I wasn't ready. It came on before I knew it was real. Inconsistent, aching, it was pain, pure pain. Slow, steady, and early. No water breaking, no early induction as were the cases with my other two.
Several people have told me how easy it must have been when they heard it was a 3.5 hour labour. Gratefully it was fast, but easy? Not even close. Smooth, yes, but the furthest thing from easy; it was the hardest thing I've ever done.
Tuesday, nine days before my due date, I was in pain. My whole lower abdomen hurt, really hurt. All day, it wasn't tight, nor contracting (as far as I could tell). I figured I was having some pre-labour pain--the kind that ripens and prepares the cervix for labour. By evening, I was timing the pains while my husband and I watched a movie. Irregular at best. Ten minutes, six minutes, four, then twelve. Nothing to watch a clock by. So I decided to go to bed. I thought by morning I'd be up and about my normal day's business, the pain a mere memory. But, just in case (yes, a nagging thought at the back of my mind), I called the midwife.
"Just a heads' up," I told her. "But I don't think it's labour. Besides, I want to get through the rest of the week first, finish up a few things."
"But if it's labour, it's labour," she said. "You can't stop it."
"I know, but I'm not doing anything to encourage it, either." And I went to bed and slept intermittently through most of the pain. Until 4:00am. The pain grabbed me hard--I mean, hard. I got out of bed and had to stand through the pain (I still hadn't convinced myself that these were indeed contractions). I went out to the living room and told my husband that I just might be in labour. I didn't get back into bed again, until after it was all over.
My husband was getting the tub filled (the tub that I never got into), calling people, getting water for me to drink, then getting the bucket for me to vomit that water back into, but as far as needing him to look into my eyes, or focus me back into labour, I didn't need that this time like I needed it with my previous two labours. Once or twice he attempted to realign my thoughts but I was able and wanted to just do the actual labouring on my own. So he'd check in on me, then go back and forth from room to room continuing doing whatever it was he was doing. He didn't sleep though, thankfully he was here--just being here as I laboured, met what I needed.
I started pushing well before the assailing urge to push hit me. I couldn't just only breathe through the surges--they were too powerful. So I breathed yes, like I've never breathed before, deep, from the innermost depths, and breathed into each surge, then pushed also. I had to do something to actively get through each one. Between surges, I rested, really rested, as I could. Then I'd have exactly what I needed to get through the next surge. One at a time, the surges spun from the top of my uterus, spiraled around as it swirled downward like a silk ribbon until it plunged in the pain that peaked each surge. They came like waves, one after the other, almost on top of each other, but not quite like one constant surge. The pain was fierce. I showered, only long enough to make it through one entire cycle of surges, then I got out just in time to push hard. Out popped the mucous plug, ponging like a champagne cork. Out poured my waters, the rush of fluid full force.
When I knew the baby was almost crowning, I thought I'd try the birthing tub, but I couldn't step over the rim into the water, so, through the sweat pouring down my face, I knelt at the side of the tub using it as a support. I pushed. The midwife and her assistant walked in.
"It hurts, " I whined. "Make it better." She said we looked great, took the baby's heart rate-140s-and told me the baby was crowning. I said I thought more than the baby was coming out. "That's only the baby, Honey, nothing else," she said.
Sure enough, a couple more pushes, a stinging feeling and Iliana's head was visible. The midwife watched and said how close we were, how well it was going (God bless her!), then with another huge push, Iliana's head popped out and she just sort of fell out from there.
I was on my knees, leaning over the tub of water, my husband caught her, and the midwife said "Do you want to know what the baby is?" I nodded, listening. "She's a girl," and they handed her to me through my legs.
I leaned back against the midwife on the floor and held my slimy, beautiful daughter while the cord pulsed its last benefits, my tiny girl wrapped in towels and a hat, momentarily content.
My husband cut the cord and while I was still nestled against my midwife, her incredible assistant (a remarkable midwife herself) had me push the placenta out. It was fast and painless, whole and when she showed it to me after checking it over, pointed out how it worked. As tired as I was, I couldn't help but be impressed. (What an amazing organ it is!)
The third midwife then made her way into the room. While my midwife and the second midwife weighed and measured, then bathed Iliana, the third midwife (awesome woman that she is) assisted me to bed. She and my midwife checked over the tear and glued it ever . . . so . . . gently.
My other two fantastic little men were in the room by this time just sort of in shock, but sweetly waiting for our friend to come pick them up. Immediately, they hooked right into Iliana and are the brothers every mother dreams of for her daughter. My 5 year-old saves her from evil bubbles and invisible dragons while my 10-year-old croons and soothes her while I've got my hands full.
The other day, I heard my five-year old say to her, "You are a treasure in a treasure box inside a safety box in my heart ."
My ten-year-old kisses her little forehead then tells her how "soft and tufty" her hair is. He wrote a paper for school describing his baby sister. It's a beautiful description of how she smells, feels and sounds.
I look at them and I think to myself, it just really doesn't get much better than this!
6 lbs. 13 oz.
19 1/4 inches