Birth, round two.

Doth there exist in the blogosphere a statue of limitations for writing birth stories? Ambrose, my second little sweetheart, is already 18 months. But after reading another mom's beautiful birth story this week, I felt called to record (if for nothing else than my own memory) the night of his birth.

Start your pitocin drip and let's go. :)

Eighteen months ago, I went for my 39.5 week check up on a Friday. My due date was only two days away, and we had scheduled an induction for the following Friday, just in case I hadn't had the baby yet. I was, however, 3cm and 30% effaced! To celebrate, I stopped and got a Five Guys bunless cheeseburger on the way home. With Joseph, I hadn't had any early progress like that, and I remember calling my mom from the Five Guys parking lot, thrilled to know my body was working like a second-time mom's probably should.

After Joseph went to bed that night, I realized that the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been feeling all day had intensified. Sean was on the phone. At one point in the conversation, he looked over and took note. I sat with my hands firmly pressing my big belly, my head pressed back against the sofa, my eyes closed and my face in a grimace with the contraction. Sean said slowly into the phone, "Yeah, I'm going to have to call you back. This looks different."

We started timing contractions; after an hour of steady pains, we decided to head over to the hospital. A friend who lives nearby came to stay with Joseph, and we were off by 11 p.m.

From check-in at the hospital, to the OB admitting room, we eventually got the news that I was only... 2cm. Sigh. Instead of sending us home, the kindly nurses sent us for a hour of laps around the hallways to see if I'd make any progress. We took a trip to the cafeteria to get snacks, since it looked fairly certain that we'd be up all night.

Every 4-5 minutes I'd stop, gripping the handrails or Sean's arms. At each contraction I'd work on relaxing my face, squatting down, remembering that I had to help that baby twist and turn his way out of me. I even made Sean download an entire album (on the hospital's slow wi-fi) of John Michael Talbot songs on his phone, thinking the troubadour's voice would help keep me calm. Knowing we would be up all night having this baby put an additional stress on my mind. By the time we came home from the hospital with Joseph, I had gone three nights without two consecutive hours of sleep, and I was an absolute mess. I tried pushing those fears away, listening to the music and praying when I could.

"Be Not Afraid" must have worked because the final contraction of the hour left me shaking and nauseated. We returned back to the admitting room, and hooray, 4cm! A nurse began walking us to our room, but contractions repeatedly brought me to my knees and left me shivering and chattering. Our nurse radio-ed to the room nurses ahead of us, "Yeah, we're on our way. She's starting to get busy."

Once we got to the room, a nurse tried starting my IV/hep lock. Failed. It was agreed that since I desperately wanted to get in the jet tub for pain relief and to relax, they'd try to get the IV started there. So in the tub I went, grateful for hot water and those miraculous soothing jets. Second try, failed. Another nurse comes in. Third try, failed. I struggled to unclench my teeth and remain focused on labor, assuring myself that surely, SURELY there will be one medical professional in the institution FULL of medical professionals who can start an IV on a woman who admittedly has veins as small and fickle as cheap wet yarn.

An angel disguised as a fresh faced young nurse came in to try. Fourth attempt, and blessed success. I melted into a puddle of relief, then knelt in the tub for nearly an hour, enjoying the vision of myself as a woman laboring in a tub in her sports bra, just like those home birth moms in A Baby Story. Heh.

The water eventually overheated me, and I climbed out of the tub with Sean's help, all lightheaded and flushed. I told Sean I just need to lie down for a bit, and he started to help me to the bed. No no, I said in typical laboring lady talk, I need to lie down right now, right here. (On the floor. The bathroom floor. Of a hospital.)

So the image most seared in Sean's mind from Ambrose's birth isn't the baby crowning, or holding his new son for the first time.... No. It's of his germophobe wife, so overcome with labor and fatigue and baby-birthing-hormones that she actually took a 10-minute nap on the floor of the restroom, laying her head on her own cardigan with her bottom half beached on the paper bathmats supplied in said bathrooms.

When stronger contractions woke me, I moved out to the room and began the familiar "I can't do this any more. I'm done. I'm done! I want the epidural--I'm done. I can't. I can't!" of transition. That same angel nurse came in, saw me and said, "Let's check you! I bet you're doing really well! This is going so fast. You won't need an epidural." And in my mind she lost all credibly and should have been stripped of her license. Of course this labor would never end! I'm tired! I'm done! Pain pain paaaaain!

A quick check showed me to be at 9cm. And a check of the clock showed 6:30 a.m. A bit more of that "I can't!" nonsense, and I felt the pressure. I also felt the need to sit on the bed and pound my head into Sean's torso like a ram. For most of Ambrose's labor (post bathtub), actually, I think I used my sweet husband as a stress ball, alternately pressing against him or pushing against him to balance the forces pushing against my own body.

Another check 30 minutes later showed me to be almost 100% effaced and nearly ready to push, but not quite. The pressure felt so overwhelming, though, that I laid back on the bed and told the nurses in the room, "You don't understand--I can't not push; I need to push. Now." And the nurses, truly God bless them, told me there wasn't a doctor there yet.

Well. Summon one, perhaps? Pretty please??

At that point the resident flew in the room, tying on her gown. The minute I saw her, I released my last shards of labor pains, tension, stress and any form of communication. I closed my eyes and pushed.


Two pushes, and that baby who had kept me vertical, standing or kneeling for the last eight hours came out.

 They placed him on my chest, and Sean told me we had a boy. Eyes still closed, I smiled and cradled my infant. I knew he was out and safe... and that I was 90% done. Sean took him from me, and the "after birth" began.

No one writes much about the after birth, and maybe it's a good thing. I've birthed two babies now, one with an epidural and one without. They were equally hard, both during labor, birth and after. But one special thing happened this second time. While the resident and (finally) a doctor from my doctor's office began repairing and doing whatever they do down there, a sweet nurse took hold of my left hand. I opened my eyes and looked at her. She looked down at me and said, "You did so great. Great job. You're almost done."

To the second angel nurse of this birth, I cannot properly express my gratitude. Following any baby's birth, the Dad holds the baby and sees him weighted and measured. But the Mom's still on the table, having an organ squished out of her and her nether regions stitched up--it's like adding insult to injury. So to that angel nurse who tenderly held my hand, during the chills and shaking that come once your body pushes out another human being--thank you. Thank you for doing your job so very, very well.

And that, as they say, is that.

Ambrose, my sweet little soul who weighed exactly the same as his brother but came out in half the time--I love you, my little cub. Thanks for going easy on me.


  1. Beautiful! I love a good birth story, and you have such a way with words, Mary. Just beautiful!