Seven years ago we welcomed Matthew into our family. On that day a mother and father were born too and we became a family of three. Matthew sometimes asks about his birthday, and I tell him a silly, happy story as I tuck him in at night.
Before you were born you were nestled inside my warm belly. You were happy in there and not in a hurry to come out. You loved to kick and stretch. We were so excited to meet you, but waited patiently for you to pick your very own birthday.That is the Matthew version of his birth. I realized I've never written about his birth like I have the other two. His was a difficult birth. Worth it? A thousand times yes, but still very difficult.
Daddy and I went on a long walk one night, and we talked about you. We thought maybe if we went on a walk, you might want to come out and take a walk with us. We went to bed and a few hours later I sat up in bed and said, "Oh, oh, oh the baby is coming!" Daddy and I waited a few hours and decided to go to the hospital. [Matthew interjects: I was born in a hospital? How come? "Well, we thought that was best then."] So we went to the hospital but the nurses said, "Not yet!" We were a little sad because we wanted to meet you, but still excited because we knew you were coming.
We went home and waited a day and I said, "Oh, oh, oh! The baby is surely coming now." [Matthew giggles] So daddy and I drove back to the hospital. The nurses said, "Not yet!" We were very sad and went home.
Another day passed and I was getting very tired and really, really ready to meet you. Finally I said, "Oh, oh, oh! The baby MUST be coming!" [Matthew giggles some more] We went to the hospital for the third time. This time the nurses said, "Yes! The baby is coming!" And you did!
When I first saw you I exclaimed, "My baby, my baby!" Daddy said, "I think he looks like a Matthew." So we named you Matthew and we were so happy you were in our family. [Matthew snuggles up next to me. "And I was the first kid in the family, huh? I like being in this family.]
Matthew's birth, grownup version
I'd had a very healthy and active pregnancy. The due date was looming in a few days, so after a good walk we went to bed to get plenty of rest. A few hours later I was woken up by some powerful contractions which seemed to originate from my back. It was about 1 AM on Monday morning. I tried to go back to sleep several times, but when that failed I timed them. They were five minutes apart and lasting a good minute. Hmm. This might be it. After several hours of very uncomfortable back labor which ached even between contractions, we called a close friend and went to the hospital. We had to stop and wait a few times on the way in because the contractions took all my focus. Still we were excited.
When we arrived about 4 AM, we were met by a very stern, grumpy nurse. We put our bags and pillows in a corner. She handed me a gown and I changed. The nurse put a belt around my belly to measure contractions. Just as we had timed it, they were roughly five minutes apart and lasting over a minute. Without asking, the nurse announced that she was going to check for progress. I could feel another contraction coming and asked her to wait. She didn't. The pain was excruciating. Her digging fingers caused an intense burning pressure down there, which combined with the contraction was unbearable. I begged her to stop; she wouldn't and kept poking and prodding. I cried, and I do not cry easily and certainly not in front of strangers. She announced that I was only 1 cm and 70% effaced. We said we were leaving. I do not know the name of that nurse, but Jonathan dubbed her "nurse psycho-frankenstein."
We drove home a little frustrated, but ready to work with the labor and hopefully get things moving. Still the contractions came every 4 to 6 minutes and the pain in my back was quite fierce. I tried all different positions; hands and knees, leaning on the wall, lying on my side. Through it all Jonathan pushed hard on my lower back, held my hand, and encouraged me. He tried to get me to eat, but my stomach was in rebellion so I just sipped what little water I could keep down.
About 6 PM on Monday we drove back, the contraction pattern remained constant. We brought in our overnight bags and pillows thinking surely this was it. This time the midwife and midwife-in-training were there. They were both very calm and patient. The midwife-in-training asked if she could check for progress, and to let her know when was a good time to do so. I said okay and steeled myself for another excruciating experience....and found it didn't hurt. Huh!? Until psycho-frankenstein nurse, I hadn't had any cervix checks and didn't know that it wasn't supposed to hurt! That was the good part. The bad part was I was only dilated to a 1.5 and 90% effaced. After a full day of laboring, this was devastating news.
As we got ready to leave the senior midwife wanted to take my temperature again and discovered it was 100.5. At the hospital that is an automatic admission for a suspected infection. I received an IV with antibiotics and they used a straight cath to check for infection. I said I was pretty sure I didn't have one. No matter. Now I'm a big girl, but catheters hurt! Yeeowch! Later the results came back verifying no infection. Since I was running a low temperature, the baby had to be monitored constantly on that narrow, hard bed. One strap went around my belly to measure contractions, another strap to measure the baby's heart rate. The midwife encouraged me to eat and drink, but my stomach would have none of it and I threw up in a box that had Jonathan's dinner. Poor guy. The fluids from the IV must have helped, because my temperature dropped and we asked to go home. Through it all the contractions continued unrelentingly, and even between contractions my back ached. The midwife-in-training asked to do another cervix check since it'd been several hours. She said hesitatingly (perhaps trying to be generous),"Maybe a 2?" That was a fresh blow. Why wasn't anything happening despite the hard contractions? The midwife looked at me and said I really needed to get some rest. If I didn't, she didn't think I'd have the energy to push out a baby. I certainly couldn't argue with that; I was exhausted and barely holding it together. The midwife suggested a shot of morphine and explained that it may or may not stop the contractions, but either way I'd get some rest. I asked to think about it for a few minutes. After some discussion with Jonathan, I decided that the morphine might be my best option for recovering some energy and maybe getting things back on track. Jonathan was very concerned about me and was looking very tired and haggard himself. He'd had as little rest I had. I got the shot and Jonathan drove us back home. It was around midnight; I was completely demoralized and cried most of the way. Jonathan just held my hand. We were nearly 24 hours into this adventure.
Fortunately the morphine kicked in once we got home, and I drifted off to sleep still feeling contractions, but not much caring anymore. The pain was blissfully deadened. After about 5 hours I woke up still feeling contractions. It was Tuesday, early in the morning. I waited through a few of them but when they became too uncomfortable to lay on my side I rolled out of bed and landed on my hands and knees. Unfortunately in the process I woke up Jonathan. I told him I was fine, go back to sleep. But Jonathan is very loyal and insisted being up to help. He pushed on my back for hours upon hours. That day I found urinating very difficult and painful. There was a bit of blood mixed in, so I think the catheter used the night before must have bruised or scraped something. One more unpleasantness in a very tough labor. I leaned on the wall in the shower with hot water running down my back to ease some of the backache. It helped marginally. Jonathan tried to get me to eat and even went to the store and brought back powered protein which he mixed in a drink. It came back up as did the partial banana. Small sips of juice and water were about all I could manage. I began to think that this baby would never come and I'd slowly burnout completely. It was very taxing physically and mentally. Through it all Jonathan was there, strong, kind, and solicitous. About 4 PM Tuesday while sitting in a straight backed chair with a hot rice sock pressed firmly on my lower back I felt three powerful contractions right on top of each other with no rest. It felt like one continuous contraction with three peaks. At the same time I could feel the baby move suddenly and shift inside. Then labor resumed its former pattern. We left for the hospital once again.
Feeling very uncertain and a little hopeless, I suggested we leave everything in the car. A different midwife was on duty and she checked. 4 centimeters! Hallelujah! Some progress was being made, if slowly. Jonathan went to the car to retrieve our things. We called a friend, Jessica, and said this time for sure! She'd had given birth just three months before and brought her baby with her. Little Jacqueline nursed and then slept through nearly the entire labor. We were officially admitted around 6 PM and first thing I did was hop into the tub. The warm water helped take the edge off of the contractions, but did not take away the backache. Still it was somewhat better. Since I was going natural, I didn't have an IV or constant straps around my middle. Not being tethered to anything, I kept changing positions to find relief. The midwife just checked with her doppler periodically. I labored on the birth ball, in the tub, in the shower, and on the bed. I think the nurse was newer because she was quite the Nervous Nelly. The midwife seemed to think things were fine though, and mostly stayed in the background. Jessica and Jonathan took turns pressing HARD on my back during contractions. They really couldn't press too hard as far as I was concerned. My back was bruised the next day, but at the time it helped considerably.
While lying on my side feeling intense pressure, I heard a pop and felt liquid trickle. "Oh? My water broke!" The midwife seemed a bit skeptical but asked to check. Not only did the membranes break, but now I was at an 8! That cheered me up considerably for about 3 contractions, but then they got even closer and more intense. I got on the birth ball hoping to speed things up because I was getting very, very tired. I started to moan that there was no way I could do this any longer. Between contractions I rested my head on Jonathan's lap as he was seated in front of me. Upon hearing my complaints, Jessica chirped "Oh! You must be in transition! The baby is coming soon!" I was feeling very grumpy and had a hard time sharing her enthusiasm or optimism. Soon though I felt the urge to push. The midwife wanted to check, so I got off of the birth ball and gingerly climbed into bed. 9.5 centimeters with a lip! She explained that just a bit of cervix was left and that she could push against it during a contraction to move it past the baby's head. "It will hurt, but if it works it'll speed things up." Fine. She had me get on my hands and knees and when a contraction hit she urged me to push while she pushed against the lip. I pushed and yelled. Didn't work the first time so we tried again. "Push!" I pushed and yelled even louder as she pushed. 10 centimeters!
Since I was already on the bed it didn't occur to me to push anywhere else. (My other two children were not born anywhere near a bed!) The nurse instructed Jonathan to hold one leg, Jessica the other and I started pushing while propped up in a semi-sitting position. The nurse said, you're going to have your baby today! It was a half hour before midnight so I was encouraged. Then the minute hand slowly moved past midnight and I started tiring again. Two days without eating and little rest was really taking a toll. The nurse coached on when to push, but after a while I just ignored her and pushed when I could muster up a good one. Really, she didn't need to coach, the urge was irresistible and hurt more not to push. After a bit the nurse gave up and became silent. Overall, I found pushing less painful than the earlier labor, but much more tiring. It didn't help that my body was running out of steam. Finally a bit of head was visible and I could see his head move down and then retreat. It was 2 steps forward 1 step back. Then the head crowned and the midwife warned not to push once the baby's head was out. I couldn't believe we were that close... The next contraction I gave it all I had. First thing I saw was his sweet little face instead of the back of his head. Wasn't expecting that, but in retrospect it explains a lot.
Immediately the rest of him flew out without any effort on my part. A boy! I cried out, "My baby! My baby!" and reached for him. The midwife wrapped him in a blanket and handed him to me. The time was 1:34 AM on Wednesday, October 9th. 48 hours later and he was finally cradled my arms.
He looked up at me and it was love. I felt an overwhelming sense of awe, fierce protectiveness, pure joy, and responsibility.
He came out pink, alert and quietly gazing at us. That was lovely.
You can sort of see in this picture the swollen lump at the brow of his head. My theory is that he was presenting his brow until I felt the sudden shift Tuesday afternoon. I think at that point he moved his head enough so that he could be born. He came into the world ROP, face up and gazing at the stars.
Happy Birthday Matthew! It was a wild ride, but oh so worth it to be your mother!