***This post is the final entry in my series, “On Earth as it is in Heaven” and is dedicated with love, to my dearest friend R and her beautiful family. Even though I am sharing my take on it, it’s truly her story, a triumph of mother and baby…mother nature, unstoppable. R, you are fierce and courageous, unbelievably strong and tender in all the right places. Thank you for choosing me as your birth support person. This story seemed to be written in our stars and I will forever honor and guard the sacredness of it with my whole heart. I love you, Lisa***
O’ Holy Night
In the darkest hours before dawn, she cried out to me from the bathroom floor with a deep, guttural sort of growl.
Aggghhhhh, Lisa, it hurts so much…I feel like I have to push him out right now…
I knelt down beside my sweet friend and somehow calmly responded, even though my whole body shook with panic.
Oh, please don’t do that just yet. Take some deep breaths and try to wait…pant if you can…the paramedics will be here in just a few minutes and they will take care of you.
This may have been one of the most ridiculous things I have ever said, because I knew full well that there is no stopping that train once it’s left the station. This baby was coming then and there, but I was paralyzed with fear and totally triggered. Full-blown-trauma-triggered and not yet willing to fully face what was happening.
Months before this, I remember our therapist describing trauma to Mike and me as this thing that will sort of bounce around in your head until after enough time and the right healing, the primal and rational parts of your brain begin to integrate the experience and it finally stops bouncing. It may not stop bouncing forever, but it stops bouncing all the time.
In that moment of panic in my beloved friend’s bathroom, so much was bouncing around in my mind.
It is NOT supposed to be this way.
She has given birth several times before. She knows what to do.
I am just her quasi-doula, semi-trained, best friend-on-hand, there to support as she labors and births this last child into being.
I am here to help her and her husband with whatever they needed as they get ready to go to the hospital.
I am here for aromatherapy and timing contractions and playing the yoga music on my Iphone.
I am here to play a supporting role.
I am NOT supposed to be here for emergency services.
Her labor went from long (like 4 days) and inconsistent to active finally, though it still didn’t seem to her that it was time to go to the hospital. I had arrived at her house at about 3 a.m. and helped her finish packing. We set the room for quiet and calm and she got into the shower to relax. Things slowed down again and she dozed off for twenty minutes or so, then suddenly woke up to a huge contraction. She ran into the bathroom and when I went to check check on her, we knew it was time and I went to wake her husband and get in touch with her mom and sister.
I then heard her water break and ran into the bathroom where she gasped that she didn’t know how she was going to get to the car, let alone the hospital and asked me what we should do.
I will call 911.
And that is what I did, as calmly as possible, while her husband was still out getting the car ready. The paramedics were on their way, they said, which was a true comfort since I knew the fire station was only about one block away. I could actually sprint there in less than a minute.
When I went back to the bathroom, she was now lying on her side on the floor, telling me she had to push. Of course, I was pleading with her to wait just a little bit longer. Help was coming.
Somewhere in there I updated her husband on what was happening and encouraged him to go outside to flag down the ambulance since they lived in an apartment complex and it might expedite things to have someone waving them in.
My heart was racing as the adrenaline pumped through my body. I had the urge to run, far way, to be anywhere but there. I remember standing in her living room and whispering those desperate prayers you can only muster in times of crisis.
Please God, no.
Please not another trauma. Please God.
Have it so I am here for good, not for bad.
To bear witness to a miracle, not a loss.
Make this a good trauma, not a bad one.
Dear God, not again.
My mind was spinning as images and memories bounced in and out.
I flashed to the unforgettable day this same friend gave birth to her first baby, so many years ago. I knew this was going to be her last birth and that it meant so much to her.
I flashed to the night our own son died, standing outside the emergency room door while a nurse explained to my husband and I what we were about to see. I flashed to the noiseless void we stepped into once she opened the door.
I flashed to my own babies and their births. My memory of what it felt like pushing and breathing them into life.
I flashed to the coroner standing at my front door, my young son crying for me and clinging to my enormous pregnant belly as we found my mom crumpled in a heap of shock and awe on the floor, all of us facing the reality of my brother’s death.
I flashed to another beloved friends’ newborn baby, born just 6 months before this night, hooked up to tubes in an incubator after the hospital birth I was present for up until the last moments when things went south.
I flashed and bounced. Bounced and flashed.
Until her groans brought me back to the present moment as she cried out for me.
He’s coming, Lisa, he’s coming.
Where in the hell are the paramedics? I whispered this to myself over and over. It turns out that even though the station was so close, they went to the wrong apartment complex.
I knelt down beside her to assure her once again help was on the way, even though I didn’t know when.
It hurts so bad, Lisa. I just need to push him out.
It was agony…she was desperate…and so was I.
With that, I took a deep breath because I knew what I needed to do; I couldn’t deny it any longer.
As I lifted the towel from over her legs, I saw baby boy’s head crowning.
My body was still shaking, but I could feel an opening somewhere, like a beam of holy light shining down upon us. It gave me courage. So I swallowed, cleared my throat, and calmly and confidently told my friend not to worry, that she could go ahead and push now and do what her body needed to do. That I was there.
That I had him.
That encouragement was all she needed as she powerfully flipped onto all fours and pushed the way nature intended.
Right then, the world and all of its earthly measures stopped completely…time stood still…because I could see this baby’s face, just inches from mine…every wrinkle in his face, the tiny dip in his chin and the lashes on his eyelids. He was right there and we were locked together in another dimension. The panic was gone and all I felt was peace. I heard him draw his first little breath and knew that together we could do this.
Hold on now. Stop pushing for a moment so I can check for a cord.
I could feel the cord around his neck, but it wasn’t tight. I couldn’t figure out how to get it loosened or over his head, so I kept my finger under it.
Okay, on the next contraction, go ahead and push his first shoulder out.
She pushed again.
And just like that, he slipped into my hands. I grabbed the nearest bath towel and wrapped it around him, bringing him up to his mama’s chest where we rubbed him and waited to hear the sounds of his tiny cry. There were still no paramedics for another minute or so, which felt like hours because both mom and I wanted some third party reassurance that all was well. But the pink little bundle was really all we needed.
He was the answer.
The rest of the story belongs to this precious family, but please know that mama and baby are just fine. Better than that, actually. Absolutely perfect. In fact, baby boy is six months old today and just about as gorgeous and magical and roly-poly a baby there ever was.
A few hours later, I went to the hospital and held this little soul in my arms for the first time. I stared deeply into his sweet face…that tiny, wrinkly face forever imprinted in my memory.
Today, I am so grateful for this trauma. It was a good trauma. A healing trauma.
I am grateful because as I watched this baby birthed into being, his face just inches from mine as he moved from one plane to the next, I was blessed with another glimpse of what it is like.
On earth as it is in Heaven.