The night before my labor begins, Alex and I find ourselves accompanying some out-of-town guests to the most picturesque of home environments: Ikea. We wander through perfectly staged nurseries. I test out sofas and chow on swedish meatballs. My belly feels very, very tight.
The following evening, my water leaks as I crawl into bed. Alex and I examine it with curiosity, excitement and some hesitation (what if it’s actually only pee?!). In the morning, I roll out of bed and shoot off some final work emails. My new job for the next few days is to labor, and for the next few months, to be only a mother.
A few hours later, I’m watching the Monday night Seahawks game between increasingly intense contractions. I raise my head off the kitchen counter to witness an epic, athletic catch by Jimmy Graham, but then things get a little hazy. (Did they win? I don’t remember.) I rock and sway with the hypnobirthing soundtrack playing in the background: Picture yourself now on a bed of mist….
At 2:00 am, midwives Nikki and Anne pay us a visit. Our dog is very excited to have visitors so early. He wonders if perhaps they’d like to feed him breakfast? It’s time, the midwives say. Meet us at the Alma Birth Center in an hour.
We drive. Car rides while in labor don’t top my bucket list, but arriving at our bedroom at Alma makes it all worthwhile. It’s so cozy. I ease into the warm tub surrounded by glowing candles and rest. I’m in good hands.
Two hours later, I’m wrinkled as a raisin but relaxed. I’m thinking to myself, The pain isn’t so bad…what’s all the fuss about? The midwives tell me my contractions are spacing out too much and I need to get out of the tub.
Oh. That’s why it doesn’t feel so bad.
Keeping the contractions going becomes a constant challenge. Apparently my baby is also sunnyside up. That won’t do. We need him properly positioned. Midwife Laura has me rotating like a rotisserie chicken on the bed: I push on my side, then from my back, then on all fours, then on my other side. It works–our baby spins.
This pushing thing is taking a long time. I push on the toilet, inside the shower, on the birthing stool, from the bed, from the couch, hanging from my husband’s neck. They’re giving me shots of cotton root extract, with chasers of gatorade, so my laboring uterus will buck up and stop taking breaks. Eventually I get an IV.
I wryly recall my key takeaway, accurate or not, from our hypnobirthing class: “You don’t need to push in addition to your body’s natural reflex.” Hah. Hah, hah, hah. I’m pushing my eyes out right now. Alex is lovingly yelling Push, push! in my ear. I’m pushing even when there are no contractions.
I wonder if this process will ever end. Two steps forward, one step back, Laura comments. Then, finally, some real progress! The midwives can see hair and encourage me to look. I don’t want to look. I want this baby out.
Apparently, he’s entering the world in style, with one arm draped dramatically across his forehead. Comforting for him in the womb, but not super comfortable for my perineum. It burns. There’s so much pressure. PUUUSH PUSH PUUUUSH Alex chants, and then…he’s out. Maverick is here. This little thing is on my chest and I can hardly believe it.
He’s covered in meconium and hasn’t cried yet. The midwives kick into gear. They track the time, rub him down, prepare to help him get a breath, and then…he cries. We are so thankful.
Puffy face from pushing? Check.
Awe-inspiring new life? Check.
Hardest physical feat I’ve ever accomplished? Absolutely. Marathons, relays, my Ultimate Frisbee championships–even Jimmy Graham’s one-handed catch–got nothing on this birthing thing.
We squirrel away for two glorious nights at the birth center. We don’t leave our room. I devour two milkshakes in one night and linger in the shower. Maverick naps on Alex’s chest. They coach us on a few newborn tricks, family pops by for a visit, and we rest…we rest before leaving to start the rest of our completely new lives, all together.