“Labor” started around 2am on Monday morning. I woke up in bed with bad menstrual-like cramps and thought to myself that they were probably actual contractions, just like I was hoping I would have soon, and then I fell back asleep. I was a few days overdue, and despite knowing that the due date is just an estimate and should be treated as such, I had been feeling impatient for his arrival for a few days. I think it was because we had hoped for so long that he wouldn’t be early and come during Monica’s wedding, that once her wedding was past, I already felt past-due. Even though I wasn’t.
Anyway, those contractions that started around 2am came infrequently enough that I was able to sleep between them. The pain was mainly in the hips and back and I just sort of shifted and rolled my hips and was fine. Around 5am I wasn’t able to sleep in between them – now I realize that it’s because they were getting more frequent, at the time I thought I was just too awake to go back to sleep so I went out to sleep on the couch thinking that would help. At that point the contractions became more painful and as time passed my two thoughts were, “If I can just make it to 7am, Rob will be awake and I’ll start timing these.” And, “finally, I’m having contractions!” The couple of hours until 7am lasted a really long time! I didn’t sleep, but I tried – tried sleeping on the couch, on the floor, and while sitting on a balance ball.
Rob woke up at 7am and I asked him to help me time the contractions. They were pretty unbearable and I was disappointed in myself that I admitted to Rob, “Okay, I’m ready for an epidural.” It was surprising to me that I couldn’t find any relief during the pain despite attempting different positions and comfort measures. How naïve of me. The only thing that helped was putting my arms around Rob’s shoulders (in “slow dance” position, as Rob likes to refer to it) during the contractions – it helped that I could totally lean on him and not have to support myself at all. Timing the contractions just confused me. I was anticipating five minutes apart or more and because they were coming so fast I thought they were longer contractions with breaks in the middle. Plus, the pain was pretty much restricted to the lower back and hips and I thought it would eventually “wrap around” to the abdomen. That’s what the book said would happen! So, I was basically holding off going to the hospital because I thought “true” early labor was still on its way. Rob had been on his laptop all morning trying to figure out how to get out of teaching his classes for the day. I thought it was preemptive and told him that I thought he should teach his first class, and then by noon when class was over, I’d be further along and ready to go to the hospital. Rob convinced me to call the hospital and I ended up playing phone-tag with my midwife. Finally, the receptionist called back and said the midwife said to just come in. They knew nothing about how long or how frequent my contractions were when they told me to come. I was still a little doubtful until I finally concluded, “there’s no way this is anything but labor.”
I was really nervous about the car ride to the hospital – but luckily it was all kind of a blur. Rob parked in the garage and I did not think it was going to be possible for me to get out of the car, walk from the car to the elevator, and then walk from the elevator to the check-in desk. They were just coming so fast! Waiting at the check-in was really hard, but it probably was only a minute or two before they brought me into the labor and delivery triage room. Every single step was so hard and when the nurse asked me to go into the bathroom to change into a hospital gown, I stopped mid-way and started crying. I guess I was just really overwhelmed. This seemed to make the nurse nervous because I heard her go to the phone and urgently request the midwife again.
There was another couple in the triage room, separated by curtains from my section of the room, and I heard a doctor telling them that they should go home and come back later because he thought she still had some time until the baby was coming. I think it was at that point I realized that I was very much in labor, because there was no way anyone would think to tell me to go back home in the state I was in!
When the midwife finally joined us in the triage room (I really don’t know how long we waited for her – probably 15 minutes. I was very much out of it, not very aware of what was happening around me, especially of time passing by). She checked me and found that I was 5 cm. dilated and 100% effaced. I was shocked and felt a little sheepish for not thinking I was even in early labor and thinking that Rob should have left me to teach his class. They were shocked too – at least they made it sound like I was pretty far a long for having just arrived. I had been waiting for early labor to start, when really, I had just slept through it!
They had me walk to the labor and delivery room where they shortly found out that I was now 7 cm. dilated. I felt like the contractions were 30 seconds long and 30 seconds apart, but they told me they were 1 minute long and 2 minutes apart (1 minute b/w each contraction). I was very much unable to think beyond the contractions. I thought about how I had learned that during a later labor stage all your concentration is on the contractions, and at this point I was conscientious that that’s what was happening. People around me kept asking me questions about how I was feeling and what I needed but I couldn’t really answer them. At one point the nurse was rubbing my back during a contraction and I really thought it helped, but I couldn’t even tell her that. The contractions didn’t feel like they lasted very long and once one began I knew I could get through it, but it became so tiring just knowing that soon after that one, another would be on it’s way. I continued to prefer to hold onto Rob to get through each one.
I was told that the anesthesiologist was just about to go into a scheduled c-section, so we knew it would maybe be a while until he would be available to administer an epidural. I think it ended up being about an hour, but luckily it felt like half that time. I had been nervous prior to this about the pain of receiving an epidural, but it turned out to not be bad at all. I also was worried about having a contraction during the epidural and not being able to remain still like you’re supposed to, but the doctor said that even though it was likely that I would have one, it would be okay. Somehow that eased my concern. Everyone had Rob sit in front of me so I could concentrate on him rather than on the needle or the contraction.
It was amazing how much changed after the epidural. I was myself again! I had planned on getting an epidural all along for many reasons – I really had no interest in having the baby “natural.” I had heard some women say that because they got an epidural they were able to enjoy the birth, which is so true for me. I felt one or two more contractions, then that was it. Rob’s mom soon arrived to the hospital, she brought Henry a really cute stuffed zebra which was fun to receive just before he was born. My mom came soon after that and it was nice to have them both there, and nice that I could actually enjoy their company, which I wouldn’t have if I was still feeling the contractions.
I had tested positive for Group B Strep which meant they wanted to give the baby antibiotics before he was born. The medicine was going to take four hours to administer so the nurse told me they were wanting to hold off the birth until 1:15 at the earliest. I was totally fine with that since so far everything had been moving faster than I imagined it would – I didn’t feel ready to have the baby yet anyway!
I should say something about the midwives and the nurse – everyone was so great. The midwife on call was Peggy Kimmel who I had met just one or two times prior to this. She was working with a student intern that day – Rebekah. We found out later that this was Rebekah’s first birth, so it was neat that Henry was her first, knowing she’d never forget it! The nurse’s name was Linda. They were all very attentive – the nurse stayed with us 100% of the time (except when she took her lunch) and the midwives (Peggy and her intern) were there a lot more than we thought they would be. They were there from the time they met me in the triage room until after I received the epidural. In fact, the baby’s heart rate dropped a little right after I got the medicine, so the nurse called the anesthesiologist and the midwives back into the room and they all stayed until the heart rate stabilized. I felt really confident in the care of these three ladies and was really grateful for the calm feeling they helped maintain during the entire experience.
At some point I started feeling pressure in my lower abdomen and the monitor showed that the pain was during the peaks, which were the contractions. I mentioned it to the nurse and dealt with it for a while because it wasn’t as bad as the pain had been before. It started to get worse and so the anesthesiologist returned to increase the amount of medication (I don’t really know what he did). It didn’t make a difference and because the pain was increasing the midwife had me push to see if it eased the pain, which it did. They still didn’t want the baby to come until after the baby received the antibiotics and it was getting really close and they figured that I would be pushing for a while anyway, so they had me push as much as I could since that eased the pain. Well, the pushing turned out to be pretty effective and it became obvious that this baby was coming pretty fast! It actually was great – I had been nervous about the pushing part of labor because that had been the difficult part for my sister (whose baby’s birth I had witnessed just four months prior). It felt like a blessing for it to turn out this way, for the pushing to actually act as a pain reliever as well as what got the baby out! I only pushed for 30-40 minutes, until 12:56… 19 minutes before the medicine would’ve gotten to him! It ended up being fine, no big deal that he didn’t get the meds. The pushing was only hard the last few pushes, and it wasn’t painful when he crowned like I expected it to be. Rob was great during the pushing – he stayed up by me encouraging me to push, reminding me that we were going to meet the baby soon. He was asked if he wanted to feel the baby and watch closer. He declined :)
So, the moment he was born… it was so crazy! I just couldn’t believe that it was happening – that I was having a baby, that he was finally coming and that it was finally time to meet him. The nurse and midwives knew that we weren’t set on a name and during the pushing the nurse asked if the name choice depended on if he had hair, because he did. That was really fun to hear. It’s funny being the one who is pushing because everyone else in the room gets really excited and you have no idea what’s really happening. With almost every push they make it sound like that’s the one that will get him out – and they are genuinely excited! Then, all the sudden, whoosh! Out he comes and they put him on my chest. I couldn’t get over how tiny he felt! Rob cried, but I don’t think I really did. I actually wish I felt more present at that very moment, I wish I could have taken a moment to look at Rob right then and have that moment take a little longer. It was so amazing to have the baby on my chest, he was whimpering for a long time and he felt so warm. I will always remember that feeling of him laying on me with the blanket on top of him and rubbing his back and his little tiny bum, and him with his arms up near my neck. Even though I didn’t quite feel like his mommy yet at that moment I loved that he seemed so comfortable there as if he knew who I was.
He was 7 lbs 1 ounce (.6 of an ounce, actually) and 19 inches long. Not long after he came I heard Rob telling my mom and his about some of our name choices – Henry or Wade. Rob turned to me and said that he thought the name is Henry. I think we both knew that would end up being his name but it helped that Rob was so sure about it. We didn’t settle on Lewis as a middle name for another 20 minutes or so. We had many names throughout the pregnancy, we weren't going to decide until after he was born. Of all the many names, Henry had been on the list the longest. Wade was the other name we liked that day, although it had only been on our list for a short time. Arthur was the other option for a middle name.
And that’s the story of how our little Henry Lewis came to us on May 2, 2011. I loved the birth, just as I hoped I would. I don’t feel like it could have gone much better. I’m so glad my mom and Rob’s mom could be there and experience Henry’s first minutes of life. I’m so grateful that Rob was my support – what an experience to share together! We love our little boy!
Birth video, by Rob
from rob nyland