Once the beating of Willa’s heart filled the birthing suite, we began to settle in, unpacking the rolling suitcase that rivaled my own growing size. After the past month of patchy labor signs coming in and out, I felt like I’d finally made the team.
I slipped into the maroon jersey nightgown I’d chosen for labor and scooched the provided mesh underwear up my legs. My mom helped affix the foot-long menstrual pad to the material of my giant briefs.
With the scare of the blood and water breaking out of the way, we launched into our previously outlined procedure, the one I’d sketched out on charts and planners over the last months. As is my custom, I had executed about seventy percent of my insane pre-birth checklists, but this landed me at a more relaxed person’s one hundred percent ready to welcome baby Willa into the world.
Drew sent text messages to our inner circle. He dispatched my sister in law Christy who would be serving as my lay-woman doula in the delivery room. We unpacked the hospital bag and plugged in the essential oil diffuser. Drew added water and several shakes of lavender oil into its basin and the suite filled with heavy herbal mist.
My heart raced with Willa’s at each tightening, grateful, anxious, excited, impatient all at once.
The contractions came and went, painful but not unmanageable. They registered on the tachometer as peaking mounds met with the temporary increase in the baby’s heart rate. My heart raced with Willa’s at each tightening, grateful, anxious, excited, impatient all at once.
The nurse switched out my heart and contraction monitors for wireless ones that would allow me to more easily move about and use the birthing tub. I had many ideas for how I might want to labor, many memorized contortions that made me feel like a cave woman, grunting and primal.
The nurse with the tinkly bracelet came in to administer my two hour drip of antibiotics. She put a heplock IV in my arm as per my vigilante birth plan. This one page document ensured I wouldn’t get swallowed by the medical industrial complex. We’d workshopped it in our natural birthing class and printed enough copies so that even the cafeteria workers at the hospital would know I didn’t want a medicated birth.
The nurse warned me about an incoming burning sensation, which I could combat by keeping my arm moving to help spread the medication. I braced myself for two hours of searing pain in my veins. “When does the burning start?” I asked squinting my eyes in preparation.
The nurse laughed, the charms on her bracelet clanking together as she pressed buttons on the IV poll. “If you didn’t feel any, it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s only when the medicine starts. Don’t worry.”
Time darted and stalled, taking on the shape of the mounds and valleys on the screen monitoring my contractions.
Time darted and stalled, taking on the shape of the mounds and valleys on the screen monitoring my contractions. My birthing team, Drew, Christy, my mom, and my dad (who was only supposed to stay for a little while) assembled in our birthing suite and ate Chipotle burritos to prepare for the hours of my crunchy labor.
With each surge, I used the breathing from my prenatal yoga class, matching the length of my inhales and exhales. Christy and my mom took turns rubbing my lower back, something I was surprised I didn’t really enjoy. Each contraction took my voice away before I could tell them to stop massaging or explain that I wanted less pressure. Drew explored the closet off our suite filled with different birthing tools. He brought out a somewhat deflated birthing ball and a peanut shaped inflatable the nurse had suggested for labor with a posterior positioned baby.
Two midwives were on call that night, since one was new to the practice and still got scheduled with a more senior midwife. Neither was my first choice from the group of midwives, but I hadn’t gotten the one who made me feel like I was a cast member of “My 600-lb Life” when she diagnosed me with gestational diabetes. Overall, this looked like a promising birthing team.
Jenna, the new midwife, had the wide stance and no-frills politeness of someone from the midwest. She wore her strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and sported a pair of Warby Parker glasses, an update since my last appointment. She lived in one of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods and had given me an internal exam at the office a few weeks ago (read: had her hands in my business as far up as they could go), so she felt familiar enough.
The supervising midwife Michelle seemed to have recently gone on a life-changing tropical vacation.
The supervising midwife Michelle seemed to have recently gone on a life-changing tropical vacation. At our appointment earlier that day, I’d noticed she had new sassy highlights and while her skin had darkened to a caramel tan, her overall demeanor had lightened. Both midwives clunked around the room in Dansko clogs.
Even though the contractions occasionally gripped my midsection through to my back, Michelle noted that I needed more umph and action to deliver a posterior baby resting so high in my pelvis.
She encouraged me to order something from the hospital cafeteria since it would be a long night. When I finished eating, she’d come back and see where my contractions were. If they hadn’t strengthened, lengthened, and gotten closer together, we’d have to consider using Pitocin.
Christy timed my contractions as we all willed them to get longer, to come more often, and to register on the screen of the tachometer. And here is where the doubt starts to seep in. The voices of a thousands Ina May Gaskins and home birth advocates begging me to ask more questions, to try flipping myself into a headstand, or swallowing a bottle of castor oil.
The heart monitor dropped the baby’s heart beats and picked up my own, as if it knew that at that moment, I needed closer monitoring.