Roughly three weeks ago – on Wednesday, May 12th – Ivo was born. Jessica gave birth in a tub in the living room of our house, and it was amazing.
Our first labor (a natural birth in a hospital setting), while rewarding, was strenuous and exhausting. We had to consciously remind ourselves of the reasons we chose to birth without medication and seriously consider whether that would be the right route to repeat. We eventually decided to up the ante; not only would we birth naturally the second time, but we'd do it at home. I'm so glad we chose this, because the second birth presented an incredible contrast to the first one.
Part of our consternation after the first birth was due to the near mythical birth stories that Jessica read beforehand. We experienced a hard, painful labor that was nothing like the joyous, ecstatic ones recounted by many natural childbirth books. Our expectations were high the first time, low the second, and a little misplaced during both.
Three weeks ago we were nine days "overdue". Despite the fact that our midwife had been unsuccessful at breaking Jessica's water that morning and that the acupuncturist was ignoring our repeated phone calls, the semblance of early labor teased us into walking. And walk we did – all around Madison – waiting in vain for a call from the acupuncturist, all the while timing very noncommittal contractions. Yet, somehow I knew it would happen that day.
After lunch at Cactus, we headed home to walk some more. This is when the fun began – and I mean that quite literally. We had fun walking around, talking, and speculating about how events would progress. A package containing the digital camera I had purchase for Mothers' Day arrived – just in time! Jessica's contractions were increasing in frequency, but remained painless. Then a few of them started to feel perhaps the slightest bit painful. We updated our midwife, Cindie, and she told us to call for the tub. Jessica still wasn't convinced that she was actually in labor, and we dallied for another hour before actually placing the call.
The contractions continued to accelerate slowly, but Jessica still found them to be completely tolerable. Our friend Brenna came over (she was present at Ezra's birth, too), and we all waited. Jessica and I sat on the couch, hugged during each contraction, watched So I Married an Axe Murderer, and got to enjoy each other's company. It was like a fun, carefree date. At some point the tub arrived, and we waited for it to fill. The contractions grew more serious, but Jessica still marveled at how easy they were to deal with. We laughed, snuggled, and expressed our complete mystery at how easy things were.
Cindie arrived and checked Jessica – she was 9 centimeters, and laughing about it. We were exuberant and flabbergasted – reaching this point last time had not been easy, but now it was (again, quite literally) a walk in the park. We hugged through a few more contractions, and then Jessica started feeling like she needed to push. This was crazy – last time, Jessica had no urge to push. We felt so incredibly blessed as each new stage came and passed perfectly. So Jessica climbed into the tub – by herself – and started laboring in the water.
I've always been really impressed with Jessica; being with her through birth completely outshines the other impressive things I've seen her do. The pushing phase of her first birth was the worst, most painful part – and it lasted a long time to boot. She was understandably worried about doing it again, but she went into it without hesitation. And the results were drastically different – she pushed for a mere 15 minutes before Ivo's amniotic sac started to crown. She started shouting, "Water bubble! Water bubble!" in an enthusiastic-and-perhaps-a-bit-delirious voice. Shortly after, she pushed Ivo out completely – with a ridiculous squeal of delight, "YAY!".
Ivo came out with his bag of waters intact, and it floated around him in the tub like a diaphanous cape. He started breathing right away. We laughed and hugged and marveled over how splendidly the whole affair went – it really was an affirmative answer to our prayers. And it made me appreciate Jessica's ability to handle any situation. Her two births reminded me of this verse:
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
What a trip! It was like the best date/vacation/present-opening we'd had in a long time. And if you told me that's how it was going to turn out a few months ago, I'd have looked at you a little funny. It was wonderful to go through this with Jessica and watch all of her bad, difficult birth experiences be redeemed and replaced with happy, fun ones. And it's wonderful to have another healthy, perfect little son.