wednesday evening one month ago, I was almost 41 weeks pregnant, waddling around the kitchen cooking dinner, having contractions somewhat regular but not at all uncomfortable. We were getting ready for our dinner party. Chris, the boys, and I all dressed up; funny hats, costume jewelry, neck ties, capes and assumed new identities for our party. We had a great time getting ready and a great time playing at dinner. It was especially fun for me because I had a secret. As I drained the noodles in the colander, served the salad, talked about current events with important guests like Super-Firefighter Cyrus, Lord Litzby, and whatever the rest of their funny names were, I felt the gentle surges that meant my baby was coming soon. I didn't tell anyone. It was delicious having such a sweet little secret to keep.
After the guests had been bathed and put to bed, I told Chris that I had been having contractions all evening but kept down playing them because I didn't want to get too excited and make things peter out. They continued to be consistent so I sent a text to my doula, Jessi, to let her know that I thought sister baby might be getting ready. I stayed up for a while timing them; they got to about 3 minutes apart and just slightly uncomfortable and I think that is when I let Gail, the midwife, know. Shortly after that (maybe around eleven or midnight, I can't really remember) they slowed down quite a bit and I was getting tired, so I took a nap. At a quarter till three I had a strong enough contraction to wake me from a sound sleep and as I laid in bed I noticed that they were pretty close together. I consider that the point when my labor actually began. I got up and went to the living room to time them and didn't have one for 10 minutes- so I just decided to go to the bathroom and go back to bed. But on the short trip to the bathroom I had a pretty good contraction and went back to the computer to time them: 2-3 minutes apart for a couple of them. I told Chris I'd wait about another half hour before I called Jessi to come and a minute later I had one that was powerful enough that I had to squat and breathe through. So we called her right away.
Eleven years ago, during my high school years, I went on a trip to Taiwan to visit a friend who was a missionary there. While I was there I met Michelle. She was close to my age and her family was on the same team as the friend I had gone to visit, so we spent a lot of time together that week. I have seen her occasionally during her visits to the States, received newsletters here and there, and, like everyone in my generation, have kept up with her life via facebook, so I knew she was a midwife serving in India. What I did not know was that she was in the US for a year and had started working with the midwives I was using the day before I went into labor! It was a sweet surprise when Jessi sent me a text to ask if I was comfortable having Michelle assist at my birth!
Jessi and Michelle arrived just after Chris finished airing up the birth pool and called my mom to get the boys. After checking my vitals and listening to baby, Michelle checked me. I was a little concerned when she told Jessi that I had a "magic cervix" (I feel sort of strange just typing that). She assured me that it was a good thing and I stayed put through a contraction so she could get a more clear idea of where I was at; 6 centimeters.
They started filling the pool with water and my mom arrived to take the boys. Chris woke each boy one-by-one and brought them to me. It was so precious to have just a moment with each of them. I got to hug and kiss them and tell them I love them. All three of them were so calm and happy, despite the fact that they were being woken up and taken out in the freezing cold at almost 5 in the morning. I love those little moments. I can still almost see the sweet smile on Cyrus' face, feel Caedmon's big bear hug, and smell Cohen's soft baby hair. It was just what I needed before I began the hard work.
Every once in a while I'd feel a little bit of panic rise up in my chest. Fear did it's best to remind me that it was going to get harder and harder. Every time I'd start to feel panicky I'd tell Chris or Jessi, and for some reason just making them aware of it always helped me to calm back down. I remember telling Jessi that I was worried because I knew it was going to get really hard. She told me that yes, it was, but I could do it. And I knew she was right.
After the boys left it was time to get in the pool. I know everyone was there, Gail arrived shortly after I got in, but most of the next two hours were spent in my own world. Occasionally I would notice that someone had stopped pouring water on my back or that someone was using the little hand held device to check the sister's heart rate, but mostly I was focused on helping sister baby move down.
During Cohen's birth at the hospital there had been a lot of fear and pressure from the nurses and the midwife on call and I think that made his heart rate look really scary. I had learned that left unchecked, a little bit of fear can generate more fear, so this time every once in a while I'd remind sister baby that she was okay, that she was safe, that I was working with her to help her come out, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Her heart rate was great every single time they checked.
I sunk into my contractions letting every muscle loosen up so that my body could focus all of it's energy moving sister baby. I'd rest in between, sipping on water and eating bits of an orange. I remember telling everyone that I was tired and I laid back in the pool for a few minutes and someone rubbed my head and neck. And that's when I had the battle: labor was taking every ounce of strength I had and part of me just wanted to lay there, will my labor to stop, and let whoever was rubbing my head just keep on until I fell asleep. Even though it was completely unrealistic to just quit, I had to decide to keep going, trust my body, and to tap into that inner strength that God has given women. And I did. I got back on my hands and knees and I helped my baby on her journey.
It felt good to give little pushes at the end of my contractions, so that's what I did. My water broke and I could feel sister was ready for me to do some really hard work, so I started really pushing. It was wonderful to just be trusted. No one felt the need to stop me and make sure I was officially 10 centimeters or to yell at me when and how to push. I worked her down when and how it felt right.
After one good contraction I looked at Chris, tired and steady. We've done this before, he and I, he knows how to stay with me, he knows how to let me work and he is so, so kind when I accidentally snap at him for putting his hand on my back the wrong way. I felt grateful for him.
After several more pushes I reached the point of despair. Just like the battle to keep going, I've had the point of despair at each of my births. It's the same every time: everyone is telling me that I'm doing great and that the baby is almost here and Fear creeps back in and tells me that they're probably lying to me and that I'll probably die trying to push this baby out. I started crying and Jessi held my face and said something, I don't remember what, but her voice was calm and sure, it was just the connection that I needed to snap out of it and push out my baby.
I pushed with everything I had, I felt the familiar sting of a new person emerging. Her head was out. I pushed again and again and again, I was wondering what was taking her little body so long to get out, when she finally finished her journey. I flipped over and held her to my chest. I kissed her sweet head and held her tiny fingers. My daughter had arrived! She looked just like I had always pictured her, with a head full of thick brown hair.
She weighed over 9 pounds, which is why it had been so hard to get her little body out.
We decided to call her Kezzia Layne. Kezzia after one of Job's daughters (Keziah), who in a time when women were considered completely valueless, was mentioned by name and was given an inheritance among her brothers! I hope that our Kezzia will grow up in a world that sees what a gift women are, and if she doesn't, that she'll be a part of the change. Layne is a combination of our dad's middle names. I think her name brings hope for the future and gives honor to the past.
I am overwhelmed by how peaceful our little Kezzi's birth was. It was so beautiful and it was the perfect way to welcome her to our family.