Yesterday, Shea heard his brother's heartbeat. He said, "my brother," and put his hands on my stomach. He smiled shyly and wanted to "hear brother again." I'm so excited for them to meet each other.
Nathaniel Ashe Sears, 7 pounds, 14 ounces, born December 19, 2014 at 4:14 p.m.
He holds his tiny hands up to the glass and says, “There, Mommy, I want to eat there!” Inside is a pool hall, completely inappropriate for a toddler. “No, Shea, just one more door down.” I drag him into Ipanema. I don’t know it yet, but active labor will start in less than 12 hours. I wanted to take Shea out for dinner, just me and him, knowing that the time of his being an only child is getting shorter. I am having near constant Braxton-Hicks contractions that don’t stop when I sit down, stand up, walk, lay down, take a bath, drink water, or anything. They are just constant, lasting for 2-3 minutes with a 30 second break in between and it’s been that way for 2 days. It’s exhausting but I try to ignore my too tight abdomen as I pick Shea up and carry him through the door of Ipanema. I am expecting to go past my due date on this one too, and I don’t take any contractions seriously. Only if they are deep low, and getting longer, stronger, closer together. I decide, only then will I pay attention. Thinking back, I realize how almost heroic it is that I went out for dinner alone with a two-year-old while I was in actual early labor.
We sit down and the waitress ignores us and I get so irritable! The level of my rage is irrational. Can’t she see I am full term, that he is a toddler. We order bruschetta, tofu sandwich, cake. I want a beer and decide against it, afraid of judgment. He is so cute and he plays with his toys on the other side of the table. When I come out of the restaurant, I am absolutely exhausted and don’t know if I can manage to get him in the car. There is a tight knot of people smoking outside of Strange Matter, very young looking people. I parked our SUV too close to a bike and I can barely get the door open to get Shea inside. At first I am upset at the bike, at the smoking people. Then I realize I am in an SUV and get upset with myself. I used to be the person on the bike. Strange mixture of emotions, all while having constant contractions. The cold night air bites and I drive around until Shea falls asleep. My little boy. My beautiful little baby boy.
As I fall asleep, I wonder if I will wake up pregnant. Shea comes into our bed in the middle of the night. I have learned to accommodate his body, the way he squirms and jostles for more space, even with my 39 week 6 days pregnant body, I have learned to accommodate him in this small way, like I have learned to accommodate him in so many other ways. At 5 a.m., it is dark and there is a cold coming through the window, but our bed is a warm nest. I feel a low menstrual cramp, different from the Braxton-Hicks. It lasts for about 45 seconds and then fades. I snuggle into Justin and try to go back to sleep. 5 minutes later, another one. It rises up like an ocean wave, then crashes. I snuggle again but have a hard time going back to sleep. Another 5 minutes, another contraction. I wait till the next one comes in 5 more minutes before shaking Justin awake. “I’ve been having a different kind of contraction for the past 20 minutes. They woke me up.” “Do you think you are in labor? Do you want to go back to sleep?” I do think I am in labor but want to stay snuggled in bed, in our warm nest, for as long as possible.
We stay in bed till about 5:45 then after we realize we are not going back to sleep, we slide out, leaving sleeping Shea. We go into the bathroom and take a long, hot shower. It feels like we are preparing to go on a trip, about to get onto an early airplane, as the sun rises outside the window. Contractions are still 5 minutes apart, extremely regular, 45 seconds in duration. I hold onto Justin during them, more for the snuggling than for the need for support.
Justin has some packing left to do, so he bustles around the house, getting everything ready. We make oatmeal and coffee and sit at the table in the quiet dawn. Our Christmas tree is the only light in the living room and it feels so soft and warm and homey, I don’t want to leave. When Shea wakes up, I hear the pad of his pajama feet and he asks for breakfast. “Hi! I hungee.” We all eat together at the dining table in the kitchen.
I start Curious George for Shea and have a contraction leaning over the cutting board, looking at him watching his “monkey.” I feel emotional that it’s the last monkey he will watch as an only child. When the contraction is over, we start a growling game and are playful and this memory, of Shea on the couch, the day fully dawned, bright light through the windows, the Christmas tree lights, and both of us growling between contractions, is one of my favorite memories from this labor.
My contractions are starting to last for 1 minute and it seems like we need to get in touch with people. I’m hesitant to call anyone, to make it real, but Justin says I need to get the ball rolling. I call our doula at about 6:30, who has to find a back-up doula due to a family emergency, and my favorite midwife, who tells me she will not be on call starting at 7am. I don’t call my parents yet. After spending a few minutes texting and on the phone, I need to be by myself and not think about logistics.
I go into the bedroom. I can still hear the sounds of Curious George from the living room, happy little Shea sitting on the couch. I go on all fours on the bed and rock myself back and forth. I’m needing to focus on the contractions now. They are getting stronger and lasting for longer. I can feel the cold tide of fear seeping in around the edges, lapping at my feet like a slushy winter wave. Inside my home is warmth, the smell of chocolate coffee, our Christmas tree lights, little Shea’s pajama feet, his Curious George and his sippy cup of milk. Justin’s busy preparations seem unnecessary. Can’t we stay here? Why do I need to leave this place of safety? A contraction starts while I’m on the bed. The muscle memory of Shea’s birth (long pushing stage and a transfer from a birth center for a needed epidural and a last minute vaginal birth) comes flooding in. I start to cry a little bit when the contraction is over. “I can do this, I can do this.” I say out loud. As another one starts, I continue the mantra, “I can do this, I can do this.” I get myself centered, rocking back and forth, focusing on the labor. When I come out of the bedroom, I’m in a different emotional space. I know that I am in labor and it’s not going to stop.
Justin packs everything into the car and at first, Shea protests that I’m not driving. “I want Mommy drive the car! No Daddy! Not you!” I tell him that Daddy has to drive because we are going to the midwife doctor home and he is going to Nana’s and our baby will be coming soon. I have contractions leaning over the back of the seat, looking at Shea who is alarmed that I am “not stuck, car moving!” I text Cindi, our backup doula, to let her know we are headed to my mom’s, then to the hospital. It is about 8:30 a.m.
At my mom’s, I don’t want to see anyone. I feel strangely shy, I hide behind the car, having a contraction, holding onto Justin, while Shea runs up to the house. I feel sad watching him run up the porch steps like he has so many times before and I don’t know why I feel sad. I don’t want my dad to see me in labor. I feel exposed and vulnerable. I planned on staying at my mom’s for a couple hours but it doesn’t work that way. My contractions are every 3 minutes now and about 1 minute long. My mom tells me I need to go to the hospital. Looking back, she was probably right, though it felt premature at the time. As I walk out to the car, my dad asks how am I even walking? For whatever reason the toast I wanted never makes it into the car. I don’t remember saying bye to Sheamus. Not saying bye to him makes me feel so sad now, remembering it.
On the way from the parking lot into the hospital, I decide to speed walk in between contractions, to make it farther because they are now strong enough that I have to stop and hold onto Justin. I attempt to “dance” through one of my contractions so that we can keep making forward progress. Justin laughs and this part is fun. A nurse helps us with our bag as I have a contraction in the elevator.
There are a million questions to answer as we get checked in, including, “What side of the stairs is your railing on in your house?” I have to get monitored for 20 minutes and there is a problem with the monitor, so it takes 40. She wants me on the bed to be monitored, but I just can’t tolerate being on my back, so I kneel on the bed. Justin rests his cheek on my back while holding the monitor and it feels like a bee sting. Looking back I realize this is because the baby is posterior.
In the room, there are Christmas lights in the bathroom and tea candles near the bed. I distinctly remember thinking I was descending into the seven circles of hell and the tea candles were flames. I don’t know why. I’m sure the candles were lovely. But I’m getting more scared as I get more dilated. The contractions get so much stronger in the room, which is a dark, quiet, warm cave. During contractions, I hold onto Justin for dear life, saying, “Tell me everything you think and know and feel and remember.” I want a constant stream of talk to distract me from what is going on with my body. I get in the tub at a certain point and my water breaks in there. The tub feels small and claustrophobic and I'm afraid labor will slow down. I remember being in the tub for so much of Shea’s labor and I just want to get out and get this baby out of me, so I get out of the water quickly.
I begin to feel a ton of pressure in my back, my butt and my vagina. I tell Justin that I feel like I am going to poop out of my vagina. It's only been 45 minutes since I arrived, but I have progressed from 5cm to 9.5 cm. J., the midwife, says she is afraid to go back to the clinic because she thinks I will have the baby while she is gone. I tell everyone that I won't have the baby till at least 4pm. I know that I have a long pushing stage ahead of me because that’s what I do. Everyone except Justin tells me the baby is almost here.
I remember being almost panicked, pacing like an animal around the room in between contractions. Justin shows me a picture of me climbing the Platthorn and a picture of me holding little Shea when he was just a few weeks old. I remember kneeling on the floor, grasping at these pictures, thinking if I did those things, I can do this, I can do this.
I remember drinking a ton of water to distract myself in between contractions. This labor is all about distraction. I don't want to fully experience what is happening. I am so terrified I will be stuck at 10 again, even though everyone keeps saying, "you're a second time mom, you will push twice and baby will fall out."
I start to push in a supported squat position using the bed. The contractions are strong and the urge to push is long and intense. I stare into Justin's eyes with every contraction. He grounds me, breathes with me, makes me feel that it will be ok, that it won't be like Shea’s labor, that it will be over. Cindi tells me "This is Nathaniel's birthday. This is not Sheamus' birthday. Let Shea's birthday go." J. has her hand inside of me, trying to move the “piece of globby tissue” which we later found out is a cervical anomaly that causes my long pushing stages. Justin suggests lunges to try to correct Nat’s asyncliticism and to try to get the globby tissue out of the way. I do three lunges on one side during a contraction, then do the other side for the next contraction. I do this for about 4-5 contractions. Then I go into a supported squat again and Cindi does acupressure on a dilation point on my leg. When J. says that the globby tissue is out of the way and his head has descended, I feel an immense surge of relief. It was that tissue/lip thing/cervical anomaly that had caused Shea to be a 6 hour pushing stage. And this is only about 2 hours into pushing!
My mom comes in after the globby tissue is gone and stands beside the bed. I lay on my back between contractions, then pull on the squat bar into a squat during contractions for pushing. J. gets a mirror so I can see what a productive push looks like. Baby decides it's a good idea to crown for about 15-20 minutes. Crowning pain is a sharp, high-pitched physical pain, more akin to trauma than the low, rumbling endurance pain of a contraction. I tell Justin that I might rip in two. J., the midwife, assures me I will not. I stare at the lights to dissociate a little and focus on something other than the pain. I think that I can cheat by not pushing between contractions and not pushing very hard during contractions. But I soon make the realization that I just need to get his head out of me if I want the pain to stop. I keep pushing between contractions as hard as I can, and it takes about 2-3 contractions of all-out pushing for him to come out at 4:14 p.m.
I remember his long, long toes. Naked against my chest, I hold him tight while Cindi feeds me graham crackers and peanut butter. I am so hungry!! Nat latches on. Then Justin holds him skin to skin. They don't take him to weigh him for at least an hour. I remember the gentle washing Jennifer does between my legs, the warm water, her slow gentle movements. Her washing me makes me emotional because no one washed me after Shea’s birth. After Shea's birth, at the hospital, after transferring, I wandered to the bathroom myself at 8 hours postpartum and took a shower, scrubbing the hardened blood off my own thighs.
Soon the room is full of people, my mom, Justin’s dad and mom, my dad. When Shea comes in, I am so overwhelmed to see him, so happy, and I want him to come sit on my lap and hug him and I feel so many things at once. Instead of sitting in my lap, which would probably hurt, he kisses the baby and poses for pictures. Justin’s mom shows him how to press the buttons to make my bed go up and down which entertains him for a second, but as the bed goes up, the pain in my stitches from the 2nd degree tear is so severe that we have to put an end to that game. Shea is hungry, but the food they bring me at first is meat, so he eats Cindi's trail mix with chocolate chips. Eventually he goes home with my parent’s, and Justin’s parents come with us upstairs to help us get settled in postpartum.
I was a panicked animal, my body remembering the trauma of Shea’s birth for most of Nat’s birth, but that only made me feel more proud, that I had overcome that experience. Happy birthday Nathaniel, my long-toed, deep blue eyed, brown-haired, posterior, asynclitic little boy.