Saturday, January 14, 2017

Welcoming Gloria

Gloria Leigh Sabera entered the world on January 9th, 2017 at 9:09 AM. It was 9 degrees outside. So our midwife, Robin, said when she arrived an hour earlier. I was aware only of bright sun on white snow. Of candles flickering in a row, given to us hours earlier at our blessing. Of kind hands and gentle, encouraging voices. Of quiet laughter and loud wails. The occasional thunk of wood falling in the wood stove. The sweet relief of hot water being poured by the potful into the birth tub. Of bones descending and a head full of hair making its way into the world.

On Sunday, 12 days before her due date, after returning from children's class, my water started leaking a bit. I've never been this early before, nor had this happen, so I was wholly unconvinced that this was the beginning of labor. I fixed lunch, tidied the house (just in case), laid down for 20 minutes to put Isaiah to sleep, and went downstairs for the blessing my mom was hosting. In lieu of a gift, I had requested a reading to add to our blessing book, a candle to light at the birth, and a bead to contribute to the baby's first prayer beads. It was a sweet and beautiful afternoon- a reminder that we do not raise (or even birth) our children by ourselves, nor do they belong to us alone.

A reminder I desperately needed--I have had a lot of anxiety during this pregnancy fueled by a hyperthyroid diagnosis at week 30 with potentially dire but unlikely consequences. Still, once fear is introduced, it is hard to eradicate. And because such a condition technically disqualified me from a home birth (though not literally since my midwives placed their whole trust in me), it did require a heightened level of monitoring and vigilance. And so, leading up to this birth, I have been humbled again and again, constantly reminded of the delicate balance between placing my whole trust in God and trusting wholly in my own ability to grow and deliver human life into the world. It is a strange place to live- between powerlessness and absolute power. But isn't that life? Realizing over and over that we are standing, yes, but standing because of and in the shadow of something greater than ourselves.

I was in a good place. I could do this. The baby could do this. And the roomful of women--mothers and mothered--were a reminder that alone is just an illusion.

But then I came upstairs. I was having more signs. Labor was looking more and more like a possibility. I grasped desperately for that confidence from earlier, but found fear instead, flapping its wings in the shadows. So I did the only logical thing: swept and mopped the floors. Lined up the candles on the window sill. Made space for the birth tub. Channeled the adrenaline. It took Sisay a while to take me seriously, but before going to bed he pulled the birth tub in from the porch and cleaned it out. (We had just picked it up two days prior, and almost hadn't at all.) I gave our midwife, Lindsay, a heads up, told her I wasn't sure yet where this was headed, and tried to get some rest. Unsuccessfully. My anxiety was mounting. My heart was racing. There wasn't enough oxygen in the air. There were lots of feelings and none of them were, 'You got this.' I asked Lindsay to come. Even if this wasn't it, I needed her. She arrived around 3 AM. We chatted, she took my blood pressure. It was so high she wouldn't even tell me what it was. I drank some chamomile tea, tried to lay down again. Finally I crawled into Sisay's arms and asked him to hold my heart 'so it wouldn't come out of my chest.' He did. For two hours. 'Safe' started to seep in at the edges. I dozed in and out of sleep.

And then it was 6 AM. Like clockwork, all three children woke up. Sisay got up to deliver them to the grandparents downstairs. And suddenly a weight lifted off of me. I hadn't realized that having them in my birth space had impacted me so strongly. Immediately, a strong contraction pulsed through my body. I smiled. I almost laughed. Finally, labor was a reality. With each contraction, a wave of confidence rushed in, taking with it wave after wave of anxiety. As soon as Sisay came back in, I asked him to fill the birth tub.

'So this is it?' he asked. 'Yes,' I smiled. 'This is definitely it."

There wasn't space anymore for worry. My body took over and I gladly surrendered. I spent time on hands and knees on the bed, hung out in the living room while Lindsay put her magic hands on exactly the right spots.

At 8 AM the tub was ready and I eagerly slid in. Our second midwife, Robin, arrived. We had just met her at our last appointment two days earlier, as she was just coming back from maternity leave. But midwives--good midwives--possess a certain ability to be both unobtrusive and fully present. She quietly and gracefully stepped in as my subtle cheerleader.

By now, bright sunlight flooded the room. I was both acutely aware yet oddly removed from my surroundings. With each contraction, I felt for my baby's head, marveling at its journey through me. When my water broke, I felt my bones reconfigure as she descended through my pelvis.

"I'm going to push her head out now," I announced. And with both tremendous effort--and restraint--I did. As soon as her head was birthed, she opened her eyes wide under water and swiveled her head all around to get a good look. I could still feel her kicking inside. And then out came a hand, waving at us. I held it until the next contraction. Lindsay wiggled her arm out and the rest of her followed. We pulled her up onto my chest together and suddenly I was staring into the face of our fourth child. Our perfect, tiny daughter. Sisay had been recording the birth in front of me and I quickly called him to the other side. "She's sticking her tongue out!" I laughed. I cried. I sighed. I did it. She did it. And we had not done it alone.


  1. Lolo, this story pushed my heart into my throat and then back down to swell with love for you, your courage and little Gloria. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. xoxo

  2. My Goodness.... so beautifully written my dear, courageous Laurel! What a precious Gift for Gloria to read one day. Thank you for sharing this intimate Journey with us.
    Congratulations and heartfelt love ❤

  3. Incredible story laurel! Thank you son mucho for sharing this incredible awe inspiring experience!

  4. Congratulations Laura and Sisay. This is beautifully written. Thank God that I already knew Gloria was alive and kicking; Otherwise, it's like watching a suspenseful movie:)