Monday, August 24, 2009

Zoe Ann's Birth

My eyes popped open and I glanced at the clock: just past four. I slipped out of bed and down the hall to the bathroom, where my suspicions were confirmed. Just a few drops, but I could tell -- my water had broken! I quickly assessed where I was at and what needed to happen. No contractions, at least no more than usual for the last few days. I'd gotten six hours of sleep, fabulous! Even with twenty bathroom stops in that stretch of time, after months of insomnia it felt like heaven. I considered going back to sleep with Michael until things got rocking and rolling, but I felt absolutely famished and decided some breakfast was in order first.

I felt surprised at my calmness. Not particularly happy/excited. Just... taut. Prepared. Ready. When the rushes started to hit, they felt familiar, my old friends I'd been entertaining for weeks. Many days of early labor had beaten the thrill from the moment, but at least this time I knew that they'd come with a purpose. I cleaned up the kitchen, tidied up in the main rooms, gathered my bags for the hospital. At 5:45 or so, I snuck into the bedroom to grab something. Michael sat up, sleepy eyed and mussy haired. "What are you doing?" "I'm in labor." "Really?" After so many early contractions, seeing me up and about coping in the dark was nothing new for him. "Yeah." "Anything I can do?" "Nope. Go back to sleep. It's going to be a long day." "Ok." He laid back down and immediately lost consciousness. Just as well. I really couldn't think of anything for him to do. For now, I felt fine laboring alone.

This labor felt completely different from the hit-by-a-train whirlwind birth with my Jed. Instead of an immediate conquering and overwhelming and screaming pain, this time I felt in control. This was simply labor -- work. A woman's work.

I returned to the living room and labored on the exercise ball for a while, sitting and then laying across it. I packed an overnight bag for Jed to take to his Grandma's. The contractions started to take more concentration to handle. I timed myself: contractions two to three minutes long every two minutes. I stripped down and hopped into the shower, intending to use every last drop of that hot water and relish every second of it. The heat relaxed me but soon felt too hot. I stepped out of the shower, the Indiana heat causing my body to immediately replace the water dried off with sweat. Still too hot. The rushes came harder, harder. I felt my control start weaken, I felt emotion start to seep through my cool shell of coping. Time to wake Michael up.

"Michael, can you wake up?" He flung himself up, I think shocked that he'd fallen back asleep. "What? Are you ok? Can I do anything?" "I need you." "How are things going?" I told him about the timing. "Oh, wow. That's fast." "Yeah." He saw my tears well up and soon another hard contraction hit. I doubled over. "You're emotional. That's a signpost. Oh my gosh I'm going to call my mom!" I smiled weakly to myself. We weren't planning any particular "kind" of birth, but I inwardly congratulated myself on my purchase of that husband-coached-childbirth manual and thanked the Lord for a husband nice enough to read it. I let him take over as the contractions became too much. He rushed madly around the house for a minute, and then the moment the next surge began, ran back to carefully hold me, my arms around his neck, and rock me as I moaned through the wave. I became more emotional, more incoherent.

Jan, my mother in law, arrived in no time. Jed had awakened and Dad had set him up with some cold cereal and Thomas the Train at the kitchen counter. He heard me moaning and quietly crying. "Mommy crying?" I heard him ask. He came into the bedroom, concerned. "Mommy all better now?" "I'll be better soon, Jed," I said. "Baby Z is coming today." I moaned again. "Mommy all better now?" he asked again, rending my heart as I felt so much love for that sweet, darling boy, my closest companion, and realized how much our little life was going to change that day. His daddy steered him back to Grandma.

We were ready to go. 7:45 AM. It was time. I gave Jan a tearful hug of thanks ("I'm emotional," I clarified, in case she couldn't tell) and I think I asked her to wash Michael's underwear because it was all dirty (What else would one be concerned about in the midst of labor?) Driving in the car didn't feel nearly so awful as I'd imagined. Michael drove slowly. Later I asked him why he didn't take the rare opportunity to speed with justification. "We live like one mile from the hospital," he said, "and speeding down Epworth Road is no fun at all." We checked in at the front desk, the first birth of the morning, it looked like. "Are you in labor?" the friendly check-in lady asked. "YES," I replied, trying to strip my tone of sarcasm as another massive contraction hit and I lost ability to communicate again. In triage, the nurses checked me. 8 cm, fully effaced. That got the ladies rolling.

I chose to walk to my room. Upright contractions were MUCH more intense, and I figured more intense would mean more quickly, so we walked. Progress down the hallway was slow. About halfway, Dr. Blanke showed up, looking fresh and cheery in his St. Louis Cardinal's shirt. "You are my favorite person!" he announced with a smile, "You waited for me!" Indeed we had. He'd left town for a vacation with his wife the day after my due date, and we all rejoiced that baby had waited long enough for him to be there. I smiled vaguely. "I told you we would wait! This is a very obedient baby. Did you enjoy the game?" "Sure did," he said. Then there was another contraction and I went back to my laborland again.

My memory becomes muddled at this point. I remember after walking into the room, I stood there alone, husband and doctors and nurses quietly consulting in the corner. My assigned nurse, Cheri, read my birth plan. Meadow arrived at some point and gave me a great big enthusiastic hug. Soon I was ready to push. I clambered up on the bed onto the squat bar. Just as I started to push was the only point during my labor where I felt some panic. In retrospect, I think it's because my birth with Jed was ALL pushing, so long and never fruitful. I was afraid. But it only lasted a moment. I felt supportive hands and whispered reassurances. "Tell me I can do it," I begged. They told me. I trusted them.

After only two or three pushes, I heard Dr. Blanke ask Michael if he wanted to see his baby. Michael echoed my thoughts: "What? Already?" Two more pushes and my baby tumbled like a wet, purple rubbery newborn calf onto the bed. A cry of happiness went up. She (yes, SHE a girl!) squirmed in her wet skin and tousled wet black hair. "My baby!" I quietly shouted with joy, "Let me hold her!" Immediately she was placed on my chest, all beauty and eyes clenched shut. She was born at 8:36 AM, just 45 minutes after we left home. After a few stitches and a brief checkup, and everyone seeped from the room, as quickly as they'd come. The room still dim, I looked up from my sweet babe for what felt like the first time. We were alone, Michael and I, with the new child already bound to our heart. Less than twelve hours later, before the sun went down, we were home.

(I've also written out Zoe's birth in a much more detailed novel-length version. If you like the gory details, email me and I'll drop you a copy.)


BBC said...

Vanessa! What a great story! I hope I can be brave enough to make it through labor like you did. :)

Jan said...

I loved reading about it again. You're amazing!

Brookeanne said...

Doing it naturally is the best, don't you think? :) Congratulation's! (Jen's friend) :)

Brooke said...

Fabulous! I read the gory details that you posted on naturalLDSmoms already :) Great job! And what a beautiful baby she is too :)

Mike and Emily said...

Send me a copy!

Tessie said...

It's been said before, but you are amazing, strong, and confident in what you can do. I admire that so much. I'm so happy to know you.

Tysha said...

Thanks for sharing. I love birth stories like this one. Natural is the absolute best, as long as there are no "special circumstances" (and then, thank goodness for specialists!)

You boosted my hopes - I've been nervous because Sawyer's birth was so "perfect" - and who knows what the second will be like??

So glad yours was so beautiful!