Well, to quote C.S. Lewis, isn’t it something like “You do not have a soul – you ARE a soul. You HAVE a body?” I think that’s it. And anyways, there’s four of us.
But that’s really what I’m getting at – there are FOUR now. A new soul has joined the Wilhoit ranks – another piece of our puzzle is clear. Isn’t that crazy?! At 5:43 am on Saturday, October 25th, 2014, a little boy named Henry Stephen joined our family and opened our hearts up even more than we ever thought possible. To say his big brother is obsessed with him wouldn’t really be any exaggeration – Russ would spend msot of the day fawning over him, and I think, would probably try to tote him around like a teddy bear if I didn’t keep such a watchful eye on him for any funny business.
Now just over three weeks old, Henry is doing pretty well. The transition from what we were to what we are has been nothing short of a challenge – not that we didn’t expect that. But it’s like saying you want to run a marathon and then actually RUNNING that marathon. It’s going to suck quite a bit at points, and saying you’re ready doesn’t make any difference. But overall, we’re doing alright. If we could just get a bit more sleep, that would be great (nighttime cluster feeds are godawful).
Henry’s birth story is something I definitely want to get down in writing, because I’m already noticing that since his birth, details of Russ’s birth have started to become fuzzy and foreign in my sleepless brain. This is why writing things down is important – because photos can burn, and videos can freeze, and social media cannot document anything the way that the original author (and experiencer) can. Is experiencer a word? I’m going to assume it works.
There were little signs all week leading up to Henry’s birth that told me my body was getting ready to do serious work. But doctors appointments and cervical checks didn’t yield much exciting news. I was feeling contractions most all week at irregular intervals, but nothing that said it was time. Finally, Friday morning (October 24th) held some promise in the form of major cramping and lower back pain. But I didn’t see any reason to miss work when I was SURE…absolutely sure…this baby wasn’t coming until at least his due date. See, everyone else has their baby before me, and folks due two weeks after me were still playing the waiting game, so there was no way that Henry was coming any time soon. I actually was really worried my pregnancy would extend into November.
I dropped Russ off at school, called the OB’s office to schedule one more check before the weekend started (just in case), and got to work around 9 am. I told my cubicle neighbor Clint that he had to force me to stay standing at my desk or walking around (just in case), but that I was BY NO MEANS in labor. Cause I was going to be pregnant until November, remember? The cramps started giving way to contractions, but weak, pitiful ones at best. Another fake out. I left work early to go to my doctor’s appointment and made sure to hug everyone bye…just. in. case.
At the doc’s office, Dr. C checked me and repeated the disappointing read out of minor-to-no progress on dilation and effacement. I figured she was finishing up – hand still shoved where the sun doesn’t shine – when she did something. I am still not sure what, but all I know is it hurt like a bitch, and I just about fell off the exam table. When she retreated the other side of the room, she said with a mischievous smile “Well, let’s see if you have him this weekend!” I kept an appointment for the following week and headed out to go have lunch with Jonathan.
And the minute my butt hit the carseat, the first contraction hit me – not a doozy, but definitely different than the patsy contractions earlier in the day. By the time we got to the restaurant, I realized I’d had three contractions while driving there – so I started timing them. While I struggled to eat something while timing contractions, I looked up and saw another one of the OB practice doctors – Dr. T – walking across the restaurant to a waiting table with his family. Now, I will admit: I pondered waltzing over to him and asking him if every-five-minutes-lasting-one-minute was a decent time for me to head to the hospital. But this couldn’t be real labor, as previously stated, because I was going to be pregnant forever. I’m not kidding. Plus, this was my second pregnancy, and I definitely didn’t want to be that desperate woman who is obsessed with just getting the baby out FORGODSAKE. No, it was better to gracefully attempt to “savor” the time left with my one child and finish any nesting to-dos before Henry decided it was his time to be born.
That’s the happy horse shit that people tell you when you’re 40 weeks pregnant and can barely walk, right? Yeah. “ENJOY this time, you can’t get it back!” Listen, I’ve never met anyone who wanted to savor the 40th week of pregnancy. Never. Literally never. So, really, the only reason I didn’t waltz over to Dr. T and ask him to review my contraction intervals over his Kung Pao Chicken is because of my pride, and my pride alone.
And then I headed over to the store to get milk, and continued timing contractions…and stopping…cause they hurt more and more. Told the checkout girl – who knows me as a regular – that “THIS” is how I was doing, and flipped the phone timer around to show her the contractions. Being 22 and all…it took her a few moments to figure out what all the numbers meant. She wished me luck and I assured her again that this was not real labor. It just hurt more than it did 20 minutes prior, that’s all. I went to get Russ from school, for reasons beyond me, because dealing with him was really just going to exhaust me further – but I guess I wanted to spend some time with him (just in case). We walked to the park near the house (stupid), played tennis (idiotic), and I realized perhaps 20 minutes in that I could no longer bend over to pick up the tennis balls Russ was hurling towards me (duh). So we trudged back to the house, where Jonathan was waiting for us after getting off work a bit early. I showed him the contraction timer and he suggested we might want to cancel the workout planned with our friends for 6 pm and just head on the hospital – NOPE! I was sure this wasn’t real labor just yet, so I said we ought to go on to the gym and I’d sit on the exercise ball to try and get contractions to keep going (spoiler: they’d have kept going regardless).
So we did that. I walked into the gym stopping for 30 seconds here and there to breathe through the worst part of a contraction, grabbed an exercise ball, and headed for the back room to watch the workout and time these bad boys. By the end of the workout, I was having trouble breathing through the pain, and walking was becoming laborious. We had packed Russ an overnight bag, so we went over to the inlaws’ house to drop him off there – just in case? The just-in-case mantra really started to crumble while we were there dropping Russ off, when I was having to squat or bend over during contractions. My father-in-law was visibly worried and suggested we might want to head straight to the hospital and get our overnight bag later on…just in case this baby shot out at record speed. But I still didn’t believe that I would be dilated enough to be admitted, so we headed back to the house to get our overnight bag and then go to the hospital. I figured that IF this was real labor (which it wasn’t, remember?) that’d give me enough time to progress a little further before they checked me and waffled on whether to send me back home, writhing in pain. I called the hospital on the way back to our house, had four contractions on the phone with the nurse, and she suggested “Um, yeah, you should really come on here. Like now.”
Once back home, it was 8 pm and I did the thing they tell you NOT to do and took a shower, which was when it hit me: This shower doesn’t have any “Oh Shit!” Handles. WHY IS THAT? THIS IS TERRIBLE. That’s what I was thinking as I grasped for anything I could find to avoid falling over during a doozy of a contraction. Not exaggerating, it felt like I was being stabbed. I didn’t exactly have a clear recollection of what contractions with Russ felt like (mostly because of the Ambien trip from Hell), but was sure these were completely different. Two minutes later, getting out of the shower somehow turned into me crawling on all fours (NOT a pretty sight) from the bathroom to the closet to attempt to locate any article of clothing that would not hurt to put on. I settled on a sports bra (?) and granny panties (??) with a floor length dress (?!?!), because somehow at that moment, that was the combination that made the most sense. With no make-up and the first real sense of urgency I’d been able to muster all day long, I yelled to Jonathan: “We have to go. NOW.”
On the way down the interstate and past the downtown skyline as we headed for the hospital, the pain became so intense that I was feeling waves of nausea after each contraction. When we pulled up at the hospital, the labor & delivery parking lot – reserved for everyone else who was dropping by just-in-case – was jammed full and we grabbed the first spot we could find. I shortly thereafter got to be The Lady In Front of GHS On Her Hands And Knees About To Give Birth (so much fun, let me just tell you). Not only was I started to believe that I might truly be in labor, but I was starting to believe it was moving quickly. But they still needed to check me. All the triage rooms were full, so I had to continue laboring in the waiting room for about half an hour before I was finally given a triage room at 9 pm or so. The nurse – a mother herself – very clearly told me that I was “presenting as someone who was definitely in active labor,” but checked me. Just in case.
Almost 5 cm. We were having a baby! And fast…so fast, that they whisked me into labor & delivery within 20 minutes, with anesthesia waiting to administer the epidural I was now literally begging for. Within 30 minutes, I was feeling so much better and could finally relax for the first time that entire crazy day – most of which, I spent believing that it would be days before Henry would make his debut.
Labor slowed down a bit after the epidural, which does happen sometimes, but I continued progressing steadily until 5 am or so, when my water broke at just over 8 cm. I knew once that happened, I’d probably jet pretty fast up to 10 cm, and I was spot on. Five minutes later, I paged the nurse, she checked me again, and it was time to push. I was a little nervous about pushing – the “exit” part of childbirth is what freaks me out more than anything, for very good reason – but got down to business very quickly. We started pushing at just before 5:30 am, and Henry’s first angry little cry sounded out at exactly 5:43 am. The sun wasn’t even up yet. We held and snuggled him for the first hour, I was able to nurse him for the first time, and about an hour later we were moved to a postpartum room – just in time to watch the sun rise and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Actually going into labor on my own this time was an incredible experience, and having been induced the first time around, I was oddly proud to find out that my body really could just do things the normal way and get started on its own. And now, having this little guy here, I know what people mean when they say that your heart just expands and somehow has enough love for all your children.