Birth Story, Part One
Birth Story, Part One
We had scheduled our last midwife appointment for Thursday, August 28, 2008—the day before my estimated due date. At the appointment I was 90% effaced and still just one measly centimeter dilated. A little disappointing, but I tried to remind myself that it didn’t mean anything. I could go into labor right here, on this examination table! Like, RIGHT NOW! Or… now! Or… in thirty seconds! Or I could go into labor on my way to work and have to call for an ambulance and end up having a stranger deliver my baby on the side of the highway! I could be on the evening news!
(this is my version of positive thinking)
Back to reality. Catherine the midwife was checking for the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler. The seconds ticked slowly by as she moved the Doppler over my belly, looking for that familiar whoosh whoosh whoosh. Back and forth, back and forth. I remained calm until her fourth attempt, during which my breath came quickly and my eyes filled with tears. Oh, god. WHERE ARE YOU, BABY? Here is was, the realization of my worst fears! My baby was dead, my precious baby, and I didn’t even get to meet him! And then suddenly Catherine moved the Doppler to the right and
WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH WHOOSH
I burst into tears and Mike rushed up to the examination table with a box of Kleenex.
“You scared the shit out of me!” I sobbed to Catherine.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Sometimes they like to hide. He’s very much alive and his heart is beating like crazy!”
Then it was time for Catherine to strip my membranes, after which she pulled out her gloved hand and announced gleefully, “Look, blood!” Mike paled slightly. “That’s good,” Catherine assured him.
I smiled gamely.
We made a follow-up appointment for the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend, just in case nothing happened before then. Before I left, Catherine remarked to Mike, “You both want a natural birth, and I think this one can do it.” She patted me on the shoulder and I felt my eyes well up again.
Have I mentioned that I love midwives?
I’d been planning to go to work after the appointment, but soon felt so crampy that I had to go home instead. My mom had been at our house since Monday evening, eagerly anticipating the beginning of my labor. And within a couple of hours, it seemed that all of us would get our wish. The general cramping had given way to contractions that lasted all day and had me hunching over the shopping cart as my mom and I wound through the aisles of Target and Wegman’s. The contractions were irregular, but painful. We called the doula, who agreed that the signs were good and encouraged me to sleep if possible. That evening I took a hot bath to help me relax, and then drifted off.
At some point I woke up in the blackness of my bedroom and realized that the contractions had stopped. No. NO! I got up and walked briskly around the room. I marched up and down the stairs. But my uterus was quiet once again.
Friday morning I woke up depressed and without even a stitch of pain. The long holiday weekend stretched ahead of me, and we had no plans besides, you know, HAVING A BABY. I knew I would not be pregnant forever, and yet I couldn’t help believing it. Ridiculously, assurances from my mother of “You WILL have this baby!” were enormously helpful.
“I WILL have this baby, I WILL have this baby!” I repeated to myself as needed. I wandered around the baby’s room, touching his clothes and crib and trying to picture myself in the rocking chair with a baby in my arms.
On Labor Day Monday, there was still no baby. My mom and I went to see Mama Mia! as a distraction. I normally despise musicals, so that tells you how desperate I was. The baby kicked crazily during each ABBA song. “My son likes disco!” I whispered to her, and we watched as the popcorn bucket hopped and bumped along my belly.
Finally, it was Tuesday morning and time for the “just-in-case” appointment. DAMMIT. I smiled grimly at the receptionist and told her that it was nothing personal, but I was really hoping that I wouldn't see her again for six more weeks. She nodded and said she would pray harder this time.
Mike and I mentally prepared to hear that there was no further progress, but to my surprise, Catherine announced that I was 100% effaced and 3 centimeters dilated. Seems my cervix had not just been playing around last Thursday! I was elated.
She stripped my membranes again (again showing me the bloody glove), and then handed me a pad and told us to meet her in her office. We had to talk about scheduling an induction.