I’m never quite sure if this story is better told in English or in Portuguese. It was almost entirely lived in Portuguese, if there is such a thing, but I know that I am able to express things in English that access parts of me that Portuguese does not. And I am curious, as I have written about this in Portuguese before, but not in English. Thus, I feel my words may surprise even myself. Especially myself.
So all right, another birth story. Another one! But no, to me it is the only one, the only birth story to come out of my womb and my 10-month-old ovalish belly.
The end of the pregnancy was as gradual as the waxing bump, or so it felt. With an initial series of bumpy, stop-and-go crampy days, then a build-up of doctor’s appointments and serious concerned faces as the “you’ll probably won’t need our next appointment” turned into “well, now I need you to come in every other day”…and the “each birth has it’s own schedule” turned into “why don’t you schedule some acupuncture and let me do this little maneuver here on your cervix?”…And that 41st week dripped by in increments of wait…wait…wait…ping, pong, ping.
41 and 1 day.
41 and 2…
41 and 2 and half…
Every contraction I felt set all systems into full alert and I had to control my eagerness and joy at the possibility of that being “IT”. But it never was.
41 and 2 and three quarters…
What happens at 42, I wondered, do I explode? Do I implode? Desperation starting taking over me, as the words c-section started to hound my plans for a home birth. “BIG BABY” was another classic. Perhaps you are diabetic? Let’s just be sure, let’s submit you to 1000 tests which just happen to be your greatest phobia, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. And they were.
BIG BABY, said the ultrasound technician, does your doctor KNOW about this? I would call her right away!
BIG FRICKIN ME, I would retort in my mind, BIG MOM, just suck it up! But no, of course I said nothing.
41 2 days and 9/10ths….
Plus a brew of chocolate, cinnamon, ginger, and many other things that might sound fine separately and in homeopathic doses, but on this particular Friday evening, was a concoction meant to churn the stomach, taste buds and eventually, my uterus.
And so it did. The tightening of the belly started up once more, and once more I had to curb my enthusiasm – be careful, I said to myself, it could be more of the same…but it wasn’t. One after the other. One, after, the other. Little waves. No rhythm though, or regular intervals, but they were there to stay.
Slowly everyone was activated. Husband, check! Doula, check! Midwives, check! The doula/my good friend came over first and would stay till the end. One midwife of the pair came to check up on me and perform one of the maaaaaany checks that would take place over the next X hours.
I can’t even say how much I was dilated (or not dilated), but it is enough to say that I was still in very early labor, and that she would only come back once active labor started, after 4cm. So she left, and I spent that night enjoying my contractions and getting used to that tightening sensation. Finding positions, finding mind-body connections that helped…I learned to zone out completely, give in to the pain, and thus I slept during some intervals, all through the night.
And then, morning came. Light, sunshine, renewed energy. The other midwife came and another dilation check.
Some more progress, small, but it was happening. However, we seemed to have entered the initial stages of active labor, so the midwives took turns staying with us that Saturday, never leaving us alone.
I did not feel discouraged and felt like rolling up my sleeves and saying, alright, let’s get this started!
And from here on I have really hard time with the timeline. Something like this, ready?
All family and close friends were informed of labor in progress (as I said, my end of pregnancy had become an issue of concern and quite the SUSPENSE topic, when will it be, when will it be?? So there was no one who was not aware that a baby was supposed to be coming out at any moment, THEREFORE, it was impossible to hide the news, as people called and texted).
So Ezequiel spent quite some time updating and tranquilizing people: all is well, labor is progressing, no, no baby yet, all is well, etc, etc, a loop of the same answers.
And then…pain got worse, I remember lots of throwing up during contractions. I remember the taste of vanilla ice cream, I remember straws, I remember honey, I remember the shower, I remember finding perfect positions on the bed, propped up with lots of pillows…I actually liked lying down, even though it’s supposedly one of the worst positions. Being on all fours was unbearable, I remember that too…
And I remember that evening started encroaching and someone asked if I wanted another check…and yes I did!! I felt like I was about to get an A plus after so much hard work..so I laid down and had that horrible check done and…
And the messaging got more intense, the phone calls to my mom, who was beside herself with worry and after a few hours of not updates thought to herself: Well, that MUST mean the baby has been born!! Of course! And so she came over unannounced to the apartment, toting my grandma along for the show. What a disappointment for her to see me still in labor, what a fright and horrible reaction she had…the entire atmosphere of patience and calm and concentration started crumbling.
So now there was that. There were my own concerns, my own process of getting through the contractions, trying to understand what another night in labor meant, and the concerns of the entire world following me via text messages. And my mom. And grandma. Who were now also wedged into the little tiny apartment.
That night I threw up a loooo-ooot, I remember that, but I also got back in the zone and was able to forget everybody there. I didn't want to know about time, time was absolutely relative and irrelevant. I got into my lying down hypnotic state with pillows everywhere and dove into the pain as each contraction took over.
And morning came. Again. This was getting old.
Sun, light, open windows…
one more check…9 cm!
I remember shouting, Hallelujah!! Yes!
There were even broken waters in the middle of another great heave, gushing with new life.
All motors started running again, enthusiasm took over all who had spent the night dozing on and off on the couch and chairs:
Let’s turn on the incense, put on the red-tinted light bulbs, fill the bathtub for pain relief and possible birth, this is it, this is IT!
I was ordered out of the apartment to take a walk. Yes, a walk around the block on a Sunday morning after 2 sleepless nights and an entire day in labor, still having strong contractions, dripping amniotic fluid, hair a mess and a ghastly exhausted look on my face. But off I went, if it was going to help this along, I was going to do it…a very slow and intense walk around the block…in this absurdly ridiculousely bright sunlight I felt had nothing to do with my world at that moment. What was that, sunlight? Sunday morning? I felt like if on another planet completely.
We went back to the apt, and I got in the water, the wonderful, wonderful warm tub of water.
I was told – hey, from here on, you will start to feel the urge to push, go with the flow and do what your body tells you, ok? She’s going to be born!!
Ok, no problem, go with the flow, go with the flow,
Where was the flow?
Absolutely no pushing urges.
Ok, that’s ok, it can take a while, they said.
And so some hours went by.
Hmm, they said.
Are you sure? No pushing sensation?
Yes…well, ok..maybe? (I really wanted to be feeling something, ANYTHING, it seemed to be very important to them)
They started teaching me about this so-called-urge, push down there, breath and push down…Let’s lie on the bed so that we can watch you do it and see what's going on.
Of course, my mother got nervous once more and paced back and forth in search of “WHAT TO DO” and what “WAS NOT BEING DONE”. She panicked, basically, and the midwives were panicking because there was this person questioning their every move and my labor was not progressing in a form they were familiar with. Nothing was going as they expected, but since I was still ok, and the baby was still ok, we were moving on (despite my mother wanting me to go the hospital ASAP).
Now the IV-part.
Hey, look, you’ve been in labor a long time, we’re afraid your uterus might stop contracting due to exhaustion, we better be safe and hook you up to Pitocin just to get things moving along again (my time in the tub had seemed to slow everything down).
IV? Panic inside me, but hey, if this is what it takes, here we go.
The contractions came in little block formations, uniform, one after the other, like punches to my soul.
Punch, punch, punch, no time to breathe.
With each one I was coached: Breath! Push! Down! Push! More! There! Breath! Oh – no, not like that! You’re not doing it right!
And that lasted a while until I got fed up and exasperated, how could I be doing it WRONG if it was something that supposedly was an URGE, something that would take over me so strongly that no earthly force would be able to stop me?
Where was the urge? And I began doubting the whole process.
The IV was unhooked, I needed to rest, and everyone needed to regroup. Anxious midwives huddled in corners talking, avoiding my mother who paced back and forth in her anger and concern.
I went to the bathroom, where Ezequiel tried to give me a pep talk, about how much I wanted this, about how much we were close (we were able to see her head during the pushing, but it always scooted back up again when I was done). He started saying how I was being influenced by my mother and blablabla, Everything everyone said from there on had become one big drone.
One flat sound against a flat wall of me not being able to hear myself anymore.
There’s no shame in going to the hospital
Are you sure you don’t want to try the IV again?
You’re so close! Don’t give up!
You can’t do this anymore, you’ve done all you could
I cried on the toilet, sad, pathetically drenched in sweat, practically naked and completely tired of caring who saw what or what I looked like. I felt like the apt had been divided into sides and I was on the verge of making one side win and the other one lose.
So fed up.
I wanted it to be over.
I wanted it to be over.
I wanted it to be over.
Meekly I said – hospital.
I was met with resistance, I think one of the midwives almost started crying, Frustrated, confused, mad?
Hospital please. I need this to be over.
I got in the car, feeling nothing at all, numb. I sipped on my Gatorade and had absolutely no concerns about feeling contractions in the car, as I knew it was over. And in fact, it was. No more contractions came.
Quick summary of hospital:
My OBGYN came, so nice, so kind, such a relief amidst all those worried and tired people who had seen me throw up too many times and had stuck their hands inside me too many times.
Are you sure, Maya, this is what you want? We can try Pitocin again.
I was adamant, I was desperate, we would NOT try that again, it was absolute agony.
But even so, I think the nurses put it in as protocol (??) and as soon as I felt the contractions I started shouting like a 2 year old – No, no, no, no, what is this?! No, no, take it off, take it off!! I had lost all self-respect.
And it was off.
And I was gowned.
And I was injected with anesthesia….sweeeeeet anesthesia. I melted into the inevitable and the relief. Someone take care of it now, I am done. I put it all in your hands, sweet lady doctor.
Baby coming out in less than 5 minutes, being shown to me, me saying “she’s real??” and then baby gone. Me gone. I started shaking, I started bleeding, I was in whole new world.
Hours later I stabilized. Hours shaking and watching the world from my horizontal viewpoint, watching Ezequiel pace back and forth with Cora tightly wrapped in hospital blankets (that’s right, we forgot to pack for the hospital, we had NOTHING). Grateful I didn’t have to hold her. I just wanted to lie there and never have to do anything ever again. Much less think about the fact that there was a baby to care for now. That was completely un-thinkable at that point.
Eventually we went up to the room, and that was the start of a whole ‘nother story. Breastfeeding began, blood transfusions took place, pain, pain pain and terrible c-section sensation when getting up, sitting up, lying down, going to the bathroom, uuughhhH!!)
One day I’ll get to chapter 2, as I know the ending has left many questions and a sense of sadness, but it was sad for me, as well as abrupt -
- so nothing more appropriate.