Like anything you can only wish for, I discovered I was pregnant when I was knee deep in a million things I love, including but not limited to saving and planning a trip around the world where I would confront the notion of true love. The ship was set to sail just after I finished writing, directing and producing my first play. I was single and at a height of loving life. Life was so good in fact that I had the luxury of retreating to my family’s mountain getaway (okay, so it’s a broken down double wide on 5 acres in between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen). I brought plenty of supplies, including cayenne pepper, meyer lemons and organic maple syrup for the cleanse that I hoped would clear out whatever was behind the mysterious 7 pounds I had gained overnight.
Up there in the high summer heat, something kept me procrastinating about that cleanse. My period was late too, so i seized the opportunity to visit the neighboring community of Burney to buy some shorts that fit and a pregnancy test. I knew they would make me take one when I visited the OB and the acupuncturist to get my cycle back inline. Fast forward and SHAZAM! I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if that damned + sign didn’t just show up. So I took another test because certainly after all these years…
After long deliberation I was determined to not only raise my child on my own but on my terms. For me the first order of business, not negotiable is to do everything in my power (and I am not shy about the fact that I have a lot of power) to see that my child not only benefits from the lessons I have had learn, but that she enjoy a childhood and life superior to mine. It would all start with the pregnancy- I swam, did yoga and ate as best I could (somehow Crumb Donettes and 7-Upwith a lot of ice were forgivable) considering how nauseated I was for 14 weeks. I devoured books, websites, and re-read every posting on Berkeley Parents Network. No Lamaze for me, I signed up for no less than 5 Kaiser seminars and a Birthways class that was cancelled. What a blessing! For the same price I got a private class in my house with my two birth coaches.
I have to back up here. I gave birth as a terminally single mother- working freelance, no father in the picture at all, with health insurance because my friends were kind enough to add me as an employee to their small business account. The main resource was my own resourcefulness. Though I knew my mother would be a huge source of support, I mandated that she be as far from the labor as possible and that anyone else had to be a mother. This was not an easy decision for someone who has a large group of amazing and supportive friends. I chose my best girlfriend Heather and my sister-in-law Molly. Everybody had a hellish birth story. It seemed to be a rite of passage, probably contributed to my determination and realism about my daughter’s birth.
My birth was full of chemicals and medical mismanagement- my mom had pre-eclampsia and hallucinated from the drugs they prescribed. My due date was Christmas- despite her dangerous state of health or lack of- they refused any intervention until after the holiday- I digress… her story and my history ever in the back of my mind, I knew that my dreamy home birth fantasy would remain just that, no matter how hospital phobic I am. I opted for the best birth center I could find, where I would not be rushed or wrangled. I loved my OB and was thrilled by the team of residents. Best of all was the volunteer doula program.
When the auspicious Wednesday came- a week later than hoped- I was prepared with my 3 page birth plan- I heeded the advice I had devoured like a craving and made sure there were copies on file with the hospital staff as well as in my medical records. I labored at home for the first 24 hours with my team of moms, that somehow came to include my own mom… I lowed like an Elk in season, contorted my swollen like a tick body however I could to find the sweet spot of relief. After one especially excruciating contraction left everybody slack jawed and ghost white (it lasted almost 6 minutes) we left for the hospital. Somehow the waters of early morning commute traffic parted for us and we made in record time. I dodged a bullet and managed to skip the waiting in triage. A private room with my scrub donning doula was waiting for me.
Though it took me another 2 shift changes and 24 hours to dilate to 10 cm (including the most pain I remember of the whole ordeal, my OB having to move the scar tissue on my cervix from a botched cryo -procedure in the 80’s) I was given the option to stay and labor there. The stars aligned so that most of my time in hospital was during my OB’s shift. As the resident rockstar on staff, my OB handed down the word and I was given kid glove treatment. Not because I was a charming single mom, but because my doctor knew I had done my homework and had culled any unreasonable requests from my birth plan in advance. I labored for 48 hours with no IV drip, hydrating myself with electrolyte endurance drinks and a secret stash of sushi rice.
When the 49th hour rolled around I was sooooo exhausted that I demanded some action. According to all monitoring the baby was fine but I was still only at 7 cm. They suggested Pitocin. I promptly punched my coach friend and told her not unless I was given an epidural ( a last ditch request according to my birth plan) because I couldn’t do anymore, and was having bad thoughts about the baby. One epidural and 2 hours later, Heather and Molly had finally ducked out to take disco naps before the real party got started. The monitor was shrieking that the baby’s heart rate was dropping. The staff honored my request that no action be taken immediately until a crisis situation mandated it. They roused me from my half-wake state to tell me that they were wheeling me into the OR for a c-section; the baby’s heart rate had been too low for too long. Of the two people present, my mom and the doula, I could only take one. I chose the doula without question, my mom’s panic stricken face screamed “I can’t be any real support to you right now honey!”
I was too relieved about making progress to be scared that my destination was the operating room. They probed my crotch and prepped me for surgery. Turns out the reason her heart rate dropped was because I had finally reached 10 cm! Time to push! Doula Regina somehow rallied my mom, Heather and Molly. Two residents, the attending physician and the anesthesiologist were also present. Despite the oxygen I secretly suffered through an asthma attack-secretly because I had not come this far to have a c-section now! There was some sort of scuffle between my diligent, on target sister-in-law Molly who was not going to let them cut me, as per my wishes, but that too was abandoned when I howled about make this f-ing baby come out! At 11:27 am on Good Friday I delivered a 9 ½ pound healthy beautiful baby girl names Xoxa Antonia Zahara Bell. I was so exhausted that I completely flatlined and had no emotions until she began nursing- lucky it was within minutes.
Everybody else I know got the hell out of dodge as quickly as possible. Not us; I stayed for 2 more nights. I knew that the minute I landed home that mommyhood and the mess that comes with it were all mine. I opted for the loving support and hands on training and full time staff that included such unforgettable 4 years later stars like Eulah the LVN.
My parents brought us home on Easter Sunday. Xoxa wore her Very Hungry Caterpillar outfit. My mom bought me $50 of sushi to eat before my milk came in. We were home and I knew I had finally met my truest love.
10 months ago