There we were, my 2 ½ year old son and I, one afternoon in November, two weeks and two days before my due date. The Kid was up from his nap and we were lolling on the sofa having some “side” (his word for nursing). And suddenly, “flub,” went something wetly in my pants.
I told The Kid that something had happened and it meant the baby was going to come soon, probably today or tonight. Then I got up and did the same pointless flapping around looking for a pad and a large towel to sit on that I’d done the previous time. I gave my husband a call and mentioned that he might want to pack up and come home and tell them he wouldn’t be back for two weeks or so. I called the birth center and the midwife said to wait until I was contracting five minutes apart for a minute each and then ring again.
I repaired to the sofa. The Kid was looking worried and was ominously quiet. I asked him was he okay and he said, “Giant coming.” He’d been having nightmares about giants lately and I think it was his psyche manifesting the prospect of the baby as something big and scary. I tried to comfort him and sound as normal as possible. I didn’t really want to nurse him much more in case it made the contractions come too fast but I did nurse him a bit.
The Husband came home and made tea or whatever one does in these situations and I had some cereal and drank some water and made sure everything was in my bag and went to bed for a couple of hours. I didn’t sleep and the contractions started coming slowly but surely. I didn’t want them to go away entirely, so I got up after a while. I languished on the sofa and leafed through my Ina May Gaskin book to get me into the right frame of mind. I wanted to try and string things out until after The Kid’s bedtime, if possible. I told a bunch of strangers on the Internet that I was in labour but hardly anyone in real life.
Everything, amazingly, went to plan. The Kid’s bedtime came with as much normality as possible and no big promises of a baby tomorrow morning; though we did tell him that Alice might be here when he woke up. Our wonderful friend Alice arrived at 9 pm with her daughter asleep over a shoulder and we rang the birth center to say we were on our way.
It’s a 30 minute drive and by the time we arrived, the contractions were weaker. The midwife chatted to us, got our info and then said frankly that I didn’t look as if I was working all that hard and maybe we’d have to go home and come back in the morning. I resolved that the baby was just going to have to hurry itself up and get the show on the road. The midwife said we’d give it an hour or so and sat down to do some paperwork. The Husband installed himself in the kitchen with a fresh paperback. And I started walking the corridors of the empty birth center, weaving in and out of the rooms, rubbing my nipples shamelessly and thinking good thoughts about wide tunnels and open and down. Every time a contraction came, I tried to loosen my jaw and not clench anything, and think the baby down.
After maybe ten minutes, the contractions really did start to get long and painful. I’d lean over the bedstead or against the wall (where the midwife could see me so she’d know what was going on and banish any more silly notions of sending us away), and I began to wonder how I could possibly have suggested that my sister-in-law, newly pregnant, should attempt a drug-free labour. I decided I needed to go to the bathroom and was pleased to see that my body was getting everything out of the way in preparation for the big push.
I was still sitting there on the loo and I realised that I was still pushing even though I’d finished what I thought I’d come there to do. And I couldn’t stop it. And it hurt like the bejaysus.
I yelled in a strangulated sort of way for the midwife. The Husband came and hovered outside the door. I said “Come in” and “Get Megan” and saw that she was walking calmly by and putting on some latex gloves. Since my waters had broken, she hadn’t checked me when I arrived as that would make me susceptible to infection.
“I’m pushing!” I finally wailed as it really seemed that this was not transition but the actual real deal. This time both The Husband and Megan looked down and there was a head, crowning.
“Scoot forward,” said Megan, holding out her hands. I managed to move myself so that our baby wasn’t born straight into the porcelain and with one almighty push she came out. Megan said “Lift up your shirt”–so much for the clothes I’d brought to “labour in” and the nightdresses I’d brought “for delivery”–I was still wearing the tracksuit bottoms and red shirt I’d shown up in, and I believe I still had my knickers round my ankles. She put a pinky-grey, writhing, alive, slippy, tiny baby on my tummy. “I think it’s a girl,” said The Husband. “Is it a girl, really?” I asked. Megan confirmed that it was.
I walked (well, hobbled) from the bathroom to the bed holding my daughter to me, umbilical cord still attached and we nursed. After a while, The Husband got to cut the cord and my placenta was delivered with a little yank on the cord and a little push from me. They rubbed the vernix into the baby’s soft, soft skin and put on the obligatory hat.
We went home the same night, as per birth center policy. I had no tearing (hooray!) and my bleeding was very manageable and the baby was just perfect. We turfed poor Alice out of our bed, climbed in and The Kid got to wake up the next morning to find a new baby sister had sneaked in overnight.
The birth center experience was wonderful for me–certainly helped by my ridiculously quick delivery. The memory I’ll always keep of my daughter’s birth is that of the quiet house, with just us three in it, the calmness surrounding me as I worked on the contractions and how lovely it was afterwards in contrast to the hustle and bustle of a hospital.