Harriet, Miss Etta Z, H, Little One.
Welcome to the world. We’re so glad you’re here for so many reasons. You’re ours. You’re our daughter. We’ve been curious about you since we first found out we were pregnant (it was July 2013 and we were visiting friends in Nashville). And, if all goes as planned, you’re the baby of the family; you make our PowerDriver clan complete.
My pregnancy with you was hard. This owing mainly to the fact that by the time the first trimester was done (a stressful time as we thought we lost you and mama was just so so exhausted all the time) it was winter and boy was it a rough winter. We barely left the house and so –cooped up and mama tired– I gained a lot of weight and your sister was stir-crazy and our little house just felt so incredibly small. I wasn’t too good at finding ways to let off steam or get the wiggles out. We watched a whole bunch of PBS and Disney. We were grumpy, confined, mad-at-old-man-winter people.
You were due on March 21, 2014. I was pulling for March 16 because that evening had a full moon. Your sister, waiting four days past her due date, was born on a full moon.
Well, Saturday, March 15, was a weird feeling day for mama. It was the weekend before St Patty’s Day so my route to and from the restaurant was crowded with revelers. I was annoyed. I took this grumbling out on the kitchen floor, which I furiously cleaned on my hands and knees. Diri had said she would do this for me but, for whatever reason, I could not wait. After I cleaned the kitchen floor –every single square inch of that silly little kitchen– I cleaned/swept/mopped all the floors in the house. And then cleaned the bathroom. I have never in my life had so much energy and motivation to clean the way I did.
My lower back started to hurt immediately after I was done with this. I became annoyed at myself for putting so much strain on my back and my body so close to my due date. I had just gotten over a pretty bad cold and now I went and did this to myself?! Overall, all day I just felt completely off — physically, mentally, emotionally. Even now reading this I am so annoyed at myself. Though opinionated, such grumbling and being peeved is not my forte.
I tucked your sister into our bed around 8:00. After reading her a handful of books, I looked at her, choked up and teary eyed, and said –this just popped out of my mouth: “Ramona, I’ve had so much fun just the two of us.” It was, I realized shortly after, a sort of goodbye in order to say a new hello. My body sensed what was about to happen but I still did not know.
She fell asleep instantly and my contractions seemed to start the second I shut the bedroom door.
These contractions felt different than the Braxton Hicks I’d been experiencing the last couple of weeks. I started timing them –hoping but skeptical that they were the real deal– and texting a couple of friends who I’d been giving play-by-plays to throughout the pregnancy (thanks Tessa, Tara, and Erica!). Still, though, I didn’t pay too much mind because I more felt funky than anything else.
I felt off. I felt warm and flush and weak and shaky. Crap! I thought. I don’t want to get the flu so close to my due date!
Then my mama, your Nona, texted at 8:30 to say she was looking at the nearly full moon and thinking of you (see the first image on this post!). I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor.
I wasn’t even convinced I was in labor when I went to the bathroom next and there was what could only be bloody show. I had never seen it with Ramona. I knew this meant things were nearing but I understood it didn’t mean they were imminent. I called Maren, our midwife, to tell her this and that I also felt like complete crap. I think I even apologized for cleaning my house and tweaking my back. Maren told me to have some dinner and go to bed.
Ten minutes later, walking to the couch to sit down and eat some warm soup, my water broke.
I called Maren who said she would be there in a couple of hours. I called Papa who said he would come right away (can you believe he left the restaurant in the middle of Saturday night service?! He’s quite the man). And I called Nona, bursting into tears the second I heard her voice, excited and nervous.
I noticed the water coming out of me was tinged with brown, which I was pretty sure was meconium based on other birth stories I’d heard and read. I told this to Maren who said she would come immediately.
Like with your sister, my water breaking put us on a time crunch: you need to see signs of labor and have labor progress fairly quickly otherwise there are health concerns for the baby. This is especially true with the presence of meconium.
Papa came home and got busy right away setting up the birth tub, helping me tidy the house, and getting himself ready (a shower!). I walked around timing contractions and making sure the little things were in order around the house. Ramona was still fast asleep in our bed.
Soon after, Maren arrived, and we chatted and made sure whatever she needed was accessible. I had to keep walking and moving to keep the contractions going. When I rested they seemed to slow down. Papa and I walked around the block and I tried going up and down our back stairwell. I quickly realized how tiny our home was as there was nowhere to walk to! Ten steps and you reach the back door from the front!
Around 11:00 Diri and Dido picked up Miss Minka. I quickly cuddled her in bed while she slept and then picked her up to carry her to the door. I inhaled her scent realizing she wasn’t going to be my littlest girl anymore. You were!
By 12:00ish, my contractions were not messing around. I tried to get some rest but they were too strong and I was also too worried about them stalling out. Castor oil was taken sometime around this point to get things to (hopefully) speed up.
The next seven hours were long and I am not a patient person. Your sister’s labor was no longer than seven hours total so I had assumed labor with you would be shorter. It was hard for me when seven hours came and went and you still weren’t here. I knew I was going to have you and have you at home but I was frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking.
When contractions intensified, I got in the warm tub and labored there for quite a while. It felt good and, thankfully, did not slow down my contractions. I was flanked by Papa and Kimmy (my friend and doula who arrived around 2:30AM). They were helpful in reminding me to breath, make low sounds, and focus on sending my energy down. I stared at a paint splatter on our ceiling’s wood beam for hours while pressing the heels of my palms down the length of my thighs. Girl, it hurt.
I moved to the toilet when I need to poop as well as to be in a different place. I found a position that seemed to help and then started at a corner of the bathroom floor. The people around me faded away and I became my most animal self. Truly. I made noises I’ve never made before and flapped my lips and hummed and went completely into my own head space. It was tough and necessary. Wave after wave of contractions took over me.
Finally I yelled out –with a bit of unexplained anger at everyone there– that I was going to push! And push I did. And I kept contracting and pushing and knew you were so close and making your entrance soon. Papa and Maren carried me –mid-contraction– from the toilet to the tub. I gathered myself, caught up with the proper breathing, gave a few “test” pushes, and then pushed you out in one swift and final push. 7:01 AM, 10 hours after this all began.
The cord was around your neck but the midwives easily got it off. And there you were, Harriet, in my arms, covered in vernix and wailing your little lungs out. I couldn’t believe it. And yet I could.
A full moon and you were here.
And this is a feeing I had immediately: you were undeniably meant to be in our fold. And soon into that day, March 16, 2014, it felt weird to imagine life ever happened without you.
Mama and Papa were exhausted. We’d just pulled an all-nighter! We climbed into bed and stayed there the rest of the day. People brought us brunch and doughnuts and dinner and we were just completely enveloped in love and adoration. How could we not be? Look at you!
We love you, Etta Z.
I love you, always and forever.
Ah. I love it! You are one amazing woman and mama.
I just cried and cried. Thank you for sharing 🙂
Ah, Emily. I just teared up through that whole read. Congratulations.
Beautiful. You are an incredible writer. Your last words to Ramona brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Tears. Happy wonderful tears. Thanks for sharing. What a team!! Also, I had the same primal bathroom experience with Sylvia which resulted in my ripping the tp holder off the wall.
I can’t stop crying and simultaneously feeling so damn proud of you!
This is beautiful Emily! Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment in time. Parts of it took me back to the birth of my daughter, almost 13 years ago. I remember feeling “off” for two days before she was born. Most people have no clue what I’m talking about. Glad I’m not the only one that experienced that! Congrats to you, Jon and miss Ramona! Harriet is a beautiful, glowing bundle of joy. 🙂
Oh my gosh I am just weeping in the airport as I read this. So so incredible!
You are an amazing woman.
Great story! Man, I love a good birth story! <3
Love this. The moon, the cleaning, the part about your last moments with Ramona. Sigh. Also, because Maren was at my daughters birth as well! Best back pain relieving midwife, ever.