(Read part one here.)
I thought I would have time. My mom had fast labors, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. And this was my first baby! I had a whole plan of what activities to do for a whole day – and maybe a night – as we all camped out and waited for this baby. We were going to play games, and talk and Ben and I would go for walks. You know, to get the baby coming. And the food! I had the party food ready and enough meal ideas as if we were under siege or something. In my mind I was planning to need to have at least two meals with everybody here! Yes, I would be having contractions, but in between – according to what several mothers had told me – I would feel pretty fine. So I would have a grand time socializing with friends!
* * * * * * *
Diane, the midwife, was on her way. Somehow that made it seem much more real. I guess this is it. It’s happening, so here goes!
At noon I had a little bloody show. I called Diane and she said that was my “sign” I had been waiting for. I was definitely thinking of something bigger – like my water breaking in some dramatic scenario. At 12:30pm I texted my friends who were going to come, “Well, I think this is it… Diane definitely thinks so… Probably the early stages at least.” Still getting over my denial, it was hard not to have some doubts. But I figured I had better trust my midwife. After all, she HAD seen a lot more women in labor than I had! I reasoned that even if this weren’t real labor, the false call wouldn’t be in vain because something WAS amiss – this was not normal!
By this time, I was a lot more emotionally stable and clear-headed. I was serious and down-to-business focused. There were things yet to do! And I could tell that my time was short. The brief moments in between contractions that I felt ok were getting shorter still. The contractions lasted about a minute at the highest pain, and then hung on for another 1-2 minutes. When they finally let up I had only about a minute to do stuff before the next one hit so I had to talk fast, do fast and walk fast. I did things like shower, call people and explain to Ben the hierarchy of towels and which could be used for what.
Ben did things fast too. I’ve never seen anyone on steroids, but I’m pretty sure that a wife in labor has even more incredible effects! (Some days I wish I could re-create that sense of urgency for Ben and myself so we could be more motivated!) He was just a speedy blur as he ran the garden hose to the pool and worked on filling it. In between, as the water heater re-cycled, he tidied up last minute things, vacuumed the whole house, and ran up and down the stairs checking on me. All in the matter of an hour! (But be forewarned; your hubby will use the next two weeks’ supply of adrenaline in these few hours of labor! After the baby is born, he may get full nights of sleep and still be as tired as you!) Ben and I had time to pray together before anyone arrived. That was special!
Diane (my midwife) arrived a bit after 1:00pm and got her things all set up and arranged. All the while she was quietly observing how I handled the contractions. I just love – total sarcasm here, it is the. most. awkward. thing. ever! – that “being watched” feeling. What was I supposed to do??! What position should I be in, so that I look like I know what I’m doing? Should I try to hide how much they hurt? How can one feel ladylike and feminine (after all, giving birth is THE MOST female thing you can do…) and beautiful while going through THIS??!
At 1:40pm Diane checked me to see how labor was progressing. I told her that a few weeks back Ben had guessed he would be born on the 27th… if I just made it to midnight – which seemed likely in my mind – he would be right. It would be just Ben’s luck too, because he had already been right about it being a boy! She just sort smiled and said, “You’ll have this baby today.” The contractions hurt, yes, but were manageable, so I figured I couldn’t be very close. I must have looked surprised, then scared. I couldn’t put it off any longer; I guess I would be going through this
awful painful scary beautiful thing called labor very soon. I asked how dilated I was, hoping for maybe 3cm so that we could for sure see that all these contractions were doing something and that it was real labor. “Seven,” she said.
That sent me into a whirlwind flurry of a panic! This was very fast! I had thought we’d have the whole day to spend with friends. Not everyone was here yet, and the games – we hadn’t even played a single game! And we hadn’t had the fun time talking that I had imagined… and it didn’t look like it was going to happen at all because I wasn’t up much for talking. The party treats, and the balloons, and my makeup! *gasp!* MY MAKEUP! If I was going to have pictures taken of the birth, I did NOT want to look bleary-eyed and exhausted! This applying makeup suddenly became paramount in my mind (don’t ask me why, just understand that your mind does silly things when in labor, and it was absolutely crucial). Diane had told me I could get in the pool already, but that would have to wait a few more minutes! There I was, 7cm dilated, sucking down a Capri Sun to try to enjoy at least something of the party treats, and putting on makeup in between contractions. Not a stellar application with all the attention and pain and hurry, but it would do.
At 2:00pm I got in the pool. The pool that had only a few inches of water so far! Remembering that I needed to keep my strength up for this long drawn out labor in my mind, Ben was making me my favorite scrambled eggs. I was only able to eat one bite.
Now about my birth plan. I decided that “labor” didn’t sound like any fun, so I decided to theme it a “Birth-day Party.” All at once I remembered that the streamers and balloons weren’t up (which we were supposed to have time to do – I thought it would be a fun group activity to finalize the decorating together with everyone). They HAD to be up before he was born! In another mini-panic I realized I couldn’t do it anymore, so I gave directives from the pool and my dear mother-in-law, Melissa, and Hannah got right to work blowing up balloon after balloon and sidestepping the pool to hang streamers right above me!
At 2:30 when most everyone was there I said, “Well, welcome to the party everyone, thanks for coming.” And then, a bit disappointed about having to forgo the rest of the party activities, went back into my own little world of focusing through the very steady contractions.
I don’t remember a lot after that. We all prayed for a safe delivery right before my water broke at 3:00pm. I do remember saying, “He’s gonna be so cute!” to try and keep myself thinking positive about the happy ending and why I was doing all this. Diane let me be in any position I wanted – I remember thinking, How could anyone give birth lying down??! – and I drank water throughout. Thankfully it was a cooler day (to tropical me) because we didn’t have a fan, and I didn’t want to get too hot and have to abandon the water birth idea.
Somebody was bringing me ice. Why would I want ice?! Annoyed, I managed to pant out, “too. cold.” though my scowl was enough to turn anyone away. It worked, and they left me alone. I felt a little bad (that I was that rude, that they went to all that effort and I turned it down, that they were stupid enough to not ask me if I wanted any before they spent their energy getting it, etc…) but hoped they could understand that I didn’t have any spare breath to spend on fully explaining my refusal with all the responses running through my head. I was drinking water, so I didn’t need ice chips. I don’t like ice water anyway; I like room temperature. And I was not sweating or burning up in any way because for goodness sakes it was a cold day outside!
The last guest arrived at 3:24 and I was so relieved. Instantly I was happy! It was perfect! God had orchestrated it that everyone was able to be there, the room was decorated how I wanted, and the mood was right. He would be born into an atmosphere of excitement, laughter, and love. It was complete; baby could come out now.
With that, I was ready for it to be over. I begged Diane that, “He wants to come out now!” but she made sure that I breathed right and didn’t push, and let my body do all the pushing. (I guess it worked because I didn’t tear much.) I wanted to know how many more pushes it would take, but of course how was she supposed to know? My legs and arms fell asleep – has anyone else experienced that? My irrational fear was that I couldn’t hold myself up with limbs like jelly and I would drown. Haha! The last pans of water were poured in – we had resorted to boiling additional water on the stove because I was going so fast it wasn’t filled all the way. That was as much and as warm as it was going to get. I had resolved to never say, “I can’t do this,” because I knew I had to. Ben held my hand the whole time and it’s good he has strong hands because I squeezed them as hard as I could through each contraction. At the peak of the pain I almost passed out; that’s my pain threshold, but it’s amazing, it’s like my body knew and it didn’t get worse. I calmly informed Ben that our little guy was coming (this was also my goal, to be able to CALMLY tell him – don’t ask me why!). In two or three more contractions, his head was out and then the end was in sight and I knew I could push his body out with only ONE MORE contraction. And I did. It was 3:50pm.
Time stopped. It was a surreal moment seeing your child on the bottom of a pool and yet this time it’s ok. He’s ok. And it’s over. And… just begun.
Then the best part comes, when Diane says, “Pick up your baby.” So I did. I looked at him and smiled, and I didn’t cry. I didn’t want his first sight of his Mommy to be her crying. It’s so hard to believe that this is how a little person enters the world! Selfish or not, I was glad his cord was still attached so only I got to hold him!
He didn’t cry loud, but he did give one little cry to let us know he was breathing just fine. He was all pink with a fuzzy little bit of hair. He blinked his eyes wide open as he took in the world around him. And he had the cutest little face, just like I knew he would! Ben and I announced his name (after double checking to make sure he was a boy) – Olaf Benjamin Sahlstrom!
His apgar score at one minute was really good – an 8 or 9. By five minutes it was only 5 or 6. He was limp, not as responsive, and turning blue. We had a scary moment or two as I patted his back, hard, and Diane suctioned his airways to get him to breathe again. The water wasn’t quite warm enough and his temperature was dropping too low. So they hurried him and me out of the pool and got us all settled with dry towels. Already little guy was pinking up and we breathed a thankful sigh of relief. I was so impressed with how Diane worked fast and knew what to do!
Twenty minutes later I delivered the placenta but was too lost in the beauty of our new baby to care. At an hour old he started hunting and he did quite fine nursing for the first time!
Baby Olaf, only minutes old
Eating reminded me that THERE WAS ICE-CREAM in the freezer! So we broke it out and that’s when the real party started! It’s amazing how good you feel when you’re not in pain anymore!!!
At 6:40pm little Olaf got weighed and measured. And… he peed.
Weight 6lbs 10oz
Length 19 in.
Head 13.5″, Shoulders 13.5”
Diane, my midwife
In the midst of all this Ben was diligently making phone calls to our family and friends announcing the birth!
At 7:00pm, a little over three hours old, he had his first visitors.
Bob & Barb, our neighbors
Newly-made grandparents and aunts and uncles weren’t far behind, and even brought him his first birthday cake!
After all, it was a Birth-day Party!
Photography credits to Heather Gniffke and Benjamin Sahlstrom