I’m five days past that pesky estimated due date now, so I don’t have a 2012 birth to reminisce about yet. But it occurs to me that I never committed the full story of Edie’s birth to print. And perhaps this new baby wants me to complete all unfinished business before making his/her appearance. Like a poltergeist! Scary! In the past two weeks, I’ve detailed my car, finished sewing two baby blankets, wrapped up all freelance work for the time being, and even cleaned out my unholy crisper drawers in the fridge. Perhaps this, however, will actually do the trick! (Also, Edie goes to preschool tomorrow and so I have plans to get a haircut. Then later plans to go out with moms – no kids – in the evening, so I am pretty suspicious that this kid might be the wiser and come tonight on account of my attempts at leisure activities.)
In the days before Edie was born, I was busy trying to get a foothold into life in Munich. I was taking intensive language classes four days a week. Mastering the public transit. Figuring out where to grocery shop (never quite got the hang of this one). I also had plenty of time to sleep, meditate, take walks, practice yoga, and generally be peaceful. I truly believed that I would carry her past my due date. My mom arrived a week or so before the birth and we had planned to go to IKEA together on the actual due date. Well, that didn’t happen, because at around 3 am on January 28, my contractions started.
It wasn’t painful or scary when it all began. I was surprised how clear it was that, yes, these were contractions. You have so many sensations when you’re pregnant, and at the end, it’s a good size baby up in there, so the sensations are sometimes intense. I didn’t have any Braxton-Hicks preparatory contractions during my pregnancy, so until the show began, I didn’t know what it would feel like. I felt happy and excited when they started, and I tried to sleep. But I was too jazzed, so I told Will what was going on, that he should sleep, and that I was going to take a bath and then try to return to bed. My husband was also excited, but a lot more able to fall back asleep.
We both got up between 6 and 7 am, at which time I called my mom to let her know what was going on. Will made pancakes. We had a really nice morning. The birth house (Geburtshaus Muenchen) was called, and the midwives told me to come in at 9. At the appointment, I got the news so many first time moms get. Yep, those are contractions! But, no, that baby isn’t coming any time real soon. 2 cm dilated, I believe. So, I was told to go home and try to stay rested.
I planned a day of knitting and watching TV. But as the contractions got more intense I couldn’t keep my mind off of them. Which is a shame, but I doubt uncommon. Everything was peaceful, but I was getting really tired. At around 5 pm, a midwife came to my house, said I was still only 2 or so cm dilated, so no need to come in. At around 9 pm, I came to the decision that if I was going to be moved, it was now or never. I also decided that I wasn’t going to wait for or get in another cab (we had no car in Munich). So Will asked our landlord / lower level neighbor to drive me. Robert, the landlord, was so nice about it. His wife, Tanya, was pregnant at the time too. About 4 weeks behind me. Robert was very interested in what I was experiencing and was pop quizzing me about what made me know it was time to go to the Geburtshaus. I was not terribly responsive at this point. I believe I said something like “Arghhh…..” … “I just know…..”
We got to the birth house and then I got to climb up two flights of windy stairs. Fun fact: stairs during labor lead to more contractions!
After reaching the summit, I get in and meet the midwives who will be doing the birth. It was an on call system. Normally, I would’ve met all of them before, but I started my care there at 33 ish weeks due to moving to Munich so late in my pregnancy. So I didn’t make the rounds to everyone. I ended up with a midwife named Susanne, with another midwife in a more assistant role, Therese. Susanne’s English was very limited. Not nearly as limited as my German. But quite limited. Had I known about this communication problem, I would’ve been nervous. But as it turned out, as life does, she was the perfect person for me at the time.
I was still only 4 or so cm dilated when I arrived, but it was clear to Susanne that I needed to be there – or at least she was nice enough to say so! I labored in a tub for, I believe, two or three hours. Susanne stayed at my side, marking down contractions, keeping the water warm, and probably reading a book. Will took a nap in a chair, waking up to live-Facebook my labor from my iPhone. For my end, I sort of slept in between contractions. It was surreal. Labor was so much quieter and personal than I ever pictured. No yelling, no constant monitoring, just waiting. I was really exhausted at this point. I hadn’t slept properly since the contractions began early that morning. But it wasn’t a dramatic or frightening experience at all.
I had packed well for the trip. I brought drinks and snacks, a loaded iPod, various night shirts. But, it turns out, I was one of those no-noise, no-touch, no-clothes types. The only thing I did want was a pony tail holder, which I didn’t have, so Therese pulled hers out and gave it to me. Loved that. All in all, it was very, very quiet up until the end.
After finally reaching 9+ cm of dilation (they gave up on the Holy Grail of 10 and decided we’d start getting the show on the road a little beforehand), we got down to business. I tried to psyche myself up a bit, so I proclaimed that I did not want to be pregnant any more. I sort of chanted it. It sounds like a strange thing. But this sense comes over you soon before the birth that, eh, maybe I’ll just come back tomorrow. This is a little much. It makes no sense, and I didn’t expect to feel this way, but after talking with other moms and reading some books as well, this is apparently quite normal. So a little bit of game day talk in this regard seemed to help me. Therese also told me that she promised her kids she’d be home before they went to school, so I needed to help her out.
I pushed for a long time. An hour and a half, or thereabouts. I never had the urge to push, which was another unexpected thing, but Susanne and Therese coached me through that. I was holding onto Will’s legs, squatting between his legs while he sat behind me on the bed when Edie was born. Therese, having caught sight of our big Nikon camera, decided to play paparazzi at the end and snapped a goodly number of photos of me in full giving-birth mode. Now, I am someone who doesn’t like to wear a two piece. But this, for whatever hormone, I-am-woman, reason, did not phase me. A class trip could’ve been paraded through and I truly would not have flinched. So, camera clicking, sun near rising, Edie was born at 6:16 am on January 29, 2010. She was exactly 6 lb, and 20 inches long. We didn’t know her sex until she was born, so we’d never really called her by a name, though we had our girl and boy names picked out beforehand. It was amazing and oddly surprising to see an actual baby before me.
Susanne and Therese lifted me by each arm back onto the bed, propped me up, and put Edie on my chest where she rested for sometime. After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Will was the one to cut it. Soon after, he held his daughter, and seeing him with her was one of the most profound moments of my life. It was all such a haze for me. I had trouble settling into reality after the birth. But seeing Will cradle his daughter was real. And it was so beautiful.
We left only 4 hours later, which was physically difficult to do, but I was so very relieved to be home. On our way out the Geburtshaus, Will turned to me and told me how amazing the birth was, and how we should have our next baby here as well. I was really. really. not in the mood to discuss a second baby. But it was sweet to hear. And now, number two is just about knocking on our door.