Our baby boy Alexander Ioan Oland was due on Saturday, 2/19/2011. That day came and went by without any sign of labor. I was well aware that for a first pregnancy that might very well be the case but I was praying that even if I wasn’t going to give birth right on my due date (not easy aiming for a less than 5% chance), it will still happen soon.
Sunday was another beautiful day so Michael and I walked over to Chinatown to a coffee shop and hang out there for some time, sipping coffee and playing Scrabble. Still no sign of labor that day. Monday morning came along and I felt some contractions. They were not regular and eventually went away but at the same time I had a bit of a ‘bloody show’ going on. At this point I figured we were getting closer.
Around 6 pm on Monday evening I started having contractions again and this time they were coming regular enough that I started timing them. By 9.30 pm they were about 5 minutes apart and pretty strong so I decided to call the birth center and let them know I was in labor. I spoke with Dorothy, the midwife on duty that evening and she told me there was still a possibility the contractions might go away but it could also very well progress. We had a very calm dialogue and she told me to contact her again if labor advances.
The weirdest thing about the night I went in labor was the crazy turn the weather outside took. The entire previous week and weekend it felt like spring has arrived, but that Monday night the temperatures dropped as it started raining and snowing, eventually turning the wintry mix into sleek ice. The midwife said she will try coming to the birth center in the middle of the night if need be, but if the roads were icy enough she couldn’t drive, the plan was for me to go to the hospital instead. When I heard that, I freaked out a little as I wasn’t prepared for that. I didn’t actually write down a birth plan like I read everywhere on the internet that I should, but I knew very well the summary of it: birth center, water delivery, med free. It didn’t even cross my mind to prepare myself for a plan B that would actually have to start at the hospital. At this point I was praying to God that I would progress very slowly so I wouldn’t have to go in the middle of the night anywhere else but at the birth center.
Contractions continued regularly in the next few hours and by 2 am they were 3 minutes apart. I woke up Michael and we both agreed we should call Dorothy again and let her know the progress. By this time the contractions were so intense, I couldn’t talk through them so I let Michael call her back. She suggested we should head to the birth center as she was already there. I was so relieved to hear that!! When we got there Dorothy told us how another mother in labor called her that evening so between the two of us she figured one will give birth that night. She decided to come to the birth center before the roads got too icy and I was so happy she made that decision.
It was 2.30 am when we got into the car to drive to the birth center. We haven’t even left the garage yet when I felt like a balloon popping and this warm feeling between my legs. It was easy to guess what just happened and two things crossed my mind: thank God for leather seats and how relieved I was my water broke at that moment. During the last days of pregnancy, I had a bit of a paranoia about going in public: “what if my water would break while being in church, or a coffee shop, or even while just walking?” It turned out it happened at the right moment.
After I went back inside and changed between painful contractions, we finally made our way to the birth center. This place was about fifteen blocks from our house so the drive wasn’t that bad. We got there at 3 am and Dorothy was waiting for us. She checked me and turned out I was already 6 cm dilated. We took one of the birthing rooms and Dorothy told Michael she will need his assistance as no one else could make it to the birth center right away. He calmly agreed on his new ‘promotion’ from holding-my-hand-husband to midwife assistant and he started running the water in the tub for me to get in.
At 3.30 am I got in the water and as soon I was in, I had the urge to push. The midwife said it was OK to do so I started pushing thinking that each thrust I would get closer to holding my baby. The pain was getting really bad and all I could do was hold on to this bar they had mounted on the wall, close my eyes and make these low tone noises. Michael was sitting next to the tub, ready to do anything I thought would help with the pain. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t want him to do anything- no rubbing, no massaging, not even talking to me. Just being left alone. All I could do when a contraction would come was close my eyes tight and squeeze that bar until the palms of my hand turned white. My right arm hurt a few days after birth, actually my whole body ached as if I ran a marathon. Muscles that I didn’t know I had were brought to life when this precious baby came into this world.
I am not sure for how long I was in the tub when two other ladies were able to make it to the birth center. One was a freshly graduated student from the midwifery school who helped Dorothy a lot and the other lady I was going to find out later, was the director of the birth center. All three of them were very supportive, positive and calm. They would give me advise on what kind of sounds to make, how to push and how to relax between the painful contractions. I was still keeping my eyes completely shut, it felt like if I opened them and looked around, it would bring me more into the reality and make the pain more vivid.
I was in the tub for about an hour when I changed positions from being on my back to on my knees. It seemed that the baby got stuck and he wouldn’t move along the birth canal but changing to a different pose did the trick as a new kind of pain joined the array of agonizing sensations I was already feeling. The baby’s head finally started to crown and I could feel the enthusiasm around the room, especially Michael next to me who was telling me he could see the head. Dorothy told me to reach down and touch my baby’s head. I did that with my eyes still closed and I felt a new wave of energy washing over me.
I must confess thoughts crossed my mind wondering why was I putting myself through this pain, why didn’t I go to the hospital and choose an epidural? I never vocalized these thoughts but I did say a couple of times “I don’t think I can do this.” Even in agonizing pain, I was realistic enough to understand there was no way back, there was no other option but to go through this till the end. With that in mind, there was only one thing left for me: pray to God! I found myself praying in a soft voice “God give me strength” over and over. As encouraging as people around me were at the moment, I knew they couldn’t really give me that final energy to accomplish the hardest task in my life.
Around 5.30 am, after two hours of intense pushing, baby Alex took his first breath. The midwife put the baby on my chest right away and that skin to skin first encounter with this tiny human being who’s been growing in my belly was indescribable. It felt like he was everything I imagined he would be but at the same time he was a total different person. He was Alexander Ioan Oland born on 2.22.2011, weighing 9 pounds 9.05 ounces and measuring 21 inches. Welcome our precious son, we love you more than our words can express it!