I can’t believe you made me wait a year for cake.
Today is Sam’s birthday. How quickly time flies.
One year ago he was born at Christ Hospital. It is a blur, now, to recall all the surreal details. We posted lots of photos the day after he arrived, but we never told the full birth story in this space. We decided to do that today.
The thing is, I (Erin) hadn’t planned on telling his birth story. I hadn’t even planned on writing the story of his birth at all. Not even for me. But as days turned into weeks turned into months, I wanted a record about how Sam, snug in my belly, entered the world.
My main concern was that writing a blog post about Sam’s birth would be the telling of a story no one would want to read or that perhaps should remain a secret between Ben and I. But then I read my friend Jill Van Hambergin’s post about the birth of her second son, Charlie. I read it aloud, Ben sitting in the chair next to me. Three quarters of the way through, I burst into tears. Who wants to read a birth story? Well, for starters, people like me. So here goes.
I’m told there are two types of people: those who loathe pregnancy and those who love it. I am happy to declare myself in the latter camp. I have memories of feeling nauseated during the first trimester, but I only threw up once. Because I was due in July and school ended before Memorial Day, I got to spend those final two months, when all you want to do is curl up on the couch, pulling a “Weeds” marathon while sucking down lemonade and eating tunafish bagel sandwiches from Marx Bagels. It wasn’t a bad deal. I also continued to exercise, which has me convinced that my pregnancy and labor were easier. Also, the World Cup was on, so those trips to the gym were further inspired by the promise of Spaniards in red Umbros and Vuvuzuelas.
The nausea, the backaches, the sleeplessness: those memories are sure enough sequestered to some area of my brain that I cannot access as vividly anymore.
Officially, I was due on July 21, 2010. All of my friends warned me that the first baby has the habit of arriving late, so I should prepare myself for what could be a frustrating week. And if I started to think that the baby would never come, not to worry. He or she will come. Eventually.
I went to bed on Sunday, the eighteenth, with a cramp. I didn’t think anything of it. Everything was a little achy or crampy in July. During the night, I slept like a baby, which is to say, I didn’t sleep very well at all. I woke up every two to three hours and thrashed the covers like I was drowning in water. [Ben’s note: I slept like a baby that night too.]
On Monday morning, the nineteenth, Ben and I woke up and had coffee. We talked about the team of men who were on their way to our house to replace our entire roof. That day. Two days before Sam’s official due date. But first babies come late, so we were fine.
We kissed, we exchanged I love yous, and we parted ways: Ben to work and I to my couch.
There was an ache and a cramp and I didn’t think anything of it.
A truck pulled up to the house and the doorbell rang. I introduced myself and told the men that if they needed anything I would be inside. I apologized that I couldn’t move the porch furniture since I was nine months pregnant. Inside, looking out our living room window, I watched as shingles began to rain down.
Then the ache and the cramp felt like a small wave. The wave came and went, erratically, but since I had never labored before, I didn’t know it was labor. Everyone told me that you wouldn’t be able to walk or talk, and I could do both of those things. I called my friend Katie. Always calm and full of advice, she told me to start recording the times I felt these waves. They were pretty regular, though at that time, still pretty spaced apart from the five-minute time frame.
I called my parents. My dad answered. I casually mentioned that I “think I might be having contractions.” Outside, more shingles fell.
I called Ben at work. He didn’t pick up so I left a message, something to the effect of “it’s probably nothing but I’m feeling something, maybe contractions, so could you please come home for lunch?” Before leaving, Ben told his colleagues he was sure he’d be back after lunch. He left his computer on and his man purse at his desk.
When I called the doctor’s office, I was asked who would drive me to the appointment. “Oh, I guess my husband will,” I said. I hadn’t considered the fact that I shouldn’t drive myself to the doctor. Ben called work to say that he needed to drive me to the hospital but that it was probably nothing so he’d be back to work in an hour or two.
Right before we left the house, we grabbed our pre-packed hospital bags — just in case — and then stepped outside and walked over and around hundreds of shingles. “I’ll be back!” I yelled to the workmen.
It’s a good thing Ben drove. I was in pain. I grasped my belly, hunched over, tried to breath, and bared my teeth.
Things get really blurry after that. I’ll let Ben take it over from here.
We met with Erin’s doctor at 2:45. Erin said she was fully prepared to be told that of course this wasn’t labor yet and be sent back home. But I could tell she was in a lot of pain. If this wasn’t the real deal, I couldn’t imagine what actual labor was going to be like. I was also still thinking about my conference call at 3:30.
Erin’s doctor told her she was two centimeters dilated. “You’re in labor,” he said. “We should probably get you up to the ninth floor.”
As we walked across the parking lot, I called my boss to tell him I would not be on the 3:30 conference call.
Erin and I had taken a tour of the birthing center during one of our classes, and it was then that we saw (and subsequently made fun of) the Feng Shui room, which featured a weird crystal hanging from the ceiling but was also probably the biggest of all the delivery rooms. Sure enough, we were assigned the Feng Shui room.
We walked up and down the halls, Erin’s hand digging into my shoulder every five to ten minutes. Our nurse measured her around 4:30. Still two centimeters. After the nurse left, Erin groaned and said, “I do not want to go back home.”
We were in a holding pattern for a couple hours. Around 6:30 she was four centimeters. I watched the monitor, seeing the reading spike with each contraction, knowing before Erin flinched when each round of pain was coming. After they gave her an epidural around 8:30, I was amazed to see the monitor spike and Erin … do nothing. The miracle of modern medicine.
The Wendy’s in the lobby closed at nine o’clock. I hadn’t eat lunch and I was starving. I excused myself, ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, and ate it sitting on the floor outside the Feng Shui room. All my father friends had warned me, “Do not, under any circumstances, eat in front of her during labor.”
After the epidural Erin was sleepy, and I was too. While she slept restlessly in her bed, I curled up in the fold-out chair with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, but soon put that down and watched the Phillies/Cardinals game on TV with the sound off. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. This is really happening, I kept thinking. I knew the world was going on as usual outside our window, but everything about my life had shrunk to the size of that room and what would soon happen there. My wife, our new baby, and the family that was just beginning.
Erin started pushing at 3:30 Tuesday morning. She was adamant that I stay by her side and not watch the actual birth. When the moment came, though, the nurses asked if she wanted a mirror to watch and she surprised both of us by saying yes.
He arrived with a full head of blonde hair. I had convinced myself we were going to have a girl because everyone had been predicting that. It took me a moment to register that it was actually a boy. We had boy and girl names picked out. At 4:47 a.m., we knew we had a Sam.
The doctors stitched Erin up and cleaned Sam and then, for the first hour, before we called any family, it was just the three of us. He’s here! I thought, watching Erin hold him on her chest. I couldn’t stop smiling. The sun was coming up but our room faced west, so there was just a hazy red glow. Later a nurse told us there was a rainbow outside, and we looked far enough east to see it bending across the sky. In every way imaginable, it was a new day.