Around 3:00pm, I started noticing very slight cramps that felt like very mild period cramps. Now, at that point every joint in my body hurt, so I was not sure what was a pain related to that and what was related to the beginning of labor...especially since I was irrationally scared of missing the fact that I was in labor. However, lo and behold, those "mild" cramps started getting a little stronger around 7:00pm, I started timing them. They were fluctuating between 5 and 7ish minutes apart, but did not seem to be getting very regular. Paula got super excited and Dahmon was informed. He was so cute - his response was "you aren't supposed to come until Tuesday, Drexel!" and proceeded to try and work on a paper that was due the next day (operative word there being "try" - since we were not yet sure if I was for sure in labor, he was just a bit understandably distracted).
Approximately 10:00pm the call was made to hustle to the car and get our rear ends to the hospital. Everything had been packed for the journey for a few weeks, so it was just a matter of grabbing bags and getting out there. Contractions were getting stronger and closer together, so we were pretty sure this was the real deal. Upon reaching the hospital, we all went upstairs to the place where we needed to check in, then while I filled out some paperwork, Dahmon went to get the car - which had been left in front of the hospital - parked where it was supposed to go. Medical staff made sure we knew where things in the room were, and then we saw the midwife. She said that given where we were in labor, we could likely go home for a few hours and return when contractions were stronger. Um, no. I asked that we remain at the hospital and just be monitored.
Cue 3:00am, April 9. Contractions were getting to be about 2-4 minutes apart and getting strong. Ugh! They warn you contractions hurt. You hear the stories about women breaking their husbands fingers by squeezing their hands too hard. Nothing can prepare you for the reality that is your body getting ready to squeeze another human's body out! The pain...ohmigoodness...was unlike anything I've ever experienced in my entire life. Now, both my brother and I were blessed with high pain tolerances (though his is much higher than mine). This pain, however, was completely new. I'd never gone through anything like it...dangit it hurt! I tried pacing around the room, that didn't really help. Sitting in the hot tub helped a little bit, but only for a little while. Standing against the counter or the raised bed with my upper torso braced on the surface was the most comfortable thing I could do.
Dahmon and Paula were both tending me, making sure that I wasn't falling over and was breathing. Breathe? You've got to be joking, right? We had brought my computer and had it set up and playing some of my favs from my iTunes collection. Dahmon knows most of the the songs on my computer...after all, most of my music was from his library, but commented that my "favs" playlist is really random. He's right - on that list you can find Blue Man Group, Alabama, 38th Parallel, Go Fish...basically lots of stuff that falls into Christian Contemporary, Country, Techno/Trance, etc...but I digress....
Since Dahmon knows a lot of the songs in my library, he sang several of them to me as they were playing. One of those songs was Ty Herndon's "Living in a Moment", and another was Billy Dean's "You Don't Count the Cost". The latter of these two songs has lyrics about a mother giving birth, which I found particularly apropos to the moment. : )
Somewhere around 3 or 4 am - I'd given up keeping an eye on the clock long before that - the contractions began coming much closer together. Talk about pain! They warn you that giving birth hurts, I knew it would hurt. I'd heard many birth stories and watched a few on YouTube to help prepare. Humph - nothing prepared me for that hurt! I was bawling through the contractions...not just little cries but full out bawling my eyes out. The thought of going through more contractions like that made me want to curl up in a ball and croak.....and I remember thinking that it would have been really handy if transporters from Star Trek had been invented because then they could just beam the kid out! The next time the midwife came in, I asked if it was too late for the epidural. Nope! "Then please get it in here!"
Well, the epidural meant a water birth, what we had been planning on, was now out of the question. They don't exactly like women sitting in water when there is a hole in their spine. : ) I was bummed, and felt like a failure at birthing but Dahmon kept reassuring me that everything was fine. The anesthesiologist came up, I suffered through two more contractions as they got ready, and then I started yelling "ow ow ow that hurts!" as the guy injected a numbing agent into the area around my spine so I wouldn't feel the actual epidural. Dahmon was by my side the entire time and almost went down again because he thought the docs were done, looked back at my spine, saw the big needle (which he now calls a drill), and started feeling queasy. "Paula, I don't mean to alarm you, but I really need to sit down right now." : ) The drugs hit the right side of my body first, so I felt part of a contraction on the left...which was just plain weird since the right was numb. Once everything kicked in, however, I was blessedly numb from the ribs down and actually slept through a decent part of the remaining labor.
Around 7 or 8 in the morning, they were saying Drexel would likely be out by noon. However, the epidural slowed my contractions enough that we had to wait just a bit longer. The midwife eventually administered some pitocin to get the contractions closer together, and they had to manually break the bag of waters surrounding Drexel. Allowing Rex and I to do something called "laboring down", they were in no hurry to try and rush labor. Since mama is numb, they just let the body do what it is built to do and get the kid as close to coming out as it will come without pushing. It took until 4ish in the afternoon (we watched just a few episodes of Stargate) and the aforementioned pitocin to get Rex to come out...he was pretty comfy. : ) She said that Rex was just a couple of inches from air and that it would be time to push soon, then left. I reached down to feel and could feel my son's head right where she said he was. I was also able to tell that he had a full head of hair....kind of a weird thing to know before your kid is even out!
5:00 rolled around, and it was time to push. Dahmon and Paula were both by my side (Paula got recordings and pictures). I wanted to get up and let gravity help, but that would have been a less than good idea since my legs were pretty much numb and incapable of holding me up. I still couldn't feel anything, so in order to help my body work for us instead of against us, we had to wait until the monitor said I was having a contraction before I could push. With every push, he came just a little closer to being born. Dahmon and Paula could see everything that was going on, and I was a little jealous of them - with nearly every push they were saying things like "awesome!" or "that is so cool!" I'll just have to watch the video to see what it was they were seeing.
5:15 - one more big push and another Romness was born! First came the head, then the rest of his body just kind of squirted out...which surprised Dahmon a bit. They had Rex up and on my chest as close to instantly as was physically possible. He was a bit purple/blue and took what felt like forever to cry, and even then he would just squawk a bit. They cleaned him up a bit while he was on my chest, then whisked him away to do the Apgar and such on him. It turned out the reason he was squawking was because he couldn't keep his lungs inflated by himself and his oxygen count was super low. Someone from NICU came up with a c-pap machine to force air into his lungs. In the meantime, I was being sewn up (Dahmon can't remember if I needed 7 or 9 stitches, but it was one of the two - I had two minor tears) and was texting prayer warriors in my phone to get Rex covered in prayer over his lungs. It worked - about 20 minutes later his O2 levels were where they needed to be and he has had no problems breathing since. Thanks Lord!
They gave Rex a bath to get the rest of the birth stuff off of him, wrapped him up, and we had our precious bundle! He didn't even leave the room before identification anklets were affixed to his legs (which, by the way, he was very good at getting off). Dahmon's parents and Aunt Sue, as well as family friend George, were at the hospital and did some visiting. : )
The next two days saw the three of us at the hospital getting used to our new familial configuration. Rex underwent all of the newborn testing they put life newbies through. I was monitored for healing and such, and they generally keep new moms/babies for two days anyways. We had some visitors in that time - people I used to work with at World Wide Village and our small group leaders. Sleep was super scarce as we all learned the new rhythms of 1) being alive and outside of Momma for Rex and 2) having a baby that is on the outside for Momma and Dad.
Life with an infant is challenging in ways that I did not quite expect. For one thing, driving is a lot scarier as it seems that I am way more aware of the silly decisions drivers make sometimes, especially since the ramifications of those decisions could influence our child instead of just some grownups in the car. I've already been plagued with nightmares of Rex falling off things, or otherwise having his health compromised. Tonight's sleep will be interesting as he was circumcised today and I was in the procedure room with him. Perhaps that was not the best idea. The worst feeling in the world is having your child in pain, knowing that pain is the result of a decision you made (to have him circumcised), and not being able to do the hurting for him.
Anyways, this new parent should go off to bed. Nighty night!