Episode One: The Birth of Kid A

Kid A was born on the first day of September, when the blackberries were at their ripest. I was 41 weeks pregnant and we called him our blackberry boy, which was ever truer because his eyes were as dark and shiny as the little globes on a blackberry. We lived in Arcata at the time of his birth, right next to Humboldt Bay, and spent the day walking through the marsh beside our house, a bird refuge, eating berries and stopping every few minutes for me to have a contraction. I discovered quickly that the only way I liked to have contractions was with my arms around Chinua's shoulders, my face buried in his neck. He alternated between climbing rock banks to get me the biggest berries and standing like a mountain while I clung to him. It was the best, most painful date we've ever had.

After hours of this walking, with the sun turning the tall grasses to gold and sparking off the waters of the bay, the sun went down and my contractions got really intense and we wandered around the neighborhood in the dark, lingering by the jasmine that our neighbor had on his fence, like shameless loiterers. Man, I loved that jasmine. It seemed like the best thing I had ever smelled in my whole life. Soon we headed back to our house and the tub. Chinua and our doula and I all squeezed into our tiny bathroom to watch me try to get comfortable in the bath. The water was so shallow that I had to turn sideways when contractions came to immerse my belly a little better, and although I loved the hot water, I needed some depth. My doula, Sommer, checked my cervix and we found that I was dilated to 2 cm, which was possibly the most depressing thing I've ever heard. (This was after fourteen hours of labor.) I decided that I still wanted to go to the hospital, for the tub. Gotta have the tub.

So, we drove a torturous ten minutes to the hospital and when we got there I whispered to Chinua in the parking lot, "I don't think I can do this." He told me that I could and so I tried to believe him.

At the hospital some angelic nurse filled the tub with water that was way hotter than standard and I had to keep getting out to walk around and cool off because it made me lightheaded. I loved the freedom of walking around in the buff, something you don't usually have the privilege of doing around a lot of people. I was like, look at me, I'm pregnant and gigantic and naked and you are all wearing clothes. Or, that's what I would have been thinking if my contractions weren't so strong that they were lifting me off the floor.

The picture that kept getting me through each one was of myself as an eagle, flying up and over a mountain range. I saw this over and over again as the contractions tried to pick me up and throw me around the room. Chinua was still my anchor, keeping me down. "Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, the will mount up on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint."

So, anyways, I was back in the tub when the strongest urge of my life came over me. It felt like my body was pushing me backwards in order to get the baby out. I asked the nurse if she would check me again, and she was about to decline since it had only been about an hour, but when I told her I felt like I needed to push she told me those were magic words. After she checked my cervix, she once again smiled like an angel and said, "Honey, congratulations, you're ready."

After that there was a frantic rush to get the sleeping doula and doctor, no time to change the bed into a birthing table, and suddenly I was squatting on top of it with two people supporting me. Chinua's version of this is that I was roaring like an Amazon woman, and I remember that he and the doctor were crouched around my feet, watching in awe like children. Kid A came out in his sac, which didn't burst until his head was completely out. After that he came flailing into the open, letting out a cry that was so completely him that now I look back on it and feel like he was introducing himself with his first breath: "Here I AM. I'm Kid A!" They gave him to me immediately and there is nothing on earth like the way he smelled and the way he looked at me. He got quiet right away, looking at me, and it was amazing to finally be done with all the contractions and actually have something in return for so much pain. He had jet black straight hair and looked nothing like us. We called him "somebody else's Chinese baby."

Afterwards things went kinda downhill. I tore terribly (and as a result couldn't sit down for months). Then I bled too much for about ten hours and lost all color. I had retained a piece of placenta that they didn't notice and had a slow hemorrhage. So, I fainted every time I tried to stand up for two days, and wasn't allowed to carry Kid A around for a week. I pretty much thought it was how you felt after you had a baby, and people complimented me on my motherly glow, not realizing that you just look like you're glowing if all your iron is gone and you have no color, not even blemishes.

In the hospital Chinua and I were incredibly shell-shocked, and we alternated between smelling Kid A like people who ate baby fragrance for food and watching old Star Trek reruns (the original one) back to back. The hospital felt like our little microcosm, as we made friends with the nurses and scored extra meals. When we got home, we found out that our roommates had cleaned the whole house for us and we settled in with our little blackberry boy with the big alien eyes.