Warning: discussion of womanly birthin’ stuff which some may find unappealing. Don’t read if you can’t deal or otherwise prefer not to deal. Additionally, this ended up being one zillion words long because as a birthing enthusiast, I just have to tell the story in excruciating detail. I know fellow enthusiasts will appreciate it, but for others you might find this a giant festival of No1curr. So don’t be like whine whine whine I can’t believe this woman made me read 5,000 words about her reproductive organs what a weirdo because you’ve been warned. Make your own life choice.
Once upon a time it was January 2013 and I had Frogson. It wasn’t traumatic or anything but it was a) sucky and b) long. Like 26 hours long, and never with that BS mythical “early labor” thing I was promised in birth class– more like contractions that were strong from the start, never very far apart from each other, frequently two in a row– all of which dilated me from a 3 to a 4.5 in 11 hours. YOU GO, CERVIX! Actually you don’t go. You are pretty terrible as far as cervices are concerned. You should probably just go and find a different pelvis to live in because things are just awkward between us now.
But blah blah blah that story’s been told. All this to say that going into Frogette’s birth, I had very low expectations for my body’s ability to get things done in a timely manner, and I was trying to keep a really open mind. I visualized my ideal scenario of a natural, average length labor and successful birth– but I knew a lot of it was out of my control. Maybe it would go the same as before, maybe it would go worse, maybe I would ask for the epidural again, maybe I’d have a csection– whatever. It was cool. I would accept any journey that led me to a healthy baby.
Anyway. One thing Frogson’s birth did have going for it was that it started on its own and he was punctually born a day before his due date. Second babies apparently are known for coming earlier, so I (and everyone, including the doctor) expected her to arrive by her due date. I had been dilated since 37 weeks, having practice contractions every day since 37.5, and my mucus plug was long gone. (They really need a cuter term for that. I prefer baby cork. Let’s make that happen.) But at 39 weeks and 6 days I was still waiting. I saw the doctor that day and she reevaluated and said OK OK if not by your due date then definitely in the next 2-3 days. She swept my membranes which I am absolutely convinced is a giant conspiracy by Big Obstetrics. I seriously think they reach up there and pretend to do something scientific when it’s just a huge act to give insanely impatient overdue women a false sense of control over the situation.
As an aside I’ll mention one other advantage going in. At this last appointment I was 3 centimeters and 80% effaced, which was slightly more than I was when I arrived at the hospital with Frogson following many hours of very painful contractions. (I was 3/75% then). This time, I had met that before the show even got started. Sweet! I was trying not to get my hopes up, but this really did fill me with a lot of confidence. Because of this, the doctor said she thought things would go fast once they got started, and told me not to worry about waiting for contractions to be a certain frequency– I should come in as soon as they felt intense. I nodded compliantly but in my head I was thinking nope, this will never go quickly for me. Let me introduce you to my cervix, Doctor Lady– its spirit animal is a garden snail. Actually like a garden snail crossbred with a sloth and an Aldabra Tortoise. Actually a garden snail crossbred with a really hungover sloth and an Aldabra Tortoise with a peg leg. IT’S POKEY.
Anyway (←this is how I start all of my paragraphs because I missed “how to write transitions like an adult” day at 11th grade English and Composition), 2-3 days came and went and yep– still a big pregnant beluga with no end in sight. Fig. A (she ended up being born about 17 hours later):
Every day I was walking laps around my neighborhood like an idiot and I decided I was going to stop trying. The only home induction tactics that remained of any interest to me anyway were eggplant parm and pedicures. The Saturday after her due date I treated myself to the latter. I remember I could hardly drive that day– she was so low I couldn’t sit without splaying my legs out (attractive!), and she was so big I couldn’t lean over my belly to see into intersections. I was just really ready.
The next morning I remember waking up to some painful moments in the 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. hours. I know it must have been really mild because for the last week or so, any time I felt any little abdominal twinge overnight, I’d get all atwitter thinking maybe things were starting, and wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep. So I know it was pretty insignificant because I was only half aware and falling right back asleep. At 6:45 a.m. I was awake and alert and definitely having some pain. I wasn’t sure this was it, but this hurt more than the practice stuff and they were coming steadily so I was hopeful.
At 7:30, Jeff and Frogson were up. Jeff’s family was driving in from about 2 hours away to be with Frogson when we went to the hospital. I told Jeff to put them on alert but that they should NOT leave yet because even if it was happening, we were still probably 12 or 24 hours away from a baby. (←I was in attendance for Foreshadowing Day…)
I’m amused now at my refusal to believe I was actually having her, considering I was already so dilated and three days past my due date! But I think one of the things that really mentally tripped me up with Frogson’s birth was how eager I was– like I kept thinking to myself This hurts a lot, I must be close! when this time I was kind of doing the opposite and telling myself This is easy, I’ll probably be at it for 15 more hours. I really think this mentality serves a laboring person better.
I was also legitimately busy that morning because Jeff’s family was coming to stay. I had been nesting with estrogen-fueled fury for weeks (“Jesus God who left this measuring spoon on the counter!!!!!! This is not Tony’s office at The Bing!!!! This is not a Chechnyan military camp!!!! This is a home where respectable people live!!!!111!!”) so the house was in decent shape, but I really wanted to do last minute stuff like give the bathroom counters one last wipe down, wash the sheets and towels, Windex the mirrors, blah blah. (Because everyone knows all you have to do is floss one time after a Windexing and your mirror is back to being Detroit Flecks-of-Phlegm City.) Actually this was another thing that made me angry at the end of my pregnancy– every night I was making sure everything was picked up and clean in case I went into labor. So annoying! Gawd, I just wanted the option to be lazy again and go to bed with a filthy kitchen if I wanted! I excel at homemaking.
Anyway! I also excel at telling stories in a succinct way. I know you all are like enough about WINDEX, woman, get on with it. Okay okay okay. So I was having contractions and cleaning stuff. Contractin’ and cleanin’! I don’t think you could conjure up a more pathetically stereotyped image of womanhood than that! LOL sob. Being in labor is a good time to wish you were a dude.
Frogson was running around doing 2.5-year-old stuff like refusing to put on clothes and putting stamps all over me. It was funny later that I birthed with a dog stamp on my thigh and a bunch of stars on my hand which ended up with an IV over them. The contractions weren’t going away so I told Jeff to get ready and take Chooch to my parents’ house, and to take Frogson over too and let him play a little and have breakfast. I wanted to finish stuff up at home, call the doctor, text a few of my friends, get a shower, maybe bounce on the birthing ball, and just spend some time relaxing and settling into the contractions. I could write a story of equal length about how I thought this day would go…
So they headed off. It was like 8:30 or so? I kept scurrying around doing random stuff. I would breathe through a contraction and plan what needed done during the next break between them. I thought about the doctor who was telling me to call when things were “intense”. Were these intense? Nah, I thought, they had some power behind them but I guess I wouldn’t say intense.
Things changed quickly. This will seem abrupt because it WAS abrupt– I don’t know what else to say except things just got really nuts, really fast. Suddenly the stupid stuff I wanted to do around the house seemed really unimportant. I kept getting hit with really strong contractions and I was incredibly confused by them, like I kept thinking WOW, that was a bad one! Weird! Must be a fluke. I’m sure it will go back to normal now. But they just kept coming.
It was a little after 9:00; I texted Jeff. I said his parents should leave. I told him to come home and bring both my parents with him. I didn’t know what was going on, but I felt like we needed all hands on deck. Providence at its best that it was a Sunday and everyone was around. Crap, I still hadn’t gotten around to calling the doctor. I should do that. Wait, they’ll ask me how far apart my contractions are. I don’t know. Let me time a few.
I will seriously crack up at this screen shot forever, because I still didn’t think anything of this. No joke, I thought Hmm, that’s weird, they’re less than 3 minutes apart? Wait, but they’re shorter than a minute, that still means it’s early right? Yea I think so. Nothing to worry about here.
I called the doctor. There were three doctors in my practice; of course it was the one guy I didn’t really know that well who was on call that day. Blah. He said come right to [hospital]. I said wait, we wanted to go to [other hospital where we were already registered and took the dumb class and knew all the right doors to go in and everything]. He said well I’m stuck here at [hospital] with another lady so if you want me you have to come here. This threw me off a little because I didn’t know this was a possibility, that I could get bumped to a different hospital if another laboring chick beat me there. This other hospital was further away, urban, and much more of a pain traffic-wise to get to. I went along with it, reminding myself that I was OK with wherever my journey took me and I wasn’t going to let anything wreck my Bubble of Peace (a Hypnobabies visualization thing… shut up it works).
Jeff, Frogson, and my parents got back at about 9:45. The wheels were pretty much off the wagon. Again, I don’t know what else to say except that thirty minutes before, things were strong but manageable. Now it was getting agonizing. I had perched myself on the edge of our bed right in front of an open window with a fan in it– it was a gorgeous morning, the trees looked beautiful and the air felt so good– between contractions I remember thinking how wonderful it all was but then another would start and it would just rock my world. And not in the feel good Michael Jackson kind of way, y’all.
I remember having the feeling Crap I really should be at a hospital right now. I was worried things were suddenly this intense and Frogette hadn’t been monitored at all. I tapped my belly and called her name and she responded immediately with a reassuring little kick. I am so glad I remember that kick so well– her perfectly timed response as if she just knew my thoughts, and the last time I was consciously aware of one of her movements inside me.
Things were just overtaking me. I kept thinking everything would be fine if I just had 15 minutes to sit in front of this delightful fan, listen to my Hypnobabies, and just mentally get on top of everything. But the instinct telling me to GTF to the hospital was stronger, and as soon as Jeff was back I said we needed to go now.
The idea of going from the bedroom to the car seemed unbearable. Like someone could have said hey Sarah go swim across Lake Huron! Flap your arms and fly to outer space! It was that challenging. Any time I moved at all it would either start or intensify a contraction and I just wanted to stay put so badly. They also were kind of a perma-contraction at this point. It was just one big wave that would strengthen and weaken but rarely give an actual break. I waited for as favorable of a moment as I could and then just bolted for the car. On the way out I didn’t immediately see my flip flops and I was so crazed I thought well OK, no shoes then and this was a totally reasonable idea that I saw nothing wrong with. I just HAD to get to the car so I could be sitting when the next one came.
Oh, the car ride. You guys I was just losing my mind. I did not think the pain could get worse but it did and I was just screaming. It was a scene. Play O Fortuna in your mind as you picture it. Maybe about halfway through the drive I had a very distinct feeling come over me. The one feeling you DO NOT WANT TO FEEL when you are 9 months pregnant and barreling down a highway– the feeling of a baby head being right there and like it would maybe feel good to go ahead and push that out. Here’s where a glimmer of hope and joy emerged from the pain. Omigod, is this the urge to push that people describe? No, it can’t be. Reel in your expectations. You’re gonna show up there and be five centimeters dude. But I had a feeling she was coming. And honestly, the relief I felt at the possibility that this would be over so soon was greater than the fear of a car birth.
I also remember LOLing at myself that I didn’t want drugs to take this pain away– if we got there and I was anything short of a baby head being half out of me, I wanted every drug in that place and every other drug-dispensing place in the next ten counties over. I know this is what women say when they transition, which I assume I was doing right there in the passenger seat of our Equinox. Hashtag good times.
More driving, more screaming. We got there and my mom ran in and brought a wheelchair out for me. Again, moving my body three feet from the car door to a waiting wheel chair was too much of a physical feat to comprehend. She is there gesturing at it like get in loser we’re going shopping and I’m just wailing NOPE NOPE NOPE I CAN’T I CAN’T I CAN’T. There was seriously like a 45 second standoff here because I couldn’t bring myself to accomplish this task.
When I completed this incredible feat of strength, Jeff went to park the car and my mom was pushing my wild self through this random hospital. I recall we came up behind two women and a little boy and I tore into another scream, causing all of them to startle and spin around. Probably scarred that poor child. Sorrs.
Next thing I know I was in one of those homey little birthing rooms. Some nurses appeared, on my case to climb onto the bed. DO YOU KNOW I JUST WENT FROM THE CAR TO A WHEELCHAIR? SORRY I’M DONE FOR THE DAY. I was again repeating No I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t. Then the obstetrician is there, pushing the same agenda. They’re all just on me like blah blah blah get on the bed, Sarah! Nonononocantcantcantcant. Get on the bed please, Sarah. NO!!!!!! I CAN’T!!!!!! Another standoff. I’m a little embarrassed thinking back on all of this but ultimately I have no shame. Any of them would have been doing the same thing. Everything happened so fast that the pain was just owning me and I was just… really shocked, overwhelmed, and not in control.
I did manage to haul my hysterical self into the bed. As I did I felt my water break a little. The doctor checked me and I was told there was in fact no cervix to check, just a baby head right there. He hustled over to wash his hands and the nurses are getting stuff ready and telling me not to push. LOL right OK. I think I said OK but in my mind I was like you’re medical professionals and you can deal with it, you’re nuts if you think I’m prolonging this agony for one freaking second longer than I need to. Because next thing I know I was pushing and yep, screaming.
Then I had another loud standoff with the obstetrician. The guy obviously had good intentions and was trying to get my attention so I could effectively push instead of just making noise, but I see now why people seek out the calming presence of female practitioners. He was just yelling back at me the whole time which I didn’t appreciate. He also said at one point, “Sarah, there are things you can do to help me here!” and I was like HAHAHA ALRIGHT YEA DUDE tell me more about how I can help YOU do this. Here is mostly how our exchanges went:
Me: WWwwwwrreeeeeaaaaaahhHHHHH!!! AaahhaaaaHHHAAGGGHHH!!! *bomb emoji* *revolver emoji* oooAAAAaaaaoooooEEEeeeee!!! *squinty eye sobbing emoji* *skull emoji* GGGGggAAAAAAhhhhhHHH!!!!!!!
Him: Sarah! [screaming continues] SARAH!!!!!! STOP SCREAMING!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!
Jeff does a brilliant reenactment of all of this (Frogson finds it utterly hilarious) so I’ve been told some of my other favorite lines were OWW! and STOP STOP STOP! and WHAT ARE YOU DOING! They were all just in my space and it was really distracting and annoying. The doctor broke my water the rest of the way, they were trying to put in an IV which I thrashed my arm and pulled out… more good times. Hashtag.
The doctor yelled at me to just be silent, hold my breath and push– this is the “purple pushing” that Big Midwifery will tell you is really bad– but I have to say, as soon as I shut up and did that, I felt her cruise on out. I feel like for as momentous as this occasion was I should have more words here, but I don’t. I pushed two times. It was excruciating but over so quickly. Out of nowhere a little baby was plopped down on my tummy. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t. I had dreamed forever of this moment, of reaching down and scooping up a deliciously gooey, vernixy little daughter. But honestly I think all I did at first was STARE at her in UTTER SHOCK. The one immediate thought I remember having was how TEENY TINY! she was. I guess I was so used to hefting around a 30 pound toddler that I looked at her and thought she must be four or five pounds! Was there something wrong with her? There wasn’t. She was in fact an 8 pound, 7 ounce beast!
So in the end I did give us the natural birth I so badly wanted to– but a big part of that desire was for me and baby to share this beautiful, peaceful experience together. There was definitely nothing peaceful about her arrival. Oops. You know how natural birth proponents love to say how misrepresented birthing women are in movies and TV? I was one billion percent the hysterical stereotype from every terrible sitcom and romcom ever. So it was not peaceful. It was, however, amazing and hilarious and memorable and just very… full of life and joy. I would not change anything.
The final math on everything was just nuts. The hospital had my official admission time as 10:16; it was also 10:15 when Jeff had parked the car and was on his way in because he had called his parents and was able to check the time stamp. So by the time he had made his way up and I got done yelling at people it was probably past 10:20? Frogette arrived Earthside at 10:28. I never even changed into a dang hospital gown. Conveniently I was still in the attractive little maternity night gown/moo moo I arrived in, so all I had to do was whoop! up with the skirt, out with the baby. OMFG.
I was tired, and unfortunately a little torn, and I had totally forgotten about all the gore that accompanies the aftermath… but I still felt like one zillion dollars afterwards. As opposed to Frogson’s ordeal, when I hadn’t slept in 30 freaking hours and couldn’t walk and was cathetered and disoriented with a placenta still stuck inside me and felt like $1.08. I say that just to laugh about, not to seriously complain, because no matter what happened, they both ended up here and healthy. That is all I ever asked of God/The Universe.
This was about three weeks ago, so we’re still hard at work navigating our new life managing double the little people, which is many more stories in itself. But we figure it out more every day. Today Frogette was snoozing on her Boppy Lounge and Frogson approached her. Oh sweet pea don’t touch her, OK? She’s napping! He said he just wanted to give her a kiss. I allowed that. He kissed her, said I love you, and pulled her blanket up to her chin– exactly how I put him to bed. My heart dissolved into a puddle of goo on the floor.