the boy who lived. (way un-edited birth story)

sunday, may 29th, aleks woke up early at 9:30 a.m. we got up and i asked jon, who was asleep, if he wanted to go to katie's wedding in dayton (four hours away) that day. he looked at me like i was crazy with one eye open and said, "no." aleks and i then went about our morning routine. at 11 i asked jon again about going to the wedding, saying if we left at noon, we could make it. he again gave me a crazy look and said "no." so i went to find something else to do. tired of cleaning the house and being that it was already nearly spotless, i thought to sew new cushions for the rocking chair to replace using the pillows from the couch. so i set to work after chatting with a friend online for a bit and of course caring for aleks.

jon crawled out of bed at 3, took a shower and ate some food. i finished the back cushion for the chair and decided to do the seat cushion simpler to hurry up with it. i was out of stuffing, so i just made it big enough to go over a throw pillow and left it unfinished on one side. just as i was doing the last side, i had a contraction that sort of hurt. i'd been having tightening contractions for weeks and had had several that morning and lots the day before, but this one felt almost real. jon left to go to the library and i cleaned up my sewing mess. as i did this, i had two more contractions that felt real and decided that this might be labor. i called jon. he hadn't even made it to the library yet, which is less than a mile away. it was 4:44. i told him that labor might be starting, but to go ahead and do what he was going to do as i had still not seen any bloody show or lost my mucus plug, so i wasn't positive that it was really happening. i even felt a little silly calling after just a few contractions. he said to call our midwife, pam, and my mom (our other midwife, four hours away). i told him i'd call him if i needed him right away.

i paged my mom and when she called back asked her when i should call her about labor because i thought it was starting, but hadn't had any show. she said she'd just get the rose bush that she'd just dug a hole for in the ground and then leave. i said okay, but still felt silly. this was at about 5:00. then i called pam, told her what was happening, and told her we'd call her when we needed her to come. at about 5:15, i called my dad and step-mom to tell them what was going on and had 2 contractions in the five minutes that i talked to them that sorta made it hard to talk. when i got off the phone, i started trying to get everything cleaned up and ready for labor. i put the diapers in the wash, got the video camera case out of the closet, picked up the house and did the dishes. jon came home while i was doing this. i was surprised to see him so early, but it turned out the library was closed and i was glad he'd come then as things started picking up a bit and the contractions were coming regularly, though at somewhat irregular intervals and strengths. jon started to set up the birth pool with the help of aleks. i posted on mothering saying that i thought labor was starting and that it sure hurt like labor. i wasn't having the back pain with contractions the way i did with aleks, but i kept getting on hands and knees and leaning against the birth ball like i did in aleks' labor because i was expecting the back labor. the contractions were like very strong menstrual cramps and i suppose leaning on something was as good a way as any to cope with them. as they filled the tub, i became convinced this was definitely the start of labor and jon called pam back. he asked me if i wanted her to come then, but i was wandering around the house dealing with contractions. she asked him what he wanted her to do. he said it was up to her, she said, "no, it's really up to you." so he told her to come. aleks started to take off his clothes, wanting to get in the pool, but the water was too hot for him. i had called our friend heather to come get aleks several times, but kept getting her voice mail. it was sunday, so i didn't expect her to be at work. scott and sarah, who were our second choice for aleks were in canton for a wedding, so i asked aleks who was arguing with jon about getting in the pool if he wanted to go to riley's house to play. he was really excited about that and i was glad to have him go somewhere so i could have jon's full attention and so i could labor without disruption. i called riley's mom, jenny, and she said aleks was welcome to come over. jon got him dressed again and they left. i busied myself getting ready for real labor in between contractions, which i was starting to have to pay full attention to. they were still like menstrual cramps, but the intensity and pressure on my pubic bone were increasing steadily. i ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and set up the camcorder. jon called me from the car just to keep in contact. i sat leaning over the back of the couch looking out the front window at people going by as i talked to him. after a couple of minutes, i had another contraction and got off the phone. we had timed the contractions a bit while aleks had filled up the pool and they were about 3-4 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long. they were certainly variable which struck me as funny, considering this perception that we have of labor as a finite thing, as though the body were merely machinery and an uterus should contract at an exact and even pace, like a ticking countdown. i didn't need my water breaking or exactly steady contractions to tell me that this was labor. i didn't know what to do with myself really. i kept getting on all fours during contractions, anticipating back labor that never came. all the pressure was on my pubic bone. pam arrived just before jon got back at around 6:30. i was still talking just fine between contractions and decided to get in the pool. as pam was setting out her equipment, i pointed out the cushions i'd sewn that afternoon. i was rather glad to have that done to have a comfy place to rock the new baby. jon asked where my birth music was. i had been listening to modest mouse earlier, which i thought was funny, but the new album is really good! i told him the cds were in the birth kit (i was so prepared!). he and pam set up the video camera in a better location and i labored in the tub. the contractions were intense and i was now moaning through them, but the breaks in-between were like not being in labor at all. i was surprised at how coherent i was and kept waiting for the lala-land feeling i had with my first labor. as it was, i could think clearly and make observations, even during contractions, though i couldn't quite voice them. i found myself wondering what it was that i thought was so cool about birth and realizing exactly why people choose pain relief for childbirth. if it were available and offered to me, i'd be hard-pressed to turn it down. which is why it is best for me to have my babies at home.

i also found myself worrying yet again about the thought of having two children. of course, none of these ideas were formed articulately by any means. they were more flashes in my mind of "we're going to have two kids - holy shit!" i wasn't exploring what that might be like or anything, i was simply surprised by the clarity i felt - how normal my body even felt in the breaks between contractions. i didn't remember that at all from my first labor. i could also think clearly enough to remind myself what kind of sounds to make and to speculate about how far into labor i was. i could remember some of those mantras i'd read about and repeat to myself "open" or think abut ina may having women "smile their babies out". i thought to remind myself that i was strong enough to do this and that i was in fact doing it. i got out of the tub for a while and labored alone on the toilet, having a bowel movement and still looking for bloody show or mucus plug, but finding none. then back into the tub where the nice breaks between contractions were just enough for me to catch my breath before the next contraction. at one point i announced that not having contractions felt really good. i really started to make a lot of low moaning sounds with them and the intensity of each surge was increasing. i even started to look for a head in my pelvis with my hand and was quite disappointed to find none. i could feel myself pushing though, probably the baby down into the birth canal. each contraction was so intense and there was so much pressure on my pubic bone that i was anxious for the whole thing to be over. i quit caring about having a baby. i wanted to stop. i felt like changing my mind. of course, i knew there was no way out but through, so i kept on, anticipating the final pushing the baby out. at some point i also thought to myself that this baby was going to be a sebastian rather than an eleanor like i had planned all along. i didn't say this out loud, as i most likely couldn't, but i do recall definitely thinking it. i had jon holding the puke bowl for me for ages, thinking i might throw up and not wanting to in the pool, but i never did. pam tried making some recommendations, suggesting that i might find it helpful to be checked for baby's positioning, which i declined, and that i might feel a little better on the toilet or the birth stool. i silently decided to get out of the tub to go to the toilet, since i was having trouble supporting myself in the tub i think because i'm so short, and my arms hanging over the sides started to wear on me. i waited through a few contractions before standing and making this decision known. i wasn't really communicating at all any more, though i was still impressed by how clear my thoughts were. mostly i was just catching my breath between contractions. i wasn't really observing my environment any longer, but it wasn't the deep in-my-body mindlessness that i recall from my first labor.

after a contraction, i stood up and pam and jon helped me out of the pool and into the bathroom. i leaned on jon while sitting on the toilet, just as i had during transition with aleks. jon heard something fall into the toilet and asked if it was my water breaking. i reached down between my legs and we looked into the toilet and i said, "no, it was poop," which gave him a bit of a laugh. the pressure on my pubic bone was incredible. i was waiting for my water to break at any second, and i was still looking for bits of bloody mucus. i knew that i could have the baby without any show, but i didn't expect that to actually happen. even as i was waiting for my water to break, thinking that the bag itself was causing a lot of the pressure i felt, i was also scared of it breaking since i'd read about the bag cushioning the head and i wasn't quite ready for anything more intense than what i already felt, though i was anxious to get the whole thing over with. i could feel my uterus pushing the baby lower and i consciously helped it along, pushing with the stronger contractions. i knew this pushing wasn't the "real" pushing, but i was hoping to move things along any way i could.

pam again asked me if i wanted to be checked, saying that i might find it useful to know and that sometimes there can be a lip of cervix holding things back, which i knew. i didn't really want to go through the discomfort of being checked, but thought that it might be far enough along that it wouldn't hurt so much. i decided, though i don't think i was able to say it out loud, that i would consent to being checked and that i'd lay down on the bed in order to do it. i got up from the bathroom. maybe i said "okay" or something. i got to the hallway when another contraction started. i bent my knees, then dropped to the ground on my knees, torso up, legs out behind me. i was really vocalizing. screaming some, moaning, making guttural noises with my teeth partially clenched (though i kept thinking of smiling my baby out, i couldn't quite smile). pam got a chux pad under me as i said i was pooping on the floor! when it was over, i crawled into the bedroom and got up on the bed. at first i laid down on my back, which was NOT going to work, so i rolled to my side with my legs spread wide, which was NOT going to work either, the pressure was too much and i made a comment indicating as much as another contraction was hitting all the while and i rolled to my hands and knees, screaming again, still tremendously uncomfortable. as the contraction waned, i spit out the words "birth stool" and pam went to fetch it. i got on the stool at 8:58. they slid chux pads underneath me to catch the poop that was still falling (though there was still no bloody show or mucus). pushing was happening more now. jon got a flashlight and pam said that my water would probably break with another good push. a couple of contractions came and went with me pushing but not wanting to overdo it as the pressure was beyond intense. they could see the bag of waters bulging now and at 9:05 it exploded all over the floor and down jon's legs. he slipped his meconium-soaked socks off and i announced the meconium in the water, though it wasn't thick and i wasn't worried. pam threw some more chux down to soak up the fluid and the head started to come. pam told me to reach down to get the head. she was trying to help me catch myself, but i told her she had to since i was supporting my weight with my arms firmly gripping the handles on the birth stool. she was rapidly getting sterile gloves on, and then she reached up and grabbed a big glob of bloody mucus and presented it to me. i grabbed it and then wiped it on my leg to get it out of the way. i felt the ring of fire and thought to myself, "ring of fire!!!" i thought of the recent mdc thread and remembered pamamidwife's words about the ring of fire telling us not to push so we wouldn't tear. i tried to breathe instead of pushing and did so with much concentration, rapidly through clenched teeth. pam started to encourage me to push. i told her i couldn't because i would tear. she said i wouldn't tear because she had me, so i pushed and out his head came. i thought again of the ring of fire thread and how posters said they felt like they pooped their babies out because that is exactly how it felt! pam checked for a cord around the neck, and there was one which was easily unlooped. i stopped after the head and wanted to wait to push, but pam was again telling me to push. the shoulders felt big, but i went ahead and pushed with the next contraction. i think that's when i tore because there was a hand up. his whole body came out and pam caught him. it was 9:10. i took him from her and announced that he was a boy. there were bits of meconium on him and pam suctioned him. his eyes were wide open, but he wasn't crying, though i do think he was breathing. his color was certainly fine. i said "he's so small!" and asked him if he was okay a few times because he was so quiet. eventually pam's suctioning started to annoy him and he cried out briefly. pam was glad to hear it, but i wasn't concerned too much, though i did ask him if he was okay again. i was so surprised at how little he was (though it turned out he was bigger than aleks was at birth) and at how quiet he was. i was also shocked that he had dark hair. i looked down at him and noticed three skin tags on his chest, all of which are gone now. my mom walked in 3 minutes after he was born. i was still on the birth stool waiting for help to move me to the bed. he had a super long cord, so we were able to wait for the placenta to be born to cut it. he actually stayed attached for awhile. i cut the cord because jon said the feeling freaked him out & he didn't like it. after everything was done and cleaned up a bit, sebastian and i took a bath in the still clean aquadoula. he was so calm and alert. he just looked around the whole time. i was so happy! sure, my body was sore and my abdominal muscles weren't working right yet, but i felt great nonetheless. i was thrilled with my birth though i'd hated the pain. i really felt like i'd done it, that no one else did anything. it would have been nice to catch my own baby, but all things considered, it was as good as it gets.

sebastian diego born sunday, may 29, 2005 9:10 p.m. 7 lbs. 5 oz., 20 inches long


one son, two sons. old son, new son. i had heard, but never myself felt that people often wonder how they will possibly love their second child as much as their first. what i am finding as i am flooded with oxytocin as i gaze into the big brown eyes of my new baby is myself wondering how i will ever again love my first son as much as i love my second. i am content to laze about, doing nothing but holding sebastian in my arms, nursing him, trying to eat with one hand or type with one hand, brush my teeth with one hand. i am finding this newborn business so much easier and relaxed this second time around. i could, i suppose, attribute that to sebastian's calmer temperament which is probably due to his ability to eat just fine unlike aleksander as an infant, who i am realizing probably burned almost as many calories as he took in, making him slow to gain weight and generally pissed off. it could be a basic personality difference. it could be that my expectations are different and that i am calmed by experience, that i am a wiser woman, having been informed already of how this newborn thing is supposed to go. but i feel like i've put so much energy and intention into creating sebastian that i've failed aleks somehow. i know that during my pregnancy i was far from the best mom i could be and now i still feel like i've got way more of a handle on this newborn thing than i do on this toddler business. is this how it is to go in the future? will aleksander always be the child i learn on, my training session? will my second son always get the learned, wiser, more calm and relaxed me? and is that in any way fair? is there any way to combat this? is there any way to be a better mom the first time around, as i grope in the dark for the truth about my child's development, for the clues that let me know what is right and what is best? if i were to have more children, would i get even better at this and find that my third or my fourth received better treatment than the first two? or is it all simply hard and will i find new challenges in my subsequent children as their personalities offer new perspectives and they present new obstacles for me to navigate around based on wholly different needs? and ultimately, my question comes to this - is there any way at all to do this right, to be my best when my job is twenty-four hours long and involves the ever-changing whims of two tiny, developing creatures whose needs are constant and only half-way knowable? dare i even try, lest i make my already obsessive and perfectionist self completely crazy and miserable?