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Timing didn’t really come into play when planning the birth of our first child.  At the age of 35, I wasn’t sure whether we would have the luxury of convenient scheduling, so we left no month off the table.  We thankfully ended up pregnant after only three months of trying.  The result was that our “surprise” baby (we elected not to find out the gender) was due August 8, one week after our first wedding anniversary of August 2.

We spent our wedding anniversary weekend in Gig Harbor, and even got in a road trip down to Mt. Rainer, a good 2.5 hours of mostly wilderness driving away from home.  Had we known what was in store for us in only two days, we wouldn’t have risked it.  Thankfully, our anniversary came and went uneventful, and I went to bed the night of August 2 content knowing that I wouldn’t have to share the date.

I awoke to a cramping pain low in my belly at 5:00am the next morning, unsure whether I was experiencing a contraction or poor digestion.  I allowed myself a minute of wishful thinking that our little one would arrive early and not the standard two weeks late for first time births, and drifted back off to sleep.  A second shooting pain woke me at 5:30am, and I decided to start my day “just in case.”  I envisioned finishing up my work documentation, taking a shower, doing my hair and putting on my makeup, and then waking Shawn for the slow pre-labor process.  Maybe we’d see a movie and go for our last walk as just a couple.  Given that the average first time birth is 12-15 hours, I figured we had plenty of time… if, of course, this even was labor.

I turned on my work computer and stepped into the shower.  I managed to wash my hair, but that’s the extent to which anything went according to plan.  Within minutes I was leaned over in the shower, bracing myself against the wall as more pains hit.  I climbed out, wrapped myself in my robe, and curled up on the couch.  I decided if the contractions were regular, then they were real and I should get Shawn.  For one, two, three, contractions I tried to count.  They took my breath away, and I lost count every time.  It was time to call in the hubby.

6:00 A.M. I opened the door and announced to my very groggy husband, “I need you.  I think labor is starting,” and made my way back out to the couch.   Either he was under the same misconception I was, or my sense of timing was horribly off, as he seemed to take forever making his way out.  In reality, it was likely only five minutes.

[Shawn] It was probably was only five minutes.  The first three of which were me thinking “what the hell does she need help with at 6am?  What possibly needs to be moved or lifted at this hour?”

He joined me in the living room and busily started to close out work items for the day and start coffee.  I told him I needed him to help me time contractions, and he quickly found an iPhone app.  Poor guy went from sound asleep to frantic multitasking in 60 seconds.  He was running back and forth trying to time contractions, close out his work calendar, gather our things for the hospital, and rub my back on demand.

[Shawn] It was worse than that.  Bethanie was using a prototype Windows Phone from work, which didn’t yet have any apps available.  I tried finding a website that did contraction timing, but nothing good was out there.  I fire up her old iPhone and try going to the App store to find a contraction app.  For whatever reason it won’t even load the store without a SIM in the phone.  I tear apart the prototype Windows Phone, slam the SIM in the iPhone, go to the Store, and download the app.  Meanwhile Bethanie is moaning and sometimes crying and I’ve been awake for about 2 minutes.

At 7:00am we called the hospital and told them the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting between 30 to 60 seconds.  The L&D nurse (Andy – I have a remarkable memory of everyone we met during labor) told us to continue to time the contractions, try to walk around (I laughed at him, I was in so much pain), try to eat something, and to call back in an hour.  I dragged myself off the couch and tried to have a few bites of cereal and close out my work meetings, but contractions drove me to my knees every few minutes.  At one point in time Shawn had to run down to get stuff in the car and told me to push the button on the iPhone app.  I did so, to the announcement, “You can only add ten logs in the free version.  Please purchase the full version to enter more.”  I crawled back to the couch, marveling at their business savvy.

[Shawn] Upgrading to the paid version should have been a snap.  I go to authorize the purchase… it’s been so long since we used the iPhone, the credit card on file with the App store has since expired.  Now I have to go find my wallet, enter the new info, and meanwhile I’m missing out on contraction timing and am wondering what other curveballs can possibly be thrown my way.

After 45 minutes, I told Shawn we needed to go in.  He rapidly pulled the remaining things together and sent my meeting cancelations, much to the confusion of a few work colleagues who were not familiar with the term OOF (out of office).    Simple tasks like putting away the milk were impossible.  At Shawn’s highly intuitive insistance, we dropped everything and climbed into the car, me in the back seat leaning over the car seat.  It was the longest 15 minute ride of my life… I don’t think I opened my eyes the entire time.  

[Shawn] What Bethanie doesn’t remember is that I called the hospital back at that 45 minute mark, explain that things are getting pretty heavy and we think we need to come in.  They say “oh, we’ve been waiting for you… you’re already supposed to be here!”  In that moment I want to kill nurse Andy who told us to chill for an hour before calling back.  I now feel it is *very* important that I get Bethanie in the car and on our way despite her not wanting to move.  The subtle threat of “do you want to have the baby here?” worked.  I grab Bethanie’s purse on the way out, not knowing what I might need it for but thinking it is probably a good idea.

At 8:00 am we arrived at the hospital check in, and my body continued to be wracked with contractions.  I leaned myself over the entryway sofa as Shawn checked us in.  An L&D nurse (Renee) passing by took pity on me and brought me straight back to triage, stopping once along the way to wait out a contraction.  At triage they took one look at me and moved me straight to a room, where they discovered I was already measuring at 5 cm.

[Shawn] Good thing I brought the purse.  ID and proof of insurance.  Never entered my mind to remember that on purpose… silly Canadian.

The next several hours passed in a blur.  I remember the pain, and alternately chanting the words, “Fuck fuck fuck fuck” during contractions, and apologizing to my nurse (Jessica) during the few minutes of relative lucidity.  I remember thinking that I needed a new word to get me through, but it took too much energy to think of one.  My entire focus was on preparing for and dreading the next contraction.  I must have repeated that word a hundred times over the course of the next few hours.  The hardest part was fighting the overwhelming desire to push even while fighting the pain. I labored for some time on the bed, and then in the tub.  By 10:00am I was at 7 cm.

[Shawn] Bethanie actually apologized for her “potty mouth.”  Super cute.  During this time and the remaining hours of labor, I am water-boy and on-call masseuse.  “Left.  Up.  Down.  No, DOWN.  Left again.”  You get the idea :).

However, the tub seemed to slow me down.  An hour later, I was discouraged to learn I was only measuring 8 cm, with seeming hours before me.  I caved and asked for the epidural.  The anesthesiologist took forever to come… I remember begging him to hurry.  

[Shawn] It did take a really long time for him to show up… probably an hour after we asked for the epidural.  To watch Bethanie endure the pain for so long and then think she was close to relief — only to have to wait and wait — broke my heart.

The epidural is the one thing I regret about Isaac’s birth.  What I needed was something to take the edge off… what I got was absolute numbness and temporary paralysis from the waist down.  I was unable to feel my legs, to change position, to support my own weight, and ultimately to push.  And, when I continued to experience stabbing pains in one hip, the anesthesiologist upped the dosage.  The end result was that I was unable to feel when it came time to push, and the OB had to use a vacuum extractor to reposition the baby’s head and help things along.  The resulting hematoma and increased risk of jaundice were my first pangs of parental guilt, and I feel like I lost something in not being able to feel anything during the birth of my first born.

At one point in time, Shawn and I both drifted off to sleep, to be awakened by a phone call and the quiet discussion between our L&D nurse and my OB that our little one’s heart rate was decreasing with every contraction.  Several long minutes of fear ensued, as the nurses helped me change position several times trying to get his heart rate back up.  

[Shawn] It was terrifying every time the heart rate would slow, and worse when the sensor would slip off and the audible beat would stop entirely.

By 1:00pm, my cervix was fully dilated, and the nurse called in the OB.  She and the nurse watched the monitor, and told me when to push.  I in turn concentrated on Shawn, holding my breath pushing as hard as I could as he counted evenly, “one, two, three…” on to ten. The first one found me holding my breath and still pushing as he counted, “eleven, twelve,…” I gulped my breath and anxiously asked, “I thought we were only going to ten?!”  With that, we were back on track.   We alternated between pushing through contractions, and resting to allow the baby’s heart rate to go back up.

[Shawn] Hey, the first few times I stopped at ten, but I noticed that none of the OB or nurses visibly relaxed or indicated that we should be stopping at ten, so I kept going on the next contraction 🙂

Shortly before 1:30pm, I gave several more pushes, and heard Shawn excitedly exclaim, “It’s a boy!” as the doctor lifted up an absolutely giant baby.  I was blown away by how big he was as they laid him on my abdomen and vigorously began to wipe him off, until he let out the most beautiful throaty cry.  They took him away briefly to suction the fluid out of his airway, but quickly brought him back to rest on my chest.  Shawn and I only took a few seconds to agree that Isaac Matthew was the perfect name for him.

[Shawn] The sheer size of Isaac blew me away.  The crown of his head had been visible for a while, so I’m thinking at that time it’s most of his head and this is a small little baby like I’d expect.  And so with a quick “fwoop” and a bunch of kid emerges I’m thinking it’s head and torso or something (he was facing away from me)… until the OB turns him… and it’s ONLY THE HEAD.  Another quick “fwoop” and out comes the rest of him (more like the remaining 75% of him) and I cannot believe how he possibly fit inside Bethanie.

Isaac was born August 3 at 1:26pm after eight and a half hours of labor, weighing 8 lbs 4 oz and measuring 21.65 inches.  A year and a day after Shawn and I committed ourselves to one another, our lives once again expanded.

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