I was hit with a reeeeally hard contraction, and I was now alone. All through the pregnancy, I had been pretty nervous about going through labor again. For me, anticipating labor with the second baby was worse than with the first, I think because now that I had gone through it once, I knew how hard it was. Chris had to listen to months of variations of, "Do you think I can do it?" He always kindly reminded me to look at Ryan.
However, now that I was alone, I had no confidence in my ability to get through what was about to come. I'm normally silent during contractions, but I started to whimper and mutter doubts like, "I can't!" I decided to get in the shower to see if I would be able to relax so I got mostly undressed before another contraction came. Once that one was over, I remembered that the shower was the opposite of relaxing while I was timing my contractions earlier, and I wasn't about to stop timing them now.
Three minutes apart. Two and a half minutes apart. Two minutes, twelve seconds apart. Closer and worse. I tried to breathe through the contractions, but by the time a few seconds had passed, my confidence would be gone, and I cried out. I kept listening for the sound of the garage door. Nothing. It takes less than ten minutes to get to Alexandra's so Chris should have been back. I started walk around our room during the contractions while trying to pray Hail Marys and Our Fathers. The baby felt so low that it was much more of a waddle than a walk.
Finally after thirty minutes, I called Chris. I was basically crying into the phone asking him where he was. He was one street over and about to be home. When he came into the house, he found me in the bedroom right as a contraction was reaching its peak. I went down to the floor whimpering, "I can't! I can't!" Chris now says that he thought the baby was going to come right then and there, ha.
Chris told me to get dressed right away and ran my bag up to the car. We had a similar short discussion to the one that occurred right before we left for the hospital with Ryan. I wanted to wear my boots and told Chris to grab them from the closet. I won last time, but this time Chris won. He still thought the baby was going to be born very soon and my moccasins were closer so that is what made it on my feet.
As we were about to go up the stairs to the garage, Chris casually mentioned, "I got you Chipotle!"
I wasn't exactly kind nor did I express gratitude when I found out that he had stopped on the way home from dropping Ryan off while I was having contractions less than three minutes apart. Granted, he didn't know they were that close because they had been about four minutes apart when he left and the food was for me, not for him, but still.
Maybe I should retire that see-through shirt ...
The drive to the hospital started out horribly. I did not want to be sitting. I kept squirming through the contractions, which only made them worse. I commented that we were going to switch health insurances because the hospital we were going to now takes fifteen minutes to get to as opposed to the five minute drive to the other hospital. Chris called my dad to let them know that we were on the way to the hospital and was way too polite for his laboring wife's taste when my dad kept talking and a contraction was starting. "Just hang up!!" I commanded. Sorry, Dad!
After that horrible contraction was over, I proclaimed that I was going to get the epidural. (Chris doesn't remember this, he just said. Good thing I am the one writing this! Or would you prefer ... there were contractions, she pushed, the baby was born?) Then I told Chris to forget that I said that because I wouldn't be able to get one quick enough anyway.
He told me to try and relax through the next contraction. I was a ball of self-confidence and huffed and puffed and told him that I couldn't. The contraction began, and Chris talked me through it. He instructed me to relax my forehead, then jaw and all the way down to my toes. Breathe in and out. He reminded me that we were going to meet our baby soon. He kept talking softly until the contraction was over.
I was so relaxed that I felt like I was in a trance and as the contraction subsided, I almost felt like I was asleep. I didn't say anything again until I told him to start the timer again. We repeated this until we got to the hospital, and oops ... we had no idea where the labor and delivery wing was. Chris parked as close as he could to the main entrance, and then we made our way to the door. I walked straight through the grass. I just wanted to be able to lay down as soon as possible. Chris helped me through a contraction outside the hospital and right in front of the reception desk, and I remember there were people walking by so I was extra conscious that I didn't scream out in pain or anything to scare women from having babies.
After all the tedious name, date of birth, yada yada yada collecting and a whole lot of me wishing they could just scan me and see that I needed to be in a delivery room stat, the receptionist led us to a row of backless padded benches to wait for a nurse to come get us. I promptly laid down and waited for the next contraction.
The next contraction was the best contraction of my life. It's true! Chris instructing me to relax, Chris whispered, "Think of the look Ryan gives you when he wakes up from a nap." I instantly remembered a couple days before when I was sitting at the computer, and I heard the door handle of his bedroom door jump and then the door swing open. His little pitter patter started and when he came round the table to see me at the computer, he shouted, "Mama!" and started running at me with his stout arms pumping and pumping. Once I imagined those little, enthusiastic arms and thought of another little one growing up and someday erasing my momentary dread that naptime was over with one little swing of his or her arm, I seemed to have all the power in the world to get through that contraction with minimal suffering. I replayed those little frames of time in my mind over and over until the contraction had departed.
It was a good thing that Chris had planted that moment in my head because the contractions started coming right on top of each other and were almost a minute and half long. The nurse came out with a wheelchair and started asking me questions like how long my contractions had been going. When she heard that it was my second baby and how close my contractions were, she pushed a little bit faster. When I muttered that I was 3.5 cm and 50% on Wednesday and then requested that we stop so I could sit through a contraction and tried to get out of the wheelchair, she apologized and said that we had to get upstairs now. I obeyed.
We made it to triage, they handed me a sample cup and a hospital gown and my complete disregard for who sees me while in labor began. I started to take off my pants before the door was even shut because I wanted to speed through everything since the contraction clock was a-ticking. I somehow managed a sample, but then a contraction started so I promptly laid down on the bed even though I still didn't have the hospital gown on. The nurse came in, strapped a heart rate monitor on my belly, and started to get even more information (seriously ... never will I desire global telepathy than when I am in labor and people are asking me questions. Although, then the curse words in my head would ring loud and clear so maybe it is good that it doesn't exist?). She said that my midwife had been called. Then a resident came in to the room, introduced herself, and said she was going to check me.
I am always so nervous when they check me in triage because what if all of those intense contractions were for one measly centimeter of dilation?
"I think your fully dilated."
Well, that hallelujah was downgraded to a thank goodness when the nurse checked the resident's checking (not very gently I might add ... ) and declared me at 9 cm.
With that very green light of dilation, they promptly threw a sheet over my bottom half and moved me via bed to the delivery room. I had Chris lay the bed down flat. I craved laboring on the bed just like I did with Ryan. I just laid there silent and with my eyes closed while everyone was bustling around getting the room set up. Pretty soon after I was on the delivery bed, I felt a lot of liquid.
"Ummm I think I peed or my water just broke."
The nurses lifted the sheet and saw that it was nice and clear. I could feel that the baby was lower. I mentally could not wait to push, but I didn't actually have the urge to push yet. My nurse asked me what I would like to do in terms of pain management, and I somehow politely told her that I would be okay without any. Chris whispered that we had done the Bradley method with our first, and we were doing it again. For some reason, I am always really sensitive about being polite when I'm in labor and apologize about everything from the nurses changing the pads on the bed after my water breaks to not talking with them. I never get to ask them if they mind those things, but I now that I look back, I assume that they don't!
A bit later, I felt some pressure and pushed a little just because and out came quite a gush. My water hadn't broken completely the first time. Patty, the midwife I had seen the most throughout my pregnancy and who conveniently was on call, wasn't at the hospital yet. I remember being bummed that she wasn't there because I had some delusion that once she arrived, I would have the urge to push. The attending OB came in to introduce herself since I was so far along. I had told them that I was okay with her delivering the baby when Patty walked in! Sadly, the urge to push did not arrive.
She checked me and told me that I was at a nine, but that the baby was a bit posterior otherwise known as sunny side up. Immediately, I thought of Grace's pushing marathon with Theo. Oh boy. If I took around three hours to push Ryan out, how in the world was I going to push a sunny side up baby out even if he or she was my second? Patty asked me to keep relaxing through contractions in the hope that I would dilate and the baby would turn, which was not the synchronized midwife arrival and urge to push commencing I had envisioned. I begged Chris to talk to me about Ryan and meeting our new baby so I could get through the contractions.
After a few contractions, Patty checked me again. The baby was still in the same position, and she said there was even more of a lip of my cervix (after delivery, she told me that it seemed that my cervix had actually dilated back to seven or eight centimeters, but she didn't want to discourage me with the fact that I had regressed that much. Smart). She had me switch positions. I whimpered that I just wanted to be able to push. They raised the back of the bed up and I squatted in front of it and leaned on it with my arms hanging over it.
A couple of contractions later, I said that I felt like I had to push. I pushed and Patty tried to push the lip of my cervix over the baby's head. It didn't work so Patty had me lean over the back of the bed again and said that if I was able to sit through a few more contractions, the baby would arrive sooner than if I kept pushing with the baby in the wrong position and possibly cause my cervix to swell. I tried to argue with them, but nope, I had to wait. I looked miserable, whimpered some more and then leaned back over the bed. Those contractions were so horrible because I knew I was so close to being able to push, and I did not want to sit through any more. Amid all of my whimpers and doubts, Chris kept encouraging me through each of them. I just kept rolling my rosary through my fingers and praying and praying.
Finally, finally, we had good news when Patty checked me. I was 10 cm, there was no lip, and the baby was in a better position. I could push! Patty asked me if I had something else that I wanted to wear instead of my shirt that had never made it off because she likes to put the baby right on the mother's chest after birth. I breathlessly started to tell her that was fine, I just never made it changing! Chris brought me the black sports bra that I wore when I had Ryan (surprise, surprise). Then Patty asked me if it would be okay if the resident caught the baby. I said yes although I will admit that I was a bit concerned about tearing for a hot second since she had mentioned that it was her very first week, but honestly I just wanted to push.
I first tried to push the way that the Bradley method talks about - a modified squatting position on the bed. My arms were under my knees with my elbows up and my chin was at my chest. When a contraction started, I took three full and deep breaths and then held my breath on the last one and pushed with all of my might. I was determined to be a good pusher this time. It was such a relief to push because there was no pain; it was just a whole lot of effort and exhausting. Once after a contraction, I told Chris that he could check the score of the Notre Dame game ... he didn't though! This was the first Notre Dame game that he missed watching in nine years. Blood is thicker than football fandom. They could see the head slowly coming, but the baby's heart rate was a little slower than before so they started giving me oxygen in between pushes.
After a few pushes that way, Patty had me start pushing on my side. I pressed my face against Chris' stomach, held (okay, squeezed to death) onto his arm, and pushed with all of my might. The baby moved down. I did a couple more pushes on my left side, and then Patty was concerned about the baby's heart rate so she turned me onto my right side in case the baby was on the umbilical cord. She then told me that she had gone ahead and paged the doctor in practice because the heart rate was a bit lower than she was comfortable with. If she wanted to scare me a bit, she did. I pushed so hard with the next contraction until I felt the ring of fire as the baby's head crowned. I didn't even care how much it burned because I just wanted the baby to be born healthy and as soon as possible. They had me stop pushing so I didn't tear. At the next contraction, I buried my face against Chris, clutched my rosary and pushed and pushed until the shoulders came out, and I felt that life giving slip - life for our new baby and life for us as parents of two.
Patty immediately put that sweet life on my belly (the baby couldn't go any farther because the umbilical cord was a short one). While she was putting the baby on my belly, I kept asking, "Chris! What is it?! What is it?!" He laughed and said he thought it was a boy although he wasn't completely sure.
Well, it was a boy. A second son.
I looked down at him. Just like on our wedding day and just like when we met our firstborn, I wasn't overcome with tears. I felt completely present, completely overcome with love and as completely with God as I imagine I can feel on this earth; the privilege and blessing to give birth to the greatest manifestation of my love with Chris is the holiest experience I have yet to encounter.
As I held our son, our Conor Daniel Harrington, I noticed that his hands were clasped as though he was praying.
Two minutes old and praying hands already
I have been praying for him for so long, and I am so honored and happy that I get to for the rest of my life.