June 03, 2005

Birth Meme: Spring time baby

Lawmom has started a birth story meme. I don't think there are any rules to this meme so anyone who hasn't physically given birth to a child should feel free to participate with adoption stories, cat or dog stories, manuscript birthing stories, mountain climbing stories, caving stories, marathon running stories, or pretty much whatever the hell you want. I am sure everyone has at least one story that fits the birth metaphor in some way. I've had a baby for each season, so I am going to tell the story of my spring time baby.

Lilacs were blooming the night before he was born. My contractions started on a Wednesday afternoon, and by suppertime, I wasn't all that hungry. So we had a simple meal - pancakes - and then we walked around the neighborhood to see if that would speed up the contractions. Daughter was a toddler, and she walked between Spouse and me, swinging on our hands and giggling. I knew from my first birth that my body takes things slow ... so I knew I had lots of time as we strolled about the neighborhood.

As dusk arrived, the contractions picked up. We circled the neighborhood, the streets quiet and dark, lights coming on in kitchen windows, the heavy scent of the lilacs drifting toward us. The baby's head had dropped earlier in the week and I could feel that hard little head pressing against me as we walked. No doubt about it; this baby was ready to come out. When a contraction would begin, I would stop and lean against my husband, breathing slowly. Daughter thought this was funny.

"Yeah, this feels like the real thing," I told Spouse. We smiled at each other. How much easier things are the second time around. We both felt confident this time: we knew what we were doing.

Then I felt a little panic: did we have names picked out? I was positive about the boy's name, because it was leftover from the first baby, but what about the girl's name? Spouse and I are terrible at choosing kids' names and the deadline was looming. This baby was coming out soon.

So we walked, and talked about names, and then eventually went into the house to put Daughter to bed. I called my Mom and my sisters to give them updates. I knew I had just killed any chances of the women in my family getting any sleep - they would be waiting by the phone all night.

Spouse and I didn't get much sleep either. Daughter did not go to sleep nicely; she ended up in the bed with us. Spouse napped a bit. I would doze a little between contractions but they were coming every five or ten minutes and that did not give me a whole lot of time for napping. Mainly, I relaxed on the bed, snuggled against my husband, watching my daughter sleep. I wondered if she would be close to this new sibling. I imagined her playing with a little sister or brother.

By the time morning came, the contractions were still steady. I was sleepy but not uncomfortable. We piled into the car and drove the few miles to my mother's house. My mother came running out of the house: "Is this it? Are you ready to go the birth center?"

I shrugged. "Not yet. But some time today."

I have long slow labors - which I like because it is so easy - but this drives my mother and sisters crazy. By the time I actually give birth, they are exhausted. We spent a few hours at my Mom's, with her making breakfast for everyone. During contractions, I would get up and walk around the table. My Dad found this fascinating and kept asking me all kinds of questions.

Mid-morning, I checked in with the midwife. I decided to stop at her office for an internal exam just to see where things were at. My gut feeling was that nothing had really happened yet, but I was wrong. "Five centimeters and fully effaced," said the midwife. "I think it's time for you to head to the birth place. I'll follow as soon as I can."

Spouse and I went out to the car. How exciting! Time to have the baby. The car was warm from the sun, and Spouse had stopped for a newspaper. We both started reading the paper. I am very easily distracted by reading material. The heat coming through the windshield felt very soothing.

Suddenly, I elbowed Spouse. "Hey, what are we doing? We are sitting here reading the paper! We are supposed to be racing to the birth center. Midwife is going to get rid of her patients, race out to her car, and see us just hanging out here!"

He laughed, put down the paper, and we drove to the birth place. Regulations required that a woman be hooked up to monitors for at least 20 minutes and I wanted to get that over with. This was the most uncomfortable part of the labor. For twenty minutes, I had to lie in a bed with stupid straps on me. Lying in bed when your uterus is contracting is most uncomfortable. I prefer to be upright and walking. And having something strapped to your abdomen when you've got a baby in there - well, that is downright painful during contractions. But luckily, we got the twenty minute strip over with way before things got intense. We got that one stupid regulation over with. And then I was free to do anything I wanted.

For a few minutes, I tried out the comfy rocking chair. The birthing room was lovely, decorated like a bedroom at an upscale B&B, but it didn't seem right to be inside on a gorgeous day. I had brought a blue and white cotton nightgown that was quite fashionable, and the nurses assured me it looked just like a sundress. So Spouse and I went out the big double doors and took a walk around Snowstorm City. I suppose I should have brought sandals instead of fuzzy slippers but I am not that tuned into fashion even when I am not in labor. We enjoyed the lovely spring day as we ambled about the crooked sidewalks. We went into a little deli to get something to eat. The old Italian woman behind the counter assured me that minestrone soup was appropriate fare for a woman in labor.

By mid-afternoon, my lower back was beginning to feel sore, perhaps just from all the walking around with a huge pregnant belly. At the birth place, I settled into a bathtub of hot water in a dim-lit room. Spouse lounged on the floor next to me, and entertained me by singing corny songs to me for a couple of hours. The hot water felt great. I was completely relaxed and comfortable. My first labor had been wonderful, but also intense, challenging, and exhausting. This labor seemed so easy that I felt almost like a fraud. When the nurse came in to take my vitals, she said, "We can all hear you laughing in here! Are you sure you are in labor?"

By late afternoon, the midwife came in to see what was holding things up. She did a fast internal. "Okay, you are fully dilated. Any chance you want to get out of the tub and have that baby?"

"Are you sure?" I asked incredulously.

But I got out of the tub. I put my fashionable nightgown on so that Spouse could take a photo of me standing in front of the clock and smiling. (This photo was for friends who didn't believe me when I told them that I love labor and delivery.) Then I stripped off the nightgown so it wouldn't get dirty. Then I stopped to write in my journal and record the time and such.

"What are you doing?" asked one of the nurses, looking at me like I was crazy. "Homework?"

I was about to make a few phone calls when Spouse stopped me. "Shouldn't we get ready to have this baby?" I had given some thought to the birthing position ahead of time. I pulled the bean bag chair up on top of the bed. Spouse sat up behind the bean bag, and I leaned back into his arms, sort of in a crouching position. This felt right to me.

But still and all ... nothing was intense. I didn't even fully believe I was going to have a baby. I didn't even feel like pushing. We were all ready, everyone in position ... and nothing happened. We chatted for a minute or two. The midwife and nurse sat on the bed, waiting, expectant.

I felt with my hands to see what was going on. I half expected to feel the baby's head; I'd been carrying him so low. But instead I could feel something squishy.

"The bag of waters is right there," the midwife said. "Want me to poke it with my finger and see if it breaks? I've got fingernails."

"Go ahead."

A trickle of water ran down my leg. Clear fluid, a good sign. And then suddenly, I felt overwhelmed. All this adrenaline, this incredible urgency. This wave of intensity. I could not have stopped it if I had wanted. Every part of my being wanted to push that baby out. I gave into the feeling and let my body push. Oh, it felt good to give into that urgency. And I could feel the baby moving.

I reached down and felt the top of a slimy wet head. "Lots of dark hair!" the midwife reported. My husband whispered encouraging things into my ear.

I hardly heard them. I wanted to push again. I leaned against my husband. It hurt but I didn't care. I gripped his arms. I had to push. I could feel the baby moving, shifting, that impossibly hard head shoving its way out. I was burning. I was bursting.

The head came through. Oh, what a relief. And then the body slithered out, all red and wrinkled. A baby! A whole baby!

And that is always the most amazing part. I mean, I knew all along I was having a baby - I had even done it before - but then when the baby actually appeared, well, it was just unbelievable.

A baby! From inside my body. An alert, squirming baby. Eight pounds, five ounces. After months of carrying him around inside me, I got to hold him in my arms, his wet body cuddling up against my skin. And that moment, of course, was the very best part of the experience.


Rana said...

That is a wonderful birth story. It sounds exactly like what I'd hope I'd experience if I have a baby; the possibility is reassuring (I've heard so many horror stories, and I'm afraid of being the woman who is strapped to the table, starving, induced, and forced to give birth flat on her back).


Scrivener said...

Oh, thank you. I've only given a few bits and pieces. I might actually have to tell a whole story now. I always feel a little crazy when I tell people how much I love childbirth. It is nice to know I'm not the only one.

lawmom said...

That last comment was me, not my fabulous husband, Scrivener.

jo(e) said...

Rana: To have a good experience, you just have to choose your practitioner carefully.

Lawmom: I thought that was kind of strange that David would start talking about how he had given birth. I'm relieved that it was really you. I think there are lots of women out there who have had great childbirth experiences --- I know many of them.

What I really hate is the way childbirth is often portrayed on television as this horrible, painful process. So many people buy into that ....

reverendmother said...

My doula gave me great advice, which I give (unsolicited) to others--don't watch those birth reality shows or births on TV.

here's one version of my story

liz said...

How beautiful.

Yankee T said...

lovely and exciting.

BrightStar said...

I think it's important to share stories like this. I love how it doesn't appear that you freaked out at all. I think if I could freak out less in general, life would be better and I would enjoy things -- even things that most people appear to think are painful, like childbirth.

Friday Mom said...

I love how you show the natural beauty of childbirth. Beautiful story!

RussianViolets said...

Wow, this makes it sound not so bad. What gorgeous writing!

jo(e) said...

Brightstar: Labor and delivery isn't anything to freak about. It's a natural process that has been going on for as long as our species has existed.

The only tough thing is how much effort it takes to prevent medical interference. In this country, "natural childbirth" often means "without drugs." But there is nothing natural about bright lights or a hospital setting or a woman lying on her back on a delivery table or a doctor cutting a woman with a pair of scissors or strapping monitors to a woman in labor or any of those other horrible things that are often part of a hospital birth.

Avoid all the medical interference, and childbirth is a wonderful experience.

bridgett said...

I'm with you all the way on avoiding the medicalization of the experience. I too had a long, slow, wonderfully relaxed labor -- napped, ate, rocked, had a bath -- with a nurse-midwife in attendance. No machines that went ping, no strangers lurching into the room at inconvenient times. Just a quiet happy birth in a room lit like a Victorian reading room.

Does anyone else remember the "zing" as the baby's head cleared? I know that there's a medical explanation for this zap, but I've forgotten it. I persist in the less empirically grounded notion that what you're feeling is the ensoulment of your child...

Jeannette said...

I followed links to your birth story the night before I went into labor with my first last week (little did I know at the time). How different it is reading it from this side of things...

kate5kiwis said...

i know this page is w-a-a-a-a-y in the archives, jo(e) but i found it when searching your blog for the *love your belly* post, one of my all-time-faves.
anyway, just to say that i always blondely cry out amidst tears of intense joy and pain, "It's a baby!! It's a baby!!!!" after delivery.
but no slow labours for me: i had my last bubba at home in 55 mins from first twinge to appearance. fast and scary. but exhilarating.

angelfeet said...

It's all your fault. You pointed me here from today's post and it's made me cry. I love birth stories, and you tell stories so beautifully.