Births are so important to me, and that is probably why births, of all the things in the world to photograph, are my favorite. I firmly believe that birth can be one of the most empowering, enriching moments in a woman’s life, and I have been so blessed that all of mine have gone well and been beautiful events. And nothing in the world can compare to being there when a baby wails its first cry, when a mother gathers the baby to her breast for her first time, and when a dad holds his wife’s hand as they welcome a new life into the world. Births are amazing, and I feel blessed to be a part of them no wonder what side of the camera I’m on.
I was *so* sure that Seth would arrive before his April 14 due date that I became quite grumpy when April 14 arrived with no sign of him coming. For three weeks I had been dilated to 3.5 cm, but there was no other “action,” save for one near false alarm that of course my hubby never let me hear the end of. :) (Really, so much teasing and grumbling over a missed day of work? Poor Todd.)
By late that evening though, I was starting to feel enough contractions that I felt fairly certain that this was the “real deal.” And by 12:30 a.m. on April 15, I told Todd we should head probably head to the hospital. Eli came fairly quickly (2-1/2 hours) and I did not want to chance delivering on the side of the road in Black Diamond.
When I arrived around 1, imagine my dismay when I was still at a 3.5–unchanged from the prior three weeks! My contractions were two minutes apart and very regular, but there was no further dilation. The nurse immediately planted the seed in my head that they might send me home to labor… which freaked me out! I fretted to Todd when she left, “If I go home now I will never know when to come in. If you don’t stay at the hospital with contractions two minutes apart, when do you stay? Do I wait til they are a minute apart? I’m going to end up delivering at home in the bathroom or in the car!”
Yes, there was whining involved. I admit it. But the whole idea of being sent home when I really felt like things were moving along was quite stressful to me.
After awhile, I retreated to the tub in my room while Todd slept on the couch. I tried to relax and spend the time in prayer and reflection on the new life that would soon be joining us. After about an hour around 3:30 a.m., I started shouting to him to come help me out of the tub. Of course he didn’t hear me because he was sleeping, totally dead to the world. I ended up hoisting myself out of the tub on my own since I didn’t want to call the nurse and be a needy patient. :) By the time I got out of the tub, contractions had definitely increased in intensity for me, and now I had no doubt that baby was coming.
Sadly though for me, when the nurse checked me around 4, I had “progressed” to a 4. Increased dilation by half a centimeter. Woop-de-doo! I am not one to use strong language but perhaps a few expletives crossed my mind. The nurse said she was going to call the doctor and see if I should just go home. I started crying when she left. I was so discouraged and frustrated that my body didn’t seem to be corresponding with my pain level, and I was surprised too since Grace and Eli came so quickly.
Fortunately, she returned saying that the doctor did NOT want to send me home, but that he’d come by before his normal office hours around 7:30 to see how I was doing. Phew, at least I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I could call my birth photographer at around 6:30 and she could start to head in. No need to wake anyone up in the middle of the night.
I relaxed, chilled out on the birth ball, and by 4:45 I was texting my best friend in Colorado (she was up due to the time change), “These people are nuts if they think he isn’t coming til 7:30. There is no way.”
And I was right. Fifteen minutes later I was paging the nurse because I felt like I had to push. After several button-pushes went unanswered, I actually started to get a bit nervous. I had no nurses responding. They’d told my doctor he didn’t need to come til 7:30. And I felt like pushing. This was all going faster than I thought. I told Todd he’d better go track down a nurse.
Right as he was about to leave, my nurse walked in, and I told her I felt like pushing. Much to my relief, Dr. Merrill also walked in then (2-1/2 hours earlier than I expected), saying he felt like he needed to come in after having a strange dream after being going back to sleep in which he tried to finish a round of golf before delivering the baby and then having the baby turn breech. I was so grateful his crazy dream prompted him to come in!
When he checked me, I was at a 9.5, and after the doctor took just a few minutes to change into some scrubs instead of his sweatshirt, he was back and I was pushing. Honestly, it all seemed sort of surreal at that point. After basically being told I was hardly even in labor just an hour earlier, it all turned into a blur. With Eli I pushed for over an hour, and so I expected to have to push a long time with Seth too. When they said they could see his head, I was sort of shocked. A few pushes later, and Seth arrived at 5:36 a.m.–big and healthy! Since he arrived before anyone we knew was even awake, we had lots of cuddle time before we made the phone calls that the new grandbaby/nephew was born.
I can only say the best things about St. Elizabeth’s in Enumclaw and my doctor, Dr. Merrill. Both the nurses and my doctor were very supportive of my desire to not use drugs, and everything about this birth was just like I had hoped. Seth was placed right on me and encouraged to nurse, I never had so much as an IV, and the nurse even brought me drinks and snacks while I was laboring. It was quite a contrast to my experiences at Valley in Renton, where even though they worked with me on my requests, it was quite clear that I was not the “norm” and was going against their typical protocols. It was the best experience of all my births.
The only bummer about the whole experience was that my own birth photographer didn’t make it, since I never got to the 6:30 “call time” I had set for myself, and when I started feeling like I needed to push at 5 I knew there was no time for her to come from Seattle. Todd was on camera duty instead, and he didn’t do a bad job! I was perhaps a bit overbearing with my bossing him around after baby arrived, though. He’s was a good sport, though.