[Read part two
So it was time to push. And I was scared out of my mind. And I said so.
I knew that I would do it, but I had to speak that fear. Kristy and Rae both gave me encouragement, and Kristy said “E, your baby is about to be born!” in a very warm and supportive tone. I grabbed both of my Old Man’s hands and held on tight, and I started to push hard with each contraction.
Pushing went much quicker with Roo than in my labor with O. and required less strenuous effort. It was also harder, in a couple of ways. First of all, though the tub had been so helpful in the painful last part of my labor, now that it was time to push, I was having trouble finding my footing, bracing myself. I kept reaching higher and higher on my Old Man’s arms to find a dry spot to grab. (And, ultimately, I pulled him further and further into the tub with me. By the end, I had grappled him into a big, wet bear hug and his chest and shoulders were essentially in the water.)
And although the pushing didn’t last nearly as long, the pain was just as intense as my first labor, and in a way it was worse because… well, how do I put it? Rather than having a small human head stretching my cooter out for a contraction, then sliding back into my body, the way it worked with O., I had a small human head stretching my cooter out the whole damn time! I quickly discovered that I could just freeze after a contraction and hold the baby’s head in place between pushes, which seemed like a good idea because it presumably made the pushing phase faster. But damned if it didn’t hurt like arickinfrickinfrackin’
! (At the time, I saw holding the baby’s head clamped mid-cooter as a choice I made. Now that I look back on it, I wonder if that’s just how it is once that path of resistance has already been pioneered. A question for the midwife next time I see her. Or perhaps other moms who’ve squeezed more than one human being through your vag can weigh in.)
Can we just pause here and say how fucking insane it is that we squeeze people
through our vaginas
? I am not normally prone to the essentialist brand of feminism, but this whole baby-having experience gives me a serious new level of respect for myself and all other moms. (And cesareans count, needless to say. Having a human lifted out of an incision in your lower abdomen is no cake walk either, I feel fairly certain. And then there are moms who’ve done both, like Feral Mom
. Well, let’s just bow our heads for a moment as we think of their feats.)
(And, as a side note, to just stretch this tangent out a bit further [ow. I said “stretch …. further”], adoptive parents have my respect up and down and all around. I’ve recently seen my best friend from high school through an international adoption, and I think it’s fair to say that the experience strained and stretched her in ways I’ve never dreamed of.]
Anyway, back to me in the tub with my vagina stretched over a small human head: As the baby’s head was crowning, Kristy leaned in and said to me “I can see the top of the baby’s head. A couple more pushes and her head and shoulders will be born. At that point, I want you to reach down and grab her, and you can bring her up to your chest. Okay?” I was so out of my mind with pain and thrashing around at that point that I wasn’t 100% sure she was talking to me, and I actually said “Who, me?” And she said “Yes, E, you. Do you want to do that?” And I said yes, I wanted to.
My memory of this part is blurry, but the baby’s head was born fairly quickly, then I pushed out the shoulders, then reached down through the water and grasped her under the arms and pulled her up to my chest. It was a very weird sensation, feeling my hands take hold of my baby for the first time, and at the same time feeling her body slip out of me. She was warm and slimy with vernix and blood, and she had lots of dark hair. She was reddish purple, and Kristy held an oxygen tube under her nose to “pink her up,” then clamped the cord so that my Old Man could cut it. The baby lay on my breast, all puckery and wet and alien-looking. It was really my first experience with a gooey newborn, since O. had been whisked away and cleaned up before I could hold him (due to his having meconium in his amniotic fluid). She was not beautiful to me at that moment, wrinkled and mucus-covered and crying, but she was miraculous and beloved. And I was just so glad to be done with labor. I vividly remember lying there in the cooling water, my slimy little sweetie on my breast, and thinking “Thank God I never have to do that again!” Then Sharon the labor and delivery nurse took the baby off to weigh her and do all the newborn routines. My mom left to pick up O. and bring him back to meet his baby sister.
At that point my Old Man, Rae, and Kristy helped me out of the tub, wrapped me in warm towels, and led me over to the bed, where Kristy would deliver the placenta and check me for tears. Once I was on the bed, Sharon brought the baby over and gave her to me, all swaddled and clean and exuding an amazing newborn scent all her own. She was now officially beautiful, just breathtaking, with a round moon face, a little rosebud mouth, and alert black eyes that blinked up at me with astonishing calmness. Rae helped me get her started nursing, and she latched on and began sucking like a champ. This suckling should have brought on more contractions and helped birth the placenta, but so far there was no sign of the placenta, nor any new contractions. Kristy asked if I was feeling any cramping and I said no. I was marveling at my little daughter, her completely distinctive face and her thatch of thick, black hair. But it was clear that Kristy was becoming concerned about the placenta not coming, and I was getting concerned by that and becoming distracted.
Now, after a completely unproblematic natural birth, when the baby is healthy and doing well, comes the crisis. Kristy lets me know that we need to get that placenta out soon due to the risk of infection – the clock is ticking and if the placenta isn’t delivered once a certain amount of time has gone by, drastic measures will have to be taken, removing the placenta “instrumentally.” Kristy explains that this is basically a D & C without the D (since I’m already dilated). I will be wheeled off to surgery, intubated and put under general anesthesia, and my uterus scraped. When I hear this, I cry out “No! No way!” I have just gone through over twelve hours of labor, without any drugs or interventions, and now I’m looking at being separated from my baby, knocked out, and operated on, then recovering from general anesthesia (which always makes me nauseated and royally hung over) while my baby waits in the nursery? All to deliver the placenta? No way.
Kristy says if I can manage to pee, it might help the placenta come out. My Old Man takes the baby. I squat on the bed, bloody and shivering. I pee into a pan. No placenta. Kristy gives me an injection of pictocin. No new contractions. No placenta. Fuck. I am starting to freak out. I just want to be with my baby.
“There’s one thing we can try” Kristy says. (Almost the exact words she used before she performed the miracle during O’s stalled labor. I trust Kristy.) “I don’t think I’m strong enough to do it,” she says, “and there’s only one OB on staff who would be willing to try this before surgery, and I think she’s on duty today.” And so Kristy goes and tracks down Dr. W., the doctor in question. But first she warns me, “This will hurt a lot
.” And just as I’m being readied for this painful, crucial procedure, O. arrives with my mom and stepdad, Mr. B. They’re waiting in the hallway. We wanted O. to meet the baby as soon as possible after birth, and this should be a great time for him to do that. She should be in my arms and my Old Man at my side. But I have to do this thing, which will be painful, and bloody, Kristy tells me. Should someone go out in the hall and tell them to wait? “No, no,” I say, “Bring him in to meet the baby.” I don’t want my little boy standing out in the hallway with whispering adults, getting the sense that something is going wrong in there, where his mama and daddy and the baby are. But my Old Man is concerned about the blood, and the pain. Won’t it be worse if I’m yelling in pain than if O. is out in the hall? I tell them to drape me up as best they can to shield the blood from O’s view, and I resolve not to yell.
Dr. W. comes in, anonymous in scrubs and a surgery cap and mask, but I can see her determined eyes, which never look at my face, just focus determinedly on my pelvis. Those eyes have a look of demonic purposefulness. Kristy comes and takes my hand, whispering to me, “Her bedside manner is horrible, but she’s great with her hands.” Dr. W. then proceeds to pummel my belly. She just slams
her fists into me again and again, up and down, then kneads me ferociously. It’s hard to really convey how hard she’s punching me in the gut, the gut that is tender from birth, the gut that’s extra vulnerable due to muscles spread out by pregnancy. It hurts so fucking much. And I have absolutely no resources left – I’ve spent them all on labor, then let any remaining bit of strength and resolve slip away during the few illusory minutes when I thought I was done. I’m out of my head, flinching and writhing, clenching my teeth. It’s all I can do not to yell out, but my four-year-old son is five feet away. I shoot a glance over at the corner where he is, forming a little triangle with his dad and his new baby sister. The scene is so sweet, and it contrasts so starkly with the grisly agony of my scene, and I want so much to be there instead of where I am.
But then the placenta comes forth in a warm gush, thank God and Dr. W. I feel like kissing
her. I thank her profusely, so relieved I can be reunited with my baby, so gratified not to be on my way to the OR to be intubated and put under…
Suddenly, the crisis was over and the pain was subsiding. My Old Man brought O. and the baby over to my bedside, and put the baby back in my arms. It was getting late and my mom and stepdad moved to take O. back to their place to put him to bed. I was famished and ready to order some dinner. But just as O. was about to leave with my mom and Mr. B., I realized that we had yet to name the baby. We had chosen two names, Roo and Lu, and had decided to wait until the baby was born to see which struck us as more suited to her. I had been leaning more toward Lu, and I figured that post-labor I’d have the right to make the call if there wasn’t complete consensus. But as I looked down at this new and completely distinctive person, I suddenly couldn’t decide. We had told O. he’d get to weigh in, and so before he left, I asked him “Which name do you think we should pick for your new baby sister?” Without missing a beat, he said “Roo.” Though I had been favoring the name Lu, hearing O. say the name “Roo” with such calm confidence clinched it for me. And so my Old Man and I began calling our friends and family to tell them about our new baby girl, our Roo.