On the afternoon of June 25, 2008, I left work early because the familiar cramping in my lower abdomen told me that the baby was coming. Since the baby was 16 days early and my third child, I was woefully unprepared and had to stop by the wholesale club to get diapers on my way home. Apparently I am not much of a nester.
Once I got home, I took a shower and did my last minute pretty-it-up down there prep. I was planning on having another water birth, so I included an enema in the routine. TMI? Sorry. But anyone who has had a baby the old fashioned way knows that things can get messy, and I wanted no part of that. The contractions were still tolerable, so I did a few things around the house. And then I finally called my mom and my husband and told them to come.
By the time my mom and husband were both here, I was packed and ready to go. Baby Boo (the unborn’s nickname since we did not know its sex) was ready too, really ready. Time had flown by and it was already dark out. We called my OB to tell him we were leaving for the hospital. I think we woke him up. Between my second and third pregnancies, my midwife had stopped doing deliveries so my dear sweet old OB would be handling this one for us. It never occurred to me to make clear to him that I was already feeling like I was in transitional labor. Oops.
Walking through the hospital hallway to the elevator, I stopped for a contraction and several innocent bystanders ran over to see if I was going to deliver on the spot. Almost, my friends, almost. A couple minutes later we made it to the check-in desk. I gave them my name and requested that my birthing tub be prepped. My husband dropped me off in the L&D room on a bed and went back to the car to get all of our stuff.
While he was gone, a nurse came in with a clipboard and started asking me a bunch of mundane personal history questions. I wasn’t up for a game of Twenty Questions. She explained that they could not find my paperwork and that they needed to know these things. I explained that I was going to give birth very very soon and wanted to see the tub filling up. She started the tub and went out for a bit. When my husband came back he helped me into the tub and went about setting up the video camera.
The not so cheerful nurse returned with her clipboard and announced that they did find my paperwork, and that I had to get out of the tub until my OB arrived because there was no doctor on staff that was certified for a water birth. I asked her if she was serious that in this hospital there was not one doctor who could deliver me in the tub? And she admitted that there was one but he was busy with a c-section. “Too bad,” I said, “I am not moving.”
Cue the scary music.
“Blah blah blah,” she said, “Blah get out blah of the blah tub!”
“Go away.” I said.
A woman who is about to pop seven pounds of flesh out of her vagina can say anything she wants to anyone. I think I was still acting rather tame.
Another nurse came in. She was smiling. She came over to my tub and crouched down, leaning in close to me. Her voice was calming and kind. “How are you doing?” “I’m ok. I think the baby is almost here.” I cried softly. Then in the sweetest voice she said, “You have to get out of the tub now. You cannot be in there until your doctor comes.”
I turned my head away from her. She and two other women cajoled my husband to try to get him to force me out. He knew better.
And then I felt that irresistible urge to push. I yelled out to my husband, “Oh my god, it is coming out now.” The women scurried to the doorway.
He turned the video camera on and came over and knelt beside me. Within a few seconds he told the women in the doorway that he could see the baby crowning and that if none of them were going to help, he would deliver it. A blond woman marched over to our camera, saying, “Jesus Christ!” just before she shut it off. Then she came over to the tub.
I had a marvelous contraction, the kind that makes you think you are splitting in two and with it, I pushed and out came the head of our baby. So there I was semi-floating in the water with the baby’s head all the way out and a faded contraction. For the first time that night, I felt scared. I looked up at my husband and said, “What should I do? The contraction is over.” The blond just watched close by. “Keep pushing anyway,” he said.
So I did push again. And the body followed, sliding into the woman’s reaching hands. She immediately lifted the baby up into my hands and I pulled it close to my chest. I saw Down syndrome bunched up on the back of the baby’s neck. I saw it in the shape of those scrunched closed newborn eyes. I looked up at my husband and said, “The baby does have Down syndrome. Do you see?”
His response was, “What is it?”
My poor husband. We found out the gender of our first two children (both boys) early on in our pregnancies. But this time, I had said no. Giving birth naturally is intense, and I was sure I could face it again if I had the motivation of being surprised when the baby finally came out. He tried everything to make me change my mind but I held strong. At every single doctor appointment, and there were so many, I announced prior to anything else that we were not to be told the sex of the baby. We knew it had a complete AV Canal heart defect. We knew it likely had Down syndrome. But that one detail, that one huge detail was going to be my happy moment and I wanted to wait for that.
I boosted the infant up and with one hand gently moved a leg aside, and my heart burst open. “It’s a girl,” I answered.
My husband cut the cord and I asked the nurse to take her so she could get warmed up. The delivering nurse and the other nurses continued to pout and chastise me for not listening to them. No one said anything about the baby having Down syndrome. I suppose it was in my chart that they finally had found, and my announcement to my husband made it clear that we already knew.
A few minutes after the placenta arrived, so did my OB. He looked so old and sad. They had already gotten to him in the hallway. I heard them bawling him out for having such a non-compliant patient. He gently told me that I should have listened to them, and that now he was in trouble. For a second I felt bad, and then I felt fury. I apologized gracefully and told him that I would let the hospital know that it was all on me.
They brought my little baby girl back over to me, and she rested sleepily at my breast. She did not pull for milk, and none came to her. She is so tired, I thought, so so tired.
And that ends her birth story.
Here is her video documenting her Long Journey Home.
She just turned six years old last week. She is healthy. She is beautiful. She is a Tsunami.