Saturday, September 29, 2012

This One Time When I Had a Baby...Part Two

This post is still about having a baby. I do not recommend this post to any person who
a.) is lousy with hormones
b.) has a lot riding on an orgasmic childbirth
c.) is content having obtained their life's knowledge of childbearing from viewings of Look Who's Talking or The Blue Lagoon
d.) believes in the ability of the woman's body to "shut that whole thing down"
and, as always,
e.) does not in any way want to read anything wherein I acknowledge having a cervix, or its surrounding area.

In typical sitcom fashion, Scott helped me to the emergency room to check in. I breathed heavily while trying to recite, let alone remember, my social security number for the intake person. I noticed through the corner of my eye that we were of great interest to the other patients in the waiting room. One of the men waiting actually asked Scott if this was his first kid as we tottered by. He sang the praises of parenthood and wished us luck. Scott seemed a bit too flustered and panicked to be appreciative.
We were finally ushered upstairs. When asked if I needed a wheel chair I actually accepted, though after it became apparent that I was going to be waiting for one for about as long as a match for a heart transplant, I asserted that I would brave the long haul up to the labor and delivery ward on foot.
When we arrived in the room it contained only a chair. It was explained to us that it wasn't set up yet due to being a newer room. The L&D nurses assured us that the rest of the furniture was en route that very moment from another part of the hospital and told me to change into the hospital gown on the chair.
At this point, I was looking for anything, anywhere, to provide me with the slightest bit of comfort and confidence. I had yet to find it.
I don't know what my ideal birthing room would have been right then- maybe a simulated lake with gin vapor steam beading up on the surfaces of lily pads while a virginal harpist with naturally blonde pubic hair strummed Greensleeves in the corner- but all I could remember thinking was, "Oh this is awful, just awful. This is going to be awful."
Don't get me wrong- we had toured the hospital a couple weeks earlier and found it calm and clean with nice soft lighting and hard wood floors.
Nothing had changed since that original tour - it was just where I was in my labor experience. Nothing seemed to be going as planned and it was still early. Despite having chosen and stayed with my healthcare provider since early in my pregnancy, having gone over labor techniques with a midwife in a private birthing class, having toured the very floor where I would be giving birth, and reading enough Ina May Gaskin that I considered my fertility my own personal assistant on an unpaid internship, I still felt totally unprepared and like I was in the middle of an emergency with a freakout level of, say, having accidentally sawed off a limb with a large piece of farming equipment.
I took the hospital gown into the bathroom and hastily took off for the last time what had become my pregnant-lady uniform, the double-knotted drawstring pants and brown cotton maternity tee shirt.
I remembered having perused "special" and "attractive" laboring gowns on Amazon a month earlier and now scoffed at the idea of being at all concerned with wearing something flattering to do what I was about to do. I had actually considered buying something of my own to give birth in until, I'm glad to admit, I realized what a stupid concept that was.
It wouldn't be too different from buying a special garment in which to pass a kidney stone, you know, so if you happened to catch yourself in a mirror (as you peered down between your legs) you'd feel good about yourself.
No. A starchy, standard issue, non-organic, open backed, hospital johnny (the same kind people die in) seemed just the ticket right then.
When I came out they had the room set up with all the typical birthing equipment. A bed, monitors, the baby station.
Because my midwife specialized in providing as natural a birth as is possible in a hospital, I was only subjected to a minimum of monitoring while in labor. They charted the baby's vitals a handful of times during contractions and I was not on an iv. Which meant no drugs. Which meant I could move about freely and go to the bathroom all by myself. Which meant no drugs. Did I mention I opted for no drugs?
Here's my whole thing about that.
Okay, I took out a bunch of paragraphs here that detail my schtick on why natural birth was right for me, which I may publish in a separate posting another time for those who care, but because I know you didn't come here for that, I'll sum it up: 
I'm less scared of pain than weird drugs and i.v.'s and not being in control. And no, I don't think I'm better than you if you had an epidural. And no, I don't regret my natural birth. And no, it's not for everyone.
And that is why chose to give birth the way I did.
So, where was I?
After obtaining the baby's vitals, it was the nurse's job to read me a waiver and have me sign it. I was not able to read the waiver myself because I was laying on my side and clinging for dear life to the bed rail the nurse had made the mistake of attempting to remove to better be able to place the monitors (yeah, she decided not to do that).
The waiver was very long and it concerned our valuables, those of my husband and I, and the hospital's lack of responsibility for them. Apparently, some people like to wear Tiffany's diamond encrusted tiaras while giving birth. Yeah, us, not so much. (I wear mine to scrub the pit stains out of Scott's shirts.)
Remember the casually aforementioned back labor? Yeah, so, that was pretty much hurting like a bitch, and I had a really hard time finding it in myself to be polite enough to let this poor nurse read through her waiver without interrupting her with my display of emotion.
So, after a minute or so I kindly asked her to stick her waiver up her filing cabinet. Actually, I believe what I said was, exasperatedly, "Can we do this later??" because I actually am very polite. Apparently that was all I had to say because that was the last I heard about the waiver or our non-existent valuables.
The rest of my labor is a blurry sequence of events. It does go fast, or it did for me, anyway.
Here are the things I remember:
I remember being in the bathtub (See? I told you it was a good birthing hospital) and being surprised that the sensation of being immersed in warm water was actually quite irritating to me. The midwife had to add cold water to the tub because I felt "trapped."
The midwife kept telling me to let my legs fall open like a frog. She's not the first OBG-type person who seems to be under the impression that I have some weird ability to "let my legs fall open" while my knees are bent. I realize what got me in that situation to begin with, but believe you me, those positions take effort and are usually not assumed for my benefit.
My husband continually offered me ice water until I got annoyed and the midwife warned him he might end up drenched in ice water.
At one point, I locked myself alone in the bathroom and when Scott knocked on the door and asked to come in I screamed "NO!!"
And then there was the time I accidentally kicked the corner of the metal trashcan, cutting my pinky toe, looked down at it and thought, "Normally, that would hurt, but right now, toe pain is not in my realm of feeling."
Then there was the moment I could hear a nurse asking Scott if he had eaten and saying it was a good time for him to get some food. Things were blurry at that point but I have the distinct memory of looking up from the hospital bed between contractions to see Scott sitting in a chair with a plastic tray of food eating hospital ice cream out of a paper cup.
I guess on some obvious level it seemed a bit unbalanced, that I would be delirious with pain in attire that purposely left my ass exposed while my husband watched and enjoyed the culinary reward that is ice cream. But then there was this other aspect, that he hadn't eaten all day and was having to watch his wife writhe around in pain and this was probably the worst ice cream he was ever going to have. In fact, this experience could actually ruin ice cream for him. (Don't worry- it didn't.)
But really, it was just awkward. Like, fake-wood-paneling, Dad's-mustache-in-the-seventies, awkward. I was creating life. He was having a frozen desert treat. A cervix's gotta open. Dude's gotta eat.
Around that time the pushing had begun. The midwife told me when I felt an unbearable pressure that it was time to start pushing. I considered telling her that the whole third trimester was a lot of unbearable pressure, and, come to think of it, all of K through 12, but I digress.
I wasn't sure whether I was really feeling the right kind of pressure yet or not, but I remember having a contraction and thinking, 'Works for me!' and telling her that my inner goddess was giving me the thumb's up, hoping my eagerness would help get the whole thing over with sooner.
We moved to a birthing stool, the midwife sitting in front of me and my husband sitting behind me. To this day, I know Jesus loves me because somehow, my husband didn't notice me inconspicuously poop on the floor. (Another seasoned midwife trick- rapid disposal of evidence).
And then back to the bed for more pushing.
At this point I had just about had it. This is what those in the birthing field call transitioning. It is literally when you are on the brink of squeezing out your baby. The contractions become insane and thus, so do you. Most women who deliver naturally have a breaking point and usually, this is it. They decide that they've changed their minds and do not, in fact, want to have a natural birth, and come to think of it, a birth at all.
When I began to transition I went into the bathroom after a contraction and threw up (another symptom of transition).
I was done. This whole baby thing just wasn't working for me.
I returned to the bed and told my midwife that something would need to be done, I'd given it my all, but that it was time to call in the big guns, i.e. drugs.
She calmly agreed, said she would get me something for pain and also for hydration and nausea since I had just thrown up. First, she would just have to check my dilation to see how close I was to delivering.
What do you think happened next? Go on, guess.
Turns out, I was dilated to eight centimeters. I was going to be having this baby naturally after all. For a moment this was devastating, but the thought of the birth being almost over was motivating. I literally was going to have to push my way through it. That's when the real pushes began.
Between me, my midwife, and a bottle of olive oil, we got that baby out pretty danged fast, and with no tearing, to boot. (If you don't know what tearing is, it is what it sounds like.)
My son was born at 3:01 pm after ten hours of labor at seven pounds and one ounce.

We all lived happily ever after. The End.
And... SCENE.

If you have the feeling there's more to this birth story, you're right.
If this were a Choose Your Own Adventure, I'd advise you to stop reading here.
But this is a real story.

The midwife laid him on my stomach and I looked down at my still unnamed Oscar, chalky and swollen, stretching out in his new found space, his weight on the outside of my body for the first time.
He craned his head in the direction of mine and simpered the most curious little smile, a cosmic look that effused the secrets of his gestation ending and life beginning.
I had just seen these secrets briefly, but had no way yet to speak of them.
But there we were, on the same side of a door that was whispered to me in the midst of my begetting. I retained the impression of how easily we go from one side to the other and how the details of that passage are so beyond our influence as to make our efforts to control it laughable.
I didn't know then why that threshold was visible to me. But it would be one of the first things my son and I would glimpse together.


  1. thanks for stoping by and leaving such nice words....
    where in maine are you?
    my sister is a knitter. in fact, she teaches it.
    i was thinking if you were close by and needed help, well she'd be your girl.

  2. My pleasure!
    We are in Portland.
    I love knitting, but I'm afraid I've shelved my projects while the wee one is still clinging to my ankles. In fact, the last thing I finished was his baby blanket.
    As soon as I get a little more free time I hope to join a knitting group.
    Maybe your sis can instruct me in the making of a Christmas stocking.
    Thanks for coming by!