The Best Laid Plans
by Sandy Barlow
For weeks I’d had false labor. Therefore, I refused to get too excited about the contractions I felt on the night of February 15. I did glance at the clock occasionally. The contractions were a steady five to six minutes apart, but I fully expected them to fade away and disappear, as they had dozens of times before.
I mentioned my contractions to Bart, but he had been hearing about my contractions since January. At 10:00, we both went to bed. Bart soon drifted off to sleep, but I remained propped on my pillow, book in hand, for some late-night reading. (About birth and babies, of course.)
At midnight I went to the bathroom. There I discovered a mucous discharge. I had been losing mucous for two weeks, first greenish, then brownish in color, but this was distinctively red.
“Bart,” I said, returning to the bedroom. “I just lost my mucous plug.”
“Hope you find it,” he muttered.
I smiled at his “joke” and slipped under the quilt. Mentally, I began planning for the coming birth. I’d sleep now, I decided, and in the morning Bart would take our three older children to the babysitters. Then we’d have the new baby sometime during the day. I snuggled close to Bart’s sleeping form, glad for the comfort and warmth. As the waves of birthing energy rolled through me, I was soothed by his warm presence.
By 1:00 I felt like I should be up and walking. Okay, I thought, I’ll change the plans a bit. I’ll get up and do some housework, and at daybreak, Bart can take the kids to the sitter and we’ll have our new baby before noon.
I swept the kitchen floor and wiped off the table and sink. Meanwhile, my contractions intensified. It was becoming difficult to continue my household tasks.
Perhaps this baby is coming sooner than planned, I thought. Perhaps it will be born at dawn.
I began walking through each contraction. From experience I have found that brisk walking greatly reduces my discomfort during labor.
At 2:00 I decided to tell Bart it was time to begin preparing for the birth. But when I looked in the bedroom and saw him sleeping so peacefully, I decided to make things easy for him. Between contractions I arranged scissors, rubber syringe and shoelaces on a clean towel by the stove and spread out a blanket on the living room floor.
None of my earlier plans had included giving birth while the older kids were home. Now it looked like that was how things would work out. I hoped the baby would arrive before they awoke. I was uncomfortable with the thought of them running downstairs during transition or second stage.
“The baby will arrive just before dawn,” I thought, as I paced through another contraction. I continued walking in circles, quickly but very quietly through the still and darkened rooms.
Despite the rhythm of my stride, my contractions began to get uncomfortable. I checked my cervix. I could feel only one edge, but could tell it was opening and judged it to be at two fingers dilation.
Another painful contraction came over me. I remembered reading in Emergency Childbirth that “the last ten or twelve contractions of the first stage cause rather severe discomfort.” Well, I thought to myself, that’s two. I’ll have ten more…
Just then I experienced three or four overlapping contractions, and then — the sudden urge to push.
“Bart!” I called, as I dropped into an instant squat.
Etched in my mind is an unforgettable vision of him leaping out of the bedroom, his union-suit half-unbuttoned, his hair flying, his eyes wide open. He came to me with out-stretched hands.
“Go get ready,” I panted between pushes. My water had broken and I was thrilled to feel a small circle of fuzzy, wrinkled scalp between my legs.
Bart washed up in the kitchen. He returned – to find the baby’s head crowning.
Then the head was out, and I heard Bart say, “Turn, baby, turn.” Moments later the sweet cry of Mason Joseph, our fourth son, filled the room as he slid into his father’s hands.
It was 3:05. Bart had been awake for all of five minutes! As it turned out, he did not remember my midnight comment, nor his ““joking” reply. He had been sound asleep and had no idea that I was in labor.
He had been summoned to the task without any warning at all. Of course he did great. We all did.
At 3:10 we heard a voice from upstairs. “Mom! What’s that crying?” It was Bradley, at seven, our oldest.
“Come see!” we called. Down the steps he came, accompanied by four-year-old Jonathan. In awe they greeted their new little brother, their eyes aglow.
They watched as daddy cut the cord. Jonathan was so worried that it would hurt the baby, and so relieved afterwards.
Suddenly I felt glad to have the older boys there. I thought that perhaps this memory of their parents and their minutes-old brother might become an important one for them, one they could carry in their hearts for some special day in their future… a day when they are awaiting the birth of their own children.
They now have an inkling of how very special a do-it-yourself homebirth can be, and for this I am grateful.