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note: i'm posting my birth story in two sections because it's mammoth, thanks to my well-known compulsion to record every tiny detail. also i'm trying to finish a few pieces of the second half today but wren is being a nursing fiend and i have not yet figured out the trick to nak, so i thought i'd go ahead and post at least the first installment. this will also make it easier to skip all the 'pre-game' talk for those of you who are just interested in the more active birth part.

when the birds are sleeping
that's when the trees sing
you left your winter clothes,
and your teeth marks in my skin

so shake the leaves, off the trees,
watch them float down the stream
your son, your daughter
swimming in the water

i've been really daunted by the task of sitting down and writing my birth story -- it's something i wanted to prioritize as quickly as possible after the birth because i don't want to lose a moment, but how can you approach even trying to encapsulate that kind of experience? the kind of words to express what happens to you, emotionally and physically, don't really exist.

the most daunting part is, perhaps, where to start. the most natural beginning, one might imagine, is the moment i realized i was in labor. but somehow that moment is much too abrupt -- first of all, i was in labor long before i realized it, and second of all starting there leaves out so much context that is needed to even begin to grasp how i felt during labor and after. so then where? the beginning of wren's story? the moment she was conceived? that's not even right. at our last birthing class, a few weeks ago, we were asked to make a birthing 'pouch': three items, one that reminded us of the mothers in our lives, one that reminded us of our partners, and one that reminded us of our babies, all wrapped up in a significant piece of fabric that we might open during labor to bring us back to basics. as i shared the objects in my pouch, i explained that the hardest item was the last. "i feel like i've known this baby forever," i said, "as though he or she has always been with me, somehow." that feeling has only become more profound since wren has made her way out to the world. even andy, staring at her yesterday, suddenly said: "i feel like i've known wren all my life."

so where to begin? with the funny moment almost exactly a week before her birth where i was having "practice contractions" while making dinner, put a cutting board down on a wet counter without realizing it, sloshed water all between my feet, and for a second stood staring at the floor, horrified, thinking "OH MY GOD MY REVISIONS AREN'T IN YET!" and then realizing what was going on with relief, although about an hour after that i was sent to bed with a bout of regular (and seriously uncomfortable) contractions? or on wednesday, when we didn't get to do belly pictures because our joan appointment fell right in the window between saadia getting home from work and dusk, and saadia fretting, saying, "i had a dream that you gave birth, and patrick predicted at the shower that the baby would be born on saturday, so i'm scared this will be the last chance for belly pictures" (which i of course assured her would not be the case)? or two days earlier, sitting on the train in rush hour with chris and having more "practice contractions" and saying, "you know, contractions on the train really suck," while a man standing over me barely pretended not to hear and widened his eyes, clearly concerned? or maybe the night before, when with a big, happy sigh, i hit "upload" and submitted my revisions just as my last load of cloth diapers came out of the dryer -- the two tasks i had BEGGED wren to wait for before making her appearance?

all of these are arbitrary starts, but if i have to choose one, so be it: i'll start with waking up on saturday, and desperately craving pancakes. andy and i laid in bed for a little while, and the lighting in the room was beautiful -- crisp and fallish somehow, even though it was a tad cloudy out. i felt really refreshed and energized and content. there was something really heightened about my senses that day, though i didn't think much of it til later. we woke up, and andy started making banana pancakes. i was really ravenous (also unusual for me in the third tri) and gobbled down four as we sat together in the sunroom and watched some of the "america's next top model" marathon -- on either mtv or vh1, i can't remember. as this was on all day, it actually plays a pretty big role in wren's birth day, i am sad to admit. at this point it was last season that was playing, and i remember talking really overly enthusiastically about natasha and her "graciousness" to andy, telling him about my most favourite episode of the show ever, when everyone gangs up on her and then get called out for "just being jealous" by tyra. okay, so, i was really weirdly amped on natasha that morning -- now i realize i was mostly just filled to the brim with energy that manifested itself in strange ways. surprisingly, andy listened to these anecdotes quite indulgently and even laughed appropriately. at that point he left to head to the graduate center to study for midterms, and i called my mom. she and i had planned to wash and organize baby clothes that day, which i hadn't gotten a chance to do yet. but when i called her i asked her if she could come down a little later since i really wanted to clean the house a bit. i knew i didn't have time to do the kind of deep cleaning i usually try to do on the weekends, but i really felt the need to at least straighten up -- organize that week's book and paper accumulation, wipe down the stove, do the breakfast dishes, things like that. these were things i was later quite happy to have gotten done, since birthing in a disorganized house would have made me a bit restless, i think. i actually took a bit longer getting that done than i had planned (i wouldn't call it 'nesting' per se, but i did a little more than simply 'straighten up') and when i called my mom to ask her to come down, she was running some errands. i asked her to pick me up some orange juice (another incredibly strong craving i was having) and sat and flipped through an issue of "body & soul" magazine (something i've been getting for free after "organic style" stopped printing). i ripped out a recipe for "shredded brussels sprouts with pecans and mustard seeds," and watched a bit more of america's next top model while i put together that weekend's to do list, which read something like this:

email cousins re: christmas
wash & organize clothes & baby stuff
wash receiving blankets & birthin sheets.

list of post-birth groceries
list of ideas for labor support
email stephanie
gestation mix -- catch up
more nup food
grade 267 papers
after-birth assignment sheets
rd fledgling

at that point i also checked my due date club on mothering dot com, and saw that my friend heather's waters had broken at 7am that morning. i sent her a crazed and excited email, and marvelled over the fact that our midwife, joan, had called it: at our appointment on wednesday, joan had mentioned she saw heather earlier that morning and that she had thought to herself "oh, joan, get some sleep tonight" because she "wouldn't be surprised if heather went soon." i told this story to both my mom and tahira later that afternoon, mentioning that joan had noted i was having similarly strong contractions throughout my visit "but that she also noted i wasn't quite so uncomfortable and restless during them" so i didn't get the sense she thought i would go early.

my mother arrived and i chugged back a load of orange juice, and we immediately set to the task of organizing the babystuff room, which was FILLED with boxes and bags of, well, baby stuff -- not to mention a few odds and ends that ended up in there when we were rearranging the house and then forgot about. now that i think about this, i was still a bit crazed and filled with energy, almost like i had ADD. this meant my mom did a lot of the organizing of the room which was good because she vacuumed and dusted like a mad and i stayed out of the room running around doing other things; i say this was fortuitous because i am allergic to dust and had i been staying put in that room and helping her perhaps as much as i should have been, i likely would have felt sick and congested during labor. at some point nani called my mom and i ended up chatting with her for a while -- as i paced the house speedily, giggling a lot, i mentioned that i didn't feel that "labor was imminent" because i didn't have that "restless energy" most pregnant women seem to have before they give birth. riiiiiiight.

once the room had been organized a bit, my mother insisted on filming me going through my shower gifts, because she thought my great aunt rosie would enjoy it. this was a point of contention to a degree because i thought it was a waste of time, since we had so much to do and it was already 2 or so. "you didn't even film me opening my wedding shower presents and we opened those at the shower," i pointed out. but i acquiesced pretty quickly, since my mom had been hurt that we had opened presents without her and i know to pick my battles. now i have to admit i'm rather glad we have the little film, where multiple times i mentioned how i was having "practice contractions but nothing serious" and where you can see me flinch a little and rub my lower stomach every little while, something that didn't register at the time, i did it so instinctively and was so good at ignoring the aches that were coming pretty regularly. my mother looked at me suspiciously several times, and when the tape wasn't running asked more than once if i was "sure" i wasn't in labor. i told her that they just felt like "period cramps" (as though this meant i wasn't in labor) and she responded, narrowing her eyes, "but that's what early labor feels like, b" -- at which point i remember thinking, with an internal sigh, that she was just overeager for the baby to be here because she didn't have anything to actually get done before then.

these contractions continued as i ran up and down the basement stairs washing my post-partum pads, the receiving blankets i had packed in my birth kit without getting a chance to wash, and load after load of baby clothing. at around five or so my father called and asked if we wanted something to eat since he was out with their handyman picking up food anyway. i had my THIRD strong craving of the day (again, very strange since i've not had a lot of those throughout pregnancy): falafel. so my father dropped off falafel and french fries, and my mother and i sat at the kitchen table eating, me on the birth ball. she asked about when i thought i would need her and my sisters when "labor actually did happen" and i explained i needed everyone to be flexible because "i really didn't know." this was a great conversation and one i had been dreading having, and i still think it interesting we had it that day, since neither of us really knew just how much flexibility i was going to need in the coming hours.

i can't remember the precise chronology of this but it was around that time that i begin getting tiny bits of pink-tinged mucous plug on my toilet paper. i mentioned this to my mother as well, and she looked startled. "you're having bloody show and you don't think you're in labor?" she demanded. i explained to her that women could lose their mucous plugs weeks and weeks before labor, and mentioned that this had happened to "my friend jenny." she looked skeptical, but we kept up with the organize clothing-take tags off clothing-wash clothing-fold clothing- talk about which receiving blankets to keep and which to return-routine: lather, rinse, repeat. i kept running up and down the stairs, still cheerful but fading a little and in the back of my mind wondering if i needed a nap. later my mom said "you were very convincing about not being in labor" around this time andy texted to say he wouldn't be home for dinner, so i figured i'd eat leftovers instead of making the soup, which was kind of a relief since i didn't feel like cooking at that point, immersed as i was in other tasks.

it was just around 7pm on the dot when i was standing in the room with my mother, clothing in hand, when i suddenly felt like i was peeing myself -- i made the gross comment "it feels weird -- sorta like i'm vomiting water out of my vagina" to andy on the phone shortly afterward. i yelped "oh shit" as i dumped the clothes on the kitchen table and ran to the bathroom. i started hysterically laughing, mostly out of nerves. when i opened the bathroom door a few seconds later, my mom was standing on the other side: "did your water break?"

at that moment, i really wished i could say no.

Date: 2007-11-16 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is so amazing to read!

Stuart arrived exactly a week prior to my due-date, so I can certainly relate to the denial -- particularly because I'd been so conditioned to steel myself to claims the he was "taking too long" to arrive when I (inevitably -- ha!) surpassed 40 weeks.

I'm just brimming with happiness for you.

P.S.: I've still never even attempted NAK. I've pumped at the keyboard (at work ... in my private office) plenty of times, though. And I have a tendency to pick up intra-departmental phonecalls while pumping, too. My co-workers have learned to stop asking, "Uh ... what's that whirring noise?"

Date: 2007-11-18 02:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
particularly because I'd been so conditioned to steel myself to claims the he was "taking too long" to arrive when I (inevitably -- ha!) surpassed 40 weeks.

i think this had a lot to do with my denial as well.


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