For the past four-plus months, whenever I’ve had 15 minutes during which a human was not attached to my upper torso, I had a choice to make: finally get around to finishing our birth story…or shower. Invariably, I chose to shower every time, sometimes multiple times a day, because it’s quiet and warm and private and mellow and requires next to no brainpower. But then one night my kid slept six hours in a row, uninterrupted, and I woke up feeling like a complete human person with mostly functioning vital organs. And then he did it again the next night. By the third night I was pretty sure what we had on our hands was a pattern, something I could rely on to happen again and again (so naïve am I), night-time hours during which I could sink deep into REM sleep for the first time since the end of my second trimester of pregnancy, such that when 15 minutes presented themselves to me after that, my first thought was not, how do I turn off and recharge, but rather, what do I do with all this free time on my hands?
So, at long last, this is my birth story. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
Sunday, November 2, 2014, 11:59 p.m.
Labor Hour 1
They say birthing babies in real life is not like how they do it in the movies.
Cinema would have you believe the common birth experience for all women is to be surprised by water breaking in an inconvenient location like the getaway car of a high-speed chase, followed by a near-immediate adorable catastrophe as a shrieking baby shoots out of mama’s lady parts like a rocket, all while her partner nervously, frantically forgets hospital bags, runs red lights and skids recklessly into ER loading zones. Having now birthed a baby I feel comfortable affirming that what they say is true: for the vast majority of us, bringing new life into the world is exactly nothing like Father of the Bride 2. My water never broke, 26 and a half hours passed between my first contraction and my last contraction, and while I was gritting it out during those first hours of hard labor, my partner was neither frantic nor nervous. He was asleep.
My contractions started with an unmistakable pang of uterine discomfort at the end of what was my estimated due date, Sunday, November 2. When I felt my insides squeeze tightly for the first time, I groaned. I knew exactly what was about to happen but I was suddenly as far from ready as I had been at any point in my pregnancy. No, I said. Not now. Let’s call it a day and try again tomorrow. I was exhausted from having spent the previous week creatively trying to jump start labor and was just hoping for one more night of fitful snores before we embarked on a lifetime of sleep deprivation. (In this way, labor is kind of like the movies in that it is basically always inconvenient.) I began negotiating with myself, ridiculously, like, OK, I’m not going to say out loud that I just had a contraction because saying it out loud makes it true, and if it’s true, then I have to go to the hospital rather than go to bed, and my strong preference is to just go to bed. And because I am straight up bananas, I ACTUALLY WENT TO BED. Ten minutes later when I felt the second contraction, I begrudgingly told Randy I was in labor and continued my bananas negotiations, but with more fervor because now I had to use logic and reason to convince someone who isn’t crazy to go along with my “let’s just go to bed” plan.
We learned in our baby prep class that we would be better off if I could labor at home as long as possible before going to the hospital, and our plan all along had been to follow our doctor’s recommendation of waiting until my contractions were four minutes apart and one minute in duration for at least an hour, so I leaned on that rationale to make my case. Since my contractions were 10 minutes apart, it was reasonable to think we were probably a good, full night’s sleep away from being ready to push. Randy, who had spent the previous nine months catering to my every pregnant whim, was also tired, so he agreed. We would go to bed, get as much sleep as possible and see where we were in the morning.
So we went to bed. Because we are dum-dums. Two hours later I was still awake and feeling excruciating pain at very regular intervals, and I was absolutely positive we were staring down the barrel of a “shooting out of my parts like a rocket” situation. Meanwhile, Randy was snoring. With every contraction I kicked myself for so expertly and thoroughly convincing him it would be possible to sleep.
“Sweetheart…” I patted him on the arm delicately and sweetly.
Several long seconds passed with no response.
“Honey…it’s time…” I poked him in the back nicely but impatiently.
“Randy! I need you!” I shoved his whole body with as much force as possible.
Cranky McHatesToWakeUp finally stirred.
“GRRR UGHHH WHAT DO YOU NEED ME FOR?”
Oh good. This is going to be fun.