It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
That’s childbirth in a nutshell.
I had a baby recently. Five days ago, in fact. So the memory’s fresh. It all went down like this…
I’m one of those lucky folks who can either say they’re in labor for six weeks – or six hours. Pressure builds and Braxton Hicks contractions are regular company in the weeks leading up to my due date. I waddle. Nothing fits. I have to choose between breathing and bending over. I crave chocolate. (Actually, that’s nothing new…)
The local hospital (where all my children have been born) frowns on natural birth after a mom has had a cesarean birth. They’ll do it, but grudgingly – only if the mom’s doctor is with her every moment she’s there. I’m enough of a crunchy mom to consider a home birth except for two factors. My house is tiny. And my husband isn’t into the idea.
It would have been nice to not have to treat childbirth so medically, to be pushed for every intervention, to have to lie down the whole time, to have to tell the next twenty strangers that I’m not in fact 16 or Catholic, I willingly chose to have six children, and explain my desires to delay clamping the cord, and not be told when to push, and wait to give the first injection. I wished I could just be home in my own bed after having a baby rather than visited every hour by nurses just stopping in to push on my tender tummy and ask if I was getting any rest in the most infamously uncomfortable of contraptions – the hospital bed.
But such things were not to be, so I tried to prepare for the next viable option – waiting until I was white-knucked onto furniture in labor before rushing to the hospital, popping out a baby, and convincing them to let me get home as soon as possible.
The best laid plans of mice and men… My midwife retired last year, so I had the doctor whom she practiced under (and who had delivered my fourth baby by c-section.) When I saw him on Friday for a check-up I was almost 4 centimeters dilated, so he offered to strip the membranes and get labor going. Since he was required to be in the hospital while I was, a weekend labor would have been most convenient to avoid any scheduled surgeries or appointments he had during the week. I agreed, and went home to wait for labor to kick in.
But aside from lots of cramps and waddling around grandma as she handled the daily bustle of my home, I didn’t go into labor. I waited all day Friday. My water broke mid-morning Saturday, so I called my husband to come home from work before the snowstorm. But still we waited. I concluded I am not a patient person. I didn’t want to call the doc to tell him my water broke because I expected he’d make me come in and be induced. I really wanted to wait for my own body to do its thing.
But I finally caved. Indeed, he wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out. They confirmed several things. Yes, my water had broken. No, I wasn’t having strong contractions on my own. No, they wouldn’t let me leave to wait at home. No, I couldn’t leave the bed. Yes, the cafeteria was closed all night.
So I spent the rest of the night enveloped in a huge hospital johnny, strapped to machines reminding me that I wasn’t really in labor, and pouting. My doc did let me wait… And wait… wishing I were home in bed waiting… until about 2 am. Then they decided to induce contractions. We couldn’t leave, couldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t allowed to move. I agreed.
As they started pumping in the drugs, my hopes fell. If we were going to do things their way, I decided we’d do it all the way. I got an epidural for the first time in any of my non-surgical births. It did make the relentless medicine easier to bear. At 4:35 Sunday morning, all seven pounds and three ounces of little Ezra slipped into the snowy world. He looks like his brothers and is, of course, perfect. 🙂
It wasn’t how I’d planned it (I wonder if it ever is). But he has arrived. I did get to go home before the next snowstorm about 36 hours later. It snowed in our family of eight. Eight! I’m trying hard not to do too much more than snuggle my children, old and new, and occasionally clean pickle juice off the floor.
The day Ezra was born, I bumped into Genesis 41:52, the verse in which Joseph named his second son. Ephraim. “For God has called me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
I could pout about the way labor went, or I could breathe in the sweet smell of my newborn’s head as he nurses (I don’t get why I will smell like sour milk and sweat while he can smell so delicious) and choose to be thankful it was all for a purpose.
Wouldn’t trade it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on the sofa drooling in sore-backed exhaustion while the toddler paints himself with yogurt on the rug and the kids try to sneak M and M’s and video game time.
It’s a wonderful life.