Sara Kirschenbaum
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Random Chapter of the Week

Posted Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 1:48pm

Each week in late 2009 and early 2010 I posted a random chapter of the week here. I left the post up for one week and then replaced it with another chapter. Here is the last chapter I posted. It will stay up indefinitely.

Chapter Four: Sage is Born

In an oasis of candlelight, sanity and physical pain, the baby arrived in just six hours of regular labor. We had chosen a birth center in Beverly, Massachusetts. It was a good 40 minute drive from Boston in the best of circumstances. I went into labor on Veterans Day so there was no traffic and luckily, no snow. We even stopped for a walk on Crane Beach and again at a farm where I bought a homemade donut and cider. I had my biggest contraction yet in front of the roaring fire in the farm gift shop.

I walked unassisted into the birth center, proud of my strength. Because it was closed for routine appointments on Veteran’s Day, I could claim the whole birth center as my own, walking in my socks in and out of the waiting room and choosing my pick of birthing rooms.

Between contractions, I walked around, exploring. Moving joyfully at first. I weighed myself on the scale. I showed the midwives how flexible I was: sitting on the rug with my feet together, flapping my knees to floor.

It was a relief to labor. I thought, “See, I’m not a whiner!” Physical pain was refreshing. Above board. And there were midwives, whose job it was to get me through. I was between territories of anxiety; I was in a no-man’s de-militarized zone. I was done waiting and didn’t have yet to diaper this baby. There was a job to do.

As the labor progressed, the pain pried open my pelvis. The baby’s head was aimed wrong in my labor canal. Instead of presenting its crown, it was leading with the side of its head. Perhaps, the midwives ventured, the baby had its hand on its cheek or was sucking its thumb? With this baby’s head cocked to one side, my pelvis bent like a bow, to the baby’s arrow.

I tried every position. The best was to bend over and lean on the bed and let the round heft of my belly hang down into Bud’s hands. He massaged the baby and said, “Get your thumb out of your mouth, baby.” After a few minutes we felt a turning, an internal release. The midwife checked again; sure enough, the baby’s head had moved into the correct position.

Dilating contractions are hard work. Even with the head faced right, I felt tremendous pressure on my back. But there was delicious relief - the 45-second breaks every three minutes. Bud and I lay together on our sides on the bed in the birthing room. He was in back of me, spoon to spoon. The midwives tip-toed out of the room. Candles flickered around the room and one cast a shadow from a purple iris and vase that I had thought to bring from home. An Enya cassette played airily and earnestly on a cassette recorder. Bud held me from behind as I went through a contraction. I savored the retreating of the contractions and the palatable sense of shared experience and comfort. I focused on the purple iris and its wavering shadow. As a baby and pregnancy groupie, this was my quiet coronation.

The next contraction grabbed me like undertow. The iris’s shadow was actually all wrong. “Bud! Move the flower! I want the shadow over there!” I was beside myself, writhing, pelvis feeling like it was stretched almost to breaking. The labor ploughed forward, relentless. “Bud,” I pleaded, “if I can’t hold this baby when it’s born, can you tell it I love it? Bud, tell me, tell me will you do that?!”

Bud replied, soothingly, “You’re doing great, honey.”

“No!” I yelled. “I am not doing great. I don’t think I can hold this baby! Just tell me that you will hold this baby!”

“Yes,” he said, “of course I will” How sad, I thought at the time, a mother not being able to hold her own baby.

As transition flowered into pushing, I refused to push. It hurt too much. The midwives reassured me – “You actually don’t need to push. The baby will come. We’ve had births where the mother didn’t push at all.” But by the next contraction, I wanted to push, just a little bit, at the tail end of the contraction. I pushed a little more the next time. And next. I was squatting on the bed, with midwife and husband on either side. At the return of each push, they would haul me up from the pillows to bear down directly on the baby. At the end of each contraction they would lay me back down on the pillows for a few seconds of relief. The pushing hurt. The only relief was for Bud and the midwife to push back on my hip bones, physically countering the bulging bone. Each contraction I yelled “Hips, hips, hips!”

Things were happening. People were suddenly wearing yellow sterile gowns. Someone I never met showed up to assist. I took the time to think: “They should have told me about her showing up. I never met her.” I noticed a silver metal bowl was put on the bed filled with surgical looking instruments. Each contraction they pulled me up from sitting into a squat where I could push down directly on my vagina. Pushing now with the whole of the contraction, I fainted on the midwife’s shoulder, draped over her like a fox stole. It felt good to rest. But the midwife pulled me back to awareness, retrieving me like a helium balloon: “Sara, you need to come back. Two or three more pushes.” She woke me up and put my hand between my legs. “Here comes the head.” The touch of the baby’s hair brought me back and it was a sweet shock to actually touch this baby. “Sara, here’s a mirror, so you can watch your baby being born.”

“No!” I yelled, “I don’t want to see myself tear.”

“You won’t be able to see…”

“No!” I hollered again.

“One more push for the head. Here we go. Yes. And now here comes the body.”

I reached down as the baby was coming out and with both my hands, grabbed the baby under its arms and lifted it up to my chest, pulling its feet out of me.

Someone put a blanket around the baby. A cotton hat was slipped on its head. I cradled it. It lay on my chest. The baby’s little round head turned; its eyes opened a tiny bit and looked up at me. It was beautiful - how could I ever have thought I wouldn’t be able to hold it? I peeked, and saw that I had a son.



  1. River Wrote on Saturday, Apr 11th, 2009 at 5:04am

    You are a wonderful writer, keeping my fingers crossed for a publisher of huge porportions.

  2. Marie Wrote on Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2009 at 2:43am

    This book really needs to be published. It would bring such relief (that they're not alone) and hope (that they can recover) for all those mothers suffering from OCD. Can't wait to read next week's chapter!

  3. jane meskill Wrote on Wednesday, Oct 21st, 2009 at 1:08pm

    Sara, I hung on every word and I've heard it before. It would be wonderful for other mother's to have something to relate to. I can't see why it won't be published.

  4. Marie Wrote on Wednesday, Dec 30th, 2009 at 6:02am

    As always, your description of what you went through is so well written. OCD is truly a cruel and heart-breaking form of mental torture.

  5. River Wrote on Tuesday, Mar 16th, 2010 at 3:02pm

    this brought me to tears, beautiful

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