“Where ever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions and your spirit for the rest of your life.” (Ina May Gaskin)
At my first midwife appointment for my seventh child, I laughed at the very suggestion that my baby would be born on my birthday. My due date was June 20 and my birthday was June 22. None of my babies made it to their due dates.
Being adopted made the concept of my Birthday something that forced me to remember that my birth mother did not keep me. I think that was why I avoided the due date for this pregnancy and told myself that my baby was actually due around June 15.
It was not until twenty weeks that my pregnancy began to feel strange. I would try to sleep on my left side and around 3 AM panic would hit me. Some Braxton Hicks contractions forced my eyes open. My body would freeze on its side with my legs crossed as if that would stop a baby from being born. The only way to make the contractions stop was to walk around in the dark hoping my kids and husband Tim would not notice and look through my Facebook feed as a distraction.
I began to take baths in Epsom salts to calm down my uterus. The rushing sound of the water made my baby kick. I could see limbs moving aggressively from one side of my stomach to the other. Sometimes, I felt like the baby could escape through my skin. When the anxiety I felt at 3 AM crept into my mind during my baths, I reminded myself that baby and I would give birth peacefully in this tub.
Hours after I was officially forty weeks, I placed my hand on my stomach and said, Baby, it’s time. It felt like a miracle that my waters broke a few minutes later. This baby was stubborn. I was forty-weeks and three days and I had never been pregnant for this long. My waters had broken over sixty hours ago. We needed to get the baby’s head in the perfect position. Maybe that was why the process was taking forever.
Unfortunately, I had no contractions. The last two times this happened to me, with my first and third baby, I had my babies in the hospital and there were rules about inducing labor within twenty-four hours after my waters broke. My midwife would let me go for seventy-two hours.
I had been waiting for the pushing phase to begin about three different times. The first was when contractions were three minutes apart hours after my waters broke, but that did not begin active labor. Close to three days later, we had filled the tub when I had contractions that lasted longer than half a minute. Then everything stopped and I got dressed to go on a brisk paced walk. Around lunchtime, I hoped we could fill the tub again and everything would be over. I was so tired that a nap seemed more important than the pushing phase. We did not fill the tub again until around two in the afternoon when my contractions lasted about two minutes and they hurt the way serious working contractions did. I felt pain throughout my entire stomach, my back, and down my thighs. This had to be it. I knew I was getting close to the maximum amount of time that I would get to continue with my home birth. In a few hours, I would need to go to the hospital for some Pitocin.
I had some brutal contractions, but really long gaps between them. It had been about fifteen minutes since my last one and I was afraid my labor might stop again.
“What can I do to try and speed things along?”
“Try lunges on the edge of the tub,” my midwife mentioned.
“Okay,” I said.
If my midwife’s lunge idea really worked, all I had to do was hold this pose through a contraction and then switch legs and do it again. It was like labor yoga. I stood there waiting for a few minutes.
BOOM, the contraction felt like a bomb in my pelvis. I wanted to curl up in a ball, not place my other leg in a lunge and do this again.
“GET this baby out!”
“You can do it.” A chorus of my husband, the midwife, and her assistant was not going to get me through the second contraction.
After these lunges, I would get to sit in the water again. Unfortunately, one minute felt like an hour and fifteen minutes felt like half of the day.
“Baby’s position should be better now,” my midwife said.
I flopped down into the tub. My husband’s body around me felt like the walls of a small cave and all I wanted to do was escape.
“I’m going to need you to push the whole baby out if things stay like this,” my midwife said, “Your contractions are still too far apart and the baby’s head cannot be in the water that long.”
Despite my fatigue, I put all this information together and expected the next push to be the one. I heard “push this baby out in one push” in my mind. I was so sure it was going to be over, but nothing happened. Nobody had even noticed crowning.
It just had to be the next contraction.
I relaxed into Tim’s arms and his body tensed up around me.
“Let me check you,” my midwife said. She was calm, but I wondered if she thought something might be wrong. “You are almost at ten.”
“I’m not at ten!”
I felt my toes curl up against the tub. This wasn’t allowed to be the contraction that would push the whole baby out. Nope. I would have to wait. The only joy in this prospect was the fact that my contractions were finally close together. They were probably a few minutes apart, but I never bothered to ask.
My body forced me into pushing during the next contraction. It was as if I was going to move the sides of the tub with me. My eyes were closed. I could feel a tiny body tearing through me. I even had a second to hope and pray that my body wouldn’t be ripped by the time this one push was over. Normally, my babies had felt like slippery frogs coming out, even the bigger ones, but this baby felt like it was covered in gravel.
My midwife lifted my child out of the water. On my chest was a startled purple baby. Why was my little boy that color? A green oxygen tank was beside the tub and she put a small plastic tube under his nose.
“We need to get your placenta out now and possibly transfer you to the hospital.”
My baby ended up in the assistant’s arms. I watched his suspicious expression closely. The left brow area was wrinkled up. Newborns do not actually have eyebrows, but if he did have one, it would have been raised in an arc over his left eye.
“I know that look,” Tim said. It was the first time that he’d spoken since we’d seen the condition of our baby.
“He looks like his brother Dominic,” I said.
We both became quiet. I watched the midwife’s assistant reach for her phone and whisper something. My midwife said, “He’s breathing beautifully,” She removed the oxygen tank and helped me out of the tub.
After having seven babies with two very distinct labor patterns, I began to wonder if those long labors mimicked my birth mother’s labor with me. I either had broken waters and hours of waiting or shorter labor with not broken waters until the pushing phase. The second pattern seemed to match stories my mother-in-law told me about her births. Those babies were seven pounds like Tim. The first labor pattern went with my babies that were five pounds. According to my adopted parents, I was five pounds at birth.
If I had been born in a hospital, there probably would be records of things like my heartbeat, the contraction patterns, and how many hours of labor. If there were such records at my own birth, I never saw them and I was never told anything. This mission of the home where I was born was more about finding families for babies, not recording data.
When I thought back to my pregnancy, I had been frustrated with why it had been much harder on my emotions than the previous six. If I had thought more about the possibility of my baby being born on my due date, I could have considered going to counseling, but my mind was elsewhere. I kept telling myself I was fine, but my body displayed a different response to this particular pregnancy. This pregnancy and birth became the one where I felt my way through unconscious emotions.
It was 3:04 PM on my birthday when my baby was born.
On Facebook, people congratulated me “What a great birthday gift.” I loved my son. I was happy he was in my arms, still, I wanted him to have his own day. A day that was not connected to the day I was abandoned.
Marion Ruybalid is a mother of eight mix-raced children (3 girls and 5 boys). She was adopted from Dhaka, Bangladesh by British parents when she was five months old. She has an MFA in creative writing from UCR Palm Desert and her work has appeared in Mutha, PANK, Portrait of an Adoption-ChicagoNow, BLUNTmoms, and The Manifestation.
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