New Place, Sweet New Face

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. 

 

Massachusetts.

 

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.

 

Stats
Baby: Josiah
Weight: 6lbs 12oz
Labor: 6 hrs

A River Of Blessing

We were still living in my hometown when we discovered #6 was on the way, about a year after Connie was born. My Beloved was enjoying his teaching job and we were busy with life and all it entails, in spite of being poor as churchmice. The news of our expected addition barely caused a ripple at this point, since most people had given up trying to “educate” us and had resigned themselves to our being insane.

 

This was (and still is) just fine with me. 

 

Excitement ran high for our immediate families, however, since on the heels of my announcement came one from my SIL (whose bed I had commandeered for our previous birth), my other SIL (she of the intrepid husband), and my very own sister. We were all due in March of 1996: I with my sixth, one SIL with her eighth, the other SIL with her first, and my sister with her third. It was our own private mini-baby-boom.

 

The question looming large, of course, became Who Will Deliver? There could be no birthing at relatives’ houses this time around, as I was due in March instead of the lazy summertime, plus the previously mentioned fact of my SIL having birthing of her own to concern herself with. There was still a midwife about an hour and a half from us, but we were reluctant to have to spend three hours per visit in the car for my prenatal care.

 

At that point in my life I was reading a lot of midwifery books and other birth-related material, and I was convinced that I could just Do It Myself. Shewt, I was every bit as talented as a cat, wasn’t I? And hadn’t my last couple of births been fairly easy and quick? Obviously I was getting this thing down. We could just wing it! 

 

My Beloved, on the other hand, has never, ever been fond of the winging it attitude when it comes to matters of a biological condition. Unless they are HIS biological conditions, in which case his preferred modus operandi is to ignore them as long as possible.

 

However, even given his NN (Nervous Nellie) status when it came to labor and delivery, he was unequivocably male. As such, while the concept of a new baby was a given, the reality of a new baby was somewhat less pressing in his mind. I have a theory that until the baby is crowning, the whole idea of an actual human entity residing in one’s wife’s abdomen is purely metaphysical for most men. 

 

This being the case, I could toodle along in my little dream of dropping to the floor at the last minute and casually popping the baby out all by myself without too much resistance from My Beloved, on account of the mentality that any week other than week 40 was just too early to be discussing it. We had heaps of time! Right?

 

Meanwhile, we stopped by Donna’s on our trips to visit his family, and discussed our labor and delivery plans in abstract and completely intangible terms. 

 

 

Eventually, however, as God in His divine mercy looked pityingly upon our addle-headed schemes (or lack thereof), a plan developed that had His providence written all over it. My best friend from childhood lived just an hour away from us and I had invited her to attend the birth. Her pastor’s wife was a midwife whom she had used herself for her last two children’s births. This midwife (Diana by name) was no longer actively practicing because she had a growing young family of her own, but my friend told her about us and our predicament and she readily agreed to tag along with her to our house when the time came.

 

Although we had never met the midwife in question, the recommendation of my BFF was enough to reassure My Beloved that there would be Someone Knowledgeable in the vicinity when it came right down to it, and that was good enough for him. For myself, I was content to let them all believe I would actually *need* Someone Knowledgeable because, as I said previously, MY plan involved cleverly producing the baby before anyone even knew I was in labor.

 

I should have known the gig was up when, two weeks from my due date, I had lunch with my mother at a Chinese buffet. My fortune cookie read “a challenge is near.”

 

My sister-in-law had her baby. Then my sister had her baby. Then my other sister-in-law had her baby. I was late. Late, late, late. People often find it hard to believe that any baby past the second could possibly be late. I mean, they just fall out after that, right? One’s cervix only resembles Ft. Knox for one or two babies, right? After that the doors fling open wide and you have to duct-tape your legs together in the last few months to prevent them from being early, huh?

 

Um. No.

 

My cervix was happily bolted, barred, and locked. It just never has understood that the point is to HAVE the baby, not keep it indefinitely. Although I had days in which contractions would begin, they always leaked away into nothingness just as I started to get hopeful. I was none too pleased at the thought that my March baby was looking much more like an April baby at this point.

 

My mother stopped by one evening to take me to a movie in order to try and lift my flagging spirits. I cannot for the life of me remember what the movie was, but I do remember that contractions started up as I sat in the popcorn-saturated darkness. I ignored them. I was mad at their fickle behavior over the past week and wasn’t about to give them the time of day.

 

Returning home, I sat at the kitchen table with My Beloved and we finished a 1500 piece puzzle we had started working on the day before. Contractions were steady but unimpressive, and I was certain they were also going to amount to nothing. It was about midnight when My Beloved wisely let me place the last piece of the puzzle and we headed to bed. I fell asleep quickly, thus confirming that labor couldn’t possibly be imminent.

 

At 2am my eyes flew open to the startling sensation of being doused with a bucket of warm water. Leaping from the bed, I gasped out to my alarmed Beloved that my water had just broken!

He scrambled up blearily and had the good sense not to say are you sure? which I am fairly certain would have earned him a one-way ticket to the doghouse out back. Instead, he fetched a fan to dry the mattress and I changed my clothes in great excitement. It took a good hour before I stopped shaking from the shock of my abrupt awakening, during which time I had not a single contraction. I called Donna to ask what I might expect to happen next. She was encouraging, saying that usually contractions start up fairly quickly after rupture if they had been coming earlier as well, so I called my BFF and she said she’d pick up our standby midwife and come straightaway.

 

The Lord had spoken to my heart many months earlier as I asked Him about a name for this baby, and I felt strongly that He had answered with the word “River.” Oh Lord, I said to Him. You know [My Beloved] will never go for that name! Just as quickly the name “Jordan” came to me. Perfect. It had been my grandfather’s name, so it was solidly part of our family tree, and (as predicted) much more palatable to my man’s mind.

 

This was the first and only time that my water broke first, ahead of active labor. As I paced the floor rather squelchily, I started to laugh at the sudden memory that one of the scriptures the Lord had led me to as I had mused upon the baby’s name in the months previous had been John 7:38…

 

“He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ “

Don’t even try to tell me the Lord does not have a sense of humor. His ways of confirming names for our children has always led me to believe He’s chuckling to Himself just a little at His own cleverness.

 

I paced the floor, convinced that as soon as contractions began they would usher the baby into my hands. I was thrilled at the thought of holding my newborn and watching the sun rise on the last day of March. My mother arrived along with several of my girlfriends from church and we all agreed that This Shouldn’t Take Long. Contractions finally began and were strong enough but very, very far apart.

 

My BFF and Diana arrived and I was checked. I can’t remember what the dilation was at that point, only that it was singularly unimpressive. No matter. I remained convinced that WHEN the contractions got their act together, they would make up lost ground in a hurry.

 

The sun rose. I had never witnessed a more depressing sight. I was still pregnant. Contractions were getting stronger but they were still miles apart and dilation was pathetically slow. My five other children got up and we told them the baby will be here today! although I no longer remained convinced of that fact. My body was defective, quite obviously. I retreated to my bedroom for a good cry.

 

Lunchtime came and went, and Diana asked me if I had been taking any herbal supplements over the course of my pregnancy. I answered in the negative and she gently explained that one’s uterus could get just a little tired after many births. It could get a little flabby and disinterested in the whole process, in fact, and decide to put its feet up and eat bonbons rather than do its God-given job, for pete’s sake, in some cases.

 

This was news to me. I had come to grips with the fact that I was not cut out to deliver my own baby, catlike and solitary. But the idea that I owned a rebellious uterus? How fair was that? I cried some more. I was so tired, so completely and utterly spent. The contractions were strong enough to hurt like hell, but not coming close enough together to get me to the grand finale. I was done with walking. I was done with talking. I was done with the whole thing. I was going to bed.

 

And so I did. I lay down and stopped caring about how much longer I had. I just knew that I needed some rest, and I needed to stop feeling like a watched pot. The pressure to “perform” that I had put upon myself was overwhelming, and letting go of it was probably the best thing I could have done. Everybody went out of the room. My brothers came over and took my children to the park across the street. I dozed a little, between contractions.

 

After about an hour I felt calm enough to get up again. Diana handed me a hot cup of extra-strength raspberry-leaf tea, and I drank it willingly. It was what she called a uterine toner. Sort of like pilates for the womb; a gentle way to wake it up and nudge it towards the finish line. I walked a bit and finally…finally!…things kicked into high gear. I entered transition and tried to stay focused on the final lap, although I was still so tired it was all seeming quite theoretical at this point.

 

Once again I lay down on my left side to space out the contractions as I entered the pushing phase. Every time I pulled my right leg up to my chest, I had a fabulously strong pushing urge. When I put my leg down, nothing. I was too tired to hold my own leg. This is when having lots of willing, excited people around comes in handy. As I gripped My Beloved’s hand and ground it into powder, a friend or two held my leg for me.

 

As Jordan entered the world, she was a deep dusky purple, which was just a little alarming. Diana suctioned her out and made certain she was breathing, which she was. As she lifted her to place her on my chest, we discovered that she only made it to my belly button before being forced to stop, and there she stayed until I delivered the placenta. She was literally being kept on a very short cord.

 

Once we could see the whole picture, we marvelled at the sight. Her cord was so short that as she emerged it had been stretched tight, cutting her oxygen supply just enough to account for her initial purple hue. She rapidly recovered, however, and was soon a beautiful pink not unlike her second-oldest sister had been at birth.

 

It was now dinnertime. Such a long, long way from where I thought I would be holding my baby when my water broke! But all was well now, and the blissful haze of success fell over the house. The children came in to admire and welcome her into the fold, and Diana and my stalwart friends departed to their own homes and families.

 

It wasn’t the birth I was anticipating, but it hardly seemed to matter with such a slip of sweetness to occupy my thoughts. I even forgave my uterus for its sulky attitude, although I vowed in the future to make raspberry leaf tea a staple in my cupboard.

 

Stats
Baby: Jordan
Weight: 8lbs 9oz
Labor: 15 hrs

Happy

Early morning light, coming through my bedroom window:

 

 

This Tulip Tree in our neighborhood, even though it causes me to break the eleventh commandment, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s foliage:

 

 

 

 

I don’t think this needs an explanation:

 

 

 

 

Nature walks, and the feast for the eyes the Lord provides us with daily if we only have eyes to see:

 

 

And lastly, I don’t have a picture for it, but can I just be corny and say YOU? Yeah, you, the one reading this right now. Whether you comment or not, the fact that you come, and read, and stick around to hear what I have to say next gives me more joy than I ever thought possible. You make me happy. I thank the Lord for you! 

for the whole “happy” photo series, click on the Happy category in my sidebar!

Home-Away-From-Home…Birth

My Beloved was done with school. Degree in hand, the job offers poured in he did odd jobs for longer than I care to remember. Then he was offered a job as a teacher in a small private school five hours away, in my hometown. It’s a nice town, and my parents had retired there, so we prayed it through and said yes.

 

“Small private school,” I might add, could also be code for “sporadic pay, at best.” 

 

 

Nevertheless we were happy, and settled quickly into our familiar routine of homeschooling, working, and being pregnant.

 

Did I say “being pregnant”? Well, okay, so it will never be routine, but it was becoming a pattern. Number five was expected in July of ’94 and once again I was filled with wonder at the fact of it. Those little lines on the peestick just never lose their charm…I could stare at them all day. And how far pregnancy tests have come! The pregnancy test I purchased in 1986 was like a little mini-laboratory with tiny test tubes and instructions like “mix six drops urine with packet X and shake thoroughly.” Then you were supposed to judge whether the color had changed to one of the dozen or so variations listed as “positive.” And it took like TEN MINUTES, people! The agony!

 

Nowadays you can know you’re pregnant before you pull up your knickers.

 

This is a blessing and a curse, of course. Nine months feels undeniably longer when you have the whole nine months to think about it. I’ve always wanted to be one of those women who was taken by surprise at six or eight months pregnant, but I’ve never managed to be quite so out of touch, no matter how hard I try. The puking probably helps with that.

 

My Beloved’s extended family still lived in the vicinity of the town we had just vacated, so we made semi-frequent trips down to visit. It was no big deal to swing by Donna’s for a prenatal any time we happened to be nearby, and so in this way we continued to postpone a decision regarding what to do on the actual Birth Day Itself. However, the issue obviously wasn’t going to go away, no matter how distant the reality seemed.

 

There was a midwife we had heard a little about who lived an hour and a half away from our new home, but before we had to bite the bullet and actually break in somebody new, an option that was slightly out of the ordinary but undeniably attractive presented itself. My Beloved’s brother lived just minutes away from Donna. His house was large and lively with six children of his own, and he and his wife made us an offer that I’m not sure many others would entertain: have the baby there!

 

Given his teacher status, My Beloved had his summers “free” and so there was no conflict with regards to coordinating how much time he could take off to be in another state, waiting for his wife to give birth. To make matters even better, his other brother needed a housesitter for several weeks in June/July while he and his family went on vacation. This meant we would have a vacant house in which to spread out until the day was considerably nearer. It was perfect.

 

When school let out for the summer, we packed our bags and headed out for our extended vacation. As my due date approached, we settled into my brother-and-sister-in-law’s (exceedingly hospitable and laid-back) home for the Grand Finale. Given that the guest room in which we were residing was a little on the snug side, BIL and SIL were insistent that we use their master suite for the big day.

 

Yes, folks, I birthed a baby in my brother-in-law’s own bed. How many people can claim that kind of family unity?

 

Not many, I wager.

 

One evening several days past my due date I felt the familiar backache and practice contractions that bespoke a baby in the near future. I wasn’t going to get too riled up, but it was looking promising. True to my vow ever since #3, I did NOT go for a walk. I went to bed. I figured I’d sleep as long as I could and when I couldn’t sleep anymore, it would be time. Secretly I was hoping that I’d just be like one of those women in the fairy tales birth stories who claim they simply awoke pushing and had the baby in the bed before anyone could twitch an eyelash.

 

I slept fitfully and woke up to the dawn’s early light sans newborn, sadly enough. The contractions, however, were still regular. On the one hand, I was dying to meet the new little one just around the proverbial corner and I knew that as soon as I stood erect my body would begin to get serious about delivering the goods. On the other hand, I wanted to curl up in a ball and whimper like a sissy, postponing the inevitable for as long as possible.

 

Ah, the schizophrenic nature of childbirth.

 

In the end, I screwed my courage to the sticking point and got up to take a nice hot shower.

 

Wanna have a baby today? I asked My Beloved as I “accidentally” knocked him in the head upon arising (hey, if I gotta be in pain, he at least needs to be awake to witness it).

 

The question was rhetorical, of course, but he responded affirmatively. Then he curled up in a ball and whimpered like a sissy.

 

I’m kidding. Sort of. He didn’t actually do it, but I’m thinking he wanted to. My Beloved is not cavalier when it comes to childbirth. Contrary to what one might think, he is actually quite the Nervous Nelly about it. Yes, even to this day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

Contractions did indeed pick up substantially when I began to ambulate about. We called the family not-residing-in-house (MIL, little SIL, other SIL) and told them that Today Was Definitely The Day. I stayed on my feet, preparing the bedroom and gathering the necessary supplies. Often people wonder about the bed during a homebirth. How does one prepare it for the onslaught of bodily fluids that have a tendency to erupt during such events? In our experience, the best way is to dress it thusly:

 

1. Strip it down, then remake it with the most buttery-soft sheet set in your possession.
2. Outfit it with a plastic mattress protector atop the buttery sheets.
3. Place an old sheet set that you don’t care too much about over the plastic.

 

In this way, after the birth, the old sheets come off and go straight into the wash, the plastic protector is removed, and you are left with the buttery-soft, delightful bed in which to collapse straightaway. A post-delivery woman knows no greater joy than to be enveloped in such bliss as a soft bed offers, I can tell you truly.

 

So the bed was made, the birth kit brought in, and soon the desire to shut myself away became very strong. The labor was going quickly, but it was hurting a lot more than my last birth. Each contraction was causing knife-type pains in my lower abdomen, which made it hard to concentrate on my Tiki Hut in the South Pacific. It kept morphing into an Iron Maiden instead.

 

The various family arrived and we deliberated on when to call Donna. With every contraction I thought now! and then as it ebbed away I thought maybe after the next one… I always had an irrational fear that I’d call far too early and be disappointed to hear that I still had hours of labor ahead of me.

 

This time My Beloved, remembered the previous labor’s brisk pace and having a near-mortal fear of actually having to don the catcher’s mitt, decided to make The Call. By the time Donna arrived, it was obvious that Baby was headin’ out. The spacious master suite turned out to be rather handy in the end because for some reason I kept inviting people in to witness the event. And they kept taking me up on the offer, strangely enough! I think I felt it was something of my duty to educate the general populace on the superiority of homebirth. The viewers present in this case (as far as I can recollect) included my MIL, 4 SIL’s, a niece, and a friend.

 

My Beloved is not included as a viewer, by the way, because he is much, much more than that. He is support, strength, love, encouragement, and a handy punching bag when the need arises.

 

I always push while lying on my left side, for some reason. I know some women swear by the proverbial rice-paddy squat, but contractions have always been too overwhelming for me by the time I need to push, so I lay down to force them to space out a bit. I took to the bed and gave it all I had, but this time around Mr. Pushy was not so much my friend. He was a bit of a sadist with his stabby knife in my lower gut, and I was none too happy with him. As the baby emerged, the reason became clear.

 

She was as sunny-side-up as they come, staring straight into Donna’s eyes as she complained loudly about the sudden change of scenery.

 

I know a posterior birth causes severe back labor in most people, but it was the opposite for me. I felt it all in my guts. At any rate, our fourth daughter entered the world safely in spite of her unconventional methods, and has displayed very little evidence of a rebellious nature since then.

 

Sunny disposition, on the other hand? In spades.

 

Stats
Baby: Connie
Weight: 7lbs 12 oz
Labor: 5 hrs

We Now Interrupt These Birth Stories To Bring You Some Crumpets

A while back I promised to try my hand at making the delightful foodstuffs known as crumpets, whereupon I then embarked on finding the knowledge necessary in performing such an operation and immediately became crippled by fatigue at the very thought.

 

Apparently, some people think they are difficult to make. In fact, according to one source at the turn of the century (the last century, not the one we are currently residing in) “No one makes crumpets at home anymore. They are simply too much work.” 

 

Too much work? In an era when people still wrung their laundry through presses and darned their stockings? This did not bode well, to my mind.

Nevertheless, I had promised! And I always keep my promises.

 

Well, I try anyway. It’s probably more like 90%. Maybe 85% on a really bad day.

 

So I soldiered on, examining recipes to see just what was so all-fired difficult about it. In the end, I decided that it didn’t sound THAT hard…I mean, it involves yeast, which many people have an irrational fear of, but Hey! We Are All Adults Here And We Can Do This.

 

I also found this bit of trivia: “Crumpets were first recorded in the late 17th century. Their original name was crompid cake, meaning a griddle baked cake which was thin and thus curled up at the edges during the cooking process. It is likely that the first crumpets were made with buckwheat flour.”

 

Whatever. Let’s get on with it.

 

Firstly, you assemble the necessary ingredients:

 

 

 

They don’t look very imposing, do they? That’s because they aren’t! At all! They’re nice, peaceful ingredients. They’re here to help. They are our friends.

 

Look at me, lining them all up like that! Who do I think I am, the Pioneer Woman? The Pioneer Woman gets like 25,000 hits on her site per day. I am definitely not her.

 

Anyway, you can see that some of my ingredients are organic in nature. I am not trying to be uppity. We just recently decided to go a little more au naturale around here, and so that’s what I have. Don’t worry, you can use the poisonous regular versions, too. I’m sure you’ll live happy and full lives, even so.

 

You can also see a coffee maker in the background. You don’t need that for this recipe. I have limited counter space for fancy lining-up-of-the-ingredients shots. I also had a helper:

 

 

 

 

 

 

He thinks he’s cute. I don’t know where he got such an idea.

 

Moving on, let me say a few things about yeast. Do not fear it. It’s really a swell little organism. Forget all the scary stuff you’ve read about killing it with water too hot or not awakening it with water too cold. Just turn the tap on and stick your finger in it until your brain says “Hot!” and use that. Dissolve the packet of yeasty buggars in 1/4 c hot water and a Tablespoon of sugar.

 

 

 

Let it rest there for about five minutes while the yeast wakes up and discovers that it has gone to sugary heaven. Go to the bathroom, perhaps. Wash your hands. Then melt some butter in your microwave and add a Tablespoon to the mix. Microwave 1/3 cup of milk for about 30 seconds and add that, along with the egg. My egg was brown, but you can use white. They all look the same on the inside.

 

 

 

Whup ’em up real good and then add 1 cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and beat it until it’s nice and smooth.

 

 

 

It’ll be pretty runny. Slap a towel over the top of it and set it somewhere warm to rise for about 45 minutes. “Somewhere warm” could be the top of the refrigerator or the closet of a small stuffy room. I prefer to preheat my oven a bit and just set the bowl on top of it. After 45 minutes the mixture should have gotten nice and puffy and be full of bubbles.

 

 

 

Now you need a skillet and some crumpet rings. However, if you don’t happen to have any crumpet rings lying about and you are Klassy with a capital K, you can use what I used:

 

 

 

 

Why yes, that *is* a buttload of bananas in the background. You wanna make something of it? Heat a skillet over low heat and butter it up, along with the crumpet rings (or “crumpet rings,” as the case may be). Pour about 3 Tablespoons of the batter into each ring and let them cook for about 5 minutes until you see little bubbles appearing on the top.

 

 

 

Remove the rings, flip the crumpets over, and cook them for about a minute more. Remove them from the skillet and repeat until you’re done (this recipe makes about 8). Then do a happy little jig and shriek VOILA! to the world because “voila” is French for “Holy merde! I just made crumpets!” Now get yourself some lemon curd and slather those babies. You know you want to.

 

 

 

The whole recipe can be found here, if you’re interested. I am gratified to report that this little diversion was not, in fact, prohibitively difficult. But then, I’ve also been re-living labor and delivery all week long, and compared to that, just about anything is a walk in the park.

Oh Brother!

When Miriam was almost a year old, I had an incredibly vivid dream, the sort of which you can hear the faint chuckle of God fading away in the air as you awake. In this simple vision I was holding an infant up in the air, and it was quite obviously a boy.

 

Or at least what I had a vague recollection of boys looking like. 

 

 

Although I had no symptoms or any evidence whatsoever, I knew immediately that I was pregnant with a son. The dream was a little gift from God for me to hold onto during a very rough and stormy season that lay dead ahead. It was His way of saying “Don’t be afraid; this battle belongs to Me.”

 

For some reason, four children was the breaking point for many who previously had thought it good manners to keep their opinions to themselves. Four was unacceptable. At four, anyone was allowed to say anything, and believe me, they did. We might as well have taken a sharpie and written “abuse me!” across our foreheads. People assumed we literally did not know anything about birth control, and sought to educate us. Others just looked at us with pure, unadulterated disgust.

 

Satan always manages to overplay his hand eventually, though, and the day we received an “anonymous” (we knew who the sender was) mailing stuffed with ZPG-er propaganda, we looked at each other with mouths agape…and then we laughed. Sometimes you just gotta.

 

The pregnancy was also frought with many fears, on my part. For some reason I was plagued with doubts that the baby was healthy. I fretted that he was too still. I even decided that he must be missing some limbs because he was so tranquil. Every week I heard of a new syndrome that he must have. The reassurance of the dream helped curb many worries, but because I had never actually seen the baby’s face, I worried that he had some deformity above the neck.

 

One can become quite proficient at worrying when one works hard enough at it.

 

Given that we were taking the less-intervention/midwifery/homebirth route again, there was no option for a sonogram to put my mind at ease (not that it would have, as anyone who is a professional worrywart can tell you) because there was no real reason for one. I was growing fine, the dates seemed correct, no suspicious symptoms arose, and so any mental distress would just have to be battled out in the spiritual arena.

 

Our church family was a major blessing through this time. For every rude comment and negative blast there was the supportive embrace of those who believed every child was a blessing straight from God’s hand, plain and simple. They rejoiced with us and we revelled in it unabashedly.

 

Donna was once again our midwife, and she listened to my fears and sought to allay them, sympathising and praying and even laughing at me when the situation warranted (which I’m sure was more frequent than she let on).

 

The baby was due Christmas Eve. Christmas Day found me sitting in an extremely rotund state, opening presents at my in-laws with equal amounts anticipation and resignation. My Beloved’s family discussed the possibility of labor occuring during the hubbub, and my MIL offered me the use of her bed should the need arise.

 

No one needed to worry.

 

A few days passed, then a week. New Year’s came and went and I decided that I actually was suffering from some sort of tumorous condition and there was no baby in reality. Every night I went to bed thinking maybe this will be the night! only to have the empty baby bed mocking me each new morning. Finally, on the morning of the 3rd of January, my body decided to relent.

 

It was a Sunday, and at church I whispered to a few friends that I just might be having a baby soon. Maybe not that day, maybe not even the next, but I had learned enough to know that the proverbial light was visible at the end of the tunnel. Contractions were regular, though not terribly fierce, and continued all day long. By evening My Beloved and I decided to relax with a movie, so we rented The Honeymooners and thought perhaps I could laugh the baby out.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to laugh even once. Steve Martin is usually a dependable source of glee for me, but this time around he was just annoying. Chances are good, however, that my ability to see the humor in any given situation was shrinking by the minute. The contractions were getting stronger, although not a whole lot closer together.

 

The movie ended at 11pm and I stood up, at which point contractions decided to go into full gangsta mode. Perhaps it was time to call Donna after all. Suddenly birth went from seeming still-far-away to reasonably imminent. My Beloved made The Call and I retreated to the bedroom to pace the floor. There is always a moment (for me, anyway) during the labor process when the excitement of realizing that the baby really is coming and the subsequent desire to be chatty and social about it shifts dramatically to a desire to be FAR, FAR AWAY FROM ANYONE, DO NOT DISTURB IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIMBS. Maybe it’s a pride thing; I don’t want people to see me in my vulnerable state. Or maybe it’s the desire not to erupt bodily fluids upon unsuspecting passers-by. Both seem reasonable.

 

I had a goodly amount of energy this time around, having learned my lesson from the previous birth and done only as much walking as was necessary for survival over the past ten days or so. I squatted. I visualized. I talked to my body and to the baby. I cajoled. I encouraged. I talked trash to the contractions: Is that all ya got? C’mon! That was nothing! You call that strong? Think you’re tough? I’ll show you tough! Bring it on!

There is something to be said for being 10 days overdue and more than ready.

 

Donna arrived around midnight and so did my MIL, my SIL and her ever-intrepid husband, and a new comrade: my teen-aged SIL whose curiosity had trumped her nervousness. BIL hung out in the living room, but the others formed a quietly encouraging cheer section closer to the action.

 

My body took me up on my trash-talking challenge, and I began to regret my swaggering provocations from just a half-hour earlier. This was really not fun. But I was doggedly hopeful that This Time Would Be Textbook. Come on! It was my fourth baby! Surely I was due for a quick-and-easy labor, right? Donna’s declaration that I was at an 8 cm spurred me on with renewed resolve to Get This Kid Out, and Quick.

 

I stayed on my feet although the pain began to force me lower and lower on the floor with each passing wave. Finally I had enough. Collapsing on the bed, I cried Uncle. There was a brief pause as everyone waited to see what the next contraction would bring and sure enough, it was my old friend, Mr. Pushy. Like a celebrity at a premiere, he arrived all smiles and hands raised, nodding benignly amidst the cheers of the crowd as he was ushered into the room. Even in my labor-fogged condition, I found him irresistable.

 

I pushed with gusto, while maintaining my characteristic poise and charm (IOW I yodelled like Tarzan). Interestingly, I felt, for the first and only time, the baby descending down the chute (technical term) as he emerged. With each push he slipped lower and in short order there was the familiar fire, the tangle of body parts, and the Blessed Relief Of Nothing Else.

 

“Nothing else” besides the placenta, which honestly, after a baby? Doesn’t count.

 

The baby was perfect and healthy and (gasp!) undeniably male. I was relieved to see that he had the full compliment of limbs and facial features. My BIL peeked around the corner to offer congratulations, and soon all was quieting down into that sweet bliss of post-delivery euphoria in which the sheets on one’s bed feel like heaven and a peanut butter sandwich is ambrosia itself. When you give birth at home, every place you live takes on a new significance, and I like to imagine that the humble little rented rooms we occupied each time retained the echoes of laughter and excitement from those hours throughout all the years to come, long after we had moved away.

 

Stats
Baby: Caleb-all boy
Weight: 8lbs 6oz
Labor: 5 hrs

The Third Muskateer

It was sometime between our second and third child that we decided to let the Lord plan our family. As a matter of fact, I’m not entirely sure there ever would have been a third child if we had not made that momentous decision. We were already feeling the pressure to call it quits, as we already had “plenty” and they were coming “so quickly.” We were talking about taking permanent measures at the ripe old ages of 21 and 24.

 

Thankfully, the Lord had other plans. 

 

My Beloved had decided to go back to college to get his degree, so we were flat broke. Having another baby made very little sense. But we were blissfully happy and had never put a whole lot of stock in sense. However, the matter of coming up with a few thousand dollars for a hospital birth was a daunting thought. 

 

As Providence would have it, we were attending a wonderful church at the time, and it was there that the terms “home birth” and “midwife” were first introduced into our vocabulary. A few couples there had used a midwife to have their babies at home, and I was immediately intrigued. My Beloved was hesitant, but I quickly threw a hissy fit until he agreed to consider it won him over with my traditional calm rationale.

 

We went to visit Donna in the fall of 1990. She lived about an hour south of us and ran her office from a converted garage. We peppered her with questions and she answered them with satisfying frankness. She had been the head nurse of L & D in a local hospital for two decades and had come to the conclusion that, for the majority of pregnant women, the hospital was a completely unnecessary and sometimes downright menacing destination. Since then, she had delivered a little over 1000 babies in the comfort of their own homes and was loving every minute of it. 

 

 

She exuded warmth and gentleness, never strident in her opinions and quietly confident that no couple coming to her would choose to proceed unless the Lord Himself was leading them. If we were not sure that we wanted a homebirth, she was not in the least interested in trying to convince us. We told her we’d pray about it and get back to her.

 

On the way home My Beloved was firm that money should not enter into our decision what.so.ever. It is difficult to claim that it didn’t have at least a modicum of influence, however, since Donna charged a princely sum of $800, en toto, for prenatal and delivery care. If she had been brusque, abrasive, or in any way obnoxious, the money aspect truly would not have mattered. On the other hand, when coupled with her pleasant demeaner and undeniable common sense, it was what you might call a no-brainer. After a few days of prayer and no sensation other than utter confidence, we called her back and set up our first prenatal appointment.

 

Appointments with Donna were like visits with an old friend. There was no waiting for an hour in a waiting room before then being called into the examination room to wait another thirty minutes for the OB. There was no rushing through the examination, or cursory “areyoutakingyourvitamins?goodgirlseeyouinanothermonth.” There was no rushing, period. Donna wanted to know how you were doing, and she wasn’t kidding. If you were stressed, she was there to listen. If you had a prayer request, she took it. Jim and the girls always came along and we were all treated as a unit, not a random and vaguely annoying assembly of disparate parts.

 

Plus, her hands were always toasty warm. Always.

In preparing for a homebirth, there were many things that we needed to do that we had never considered in the past. We ordered a birth kit, which consisted of various medical items like giant blue pads and sterile gloves. We read books that would only be found in the “Hippie” section of bookstores, if there were such sections. We baked towels in the oven. We reveled in our anti-establishmentarianism.

 

Mostly, though, we learned that women’s bodies were, miraculously, designed amazingly well to give birth with no special assistance required. Imagine! Donna’s close watch for anything out of the ordinary would alert her to the fact well ahead of time if I happened to be in the 5% of women who did, in fact, require medical intervention, at which point we would head to the hospital. Being on my third child, however, and with no previous complications, this was a slim possibility indeed.

 

As for the bacteria-laden state of our home, Donna was unperterbed. Yes, she suggested we give the bathroom a thorough cleaning and run the vacuum a time or two, but the fact was that one’s filth is, in the end, one’s very own, and thus we were in no immediate danger from it. Our bodies, and that of our baby, recognized our own germs and found them a non-issue. The same could not be said of the exotic and imported cooties in the hallowed hallways of the hospital, interestingly enough.

 

And so the Big Day approached. My mother came to stay for a week and we were desperate for her to be in attendance, so we were gratified when contractions began a few days after her arrival. My Beloved and I headed out for a walk to keep labor at a steady clip.

 

It petered out instead.

 

The next day Mom and I went shopping to take my mind off the disappointment, and I got a speeding ticket. Contractions began again, not surprisingly. My Beloved and I walked brisquely and with determination.

 

They petered out.

 

Each new day dawned with me disappointedly and undeniably pregnant. At Donna’s house for our last prenatal (we hoped), she expressed the opinion that the baby was posterior and all the “false labor” was in fact moving him/her into a more serendipitous position. This cheered us up a bit, and we headed home with the assurance that I would not, in fact, be pregnant for another month.

 

That night, contractions began again. In the wee hours of the dark spring morning, My Beloved and I walked. Someone might have had the sense to suggest that I save my strength. By the time we felt confident enough to give Donna The Call, FIFTEEN HOURS LATER, I was pretty well pooped.

 

Donna arrived with a giant black bag that reassured me more than anything else that Damn The Torpedoes, Full Steam Ahead, There Would Be A Baby Eventually, By Golly. Her declaration that dilation was happening, slowly but surely, gave me strength. My MIL also entered the scene, determined (in spite of her initial misgivings about this whole crazy “home birth” thing) to remain open-minded. Her own grandmother had been a midwife and so, even though she would have preferred the reassurance of the Machine That Goes Ping, there was no way she was planning to miss the show.

 

Throughout the night Donna monitored periodically as My Beloved and I danced about the apartment. This involved his staying In Front Of Me At All Times, Don’t Even Think About Getting Something To Eat Or Taking A Break, You Blissfully Painfree Bastard so that when a contraction came I could lean on his outstretched arms.

 

Donna and her assistant thought we were so cute and loving together.

 

At some point near 2am I collapsed on the bed, stuck at 8 cm, and swore that I Could Not Go On. The walking…and walking…and walking…and walking…ad nauseum from the days previous had worn me down too much. Donna did a quick check and decided that the baby’s head was simply still to high to be applying enough pressure on my cervix yet to get me to the pushing stage. Although she was reluctant to interfere, given my fatigue and state of mind, she thought breaking my water might do the trick. We readily agreed.

 

Water broken, things progressed, although I did not leave my bed again. The urge to push descended upon me and snoring relatives awoke in a hurry, although the two little girls a-snooze in their beds across the hallway stayed fortuitously asleep. At around 3am our third daughter came into the world, weighing a full two pounds more than our first, and was welcomed straight into our arms.

 

As the placenta was delivered we were given the unique opportunity to examine it as we never had before. It was interesting, to be sure, but nowhere near as interesting as the baby, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention. And then there was the dawning realization that Donna was concerned-yet-trying-not-to-betray-undue-concern over my bleeding. And bleeding. Oh, and bleeding some more.

 

I was quickly given a largish glass of a red concoction and told to drink it. Don’t stop, I was instructed. Don’t even take a breath as you drink it or you might not finish. Just suck it down, posthaste.

And so I did. And then my head exploded into flames and I burned to the ground, at which point I was re-assembled and brought back to life.

 

But it brought a halt to the hemorrhaging, and that was the important thing.

 

Given the long and drawn-out labor and the size of our new daughter, I was told that sometimes hemorrhage can be an issue. I was forbidden to climb stairs for at least a week (um. okay.) and, as a matter of fact, to avoid doing anything, even such as a trip to the bathroom, without someone to hold onto.

 

Room cleaned, baby declared healthy, myself stabilized, and everyone generally falling over from sheer exhaustion, visitors headed home. My Beloved and my mother fell asleep faster than was previously thought humanly possible, and I was left to gaze at my new sweetness until the dawning light of the new day suffused the room and I drifted off. We were a family of five now, and we were safe at home.

 

What could be better?

 

Stats
Baby: Miriam-big, bald, and beautiful
Weight: 8lbs, 8oz
Labor: 23 hours

Double the Fun

We weren’t really planning on getting pregnant again “so soon”. But we weren’t exactly trying with any particular gusto not to get pregnant either. So we probably shouldn’t have been terribly surprised. Still, the miracle of growing a human being has never ceased to break upon my conscience as exactly that: a miracle. It boggles my mind even now to think that we get to be a part of such an amazing design. I mean, God could have arranged for us to emerge from giant seed-pods, couldn’t He? He is God, after all. And I think His plan is pretty darn nifty, all things considered.

 

So after some gleeful hugging of myself and happy dancing around the room, I got busy on the next stage of gestation: barfing. Frequently, and with abandon. I must say I’m quite proficient at the quiet, polite puke at this point. Practice makes perfect, as they say. 

 

My Beloved was working as a bank teller at this point in our journey, and our insurance mandated that we pick an OB from The List. So after careful consideration and concentrated prayer (in other words, I closed my eyes and jabbed my finger in the proper vicinity), we came up with Dr. Kerry D. Neal.

 

Don’t even ask me how I remember his middle initial. That kind of freaked me out just now as I typed it.

 

Dr. Kerry D. Neil had extremely large and slightly bulgey blue eyes and an infectious laugh. He was about the same age as Dr. Z, as near as I could tell, but there have never been two physicians with methods more diametrically opposed. I never realized until I began seeing Dr. N that one was allowed, as a patient, to actually know what a particular test was for, or what the results were and more importantly, what they meant. 

 

Dr. N did not hesitate to explain everything he was doing, had done, or was about to do. My office visits lasted at least four times longer than they ever had with Dr. Z. In fact, sometimes it was really difficult to shut the man up. He loved to talk. He did not get offended when we questioned him, because it enabled him to talk some more. And as long as he was talking, we were learning. 

 

 

The light was beginning to dawn.

 

 

One Friday evening, a couple of days past my due date, my sister-in-law, Beth, and her husband came over to wile away some time with us. We were pretty wild-n-crazy party animals back then at the ripe old ages of early-twenties, so we decided to follow our usual plan of Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.

 

That is to say, we decided to rent a movie and eat far too much candy.

 

While SIL and I were loading up on Skittles and Giant SweetTarts at the local Drug Warehouse, I had my first contraction. Hm. I thought, not unlike my initial thought the previous time around. Mayhap baby is knocking at the door tonight?  SIL was delighted at the notion and we hastily picked out La Bamba and headed for home, lest I commence pushing right then and there, since we all know second babies come falling out with great rapidity.

 

Ha. Ha.

 

This is probably an entirely unfair analysis given the circumstances, but La Bamba failed to strike me as entertaining in any way, so I excused myself to take a walk around our apartment complex. It was another balmy Texas evening, this time in mid-May, and as I walked I met a fellow tenant who politely enquired as to when the baby might be arriving.

 

Tonight! I said gleefully. He responded with a look of nervous alarm and retreated to the safety of his apartment.

 

I returned to our apartment to find the movie over and the evening of debauchery sugar overdose winding down. Contractions, on the other hand, were picking up. We all decided to head for the hospital since it was a good 40 minutes away, dropping off dear #1 at another SIL’s on the way there.

 

ed. note: I have quite a few sisters-in-law and I love them all dearly. My own sister, who featured somewhat pivotally in the last story and whom I also love dearly although she is made out of admittedly more, shall we say, matriarchal (which here means bossy) stuff, had moved out of state (My Beloved wept with relief to see her go).

It was close to midnight as we arrived at the hospital. I was pronounced a “two” again, but this time around the nurses only looked upon me pityingly and declared that I was Not In Labor. I could go back home until the real thing kicked in. We were still sufficiently cowed by the authoritative entity that was the Machine That Goes Ping, and so we dutifully left.

 

Forty minutes later, we were home again. I went to bed to see if I could relax enough to get some sleep. Instead I lay there whimpering and thrashing for about an hour as the “knocking at the door” became all-out pounding, kicking, and jiggling of the doorknob. My Beloved and I both looked at each other and said in unison Screw This! (yes, it was becoming a trend) and headed back to the hospital. Beth and her longsufferingly tolerant husband made the trek with us.

 

I was terrified of the cervix check. I was convinced there would be no change, that my body was simply playing a collosal joke on me, and that we would be sent home again. When I heard the words “Five centimeters” I said “THANK GOD!”, which the nurse found highly amusing. I was admitted and not shaved, enema-ed, or pitocin-ed. Also, the hospital had undergone an extreme makeover and the archaic push-in-one-room-deliver-in-another scheme had been replaced with birthing suites where you could do it all in one place. Beth was welcome to stay. My Beloved remained in his filthy, bacteria-laden street clothes. The times, they were a-changin’.

 

Our room was huge and beautifully appointed with artwork and cupboards and a lovely spacious bathroom with a tub, should you desire to soak a while. The only thing that betrayed the fact that you were not at the Hilton was the reality that everything was coated in plastic, including the plush couch and easy chairs. I’m sure that for those shopping around for hospitals in which to deliver, it was hard to beat my present digs. But in the throes of labor, I usually retreat to a Samoan Tiki Hut on a pristine beach located somewhere my grey matter anyway, so I can’t say that I was unduly impressed.

 

At this point I was remembering the seventeen hours that I had been in labor just 23 months earlier, and it was scaring me. The contractions seemed much stronger at 5 cm than I could bear, Tiki Hut notwithstanding, and, believing that I had ten more hours to go, I took the offer of the epidural that was dangling before my nose like a medicinal carrot. There is a very real truth to the joy of being blissfully ignorant, with regards to labor and delivery. I had done this before. I knew too much.

 

Looking back, however, I realize that I was progressing much more rapidly than I had the first time around, as would be expected, and therefore I had nowhere near ten hours left. I was probably close to transition by the time the epidural took effect, but I don’t know that it would have made much of a difference to me in my state of mind at the time. If anyone had said “You’re almost there! You can do it without drugs!” I probably would have delivered a swift karate-chop to their larynx.

 

So I got the epidural and yes, it was heavenly as a matter of fact, thank you for asking.

 

Dr. N came in at about 4am and declared that I was fully dilated and could begin pushing. I took a deep breath and gave the baby the old heave-ho. Or so I thought. I tried again, but it was admittedly difficult to tell what I was doing when my entire lower half might as well have been on a vacation in the tropics as far as I knew.

 

This was going to take some time. By the time the epidural wore off enough for me to remember just where my diaphragm was and how to use it, two hours had passed. The whole time, Dr. N had been sitting at the foot of my bed, cracking jokes and keeping our spirits high. He had also been ~ahem~ stretching my perineum so as to avoid an episiotomy, a fact for which I was very grateful, although I don’t think I ever thanked him per se for the service.

 

Come to think of it, how would you voice such a thing? Perhaps if he Googles his name in the future and comes up with this blog post, I could say it now:

 

Hey Dr. N, thanks so much for not carving me up like a Thanksgiving turkey! The difference in how quickly I felt like a normal human being post-delivery was nothing short of miraculous. You rock. Hope you’re having a nice life.

 

Baby emerged at around 6am and we discovered that we had been blessed with the gift of another beautiful daughter. She was a gorgeous pink color quite the opposite of her mother and older sister, so there was no whisking away to the NICU this time. She was placed into my arms and looked up at me in confusion, altogether displeased with the recent turn of events.

 

We, on the other hand, were quite delighted.

 

Stats
Baby: Molly, arrow number 2
Weight: 6lbs, 12oz
Labor: 11 hrs

Happy

Chocolate-Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies (recipe…double, and add a bag of dark chocolate chips):

 

 

 

Crocuses:

 

 

 

 

My new T-shirt (it’s so very silly, but it gave me such a giggle):

 

  

 

These insane people I get to call my offspring (Four are not represented here. Apparently they were off somewhere being normal):


 

 

 

previous happy posts: happy 1, happy 2, happy 3, happy 4

How It All Began

I first gave birth in The Dark Ages 1987. I was eighteen. My Beloved was twenty-one. In other words, we were Just Kids. Madly in love. Desperate and delighted at the prospect of Being A Family.

 

My OB’s name was Just Call Me God and it’ll be easier on everybody Dr. Zavaleta, which is Italian for Entirely Too Good Looking.  He had delivered my sister-in-law’s baby girl just a few months earlier, and seeing as how she was a beautiful and healthy little thing, we figured he must know what he was doing. 

 

What? Like that doesn’t make perfect sense?

 

My due date merrily skipped about the calender since I had no idea when conception occured and was not of a mind to keep track of, well, anything pertaining to the regions south of my neck, but Dr. Z finally flipped a coin and declared that it would be July 2nd. Amen. Or not. I personally said it would be June 24th, since that fell squarely in the middle of all the other dates that had been proposed, and I didn’t want to be pregnant in Texas in July, thankyouverymuch. 

 

June 24th also happened to be my Mother-in-Law’s birthday (still is, matter of fact), and having a baby on your MIL’s birthday is pretty much the best way to kiss up to her that I can think of.

 

One balmy afternoon I lay down to take a nap on our living room sofa. My Beloved was at a class, and the house was…what’s that word?…haven’t used it in so long…oh yes, quiet. At exactly 5pm I was awoken by a contraction. I dutifully began timing and found them to be ten minutes apart. Very orderly and polite, I thought. This was going to be a cinch.
My Beloved got home and we decided to take the next logical step in Birthing 101: go to the mall. The instructions per our childbirth classes had been to head to the hospital when the contractions were five minutes apart and lasting for a minute and a half each, so we obviously had some time to kill. Beloved unwrapped the stopwatch that had been bought especially for the occasion and took over the job of timing with great enthusiasm.

Walking through the mall had never seemed so significant. We had a special little secret that nobody else could have suspected that Tuesday evening. We were in labor! We were going to have a baby! Tee hee!

 

Looking back, I’m sure that a nine month pregnant woman trundling along beside a guy consulting his stopwatch at regular intervals was not the most mysterious thing to anyone who happened to pass, but we were in a fluffy pink cloud of euphoria, so you understand, I’m sure.

 

The mall closed at 9pm and the contractions were still a great distance apart. Beloved was hungry, so we went to Fuddruckers. My sister had joined us at some point and was very excited to be a part of the action. My Beloved, however, found my sister’s presence intrusive and the pink fluffy cloud turned a bit stormy. As they argued about whether or not she was going to accompany us to the hospital, I contemplated flinging tomatoes at both of them from the burger bar, but the contractions kept me occupied enough to thwart such a scheme.

 

If I could have driven myself to the hospital, I probably would have. I could just imagine them taking a breather from their arguing to glance around and notice I had gone. Muhuwahahaha! However, I lacked a driver’s license, so once again my clever scheme was thwarted.

 

Fuddruckers closed. It was after ten. Contractions were still not five minutes apart. Reluctantly we all went home, but not until my sister extracted a promise from me that I would call her when we headed to the hospital. Extracting promises from women in labor is chancy at best, but she was determined to be reassured.

 

At home the timing continued. But the contractions ceased to be orderly and precise. Instead of marching in rows like good little soldiers, they scattered and hid behind trees, peeking out just long enough to stick out their tongues at the idiots with the stopwatch and the pad of paper. Sometimes they were less than five and lasting two, sometimes they were more than five and lasting one.

 

Screw this! I said shortly after midnight. We’re leaving. I called my sister (What can I say? I had promised) and we departed for the ER.

 

Dr. Z came in to check my cervix, declared that I was at 2cm, and promptly broke my water so as to ensure that I didn’t do anything crazy such as decide NOT to have a baby that day. I was also shaved and enema-ed, hooked up to the monitors, IV’ed and dosed with pitocin. All was well in the world of High-Intervention Childbirth.

 

Since I couldn’t do much by way of movement, whenever a contraction came I would wiggle my feet vigorously to attempt to take my mind off the pain. This got really tiring, however, so My Beloved and sister stationed themselves on either side of my prone form and each took a foot, wiggling it for me whenever I began wincing and breathing funny.

 

About this time I decided it might be nice to have a little medication to take the edge off. I voiced my request and was given Demerol, which is Italian for drug which makes you really, really relaxed but doesn’t actually alleviate pain in any way. This seemed an odd choice for someone who needed the pain to, you know, decrease significantly, but then again, what do I know, I’m not a professional.

 

By early morning I was dozing off and moderately delirious in spite of the twisting volcano inhabiting my insides, and my support team had collapsed into snoring heaps beside me. At 9am I felt a vague sensation of pressure and lifted my head groggily to say the magic words:

 

I think…I think…I need to push…

Their heads shot up as though electrified. My Beloved stepped out into the hall to politely request tackle a nurse for assistance. Sure enough, I was fully dilated and ready to push. Good thing I was feeling so rested and refreshed.

 

That’s sarcasm, in case you weren’t sure.

 

But push I did, and with gusto. Pushing was amazing for me; suddenly I was not the victim of a vicious and pointless attack, I Was Woman, Hear Me Roar! and I was going to get this baby out, by golly.

 

“By golly” was probably not the exact commentary going through my head at that point, to tell the truth. I can honestly say, however, that I did not resort to any sort of name-calling or kicking or become violent in any way. Outside of the little world of my imagination, that is. In there it was a WWF Smackdown, complete with chairs breaking over the heads of just about everyone within my line of vision.

 

When the baby began crowning, the room came to life, and the strangest practice ever known to the birthing world commenced.

 

Stop pushing! I was ordered. Just breathe! The doors flew open and I was wheeled at breakneck speed down the hallway to the actual birthing room, which was slightly larger than a postage stamp but into which my sister was not allowed to enter.

 

I would like to state right here that My Beloved did NOT stick out his tongue and cross his eyes at my sister as he passed through the hallowed doorways and left her standing in the hall.

 

But I’m pretty sure he wanted to.

 

Dr. Z, dressed in his high priestly robes, took his seat front and center and prepared to catch. My Beloved also donned garments especially designed to prevent any of the germs flying willy nilly from his body from attacking unsuspecting bystanders. He looked hilarious, but seeing as how I was otherwise occupied, I did not laugh.

 

I was the model patient. I was a champion pusher, and I was demure and polite as well (except, as previously stated, in my head). My Beloved tells me that I said “ouch” a time or two, which he found quite amusing. “Ouch” was not what he would have said, had he been in my stirrups.

 

Dr. Z took out his machete and, true to his medieval idiom, performed a classic episiotomy since we all know women’s bodies were never intended to allow for babies to exit without someone helping them out with large slicing instruments. Thusly, at 10:02 am on June 24th, 1987, my firstborn came into this world.

 

Who can describe the sensation of a baby leaving one’s body? Truly, it defies definition. There is a slow burn of fire, then a sudden flubbity blubbity BLAM of torso, arms, and legs, and it’s all over. I heard It’s a girl! but I honestly was too busy thanking God that I was still alive to feel too interested one way or the other. The old joke about a guy hitting himself on the head with a hammer simply because it felt so good when he stopped came to mind.

 

After a few moments I thought it might be interesting to take a look at this person who had emerged from my innerds. However, The Powers That Be decided that she was not “pinking up” as much as they would have liked, so I got one brief glance before she was whisked away to the NICU. They let My Beloved carry her, which was generous of them since, as we all know, he was shedding bacteria like Nobody’s Business.

 

The room was very quiet again. The placenta came along in due time and Dr. Z began studiously sewing me up. I did not appreciate the lack of local anesthesia at this point, but rather than rock the boat and complain, I mentally performed a couple of Double Knee Facebreakers on him. It was very satisfying.

 

In my recovery room I demanded to see my baby immediately so that we could bond went promptly to sleep. I simply had no energy to form a thought beyond IF I DO NOT GET ME SOME SHUT-EYE, I WILL DIE. THANK YOU AND GOOD-NIGHT.

 

Upon awakening, I had a vague disorienting sensation that Something Had Transpired. After a few moments, I remembered that I had given birth. Hospital bed, flat(ter) stomach…yes, I had definitely undergone the birth experience. Mayhap I should enquire as to the whereabouts of my offspring? I was informed that she was in the NICU and that her color was still not up to par.

 

Eventually enough people came into my room to view me and realize that my firstborn just might have inherited the pale skin of her mother. Ah! They exclaimed. Perhaps she’s just…supposed to be that color!

 

If you can call “transparent” a color, that is.

 

So they let us take her home, a fact that still amazes me, given our collective ignorance and general disoriented state. And, miracle of miracles, after a few weeks we realized that we were not, in fact, babysitting for an extended time. She was ours! This lovely little bundle of squirminess was going to share our home for real! We were Parents!

 

And the adventure gets more interesting with every passing year.

 

Stats
Baby: Rose, numero uno
Weight: 6lbs 8oz
Labor: 17 hrs