I couldn’t sleep. Every time I seemed to drift off my senses aroused by a band tightening around my pregnant belly. All night this continued. In the morning family were called and final preparations were underway. Slowly, contractions took their time and escalated. Family surrounded me in quiet, eager anticipation.
All I could feel was fear.
This wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t the story I dreamt when I was an 8 year old girl. It wasn’t my Prince Charming holding my hand. I didn’t even have a home to call my own. I still felt like a child. Nobody would argue that I acted like one, too. I was barely 20 years old and hardly experienced in the world.
Yet I was becoming a mother.
Evening arrived and snow continued to fall as it had been doing for days on end. I’m sure it was beautiful. We were in my parent’s living room, the house of my childhood, the house I called home during that time. I allowed each contraction to flow through my body as my mind imagined a place where the sun was bright and a river lazily danced through the tall grass. My boyfriend’s mother watched in concern, not understanding the process my body was taking me through. This was where I let my own mother fight for me. Every time I heard, “You should probably get to the hospital,” my mom was quick to advocate for my desire to labor in the comfort of home for as long as possible. Contractions intensified to the point where fighting for my birth plan was not something I was not capable of anymore.
I felt a warm liquid between my legs. I was horrified at the prospect of urinating myself in front of my boyfriend’s family. However, that didn’t seem to be the case. I leaned heavily on my mom as she helped me to the bathroom and we discovered my water broke. It was a constant trickle of liquid – nothing like what I had seen in the movies.
And then the time had arrived. I was no longer able to labor in calm serenity. Contractions were a few minutes apart and took over mind and body. It was time to go to the hospital. It was time to meet my baby boy.
Fears continued to linger.
The movement of getting to the car only intensified things. I could feel my baby pushing downward and I could feel my body begin to stretch in preparation. Driving slowly through the mountains of snow did feel a bit like a movie where the girl ends up delivering in a parking lot somewhere. Thankfully, I made it to the hospital with baby still cocooned. My breathing became labored and I vaguely remember an iv inserted in my left hand “just in case.” My mom doubled as my birth coach as she warded off nurses who pestered me about an epidural. I could hardly think straight but they wouldn’t let up until I had said “no” in my own words.
My body felt exhausted. My mind became tired. Every contraction seemed to try to take my breath away. I felt unable to continue. I asked the nurse when it would be over. As the nurse look at the clock, she foolishly responded with, “Oh I’m sure it will be a while. Midnight at least.” With that sentencing, tears formed and I moaned at how I couldn’t possibly continue on for four more hours like this. I simply wouldn’t make it. My mom calmly and firmly reminded me that only my body knows the process and to continue focusing on one contraction at a time. She was horrified by the nurse. (In our birthing class we learned never to put a time marker on the birthing process as that can be upsetting and overwhelming to the laboring mother. This proved to be true as true could be.)
It turns out my contractions were doing a lot more work than anyone realized. Thirty minutes after being told I would be laboring for the next four hours, I was feeling the urge to push. I moaned and cried out that it was time but that it couldn’t be time. My midwife, whom I had been seeing since the beginning of my pregnancy, had not yet arrived.
Fear was prevalent.
A stranger was being called to deliver my baby. He didn’t know me. He didn’t know my plan. He didn’t know how to help me. I yelled that it couldn’t be time to push. I couldn’t deliver into the hands of a stranger. At this point, however, my body was taking control. The urge to push was overwhelming. My body was not giving me a choice in the matter. I pushed only as much as my body made me.
And then she entered. My midwife was robed and gloved in seconds. As she seated herself, I felt instant relief and calmness. She knew me. She knew my plan. She knew how to take care of us. With my mom helping by my midwife with camera in hand, my boyfriend was next to me. I continued to grip his hand through the pain as I had been doing since the wee hours of the morning. When I forgot to breathe, he showed me how. When I cried because it hurt, he whispered, “You’re doing great. You can do this.” Although he is now only known as Michael’s biological dad, these are moments I will treasure. As my first born was making his way into the world, I was watching his dad step up and be a man for the very first time. This is a beautiful story that I look forward to sharing with Michael one day.
I pushed for thirty minutes, if I remember correctly. I’m told that’s short if it’s your first baby. It did not feel short. At one point I cried out, “I can’t do it! It’s too hard!” In my delirium I thought perhaps I was dying. Maybe this was what death felt like. But they all kept saying, “just one more, Jessica. Just one more!” Well, it didn’t seem to be ‘just one more’ but their words empowered me (or tricked me) into believing I could actually get this done.
I was horrified when asked if I wanted to see or touch the head as Michael started to crown. I was equally horrified by the blinding flashes of light coming from my mother. And then I looked into my boyfriend’s eyes. They were wide with anticipation. Happy and excited. NO. NO FREAKING WAY. In those moments I hated every person in that room as they all seemed happy and excited. I was not happy. I was not excited. I felt like death was upon me and I wanted to escape the “ring of fire” – a term I have endearingly given to childbirth.
As many birthing moms know, getting the shoulders out feel difficult and painful. But with that last push, Michael’s body seemed to literally slide out of me. Like a big, wet, squishy slug. The ring of fire was over. I felt no pain. God, in his grace and mercy, took it away long enough for me to meet my baby. Michael was placed on my chest as his dad cut the chord ( another man moment because in the beginning, he said there was NO WAY he was doing THAT).
All I had for Michael where tears in those first moments. Tears of guilt. Shame. Beauty. Wonder. I have a picture of these first few moments. Every time I look at it I can remember exactly what I was thinking and feeling.
Who are you? Is this even real? What are we all going to do now?! I’m afraid. But I think I might love you, too.
I became a mom.
I soon realized that God designed birth to benefit everybody. I didn’t know how to breastfeed. Neither did Michael. We learned together. I didn’t know quite how to handle him, as if I might break him if I squeezed to tight. I learned God made babies extremely durable. (I watched a nurse swaddle him for me and Michael turned out to be very happy afterwards.)
The learning process of being Michael’s mom has been a constant in my life. With each new development in who he is there are new challenges. Each year he gets older and I am faced with a boy who is a little bit taller. A little boy asks questions that are a little bit deeper and more difficult to answer.
I was so afraid when I found out I was pregnant. That fear stayed with me through his birth and continues to linger in the back of my mind. Michael is living a childhood I know nothing about. My parents never even separated. I don’t get to follow the road my parents walked on in raising me and my brothers. I am paving my own road through an unknown territory.
But as I write these words, a song is singing to my heart:
Your love never fails
It never gives up
It never gives up on me.
Michael has been an incredible source of joy in my life these past seven years. In college he gave me the drive to make decisions and do well in school. As a single mother he pushed me to find a good man to travel this unknown road with me. As a young married, Michael’s presence challenges me to continually look towards God in my role as wife and mother.
I was in sin when Michael was born. But God redeemed that sin and he blessed me incredibly. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more beautiful.