Posted tagged ‘babies’

Birth Story #1

June 30, 2009

In honor of my first son, who just celebrated his 12th birthday.  What follows is my memory of his birth…

I liked my midwife’s hands.  They were large and soft and strong.  I noticed them first thing when we went to her house to interview her.  I knew I could trust her by watching her hands as we spoke.  David noticed them, too.  I remember commenting on them on the way back to my apartment and he agreed that they were dependable hands.  So she became our midwife.  Throughout my pregnancy, she was there, teaching us what to expect and how to stay present and prepared for labor.  We read everything we could, went to classes and faithfully went to visits at our midwife’s beautiful little cape in town, surrounded by music and color and gardens.  We watched video of other women in labor.  I made a contract which stated I did not want anyone taking photos or video of my labor!  I also didn’t want a crowd present,  wanted to determine where I gave birth, wanted the liberty to do whatever I needed to do in order to be comfortable and safe in the process.  I wanted my midwife to catch my baby and to allow me to catch my breath!  I wanted David involved as a partner in welcoming our child and so we chose to have our baby at home.

  I received extraordinary care: hours of time with my midwife at each visit; childbirth classes with one other couple at each other’s houses, over dinner; a connection, which remains to this day, with each of those who would participate in my labor and the birth of our child .  A few days before my due date I noticed the signs of imminent labor and began in earnest to long for the end of my pregnancy.  It was hot and I was starting to swell: fingers, ankles, back of my knees.  On my due date, I got a sassy haircut, but no baby.  I spent hours near the water in an absolutely heinous black maternity suit with yellow piping and a zipper up the neckline (as if being at the beach 36 weeks pregnant isn’t enough challenge to the ego!)  I mowed the lawn and moved rocks in the garden and walked and walked and walked, trying to prompt movement beyond the intermittant contractions and the constant beating this kid was giving my right lung.  Nothing.  Two days overdue was enough for me and so that afternoon I climbed to the top of the slide at my parents’ pool, hollered “Shamu” and cannonballed into the deep end.  Nothing. 

David and I were supposed to meet a friend for dinner that night, but I was tired and not feeling great, so I went home to bed instead.  David stayed out until 1 a.m.  At 2:30 a.m., I woke up with the most incredible torrent of water bursting out of my body.  This was it!  Guess that slide worked after all! My water breaking was unmistakable, despite that David, in his groggy sleep, wondered aloud if I had only peed the bed.  We got up and changed the sheets, checked our list of things we needed and scrubbed the bathtub so it would be ready if I wanted to labor in it later.  We were too excited to sleep although not much was happening.  At about 5 a.m. we called our midwife to tell her labor had actually begun.  We went for an early morning walk.  I remember it was foggy and cool.  I had to stop every once in a while to work through contractions, which I did by hanging off of David’s neck and allowing him to support the weight of my body while I breathed.  Felt good!  At some point, we remembered we had forgotten to get newborn sized diapers and although we had cloth to use, I wanted some disposables at first. 

Our midwife arrived mid-morning with diapers and herbs and her bag of tricks.  We weeded the garden together and went for another walk while David went upstairs for a nap.  We made a fruit salad and read books.  At one point, she said she thought it would be quite a while still and so when David woke up, she would go home to get her knitting and come back later.  Not long after, David came downstairs and I immediately threw up the kiwi I’d eaten.  Quite unpleasant.  Thus began the second stage of labor and our midwife decided to forego the knitting.  I got into the tub. It was cooler and eased the intensity of the contractions.  I vaguely remember our midwife calling her assistant and saying “it’s time” and it seemed like only a few seconds later she was there.  She had a spray bottle full of herbed water with which she’d spritz me before I could even say I was hot.  She was feeding me ice chips laced with honey and raspberry tea before I could ask for refreshment.  She was brilliant in her anticipation of my needs.  I don’t remember any conversation and the time is a blur.  I remember breathing and focusing and talking to my baby and my body with each contraction.  It was intense but bearable.  I remember moments of observing myself with fascinated detachment and then being thrust back into working through extraordinary moments of pain and concentration.  I remember the moment my body went from opening up to the extreme urge to expel this being: out, out, out! I remember David learning from our midwife how to give me massage and hold my feet in a way that soothed me.  I remember music; Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ricki Lee Jones, Pacobel’s Canon, Vivaldi.  I worked and worked to move this child from my body.  It seemed like hours.  We’d get excited as the baby crowned, only to see the black down of hair recede once the contraction was over.  Finally, my midwife said that if I didn’t get this baby out on the next contraction she would give me an episiotomy.  Somehow, thinking of having my perinaeum cut open was motivation enough to push harder and longer than ever.  Desperate for a breath, thinking I’d surely pass out, I did not stop until that little black haired, purple faced infant emerged.  The most surreal moment of my life was looking between my legs as a little head popped out and automatically turned to the side.  I had a moment for breath before another push and that whole little body slithered out in a rush into those large, soft, capable, waiting hands. 

I rested for a minute as our midwife held oxygen to our little blue baby and told David over and over to “rub the feet, rub the feet”.  I couldn’t see much of the baby beyond the hands rubbing and the oxygen tank so I asked…and David looked up, tears in his eyes and said, “It’s a Griffin!” (Had he been a girl, he would have been Anna)  Finally, I scooped up this lanky, bird-like being who moments ago had only been a dream.  Love, love, love.  David desperately wanted to hold his son, but he was still attached to me.  Once I delivered the placenta, we cut the cord and I handed him to his dad.  I will never forget watching David as he sat on the corner of the coffee table holding his newly born son, tears streaming down and the most divine look on his face.  Love, love, love.  We made a few phone calls.  David took the baby and our midwife and her assistant took the placenta and went about the business of cleaning up.  That left me sitting by myself on the birthing stool, too exhausted and weak to get up!  At some point, they all remembered me and I was ushered into the bathroom to clean up before sitting down to learn how to nurse. 

My mother and David’s mother arrived. Someone made me the most perfect grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten. We noticed the bruises on Griffin’s head from crowning and receding over and over.  We noticed that one of his feet was floppy and bent all the way back over his shin. That, I am sure, was the foot which had been jammed under my right rib, punting my lung those last weeks of pregnancy.  We noticed how perfect he was; alert, strong, skinny.  I told my mother of the wonderful massage David had given me during labor and he informed us that he hadn’t actually touched my body! The whole time I felt him massaging me, his hands were actually inches away from me, directing the energy between us.  He was an incredible, capable support during the birth of our child.  I was blessed by the love and presence of that day.  I felt a sense of power and wonder at my body.  As I nursed my sweet little Griffin, I felt the rush of past and future dreams meeting in that moment: love, love, love.