My sweet Amos is currently taking a nap but typically does not nap during the day so I haven’t had the opportunity to update this blog. I asked Michael to write out my birth story since I’d likely not be able to for at least a few more weeks. Enjoy.
You could say our birth story really began in mid-December. That’s not to say Beth was in labor for four weeks (thank God). Rather, we had a regularly scheduled checkup at the doc which started with a late-term ultrasound during which the tech casually inquired if Beth was feeling any contractions yet, as Who’s head was already engaged so low that she couldn’t measure it properly. Surely, we thought, this is going to happen soon. This started weeks of languishing in expectation. You know, assuming.
New Years Eve loomed, came, and went along with our hopes of an end-of-year tax break. Alas, Who? was already contrarian. After 2011 rang in, the waiting took on more urgency as Beth’s due date, January 6, approached and passed. Beth strongly desired a natural onset to her labor, a desire which stories of the extra pain of pitocin heightened. Who would want labor to be more difficult? Not us.
January 9, a Sunday, found the two of us at home with just a few days until the doctors were going to start talking induction. Pulling out all the stops, Beth pondered castor oil, and it started to seem like a good idea. Off to Walgreen’s I went to fetch the old wives’ labor aid.
Beth started with just a teaspoon (the recommended dosage was measured in tablespoons), to no effect whatsoever. This was around 4pm. At nearly 7:30, Beth was considering taking another small dose of castor oil or having some red raspberry leaf tea (a daily ritual – we were desperate). She decided that it would be better to do the castor oil first and the tea at bedtime rather than the other way around, because castor oil has a bit of a reputation for something you’d hate to happen in the night (as in, causing its intended symptoms…) Another teaspoon down the hatch, we sat on the couch. Beth was knitting and I was watching the series premier of The Cape.
At 10:30, Beth said, ‘Ooh. I think I just had a contraction.’ Now, she had been having Braxton-Hicks for weeks, so this was a bit like crying wolf. I said something like, ‘Ok. Let me know if you have another.’ And she did. Four minutes later. And again four minutes after that. And four minutes after that. Now, hold on a second. Wasn’t labor supposed to start with contractions 10-15 minutes apart or more? Things weren’t supposed to be so closely spaced until hours later, right? Maybe this was just some cramping, a common effect of castor oil. Maybe?
At some point, we both called our parents and said contractions had started and tonight might be the night, so be on the ready. That was maybe 11:00 (it’s really hard to remember because the whole thing was such a blur).
It’s worth noting that Beth and I weren’t exactly… how to put this? We weren’t at our kindest towards each other for the first hour or so. I was trying to gather what we would need to take to the hospital. We had our bag packed and all, but I was gathering a few other things (camera: check, toothbrush: check, something else I thought I’d surely need that I probably didn’t take a second look at: check). I thought I was pretty calm, but Beth was a little annoyed at my constant activity, no matter how I thought I was proceeding. Can you blame her? For someone racked with intense abdominal pain every three or four minutes, a busy bee was a stressor.
Now, I was a little stressed at the time, too. First, was this really labor? That was the puzzle. And it was a little hard to think it through when every 3 or 4 minutes Beth would have another contraction. But was it a contraction or a cramp? Plus, I really did need to pull some things together in case it was labor and why is she getting so annoyed with me, dang it? I can’t say how exactly we got over this initial friction except that God must have worked on both of our hearts to make us realize that we needed to be unified, not annoyed. Other than that, nothing really changed. I still pulled a few things together and Beth still had contractions, but we stopped sniping at each other. Score one for God’s grace.
Around 11:30 or 11:45, I went to pull the car around front because I was growing pretty convinced that we’d need it soon, and want it close. I came back in to find Beth on all fours in the bedroom with her head under the bedside table. She had bent to pick something up, had a contraction, and just stayed put. That was a little unnerving and a little funny to see. I got Beth up and back out to the living room and at some point, she said, ‘I can’t do this, Michael.’ Now, two red flags went up in my brain. First, in our birthing class, that phrase is word-for-word quoted as a sign of transition – the phase where the baby actually makes his way out. Second, my sister, who accidentally had her daughter Adeline at home – her famous last words before having a baby in their bed were, ‘I can’t do this.’ Maybe… maybe this isn’t castor oil…
Beth and I debated calling the doctor, but we were both leery of going to the hospital only to have mere laxative cramping wear off and being sent home, so we hesitated. Besides, the doctor had told us at a visit to make our way to the hospital when Beth’s water broke, which hadn’t happened yet. So we waited. And then Beth said it again, doubled over on all fours in our living room: ‘I can’t DO this.’
I called the hospital at 12:30am, broken water or not (because the red flags were now accompanied with flashing lights and sirens in my mind) and they suggested we make our way to the hospital – so we called parents to say it was indeed time, and then we got underway. That was an ordeal.
It’s really difficult to get out the door and into the car when your wife is having a major, go-to-the-floor contraction every 3 minutes. And then it’s a bit stressful to drive under those same circumstances (and a bit cold when your wife rolls down the window because labor raises the body temperature, but it doesn’t raise yours and sub-freezing wind just feels freezing…) And it’s a bit difficult to arrive at the hospital and still have to walk into the building and get up the elevator and down the hall to labor and delivery. We had two contraction breaks before we even got to the elevator (one of those was outside on the sidewalk), another in the elevator, and another just inside the door to labor and delivery, where we were finally offered a wheelchair.
So we were shown to a delivery room (around 1:10am), Beth changed into her gown, and I was preparing for a long night. Until the nurse checked Beth and found that she was fully dilated and basically only holding the baby in because her water hadn’t broken yet. Maybe not such a long night. Thank God we didn’t wait until her water broke at home. Had it done so, we would apparently have had this kid in the floor of our living room.
At that point, the Baptist East nurses kicked into high gear, though they were remarkably smooth about it. I didn’t really notice at the time, but, man, they moved with a quickness to get ready. Seemingly from nowhere, a table, instruments, scrubs, and a doctor appeared. Dr. Margarita asked if we’d like her to go ahead and break Beth’s water and get the show on the road. I equivocated, thinking we could just wait for things to happen naturally. Beth, on the other hand, had been having things going quite naturally enough already and was more inclined to hasten the process. It wasn’t like we were inducing anything at that point. Labor had clearly been quite induced already.
So Beth’s water was broken and she began to labor, lying on her side with a vise-grip on my hand and the bedrail. The nurses were coaching her to breathe. One particularly exuberant nurse got a curt, ‘Got it.’ to her frantic ‘In through the nose, out through the mouth. In through the nose, out through the mouth.’ We didn’t see that nurse anymore. But, she really was good intentioned.
For about 30 minutes, Beth pushed and never seemed to really click into that last delivery gear. But about 1:45, things changed. Dr. Margarita had gone to check on another patient (with her promises that she still cared about us and would be back, because apparently we might have thought she hated us and had given up…), and Beth had her first really effective push. It was about this time that she went to another planet.
To hear her tell of it, she couldn’t really tell anyone was in the room and she could just hear me telling her to breathe when a contraction would hit. I could see in her eyes that she was simply not present. She would open them and they’d swim around the room before lazily focusing on me. It was bizarre.
Suddenly, Beth’s each contraction was clearly bringing our son closer to birth and it’s hard to describe everything. Keep in mind that contractions had only started a few hours ago and we had only been at the hospital for 45 minutes or so. It was such a whirlwind and tension had mounted quickly. Not conflict-tension, but that internal tension of watching your wife go through a major ordeal and being highly attuned to her emotional and physical state as well as being aware that a HUMAN BEING was about to come out that hadn’t even existed 9 months ago.
I’ll spare the clinical details, partly because they’re gross and partly because I don’t know if I could even write them down. Some memories are best kept in the head because they’d lose something crammed made into a concrete paragraph. Suffice it to say I saw the kid crown, looked at Beth’s face, and then looked back as she gave one really good scream, and there he was. It was 2:27am on January 10, 2011.
The rest is a blur. Beth was already on another planet and I joined her there, going through the motions in a fuzz of joy and enormous relief. I remember standing with Beth while the doctor attended the post-delivery affairs and hearing Amos crying on the exam table and feeling like he was 100 miles away. At some point, I did walk over there and see him. I talked to him and he stopped crying for a moment and listened for me. I guess he recognized my voice at least a little bit. I was a little proud of that.
Eventually, a nurse wrapped him up and handed him to me and I took him to meet his momma, who had since returned to planet earth. Beth and I marveled at this new thing, our parenthood, and at our boy who arrived right on time, and apparently in a hurry. Beth’s labor, from start to finish, lasted just shy of four hours. So, four hours to completely transform our lives. Not bad, Amos. Not bad.