Reflections On My Middle Son’s Birth

At his ninth b-day dinner :)

At his ninth b-day dinner :)

I’m bad at birthdays. They sneak up on me, though I don’t know how, considering that my new nine year old has been counting down since Christmas til this day. The past month I’ve fielded daily questions about it – how much longer, who would come to his party, what gifts he would like – and which ones he would NEED, why he couldn’t just go buy the gifts he asked for in the week prior….

This morning I woke up, as I do on all birthdays, to the realization that instead of wrapping gifts and making a card the night before, I instead curled up in a ball on the couch and drifted off, giggling, to our new favorite comedian, Hari Kondabolu who was ranting ridiculously about health care and flamboyant heterosexuals.

So, now I’m holed in a room upstairs, writing, coloring, and wrapping. It’s fun, but frantic. A little overwhelming. Sometimes (I don’t think this time), I collect gifts way ahead of time, then forget that I’ve done so. And much later remember that I’ve done so. It’s what happens when birthdays take you off guard, like they do me.

His birth was like this. I knew it was coming. I was ready. The birth kit sat in a box; his clothes and diapers, folded and washed; our team of support was on deck. But then he decided to be born and it was game on. I was anticipating a fast labor, considering his older brother’s birth was a mere 4 ½ hours. But my midwife kept insisting that a second birth was as virgin as the first. That there was no pattern established yet. I later determined she was lying so I wouldn’t panic. You simply can’t prepare someone for a two-hour labor.

After he was born, nearly everyone responded to his fast labor with, “*GASP* You’re SO lucky!” And I wanted to punch them in the throat. Unless you’ve experienced a seven pound fetus barreling through you while you lie, sideways on the bathroom floor, gripping the cabinet doors as through they are the roller coaster handlebars and yell (not moan, yell) with all your heart, you just have no idea. There’s a reason these things are supposed to take time.

“Stop pushing!!”

That last one one was a sort-of truth. It wasn’t voluntary, anyway. But I could feel him inching his way down with each contraction as I yelled away. I will never forget the details of those sensations as long as I live. I didn’t rationally fear that I was going to die, yet I felt on a plane of otherly existence. Powerless and taken over; consumed by an electrical current that pulsed through my entire body. It was hard to breathe; it took all of my solitary concentration and effort as the contractions subsided (though they never went fully away) to force myself to regroup and center and position myself for the next.

She arrived as he began to emerge. She squeezed through the crack in the bathroom door, the one my family sat on the other side of, biting their knuckles and holding their breath. As she stepped over me, she soothingly cooed, “Thank you for waiting for me.” I breathed my first deep sigh.

Miles birthMoments later he was handed up, purple and squishy onto my chest. I flopped back and mindlessly caressed his back as I felt myself swirling through space, like the moments in the dentist chair when you’ve breathed in deeply through the mask on your face. His first scream hurled me back into the present plane. That kiddo screamed and cried for hours, a mirror to my rant in the previous two. Everything hurt. The placenta birth was as intense as his labor.

My uterus ached; my vagina pulsed and swelled. But I walked, easily and gladly, to my bed across the hall. I guzzled orange juice and nibbled at cereal. I snuggled my new baby; investigated him, sat with the midwife, cross-legged, on my bed as my family stood by in the room. We laughed and marveled at his impatient debut. My family was stunned, amazed that such a frightening experience could be normal; that birth could be safe even when it was scary.

That day we slept a lot together. No one came in to take him from me; no one weighed him, or warmed him, or poked him, or insisted I not sleep with him, or charted his feedings. It was just us. I was trusted, I was competent. I was inching my way toward healing.

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  1. says

    My 3rd birth was so much like this, though I was in the hospital and not at home :( All three of my births were fast but my 3rd was the fastest. He was born in 2 hours, from the start of contractions to him being out! It was so INTENSE. Like an adrenaline freight train heading for a cliff. My legs trembled for a half an hour afterwards.

    • Profile photo of Kathi Valeii says

      Wow. THat’s amazing that you made it to the hospital! I always joke that it was a good thing we planned to have him at home because it’s where he would have been born anyway. :)

  2. says

    I love that I just read this as I have been in the process of posting details on my nearly 3 day labor from 5 years ago. It did so much to teach me just what your midwife told you – each birth is it’s own. When I tell people I had an ecstatic birth they expect fast. They don’t expect 3 days. And I always tell them I would take a 3 day all me and my baby labor over my 19hr doctor’s hands all up in my labor ANY DAY!!!

    Thank you for this story dear friend <3

    • Profile photo of Kathi Valeii says

      Yes! I’d take any labor over a “doctor’s hands all up in my labor!” Awesome expression! I say that this birth was a step on my way to healing because I still had a lot of unprocessed trauma left over from my previous birth that I really hadn’t attended to. This birth was a running away from it of sorts. Not until my third pregnancy did I start to fully intentionally unearth all of the stuff from my 1st birth. I even found some surprising baggage from my middle son’s birth.

  3. says

    This whole thing made me grin. From the photo at his dinner to your boy asking why couldn’t he just buy the requested gifts in the week before his birthday – to your account of his fast arrival. Happy Birthday to you both (belated)!

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