If you would like to read the whole of the birth story in one go,
There are a lot of myths about pregnancy – about what you can and can’t do. People will audibly gasp if they see you drinking coffee. Pick up a box, and suddenly your a damsel in distress. People tell will tell you your glowing – when you’re certain that you’ve done nothing but scowl all day because your sciatica is burning. Birth educators and people in the know will tell you that childbirth is nothing like the movies, that there is no need to rush if you water breaks- and that in reality – only about of a third of women have their water break outside of the hospital. Life, it seems is more fun than fiction – because it was straight up Hollywood in the house after my water broke.
I made it to the bathroom and hunkered down to take some breaths and figure out what to do next. In the back of my head I could hear one of the docs listing off the complications of going in to labor while a baby was breach, and I tried to shut down that voice for the time being. Your father walked into the bathroom talking on two phones, and holding my notebook with everyone’s number. He was on the phone with Nana while dialing my boss, I took the Nana phone. Nana was gleeful, and surprised you were early. She gave me tips about the whole water breaking thing, and the making it to the hospital thing – put a towel in my pants – why not. Daddy got off the phone with my boss laughing. Apparently when told, “we’re having a baby”, my principal Bill answered, “It took you nine months to figure that out?” We called the doctors and your Grampa, who cried. We called Aunty Kyle and Katherine, and Uncle Corey. All were put on standby, all were told to think good thoughts. And then we packed.
Yes, I know, you’re supposed to pack a bag at like 30 weeks. Look, I haven’t done anything early in my life – why would I start with a hospital bag. I had though, made a list about what was supposed to be in this bag – so I started tossing things in. Literally, tossing, no folding, no order. I was a woman, nine months pregnant, with a towel in her pants, playing basketball with a suitcase and balled up onsies.
February the seventh was cold, and clear, and quiet. As we closed the lights in the house, checked the pellet stove, gave Callie an extra treat, and turned on NPR to keep her company, I took a long look around a house that had no children. I at that moment, had the realization, a realization I hadn’t had while my belly was growing, that everything was about to change.
In the car, we agreed that your name would be Jack if you were a boy, and Zoe if you were a girl. The eight minute trip to the hospital seemed to take forever, and your father must have hit every bump the DPW had forgotten from Hatfield to Northampton. We pulled into Cooley, parked the car and gathered our things. We had to wait in the ER while an L&D nurse came to get us.
I had one contraction in the elevator on the way up to the maternity ward. One. I had one more after the hooked me to the monitor. In total, I had three contractions that led to you coming into the world. At the time it seemed like some kind of failure, in retrospect, it was just fine. When we got into the room we were given to prep for the surgery, I was handed a pile of clothes to change into. If I was a rich woman, who ruled the world, I would do something about the that stack of clothes they give mamas-to-be when they check into maternity wards. Gone would be the tents of green and and teal. I would hand out gowns cut to show the bulge of our bellies, I would make them out of jersey, and I would hand out silk robes with rich patterns for mamas to wear as they received visitors. And the socks, if I was going to pass out no-slip socks in maternity wards, they would not be brown.
Once hooked to the monitor, Dr. Kates came into take a look at me, “we’re just going to make sure your water broke”
“um, Dr. Kates I drove here with a towel in my pants.”
“oh yeah, your water broke”
“let’s double-check that the baby’s still breech”
“oh yup, breech”
Geniuses – all of them.
That your Nana must have drove very fast to get to see you born, is probably and understatement. She had just started a new job, and was in the middle of training the night you were born. She had to drive home, pack her own bag, and then drive sixty miles up route 91. She made it with time to spare. It’s one of life’s little blessings when your mother is there to see your child born. And for me, everything is okay when my mama is around.
Part of the reason that I so wanted an intervention free birth, is that I was pretty damn afraid of getting an epidural. Look, I’m just saying, medicine administered through your spine, not my idea of a good time. And, as it turns out, the hardest part about having you, was getting the epidural. Apparently I have a slight curvature of the spine, and the anesthesiologist, he with Coke bottle glasses, and an accent thick like Baryshnikov, couldn’t get the needle in the first time, and had to do it twice. Not awesome. Your father though, such a pro, held my hands, stood right in front of me, and was just the freakin’ best.
Oh, also fun, loosing all sensation below your waist. Still one the weirder things I’ve been through in life. Though, I felt like it took a long time to get that way. They kept asking me if I could still feel my legs, and I still could. I got worried that they were going to tire of waiting, and just start the surgery before I was numb. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, because that medicine, well it kicked in, bigtime. It made me numb, and super loopy. Suddenly being in the hospital, having a baby, was a bit like being in college, and going to a music festival.
Speaking of music, I made a mix cd for the surgery suite. As they wheeled me in, the notes of an Ani Difranco tune drifted towards me. For a moment, it seemed a little bit like a party. Everyone was happy, the nurses were ready, the techs were counting instruments, and the docs were chatting away. Though, Nana and your father looked, from my angle, a little overwhelmed.
When they began the surgery, I was trying to sing along to the Indigo Girls – trying because the amount of drugs I was on, plus singing, equals terribly off tune. I’m trying to tell you something ’bout my life, maybe give me insight between black and white, and the best thing you’ve ever done for me, was to help me take my life less seriously, it’s only life after all. Oh goodness, wasn’t it true. I had planned every little thing, every minute detail in my life, and up to that very evening, had tried to control the world– and from the very beginning little one, you were trying to teach me to just. let. go.
And, about letting go. You apparently had no intention of leaving your warm, sweet spot tucked under my heart. I believe, that given the opportunity, Dr. Kates would have put a foot up on the surgical table for leverage if she thought it would make a difference. Finally you did let go, though you expressed your extreme distaste at the situation by biting Dr. Kates. And then, you let us know you were just fine. Lungs breathed in air, and you little man, were born into this world with a a healthy cry, at 11:40 in the evening, on February the 7th, 2007.
“It’s a boy”, your father said. Another surprise, I must admit, as I had always thought you would be a girl. Surprise faded quickly as I started turning the words “a son, a son a son”, over and over and over in my brain.
A moment- about Cooley Dickinson hospital, it is lovely. It is lovely, and the nurses rock my world. The nurses were the best part of my stay there. They were kind, and supportive, and calming, and educated, and funny. They were gentle, and thoughtful, and it seemed all-knowing. They held my hand through epidurals that scared me, brushed my forehead as docs were cauterizing, and checked in on me every moment of our stay at the hospital. They were so gentle with you, and so gentle with your sweet little body as you came into this world. They wrapped you as if you were their own, checked your parts as each was a gift, and until you could be handed to your father treated you as if you were a precious loan from a famous museum, careful not to mar the priceless art.
When you were handed to your father, and examined by your Nana, and delivered to me, we all ooh and ahhed, and were just amazed. But also, we were admittedly, a little confused, because you looked nothing like the name we had picked you. Nana noticed first, and then your father, and I in my loop-a – doop world, finally caught on. Everyone could see that there was no way you could be a Jack, your name must be Kai, and so Kai James Pitre it would be.
We were both shivering, you and I. Your body temperature had dropped, and I, as they were stitching me up, couldn’t stop shaking. They had swaddled and un-swaddled you, placed you under warming lights, and then doubled up your wrappings. On me, they layered heated blankets – and yet still we both continued to quiver. That is, until, a wise nurse handed you to me, tucked you in under my blankets, back next to my heart. I stopped shaking, almost instantly, and by the time we got to the recovery room, your temperature was on its way up.
It was long past midnight when they wheeled us in to the recovery room. The grown ups were tired, and I was nauseous from the combination of pot-roast and anesthesia. There apparently is a reason to fast before major surgery. But you darling, you were lovely, and perfect, and long. Your little feet and sweet toes seemed edible. You had a full head of hair, shiny gray eyes, and you were desperate to eat. That bit took us a while, the latching, and the nursing – so hard when we were both so new at it. By four am, you had eaten a little, and they rolled us back to the room where we would camp out for what would seem like weeks. Your Nana headed back to the house to get some rest, and your father crashed hard on the pull out couch next to my bed. You in your little isolate just seemed so tiny. For the rest of the dark hours of the night, I would drift off to sleep for a few minutes, and then wake up to see if you were really still there.
In the days that followed, there was a steady march of people to meet you, and long afternoons of bad television, and learning to nurse – I don’t think I ever realized how hard it would be. And truth be told, this is the one area, that no matter how much help we were given, you and I – we just had to figure it out on our own.
On February the 11th, we were able to go home. As your father and I dressed you, and got you ready for the world, I wasn’t sure who declared us grown up enough for this task.It felt a little crazy to leave the safety of the maternity ward, I mean, there are no night nurses at home- no pre-made meals, no fresh linens – no housekeeping. But somehow, your father and I found enough nerve, enough bravery, to go through those thick double doors of the maternity ward, take you down the elevator, and out into the big, scary, beautiful world. We’ve been managing the best we can, ever since.