Orin Clarence Carlson-Lee was born at 4:28am on January 20th, 2005...but that’s the easy part. The hard part was the 6 years previous, and the 38 weeks of pregnancy. So let’s start with a short version of the first hard part.
Rebecca was a surprise for her daddy and me. We weren’t planning a family, and neither of us thought we would ever do so. So, well, it was an adjustment right from the start. I knew right away that I wanted the baby, and gave Dad the choice of participating. He wanted to, so we got married and I wrapped up the life I had in South Africa, moved to Canada, and we started to build. Jerry lost his Dad in March of that year, and in June we expected our child. We moved from his crowded condo into a rental house closer to his work April 1st. So in the span of 6 months, Jerry had lost a parent, gotten married, moved and would soon be a Dad! I don’t think he could have withstood another major life change without serious explosion of brain cells, poor man.
We both thought the baby would be a boy, and had a ton of boy names, but only a couple of girl names. We went into labor using castor oil on June 21, 1998. Father’s Day. We were 13 days overdue. At 2am contractions started, and I knew they were the “real” deal. At 6am I woke Jerry to get some extra support. I was pretty done doing it by myself at that point. He phoned the midwife at about 7am. She came over at 8am and checked my cervix. I was at 81/2 cm! YEAH!!! She said we’d have the baby before lunch! Well, lunch came and went, the entire afternoon came and went. I was having really strong contractions about 1-2 minutes apart, but I wasn’t progressing. At 6pm, after 16 hrs. of active labor, we decided to forego the planned homebirth and go to the hospital. When we got there, I started saying (or yelling, I can’t remember) I want an epidural!!! They got an anesthesiologist over pretty quickly. Unfortunately, between being in the hospital and having the epidural, the contractions slowed right down. So they had to give me pitocin to pick them back up. We had our midwife with us still, although I don’t remember her doing much until the baby actually came out. There was also a rather nervous intern, who kept hollering that the baby was in distress. “How many times are you going to let the baby’s heartbeat fall before you get it out???” I remember that as clearly as if he were in the room with me now. Ugh. At 9:30pm the intern said he was going to go book us into an OR for an emergency C-section. The baby’s heartbeat was falling with every contraction (and there were lots again, although I couldn’t feel them). It was picking right back up afterwards, but no one mentioned that. I had my midwife check me again, she said I was 10cm., and I started to push. I pushed, and pushed, and PUSHED! I pushed like there was a reason to have my intestines reach out and touch the far wall. I was PUSHing for 2 ½ hours. Finally, a sunny side up baby emerged with her little forehead first and her fist up by her ear. It was 12:22am on June 22nd. She was 22” long and 7lbs 11oz. She was a very difficult presentation, one of the hardest to deliver naturally. Unfortunately I couldn’t feel any of the actual delivery other than crowning, but I did feel that and I thought it was WONDERFUL!!! However, after the birth, there were stitches (lots of those) and depression (lots of that too) and bleeding and too much alone time. We hit bottom. By six months I was a wreck. I started to get some help, and finally figured out that I was angry about how the birth had gone, that noone ever told me what an amazing thing it was for me to birth this baby the way we did, even if it meant giving up the beautiful home birth we had planned. And I was making so many adjustments so quickly, that the baby wasn’t a focus of joy for me, but rather an onus and a reminder of all I had given up for this new life. It was difficult and the days were dark, but we got help, and about two years later I was finally myself again! A new me, a different me, but me at the core, whom I recognized and loved and remembered. Finally!
And now the second hard part, in which we deal with nasty little comments and several false starts.
When Rebecca was four, we moved 4,000 miles across the continent and into another country. When she was six, I knew I was ready and wanted another baby. I was pregnant quickly (a little too fast, actually), and the pregnancy was easy. Due date approached, people started calling, saying nasty little comments about how I looked ready to “pop”, etc. This time, I had found an online source of companionship and commiseration – other mamas all due about the same time we were. They were in addition to an extensive network of friends here in NY who were supportive, if busy. Rebecca was now in first grade, all day school, and I was really enjoying the time I had before the baby came. Life was so much more organized, more supported, a lot easier to add a new dimension to.
Two weeks before due date, we had contractions that lasted several hours, and narrowed to 2 ½ minutes apart. We called the midwife, who rightly didn’t think they would go on all night. By 5am they had petered out to nothing. Somewhat disappointing, but we still had a couple of weeks to go.
Two days before due date, at about 9pm (Jan 18th), we had more contractions. I didn’t take them too seriously, because of the earlier scare, and because Rebecca had been so late, I figured I’d be a late deliverer again. I couldn’t sleep that night, though, as they were coming closer together and somewhat more intensely. At about 1am I woke up Jerry and asked him to time the contractions. They were now 2 – 2 ½ minutes apart. We called the midwives again. They came over quickly this time. By 5am, once again the witching hour for me, they had slowed down to about every 15 minutes. The midwives said this can happen, just try to relax during the day and see what happens tonight (the 19th Jan.). At 4pm we called our doula, Wendi, who came over about an hour later and did reflexology on my hands and feet, utilizing the pressure points for birth on both. At about 8pm the midwife called and said she’d be coming to sleep over later that night. She arrived around 10:30pm. Contractions were regular and strong by then. We all went to bed except Wendi, who stayed up to time contractions. At midnight I was in real discomfort. I had Wendi wake the midwife, who woke up Jerry. They came in and we started to try new positions and such to move along the labor. I was at about 7cm. No water had broken through. At 2am we called the second midwife and she came right over. By then I was really working hard, and starting to get loud. I never thought I’d be loud, but there you have it – I was LOUD! The moaning felt so good. I took a quick shower, but it was hard to keep the water temp. just right, and I didn’t like it. So out we came. Actually, the bed on which I had ALMOST delivered Rebecca was exactly where I wanted to be. I was most comfortable there on my side. No back labor this time (whew!), I just wanted to get the baby moving down. This time I was feeling EVERYTHING – every little movement of the baby I could feel. It was an incredible and powerful feeling. I could feel the baby slide between my bones and push them apart further. I could feel the baby enter the birth canal. As we progressed, I had more and more desire to PUSH. As I was pushing, the midwife noticed that the baby was straining somewhat, and had me turn from my left to my right side. I started to push at 5 minutes after 4am, and the baby shot out of me 23 minutes later. The placenta delivered whole with little blood loss, and no stitches were needed. Orin (then Isaac) was born 8lbs even, 21” long. He was perfect, gave a little cry, and then snuggled up into his mama’s breasts. He started to nurse quickly and hasn’t stopped!
This birth felt EASY after our first experience - noone yelling at us, our candles lighting the room, the flannel sheets pressed to my face smelled faintly of patchuli and oranges. The oil heated on the dresser soaking the warm cloths the midwives used to soften my perineum was almond. I felt whole, strong, super loved.
We are blessed twice, first because we have two beautiful healthy children, and second because now we know what it is like to be a member of a community of women and families who have delivered their children in love, peace and warmth in the comfort of their own home.
Mama to B and O , wife to J and me to me! :