Just wrote this up for a zine - comments? criticisms? misspellings? grammatical errors?
It’s 7:20am and the front door closes too loudly as my husband leaves for work. My ten-year-old daughter, B, climbs down out of her loft bed in her room and I feel her slide in bed next to me.
“Mama, what are we doing today?”
I’m so tired. I’m such a lazy mama. If I could, I’d stay in bed until 10. She watches too much TV as it is and anytime that I spend sleeping in is time that she spends in front of the TV. I realize, too, that I have a couple appointments today. I know exactly how my daughter wants me to answer her question: bike riding, a fun trip to Auntie Hallie’s, the library, a bookstore…
“Well, we’re gonna have some breakfast, then I have a few appointments,” I tell her.
“Who are the appointments with?”
“Ummmm….Lisa and then Carla.”
“UUUUUUHHHHH! I hate going to Carla’s!” Carla’s two and a half year old daughter is a chore for B. Normally, she does so well keeping siblings occupied while I’m doing prenatals. Unfortunately, Carla’s daughter is very wild and loves B. It’s a lot more work than she bargains for with this little one.
She plays with a friendly dog outside during the first prenatal. All is well, both she and the dog are completely out of breath by the end of the appointment. We head over to Carla’s. I attempt a quick pep talk, bribing her with some cold hard cash for her work with Carla’s daughter, Mollie. She’s not complaining as much, but clearly she’s not looking forward to this.
We get to Carla’s house and knock on the door. Immediately, I hear Mollie scream, "B!!!" B ducks behind me, sighing and moaning under her breath. I put on my happy midwife face.
As I get settled in next to Carla on the couch, Mollie happily grabs B’s hand and drags her off to another part of the house where there are toys. They emerge a couple minutes later with a big box of wooden blocks. I am conducting the prenatal, while also keeping B and Mollie in my view, too. I suddenly see Mollie get up and jump on B’s back, pulling at B’s long hair like they were reigns. B cringes, says, "Please, Mollie, don’t pull my hair, come on, please get off my back." I am so amazed by her patience and gentle redirection with this crazed toddler.
By the time we’re palpating mama’s belly, Mollie is throwing wooden blocks at my poor daughter. Her mother, unaware how to discipline her daughter or set boundaries for her behavior, is managing weak statements, "Oh, Moll, please don’t do that. We don’t throw." I’m trying to help my daughter, and then Mollie is on her mom’s belly, grabbing at my doppler and my tape measure. I’m struggling to keep my equipment hidden or zipped up so they don’t disappear with Mollie.
I glance over at one point to see Mollie taking B’s hand. She grabs B’s index finger and sticks it up inside her nose. B is freaked. I could tell that having her own finger in her own nose is one thing, but to have her finger forcibly put up a toddler’s nose is too much. She is losing patience. She is trying so hard. I offer her "the look" which means that I will wrap this up as soon as possible.
Carla asks me, since she is a week past her due date, if I would check her cervix. I glance at B, wondering how she would do here with Mollie for another fifteen minutes or so. By the look on her face, I know. Still, I tell the mom sure and grab my glove and lube as we head to the bedroom.
The mom leaves the door open, not worrying about B or her daughter. I am starting to do the exam when in bounds Mollie; she runs for the bed, hopping on her mom, all over the large swollen belly filled with baby. B runs in after her and is caught short by the sight of what we’re doing. I think this is the first time she’s seen me doing this at all. I smile at her and tell her what we’re doing. She knows all about the mechanics of birth, and either understands or doesn’t care to ask questions. I began to think about how weird that must be for so many people, and how normal this is for my daughter.
She’s relieved when we leave their house. She heads out to the car even before we can finish scheduling the next prenatal. I hear her bitch in the car about the visit; the horrors put upon her by this seemingly small and innocent girl. I empathize, thank her profusely and promise that next time I’ll find a friend’s house she can go to.
In the last year, B has been invited to two births. The first birth was a mama with a four-year-old son that was smitten with B. If weather permitted, she was planning an outdoor waterbirth. We were all excited and B was thrilled to be with me and get to witness a birth.
When the mama went into labor, it was 10:30 in the morning. Perfect. I get my things and B and we head out. B is playing with her son in the lovely summer sun, and by 3 that afternoon the mom is pushing. She’s in the birth pool, on her hands and knees. B has her son on her lap, holding him up as they both have a great view of the baby emerging in the caul [in the water bag] under the water. Then, a small piece of poo goes floating by. I nonchalantly swoosh it out of the way, but I catch B’s face in the corner of my eye - she is appalled. I smile and the baby emerges in to my hands, the vernix exploding out of the water bag as it breaks, catching the sunlight in the birth pool. It was a beautiful, short birth.
Of course, all the way home, I heard about the poo in the water. She was mortified. She used to talk about wanting a waterbirth, but now she is totally freaked out about it. I kept wanting to talk about the baby being born in the caul and what an auspicious sign it is in some cultures and she returns to the topic of excrement.
The second birth she attended with me was a client who was having her eleventh baby. A large family to my only child was heaven. Of course, given an hour at a time, all these siblings can appear fun without any of the hassles. B and three of the sisters were there for this little one’s birth. It took all night, and the younger girls and B giggled until the wee hours of the morning, which stressed me out. I don’t mind if their kids are making noise, but I’m so self-conscious about my own daughter disrupting labor. I was relieved when they all fell asleep.
They woke up in the morning to mom getting ready to push her baby out. She was in the tub, but decided to stand up suddenly, feeling like she couldn’t do it any longer. Suddenly, this little boy comes falling out of his mother and I am lucky enough to catch him in mid-air. The girls, B included, are wide-eyed and excited. The dad cleans out the tub and we do our normal after birth stuff and we leave.
B tells me on the way home that there was poo in the tub when the baby came. Out of all the things she could have taken away from these two births, the poo was the most memorable. I laugh, realizing that the beauty of birth is not as important to her as the other things that catch her attention.
I have fantasies of one day having B come to more births with me. Perhaps when she’s a bit older and has more patience. She’s so great with the children that I see her being such a welcome addition to the birth team. I’m grateful that she gets to see such normalcy around birth and women’s health: no fearful language, just intimate relationship building and gentle, loving support.
It’s hard to remember that she’s not even ten yet. I need to be aware of how much I expect from her and how much she is exposed to. I realized this winter that she picks up on so much information from my interactions with clients. As I came back from the bathroom during one prenatal, I heard her telling my client how she could turn her baby from posterior to anterior through various exercises. I know there must be so much more [including risque information!] that she absorbs.
For now, I’m working hard to balance my home life, homeschooling and midwifery. Unfortunately, progress of labor and women’s anatomy is not covered on the state tests!