I wrote this all out once already, and failed to save it. (Shit! Don’t you hate it when that happens.) But it’s important to me to have it all down on paper so that I can back to it later, so here I am, sifting through all the thoughts and dreams and memories for what’s most accurate and what’s most helpful. I’ll try to be honest. But honestly, a lot of it has already faded, slipping into the waters of these already melting days and nights. So here’s how it all went down, the week we met Bowie.
Monday, February 18th:
Its my first official day of maternity leave and I’m feeling so strange about it. Zach gets ready for work and leaves, and I can tell he feels strange about it, too. We spend so much time together that we’re not always very graceful apart. But I have a long list of labor projects and shit to do this week, and I’m determined to get it all together and mentally transition from working, busy, active, schedule-bound responsible human to stay-at-home full time baby caretaker. I’m prepping to process this monumental life change, this experience of a lifetime that I feel very excited and scared and anxious about. I had it in my head that this week would be all about getting my studio together, so I’d reached out to a few garage door repair companies (ours needs a new spring) and I had scheduled to have some new lights installed in there so that I can work whenever I want. It’s still not really unpacked, and I thought that it would be a perfect labor project to focus on while I hurry up and wait for Bowie to arrive. The garage door guy comes but says it’ll be extra for the parts we need, and we’re expecting a snow storm that night so I don’t schedule him to come back to fix it. Andy and Jodi come over to pick up some hardware for a table we gave them. I sit down and get sucked into my phone for longer than I intended. I try to reorganize the cabinet under our bathroom sink. Around one or two in the afternoon, I start feeling some Braxton- Hicks contractions and I text Zach to let him know that I’m not going into labor (let’s all come back to this part later and laugh together).
Around 6, all I can think of is going to the store to pick up snacks. Of course, with a storm coming the grocery store is a mess, and by the time I get home I’m feeling beat.. and I’m also feeling those Braxton-Hicks a lot more often and more powerfully now. I’m still fully capable of focusing on what I’m doing, and I’m not terribly inconvenienced by the movements, but I am beginning to feel my body growl like the dormant volcano it is. Zach gets home, makes a delicious huge salad with pork chops for dinner, and I’m officially feeling those contractions every seven or eight minutes by the time we’re done eating. We break out the contraction timer, looking to track the activity until we get to the 4-1-1 mark that our provider told us to look for.. contractions 4 minutes apart, that last at least 1 minute each, at a pace that continues for 1 hour or more. Zach is a pro at reading my body language from stop to start of each turn and he’s helping me keep track so I can focus on the task at hand. I’m trying to eat as much as possible, to drink as much water as possible, and to sleep as much possible, but my ability to do those three things wholeheartedly starts to diminish quickly as time goes on. So, it’s 4 am and I find myself making Mac n Cheese and bouncing on a yoga ball in the kitchen. I prowl and stretch and bow and twist into these new muscular compulsions that grip me, and by 9am, I’ve hit the 4-1-1 guideline, the snow storm is in full effect, and I am OUT of patience (let’s all come back to this part later and laugh together).
So we head to the hospital, and they check my cervix; I’m only 1cm dilated. My options are to stay and be monitored for two hours or go home to labor more, so we leave and head back to “relax”. At home we watch Harry Potter, and The Office, and try not to get too antsy as we sit around and I settle into this new pattern of tighten-breathe-move-rest-repeat that my life has become centered around. By 9pm, I’d met the next criteria that the nurse told me to look for; “I can’t tell you exactly what it will feel like, but your contractions will be DIFFERENT.” And they were. And so was I, compared to the anxiously composed girl who had walked into the hospital that same morning. So we headed back to Rose medical, with me howling in the front seat, and snow still coming down, with a gigantic full super moon somewhere above the clouds.
Tuesday, February 19th:
We were at 4cm when we were admitted that night. They took us in, began setting up the room, and we had an absolute delightful nurse named Chelsea who was with us for the first 10 hours or so. She answered all our questions, assuaged fears I had, helped us draw a bath and move around the room and apply counter pressure to all the different places of my body that were cracking open like eggshells, and made it all seem easy. Jessica, our amazing doula, did a wonderful job relieving Zach when he needed a break, and kept me company and coached me through endless racking contractions as she filled and filled and filled the tub with hot water. That tub became a dear friend; with lights off, water hot, big handicap bars to clamp down on, and enough room to press my extremities out fully against, I labored there for a solid eight of the next twelve hours. Finally, I’d gotten out of the tub again to pee (which is a terrifying process with contractions going) and I decided it’d be best to labor in the room near the bed instead, so I’m bent over the hospital bed, or up in it, reaching and retching and reaching more, trying to make it a minute at a time and growing more hoarse as time passes. (They say your throat and your vagina are connected.. and a low deep throaty growl from one elicits a low deep throaty growl from the other). They asked if I wanted to check again to see how far we’d come, and so they timed out a rest to check my cervix, and I was at a ripe and devastatingly similar 5.5 cm. FUCK. They tell you not to do the “labor math”, and that you can go from three to ten in a very short period of time, but here I was after at this point over 48 hours of being awake and 24 hours of active labor, firmly questioning my ability to press on. I guess I haven’t mentioned yet that I really wanted a natural and un-medicated childbirth, as much as was possible...but I had reached the moment where I had fulfilled that condition, hit my limit, and had to move on to plan B. And I had no clue what plan B was going to be.
Laying in the bed, between contractions, I talked with Zach and Chelsea and Jessica about my options. Option one: back in the bath. Option two: Nitrus Oxide. Option three: Epidural. Options one and two, while more natural, would only take the edge off the pain; I’d still feel each and every contraction, still have to be awake and alert and wait for more progress. All I wanted in the world was to meet this baby girl.. and slightly less than that, I wanted sleep. So Zach and I decided on the epidural, and we waited for the anesthesiologist to arrive and he set us up for everything from there. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been from Zach’s perspective to watch his wife go through all this pain that you have no power to remove, then to hold me while I get a gigantic needle stuck in my back.. but he looked as relieved as I felt with the decision and I knew that shortly, we’d both be able to get some rest.
Wednesday, February 20th:
At some point Chelsea went home and we got a new nurse, Kristin, who was just as amazing as Chelsea was, in all the same and all different ways at once. (She later told us that she was supposed to go home an hour or two before Bowie was born but she wanted to stick around to meet her. I’ll always be grateful for that sweet kindness.) We had broken my water after the epidural to get labor moving further along, and at some point also added Pitocin to my IV line to induce some action as well. The room was quiet, Jessica had gone home to sleep and all the nurses were letting us rest, and I started crying for the first time, more from exhaustion than from anything else. I woke Zach up and he came to sit with me, and we processed all of the twists and turns we’d experienced so far, and as the false hormones ran through my blood, we decompressed and I feel asleep. I slept from early that morning until mid afternoon, although whether they roused me or I woke up on my own, I’m not sure. We checked again to see if there had been any progress with the dilation, and mercifully found we were almost at 9cm! And I was rested, and ready to go, to boot. Kristin told me that most first time moms push for one to two hours, and I’d prepared myself for that; she called in for Dr Boyer to come from her office across town and we started pushing. There was a mirror set up so I could see our progress, and even though the epidural was preventing me from feeling the pain of the pushes and stretching, I could feel my muscles contracting and was instructed to push for three, ten-second intervals each time I had a contraction. Finally, here I was in my element!! Interval training is second nature to me and it felt so good to work. After a few rounds of this, I asked Kristen if wanted me to be giving it a ten (on the effort scale) each time, or if I should be ramping it up.. She instructed me to go for it; so the next few rounds, I turned it up to eleven. She stopped me at this point, tried calling Dr Boyer, called in an emergency backup doc just in case, and told me to breathe through my next few contractions. She said, “remember when I told you that most first time moms push for one to two hours? Well, you’re not going to do that. We’re going to have a birthday party here in a moment.” I’d only been pushing for about 15 minutes at this point. Dr Boyer walked in, scrubbed up, sat down, and with a few more pushes, Bowie sprang out to meet the world in a wild rush of fluid and joy.
Everything else went almost exactly as I had ever imagined it; she was placed right on me for skin to skin, we saved the placenta for encapsulation, we waited for the cord to stop pulsing for Zach to cut it, and as I pulled her up towards my chest we both instinctively reached towards each other and she latched onto my left breast efficiently and ravenously started feeding. The nurses took her a few times for weight and measurements, and Dr Boyer stitched me up as Zach and I basked in the newness of this little love.
We stayed another few days in the hospital, Zach and I feeding each other dessert as the other held this delicate little beast; had even more amazing nurses and staff checking in on us, and by the time Friday came around we were so incredibly ready to go home. I still can’t believe that she is real, and here, and wiggling across my body and showing me smiles and skeptical looks and making the most amazing little noises that just turn me inside out. It was a wild week, but I am so overjoyed that I get to know this beautiful human.