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Cover girl curse

June 3, 2009

The Whole Foods checker looked at me funny when I put two copies of the March/ April 2004 Mothering Magazine on the conveyor belt.

She picked them up, glanced at them both and said, “you know you have two copies here?”

“Yes,” I replied, wondering if she’d see the obvious.

“Okay,” she shrugged, then scanned them, bagged them and took my money.

I walked out to my car feeling somewhat invisible but also relieved. I didn’t really want to talk about the fact that the pregnant person on the cover was me.

When I later looked back at the picture, however, I began to understand why she didn’t notice. In the two months since the photo was taken, I had changed quite a bit­— especially around the middle.

And there was something else. Something that perhaps only I would notice. The person smiling out at the world from the face of that magazine was someone with hope in her eyes.

By publication, that look had faded into anxious despair, and the bolded words by my head on that cover spoke to the irony of the situation better than I could. They read: “Facts you need to say ‘No!’ to a Cesarean.”

As I held the magazine and read those words I couldn’t help but think that fate had been tempted … and I’d lost.

Midway through my second trimester, I went to the hospital with subtle but regular contractions. At first, I talked myself out of worry. We were all settled in to watch the Super Bowl and it seemed inconvenient, if not alarmist, to call attention to what was probably nothing.

My instincts told me something was wrong, however. I couldn’t shake the feeling that my contractions were more than “Braxton Hicks,” the so-called practice contractions that start up a few months before actual labor.

To be on the safe side, I went in to be checked at the ER because my midwife was out of town, and it was there that I was diagnosed with a complete placenta previa.

The ER doctor who looked over my ultrasound  results blandly told me that there was an 85 percent chance the placenta would grow away from my cervix and I could give birth naturally. If it didn’t, he told me, I would need a cesarean.

That was something I already knew. A year after I had Soren, I started a course in midwifery. I read everything I could find about birth — natural and otherwise. I scrutinized anatomy tomes, pored over nutrition tables and practiced suturing on pigs’ feet. I became a certified EMT, and began an apprenticeship. Then, on a blustery October afternoon, I was called to attend my first birth. I stood by with towels and watched in awe as a baby girl came bursting into the world after just a couple of hours of labor. The air in that sunny room was electric, and the experience of holding the baby a short while later was numinous. It never left me.

I gave up my pursuit of midwifery roughly 10 months after that, when my daughter, Mira, was born, but the lessons stuck. So when I saw the words “complete previa” typed in capital letters on that gray-green ultrasound screen, I felt every plan I’d made for my final homebirth shatter before me. I began to prepare myself for a cesarean.

I posted on numerous parenting websites, asking the burning question: What can I expect? I was launching myself into uncharted territory that, to me, was far more unsettling than the gentle process by which I readied myself and my home for the births of my older three. And through it all, despite the anxiety I felt during those last couple of months (previas pose an increased risk for hemorrhage and fetal distress) I was still slightly hopeful that things might change.

In the end, however, I became part of that 15 percent of pregnant women with previas who have the odd experience of sitting down with their doctor and a calendar to select their baby’s birthday. My husband, Chris, and I picked a date and that was basically that.

On June 4, 2004, I walked through the doors of the hospital’s labor and delivery unit feeling very pregnant but otherwise fine. I was shown to a bed, given a few forms to sign, and offered a gown (which my then 3 year-old daughter, Chiara, would later compliment me on).

As I changed into it I couldn’t help feeling completely defeated.

At 8:16 a.m., beneath the glare of surgical lights, I felt the earth open within me. Everything shook, then stopped. The world was still for a split second before a small but angry voice rose into the air for the first time. Graysen Christopher Moss Riedel, all 7 pounds, 3 ounces of him, had arrived on the scene, and was none too happy about it.

Now, five years later, my perspective has shifted. I have grown to realize that I played an active role in ensuring that Graysen arrived in this world alive and well. I trusted my intuition and, in doing so, avoided an emergency. Trust and intuition are, after all, two hallmarks of home birthing, and I am eternally happy that I listened to myself, my body and my baby.

Happy 5th birthday, Graysen. Next stop: Kindergarten this fall!

(For the complete story of Gray’s birth, click here.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2009 7:37 pm

    aww … ! *sniffle, blub!*

    “Trust and intuition are, after all, two hallmarks of home birthing, and I am eternally happy that I listened to myself, my body and my baby.”

    yes indeed. *the* key hallmarks, i’d say, and not just of home birthing but of growing up in general. we all love our ideals, but not everyone gets the chance to grow in this way. you were forced to look your demons in the eye and found yourself equal to the task before you. that takes incredible courage.

  2. jaredites permalink
    June 4, 2009 8:00 pm

    Wow, what a story. I’m a homebirther. Truly inspirational

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