For me, the key to labor, much like – spoiler alert – the key to early parenting, is to take each minute at a time. That is probably my number one piece of unsolicited advice to all procreational people.
So I had assumed that last Friday and Saturday, in my 39th week of pregnancy, would be a lovely time as any to give birth since I’ve managed to do just that during the weekends of my last two 39th weeks. And I actually felt like things were moving, all throughout those two days – even though it would stop, and I’d sigh, and consider how frustrating it would be to have to face my obgyn for a post-term check.
By Saturday night nothing was doing so I waved my huz and potential babysitter brother goodbye as they left for drop-off at the train station. And not 15 minutes later, as Murphy would have it, I realized… oh. I called them back, we ate a pizza, I took a shower and figured I’d attempt a nap since I probably had a few hours.
Except I didn’t have a few hours, because after the shower it got quick. And my gut told me we should go before the contractions got worse – the horrendous car ride is one very clear memory I had of my first birth in a hospital. We gathered our stuff and headed to the car.
One thing I had prepared differently, in anticipation of a hectic hospital birth, was meditation material. A week or so before labor, I had expressed my concern and received advice related to hypnobirthing and mindful birthing. I read a lot about both and practiced my own little exercise, mainly breathing and clearing my mind, based on a color meditation I found online. So when we got in the car with a 20+ minute ride ahead of us and contractions 5 minutes apart, I took out the earphones and started “breathing in the color red.”
It helped. I wouldn’t say it was easy (extra pain radiating down your thighs because you’re sitting upright instead of moving, anyone?), but I felt focused and the pain was managed as we made our way down the windy Jerusalem hills.
As soon as we parked, I jumped out the car to be able to stand for the next one. And the next one, and next one on the way to elevator. We ran into a midwife coming back from a coffee run so she took us into the maternity reception area.
“How are you feeling?” they always ask you. I guess I didn’t seem that bad; I answered her. Next thing I know she’s looking up at me wide-eyed.
First I heard 6.5 and then I heard… “What?!”
“You’re 9.5. Let’s go.”
So about 2.5+ hours after I called the huz back home, the two of us plus midwife were stunned as we rolled me into a labor room, seconds from pushing.
Yeah, too late for walking, so I was laying on a bed being wheeled into the next room. On the way out, another midwife called to us to stop.
“You forgot your coffee!”
My midwife called back that she couldn’t really take it right now. The very concerned coffee-holding midwife brought it over and looked from her colleague to my husband, who were both steering the bed.
Then she did something – that even then, in that moment, in my head, I was already laughing about – she looked at me.
And handed me a size-large, steaming, fresh cup of Hillel coffee.
And lord bless me, I’ve been here over nine years, and my first thought was: Only in Israel.
So I’m carrying my midwife’s coffee on the way to the labor room, distracted by a new meditation of ‘don’t start a contraction – don’t start a contraction…’ Maybe there’s a new childbirth method in this somewhere.
We get in and I shove the coffee back at the (now very decaffeinated) midwife as we begin the end.
Another midwife started fumbling to get the IV inside me – remember I needed antibiotics at least an hour before birth? – and cranked it on high drip.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. They said I did get the whole unit. They said it might have been for a total of five minutes.
Whatever it was, minutes later, after a total of 3 hours in active labor, I gave birth to our daughter.
Just under 3 kilo, and 3 for 3 with a head full of dark black hair. Bless the midwife, who knew my deal, she put my newborn straight on my stomach, I wrapped my hands around her, and we locked eyes.
As the rest of the room whirred around to record details and whip out paperwork we hadn’t had time to deal with before (my bra hadn’t even been unhooked for feeding!), huz and I could not get over how quick it was. From when we left the house to when we met our daughter, in under an hour and a half.
In a way, each time I’ve done this, I’ve became more and more in awe of my body. In a way, you’re attached to it, and in another way, you’re two separate entities. Most of the time I think we hang back and watch it move, walk, talk… while we’re actually up here; thinking, feeling, being.
And then when it matters most, when everything else is brushed aside in the urgency of the moment, you are your body, and that’s how you know you’re made from something amazing.