Tag Archives: babies

A Very Revealing Baby Story: The Sidelying Release

Around fifteen percent of women have their water break before going into active labor. If you are like me, most of the amniotic sacs you have seen, or will see, break in your life have belonged to the the cast of Friends or have taken place due to multiple viewings of the movie “Where The Heart Is” with Natalie Portman (which I suppose predisposes us to a whole slew of misconceptions about pregnancy and birth).

The gurus insist that pregnant women will most likely bypass this messy occurrence despite its over representation in the birth of every on-screen baby. Our birthing instructors and childbearing girlfriends assure us that our water may even hold out so long that a birth professional will have to prod it with what looks like the crochet hook my grandma uses to bind off her knitting projects.

I’ve never been that worried about my water breaking anyway, even in a public place. Many pregnant women bemoan the idea of their water breaking in front of their students or male colleagues. Screw that. It’s a free opportunity to pee yourself in public with no repercussions or shame. When else as a grown woman do you get to leave a puddle of bodily fluid on the floor and render excitement from your peers?

When else as a grown woman do you get to leave a puddle of bodily fluid on the floor and render excitement from your peers?

So water-breaking joined swimsuit-wearing and a Donald Trump presidency as things I didn’t need to worry about until later on. My immediate attention was focused on my 41 week and 5 day bump, willing my daughter to turn inside of me so I could push her out to the rhythm of my carefully practiced inhales and exhales.

The midwife had been solemn about Willa’s positioning. Even after we left the exam room with its posters of growing babies and plastic models of vaginas, the comforting hand of the midwife still laid heavily on my shoulder. She warned me in the sweet way women are often informed about bad news or potential crisis—solace without information.

I couldn’t get her hand off my shoulder all the way home or when I laid down on the couch with a “harumph,” whining about the unfairness of it all. My shoulder still dipped under the weight of her warning, and I knew the pressure wouldn’t lighten until I tried the prescribed twists, turns, and stretches that might coax Willa to turn her face away from the front of my belly.

The living room became mission command for our endeavors to rotate the baby around. I had spent the previous weeks pining for less time with Willa inside me. At the suggestion of one friend, I got on my hands and knees in the shower and yelled at my belly, “Come out Willa! Come ouuuuuttttt!” Now with a deadline for induction and a baby not ideally situated, I wanted all the time I could get.

Drew typed away at the computer, scouring the Spinning Babies website to find the cure all method for the posterior positioned baby. He found long lists of possible scenarios that could be summed up in the phrase, “everyone is different.” Nothing very helpful for a woman on the night before her induction.

My mom’s phone murmured with a constant stream of YouTube videos featuring women with calm voices positioning giant pregnant women on medical exam tables and couches. The women smiled, mere examples of the predicament of their viewers. They stared vacantly ahead like the person you’re supposed to watch in a workout video giving the low impact modification for each move: “If you have troubles with your knees, watch Mary Ellen for an adjustment,” But the Mary Ellen’s never look like the sweating, heaving messes looking to her for relief from the classic plank position or full push-up. Their half extended movements and shallow squats don’t fit their demeanor and bikini ready bodies.

After Drew and my mom gathered a consensus from popular advice on the internet, we went for a position called “the sidelying release,” offered in a YouTube video with a lot of thumbs up. I laid down on my left side, hanging my bulging belly over the side of the couch and letting Drew and my mom position me, pausing and unpausing the video to find the magic contortion. It was uncomfortable, and I was skeptical of my two-amateur chiropractors trying desperately to make everything alright.

Courtesy of Spinning Babies

Courtesy of Spinning Babies

According to the woman in the video (with an unfortunate haircut), we were supposed to take little breaks in between stretches, so we began the process of moving me, which took a great deal of willpower these days. Much use of the words “hoist” and “maneuver,” and careful count downs for the most minor adjustments.

On my sit bones once again, I leaned forward over my “birthing ball,” the one I’d been bouncing and gyrating on for the last month to wiggle Willa out. My cheek rested on the cold rubber, my arms arched over the curve of its sphere.

And then I felt something odd, something I didn’t have words for…the sensation of someone farting in my crotch. I know, not a great description, but the only analogy I had to put to the sensation.

The black nightgown I wore felt warm and soaked. I tilted myself forward and saw a large wet circle where I’d been sitting on the couch. The baby stopped moving inside of me, and as I took stock of the situation, I noticed something else on the couch.

Blood. A lot of it.

We needed to leave, we needed to get the baby out.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: Sunny Side Up

Willa was sunny side up.

This is a very sweet way to describe the reality of a baby in the posterior position.

It implies optimism and a nod to an Americana past, as if one can order up their labor pain at the counter of a greasy spoon diner alongside locals in trucker hats perusing the local gazette. A husky voiced waitress with a name like Madge or Paula might ask if I’d like my intense back labor with a choice of short stack, toast, or English muffin on the side.

While there are many things in labor that could benefit from some sugar coating, “sunnyside up” doesn’t need such a jaunty tone. Why can’t we find something better to call the mucus plug or the “bloody show.” These things could use a little poetic reimagining since they are so aptly named that it’s hard to bring them up in general conversation.

Why can’t we find something better to call the mucus plug or the “bloody show.”

Or perhaps we should stop using the term “water breaking” so that women know to expect something different than a bottle of Evian spilling out from between their legs.

For weeks I’d gathered comfort from the fact that our baby was head down. When you reached the requisite amount of weeks at my prenatal yoga class, our instructor would check in with us on our baby’s positioning so that a downward facing dog wouldn’t compromise our babies’ optimal escape plans.

“Head down?”

She’d parrot the question down the line of tired looking women gyrating their hips on deflating yoga balls. Her question became a form of attendance, a greeting. And how are you today? I’m fine. Head is down.

I so eagerly shared my positional news each week that the instructor started to anticipate my update. “And baby’s head is down, right?” This baby is head down and this momma is ready to naturally birth this baby all kumbaya style into a tub of warm water in a dimly lit room with the wafting scent of lavender in the air.

If I tried hard enough, if I prepared enough, if I could relax enough, if I could be enough, then I could do anything.

Ina May assured me that I shouldn’t have any problems as long as I had copious amounts of sex to naturally induce labor and if called my contractions “rushes” and armed myself with positions and sounds and information to get me through the most natural thing I’d ever do. If I tried hard enough, if I prepared enough, if I could relax enough, if I could be enough, then I could do anything.

Enough. Enough. Enough. Baby is head down.

At our appointment the afternoon before our induction, we found out Willa was facing up in the posterior position. I had been going to these appointments at the midwife more and more frequently and all the tissues and centimeters were progressing. The braxton hicks had been coming frequently and leaving me wondering with each tightening and pain… is this excruciating enough to be labor? Will these stabbing back pains ease down if I take an Epsom Salt bath and call my mom to tell her it might be time?

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Posterior (OP) Position (Image Courtesy of Spinning Babies)

We were at the finish line, almost two weeks past the due date, when the midwife felt Willa’s positioning and her face contorted with concern. She started to ease me into the fact that the baby wasn’t dropping right  and appeared to be in the posterior position, I didn’t get it. Head down, ready to go. Her pauses and hand on my shoulder told me things were no longer optimal. She told me I needed to do everything I could to get the baby in a better position.

She gave me the address to a website. The domain name made me worry I was in for a night of circus acrobatics. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to be done, but instead I needed to flip and turn and twist and try hard enough to birth my baby naturally.

Madge, I’ll take my labor over-easy instead.

A Very Revealing Baby Story: A Barbaric Yawp

I want to start at the end, at the glory.

You’re supposed to hear a cry- a drawn out newborn wail, tearless and gasping. That’s how you know everything is ok. A little squawk will do, or even a gurgled protest, but Willa came out with what I imagine Whitman meant by a “barbaric yawp,” something more animal than human.

To hear her voice calling to us was the sweetest assurance, even more so than the muffled percussion of the sonograms at our prenatal appointments or the early pokes and flutters felt in my womb.

There is so much hidden behind the curtain of skin, muscle, and organs; we could only make guesses about our baby. “She’s so withholding,” we would say to disappointed grandmas with their hands on my stomach. Willa, who moments earlier had been violently rippling my stomach flesh, held deadly still under the watch of others trying to catch her acrobatics.

There is so much hidden behind the curtain of skin, muscle, and organs; we could only make guesses about our baby.

In her thirty two week ultrasound, the doctor pointed out the improbable presence of hair on her head, and the tech showed us the way she was practicing her breathing, preparing her lungs for inhaling  those first  gulps of air.

After forty two weeks of waiting, we were alert and ready to find out who this baby was.

“Not a small head” announced Dr. San Juan, the doctor who had joined our birth team. Was this in place of the announcement that the baby was a girl, do doctors feel like they must announce something about the baby? “Medium sized hands for a baby.” or “Thought you should know your baby has well-proportioned ears!”

Drew took over at this point, finally able to touch our baby who had been wrapped up in my body, snug behind my tissues. She held his finger as the neonatologist checked her out, since she’d gotten busy pooping in the two weeks since her due date.

“She’s so nice,” he kept exclaiming. “You’re going to love her.” His words became my comfort, a mantra as I laid there opened like a sardine can, exposed and helpless. Inhale, she’s so nice. Exhale, you’re going to love her.

Nothing prepares you for the fact that an actual baby comes out, a human who’s been hanging out inside of you, suspended upside down in a contracting womb.

Nothing prepares you for the fact that an actual baby comes out, a human who’s been hanging out inside of you, suspended upside down in a contracting womb. On the inside, she was overpriced pink shoes at the baby gap, she was lumps protruding from my stomach of maybe a butt, maybe her torso?

She was waves of nausea and back aches, and a basketball with flowy blouses draped over top. She was my wide-awakeness in the middle of the night and an occasion for strangers to offer me a seat in the lobby of crowded breakfast restaurant. She was a name, carefully recited to make sure it sang just right in the air. She was so many abstractions and hunches, but now she was nice and not a small head and a voice that could muster a primal yell.

When I become sad or start to feel shame about my story, I think of that blessed moment where she, scrappy and brave, met the air with an unapologetic screech, wild and wonderful, arching her neck with strength to meet the world.

She was nice. I was going to love her.