October 14, 2018 The Day my Daughter Was Born
40 weeks and 4 days: Waking every two hours to pee, rolling over to contemplate rising from our warm bed and trod downstairs. I was contemplating at 5am, and then heard the sweetest “pop” as warm water rushed onto our bed. Standing, water slipping down my legs, spilling onto the floor. I wade to the laundry basket, grab a t-shirt to hold between my legs to get downstairs, Matthew’s only white t-shirt.
Downstairs I notice the healthy bloody show, I listen to my baby with the fetoscope and tell them that I am so excited to meet them. Heading back upstairs I cuddle into Matthew. We listen to “Land of 1000 Dances” because Redmond said “it’s a good song for a baby.” Get up, smile real big, tug on jeans, head out on our last pre-baby date. Breakfast, our secret, our baby, our day, no one to tell besides those we want to know, ours, each moment ours.
Get gas, get chux pads, get coconut water. Each place a secret.
10:30 am “Now home, I am making yogurt and granola. Poppa is moving our bed downstairs.
I’ve got herbs steaming for after you come so the house smells like herby sugar cookies. John Creedon Show is playing on the radio and when I wiggle waters come out. You are moving inside of me.
12 pm We walked around the neighborhood and contractions picked up. Came home and harvested cauliflower, carrots, calendula, and nasturtium seeds from the garden. It’s a gorgeous day.
Matthew is washing our cabinets, each of us preparing.
2 pm stronger, longer
Matthew heads outside to workout and I tend to my kitchen projects, beginning to breathe with my surges. I’m listening to our birth playlist and dancing in the kitchen.
5:15 pm I am spending more time in the bathroom, coming out to see Matthew and then swinging back in the bathroom for each contraction. I’m trying to read while sitting on the toilet, I throw down the book, and resolve to tell my best friend that it was a terrible recommendation, I can hardly focus on it at all! I begin standing with my contractions, leaning over the window sill and swaying my hips. Matthew turns up my music, it helps my heart. I have no idea how long my contractions are or how frequently they are coming, only that they are manageable and strong. I ask Matthew to fill the tub. I am on the toilet and saying aloud “If those bitches can do it, so can I.” No idea which bitches...Snatam Kaur’s live album goes on, I am soothed by the familiar mantras.
6:20 pm PUKE
I get in the shower while the birth tub finishes filling, singing, I Am My Mother’s Savage Daughter. I climb into the tub, it is so very warm, I float. I see my affirmations, I am inside my head, myself, a laboring woman, my own midwife. I talk myself through the contractions. Women flit through my head. Labors I’ve attended, women I’ve affirmed, space I’ve held. I see them sway, I see them push, I see their strength and their vulnerability, I see their pain and I see their triumph. In turns they visit me. Matthew gives me cold water and runs a cool cloth on my arms, I am very hot.
There is pain, it is no longer the familiar tightenings of my belly, it is something different, I reach to feel, and my child’s head is within reach. There is cervix, but I can’t quantify it, I begin to stretch my cervix with each contraction. I massage it and still the pain grows, I try to escape but say “you cannot escape this, just stay with it” and I know it is true. The women are there with me. I tell Matthew that “this is hard,” he says I can do it, I say “I know.” Because I do know, I do not fear & I do not doubt, but still it is hard. I read my mantra “Breathe and remember who the fuck you are” and I know who I am again. I read my mantra “only my resistance can stop the flow” and I know it is true. I am inside of myself. The passing of time is marked by Matthew restarting my mantra album, this happens 5 or six times, I know how long those songs are.
There is still cervix but I begin to bear down, because it is the only thing that helps. Midwife brain says not to push on cervix, I say, fuck that noise. My baby comes lower but in the smallest increments. I am too hot. I ask Matthew to turn on the shower, I cannot birth my baby in the tub. I have always known this. In early pregnancy I had a visceral vision of my baby being born into my hands in the shower, and I decide to trust my vision.
9:45 pm I rise, feeling large, heavy, I read my mantra “do not rush” on the way to the bathroom. Deep breath.
The shower is good. I turn down the heat, I want to be chilled, and then I turn it up, I want to be warm. I like this control. I squat, I lift my legs in turn, I kneel. I am not sure. I begin to push. I am not sure that is the right thing to do. My baby’s head comes lower, there is a bit of head outside of my body, there is hair on this head. I touch my baby and tell Matthew that it is a girl, I know it now. I hate pushing. I linger with her molding, shape shifting head outside of me for a long time. My butt hurts. I remember that I know how to do this, that I can bear down with the best of them. I bear down, it hurts, I bear down. Matthew encourages me from the other side of the curtain, I tell him “I will not let you miss it.”
I feel certain I will tear my cervix, my butt hurts, I cannot find a position to be in, I bear down. I feel bones, finally, sweet head bones, a true crown. She is close and I breathe better, I can push through this, she is close. She is born to her eyes, I wait, she is born past her sweet cheeks, I wait, she is born to her chin, I wait. I know deeply that she has to do the rest of the work, I cannot push out my baby. I ask for a towel and put it underneath us, I slide forward into hands and knees and relax my body. I feel her spin like a top, she takes control, she turns this way and that like a screw. It is so strong that I think Matthew is trying to grab her, he is not, she is birthing herself. She is born, it is 11:32 pm.
She is pink, she has vernix on her back, she is heavy, she has mucus inside of her. I bring her to my face and suck out her nose, I spit it out and say “gosh your boogers taste gross.” She cries, she breathes, her heart beats into my hand.
I wait for my placenta, it does not come so I climb into bed. I stare at my daughter. I nurse my daughter. My placenta does not come. I cut my daughter’s cord and she is nestled skin to skin with my husband. I shower again, I pull on my cord, gently at first and then more firmly. I am not bleeding and my placenta has not come. I give myself herbs, I energetically release my placenta, I thank it, I honor it, I ask it to be born, its work is done. My placenta does not come.
Jennifer is here to cleanup, to feed us and tuck us in, but my placenta has not come and I ask her to inject pitocin into the cord. Nothing. I give myself pitocin in the thigh. My placenta does not come. Another dose. It has been 5 hours since my baby was born. I ask Jennifer to take on the role of midwife, I ask her to reach inside me and see if she can find my placenta. My placenta does not come. It is time.
I call Wentworth Douglass. I ask for the charge nurse. I use my midwife voice. I tell them the truth and I ask to come in without going through the ER. They welcome me. I dress, I kiss my baby, and I walk out the door.
We arrive, they welcome me. They do not mock me, they do not harass me, they honor me, they praise me, they answer my questions, they are kind to me. My mother arrives, she loves me. I know Kate is at my house nursing my child and I am grateful. I am wheeled back to the OR, I am trying not to be afraid. I wake up, I am told I still have a uterus, that my placenta has come, that all has gone well. I am languid in dark syrup, I am deep, I do not know what is missing from me but I do not feel like leaving the dark, there is nothing to rise for. My mother holds a pump to my breasts and nothing comes. I remember why I need to leave the liquid darkness, I ask for discharge paperwork. It comes so quickly I know a friend has pushed them through. My mother gets the car, I am wheeled out. A half a day has passed.
I walk back into my home, out of captivity and into the wildness that we have built. My baby is on the bed, I didn’t remember what she looked like and there she is, she is whole and good and perfect. Her face is round, her lips are rosebuds and she is mine. I stand over her, I kiss her, I weep onto her sweet face. I am home.