Actually, he arrived two weeks ago, all 6lbs 14oz of him. However, we don’t have internet at the house and I’ve been a little preoccupied, so…. hence the delay in announcing. I wish I could share pictures of him at the moment, but I can’t, so you’ll have to take my word for it: he’s a cute baby! Our lives are totally different, and we would never want to go back to what we had before!
Now, here is the part where you need to stop reading if you don’t like birth stories. Although I will try to be discreet, birth isn’t exactly a discreet time of life, and you might read some details you would rather not know. 🙂 Be forewarned.
It began Sunday night. Or probably more like afternoon, although I didn’t know it. For a little more than a week I had experienced a daily bout of painful, annoying contractions from mid-afternoon until night, so when the same thing began late Sunday afternoon, I groaned inwardly, and asked Jordan if we could just stay home from church since I would be in so much pain I wouldn’t hear the sermon anyway. He agreed, and even swung by the store to get a movie for me, hoping to help take my mind off the pain. I sat in the tub (we rented a hot tub for the birth) and watched the movie; eventually got out and kept watching, although the contractions were still really painful. Towards the end of the movie – maybe about 9:30 at night – I was just fed up with them, and couldn’t sit still at all. It was a relief when the movie ended and I could leave the room to go pace up and down the living room floor. I sensed Jordan’ watching me, and knew he was worried, so I tried not to look very grumpy when he was around, but I really wanted to be alone so that I could vent my frustration with this “pointless” pain. Suffice it to say, I was feeling really sorry for myself. Somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 both Jordan and I sensed that things were getting worse, and he asked if we should call the midwife. I was hesitant. For the last week and a half, each round of ‘false labor’ was worse than the last, so it made sense that this one would be yet more difficult than any I’d faced before. Also, there was no consistency to the contractions. Sometimes five minutes apart, sometimes three minutes…sometimes just thirty seconds. “Real labor”, I thought, should be more regular. Basically, I didn’t want to give a false alarm. And somewhere inside of me I just could not convince myself this was the real thing. I was so afraid of disappointment!
At last, Jordan decided that if I didn’t call, he would, so I told him to go ahead because I didn’t feel like talking to anyone anyway. I was surprised that the midwife seemed to think this was the real thing, and began to feel encouraged that perhaps this time, it really would end with a baby!
The midwife and her assistants were on their way. Jordan called Mom and let her know she needed to come. I tried to tell Jordan what things needed set up for the birth, but it was really hard to talk, and I was starting to think maybe it would be nice to just quit and try again another day. However that was not an option :). The first assistant showed up, and I greeted her by saying, “Hi! I’m sorry…” and I walked away to lean against a wall and groan. After she observed me for a few minutes I turned to her and asked, “Is this it? Am I really in labor?” She almost laughed. “Yes,” she said, “You’re really in labor, and your doing great.” Ha! They say that to everybody! How do you tell a woman in that much pain that she’s not doing a good job? I mean, she would kill you!
Anyway… It is no exaggeration to say that at about the point the assistant arrived, each consecutive contraction was worse, longer, stronger, more painful. And so close together! At one point they began to literally never end (in my mind anyway). I would feel it coming, and would find myself clinging to the nearest object – usually Jordan – gasping and crying through pain worse than I could ever have imagined. It would begin to subside, I would start to catch my breath and BAM! There it was again, the same level of pain with about five seconds of a break. This happened as often as three times in a row before the contraction would really leave. During these I honestly felt that perhaps I was dying. It didn’t make sense that any human being could live through so much pain. In my mind, full of “what the books said” about the labor of a first time mom, I still had five to eight hours of this agony, and I began to think I was crazy to do this at all. Jordan and I had this dialogue several times:
Me: I can’t do this, Jordan!
Him: Yes you can, you have to. (thanks, like I needed a reminder)
Me, since Jordan couldn’t help me: Lord, pleeeease help me! Help me through this!
Jordan: He is, He’s helping you right now. You’re going to make it.
At one point I said, “I don’t know if He is.” That was an attempt to be funny. Failed.
During all of this, the assistants (somewhere along the way the second assistant had arrived) kept asking Jordan for things. I got kind of irritated at this. I mean, couldn’t they see I needed him? They could find towels and pans and whatever else by themselves. I was in the middle of a crisis, couldn’t they see that???? The funny thing is, when he was there I wouldn’t let him do much. I was too hot and nauseated to be rubbed and massaged, even on my back, so the most he could do was hold me, and let me cling to him REALLY HARD.
This was probably transition, the worst part of labor, although I didn’t know it. The next time I saw the assistant – Sarah, I found out later – I begged to get in the tub. “Um, not yet,” she said, “Penny (the midwife) said you should wait. It might relax you too much and make things go faster.” That should have clued me in to the fact that labor was going really super fast, but it didn’t.
Finally, after a two minute eternity, she said took pity on me and said, “You can go ahead and get in.” Ahhhh…. it wasn’t relief from the pain, but it was just enough of a help that I didn’t feel like I was dying anymore. Also, I was able to grip the edge of the tub, and let my legs float out in between contractions. That was amazing, as my legs were feeling incredibly weak and tired.
Two contractions in the tub, and suddenly I noticed my body doing something different. Uncontrollably, my muscles were straining, pushing downward with a powerful force that overwhelmed me. “Jordan, I think I’m pushing,” I said. He immediately called for the assistants and told them I was pushing. Sarah knelt down by the tub, watching me, and said, “You feel like you want to push, honey?” I felt she was grossly underestimating my situation here. “I don’t want to,” I said, “I can’t NOT push!” “Oh” What do you say to that?
It didn’t occur to me that WOW I was already pushing the baby out! I only knew that the contractions were now more regular, less unpredictable and more manageable. The power of what my body was doing completely overwhelmed me and made the pain take back stage.
Now when the midwife showed up, I have no idea. I was absorbed in what I was doing, and in between contractions I laid my head on the edge of the tub and rested, completely blocking everything out. Vaguely I heard Jordan’s voice but I have no idea what he was saying. He was just an absolutely necessary presence for me at that time. I became aware of the midwife listening to the baby’s heartbeat, over and over, and picked up bits and pieces of a conversation between her and her assistants. “Is something wrong?” I asked. “Well,” she said calmly, “Baby’s heart rate is dropping significantly with each contraction, so he probably has a cord around his neck. He’s going to need to come out soon.” Oh. That’s scary. Next thing I knew, someone was giving me oxygen and Penny was asking if she could break my water to speed the birth. Jordan and I both began praying that Baby would be alright, and in between prayers I kept flowing with the contractions, complaining that it “stung” and other pointless complaints.
Finally Penny told me, “Ok, Joanna, he has to be born with this next contraction. I need you to push as hard as you can.” That was a serious moment for all of us. I thought the contraction would never end. The pain was incredible, but it wasn’t the pain so much as it was the weakness that made me cry, “I can’t!” I simply felt I had no more strength left at this crucial moment when I desperately needed strength, but I could hear Jordan praying, and I just kept going. How, I will never know! Suddenly I felt a horrendous pain. I screamed and tried to jump out of the tub, and Jordan – a little freaked out – pushed me back and said, “You can’t get out now!” Then it was done. No pain. All the pressure was gone. It did not occur to me that the baby’s head was born. I only knew I finally had relief. “Alright, on more push,” the midwife instructed me, and I couldn’t help wondering, “What in the world for?” It didn’t seem like there could be anything left after that submarine-sized object plowed through! However, I obliged, and found myself sitting back in a tub, returning the stare of a bright-eyed purple baby who lay suspended in the water on the midwife’s hand.
Shock. Absolute shock. I could not believe it was over. I could not believe I had a baby. Instinctively I reached for the baby and held him, but inside I was confused by the idea that this was the same creature that had lived inside me all this time. Baby was spitting mucous but not breathing, so the midwife began helping him, and again Jordan and I prayed. At last a breath, a cry! Jordan held my arm and cried along with the baby, while I noticed an important detail. “Jordan, it’s a boy!” I said, “We have a son!”
That was a happy moment. I could relive it a hundred times and not get tired of it! It took me a little while to remember that my mother, three hours away, was still coming. She had completely missed the birth. From beginning to end, from the start of “active labor” when we called the midwife to the time baby made his appearance was only two and a half hours.
In retrospect, I am SO glad it’s over. Baby Jordan is so very worth it all, but WOW, it was difficult! It’s easy to see now that God really was helping me, and I am so glad He blessed me with a husband who was a strength for me as well.
So, we are now adjusting to life as three instead of two, and are finding it a little tiring and a lot of amazing. God is so good to us!