Author’s Note: This is a birth story. There’s birthy stuff in it. Consider yourself warned.
On Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 I posted on Facebook that despite some backache and cramping I probably wasn’t having the baby that day so I was going to catch up on some Mad Men episodes. I went to bed way too late, especially considering I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. And at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 19th, I woke up with an obvious contraction.
I instinctually got onto the floor in all fours, almost Child’s Pose, and breathed through the contraction. Damn, I thought, I hope I’ll have a while inbetween contractions because I really need some more sleep. I crawled back into bed, closed my eyes, began to drift off…BAM! 8 minutes later I’m on the floor again.
I was convinced this was going to last many-a hour as my labor with Liam had been 16 hours. I mean, even if it was shorter it would be like 10 hours, right? So, I was annoyed. I breathed through contractions every 8-ish minutes, on the floor, and grumbled in my head how of course I wasn’t going to get more sleep even though this was going to last forever. I didn’t wake up Husband, or my mom who was sleeping down the hall in the guest room. I figured this was manageable by myself and everyone else should get some rest, even if I couldn’t.
At 1:30 I must have gotten a little more noisy in my breathing techniques on floor because Husband woke up. He must have looked over at my side of the bed, saw I wasn’t there, and looked for where the low moaning was coming from. He chuckled when he saw me on the floor, simply because he wasn’t expecting me to be there, on all fours.
“DO NOT LAUGH.” I growled in Satan-Contraction voice.
“Sorry! I’m sorry.” He asked me some reasonable questions about my contractions to which I mostly ignored because I was in the middle of a contraction.
Husband began timing contractions and announced after a few that they were about 5 minutes apart. Wasn’t that when we were supposed to call the midwives? I was still convinced that this was going to last so much longer and didn’t want to rush off to the hospital and “inconvenience” my midwife in the middle of the night for nothing. I brushed off the call question.
My phone buzzed. My mom was texting me from the guest room. How are you. She could hear me from down the hallway. And yet, Liam, who is known for waking up during the night, slept on. I wanted to text back something smart alecky, like, I’m fine, how are you? but kept the sass in check and reported contraction length.
My mom came down to our room. “Your contractions are less than 5 minutes, Katie. You need to call the midwives.”
Are you suuurre?? I still debated through contractions that seemed to be more like 2-3 minutes apart now. I wanted to take a shower because I hadn’t had a chance to shower the day before and I refused to give birth without showering. My mom went in my bathroom to start the shower, giving me my phone and ordering me to call the midwives. Since it’s the middle of the night, you get an answering service who pages the midwife on duty, who calls you back.
Jen, the midwife on duty that night, called me back immediately. Jen had been the first of two midwives helping to deliver Liam, so I was happy to hear a extra-special, familiar voice. She asked me questions about my contractions, and later told me she knew I was in active labor just by my voice, but didn’t mention that on the phone. Instead, she asked how far I was from the hospital. 15-20 minutes, I told her. “You should head there now, and I will be there waiting for you,” Jen told me. “I was going to take a quick shower,” I lied to her, thinking about how I needed to shave my legs and definitely blow-dry my hair. She gently told me to take a quick shower and get to the hospital.
The next 40ish minutes were a blur. It was difficult to take a “quick” shower because I had to pause every 2 minutes to have a contraction. Husband was running around packing the car, my mom was calling our list of friends available to come stay with Liam in the middle of the night. (Our first two calls ended up being unavailable and my mom was getting nervous, but our third friend got to the house in record speed.) Liam slept on.
As soon as I had sufficiently showered and, yes, blow-dried my hair, my Husband and mother gently, but pointedly, herded me into the car. The car ride from Hell ensued. Looking back, I was probably in transitional stage then. I was leaned over the back seat, screaming my low-guttural baritone into a pillow while every tiny bump in the road seemed to invoke a contraction. The whole 15 minutes felt like a continuous contraction. The bad ones.
We pulled up to Mercy Hospital and a security guard came to escort us up to the 2nd floor. He had to hold the elevator door open for the time it took me to have another contraction in the elevator and couldn’t walk out. I made it to the front desk, where they had all of the paperwork ready for me to sign, and then when we were walking the short distance down the hall to my room I had to stop for another contraction, leaning against the wall.
I hardly realized who was around me, but I know that Roger was with me and my mom was bringing our bags in from the car, so she wasn’t back with us yet. There was at least one nurse that I remember.
I was ushered into my room and I immediately bent over for another contraction, forearms and head leaning on the bed. At Mercy Hospital’s Birthplace the rooms are all private labor, delivery & recovery rooms (LDR). I remember taking my pants off, you know…for technical reasons. The nurses were trying to fasten the fetal monitor around my belly while I was leaning over the bed, but to no avail, and suddenly it seemed like the contractions were continuous; I couldn’t stop long enough for them to hook me up to the monitor, no matter how annoyed the nurse seemed to be about that. (I remember this particular, older nurse from Liam’s birth. Crotchety old thing. Every other nurse at Mercy has a phenomenal bedside manner.) As fast and impromptu as everything was happening, suddenly Jen was at my side. My mom was there and at some point my sister showed up too. Jen was asking me to lay on the bed so that she could check my cervix and see how dilated I was. I couldn’t lay down. Every time I attempted to climb into the bed and lay down I would have a contraction, and the only position my body wanted to be in for a contraction was leaning onto something or on all fours. Laying down was impossible.
I looked at Jen at the end of a contraction and said, “I feel like I need to push.” “That’s okay, go ahead,” she replied calmly. What? Really?? I just got here, it can NOT be time for me to push! I should have at least ten more hours to go! But my body knew differently this time…so I pushed while standing and leaning on the bed.
I’ll try to be as delicate as I can for this part, but the truth of birthing a child is that it presses against your colon when it starts to move down and out. This is why you poop when you give birth. When I started to push I was horrified to think that this was about to happen on the floor in front of everyone.
“I want to go on the toilet!” I pleaded, and my mom and Jen helped me hobble to the toilet. As I pushed through a couple of contractions on the toilet I worried that I was going to push the baby out, right into the poop. Just as this thought crossed my mind Jen told me that I needed to decide where I was going to have the baby; in the bed, in the shower…just not in the toilet. Phew, we were on the same page with that one.
I decided I wanted to try the bed. The beds in the birthplace are all fancy and move around like a Transformer to serve whatever birthing purposes you wish. With Liam’s birth I had been sitting in the bed, the top part up like a chair back,the bottom of the bed moves away and my legs were being held up by various family members (they kept rotating because I had pushed for almost 3 hours with Liam). This had worked that first time, and I hadn’t torn, so it seemed like a good option to begin with. And I really thought “to begin with” because pushing no longer meant, go ahead and push out the baby, it meant push for an agonizing 3 hours and then get your baby, so I wasn’t committed to being in one location or position the whole time.
I was helped to the bed where I started to climb up from the end. I began to contract again and stopped, bending over in agony. I could hear Husband telling me that I was doing such a good job. This one was bad. I tried to breathe with the low, guttural baritone that helps your body contract. For the first time I wasn’t able to really control the tone and it came out as an unproductive scream. My mom was firmly instructing me to use my breath well, not to scream. I turned my head toward her and sobbed that I couldn’t do it anymore. (Let’s play a game and start counting contractions at the bed now. That was ONE contraction.)
“Katie, you can, you are almost done!” (sure, sure, they’ll say anything to get you through this, won’t they…) “Listen to me. Let’s say ‘I can do it.'” My mom started the Old Faithful mantra and I choked on my breath, slowing it down to join her through the next contraction that was beginning. I finished that contraction with a low guttural yell. (That was TWO contractions.)
I was still on the end of the bed, unable to climb all the way in. I was trying, but was mostly on all fours, dangling off the end of the bed. Voices behind me were exclaiming that the head was there.
“Katie,” Jen spoke up, “I’d like you to breathe really deep through your next contraction instead making a sound.”
As the next contraction came on I drew my knees up almost froggy-style, opening my pelvis even more. I breathed so deeply over and over, barely listening as voices were crying out that the head was out and the baby was looking at them. They were encouraging me and excited and seemed to think this was it. This was it. It was almost done. My baby was almost all here. I finished that contraction with the deepest breaths I could pull from as far into my energy as possible…and out slid the rest of my baby. (THAT, my friends, was THREE contractions.)
I was sort of on all fours, sort of in a froggy/child’s pose on the bed, attached to my baby that I couldn’t see behind me. Everyone in the room was crying and gasping and exclaiming, but not telling me what gender she was, so that I could see when I held her. I tried to turn over so that I could hold my baby, but was confused which way to go as the umbilical cord was in the way and I was falling off the bed if I moved too far in either direction. Arms were trying to help me up and to keep from falling off as my baby girl was handed to me.
8 pounds, 2 ounces. 21.5 inches long, and dark hair, more sparse than Liam’s impressive mohawk. It was 4:31 a.m. Exactly 4 hours from when I woke up with that first real contraction. Probably 15 minutes of pushing. The whole thing was a QUARTER of the time it took with Liam’s birth.
Some people told me that their facebook timeline had two of my status updates in a row; one saying I was going to watch Mad Men since I wasn’t having a baby, and the other announcing the birth of my baby girl.
Nora Adeline was named the next day. Nora was a name I liked, and happens to be a great-aunt’s name on my mother’s side. Adeline was my great-aunt’s name on my dad’s side. It wasn’t that I got to do all of the naming; I never knew Great-Aunt Nora, my mom told me about her after. For the middle name we put a family name from my side and a family name from Husband’s side on paper and drew the winner. The thing I found interesting though, is that I unintentially have named my son and daughter William and Nora, brother and sister; and my grandfather and his sister were William and Nora.