A Year Ago Today: A Middle
“The deepest pains may linger through the night,
but joy greets the soul with the smile of morning.”
Tuesday was much better. Leila’s official due date. One of the chiropractors was out, so I had to keep my original appointment for the following Monday, which surprisingly didn’t make me anxious. I intended to do a lot of work, but I was so tired. The week before I decided to quit my weekly yoga classes until after the baby was born, and I was not in the least tempted to drag my swollen belly through an hour of Forrest yoga this particular morning. Instead I took a leisurely two hour nap in the afternoon and went on a nice long walk with Wrigley. Ben and I had a nice evening together, thus completing the short list of physical activities rumored to induce labor. I doubted that either would work for that particular purpose, but I was hopeful that all was well with our baby and things would progress like they should. Ben was just about to turn out the light when I felt some cramping. I knew I had no other signs of labor and this was probably just my body practicing, but I could not help but feel incredibly giddy. Ben told me to try to relax and get some rest (as he did many times that night), but I was excited and hopeful. I watched our usual episode of Seinfeld and felt my body continue to cramp. When I hadn’t fallen asleep by the end, I tried another episode knowing that was usually enough to lull me to sleep. I was still awake after my second attempt, and I think I might have turned on a third. I cannot remember if I even made it through that episode before I got restless and decided to get out of bed. I told Ben I was still feeling something, and he sleepily told me to try to get some rest. I could not sleep, and I did not particularly want to either. I finished watching the last two episodes of The Good Wife. I felt more comfortable sitting up, but I also felt increasingly alert and started to give up on the idea of ever falling asleep. Even as the contractions increased, I downplayed the possibility that I was in labor. I finally timed my first contraction at 2 am, which confirmed that they were as frequent as they felt, only about five minutes apart. I emailed my friend to cancel our plans for tea the next day, though I didn’t have the courage to admit the real reason.
Done with entertainment and email checking and faced with strengthening contractions I finally asked Ben to wake up and keep me company. Convinced the discomfort was nothing, I hated pulling him out of bed and wasting one of his vacation days. At some point I asked Ben to start timing the contractions. From the first one to the last, they were never more than five minutes apart, and some would only last as long as two minutes. Ben made me some peanut butter and jelly toast, but I couldn’t keep it down. At first I got on my hands and knees through the contractions. I dreaded the fifteen minutes I’d spend in that position during the last month, but somehow it was the most comfortable during the contractions. After awhile I worried that I defaulted to that position longer than the 45 minutes our birth class instructor recommended and transitioned to walking. At first I’d walk from the living room through the dining room into the kitchen and through the hallway back to the living room. Eventually I opened the doors and started doing laps in the same manner that our dog Wrigley used to sprint through the house. Ben offered to go on a walk with me once it got light outside, but by the time that came I was not feeling up for a walk through the neighborhood.
Eventually we decided it might help me relax if we put on a movie. I decided on When Harry Met Sally, my default when I’m not feeling well, but sitting still on the couch was too uncomfortable so I kept making the laps as the movie played. Thinking back on it, the first 12 hours of labor were so tame comparatively, I can hardly believe my struggle with them at the end of the night. Of course, at the time it was all I knew. At around 4 am, Ben started texting and calling. First it was his boss, to let her know he would not be in that day, then my brother, asking him to come by to get the keys just in case he needed to spend the night with our dog. My mom might have been next, warning her we might not be around for the cleaning she had generously scheduled. Thankfully he did not forget our doula Kristi. She suggested we contact the midwives. She also asked that I try switching up my contraction routine and try leaning against a wall while I swayed my hips. Maybe it was the actual move or the natural progression, but it made the contractions feel miserable. As much as our birth instructor had repeated it in class, it was hard to relax into the pain and trust that instigating it instead of relieving it was the right thing to do. Ben called the midwives and at first spoke with the one I saw on Monday. After assessing the situation with Ben she asked him to call back when the next midwife came in at the 7 am shift change. At some point Ben suggested I grab a shower. It brought such blessed relief. Instead of my usual quick ritual I took time to wash and condition my hair and even to shave my legs. I think the shower slowed down my contractions, but I was nowhere near comfortable enough to lie down and take a nap. My brother came by for the keys while Ben was in the shower. I could hardly summon the energy to get to the door. Most of the labor is a blur and I have a hard time remembering what exactly happened when, but I remember at one point early in the morning finally feeling like I could not walk through the contractions anymore and if I could physically talk through them I certainly did not want to make the effort. I’m not sure how much I actually did, but I just wanted to cry – out of excitement, out of pain and out of sheer fatigue.