It’s funny. On June 8th, the first official day of my maternity leave, I professed my desire to go into labor around dinner time so I could finally eat my favorite sandwich. I spent that day doing some stuff around the house- tidying, mopping the floors, getting rid of a bunch of clothes, vacuuming the living room rug and then took myself out for a mani/pedi on Queens Blvd. (I didn’t want to risk having a baby with my fingers and toes looking all ratty.)
I picked up a few ingredients at the fruit market on the way home and decided to start dinner around 5:30 so it would be ready when Mike arrived around 6. With the water boiling and the vegetables chopped, I decided to hop in the shower even though I have a thing against taking a shower when someone is due home. I spend the whole time in there thinking I hear the door and saying, “Hello?” and getting myself freaked out when no one answers. But I took that chance (I. AM. A. ROCK.) and Mike had yet to come home so that worked out great. He walked in the door as I was stirring the pasta and after greeting his globe-like wife, went to change out of his work clothes and relax on the couch. I came in because he was watching this Serge Gainsbourg video and was singing along on the couch across from him. When I stood up a minute later to check on the dinner progress I felt something running down my leg.
“Um. I … OH…”
“Can you get me a towel??”
“I think my water is breaking!”
I sorta closed-leg walked into the dining room to get off the rug and then just stood there and let the half gallon of water run down my legs and onto an assortment of towels that Mike was tossing towards me.
“So that’s it, huh?” Mike said.
“Yup. I guess so!”
“Her birthday is June 9th.”
“I guess I should drain the pasta.”
“Thanks for waiting until I got home.”
“Ha! No problem.”
So Mike and I sat (me, on a huge folded towel) and ate dinner and waited for my contractions to begin. I felt my first one around 7:05 – about half an hour after my water broke. It was really mild, like a period cramp and the next few that followed were equally manageable but erratic – 14 minutes apart, 8 minutes, 20… I paged the midwives just to give them a heads up that my water had broken and if they wanted me to do anything and ask when I should next reach out to them. Rosanne called me back and asked if I had felt the baby move recently. In contrast to seemingly every other second for the past few weeks I actually hadn’t feel her wiggle in a while. Rosanne suggested I take an hour to lie quietly and really pay attention to Virginia and call her back afterwards. I started to get a little nervous but tried to relax. Mike poured me some coconut water on ice and I lay down on the couch and concentrated on my uterine activities. She moved. I paged after an hour and Amanda called me back while I was on my way to the corner store with Mike to pick up some drinks (and a lottery ticket!) We talked about my contractions and she said that I needn’t bother writing them down when they were all erratic like that and that I’d know when labor had begun in earnest. I asked that because night was approaching, should my husband and I try to just go to sleep like normal and when should I call her again? She thought trying to get some rest was a good idea and suggested I call her if I had any questions, if I had anything green or brown coming out of me, or when my contractions were closer to 5 minutes apart – consistently.
Mike and I spent the evening hanging out on the big couch, watching ‘As Time Goes By’ and ‘Party Down’ until about midnight when he suggested we retire to our bedroom. Although my contractions were still manageable I found it really hard to sleep. I was too excited and still felt as though I should be writing each one down, lest they become regular and frequent but somehow manage to escape my attention. Around 4:30am I decided to call my mom to invite her over. She is the one that knows how to operate the TENS unit so and I figured that by 6 or 7am my pain might have reached a level where I would want to use it. She said she was going to rest for an hour, take a shower and make her way over once the subways became uncreepy. She arrived at quarter to 7, with bagels in tow. The three of us hung out in the living room and had some tea and played around with the placement of the electro pads and their intensity level. The contractions were strengthening. Uncomfortable, yes- but not unbearable. I got through most of them by draping myself over my yoga ball or crouching/ kneeling on the floor at various angles and moaning/humming.
Once we had two sets of pads attached to effective accupressure points on my back, it seemed the speed and intensity which my labor was progressing really picked up steam. So much so that I was having these mini contractions between regular contractions so it seemed as though every two minutes I had to check out and deal with a new challenge. I started to feel nauseous (transition!) Not wanting to throw up while being electrocuted (or vice versa!) I decided to say ‘ciao’ to the TENS for now. I ended up not barfing either.
At this point I was starting to feel pretty ready to go. It was only an hour since I had last talked to Amanda (and she had said that despite my contractions now being 4/5 minutes apart, that is was INTENSITY I should be more mindful of – not just time alone, and to call her back when they had reached an (unspecified amount of) intensity) but I told my mom to page her again and ask her if we could come to the Birthing Center now. I had my mom talk to her because I wasn’t really in the mood to hold a phone or deal with another person. Slightly incredulous when my mom said we were ready to head over to the BC, Amanda asked to speak with me. I told her that the intensity had really increased since we last spoke and that – wait- please hold while I have this contraction- *90 seconds of loud moaning later* – I didn’t want to risk being in MORE pain that I was already during the cab ride over- since I wouldn’t have any of my tools to cope with the sensations in the back seat of a car. She could see my point. She could also hear the difference between the contraction I experienced during my 8:30am phone call and the one she heard at 9:30. Mike helped me with my clothes, called the cab and got our bag ready to go. My mom and I got in the back seat and Mike sat up front with the driver and navigated. The contractions I had in the cab were intense. I put my head down on my mom’s lap and put both my feet up against the car door. When a new one came and would coo, “Oooooohkay here comes another one.. ooookay…” and then try my best to keep it ladylike for the sake of the driver. It was hard, I won’t lie. I few times I used my mom’s knee to half muffle the sound / gnaw on. There was no traffic really and between contractions I felt relaxed taking in the view of the sky as we passed over the Queensborough bridge.
Another contraction on the east side of Manhattan while my mom reassured, “We’re at Bloomingdale’s! We’re passing Bloomingdale’s! We’ll probably be at the hospital in 2 more. You’re doing great!” She was right but the last two were different. As I was trying to pull myself through, I recognized another sensation. “Mom,” I whispered, “I think I’m… pushing.” I didn’t want to make the gentlemen in the front anxious and was actually holding my hand between my legs trying to squelch the urge (unsuccessfully). “Blow out!” she advised and then demonstrated. She was really good about that all through my labor. Miming things instead of telling me to do something. It’s so much easier to mimic an expression than it is to conjure in your mind what it is to “breathe deeply” – not to mention far less annoying.
We arrived at St. Luke’s Roosevelt, Mike got me a wheelchair and up we went to the 11th floor where my room was ready to go – my midwife Amanda and an Aussie RN named Danielle already inside. I got up on the bed so Amanda could see where I was at, dilation-wise. She had a feel and I was thrilled to hear her say, “Well- good news- you’re fully dilated, and you’re pushing.” She also said, “Oh it will be a while before you have the baby,” and I remember thinking ‘WHAT? What kind of a WHILE?’ but before I knew it Danielle was showing me a better way to push and I had all four of my helpers maneuvering me into the best position to get some effective pushes going. One of the most helpful things was when Danielle politely suggested that instead of making a high pitched, warbling cry when I pushed, I should try holding it in and directing that energy down into my bottom instead of wasting it through my mouth. And again, the women demonstrated with their faces so I knew just what to do.
I would get about 2 or 3 pushes per contraction and it wasn’t long before Mike and I my mom were both marveling at Virginia’s hair peeking out. Many Oh-My-Gods later, I could feel her head firmly lodged where no head had ever been. “Alright. Next push. She’s coming out. She can’t stay THERE.” So when I next had the urge I vowed to not stop until we were completely on the other side of the mountain. It worked! I mean- more than I had even expected it to, really. I felt a release of the pressure I had been experiencing in the region and almost at the same time a slippery, watery, gray infant was being placed – cord still attached- onto my chest. I wrapped my left arm around her and held her tight. My eyes were going wild in my skull as I stared at her and then at Mike and my mom while repeating, “Oh my God, Oh my God, it’s a baby. It’s my baby…it’s my baby.” It’s remarkably easy to forget, even when the situation gets that real, just WHAT it is you are doing there. I was fully committed and driven to COMPLETE the labor – it’s very animal and instinctual- to stay strong and protect the life inside you; but those are pretty abstract concepts. The actual CHILD …I don’t know, it still felt like a surprise. It felt GREAT, but wow- there’s just no way to prepare for or explain the type of exhilaration you feel when the baby is handed to you, fresh from the womb. It’s magic: pure and simple.
Time of arrival at Roosevelt Birthing Center: 10:30am
Time of Virginia Grey’s birth: 11:12am
Time spent pushing: 42 minutes
Baby’s weight: 8lbs 13oz
Baby’s length: 21″
Because VGW was born so soon after we arrived we had a good long time to recoup and cuddle and enjoy our little girl at the Birthing Center. My mom went out to Brooklyn Diner and got milkshakes for Mike and I which we enjoyed in the company of our beautiful newborn. Amanda gave me a hug and told me I had done great, Danielle got me nursing, and Mike made me feel like the best wife and mother ever. It was a great way to start the day.