Birth tales

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I read one of the classic homebirth books, “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” It includes the birth stories of dozens of women who gave birth at The Farm, a Tennessee commune, in the 1970s and 1980s, examples of laid-back hippie mamas giving birth naturally and, for the most part, without complications. It was a good book to read then; it felt like setting my pregnancy-ship on a good course.

These days — as my due date looms seven weeks away — I am fixating on the many other birth stories I have heard since then. There’s my midwife, whose own water broke at 35 weeks. Although her daughter was technically pre-term, she was a healthy weight and fully functional from the get-go. (This one leaves me imagining that I need to put the vinyl cover on the bed RIGHT NOW and that there won’t be any time after my maternity leave begins to get last-minute things done.) There’s I., who never got a chance to labor because her baby was breech, and in the doctor’s attempt at an external version, discovered she had too little amniotic fluid and ordered an immediate C-section.

I’ve heard tales of 36-minute labors and four-day labors. Our yoga/birth teacher has had more than one woman in labor in her yoga classes, including one whose water broke during a workshop. My chiropractor has had at least one laboring woman on her magical chiro table with the trapdoor section for pregnant bellies. At least two of my friends had homebirths involving birth tubs (our Plan A) that lasted less than six hours and worked out beautifully. That sounds surprisingly quick, but I suppose there’s something to be said for getting it over with. Two friends of mine had a troubled labor that ended in a C-section, and another had a variety of tough interventions plus a hemorrhage. Yikes.

Because I’m one of those people who likes to imagine a scenario before getting into the thick of it, and because this isn’t one of those situations where I can make a specific chain of events completely happen just by planning, I keep placing myself in these other stories, imagining how I’d be. I won’t know for a while yet whether any of this mental wankery is useful, but I keep turning the stories over in my mind. And I wonder, too, whether my birth story will be one that’s told — by other people besides me, I mean — when the time comes.

— Beth