from the beginning: a birth story

February 6, 2013

9 months ago, i had a baby. and, though i think about that day every day, it has taken me 9 months to actually write about it.

our birth story is actually a story about how i was convinced i wasn’t going to have a baby. well, not yet at least. as a doula, i had been to many (well, mostly) 18+ hour births. granted, nearly all of the births i attended were for first time moms. granted, most of them were induced. granted, most of them were being treated by over-managed care providers who were often pushing them into labor when their body wasn’t ready. but anyways.

nine months ago, i was completely convinced i was going to be pregnant for another 3 weeks. i was supposed to have stopped working but couldn’t help myself – i ended up attending 3 births in the last few weeks before my own. and that was probably what did it. a few days after doula-ing for some good friends of mine (and a week before my own due date), i was texting with a friend saying (LITERALLY) “i’m not even going to worry about having this baby for another 3 weeks”. 10 minutes later my water broke and i was freaking out.

my midwives had warned me that doulas are always the least prepared for their own births and i most certainly fit the bill. i sat shaking in the bathroom, telling mark this couldn’t be happening for a while, then we sat on the bed and talked about whether mark should go to work in the morning. at about 4am, mark got up to make quiche and i tried to sleep while slow waves of cramps started to build in my gut.

i called my mom a million times and, though she had been anxiously sitting by her phone for MONTHS at this point, waiting to hear news, suddenly could not be reached by any avenue. around 6 or 7am, the cramps were getting too uncomfortable to keep laying down so, ignoring the advice of my midwife, i decided to get up and take a shower. though the birth ball didn’t fit in the shower, i stubbornly jammed it in there with me while the contractions continued to build. mark sat on the bathroom floor, eating eggs, both of us relatively unfazed by labor at this point. i wouldn’t let my doula come by since i was convinced i was just in early labor.

you know, early labor where the contractions are 2 minutes apart.

i’m a doula, remember.

we called our midwife intermittently and she would listen to me as i had a contraction. i wasn’t feeling super overwhelmed by pain and was staying pretty quiet through most contractions. i’d bend over the changing table in our sunny bedroom, mark would press on my back, and then that’d be that. let’s recap the fact that i had spent the last year watching teenagers in labor – teenagers who screamed and yelled even when heavily medicated. so i was expecting labor to be downright awful, despite how beautiful i also deeply knew it to be. i was a little surprised that it wasn’t hell-on-earth, at least for the most part.

as one could probably imagine, we realized in retrospect, that i was basically continually faking everyone out in terms of how i was reacting to labor.

our doula and dear friend, annie, arrived 10am and hung out with me while mark did some last minute preparations like, you know, packing our emergency hospital bag (just-in-case) and blowing up the birth pool by hand. i tried all sorts of positions and essential oils that i had used for other people, just to see what worked. my mind was working like a doula through the whole birth, constantly assessing what was bullshit advice and what was helpful. i started running through every suggestion i’d ever given a laboring mother before, now asking forgiveness for making so-and-so sit on a birth ball or rubbing her back in a certain way. it was a welcome sort of relief when the contractions became strong enough to get me out of my own head.

at a certain point, i started getting a really strong urge to push. but i was in early labor, right? so i shouldn’t start pushing. it took every fiber of will and strength in me not to push, and i was not successful at not-pushing. i cried “FUCK” every time i accidentally pushed, which was pretty much during each contraction. i got in every position that i tell others to get into when they feel the urge to push and know that they should not. as one might expect, none of those positions work.

around 12:30p, the midwives’ assistant, rachel, arrived to check out the situation before the midwife got there. as i moved to the bed to be checked, i told annie that i felt like i had a bowling ball between my legs.

and both of us, experienced doulas, just nodded at each other like i was commenting on the weather, not at all realizing what i just said.

rachel smiled and chatted with me, took her time before checking my dilation. i was ready to hear that i was 2cm dilated. instead i watched her smile freeze as she told me: “lauren, you’re having your baby right now.” here, on the bed. not in the lovely birth tub that mark had only half-inflated at this point.

all of us were in shock. i had another 30 hours of labor ahead of me, right?

not the case.

rachel called our midwife, while annie and mark rushed around to get whatever supplies we could: a mixing bowl for the placenta, some scissors for the cord. 30 minutes later, a little blue alien-like baby was hoisted up onto my chest, her arms open, squawking like a dolphin. we couldn’t believe she was here, that fast, that simply.

she had come out sunny side up – a position that is typically really difficult to navigate and most of the time makes labor incredibly long and especially painful. this had been what i most obsessively worried about throughout my pregnancy, my pet fear if you will. it was an amazing gift and lesson to me that what i most feared came to pass and…was not actually that bad. a deep gratitude for God’s grace and the beauty of birth was etched into me that day in a way it never quite had before.

it was a crazy thing to see that face for the first time, all squished and confused. she looked so much like my grandma, so unlike anything i had ever imagined. she emerged from such an intimate place within me and yet we still were so unacquainted with one another. even now, nine months later, having watched her every expression and emotion, i still find myself surprised by elements of her being that burst forth. like her father, she is an extension of me which brings delight in the vast amount of unknown that has yet to be explored. sometimes i feel like my whole life before she was born was just a drawn out passing of time, a waste really. even in the isolation, exhaustion, and frustration of parenthood i feel like this is really living. i feel most myself when i’m with her.

there is no greater gift than that.

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