Exquisite and Bizarre

1:51 PM

Those two words so perfectly describe the last week.

Particularly Saturday and Sunday.

My sister-in-law, Beth, and my brother Michael asked me months ago when they realized they were pregnant with their first baby, if I would act as their doula. I was so very honored by their request. There is very little that I find more enjoyment in than pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Just call those things my Trifecta of Happiness.

And to share in that experience with two people who I dearly dearly love - it doesn't get much more special than that. 

Beth had decided she wanted to plan for a natural delivery and since she knew I was a huge advocate of the Bradley method, she and Michael borrowed all my Bradley books and educated themselves. And they really did - she read so many of the books I recommended and thought through some really good questions, and determined that the conventional "medically managed" delivery was not what they wanted.

One really cool thing that happened through this process is that mid-way through her pregnancy it became clear that her OB was really not on board with natural childbirth. In fact, one of my midwife/L&D nurse friends, highly recommended Beth switch doctors if her desire was truly for a natural delivery. Upon hearing this, Beth switched OB's to Cornerstone Clinic - where there are plenty of doctors who really do fully support natural childbirth. This move, to me, indicated a strength of conviction, and I was immediately convinced this was going to be a good experience for them.

Beth was due August 7, although none of us thought she would make it that far because beginning July 27, her body began showing signs of early labor. During the last week, there were about 3 times we thought labor was imminent. We even spent Friday afternoon at the hospital walking, only to go home. She experienced on and off mild contractions and managed to dilate to a 7 without doing any hard work. It's pretty much the dream way to have a baby. Needless to say, there wasn't a moment this past week when I didn't have my phone handy and babysitters lined up ready to spring over in case I needed run to the hospital suddenly. And since she was hanging out at a 7, it would definitely be a run to the hospital. 

If you're wondering what my job as a doula is, I'll tell you. A doula is a labor assistant. My job is to mother the mother. Be her advocate, her voice, help make sure the decisions that are made during the delivery are those she would want to be made, coach her through contractions, anticipate her needs, suggest different ways to labor, help her manage the whole process of labor and delivery, make sure her wishes are communicated to the hospital staff and adhered to, help her with breastfeeding and the immediate transition after the baby is born, help keep them from being bombarded with visitors and making sure they get their special time, answer questions on an ongoing basis, etc. Essentially, I was going to be to her what my midwife team was to me. And then some.

Saturday morning, August 4, is when my doula services were called into action. I was awoken at 8:02am by a call from Michael who said Beth was having contractions that were definitely more serious. I immediately took the world's fastest shower and said, I'm coming over! At 8:20, as I zoomed over there, Beth said to me over the phone, "well, I really don't know, Ashley, if we need to go just yet." "Uh, yes, Beth," I said, "we do." And as soon as I saw her face, I had no doubts. She had serious written all over her.

I love having good friends who are also L&D nurses because a phone call ensured we had a room with a tub and a natural friendly nurse. We got to the hospital in record time thanks to some speedy driving by Michael and were in a room by 9.  We had nurses who left us alone and let us do our thing and an even better Doctor, who - and I say this as highest praise - was like a midwife. I wanted to kiss him for his role in letting Beth have the delivery she desired. 

At 1:14pm, Beth delivered a baby girl - Aden Eliza. 
8 lbs, 7 oz; 21 1/4 inches long

And I have to say, from 9 to 1:14, it was truly exquisite. 
I had been nervous about how I'd do when the moment came to coach Beth, but there was a calm, easy, connected vibe between Beth, Michael and myself and it just flowed. I felt so in tune to everything Beth was experiencing that it's like I relived all three of my births at once with her. It enabled me to know just how to coach her, how to encourage her, what to say, how to say it, what to do and when to do them. I know the Lord was also present in that room with us. It was beautiful. If you've only experienced an epidural birth, I really wish you could be present at a birth like this one just to SEE the difference. Or experience one yourself. It's night and day. 

Even Beth said all the way through, it's totally bearable. It's manageable. The worst part was afterwards when they gave her some medicine to control bleeding and it made her feel really really sick. 

Without giving you details that aren't mine to share, I will simply say it was one absolutely amazing, beautiful, exquisite birth. I am bonded closer to both Beth and Michael forever. Not to mention their precious daughter whose very entrance into the world I was there to see. What a privilege and blessing.

 Then, after one very long day and late night, I found myself so spent on Sunday that I woke up only to go back to sleep from 10:30 to 3:30. A heck of a Sunday nap. That was bizarre. It was bizarre how I can look back over the last 10 days and feel that it was all wrapped up in the birth of my newest niece. And how much that was ok. How bizarre it is that something like labor involves such strange time warps. How time curls up and stretches out and zings back and you feel lost and scattered and amazed and tired and spent and utterly outside yourself. But at the same time, it's exquisite. That's the week I've had. And I wouldn't change a thing. 

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