Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Birth Narrative

Iza's Birth Narrative: Draft 1

Here is my first draft of the story of Izabella's birth. I am sure other details will come to mind. But here is my first attempt to record Iza's entry into the world. Most bodily fluids have been omitted. Natural Childbirth is beautiful, but not exactly pretty.


I had just returned to bed after making a bathroom run and so I knew it was my water breaking when a gentle gush of liquid barely saturated my pajamas. I made sure the waters were clear and without odor, both signs that the baby might be in distress. I returned to bed to wait and see what my body would do. Within fifteen minutes I was up again with what I would soon recognize as contractions. It was 1 am. It looked like I was in for a night labor, which can be exhausting. Usually you are asked to come into the hospital when your water breaks because there is an increased risk of infections. I knew that I wanted to labor as long as possible at home. Instead of calling the midwife or my doula, it seemed natural to tell my my husband I couldn't sleep and creep out of the room. It would be me and my baby for the first seven hours of labor.

There was work to be done. First, I took the piles of onesies, booties, diapers, etc. off the floor in the baby's room and arranged them on the shelves that my husband had just that night installed. I put a few more items in my hospital bag. Then I moved downstairs, settled on the couch with a good book, and waited. Soon I knew that it was indeed labor and I began to conserve my energy by trying to sleep between each rush. I knew it was imperative that I rest as much as possible and stay hydrated. After a while I figured out that the best way to do this was to sit on the couch and rest my head between contractions. If I laid down, I had to sit up for each rush and it woke me up too much. It was much easier to semi-recline and rest when I could.

Around 4 am I decided I needed to move a bit and passed the time by returning upstairs to burn two birthing soundtracks--one filled withe Enya, George Winston, and Gershwin, the other with more upbeat numbers. (Later I would prefer the Winston tunes). I made two sets--one I packed in my hospital bag and the other I took back downstairs and played while I continued to labor.

At 6:30 am I called my doula and alerted her that the baby was on the way. I made myself some toast with elderberry-orange jam and a cup of jasmine tea. L. slept late by his normal standards and came downstairs at eight. I told him that the baby was on the way. He was calm and soon enough believed me as he saw me ride a contraction. He put the car seat in the car--we would figure out how to install it after the birth-- and cleared the car of snow and ice. He also had to pack his bag. The baby was coming at 38 weeks and 1 day, which is considered full term yet still a few weeks earlier than we expected.

At that point the plan was to go to the midwife at the clinic just to confirm that is was indeed active labor, but it became clear to me that we needed to get to the hospital. The car ride was brutal. By that time the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. It took about 4 contractions to get there. Being trapped in the car, halted at red lights with strangers eye-to-eye with my intense contortions, was not pleasant. For once I kept telling L. to driver faster, faster! There was one more contraction on the sidewalk in front of the hospital.

My doula was waiting for me as we arrived about 10 am and she helped me to the the elevator while L. parked the car. The maternity ward is located on the fifth floor. We loaded up in the elevator and believe it or not fellow passengers pushed the buttons for floors 2, 3, and 4. I was deep inside my contractions but this didn't stop an internal monologue. People, please. (I know, maybe the person who pressed floor 2 had a heart condition or was going to see a terminally ill parent. But still. I was in labor. Note to self: next time I get into an elevator with a woman in labor, take her express to the maternity floor!) The elevator car bounced and retracted on each floor.

In the hospital I was first evaluated by the midwife on duty, who I had not yet met. I remember that she came into the room while I was in the middle of a contraction. I was standing and bent over the bed, resting my head and chest on the mattress. I barely said hello. It turns out that I am a moaner. I was moaning long and deep when she introduced herself. Without checking my dilation, she moved us to the labor and delivery room. It was a long, long walk down that hall. Handrails had been thoughtfully installed. I was able to sway and move my hips as we walked to encourage my baby to move down.

The contractions were concentrations. I had expected to feel the contractions on the top of my belly. I had always heard that you have to push down and so I assumed that the muscles on the top of my belly would be involved. Instead the contractions were deep inside of me, located in the same spot where menstrual cramps originate. They were a force unleashed in my belly that concentrated my entire body in the center. I kept telling myself: "I am more" and envisioning a full daisy, which I had read somewhere measures 10 centimeters. Each time my body took over and concentrated itself, I moaned and tried to open and relax my mouth and throat.

I was concentration. I was completely unaware of time, but later I would learn that I labored for a few hours before moving into the bathtub as my labor became more intense. They offered me something to drink and I chose ginger ale from the list of options. I drank a lot of ginger ale during those hours and afterward in the hospital. I mention this because I have never really liked ginger ale, but it was so sweet tasting during labor. The bubbles were light and smooth in my dry mouth. I tried to eat some saltine crackers, but barely had the energy to get them past my dry lips.

The bathtub was marvelous. I can't imagine laboring without it. In fact, I would have been happy to deliver my baby in the water. The tub, however, was too small and not designed for water births. I was able to totally relax my body between contractions, feeling weightless and comforted by the warm water. Soon I began to push. The midwife did not tell me "push!" like doctors do on the big screen. Instead, it felt like I needed to shit. (Not pretty, but true.) And so I pushed. As I moved through the contractions, the midwife let me lead the way. She would moan along with me, cueing my own moans by moaning low and deep in the throat. Or if my breathing became too rapid, she would take deep breathes to cue me to do the same. Without saying a word, she communicated what I needed to do. I knew to mimic her and instantly my pain was more manageable.

My midwife never left my side. Newton-Wellesley's policy is to assign one nurse to each woman in labor. I had my midwife, my nurse, my doula, and L. with me the entire time. Well, L. did step out for lunch. When my midwife checked my dilation for the first time, I was dilated "10 +" or so she said. It was time to move out of the tub and into the bed. It was at this point that the nurse realized that L. was gone. She had him paged. He didn't respond. They called him on his cell. He didn't respond. I was only dimly aware of these events. Just as I stood from the waters, dripping and pushing, L. returned. It was good timing.

As they guided me toward the bed, they asked me how I wanted to deliver. All throughout the labor I couldn't stand to be on my side or on my back. I leaned on the bed, I sat on the birthing ball, I was on all fours, I sat on the toilet. I moved. I knew that I needed to deliver on all fours. I managed to get up into the bed and arrange myself with my knees on the bed and my upper body supported by leaning on the elevated back of the bed. L. stood behind the bed, facing me and holding my hands. My doula was on my right. Instead of looking out toward my midwife and the room, I was able to totally go inside of myself and concentrate on each push. In between pushing, I would lower myself in the yoga pose called the child's pose. The pushing was intensely painful and I made grunting sounds like I didn't know I could. It hurt. It hurt a lot more than contractions. But I was glad for the pain. It meant that she was moving. She was on her way and there was an end in sight! While I had labored, there was no sense of how long it would continue. Even though pushing was more painful, it was more bearable because it was clear that we were making progress.

After about 30 minutes of pushing, she emerged screaming at 1:38 pm, Feb. 8, 2008. As she began her passage into the world I felt tremendous sensations of stinging and tearing. (As it turns out, I didn't actually seriously tear.) The midwife had me stop pushing momentarily to allow the baby to help me stretch out. And then, she was here. Screaming and flailing. The midwife passed her up between my legs and into my arms. The first words out of my mouth: Thank you, thank you, thank you. (As in thank you all you wonderful people who helped me birth Iza NOT thank you for witnessing my stellar performance.) I know what my first words were because we have a video of it. (If Paris Hilton and her cohorts can post sex tapes on the internet, can I post my baby's birth on YouTube? The video is only about 2 minutes long. What would Iza say?)

My husband cut the cord and with a firm snip we were two. We then watched as the placenta was delivered. (Tata took a magnificent picture of the bloody placenta.) I had requested a mirror during the delivery, but didn't use it because I was facing backward. They put it in place to allow me to watch the placenta pass. It was amazing to see it balloon out of me. The midwife showed us how our baby had fit inside while she grew.

We stayed in the delivery room for a couple of hours with our new baby. She was placed immediately on my chest and made her first attempts at breast feeding. After a while they took her across the room to be weighed. When asked if I wanted her to be bathed, I requested that they wait until the next morning so that her skin would soak up all the vernix--the white filmy substance that covers a baby in the womb and keeps their skin soft.

She was born with so much dark hair! I was shocked to see all that hair. L. and I both thought that she looked just like him. In fact, we thought she looked just like her grandpa Barabasi. Newborns look like little old people and so it was no surprise that we could see Nagytata (grandpa) in her face. Now she has blue eyes, which come from mama, but her true eye color may change. As a good friend suggested, she looks like tata on the outside but she is all mama on the inside!

What a rush. I was enormously proud of myself. Tremendously. The rush of hormones was a high like I have never known. Physically I felt not only not bad, but really great. I had only a minor tear that needed stitching and otherwise I was filled with energy. Of course, when I got out of bed to be cleaned up I was a bit shaky. But ecstatic. My body knew what to do. I am not the natural earth mama type. I am more of the skinny-nervous, over-wrought, consult the textbook type. But my body knew what to do and I just had to get my head out of the way and let my body do its work. What joy.


Khageman said...

Beautiful. And I think you are more natural earth mama than you thought:)

Réka Albert said...

What a tough luck to have the contractions start in the middle of the night. But you handled it beautifully!

István Albert said...

Great story telling.

They should put this post into that natural birth pamphlet as well.

You ended up having a pretty long labor, from 1am to 1:38 pm, that's a really tough challenge. As the quote says - What doesn't kill us makes us stronger - attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche as well as Rambo :-).

Great writeup of a unique experience.

Susan Nappi said...

Janet - Brandon shared with me the pictures of Iza. Long story short - I have always been very interested in birth stories and given that you are a writer, I googled your blog to see if you would post yours. Although I am not a writer (like many folks I've done some blogging and used it as an outlet for motherhood; here is the birth story of our second daughter, Ellie: I hope to someday help women capture their birth stories as a way to foster connection and also to help them heal. It is surprising how many women I come into contact with have felt 'cheated' out of the experience you have described (a la Naomi Wolf's "Misconceptions"). It was a pleasure reading about Iza's birth and of your courage.

Peace and blessings to you and yours,
Susan Nappi