Not exactly "craft" related, though I did make him from scratch.
Sunday, 2:45am, I woke up with some cramps, similar to the bowel cramps I had had a few days earlier. The midwife had said that with so little room, the last turn of the colon can get pinched and be pretty painful. This felt similar, so I tried to relax and go back to sleep. Same as before, the pain came about every 10 minutes, but unlike before, I felt it both in the front and back and not just on the side. But all week, people had been saying “You’ll know when it’s for real. You’ll just know it.” And I didn’t “just know it”, so I tried to ignore it.
Around 4:00am I got up and got in the shower. The cramps were just a little too much to handle quietly and while lying down. It helped, and I was able to get back to sleep from about 5:00 to 7:30am. Around then I started feeling them again, but only every 30 minutes or so. I got up and had breakfast with my parents, who were visiting for the weekend, helping us finish some home-improvement projects. I kept having pains every 20 minutes or so, but I still didn’t “know it”, and I was trying my best not to show that they hurt.
My parents left around 12:00 noon. As my mom was leaving she said, “I hope this is just passing and you feel better later.” Half joking, half serious, I replied, “I don’t! I hope this is it, so it’ll be done.” “So you’re ready?” she asked. I didn’t have much of a reply to that . . . no, to be honest, I wasn’t ready, but I really didn’t want to go through “labor”, or whatever this was, more than once.
Around 1:00 or 2:00pm, Chris sent me to bed for a nap. He said something like, “Even though this is probably nothing, if this IS something, you need to get some rest.” A part of me wanted to be mad about the whole “this is nothing”, since regardless of whether it was labor or not, it hurt and it sucked, but I think I was more tired than annoyed, and so I gave in and went to bed for about 2 hours. The pains were coming about even 10 minutes again by the time I got up, but there still wasn’t a “this is definitely labor” moment for me, so I continued to ignore it.
Chris, however, was not ignoring them anymore. “Where is that list you have for things we should have ready in case we have to go to the hospital in the middle of the night?” he asked, around 4 or 5pm. “Why, we’re not going anywhere tonight,” I said. “Yeah, well, just in case,” he replied. Pretty soon I realized that this might actually be happening, and decide to cover my bases too. I emailed a few people, letting them know that there was a “chance” I might not be showing up to work and appointments the next day. I texted my neighbor asking them if we could drop the dog off in the morning, and my other neighbor asking if SHE could drop her off in case we rushed out in the middle of the night (I had planned to keep the dog with me during labor as my second “doula”). We called the real doula, Megan, and the midwife to let them know that stuff was going on. Through all this though, I STILL was in denial that it was really happening. I still hadn’t had that “You’ll just know” moment. We called the midwife and she said to call again when I got to “the next level”.
Around 9pm it finally hit me. The contractions were averaging about five minutes apart, and I felt like things were happening fast. I decided that we needed to get the dog to the sitter’s, so we made one last trip out of the house. I called my dad and one friend on the way to let them know what was happening. I had a few contractions on the phone with them, which was NOT fun. I’m very good at holding it together in front of other people, but it doesn’t make it hurt less. We arrived at the neighbor’s and drop the dog off . . . oh, and standing in my friend’s kitchen pretending to NOT have contractions? Also not fun.
We got back to the apartment around 9:45 and decided it was time for Megan to come over. I had been agonizing over this, since I didn’t want to call her too soon. Chris called her and she said she’d be over in about 20 minutes. I remember the next contraction being so full of all that anxiety, and I panicked – Was it too early? Was this really happening? Why was it happening so fast? It was one of only three or four times I really panicked, something I had been terrified of happening; looking back, each time I panicked it was a clear sign of something shifting.
Megan arrived around 10:30, and everything stopped. I went maybe 10 or 15 minutes without a contraction, and of course I immediately thought I had made the rookie mistake of calling too soon. Then Megan went to the bathroom and they started up again. I decided I just had a “shy uterus” and couldn’t do it while I felt people were watching me. Megan went in the other room for a while and things got going again. Around 11 or so I got in the shower. Megan was very good about “suggesting” things – “How would you feel about getting in the shower for a while?” It made it so I didn’t have to think for myself.
I stayed in the shower until I felt the “next level” – there was just something different about the last few contractions I had in there. Megan heard it too, and her acknowledgement was really helpful in letting me admit they were getting hard. I couldn’t believe it was midnight when I got out of the shower. We called the midwife around 12:15am and she listened to me have a contraction over the phone. Again, my “shy uterus” made it difficult to let it happen while I knew everyone was watching/listening. The whole time, I kept thinking “Someone please ask if I want to go to the hospital. Someone please ask if I want to go to the hospital.” I didn’t want to suggest it myself, fearing it was still too early; I needed someone else to suggest it. Finally, the midwife asked if we wanted to come in. She had barely gotten the words out and I said yes.
Chris called the taxi service while I got dressed; for some reason, I really felt the need to wear a bra out of the house. Megan warned me that while in the car there would be yet another person “watching”, but to try not to let that stall things. The car arrived and we went out to meet it. The driver looked back and saw me and asked, “Are we in a hurry?” “Well, we have time”, answered Megan. “But I wouldn’t, you know, dawdle.” He was very nice and said he would try to avoid the bumps. It was unnerving though to hear them debating about the best way to get to the hospital (apparently construction had messed up the one-way streets around the ER entrance). Also unnerving was my mood at the time. The contractions hurt, especially sitting in the car not able to move around much, but also in between things still seemed funny. We passed the mall on the way to the highway, and I said, “Oh, man, I was going to go to Kohl’s today!” The driver had the radio on, and I was singing along. Appropriately, I think, this is the one song I remember from the 20 minute ride:
"I’d catch a grenade for ya
Throw my hand on a blade for ya
I’d jump in front of a train for ya
You know I'd do anything for ya
I would go through all this pain,
Take a bullet straight through my brain,
Yes, I would die for ya baby;
But you won't do the same"
~ Bruno Mars, "Grenade"
I think we got to the ER entrance around 1:30am. I had to stop midway through the ER to have a contraction, and as I turned to lean on the back of a chair, and quickly realized I had to find another spot, as there was someone sleeping in the one I had chosen. We got up to the Birthing Center floor and rang the bell. Again, still sort of amused, I remember the nurse coming to answer the door (you have to buzz to get in), and I was having a contraction so I wasn’t moving yet. “Um . . . can I help you?” she said. I remember thinking to myself, “Um, what do you THINK we’re here for? ‘Yeah, I’m here to see Betty. Can she come out to play?!’ I’M IN LABOR YOU MORON!!!”
I was allowed to skip the triage room, but still had to be on the monitor for about 20 minutes. Again, I was glad to have Megan there, since she knows things like to put on the little tube-top thing that holds on the monitor by stepping INTO it, not trying to get it over your head. While I won’t say that the contractions sitting in the chair were the worst ones (I’ve heard that from a few people), I will say they were not as manageable as if I had been able to move around. Even slightly leaning forward made the monitor fall off, and I had a fleeting thought of “Oh god, how do people labor like this the whole time!?” The heart rate and the contractions were good, and the midwife checked me and I was dilated to 6cm and 100% effaced. (Secretly, I had been hoping for like 8 or 9 cm, but after the fact realized that would have made the car ride much less fun.)
I got in the tub and things, again, slowed down. I definitely felt like everyone was just sitting there watching me. Chris mentioned afterwards that he felt awkward because they were, in fact, just sitting there watching me. I was relieved when the midwife turned the jets on, since the sound sort of drowned everything out and I could forget they were there (I may have even said out loud, “I’m pretending no one is here”). I got into a good rhythm, sitting against one of the jets in between contractions, and kneeling in the middle of the tub during them. I worried that they weren’t hurting enough, or had slowed down too much, until I got out to pee and had one in the bathroom that too my breath away. “OK, we’re still rockin and rollin,” I thought. I knew they were getting worse when, instead of my routine “Ooooooooooh boy” or “aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhouch” while rocking back and forth, I started smacking the side of the tub with my hand; I think that was a good sign to everyone else too.
After maybe an hour and half, I got out to pee again. When I came back, the midwife suggested that we turn off the lights and try to rest. “Um, really?” I thought to myself. “How am I going to rest if I’m having contractions every three minutes?” But I knew Chris was tired (I had at least had a nap in the afternoon) so we got into bed. Apparently before the midwife left to go lie down, she brought Megan a blanket and said she should sleep too; Megan told me afterwards that she knew that wouldn’t be happening. Though apparently I was snoozing between them, the contractions were pretty bad lying down, and seemed harder to handle because I was trying to “keep it together” and be quiet so Chris could sleep. After maybe 4 or 5, I got up to pee again. I like to think that I “decided” to take a walk, though it may have been another Megan suggestion.
We walked down the length of the hall, stopping a few times for contractions. After that fact, Megan said that I was still “chatty” or being so far along, though I can’t remember what we were talking about. Megan did some great pressure down my back, and it felt like she was really helping to move everything down. A few times I felt myself ALMOST saying, “I can’t do it,” though I stopped myself because, again, I was afraid to say it too early; I didn’t want to get to the transition emotions without actually being there yet.
We got to the end of the hall, and I finally let myself succumb to the “I can’t do it.” Megan was a rock, and after it was over, she said to me, “Now, I know you’ve done your homework. You know what ‘I can’t do it’ means.” I did, and it felt good to know that I was going to be done soon. I had a fleeting moment of “If this goes on much longer I’m going to need something for the pain.” Little did I know, there wouldn’t have been time anyway.
We started walking back down the hall, and about 10 or 15 feet down, I stopped to have a contraction. It was huge. It overcame me. “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! NO NO NO!” I shouted.
And suddenly I was pushing.
“I’m pushing! I’m pushing!” I yelled. (Apparently I was actually grunting it, I found out later). “Make it stop!” Now, remember, the midwife had gone to lie down, Chris was asleep, and the nurse was “around”. The midwife from the labor room next door came out to see what was happening, because they could hear me in the next room. She ran to get my midwife, while Megan and Chris (who had been just about to fall asleep when he heard me yelling “I’m pushing!” – that got him up!) tried to get me up and into the room. A wave came over me and I screamed. I felt something come out of me. “Something came out! Something came out!” I was yelling, convinced that I was either dying, or this kid was coming out in the hallway. The midwife arrived and they shuffled me into the room, where someone took off my pants and socks and the nurse put pads down underneath where I was standing. I had never really thought about positions for pushing or where I wanted to be, but standing and leaning on the edge of the bed seemed suddenly perfect.
There was a moment then when things paused. There was a strange silence, even though there was a lot going on. The “something” that had come out was my bag of waters, still intact, which was now dangling down about six inches. The midwife was telling Chris to come look. The nurse was checking the heart rate with the Doppler, which was very low, and she was asking if the oxygen mask would reach over to where I was standing (I remember hearing her ask about the oxygen, but thinking “But I’m not hyperventilating. I don’t need oxygen.” I’m glad I missed the part about the heart rate). The midwife was saying we didn’t need to bother with the oxygen, because the baby would be out in a few minutes. Megan took my hand and said to look at her. “You can do this,” she said to me. “Say it.”
“I can. I can do this.”
And I was pushing again. And I screamed. It a scream full of every emotion possible: pain, fear that I was out of control, fear that I would tear, exhilaration that it was actually happening.
And then there was a head. The bag broke as the head was about half way out. There was fluid and blood everywhere. I was convinced I had torn myself in half. Another wave, another push, and he was out. The cord was very short so the nurse, the midwife (who had only gotten on one glove) and I were holding him suspended between my legs. The next minute or so is a blur. Looking back at the pictures from those moments is a bit confusing, because I honestly don’t remember those things happening. Someone cut the cord in order to get him down, and handed him to me. Chris was crying. I told the room “It’s a boy.” The nurse took him and dried him off – I remember thinking “Wait, I didn’t want him dried off so vigorously unless it was necessary”, but I had no mind to disagree with anyone. I hadn’t even processed that they had cut the cord immediately until the next day! (We had wanted to wait until it stopped pulsing, but it was so short that they had to cut it or else let him “hang” there.) The nurse told me to take my top off, and again, I had no mind to disagree. I got into bed, vaguely aware that I had a clamp dangling from the cord, and they put him on me.
I feel like the next hour flew by. I wasn’t aware of anything. He was rooting and sucking immediately, and they put him on my breast. The midwife checked me and I had no tears! I couldn’t believe it. I had a few “skid marks” from him coming out so fast, but no stitches necessary. I delivered the placenta, though I needed a little coaching; I think they could tell I was afraid to push, fearing that it would feel like the birth again, and I remember someone reassuring me, “It won’t feel the same. It doesn’t hurt.” Before I knew it the nurse said it was time to weigh him (according to the time stamp on Megan’s camera, she waited EXACTLY one hour).
Everyone was gone by about 5:00am. As quickly as it started, it was over.