This post has migrated from my previous blog, because I really feel it’s important to include here. It was written November 22, 2012, about a month after my son was born. He’s my third child, but my first biological child, and my first experience with a newborn because I met my daughters when they were three and a half and five years old. This moment really shaped the person I am today, in fact the entire experience of pregnancy felt like my gateway to self-love. I so enjoy reading these kinds of reflections from parents, and I hope you can connect with some of your own early parenting experience through reading my birth story. xo
Time is in fast-forward now, and the hours and minutes have lost all meaning to me. Instead of compulsively checking my smart phone, time is tracked from feeding to feeding, and each free moment is spent eating or bathing or napping. Writing seems to be sitting and waiting for me to return, and so I try to steal a moment here and there to remember the events of the last month. I want to try to paint a picture for you. Especially for those of you who are pregnant, are thinking of getting pregnant, or have already been on this wild ride.
In the quiet 4:00 am moments, my bedroom is cast in a soft amber glow by the new night-light that is always on. It’s warmer than I like for sleeping, and warmer still with the hot flashes I get while nursing. My hair is unruly, with my overgrown bangs sweeping in waves around my brow like the horns of a barn owl – a look made complete by my decidedly owlish glasses, now permanently smeared with lanolin cream, which I’ve been priming my nipples with after each nursing session. I am nodding off intermittently as a tiny, perfect little man-person is feeding from my body. He’s resting on the deflated skin-pouch that was once my magnificent baby belly, and before that the average thirty-something mid-section that I hope will one day return. I breathe in his smell and the tears prickle behind my eyes because I know that all too soon this moment will be gone and he’ll be too big to tuck under my arm.
Each day is a deliberate choice to stay in the moment and savor every precious second of the sweet smell of my son’s head. He’s resting now in his high tech swing, and as I take this time to write I realize that these are a few more moments when I won’t get to drink him in, up close and personal. The world doesn’t feel as safe when he’s out of my arms.
How did we get here?
The nine-month journey came to an end (or a beginning) on the first day of my 39th week of pregnancy. My water broke at 3:30 am on Friday October 12th and Noah Nekky Jamal came screaming into the world at 2:22 on Saturday October 13th.
Friday night I was snug alone in my bed when I awoke to realize that my water had broken. I knew this would happen on one of the nights when I was alone, and that was okay. It was in fact this beautiful, peaceful moment of reflection where I was able to really come to terms with the fact that in a matter of hours our son would be here.
‘They’ are right, there is NO mistaking when your water has broken. Any confusion is dispelled by the fact that the fluid continues to flow no matter what you do, and in my case this continued through the entire day and night until I was pushing out my baby. I had started sleeping both with a towel and a waterproof puppy pad under me, and so at least I was prepared for the mess. I rang Daddy and Mama S who were just upstairs, and they came down excitedly. We all three attempted to fall asleep again in my room, but I think only Mama S was successful at this because she can sleep anywhere, under any circumstance. I was far too excited for sleeping, but at least I made myself lie down and rest.
At a more humane hour of the morning all three of the grandmothers were dispatched and made their plans to head to our home with Daddy’s sister who would be our caregiver for our daughters while the rest of us were at the hospital. We told the girls what was happening as soon as they were up, and they were nearly too excited to go to school. Fortunately (and coincidentally) we had arranged play dates for each of them that kept them out of the house until just before bedtime. Mama S was home from work for a doctor’s appointment too, and Daddy’s father was on a plane flying to us from Africa. Noah has some remarkable timing I think.
The day unfolded slowly. Labour really didn’t show much progress beyond some very mild cramps for more than half the day. We walked around the block, I did some yoga, I used my birthing ball to open my pelvis, we had a Grey’s Anatomy marathon as the grandmothers chatted and enjoyed tea. The midwives came to confirm that my water had actually broken, and then suggested I might try some castor oil to speed up contractions, as I was nowhere near what they call ‘active labour’. After they left, Sarah and I walked three blocks to the near by Shoppers Drugmart with our moms in tow to get some castor oil and some snacks. Anyone we encountered on the busy city street seemed to know intuitively to get outta the way. What a cloud of estrogen we must have left in our wake! I took the castor oil with a shot of oj when we returned home.
Soon my contractions began to get a bit stronger. I started to crave the quiet of my bedroom, so the three of us retreated there. This is when the details start to blur a bit for me now. We continued watching television for a while, but soon we had to switch to music because the TV became annoying. I hooked myself up to a TENS machine for a while, but within half an hour I also became annoyed with that sensation. My labour playlist, which heavily featured the music of Led Zeppelin, became a ridiculous joke. I couldn’t bear to listen to the noise. Dinner was ordered for the grandmas and the rest of us. I ate some rice, and started to become annoyed with everything, including our food options. I began to run out of comfortable positions for the contractions, and the various relaxation techniques I had learned began to fail me. The midwives were dispatched again.
Here, the contractions began to work their way deep into my self. I considered each one and tried to take them in stride, but it was impossible to not think about the contractions yet to come. I breathed. I thought about opening up. I tried to surrender. Inside my head a little voice said “I think you better really, really think about what you want to do here because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” This voice felt like it knew what it was talking about, but I wanted to wait and see what the midwives had to say.
I think at this point I looked good to the outside eye. I think I looked like I had things under control, and that I was managing well. I didn’t feel that way on the inside. I felt like someone about to weather their first tornado. It wasn’t fear of the pain yet to come that gripped me, but the intensity of the actual pain I was experiencing. I seemed totally unable to find a way to ride each wave of sensation.
When the midwives arrived, they checked me and I was only 2cm dilated, but fully effaced (my cervix had completely thinned out). This could mean things would happen quickly, or it could mean that we were many hours away. They told me that I had still not begun active labour, and realizing that I was having a hard time with pain management, suggested that I draw a bath and hang out in the tub to see if it would help my body relax so I could deal better with the contractions. This wasn’t news I wanted to hear. I became very discouraged, my natural birth dreams seemed like an impossibility in the face of the pain I was feeling, but I thought of all of the serene water births I had witnessed via Youtube and conceded.
The tub did nothing to help with the sensations. I felt like an angry cat being drowned in a sack in a pond. Nothing could make me at ease or comfortable. This is when I began to want to leave my body. I began to utter phrases like “I don’t…” “I can’t…” “help me…”
Soon I couldn’t stand to be in the water a second longer. I looked at Nekky and Sarah and evoked the ‘safe word’ we had decided on that meant our original birth plan was about to change. It meant “You guys, I straight up need drugs. For real.”
After the bath, the midwives checked me again. I was 5cm. The student midwife told me I had some options, we could me stay home and labour another FOUR HOURS or so, or we could head to the hospital. I tried to imagine four more drug free hours and I said “Hell no, we’re going to the hospital.”
Stay tuned for part two, where I unleash the beast within and scare a lot of strangers…