It's not yet midnight when I'm awakened by a twinge. It grows into a cramp. When it subsides, I'm not relieved. I doze and it becomes 12:30. Another sharp tightness creeps through my stomach. I shouldn't hold my breath, but now I'm worried. With great effort, I sit up, setting off another cascade. As delicately as possible, I cross squeaky floorboards and go downstairs. I try to gauge the intensity. I can't call it contractions yet.
All night I pace the house, pausing on heater vents to warm my feet. Sitting makes the tension build. Standing reminds me of how foreign my body has become. I didn't experience "warm up labor" with my other two, so I'm convinced that tonight is the night. I'm surprised by my apprehension, but then again, I've got three and half weeks to go. I rest my hands on my enormous self and chant, "Not yet ok? Just not yet."
Around four, I return to bed, having exerted the power of my mind to quell the spasms. But I'm not really in charge. After some time, I slide into exhausted sleep.
Although I wake half disappointed, the other half rejoices because I will spend another day in a royal limbo state. I am starting to like it. I'm relived of household duties, so I sit and watch the family continue around me. I'm removed from normalcy.
I'm not a bath person, but many evenings lately I take a soak, refilling the tub two or three times. I figure two can play at this game of hiding in wet confined spaces. I enjoy listening to my breath under the water.
Finally one day, without conscious recognition, I'm more lethargic and tight. I'm so heavy I want to crawl everywhere except I can't get down to the floor. I'm not hungry. I've read all my books. I spend the day sighing. There hasn't been much internal activity today either, and I'm a bit concerned. A friend observes that it's probably the calm before the storm. Lord knows it's been building.
I eat an early dinner and retreat to the tub. Today I thank my body for doing its work while I sit around. I encourage the baby, with an edge of desperation, that NOW it IS time. Please?
Warm and pink, I'm in bed by 8. My beloved comes to bed at 10:30 and we are restless. There are twinges and pangs again. It's subtle how the adventure draws towards completion. The choreography of the ancient dance is graceful. That may sound absurd given the grunting and hollering involved, but a laboring woman is a work of art.
Shortly after 11, I nudge Rob and request he turn up the heat and could he get the phone? He's in the doorway before there is a knowing "OH!" His footsteps echo down the dark stairwell.
I'm perching on the lip of our claw foot tub talking to the midwife. The twinges have become moans already. Given the three hour labor of my second child, it seems likely that this one is following suit. We agree she should come now. Luckily, she lives ten minutes away. I don't vividly remember the arrival of the other two midwives. One will arrive in a half our or so. The third comes five minutes before I deliver.
I hang between the sink and tub, ramming my head into Rob's chest, pulling on his shoulder. My eldest is up. She checks in and disappears. My son will be up soon too. The room is filled with the neon blue glow of our borrowed space heater. I shuck my fuzzy robe and sit on the throne to rest. Royalty indeed! I arch as another wave clamps onto me and my waters release. It is a wild and familiar smell. I think I laugh.
My midwife suggests we move to the bedroom. It is a very long walk. I collapse beside the bed, knees sliding on the blue pads spread on the floor. I take handfuls of blankets and pull them each time I begin to growl. My kids are on the bed. We are eyelevel. They are intensely calm.
There are a lot of forensic details that seem to constitute a birth story (NO, I didn't need stitches and YES the placenta is in the freezer) but it isn't cataloged in my memory that way this time. I didn't watch the clock. No one checked my dilation progress. I tapped into a primal connection with every mother before me. I floated in surreal sacred space following my body's lead. Numbers have no place in this story.
When my son hears about the night he separated from me, he will hear how the women held juice to my mouth and that in the middle of things my four year old went to fetch his hat. He will be told about my first impression of his still unseen head: slimy and lumpy. I remember saying "I can do this! Oh God! Oh God! I know I can do this!" I remember bracing for his shoulders, thinking they would be worse than his head. I remember the slippery bundle passed into my arms. I laughed and cried and looked to everyone at once. We were overwhelmed, triumphant and relived. But it is weird to be suddenly empty.
Isaiah is a beautiful eight pound boy with dark hair, a sneaky dimple, wide hands and crazy hair. He is complete and pure.
The first week in our "bed womb" we receive visitors, take naps and marvel at every squirm and sigh. I'd forgotten that babies can dream with their eyes open. When I venture downstairs again, it's like I've been on vacation. Having had two hospital births before this amazing homebirth experience, I can only say WOW. My recovery was super fast. I loved having food from my kitchen. It was totally stress free and marvelous to have my kids bouncing on the bed. I'm still blissed-out!
Birth is a majestic process and I'm honored to have done it three times. It is astounding to be so changed overnight and then learn our new place in the world. Looking into clear newborn eyes? Well, it's the closest we get to heaven.