This is one of the first I wrote. I know I only have so much time to move around and gather what I need, so before the next contraction comes, I grab as much as I can — waterproof pads, scissors and shoelaces to cut the cord, lots of clean towels and blankets and the bathroom scales to weigh the baby. After the next wave of contractions pass, I try to make a plan. I lower the chair and pull it away from the desk, so I can use it to sit on, to lean against, to squat against… I move the foot stool out into the space by the cupboard as a makeshift birth stool, I put an old cushion on the floor by the window to catch any mess if I want to push holding onto the window sill and I cover my bed in waterproof pads.
After 8 hours of labouring on my bed, drifting in and out of sleep, I can feel the head pressing down on my cervix, making me want to push. I resist the urge though, panting quickly through it instead. Still semi laying on the bed, I open my legs wide and bear down right into my bum.
I feel the head move down ever so slightly. With the contraction over, I decide to move so that gravity can help bring the head down. I get off my bed and stand by my chair.
With my arms resting on the back of it, I rest my head on my arms and let part my legs. I give another big push down, my knees naturally bending with each one. I feel the head slip from the confines of my cervix and settle in the birth canal, inching down with each push and slipping back up as I stop pushing. My thoughts are interrupted by another contraction though, and I find myself bearing down again, my eyes screwed shut, my fingers tightly gripping onto the back of the chair. My legs are shaking with the effort, and as I finish that push, I let out a loud moan.
I try to catch my breath, but the rest is short-lived, and I soon find myself straining with all my might again. After another 5 minutes of pushing, I feel like I need to change positions. I stand with my back toward it, then gripping it with my hands, I lower myself into a sitting squat, allowing my hands to take most of my weight.
I can feel my pelvis open up more in this position, and with the next contraction, I push right down into my bum. I decide to go back to my standing squat, but this time using the foot stool. I stand up and face it, rest my knees against each of the wooden legs, naturally forming a squatting positon, then I lean forward and hold onto the foot stool with my hands to support myself. I work through the next few contractions, bearing down into my bum with each one.
In this position, I fall into a natural rhythm of a deep breath in, a really big strain and a long moan at the end of the push. This goes on for the next 10 minutes, but by now, every muscle in my body is aching. I stand up and put one foot up on the foot stool, and gently insert 2 fingers inside me. I can feel the head with the tips of my fingers, it slowly pressing down on them as my body involuntarily pushes.
I remove my fingers and move over to the window. With both the window sill and the window frame to hold onto, I can really begin to let rip.
By now, I sound like a wild animal; grunting loudly as I push, roaring at the end of each one. I continue to bear down harder and harder, my entire body trembling with the effort. On the 10th push, a huge bulge appears, the head slowly stretching my vagina and parting my lips.
The burning, oh, the burning. My throbbing red lips slowly come back together as the head retreats back inside, but the bulge is still there. It really is the size of a small bowling ball, my hand not able to fully cup it.
When it does, I pull my legs back with my hands, put my chin to my chest and push hard. Harder than ever before. My lips quickly part again as an inch of the head becomes visible. I push 3 times with that same contraction, the head gradually moving down with each one. A few minutes later, the contractions come back stronger than ever. I just want this over with, so I block out the pain and just push and strain as much as I possibly can.
I feel myself opening up more and more, the burning sensation now turning to fire. I have no idea how this head is going to come out, I just know it has to. The contractions come back. The head slowly inches down, a millimetre at a time. The pain is unimaginable; the burning now an intense firey, searing pain.
Unable to contain the screams, I throw my head back and let out a long, loud roar as the head finally crowns. I push like this for another 5 minutes, until eventually I let out a loud scream as the head stretches me to my limits and comes out as far as the forehead. I look down at the head between my legs. I screw my eyes shut and give a massive push, screaming as the shoulders force my vagina open even more. I bear down again, even harder than before and the shoulders finally begin to move.
I push and strain and pant and scream, trembling with the effort, until the shoulders are finally free. Another big strain gets the chest out, and with one last push and an almighty scream from me, the body and legs finally slip out of me and my baby boy is suddenly between my legs. I have no idea how I managed to push it out of me! All in all, I was pushing for 3 hours.
It was the first day in a lifetime of six in the mornings, and I made the three-hour leap all in one go. By this point, it was 10 days past my due date, and I had a very specific and recurring fantasy of being moved around town in a hammock flown by a helicopter.
I wanted to be airlifted between boroughs. I laughed, standing on the curb somewhere. Actually yes, come to think of it: Like a whale. My mom was in town already, at an Airbnb rental a block away. Dustin was done with work. Add to that: novel writing, working out, makeup, clothing, getting up early. As I got closer and closer to childbirth I still held out hope for a few of them. I went to Sephora; I opened Google Docs; downloaded the Couch to 5k app for the tenth time; waddled around the track at my local park, my baby bump a-bouncing.
Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Anyway, it was 6 a. Then ow. It was like the crest of a wave of a period cramp; the worst moment, if you have forgotten to take Tylenol and then are cursing yourself that you forgot to take Tylenol. I lay there with my mind racing for awhile, then got up and ate Frosted Mini Wheats the way I had done for much of my pregnancy. Dustin was sleeping. I had another one. I was kind of smiling at them at this point. Whoa, no way. Could it be?
I got in the shower, jittery with this new development. In all of my natural childbirth classes everyone was raving about the magic of hot showers. I suspected, or feared, that their analgesic powers were not as good as advertised. I got back into bed and lay there naked and huge, staring at Dustin sleeping, waiting for him to wake up.
Ow, ow, ow I whispered into my arm. I grimaced; I cringed. So far the pain was about as bad as a stubbed toe. I was kind of proud of it, too, of my body.
It had finally kicked itself into gear. The appointments are for overdue women. You sit in a room full of hospital-style armchairs comfy but upholstered in cornflower blue, and with the kind of material you could wipe down with a washcloth and you pull up your shirt to reveal your belly, while the nurse lubes you up and straps monitors to you and you sit with the other women whose bodies have not kicked into gear, and a chorus of fetal heart tones sing out in the room like horses galloping.
The first time I sat there I cried with some kind of joy at this. Today though, I was done with all of it. I must have waited for the next ow-ow-ow. He got excited, I tried not to. Then ow-ow-ow. My mom came over and our plan was to grab breakfast at a coffee shop where I would stay and do work.
She rang our bell and came and sat with me in the living room. I wondered if I could pretend to do work and then go into labor secretly, on my own. She got excited, I told her not to. She ignored me. I covered my face in my hands. I flashed back to me walking in on her in the bathroom in and asking her for a maxi pad.
She had tried to give me a tampon. I shook my head and ran out. We all went for a walk to get things moving. I should be walking, was all that I could think. I did not want to fail at birth. We made it to a park that was just filling up with small children and their mothers who eyed me suspiciously; I was soon to be one of them. I kneaded the flesh of his arms, pulled on his belt loops, yanked at all of his pockets, grabbed him by the hips, sipped iced coffee, trudged forward in the sun.
I laughed at myself, shaking my head between contractions. It was, it seemed, really happening. The pain was getting much worse. It was now a much more painful, sustained toe stubbing. Like your body being twisted and wrung out from the inside. But temporary! You just had to ride it out. It was almost fun at this point—a personal challenge. I did my breathing, dutifully, skillfully, and I moved around rhythmically, alternating between belly dancer and mentally disturbed person slamming her head against the bus seat in front of her.
My contractions moved to seven minutes apart, and we walked home. Going through labor surrounded by my closest loved ones, who were not themselves going through labor was, well, it was embarrassing, but not in a way I really felt. There was the me of polite company who felt ashamed, angry and slighted by the whole affair. Then there was the bodily me, who was very busy having her organs tightened with a belt made of barbed wire.
I would float out above my body and smile in wonder and awe, and then I would be yanked back in, like a gust of wind through a subway tunnel. Knowing it was supposed to be happening was the only thing that kept me from screaming, from calling an ambulance, from being sure I would die. Also the temporary-ness. It was like doing battle, or having battle be done unto you, every seven minutes.
We moved from room to room, I ate piece after piece of watermelon. We never listened to any music. Read our phones? Talked to each other? I wondered. We finished packing the bag. I ate a yogurt popsicle, buried my face in pillows, and leaned over tables and countertops. I thought about how it was almost pornographic: my ass in the air, me moaning. Pornography of one. I carried my big purple yoga ball around the house and was rolling all over it.
I wore my blue and white cotton striped maternity dress, crew socks, and purple Crocs. I labored in a dress?
I labored in a dress. We went for more walks and I was fine with having contractions around the neighborhood as long as no one from my building saw me. I tried to time our trips out the hallway with my contractions. I stood frozen in the doorway, and crawled back to my purple ball. Then five. Then three. This happened for a while, and we were gathering our stuff, readying ourselves. It was was now 6 p.
Dustin called the on-call OB and then hung up to call a car. I stood up from being bent over the butcher block and looked at my phone, bereft. Ten minutes. Then 7. Then They stalled out. I panicked. We walked. Twelve minutes. Twenty minutes! Soon it was late. I thought about friends whose labors were six hours, or eight hours.
On our way out, the nurse tapped me on the back and, laughed, telling me to have a glass of wine and caviar. I, defeated many times over, told her that yes we were going to be admitted, but I wanted to get lunch first. It was considerably higher stakes than most days. I wanted to not exist, but this was not an option.
Men in suits were out on their lunch break. We paced by a deli, which seemed like the only option. Everything seemed awful. I asked for a plain bagel with cream cheese. I urged Dustin to eat, too. He ordered some kind of sandwich, but never ate it. While he paid I walked outside and stood on the corner of 58th Street and Amsterdam, and had a contraction. I leaned against the brick wall and then leaned over onto my knees.
We crossed the street and walked up some stairs and a security guard told me that once we went through the doors I could get a wheelchair. I took a bite of the bagel, then keeled over. I took a bite of the bagel with my hands on my hips and asked my mom to come with me into the bathroom. There was a lot of blood last time and I suspect there will be again. She looked and said it was normal, and I felt as if I were 12 years old.
I wanted to be somewhere and to stay there. I wanted to be surrounded by medical equipment. The woman at the desk pointed back at triage.
I hung my head and we went back in there. Eventually we get checked into a delivery room. She asked me the same dozen questions they asked me in triage. Only with myself, I thought.
Kathleen was proud, it seemed, of my uncomplicated pregnancy. Or I was the proud one, ticking things off: no, no, no. Either way there was pride in the room. There was a feeling that I was a good one. I bent over the bed, buried my face in it, and breathed deeply through a contraction. Kathleen loved it. She said she was going to administer my IV. I asked her if I can get a hep-lock, which is like an IV but instead of bags and machines there is just a little tube stuck in a hole in my hand, taped onto me, ready for medication.
She was taken aback. I was taken aback that she was taken aback. Kathleen said, OK, but if did want one, I would need to take in an entire bag of saline fluids, which would take about 45 minutes.
This scared me. I would not foget how to assert my right to a natural, unmedicated childbirth. I said okay. He said okay. Fuck everything, I thought. Bring on the cascading interventions. And they came. Oh fuck. Did you take some special classes or something? I loved it. Where did she think I would be? Now I knew: curled in a ball on the floor, beside the bed, staring at the wall.
Stubbornness, yes. Over-achieverishness, too, sure. But mostly: fear. Fear of someone sticking a thing into my spine. I wanted to pass out at the thought of it, when I had the capacity for thought. People talk about riding the waves of contractions, submitting to all of it. I was a dehydrated corpse out in the middle of the ocean, bloated with saltwater. Hook me up to a buoy, man. Helicopter me out. Fuck this shit. As if they knew, the three-person team of anesthesiologists talked quickly, all of them seeming a little drunk on power and slightly manic.
The energy in the room immediately shifted. After they came in, it felt like my body was a thing to be beaten, a war to be won. In that moment, it felt right. Hence the shower caps. I was given one, too, in all my pain. No one made sure I tucked my hair in perfectly, which I thought about a lot as they started in on me.
Would a hair fall into my spinal tube? They talked quickly, all of them drunk on power, seeming slightly manic. I felt like I was being inducted into something and I was ; like I was brave for choosing this; like here we go. I thought there would be guilt, but there was none. It occurs to me that I could be writing this only so that you understand the state that I was in and you know the circumstances under which I got the epidural.
The nurse has you squeeze a pillow to your very pregnant belly, and hunch your back so that your upper body is a C. They have your birth partner sit on a little chair in front of you, at eye level.
You focus on him. Never have I hunched and focused so hard. I could have hunched that baby right out. They paint that sterilizing iodine all over you and feel your spine and I worried that I was too fat for them to feel my vertebrae and fought the urge to ask them if they were absolutely sure they had placed the target in the right place. They used a permanent marker to mark where to get me—I saw this a few days later, when I was up and walking. There was also a bruise.
A bruise on your spine! Can you feel the twinge in your spine? Are you about to pass out? Yeah, me too. So they stick a big needle into your back and you jump and are sure you have just paralyzed yourself.
The needle is to numb your skin and then a bigger hollow needle goes in with a tiny tube that gets threaded into your spine. Or I did. You feel like like you can kind of telugu naidu thali images your cervix—not pain-pain but feeling enough to make you want to pass out. It felt like someone was stapling my back, but deep inside me.
I felt as if I were in some kind of war I was. I felt like this was my moment, my big test, and I was rising to the occasion. I would save the world. I was doing the most banal thing in the world. I was giving fucking birth. You might feel a shock go through your legs, almost like you put your finger in the electric socket. Then my legs, hanging off the side of the hospital bed, shot up in the air on either side of Dustin. And yes, an electric shock shot through me. It was horrible.
I screamed, of course. Then laughed nervously. Snaked into my spine! Taped onto my back. I was supposed to just lie down on top of it, to not even think about it. This was really hard at first, as anything spine-related, in my book, should be. A catheter? My legs, by this point, were just big meat sticks attached to my body. It is very hard to have this bodily experience without your subconscious screaming out that something is terribly wrong. I dragged my huge, lumpen legs across the crinkly paper of the hospital bed, and they fell into place.
I feared the tube in my spine would be yanked around, would be boring a hole in my spinal tube and leaking fluid into the sack of flesh I was being rendered into. I looked at the monitor. Disembodiment complete, I asked for my iPhone.
I asked my mom to take a picture of my new bag of urine which was hanging off the venus ketu conjunction in female chart of my hospital bed. My new home. She obliged, standing up, newly alive and cheerful. She took a photo of my monitor, my wild contractions. I was laughing, stuck in a hospital bed. I could have stayed like that forever. I itched like crazy, a side effect. Did I want Sudafed?
Sure, fuck it. I got Sudafed in my IV. I also, it was found, had a fever, which is a problem because of the baby. The nurse asked me if I had ever had a suppository, like I was going to protest at this point. I was already on my side; she yanked up my gown and went to town. I was laughing. She asked if it hurt. I told her I felt nothing. We laughed. Modern medicine! She gave me more Tylenol in my IV. Then antibiotics.
And then soon my OB came in to break my water. The hook! I spread my legs for someone for what felt like the millionth time that day, in the way they preferred—bottoms of your feet touching each other, knees flopped open, legs in a diamond shape. Like sitting in a bowl of chicken soup. It was beyond pee. And it kept happening, too, for hours. It did make me feel plentiful. I contain multitudes. Of amniotic fluid.
And then contractions really started going, up off the charts. Until I did. And here was the soul-crushing pain again! And boy was I crushed by it, gripping the bars of my hospital bed as if I could pull myself away from it. I had gone through the personal nightmare of getting the epidural, I had mentally exited the battle of contractions, and yet here they were, chasing me down. I screamed in the hospital bed, thinking of the other patrons, newly afraid when they heard what came out of me.
I writhed as much as my numb meat body would writhe. The cool kid anesthesiologists came back—an Asian woman I wanted to be friends with she must have been the student body president in a former life came in clapping her hands and declaring that they would get me the pain coverage I DESERVE!
I perked up. Finally someone was concerned with justice. I nodded yes and yes and yes. It was a feminist act, the pursuit of my pain coverage. And they did. They topped me off. And again. I was afloat on a pool of medication, nerve block and lidocaine and Tylenol and Sudafed and saline and god knows what else. Numb except for about 5 square inches, where some demon male, surely was hitting me from the inside with a hammer.
I wanted to die, and was yelling that fact repeatedly, feeling like no one was listening. No one seemed to understand.
Did he know what this was? This was not normal, not by any definition of it. This should not be normal. Soon my heart rate was in the s, which was setting off an alarm on my monitor, and sending people in running who were all very concerned about my heart when they should have been concerned with my pain.
I was crying again. I interrupted her multiple times to scream, but she just kept talking over me, not missing a beat. She was used to the likes of me, inured to it. I shrunk back into myself. I was being pummeled. I writhed in bed and felt like a madwoman, climbing the walls, cursing Eve for eating that damn apple.
I was joking, but the joke was that I said it out loud. I had never asked for something more sincerely. I peered out at her from behind my pain, through a crack in the bedrails. The alarm on my heart rate monitor was sounding off better than I could.
That was our only option. Wanting to try to go without the epidural was one thing, getting it and having it fail was quite another. It was unjust. It was traumatic. My stupid body. I thought. My awful gender. The limitations of medicine.
Of sex. Of humanity. Fuck it all. And I meant that. I still mean it. Of course outwardly I just nodded, and scrunched up my entire being, and felt a little glimmer of hope. Then fear. Then hope. Then pain pain pain. My family still sat beside me, no longer much comfort. I felt very alone, inescapably tethered to my body. They watched me drift out to sea, safe on the shoreline. He said, later, that he was sick and had a fever, but when they started worrying about mine, he decided not to tell anyone, not even me, for fear that they would kick him out.
I did not want to experience another epidural, but in the game show of this childbirth, I felt like, well, bring it on. The left side of my body was heavy and barely there. All of the extra epidural was definitely settling in there. This did not feel very scientific. And it did not work. Soon another doctor came in with a shower cap and tried to set me at ease. An old pro, I was pulled into a seated position and hunched over my hospital pillow, staring at Dustin again.
The epidural felt viscerally horrific again, torture, but a few minutes in I felt better. My OB came back in so she could check me properly. Oh yes, the baby.
He was in there through all of this. The thought of that now seems bizarre. It felt so much about me, my body, my pain. He was still so abstract. Certainly not alive. He was still a corporeal reality. He would not disappear into me, as it seemed he might.
It was not all a dream. He could not be taken from me. Despite the truth of this, he remained unfathomable, his existence a mere idea, a source of anxiety. The potential for heartbreak. Soon, Dr. R stood up from her perch beside my, at this point ironically-named, birth canal and folded her hands together in front of her clipboard. Did she have a clipboard? Everyone seemed to. Everyone seemed to have the answers to the problem of me written on their clipboards, just out of my reach.
My child was bobbing within me, even after all of this. He did not want to to make the trip. Could I blame him? It felt preordained, all of this. Was this the thing I was worrying about all pregnancy long, some sort of psychic? I was a water sign, after all. Swimming in it. As she said this, I felt it again, the pain sneaking up, and it scared me. Epidurals cover pain, not pressure. I still have my doubts.
But there it is. His head was possibly—just a conjecture, of course—slamming into the right side of my uterus and tugging at my tendons, yanking the entire side of my body up and down with the contractions. There was nothing, really, they could do. He was stuck. Or he might be. There was no way to know. No way to know? What is science even for? This was when everyone started looking at the clock, started tapping their watches. It was just like all the natural birth advocates warned it would be, and what they trained us to fight against.
Except now that I was in it I felt like tapping my watch, too. My normally fast-talking OB started crossing her arms and dragging out her syllables. I was sad not at the thought of whatever was facing me, but that my body was not playing the game correctly. My body had finally gone into labor on its own, 36 hours earlier. I was still in awe of it. Things were kicked into gear but not high enough gear.
Or high enough gear, but not effective enough gear? Or I could get, you know, the thing. The thing we are supposed to avoid at all costs. The failure. The intervention to end all interventions: the c-section. It was totally up to me. At this point, I desperately wanted someone to strap me down and put me out of my misery, but I am also a stubborn bitch who did not want to fail at birth. I did not want to fail to give birth.
My guess is he is stuck but there is no way to know. But yes, you could still end up with a c-section. You can still try. The Pitocin could organize them. The internal monitors! The thought of staying awake 12 more hours and then actively pushing was unfathomable. I looked at Dustin. He was at a loss, too. Stop reminding me. It was my goddamn body, I had to endure the physical, at the very least someone else should have to do the mental arithmetic.
I wanted the c-section so badly. I wanted it the way I wanted someone to stick a finger in my butt during sex, but would never ask for. I was thinking like a woman. I wanted to know what they would think of me either way. Would I make a decision and would everyone roll their eyes at me internally?
My doctor would shrug behind her clipboard, clearly growing impatient. I stared at her and said nothing. And yet. And yet the clock was ticking anyway. It was an emergency of capitalism, of everyone being sick of my shit. Lucky for them I was sick of my shit, too. I wanted the c-section because I was tired. I did not give a shit about any recovery. I writhed and flailed, staring at the ceiling and trying to concentrate, to make a decision.
I had a diaper full of ice on my head, to combat my fever, and it kept slipping off. I mean, I had bled, I had a tube up my urethra and a bag full of urine hanging off of me, someone had stuck a pill up my butt, my legs were numb, I was screaming and screaming and begging to be killed.
But the diaper, man. Bleeding out, or something similarly horrible and as of yet unimaginable. What if wtnh contact went to cut me open and they cut the baby? This happens. Or has happened, which for the purposes of my monkey mind are one and the same. It would be my responsibility.
A use case discussed in birth classes everywhere. Ina May Gaskin would write anecdotes about me in the updated editions of all of her books. But then part of me shifted. Some, do what you fucking need and fuck everyone else, fuck what anyone thinks, part of me woke up and I looked around the room, convicted. It happened about that quickly, too.
My doctor nodded. I did not detect any judgment. The smoke had been cleared and we were going to finally do the thing we came here to do. R told me she would go write my name on the whiteboard, which loomed large in my imagination thanks to television sitcoms and she must have known it. Was I walking the plank? I was always walking the plank. What felt like 30 seconds later, a team of people scurried into the room.
They must have detached wires and tubes from me. I think they placed the bag of pee between my legs. It was all so fast, this non-emergency. No one gave my family any instructions, but they stood up as I got wheeled out and I imagine, rushed to grab their things.
They left my purple clogs in the corner somewhere, unwittingly, and ran out. My mom rushed up to me in the bed, put her head over mine and said she was so proud of me. She was crying but I think they might have been happy tears. They wheeled me along, through double doors, just like you imagine.
I Almost Gave Birth into My Toilet
Everyone was happy, though, and I got happy, too. I was no longer oppressed. I was liberating myself from the tyranny of the body. It really did feel like that. It still sort of does. Man triumphing over man. Err, man triumphing over woman? We passed another set of doors and someone handed me a tiny paper cup, the size of a shot. They warned me it would be truly horrible, but it was meant to fight off heartburn. Only as I write this am I hit with how ridiculous this was, worrying about heartburn before they slice me open.
It was p. I had gone into labor at 6 a. I was a fucking warrior. And at the time it just felt thoughtful, like someone was caring for once about my comfort. And then, there I was, in the room. Cold, bright lights, antiseptic, people scurrying around and chatting with each other. It was like being present at my own death, except once in a while someone would ask me a question and I would call out to everyone, trying to be funny. Does she think of me as cheerful? Was I less myself before, stripped of politeness?
That seemed sad. They told me that they were going to move me from my wheely bed to the table. I was a rock from fatten me up belly button down. I helped this shuffle my half-corpse to the center. It was a disturbingly narrow operating table. People had to be able to reach over me and into my body cavity, so I guess it made sense. Were they putting the scrubs on him somewhere, like they do in the movies?
They wanted everything all set up and covered up and hidden before he came in. Must be nice, I thought. Why spare him? Certainly not us. Everyone laughed. I decided I would try to make jokes while splayed out naked, disembodied. A woman had an electric razor out and was shaving my pubic hair. I played out jokes in my head, some version of expressing that I should tip her. I decided against it, I stared at the ceiling.
I felt in awe of the whole thing. Had I slipped onto the set of the scary scene in E. It was horrific, but wonderful, too. I felt at peace in a way, like things were being taken care of, finally. This I could endure. There was a new anesthesiologist, who introduced his assistant to me. She was southern, pretty, youngish, and on her first day back from maternity leave.
Her baby was four months old, a girl. She missed her, but it was nice to be back. She ended up with a c-section, too, she told me.
I was trying to keep it together for her. You feel pressure. How is this possible, pressure and not pain? I could feel them tapping my pregnant belly. I told my new mother that I felt strange lying on my back. He could be dead inside of me and no one would know. I imagined coming all this way only to have the baby die because I was lying flat on my back on the operating table. Before Dustin could come in, they hung up a sheet blocking my view of my naked body and my bulging belly.
The drugs made me shake. I was cheerful and scared and so, so excited all at once. It felt like I had run a marathon and was getting a baby at the end, right when I was ready to eat a big meal and take a nap. My teeth chattered. My arms flopped around on the crucifix table. I asked if this was normal. It was totally normal. They said it was partially hormonal and partially the medication.
It was very worrisome, and embarrassing, too. I kept apologizing. No honey, no. This just happens. I tried to treat my body like a science experiment, to float above it and simply observe. Everything was amazing. On some level I loved being there, witnessing this horrific act. I liked those odds. I am big as a house.
I have gained 45 pounds during pregnancy; even on a 5'10" frame, the size of my butt astonishes my husband. I can barely roll over in bed and my ankles are the size of tree trunks. The baby is eight days late. At noon I take a dose of castor oil, one of the midwifery's most disgusting solutions to the problem of reluctant labor.
I have an appointment to be induced the next day but I am ready to try any shamanistic suggestion that will make labor start on its own, including Mexican food, a Shiatsu foot massage, and running up and down the stairs thanks, Mom!
After the castor oil, I dash to the toilet and poop out everything I've eaten for the last two years. But still no labor. So I wait and continue to nest.
I make sure I have two sets of sheets that have been baked in a paper bag in the oven to sterilize them. I have swabs and plastic sheeting and an empty birthing tub in the middle of the living room.
I stopped working the week before. There's nothing to do but wait. Hmm, what was that? Just a wee little squeeze in my middle. Five minutes pass. Hey, there's another one. An hour later Jack comes home from a long bike ride the last he would have for months and finds me waving my hips like a hula girl.
The contractions are five minutes apart! I'm dancing through them! I prance around putting a heavy plastic drop cloth and old sheets over our bed. Hour Two: After that first hour of fun I finally have what is technically known as a Real Contraction. I have to stop talking to concentrate on getting through it. Alice, the midwife on call that day, has appeared in my living room with her little doctor's bag. She recommends I eat something now because I'm going to need my strength.
I can't. She says a shower might be soothing so I go off to the bathroom, strip down, and just stand there under the hot water, mooing like a cow in a pink-tiled barn. Normally a contraction lasts one minute so I get breaks in between, though there are about a dozen sprinkled in there that would have had me begging Eli Lilly himself for drugs if there were any to be had.
But I am alone and glad of it. Jack is reading a magazine in the living room and I am lying on my side in bed, imagining my cervix dilating as safely and swiftly as possible. My Water Breaks Hour Five: My water breaks in a big, nasty gush all over the bathrobe Jack put on me while I was going through a phase of sweats and chills. I realize now that it's dark outside. It takes an enormous effort for me to stand up to get out of the mess but once I make it to the toilet I find that sitting upright is THE.
Letting Gravity Help All that time I was lying down, gravity was just politely waiting to help. Now that I'm in position it's gearing up to bring this baby down. I'm six centimeters dilated and Myrrh, the midwife-in-training who came to check on me, gives Jack the okay to start filling the birthing tub. I hadn't really intended to have my baby underwater, but I knew that the chances of tearing were almost nil after you'd been soaking your lady parts in warm water for a couple of hours.
Jack runs a hose from our kitchen sink to the tub in the living room. Our hot water heater quickly empties and Jack happily begins boiling water in big pots on the stove, just like in the movies. During my sixth hour of laborsomething inside me changes gear.
I'm still squatting on the toilet and she's kneeling in front of me.