Two mornings ago Janek woke up at 4:04am. This was exactly the same time my water broke on July 24th, 2013. The serendipitous timing of his early morning hunger caused me to reflect on the miraculous experience surrounding my pregnancy and his birth. I had plenty of time to reflect while he snacked and snuggled and finally the words came to me on how to share this deeply personal and spiritual event. It all started like this-
At 4:04am on July 24th, my water broke, you already knew that, but you didn’t know that I panicked (on the inside) for about 2 minutes while I prayed that contractions surges would soon follow and no interventions would become necessary in hours that awaited. I calmed myself with some happy affirmations and breathing. I woke Jon, and unlike the first time I woke him with a water-breaking situation, he softly said, “Call the midwife, and then come back to bed.” I phoned my midwives’ answering service and went to bathroom while I waited for a return call. Soon enough, Theodorah called back and said, “Congratulations! Any contractions?” I responded with, “Not yet, but I’m going to turn on my relaxation CD and sleep and see what happens.” She said, “Good. Take it easy and call me around 7am or if anything changes”.
So I slept. I slept until I couldn’t sleep anymore. Surges had definitely started and this might be the part where the lady in labor says, “it just was getting too uncomfortable…” but that’s not true. I was too excited to sleep any longer and started getting some things together. We were mostly packed but I needed to add some of Soren’s things to his backpack, my clothing, and snacks, of course!
Jon and I continued to putt around the house, getting breakfast, getting Soren up and ready (which bytheway kept saying, “mommy why don’t you has pants on? Just undies today.” We called the midwives back, called the Weights who were going to take Soren, I called my family and wished them all a Happy Pioneer Day and informed them we would be celebrating this “Utah holiday” by having a baby.
Finally as the hours of morning traffic congestion approached, we decided it best to at least head into the city. Something inside me, despite my hypnobirth mentality of a baby-lead birth, did NOT want to have a baby on the 610 near the Galleria in rush hour. We arrived at Rob and Laura’s and Soren got out to play. We got out to chat. It was not yet 9am and I did not want to get to the hospital too early. I should mention while this sounds like a travel log, I was having contractions surges all along, so it is a labor story too. I should also mention that I had put on pants, just in case you, like Soren, were wondering. At the Weight’s house it felt really good to walk around and sway my hips while feeling the pressure in my lower back. Jon and Rob chatted and I think at one point Rob asked, “You’re not having a baby in my house, right?” We laughed, I guess, mostly because I had no real way of telling how far along I was or how soon we should head to the hospital, so maybe I would have a baby in their house.
Around 9:30, Jon and I stopped for breakfast and then headed to the hospital. I believe our “official” check-in time is something like 10:20 or so. Of course, there were no labor and delivery rooms available, plus they always suspect that you’re not really in labor (like you peed on yourself or something and can’t tell the difference) so a nurse (an ugly nurse, not by physical appearance but by countenance and attitude) put me in triage and strapped that dang fetal monitor on me and told me not to move. I might as well have been strapped to the bed. Those 20 minutes felt like an hour; my body really wanted to move! It felt so good when we were done with the monitoring and I could get up again. Several times the nurse (the ugly one) came in to ask if she could start my IV line and if I would like to change into a hospital gown. My answer? “No.” (politely but firmly)and I told them that I would have no IV line even prepped into my arm and that I was confident in the case of emergency I trusted their skill and expertise to do it quickly and correctly, but that I would be just fine until said time. The other thing, about the hospital gown? YIKES. I hate, hate, hate those things. So I was prepared with a comfy pj gown of my own and yes I wore that the whole time, even while delivering. But let’s not skip ahead.
Sherry, one of my midwives and arguably my favorite, came by to check on me. I asked her, somewhat hesitantly if this was the part where she had to check my progress. I also hate that part too, call me vaginal exam averse, but mostly I didn’t want to hear that I was 2 or something like that when I wanted to be an 8. Her reply was perfect… Nope! She wanted to wait, and said that when I started to feel tired and wanted to explore options she would check.
Finally, a labor and delivery room was ready for me and a new nurse (a beautiful nurse!) came to take us downstairs. I could have ridden in a wheelchair but walking and swaying while reciting my affirmations felt so good. I was so happy that the beautiful nurse didn’t force me into one (thereby becoming an ugly nurse) and let me walk. “Wait, stop! Where is Jon in all this?” you say. I’ll tell you. He is calmly handling a bunch of stuff from some paperwork and random questions, to our bags, phone calls and text messages and his laboring wife. I don’t know all he was thinking and doing, but know that each time I stopped to breath with a surge he was there with counter pressure and calm affirmations. (I have a whole gushy letter I wrote him about his heroic performance as my ‘dudla’, and I’d offer it as reading to interested parties, but it’s a little too personal and a whole lot of yucky, smooshy love stuff, so I don’t think you’re that interested) Back to the story- we got to L&D and started to “hunker down”. I felt like we were going to be there at least a few more hours and that I would have to have that pesky, progress-checking exam a few times. After all, my surges felt smooth and while there was pressure, it rhythmically came and went as easy as my breathing. I knew things needed to pick up and that with hypnobirthing I was going to need to go “deep” into relaxation before we would be greeting our son.
Oh man! Another mandatory 20 minutes of fetal monitoring. Stuck to the bed again. Boo. At least this time I could lie on my side. My lovely left side, the side I spent my whole pregnancy sleeping, the side I practiced my relaxation in, the side I had envision for birthing! I got über comfortable and chatted with Jon while he watched the monitor and advised Ashley (our photographer friend) that she might want to head our way. About 18 minutes down on the 20, and all of a sudden my surges changed. And when I say changed I mean everything about them did a 180º turn. No longer in my back, no longer waving like the tide, and no longer ‘easy like Sunday morning’. I needed to get up, now, I said. I have to move or something! Let me add that I wasn’t in pain, it just felt like my whole body was flexing like Arnold and I couldn’t lie still. My training told me to try different positions, so in came the birthing ball. I sat for maybe a minute, and then looked at the nurse and said, “I think I could get some relief if I went to the bathroom.” She, wide eyed, said she needed to get Sherry immediately and that it was time to push. “How is this possible?” I thought. I was just chilling and ready to say, ‘let’s start a relaxing bath’, and now it’s time to push? No pesky, progress-checking exam? Just push?
Well, in rushed a bunch of people. Couldn’t get Sherry (crappy cell reception in that building), found Titi. Got me back in bed, I found comfort in a slanted “J” position and Titi calmly told me I could push or not, that my body was not quite there, but almost. Found Sherry. Sherry says, “go with your gut and keep breathing”. This was tricky, I was surprised at the power of the NER (natural expulsive reflex) of my own body. Jon got the relaxation track going and I said to myself, “this power cannot be greater than me, it is me.” I talked myself into going with the flow of power (it was not painful, please don’t confuse my surprise with pain) and accepting the pressure. It’s really neat when you stop being scared (I spent two years, terrified to be exactly where I was at that moment) and give in to the reality and majesty of the experience. I was following my own body’s lead to birth and my baby’s desire to be born. I felt so in touch with everything going on inside and truly no pain. I looked to Jon for rejuvenation and calm. 40 minutes later, I held my son in my arms and snuggled to my chest, literally the first person to lay hands on him in this world. It was amazing, in the literal sense, I was amazed that this could happen at all. Here he was, crying and warming himself and I, his mama. I snuggled him and watched as several minutes later, Jon cut his umbilical cord. I nursed him while others rushed in and out doing their jobs and charts and such. Jon and I laughed and cried and embraced and watched our alert newborn son take in his surroundings for the first time.
After about an hour, my midwife couldn’t hold the hospital staff back from their standard procedures of weight and measures, and footprints and such, anymore. I laid back and listened and reflected on what had just happened.
I had just had a completely un-medicated, un-intervened birth; a rarity in the United States. I was once told by an experienced OB/GYN that I would never vaginally birth a baby bigger than 6 ½ lbs. and that a c-section and regular steroids would be scheduled basically from the time I conceived. I had no tearing, no episiotomy and Janek weighed in at 7 lbs. 9 oz. and best of all- a full term (38 weeks to the day) pregnancy. It felt like a clean slate, it was a chance to feel everything nature and God had intended in the creation of the female body and to feel it in a way that didn’t hurt, wasn’t scary, and produced the most glorious result. I could feel the rush of endorphins/love in my head and heart for my new baby and also for Soren as I reflected on how he fought to thrive as a newborn and what a miracle it was that he gained his health and grew after his premature and traumatizing birth (think Pitocin, epidurals, extra pain meds, forceful pushing and tearing, ew).
Another hour later in my recovery room, Janek had his first bath and Soren came to visit, open presents, and poke at his younger brother. I couldn’t imagine feeling better. The nurses kept giving me skeptical looks because I didn’t want ice or ibuprofen. I truly felt fine. Now don’t go thinking that this all adds up to some blissful postpartum euphoria… the exhaustion set in, of course, and these last seven weeks have been typical- late nights, crying from Janek, from Soren, from me, struggles with nursing (although that’s improving), and so forth, but those first hours and even days were a total high. I’m lucky to have had both labors and both experiences and blessed with two sons. Two exhausting, beautiful, messy, confusing, frustrating, wonderful sons.
Janek’s name is Polish, meaning ‘God is gracious’, and that’s exactly how I feel when I remember his birth and when I hold him these days and occasionally even at 4:04 in the morning.