I realize not everyone wants to read a birth story or wants to share their own story, but for me, telling about the day Penelope arrived means a lot to me. I think of telling my story as returning the favor. Leading up to Penny’s birth I read real women’s stories (here, here, and a few others); they gave me confidence and reassurance that even if things go wrong I (and my baby) can handle anything - a very Scandinavian way of thinking of things, I know... Writing this serves a second purpose, if she so desires, Penny can read this when she is older.
I’ve written down my thoughts leading up to the day, they can be read now or separately. Some things to keep in mind as you continue to read this and that were excluded from those earlier thoughts are that my mom decided she couldn’t wait any longer after my due date (5/12/11) that she booked a flight for 5/17 (Penny’s birthday) and I had gone to work on 5/16 because I couldn’t stay home any longer and remember I didn’t know she was a she!!!!
I went to bed Monday night with a TO DO list swirling in my head; call them, pay bills, email those businesses, design this, and do that. I woke up several times that night, not so unusual at 9 months pregnant. Although I had been on a schedule of waking up to move, adjust, pee, and the like this night was different. The baby wasn’t as active as usual (a sign Great Aunt Betty pointed out to me earlier). Meanwhile, Nolan is working his second of 2 weeks in Lamont knowing I might call him at any moment.
I woke at 430AM. Oddly, I thought, “Okay, another day. Let’s get up and get ready.” After all, I was convinced I would go into labor in the evening. Even after Penny's arrival it felt strange that the sun was shinning. My morning ritual looks a little sluggish – lie in bed for a bit, uncover one leg, lie there longer, uncover the other leg, lie there longer – THEN it happened. My first contraction! I couldn’t move; I waiting for another feeling. I wasn’t sure what it was but IT was something. So there I lie in bed and another wave of cramp-like pain, and another, and another.
I reached for my phone, the phone that had never spent a night on my bed stand before I was 8 months pregnant. Google: Braxton Hicks contractions vs. real contractions. There I found the difference, Braxton Hicks contractions would lessen or disappear if I change positions. To the couch I went. I sat for a few minutes and it happened again! HOORAY – I WAS FINALLY GOING TO MEET MY LITTLE BABY! Excitement and horror set in!
I called Nolan, “It’s happening!”
“Really, are you sure?”
Completely full of doubt, “Yes.” Like I knew what I was talking about?!
“Okay, I’m on my way.”
I called my mom who coincidently was about to wake up and get on her scheduled flight. It was 330AM in Las Vegas.
10 minutes before her alarm went off, “Morning Mom, I’m in labor.”
“Man, I knew I should have come yesterday!”
Her flight would arrive at noon and after getting her luggage and riding the train north, she’d be at our house by 2PM. Who knew if she’d even make the birth!
There I sat, I went through my packed bag in my head, I showered, and I waited for Nolan to arrive home. During that time I had begun to keep track of my contractions on my newly downloaded iPhone app, “Contraction Timer Deluxe.” I was pretty impressed by it’s capabilities; interval tracker, start/stop, history, and charts. Obviously I wasn't in too much pain as I was completely enthralled. 20 contractions later – IT ASKED ME TO PAY FOR THE APPLICATION. DAMN IT! I resorted to the NOTES application – it did the job. I typed in the time of each new contraction.
Nolan flew through the backdoor around 7AM and quickly came to hug me and we shared a tender moment. Tears well up in my eyes as I think back seeing the most excited, child-looking-at-all-the-presents-under-the-Christmas-Tree-look in his eyes. He couldn’t have been sweeter telling me he loved me and that he was so excited. He took the bags, camera, and Boppy I had set out to the car and cooked breakfast. At the time I still couldn’t eat much, not because I wasn’t hungry but because it wouldn’t FIT! After we ate a bit, Nolan filled up our mini-cooler with PB&J’s, cut up fruit, and other snacks we planned to have at the hospital – this is ALWAYS my advice when people ask me about our birth; this food SAVED me after Penny arrived!
Then it felt like a waiting game, especially when I looked at Nolan who was perched at the edge of the couch, checking the time, or rubbing my shoulders. I walked through some contractions, talked through some but it seemed manageable, I was pretty confident during this time about my NO DRUGS decision. I even started accomplishing some of my tasks on my TO DO list, including clearing up some confusion with our insurance company about automatic payments. If things progressed like this, this whole birth thing would be a cinch! Then while on the phone with my mom, who was about to depart, I doubled over during a contraction. Whoa, my first taste of true pain.
Now, as I try to remember, my mind, like many other moms out there, is fuzzy about this time. I do remember putting on an outfit I had set aside atop my hospital bag, an outfit for labor – my jersey knit skirt, comfy sports bra, tank top, and light maternity hoody. After getting dressed and making our bed I started trying out positions. I soon found I was most comfortable on a birthing ball, so comfy that the ball accompanied us to the hospital. As I sat on the ball, we listened to the radio – I can still hear a few songs that played, Nolan singing, my eyes closed, rolling my hips around during the gradually intensifying contractions. We must have sat there for a few hours, waiting for the contractions to come and waiting for my mom to arrive. As pain in my hips increased, Nolan helped by squeezing my hips from behind, a helpful pain solution we learned in the birthing class.
Mom arrived at 2 and I am glad that it was just Nolan and I for that time before her arrival. It was quiet, soothing, and intimate. We wavered on hiring a doula but ultimately after months of back and forth we decided we were confident in ourselves and really, I became more in tune with my body, trusting I would know when to say, "Let's go!" I am still really glad we decided to go without. When my mom arrived there was general chitchat and every once in a while I’d enter a time mark on my phone and do the math in my head. They were coming on quicker, so quickly I barely verbalize the decision to go – it was more of a hand gesture. By 3PM we were in the car and by 320 we walked into the hospital. Even though we called to inform them we were on our way, we still waited for a room to be cleaned – those were 10 VERY long minutes.