Conor's Birth Story, Part I

On Friday night around 10, I started to hit my normal wall that can't even be blown down by a second wind and started to fall asleep on the couch while cross-stitching. Wow, if you read that sentence again, you so cannot guess that I am twenty-four. In the midst of the nodding head and accidentally poked fingertips, I noticed that I was having slight cramps in my lower back every ten minutes or so. Finally after my fingers had had enough, I got up and told Chris that I was retiring for the night. I mentioned the cramps and that I thought they were Braxton-Hicks since they were so light.

We had been hoping that I stay pregnant until the following weekend for various reasons, and it seemed like I was going to. I felt as perfect as you can while pregnant! With Ryan, you could tell that his entrance into the world was coming. Swollen ankles, retaining water, Braxton-Hicks, crazy, hormonal pregnant woman not fitting into any clothes, etc. But at 39 weeks, 6 days with this one, I was not swollen one bit, had barely any practice contractions as I like to call them, my hormones were pretty well behaved (maybe Chris would have a different opinion on this ... ) and I still had clothes to wear as long as I stayed on top of the laundry. At my appointment on Wednesday, I was 3.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced, but after reading many extra-expert forums of expectant mothers claiming they were 75% effaced for weeks, I decided that the measurements meant nothing. I called my dad on Friday night, and I boasted that I wasn't going to go into labor soon.

The next morning, Ryan woke me up at 5:40 as usual. He had a PB & J for breakfast and so did I. We settled onto the futon and began reading like we do pretty much every morning. In the midst of Ryan's animal imitations, I noticed that I was having cramps. When they kept coming, I started casually glancing at the time on my phone whenever they started, and they were about seven minutes apart. I didn't really think much of them.

At 7:30, I went to wake Chris up, which happens every day. But on this particular day, he woke up startled and played the stereotypical father in the movies. "Is it time?!" came from him as he threw the blankets to the side before I even mentioned anything at all about the cramps. I wasn't even planning on saying anything at the time. His reaction made me stop and think. Is it time? Chris told me to rest and start timing them. So I got back into bed with my cross stitch and opened up the contraction timing app that was still on my phone from Ryan's labor. Cross stitch and an iPhone app: a geriatric and Millenial combination. The contractions were about forty-five seconds long and four to six minutes apart, were getting stronger and they weren't stopping. We were in the baby delivering business, people.

Early labor with my early riser

Since we had been hoping for a late delivery, we had planned to not do any baby stuff until the very end, thinking that we could trick my body into knowing when was ready for the baby to come. Out of bed, I jumped. In between timing contractions, I threw a bag together for Ryan and then started packing one for myself and the coming babe. I went up to the attic to bring down the newborn clothes so I could wash a few onesies and the polar bear sleeper that Ryan came home in. Next, I cut Chris' hair because who knew when I would do that again post baby. Once the onesies were in the washer,  the bags were packed, and Chris' hair was cut, I started to bake a pumpkin pie.

I like to stay active during early labor to keep my mind off of the contractions, and I'm really sentimental about repeating things. For example, when I guessed Chris was going to propose to me, I purposefully wore the same shirt that he had first kissed me in. When I went to the Grotto at Lourdes, I wore the scarf that was around my neck when we got engaged at the Grotto on campus which is a replica of the one at Lourdes. Etc., etc., I'm a weirdo. Anyway, a few weeks ago when I was grocery shopping, I picked up pumpkin and evaporated milk not just because it is fall, but also because I wanted to have the ingredients to bake a pumpkin pie on hand for when I was in early labor just like I did before Ryan was born. Washed clothes for the baby? Not a priority. Pumpkin pie ingredients? Priority.

I told Ryan that I was going to bake a pumpkin pie. He shouted, "Baking! Watch!" and then ran off. He returned with his bath toys, lined them up along the sink and proclaimed, "Watching!"

Then he moved them so they could get a better view.

After the pie had been pushed into the oven, I went to go take a shower. The contractions were definitely picking up in intensity, but not in frequency. I was frustrated because now that I was in labor, I just wanted it to be fast and furious. I wanted to meet the baby that afternoon.

While in the shower, I didn't want to stop timing the contractions because I was so hoping that they would get close enough to really mean something. We weren't going to leave for the hospital until they were three minutes apart or so because I didn't want to labor in the hospital long. I like laboring at home. Every time a contraction would start, I would have to open the shower door, dry off my hands, open my phone, and then begin the time. By the time all of that was finished, the contraction would be really strong, but I wasn't in a good mindset to relax through it. This whole process did not help me relax at all, and I kind of hated it so I just got out of the shower.

I started to curl my hair since I hadn't washed it. I was able to relax through the contractions more since I didn't have a multi-step process to undergo in order to start the timer. This is another thing that I seem to like to do while in labor. With Ryan, I painted my toenails, blew dry my hair and did my makeup. It never makes any sense (but, then again, when do I ever make sense?) because I always plan to get in the tub at the hospital, plus labor isn't exactly a walk in the park so whatever amount I primp, it is all going to be long gone by the time the baby arrives. Nevertheless, it keeps my mind off of the coming contraction so I do it.

A crooked picture frame and a penguin bath toy keeping me company. And here is more proof that I am a sentimental weirdo ... that is the same shirt I wore to the hospital while in labor with Ryan.

Chris' job that morning was to spend time with Ryan so I could relax as much as possible. He would check on me periodically to see how things were going. I could hear the cheers coming from upstairs where they were watching the Manchester United match, which is always a good sign. By 11:40, the pie was cooling, the hair was curled and I settled down on our bedroom floor to labor. I laid down on my left side in the runner's position from the Bradley method book that really helped me reach 7 cm by the time we got to the hospital with Ryan. Chris and I have never taken a Bradley course; we just read the book with Ryan and then reread three chapters during my last week of pregnancy. It is definitely a dated book and Dr. Bradley thinks very highly of his own method and isn't afraid to show it, but his husband-coached method really works for us.

The game was over so Ryan started to come looking for me. Chris told him that Mama needed to rest so Ryan put his hands on my cheeks, "Mama." Then he laid down next to me on the floor and fell asleep. Naptime the whole week prior had been such a battle with lots of crying and protesting and screaming. But somehow his little toddler heart knew what his mama needed right at that moment. I know that that moment, that picture of his innocent and caring face with his brown eyes somehow containing compassion beyond his age slowly closing under his curly head of hair will always be with me.

I ate a roast beef and cheese sandwich made by Chris (thanks, Laura and Luke!) and stayed on the floor for his whole nap. My rosary that my friend Aubry brought me home from the Holy Land was clutched in my hand, and I rolled it around in my fingers in between contractions (yep, you guessed it ... I used the same rosary for Ryan). My contractions were still concentrated in my lower back (Glory, back labor!). I started offering up each contraction for various intentions on my mind. Praying and offering up the pain helped an immense amount.

By the time Ryan woke up around two, the peak of the contractions were really intense and much more painful than before, but the spacing of the contractions were still only about four minutes apart. I was so discouraged because I thought we would have met the baby by now. Chris took Ryan to play in the living room, and I followed because staying in our room just didn't seem to be working. However, soon after camping out in the living room I realized that I could no longer be around sound during my contractions. Back to our room, I went. The contractions were no longer of the level that I could handle on my own. I needed Chris to be there.  I texted Alexandra who was graciously taking Ryan while we were at the hospital and told Chris that Ryan had to go now

Chris grabbed Ryan's bag and asked if he needed to pick anything up for me to eat. I told him that I didn't want to eat anything. Chris was concerned that I wouldn't have enough strength throughout the rest of labor and to push the baby out because I took so long with Ryan so he kept insisting that I eat something. I told him I would have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if I had to eat something.

I told Ryan that he was going to play with Peter, Mary Frances and James like I had told him for the past few weeks would happen when I went to the hospital. He kept saying mama and making me cry. Finally, he gave me a kiss and Chris carried him off. I heard the garage door open and close.

And then it started.