Monday, October 1, 2007


The deeper into motherhood I journey the harder it is for me to recall the birth. The exact sensation is hard to describe. It’s fading from memory; not the principle star in the tale. The ten and a half months preceding the event are clearer, and even that is starting to fade the more I hold her in my arms…

Overall it was a beautiful pregnancy. There was a minor scare in the beginning where we thought we lost you. We had just celebrated our first anniversary with a dinner at a fancy restaurant. I declined champagne. I smiled inwardly when the waiter, a friend, looked at me dumbfounded when I said no thanks to wine. I was about 6 or 7 weeks along. On the drive home I felt a gush. In the bathroom bright red blood ran down my legs, soaked my underwear and pants, something plopped into the toilet. I stood up and something plopped onto the tiles. I sobbed for Adam. He held me on the bathroom floor and cried with me. I went to the nurse the next day, asked for a checkup. She said it was unnecessary since I had obviously miscarried, but they’d run a blood test just to be sure.

A week later she called me.
My hormone levels were off. Could I come in again for another blood test? Two weeks later she called me again. Subsequent testing indicated a pregnant woman, not one who had miscarried.

They sent me for an ultra sound. The room was still and dark. The technician whispered, “There is a heartbeat.” She put your heartbeat on speaker. I sobbed and thanked G-d and cried in disbelief. I named you then. She turned the monitor towards me and I saw you for the first time. I carried the images from that ultrasound like the paper was dipped in gold. Adam was at his desk. I showed him the picture.
“What’s this?” “Your baby.”

I bought my chamsa necklace that week. I’ve worn it nearly everyday since then.

We read up on what happened, a subchorionic hematoma. I read books on birth. I bought What to Expect. I met with a midwife. I met with a doctor. We decided on a homebirth. We met Chanah, another midwife, whom we chose as our health care provider. We considered water. Experienced mothers looked surprised when we said we were opting for a homebirth for the first. I knew enough moms and had read enough dissatisfied birth stories to know it was the right choice for us. I had faith in the process, and in you, our miracle.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth made me buzz with anticipation for giving birth. Lisa Gartin’s Lamaze classes made me proud and excited that I have the capacity to experience such an event fully, coherently. Chanah listened to my fears calmly and with great patience. I looked forward to tapping into a strength I didn’t believe I had the strength to tap into.

When I reached 36 weeks it became a countdown. Any day now, I said, everyday. The day I reached the estimated due date I knew it was going to be a while longer. I was anxious. The day I passed the date I thought I’d give birth I became more anxious. Waiting is work. Patience is hard. I was walking every day, one foot on the curb, one foot off. I ate pineapple, spicy food, and chocolate; drank a beer. Caught up on sex.
Sunday night, eleven days after my due date, I had my first contractions. I thought “Holy shit. This is for real.” I had one an hour for four hours. I slept through them. They petered out.

I woke up Monday morning to a pink tissue after the toilet and clearly not in labor. I went to class. Monday night was more of the same. Chanah checked me on Tuesday, I wasn’t dilated at all.

Wednesday morning I got to campus. I got out of the car and thought “Oh geez, I peed my pants.” At the end of lab, I stood at the sink washing my hands and peed on myself again. A lot. Soaked through my pants, which would have been noticeable if I hadn’t been wearing black. I calmly drove home. Chanah had left Nitrazine paper for a situation such as this. I turned three strips a deep, bright, navy blue, indicating amniotic fluid. I had no contractions. I called Chanah and was advised to go about my day, keep her updated, take a shot of castor oil if nothing started to move by noon.
At noon I drank the oil.
At four I went on a walk with the dog. I felt the same things I had felt Sunday and Monday night, but by then I was convinced it wasn’t true contractions or labor. Chanah came over. We chatted. She charted. I told her I was having contractions lasting about 15 seconds every 5-10 minutes. She left to take care of her family around 5:30.

“Remember,” she said, “don’t call when I need to be here. You must keep me posted and call me before I need to be here!!”

By 6:00 I knew I was in labor. The contractions floored me. I was unable to speak. It was hard to breath. I asked Adam to time them, convinced they were still only 20 seconds long. They lasted a minute and a half. By 7 they were on top of one another. I was scared. I couldn’t find a rhythm. I was on my hands and knees, rocking. “This is too fast,” I thought. “It’s not supposed to be this fast.” I couldn’t get centered. I locked myself in the bathroom, vomiting, rocking, howling, emptying.
After each contraction, I thought: “well I’ll never have that contraction again.”
“I can’t run from this pain. I have to go into it”
“This isn’t harming me.”
“I’m scared. I need my mom.”
“I am opening.”
“This is bringing me to you.”

I wailed for Adam to call the midwife.

When she arrived I was on the bed, on all fours, rocking, moaning, mooing, breathing and she wasn’t helping me! She was moving around the house very efficiently, speaking to Adam, focused on her task. But she wasn’t helping me! Only later did I realize we waited too long to call her.

She checked me. I was 6 centimeters. She told me I couldn’t use the pool yet because I would want to push. All I heard was “no pool.” There’s no way I can get through this without the pool.

Fifteen minutes later she told me I could get into the pool. She said I could push if I felt like it. The first contraction in the pool was a pushing contraction. It was a relief, not from the pain, but from the speed of labor. The pool slowed my contractions down. I was lucid between pushes. Laughing, talking, My Mom had arrived. Pushing was deep. There was no way I could handle someone telling me how and when to push. The desire to push takes over. There is no other sensation than the need to push. What started as a relief progressed into something slightly scary. I started to fear pushing but I knew it was bringing you closer. I knew there was no better was to meet you.

I did not recognize myself in the sounds I made. My throat was raw the next day. The water was too hot and I felt dizzy. With great joy and glee Chanah exclaimed “Look! There’s the head!” I kept pushing. The effort, the size, surprised me. I said “Oh baby!” When your head emerged, it was the single most intense sensation I’ve ever experienced. The rest of you came, in the words of your father, like a torpedo.