It’s been two weeks since those irregular contractions. Our son is two weeks old. At 2:30 pm, just after I last wrote, I tried to take a nap, but lay awake noting every twelve minutes on the clock. After an hour or so, I called Augusto and asked him to come home. His commute can often take more than an hour, so I wanted to be sure he was on his way. I chatted with my neighbor about her plans for a Sunbrella hot tub cover. Every few minutes I paused to lean over her compost bin or kitchen table and breathe a little bit. Stella would be awake soon, so I dashed back inside and was greeted by her waking-up sounds. I brought her downstairs and got her snack ready, then my body let loose. The contractions were three to six minutes apart and took my full attention. I made sure Augusto was close then called the midwives and our friend Libby to pick up Stella. Augusto and Libby arrived at 5pm, just two and a half hours after I had laid down for my nap.
By this time I was burying my face into pillows, towels, and blankets while digging my still-humid pedicure into the rug. The sounds from my throat were curious- somewhere between a Gregorian chant and a large animal near death. While Augusto installed our car seat in Libby’s car, Libby slid her fingers across the small of my back. The light touch gave some relief from the band tightening on my middle.
When Augusto and I were finally alone, I waddled to the bathroom for the epic emptying of my bowels. At 2-minute intervals, I threw myself onto my hands and knees and made the dead animal chant then climbed back up to the toilet for more. Augusto ran the tub and then ran around the house. I could hear his feet stomping down the hardwood at a hare’s pace. Run to get water. Run to get the phone. Sprint for the phone list. Race back to stroke me when the contraction comes again. The baby’s head was low, but my dilation was unclear when I checked at 5:30pm. We paged the midwives. The tub didn’t provide the relief I wanted. With contractions on top of one another, all I wanted was one moment of rest. I also wanted to pee. The need to go was so strong- yet I was completely unable to sit on the toilet or release any pee in the tub or anywhere else I tried. A little after 6, when one midwife had arrived, the bright orange rug on bathroom floor called to me. I lay down on my side and stayed there until the end. I still couldn’t pee, but the contractions spaced out enough to drink some water and rest for a glorious minute.
Pressure. I felt pressure. Two contractions later I was pushing. We had just decided to check my dilatation, and I had only half-jokingly declared if I was 2 cm, we were heading to the hospital for a c-section. With only the tip of her finger inside my vagina, our midwife felt the head. Since I still needed to pee and the head was right there, I reached around my belly and felt his head myself. It was exciting to know I was close, and my hand between my legs gave a grammar school relief to my peeing urge. I could feel his head descend with every push. The feel of his squishy scalp over his firm skull made me forget everything else. It helped me focus on the task of getting him out. I pushed until my labia burned, then I puffed air until the burning stopped.
A few minutes into it, the other midwife arrived, and I gave her detailed directions on where to find and how to turn on the camera. I was vividly alert and knew exactly what to do. I instructed my husband to hold my leg in just the right place. I knew just how much to push each time. I asked for water when I wanted it. I smoothed my fingers over my baby’s head as he emerged a little more with each effort. There was no fear. No doubt. There was only the strength of each push and the burn as my body stretched to accommodate our second child.
At 6:37 pm, in our house in Oakland, Otto squeezed out with a tiny cry. His father, joyous with laughter, lifted him to me. Otto blinked his eyes and looked at my face, my breast, my belly that had been his home. He was pink, and warm and calm. I was elated.