Eight. That's how old my second son turned while we were sleeping last night. As I was drifting off, I was thinking about how eight years before I had been in heavy labor. I recall spending much of the time on my own, in a good way (though I'm sure I was alone less than I remember).
At the start of that January, a few days before his EDD, I went to a midwife appointment at The Childbirth Center (the only free-standing birth center in NJ, now closed). I was told that I was 4cm and they were so sure they would see me that night that they would be keeping my file out, and to go have a nice lunch & pack up. So that's what we did...we called my friend Deb, who was to be with us; called my mother-in-law, who was to take care of our oldest & then bring him in time fore the birth. We wanted to give everyone a heads-up.
We went home and packed up and sure enough, contractions started that night. My favorite midwife was on & I was so happy. Contraction went on for a couple of hours and closer to morning we called everyone. And they came. Including my father-in-law. This was not part of the plan and somehow everything just stopped. Screeching breaks. Stopped in its tracks. Imagine the delight of hearing my father-in-law, in his thick Italian accent, say, "Kim, false alarm?" But I was not giving up...it was freezing, so we went to the mall and walked and walked. Deb and my husband would look at me expectantly sometimes if I paused...but aside from the odd contraction here or there, nothing. We went to see a movie (a LOOOONG movie - Crash, I believe)...nothing.
Because of the expectation - expectation that had not been there until that midwife appointment, I was on high alert, feeling desperate to go into labor. I tried just about anything you can imagine - drank all manner of foul tasting stuff. I sent my poor husband to Chinatown to plead for anything that might help (they just stared at him). A midwife came over to try to strip my membranes but found that my cervix was actually pretty far back. I had massages and reiki. I walked. My husband did all he could to get oxytocin flowing. I used the breast pump while doing hip circles on the birth ball. I shoveled snow. I ate spicy food. I did anything I had ever heard of to get labor started. The ladies who did reiki on me told me they had never experienced an energy of timelessness like they felt when working on my baby...he literally made their clock get all weird and loud and their CD start to slow down like a stretched out tape. They asked to meet him once he came.
And you know what? Babies don't come until they are ready - none of the stuff that's supposed to work was working because it wasn't time. I know that now, but I didn't know it then. However, we were approaching 42 weeks, the cut off for the birth center and so the midwife also wanted to get things started. I'm sure if I'd been resistant, I could have held off, but I wasn't and agreed to go in and let her break my water and start labor. And do you know what again? Nothing. There was hardly any forewaters, so she couldn't even break my water. This kid was just not ready.
So we left all our stuff at the birth center and went out. We walked around and went to breakfast. We walked to Starbucks and I sat on a lovely velvet chair and read the paper. That's where I was sitting when my water really broke. On it's own - a giant pop & gush, like my first birth. Fortunately, the chair was OK. Months later, I saw a very pregnant woman sitting in that same chair and couldn't resist telling her the story.
We went back so I could change, but then went right back out to walk and hang out. I was still tightly gripping at control, which is not such a great thing to do when it comes to birth...this is my own personal karmic story of my life.
Hours went by and miles were covered. I was pretty disgusted and giving up hope. So of course we decided to check out a Mexican restaurant. I ate a full dinner. I had a few contractions, one of which was kind of strong. The waitress asked when I was due and I said I hoped to give birth within hours - she was a little freaked.
We went back to the birth center and the head midwife was not there, though a lovely apprentice was. I put in a little time with the breast pump, but nothing big happened. We spoke by phone to the midwife and she suggested getting in the tub with some Sleepytime tea, relaxing and getting some sleep and hopefully waking up in labor. Or, she said, I could drive over to the hospital and get induced, to which I said NO! She wasn't really suggesting this, I believe (knowing her), as testing me, nudging me to get in the game. As I was on the phone with her, making a plan to give up for tonight, surrendering, I had an enormous contraction.
I got in the tub and the contractions didn't stop. My husband expected that we had a long haul, like the first time, so he couldn't quite understand why I didn't want to watch "Law & Order" with him or much care about his plot summary. I just wanted him to get out of the way so I could see the flickering shaddow that the candle was casting on the wall. I needed solitude and dark. The room was wonderfully steamy and the visit from the apprentice and her tween daughter, bringing more tea with honey, rubbing my shouders and stroking my hair...it was lovely. We chatted and laughed and it was like a slumber party. I asked my husband to call people and tell them to come and he said, "really?!" It had only been a couple of hours of labor. I don't know how long, actually, but not long. He didn't think it was happening anytime soon. But I told him yes - call. NOW.
The head midwife arrived and I told her I thought I needed to go to the bathroom and she said it was my baby's head. I did not believe her. I got out of the tub to use the loo, but of course she was right about it being the baby. The contractions out of the water were so different - so hard. She asked me to lay on the bed to be checked. Of course there was no more cervix. I heard commotion and realized that Deb had arrived. She ran in...she said "thank God for EasyPass or I wouldn't have made it in time". I asked her to come over so I could hold on to her for leverage - she didn't even get to take her coat off! I recall her smiling and nodding at me, with sweat on her upper lip. My husband was holding a leg maybe. I aske him to put my hair in a ponytail, but he wasn't doing it right, so I stopped pushing, got up on my knees and redid my hair and then went back to pushing, trying out a few positions and hollering loudly. I called out "oh God" and the midwife siad something like, "He's here for you" and I remember thinking, "oh - I did't necessarily mean literally - it's just an expression, but OK". Not long after, my son's head was born (with the help of lots of olive oil!). The plan was for my husband to catch, but we actually caught him together, me sliding my fingers under his arms before his hands were even born. We had to unwrap him from his extrodinarily long cord which contained a true knot. He was 9lbs 2oz and had a full head of hair.
My oldest and my mother-in-law got there just after he was born (more later on that), in time for the placenta, so my oldest felt like he was there for the birth. He was so sweet and snuggled with us and his new brother.
And now that baby is 8 and shares his birthday with Martin Luther King. His request for his birthday was not a party with lots of friends or tons of gifts, but and overnight with just me and my husband, so that's what we are doing. Happy birthday, O!