I drove in silence, having left too late in the morning to catch nap time. It was hot but the wind snapping through the car smelled sweetly of freshly mowed lawns and kept the sweat at bay. The kids’ heads were drooping against the headrests of their car seats, softly breathing in slumber. While I pulled into the parking lot, I snapped a quick photo of the building to text MIL so that she could find the place. She was going to entertain the kids during my exam. Ordinarily I’d simply take them in the room with me, set them up at the table with some crayons and paper to draw for the good Dr. H. and his wonderful nurse, but I’d had emergency surgery a week prior and I needed a thorough examination. Granny’s voice pulled them from their dream states and they excitedly exited the car, eager to see the exotic fish tank in the waiting room. “Will there be snails today?” Olivia mused, while Aiden whispered, “Fish, fish, fish!” and hopped along, hand-in-hand, with Granny and me toward the entrance. The wait wasn’t long, and while they toddled around the tank, exclaiming about the colorful fish (and “A SNAIL, MOMMY!”) I followed the nurse into her cubicle to get my weight and blood pressure checked. “Lost another two pounds,” she said in her heavy Boston accent, and went on to list the numerous medications and herbs I take daily or weekly. She led me to the room. I struggled to undress and heaved myself onto the exam table, breathing heavily from the effort of peeling off my stretch pants. Yes, I wore stretch leggings out of the house. Judge me if you wish (but you know those things are comfortable). The adorable bespectacled resident entered after a brief patter of knocks to ask her cursory questions: “Feeling the baby move? Any bleeding or unusual discharge? How are the headaches?” Satisfied with the normalcy of my answers, she left me to my Nook. Doctor H. entered in his usual bubbly fashion and sat on his stool to examine me. “I usually don’t ask this unless I’ve been bought flowers or wine, at least, but can you check me?” I inquired. Chuckles from everyone. That joke never gets old with gynecologists. For the record, I asked to be checked for dilation despite my earlier reluctance to do anything invasive not because I was particularly curious, but because I wanted the mental comfort of knowing I was only minimally dilated. I’ll just spit it out: I had a hemorrhoidectomy a week prior–the second of this pregnancy. This procedure is absolutely the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Thrombosed hemorrhoids are no fun, but the subsequent surgery and over two week recovery period is excruciating. Please, people, don’t strain. Do not strain! (Before you ask, no, I didn’t strain. I just had a lot of weak and torn muscles and ligaments during this pregnancy, likely from both conceiving so quickly after Aiden’s birth and from vomiting so profusely throughout gestation). He obliged, and painfully so. Evidently I have a posterior uterus, and it requires quite a bit of prodding until the baby’s head has descended enough to push the cervix into a proper position. “You’re between 2 and 3, and pretty ripe.” He asked if I wanted my membranes stripped, and I vehemently declined. Har, har, har, he knew better than to ask. I wanted to heal a bit more before I had to exacerbate the agony of pushing around stitches. Checkout papers given and given again to the receptionist, and off I went.
I felt particularly unwell that morning and decided that it must be from low blood sugar, so the MIL, kids, and I fluttered off to Chick-Fil-A (gasp! I fed my kids junk!) as they are one of the only fast food establishments that are particularly careful not to cross contaminate their grilled chicken with wheat. I tried to swallow a few bites of a spicy sandwich, but mostly crunched on ice and soft mints while picking through Olivia’s discarded fruit cup. They clamored for the play area, so off we went into the plastic-rich fun. I sat uncomfortably on the metal bench while Aiden followed Olivia in mild hesitation. There were older boys swinging about who consistently gave me heart palpitations as they flew far too closely to my fearful young toddler. I’m one of those mothers who will chide your kid if you’re not around to supervise. There, I said it. It’s amazing what they think they can get away with while mommy or daddy aren’t paying attention (my own included in that sentiment, of course). So, there I sat, nervously calling for Olivia to “be careful, please” and for Aiden to “watch your step, buddy” all the while asking the older kids to “slow down around the little ones, please” and “wait your turn on the slide so everyone can go down safely!” We stayed there for about an hour before I began to realize that I was having painful contractions. I thought, “Hm, these seem to be coming in a pretty consistent pattern,” and brushed it off as par for the course of late. I had a lot of starts and stops with this pregnancy, and wasn’t particularly anxious about the contractions as they’d not gotten closer than 8 minutes apart for two or three hours. Bam, contraction. It’s a good thing I was sitting, ’cause that sucker was painful. Suddenly, I heard Aiden crying. I shouted to Olivia, “What’s wrong?” as they were both in the car at the tip top of the tower o’ plastic tubing and weren’t exactly visible. She didn’t answer. Cue my panicked scramble into that damn play area. I saw the patrons looking on in amusement and concern while, cheeks burning and heavily pregnant, I ran to rescue my child from what sounded like boo-boo central. By the time I’d reached the top, Olivia and Aiden had both exited the car with the explanation that Aiden wanted the wheel but Olivia wouldn’t give it up. I just sighed in defeat because, I mean, what the poo kids. Your mom just scrambled up a flight of toddler steps and into narrow tubing at 38 weeks pregnant, all while people looked on in horror and concern (but mostly amusement) and you couldn’t just admit that you weren’t sharing with your brother. Yeesh. I helped both kids down the chute and made my decent of shame. Shoes were placed about tiny feet, straps and harnesses buckled around abdomens, and off we went to nap at home.
…Musical interlude. Please, ladies and gentlemen, use this moment as an opportunity to go to the restroom and stretch your legs! Oh, and turn off your cell phones as you re-enter the theatre. Thank you…
I awoke with a start. Both arms were numb as they were being used as duel pillows for sleepy and surprisingly heavy toddler heads. I was caked in drool and sweat. Painfully and deliberately, so as not to wake them, I turned onto my right side. Another start. Contractions, I thought hazily. I don’t know why it occurred to me to count how long the contraction actually lasted as opposed to timing in between, but that oddity set the stage for the rest of the evening. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. All the way to twelve, one thousand. I closed my eyes at the fall of the peak and returned to sleep. Bam. Contraction. Twelve, one thousand. I dreamed between the peaks and falls, so I know that the pain and pressure were waking me from fairly deep slumber. I was grateful when the kids opened their eyes, slurped the spit back into their mouths, and muttered, “Hi, Mommy,” in hushed tones. Finally, I could move. What relief. Until six minutes later, counting to twelve, one thousand…and six minutes after that…you get the idea. The moment I began leaning on door frames to quell the contractions was when I decided to write Andy at work and tell him, “It’s probably time to take your leave.” He told me to call his boss. I was particularly offended by the suggestion, because not only was I having regular contractions and caring for the kids, I only had a few minutes before I had to breathe through some pretty intense pain and couldn’t fathom being polite and nice-as-pie to his superior through hiss-growling-holy hell this hurts-pain. That, and it was only a few short steps to her office. The jerk, I thought. But I persevered, quickly told her it was likely time, and would she kindly put in the paperwork for his FMLA. She joked (I think), “I just knew what this call was, haha, and thought to myself, couldn’t you wait 15 minutes (end of the work day)?” I explained, while panting, that with how I was feeling, it would easily take a little longer than that to load the children in the car and procure him. “Don’t worry! Let him finish and log off the system!” Pant, pant, pant. I called MIL. “Go time!” She told me to wait on her, she’d watch the kids while I picked up Andy. After half an hour, I rang her phone again. “Where are you?” I inquired. “Almost there.” The liar. It took her over an hour to get to the house; meanwhile I was trying to distract two bored toddlers and doing some last minute chores. I could have taken them and been back to labor in peace, but nooooo. Finally, she arrived, and I departed. It was difficult to drive. Pulling on my leg to press the brakes during a contraction was not exactly easy or pleasant. At that point I decided that he should drive us both home and then to the hospital, despite my car sickness. He was waiting on the sidewalk and eyed me suspiciously. “What took so long?” he grumbled, to which I replied in exasperation, “Ugh, your mother.” No further explanation was needed. We began the drive home. I don’t recall much of it as my eyes were glued shut in quiet concentration. I got out of the car to a blonde toddler beaming at me from the window. After hugs and I-love-yous, I began pacing about and packing my hospital bag. Somehow there were dishes already in the sink after our brief absence. Andy began washing them while I became more and more agitated by the stepfather-in-law’s inability to keep the puppy from biting him. He was pushing the dog away in a manner that suggested “PLAY! FUN! NIP!” rather than discipline, and both SFIL’s agitation and the dog’s hyperactivity led me to the breaking point of the evening. I told Andy we needed to go, and soon, despite our plans to ensure the kids were in bed at a reasonable hour. Granny seems to let them take advantage of her company and often encourages a later than appropriate bed time. Ahem. So I leaned on door frames for a bit while the bags were taken to the car and finally just got into bed to cradle my aching belly. It seemed like an eternity before he called out that the car was stocked with our essentials. My sense of time had become relatively warped at that point.
Again, I don’t recall the drive. The receptionist at the L&D desk was the exact one that worked the night I gave birth to Aiden. You remember, don’t you? When I sat in the waiting room for four and a half hours, somehow stuck on uncomfortable chairs up until almost transition because they couldn’t bother to get a room clean? Yes. That’s her. She, remembering the episode (or so she said) became the angel of mercy and exclaimed, “Let’s make up for lost time, you’re not going to sit out here for hours again!” and wheeled me to triage to get a cervical check. The room was sterile and bare, and I vaguely remember hoping that I wouldn’t have to stay in that unit for very long. They’d just redone the L&D wing of the hospital and I wanted one of the cushy rooms desperately. So, being the shameless individual that I am, I asked the triage nurse how long I’d have to stay in such a dreary environment, because it was really messing with my flow, man. Luckily I was dilated to six centimeters (whoa!) and was whisked away to paradise. I procrastinated heavily and never did print off my birth plan, but I was very clear between contractions that though I tested positive for Group B Strep (AGAIN!), I did not want continuous monitoring and though I’d be happy to take the requisite antibiotics (this time, Gadget!) I did not want any pitocin, did not want a continuous IV, and I wanted to labor in whatever position I felt most comfortable. They agreed, those sweethearts, and after about an hour of penicillin I was able to adjourn to the amazing warmth of the shower. Never have I felt so at peace during labor. I was easily dilated to 8 centimeters before I hopped in the stream of water, but for two hours I just counted the waves until the peak and knew the contraction was winding down. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand. All the way to ten, one thousand. I swayed slightly under the pattering of droplets hitting my back and legs, arms and head propped atop the built-in and cushioned shower stool. I rode the contractions to the peak and was so comforted that I knew, at each interval, that I’d only have to get through ten seconds and I’d have a break. This labor wasn’t 100% unmedicated, as I did have two IV doses of a non-narcotic pain reliever (the name of which I don’t recall) but that was more so I could get a little sleep if possible before transition hit. I did rest for about 15 minutes at a time after the doses, and was able to catch the nurse before I knew I’d have to begin pushing for a pick-me-up. Thank the heavens for those brilliant angels. She checked my dilation. I was at a 9, and while most nurses would have told me it was almost over, just truck through it, she saw how my eyes pleaded with her, knew somehow that I needed that little bit of rest before the “hard” part began. After twenty or so minutes, I began grunting and pushing. I let my body do as it needed and essentially spaced out. Andy had left me to my own devices for the most part, aside from asking if I wanted some water or ice periodically, and though in prior labors I wanted the comfort of human touch (I thought I’d desire the same this time) that was the last thing from my mind. I think it probably would have distracted and upset me, and I’m grateful that everyone who cared for me intuitively knew what I needed. Evidently my sister called to say that she was on her way at some point just before the pushing, and I recall hoping against hope she’d hit some traffic. You see, though I love my sister profusely, the last time she was in the room with me while I labored she just could. not. stop. talking. I’ve always needed silence during contractions (at least), and hearing her sweet, well-meaning voice throughout my labor with Aiden was infuriating. I snapped at her more times than I can count, and in a way I wanted this labor to be peaceful for everyone involved, not just me. Luckily, the show began and ended abruptly before she even entered the hospital, so I narrowly avoided having to seem like a total jerk. I was on my back with the sheet draped over my knees, still wearing my black leggings (and yes, they were still so comfortable!) when I felt a gush of fluid with a contraction. I said, “Oops, my water broke, Andy!” and he helped me to my feet as I undressed from the waist down. One of the other requirements of this labor was that I didn’t have to wear a hospital gown. I was in normal, comfortable clothing the entire time, and it was awesome. I may or may not do a “Labor Essentials” post complete with the essential oils I used (first time for that, too!) but I will say with absolute certainty that wearing my own clothes during labor was possibly the best decision I’d made prior to entering the hospital. It just felt…good. Of course, I picked the most soothing fabrics I could find and made certain that they weren’t too tight, or that they wouldn’t chafe me in any places. The smell of my own laundry detergent (Charlie’s Soap alongside either tea tree oil or lavender essential oil) was also a wonderful solace.
I always intended to birth on all fours instead of on my back because it just makes a great deal more sense to use gravity at your advantage, but when I was on the bed I couldn’t bring myself to move very much. The bed wasn’t inclined very much and I only had about two or three pillows (one of which was mine, another recommendation for laboring mothers), so I was essentially supine. At that point, I was gushing fluid every time I had a contraction, so I had the nurse place a few towels beneath me to absorb the moisture and blood. My legs were splayed ever so slightly, and I just rode the contractions and pushed when it felt good to push. I’ve never timed my pushes and for God’s sake, help the person that says, “PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!” to me while I’m doing so. I will snarl at them so furiously their head will spin. Again, everyone intuitively knew to just remain quiet, stay pretty still after all the essential equipment was placed throughout the room, and let it all happen on mine and the baby’s time. Dr. H. asked me, at one point, if they could turn on the lights and (I think) I politely asked them to keep the lights off. They obliged. See? Sweethearts. I was screaming at that point, not because it hurt all that much, but moreso I needed the guttural release of those animal sounds. I just did what felt good to me at the time. Theme of the day, evidently. After a while I didn’t feel like I was making much progress, and I sort of screamed to Dr. H. to do something. My waters had broken earlier, but there was still a pocket of fluid in front of the baby’s head that was preventing him from presenting any further. He broke the rest of the bag right as I had to push. My legs, the bed, and his front were sprayed and soaked with bloody amniotic fluid within milliseconds. Thankfully I missed his face. When the obstruction was removed I very quickly and efficiently moved his head and body down, and he was born. My son, Jude Anson, came into this world. Came into my world. Lit me up, lit everything up so brightly I couldn’t see or feel or think anything except how beautiful this child is, oh my GOD.
With Olivia’s birth, seeing her face for the first time, hearing her cry, I didn’t experience this. I was too sick. I hemorrhaged a fair bit and just as those feelings came about I began to black out after saying weakly, “Someone…someone take the baby…I’m gonna pass out…”
With Aiden’s birth, I believe I was extremely affected by postnatal depression just moments after having him, and maybe even during pregnancy. Things were hard, Andy’s father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and was, at that moment, incoherent and going into brain death. He died just two short weeks after Aiden was born.
But with Jude… I finally got to feel what everyone else raved about. That love at first sight, that total and unrelenting devotion to this little being you’ve never met but know so fully and know that he knows you, inside and out, literally and figuratively… The bond. Even before nursing for the first time (relatively quickly, too!) I felt it, before the rush of oxytocin flooded my body with its chemical wonder, I bonded with Jude.
Of course, I bonded with all of my children. I love them so profusely, all of them. That last bit was just to explain the shock at experiencing not only an ideal, wonderful labor and delivery, but also that initial bond that’s “supposed” to happen but doesn’t happen for everyone (and certainly not me until my third baby). Maybe the calm, wonderful experience of it all helped shape it. Maybe it’s just how things would have happened regardless. Either way, I cannot express how grateful I am, how entirely fortunate to have this healthy, beautiful, AMAZING infant nursing in my arms as I type, not even begrudgingly, one-handed.
Welcome to the world, baby Jude, on June 10 at 1:06 a.m. ♥