OMG we've had a baby for 6 days. I went into labor a week ago today.
What the ever-loving crap, guys.
Let's back up, though. Today is my due date! Last week was 39 weeks and I was reeeeeally ready to not be pregnant anymore. A lot of people had said "you'll regret saying that later!" but I disagree. You can't stockpile sleep, and I wanted to 1. get to the great parts of having the baby and 2. start getting through the not-so-great parts. Delaying the inevitable isn't my style.
The day before I had the baby (last Monday) my mother-in-law came over to drop off a pretty flower she had for me and a cute fitted sheet for the baby's crib. She was looking around the nursery and asked if we had packed yet. We had a stack of clothes laid out for the baby, but hadn't packed any stuff for us yet. I told her that and said "meh, I want to have something to do when I'm in labor," and she looked at my stomach and said, "ha, that might be sooner than you think!" I don't know if she knew something, because at that point the meanies of the world were all saying "more time, more time!" but....I didn't have much time. She told us later that she thought we had way more time because the baby was still high up in my abdomen, allegedly, but didn't want to be discouraging.
The day I went into labor (which didn't happen until night so I had all day to work and live my life), people were full of helpful tidbits.
- At work I huffed in and was all STILL PREGNANT, Y'ALL, and my friend Michelle said "yeah, and that girl's still pretty high up too." Then my other friend Kendase said "eh? you're already due?" and when I told her there was another week until my due date she just laughed and wished me well.
- During the day on a group text with THREE other pregnant friends, one of the girls let us know that she was having a boy and some bloodwork had come back wonderfully, so we were all high five-ing virtually, and she asked if the kid was still in there. This is the same friend who told me at 38 weeks that she thought I'd be pregnant for 3 more weeks, eff her, so I was joking that I really hoped she was wrong and yay for her kid.
- Later that day after work I had my 39 week appointment with the midwives, and at this point the visits were like "good, blood pressure isn't going up, baby is still head down, kid has a heartbeat, bye." I was telling the ladies that I'm impatient, and the midwife was all "well, don't forget that first babies are often 10 days late!" No one likes you, negative Nancy.
At least we showed them, amirite?
So I wasn't expecting to go into labor. I was hoping, hoping every single day after 37 weeks, but not really expecting anything. After work that day I had supervision for my clinical license, and I was having more Braxton Hicks contractions than usual but nothing painful except for a few random twinges, and I was just SO careful to not let my hopes get up. I finished supervision, told my dad on the phone that the baby didn't seem anywhere close to being born, went to TJMaxx at 8pm to buy some wrapping supplies, and went home. Jay had a work party that night so we got home around the same time and had a late dinner, then went to bed around 10. I was still having lots of really mild contractions but, say it with me, thought nothing of it.
Toward the end of pregnancy I had a nightly routine of being WIDE AWAKE as soon as we went to bed, so I stayed on my phone crushing candy like my life depended on it until about midnight, when I got up because I couldn't get comfortable. I started to think that mayyyyybe something was happening because usually any nighttime contractions I had went away when we went to bed, but my usual comfy positions weren't working. So, I got up and promptly peed in my pants.
Not really, but that's what I assumed. Baby's head down meant, for me, that there was a constant threat of pee, so when I stood up and felt wet I kind of rolled my eyes, got new undies, and went to the couch. I played on my phone for a little bit longer and then did have to pee but when I sat down there was this gush of fluid before I released my pelvic muscles to actually pee, and I'd never been THAT incontinent. I did a very thorough and also gross inspection of my undies (the new ones, also wet by now) that included sniffing and Googling and concluded that there was no pee involved in this situation, and the volume of liquid meant WATER IS BREAKING THAT MEANS THEY'LL INSIST ON THE BABY COMING OUT IN 24 HOURS OMG IT'S HAPPENING.
And yet for some reason I didn't wake up Jay. It was about 1am and I read over the midwives' instructions, which clearly say to call the midwifery if your water breaks. Even if contractions aren't strong, they want to know that you are probably in labor and start a kind of timer to be sure you and baby aren't introduced to any infections, which is where the 24 hour time period comes in. So I called, and rather cheerfully told the midwife on call that my water had broken but I wasn't having too much pain yet and yes, I know that I have to stay home as long as possible. She told me to go to sleep (HA) because I'd need to rest up and to keep her posted in a few hours depending on how things went. I got off the phone and started a very task-oriented approach to labor. I didn't want to wake Jay up until I needed to; there was something about the quiet and the dark that was wonderful and peaceful (studies show that women labor more efficiently in the dark), so I plugged in the Christmas tree because it's pretty and started to get ready to go because, as I said, we hadn't packed. Because that would make too much sense.
I took a shower, shaved my legs, braided my hair, and took this picture:
The Millenial is a messed up creature, guys. Here we are, in undies, leaking amniotic fluid, exhausted, scared, in pain, excited, and STILL I'm all "you'll want to look at a picture of yourself in this state!" Anyway, this all took quite awhile because I had to stop a lot for contractions, not because they were so terrible but because it just didn't feel good anymore to do anything while they were happening. I also had to do one braid over which I took as a good sign because usually I am a very good braider and if I'm too distracted to braid properly that must mean that things are happening, right? I am a crazy person. The hair braiding thing is a personal ritual - whenever we took long flights as kids (a lot since we lived overseas) my mom would braid my hair to keep it relatively tidy over the course of many hours or days, then when we arrived the braids came out and BOOM curly hair that doesn't need to be washed for nearly a week. Nice. I was hell-bent on braiding my hair, and, in hindsight, it was a great distraction as labor was picking up.
After I did the weirdest and longest hygiene ritual ever, I was getting more and more uncomfortable so I decided to start timing my contractions with the Full Term app that I'd downloaded a few weeks prior on some internet recommendations. Jay was still asleep, even though I'd been in and out of our room, wandering around the house, and generally clattering around, but I still wanted him to sleep because I knew I'd be exhausted and thought that if one of us could not be up all night before we started trying to keep a third person alive that might be a good thing. So he slept. And I timed. Contractions were 2 minutes apart and 30 seconds long, and they pretty much stayed that way. The going rate is 4 minutes between contractions and a full minute long for a full hour before you go to the hospital or wherever, so I was convinced that nothing was happening because my contractions were so short even though I had hardly any break between them. Around the 3am hour I decided to take advantage of the 2 minute breaks to compose LONG texts to my therapy partner and boss about the fact that I would not be returning to work and details about my case load. Don't worry, I didn't send them until later (6am, both of them wake up at 5 and that was about 10 minutes before I started pushing), but I wanted to have all the details of my work squared away so that when baby was born I wouldn't be scrambling and all "oh yeah, I'm not coming in."
So I got my hair did, got my bod prepped, composed text messages, and tracked contractions. I got to a point where I felt the pain of contractions in between them, and I started to freak out a little bit. I still had myself convinced that women are in labor for dayyyyyys with their first babies, and I really didn't see how I'd manage this for many more hours. Pain memory is a scary thing, so I'd feel a contraction, then feel waves of that pain in between contractions. I got a little weepy and definitely had the what am I doing feelings, but I tried so hard to breathe and be calm and do weird physical things (shaking my hands, moving my hips back and forth, counting, etc) to give my brain something to focus on besides the pain.
At 4:30 I thought that maybe I should wake Jay up. My body also decided to transition during this time, which is when the steady contraction labor moves towards pushing. This can take 1-3 hours, give or take, and also involves a rush of hormones which manifested itself in me as "this is too much, I am going to die, I cannot handle this," and all the other irrational things that you read about. It was fully textbook, but in the moment you don't remember that this rush of doubt means YAY BABY IS COMING SOON. You just...feel a rush of doubt and massive amounts of pain.
So, like the dignified human that I am, I waited for a contraction to pass, then laid gently in bed with Jay and was all sweetie wake up, my water broke and I'm in labor. Now, even with me being all gentle Jay woke up with a start and started rushing around doing...nothing, until he got his bearings, and he remembers being startled awake. I lay (laid? lied?) in bed and writhed around through a few more contractions, then told Jay what had happened so far and called the midwife again. She told me to try to wait another hour before coming in, and at this point I needed Jay a LOT. We'd learned this technique where the birth partner pushes in the hip bones HARD during a contraction, like they're trying to push the hips in towards each other. Somehow it takes pressure off the pain in the front of the abdomen, and so for every. single. contraction Jay pushed on my hips and I yelled or cried or whimpered, and then we had about 90 seconds to pack or do other things before I needed him again. I got in the shower, I got in the bath, I walked around the house - at this point I was freaking out a good bit and feeling strongly like we needed to GO. So, Jay called the midwives BACK and was like "it's bad, we're coming." Bethany, the midwife on call, still wasn't convinced that I had made that much progress, but said to come in for a "labor check." Bitch, please.
The car ride to the midwifery was rough since I couldn't use Jay to help me through contractions. It was 5:45 am, and he ran every red light while trying to talk me through contractions and doubt and pain. He assured me that if we got pulled over he wouldn't stop until we were in the birth center parking lot, and to just be calm, and all the good stuff birth partners are supposed to say. During the car ride I also produced the gem HOW DO WOMEN IN BURMA DO THIS WITH NO HELP because our birth teacher told us about a trip she took to Burma where she witnessed a women in the middle of working in a rice field giving birth silently then just walking herself back to a main building to clean up. And in that moment I felt REALLY bad for that woman. Brains are so weird.
So we got to the birth center. We beat Bethany there, and walked around the parking lot through a few contractions. We also sent texts to both of our jobs to let them know that THIS WAS IT, FUCKERS, and Jay just laughed that of course I'd already composed text messages to my colleagues. The contractions in the parking lot were terrible, I felt my body start to push even though I was trying (with zero success) to be calm and not do anything. When Bethany got there I had to lie on an exam table for her to be sure I was in labor (yep, still), and I was so scared that I'd be dilated to 4cm or something negligible and just not be able to go on. SO, in the flashest of flashes (name that holiday movie) Bethany told me that I was dilated to 9cm, she could feel the baby and hair, and let's go downstairs to the birth center!
There was no putting back on of pants or shoes, we just...went. Bethany held some kind of puppy pee pad in between my legs and I hobbled to the elevator, had a contraction in the elevator, and we were there. There were no more checks, Bethany and the nurse told me I could try any position I wanted, push if I felt like it, but that they were very sorry to say that a water birth might not be possible because the water might take longer to fill up than the baby would take to come out.
Seriously. I hadn't necessarily wanted a water birth, but I'd signed all the forms and had intentions of laboring in the tub since I wasn't going to use any pain medication. But there wasn't any laboring left to do, there was just pushing. Because we moved from home to the exam room to the birth center during this transition period labor stalled just a little bit, so the pushing didn't go as quickly as the rest of the labor had, which is common in labor - there's this animal protective instinct thing where bright lights and strange settings halt labor a little bit as a protective measure. Also, contractions slow during pushing so that each contraction can mean a little bit more. We tried a few positions for pushing, but being on the bed was where I got the most traction. With every push the nurse and Bethany gave me pointers on where to bear down (like you're pooping), what was happening, and what to do with my breath. For the first few pushes I just yelled because I was just over the whole thing, and they told me (nicely but firmly) that wasting energy on yelling was for labor and not for pushing. It might sound mean, but it was exactly what I needed to hear - get your act together and let's do this, you've made it this far kind of stuff.
So I pushed, then kind of passed out in between contractions. I never actually slept, but I was really hazy and everyone just kind of talked softly around me and then encouraged me again when I was ready to push more. It was the weirdest thing ever. At one point they had me look in a mirror to prove to myself that there was actual baby and she was RIGHT THERE, we just needed to get her a little bit closer to the finish line. Some women like watching the process through a mirror and I had no desire to do that, but seeing her head did the trick and I got a big burst of energy.
It took two or three pushes of crowning, and omg the ring of fire is a real place, guys. Not pretty. At this point it was around 7:30am and shift change, so we ended our birth with two midwives, two nurses, and a student midwife and Jay in the room all encouraging me, and I remember Sam, one of the midwives, taking pictures on Jay's phone and yelling PUSH RIGHT THROUGH THAT BURN, and somehow I did. And THEN, this is so weird, there's a period where the baby is IN but the head is OUT and this was the time where they told me they could see her face and I answered
"Does she look like she has Down's Syndrome?"
This was met, appropriately, with laughter. I wasn't trying to be funny, I was just curious. They said no, push this damn baby out. So I did. One more little push and BLOOP, wiggly screaming baby on my chest.
And it's exactly like they say. Elation, relief, tears, confusion, all of that. She was right there, so little and so very loud, and it was all just so much in that moment. Jay was crying, the midwives were mushing on my stomach to get out the placenta (coolest shit ever), assessing for tears (one that Jay couldn't even see, in my actual vagina, so a few stitches happened, ow), I was trying to process everything and hold the baby and WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING, and it was all just so crazy. We have the pictures that Sam took, and they are GREAT, except that she was at an angle where one of my massive boobs takes up about ⅓ of every picture. I don't give a hoot about you people seeing my chest, but it's a little national geographic so I'm trying to figure out a way to crop appropriately to show you the fun stuff - the baby, the smiles, the love. It's very wonderful to look at.
And that was 7:43am, less than 7 hours after my water broke (I think), and exactly the version of the birth I had hoped for, give or take a little craycray screaming.
Stand by for Part 2, pictures (maybe?), and Jay's version. And more food and Christmas stuff, because this is still the same blog it always was, we've just added vag and boob talk to the mix. You're welcome.
Stayed in my driveway in my car reading this when I got home. I love your humor, honesty and all around loveliness! So proud of you! And thanks for demystifying some labor mysteries for us not yet parent people!
I love you, thank you for your sweet words!!
oh my gosh, i LOVE this… and now have baby fever, bad!! i can totally relate to almost every part. i busted out laughing at the point when baby's head came out. and bawled my eyes thru the last couple paragraphs. i am so happy for you guys!!! isn't it the most wonderful thing in the world. so much love.