from inconsolable wretch to angel baby (part one): entry into the world

If you’d gone through what he’d gone through, you’d be pretty pissed off too.

First of all, he wasn’t expecting to come out yet. I certainly wasn’t expecting him yet.

First-born babies are ALWAYS late, right?

I was so busy psyching myself up for the potential of three remaining weeks of difficulty walking, sitting, standing, extreme tiredness, the tyranny of the nesting instinct, that I viewed what happened Sunday at 4:30 p.m., in the bathroom, with total shock and disbelief.


Honey? Honey? I think my water just broke.

Impossible. We still had a week left until the DUE DATE for goodness sakes — a week to buy that cordless phone, get the house in order, pack the birth bag, get a video camera, unpack that pre-birth delivery of cloth diapers… I wasn’t even having contractions.

I could hear the sound of the football game downstairs. I sat on the toilet, contemplating.

How does one get from here to anywhere when one is clearly leaking? Where is Scott?

Honey??? Are you watching FOOTBALL? I need help here!

Yes, the game was on, but Scott was also busily flipping through our birth class notebook, his “Partner’s Guide to Pregnancy” book, looking for the part that would tell him this is something else. Some variation on mucous plug, but not… he says he’ll always remember that my water broke during overtime of the 49ers game, and he’s not even a fan. Such is life.

He called the doula on the cell phone, brought it into the bathroom and handed it to me. I started sobbing. I’m not READY!

She laughed.

Welcome to the beginning of the lack of control that will be the rest of this life.

* * *

Labor began at 8:30 p.m. Back labor. We didn’t believe it could be back labor. My belly didn’t look “posterior” according to the doula. All the ultrasounds had located him in the correct position. So we decided this must be the way my body deals with labor. Or something.

All I know is that it felt like contractions were happening ONLY in my BACK.

I labored “naturally” (i.e.: without drugs) at home until 4:30 a.m. We were hypnobirthing champs. We “ohm-ed,” we “ah-ed.” I went deep inside, melted into the horrifyingly painful “waves.” I rested so deeply between them that sometimes I even dreamed. I looked like the Madonna, the Buddha. In a slow, relaxed voice, I reported the pain to others to keep them apprised — yes, I may look calm, but Dear Birth Team, This one HURT. Love, Julie

I was at 4cm, one-minute contractions, three minutes apart, for one hour, when I was admitted into the hospital. I labored on the bed, on the birth ball, on the toilet, kneeling, walking, squatting. The high point was laboring on a stool in the hot shower while eating a frozen strawberry all-fruit bar. The. Best. Popsicle. Ever.

I progressed at a reasonable pace through the morning. I hit 8cm around 11 a.m. The nurse proclaimed my cervix soft, “like butter.” My family arrived in the hospital lobby around lunchtime to wait. Friends were called. We all expected the baby to come very soon.

But at 8-9 cm, labor slowed. By 4 p.m. I was convinced the back labor wasn’t getting anyone anywhere. I couldn’t fathom pushing him out with the way it felt. I wasn’t having the “urge,” though everyone would have liked me to, including me.

Now my belly LOOKED posterior, too.

The next four hours went fairly quickly through the entire range of available interventions. Like this: IV fluids, fentanyl, ephedrine, continuous monitoring, epidural, pitocin, more pitocin, oxygen, and finally a swift episiotomy and vacuum-assisted delivery.

The woman who attached the internal heart monitor to the baby’s scalp said she felt him moving around into the correct position. A tiny ray of hope. Someone (the doula, a nurse?) hypothesized that the narcotics may have relaxed me enough to make room for the baby to turn.

I started pushing at 5:30 p.m.

I’m lying on the table with my legs in the air, calves supported by various team members: Scott, Doula, two nurses. Music is playing from our iPod. Everyone likes the music. “People should have music with good rhythm in labor,” says the doctor, “not that soft chanting and classical.” The others express agreement We listen to Blossom Dearie, Jazz Butcher, Soul Coughing, Ayub Ogada. Dimitri in Paris. We all nod a bit to the beat.

I’m grateful for the pain relief but I hate the numbness of the epidural. I can’t really tell what muscles I’m using. Maybe if I’d started it earlier I’d have more sensation by now? But we can’t go back. And we can’t turn it down because we don’t know what might happen if I’m thrown back into experiencing hard labor at this point.

Everyone is staring at my crotch as I push. I have this huge audience of supporters. GREAT GREAT GREAT! They’re cheering. I figure something I’m doing is working. The crown appears, disappears. Reappears. Stays. But baby does not come out.

The doctor mentions the cord might be around his neck. Just to prepare me in case he has to swoop in with his finger and move it.

About 8:15 p.m., the doctor implies strongly that Cesarean is next. Baby’s heart rate is slowing down. Even with pitocin my contractions are still far apart. “He’s getting tired, you’re getting tired,” he says meaningfully. I get the message. PUSH HARDER NOW. The doula looks down at me between contractions and warns me, sotto voce, “He’s going to have to cut the cord as soon as the baby comes out.” (My birth plan had specified that baby’s cord be allowed to finish pulsing first — while he lay on my chest.)

I see the episiotomy scissors come out, hear the doctor say he’s going to cut, look to the doula, start to protest, but I also just get it. We’re in emergency mode now. This needs to be done.

The vacuum — a little white dome hat attached to some kind of tube? — is applied to the top of baby’s head. What had been a kind of dreamy and slow motion, yet also timeless 24 hours jolts abruptly into hyper-speed: PUSH! PUSH! I feel shoosh gob twist buckle swip of baby’s movement out into the world, see doctor cut cord and hold him aloft for one moment, hear doctor say “meconium… clean him up,” see brown gooey baby fly across the room to the baby warmer and special nurse, Scott running behind (must. stay. with. baby.).

The doula takes my hand. I start to sob. Relief. Fear. Is he okay?

At that moment there’s a knock at the door. It’s my mother. She wants to know what is happening and she’s coming in. I’m splayed on the table, the doctor is sewing me up where I am torn and cut, top and bottom. The doula rushes to the door to head off my mother who hears the baby’s first cry but does not enter, as he’s being suctioned and swabbed.

Grandmothers have that sixth sense about the moment of birth, the doula says.

I’m looking across the room at the activity around the baby warmer. Hello?

The nurse says that thing about who-wants-to-know-what-the-baby-weighs? Tra la la. (Are you KIDDING?)

I shout, “STOP! Bring me my baby NOW.”

She turns, looks at me like I’m a bit fussy and unreasonable. Possibly even shakes her head. I don’t care. Screw the weight. BABY. NOW.

She puts him in my arms. He looks up at me with a proper amount of “what the hell am I doing here and who are all these people?” and immediately starts to cry.

To be continued…

10 comments for “from inconsolable wretch to angel baby (part one): entry into the world

  1. November 30, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Your account is beautiful and moving. The helplessness of those moments right before birth did more to prepare me for parenthood than most of the books I read.
    Boy, does that take me back. Congratulations!

  2. November 30, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Nothing like it, huh? An unpredictable roller coaster ride where we lose the little control we have and a whole lot of dignity. Amazing.

    They say that even when we are little old ladies, we will remember our children’s births as if they happened yesterday. I believe it.

    Congratulations again, and I am so happy everything turned out alright. How are you feeling now?

  3. November 30, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Same hospital, almost eight years ago, similar progression of interventions up to and including the vacuum and episiotomy (sp?) and I just remember shouting at the top of my lungs – “give me my son NOW!” Yes, with all the hype about natural birthing at that hospital, the staff all looked at me like: who is this person making waves at a time like this? But they gave me my son. Let him rest on my chest.

    Congratulations, darling!

  4. Kathy
    November 30, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    He’s absolutely gorgeous. That’s quite a birthing story. Isn’t it amazing what you have to go through and what your body goes through to deliver a baby into this world?

    You did it. You made it. You made a wonderful little person. Congratulations!!

  5. December 1, 2007 at 4:00 am


  6. December 1, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    I stood up at 8:25 PM and said,”I’m goin’ up there.” My baby had been in labor long enough and if those drs. and rns. and doula didn’t know how to get that baby out then “Watch out, I’m commin’ in.” Then with my hand on the door knob I heard that sweet little wail, sighed, and walked away. I had done my job.


  7. December 3, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Congrats darling! My guest post will be coming today or tomorrow! In the meantime, for your AMAZING work, I gave you a blogging award!! Come by and pick it up when you can see straight.

  8. Pamela
    December 5, 2007 at 7:20 am

    I’ve been following your story! It’s beautiful and inspiring. Congratulations for your gorgeous baby boy!

    PS: I think it’s Dimitri from Paris, not “in” Paris. :)

  9. July 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Wow! That is an impressive birth story! Thanks for sharing it.

    Alex Elliot’s last blog post..The Best Birth Control Ever

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