I had a boy. It's my third son. I have four children now. I have only begun trying to understand what that means. It's been six weeks since he was born and the reason I haven't posted about it? I have four children now.
This kid decided to come on his due date! His due date! Who's laughing now? Me! My water broke one 25th July, in the evening and I felt like I had just won something. They called and said it was my turn! I'd won the race, the prize, I had been chosen! I don't know who them is but my number was up! No more waiting. Except then we waited.
I opted for a hospital birth this time because there are no birthing centers in Austria. Or so I thought. I found out later there was one, but I pretty much would have had to pay for it myself, same with a home birth and it was not in our budget. It's my fourth baby too and I felt confident enough about the process that I would be able to set the tone in a hospital situation. I had picked a natural-childbirth-friendly hospital, which proved to be a very good decision. Anyway, my water broke and we called the ambulance which is a common way to get to the hospital in Austria. It's free and fast and incredibly uncomfortable. I live on the fourth floor and the two EMTs were required to carry me down all those flights of stairs in some sitting carrier contraption. I felt terrible about all that weight gain as the two were sweating profusely. They were so nervous and fidgety, it seemed they had never carried a pregnant woman before...which was not true, but still I found myself trying to calm them down and show how incredibly relaxed I was about it all.
"How far apart are your contractions?!" one of them kept asking me.
"Uhm, I don't really have any yet..."
"Ok, how far approximately?"
"Like I said..."
We made it to the ambulance, they packed everything up and started backing out with the back door wide open. What can I say, they were on top of things. We made it to the right hospital, and after hitting the wrong elevator and level, we eventually made it to the room. It was about 10pm and Lincoln and I were getting sleepy. There were no other women giving birth at the moment and so we felt into the hands of a very ambitious, very competent midwife (midwives run the show in Austria's hospitals), who was gonna deliver my baby that night, come rain or shine or whatever other obstacle. She inquired about the state of my contractions, which were still mostly non-existent and then asked: "So! What are we going to do?" I looked at her a bit confused: "What do you mean? Wait?" Oh, but no! She said we could try stuff to get things going! Because my water broke and now I was on the clock and I didn't come here to sleep, did I, and how about an enema or some acupuncture, maybe walk up and down stairs, how about, huh? Huh? She was exhausting. I played along for a while, but really all I wanted was go to sleep and for her to leave me alone. I gently and repeatedly talked about my previous THREE births and how my body worked and how it wasn't going to be fast and how I had given birth before, like THREE TIMES. Eventually she let out exasperated: "Why are you so negative? You keep saying how it's not going to happen soon, I'm beginning to think YOU are holding back and that's why things are stalling!" Whoa. Good thing I was so tired. I told her I wasn't being negative, but that I knew my body and that I wasn't going to stress out and put pressure on myself about something I have no control over anyway. You could tell she was disappointed. "Well. The good thing is" she said "if you're going to sleep, then I can sleep too!" I nodded vigorously. Go to sleep, lady! And we did.
Sleep was good, albeit short and light. For some reason this hospital had a radio station going on all speakers. It was very low volume, but sufficiently loud that you could still always hear it in the background. It was on 24/7. The nurses apologized that they could not turn it off, the radio was coming from some other apparently non-accessible office elsewhere in the building. They hated it too. Very strange.
The good thing in the morning was: shift change! Ambitious midwife left and new nice, laid-back midwife arrived. She had no suggestions but asked us what we wanted. So we proceeded to walk the halls, the stairs, we had breakfast (yay for eating during labor!), I even took a nap, but somehow my contractions just wouldn't amount to anything. I had a few, some strong too but they would come and putter out and then don't come back for another 25 minutes, then I'd have one or two and then they'd disappear. This was unusual for me and I was losing patience and motivation. I'm still a bit stunned about this part. My theory is that maybe since this pregnancy was so hard on me, my body just didn't have anything left to push the baby out. Eventually I asked the midwife about pitocin. I can't believe I did that, but I was worried if I waited any longer and arrived at their 24-hour-deadline (from when my water broke), they would break out stronger artillery to get that baby out and I did not want to let it come to that. What helped was that the midwife was very supportive and didn't pressure me and agreed to start me out on a very very low dosage and see how I reacted. I did not want to push my body into major contractions if it wasn't ready, but all the minor ways weren't working. So after having some food and a nap I decided to get the pitocin - at a time when I was still awake and rested and had strength to face it all. Luckily after she hooked me up, it took about 2 minutes for the first real contraction to hit and after that everything progressed as usual. She timed the dosage perfectly because it did not feel like an artificial labor at all. It took a bit over an hour and a half until Damian was here.
It was nice to see how it all fell into place and I instantly remembered how this birth thing worked. The midwife never had to check me as I could feel pretty well where I was and when it was time to push. Once the pushing contractions arrived though I experienced my usual panic. Why did I not want drugs? Why am I doing this again? The fourth time? Does no one realize how much this hurts? How do I get myself out of this situation, out of this room? Why does anyone ever think this is a good idea?
But the only way out is through it. The pain is awful, but it's just as hard to mentally stay on course. Obviously I never have the choice not to have the baby, but I do have a choice in my cooperation. This means to push into the pain, to stay with it and not let my fear paralyze me. It also helps, that the thought of staying pregnant any minute longer is equally terrifying. At some point in those terrible 15-20 minutes of pushing, I decided it was so bad that surely the baby must be born already and NO ONE IS TELLING ME! The midwife kept saying "almost!" and all that other reassuring nonsense. Somehow I kept going but later on she told me that he had turned his head while in the birth canal which had prolonged things a bit and also made it that much more painful. I had felt that, but obviously she chose not to tell me at the time. Smart.
When he was born, the midwife placed him in front of me, knowing I did not know the sex. He came out calm and quite unwrinkled for a newborn. It was crazy to find out the gender in that moment. As if the situation wasn't already completely mind blowing, it also revealed the identity of our family in those seconds.
We were smitten. Oh, how I love that moment. The relief, the new person, my husband, my baby, the relief, the love... and the mess! I've been there before, but I will never get tired of it and I will never get over how symbolic it is of ...everything. I don't care how cheesy that sounds. The most supernatural things in life are completely anchored in the most natural. A brand new person is here and someone's already cleaning.
The kids were thrilled. Preferences of girl or boy were immediately forgotten and everyone was delighted at how cute he was. He is still being smothered in kisses daily. I love to watch that. It's so much work to have kids and raise them, but these are the moments that really show me how the hours, days and years make a difference. So that now I have big kids who understand what it means to have a sibling and who can express that in every way. More than ever it is clear that more babies don't just mean more kids for parents, but more siblings for the older ones. It's awesome to watch that.
We chose the name Damian mostly because we like the sound of it. There is also a recent saint we had always associated the name with and wanted to use as a patron: Damian de Veuster. The first time I had heard about him was from my dad and since we were going to use Thomas as a middle name in honor of him, it all came together perfectly.
It's a new life. I can feel the weight of responsibility and work of four children acutely these days. Still I don't get tired of staring at this boy. It doesn't matter how many children one already has, with each one you think: You! You were the one we were missing! How could we have known you were coming? And yet we did. We knew.Posted at 10:30 AM on September 07, 2012