The best eleven minutes of my life

Less often than I’d like, I do yoga in our bedroom, where my mat is a permanent fixture on the hardwood floor. Hanging out upside down in downward dog gives me a whole new perspective, sometimes too much perspective: it’s its own exercise in Zen just to accept without judgment the dust bunnies and clouds of cat fur and other assorted detritus collecting under the wardrobe and in the corners rather than stop my practice and grab a Swiffer.

Yesterday, as I was doing a seated forward bend, my meditation on the state of my toenails (verdict: could use a pedicure) was cut short as I notice the state of the bedroom door. At about ankle height, I noticed a few spots of what on closer inspection appeared to be dried blood.

Yes, absolutely — dried blood.

Awesome.

It’s my blood on the door, one last relic from Isaac’s birth, likely splattered there as I squelched, stunned, across a bridge of towels from the bathroom to the bedroom carrying the seconds-old baby, still attached to me via umbilical cord. Isaac was born after approximately 11 minutes of hard labour, which had been preceded by a lazy day’s worth of intermittent, mild-ish contractions, never less than 12 minutes apart. “Call us when they’re lasting about a minute each, five minutes apart,” our midwife told us. Never happened.

The plan — not my plan — had been to labour at home and deliver at the hospital. Rowan, a breech baby, had been delivered by planned C-section, and our community standards did not allow a woman with a previous C-section to deliver naturally at home. Which pissed me off, especially after the OB/GYN with whom I was required to consult to get the green light on the natural birth started rhyming off all the reasons why a second C-section would be infinitely preferable: pain, incontinence, and all kinds of “damage” to my pelvic structures (which he would then have to repair, no doubt heroically), not to mention uterine rupture, the chances of which, according to the research, doubled from less than 1% to about 1.5% for births following a caesarean.

“In my career, I’ve seen that happen twice,” he said, looking at me coolly over the tops of his glasses. “Both times, the baby died.”

If I needed any more reason to want a home birth, this guy sealed the deal: the thought of him being on call when I went into labour was enough to make me contemplate heading to the woods at the first contraction.

So, when our incredulous doula, Tara — who had come over, ostensibly, to help out while Rachel fed Rowan dinner and put him to bed — said, “Hey, are you pushing?”, and I realized that I was, I was thrilled. “You’re not going to any hospital,” said Tara. “You’re having your baby right here.”

I looked up at Rachel, who no doubt was envisioning my uterus rupturing, and said (apparently a little too sternly), “Don’t cry — this is good.” She paged Lillian, the midwife. Seconds later, Isaac’s head appeared. Behind me, Tara was talking: “Okay, one more push and this baby is going to come out. One more push — it’s gonna be a doozy — and I’m going to catch the baby. I’m going catch the baby.” I thought she was talking me through the birth; later, she told me she was talking herself through the delivery. By the time our midwife arrived, nine minutes later, Isaac was lying on the bathroom floor on a towel grabbed from the home birth kit I had put together, hopefully, on the sly.

“Baby’s out,” said Rachel. “So I see,” said Lillian. Still on my knees, I pushed aside the umbilical cord. “Oh, look,” I said, “it’s a boy.”

I cut the cord myself. The baby nursed. Lillian stitched me up by the light of the bedside lamp. One of the cats stretched out on the bed next to Isaac as we went through the newborn checkup. We called our families. Rachel changed diapers. We spent a sweet, mostly sleepless night in our own bed, Isaac nursing and snuffling between us. And when Rowan woke up the next morning, we introduced him to his baby brother. “I take her downstairs,” he said. “I read her a book.”

Someone — Tara, I assume — threw in loads of bloody laundry and wiped down the floors. But she missed a couple of spots on the door, apparently. And I will never, ever wash them off.