I took a home pregnancy test for the first time in January of 2001. I remember closing the test in the bathroom and telling Jimmy he could not go in for five minutes. Even though it said three to five minutes, I wanted to make sure we gave it plenty of time. He barely made it to three. Pushed me out of the way and announced to me that I was pregnant. We were super excited.
I had already bought a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” a few months after we got married. Now I had a reason to read it. We were always checking in our pregnancy books to see how big the baby was and what was developing.
I had the typical first trimester nausea. I have food issues (emetaphobia-- fear of vomit) and so I follow pretty strict guidelines. I don’t eat spicy food or fatty food and rarely eat late at night. But I was getting up at 12:30 a.m. and eating leftover mac and cheese from a box...the baby and my body were definitely calling the shots. I remember loving really cold milk and eating a lot of cottage cheese with fruit on top. It was actually nice to break away from my food rules.
I had the typical first pregnancy growth curve. I didn’t even need maternity clothes until about 24 weeks. I could wear a t shirt and you couldn’t even tell I was pregnant until about 30 weeks. I ran around like normal, I had no major issues. I had the normal mild physical issues such as leg cramps, which were annoying, but with the perspective I have now, after five pregnancies, this was like pricking your finger.
I started having Braxton Hicks contractions early. At about 20 weeks. At first this startled me, but then it just became part of my pregnancy and lots of contractions were my normal. One good thing about it, I dialated early--I was 3 centimeters at 37 weeks. I had an appointment on my due date and was 3-4 centimeters. The baby was at plus 2 station. My OB said, “I don’t know how you’re not walking around like a cowboy.”
There had been many contractions, but not regular or consistent. My OB recommended inducing me because “At this point the conditions for the baby aren’t getting any better.” This made sense to me and I was ready to get it going, but I was hoping for a natural delivery so I asked if we could just break my water and not use any drugs or other intervention. He agreed.
I arrived at the hospital at 8 am on Wednesday, September 26th, and when the nurse hooked my belly up to the contraction monitor she said, “We might not have to do anything. You’re having some pretty good contractions.” But again, not consistent and they broke my water at 10:30 am.
I walked around, I sat on the birthing ball, sat in a rocking chair, visited friends in the waiting room, played scrabble, and was pretty bored. I was having regular contractions but they were totally do-able. Intense at the peak, but I could handle it. As the day went on I did have to concentrate more and more.
I decided to get in the shower at 2 something. I was about 5 centimeters dialated. It felt good. Things started to get intense and I couldn’t talk through my contractions at all. Jimmy and my parents were hanging out in the L&D room and I thought maybe I needed to get out of the shower, to sit down! I couldn’t really expend any energy to yell enough to be heard, so I knocked on the door that led out of the bathroom into the L&D room. I heard I think my mom say, “Someone is at the door." Then I heard Jimmy open the door to the hallway and say, "Nope, no one's there." I wanted to scream "It's me!" But again, couldn't.
I’m freaking out a little. I am bracing myself through another contraction and when it is over I knock again. Success. Jimmy came to the door. I was in the middle of another one. I couldn’t explain myself so I held up my finger, to signal, “Wait just a minute.” He took this as me not being ready to get out and left. I hear him tell my parents, “She’s not ready to get out yet.” I knock again and this time when he comes to the door I say, “I want to get out!!!” in a voice you can only use when you’re in labor.
I get out and get into the bed and I’m at 7 cm. It had only been a few minutes in the shower. Then things really got intense. All of a sudden I had NO break between contractions. I remember thrashing back and forth, unable to deal with the pain. I called out for medication. It was too late. A nurse said to me, “This is when you want to breathe.” That helped. I hadn’t needed anything from birthing class yet. It had been easy so far. I was finally experiencing LABOR. My body was working like crazy.
I had asked my mom to help me during labor, but she took the initiative to say, “I won’t plan on being there for the actual birth; that is special between you and Jimmy.” That was fine, I didn’t really care, as long as she was nearby. My mom had told me that if you can relax and not work against what your body is trying to do, that things will go more quickly. I don’t know if I thought about that advice in those last moments, but all of a sudden I felt the need to push. It had only been 30 minutes since I was 7 cm. The nurse checked and I was fully dialated, so I went for it. Jimmy grabbed one leg and my mom grabbed my leg and I begged her to stay and help me. She agreed. She had not been present at a birth since she gave birth to me.
I pushed for less than 30 minutes and at 3:30 pm my baby was on my chest. It was of course, the most wonderful feeling and biggest accomplishment in my life. I had been given an episitomy by the doctor on call (the midwife I’d been working with was with another patient who was delivering at the exact same time) but he literally caught the baby and then left. I remember the midwife was back--holding the umbilical cord like a jump rope, just looking at me and smiling. I asked her if I should push (for the afterbirth/placenta) and she said, “No, it will come out.” and sure enough it slid right out and I remember it felt WONDERFUL. Warm and soothing and relieving somehow.
I was able to nurse Jackson right away and that was weird and overwhelming but of course a great feeling. After I was stitched up and propped up and cleaned up we allowed our friends from the waiting room to come see us and the baby. I remember at this point I was on a major hormonal high and I told my friends, “You should do it! You should have a baby! It’s not that bad! It’s great!” And they were all laughing at me and looking at me like I was crazy. I had just gone through a lot of pain and a big head came out of a small space as far as they were concerned. But I was trying to convince them to do the same. About a month later, two of my best friends were pregnant. They and their husbands had been in the room when I said all that. It was exciting. I felt like maybe I had been an inspiration. At least I wanted to think so.
The hospital stay was typical and uneventful, which is good. I was trying my best with nursing but it HURT. Finally the second morning I had a nurse, an older woman, who was small in size but big in personality. She said, “You need more pillows! Get that baby up to your breast! I’m bringing you more pillows and a rocking chair!” And she did just that and really helped me adopt a go get ‘em attitude when it came to breastfeeding.
I remember the morning we left. They took Jackson to the nursery for some reason and we were all packed and ready. When he came back, we were going home. Jimmy got out the video camera and turned it on me. I was lying on my side on the bed. He asked me how I was feeling. I remember telling him I felt like it was the calm before the storm. That our lives were about to change in a big way. That things were never going to be the same.
It was true. Little did I know we’d do it five times. And it has been an amazing and beautiful storm.