Early Thursday morning, heading to preschool, my son Malachi and I began to talk about his little sister making her appearance. “She will be out soon,” I said to him, “when do you think baby will be born?” Without hesitation my son said “tomorrow baby be born in the pool.” About 10 hours later, leaving the restaurant after a family dinner, headed to daddy’s hockey game, labor began.
But Ava’s labor didn’t seem like labor at all. Getting out of the car at the ice rink with big brother Malachi, I felt a pain. A slow warm contraction like pain that peaked but did not fall. “Are you okay mama?” my son asked as I hunched over a bit walking to the door. “Yes, boo,” I said “I think Ava’s ready to come out.” Malachi came and grabbed my hand to help me to the door. “I help push baby out?” he asked as he touched my belly. It was hard still and sharp. “Yes, Kai Kai,,” I said gently squeezing his hand, “soon.”
Inside the ice arena the cool air felt good. I was still in a strange contraction peak that wouldn’t subside. I made my way to the ladies room and tried hot water on my belly, then cold, then squatting in the restroom, then walking again… but still the pain lingered and my belly was hard. We eventually made it back outside so I could get my phone. I wanted to call my doula and let her know what was going on. The fresh air was calming and I made it to a tree by the lot. With my back against the tree, I squatted again, humming down the pain. Malachi followed me to a puddle where he splashed and played. I regained my breath and gave Jessica my doula and Karen my midwife a call. Still not quite sure it was labor, but something was happening.
Daddy came out of his game, some hockey gear still on, and opened the car door for me. He helped me in and asked how I was feeling. Excited, anxious, amazed, and in some pain, but I was feeling wonderful. Soon we were home and I was pacing around the house. The pain began to rise and fall and resemble traditional contractions. Time to call Jessica and Karen again.
By now he sun was down and the warm summer air was cooling. I walked into the backyard and into the hot tub, bringing with me my tangerine-lavender birth candle. I lit it excitedly and slipped into the warm water, focusing on the flame and invigorating yet calming aroma. As I hit the water, the pain began to subside, but I could feel my womb contracting- rising and falling like the waves of the ocean. I let the jets hit my back and I rubbed my belly gently, massaging my baby down. “Come down, Ava, come down,” I spoke gently to her, feeling her leg push into my right side as another contraction began.
Daddy came outside with some water and Karen on the phone. She told me she was on her way. I felt like I was in a dream- it was all falling into place now and in a matter of hours Ava would be in my arms. Daddy and big brother Malachi joined me in the hot tub and we breathed and sang through the contraction waves together.
Over the next several hours, there wasn’t much progression. My contractions were still a bit sporadic and although I was 100% effaced, I was only 4cm dilated. So I kept walking, singing her down, humming through the pain, talking her into position. Ava and I worked through contractions together as daddy and Malachi headed up to sleep. Almost Friday morning but although I was tired, I could not sleep. Back to the hot tub and the candle- back to the stars and the fresh air. I sat in the water as the clouds began to roll in. Earlier some heat lightning threatened the cancellation of my outdoor waterbirth, but that had since subsided and the night air was full of promise.
I came back inside and my birth assistant Liz checked my body’s progress. Closer, stronger, quicker, sharper, but not opening up the door enough for her. We decided to help the process along by rupturing my amniotic sac. Waiting for another rush to come, I pictured my bag of waters holding my little girl- opening up for her to find the way out. Warm fluid leaked down and I rocked through the pain. Rocking and singing and seeing her little head come down.
When I was finally at the point to enter the pool, I rushed into the liquid escape and sunk into its warm embrace. Stretching back my head and shoulders, I looked into the dark, cloudy sky and spied a few stars peeking through. I breathed in the air as several raindrops hit my face. As the pains became more intense, Jason came outside and held me. I leaned into his support, feeling his pride and strength. His excitement and encouragement seeped into me as I held on to him.
But Ava wasn’t coming down. I was dilated, my body was ready, but she was still floating in her own little world. I flipped to my back and pushed, feeling myself float up – holding my legs… then I left the tub to sit on the birth stool for several pushes. Malachi had woken up and Jason had now brought him outside to see “baby come out” as he had been waiting anxiously for. I was beginning to zone out into another world- seeing only the visions of baby dropping, while humming, singing, yelling, grunting. . . . Nothing else existed for that moment. I began to feel hot and nauseous, but as I lifted up my head it was covered in cool, soothing refreshing raindrops and I tried to drink them in and gather strength.
I looked at the candles I had lit, several out from the rain but my tangerine-lavender birth candle still was glowing. Strength from the fire, from the fresh air in my backyard, from the cool earth below my feet, from the water coming down onto my face and into my hair as I wiped the raindrops over me, bathing in life- ecstatically. And then I felt that familiar hot pressure. I knew it was her head pushing her way out. I climbed into the water, my husband and son at the edge of the tub calmly watching, supporting, loving.
“Aaaaaavaaaa,” I said, not sure if it was aloud or in my head, but all I could hear was “aaaavvaaaaa- down – here you come, into my arms, here you come. “I pushed again and again and felt the hot pressure change. Suddenly no pain, no pressure, and I felt a little leg.
Looking down my midwife was passing this tiny little creature to me from under the water- appearing magically through the warm waves I had made with the pushing. Her arms reached to me and I brought her to my chest. We did it, there she is, my little waterbaby here in my arms. I held her close, looked her over, held her close again, felt her cord, then lifted her up to kiss her, smell her, feel her.
We sat in the tub for a little while and relaxed, feeling the rain, letting big brother touch her and oogle over his precious sister, as daddy watched in awe, touching her tiny body, delicate hands, fuzzy little head. She didn’t want to nurse but was content as a pea in a pod cuddling in the warm water. As the raindrops came a bit stronger and the cramping in my uterus reminded me our placenta was still waiting, we emerged from the tub and headed inside to rest on the couch. Cord still connecting us, I cradled my little girl to my chest and walked towards the comfy cushions. My wonderful birth team waited patiently as we cuddled and I reached down to feel her cord. It seemed so small and white compared to others I have had and have seen, like a magical little serpent or the snakes on the caduceus. Pulsing slowing… It was so amazing to hold it as I held her and feel the pulse slowly fade, watching her breathe in air. Soon it was time for the separation on one level, as we connected on another level. Baby to chest, baby to breast, breathing in mommy’s breath.
Daddy leaned over and as he had done for his other two children, made the symbolic first connection to the outside world as the disconnection from mommy’s was already working away on its own. At this moment it was time to go to daddy’s arms. He smiled with joy, pride and elation as he took little Ava against his bare chest and spoke gently to her.
I slipped off the couch and squatted out the placenta as my husband and son soaked up the joy of our newest family member- the little girl who had been with us behind closed womb walls for so long.
And then it was time to rest. We had all worked so hard, so strong, and so ready to fall into each other and collapse.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t as smooth as my last birth. It scared me at several moments and for a few breaths I felt like giving up. But it was glorious and miraculous. It was full of poetic passion and pain. Every doubt was followed up by a warm thought, easy breath, vision of my daughter, encouragement from my birth team, love from my husband or smile of excitement on my son’s face.
And Malachi was right- baby was born on Friday in the pool.