The Birth of Little Solo

(I've done that frustrating thing where I ask for advice and then just choose something completely different.  Solo is a derivative of our baby's real name- I don't care if you guess, by the way, I'm mainly trying to keep future employers of my kids from discovering their newborn poop habits while googling their names- and in meaning speaks to me of him being his own musical piece, not just the fourth, but a violin or a cello making music all of his own, even in the midst of our chaotic orchestra.)

The monsoon this year came with a bang that had us falling down in puddles as big as lakes, splashed from head to toe by buses, and standing on our porch watching the wet madness in disbelief.

Then it trickled off. For weeks there were showers briefly, showers at night, humidity constantly, but not the consistent heavy rain that normally forms the season known as monsoon. In the last few weeks, it returned, with another shout and bang and crash, and with it, our baby came.

My labor was a lot like the monsoon of this year. I started with a bang! And then it trickled off, leaving me mostly dilated for hours and hours while I piddled around with contractions that wouldn't get the work done. And finally, there was a bang and a crash and a sweet baby was in my arms, warm and mine and whole.

We went into the birthing center on Sunday night at 10:00, spent that night and the next day and the next night laboring, took a break for an hour, kept laboring, and finally had the baby at 1:00 on Tuesday.

I would never have thought that my fourth baby would come like this. Simple! We all thought, she's had three babies and it's always been quick and on time and this one will be a breeze. But instead, I was given something that I couldn't comprehend. I couldn't keep having contractions. I couldn't lie down, or they would stop. I couldn't get into the tub, or they would stop. I walked in circles, for hours and hours.

When we first arrived, it was dark at the birthing center. There were nice lamps, and lemongrass oil in the oil burner. There were candles next to the tub, lit and joyfully flickering. We were excited. This was finally it! As I write this it still seems so fresh. What would happen wasn't what we planned.

We were inside, most of the time. I walked around the small room for hours, a room that I had always been so happy with because of its simple beauty. I can barely think of the steps I took without getting tears in my eyes. The room became a prison as I realized that nothing was making my labor advance. I desperately wanted to get home to my children, I desperately wanted to sleep. After a certain point, when they were guarding me because of a possible need for a cesarean, I desperately wanted to eat.

I prayed a lot. Chinua hugged me a lot. The midwives did everything they could do. I was banned from the tub when it appeared that it would stop my labor every time I got in. This had never happened to me before. I have always been incredibly spurred on in labor by water. With Kid A it was so powerful that it took me from three cm to ten in an hour and a half. I was not prepared to not be able to use water.

It was me, in my bare feet, walking for days. It was me, breaking down because I couldn't understand what was going on, me saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." while the midwife became very uncomfortable because of my tears. It was nighttime and then daylight and then nighttime and then daylight.

It was me, calling to the baby. "Baby... I want you... come out." Feeling like maybe it was my fault because of my fears about having a forth child. (Sidenote: When have I ever not had fears about a new baby? We fear the unknown, but then we move on... in my exhausted state, this was hard to remember.) It was Chinua, hugging me and loving me and looking at me with understanding when I cried. It was me, singing softly. It was my sore, sore feet, moving and moving and moving.

There came a point when I was completely undone. It had been twelve hours of being at 9 and a half cm. The last bit of cervix would not disappear, and so I could not have the pushing contractions I needed, could not get the baby out. We had been there for 30 hours. I wanted to just get someone to take the baby out. However, because of my surgery experience, I was a little afraid of what the transfer and hospital would be like. Okay, I was terrified. I was literally afraid of dying.

The midwife was exhausted too. We also come from very different cultures. After 30 hours of doing everything she could to help me, she was not comfortable with another emotional breakdown from me. She kept trying to tell me to close my eyes, and I was crying and asking questions and turning away from her to look at Chinua, saying his name with urgency. He finally asked if we could have some time alone.

I calmed down as he told me that he was scared too, that he didn't think my emotions were unreasonable. We talked about what to do. And we decided to call our friend Diane. Diane was a superhero as a doula in our birth with YaYa, and throughout this labor I wanted to talk to her many times. Chinua left the room to call her. It was about 5:00 in the morning. He couldn't reach her.

He came back in, and the midwives came back in, and then there was a knock at the door. "Do you want to talk to Diane?" someone asked. We did! Chinua took the phone for awhile, then came back and handed it to me. As soon as I heard her voice, my eyes filled with tears.

The baby wasn't in any danger. His heart beat was steady, he was not far down in my pelvis, he seemed active and at peace. I was also not in any danger, just exhausted and frustrated because I couldn't understand the stall. Diane's advice was to lie down and sleep for a few hours, then get up and start again. She told me that this was not completely crazy, that women have things like this happen for strange reasons, that this baby had a unique way of coming into the world. Somehow her voice soothed my fear of death. The dark exhaustion lifted a little. She prayed for me, and her words were like rain on my hot face.

We all decided to wait and take a break. Chinua and I lay down and slept. After an hour I woke up, and couldn't go back to sleep.

I called Renee, and told her it would be a while longer. I called my parents and asked them to pray. Then I decided to get down to business. Again.

There are many moments in our lives when we make choices. I did not choose this difficult labor, but in the quiet hours of the morning before the midwives came back in I had to choose to continue, believing that it would turn out. I felt God speaking to me in that bright morning. This is the verse I turned to, as I tried to gather strength inside myself to return to the pain of labor, to return to the walking, to the unknown, and try to have the baby.

It's from Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord,

He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set me feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

It was a turning point for me. Labor is like a small version of life, in many ways, where we run that crazy rough race in order to get the prize at the end. This one was teaching me lessons that I didn't even want to learn, lessons about waiting and the ways time can stretch and lessons about being given things that you don't want, with no way to hand them back.

But He turned to me and heard my cry.

So we started again. Every few contractions the midwives would come over and give me a shot of oxytocin by nasal spray. I felt like a drug addict. I walked, and I walked. I walked into each contraction. I asked for more pain. I breathed and I leaned on my husband, but I was inside, deep inside, walking to the end, not stopping this time. I sang softly to myself. I smiled to think of my baby. I believed, hard, I trusted, hard, that at the end of all this walking I would be able to hold my baby. And that I wouldn't be ready to faint from hunger anymore, because they would finally let me eat. (Fasting for days when you are nine months pregnant is no small thing. They were putting glucose in my water, but it wasn't exactly what I was wanting.)

I can't even begin to tell you about the focus that it took. I really almost can't think about it, because I feel exhausted all over again. But trust is a beautiful thing, because I wasn't trusting in the air. I was trusting in God, who has never forsaken me. And his heart is for me, not against me.

The pain got bigger, the contractions grew stronger. I reached the point again where I felt like I would faint, but I didn't want to stop. It was like this for about another three and a half hours. We had given ourselves a time limit- we would only go until midday.

Then the midwife was able to break my water. And our prayers were answered in a gust of pain that threatened to lift me off my feet and throw me backwards. During the next half hour I could barely hold on. But it was what I needed, what I had been walking towards. And I felt that crazy urge again and walked over to the birthing stool and on my hands and knees I used all my strength to push that baby out.

When I heard the midwife laughing, I knew that it must be good. Another push and my baby was there on the mat and the midwife was handing him to me and we could see that he was huge and he was crying and I was cooing to him and at 1:00 it was over.

He was beautiful. I've never been so happy in my life. We called the kids and they came over with Renee and saw the baby being bathed ("Count his fingers and toes," the midwife said, and they solemnly did) and weighed, and they checked out the placenta. Everything swung into its right place again. And we went home soon after.

And my baby, my sweet baby? For my present on the night of his birth he slept for eight hours in a row. The three of us lay in our bed zonked out and snoring, maybe. Thankful, so thankful.

(Photos by Chinua)