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How I came to love the hospital birth that I didn't want, Part 1

Two weeks ago today, I had a baby.

He’s right over there, in bed next to me.

Photo on 2013-06-15 at 09.58
He is very blonde.

Two weeks and one day ago, I agreed with my midwives that the home birth I had hoped for was not the safest option, and I sobbed while I packed my hospital bag.

Three weeks ago, I was 41 weeks pregnant with an emotional state the equivalent of soggy tissue paper, battling the daily mind-game of “Why isn’t my body going into labor?”

I had forgotten, since the birth of my three-and-three-quarters (!) year old, J, how strange and vulnerable it feels to stay pregnant significantly past the “due date” of a baby. I mistakenly thought that my experience as a doula and of birthing J 13 days after he was “due” would carry me through. I know that statistically, most women carry their babies past 40 weeks. I talk my doula clients through this all the time—and even gave myself the same pep talk I gave one of them in the latter part of this blog post (which may also delight you if you like gluten free baking).

But memories and knowledge barely stack up against the gravity of an extremely pregnant body and the wash of emotions constantly lapping at the shores of the extremely pregnant brain in a culture that celebrates planning and “due dates” and has erected a very intimidating, medically-recommended cut off date of 42 weeks to most pregnancies.

Let’s just say that in those last couple weeks, I swung dramatically between 1) a tower of mindfulness and brave surrender and 2) a complete disaster puddle.

One day, I would feel completely unfettered and at peace—enjoying the relative simplicity of life with only one child and eating these incredible doughnuts.

Thank you, Doughnut Dolly.
Thank you, Doughnut Dolly.

The next, I would be plagued with worry that despite all my efforts at natural induction—sex, acupuncture, membrane stripping—that I would reach 42 weeks and, according to my home birth midwives’ policy, no longer be able to have the home birth that I wanted. And then I would envision a whole host of unlikely and horrendous birth defects that might be the reason I wasn’t going into labor, and also the complete financial disaster that would ensue once we had our complicated hospital birth of our very sickly child on our not-so-great insurance policy.

And then, it happened. I had to jump headfirst into my hospital birth fear and let go of the last shred of control I thought I might have when my midwife said, “This looks like a baby that wants to be born in the hospital.”

At a routine non-stress test (used to assess the health of the baby by monitoring its heart rate and amniotic fluid levels) the nurse saw one significant deceleration of our baby’s heart rate. And my amniotic fluid levels were quite low. My midwives consulted with their back-up obstetrician and recommended that I check into the hospital for an induction in a few hours. Their concern was that the low fluid levels were leading to cramped conditions in utero and that some sort of compression was leading to the heart deceleration that we saw. If those decelerations continued and intensified, they would lead to consistently reduced blood flow and oxygen to the baby.

I was devastated. I would never light all the candles that my friends had given me when I went into labor at home. I wouldn’t hear my own moans in our living room as I labored our baby into the world.

I was scared. Would I feel cornered into making decisions that I didn’t want to make at the hospital? Would the Pitocin make my contractions unbearable? Would the post-partum nurse cram this baby’s head onto my breast in those first few minutes instead of giving me and the baby time to try breastfeeding on our own?

The questions rolled through my head and I cried. I packed. I ate dinner at our house. And said goodbye to my mother and J. It felt like I was heading to a kind of death. Two hours to pack and say goodbye, and don’t forget to pay attention because your family will never be like this again.

We drove to the hospital and stopped on our way to get a popsicle. I allowed myself the extravagant purchase of a local, artisanal, tangerine gelato version from Whole Foods. My partner A. and I scarfed them down while we lugged our bags up to Labor and Delivery.

Photo by sleepyneko/flickr.
Photo by sleepyneko/flickr.

That popsicle was my turning point.

We settled in and unpacked. Hung some colorful scarves on the wall. Chatted with our midwife and laughed with our nurse.

I took some Misoprostol at 10:30 pm, and contractions started 5 minutes later. Sweet, blessed contractions that I’d been dreaming of for days. They were nice, rhythmic, easy ones. The baby had more heart decelerations with those contractions. They gave me oxygen started an IV drip so fast that it left me shaking with the flood of cool fluid in my veins. The decelerations stopped. And I knew at that moment we had made the right decision.

When I agreed to be induced at the hospital, I was overwhelmed by disappointment. This was not what I wanted. And I needed to sob myself silly over it. Now, here I was, thanking my baby for those heart decelerations. They helped us all make what we hoped was the best decision for him. And they confirmed, as I breathed in oxygen and watched the methodical IV drip, that it was.


It has taken me the better part of a day juggling one toddler and one baby to write this, so in the interest of my own sense of accomplishment, I’m going to post this now. I hope to deliver part 2 “soon.” ((And here is part 2…only took me 3 weeks…))

My adventures with manifesting, even though I don't like that word.

I had a religious experience with finding an apartment once.

I knew what I wanted: a little nest where my partner and I could have a baby and sun pouring through the windows and happiness by the bucketload. Without being aware of it, I also believed that there was exactly 1 apartment like this on the planet earth and if we didn’t find it, we would miss our chance. So naturally, I was filled with fear and dread and refreshed the Criagslist housing listings 85 times per day. It was a delightful time.

Thanks, in large part, to my therapist, I was able to re-orient myself toward a few things.
1) There are actually a whole bunch of places out there where we could live and be happy,
2) It’s possible to get what you want, and 3) It’s helpful to get really clear about what you want, do any work you can to help yourself get it, and then (and this part killed me) prepare to receive it.

Prepare to receive it.

I struggled with the language and the new age hippie connotations. But the strand in her advice that I could relate to was a concept that the world works in mysterious ways and can help things come about in a much more elegant way than I can all by my little self. So I held that image in my mind–great big galaxies weaving their magical spells for apartment hunters everywhere–and I wrote down all of the things I wanted in an apartment.

I wrote it all down. EVERYTHING I wanted. I put it on our mantle. I even lit a candle. And then I prepared to receive it.

After weeks of more Craigslist refreshing, struggling, not believing and feeling angry and scammed, I finally started to understand what that meant.

I was flying to El Paso to be with my dying grandmother. The timing, in terms of apartment hunting, was horrendous. This was the week when, in a month’s time, it would be move-out day, so we would be able to sign a check for an apartment on the spot. I had been waiting for this window of time, and now I was going to miss it, and that one dreamboat apartment was going to be snatched away by someone else. Probably a really cute, young couple who were wildly fertile and loved their high paying jobs.

Then I heard my therapists voice: Do the work, and then prepare to receive it.

So I did the work–I re-posted our months old “Housing Wanted” ad on Craigslist, and then I boarded the plane. While we were in the clouds, I had a moment of mental and physical lightness. My body just felt like it knew things would be okay. In that moment, I trusted. I handed the whole burden over, and let go.

A couple days later, we got a reply to our ad, and it was our future, best landlord of all time, asking if we might want to live in what was to be the cottage we loved for the next 4 and a half years. I remember walking through the cottage for the first time, stunned–nearly everything from the list (save more closets and a dishwasher) was there.

So I know this process can work. I shy away from calling it “manifesting.” All those hippie-new-age connotations again. I think other people would call it praying or handing things over to God. Any way you cut it, it worked.

I credit the same exact process for helping us find this duplex we just bought. Granted, I never wrote down that I wanted a duplex. We were looking for a place to rent. But then we stumbled into an open house one day, realized we actually had enough money to make an offer and then I went back and looked at my dog-eared list that was sitting under a pile somewhere. The duplex had everything on my list. Everything.

Now that I’m 2 for 2, I really do believe in the process. I also know its hard as hell in the midst of it and that there are many days that I look at those damned lists and curse them for not working fast enough. Or seeming not to work at all.

That brings me to the present day. We’re searching for renters for our back house. I have a clear vision of what I want. The list has been written, the candles lit. Seemed like everything was going according to plan. And then we offered it to our favorite family. They said no. And we did the same thing again, twice. Two more no’s. It’s made me doubt the magical universe.

In the past week, I’ve been completely off the rails. Feeling fearful, worried, all tight and constrained in my chest. We’ve stopped getting as many email replies to our ad. So I’ve been relaxing my criteria and showing it to folks I don’t feel much connection with. Things crescendo-ed yesterday when I cancelled an appointment to show the place again to a guy who I had a strange gut feeling about, and was met with a string of nasty emails.

Blleeech. I feel yucked. And tired. And pregnant. Like this whole venture is screwed.

So, once I got myself up and J to daycare this morning, I decided to spend some time doing a whole bunch of things that my brain likes to tell me are a waste of time. I put on some ambient music featuring sitars and gongs and Native American flutes–sounds that conjure up visions of fog and smoke and magical galaxies.

I got out the candles, and I ate some applesauce while I wrote down all of the things that I’m freaked out about on a piece of J’s art easel paper.

Then I burned it.
The paper, not the applesauce.


I carried the hot bowl outside and blew the ashes into our street.

Then I washed my hands and made a list of the work that needs to be done for the rental: re-post Craigslist ad, install new doors, find a better light fixture for the living room. And then I re-acquainted myself with the list of things that I want in our new renters. It’s a lovely list, really.

Wanted: responsible, warm, funny family who can afford the rent and wants to garden with us sometimes.

So here I am. Lute music playing, hands smelling of rose soap. I feel a bit better. Still traces of tentativeness and worry, but my thoughts feel more sorted and my body calm. Things to do, check. Prepare to receive…well, I’m working on it.