I begin the slow return to embracing my animal nature with the birthing process of my children. Still living in Philadelphia area, it’s the early 1960’s now. There are no natural childbirth classes yet, but there is talk of breastfeeding. When I ask the husband of my pregnant friend, Shelley, if she is going to nurse their baby, he, an educated, decent man, looks horrified. “Are you kidding? I refuse to have a cow for a wife.”
Too timid and confused about what I want, I can’t assert myself with this first pregnancy. I choose the standard route for delivery -the right obstetrician, the right suburban, spanky clean hospital, doing it the modern, woman-divorced-from-her-body way, though I do insist on a spinal so I can be awake when it happens. Always wanting to be prepared, I have been reading books about labor and delivery. Intellectually I know about the different stages of the process.
Contractions begin in the late afternoon. By late evening, they’re close and regular so we head out the door. Sleet and icy roads make my husband drive ever so carefully to the hospital. They say it’s false labor since contractions have stopped by the time we arrive. They put me in a room on the maternity ward, suggest I spend the night, and send my husband home. The staff thinks I am not in labor, so I’m left alone to sleep. But the contractions resume, and early in the wee hours of morning, I buzz the nurse after one particularly intense pushing type contraction. Clearly annoyed at being awakened from her nap, she steams into my room.
“I think I’m about to deliver,” I say.
She says, “You can’t be. You would have been screaming for hours if that were so.”
Screaming? I could have screamed?? Wow, that hadn’t even occurred to me.
“Please, will you look at me down there, please.”
“’Hon,’ there’s gonna be nothing to see. Go back to sleep.”
Something about my delivery of that last PLEASE makes her throw aside the covers with an I’m-not-happy-about-this expression.
She looks. She gasps. She yells. “Oh my God, the baby’s crowning.”
Such sweet vindication!
I’ll continue this story tomorrow. In the meantime, remember some of the times in your own life when your body knew the score before the officials did. I’d love to hear them.