Here we go! Geneva is asleep in her bunk bed, Lavender is snoozing on my chest, and I'm here in the basement ready at last to write down the story of Lavender's birth. I'm actually really curious about how this tale is going to unfold for a couple of reasons. First of all, I've been getting an average of four hours of sleep over the last two weeks, so my clarity and attention to detail may be... iffy. Secondly, I have requested a copy of my chart from my midwives but haven't yet received it, and I imagine that my recollection of my labor and delivery experience will be quite different from what they documented. I may find out later that what I've written here is inaccurate in some ways. I kind of expect it, actually. As any mother will tell you, labor and delivery are surreal in the extreme. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm okay with being vague or even inaccurate. This is my daughter's birth as I will always remember it, and that makes it real to me.
My due date as I had calculated it-- July 1st, 2011-- was a Friday. I had spent the morning visiting my friend Sylvia and her kids, and aside from one attention-grabbing contraction during our playdate I had not noticed anything that made me think the birth was imminent. Geneva and I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon napping, tidying up and playing with sidewalk chalk. It was just after five o'clock and I had put off making dinner as long as I could. Geneva and I were still chalking up the front walk, and as I bent forward to write on the pavement I felt a weird pop deep inside my gut. I froze for a second, but when nothing else happened I figured I had imagined it. Seconds passed, and then I felt a slight trickle. Not sure if my membranes had ruptured or if I had just lost the last of my bladder control, I collected Geneva and took her with me into the bathroom. After all, my water didn't break with Geneva until I was pushing, so I had no frame of reference. I made it to the bathroom, barely sat down and felt a decidedly non-bladder related whoosh. Feeling very certain now that This Was It, I went to look for my phone to call Avery, but before I could dial, it rang. It was Avery, calling to let me know he was just getting off work. I told him my water had broken and he should come straight home, then hung up so that I could call Kristin, my midwife. I explained to her what had happened and she asked me to call her back if I noticed contractions that were getting very strong or very regular so that she could start making the hour-long drive from Prosser to Yakima. Having called the midwife made the whole thing seem very legit. This was the point at which I remember getting really, really excited.
After getting off the phone with Kristin I found myself basically glued to the toilet for the next fifteen minutes. Having your digestive system "flush" itself at the onset of labor is very common, but I had also started contracting every three minutes and found the bathroom to be a very uncomfortable place in which to labor. Geneva was still with me and was very aware of my discomfort. She kept nuzzling my belly with her face, petting it with her hands and telling me "Mommy, I'll make you happy!" It was downright painful to have a toddler face smashed into my poor contracting tummy, but I couldn't find it in me to ask her to stop. It was just one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. Besides, labor was progressing very quickly, and I was already at the point where I needed someone there to support me. I called the midwife again and told her to cancel her dinner plans.
Between contractions I was able to throw on some comfortable clothes, waddle out to the couch and start a TV show for Geneva to watch. It was just before 5:30 now, less than half an hour since my water had broken. From that time on I was, to a certain extent, in my own little world. While Geneva watched Yo Gabba Gabba, I knelt over the arm of the couch with my head in a basket on the end table. Avery arrived shortly thereafter, followed closely by Ali, Pablo and Maya. I was coherent enough for brief conversation, but I have no idea what was said. I think I suggested that Maya and Geneva play downstairs, because that is where they spent the next couple of hours, watching TV and dancing to music with Ali. Pablo helped Avery set up the birth tub in the living room, and around six o'clock I had to roust myself from my laboring stupor in order to get off the couch and into the water. I found myself wondering if it was worth the effort to even get up. I looked at the clock and moaned in horror, "I've only been doing this for an hour??" It was a bit of a low point for me. Then I got in the tub and, as they say, my hope was restored.
Laboring in the water was-- well, it was still labor, but it was far more manageable. I recognized Kristin's truck pulling up in front of our house around 6:30, and was surprised to note that she and Selma, the midwife in training, were wearing scrubs. It makes absolute sense, of course, but it was a reminder to me that my labor was not only a personal journey but also a medical event. I thought of blood, guts... stitches... and started to feel a little nervous. Still, I was very glad to see them. Avery seized the opportunity to use the bathroom and I told him to "pee like the wind," my super-hilarious way of asking him to hurry back. He did, and then ducked outside to cut me a beautiful bouquet of lavender from our yard. It is currently hanging from our kitchen window, and is something I will treasure until it falls completely apart.
Here is where my timeline gets really fuzzy. My contractions were getting very strong, peaking early, lasting for about four days each (obviously I'm exaggerating a little), and at each peak I would feel a slight urge to push. I don't know if I had sounded calm or collected before this point, but I do know that I started to get loud. Quite loud. I wasn't screaming, mind you, but rather... singing. At least, I was hitting notes. I dealt with each contraction by intoning a note and then trying my hardest to bring it down lower. I also squeezed the bejeezus out of Avery's hands. He would whisper "down, Lavender, down" while I was contracting, and I can't think of anything he could have done better. Those words kept me focused on both the physical task at hand-- bringing my baby down through my body-- and on the bigger, more important goal of labor: meeting Lavender herself.
The midwives were a calm, unobtrusive presence. I only remember Selma checking the baby's heartbeat with the doppler two or three times, and there was never any big fuss made about it. They waited until I was between contractions to interact with me, whether it was to listen to the baby or to offer me sips of water and Gatorade. Though I was thirsty, the thought of swallowing anything made me vaguely nauseous, and I was only able to manage one small gulp after each contraction. They kept the water in the tub warm with pots of boiled water from the stove. I remember loving the sensation of each new pot of water as it was added, and I only got overheated once. At one point I realized that my back had been feeling progressively tighter and tighter to the point of being painful, and I mentioned this to the midwives. Kristin asked if she could check me and I said yes, so she performed a quick internal exam and then suggested that I might be able to get the baby's head into a better position if I stood up in the tub and put one foot up on the edge. I reluctantly did, and was overcome almost immediately by a huge contraction; I literally splashed back down into the water. When it had subsided I stood up again and put the other foot on the edge of the tub. After a moment I sensed that the baby had shifted, and felt a new kind of pressure in my hips. I recognized this feeling from my labor with Geneva: I knew I was fully dilated. "She's coming!" I said, and sank back down into the water.
The urge to push-- the overpowering, overwhelming urge-- came on slowly. I would sense the need to bear down for a few seconds and then it would subside. I didn't fight it, nor did I try to push for longer than I felt compelled to, and I don't recall when I really started to push in earnest. I do, however, remember when I began to experience that peculiar burning sensation that comes as the baby moves into the birth canal. I also remember thinking that this child was trying to float to the top of the water; there seemed to be entirely too much pressure toward the front (top?) of my pelvis, and I actually leaned back in the deluded hope that "aiming" her at the surface would alleviate that pressure. Still only pushing in short bursts, I reached down into the tub with both hands, hoping to feel my baby and guide her out myself, but as she crowned I found it was just a little too much for me to process alone. I couldn't focus on pushing, on catching, and on trying to control the baby's descent to avoid tears. I let go, and became almost completely unaware of my surroundings.
Then suddenly, almost with a pop, her head was out! The joy and relief of that moment, even as dazed as I was, is indescribable. Labor was over! My child was here! Without waiting for any signals from my body I gave another terrific shove to get her shoulders out, and Lavender was born. I have no idea how she got from the water to my arms, and I couldn't tell you who was with me or what they said. I do know Lavender was crying-- screeching, almost-- and that she was a beautiful purpley pink color. She opened her eyes and looked at me down her upturned nose, and I noticed that her eyebrows arched on the outside edges, not in the middle like mine. I was in my own living room next to the fireplace, facing southeast. The light coming in through the window was the soft, filtered light of evening. I looked at my baby and said, "so you're Lavender." That is how I will always remember meeting my second daughter. The time was 7:51pm. I had labored for two hours and forty-five minutes.
There's more to the story, of course. Geneva not only got to meet her little sister, but was allowed to help with the weighing and measuring, and even cut the cord. My mom arrived an hour after Lavender was born, to the extreme delight of both Geneva and me. There were other, less picturesque moments too: wolfing down spinach and mushroom pizza while Kristin showed us the placenta (don't judge me. I was hungry) and receiving stitches more painful than childbirth itself. But these all seem like events that happened in Lavender's life, whereas the birth story marks the beginning of her life. Her birth is also the beginning of our life as a family of four.
And so the Zoglman family adventure chronicles continue, with another cast member so beautiful and beloved that it feels like we've been waiting for her all this time.