This is my son. He’s six weeks old. Yes, I know. He’s huge. His hugeness actually gives me a great sense of pride. Look at this fat, thriving human. I made that. *Huffs on fingernails*
This is not a mommy blog and my son’s birth doesn’t have much to do with working/writing. But these days, this is my full time job and I only moonlight (literally – Its 2am!) as a writer. So writing about babyhood seems like a hybrid of what I’m doing and what I could/should/don’t-have-brain-power-to do. And this is what’s happening in my world so writing about it seems like easy blog fodder.
I remember talking about my birth plan when I was pregnant, rubbing my belly and visualizing the details. People give you this knowing smile, which says “Ok, honey. You do that.”
Plan and pack and visualize but the world is going to deliver your baby however it sees fit; in a car, a month early or after a grueling labor. Birth is so unreliable, except that it will happen. There aren’t any last minute exits on that freeway!
It was 10:35pm on Easter Monday and I had just polished off another ice cream sandwich. Not the proudest moment of my pregnancy, I’ll contend, but the baby made me do it. I was just the hands and mouth that facilitated his overeating.
I scraped that last dreamy bite of black cookie from my finger and then felt a serious contraction, not the fun ones I’d been having the previous couple of days. When I got those, I got excited and hiked Torrey Pines, ate spicy food and did jumping jacks. This one made me want to curl into the fetal position.
My husband started tracking and the contractions were three minutes apart right off the bat. So far, so good. Easy peasy. This was going to be a quick birth, just like I’d planned. Harhar.
I’d always wanted a homebirth. From the time we moved into our home, I had the room chosen for it. But my husband was hesitant and, not wanting to be on the hook for such a big decision, I agreed to a non-medicated, hospital birth with a progressive doctor. But after our first birthing class, my husband said, “If you still want to give birth at home, I’m ok with it.”
This really excited me. Like, really. I found a midwife, starting buying the materials and began visualizing the room I would birth in. I read Birthing From Within, HypnoBirthing and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. My nerdy brain saw this as very, very exciting.
So when the contractions started, we called the midwife, doula and mother-in-law. I sat in the visqueened room and lit candles. Ah… cue my joyful birth.
Fast-forward… I’ll spare you the next nine hours, as I don’t remember them all that well. I know I was in and out of the shower, the tub, the bed, up and down the stairs. I was force-fed applesauce and granola bars. But beyond that, it’s all a bit hazy. Pain does that. It transports you. Pressure, they tell you. It feels like pressure, not necessarily pain. This is hyperbole. I am with the majority who feel that birth is, in fact, painful.
When I’m ready to push, I do, with what I consider gusto, for an hour. But my baby is not satisfied with my efforts. He is not budging. We regroup and collectively decide that I am getting too exhausted and it is time to change strategy. Here begins the dissolution of my resolve.
My options: to ride out the contractions, which are full-tilt, back labor. Um, no. Or to go to the hospital, get an epidural, some rest and start again. It was like offering a starving man a Snickers bar. “Would you like to stop this hot knife in your back every three minutes?” Um, yes. How fast can you drive? The four contractions in the twelve-minute drive are when my labor really comes in to focus for me. Yeah, I remember that pretty well.
At the hospital, I asked the doctor, “How fast can you put in an epidural? Because I have two and a half minutes before my next contraction.” And bless that doctor. He watched the next contraction with needle in hand and then put it my back at hyper speed. “You’ll feel a pinch,” he said. I would have laughed, if I could have.
My birth plan was a thing of beauty. A purist’s work of art. No epidural, no Pitocin, no water breaking. Look at how strong I am, it said. Look at the faith I have in the natural course of birth and my own body’s instincts. I was proud of my decision to have a homebirth. I was excited to do it. Not just to have a baby but to go through labor. It sounds naïve but I was excited to experience it; the pain; the subsequent euphoria; my own threshold. And I did, and then I went to the hospital and did it all over again.
When I held my baby boy, (who happened to be 9lbs 8oz!) it was easy to let go of my expectations. I was much too happy to bemoan my errant labor. I recounted the story to friends and family with a smile and rolling eyes as if to say, “Crazy, right?”
At the end, we look at our baby, so healthy, so perfect. We feel we don’t have the right to regret anything in the process. Like the changing of a detail would have changed the outcome. And maybe that’s true.
And I am giddy with my baby but if I may be allowed a petty moment, let me say, I feel a little jipped on the birth. I put in the work, did the research and went through the pain (ten hours of it), without cracking mind you. I didn’t even beg for drugs like they do in the movies (maybe because I could not really formulate thoughts). I didn’t curse at my husband, whimper or bellow that I just “couldn’t do it.” And then I pushed, on my hands and knees, in my bedroom, for an hour. And it didn’t work.
I want to say that I did it. I want to give that smug little smile as I tell people I gave birth naturally, in our home. And I can’t. That frosts me a little. Now I am part of the statistic that took their homebirth to the hospital. I am not furthering a trend I whole-heartedly believe in but am rather an argument against it. She tried, it says. It just didn’t work. I don’t see how it could have happened any differently seeing as my huge child had to be vacuumed out of me. But I would sure love to have more bragging rights than just birthing that beast of a boy without a C-section. Ok, pity party over.
Now, look at this face! A healthy baby is the true measure of success and this kid is the picture of health.
P.S. Great birth perk… I’ve had 22 hours of training to fall asleep in the two to three minutes between contractions and I can snore on demand now. Now, that is a power nap!