Friday, May 3, 2013

Born Free Episode 2: Rub a Dub, Born In a Tub

A post 8 months in the making. Finally finished and I have spared you no details.

For over a week now, there has been a 3.5 foot deep inflatable pool sitting in our living room. No, this isn't us failing at being rednecks again... This is us being hippies. Upper-middle class, suburban hippies - pretty much the worst thing ever besides limousine liberals and hipsters of any sort. We had to put a sheet over the pool to keep it clean, and to make sure Thing 2 didn't decide to play in it. He wanted to. Badly.

Big Daddy made sure to let our immediate neighbors know that I'd be giving birth to our offspring in our living room... You know, just in case we needed to leave the windows open or something and I made a little noise. We didn't want them to think someone was being murdered or forced to watch reruns of Jerry Springer. Of course, if it was going to turn out anything like the "orgasmic birth" stories I'd been reading, they'd just think we were being really loud, as per usual. They'd probably even commend us for being able to have such great sex while I was so hugely pregnant. The last thing we'd be needing is taser-happy gestapos beating down the door demanding I go to the torture facility hospital and shooting my dog or something.

BD called the midwife and gave the phone to me - it was around 5:15. She wanted me to talk to her through a contraction, if I recall correctly, and I am pretty sure I made some sort of awful noise because she said "I'm on my way". I had originally intended to wear my maternity swimsuit top that made my boobs look fantastic just in case someone decided to snap pictures... Seems that, when you're in that much pain, you really don't give a rat's ass what you look like. I threw on my trusty Genie Bra and proceeded to be in pain.

It gets a little blurry from here, but I know we went downstairs and were trying to get me comfortable. For some reason (*cough* hippie birth blogs *cough*), this was way more painful than I had anticipated... There was no calm, controlled, being all zen through contractions, I felt like my body was going to split open like size medium spandex pants on Oprah at any minute. At one point, BD put 2 yoga mats on the floor for me to kneel on as this was how I originally planned to give birth. My almost-30-year-old knees couldn't handle that kind of weight, and that idea went out the door as fast as it came in.

Things seemed to be going quite fast and we decided to fill up the pool. BD already had his intricate filter system set up on the shower head, thankfully, because I was starting to feel like maybe I was going to drop that baby right there on the floor at any second. At least, I hoped so because I certainly did not want to endure several more hours of that pain with no drugs in sight... He brought down the hose and started filling the pool and I decided I needed to go to the bathroom. All kinds of ugly feelings and pain were going on, and it was getting harder to distinguish one from the other (remember, I originally thought this was gas pain) so it turns out that having to go pee was more than just having to go pee... I was quite terrified that maybe I had misinterpreted that as well and was going to give birth in the toilet.

This is gross and maybe just a little TMI, but I definitely had to do more than pee. I took this as a good thing, my body trying to clear itself out so I wasn't one of those women who "took a dump on the delivery table" or in this case "pooped in the pool". As I am trying to go, with actual intestinal pain to go along with the contractions, I realize that BD is standing in the doorway. I love my husband dearly, and we have no embarrassments or secrets with one another, but taking a dump, for me, is still a very solitary exercise. I'm sure he was also afraid that I was going to drop the kid out in the commode, but I looked up and said "This isn't going to work with you watching!!" in my best what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-you-that-you-think-standing-there-is-a-good-idea voice. Poor guy.

We made our way back downstairs and I go into the pool. Oh sweet relief! It didn't take my pain away 100%, and there was certainly not going to be any dimmed lights, floating flowers, glasses of wine birthing going on, but it definitely felt better to be in that water. I can't remember the exact sequence of events from here, but at some point my midwife arrived and BD also got in the tub with me, it was probably around 6:30 or so. Getting in that thing, for both of us, was the point of no return. The sides were HIGH and the bottom also inflated so it was very very difficult to climb out of.

The midwife checked my progress at some point after she arrived, and I was at either 7 or 8 centimeters. All the hippie homebirthers will tell you this means nothing, that you could stay that way for hour or go from 2 cm to 8 cm in 20 minutes. Yeah, don't care, it was a relief to know that I was, in fact, in labor. You'd think after 2 other kids and all the pain, one would be able to surmise past a certain point that one is, indeed, in labor. Not so. Unless you are a marathon homebirther, you will doubt actual labor, no matter how much pain you are in, until either a. you get a numeric indication of cervical dilation or b. a small dome-shaped object starts protruding from your hoo-hoo. 

Things went ok from here. Yes, it was painful and awful, but I was still able to laugh and crack jokes with everyone. I kinda rolled around in that pool like a large sea mammal for a while. The contractions sucked and they were very painful (I made sure to announce the coming of each one so everyone could know I was about to be in excruciating torment) but I at least got a bit of a reprieve between each one. Somewhere around 7:30-7:45, I was much less jovial, and I also had less time between each stab of torture. It seemed like this went on for hours, with many a- "I can't do this any more" and "someone please just give me drugs, I know one of you has some!!!!!!", before I felt like maybe I could start pushing. Looking back, this may have just been wishful thinking on my part because I so badly wanted it to be over...

A lot of crunchy Earth-mamas will tell you that pushing is "relieving" (and this is where some of them even go all orgasmic)... Unless some time in the past 20 years or so the word "relieving" became a synonym for "a giant with hands of near-molten glass is ripping my body in half slowly", I'm not entire sure what they are referring to. This is pain that will make or break you. You either go through it because that is the only way to get it over with or you give up and pass out (seriously, there have to be women who do this and I can't blame them one iota). Unfortunately, I was betrayed by my body and my swooning reflex went on hiatus, so I had to um, "push through the pain" - you know, in case maybe you mistake child birth for a Jillian Michaels workout DVD (striking similarities, believe it or not).

To make matters worse, my midwife announced that I had a "cervical lip" - a piece of my cervix just didn't want to let go of the warm little ball of baby flesh inside of me. She had to physically hold back this lip while I was pushing. I'm not sure if you know where a cervix is located, but you really should go google it so you can appreciate the full painful uncomfortableness of it all.

Pushing is a vague term. Something they call it so as not to scare the first-timers too badly. What I was doing was more like some kind of primal, instinct-led exercise where I tried as hard as I could to make my guts come out of my bottom-side without rupturing an eyeball. In order to do this, it was essential that I make some kind of noise. I wanted to scream, but I was told to make lower-noises with an open mouth. I'm pretty sure that, at some point, it turned into screaming anyway. Right in BD's ear. I also came very very very close to biting down on his hand. That shit where they give people leather belts to bite down on? Totally legit. I would have given anything for a leather belt just then; anything but the pool.

The offspring finally started crowning - FINALLY! - and the first thing I hear is "look at all that hair!!" I was then asked to reach down and touch the baby's head. If ever given the choice to feel a small, hairy skull stretching the delicate petals of your lady parts til you feel something appropriately dubbed "the ring of fire", I would advise that you politely decline and keep your hands wrapped around whatever part of your husband you can get a hold of and continue hanging on for dear life. After all, you'll have the rest of your life to touch your kid's head, but you can never unfeel your stretched and mangled vag.

There are no words to describe the feeling of a (not-so-)tiny person coming out of a fairly small orifice of your body. Babies may have "soft" bones, but I felt every. single. one.  as he descended from my womb. I remember pushing as hard as I could and feeling my legs shaking against the side of the pool, losing strength, and thinking "Oh my god, this is it, I am going to completely run out of gas right before the baby comes out and he's going to be stuck in there!" Thankfully, no such thing happened, and the baby came out, bone by bone, all 8 pounds, 7 ounces of him at exactly 8:40 pm (according to Verizon, anyway).

It was so strange for me to be so fully aware (I had drugs with my first two births) and yet feel so completely like I was in a dream. I'm sure every mother thinks this, but when my midwife handed me my newly separated offspring, I remember thinking that I had never in my life seen such a beautiful newborn. He just stared around, he didn't cry, he didn't squirm, he was just in some kind of holy-shit-what-the-fuck-just-happened-and-where-the-hell-am-I trance. And he was PERFECT. Did I mention that he was perfect? He even pooped on me, but we were in water anyway and god dammit he was so damn perfect!

After a little while, my midwife told me it was time to deliver the placenta... Do what now? You mean I have to PUSH again? Between the pain in my nether regions and the absolute exhaustion in all of my "pushing" muscles, I flat out told her "I can't"... I just can't and you can't make me!!!!! She told me to try to cough. I did, it didn't really work. I could feel what I had to do, so I somehow did it. That last push to get the placenta out was harder than the 20 minutes or so (I think that's how long it took??) I spent pushing the baby out!

After some time, Little D was handed to Big D and I managed to haul my deflated body out of the pool. It wasn't easy standing on what amounted to a thin air mattress while trying to climb over a 3.5 foot high, 10 inch wide wall after what felt like just having your body go through a meat grinder. I remember going up to the shower, getting cleaned up and feeling super giddy. I got dressed and all tucked into bed, my midwife's assistant even made me a sandwich.

During all of this, BD was apparently sitting in a pool of bloody water, holding a tiny, naked baby, not able to move and all by himself. He said he was afraid to move a single muscle, lest he drop the baby into the dark, bloody abyss. It was his own personal horror movie scene. It seems my midwife was off examining the placenta while I was upstairs with her assistant getting cleaned up. BD will tell you that he was left in the bloody horror show for like an hour, when in reality, it was probably more like 10 or 15 minutes.

Anyway, the ending of this story is pretty anti-climactic. The only evidence remaining of that harrowing day are an even more beautiful 8 month old baby and my still deflated belly that just refuses to go away. For the longest time afterwards, I felt a mixture of astonishment and pride at the fact that I did what I did, at home, with no doctors or, more amazingly, drugs in sight. I was also slightly horrified and traumatized by the experience. Not because anyone did anything wrong or because anything bad happened, but simply because of the sheer amount of pain and sensation I felt during the whole thing. I'm a WUSS, a giant baby when it comes to pain. Memories of pain remain with me for a long time after the physical sensation is gone.

I am finally to the point where I can look back on it now and feel good that I got through it and did the best possible thing for my child, drugs were not an option for me when it comes to him and they still are not. If I was not so concerned about his exposure to chemicals, I absolutely would not have given birth they way I did, I would have gone to a hospital and gotten the good drugs and laughed my way through childbirth once again. Even at the expense of getting stitched in the lady parts yet again. Not something you hear from the typical crunchy, hippie homebirthing, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering lady. Of course, there were also no orgasms in sight - maybe it's worth taking up some sort of S&M before giving birth to actually enjoy the sensations? Ok, now we're just trekking into creepy, let's call it a post.