I’ve been meaning to finish this.
On August 4, 2010 I was four days past my due date and not digging it. I seemed to go into labor and then stop, every day for about two years. Or maybe that was weeks. I was done in a way only a 40+ week pregnant woman can be “done.” I met with my midwife and explained that my daily visualization techniques and heart-to-heart talks with my uterus were oddly ineffective and she was going to have to do something. She suggested castor oil, told me it would only work if my body is fully ready (so I shouldn’t get excited), and gave me a milkshake recipe I can’t wholeheartedly recommend.
It took me about 37 seconds to get the ingredients, send the kids to my mom’s, and drink the milkshake (actually it was 6pm). By 9pm I was feeling contractions but tried to ignore them since they had faded out so many times before. By midnight they were still coming and I was having to walk around through them and breathe to manage the pain. I figured if I woke Mac up I’d jinx the whole deal, so I let him sleep until about 2am, when they were becoming pretty difficult to manage. He woke up and started filling the birthing tub and setting up various other things (heating receiving blankets, putting things out for the midwives, calling grandmothers, etc.). He was nervous and kept suggesting we call the midwives. I kept telling him “no” because I was still in denial that our baby was coming. My mom arrived around 4am. I got in the tub about 5am because the pain was really intense. About 3 minutes later I declared that the midwives could come, and they showed up about 5:45am. I labored in the tub and around the house, moaning and sighing through contractions, leaning on Mac, wondering in lucid moments why the hell I ever signed up for this again. At around 7:30am the contractions slowed way down (a sign I was moving to the pushing stage) and I started feeling the urge to push at the peak of each contraction.
This is when things really began to suck.
Now you must understand that with Ava and Rocket I pushed for about 15 minutes each. It was quick and easy (if such an ordeal could ever be “easy”). With this baby, though, I was pushing with all my might and nothing was happening. Just excruciating pain. Really, nothing was happening and I knew it. I kept trying but my attempts seemed ineffective and all the strength I could muster seemed wimpy in the face of what I was trying to do. I was genuinely terrified. This was not in the cards. I’m a super birthing machine. I really felt that I couldn’t do it and I shared this information with the midwife. She calmly informed me that I was the only one who could do it. I wanted to hit her in the face. The other midwife started mumbling something about breathing in light and love to my baby and I considered drowning her.
There are absolutely no words to describe the feeling of the two hours I spent trying to push that baby out. I just couldn’t do it. And yet I had to and I was trying so hard but it wasn’t enough but it had to be enough. But if the needed strength just isn’t there, what is one supposed to do? I can’t just make it materialize out of nowhere. The pain was so great I just wanted it to end but I could not make it end. I begged for relief. There was none.
Let’s take a little break so you can fully appreciate the humor in this little ordeal. You may have noticed that little word “home” in the title…yes, this was a planned home birth. I had my other two kids in a hospital, with midwives, without drugs. My son was a water birth (I’ll tell that story some other time). I’ve had no traumatic hospital experiences…so why would I choose such a thing? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but mine are simple: I like to give birth without pain medication and without intervention (if possible), and the easiest simplest way to do this is at home. But oh lord did I have some plans involving this birth. I had a vision. I’d been reading a lot of Ina May Gaskin (Spiritual Midwifery) and other hippie natural birth books – and Rocket’s birth was exactly like what they were talking about: calm, serene, painful but not excruciating, textbook progression – culminating in the quick birth of an 8 1/2 pound perfect, pink baby boy with an Apgar of 10. I figured that since I was at home, this birth would be even better, more intuitive, more beautiful and glorious. I saw myself cruising around with some angelic smile on my face, swaying softly to the music in my mind, the ancient rhythm of a thousand birthing women, my body whispering what to do and me like a graceful swan, dancing my baby out, as my older kids and husband watched peacefully, glancing at each other with little grins of happy, fascinated anticipation. It was all going to be very spiritual.
And it was, if growling and screaming the word “fuck” repeatedly and acting like a hyena on crack is spiritual.
Okay so anyway there I was, pushing and acting like a psycho with NO SUCCESS and I’m absolutely freaking out. Fits of yelling, fits of tears. Terror in my eyes. Veins popping out. I’m unhappy. My kids were absolutely horrified. Not my first priority. After two hours of this hell, I hit a wall. I realized that the only way out of this horrid situation was to do the one thing I was the most scared of. The one thing I couldn’t do. The midwife was right. I had to do it. So with the next contraction I got angry. I simply got insane. I roared and screamed and pushed with all the strength I had and all the strength I’ve never had and will never have. And I didn’t stop. I thought my body was tearing in half. But the midwife said she could see dark hair, then the forehead, ears, the head…and I became encouraged and kept working, really hard. A few moments later I felt the greatest relief of my life and I heard the midwives tell Mac “pick up your baby.” He had to find her in the cloudy water. A second later he lifted up the most beautiful little baby I’d ever seen. I was overcome with joy. My tears were of ecstasy. The cord was around her neck twice and she was blue, so they quickly rolled her over a couple times and we watched the miracle of her body flooding pink — from her chest out to her tiny fingers and toes. It was 9:28 in the morning .
Somebody asked me if it was a girl or boy — I looked and said with a smile “a girl, of course” (since I always new she was a girl, even without an ultrasound). I spent so many months trying to imagine her face, and I couldn’t see it, but the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew her perfectly. “Oh right, there you are.” I was in heaven. Elated.
Turns out the baby was in a position that makes a natural delivery extremely difficult – essentially the wrong part of her head was presenting. The midwives explained that most women with a baby in that position end up with a Cesarean delivery, and that doctors would have told me it was “impossible” to vaginally deliver a baby in that position. Useful information AFTER THE FACT, huh? Plus she was ten pounds. Whoa. The midwives seemed genuinely impressed and I must admit I felt like something of a bad-ass. I suppose the battle of it ultimately made it the most “spiritual” of all my births – realizing that my body was failing me, being forced to pull from deep inside my soul, deeper than I had ever gone, to find a power I never knew I had. Doesn’t get much more spiritual than that. (well, in my opinion).
So our baby girl was born and she was lovely and we all crawled into our bed and cuddled. And I had my perfect home birth. They examined and weighed her right in my room. We sang happy birthday to her, dressed her after a few hours, spent hours examining and kissing her perfect little self. In fact we’ve been doing just that ever since.
Sweet baby Georgia, welcome.