Dear Sam, please forgive me for talking about Ben so many times in the story of your birth. I promise not to spend your entire lives comparing you to one another, but this is one time I can't help it.
***I'm grateful that 2014 Me took the time to write the story of Ben's birth. The fact of the matter is that, while bringing another human into this world should be one of the most unforgettable things that ever happens to you, your brain has a way of erasing the details. And not just because - trumpets please! - you now have a small, greedy, squishy person keeping you up all hours. It's also a clear evolutionary tactic designed to trick women into having more babies. Surely, if women really, really remembered what labor was like (not to mention months seven through nine of pregnancy), they would never agree to repeat such nonsense.
This is certainly 100% true of myself. Re-reading Ben's labor story I realized that somewhere in the past two years, I forgot nearly all of it, except the part at the end where someone hands me a baby. And the part after than where someone brought me some apple juice.
|The S.S. Party Barge. Passengers: 1|
With Ben, I had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for about a year and half. I'd been to a smarmy and obnoxious fertility doctor, who I stuck with because of his reputation for success (not because of his weirdly perfect teeth and fake hair). I was tired of being disappointed over and over, and I was one month away from signing up for the next level of fertility treatments (which would have been drugs, drugs, drugs). And then one morning, after boxes and boxes of negative tests, I got that one beautiful positive. I knew I was pregnant as early as you CAN know that you're pregnant, which is about a 3-4 days in.
On the other hand, it was a little different with Sammy. Sometime in January of this year, Tim and I were sitting at the table eating dinner and Tim said, "You're being weird lately... I think you're pregnant." No, no, you silly man! That can't be so! But it was. I was already nine weeks pregnant. NINE. Two months! Sammy was the size of a grape and I had no idea. I was just eating tacos and living my life like normal and here was this whole other person.
It's amazing how much faster a pregnancy goes when you're not even aware of it.
With Ben, I was hyper-aware of every moment because it was the very first time and every moment was *so new* and *so interesting.* With Sammy, I largely forgot I was pregnant. That is, until I was the size of a cruise ship and Sammy's feet were wedged in my ribcage and Ben wanted to be picked up but I couldn't physically pick him up because I couldn't physically bend over.
|"I don't know why we're holding this balloon, but I'm |
on board with it" - Ben
With Sam, I wanted to know. And (again, sorry Sam) I wanted to know because I wanted a girl so, so badly. This is hard for someone who minored in Gender Studies to admit because I should be above it and I KNOW that gender is a construct and it doesn't matter anyway, but my desire for a girl baby was so visceral, so deep down in my guts, that when I saw Sammy was going to be a boy, I cried.
|Approx. T-28 hours until |
One thing that didn't change was my level of ambivalence about actually being in labor. The funny thing about labor is, you know it's going to hurt and you know that baby is coming out somehow, so there's no use dwelling on it.
I was proud of myself for planning my maternity leave in advance, to give myself a little time in El Paso without work, without waking up early, with cable TV. With Ben, I worked until Friday and he was due on Sunday. With Sam, I thought, "that was ridiculous. This time I'm going to take off a full week before the baby comes." I made a hair appointment. I was going to get my nails done. I'd compiled a stack of books to read and snacks to eat while I lay around being pregnant and doing nothing else.
(Side note: in Mexico, you get off a full six weeks before your due date. America, I'm looking at you.)
It did NOT happen the way I planned.
After my haircut, I walked back to the AirBnB.
Let me pause right here to explain that, if you're trying to induce labor, one of the most common tricks is to take a long walk. A long walk is nature's way of telling that baby to GTFO. Somehow this slipped my mind.
I walked over a mile in 100 degree heat and zero humidity, and by the time I got home, I felt like hot garbage. I drank approximately 2 liters of water and took a nap while I waited for Tim to bring Ben over the border. At this point, I still had no idea what was coming. If you had asked me at that point if I was having a baby that day, I'd have said no.
We ate dinner like normal. We gave Ben a bath, we read him some stories, we put him to bed at 7. We sat and watched TV until about 9:30 and then I went to bed. If you had asked again, I'd still have said no.
Thirty minutes later, I got the notion that maybe I should be timing my contractions, which were becoming increasingly annoying.
At 11:30, I took a shower, hoping to make my contractions mellow out enough that I could go to sleep. When I got in the shower, my contractions were 7 minutes apart. By the time I got out, they were THREE minutes apart.
You're supposed to go to the hospital when they're 5 minutes apart, though the nurses had told me to come earlier if I could.
Shortly after midnight I woke Tim up and told him that I needed to go to the hospital IMMEDIATELY because I didn't want to have the baby in the car. He grabbed Ben and our hospital bags and we drove to the hospital, which was, thankfully, three minutes from the house. You have no idea how long a three minute drive can be until you're in labor.
(This is how fast Sammy came: Ben was there for the whole thing, because it took less time to have Sammy than it took for our wonderful friend Emily, the saint, to come and get Ben. He actually met his brother before leaving to spend the night at our friends' home.)
At the emergency room, the man at the check-in station asked me if I was there to be induced. Between my extremely-close-together contractions I managed to tell him that no, there was no need to be induced because I was actively going to have a baby in front of him if someone didn't take me to the maternity ward immediately, thank you. I am not familiar with this middle-of-night induction you speak of, sir.
Everything from this point on is a blur. I was wheeled to the maternity ward, where there is a sort of "holding area" for people who aren't pushing out babies at the moment, and then there are rooms where you go to actually deliver, if you're lucky. (Apparently, that same day, another woman had her baby in a chair in a downstairs waiting room because she'd waited too long to come in.)
I remember screaming, and someone telling me to please stop screaming, and me wanting to tell her that I would scream if I wanted to and literally no one was going to stop me.
I asked for an epidural and someone asked "do you feel like pushing?" and I lied and said "I don't know" because if I had said "YES, OBVIOUSLY" then I would not have gotten those sweet, sweet drugs. (Also please note that I am terrible at lying, so the extremely non-committal "I don't know" was the best I could manage.) I have no idea how I held still long enough to get the epidural, but I did. That is the power of experience, my friends.
By 2:15 am, there was Sammy. The doctor only made it in time, he said, because all of the lights had been green.
With Ben, I got my epidural and didn't have the baby until nearly ten hours later. With Sam, I got the epidural and had the baby within approximately 20 minutes. The drugs hadn't even fully kicked in yet. I remember telling the doctor, "I can feel that," while I got my stitches after Sam had already been born and was laying on my chest. However, thanks to the wave of post-baby happiness hormones, I remember thinking it was sort of funny.
In case you're unfamiliar - after a baby is born, a whole flurry of activity takes place. If you're lucky and things go as planned and you're in a "baby friendly" hospital, they put the baby on your chest and it feels, suddenly, like your heart is the very still and focused center of a hurricane. All around you, people are checking your vitals, cleaning things up, putting the bed back together, putting your body back together, bringing things in, and taking things out. But it all happens in a blur at the corner of your vision. There are sounds, but you can't hear them. There is this tiny, helpless, perfect little person who you can't stop looking at, touching, kissing, and wondering over.
At some point, the hurricane of people just disappears. Tim sat next to me, somehow more exhausted than I was, and we just sat and looked at Sammy for an hour, maybe two hours, I have no idea, before the nurses finally came to take his measurements and help me to the recovery room. And then we slept, and that was it.
I had a normal day. I had a baby in the middle of the night, and the day after, I went home. My reward for this very little bit of effort is this fat, sweet, easy, happy baby. I've never gotten such a good deal in my life.