Diary of a Midwife: Whenever Nature Comes Calling
An Austin Expecting Series: Diary of a Midwife
Midwives offer care through pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, including the option to birth at home or in a birth center. For many of us though, the practice of midwifery remains somewhat of a mystery. In this Austin Expecting series ‘Diary of a Midwife,’ we get up close and personal with Austin-area Licensed Midwife, Heather Hilton.
One specific such moment I’ll never forget happened when I was in the first trimester pregnant with my own sweet little bean. This was a birth for a family I had helped before, with their first baby, who had been born just after sunrise in a sweet little tree house in the middle of the woods. Fast forward a couple of years, and they’ve settled into neighborhood life and their second beautiful babe, a girl, is poised to make her appearance.
The expecting father called me only an hour or so after his wife had left my office for her regularly scheduled prenatal visit. I answered and he said, “Jen (that’s what we’ll call her) is in labor. You’d better get here. It seems like it’s moving fast.” I alerted Salli, who would be the assisting midwife, and we scurried out the door. About a mile from Jen’s house, I realized that in my urgency to get on the road, I forgot to use the restroom before I left. My ever-growing uterus was not playing nice with my ever-crowded bladder. No worries, I’m almost to her house, and I can run in and answer nature’s call as soon as I arrive.
Jen’s home is peaceful and bright. Sunlight rushes in through windows on both sides of the house, and the absence of an obnoxiously large tv in the living room (which I have in my own home, so no judgment) lends the room to conversation and well spent time. Everything about this home feels modest, and humble, and warm. I walk through the door with a refreshing breath thinking, “Yes, this is where a new life should enter the universe.”
I follow the sound of deep breaths and soft moans down the hall to find Jen just at the end of a contraction, smiling up at her doting husband. She’s gently rolling her hips around on the birth ball, in the doorway of the only. Bathroom. In. The. House. (Silent scream on the inside……nooooooooo!)
Immediately I plaster a smile on my face and say, “It looks like you’re doing a great job.” This is my standard response to a mama in labor, because they’re all doing a great job. All the time.
I immediately check vitals and listen to baby. Yep, yep, everything’s great. Oh my God, I have to pee.
Ok, maybe if I sit really still, the urine will just reabsorb into my bladder. That’s a thing, right?
I’m wringing my hands, tapping my foot, and biting my lower lip until it’s so painful I have to jump up and do something. Clearly sitting still is not my friend, and all that urine isn’t going anywhere but out, regardless how I feel about it.
I stand at the kitchen window and stare out into the yard. I’m spying for a place I can squat and “country tinkle” as my little boys always called it. Chain link fences. Of course. So I can’t squat anywhere in that yard without giving the neighbors a show.
I’m thinking about my car. Ok, I’m only about 5’ 3” on a good day (depending on whether or not I’ve stayed regular with my chiropractic care). I could probably squat myself over a cup in my back seat but if I missed…..how would I even explain that, much less clean up that mess? Ew. No. Not an option.
I have sat still. I have paced. I have prayed. I have diligently searched for another option at this location. The stress of this situation is now edging into my anxiety-induced IBS, and now…Oh God…..now I also have to poop. What the eff am I going to do?
Finally, I realize that my only option is to leave and find a toilet. Through my years of experience and my midwife spidey senses, I can see that Jenn isn’t having her baby right this second, so I’m probably safe to go relieve myself if I can be quick about it.
Another sweet mama I’ve helped lives just around the corner. I contemplate calling her, but “can I come poop at your place” just doesn’t seem like a nice way to catch up. No, that won’t work.
I remember a gas station at the end of the street. It was a seedy looking place, but it’s the middle of the day and this is an emergency. I’m covered in a light layer of cold sweat as I hobble inside…now practically crippled by the urgent need to GO. I ask in my sweetest, albeit shaky, voice where the restroom is. “It’s at the other building, the laundromat, in the back” What? I barely made it here and now I have to go to another freaking building!!
The laundromat is hot and sticky, which doesn’t mix well with sweaty and desperate. I swear I’m doing the pregnancy mama dribble as I timidly open the door to the most disgusting bathroom I’ve ever laid eyes on. Broken, dirty needles and soiled toilet paper on the floor and spilling out of the trash, and what looks like something I’d rather not mention used to smear out obscenities on the wall. All of a sudden……squatting in front of the neighbors in the beauty of nature’s bounty doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
I’m doing a bad cirque du soleil impression as I perch over the toilet, touching nothing, and allow just enough urine to escape to release the pressure, but not enough that I’ll be stuck here number two’ing in my own personal purgatory.
As I arrive back at Jen’s house, I feel absolutely driven to find a way to that toilet. I find her husband near giving up on getting the birth tub filled because the adapter for the sink isn’t cooperating even a little bit.
Salli, thank God for her, makes a solid commitment to my cause and between the two of us we become hell-bent on getting that birth tub filled. She even went so far as to climb over Jen’s washing machine to connect the hose to fill the tub. The sound of running water has never been so freeing, and so incredibly frustrating at the same time. Fill faster!! I’m overflowing over here!
The two of us gently usher Jen out of the bathroom doorway and down the hall, where we ease her into the velvety warm water of the birth tub. And once she’s settled, I sprint down the hall to the bathroom….in the most professional way possible.
I know that “seven minutes in heaven” is a name typically reserved to a game that pimple-faced middle schoolers play hoping to score their first kiss, or pretend they did. But this is how I will forever refer to the glorious moments spent in Jen’s bathroom. Oh, sweet relief.
It was only an hour or two later that Jen’s first daughter slipped peacefully earthside. She was born in the water, as gentle and lovely as her parents and their cozy home. It was a couple of years before I confessed to Jen the drama that unfolded during her birth.
Did I just write an entire blog post about needing to use the bathroom? I sure did. I don’t regret it one bit. Giving birth to a baby is one of the most human things we do on this earth. So is pooping. Every one of us is limited by our human condition, even when we really, really need not to be…because we have other things to do….like catch a baby.
Heather Hilton has been attending births since 2001 and became a Licensed Midwife in 2007. In 2011, she opened Central Texas Birth Center in Georgetown, Texas, where she also works as a staff midwife. In addition, Heather has served as an instructor for the Association of Texas Midwives Midwifery Training Program since 2014. Heather has six children, three dogs, and a very patient husband. For more information, visit:
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