19 October 2008
That's how old my oldest baby is...eleven years and about three hours old as I write this. Last night I woke up in the night and thought about my labor with him. It was long and hard, hard work but I have nothing but good memories of it.
Here's what I remember:
Much of it was spent with just my husband because I had a really long early labor. We walked and walked all around our Park Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood and I would sit on people's stoops or hang on their wrought iron gates during a contraction. We met a neighbor and told her what was going on and she cried and hugged me. A couple of contractions were spent with the cigar store indian on upper Seventh Avenue while my husband went in to buy cigars (Note: the smells of a cigar store and labor do not mix - I found out the hard way).
We also labored at home for a long time with our doula, Chris. She took charge when my folks managed to get here from Nashville before the baby I was laboring with. She sent them to a late dinner & movies and explained that they could use the upstairs entrance to our apartment so as not to bother me. Having extra people around (who tried to talk to me about normal stuff) was not helpful and made the work harder.
We spend some lovely time up on our roof terrace (once we nicely asked neighbors who didn't even have roof rights to take their partying friends indoors). We walked, we rocked on a glider, I slow danced with my husband and we looked at the biggest moon. That moon had a huge bright moon doggie circle around it and I remember thinking about Spiritual Midwifery where they talk about labor making things look all psychedelic, man...it's true.
I remember getting ready to leave and catching sight of myself in the mirror - no makeup. I laughed at my pregnancy thought of putting some on so I would look good in pictures. Yeah, right - as if anyone having a baby is in the mood for mascara.
I remember my doula calling for a car service to take us to the hospital and being impressed that she asked for a car of a non-smoking driver. Too bad I couldn't get the words out to say "Don't take Bowery! It's under construction!" So it was pot holes galore and the smell of asphalt. When I thought I would be sick (I wasn't), my husband offered me his cupped hands as a receptacle and for that I love him so much. And it's why I always tell people to bring a plastic bag in the car.
It was sort of funny how we got dropped off at the wrong hospital entrance (Beth Israel in NYC, just blocks from the church where we were married) and how I started walking, carrying my pillow, to the right entrance with the car service guy driving slowly beside me, asking me to get in, worried for me. He was so kind to us.
I remember how I instantly did not click with the nurse and how I tried to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from her talking to me. I also know that I didn't have to like her because I brought my own support, so I don't think I tried very hard, but good God was the woman an annoying pain. Some people luck out with great nurses, don't get me wrong.
I remember how I got checked right away and I was 8.5 cm. I got up to walk the halls, noticing my name on the board and seeing all the obligatory Mary Cassatt prints. How some residents came up and asked me if I was the first-timer who came in at 8.5cm and was still walking. Man, I must have walked so many miles that day.
I remember some resident coming in and asking me how "we" were doing and I said, "Well, I'M in labor and YOU'RE not my doctor, so please leave".
I remember crying and saying I couldn't do it and then saying to my doctor (who was super cool), "I think I just exhibited the emotional signpost for transition - please check me". She laughed and said I was right. When I was pushing I recall being so uninhibited, something I had been concerned about. I recall a distinct memory of thinking that a red double decker bus filled with tourists with cameras (I was picturing it in the room) could be there if it would help - that was the sort of deal-making I was willing to do.
I remember my husband saying, "wow- you're so flexible" as I used the squat bar in a different way, putting my feet on it and doing some kind of (unhelpful) back bend. I said to my doctor, "Come on - there has to be SOMETHING you can do" (code, because I wouldn't mention drugs etc.) and she replied, "You don't want that and you don't need that" - bless her.
I remember seeing evil nurse uncover the instruments table and recalling from my birthing class that this means they think it's almost time...but also being dubious when they told me I was close.
I remember not wanting the mirror I had requested. But I did touch my baby's head and I was concerned because it felt like a ripe peach...where were those bones? My husband said, "it's like a paintbrush" because the baby had so much hair.
I thought I might die. Or split in two. And eventually I made peace with this and decided to go ahead, whatever the price. I surrendered and he was born.
I have such love for everyone in the room when he was born too - even that nurse, who gave me the opportunity to exert my independence, even if she didn't mean to.
He was so beautiful and he still is. I love my first boy, so much like me it's scary. I love that he still looks like his baby self even as he gets more and more grown up looking.
That's what I was thinking about last night and this morning, as I reflect back on eleven years of motherhood.
*the picture above is a year old already