Friday, September 3, 2004

Jiro’s Homebirth

Jiro’s Homebirth
Stacey Greenberg

When you came out
Looking red as a beet
You had wrinkles on the bottoms of your feet
Oh, you are so sweet, potato
You are my sweet potato
-Malcolm Dalglish

Five days past my due date, resigned to be pregnant forever, I woke up at 2am to what felt like menstrual cramps. Fifteen minutes later, more. And again. In my mind I thought, “This is it! My fantasy two hour labor is starting now. Must. Call. Everyone.” Since it was the middle of the night, I decided to calm down and see what happened. After another hour of steady, but mild contractions, I called Amy, one of my midwives. She told me to go to sleep and call her if they got stronger and/or closer together, but to check in around 6am regardless. I managed to rest, with maybe a little sleep, until then. I called Amy back to report that not much had changed but the contractions were still steady. She said she’d get her kids off to school and be by around 9am to check me.

In the meantime, Satchel, my two year old, was up and we had breakfast to eat, a lunch to pack, clothes to put on, etc. By the time my husband, Warren, got him out the door at 8am, my steady contractions had pretty much stopped. I gave Warren the green light to go shopping for gyoza supplies, as he was scheduled to make a Japanese dish for Satchel’s class the next day. I plopped on the sofa and started flipping channels. Of course I stopped on TLC’s “A Baby Story,” even though I HATE that show. Much to my amazement they were featuring a homebirth. And a water birth at that! It must be a sign I thought.

Amy arrived and happily reported that I was indeed 3cm dilated and was the proud owner of a very stretchy cervix. “This is it,” she told me. However, she warned that it could be another long one. (My first labor was 36 hours.) She guessed it would be midnightish and proceeded to brew up some red raspberry leaf tea for me to drink. She went about setting up her supplies, getting the bed ready, etc. Warren came home and insisted on making her some fancy coffee. After hanging out and chatting a bit, she suggested I go on a walk and told me she’d be back later.

Warren and I got the dogs and headed to the park, hoping a walk might get things going again. I had quit going on our weekly park trips after falling at 33 weeks, and I hadn’t been to the trails without Satchel in two years. It was all very surreal. Like we had gone back in time to the days before becoming parents. We walked for about an hour at an incredibly slow pace as I could hardly take a step without having a strong desire to wet my pants. Every few minutes I had to stop and lean against a tree and call for Warren to put some counter pressure on my back. My lovely mild “menstrual cramps” had morphed into the dreaded back labor, just like with Satchel. Lucky me.

We got back around noon and tried to act calm. Warren went to work in the kitchen and I called my best friend, Marlinee, and broke the news. She happened to be out east near the new burrito stand and I offered to give her some gyoza later in exchange for a burrito ASAP. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse. An hour later I was wobbling barefoot and about as pregnant as one can be out to her car to pick up the yummiest burrito this side of San Francisco. It was so good, I even let Warren have some.

Amy came back around 2pm and I begged her to check me, but she wisely talked me out of it. On my most recent trip to the bathroom, I had bloody show and I saw the elusive mucous plug! Fun. I called Amy in to look. A sure sign of my cervix opening she said. I then started asking when I could get the “amazing back labor cure”—four small injections of sterile water in my back—that she’d been boasting about. She said since it only lasted about 30 minutes I should wait until my contractions were closer together than 15 minutes. I relented. Amy went to knit and I went to rest.

The resting wasn’t working. I couldn’t bear to be lying down. I wandered through the house moaning, hoping for a little attention. Warren was busy cooking and Amy had fallen asleep anticipating a long evening, I’m sure. Thankfully Warren would stop cooking long enough to supply some counter pressure and record the contractions. It seemed like they were getting a bit closer together. I pulled out the birth ball and set up camp in the bedroom. It was almost 5pm and clearly I wasn’t going to have the baby before Satchel’s school let out. Warren wanted to get more groceries so he could make snacks for me and the midwives. He agreed to go to the store, pick up Satchel, and then take him to the playground. (I also reminded him that he better not ever get me pregnant again.) I called Martina, my other midwife, and asked her to try and come before Warren left. I called my mom and told her the plan, since she was on official Satchel duty once things got going.

By 5:30, I was begging Amy for the sterile water injections and my contractions were getting really intense, but I kept telling myself I had hours to go and not to panic. Amy decided to check me and I was 6cm and fully effaced. Thank you evening primrose! Martina arrived and she and Amy agreed that the sterile water would be a good idea. Four tiny injections and I would be home free. As they geared up, Martina said, “Ok this is going to burn like hell.” I asked if it would make me cry and she said maybe. I gotta say that those injections were freaking PAINFUL. I immediately burst into tears from the shock. How could anything be worse than labor?

Ten minutes passed and my contractions were worse than ever. Martina said she had never seen the injections not work on someone. Great! She suggested we fill the birthing tub up as soon as possible. I told her I didn’t want to do it too early because Satchel might want to get in it. I was still crying and it dawned on me that I was a mess. I called Warren and told him to forget the playground and come home NOW. I told Martina I was worried about Satchel and she said that I should have my mom take him somewhere. As much as I wanted him to see the birth of his sibling, I knew she was right. I didn’t want Satchel to see me in so much pain, crying, moaning, etc. Besides, he’d never make it until midnight anyway.

My mom appeared and found me still crying and moaning on the birth ball. She held my hand for a minute and agreed to take Satchel to dinner and then to her house for the night. She packed his bag in record time and I was very grateful. A few minutes later Warren and Satchel arrived and I let them know the new plan. I thought seeing Satchel would slow the labor down, but it didn’t. I couldn’t even pretend to be normal. I immediately got in the shower and let hot water beat on my lower back to try and ease the pain.

After several contractions, I managed to get out of the shower and make it to the bedroom door. Satchel and my mom were gone. Everyone assured me he was fine, so I commenced barking orders. “Fill the birthing tub!” I commanded. Amy, who had just come back from getting a quick bite, looked at me between puffs and said she thought she might puke. Deanna, the midwife assistant, arrived and began blowing too. Martina asked Warren his plan for filling the tub and when he said he planned to use a bucket, she looked at me gripping the doorframe for dear life, and knew it would never get full in time. “I feel like pushing!” I screamed, and everyone immediately forgot about the stupid pool. I reluctantly agreed to lie down and get checked—8cm. I could barely get off the bed because the contractions were coming so fast, but lying down was excruciating. I managed to lunge for Martina and hug her during the next few contractions while Deanna put counter pressure on my back. “I’m pushing!” I screamed. They wanted me to move into a new position but I was frozen. My legs, no, my whole body, was tensed up and I literally couldn’t move.

Martina got me to calm down and sway back and forth, so I could relax and breathe. I asked if someone could support me while I squatted, like I did with Satchel. Deanna grabbed one of the dining room chairs and agreed to hold me. I told her the chair was facing the wrong way and I couldn’t possibly make it the entire 5ft across to where she was. I’m sure everyone thought I was crazy, but Martina could sense my urgency and told Deanna to turn the chair and come to me. At that moment, I looked up and saw that Warren was trying to take my picture. I gave him a dirty look and said, “Don’t even think about it!” Then I saw Marlinee peek in the room. She had come for the gyoza, but was about to get a lot more.

As I got into a squatting position in my “power spot” where I birthed Satchel, Amy said she could see the head. I told Warren and Marlinee to come quick and hold my hands. The midwives somehow convinced me to spread my legs open and before I knew it, Amy was saying, “I see the eyes…I see the nose…don’t push until I tell you…” I had made it clear that I had no intention of tearing like last time, so I did some serious breathing and no pushing until Amy gave me the go ahead. At 7:15pm, I effortlessly pushed out the baby’s body and heard a big BLOP. The bag of waters were intact and the baby slid right onto the floor! (Since I was squatting it was only a few inches.) Amy ripped open the sac and we all heard a loud cry. Next thing I knew, I was holding my baby. I looked between the legs and much to my surprise, I saw a little penis. “I can’t believe it’s a boy,” I said. I was so SURE it was a GIRL! Then out of nowhere I said, “Hi Jiro.” My husband’s name choice (JEER-O, Japanese for second born son) had seeped into my subconscious! He had a head full of black hair like his brother, the chubbiest cheeks and meatiest legs I had ever seen. He was 8lbs and 2oz of pure cuteness.

Warren cut the cord and I was airlifted onto the bed to deliver the placenta. It came out easily, unlike last time, and the midwives took it into the kitchen to examine it. Warren took his shirt off and snuggled with the baby while we did a mini photo shoot. Then I tried to get Jiro to nurse while Warren ran around opening champagne, making appetizers, and calling relatives. The midwives were giddy—a quick and nearly bloodless homebirth with the added perk of seeing a baby “born in the caul.” And they got to eat gyoza!

By the time Satchel arrived, I was freshly showered, glowing, and ready to snuggle up with my three favorite guys.

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