Cut and pasted from my blog, so forgive me if there's any weird formatting issues!
As some of you may remember, by 39 weeks I was over being pregnant. My mom came into town for 10 days to help out, and I really wanted to have the baby before she left. I’d been drinking my raspberry leaf tea, dosing myself with evening primrose oil, walking at least a mile each day, bouncing on the birth ball to get the baby to move down into the right position, tempting fate by going to the movies etc—and still, no dice. I tried intoning to myself things like “the baby will be born on his proper birth day” and all sorts of calming phrases that were supposed to produce a zen-like feeling in my soul. None of it really worked.
After going through middle of the night contractions for a few days (never daytime contractions, just, you know, at night when I was trying to sleep), I was really getting fed up. I discussed the situation with my midwife, and we decided that it was ok to try one more thing to move it along. On Monday evening, I started the first course (10 drops in warm liquid every half hour for 2 hours) of blue cohosh tincture mixed in raspberry leaf/nettle tea. On Tuesday morning (twelve hours later), I started the second course. At 2pm that day, I had a prenatal acupuncture appointment. Who knows if any of that stuff really works, but at that point, if you’d sworn to me that balancing a silver spoon on my nose whilst barking like a dog would induce labor, you’d have been shocked by how fast I whipped out a spoon. When I was laying on the table and getting needled, I felt the baby do some funny moves, which seemed encouraging. I tried to zone out and think good baby thoughts, but instead I fell asleep and had a brief dream about arguing with Milo to put his sneakers on. (Ah, parenting. Not even your dreams are safe from your children.)
After the acupuncture, I went to get a manicure (Priorities, right? I figured my hair would probably look like crap in any post-birth photos but at least my nails would look good?) All of the nice Asian women that work in the salon patted my belly and told me I would have a healthy baby very soon.
I got home around five thirty. I was feeling pretty tired, but nothing out of the ordinary. Matt had a work event in the city that night. He called around 6:30 to make sure there was nothing happening before he headed to the event, reminding me that he was just a quick cab drive home if anything happened. “Don’t worry,” I said glumly, “nothing’s going on.”
My mom and I got Milo his supper, she gave him a bath, and I put him to bed around 8pm. We sat down to eat our supper. I took three bites of my burrito. After the third bite, I felt a strange sensation and then a POP! feeling, followed by a gush of fluid down my leg. “OH!” I looked at my mom. “I think my water just broke.” As fluid continued to run down my legs, I called Matt and told him what had happened. “In a cab in 30 seconds,” he said hurriedly. It was 8:10pm.
I called my midwife, Beverly, and told her what had happened. I told her I wasn’t feeling any real contractions, just some mild crampiness. We agreed to check back in an hour. I called my doula, Angie, and told her the situation. She was just sitting down to dinner, and we also agreed to check in again in about an hour. I felt pretty calm, figuring I had a good five or six hours to go before the actual birth. Milo’s birth took seven hours from start to finish (although one hour of that was not pushing when I could’ve pushed because they were trying to get a full course of antibiotics in me to treat the Group B Strep), and I figured this one might go a little faster. I went and sat on my bed and turned my Hypnobabies tracks on. My mom rubbed my legs for me. I breathed through some minor contractions and got my mom to time them for me. I think they were about ten minutes apart at that point. They started picking up in intensity, and I got in the shower, sitting on the birth ball. I let the hot water run over my belly and breathed into the contractions.
Matt got home around 8:35. He asked how I was doing. I think I smiled wanly and said I was ok, but that maybe he should call Angie and tell her things were picking up a little quicker than anticipated. He took over the contraction timing. This is where things get a little hazy for me. I remember Angie showing up and giving me a hug. I remember, I think, that in the course of about an hour the contractions went from 10 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart. Matt wanted to leave for the hospital. I demurred, saying something like “I don’t want to go to the hospital yet. I don’t want to labor there for 4 more hours, I’d rather do most of it at home.” I remember Matt and Angie looking at each other and shaking their heads in disagreement with me. I couldn’t wrap my head around how quickly things were going. I remember thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to give birth soon, I still hadn’t even gotten to the throwing up stage yet (with Milo, I threw up for like 2.5 hours). Matt and Angie both looked at me like I was crazy. “Um, you’re three minutes apart. I don’t think there’s going to be 4 more hours. We need to go now.” He called the midwife, who agreed with him.
We called the car service. Angie helped me get out of the door and over to the elevator. Matt, a little panicked about not making it to the hospital, was rushing around the apartment looking for something (phone? wallet? I can’t remember), told us he’d meet us downstairs. We passed some other building tenants waiting for the elevator downstairs. They gave us a very startled look as we exited the elevator, very “oh my god that woman is having a baby isn’t she” to which Angie cheerfully said, “yep, this is happening. This is what it looks like.” Angie and I went down and got into the car. I knelt on the back seat and moaned into some more contractions, not so out of it that I couldn’t help feel a little sorry for the driver who was probably praying for this crazy moaning lady to please oh god dios mio don’t have the baby in my car. We finally got on our way, me trying not to flip out whenever we’d hit a huge pothole. (The route to the hospital involves driving down Atlantic Avenue, which has to be one of the most poorly maintained streets in Brooklyn, just giant potholes and huge metal plates every 50 feet or so.) At some point, we realized we’d left my hospital bag - with all my clothes, things for the baby etc - at the house.
We made it to the hospital. I would like to talk to the person who designed the ER entrance at LICH. Who the hell decides to put STAIRS at the entrance to an ER? Yes, there’s a little lift elevator there, but it can only be operated by someone who’s already up the stairs. Ever try climbing a flight of stairs while you’re in labor? No? Yeah, I don’t recommend it. We made it through the ER and passed a row of wheelchairs on the long, roundabout passage to the other wing of the hospital where the L&D department is. I grabbed a wheelchair and sat down gratefully.
Once upstairs, they handed me some paperwork to fill out (again, wtf people) and took us over to a room. It was nice and dark, and the ward was almost eerily quiet. They said that my midwife had called and she was almost there. I put a birth ball up on the bed and leaned against it. Matt held my hand while Angie rubbed my back. At some point, Beverly came into the room and closing the door. I got up on the bed and knelt backwards over the head of the bed, which was fully upright. I remember her examining me and (I think) pulling my cervical lip over to complete the dilation. I remember the nurse saying there wasn’t much point in putting in a heplock and Beverly agreeing. I remember Beverly telling me that if I wanted to push at any point, I could go ahead and do that. And then…pushing. Being told to focus my energy downwards, not to let it escape out my throat. More pushing, feeling like I couldn’t make it. More pushing. A brief moment of clarity, in which I both wondered what it would feel like to have an epidural and also vowed to never have any more children. More pushing. Being told to reach down and feel his head as it was crowning. I remember thinking I really wanted to get off the bed and sit on the birthing stool, but also thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to manage all that movement at this point. I believe there was a brief moment of intensity, some kind of look exchanged by the nurse and Beverly, wherein time seemed to stop for a second and I was told in no uncertain terms to flip over and do exactly what she told me. Pushing with all of my might, feeling the baby get stuck a little, then Beverly reaching in and twisting the baby a little. One final push. A great feeling of relief and a WHOOSH as the baby fully cleared the birth canal and was out. It was 10:56pm. The whole birthing process from start to finish had taken about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Immediate, loud crying from him as she placed him on my chest, all covered in vernix and blood, a tiny little angry crying thing, red-faced with indignation at having been evicted from the nice quiet womb into this strange world. The nurse covered him with a blanket, as I stared down at his perfect little scrunched up face. “Hello baby,” I murmured. “Hello Zachary,” trying the name on for size. It fit.
All of the customary things happened after that. Time returned to its normal speed. After the cord stopped pulsing, Matt cut it. The nurse took the baby and did the Apgar test while I pushed out the placenta. I asked the nurse not to clean him up, so she brought him back over. I rubbed the vernix into his skin. My midwife gave me a kiss and told me I’d done a great job. Matt held Zachary and stared at him with awe. Angie and I cried a little together (and then she offered to go back to our house and bring us the missing hospital bag, bless her heart). And then Matt and I were alone with our little guy, just the three of us in that quiet dark room, feeling overwhelmed with love and happiness, still in a little shock at what had transpired in the last three hours.