Friday, April 30, 2010

Birth Story - Take 2

For the last two months I've been taking this amazing writing class from Stefanie of Baby on Bored. Every week a bunch of funny, talented cool chics gathered - got instruction, wrote for a chunk of time and then read our work aloud. It was so damn fun, I'm truly bummed it's over. I'll be putting up some of the fruit of that labor in coming days, but speaking of labor - I want to share a new draft of the birth story that I put up here a few weeks ago.

So to be clear - LCD regs, you've read a version of this story back here. I'm re-posting it because I've spent hours and hours and HOURS rewriting and editing it, and then in a bold move performed it at the staged reading the other night that was the culmination of the class. I swore to myself I wouldn't cry in the telling, and then I did.

Ah well.

This one is 1000 words less than last time, if you're up for it, see what you think....


“Stop it! Stop yelling at me! Please stop. I just can’t have that right now. It’s not

A hush falls over the room, but I keep up the stinkeye. I’m guessing it’s not very
often that the flushed, sweaty, very fat lady squatting in the middle of the bed yells
at the help.

She says,
“I don’t think I was yelling”.

I say, “You were definitely yelling”.

It won’t be long now before another crushing combo platter of pressure, pain and
pinch will arrive along with the need to bear down. We need to get through this
little discussion fast.

“I wasn’t yelling” she repeats a little under her breath and turns on her heel. I have
time to think, did she just turn on her heel? She’s gone and here I go again.

I’m wild, I’m swinging my head. The wave is back and I’ve got a job to do. Fuck her
and her yelling ways. Fuck that noise and fury. Now I’m the one making it.

I squint my eyes into slits and push my legs up on the bar. Holding up the blue
sheet in an effort to give me some dignity is both useless and pointless, but god
bless that sweet nurse for trying. I bear down and think. Damn. I’m pushing so
hard. I really hope poop isn’t coming out. That’s pretty gross. I don’t think poop is
on my birth plan.

Ah, the birth plan. According to it, right now I’m home in warm water giving birth in
one of those tubs you see in Youtube videos. I’m the picture of serenity and grace,
my husband swabbing at my head with a warm washcloth. No wait, is he in the tub
with me? Is he wearing anything? What did we ever decide about that? Of course I
won’t be wearing anything in the birthing tub but is it weird if he doesn’t wear
anything? Maybe a speedo?

A contraction only lasts between :30 and :90 seconds but it might as well be the
staging of War and Peace. It finally ends and I slowly catch my breath. I gather the
sheet around my puffy legs and stare out the giant plate glass window. The sun
came up some time ago, what the hell time is it? More to the point, what day?
We’re going on hour 54 of labor, for me time and space have given up and are
making out in the corner.

My midwife comes into view, the one I hired for my fantasy homebirth. Her white
turban blends with the blownout bright morning light behind her. She is concerned.

“Jane, you’re going to need to play by their rules here. You’ve been pushing for
three hours now. If you want to avoid...”

She trails off here.

The knife. The knife is the end of her sentence. I don’t have the heart to glare at
her. Her face is too kind. My heart is too tired.

“I suggest that you really try to be accommodating. Let them guide you, perhaps
some extra coaching will help.”

“I don’t want yelling” I weakly assert.

The key yeller marches back in the room, followed closely behind by the physician.
“You’re not pushing effectively,” says the mean midwife. Mean midwife, it’s an
oxymoron, I know. I was driven forty-five minutes across town in screaming labor
to this particular hospital so I could stay under midwife care, and the result is that I
get the mean one. I glare at her squatty form.

The physician takes over.

“Now, I’m going to help you focus your efforts by keeping my hand here during the
contractions.” By ‘here’, she means on his little head which is coming down
sideways. And when I say ‘on his head’, you’ve likely gotten to the right image. Up
the Vajay. I’d squirm but really, why bother? At this point I’ve lost track of how
many people have had their hand there. Too bad I didn’t charge for admission.

In our birthing class, we watched all of these videos of waterbirths. The woman
would be all ohh and ahhh and then at some point a face muscle would twitch like
maybe she’s having a small orgasm and then a baby would pop in between her
legs. A tiny upside down face would suddenly appear there, squinting in the watery

I watched with avid interest. That’s going to be me! I thought. That’s so totally
going to be me! When the birthing coach discussed the epidural I waddled off in
search of more snacks. When she talked about a fetal monitor that attaches to the
baby’s head I scoffed. And pitocin?. Oh no, that won’t be me. Totally. Not me.

Stranded on the hospital bed, the shiny floors are a sparkling sea miles below me. I
am on a barge with sheets and I use the pushing bar to row. I hang up my
birthplan like a sail, its navigation powers are useless against the tide of medical
madness. Pitocin – check. Epidoural – check. And the fetal monitor attached to his
tiny head? Check. Right now surrender looks like me in bad lighting and a gaping
hospital gown.

So I push. And I push. And. PUSH. The physician's hand is there. Her curly head
shakes back and forth as I bear down. They yell, I don’t care anymore. It’s a wash
of sound and wonder, light and shaking muscle.

I am raw and exposed, there is not a single shard of dignity left. My self capital S is
no longer part of the equation, my body is just a powerful machine that’s in heavy
use. The constant pain has become irrelevant. And though that epidural has long
since worn off, I’m still attached to the end of it like a dog on a leash.

So I’m pushing out a person. This important fact has faded into the blur of the long
anxious minutes. What I know for sure is that I will never be the same. I will never
walk the same. I will never have the same fears. I will never wonder if I am strong.

Now my friend runs around the room weeping and brandishing my camera. She
yell’s He’s coming! He’s coming! I can see his little head!

And now he’s crowning. Jesus, ouch.

And then nothing.

We’re between contractions - I guess we’ll be hanging out here. This is what they
call the ring of fire.

In this extended, stretched moment I take a look around. It’s an unreasonably
bright room filled with people I don’t know. There is not a candle in sight. Sure my
friend has the ipod going and Yo Yo Ma is cranking out the Bach, but that’s the end
of the sweetness. The population doubles when a team of dudes shuffle in with
their eyes averted. Apparently there was meconium in the water, (which is an
indicator of fetal distress) so these guys have first dibs on him. All scrubbled up,
they await his arrival across the shiny floor.

I'd heard of the 'ring of fire' - I believed it would be accurate name. And I won't go
on here but suffice it to say it is a fine, fine name and the fire is 1000 angry wasps.

In the next contraction he comes out in a gush. I don't know much about it because
I can't see anything. I have pushed so hard that my eyes are rendered useless –
they are only registering fuzzy forms in white. I’m now looking through the lens of
an impressionist painting, perhaps this is for the best.

He is quickly ripped away and flown across the sea into their waiting hands. I am
left there - stranded in the tangled sheets and blood. I have just turned my guts,
heart and other parts inside out in an effort to bring this guy onto the planet - and
now he belongs to them: medical science.

A team of gloved hands rapidly scrub him as plastic tubes descend deep into his
throat and very being. My dear husband stands by and watches helplessly. Our tiny
infant is being manhandled like a car in a car wash without the water.

3 minutes slowly pass.

He isn’t breathing and neither are we. The air feels heavy, like the moments before
a thunderstorm. Alone on my island I watch the storm approach and I wonder. I am
curious. I am quiet. For me it’s white light and blur and the pound of my heartbeat
in my head.

Finally we hear a raspy cry. A cheer goes up in the crowd.

My midwife insists that he flies back to my chest. I guess this is a little tip of the
hat to my original dreamy birth plan. The trouble is that it's an old idea and I'm not
sure how to get back to her, or back to that warm water. My hands are heavy
flippers as I try unsuccessfully to comfort this little being who is bound and perched
on my chest. His little mouth yawns open and closed with a weak cry. I join him.

56 hours. I did that dance with the force of nature designed to bring human life to
the world for 56 hours.

I know in my heart of hearts that nature knows best, that a tub of water or a pile of
hay is a perfectly fine place to land a baby. But that wasn’t the way it went for us.
Nature took us to a hospital.

And was it okay? It was. Because he was okay.

And my body won’t bear a scar from a knife. Of course there are endless other
scars and gifts that come from moving through the hardest thing I’ve ever endured
cheered by strangers, the sparkling sea, my husband and Yo Yo Ma.

Pictured below - Boy in the NICU with Dad on day one of life.


  1. The baby looks so sweet and precious.

    You lucky got to not only MEET Stefanie Wilder Taylor but you got to participate in her workshop!??? Color me Jealous!

  2. He is so beautiful and so is the story of his appearance. Thank you for sharing it.

    I am very jealous about the writing workshop too!