Harry’s birthday was the best day of my life. One of the hardest, but the best. Maybe tied with our wedding day. There are so many emotions involved with that day, but aside from the tears streaming down my face as I write this, it’s not as easy as I had thought it would be to express them in this post. But today, as my son is one whole week old, I would love to share his story with you.
January 9, 2013. 12:30 am. I woke up with another contraction, a little worse than the rest. I thought to myself that labor was coming, but this definitely was not the beginning. The remainder of the night passed in 10 or so more contractions, and luckily I was able to sleep in between. I wasn’t timing because obviously, they were irregular (or so I thought) and this was not real labor. By the time I woke up at 6, there was definitely a pattern.
Contractions were about 10 minutes apart at 7am, so I got ready for the day and sent Jonathan off to work (promising to call if my contractions sped up at all) as I logged into Style Me Pretty thinking I could possibly be working my last day before maternity leave. I tied up a few loose ends, just in case. By 10am, my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, but (blame it on all the movies with all the false labor) I was thoroughly convinced it was false labor. Or at least it was still super early and I still had hours (or days) to go.
I did let Jonathan know they were speeding up a bit, but again, I in denial that anything was really happening. He decided to come home and pack up the car with our hospital stuff, just in case my midwife wanted me to stay after my 11am appointment. By the time we left for that, we were facing contractions every 3 minutes.
Before we were called back to see Col. Rensch (my midwife) I looked to Jonathan and said “If I haven’t progressed more than a centimeter from last week, I will cry.” And with trepidation, we walked back to be checked out.
The poor nurse who was attending to me. I’m pretty sure I freaked her out when she asked me if I was contracting at all and I replied “Yes, about every three minutes.” Things moved a lot quicker in that little room after that.
Col. Rensch came in and brought an OB in training with her. She turned to him and said “Now, this is where you might see tears, if she’s not progressed as far as she thinks she has.” Jonathan and I looked at each other and laughed (albeit a little nervously). It was good news though, I was 100% effaced and about 5 centimeters. I was so relieved that I had made such great progress with my contracting, I wasn’t even concerned about the uncomfort that came with her massaging my membranes to “possibly cut up to 4 hours off labor.” And the fact that she wanted this new guy to check my dilation to see what it felt like, didn’t bother me in the least. I was half way there.
By this point, I was so distracted by the fact that I was progressing so well (oh, and the contractions every 3 minutes) that when Col. Rensch said we were going to have this baby soon and to call her when we were on our way in, I didn’t even realize she meant THAT NIGHT until Jonathan asked. I guess I should have realized that when she warned the trainee OB not to break my water 10 times. She told us we were more than ready to go upstairs to L&D or we could go home and labor there for a while. She knew I wanted a natural birth and that I was hypnobirthing, so staying home for as long as possible was always part of the plan.
We decided to go home so I could take a warm bath for those final few hours while Jonathan packed up the rest of our stuff and made cookies for the nurses. That was the plan. We got home around noon, I sent out a few emails for work, and Jonathan put a chicken in the oven for lunch. And that is when the contractions started coming fast. And hard.
I never got in my bath. It took me too long to get upstairs (through contractions) and get a bathing suit top on. By the time I was halfway undressed for the bath, I was in a lot of pain and starting to feel a little “pushy.” Luckily, our amazing doula and friend Angie had ignored Jonathan when he said it’d be an hour or two before we went to the hospital and came to check on us then. She found me laboring at the top of the stairs, in too much pain to get in the tub or down the stairs. That’s when she told Jonathan it was hospital time as she worked her relaxing fingers on my back.
I really have no idea how I got down those stairs. With the help of Angie (while Jonathan was throwing last minute things in the car – bras, shoes, camera, water bottles, no cookies for the nurses for there was no time) I was able to get down the stairs in between contractions and get shoes on my feet. Next thing I knew, we were in the car on the way to the hospital.
Contractions were coming fast and I was having very short relief in between, timing them was out the window, and I was feeling pushy as we drove the five minutes to the hospital. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to walk all the way to labor and delivery, Jonathan pulled into the pick up/drop off, no parking zone and bolted into the lobby to grab a wheelchair. He grabbed me, my purse, and a towel and took off. Panicking a little that someone would steal our car (which had the engine running and the door wide open) I had enough energy left to yell “The car!”
As we wheeled frantically by an O-5 in the Navy (pretty high up for those of you not in the know) Jon stopped and said “Sir, are you busy?” Then proceeded to ask him to park our car, and drop off the keys to the front desk. I later learned he had not only done that, but brought our bags up to L&D. We were the talk of the unit after that valet service.
The rest of my labor passed in a very painful blur. I was wheeled up to the third floor, into my room, which was already set up and ready to go, thanks to my wonderful nurse (and neighbor) Katy, and was checked by Col. Rensch. At 7 centimeters, I still had some time to go, but I was beyond comforting. I moved around from leaning over the bed, to laboring on the toilet, to kneeling on the bed, to standing next to the bed. At one point, I was unbelievably uncomfortable while kneeling on the bed, so I got off just in time for my water to burst all over the floor, shoes, my own bare feet, and who knows what else.
Throughout this time, Harry’s heart rate was being monitored when I was near enough to the monitor, but that was it. No IV. No contraction monitoring. No meds. And finally, I looked at Katy and said “I feel like I need to go to the bathroom. I have to push.” I love her for simply replying “Do what you need to do.”
Col. Rensch came back as Katy was checking my progress and she encouraged me to labor on the toilet again – which worked wonders. Shortly thereafter, she came into the bathroom and told me I had to stand up, because I could not deliver this baby into the toilet. I remember asking if I was that close and hearing yes. That’s all I needed. I stood up, she pulled a stool up behind me and I pushed. I had no idea how long I was pushing before she said “I see a bunch of black hair!” And I was done. As soon as she said she saw hair, I shakily cried “He has hair?!” and pushed him out into this world. I needed to see that hair.
The feeling of seeing Harry for the very first time, all wrinkly and messy, with a mouth open wide in a squawk, was indescribable. The best feeling ever (and not just because I was done pushing him out). He was absolutely beautiful – and still is – and my heart exploded with love. I don’t remember much of anything else aside from his face for the next hour. We fed, he looked at me, and I fell in love harder than I ever thought possible. He is perfect.
One thing I know is that this birth would have been exponentially harder if I didn’t have the best birthing partner in the world. Jonathan knew exactly what I needed. He knew when to distract me by counting. He knew to remind me that my thumb didn’t hurt. He knew when to just look into my eyes and be supportive. He knew to rub my back, hold my hips, and squeeze my hand. He just knew me. And having his face to focus on, especially when I though I just couldn’t do it anymore, was what got me through the worst of it.
I found out later the timing of our birth. We got to the hospital right around 1:25pm, I had him at 2:38pm. I still have no clue how long I pushed, but Jon guesses 15 minutes. No medication, no drugs, just how I had wanted it. But not necessarily because it was on my birth plan, but because there was no time. It was fast. It was intense. But now, I have the most beautiful son, with the most amazing black hair.
Images of the three of us courtesy of Angela Iverson.