Smoosh became a separate entity on Saturday morning, October 1st, 2011 at 8:18am, weighing 4 lbs, 1 oz, after what felt like about 30 seconds of labor. Smoosh is a girl, she, her, peanut, princess, my Ada Colette. There is not nearly enough of her to continue to call her Smooshy Baby, and yet we do. She’ll spend a couple/few weeks in the Special Care Nursery, fattening up and being monitored for all of the various things that can afflict a baby born seven weeks early.
We don’t really know what happened. The minor infection that I was treated for at my last trip to the doctor was clear and there were no signs anywhere else that she’d be coming so early. It appears that she dropped on Friday night and decided to just keep going. I woke up around midnight, mildly uncomfortable and went back to sleep until about 2am. By 4am, I had started timing contractions, though they were nearly an hour apart, and taking hot baths and stretching out on my exercise ball – all things that had made contractions go away previously. By 4:30am, I’d contacted my mom and Monnik for advice, and at 5:30, I was in a hospital bed and 5cm dilated and finally admitting I needed to get in touch with GL, who was in New Hampshire for a marathon on Saturday morning. I’d avoided contacting him all night because I didn’t want to disturb his sleep and I was so convinced that I was the girl who cried wolf. Again.
I was given a drug to try to stop or slow labor, and a drug to help speed up development of Smoosh’s lungs, and we wanted 12 hours, or ideally 48 hours. At that point, we made the call that this was the real deal and GL started working on an earlier flight. Thinking/hoping the drugs would help, I thought he’d have a shot of making it back. I was offered an epidural, and though I strongly objected to it for my Great Big Natural Birth Plan, the first though I had was “I don’t want an epidural because it can slow labor . . . WAIT it can slow labor BRING IT ON.” I’m not sure it had even taken effect by the time I was pushing, I definitely didn’t feel its full force of numbness until it was all over. To be honest, in a hospital bed at 33 weeks listening to the baby’s heart beat on the monitor while they administered a drug because her lungs might not work? I’d have done damn near anything to slow her roll.
I had not gotten around to the whole “packing a bag” portion of my pregnancy, and I don’t know if I’d have had the presence of mind to grab it on the way to the hospital anyway, so convinced I was that this was nothing. Therefore, my birth kit contained a cell phone and a rock that I had in the console of my car, which my mother fetched for me when she arrived. The rock was the only part of this I had under control, and so without my temp sensor and in a room rapidly filling with the preemie baby team and doctors with bedhead paged in urgently, I began my meditation.
My mother described me as “zen”, so I think it showed, but I was in a different place between contractions. I only pushed for about 30 minutes (I guessed 15, but last night I read the text convo between my mom and GL as she gave him a bit of play-by-play, and it’s a little over 30 minutes) and if I had to tell you what “pushing” meant or explain how to do it, I couldn’t. I barely remember that process already. During my rests, I was anywhere but there. There weren’t three doctors and five nurses and bright lights and infant resuscitation equipment waiting for my baby. It didn’t hurt. I was standing in a creek up to my knees, with GL, and I had a smooth flat stone in my hand, and the water was flowing around us and the sun was setting and there was no fear. I don’t know how much time I got between contractions, but it felt like hours. It felt like enough time to sleep deeply and dream, and I did. The mind is a powerful ally, my friends.
And so, from my months of research and planning and book-reading and interviewing doulas and midwives and every friend I’ve ever had who has given birth, I can offer only one piece of advice, only one part of my experience that played out in a way that could be accounted for: start with the brain. Every woman I talked to told me to not be committed too much to my plan, because so much can’t be planned for, and I have a small measure of pride in how much I prepared mentally for the total lack of control I ended up having over the process. Would my full term, natural, not-attended-by-eleventy-people birth have been a beautiful and empowering thing? Yes, it would have. But this was too.
If I could tell this story the way I tell stories, my 40% rule in action, I’d tell you that I got everything I wanted, and Smoosh had a water birth. To me, it feels like the truth. Everyone else was in that room, but I wasn’t. I had my baby in Tryon Creek, under the most gorgeous blue sky you’ve ever seen, with her father there, and the cool water flowed around the three of us.