My children all have birthdays this week, so it seems appropriate to devote this week’s Throwback Thursday post to their births. I’ll try not to make it into a long drawn-out birth war story that makes all the men run for the hills and all the been-there-done-that women roll their eyes.
One thing I distinctly remember when I was pregnant with Jane, our first child, was the day that it finally hit me that we were about to become parents. And that we were locked into it. Committed. Baby growing in the belly. It was going to happen. And we didn’t know what we were doing and I was scared out of my mind!
I remember trying to run up the headboard “away” from reality, saying to my husband, “Oh, no! Oh, no! What have we done?! We don’t know what we’re doing! Are we crazy? We can’t do this! We can’t do this!”
One similarity with all three births was that I worked all the way up until the day they were born. All of them. Although slightly different circumstances each time. With Jane, I remember preparing everyone the day before. I asked a guy in a club I was President of to attend a meeting for me in my place if I didn’t show up to work the next day. I gave another guy a list of things-to-know “just in case I’m not here tomorrow”. And guess what? I wasn’t there tomorrow.
Daryl was induced. I had begun dilating 5 weeks before he was due. Every week, the nurse would comment, “Well, we probably won’t see you next week!” And then I’d drag myself in the next week. Since Jane had woken me up with labor, that’s how I anticipated it happening with Daryl too. So every morning that I woke up still pregnant, the more depressed I became. Horrible, terrible people would comment, “You ain’t had that baby yet?!” I started wearing sunglasses, even in the buildings, as I walked into work – so no one could see the tears.
The week before his due date, they measured me at 5 cm. Before you say anything, yes. I know that’s supposed to be active labor. But there it is. When I went to my appointment the day before his due date, the doctor looked concerned. She was afraid that whenever labor did start, I wouldn’t be able to make it to the hospital in time. So then she did a terrible thing. She asked me, “Do you want to have a baby today?”
I burst out crying. Of course I did. What I did not want (when I was in the right state of mind, that is) was to be induced. Or have any other interventions. But she had hit below the belt and I just nodded mutely. She sent me to the hospital. I called my husband and my mom. Husband got there in time. Mom, who lives in the next state over, made it to the parking lot.
Contrast my quick willingness to head to the hospital with Daryl to the way I conducted myself with Jane. The night before, I had told my husband that if I went into labor, I would be shaving my legs before we left. He rolled his eyes. When I woke him up the next morning by tossing the notebook with the timing of my contractions on the bed, he hopped up and asked if I was ready to go. I said not quite. He cried out, “What are you doing?!” when he saw me waddling into the shower.
“I am not going to the hospital with hairy legs! I told you that last night. I’m going to shave.”
There indeed was no need to hurry. She was born a solid 14 hours after we got to the hospital, which was about 3 hours after the contractions woke me up. And that was after we forced the issue with my lackadaisical body. I think I might have vegged out too much, trying to stay relaxed. I put the Gregorian Monks CHANT CD on repeat All.Day.Long. It drove my mother insane. She begged for something else to listen to. I refused. When they finally shut off the CD to prep for delivery, I could still hear it.
That forced pushing set me up for some panic with kid #2. Contractions are more intense when you are induced yet still going natural. So intense that at one point, I started screaming my head off, imagining that I was in for hours of that pain. I distinctly remember rational-me curled up in a corner of my mind thinking I’ve completely lost it. What’s she going to do about it? Instead, that primal urge to push came over me and the boy was out less than four hours after I headed to the hospital.
Despite a speedy delivery, the experience with the inducing and an unpleasant nurse that chastised me for not taking drugs caused me to dislike the thought of returning to the hospital with kid #3. So I talked to my Primary Care Physician about doing a home birth or using a birthing center. Since there were not any birthing centers nearby and she was concerned about how quickly the last kid had come and since my births had been non-eventful, she recommended a home birth.
And that’s what Hal was: a planned home birth. That third pregnancy was the hardest. I eventually decided that a particular day would have to be my last at work because it was just too uncomfortable to go into work. I went home, slightly disappointed that I wasn’t able to work up until the end.
Hal, always the thoughtful child, was born in the early morning hours the next day. I woke up in the middle of the night to extremely sharp and powerful contractions that did not repeat and did not build in frequency. I eventually retired to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb my husband. Some time between 2 and 2:30 am, something happened that had not happened naturally with either of the other two. My water broke. We called the midwife. The contractions were suddenly 3 minutes apart. We called the friend who had agreed to sit with the kids. We called my mom.
The midwives arrived first and quietly began to assess and prep. The friend arrived next and quietly whispered outside our bedroom door that she was there. Mom, again, was unable to cover the distance between us before the child was born.
I had always planned to bring the kids, 5 and 8 years old at the time, into the room to witness the birth. I learned in those early morning hours, however, that I needed everything in that room to be about me and I couldn’t handle a kid asking a question or getting grossed out.
The kids, prior to the friend arriving, were in their shared room on the other side of our closet. They could hear me screaming through the contractions (not panicked screams like before – these were intensity-of-effort screams). They lay there, wondering what was going on, both of them on edge and slightly scared. One of them finally said, “I think Mommy’s having the baby.”
They were reminiscing about that morning this week, each saying what they remembered. It was funny to listen to because neither of them had accurate memories. It made me wonder which of my memories of childhood are faulty. I also learned that they’ve recounted their versions of events to their friends. I now wonder what their friends think about me.
Right near the end of my very short (less than 2 hours) labor with Hal, I tried to call them into the room for the birth. They arrived just in time to see Hal getting placed on my chest. “Happy Birthday, Daryl!” I said with a tired smile. I’ll never forget that huge grin that spread across his face as I said it and he looked at his little brother.
And each time, as I cradled my new little one, I felt just the same as I did the first, when the nurses all chuckled and smiled as I whispered, “Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!” and stared dumbfounded at the beautiful miracle in my arms.