Today my firstborn son turns NINE! I can hardly believe it. I mean, I remember being nine. What happened?! And, as I thought about his birth and planned to share his birth story link as I always do, I suddenly remembered…I have his birth story from my mom’s perspective too! And, I’ve never shared it here (I also have my friend’s version and my doula’s version—this could keep me going for a while!). In our family, we call my mom Baba as her grandma name, so here is the tale of Lann’s birth, Baba Style:
The time for Lann’s birth was rapidly approaching, and I felt like I was fairly well prepared. My bag was packed, and I had been studying my labor support information. I needed to honor my commitment to demonstrate lace making at the Potosi Bisonfest, so I had driven a separate car, and had my newly purchased cell phone handy – I even made a test call to Molly and Mark to be sure it would work from that location. It was a long day – up at 5:45 a.m., drive 2 hours to Potosi, demonstrate for 6 hours, drive 2 hours home. I made it through without receiving “The Call”, and thought I’d go ahead and check in with them to see if the watched pot had begun to boil before falling, exhausted, into bed.
What a surprise it was to have Mark answer at about 7:30, and tell me that they thought something was happening. I couldn’t believe it, even though this was the moment we’d all been waiting for! Molly got on the phone, and expressed her concern that perhaps this was false labor. I tried to reassure her that it didn’t matter to me if I had to make 10 false trips, as long as I didn’t miss it. Her contractions were coming regularly and close together, but even so, she seemed reluctant to call in her support team without feeling more confident about what was happening. We decided to wait a little while, and see what developed. I used that time to change out of my demonstration costume, and begin gathering supplies I thought I might need (book, project, birth art, extra clothing, etc.). The phone rang within 45 minutes, and this time Molly said she wanted me to come. She told me that during contractions, she kept thinking it was time for me to come, but that between them she felt she was doing fine. I took that to mean it was time for me to get to Jefferson City!
I listened to soothing music in the car as I tried not to speed on my trip. I repeatedly visualized how the evening would progress, even though I knew that anything could happen, and that I needed to be open to whatever occurred. No amount of imagination could prepare me for I was about to experience.
I arrived at the Remer home at about 10 p.m., where Mark let me in and told me Molly was in the shower. When I got upstairs, and unloaded my belongings, I could hear Molly humming “Woman am I” from behind the bathroom door. When she came out, wrapped in a green towel, she was so adorable that I had to take a couple of pictures. She said she’d had 7 contractions while in the shower, and was glad I was there.
It’s hard to remember the exact chronology of events. After a while, we called the doula – but when she wanted to know the timing of the contractions, both Mark and I were vague. It was never clear to us if we were timing things correctly. What was clear was that the contractions were coming close together, and seemed intense to me. We called the birth center to give them a head’s up, but had to leave a message, and realized that we weren’t sure what the after hours procedure was supposed to do. We called S again to ask her how to contact the doctor, L, directly. It seems like around that time, L returned the call from Molly’s message, so apparently that’s their procedure – just leave a message and someone calls you back!
Meanwhile, Molly continued to have regular, intense contractions that barely ended before the next one began. She commented that she never seemed to get a break, and was a little fretful about things getting worse. I tried to let her know that she only needed to deal with each contraction as it came, and not to “suffer what she feared”, because maybe this was as heavy as they would ever get. I felt like I should be the voice of wisdom, even though I couldn’t really tell what was going on with her. My job was to soothe and support, and I had schooled myself carefully to remain cool and calm!
Throughout the contractions, Molly continued to hum “Woman am I”, and sometimes, as the humming began to speed up and get louder, I would hum along with her, hoping this would help to center her. We had various tricks that we had planned, like a foot massage, counter pressure, squeezing combs (hah!), but none of them seemed desirable or necessary. Occasionally, she would begin to question her ability to continue if it became more difficult, so I brought in her list of affirmations and read them to her between contractions – they were all familiar to her and seemed marginally helpful. Watching a woman labor makes the support people feel rather helpless, so it was good to find something that she could focus on, if only for a while. We also offered frequent drinks and food. Mark was extraordinarily in tune with her.
We tried various positions to ease her comfort. One mistake was suggesting that she lie down on the bed for a while. She said it made her feel terrible and trapped. She was amazingly calm and serene, otherwise. I had expected her to be irritable with me, or Mark, but she was very internal and focused. I had also expected to feel more protective than I did. I thought I’d want to take away her pain, and be the “mom” who fixes the hurts, but she was so in control the entire time that I didn’t feel the need to go into mom mode. Her strength was inspiring.
Around 2 a.m., we decided it was time to call S, who arrived in record time. It was a relief to have a more professional opinion available. Molly was in the bathroom at this time, and had quite a bit of pre-birth matter (to put it politely) that had been discharged into the toilet. To me, this looked like far more than the mucus plug and seemed to indicate that birth was imminent, but S didn’t seem to think so. I still don’t know, but it was definitely an indicator of big progress being made! Also, the contractions were very heavy and close together. S took us aside, and said that first-time moms take a really long time, and that we shouldn’t be jumping the gun – hindsight reveals that Molly was further along than any of us realized.
S altered the room lighting with little gentle lamps that gave off a dim blue light, very much like candles. She whipped out rice socks, and offered various suggestions for position changes. It was good to have someone else to offer support, although we were doing pretty well without her. Molly kept saying that she felt different inside, like something was happening, but she wasn’t too clear on what it was. She said that during contractions, she wanted to race to the birth center, but between them she didn’t. I remembered her saying something similar about my arrival, earlier, and wondered if maybe we should heed this and get straight in the car……
S suggested another shower, but Molly was quite resistant to this, and then announced that we should go to the birth center. I was glad to be at this point – in the hands of professionals! The original plan had been to transport in 3 cars – Molly and Mark in theirs with the carseat, me, and then S. It became obvious that Molly would be much more secure if she could have Mark’s attention during this 40 minute drive, so we switched the carseat to my vehicle, got everyone loaded, and sped away. It must have been at about 3:15, because we got to the birth center at 4. By this time, I was running on adrenaline, having had no sleep, and having already driven nearly 6 hours, but I felt charged and clear. My grandson was on his way, and I was the driver. This was an important task! I tend to drive a tad fast in ordinary circumstances, but this event led me to be a regular lead-foot. I kept it at about 75 mph, although S says I went faster. The road between JC and Columbia is very “swoopy” – there are lots of dips, and then bumps that the car sort of chunks over. Molly was moaning, and seemed especially agitated as we bumped and swooped. I don’t think slowing down would have helped, so I just kept the pedal to the metal and got her there as fast as I could. I couldn’t tell what was happening in the back seat at all, and just concentrated on my driving.
We pulled into the parking lot of the center, and there was nobody there! As I began to question this, a car pulled in, and out stepped V [midwife], very calmly, carrying a cup of coffee. She opened the door, asked a few quiet questions, and then casually went off to brew more coffee. We unloaded some things, including Molly, who seemed a little confused and tired. Mark called friend Kate, who we had called before, leaving a message. Little did we know that she was standing by waiting for the follow-up call for hours! She arrived about a half hour later, beaming and fresh. It was good to see another caring face. We all wanted to do something – anything – for Molly. However, Molly was in complete command of herself, so it was left to us to stand quietly by.
We were placed in the room Molly had hoped to have, and I came in, no doubt thinking we had plenty of time. She checked Molly and said that she couldn’t find a cervix. I found this unnerving. Did she mean no progress had been made? How could that be?!? Did Molly have some bizarre disorder that caused her cervix to disappear? I was working hard on being quietly serene, so I finally just asked what she meant. V said Molly was fully dilated, and could begin pushing whenever she felt the urge. I’ll never forget Molly’s face, disheveled hair, and wide eyes as she looked questioningly at V and said, “Are you telling me the truth?” Well, she was telling the truth, and Molly soon began to push. At this point, I remembered the car ride, and realized that Molly had gone through transition while swooping along the highway.
At one point during the pushing, Molly was standing by the bed with her arms and elbows supporting her. She gave a tremendous grunt, and her water broke with an audible report, splashing Kate and lots of the floor. It seemed like a lot of fluid! At this juncture, V said she’d better call the doctor, so we helped Molly into the bathroom.
Molly was concerned about making huge messes, so she was fairly comfortable in the bathroom – that way, everything just dropped handily into the toilet. The age-old concern about excreting a wee amount of feces was there, so being on the toilet alleviated that problem. Mark was with her all the time. I should take a moment to mention how wonderful Mark was throughout this entire event. He never left her side, and was completely attentive to every move she made or word she spoke. He never lost his calm demeanor for a moment, and was a pillar of strength and support.
Dr. L was now present, and she added to the overall feeling of having a competent team in place. It also helped to know that things were moving right along, and Molly would soon have her tiny son.
I had made sure to bring along Molly’s birth necklace from the Blessingway, as well as her needle felted birth art. I took a moment to hang the necklace at the foot of the bed where she could see it, and I place her felted ladies on the table where they could look on. Molly was wearing a cotton-knit nightgown, and had on an amulet bag with the fused glass touchstone a friend had given her. We all knew that things were happening, and became very energized by the birthing energy.
While in the bathroom, as we stood outside the door, I could hear Molly humming her song – I hummed along with her so that she would know that I was still with her, even if I wasn’t in the same room. I didn’t know if she could hear me (she could), but I thought it might help.
Molly and Mark were still in the bathroom when L came out and told us that they wanted some privacy, and ushered us all out into the lobby. Before I left, I told everyone that Molly didn’t want to give birth on a toilet, and they seemed to hear me. We sat there – V, Kate, S and I – chatting a bit, and wondering what was going on in there. I voiced my trepidation that maybe I wouldn’t get to see the birth after all, but that I also realized that I wanted it to happen the way they wanted it. That meant they might not want me (or anyone) there, and I knew I needed to be at ease with that. V had some stories to tell of her own children not needing her. I wasn’t comforted, but was fully aware I needed to get over it! I later discussed this with Molly, who told me that L had asked if they wanted privacy, and when they said yes, she took it upon herself to move us out.
Not too much time elapsed (maybe 30 minutes), and L came out to invite us back into the birthing room, but that no talking was allowed. It was really hard to not utter any words of encouragement to Molly, who was now lying on her side on the bed. It was very dimly lit, so L shined a flashlight to show us the tiny tuft of hair emerging as the baby began to crown. Once again, I later found out that Molly had not requested complete silence – but at the time, I was afraid to make a peep for fear they’d kick me out and I’m miss everything. They had us place a mirror so that Molly could see the baby, and shifted her position so that she was sideways on the bed. If I’d been allowed to speak, I would have suggested placing something under her heels to give her purchase for pushing. Instead, I moved around a bit, and put my leg under her foot to try to help. Then, I had to move to allow room for L and V to get ready for the Lannbaby.
Molly expressed amazement that she was “really doing this” and repeated that it didn’t feel real. She kept saying things like, “This is really me! I’m really doing this!” She was astoundingly together the entire time.
Molly pushed and pushed, still serene and still in command. There was a great deal of stretching discomfort that alarmed her, but L put her mind at rest by telling her that her body was made to stretch like that. After a few more pushes, and Lann’s head emerged, crying loudly, and spluttering. Before this, I was recalling a birth support video that I’d watched, in which the baby wasn’t breathing and was shockingly limp and white. I was girding my loins to be calm and supportive if this happened – but no need! A very vibrant and squalling head greeted us! His body slithered out directly afterward, and we had a whole, crying baby boy in the room with us. What a miracle! The joy was intense. Kate and I burst into tears.
L handed the baby to Molly, who immediately, with Mark behind her throughout, began crooning and talking to her tiny son. She instinctively put him to her breast, and he calmed as he began nursing. They cut the cord, and then needed to take him from her for checking, and diapering – it was time for the placenta, which slid out as nice as you please. They told Molly that she had a small tear, and didn’t recommend stitching it.
There was an uncomfortable follow-up moment, when some blood clots needed to be manually removed to that the uterus could properly contract. Mark had the baby, and it was hurting Molly, so she called to me. S got there first, but I soon took her place, and we went through a few more rounds of “Woman am I”.
We also joked with Molly about getting an A+++ on labor and birthing. I’m not sure what the staff made of that. They probably thought I was some pushy, overachieving home school mom that insisted on academic excellence. It was definitely an A+++ event!
This is about when I got a chance to hold my peacefully sleeping grandson – what a perfect little guy! It was such a wonder and an honor to be present at his birth. I’ll forever be grateful to Molly and Mark for allowing me to share this experience with them. It forged a new bond between us, and made me understand the reality of life everlasting. Little Lann is my immortality.
Thanks for being there, Mom! 🙂