It was June of 2008. Zuzu’s due date came and went, which was fine with me, frankly, because we weren’t ready. We didn’t set up her crib until three days after her due date, and five days after her due date we did a cathartic attic and closet cleaning. I wasn’t really all that uncomfortable, even though it was my third pregnancy. The most uncomfortable thing, really, was when people would ask me when I was going to be induced, and then would be shocked and dismayed when I told them I didn’t have any plans for induction, but would let her be born when she was ready.
Saturday, June 14, ten days after her due date, I lay in bed at 5:00 a.m. and realized I had been having regular, mild, contractions for a while. I got out of bed half an hour later and started doing the puttering that needs to happen when you’re going to have a baby that day, like making sure to pack my eyeglasses and a comfy pillow. I called our friend and neighbor Susannah, who would be watching the boys, to tell her that today was finally the day (the waiting had been much worse for Susannah than it had been for me, who had been afraid to leave her house, worried that she’d miss my call).
At 8:00 we walked over to Susannah’s to drop off the boys. I was still feeling fine; the contractions were regular and stronger, but not bad. Susannah said, “You don’t look like you’re in labor, you look like you could go out and have breakfast somewhere!” We walked back home, got to our front step, and Dave turned to me soberly and said, “Um. Jul? I was thinking of putting a coat of varnish on the floor on the back porch.” Which might sound crazy, but made perfect sense to me. We had been renovating our back porch, Dave had sanded the floor, and it seemed like the day when we’d all be out of the house all day would be the perfect day to put on a coat of varnish. I occupied myself by grabbing a mason jar and some scissors, since I had noticed there were some flowers in the garden in bloom that would look nice in a vase. While I was out there, wading through the greenery, Adriane, another friend and neighbor, walked by.
Julie: Today’s the day!
Adriane: What? Really? What are you doing? Shouldn’t you be going to the hospital?
Julie: I’m putting some flowers in a vase.
Adriane: Where’s Dave?
Julie: He’s putting a coat of varnish on the back porch floor.
Adriane: [walks to the back porch, sees Dave through the open window] Dave! There’s blasé, and there’s blasé!
Which is still one of my favorite memories of that day, because it reminds me of how much I love our neighbors and our neighborhood, and how relaxed and happy the morning was.
We got to the hospital at 9:30, and then: well, nothing. I had contractions, and they got stronger, but didn’t get any closer together. Henry’s labor had been 6 hours, and Eli’s had been 3, so I really had been expecting the third labor to last an hour or so once we got moving along. I really concentrated on opening things up during each contraction, but I was 6 centimeters dilated, and two hours later, I was “almost 7.” We called Susannah at noon to tell her things were taking a while. In the meantime, between contractions, Dave and I got to talk to each other in a way that never really happens (that is, we talked without children climbing all over us in the middle of the conversation). We talked about work, about the boys, about Henry starting kindergarten, and about what color to paint our house. I took a nap.
At 3:30, Leah, my midwife, checked me and I was 7-and-a-half centimeters dilated, and frustrated. A nurse mentioned something called “AROM” which stands for “artificial rupture of membranes,” meaning they would break my water for me, since it hadn’t broken yet and the thinking was that, once that happened, the birth would be fairly quick. They left Dave and me to think about that, but we both felt pretty strongly that we wanted Zuzu to be born on her own time, like we’d let the boys be born, and it didn’t seem fair to speed things along just because we were worried about the boys, and because I was getting tired of being in labor. At this point Dave also said, “You know, you seem to be doing a lot better when everyone leaves you alone.” So when the nurse and Leah came back in, I told them we didn’t want to do AROM, and that I also wanted to be left alone.
They left, and I looked at Dave and said, “Ok, I’m going to make this happen.” I went into the shower, relaxed, and did what I could to move things along naturally (i.e., what is commonly known as “nipple stim,” an awkward but effective method of speeding up labor). I wasn’t really aware of what was happening, but Dave (who was in the other room) realized the contractions were coming very fast now, and he got up to go get a nurse. At which point my water broke, and, for the first time in all my births, I really felt the urge to push – but I knew that I couldn’t, because I was standing up and couldn’t bend over to catch her. So I held her in with all my might, and screamed, “Dave! Water broke! Baby coming NOW!” (Or, at least, that’s what I meant to scream, it probably just sounded more like one long shrieked vowel.) Dave was there instantly, and I have such a strong memory of his giant hand under me, ready to catch the baby. Then there were a million nurses in the bathroom, and Dave got out of the way and turned the water off.
“I have to push!” I yelled, and I did, and her head came out. Seven nurses yelled in unison, “Where’s Leah?” and someone else said, “She’s coming!” Then Leah was there, saying, “Let’s get you to the bed.” A nurse said, “The head’s out.” “Oh!” said Leah. “Can I just push her out?” I begged. And Leah said yes, and I did, and Leah caught slippery Zu and handed her to me, and I waddled with her to the bed so I could birth the placenta.
Dave looked shocked and amused. He leaned in and whispered, “That was exactly like that scene in ‘Monty Python’s Meaning of Life’ where the Catholic woman gives birth while doing dishes.” I nodded and whispered back, “I know!” Zuzu was clearly quite pleased with herself, having her birth just the way she planned. She was calm and started nursing right away. I asked if I could tell people it was a water birth. I noticed how nice and clean the bed was compared to my other births – it’s definitely tidier to have your baby in the shower.
It was a long labor, but a very short birth: the time from when my water broke to when she was born was probably about 40 seconds. I still don’t know how all those nurses got there so fast. And now I’m pregnant with my fourth and I don’t know what to expect for this one’s birth, but I do know that I want to let her be born the way she chooses to, just like the others.
From Julie of World of Julie.
PS — Here’s a great story with a super short labor, a birthing skirt and some mooing from Rebecca Blythe.
Note from Design Mom: throughout my pregnancy, I’ve been posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. I just had my baby and am taking a blogging break for a week or so. I’ve received so many wonderful stories and thought it would be great to post as many as I can during this little “maternity leave.” You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here.