It feels a little strange letting my fingers move over the keys again, saying hello to friends whose beautiful words I still rehearse in the moments before my eyes open. I have missed writing and long to feel my creative mind stretch, yawn, and spill juicy lines on waiting pages. Until I can come back, though, I wanted to repost something dear to me, a reminder of the night my youngest child was born. He will be two on Friday.
At age 40, I had a baby in my bed. I died that same night.
The day itself seemed unremarkable--steady contractions still lingering from Monday and Tuesday. Nothing a nap and a bath wouldn't cure, I thought. But during my nap, I awoke several times with contractions that made me grip the bed. Not so much from pain, but more as though someone were squeezing me from the inside out.
I wasn't quite sure how to imagine the day and the delivery because this would be my first time. Not to have children--no, no. I have lots of those. My first time to have a child at home. Decidedly away from the hospital. And doctors. And pain medicine.
When I embarked on this journey, I was a sojourner in Austin. A transplant from Stepford, where there is a proper way to do everything--including having a baby.
After just a few months in Austin, I met women who moved freely and confidently through their days--every step an independent expression of the beautiful dance of their lives.
I was jealous.
Panicked, I questioned the thoughts churning under my perfectly-coiffed hair. I ran head-on into my planned, conservative life, and I hated what I saw: a bound woman. I remembered the girl I once was--a fiery, independent force who discreetly took a back seat to make way for a pat on the head. Somehow I had lost that girl, and I was going to find her.
When I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child, I relived every other birth in my head. I saw myself, sitting across from my doctor. Assenting to the "need" to be induced, to be pumped with pitocin, to have a needle in my spine to be relieved from what I believed would be unbearable pain. In that moment I could not stomach the thought of another anesthetized birth. It was just too indicative of my numbed life.
I began searching for alternatives, and as soon as I heard my midwife Michele's voice on the phone, I knew I found my answer. The thought of a birth experience that would be authentic and all mine made me cry. With each visit to Michele's home, I felt grounded--right, somehow. But Stepford Girl was right there. Going through a list of worries and reminding me that I was crazy.
On Jonathan's birthday, I got up from my nap and looked at my birth kit that had been tied in neat bundles and tucked away like Christmas gifts. I was giddy and nervous at the same time. I called Michele around 7:30 that evening--still not sure that I was in labor. At 8:00 Michele's assistant Scottie bounced in with her sunshine smile. She took one look at me and knew it was my time. Michele examined me as soon as she arrived, and told me I was dilated to 8cm. I was already in transition, and although my contractions were enough to take my breath away, I could smile between them. I relaxed in a warm bath waiting for complete dilation--but that was short-lived. Michele heard me sounding "pushy" through my contractions and came in to help me to the bed. Suddenly everything that seemed so peaceful and slow began to speed up. I bore down on Michele's shoulders through my next contraction, afraid I would crush her tiny frame as my water broke. After having another contraction in the bathroom doorway, I made my way to the bed. As the next contraction came, the pain seized me, and I turned and screamed into my pillow. I heard Michele's calm voice telling me I was safe. I remember thinking I feel safe, I am just in immense PAIN. Nevertheless, Michele's gentle words and soft touch on my back helped me focus. With the next contraction, Michele spoke relief to me: "Roll over. It's time to push." The pain burned white hot, time rushed through me, and my heart throbbed in my ears. Suddenly suspended outside of time, I felt my Jonathan come into this world. A wet, warm miracle crying on my belly! With each pulse of the umbilical cord, the pain subsided. Peace enveloped me, and, still suspended above this surreal scene, I looked back to see someone I vaguely recognized.
Lying there on the bed was Stepford Girl. Anemic and breathless, she cried out to me. Wanting me to give her my hand--to confine myself again in the ordinary life she created. The comfortable life she desperately wanted for me. But it was too late. I had tasted real pain, real life, real freedom. So I left her there, gasping and pleading. Stepford Girl died that night, but I . . . I held my beautiful son and lived.