Published on October 25th, 2017 | by Andrea Askowitz1
Everyone Out Including the Baby
At midnight, my midwife, Dana, drove me to the Hollywood Birth Center. My mom, her boyfriend Bob, and my two best friends followed in a separate car.
The Birth Center, until we got there that night, was just an empty house. I took a shower right away because Dana said hot water would ease the pain. By then, I’d been having contractions for eight hours and while the hot water felt hot, it did nothing to ease the pain. So I got out of the shower.
Also I had an overwhelming urge to poo. I think they call this back labor. As I crossed the bathroom to the toilet, a brown blob fell out of my body and splat on the floor. I thought I’d lost control of my bowels.
I stared at the slimy blob. It was about the size of my hand, with two tentacles, like fingers. It was dark brown, with an egg-whites quality to the tentacles. I stood over it. Then stepped over it. Then walked around it. I didn’t want anyone to see it, not even Dana. But my mom and my friends were right there staring down at the blob. They were my birth support team because I was having my baby on my own.
I was humiliated. I did that?
Dana was quick with toilet paper. She scooped it up and smelled it. Turns out the blob on the floor was the mucus plug.
In all my natural birth classes—and I took an eight-week series at the Birth Center—no one mentioned the plug. Our teacher did mention the possibility of orgasm during those final moments when the baby pushes through the vagina. I rolled my eyes, but one of my classmates got excited by the idea and brought it up every class. “That’s gonna be me, you guys. I’m gonna have an orgasm.” She was a music therapist.
At the scene, Dana explained this ball of mucus-y substance that plugs up the vagina has to come out before the baby. It was gross.
You’d think, or I’d think, that nothing could embarrass me after that. And usually nothing does.
Before I even got pregnant, I got the idea to have a baby on stage. I was living in Los Angeles and was inspired by Sandra Tsing Loh, who is as famous a performance artist as they get, so you’ve probably never heard of her. She had stories to tell, but early in her career, she had no one to tell them to, so she did a piano recital suspended from The 405.
Giving birth on stage seemed like the greatest idea ever. I couldn’t believe Sandra Tsing Loh hadn’t already thought of it. There’s drama built right in. And a natural climax, with or without an orgasm.
When the baby came out, I’d hold it up like in the Lion King and everyone would cheer. Then I’d have the sound tech play “Circle of Life.” And then when the cheers died down, I’d pull the baby into my chest and have the lighting tech zoom the spotlight on just the baby and me; a real close shot and everything else would be black. It would be hard because I’m not a crier, but I could probably squeeze out a single tear.
Everyone who bought a ticket would get a beeper so when I went into labor, the beeper would go off and the audience would come to the theater. Midday, midnight, who knew? This was the thing about my performance. It would be unplanned. This would be the ultimate reality show.
I’d have a midwife, of course, to help with labor. She’d be one of the characters. My mom would be a character, as well as my partner and my best friend Stephanie, resident many years in an improv troupe, so she’d be perfect. It would be simple and natural. All I would have to do is have a baby.
I worked out my plan. The more I talked about it, the more I loved it. The flyers would be done up like baby shower invitations. The theater would be equipped with a birthing tub, which I’d heard came in inflatables.
Kate, who was my girlfriend at the time said, “Are you insane!? Do you have any sense of privacy? I would NEVER, EVER have a baby on stage,” which meant she would never ever have our baby on stage.
We broke up six months before I got pregnant. It’s hard to know the real reason a relationship dies, but it could have been because of my having-a-baby-on-stage obsession. And maybe the relationship could have been salvaged because as it turns out, I’m someone who doesn’t like having babies in front of people.
After the shower, my mom handed me the robe she’d gotten me for this occasion. It was fluffy and warm. But labor is a workout, so I didn’t last long in the robe.
I spent the next seven hours pacing the room, which was a bedroom with a Jacuzzi. I was on the bed, off the bed, squatting, whatever I could do to lessen the pain, which was nothing. Downward dog became my most comfortable position. Mine was more like shoving my face into pillows with my butt in the air. I think they call this Dolphin.
I thought about the view my mom was getting; the view for my friends. By that point I’d lost all dignity.
When Dana told me I could get in the tub, which meant the end was near, I hurt so bad, I wanted to cry. But, I couldn’t. Instead I fell asleep from the pain and woke up contracting every few minutes. After an hour, it was time to push. But, I couldn’t. I thought I’d poo for real if I pushed. I couldn’t poo in a tub.
I got out of the tub. I was ten centimeters dilated, and after 17 hours it was time to push the baby out. But, for another reason I couldn’t: There were people watching.
I thought I’d lost all dignity, I thought I didn’t care about dignity, self-respect, pride, privacy. But there was a point for me and it was this: The moment I would push my baby through my vagina.
What if I had an orgasm? What if my baby came out dead?
“Everyone out,” I said.
Then alone with Dana, I lay on my back on the bed and pushed. Over and over, I said, “Come out, my baby. Come on out” until I pushed my baby through my vagina. And she was born.
When Dana placed her on my chest, I held my baby and I cried so hard.
Birth photos by Stephanie Howard, courtesy of the author