I just knew I was going to go in labor during the snowstorm.
24 hours earlier I had been having painless Braxton Hicks contractions all day long. I had had them before, but never for more than an hour. All day my belly would get tight, then release, hinting that it was getting prepared for some major action.
The day of the snowstorm I woke up at 6 a.m. with serious lower back cramps. I hadn’t felt these since before being pregnant.
“It’s happening, honey.” I told my husband. His office was a 10-minute walk away from our apartment, so I told him to go in, for at least half a day. I didn’t want him to “watch a boiling pot” if you know what I mean.
I flipped on Despicable Me and awoke from my mid-morning nap to stronger cramps that came in waves. Two hours into the waves I started to get very uncomfortable and took to leaning on things, sitting on my birthing ball, closing my eyes and occasionally cursing at my cats. At 11 a.m. I texted dear hubby to make his way back.
We had planned to labor at home for as long as possible, but a few of feet of snow was threatening to blanket the roadways. My contractions, though sporadic, were only five minutes apart at times, and they HURT, so we made our way to the hospital around 2:30 in the afternoon. I had read enough birth stories to know that was going to be an uncomfortable car ride and it was, made worse by the sad state of Boston city streets in the winter.
We arrived and I trudged my Uggs precariously over slick ice and up to the main entrance. I thought the parking attendant would’ve assisted me, but I suppose I simply looked a super fat and slow visitor. Inside I fell onto a bench and waited for hubs to park the car. Cue very uncomfortable contraction. Fat tears pooled in my eyes.
“Are you O.K.?” A sweet woman leaned down to check on me.
Slowly I muttered, “Yeah, I’m just waiting for my husband,” and managed a weak smile.
Triage stats: 3 to 4 centimeters dilated. The midwife on duty suggested I walk around the hospital for an hour since they wanted to see another centimeter of progression before admitting me. But before I was clothed and sent on my merry way they noticed the little one’s heartbeat was falling occasionally after contractions. (Fetal heart rates falling during a contraction is the norm, falling after contractions end, called late decelerations, means the baby isn’t tolerating labor well. It can hint at other complications.) So instead of having to grunt my way through the hospital corridors for another centimeter, I was admitted.
The next 12 hours sucked.
Contractions, for me, originated in my lower back, then radiated quickly throughout my entire body. I did not want to sit, I did not want to talk, and I could barely move. I found the most comfort from leaning, either over the bathroom sink or on the back of a chair, or anything I could hold on to. I endured a couple of vomiting spells, which is really unpleasant while contracting. And as the contractions intensified I started to shake. A couple of hours after being admitted, complete, all-over body convulsions would precipitate each contraction and this wound up lasting through the entire labor and birth.
So those first 18 hours really sucked. But my husband and doula stationed themselves in my room and assisted with absolutely everything I needed. Sometime in the middle of the night, as my legs started buckling from the pressure and pain, the hubby began using counter-pressure to ease my pain. The most helpful of his moves was pressing on my lower back with all his might. I couldn’t really verbalize when a contraction was coming, but he could see me start to shake and at times I was able to mutter, “Now.” Get on me, dude, this is gonna hurt.
I moaned, I cursed, I rocked back and forth. The doula made me sip water, and the nurse monitored me and the baby. At the time I didn’t know it, but the baby was still having issues with the contractions, even after they administered the epidural.
I wanted to have a medication-free childbirth. My husband and I took a 12-week course of Bradley classes and we both felt incredibly well prepared for what lie ahead. And I don’t think I would have made it as far as I did without medication had we not taken the class, so I highly recommend it! (Why would you want to feel pain for that long? The bragging rights, of course!) But 12 hours later, when they found I had only progressed one – ONE – centimeter, I practically begged for a c-section. I went ahead, obviously, with an epidural, and within minutes of the blessed narcotics coursing down my spine I became human again.
A couple of hours after the epidural, my progression was checked again. Very little progress, so the midwife suggested breaking my water. I had initially requested this not be done because of the pain, but now I was medicated and we really needed to get things moving, so I allowed them to preform the amniotomy. It was exactly what little dude needed. I found out later that the midwife was anticipating finding meconium in the water, which can cause those late decelerations. Luckily we were in the clear, and one hour later I was fully dilated and ready to push.
“Oh my God, really?” I looked at my husband. This was it. I cried. Not from pain, but from excitement and a bit of fear.
The doula hooked my iPhone up to some speakers and turned on Led Zeppelin’s Mothership. For an hour and a half I grunted and groaned and pushed.
Eventually a nurse placed a mirror at the end of the bed. Kashmir (my favorite song; I used its lyrics to make some nursery decor) leaked out of the speakers and it was time. I beared down with my newfound mama strength and Bam! Dean burst into the world screaming.
When they put him on my chest, all I could think was that he was so big! He was an average size baby, but I couldn’t fathom that such a long, squirmy thing had been living inside of me. He instantly crawled up my chest. Dear husband looked astounded and I saw tears in his eyes as he leaned down to give me a kiss.
I developed a minor fever while I pushed so after a quick visit to my boob, Dean was whisked away with dad in tow to get treated with antibiotics.
When the last nurse had finished washing and attending to my post-labor body, I sat in the room with my doula, recapping the roller coaster. Now that I recall the entire experience, I can’t imagine her not being there after it had ended. My family was far away, hubby was with child, so it was just me. I can’t imagine sitting in that previously bustling birthing room alone, not being able to verbalize and recount the momentous occasion that had just taken place. I was high with endorphins, elated and deliriously happy. Her being there was comforting.
About an hour later we were whisked to my recovery room and the father-son duo descended upon us quickly. Our doula said her goodbye and we were alone.
Once was two was now three. I cried a little, watched as my two men fell into a slumber, then stumbled over to my bed. I was too full of adrenaline to sleep so I watched the snow and realized I could finally call myself Mom.