"The water is too hot," I immediately thought when I got in the tub, which probably means that the temperature was just right for "normal" people, but I had been hot for MONTHS, and being in labor did nothing to cool me down! ;-) AlexAnn quickly turned on the cold water and lowered the temperature to what felt pleasant to me, then asked me if I wanted the jets turned on which I did, and then I think she left the room after I got the bath to my liking.
Jeff was with me, of course, and was letting me grip his hand with my left hand. I think my right hand was gripping a bar at the side of the tub. It was all pretty intense, and I wasn't finding much relief because the contractions kept on coming one after the other with not much break in between. If I had only known how close I was to giving birth, I would have been encouraged! But as it was, I was feeling pretty challenged.
My thoughts are disjointed, but here are some remembrances that stand out to me...
Jeff had brought his phone into the bathroom, and I was so grateful for the music on it from my labor playlist. Backing up a little, when we were first getting settled in the room, when one of the nurses walked into our room, she heard the song "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri playing on Jeff's phone and complimented us on our music choice. :) I think I responded with some remark about how eclectic my labor playlist was, and someday I'll do a blog post about all the songs I chose, but not today. :) I think the first or one of the first songs that started playing when Jeff turned it on was "To Whom It May Concern" by The Civil Wars, which begins, "Why are you so far from me? In my arms is where you ought to be. How long will you make me wait? I don't know how much more I can take. I miss you, but I haven't met you. Oh, but I want to; how I do..." and so forth. Perfect for the eager moments of anticipation before a birth. :) I also remember that at some point during labor, a barbershop quartet rendition of "When I'm Sixty-Four" started playing, and Jeff remarked about the barbershop quartet we heard at a family reunion earlier this summer.
At any rate, when I was in the jacuzzi, I remember hearing the song "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus" by Selah; and it seemed that the song went on and on. "What a long song this is!" I thought, which tells me that the amount of time that I thought was passing wasn't accurate at all. :) And indeed, when I found out the total time from when we checked into the hospital until he was born, I realized that truly, I had been wrong in my impression of time. It all went much quicker than I thought it was happening. :)
At this point, I had my eyes closed and was "in the zone," focused so completely on what was happening within me that I couldn't open my eyes and wasn't aware of much else that was occurring. I do remember moving my feet so that the jets of water squirted on them, and Jeff teased me that I was getting a foot massage but wouldn't ever let him touch my feet (it's true--I hate people touching my feet). ;-)
I was making some sort of noise repeatedly--maybe a long "hmmmm" kind of thing, but I don't know for sure; Jeff's memory would be better than mine in regards to that. ;-) I remember him encouraging me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth to help me calm down and focus, and I think I successfully did that--for a few breaths. ;-)
The one thought that came to me from "out of my zone" was wondering if Robin, our friend and birth photographer, was there yet. I'll write more about that later, but I was THRILLED that for this birth, we would have a birth photographer. I knew with the timing of things, we hadn't given Robin much notice, and I was hoping that she would get there soon. I knew from a text she sent Jeff that she was at the hospital, but as far as I could tell, she wasn't in the room yet, and I was eager for her to arrive. I wondered if she hadn't been told what room I was in, but surely Jeff would have told her that, right? (And of course, he had.) :)
Earlier, before I got in the tub, AlexAnn had said when she heard Robin was coming, "I don't know if you know this, but Robin is quite a good doula. I don't know if she would call herself that; but she has a wonderful, calming presence and is very encouraging." Well, that made me even more eager for Robin to get there!
I didn't know she had arrived until a nurse came into the bathroom and wondered if I wanted covered with a towel for modesty reasons, so Robin could take pictures. Yes, I certainly did. :) I don't even remember opening my eyes, but somehow a towel was draped over me as I lay back in the tub. I heard Robin's voice, and indeed she was encouraging, telling me how well I was doing. We didn't have much time to talk, but her calm, pleasant voice broke into my zone and helped me along in that moment, and I was grateful.
Then the weirdness started happening. ;-) During a contraction, I felt my body begin to push, entirely involuntarily. I didn't say anything, and I don't think anyone noticed. Actually, I think Jeff was the only one in the bathroom with me at that point, and I have no idea if he observed that something different was happening or not. But neither one of us said anything. I think I had another regular contraction or two--or maybe three, who knows?--and then my body did it again.
It was pushing, and I could no more stop it from doing that than I could stop the earth from spinning.
Let me interrupt myself for a moment to say that I had never really understood how a baby could be born in a car or in an elevator or in a hospital lobby or in any of the other places where babies are "accidentally" born. My own cousin gave birth to a baby in a car on the way to the hospital, and a dear friend had one of her babies in their driveway before she could even get in the car. So I know it happens, but I never really understood how. Because, for me, pushing has always been A BIG DEAL--something that I have had to very consciously decide to do. As a matter of fact, I have to talk myself into it, and in two of my labors (Tobin and Moriah), I have continued to "labor down" even after I'm fully dilated and delay pushing, usually until someone urges me to begin! ;-) Some women just love to get to the pushing stage and find real relief at that point, but that's never really been me. I'm more like, "I'm handling these contractions fine, so let's just keep hanging out and pretend I don't have to actually push this baby out of my body, OK?? Show me some more pictures of your grandkids, or tell me a story--anything but pushing!" ;-)
But this time...
My body took over, my brain was completely overruled, and I was pushing--pushing so effectively, mind you, that the baby was being born. And now I understand how that can happen! :)
"AlexAnn!" I called, a little alarmed that this baby was coming out into the water, and the midwife was nowhere in sight. I didn't know if she was somewhere in the bathroom, out in the other room, or maybe somewhere else in the hospital! "ALEXANN!"
Jeff was there, of course, and he thought at one point that he might have to stick his hands in the water and pull the baby up. ;-) But then AlexAnn was there, and I opened my eyes long enough to confirm her presence and watch her put her gloves on. THAT seemed to take forever, and I still wondered if she would be able to do it in time!
"The head is out," I heard someone (must have been AlexAnn) say. "Just give one more push for the shoulders." In a state of shock, I did so; and...
...BENJAMIN CALEB FISHER slid out of my body, was placed in my arms, and made his mark on my heart forever.
As always after I give birth, a chorus of praise erupted from my lips. "Thank You, God! Thank You, God!" I repeated, fully overwhelmed by all that had just happened...and actually finding it a little hard to believe!
At some point, someone confirmed that he was indeed a boy, and the comment was made that the cord was plenty long enough for me to hold Benjamin without worrying about that. I, knowing that water births are not supposed to happen in our hospital, apologized for giving birth; but that comment was laughed away. I don't think anyone there was too upset by what had just taken place. ;-)
Somehow, they got me out of the tub, and I walked back out to the bed, holding Benjamin in my arms--and leaving bloody footprints all along the way, I saw later. Giving birth is a messy business! (But speaking of the mess, quite a while later, when I went back to the bathroom, I saw that the water was still in the tub, and to my eyes, it was amazingly clear. I guess they got me out of the tub before much of the messiness happened.)
I laid down on the bed, happiness and relief--and disbelief, too--pulsing through me, but with a terrible case of the shakes. I could not stop shaking for anything, but the warm blankets they piled on me sure felt good. :)
But what felt the very best was knowing that at 2:44 a.m., exactly 59 minutes after we checked in at the hospital, my beloved Benjamin Caleb burst forth from my body in the easiest birth I'd ever had. My mental build-up to labor and delivery was over. The birth had been safely completed. I was on the other side and could let myself rejoice and delight over this little boy to my heart's content. The joy of knowing him face-to-face was just beginning!
~ cellphone photo by Jeff ~
After I posted this, I got additional input about how this night went from both Jeff and also from Robin, the photographer. I'm so grateful for their memories which, in many aspects, are clearer than mine was in those intense moments; and I'm especially thankful for the photographs Robin took which show us how things really were. So, based on that info, let me add to or clarify a few details. :)
~ Jeff told me that after the cold water was added to the tub and it reached a temperature I was OK with, it was 93 degrees.
~ I wasn't sure what I did with my right hand but thought I gripped a bar on my right. As it turns out, I was still hot, even after the water in the tub was cooled down, so someone gave me an ice pack which I held to my forehead with my right hand. Someone also brought a small electric fan into the bathroom and plugged it in to blow on me, but it only worked for a short time. I'm not exactly sure why it stopped working; but apparently after that, Jeff picked up a package of gauze or something like that and used that to fan me--at my request, I believe.
~ Robin gave me some really interesting info, based on the time stamp on her camera. After she took a few pictures of me in the tub holding Jeff's hand, she slipped out to take a picture of the room number by the door. About 30 seconds later was when all the action began. She took a picture at 2:41:44 of the nurse bent over the tub, and Jeff's hand was in the tub, too. At 2:41:56, AlexAnn was there. At 2:42:07, Benjamin was on my chest. That's a grand total of 23 seconds. :) No wonder I was in shock when it was all over! ;-)
~ Jeff said he was the one who saw and announced that the head was out, and indeed he had put his hand in the water to catch Benjamin since at that point, no one else was there doing it! The pictures I'll share in a blog post soon show his hand in the water and then dripping wet after Benjamin was born. :)
~ Another thing I remember is that somewhere along the line, someone told me I could sink down in the tub to get lower and have more of my body covered by the water; but probably by that point, I was sort of arching my back and preparing to hit the eject button, so sinking down and relaxing was definitely not happening just then! ;-)
Well, those are all the corrections and additions I can think of at the moment. The post I'll finish soon with photos from Robin may bring more to mind since it's chock full of pictures!!! :)