I adore birth stories. I love adoption stories too, but that will have to wait for another birthday. Today is Quinn’s day. (Usually, “Cue.” I adore his name and want to use it today.)
A few months ago, I joined a birth focus group for a friend writing an article on birth choices. One of the midwives said something that I will never forget. She said that American women are starved to tell their birth stories. It was hard to miss the truth of that statement since fifteen women spent five hours discussing our stories. I’ve thought a lot about that night in light of the fun I have discovered blogging. There’s a weird parallel. Women are starved to tell our stories and be a part of each other’s stories in general. That is the thing that draws me to read blogs and write posts and comment and participate in this whole blogging thing. The stories. Compelling. Joyful. Painful. Sweet. Honest. I love them. So, if you care to, tell me your birth story. Put it in the comments or write a post of your own and let me know. I’m not kidding, I’ll read them all. You won’t be able to get rid of me.
I tell my kids their birth stories every year on their birthday as a bedtime story. They have to listen. They get all pissy because they want ELMO or MOMMY MINE or PAJAMA TIME for the kajillionth time. I get all pissy because I birthed at least two of them and it wasn’t a walk in the park and if I want to create a tradition of telling the story on their birthday, well they will listen raptly and ask reverent questions. And then, I have to read all those books too, because otherwise they will never shut up and go to sleep, and I get pissier because it takes a lot of time. It’s a lovely tradition.
This is the first time I will write one down. Chronologically, they’ll be backwards because Quinn is my third child and his birthday arrives first in the year. His older brother, my first birth experience, was enormous and ten days late and generally a huge pain about getting himself out of my body, but he forged his own Chunnel, which ended up being a positive for Quinn and I. Quinn was ten days early and fairly small in comparison. It was like running Thomas the Tank Engine down the chasm blasted for the Orient Express. Quicker, is what I’m saying, I don’t know about easier or less painful, but mercifully much quicker.
The logistics were harder though. Birth is so much more stressful with two twenty-month-old kids at home. I worried for weeks that he would come before my mom arrived. We didn’t know a lot of people in town yet. About two weeks before my due date, I started having a lot of false labor. I became obsessed with going into labor on Sunday night because we had a nanny on Mondays. I figured I could labor at home until she got there Monday morning and Matt could be back before she had to be at her other job Tuesday at 8 a.m. I swear I actually willed it to happen exactly like that.
I made Matt have sex with me Sunday night (the sacrifices he makes, I know) and I woke up with contractions at eleven. I was so hopeful that I refused to change positions for four hours (because all the books say change positions and drink water and they’ll go away.) Matt went to work in the morning. He didn’t buy it. Kay (the nanny) came at eight a.m. and I went to my weekly appointment. I was a solid four centimeters and still contracting. I told our midwife to stick her fingers up there and poke him hard because I had a nanny until the next morning and that was the little bugger’s window or he had to wait until the next week.
Matt came home (because the midwife officially declared me in labor, yeah, I’m still a little miffed). We walked and waited for it to get really painful, which, you know, is bound to happen at some point. We had planned to have our doula, Bobbette (LOVE that name, always makes me smile), come to our house, but we ended up wanting to meet her at the hospital. I unexpectedly felt uncomfortable being in the house with Ess and Gee. It had also occurred to me that I wanted my water to break on their floor, not mine. I’m partial to my hard wood floors. Preferably, no birth goo.
The triage nurse totally burst my bubble. I’m sure they are very nice people outside of work, but I’m never a big fan of labor triage nurses. They’re like guardians at the gates of heaven and I’m on the wrong list. This one was all “oh honey you’ll probably be going back home, we can’t keep you if you’re still four, stripping membranes always causes false labor, blah, blah.” I was about in tears because the contractions had hurt for hours, so I wasn’t just there for giggles, and Kay was staying the night and Bobbette was driving 45 minutes – you know, like a good little lawyer I’d PLANNED this. It does my heart so much good to say that when she finally checked me I was six centimeters dilated and fully effaced. I still get a thrill out of the look on her face in my memory.
I am a complete freak about needles. While I have had lovely natural birth experiences, I’m not an advocate of medication-free birth. It hurts like hell no matter how well you puff breathe or hum or rock or scream obscenities at your husband. I’m an advocate of whatever kind of birth the mother would like to have. For me, I would rather breathe and curse and wail and cry while a baby squeezes it’s way out of my vagina than allow someone to shove a needle into my spine. I’m also just a bit of a control freak. You know, like birth plan in 10 point font, refuse routine IV site, royal pain in the ass control freak.
Quinn’s labor was lovely as these things go. I’m not a graceful laborer. I watched the Business of Being Born and felt deep and abiding hatred for that gorgeous girl who puffed a little and cried tears of joy while her baby slipped majestically onto the floor of her trendy, flawlessly decorated Manhattan apartment to the sound of silence punctuated by a few gasps of awe. Even her vagina was pretty. With a baby coming out of it. That’s not me. The midwife broke my water and I transitioned quickly and then hit the meltdown stage where I scream and cry and swear I can not possibly do it and he will have to stay inside me because there is just absolutely no way. Lo and behold, despite all my protests and sobbing and caterwauling, after only thirty minutes of actual pushing (versus three hours for the rock-blasting path-forger known as Gee), Quinn emerged just after midnight. All slimy-red and furious and absolutely priceless like only newborns can be. A little over twenty-four hours, labor-inducing sex to finish.
By the time Matt and I had talked it all through and gazed in amazed adoration at Quinn and said good-bye to Bobbette, it was six a.m. and he had to leave so that Kay could get to her Tuesday job. Perfectly planned and executed. Thank you. He brought Ess and Gee back later that afternoon. He called me from the lobby to prepare me before they came up to the room. “Stace,” he cautioned, “our ‘babies’ are huge, giant, gargantuan children and you won’t want them anywhere near your newborn.” I was all, “no, my sweeties, I can’t wait.” HOLY ENORMOUS KIDS. They walked in and I couldn’t believe it. Um, who took my sweet toddlers and replaced them with these dinosaur offspring? You forget so quickly just how little newborns are.