I approached giving birth with a mix of excited anticipation and curiosity. Did I have what it takes? Would the preparation we had done help us at all? Would anything go as I hoped?
On the evening of September 14th, after church, a hike at Chataqua, a movie with Kim and Laura and making dinner, the contractions I’d been experiencing for weeks (months?) suddenly seemed more serious. These contractions were not joking around. Now, I don’t wan to pretend like I was in full on labor and muscled through the night…but for the first time, I experienced regular contractions that caught my attention. Was this it?! We would have to wait and see.
One of my dreams for labor was to utilize laughter to make things go smoother. To that end, we watched Bridesmaids for the 5th time in recent months, because somehow, the jokes in that movie do not get old and it’s the rare flick that Jeff actually enjoys as well. Finishing the movie, my husband questioned me for the 40th time…”Are you in labor???” and my reply was simply, “Maybe.” Because when you’ve never been in labor before, how can one be sure?! I’d been told by hospital professionals that I was likely in labor twice before: once at 35 weeks and again at my 40 week check up. Though my body was moving towards labor during the 6 weeks leading up to the delivery, stuff got real as the clock hit 1 a.m. on September 15th. At that point, contractions were coming every two minutes and I woke Jeff up with some confidence that our baby was ready to make her debut.
We arrived at Good Samaritan Medical Center at 1:30 and were greeted in labor and delivery by the charge nurse, Michelle. I was self-conscious that Michelle viewed me as persnickety for wanting certain things during my birth, and was relieved she wasn’t going to be with us throughout the birth. But circumstances shifted and after a little discussion and a few more intense contractions, it looked like Michelle would in fact be with us. I didn’t have the energy or focus at that time to be dismayed, and it turned out to be an enormous blessing. While I thought Michelle probably viewed me as a pain-in-the-ass kinda patient, we quickly became a team as labor progressed and I moved from able to hold a conversation to labor land. And I couldn’t have asked for a better team. Jeff and Michelle were the supports that both literally and figuratively held me up as my body was doing what it needed to in order to deliver our child. Looking back, I am so grateful for the way my husband stepped into his role with just the right mix of confidence and humility, and he followed our plan (ONLY ENCOURAGEMENT, NO PATTING) beautifully. He made just the right number of jokes (the only one that I clearly remember is him calling me Darth Vader instead of Jessie) to break things up, but when things were tough, he reminded me I was strong enough and having him there made me believe it. Early on, I just submitted. Michelle made suggestions about ways to better cope with the contractions, and I followed her every direction. If I couldn’t physically move to the place or position she suggested, my other teammate would get me there. And so it was, Jeff, Michelle and I, for 3 hours of intensity unlike anything I’d experienced before. When Michelle felt like the baby was pretty close to arriving, she called in Dr. N. after I’d pushed for just a few minutes. Unfortunately, Dr. N. is the villain in my birth story, as she would not allow me to continue pushing (or deliver) until I was laying flat on my back. There were moments in labor land where I was pissed, and most of them happened as I was pushing with every ounce of energy I had, knowing that gravity and better positioning could help the process. And so an hour went by like this, with Jeff, Michelle and Dr. N. cheering me on through every push, tricking me into thinking THIS push was THE push. Unfortunately, THE push was long in coming and when Rayna finally made her way through the birth canal and into the world, we were both worse for the wear. She had an intense cone head and I looked like I’d been clocked in the face with a frying pan, as I was so swollen and messed up from all that pushing.
But it was over. Excitement filled the room and someone handed me a screaming child. Labor was finished. Our baby was healthy, I had survived, and Jeff was a witness to the whole damn thing. While I did not have the perfect delivery, I couldn’t complain about much. I had a beautiful baby and was proud of how our family handled the whole thing. Here is our very first family photo.