Two years ago I had the privilege of participating in my nephew’s birth. When I arrived, I waited behind the curtain until her contraction peaked and then went in to say hello.
"You’re a liar and I hate you," she said weakly.
While it was best that she didn’t witness my first two deliveries, watching me sneeze out my third probably wasn’t the best preparation for this day. With my third I wised up and got the epidural. It was a significantly more graceful process. I napped. I read. I glanced over at the monitor when I felt my e-friggin’-normous stomach tighten. “Whoo – that was a doozy!” My sister rubbed my feet and fought with my husband for the cozier recliner
I tried to explain the difference but she wasn’t buying it. I gently suggested that she get the drugs. You get numb for a filling, right? There’s no shame in getting relief ; no extra credit for suffering needlessly. Of course it was useless. In this Seattle birth center, we had a dula, a tai chi master/labyrinth facilitator/impending grandma, two expecting parent biologists, and me; there would be no drugs today.
I’d never been present for the birth of a baby, outside of my own three. I’ve been the big sweaty groaning mess who couldn’t remember how to breathe. Playing a supporting role was a relief. Holding her hand, lifting her knee, offering words of support and encouragement came easily. I knew my brother in law wanted to be down at the business end where I was, to watch his son’s head crown, but my sister had him in a headlock as her contractions heated up. She wasn’t letting me relinquish my post either, with her knee and hand.
When Oliver Salish emerged, after the feeling returned to my hand, his new grandma and I shared the most biologically bizarre sensation. The unmistakable tingle and ache of letdown. We were both very physically and emotionally immersed in this birth, so this must be Nature’s way of making sure the wee one eats. Nice to know you can be useful.