Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ivory: Her Birth Story

"Boat, hand, x, o,"  she loudly declares, first with both eyes, then covering one and the other. "O, x, boat, hand", she proudly states as the nurse points to each shape on the kinder garden eye chart.  We are on our way out of the doctor's office, the eye chart being the last stop before Ivory's four year old well child visit is over.  I stand next to her, trying hard not to giggle at her earnest approach to reading the symbols.  It is hard to believe that my know-it-all, suddenly tall, with hair almost touching her bottom, reading books to me little girl has been in my life such a short time.

Ivory, so excited to ride the city buses for the first time. 
I was the last to know I was pregnant, and I have to admit, terrified.  Every day I rode my bike past the hospital, twice, once on the way to campus and once on the way home.  My heart would start pounding and twice a day I experienced what bordered on a panic attack.  I did prenatal yoga, and every morning went for a walk and did a few breathing exercises.  Focusing on my breath and the ability of my body to birth.  I still rode past the hospital twice a day, but after a while, I no longer broke out into a sweat and I was only mildly terrified.  As my due date neared, I admitted to my OBGYN that no, I did not feel ready. She looked at me shocked.  "Well, I explained, I can buy things, I can have a fancy nursery, have clothes and think I am ready, but really is anyone ready to have a baby?  I don't know what to expect, so no, I am not ready."  She seemed relieved.
As the date neared, I submitted a birth plan with my doctor and the hospital.  I was going to do this naturally,  but even I doubted my ability.  I did not want to be disapointed with my experience, have preconceived expectations of what a birth should be.  I tried to keep an open mind.
The night before Ivory was born.  I lay in bed awake, my abdomen cramping.  I looked over at Adam, who was peacefully sleeping, decided not to wake him and instead got up and took a shower.  All the books I had read during my pregnancy advised to switch activity, and if it was a false labor, it would go away.  I was laying down, so I got up, and the contractions went away.  I crawled back into bed and woke early the next morning.  Adam and I both pulled on field clothes, walked to the end of our road, climbed a fence, waded through thick grass to the site of what not to long ago had been a swine lagoon.  We crouched down, with fellow graduate students and our professors, to sink Bermuda grass sprig after sprig into neat little rows.   After hours my and Adam's professor sent us to a late lunch and then home.  Against my protests there would be more planting for the very pregnant lady.

Once we got home, I realized just how tired I really was, I lay down and took a nap.  Later, we all gathered across the street at my mother's house.  I busied myself in the kitchen, making large trays of rice crispy treats.  Someone had told me, at some point, that the nurses at the hospital would be more responsive to my needs if I brought them a treat.  I figured I better have a treat ready since I might just have a baby at any moment.  While I was stirring the marshmallow cream, the contractions began.  I looked into the kitchen were my husband and the rest of my family were glued to the movie screen, and instead of saying anything, I just ran to the bathroom, again and again.  I finished the rice crispy treats.  I started another batch.  I stirred the marshmallow cream, and then casually sidled up behind the arm chair and whispered into my husbands ear: "lets go on a walk now."  He looked at me funny, got up and walked out side with me, where I crumpled: "I'm not ready to have a baby."
We tried to walk around the block.  That did not work. I decided to take a shower.  I just wanted my clothes off, and Adam went across the street to tell my mom what was going on.  I put my clothes back on, threw things into that bag I had been meaning to pack, grabbed the giant birthing ball, remembered the rice crispy treats and we all piled into my mother's car.  She drove us the short distance to the hospital that, until an hour ago, I was convinced I could simply walk while I was in labor.
We checked in at the emergency room entrance.  I waited for what seemed like an eternity, squatting on a waiting room chair while the woman next to me gingerly tried to make small talk.
I tried to smile, talk, breath...  thinking: "why are you talking to me? where the fuck is the closest restroom?" They wheeled me past perfectly usable restrooms, and delivered me to the triage room, where they finally let me use the restroom. I felt the almost intense tickling feeling of what I now know was a head passing through my cervix and by the time I was on the triage table, my baby was almost crowning.  I remember not being able to stand on the scale, but I have no idea how we made it from there to the delivery room.  To me it seems like I must have crawled, but in reality, the pack of us must have all walked from one room to the next.  The nurses rushed around, begging me not to push until my doctor came and I just clutched the bed behind my head.  Dr. Goldsworthy rushed in, pulling little paper booties after her shoes, giving me quick instructions, warning me of a "ring of fire", and telling me to push.  Turns out the nurse's pleads for me not to push were unneccessary.  My face puckered up like a puffer fish and I frustratingly tried to push.  What is pushing?  How do you push?  So instead I just screamed.  And there she was red, with a full dark head of hair and already pooping on me.

"Wait", I wanted to say,"go back.  That was too fast. I wanted to experience labor."  But instead, I wrapped her naked body against my chest and she eagerly latched on.  We had been in the delivery an entire seventeen minutes, and I realized I had a perfect view of the parking lot below and I was great full that we were on the second story.

Not too much later Adam's family arrived, my mom snuck out of the room to call my dad, my grandma and home.  While Ivory was surrounded by family, I quietly got out of bed and took a quick shower.  We moved rooms and after staring at her for hours, we finally fell asleep. Adam curled around me on the narrow hospital bed.
To few hours later, a nurse bustled in waking me for blood work they had not had time to do the night before.  Not to long after, people crowded the tiny room, the TV blared and I left my new baby in my mothers arms to sneak out of the hospital with Adam and walk around the block.  What seemed like much later, her pediatrician cleared Ivory to go home and we left early.  The nurses wheeled me down the hallways in a wheelchair with Ivory in my arms.  We got to the door and we stood up, Adam tucked Ivory into the wrap and we walked home.  I felt powerful, able and admittedly a little overwhelmed.  I had experienced a birth in which I was not an active actor, but rather a spectator of the amazing ability of our bodies, and it was perfect.

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