After 41 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, plenty of whining and misery, and multiple episodes of convincing false labor, I wake up with contractions at 4:30 am on April 25. I have a feeling that this is “it”, finally… But I tell my labor to hold up til after I drop the kids at school. My uterus obediently issues reminder contractions, 15 to 20 minutes apart, until after I return from that errand at about 8 am. They quickly go to 10 minutes apart, then 8, then 6.
I tell my partner that I’m finally in labor, expecting (hoping for) a dramatic reaction.
“Okay” is all I get. It doesn’t seem like he believes me. And since my contractions don’t really hurt, I kind of don’t believe it either. I spend the morning wandering around, looking for random things to clean.
At around 10:30, I decide I want one last picture of myself pregnant. My contractions are now about 4 minutes apart, and starting to hurt a bit. But I force myself to put on a little makeup and brush my hair, giggling at how ridiculous I’m being. My partner snaps this photo of me right as a contraction peaks.
I look thrilled.
After the “glamour shot” portion of the morning, things quickly pick up. At around 11:30 or so, I’m starting to accept that this is the real deal.
My partner, on the other hand, is not entirely convinced.
I decide to set up my birth space before things get too crazy. I’ve chosen the bathroom because of easy cleanup, and I like small confined spaces (I’m a cat, apparently). I have a crib mattress on the floor (for comfy squatting), covered by a waterproof pad. I throw chux pads on top of that, grab a few towels, and open my box containing a few basic medical supplies. I’m set.
I start laughing to myself, picturing my friend Traci who is an L&D nurse. She’d probably be amused at a patient setting up her own “hospital room”.
My partner enters the bathroom sometime after noon, where I’m sweating, swearing, hanging onto the wall, and enjoying the sensation of my pelvis falling apart, and starts washing his hands like Dr House. “I’m gonna do the thing”, he announces.
“What THING? It’s not time to deliver… or cut the cord… or… What thing are you doing?”
“I’m gonna check your cervix. I’ve been reading about it all morning.” He glances at his phone.
Let me tell you, the sensation of back labor contractions coupled with hysterical laughter is an interesting one. As I attempt to control my snorting and giggling, I say, “Okay go for it… NOW. Between contractions, otherwise it hurts like a bitch.” I’m actually kind of curious, because I’ve been trying to reach the damn thing for weeks. Surely it’s dropped now, and I’m probably at least a 5… or an 8. My contractions are now three minutes apart.
He checks my cervix. Then he looks at his phone.
“Well? What am I? Did you find it? What do you think?”
He keeps scrolling, reading, and making his “hmm” face.
“TELL ME WHAT IT IS”
“I’m not sure… but according to this…. It seems like you’re at about 1 or 2.” He then describes what he felt, which does indeed match up with the diagnosis.
“WHAT. No. I’M DYING HERE. THERE IS NO WAY I AM ONLY A 1 OR A 2. THIS CANNOT LAST ALL DAY!”
(I had originally estimated, based upon past labors and my current state of progression, that I’d be holding a baby by about 2 pm)
He goes out to call his mom about bringing pizza and picking up the kids from school, anticipating a long day I suppose. Meanwhile I’m in the bathroom weighing his scientific findings and arguing with myself about how far along I must be. I know my body, and it really seems like we’re close to having this baby.
Around 1 or so, his mom arrives. They’re outside talking, and I’m in the bathroom deep in pain-management meditation. They’re discussing mortgage rates or something. I’m contemplating all of the various methods of birth control. I settle upon abstinence as my future choice, and envision different ways to break this news to my partner and convince him that it’s a good idea.
After 1:30 or so, my partner pops into the bathroom again. He better not ask to feel my cervix again, I think. He better not ask to let his mom feel my cervix. No one is touching my damn cervix, or me in general.
Nope, he just wants to see how I’m doing. I inform him of how I’m feeling in completely unladylike terms, and follow that with, “GET OUT”. He very sweetly exits the room.
Within minutes, fetal ejection reflex kicks in. With a huge splash, my water breaks all over everything.
“WATER BROKE!” I yell, just to keep the peanut gallery informed.
They hear me, but assume it’s just another progress update, and continue to discuss credit ratings or the weather or something.
I check, and the amniotic fluid is very, very meconium stained. I mentally run through the facts: Sometimes a sign of fetal distress, something going wrong. But also common in overdue babies. Contractions now two minutes apart and that felt like fetal ejection reflex. Calling an ambulance over “distress” wouldn’t matter because he’s coming NOW. We’re good. Just remember to suction thoroughly when he’s out. I quickly whisk the dirty chux pad away and replace it with a clean one, so baby has a nice spot to “land”.
I let the next wave take me, and feel the unmistakable sensation of a baby moving down through my pelvis. And the next… and the next.
He’s big. My last baby slipped out in one involuntary push, and here we are squatting, trembling, and slowly inching along. Ejection reflex is not the same as “pushing”. I’m not doing anything. My uterus is in control and all I can do is go along for the ride. And what a hell of a ride it is becoming.
I reach down with both hands and…. The only polite way to phrase this is, “hold my lady parts together”. I know I need to apply counter pressure or I’m going to get wrecked.
It takes four contractions’ worth of ejection reflex, when I feel slippery baby head in my right hand. I cup it, and catch his back with my left hand as he slips out. He’s posterior, “sunny side up”, and I lay him gently on the mattress. As I push my dress out of the way to get my first look at my new son, my split-second thought is, Oh my God please be alive. No worries; he lets out a piercing wail immediately.
“WE HAVE A BABY!” I yell. Not that that’s necessary… the sound of newborn cries had already brought footsteps to the door.
My partner and his mom burst in, and I ask her to grab the suction device. He sits down in the floor and watches us as we check baby over, suction his mouth and nose, and decide what to do next. The cord isn’t quite long enough for me to maneuver freely, so I spend the next thirty minutes hovered over my baby, comforting him as we wait for the placenta to arrive. Finally I get into a position where I can nurse him, which triggers the placenta to detach. It’s huge, brilliantly red, and healthy. So much for all the dire warnings about an aging, deteriorating placenta.
I clamp the cord (you can purchase cord clamps on Ebay) and offer to let my partner cut it. He declines, as sharp objects near the baby are completely freaking him out. I laugh a little and snip it myself. Finally I’m free to move and get comfortable.
Time of birth: 1:54 pm.
My mother-in-law leaves to pick up the kids from school, and they arrive home to find me at the dining room table, holding a brand-new baby brother and eating pizza. The work is done, the mess is cleared away (huge thanks to my mother-in-law for that), and now we can all get to know Ronan.
Here he is: