My beautiful daughter is 8 months and 1 day old. I've not yet finished telling her birth story, and I'm ashamed of myself. The details are fading in my memory - they aren't as sharp as they were in the days and weeks that followed. Everything in my life now feels as if it is coated in a haze - like the glare that seems to always be in pictures taken on a sunny day, yellowish-white fingers that reach into the scenes of your memory and soften the edges and block out a few, just a few, details in the corners and edges of the frame. It's a happy haze, but a haze nonetheless.
So I need to finish telling the story of her birth. For her, and also for me, because, let's face it, that was the best, most challenging, most mind-blowingly amazing thing I'll ever do - probably the only miracle in which I'll actively participate. It's sort of a big deal.
WARNING: Below contains some pretty yucky graphic descriptions of the real stuff that happens during the birth of a human. Don't say I didn't warn ya.
When we left off of Part One, I was heading into transition, still riding those waves in the tub, thinking about how I was going to make sure the world knew Jimi called me a manatee while I was trying to birth his baby. Bless his heart, though - the things he saw that day. When the nurse checked to see if my water had indeed broken, she released a flood of yuck, so I'm told. I can only imagine. I was unaware of said yuck, and had no hindrance when it came to dunking my head and face under the water for relief between waves (contractions). At one point, I vividly remember leaning my face up to kiss Jimi, and he sort of pulled back and urged me to wait while he wiped something off my forehead with a washcloth. Eww. And that was just the beginning.
When I started feeling the urge to push, I was nearing 9 cm dilated, and it was time to get out of the tub. Oh, how I dreaded getting out of the tub. I just knew the pain would be too much. My wonderful nurse brought huge heated blankets to wrap around me, and helped Jimi lead me to the bed. I think I lay on my side for a while, but the waves were so strong, and I just knew that if I could get on all fours, they wouldn't hurt as bad. So that's what I did, for a long while. I don't know how long I pushed - time was sort of irrelevant. I remember shivering through transition, and I heard Jimi ask the nurses and midwives if I was okay, and hearing them reassure him with the answer that I already knew but hadn't fully come to realize was happening to me at that moment - the time was so near! They told me I could push whenever I felt the need, and I did, there on the bed, on all fours, covered for a while with those now-cold warmed blankets, then with my bare ass shining out for all to see. I remember looking down and seeing the bloody mucus hanging - oh my goodness, there were four women staring at my ass as I slowly dripped yuck. And my husband! He was seeing this too! In talking with Jimi later, I think he missed a lot of that because he was up with me, at my head, reminding me to breathe, and release, and relax. He was calm and gentle and strong and wonderful, and at one point my audience, comprised of two nurses, my midwife, and her student midwife, was heard to whisper - "His voice is so soothing, I feel like I could go to sleep." I can hear you!-I thought. A good chuckle was had by all.
I pushed for a good long time, but nothing was really happening, at least not that I could tell. So I turned around and used the bar at the foot of the bed to support myself as I squatted and pushed. Jimi just reminded me the midwives kept saying "good sounds, good sounds", as I moaned and aaahhed my way through my waves. If I hadn't been so otherwise engaged, I would've had a hard time controlling my giggles and the peacenik hippie images they brought to mind - I saw myself in the same position in the center of a green field, surrounded by women in long skirts and flower wreaths circling their heads atop long flowing manes of blonde hair.
The squatting wasn't working, and I was becoming less and less concerned about my naked ass in front of these women, and more and more concerned with the fact that Geneva hadn't arrived after a couple of good pushes. It felt like nothing was happening.
So back on all fours I went, again, for another good long while. (All told, I think we've pieced together that all of these good long whiles lasted a total of probably 2 hours, maybe slightly longer. They seemed an eternity at the time.) Progress was slow, and I was tiring quickly. My midwife could tell, and encouraged me twice to lie on my side, which I refused, fearing it would make the pain so much worse. Finally, she insisted we try it, and I was so tired, so desperate for this to be over, I relented and flopped over, allowing the student midwife, Jimi, and the nurse to prop various parts of me with pillows before the next wave came on.
It was the right thing - the next wave was intense and I could feel Geneva moving down inside my body. I felt very full in my hips - I guess now her head hung out there between my pubic bones for a while, as I pushed good and hard a couple times, but stopped short at the last second because (I thought) I could feel myself pooping. Despite everything else these people had seen of me in the few hours we'd been acquainted, I was concerned enough about my dignity that I did not want them to see poop come out of my butt. The third time, though, the phrase "fuck it" when through my mind, and I pushed and didn't pull back, I followed through. I still don't know if I pooped - I think I did, and Jimi says he couldn't say for sure, that if I did, they had me cleaned up immediately so no one could've noticed. He says that because he loves me. It seems so ridiculous now, knowing what came next.
So, after the poop push, Geneva was right there, you could almost see her head. I pushed again, but I could feel myself stretching, at the top of my vagina, and I was so afraid I was going to tear, so again, I held back at the last second. Poor Geneva. They said her head was RIGHT THERE, and asked if I wanted a mirror to see - "No! I just want her out of me!!" I was so poetic that night. I wasn't going to be able to hold back again - it was time for her to be born, and this thing was going to have to happen. With the next wave, I pushed with everything I had, and when I felt myself start to tear, I again thought "fuck it", and pushed harder -
And she was here. She slid out of me like a slippery fish and was flopped onto my naked belly. I was so dazed at first - I looked at her and she was purple and so small and she has hair and she's SO BEAUTIFUL. Oh my goodness, my daughter was bruised and scuffed and had bloody rings around her irises for days because of the cord that was around her neck once and the time she spent in the birth canal as I tried not to poop or tear my vag - but she was the most beautiful creature I've ever seen.
I shamefully remember thinking "My daughter is so small and petite! I have a petite daughter! Holy crap, Jimi and I made a petite daughter! How did that happen?" I say I remember that shamefully because I absolutely do not want my daughter to equate her self worth with the size of her jeans. I do not care if she is a size 2 or a size 20, so long as she is healthy and happy with herself. But our society values small sizes, and a lifetime of indoctrination that slim = good overcame me in that moment. But seriously, how did Jimi and I make a small baby?
I'd sought an all-natural childbirth for several reasons, but one was that I'd heard an awful lot about that high that hits you once your child is born - I was totally trying to get high on life. I read about waves of euphoria washing over you once you see your child's face, the immediate endorphin rush that makes all of the unpleasant things that immediately follow birth - delivering the placenta, getting stitched back up - not quite so bad, or even noticeable, really. I think the women who tell those stories might be liars, but i'm not sure. As I stared at my beautiful daughter, thoughts of "I thought it was supposed to stop hurting now" and "Oh my god, my vag stings so bad!" kept crowding in on my awe and adoration of Geneva. Her umbilical cord was stretched taught, it felt like, and its path from me to her lie directly in the tear she'd made on her way out. It stung like a sonofabitch. Finally I couldn't take it anymore and I reached down to move it - "No No No!" The midwives stopped me immediately. "But it stings!" I complained. Moments later, it was time to cut the cord - I'd decided
I wrote all of that LAST Tuesday night. It's Tuesday again, and Geneva is another week older, and her birth story still isn't posted. Shame, Mother, Shame. Anyhow...
So I'd decided to let the cord stop pulsing before it was cut, a decision I thought wise and well thought-out pre-birth. We'll come back to that - it was time to cut the cord, and Jimi couldn't do it. He'd told me in prior discussions that he wasn't sure if he'd be able to handle the, um, texture of it. I totally understand what he means - the way I can't handle killing any bug that crunches. So someone asks Jimi "Dad, do you want to cut the cord?" and he hesitates, but finally he calls it and declines - saying "I just can't do it." "I'll do it!" I piped up, "I don't give a shit!" SO Eloquent, Geneva's mother is. And so with my new daughter on my belly, I reached around and below her and took the scissors they handed me, and aimed where they pointed me, and I severed the physical connection I'd nurtured for so long.
My daughter was born.
I started this effing blog entry 4 weeks ago. Four! It's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and next week Geneva will be 9 months old.
There's more to tell to this story - the people who were there before and after, a 24-hour stint in the nursery for observation because of G's "thick" blood, our extra night in the hospital that was on the house - but for now, this will do.
And there you have it.