We arrived back at the Rancheroo to a home-cooked dinner courtesy of Elaine, my mother in law, who had flown over the border and across the continent to help care for Eli. It was delicious! "Yummy yummy yummy" as Eli would say (then and now). After dinner, David and I took advantage of the last hour of light and headed out for a walk. Our land is steep, so we took it nice and slow. Still, it was strenuous going for a 40 week pregnant lady and my contractions intensified BIG TIME. Fortunately, since we live at the Rancheroo (aka in the middle of the woods), we were surrounded by trees. Boy can they ever come in handy when you're in labor. Seriously! Who needs one of those fancy lean-on-when-you're-in-labor bar thingies when you've got 100ft Ponderosa pines! During each contraction, I gripped the nearest towering giant with my every ounce of strength; David applied pressure to my lower back. As the sky turned dark, we returned home and, shortly thereafter, my contractions slowed. I knew that I was still a long ways from meeting my baby, so I tried to sleep, an attempt, unfortunately, thwarted by night of continuous and painful contractions.
Upon waking, my contractions picked right back up and I was super happy to see that Sheryl had arrived. For a few hours we just hung out — the whole lot of us: David, Eli, Sheryl, Elaine and I. It was fun! Sheryl and I were invited into the room of a certain young chef and he cooked up a storm in his little kitchen. We were served a stellar imaginary meal of strawberry tea and eggs. Yummy yummy yummy!
After a few hours, though, he wanted to head outside, so he and Elaine were off to the playground. David and I took the opportunity for another walk in the woods, this time with Sheryl.
And so begins one of my two favorite parts of the labor. It was a gorgeous day; what seemed like the first of spring. The earliest wildflowers were a' bloom, the butterflies a' flutter, our garden was lush and blooming and the air was unbelievably perfect, fresh and warm. It was crazy bright out and the trees literally seemed to be glowing. Despite the pain of the continued contractions, I felt blissed out of my tree. A bit high on labor pain and lack of sleep, perhaps? Absolutely! I remember feeling a rush of immense excitement at the prospect of meeting my babe and especially for him or her to come home to our amazing Rancheroo. I envisioned myself in the very near future, baby on my back, hiking, planting, and just generally loving life in the woods with two little ones.
The blissed out hike also had the effect of hastening my contractions, so we returned home to time them. 3 to 4 minutes apart! Yipeeeeeee yipeeeee yipeeeeeee! An hour later, we made our way to the hospital, where I was admitted to the triage area (for monitoring and possible admittance). The transition from laboring freely and comfortably at home to being strapped down and surrounded by unfriendly and overly busy nurses was not good... and they wouldn’t even let Sheryl come in the triage area. They did eventually admit me (I was 7 cm dilated), but the monitoring showed some dips in the baby’s heartrate following my contractions, which worried my doctor. She wanted to break my bag of waters to make sure it wasn’t meconium stained, and to put a scalp monitor on the baby's head to keep closer tabs on the heart rate. Ugh! We agreed that she could break my bag, but convinced her to skip the scalp monitor if the water was clear. She did and it was (yeah!) and I was encouraged to labor freely again. Phew.
My hospital birthing room had a sweet jacuzzi tub (which I had been looking forward to for months) so I was pretty stoked to jump on in. Sheryl double-checked with nurses to make sure it was okay (since my bag of waters had already broken). They said yes, and even let me smell it up with my essential oils. Yummy yummy yummy! Next thing I knew (and here begins my other favorite part of labor), Eli was running into the bathroom: “I wanna take a bath with you, Mama!” I remember feeling a little unsure about the whole laboring-in-a-tub-full-of-toddler-pee-with-my-bag-of-waters-no-longer-intact thing, but, miraculously, the nurses okayed it. Good thing cuz we had a BLAST! The contractions were still intense and painful, but I was able to relax... and keep the severity of the pain under wraps for Eli's sake. He enjoyed pouring water over my head, which was heavenly. We giggled. We splashed. We laughed hysterically.
Eli soon tired, (it was already 8:30 p.m.; well past his bedtime) and Elaine made the call to take him home, even though it meant that they would almost certainly miss the actual birth. As it turns out the timing was perfect -- it was shortly thereafter that the intensity of the labor really picked up and I'm not entirely sure it would have been appropriate for Eli to witness me in that state.
David and Sheryl continued to offer unrelenting support and I labored in every position imaginable. The doctors and nurses came in to monitor and check baby’s heartbeat every so often. My doctor encouraged me to try laboring in the positions that were the most uncomfortable claiming that it would help the baby make its way down the birth canal. She even had me try laboring on my back while she and the nurse did some crazy maneuvering with my knees, but for the most part I was free to labor as I pleased.
By 11pm, the pain in my back was excruciating. I was discouraged and certain that I had been in labor forever. The contractions had been less than two minutes apart for an hour and I could not get comfortable even between the contractions. I was at a loss and had no idea what to do with myself. I remember feeling like I wanted to throw myself at a wall (I didn't, thankfully) or scream and curse up a storm (I didn't, but should have). Mostly, I was exhausted and just wanted to be done.
As it turns out, I was closer than I knew. Next thing I remember, I was being monitored again and they wanted me on my back. Baby’s heartbeat was dipping during the contractions, which is normal, but it stayed low even between the contractions. My doc was obviously worried. She told me she thought the baby was “taxed." This made perfect sense to me at the time. I had been laboring for what seemed like forever. I felt incredibly taxed -- of course the baby was too! She checked my cervix: only 8-9 cm dilated and the baby was still very high. She then explained that despite the fact that I wasn’t really ready, that my baby needed to come out right away. She wanted me to start pushing while she manually open my cervix the last little bit. Holy f@*k!
So, crazy as it is, that’s what we did. It took me a few very scary and discouraging contractions before I figured out the whole pushing thing, but once I got it, I could literally feel my baby sliding down my birth canal... and quickly! The contractions came on so fierce: pain beyond anything I can describe. But with each push, there was an amazing flush of relief. Everyone was gathered around and within minutes I could feel my baby crowning! Oh heck yeah! Sheryl thoughtfully asked if I'd like a mirror to see or to reach down and touch. I said no! I was so focused on one and only one thing: pushing my baby out! Then, within moments, it happened. Instant relief and overwhelming joy. David leaned in to whisper: “It’s a boy!” and I laughed. It was all I could do to keep myself from bursting open with joy. My baby was on my belly.
And, then, one month later: