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Joel, age 5

Joel is 5 today. I am reflecting on his journey into our arms.


On the morning of October 21st, I had a regularly scheduled appointment with my midwife. I was 39w6d and had no idea how close I was to delivering our fourth son and fifth child because I refused all cervical checks and monitoring. That birth was going to be as crunchy as marble and hypernatural, I told everyone. Primal grunt!

Something was bothering me, though. A few days leading up to the appointment, I noticed he wasn’t moving as much. My books and the internet cooed me it was normal as labor approached, but I didn’t find these assurances comforting. I was thankful I still hadn’t returned my rented doppler—something I swore I would do daily after 20 weeks. My lazy nature has its benefits. I used it quite a bit during those few days. He was alive.

Just not kicking.

I told my midwife about the baby’s sudden lack of enthusiasm as she took out her measuring tape. She made concerned noises, then pronounced I was measuring four weeks small. The previous week, I was measuring right on target. She found his heartbeat on the doppler and was visibly relieved. “I think we should check you for signs of labor.” Okay.

That meant the dreaded check, but I had a growing sense of doom so I didn’t protest. Much to my surprise, I was 3cm. I have never been 3cm without hours of labor to credit or blame. I have a brute of a cervix and it takes a lot to get it to wither away.

My midwife had me dress. She told me to meet her in the hall, where she would put me on the monitors for a non-stress test, then she wanted me to have an ultrasound. The non-stress test showed he wasn’t behaving himself. The ultrasound sealed the deal: The fluid surrounding him measured a paltry 4. He needed to come out.

I was given instructions to go straight to the hospital. She didn’t want me to go home to pack my bag. I did get to use the office phone to call my husband at home to tell him I was having the baby now. Yes, now. Today. Yes! Today! Right now. As in, I am going to the hospital now. No, I’m not coming home. He had to arrange childcare, rides home from schools, and pack my bag. Meet me there. Today. See you. Love you.

I barely remember the drive to the hospital. There is something surreal about strolling into the hospital, solo, late morning, cafeteria lunch odors wafting through the lobby, elderly volunteers smiling, thinking you are about to birth your fifth child in a few hours. I rode the elevator to Labor and Delivery. They were expecting me. I was shown to room 5, given a gown and a sterile cup, and told to settle into bed and wait.

Another midwife from the same practice popped in the room and strapped the monitors on my belly. I was having regular contractions. She expressed hope that my body was going into labor on its own and it wouldn’t take much prodding to get me into a good, productive pattern. By this time, it was noon. She said to relax and rest as much as possible. I tried.

My husband arrived after a couple of hours. I knew it would take time to get childcare and transportation for the kids settled. Plus, he had to pack my bag. Right? He did pack—-a Target bag with a pair of underwear and a toothbrush. I teased him relentlessly.

The midwife returned to check my progress. After several hours of contracting, there was no change in dilation. Maybe a little pitocin would get things going? I agreed to give it a whirl. There was a slight sense of urgency growing each time the midwives came in the room. I finally started to progress, but it was slow. It was evening when they decided to break my water. The amount was underwhelming. It was a small gush, clear. Fingers were crossed that it would do the trick.

My husband and I spent the evening watching an “I Love the 80s” marathon on VH-1. We saw half the decade come and go as my pain increased. I watched the clock slip around the day’s horn and into October 22nd. It was my due date, and I wanted an epidural.

It was my best epidural, ever. I could move my legs, but I felt nothing. It would have allowed me to sleep well. I couldn’t sleep. I heard babies and moms, meeting each other in rooms 4 and 6. My midwife visited often. The lights were low. The TV was off. A little after 3am, I rolled from my right side to my left. Suddenly, an insane pressure gripped my entire pelvis and I knew he had fully dropped into position. I buzzed the nurse, telling her it was time to push. They believed me because the room filled with nurses, a student, and the midwife. The warmer was fired up, stirrups were clicked into postion, and I took a deep breath.

After a few pushes, the midwife told me to stop. The cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck twice, tightly. She was going to have to rotate him in the opposite direction to loosen the cord so it could be slipped over his head. This is where most of the damage occured. I would have escaped stitch-free if not for that maneuver. Ouch.

Once free of the cord, he was delivered onto my belly and I was stunned. It didn’t matter that he was #5. He was beautiful, loud, and I found myself thanking God over and over and over.

Joel was 7lbs 5oz, my littlest boy. He was born at 3:22am on October 22, 2003. They took him to the warmer and I passed out, not from blood loss or low blood pressure. It was sheer exhaustion. I had been awake for almost 23 hours with nothing more than a bowl of cereal fueling me. I slept through his first bath. They had to wake me to feed him, but I kept nodding off. I couldn’t help it. There was no rush of adrenaline to get me through the first few hours of his life. I just needed a nap, so they finally let me sleep for a few hours. I woke refreshed and Joel was ready to eat. He nursed like he invented it.

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