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Homebirth Info


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BeBe Lena

BeBe Lena’s Story

When people who have never had a baby ask you about your child’s birth, they think that there is a certain point when labor “starts”. But there isn’t a specific point, or at least there wasn’t for me and BeBe Lena. Her birth was immanent 24 hour before I had my first contraction, and I knew it even though I denied it. I’m going to start her birth story the day before I went into labor, because that’s when it really started.

I spent the last two months of my pregnancy either working or sleeping. My team was short-staffed at work due to another maternity leave absence, and I was determined to give my boss absolutely no reason to complain – I didn’t take a single sick leave day my entire pregnancy and I always got everything done absolutely on time. That took a toll on my mental strength, and my partner Brian took really good care of me so all I had to do was work and then sleep and grow the baby.

It seemed really bizarre when I awoke at 6:45am on Sunday 28 December with an intense desire to clean the boa constrictor’s house, do some laundry, cook polenta pancakes for breakfast, go to Target and pick up the rest of the birthing supplies, shop for car seats and strollers, and go grocery shopping. Brian asked if I was okay. I was, I felt great, energized! I did all the household chores before he got out of bed and then we went out shopping all day.

Twelve hours later  we returned home after visiting Target, Sears, Shoppers and Babies R Us. I had never set foot in Babies R US before. I am not that kind of woman. I am not baby-obsessed, even though I looked at 15 different kinds of car seats, felt out 10 different strollers and compared prices on various types of disposable diapers. I felt my whole sense of self dissolving. I called my mother and proceed to have an anxiety attack.

“Today I am officially 37 weeks pregnant,” I tell her. “What if I have the baby tomorrow? I can’t, I have too much to do at work. Everyone else is on vacation. I owe 20 different editors 20 different things. And I am the only person on desk, if I have the baby who will assess the energy markets this week?” My mother told me to relax. I had every thing under control, she said. She assures me I won’t have the baby this week. It’s too early.

Monday, Dec. 29, 2008.

The next morning I awoke with an intense desire to do nothing. My editors can shove it, the financial markets can collapse, who really cares about the price of oil the week between Christmas and New Years? I will stay in bed forever.

Of course this attitude lasted about 5 minutes, but it was very uncharacteristic. Almost as weird as the hyper-energy of the day before. At 7:00am I crawled around on the floor of the bedroom, moaning that I have cramps and don’t want to go to work. It is like I am 15 again and having really bad menstrual cramps and trying to get out of going to school. It is exactly like that. I am having what feel like really bad menstrual cramps and I don’t want to go to work.

At 8:00am I go to work anyway.

By 11:00am I have gotten almost nothing done because just as I start to concentrate, I have an intense cramp. If I am on the phone I just smile and pretend nothing is happening, say “mmhmm, mmhmm, mmmhmmmm” while quietly practicing my Lamaze breathing. Then I ask the person to repeat themselves. If I am writing I arch my back or wiggle or stand up and breathe until the cramp passes. After awhile the thought occurs to me that these cramps might actually be practice contractions or something. I decide to time the cramps. They are coming every 8 minutes.

That regularity worried me. It was as if I might actually be in early labor, as ridiculous as that seemed. I wasn’t ready to have a kid yet. It was too early. If I was in labor it would screw everything up. I called Mairi.

“Mairi, I’m having what feel like the worst menstrual cramps ever. They happen every 8 minutes. Am I in labor?” Mairi laughs.

“You might be. Or you might not. You won’t know except in retrospect,” she says.

“Well, what I really need to know is if I should tell my employer so we can line somebody up to come in from vacation and cover for me,” I say.

“Well, if you feel like going home, go home. If you feel like staying at work, stay at work,” she said. “And call me this afternoon and let me know what’s going on.”

Since there was (in my mind) no way I was actually having a baby that day, I decided to stay at work. Thirty minutes later I had managed to get exactly nothing done because of the stupid cramps. I was being silly. I had a free pass go, collect $200 no-one-can-blame-you-for-calling-in-sick-the-worst-week-of-the-year card. I used it.

When I got home at 12:30pm I felt better instantaneously. I sat down at the computer and started reading birth stories on the web. Later I got in bed and luxuriated in the fluffy wonderful comforter, the soft bed, the fuzzy kitty cats…it was so great to not be at work. I could actually lay around like I was supposed to. I decided that I would start my maternity leave the next Monday when everyone else got back from vacation, because I just could not do this anymore, it was time to admit it. I tried not to think about all the things I had to do when I went back to work the next day after this false labor calmed down.

At 3:00pm Erin called. I was still in bed, my cramps have slowed and gotten irregular. They were coming every 11 to 14 minutes, and they were not nearly as uncomfortable as they were when I was at work. Erin said that was good, my body knows to rest. She says she will call between 8:30 and 9:30pm to make sure I am okay.

At 6:00pm Brian comes home. He was worried about me all day. I told him not to worry, I am going to make dinner! I start making dinner, delicious upama with cabbage and spices, mmm. A friend in the UK who I haven’t heard from in months spontaneously calls me. We laugh and joke and practice Lamaze breathing while I chop vegetables and pace around. Every so often I have a cramp and we breathe through it together. After we say goodbye, another friend called, and we did the same thing. Cooking, pacing, chatting, joking. Everything was fine, how silly to have a full day of practice contractions, oh well it was a great way to get out of work. We laughed and laughed.

At 8:00pm Brian and I sat down to eat dinner but I could not eat because every 3 or 4 minutes I had a minute-long contraction. There was no denying that these were real contractions. This was the point when I decided I really was going to have a baby, I was going to have a baby that night, it was Really Happening. I had to get up and breathe and imagine my cervix opening up and do funny ballet-like knee bends and wiggle my butt at the same time to make Brian laugh. We both laugh, and Brian tells me to call the midwives. Erin is on call.

” Hi Erin, it’s Kim. I’m going to have the baby tonight.”

“Hello Kim! How are you feeling?” I tell her, but I get the feeling she doesn’t realize that I am going to have the baby. Tonight. For real. Somehow I do not have any contractions on the phone with her. Erin tells me to try to go to bed at my usual time. If I cannot get comfortable I should call her. And maybe I should call Susan Dodge and let her know we may need her as a birth assistant tonight.

I know there is no possible way I am going to be able to get comfortable and go to bed tonight, but it seemed like all my self-assurance during the day has rubbed off on Erin and she doesn’t get it. For some reason I just say “OK”, and hang up.

A little later I called Susan Dodge and told her I am having the baby. She asks me how I am feeling. I tell her that I am having real contractions. She keeps me on the phone for ten minutes, during which time I have three contractions. The movements of my lower uterus and cervix are so strong I yodel and kneel on the floor and sway. Susan kind of seemed to get it more than Erin. She said she’d call Erin and tell her that I was really doing it tonight, and said she’d see me later. She also told me to try to watch a funny movie with Brian and get comfortable.

Watch a movie? Yeah right.

For what seemed like a long time but was really less than an hour I crawled on the floor and leaned on the stair railing and joked with Brian. He kept massaging my lower back and putting pressure on my buttbone when I asked him to, which really helped. The contractions got stronger, but not just stronger – they took on added dimensions, as if the experience was no longer just in my lower body but in my chest, my arms, my feet, my head…it felt like I was swimming in the ocean and the contractions of my muscles were part of the larger movement of the water. The baby was swimming in the water too. I imagined my cervix unfurling, like a flower, and the baby emerging from the bloom like a tiny Buddha.

In between contractions was when Brian and I would joke around and name the positions I was laboring in. But after a while I had been on my hands and knees for a long time, and Brian suggested I take a shower and move around a little bit. I didn’t want to take a shower but figured it was probably a good idea. Hot water was supposed to distract you from the sensations of labor, and the sensations of labor were getting overwhelming.

I got in the shower and the whole feeling of labor changed. At first I  thought “oh, Brian was right, this is better”. But then the strangest sensation came to me. I had to bend over and hug myself and brace against the tile wall. It felt as if the baby’s head was pushing through my cervix. My first thought was “damn, I don’t know whether I’m dilated enough, maybe the baby is tearing through my cervix!” Immediately after I thought that I knew that if the baby had torn my cervix there was no helping it now.

I stopped the water, pulled the curtain aside and yelled to Brian to call the midwives, the baby was coming now, NOW! It was 9pm.

I got out of the shower and put on a bright red nightgown I’d bought a few months earlier expressly for the purpose of birthing in it. Red on red would not show, eh? But my water still hadn’t broken and nothing was messy yet.

I told Brian that I felt the baby’s head and I wanted to push. He told me to lay down on the bed and to NOT PUSH. The midwives weren’t here yet! He assured me he had called Erin and that she was on her way, and Susan too.

Not pushing was easier said than done. The whole character of the birth energy had changed. Every time I had a contraction my entire chest, abdomen, butt, pussy and thigh muscles all worked together to contract and push down and out. I had no choice in this. I could feel the baby moving through me and down, then slide back up after the contraction ended. Every contraction would force all the air out of my lungs and I’d make the most horrendous, low-pitched drone/scream. It must’ve been audible throughout our entire condo building. It must’ve been audible to G-d, it was so intense. Since G-d could hear me I figured I might as well yell/moan/scream for people who needed help, so in between contractions Brian and I thought up lists of people who really needed G-d’s help. Then it would go like this: a contraction would come on and I would start to yell,

“G-d, please help blah-blah who is going through a painful divorce find help and good advice!” or “G-d, may you help president-elect Barack Obama for he is inheriting an awful mess!” or  “G-d, please help the leaders of Israel and Hamas have good counsel and come to a peace agreement, you know damn well they need a hell of a lot more help than I do right now, PLEASE!!!!!!”

I think it was about then that I reached down and felt the baby’s head. I asked Brian to look. He said yes, there was a fuzzy head inside my cunt. Definitely.  Brian got up to call Erin and she answered that she was right outside the door! It was 9:36pm.

Erin walked upstairs to the bedroom and saw me on the bed and said hello.

“Hello Erin,” I said. ” I am so happy you’re here!”

“I so happy to be here too, Kim,” Erin said. Then I had another contraction. At some point during it Erin suggested I try laying on my side but there was no way. It felt imperative to be on my hands and knees.

The baby’s head popped out right about then with a splash of amniotic fluid.

“Hello beautiful! Today is your birthday!” Erin said to the baby. Then she said, “Just one more push and the baby’s body will come out!” I thought Erin must be crazy, I was so obviously going to explode, but she was right. Another contraction and the baby came out all the way with a rush of amniotic fluid flowing out like champagne after the cork leaves the bottle.

“Aa aaa aaaa aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!” yelled BeBe Lena.

Brian helped me pull the nightgown off and Erin put BeBe on my chest. BeBe was bigger than I had imagined, and she was covered in vernix that looked like white war paint over her eyes and in her armpits and elbows. She had long, muscular legs (which is exactly what I expected after all her dancing the past 9 months inside me) and her hair was waved and shiny like it was jerry-curled.

Susan showed up shortly after that and we all had a lot of fun. My thighs and abdomen were really shaky after the birth so Erin and Susan coached me on how to cough out the placenta. Then Brian cut the cord. The placenta was big and gorgeous red and purple. BeBe Lena weighed 8lbs 2oz, a very nice size for a baby 3 weeks early, and Susan and Erin kidded me that I was lucky, if I’d waited to term I would’ve had a 10 pound kid.

They sewed up my tears (I had two) by flashlight under the supervision of my cat, Bokonon, (try having your cat accompany you during minor surgery at a hospital! one of the great benefits of at-home birth, in my opinion) and then made sure BeBe Lena could nurse and that I knew the basics of latching her on, and then they cleaned up and left us tucked in with our gorgeous first born daughter. Brian and I kept waking up every hour or so and staring at her, she was so amazing.

So…suffice it to say, after that labor I was no longer in denial about having a kid. I think that if I had had BeBe Lena in a hospital and gotten an epidural or had a C-section, I would have been really divorced from the whole process and might not have been able to simply pick her up and become a mother. The whole process of birthing in the privacy of my own home, with my friends on the phone, cooking my own food and then pushing the kid out in my own bed was important, necessary even, to me becoming a mom. I am really, really thankful to Mairi and Erin and Susan (and Brian – he had actually attended a friend’s birth once before, and was cool and able to joke around and support me totally.) I am utterly blessed to have BeBe Lena in my life.