Sometimes things happen a little differently than we plan and other times things happen just the opposite in every which way. One of my coaching mentors from years ago used to say, “if you want to make god laugh, tell her your plans.” Oh, the infuriating truth in that statement.
And so it was, with the birth of this tiny treasure who now makes us a family of four — he arrived in a fashion absolutely nothing like what I had prepared myself for or what I had hoped for. I’ve noticed, some folks are quick to say, “all that matters in the end is a healthy baby and a healthy mama.” And while I get what these folks mean and I am, of course, enormously grateful to have a healthy babe and to be a healthy mama, I hold a different view. Birth matters too. How we birth our babies and the unprecedented rite of passage for women that birth is matters too. To me, it matters a whole lot. It would be easier, for certain, to tell you here today, “the babe is here! nothing else matters!” But, I believe that you, dear readers, deserve a fuller story. This blog is about process and transition and rites of passage, so as difficult as it is to share vulnerable details I will likely be processing for a good long while, I would be remiss in sharing only the joy that I now feel with this babe in my arms. I feel much joy, but I don’t only feel joy — I feel many things. It is with this in mind that I share this story.
For the four weeks before Lenox Bear’s birth I did little more than hope and yearn for things to get rolling. Three weeks out, contractions constituting pre-labor began and happened sometimes all day every day and sometimes just in the evenings. I tried, but didn’t sleep much. And as I bypassed his due date by days and then a week and then two weeks plus, in deep and almost constant discomfort, I began to lose my sense of humor about all of it. I dodged neighbors and phone calls. It became so that I couldn’t stand another well-intentioned person saying, “are you STILL pregnant?!”
And then, as somewhere deep in my gut I knew it would, it began, late on a Sunday night. At first, it was the same contractions I had felt for weeks, but they fell into a rhythm and I found, after 45 minutes or so, that I could no longer be alone. Fast and furious they came — we tucked Orlis securely in bed with his grandma and called the midwives. They took one listen over the phone and arrived within minutes of each other, just a half hour later. Now I knew we were in business. Feeling what seemed like an unmistakeable (and early!) urge to push, I was reminded by these amazing women baby-catchers to listen to my body. Upon checking, they confirmed, “just a bit of a push past the pubic bone and we’ll go upstairs so you can have your baby on your bed.” This sounded like a simple, easy task. I remember thinking to myself, “after the longest drum-roll ever, this might be the easiest, fastest birth.”
Five long, extremely difficult hours later, I was still, in every position imaginable, trying to do just that — push that baby past my pubic bone We had gotten exactly no where — not one millimeter closer.
While the baby was doing just fine, I wasn’t. It was then that I knew I needed to get some medical help, and as much as it was the last thing I wanted to admit to myself, my exhaustion had overcome me, and my belief that this passage could happen in the comfort of my home by the sole efforts of my own muscles and the encouragement and expertise of the midwives and Rob deflated. We drove to the hospital.
And there, with the delayed but most welcome relief of an epidural, I entered into another matrix entirely. It was, just as I had read about so many times, a domino effect of interventions — first an epidural, then the worried looks on the nurses’ faces as they saw the effect take the baby’s heart-rate down, then an oxygen mask, then pitocin, some more pushing (and no budging) and finally, the dreaded moment when the doctor said, “I hate to skip to the end of the story here, but we are looking at a c-section.” How could this be? I wondered.
And then, we decided to make one final attempt using forceps — a tool whose use is accompanied by laundry list of possible scary side effects for me and for baby that left me trembling. But it was my last chance at a vaginal birth. With a crowd of 12 people (3 nurses, 2 doctors, 2 extra medical personnel in case of emergency, 3 midwives, 1 grandmother, and 1 loving partner) all around me chanting and smiling and coaxing me along, I closed my eyes and gave all I had and then…a baby boy. ”Thank you,” I said to the doctor over and over again. Thank you.
That’s the story. And the week that has passed by since then has been a beautiful, challenging, tearful, painful, joyful, busy, sore, and heartwarming one. Neighbors and friends have come by with watermelons and flower bouquets from their gardens and whole, delicious, colorful meals. There have been visits from midwives, and calls from the doctors and a whole lot of advil coursing through my veins. There has been daily diaper laundry and other laundry and cookies and muffins to eat, and the amazing help of one wonderful grandma. And there’s been baby feet to hold, and the ups and downs of new nursing, and one bright sweet and appropriately confused and cuddly big brother just getting a handle on things in the ways a 2-year-old knows how, with challenging and tears, and moments of utter, heart-wrenching kindness. ”Are you okay, mama?” ”Why is baby Lenox sad?” And there’s been the tender and tricky navigation of new roles and new chores for both mama and papa as we navigate a shifting center of gravity with as much tired grace as we can muster. And there’s been, of course, a sweet little babe to love and hold and to remind us, that loving and holding is about all there is to do right now.