Our surprise child.
This baby was a quiet one. She snuck into our lives by way of persistence and grew in quietness, muffled beneath my placenta. Her pregnancy was similar to her brother’s, though some things differed...my hair did not grow thick, my skin was not flawless. I also ached from head to toe and every step I took felt like I was on a stair stepper. Insomnia hit me every morning at 1am. I groaned at the pain of rolling over or sitting up in bed. Plus I had a 1 year old who happens to have a very rambunctious and fearless personality, required being picked up and taken outside to be happy, and was out of the charts in weight!
I was still scared from my last labor experience. The idea of the hospital traumatized me, and I was very anemic (even at the persistence of every pill and diet plan and vitamin out there) which might mean needing to give birth at the hospital in order to be safe from dying. And the idea of dying and leaving my children motherless was the worst fear of all. Quite the catch 22! Days before my due date a miracle occurred. My blood count spiked out of the blue to one point over the minimum birthing center requirement and the birthing center didn’t check it again. So I knew I could be at the birthing center. I was so happy!
At 37 weeks I had started having signs I’d go into labor. But nothing happened. Then at 39 weeks: total quiet. My due date came and went and I faced the knowledge that I may be forced to go into the hospital if I went to 42 weeks. I was back at ground zero.
James and I tried everything to get things moving naturally, from spicy Indian food to walks in the park to Webster chiropractic appointments. When I was 40.4 wks I started doing acupuncture, essential oils, and homeopathy. I got my membranes “massaged” (since they couldn’t manage to strip them) multiple times. I did Miles Circuit, the birth ball, ate pineapple. You name it, I did it. Still nothing. My days were full and exhausting between potential labor-starting activities and watching Gabriel. But the midwives said that the baby wasn’t descended and I still had a lot of water beneath its head. It would be too dangerous to do a Foley bulb to start labor because it could break my water and the umbilical cord could fall out.
So on my curb-hopping walks I started realizing how I sucked in constantly, trying to hold up the weight of the baby. I learned how to be conscious of my ab muscles. I learned to relax them. To embrace the pressure. To breathe down.
They announced the baby’s head was engaged.
Still nothing. I felt so sad, so disappointed in my body and its ability to do labor. I tried to combat this depression by remembering that I had carried a healthy baby 9 months in utero. But I had needed progesterone. Knowing my MTHFR mutation, I wondered if this would always be my story. Sluggish hormones. Sluggish labors. I gritted my teeth in preparation for Pitocin, IVs, beeping, tiny rooms, fluorescent lights, and most of all, pain.
To add to all of this anxiety, I had a very hard time imagining my baby. I didn’t know the gender and its actions were so muffled because of my posterior placenta. I felt like there wasn’t a connection, like I was failing my baby.
I planned on trying castor oil as a nuclear option on Sunday, since the scheduled induction was Monday night at 42 weeks.
. . .
It is Friday.
I wake up and see the sun shining through my window. I realize with a jolt that it is MORNING. I haven’t slept through the night in weeks!
“Maybe I should do it today?” I think. “I am rested!”
I call the midwife about it and she warns me that castor oil/breast pump inductions aren’t successful unless you really give it all you’ve got, even if it hurts or isn’t pleasant. That puts a bit of downer on my happy spirits and I decide I need to be practical in my expectations.
We have a day of appointments. First Walgreens to buy $8 worth of castor oil. Then Baby+Co.
At this point I am pretty familiar with the faces at Baby+Co and all the midwives know my situation. I am one of the Few. I am also the one who nobody can manage to strip membranes on. The midwife informs me that I am effaced but not dilated at all. She says the castor oil very likely won’t work the first time, but if I do it today it may dilate me enough for a Foley bulb on Sunday night.
I text James to get me a small chocolate frostie from Wendy’s as a medium for the castor oil.
James pulls up with a large chocolate milkshake from Cookout.
People. I have never even drunk a whole milkshake to myself. I have six siblings.
And here I am, pouring 2 ounces of castor oil into this gargantuan stirofoam cup. I tell myself that the largeness and sweetness and chocolatey-ness will dilute the castor oil.
I am wrong.
The stuff is insidious. You merely open the bottle and the smell fills your senses, coats your fingers, infuses the straw, seeps into your lips.
For 16 ounces I try to swallow the gag. Don’t throw up. Don’t throw up. Look outside. Think of pretty flowers. Think of the great big sky above you. Don’t throw up!!!
Just as I finish James pulls up to the acupuncture center. I waddle into the building as he drives Gabriel off to the park. Yay husbands! As I sit in the armchair and get stabbed all I can think of is the sight of me jumping up, needles waving, running to the bathroom to puke.
I ask the acupuncturist to treat the points for nausea and thankfully it helps me hold in the castor oil.
James has notified the family when I come out and to my dismay I find that his mother can’t get out of work and my mother stayed up all last night writing for a deadline. But then again, the midwife has said it probably wouldn’t work this time around anyway.
So I head home to pump. It is around 3:30pm, two hours since I took the oil. I snuggle Gabriel on the couch while we watch Mary Poppins and the pump creates a rhythmic whoosh. At 4:30pm there are still no contractions.
“James,” I say, “make me three eggs with tubs of cheese and 2 more ounces of castor oil. Don’t forget the cheese!”
My longsuffering husband does as I bid. The smell of castor oil invades our tiny condo.
I take one bite and gag. There is no possible way I can eat it. I accept defeat.
“Does it need more cheese?” James asks.
I shake my head violently. “Just throw it away. Even the pan! Sorry honey.”
My body just ain’t going to do this. I text everyone that it’s a no-go and try to fight the imminent depression.
At 5pm I decide to take a break from pumping and walk outside a bit. It is a beautiful day. Sun shining hot, blue skies. I curb hop and lunge and relax while James and Gabriel play with the soccer ball.
Back inside I turn on Tangled for me and Gabriel (I cried at the love song at the end at least twice during pregnancy) while I sit on the couch and pump. James gets busy creating his iron-boosting go-to meal: steak, rice, and beans with a dark-greens salad. We eat. I try to get Gabriel to drink some of the sticky colostrum that is all over the bottle by now and he is totally weirded out.
6pm and I am surprised to find I am having little bitty contractions. I bounce on my birth ball to try to ramp them up.
6:30pm and my castor oil is calling to me. I go to the toilet to expel the necessary refuse and text my sister Annie that I’m starting to have some action, but that it will most likely pitter off once the castor oil is through.
Back to the birthing ball, pumping colostrum (that stuff is so sticky!), and Tangled.
The contractions get stronger as I bounce. I try to time them but they are back-to-back. I think they probably aren’t legit, since everything I have read talks about contractions being 2-5 min apart.
Round 2 of castor oil expulsion. Suddenly the contractions are way harder. I have to concentrate through them. I spend some time on the toilet trying to relax down and breathe.
Tangled is over. “James, why don’t you take Gabriel out in the stroller to try to get him to sleep?”
James takes Gabriel out. I get up for a drink of water and find the contraction so strong I have to stop and lean over. I head back to the toilet.
The pressure is so intense now that I have to press against the wall of the vanity on one side and the shower door on the other. A low moan erupts from me involuntarily with every contraction.
But it doesn’t feel anything like last time so I don’t pay much mind. Last time was like the hand of God reached down to crush my spine and kill me. This time it’s like God is giving me big bear hugs around my middle. It’s not “pain”, just discomfort from the exhausting pressure waves.
I text Annie between contractions and she texts back that I should get to the birthing center. I think, “Nah...this can’t be real labor. It’ll probably pitter off again.”
James comes in with Gabriel asleep in the stroller and transfers him to the bed (miraculous since this is the only time this has worked with James alone). James then checks on me. When he hears my moans he goes into slightly panicked action mode, calling the midwife and family. The midwife says to come on in. In between contractions I give James a list of what to pack in the car. He transfers Gabriel (asleep!) to the carseat. It is around 9pm.
I have a contraction so strong it propels me like a Jack in the Box off the toilet and against the counter. Then to the door frame. Then outside against the hood of the car. I’m sure my moans will wake up the neighbors. I climb into the passenger seat.
The contractions space out a bit in the car. I am afraid that we will jinx ourselves somehow, that it will all disappear now that we have recognized it as true labor.
But the opposite is true. The contractions get stronger and stronger, till my moans are yells and my hands are pressed so hard my body rises off the seat with each one.
Gabriel sleeps through it all!
The drive is 45 minutes. Traffic is hellacious. James breaks and zooms and navigates. He tries to comfort me during contractions by patting my hand.
“Stop! You’re messing up my concentration!”
”Put your hand on my back! To the right! Back to the left! Press harder! You’re still not in the right place!”
”Don’t have a wreck!”
”I’m gonna throw up!!”
I throw up.
I hop out of the car as we zoom into Baby+Co. It is 10pm and the street lights illuminate my memory. The midwife Taneesha meets me at the back door. I am still petrified it’s all going to stall even though I can’t imagine any stronger pressure.
I have a contraction in the hall, bearing against the wall. Taneesha massages my back while I try to blow raspberries and relax down like I had practiced.
In the birthing room, another contraction, and I undress into a robe and Taneesha checks my dilation.
”What am I?”
I am utterly and profoundly shocked.
“What would you like to do now?” Taneesha asks.
”Get in the bath!” I say.
She tries to do an IV first for bleeding precaution but the vein doesn’t take the first time. I beg her not to try again. All I want is to not have any foreign object attached to me. She leaves it and runs the bath.
James comes in, strolling Gabriel, still asleep, carting in all of our bags.
”Did you clean up the vomit?”
”Oh yes. It’s all taken care of. Don’t you worry about a thing.”
The family arrives from stocking up at Walgreens, getting ready for the long haul. The girls all sit down in the birthing room. The dads go to the waiting room with sleeping Gabriel. I tell them I’m at an 8 and everyone is surprised. My mother is worried the bath will stall my progress but Taneesha says I’m already through transition, which is news to me.
Apparently my vomitous car ride was transition!!
The hot bath water embraces me. The overwhelming energy dulls. My body relaxes. Annie and James press on my back where the contractions bear down hardest. The back labor increases. One contraction. Two. Three. Each time I have them move their hands a little lower.
And I am rising on my toes and hands like a cat. The baby’s head drops through my pelvis. Fire on my perineum. The pressure is so hard I yell and grunt at the same time, all instinct and reflex.
The midwife runs to the door to call the nurse for the baby catching supplies.
I have another contraction. I am flabbergasted at the pain. In Gabriel’s labor the pushing was fun, a catharsis after the hours and hours of horrible back pain. This time my labor has been so painless that the ring of fire is an absolute shock.
“Let’s get her out of the tub,” the midwife says. It has been agreed that a water birth is not preferable since blood loss can’t be calculated as well in water.
They all help me climb over the tub. Another contraction, facing the tub, and the baby is pushing itself out. I yell again, almost laughing or crying, “It hurts! I didn’t think it was going to hurt! Gabriel’s didn’t hurt!!”
The midwife says, “Do you want to move to the bed?”
“No!” I turn around and squat. “I don’t want to move again! I want to have the baby here!” It feels like a baby head is dangling between my legs. My mom FaceTimes James’s mom so she doesn’t miss it. I can’t believe I am having this baby!
Another contraction, another involuntary push. My water breaks and is clear. The midwife says, “Let’s move her to the bed.” Everyone surrounds me to walk to the bed.
Step, step, step, climb on the bed, contraction, baby’s head pushes itself out. I push once and the body slithers out in a ring of fire.
I think: “I should open my eyes and see my baby. I can look and see what it is!”
I open my eyes, see the purple bloody crying baby beneath me, and pick it up.
It’s a girl!!! A big healthy girl!!! One more surprise for the evening! I had been totally 100% certain it was a boy and had been so worried because we couldn’t settle on a boy name! It is 10:26pm, less than 30 minutes since we arrived at the birthing center.
I swivel around to sit down and look at her. She looks just like James’s first baby picture.
She nurses right away. We name her Miriam Anastasia, a rhapsody on a theme of Mariana, a name we have thought about since our dating years. I have always loved ‘Miriam’ because it is the true Aramaic version of ‘Mary’.
Except the office worker puts an extra space in so on the birth certificate it says:
Miriam Anastasia Da Silva.
My OCD kicks in every time I see it. Haha.
My bleeding is not serious, but they give me a shot of Pitocin as a precaution. The placenta slides out, slimy and grey and ginormous, bigger than Miriam!
But I am still in for the harrowing experience of stitching. I *almost* have a 3rd degree tear and *almost* get transferred for stitching, but I beg to not go to the hospital. The stitching lasts 1.5 hours, almost as long as the hard labor lasted. There are numbing agents so I don’t feel a needle, but I still feel the wound get pushed and prodded. Taneesha does a great and thorough job. Annie and James sit on either side of me holding my hand while the baby does skin-to-skin and then the family holds her.
Gabriel is woken up to meet his new sister. He is super confused and sleepy and wants to just snuggle me!
The stitching is done, we are all settled down, and the family goes home. But Gabriel is wide awake now! Poor James walks him in the stroller in the hall trying to get him to sleep. Finally, a movie in the waiting room does the trick! I try to sleep with the baby in the birthing room, but my adrenaline is too high. I doze in and out, snuggling my new darling girl. I am so so so thankful.
But my phone is misplaced. So I can’t communicate with anyone or get James to come back with Gabriel until the nurse arrives for the morning checkup at 6am and helps me locate my phone. She goes and wakes up James for me.
James, Gabriel, Miriam, and I all curl up on the bed together, amazed at our beautiful and blessed family.
James’s mom comes straight from work to meet Miriam while James and the midwife help get things packed and loaded up. We drive to my mom’s house and stay there throughout the day, recouping.
I am overjoyed at how amazing I feel. I was so miserable pregnant that now I feel like a new woman, even if I did just have a baby! In fact, I feel so amazing that James and I manage to get Miriam baptized within 36 hours of her birth.