Well, her birth was beautiful and stunning, but also full of unexpected twists.
I'll start at the beginning... on Monday, April 18 I was 39 weeks and more than ready to get this show on the road! My midwife was extremely supportive and offered to do a membrane sweep to get things going. I had been having tons of contractions and after the sweep, I had a ton more, but I expected it to still be a couple more days.
Wednesday afternoon, one o' clock sharp, I stood up from the sofa to let my mom inside from her grocery store errand and felt a gush - my water had broken! There was no doubt about it, we'd be having Baby Girl in the next 24 hours!
There was such a rush of emotions - adrenaline, anxiety, excitement - I had to take a minute to just settle myself and get focused! I was equally thrilled and equally nervous about what was to come. Since we were having a home birth, there was a lot of preparation to get started on - I changed our sheets, organized our home birth supplies, took a freezer meal out to thaw, and called up Chris and our birth team to come on over.
I fully expected this labor to be slow, slow, slow for the first few hours, then suddenly kick into high gear at transition and be super fast after that. And for the beginning, it absolutely was: manageable contractions about every five minutes, just painful enough to breathe through. Just like my last birth with Chase, my goal was to have fun during the whole process! We totally did - two of my dearest friends, Nina and Emily, were there for support for Chris and me. It was lovely to have such a light-hearted way to spend the afternoon, especially since I was starting to get impatient as the afternoon wore into evening and my contractions were still irregular and I wasn't nearing transition as fast as I expected.
During every contraction, I made my way to Chris, who wrapped his arms around me and held me close. One of my favorite parts of labor is the incredible feeling of closeness with Chris - it's such an intimate thing, and feeling supported by him was amazing.
Time started to blur a bit after dinner. I felt myself start to slip inside my head and body more as labor went on - the pain wasn't necessarily worse yet, but I felt things changing and knew I would need all my concentration and energy for the next few hours. We all agreed it wasn't quite time to get in the birthing tub yet (we didn't want to slow labor down), so Nina suggested a nice warm shower which ended up being perfect. As soon as I was getting out of the shower, our midwife team arrived.
Suddenly, I felt like I was nearing or in transition. Contractions were hard and fast, with a ton of pain in my back. I got into the glorious warm tub (and as always, immediately felt some pain relief). Chris rubbed my back during contractions, while I held on for dear life to Nina's and Emily's hands. They were all tireless the whole long day and night, massaging me and encouraging me.
By this point, I was absolutely desperate to be done with labor. I just wanted our baby out! Augustine had another suggestion, to try laboring on the toilet. Apparently women frequently labor well while on the toilet, so in hopes of doing ANYTHING to get the baby down and out, I tried it out.
I'm not sure how long I was there, but I finally started feeling like I could push. Augustine came in and asked me if I was comfortable, if I wanted to move to the birthing tub. But at this point, I was pretty sure I would need a crane to get me up. I had absolutely zero energy left to move even a few feet. Augustine gently asked me if I was sure - if I didn't move now, I'd be having our baby on the toilet. At that moment, I didn't care if I had the baby in the middle of Grand Central Station, I was absolutely not able to move until that baby was out of me!
And yet, one more reason to love love love having a midwife instead of a normal hospital birth - Augustine totally and completely followed my lead. She expertly slipped a chucks pad under the toilet seat (so the baby wouldn't fall into the toilet!), wedged herself into our tiny water closet, and prepared to birth our baby in a horribly uncomfortable crouched position against the door.
I'm not quite sure how everyone managed to fit in the 2 feet by 4 feet space that our toilet is in: Nina there supporting me, Augustine ready to catch, Chris next to me, an assistant midwife and Emily in the doorway - it was amazing.
Finally being able to push was the biggest relief. Knowing the pain would soon be over and we would finally meet our baby girl was a huge boost. As excruciating as it was to feel our baby girl moving out, it was also thrilling to know that it was only a short time left before we were two separate beings. I kept hearing Nina's encouraging words on repeat in my head: "After today, you will never not know what her face looks like!"
8 minutes of pushing later, and our baby girl finally entered the world. I reached down and pulled her up, up onto my chest against my heart. I was so grateful it was all over, so thankful to see her sweet face all covered in vernix, I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face.
She was beautiful, perfect, gorgeous in every way. The feeling of her weight on my chest is something I will never forget - those first moments with each of my children as they came into the world, safe and full of promise.
Isla was born sunny side up (face up - usually, babies are born facing backwards), which is why I had such horrific back labor. She also had the cord wrapped around her neck as she was coming out, which was a total non-issue for our highly experienced midwife.
After her birth, my amazing birth team helped us over to the bed so I could hold Isla skin to skin and nurse her. I had to be stitched up a bit (ouch), and then my mom brought up champagne for us all to toast to new life.
Finally, at 3;00 am, Augustine gave us some final instructions for postpartum care; Emily and Nina kissed us goodbye, and Chris and I snuggled together in the bed with Isla between us. I was sore and tired, but nothing could dim the joy at seeing our sweet daughter lying there.
As overjoyed as I was with our incredible little baby, I had some intense feelings after Isla's birth. Vague feelings of disappointment, even though I had nothing to be disappointed about. I had thought I knew what to expect, how I would react and handle birth. I had expected to rock my birth, to be strong and brave and empowered. Instead I was railroaded, bowled over by a pain so intense I couldn't have imagined it. It wasn't the peaceful waterbirth I had envisioned; it was raw and animalistic, out of control and entirely unexpected. I had to grieve a little bit, let go of my hopes for what I had wanted and accept what I had been given. I had to let go of my embarrassment for my long birth, with loud guttural moans and tears of pain.
Time and time again, my children have taught me important lessons about life. Isla's lesson began before she was even born: sometimes HOW you arrive somewhere is not as important. Sometimes the journey isn't going to be peaceful, predictable, and as expected. Sometimes (ok, most of the time), things will be out of my control. The important thing is to keep going, plow through as gracefully as possible, and be grateful for the end result.
It's been almost five weeks since Isla arrived, and even though she is our third baby, I'm still completely overwhelmed by how much I love her, how much my heart has expanded to love her so much, and somehow even love her brothers even more as I watch them tenderly hug and kiss her. I'm spending every moment soaking up the beautiful newborn stage, so bittersweet since I'm aware how quickly it goes!