The Birth of Acacia - Planning and Reality
I walked from room to room in the house, checking the birth equipment setups. I kept cleaning and re-cleaning pieces, making sure everything was ready. But it already was. The black delivery bag had been wiped down. We weren't allowed to handle the sterile scissors. The mats were fine. Even the lime green carpet had been cleaned. This was the sixth or seventh time through our group routine.
While I paced, Diane and Gail made the critical decision to cut the amniotic sac. It's a procedure done by medical staff to induce birth but, for a home delivery, it carried the risk of forcing us to go to a hospital if it didn't work. No one wanted that, especially Diane. It had to be her decision to take the risk.
Less than half an hour after breaking her water, Diane entered heavy labor. So by then she could confirm she had made the right decision.
Around the bedroom, everyone moved into place. Jenn turned on her video cameras. She started some of her background recordings. Leslie propped Diane up with pillows. She got ready to hand instruments to Gail and possibly to me. Gail drilled me on how to use the instruments and warned me she might not hand me any. My job was to make the catch. If there were complications, Gail would step in to take care of them.
"Is there any chance of a surprise?" Leslie asked.
"None," I replied. I knew what she meant. Diane and I had planned for months to get a girl. No one quite understood it the way we did because we'd been the ones slogging through it.
We knew acquiring the money for a laboratory-assisted fertilization was beyond us. Instead, we had to be smart, precise, and lucky. We'd read the advice about hot baths to kill the fragile male sperm, the times of day, the body positions, and intervals in the menstrual cycle to get pregnant. We had changed our habits. We'd adjusted our diets. All of this was because we saw what had happened without the changes.
On my father's side of the family, the odds looked like they were strongly against us. The ratio seemed to be four boys for every girl. That's the way it is in some genetic lines. It's balanced out by other lines historically favoring girls. But we didn't want three or four boys. We wanted balance in our immediate family. We did what we could to achieve it. And we were fortunate. After I gradually dialed back the hot baths killing all my sperm, we reached a point where Diane got pregnant. We knew the odds were good that it was from female sperm because they are slightly more resistant to the heat. A few months later, an ultrasound confirmed our hopes.
Although the ultrasound showed images in shades of fuzzy grey, we could see clearly enough. We were going to have a girl.
Even if we hadn't known by the images on the screen, Diane would have been able to tell. At least, she early on knew something was divergent about this pregnancy. She got sick in a different way. She felt muddle-headed, too. Her memory started to fail.
The symptom of memory failing startled us. Her recall of events had once been perfect. I got so accustomed to it that I stopped keeping calendars. I simply relied on Diane to remember what event happened on what day and time. She could cite facts about incidents in our past, including (for instance) what shirt I was wearing and, when I was getting to know her I would respond with something like 'I don't own a shirt like that.' But then I'd look in the closet and see the shirt she had described.
It occurs to me that I haven't consulted with her about the events of Acacia's birth. I haven't watched the videotape, either.
But Diane no longer has the perfect recall she once did. That ended when she was pregnant with a girl. As the brain hormone changes started happening, neither of us quite realized it. Even when we acknowledged it, Diane certainly wasn't used to not having a perfectly ordered calendar of past and future events in her head. She had never had to deal with memory aids before like handwritten notes, calendars, schedules, or lists. She had to learn about those.
Sometimes she reached too hard to recollect something I asked about and she confused some memories with others. She would insist on something I knew wasn't true. Or she would cry in frustration at not being able to remember what someone said over dinner at a particular restaurant eating a particular food, using a fork that only had three tines and what was so surprising about what they said. For her entire life, she had gotten to recall whatever memory she needed. To her, well-ordered recollections were normal. It was frightening for her to feel her mind decay into vagueness.
"Go ahead and feel inside," Gail said. "Tell me your estimate."
I knew she was talking about dilation. I had already applied lubricant. Following Gail's gesture, I was able to slip my hand inside and get my fingers into position to touch the baby's head. The sensation startled me for a moment.
"More than three fingertips," I replied. I paid careful attention to position and to the cervix edges. "Four."
"Yeah, I got nine centimeters." She nodded in agreement. Maybe she meant she'd gotten the same measurement I was getting or maybe Diane had dilated more since her last midwife check.
"Do you feel the head?"
"Yeah." I nodded. "Well, it's right there."
"She's starting to crown." Gail dug into her bag to lay out another instrument. She unpacked a small blanket.
"That means we're close, right?" That's how it had been the first time.
"Things could move fast," she warned me. "Be ready."
In fact, events happened one after another quickly enough to feel seamless and almost timeless. Gail told Diane to push. Diane announced that she was already. The baby's position stayed fine but the process paused for a moment. Then came a harder contraction, much harder. Combined with Diane's pushing, the contraction moved the baby's head through the cervix. The next push sent the baby out into the air. Another, and her tiny body slipped through the birth canal. She moved fast. Making the catch was easy.
Baby Acacia cried with a healthy set of lungs. She took a deep breath and cried again while Gail dabbed her.
"Put her on me," said Diane. "I want to feel her."
I laid the child on her mother's cold belly. Acacia took a shuddering breath. She felt the change in temperature. Her complaint changed into a scream of rage against the coldness.
"Shh, shh," Diane tried to comfort the child. Leslie, Jenn, and I looked at one another.
"Uh-oh," someone said.
"She's got a temper."