“I want to OWN this birth,” I told my midwife. This had become my prayer over the last few months of pregnancy. I had always felt as if labor consisted of something horrific happening to me; something I couldn’t control or escape, in which the only way <out> was through. This time, I wanted things to be different. For once, I didn’t want to panic during transition or scream “I can’t do this!” while pushing. For once, I wanted to feel empowered and connected to God, my child, and my husband through the process of giving birth.
“I think we need to call the midwife,” I mumbled from my position on the floor, face buried in the cushion of the couch.
“I think it’s going to take a while,” he answered.
His hesitation was understandable. Twice, we’d called our midwife to our home on a false alarm and my contractions were still far apart. Still, something about them felt different and when the next one came, it lasted a full two minutes.
“Jon, call her right now!” I needed my midwife, right then, right there. A midwife plays such an important role during a birth. So much more than a medical professional, she is also the birth coach and a calming presence. During previous births, I had always illogically felt my midwife could rescue me from labor, turning toward her as the source of strength I needed. At every birth, there came a point when I looked into her eyes with pain and confusion and fear shining in my own and pleaded “help me!” And she always seemed to say just the right thing to give me that extra little bit of strength I needed. I couldn’t do this without her.
Hearing the urgency in my voice, Jon hurried to get the phone while another contraction rolled across my body, carrying with it the urge to push. I gripped the couch and Jon put our midwife on speaker, then moved behind me.
It’s up to me, I realized. I have to do this on my own.
I gathered my courage and as I pushed, a sense of peace and well-being flooded me. Never before had I felt so aware of my surroundings. The midwife’s voice on speaker rang loud in my ears and I could smell the earthy sent of falling leaves just outside my window. With every push, I could feel my baby’s head moving through the birth canal and it seemed I could have pointed to every part of her: here is her head, her back. There is her hand, her leg, her foot. I felt the stretching of my skin as her head slid out, the pressure of her shoulders against my bones. Another push, and her slippery wet body made its way into the world and her Daddy’s waiting arms.
Typically, at this point the baby is lifted gently into the waiting mother’s arms and much joyful crying ensues. Not typically so for me. My labors last an upwards of 20 hours and by the time I give birth, I’m weak and can hardly lift my arms. With the birth of my seventh, however, I felt an overwhelming urge to hold her. Still on my knees, Jon tried passing her between my legs, but I feared I might drop her. Instead, I turned around, stepped over the umbilical cord, and delivered the placenta while sitting in the middle of the floor, nursing my new baby. Never before had I felt so strong, so empowered, so connected to my baby and, inexplicably, myself.
It was amazing.
Equally amazing is what my husband experienced during our daughter’s birth. I’m hoping he might write about his experience someday, but for now, he’s still processing everything and isn’t ready to talk about it much. He has said that he feels closer, somehow, to this baby than he has to any of our other children and with a certain amount of awe in his voice he said to me “I was holding her when she took her first breath.”
God answered my prayers about this birth in ways I never could have imagined. It seems to me that this entire year has been a time of God pouring his love over our family over and over again, showing me just how great His desire is to bless us. “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant!” (Psa 35:27)
After several days of prayer, we have decided on a name. Her name is Avigayil – meaning “joy of the Father.” I think it suits her, in more ways than one.