Saturday, November 7, 2009

Holy Crap - It's Still a Girl

With a few three hour naps under my belt, I now have a few words to describe my daughter's birth. Words like amazing, scary, long, surreal, exhausting, magical, and a little gross. That's right - it's not all butterflies and moonbeams. One such moment came when our midwife, Carla, delivered the placenta with a giant sploosh into a ceramic bowl. Carrie heard it and immediately asked, "Is it gross?" The three women in the room said things like, "Gosh no," "It's beautiful," "It's the nicest placenta I've ever seen," but Carrie caught my obviously-disgusted-face staring at the giant, nutrient-filled sac and I nodded and mouthed, "It's pretty gross." Carrie smiled at me, and although I thought it would be impossible after she gave birth to our child, I loved her even more. As for me, where I once envisioned Carla delivering a small, delicious piece of Italian cornmeal, I don't think I'll ever confuse those two things again. Not even in jest.

I'm not sure when most women consider their labor to have begun, but in my completely subjective opinion, Carrie's began when she had her first contractions Monday night; when she lost her ability to sleep or experience enduring periods of painlessness. By this measure, Carrie's labor lasted almost 60 hours, and not once along the way did she waiver in her decision to have an intervention-free home birth. Carla arrived Wednesday evening and stayed with us through the final twelve hours. What I once considered a lack of affect on her part became a beacon of fortitude. Although there were moments towards the end when I felt scared, wondering if this was all too much for Carrie and Amari, Carla remained calm, confident, assuring; she even napped on occasion between contractions during the pushing stage. How could I be afraid if someone who has delivered over a thousand babies was so serene?

As the active labor escalated, the women offered words of support and encouragement. "You're almost there, "You're so strong," "A couple more contractions and we'll try to push," and so on. I joined in on occasion, but as the labor persisted, I started to feel like a big fat liar. There was a funny moment when Amari began crowning, when Carrie could see the tuft of black hair begin to emerge and she yelled through a push "Oh God, get her out of me." Carla looked straight into her eyes and said, "God can't help you now, Carrie. You've go to push." You gotta love her.

A half an hour before Amari was born, Carla asked me if I still wanted to deliver her. I suddenly remembered asking if that were possible about two months into Carrie's pregnancy when it was easy to be cavalier about such things. "I'm a little nervous," I admitted, "but I think so." She suggested I hurry up and decide, because Amari's sleek, black hair was beginning to show. I quickly realized this opportunity may never come again, that I would regret it if I didn't, and that if I were to balk now I would not be able to honestly say during some ridiculous argument with my future teenage daughter, "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

The final stage of labor arrived, Amari was crowning. Carrie had been working hard for nearly an hour, and I wondered how on earth that tiny tuft of hair could be a head. It looked more like something our cat had spit up on the rug. Then it got bigger, Carrie was doing it, I couldn't believe it. The rest happened in an instant. Carla said, "Okay, Isaac, put your hands here. Twist this way and deliver her to Carrie's chest face down." All at once the tiny hairball burst into this world followed by a cone-shaped head, an alien-like face, a fluid-covered body, and purple limbs. Magical...and kind of gross. But mostly magical. I burst into tears. Carrie was crying already and saying "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," over and over again. Later, when I asked her why, she confided that she was worried Amari might have been hurt because it took so long to push her out. It was one of many genuine expressions of maternal love I have already witnessed.

After Carrie held Amari and I held Carrie, she passed our daughter to me for the first time. I walked away from the light of the living room to ease the transition from womb to world. In my head I kept thinking, "Holy shit. Holy shit," an expression I notice pops into my head or out of my mouth during completely unpredictable, unfathomable moments - like when Carrie and I were hit head-on driving over Highway 20, or when George W. actually managed to swindle his way into office. This was a wonderful "Holy Shit," but a holy shit nonetheless. Albert Camus once wrote, "A person's life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art or love or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened."

This, my friends, is as open as it gets.

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