As the birth of mystery baby number three grows more imminent, I find myself reflecting on the arrival of my first child. First of all, I feel that I must make a confession.
I never planned to have children. I was never a "baby person". I never, ever asked women about their birth stories, and not once had I held a newborn in my arms. I had never imagined myself with children, or picked out names. One of my friends had asked me what I would do if I became pregnant, and I said, "I would cry". Yeah. Sorry future children!
Yet...I was about to have a baby. And so I did what I always had. I researched. And read birth stories, and midwife blogs, and medical studies. And, of course, Ina May Gaskin. I needed to know the truth about what was possible with birth. Partly I was spurred on by a real problem with needles...no one wants to pass out during labor! That can't be good for the baby.
As I approached my estimated due date, I felt quite positive and confident about what birth would be like. Let me make it clear that I had NO idea what my pain tolerance would be like...in fact I still consider myself to be a bit of a wimp in that regard. My primary activity for the first 20 years of my life was reading books, and although I had been exercising for the previous 5 years, I had never broken a bone or really hurt myself seriously in any way. So this whole idea of labor should have been a bit worrying.
But, it just wasn't. My mantra to myself was, "birth is going to be awesome". I didn't even really contemplate complication, although I think this is more of a personality thing. I tend to live in the moment, which can be advantageous, but sometimes works against me. I also made the choice to decline all cervical checks at the end of my pregnancy, so I was blissfully unaware of what was "going on" with my cervix. (Having made a different decision the second time, I can honestly say that I feel strongly that NOT knowing is the way to go).
In any case, I felt like my baby was going to be "late", so when January 21 arrived, I wasn't concerned. I felt normal and actually pretty great for 40 weeks pregnant! I went to work, to the gym, and then we ordered Chinese food, watched some TV, and went to bed. Here's what happened next.
Claire's Birth Story as It happened in My Head
11:30 PM: Hmm....what is that crampy feeling? It just felt like menstrual cramps, but definitely different than anything else I had felt. 10 minutes go by...and another one. Maybe I should time these. So for about and hour I notice that they are coming 10 minutes apart. I KNOW, I KNOW....everyone says to try to sleep through those early contractions...but especially when it's your first, how can you? I started to get excited, so I get up, go into the living room, and get out my birth books to see what they say.
12:30 am: Bummer. According to my books....I'm not really in labor. But who can sleep? I guess I shouldn't call anyone, because it's really late, and this is probably going to last a while. First-time mother and all that. I'll just sit here on my couch with the books.
1:30 am: Wow maybe that Chinese food wasn't the best idea....it's going right through me! Back to the bathroom I guess. Good thing it's not in the bedroom; I wouldn't want to wake my husband up. Looks like contractions are getting a bit closer now, though. 8 minutes apart. But they just aren't that BAD. I'll just let everyone sleep and keep reading my books.
2:45 am: Still 7 minutes apart...maybe I'll take a shower to be close to the toilet. I LOVE hot water.
3:15 am: Running out of hot water...I'll just lay in the tub for a while and call my friend/doula who has had three unmedicated births. Maybe she will have something to tell me. "Hi! So, I think I might be in labor. I'm just hanging out in my tub. Chad? Oh, he's asleep. Contractions are about 6 minutes apart, but not that bad. There's one. Oh it's over. My parents? I haven't called them....I don't want to wake them up if it's nothing. Oh you think I should call my parents and wake up Chad? Okay....talk to you soon."
3:30 am: "Mom, I think I'm in labor. Yep, but it's not that bad. I guess you can start coming this way, though. See you soon! (They live about 1.5 hours away).
3:40 am: I'll just get up and wake up my husband. Let me get out of the tub. OH CRAP. What on earth just happened?! (Maybe my water broke). Okay now it's a lot more intense. Contractions were just 6 minutes apart...now what is happening?! Stumble into the bedroom and tell my husband that I'm in labor, then head back to the tub ASAP. Ask my husband to time contractions. 2 minutes apart. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. WHAT IS HAPPENING?
4:00 am: (Husband calls the OB office, but gets the answering machine. He then calls my friend/doula back who tells him to get me in the car and she'll meet us at the hospital.)
4:30 am: Wow these are really intense. I think I'll get on the toilet again. OMG is that a head?! Don't tell him, don't tell him. NO I CAN'T GET IN THE CAR. Why? I just can't get in the car. Getting back in the tub. I understand why women get epidurals now....
4:45 am: Oh there's my brother. Great, I'm in my sleepshirt, no shoes, and there's my brother. You two are going to carry me out to the car? Okay fine. Not pushing, not pushing.
5:00 am: Okay there's my friend and there's the hospital. We made it. NO YOU DO NOT NEED TO WEIGH ME. "I'm pushing!" " I don't want to push on my back". I'll just close my eyes now. Nurse to doctor- "Hurry doctor!"
5:05 am: Ugh I'm on my back anyway, oh well. This all seems really fast. What tray is the doctor moving over here? Oh HECK NO it has scissors. "NO CUTTING!" Oh good he moved it back. No I'm not moving my hands; yes, I'd like to catch my baby.
5:20 am: Claire is born. She's so beautiful! What JUST HAPPENED?!
Looked at my friend and said, "I have to do that again".
After 6 months of planning, my daughter's birth lasted a whopping 5 hours or so and I missed most of it. I had a newborn in my arms for the first time ever. It was pretty incredible but also anti-climactic. I still had no shoes, and left about 36 hours after she was born, still shoeless. I learned a lot about birth from Claire's unexpectedly fast arrival, though. I'll write more about that next time.
Rest assured, I do love my children and I feel like they have made me a better person. Less selfish and self-absorbed. Children change you for the better if you let them. I never imagined myself a mother, or a doula, but now I am both! My personality of 6 years ago probably wouldn't recognize me now! 26 months later our son was born, but that's a story for another day.
I look at birth from the perspective that our bodies are wonderfully made, and if we really believe that and work with the birth process and nourish our bodies properly, they will function optimally, most of the time!