Meeting Our Firstborn: Part II

Ryan is sixteen months old now so that is perfect timing for his birth story, right? When I was pregnant with him, I pored through all of the birth stories that I could find. I couldn't read enough, and those stories of mothers and fathers meeting their child for the first time helped me immensely in my own preparation to meet our baby. As late as it is, I want to share our story with hope that it might be able to help, entertain (as you can tell, my version of entertainment is really thrilling) and hopefully not scare an expectant mother too much. In true Katrina style, it is quite verbose. I apologize in advance to your tired eyes. 

Part I

I started another contraction almost immediately, and never did I think that I could feel so much joy during one. Seven! This baby will be out in no time! We moved to the delivery room, and I had to endure a couple more contractions in the hallway.

We met our labor nurse, Amy. I wasn’t going to write a birth plan because I had heard that most nurses think they are silly, but my midwife told me that the nurses at my hospital actually appreciated them so they knew more ways to help. I lay down on the bed again and closed my eyes as I entered another contraction. When I opened them, I saw Amy walking around, my birth plan in hand, turning off any extra lights. My heart swelled, and from then on I considered her an angel throughout the whole process.

I could only dwell on that pleasant thought for a moment because I felt so nauseous all of a sudden. I knew I was going to throw up and rushed to the bathroom. Well, you can bet that I didn’t eat Hotbox pizza for a while after the birth.

They had to put an IV in my arm since I needed the antibiotics for Group B Strep, and they told me that it would take at least thirty minutes for the drugs to enter my body and I couldn’t get in the water until then. I was crushed. My mom had told me how amazing being covered in water felt during her contractions with my little sister, and getting in the water had been what I had been looking forward to if contractions were only going to get worse. Amy saw how disappointed I was and decided that I could get in the tub as long as I kept my right arm with the IV on the ledge above the water. I took my gown off and stepped into the tub. This was around midnight, and Amy said that I would receive another course of antibiotics in four hours if the baby didn’t arrive by then. That became my goal; I was going to have the baby before four in the morning.

I kept trying to get comfortable in the tub, but I couldn’t fully assume the runner’s position that helped me so much because I had to keep my arm on the ledge. It was a mental block for me. I just couldn’t get around the fact that my relaxation position was imperfect so I couldn’t concentrate on relaxing and praying. I would start to curl up when the pain would reach its peak, which was the opposite of what I needed to do. Chris would remind me softly to stay still and relax, but I just couldn’t. My midwife came to check me so I got out of the tub and back on the bed. Right before she checked me, my water broke as I lay on the bed. There was so much fluid and tissue. Amy had to wipe up so much! I knew that labor was really going to pick up, and that was very scary when my planned water labor proved to be so unhelpful. The midwife checked me. Seven centimeters. Curse. That just showed how little I was able to relax in the tub.

The contractions were still mainly in my back and were taking all the energy out of me. Amy suggested that I try sitting on the birthing ball while she applied counter pressure on my lower back. The counter pressure was great, but the birthing ball was the most uncomfortable thing I had felt (yet) because the baby was so low. I didn’t stay on it for long. I was so thirsty all of the time. Chris gave me water after water. I think I started asking for water after every contraction.

I started pacing the room between contractions. What a sight I was! 40 weeks pregnant to the day belly and wearing nothing but my sports bra. Bye-bye modesty, hello not caring. After a while, I got back on the bed to try and relax. In a bit, I told them that I needed to go to the bathroom. Chris and Amy looked at each other, and I could tell that they were both thinking that I was feeling the urge to push. I assured them that I just needed to pee. About an hour of increasing contractions, my midwife checked my progress again. I had to be ten. I was seven when I came in!

Still not ten centimeters. She told me that my amniotic sac had twisted a bit so there was still a bulge of fluid. I asked if it would break again on its own or if she should break it. She reminded me that I didn’t want any interventions and that labor was really going to pick up. I remember thinking, “This is not much of an intervention! Break it now!” and silently cursed since I thought labor had already picked up. I gave her the go ahead while lying down on the bed looking at the wall in front of me. There was a clock on the upper left portion of the wall, but I refused to focus my eyes on it to see what time it was. As exhausted as I was, I had the mental awareness to know how horribly discouraging to know how long it had been with very little progress.

She broke the rest of the bag. More gushing.  I got back into the tub hoping that I would be able to push that mental block aside and relax. I immediately felt a change with the next contraction. The pressure of the baby was so intense that I felt like I had to push. (Looking back, I just didn’t know what it felt like to really have to push). I told them that I was going to push, and the midwife got ready to get in the water. The water was not a lovely sight. Bloody tissue and amniotic fluid were floating around it it, but I didn’t care. I was so tired, and I just wanted the baby to come out.

I tried to push at the next contraction and I was so surprised at how much better it was than doing nothing. They still hurt like nothing else, but it relieved the pressure which at that point had become worse than the pain. 

Of course, I couldn’t really get into a comfortable pushing position in the tub so I got out and walked around. I tried pushing while squatting, while on all fours, standing against the bed, leaning over the raised back of the bed. They could see the head when I pushed, but back to never-coming-out-land it went.

The triage nurse came in and said that she heard other nurses talking about the young men who had just arrived and were in the waiting room. Our friends from the rugby team had driven in the middle of the night from Chicago through a snowstorm to come to meet our baby. We do have the greatest friends. I'm sure they love knowing that all of the nurses were whispering about them. 

I remember pacing that room and vowing to just schedule the next birth to be a c-section. I don’t think this baby will ever come out was all I could think and say. Chris was right there to assure me that we would get to see the baby soon and his encouragement never ceased.  That man is something else, and I would be lost without him. If I ever were to doubt that he loved me, all I would have to remember was how intensely he selflessly cared for me during the birth of our baby. That will always be a glorious testimony to his love for me.

The bed became what I craved even though I hadn’t really thought I would give birth on the hospital bed. I needed something to hold me up or to lie against. I was leaning over the back of the bed barely making it through a Hail Mary when Amy suggested that I stop pushing during contractions and rest. I initially refused. I didn’t think I could stand the intense pressure.

Amy let me know that it was time for the second round of antibiotics. I was crushed. I was supposed to be holding my baby. How had it been four hours? I got in the water. I’m not sure what I was thinking since it never worked for me. My exhaustion seemed to have reached its peak. The contractions were right on top of each other and I just lay in the water barely moving.

“I can’t believe she is doing that. Is she really snoring?” I heard Chris whisper incredulously to Amy.

What a video that would have been. Almost naked, huge belly, and sawing a log. My body was so tired it was sleeping through the thirty seconds between contractions. I felt like I didn’t even have control over it anymore...it was almost like I wasn't even in my body anymore, but yet I was completely enveloped in pain. My midwife came to check on me.

I somehow brought myself up to lean over the side of the tub. I breathlessly wondered, “I just don’t know how I’m going to do this.” She replied that I could always consider other options to help, and I snapped to full attention. As well-intentioned she may have been, that was not what I wanted to hear. I knew that she was tending to another labor that was much longer than mine and that she was tired, but I wanted to hear encouragement especially when I was already fully dilated and both of us were in good condition.  I didn’t respond.

I got back on the bed and stayed there. In between contractions, I would lean over the back of the bed just praying to God to help me, and then I would turn around and sit with knees wide and push. The head was getting closer and closer as slow as it was taking for me to push the baby out. Amy asked me if I wanted a mirror since it helps some woman to visualize, but that sounded despicable to me. I did not want to see what was happening and so she got a, “Noooooo, thank you.”

“We’re going to find out if we have a son or daughter soon,” Chris kept reminding me.

Will we? I thought.

Amy started to give me oxygen with hope that I would have more energy, and she started to check the baby’s heartbeat. The heartbeat was starting to drop when I didn’t change sides so she flipped me periodically since I was so limp when I was resting. I knew that I had to push through these last moments…literally. My baby had to be born. They kept telling me how close we were getting, and my midwife started to stretch me. The pain from the contractions and pressure were incomparable to the pain of her stretching me while the baby crowned. The ring of fire is truly an accurate description. For the first time, I vocalized from the pain. Before the ring of fire, I went through contractions and pushing silently. She kept apologizing and assuring me that it was for the better.

More nurses came into the room to prepare for the baby. I pushed with all of my might through that cursed ring of fire, and the baby’s head came out. I kept pushing, but nothing else happened.

All of a sudden those three nurses were at the bed. My baby’s shoulders were stuck. They pushed on my stomach and held my legs back even further. Chris had to look away because the midwife was tirelessly trying to get rest of the baby out.

Push. You have to push.

All of these voices were urgently telling me. I have never been more scared in my life.

At 4:58am, I finally learned how to push with all of my might and gave birth to our firstborn.

It’s a boy. We have a son!

I have never looked at my husband with so much awe and wonder as when he so proudly announced our son. I don’t think I will ever be able to accurately describe how wonderfully perfect of a moment it was to have the man who, with God, helped me to create this child look at me with that news after all of that work.

That moment carried me through our son being carried away across the room so the nurses could check him since he was stuck and there was some meconium. The midwife administered some Pitocin to stop the bleeding and to help me deliver the placenta. She also, at my request, gave me some local anesthetic before she stitched up the few interior tears. The upside to pushing for three hours was that I barely tore.

Finally, the nurse walked over and placed Ryan Donald Harrington on my chest.

I had longed for Ryan Donald for so long. One night, I dreamed that we were married and a little blond-haired blue-eyed boy was running around our little house as we playfully chased after him calling his name. His name was Ryan Donald. When I woke up, I yearned for him. I missed him, and we hadn’t even met. I wanted nothing more than to be his mother and the wife to his father. It all seemed so far away.

Then, on January 2, 2012, God finally gave Chris and me his soul to take care of. I’ll never forget the peace that I felt when his little life was placed in my arms and I looked up to see Chris staring at him in awe. “We have a son, we have a son,” was all that we could say over and over.

A son. Our son.

I cry happy tears all the time. If I catch the vows of a sappy wedding show on TV, I cry. If I watch anything about birth, I cry. Yet, I did not cry when I married Chris, and I did not cry when I gave birth to our son. I think I am just so present in those moments, those sweet, indescribable moments, that all of my emotions politely excuse themselves so I can fully capture and embrace the first look of my husband at the end of the aisle and the first touch of welcoming my child into my arms.

I had envisioned a mini Chris all through pregnancy. He would have blond hair and blue eyes, just like my dream. However, when I stared at his dark hair and dark blue eyes which just screamed that they were going to turn brown, I couldn’t imagine him looking any other way. My dominant genes had won, and I remembered a night when I taunted Chris that he may be competitive and a winner, but he was no match to my genes. He didn’t seem to care about that potential and looming loss.

In addition to our little one’s hair color and eye color, I had many a time claimed that I just would not be able to handle it if our potential baby had Chris’ pout, but lo and behold, Ryan was born with a big bottom lip that will always threaten any chance of discipline. God wanted me to have a challenge. 

After Chris got to hold Ryan and relay the news to our nearest and dearest, that exhausted husband of mine entered a deep, deep slumber in the chair next to my bed. He didn’t have the adrenaline surge that I was enjoying. Ryan and I got to have our own time together. Mother and son.

I watched him nurse with his skin against mine, huddled under the token hospital blanket. He turned his head ever so slightly in my direction and his cheek moved just enough for me to catch a glimpse of a single dimple jumping on his cheek.

Just like me. That dimple filled my heart. 

I was and am so thankful to that little baby boy nestled in my arms. His first task in this world was a wondrous one for his birth, his entrance to life, will always stand as our birth as parents.

Thank you, my firstborn. 

What three hours of pushing will do to you: an extremely swollen face, a conehead and a whole lot of happiness

With my two sleeping boys