Saturday the 20th started out like almost ever other day in the past two weeks: some contractions, but nothing steady and certainly nothing to get excited about. By this point, seven days past-due and with an induction already scheduled for the following Friday, we had all but given up on the idea of a naturally triggered birth.
So we went to the pool. It was the first really nice day this summer, and we knew swimming would be good for Sarah’s aching back. It was really pleasant, and as we walked home we vowed to come back the next day. Then we came home for some P&P (popsicles and prostaglandins, a staple of our birth prep lifestyle), before heading out to the burbs for a friend’s barbeque. At the party, Sarah had a burger and quite a bit of Diet Squirt. We drove home, another hour in the car, and considered heading to a cafe before realizing we were too tired and would rather spend the evening relaxing at home. We didn’t realize it yet, but this proved to be one incredibly fortuitous decision.
This is where our story begins.
Sandy lays on hammock to read. Sarah lays on couch to rest.
Sarah feels urge to pee. As she adjusts to stand, she feels a gush of warm fluid. Her water has broken. It is an incredibly strange feeling, and she bursts out laughing. She calls to Sandy so he can see. “Sandy, you have to come in now.” “HAVE to?” “YES.” When he arrives, she is giggling and standing in a puddle in the kitchen.
Contractions begin. Crazy intense and much harder than anything she’d had before. We immediately start to invoke the Lamaze breathing methods we learned from Adrienne. Labor is clearly starting.
We page the midwife on call. Sandy decides to take a nap — if this is going to be a long night, he should have some rest. He shows concern that this move will make him come out looking like a schlub in the birth story, but Sarah assures him it’ll be okay.
Sarah calls parents and texts a few friends. After two weeks, the roller coaster is finally cresting and heading downhill. Exciting.
Amy, the Saturday on-call midwife, calls back and says to wait until contractions are 3 minutes apart for an hour, then come in. We expect this. It is the same advice we’d been getting for the last two weeks of not-quite-real labor.
Sandy emerges from bedroom, not really able to sleep. Sarah’s contractions are getting worse and more frequent than three minutes apart. She is unable to do anything during a contraction other than breathe frantically. We page Amy again.
Sarah continues to gush water. She soaks through 3 or 4 pairs of panties. In honest attempt to dry sweat off Sarah’s face, Sandy accidentally picks up a used pair of panties. Hilarity would have ensued if pain wasn’t so great.
Amy calls back, agrees we should come in.
Sandy quickly cleans up house, cleans up kitty litter, gives the cats some food, runs dishwasher, zips up suitcase and packs car. Sarah suffers through a few more contractions on her way through the house and down the stairs to the car.
Sandy has the most satisfying drive of his life, eschewing the many one-ways by taking Virginia the wrong way directly to Lawrence. It saves at least one contraction’s worth of time, and he feels like a hero. Get to hospital, half-mile away, in minutes.
Park in roundabout. Sandy walks Sarah into empty hospital. Bored front desk clerk looks up at Sarah, who says, “I’M HAVING A BABY.” Take elevator up to third floor and check in. We are assigned a room, and soon Amy comes in.
Sarah gets hooked up to monitors and checked for blood pressure, fetal heartbeat, and contractions. She’s incredibly uncomfortable stuck in the bed. The contractions are so close that there isn’t enough time between them to even get a blood pressure. Eventually Amy convinces the nurse to let it go so Sarah can get off the monitors and out of bed.
Amy checks Sarah’s cervix. She’s at 8cm. EIGHT CENTIMETERS. She’s opened up 3-5cm in the last hour. We laugh. This shit is ON.
Sandy turns to midwife, asks, “So this is active labor?” Midwife is incredulous. Sandy passes it off like he’s telling a joke. (He was not.)
Sandy calls Sarah’s parents, who are standing by. “She’s at 8cm.” “Then I guess we better leave.” Sandy leaves voicemail for his mom to come up.
Contractions continue. There’s no time to even think about drugs (not that we wanted them).
Blood pressure is attempted again, but still no dice.
Amy is incredibly patient and supportive and calming. She enlists Sandy for various tasks, like heating up a pack of towels with warm water, and lubing up the fetal heart monitor. Things are going too quickly to call in the nurses.
Liebermans call and leave voicemail: “We’re on our way. Call if you need any advice.”
Amy moves Sarah to a standing position, leaning over bed. Contractions continue at same strength and pace. Sarah feels downward pressure. Amy tells Sarah to speak up when she feels like she needs to poop.
Two contractions later, Sarah says, “I feel like I have to poop.”
Amy checks Sarah’s cervix and says, “Your cervix is entirely gone.” Sarah says, “What happens now?!” Sandy says, “You have a baby.” Amy says, “He’s right.”
Amy suggests Sarah take off gown “because I feel like you’re going to want to deliver your own baby.” We take off gown. We are unclear on what she means. This is not a Russian Water Birth™.
Sarah spends two or three contractions standing up, pushing. Legs get too tired, so Amy helps move her to her hands & knees, on the bed.
Amy has Sandy raise the back of the bed so Sarah can hold onto it while pushing. It helps.
Liebermans arrive. Sandy greets them outside the door and asks them to remain in hallway. They are beyond excitement.
Pushing continues. Sarah is SCREAMING. Sandy readies for the low, primal, guttural moaning he learned about in class, but it never comes.
Amy moves Sarah to side position. Amy thinks that’ll help Sarah relax better between pushes. It seems to.
While pushing on her side, Sarah is told to hold back her top knee. Sandy stands on front-side of Sarah, holding her hand, and providing encouragement.
Sarah is tough as a motherfucker, and soon we can see the very tip of the kid’s head.
Sarah by now is screaming like a banshee giving birth to another banshee. No moaning, but very loud yelling. Grandparents are just outside the door, listening. Adrienne yells “I love you Sarah!” and Sarah very feebly yells back “Thank you mom.”
Amy has Sarah reach down to touch his head. Then she has her look through her legs to see it. Sarah says, “Oh my god.”
The head starts to crown. At one point, his head makes it out to just above the ears. Other nurse says two more pushes. It takes three. Finally, heroically, insanely, Sarah pushes him through. His head, which Sandy can see clearly, is nothing short of GINORMOUS. There is an expansive shock of black hair.
With one more push, his shoulders emerge, then the rest of his body. Amy catches him, and Sandy immediately reaches down to take him and move him to Sarah’s chest. He’s purple and slimy and literally awesome.
He lays on Sarah’s chest. Sarah says “Oh my god” over and over and over.
Turns out he’s a little too purple, and the nurses have to take him to the warming station. They have Sandy cut the cord. We were expecting to keep the cord connected, allowing the rest of the placental blood to flow in, but as a backup we brought a cord blood donation kit. Except we forgot to tell the nurses until just now. While they’re a tiny bit annoyed not to get prior warning, they are happy to get right to it, and manage to extract enough blood to make a difference.
His birth time is called: 9:50pm on June 20, 2009. 34 and one-half years exactly after Sarah is born, one day before summer solstice and Father’s Day, and THREE HOURS after Sarah’s water broke on our living room couch.
He weighs in at 4274 grams, or 9lb 7oz. The room erupts in a “Whoa.” Sandy walks out to tell the grandparents. Another collective “Whoa.”
Nurses continue to treat him, getting out snot and at one point sticking a tube down his throat. His hue starts to turn pinker.
The nurse brings the baby, now cleaned up and wearing a little hat, back to the bed. Sarah attempts to breastfeed. It’s slow going, but he manages to latch for a little bit and get out a little colostrum.
We ask the nurses to give us the room for a minute. It’s time to decide his name. Our short list had three full names on it, so Sandy asks Sarah which she likes best, having now seen the kid in the flesh. She says her choice hasn’t changed and turns the question back on him. Sandy says, “Ezra.” Sarah says, “That was always my favorite.” It is decided.
Sandy calls in the grandparents to take a first look at their first grandchild. As the cooing begins, Sandy prompts Sarah to break the news of the name.
Sarah announces, “This is Ezra Stanley.”