After the birth of Jordan, My Beloved came to the conclusion that raising a family of 8 on a sporadic paycheck was just not going to cut it. He rolled up his sleeves and took his job-hunting into high gear. After several months of interviews and applications, the company known as EDS found his charm, beauty, and excessive talent irresistable and offered him a job. Smart folks, those.
The only problem was, the job was in another country.
Nevertheless, we were undaunted. We had lived in foreign countries before. We could do it again. My Beloved accepted the job and we headed out. We had been living in Plymouth for a few months when we found out that number seven was on the way, due in November of 1997.
I think seven is when I started to view our family as more than just “slightly larger than normal.” After all, up to that point, we still all fit in a minivan (we had replaced the 2-seater bench with a 3-seater bench). The only vehicle options after that were 12 passenger vans. No doubt about it…we were headed for serious proportions, those that were less “big family” and more “tribe.”
We discovered pretty quickly that homebirth was not going to be an option for us in Massachusetts. If there were midwives operating in that capacity around those parts, they were keeping it pretty quiet. However, midwives working within the framework of the hospital were pretty common, so we were prepared to be content with that. I found a practice that I liked and began prenatal care.
A few months before I was due, rumors of transfers began to circulate. We hadn’t even been in Massachusetts a year, but there was a job they wanted My Beloved on in another far-flung foreign land. Sure enough, with one month before my due date, we found ourselves packing up our belongings and moving to Pennsylvania.
In Camp Hill, with less than 30 days to go, I scrambled to find someone to catch my baby. A Midwife’s Story had long been one of my all-time favorite reads, and I had dreams of finding The Actual Penny Armstrong, midwife to the Amish community, to do the honors. Unfortunately, her beat ended many miles shy of my house. Like Massachusetts, I could hear tell only of midwives who functioned within the hospital walls, and so I perused our list of OBs working in conjunction with them and came up with a Dr. Ann Manning.
Dr. Manning was perfect. Not only was she female, but she was pregnant with her sixth child. She and I had lots to talk about. In practice and policies, she was far more midwife than physician, and so we got along just fine. She also worked in conjuctions with midwives in her practice, and so we were content.
One would think the activity of moving into a new home and getting settled might cause me to have the baby early, perhaps? Think again. My due date approached with no twinges of any violent urgency, which for once we were grateful for. My mother was flying out to be with us for a week, arriving a couple of days before my due date, and we were of course hoping the big event would hold out for her. We knew precious few people in town, and even fewer with whom we would have felt comfortable leaving our brood when it was hospital time.
She arrived and we had two days of shopping and relaxing before my last OB appointment, a day before I was due. My Beloved and I went together since we now had a babysitter, and planned on enjoying dinner together after the check-in. The midwife who examined me asked me if I would like her to “strip my membranes.” I had never heard of this before, and when she explained and said it was sometimes good for inducing contractions, I agreed, as it seemed relatively non-invasive and I had no expectation of it having any effect on my formidable cervix anyway.
Appointment over, My Beloved and I headed to the Olive Garden, where I began to have regular contractions right about the time the salad arrived. This was indeed a novel development, as it seemed quite likely that the membrane sweep had triggered them. They were not distracting enough to make me want to leave my ravioli, however, so we proceeded with no undue haste.
That night I slept relatively well, the contractions only waking me occasionally. As I got up on the morning of my exact due date, they seemed much more manageable, and I figured they would fade away as the day wore on. My mother and I decided to make a quick trip to the mall (My Beloved had taken the day off, just in case) to see if walking would help increase activity.
While there, I began to have to pause and concentrate on each contraction as it came. This made my mother just a little nervous. When we went for a bathroom visit, there was the telltale “show” that made me realize this was indeed the beginning of the end. We headed back home just before lunch, where contractions promptly spaced out and became more manageable. I headed to the tub for a long hot soak, where they more or less disappeared.
My Beloved and I were scheduled that day to have a tour of the hospital at 3pm in order to aquaint ourselves with their arrangements, and we decided that we’d go ahead and have the midwife check me while I was there to assess how much progress had been made since the night before. We took my suitcase “just in case” we wound up staying.
While walking through the hospital, labor started up again and we finished the tour with a cervical check. I was a good 5 cm dilated and was admitted. Things were getting more intense for me, and I sat on the bed and tried to relax as My Beloved read to me from Paul Reiser’s book Babyhood (may I just insert here that this is a phenominally sweet and hilarious book and I highly recommend it).
I will be perfectly frank here and say that I was dreading labor. After Jordan’s birth, I simply could not count on anything going the way I expected it to, and I was terrified. I just didn’t wanna do it. If I could have thrown a hissy fit on the floor and pounded my fists, I would have. In fact, I was pretty much doing just that in my mind. A couple of hours after my first check, I had only gained about a cm of ground. The midwife fixed me with a steely eyeball and stated that just sitting on the bed was not going to cut it. How about if I walked around a bit?
I didn’t want to walk around. The contractions were just manageable as it was, thankyouverymuch. If I got up they would really start to hurt, for pete’s sake. But the midwife was intractable: get up and let’s get this party started.
With My Beloved’s gentle encouragement, I rose sulkily and did a few half-hearted laps around the tiny room. Sure enough, it hurt. Dammit. There just didn’t seem to be any other way. We walked up and down the hallway a few times before I couldn’t stand to be in such an exposed location and we went back to the room. Now things were getting very intense, and I still didn’t want to do this. I really, really, really, really, really, really, really did not want to do this! But it turned out that I had very little say in it after all. My body was not listening to my protests, traitorous wretch that it was.
Another check revealed I was at about a seven and headed irreversibly to transition. I wanted to cry, to wail, to put on the brakes. Instead, I got into the shower. Now, usually I am a pretty tepid-water kind of gal. My Beloved, on the other hand, likes to stand beneath the shower head and erode himself by sheer heat and force. I have never understood how his skin could handle such extreme temperatures. In the shower that day, however, I found myself directing water the approximate temperature of the sun upon my lower back as I leaned against the tiled wall. My Beloved could hardly bear to touch the faucets. My feet felt like they were boiling, although nowhere else did it seem to register as all that hot.
After about a half an hour in the pressure cooker, I managed to croak out to My Beloved that I felt…just…a little…pushy…maybe….I think….and he whisked me out, pronto, snagging a midwife as she went by the door. As soon as I was out of the shower I felt desperate to get on the bed and get the deed done. My Beloved, however, having known me long enough to have heard me say more than once that I never, ever, ever wanted to be, nor indeed would be, one of those earth-mama types who birthed stark raving naked. I would always have something on. I had my dignity, after all.
With this knowledge in mind and hospital gown in hand, he attempted to do as he knew I would wish and clothe me once again. Through my labor-fogged brain I tried to figure out what this crazy man was trying to do to me. Didn’t he know I was trying to have a baby? What the hell did I need clothes for? After I handed him his head, he realized that his wife had been replaced by an evil alien and desisted.
Dr. Manning and a midwife arrived and pronounced me good to go. I pushed. Once. There was the head, crowning. I was cautioned to slow down, but again the alien within took over and I pushed again. Like a miniature freight train, Josiah was born. My sanity returned. I wondered why in the world My Beloved had not put some clothes on me.
Just kidding. I apologized to him for my altered state. He forgave me and we had a good laugh. After I put the gown on.
We were delighted at our tiny new son, although honestly I was a little startled at his wizened appearance. He was our smallest baby since Molly, and it took a little getting used to his ET-like features after having more substantial babies. He was perfect in all the essentials, however, so I took comfort in knowing that after a week or two at the milk bar he would certainly flesh out and be as adorable and rotund as the rest had been. He was born on his due date, and I wonder at times if he might have hung out in utero another week if not for the membrane sweep.
My blood pressure suddenly went haywire after the placenta was delivered, and I found myself in the strange position of head-down-feet-in-the-air as they tried to figure out what was happening. Slowly it returned to normal, however, and the rest of my recovery was uneventful. Our hospital stay was not the most relaxing, however, as we discovered that we might have worried less about our OB situation and more about the nurses that would be taking over (literally) once the birth was done.
My Beloved was my hero in his staunch resolve to give ’em hell. Taking the baby for a check? I’m going with you. No? I can’t go into the nursery? Then the ped can come in here and do it. He can’t? Well then you’re not taking him. Either way, I’m not leaving his side.
Oh how they hated My Beloved. The annoying fellow simply would not give up on the idea that this baby was his, for some reason.
We eventually escaped from
Alcatraz Holy Spirit Hospital and headed home with our little blue bundle. The kids were ecstatic to have another brother, and my mother was able to spend the majority of her visit cuddling her new grandson. We celebrated Thanksgiving a week after his birth, and never have wells of gratitude bubbled up with so little effort as they did that year.
Weight: 6lbs 12oz
Labor: 6 hrs