Episode Two: The birth of the YaYa Sister

On the day of YaYa's birth we spent all our time laughing.

I was pretty sure that I was going into labor the night before, but was determined to get a full night's sleep (because I had learned with Kid A how tiring labor can be) and finally had to get up at 5:00 in the morning when my contractions became too strong for me to sleep through. I left Chinua sleeping and got up to get ready, making food to leave with my mom to feed Kid A and doing laundry and all other sorts of happy nesting things. We were living in a community house of about twenty people in San Francisco at the time and one by one they started to wake up and notice me working and pausing to rock and sway throughout our house.

Chinua and I left to go to Diane's house (our great friend and doula) and spent a few hours there, happy and excited and comfortable in her beautiful home. At some point, when my contractions became a lot more intense, we decided to drive to the birth center where I was going to give birth. This was when it got funny.

The birth center was in the unlikely location of jailtown, San Francisco. That is to say, it was right across from the jail, on the second floor above a bail bondsman's office. We had to climb a flight of cigarette smoke infused stairs to get to a very small, very shabby set of rooms. The whole time I was pregnant, the midwives had been expecting to get into their new place, but this hadn't happened yet, and so here we were. The midwives told me, in way too many confusing words, that the hot tub I was planning to use had broken that morning, therefore, no tub for me. No problem, I thought to myself, nothing will ruin this day for me.

We decided to take a walk to help my labor along. All around us as we walked were seedy bars and barbed wire. We laughed and laughed in between contractions. Sometimes I even laughed through contractions, since it struck me as so ridiculous that I was standing and hugging my husband on a busy street, rocking my way through my birth. During one contraction, I looked down and the sight at my feet was a dried up slug amid several cigarette butts and some broken glass, next to a garbage can. During another I looked up at the top of a rusty barbed wire fence. We walked through alleys covered in graffiti and past a couple of men dismantling a car. When Diane panned over them with the video camera one of them walked towards us threateningly, so we kept walking, right past another man with a shopping cart loaded with all his possessions.

We couldn't stop giggling, it was just so strange to be laboring in this place. Then the ladybugs started to show up. Diane had a crop of ladybugs for her garden at her house, and somehow they had escaped. I found several on Chinua, and a couple on myself. They were part of the whole labor, showing up during different contractions, crawling on our collars as we walked down city streets. We found a city garden, on Howard Street, and once again I found the jasmine and spent a long time beside it just breathing it in.

By the time we got back to the birth center things were pretty serious. I was very internal, but singing was a major part of this birth for me. Between contractions I would sing. I got into the shower and went into transition, singing "This is the day the Lord has made," in between very intense contractions. Every time I had one, I opened the shower door to lean on Chinua. Diane remembers me asking him in a little voice, "Is this too much for you honey?" and thinking it was funny because I was the one in labor.

While I was in the shower I got that strong urge again, but since it had taken me half an hour to push Kid A out, I waited for a few contractions before letting the midwives know. When I did tell them, they told me just to try bearing down a little to see whether it hurt me at all (which would be an indication that I wasn't ready). I did this, and then went to sit on the birthing stool. One of the midwives yelled, "She's crowning!" There was a mad rush for one of them (any of you, please!) to get their gloves on so the baby could be caught, and it turned into a clowning session, with the one student midwife struggling with the gloves ("My hands are too sweaty! I can't get them on!") and the other midwife shouting orders from the door, and Chinua pleading, "Can someone please just catch this baby?" It was, well, not peaceful behavior. But then everyone was ready and I gave one little push and YaYa's whole head came out. One more and she was in my arms, being rubbed by towels a little more vigorously than I would have liked. (Diane said, "Be gentle with that baby," and the midwife snapped back, "We have to get her breathing!" I think they liked to be stressed out.) In the commotion I reached down and looked, and was the first person to see that she was a girl.

Right away, I just knew that I had to lie down. I had the shakes pretty badly and couldn't sit on that stool anymore, so, holding the baby who was still attached to me by the cord, I waddled over to the bed to lay against some pillows. The midwives once again got a little stressed out and stuck two shots in my legs to help my bleeding. I didn't care, though, they felt like mosquito bites compared to labor, and I had the most beautiful girl in the world in my arms. She had such long fingers and was so quiet and delicate. She nursed right away.

Elena and my mom brought Kid A to the birth center right away to meet his baby sister and he was wide-eyed and weirded out. (He was only nineteen months old, so I think he didn't really understand what was going on) We left to go home pretty much right away, since I didn't want to be gone very much longer, and got home eleven hours after we had left. I sat down on the couch with my friends and showed YaYa off, eating a bowl of cereal. It was an amazing day, leaving in the morning excited and coming home at night with our ladybug baby.