"I will need both cheeks," said Suzanne readying the shot of antibiotics.
After talking things over, Chup and I decided to take the night to sleep. I was so exhausted from the roller coaster ride of the previous days, I thought it was best for my body to go into labor well-rested. I'd get a shot of antibiotics, take another dose of the homeopathics and go to bed. In the morning we'd head to the hospital and Suzanne would meet us there. It was Thursday night, I'd have this baby on Friday by noon.
I reclined on the bed as Suzanne packed up to go home. Chup went downstairs to finish his last post on dear c jane. The more I thought about sleeping through the night the more I was sure it was the right thing to do. I relished the thought of going to bed and resting my soul.
I was also glad Suzanne could go home and sleep too. I was one of six births she had assisted that week alone.
And in a way, I was also relieved that I wasn't going to have to feel the pain of childbirth. I had spent months preparing mentally and spiritually to understand natural pain and felt somewhat enlightened on the subject. I wasn't intimidated by the potential pain, but at the moment it seemed so daunting.
"Suzanne, tell me about the pain-free childbirths you've seen," I asked her as she finished up some paperwork.
"My clients who do hypnobirthing do really well," she answered. Then she told me about a woman who was joking and laughing up until she informed everyone the baby was coming. "Oh here is the baby." Suzanne said that until she actually saw the baby's head, she wasn't even convinced the woman was in true labor. There were more stories like that one and I was entertained by all of them.
"What about a typical birth?" I asked.
Suzanne sat down on the bed and got comfortable.
"Typical birth, contractions get longer and harder until the woman transitions. At that point she is feeling a lot of intensity. As soon as she says she can't do it anymore I know the baby is ready to come."
"They all say that?"
At that point I made a mental note. If I ever give unmedicated birth I won't say "I can't do it anymore." I wasn't going to be typical.
"There is an element of surrender in birth. If you can surrender to the pain, you will do well." Suzanne speaks with an accent I can't quite place, but it is laced with wisdom and soothes me.
"Here is a contraction," I said. This one came sweeping in with a grip on my body I hadn't expected. It rolled through my belly and spread down into my legs. I was breathing deep, eyes closed and trying to smile. (I really think smiling helps contractions. Isn't that fun?)
When it was over I opened my eyes. Suzanne was looking at her watch.
"That one was almost a minute long."
Not long after that another one came marching in. I twisted by body to try and make it more comfortable to take the pressure. Still smiling.
"Over a minute," Suzanne noted on her clipboard. "I am going to hang out for a bit and see where this takes us."
Then another contraction. And another. All over one minute, all sending me deeper into myself seeking strength.
After a time Suzanne announced. "You are in labor."
My contractions were like fireworks. Bang! They'd light up with spectacular power and overcome my entire being, then simmer into nothing. Then bang! Again and again.
It was happening so fast, I couldn't grasp reality. Before I could really appreciate what was transpiring I was overcome with shaking. My body shook from my teeth to my knees.
"You are transitioning already!" said Suzanne surprised. "I've got to go get things ready. Do you want me to set up the tub?" she asked rushed.
"Yes," I said breathing through my chattering teeth. No longer smiling, though I was more excited than Christmas morning seven years old.
I yelled for Chup who came up the stairs startled.
"We are having this baby, " my voice was more goat than human.
I hugged him tight through my next contraction. Then he left to help Suzanne set up the birthing tub in the den and run a hose from our shower into the tub.
When the tub was filled with hot water I got in with the help of Suzanne and Chup. The water was a perfect temperature and I felt a completely relaxed--until the next contraction hit. The water helped support me and was much more comfortable than on the bed. If it didn't sound so lame, I'd say something about being hugged by water, because that is how it felt.
But it was the transition into the water that segued hard labor. I was moaning and groaning. I asked Suzanne if I were getting close.
"I haven't checked you, but judging by how you are acting I'd say you are very close."
I was trying to surrender, but I felt more like I was being tortured. I was overcome without choice.
Suzanne's assistant Mary arrived. I said, "Hi Mary nice to meet you," and then I grunted my way through a contraction. I thought it was funny at the time. How many people do you meet for the first time while in a birthing tub, in your final stages of labor and totally naked?
Chup sat next to me on a cushion. We continually looked at each other trying to make sense of the situation. To say it was surreal cheapens the way we were feeling. The speed of time at that moment wasn't allowing for us to catch up.
Then there was intensity. As if I was being controlled by another entity other than my own spirit. It took over my body as if it were squeezing the life out of me. I screamed so loud I couldn't believe the noise in my ears.
This is the sound that made the universe was the thought that came to my mind.
I was on my knees, Chup supporting my back and my arms gripped the sides of the tub. Another contraction hit and I screamed louder. I had this great urge to cry out "Santa Maria!" even though I am clearly not Catholic or Hispanic.
And then I surrendered. I gave up. I closed my eyes and saw nothing but white noise like on an old tv. At that moment I was certain I wasn't in my body. I was walking the line of life and death and I was in the deepest part of me, the part that has always existed. I heard nothing, but felt everything. Then I was suddenly back feeling pain I cannot begin to describe. I doubt anyone has ever been able to word it.
"I CAN'T DO IT ANYMORE!" I blurted out. I was there. I was typical, but I was there.
I wanted Chup to take it all from me. I wanted him to equally say, "You don't have to do it anymore/ You can do it!"
He said: You can do it!
"Are you ready to push?" asked Suzanne.
"Yes," I screamed.
"Push with your next contraction."
And so I did.
"Crowning!" announced Suzanne. "Reach down there. Can you feel that? It is your baby's head.
You are there."
On the next push I felt my body split open. This above all the sensations I felt that night was beyond the most amazing. I could feel everything move like a gate opening up to pressure. It was a fiery feeling and with it came the head of my baby.
I looked down and saw it in the water. Chup was looking too.
"We have a head!" Suzanne announced.
Then, the next contraction came and I pushed the rest of the baby out of my body. In one full movement Suzanne caught the baby in the water and immediately placed it in on my chest.
My joy was full. The pain was over. I felt totally sanctified.
It was a beautiful little being that screamed in my arms. They put a warm towel around the both of us and we sat there equally shocked.
I looked down to check the gender, I saw something dangling down and I announced to Chup we had another son.
"It's a boy!" I wailed. "I am so happy!" A brother for The Chief! Hooray!
We breathed for a little while until Chup asked again, "What is it?"
"It's a . . ." I moved the baby to get a better view. What I thought was a penis was really the umbilical cord. When it moved out of the way there was something entirely different there.
" . . . girl! It's a girl! This is like Christmas!"
The thing is, throughout the entire labor I said some pretty strange things, but 'This is like Christmas!' is one Chup and I continue to laugh about even now.
After the placenta was delivered we got out of the tub (to add to the weird things I said that night: when I got out of the tub I asked Mary if I looked like I had lost weight) and got into our nice warm bed. Chup had set up a space heater in the room so that everything was the perfect temperature. I held the baby next to my body the entire time. She nursed right away. It was bliss.
Eventually she was studied, weighed and measured. I ate a bowl of cereal in bed with Chup lying next to me. I was pretty proud of myself for delivering a baby over 8 pounds. The women worked fast and efficiently to check the entire body of my baby. She was pronounced "pretty close to perfect" with the pinkest skin you ever saw.
"Two hour labor. That is something to brag about." Suzanne said to me as I pounded a bowl of Oh's. And just as fast as my labor had rolled in, the midwives had cleaned up the entire place and shut the front door quietly behind them. It was early Friday morning.
Chup, Ever and I fell asleep snuggling in our big bed together. But I couldn't stay asleep for long. I couldn't stop thinking about the whole experience and looking at this gorgeous being in my arms. There was too much love in my heart to sleep.
I waited for the sun to come over the tops of the mountains outside my window. And when it did it brought with it cries from The Chief upstairs. Chup brought him to me and after a brief introduction of Brother to Sister, my son joined us in bed cuddling the rest of the morning.
I felt like I was given two gifts. The first being my healthy, beautiful baby. The second, experiencing the power of delivery. And I've thanked my Heavenly Father for both every day since.
Thanks Suzanne and Mary for a Better Birth indeed.
Thanks everyone for your well wishes! We are grateful to have you around in our lives.