February 9, 2001 I’m 38 weeks pregnant. It’s about 8 P.M. and I’m watching TV. I’m tired, but going to bed doesn’t seem right so I bounce on my birth ball for a couple hours while playing Solitaire on the computer. I’m feeling yucky so I take some Tums and go to bed. Thirty minute later, a contraction awakens me. I suddenly realize I wasn’t having indigestion; I had just been in early labor.
Wow. This is intense. I giggle at its strength. Very soon, I have another one. And another. I’m still giggling. I’m happy my baby is coming. I get up and put all our bags by the door. I pack snacks for 22 month old Alex. I lie down, but I had felt better walking, so I get up again. I pace around our small house, pausing to lean on the couch or the wall when a contraction hits.
Pretty soon, I’m tired again. I haven’t slept at all, so I lie down. But it’s just not right. I can’t get comfortable so I decide to get into the tub. I sink into the warmth of the water. Relaxing is so easy. I lie on my side with towels under my head and just let the contractions wash all over me as I think about my cervix opening. I listen to Enya and imagine dancing and swaying. I put the hot water on a very slow drip, so the water in the tub doesn’t get too cold.
Time doesn’t matter. Just one contraction at a time. Then my arm starts to shake. I wonder why I’m shaking so soon. With Alex’s birth, I didn’t shake until very late in labor when perhaps 15 hours had passed. It’s been less than 3 hours since my labor started. My contractions get harder and more intense. My thighs are cramping, and I really need Todd to rub them for me. I don’t want to get out of the tub. I don’t want to call out to him because I’d more likely wake up my toddler than my husband. Then Todd appears. Wonderful. He quickly assesses the situation and thinks I’m in early labor since it’s only been a few hours. Another contraction overtakes me. My breathing is very fast because I’m working hard. I gasp at the peak since it’s so strong. Todd said,
That was a great Lamaze demonstration.
He thinks I’ve forgotten what labor feels like since I’m acting so badly in early labor. My next contraction is worse. It feels like someone grabbed my cervix, pulled down and turned. Ouch. I tell Todd to call our midwife; it’s time to leave for the hospital.
I get out of the tub, and ask Todd to please pack the car and call the babysitter. I want to leave as soon as I dry my hair and eat a frozen juice bar. During contractions, I bend over, moaning and swaying, ignoring the hairdryer buzzing and jumping on the counter because I didn’t turn it off; my popsicle is sticking to the floor. I’m finally dressed and ready to go, but Todd hasn’t done a thing. The bags are still sitting by the door. Alex is still in bed asleep, and the babysitter hasn’t been called. I’m mad. He doesn’t want to leave yet because it’s too soon. I told him to look at me, not the clock. We need to get to the hospital. I go lie down and ask him to please do all this stuff.
Finally, he comes back about 20 minutes later. Todd wants to time contractions for an hour to see what’s going on. I tell him if he doesn’t take me to the hospital now, I would have an ambulance take me. He didn’t want to leave too soon, only to have to come back home. I didn’t care if we had to return home. I just wanted to go now. Finally, we’re in the car. Fortunately, my pains space out a little. When we get to our friend’s house to drop off Alex, Todd parks in the street and saunters very slowly up to the door, leaving Alex and his things in the car.
What is he thinking? He is obviously not in a hurry like I am. I see him talking in the foyer–small talk while I’m writhing in the car, scaring my toddler. Todd brings me a huge cup of water which I had asked for and I gulp it down. Finally, we’re on our way again…
When I’m up in the labor and delivery room, the nurse asks me what I want to do. I want to pee and I want my cervix checked. But before I can get up and go to the bathroom, a contraction hits. It’s more than 2 minutes long; it’s very intense, but not painful. I shake violently, occasionally letting out a moan…
When the nurse checks my cervix, it seems to take her a long time. I can’t see her face, but Todd can. He told me later that he thought something was wrong or that I hadn’t even started to dilate yet. Then my nurse said,
Honey, do you have the urge to push? Because you’re complete!
Relief washed over me. Have you heard that your life can flash before your eyes if you’re near death? Well, a host of potential delivery locations passed through my mind’s eye, and I was just grateful that I was in the hospital. (I’d like to plan a home birth someday, but I don’t want to have an unplanned home birth, car birth or parking lot birth.)
Again, my nurse asks me what I want to do. I tell her I want to wait for the urge to push. She thought that was a good idea since the midwife and doctor weren’t even on their way yet.
The intervals between contractions space out, but with each one, my urge to push grows. First, I just bear down a little, lifting my butt off the bed. Before long, I’m pulling my knees way back and putting my chin on my chest. Todd is behind me and I’m leaning on him between contractions. I yell,
“Where’s my midwife, I’m pushing!” Moments later, she walks in.
After my next push, she suggests an episiotomy. I gave in the first time; I wasn’t going to go through that painful healing again. “Don’t bring those scissors near me,”I snap. I ask her to please tell me when to stop pushing; I want to take the time to stretch so maybe I won’t tear. She told me I needed to push a whole lot harder to even bring the baby down and then we could talk about holding back.
So I push harder and the head pops out. (So much for easing the baby out slowly.) Then I push again, and the shoulders and the rest of the body are born. The baby is slippery, covered in vernix. I help catch him. I’m holding him close while the midwife tries to clamp the cord; it’s very thick. Another son. Born after only 7 hours of labor, Caleb Daniel. 7 pounds, 7 ounces. 20 3/4 inches long. Alex has a brother. Almost immediately, the placenta releases. I’m breastfeeding and getting stitched up.
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