This is the FULL TALE. One day I'll write a reader's digest version. =)
Eames Walter Kawa was born a beautiful 8lbs 8oz at 12:38 in the afternoon on 10/24/12. And I worked hard to get him here!
PART ONE: Is This For Real?
At my doctor's appointment the Monday before our Happy Birthing Day, Dr.Decker said, "I'd be shocked if you made it to your next appointment." That night, around 2am, I was awoken by strong contractions. They lasted about a minute and they were 10 minutes apart. When a contraction ended, I'd try to go back to sleep. When they hit me, the pain in my back and hips was so severe I had to instantly get up on my hands and knees. This went on until about 7am. Then stopped suddenly. No more labor.
The next day I went about my business. I called my mother-in-law to check in... she was staying with my sister-in-law who was due the same day as me. Her second child. My sister-in-law grabbed the phone giggling and told me, "I've been having contractions 7 minutes apart all day!" I congratulated her and we hung up. An hour later I had a strong non-Braxton-Hicks-y contraction. Hmm! That felt like it meant business.
Dear Husband got home from work about 5:30pm. I told him his sister was probably in labor. We started cooking dinner. I had another contraction that meant business. "Have you packed your bag for the hospital? I'd feel better if you did." We went back for David to pack. He was leisurely folding Tshirts with his secret, patent-pending (jk) T-Shirt Folding Technique. I had another contraction. "You know on second thought, if you're going to take 20 minutes with each t-shirt, I'd feel better if we got the carseat installed."
We laughed and headed out to the car to wrangle our giant convertible car seat into its various straps and buckles. Two more contractions. I updated him but also told him that something similar had happened all the night before... it might not keep going. We decided to run to Target to pick up something.... and don't ask me what it was, because I have NO CLUE.
Contraction in the car. Contraction in the parking lot. CONTRACTION in Target. WHEW! OK! These are getting stronger. I started checking my watch. They were getting closer together too. By the time we got home they were clipping along at medium strength 5 minutes apart.
David suggested we put on a movie, eat dinner, and try to relax and distract ourselves for the long "Early Labor" stretch. I was still having such intense pain in my back with each contraction that I got on my hands and knees and leaned on a chair to eat my dinner. The contractions became strong enough that I needed to groan deeply and relax my face to get through. Dear Husband was totally engrossed in his movie and fajitas. Ignoring me. Finally I got annoyed!
"Listen! Are you going to support me through labor or not?! You talked a big game, you read all those books... now we're in labor and you are more concerned about Charlie's Angels than about me over here working on bringing your son into the world! This isn't practice. This isn't play time. This isn't a trial run! This is the real deal! HE IS COMING!! Are you going to do this with me or not?"
The sweet man stared at me with his mouthful of fajitas hanging open, his eyes as big as dinner plates, and said: "I was going to help you when you were in real labor."
Nature chose that exact moment to send me the biggest whopper contraction that I'd felt yet.
I focused inward, groaned deeply, got through it, and then said (pointing at my belly), "What the hell do you think this is?"
With this Call To Duty ringing in his ears, David got down to the business of being my birth partner. He turned off the movie, polished off dinner, and checked his watch.
PART TWO: Daddy Steps Up
With each contraction we found that if David placed his hands on my hips and pressed inward forcefully it would take the edge off the pain of my back labor. That became our routine. Every few minutes, when he knew a contraction was coming, he would come to me, place his hands on my hips, I would breathe deeply and begin to groan, he would begin to press, I would rhythmically tap my left hand on the pillow above my head... channeling all my tension into that hand... relaxing every fiber of my body for the contraction to do its good work. The tapping of my hand was governed by some powerful internal instinct. No book told me to do it. It was just my method. The tapping would speed up as the contraction peeked and then slowly descend in tempo. When the hand lay still, David would release my back. One more down. By this time I was off the floor of the living room and on our bed... still on hands and knees, belly cradled in pillows.
We had a plan to bring Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to the nurses in the hospital. David said, "If you can make it through three contractions alone, I'll get the Krispy Kreme." Deal. He headed out... I got my iPhone and turned on Pandora. The first song was, "Hold Onto What You Believe" by Mumford and Sons.
"I...I can't promise you that I won't let you down. We are young... Open flowers in the windy fields of this war-torn world..." the first words felt like the message in my heart to my son.
"Hold to what you believe in the night! When the darkness has robbed you all your sight." The chorus was my anthem for myself. Yes pain... yes focus... yes unknowns... but hold on. Hold onto to what you believe. As I go into this night of laboring to bring my son into the world, hold onto what you believe. By tomorrow, you will see your son... hold on to what you believe.
I made it through the contractions alone. David got home. No doughnuts. The store was on fire. HA! =)
PART THREE: The Hospital
Our decision to go to the hospital was less about the speed of contractions (by now about 3 minutes apart) and more about my mental attitude. When my mentality was serious and intense and heavy even between contractions, we knew it was time. We checked into the hospital. I was 6.5 cm dilated and the head was pressing down well into the pelvis. YAY! Good for me! I felt jubilant. Everyone says after you get past half way, things tend to move along at a good pace. We were about 7 hours into the process at that point. 1:00am. I hoped to see my son soon.
Doctors and nurses were all very respectful of our plan to labor naturally. The doctor instructed the nurses to leave me alone and not check me frequently. With that, medical staff all vaporized and I was left with my husband to continue our journey closer to Eames.
It was a long, long night of contractions. Still back labor... so intense that I never could get off my hands and knees. When the doctor came to check on me he was concerned that the baby might be breech because of the intensity of the back labor... but he wasn't. My water hadn't broken either...
Still the night went on and on and on... I was starting to become incredibly fatigued, but I still couldn't get off hands and knees. I tried the ball... tried standing... tried hanging on David... tried being supported by a stretchy wrap... nothing worked except being on hands and knees. But I was getting so tired that I was falling asleep sitting up between contractions. I was become delirious and loosing my ability to focus... at the same time my contractions were reaching transition-esque intensity and frequency.
But I wasn't progressing.
After 7 more hours I had only progressed one centimeter.
I was tired I was falling asleep sitting up between contractions. I started to crumble and say, "I don't know if I can do this... I don't know if I can do this..." He was so encouraging! He told me I could over and over. He coached me. He assured me that he believed in me. But after a while he could see a change in me... the exhaustion was so intense that I was breaking down and saying, "I don't think I can see my baby... I'm too tired... I don't feel happy when I think about seeing my baby..." I was mentally spent. I was searching for something to push me forward, but I couldn't find anything beyond exhaustion.
David said, "Keep pushing until the next time they check you... if you're 8cm, we're going to go all the way naturally. If you're not there yet, let's get the epidural."
At 15-16 hours of labor (plus the night before) they checked me. I was 7cm. I was going backwards. Still hadn't reached transition, let alone pushing. With first baby, I knew pushing could last an hour or two... I was honestly so exhausted I was afraid that I would end up not being able to push the baby out and that I would have to get a c-section.... so we decided to get an epidural. Better an epidural and a vaginal delivery than no epidural and a c-section.
After the doctor put it in, I fell asleep. When I woke up two hours later... I felt renewed! I was ready for my baby! And I was ready to push shortly after.
PART FOUR: Here Comes Baby
I told the nurse I was ready to push. She checked... and looked shocked, "Oh boy! Yes you are!" She flew into action! "Nurse, grab a leg... Dad, grab the other leg! OK, Blair... when you're ready... deep breath and push..." After two pushes we could see the head. I reached down and felt the warm, damp downy brown head of my son. It was an electric moment I'll never forget. It was my favorite moment of all time. It made me cry and I looked into my husband's eyes and I was SO thankful that I could savor this moment rested, calm, and not in a fit of pain.
The nurse asked me to pause after two more pushes because Eames was about to pop out and the doctor wasn't there yet.
Once the doctor came, I pushed a couple more times and Eames came out very round and fat and adorable!
9 pushes total. 9 minutes start to finish.
8lbs 8oz. 19"
He was laid right on my chest and lay there looking up at me... it was unbelievable... there he was... his exquisite little body against my skin... his little mouth against my breast...
After a nice long cuddle time, they asked if they could take him to the table to finish their exams. They asked Daddy if he would like to carry Eames to the table. He said, "Can I?!?" They laughed and said, "Well, he's yours!" He was so scared me would drop him. Eames loved the blackness of his daddy's hair right away.
While they took care of Eames, I got a chance to take a look at my placenta on the table. It was amazing. The doctor finished putting in a few stitches. (I had just a couple one degree tears. Extremely mild surface tears.) I could feel my uterus contracting down... the jello flabby emptiness of my belly was weird...
And that's how we got the baby here.
That's how it all began... and it hasn't stopped since...
(Use of all images for this post, courtesy of Sarah Kohut Photography)
(Except for the one bad picture of me in the living room... that was David...)