i've taken my sweet time getting rocket's birth story together. after all, it seemed an appropriate way to commemorate his nine month birthday (or maybe that's the procrastination talking). read away...
i woke up the morning of friday, december 18, 2009, thinking watch me be in the 5% of women who have their baby on the actual due date and it’s kind of weird that i feel like i’m on my period. rocket was due on december 20th, and we had lots of christmas shopping to do. in fact, we may have had ALL of our christmas shopping to do. off to the mall we went, and sitting in the car made my lower back feel tense. i think it was about 10am.
as travis debated about which remote control truck to buy for his cousin, i became increasingly distracted. after about an hour and a half at the mall i bent over to get a pair of shoes off of a low rack and stood RIGHT back up.
t: travis, i’m….going to the bathroom.
T: uhh, ok.
i ran off to the nearest bathroom and said hello to my mucus plug. i found travis, updated him, and suggested we call the midwife. the girl at the front desk gave me the “yep, that’s your mucus plug. yep, that’s early labor. nope, you don’t need to do anything.” speech, and we went back into the mall. i figured walking couldn’t hurt, and it was starting to rain outside. i planned to labor away from the hospital as long as possible to make things easier on myself. walking was part of my plan. at this point i was having mild contractions. i was uncomfortable but not in pain.
it was maybe another couple of hours before we left the mall. a nice young man was putting a pair of frye boots on my feet when i decided i’d had enough.
T: ok but i need to know what size you are.
t: i am in labor. i want to go home.
travis dropped me off at home around 1pm and went to have lunch in ybor with his cousin who was in town from charlotte. i was reluctant to notify anyone because labor can be a lengthy process. there were SO many people who were eagerly awaiting rocket’s arrival. i recall my aunt attempting to coax me (maybe even bribe me) into labor a week or two before my due date (he’ll be fiiiine, he’s been in there long enough…), so i was understandably afraid to call anyone and say “it’s happening” until i was sure. i did, however, let a couple people know.
my sister (who has boy/girl twins that are two now) suggested i sleep, though i believe she recognized the futility of this suggestion. i was EXCITED, but i tried to lay down on the couch and rest. sleep was impossible, but i did alternate between watching grey’s anatomy and pacing around the house cleaning and organizing. the weather was getting progressively worse, and i started to bother travis about when he would be home. my contractions had graduated to “very uncomfortable”, and as a result i was restless. also contributing to my restlessness was the fact that i felt the need to try to pee every 5 or so minutes (regardless of the fact that i couldn’t muster up more than a few drops). i called my mom and my sister and couldn’t talk through the contractions. things were picking up.
when travis walked in around 6pm he saw me standing in the living room with my running shoes on and the dog’s leash in my hand.
t: hi. i want to go for a walk.
T: i see that. it’s raining.
t: i know. i don’t want to go far. maybe just loop the block. i want to be able to pee if i need to.
so off we went. and we looped the block in the rain and wind. and then i asked travis if he had installed the car seat yet, and he said no. so we went back home.
the short walk intensified my labor, and i decided to try the bathtub. this lasted approximately 15 minutes, or the length of 3 contractions. actually, i think i started climbing out of the tub DURING the 3rd contraction. laboring in the water did NOT work for me. i needed to stand and move. my friend, carolyn, suggested i take a shower before leaving for the hospital, and now seemed the time for that. the first contraction that brought me to my knees happened while i was in the shower. i finished up in the shower as quickly as i could (our shower is tiny and i was HUGE) and got downstairs, squatting through each contraction as they came. travis was on the phone when i got downstairs (i had asked him to do some things before the baby came… install the car seat, get addresses for the birth announcements. i guess this was the time for those things), so i threw on some boxers and a tshirt and hobbled over to the cd player. i put on bon iver’s for emma, forever ago and took my place on my knees with my elbows on the ottoman in front of the speakers. outside of going to the bathroom, i did not leave this spot until we left for the hospital.
up to this point i had not really taken this labor thing very seriously. i knew it was happening, but i literally spent the afternoon texting my mom “my contractions are 5 minutes apart” and “i don’t need travis to come home yet” in the same breath. i was fiiiine, no worries. and then, kneeling there on a beach towel with my eyes closed as a contraction tapered off, the first bars of “skinny love” began to play. and the tears pushed through my tightly squeezed eyelids, dripping onto the leather. i raised my head, and travis froze in his tracks as he came around the corner.
T: oh sweetie… what’s wrong?
T: (kneels down beside me) are you scared?
t: (nods in affirmation)
T: it’s gonna be ok.
and he didn’t leave my side after that. my labor progressed until i felt like i was going to vomit with each contraction. i wanted to minimize the chance of throwing up in the car, so i told travis i thought we should go ahead and head to the hospital. i think it was about 10:30pm when we left. the short drive was pretty miserable, but i rode on my knees to lessen my discomfort. when we pulled up into the emergency entrance of tampa general i was in the middle of a contraction, and the very nice valet man asked if i wanted a wheelchair. i guess i said i did (or maybe i didn’t say anything), because another very nice person brought one for me. i waited until my contraction ended, got out of the car, looked at the wheelchair, and continued on past it. i walked inside and leaned on the desk.
t: i’m in labor.
nurse: we already called them. someone’s on the way down to get you.
now i’ll tell you… travis and i talked about doing a home birth. there was no reason NOT to, other than that i knew i’d never forgive myself if something went wrong. oh and also… i didn’t want to clean up the mess. so after much discussion and indecision, we decided on the hospital just to be safe. other than this first little bit my experience at tampa general was VERY good; but, to be honest, i considered killing the girl who came down from labor and delivery to escort me up. apparently her attitude stemmed from her wanting me to sit in the wheelchair. she told me several times it would be faster if i would sit in the wheelchair. i would not. she punished me for my unwillingness to please her by sauntering as slowly as possible to the elevator. then, instead of notifying the extremely chatty nurses at the nurses’ station that i was there and in labor, she just… walked off. i squatted through a contraction in the elevator and again upon arriving at the nurses’ station. once i could stand i announced myself. travis had been hung up by the valet people and found me in the room naked and trying to put on the gown they had given me.
t: (nude, the size of a barn, with gown in hand) can you help me with this?
T: sure. (tries to fasten gown around neck)
t: GWAHHHHHHH GET IT OFF ME!!! (rips gown from T’s hand and throws on ground)
T: (blank stare)
t: i’m not wearing that.
i’m pretty sure the people at the hospital did not believe me when i said i was in labor. in fact, judging by the speed of their response and the looks on their faces, they were planning to send me home. however, they did check me. when they discovered i was dilated 5cm, they moved me to a labor and delivery room. the nurse started to ask me to put the gown on so she could wheel me there, but travis performed his daddy duties quite well and informed her i’d not be wearing the gown. she laughed and told me i had to cover up with SOMETHING, since there were “other people’s husbands” there (it might have been her first day, provoking a woman in labor like that… luckily, i was very nice throughout the entire process). travis draped the gown over me, and they wheeled me off.
when we were leaving for the hospital, travis sent my mom a text message letting her know we were on the way. even though we live five minutes from the hospital and my mom lives FIFTEEN minutes from the hospital, she apparently arrived mere seconds after we did. she sent travis a text reading “i’m here” which he interpreted as moral support. what she ACTUALLY meant was “i’m HERE…at the HOSPITAL”.
(just after arriving in L&D room)T: umm, tiff? i’m not sure how this happened but…your mom is here. i think she may have beat us to the hospital. she wants to see you. can i let her in?
t: (on hands and knees on hospital bed) yeah ok let her in a for just a second.
mom: (practically tiptoes around the curtain) hiiiii….(winces just looking at me and waves)…i just wanted you to know i was here…i love you…ok (backs out of room looking like she was wishing she had stayed in the waiting room)
after a few minutes, the midwife who was on call came in and checked things out. i saw a large midwife practice throughout my pregnancy, and beth happened to be one of the midwives i hadn’t met on my prenatal visits (likely because she’s on call so much). fortunately for us, she was amazing. travis and i notified everyone i would not be using any pain medication, and i felt supported by the staff in this throughout the delivery (though they did offer me pain medication several times over the course of laborious hours, they were never pushy). after she checked me, beth asked if i wanted her to break my water. she explained that it might help my labor progress more quickly. i consented, and she broke my water. my labor progressed at a “normal” rate of about 1cm dilation per hour, but after my water was broken the contractions were WAY more intense. i had been laboring on my hands and knees because this was the most comfortable position for me. i had extremely intense back labor from the start, and after my water was broken the pain was exponentially worse. when considering labor during my pregnancy, i thought i would want to walk around until the very last minute. i did not. i felt tired and was grateful to be on the bed. the nurses moved the bed so my elbows were raised and i could kneel much like i did on the ottoman at home. it was great. i kept my eyes closed and didn’t make much noise. i remember the time between contractions (the lovely, pain-free, resting time) getting shorter and shorter. before it disappeared i often dozed off during the break time. i started to push around 3:15-3:30am.
once it was time to push i was positioned on my back and held my knees to give myself leverage. travis also helped hold my left leg when i would push. this part i remember pretty well, and, i have to say, i was not very good at pushing. during my first push i would make no headway. then, usually during the second push, i could feel some progress, and beth and the nurses would encourage me that i was doing it right. the third push was the best one, and sometimes i would push a fourth time. but that first push was always a waste. i’m not sure why it was so hard for me. travis and i never attended a birthing class or anything like that, so maybe that would have helped. maybe not. who knows. (it should be noted that, after it was all over, the nurses commended us on what a great team we made. they were shocked to find out we had never attended a birthing class. one of the nurses also told me that she could really tell how much travis loved me by watching him through the whole process. so… we make a good team just naturally i guess.)
during the pushing phase i distinctly remember saying things like “i can’t do this” and “can’t you just pull him out?”, though i mostly just kept quiet. travis, beth, and the nurses never failed to assure me that i was, in fact, doing it (while gently reminding me babies do not come with handles for pulling them out). when beth first saw his head she said “oh he’s a small baby!” i was pretty sure he wasn’t, but this was my first pregnancy and i could not see his head from where i was, so what did i know. after almost two and a half hours of pushing, they decided i needed an episiotomy. at this point i was exhausted. i had assumed i would probably need an episiotomy because both my mom and sister had had them. beth performed the episiotomy (big needle, big scissors, over in a heartbeat), and i pushed once more.
beth: reach down and pull your baby out!
t: no. i don’t want to.
beth: come on! he’s right here!
t: you do it!
but she insisted, so i reached down and pulled our son up onto my chest. our little purple gorilla. he checked me out while travis snapped a picture for our family (anxiously awaiting his arrival FOREVER in the waiting room) and cried. he was here. he was ok.
(in these pictures you can see the ring where his head was TRYING to squeeze out. this was the amount of head visible when beth called him a “little baby”. clearly there was way MORE head that needed to come out. when she saw him after his bath, beth said he looked like a six pound baby with a NINE pound head. hence the episiotomy.)
after i held him for awhile and travis cut his umbilical cord, travis took him over and watched them bathe him and check him out while i finished with the unpleasantries of the placenta and stitches. i kept asking travis if he was ok and he kept saying “he’s perfect, he’s perfect”. his official weight came in at seven pounds twelve ounces. while beth was stitching me up i began shaking. i felt cold and was not able to control my body’s movements, but i was so happy it didn’t bother me. i asked beth (with a big, stupid smile on my face) how long this would last. she said maybe an hour, but it was only a few minutes before i was holding our boy again. when they handed him back to me, i held him up to my left breast (seemed like the thing to do now) and he latched immediately. this little guy nursed like he was famished. i probably looked shocked, and i’m sure i started laughing. in that moment all the anguish and focus and stress and exertion melted away. it was all beyond worth it, and he’s been hungry ever since.
born at 4:45am on december 19, 2009
by the grace of God to two delighted and grateful parents
(to rocket: i've known you outside as long as i've known you inside now and, baby boy, let me tell you... sixteen pounds, six teeth, and a crazy head of hair later, i don't know what i did without you. i simply cannot remember my life before you were in it. thank you for being my greatest challenge and my most fulfilling reward.)