In some ways I can’t believe it’s only been a few weeks since this sweet boy came into my life— it feels like both an eternity since he’s been here, but also like no time has passed at all. I guess that’s kind of symbolic of what motherhood and birth is like. Time stops, or at the very least it operates in a very different way than what is considered normal. They say babies come at their own time and have their own schedules, and as a self-proclaimed schedule queen, I can attest to the truth in that statement.
The last couple of weeks of my pregnancy were daunting. Every ache, pain, or grumble, I’d stop and think: is this it? Am I going into labor? Everyone assured me that I would know when it was it, but since we had already had a false alarm a couple weeks prior, I wasn’t so sure. I was anxious and impatient. Nate kept trying to temper my expectations about our baby’s arrival, but with the frequency of the “How are you feeling? Is he here yet?” texts, he wasn’t very successful. I started to feel like I was never going to go into labor, even though my due date was still a few day’s away.
The night before actual labor started, I couldn’t sleep. I had what I thought was a stomachache and some gas pains, but I would later realize were the start of my contractions. After hours of laying awake, I decided to go watch “Parks and Rec" and decided if these pains were still continuing after I watched an episode or two, I would start timing them. They did continue and I did start timing. They were about 5-7 minutes apart and gaining in intensity. I called my mom, I ate some breakfast, and after a couple more hours, I woke up Nate and decided to call my doctor.
“How far apart are they?” she asked.
“About five minutes.”
“And they’re getting more intense?”
“Okay, come into the office and we’ll get you checked out, but I think this is early labor, so be prepared to go to the hospital after.”
I relayed the information to Nate, while trying to stay as calm as possible. We packed up our bags, said goodbye to Cardinal, and drove in rush hour traffic to my doctor’s office in Mid-City.
At this time the contractions were getting more intense, but I was able to walk. I was more anxious and excited than anything.
My doctor hooked me up to the monitor and checked my cervix. I was only 1CM dilated, but my contractions were 5-7 minutes apart and my doctor confirmed this was early labor. She suggested we go for a long lunch, walk around a bit, then head to the hospital. Our baby was on his way!
While at lunch we text our families who were all excited and wished us luck. We walked around mid-city and even stopped in an adorable baby store aptly named “Lil Bit,” which was my childhood nickname and I took it as a good sign. After about an hour, we headed to the hospital.
Once we were taken to triage, I was asked to change into a hospital gown and a resident would be by shortly to check my dilation. At this point, the contractions didn’t feel as intense and I started to worry— perhaps this really wasn’t it. But, my doctor had seemed so confident an hour before. I asked Nate how far he thought I was dilated, and he thought at least four cm. I hoped he was right.
And then they checked me…
…I was still at 1.
After another hour on the monitor where it became obvious my contractions were slowing down, they said they thought it was best to head home.
“But my doctor said this is early labor,” I cried!
“It is, but early labor could last a few hours or a few days.”
A few days?! I was extremely frustrated and extremely upset. I was still having painful contractions every 7-10 minutes (which sucked), but that also meant I wasn’t going to be meeting my baby yet. And we had to tell our families that this was another false alarm (it was a good thing nobody bought a plane ticket yet or started the drive into the city!) The hospital staff suggested I do what I could to make myself comfortable and they joked that we should leave the bags packed. And so we drove home, my disappointed silence only interrupted by literal screams of pain when the contractions hit.
Here’s the thing about having contractions every 10 minutes… you can’t sleep through them. So while my husband napped, I plotted. I was going to watch the emotional post-Superbowl episode of “This is Us.” I was going to eat spicy foods. I was going to get a massage. I was going to have sex. I was going to eat dates and drink red raspberry leaf tea. I was going to bounce on the exercise ball. I was going to go for a long walk. I was going to do all the things that encouraged labor, and I was going to do them in between these painful contractions. And I did.
Who knows if any of it actually helped, but after another sleepless night spent mainly in the shower, I started noticing the contractions were picking up speed. By 12pm, they were starting to be less than 5 minutes apart. Nate decided to take Cardinal for a walk, and by the time he came back, I was writhing on the couch in pain. People were right… you really can tell the difference when they’re real contractions! I was in so much pain, I had this overwhelming urge to be in the water, so I stripped off all my clothes and got into the bath. While this was happening, Nate called my doctor who apparently heard me in the background and said to go to the hospital immediately. Nate helped me get dressed. There was no stopping to say goodbye to Cardinal this time. We got in the car and Nate drove like a maniac (for him, which basically just meant he actually changed lanes when he was behind a slow car), and I howled and listened to my labor playlist, while counting down the minutes until we were supposed to arrive at Cedars.
Once we got to the hospital, I don’t remember much. Nate must’ve handed our car to someone, but I don’t remember. I was focusing on walking, which apparently I stopped doing halfway down the hall and someone yelled to get me a wheelchair. While we checked in, someone else helped Nate with our bags (a story he relayed to me almost a week after). They didn’t take me to triage this time, but straight to the room (which was VERY nice, by the way). Immediately a nurse checked me and told me I was 3cm dilated, but the baby was VERY low. “He’ll probably come tonight,” she said. I didn’t care at that point, I was just wanted my epidural. She said she’d order one right away.
Fifteen minutes later, the anesthesiologist arrived. My original plan to start with a walking epidural was tossed aside. I’d like the real deal, please. Also, my fears about the epidural were also tossed aside. Suddenly, having a big ass needle inserted into my back didn’t seem all that bad compared to waves of pain I had been going through for nearly 30 hours. Even my fear of having a contraction while getting the epidural didn’t matter (which I did, and Nate was wonderful and kept me stabilized). And then after about ten minutes, I had sweet relief. Epidurals are magical, you guys. Like my best friend had said in regards to childbirth: “Don’t be a hero, get the epidural.” I was so glad I did.
My doctor arrived a couple hours later to check on me. At that point my parents were also there, and I was quite content. I was even able to eat some chicken broth and Rupaul’s Drag Race was on that night… score! I was still only at 3-3.5 cm, so my doctor told us to get settle in for the night and get some sleep, and she sent my parents home (who were prepared to spend the night). She decided to give me a little Pitocin to speed things along (but just a little, she assured me), and if my water didn’t break by the morning, they would do it then. Everyone left me alone to sip my broth and watch Drag Race. It wasn’t a bad way to spend a Thursday night.
After the show ended, the nursing staff checked my dilation again. At that point I was at a 5, so the Pitocin was doing its’ thing, but it would still be a long night. “Try and get some rest, and let us know if you have an urge to go to the bathroom or push.” Okay. I closed my eyes and hoped sleep would come easily considering I’d been awake for basically two nights straight and my entire lower body was numb. But, after about twenty minutes, I did feel this overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom. So, I called the nurse, which is something I hate doing, but something in my gut was saying I needed to.
She told me it was very common to feel that way, especially since the baby was so low. In fact, he was so low at this point, they were having trouble tracking him on the monitors and they wanted to give me oxygen. While they were setting that up, the urge to push grew more intense. It was getting about as painful as the contractions were, which didn’t feel right. I was insistent and fortunately I had a wonderful nurse who didn’t brush off my complaints. She said she’d call back the anesthesiologist and see if they could give me something else for the pain (another thing on my original labor pain that I originally said “no” to, by the way). She tried to maneuver me, to take some pressure off. Nothing was working. I was miserable and I said a little prayer to my body— the baby was low and ready, now I just needed my body to be on the same page.
Finally, I pleaded with the nurse to check me again. It had been less than an hour, but everything in my gut said it was time to push. She agreed to it, and both Nate and I saw the look of utter shock on her face as she did. She told us I was fully dilated, but she wanted to confirm it with the resident. The resident came in quickly and confirmed it. They were both shocked. For a first time mom to go from 5 cm to 10 in less than an hour is quite rare, apparently. I thanked my body for listening as they called my OB and told her there was a change of plans: the baby would be coming that night, after all (although, technically morning since it was nearing midnight at this point).
And then that’s when everything kicked into a surreal time sequence. Lights were flipped on. Nate got my labor playlist ready. Phone calls to parents were made. Doctors and nurses arrived. And I felt this overwhelming sense of calm take over: I was about to meet my son. I could do this.
When my doctor arrived, she also checked me and couldn’t believe how low the baby was or how quickly I dilated. “He’s going to be out in just a few pushes.” (Which, sidenote: a couple weeks prior she told me the average first time mom pushes for 2-3 hours. I boldly told my husband there was no way and I was going to have him out sooner. Power of positive thinking, people).
As everyone started getting ready for the “push phase,” the song “Jumping Jack Flash” came on. It was one of those rare moments where everything in the world seems to synch up perfectly. “What are you going to name the baby?” one of the nurses asked. “Jack,” I said, “which is why this song coming on right now is perfect.”
After some brief coaching on how to push (breathe in, curl up (thank you pilates practice!) and breathe out for 10 seconds while pushing as hard as you fucking can), we were ready to go. My water still hadn’t broken, so after the first couple of pushes, Nate said he could see a “water balloon” appear (yes, Nate watched. And yes, he still seems to be attracted to me), with the baby’s head inside. Apparently it’s good luck for the baby to be born while still in their sac. After another push, they asked if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. Of fucking course I did. It was incredible and gave me the adrenaline and willpower to give one final push. The song changed to the Avett Brothers “Paranoia in B Major” (one of my favorite songs), I smiled as I realized this was going to be the first song my son hears in the world. “One more push,” my doctor encouraged me. I gathered all my strength, and…
HE WAS HERE!
They cleaned him off, then put him on my chest. I couldn’t stop saying, “I can’t believe you’re here.” I didn’t cry, but the happiness and emotion I felt in that moment is truly indescribable. One second he was an idea— living inside me, yes, but still just an idea— a hope, a wish, a dream; and the next second, he was a living, breathing, flesh and blood thing laying on top of me. Nate looked on in wonder. He’d later say that watching him being born was like going back in time to watch himself be born and he felt like he was in Terminator. We all have our own experience, I guess.
After a few minutes (or maybe hours or days… again, time seemed to be nonexistent, at this point), they took Jack away to clean him off and take his vitals. He was perfect (well, really he was a little small, but that’s just a minor detail that I’m sure I’ll talk about at length at some point). My doctor told me I delivered the placenta (didn’t even realize it), and had a minor tear that required only one stitch (as someone who is petite and has always had a huge fear about this, this was the best news). Then, they brought Jack back to me and Nate and the three of us soaked each other in. My family.
And that’s the story of how my boy entered this world.