catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 25 :: 2009.12.25 — 2010.01.07


Upon a midnight clear

Madeleine, our firstborn, turns 12 this year on Christmas Day. As is our tradition, we celebrate Christmas until the time comes for a late lunch. Then the rest of the day is Madeleine’s birthday. We order in her favorite Chinese food for dinner. 

I hesitate to share the story of her birth: the first one was easy, as births go, and the second birth was easier still. I am a good textbook case for natural childbirth. I hesitate to share the story because I don’t want to say, “This is the way it should go for you, too.” We are not in control of those details. My babies were small, early, calm. I can’t say if this is normal, but I can say that I am a lucky mother of two children who came into the world easily.

11 a.m. Christmas Eve 1997

Sign papers to purchase our condo. Lower back ache-beg to stay in the car while Scott buys two cans of tomato soup for a last-minute craving.

2 p.m.

Matinee at the Victorian theater: A Fairy Tale, about children, illusion and disillusionment, and wonder.

3 p.m.

Lower back ache turns rhythmic. Squatting in the aisle of the theater to stretch.

5 p.m.

Phone The Birth Center while Scott heats tomato soup. Grouchy midwife tells me I am not in enough pain, yet. Swear at her after I hang up. Pack hospital bag in 15-minute intervals. Snowstorm begins.

6 p.m.

Scott bakes two quiches: we need to pack our own provisions for The Birth Center. I pace and prepare for each contraction.

7 p.m.

Phone Birth Center to insist we are coming. Clench fingers on the dashboard for contractions, while Scott drives.

8 p.m.

Settle ourselves into room. I soak in the Jacuzzi and try to get comfortable.

10 p.m.

Low lights, overheated room, trying different positions for birthing. Struggle not to punch grouchy midwife. Ann, the obstetric physician’s assistant arrives and I love her madly — she is my new hero. Prop the back of the bed straight up.

Midnight, Christmas

Transition: madness and flailing and telling the midwife I can’t DO this. 20 minutes. Six or seven contractions. I don’t punch anyone: miraculous.

12:30 a.m.

Time to push? Didn’t I just get here? Midwife instructs Scott to push my knee back toward my shoulder during pushes. The rest between contractions is delicious. Sweat. Six or seven pushes-not many. The splash of water breaking.

1:30 a.m.

Ann turns the child in one smooth motion, so the babe’s eyes will meet my eyes first. From where I lay collapsed, the child emerges from behind my right knee, and my arms are too weary to reach. By the time I ask, “Is it a Madeleine or a Brendan?” she says, “See for yourself,” and places the calm and alert baby girl near my heart. Ann tucks my arms around the baby, who is still calmly watching my eyes. The umbilical cord tickles my stomach.

2 a.m.

Medical procedures. The placenta won’t deliver-shots, cramping. Stitches. Scott watches the baby get cleaned and diapered. Someone gives me my cotton cardigan so I am no longer only wearing a sheet. We all talk quietly so we don’t startle the baby. Her temperature is too low, so she is bundled against my skin, under my cardigan. Scott calls our families. I whisper to him, “I’ve been through worse.” We talk about my job as a wilderness counselor for the summer camp, how training left me covered with bruises and aches. No bruises, this time. Extreme weariness, but no bruises.

3 a.m.

A new midwife arrives and tucks the baby and me into the big bed. Scott joins us, and we sleep.

6 a.m.

The baby wakes, hungry, and my new favorite midwife comes to help me with nursing. I wake Scott and ask him to please grab me some cauliflower quiche. I have never been hungrier. The midwife asks if it’s okay for my obstetrician to come after his own kids have opened Christmas gifts. The blizzard dropped quite a bit of snow. We tuck back into bed, well-fed, resting, new parents and this tiny new life: Madeleine.

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