Birth Story

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We slept in that morning. 

For the past few weeks, every twinge set off a flurry of activity- he would run out for errands and I would haul my 30 pound midsection around, attempting housework and gathering things for the hospital. We didn’t know exactly when it would happen but we knew that it would be soon. Signs of early labor had begun at around 36 weeks. At my 38th week appointment, my OB told me that I would have to talk with my perinatologist to see if I needed to be induced by 39, as it was the standard practice for women with medically controlled gestational diabetes.

When we watched the birthing dvd a few months prior, we learned that induction increases the pain you experience during contractions.

Needless to say, I did not want to be induced.

But my sugars were well controlled, there weren’t any signs that she was growing faster than was expected, and I was only on a small amount of insulin, so it was possible that I would be allowed to go full term. 

My babe had always been very active but her recent activity was particularly rough. Driving home from a coffee date at 37 weeks, I had to press my hand down at the top of my belly while steering with the other. Her tiny foot was pushing against me there, stretching the skin so much that there was a visible bump. It was as if she was trying to get a kick-start out of there.

She was definitely coming soon.

Counting down the days during my last two weeks of pregnancy.
 Second photo: resting my hand on the spot where she loved to burrow her tiny foot. 

/ / /

I had been having contractions daily for weeks and weeks, so her arrival felt imminent. But having had a relatively rough go for the past several months, it also seemed like the pregnancy would never end. Like I would just be gigantic and useless for the rest of my days. Taking only a few steps at a time, gesturing at things I couldn’t reach- plates in the cabinet, my phone on the nightstand, faucets. Basically everything. Saturday night, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I was allowed to eat when I went into labor, am I allowed solids? Should I be preparing for an emergency c-section? I laid in bed and googled “foods for labor.” I started a list of things to gather- coconut water, jello. Dark chocolate (for energy, but low in sugar because friggin' diabetes). Ingredients to make Martha’s zucchini flax muffins

It was Sunday morning, and we had slept in. During a late breakfast, at around 11am, I was reviewing my list with Lars so that he could get the ingredients for the muffins when I felt.. something.

Something new. 

It didn’t feel like any of the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having for the past few months. By this point in the pregnancy, I was accustomed to various new discomforts. So he left for the store and I wobbled about the house with a renewed sense of urgency. I attempted to count contractions using an app but I couldn’t really tell if they were repeating. Maybe this was false labor?

At 4:30pm, things got serious. I called Lars, crying. You need to come home right now.

About an hour later, he ran in the door and laid out the fruits of his labor. The dining table was now covered with jello, containers of coconut water. Comedically large zucchinis. Make the muffins! I demanded, in between contractions. If this was real, I said, we were going to need those muffins!

If? I was on my knees, rocking and gripping the armchair, nails pressed into the performance velvet. This was not an “if” situation. 

I labored for the next seven hours. Prenatal yoga practice kicked in, and I groaned through my contractions. Emily, my instructor, said that groaning allowed your uterine muscles to do the work of pushing the baby out, so I did. Loudly. On the floor, in the shower. I asked for ice cold water with a straw and it appeared, inches from my face. A striped bendy straw floated, helplessly. WHY IS THAT STRAW SO DAMN SMALL, I hollered. Withholding the urge to fling the whole thing at his head. He ran out of the shower and continued to work on the muffins. 

Beautiful treats from my baby shower at Mission Heirloom 2 weeks before I went into labor. Not the aforementioned muffins.

We didn’t know how to time the contractions. Sometimes they were long and at other times, they were short. Should we time the short ones? Neither of us knew. But then I remembered that people often went to the hospital too early, especially with first babies, and the thought of being sent home was intolerable. So I told him to ignore the short ones. They were probably just aftershocks. Like in an earthquake. That’s a thing, right?*

Not counting the short bursts of pain, the contractions seemed to be 10 minutes apart. We were instructed to call the doctor when they were 5 minutes apart, so we dug our heels in and endured. Everyone says to rest in between, but how exactly? Perhaps they meant that you should just be still. I put my head down and closed my eyes. Be still be still be still. I forced myself to take slow, deep breaths.

Contractions are not the hardest part of laboring, you know? They’re tough in the way that running is tough. You’re running on the street and eventually your legs and lungs get that slow burn. And then you hit that threshold where the burn really gets going, so you lock your sights on that tree, that street lamp, that hydrant. And the burning tightness in your chest or legs is increasing til it’s almost unbearable, but that endpoint is getting closer, so you push on. In a few moments, you arrive and slow down to a stop. That’s a contraction. It sucks but it’s alright. 
The hardest part is actually trying to pee on a toilet. Stay hydrated, they said. You know what happens when you try to stay hydrated? What goes in must come out. Nobody teaches you how to get through sitting on the toilet, how to fold yourself in half while a 6, 7, 8, 9 pound bowling ball is pressing down on the inside of you, so I try to stifle my screams and keep from writhing because otherwise there’s pee on the floor and you don’t want to slip and fall while you’re in labor. 

PSA: Don’t be a hero. Just pee in the shower.

At some point, the muffins are finished. The fresh baked scent that fills the apartment makes me want to hurl. He proudly brings me a muffin, all soft and warm from the oven. I take a bite and immediately spit it out. In horror, I realized I just forced my husband to make two dozen muffins and I can’t even stomach a single bite. Did you know you can’t eat while in labor? As in, your body won’t let you? 

Later, I went back into the shower to labor for the second time. Needed that hot water against my back. The groaning seemed to come from some far away place. I felt lightheaded and my hands, which were gripping a towel bar on the wall, turned completely white. I called out and in a moment, Lars was there holding me up. Don’t faint while in labor, Laura. Let’s keep the medical emergencies to a minimum. My contractions, according to our amateur calculations, were 7 minutes apart. Lars, I said, we have to call the doctor. I can’t do this anymore.

So he calls her and puts me on the phone. She needs to hear how I’m doing, firsthand.

How far are you from the hospital, she asked. Ten minutes, I say. 

Go. she says. 

Go, now. 


*No. That is not a thing.

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