Every year since I became a mom, I can't help but reflect on April 20th. Like this year, the 21st fell on a Tuesday. My earliest contractions came on Saturday evening and being 40 weeks pregnant - I welcomed them. Sunday, I was even more excited - unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions (which always faded away) my contractions were still coming. They weren't particularly steady or close together, but they were still happening.
Then, Sunday became Monday. In the early morning hours I requested my husband pack the car and drive me to the birth center. He called our midwife, and in the dark, we drove for an hour. The contractions were strong and I was unprepared for the news I was about to get.
When I had my exam, the midwife told me that I was experiencing a very slow early labor. She told me what to watch for and sent me home. It was such a disappointing (and painful) drive home. I labored around the house that day -- mostly kneeling on the floor with my head rested in the seat of the glider in the nursery. We didn't go back to the birth center until seven that evening when I was in so much discomfort that I couldn't stay home any longer.
Our midwife confirmed that I had progressed enough to "check in," but that I was nowhere near delivering. As I settled into my room, I had no idea what the following hours would bring.
What I learned on the longest night of my life was profound, and it will stick with me forever.
*** I learned that even though I was a "big picture" person, that I needed to take things second by second. I had to focus on the "right now." I had to focus on the very breath I was taking, rather than thinking about the ones to come.
*** I learned that my body was stronger than I ever gave it credit for. By the time I birthed my daughter, I had only slept for three or four hours out of the prior 48.
*** I learned just how supportive my husband was. He was on his knees next to me as much as possible. When he had to step away for a moment, my birth assistant was there. I was never alone. They later told me that he was "husband of the year."
***I learned just how much love and support a simple touch or word of reassurance could convey.
*** I also learned how important silence was. I felt so many things that night that words will never be able to describe. I'm thankful I was able to internalized them in the quiet, dimly-lit room.
I remember walking up and down the hall, staring at old black and white photographs of women helping women. Women becoming moms. I thought a lot about the women in my life that had come before me. Finally gaining a clearer understanding of what they'd gone through to become moms.
I remember being relieved when I saw that the sun had come up. The longest night of my life had finally come to a close. Instinctively, I knew my daughter would be born that day. It was a day well worth welcoming.
The 21st was beautiful and miraculous and one of the best days of my life. But the long dark night before it was such an important part of the journey - the uncelebrated part. There is no cake to celebrate the day before a birthday, but maybe, there should be.