Sunday, April 14, 2013

Joy Came in the Morning: Avinly's Birth Story

I knew Jack was going to be early, and he was. I knew Jude was going to be late, and he was. Yet as my due date approached, I wasn't sure which brother Avinly would take after.

She did neither. It sounds silly, but it had never occurred to me that, joining only 10% of babies, she might arrive on her due date. I dig punctual people.

Anyone who knows me well is well-aware of my to-do list. Mock me if you will, but I've had a running Word document going since the 7th grade detailing exactly what needs done next in my life, and by what time.

Avinly was so considerate. For the first time EVER, I got everything done on my to-do list less than 12 hours before she made her arrival.

Floors mopped, bathrooms cleaned (not anymore...), hospital bag packed, et cetera and so on.

The night of April 2, I knew she was going to come the next day. But I didn't want to worry Nick, so I didn't say anything. Plus, I was really hoping to get one last night of solid sleep.

We went to bed around 10, and I woke up at 1:20 a.m. with my first contractions. I tried to go back to sleep, but they wouldn't let me. So I started pacing around the bed, knowing I could be a T-Rex jumping next to Nick's head and still wouldn't wake him up.

At 2:40, I got bored and wanted to go outside. I almost went walking by myself, then figured Nick would probably be pretty ticked if I was in nocturnal labor in the streets on my own. So I woke him up. "Today's the day," I whispered. He didn't even open his eyes. "Are you sure?" he asked.

Yep, I definitely was.

We bundled up, leashed Klaus and set off. The sky was clear and full of stars -- a marked contrast to my labor with Jude, where it rained gentle buckets as Klaus and I stepped through puddles in between contractions.

This time, we heard crickets and frogs as our pace slowed and quickened every few minutes. Nick, iPhone in hand to track my times, joked that I must really be in labor if he was walking faster than me. We held hands and talked about our upcoming day. What would she look like? Would my labor be my quickest? And more importantly, what the heck is that guy across the street doing in his underwear? (Just fetching the newspaper, as it turns out. Once he saw us, he scuttled back inside pretty quickly.).



We eventually came back, and I tried to rest between contractions, which were now coming every 3 to 5 minutes. Next came our giant bathtub. After just a couple of minutes in the hot water, my contractions slowed. I wasn't sure if it was because I was able to handle the pain better, or if my body truly was applying the brakes. Just in case, I got out -- there was no way I wanted to slow this train down!

Around 3:30, we called my
doula Cara. She offered to come over, but I declined. Between Nick's support and my pain management techniques, I was doing fine.

Soon, it was time to wake Jack up to get ready for school. When Nick told him that Avinly was going to be born that day, he got so excited, immediately dashing over to the neighbors on both sides to let them know. A mom from his class at school later told me that upon entering his room, he loudly announced, "My mom is in LABOR!"

Before we left, Jack gently patted my arm. "Mommy, I'm so sorry your tummy is hurting," he said, brown eyes full of sympathy. "Can I come with you to the hospital and help?" I told him no, but he could help me through the next contraction. So he did, holding my hand as I walked around the living room and hummed through my breathing exercises. "Did that scare you?" I asked. "Nope," he answered. Of course not. This kid is so fascinated by the human body that nothing phases him!

I kissed my boys goodbye, trying to memorize each detail in that moment (minus the pain, of course). Jack, the oldest of 2. And Jude, my baby for the last time. Sniff. And ouch!

Our friend Kori came by to get the boys, and soon we were off to the hospital. We arrived a little after 8:15 a.m. Cara met us in the parking lot. Later she told me she didn't think I could be that far along, because I "seemed too happy." An orderly came out with a wheelchair, but I told him no. The thought of sitting down sounded unbearably painful to me. I just wanted to walk!

So I did, only stopping when the triage nurse needed to see how far along I was. "You're already at a 7," she announced. Seriously?!?! Cara chirped, "You're a rockstar! You can totally finish this naturally!" And I knew at that moment that I could.

About 20 minutes later, after some more walking, the midwife arrived and wanted to check me again. "Well, the cervix is gone," she said. I was confused. Did she mean that I had regressed to a zero? That she couldn't find this critical part of me? So I asked, and she laughed.

"As in, you're at a 10," she said. "Once your water breaks, you can push anytime you'd like."

Cara said she wishes like crazy someone would have taken a photo of my facial expression at that exact moment. How on earth could I be almost done?!?! I was still walking around the room!

I know everybody's birth experiences and pain levels are different, but I truly believe that athletes have an edge. When I'm in labor, I try (and often succeed, though not always) to mentally check out. I pretend I'm at mile 20 and want to quit...and then I don't. I run to the next telephone pole, the next water station, the next tree. And then I start all over and do it again.

And may I say that running a marathon is A MILLION TIMES EASIER than giving birth?


Just a minute or 2 later, my water did break. And this is the part where my pain management techniques that work so well for me in the beginning (and even in transition) leave me and I make Monica Seles look and sound like a staid librarian.


Thankfully, I have a very high level of pain tolerance. But when I hit the wall, I lose it. As in, screaming-for-Jesus lose it. (Example A: I asked for an epidural with Jude. "I don't think so, Crystal," they told me. "He's crowning." I ordered them to get me one anyways.).

About 10 minutes before Avinly made her entrance, my mom arrived. I didn't see her, but as soon as she touched me, I knew it was her. It became apparent her job was to remind me that Jesus was, in fact, present and hadn't abandoned me.

A few pushes later, and my daughter was born. She was clean and crying. I loved her instantly and told everyone in the room. I loved her even more once I saw her hair and long fingers.

She was born at 9:14 a.m. -- less than an hour after we first arrived at the hospital.

And since then, my life has been an explosion of pink, kisses and hugs from big brothers, well wishes from everyone I know, long hours spent staring at her beauty and 4 live lobsters....but that last item is for another blog post.

In the words of David, the great poet, "There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5).

Yes, it does.