My midwife said that it had maybe happened a handful of times in her ten years of practice – that she didn’t make it to a birth. And typically, the Mom, like me, had a long and difficult first birth. With all the stories I’d heard, the classes and trainings I attended, the more I felt prepared for variations of normal birth and arguably, the less I felt mentally prepared for an ‘easy’, textbook one. (Whatever ‘textbook’ means anyways…)
But it happened. My midwives didn’t make it in time, and I’m sure if I’d given birth anywhere else, I’d have had a baby born in our car in traffic. Which all feels like a mix of funny and ironic considering how I assumed our Bradley class on emergency birth would be the least applicable to us – if we had a baby at home, midwives would be there and if we were going to the hospital for an emergency, we’d be in an ambulance. Still, it all feels a little foggy and bizarre. I still can’t wrap my mind entirely around Isaac’s birth – like a sucker punch of sorts that’s on replay in my mind to convince myself that I would or should have done something differently to avoid.
While Isaac’s birth was extremely peaceful for me, the day he was born felt extremely chaotic. Once our midwives were there, I’d birthed a baby and a placenta, in a total of 15 minutes. When my best friend came in with the midwives, I just couldn’t help but tell them all, over and over, “I can’t believe I just had a baby”. I was in absolute shock and felt cheated when I assumed I would feel like I’d hit the labor lottery for having Isaac the way I did. The problem was I wasn’t counting on it, and instead, Mike and I both thought we had more time than we actually did. As a result, I didn’t get to labor in my tub with my lovely Christmas living room ambience, I didn’t get to ever listen to my Mariah Carey Holiday or Jesus Culture Pandora stations, I didn’t get to enjoy pushing or have these incredible moments with Mike one-on-one, and Marin, after weekly birth video sessions in preparation, didn’t get to be there when her brother was born. In many ways, Isaac’s birthday reflected a lot of what it would be to have two kids – we wouldn’t have as much time to savor every moment, but we’d all make it, together, each doing the part that we needed to do happily.
The midwives began assessing me immediately, and exchanging information with our doula, Catherine, who being a trained midwife, became extremely helpful to have present. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d lost about two cups of blood when Isaac was born (which is considered a small hemorrhage). Fortunately, I didn’t require Pitocin or Cytotec (to contract my uterus), and Isaac was a great nurser (he nursed five times in four hours) to help get the job done naturally. Trust me, I felt it – the afterbirth pains, the pains from your uterus going back to its pre-pregnancy size and placement (it stretches all the way to your rib cage in pregnancy!) which can be less uncomfortable with the help of ibuprofen, emptying your bladder, and staying hydrated.
But initially, emptying my bladder and staying hydrated were a real chore. I remember that I was so proud that I had two labors that I didn’t throw up (-take that transition!-) until I realized that you could still throw up afterwards. Immediately once Isaac was born, I took two ibuprofen and some homeopathic tincture to proactively help with pain. The problem was I did it all on an empty stomach, and a dehydrated one at that. While I managed the contractions all night, I made a big mistake in not drinking more fluids (especially at the rate that I was going to the bathroom). My body didn’t take to the combination too well, and so I threw up in bed, and with every trip to the bathroom to try and empty my bladder (three in all), I had to take breaks on the toilet to try and not get increasingly sick or light-headed. Plus, everyone was so chatty outside the bathroom that I had Tara, my main midwife, close the door to block out all the distraction. (Apparently, having to pee takes a lot of concentration when you need to go, but can’t.)
My kitchen became a nurse’s station where everyone exchanged information, and the second midwife, Audra, not my typical one, Sarafina (who I knew would be leaving the country early Saturday, November 22, would probably not make it to this birth), kept disagreeing with the intern midwife, Jessica about how to dispense oxygen. The oxygen I needed to help me make these 15-foot bathroom trips till I gave up and requested a catheter. If you can’t pee, you can’t pee – and I was done trying with little success.
After that, the mission was to get me well-hydrated (since I didn’t realize the catheter wasn’t a get-out-of-bathroom-jail free card) to pee on my own. Once I finally did go, all the attention could be refocused onto Isaac, for his own examination. His initial Apgar score was a 9,10,9, but he had gotten congested after birth – you could hear it as he breathed. It cleared on its own, while Catherine listened to his chest with a stethoscope, and didn’t require any future attention. (I share that and my small hemorrhage since they required further care and attention from the midwives, and are a great example of some of the care that home birth midwives can take care of without hospital transfer).
Once it was all over, I could do what I do best, nap. I slept with Isaac beside me the same way I did with Marin, who I could hear crying for me outside the door, and was having a very hard day one of transitioning to not being our only child. She was inconsolable, and I’m so glad she had loving, familiar faces to take care of her when I couldn’t give her the TLC she needed. I cuddled Isaac, tried to smell him but couldn’t, and looked at his puffy little face to do all I could to not forget this day. All the little moments. The little pieces of him that would too soon grow, move, hold, walk, and then, leave. I couldn’t possibly savor him enough, and was bent on taking advantage of the precious moments that I’d have with just him. (When it’s your first child, you don’t have to calculate that time as much, but with your second, the luxury is gone.) I came to appreciate the helping hands around the house, not just the ones that took care of Marin, but the ones that did the dishes, refilled my drink and plate, and updated relatives without reminding. They let me be a Mom of one that day, without guilt, without hunger, without a mess just waiting for me to tackle in the coming days.
So, because of them, once the midwives drove off, I got to enjoy my new son.