On August 4, Hope Sophia joined the world in the most uneventful of majorly eventful ways. I’m grateful for those words, because the weeks leading up to her birth were incredibly eventful.
My mom was set to come care for Hollis starting a few days before our due date and continuing about 4 days after. In the weeks leading up to my mom’s visit, I had plentiful Braxton-Hicks contractions, leading me to continually tell Hope “wait, wait!” As my mom’s visit approached, I began thinking, “Okay, girl, come on!”
Then we hit the pause button. Four days before our due date, Reid awoke in the middle of the night with what I immediately knew to be the Voldemort of all illnesses – norovirus. He spent the next three days emptying his body, while I prayed I’d stay healthy, and dreaded going into labor knowing he probably would be banned from the maternity ward.
The day before our due date, I drove Reid to urgent care to receive two bags of fluid and an IV drip of anti nausea medication. And Hollis started coughing. I went to see my doctor the day after our due date, sitting as still as I could for a non stress test while hacking my lungs up. Let me tell you: a deep chest cough at 40+ weeks pregnant is an unpleasant turn of events. Bruises appeared all over my belly from burst blood vessels.
“Hold on, baby, not yet,” was all I could think. My dad showed up to meet the baby I was crossing my fingers wouldn’t come for many more days.
By a week after our due date, our home was recovered enough to begin considering having a baby; meanwhile, my mom and dad were getting on a plane to go back to their lives. My in-laws came for back up. I’d initially believed they would only need to be here for a few days. Surely the baby would come by then. They booked a longer stay. Thankfully.
The days went on. I nearly went into labor every night for a week, only to wake up and find I was no longer having contractions. My friend came to give me acupuncture, another friend to rub my feet, my doula sent recipes, I started to consider whether castor oil really was as terrible an idea as everyone says. We scheduled an induction I prayed we wouldn’t need.
At about 2am on August 4, I knew it was the real deal. When we woke up, I calmly informed Reid I was actually in labor, and we let his parents know we’d need them at some point that day. We went for a walk. I played with Hollis, reading books and drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles and building sandcastles. Every so often, I’d tell her, “Okay, now we need to stop for deep breaths.” She did. She breathed with me, looking right in my eyes, as I felt a contraction pass. I’ll never forget that little face so patiently helping me.
I joined Hollis for lunch, we put her down for a nap, teary-eyed, knowing it’d be the last time we did this ritual as a family of three. Reid’s parents came with food for him, and I laid down to rest a bit. When Reid came up after lunch, he said, “You realize your contractions are minutes apart.” I told him they weren’t nearly intense enough yet, and I thought it was too premature for the hospital. I then mentioned, “But I do have a lot of downward pressure. Like I want to push.”
He got me in the car. As we said goodbye to my in-laws, I told them, “We may be back, it’s possible I’m still in very early labor.”
Well, I checked in at 6 centimeters, cried when the nurse gave me that news, and headed to the room we’d be in for the next 2 days. If you’ve had a labor before that was extremely painful (ahem, back labor, thanks Hollis!), I assure you it doesn’t always feel that way. These contractions were uncomfortable, sometimes acutely so, but I managed each one.
I always imagined I’d use my yoga in labor, but I was unable to do anything except lay down and breathe with Hollis. This was different. I moved around, I practiced different techniques for mental management, and I made particular use of self-Reiki techniques to stay centered.
I’m not a big believer in a lot of new age energy practices. Reiki is – in many ways – far too far out to be plausible for me. In an act of defying the sacrosanct, I’ll tell you I don’t believe in the space origin stories of Reiki. Perhaps that means I don’t believe in Reiki at all, but I do. I believe in our ability to affect the energy within our bodies and within others. I believe a smile, kind eyes, gentle touch, or a deep breath can alter the course of a life; certainly, these things can alter the course of a contraction.
Infused with intention, my breath became my mantra for the next 2 hours until I dilated fully, got my epidural, and rested while baby labored down into place. Just like Hollis, Hope’s water sac didn’t break during labor. This makes the final stages a bit longer, but I’ve never wanted my water artificially broken. It’s my baby’s safe haven, and I want her inside as long as possible while labor progresses at its own speed.
She was born at 8:22pm, weighing 9 pounds 8 ounces and measuring 22.5 inches (a half-pound and a half-inch bigger than her sister). Each birth was just perfect for me at the time.
Hollis’s labor was painful and intense and beauitful, and it ushered me into one of the most painfully intense and painfully beautiful times of my life. I did not ease into motherhood; I crashed into it. It took a full year of adjustments before I realized I enjoyed it, was good at it, and could feel fulfilled by it. It was a wonderful year.
We chose Hollis’s name about 6 years before she was born when we first started trying to have a baby. She was named for her great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother, paying homage to the many tiny pieces that had to fall into place over generations in order for her to be in the world.
During that time, I wrote an important letter called “Dear Birth Mother.” It was our plea to a mother considering adoption, asking her to entrust us with her child. In it, I wrote that we tried to enjoy our lives without a child. But, the most enjoyable part of life over those years was holding onto hope that we’d someday know a life with a child.
We never had to send that letter. And on August 4, we got to hold onto Hope in a way we’d never imagined: as parents of two.