It was Thursday, September 28, 2017. 12:00am in the morning and I was on my second trial of choosing the right app to track my contractions on my iPad. I even laughed out loud thinking to myself, first world problems. My husband was soundly sleeping and somehow my daughters had made their way into our bed again this evening. Honestly, I didn't mind the company. Finally, 12:30am my app had been chosen and I almost relaxed a bit not really thinking much of my contractions as I had had two false alarms in the last two weeks. Despite being 41 weeks pregnant with a single bundle of joy waiting to make his/her entry, I was quite calm. Slightly against my own will of wasting my doula's time, I texted her anyway:
"Hey Sherri, I don’t think it’s serious yet because I only just started tracking them, but I’m having contractions again. I would say they were pretty infrequent all afternoon a bit more frequent at the playground with the girls. They feel a bit different though than before. These feel like menstrual cramps more than belly tightening, even though my belly is hard too. A little bit in the back, but barely noticeable. It only feels better when I’m squatting, or in a slightly elevated child’s pose. Just a heads up!"
Clearly, I'm one of those people that write essays for texts. She replied, "Thanks. Drink some water and get some rest." I actually thought, I can't sleep through these contractions, but I didn't text her back. Instead, I just kept on tracking, moving, rolling my hips, squatting, and my deep yogic breaths. Even in these moments, I was grateful to have a strong yoga practice to keep me focused on long, slow breathing to relax my body. It went on like this for hours, even to waking up my husband somewhere around 2am to press into my low back to relieve the pain. The ONE posture we actually practiced regularly as guided by Sherri, our doula. Of course, he lasted about two minutes and was back off to sleep. I didn't have the energy to be annoyed, I just went back to rolling my hips, squatting. moving, tracking and my long, slow deep belly breathing. I began internally chanting, "In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Slow. Slow...In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Relax. Relax..."
Hours passed and I couldn't believe it was already 4am and I was still contracting, and as I think back now I don't know why I wouldn't believe it was the real thing. I texted Sherri again letting her know I was still contracting and that I couldn't sleep. Before I could finish the second round of my "essay" text, she replied in one sentence. Call Sarah. What!?! The Midwife? Already? Ok, I thought obviously surprised. So, I woke up my husband, told him to call Sarah and as he tries to hand me the phone, I kid you not, I look at him and say, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" I'm in the middle of the contraction. Sarah at this point can basically hear my mantra, "In through the nose. Out through the mouth..." But, of course this is still in my head and she says, I hear we got something going on over there. For just a second, I realized how much a woman in labor sounds like a woman having sex. I held back a laugh.
In less than 30 minutes, both Sarah and Sherri were at our house and things began to escalate. Shiz was getting real as I slouched over our red recliner, one knee hoisted up with Sherri pressing into my hips and Sarah pressing into my low back. It was partially heaven to feel that release of pressure. I switched from the ball and back to the chair and back to the ball and back to the chair. As time went on, I thought to myself, if I'm only at a level 5 of discomfort, what more can I endure? I quickly released those thoughts as no one asked me.
At about 6am my husband started airing up the pool, filled it with water and I begin to get a bit excited knowing this baby is about to come today at the least. In that same thought my heart begins to quicken, like for real for real, this baby is about to come in the next 24 hours! I get into the pool and I almost sigh a sigh of relief as the warm water took away some of the tension in my hips and legs and relieved my low back ever so slightly to take an actual full breath. Then things picked up rather quickly. I began to feel an intense pressure and then the real sensations of labor was all over my body, though still concentrated between my legs. I even remember kicking up some water at one point as I momentarily lost control of managing my pain. Sherri always brought me back though. She brought me back to my practice, to my guttural breaths, even as I hated to hear the sound. She helped me relax my shoulders and let it all go through me. And for a split moment I had thoughts of why was I doing this. Why hand't I just gotten that damn C-section?! Then, she says, you're almost there. Your baby is almost here. You're doing great. It wasn't anything grand, no academy award-winning speech, but it was exactly what I needed to hear to continue to breath. To continue to honor the life I was about to welcome into this world.
My husband came in front of me and we looked into each other's eyes and he seemed so amazed, so in love, and it made me smile. In seconds, I flipped around like a mad woman and barely whispered, I think I gotta push. I hear, "Then push." I reach my hand at my child's place of arrival and I feel something smooth to the touch the size of a dime, and this is where it becomes real to me. With each contraction, I keep reaching down to feel my baby. Until the midwife says we see the bag. I'm like, huh!? "Where's my baby?" and she says, "behind the bag." "Oh," I respond almost regrettably. Sherri and I later have a good laugh about me asking where's the baby.
Just a few contractions later, I feel the difference between the bag and the head, also known as the "ring of fire." I practically exclaimed, "Woah, woah, woah!" Fortunately, it doesn't take my breath away, but catches me by surprise, that it was actually here and I was actually feeling my baby and I say a quick prayer that my baby's head doesn't hang out there too long. Then, I feel the relief of a head pop out. I would have even swore I heard a pop! But, that was probably my imagination. I begin to give a push and the sensation of fullness is almost overwhelming as I feel the shoulders and the turning and I think "F" it. I give another push and out baby came into the water at 8:18am and I'm so amazed. I'm so relieved. All of me had been released, my ego, my thoughts, my body, my mind. All of me was pure joy and love and happiness that i just cried and stared at my baby's beautiful body in the caul underwater, until both Sherry and Sarah almost in unison say Shanell, pick up your baby. And I did. I held my baby in my hands, the sac opening against the friction of the surface of the water and I say, it's a boy bringing him onto my chest. The feeling is like no other high, no other emotion or expression of love. I stayed there feeling my husband's kisses, my daughter's adoring gaze and my son's heart beating against mine as time stopped long enough to simply be bliss.