photo of my Humboldt Mamas group, I am second from the right
It was an easy pregnancy. Unplanned, but more welcome every day that passed. I was rarely ‘morning-sick’. I felt good, baby was growing nicely. We planned to have a homebirth. My friend was pregnant at the same time, our due dates were within days of each other. Through her, I found our midwife, a wonderful woman named Kate who my friend was apprenticing with. As it turned out, Kate had known my mother (since passed) in the good old days, from before I was born (in a local heyday of homebirth during which time both I and my sister were born at home) and that felt like a powerful, meaningful connection, a real blessing.
We were living just outside of Arcata in a little one room shack on the edge of the dunes. When I was right about seven months pregnant, B Doc (this is right before he becomes Family Man) and I went to our last reggae show before becoming parents. Reggae music was a big part of what had brought us together as we fell in love. The Marley Brothers played at Benbow; it was early September 2004. Julian Marley, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, and Ky-Mani Marley all together on the same night. I barely saw any of the concert, because of this little hill and everyone standing on top, which our blanket was behind, on the grass. I remember being exhausted from being so big and pregnant and wanting to stand up and watch with everyone, but mostly sitting or laying down even and just listening. It was a great show.
We were driving back home very late at night, after two in the morning, after the bars close. There is a certain place, on this northern stretch of 101, where another small highway intersects and there is a turn lane, from Southbound 101 which allows traffic to cross Northbound 101 to get there. So there we are, B Doc at the wheel, talking about who knows what, going roughly 60 miles an hour, when this idiot driver slows down in the turn lane and then turns right IN FRONT of us (on a deserted stretch of 101 in the middle of the night with no other cars around for miles!) right in front of us! and then stops! right there, in the middle of the highway. We might have both died tragic deaths instants later. It is a miracle we did not. B Doc saved our lives (and the other drivers, too). Like a pro-driver, he instantly swerved around the vehicle, our car plowing through the wooden post of a traffic sign and taking it out completely before plunging off the side of road, down a steep embankment. B Doc navigated the car along the incline, to keep from flipping as it slowed to a halt, airbags deploying in front of us. By the time we climbed, shaking, out of the car, the presumably drunk (and also fantastically lucky) driver of the other car was driving off down the other small highway, away from us, away from even knowing if we were okay. What kind of person drives like that?!
We were not hurt, thankfully. (This is still our birth story, remember, we’re getting there…) Lucky to be alive, and somehow, hardly a scrape on us. A police officer showed up fairly soon after (not sure if it was highway patrol just cruising by or if someone passing had called), but the other driver was long gone and no one gave chase. The officer determined that we were okay and dropped us off at a nearby all night diner where we waited for a ride from our friend. By the time we finally made it home, it was in the wee hours, just before daylight. We felt okay enough to sleep for a few hours before going to the hospital the next morning as a precaution. They put on the fetal monitors and I just had to lay there for hours. I think I must have stayed there overnight. Because even though I was not feeling anything, the monitors were picking up contractions. Our midwife, Kate encouraged me to take the advice of the doctors and go on a medication to prevent contractions as well as stay on bedrest. It was hard to accept, I wanted a totally natural pregnancy and birth, and I still felt fine. But I had to relent, everyone advised me it was best for the baby.
So followed week after week of me on bedrest while B Doc hitchiked to campus because our car had been totaled. He would make breakfast and lunch for me and leave my food by our bed so I would not have to get up while he was gone. And after we had watched no tv and no movies at all in our first year at the dune shack, he started bringing home stacks of DVDs for me to watch on our computer while I was stuck in bed. I read a lot of books, too. And daydreamed about being a mom. (I had a very rosy picture of what it would be, like real life, but with all the boring and difficult bits edited out.)
The key was to stay lazing around in bed for at least five weeks, at which point the baby would be 37 weeks, far enough along for a home delivery. That was my goal every single moment. I was very bored, but also doggedly determined. As we neared the homestretch, I started weaning my body off the anti-contraction meds. The doctors kept checking in to make sure I was still taking them. I lied. (Sorry, docs, I had to do it.) I had my own plan. 37 weeks and then I could deliver at home. And we made it! With constant help from B Doc who waited on me (us) hand and foot, we did it. At 37 weeks I stopped taking the little pills completely and my body started, slowly, easing into birth right away. I was having little contractions, far apart, for a whole day, maybe longer. So the night of October 11, as I labored on, we did not want to call Kate and wake her up if it was still early labor. As labor progressed I lost track of rational decision making and in retrospect, we should have called her much sooner. We called in the early hours of October 12, and Kate came straight over. After a night of moving and moaning through increasing contractions, I was starting to get very uncomfortable. I was hurting. Kate talked me through breathing as I lay on my side on our bed. As she showed me how to breathe, and spoke in her low, soothing voice, my pain vanished, and I felt much more relaxed. She checked by dilation, it was seven centimeters. She called the other midwife on her team, Claire, and the trainee, and told them both to be on alert, but not to come immediately. It could still be early.
Minutes later, I was in the bathroom on the toilet, feeling the urge to go, when I felt the baby began to crown. I could feel something pressing on my fingertips when I reached down. I called to Kate who grabbed a few birth supplies and came in with me. (Our mail order birth kid had not arrived yet, it would come by FedEx that day at noon.) B Doc went outside to have a pee, as the toilet was occupied by me and he wanted to be prepared. As he stood outside he saw a beautiful bright Venus near the horizon in the lightening sky. Kate was calling for him to get in there and the baby was being born all at once. I stood up and stepped to the side. Baby slithered out quickly into Kate’s capable hands. She passed him between my legs to B Doc behind me in the doorway. He cradled our newborn against his sweatshirt leaving a big dark red blotch across the front which never washed out. Then Kate swaddled the baby and handed the bundle to me as I sat down on the toilet again. My brand new baby in my arms was a feeling like nothing I had ever experienced. I peeked inside the blankets and announced, it’s a boy!
The delivery was so fast, I had not even pushed. But I still needed to deliver the placenta, which took 45 minutes of pushing to finally get it out. It was during this time that Claire and the trainee midwife came on the scene. The baby had come out so quickly, I had a large tear which needed stitches, which in this case meant a trip to the local clinic to see a nurse. Our new baby stayed, for close to an hour, in his Daddy’s arms at the beginning of his life, as I left, got stitched, and returned. Claire drove me there and Kate stayed with Daddy and baby. I was in a day dream as I went through the motions; every time I closed my eyes I could see my newborn baby’s face etched in my mind. When I returned, everything was fine, baby gazed peacefully upwards into his fathers face. I gathered him into my arms and began to get acquainted. The midwives showed me how to get him latched on and he took to it like a champion and nursed easily.
We did weigh him, with a hanging scale, but based on later measurements, it might not have been an accurate reading. He was probably about 6 and half pounds at birth. He was a teeny little thing, but that could be expected three weeks early. So we took a long baby moon, keeping the curtains drawn to keep it more womb-like for the first couple weeks. When our son was born, B Doc was only 20. He was young to be a father, and yet so very mature and supportive and loving. It was then his friends started calling him Family Man. Family Man took the placenta out to the dunes and buried it deep in the sandy earth beneath a pine tree.
On December 25, one day before his 21st birthday, Family Man gave me a special gift. Inside, when I opened the lid, there was a ring. Family Man got down on his knees and asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes.
photo of my Humboldt Mamas group, I am second from the right