April 17th 2013
Pregnancy dreams are completely bizarre. Truly some of the strangest I have ever experienced. The closest thing I can compare them to is a psychedelic trip. It’s as though all the minute details of your life experiences including your secrets and fears have decided to stage a soap opera for you each night. Sometimes they are wonderful – such as having a great discussion with my deceased mother; some are terrifying – my baby is born dead; and often they are erotically awkward – I’ve dream fucked ALL of you, seriously. I can honestly say they are one of the things about being pregnant that I will miss. I’ve paid a lot of money to feel that way before.
My dearest friend Amanda visited this past week. She and her husband are moving back to town, and she was given the task of finding appropriate housing. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, in between all the horror films we watched, but she managed to accomplish her goal. We had a wonderful time, as we always do, albeit different from most visits. My morning sickness started to become more frequent this past week, and she spent a great deal of her time listening to me whine about it. The term “morning sickness” is an absolute misnomer, because the sickness last all fucking day and night. The previous time Amanda and I visited one another was in Los Angeles over a year ago. We stayed in posh hotels and drank too much and visited Jumbo’s Clown Room and Disneyland and had dinner with one of my favorite artist/photographers Coop & his wife. I messed around with my handsome west coast lover and inadvertently gave myself alcohol poisoning. Amanda spent an entire day chauffeuring me around LA as we stopped at grocery stores and dead end streets for me to vomit and urinate. This visit, as she drove through neighborhoods looking for rental properties and I remained ever so queasy in the passenger seat, I remarked how at least some things never change. She is a tried and true friend who is not at all threatened by how motherhood will undeniable change me. I assured her that we would still have our vacations together but she may have to hold the baby while I puke. Actually, the baby won’t be invited.
Another very dear friend of mine, Ellen, delivered her second daughter this week. Ellen is one of my favorite New Orleans moms. I met her at a Christmas Party literally days before she had her first daughter Indigo. I’ve watched Indigo grow into a healthy toddler and have always admired the way Ellen and her husband Joel have parented her. They are very adventurous and laid-back parents that have not let parenthood significantly change their lifestyle. I’ve watched Ellen breastfeed at the bar during one of our fundraising parties, and Joel has made sure that Indigo attends French Quarter Fest every year. They took a month long back-packing trip to Mexico when she was a year and a half and encountered a hurricane while there. They are loving and supportive without being smothering and demanding. Indigo is a wonderful child who is well-behaved, intelligent and social. They represent the type of parent I would like to be. Ellen asked me a few months ago if I would like to attend the birth of her second daughter, and I thought “why the hell not, might as well see what’s in store for me.” I also felt extremely honored to be asked to something so intimate and important.
I was out running the streets with Amanda, battling some vicious nausea when the call came in. We hustled back to my place so that I could grab my camera and a few other necessities before Amanda dropped me off at Touro Hospital. I actually beat Ellen and Joel there and was surprised to see Ellen walking down the hall, pausing every few steps to deal with a contraction. In my mind pregnant women always entered the delivery area in a wheelchair, but not Ellen, she was in control.
When Ellen had her first daughter, Indigo, she nearly delivered her in the car. We were all under the impression that her labor would move rather quickly, and it absolutely did. After getting into the birthing suite, which was surprisingly huge, Ellen went through the standard intake procedures which included a lot of questions and a physical exam to determine her dilation. She was dilating normally and the midwife said that she would probably progress rather quickly. Ellen had opted for a natural birth, which is what I’ m hoping to have. I was fearful that my nausea would overwhelm me, but my adrenaline kicked in and I was ready for action. Ellen settled onto her hands and knees on the floor and began actively laboring. Joel was applying counter pressure to her back and as the minutes passed, I offered to relieve him, so he could sit by Ellen’s face and speak with her. He instructed me to place constant pressure and when I felt her body responding to a contraction to press down as hard as I could. I thought this was a bit exaggerated, but he assured me that was the system. I began applying pressure and moments later Ellen had a contraction. I can honestly say I have never in my life felt energy like that. It felt as though her entire body was going to split open under the force of the contraction and she just calmly moaned, not even a scream. I was amazed. After a few minutes of Ellen laboring this way, the midwife checked her and determined that she was very close to having her baby. The midwife gave Ellen the option of delivering there, getting into the bed, or getting into the tub. Ellen stood up rather quickly with the assistance of Joel and walked over to the tub, stripping her clothes off on the way. She climbed into the tub and I barely had enough time to grab my camera before she was delivering Juniper. It was quite a sight to behold. She basically did all the work herself. Within minutes she had pushed the baby out and caught her with her own hands. It was a beautiful experience that left me and one of the nurses with tears in our eyes. I have always had admiration for Ellen, but after experiencing that I know that she’s a fucking warrior. She never cried or screamed or called her husband an “asshole” which are all things I expect to do. Juniper was the color of a Juniper berry when she immerged but within moments she became a beautiful little pink darling with a head full of hair. She weighed 8lbs 9 ounces. I stayed with Ellen as Joel and the nurse toweled off Juniper. I watched her deliver the placenta, which looks like a sea creature. I was overwhelmed with admiration for her strength and confidence, but all I could say was “Holy shit, that was awesome.”
I got to hold the little beauty and felt so amazed at how mere hours ago she was inside of Ellen. Ellen was recovering very nicely, only taking a mild pain reliever to help her with some abdominal soreness. Within an hour after having Juniper, she was sipping on a milkshake provided by her birth photographer, and my dear friend Gabrielle Chapin, and talking with us like it was any regular day. She was texting while breastfeeding and explaining to me why she brought her own cloth diapers. I know that her experience is not the norm, but it was so lovely to be a part of something that did not completely terrify me for what’s to come.