in other words, we had a baby. the last time you heard from me, i had narrowly avoided an induction last monday. since then, pictures of a newborn on facebook, smiling people and everything’s all happy. clearly, part of the story is missing…shall i fill you in?
“OH MY FUCKING JESUS CHRIST!!!” that’s about all there was left to say by the time we arrived at the hospital, pulled into the emergency valet entrance and were quickly whisked up to labor and delivery (there is something particularly gratifying about taking the lord’s name in vain when you were force-fed a religion in your early life). yes, all of my practiced relaxation and pain-coping mechanisms had stopped working about twenty minutes before in the car ride. we were swung in front of the registration desk, where the woman behind the desk calmly looked at greg and i in our flustered state and said, “insurance card and id, please.” i think i let some sarcastic comment fly out into the world in general at this as greg fumbled with his wallet, trying to explain in shaky, disjointed speech that we had left my purse in the car, along with everything else. she asked for my wrist to fix my hospital bracelet on but i couldn’t move in the chair so instead i ignored her and closed my eyes, trying to breathe. then, the nurse came through the door, smile faltering a bit when she saw me as she started to say, “well, we were expecting you, but you’re a bit early…,” by way of a joke. she quickly caught on by the sounds that began coming out of me that this was no time for chit chat. she started to walk us quickly back to triage and ask all of the requisite questions, to which greg tried to remain calm and answer but all i could do was moan, pull at my hair and swear in response to. “her water broke,” greg said at one point, trying to hint at the immediacy of the situation. “in that case, we are going to need to check and make sure it’s amniotic fluid,” the nurse responded automatically, not realizing the absurdity of this request as no matter what, i was clearly in labor. we went into the bathroom to change and i began to frantically splash water on my face, then i came out and paced around the tiny room getting louder and louder as greg tried to calm me down and keep me from hyperventilating.
you see, we were determined this time to have a natural labor and birth, if we could help it, as, with ruth, being uneducated and trusting way too much in the medical system, we had a lot of interventions and came, in retrospect, awfully close to a c section. later, during our pregnancy with joel, we realized, “i was a young, healthy 27 year old woman with a healthy baby. why had my labor been so messed with and medicalized?” this time around, we had done our homework and knew the medical model well enough to try and finagle the kind of birth we really wanted out of the system, the key ingredient to that being, “stay the hell out of the hospital as long as possible”. that’s why we were so overjoyed at being sent home on monday and avoiding induction. before we left, however, we did get a vaginal exam and found out that i was already 4 and a half centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced and had my membranes swept. that’s why, as we were being discharged, the midwife told us that, “when things do start happening, get here fast.” because basically, my cervix had already gone through early labor, so, when labor finally did start in earnest, i would jump straight away into active labor. fine. we took it with a grain of salt, that grain being that every person is different and you just never know how fast or slow it’s going to go, baby positioning and what have you.
so, we went home, tried to rest, tried to relax, and nothing much happened tuesday or wednesday, except the loss of my mucous plug. but that had happened with ruth about five days before labor, so i wasn’t betting too much on that. finally, after staying up late with greg to watch dane cook regale us with dirty jokes on wednesday night, i took the dog for a walk at around 7:30 in the morning on thursday and felt the warm gush of amniotic fluid i was hoping not to feel this time around. “shit,” i said. you see, that was how labor began with ruth, and tends to be a more tricky situation to maneuver in the medical world. as soon as that water breaks, the baby’s protective seal is broken and the clock starts on your labor. kind of like uncorking a bottle of wine. it’s only good after that for so long. decanting the baby. i thought ahead to the appointment we had to keep at 12:15 that day to check up on the arrhythmia, and wondered how we would avoid being admitted at that time and another possible induction scenario, i should say augmentation, with pitocin, again, like we had with ruth. it’s one thing to stay out of the hospital after your water has broken to avoid interventions, but if you will already be there for an appointment where they will be measuring the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby and you narrowly avoided an induction a couple days earlier, it is even more tricky. you see our dilemma.
when i got back home, i checked the color: clear, so that was good. then, i woke greg and broke the news. we looked back in one of our childbirth books sections on avoiding interventions after your water has broken and called our doula. “maybe mention that your water broke after the test is completed,” she said, “then, insist that you will monitor your temperature and that you would prefer to return home until labor would start on its own.” we agreed that that’s what we would do. “why can’t my water break and then contractions just start on their own like a normal person?” i lamented to our doula over the phone. “you are a normal person,” she replied. i have to keep reminding myself of that. the last time, we had gone in right after my water broke and no contractions had begun on their own and so, they started the pitocin drip. we were determined to avoid that route at all costs this time.
ruth’s grandparents came over and took ruth so we could go to our appointment, greg ran up to the store and bought a bunch of incontinence pads, the kind for eighty year olds, to catch all of the fluid leaking out, then, he took a shower. it was a beautiful day and i sat on the birth ball, singing to myself and willing contractions to start. odd as it sounds, i envisioned the jack in the pulpit in our yard unfurling day after day as greg had suggested to me the night before. leave it to greg to use botanical visualizations, but it worked. suddenly, i felt one. wow, i thought, actually, that was kind of a hard one. i kept sitting and singing, breathing, relaxing. suddenly, another one. after it was over, i glanced up at the clock on the mantle. hmmm, i thought again, that was kind of fast. i sat, breathing through two or three more, each time, glancing up at the clock, thinking, “they can’t be less than five minutes apart yet,” or something equally foolish. i went to the bathroom, had another one, put my pants on, had another one, and told greg, “we’d better leave now.” he maybe thought i just didn’t want to be late for the appointment or that i was worried about traffic. as i was about to get into the car, another one hit and i staggered against the car like a mobster shot up with machine gun fire. greg saw me and realized the seriousness of the situation. “we need to go,” i said again, getting loud.
he jumped in the car and said, “you’re doing great. what do you need me to do?” “drive the fucking car, greg,” i responded trying not to sit on my butt, which is really a difficult thing to do as, when you’re in a sitting position, it’s pretty much the only thing to sit on.
the ensuing car ride started out ok. i turned the radio on. then i turned the radio off. i tried my best to completely melt between contractions and during them, to go to the edge of comfort, to focus on the center of the pain and swirl outward from it, all of the techniques i had been practicing for weeks, quickly realizing that the pain was getting out of my control, glancing up at the dashboard clock at the beginning of each one to see that only three minutes had gone by. that’s when things began to blur together. “greg, go faster!” i yelled, wondering somewhere in the back of my head if we would make it to the hospital. he called our doula and let her know that “things are really progressing quickly”. she asked to speak to me on the phone, the telltale method used by people who deal with birth to tell where a woman is in labor. i think my exact words were, “wwwwwwwwwwwhhhhhaaaaaaaaamememememembupobupobupowebeshebe!!!” she got the picture and started towards the hospital herself. greg, next to me tried to take my hand. i slapped it away. he tried to say, “breathe, you’re doing great..” to which i said, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” and lifted myself off the seat by pulling on that little handle above the door like i was trying to save myself from drowning (i finally know what that little handle is for).
we made it to the hospital at around noon and the nurses were all coming in and out of triage looking flustered, trying to assert the usual procedures to which i remained unresponsive and just stood moaning standing up propped at the foot of the triage bed. “we need to get a fetal heart rate strip,” someone said, “can you get in the bed?” “no,” i said. so, they held the thingy up to my belly as i swayed and groaned and swore. then, the midwife came in and said, “theresa? hi. your baby’s heart rate is lower than what we’d like it to be. there might be a problem, or, if you’re dilated to 10, he might be low enough in the birth canal that it’s causing his heart rate to drop, which is what i suspect. can you get up on the bed so i can check you?” the only thing that could have convinced me to climb into the bed was the threat of something wrong with the baby. no sooner had she reached her fingers inside to check than she announced, “just as i thought, you’re at 10 and ready to push. let’s get her to a room.”
that’s when our doula showed up, just in time, and grabbed my hand. “celeste,” i said, “i can’t do this!” “you’re doing it!” she replied. that’s when my vision started lapsing. maybe it’s because i was closing my eyes, or maybe it’s because all of my attention was on my body and what it was doing and i didn’t have any awareness left over for things i was seeing, but my memory of things around me becomes very patchy at this point. i remember seeing a lot of nervous faces, like when i would suddenly yell at the top of my lungs. i dunno. i guess i was scaring people. i kept catching glimpses of one, what i assume was a medical student, a man, out of the corner of my eye who just looked petrified. i yelled at one point, “who are all these people??!” and a few stepped out of the room. they needed to get me on the bed and off the stretcher, but i couldn’t move. finally, at the insistence of my doula, i crawled over onto the bed, mooning everyone as i did so. it was a well-lit room, every pucker, pimple and hair was visible as i did this and i didn’t give a shit. that’s what transition does to a person.
suddenly, the contractions switched from transition to pushing contractions, which, alleluia, have about a two to three minute break in between them. i realized then and there, though, that, i thought that because they had turned off or partly turned off my epidural with ruth that i felt what pushing really was, but i was wrong. i once heard someone describe pushing as being caught between a rock and a hard place, because that’s exactly what it is. the contraction hurts, but pushing with the contraction hurts even more, but if you don’t push, the more contractions you will have and the longer it will all go on for. i remember more yelling at the top of my lungs. i remember squeezing our doula’s thumb (that’s all she would give me, smart lady) as hard as i could. i’m sure she had a bruise. i remember them stepping in to check his heart rate after every push and resisting every time the urge to smack whoever it was that put the doppler to my belly. “do they have to do that?!” i asked. the midwife sat calmly at the foot of my bed, urging me to “push a little more.” i pushed a few times and didn’t feel much movement. finally, because i was terrified that his heart would suddenly drop and i would need an emergency c section, i had one good push that went on and intensified for a good forty seconds or more and his head came out. wow, is all i can say. what a raw, primal sensation that is the most intense physical sensation that i have ever had, to feel his head emerge from the birth canal. whoa.
a second later, my doula grabbed my hand and reached it down to touch his head and a few seconds later, his body was born, as blue as a beautiful blue flower petal, all curled up and wet and coated in wax. they reached up and placed him on my chest and it took him a few seconds to cry, then he started turning pink. greg cut the cord and a few minutes later, the placenta slipped out, as subdued as you like, quietly excusing itself, its work finished.
i did have one tear in my labia, which i attribute to pushing him out so fast due to fear over his heart beat. i should have taken my time, but that damn doppler lady….i’m told it will probably heal crooked. good thing i’m not a crotch model.
he was born at 12:37, about a half hour after we got to the hospital and an hour and a half after contractions started.
after months of giving myself frostbite, practicing breathing and relaxing while holding ice cubes behind my ears, practiced visualizations, relaxation techniques, after packing our bags full of tennis balls for massage, labor snacks, photo books, essential oils, carefully chosen musical selections, comfy clothing, after practicing what to say and do in different medical scenarios and how to speak with nurses and doctors and how to navigate the emergency language practiced at hospitals during labor, after hiring a doula to help us through the hours of labor we were anticipating, i gave birth with all of our bags still in the car, was unable to use any of my techniques, didn’t even have time to utilize the tub, goddamn it, but i did it. i fuckin’ did it. what i thought i could never do. what we wanted for our son, for ourselves. an empowering experience. what women have been experiencing through all of history, what every animal on earth who gives birth to live offspring goes through. unmedicated, natural child birth. fuckin’ a.