Monday, August 22, 2011
Hi, we were just in your store and I think we left a large, neon green rubber snake in your bulk section.
Did you say rubber snake, ma'am?
I'm afraid so.
This is how my labor started. Sort of. But let's back up to the morning of August 4.
I was excited to have just brought over that morning from our temporary Massachusetts accommodations of most of the summer to the new house, our house, what I needed to stay the night. It would be our first night all together there. It was also our 10th wedding anniversary, one I had always believed we'd celebrate in Monterey with lots of friends.
But things were not where I could have ever anticipated them to be 10 years down the road... The POD was unloaded and sitting empty at the end of the driveway. The correct gas company had been summoned after a dumb misunderstanding that had us paying for someone's gas at this address in a city called Waymouth, MA – not where we live. That morning we'd interviewed a doula about the possibility of staying with Isaac during the birth. She seemed nice, if not ridiculously young and beautiful. Isaac had two days left of summer camp and while Mike attempted a stab at work, sitting with his laptop on the porch, I walked the third of a mile into the small town center, headed for the bookstore and lunch at my favorite cafe.
It was hot, but not exceedingly so by summer 2011 standards. I was having some contractions, but nothing exceedingly unusual by summer 2011 pregnancy standards.
I was happy. This simple walk. Time to myself. Time to try to take in that this was my space now. This unfamiliar neighborhood with the old growth trees and peace flags.
When I returned, Mike informed me that my mother-in-law and his aunt were coming over to wash the windows. As they like, I thought, and toppled over on the couch, exhausted. The women of Windex arrived and conquered, exclaiming all the while about how I walked “all that way!” into town.
Suddenly, it was late already – 4:30 – and I had yet to get to the grocery store. I felt like crap by now, but compelled to work on the shopping list. Isaac decided he was coming with me and so was his green snake.
I think that about catches us up to the opening telephone conversation.
After I got home, I reluctantly mentioned to Mike that the contractions felt different – a little rise to them. He looked downright frightened, but tried to cover it quickly. “You're not having a baby tonight, are you?” “Uh, nooooooooo,” I told him. Still, I thought it best to call the midwives.
When Isaac was born, our midwife, Maggie, barely got there in time. Two weeks early, a day before the home visit that would have saved Maggie from having to search blindly in the middle of the night for our apartment, Isaac shifted into position for exit. Then, an hour after she got there - wham, blam, thank you, ma'am, Isaac was out. Done. “Huh. And I thought you were going to be a pain in the ass,” Maggie marveled at me afterwards. “Thanks, Mag. Thanks a lot.”
Consequently, my midwives here drilled me with precautions about calling early when ANYTHING felt different. So I called. Their advice? Get in the bath and drink a glass of wine. Reason number 904 to hire a midwife and skip the doctor route.
If it's real labor, it won't stop the labor, they told me. If it's not, it will relax things.
I lumbered up the stairs to put Isaac to bed while Mike returned to our former place of residence to retrieve Emily cat. With Isaac was out cold, Mike hadn't returned, so I drew a bath as instructed.
When we first came to look at this house – second on our list of showings we'd lined up the day after crash landing in Massachusetts, I spotted a neighbor outside across the street. Mike was chatting up the realtor about furnaces while I slipped out the porch and over to the woman standing knee high in Queen Anne's Lace. We discussed the area a bit, the ages of the kids on the block and how she used to live in Palo Alto (CA). She seemed quite friendly and I was heartened.
Before I returned to actually look at the house we'd come to see, she lowered her voice and leaned in closer. I hear there is only one bathroom in there, she told me conspiratorially. Ooh. Neighborhood gossip. I liked it.
It is true that our new house has but a single bathroom. But neighbor lady only had part of the scoop – the bathroom had a beautiful claw foot tub...and no shower. No shower. It's an old house. It's a house CHOCK full of poorly orchestrated do-it-yourself projects. Over the last century, it's been added to, half-ass renovated, and (sort of) updated prior to putting it up for sale. But no one saw fit to add a pipe dripping warmish water from above. Mike's comment: “In a hundred years, no one wanted a shower?”
There is now a shower in the one bathroom. It only took a hundred years and one week. Imagine what we can accomplish from here. Anyhoo, let's return to that day – Rhys' day..Oh yeah, HIM! Was I writing about the birth of my son somewhere here? Or actually, let's return to the day before Rhys – OUR day – our damn anniversary...
I got into the claw foot tub that still lacked a shower and waited for my husband to get home. Seemed appropriate for an anniversary protocol. The claw foot tub ROCKED by the way. It was deep and comfortable and even in early labor and late pregnancy, my enormo-belly protruding out of the water like a great volcanic island, felt super.
Mike got home with Emily and a bottle of Riesling called “Relax” and we proceeded to the porch. Like the bath, the wine was great. However, neither seemed to stop the contractions which only intensified and prompted another call to the midwives around 10:30pm.
Mike was still looking wary of this whole thing, worried about how early the little person seemed to want to make his appearance.
By 11pm the first midwife arrived and though she talked about us getting a few more hours of sleep and coming back after setting up a few things “just in case,” she never left.
Now picture, if you will, boxes. Lots of boxes. Not much else besides boxes.
And picture, if you will, Mike and midwife ripping through boxes looking for all the supplies we needed for the home birth while mama sweated and groped for the occasional hand to hold.
Sometime shortly after midnight the second midwife arrived and joined the hunt.
Although just as quick, labor with Rhys was completely different than with Isaac. A different that was indisputable, but difficult to define and no less dramatic. Kind of like the earthquakes that shake vs. the ones that roll. Why do I sense that this metaphor will serve me on a variety of occasions as the boys grow up?
I was getting no relief between contractions because of the pressure of the bag of waters, which had never broken. It was an amebic pain without any clear signals about when to push or what to do at all. I will tell you that, sadly, I had nothing interesting to add to the lexicon during these intense hours. You'd think I'd be coining new expletives or - at the very least - cursing my husband. But my most oft used word was “Ouch” with a couple “Helps” sprinkled in. I was about a million degrees and demanding to be fanned, demanding attention that took my attending trio away from their continual search for more stuff they thought they needed for me to have this baby, but other than that, I was just slightly more whiny than usual as far as I recall.
I never quite found my rhythm with the labor. It was just too fast. The medical term is precipitous. The end came as a surprise to me. I could have had five minutes or five hours to go by then, I had no idea. But on the very same daddy-built bed as his brother arrived six years earlier, at 1:10am, on August 5, just clear of our anniversary date, Baby-baby, aka Rhys, entered the scene.
Mike woke up Isaac just before his usual wake up time in the morning and told him we had a surprise for him downstairs. Having gone from excited about witnessing the birth to (after watching a couple birth videos) unsure if he really wanted to deal with all that, Isaac was not disappointed to have slept through it. He was very pleased to meet his brother, however, whom he (and the rest of us) continued to call Baby-baby.
Who knows what comes ahead of what. Did the walk “all that way” help bring on labor? Or did I walk all that way because labor was already in the works? Did Rhys come early because of all the craziness we endured during the pregnancy, or did I worry from week 18 that he would come early because I intuitively knew something?
Rhys was born at 36 weeks – just at the cut off of when I would be allowed to have him at home. This birth would have majorly sucked in the hospital. Everything about it would have signaled emergency to a hospital staff. My fitful, amebic pain would have had to be contained within a sterile cot and restricted by a monitor – several monitors. They would have taken him away from me. Suctioned him with machines.
And, really, what else would a baby skipping four weeks of gestation need more than just to be held by his mama?
“This is your new uterus,” one of the midwives told me sweeping her arm around the small room we'll eventually use as an office while discussing what special considerations this little preemie would need. I took in the boxes labeled things like “Isaac's books/toaster/Mike's diplomas,” thought about the pantry with its grimy thumb-tacked contact paper put up sometime between Watergate and Flashdance, and swallowed hard.
But as the sun entered the non-shatterproof glass on the window with the broken sash and chipping lead paint and spilled luxuriously across the fake wood vinyl flooring in the dining room just outside the “nursery” door, I knew it was the start of a new day.