Active labor crept up on me like a sudden thunderstorm. The signs had been there, building all day, but I kept on going until I found myself at home in our bedroom, overcome by an intense contraction, unable to stand up straight without supporting myself. My body was rebelling against my well-maintained facade of “I’m okay!”-ness and was folding in upon itself in waves of increasingly powerful cramps. This was the point when I realized that I needed my husband and I needed him NOW. However, I suspect childbirth was the farthest thing from his mind at that point. When I texted him something along the lines of “I’MINALOTOFPAINANDIWISHYOUWEREHERE,” he’d been out all day with friends – it was both Cinco de Mayo and Kentucky Derby weekend – and was, understandably, slightly inebriated. Still, the urgency of my text was not lost on him, and he made the nearly mile-long walk from the bar to our place in record time, arriving concerned and panting. He went into action mode, leaving to accompany my mom to get her stuff (she was staying in an Air B&B just around the corner from us) after making an order for Chinese delivery and leaving some cash with me in case it came while they were gone. And of course the delivery guy came not only while they were gone but while I was in the middle of a contraction. I waddled to the door, smiling wincingly and hoping that the wad of cash I’d tossed in his direction was enough. I clambered back into bed and hunkered down to try to breathe through the pain while timing my contractions with my app.
Now, at this point in the story, things get a bit fuzzy for me and I need to rely a bit more on old text messages and my mom’s photos to piece together the progression of events. Despite the fact that I had accepted the fact that labor had begun, I was still reluctant to contact our doula, Keela, but at around midnight I gave in and sent her this text:
Hey, it’s Emily … I don’t think much is happening yet but I think I may be having some contractions?
Yep. Those are the words of someone who was unable to stand up straight due to the amount of pain she was in – someone who had, in fact, been having contractions for over 12 hours. Apparently I still wasn’t quite believing it. I told her that I’d had 16 contractions in the last hour, ranging anywhere from 1 to 8.5 minutes apart, and she suggested I try to get some sleep. And try I did. Man, did I try. My body, however, had different plans. I tried different positions with no luck. I decided to labor in the bath for a while, which was probably ridiculous to see since we have a 3/4 size bathtub, and I was a million months pregnant (and legit almost 200 pounds). I remember the warm water was nice, but being on my back like a flipped-over turtle was not the most comfortable position for me during contractions, so back to bed I went. I spend the next few hours there, breathing and moaning through each wave, in the only position I could tolerate: face down, ass up (“that’s the way I like to…labor”).
By about 4:00 AM, my contractions were happening 1 – 2 minutes apart, lasting almost a minute each time. At Keela’s suggestion, we called the midwives at the birth center to let them know what was up. The midwife on duty suggested – maddeningly – that I drink some water and try to sleep. At some point I must have requested a bendy straw, because I remember drinking my water out of one as I curled up in bed. I vaguely remember both my mom and my husband comforting me as the contractions become increasingly intense. The next couple of hours passed this way, with me moaning through each contraction as it came and trying desperately to sleep in between them. I don’t think I slept much, but I must have gone to a place mentally that was somewhere between sleep and waking where my only focus was my body and the intense waves rolling through it. Somewhere in the early dawn hours of May 5, my husband called the midwives again since I could barely talk, and they told us we could come in to the birth center around 9:30. It was a gorgeous, sunny early spring day; as we left the house, my mother proclaimed, “it’s a beautiful day to have a baby!” to which I responded “SHUT. UP.” I remember specifically trying to walk down the driveway like everything was normal – I didn’t want someone to drive by and see a massively pregnant woman obviously in pain and pull over thinking something was wrong! It was no small feat standing up straight and walking to that car. The birth center is less than three miles from our place, but the journey there was a bit of a comedy of errors. I clambered in the back and assumed what was apparently the most comfortable position, with my feet pressed up agains the window and my head and arms in the newly-installed car seat next to me. The main road between our place and the birth center is riddled with potholes, every one of which I felt resonating through my entire being that day. And of course, we found ourselves stuck behind a tediously slow driver for most of the way. So it was a bit like a scene from some awful birth-themed rom-com: screaming pregnant woman in the backseat, frantic husband swearing at the traffic while trying to navigate a treacherous road. If I hadn’t been the screaming pregnant woman, I’m sure I would’ve been amused. When we finally arrived at the birth center, my husband ran in to let them know we’d arrived. Apparently the midwife took one look at his face and knew we’d need a wheelchair, which she mercifully wheeled out to me. We skipped the exam room and went right up to the room where I’d be delivering.
Once I was in the bed, the midwife, Phary, checked me. I almost didn’t believe her when she smiled and said, “wow, you’ve been working hard! You’re eight centimeters with a bulging bag of waters.” I was so incredibly relieved. I looked her in the eye and said, “I could kiss you right now.”
Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment…