I planned a beautiful home birth. I hired (and paid) a great midwife, did my yoga and took my vitamins, re-read Spiritual Midwifery for the 20th time, set up the pool, visualized the scene I wanted, and then got into labor with more grace than I actually thought I would have when the time came. 36 hours later, things began to go awry.
Why am I telling this story on a blog that is about hand-making our own life? Partly because I am so shell-shocked and in need of processing that I can't help myself. Partly because it's more expedient than telling it in person a few hundred more times (though it is a crowd pleaser). Mostly though, it's because I can't think of anything more hand made than growing your own family from scratch (or importing them from elsewhere, for that matter), and a birth is a major life defining event which I think deserves a lot of thoughtful navigation and intentional action, both before and during the labor and delivery. So I thought sharing mine might help you think about yours, or about other parts of your life worthy of such weighty attention.
Birth Scene #1:
I went into labor on a Saturday night at precisely 10 pm, despite the fact that I had specifically told my uterus to give me a nice daytime labor-- I like a good night's sleep! I called Josh who was an hour away at a drum circle and told him he'd be coming home that night rather than camping out, but I still slept till morning and woke up to labor that was constant but bearable. We went shopping for our delivery food (lots of watermelon, grape juice, bologna, and cottage cheese-- don't judge me, for some reason I like crappy sandwich meats in times of physical stress!), and came home to relax and wait.
That night, again at precisely 10 pm despite my uterine commandments, my water broke. Josh and I stood around staring at it for several minutes, wondering if it was the water or if I'd peed myself, since I had been headed for the bathroom. Josh finally volunteered to sniff it, and once we knew what it was, we called the midwife. Labor got harder after that, and I labored through the night making sounds that were less and less human, but still being surprised at how I was integrating the pain and intensity. Josh got a little sleep and got up around 2am to be with me. He lit candles and kerosene lamps, called the midwife, put on some Medicine for the People and some Polyphonic Spree to keep our spirits up, and held my hand. It was a really intense and beautiful time that seemed to stretch and contract into both a very long and very short span.
The midwife came in around 4:30am, checked me on the couch, and told me I was at an 8. Yay, that's a good way down the road! I felt encouraged and proud of myself. Then there was a flurry of activity as she, her assistant, and Josh set up everything around me, the pool, the sterile equipment, the pads and towels and food, and I just panted away all round and electric on the couch. The sun came up as I labored on, I opened almost to 10 as I went from the pool to the couch to the bathroom and back to the pool again. Again, the time seemed long and short, timeless altogether really, and I learned my own strength and how many blocks you can blow right past in the throws of labor, while my husband and midwives popped grapes into my mouth and fanned my face. It's true I can't accurately remember the pain now, but I do remember that I felt safe, very loved, and intensely strong (and tired).
Around 9:30 am I stood up, one leg on the arm of the couch, and started to push our son out. He moved down slowly but surely, and it was exciting to think how far I'd come in the labor. The midwife kept telling me how much I was going to love this baby forever and I kept thinking "I don't even want to think about this baby or forever, I just want to get through this pushing!". About a half hour or so of that brought Solace halfway down, to where I could reach in and feel his head, and Josh could see him headed our way. So amazing!
It was at this point that he stopped decending, and I felt like he just had no intention of moving down anymore. I remember asking my midwife to reach in and get him, but she was confident he'd come in his own time, and couldn't exactly do that anyway. What he did instead was go all the way back into the womb, where my cervix then closed to a 7 and began to swell shut since my body couldn't stop pushing against it. Now this was pain and stress! For what I remember to be the next 10 minutes but was in fact the next 5 hours, I tried and tried to relax and stop pushing, and the midwife tried and tried to keep my cervix from swelling, even putting ice against it in desperation. I am so glad to know we tried to so hard, when I look back in retrospect. At about 3 pm, our midwife suggested we transport to the hospital, since I was still pushing against a closed cervix and swelling myself to a point of no return. The idea was that with an epidural, I could stop pushing, relax and unswell, and finally push this boy out. Not having planned to actually go to a hospital, we were entirely unprepaired for this, so Josh just threw a dress on me, grabbed the bologne and a bucket of peanut butter (thank you East Wind Community), and we hopped in the car. Well, everyone else hopped, I waddled heavily and cried, from what I can remember.
Birth Scene #2:
The hospital was everything I thought it would be, all air conditioning and protocals and paperwork amidst controlled chaos. After a 3 hour debate over whether I could have an epidural or not, during which I was still uncontrollably pushing, I was given the drugs. This three hour hospital wait was the most painful and scary of my labor. The surroundings were cold and unfamiliar, the nurses were a rotating blur of different instructions, and all of it was everything I'd hoped to avoid. More importantly, the pain was blinding and the pushing was exhausting, and all control of my body was essentially long gone at that point. Once the numbness took over, I opened right back up to an almost 10, and was able to rest and talk again. We spent the night like this, waiting to push until told, negotiating with nurses who wanted to give me drugs I didn't want, who didn't like me breaking their rules (my water had been broken way longer than their protocals permit), trying different positions to move the baby down (hard with numb legs), and smuggling food and juice when no one was looking. Although I was exhausted in the morning, being at hour 58 of labor with no sleep, I was also very thankful to a crew of nurses who let me break their rules in an attempt to keep my birth as uncomplicated and natural as possible.
Birth Scene #3:
At 8:30 am, an old suited doctor walked into my room, told me he'd heard about me all night, and informed me that I was having a C-section. I said I was not and would not sign any paper work. He said he didn't care. I said I had eaten a whole bologne sandwich half an hour before. He said he didn't care. I said I thought his insistance that this was a necessary surgury was bullshit. He said I'd be in the operating room in an hour and walked out.
And he was right. An hour later I was laid out open armed like a sacrificial lamb under bright lights and masked surgeons. While I listened to someone run through the horror movie tool checklist over my shoulder (2 saws, scalples, gauze, clamps, staple gun...), I was cut open, felt all my organs get shoved so far up I actually felt my lungs clog my throat, then felt my baby being pulled out of my body. Now that is some experience. Josh got to hold him right away, and then he landed on my chest, where he ate a good sized meal within half an hour of coming out to join us-- he means to stay well fed!
Having never been to doctors for more than check-ups, and certainly never stayed in a hospital, the recovery from surgury was long and much harder than birth, from my point of view. It wasn't that the pain was too much, though everything hurt and after 3 days of labor with no sleep or food, I was pretty beat up. It wasn't entirely that I was trapped in a tiny cold room for days on end with nurses who kept waking me up in the middle of the night to steal my baby and sugges more pills and shots, though that was the longest 4 days of my life!
More than anything, the recovery was hard because my heart was broken. Everyone I know from childhood up to the present day births at home. Everything I know and everything I have seen gears me toward birthing at home. I have anticipated my own birth since I was a little girl, and I was so excited to push him out with my own strength, to give Josh the gift of catching his own son as he entered the world, and to provide Solace with a soft landing and all the good and nourishing things that go with that. I felt like a failure, like if I had just pushed harder when I had the chance... if I had been more brave... if I had refused the hospital under any circumstances... if I had prayed the right prayer to the right gods... maybe I could have joined the ranks of women who birthed at home, rather than feeling like one of many cattle in a giant processing plant. I am emberassed to say I had this surgury, so I've started just saying when people ask that I had most of a home birth :). It's the best explaination of my birth I currently know how to give without leaking tears.
So Josh and I feel we've pretty much had all three typical birth experiences, the home birth (afterall, I did push him half way down!), the epidural-waiting-at-the-hospital birth, and the c-section. Were we to have another child, I would easily choose the home birth again. Not only were my surroundings much more pleasant (who wouldn't want to spend the hardest moments of their life in a pool with their friends in their living room?), but I really felt like integrating the increasing pain kept me grounded in what was happening. It wasn't a detatched process that I was being told about, as it was in the hospital, it was an intense growing process that I was struggling through step by step. I felt my own strength, I felt a real attatchment to my husband and child (something I lost grasp of in the hospital), and even though it was INCREADIBLY painful and hard, I was amazed at how I kept finding myself further and further along in my labor, and still alive and functioning!
So this is the story of Solace-- the first of many many many! And this is our trilogy of 3 labor experiences in one-- the last that we know of! Welcome Solace... however you needed to get here, we are excited and ready for our journey together!