Labors of Love

I get through morning sickness with homemade chocolate chip cookies. The ones I make have a complicated recipe; 4 days to make and then I consume 6 daily. Nausea eases but then I can’t quit the cookies. This baby was a planned homebirth. My boys were born in the hospital via induction, so I had no idea what a drugfree contraction or labor felt like. At 39 weeks, on Black Friday, while setting the oven to preheat, I first felt what was apparently a real contraction.

The oven was ready; I put in my first tray and felt another spasm. When the timer hit ten minutes, I had another contraction and called my midwife.
“You don’t sound like someone in labor. Keep track of it and call me if anything changes,” she responded. I wondered what someone in labor sounded like. Maybe it was like in the movies, with screaming. I was baking cookies.

The second tray went in, and I ignored the waves of discomfort. Eventually, I needed to lie down, which is where my husband Eric found me when the oven beeped.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

“Turn the cookies, they can’t burn” was my response.

He turned them and swiped a cookie off the first tray.

“Maybe take a bath, I’ll work on the cookies,” he suggested. I was wary. These had to get me through at least another week, and he was dipping into my reserves. But I felt off, and a bath sounded terrific, so I caved.

As I got up, a contraction hit, my body tensed and waves of pain-radiated everywhere. The timer beeped, and I said, “Get the cookies!” Eric didn’t care about the cookies but knew I did. He ran to the kitchen and switched the trays.

Everyone I had on call for the birth was out shopping for deals; no one thought this baby was coming early. My midwife was at the movies; her assistant was in line at Best Buy.

As we got upstairs, the timer beeped so Eric ran back down to turn the tray while I started the tub. I got in and was even more uncomfortable. Eric arrived just in time to help me out and to the bed.

I turned to him with a desire to kiss. Immediately the pain lessened and I didn’t want to let go. But then we heard the timer. As he walked out, I said, “You taste like chocolate, stop eating my cookies.”

A need to push against the pressure took hold of my body, and I went with it. Eric re-entered the room with a cookie in his mouth just as water surged out of me. Chewing enough to speak he said, “did your water just break?” and that’s when we began to panic.

“Please kiss me” I responded. If we just kept kissing, everything would be ok. It also kept him from eating cookies. The timer interrupted us. I knew he did not want to leave me, but we had come too far to stop baking.

As the contractions kept rolling, I knew that I had to start to push. I also had to lay in child’s pose. Eric later admitted that at this point he deserted the cookie mission.

He returned with the midwife’s assistant who gently said: “Zoë, I need you to rise up, so you don’t end up sitting on your baby.”

As I pushed, I felt a head emerge and heard the midwife arrive. One more push and the baby was in Eric’s hands. He proudly announced, “It’s another boy.”
Early on Eric’s dad said to me “Byer men have Byer men. The only woman ever born to a Byer was the 13th child 10 generations ago. If you want a daughter, my son may not be for you.” I smiled and said, “I love him, and I am OK with being a boy-mom.” My license plate said BYRBYZ and the baby’s room was blue. We did not bother with the gender ultrasound; we knew it was a boy. Eric’s announcement was a formality.

I nursed my baby boy, kissed him, and checked his fingers and toes. The room was filling up with close friends taking pictures, asking questions, and eating cookies.

“What’s his name?” one asked.

“Eli Reese” Eric replied. He was a Giants fan; it had been a good year.

“He doesn’t look like an Eli to me” I replied. None of the names we had discussed worked for me.

“If you can’t settle on a name, let me weigh and measure him so you can give people some information,” said the midwife as I handed over the baby.

She removed his swaddle, gasped, laughed, and covered him back up. We all nervously laughed with her, and I wondered if he’d peed.

“Take a moment to check out your baby,” she said, still laughing.

Confused, I removed the swaddle and laughed. “What is so funny?” Eric asked. He and our friends were watching me from the foot of the bed, eating cookies.

“Eric, this baby does NOT have a penis, we had a girl!” I exclaimed, and the room erupted. “I’m sorry, it was so crazy, and I saw the cord, really, it’s a girl?” he replied, and then he cried. And then I cried because we’d been blessed with a child we’d never let ourselves pray for, a child we had not ever talked about wanting, yet we needed.

My daughter has a picture of her and me the moment I discovered she was a girl. My face is a mix of shock and pure joy. She likes to tell people she was a boy for more than an hour. Every year we bake ‘her’ cookies on Black Friday. And every time I eat one, I have a desire to kiss Eric.