It started at 4am on June 22nd. J had been asleep since 2am, unable to keep up with me as I was a whirlwind of Getting Things Done, until a self-imposed bedtime of 3am. I had a lot of errands to run in just a few hours, and I'd need at least some sleep, right?
I wake up at 4am to try to go to the bathroom and, no shock to my logical mind, I'm in pain. I hobble to the on-suite and hobbled back, cursing the end of pregnancy and the way my body's strained with weight and promise. I go back to sleep.
At 5am I wake again, in pain even before I can even sit up. Argh, I think to myself, this really hurts, and I haven’t even tried to move yet. Stupid pregnancy. Hurting all the time. Wait a minute, I think again, labor. This has to be labor.
Duh, I hear you saying.
But guys, I say back, it felt different than the other two labors. This one felt lower, more like extraordinary pressure rather than waves of contractions.
Wondering how far apart they were, and realizing that I hadn’t downloaded a stop watch app yet to my phone, I laid in bed and found one to download. Of course I did. I didn’t want to wake up J in case things settled down, so I decide to get in the shower.
You might remember that I didn’t want to use drugs for this delivery. In an effort not to “wing it” this time, I borrowed my friend BreAnne’s Hypnobabies book and CDs. Two nights before I’d started the Hypnobirthing book; I made it through the intro and most of the first chapter. Go me. Pretty sure I got the gist of it.
So there I was, in the shower, when the contractions started strengthening. Sorry, not contractions, “surges.” Surges is what hypnobirthing folks call contractions; it’s a “positive” word instead of a “negatively-associated” word. Well, they feel the same, is what I say. A rose by any other name is still a freaking contraction. I remembered the 5 pages I’d read and tried to breathe calmly through the "surges." I even went as far as to picture a damn ocean.
Breathing in and out. Tides. Quiet. Gray ocean day. It's working. Deserted beach. Phone with stopwatch outside of shower and I can’t hit the button to lap the contraction because I’m dripping wet. Breathe. Doesn’t matter. The surges are a minute apart, maybe less. Don’t really have to bother with a stop watch at this point because there is no more "apart" there is only one long "surge" that doesn't stop. I can barely lift my leg to get out of the shower.
And in the last full sentences of that morning I’m able to say, “Use your key.”
I fall to my knees on the bathroom floor and call the midwife. She insists on asking me a bunch of questions. Dammit. I can’t answer these. I manage to stammer out a few answers. She tells me I’m doing a good job breathing through the contractions and she’ll meet me at the hospital.
I call for J. “J,” I say, from the floor of the bathroom.
“What,” he mumbles from the bed. I have to wait to answer again until the surge passes for 15 seconds.
“J,” I say.
“What?” Another long pause.
“J,” I say.
“What do you WANT?” He says.
“BABY,” I manage to get out.
“OH!” he says, and runs to the bathroom, “So, uh, what should I do?”
“Get. Dressed.” I respond, grabbing whatever shirt is laying over the back of the chair to pull over my head.
I just have to put the things I use every day into my already packed bag: contact solution, contact case, makeup, face lotion, toothbrush. I am unable to move. I can’t put those things into my bag because the space between the surges is so short I’m only able to grab one item and move it 6 inches before another surge hits. Not to mention, I am blind: I can’t stop to put in my contacts and no one can find my glasses. I’m just reaching for whatever is in front of me.
“What do you need?” J asks.
“Pants,” I reply.
“Which pants? Where?”
“Drawer. Pants. Brown.”
He has to help me put them on because I can’t: I can’t make a full sentence, I can’t put on pants, I can’t put my things in my bag, I can’t see. I have to hope that my glasses are in the bag because no one else in the house can find them even though I try to tell them to check the floor next to the bed (where they fall at night after I go to sleep.)
We leave the house at 6. My car is on empty. Why? Because Wednesday is errand day. I was going to Costco, to DI, to a million other places, including a stop to fill the tank. “Do I need to stop to get gas?” J asks.
At this point, reduced to monosyllabic responses, yet running a commentary in my head, I am getting angry at him. I don’t want to answer him. I want to breathe through this CONTRACTION. I cannot be answering questions or making decisions.
I grit my teeth and answer, “Yes.” We pull into the corner gas station.
“How much should I put in? Should I fill it?” he asks.
“Two. Gallons.” I spit out.
“Where is your gas thing?” he asks.
WHERE IS MY GAS THING? WHERE IS MY GAS THING? HOW CAN HE NOT KNOW WHERE MY GAS RELEASE BUTTON IS? I HATE HIM.
“Door,” is what I’m actually able to say.
I breathe and try to picture the ocean again. It’s not working. I should have read more of that book. I don’t have my glasses. I can’t see. I keep my eyes closed so I don’t have to look at the blurry world and because it seems to help. Also, I don’t have to look at the guy who doesn’t know where the release button is.
We take off down the road. The hospital is 20 minutes away in normal traffic. Thank goodness it’s 6 in the morning, the light is pale and there aren’t a lot of cars out. I’m half sitting, half lying, holding onto the door. When I have a break I try to reach the back seat, into the bag, to try to find my glasses. I never get any further than reaching the bag before I have to stop to deal with the contractions. I open an eye to peek and notice that J is driving really fast. Good.
“Should I take State Street or I-15?” He asks.
MAKE AN EXECUTIVE DECISION, I scream in my head, I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. I AM GOING TO KILL HIM.
“I...15...” I manage to say.
He speeds, weaving through the sparse traffic, and asks me about the freeway exit.
“Right. Left. Straight.” I say, hoping he can remember those directions as we barrel down the off-ramp.
“Run it, ” I say when we get to the next light. He does.
“Hmm,” he says, “Looks like the road is closed ahead.”
NO THE ROAD CANNOT BE CLOSED BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO THE HOSPITAL WE HAVE TO GO WE MUST GO ON THIS ROAD.
“STRAIGHT,” I demand through my clenched teeth.
We pull into the red lane in front of the hospital entrance at 6:15am. J runs inside to get a wheelchair. I try to get out of the car. I can’t. I try to talk myself into moving. I can’t. I take a deep breath, twist out of the car and into the wheelchair. “Bag,” I say. I manage to grab my contacts case from the bag’s side pocket and hold tight to it.
He pushes me to the elevator and we’re going up to Labor and Delivery.
I notice that there are a lot of nurses around. A lot. “Did you want to go unmedicated?” asks one.
“YES,” I say.
They wheel me into the triage room.
Only this time it's chaos; they are trying to convince me to get onto the bed. I won't. They keep insisting.
“I CAN’T” I say, before giving it all I have and crawling onto the bed on all fours. They try to talk me into turning around, lying down, and someone is trying to put the monitor on me.
“Honey,” says one nurse, “You’re having an unmedicated birth; I think you can manage to put on your contacts without a mirror.” She’s right, I realize, and while in the wheelchair, I undo my contact case and notice how my hands and fingers are shaking as I put in my contacts. It works. I can see--and I see the giant mirror they roll into the room. “What?” I say, “No, get that thing out of here. I just wanted a mirror to put in my contacts.” The nurses are laughing. I stand up out of the wheelchair, and bend over slightly to put my palms on the bed, my feet planted on the floor.
There’s a slightly scared looking male EMT in the corner who is observing the birth. One of the nurses explains, “This is an unmedicated birth. If you ever have to attend a birth in the field, this is probably what it will be like. See how she’s standing? See how she’s telling us what to do? All we do is listen to her and follow her instructions.” Yes, I think to myself, yes.
One of the nurses is applying counter-pressure to my lower back, her palms facing outward while she pushes. It feels wonderful. She calls J over and shows her how to push on my back. He pushes lightly, at first.
“MORE,” I say, until he pushes too hard, and I grunt for him to stop.
At that moment I realize something: if I push, this will all be over.
I don’t have to do this any more. I can push and it will be over.
I push and it feels right and good and I want to push more. I want to push harder. I do, and my water breaks, all over J’s shoes. I laugh inside, because I know he’s panicking inside. This is his nightmare--he does not want to be viscerally involved. He'll want to throw away those shoes. “Get onto the bed!” the midwife and the nurses tell me.
“You have to get onto the bed!”
“Fine,” I summon all my strength, climb onto the bed, and lie down. I push.
“STOP!” says the midwife, “She’s crowning!”
I don’t want to stop. I want to push. Screw this stopping stuff. It only feels right when I push.
“Stop!” says the midwife again, “Push a little then stop, take a breath, only push a little, good, good.” I grudgingly listen to her, and when she says I can push, I do, and baby is out.
“I DID IT! I DID IT I DID IT!” I yell happily. The nurses are all laughing again, and I’m laughing with them.
“I DON’T HAVE TO BE PREGNANT ANYMORE!” I yell again. I am shaking a little but feel fantastic.
“I CAN’T BELIEVE I DID IT! I FEEL AWESOME! HONEY I DID IT. I COULD DO THIS AGAIN.”
“You did great,” J says.
“LOOK AT THAT VIEW!” I say, staring out the window, up the green mountain where the sun is shining over the highest peaks, “WOW, IT’S GORGEOUS!” And they hand me the baby,
who is even more gorgeous.