Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Year

One year ago today, I made a big, delicious dinner of soup and bread and settled in to eat it with my husband in front of the TV. "Settled" is a relative term, as I was eight months pregnant and my huge belly and swollen ankles made it pretty much impossible to get comfortable in any position. But I was with my Mr. Brown Eyes, our unborn baby was tickling me from the inside, and I was happy.

Here I am, just a few hours before going into labor.
During commercials, I got up and waddled to the bathroom. I noticed I was leaking quite a bit of fluid, which I had been told just two weeks before was a natural preparation for labor and nothing to be concerned about. It sure was annoying, though. I put on a pad (sorry if this is TMI), and made my way back to the living room, thinking maybe for Family Home Evening Mr. Brown Eyes and I should take a trip to Wal-Mart and buy me some Depends.

I hadn't even made it back to the living room when I realized my pad was soaked through. Already. With a grumble I detoured to the guest bathroom. As soon as I sat down on the toilet I felt Baby Brown Eyes jerk his head. A torrent of water gushed out of me. My heart stopped.

"Sean!" I called out, my voice wavering. "Come here!"

Mr. Brown Eyes appeared in the doorway a few seconds later. I locked eyes with him. "I think my water just broke."

His eyes widened. His unasked question was answered by the sound of fluid still merrily trickling out of me into the toilet, gentle but steady. We laughed and stared at each other in disbelief. The midwife had told us during my appointment just a few days before that she didn't think I would make it two weeks longer, much less all the way to my due date. In terror, Mr. Brown Eyes and I had spent that whole day washing baby clothes, setting up the carseat, cleaning the house, and generally preparing ourselves for the life change that could quite possibly come much sooner than we had been expecting. But even then, we had thought we had at least a couple weeks. Yet here I was, just under a month away from my due date, and Baby Brown Eyes was telling us he was ready.

Our twelve weeks of Bradley birth classes immediately came to the forefront of our minds, and our first concern was if labor was going to start on its own or if we'd have to help it along. Mr. Brown Eyes gave me a blessing, then crouched beside me, holding my hand, as we called our parents to tell them their newest grandchild would soon be born. While I was on the phone, not twenty minutes after my water broke, I felt the first tugs of a contraction. It was gentle and easy, but thrilling. I squeezed Mr. Brown Eyes' hand. "I just felt a contraction," I said excitedly. 

Mr. Brown Eyes made me a makeshift diaper out of a piddle pad so I could waddle around the house without leaking all over the floor. He started loading the car while I eased my way through the relatively painless contractions. I called the hospital to tell them we would be arriving sometime that night. The midwife called back and told me I had tested positively for GBS, so we needed to be sure to arrive at least four hours prior to delivery so I could receive antibiotics.

Four hours. Sure, no problem. We thought we had all the time in the world.

The contractions started getting closer together and more intense. Instead of just walking through them I found myself pausing, trying to breathe steadily, sagging against Mr. Brown Eyes. I couldn't decide if I was more comfortable on my feet or sitting on the toilet. Finally, at the peak of one contraction, I told Mr. Brown Eyes it was time to go to the hospital. But then, once it subsided, I felt fine, could laugh and smile, and figured it was still too early. The last thing I wanted was to get to the hospital too soon and be nagged by the nurses to try interventions I didn't need.

"I'm going to go give the neighbors our keys," Mr. Brown Eyes told me. "Will you be ok?"

"Yes," I assured him, but while he was gone another contraction hit me, the worst yet. This one was strong enough to double me over. When Mr. Brown Eyes came back he declared it was time to go to the hospital. I didn't argue.

The hospital was a good half an hour away, but thankfully it was late enough at night that the freeway was virtually empty and we made it in half that time. Or at least it felt that way to me. The contractions were coming right on top of each other now, worsened by each jerk of the car as Mr. Brown Eyes shifted gears. I tried to breathe, tried to relax, but all I felt was wave after wave of pain. I closed my eyes against it, and opened them again to see we were turning into the hospital parking lot.

Since it was after-hours we had to check in through the emergency room. Mr. Brown Eyes helped me inside, one hand on my elbow, and I sagged against the counter, my face contorted in pain.

The receptionist looked up at me from her paperwork and asked, "Are you having contractions?"

I was in too much pain to be sarcastic, so I just nodded.

I was given a wheelchair while we waited for the nurse to come get me, but I couldn't sit. I alternated between pacing the ER lobby and bending over a trash can, certain I was going to retch. From what I had learned about transition--what some women consider the most intense part of labor, right before your cervix is fully-dilated and it's time to push your baby out--this was it. But I couldn't be that far into labor already; it had only been about two hours since my water broke. Oh, but if I wasn't in transition...I couldn't see how I could possibly make it through labor. It was too much.

I bent over the trash can again and Mr. Brown Eyes stroked my hair away from my face. "I am never doing this again," I moaned to him.

The nurse was taking her sweet time coming down to get me; as we waited, another burst of fluid gushed out of me, and I learned that if you find yourself waiting in the ER for an indefinite length of time, all you have to do is threaten to leak bodily fluids on their freshly-mopped floor and they will rush you of there faster than you can say, "I need to push!"

The nurse arrived within the next minute.

Mr. Brown Eyes held my hand tight as they wheeled me upstairs to triage, where I changed into a slinky hospital gown and laid down in a curtained room so the nurses could check my progress. It was so excruciating to lie on my back I had to keep sitting up, pulling Mr. Brown Eyes close, much to the consternation of the nurse trying to check me. She left without saying a word and I jumped to my feet and paced some more, then stopped. The contractions had taken on a different feel.

"Oh," I moaned. "Sean, I think I need to push."

He stroked my back. "Don't push yet. Just breathe."

"I can't." I felt myself starting to panic. "I can't not push."

We listened to the nurses talking on the other side of the curtain. The only word we caught was "seven."

"I think you're at a seven," Mr. Brown Eyes said.

"Seven? I have to be farther than that." If my body had three more centimeters to go, I might as well die now.

A couple nurses came back into the room. "What is she at?" Mr. Brown Eyes asked them.

"Oh, she's fully dilated," one of them answered, and I was so relieved I almost cried. "But we have to wait until the midwife gets here for you to start pushing. We're going to take you to room seven and get everything set up."

So much for arriving four hours before delivery.

As they wheeled me to the delivery room and helped me into the bed I prayed and prayed for strength to make it through. All I wanted to do was push; forcing myself not to was like trying to fight the urge to blink. But Mr. Brown Eyes was right there, feeding me ice chips and telling me to pant through the contractions. He was my rock. I clung to him.

"When did labor begin?" one of the nurses asked Mr. Brown Eyes. He told her my water broke around nine thirty. It was after eleven now. "She's a rockstar!" the nurse exclaimed.

"She's an over-achiever," Mr. Brown Eyes teased, and even in my pain I heard the love in his voice and smiled.

Lisa the midwife finally arrived and at last they let me push. Everything slowed. The pushing contractions came every couple minutes; Lisa would instruct me and I would push for all I was worth until I felt my dinner surging back up my throat, which was when Mr. Brown Eyes would present the little plastic tub for me to retch into. In retrospect, if I had known I was going to go into labor that night, I wouldn't have eaten so much soup.

Between contractions Mr. Brown Eyes, Lisa, Peggy the Awesome Nurse, and I would just joke and chat. It was just the kind of atmosphere I had wanted to give birth in. There was no rush, no sternness. Only excitement and encouragement. Lisa asked if I wanted to feel my baby's head. I wasn't sure that I did, but I reached down anyway. It felt squishy and wrinkly and decidedly un-head-like.

With a few more powerful pushes Baby's head was out and Lisa called Mr. Brown Eyes down to deliver the rest of the body. He plunged in without gloves and I screamed through one last, burning push and suddenly our baby was out of my body and in Mr. Brown Eyes' hands.

One year ago, I laid eyes on my baby boy for the very first time. They placed him on my chest, his blue-gray eyes wide and peaceful, his body warm and waxy with white vernix. The first thing he did was wrap his tiny little hand around my index finger. He didn't cry, but tears filled my eyes, all my pain forgotten.  Mr. Brown Eyes came to my side and we marveled at our little miracle. It was love at first sight.

One year ago, I became a mother.

Mr. Brown Eyes became a father.


We became a family.


For Baby Brown Eyes, his birthday will come to mean turning one year older, getting presents, eating cake. But for me, it will always be the day I brought him into the world, the day we first met, the day my life was changed forever.

Happy Birthday, Baby.

I love you,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

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