Thursday, October 12, 2017

Real Life Research

Edith Maxwell here, reporting on some inadvertent research I did last week. And giving away a large-print version of CALLED TO JUSTICE!

So I write mysteries featuring a long-ago midwife. Turning the Tide releases next April. Native to Massachusetts, Rose Carroll catches babies, hears secrets, and solves crimes back in the late 1880s. I had a part-time gig as a childbirth educator and labor coach a couple of decades ago. Until last week, the last birth I'd attended in any role was over twenty years ago.

Thirty-two years ago my best friend gave birth to my goddaughter, and I was in the room helping as best I could when she was born at home with the help of independent midwives. Last weekend that goddaughter gave birth to her own first baby, and once again I was there in a supporting role. I was so honored and thrilled to have that circle come round again.

She chose to give birth in a free-standing birth center which is affiliated with the hospital across the street.

Birthing figures from the birth center's living room
Over and over again through out my goddaughter's forty-hour unmedicated labor - mostly at home until the very end - I thought of Rose Carroll. Even though working nurse-midwife (and mystery fan) Risa Rispoli vets all my midwifery scenes before I turn them in, I still wondered if I had been writing details correctly.

Here are a few things I'll be incorporating in my next Quaker Midwife mystery:
  • A woman in labor with her first child looks at her husband and says, "No more babies!"
  • During the first phase, the mom-to-be goes inward with each contraction, very quietly, very stoically.
  • Before active labor kicks in, her contractions slow overnight to every eight to ten minutes, and she snoozes in between.
  • After active labor start, with pains coming every three minutes and lasting two, the woman despairs, weeping and swearing, but persevering.
  • She throws off any hand or touch that she doesn't want.
  • She pushes on her hands and knees for almost two hours.
  • The midwife checks the heartbeat during pushing, and has to get the listening device in just the right position to hear the baby's heart.
  • The woman swears and grunts as she pushes, her whole body taking part.
  • The midwife uses oil and eases the head out slowly so the mom doesn't tear.
  • Once the head is out, the baby looks around and smacks its lips together, already alert.
  • The cord is a tough membrane and beautiful, silvery and translucent.
  • Instantly after birth the mom feels better and speaks softly to her child at the breast.
I'm sure there are more, but this experience - a miracle and an honor for me - really brought birthing alive again.

Readers: Any vivid birth memories you'd like to share?  Your own or that of others? One commenter will win a copy of Called to Justice (make sure I know your email address so I can find the winner).


Kay Garrett said...

Due to complications, I wasn't able to have a natural birth. However, I think nerves, fear and pain are a lot alike for all first time Mom's to a certain extend. We will all agree that it's all worth it when we hold that bundle of joy in our arms.

Cecilia said...

I think it is amazing that as soon as you are able to hold your baby, you forget all about the pain that you just went through. I was blessed to have 3 children and I was able to be there with my oldest daughter when she had her first child.


qnofdnile said...

It was a night of a full moon and I was the only woman there ready to give birth. I had 3 student nurses they said they couldn't hear the baby's heartbeat. I took the bottom of the stethoscope and placed it in the right spot and they said now we can hear it. My doctor checked on me around 8:30pm and said he would see me in the morning. I said no way, I'm getting you out of bed. A few hours later the nurses are telling me to stop pushing as my doctor isn't here yet. I'm like I can't stop pushing now and then the doctor comes running around the corner. Then the doctor says it's a boy and I turn to my friend and said I told you so. It must have been the way I said it as my doctor cracked up.

Risa said...

There is selective amnesia with each labor and delivery. I admire the women I care for and help. Thanks Edith for pointing out the small details which I take for granted. I am so blessed to be able to help the family in birth.

Celia Fowler said...

I had my daughter 5 weeks early, listening to Jimmy Buffett and sort of watching the Army-Navy game with my West Point Class of 1946 Dad (Army lost, but he got another granddaughter!), my husband and Mom. The best parts were the short labor, when my OB said "Wow, she's big (6 lbs 5 oz) and when the NICU staff were looking at her, and they all had big smiles on their faces and said she had scored 10 on all the Apgar tests and was very healthy. Her lungs were fully developed and she was just beautiful and perfect!

Anonymous said...

Such detail. It makes one feel a witness to the event.

Anonymous said...

I had only one homebirth. I remember not wanting touched at some points. Never thought no more babies. Felt my baby's head as it came through and felt her pulse on top of her head. Two of our kids were there. You do forget the pain till next labor. My best friend was pregnant too and waited for me to ask her to come and I thought she might not want remined of labor figured she would say she wanted to attend birth. As it turned out she kept driving by finally came as soon as I saw her labor went into high gear.Baby born after about three hours Godmother right there. Molly born smiling. Had her own birthday as brothers was next day.Funny story oldest son in 3rd grade told his teacher he saw his being born. She was so upset called to make sure it was not true, agast that it was.We called my parents and I told my dad we had baby at home he said talk to your mother.But they came at midnight with miggle son and my dad scrambled eggs and held baby while I got a bath. Great memories. Buried afterbith in front yard deep so no animal got

Unknown said...

Wow! Well I do not have any birthing moments to share as I have no human children. I was privileged enough to see our German Shepherd give birth several times as a child and that was a miracle for me. I was unfortunate enough to see several cats give birth at a cattery I worked at when I was 16 (and for several years). Some of the kittens were deformed, stillborn and worse. With over 100 oriental siamese cats that were inbred (for show standards I was told) and just plain ugly (some of them), it really gave me a respect for spaying and neutering. Thank you for the chance to win one of your amazing books.
kayt18 (at) comcast (dot) net

diannekc said...

I don't have any birthing moments to share because I wasn't lucky enough to children of my own.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks for all these stories! Kay Bennett is our randomly selected winner. Check your email, Kay!