It wasn’t my idea to get pregnant.
We were on vacation, taking a walk along the beach, when my husband nonchalantly said he had had a dream the previous night that we had a little boy. “I was throwing him up in the air and catching up, and everyone loved him,” he said.
I wasn’t sure how to receive this information, and am not sure what I said in response, but I saw a vision of the scene playing out before me, my husband tossing up a small child in the air, laughing and smiling.
I smiled for a moment, too, until Kevin said, “Let’s have a baby.”
An argument ensued.
The next day, after serious prayer and an unexpected change of heart, I informed Kevin that if he was serious about it all, we could try once.
Fortunately for all of us, once was all it took.
We were determined to keep the baby’s gender concealed until birth. In the mean time, we had quite the collection of baby names going. Early on, Kevin had suggested the name “Levi.” It was a good sounding, simple, biblical name. I liked it. Then, being the word-lover that I am, I looked up the meaning and frowned.
Attached. Leah named her third son Levi in hopes that her husband would become attached to her. I told Kevin it was meaningless and, therefore, not an option.
Then, when my due date came and went, Kevin looked at me and said, “I think we need to put the name Levi back on the table. This baby’s so attached to you, he doesn’t want to be born.” I rolled my eyes. I wouldn’t let him win this argument, too.
Eight long, tearful days after my due date, while I was preparing for bed, my water broke. I called out to Kevin from the bathroom, in partial disbelief. We looked at each other with wide eyes.
I called the midwife, and was given the option of coming in to check in and then return home, or wait out the night. I opted for the second, letting my husband sleep, while I watched Planet Earth and timed contractions.
We left at dawn to drive to The Birth Center, stopping for gas on the way, thinking in a few short hours we’d meet our baby.
When we arrived, we met with the midwife on call; all the birthing suits were filled with women were in labor, and I silently hoped that theirs would all go quickly, because surely, I would need one soon.
I was evaluated, given a quick round of antibiotics (thanks, Strep B) and then was encouraged to go out, grab a bite to eat, and had I heard of the beautiful nature trail on the nearby college campus?
A half hour later, I was ordering a smoothie and egg sandwich from Panera. Kevin leaned over and said, “I can’t believe we are here and that you are in labor right now.”
I nodded in amazement, chewing contemplatively and breathing through each contraction, which were uncomfortable, but not unbearable.
We walked all around the nature trail, over a mile through the woods and across a creek, chatting. The whole thing felt so normal, but every five minutes or so, when my belly morphed into a rock hard ball and my back would progressively ache, I was reminded of why we were here, what was to be accomplished.
We returned back to the Birth Center, and we were in luck; the blue room was available for us. There, I balanced on a ball, smiling at the midwife who had checked for dilation. I was not yet in active labor and was advised to take castor oil to help progress my labor naturally. I was resistant at first, but upon further education, agreed that it was best.
I didn’t smile much after that.
I don’t know if any woman can adequately prepare for what labor feels like, particularly the last few centimeters of dilation.
In our birthing class, we squeezed ice cubes in our palms to represent a contraction, our partners coaching us through. I winked at Kevin while water dripped between my fingers, reminding him that I had survived a broken leg and a shattered heel bone; how hard could giving birth be?
It seemed that my baby’s head was not in proper position. While not completely sunny-side up, it was tweaked enough that every contraction sent shocking pain up my spine and made it impossible to get into a comfortable position. Each powerful contraction sent baby’s head crushing into my pubic bone instead of opening the cervix correctly.
There was a point in my labor in which I was praying in Spanish. I hadn’t taken a Spanish course in ten years. I didn’t even know I remembered enough of that language to form a sentence, let alone a plea, but there I was, asking Dios to make it stop. Wave after wave of contraction, some without a break, made me wonder if I could really do this.
At one point, after I was finally in active labor and transitioned into the tub, Kevin asked if he could go for a little bit, and I approved, seeing as this baby was taking forever. A nurse took his place, sitting on the bathroom floor beside me, and we chatted between contractions, and she encouraged me with her soft voice and encouraging words. I didn’t know until later that he went outside, sat by a dumpster, and wept for a while.
When he came back in, he found me crying and sweating in the tub, saying, “I don’t want to have any more kids after this.”
“That’s fine,” he said gently, pushing my hair out of my face, “but you still have to get this one out.”
He was right. Of course.
I thought I wasn’t going to make it. At one point, the nurse said to me, “Don’t worry! You still have four hours before we’d be concerned.”
“Four hours!” I cried out. “I need this baby out now.” I had felt something change. Kevin asked for them to check my dilation one more time, and sure enough, it was time push. My feelings of doubt and despair transitioned into grit and determination.
I started standing, Kevin behind me, supporting me as a contraction would come. A few in that position, and something shifted. I looked up in alarm. The midwife smiled and said, “The baby’s head has moved.”
From there on out, every ounce of effort was rewarded with obvious progress. I moved onto the bed, Kevin beside me. And after forty-odd minutes of pushing, I felt everything within give way, and the midwife said, “Kristin, reach down and grab your baby.”
When I first heard her words, I thought it was impossible; that the baby would be too far away from my arms to reach. But reach down I did, and put my hands upon that warm, wet body, and pulled him up to my chest in complete disbelief. I held him against me, my exhaustion exchanged for jubilation.
Kevin and I both were enamored instantly by our son, this wide-eyed soul that just emerged from my body. We couldn’t get enough of him; his clutching fingers, his soft pink skin, his suckling lips. His ear was slightly misshapen, due to his partially posterior position in utero; a characteristic that is his to keep for life. We loved every inch of him.
We talked and marveled as the midwife stitched up my small tear. When the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Kevin cut through the thick, hose-like device that had connected us. Then, the placenta was delivered, and the midwife ran her hands over it, inspecting it, and commenting on its silkiness. Before Kevin bagged it up for encapsulation, she held it up, her fingers expanding it. “This was your baby’s home,” she said.
And now, his home was in my arms.
At some point in the middle of my 21 hour labor, I knew in my heart we were having a boy, and I suspected that this child was, indeed, to be named Levi. Then, a few hours after I caught my first born child in my own hands and brought him to my breast and my entire life shifted; after I had showered and returned to hold that wonderful soul against me, the nurse, who smiled warmly at the bald head sleeping contentedly against my body, said: “He is so attached to you!”
My gaze darted to Kevin who just grinned knowingly, and I sighed deeply and finally surrendered.
His name was Levi.
That night, we slept together in a bed, the three of us. Levi slept nestled on one of chests the entire night. And he’s been within arms length for most of his life since.
It’s fitting, of course, that our journey of parenting, particularly attachment parenting, began with a child whom we named: “attached.” Our prayer was that he would be attached to people, and that they would be attached to him. And his name has proven true.
Now, when I go back to that beach, the very place where our Levi was conceived, I wonder at the miracle of his life. Had it gone my way, he would not be here, and I’m continually humbled by that. He has made me a mother, and I could not be more grateful. He was more than worth every effort, ever struggle, every doubt.
You will likely find him with my husband, who makes an effort to still throw him up in the air and catch him.