For Christmas eve day we planned to get out of the house and do something fun. We got up early enough for me to bake the amazing dark chocolate tart and then polished ourselves off for a day on the town...at the Tacoma Mall. I smile at all the ways we come up with to amuse ourselves in these smaller-than-I'm-used-to parts of the world. We always have a good time. The goal was not only to get out of the house, but to be inside, away from the third or fourth day of rain in a row, near bathrooms and water fountains, and moving around. And so people-watch would we, on this Christmas eve.
Looking on it now, I laugh and wonder, was that the energy spurt I was "supposed" to have right before labor? I'm pretty sure my nesting instinct happened during months six through eight of my pregnancy and I never did rearrange the furniture as much as the women writing baby books for "hip moms" seem too. We came home from the mall, took a few deep breaths, and walked to our neighbor's for Christmas eve snackables, football, and cheer. I went to bed around 10:30 and was expecting a quiet day at home, with just my man, to follow.
At 3:30 a.m. I woke for my middle of the night bathroom trip and found Hadj, unable to sleep, at the computer. I got back in bed, had pre-dream drifting thoughts and then heard a THWAP sound come from inside.
"Huh?" I thought.
Then, a contraction. Then, a few minutes later, another contraction.
"Hm..." I assessed.
I got out of bed and felt rather wet between my legs. I reached down, pulled my hand away and it was covered in clear liquid.
I walked to the living room, "Hey, uh, I think my water just broke." And Hadj smiled. He knew it, he told me, he knew it was coming and that's why he'd been too amped for sleep.
We were ready. I'd been ready to have this baby for a month. I'd been whining about wanting to have this baby for a week. I'd read all I could possibly stuff into my brain about birth and delivery. We'd taken twelve weeks of child-birth classes. We were 100% completely ready for it. I had envisioned what I thought it would be like. I thought I might have hours of "a-contraction-here, a-contraction-there" and imagined looking out our windows at the beautiful trees in calm waiting. I amassed a library of music that might be nice to "labor to." I thought we'd go for walks, dance, make-out, maybe watch a movie. I had very few expectations beyond that - except one big one, this was going to be totally alright. It was going to be with out complication, just as it is meant to be, in the best of all possible worlds.
None of my lolly-gagging, pass-the-time-while-you're-in-early-labor techniques were needed, it turned out. It turned out, in fact, that I'd done most of that labor over the course of the previous week, beginning on Monday after I lost some of my mucous plug following a pre-natal massage. And so, with the THWAP, we were hot on course.
My contractions began five minutes apart and lasted up to 45 seconds. I called my Mom, I called my midwife. I held the phone away from my ear and smiled while my Mom screamed her best I'm-not-really-screaming-but-really-I-am excitement out. Hadj and I made sure we were in the flow, and went with it.
Now I'd like to dedicate this post to my wonderful man, partner, husband, friend, card-carrying childbirth coach, Hadj. There's no way any of this (duh) would have happened with out him. I want to thank and congratulate him for being who he is and for helping me during the beautiful birth of our beautiful son. He is the best coach, captain, and support, I ever imagined.
Hadj strapped a watch to his wrist. The contractions came more quickly than I expected and it turned out that I spent most of my day with my eyes closed, in a half sleep state when not having a contraction. I was breathing slow and moaning low through them. I keened deeply throughout the labor, like Ina May had instructed me. Of all my learning, it was what I read in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth that really directed me from the outside, mostly though, I was directed from within. Ina May had assured me that my "monkey body" knows just what it's doing. All "I" had to do was get out of the way. Hadj put all our biggest pots on the stove to boil extra water for the tub. He cranked the heat to 75. He was there at every turn, right in sync.
My body emptied itself of all unneeded contents within the first two hours of labor. By hour four, 8:30 a.m., I was deeply entrenched in the place my midwife calls labor land: my eyes closed and my body spontaneously responding innate signals. We were waiting for my contractions to lengthen out. By 10 a.m. it had happened, they were two minutes apart, one minute long. "The cavalry has been called in," Hadj told me and I hunkered down, happy to know my midwife was on her way. We were really doing this. When my moaning grew lengthier Hadj began reminding me, "the only way out is through." My midwife and labor assistant arrived a half hour later. Looking now, I can see that Hadj really did most of the work the women were there to ensure needed be done. The women, who I adore even more now than I did before, encouraged the work Hadj and I were doing together, applauded it. They stood back, gave him helpful tips, and made sure provisions were ready for the big show. Sometime near 11:30 a.m. my midwife suggested I get in the tub.
Sometime before 1 p.m. I emerged from the tub, a mama.
The last two hours of contractions were intense. I moaned more loudly, had very little down time, never opened my eyes. I was on our living room floor for much of it, my knees under me like in the yoga Child's Pose, my hips opening as wide as possible and my head hanging limply and swinging on my neck to some mystical rhythm of my body's own design. Once in the tub the contractions became even more strong and I knew it was coming on fast. The shadow of a doubt that had been quietly waiting in the depths emerged and I became afraid. With my first real urge to push I said it out loud, "I'm scared." I knew there was no use to it, but the shadow wanted me to try and run away. Hadj was there with encouraging words. My body knew and told the fear it had no place there, but the fear hung on anyway. The fear told me it accompanied birth, whether needed or not, and that it would pass away when it was time. They call that fear "transition" in the books and classes.
I flipped over onto my hands and knees in the tub and resumed the position I'd had on the living room floor. The fear white knuckled me and for the next two contractions I roared like a lion. A sound I've never made before and will never make again, unless, perhaps, in labor. Hadj told me to take it down, chill out. I don't recall responding to him, but he says he saw my body relax. My midwife told me to take that roar inside for the next contraction, to close my mouth and bring that roar down deep and use it to push out. And so I did. And I did hard. Four pushes in total, Salamander T. was born in our tub to Hadj's hands.
I heard them tell about feeling his head. I heard them say he was crowning. I heard them talking, saying, saying. I felt his head move down, his shoulders... Just before, my midwife asking me to take a breath and slow down, telling me to "shhhhhh!" hard with the contraction. Now, the memory of that feeling, of him moving down, makes me weep in awe, joy, pride...I wish I could have slowed down and done something like savor that feeling, but alas. Out he came, like a rocket, little, perfect Salamander into his Daddoo's hands and it was done. Christmas day, 12:25 p.m. 8 lbs. 18.5"
Beforehand, I thought it would be an immense spiritual opening. I thought I would shake with tears as big as earthquakes when I saw him. At the time, it was different, those two things come now. At the time it was sheer awe, emotions pinging off of me like hard rain, nothing but euphoria. Hadj in the tub with his pant legs rolled up, holding him. His quick cry to let us know he was here, and then his patient, relaxed face. His perfect pink, his chestnut hair, his dimpled cheeks. A complete miracle, how did you happen? Our son, we did it, look at you, good job, my love...