Peace Be With You (a Birth Story)

This time last year, I began to have contractions. So this morning seems like a good time to revisit that morning and what followed. If you’re into birth stories, feel free to follow along. This is a good one, and I’ll try to do it justice.

E had a list of Things to Get Done before the baby came. One of the big items on her list was to get her homeschool portfolio review completed early so as to be able to focus on being a big sister. We had scheduled it for 11 a.m. on May 24th with our usual assessor, who lives on our street and is our friend. I called her around 10 a.m. and said, “I think I’m in labor!”

She asked what I wanted to do and we decided together that she would come anyway at 11 and we would see how far we got. By the time she arrived, though, a couple of friends were sitting with me on the couch. E finished her portfolio review by herself while I focused on early labor and began to make arrangements. JJ convinced me to call J and a couple of other friends who had agreed to help in a doula capacity.

Because my first two labors were precipitous and we had already experienced paying someone over $500 to miss the birth of our first child, we were hesitant to contract with a doula. But I have several friends who are more than qualified to help, so everyone who was comfortable with the arrangement was put on a “call all the people!” list, with the understanding that if people ended up making it in time and working we could figure out something fair after the fact.

We headed over to the hospital/birthing center for an already scheduled midwife appointment, and K met us there. Her primary function throughout most of the labor was to keep people from just “doing stuff” to me. Mostly this meant that she rephrased everything anyone said to me as a question.

“Oh, you think you’re in labor?” Patronizing smile. “Let’s put you on the monitor and see.”

“Katie! Would you like to be monitored right now?” (She has known me long enough that she gets to call me Katie and having someone advocating for me who knew me that well was kind of the best.)

After I saw the attending midwife, we decided together that if I went home I would likely not make it back over here if things went..well, the way things tend to go for me. So we stayed on that side of town, my friend B joined us, and I struggled to relax into labor.

In case you’re wondering, the children’s section of Barnes and Noble is not the place to do this.

After a quick dinner we decided together that J would take the big kids somewhere else for a bit, and I went walking with K and B. In lieu of the dark warm cave I am biologically designed to seek out in such moments, they found me a wine bar with a booth next to the fireplace. We chatted about life and school and boys and fears and I relaxed a little more. They ordered a dram of scotch and commanded that I drink the whole thing. I remember this clearly because it was one of the few things that was not presented to me as optional, and it was the thing that really allowed me to relax into labor. My water broke soon after that, although I didn’t realize it until after we got up to leave. (I still haven’t shown my face in that wine bar again, haha…).

We headed back to the midwife’s office. She checked and recommended that we find a dark quiet place for a little bit longer, so we did that. B, a doula and former homeschooler and all-around excellent person in our life, began explaining every single part of what was happening to our children. How’s that for a science lesson!?

Finally, around 9:30 p.m. we made our way to the maternity floor.

“OK! Here’s a hospital gown. Change into this.”

“Katie! Would you like to wear a hospital gown right now?”

“Oh…no, thank you.”

*Surprised nurse face* “Oh. Well, ok, come lie on the bed and we’ll get the monitor on you.”

“Katie! Would you like to be monitored right now?”

“Oh…no, thank you.”

*annoyed nurse face*

*firm friend face* “C will be the only person monitoring her please.”

“Ahem. I’m going to the bathroom. I have had a bad experience with a labor before and it is very important to me to not feel as though people are just doing stuff to my body. So I’ll be declining certain things. I’m not trying to make your job more difficult this is just hard for me. Thank you for being here, and for helping me.”

*kind nurse face*

And active labor went pretty much that way. My friends and my husband held everything else back so I was able to focus on letting my body achieve some of the hardest work it will do in my lifetime. I still had a lot of fear, having gone through a miscarriage the year before (maybe that’s why this was my slowest labor yet–fear keeps us from opening in such a variety of ways) but eventually the balance tipped and I was able to follow Carrie Fisher’s advice to “stay afraid, but do it anyway.”

When it was time to push, Irene began to let me know that she wanted to be born. The sensation I remember most strongly was not contractions or dilation. It was that each time I pushed, she pushed with me. She put her feet on my rib cage and pushed with all her tiny might. I began to dare to hope that this baby might really be born and that I might really get to keep her.

When she arrived I couldn’t believe it! I just kept saying, “Oh my God, you’re here! You’re really here!”

And here you still are, my dear. A walking, talking reminder that peace looks all different ways and can find us in the strangest of circumstances. Happy Birthday, Irene. ❤

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