The birth of my daughter, Eleanor, was nothing like I expected or planned. With my first labor I had the standard fears and anxieties about how my labor would progress and the pain I would experience. For my second, the only thing I knew was that I had done it before. I wasn’t at all sure I could.
On May 6th 2013, when I was three months pregnant with Eleanor, our son CC unexpectedly passed away at 10 months old. A virus ran though his system and caused pneumonia before we could even tell that he was sick. It was and will forever be heartbreaking. I was already worried about how this new baby would affect our family dynamic. I wondered how I would be able to love another baby as much as my son and how I could manage two babies. His death caused me to separate from my pregnancy. I couldn’t enjoy feeling her grow inside me for a very long time. I couldn’t take advantage of the physical ease of the second trimester. I couldn’t allow myself to feel hopeful about her arrival. I was cloaked in grief.
As my husband and I fought our way through the sorrow, there were ups and downs but we slowly got stronger. I started to allow myself to look forward to what our daughter would bring, but there was still so much confusion. When I thought about her birth, I imagined my whole family. I imagined our son, who would have been 16 months old, playing in the waiting area of our birth center with my dad. I imagined him coming into our room after delivery and snuggling down with his father, his sister and me. I imagined him there.
As my due date drew closer I thought more about the labor process. Though I had gone through labor before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be the same? Would I even be able to make it through? How could I honor our son? How would we handle the grief of not having him there without letting that grief overshadow the joy of our daughter’s birth?
The morning of my 39 week appointment I actually thought my water was leaking. It turned out that it was not, but the midwives thought labor could get going soon. Our birth center was over an hour away from our home so we stayed in town and walked around trying to get labor moving to no avail. We drove home knowing it would be soon though.
An hour after we got home, my contractions started and they were pretty close together from the start. We grabbed a few things, got back in the car, and drove to the birth center for the second time that day.
I was admitted when we arrived and I labored just moving around the suite for awhile. Later, I moved into the shower and then the tub as the contractions required more attention. Nora, a midwife who works with my mother (also a midwife) and who assisted in the birth of my son, arrived at this time and her gentle presence helped me through this stage so much. My mother and our doula, Kelly, arrived a bit later as I got out of the tub and moved to the bed thinking I had to push. I felt like pushing for a while but I wasn’t making much progress there. I got sick and my water broke at the same time and then things really started moving. I sat on a birthing stool supported by my husband and surrounded by four midwives, a nurse and the 4 month old daughter of Kelly. Those next contractions were very intense and my thoughts moved from being present in this labor to my grief and worry about bringing another child into the world. I screamed and fought every contraction, thinking about my baby boy who should have been there to welcome his little sister. My sorrow was overwhelming me in that moment and I wasn’t sure I could make it. I had to cry. I cried for him and to let out all of the fear holding me back.
With the encouragement and love of those around me, I got back into the tub and made it through a few more contractions. My husband and Nora held me on my side as Kelly and baby Rosemary cheered me on from the room. My midwife, Emily, and the nurse, Felicia, checked on me, and my mother caught my beautiful baby girl just as she had caught her big brother.
Everyone was healthy and happy! There were tears of joy and pain as we celebrated the birth of Eleanor in the absence of her brother. Our family will always be missing CC, but Eleanor is now a part of our healing. We still have sorrow and pain missing our son, but our hearts have grown with the birth of our daughter and she is a light on the path of our lives ahead.
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