A quick disclaimer before I continue- I will be quoting people as best I can but I may slightly misremember their exact words or meanings at times. I was…erm….distracted…
I woke up at 4 a.m., feeling uncomfortable and unable to go back to sleep (not unusual…this had been happening for over a month). I laid in bed until 5, then rolled over and asked J. if he wanted to get up and take a shower and go to work early, or if I should take a bath. “mmm…bthkm………uh-huh”
Okay, bath it is. I read Lord of the Rings for a while (can you tell this has been a theme with this pregnancy? It’s full of stories about people having to overcome fears and accomplish very hard tasks). At some point during this hour contractions must have started, because when J.’s alarm went off he came into the bathroom and found me holding the book in front of my face with my eyes shut waving my head from side to side.
“Um, WHAT are you doing?”
“Huh? Oh…it hurts….”
“Okay, when’s the last time it hurt?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t been timing them.”
He got out his fancy new smart phone and used an app to time my contractions…four to five minutes apart and a minute long…same as a week ago when this happened…still, better safe than sorry. We made some calls around 7 and asked people to come to the house as soon as they could.
Then from the bath tub I threw up. Not like a week ago. Whoops! Time to go. J. dashed around trying to get a couple of last minute things in place and make sure we had kiddo things to take with us on the fly. The contractions started to be really, really crazy at this point. I started yelling through them as a way of releasing the energy without pushing the baby out on the bathroom rug. God, can I do this?
My amazing three year old daughter came up and put her arm around my neck and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. You’re doing a great job.” Okay, kid, if you say so. Time to get up! Get dressed.
I moved into the bedroom and pulled on some clothes and sat on the edge of the bed as another contraction hit, full force. Maybe I can’t do this! Where’s my husband? Oh. He’s right there. Good. “I can’t do this! What if I can’t do this?!” “Yes, you can. It’s going to be great, Katie. You can do this.” Another contraction. I yelled even louder. E. came over to me, put her hand on my shoulder, looked into my eyes and started singing the ABC’s, then Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (or “Fwinkle, Fwinkle, Lilla Staiww” as she calls it). I laughed and forgot about a contraction.
J. got us all moving and into the car in record time. He drove to the hospital, um…quickly. I kept listening to “You Are the New Day” by The King’s Singers. It’s about two minutes long, so halfway through each time I knew I’d have a contraction.
We got to the hospital and walked up to the maternity floor (the idea of sitting in a wheelchair did NOT appeal to me at that point, even though it was offered by kind strangers a couple of times as we made our way over). As I walked up to the door, one of the nurses at the station saw me and said, “Um, do you need a wheelchair?” haha…..
C. (our midwife) walked by the door at that moment and saw me squatting and holding onto the wall. She kind of laughed a little and made a hand-waving motion. “Uhm, room four. Get up. Let’s go.”
We made it to the room and I felt myself relax. Okay, I can have my baby here. God, I trust you. Please take care of me. I stopped yelling through contractions and just let them do the work they were supposed to do. About fifteen minutes later (half an hour before the birth) M. showed up and took E. for a walk; just in time for her to miss the messy part.
C. asked me where I wanted to go, and if I’d be okay with sitting on the bed and getting checked. I’d had some residual fear around being stuck in the bed and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. At that point I didn’t care. She checked me and said, “Well, you can bear down with this next contraction if you want to.”
What the what….?!?! “Um, I need a minute.”
“Okay, take your time.” A couple of contractions.
“Okay, Katie, what do you want to do now? You could push your baby out if you want to.”
Aghh!! My face must have said, because C. said, “Okay, then go sit on the toilet. Empty your bladder and see what happens.” I made it to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Then I screamed. C. came and looked at me, then said, “Well, we have a head. That toilet works every time! Sooo, we could deliver your baby here, although that’s not really the kind of waterbirth I like to do. Katie, what are we doing here? Do you want to go to the bed?”
“I….I can’t.” Can’t walk. “How….?”
“It’s okay. We got ya. C’mon, dad, let’s go. One foot in front of the other.” Each of them looped an arm through one of my arms and they mostly carried me to the bed. I crawled up and got on my hands and knees and…panicked. “Can you check his heartbeat? Is he okay?” Everyone paused.
“You want to be monitored? Really?” The monitor had been another one of the things that freaked me out going into this labor.
“Yes, I just want to make sure he’s okay. Last time this is when….agghhhhhh!” Contraction.
They checked on him and he was fine. I still felt afraid. Then over the loudspeaker someone started to sing.* “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me/Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be…” Oh, right….Trust. Peace. Okay, I’m ready.
I began pushing (I gave myself a nosebleed and J. wisely said, “Stop pushing with your face, push with your diaphragm down here.” So I did). They tell me I pushed for fifteen minutes, but it didn’t feel like it took that long. It seemed to take no time at all (and indeed, 15 minutes is almost the closest thing there is to ‘no time at all’ in terms of pushing a baby out). The cord was around his neck but C. quickly looped it over and he came the rest of the way out. Because I was on my hands and knees they passed him up and put him on the bed underneath me. He’s all squishy and gross! This isn’t like tv at all! Yay!!!!
Somehow we all got me over onto my back and S. came up onto my chest. We met each other while he got wiped off and checked. I waited for the placenta, then got stitches for a minor tear. Once the cord stopped pulsing, C. asked me if it was okay to cut it. She handed it to me and said, “Are you ready?” J. got to cut the cord.
And then we were four.
One of the passages that gave me encouragement during the last part of my pregnancy was something Paul wrote back in the day to people in Ephesus:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power…in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…”
In Greek there are at least two different words for ‘knowledge.’ So that last bit should read, “To know by experience the love that surpasses simple understanding.” I don’t know why I was given this experience. At times I have waited for the other shoe to drop, because it just all seemed too good to be true. And I have struggled with how to write it up without it sounding like a tract or some other annoying cheesy thing. But I do feel at this point like I have a grasp on something that I didn’t before. I don’t mean that if you are nice and God is satisfied you’re a good person who thinks the right things then you get good experiences. It would be naive and cruel to think that way. But going back through my Gandalf on Celebdil visualization (yes, I’m a nerd. Get over it), I realize I got the opportunity to throw down my fear and mistrust and to make room for something better.
*I found out later that since we gave birth at a Catholic hospital (a fact that hadn’t played into our decision at all when we were making it), they do a morning blessing every day at 8:00. On the particular day we were there, Sister K. would usually have done it at 8 but she was late because of a meeting. Someone else was going to do it at 8 but they didn’t, and then another person was supposed to do it at 8:30 but they didn’t either. So when Sister K. got there around 8:40 she ended up singing it, which was exactly when I needed her to.
One small thing:
I’ve been encouraged by my midwife, Colleen Brezine, to share her name and the fact that S. was born at St. John West Shore Hospital in the Holistic Birthing Center. If you decide to have your baby there I can’t guarantee he or she will be born 45 minutes after you arrive, but I did have an outstanding experience there, for what it’s worth. I have not been compensated in any way for sharing this information.