* Despite the title, this is a birth story
It all began on a Monday night while putting our then youngest to bed. K did not want me to put her to bed, insisting on it being her daddy. I, for my part, did not feel at all up to cleaning up the kitchen, so I pulled all the stops.
“Let’s lay down together in my bed,” I said. Usually that is enough to convince her.
“How about this, you and I lay down in my bed and let’s tell the baby it’s OK to come out.”
She thought about it, then smiled. “OK Mama.”
Then she addressed my bulging belly: “It’s OK to come out now, baby!”
Within a few minutes of laying down with K, I was hit with a contraction that had a definite this-is-no-longer-just-the-toning-kind edge to it. Did baby have to be so literal? I didn’t mean right then; I meant after a good night’s sleep.
By the time K fell asleep I’d had two more, but somehow I thought I’d still be able to sleep. But those just barely on the edge contractions did not stop. They weren’t happening too frequently either. Nor were they anything I couldn’t breathe through.
At midnight I asked Erik to run an Epsom salts bath for me. My intention was to slow the contractions down so that I could sleep. That had worked beautifully when K was born. We called our midwife just to let her know what was going on, and to be ready for a possible phone call in the morning.
At two in the morning I figured my body was relaxed enough to get some sleep.
By three in the morning I knew the quest for sleep was going to be futile. Erik warmed up the bath for me again and I soaked. I was definitely in active labor by then, and as I would realize two hours later, much further along than I thought.
We called the midwife again a little after four. I told her to go ahead and come on over. While talking to her I had a contraction that I had no problem talking through. She noted this fact. “Yes, but I couldn’t talk through the last one,” I replied. She said she’d be right over. I no longer wanted to be in the bath so I got dressed and wandered around the house trying to figure out what I wanted to do next.
A few contractions later I felt terrified. I know from past experience that this feeling means the birth is truly imminent. I called the midwife back to let her know. She was already on the road.
I had no idea what position I wanted to be in to make the contractions easier. What I wound up doing for most of them was standing on my tip toes and arching my back. I must have looked horrendously uncomfortable because Erik kept asking me how he could help me, what position I wanted to be in, what he could do for me. I felt overwhelmed by all the questions. I just kept saying “I have no idea!”
By this time all the children were awake. K was the first out of bed. She wanted to know what all the commotion was about, as in, why was Mama making all that noise. “The baby’s coming,” I replied. She didn’t seem surprised at all. After all, hadn’t she just given the baby permission the night before? I saw L wandering about in the dark in her underwear.
“L, you might want to get dressed. The midwife is coming,” I told her.
“I’m just looking for earplugs!” she said somewhat testily. Erik told me later that her first reaction upon waking up to my primal birthing noises was to put the pillow over her head. Apparently that didn’t work too well. She wasn’t able to find ear plugs either. At some point she resigned herself to being up and about at four-thirty in the morning and got dressed. She offered to call the midwife for me but I told her she was already on the way.
Erik’s attention was divided between me, who really didn’t know how to best use his support, and riding herd on the three girls whose needs and wants were more straightforward. I think he started fixing them breakfast.
But he was still trying to help me out. I was in the kitchen when I had my big transition contraction. That’s the one that seems to go on and on and I think it will never end. Only I still didn’t realize that’s what it was. I just chalked it up as an extra long one.
Once again Erik was full of questions, and they rang in my ears like something obnoxious and overwhelming. Questions, questions, questions! Then suddenly my mind honed in on a desire, something so wonderful I couldn’t wait to taste it, and something that would be so easy to get.
“I want a grapefruit,” I said. “Can you please cut me one?”
“That I can do!” Erik said cheerfully. A few seconds later, there was a grapefruit half in a bowl on the table all ready to eat. I took the bowl and spoon and moved them to the counter.
“I’m afraid to sit down,” I said by way of explanation. I ate about a third of that delicious juicy grapefruit standing up.
Then I felt like peeing so I went to the bathroom for what seemed like a routine stop, thoughts of finishing up that sweet and juicy grapefruit dancing in my head.
I felt another contraction starting once I’d finished my business. Instinctively I put my hand down there and felt the water bag bulging out. Already? Then the contraction overtook me and I started really yelling.
“Something’s coming out!”
Erik rushed into the bathroom. I was still sitting on the toilet. He asked me if I wanted to get into the bathtub, but I said no. I didn’t know what to do so I just stayed put as the water bag bulged out further. Where was the midwife?
The water bag popped giving me some relief, and then the head crowned. Erik got into a position to catch the baby, and I’m sure I asked him a few times if he was ready, because ready or not, the baby was coming. The head popped out and then the shoulders. I felt it, but couldn’t see a thing.
“Do you have a good grip?” I asked Erik urgently.
“Yes I do, he assured me.”
The baby’s torso seemed to be stuck forever and I wanted that big thing out.
“Can you give it a little tug?” I asked Erik. I knew you never ever pull on the baby’s head, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to tug a bit on the shoulders. I thought that’s what Erik did because the next thing I knew the entire baby popped out along with a whole bunch of liquid, but later Erik told me he didn’t tug on the baby at all.
Erik caught the baby and brought it up to me, placing it against my lower abdomen. The baby immediately began to breathe and in a few moments started to fuss.
I sat there holding my new baby, feeling like my insides had just been turned inside out. Slowly it dawned on me. It’s over. I don’t have to gear up for labor. It just happened.
It seemed like forever that we just sat there in the bathroom holding our baby and just breathing, but I’m sure it wasn’t longer than a minute or two.
K saw the birth, and her take was that the baby came out of me upside down. L and E, the older girls, saw bits and pieces but they were otherwise busy running to and from the front door watching for the midwife. When they saw her turn into our driveway, they ran out to meet her and hurry her inside.
She came and found us holding our baby. She found a towel to wrap around the baby, and then sat with us for a minute or two longer.
Before long she assisted me to my bed where she could more easily tend to me and the baby. It was at that point that we learned it was a boy. Another surprise, as I was convinced it would be another girl. We estimated that he’d been born right around five in the morning. Needless to say, we all fell in love with little A.
An hour or two later, after things had settled down a bit, the midwife asked me if I was hungry.
“Well, I’d sure like to finish my grapefruit,” I replied.
Erik got a sheepish look on his face.
“It’s gone.” I don’t remember if he told me he’d finished it up or what he said, but I was disappointed. I really wanted that grapefruit!
I settled for yogurt, and gobbled a bowl down while the midwife told me she was glad to see me eating already.
The unfinished (by me anyway) grapefruit was just one of a half dozen we had recently acquired from the Sharehouse. Somewhere in the next few days in the midst of the joyous and groggy postpartum haze I ate all the other grapefruits in that bunch.
Every. Single. One.