In some ways, I wish we had better documented the day, but a part of me is content to keep those moments a sacred memory. This birth was different in a lot of ways from my other children’s, and I’m glad. The fourth child deserves a unique story, doesn’t she?
My first three children were all born in the hospital. I’ve always chosen to give birth naturally, not because I’m strong or brave, but because I’m scared of needles and the epidural literally sends me into spasms of fear just thinking about it. I’m that annoying girl who gets dizzy every time she gets her blood drawn. Nurses love me.
I also have always had the benefit of having very, very quick labors. My longest labor before Annika was 5 hours. Apparently I was made to birth babies.
This time around we decided to give birth at a birth center with the assistance of a midwife. Since moving to Florida, I haven’t found an OB that I like, and because I’d never needed much medical assistance anyway, this route just made sense to us.
It was such a unique experience to give birth in the birth center. Lee and I were really left alone for most of the labor, which allowed me space to work through the pain on my own time and in my own way. I liked this freedom, and the atmosphere was so quiet and peaceful and serene that I almost felt like we were in a fancy hotel room.
And the fact that we got to go home just four hours after she was born was such a blessing. As we drove home that evening, Lee looked at me and said, “I’ve had rounds of golf that lasted longer than that!”
Around 1:00 am the night before she was born, my contractions started. They were manageable, and not really all that painful, but they were strong enough to keep me up. I also felt almost certain that my water had broken, so I spent much of that night preparing myself to welcome our baby soon. Because labor has gone so quickly for me in the past, I was given strict instructions not to wait too long before calling the birth center.
No one wanted to see me deliver this kid on the side of the road.
Around 5:00, I decided that the contractions, though still not very painful, were regular enough to warrant a phone call. We were told to meet at the birth center at 7:00, so we called my mom, woke the kids, and told them that they’d have a baby sister by the end of the day.
That was so much fun. It was awesome to see their excitement as it only fueled our own.
Fast forward three hours, and we returned home from the birth center…without a baby. I was in tears, frustrated and embarrassed that after doing this three times before, my body seemed to be completely unresponsive to labor this time around. I wasn’t dilated, my contractions had slowed considerably, my water actually had not broken, and the baby was not laying in an optimal position, which was probably the cause of the hold up. Her head wasn’t centered, so she wasn’t moving down like she needed to.
This was so different from anything I’d ever experienced and it threw me off a little. So I went to bed and took a nap, still hoping that we could ramp things back up later.
When the kids got home from school they were naturally disappointed that I hadn’t had the baby, but while they played around me, I felt the contractions kick back up and, true to form, they started to come fast. This time I knew it was for real, and we rushed back to the birth center, arriving even before the on-call midwife.
I was 5 cm dilated at that point, and things happened very quick. Within two hours, it was go-time, and after only six minutes of intense pushing (because my labors happen so quickly, I often describe them as violent. I go from nothing to BABY in a flash, and the pain goes from a 4 on the pain scale to a 52 in seconds), Annika made her debut.
At 4:32, the midwife laid Annika Rachel on my chest I had the same intense feeling that I had with all my kids:
I knew her.
Her face was so familiar to me, and not just because she looks exactly like Tia did at birth, but because it’s as though she has always been here. I think God does that on purpose. He leaves this tiny impression of our children on our hearts long before giving them to us so that when we finally hold them, it just feels perfectly right.
I feel like I’ve known this little girl all my life.
We are one week in, and things are going relatively smoothly. I forgot how much work newborns are, which has been an adjustment. But other than feeling like I can’t get anything done, things are moving right along. She could not be more loved or cherished by her brothers and sister. To be sure, she is a blessed little girl.
I will hold tight to the memories of September 22, 2014 for the rest of my life, filing them away in my heart next to the births of my other three children. What a privilege it is to be the mother of these four spectacular little humans. I am truly in awe of this calling placed before me.