Light, irregular contractions started on the way home from my 39-week visit. I was not feeling at all like she was coming any time soon, and I was nervous they might have to induce, so I had my doctor strip my membranes. It definitely worked, albeit slowly.
I couldn’t sleep that night. Pretty much textbook. They tell you – try to sleep because otherwise you’re going to be exhausted. I didn’t sleep anyway. Between contractions, nervousness, and excitement, I just couldn’t. All I wanted to do was hold my sweet Chiara.
Around 9 A.M. contractions became regular, about 6 minutes apart. It was finally here! I was anxious to get to the hospital because my mother and sister-in-law both had quick labors, and I figured I would be similar. Not the case. At all.
I tidied up the apartment and ate as much as I could since I knew they wouldn’t let me eat once I got to the hospital. I called Tim and told him this was it for sure. He took the rest of the day off work, came home, and started helping me labor.
In the early afternoon contractions were down to 5 minutes apart. Pain level still definitely manageable. I called my ob’s office, told them I was sure I was in labor. They of course didn’t believe me since I was still able to talk. They told me to lie on my side and drink a whole glass of water and see if the contractions didn’t go away.
Tim made dinner while I tried this out. It slowed the contractions minorly, but they were still regular. I called the office back and told them, and they said they’d have the doctor call me.
I was stressing out by this point that I wasn’t going to make it to the hospital in time (silly me, I had no idea). I called my family and told them we were heading over. We still hadn’t set up Chiara’s car seat (that, folks, is true procrastination), so Tim quickly did that while I got ready to go.
We grabbed the hospital bag and my birthing ball and headed over. I was only 4 in. dilated when we got there, so they had me walk around for an hour. Tim and I prayed and walked together, eager and tired already.
When I came back, I was at 5 in., so they gave me a room. My water broke as I walked in…everywhere. And my dignity began to dwindle. My family came in and said hi, and my mother and sister stayed to help through the process.
Several hours of squatting and lying against Tim and breathing and breathing and breathing later, I was still only 8 in. and 90% effaced. The desire to push was overwhelming. The most physically and emotionally overwhelming thing I have ever felt. It hardly seemed optional, but they told me I couldn’t push yet.
The next several hours were agonizing. I started to shake, and my face became numb. I was totally unfocused. Timothy, the ever giving, gentle soul I married. I could hear them telling him I needed to breath or I was going to pass out. His face appeared before mine. Hee-hee-hoo-hee-hee-hoo. “Just focus on your breath, Maria. Copy me. Hee-hee-hoo-hee-hee-hoo.” It was just like we had practiced, and I was able to focus again. As the pain would begin to build and overwhelm me, I just focused on the breathing. And the little picture of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano we had brought with us.
I prayed: “Sweet Chiara, pray for me that I may suffer gracefully, as you suffered gracefully. My Lord and my God, may this sacrifice not be in vain. Give me the strength.”
I could no longer labor out of bed. My legs were giving in, and I was nervous I would just collapse with the next contraction. Before it hit, they helped me onto the bed and attached the bar, so I could lean against it.
The pain was so intense I just didn’t even know what to do with my body. All I wanted to do was escape. I felt like my entire body was breaking with each contraction, every two minutes. I cried out that I couldn’t do it anymore as I used all my strength to focus on not pushing with the next contraction. It was too much. And as my hilarious life would have it, I peed. Trying to focus on not doing that was just one thing too many.
“I have to push. I have to push, I can’t stop myself,” I yelled out with the next contraction. My mother yelled for the nurse. They checked me again, and still only 90% effaced. The nurse called the doctor in to ask if I could try to push with the next contraction. I was given the go ahead and pushed while the nurse tried to get my cervix the rest of the way. After several light pushes, she was finally able to.
I pushed three times, focusing all of my energy into it. My face felt like it would literally explode, but it felt so good to be finally listening to this overwhelming urge. Ten minutes later, Chiara was out. Silence. I couldn’t see her, but Tim and my mom say she was blue. The umbilical cord was around her neck, but Dr. Emmanuel expertly unraveled it, and a cry rang out.
They placed her beautiful, tiny, fragile body on my chest, and I just gazed at her. Words wouldn’t do what I was feeling justice. 9 months and 20 long hours of sacrifice, and what an unworthy vessel I was. There is nothing more beautiful, I assure you, than to feel life move within you, to give up your body and your comfort, and then to hold that life in your arms. What grace, what balm for a selfish soul. Thanks be to God!
My lovely Chiara, I hope your life is filled with as much beautiful brokenness, sacrifice, and profound joy as mine is.