8:00 AM - After a short and slightly awkward walk down the hall from the observation room (thank you, open-backed hospital gown), we arrive at the labor & delivery room we were assigned. ZOMG, our room is awesome. We got the penthouse suite! This is the L&D room they show people on tour because it's so fabulous and spacious. Gorgeous view, too. I kind of check out the room like I'm arriving at a hotel or something. As I look around I feel struck by the sight of a bag of newborn diapers hanging from a warming table. Isn't that a bit presumptuous? Or unnecessary this early in the game? I mean, it's like they think I'm going to need those for a baby sometime soon. Oh wait... Denial, my friends. It can be a powerful thing.
Husband: The room was gorgeous, it had a view of Minnehaha Creek and it's HUGE. I set all the bags in a corner and lay everything out so I can grab what we need at a moment's notice. Laura is thirsty so I get her some coconut water. I drink some Gatorade (that Laura packed for me), which makes my breath smell weird, more on that later...We make every effort to get the room to feel right. We cover the clock (a big distraction for Laura during Bella's birth) with a plant and a towel and turn off all the lights and open the shades to let the morning light in.
8:05 AM - We settle into the room. Husband plugs in the iPod player per my bossy instructions and he starts up my Hypnobabies tracks. I change into the same short gray cotton nightgown I wore for Bella's birth.
I am still having regular contractions and they are starting to ramp up and happen more frequently (around 5 minutes apart), but in between them I am fairly normal. In the picture below I am telling Angela, the doula, a funny, but pretty gross anecdote I heard way back when about bags of vomit being thrown by eating disorder patients from their 8th floor windows. They would land on the roof that was parallel to the 5th floor windows and those 5th floor patients would (rightly) complain. Now all the windows on all floors are locked.
8:15 AM - Now that we are in our final destination, so to speak, and settled in, I relax and give my body the message, "OK, it's showtime." I have felt myself holding back on letting my body just run with labor. I don't know if this is a false perception or if I really was able to control my labor like that. Regardless, once I mentally say "GO!", my body obeys with flying colors. I begin to find the contractions more and more challenging. I mention again that, "Ugh, I just don't want to do this today." I try to pay attention to my Hypnobabies hypnosis track, but I'm feeling a little distracted. I am wishing I felt less self-conscious as I find myself wanting to interact normally in between contractions. No, not wanting, it was like I felt I needed to interact normally and be social, like it was the polite thing to do. I don't know why I was feeling that need, certainly no one was putting pressure on me to do so. Perhaps it had something to do with the early morning and bright sunshine. I think to myself that this will get easier when I'm further along and to the point where being self-conscious flies out the window. Right now it's still (relatively) early in the process so I'm not in the zone yet.
Husband: I continue to get settled in and am just kind of looking around at all of our stuff as well as thinking about what kinds of things we'll need once we get further along. The iPod player is all set up. I ask for a couple of bins of ice water so I can have the cold cloths ready in the event that is helpful again for this birth.
8:25 AM - The nurse asks if I want the birthing ball and I decide to give it a try. However, once the ball arrives, I have no interest in sitting on it, which is how I felt during Bella's birth, too. I do try standing next to the bed and leaning over it on the bed, but the whole set up seems overly fussy. Angela rubs my back softly during contractions and I remember wanting firmer pressure, but don't say anything because I'm so focused on the contraction. I continue to manage the contractions with lots of deep, but fairly quiet moaning and the weirdo fish lips thing. I can hear the Hypnobabies tracks in the background, but I'm not especially in tune to it nor am I actively using Hypnobabies techniques. It simply doesn't occur to me to do that.
Husband: Laura seems to doing amazingly well. Whereas last time, at this point, she was staring off in between contractions and didn't really seem accessible, this time she is relatively social in between. She mentions that she's not really feeling like she's getting in to the zone and doesn't feel able to completely relax and focus on the suggestions, etc. I turn the volume up to see if that helps.
8:35 AM - I'm starting to feel really steamrolled by these contractions. They are maybe a few minutes apart at this time, but holy hell are they intense. It's feeling like not only am I running a marathon today, I'm being forced to sprint. I have the sensation that my body is running away from me and I can't catch up. This is going too fast. I feel like I could so easily flip a switch and go from managing these contractions to panicking. And even though I don't think I'll go there, I don't like how close that panic point is at. I ask for the midwife to come back and check my progress, because I want a sense of where I am at. Certainly this could have backfired on me (and it goes against Hypnobabies recommendations), but I felt I was laboring quickly and I wanted some confirmation on that. I continue to moan quietly through the contractions as we wait for the midwife. I choose to stand and lean over the bed (sans birthing ball) as it seems the most comfortable position. I rock my hips side to side during contractions, too. I know that the yoga instructors at my prenatal studio would be cheering me on for having such "juicy hips."
Husband: I massage Laura's lower back and put pressure on it as well. This seems to help. Her hip movement seems to be helping her through the early part of the contractions before she basically collapses on the bed and focuses on staying loose and relaxed while moaning. The doula is really good about helping her to remember to keep her shoulders down and relaxed and I'm relieved not to have to take that role, as I really just want to be her champion and keep telling her how well she is doing and make sure she doesn't need anything.
8:45 AM - The midwife arrives and I am now at 6 cm dilated. So I am progressing relatively quickly. We discuss our birth plan and the midwife shares that she understands that it is her role to simply stand back for the most part and let me do my thing since we are using hypnosis techniques. I am impressed by her saying that. I mention that I'm really feeling these contractions and I might want to get in the tub (it's a regular, though deep, bathtub). The midwife suggests that I might want to hold off on that for a while as it could slow down labor. I have a couple more contractions, each stronger than the last. Ugh. I would love to take a break from being me in this laboring body.
8:50 AM - I suddenly find myself asking, "Is it too late to get an epidural?" Whaaaaaaaaat? Cue the sound of breaks screeching. Everyone in the room: Husband, the nurse, the midwife, and my doula, slowly turns and looks at me. My question doesn't just surprise me, but it seems to surprise everyone else, too. I swear the room is quiet and we all stare at each other for a beat or two. Of all possibilities for this birth (such as the need for a c-section if medically indicated), this is one I didn't consider. I guess I never thought I would ask for an epidural, especially since I never asked the first time around with Bella. I get some gentle questioning from everyone, "Are you sure? But you are managing the contractions so well! It's your choice, but is this what you really want?" I say I don't know. And I really don't know. I'm still sort of baffled that I said that out loud. Do I really want that? The thing is, I know I can do this (this being birthing without medication), but I just don't want to do this today. I don't want to be in the middle of labor. However, the reality is that, want to or not, this birth is happening today and it's happening NOW. The nurse asks if I'd like a pain medication, something they can give right away. No, I have no interest in that. Then she says, "Well, should we get an IV started? That is the part that takes the longest with an epidural." I don't really have any interest in that either. I mumble somthing about giving it another half hour and then I'll see. Gah. I don't know what I want. I just know that this is all feeling too intense - both physically and mentally.
Husband: Laura shocks us all by asking if she can still get an epidural. This was definitely NOT something I was prepared for. The way she asks it has me thinking that she's just flirting with the idea to perhaps give herself the thought of being able to take the pain away but not really interested in it BUT who knows? I remember looking around at everyone and it seemed like they were looking at me to figure this out and I figured this was definitely something I had to try to assess. There was no having anyone take this on for me...I thought for what felt like a solid minute but couldn't have been more than a few seconds about how to talk to Laura about this. What's crazy is that I'm here to help her stick to what she said she wanted to do BUT I'm not going through any of what I can see are very intense contractions AND I have no clue how long this could continue. In my head, I'm thinking this may be a few more hours yet. Laura was standing next to the bed and leaning over it, propping her upper body up on her arms. I lowered myself on to my knees so she could look at me without pulling her head up and I don't remember what I said but I do remember how I said it. It was appropriately submissive, respectful and inquisitive. Something came out like, 'I know you are experiencing a lot of discomfort and you're wondering when this will end but you've come so far and, knowing you, I think you might regret changing your plan. Should we just see how things are going and reassess this in a little bit?' She seemed open to this and the other questions that the staff were asking helped her see they were taking this seriously and she calmly said, 'No, I'll just see how this goes for a while.' We all must have thought that distraction was needed and without a word, we all sprung into a spontaneously coordinated plan to provide it.
8:55 AM - Since everyone can see I am needing something, a change at least, Husband, the nurse, and the doula spring into action. The nurse asks if I'd like the room darker, and I realize that I do want a dark room. It makes sense to me. After all, aren't kittens born in dark basements rather than in a bright patch of sunshine in the living room? (And am I a cat? Hm...) The nurse closes the shades against the beautiful summer day and the dark room immediately feels much more appropriate for the occasion. Husband gets a basin with ice water and begins the trick that worked wonders in Bella's delivery - a cold cloth to my forehead. Unfortunately, the dude's breath STINKS. I calmly and politely say, "You need some gum." Ha. He gets some gum and returns to me with some minty-melony breath (a flavor of gum that I would only purchase in a pregnant state...otherwise: BLEGH). The contractions keep coming. The doula rubs my back and murmurs encouragement. All of these things really help to ground me tremendously - especially that cold cloth on my forehead - and I feel myself getting into the labor zone. This also takes off the edge of me feeling like I need to stay "social". OK, game on.
Husband: Told you more on this, later. Lemon-lime Gatorade makes my breath smell weird for some reason. After Laura told me nicely that I needed gum, I smiled, looked at everyone and said, 'That's her way of telling me nicely that my breath smells,' the comic relief was nice after the stress we all just went through regarding the epidural. Everyone lets out more of a laugh than the comment should have elicited. I enjoy that I've made a funny. The changes that we've made to the room really seem to have settled Laura in. Something seems different now, we all seem to be more focused now that Laura is. I turn up the iPod and the room takes on the seriousness that birth commands.
9:05 AM - After another 10 minutes of contractions that continue to come closer and closer together, each longer than the last, I realize I need another change. Even though the midwife advised holding off on the tub, I don't want to wait. I'm pretty sure my body isn't going to slow things down just due to some hot water. The nurse fills it up with pleasantly hot water (vs. the "safe for baby" lukewarm 100 degrees) and I get in. It's awesome...until the contraction hits. Then I want to leap from the water. I get on my hands and knees in between contractions, thinking that would be more comfortable, and again I fully enjoy the sensation of being in the water. Then the next contraction hits and the urge to GET OUT OF THE WATER NOW strikes again.
Husband: Laura remembers this part differently than I do. Who knows who's right and who cares but I filled the tub up and took her over to the tub. It seems to immediately sooth her but not throughout the contractions. While she is in the tub, I get two cloths ready in the ice water so one will always be ready to grab. I come back in to the bathroom and Laura wants to get out.
9:10 AM - I get out of the tub, get dried off and put my gray nightgown back on and resume laboring over the bed in the bedroom. I kind of hear the Hypnobabies stuff in the background, but it doesn't really get into my consciousness. For the most part, I still feel like I'm mentally chasing after my body as is physically transforming by the second.
9:15 AM - Dammit. I have to poop AGAIN! WTH? Haven't I pooped enough in the past 24 hours? Jebus. I go into the bathroom, with contractions practically rolling over me with every step I take and sit down on the toilet. I immediately pop back up as the contraction hits and forget about pooping. I somehow find myself on my hands and knees in the bathroom - I think because I'm feeling nauseous and preparing to be sick? I lean my forehead down on the side of the tub and the porcelain feels nice and cool on my head. My arm is draped over the toilet and that also feels cool. Were I in any other state of mind other than labor, OH HELL NO would I be draping myself in a hospital bathroom that is likely not 100% clean. But -hey- it's labor! All normal Laura laws and rules are suspended for a bit. I get through a contraction or two in that odd position, with Husband and the doula crowded behind me in the bathroom when suddenly I yell out "I have to puke!" I quickly turn to the toilet and forcefully vomit into the toilet. At the exact same time, I feel a pop and a splat of warm water hits my feet. WHAT!? It only takes a split second to realize my water broke. I say in a trembling voice - not trembling from nerves, really, but more from the sheer intense physical sensation of it all and the adrenaline coursing through my body - "My water just broke!" Last time, with Bella, it was broken by the midwives when I was around 8 or 9 cm, so this is new to me. Interestingly I feel some relief with my water being broken - there is less pressure now. I find my whole body to be shaking uncontrollably, again probably from the adrenaline. I remember this annoying shaking from last time, too.
Husband: Laura goes to use the bathroom and instead of all of us piling in there as we had in the past, it's just her and the doula. Laura is sitting on the toilet one minute then saying she needs to puke the next. She doesn't puke this time but while she's on the floor she gently collapses on to the tub. I remember thinking that was extremely odd because it's like a public bathroom BUT I try to calm myself by thinking that they must really clean these rooms well after each birth and I figure she must me thinking that, too. Suddenly, she pops up and says she has to puke and this time she does puke in the toilet and her water breaks all over the floor. I look at the nurse and she gives me this calm, knowing nod and smile and says 'oh, she's in transition. It won't be long now.' I said, 'really?' because I didn't know what else to say and it seemed like what I should have said. My brain wasn't really working at this point. The nurse and I move in and with the doula's help, we get Laura off the floor like she was one of our dearest friends who had gone and had too much to drink and was a big sloshy mess and we took her over to the bed.
9:25 AM - I somehow find myself back at the bed and I am now moaning really loudly through all the contractions. I couldn't be quiet if I tried, but the moaning does bring focus to me and to the contractions. I just can't believe how intense this all is. Was it this intense with Bella? I don't think so. Oh, I just want to be past this. I want it to be hours later. I catch sight of the newborn Pampers in the corner. The ones that smell so wonderful and have that handy dandy pee-detecting yellow stripe on them. I think to myself, "By 3 pm, I will be using those on my baby." Why I thought 3 pm, a time nearly 6 hours away, I don't know. Probably because I wanted to give myself some wiggle room this time, since I got rather hell bent on "I will have a baby by x pm" towards the end of my labor with Bella.
9:30 AM - The midwife is back (I suspect the nurse called her after the one-two punch of the vomit/water breaking) and she checks me. She says I'm at a 9, but my cervix is so soft that I can push if I want to. What? It's time already? Do I want to push? I guess I could. I mean, it certainly feels like I want to poop. Could that be the same feeling as wanting to push? (I still don't have the answer to this, but I suspect for me wanting to poop really bad in labor is the same thing as wanting to push. Many women talk about the satisfying feeling of pushing, but I don't feel the same. Maybe because I don't feel much satisfaction in pooping in front of A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE?)
9:33 AM - After another contraction, the midwife asks me what position I want to get into to deliver. Angela reminds me I wanted hands and knees. I had put it in my birth plan even. The thought behind hands and knees is that gravity will work to help push him out faster, which I wanted after the 1.5 hours of pushing with Bella. I also found myself drawn to the hands and knees position throughout my pregnancy with Oliver. So I had pre-decided it would be the way to go. I climb onto the bed and get on my hands and knees facing the wall.
9:34 AM - At this point I begin ROARING - truly, a primal roar - through the contractions and there is no discernible differentiation between each one. My body is reduced to it's most basic functioning right now. I am no different than a lion birthing it's cub. There must be a lion in Africa simultaneously roaring out it's baby just as I roar out mine. My god, birthing is weird. While the rest of my body is in the most extreme physical condition I've ever been in, my brain begins a ridiculous narrative in this calm, observation-style voice (think a narrator of a nature program). That narrator voice is saying, "Huh. Well, this is totally awkward. What was I thinking wanting this position? My ass is now facing several people at eye level. And I'm probably pooping again. In fact, I'm probably just taking a really big poo right now, and the baby isn't going to come for a while."
Husband: I'm facing the wall with Laura, holding fresh ice-cold rags on her head for each contraction, telling her over and over to focus on the cold sensation only, think about beaches in Mexico, anything to get her to think about something else. Her contractions begin with ROARS that progress into blood-curdling, and guttural SCREAMS. I figure, 'Fuck it,' and I start yelling right next to her with each contraction, thinking that this will at least make her feel less self-conscious because, if I know her at all, I know she has been, especially about the poop. I keep telling her to focus on what she needs to do and that there is a team to take care of the rest.
9:35 AM - I yell, "I'm sorry if I'm pooping!" in between roars. Husband tells me, "It's fine. You're fine! It was only a little bit." ZOMG, how embarrassing! And how annoying that I am so aware of it! And SEEEEEERIOUSLY - there was no vegetarian Indian buffet this time around and I already pooped so many times. WHY? WHY?????? (Clearly I am very troubled by the pooping aspect of delivery. And I wish I didn't feel so compelled to tell you about the poo and could just leave it out, but THE TRUTH WILL PREVAIL is annoyingly my motto for life. I would feel like a liar - a delightful non-poopy sort of liar, but a liar nonetheless - if I left it out.)
Husband: Laura poops a little on the pad on the bed and I just smile inside because this time I didn't end up stepping in it. The nurse quickly and adeptly whisks it away.
9:36 AM - Body still roaring. Contractions are constantly happening. Brain still chatting away with inane thoughts, "Hm! Weird to just be facing a white wall while all the action takes place behind me!" Life is simultaneously on fast forward and in slow motion. Apparently Husband is roaring along with me, but I can't hear him. I'm in my own world.
9:37 AM - WHAT IS THIS NEW SENSATION!? RING OF FIRE! I REPEAT, THIS MUST BE THE RING OF FIRE! I roar now more than ever. Oliver's head emerges.
9:38 AM - The midwife somewhat hurriedly asks me to push one more time now that his head is out. I give one final oomph of a push and Oliver flies out. It's the weirdest sense of relief as I feel his body slip out. Honestly? It pretty much feels like I just pooped my baby out.
Husband: The midwife says that Laura needs to hold her breath and push because the baby's head has emerged. I kind of remember this like an edited film sequence, the midwife's face and her comment, Laura screaming, me holding the cloth and yelling, and then a baby falling out on to the bed, though I'm sure he didn't fall because he was in the midwife's hands. Once again, I'm in complete awe that Laura has navigated this process just as she has planned and everything has gone about as well as could be expected. I'll let her tell the rest of her story in her own words.
9:39 AM - Everything suddenly feels silent once my roaring stops. A moment passes and then I hear his cry. Oh my god, he is here. He is here! I did it. It's over. Finally. He's here. He's here. I exhale, my throat dry and sore. I maybe say a swear word as my head flops forward in exhaustion/exhilaration/shock/everything you can possibly imagine.
9:40 AM - I am told to remain in the hands and knees position, but I want a peek at my baby. I look down and see an umbilical cord between my legs (!) and then try looking over my shoulder to see him and can't quite tell what is happening. Oh, why did I think hands and knees was a good idea?? I ask if he's OK and am told he is just fine (for the record - Apgars of 9 & 9). They don't want me to move until the umbilical cord stops pulsating. At first I think, "How annoying!" Then I remember that I put that in the birth plan. Ha. I'm so excited to see him that I now just want to be like, "Skip it! Doesn't matter! Just cut it!" But it only takes a couple minutes and then Husband snips the cord.
9:45 AM - I am able to turn over and lay in the bed and they put my baby boy on my chest. Hello, little man.
I'm still so overwhelmed and truly still in shock of HOW FREAKING FAST that delivery was. It was just less than an hour ago that I was at 6 cm dilated and beginning active labor. But I look at my baby and marvel over his lovely hair and his surprisingly long fingernails and while I don't know him, he is familiar to me.
How odd it is to finally meet someone with whom you are going to have one of the most spectacular love affairs of your life with. It's like you already know the future, but here you are living in the present doing the most basic of get-to-know-yous. I don't love him yet. But someday I will. I caress his bruised face and the world feels still.
9:50 AM - Instinctively, I initiate breastfeeding and he latches on immediately. How I thought to do without prompting from a nurse or my doula in the in the midst of all the mental and physical chaos, I don't know. It truly is an instinct.
10:00 AM - The nurse takes Oliver over to the warming table to do a cursory clean up (we will wait on a bath) and weigh him. We all throw out guesses in the high 7 or low 8 lb range. The nurse announces, "9 pounds, 5 ounces!" SAY WHAT!? And suddenly the extreme physical discomfort paired with the oddly enormous and nearly cube-shaped belly is explained.
10:05 AM - Husband removes his shirt to do a little skin-to-skin bonding for a few minutes with his son. His son.
10:10 AM - Husband places Oliver back on my chest and he breastfeeds again. We look at him and each other, still punch-drunk on the enormity of the past couple hours. Our life, our family, has shifted and altered in such a profound way, but it's still to big to grasp. Hell, it will take months to grasp. For now, though, we just take it moment by moment as our tiny (or, uh, not so tiny, really) guy figures out this new and crazy world, starting with the most basic of tasks - eating.
Husband: Laura is, in my mind, more beautiful than I can comprehend. She is a wonderful mother, a humble and intelligent woman, a fierce birthing warrior and my best friend in the world. I love her and the family she has delivered and built with me with a passion that is deeper and more profound than any love that I have felt or been able to give. Many aspects of this love are inexplicable for someone like me but it's the one force that will always give me incredible strength but likely not as much strength as Laura has demonstrated today.
* * * * *
Obviously there were many birth-related things that happened after this, but most of them are not particularly pleasant, and some of them scary. And so I want to separate the birth from the immediate postpartum period into two posts, even though they happened one right after the other. Because this part - the actual birth - this is the part that will be celebrated and remembered. What came after can fade away to a pale watercolor in years to come. I want this part to stay bold and colorful in my mind for life.