Monday, June 08, 2009
My Son's Birth Story - 10 years later
My oldest son turned 10 this past weekend. I can't believe I gave birth one decade ago! I thought this was a wonderful moment to share with you his birth story. I'm so used to listening to other people's birth stories and rarely seem to share mine. So let me tell you about Jacob's birth - 10 years ago. The day I became a mother.
Jacob's Birth Story
“Tim…I’m wet,” I said as I sat up in bed at one in the morning on June 6, 1999...about an hour after we went to bed.
“What?” he said sleepily.
“ I think my water broke.”
We spent about ten minutes discussing if my water broke, looking at a few pregnancy books for reference and then I got up to go to the bathroom and about two gallons of water started gushing out of my vagina. Yep, my water definitely broke. Tim called the midwives as I walked to the toilet in case there was more coming.
“Is there any discharge?” Mary, who had just returned from a twelve-hour birth, asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Just a little and it’s brown.”
“Okay, no problem,” she said. “Do you think you need us?”
Sitting on the toilet I thought: don’t be a wimp, Karen. You know you’re not going to have this baby in a hour. Let the midwives sleep. But then I flashed to the Japanese women in our childbirth class who two weeks earlier didn’t ask the midwives to come right away and ended up having the baby in her shower delivered by her West African husband.
“We can be there just sleeping on your couch if you feel better having us close,” Mary said, her words unlocking what I wanted to say.
“Yes, I want you to come.”
By four in the morning Mary and Ida showed up, told us to get some sleep, and then they we all fell asleep, Mary and Ida on our living room couches. I must say I was a little disappointed. I had hoped when they arrived that they’d check my dilation giving me an indication of where I was in labor. I wasn’t having any contractions, but still I thought I must be dilating.
“We don’t want to check a woman much when her water has broke because it could invite infection,” Ida said in such a sweet voice I that I tried not to show my disappointment.
By ten in the morning I began to get a tightening sensation in my body that felt like a contraction and they came every five minutes, which Mary said was encouraging. Tim had made a loaf of bread and Mary, Ida and now Stacey and their apprentice Jennifer joined us on our outside deck eating hot buttered bread, the temperature outside already a balmy eighty-five degrees.
“I wonder when it will be clear I’m progressing,” I said to them all.
“Oh, you’ll know!” Mary shouted. “You won’t be here talking eating bread with us – that’s for sure!”
We all laughed.
“Relax, Karen,” Mary said. “Your body knows how to birth this baby. Your job is to allow it to do what it's meant to do.”
As the hours progressed so did my labor, the contractions now four minutes apart and much longer in length. Except for Tim – who has such great feminine energy it didn’t matter that he was present – I felt like my house had become a women-only club where I was the honored guest. Anything I wanted I could have – a cup of tea, a back rub, laughter. The midwives were there to fan my flames, help me on my path, and feed me grapes if I desired. The feminine juice in my house was cooking, so much so I wanted to bottle the vibe for all my girlfriends.
By noon Mary was right - the contractions got worse and I stopped talking. I threw up the banana I ate and began slowly walking in circles around our living room with Tim and our black Labrador, Kali chanting “I feel great!” which definitely wasn’t how I felt but I thought it was better than shouting, “This sucks!” which was also right up there in my mind. Every time I’d have a contraction I’d stop walking, burp, lean against Tim feeling like a piece of concrete was trying to make its way out of my body, and shout, “I feel great!” as the contraction beat into me. After the minute-long pounding ended I’d continue walking and shouting, “I feel great!” with varying degrees of humor, sarcasm and feminist determination.
Thirty minutes later I asked Ida to check my dilation. Laying on my bed I prayed I was ten centimeters and ready to push. I’d even take eight.
“You’re a really solid four centimeters,” Ida said with a smile.
Four? Now I knew why, besides the infection issue, she hadn’t checked me before. There’s nothing worse than to feel like a piece of concrete is banging around in your belly and be told it may be in there for a lot longer.
“Why don’t you get into the pool,” Jennifer suggested.
“Yes!” I replied. I had completely forgot about the Toys R Us twenty dollar pool we purchased for just this moment.
Getting into a pool of water when you’re one hundred and eighty pounds isn’t easy I found out, but with the help of Mary, Ida, Stacey and Jennifer I entered the water, and exhaled. A monster size contraction immediately hit.
“Holy shit!” I screamed. “That hurt like hell!”
“Excellent!” Ida said like a cheerleading coach. “That’s exactly how it’s suppose to feel!”
That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to feel? I’m in pain and that okay? I moved around in the water trying to get comfortable, but mostly during that first contraction I squeezed Tim’s hand so tightly he asked me to let go which was the best thing that could have happened. In the warm water, floating on my own, nobody touching me, I felt like I was back on the mountain in Tannersville where I spent a year in my 20s by myself writing, snow coming down, losing control…and it was okay. With each contraction after that Jennifer prompted me to chant, “Open…” and while my renditions of “Open” vacillated from a slow and even pitched “Oooopen” to a choppier, panicky “Open! Open! Open!” fifteen minutes later my body was leading the dance, my mind surrendering to the real boss.
“I want to push!” I scream.
Mary and Ida looked at each other and decided to wait a few more contractions to check me, but with the next contraction I screamed again, “I need to push!” so they checked me.
“You’re about eight and a half centimeter!” Ida says.
“If you want to give birth in the pool we’re going to have to put some cooler water in it,” Mary says looking over at Tim, who engineered the system to get water to our pool.
“No! I don’t want cold water!” I shouted.
“Then before your next contraction you’re going have to get out of the pool!” Mary forcefully said.
If I thought lowering my one hundred and eighty pound body into the water was tough, getting up – and quickly – felt like an Olympic event.
“One, two, three!” they all shouted Tim holding one hand, Mary the other, everyone else pushing on my butt. A few seconds later I was out of the water – and freezing. With my shower just a few feet from the pool I begged to go into it for warmth.
“That’ll work for a few contractions, Karen,” Mary said looking at the tiny shower. “But when that baby’s comin’ you’re gonna have to give us more space than that to catch it!”
“Okay!” I said.
Two contractions later- around one-thirty in the afternoon - they lead me out of the shower, found I was ten centimeters dilated and asked me where I wanted to push.
“In my bedroom!” I told them.
I was convinced at this point the baby would be out in twenty minutes. I had been doing creative visualization exercises imagining the baby slipping out of me which I thought would translate into a short pushing stage.
By three-fifteen, nearly two hours later, I felt like a mental patient on a level three psych ward. I had tried pushing on all fours, leaning against the bed, laying on my back in bed feet down, laying on my back in bed feet up and none of it was moving that baby down and out. I finally got on a bar that helps you squat, Tim sitting on a birthing ball behind me, and that felt right but still when I’d get a contraction to push the baby wasn’t moving.
“Push down into your perineum,” Ida said, squatted in front of me.
This made no sense to me. I thought I was pushing down there. Feeling desperate I asked Ida to do a really icky thing.
“Can you put your finger inside me so I know where to push?”
Ida gently pressed her finger inside my perineum. Bingo - a target.
“I can do it!” I shouted.
“You can do it!” Everyone in the room shouted back.
“I can do it!’ I grunted louder.
“You can do it!”they cheered.
“I CAN DO IT!”
This championship fight-like atmosphere went on for ten more minutes with me shouting, “I can do it!” and everyone agreeing with me. Not bad…five people in my house with total reverence, respect and love for the sacred feminine act I was about to do. While I was chanting I began to imagine all my female ancestors who had given birth before me surrounding me, cheering me on. That’s when I knew I had it in me to push that baby out, that the gateway to life was about to open. After two more “I can do it!” chants I felt the baby’s head move through my perineum, and with it a sensation that felt like someone had lit a match on my vagina.
“Aaaaaaah! It burns! It burns!” I shouted.
“Yes! Great!” Ida shouted back.
“Ooooouuuuu!” I barked again and again and again until Jacob flew out of me into Ida’s hands.
I was so blissed out on endorphins – a natural pain reducing hormone that gets released when you’re pushing – that if I knew they sold it at a drug store I’d have bought a standing order every year as holiday presents. My body knew it had achieve something great. I laughed, I danced, I cheered. It was my moment of magic.
“You looked like you were having fun at the end Karen!” Mary laughed.
“I was,” I said.