Thursday, July 12

Zoey's birth story

Zoe & me the next day

As Baby's due date approached, friends and relatives kept asking me if I was nervous.

Labor? Nah. I felt pretty confident about it. I was shooting for an all-natural, no pain meds, breathe-through-it hippy birth.

I figured I had a few things going for me-- I'd continued to exercise pretty hard until about 7.5 months pregnant (if that makes any difference), and thought I had a pretty high pain tolerance. My mom said both of her (med-free) deliveries didn't really even hurt. Even my mom's mom said she almost slept through most of her contractions the second time around.

I'm telling you all this now so you can laugh at me later.

I woke up the morning of baby's due date feeling a little crampy, and ready to get this show on the road. Conveniently, my sister needed to move out of her second-story apartment that day. So I helped.

I even snapped at Jason & my parents a few times for trying to take boxes out of my hands... I wanted that baby OUT.

I put extra pepper flakes on my pizza at lunch. I thundered ran up my sister's stairs about ten extra times. I went for a hike in the woods with Jason (nothing like being far away from civilization to induce labor, eh?).

I went to bed disappointed. I woke up at 3AM to a contraction. It didn't hurt that bad-- just like my mom said.

Sure enough, they kept coming at about three minutes apart, getting increasingly uncomfortable. I woke Jason up, and we took our packed bags to the hospital.

They measured my dilation-- only 2 cm out of 10. I laid in a bed hooked up to monitors, and those contractions started to REALLY hurt. They felt like period cramps from hell.

I broke down in tears after about 2.5 hours at the hospital. They checked me again, and the trap door hadn't budged at all-- still 2cm. They said we should go back home.

I asked the nurse when we would know to come back. Her eyes widened as she emphasized, "The contractions will be DRAMATICALLY more intense."

I felt my chin start to quiver again.

About an hour after we went home, everything fizzled out and stopped. After I caught up on sleep, Jason suggested walking to get them going again. And I lost it. I sobbed into my hands that I didn't want to feel that pain again. I knew it had to come back. But I couldn't will myself into consciously trying to make it happen.

Contractions came back with a vengeance around midnight. This time, though, they were twelve minutes apart instead of three. I spent the time in between them scanning notes from our childbirth class, trying to figure out what "coping mechanisms" might help. It was all pretty laughable at this point. I was starting to feel sick to my stomach from the pain.

I started walking circles around our apartment to distract myself. I repeated the same route from about 3AM to 10AM; the downstairs neighbors must have thought someone had lost their mind. ...well, pretty much.

Around the time Jason woke up, the contractions were consistently five minutes apart, and definitely, officially "DRAMATICALLY more intense." He walked with me outside. At this point I couldn't make my legs work during contractions, so I'd stop to bury my head in his neck and try not to hyperventilate.

We went back to the hospital at 2pm. I didn't let them hook me up to the stupid monitors-- the nurse just checked me right away and I was at 4cm. Thank. GOD.

They filled up the bathtub in the delivery room, and I climbed in. With the warm water jets, a lime popsicle, and Jason reassuring me through every 60-second wave of pain, it was all bearable again.

Yeah, our hospital ROCKS.

But, of course, they kept getting stronger and stronger. Before I knew it, I had become a "moaner." I'm not sure why making noise helped; I'm not sure that I could have not made noise. My awkward walrus sounds started to distract me, so we came full circle to the day I found out I was pregnant-- I grabbed a towel and shoved my face into it.

Soon a contraction would start with a moan, and escalate into what Jason calls a towel-muffled "battle cry." He sat by my side through every one, repeating "it's okay, it's okay, just a few more seconds, it will fade away." And that's the only way I got through them-- one at a time, not thinking about the next one, just thinking about the next "break" and that it would come in a few seconds.

When the nurse checked me at 4:30, I was at 6cm. The nurse said she could feel baby's amniotic sac bulging into the birth canal (you know you weren't going to avoid hearing a few details like that). She offered to break the sac to help things along.

But to me, breaking my water meant two things:
I'd have to get out of the tub (infection risk).
DRAMATICALLY intense contractions would get DRAMATICALLY more intense.

No thanks.

Two hours of walrus moaning later, they checked me again.

...still six centimeters.


So I got out of the tub. I climbed into the bed. The doctor started poking around with a "crochet needle," and GUSH.

Thar she blew.

I squatted on an exercise ball, and Jason stood behind me for support (both mental support, and "don't-fall-backwards" support).

Contractions kept starting with a moan. Then they'd escalate to the throaty battle cry. At the sharp peaks of each pain wave, I heard myself making a new noise-- brief, high pitched shrieks. I wasn't doing this very gracefully.

Labor is a weird thing. I'd always heard women say, "I've never felt so strong." "I've never felt so empowered." "I can't believe what my body is capable of."

But for me, it felt like something that was happening to me. Not something that I was willfully doing. Not really anything I could take credit for.

During our birthing class, the instructor had emphasized that if you relax all your muscles through each contraction, it'll be more "productive" and help the process go more quickly. So I guess I can take credit for that-- it takes a lot of concentration to be in the worst pain of your life and try to stay somewhat limp.

After they broke my water, my memory gets pretty hazy.

Jason says my face got really pale, and had this look of childlike desperation-- like, "please make it stop." He says I was almost completely unaware of everything happening around me.

I do remember the moment that I felt something move. Like, move down towards the exit. I told Jason to get the nurse.

I somehow got onto the hospital bed, and here I distinctly remember the nurse being all, "WHOAAAA NELLY TIME TO GET THE DOCTOR."

I felt a strong urge to push, so I asked the nurse if I could. She said I should wait until the doctor got there (as she nervously started putting on latex gloves). I don't know why I listened to her, really-- why do you need someone with an MD to catch a baby?

So I didn't push. But it didn't matter. My body was getting this kiddo out all on its own. I felt her head get lower and lower, until thirty minutes later I experienced the unmistakable burning sensation of a baby head squeezing out of my body.

Pretty rad, actually.

The doctor (who had shown up at some point, apparently) helped ease baby's shoulders out, and the rest was just a giant feeling of relief.

They dried our daughter off in about ten seconds flat and put her on my chest.

And, finally, it was no longer a theoretical idea in my mind that this pregnancy was going to end with a baby. There she was. She was amazing. Everything about her was so small, and so alive. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that it had been her in there all along.

I felt her little feet and laughed with recognition-- those were definitely the same small, pointy heels that I'd been feeling kick through my belly for the past few months.

"I know, sweetie, we've had a crazy day too."
Her eyes were the most incredible part. They were bright, shiny, and so... awake. Every time I looked at them I felt this almost physical "smack" to my brain. It was unmistakeable that there was a real little soul behind her sparkling eyes. A unique person whose entire life was starting in those few minutes.

Jason and I looked at her, and she looked back at us. We told her we loved her. We sat in this happy trance for forty-five minutes. Then we switched her over to Jason's chest so she could bond with him as well.

(Two weeks later, her laying on his chest is still my favorite sight in the whole wide world.)

* * *
For the rest of that evening, I remember thinking, "There is NO WAY I'll ever do that without pain meds again."

But two weeks later, "mommy amnesia" is setting in and it's getting increasingly difficult to remember what it all felt like. I guess this phenomenon is how nature gets away with women ever having sex again after their first childbirth experience. So, maybe next time, I'll try to be more prepared. I'll look into "hypnobirthing" or something. But I'll definitely keep that epidural option open.

(Plus, if you can no longer remember the pain a week later, does it matter if it hurts or not at the time? Kind of like a "tree falling in the forest" paradox...)

So, there you have it. That's what delivering a baby was like for me, for those of you who wanted to know. It was really, really hard. It was really, really awesome. It will always be one of the most incredible days of my life. We're so glad she's here.

Tuesday, July 3

Three Matthews-ers

This is our little daughter, Zoey.

We finally got to meet Miss Sneaky on Tuesday, June 26 at 8:13 PM.
She was 20 inches long, and adorably tiny at 6 3/4 lbs.

She's a happy, healthy baby with a charming set of goofy expressions and squeaky noises. She's addicted to snuggling, so we have to keep her in our arms pretty much around the clock. Darn ; )

She's even taught us a little Matthews-ing... that sometimes, when it comes to people, 1 + 1 can equal 3. Pretty neat trick, kiddo.