The Baby Nickel turned three today.
The festivities (and subsequent tears, as extreme happiness usually goes hand-in-hand with disappointment and frustration, at least in my little part of the world) are over and I have a few minutes to write before conking out myself.
The Baby Nickel’s birth was a unique and extra-special experience—he was born at home, upstairs in my bedroom—and because of this, I was able to claim his birth and own it in ways that I hadn’t been able to with the previous three births. Excepts from his roughly-written birth story are as follows (it’s a long story, so I hope it doesn’t overwhelm you):
For the first thirty-seven weeks of my pregnancy I planned to have a regular hospital birth with the midwives from a local practice that does hospital deliveries. I had met with Midwife A, the most open-minded of the midwives, for the majority of my appointments, and it was with her that I discussed some of my new ideas. We planned to waive rights to the eye ointment, the Hepatitis B vaccine, and the bilirubin, and to try to only get two (instead of five) heel pricks for the glucose test if the baby was over eight and a half pounds. Also, I told Midwife A that my ideal would be to just come into the hospital and listen to my body and not have internals and only minimal monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat. I just wanted to give birth at my own pace and without anyone telling me how to do it. She was affirming of my ideas.
But I met with Midwife D for the 37-week appointment and after asking me if I had any special plans for the birth (I briefly told her), she launched into a speech about how I can’t have my fantasy birth, and how they are responsible for me and have to do regular checks. They needed to make sure labor progressed well, and my labors weren’t necessarily fast, she said. I was so upset that I couldn’t say a word. My labor with Sweetsie lasted all of three hours and five minutes—that wasn’t fast? I didn’t want a fantasy birth, just a birth that was treated as natural and not a crisis, unless it became one! Then Midwife D checked the positioning of the baby. I had been thinking that the baby was breech and D thought it was, too. I burst into tears. She said they would do an ultra-sound right away to find out. Turns out, the baby was in the head-down position, way low, his spine right along my belly—the ideal position for giving birth. I left the office not knowing whether or not I wanted to jump for joy or punch somebody.
So I started scheming ways to not have to be in the hospital for very long. We thought that maybe I could go into town and labor in someone’s house up until the last minute and then rush to the hospital—that way we wouldn’t have to deal with all the interventions. Or could I lock myself in the hospital bathroom and not come out till I was ready? I was detailing all my plans to my girlfriend Kris one day, and she said, “If you’re waiting till the last minute, why not just have the baby at home?” Now there was a thought to chew on!
I got a hold of Midwife T, and she said she would take me on. She lived over the mountains, an hour and a half away, but she didn’t seem too concerned about the distance, and besides, her helper for our area was Assistant M, and she lived in our town…
Mr. Handsome and I got down to the business of reading up on home birth. The more I read, the more I became comfortable with it. Mr. Handsome was the same. And once we met Midwife T, we both felt comfortable. It was decided. The next day I called the midwives and told them I was transferring so I could have a home birth, and requested my medical records.
We continued to read everything we could get our hands on. We hadn’t decided if the kids would be present or not, but Miss Becca Boo kept saying she wanted to be there (she wanted to see the little hands and feet and the placenta—she called it the “centa”) and Yo-Yo Boy mostly said he wanted to come in afterwards to hold the slippery baby. Either way, we knew they might hear and see things, so we prepared them the best we could. I found videos of natural birth that I watched with them, and we poured over the photographs in the birthing books. We talked about their births and looked at the photo albums. It would be my mother’s job to stay with them, so I knew they wouldn’t be stuck watching a scary situation.
On the evening of the second, a Thursday, Mr. Handsome and I went on a cleaning rampage. It was typical nesting, though Mr. Handsome was the one with the sense of urgency. The only sign we had that I might go into labor was that a bunch of storms were coming up and the pressure was falling. I had been having too much fun over the past few days experimenting with my sourdough bread to really care when the baby came, and I was feeling really good, physically—none of the sciatic nerve or varicose pain I had with Sweetsie’s pregnancy. So, I filled the buckets and washed out the mop and Mr. Handsome mopped the whole house.
When I laid down at ten o’clock I had a couple contractions, but that was normal. I soon fell asleep. I woke back up at midnight with mild contractions, but more problematic was my intense hunger. So we both went downstairs and had granola and juice. For some reason Mr. Handsome was wired, and he kept insisting that I was going to have the baby that night. So we made up both the guest beds. Then he started rounding up all the stuff that still needed to go up to our room. I looked up the emergency numbers that we hadn’t yet written down. We put candles in my room. I put the wine and champagne to chill and got out the lasagna from the freezer for whoever to bake the next day. Then I decided to soak in the tub, drink a glass of wine, and read for a bit. The contractions were getting harder, and after each one I wondered if we ought to call someone, but then there would be four to eight minutes till the next one, by the end of which I was wondering if I would have any more contractions and if it maybe was false labor. I just wished my water would break so I would know it was for real.
Then I had a bad contraction and yelled for Mr. Handsome. He came bouncing in, all giddy, but he quickly sobered up when he saw I was crying. I demanded he go call Midwife T. I was terrified I was making her drive over the mountains for nothing, but I don’t cry with false labor. That was at two am. About fifteen minutes later we called Mom and Dad. And then my brother C and his wife M. And finally, at around three something, we called Assistant M. I sat on the living room floor and labored. I tried to read in between contractions, but soon I didn’t have enough concentration for anything besides just resting or talking.
When people started arriving, my contractions started to fade. There was too much pressure. I felt like I had to have really good contractions to prove I was really in labor, but they weren’t always that hard. I couldn’t hear my body (and I was really wishing that my water would break to speed things up), so I went upstairs where I lit candles and started pacing. The contractions came every three to five minutes, but I was still worried that it wasn’t real labor. The midwife arrived, listened to the heartbeat, gave me some tips on breathing, and went downstairs to read.
Miss Becca Boo soon woke up and Mr. Handsome went to tell her that I was having the baby today. She came in and sat on his lap, and while I had a contraction he whispered to her, explaining what was happening. She was all smiles, and then scampered off downstairs. When Yo-Yo Boy woke up, Mr. Handsome went to get him and told him he could come in to see me. I think Yo-Yo maybe came down the hall, but he paused outside the door and didn’t come in; he was either too shy or else scared. But I heard him yell down the stairs, “Becca, Mama’s going to have the baby today!”
It was so special to be having a baby in my own room, listening to Mom bang around the kitchen, the kids chattering, the drone of my brother reading stories out loud. Life was going on all around me, and in the very place where we lived and slept and ate, I was giving birth. It was so natural and right. (They later told me that when I got loud, the adults would raise their voices to try to muffle the sounds. But once when my brother was reading, Yo-Yo shushed him and they all listened to me. Then Yo-Yo said, “Mama’s having a baby.” There was no fear or anxiousness about it—just a matter-of-factness. Exactly what I had hoped for.)
The contractions were getting harder, but I felt in control and not at all fearful. I was surprised by how much I liked the quiet and dark. I had never experienced it in the other births, and it relaxed me.
One time I reached for Mr. Handsome’s hand and he gave it to me from the wrong direction (Mom had sent up a plate of eggs and he was eating them on the sofa) and when I went to turn it around, I wacked him in the head instead. I could tell he was furious—I started to laugh but couldn’t because of the contraction. Pretty tricky to try to breath and laugh at the same time!
By then I was laboring, my right hand holding on to Mr. Handsome’s hand and my left holding Sister-in-law M’s. Breathing in I would rise up, and breathing out I would sink my head to the ground. I felt like a good Muslim, except for the fact that I was facing South-West instead of East. Mr. Handsome kept telling me to slow my breathing but I was starting to have trouble staying on top of the contractions when they peaked. I started rocking back on my heels and bellowing during the peaks. I knew I couldn’t do it much longer, and I was mad that my water still hadn’t broken. The midwife suggested that I try to push a little with a contraction to see if it would break the water. She asked several times if she could check me and I finally said yes. She did a quick internal and reported that the head was right there. I rocked back on my heels, pushed, and my water broke.
Then everything was chaos. Mr. Handsome was hauling me up on my feet and turning me around so I was in a standing squat. I didn’t know if I was supposed to push or what. The midwife was so quiet that I couldn’t hear any instructions and I yelled, “SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!” (There may have also been a few profanities. Maybe.) The midwife mumbled something about me doing fine and then asked Mr. Handsome, “Are you hanging in there alright?” I felt like screaming at her, “DON’T ASK HIM HOW HE’S DOING. I’M THE ONE HAVING THE BABY!” But I just kept my mouth shut and exhaled through my nose, hard.
My sister-in-law went to the door to call for Miss Becca Boo. The midwife told me to give another little push. I did, and the head was out; I looked down and saw it. I saw M’s face when she turned around, big-eyed surprise. I gave another small push and the baby slipped the rest of the way out, the midwife unlooping the cord around his body as he came. (She later told me that when his head came out he had his hand on his cheek, so she pinched his fingers, trying to make them go back in, but it didn’t work. So I tore.) He pooped a huge pile as he came out, and he got it all over the towels and my leg. He gave one cry, and she passed him to me and Mr. Handsome lowered me to the ground. We both saw the sex at the same time. “It’s a boy,” I exclaimed, but Mr. Handsome said it much more excitedly and loudly, “It’s a boy!” Then I realized how much he had wanted a second son. It was 8:25 am, three minutes after my water broke.
Yo-Yo Boy came in then and climbed up on the bed next to Miss Becca Boo where they laid on their bellies to watch the goings-on. Mom brought Sweetsie in, but she started crying and asking to hold the baby, so Mom had to take her back out.
The first thing I noticed was his swollen, huge face. And his enormous hands; Mom called them Gorilla Hands. I tried to nurse him, but he wouldn’t latch on at all. And he didn’t open his eyes—I didn’t see them for six hours. So much for not putting the eye ointment on and having a more alert baby! I sat on the floor for about ten minutes before they lifted me onto the bed. After about twenty minutes Miss Becca Boo cut the cord with Mr. Handsome’s help.
The rest of the story didn’t go quite as planned, but I’ll not go into that here. Suffice it to say, The Baby Nickel was born at home, and for that special experience I am forever grateful.