To the Moon and Back
"Oh, that's far," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "That is very, very far." Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him goodnight. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, "I love you right up to the moon - and back."
- Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney
The name of the midwife who attended Liam's birth was Moon. Really. Out of six midwives on rotation, there was just one person I hoped against all hopes would not be coaching me through childbearing. At a prenatal appointment, she had popped into the room, giving me a q-tip to swipe around my insides. She looked so uncomfortable and could barely motion to indicate what I was supposed to do before leaving the room. Moon. Come on. Anyone but Moon.
I checked into the hospital the day before Liam's birth with a big, mixed bag of emotions. My first birth had been at home, in the peace of a beautiful sunflower farm. I didn't want to go to a hospital. I didn't want to be induced. Constantine had been late too and despite rigorous mandatory testing, nobody could tell me anything to indicate that Liam wasn't safe in there. I was angry that this arbitrary rule of 42 weeks (which is almost impossible to nail down exactly) gets to determine when perfectly healthy babies are born. We were instructed, somewhat rudely, by the hospital, that we were required to check into the hospital at 41 weeks and six days. If Liam wasn't pushing his way out by the following morning at 8:00 am, they were giving me Pitocin... despite my express wishes to have a natural birth if possible.
We scheduled a cab ride to the hospital. We had no car. The cab never showed up and as we sat there waiting for my husband's mom to arrive to lend us her car, I felt such anger and sadness... We were rushing to check in to a hospital, calling to assure them we were on our way, and it felt so ridiculous. I wasn't even in labor. We weren't "late" for anything, this was about insurance companies and hospitals covering their asses.
When we arrived, it was with suitcases and a list of things "I would prefer." The attending nurses were surprised, probably annoyed, but they did a good job about respecting what they could. Despite being assured that I would only need intermittent heart monitoring, they hooked me up right away. By the time I left, there were blisters on my belly from the band that was strapped to me as I tried to rest for two days in a hospital bed. I was put on IVs and spent most of my visit trying to avoid looking at my arms because needles make me dizzy. In and out, people came to check in and remind me that I needed to magically go into labor, because the drugs that I didn't want were coming in the morning. They gave me something they said might help naturally jump-start labor. I know they were really trying to help me have the birth that I wanted but I was so frustrated and angry. I just wanted to go home and let Liam come out when he was ready.
My husband's mother contacted him. She needed her car back, she said, for work the following morning. She suggested he just stay at her house that evening and get some sleep. He left. I was alone through the night, trying to sleep in a darkness lit by monitors and beeping noises and voices in the hall. At one point, I drifted off and was awoken by a nurse bursting in. Liam's heart had slowed ever-so-slightly. Yeah, I thought, we were both actually resting for the first time since we got here.
I watched the sun come up in between brief moments of unconsciousness. Every minute that came closer to 8:00 felt like an unbearable weight. And then, early in the morning, I started to feel contractions. Faint and far apart, probably something they'd have sent me home for one week earlier, but enough to give me hope. My husband arrived shortly before 8:00. The morning midwife still hadn't arrived.
8:00 came. Still no midwife. The nurses stopped in to say that they were waiting on her before a decision was made about Pitocin. What is her problem, I thought. Why isn't she here yet to advocate for me? 8:10. 8:20. 8:30. The door opened and Moon walked in.
Quietly, she walked to my bedside. "I waited as long as I could," she said. "To give you an opportunity to go into labor naturally before they make us use Pitocin."
A whirlwind of emotions surround childbirth. Always. But in that moment I felt overpowered with gratitude. Quiet, awkward Moon, waiting in the hospital parking lot. Giving Liam a chance. She looked over my list of "If possibles" and nodded. For most of the day, I labored as my body told me to, with Moon sitting in a chair, out of the way. Giving me space. Giving me control of my body. When I needed her, she was there. When I asked for room, she gave it to me.
If this had been my first birth, maybe I would have hated this. If I had been uneducated, I might have been terrified by her passive presence in the corner. Why aren't you telling me what to do? Why aren't you saying more? But it was not my first birth. And I was not uneducated. I was hurting and angry and sad that I couldn't give my son the birth that I wanted for him. Being given the respect to at least give birth the way that my body wanted was the second best thing that I could have hoped for.
Anyone else and it could have gone so differently. Funny how that works. As I lay there holding my beautiful son on the night of his birth, I knew life would be different now. It was quiet. Just the two of us again, and I stayed awake most of the night so that I could hold him and marvel. Such vast love wrapped up in someone so tiny. Love that stretched all the way to the moon...
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