On Tuesday morning I walked to the 38L Geary, boarded a bus headed downtown to a 10:30 prenatal massage. It was a safe bet, booking a massage the day after my due date: Pez hadn't shown any signs of coming, and I really wanted one last rubdown before I gave birth.

No signs of coming. No Braxton Hicks contractions. Not effaced. Not dilated. Not even the tinest bit.

Sitting on that bus, headed downtown, a slight cramping, balling up going on inside. Could it?

I went into my massage suspecting that contractions had started.

"Since you're past due, can I hit all the no-no spots that we usually avoid on a pregnant woman?"
"Go for it."

I spent 70 minutes sending all of my energy downward, opening, softening.

Back outside it was a bright, warm, very sunny day and I really wanted to walk. Start walking towards home. Meander. Stall. Shop. Find a snack.

My whole body told me to get back on that bus.

So I caught a 38L headed towards the ocean. There's another. And another. I finally pulled out my phone and opened the native clock app. Hit start. Waited. Hit lap. Waited. Lap. And? Ten minutes apart.

No. Way.

Had I taken herbs this morning? No. The only contractions I'd felt thus far were herbally induced, but not these.

This is good.

I got upstairs. Will's bag is gone. He's gone for the day. The dog is here. He needs a walk. I'm in labor.

I turned on Hulu. Best to nap. Rest. Catch up on any television.

Will's not here. He's got a midterm. I'm in labor.

I caved. SMS sent:

Promise you won't come home?
Does this mean you're in labor?
Promise first.
Ten minutes apart.
I don't want to jinx it.

He stayed. I turned on a bad movie. I texted my mom. She arrived an hour later to time for me. And we waited.

That night when Will came home he picked up Pho Ga on the way. We sat at the table. Ate. Waited.

We paged the midwives. "Drink a glass of wine and get some sleep."

I'd waited nine months to hear that.

We walked to Toy Boat for my last scoop of Double Rainbow chocolate chip. Pregnancy had quieted my lactose intolerance.

We walked to Blockbuster to pick up a movie to fall asleep to. Some Jim Jarmusch film. I didn't have my card on me and I was mid-contraction when she asked me for my ID.

Sure. Hold. On.

I fell asleep at about six minutes apart.

I made it until 4:30 when the contractions woke me up. I dosed until 7. I began timing again. Eleven minutes apart.

We got up to begin my ideal labor. Fantasy labor. Whatever you want to call it.

We walked to Baker Beach. It was foggy and empty. The bridge barely visible. Just some crows. Lots of foam on the sand. A low tide with calm waves.

On the day you were born

Six minutes apart.

My body told us. It's time to walk home.

On the way back I couldn't walk through the contractions. I had to stop. Lean on Will. Squat down. Breathe. Pause.

OK. Let's go.

He took my phone. Began timing for me. It's hard to time your own contractions. Four minutes apart.

It's 9:30 when we reach our front gate. I stop. Cling. Wait. A mother and stroller passed.

"Do you think people know?" I asked.
"Yes, she knew."

"Can you make it up the stairs in three minutes?"
"Let's go."

I think I made it to the top of our flight.

I got in the shower. It was the longest shower I've ever taken. It's hard to shampoo your hair when you're interrupted every three minutes.

I can hear Will call Ami. She's coming at noon.

I'm in the chair. I'm on the floor. I get on the bed. I walk around. My labor was all over the apartment.

This is where it gets fuzzy. I can't see or hear so well.

At the height of the pain I vomit.

Let's pause here for a moment. See, most home birth parents opt for a hospital birth for their first child, have a poor experience, and the second time around they find an alternative. I didn't need to birth a first child at a hospital because my own birth was so bad I already knew I didn't want to repeat that experience. For either of us.

My mom was 16 days past due when she went in for an induction that ended in an emergency Caesarian that left me injured, the effects of which are still visible today.

I was bound and determined not to involve the hospital, not to need Pitocin, not to end in surgery, not to relive my own birth.

I knew that my body and the baby's were going to have to work together to make this happen. And I hoped that they would.

That's not to say that at the height of the pain I didn't want drugs. Or relief. Or something, Oh My God, SOMETHING to make it stop. Just for a minute? For a moment? I just need a rest. I had to just keep telling myself that when it was all said and done I could sleep. I could crawl into my own bed with my own soft sheets with my family and sleep. Forever.

That's what I kept telling myself.

I vomit again.

Ami tells me to let her know when I start to feel the labor in my butt.

Will do.

That's when she'll call Nancy. Calling Nancy is a good thing. Nancy is the midwife for the baby. When Nancy comes, the baby comes. Can we please call Nancy? Now? Please.

I'm still all over the apartment. But it's getting harder to change locations. I can barely get down our short, stumpy hallway before I'm on the floor, in a contraction, trying to get the rest of the way to the bathroom.

Finally, we put me in the bath. Nancy's here. Her voice sounds lovely. I am in love with Nancy.

Last check I was 9.5 and the baby's head wasn't turned.

Pez had slept for the last few weeks facing out my right side. One quarter turn is all that was needed to put that baby in the right spot for birth. But it hadn't happened yet. And we're at 9.5.

That's two wrong answers.

It's time to push. My body is pushing. But it's not time to push.

This. This right here is the worst part of labor: being told not to push.

I'm on my side, clinging to the cool curve of the bathtub. They tell me to pant. I scream and cry. It's too hard. It's awful. I can't not push.

They pull me out and get me to the side of the bed. Nancy says I can push with the next contraction. See how it feels. I love Nancy.

I push.

"How did that feel?"

They check me again. 10. Turned. Water broken.

Three right answers.


I push for just under two hours. I sit. I side-lie. I'm on my back to get the baby past a tough spot.

Every other contraction they check the baby's heartbeat. It is the only moment when I am silent and still. I wait and listen. The beat is loud and strong every time.

Finally, I get on my hands and knees and push. I can see my efforts now. And that makes all the difference in the world.

It seems as if I only pushed through five more contractions. First the head. Ami tells me one more. I push. The whole head. And the body comes sliding out in a watery slither. Just like Juila imagined for me.

I reach down and catch her. I bring her slippery body up to my belly. I hold her close. Her. It is. My girl.

Her cord is beautiful. It's thick and ropy and bright white-violet. I had spent an afternoon of labyrinth walking working on nothing but her cord. A loose, straight, slippery cord.

The pain is instantly gone. I can speak again. My exit is quick. We are all here now.

I turn around and lie back, my baby on my belly. We wait for the placenta, birthed quickly and intact. We leave it in a bowl, attached still via cord, and let the three of us rest.

The midwives are buzzing. Cleaning. Checking vitals.

It is only now that we need to turn on the lights. She was born just before sunset.

At last the cord is clamped, tied and cut. Will does the honor. We are now two.

Finally, I rinse off in the shower. The sheets are changed while I'm away. We crawl into bed. The three of us. For our first night of sleep.

In the days after her birth, I thought about our leaving the apartment. The day we'll move. This is the place she was born. And it will be hard to go.

But then I realized that she was born on our bed. Our bed will come along. Wherever we go, we will carry with us the place you were born.

There is maybe no sweeter thing.

The night of your birth


Anonymous Analicia McClellan said...

Beautiful. She's gorgeous.

3/4/10 18:14  
Blogger leSiege said...

altho we've only said maybe 100 words to each other, and i consider Will to be a very very good person and friend, i envy him and lil pez for having such a wonderful wife and mother. wow. so, so, so, so awesome. i am so happy for you guys.

4/4/10 11:50  
Blogger Käthe said...

indeed, we are so lucky. the three of us. <3

5/4/10 09:32  
Blogger Artfulife said...

Thanks for sharing, we are having our first home birth & I love reading other peoples experiences. Congratulations :)

25/6/10 14:14  
Blogger tvmom said...

so beautiful...you are a strong woman!

25/6/10 19:38  

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