Cara was due, she was actually over due. At 42 weeks we were trying every crazy method known to start labor. Yet nothing seemed to work at kickstarting her uterus into “eject” mode, and while contractions were in short supply, advice was not. Lots of well meaning folk had put in their 2 cents over the previous 42 weeks and we certainly appreciated the concern, but at this point we had heard it all. Many. Many times.
Once a pregnancy gets to being “overdue” there is a lot of pressure to induce labor. Some of this comes from the medical industry and their desire to minimize costs by industrializing birth. But there are also very real physical problems which can arise and while we wanted as natural of a birth as possible, we also didnt want to put the baby or Cara in danger. Our dream of a birth at the midwife center ended when they broke her water and found more myconeum (a.k.a. Baby poop) in the fluid than they were comfortable with. A trip to the hospital was in order, and getting contractions started was the mission.
The answer was a drug called Pitocin and it causes contractions. Strong contractions. So strong that many folks are forced to use other drugs to offset the tremendous pain. Eventually many women who went in wanting a natural birth end up with epidurals or Caesarian sections. Sadly once the medical ball gets rolling, it ends up being very hard to stop. Fortunately for us a fairly low dose seemed all that was required and by 2am her body was beginning to draw up an eviction notice for our little bundle of joy. Despite not being at the midwife center Cara wanted as natural a birth as possible. So one of the midwives, our doula, a nurse, and myself were the only crew. As my wife rode wave after wave of contractions I provided counter pressure on her back, or sat in front of her as she stood (!) only leaning over a yoga ball to grip my hands as each spasm came and went. It was amazing and inspiring as she moaned these animal cries and rumbled low breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth with long, impossibly long notes. It wasn’t screaming or yelling, it was closer to a lions throaty roar than anything.
We opened the window blinds to the birthing room, outside was a panorama of Pittsburghs south side and in between her contractions I would look out the window and a strange thought popped into my head. It was deeply dark aside from the lights of the many buildings, and even if I didn’t know what time it was looking at the old hospital clock over my panting wife’s left shoulder, I would have known it was deep deep night. 3am, 4am, the kind of dark where dawn seems a long way off and even with this I knew , somehow, that when that sun came up our baby would be here.
They say “ignorance is bliss” and they also say ” a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and we had taken classes and read enough books that I knew when her contractions went from 30 to 60 second waves to monsters that lasted over a minute and came so close that she couldn’t stand up and sway between them the way she had for hours and hours earlier that the time for pushing was nearly on us. Throughout the hours of labor she had never asked for drugs, she had never said ” I can’t do this” had complained only of being tired, but when those transition contractions hit her I saw a look of fear that hand not been there before, it said “I’m not sure I can do this”. It was 6 o clock and she asked the midwife if it would be possible to take something for the pain, the midwife told her that the next midwife on duty would be there soon, to hold on til 7 and then they could see.
Cara decided to tough it out until 7, and sucked up these mega contractions breathing and moaning. When the tiny merciful breaks between came she would stand up and we would both look into the pitch blackness out the window. At this point the only things the doula or I could say to her was “you can do it!” Nothing else mattered but that thought. That one hour seemed like a dozen and when I next looked out the window an orange glow was in the sky over the Southside, just before seven the next midwife came in, after the midwife checked her cervix,Cara asked ” can I take something?” And the midwife laughed saying “No, you are having this baby now!”
And she was!
She crawled onto the hospital bed on all fours, the transition contractions seemed to have subsided. All of the sudden she didn’t need me to squeeze her hands or the doula to press on her hips, she was almost totally silent. The midwife coached and told her when to push and how well she was doing, the sky was almost completely lit up with a new morning. I stood up by her head, one hand resting on her shoulder when the nurse told me “go look down there!” I was scared, I am not good with gory movies or blood, but I couldn’t miss this and my wife was oblivious of everything around her having entered a truly animal state. No more pep talk, no more squeezing, her body took over and everything modern fell away. Like her primitive ancestors had done in thatch huts and stone caves she pushed the baby out on instinct and internal strength alone. I might as well have been the hat rack at this point so i went to look at where the action was! As I peeped around her thigh I saw that the entire top of our baby’s head was already, irrevocably out! I was amazed, I couldnt tell whether I was standing or sitting, I felt like my nose was inches from my baby’s face as first one eyebrow, then eye came out, and with that the head popped out with a squirt of fluid, the midwife efficiently and casually flipped the umbilical cord from around the babies neck, worked the shoulders free with another squirt of goo and there was our baby!
Cara, turned around, still on all fours and an amazing smile broke out across her sweaty face! She did it! They whisked the baby to a bassinet to clear its lungs of the dreaded myconeum, everything was fine, I got 3 or 4 thumbs up from the mass of extra nurses and pediatrician who suddenly appeared in the room.
The sun was beaming in the room, my baby began crying , someone yelled to us “it’s a girl!”
Cara looked at me with the brightest eyes, beaming like the sun itself and whispered “it’s a girl!!”