Women share their stories
by Robin Greene
Robin Greene serves as Professor of English and Writing, and Director of the Writing Center at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC. She is a past recipient of a cosponsored National Endowment of Arts and North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship in Writing, the Al Cleveland Award for Teaching, the Best Professor of the Year Award, and the McLean Endowed Chair of English
In addition to her university teaching, Greene teaches writing at an annual writing, yoga, and meditation retreat for women in Oaxaca, Mexico. Click on www.oaxacaculture.com to learn more about this retreat
Greene has published four books —two volumes of poetry (Memories of Light and Lateral Drift), a novel (Augustus: Narrative of a Slave Woman) and two editions of Real Birth: Women Share Their Stories. She regularly publishes poems, fiction, and creative nonfiction in literary journals and has about ninety publications to her credit
The Shelf Life of Fire, Greene’s new novel, is scheduled for release from Light Messages in April 2019.
Greene received an MA in English Literature from Binghamton University and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Art. With her husband, Greene co-founded Longleaf Press, Methodist University’s literary press www.methodist.edu/longleaf/.
Available for readings, writing workshops for pregnant women and new mothers, and for workshops and presentations on creative writing, academic writing, and grammar, Greene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website www.robingreene-writer.com
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Intimate and intensely personal, the forty-five first-person narratives contained in Real Birth: Women Share Their Stories offer readers a window into the complex and emotionally exciting experience of childbirth. Women from a full range of socioeconomic backgrounds and circumstances recount the childbirth choices they’ve made and the ways those choices have played themselves out in the real-life contexts of their everyday lives.
Readers meet women from all over the country who speak to us directly––no interviewer intrudes, no judgments intrude, and no single method of childbirth is advocated. Instead, these women offer us their candid experiences, presented clearly and unflinchingly. Medically reviewed by physicians Dr. Richard Randolph for the first edition and Dr. Deborah Morris for this second edition, Real Birth offers readers a plethora of correct information as well the kind of real scoop that other books and health care professionals are often reluctant to reveal. The result is a well-grounded book that reaches across the boundaries of childbirth literature.
Real Birth is introduced by Ariel Gore, journalist, editor, writer, and founding editor/publisher of Hip Mama, an Alternative Press Award-winning publication about the culture of motherhood. Also included are an extensive glossary of medical terms, a thoroughly researched selective bibliography, and a list of resources of interest to pregnant women and new moms
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Second Baby-Born in the Water
We meet Eden in the childbirth pool, set up in the living room of her home as her midwife guides Eden toward birthing her daughter…
I was in the pool on my knees, hanging over the side. And I started moaning. I’d been quiet until that point. Then the contractions were like every minute. I just started doing this crazy tribal moan, and I was shaking my head from side to side. I remember feeling like a crazy person. So when I started making those noises, I remember Mary and her assistant sitting on the side, saying, “Those are different.” And my husband-I don’t know how he knew this-but he was like telling me, “It’s okay, just try to relax. You’re going to have a baby in your arms soon.” I was just like, “Shut up. You don’t know that. You don’t know if it’s going to be three days from now…” and he’s like, “No, honey. You’re going to have a baby very, very soon.”
Mary hadn’t checked me since that first time, and I remember looking over at her because I wanted her to do something-maybe pull the baby out or do something-after all, that’s what they did in the hospital…like they were all up in my vagina, all these people, and I was on the epidural, and I didn’t feel any of it. They told me what to do, and they moved me into position so I didn’t have any autonomy in that process. But in this process, I had it all. No one was helping me. Eventually, I kind of understood that. I kept looking at Mary, wanting her to do something until I realized, She’s not going to do anything for me; this is all on me this time. And that was a cool feeling.
And the contractions didn’t stop. They blended together and felt like one long five-minute contraction, and I actually felt my baby moving down and out. I wasn’t pushing at all. And I didn’t say I have to push because I didn’t. I mean the contractions just moved her down and out. I felt the baby coming down the birth canal, and I went from hanging over the side to just being on all fours in the pool. I remember swallowing water and looking at Mary, and I was like, “Mary, Mary…” calling her name. And she was like, “You’re okay; you’re okay.” The only thing she did was come over to the pool with the monitor to check my belly.
I remember Sofie’s head came out, and I was like “Mary, I need you!” And I was thinking, When is my midwife going to come over and do something? I thought that Sofie was going to fall out and that her head was going to hit the bottom of the pool. When I felt her head actually come out, I screamed at that point, and Mary, who was on the couch, only about three feet away, jumped over to me and reached down. I felt her push…it felt like on my butt… and she sort of pushed my butt back and said, “Reach down and pull your baby out.”
And so I did. I reached down, and I felt her shoulders when I pulled her out, and I fell back in the water, leaning against the side of the pool and held my baby. And it was just like that. All by myself.
And my son and my mother-in-law were there. Earlier, when I was shaking my head from side to side, I was like no, I don’t want Owen in here; he was walking around and making the pain worse because I was trying to be maternal for my unborn baby but also trying be aware of him, and that was too much. It made the pain worse. So they left the room. But when I screamed for Mary, she yelled for them, and Owen got to see me pull Sofie out of the water, which was pretty cool. Sofie was born in the water, and I pulled her out and down in between my legs, and then laid back and put her on my chest. That second, Sofie immediately started crying, and my mother-in-law was like, “Oh, my god! That’s the most perfectly pink baby I’ve ever seen!” She had these rosy checks and was healthy and beautiful right away. And it was amazing to see that it can happen naturally, without any help. I never knew until I experienced that how physiological birth is-like pooping or peeing.
My husband was right behind me when I was giving birth, and he was crying and saying, “Oh my gosh, you are amazing!” He just kept saying, “You are amazing! You are amazing!” My toddler didn’t cry or say anything. He was just staring at me with his jaw dropped. He was two and a half. I think that during the whole pregnancy he thought I was getting fat, even though I told him that there was a baby in there. At that moment though, he realized there really had been a baby.
We didn’t know the sex of the baby. It was amazing to have this baby on me and feeling so in love with this human-without even knowing if it was a girl or boy, and not even caring. But, Mary and her assistant were checking her, and then Mary was checking me and the cord-doing whatever midwives do-and my mother-in-law called out, “Do you mind checking the sex of the baby because we all really, really want to know.”
And I was like, “Oh yeah, I forgot. We don’t even know, and I checked and saw it was a girl. We had a boy already, and really, really wanted a girl. It was huge for us. I’d only had one dating ultrasound in the beginning of my pregnancy as I became pregnant without having my period because I was nursing, and we needed to know the stage of the pregnancy. I really knew nothing about this baby. I had dreams during my pregnancy that my baby was a squid and that I was nursing a squid. Also, I was not used to letting go of all that control and not checking on the baby and getting ultrasounds and finding out all this stuff. So for us to have waited and then find out then after the birth was huge. And awesome.
A couple of minutes after I discovered the baby’s sex, Mary said she saw blood in the pool and wanted me to deliver the placenta. She suggested that I move to the bed, which I did. I remember climbing out of the pool. Mary and her assistant told me to slow down, and said, “Let us help and support you.”
By this time, I felt perfectly normal. I didn’t feel like I’d just given birth. But they helped me to the bed, and I laid down with my baby. Mary checked the placenta and checked me. Then she asked if I’d like to nurse Sofie, and I was like, Sure. Because of my job and my passion, I wanted to nurse right away. So I put Sofie on my chest and was waiting for her to go through like the nine states that humans go through…blah, blah, blah…like everything I teach. And she bobs twice and lands on my nipple and starts feeding. I cried. I was like, Oh, my god! Babies can do this! Wow! What a different experience! And I thought, I’m not going to have to quit breast-feeding, and we’re not going to have to use the nipple shield. It was awesome.
Mary then said, “Okay, now that you’re nursing, I’m going need to give you a couple of quick pushes and get the placenta out,” and she put a little pressure on my belly, and out the placenta came. Everything went smoothly. Mary placed the placenta on the bed and showed it to me: “This was Sofie’s view, and this was where it was attached.” That was pretty cool because I had never seen my placenta before, and I had an appreciation for it this time.
So it was all pretty cool. One of my really good friends was supposed to be the doula, but I never called her. I apologized to her because we’re really good friends, but I never really needed her because Hector and I were just going through a good groove the whole time. And it went pretty fast. I mean the whole thing, from the first contractions at 10:30 p.m. to the time she was born at 5:17 a.m.-moved quickly, and it was only super painful from maybe 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Knowing what I know now, I would tell pregnant women to ask their mothers and friends and get good information from all sides before making their birthing decisions. Women have choices. I don’t think that any one way is right for any mother, but rather that all mothers should be able to make informed decisions. Women need to hear multiple stories. Looking back on my experiences, I’d tell women to get a lot of information and only then make decisions about what might be right, be best for them.
I had a lot of doubts and a real lack of confidence before my second labor started. I didn’t know that I could do a home birth without all those medical interventions. But as soon as labor began and I could tell that it was going to be so different from my first experience, I knew it was all going to be okay.
It’s interesting also that my husband has become a birth advocate-which is pretty funny. He likes to tell people about our experience and how happy it’s made us. Although he recognizes there’s a little bit of stigma out there about having a home birth, he tries to educate the women in his MBA program about the process, how it works. And he always surprises them because he doesn’t tell them that’s the way they should do it, but rather speaks about how great it worked for us and how disappointing it was in the hospital. So he’s an advocate now. I think it makes him happy to see me happy, especially after this second time around.
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