Wednesday, February 27, 2013


36 weeks and 4 more to go. I have found myself slowing down considerably in the last few weeks. I seem to be able to handle one major—or minor—activity a day and then I’m pretty well ready for bed. Homer and I spend hours upon hours snuggled up. He seems to relish my laziness because it means more ear scratching and belly rubbing. I've taken to pleasure reading (imagine that!). Occasionally we waddle out for a walk, though he quickly grows impatient at my pace. I try to explain to him that almost 50 extra pounds hasn’t been so easy on my joints (nor my psyche). Note to self: if there’s ever a next time, LAY OFF THE BEDTIME CEREAL.

This weekend my Berea friends gathered for a lovely celebration for the baby. The members of my knitting circle gifted me terrific creations: felted moccasins from this talented lady (oh my are those incredible!), leaf green overalls (coming home from the hospital outfit?), a striped pull-over that needs some last minute touches, those dear stitched giraffes. We feasted on delectable treats and watched the three babies from last year attempt their first crawls. It was intimate and lovely and I felt blessed to have found such a remarkable group of new friends. And Armistead drove in from Nashville and Mom from Michigan, so old and new were able to come together for the first time. Mom and Don will be back in a few weeks and hopefully they'll find their perfect winter nest in Berea.

My to-do list has shifted and shrunk for the coming weeks. I’m still feathering the little guy’s nest, but now I need to think about birth plans and hospital forms. We need a dog-sitter and I’ve promised myself to clean the closets before labor begins. Next week I’ll know if I have to schedule a c-section and if so, that will be two weeks later. And I suppose that I should stop teaching at some point, but who knows, maybe I’ll just keep showing up until the very end.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Turn, baby, turn

“Pretty please turn.”

“Turn, damn it.”

“Please, please, please turn.”

“I’ll send you to the best college, no questions asked, if you’ll just turn.”

“I’ll give you anything you want if you agree to go head down right now.”

I feel like I’m making a deal with the devil. But I’ve reached that point. Total desperation. For weeks, my existence has been dominated by my efforts to flip my baby from the breech to the head-down (vertex) position. I lie inverted on an ironing board propped on the couch (often trying to simultaneously read for class and coax the stubborn boy to move). I take over the incline bench at the gym and do the same thing (looking like a  surfacing whale). I drive to Lexington every other day to visit a chiropractor who uses her magic and produces all sorts of promising sounds in my spine. But alas, he doesn’t move. On Monday she said that she doesn’t think there’s any more she can do. My sacrum is happy, my pelvis aligned. Each night last week J and I burned compressed mugwort next to my little toe. I nearly got smoked out, but I told myself it was totally worth it. I’ve been listening to a self-guided hypnosis track that is supposed to help me visualize his turning. None of it is working.

I haven’t shined a flashlight between my legs. That’s where this WASP draws the line.

This little guy has been breech for at least eight weeks and he’s been wedged on my right side for nearly the entire pregnancy. His skull is lodged in my ribs and he expresses no interest in finding a more suitable position. If he doesn’t flip in the next two weeks, I’ll be forced to schedule an external version, and the going success rate for that procedure around here is 50%. That glass is definitely half empty in my estimation.

If the version doesn’t work, I’ll be required to schedule a c-section for week 39, about March 20th or so. I won’t die and neither will the baby. Many women would probably greet the idea of a planned, scheduled c-section with delight. Not me. I’ve spent the last eight months thinking about what kind of birth I want. I’ve spent the last ten years reading and thinking about natural childbirth. I hired a doula. I took a hypnobabies course. I’ve read everything Ina May ever published. I’m ready to go. Bring it on.

And for as long as I can remember, I’ve thought about childbirth as a kind of fundamental rite, an essential part of being a woman. Part of this belief arose from my ravenous consumption of birth narratives. I first stumbled on the websites exclusively devoted to birth stories during my post-doc, when I was forced to sit in front of a computer for nine hours a day. I’d take editing breaks by reading half a dozen stories of unassisted, crazy-ass births. I carefully doled them out over several months. Before long, I realized that I had read more than a thousand birth stories. For awhile, I was reading stories and listening to a podcast with even more.

I found these narratives utterly captivating, which on the surface is a bit strange, right? I mean, they all have exactly the same narrative arch: a woman begins labor with baby inside her and ends with a baby outside of her. There is rarely a dramatic plot twist; the denouement offers only the slightest variations. And yet, as a genre, I find them deeply compelling. They satisfy my desire for confession and revelation, and collectively, they suggest that telling one’s birth—or birthing one’s story—is as urgent as delivering one’s child.

A planned c-section, you see, dramatically forecloses the possibilities for my own narrative. What will I be able to say: we scheduled the section for 9 am and by 9:52 our son was born. Full stop. That will be it. Don’t try to tell me that this will be a compelling story to tell. My chance of living that long narrative will be gone before it could have started. I will join the ranks of the surgical birthers, not clique that I’ve been courting.

I recognize the perversity of this sorrow, that somehow I’m mourning the loss of a narrative that I’ll never have, when in the end, I’ll have the baby instead. How silly. A year ago, when I was losing a pregnancy, I would have spit in the face of a woman like me. I should still probably spit in my face.

And yet, narratives of all sorts are important, essential to our being human. If they’re not, I’ve wasted the last fifteen years of my life studying and teaching them.

p.s. Yes, I am hoping that publicly exorcising this angst will be the necessary psychological step to liberate this baby to turn. I’m repressing nothing. You’re free, baby, so turn!