This isn’t the first time I’ve tried writing this, I’ve tried to shorten it, I’ve reread paragraphs, wondered what part I forgot, wondered if it was too much. Having a baby is such a unique experience that I get carried away in the details and the thoughts. Without writing a memoir this post will still be long and it may have what some would consider graphic detail but it is story that I want to hold in my memory forever
On Monday, March 28th I went to bed earlier because I was tired after a long day with my family including a doctors visit earlier (the first one this pregnancy that Chad came with me) and instead of falling asleep I watched the entire new season of Girls. At one point, slightly after midnight, I noticed I was having mild, non painful contractions but because they did not hurt at all I brushed them off. I tried timing but I was terrible at it, I could tell when they started but forgot to stop the timer when the contraction waned. They weren’t close together and started getting further apart so I turned the tv off and tried to sleep. I had 3 more contractions in the next half hour, not a big deal but they made me wonder “is this it?” Around 1:30 Chad came to bed and Harper woke up begging to cuddle, I took it all as a sign to get up and get into the bath. I knew a bath would relax me enough to sleep or would help hint if I was actually starting labor.
Once in the bath, they came quicker and much more uncomfortable, not uncomfortable in a way that made me squirm but like a hug that was just a tad too tight so that I couldn’t breath comfortably. I had no convincing signs of labor yet: my water had not broken, no mucus loss or sickness of any sort. Without any proof of labor I was constantly second guessing what was happening and while doubting the reality I was in I decided to go with the “better safe than sorry” mantra and woke Chad and my mom up at 2:30.
Chad and I packed quietly and headed to the hospital. He drove at least 5 mph under the speed limit despite the lack of traffic, or really any vehicle on the road. My mind tried to justify why you would drive slowly when your wife was uncomfortable but couldn’t come up with much. I mentioned that while they might just send me home when we get there it was perfectly fine to drive a little faster. He kindly, almost timidly admitted that with the time he was worried about drunk drivers as well as getting pulled over by cops patrolling for drunks- I informed him it was monday night. By now my contractions were every 3-5 minutes and I had to focus to breath through them, luckily the drive, while slow-paced, was still relatively short with hardly any bumps or red lights.
We parked outside the hospital, I waited for my contraction to pass and walked in. We checked in at the ED triage where I gave them my information while squatting on the ground silent and breathing through another contraction. It took forever but eventually the nurses came from labor and delivery and took me back to triage, an intimating room that was thankfully empty of other laboring women.
In the labor triage room they had me change, took my weight and vitals and eventually checked my cervix, moment of truth: I was at 5cm. I heard the two nurses discussing my situation saying that a doctor would probably not send me home being at 5 (I had been checked at my appointment earlier that morning and was only 2.5) even though active labor is now considered to be at 6cm and they were confident that I would be staying. I texted my friend Kim (at exactly 3:27am) who was coming to take birth photos that we would be staying, it was the real deal.
We walked down the hall to a delivery room and they put me on the monitors as per their regulations. The lab guy came in and the nurses put him in his place about drawing from me (I had complained that they tried to draw while I was in the worst part of labor). I had to be on the monitors a little over the required 20 minutes because baby wasn’t giving them the readings they wanted (he was resting) but as soon as they were off I hightailed it to the shower knowing the relief that was brought by standing and the endless hot water.
I have no recollection of what Chad was doing at this point, I remember him checking up on me, seeing if I needed anything, making sure I was safe- but there was so little to actually DO besides breath and wait and mop up the water on the floor. I was waiting for the next contraction, waiting for the break between them, waiting to have a baby.
I stood in the shower and let the water hit my low back, positioning my hips so that the hot water rolled down my belly. I would wiggle, I’d tense but when swaying back and forth, my body bent forward I felt the rhythm, the pace that we both needed, our white space to work in.
As soon as each wave would start I attempted to try the various techniques I’d learned:
Hypnosis: “turning off my switch” and allowing my body to completely relax and my mind to empty. Didn’t work. My muscles were completely relaxed and it only made me feel pain in my abdomen that much stronger.
Visualization: as a contraction started I’d imagine either what my body was doing in the sensations. Also didn’t work. It brought all my attention to the area of pain again. I could visualize what it was doing but my brain became focused on the pain and how it was working. Basically I noticed how bad it fucking hurt.
What did work? Focusing on the water hitting me and breathing. Controlling my breath gave me an outlet for the pain and took away *some* of the awareness of my pain and let me get more into my head. When I focused on my breath I became very inward, quiet and intense for those moments so that when it started to pass I could be normal, I could enjoy my break and interact with Chad and my nurses. I learned the count to the peak of discomfort, it came fast and left slowly so I tried to match my breath to it, breathing in quickly and exhaling slowly.
Between each contraction I would think “that wasn’t too bad”and I’d immediately dread the next one as it came. Then it became unbearable, I wanted a break and concluded that I deserved one. I called to Chad and told him he needed to call the nurse because I wanted an epidural. I was confidant in this decision, I know the bliss of an epidural as I know the beauty of medication free birth but started to bargain anyway “if I’m not at 7cm I want an epidural, if I’m further I’ll be okay” then after another contraction “I mean, 8cm not 7.” Chad gave me a funny look, he might have said something along the lines of sticking to that 7cm, luckily the nurse that was training for L&D showed up. She told me they would want to check me first. I agreed, knowing they would and started to grab a couple of towels for the mad dash to the bed.
I made it to the bed just as a contraction started, which really means I was perched on the bed like a terrified 3-legged cat. Three-legged because my left leg didn’t make it up and was stuck on the ground as I arched my back up and took my forehead down to the bed. Chad asked what I wanted and I told him to push against the back of my pelvis. I was pushing against Chads hands as hard as he pushed into my low back, maybe harder because I actually had the thought that I shouldn’t push so hard against him or he might stop (he wouldn’t, labor makes you think weird things). The nurse watched me breathing through the contraction and offered some sort affirmations in how great I was doing and a something about how calm I was and I informed her that I wasn’t moving so she would need to check me from behind if she wanted to check at all, this is what I call labor bluntness, not always the most polite. She walked out of my vision as I waited for the moment of truth, 6cm, 7cm….
“You’re complete.” The other nurse started prepping and they mentioned getting the on-call OB soon. I informed them that soon wasn’t enough because my last baby was pretty fast at this point and sure enough, the next contraction showed some proof that he was well on his way out and my water broke though it was hardly a trickle. Seconds later the OB walked in and started opening up a huge plastic sheet on the floor in front of me. Oddly concerned with the mess that labor can cause I asked her if I could just stand over that plastic. She kindly suggested that I stay on the bed, even standing (as I half was), because it’s a softer surface if a baby were to fall out. Made me smile that I was so concerned about making a mess I forgot concern over dropping my baby on a hard floor. I let the contractions do the work of pushing for me but didn’t feel the relief I knew possible at this point, I was attempting to let my body go through the process it was designed for and wanted to slow down the process in order to let my contractions do most of the pushing work as well as to prevent any tearing. Relaxed as I was about letting my body work at this point I hated the position I was in, feeling no relief, but did not know what to do or how to fix it. The OB suggested I lay on my side, that sounded good like a great idea but I needed to be told what to do. I didn’t know how to move and needed to be told which side to lay on. I demanded to be directed and followed the direction given, going from lost to safe in a single movement I laid on my right side.
Once on my side pushing commenced with one strong push, I consider this my first actual push because before there was no active muscle engagement, I simply relaxed my body in order for it to open and direct the baby. The OB mildly informed me that baby was not reacting well to the contractions (they where holding monitors on my belly in order to get a heartbeat reading) she insisted that I needed to get the baby out fast, as quickly as possible. Calmly I waited for the next contraction, when it started I pushed, and pushed and pushed. I felt the head come out, I took a breath and relaxed for a moment but held onto the push, it felt like I was done, my work was finished but someone reminded me I still had shoulders (and the rest of the baby) to get out so I kept pushing without waiting for the next contraction, this is the first time I made a noise, half moan half ahh, grabbing everything in me to birth this boy. The shoulders, I still shudder, there was some sort of horrifying pop that happens when you hastily have to push the thickest part of a baby out. Every time I tried to sleep the following 48 hours I relived this terrifying pop. I don’t think it was audible to anyone but I definitely felt it. Only 2 minutes of pushing and 1 hour from being admitted Iver was here, born at 4:28am on March 29, 2016.
I saw my purple slimy baby, the doctor made sure I saw his face as the nurses grabbed blankets for us. He rested and squirmed and cried out on my belly. I lifted him up slightly over and over just to look at his face. He was so warm against me, dry but sticky and incredibly soft. He smelled metallic, not like blood but like new, clean earth. His dark hair was matted against his head, wet, not long, but a nice covering and longer at the top of his crown his perfect little mouth, cleft chin and dark grey eyes looking for me. My mind immediately chose the name Iver, though for the next day I would question it and attempt to mentally chose Leif. His hands where (and are) huge but the fingernails not too long. He kicked a little and each time he yelled out I would wonder if I should attempt to feed him only to pick him up and stare at his little face.
I tried to pull him up past my belly in order to try to feed him but the doctor told me not too, his umbilical cord was too short and he was as far as he could go. She also told me that he had the chord around his neck hence the quick delivery. So I watched his eyes, his hands pawing, felt him, smelled him.
While they cleaned me up and packed me up we sat and oohed over Iver. He latched well, nursed quickly then fell asleep. He peed across my stomach and I requested new blankets. Kim showed up, disappointed that she missed it but still willing to be a support. Chad took a nap. The nurse came to check on my bleeding every 15 minutes, I informed her that I felt like I was gushing blood, it wasn’t stopping. Sure enough, I had filled the bed with blood. She called in the head nurse who quickly started me up on pitocen to help my uterus contract back down, it worked perfectly.
Eventually the nursery came in and took his stats, amazed at his size, what a long baby, why big hands, so alert, sweet little face. They diapered him and gave him back to me then they swiftly kicked me out of the room and escorted me upstairs (it was a very busy time in our hospitals labor and delivery). As we walked through the hall and past the nurses station I hear whispering, specifically one person say “was that her? the one?” I tried so hard to listen but I figured it was maybe slight thankfulness, easy in easy out-patient, and the fact that I was so quiet for a natural birth (one of my goals with this birth was to be more internal and I absolutely succeeded with that). I guess I won’t know why they pointed or whispered but it didn’t matter, because I had a sweet baby boy in the bassinet as I hunched down the hallway.
[photos by: Heritage Photography]