We hired a doula for the birth of our second daughter. We hired a doula so I could beg for an epidural at two centimeters dilated and request a vacuum delivery. We hired a doula because after Sprout’s birth, that spanned three days and required nearly five hours of pushing, I was worried I couldn’t do it again.
In predictable fashion, the morning before I went into labor I hadn’t slept well. I had to take Sprout to swimming class and then to my OB appointment. She had a great time ignoring 90% of what I said at both venues, while I kept reminding myself over and over again that I could do hard things.
In the evening, Scott and I watched a surf movie. I mentioned that I was having what was likely braxton hicks contractions or a stomach ache from the wannabe sushi I’d had for dinner. At my appointment earlier, my OB said there’d been no change, so I’d set my expectations on being ridiculously overdue and impatient.
By 11 p.m. I had proclaimed “If these are braxton hicks, f* me, I’m getting a C-Section!” and “I hope imitation crab meat is enough to get me through this!” By 1 a.m. we were at the hospital.
Just before we left, I went in to kiss Sprout goodbye. One more glance at my only child who, for both heartbreaking nostalgia’s sake and to play into my anxieties about the repercussions of change, had insisted on sleeping in her crib for the first time in months. She opened her eyes for a flash as I told her I loved her. It was like we both took a last glimpse at our little life as just the two of us.
It was the quietest, stickiest night you could imagine. Even the crickets had called it a day. The sky threatened rain, but for the time being was only covered in clouds that trapped all the heat in like a space blanket.
The nurse determined I was only two centimeters dilated, but told me I could “Walk the halls for a few hours to see if anything changed”. I promptly threw up in a trash can.
Fourteen hours later, our second daughter was a cry running down those halls. She had been facing sunny-side-up, the top of her head looked like a bottle with a cap, but no one was making a big deal about it so I went with their energies that it was totally fine. She was the dream I’d had at Thanksgiving. She was part of the dream I’d always had. Her clammy hands on my warm body, her deliberate cry, her cinder eyes, how much she needed me, how everything about her was open to love and the greatest wonder in the world- that she could exist at all.
She looked just like her sister, but also completely like herself. I felt reduced by the power of it all kind of like you do watching a thunderstorm or an eclipse; this small life that instantly meant more than my own; this tiny soul that made me remember how everything is more beautiful than you can imagine.
I fell a little bit more in love with Scott then as he asked to cut the umbilical cord so sweetly and proudly, laughing tears from his eyes as the doctor handed him surgical scissors he’d earned the right to wield after giving his wife spontaneous foot massages and unending support for nine months.
A week later and I’m nursing my second one week old on the couch at my parents’ house while my mom filled the neighbor in on our new arrival.
“Yes, a girl. Seven pounds, ten ounces.”
“The labor was hard, but good.”
“Yes, so happy.”
After eavesdropping on many a conversation about myself, I could hear the pride in her voice. It was so evident I pictured it shooting through the phone wires and emerging in the neighbor’s kitchen on the other side. And, as much as my labor might not be the pinnacle of grace and courage in some eyes, I was proud too.
My doula texted me a few days after the birth saying how brave and strong I was. I brushed this off and laughed with her yesterday about how mine must have been the most medically intervened birth she’d ever assisted. It probably was, but she told me being brave isn’t about not being scared. It’s about being scared and doing something anyways.
I’ve always been scared of change. Sometimes I worry I’m actually afraid of hard work, and yet here I am with these two girls that I know I will spend my whole life working hard for and wanting more of.
I remember assembling our Christmas card last winter. Someone was missing, but she’s here now.
We’re so happy.
+Isla is pronounced Eye-La
+She and her sister share a middle name.