when you're attending the birth of your niece. Actually it was less than three hours from the time we got to the birth center, which isn't very many hours at all in the perspective of those of us who have labored. Considering that my sister had 27 hours the first time around, with at least 3 hours attempting to push, that's really really short.
It was actually a very cool experience. She leaned over a birthing ball during contractions for the first hour, talking normally to her husband and I in between contractions. Then moved to the tub, where she continued to talk normally in between contractions. The midwife and her assistants weren't even in the room except twice to check the heartbeat. It was so cool that I was almost thinking I wanted to do this again.
Almost. Until she got the urge to push. Then I remembered how much I hated that whole pushing part and the rest of the reasons flashed before my eyes: physical recovery, no sleep, hormonal craziness, no sleep, breastfeeding what seems like every 30 minutes, no sleep, spit up and more spit up. So, it was only 10-15 minutes of pushing, which, again, in the perspective of those of us who have labored, is not much time at all. But Holy Mother of God (I can say that because my sister, the Catholic, isn't reading this blog), that was a hell of a fifteen minutes. I think the words "Get it out!" were used a few times, and I remember the feeling and am very content with the idea that memories of the feeling are as close as I will get to the actual feeling ever again.
Then she was out and it was blissful again. My sister sat in the tub holding the towel-wrapped baby, umbilical cord still attached, for 20 minutes or so while pictures were taken and we all ooh-ed and ah-ed. I haven't posted a picture of the sweet new girl (or her name) on the family blog yet because I keep forgetting to ask for permission. (Plus my brother-in-law seemed to be warning me about stalkers a few days ago: "Are you sure you want to put the kids' names on the blog? People could figure out who you are. Aren't you worried?" Um, no. But maybe you don't want your kids' pictures/names up there? I'd never asked him, only my sister!) But, she's here, just one day past her due date, and she's cute, and all the kids (mine and hers) are very excited.
1) I used "very" a lot in the above paragraphs. I remember being told that "very" is an unnecessary modifier if one is a skillful writer. Tonight, I'm not. Sorry. Tired.
2) Being content with not having to push a baby out of my body again is a weirdly ambivalent contentment. Knowing that I will (most likely) never give birth again brings up age and yes, death issues (for my fellow counseling program/philosophy major readers: it's an existential crisis). It's not a rational thing; I know that all women's childbearing time must come to an end, but saying that mine has feels weird. Even though it's just me saying that I don't want any more pregnancy/childbirth/children, not a physical reality. I listened to a woman talking about dealing with her hysterectomy at age 49: she also talked about these feelings and being unprepared for how the finality hit her. There's no finality (as far as I know) with mine. It's just a choice, and I'm glad I have it and I'm glad I've made it. But I probably will never feel completely without, I don't know, regret? curiosity? Maybe I think continuing to birth will keep me young, stave off death, continue to increase my chances (biologically-driven desire) to perpetuate my gene pool. It's all complicated by emotions as well. I've told many people that "I'm done" because that seems to be the way to handle it here, these days: with no equivocation. Either you're a baby-making, if-God's-willing, "culture-of-life" woman in which case the answer is some version of "We'll see." Or you schedule your conceptions, make sure you have one room/child, and count the days until they're eighteen, in which case you say, "Oh, no more. Only (1, 2, or, less likely, 3) for me. This is definitely it."
Of course it's not that simple. Some people want to have babies and can't. Or have to do complicated things so they can. Some people plan it all out and then change their minds. Sometimes surprises happen and we change our minds about that number after all. I know a lot of people in that first group, so that's perhaps part of my own problem with this (artificial) finality. Many of these people are warm, nurturing, happy, generous people. Some of these people also use terms like the "culture of death" to refer to modern society, extending this term to abortion, birth control, or just the general selfishness and individualism all around. I think there's an in between, I do. I'm not an all-or-nothing thinker, but even saying that puts me on the wrong side in the minds of the all-or-nothing camp. This is way too long a discussion for right now.
3) My sister was very lucky to be able to have the kind of birth she wanted the third time around. She did all the right things to prepare, but even with all that, it could have been impossible. Some people have very strong objections to non-hospital/doctor-attended births. Some of those people have lost babies and would consider this kind of a birth a risk they wouldn't want to take. I'm not sure I would either, in those circumstances. All that said, the contrast between this birth and my hospital births was pretty striking. She basically just did it on her own. The midwife was right there, prepared to catch the baby, only for that last 15 minutes. I think she helped move the baby's arm a little right at the end. If it had been 150 years ago on prairie, I might have been my sister's midwife, performing those necessary but minor assists. Again, many babies and mothers died on the prairie (and still do, in underdeveloped countries) without the option of emergency c-sections, vacuum suction, and sophisticated post-natal care. My sister required no stitches--really great for her, although I'm a teeny bit jealous--and went home after 4 hours at the birth center. She slept in her own bed. She will be visited by the midwife at home on Monday. (I wonder if she'll ask her about birth control! Ha! Another post entirely.)
Even with my Bradley natural childbirth training classes (and lack of complications) which allowed me to labor without drugs, my births were still medical births. Strapped to monitors, IV (for fluids which made me need to pee what seemed like every 5 minutes, and antibiotics for strep-B which my sister took with a one-time injection into a port which was then taped off). With my induction (birth 1), I couldn't even shuffle to the room bathroom, but had to use the potty chair by the bed. Nurses in and out looking at papers, asking me to rate my pain from 1 to 10. The damn blood pressure cuff. I do not deny the necessity of the safety net provided by the hospitals and machines, but this birth was something completely different. So quiet. So normal. So simple.
That's all I have for now.