365 days ago.
the girls were feral heathens, and trying to kill each other. we called it quits, yelled ‘get your shoes on, we are going outside to get ice cream!’ and we all left. i had contractions while we walked to the store. erm, while i waddled to the store.
when we got there, i told the girls “okay this is the third ice cream this week. we were at nanas house on the weekend and had ice cream there, and then we had ice cream the day before… don’t expect any ice cream for a little while.”
blaze asked “like, until when?’
i said “how about, until after baby thalia is born?” thinking we had a few weeks left. then i promptly forgot i said that.
then we walked home and my contractions picked up. i ignored them, because well they always picked up. contractions were just part of my daily life. hours of contractions, every day, gradually getting stronger and stronger.
so we started to put the girls to bed. i went pee. when i sat down and had a contraction in a squat, my water burst.i looked down into the toilet between my legs and saw little shreds of mucousy vernix – that cheesy stuff that coats babies while they are inside. i did a gentle push and more trickled out. my first thought was “not now! just hold off like an hour, i gotta get the girls to bed first! i don’t have time for this!”
we got the girls settled. with the distraction, the contractions petered off for a bit. i put a cloth diaper in my underwear and walked around with it, constantly feeling like i was peeing myself. i texted sondra. i called my midwives. they said they would come and do an assessment. i told them ‘don’t rush, we are doing bed time right now and i’m fine’
they came by around 10-ish i think. i was on the birth ball in the living room, sitting and rocking gently felt like the right thing to do. i had given up on the underwear/diaper combo because it was soaking too fast. i sat on the ball with a towel rolled up between my legs, half naked. my midwives asked “are you sure its your water breaking? we just need to confirm, do you mind if we do a little swab to check?’ i stood up and water poured out of me “okay, its confirmed! we don’t need the swab.” everybody laughed. they put an IV line in my arm and gave me a dose of penicillin for the step B. they asked me “did you put your plastic sheet on the bed?” i said no, i hadn’t had time yet. so they went to my room, tidied it up, made a space to set up their equipment later and put a thick plastic cover on my bed and then an old sheet on top of that. i said “great, so now i can just leak anywhere i want to and it doenst matter,”
they talked with me, hung around for a bit, and since nothing was happening right this moment they said they’d be back at 3 to do the second dose, and maybe we’d be in labour in the morning. they said ‘have a big drink of water and maybe a snack and try to sleep.”
i went to bed. jim came to cuddle me. we talked about what his classes were like tomorrow and if he would make it to his morning class, and he said that it was too late to gte a message out to cancel class anyway. i wondered if the baby would be born by the afternoon of the next day. we thought about what if he had to skip his class. i didn’t realize that i was having a baby within the next two hours. i totally thought that we had a whole day to get through, and i planned on going to sleep.
i asked him to read to me. i turned off most of the lights and hunked down, into a sort of cave-mindset. jim started reading and my contractions picked up. and i mean really picked up. like i needed to breathe through them and make all those nice moaning noises. jim stopped reading and said ‘there! i know those noises! that sounds more like it!’ and he was so excited. he tried to cuddle in close with me, and i wanted him there but at the same time it was hot and sweaty and a i was hyper-sensitive to touch and i wanted to shove him away too.
i couldn’t stay lying down. i needed to move. i went to sit on the toilet. no good. i paced the room. bit better. i clung to the foot board of the bed and rocked, and squatted, and faded in and out of the reality of the room around me. i was coping well and doing fine and i was ready to march headlong into this labour, thinkng yes, do it. i want to do this again. i realized that it was very, very far along. i told jim to call sondra and call the midwives “and tell them that i don’t want to talk to them but they should come now”
that’s code for ‘get here fast.’ a midwife trick is being able to assess how far you are by what you sound like on the phone, and when you refuse to even speak on the phone, then its time to boogie right quick if they don’t want to miss the show. i knew that so i knew that i was clueing them “i’m not talking to you. show up.” and they would get the message.
i was barely aware that he was on the phone. i paced. i rocked. i went back to the toilet. i leaned on the sink. i leaned against the cool tile. and made jim come and stand in front of me and i clung to him and groaned. i was talking but i don’t remember what i was saying. probably it was nonsense. i was making noises. he stood between my legs as i sat on the toilet and i rocked and groaned and tried to bury my whole body into his to get away from the intensity. before the midwifes showed up, i looked at him and said ‘pushing! pushing!’ and he didn’t seem alarmed at all, not like i was. its all just feeling. its all cave-woman programming, in the back of your brain. theres nothing rational, nothing civilized, nothing higher cortex or cerebral about it. it look a lot of effort to string words together.
sara showed up first. i have this memory of her in a white shirt, (actually she had a black shirt on, but in my mind its firmly a white one) a flurry of blonde curls and tossing gloves on her hands as fast as possible. she held her hands up, and said “is she pushing?” i made the ‘pushing’ noise. she said “yep shes pushing.” and suddenly it was a mad dash to set up all her stuff. i have no idea what she was doing, i was busy trying to stay on this planet even just a little bit. i saw sondras face around the bathroom door, she said something like “im right here ky” but no memory beyond that of where she was or what she was doing. i heard Corinne’s voice talking to sondra. i saw blue chux pads being laid out, instruments being lined up.
then sara was in front of me, squatting on the floor and quietly asking if she could check to see where we were at. i opened my legs and she reached under me and said ‘okay, there’s babys head.’ and i said something like “oh i was so scared you were going to say i was like 6.” she chuckled at me. i was obviously much more than 6cm, anyone could have seen that straight away. she said ‘but you have a little lip of cervix here.’ and then a contraction got me. i made more of those farmyard noises and told her ‘push it!” she said “erm, you want me to push the lip out of the way?” and i said “i dont know i dont know i dont know’ and instantly she was hands off. ‘okay, ‘i dont know’ isn’t consent’ nobody can consent to anything in the grip of a contraction. i head Corinne say “leave it. she’ll push past it”.
sara disappeared. midwives went back to tag-teaming getting set up. my noises woke up blaze, who peeked in the door to see what was happening. i said “hey blaze, the baby is coming now. its very loud but im okay. do you want to stay?” and sondra took charge of blaze after that.
somehow i got to the bed. my memory is spotty at this point. i was sitting up, rocking on my hips and that sucked. i went down on all fours and swayed and that sucked. that babys head was stuck and i coudl feel it. it felt like pushing against a brick wall – i had all this energy and force and nowhere for it to go and its the worst feeling. my body said “move here. no, wait, move here. now move here. okay thats not better, now try this” and i wriggled and wriggled and tossed myself all around and i could not get away from that feeling. midwives hovered and watched. jim came to stand over me, and i wanted him nearby. at one point i was on my back to get a break and i looked over at corinne, who was writing down some notes in the binder and i came out of labour-land long enough to say something like ‘you must have to write very fast’ then i was tossed back in with another contraction. jim came and sat with me and i clung to his arm and made him stay. i could do it so long as he stayed there with me. if he left i felt panicky.
they were coaching me to try to push and i felt like my body couldnt get it together. i couldnt get organized to push. i wanted to but i didnt know how and it felt impossible.i wanted to make this little dark cave with only me and jim in it. i pretty much slithered under him, using his shoulders to block out the light of the room. i dont remember if he talked to me.
i remember that his hands were too warm. he kept trying to touch me, to rub my back and i kept trying to shove his hands off. i was trying to communite (you know, without being able to make any words string together into something that made any sense) that his hands were hot and i didnt want hot things on my body. so he actually started running back and fourth from the sink, running his hands under cold water then rubbing my back and shoulders and holing me, then when i pushed him away he went back to the sink again. at sone point a smaller cooler hand touched me. “oh, whos hand? i like that cold hand.” it was sondra. she laughed at me, and she still laughs at me now if i bring it up. apparently i said “i don’t care whos hand. i like that hand”.
at one point on my hands and knees i felt the panic really start to rise. i was talking to myself this whole time, saying “why is it taking so long? she wont come out!” and everybody was saying ‘she will! it’s not taking long at all!” but i felt the anxiety suddenly show up. i said “i don’t want to panic! i can’t do it! its taking so long i can’t do i’m panicking!” and then everybody said, pretty much all at once “yes you can!’ and i was rational enough to know that i couldn’t get swept up in the anxiety, and that a ‘panic’ response was a physiological response to being minutes from the end. (called ‘transition’. its the point where literally everyone yells for an epidural and tries to give up) it took a huge amount of control to reign that in and change my words “i can do it i can do it i can do it”.
then i started to sing. on my hands and knees, rocking from side to side, i sang the first thing that came into my head – it was the song that blaze had been singing all week. “slippery fish, slippery fish, swimming in the water…” and i was trying to think of the baby in her water, and begging her to slip on down.
when i was in labour with blaze i got to this point as well. i hummed to myself the first thing that came into my head, which was the little tune that we used for baby cordelia to get her down for a nap. its my little perk i guess. i sing to myself in labour.
singing took the panic away. i kept it going between contractions, focusing as intensely as possible on that song and trying to coax her down by singing her down. i felt like if i couldn’t sing ‘slippery fish’ then i couldn’t do it.
‘push!” people coaxed me. i tried. i tried so hard, and i wanted to tell them that i was trying but it wasnt working. i tried and it felt wrong. i tried and it wouldnt go. it wasnt fitting.
all the while i had been trying to find an angle where i could get past that cervical lip. i was aware that i was trying to tip myself backwards and then forwards and then on my hands and knees and trying each angle to see which one would ‘unlock’ the babys head from that lip that was acting like a speed bump that i couldn’t get her past. sondra watched me do this, and had offered to me before to try leaning over the birth ball. i had waved her off before but this time she said ‘okay you can hate me if you want, i want you to try this ball” and she and corinne shoved the ball under me. that did it. that was the magic angle that i was trying to reach. i felt her head slide past that little lip, slide down and lock into place. i felt like suddenly all that pent up energy and force had somewhere to go! magically, i could get it together and actually push her! my body said “get on your back RIGHT NOW” so i threw myself backwards and grabbed hold of the rails in the headboard and it all happened so smoothly. i did one push and saw the expression on jims face. he said ‘i see her head! she has lots of dark hair’ and i mumbled something like “no you don’t, shes not there.” everyone was like “yes she is! she really is!” and sara asked me if i wanted to catch her. i wanted to but i couldnt, i needed to hold onto the rails on the bed. i didn’t know how i could get her out if i didnt have those rails to pull against.
i did a huge push. i felt her head slide out, felt myself stretch., felt my body burn as she slid past. the midwives were saying “slow down! slow down!” and apparently i said “NOOOOOOO!” and with a second push i felt her shoulders slide, and the rest of her slipped out. like a slippery fish.
she was up on my chest right away. i remember saying loudly to her “happy birthday!” and then i looked at jim and said ‘i did it!” and then told everyone else in the room, “i did it!”
blaze came to see. she peeked over the side of the bed and i pulled back the edge of the towel. i didnt know what was going on in the room around me, midwives were doing things, changing pads, getting cord clamps, getting a bowl fro the placenta, gave me an injection so i didnt hemorrhage. i knew that was all happening at the edge of my attention, but i wasnt really aware of it. i just stared at her. Jim fitted himself in next to me and just stared at her. i just remember feeling stupid-happy. when i went back to look at the photos sondra took, i just had this goofy smile on the my face the whole time. i remember closing my eyes and feeling exhausted and wanting to fall asleep right there, and wanting to live in that stupid-happy place forever and block everything else out.
we admired all her dark hair, her baby fluff all over her body, her softest ever skin, her long skinny feet. we just drank her in.
***for the record, the morning after she was born and we all got up, blaze asked me if we were going for ice cream that day. i told her, “uhh we just had ice cream yesterday”. she said, “mama. you said that we could get more ice cream after baby thalia was born. and she was born last night!”
right. i did say that, didnt i. damn.