“Does he have time to walk down to his neighbors house?” The voice on the other end of the phone was breaking up. Another wave started. The tightening began low and crept up into my shoulders like a spilled glass of milk. I forced a breath. Pushed my head further into the back of the car seat….jerking the seatbelt out of the way.
“Oh yeah. You know me….I’ll be here for a while.” I forced each word through the pain.
The voice laughed. “You know we can’t wait to meet your newest one! You got this.” Tia gave me some more reminders, wished me luck and I looked to the seat next to me. Jeremy’s face hadn’t changed. His eyes filled with seriousness and a smidge of static urgency….waiting on my next breath, the next thing to do.
I sat there as the contraction released. I imagined milk slowly creeping back into the glass…a wave of pain in backwards slow motion. This wasn’t my first rodeo. Fourth baby. Fourth boy. Fourth labor. It seemed like I should know by now what exactly to expect but each one was every so slightly different….just a variety enough to keep me on my toes. I shifted my weight and noticed the smell of the parking garage we were in. We got an excellent spot….the door to the elevators was only steps away.
We sat there, timing contractions, going through the name options one more time, filling the minutes with nothing. I knew this wasn’t a false alarm….that much I was sure….I just didn’t want to be trapped under the cords, forced to sit on a bed in that room that smelled with hospital antibacterial soap. The fear of similarities camped out in the back of my mind. This was so much like Will’s birth. One week late. One week early. Depending on how you look at it. Woke up early with cramps. One hour later, they were 5-7 minutes apart. I snapped a picture…the last picture at home.
The last weeks were hard physically – much harder than five years ago with my first. My hips were shot…I wore a brace full time…even to bed. I could barely walk twenty steps without being frozen in place. My PUPPS was back…as were the skin tags and the constant heart burn….the cramps in random muscles were constant. I avoided sneezing as proactively as possible….knowing that I would loose all bladder control and cause abdominal cramps that were the most painful. I didn’t sleep a whole lot…the first pregnancy were hourly bathroom breaks were absolutely necessary. The little boys were the thing that made me flop out of bed in the morning. Jeremy had taken over all morning chores…knowing breakfast duties would wipe me out for the rest of the day. But their little footsteps, the smiles and squeals…that was the only thing I loved as my body was focusing all it’s energy on baby production.
We had given them all squeezes at 10:30….lots and lots of kisses as my mom excitedly prepared snacks. Its one of my favorite things about her….her constant need to feed people. It is her go-to plan in pretty much all situations where she has nothing else to do. And the comfort of knowing they were in good hands, it made those contractions so much easier. By the time we left the house, the contractions were 3-5 minutes apart….completely manageable. But that seemed like days ago….
“Katie. They are close enough. It’s time to go in.” Jeremy’s eyes were concerned. He reached his limit. I knew that this wasn’t his comfort zone. He didn’t like being the support system and the emergency back up plan.
We pulled the paperwork and birth bag from the car. I laughed between each wave. Birth bag. I knew. Pack separately….one birth bag with essentials for dad and stuff for surviving the long night….one post birth bag with everything else you can imagine.
An hour after arriving at the parking garage, I waddled into our hospital room.
I knew exactly what would happen….I would change, they would check me, I would wait, the contractions would wane. It was how I roll….every birth seemed completely different and completely the same. I would get in my head. It wouldn’t come. Somehow that fear from the very first birth….the c-section becomes all too real.
“Ms Bower?” the nurse was tall and blonde and had several pins on her name badge. “You are 5cm and 80% effaced. Great job. You are definitely not going home.”
She thought that was good…I had hoped for more. The seeds of disappointment were growing.
We did what we knew to do. We walked. I put on old stretched out flip flops. No hospital socks for me. I hate those things. They feel like walking on pebbles. Swollen feet pushed by lumpy socks. But walking was my only option. Nurse change time. I saw a familiar face at the nurses station. My first VBAC nurse smiled warmly at me…I breathed a sigh of relief….knowing I knew her but she didn’t know who I was. A couple more laps around my hall, I gathered the breath and the courage to say hi. I showed her my phone with her photo from my Weston’s birth story….her hair style was different and her accent was the same….the familiarity of it was so comforting. If I could do this…this was the place…my place….the best place where I have great babies. She said I wasn’t her charge but she would come see me.
Hours passed. The new nurse said I could get in the bath tub if I wanted. I looked at her with surprised eyes but didn’t say a word. I knew she wasn’t supposed to let me….I was supposed to have constant monitoring…hospital policy for VBACs. But I wasn’t about to argue….I had my IV wrapped up and slipped into the tub. Jeremy wanted to watch some tv anyway….tired from walking and waiting.
The bath only lasted about five minutes but having the water on my hips was a relief. Water always made me feel weightless, took me to another place. It was huge…this belly….but I couldn’t wait to meet him. Charlie or Knight. Those were the name options. Blonde hair would be Charles….Dark hair would be Knight. We had agreed….even if Jeremy kept agreeing only to suggest other options. Maximus is a great name, Jeremy would say. Not in a million years are we naming him after a gladiator, I would smile back.
I looked up at the clock. 5:30 pm. Dr Tate looked at me and said “I think it’s a good thing to break your water. It could help things move along. It’s up to you.” He was wearing a bow tie. I noticed because usually his tie was flipped over his shoulder. I knew what he was really saying….Katie, it’s time to do something. I looked over at Jeremy and then back to Dr. Tate as he adjusted his eyeglasses. “Okay.” I hadn’t made enough progress. 7cm and 90% effaced. Fourth baby should be coming faster. But I never progress well. At this point, I usually get an epidural….it relaxes me….and then I get pitocin to move the baby along. But this time, I wanted to see how fast things would go. Apparently the same as before….snail speed. As slow as Katie…that should be the saying.
Fifteen minutes after he broke my water, the pain was much more defined. Like a sharper point on a pencil. It didn’t speed up the contractions….just intensified the pain. I worried about sitting on the bed all day and all night. I asked for Dr. Tate to come back. The fear had set in.
“What happens if I don’t progress? Like how long do I do this?” I know I wanted him to look into his magic clipboard, push his glasses up on his nose and give me a definite answer but I also knew he didn’t know. It was grasping for control. Control I didn’t have and couldn’t get.
“We can do a block. A cervical block. You are a prime candidate. I’ve seen people get a block and twenty minutes later they are ready.”
“What does it do?” I was confused. I had read every delivery and baby book I could find in the last five years. How is it that this never popped up on my radar?
“It blocks the pain in the cervix. It is effective for dilation pain but will not affect later stages. It won’t take away the pain of pushing.” I could barely breath through the contraction. My brain shut down. All of the energy went into calming memories….LJ saying I love you. Will saying You are my favorite mommy. Weston giving me sloppy wet kisses with his pouty lips.
Ok. I didn’t know what I was agreeing to but anything with the term ‘block’ in it sounded great.
Ten minutes later, I had to assume the birthing position….legs up, knees hooked on my elbows, my hips screaming in revolt. A long needle. A word of warning….it will take a few minutes to take affect….and we can only do one side at a time.
WHAT?! My brain went into overtime….you mean, I am literally going through hell to get my hips to work with me so that I can wait on half a bit of relief?! I immediately got angry at myself for the decision. Jeremy could see it in my face. He held my hand…watching a contraction take over…I choked on my own spit…ten minutes seemed like eternity.
Go back to the calm place….go back to the baby voices and the counting….go back to making garnishes for drinks on the beach….my brain does weird things to calm down….like pretending to watch a pineapple chunk slide onto a toothpick followed by a mint leaf topped with a slice of strawberry. It does simple mathematics….four plus four….four plus five…forcing me to breath. I make my brain imagine footsteps in beat with Jesus Loves Me….running in grass…watching blades of green bend under my shoes…laces flying up and down as the terrain changes below the soles of my feet. Distract. Avoid. Stop thinking. Anything to get away from the present…meditating on little things to distract from the reality of my body.
At 6:05, Dr. Tate walked in with the resident to administer the other block. I cried. Tears streamed down my face as I forced my knees back up. I couldn’t do it by myself anymore….Jeremy held the other leg up. Dr. Tate was confused….he asked if the pain was that bad. Jeremy said “It’s her hips. Her hips are out.”
Ten minutes later the nurse asked how it felt.
I looked at her with desperation. How was it supposed to feel? The pressure…the pain in my back…it was hurting so bad that I could barely breath as I leaned backwards into the bed. I had all my weight in my hands and my tippy toes…pushing from left to right….trying to get away from the pressure.
“Is it normal to still feel everything?” I knew I didn’t feel the cervix but that’s not what really hurt….the baby’s head pushing down made me want to rise up as high as possible. Jeremy reminded me to breathe.
“You might be ready. Let’s check.” The nurses voice was very calm. I tried to remember the words she said and exactly how she said them. Repeating phrases over and over helped soothe the nerves. You might be ready. Let’s check. You might be ready. Let’s check. Over and over and over.
The nurse was right. The block did more for my cervix progression than I knew….it didn’t take my pain but it relaxed that part of the body to move forward. It was go time. Jeremy took a giant swig of Dr. Pepper and adjusted the camera around his neck. The flurry of activity getting ready was always my favorite part. It was the moment before pushing. The moment before we met our newest little baby. The moment of excitement.
It was 6:20 and I was ready even with all the pain. One more time with the hips up. I couldn’t get them high enough…my knees pushed back down….the pain was deeper with each contraction, my body trying to get away from itself….Jeremy grabbed a leg and my senses were at 150%. My hips were the worst part. I couldn’t separate the pain of them from the pain of the birth. They wanted to control themselves….contort into any position to get a hint of relief that wasn’t possible. I pushed. I pulled. Jeremy’s eyes were calm. I could tell he was stressed to get a good photo. The room felt excruciatingly hot. And I would squeeze my eyes so hard that I could feel my heart beat in them. The burning didn’t stop. It didn’t come and go…it just got hotter and hotter.
PUSH! Everyone kept saying louder and louder. The bones and the tissue….it felt like they weren’t working…and then a collective gasp of air in the room….the baby was out!
I could feel him escape…the intense pressure giving way to just a numbing discomfort. I tried to relax my jaw…my teeth hurt from clenching. He was here! My sweet baby was here!
The nurse said “We aren’t done yet. We need a minute or two and then we need to push again.” I could feel my confusion go through the roof. My body was spent. Didn’t she understand? I was good….the baby was out….everything could be done now.
My contractions slowly faded down as they continued to work. The cord was clipped. Jeremy was focused until he smiled.
The cord blood was gathered. It was time to get the placenta. It felt like my insides were falling out. I couldn’t do much but breathe. It was all confusing and sleepy feeling. I tried to remember the relaxation techniques….but the energy was gone. The crew of people laid the baby on my chest and I loved having that weight on top of me. The new baby warmth on my chest was the biggest comfort. I just wanted to be able to lift him up and smile….but it seemed like my body didn’t have anything left. Everything felt heavy and thick.
The nurses all acted fast….massaging the clots out of my uterus….administering the methergine….getting me to rest my eyes…I could feel the rest of my body coming back. Later I found out that I had post partum hemorraging….a drop in blood pressure….it all caused me to feel light headed. The only thing I could focus on was the whimpering…the little noises that came from the tiny body on my chest.
Our baby laid on me for a solid hour…he had peed all over my stomach…and I bundled up with him in my arms. We didn’t even know his weight or the length for over an hour. It was the most amount of skin-to-skin with a newborn I have ever had and it was amazing. Finally, they decided it was time to process him and they whisked him off to the scale while Jeremy documented it all.
Since I didn’t have an epidural, I was able to move really easily. I was allowed to get up and clean off and actually watch the baby get foot printed and measured.
It was the best feeling! I read instagram notes and took a few photos. Jeremy looked at me and was smitten. I could literally see the love for his new baby flowing out of him.
The nurses who didn’t know our story thought he was huge. He was actually the runt of our litter….a mere 9 lbs 9 oz.
Once I nursed and the baby was back in my arms, I felt like 100% myself again…enough to snap a few pictures with Dr. Tate – thanking him…
And a few with our nursing staff who took such great care of me.
It wasn’t until we got to the room that we really studied our new little guy. He looked so much like Will and still so different. We both kept commenting on his handsome face. He had giant cheeks, dark hair and the sweetest noises.
We laughed endlessly about the roll on the back of the babes neck. We called it the Tootsie Roll and it was our favorite little pudge to squeeze.
Once we got to our room, we called the house….hoping that the boys were still up. They weren’t. It was way past their bedtime. But we settled in and got some food. It was after midnight when we decided to go to bed. Fathers Day 2015. Jeremy and I laughed at the timing. And we brought up the name thing one more time. His hair was dark…I was settled on Knight. Jeremy still didn’t know. It wasn’t until about 3am when the baby woke up to nurse, that we decided. Max. Maxwell Knight Bower.
The next day we received lots of visitors and kisses and hugs. The best of course, were from the boys. They were over the moon. We all were. We all still are.
***Originally written July 2015. Yesterday was Max’s second birthday and we are celebrating this week with family. Happy Birthday Max!