Today is both Jack's 6 month "birthday" and also Father's Day, so it feels appropriate to post this today. I figure I should probably write down Jack's birth story before it fades too far away. So here goes.
Jack was "due" on December 8th, 2016. My pregnancy was almost bizarrely easy; no morning sickness whatsoever, no back pain, none of the adverse symptoms it seems most women encounter. I didn't even have trouble tying my own shoes by 9 months. So I had an inkling he was pretty dang comfortable in there and wouldn't be interested in making his debut early or even "on time." I should note I use quotes around "due" and "on time," because it's been shown now that there is a span of 5 weeks in which birth timing is normal, so a due date or on time birth is somewhat misleading. Anyway.
My doula/BFF, Kristina arrives on Dec 1st. I take her to my prenatal yoga class with me. We hang out. A few days later on the 3rd, my birth photographer/other BFF, Amy, arrives. Both are from Tacoma, so they flew up to be with me for my labor and Jack's birth. We commence waiting. A week goes by. Nothin'. At every prenatal yoga class people start being like, "wait, you're still here?!" to which I reply, "tell me about it." With no signs of labor, we start trying to entice him to make his way into the world in various ways. We go to a hockey game, where I eat a burrito so spicy I was sweating profusely. Spicy burritos and multiple fog-horn blasts do not work. We try karaoke. Nope (though Amy won the Karaoke contest that night!). Next up: Zumba. Zumba at full term is, well, it's a helluva thing, y'all. Mom, Amy, and Kristina joined me and we were all exhausted afterward. I was pretty sure I'd get some kind of reaction out of the kid for all that jumping and bouncing around. I was right. That night I woke up feeling some cramping and Dan called in letting his job know he wouldn't be coming into work. This was Wednesday, I believe. Well, while I did get some action, it was just some Braxton Hicks contractions and the rest of the day I was back to business as usual. Except I got to hang out with Dan all day because his work thought I was in labor.
No more signs of labor for the next couple days and by now I'm a week "overdue." I have what I hope is my last prenatal appointment and my midwife checks my cervix and I'm dilated about 3-3.5cm, which is encouraging since it means I'm at least on my way to labor-ville! She sweeps my membranes, which was an interesting sensation to say the least. We talk about some other natural labor induction methods and I decide to try my hand at castor oil to help get things moving along. Since I was a week overdue at this point we go in for a little ultrasound and a non-stress test to see how kiddo's doing. He's in ship shape so back home I go, with a castor oil assignment to complete.
If you're wondering how effective castor oil is at moving things along in your GI tract, I'm here to tell you: Liz used castor oil and it was SUPER EFFECTIVE. Well, at least at clearing out my gut. Woof. About 20 minutes after taking a shot of castor oil and I scooted my way to the bathroom where things moved along. Everything but the baby. Amy, my photographer, has moved her flight back a few days already and has to fly out. She predicts I'll go into labor in the next day, because of course I would.
Next day I go back into my midwife for another check of my cervix and another membrane sweep. At this point I'm solidly at 4cm, and it's at least encouraging to know that I'm almost halfway dilated already and haven't even had to labor to get there! I go home and decide to do more castor oil and bouncing on my exercise ball. At some point in the past week Dan's parents had arrived (expecting their grandson to already have made his debut), so that night we had a family dinner with both our parents and then make our way to the living room to play some funny board games. As we're playing games, around 8:30-9pm, I start feeling some periodic, light, contraction-like sensations. They keep on coming, staying pretty light, and pretty regular. That night I go to bed to try to get some rest before the work begins, but I don't think I got any. I may have dozed off a bit, but by 2:30-3am rolls around I have to get up and walk around and then I find myself ritually heading to the bathroom to grab the edge of the sink counter, swaying back and forth to get through the contractions. I text Kristina what's going on and she decides to head over.
By 4:45 things are getting pretty intense so Dan heads down to start and warm up the car because it's Alaska in December and temps have been in the negative and single digits. My swaying and moaning get me through my contractions. Our bags head down to the car and I get in the back seat of the red van I've been driving since coming back home. The same red van I would drive to school after getting my license. If you'd told me back then that 15 years later I'd be in the back seat of that same van, in labor, I'd be incredulous. For months there had been a weird, small trash can rolling around the back of the van making tons of noise every time I made a turn. The day before I had finally taken that trash can out of the van, and as I get in the van I grab that trash can and bring it in with me because I'd been feeling a little nauseous and had zero interest in throwing up all over the car. I think the trash can might still be in the back seat...
We get to Alaska Native Medical Center around 5am, maybe 5:30, and go in through the ER, since it's too early to go in the other doors. We head up and go into the L+D Triage where, to my great dismay, I have to lay still for 20 whole minutes while they do another non-stress test. I hadn't stopped moving through my contractions up until this point, even in the car I was swaying and up on my knees, not sitting down, so having to lay down and be still for 20 minutes was a pain. Plus they had to put in a Hep-Lock so that I could be easily hooked up to an IV in the case of an emergency, which I was not anticipating and wasn't thrilled about. So it goes.
My room becomes ready and I shuffle my be-gowned, laboring, self the 50 feet to my room where we get the tub filling and I slip in to begin the work. Things are pretty hazy at this point, not really like in the way that things are fuzzy when you're drunk, but kind of. Everything goes internal and I'm not aware of much outside of like 2 feet from my body. Kristina and Dan are giving me double hip squeezes and I get pretty intimate with the walls of the tub. It's intense and by the time I'm starting to feel a little pushy, I vomit a couple times after contractions and then decide to get out of the tub and move to the toilet. Nurses have been coming in and out periodically checking on Jack's heart rate and, I'm assuming probably, other stuff, but for the most part it's just me, Dan, and Kristina.
By the time I'm on the toilet I'm feeling pretty pushy, and between contractions at one point I'm like... I feel like maybe a midwife should be here... right? Kristina went and let the midwife know that things were happening and at some point she shows up-- again, things are hazy and my sphere of external awareness is pretty small. At first I'm laboring leaning forward on the toilet but as things progress my midwife has me lean back and put one foot on Dan's thigh and one on her thigh, both of whom are kneeling in front of me. In retrospect I can't imagine Dan's staring-down-the-barrel view, I imagine it was intense, to say the least. There is a lot of groaning and pushing. I keep trying to push after my contraction has ended, I just wanted to get it done with, but my midwife tells me to stop pushing when the contraction is over, and my over achieving self complies grudgingly. Mostly I just remember groaning and having her tell me to groan lower and feeling a little ridiculous as I modulate my groans awkwardly from a higher pitch to a low pitch. That and feeling like I might just rip the metal stabilizer bar off the wall with my hulk-like labor strength. I think I probably squeezed Dan's hands or arms or shoulders or something uncomfortably hard.
It didn't take long before the baby plopped out of me and everyone fumbled with this slippery little screaming, bloody new human and placed him on my panting chest. To which I responded, "this is weeeiiirrrdd!" It was, you guys. It was super weird. After that there were lots of hands. Doing various things. Cleaning things, moving things, moving me, stitching me, cleaning Jack. 8:43 AM.
Kristina went and told the parents, who had been anxiously awaiting the news out in the waiting room, that the thing had been done successfully, the new human seemed healthy, and told them to wait a little longer cuz my vag was getting stitched up (I'm also positive she said all of this in a much more lovely way, thanks Kris. This is why you are a doula and I am not). Shortly after all my "housekeeping" is done, the fam files in an ogles the bebe. My Dad ogles him in his own way. As a neonatal intensive care doc, he does his own examination and finds Jack to be a-okay.
After that it's just a lot of chit chat and eventually we moved to the post-birth room for recovery, which is. a. bitch. I had no need of an epidural for the actual birthing, but damn if I didn't want to cut off all sensation to my lower half for like the next week. I may or may not have sobbed in the hospital room on one of the two nights we slept there because I felt like I still loved Dusty the most, my nipples and vagina were in excruciating pain, and Jack was crying and I couldn't make him stop. Some angel nurse came and took him away and magically put him to sleep. Her witchcraft was a godsend.
Oh, you might be wondering, "If your birth photographer had to fly out a day before you gave birth, who took all these photos?" Well, I set up my settings on my camera, handed it to my Doula, Kristina, and between all her amazing Doula support she also pulled double duty as my photographer. Dang.
Anyway, that's pretty much that. We didn't finalize Jack's name until we were basically heading out the door. We had his first name picked out shortly after he was born but could not for the life of us pick his middle name. We were vacillating between Tiberius and Gabel (Star Trek and Against Me! fans may recognize those names) but Dan threw out Polaris at the last minute and it just fit perfectly.
Jack Polaris Morrow it is.