At 4:34 am (yes, I looked at the clock on my phone when I got up) on December 9th, 2015, I was woken up by pain. Not any horrible pain, but enough to know that what I was feeling was something I hadn’t felt before. It started out feeling like a period cramp then progressed into a sharp-feeling pain that I had to concentrate breathing through for about 20 seconds then it slowly faded and was gone. I fell back asleep and at 4:47 am, I woke again, same feeling, same duration. I laid in bed for a few minutes, scrolling through Instagram and trying to either get my mind off the “incidents” or wrap my head around the fact that these “incidents” may in fact be contractions.
I opened my contraction timer app on my phone that I had installed the week before and, at 4:57, pressed start on the tracking of my third contraction. One of my best friends, Joni, texted me that she was surprised that I was awake so early (she had seen that I liked one of her photos on IG a few minutes prior) and I wrote her back, “I’ve been timing contractions since 4:30” and attached one of those petrified-face emojis to really seal the enormity of the situation. Joni lives in Texas and she was getting ready for work, so we turned on Skype and chatted (and I was sufficiently distracted for about an hour, through more contractions).
At 7:00, I went upstairs to take a shower and let Chris know that I was pretty sure this baby was making an appearance sooner rather than later. By this time, I had breathed my way through 14 contractions over the nearly 3-hour period. I came into the bedroom, said Chris’ name and when he opened his eyes, I said, “good morning! I have been having contractions for about 3 hours.” He got a huge grin across his face and said, “really?!” I confirmed and told him that I was going to take a shower and I didn’t need him to do anything else for the time being. I showered, did my hair and makeup, whilst pausing appropriately through contractions that were now about 10 minutes apart.
Chris and I went downstairs and I made myself some toast while he came down and readied the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce we had planned to make that day to be added to our freezer storage meals of chicken stew and beef stew that we had made a few days prior. As my contractions came, Chris watched the timer and talked me through as the seconds ticked by, letting me know when I was halfway there and when it was almost over. I called my parents and when my mom picked up, I told her that I thought I was in labor and gave her the situation update. She told me that when my dad came home, they would be on their way (they live about 4 hours from us). Chris went to take a shower and when he came back down, I was sitting on the chaise lounge in our front room breathing through more contractions. He grabbed my phone and checked for the length on time between, which at this point was about 5-6 minutes apart. He looked at me and said, “okay, Kate, we’re gonna go to the hospital.”
He went upstairs, grabbed the hospital bag and his own bag, got my pillow and headphones and came back downstairs. I stood up and he put his arms around me and hugged me through another one. He got the dog outside with food and water, grabbed the carseat, and we made our way out to the truck. As is nearly ALWAYS the case, we were behind the slowest sight-seeing people in Monterey and ended up behind a garbage truck literally going 20 miles an hour at the exit to the hospital. Chris was attempting to not completely lose his shit with road rage while I clenched his hand through the pain.
At the hospital, there was valet at the front entrance for women in labor and emergency patients. When Chris pulled up, I was right in the middle of a contraction and the guy went to open my door but saw that I was, ahem, indisposed, and paused. He motioned for someone and when I was breathing again, he opened the door and I got out of the car, directly seating myself into the wheelchair provided. Chris grabbed our stuff and rushed behind me as they wheeled me to the birthing center. I wasn’t sure at this point if Chris was pushing me or if it was a hospital worker until I heard Chris jogging up behind us saying, “I’m right behind you, Kate!”
When we got there, they opened the door and the nurses got up and said that they had a woman in active labor and needed to find a room. I was wheeled down the hallway through the confusion of them relaying clean room information back and forth to each other and ended up in the room where we had done the labor and delivery tour 2 months prior. I got undressed… actually sidenote funny story there… when we went into the room, there were two nurses there. One of them said, “Okay honey, let’s get your pants off. Do you want to do it here or in the bathroom?”
At this point, I was just like, whatever the hell I need to do in order to get this moving along, I will do. I don’t care who sees my goods, I’m sure by the end of this I will have had no less than a dozen people down there checking things out. I started to pull my pants down and then I looked at her and said, “Should I take my underwear off too?” She smiled and said, “Yes, we can’t very well have a baby with underwear on, can we?” Looking back on that, it makes me laugh. Like, really? Underwear too? C’mon, Kate.
Gimme a break, I was delusional with painful contractions that I had now been going through for about 7 hours.
I laid down in bed and got attached to everything from IVs to blood pressure monitors to baby monitors. The nurse asked me about my plan for pain management and I immediately said “epidural”. It’s funny how quickly your mind changes when you’re in pain. Before labor, I told myself I would go as long as I could on the natural route and apparently, 7 hours of contractions was as far as my natural journey went. Chris held my hand through contractions while the anesthesiologist was called. (Have you ever written out the word “anesthesiologist”? Holy crap, that took me like a full minute, lol).
The nurse checked my progress and told us that I was at 4 cm, 60% effaced (which is the softening and thinning of the cervix). She went to call my doctor and came back a few minutes later. “Dr. Walker didn’t believe me that you were in labor! He said he just saw you yesterday!” It’s so funny. Chris and I had been to see him the day prior and I was told I was 2 cm, 50% effaced. I was so disappointed and when we left, I felt like at the rate I was going (1 cm the week prior and 2 cm this week) I still had 8 more weeks of pregnancy! I smiled at the thought of it all and how uncontrollable this really all is.
About 30 minutes later, the anesthesiologist came in and got me set up for the epidural. For those of you that don’t know, I have a huge tattoo on my back… like, a tattoo that covers the entirety of my back from my shoulder blades to my hips. When the doctor saw it, he was like, “whoa! This is a huge back piece! It always make it a little more difficult because I can’t see your spine as well in order to get everything centered.” NOT really something you want to hear from the person that is basically getting ready to paralyze you from your butt down to your toes. Truth be told, I wasn’t really that nervous about it at that point because I was just ready for the pain to be gone.
It took about 10 minutes and then another 20 before everything became amazingly peaceful again. I watched on the monitor as my contractions came and went and I finally relaxed. The nurses placed a catheter in (TMI? Really? Lol) and I knew at that point I wasn’t getting up for a while as I realized my legs felt like they were about a hundred pounds each. I felt like my neck and shoulders were so tight from the tensing up I didn’t even realize I was doing through all the pain. My only really annoying side effect from the injection was shivering. I wasn’t cold, but I was shivering uncontrollably for about 2 hours and it continued throughout the rest of my labor rather inconsistently and in spurts of about 5 minutes every time.
I laid back and just sat and talked to Chris for about an hour until the nurse came back in to check my status. 5 cm, 100% eff… whoops! Uh, what was that about… and, the nurse had broken my water. Lol. At this point, I couldn’t feel anything but seeing Chris’ face, and subsequent, “whoa” when everything came gushing out was pretty entertaining. For some reason, I always thought that your water breaking was the beginning of labor… stupid movies, always diluting the truth. Apparently, that is normally not the case and thank the lord for that, because if that had happened at 4:30 in the morning in our bed, I would have been really grossed out… and wet… and we’d be purchasing a new mattress for Christmas.
About 4 hours later, I was still at 5 cm and my doctor recommended that I get some Pitocin to get things moving again. I guess that getting an epidural sometimes slows your labor down though I’m unsure why. I had heard horror stories about Pitocin and how it makes your contractions super painful, but after discussing it with Chris, we decided that Dr. Walker hadn’t steered up wrong yet and if that was his recommendation, we should go with it. With that started into my IV, there was nothing to do but wait.
A half hour later, my parents showed up and I was so happy to see them. My mom was so excited and my dad seemed a little choked up, seeing his baby getting ready to have her own baby. Chris and my dad went to get something to eat (at this point, it was about 5:00 and Chris hadn’t eaten anything all day) and I sat and talked with my mom about the whole process. When the nurse came in to check me again, I had progressed to 7 cm. Dr. Walker came in as well after his office had closed and checked up on me. At that point, with so many nurses coming in and out of the room and checking my every which way, it was honestly nice to see a familiar face, someone who I had been seeing nearly every week for the past month and every month before that. He went to get dinner and told me he would be back when it was time to have this baby. I had no idea that I would be doing most of my labor with my nurses (which changed out every 8 hours) and only complete this process with my doctor present.
Finally, the concluding pelvic exam as done and my nurse, Alyssa, told me that it was time to start pushing. I confessed to her that I was really scared and she patiently talked me through the whole process, which was so so nice and made me feel a little more at ease. My mom came to my side (Chris on the other side) and I asked her to say a prayer. While she spoke, asking God for strength for me and my baby, I cried. I don’t know if it was fear or just the overwhelming sense that this 9 month journey was about be over and whole new chapter of my and Chris’ lives was about to begin, but then it was time.
The stirrups came out and my hundred pound legs were lifted into them. At this point, the contractions were so strong that I could feel them at their peak, for about 30 seconds each time. Through 3 contractions, I pushed every 10 seconds with a breath in between until she told me to stop so she could call Dr. Walker. About 10 minutes later, he came in and put a gown on, “Let’s have this baby!” I smiled and felt like I should laugh, but I was just trying not to push and felt like good, hearty laugh may just send this baby flying across the room. He sat down and for the last time, my mom and Chris pulled my legs back and I pushed with all my might for about 10 seconds until Dr. Walker told me to stop pushing. “Look down at your baby, Kate!” he said and I arched up to look down between my legs. He was small and bloody and had dark hair. All of a sudden, I was completely overcome with emotion. Was it exhaustion? Was it seeing this life that had grown inside me for so long entering this world? I don’t know… it was such an unexpected response and then…
He was there.
Steven Alfred, born at 10:08 pm on December 9th, 2015. I looked at Chris and just wept while I said, “I did it!” He smiled and kissed me and said, “Ya, you did babe. I love you so much.” I heard Steven cry for the first time, that gurgled, strained cry and they put him on my chest. He was so small and so wiggly. I put my hands on his shivering body and tried to warm and cuddle him up to me. I spoke to him and he seemed to respond, knowing that voice that he had heard from the inside for so many months. Chris leaned down and spoke to him and at that point, he stopped crying. He knew Chris’ voice too. He knew his daddy. We sat together for about 5 minutes until the nurses took him to do all the newborn baby “stuff.” And it was over. The life I had felt inside me for months was never to be inside me again. And I was a mom. And Chris was a dad. And our lives were eternally changed. And Steven Alfred was our son. Forever.