Wednesday, September 9, 2009
My boy Jaxon is four.
When I was 3 months pregnant, Phill left for several weeks of training to prepare him for his second deployment to Iraq. Reed (who was 2 at the time) and I spent our time quietly, going to the park to swing, staying in on the couch to cuddle, or sitting in the rocking chair reading.
As my belly grew bigger, my heart grew heavier. I wondered how this little baby would have a good relationship with his dad, who was so far away and would be for so long.
I grew more and more round; Reed would place his hands on me, put his mouth less than an inch away from my skin and say, "You okay, baby? You come out? You come out and have some chocolate milk?" He was eager. I was anxious.
I listened to my HypnoBirthing CD every night. Every night, I visualized a birth without my husband, a birth still sacred and sweet without the company of the one I wanted most. Every night, I prayed for strength, and I prayed for my little boys--my Reed and my Jaxon--prayed that this long absence from their father would not somehow scar them. Prayed that I would feel gratitude for the support around me, and not anger at this situation that couldn't be altered. I prayed, and I was blessed--both with priesthood-holder's hands on my head, and with blessings that were very personal and tailored absolutely to my own anxious mind.
On August 23rd, 3 days past my "due date" (ha...ha.), my mom and I drove with Reed up Cedar Mountain, thinking to pass some time while we timed my somewhat-iffy contractions that had been here and then gone for the last several days. They were mostly painless; I talked to my mom, she talked to me, and Reed slept peacefully as we made our way along the mountain road.
We came home that night, and Phill called--he was by this time in Iraq, done with training and a couple of months into his long absence. I said, "I've been having contractions for a few hours. Nothing too huge, but....they feel different." He said, "I think Jaxon is coming soon. I just have a feeling." I did, too. I fell asleep at ten. This was the first of many tender mercies, as I couldn't usually fall asleep before midnight.
I slept so solidly, and yet I was aware that as I slept, my body continued to work. I awoke at midnight and thought, Oh. They're still going. I smiled to myself, relieved that this was really happening. I fell back asleep for a couple of hours. At two, I awoke, fully aware that I was definitely laboring. Not unbearably, just obviously. I felt both tense with anticipation and happy with relief. I prayed, fervently, that I would be fearless, and that I would see the good things happening around me.
I slept on and off until about 4, when I needed to get in my bathtub. It was a need--I needed that hot water around my belly, my back. As I squatted there in the tub, the house was quiet. My mother slept downstairs, and my Reed was in the room next to the bathroom. I had been so afraid of feeling alone without Phill to help me through this labor. I had prayed so desperately to know that I wasn't. I knew, surrounded there in warm water, that I was being quietly supported. I knew that I was not the only one awake in my house. I cried some and stretched some; I talked to myself and to my belly. "Daddy is so excited. I am so excited. You just keep doing what you're doing, and I'll keep doing what I'm doing."
At 4:30, I needed my mother. I went downstairs and walked into the room where she slept. All it took was a gentle touch to her shoulder, and her eyes opened; she looked at me and said, "Hi, sweetie." She lead me up the stairs and was right next to me as I had a contraction on all fours. My mother was so quiet as my body worked before her eyes, but I understood what she was saying. I could feel her saying, "I know....I know." Seven--seven is her number. She placed her hands on the small of my back, pressing, and asked, "Okay?" I nodded. She knew that less words were better. When I finished with that contraction, she said, "Would you like juice?" And I was astounded at how much I did want something sweet and cold in my mouth.
We called my doula: my pregnant (as pregnant as I was, in fact) friend, Camille, the daughter of a midwife, and my constant through that pregnancy. She came over, walked in quiet as a cat, and took her place on my other side, opposite my mom.
I was surrounded by good women.
I asked my mom to stay with Reed. After much thought, I decided I would rather have my mom at home with my little son whose life was changing so drastically, rather than at the hospital with me, where I was familiar with what was going on.
I didn't labor long. When I arrived at the hospital, I was so 'busy' with labor that I could hardly lay on the bed to be monitored. I spent plenty of my labor in a hot tub of water, sometimes moaning, and often just drifting, silent, in some other realm. Sometimes I felt carried away, grateful for the rest, grateful for a chance to refresh. Somewhere around 9 centimeters, my body paused.
For a bit of a stretch, I did not contract. I simply floated. And then I awoke, and felt that something was in my way. That I was waiting for something. And my midwife, angel that she is, said, "Rachel? Do you need to cry?" And I nodded, beginning to sob, saying, "I need Phill....I just need Phill....I want Phill." She asked with tears in her own eyes, "Do you feel like you can't do this without Phill? Are you afraid?" I nodded again, and she held me for a while. Then, when my emotions had run their course, she said, "Rachel, are you ready? Whenever you're ready, this will happen. You can do this." And I prayed, once again, for strength, for resolve, steeling myself. I had been told in a priesthood blessing that Phill would be there in spirit, and now I could feel his joy and his anticipation, and even his support. Further, I could feel my Savior's joy for me, His support, His influence in that room of women.
My legs shook mercilessly, and yet I couldn't bear to do anything but stand. I stood, leaning heavily against Camille, her own belly soft against mine, my arms around her neck. I marveled at her ability to hold me up! She stood so solidly, so calmly, just bathed in quiet and assurance. I breathed many thank-you's to her, and moaned--deep, low, moans that seemed completely involuntary. They simply rose up from the depths and carried me through each wave of my working body. They were the strange soundtrack to Jaxon's birth.
In only a few pushes, Jaxon emerged at 9:28 in the morning on August 24th, so quiet and awake, while I could not help but loudly sob his name over and over again. So soon he was at my breast, feeding eagerly and staring into my eyes, communicating in only a language mothers and their newborns know.
Tinged with the elation of this birth was some bittersweet aching for Phill. At some point afterwards, I wept and said to Jaxon, "I'm sorry he didn't get to see you come out. I'm sorry. But he was here." And later, when I looked at my phone, I saw and Missed Call: Unknown: 9:27A.M. Missed Call: Unknown: 9:29A.M. Phill had called. One minute before, and one minute after. He had been there.
"...I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
Phill was able to hold Jaxon six weeks later, and see the video of the birth. He was home for good nine months after that, and Jaxon kindly deferred learning to walk until a month afterwards, when only Phill was in the room.
Our Jaxon is four now, and I feel as if I've only just caught up. He is incredibly funny, with the timing of a true comedian, but he's also quite introspective and silent at times. He has a very special, very different bond with Phill, and for most of his second year of life hardly seemed to notice me (in favor of Phill). He seems to already be reading some, or at least memorizing very well the things I read for him. He is kind to Savvy and in awe of Reed, and loves to play with them both. I love you, my boy Jax.