Episode Three: The Birth of Leaf

So I know I've mentioned here before that Chinua and I are nerdy as can be. I'm not sure if you believed me, but now I have proof: We spent the entire evening, the night before I had the Leaf Baby, solving math problems. You know, like: If you had eight golf balls and one weighed slightly more than the others but not enough for you to tell, and you had a scale that you could use to balance them against each other, how many times would you have to use the scale before you knew exactly which one was the one that weighed more? (We figured it out. If anyone knows the answer, leave a comment.) Stuff like that. Yes, we solved problems like this for hours, till it was well after midnight, and I figured, gee, since I'm in early labor, maybe I'd better get to bed.

But I get ahead of myself. Chinua and I have named Kid A our Blackberry Baby and YaYa our Ladybug Baby, but we are struggling to come up with the correct name for Leaf. The Mudslide Baby? That suggests disaster. The Torrential Rain Baby? No, that's not right either. I think that all of the above and some of the astounding beauty that we came across on the day of his birth can be encapsulated in the name Redwood Baby. Because life here in these woods can be stormy and cold and the hillsides can be unpredictable, but all of it can also be breathtakingly beautiful. Such was the day of Leaf's birth.

I know that I come across as perfectly calm and cool. (ha ha) Inside, however, I am pretty much riddled with anxiety, a situation that I am determined to change in my 2006 year of freedom. (More on that later) I'm actually a pretty good mix, very flexible and calm about my circumstances and the future, yet filled with anxiety so strong that I could really use a personal masseuse. (Any takers?) This is why the situation with the highway at Confusion Hill (that's the real name!) just north of us was getting the best of me. I would try to be calm about it, but every time the highway was closed due to another huge mudslide, what I'd be thinking was: What would I do if I was in labor right now? The slide would block me from my hospital, and none of the alternatives were working out.

That's why I opted to drive up with my superstar husband on a day that the road was open, to have my membranes stripped, (I won't bother you with the details of this procedure, you can find another website for that) to see if it would trigger real labor for me. We planned to stay the night at the house of some friends, leaving the other two munchkins with my parents.

When the midwife stripped my membranes she found that all my pre-labor, all the nights and days of contractions that didn't amount to anything, had actually brought my cervix to a whopping 4 cm! Without even being in labor! As my friend Diane put it, "Well, that's one way to do it." That had me stoked, and then the procedure set up the kind of contractions that I knew were the real deal, but not regular enough to be actual active labor.

We drove to our friends' house to try to get some sleep, but not before we walked around Costco for a while to see if we would be going to the hospital that night. Of course, being loose in Costco caused us to have to buy a huge container of cream puffs, but since Costco is the store of things you think you need but you would never have even thought of needing before you saw them there, we were lucky we walked away with only that. At least it wasn't a patio set or a leather sofa or something. We brought our cream puffs everywhere with us after that. They were our birth mascot, a symbol of comfort. We even stored them in the hospital fridge, with a cute little label that had our doctor's name printed on it.

So, then, at the home of our friends, a home known for its peace and cheerfulness, we spent the night working out math problems. This family has a whopping eleven children, eight of whom still live at home, and yet they generously opened their home for me to labor in. How do you make six nines equal 100? I managed to sleep through the night, although I was definitely in the very early stages of labor, waking up for particularly strong contractions. In the morning I awoke determined to have the baby.

Chinua and I spent the day walking in the Redwoods, (until it got so cold our ears were aching and we had to give in and return to the house) walking around the house, and arm-wrestling. We had read that, surprisingly, arm-wrestling helps speed labor up, in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (thanks again, Sara) and I bet you've never done that in labor before. You arm wrestle between contractions and it's supposed to relax you and get you working hard as well. Of course, I had to tell my superstar husband that he had to let me win, because all I need while I'm going through the most painful thing I've ever been through is bad self-esteem.

Finally at around 2:00 in the afternoon we left for the hospital, when my contractions were four minutes apart and pretty darn intense.

The hospital was cool, my favorite midwife was on call, and she had full intentions of letting me do whatever I wanted. The only uncool thing that happened was the fact that they sent a bloodsucker in to take my blood while I was laboring pretty hard. They said they needed it in case I bled too much, but it seemed wasteful to me. I hate needles. But, after establishing that my cervix was at 7 cm, they let us make a run for the hot tub. My superstar husband and I were both able to get in, me free as a bird and him in swim trunks. This is when it started to feel a bit ridiculous, like we were at a party. I was having hard contractions, but because of the water I was so relaxed in between that I felt like we had lied about being in labor just so we could sneak off without the kids to spend the day in the hot tub. We were laughing and splashing around, all we needed were a couple of cocktails and it would have been complete. That is, until I went into transition.

Suddenly it all became very real and I thought I would come out of my skin. It was pain with a very sharp edge. I started calling out to Jesus in earnest. My superstar husband was great again, and held me through each one, although I started to overheat and wanted to throw myself out of the tub instead of holding onto him. I yelled at him once, the only time I've yelled at him in all three births, because we got out of the tub and he had put on a towel that smelled like some kind of terrible chemical and I couldn't take it in the midst of a contraction. "Get it OFF YOU!" I yelled, totally undone by nasty smells.

Then, suddenly, I needed to push and we walked back to our room with me exclaiming over and over, "I've got to get this baby out NOW." Stephanie, my midwife, told me to be in whatever position I wanted to, but I couldn't decide, turning around and around on the bed like a puppy. "Honey," she said, "you're going to at least have to face me." Finally I was able to turn around and face her while I held myself up on my haunches. It occurred to me that it was MY job to get the baby out, and I started pushing in earnest. He came out in the next two contractions and I sat back, exhausted, reaching for him. The first thing I saw, after his beautiful face, were his, extremely swollen and much darker than the rest of his body, genitals. They looked like someone had given him the wrong ones. I was right, he is a boy.

So, it went really really well. It was a beautiful and strange day, with lots of laughing and pacing and the incredible moss all over the redwood forests we walked through. My favorite parts were kissing Chinua after each contraction and holding Leafy for the first time. My least favorite parts were the blood draw, and the fact

that my afterbirth pains were so bad that I felt like labor didn't really end after he came out. I hear they get worse with every birth, so if I have any more babies I'll be asking for an epidural after the birth. I'm so thankful to God that it went so well again, and that I was able to be med-free again. I'm thankful for my superstar husband and that I totally feel carried by God in the midst of the hardest parts of birth. And I sure am thankful for my son. Just look at him.