Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Levi: Day One
Right now, you don't know who Heather Armstrong is, Levi, although I suspect that someday you will because I will warn you to avoid being dooced. She is one of my favorite bloggers, someone whose writings have helped me through the difficult period that has been the first three months of your life. She makes a point to write her daughter a monthly newsletter, and has inspired me to do the same for you, despite the fact that I am not a talented writer. I simply find myself wanting a record of this time in my life, and this seems like a good way to go about it.
So, with that, let’s get started on Month One (we’re currently in Month Three, by the way, but it’s taken me this long to get caught up with life enough to sit down at a computer for more than five minutes). Actually, we’re going to start with Day One, because it was a Really Big Day. At five o’clock in the morning on the last Saturday of December, I started having contractions. At least, I was pretty sure the wave-like pains in my lower back were contractions. Your father and I had gone to childbirth classes for twelve weeks to learn about natural childbirth, the labor process, and how to handle the pain of it all. Little did we know that we wouldn’t have time to put any of our new tricks to use.
I woke your father up and told him about the contractions, and the timing began. For the next several hours, Rick diligently recorded how far apart my contractions were and how long they were. And there was no pattern. I was having contractions five minutes apart, then twelve minutes apart, then eight, then ten, then five again and then eight again. They’d last thirty seconds, and then sixty seconds, and then twenty seconds, and then seventy. I ate breakfast, took a shower. We assumed this was false labor because in real labor, the contractions are supposed to gradually get closer together and longer in duration. Right?
Well, not this time, Levi. After six hours or so of this “false labor”, the contractions suddenly became very painful. Painful in a way that left me nauseous and shaking and completely incoherent. We decided Rick had better get the car ready. Because I had yet to have any contractions closer than four minutes apart, your father said, “Okay, after this next contraction, I’ll go work on the car. I’ll be back within four minutes.” But when he came back, I was already having another wave of serious PAIN. “It’s only been three minutes!” he said. He continued to juggle the tasks of getting the car ready and coaching me through the contractions. I don’t know why—like I said, I was pretty much incoherent—but I still didn’t want to go to the hospital. I kept asking to wait. Your father appeased me until I let out a slow and steady scream during one of the contractions. Finally I agreed that if you have to scream to deal with a contraction, your ass needs to get to the hospital.
We arrived at the front door right at noon, as the tornado sirens screeched their weekly practice call, and hurriedly made our way to the triage area of the maternity ward on the fourth floor, where you are supposed to fill out your paperwork before being admitted. Another laboring woman was ahead of us, sitting in the lone chair at the desk. As another contraction peaked, I yelled out, “Why don’t they have any fucking chairs in this place?” I mention this because although I have quite the sailor’s mouth at home, this is something I would never have done in public had I not been in the greatest pain of my life.
Finally, it was my turn to fill out the admissions forms, but after one look at me, the attendant said, “I’ll just have you fill these out later.” Rick and I were sent to a room, and it seemed like forever before a nurse came to check on me. Finally one arrived and requested a urine sample. I asked your father to come with me to the bathroom, where I sat on the toilet for the longest time. I was never able to pee, but all of a sudden, it happened: I had to push. The need was so strong, so intense, I thought I was going to pop you out right there, but I had learned that you could do damage to the uterus by pushing before the cervix is fully dilated, and I had no idea how far I was dilated. I said, “Oh God, I have to push!” and your father said something like, “What? Right now? Don’t do it here!”
I desperately tried not to push, but it was impossible. We made our way back to the triage room, where I was rambling/yelling, “I’m trying not to push, but I can’t stop! I have to push!” Apparently "I have to push" is the magic phrase in a maternity ward, because suddenly three more nurses appeared in the room and gloved up. One of them performed a cervical exam and exclaimed, “She has an anterior lip!” “What does that mean?” I asked, and she looked at me and said, “You’re fully dilated.” Just to make sure, I asked, “Is it alright to push?” When she confirmed that yes, I could push, I cried out, “OH THANK GOD!”
The next thing I knew, my gurney was being wheeled into our actual birthing room. Someone had paged our midwife, Pauline, and thank goodness she was already at the hospital, having just delivered another baby. She was paged at 12:28 pm and arrived soon after. Your father helped hold my legs and my back, encouraging me while Pauline guided me through the second stage of labor. I had hoped to be a strong "natural mom" like the one that I saw give birth during my nursing clinicals—she just grunted a few times and her baby was out. All that screaming only happens in the movies, I thought. I was so wrong about that, Levi. One of the things I learned about myself on this day was that one of my methods of coping with intense PAIN is intense SCREAMING. And that there is no shame in it.
Levi, I want to thank you for making sure that I didn’t have to scream for long. Later on, Pauline complimented you on being in just the perfect position for being born. You were ready, baby boy. Pauline was paged at 12:28 and you born at 12:49. It was a crazy, whirlwind experience, the most intense of my life, but I will never forget how it felt when Pauline placed you on my belly, when I looked at my beautiful baby boy for the first time. I have never been happier, felt stronger, been prouder, or felt more alive than on your birthday. I would not have changed a thing, and I’m so thankful to you and your father for all the help you gave me.
This family is a good team, kiddo. I’m so glad you’re here—and that you weren’t born in that triage toilet.
Levi is such a beautiful baby boy.