The Colonel is almost eight weeks old now. I can’t believe it. The time has flown by. It makes me slightly fearful for how quickly she’s going to go from being my squalling little newborn baby to a young lady I have to send off into the world.
I’ve recently spent quite a bit of time reading through post after excellent post on NPR’s “The Baby Project.” The posts included several birth stories, which, to varying degrees, were viscerally familiar. I realized I wanted to write my birth story, too, at least as I remember it. I’m not going to try to do it all at once, but here’s the first installment: how my labor began and our morning at home before heading to the hospital.
Disclaimer: Um, I’m not going to pull punches with these posts. Not going to use cute euphemisms for bodily functions or anything, and there might be mention of medical stuff and fluids and what-not. So if you can’t handle that, I suggest you stop reading here. I’m going to keep it real, because, as I now know, birth is all about keeping it real. There are, however, not going to be pictures. Not graphic ones, at least.
It all started about 4:30 a.m. on July 19th, my due date. I woke up feeling like I had to poop, so I rolled my big-bellied self out of bed, went to the bathroom and promptly had diarrhea. “Huh,” I thought, remembering I’d read that diarrhea was sometimes a sign of labor. Apparently your body wants to clear itself out before the big event…which is actually a huge blessing given the extended period of poop-like pushing coming later, during which you’ll probably poop at least once, except you probably won’t notice, definitely won’t care, and neither will anyone in the room with you. But, I digress. Sufficiently cleared out, I went back to bed and laid there and, over the next several minutes, realized I was still having what I’d normally characterize as “poop cramps.” But I’d already pooped, so that couldn’t be it, right? They’d come and then fade, and then, several minutes later, come again. Could this be labor?
Before I continue, I’d just like everyone to note that there were seven scatalogical references in that paragraph alone. I warned you. Did you read the disclaimer? You still with me? Okay, let’s forge ahead.
So, these cramps kept coming, and I decided to pull out my phone, fire up the Baby Bump app, and use its contraction timer. Yes, the smartphone has revolutionized even something so basic as pregnancy and labor. Maybe 40 minutes later, I figured out I had a bona fide pattern going here: I was having contractions; about a minute long, and about nine to ten minutes apart. And I’d had how many so far? Maybe seven? Ten? I hadn’t measured all of them, but they weren’t going away. Holy shitballs. I leaned over to Ron, who’d just started to wake up, and said, “Hey Daddy, if you have anything you want to get done this morning, I’d suggest you get on it.” His head kind of jerked toward me, he looked at me, said “Okay,” and rolled out of bed and jumped in the shower before I could say, “So, I think I’m going to get in the shower and…” No matter. I showered after him, shampooing my hair through one contraction, shaving my legs through another. It was a little surreal.
After showering and getting dressed, I started making calls to my parents, my brother, and our doula. My Mom had just gotten to work; she got on the road from Michigan to Wisconsin right away, as she’d planned. I left a message for my Dad and stepmom in Arizona, since it was still early there and they were probably asleep. My brother sounded a little freaked out, like he wanted to call out for boiling water and towels. Our doula, Tammy, sounded wholly unflappable, asking us to call back if/when we decided we needed her help laboring at home, or when we decided to head to the hospital. Calls all made, I logged in to work, sent an email to my team and got the last of my code checked in to source control for our big SAP implementation project, all while the contractions continued. And they were getting stronger. I thought, “This is happening.”
I didn’t really pay attention, but probably around 9:00 or 10:00 that morning, the contractions got to the point where I couldn’t do anything but focus on them. No talking, no working on the computer, no paying attention to TV, no packing the last items into my hospital bag. I’d find out later from Tammy that this was the point I should count my labor as having actually started. I guess everything before that was just some sort of physiological foreplay. When I went to the bathroom now, there was a little blood. Not much, but I hadn’t had any bleeding at all through my pregnancy, so the smallest bit was notable. I realized at one point that I’d better eat something, so I fixed myself a big bowl of strawberry yogurt and Kashi cereal, and a big glass of water. Even now, eating felt SO secondary, and I was amused thinking about any concern I’d ever had about having the freedom to eat and drink at the hospital during my labor. I sat on the couch and ate between contractions, and would hurry up to chew and swallow and put the bowl down when I felt one coming on. I’m not kidding, after the all-too-brief “poop cramp” honeymoon stage, I really couldn’t do ANYTHING besides focus on them. I started finding myself falling into a mental cycle of contraction-rest-contraction, even at this early stage. I also started really focusing on listening to my body and moving however it felt best to move. I’d drop to all fours on the floor to breathe through one, drape myself over the back of the couch for another. Leaning forward felt good. Swaying a little felt good. The thought of laying on my back felt like the WORST IDEA EVER OMG LET’S NOT EVEN TRY THAT. Time started to become measured in contractions. About three to four minutes apart now. Getting stronger all the time. The power of them, even at this stage, was a little daunting. The idea that, at some point in the next several hours, The Colonel would be born was still incredibly abstract. Ron said he needed to go to the store or the ATM or something. All I could think was, “Don’t be gone long.” I also requested some Sprite.
About noon, I suppose, I decided we should start getting ready to head to the hospital. I’d really wanted to labor at home as long as possible, and I would’ve liked to have stayed home longer, but my positive Group B Strep (GBS) test a few weeks prior had forced our hand a little: they wanted to have me on intravenous antibiotics for at least four hours before The Colonel arrived, to avoid the chance the baby would become infected on the way out. My contractions were two to three minutes apart now. My water hadn’t broken yet, but I didn’t know when it would. I didn’t know how fast (or how slow) this thing was going to go. I figured we’d better be safe than sorry.
We called Tammy as we headed out the door, and got in the truck. It would be one of the exceedingly rare times I’d ride in a moving vehicle –other than on a motorcycle–without a seat belt. I wasn’t proud of that, because I’m a bit of a seat belt Nazi, but I just couldn’t lean back and sit “normally.” I had to be arched forward with my arms behind me, propping me up on the seat back and relieving pressure on my pelvis to be comfortable. Every bump was magnified. I had probably two contractions on our way to the hospital, and they both sucked more in the truck than they had at home. Ron was on the phone, but I couldn’t tell you who he was talking to.
We pulled up to valet parking at Meriter Hospital, and got out of the truck. I refused a wheelchair. Even if I’d really needed one, I’m way too stubborn to even consider a pansy move such as that. We walked to the elevators and went up to the fifth floor, to labor and delivery triage. I was vaguely aware of the sounds of women moaning periodically. I remember thinking I hadn’t really gotten to that point yet, and it made me worry that maybe I wasn’t far enough along to be at the hospital. I got settled into a triage bed, taking sips from the Sprite I’d grabbed at home. Tammy arrived, and I could immediately feel her ease, which made me feel at ease. They checked my vitals and The Colonel’s heart rate, and then examined me. I was dilated to four centimeters, but 80-90% effaced. I was disappointed at the measly four centimeter dilation until Tammy told me it was the effacement that was the hard part, and dilation could happen really fast. My bag of waters was still intact. They hooked me up to an IV and got my penicillin started for the GBS, I put on one of the loose, flowy jersey knit dresses I’d gotten from Target to wear in place of a hospital gown, and we moved to a labor and delivery suite.
Next post: Laboring at the hospital, and how The Colonel could’ve very easily been born on the toilet. Go on ahead and read part two!