Sam's Birth Story
(part one is here)
The nurse left the room to give us some time to discuss. I turned to Jeff. “Uh, we’re having a baby,” I said. He looked a little bewildered. “Really? It’s happening?” he replied. After we had a couple minutes to process, we decided the thing to do was have Dr. McKeon break my water. I was loathe to take any drugs I didn’t really need, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep even with the morphine, I was so hyped up. We told our nurse our decision, and she went to call Dr. McKeon.
Between 5:30 and 6 a.m. we called our parents to let them know what was going on, and then called Kristen, my friend who would also be attending the birth. “It’s time!” I chirped on the phone. Suddenly, I was in a fantastic mood. I was going to have a baby! I was really in labor! I wasn’t an idiot!
Things seemed to go quickly at that point. Kristen arrived around 6:30 a.m. We all walked the halls together, talking about what had happened before her arrival. As we walked by the baby nursery, we spotted our friend Stephanie inside with one of her twin sons, Michael, who was born the week before. We visited with her a little bit while we waited for my doctor to arrive. We didn’t have to wait long.Dr. McKeon arrived at 6:45 a.m., and wasted no time breaking my water. Insert crochet hook (probably not the technical medical term), twist, and gush. Suddenly I remembered how disgusting I felt after my water broke with Charlotte. It’s like being plagued by constant ongoing incontinence. Dr. McKeon announced that the amniotic fluid was clear. I was happy to hear that, of course, but was more focused on how disgusting I felt.
As I lay in bed for the next half-hour, hooked up to the monitors, I could feel a distinct difference between pre-water-breaking contractions and the ones I was now experiencing. These were more intense, longer-lasting, and painful. I began to use some of my handy focusing techniques to get through the pain. With each building contraction, I pictured myself climbing up a sand dune. When the contraction was at its peak, so was I, getting a glimpse of Lake Michigan on the horizon. Then I could work my way back down. It was surprisingly effective, and something I employed when in labor with Charlotte.
After this round with the monitors was over, I got out of bed to move around a bit. Now that my water was broken, I needed some manner of protection. Instead of adult diapers, women in labor get these gorgeous mesh panties into which they insert gigantic maxi pads. Seriously, these pads put the “max” in maxi. We’re talking the size of paperback novels. I joked with Jeff and Kristen about how I hoped I’d get lots of mesh panties to bring home with me.
I thought about walking around a bit more, but the intensity of the contractions made me want to stay close to my room. Instead, we rolled out the birthing ball. The birthing ball was my best friend when I was in labor with Charlotte. I spent a good part of my active labor on that thing, and I think it helped the labor progress. I eagerly climbed aboard, managing somehow not to roll off gracelessly onto the floor.
Jeff popped in a CD. For the next fifteen minutes, I bounced and swayed and sang along…to Neil Diamond. I found myself thinking how happy I was that Neil would be a part of my memories of my baby’s birthday.
The next couple of hours found me cycling through the same routine: on the bed for some painful monitoring (the contractions felt much stronger when I was lying in bed), then back off the bed for more quality time with the birthing ball or time spent pacing the room, leaning on the bed and commanding Jeff to squeeze my hips (something I later learned is a genuine labor-relief technique). As the time passed, my contractions got more intense. Kristen wrote in her journal of my labor: “9:11 a.m.: Jana has a bad contraction. Her face gets red, and for the first time she has a look in her eyes that suggests she's absorbed by the pain and not really aware of what's going on around her.” I remember feeling very warm at the height of each contraction, so I’m not surprised my face was turning red. I definitely zoned out, and I’m sure I was making some interesting groans and moans. But at that point I didn't care.
At 9:45 a.m., the delivery nurse, Stephanie, came in to check my progress again. When she announces I’m still only 7-8 centimeters, I wanted to cry. I had been in the “sailor language” (a.k.a. cursing) portion of my labor for some time now, and I only had one lousy centimeter to show for it? “Is it too late to get in the tub?” I asked pitifully. Might as well relax if it’s going to take all day, I thought. Stephanie thought the tub sounded like a good idea.
So, once again, I was back in the Jacuzzi tub. This time felt very different from six hours ago. My contractions were horrible. I kept wanting to escape the pain, to go somewhere where it isn’t. I compensated by making noise and waving my arms around like a pentecostal. When I'd been in the tub about ten minutes, Jeff went to run an errand (I can’t remember why, but I did give him my permission). Alone with my pain in the bathtub, I lost track of time. I also fell asleep between contractions at a couple points—I hadn’t slept since the night before, and that was an abbreviated night’s sleep anyway. I managed not to fall face-first into the water, thankfully.
Jeff came back between 10:20 and 10:30 a.m. and helped me out of the tub. As I used the toilet I felt an incredible urge to…well, to poop. My research had told me this might be the pushing urge, so I was excited, at least until the next contraction hit and I went to my special place to deal with the pain. I was checked again, and told I’m 8-9, but again “really stretchy.” I hadn't yet inquired how I should feel about being stretchy, but the nurses seemed to think that was a good thing. The nurse told Jeff that the baby was right there.
Kristen came back from getting coffee at 10:45 a.m., and found the room bustling with doctors and nurses. She’d been gone just a half-hour but so much had happened. Jeff filled her in as I suddenly bellowed from the bed “I NEED TO PUSH!” The urge was so intense, something I never felt while in labor with Charlotte. I had the feeling that if I didn't push RIGHT THEN my body was going to split apart. Something about my tone got the message across and suddenly it was delivery time.
In the next five minutes, the bed was pulled apart, the stirrups pulled up, and the table full of delivery accoutrements wheeled over. The baby nurses readied the bassinet and heater thing. “With the next contraction, go ahead and push,” Dr. McKeon instructed. Up to then I had been moaning and crying, feeling completely overwhelmed by the intense pressure and pain. But the go ahead to push was all I needed.
As soon as I started pushing, I could feel things happening in a way I didn’t with Charlotte (I pushed her for three hours). I didn't wait for contractions, but just pushed and pushed, barely giving myself time for a breath between pushes. One of the nurses started off counting, but quit when she realized I was on my own schedule. And that schedule was: fast! Three pushes and my doctor told me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. I did, briefly, but then gave another push or two and saw his head emerge.
“Look at all that hair!” I exclaimed. It was thick and dark and looked curly. I paused at Dr. McKeon’s command, but was relieved to push again. Two more and he was out.
Suddenly, there was a squalling purple infant covered in white goo on my chest. Jeff was talking to me; his tone sounded excited and giddy, but I didn't hear his words. I was completely captivated by this tiny person who just minutes ago wasn’t there. “Sam!” I said. “I’m so glad you’re here!” At the sound of my voice, Sam stopped crying and nuzzled into my arms a bit.
It was 10:58 a.m. on December 27, and my son had just been born.