Everything, amazingly, went to plan. If I got up and walked around the contractions got harder, so mostly I just stayed put. They slowly got a bit closer together but not much longer – about 30 seconds each time. Monkey’s bedtime came and he was put to bed with as much normality as possible, and no big promises of a baby tomorrow morning, though we did tell him that Alice might be here when he woke up. Alice arrived at 9pm with her daughter asleep over one shoulder, and we rang the birthing center to say we were on our way, even though the contractions weren’t exactly as hard and fast as they should have been. I felt they’d ramp up once I was in the right place, and I wanted to get there and get things under way rather than hang around the house any longer.
It’s a 30-minute drive, door to door, and by the time we arrived the contractions, while still there, were weaker. The midwife chatted to us, got our info, and then said frankly that I didn’t look as if I was working all that hard, and maybe we’d have to go home and come back in the morning. We explained that our babysitter was in our bed, and we really didn’t want to check into a hotel in Annapolis just for the sake of a few hours. I resolved that the baby was just going to have to hurry itself up and get the show on the road. The midwife said we’d give it an hour or so and sat down to do some paperwork. B installed himself in the kitchen with a fresh paperback. And I started walking the corridors of the empty birthing center, weaving in and out of the rooms, rubbing my nipples shamelessly (feeling a bit of a fool, but I knew there’d be more embarassing things to come if it worked) and thinking good thoughts about wide tunnels and open and down. Every time a contraction came, I tried to loosen my jaw and not clench anything, and think the baby down.
After maybe ten minutes, the contractions really did start to get long and painful. I’d lean over the bedstead or against the wall (where the midwife could see me so she’d know what was going on and banish any more silly notions of sending us away), and I began to wonder how I could possibly have even suggested that my sister-in-law, newly pregnant, should attempt a drug-free labour. It’s one thing to do it to yourself, but to imply that someone else should take on this pain was apalling. I decided I needed to go to the bathroom, and was pleased to see that my body was getting everything out of the way in preparation for the big push – so that hopefully I wouldn’t poop while pushing.
And then something wierd happened. I was still sitting there on the loo, unflushed and unwiped, even, and I realised that I was still pushing even though I’d finished what I thought I’d come there to do. And I couldn’t stop it. And it hurt like the bejaysus.
The second time it happened, I think I managed to get a quick wipe in there, and I yelled in a strangulated sort of way for the midwife. My husband came and hovered outside the door – we’re not open-door pee-ers in our family. I said “Come in” and “Get Meaghan” and saw the midwife walking calmly by pulling on some latex gloves. She probably thought that since I seemed to be definitely in labour it might be time to check how dilated I was (since my waters had broken, she hadn’t checked me when I arrived as that would make me susceptible to infection if the labour didn’t progress right then).
There I was, still trapped on the blasted toilet, in agony, and nobody seemed to realise what was happening. “I’m pushing!” I finally wailed, as it really seemed that this was not transition, as I had thought might account for the awful pain, but the actual real deal. This time both B and Meaghan looked down, where modesty had prevented them looking before, and there was a head, crowning.
“Scoot forward,” said Meaghan, holding out her hands, I managed to move myself so that our daughter wasn’t born straight into the porcelain, and with one almighty push she came out. Meaghan said “Lift up your shirt” – so much for the clothes I’d brought “to labour in” and the nightdresses I’d brought “for delivery” – I was still wearing the tracksuit bottoms and red shirt I’d shown up in, and I believe I still had my knickers round my ankles – and she put a pinky-grey, writhing, alive, slippy tiny baby on my tummy. “I think it’s a girl” said B. “Is it a girl, really?”, I asked, and Meaghan confirmed that it was.
I walked (hobbled?) from the bathroom to the bed holding my daughter to me, umbilical cord still attached, and we nursed. After a while, B got to cut the cord and my placenta was delivered with a little yank on the cord and a little push from me. They rubbed the vernix into the baby’s soft, soft skin and put on the obligatory hat.
A little later on, while we three were cosying up in bed and discussing names (B had only made it to the B’s in the girls’ names side of the book) the midwife and the nurse looked in to tell us that John McCain had conceeded and Barack Obama was going to be the new president. We decided not to name the baby Obama, but were very pleased all the same.
We went home the same night, as per birthing center policy. They only keep you 4-6 hours after delivery, and she had been born at 10.22pm. It would have been nice to just go to sleep where we were, but the nurse wanted to get home too, and I was clearly recovering well and had no need of a longer stay. I had no tearing (hooray!) and my bleeding was very manageable, and the baby was just perfect. We turfed poor Alice out of our bed, climbed in, and Monkey got to wake up the next morning to find a new baby sister had sneaked in overnight.
The birthing center experience was wonderful for me – certainly helped by my ridiculously quick delivery, and we didn’t even get to use the birthing pool we’d requested. The memory I’ll always keep of my daughter’s birth is that of the quiet house, with just us three in it, the calmness surrounding me as I worked on the contractions, and how lovely it was afterwards in contrast to the hustle and bustle of a hospital. Labouring at home earlier in the day was also wonderful – everyone who says “Stay at home as long as possible” is right. Next time, if there is one, I’d like to do the whole thing at home. I’ll also be recommending Ina May Gaskin’s visualization techniques to every pregnant woman I meet, just in case it was more than mere coincidence.
2:00 pm – 02 January 2009