Friday September 17, 2010
I wake up feeling a strong contraction and peel open my eyes to see what time it is; it’s 5:30, right on time. Every morning for the past 2 weeks I have woken up with an alarmingly-full bladder that instigates a fierce pattern of “rushes” for the following hours of the day, and today is no different. Now the trick, getting out of bed. Not only do I have to roll off of a very firm and unfamiliar bed with my creaky, loose pelvis and oddly shaped body, AND a full bladder, but I have to navigate a bedroom that isn’t as familiar as mine by the dim orange glow of an alarm clock. I carefully lift my feet off of the ground with each step as to not trip over anything I’m not aware of in my zombie state, like my son who I find sprawled across the floor as I nearly tumble over him. I could have potentially crushed the little stinker’s bones with my recently accumulated weight; I guess he decided the air mattress was no longer comfortable.
I walk through the next contraction holding my fluids as tightly as I can, and I find relief despite the sudden shock of a very cold toilet seat. Back to bed, but first I must lift the baby-beast back onto the air mattress, and without waking him; ’tis a tricky task at hand. Against the odds, I am successful at not waking him and I creep back into bed next to my slumbering love and manage to curl myself into the crook of his arm; just the tiniest bit of real closeness we get since my body has been taken over by the girth of my gestating belly. I think, before I close my eyes, “today is not the day.”
I open my eyes again around 8:30, still feeling the twinges of contractions. It’s Friday, and Dave only has to work until noon. Glorious half-day Fridays, I only have to chase around Victor for a few hours by myself. Everyone is out of the house for the day so I was really on my own to handle my energetic boy. We had been staying with my best friend Lauren and her family who had been kind enough to open their home to us since Tuesday because they only live about 30 minutes from The Birth Center, compared to our 2+ hours from Jersey City.
Needless to say, the last days of pregnancy are the longest days of your life. Every contraction is a tease, every time you pee you carefully inspect the toilet paper for any signs of mucus plug or the tiniest hint of “show,” and find yourself incredibly impatient by the end of every day and defeated when you lay your head down to sleep wanting this joyous “ride” to come to a halt; you’re ready to get off the train, baby in your arms. But today is different. Something is brewing, I know this as I chase Victor around the back yard and watch the dog torment herself with a blue ball she can’t quite get her mouth around, one that we have had for quite a few months, maybe even since Christmas, hiding from her jaws in the car as we save it for trips to the park and let it reside in there. Victor loses interest in the dog and ball, as she’s a terrible sharer, and fixates himself on the swing set in the neighbor’s yard. I follow him and listen to him scream ‘weeeee’ as he points to the swings and I lean against a tree with a contraction that I can feel in my back and legs. I know it’s nothing, yet. I hear a pop; there goes the blue ball, it deflates after it’s decent run of the better part of a year and I think, symbolically, “maybe today is the day.”
Dave and I decide to go to lunch and visit our hometown area, we see familiar faces of the friends we have made at our long-run at a very sentimental restaurant. Dave and I met here, fell in love here, and announced our elopement here. We worked through our first pregnancy here, and when I stopped working Victor and I made many visits to Dave here as he continued to bartend two nights a week here. We celebrated Victor’s first birthday here, which happened to be the day we found out I was pregnant again. We have such history here, and it had been a while since our last visit. Life felt right sitting on the patio eating lunch with our small family on the cusp of expansion. Change is what we do, here, at this familiar restaurant.
After lunch we take a break, and while I’m still having contractions, they are nothing to write home about; they had been coming inconsistently like this for weeks. We decide to take a nice long walk, and Victor goes down for a good nap; he’s terribly off schedule. It’s about 5:15 and I’m ready to try to pattern these contractions into something more. We take some quiet time to ourselves while the house is still, and as Dave dozes off I decide to take a hot shower to see if things will pick up.
I am two days away from the due date I estimated, and four days off from the due date my midwives use to give me extra time to gestate if I need it. We’re anticipating a decent-sized baby, but no one ever knows for sure. All I know is I’d feel awful about myself if I gained nearly 40 pounds for anything less than Victor’s size at 8 pounds 2 ounces and 20 inches long. Things get intense after my shower, but still no pattern, and more importantly, I can do anything and everything through each contraction. I sigh and know for sure it’s not today. The house becomes more alive as Dave wakes from his nap and the house fills with it’s residents as dinner time approaches. I bail on my brother who offered to entertain us with his wife and my niece, I feet bad but I just want to relax.
What better way to relax than a taboo glass of red wine? It was delicious. Time creeps on as I milk every last drop of the divine, body-warming elixir. The contractions are here and there, and I continue to chat with Lauren about how this could be it, but I’m not totally sure…”something has to be coming as my due date is approaching, and my belly couldn’t be any lower; the baby has been sitting at a zero station since around 38 weeks, maybe lower now, something HAS to be happening soon, right?” Everyone suggests I get in the hot tub to relax, and Lauren and I are gung-ho about getting in.
I manage to find something to wear in the water, as I wasn’t prepared with a bathing suit in our bulging suitcase. We get in, jets powered on to full force and aimed directly at my lower back, until I feel too warm for comfort, I guess about an hour goes by. We have frequent visits from Dave and Victor, and Lola of course, all who seem as though they are clamoring to get in, but let me enjoy my time of relaxation. Lauren and I finally get out; the Phillies game has ended so Dave has already made his way up to the bedroom with Victor, and I am beyond wiped out. I fight to stay awake to put Victor to sleep on the air mattress, and then crash into the bed as fast as I can.
I’m awakened from my deep sleep with an intense contraction, I was in a fully relaxed state and not prepared for it’s intensity. Looking at the clock and seeing it is just 3 am I am slightly confused as this is not the normal 5:30 wake up I am used to; Oh, wait, I forgot about the wine and glasses of water that I chugged following the time in the hot tub, so I brush off the time.
I feel like I am half-paralyzed walking to the bathroom, the combination of contraction and full bladder is crippling. I make it back to bed, but the contractions are about six minutes apart; I toss and turn, and get on my hands and knees, I just can’t get comfortable, and I am no where near ready to get up for the day but apparently I have no choice. I sweep my fingers gently across Dave’s face to wake him lightly and whisper “I’m going downstairs to try to get more comfortable.” He never opens his eyes but tells me he loves me and to let him know if I need anything from him. I love this man.
I creep down the stairs excitedly, this is it. I let Lola out of her “chamber” so I have some company, and do what any pregnant woman would do when she can’t sleep: turn on some sort of pregnancy show that TLC or Discovery Health airs OnDemand. I’m starving, so I inhale the left over grilled turkey-reuben I left in the fridge from our lunch outing. It’s about 5 am and my contractions are anywhere from six to ten minutes apart and I start dozing off. I’m laying on my side and the contractions are really uncomfortable, but the dog is sleeping on my feet, so I tough it out and stick to laying on my side. The contractions seem to be spacing out anyway and I should be able to sleep through them soon.
I doze off until I hear Lauren’s dad come down the stairs and realize the house will soon be awake, and I’m right. I’m spoiled by Lauren’s mom who wants to make us breakfast. Blueberry pancakes and breakfast sausage; how scrumptious, what a perfect first meal on the day to have a baby. The contractions are spacing out, but still I can tell, today is the day. The intensity of the contractions are increasing despite their spacing. Every contraction I stand and chant “open” to myself over and over, and I embrace every one that my body produces.
After a trip to the bathroom, I am delightfully surprised with a pink tinged swipe. Today IS the day. I start crying; I am overjoyed to know I am in labor, and today we will finally be meeting our baby. But the question remains, WHEN?
I speak to the midwife on-call and find out it’s Trina, my favorite, and on backup is Gazelle, even better. Gazelle was there for me when I had my stress-induced false alarm at 38 weeks, and Trina was there to catch Victor when he was born, so either midwife would be fantastic. Today is a good day to have a baby. Lauren goes upstairs to get ready to leave for babysitting. I can’t have the baby until after 5 pm, if I want her to be there again, which of course I do. She is not just any friend, she is my sister friend, I need her there, her presence is something supportive. She comes downstairs to announce that the mom she is sitting for called her and said she doesn’t need her today.
Everything is falling into place, all the worries I had about my support crew not being available are now in the distance. The only thing I need now are some good contractions, OH and to drop Victor off to my mother. I make arrangements with my mom to meet up and drop Victor off to her, we get to our destination and switch the car seat over to her car. Victor does NOT want to get in his seat, as usual. I hug him good bye and tell him I love him, but none of that makes it “ok” as he sees mommy and daddy drive away without him. I see his face of panic, and screaming, and I start bawling. It hits me hard, I feel so guilty leaving him, only to see him tomorrow and have changed his world forever in the meantime.
We get back to Lauren’s house around noon and I need to relax after the upset of dropping Victor off, my contractions are so far apart but intense none the less. A family friend of Lauren’s comes over for a bit, she’s due in November, and looks at me like I’m mad as I clench the ottoman and squat through the contractions, breathing heavily, and tell her it’s really not that “bad” just something you do. I’m trying not to scare her, she seems terrified enough about what’s to come.
After she leaves, Lauren and I go for a walk. I’m practically marching through contractions on the walk, they go to two minutes apart at one point but not for long, and I feel so good and I’m coping so well and I am pumped up at the thought of having this baby. They space out again once we get back, rats, this is just like things have been the past few weeks.
I see Dave sitting on the couch, he looks so ready, but calm. I’m not sure how much time goes by, but I’m suddenly tired and trying to relax, WHEN is this going to happen already? I lay down and put a heating pad on my back, I get maybe about 10 minutes rest before the next contraction comes, I know something is going on as my body is taking over and I find myself leaning hard into the ottoman with this contraction, and suddenly the noise I make is low and from deep within. I don’t know where the pattern is, screw the pattern, we need to leave soon. No one is timing, we’re just glancing at the clock, but Dave tells me the past few contractions are almost 90 seconds long. It’s about 3:45 now and I get up despite just wanting to nap, I call the midwife and she says I sound great, but she agrees it’s time to come in when I tell her how intense the contractions are. Gazelle is going to meet me at The Birth Center.
Labor and Birth
I only have two contractions in the 30 minutes it takes to get there. I notify our photographer, Aimee, a life-long friend who was brave enough to step up to the plate when I was searching for a birth photographer. Lauren is right behind us, she was kind enough to pick up some Gatorade for me on the way over.
We arrive at 4:20; I’m thrilled to be met by Gazelle at the door, we’re talking as we walk through the lower level of The Birth Center about how the last time we met we walked through here as well. Only the “elite”, the laboring clients get to walk through here during these hours. I feel so special, like an Olympian ready to take the field. I find myself in the birthing suite that Victor was born in and it feels so much like yesterday I was here being admitted on a cold snowy evening in January of 2009.
Gazelle asks if I want “the check” and I do, I just have to know if I’m imagining this labor or not. I quickly remove my pants after an intense contraction, and she listens to the baby who sounds wonderful. We had returned our rented doppler at the beginning of September so each appointment we got to listen to the baby was a special treat. The heartbeat sounds so reassuring in its beautiful washing-machine rhythm. Down to business, Gazelle happily tells me I’m 6-7 centimeters and I nearly jump off the bed with excitement. Things couldn’t be better.
I strip down and get in the jacuzzi, the jets feel so good against my back, and then Aimee shows up with her equipment and the most amazing sunglass-tan I have ever seen. She was shooting at a car show all day when I stole her away for our commitment; this cool, end of summer, beautiful sunny day we were blessed with for our baby’s birth. I hardly even notice she’s there with camera equipment so close to my body during my contractions. She is great, or maybe it’s just my focus keeping the rest of the world out, who knows, but I hardly know I am being photographed.
I move myself away from the jets as the contractions come, Dave rolls his sleeves up and presses his palms against my tense hips, the strength of his hands giving me relief from the intensity that is moving through my pelvis, it’s just he and I, and the noise of the water bubbling about me in the tub. I can smell the jasmine-vanilla aromatherapy I brought with me and it eases me back to calm. We do this for almost an hour, talking and laughing with Lauren and Aimee in between contractions, this labor is moving along so well, I don’t believe this baby is coming with how great I feel.
Gazelle keeps popping in periodically to listen to our baby’s heart, it is beating so strong. After a while the jets no longer feel good, and I feel slightly nauseous. I last for just one more contraction in the now calm and clear water until I decide I need to go to the bathroom. There’s so much pressure, I swear I need to have a bowel movement, but, nothing, not even a pink swipe after I pee. WHAT is going on? This isn’t how it went last time!
I try laboring against the birthing ball on the bed so my knees aren’t against the cold, hard, ungiving floor, Dave is right there with me as I get louder through each contraction, offering all of his upper body strength to attend to my needs, and suddenly I need to do this on my own. He puts his warm hands on my lower back, I want him nearby, he touches the back of my hand as I suddenly have back to back contractions, so I don’t clench my fists, rather embrace what my body is doing, and my hands relax with the reminder to do so from his touch. I know I’m transitioning now.
I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open and I feel like crying, I just want to sleep, so I lay down, and Lauren retrieves our heating pad from the car, and Dave finds me a blanket. I get a good break in, maybe 20 minutes; my body has allowed me a time of rest to prepare for what is coming, the process gives the vessel a break. Just as I start to really fall into a deep sleep I’m hit with a contraction that nearly knocks me off of the bed. That wakes me up, and I’m not happy. I just want to go to bed. I get up to use the bathroom and notice a large piece of plug and streak of blood in the toilet. This is it.
I get back to the bed and can only stand as my body takes over, the pressure in my pelvis is so incredible it’s almost scary, is this right? I reassure myself that my body knows exactly what it’s doing. I must surrender, it is time to give up control, mentally. Realistically, I had lost control to my body when I woke up at 3 that morning. The next contraction comes and at some point Gazelle was suddenly there with a new nurse, who was getting ready to start her shift. It’s Sabrina. Sabrina had been there for Victor’s birth as well. This was all supposed to happen today, I knew it.
The next contraction comes and as Gazelle is preparing herself with sterile wear, I tell her I feel the baby’s head, my body is moving this baby out and I have no way of stopping it, so she instructs Dave to place his hands between my legs until she can finish getting gloves on. Sure enough, she get’s just her fingertips inside to feel, and I’m complete and baby’s head is in the birth canal. I know how to push on my back, so I decide that is the way to do this, my legs are too tired, and every contraction I can feel down through my knees with buckling intensity.
I lay down on my back, my body is pushing this baby out with or without me, and there is no way to cope except to push with it; it feels so good to listen and push. Dave sits right in front of me, one hand on my knee and watching intently as my bag of waters bulges out of my opening body and as I push hard it bursts violently. Clear water springs all over the bed and takes everyone by surprise.
The head emerges and Gazelle mumbles something, and I continue with this same push that broke my water and pushed the head out and Dave looks me square in the eyes and tells me I need to stop, “You need to slow down.” I can feel the baby slide back just a bit as I ease off listening to the seriousness in his body language, fighting my body’s will to push this baby out, and Gazelle takes the cord off from around the baby’s neck. Dave looks at me with gleaming green eyes and says “OK, go ahead” and with one more push the baby’s shoulders are out and the head is in Dave’s hands. Gazelle tells me, “Go ahead, grab your baby” and with that Dave and I pull the baby’s body out of me and we both bring our baby up to my chest.
I see tears streaming down Dave’s face, just like they had when Victor was born. He is so proud and so, so happy. This baby boy is pink and beautiful, hardly showing any of the remnants from the warm watery world he just left behind, and he is loud. He stares at me, and I at him and I can clearly see every feature of his face belongs to my husband. We happily inspect our new son, Roman Alexander Pizzini, born at 6:51 pm, just two and a half hours after arriving to The Birth Center.
His cord stops pulsing about 10 minutes later, and as Gazelle clamps it, she hands scissors to Dave and holds the cord out for him. As he gets ready to cut it, he continues on with Gazelle’s tradition, and gently tells Roman “You’re on your own now,” and the life line between Roman and I is cut, what a celebratory moment. Roman transitions into “real” breathing without skipping a beat.
After a few more minutes I give a tiny push while adoring my new son, and the placenta is delivered. I place him a little lower on my belly and watch as he amazingly creeps his tiny body up to my chest and eagerly hunts for my breast.
Photography by Aimee Marie Photography.