I woke up at 5:30 a.m. for what I thought was a routine trip to the bathroom. I felt some pressure in my side but didn't really dwell on it because I was too excited about the day ahead. I was slated to go to the MOPS Holiday Boutique at our church to sell jewelry from our Haitian Bead Project and my own knitted items. I was so excited to see what God would do that day to bless the ladies in Haiti. My mind was racing, thinking through all the items I needed to bring to the boutique and debating whether I should try to get more sleep or just get ready now. I stopped by the kitchen for a glass of water and a handful of dried cranberries.
Ericlee popped his head in our dining room. "You, ok?" he asked with a bleary-eyed look. "Sounds like you're rushing around."
"Just getting ready for the boutique," I replied with a smile.
I decided to get in the shower. Again, I felt this strong pressure in my side. Could this be it? Labor pains? Oh no, not on the morning of the boutique! I told that baby girl to stay put until at least Saturday night. The hot water washed over me, massaging my back. Maybe I could relax it away. And then, the pressure again. I called to Ericlee from the shower. I described my contractions. It was 6:15 a.m.
I started thinking of the scenarios - birth now? Or what if contractions began later in the car? What if I went into labor at church? I think not. Then I knew I might not be making it to the boutique this morning. I got out of the shower and grabbed for my iPhone. My fingers fumbled for that Contraction app to measure the next one.
Five minutes apart. The contractions kept coming. Regular now.
Forget the boutique. My friends could handle it without me. Time to concentrate on labor and birthing. I told Ericlee to call our midwife and the grandparents right away.
"Tell them to come now," was all I remember saying. In between the intense contractions, which seemed to be coming faster, I texted a handful of friends to have them pray.
He started blowing up our birthing pool and preparing for the birth. I kept calling him back in the bathroom to help me focus through contractions. All I wanted was to look into his eyes. My coach. My focal point through the hard pain.
The next minutes seem blurry but I remember that the contractions were 3 minutes apart when my parents and our midwife finally showed up.
Ericlee went to wake up the girls. Meilani and Giada woke up to hear mama laboring through.
I wondered how long this labor would be. I prayed for God's strength in each moment, begged my husband to recite scriptures with me.
While everyone seemed to be bustling around looking for the kids' clothes, filling up the pool, I suddenly felt like pushing. Was this for real? My midwife hadn't even checked how far I was dilated yet.
With each contraction, I felt myself baring down. She insisted I come back into the bedroom. "Don't fight it," she said. "This baby is coming now."
My dad was still filling up the birthing pool. I was on the ball, trying to balance between contractions. Ericlee wondered aloud if I should get into the pool. My midwife said there wasn't time. I didn't want to deal with back labor. My midwife suggested I get down on all fours next to the bed. This position felt natural to me. I remembered my Yoga Mama video and tried to breathe.
Suddenly, I felt this one long push radiate through my body. Her head was out.
"Wait until the next contraction," my midwife instructed calmly.
Could this be the finish line already? I found myself recounting Giada's birth when I had pushed for what seemed like an eternity. I remembered that excruciating pain. I tried not to dwell on it. My mom's voice came through. She was reading to me from my PUSH pages - a little book prepared my dear mama friends full of scriptures and encouraging words to carry me through.
On the next round I pushed and heard a distinct baby's cry. And there she was. We were all in shock. Two long pushes and she was out. What a miracle. My eucharisteo baby.
The first few months of pregnancy had been all shock - surprise that God was gifting us with a third child when we were preparing to move to Haiti. The following months were filled with moving plans and actually getting our family of four and my pregnant belly to Haiti. So often I tried to forget I was pregnant because it felt so hard as we lived there in the developing world. And then these last few months had been about moving back to the United States, watching my belly swell large and feeling my body rehearse for this final dance.
Thankful. How incredibly thankful I felt. She was here. Healthy. Complete. Full of grace. She gasped for air. I exhaled.
Ericlee called for the girls and his mom. They had just barely left the house and had to turn around to come back. I held my sticky, crying bundle of joy in my arms. She was here. Finally. Here.
In the minutes that followed, I clutched my precious gift and birthed the placenta. Ericlee did the honors, clipping her umbilical cord, releasing her into this new world of existence. Zayla weighed in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 20 inches long.
Meilani and Giada returned with Grandma Christene. They petted their baby sister's back with gentle fingers. Giada's voice sang her name over and over again. "Zayla Arshaloos - Zayla Arshaloos - Zayla Arshaloos." We had urged the kids to keep her name a secret for the last week. Now was the time to celebrate it out loud. They marveled over Zayla's baby toes, squealing with delight. Giada was finally a "big sister" joining our first-born Meilani in this new role.
|Photos by Allison Vasquez, August Grace Photography|
Eucharisteo - thanksgiving - always precedes the miracle. ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts