Monday evening I went to bed assuming that baby's due date, September 14, would come and go and soon be forgotten. Last Friday's OB appointment gave me reason to think this baby might wait another week. 10:00 p.m. rolled around and I was still trying to get comfortable in bed when I experienced the first of many painful contractions. By 6:00 a.m. Oliver was up and eating breakfast and my contractions were 8 minutes apart. I woke Shane and Amanda up so we could get ready for the hospital, trying to not be too excited in case my uterus was just faking it. I've heard so many stories about labor not really being labor and it seemed too good to be true for this baby to come on his due date.
Unlike my first labor experience (3.5 hour drive, 6 inches of slush and trees in the road) we only had a 15 minute drive to the hospital and even had time to swing by the Mission for Shane to drop off some paper work and inform the folks there that I would not be coming in for work. Contractions: 6 minutes apart. We arrived at the OBGYN clinic so my cervix could be checked. I was so fearful of the doctor saying I was only 2 centimeters and would have to go back home until I was REALLY in labor. This had to be real labor. It certainly felt like it and I have been more than ready for awhile now. C'mon baby, let's do this!
Thankfully, I was 5 centimeters and almost completely effaced. YES. We got to the hospital and experienced a very real deja vu as they directed us to the exact same room Oliver was born in and told us I was the only patient in the labor ward....same as when we were here December 24, 2007. Artie, my nurse, thoughtfully studied my birth plan. And thankfully this labor was different in that I felt like the nurses and my doctor let things move along without giving much input unless I asked for it. I was fortunate to have been the only patient the entire day. The staff didn't seem rushed or preoccupied at all. Time ticked and I dilated very slowly. Contractions were fairly easy to get through. I didn't even need Shane to lean on for most of the day and Oliver and Amanda were able to stay in the room with us. The atmosphere stayed pretty calm for a long time. Oliver was such a good kid. The nurses complimented him over and over. He was happy with his Curious George books and his little DVD player. And to tell you the truth, having Oliver in the room really relaxed me. His little happy heart was a great comfort. I wanted him close as long as possible. My friend Ruth showed up some time after lunch bringing fruit, crackers and sandwiches (the crackers were the only thing I could touch). She came to support me in whatever way she could and immediately stepped into a helpful role that I didn't even know I needed. She gave me incredible back rubs, foot rubs, braided my hair and talked with me about her labor experience. I'm not one to ask for extra help, but it has been offered so much lately and I assume it's because I need it. I just don't always know it. I didn't know my back was so tense and how comforting it would be to have someone play with my hair. She was a sister when mine could not be there.
Similar to my labor with Oliver, my water did not break. And labor was slow. I decided at 8 centimeters and after about 20 hours of labor it was time for my doctor to break my water. Contractions were becoming intense and I was losing energy. I didn't have breakfast or lunch or dinner that day and was surviving off of yogurt, crackers and sips of juice from earlier. But now it was just ice chips for me and two incredible coaches to hold me through. I didn't realize how important Shane and Ruth would be, but in those last few hours I needed them as close as possible. They were keeping me focused, keeping me sane and loving me as much as they could. After the doctor broke my water he said I was almost ready to start pushing and I could do some smaller pushes to practice and sort of test myself to see how ready I felt. I decided to try small pushes as the urges became stronger and it actually felt really good. I felt less pain and it seemed to give me more energy as I focused my efforts during each contraction. Ruth and Shane were so encouraging as they seemed genuinely impressed with each push. I've been anxious about pushing since my experience with my first labor was not very good. It felt forced rather than natural and I pushed for over 2 hours while never really feeling a real urge.
Suddenly the urges became so strong I had no control over my pushes. I wasn't going to be able to wait for the doctor to show up. Thankfully the nurse found the doctor, they got me in the delivery position and I heard him say "Get everyone else in hear right now! This baby is coming!" It was very painful and intense. But it was exciting because I felt like my body was doing what it had to without my having to tell it. I remember hearing my self yelling as I pushed (how can anyone be quiet while pushing so hard??) and remember trying to cry out "Jesus" but barely being able to get my mouth around the word. But my head was crying out to Him to be close and help me survive this. For some reason I kept my eyes shut for the entire last segment of labor. More people I don't even remember (probably because my eyes were shut) gathered into the room and I felt like it was almost the end when my doctor said, "Okay, Jessica, now stop. Don't. Do. Anything." My mind was so confused by that statement. How on earth can I stop myself? I wasn't in control! But I guess I was because I stopped myself and just breathed deeply as I trembled against the urge to push. Then doctor said, "The baby is going to come out on his own. Don't do anything and he's going to slowly come out." SLOWLY?? The last thing I want is for this last part to go slowly. Let's get this over with! But I trusted my doctor and those last few seconds were strange and definitely slow. But they were just seconds. Then I was instructed to gently and slowly push the baby out the rest of the way. Apparently I did it right. I heard something about a cord being around the neck and then baby was here. I heard a cry and heard them suck out the fluid from his throat and the cry became louder. Then I pulled the gown up (thanks to Ruth for reminding me that I wanted skin-to-skin contact), he was placed on my chest and all I could say was, "We did it. Thank you, God. Baby, we did it." Then I heard someone (maybe Shane?) say, "Is it a boy?" and I said, "It better be!" and I heard people laugh. Sure enough, it's a boy. And I whispered, "Hi, Benjamin. You're here." I couldn't believe he came so quickly. I'm not sure exactly how long I pushed but it was no 2 hours. My heart filled with relief and purpose. Pain has purpose and I felt every ounce of it.
Benjamin Larson. September 14, 8:09 p.m. Right on his due date. 7 lbs. 2 oz. 18.5 inches long.
Oliver came in shortly after to meet his new brother and I loved how big and excited his eyes were. He didn't want to touch him. He appeared to be nervous and clung to Shane as he drew near to my bed. He leaned over and when little Benjamin sneezed a little sneeze Oliver giggled. He is real and he is human. Phew.
We made it home in less than 24 hours and I'm recovering quickly with the help of pain medication. It's amazing how Benjamin has made himself comfortable in our home. We have been unceasingly blessed as friends bring meals, send gifts and pitch in to buy us the expensive necessities for a new baby. I can honestly say this first week with our new son has been blissful. Even in the middle of the night I am thankful to be woken up as it gives me reason to cuddle and stare at Benjamin in peace. Oliver is happily adjusting. He doesn't seem shocked that the baby is still living with us. Shane and I appreciate baby's nap times so we can play and be alone with Oliver like old times. I've only cried once, so I suppose I'm not experiencing any postpartum depression at this point. I'm enjoying this vacation of family-filled days. I feel like I'm being filled to the brim of what I've been lacking for months. I've only thought of work maybe twice but am soon distracted by little squeaks and baby smells. This is what it's like for my cup to overflow.