I’ve never had an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery. Sophie’s was by far the smoothest, but even with her I had strep when I was 39+ weeks and had to have a big fat shot of penicillin in my butt and hope I’d get over it before I went into labor. Luckily, I did. I went into labor on her due date, in the midwife’s office. I was at a birthing class at the time, and the first twinges I felt were during the videos she played of all these stoic, earthmama-types giving birth in gentle surroundings with husbands who had beards, said all the right things, and would never crack open a bottle of whiskey and pass out cigars to celebrate a birth. The homebirthing community is a little bit hippie. But, I’m okay with that.
I went by the drugstore on my way home from the class, skipping my huge belly down the aisles, giddily telling poor strangers that I was going home! to! have! a! baby!! AT HOME!! I didn’t care that they were afraid of me. Armed with my witch hazel and olive oil and adult diapers (Seriously, after you give birth you will find yourself begging for those things. Uh, NO, not to pee in. Jeez.) and those big blue-backed absorbent pad things for the bed and whatever else I hadn’t picked up yet, I headed home. Briefly. Then, feeling like things might take awhile, I went to a family party at the park.
Things didn’t really get good and rolling until right at 3 a.m., when I sat up in bed and quit wondering if this was really it. I knew. Now, Sophie was my third, but the first two were induced in the hospital and since I had never had the indescribable experience of going into labor, I was a novice for this part of things. First I called my mom. She arrived to find me on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth and lowing like a cow. She sized me up in two seconds and called the midwife and my friend, K, who was my doula.
I don’t remember everything, but I do remember my mom and I trying to fill up the horse trough (no, never used for real horses) in the living room. It was, in theory, going to be a birthing pool. I didn’t put enough thought into that, though, and the garden hose I bought to hook up to the kitchen sink to fill the six gagillon gallon trough up just spat out a sad little trickle. This was very very funny to me at the time, but I don’t know if I laughed, because things were going on that were taking my full attention.
When Veronica (my midwife) arrived she found me on the couch, in some pretty serious labor, already doing the breathing you are supposed to save for the really tough part at the end. She made a pallet on the floor so she could get some sleep, had us turn off the lights, and chanted to me, "breathe, relax, rest, sleep, breathe. . . " That sounds irritating, but it was good. I just focused on her voice and tried to relax, which was challenging since my lower back was totally spasming the whole time and I puked every couple of minutes with each contraction. I couldn’t move my legs because of my back muscles, so I just lay there on my side, shaking and barfing. (Are you sold on having a homebirth yet!?)
This went on for some time, maybe an hour or so. My friend K was really helpful. She stood by my head and I raised my right arm up toward her and she put her palm flat onto mine and pushed back really hard. It was such an excellent pain reliever, odd as that sounds. I asked her about it later, and she just said, "Counterpressure."
I was like a whiny little kid, every few minutes going, "Check me again. Check me now. See if I’m almost done." Then I started making a weird noise that at first I didn’t realize was coming from me and decided that choosing a homebirth was the stupidest damn thing in the history of the world EVER and I totally wimped out and started with the, "AHHHHH I can’t do this!" Veronica figured that since I’d really had enough, it might be time to push, so she checked. "Eight," she said. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t at ten yet. And, then, while she was still poking around down there, I had a H U G E contraction that shook the whole apartment building and Veronica was all excited, "Nine! TEN!"
She told me that the membrane hadn’t ruptured yet, and that she was going to deliver Sophie in the little balloon of water. She also told me not to push, and I said, "Uh. Okay," while I was pushing as hard as I could. I pushed twice, and just as she was born at 6 a.m. with the second push, my water broke. So, she was all clean and perfect and Veronica checked her really fast and then put her straight on my chest. No eyedrops, no vitamin K shot, no bath, no measuring and weighing. When Sophie was weighed, Veronica put her in a blanket and hung the blanket from a hook on a scale, like weighing a fish.
Three hour labor.
(I earned it with all that barfing, which is what made it go so fast, I think.)
I have never, before or since, felt so, well, powerful. And, when Willow was born, I never felt so powerless.
Sophie was born on a Sunday, and since she was born on the couch and I wasn’t interested in moving anytime soon, we just camped there in the living room near the open front door. It was cool outside and there was a perfect breeze. Birds were chirping, but it was otherwise quiet. I can’t express how grateful I was to not have to share a room with some idiot woman who thought that the first few hours of her child’s life should be spent watching Jerry Springer. (Yes, she is real. Yes, I once shared a room with her. And worse, when Willow was born.) I didn’t have an IV or stitches or anyone checking me every hour. I got to check in with myself and figure out how I was and what I needed. My mom stayed (duh) and when I had finally barfed the marrow out of my toes and quit with that she made me scrambled eggs.
Sophie was the easiest baby, ever. Hands down. She hardly cried, she was super alert and responsive. Once, I had to walk outside with her during supper because she wouldn’t settle down. Once. Now she is making up for lost time with interest. And then some.