It’s difficult to decide where to begin telling the story of Cora’s birth. It doesn’t seem adequate to begin writing at the night I woke up with steady contractions or start the story when Brian and I arrived at the birth center. Before February 3rd, there were 40 weeks and 3 days of pregnancy that brought lessons in change and patience. Prior to that, there is two people falling in love, a wedding, new friends and new jobs and a new home. There is the story of the child that we were never able to hold, that left us too soon. There is everything and every moment in our lives that aligned to bring Brian and me our beautiful daughter, all of it a story that one day I hope to share with Cora so that she may know how love was always the most important thing.
I always believed that I would have Cora earlier in pregnancy, her due date was January 30th and I had confidently and maybe in an act of rebellion against the first pregnancy “norms” chosen January 22nd as the day I thought she would come. My due date came and went and although each night brought false labor the actual day of becoming a parent never seemed farther away. In many ways the final days of pregnancy are a form of torture, the worst part knowing that you will one day look back and miss ever being as close to your child as you were when you carried them.
“The contractions were very painful, and while I had practiced breathing and felt really confident in my own mindfulness skills, the actual contraction made it very hard to find a full breath.”
I woke up at 2:30 am on February 2nd with the same painful contractions I had felt nights before, but as I lay in bed and they seemed to grow in intensity I had that moment of thinking that this could really be it. Sleep was no longer an option, and I paced the room and took a shower waiting to see what the next couple hours brought. When 6am arrived I called the midwife and Angela was on call and encouraged me to try and take a nap and to call her back. Napping seemed impossible, but the little nap I somehow managed to take was probably one of the things I was most thankful for in my whole experience. Brian woke up and around 11:00 am we arrived at the birth center. “You’re 5cm dilated, you’re in labor” Bree exclaimed to me, “but feel free to go get some lunch as its still early.” We were happy to settle into the birth center, equipped with birthing balls, change of outfits and a ton of snacks. Looking back I had almost prepared for birth almost as if I was taking a mini- trip and its quite humorous to me that at some point I had worried about my outfit or my hair.
I spent the first couple hours spending a lot of time laboring in the birthing tub. The contractions were very painful, and while I had practiced breathing and felt really confident in my own mindfulness skills, the actual contraction made it very hard to find a full breath. I remember slipping somewhat out of consciousness many times, not really sleeping but also not really present. People would come and go without me really being aware of their presence whether they were checking the baby’s heartbeat or bringing me water. Brian stayed by my side in the tub; I remember each time I felt a contraction I would just focus on getting through 4 breaths as that is how many it would take for the intense pain to come and go.
As things progressed I knew it was important to move around but I found it increasingly difficult to do so. The pressure I felt was something I could not have prepared myself to feel. I don’t know how much time had passed but it was well into the afternoon when I was checked and told I was at 8cm. Shortly after my water broke on the bed, which was a sensation shocked and scared me despite everything else going on. I anticipated my labor to go fast after reaching this point, however, the progression from 8cm to 10cm was by far the most difficult thing I ever experienced.
“I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. Brian sat behind me and encouraged me every step of the way.”
I don’t remember a lot, I remember being told many many contractions later that I still wasn’t at 10 and that I could be manually helped or do lunges during the contractions to help my cervix move along. It was terribly intense. I remember feeling many times that I could not go on. I remember thinking that because it was so bad that I must be close to transition, yet it just continuing to get worse. I remember not having anything left but also knowing I didn’t have any options left other than to somehow keep going.
When I began pushing it was almost a relief in the sense that I could channel the pain into work that needed to be accomplished. I pushed on the bed, and the midwives gave me a towel to pull against them. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. Brian sat behind me and encouraged me every step of the way. I wanted to see her so bad. I was so tired. The moment of crowning was in every way intense and animalistic and raw as it is portrayed but it was also a moment where every part of my being was working towards the same thing.
The moment of Cora coming out is hazy in my mind. At 12:09 am, just shy of 23 hours of labor, she made her entrance. She had her cord wrapped around her neck twice and she did not begin breathing or crying as babies should.
Two things vividly stick out in my memory during this time. One, my midwife repeating that she did have a pulse, which continued to give me hope that everything would be ok. The second is the look on my mother’s face, mouth wide open and hands pressed against her cheeks, similar to that “Scream” painting. I have no idea how many dreadful seconds we actually waited until we knew she was out of the woods, but when I finally was able to hold my rosy, warm baby it was the best feeling in the world. She was beautiful and so alert and I know the connection that was made in those small moments will last us all a lifetime.
I ate, the baby ate, we rested and relished in the newness of everything. The midwives cleaned the tub and the sheets, despite them being there for 24 hours straight. I couldn’t tell which parts of my delirium were from child birth and which were from sheer exhaustion. None of it mattered anymore, and as we drove home at 4am as new parents everything seemed as it should.
All the wonderful photography and video was done by Beloved Bits in Jacksonville.
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