In case you haven't heard elsewhere, we finally had our baby. She arrived in the early morn of December twenty-ninth, pink and healthy, of average weight, and wearing her cord like a toga.
It was four days past "goodness don't come on Christmas," six days after my doula left to be with her family on the coast (part of the contract, but still disappointing), eleven days past "wouldn't it be neat if she were born on Grandpa's birthday," and thirteen days past "due". I don't think she'll mind if her official birth story comes a little late.
Beyond the unexpected timing, the birth also had a change of place. Nearly three weeks of ever-changing positions - including flipping breech just a weekend shy of my due date only to flip back three days later, added to the potential of a pinched cord - was enough to convince our midwife that more monitoring was required for this labour than could be provided in our home. So our planned home water-birth turned into a pitocin-trialed, cervadil-enhanced - but midwife-attended - hospital birth. It was a safe and sound decision, and, after fifteen days of uncertainty, a relief as well, but a significant turn away from what we had expected.
Comparing births to weddings can get a mother-to-be into trouble, but I still see some merit to the metaphor. They both mark the beginning of a relationship - one hoped and intended to be life-long - and a transition into a new phase of life. We think about who we want there to witness the occasion: to help, support, officiate, and celebrate. Sometimes, there is somewhere special we'd like to include as well. Sometimes, location isn't all that important to those involved. The same could be said for creating the atmosphere: music, outfits, decorations, refreshments. Despite what wedding magazines will tell you, not every bride-to-be cares equally about all those details. Despite what modern western medicine might tell you, some mothers-to-be really do. Either way, no matter how carefully or creatively you plan, something is going to go wrong.
It might be a small detail - a candle unlit, a blanket forgotten, the wrong music played. Someone special might be unexpectedly absent, or the venue unexpectedly changed. The mishap might be noticed by everyone present, or unnoticed by everyone but you. And your gut reaction may vary from a laugh or a shrug to feeling like the world has ended. At the end of the day, however, as long as there's a babe in your arms or a ring on your finger, you have succeeded. The rest is all gravy. But that doesn't mean you can't appreciate a good gravy.
I've told many a friend and acquaintance about the mishaps at our wedding. My parents had an appliance die that weekend (I forget which one), something was up with the dog sitter, and I never did get sunflowers in my bouquet. Our choir director and his family ran into car trouble half a province away and had to turn back for home. Our back-up stepped in seamlessly, but we were sorry they couldn't be present for the day. We posed outside for wedding photos in 8 degree weather with half the wedding party in strapless cocktail-length dresses, and it rained through our (thankfully indoor) reception. There was also a mess-up in the paperwork that we didn't discover for nearly two months after the day. Fortunately, the marriage certificate still has the right date.
These flubs tend to get the highlight in the retelling of my wedding tale. They add humour and drama to the narrative, and a little something for the listener who doesn't feel like I do about cake (it was fabulous). But they didn't prey on my mind throughout my wedding day. There was simply too much wonderful to take in to dwell on the negative. In the sensory overload of love and support, the joy and excitement, what was missing from the day as planned paled in the presence of the day that was.
Looking back on my youngest daughter's birth, I see it in much the same way. There was a little less excitement, a lot less guests (and, consequently, notably less clothes), and considerably more plain hard work, but all that was surpassed by overwhelming love and constant support. I had my disappointments, as well as many pleasant surprises, and all will be unpacked in time. Honestly, I just wanted to get writing again, and not mentioning the birth didn't sit right. So while details may still be too fuzzy for a proper birth story, I have my over-arching theme: my experience did not meet my expectations, but the changes didn't ruin my day. Sometimes there is far too much "now" to focus on what was supposed to be.