Everly Veda’s Birth Story.
I’ll start this story at the moment my water broke. It was 2:45pm on Monday afternoon and Brent was taking a shower. I’d been hounding him to make a run to the grocery store with me to stock our cabinets before Everly arrived. I’d had mild contractions all day – but nothing significant and then, in a matter minutes, I went from bouncing on my big blue birth ball while answering email, to standing in the bathroom, leggings around my knees and staring at my husband in disbelief. There was no doubting what was happening – my water had broken and the impossible wait for our daughter had come to an end.
While Brent called our family and prepared the last items for our hospital bag, I went to work baking peanut butter cookies for the nurses in labor and delivery. He put on an old Wilson Pickett album and as music filled the house, I tried to steady my emotions. We had done so much, worked so hard, dreamed of this day and it was finally here. My contractions begin to get stronger and I was hit with a wave of emotions. I went into Everly’s nursery, leaned my head against her crib and sobbed. I said a long prayer to God and asked him to watch over Everly and I in the coming hours. I called my best friend Natasha and said “This is it. It’s really happening, I’ll call you when she’s here”
By this time, Brent had called our doula, Lindsay who had made her way over from the East Bay. My contractions were strong, but manageable and I leaned against the kitchen counter, rocking to “Hey Jude” on the record player and trying to focus myself. It was important to me to labor in the comfort and quiet of our house as long as possible. As my contractions grew stronger and closer together, I used my hypnobabies cds to stay calm and centered. Brent and Lindsay massaged my back and hips as I breathed through them. It was about 6:30pm when I felt they were getting so intense that I couldn’t breathe through them in comfort any longer. We climbed in the car and made the 15 minute ride through the Castro and Noe Valley to St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission. The car ride was miserable as I had to sit upright, wearing a seat belt as each contraction rolled through my body. More than anything, I just wanted to get there and get centered on the task that lay ahead of me.
It was 7:00pm by the time I had checked in, undressed, and gotten settled in the labor and delivery room. Brent wrapped his arms around me and we swayed back and forth as I worked through each contraction. It is hard to really understand what a contraction feels like until you are in the middle of one. It isn’t like menstrual cramps, it isn’t a head to toe ache – it’s a deep, intense, active pain that rolled from my lower belly and spread through my body. Every contraction had a steady increase in strength, a peak, and then a merciful end – giving me enough time to gather my breath and courage to prepare for the next one.
As part of our birth plan, I requested as little medical intervention as possible. No IV, intermittent fetal monitoring only and no internal exam until I requested. A lot of women have a strong desire to know exactly how far they have progressed in their labor, but for me – I didn’t want a number of centimeters dilated to effect the focus of my efforts. I was afraid that hearing I’d progressed only a few centimeters would shake my courage. With nothing connecting me to my environment, I was free to move and find a comfortable position to labor. Surprisingly, being on my hands and knees felt the most comfortable and I stayed that way for the next hour.
By 8pm, I was asking to use the Aqua Doula tub for the remainder of my active laboring. This was the first time they checked my progress, as the hospital where I delivered does not allow you to deliver in water and they had to establish that I was not fully dilated. The midwife confirmed I was 5 cms, halfway there. I felt encouraged by that thought. As a first time mother, I knew my labor could be long – but knowing I had come so far already gave me renewed energy.
While my doula and a nurse set the tub up, I rode each contraction up and down – on my hands in knees in the bed, my face often pushed into the pillows as I tried to stay focused on one wave at a time. Brent stayed right there next to me, rubbing my head, looking me in the eyes and encouraging me over and over again that I was doing a good job. “You are doing so good, honey. I am so proud of you” he would say – and even those few and simple words made me even more determined. I was doing this for him as much as I was doing it for myself- I focused on the image of Everly in her father’s arm and the intensity of my desire to bring his little girl into the world. He left my view only long enough to change the music from Fleet Foxes to Beirut and was back before the next wave hit me. There were times they were so strong that I would have to chant “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this” over and over again to myself. The pain had become so deep and active that I began to vocalize a loud, deep moan with every contraction – it wasn’t a sound of fear or even one of raw, physical pain – it was a sound of full and complete effort – a focused, primal sound that carried me to each wave – over the peak and down again.
At some point, my body began to push despite my best efforts to control it. “I have to do this – I have to push” I told my midwife. It was 9pm, an hour since I was last checked, and they had just finished setting up the Aqua doula tub. She checked me again and to everyone’s disbelief – including my own, I was a full 10 cms dilated and ready to push. All the effort they had put into getting the tub ready went to waste as I couldn’t even get in. Another request in our birth plan was to let me push when I felt the need to push instead of being directed to do so. In the dim light of our room, I let go of my body and let it lead me. With each contraction I felt a deep, guttural urge to push – I couldn’t have stopped it if I wanted to. It was as if I was hooked up to electricity and each jolt pushed my body a little more. I soon began to feel Everly’s head moving out a little more with every contraction. Brent put Regina Spektor on in the background, and held my hand as I vocalized through each contraction. I was being really loud and it felt good to let the sound go with each push. My doula, worked to keep me focused on releasing after each contraction. Because I actually feel my daughter moving forward with each contraction, I found myself not wanting to release at the end of each one. I wanted to keep moving her forward – but my body needed those small breaks between waves to regroup.
Because I had no pain relief, whatsoever, every nerve and fiber of my body was tuned into the experience. I could feel every time her head would push forward, and then slid back as the contraction finished. I experienced her journey. I knew exactly where she was at each moment and as we approached the final pushes of my labor – I found myself consumed with the need to bring her through me and into the world. Those last moments are a bit of a blur – an intense and consuming pain, an overwhelming joy – my life changed forever in one final burst of effort.
At 10:07pm, a mere 3 hours since we’d walked into the room, she was laid, wet and pink on my chest. Her eyes blinked, her small hands clasped at my skin. She never screamed, but instead cried out for a few seconds then settled against my heart beating through my chest. Her eyes were open and she stared up at us with her small, dark eyes. Brent curled around us and the three of us laid there consumed by the new definition of who we were. New parents, a daughter, family. God, she was so beautiful. Beyond beautiful. Perfect in every way.
No one took her away for tests. No one disturbed us. We laid there in bliss while our eyes memorized her every inch. We stayed that way for almost an hour with Regina Spektor sang “Little wet tears on your baby’s shoulder” in the background. 25 minutes after her birth, the midwife let Brent cut Everly’s umbilical cord. And eventually, when we were good and ready – they measured and weighed her. A very healthy 8 pounds, 6 ounces and 21 inches long.
I breastfed her for the first time as I lay there recovering and an hour after that I was out of the bed and standing. My recovery has been wonderful, despite a few stitches and a sore body. Everly has been feeding non-stop since she was born and that has become one of my favorite times with her. We lay in the bed together, at some early hour of the morning, both of us sleepy and she nurses while I rub small circles on her back. She coos at me and open and closes her fingers against my breast. Nothing you do in advance can prepare your heart for those moments.
I’ve spent the past hour writing this experience with tears flowing down my cheeks. I’ll never be the same. Not after this. To come face to face with the most intense pain, the strongest desire, the deepest love… Motherhood is a gift unlike any other.