We went on our tour of the hospital at 7 p.m. on 3/17, and I kept saying that I wanted to just stay and be in labor. Before going to bed that night I had one contraction that was most certainly not a Braxton Hicks and told Adam. He came to check on me in bed about 15 minutes later to find out if I had another. We were both a little disappointed that I hadn’t.
I remember waking slightly at 3 and 4 a.m. and feeling some pain, but I was able to fall back asleep quickly. At around 4:45, I had a contraction that was uncomfortable enough to wake me fully, and I decided that I needed to really think about whether I was going to work that day. I felt that it was likely I could do my job just fine with that spacing of contractions, but it was better to be safe and stay home. I felt silly calling Massi’s mom and telling her that I might be in labor, probably not, but she was very sweet and excited.
I woke Adam enough to tell him that I was not leaving for work—but not to worry about anything, yet. I also told him that I was going to lie in bed with headphones in, so I wouldn’t know if he tried to talk to me. He was happy and went back to sleep. I started playing an episode of “This American Life,” and got about 10 minutes in before I decided that being still wasn’t going to work. I got myself a cup of frozen pineapple chunks (pretty much my only late pregnancy craving) and got in the shower at 5 something. I shaved my legs and swayed thru the slightly-closer-together cramps. I ate pineapple and sang a little bit. I started practicing my breathing with each contraction: As it rose up I closed my eyes, inhaled through my nose and visualized a slow opening, sort of like an expanding spotlight, thought, open wide. Then I exhaled thru my mouth and pictured the baby being let go. I thought, let him out—and repeated that cycle as long as the squeeze lasted, then I opened my eyes and smiled. It was still very easy to smile.
I got out of the shower and paced the living room, sat in our armchair writing emails to my work, charting on the day before. I think I turned on the TV, but I wasn’t very focused on it. Adam got up around 7 a.m., and after he showered, I sent him for a bagel from Starbucks. My mama and I were texting, and she wanted to make sure I was hydrating and eating while I could.
I felt like I could sort of control my contractions for a while. For example, if I sat in certain positions I could avoid having one for almost 30 minutes, but if I moved around they would kick back up to every 10 or so minutes. I felt nervous that the entire process might all stop, so I kept busy. I re-packed the hospital bag and added all of the last minute items. Adam packed his backpack. We talked. I walked around the house. I started leaning on the walls with my hands up high during each contraction. My low back was definitely the focus of my discomfort, but I didn’t let myself dive into the fear of back labor stories and the added difficulty. I think, looking back, that I was able to “stay away” from the experience in my mind for quite a while, and that really helped me avoid anxiety. I would step back into my body for the painful contractions, letting the pain do its work, and then I forgot about it for five minutes.
My mom, sister and dad were in the neighborhood for most of the morning and finally came over when I asked them to, around 11:30 a.m. I cried with relief as they walked in the door and was instantly sucked into a contraction. I was taking the contractions in the dark against our dining room shelving unit or at the bathroom sink by that point. My mom rubbed my back and encouraged my breaths. I kept looking for positions between contractions that gave my back relief, but there were none to be found. I labored this way for a bit, until I realized how close my contractions were consistently coming. I said, “I would die if you put me in a car.” We all knew walking was going to take a while, so my mom said we better go. Everyone rallied quickly. Out the door the five of us went.
I felt queasy for a few minutes earlier, and as we walked a new wave hit me. I puked in a trashcan about five storefronts down the street from our building. It may have been right in front of a Dolce & Gabbana.
Syd timed contractions, Adam steered my walking, and my mom rubbed my back as I leaned up against posts and buildings to take contractions. My sweet dad carried a lot of bags.
When we got to Northwestern Women’s Hospital, I felt suddenly very alert and focused, knowing I would need to talk to people in triage coherently. In the lobby, we were greeted with “Happy Birth-day,” sung to us by the hospital greeter. I remember him very clearly, but was not feeling very amused.
It felt like hours that I stood in that triage waiting room, but it was probably 15 minutes. I needed to pee so badly, but they wouldn’t let me. I bent over the end of a couch and moaned my way through contractions.
Finally Adam and I were walked to a room where I could go to the bathroom and change my gown. I peed, and then threw up again; this time into the less glamorous hospital trash can. Adam rubbed my back and was so helpful. I think we were in the room for about 20 minutes before I asked him to get my mom and come back fast.
This stretch of our time gets a little blurry in my memory. It’s not that I’ve forgotten what was happening, or that I wasn’t experiencing everything fully, but rather that time itself was meaningless, and I can’t quite remember the order of things. What I know: I was hooked up to a monitor that wrapped around my belly and was miserable. It had to be so tight in order to capture the baby’s heart rate. I remember being told to lie down, which I knew was going to be hell. The nurse prepped me for a cervical check and cheered as she felt me go from 7 cm to 8 with a contraction. I realized that I had walked to the hospital in the transition of labor, and I was so happy that I cried. I remember that the nurse left, a tech came in, and we were walked to an elevator to be taken up to L&D. I had approximately 1,000 contractions between locations.
I remember that the labor room seemed so big, and I took my flip-flops off right away. I asked the staff to raise the bed to a height that I could lean on. The first nurse we had was only there long enough to put the horrible external monitor on and start my IV. She was sweet. My mom told her I was a nurse, and Adam told her that I was retiring from my current job at that very moment. The anesthesiologist came to make sure I didn’t want an epidural. It was later noted by the next nurse that I never could have gotten an epidural because I was not capable of being still long enough.
The nurses changed over, and the resident who would be delivering with us came to meet me. My mom talked to me about the decision to get my water broken. I knew it would make the pressure so much worse, but things would also go faster. I labored for a bit longer after the resident left, and then I asked for her to come back and break my water. I was at 9 cm or so when she broke it, and felt a moment of extreme relief followed by lots and lots more pressure. I got out of that bed so fast. My mom thought that I might get some relief from sitting on the bouncy birthing ball, so one was brought to the bedside. I sat on it for approximately 1.5 seconds. My husband found that moment very amusing. I remember that cold, wet washcloths were helpful and the occasional back rub. Not much else worked.
This is where things got really dark and scary—and where the continuous coaching from my mom was crucial. The urge to push, feeling pushy and not being allowed to was horrific. As each contraction began, I was able to moan that urge away, but as the squeeze would peak, it took all my focus to grunt and yell and breathe it away. I felt like my whole body was going to explode, and I wanted to help it happen. My mom is convinced that there was a period of time where I was dilated completely and could have been pushing, but the floor was super busy and the doctor wasn’t going to come hang out in the room with us until everyone was sure I was ready.
I started stomping, dancing and yelling more and louder, and at some point I screamed, “The pressure!” My nurse’s ears perked up, and she asked me if there was any pressure up front, and I said, “It’s everywhere!”
“Well, let’s get the doctor in here and get you on this bed and see if you’re ready to push.”
I was terrified and thrilled and so ready. The resident came, and I was set up on the bed with Adam and the nurse on my right and my mom on my left. I remember hearing the doctor answer a page and say, “She’s not medicated; this will go fast. I’ll be there soon.” I felt so happy to hear those words.
There was a lot of conversation around my family being from California, and the resident seemed really stoked to give us a “California birth experience.” (Whatever that means.) She didn’t break down the bed and put my feet in stirrups, she let me dictate my position for pushing. She said she had her “midwife hat” on! It was really sweet.
I was directed to take all the noise I had been making to NOT push, and redirect it toward pushing. It was hard to switch to silence, but it felt so good. Baby boy moved down after very little time, and I was encouraged to hear that his head was visible. I had prayed and prayed that he would have hair, so I yelled out, “Does he have hair?!” and got a resounding “Yes!” from that end of the room. “Oh! Thank god!”
The doctor asked if I wanted to reach down and touch his head, but I said no because it felt like I would totally lose focus, rather than feel motivated. It was taking all my brainpower to breathe deeply between contractions and then push hard when they came. I had an oxygen mask on between pushes, as baby boy’s heart rate reflected that he wasn’t loving the idea of moving out. After maybe a half hour of pushing, the attending OB decided that baby had to come out with the next push, and we got real serious. Adam got in my face, in my ear, and echoed that it was time to just get him out. My mom forced me to focus and push harder and longer than I thought I could, and the doctor used the little suction cup on top of baby boy’s head.
One last push and that tiny person with, what felt like 17 limbs, was out and screaming and on my chest. I kept saying, “Oh my god! Oh my god! He’s here! Adam, he’s here!” And I wept.
I held him, and then the nurse weighed him, dried him and told Adam to snap some pictures. The nurse (I wish I remembered her name) and doctors kept saying how proud they were—and how honestly cute our boy was. I delivered that darn placenta, got my belly mashed by every medical professional in the vicinity and held my baby again. He was the best thing. He was soft and warm, and he needed my skin. What a crazy thing. I had about 2 ½ hours in that room before we were sent off to recovery. My parents and Syd left to get some food, and Adam and I took about 600 pictures of our boy.
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