The day I went into labor with Eden I walked with my husband Skye up and down our steep hill twice, made a pot roast and a pie, played with my three-year old Asher, and complained to my girlfriends that all that damn sex we were having just wasn’t working to get labor started. The next day we planned to take Skye’s pet project 1982 Datsun pickup (that he’d only just gotten running) out into the woods for a bumpy ride– see if that worked. Skye was ready to tempt fate and put his wilderness medical training to use as my midwife. Too bad we didn’t get around to that.
I had a couple of interesting tightenings after a big meal of roast and pie, put the boy to bed, watched part of a movie, made love to my husband (again), and bang! Big Ol’ Contraction. (He was so proud of himself.) We observed with mutual interest as my contractions quickly started picking up speed and intensity. We jumped into high gear. We had planned a home birth and we both had prep work to do. I called my midwife who lives about 45 minutes away. She patiently waited for me, already breathless during the peaks, to update her on our evening. After a couple of contractions about 3 minutes apart, she said she was on her way. At this point, I knew it was on, but I didn’t realize how fast it was going to go.
I decided to potty as much as I could before it got intense. I don’t know why that occurred to me to be an important task, but there you go. Then I decided I needed to get into the right outfit for laboring. So in between quickly intensifying contractions, I was trying on different outfits. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, mind you, because there are certain specific and very important criteria for a good laboring/birthing ensemble that apparently didn’t occur to me until just that moment: 1) it must have easily removable parts, 2) it must have layers to best regulate erratic body temperature, and 3) it must be at least semi-cute for the photos. I had to time this all perfectly so that I wasn’t halfway in a shirt or pant leg when a new contraction hit. There were stretchy clothes and pregnant body parts flying all over the place as I hurriedly searched my stash for my over sized U of O hoodie (go ducks!!!), sports bra, and yoga pants.
That crisis now resolved, I was ready to labor. Which is good because my contractions were now less than a minute apart, although that didn’t seem to occur to me at the time. I decided I wanted to go outside to take a walk up and down the hill to keep them going strong. WHAT!? As if my labor wasn’t progressing well enough on its own!? I think somewhere I had it in my mind that this was going to be like my first, which took F O R E V E R– except that from contraction number one it was faster and more intense. I just didn’t see it happening that way at the time. Suffice it to say, I made it as far as the front porch and hung on to the side of the house until my husband came and found me there, doubled over and panting. The few contractions I spent out there alone in the dark I remember being the only time I really felt a little panicked. I now needed help. Then Skye came out and all my fear went away and never once returned. He gently held my hips.
I vaguely remember the midwife, Brenda, walk up the drive. I welcomed her with a big smile and thumbs up as I swayed through another one. She winked at me and went inside. It’s time to go in now, I thought. I have to do this quickly before the next one hits. I literally ran to my bedroom, stripped off my sweatshirt, arranged one pillow between my legs, another under my head, and pointed my bottom toward the edge of the bed. And this is exactly where I stayed for the remainder of the journey.
I had decided that I would need privacy, just Skye and I in our room alone. Mama Bear needed a warm, dark cave to curl up with just Pa Bear to keep her safe. I knew what to do. Brenda would occasionally enter, quietly take the heartbeat and leave without saying a word. Even still, she and assistant Jennifer got to enjoy the show out in the living room. Apparently, I am quite the vocal laborer. At one point, Skye got the camera and recorded a couple of short videos. Hey, I’m not gonna lie. It sounded like I was having insane great sex and earth-shattering orgasms at the peak of every contraction. The next day, my 60-something-year old midwife said to me sweetly, “Honey, that’s what we call an ecstatic birth.” Boy howdy.
It was ecstatic. It was intensely pure, and bigger than anything I had ever felt. There was no pain, just utterly overwhelming sensual joy. I physically felt Eden moving down inside of me with each one. So I spoke to her: “Baby, baby…oh baby…good job, baby…I love you so much! I love you! Oh! OH! Good baby! Good…good…good…good.” This went on for probably two or three hours.
Then I felt like I needed to potty again. I called to Brenda so she could help get me there, and she said, “Oh yeah? Well, let’s just check ya real quick, OK?” She peeled off my yoga pants, and can you guess what she found? That’s right– a baby’s head ready to come out!
“You’re fully dilated now. You could push. Would you still like to try the tub?” Brenda asked. (“Yeah, the birthing tub that was such a pain in the ass to set up?” is what my husband thought.) I had planned on using the birthing tub for labor pain management. It had been taking up a third of our bedroom for the past two weeks. I didn’t need any pain management. Yet…he went to so much trouble. “Sure, why not,” I said, as if it were a fun novelty. Skye checked the water temperature and found that it was too hot. He went out our French door to the back yard and pulled in the garden hose to cool it off. I rolled to the edge of the bed, went to stand up, and found that Eden didn’t agree that it was bath time. She was ready to be born.
I grunted. I think everyone must have heard me because they all started getting in between my legs. Skye ended up supporting me from behind as I squatted. Brenda managed to get one glove on and was ready to catch. Jennifer grabbed the camera. After the first push, she was crowning. The second push and her head was halfway out. And that’s when we got the water works—of two different varieties.
My water bag, which had remained intact, spontaneously gushed all over Brenda, splashing in her face. Unfortunately, she admits, her mouth had been slightly open. By now the birthing tub was adequately cooled off. The forgotten garden hose snaked up with pressure and went spraying all around the room. Need I remind you, I am still squatting with half a baby’s head sticking out of me?
Attention back here please? We were all hysterically laughing (though mine was probably more like a high-pitched squeak than a laugh). Skye quickly got the water turned off. Push number three brought us our daughter’s beautiful face. She was a little purple, though. Brenda urged me that she needed to be born right away. I rose from my deep squat, threw my arms up in the air and roared at the top of my lungs like a Warrior Mama Bear Goddess!
Five minutes, four pushes, four hours of labor, eight pounds, five ounces, 22 ¼ inches. Eden Pearl is born.
What happened next is all a blur, as I am now in love. It involved some hemorrhaging, quick shots of pitocin, a tachycardic baby, oxygen, maternal fever, elevated white blood cell counts, and eventually a trip to the hospital where we spent our next few days with IV antibiotics, hourly glucose heel pricks, and really awesome nurses. But that’s another story. As they say, what matters most is that we have a healthy baby. A little orgasm or two doesn’t hurt, though.