I cannot believe my little man is six weeks old. I feel like he has been part of our family forever.. or maybe just because since the night I saw that little pink plus sign I wanted him to be here already. The intense way I anticipate the arrival of my babes neither one of my children can ever accuse me of not wanting them. The entire last trimester of my pregnancy with Knox I was longing for sleepless nights, poopy diapers and the return of those horrendous nursing bras. I LOVE my babies and even love the newborn mushroom stage- where all they do is eat, sleep and cry. And I thought I would love love being pregnant- that I would become the calm and nurturing earth mother who endured all inconveniences with a quiet whisper of thankfulness for the sacred vessel that is my womb.
Anyone who spoke to me for longer then 10 seconds while I was pregnant is already laughing. I hate being pregnant. The only good thing about it to me is the gorgeous prize at the end. So here is the story of the arrival of my second gorgeous prize- my son: Knox Thomas Steele.
My EDD (estimated due date) from my doctor was October 15th. But being a nurse and a lover of gathering information, I had convinced myself that because this was a second pregnancy and MY calculated dates had me at 40 weeks on October 1st that my babe would arrive the first week of October. Therefore I started preparing for the start of labor the last week of September. Basically, I set myself up for misery. Every day from September 26th on was like a Christmas morning that never came. I woke up every morning crushed that I did not have a baby overnight. I started with weekly OB appointments the middle of September and every time the doctor checked my cervix, I was convinced they would tell me (in a shocked voice!) that I was almost 10 cm dilated and needed to get to the hospital immediately. This never happened and my due date came and went. I literally sat on the couch like a beached whale whimpering about the cruel, cruel universe.
Grant's parents came to visit the weekend of Oct 15th, partly to hang out with us for homecoming weekend at Penn State and partly to meet their new grandchild that I had convinced everyone would be here waiting for gifts and adoring. Saturday my dear friend Becki brought me over her old wives tale- eggplant parmasean- that she had refused to bring before my due date. (When she told me this, I almost broke up with her) I love vegetables of all shapes and sizes... except one. I hate eggplant. But guess who ate every bite of that disgusting meal?? This desperate pregnant woman. No baby.
Sunday morning I woke up with contractions that took my breath away. We waved a happy good-bye to the grandparents, Grant threw me in the car and we drove to the hospital. I should have known it wouldn't end well when I had the clarity of mind to yell at him for not running red lights on the way... not because I was in such hard labor that I was afraid of delivering en route, but because I wanted breaking the law to be part of Knox's birth story. *just a note to girls who have never gone through labor- when true labor is going on, you are not thinking about telling the story later- you are just trying not to die* We arrived at the hospital, by which time the strong contractions were long gone. But we went upstairs anyway and one disappointing hour later, we were walking out the front door led by my enormous 40 week+1 day belly. I was so upset that Grant offered to take me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast.. only a pregnant woman can dry her tears on pecan pancakes and feel better.
I decided to wait him out. I started the new week determined to enjoy my last few days with Purslane as my only babe, so we went to the library, the park, the farmer's market, read a million books and put together a thousand puzzles. I spent lots of time with my hand on my belly feeling little man move around. As much as I wanted to meet him, I knew that he and I would never be this connected again- literally sharing a body. So I tried to enjoy it.
Wednesday morning at 1230AM I was woken up by contractions that, again, took my breath away. I walked into the bathroom where I discovered that (I thought) my water had broken. Having been to this rodeo once before, you would think that I would remember that some things are hard to miss- like your membranes rupturing- but being 4 days past dates and desperate to go into labor, I decided it was the real deal and woke up Grant. We waited a little bit, not wanting a repeat of a few days ago, then when the contractions intensified and got closer together, we started calling our list of peoples who had agreed to be woken up in the middle of the night to come stay with Purslane while we went to the hospital. Five calls later, no one answered their phone and we got desperate. We started calling college students. First try, Grant's cousin Rachel answered the phone in her sweet (and very awake) voice and was at our door in 5 minutes. I started to give her instructions about what to feed Pursy for breakfast, and she shooed me out the door. I hadn't realized until that moment how panicked I was about leaving my baby girl- she was my only child thus far and even in labor I didn't want to leave her. But off we went.
The 10 minute ride to the hospital, the contractions stayed consistent and strong. I was still able to be excited inbetween them, and I squeezed Grant's hand as we talked about what a great birthday October 19th was going to be. We hit the ER doors, and... everything stopped.
As the ER nurse escorted us through the halls to Labor and Delivery on the 4th floor, I tried to will my body to start contracting again. I walked faster, breathed harder- hoping for something, anything. I could not believe we were about to have a repeat episode of false labor and I was going home with no baby. The nurse met us at the door, escorted us to L&D room 5 and hooked me up to the monitor. 20 minutes later, I had 2 nice contractions that I only knew I had because the little tracing line on the monitor told me so. The nurse came in and told me that the doctor recommended I walk for an hour to see if anything started again,and if not she was going to send me home... again. I took one lap around the unit then told Grant this was ridiculous- I had been walking miles a day for the past month without going into labor, why did I think walking in the hallway was going to do anything? I started cursing like a 15 year old boy, ripped off my hospital gown and got dressed. Halfway down the hall when Grant caught up with me, he told me I needed to at least let the nurse know I was leaving. We told her our plans, and she asked me to sit tight for another minute while she called the doctor again. Twenty minutes later, the doctor was sitting at the foot of my bed while I told her if she didn't break my water I would do it myself. She advised me to wait... reminded me that my first labor was quick and natural and mother nature often knows best. I told her I was done and was willing to have a c-section if it meant this was the last minute I would ever have to be pregnant. I think she knew I meant business at that point, and agreed to break my water- with the understanding that if labor did not begin naturally after that then in 6 hours she would start the induction process, which meant pitocin, maybe cervidil and more then likely pain medications to manage the intense pain of induced contractions. I agreed, she broke my water and I settled in.
By settling in, I mean I put on my slippers grabbed Grant's hand and we started walking the halls. A solid hour of walking and some small contractions had started to return. *this is the point in the story where I start to get a little hazy about details* Another hour and we were stopping to breathe through the contractions. Around 5AM I got back into bed to be checked and monitored. At that point, I was 5 cm dilated and contractions were about 3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. 30 minutes later, I told Grant I needed to go to the bathroom NOW. He looked at me suspiciously and asked "do you have to poop or push?". I said I didn't know. He ran into the hallway and yelled for the nurse. When she came in, he told her that my labors progress quickly and she should check me again. I was 8cm and labor was in full force.
I do remember the recessed lighting on the ceiling of the delivery room, because that was my fixed point to stare at while I rode the contractions. I also remember Grant holding my hand and coaching me through every one- reminding me to stay relaxed, breathe and encouraging me that every contraction brought our son closer to our arms. The pain of labor contractions is so consuming and unbelievable- I had forgotten my labor with Pursy until this moment and then all I could think about was getting through each excruciating rise and fall when I would have at least a few seconds of relief.
When the doctor came in, she checked me and I was 8 1/2 dilated but the urge to push was so strong, I couldn't stop myself. Because she was afraid I would tear my cervix pushing past it, she manually stretched me through the last 1.5 cm of dilation. That was the most intensely painful thing I have ever experienced. By the time I was fully dilated and every push was a desperate attempt to push him out, I could not handle the pain anymore. I remember feeling desperate and frantic. Grant had one leg and the nurse had the other, and they were holding my knees to my chest while I put everything I had in me into every push. I remember being afraid of the screams coming out of me at one point- they were feral and completely out of my control. I have heard some women say delivery is an out of body experience, but not for me- I definitely was right there. And then came the blessed release of his body leaving mine. It is a beautiful emptiness because a moment later, he was on my chest. I could hold him, feel his little body and touch his face. Grant was right beside us and the three of us were together at very long last. They let me hold him for a good hour before taking him to the nursery to be bathed and weighed. It was a precious hour- everything still so fresh and brand new- both of us exhausted and so crazy happy. We had a son.
I wrote Grant a letter the night after Knox was born. The husband of a woman going through natural labor deserves all the praise in the world. He was my solid place and no words will ever describe how much I love him.Our family feels complete with Purslane and Knox and no woman was ever so blessed.