I have been asked to do a reading next week Friday, June the 6th at 6pm with music and readings at my local book shop, THE BOOK CELLAR on water street in St. George’s. Come one come all for Books, Brews, Music and Muse Part 2.
Here is the excerpt from my published piece, “A Real Mother,” which I read at my last reading. I will be reading something new next Friday. You will have to wait another week for Meet the Fockers Part Two in case anyone was waiting for it! I was going to write it today but my brother’s rehearsal dinner last night has left me exhausted ( read between the lines- hungover.)
So here you go:
I was daydreaming, counting the cracks in the wall of the exam room, wondering when my husband Chris would ever paint over the bits of plaster in our bedroom, when the doctor began her palpation of the baby bump. She took her hand and made the shape of a cup with her thumb and forefinger and felt for the babies’ head.
“I think the baby is breeched.”
“What do you mean breeched?”
“She is the wrong way around,” the doctor replied.
“What do you mean the wrong way around?” I started to notice I was parroting her answers, hoping they would sink in, as I tried to let go of my birth plan.
“Most babies by now have turned their head down and will soon drop into the birth canal.”
“But last week you said she was fine?” I insisted, for the doctor must of course be wrong.
“Babies move. Her head and feet are upright, she is bent at the waist and her bum is headed for the birth canal, a Frank Breech.”
“Can I give birth to her that way?”
The doctor shook her head.
“You wouldn’t want to, and we don’t allow it in this country.”
‘In this country’ had the deafening ring I knew not to argue with.
“We will need to book you in for a C-section. How is Wednesday December 21st?”
“O.K.,” I said with disappointment, and a sort of hollow feeling imagining a man in a white coat just coming in and handing me a baby. It seemed like there would be no real arrival, that it would be like planning an event, picking up a passport or takeout. Here is your baby. Condiments are on the left; napkins are on the right. I was sad. I would be robbed of the experience of a natural birth. I was sad for about five seconds. I had worked so hard at denial and now that I didn’t even have to push her out and it was nobody’s choice, it felt like a Monopoly get out of jail for free card. So why was I so disappointed? Part of me thought birth was like a roller coaster: you went into labour and you couldn’t get off the ride, and once it was over it made you thankful that no matter how hard the baby screamed at night, at least it was the baby and not you screaming in pain, fear and exhaustion. At thirty-five they can’t say, “Oh she is just exercising her lungs, to help her breathe better.” They call you a wimp. My secret was I already knew I was a wimp and I was frightened. Now I didn’t have to give birth, I could just lie down on a bed and be given drugs and operated on. A big slice in the shape of a smiley face cut above my pubic bone, my guts moved to one side and the baby taken out, everything put back in and sewn up. A few hours to rest from surgery and it would all be over and at the same time just beginning.
But the more I thought about the IV, the surgery, the room with ten people dressed in masks and greens scrubs, the more I started to get nervous. Was surgery better or worse than pushing a grapefruit sized head out of your vagina? I started to second-guess myself. A natural birth was what I wanted.
“Only 5% of babies are breeched, they don’t know why – it could be the shape of the uterus or that the baby decides she wants to be upright.”
My reality was making me feel guilty for all the haughty moments I had over the last few months thinking that if I was prepared enough it would all go as nature intended.
My daughter’s intentions did not cross my mind and as I contemplated how she had decided on her own path to her birthday, I wondered how many of my future life-altering moments would be decided by my offspring. I had done all the birth classes and now a butt-heavy baby had chosen my fate. I was never sure in my professional or personal life if I hated surprise or certainty more, or if I hated each for not being the other.
I searched the Internet. Pictures turned up everywhere of pregnant women in unthinkable positions. The number one recommendation to turn a breeched baby was to find a pool and a maternity swimsuit and do headstands holding your breath, the inversion method. I was left with the image of myself in a neoprene parachute like bathing suit attempting a headstand in the pool with the National swim team doing laps around me. A pregnant woman’s crotch teetering dangerously into their lane was not necessarily the motivation they needed. I had my doubts that I could lift my legs upside down without tearing a muscle, which had all shrunk and tightened around my favourite sitting position since the fourth month of pregnancy.
I looked up acupuncture and discovered there was a maternal treatment called moxibustion. I made an emergency appointment for the next day. My acupuncturist let me know she needed my husband there to help. Baby classes, baby books, doctor appointments, baby showers, and now moxibustion – this was not going to be easy. Coming through the door he hit his head on a wind chime. He stared at me with a glare.
“Humour me,” I asked.
“You forgot your patchouli oil and your hippie beads.”
“Please don’t be negative.”
“Why did I marry a bohemian?”
His suit looked confining in the waiting room filled with framed landscapes, houseplants, and a natural sounds CD playing in the background. I stared into a magazine while he typed vigorously on his blackberry. My acupuncturist came out and motioned to me that she was ready to see us.
We walked into the office where she laid out the special herbs I would need to bring about my miracle. “All of this so I can put myself through two days of torture,” I thought. She began what felt like a satanic ob-gyn ceremony.
“Chris, you will need to do this for her every morning and every evening from now until the baby comes. You will need to both be positive and visualisation is very important. Are you with me?”
I elbowed Chris. He was gaping at the bookshelf of book titles, including Seeing the Future in Snowflakes.
“We are going to tilt you slightly upside down.” Her hand eased the upright back of the chair toward the floor, tilting my feet upward on display.
“Are you okay down there?”
“You should try to relax.”
I saw her reach into her drawer and take out a box of matches. I knew she wasn’t a smoker. Chris’s eyes darted between me and the doctor, and the box of matches. She continued, unfettered, taking out a pack of Rizlas. I worried that treatment of a breech baby was turning me upside down on a tilt table and the doctor and Chris were going to get high. She unravelled two papers and opened a little package containing an herb-like substance. With the ease and practiced hand of a drug dealer, she rolled the herb in her fingers, sealing the papers with a quick flick of the tongue. Her able hand held up the spliff in the air announcing, “Now we begin moxibustion.”
“What is that, ganja, weed?” Chris exclaimed.
Chris gave her a doubting look.
“A Chinese herb that will stimulate blood flow to the uterus and has been known to turn breech babies. What you do is…”
She took out a match and struck it underneath her desk. It glowed as she held it to the spliff, gently encouraging the flame. The half-witch half-drug-dealer then stood above my feet.
My toes began to wiggle in fear and dread giving me away. Without noticing, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then theatrically moving her arms, hovered the giant spliff above my feet. I was waiting for someone to burst into, “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home,” but everyone was silent in abeyance and some of us were laughing inside.
“You hover it as close as possible to the outer side of the little toe,” she instructed. “Can you feel that?”
“It should be a gentle warmth.”
“Yes.” I could feel something but all I could see were plumes of smoke and imagined that my toe hair was now on fire, as it (like the rest of the hair on my body) had grown to an unimaginable length.
“And then after a minute you do the same on the other foot.”
“Okay, now you try,” she said offering Chris the spliff. He reached out his hand, pausing it in midair looking down at me for encouragement. Chris held the smoking ember and moved it closer as I jerked my foot away.
“Now you just relax down there.”
He waved the spliff next to my left little toe; I could feel the warmth, but could not feel the baby move at all.
“When do you think it will work?” I asked from below.
“You have to encourage the baby. I will send you home with the mugwort.”
She turned away to assemble our dime bag, when Chris took the spliff to my other toe. He held it too close.
“OWWWWWW,” I yelped and flayed my foot in every direction.“You burned me!”
“I am so sorry,” he said, astonished.
“Not too close,” said the doctor. She tilted me back up, and Chris put my shoes back on, inspecting the burnt toe.
“Now, do you have some way to lie upside down?”
The dog ramps we had all over the house to help my dogs climb up stairs and protect their backs, flashed through my mind.
“Then you are all set. You have four weeks; if you do this your breech baby will turn.”
“You seem so certain,” said Chris, with the obvious tone of disbelief.
“Just do it,” she said and handed him our dime bag.