Lastnight I returned from a conference in Minneopolis and rushed home to look at my son, sleeping peacefully in his crib. Tomorrow he turns one. One is the milestone that everyone has talked about since the day he was born. “It goes so fast” they all say. Each and every time I heard someone say this to me I could feel a sinking feeling in my stomach, worse than that of the hunger pains that came with being a nursing mother. I knew it would come fast. I knew I would miss Rhett’s little coos and the way he needed me for everything. I somehow knew I would even miss nursing him. Which is completely nuts, because it can be a real chore. I knew that someday the adrenaline of a 26 hour labor would pass, and I would miss feeling like super woman too.
One year ago, I was in the hospital with a blinking, wireless, heart monitor stuck my belly button rolling around on a medicine ball. As I type this I can do nothing but smile, because one year ago whatever divine thing is out there, that I often refer to as God, was preparing me for the best job on earth: Motherhood.
Going into labor with no disc between my L5-S1 (lumbar spine lingo) was concerning for me. Gary and I decided near the end of my pregnancy that we would not go to any classes, that I would tap into my intuition and Rhett would come the way nature intended. The only planning I did to prepare for my delivery was think of creative ways to take pressure off of my spine. Laying in bed was almost impossible for me, so the thoughts of being in labor in bed were not pleasant thoughts. I walked around my hospital room. I bounced around on the medicine ball. I did ANYTHING not to lay in a bed.
My contractions started sometime around 2:30 PM. Rhett was due on July 9th, and it was now the 18th. Each day I would cautiously go to my Mom’s new above ground pool and swim. It was the only activity that provided me relief. Yet, getting out of the pool was almost impossible. I would describe it as “it’s like nature has turned gravity up and it is 5 times stronger.” As soon as I would begin climbing out of the pool I was reminded how terrible of shape my spine was in.
On July 18th, 2018 I was walking back and forth in the pool when I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen, quite similar to a menstrual camp. It stopped me in my tracks but it was quick. Prior to this day, I recall reading many blogs about how women described their first signs of going into labor. In the moment, I didn’t get my hopes up. I remained calm.
I exited the pool, wrapped myself in an extra large towel and waddled into my Mother’s home. I sat down in the living room and said, “I am having some cramps.” My mom looked at me and noticed I was kind of almost panting. She replied, “you might be going into labor.” While I wanted to believe that, I didn’t get too excited. About 5 days earlier Gary and I made the novice trip to the maternity ward thinking I was in labor…but it was just braxton hicks.
I went home and got comfortable on our couch. Sure enough I was beginning to have more of these electric, quick cramps at random. I text my husband, “I think today is the day. I am starting to have contractions. Don’t worry, they aren’t close together.” I’m not sure what Gary was up to, but he was probably farming and out and about.
Gary and I knew that our plan was to have me wait it out at home as long as possible to keep me comfortable. I downloaded an app on my phone to time my contractions. They were still quite random (this is a theme). I sat out on our back porch, in my trusty gravity chair (the best piece of furniture ever for a large preggo) and I calmly waited. Around 8 PM, we knew we were closing in on our last moments as just two the of us. I asked Gary to go get us some ice cream from Shirley’s Twin Kiss. He didn’t believe me. Gary sometimes needs to be reminded that there are no rules in life, except for the ones that we create for ourselves. I smiled at him and reminded him that I was about to make one hell of a sacrifice, and if I wanted vanilla soft serve with sprinkles… in the grand scheme, that would be a pretty modest request. So we had our last date together, on our back porch, imagining life as three instead of two.
These were taken around 8:30 PM. Upon eating our ice cream, we packed up our GMC Sierra and headed North to the hospital where I would deliver our son the following afternoon.
Gary and I decided in October, of the previous year, that we were ready to risk it all and become parents. We had been planning for that moment for a couple of years. I bought a new truck, that we felt would be safe for hauling a child in. Gary worked extra long hours on the road to create a nest egg for renovations to our farm house. I, despite having a bad back, tried my best to be in good shape and eliminate as much toxicity from my life as possible.
In October of 2017, we decided we would never be completely ready, but we were ready enough.
Now, I know what I am about to say will be hard words for some to read, but please know that we (Gary and I) both know that WE ARE very privileged and blessed. We pretty much became pregnant on our first try. Ironically, shortly after Halloween (which was pretty epic) we were laying in bed. I looked at my husband and said, “I think I’m pregnant.” Which, let’s be honest, I had said many other times. But on this morning I had this flutter of possibility in my gut. I knew that with Gary being home (which he never was) that I should take a test. I went downstairs took the test and waited. It was positive. I quietly tip-toed upstairs, crawled back in bed and said to my husband, “I’m pregnant.” We smiled and spent the morning cuddled up in bed dwelling in all of the possibilities.
Around 2:30 AM on July 19th, I was running out of steam. I folded, and requested to crawl in bed and give my back a break. The nurses were able to inject me with some type of medicine that only made me feel loopy. My contractions were brutal. They never had a steady rhythm to them and no matter what I did to prepare for each one, it was nearly impossible. Sometimes they came back-to-back.
This went on all night long. The only thing that kept me going was my husband. He stood all night on his feet, at my bedside, holding my hand. Sometimes he even walked me into the bathroom and back out– all the while still holding my hand. He was exhausted. Men don’t go through the same physiological changes of having hormones and adrenaline that allow laboring mother’s to do unthinkable things. I knew this and could see that he really really did love me so much.
Closer to sunrise I was reaching exhaustion. I remember sleeping for a few seconds in between each contraction and thinking how wild. I am not the type of person that can quickly dose off. Around 5:30 AM I was reaching my physical limit. Between my back pain, random contractions, and just being so far along in my pregnancy I was tapping out. I started whimpering to the nurses, “I can’t do this anymore…someone please help me”. I demanded to see an OB. I did not know, that you don’t see your doctor until delivery. So an OB came in, took a look at me and said, “Okay let’s manually break your water, and get this thing started.” UH what!? “Is this going to hurt?” I replied. “Not really, you might just feel some pressure shift.” So the OB did what she said she was going to do… except then she never returned. This is when my mental state took a turn for the worse. This woman got my hopes up that I was about to meet my son, and then poof– SHE GONE (as the kids say).
I began begging for something to help me with pain. For whatever reason I was not dilating the whole way. I was like a quarter of an inch from where I needed to be, and I could not make any progress. After begging the nurses, a saint of a man came in and administered an epidural in the midst of intense, irregular contractions. During that time, I remember telling myself “you must remain as still as possible and breath. You will remain still.” And that is what I did. My husband’s jaw was on the floor. From there, I became a lunatic of a human. Epidurals are thee weirdest phenomena ever. You are still in labor, still having contractions, but your mind is not aware of it. Okay!?
So then I was a loon for a few hours. Gary asked me if I wanted my parents to come into the room? Which I recall thinking was sooo weird. But, it was alright. So the nurses sat me up in my bed, and my Mom and Dad came in to see me. My Dad walked into the room very far away from my bed like I had something that he did not want to catch.
“So are you like still in labor?” he said. “Yes, it’s awesome. See if you look at the screen you can see that I’m still having contractions.” He was mystified.
After a few hours of resting, it was time to prepare for the final and hardest stage of labor…the pushing. I will spare everyone the details on this process. Most women I have talked to push somewhere between a few minutes to a half hour. I pushed for two hours. I was convinced I was going to be an emergency c-section.
Rhett was born at 4:23 PM on July 19. He was a WHOPPING 9 lbs. 40z. and 22 inches long.
Becoming a Mom is the only thing that I have ever done with familiarity without having ever done it. Read that again. Becoming a Mom is the most natural thing I have ever done. I remember thinking to myself over and over that no matter what medical interventions I had, or what building I was in…the very act of giving birth is something sacred that connected me with every Mother that came before me.
I’ve said it once in this blog, and I will say it again.
Women are goddesses that walk the earth clothed in societal norms that downplay their powers. “mE
Even after 26 hours of labor, I could not sleep after Rhett arrived. I stared at my him. I spent probably the next 24 hours staring at him. It got to the point that the nurses took him away from me, gave me an ambien and told me I HAD to sleep. Rhett gave me a peace that I had never known before. When I held him, the world would become very still. Sounds around me became muffled, and my senses focused on him with hypersensitivity. He made me appreciate not just moments, but literal seconds of each day. He brought me closer to nature. We would spend time together on my back patio nursing, in my trusty gravity chair, while tractors echoed in and out of our driveway. And I would sit with him thinking it was better than any vacation, drug, gift that I could ever experience. It was truly an incredible time.
So tonight as I sit here sharing this story, I have to say I no longer feel these things. After spending almost 6 months of Rhett’s first year on short-term disability I reflect with sadness that we were not able to have more of those experiences where time stood still. I am back to work, in a new role, that requires even more responsibility.
Today, as I left work, I remarked to a dear colleague of mine that I have a lot of guilt and sadness that it couldn’t have been different. And something he said gave me: this sassy, little, feminist (me) a paradigm shift.
My back problems, my surgery, my promotion– all of these obstacles forced my husband to become the primary nurturer of our son. And you know what? He is damn good at it. I’m not one to be quiet when it comes to equality between men and women. By going through my own obstacles this year, I think I made one of the coolest sacrifices a feminist Mom can make. I gave up a piece of my motherhood and trusted a male with it. And in doing so I gave Gary an opportunity that not all Dad’s get. And because of it, my husband is an extremely, incredible and invested Daddy.
Becoming a Mom is great, but I guess never really thought about what it was like to become a Dad.