At my 38 week appointment, I was only one cm dilated. No surprise. That information only furthered my belief that Mason was no where near being ready to see the outside world. I still had loads of time, three weeks, by my estimate.
You can imagine my shock when, only five days later, I went in for my 39 week check-up (at 38 weeks and 6 days) and was already 3-4cm dilated (which is how far dilated I was the day I went into labor with Maddox) and his head was totally engaged (i.e. ready and waiting). It was a pleasant surprise to know that I would be hoding my sweet baby boy a little sooner than I had planned.
After my appointment, I met Matt downtown for lunch and told him the good news. We were both excited, wondering if we might get to meet little Mason before the day was out. I was having some, barely noticeable, minor contractions off and on. Which meant little, since I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions off and on for weeks. We ate at Panda Express, but I didn't have much of an appetite. I suggested that maybe Matt should take the afternoon off. It seemed silly, since we weren't even guaranteed that I would go into labor that day or even that night. But I knew that once I did go into labor, it could go very quickly, and I did not want Matt to be an hour's commute away if that were to happen.
Matt agreed to take the rest if the day off, knowing he could make up the hours later in the week if it turned out that Mason wasn't quite ready.
We headed home, knowing we had several things that we needed to take care of if we would soon be heading for the hospital.
Although I was still having contractions (still no pain or anything hinting at real labor), at this point, I was still in denial. I didn't actually believe that Mason could be coming! I had been so sure he would be late, and so prepared to have to wait three more weeks.
We arrived home and Matt left with his mom and sister to get groceries and to show them where Maddox's favorite playgrounds were. Maddox was napping, so I leisurely packed my hospital bags, took a shower and shaved my legs, blow-dried and straitened my hair, put on some make-up, and painted my toenails blue(in honor of Mason's arrival, which I also did for Maddox's birth as well).
Just as Matt was returning from the hospital, I started having contractions that were a little bit uncomfortable. I hadn't timed them at all, but they seemed irregular. We said our goodbyes and headed to the hospital. It was 2:30, and I was still wondering if I was in actual labor.
Thing seemed to slow down a bit in the car, but I was still having some uncomfortable contractions. I called the midwives to let them know I was coming. I spoke to a nurse on the phone, who told me I sounded "great" but, knowing that Maddox had come pretty quickly, agreed that it was best that we were going to the hospital.
I didn't even let Matt drop me off at triage. I insisted on going to the parking garage with him and walking to the hospital. I didn't want to be left alone, like I was when Maddox was born, and I wasn't in much pain, so I felt totally fine to walk. I was having some pain, but I laughed it off (literally) trying to convince myself that it wasn't painful, it was just pressure. Which worked pretty well at that point. As we walked into the hospital, there was a couple coming out with their new baby. I said to Matt "their hard part is over", and I longed to have my hard part over with.
We got checked in around 3:00pm, and I was still all smiles, but definitely feeling the contractions. I told Matt, "If I am still at a four, I am never gonna make it". Luckily, when they checked me, I was at 7 cm. I finally realized that, indeed, Mason was coming, and would probably be here within an hour or two!
While Mason's heart rate was being monitored for the necessary 20 minutes, FRIENDS was on the television. Talk about a great way to help keep my mind off the contractions (which didn't really work). It was the episode where Ross gives Mona a key to his apartment. "To sum up. . . we're having fun . . . you look young. But that's not enough!"
We walked up to our labor and delivery room. I sat on a birthing ball and Matt rubbed my back while we waited for the tub to brought in and filled up. Which looked just like this:
image found here.
Side note: Matt is a wonderful partner to have during labor and delivery. He was perfect. He is so supportive and comforting. One of the best parts about bringing children into the world is sharing the experience with him.
When the tub was finally ready, which took forever (literally like 15 minutes), I got in and immediately felt better. However, my midwife, Lia, didn't want me to get overheated, so she didn't use very hot water. Hot water equals lots of pain relief, lukewarm water equals very little pain relief. But being in the water makes you buoyant, which makes it easier to move around and makes you feel less cumbersome. So in I stayed, but cursed her (not literally) under my breath for not letting me have hot water. At this point it was probably about 4:10pm.
I was feeling some pressure, but knew that it wasn't quite time to push. When you are medication-free, you are able to be more in-touch with the process. You instinctively know what to do. Birthing a child is quite a miracle, and being able to be in control of the process (instead of being told when to do what) is one of the main reasons that I choose not to have any pain medication.
For a few contractions I was stuck in the place between labor and delivery (transition). Where you are having painful contractions and there is some pressure, but to get things moving you have to push. It's scary knowing what is about to happen. It's like being on the edge of a cliff waiting to jump into the ocean: standing there, you know that you are safe, you know that you are in control. And you know the next part is going to be super scary and very very painful, but it will be over before you know it. But it won't be over with until you commit and force yourself to leap off the edge (i.e. push), otherwise, you just teeter on the brink. Afraid to go forward, unable to go back, and definitely unable to get any medication. You could stay in this limbo for ever (well, maybe several minutes).
Up until this point, things had progressed beautifully. I was able to stay calm and collected. Matt and Lia kept telling me how amazing I was, and how in-control I seemed to be. And I have to admit, the contractions never became unbearable. In fact, I kept thinking, shouldn't they be more painful?
But when it came time to push, I lost it. I had totally terrified myself and as a result I lost my sense of control over the pain. I just wanted it over with, and I did NOT want to do it myself. No way in heck did I want to push this baby out. These moments (seconds? minutes?) are hazy to me. But at that point, I knew that the only way out was through. So I pushed with all I had, felt like I was dying for a few seconds, asked if his head was out (indeed it was), gave another push, and before I knew it I was holding my sweet, beautiful baby boy and saying "I'm so glad it's over!".
He was 8lbs 4oz, 21in, and perfect.