Archer. My happy, bright, joy of a baby boy. Born after a whirlwind of a labor.
My second son, but the first to be placed on my newly-soft belly, looking up at me with blinking, “What the heck just happened??” eyes.
I’ll tell you what the heck just happened, Kid…
At 41 weeks even, I woke up at 2:00a.m…with no contractions. Everyone was sleeping, there was nothing happening, yet for some reason, I was awake, and stayed awake for the next hour. I should have taken note of the lack of excitement- it ended up being the calm before the storm.
5:30a.m., I awaken to a familiar tightness and dull ache in my abdomen. This was not entirely unusual; Braxton Hicks had been keeping me company for the majority of the third trimester. I figured I would roll to my other side, and keep sleeping. But then it happened again. And again! At that point, it was almost 6:00a.m., and time to start keeping track of the contractions, you know, just *in case* this was the real thing . At 41 weeks, I had reached a point where I did not entirely believe that this kid was going to come out. There was no frustration or impatience, just a kind of acceptance that yes, this child will forever be in my belly. But lo and behold, even after standing up and walking around, the contractions continued! Boy, did they continue.
I was so optimistic in that early part of the morning. I thought of how great it was to start labor, the only one awake in the house. Maybe I could even enjoy a cup of coffee! How nice! I got as far as bringing the cup up to my mouth before I realized that there was absolutely no way in hell I would be consuming coffee this morning.
My revulsion to coffee was a clear indicator that labor was progressing more quickly than I had anticipated. So, at about 6:30a.m., I called my doula to let her know that labor had definitely started, but nothing exciting was happening. We agreed that she should rest a bit longer, and I would call back if things picked up at all. In the hour that went by between that phone call and the next one, labor certainly did “pick up.” Instead of laying over the exercise ball for relief, I had to be standing…then standing and swaying…then standing, swaying and humming. Contractions were progressing from seven minutes apart when I first woke up, to four minutes apart at about 7:00a.m. At that point, I figured it would be good to let my husband in on the fact that I was officially in labor…but to go ahead and sleep for now, since there wasn’t too much excitement.
But then there was excitement. The toilet became my new best friend. I had all the telltale signs that labor was moving along; I flushed my mucous plug away, along with some bloody show, and my system went above and beyond the call of duty, creating an emptiness in my intestines that I did not know was possible without some kind of medical intervention. Also I was contracting every three minutes throughout the emptying “procedure,” so I felt pretty awesome at this point.
Finally, I caught a break, and decided it was time to call our doula to let her know things were going quickly. Contractions were now at 3 minutes apart, and I had to breathe through them. Our plan was for her to take a quick shower, get ready, then call back to see if she was meeting us at home or at the hospital. The hospital?? Didn’t labor just start? I was in total disbelief that meeting at the hospital would even be an option so soon. I had made it my goal to stay home as long as possible, and labor had only started a couple hours ago!
Still, contractions were becoming more intense. As soon as I noticed that I was having difficulty with them, it was time to get everybody up. I woke up my parents, so they could be ready to watch our oldest while we were at the hospital and I let Husband know that it was now officially time to get moving. While everyone else was waking up and getting dressed, it was time to pack the hospital bag. This was a stroke of genius from pre-labor Me. “Knowing” how easy it is to go through early labor and get things done (I had done all our laundry when I was in labor with our oldest), I had put off packing the hospital bag, thinking it would be something to help pass the time while I was in labor. Ha! This was easily the most confusing experience of the entire labor. I could not think beyond breathing through the contractions, which were now debilitating, and I somehow had to figure out what in the world someone packs in an overnight bag. I ended up throwing a random assortment of clothes and toiletries in there, and for the most part it worked out!
After conquering the hospital bag, and with husband showered, it was decided that we would absolutely be meeting our doula at the hospital. Contractions were steady at two and a half minutes apart, and they were extremely intense. I had to close my eyes, breathe deeply, hum, sway, stand, all of the above, to get through each one. The doula called and I tossed the phone to Husband, growling “Hospital” through gritted teeth. It was 8:30a.m.
The seven minute drive to the hospital seemed to take forever. I had brought a plastic grocery bag with us, as I now felt completely nauseated, and squeezed Husband’s hand through each contraction. Two or three contractions later, we were at the hospital. One contraction on the first floor. Another on the second floor, dry heaving over a garbage bin while Husband checked me in down the hall. A wheelchair was brought over to me, which I immediately jumped out of when the next contraction hit. I skipped triage, since I had been nearly five centimeters dilated at the last OB appointment, and went directly to our room.
Before getting hooked up or checked, I went to the bathroom one last time, and came out to see our doula waiting for me. She placed a hot hand on the small of my back and although my first instinct was to slap it away, growl, or otherwise defend my labor bubble, that feeling was quickly replaced with one of such relief. Just what I needed during a very small break between contractions. And with that, I jumped into the hospital bed and proceeded to breathe, hum, and try to cope with the insane contractions that were coming one on top of the other. Meanwhile, I was hooked up to be very closely monitored (hospital policy, since I was attempting a VBAC), and then checked to see how dilation and effacement were coming along. Dilated to nine centimeters, 100% effaced. 8:50a.m.
Soon, I realized that I was gently pushing with each contraction, grunting along the way. This lasted about ten minutes before the delivery team checked to find that I was indeed fully dilated. After it was suggested that I wait for the OB to continue pushing, I continued on my pushy, grunty little way. Finally, our (really awesome) OB arrived, and the resident announced that I could now push. One of the funnier moments of this labor, for sure.
So, we continued on with pushing, and I got some very helpful pointers from the delivery team. It occured to me about halfway through that I was experiencing Coached Pushing, which I knew would probably not end well for my vagina or perineum (3rd degree tear verified this sentiment), but being in the midst of an incredibly intense labor, I decided that I was okay with the trade off. I pushed through the pain, eyes closed, and not speaking to anyone, but holding Husband’s hand throughout. Then came the dreaded ring of fire. And finally, on that last push, I found my voice, and uttered the word which summed up the craze that was this fast, triumph of a VBAC: “Ffffffuuuuuuuu———!!!”
And out came Archer.