Rosemary’s birth story

“Hypnobirthing is bullshit,” I weakly declared between contractions.

I’d spent the last few months reading a Hypnobirthing book that promised if could get myself in the right head space, I would not feel any of the pain commonly associated with childbirth. I’d be smiling! No one would even believe I was in active labor because of the gleam of pure serenity upon my visage. [Editor’s note: I feel compelled to mention that your husband, who is wise, laughed often and heartily at this notion, much to your chagrin…] Though I never bothered to take a class, I supplemented my nightly chapters with what Matt called “hypno-baths”: I’d listen to a hypnosis CD I’d found on Apple Music while submerged in my Epsom-salted happy place. By placing his hand on my shoulder, according to the lore, Matt was supposedly going to be able to instantly transport me back to my candlelit aquatic den.

I tried, dear reader. Really I did. But when your body is squeezing in on itself with the force of 10,000 menstrual cycles and your baby is adding injury to insult with frantic kicks to your insides and your midwife is simultaneously pressing against your aching girth on the outside with a fetal heartbeat monitor … it’s really effing hard to imagine each breath filling up a bright blue balloon and then floating away.


Aside from this brief dalliance with mind control, I’d come to my second pregnancy older and wiser, determined not to spend so much time mentally curating the twee birth of my dreams like I’d done the first time. That had led to incredible disappointment and a sense of personal failure when things did not go exactly to plan, and I wasn’t going to let that happen again. (You can read the full tale here; abridged version: my water broke on a Monday, I had to go to the hospital for an induction on Wednesday, and the kid didn’t show up until Friday after 43 hours of hard labor.)

I definitely wanted to be at the Minnesota Birth Center rather than the hospital this time around, but I tried to be more chill about the possibility that it might not be in the cards for me. I acknowledged but did not celebrate each milestone that made a Birth Center birth more likely: after an early ultrasound gave cause for concern that there may be a developmental abnormality, a subsequent genetic test came back all clear; I passed the gestational diabetes and Group B Strep screens; my blood pressure was always enviable; I made it to 37 weeks without going into labor. All of this would be meaningless, of course, if I had PROM (premature rupture of membranes – your water breaks before you’re in labor) like I did with my son. The other big variable was timing. The baby was due on Dec. 27, and since I’d already met my health insurance deductible for 2017, going into labor on the wrong side of the new year would result in a much more expensive bill. Despite the first go-round with induction being one of the worst experiences of my life, I flirted with the idea of requesting the intervention if I’d had no action by Dec. 30.

In the last few weeks before the due date I’d grown more and more certain that I was carrying a punctual little lady, and she would burst forth into the world on her due date proper or a day adjacent. As the date drew closer, I checked more milestones off my mental list: I managed to stay at work through the office closing for the holidays on Dec. 22. Our son, who was diagnosed with strep throat that same day (UGH), made it through enough of his antibiotics that he would no longer be contagious. We spent Christmas Eve and then Christmas at my in-laws’ without my water breaking on their carpet. Since I felt fairly confident labor was imminent, we made the decision to leave our son at his grandma’s that night and make our way home. My spidey sense had indeed been tingling, because not an hour after returning to our house I lost my … er… “life cork.” After that, my contractions – still quite irregular at this point – changed from the painless Braxton Hicks tightening I’d been experiencing for months to becoming moderately achy. They started to get closer together from 2-4 a.m. that night, but eventually dissipated.

They continued the next day every 30-45 minutes or so as I went to the chiropractor for a final adjustment, got a pedicure, and went to lunch. By about 9 that evening they were getting increasingly painful and close together. We decided to go to bed at around 11, and this martyr moaned as quietly as she possibly could through the contractions that were coming anywhere from 5-15 minutes apart. We were in the middle of another brutal cold snap, and I was just desperate not to have to go outside when it was 2 a.m. and -7 F (-11 windchill). By 6 a.m. the contractions had tapered off to every 25 minutes, allowing me to get a bit of rest. As soon as I got out of bed they picked right back up again, and by 8:30 we’d achieved 5:1:1 (contractions five minutes apart lasting for one minute over the course of an hour), our signal to call the midwife. After chatting with the midwife on call and our doulas, we decided to labor at home a while longer before heading to the Birth Center.

Matt made me a gigantic bowl of oatmeal and blueberries and put on an episode of trashy TV to distract me. I took a shower, with Matt waiting just outside the bathroom in case things got nutty. I tried to go back to bed afterward, but at around 10 I ran to the bathroom to throw up the entirety of my breakfast. “It’s time!” I yelled to Matt and he started warming up the car.

By this time my contractions were three minutes apart, luckily the amount of time it would take us to drive the mile from our house to the Birth Center. I made Matt wait in the driveway for acontraction to pass before starting to drive, and then once we got there I had to ride out another one in the parking lot before waddling inside. We were greeted by midwife Chelsea and Justine, one of our doulas. Sarah, the midwife who’d caught Arthur and who we’d asked to be present at this birth as well, was on her way despite it being her day off. Chelsea had already filled the tub for me, and after doing a fetal heart rate and mama blood pressure check (but no cervical checks) I sunk in.

I’m slowly losing memory of how I felt while things were ramping up, but I do know my constant refrain was how HEAVY this little girl was in my pelvis. “Heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy…” I moaned during contractions. That eventually transitioned to, “Low low low low low low no no no no no owwwwwwwwww…” while I tried (and failed) to imagine my cervix opening like a flower. Curiously, my chosen mantra (“MOOOooooOOOOoooo!”) was never uddered.

Doula Staci switched out with Justine about an hour in. She had me take alternating sips of water and apple juice, and suggested different ways to position my hulking bod to help my pelvis open. She also held the barf bag as I puked all those fluids up because she is a GD angel. Time does not operate in a normal way during labor, so I have no clue how long I was in the tub. Eventually I got out and hung out for awhile on a birth ball at the foot of the bed with my head resting on two pillows atop it. I caught a whiff of something hospital bleach-y and thought I might ralph again, so I asked Staci if she had anything that smelled good. Of course she did! She wafted something that smelled like orange Christmas under my nose and I liked it a lot.

I decided I wanted to get back in the bath. I positioned myself so my head was in the corner, resting on a towel on the rim of the tub, with my rump facing the room. Matt had very determinedly stayed by my upper half at the head of the bed when our son was born, but this setup left him nowhere else to be but at the business end. Angel Staci poured hot water over my back during every contraction, which felt heavenly. Not too long afterward, I felt the urge to push. I had had second-degree tears in my undercarriage with Arthur that I didn’t want to repeat, so I tried as best I could to go slowly. What felt like hours later (but I guess was only like five minutes?) I had her head out, and shortly afterward I felt the relief of pushing out her body.

At 12:44, after only two hours and change at the Birth Center and a mere seven minutes of pushing, Midwife Sarah handed Rosemary Helen to me through my legs. As I lifted her out of the water she reached toward me and took her first gasping breaths. It was an unbelievable moment that Staci managed to catch on film.


Photo by Staci Baker, Midwest Doulas

After I birthed the placenta in the tub, I emerged from the water and stumble-walked toward the bed, where they put my beautiful little girl on my chest. She was able to latch soon after, and the nurse and midwives departed to give Matt, Rosie, and I the room to ourselves to enjoy a lovely cuddle puddle. An hour or so later, they came back in with a loaf of fresh-baked bread, butter, and local honey, an MBC specialty. I have never in my life tasted anything so incredibly delicious, and I’ve lusted after it every single day since.

After a few more temperature and blood pressure checks, the nurse cleared us to go home a bit before 5 p.m, after having been gone for less than the length of a workday. People have been shocked when I’ve told them that we were home a mere four hours postpartum, but it was wonderful to be able to sleep in our own bed that night, with nary a beeboop machine in sight.


 it may not have been a hypnobirth, but I ended up with the twee, curated birth experience of my dreams after all.


Photo by Staci Baker, Midwest Doulas


What to Expect When She’s Expecting: Thoughts on Becoming a Dad

You’re not a dad right now, but soon you will be was my mind’s constant refrain as autumn turned to Christmas and Christmas gave way to the new year in the months leading up to my child’s due date at the intersection of Capricorn and Aquarius.

Not now, I thought, but soon: One moment I’d be there, the non-child-haver I’d been for the better part of 32 years, and the next I’d have a child, I’d cross the mysterious gulf of that instant and I’d be a dad, from that moment forward and always, with no going back. Who would the child be? Who would I be? Who have I been?

Not now but soon. I wish it would hurry up and get here. Ah but it will, in time. Meanwhile enjoy this.

That was the refrain, and like most of the refrains in most of the songs on the radio, it was an obvious oversimplification, a sayable shorthand for a life that is not easily summed. Nina was already waxing large, I’d seen the ultrasounds, felt little kicks through her belly with my hand, hung up those impossibly small pastel jumpers in the closet; I’d even become a nurturer in my way, taking over the kitchen duties and tossing together salads of assorted colors and offering salmon to my wife like some persistent drug pusher (“You need the omega 3s! For the baby’s brain!”). I suppose Fatherhood had already begun in some respects the moment we found out Nina was pregnant, or perhaps two years prior when we decided to finally start trying to have a kid.

Yet the whole thing felt to me like an abstraction, as real as the high school calculus I never did quite get. I knew there was a baby inside Nina. I could see the evidence. I watched how she looked down and caressed her midsection. I also watched the disappointment on her face every time she summoned me over to feel the baby moving inside of her and I pulled my hand away after a few moments nodding and smiling as if to say “Yep, that’s a moving baby!” She wanted tears, she wanted glee, she wanted poetic declarations of the miracle of it all. She was already deep into motherhood and wanted to share that with me, but there was a gap between us the size of the walls of a woman’s womb. Not much, in the scheme of things, but not much of a difference can be all the difference in the world.

She was there in the midst of it, I was still waiting to get there.

The getting there had been a process. When she’d suggested just prior to Independence Day in 2013 that we start trying, I frankly wasn’t sure that I was ready. We had all the social markers of people who are ready: nearing 30, in possession of a house and a dog, finally somewhat established in our careers. But I was also a millennial who talked about “adulting” when I managed to do things like clean and put away all of the dishes before going to bed — that semi-ironic verb that says so much about the semi-arrested adolescence of my generation, for whom acting our age can feel both a joke and an accomplishment.

I knew I wanted to be a dad. But did I want to be a dad yet? That’s a lot of adulting.

It turned out that I didn’t need to worry about being a dad quite yet, because the process of getting to our child’s birth was a longer, more painful process than Nina and I had anticipated. They say life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, but in our case trying to make a life was a full-on mockery of the very concept of planning. Initial failures at getting pregnant led to tortuous months of frustration and before finally, after nearly a year of trying, a success! We had barely a few weeks of private jubilation, wondering when to share the good news with our loved ones, before shifting to trepidation over uncertain blood hormone measures, and finally sorrow as fears of miscarriage were confirmed. I say “sorrow” and that’s an accurate descriptor of my feelings, but for Nina it was something more like a catastrophe, a tragedy, the world’s end — the child she’d finally got inside her and was getting to know had come to be no more. For me it was sad, a setback, but one that could be overcome confident in the knowledge that at least we can get pregnant; for her, it the death of her dearest loved one, and worse, everybody insisted on spitting on the grave with their good intentions, telling her she should be happy knowing that at least you can get pregnant, as if her child amounted to nothing more than a trial run.

But while I was unable to grow a child within me, what I did feel growing, larger and larger with each passing month, was a sense of yearning, a yearning that grew so big it soon left no room for whatever uncertainties I’d felt before. It got to where I’d jump at any opportunity to spend time with friends of ours with tykes. We’d go to somebody’s house for a nice brunch and supposedly some good catch-up conversation, but I’d leave the adults at the big-people table the moment the meal was done to romp around with the kids, feeling high as if on some exotic stimulant but also remorseful I couldn’t carry the play right on through bedtime. (Not that I would ever do something like this, but: if those adults knew the extent to which the idea of kidnapping was able to lodge itself into the deep reptilian corners of my brain, we’d have never been invited again. If you’re reading this, please don’t take us off the Christmas card list, guys.)

When we finally did succeed after many more arduous months at getting pregnant again, we were understandably tentative after getting burned so bad the first time. At the first doctor visit, the technician assured us the spot on the screen was indeed a viable fetus. At the next, a few weeks later, the dot was now a jelly bean with a heart that made the most beautiful sound. The days passed and there were more doctor visits, and visits to the midwives, and classes, and getting a crib, a stroller, and a car seat, and hiring a doula, and the merry-go-round of baby showers, watching the seasons pass in their slow but sturdy way eating so many salads and so much salmon; life began to orient itself anew, and each activity took on more and more the character of a preparation.

Not yet, but soon.

I wasn’t a dad yet when we entered the sterile fluorescence of the lobby of the Mother Baby Center at United Hospital, a brand-new and well-intentioned space that was no doubt the result of many planning committee hours, but which had all the charm of a modern bureaucracy and was a far cry from the gentle hominess of the birth center where our imaginations had already curated our beautiful, twee birthing process, replete with bathtubs, gentle music, and scented candles, just like Ricky Lake said. We stepped into the Center toting our luggage from out of the gray January of downtown St. Paul, moving as if in a dream through just the latest of life’s mockeries of our birth plans.

Nor was I a dad during those next few days at the hospital, sleeping on a couch and surrounded by arcane machinery that never stopped beeping, never stopped beeping, never stopping beeping, except for when it unleashed a shrill and steady alarm instead because laboring Nina had had the gall to roll over to one side or the other with a little too much oomph. I stewed in my anticipation, wishing I could help Nina somehow get through her mounting pain, trying to assure both her and myself over her moaning and the beeping and the armada of hospital staff that this would all be over soon, that the pain and the frustration and the waiting would eventually be only a memory.

And I was right about part of that, because the day (January 22, 2016) and the time (2:09 pm) came when perpetuity ended and the waiting was merely a memory. But a funny thing happened as the midwife handed the boy (He’s a boy! I knew it!) Arthur to Nina and she showed him to me, my heart jumping up into my throat and expanding out to the size of the universe before swallowing me and everything else whole as it collapsed to the size of that soft and glistening little boy: I couldn’t pinpoint any time when I became the dad who I wasn’t before. That mysterious gulf between my past and my future turned out to have been the idle imagining of my own impatience. When I finally held him in my arms and stared down at his delicate body, I could swear I was my own father looking down at me endlessly. This lineage is old as life, and we’ve always been here, me and my little Arthur.


Arthur’s Birth Story

Our baby’s due date was Tuesday, Jan. 19, the day after the Martin Luther King Day holiday. I left the office the previous Friday determined not to come back. I was going to have the baby that weekend, dammit.

The weekend happened to be one of those “polar vortexes” we’re prone to in Minnesota. The temperature hovered around 0 starting on Saturday, and dipped to -11 by Monday morning. My plans for walking the baby out were not going to happen, so instead I passed the time cleaning, coloring in my Outlander coloring book, bouncing on my birth ball, eating pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and timing my Braxton Hicks contractions. By Monday they hadn’t gotten any closer together than 5-10 minutes, and were still very irregular. Matt and I were about to try the only other indoor activity you can do to get things going, when I felt a trickle of something that was definitely not pee. I bounced out of bed and told Matt, “Um… I think my water just broke?” Then I felt another trickle. “There it is again!” I said. “GET OFF THE CARPET!” he yelled.

We had a composed a song for exactly this event to the tune of Robyn’s, “Call Your Girlfriend“:

Call your midwife
Tell her your water broke
Tell her the color
Odor, amount, and time!
Cuz youuuuuu
Might have that baby soooooon

The midwife on-call at the Minnesota Birth Center that day was Sarah, one of our favorites. We made an appointment to test the fluid to be sure it was amniotic and do a non-stress test to see if the baby was still doing OK. The results were clear: my “bag of waters” had indeed released! I triumphantly texted my boss to tell her I wouldn’t be coming into work the next day. Because I wasn’t yet in labor, Sarah told us to go home and try to get some rest, and to check in with her that evening. We made a quick pitstop in the ~*Donna Room*~, which is where we hoped we’d meet our little babe in the coming hours.


The Donna Room at the Minnesota Birth Center in Saint Paul. Very luxury. Much comfortable. So soothe.

We decided to go to Brasa for lunch, which we assumed would be our last meal before the baby arrived. We were so, so excited to meet the little buddy who had lodged its foot in my ribs for the past several months.


I bet Anna the baby would come at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. Anna guessed 7:43 p.m. on Tuesday. We were both so young and naive.

We returned home and I resumed my coloring book/birth ball routine. Contractions got to be about 7-8 minutes apart lasting a minute, but they were irregular and not getting more intense. The midwife on call advised me to return to the birth center the next morning for another non-stress test if things didn’t pick up. The baby was still comfy as could be and healthy at that appointment. Midwife Courtney said they could only really give me another 24 hours to go into labor on my own, and then they would need me to go to the hospital to be induced due to the risk of infection. I was feeling very discouraged but determined not to let that happen. I had spent months envisioning a peaceful water birth in the calming, spa-like ~*Donna Room*~. The hospital was not part of my plan.

I made an appointment with my girl Kennedy at Selby Acupuncture and told her to light me up like a Christmas tree. I waddled down the hallway for a pedicure appointment at Estetica immediately afterward. Matt then picked me up and we went across town to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to try to stimulate labor by walking. There we ran into Molly, a friend from Duluth. She was two weeks overdue and up to the same tricks. Matt and I wandered through the Asian art galleries, stopping every 10 or so minutes while I had a Braxton Hicks contraction. We had another evening of irregular contractions that didn’t add up to much.The midwife on call that night told me if I still hadn’t gone into labor by the next day they’d insist on a trip to United.


Two pregnant AF ladies trying to waddle their babies out at the MIA.

The next morning I tried acupuncture again, followed by some prenatal yoga at Blooma. NOTHING WAS WORKING. After class I returned a missed call from Midwife Katie, who told me my time was up: I needed to get my stubborn butt to the hospital that afternoon. Just then my yoga teacher came downstairs to find me sobbing, and I snotted all over her shoulder as I conveyed how devastated I was to have the birth I’d been dreaming about and planning for suddenly ripped out of my clutches.

I should probably explain a bit about why I was in such a glass case of emotion beyond your usual pregnancy hormonal swings. An abridged version: Matt and I decided to start trying to get pregnant on my 28th birthday in June 2013. I went off the pill, but didn’t get a period for seven months. I finally saw a doctor about it in January 2014, and he diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a form of infertility that basically screws with my ability to ovulate. He referred me to a fertility specialist, who started me on hormonal treatments that would force ovulation. Miraculously, I got pregnant after the first round, but I soon suffered a devastating miscarriage. I tried a few more rounds of the hormones until I developed an ovarian cyst. That made me want to try a different approach, so I started weekly acupuncture treatments in December 2014 that I continued through the following spring. In May 2015, I found out I was pregnant again.

Throughout that whole process, I felt like my body was failing me in the most basic, primal way. This delay in labor felt like yet another time my body couldn’t get it quite right. Every single part of my journey had felt completely out of my control, and having something yet another choice taken away left me feeling impotent. The one upside was that I would continue to be cared for my the birth center midwifery team.

Quite a change from my heart’s desire.

Matt and I spent a sullen afternoon taking care of last-minute chores around the house and repacking our bags — what we had assumed would be an overnight stay at the birth center was now gearing up to be a multi-day sojourn at United Hospital. We arrived at my recently remodeled, space-age birthing suite at about 5:00, and I got outfitted with a belly band that would hold in place my two constant companions in the coming days: a contraction monitor and a fetal heartbeat monitor. If the latter got dislodged and couldn’t detect the heartbeat, it would beep incessantly until a nurse came in and adjusted it. Both produced piles of graph paper from a machine by the bed that tracked my progress.

Giving birth and pooping: not dissimilar.

*** Please note: shit’s about to get real/graphic/real graphic. If this stuff squicks you out abandon ship here!***

At around 7 p.m. (which I am counting as the start of my actual labor) I received my first method of induction: a prostoglandin called Cervidil. It looked like a small sliver of paper attached to a tampon string, and it had to be manually inserted behind my cervix. They wanted to start me on this one because if the contractions got too intense it could easily be removed. I’m sure my lovely midwife was being as gentle as possible, but, dear readers, there is only one way to describe how this felt: like being fisted by a lion. Because I had intended on birthing without pain medication, I had worked on creating a “happy place” I could go to in my mind that looked an awful lot like a beach in Belize. The problem was, there was no scenario that visualization worked for me in that moment unless a crab had decided to climb up my hooha.

I soon started to feel real, regular contractions. They weren’t particularly debilitating yet, so I tried to get as much sleep as possible before the party started. I was foiled by the steady stream of nurses in my room every two hours to check my vitals, the constant, irritating beeping of the fetal heart rate monitor every time I changed positions and it got dislodged, and the hip pain that had been a constant companion in the latter stages of my pregnancy and was exacerbated by the uncomfortable hospital bed. Oh, and our room was directly above a loading dock. It made me mourn the loss of the ~*Donna Room*~ so hard… with its real, comfortable bed, spacious tub, soothing color palette, and lack of bright, beepy things. At around 2 a.m. (Hour 7) they gave me a sleeping pill that allowed me to get a little rest.

When the next morning’s on-call midwife Courtney arrived at 7 a.m. (Hour 12), she removed the Cervidel and checked my cervix. I was still only 1 cm dilated, despite my contractions getting stronger/more painful overnight and more regular (3-7 mins apart). The decided to move on to Cytotec, a more powerful prostoglandin that looked like a tiny pill and also had to be manually inserted (but far less painfully). Each dose lasts about 6 hours. After the first one I was still only a few centimeters dilated, so at 1 p.m. (Hour 18) I had a second dose. Things were starting to get really painful, and my hips were NOT LYING.

A nurse told me they had a massage therapist on staff who was “part of the package” and asked if I wanted to see her. Yes. Yes I did. She wafted into the room a few hours later on a cloud of patchouli. I told her that what I wanted the very most in all the world was to have someone squeeze my hips as hard as they possibly could, because it felt like they were falling apart. “Hmm,” she said. “What I’d really like to try with you is some gentle acupressure.” Gentle did not sound fun, it did not sound good, it sounded infuriating, but I said, “Sounds good.” She had me lean against a wall while she put the lightest, most feathery pressure on my haunches. After staying there for a contraction or two, she suggested “something a bit unorthodox.” She wanted to form a sling with her arms between my legs so she was cupping my bits and “breathe with me.” I believe I said something to the effect of, “Girl, whatever.” Matt and I avoided eye contact as we tried not to laugh. She left me with a cotton ball soaked with essential oils and took her leave as my saint, my savoir, my beautiful French doula Justine of Midwest Doulas arrived at around 4:00 (Hour 21) and I immediately felt better.

Want to know why you should get a doula? I’ll tell you why. Birthing, at least in my experience, gets lonely. The nurses flitted in and out and change every few hours, and I saw my midwives every 4-6 hours for a status check, adjustment to my care plan, or to administer the labor-making meds. A doula is your rock. She stays with you, she answers your questions, she gives your partner a break from being an emotional punching bag, and, most importantly: SHE SQUEEZES YOUR DAMN HIPS WHEN YOU ASK HER TO.

Justine took charge and was exactly the fierce mama bear I wanted her to be when we hired her. At  7 p.m. (Hour 24), Midwife Courtney inserted a Cook catheter, which has saline-filled chambers on either side of your cervix that are supposed to naturally force it to dilate to the point where it just falls out on its own. As soon as that was locked and loaded, Justine took me and my telemetry unit on a jaunt around the hospital floor and distracted me by having me tell Matt’s and my meet-cute story. Every time I had a contraction, she had me hold on to the wall and squat while she provided blissful counterpressure on my hips and whispered sweet nothings in my ear in French. (Just kidding; she was reminding me to breathe.) We eventually wound our way back to my room, where we found my nurse on the hunt for us; apparently we’d gone so far afield that the telemetry unit wasn’t functioning. Le oops.

That night contractions got bad. Real bad. I wish I could describe what they felt like, but I honestly don’t remember (evolutionary amnesia?). I think I described them to Matt as having 10 bad periods at once. The nurses kept asking me to rate the pain on a scale from 1-10, which I found impossible to do. It was definitely the worst I’d ever felt, but I knew worse was coming so maybe it was only really a 6?  Justine was by my side, letting me death grip her hand every time one came on while Matt tried to get some rest. I called the midwife when contractions were so intense I thought for SURE the catheter was about to fall out, but she gave it a quick tug and it was still wedged tight. They gave me some morphine at around 10 or 11 p.m. (Hour 27/28), which chilled me out enough that Justine decided to head home and sleep around midnight (Hour 29) since I wasn’t making much progress. She asked us to call if anything happened, but said her partner doula Staci would be on call and ready to head over the next morning. I did manage to drift off after she left, but awoke as the morphine wore off and the pain got very extra awful, until I projectile vomited all over my monitoring equipment and piles of graph paper at 2 a.m. (Hour 31) .

I shakily pressed the call button, and the nurse that answered was, like, real disappointed in my aim. She huffed and puffed as she cleaned everything up. I hid in the bathroom while she changed the sheets and apologized to Matt for waking him up. He was able to get back to sleep after the commotion died down, but I was in a real bad way. Instead of calling Justine or waking Matt up or getting literally anyone to help me, I decided it was my job as a martyr from a long line of martyrs to suffer completely on my own and not trouble a damn soul until Staci was on call at 6 a.m. I remember closing my eyes between contractions and promising myself that the next time I opened them it would be *at least* a half an hour later.  In reality, only two minutes would have gone by. I labored on my back, moaning as quietly as I possibly could. When that got too miserable, I crept over to the birth ball and labored on that. I threw up a few times. I thought maybe I was going to be in labor forever. I thought maybe I was dying. I fantasized about them just cutting the baby out of me so I could be done with it. It was the longest, darkest Dark Night of the Soul I have ever known.

Finally at 5 a.m. (Hour 34) I couldn’t take it anymore and called Staci. “I’m so sorry,” I martyred, “But I need you.” She said she’d hop in the shower and be right on her way. Midwife Courtney stopped by before going off duty at around 6 a.m. (Hour 35) and checked the catheter. After  the night I’d had, I was positive I’d be *at least* 7 cm dilated. Nope. Try 2. Staci, sweet, wonderful Staci, showed up as I started to spiral, and had the first good idea I’d heard in years: I should get in the bath. The bath! I forgot about the bath! I love baths. Baths are my friend. As I eased into the water I felt the best I’d felt in days. I was so relaxed I actually managed to fall asleep betwixt contractions. And then I threw up and had to get out.

By 10 a.m. (Hour 39) I was in was in The Dark Place. I hadn’t slept in days and I had absolutely no sustenance in my system. I tried so hard to rally and make jokes, but all I could do was quietly weep. I’ve never felt so weak and powerless. They were talking about putting me on pitocin within a few hours to get things moving, and that terrified me. I had spent years consuming everything on medication-free childbirth I could get my paws on: watching Ricki Lake documentaries, reading Ina May Gaskin’s books and listening to interviews with her, taking natural childbirth classes, etc., and my takeaway was that pitocin is the actual devil and will send your body on a roller coaster of pure pain and evil. (Note: It’s not, and it has many useful applications, but LABOR DOES NOT A RATIONAL HUMAN MAKE.)

At this point I put my pride (and birth plan) in the garbage and requested an epidural. I was already so weak I couldn’t imagine tolerating pain more intense than I was already experiencing. Because you can’t eat or drink while the epidural is in effect, they hooked me up to the biggest, slowest-dripping bag of IV fluids in America. While we were waiting for that to finish, a curious thing happened. Staci was helping me go to the bathroom when I felt something shift and water came gushing out of me. None of this trickle business I’d been experiencing all week. I really hoped my nurse would be proud that I’d managed to keep the mess contained to the toilet. Soon after, my contractions changed and became more… grunty. I wanted to push.

By this time it was around 11:30 or so (Hour 40.5). The midwife (this time it was Sarah again!) checked me again and I was 9 cm dilated. “Cancel the epidural,” I said, with what I want to imagine was a glint in my eye and a look of fierce determination on my glowing, maternal face. “I can do this.”

They made me wait another half an hour until my IV bag was done before I could start pushing. I started out facing backward on the toilet (which is actually a really good pseudo-birthing stool because of the way it positions your pelvis). I got some good pushes in before deciding I couldn’t let my child  be born on the terlet, so they had me move to the bed. It felt the most natural to be on my hands and knees. Between contractions I flopped over a peanut-shaped birth ball, and rocked side to side while Matt fed me ice chips. When I had to push, I’d grab one of Matt’s hands and one of Staci’s, and bear down. I guess I was squeezing the life out of them, because they soon threaded a sheet through the back of the bed for me to pull on instead. Pushing felt good. Like, really, really good. Middle of a great workout good. I hated feeling the baby’s head recede back between contractions, and I just wanted to keep pushing and pushing until he was out. When they wouldn’t let me I channeled my frustration by howling like a wounded animal.

At some point Matt asked, “So how’s that beach in Belize?” And I said, “SHUT UP!”

At some point one of the nurses said, “Mom and Dad and Uncle are waiting in the lobby!” and I said, “I wonder which uncle,” and Matt said, “Probably your Uncle Nate, right?” and I said, “The BABY’S uncle, IDIOT.”

Soon enough, I felt the baby’s head heavy in my pelvis. It was incredibly uncomfortable not to keep pushing between contractions, but they didn’t want me to tear. I fought my way through the Ring of Fire and then… the baby just seemed to tumble right out into the midwife’s arms behind me at 2:09 p.m. (Hour 43).

I took him – it was a him!- into my arms. He was warm and slippery and weirdly not at all goopy and perfect and smelled like the sea.  I looked up at Matt, who was as completely ecstatic as I’ve ever seen him, clutching his hand to his chest and laugh-crying, not able to take his eyes off our son.

In that moment, nothing else mattered. Meeting my son was the strangest feeling of recognition and pure and total love. “That was you inside me, the whole time!” I marveled. “Those were your little feet and your little hiccups!” I have no idea what else was happening in the room because the universe had contracted to just our little triad.

During the whole labor I’d thought to myself, “This is so horrible that when it’s over Matt has to give me whatever I want. And if this is a boy I want his name to be Oscar.” But I took one look at our little meatball and acknowledged that the name Matt had chosen was actually perfect. “OK fine he’s totally an Arthur WHATEVER.”

And that is Arthur’s birth story.


Me-Made May Week 4

The selfie parade has come to an end, and for that Freddy the Dog is eternally grateful. I mean, he SHOULD be grateful for all the things I THOUGHT about doing but DIDN’T, such has stuffing him into the bowl of my standing mixer. YOU’RE WELCOME, FRED.

I didn’t reach my goal of 10 new garments, but I did wear something self-made every day I went into work. That’s not nothing! Next year I’ll have a whole new stable of items in my closet from which to choose, and I’ll have a much better (and less crazy) plan for cranking out the things I want to create. I also might go real wild and create a better backdrop/lighting situation. Who can say.

To the pictures!

Continue reading

Me-Made May Weeks 2 and 3

My job has a use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy, so I’ve been scrambling to use the oodles of hours I have banked as mini-sewcations. It hasn’t gone well. Because I only have one day at a time, I try to take a project from beginning to end before sundown. I rush, I make sloppy mistakes, and end the day incredibly frustrated. I took a much-needed sewing breather last weekend, and was able to spend my day off on Thursday discovering the joys of pantsless sewing while methodically working through a mustard courdoroy Delphine skirt. The end product is not too shabby, but, like many-an-A-line-skirt, doesn’t quite look right over my generously proportioned badonk. Ah well.

To the Instagram pics!

Continue reading

Me-Made May: Week One

It’s one week into Me-Made May, and there have already been glorious highs and devastating lows. The high: on Sunday I banged out three complete garments – an Astoria sweater for me, a Moneta dress a friend commissioned for his wife, and a baby dress for a high school bud’s bairn. Three! In one day! When I crawled out of my sewing room that night with gnarled hands and blurry eyes I felt like a national hero. The low: I had the day off on Thursday, and I intended it to be a full 24 hours of couture delight. Instead, I spent nearly all of my precious minutes working on a Sorbetto tank (a free download from Colette Patterns) that was a total disaster. I must have accidentally traced the wrong size, because I ended up with a chest-smooshing crop top with pitifully disheveled self-made bias tape binding. It might fit a 10-year-old.

By the end of the day I wondered if I couldn’t just drape a yard of fabric around myself, call it a cape, and count it toward my tally. Instead, I drowned my sorrows in over-consumption of Outlander — i.e. watching eps of the show, reading a chunk of the book, and listening to podcasts about the episode because I take no half-measures — and woke yesterday morning feeling right as rain. I told myself, “Ye need na be scairt of this challenge, lassie. Och, it may surely make ye weep, but ye ken ye canna give up! Do it for Scotland!”

Continue reading

Springtime Sewing, Hooray Hooray


I don’t know how it is ’round your parts, but here in Minnesnowta people go effing nuts when it starts to get nice out. We’re all a little stir crazy from being cooped indoors all winter, so as soon as the snow melts and that special buttery springtime  sunshine floods through our windows we like to let our hair down. I ceremoniously removed our winter coats from the front hall closets today as the mercury climbed to 80 degrees, and boy did it feel good. What feels even better is that I have four to five months ahead of me to flounce about in the criminally colorful clothing I create. Continue reading