It’s 2:10 a.m., and I wake up knowing something is beginning.
“My water just broke,” I inform David, who sits up in bed like a shot. “I’m going to wash my hair.” The warm gush is unmistakable, familiar from my first birth, but instead of sending me into a shaky uncertainty like last time, I am enveloped in a calm, rational state.
I wash my hair, noting the absence of contractions. It doesn’t surprise me, after waiting almost twelve hours after my water broke last time for labor to begin. I begin sticking some stuff into my hospital bag while David makes some phone calls, most importantly to Papa R, who jumps into some clothes and starts the drive down to take care of three-year-old Jabber. Sixty miles and less than forty-five minutes later (you do the math; is it a coincidence the man enjoys watching NASCAR?) he arrives, quiet and nervous and grinning happily.
Right on cue, Jabber wakes up for a moment, and I am so happy that he does, because I am able to give him lots of hugs and explain to him that Mama is going to the hospital and that his little brother is coming, that Papa is here to take care of him and we’ll all see each other later today. He hugs me sleepily and says, “That baby is just gonna pop right out, Mama.”
Contractions have started up quickly and are now about four to five minutes apart. David, taking cues from my calm, is still leisurely gathering photography gear and such from upstairs and giving instructions to Papa about Jabber's allergies, etc. In the meantime, I have realized that I'm contracting every 3-4 minutes, so we pack it up and head out to the van, now breathing through the contractions to keep relaxed.
We park in front of the hospital, and I start to feel the shakiness set into my limbs, anticipation and a little anxiety building, building.... A contraction on the way to the door makes me pause, grip David’s hand, draw in a deep and jagged breath.
The emergency room attendant smiles to see me coming up the stairs and asks if she can have two guesses why I’m there.
“You won’t need the second one,” I say, smiling back. A nurse comes to bring us up to the birthing center on the sixth floor. Our first elevator won’t get moving, and I crack a joke about “Baby born in hospital elevator” that makes David nervous, but he says he was thinking the same thing. “No, no, no,” says the nurse firmly, guiding us into the second elevator.
We’re checked into our room, contracting in between each question, no big deal exactly but it’s after 4:00 a.m. when we arrive, and I’m beginning to think we won’t be making it until 8:00 when Dr. G. gets there.
The resident, Dr. A., comes in shortly to introduce herself and asks if I mind her checking me for progress. She’s very nice, easy to talk to with beautiful eyes, and she tells us she just finished delivering a baby who came so fast the dad didn’t even make it back up from parking the car!
“Wow! You’re already at 6 cm!” she says, and I start thinking about transition phase with a little nervousness. Dr. A. brings me a birthing ball and a hot water bottle for my back, and I labor there with my arm around David’s neck, my face pressed into his chest. Through the contractions, I breathe out Monkey's name, calling out to him in gentleness and love, willing my body to relax and let my womb work.
After maybe an hour, the nurse comes in to tell me I need to have an IV with antibiotics since I was GBS+ last time and there hasn’t been enough time for my test results to come back yet this time since my appt. was the day before. The IV saddens me a little, but by this time the contractions are coming fast and hard, taking most of my concentration and awareness. Monkey's name is my mantra, and I welcome him over and over.
The breathing isn’t working anymore, isn’t keeping up with the pain or overwhelming pressure. I feel the waves building up against me, within me, faster and faster, and each one leaves me wondering what position to move into for the next one because I can’t bear another one in the same way. I hold tightly to my mama beads and to the jade uglystone I picked up so many years ago on Rialto Beach.
Suddenly I feel a fluttery panic as one contraction hits me—how will I know when it’s time to push? What will I do if this gets worse? I think of the two and a half hours of pushing for Jabber--how difficult it was, and fear grips me. For a moment I can’t imagine why I would possibly want to do this without pain medication. I asked the staff not to give any interventions and only to give me pain relief if I ask for it.
But I realize suddenly that they haven’t intervened at all—I mean, nobody has even been in the room with us at all. What if I wanted some pain relief? Somehow my ideal of labor—that people would just leave me alone and trust me to do what I needed to do—somehow this makes me indignant and scared. Why are they all leaving me all alone, damn it?
This all occurs during one contraction, a spell of doubt, and then it’s over and I say to David, “Honey, I don’t know if I can do this much more. I mean, I know I have to, so it doesn’t even matter what I think, but I don’t...I don’t...I can’t...”
I’m looking helplessly into his kind eyes, and he holds me tightly. Moments later, Dr. A. walks in, smiling.
“You are doing so amazingly well with these contractions,” she says.
“You’re so composed. Can I check your progress?”
I make my way to the bed and sit down, work my way through another wave, her steady gaze holding mine through the pain, and then she quickly lowers the bed and does a cervix check. “You’ve had some heavy contracting in here, and you’re at about 7.5 or 8 cm right now. I’ll come back in a few minutes, and we’ll probably start pushing out a baby!”
So I am in transition! “This is the worst part, right?”
I sit on the edge of the bed and make it through about three or four more by growling and moaning a little but mostly by murmuring over and over, “Oh, my little one, my sweet Monkey, it’s okay, baby, it’s okay, my little one, my sweet one, it’s okay....”
Breathing techniques? I don’t remember them. I talk to my baby, holding his image in my heart, willing my body to open up to let him through.
Suddenly I have to pee really bad and I’m a little embarrassed because I think I can't hold it. David helps me into the tiny bathroom, navigating my IV “buddy.” As I’m sitting down, I suddenly know that I’m going to push the baby out right then and there.
My eyes get widen at the realization, and David knows. He knows, and he reaches over and pushes the call button. Instantly, Dr. A. and three nurses are there, all but carrying me back to the edge of the bed with their encouragement and their kind voices, “You’re doing great, just breathe, don’t push yet, please don’t push yet, honey.”
I can’t even believe how clear, how strong the urge to push comes over me—it’s nothing like the hours of sit-ups I did when Jabber was being born. Instead, the contraction builds and my body just sort of involuntarily begins to curve and tense and open up.
“Breathe it out! Don’t push yet! Get Dr. B. in here right away!” shouts Dr. A., checking my cervix quickly. “She’s complete! No lip at all! I just checked her a couple minutes ago and she was at 7.5! Don’t push yet, just breathe through it, sorry my hand is there, I’m holding the baby so he doesn’t come out too fast.
Dr. B. is in the background now, and I hear her say I can push, so I move closer to the edge, sitting close, and now I’m allowing my body to go with the contraction—pushing I guess, although it doesn’t feel like work or pain, just allowing my baby to move down the way he needs to.
One long push and then another short one on the same contraction and I feel so good—everyone is making cheering, excited sounds, and David is crying, trying to breathe. There’s a flurry of excited women and Dr. B. says, “One more and we’ll deliver the shoulders,” and I contract and push and slither-slip he’s out, he’s perfect, and David catches and they place him up on my stomach—he’s so amazing, his purple and red splotches and mouth working. A nurse massages him with a towel as I marvel at his tiny purple feet, running my fingers across his little toes, holding his tiny round head in my other palm, feeling the wet holy weight of his beautiful soul.
Avery James, welcome to the world!
Tears roll down my face, and he cries, a lusty little shout like an angry kitten. He’s so perfect, so lovely, his dark eyes searching my face in wonder as David cuts the cord and the placenta arrives. The nurses quickly wipe him, weigh him (7 lbs, 9 oz—just perfect!), wrap him and hand him back to us. We keep him in our room, nursing and cuddling and crying tears of happiness, for over two hours before they come to clean him up and check his vitals. He was born at 6:26 a.m., just four hours after my water broke!
David presents me with a beautiful string of pearls, and everyone in the room admires them, but nothing is as beautiful as the little boy I hold so tightly in my arms.
Happy birthday, little Monkey.