Everyone said, Oh, You'll know when it's labor. Oh, really.
We had had my brother, sister and brother-in-law over for dinner and a game of Balderdash. That game always promises laughter--the crying kind--and each new peal of laughter brought on progressively stronger contractions. Pretty soon, they hurt in my back and felt different than Braxton-Hicks. My family went home, I cleaned up and got my bag ready. I knew this was it. Then, nothing. I went to bed. The next morning, my husband woke up ready for work. He looked at me and asked, What's going on?
I don't know!
He went to work. I had a some shopping to do before the baby came, so I hurried to the store to get it done. In the second store, I couldn't walk through the contractions so I thought I should head home and lay down for a while. At the check-out, the cashier asked when I was due. Any minute, I told her and she got an alarmed look on her face as she hurried through my order.
At home, I called my mom to talk about these new pains. She was pretty sure it was labor because I couldn't talk through contractions any more. Now that I've had five children, I realize that I was in active labor, but that day, ten years ago, I could not tell.
I called my husband home and he quickly showered while I ate some lunch. I knew that they wouldn't let me eat at the hospital and I knew that first-time mothers had long labor. I didn't want to be hungry for hours and hours.
When we arrived at the hospital, they told me I was probably in early labor and should go to my doctor's office to be checked. We walked the 1/2 mile to the office where the doctor told me that I was in early labor and would probably have the baby that night. It was about 2:30 PM. We walked back to the hospital and checked in. The walking had done some good work because my pains were close and hard. I could hardly stand anymore and leaned heavily on my husband until each pain passed. I changed into my gown and the nurse began her litany of questions. In the middle of her inquisition, my water burst--I mean burst. Water doused my bedding clear down to my feet and then a contraction. After that one, the nurse said the baby's heart rate went dangerously low so she was going to put a monitor in his scalp. As she lifted the sheets, she suddenly dropped everything and went running from the room. I was completely clueless. My sister, who had been waiting in the hall, came in and said, You are having this baby. I was thinking, Duh! That's why I'm in the hospital, but I said, I know. She replied, No, you are having this baby right now.
What? I am in early labor! It's my first baby! I have a lot of pain, yet.
Later, I learned that the nurse had run into the hallway shouting orders like Call the doctor NOW and Get in there!! and the like.
We had been good students at our childbirth classes and I knew what my breathing should be like in early labor. I was studiously breathing correctly. My nurse was making all kinds of frantic moves with the bed and the equipment in the room. My doctor rushed in and the nurse said, No, like this, then she skipped all other phases and went right to the final breathing technique. What? I asked. We're there?
The pain, of course, had progressed, but the next moment, I felt my body rendering itself into two pieces. Holy Crap. This hurts.
I began pushing and it took a little while to figure out how to do it. The childbirth class didn't cover that action. My husband, who had been studiously doing his practiced role, lost all sense of decorum and started hollering, Oh, my Gosh! Emily, this is amazing. Whoa! Look at that! You are doing great. Oh, Man!!! What in the world? Your pelvis is freaking splitting open. Then he made some hand signals that looked like he was peeling a coconut. You are Awesome! I can see the baby's head. NO WAY! It is my favorite memory of him.
Meanwhile, I had figured out the pushing action, and out came our baby. We had opted to not find out the baby's sex, so that was the first priority. It was a boy.
I was a mother.
I had always wanted to be a mother.
As I held my slippery new baby in my arms, his father stood behind his head. The new daddy spoke softly, Hello, baby. That moments-old boy craned his head backward and gazed up at the speaker. He knew his dad. I gasped at the responsibility that was now ours; this was no ordinary child.
He still takes my breath away. Happy Birthday, my boy.