My Son’s Birth

Please note that the following account is not for the squeamish.
It is the story of a
natural birth, with few details omitted.

5 June 2006, Monday

It was a sunny afternoon [soon-to-be-evening] and Clinton and I went out to dinner in Kirkland. After much debate and deliberation and, I’m afraid, much waffling on my part, we decided to dine at Marina Park Café. During the drive there, I made it known to Clinton that my belly felt tight and hard to the touch, though I felt no discomfort or pain. Once at the restaurant, I felt and mentioned it again and Clinton observed that these “contractions” were twenty minutes apart. We both raised our eyebrows as if to acknowledge that “something could happen soon.”

When we got home, I bathed and shaved my legs, thinking that it might very well be my last opportunity to do so before the baby arrived. At the time, we were in the habit of sleeping in separate beds because Clinton couldn’t abide my constant shifting about due to discomfort, and I couldn’t abide his stentorian snoring.

6 June 2006, Tuesday

Around 3:00 in the morning, I awoke, due to some serious discomfort. I went back to sleep only to awake again at 3:30, at which point I went in to where Clinton was sleeping to tell him. I asked him, “Shouldn’t we call someone?” He said no and to go back to bed. I awoke again at 4:00 with contractions and solicited Clinton. As it was summer, the sun was already coming up by then and we started to get ready for the day ahead of us.

Clinton showered and got dressed. He put on these awful “track suit” bottoms with “press studs” down the sides and I told him to change. [Not only do I hate the look of them, I recoiled at the thought of the cold snaps on my skin while laboring against him.] He asked into what and I said jeans. He then changed into his nicest denim trousers and I protested again, imploring that he didn’t want to get them stained, did he? So, he then changed a again, this time into his black jeans.

It wasn’t until 5:34 that Clinton finally called our doula, Kristin, and then our midwives’ phone. I was nervous, going about with a buzz in my peripheral vision, and my shoulders suspended in the air. As fate would have it, the midwife on call that day was Brenda, the less favorite of the two. She returned our call around 6:00 and discussed being able to check in with us again around 11:00.

Around 7am, Kristin arrived after dropping off her kids for the day. I heard Clinton receive her at the door and then she came into the dim bedroom where I’d been relegated to continue sleeping through my contractions. Though I was fidgety, it was still some relief for her to get there. I felt I’d be that much safer and better attended to with her around. I was poised for something to happen but she directed me right back to bed so that I could conserve my energy.

At about 9am, I could sleep through the contractions no longer and went into the living room where Kristin and Clinton were talking quietly. Kristin asked me if I wanted to go for a walk and I said I thought that was a good idea. We all got our shoes on and headed off for nearby Robinswood park. It was a beautiful day outside; sunny but the morning air was still fresh and cool. The sun felt particularly bright and I half hoped to see our neighbors so that we could shock them; “I’m in labor!”

During our birth class with Kristin, she had mentioned doula-ing another woman while she labored on a walk through Robsinswood. It really is a fabulous park, with forest-like trails and all the features you’d want in a public park. We walked through trails I’d not previously traversed, chatting about this and that.

Kristin talked about her sister getting married at one of the park’s venues and about her daughter’s burgeoning fairy garden. I showed her a flower that would make a lovely fairy parasol. My contractions slowly but surely became more and more intense, but the sunshine and conversation, as well as the walking, kept my attention. We cleared the south edge of the trails, and landed right in the Mormon temple’s back lot. I goofily blurted out, “Oh, the Normans!” [an inside joke] That’s about when my memory begins to contain less peripheral details…

When we returned home, around 11 or so, my labor team suggested that I eat something. I sheepishly asked if I could have some of the pecan praline ice cream in the freezer. Kristin said, “You can have anything you want!” After that, I took to laboring in the kitchen, leaning my forearms and forehead onto the breakfast bar, Clinton supplying counter-pressure to my hips from behind me. Kristin proposed documenting the contractions for a spell. I swayed my hips back and forth slowly and sometimes squatted down a bit during the contractions and Kristin told me I was doing an excellent job listening and responding to my body.

We tried laboring outside on the back porch a while, leaning on a pillow against the railing, but it was too low and the sunshine was too bright for me. We continued in the kitchen for a while but the contractions were starting to ramp up and that situation didn’t work as well anymore. I believe that was about the time I tried a shower.

I went to the toilet and then stayed there to labor. I noticed a bit of a blush and we presumed it must’ve been my waters and/or more of the cervical plug, the majority of which I think had seeped out slowly during the preceding weeks. Clinton stood beside me and Kristin sat just outside the bathroom door. We tried propping my feet up with the laundry hamper and other objects. I remember suddenly wishing Clinton weren’t wearing any pants so that I could turn and bury my face in his loins, the thought of the warm, soft, and hairless skin comforting to me. I remember thinking, “but Kristin is just on the other side of that door” and how could I possibly communicate that thought to Clinton, and at a time like that?

All three of us went to the bedroom where I labored on the bed. The contractions were progressing and somewhere in there Kristin told Clinton it would be a good time to make sure the birth bag, et al. were together and in the car. He went and put on his swim trunks under his jeans.

I’m pretty sure I was naked by then. I had hoped that when I was in labor, my hair would be up in a braided bun, out of the way of water, blood, etc. [as well as framing my face with lovely wisps of hair that inevitably fall out of such a ‘do] Unfortunately, my hairpins began to escape and my braid began to fall loose. Clinton was trying to collect all of them onto the windowsill to be sure I didn’t lose any. He asked me how many I’d had and I basically thwarted his efforts, exclaiming that it wasn’t at all important! I alternated between laying on my side while trying to pretend that I wasn’t in labor, and then crouching on all fours trying to breathe/grunt through contractions. Then, our midwife arrived…in an SUV.

Clinton received Brenda at the door and I heard something about her getting her medical bag. She came into the bedroom and talked about checking me and the baby’s heartbeat, etc. We listened to the baby’s heartbeat with the Doptone; it was absolutely fine. We had also told her about the blush and she said she could test some of it with some midwife’s litmus paper [?] to see if it were in fact amniotic fluid. She collected some from a pillow I had been keeping between my legs while on my side. It was amniotic fluid, but I’m still not sure why we needed to know that…

Then another contraction came on. I got on my hands and knees on the bed again and my butt was to her. She said that she’d like to “check me”, something, I should tell, I had explicitly requested be strongly avoided during labor. I asked her, while fielding a contraction no less, if she could please check my heart-rate instead/first. She replied that she’d then have to discard her sterile glove. As Clinton recalls, the air was palpable. I couldn’t believe she was doing this to me, while I was in labor! I was livid, though my face wasn’t to her. No one said a word for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, off came the glove and, as my contraction subsided, she pumped up the arm band and took my pulse.

Clearly, she was put out. When she had finished with what I had permitted, she said she’d check in later with us and then she left. My poor doula, as Clinton escorted Brenda to the door, turned to me as calmly as she could and said, “Andrea, I know how you had put it in your birth plan to avoid checks, but maybe this would be a good thing right now. Maybe you’re already dilated enough and it’s time to push.” She suggested calling Brenda back in to do so. I know she, Kristin, meant well, but I really wasn’t having such a hard time with the contractions. I mean, they were getting really intense and frequent, and I was feeling really primal and focused, but I wasn’t necessarily tired or impatient.

Because Kristin, and Clinton for that matter, didn’t know what to do next, they tried calling Brenda back on the phone, but couldn’t get hold of her. They called Christine, our other midwife, and asked what they should do. Kristin was sort of thinking aloud with her, explaining everything that had happened so far and discussing our next options. Chris was taking appointments with Kate (the apprentice) back at the office/birth center and inquired if we wanted to head on over there anyway. I sort of remember talking to her on the phone during that time.

In all this flurry, though, I matter-of-factly made my way back to the toilet. I put my fingers inside my vagina to see what was going on. I felt something low, smooth, and dense. Head? No, too smooth; it was prolly the bag of waters pushing down. Kristin repeated Chris’s question, “Do you want to go to the birth center now?” I said, “Yes. It’s time to go.”

With that, Kristin told her we were on our way and Chris said she’d fill the birthing tub. It seemed like everybody was hopping and speeding around me as I made a deliberate but steady beeline for the car. I’d put on Clinton’s robe so that I wasn’t completely nude in traffic and off we went, with instructions not to push!

Kristin struck out in her VW bus and Clinton took a different route behind her. Naturally, we got caught at every traffic light between our house and the birth center. I was sort of feverish and giddy, holding onto the back of the passenger’s seat, not buckled in and chattering nervously with Clinton. I told him to say something funny to make me laugh, to keep my mind off pushing.

Then I found that laughing made it too easy for me to sneak in some pushing so I had to calm down. At one red light we were stopped next to the funniest looking man I have ever seen. During this time, we later learned, our doula had of course already made it to the birth center and frantically awaited us. She was almost certain that we’d had to pull to the side of the road and have the baby there!

When we got to the birth center, Clinton pulled along the side entrance, the door directly opening to the birthing suite. Christine and Kate were there to shepherd me toward the tub where I immediately threw off the robe and got in. Clinton parked the car around front, returning with the birth bag and sundries.

This is the part where it started to get frantic…and serious.

Kate and Christine knelt beside me at the tub. I could tell that Christine was excited to be there with me and that was comforting to be able to see her. Kristin was poised behind my shoulders, speaking in very soothing tones. These three women told me I could pretty much push whenever I felt ready. I grappled to remember everything I had seen and heard about pushing. I tried to adjust myself into a position where I’d have a lot of potential energy to push from. I drew my legs up, but then tried to squat on them more, feeling a little stronger and more secure that way, though I got much less buoyancy in the water that way.

It was either the first or second push that I tried when my waters burst in the tub. There was a bit of relief with that and I think I would’ve been happy to field more contractions at that point. I remember a lot of sloshing about and hating how vulnerable and ridiculous that was. I kept apologizing frantically, mumbling repeatedly, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” because I wasn’t living up to my expectations to calmly and intently channel my energy into my labor. They told me, “Stop apologizing!” They told me I was doing a great job, but I didn’t believe them because they kept saying, “low tones,” whenever I shrieked. They told me later, and then too, I think, it wasn’t to correct me because I was doing something wrong but to help make sure I didn’t hurt my voice.

It didn’t feel good to push; I think the baby’s slight retracting after the push felt better than the actual push. I also relieved myself quite a bit in the tub. That’s not a big deal to me, but it was kind of comic relief to have someone literally fishing poo out of the tub with a little aquarium net.

It’s hard to admit it, but I wish someone—I wish I—had told me to maybe relax and try waiting for the baby to get closer to coming out “on its own”. As it got toward crowning, perhaps even before, I remember how much it hurt. I could feel the stretching [read: what feels like ridiculous rug burn and shredding] both at the bottom of my vaginal opening and up at the top, virtually the hood of my clitoris.

I panicked, because I worried that it would ruin me permanently, and told them that it hurt “at the top” and that “the baby [was] too big for me”. I think I said, “I can’t do this.” My doula reassured me that I could do it, that I was doing it. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do it, it was more that I didn’t want to do it because it hurt so very unnaturally. Kate and Brenda, who had arrived by then, had on gloves and were applying gentle counter-pressure underwater around the opening. I was frustrated, because I wanted things to go slower and I wanted to be more in control and I wanted them to [be able to] do more to help me.

Clinton got in the tub with me somewhere in there and they gave me a mirror so that I could see the baby’s head. And I felt it too—wrinkly, spongy, but ultimately hard; a little bit of dark hair. I said, “holy shit!” though I certainly had the breadth of mind to decide whether or not to say so. This was the first glimpse of the baby! I remember Clinton smiling a lot; not obnoxiously but he definitely wasn’t panicky or worrisome.

As I exerted the final push that would push the baby out, I closed my eyes. Clinton was there in the tub with me to “catch” the baby. He said the baby came out face down but, in that same stroke, twisted out until he was face up. When I opened my eyes, there was a great deal of relief on my part, and a hollowness, and they were putting the baby on my chest.

The baby was still quite bluish and not squirming much. I didn’t know it, but Clinton said the baby had taken a breath and they were still waiting for the successive ones. I wasn’t aware of that, nor preoccupied with his well-being, nor was I instantly infatuated like some mothers report at such time. I was mostly addled and uncertain, in limbo for my next emotion, trying to understand what was going on and what had just happened. As I was holding the baby, who didn’t feel terribly warm and who was disgruntledly but quietly peering about, I realized I was cupping a fleshy scrotum in my hand. I’m glad that this was the way I learned the sex of our baby and not someone crowing, “It’s a boy!”

I remember thinking how the umbilical cord felt exactly like it looked like it should feel. We waited for it to stop pulsing and for the baby to establish breathing before the cord was cut. Clinton ceremoniously did so after it was clamped off. They took the baby out to dry him off and get him warm. Meanwhile, we were waiting for me to deliver the placenta. I think ultimately I had to give it a little push for it to come out.

Then it was time for a shower. When I stood up in the birthing tub I said how weird it felt, like this sucking hollowness in my middle; obviously negative pressure from where the baby & co. had been. I was rather lightheaded and Kate helped me to the shower stall but I don’t remember if we pulled down the seat or not. I felt unstable and like I couldn’t fit much in my vision. We decided it would be safer for me to crawl on all fours to the bed rather than walk. Kate orchestrated a trail of “chuck pads” for me and then I was helped onto the bed.

Then it was time to check the baby; figure his Apgar score, measure him, etc. He was 21 inches long and weighed 8 pounds 13 ounces. They didn’t say his Apgar score, but everything was working just fine. In the birthing tub, when I first held the baby, he was rooting about but not really interested in actually nursing. On the bed, we tried again but it was pretty much the same thing. While I held him, Brenda checked me, clad in sterile gloves and gynecological head lamp, to see if I had suffered any tears and if I would need any suturing. There were two very mild tears. As I suspected, some shearing had occurred at the top, and there was a small tear at the bottom. Brenda said it could warrant maybe one stitch but could just as easily go without. We decided to forego stitches.

Kate said that they were then going to check my placenta and would we like to [be included] ? We said yes and she examined and explained at the end of the bed. Clinton remarked how the site where the umbilical cord was attached to the placenta looked like the roots of a tree. Everything was in order there too and we chose to take it home with us. We would later plant it under the baby’s tree.

Clinton continued to hold the baby for a while. Kristin sat on the bed with me, talking about the birth and the last Birth Class she would teach that night, how everyone would be excited to hear about how our birth had gone.

Brenda sat in the rocking chair by the bed and talked to us about going home and basic things to expect. The general debriefing included a form about signs to watch for if the baby’s health should be in danger. It was then that we began to fill out all the forms one gets with a baby. It felt very strange to tell our midwife what our baby’s name was. Up until an hour or two ago, we’d not known its gender. I looked at Clinton as I told her the baby’s name was Jasper Emlyn Bernard-Jones.

Also, they gave me what they called a “peri” bottle, to aid in urination. Envision a small plastic sports sip bottle, only the opening has four holes instead of one. It is filled with water and then squirted at the, er, site during urination in order to dilute the pee and, hopefully, lessen the sting. That was fun. I remember being in the small room that billeted the toilet, trying to pee despite the shocking pain. I called Clinton in for a little reassurance! (Later, at home, I discovered how much easier it was to pee while immersed in a tub of water; no fretting about aim or whether the “peri” bottle held enough water.)

It was in the room with the toilet that I first looked at my cell phone since much earlier that morning. It had been on silent mode in the birth bag during labor and birth. I had several missed calls. I think I sent a text message to my mother and sister, though I’m not sure. Also in the birth bag were the form-fitting adult diapers that Kristin, our birth instructor/doula had recommended. They were the one-piece Poise panties and I have to say they were great for the occasion. I didn’t have to worry about aligning a pad or anything. I got dressed, back into the clothes I’d worn during labor, a rose tank top and my mom’s old maternity jumper/pinafore.

When I came out of the room, Kate and Brenda were already cleaning the birthing tub and stripping the sheets off the bed. I was sort of dumbfounded. I felt rushed and I think I’d hoped the midwives would’ve made a bigger deal of everything. I wanted some coddling before I had to go home and be a mother. I sat in one of the chairs while Clinton brought the car around and gathered our things. Jasper, of course, was asleep by now. I don’t remember if I held him or Clinton took him straight to the carseat. I remember telling the midwives, “I have a baby!” By 7:30pm or so, we were driving home, Jasper bundled and sleeping in his carseat.

If you’d like to ask me a question, feel free to email me.

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One Response to My Son’s Birth

  1. wow. thanks for sharing that birth story of jasper. fascinating. the body is amazing.

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