I have known this woman probably longer than I have known 99% of the people in my life. Our friendship started as children and for the last 25+ years we have weaved in and out of each others lives, in the way that the best of friendships do.
Celebrating one other during our biggest moments, supporting and showing up for the saddest ones, and this time around, I was most honored with supporting her through her pregnancy and birth.
This baby was so wanted. In a way that for everyone reading this won't understand, but 1 in 4 women will. My friend has asked me to be her doula, more than once. It was a request that ended each time in loss. My heart would break for her each time she reached out and told me that it wasn't our time to work together, that she was ok, and followed the sad messages with uplifting heart emojis that I knew were absolute and total bullshit.
I would then block her for some time from some of my social media posts highlighting the birth and babies that I was always surrounded by, in hopes to protect her from afar as much as I could.
Eventually, months went by without any requests of my services. I wondered and assumed that she had enough of the heartbreak. Each time she lost a little piece of herself with the pregnancies and I understood that struggle equally as well.
On Friday, April 27th, at 10:01am I received the most glorious text message:
I immediately started sobbing. While she had her doubts, and I certainly do not believe in "safe zones", but statistically, this baby was going to one day be in her arms.
Through out the pregnancy I met with her and her partner and set expectations. They were both very detached from this pregnancy. They would often discuss the pregnancy ending in another miscarriage, they referred to the baby only as "It".
I would send encouraging texts, and try to sway them toward the thought that they could have a baby living in their house soon. I respected their mindset though, as I remember trying to protect my own heart after having many losses myself.
Monday September 3rd:
On Monday September 10th at 1am. I started receiving texts. She was having pains. She she felt as though it was from being constipated. We texted back and forth and I convinced her to try to sleep.
She was in early labor. I promise that I've never not mentioned that to anyone else but her. I didn't think the information would help her at all and sleeping was most important, as I knew what the day would hold.
At 5am she texted me again telling me that she ate some dried fruit thinking it would help with her bowels and now she was having extreme gas. She was afraid that she had caused a major problem with her gut.
She was in active labor. I offered to come to her house and she tried to keep me away. She said she didn't want me to drive all the way there, for gas pains.
Eventually, while I was already driving to her, she agreed to let me come check in on her.
I pulled into their driveway and could hear her from outside. Her partner looked terrified as he opened the door and her oldest daughter, no longer the little girl who used to call me auntie, but now a teenager was sitting at the table eyes wide open, and scared to death.
I walked into the living room, asked to place my hands on her back and she quieted just a little. She was crawling around on all fours moaning. I told her partner to gather their things and we would be going to the hospital.
They both asked me, "Are you sure?". They were still, 100% in denial. I reassured them and helped move her to the car.
As we entered the hospital she didn't want to speak to anyone. She didn't want a wheel chair and it was a far walk.
She is also a germ-a-phobe, and I'm trying to say that in the kindest way possible. As she crawled on the hospital floor as I applied counter pressure, I watched her partners face in shock that she would do such a thing. I think for him, it was probably at this point that he knew this was actually it.
We entered triage it was 6:36am. A resident checked her and said "You're 4cm. I think you can stay." I mentioned to the nurse that I had a feeling that things my pick up quickly. She said, "We will see. None of us have a crystal ball! She's a second time mom, but that was 16 years ago, so not really."
I understood what she meant. None of us ever know what will actually happen and she was right, I had no crystal ball, but what I did know, was that my friend had fought off labor for some time, through her emotional state. Taking her to the hospital and her hearing her baby on the monitor, was mental motivation. It was reassuring that we were finally here. If she could let go, it wouldn't be long.
30 minutes later she opted for an epidural that unfortunately didn't work. Even with a bolus. She was in pain. I felt absolutely terrible for her as she yelled out with each contraction. Precipitous labor, as I have mentioned before, isn't as great as you might think. Quick labors can feel like total chaos for the laboring person.
They checked her again. She had dilated 2cm in the 40 minutes. The nurse said, "I'm sorry. You certainly know here better than I do." I told her not to apologize, that I had known her for a lifetime.
Her partner was sitting nervously in the corner. That's where she wanted him, and he was honoring that. A nurse tried to coax him up to the bedside and he said, "No thanks. I'm doing what she asked. She made us this baby. It's the least I can do." Can we just revel in him for a minute? He knew this wasn't about him, even though it was his baby and while this is not the path for all couples, it was theirs, and he was respecting her, in a way that any partner should.
Ok, now that we are done, loving him, let's get back to her.
She kept telling me to talk to her. She wanted to hear my voice the entire time. Talking through the ups and downs of the contractions. Whispering how powerful she was, reminding her to listen to her babies heartbeat, we squeezed hands and I applied counter pressure to her sacrum. I cheered her on and if I paused for even a minute, she would remind me, "your voice".
I spoke for the next 90 minutes and then her water broke. 20 minutes later she was requesting to push and was fully dilated. Her OB wasn't' there, but truly this team that was given to her was a room full of woman reminding her of her power and strength. I knew this was the team she actually needed. My woman loving, feminist fighting, warrior was enveloped in all of the love and emotion of everyone in that space. Every one knew her story. Every one wanted this as much for her as she did.
And there she was. My friend a true warrior. She calmed her heart and brain. She gained total control and she took over.
She pushed through 2 contractions and I looked over at her partner. I rubbed his back. I could see the worry on his face. He smiled sheepishly, and I told him it was going exactly the way that it should.
We cheered and coached her through 2 more pushes and at 9:27am, there was that beautiful perfect face, followed by her immediately pink little body and a cry, before she had completed her exit. This little one knew that her mother needed that, I do believe. She had brought her baby earth side with such strength and power, that this little girl will carry that with her for a lifetime. She will certainly be a force to be reckoned with, just like her mama.
She had asked for the baby not to be immediately placed skin to skin. (Something I do discuss often with clients). She looked at me and said thank you, I kissed her forehead and she squeezed my neck so tight. I looked at her partner and said "She's perfect". I grabbed his arm and pulled him in to see have his very first glimpse of his baby.
My friend, when she was ready, then asked for her baby to be placed on her chest.
It was the most surreal moment for any parents that I had ever seen, and tears were streaming down my face, like they always do, but in truly thankful way for the universe allowing for her to experience life in this way again.
Her partner later gave one of the best doula explanations I had heard. "You were like our flight attendant. When there's turbulence and they're still serving snacks, you know it's ok. When they start moving quickly and getting in jump seats, you feel more nervous. When their was turbulence, I looked at you, and each time you looked calm and I knew that we were all ok. We were going to be ok."
This is my absolute favorite moment in my career as a doula.