Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Birth, round 5
That morning, when the alarm had rung at 5 AM, I told Greg I would get up with him and eat a little something and see how I felt. I wasn't sure I wanted him to make the 45 minute drive to work. I had had some contractions in the night, while I slept deeply, which had felt more real-- and had brought me back to that primal place of labor. As I dreamed, I remembered those hours spent with babies past moaning deeply over the birthing bed, bouncing on the ball, standing in the shower. The realness of the memories made me feel as if these random, sporadic contractions might be leading up to something bigger.
So I had some juice, and a little coffee, and at 5:05 I had a little one, and at 5:25 a longer one. I took a shower, and had another one after that, short. There seemed to be no pattern. They seemed short. But somehow, they did feel real, so I asked him to stay home. He called in at 6:15 and asked for a substitute.
Another random one, but the pressure was feeling huge. Huge. So I called the midwife, and Greg called his parents and asked them to come. It was 6:25 and I lay on my side, tweaked from the weight of the skull pressing on my pelvis. Liam came down and sat with me while Greg brought our bag out to the car. I was beginning to feel desperate, and I wailed to Liam about how Grammie and Grandpa were taking so long. Checking the clock, he noted to me it had been only 7 minutes since Greg had called. It seemed like forever. I could feel this was real, and now.
Soon help arrived, and I smooched Liam in the driveway and we headed out, leaving the girls asleep. I was grateful not to have had to say goodbye to Fiona, because I felt so sad thinking of that morning as our last moment with her as my baby. To have had to say the words, goodbye, and to see her tiny little self, her blond curls and big, heavy lashed eyes waving to me, perhaps through her own tears, would have sent me reeling. This goodbye was simple, just Liam in the driveway in the misty rain, waving and leaping with excitement as we pulled out past his grandparents. They were walking up to the door as we pulled out. I was frantic.
In the car, every bump hit me with such fervor. I wanted out, but I was quiet and restrained. I wasn't sure what was happening. There hadn't been any apparent escalation or pattern to what was happening, but clearly this was labor.
We arrived just as the 7 AM shift was coming on. Our midwife Judie met us at the hospital, just as she had met us early one May morning eight years ago. She was bleary eyed, as she had been then, but this time charged with an optimism that was different. She walked us to the same room where Aoife had been welcomed five years ago. The lights were low, and she hugged us both.
I wouldn't miss this for the world, she said, and I knew she meant it.
Because I am a VBAC patient, there are a few hoops I have to jump through before getting started with a birth. So while I breathed heavily, leaning on my hips, sometimes arching back, always with eyes closed to the dim light, the blood bank came and took my sample and braceleted me, and the nurses fought to find a good vein to put in my IV port in case of emergency. It was 7:30 by the time they finished these logistics, and I was feeling so heavy and weighted. The reality of labor had hit to the point that while I eagerly awaited the result, I dreaded the work that lay ahead. The incredible, deep discomfort that is labor was suddenly real again, and it felt hard to embrace at that moment.
Judie wanted to check me, and I wanted to be checked. The last time she was our midwife was for Liam, and I remember clearly the strange look that passed over her face when she discovered that I was fully dialated, but that the baby was no longer in my pelvis. This was the beginning of the breech discovery and subsequent c-section, and so it was unnerving to me when, at about 7:35, Judie checked me and once again I saw a strange look pass over her eyes. This time, though, the news was in my favor. My heart nearly stopped with joy at her words:
Do you feel like you should be pushing?
Am I fully dialated?, I asked, hardly daring to believe that what I had felt, and not believed, was real.
You are, you are. Any time, take your time.
And I did. This news that the work I was prepared to do, but dreading, was actually already complete gave me this incredible peaceful strength. I was almost confused: when had this labor happened? How had I gotten all the way dialated without knowing it? But what a gift! This was my body's fifth time doing this, and it was good at it.
For a little while, with each contraction, I bore down just enough to negate the rush. I found that with just enough push, I could make the discomfort of the contraction go away. I gave myself this, for a few rounds, just to ease the strength of it all, and to give myself a few minutes to wrap myself around what was happening: I was having a baby.
I got up, then, onto my knees, and I asked Greg to put on some music: the Wailin' Jenny's, Bright Morning Star. He did, and almost immediately upon the opening strains of the music something happened which has always happened before: a strange break in my contractions, perhaps a three minute rest where I just lay, with my head resting on the top of the raised birthing bed, breathing slowly and peacefully. The labor almost seemed to have disappeared, but I knew what would come.
The calm before the storm, I said quietly.
About thirty seconds later, my water broke like a bomb, with a tremendous bang and a huge splash that covered the midwife from belly to forehead and had me three inches deep in fluid on the bed. I knew then that my moments of peace were well spent and that now was the time to work.
I pushed steadily and quietly. I didn't make a sound as I felt the head come down, and begin to turn the corner as it crowned. I reached down and could feel it coming through. I was blind to the world around me, deaf to the words of the midwife, of Greg, and of Trudy, our beloved nurse who has attended each and every birth of ours. I could feel the baby coming, and still I hardly dared to believe it was real.
But it was real, and I felt the head come out and reached down and felt it, the skinny little neck and the full, real head, and I could hear the midwife say, it's starting to cry, and ask Greg if he wanted to catch her.
Greg came over and held out his hands, and I pushed again, and Maeve fell out into the hands of her Daddy, and everybody yelped with joy, and Maeve cried, and I turned onto my back and reached for her, this fourth daughter of mine, this proof that May is not cursed after all.
Her face shone up at me, greyish and greasy and contorted with a beautiful birth cry. She had the same little face as all my other babies, she was so absolutely and positively mine. I clutched her to me and for the first time ever I did not cry, I just broke into a huge, unbreakable smile and was filled to the brim with a happiness I could hardly name.
This child, this new little girl, this life I had hardly dared to believe in. Through the Rh sensitivity scare, a cord around the neck revealed on ultrasound, extra amniotic fluid, and any number of nights spent eating ice cream and praying for movement, here she was: alive, beautiful, and so real. She shouted for just a moment and then, as most babies do, quieted as I held her to my chest and snuggled her ear to my heart. I whispered into her ear and held her close, and a warm blanket was laid over us, and our life together began.
It was 7:56 AM.