I was given three due dates: March 5th, 7th, and 9th. By the time my 40th week arrived, I was really hoping that the first of three would be my ticket to deliver. So for the first four days, I subscribed to every old wive’s tale out there. Eat spicy food? Yup. Take lots of walks? Sure. Have (awkward) sex? You better believe it. But that day came and went and I was left feeling annoyed. Oh, well, I thought. By the end of the 6th, having experienced no Braxton Hicks contractions at all, I was starting to feel defeated and irritated. I should state, however, that I really had no room to complain. I had, for a lack of a better term, the textbook pregnancy. I didn’t have any complications. Everything was going along as planned. Yet, I was now starting to get impatient. I guess forty weeks will do that to someone, especially when you can no longer see your feet because you’ve got a watermelon obstructing your field of vision. But I digress. So, on the 7th, I saw my chiropractor to do a pelvic adjustment. Then, I took a chance and made an appointment with an acupuncturist that was referred to me by my midwife. I wanted to have as natural a delivery as possible and the idea of going past full-term and having to be induced was something I was simply not comfortable with.
The 7th arrived. And you guessed it: still no baby.
On the evening of the 8th, after coming home from attending our last birthing class with my late husband Ryan, I remember looking up at the sky and noticed that the moon was incredibly full. I jokingly said, “Maybe tonight will be the night.” I decided to unwind and take bath before going to bed. As I immersed myself in the blanket of warm water, my rounded belly above water like a floating dock, I rubbed it and whispered, “Come on, little girl. Mama and Papa really just want to meet you.” And maybe I imagined it, but I swore I felt a kick at that moment. I crawled into bed and lay on my side, allowing myself to drift into a heavy sleep.
Suddenly at 1:01 am I felt like something punched me in the gut. Hard. It wasn’t only a throbbing pain I was feeling, but it felt like my insides were rupturing and burning at the same time. How is this possible? I sat up in bed, looked over at Ryan who was still completely asleep and decided to wait a few minutes. Could these be Braxton Hicks? Is this what they feel like? Or, oh, my god, is it time? I remember getting out of bed and walking a few steps before that shooting pain struck again. I let out a little yelp and at that point, Ryan jumped out of bed asking if I was ok. I managed to say, “I don’t know…” which is, of course, perhaps the worst thing to say to an already worried husband. I braced myself on the wall waiting for this wave to stop. “I think…I think I’m con…I think the baby is…,” I said. “Could you grab my phone?” We had downloaded an app called Contraction Master which times contractions. By storing your doctor’s or midwife’s phone number in the app, when the contractions were short enough apart, it would call them up. He fumbled in the dark for my phone and finally found it. Meanwhile, I fumbled in the dark for the bathroom where I held on to the sink and unexpectedly threw up. I guess that was my body’s response or reaction to the amount of pain I was feeling! Not surprisingly, I still wasn’t feeling better. I finally called my midwife and after hearing me whimper in pain through the phone, we decided it was time.
I don’t know how I got down our flight of stairs, but I do remember getting in our car, closing my eyes, and leaning my head against the cool glass of the window. Conversations are hazy but I do remember Ryan being incredibly attentive and nervous saying things like, “What can I do for you? What do you need right now? How can I make it better?” and in my moment of weakness (or strength), I casually put my hand up and just said, “Just…don’t talk. I need it quiet.” Of course, this elicited a roaring laugh from him which made me open my eyes and force a smirk. I vaguely remember managing to text all our friends and call our family saying that it was time. By now it was nearly 3:30 in the morning and we had arrived at our birth center. Michelle, my incredible midwife, walked me to the birthing suite to check how dilated I was. I told her I needed to pee before she did that so I went into the bathroom. Again, I have no idea how I was even moving at this point because by then my contractions were around a minute-and-a-half to two minutes apart. I took off my underwear and gasped. There was blood. It was my bloody show! I went into the room where Michelle was and she laid me down. The verdict? I was 7 cm dilated! Seven! “Oh, wow. I’m going to run the tub.” said Michelle enthusiastically. It was go time.
I honestly don’t know where Ryan was during all of this. I don’t remember seeing him in the room; then again, I was so focused on my labor that I don’t think I would have noticed if anyone was in the room at that point. He was probably pacing around, questioning everything, making sure I was ok. No man ever likes seeing the woman they love in pain. And boy, was I ever in pain.
Michelle filled the birthing tub and at this point, her birth assistant Sadie arrived. Sadie reminded me of my mom–she was so incredibly compassionate and motherly. It felt like I was really being cared for in a way that felt so familiar. Sadie led me into the bathroom where they had dimmed the lights and lit lavender-scented candles. It looked incredibly beautiful and peaceful. A wave of calm embraced me and at that moment, I knew I had this in the bag.
All inhibitions went out the window. I disrobed and lowered myself in the tub. I remember sitting there with my arms folded over the edge of the bathtub while I made the most primal noises. I was surprised that these sounds actually came out of my mouth. To me, I sounded like a cow! I read somewhere that moving around while laboring sometimes helps moms. Nope. Not this one. All I wanted to do was sit still and somehow push a baby out of me. Michelle and Sadie told me I needed to start pushing. After all of the birth classes we took, after all of the books we read, I still had no idea how to push. I don’t think anyone really gets it until they’re in that moment. I really listened to my body and finally got the hang of my breathing and pushing. I wanted to do this completely drug-free and I was more determined than ever to prove to myself that I could do this. If my mom (who has zero tolerance for pain) could birth four of us without the assistance of an epidural, certainly I could as well. Plus, the idea of a needle in my spine really freaked me out. Once in the zone, though, I heard a commotion outside of the bathroom. Shrill giggles from both my mother-in-law and my own mom were resonating loudly. It broke my concentration and actually caught me off guard. Ryan was just about to get into the tub with me and I stopped him. “You need to tell them to shut up.” I remember saying. Everyone in the room laughed, including me. “I mean, seriously! I just need it to be quiet so I can do this. Please?” He got up and went out to the common area. I think I heard quiet giggles and then, silence. Oh, the sweet sound of silence. He came back into the room and joined me in the tub. He was behind me rubbing my lower back while I was laboring. He was pouring water down my back, which helped tremendously. But again, the wave of incredible pain hit and quickly said, “I need to throw up.” Sadie grabbed a bucket and I vomited. I needed to stay hydrated and once I drank some coconut water, I was able to focus again.
So I pushed. I moaned. I pushed again. My little girl was making progress! Her heart rate was still great! As I pushed with Ryan behind me, I remember grasping his fingers as hard as I could. I felt the ring of fire and started crying. I knew she was almost here.
“Oh, my god, look at her hair!” exclaimed both Michelle and Sadie.
“Hair? What hair? What’s wrong with her hair?” I asked nervously through pushes. Sadie guided my hand down under the water and I couldn’t believe it. I felt my baby girl’s head. And it was covered in a full head of hair. “Oh, my god! Oh, my god! I want to see her!” I squealed.
“Just a couple more pushes, Tanya! You can do this, mama!” Michelle encouraged me.
I pushed and pushed again. I pushed with everything I had. At 5:43 am, after fifty-three minutes of active pushing, she was born. And as she came out, it felt like she literally slid out of me. I caught her under water and brought her up to my chest. I burst into tears. Never had I ever seen anything so perfect, so beautiful, so innocent, so warm. I could think of all the superlatives in the world and none of them could add up to how I felt in that moment. “She’s beautiful just like her mom,” Ryan said. I wept even more. Anaïs had arrived and she was more than I could have ever dreamed of. The flood of thoughts and emotions that I had as soon as I laid eyes on her are probably some of the purest and full of the best intentions I ever could have for anyone. And here she was, a true biological and physical extension of her father and of myself. It was surreal.
Looking back and remembering her birthday is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It is heartbreaking because she won’t ever really know him–he passed away a day shy of her 6 month birthday in an accident. He wanted a little girl so badly and he got one, named after one of his favorite writers, Anaïs Nin. Another reason he loved the name so much was because it means “graceful” and that’s exactly how he described her when he saw her for the first time. It’s heartbreaking because she won’t ever have memories with her dad, the first man in her life who loved her more than life itself. Through it all, though, it is so heartwarming to know that she is carrying parts of him with her. There are moments when I watch her and it brings a smile to my face to watch her turn into the person she will become.
She was born in the Year of the Dragon on the night of a full moon. If that doesn’t mean she’s destined for greatness, I don’t know what is.
Tanya Fujiki-Hastings is a freelance writer, make-believe chef, and the creator of the lifestyle blog T Spoon of Sunshine. It started off as a journal of sorts but has evolved to a place where she shares and documents adventures of her sunshine-filled life with family, friends and everyone in between.