At 9:18 am on Friday, January 8, 2010, Miles Roy Bartke joined us here on earth, and that is fantastic.
This has taken a few days to write, due to a combination of tiredness, visitors, slow processing, and a newfound addiction to laying in bed with a baby on my chest. But I've been looking forward to kind of mentally processing everything and getting it into some organized form, so here we go...
I'd been having teeny contractions (braxton-hicks, apparently) on and off for weeks, and was going into a mild state of panic because my mother never had actual "labor" with any of us, so she barely made it to the hospital. I didn't want that to be me! Thursday I woke up feeling.....different. Just, strange. Calm, but expectant. I started having early contractions around 8, and they progressed all day at work until when I got home in the afternoon they were every 3 minutes apart, steadily. The only issue was, they didn't hurt - they just felt like tightenings, like Braxton Hicks. On the urging of Jesse, we went to the hospital to get checked, just to be sure, with my Mom's history and all. They hooked me up and I was indeed having contractions regularly, but there was no change in my cervix, so they sent me home. My midwife said "don't worry, when active labor starts, you'll know." I had a minor meltdown in the car - I was so frustrated, and was basically thinking that I am not going to have any idea when I'm actually in labor.
We went to bed and then, bam, two hours later, I sat up in bed, shook Jesse awake and said "I'm in labor, call Bridget, let's go." Apparently they were right - I knew :o)
Then the fun started - we got to the hospital at midnight and I was 3cm, 90% effaced. I wanted a waterbirth, and knew I could get in the tub at 5 cm, so I spent the next couple hours pacing and rocking through contractions, willing my body to "open, open" so I could get in the water. My hospital is amazing - my midwife and nurse checked in frequently, but seeing that I was doing my thing without needing anything, they gave Jesse and I lots of space. Talking later about the birth, Jesse said that it was wonderful to be left alone, just the two of us in the dimly lit room so I could do what I needed to do, with whatever support I needed from him. It was empowering, the staff's obvious belief that I knew what to do, and being left to do it.
At about 3, they came in to check me again (oh ouch contractions laying in a bed suck - I don't know how women do it) and I was past 5 cm. Yay tub! Getting in the tub was heaven - immediately, my body figured out how to breathe and move through the contractions. The water did really cool things - contractions "on land" involve a lot more muscles, it seems, since you're trying to support yourself somehow. Floating in the water, I was able to relax everything else and so the pain was just in my uterus. Working with just one muscle is so much easier. I stayed in the tub for the next 6 hours, getting out just to pee. I was a prune by the time it was over!
The real "active" part of my labor is a total blur. I remember adjusting my breath as they got stronger, and then breathing turned to humming, and then I don't even know what. Hormones are amazing - I was completely passing out between contractions, floating in the water with a vague awareness of what was going on in the room but a total inability (or disinterest) to respond. Jesse said that our midwife kept coming in and commenting on how I looked like I'd done this before, like the "quintessential woman in labor." I don't really remember that, but I bet hearing it, on some level, helped me feel even more strong throughout. I threw up through my whole labor, which sucked a little, but to be honest I didn't really care at that point. It got to the point where I couldn't even have ice chips without yakking, so they gave me an iv (still in the tub) with fluids, and I felt a lot more energetic after that.
Jesse was amazing -I didn't use much interaction during labor, kind of just floated in my personal space bubble and occasionally mumbled things in response to questions. But he never got in my way, and seemed to instinctively know when to touch me and when to stay close but apart. The only oops was when he accidentally sprayed me with ice water from the faucet at the peak of a contraction!
When it was time to push, I woke up a little. Pushing wasn't what I expected - it didn't hurt so much as just feel terrible - I was expecting another kind of natural sensation to just work with, like labor had been. Instead, I felt like I didn't really know what to do, and just sort of was guessing. But my midwife, again, was amazing, and gave me lots of feedback, and when I really started getting into it, Jesse was absolutely wonderful - I held onto his hands and pulled against them when I was pushing, which helped a ton, and then, holy shit, after about 45 minutes of pushing, I could suddenly feel the point. Through the "ring of fire" I felt his head move, and then I felt his feet kicking (he was helping) and reaching down I could feel the top of his head. It was suddenly really real, and in my next contraction I bore down hard and then there he was, floating in the water. I pulled him up to my chest, with the nurse, and they did his whole exam right there in the tub, with him protesting heartily.
Labor was legitimately the coolest experience I've ever had. Every worry or concern totally disintegrated, as did most conscious thought, and it's such a blur of sensations in my head. I feel so lucky that everything worked the way it did - he was in the right position, everything progressed as it should, there weren't any complications. The only time the thought of drugs entered my head was when they checked me and discovered I was almost 9cm and I thought offhandedly "huh, I guess if I wanted drugs it would be too late." I know how incredibly fortunate I am to have had a labor like that, and it's amazing, still, thinking about it. I feel so differently about my body, and my husband, and even my baby - like we worked together to do something totally incredible, and kicked ass at it. I think that attitude of everyone at my hospital had a lot to do with that - not once did anyone act like there was anything wrong with anything I did, be it humming scales or rolling in circles in the tub or moaning. Everyone was so calm and acted almost as if they were just there to observe me - it was really my thing, and their lack of doubt gave me no room to doubt my own ability.
This has been a really long blog - there's so much else in my head, about the days that followed and the way it felt to lay in bed holding my son for hours and how much more I feel towards my husband and my mother and myself and every perfect, surreal moment since. But the baby needs a boob, and duty calls :o)