My firstborn Lucie spoiled me rotten by coming at 39 weeks and 6 days, sparing me from even experiencing the “this is my due date” feeling.
This time around, 40 weeks came…and went.
And 41 weeks came…and went.
What did I do with myself, waiting for an overdue baby?
First: focus on the reminder that “overdue” isn’t as precise as the calendar makes it seem.
Then: eat deep dish pizza (and Eggplant Parmesan – what the heck), go for pedicures and foot reflexology, have tea parties with my two year old, finally hang those frames for my gallery wall, eat doughnuts, attend toddler book club, buy fudge at the Made in Oregon store…
I accepted the help of kind friends who came to play with energetic Lucie while my beach ball belly slowed me down.
I walked my way along the Columbia River, watching airplanes come and go at PDX International.
I tended my little orchid, focusing on the unknown of that re-bloom and taking solace in the reminder of nature’s rhythms are full of wisdom.
I went to the movies alone and cried over immigrants…sinking deep into theater seats and memories of family stories of those who came by sea to this continent. Thinking of the ways we’re born into family by no choice of our own, inheriting lore and legacy. Pondering the pains and bravery of so many searching for a new home, a new life. Imagining my own little girl, soon leaving everything she’d known for the past nine months to arrive in a new world.
And then, on a Friday morning, just after midnight, another round of contractions began.
In preceding weeks, I’d been through a few sessions of long, semi-regular contractions that didn’t end in a baby. I trusted they were doing their job of getting baby well positioned and my body ready for the task, but frankly I was tired of asking myself, “Could this be it?”
I’d been going to bed most nights listening to my hypnobabies tracks, relying on the same words that helped me through Lucie’s drug-free labor and delivery to prepare me again for a hoped-for water birth. This time, though, as contractions started up again in the darkness, I thought, “Nope. I’m sick of those recordings, and I’m not going to get my hopes up.” [While simultaneously getting my hopes up, because, well, let’s be honest.]
With a feathered hug of pillows under my belly and between my knees and behind my back and under my head, I put my headphones in, and instead turned on Audrey Assad’s brand new album, and closed my eyes again. I drifted in and out of consciousness, awakened by those tugging muscles and lulled to sleep again by peaceful songs.
The hungry two year old snapped me out of my trance around six in the morning. She’s always bright and cheery and starving when the sun comes up (and sometimes before). As I fed her breakfast and packed her for her day, helping her finish up Valentines for her classmates, I sadly felt the contractions dissipate.
Ted took her to school, and I took a shower. (Oh, the days!)
When I was alone again, the contractions came back to say hello. I couldn’t decide whether to keep my 10am acupuncture appointment or lay low at home, but after chatting with my midwife I decided to throw the bags in the car just in case and have Ted come back to drive me. I had a few more regular contractions in the waiting room and while I was on the acupuncturist’s table. Then one huge one toward the end of my session was enough of a nudge to help us decide to head into the birthing center afterward rather than go home.
11:30am: We arrived at the birthing center, and I felt sheepish, like maybe I shouldn’t be taking their time just yet. I didn’t want to be sent home after a false start.
11:45am: Ted and I settled into the birthing suite, and I tried to lay down and rest…but nothing felt comfortable.
12:00pm: My midwife and her assistants continued to check in on us, but I really just wanted space. I spent an hour with my music and my birthing ball and eventually Ted convinced me to get into the warm water, though I still didn’t feel like I was really “ready.” I mean, it sounded nice, but I didn’t want to risk it not being helpful later when I really *did* need the relief.
Good thing I listened to Ted.
Somewhere in that noon hour, everything shifted and a switch flipped. I knew it was the real deal. One way or another, we were having a baby before we left the building.
1:00pm: Ted texted our families…and I started to panic.
If it was already this intense this early in the “this is real” stage, how on earth was I going to last another six…eight…hours?
Oh, silly me.
At some point I remember laying there in the water, eyes mostly closed, muttering something to Ted and the midwife about how, “I keep thinking of all the hard things I’ve ever done in life, and if I’ve done those I can do this.”
I didn’t tell them then, but I was picturing Dead Woman’s Pass: the hardest, highest point at 13,828′ of oxygen-deprived elevation on the Inca Trail. Jello-legs, pitted-out clothes, and enough apprehension and dread stored up beforehand to fuel every last ounce of determined stubbornness needed to reach the top.
I’d climbed the Middle and South Sisters (10,047′ and 10,358′) in Oregon. I’d climbed Pike’s Peak in Colorado (14,110′). I’d pushed myself through 80 kilometers of brutal sand-fly, mud-pit trekking in New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park and something like 70 wild kilometers in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. And of course, I’d birthed an 8lbs. 6oz. baby just a few years prior.
Labor was hard, but I knew I could push through this, too.
What I wasn’t expecting, though, was to look up and find that I was only a few dozen steps away from the summit.
1:31pm: A baby with a full head of hair and two curious eyes maneuvered her little arms against my shoulder, trying to look me in the face.
Just like that, she was here.
Marion Frances Rydmark.
“I’d say about ninety minutes of active labor,” my midwife told me afterward.
An hour and a half to change my whole world.
Twenty minutes after, I stood up from the tub, took one glorious hot shower, and stepped into the next great adventure of our lives…