faith and angels: a birth story

Few moments are as sacred as a birth, those moments when that which separates the worlds is so thin as to allow one soul to pass from one to the other. Really the story that should be told is Evelyn's; mine is that of a witness, a helper. I wonder if our own birth stories are too sacred for us to remember past infancy, too precious to be given mortal words. My account as mother will have to suffice, but let us not forget that this story belongs to Evelyn.


My water broke that Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the three of us took a walk around the neighborhood because dammit I was going to walk that baby into labor. And though my efforts were actually successful, I was still in mild shock when we packed up and drove to the hospital.

When my water broke, I stood still, my mind stopping mid-thought and redirecting to assess my body. Was I having contractions? Was that actually my water? Or did I just really pee my pants? What was actually happening? In a daze I gathered up my things and waited for my friend to come and stay with Asher until Josh's parents could get there. Through nostalgic tears I kissed my sleeping Asher goodbye, my heart feeling acutely bittersweet in this very last moment with just the three of us.

Baby girl, leaving your brother behind as you, your dad, and I drove to the hospital was like leaving behind my security blanket, my comfort zone. You and I were about to start something new, and secretly, I was terrified.

Had my water not broken and had I not tested positive for group-B strep and needed intravenous antibiotics before delivery, I certainly would have waited to head to the hospital. Once we settled into our room, it was only 3:00 p.m., and any contractions I was feeling were mild and intermittent. So we waited. And waited.

This pregnancy had been different from my first--more draining, more emotional. I was eager for its conclusion. I sat there in the hospital bed (in the homemade gown my mom had sewn when I had Asher) thinking and feeling. My stomach was uneasy, my emotions close to the surface. I was in a labor limbo, waiting between my old life as mother of one and my new, upcoming life as mother of two.

In some ways you felt a complete stranger to me. Because even though I've had a baby before, that baby was his own person. And you're your own person. In so many ways I felt I was starting over.

Contractions began in earnest around 10:00 that night. The sensational memories of labor flooded back as I bent over and breathed through each intensified pain. Once again the anesthesiologist came to my rescue with needles and drugs.

Once the epidural was in force, I expected labor to slow a bit and thought I could catch some drugged sleep while we waited. My eyelids were heavy with fatigue, and the prospect of falling into hard sleep was incredibly appealing. Just as I started to really sleep, though, the nurse started coming in to check the baby. She was cheerful and reassuring, yet behind her kindness was a small sliver of worry. The baby's heartbeat was lower than they wanted; labor was hard on my babe. The nurse came back again, this time bringing another nurse. They moved my legs and body into weird positions to see if my babe's heartbeat responded. Then they called the doctor.

I was scared. It was time to push, and unlike my first labor--which was full of encouraging, "Okay, let us know when you're ready!"--this labor turned clinical fast. My doctor looked me in the eyes and said, "We need you to push, and we need you to push hard." No smiles, no gentle encouragement. This was clinical, detached professionalism, an emergent delivery looming close by. I looked at Josh, seeking his eyes for reassurance. He squeezed my hand and whispered love.

I felt you close, baby girl. You were coming, and I didn't know with certitude that you would make it into this world unscathed. Yes, the doctor and nurses were there, but in those moments, it was you and me alone. Your safe entry depended on me, your mother. My fears didn't matter anymore. What mattered was you and you alone, my daughter. So I pushed. And I pushed with all the love I had.

I pushed three times. Evelyn came out screaming, and it was beautiful. During delivery, she'd had her hand on one side of her face and the umbilical cord pressed against the other side. The stress of the contractions in conjunction with the pressure on the cord made for a yo-yoing heartbeat, and we wouldn't have been able to labor that way for much longer than we did. Pushing her out was a miracle.

The doctor was impressed with how hard I pushed. But I know it wasn't just me who pushed you safely into mortality. Angels were with us, sweetest Evelyn, angels and grandmothers and strong women were there beside me helping me help you. Though I squeezed your dad's hand white during those moments of delivery, I myself entered a liminal space. I was neither here nor there, but in that spot between the worlds with you and our guardian angels. 

The next hours were a blur of tubes and checkups, all while I sought to comfort my newborn babe. Later that day Asher came to meet Evelyn, and my heart felt full, complete, and content. It's been almost two months since that day, and our world has turned upside down. And yet in the chaos of our family refitting and reorganizing, a raw beauty lives. This family of ours is sublime.

Evelyn dear, you were always meant to be ours.


Sonia said...

I love it and hate it when words like yours make me cry. Thank you for the beautiful post.

michelle said...

Oh so good. Max had his hand next to his face, too, and I most definitely did not expel him with three pushes! Miraculous indeed.

erica said...

Beautiful, dear friend.

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