Precipitation: Roo’s Birth Story

(Sweet Roo is here! Elizabeth Ann arrived on the evening of November 4. This is her arrival story.)

At my 37 week appointment the week before Halloween, the midwife gave me the green light to go into labor whenever — she said often mothers just need to feel ready for labor to begin. I had been reading a lot of Ina May Gaskin and this did not seem particularly insane. I came home from the midwife appointment and willed myself to go into labor. That Saturday night, I had a run of prodromal labor and began to feel close.

And then — nothing. Days slipped by. We celebrated Halloween and Pippin’s fifth birthday, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have two Halloweeny babies, but then I began to despair.

Objectively, it was completely ridiculous, right? I was only 37, then 38 weeks. But when you’ve had babies ten days early and one month early, your sense of deadlines shifts. I was ready to be done, and it felt like that day would never come.

The next Saturday rolled around, and I was finally ten days from my due date. We went to vigil mass, then arranged an impromptu date night because if you’re going to be pregnant forever, you might as well eat tasty things and enjoy your husband. I overate, came home and stayed up late (ok, 9:30, whatev), then lay in bed, trying to fall asleep despite being hugely uncomfortable.

The first contraction hurt so much I thought it must be something else — my previous labors had started gently. I tried to welcome it in Ina May Gaskin peacefulness — finally! maybe the day has arrived! I am getting closer to meeting my baby! — but the second had me cussing under my breath. On the third, I texted J to come up from downstairs and started timing. I was already 1 minute on, 4 minutes apart.

J started to finish last minute work emails, then, watching me, stopped and called a friend about childcare. I felt ridiculously overeager — I’d been in labor maybe 10 or 15 minutes — but my teeth began to chatter.

While J was on the phone I began to finish packing our bags, but I was dropping to my hands and knees for every contraction, and I wasn’t able to time anymore. On all fours in the nursery, I emailed friends a broken update: this is labor, coming fast.

We headed downstairs just in time for me to start throwing up. Our friends arrived to watch the kids as I sat in the van, arms wrapped around my mixing bowl, shivering madly.

I don’t remember the hospital ride being painful or scary — I was working too hard to realize I must already be in transition and that there was a real chance of having the baby in the van. In the hospital intake room, I answered mundane questions while huddled in the fetal position, chattering and trying to relax, until I finally broke in — “I think I’m going to have to push soon.”

In the delivery room, I immediately lay down on my side as the midwife breezed in, wearing her pajamas. “OK,” she said calmly as nurses tried to remove my cardigan and set up the room. “I’ll check you when the next contraction ends.”

The contraction went on and on, and again, I don’t remember the pain so much as an absurd embarrassment that I was keeping everyone waiting. On and on and on and finally I squeaked out, “I’m sorry, I think I’m going to have to push now.”

“That’s OK!” said the midwife brightly, and everyone scurried to remove all the clothing I was still wearing. I hadn’t had an exam, or an IV, or a chance to fish out my birth plan, but with a roar and a couple pushes on my part, Roo was here before they could even remove my socks.

The entire labor had been well under an hour and a half. I hadn’t torn, and I was barely tired as Roo was placed on my chest, tiny as her sister, brunette, and perfect. The afterbirth was a bit complicated — who knew a placenta could turn inside out? — and I experienced some bleeding as a result, but the whole thing felt very slapdash and casual.

Throughout this pregnancy, people had wished me a fast labor and I’d been hesitant — parts of Scout’s four-hour labor were scary because I still envisioned a timeline where I would hurt at that level for fourteen hours, like with her brother. But this time, I went into labor prepared for the possibility of a precipitous birth, and the intensity of the experience kept me focused on the moment. It was by far the best of my three labors, but not something I can imagine enduring if it had been my first labor, or if I had entered labor committed to getting an epidural. For me, though, it was the perfect end to an unending, crappy pregnancy.


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