Eleven years ago last week, we were stricken by the stomach flu, one by one. I was almost eight and a half months pregnant. At the end of the week, my to-do list was pretty much untouched. My hospital bag was not packed. The house was a mess. And, choosing to stay home and throw up instead, I had missed the appointment with my midwife where we were supposed to go over what to expect during labor—things I had learned two and a half years before in prenatal classes but ended up not needing due to an unexpected C-section.
Eleven years ago yesterday, Child One and I went out for our weekly trip to the muffin shop and then to the park. As I watched him run around, his cheeks bright red in the cold, I thought about how he had only two and a half weeks left as an only child. I wondered how his life would change—would it be for the better?
Eleven years ago last night, I felt strange, anxious. I wasn’t worried or upset. It was a physical anxiousness. I was sick again and figured that maybe I wasn’t really over that flu.
Eleven years ago this morning, I called the midwife to reschedule that day’s appointment because I’d been sick during the night and hadn’t slept well. We still had plenty of time to go over labor and delivery, right?
Wrong. Eleven years ago this afternoon, I went into labor. I immediately started doing laundry and tidying up the house (the logic of a mother in labor), and packed my bag.
My midwife came. Child Two was head down, but was facing sideways instead of backwards like she should be. The midwife told us that 90% of babies in this position travel 270 degrees to face the right way. Also, this was my first real labor, since Child One (who was being delivered prematurely due to a diagnosis of intrauterine growth retardation that, thankfully, turned out to be wrong) went into distress while I was still in early labor, and I was whisked to the operating room.
My midwife told us to expect a long night of back labor. She went home to grab a quick dinner, planning to come back in an hour and stay with us through the night until it was time to go to the hospital.
Wrong again. Less than half an hour after she left, and only about two hours after my first contraction, I was suddenly in the pushing stage. Now, I didn’t remember all the details I’d learned in prenatal classes, but I distinctly remembered that there were supposed to be three stages of labor. Somehow, we had skipped the long, drawn-out middle stage altogether, going right from early labor to pushing.
Eleven years ago this evening, the midwife rushed back to our house, examined me again, and gave us the news that we weren’t going to make it to the hospital. An unplanned home birth? After having had a C-section? Yikes. Her partner arrived, all dressed up—she’d left a family dinner to come, because they always did home births together. As a rule, though, they didn’t do home births after C-sections; in fact, this would be their first. But it was either that or take the risk of the baby being born en route.
Our living room was transformed into a delivery room. As I lay on the (new) couch, unable to even make it to the bedroom, my husband found the plastic sheeting the couch had come in to put under me. Every towel in the house was pressed into service (I knew I did that laundry for a reason). A portable incubator and an oxygen tank were brought in from the midwife’s car, just in case. The hospital was alerted and an ambulance was ready to come if my incisions ruptured. Through all the activity and through my less-than-stoic reactions to the pain, the cat slept on a pile of blankets in the corner.
Nothing went wrong. Eleven years ago tonight, Child Two came—on her own terms and at her own time. Eleven years ago tonight, Child One was brought home by friends to meet his sister for the first time and to give her her very first birthday present: a stuffed monkey that he had picked out himself and that today hangs above her bed. And eleven years ago tomorrow morning, I woke up in my own bed with Child Two beside me. My bag still sat at the front door.
From the beginning, Child Two has not been one to run with the crowd. She didn’t care that most babies in her position take the long way around. I can just imagine her thinking, “Hey, this other way is quicker!” And so what if everyone else goes through three stages to get out? Not her.
How fitting, then, that today, eleven years after her dramatic entrance, she chose to wear a shirt that proclaims in huge letters, “BE YOURSELF!” I hope she always will be herself, because she is a truly wonderful self.