Monday Memory: Maya’s Birth Story

Sometime during the Autumn of 1992 Paris and I moved back to Seattle to find a midwife and settle in to have this baby. For a while we lived
in our Volkswagen microbus. But sometime around November it became
obvious that not only was I outgrowing the tiny bus bed, but it was
becoming a tad too cold for the freedom of outdoor living to be what it

So we moved into a nice little hippy frat in the University
district. This place was great. There were about 15 of us living there, most
of whom were either musicians, employees of the local vegan restaurant/coffee house/juice
bar/health food co-op, or any combination of the above. As you may have ascertained, none of these
are particularly reliable sources of income. And with the house being four stories, eight bedrooms, and optimally
located there was generally a crunch for rent. We would have the best parties at the end of the month. $5.00 at the door bought admission, endless
beer and the free entertainment of 3-5 bands. It was always a gas, and we often had enough money left over to buy some
groceries for everybody. Years later,
people would stop me on the street to ask if I was the energetic, dancing,
pregnant girl.

Oh, I’m sure you can just imagine how incredibly conducive
this situation was to my gestation. Actually,
despite living on the third floor in a house that was several flights of steps
up from the street, itself, I loved it. It was great exercise. What more
does a pregnant woman need, right?

Well according to our midwife – folic acid, iron, regular
eating habits, and possibly even childbirth education classes. I took the first two, tried to do my best
with the third, but drew the line at the last one. As far as I was concerned, CBE classes were
just fine for out of touch, yuppie, new agers, but I KNEW my body, thank you
very much. Not only that, but I had read
Spiritual Midwifery until it was falling apart and was looking forward to the
rushes of contractions as well as a psychic connection with those present
during labor.

Yep. I didn’t have a

Forty weeks came and went. I began to worry a little.

Fortunately, labor began at 10:30 pm ,
a mere 3 days after my due date. I
called the midwife. She told me to get
in the bath. So we have lots of pictures
of me lying in a tub looking for all the world like a very enthusiastic
manatee. This didn’t stop my labor, but
it did slow it considerably. We called
Beth back to report contraction times. She said to try to get some sleep. She’d be sending her assistant Lynn over in a couple of hours. 

So Paris
slept. I stared at the back of his head
and became more uncomfortable with each contraction. When Lynn arrived, Paris  awoke long enough to
settle her into our big comfy chair. So
again I worried as everyone else slept.

Beth arrived the next morning to find that I’d worried
myself into a quite, panicked state. My
contractions were still further apart than they would prefer. I grew to hate my beloved stairs as Beth had
us climb up and down, pausing only to slow dance with Paris
for each contraction. In all reality I
probably only ascended those steps a few times. But in my mind the time stretched on forever. 

A few hours later, Beth checked my dilation to find that I
was at 7 centimeters. Great, 3 more to
go. I felt a bit discouraged, but was
ready to keep going. I ate some canned
pears, and wandered around a bit more. As
tired as I was, I had no doubt that this felt good, healthy and right. Two hours found me still at 7 cm. At this time Beth suggested some Cohosh
tincture and the rupturing of my membranes. Sure, I thought, whatever’s going to get this kiddo out. She scraped. I gulped.


My contractions hit me like a freight train. There was no psychic peace in this room. There was no connection to anyone else. As I sat writhing upon our big chair, I felt
like a horse in a fire. All I knew was
that I wanted to escape, but couldn’t find a way out of the terrifying heat.

I have absolutely no idea how much time passed before they
checked my cervix again. All I know is
that it hurt non stop, and I felt like I needed to push. God did I need to push. Beth checked me and grew a bit pale. I was told that I had swollen to 5 cm. What? Was she telling me that I was going backwards?

Apparently the pressure of my bearing down had placed undue
stress upon my cervix and it was swelling. Not only that, but the urge to push was getting stronger all the
time. She told me to lift my chin. She told me to pant. She told me to make horse noises with my

Still I writhed and grunted. This didn’t feel so right anymore. Beth held my chin in her hands as she told me that we needed to go to
the hospital. “No!” I wailed. I briefly spied Paris
looking terribly frightened, as Beth told me in no uncertain terms that I could
die if we didn’t leave. OK. She had my attention.

I’d been wandering around in an over-sized T-shirt for the
past day, and saw no reason to change that. So Lynn and Paris wrapped a sarong around my waist and we began the
descent to the street into Beth’s two door, small, economy car.   Paris
sat behind my seat which we had leaned waaaay back. It was approximately 4:30 pm when we took off across town to Providence Hospital.  Now I know that some of you are familiar with Seattle traffic. It is unbelievable at rush hour. When people in Phoenix talk to me about traffic, I unabashedly laugh in their faces. Buddy,
you don’t know what the word

So there we were racing across
town in the crush of it all. We careened
around Metro buses. We ran orange
lights whenever possible. At one point I
remember looking up into the face of a man in a van. The look I saw
there, I will never
forget. I think he realized what was
going on at the moment our eyes met. There, at that moment, may have
been my one truly psychic moment during the entire labor. Poor van guy. Poor, poor van guy.

So off we went. Eventually we arrived at Providence where they wanted me to do, what else, but paperwork. As I whimpered, Paris
offered to stay and do this, while I was wheeled back to the birthing
suite. It didn’t take long to get hooked
up to all the damn machines. Fist they
screwed an internal fetal monitor into my baby’s scalp. I enjoyed my one and only personal
catheterization. They strapped an
external monitor to my belly with a large elastic band while telling me to be
as still as possible. 

Beth explained to me that the plan was to give me an
epidural so that I could numb away the urge to push. The thought was that if I was not bearing
down, the cervix would further relax and dilate according to its own
agenda. Where, I couldn’t help but
wonder, was this thinking a few hours ago when they scraped open my bag of
waters and drugged me with the tincture which began this crazy nightmare? But I didn’t say that. I said that I understood. I said that I thought that was a wise
decision. So they inserted an IV Foley. This was they could give me some fluids to
help keep me going. They apparently also
had a policy about juicing a person up prior to Epidurals. There was also the general hospital opinion
that it would be a good idea to be prepared “just in case.”

So there I lay, waiting until it was time for the
epidural. About 45 minutes later, they
were finally able to track down the anesthetist. He came in, told me to bend over, and inserted
the catheter into my epidural space. A
bit of burning and it was done. The
thing I’d never wanted was done. I
didn’t get my natural childbirth. I
cried to know that this was true. I began
to feel very otherworldly and removed. Then I looked up and noticed that everyone was looking at me strangely
as one nurse read the jagged lines on the monitor printout. You guessed it. My blood pressure had dropped dangerously
low. So I was equipped with an oxygen
mask. It didn’t take long to dampen from
my tears.

So I waited. And I
waited. And my labor slowed down. It slowed further. They talked to me about Pitocin. I agreed. They turned up the epidural to deal with the painful effects of the
Pitocin. Little did I know how typical
this story is. The difference being
that, I never planned on this. I never
wanted to “bring on the drugs.” In fact,
when I later saw my paperwork, it had a big read stamp across it that read
FAILED HOME BIRTH.  That felt good…so

Anyway, after they doped me up with Pitocin and ass numbing
Epidural drugs, Beth sent Paris away to grab himself a sandwich. After
he left she leaned right down in my face. She told me that the doctors
fully expected to be doing a c-section on
me if I didn’t dilate within the next 2 hours. But, she also told me
not to worry about that. She knew me better than that. She told me to
take a nap…that I needed and
deserved it. That I was to have sweet
dreams, and when I awoke I would be fully dilated and we’d go ahead and
this baby out. 

And you know what? I
did just that. I took my nap. I woke up about an hour later for a vaginal
check. Lo and behold I was fully
effaced, dilated and ready.

There are,
in my opinion, no sweeter words than, “You can push, now.” And push I did.

I pushed for an hour and a half. I turned a few parts of myself inside
out. Yes, I have some truly unfortunate
photos of that, too. Aren’t you glad I
don’t post them? Sometimes I wonder how it
is that OBGYNs have families, at all.

Just when I thought that I’d never get her to come out, I
was told to feel her head. I was told to
look in the mirror. That’s my kid,
thought I. Oh my, that’s my kid! Pushing became so much easier then. She was out in just a few more

But the elation was short lived.  Paris
caught Maya. I heard that she was a girl. I heard them instruct him to cut the cord. Then someone said, “We’ve got a slow
one.” Suddenly, she was so far away. They had her across the room, under a heat
lamp, rubbing her – so hard. “What’s the
matter with my baby?” I asked.

No one answered. But Beth looked over at me. She
said, “Call to her. Let her know that
you want her.”

“Maya”, I called, “I love you.”

We love you!”

“Come to us.”

“Maya we love you!!!”

Paris  standing
next to the table was also calling out to our baby.  She opened her eyes…that exact mirror of his. Looked straight into his, and sighed as if to
say, “Thanks for waiting.”

Everyone sighed in response…in unison. They continued to work on her for a few
minutes. Evidently, the little gymnast
had somehow wrapped her umbilical cord around her throat three (3!) times. This may have contributed to her slow start.

And as everyone was gazing at the lovely infant, I felt
something shift. Oh great. It was my leg. They’d left me at the squatting bar. And my leg was slipping out from under me and
over the side of the bed. Clinging to
the bar I tried to heft my great whale of a self back up. “Wonderful,”
I thought, “One of the most beautiful and poignant moments of my life, and I’m
going to fall naked onto the floor.” Fortunately, that did not occur. Somebody did indeed notice and I was numbly rearranged.

I stayed in that room for another little while, practicing
breastfeeding, adoring my baby, and congratulating myself. About 30 minutes later we moved to a regular
room where Paris  slept on the
floor. I spent another mostly sleepless
night. But this time it was because I
couldn’t take my eyes off of the exquisite girl in my arms. I couldn’t believe that anything could be so
beautiful. Lying in the eternal twilight
of the hospital room I was surprised, at one point, to notice the door
opening. Imagine my bewilderment upon
spying a nun standing in the entry.  Her
only words…”Bless you, my child.”


23 thoughts on “Monday Memory: Maya’s Birth Story

  1. While it wasn’t the way you had hoped it to be, that is so beautiful, Rowan. You both are lucky to be here. It might not have been had you remained at home. I’m so glad you are. And look how Maya turned out! So smart and healthy! Totally awesome.

  2. Love your story. Sorry it didn’t turn out as you had imagined, but such a happy ending.

    I have never actually gone into labor, so I am anxiously waiting to see if I might actually get the experience this time. However, I don’t intend to try to deliver at home. I am too much of a baby when it comes to pain.

  3. Shelli:
    I completely agree. I have never had a doubt that Maya was worth it all. My only regret is that I wasn’t better prepared. I truly believe that would have made a difference. I was for Kajsa, and her birth completely different. I’ll write about that soon.

    I hope that you are able to. While the pain is a very real part of labor, it is still only a part. Despite popular belief, having a baby is just so amazing, beautiful and empowering.

  4. I read Spiritual Midwifery to death, too! “Rushes” my butt! I’ll have to tell my stories some time.

    That is really beautiful, I’m glad you are both whole and healthy 🙂

  5. Courtney:
    I didn’t mean to make you cry — really I didn’t. I hope I haven’t driven you away.

    Yeah, I was rushing…to the friggin’ hospital! I’d love to hear your story. Birth stories really choke me up. Frankly, I’m addicted. I’m glad you liked ours.

  6. That’s quite a story, and it’s good that you’ve written it down, because when you’re my age, you won’t even remember the name of the hospital or the doctor. I just tried.

    Thanks for stopping by my TT.

  7. Harmonia:
    I’ll link you. Yes, Running2Ks will be missed.

    I linked to you just a few minutes ago. I really enjoyed your marriage of convenience post.

    I don’t know if I could ever forget that day. But I could be wrong. Thanks for the visit.

  8. Wow! You have the angels circling around you and your baby! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your very special memory. I remember having to get the epidural. Couldn’t feel the bottom part of my body; I didn’t like that. It is such a miracle when you hold your baby in your arms!

  9. Ouch! It almost pains me just to read that, and I have never had kids. Things may not have worked out the way you planned, but at least you and Maya are here and everyone is happy and healthy.

    Thanks for visiting me and my MM

  10. Ocean Lady:
    Fortunatly I never had to have another epidural. Yes, children are miraculous little buggers.

    I do have that to be thankful for. Maya has always been a healthy kid.

  11. Awww, that is a beautiful story. It may not be what you planned, but the outcome is the same.
    A beautiful child. And thanks for not posting the pics.

    I just started Monday Memories last week (go me) so I am doing my second one today.

  12. Ha! You’re welcome, libragirl. Someday I may post a few birth photos, but they will definitely not include any of those.

    Glad to see you doing Monday Memories. I love the opportunity for reflection that they provide.

  13. Thanks for sharing the memory of your birth story. My birthing went all wrong too, but I was too chicken to try it at home and while I read all the “how to be pregnant” books I didn’t read any on how to have a birth…so I was clueless.

    In the end I have a beautiful girl and that’s all that matters. Sometimes I wonder about trying it again to do it right, but I also wonder about how DD would feel about that.

    My memory is finally up

  14. LadyBug:
    Funny. I’m jealous that you didn’t.

    You are MOST welcome. I’m glad to see that it elicited an AWww.

    Isn’t it though? I’ve linked the artist’s gallery page. I couldn’t figure out how to link the picture itself, so I did so as “Maya’s Birth”.

    Oh no! I’ve seen that so many times. It’s like thinking about a wedding, but forgetting about the marraige. Yikes.
    Fortunately, I got another chance. Kajsa’s birth was simply lovely.
    I’ll check out your memory, and link you.

  15. I have to laugh and cry while I read this. It reminds me so much of my first birth experience.
    I was going to write a Monday Memory today, but now that I’m reading all of these birth stories I might not get around to it.

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