The morning of the day Sophia was born, I awoke in the dark, feeling a mixture of anxiety and excitement bubble in my chest. I was ready - soooo ready - to have this baby, but worried about being induced, and fretting on behalf of my already-borns.
But I didn't see any way to get from "before" to "after" except to just go through with it already.
Clay and I stumbled through getting ready, trying not to wake the boys. Despite our efforts, Max and Raphael soon crept up the stairs. My dad arrived to take charge of the boys, and soon we were passing hugs and kisses and promises all around. It was time to go.
I slipped downstairs to say goodbye to a still sleeping Tre, half expecting him to growl me out of his room (Tre takes his sleep VERY SERIOUSLY in his old age). But instead, when I leaned over him and whispered that I was leaving, he reached out and threw an arm around my neck. Then he bent down and kissed my belly.
"Bye, baby sister. See you soon," he muttered, and flopped back, face-down on his pillow.
And so, with that unexpected benediction, Clay took my hand, and we left.
At the hospital it was the usual hurry-up-and-wait. We were shown to my room and I got into the outrageously voluminous gown, and I paced. My mom and my cousin Melyssa arrived and the four of us chatted while I walked around and around and around in circles. I'd never been induced before - I'd never gone past my due date before. I didn't know what to expect and I was still hoping REALLY MUCH to avoid the Pitocin.
Eventually my doctor arrived, and we went over the plan again. She would break my water, and we would wait a few hours to see if that would get labor going, then talk about "a whiff of Pitocin," as she said. It barely took her a minute with her crochet-hook thing to get the job done, and she was back on her way out the door.
For a couple of hours I walked the halls, talked to Clay, Mom, and Melyssa, and waited for labor to start. Occasionally I would look out the window, observe the movement of the sun across the sky, and wonder how all this was going to work out.
A little before noon, the contractions started. I'd be walking or talking and I'd stop, turn, and lean on Clay. The room would go silent - sometimes it seemed like I was the only one breathing in the room. Was this it? At first I could pick the conversation right back up as soon as the contraction passed.
My nurse came in to check on me. I hated to climb on the bed, I HATED to have that monitor strapped on my belly (it's those elastic belts - those things are torture devices when you're in labor), and I really hated to hear her say, "hmm...still at four centimeters. Do you want to start the Pitocin now, or wait another hour or two?"
I knew I was in labor now. I knew it wouldn't be long. I KNEW I didn't need any Pitocin.
But I'd also had so many expectations shot down already during this pregnancy. I didn't trust myself quite as much as I had nine months ago. So I just shook my head and said, "I don't think there's any reason to start it now."
"Ok," she said, looking at the clock, "it's noon now. I've got a first-time mom in the next room who's ready to push. That should take an hour or so, and then I'll be back to check on you."
Then she was gone, I could get up, and labor began in earnest.
Every contraction, from the very beginning, was back labor, so I quickly dropped out of conversation. I closed my eyes and said nothing, other than moaning and the occasional terse instruction to Clay about where to rub my back. I went from leaning on him to leaning on the bed during contractions. After a while I climbed on the bed and knelt there, resting my arms on the raised head. Back labor hurts. HURTS. And in my experience, it's just more...work, somehow. One moment I was there, in that sunny hospital room, and the next minute I was gone. In labor-land.
I could hear the hushed voices of Mom and Melyssa, and I could feel Clay's hands on my back, providing sweet counter-pressure, and hear his voice whispering encouragement in my ear, but I was elsewhere.
I suppose it was a fast labor, but time doesn't really mean anything when you're in labor. I do remember thinking that I just wanted it to stop for just a little bit, just long enough so I could catch my breath. And even though I SPECIFICALLY instructed myself, beforehand, to remember the fact that panic=transition, I totally forgot that when I started feeling panicky. All I knew, for sure, was that I couldn't do this, it hurt too much, and I wanted to stop.
And then...you know how people talk about having an "urge to push"? I don't understand that phrase. It's an "urge" in the same way that you would have an "urge" to breathe after being held underwater for a few minutes. It's not an urge, it's an imperative. I hit the button to call the nurse, and when her chipper voice asked what I needed, I growled, "I WANT TO PUSH."
She allowed as how she'd send somebody right down. Soon there was another nurse by the bed. I was still kneeling on the bed, leaning against the head of the bed, my face in my hands, my eyes firmly closed. She picked up the monitors, turned to me, and said, "OKAY, let's get you to turn over and lie down, and we'll get these monitors on you and take a peek at baby."
At this point the pressure in my back was excruciating, and the though of turning around and lying flat on my back and having those BELTS strapped around me...well.
"I can't do that right now," I said, rather evenly, I thought.
"Well, we want to see how the baby is - "
"I CAN'T DO THAT RIGHT NOW."
She stood there for a moment, monitors in hand, and my mom (bless her) walked up to her and murmured, "She said no."
And indeed I had.
The nurse pondered this a moment, then turned and walked out. She came back with a whole cadre of nurses, with all their noises and brisk instructions to each other. They convinced me to lie down so someone could check my cervix and see if I really was ready to push.
And indeed I was.
The room was suddenly so full of nurses and sounds and lights. I heard my mom whisper to the nurse who was stationed at the foot of my bed, "What station is the baby at?" She whispered back, "The head is RIGHT THERE."
They called in a spare doctor that they keep hanging around for just such circumstances, broke down the bed, and told me to push.
I couldn't catch my breath, from the pace of it all. I couldn't stand the commotion in the room, and when they pulled my legs back to help me push, I got a cramp in my right hip. The pressure in my back was awful, and I was afraid she was going to be born face-up.
I honestly didn't know if I could do it.
Then, through the chaos I heard certain voices.
"You're doing it," Mom said, "you're doing great." Just like she had when Tre was born, she reminded me whose daughter I was.
"She's right there, Kir!" Melyssa called to me, "she's almost here!"
"Honey, you're doing so great," Clay stroked my arm, pushed my hair back. "You're amazing."
And you know what? I sort of was.
There's nothing new about birth, and yet every one is the very definition of new. With a cry that left my throat raw, I delivered my girl into the hands of a random doctor.
Sophia let out a furious wail, and just like that, ''before" was forever over, and life began again in "after."