Tag Archives: new mom

A Very Revealing Baby Story: The 5-1-1

At forty one weeks and five days pregnant, I’d done some kumbaya-natural birth acrobatics to better position Willa, which resulted in the feeling of someone farting somewhere in my cervix, followed by a release of fluid and blood.

I guessed that this sensation had been my water breaking, but the presence of blood and its quantity surprised me. The dark red stain on our couch made me glad we’d splurged for the performance fabric. As a newlywed purchasing the couch, I’d imagined more glamorous spills— think toppling glass of red wine versus bodily fluid cocktail—but at least the couch wasn’t ruined.

At any point in pregnancy, blood is not usually a good omen. Drew called the midwife’s office on the phone for next steps, but I knew at this point we’d be going in. First time moms are encouraged to feel like their insides are exploding before they arrive at the hospital. The past weeks had been a game of chicken for my pain tolerance, various sensations qualifying or not qualifying as labor.  

The nurses who administered my non-stress tests in the hospital applied the term “Braxton Hicks contractions” to both the mere visual tightening of the skin on my stomach and piercing pains that stopped me in my tracks. I heard the phrase “You’ll know” more times than I did as a single evangelical Christian in my twenties. And after all the starting and stopping, teasing pain, I was going into the hospital on a technicality. As in technically, my couch cushion was covered with blood, and technically, I couldn’t feel the baby moving anymore.

I was unsure if I was sitting or standing as my mom moved my limbs for me, inching a pair of black leggings up my calves to replace my wet nightgown. I watched Drew and my mom bustle around me from miles away, trying to watch my present situation with as little detail as possible.

Patches of Drew’s conversation with the midwife floated across the distance, “Um, she said it felt like someone farted in her crotch…” God bless that man, I thought. I wanted to help communicate the feeling, the stain on the couch, and the motionless baby so that they’d know it was real, that I wasn’t just making it all up.

I was transported back to my days as a kid feeling like a fraud on the exam table at our family doctor’s office. Though I was feeling sick as a dog, the nurse would hold up the beeping ear thermometer and announce that my temperature was 97.9 degrees.  Now like then, I didn’t want them to think I was weak or lying or exaggerating.

I didn’t want them to think I was weak or lying or exaggerating.

Drew must have communicated the situation well enough, as I was now being helped to the car, then set on top of a towel on the front seat. We turned onto the path back to the hospital, well-worn from all the visits and tests required of a post-term baby. We met every stoplight and backed up four way stop along the way. As my body rocked forward at another halting stop, I recited the string of numbers from our birthing class over and over in my head: 5-1-1.

These were the magic natural birthing numbers to avoid a medicated birth. I should stay at home until my labor sustained a pattern of five minutes between one minute long contractions for at least one hour. Going in before this established labor progression placed moms at risk of pressure to induce. Best to wait and keep your distance from the fly by night anesthesiologist with his spine numbing juice.

I felt simultaneously repelled and drawn by the medical metropolis.

But here I was, headed to the hospital on my drop cloth, having to disregard the plan altogether. I felt simultaneously repelled and drawn by the medical metropolis. My suspicions and training as a birth vigilante made me afraid, but my fear made me desperate for the monitors and sensors that would tell me that Willa was still with us. So we crawled on down York road, rushing out of the gates of the green lights and halting suddenly with the next block of stopped cars. The condensing and releasing traffic carried us along.

Amidst the other concerns, I knew that with the blood and fluid, a twenty four hour timer started ticking. Early in my pregnancy, they found traces of group B strep in my urine. One in six women carry strep B, and since it was found in my urine, I never got a fighting chance to binge on yogurt and probiotics prior to my third trimester swab. My natural birth allies assured me these precautions would prevent a false positive.

Having strep B in your nether regions was just one of many things with conflicting narratives among birthing philosophies. Things get reputations for being a real thing or not a real thing, a legitimate consideration for the safety of you and your baby or an elaborate myth perpetrated by lawsuit weary hospitals and C-section happy doctors.

Regardless of its seriousness, I’d tested positive for it, and with my particular practice, that put certain limitations and stipulations around Willa’s birth. I’d need antibiotics through an IV port and the actual birth could not take place in the birthing tub. In addition, in the unlikely chance that my water broke early in the birthing process, I’d have twenty four hours to deliver.

When we arrived in the birthing ward, I skipped the triage room altogether. A nurse with a tinkling charm bracelet let me to the tidy birthing suite I had dreamed of since I first looked up the hospital before we were expecting.

The delivery room was large with an impressive birthing tub featuring all kinds of jets and buttons. In the advertised pictures, a pair of white slippers were laid out on a mat in front of the tub, like the set-up at a mid-luxury hotel. On the side of a tub laid a packaged fish tank net for scooping up unsavory items that surfaced in the tub.

IMG_2541Once in the room, they ushered me quickly to the bed where I lifted my shirt for the application of the cold gelly that went under the monitors. The blue and pink elastic bands were stretched across my bump and the monitors were tucked in place.
And then it came, the sweet percussion of Willa’s heart, fast and strong, muffled only by the tiny occasional movements of her body. I looked up to Drew and my mom and began to weep with relief, tapping my foot on the bed to the beat of our daughter’s heart.

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.