To be fair to my darling son, it’s not his fault that I had completely and irrationally convinced myself that I would go into labor as soon as I walked out the door of school for the first day of summer. At least the World Cup provided some distraction, as did snuggles from Sophia and infinite loving kindness from Josh. After we’d gone three days past the due date (which had been June 19th), my midwife scheduled an induction at the ten day mark…just to be on the safe side, she said. I swore, drank raspberry leaf tea by the gallon, bounced on that damn yoga ball, waddled around the neighborhood, swore, yelled, cried, and swore some more. On June 24th, I went in for another checkup. My midwife, an exceedingly practical woman with over 30 years of experience, offered some midwifery tricks. With a “sure, whatever, I’m going to gestate this baby for as long as an elephant, but give it a shot” response from me, she did her thing, and I went on my way, grumpy and cranky and already visualizing the inevitable induction.
Later that afternoon, I went grocery shopping. It was a bit uncomfortable. Then I did some laundry. Also, uncomfortable. I tried to watch a World Cup game…still, uncomfortable. Josh and Sophia came home, and he gave me the, “I want to ask, but every time I ask, you get very snippy, so I’m not going to ask, but I’m just going to keep looking at you” look. I told him I was uncomfortable. My sister and her friend came over for dinner. I had the watch out at that point, but we’d already gone through this a half a dozen times over the past few days, so I barely registered that my discomfort seemed to come at regular intervals. Or that I was holding onto the counter during those regular intervals. Josh finished teaching. My sister and her friend went out for ice cream. I was still uncomfortable, and refusing to use any other word to describe how I felt, but at about 9:00 shit got real, real fast. Those regular intervals of discomfort became pain. Pain every five minutes. And I was calling the advice nurse. And then the pain started coming every three minutes. And then I couldn’t talk to the advice nurse because I could barely breathe. At which point she said, “Gosh, it sounds like you’re in very real labor there.” Josh called Emma. Who, very appropriately, hauled ass back to our house.
We kissed Sophia. I crawled into the front seat of the Prius. Josh drove as fast as he could, but sensibly ignored my pleas that he run all of the red lights. I swore and breathed, and swore and breathed. At the hospital, the intake nurse took one look at me and said, “Well honey, I think we can bypass triage…you just need to head straight to a delivery room.” So we did. They told me I was at 4 cm. I swore. (**I would like to point out that Mythbusters did an episode on swearing and found that cursing enabled people to endure more pain for longer periods of time. Hence, my liberal use of such words is based on science. So there.**)
I found myself feeling more afraid than I’d felt with Sophia–I wasn’t sure if I could trust my body, if I could rid the wave. I should also note that it’s not my darling son’s fault that I had a running conversation with myself throughout my pregnancy that went something like this: “Well, they say the second birth is easier. And since I did the first one on petocin, which apparently makes for more intense contractions, and I did that one without an epidural, this one can’t be that bad. Yes yes, I know I had ancient Greek level hubris the first go around when I told my students that I’d ridden my bicycle a hundred miles, so gosh darn it, how hard could labor be, but I learned my lesson. This confidence is well-earned.” Fair to say that I am an idiot. A first class, grade A idiot. Yup.
An hour later, I was at 5cm. I swore again. I felt like I had done all the work I could do, and why oh why did 10 cm have to be so far away? We moved from the bed to a tub, and an angel of a nurse pushed on my lower back as I raged. Josh kept reminding me to breathe, to stay open, that he loved me, that I was bringing our son into the world. I kept reminding myself that I would never, ever, EVER do this again. After about an hour, I pleaded with the nurse to check me. I screamed something along the lines of, “If I’m not at 8 cm, give me the %*(%*)$#@&#@ epidural!” They hauled me out, got me up on a gurney where I sprawled sideways, and by the power of all that is holy, I was at 8 cm.
Moments later, I was back in our room. An amazing team of powerful women and my dearly beloved kept cajoling and encouraging and cheering–and as I kept yelling, “when is the next contraction coming??!!”, were all kind enough to refrain from saying, “well dear, you are the one who is in labor, so maybe you should tell us…”. Twenty minutes later, I was stunned to find myself holding a squishy-faced, almond-eyed little boy. He existed in the world. With us. Our son.
Then, slowly, the mood in the room began to shift. As I pushed and pushed to get the placenta out, and the nurses did all their nurse tricks to help it along, the cheering gave way to some very serious looks. The head midwife very calmly told me that my placenta wasn’t coming out. She then told me that I wouldn’t stop bleeding until it did, that I had already lost quite a bit of blood, and it was time to call in a surgeon. I breathed. Probably swore. Josh squeezed my hand, kissed me hard, took Noah into his arms, and within minutes I was in an operating room getting an epidural. And that surgeon removed every little last bit of that damn placenta with humor and grace and a bedside manner that would have made my father proud. And for the record, the epidural was not unpleasant–in fact, after the intensity of labor, it was sort of lovely to have my body just kind of melt away for a little bit.
Josh and Noah met me in the recovery room. We all breathed together. I held our son close to my heart, waited for the lower half of my body to wake up, studied the broken blood vessels along my collarbone and shoulders–evidence of the force of pushing life into the world–, waited for morning to come to introduce our daughter to her brother, said thank you over and over and over again for a body that creates and persists, for the way love begins and unfolds.