On February 22 we gave birth to our first child, Cayden William Mallory. What an amazing experience! I’d say it was the best day of my life but it’s really continued on into the best few days – and now weeks – with I’m sure plenty more to come. There’s no doubt that baby changes everything, and it’s all for the better! I’ve enjoyed telling our story so much in person already that I can’t resist writing it down any longer.
Almost a week before our due date Christene felt some cramps but amusingly wrote it off to being on her feet too much (it was a Tuesday, and she went to work) and wearing some maternity jeans that were just too much of a stretch for the end of the third trimester. She even had a friend trim the jeans to loosen them up, which in hindsight is just the sort of thing that might have said “we’re close!”. But hearing all the stories of first time moms going past their due date and enduring endless, long labors we thought we had awhile to go. Having been through all the classes, reading, and mental preparation I could possibly imagine, I was very ready to meet our kid and any chance that it might be soon was pretty exciting, so at one point I even suggested timing those “cramps”, but stupidly did so with a handy iPhone app in hand. The response I got was – exactly – “get that fucking app away from me”. Again, a good indication that something is going on… but what can you say to that.
Christene traded texts and a phone call with our doula Maria who of course confirmed that we were probably at least a day out and to relax, go to bed, and generally save our strength. Christene was breathing deeply through the surges but was able to focus on the call, and after writing a couple of them down we did notice that they were about five minutes apart. Still, it seemed improbable that we’d be at the “5/1/1″ rule for heading to the hospital already. So we continued mentally preparing for the week ahead: we still needed to finalize on a photographer, print out our birth plan, pack for the hospital, and order a whole bunch of things from Amazon, among other things. Then Christene decided to try to get some sleep while I finished up some work on the computer downstairs. This was just before midnight.
As it got closer to 1:30am I heard Christene calling down that she’d like me to come upstairs again. I wrapped up my work with a final email and headed up to investigate. To my surprise she’d not been able to fall asleep at all, and was actually lying in the dark with some LED candles glowing faintly in what looked like quite a bit of pain. She quickly asked (insisted) that I call Maria again, and by the time I did (we have terrible AT&T reception at our house) she was pleading with me to have her come over. Maria listened to one of the surges through the phone and ever so calmly and happily said that it sounded like some great active labor, and that she’d be right over! I vaguely remembering her mentioning first that it was a point where we could head to the hospital instead if we wanted to, but I don’t think that really registered for either of us. I knew Christene really wanted to labor at home without intervention and it felt like we just needed more support. By the time Maria arrived Christene was in serious pain and we were extremely glad to have some help.
For anyone who may raise an eyebrow at spending money on a doula it’s a phenomenal feeling of empathy and support (and for me, being able to relax and not try to manage the situation) to have someone calm and experienced, but also not medically focused, by your side through the whole ordeal. Maria is part of the Boulder Doula Circle, a group practice that allows them to be effective and present even as mothers with small children themselves, and affectionally guaranteeing that you’ll always get a “fresh doula” no matter how early or late you are! We felt great meeting with Katie, Janel, and Maria in advance, but it became even more evident that we’d made one of the best decisions possible the moment Maria arrived that night.
We did quite a bit of labor in and around the bed with Maria delivering lots of great back massage and encouragement to Christene while I tried to somewhat emulate her calm, not do anything stupid, provide a hand to squeeze, and generally do anything else Christene wanted. We’d all breath and make sounds through the surges together and even as they intensified I could tell that Christene was mastering them and would be able to do this naturally, just the way she wanted to (even if she wasn’t sure yet!). It’s truly amazing how everything is heightened in labor; water had to be in a specific Starbucks cup with a bendy straw or she wouldn’t drink it, she only wanted Maria touching her back, and if I so much as breathed in the wrong direction I’d hear about it. But at the same time I was totally ready for and expecting this (largely due to some great natural childbirth classes we took with Katie at Yo Mama in Boulder) and was feeling nothing but love and awe for Christene and what she was going through, in our house, very very quickly without any drugs.
Eventually we hit a threshold where Christene needed a change and we decided to try the bathtub, or as Maria fondly called it, the midwife’s epidural. It seemed to relax Christene a little bit but she clearly still wasn’t having it, and it took quite a bit of persuasion for her to agree to just four more surges in the tub, then we’d re-evaluate. By the second, her water broke, and no sooner was Maria explaining that she might feel some pressure than Christene was yelling that she REALLY needed to push! A quick trip to the bathroom revealed that we were approaching baby time, and Maria – still the pinnacle of calm – said I should get the car ready fast. I frantically packed everything critical I could think of, which being me meant I forgot most of the clothes (especially baby clothes – apparently we leave the hospital with a baby!), but somehow brought a laptop, iPad, both our iPhones, a charger, Christene’s own pillow, a tank-top for Christene (through the chaos she still insisted I get a certain one from the dryer, not her dresser upstairs!), and thankfully our nicer camera. Luckily Maria procured a birthing skirt so I didn’t have to find ours.
By the time I was packed and the car warmed up Maria had persuaded Christene to the top of the stairs and was patiently working her towards the trip down. It’s quite difficult to convince someone to make it down a flight of stairs, through the garage, and into the back seat of an X3 when she’s only a couple minutes between contractions, but Maria wasn’t taking no for an answer! At roughly 4:30am – two and a half hours after Maria’s arrival – we were ready to make a break for the hospital.
I began driving with Christene laying awkwardly across the back seat and Maria squeezed in next to her, and as Maria called our midwife to let her (and consquently the hospital) know we were on the way, both Christene and I heard her “stats” for the first time. I’d figured out by now that yes, we were progressing really fast and needed to have a baby soon, and figured the contractions couldn’t be more than a few minutes apart, but listening to the call I think it really sunk in. I remember a pause, and then Maria saying something like “well, I didn’t quite see a head – yet – or we’d have called an ambulance, so we’re going to drive and be there as soon as we can”. I drove a little faster! Over and over I heard Christene yelling that she needed to push – and even starting to involuntarily lean back further and raise her knees up – with Maria determinedly asking her to “blow out the candle” and breathe to hopefully buy us enough time. At least there’s very little traffic in the middle of a cold night in February and we made it into Boulder in about 20 minutes.
Ironically just as we approached the hospital we did encounter a few cars, and things being what they were I passed them pretty quickly and then cut across two lanes to make the turn into the entrance. Of course, there was a police car right there waiting at the light – and he even turned his headlights on and started following me in! But fortunately when he saw us stop in front of the ER and me jump out of the car he turned around and drove off, saving an even more interesting story that I didn’t need to have!
By the time I ran inside and found someone from the ER intake to help with a wheelchair we were creeping up on 5am. Wasting no time saying we were having pushing contractions and needed to get up to delivery immediately, the only paperwork I did was scrawling Christene’s name and my cell phone number on the sign-in sheet. Then we got Christene in the wheelchair (kneeling facing backwards with her hands around the poor guy’s neck, no way she could sit!) and started our trip down a long hall from ER intake towards the other side of the hospital to an elevator that would take us to our destination. Christene – being ever-present even as she’s desperately trying to hold back pushing – even asked for us to stop when her shoes fell off, but the guy kept pushing (and politely asked Christene to ease up on his neck!) and I managed to snag them, run ahead, and get the elevator there in time for an instant trip up to the third floor. Maria was parking the car and would meet us up there shortly.
As we entered the delivery room our friendly delivery nurse Lucy smiled and began casually explaining how we’d put some monitors on, see how baby’s doing for twenty minutes or so, and the usual delivery procedures. Of course Christene simply wasn’t having it, and before they could even get a monitor on her insisted that she needed to get on the bed and push. At this point my phone rang, which was the absolute last thing I expected – who could possibly know what was going on? In fact it was Maria who had locked herself in our car. Those fancy BMW’s, you know. So I guided Maria through our German-engineered unlock sequence (really just a button, but it is in a weird place!), by which time Lucy was helping Christene get on the bed. Giving up on the monitor for a minute she said we’d check real quick just to see where we were. One of the clearest memories for Christene and I both have is Lucy’s face looking down at her, which quickly went blank and was immediately followed by brief instructions to another nurse to “get the cart”. Within a minute gloves were on, the foot of the bed dropped, and everyone fully in delivery mode. This was my first look as well, and it was abundantly clear that our baby was ready to come out!
At that moment Maria walked in, and Lucy looked at her saying calmly – but quickly – “we’re going to have a baby”. Maria, still all smiles and calm as well, came over and said, finally, “Okay Christene – you can push”. Christene put her chin down, looking ready for whatever next round of agony awaited, and gave that push – and in one push, our baby was out! Into Lucy’s hands, up to her chest, and I quickly said “Open your eyes!” so Christene wouldn’t miss it. Our wonderful baby boy was curled up on her chest with two parents who couldn’t be happier, prouder, more excited, and more in love with him and each other at that moment (and for Christene… really relieved and amazed that just like that, the surreal pain was over!). It was 5:08am, a whole eight minutes after our arrival. After remembering to make sure he was a boy (we were confident from the 20-week ultrasound, but it never hurts to double check…), we proudly shared his name which we’d been 99% sure of, yet still felt compelled to wait until delivery before asserting and somehow making it real.
Moments later our midwife Angela from Boulder Nurse Midwives walked in, and we’d later learn that having heard the car conversation was fairly sure she wouldn’t make it in time anyway! The placenta, cleanup/fixup, and usual post-delivery ceremonies went off without incident and with Maria taking lots of great pictures, and before we knew it hours had gone by just cuddling and bonding with our new little friend. Though our timing with the birth was comical, overall BNM has been great and is a unique midwife option with the flexibility of a group practice and ability to have a natural-minded birth still in a hospital setting and affiliated with Boulder Women’s Care. Angela, Merrilynn, Gina, and Sarit have been incredibly caring through our prenatal visits, delivery, and postpartum and a great fit for the type of natural birth with medical backup if needed that Christene and I were comfortable with.
Now two weeks later, I can say that the postpartum period (so far) is undoubtedly really demanding, really exhausting, and the biggest life change I will probably go through (and I’m not the one who has to heal or breastfeed!), but it’s hands down at least ten times more fun, exciting, humbling, and joyful than I could have imagined. If this is the “hardest” part we are in good shape, and if it’s not I’m confident we (especially Christene) can still do anything our family needs. She’s recovered amazingly fast (I guess labor set the pace) and the environment we’ve been able to create for Cayden with a natural labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and lots of close contact and bonding time both right after and during these initial weeks, seems to have contributed to a great temperament and health for him as well.
We have had great support from family and friends in the form of brief visits in the hospital and at home (all helping us out but not being overbearing!), especially my parents’ willingness to show up just to cook, clean, and do laundry – we can’t thank you enough! We did a photo session at a week and a half and the little guy already seems so much bigger. The adventure continues… we’re off to a great start and can’t wait to let more of this story unfold.