I’ve told the story of Charlotte’s birth more times than I can count in the past year. But when it comes to writing it down, I always just stare at the blank page or screen and struggle to just begin.
Maybe this is because I know that once I start, I will have to finish it. I will have to wrap up my feelings about it in a nice little package for you and move on.
The reality is that this past year my heart has been messy. It’s all over the place. Every time I am able to share Charlotte’s birth story with a new friend I feel different things and find new thoughts about the experience. It’s hard for me to sum anything up right now, even one year later.
I will say that I felt the strongest I have ever felt in my life. Birth is the only kind of pain I’ve known that feels productive and good (surprisingly, I don’t enjoy working out, but people tell me that is a good pain too… I’m not sold on the idea.)
I guess the only thing left to do at this point is begin.
photo by elizabeth messina
THE LEAD UP
The weekend before I went into labor we were dying to see “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” but we had promised to wait and see it with our best friends. I joked that we better see it Monday night JUST IN CASE I had the baby. I was only 38 weeks and everyone had convinced me that as a first-time mom, my girl wouldn’t be arriving until at least 41 weeks. But we went to the movies on that Monday night anyways because we really wanted to see it and we thought we should see as many movies as we could before a newborn arrived on the scene.
The whole time we were in the theatre watching I kept feeling an uncomfortable tightening off and on. I fidgeted and squirmed in my seat the whole time. But I was convinced that if it WAS pre-labor contractions, I would be one of those women doomed to have them for the next two weeks, so I mentally settled in to wait it out.
That night, I woke up every hour? few hours? with a tight, brief contraction. But thankfully since I was mentally ready to wait these out I managed to go back to sleep every time.
The next morning, the same contractions were coming infrequently. I casually texted my mom and my doula that I was having some contractions, just in case, but also trying to be breezy. I’m BREEZY, guys. (You can’t say you’re breezy.)
A dear friend of mine texted me around 10am telling me she had some bad news. She didn’t want to upset me and make me go into labor, she joked. I don’t remember if I told her it was potentially too late for that but I did tell her to come over anyways so we could talk.
I walked the dog and texted her back. The only shoes that fit my swollen feet at that point were my sheepskin slippers and I was wearing some stretched out elastic sweatpants and I thought to myself, I wouldn’t be that mad if this baby did come soon.
I couldn’t know how soon she really would.
My friend arrived around 1pm and we had a long chat in my living room about our upcoming trip to Bali (oh, you know, just 10-12 weeks post baby. If you didn’t know by now, I’m completely insane sometimes)…and how she wouldn’t be able to join us to help me shoot the wedding I was scheduled to shoot there.
Normally this might have upset me but I was in this weird, peaceful fog. There’s no other explanation except for that it was supernatural. I just knew that I had a bigger task ahead of me, you know, in a general sense.
As we finished talking we moved into the nursery and she helped me rearrange some of the furniture in there, and it quickly became clear that my contractions were the real deal. I think my friend’s exact words were – “I think these are the REAL THING. You better time them.”
So as I laid on the twin bed in the nursery laying down between deep breaths I downloaded the app for that. And I started timing.
Around 4pm, my contractions were about 7 minutes apart.
As I said goodbye to my friend that afternoon, I texted Aaron and told him I was probably actually in labor. And that he better not work too late tonight…
(To be continued…)