What kind of man totes The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe to his college Greek class? my husband, that’s who. You see, at the beginning of our romance I made one request: If you want to know me, read the books that make my heart come alive.
Oh sure, we talked about the great philosophers over lattes: Kant, Descartes and Kierkegaard. We discussed business and capitalism over Americanos, but he knew my ultimate secret: I believe in fairy tales.
I always have.
In fairy tales, “all creatures are revealed in the end as what they truly are – the ugly duckling becomes a great white swan, the frog is revealed to be a prince, and the beautiful but wicked queen is unmasked at last in all her ugliness. They are tales of transformation where the ones who live happily ever after – as by no means everyone does in fairy tales, are transformed into what they have it in them at their best to be.” (Frederick Buechner)
This is the story of Levi’s birth. It is the story of a lemon turning into a pumpkin. No, wait. It is the story of a pumpkin turning into a glass slipper. Let’s try that again. It’s the story of a lemon becoming a mother. Oh sheeh, I’ll come back to this at the end. Let’s just get on with it already . . .
The last drop spattered across the shower drain with gusto. I hadn’t finished rinsing my hair, but that was the last thing on my mind. I checked the sink. Zilch. Went to the faucet in the kitchen. Nada. How does one have a home water birth without, um, WATER? And where was our water, anyway?
Out here between thither and yon there is no municipal water hotline to call when things go wrong. If you ain’t got water, you’d better find the ONE plumber that services your area pronto. Better yet, find his wife and tell her that you’re full-term and will be forced to drive to Nashville to give birth in a posh hotel if your midwives don’t have a place to wash their hands.
While that may sound appealing to some, the plumber’s wife will intuitively understand your desire to stay at home and talk her husband into leaving another job early to take care of you. Said plumber, when he arrives, will discover a not-so-princely frog has lodged himself in the pipe that feeds the spring that supplies your house. The frog will be dislodged, thus concluding a series of events that includes giving up indoor plumbing at 38 weeks pregnant, stowaway kittens in trunks and a general contractor moving in with you. Bless that woman.
Now, About That Due Date . . .
It came and went with as much fanfare as a slug crossing the street. Then on Wednesday the 20th – 12 full days after my due date – things started to warm up right around the little potami’s bedtime. Knowing I probably had a long road ahead (Katie’s birth was 35+ hours and Micah’s was 34), I sipped on a small glass of wine, took a hot bath and snuggled into bed, hoping for a good night’s sleep.
The thing is, it is **really** hard to sleep when there is a human being determined to exit your body. After waking during each contraction for hours, I got up around 4am, posted this photo . . . .
and drew a warm bath, hoping to make it to 6am before waking up my doula.
I did not succeed.
Time Stamp – 4:28 a.m.
“Hey Heather, it’s Heather. Can you please come over?”
“Sure, I’ll start making my way. Can you tell me how you’re feeling?”
“Uhhhh, OHHHHHHH, I’ll call you back in two minutes!” Click.
Now there are two things you need to know at this point:
1. Just to keep things interesting, we had two Heather’s and two Katie’s at the birth. Heather was there to care for me, while Katie – my mother’s helper – was there to care for Katie and Micah. Both of the Heather’s were pregnant, and of course neither of the Katie’s were. Weird, huh?
2.. Normally when a woman cannot talk through her contractions it means she’s pretty far along in labor. Not me, though.
As much as I hoped it was a fluke the first two times, there is something unique about my labors.
I Give Birth . . . In Reverse
Yup, REVERSE. You know how early labor is supposed to be like music, ebbing and flowing with growing intensity, building toward crescendo until – badow! – a baby is born? I do that backwards.
For me, transition and pushing a baby out are ridiculously easy when compared with the difficulty of early labor. The first time around it caught me by surprise. The second time I had a plan, which I then abandoned in favor of the Groundhog Day of labor. This time, though, I was ready. I knew my difficulties probably came from having a less-than-optimal pelvic opening, but that squatting during labor could increase my pelvic measurements by 25-30 percent.
My track record of throwing up for 12. hours. straight. at Katie’s birth? Most likely it was because contractions bounced off my narrow pelvic opening and went UP toward my diaphragm. Fortunately, I learned during Micah’s birth that having someone push my hips together would re-focus contractions in the right direction.
Someone like, er, my chiropractor, Dr. Jeremy Johnson, who stopped by and gave us an epic tutorial on pain management during labor. I actually insisted that they get a Sharpie and mark my backside so that Daddyptoamus would know where to press when Dr. Jeremy left.
I was pretty tired from being up most of the night, but after my adjustment I was ready to work.
We climbed into the birthing tub, which felt uhMAZing.
Maybe a little too amazing, actually, because after a few strong contractions things slowed to a screeching halt. Somehow – and I’m not really sure how because I was enjoying the break – Heather coaxed me out of the tub and convinced me to try some squats.
Clasping her hands I lowered myself to the ground, waited for a contraction and then . . . . crumbled to the floor like Raggedy Ann. Squatting was perfectly comfortable when I practiced the day before, and the day before that, but now it was beyond painful. Good thing I didn’t hinge my entire plan for an easier labor on this one maneuver.
Since I was already on the floor I crawled to my hands and knees – another position that is good for opening the pelvis – and worked through a few contractions with Katiepotamus . . .
Then dove for my bed before the next contraction hit.
Time stamp: 12 p.m.
Active labor time – At least 8 hours
Hours slept the night before – Maybe two
Daphne, my midwife, offers to check how dilated I am. I agree, but unfortunately the exam reveals nothing except that – just like my first two – this baby is asynclitic. If you’re not familiar with it, asyncliticism is when baby’s head is not aligned with the pelvis properly.
When babies are in this position, contractions tend to be two things:
1. More painful
2. Less effective
Sounds fun, yes? I crawl under the covers and close my heavy eyelids, falling asleep between contractions. Daphne props one of my legs up on a stack of pillows to allow my body to labor as effectively as possible and slips out of the room.
Though sleeping feels good, my body refuses to take a break. Every few minutes feels like a zero sum game: Rest a bit, use up the energy just stored to handle a contraction, rest, contraction, rest . . .
Despite having succeeded at this twice now, I was seriously doubting my ability to continue on. Like my other two births, it felt like a race toward the finish line while running on fumes. Did I have enough in my tank to make it to the end? I came very close to needing to transport due to exhaustion with both of my previous births, so nothing felt guaranteed at this point. I closed my eyes and worked through the next contraction . . .