Welcome to the world, Shaw!
During labor and for the few days after Shaw’s birth, I was fairly certain I’d never want to do it again. I thought Soren’s birth was the hardest thing I’d ever done. But this topped it! At the same time, I keep reminding myself that I can do anything for four hours, no matter how painful or difficult it may be. So maybe I’ll have a third kid someday.
On to the birth story! Shaw’s birth day was not exactly what I was expecting — all I’ve ever known is Soren’s birth, which seemed perfect, and I’d wondered for months how we would all deal with things the second go ‘round. I’ll admit that my primary concern was Soren — how would he handle having someone else put him to bed? What if he woke up one morning and Tim and I weren’t there to greet him? Would Tim be able to take care of Soren while also spending time with me and baby post birth?
Partly because I’d been so worried about all that and mostly because I rocked childbirth the first time, I didn’t exactly prepare for labor and birth this time. I definitely thought about it, but I didn’t dive in to the books and my Hypnobabies mp3s and internet research like I did when I was pregnant with Soren. I was banking on the belief that childbirth is a perfectly natural experience that my body and mind would know how to handle when the time came. And although labor was insanely intense and difficult, everything happened as nature designed it to, and the end result was as perfect as can be.
In the weeks leading up to Shaw’s birth day, my body had felt much differently than with the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Soren. With Soren I was hoping to go past my due date to better accommodate our pending move to a new apartment. I felt great and was still going for long walks every day, fully enjoying the pregnancy and all that came with it. This time, I wasn’t quite as enamored with the whole nine-months-pregnant stage. Don’t get me wrong — I still loved my pregnancy and found it far easier to deal with than taking care of a newborn. But I was more tired this time around. I was less active in the final month, so my body was feeling a little out of shape. I had a harder time sleeping. The “practice” contractions I never experienced with Soren were very real this time, and each one reminded me what labor feels like (which scared me very much!). And I loathed all the bending over and getting up and down from the floor that parenting a preschooler requires. And since Soren was born at 38 weeks, I had a hard time not thinking that pregnancy lasts 38 weeks, and once I drew close to that marker it became difficult to imagine dealing with my huge, heavy pregnant body much longer.
A couple days before I hit 38 weeks, a few dear friends threw me a baby “sprinkle,” which is a casual version of a baby shower, free of presents and games and anything organized. We joked about the fact that Soren was born two days after my baby shower for him — maybe the same thing would happen this time?
We continued on with our weekend, and on Monday morning I had a scheduled appointment with Dr. Hardiman. As usual, it took forever to get Soren out of the house, and we were very late, and we had to wait awhile in the waiting room. And, as usual, the appointment took about two seconds because the heartbeat was normal and I had no concerns or questions. I declined any sort of vaginal check, knowing it wouldn’t mean anything either way. I joked with Dr. Hardiman that today could be the day, but I admitted that I felt no signs of labor coming on. So off we went, stopping to play at the playground. And then Soren and I got in a little tiff when it was time to go home for lunch and naps. I was incredibly frustrated at his defiance since he behaves that way so rarely, and I eventually had to climb up a shaky ladder on to the play structure to carry his screaming self down and to the car. I remember thinking how ridiculous I probably looked climbing up there, dragging a 40-pound kid down the ladder, and battling him into his car seat, with my giant belly getting in the way all the while. Not our finest moment. I don’t remember what else happened that morning, but I do remember there being a few other tough moments, where Soren and I just weren’t clicking like we usually do. It made me feel really sad, since we typically get along swimmingly and don’t experience much contention.
So then, during Soren’s nap, when my body started feeling a little different, I went into panic mode. What if the baby was coming tonight, and Soren and I were on bad terms? This was not the day to have a baby! I couldn’t leave him when I’d been feeling so frustrated with him! I was already beginning to miss Soren being my one and only. And I got kind of emotional about it. (I did realize that all these feelings were probably not on Soren’s radar, and the events of the day probably didn’t phase him much.) So I got him up from his nap around 3:30 p.m. and we headed outside to the park — I wanted him to know he had my full attention in case this was his last day as an only child!
Before we went out, I started to feel a little crampy. And leaky. Neither of which I had felt when going into labor with Soren. I knew my water hadn’t broken, but there was definitely some fluid leaving my body down there. There was also a little bit of blood when I went to the bathroom (something else I didn’t experience when pregnant with Soren). I started prepping Soren, letting him know the baby could come tonight, and what would he think about having someone else there to put him to bed or take him to preschool in the morning. (We’d gone over these possible scenarios with him many times, but this time it was for real!)
I next called my mom to let her know things maybe were happening, since they were planning to drive from Virginia to Boston whenever I went into labor. I told her it might all be nothing, but who knows? I also called Tim, who offered to come home right then instead of waiting another 30 minutes, when he’d been planning to end his work day. I told him there was a good chance nothing would happen tonight, but I never refuse an offer to have him come home a few minutes early. So then Soren and I continued on with our play. We raced around the track at the playground. We kicked the soccer ball around the field. We threw the frisbee. We jumped around on the hopscotch numbers. And then I got a little crampier, and the sun was beginning to set. So we walked back home and settled in on Soren’s rug with a few books. I texted our doula to let her know I was feeling things, and right when she texted back to ask if I’d had any contractions — it was 5:15 p.m. — the first one hit me.
The final belly shot.
I was on my hands and knees, breathing through it, and Soren was wondering why I couldn’t focus on the book we were reading. But he was a good sport through the first few contractions, which came about 15 minutes apart. After two or so, I texted the doula again and called Dr. Hardiman to let her know tonight was the night. She said she’d be ready for whenever the contractions got close enough together that I wanted to come into the hospital. Tim came home around then, and things started to really pick up. Tim says that at this point I kept saying, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know anything!”
From there, I moved to my bed to labor away, and Soren joined me at one point — complete with deep breaths on his end to “help” me with mine. He was a little concerned about me. We shared some good cuddles in between.
Tim got dinner going for Soren, and the doula showed up at 7 p.m. I kept telling her I didn’t remember what to do — I was sure she’d have a magic position for me to try that would make it all bearable. The contractions were more intense than I remembered with Soren, and although I managed the pain in the same way I had with Soren (basically just lots of breathing and moaning), everything seemed harder. I did love having the doula there to squeeze my hips during contractions — it provided a teensy bit of relief each time.
I think one thing that made everything more difficult this time was my distraction from the moment — I could hear Soren and Tim reading stories and getting ready for bed. I knew Tim had called some friends to come over and stay at our house with sleeping Soren, but I didn’t know the details and was curious about how it would work out (they’d need sheets and pillowcases and instructions on how to use the baby monitor, etc.). I wasn’t sure what I should wear. I hadn’t packed any sort of hospital bag, so Tim quickly threw a few things into a duffel. And I was really concerned about the fact that I hadn’t eaten since lunch — I became a little bit obsessed with trying to think of something to eat that would sustain me through the most difficult thing a body can do. But of course nothing sounded appetizing — I was probably entering the transition stage at this point.
My contractions quickly moved from 10 minutes apart to 5 minutes apart. And I started getting nervous about the potential for the baby being born in the car, since with Soren I had only arrived at the hospital with just enough time to push. So the doula and I made our way down to the front porch while Tim loaded the car and brought it to the street (Soren was in bed at this point). I moaned my way through a few contractions on the porch, and our friends arrived to stay with Soren. (I remember apologizing to them that I couldn’t make eye contact.)
The drive to the hospital is about 15 minutes, and it took everything I had to manage those contractions on my own (with Soren I made Tim pull over every time I had a contraction, which really prolonged the trip). I somehow was with it enough to direct Tim’s driving, as well — sorry, Tim. (Tim says, “You were basically having contractions the whole drive there, except for that brief moment when you tried to backseat drive.”)
We pulled into the emergency parking, and a couple of nice EMTs quickly brought a wheelchair over to the car. No way my body was capable of walking at that point. Tim pushed me through the emergency room, and I almost lost it when an old man was blocking our way by standing in the center of the aisle, oblivious to my pain. (Fortunately, a nurse yelled at him for me.)
When we got to the labor and delivery floor, the nurses asked me to walk to the nearby room I was assigned to. As if I could walk. I refused their request and opted to be wheeled into the room instead (the same thing happened with Soren). Once I was in the room, they had me go to the bathroom, and then once I made my way to the bed they strapped the fetal monitor to me for the initial check. I don’t have any recollection now of what was going on at that point — I wasn’t exactly conscious of my surroundings — but I guess everything was safe and sound, because I know they took the monitor off me before I started pushing.
Contractions were as hard and heavy as ever, and I was expecting everything to be over quickly since with Soren’s birth I walked into the hospital room fully dilated. But when Dr. Hardiman arrived at the hospital — which was a breath of fresh air for me — and checked me, I was so disappointed to hear I was only dilated to eight centimeters. Kind of discouraging. Only three hours had elapsed since my first contraction, but it sure felt like the hardest and longest thing in the world.
I was still struggling to feel like I was managing my contractions effectively. I kept thinking there surely was some miracle position I could try to make it bearable. I tried laying down, I tried on my hands and knees, I tried leaning against the raised back of the bed. I got to the point where I said — out loud — that I just couldn’t do it. But Dr. Hardiman told me I was probably close to push time, and she asked what position I’d like to be in for that. I still wanted someone to just tell me how to do it, so I asked what she recommended. I was on my hands and knees at this point and not feeling particularly confident there, and Dr. Hardiman told me that was just fine if I preferred it, but she also said that if I pushed laying on my side it would make it easier to hand the baby to me for cuddling as soon as he came out.
So on my side I went, and the pushing was even harder than I remembered with Soren. I just wanted it to be over. I felt like there was no way I could do it. And everything still felt like it was taking far too long, even though I could see the clock and I knew it was not quite 9 p.m. I had the nurse and the doula help hold one leg up, and I pushed with all my might. I remember Dr. Hardiman saying I was doing it just right, which seemed impossible to me since the baby was still inside me and not out where I wanted him to be. And even when they said they could see the baby’s head, I still felt like we weren’t making any progress. I just wanted the whole thing to end! But it was only three sets of pushing — so less than 15 minutes — and the little guy popped right out at 9:07 p.m. And I felt absolutely drained.
Our first picture together, taken 13 minutes post birth.
They placed Shaw on my chest right away and he whimpered and cried while I laid there, exhausted and not feeling capable of doing anything more than keeping my arms around him. Dr. Hardiman helped me deliver my beautiful placenta a few minutes later, and she and Tim clamped and cut the cord after it had stopped pulsing. Dr. Hardiman also stitched up one small tear. After about 40 minutes of cuddles with Shaw, they borrowed him for a quick in-room weight, height, and APGAR check. He was 7 pounds 14 ounces and 20″ (Soren was 7 pounds 2 ounces and 20 ¼”). And then after they handed him back to me for more skin-to-skin time, he quickly made his way to the breast for his first attempt at eating. I was surprised at how hard that tiny baby could suck!
After birth pains, anyone?
After Soren’s birth I had felt so invigorated and strong and powerful — I remember telling everyone I could do it a million times over. This time, while I was still proud of what I’d accomplished, I felt like I could never do it again. Which is funny, since Dr. Hardiman told me she wished she could package up my births and gift them to all her patients. It’s a great feeling to know you’re loved by your doctor and nurses because you make things very easy on them — Dr. Hardiman was at the hospital for a whopping two hours for Shaw’s birth, from arrival to finishing up her paperwork.
But now, weeks later, I still feel wary of having another baby. I’m convinced it’s the most difficult thing in the world you can do — physically and mentally. I don’t mean to make it sound like the whole experience was negative — in fact, I can’t think of anything that would’ve made it better or easier than it was. But man, it was intense. And certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it was worth it! Just look at this guy!
Two hours after birth.
Tim and Soren came over early the next morning so Soren could meet Shaw before preschool started. Soren was enamored by the fun buttons on the hospital bed.