It's Jackson's first birthday today. Woo! Every year on my birthday, my father still tells me the story of the night I was born (January, two weeks late, freezing rain, slipping through a stop sign, mom in labor for three hours, doctor carries me into the waiting room upside down by my ankles covered in goo, so happy to have a girl). So it's my turn.
8:00 a.m.The morning of June 28, 2001 I try to roll over in bed and find I can no longer haul my girth from left side to right without an exasperating struggle that on this day ends in tears. The baby is eight days late. I am ready for my pregnancy to end.
10:00 a.m Jack and I watch Wimbledon, then walk the four blocks to the playground to watch kids play and not talk about how completely helpless we're going to feel in about 24 hours.
Noon We come back home, I eat a turkey sandwich, and then take a dose of castor oil. Castor oil is a disgusting excuse for a laxative, but midwife lore contends that big, crampy intestinal contractions cause the uterus, in a fit of competitive jealousy, to show the intestines they don't know shit about contractions. Thus the uterus tries to outdo its weak, stringy neighbors, and labor begins.
1:00 p.m. I shit my guts out. Labor does not begin.
3:00 p.m. Jack covers himself in bright red spandex and goes out for a bike ride. I ask him please to not get squished by a big truck.
4:00 p.m. I am reading a magazine in bed. Hmmm, is that a slight twinge?
4:05 p.m. Hmmm, is that another one?
4:10 p.m. Gee, this contraction stuff is easy!
4:30 p.m. I call Alice, the midwife on duty (think young Bea Arthur), and tell her that I think possibly I might be having contractions. She tells me to call her back when the real contractions start. How will I know? I ask. You'll know, she says.
5:00 p.m. Alice, could you come over now?
5:05 p.m. Jack comes home all sweaty. I tell him my contractions are five minutes apart and do a happy little hula dance.
5:30 p.m. Alice arrives, checks me out, says I'm 2 cm dilated, and says I ought to eat something now because I won't feel like it soon and this contraction stuff could go on for a long time. I am giddy and try to tell Alice a joke, but have to stop halfway through because a contraction comes. Contractions normally last for one minute. She tells me that if you have to stop talking to deal with a contraction, you're in labor.
5:40 p.m. Jack whips up a delightful little creamy pasta vegetable dish. I take one look at it and tell him there's no way in hell I'm going to eat that. He goes back to the kitchen and blends a bunch of fruit and dairy products and calls it a smoothie. I have a sip and push it away. He sits next to me and puts his arm around me. I tell him to quit looking at me.
6:00 p.m. Alice packs up and says she'll be back in a few hours. She tells me that a warm shower would be soothing right now, but not to start filling the birthing tub until I'm about 6 cm dilated.
6:10 p.m. I take a shower and lie down on the bed. Jack kind of hovers, wondering how to help. I tell him to get out, so he goes to the living room and reads a magazine. The next four hours are a blur of breathing and affirmation mantras ("You're okay, you're okay" and "Just relax, just relax" are two popular choices). Most contractions I can deal with; they're building in intensity, but I'm handling it. However, there are ten or twelve sprinkled in there that have me thinking, "Goddamn it, why aren't I in the hospital right now, I need the drugs!" Fortunately, as previously mentioned, contractions only last a minute, and I am in such an endorphin fog that I don't know whether it's day or night.
9:50 p.m. Myrrh, the apprentice midwife, shows up and checks me. I'm 6 cm dilated, and I'm going through a sweats-and-chills thing. Someone gives me a bathrobe that was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton to stay warm, and a cold, wet washcloth to cool off. She gives Jack the go-ahead to start filling the birthing tub in the living room.
10:00 p.m. My water breaks in a big disgusting gush, ruining my stolen bathrobe. Moving from a prone position takes superhuman effort, but I make it to the toilet and find that sitting upright is the most fantastic thing in the world. Filling the birthing tub takes a while and the hot water heater is quickly emptied. Jack happily begins to boil water in big pots on the stove, just like in the movies.
10:50 p.m. All of a sudden I feel like I'm on a roller coaster -- I literally start saying "Whooooaaaahh!" as though I'm dropping from a great height at high speed. Myrrh says it sounds like I'm pushing. I tell her that I have nothing to compare the experience to, so if she says I'm pushing, that's what I'm doing. (This period of labor is called transition.) Myrrh calls Alice and tells her to get her ass over to our apartment. She tells Jack that there’s no point in filling the tub, the baby’s coming soon. Jack fits himself into the bathroom with us and I realize that I can feel the baby’s head like a cantaloup in my pelvis. This sensation forces me to realize that pregnancy is not a state that I have the option to hang onto indefinitely. Why did I think I was different? There’s no going back now.
11:15 p.m. Jack hears something in the hall and finds Alice stumbling up our stairs with an oxygen tank. The baby's head is crowning, my coochie is stretching, and it burns like shit. (In midwifery, this is known as "the ring of fire.") Myrrh pours olive oil all over my crotch and the top of the baby's head, and I am deeply grateful for the wisdom of all midwives everywhere, as I'm pretty sure hospital procedure would prohibit the use of Mediterranean cooking oils in the delivery room.
11:20 p.m. Myrrh yells at me to stand up -- I am still sitting on the toilet, and no one wants the baby to be delivered into the toilet itself. So I stand up, push once more, and a baby slithers out of my body. The endorphin fog lifts instantly. I sit back down and Myrrh yells, "Hold your baby in your lap! Hold your baby in your lap!" Myrrh is amped. She tells us it's a boy. He is crying. He has the usual number of fingers and toes. He looks pink and healthy. Stunned, I look at Jack like, "Can you fuckin' believe this?"
11:30 p.m. With the help of Alice and Myrrh, umbilical cord dangling from between my legs and looping up to Jackson's belly, I carry my little baby to bed with me. Jack starts making phone calls, waking up relatives from coast to coast.
2:00 a.m. Alice and Myrrh pack up and leave after cleaning up, putting the placenta in the freezer, weaving a little heart shape with the umbilical cord, putting a stitch in me, weighing the baby (8 pounds 11 ounces), and tucking us in for the night. We all sleep together with the lights on. I am a mom, Jack is a dad, and Jackson doesn't make a peep all night.
Happy birthday, Jackson! We couldn't have done it without you.