A Late Arrival Comes Early

As my son Sam was insulated in amniotic fluid during pregnancy, I was also insulated from the full reality of what giving birth would be like. But I was ready to experience it. As ready as a rookie can be. At 36, I had waited for motherhood longer than many women.

My original due date, believe it or not, was Valentine’s Day. Wouldn’t that have been cute—a little Valentine born on Valentine’s Day? The outfit we had gotten for the hospital was white with red hearts all over. With our name, any day on the calendar would fit.

My due date was moved up to February 7, and my pregnancy continued to go smoothly. We had done all the prenatal classes and included my stepchildren Arthur and Emily, then 10 and 7, in as many ways as we could. Understandably so, they had mixed feelings about a new family member. They were convinced shortly after Sam’s birth, however, that a baby in the family was a pretty cool thing. Each had created some artwork at the sibling prenatal class for Sam’s hospital bassinet and added to it after he was born.

I had read up on the birthing experience as well as having talked to some veterans. Of course, there is no way to fully know this experience until you actually fully live it. It remains partly a mystery to me as well as one of the most incredible happenings in my life.

Sleep was coming in shorter intervals, as was time between trips to the bathroom. I developed a bit of a waddle when I walked. My plan was to continue to work at least through January. Sam had different plans.

After going to the hospital on Tuesday, January 22 because of some potential signs of labor, I was assured all was well and it could be days or even weeks before real labor was rolling. I went to work the next day feeling pretty good. As the day went on, I was feeling more contractions. My friend Julie could tell too, and she, with her own birthday the next day, predicted that she and Sam would end up sharing birthdays. She was right.

I had a meeting after school and in recent days had taken to leaving for the day as if I may not be back for a while. Good thing. At home, the evening progressed as did my contractions. I couldn’t get to sleep and after 10:00 p.m. we started timing my contractions. They never got consistent, but they were definitely increasing in frequency and intensity. I remember thinking to myself “If this isn’t the real thing, I don’t know if I can handle the real thing.” I kept moving and used counter pressure through contractions by pushing against the wall. Darcy was an outstanding and supportive coach through it all.

We called the hospital at 12:30 a.m. and the nurse recommended a warm bath to see if things eased up. They didn’t and we were at the hospital by 2:00 a.m., knowing we could be sent home. But when the nurse checked me at about 2:30, I was already dilated to 4 or 5. Her comment was something along the lines of “You’ve been busy” or “You’ve done a lot of work.”

We went to the birthing room and our doctor was on her way. By 4:00 a.m. I was in the push phase. I may have forgotten some aspects of labor and delivery, but I will never forget that overwhelming urge to push. What an amazing and natural process! Other than a little oxygen between the last few pushes, I needed no medications or other assistance. That had been our hope.

At 4:52 a.m. on Thursday, January 24, 2002 Samuel Arthur arrived safe and sound, an early bird just like his mom. Shortly after, my newborn and I were skin to skin. I was in awe. And so appreciative of my husband Darcy. We have been a good pair though it all, from conception to delivery, and since.

Here is that precious artwork from Arthur and Emily and also Darcy and I each with our little Valentine in appropriate, though way too big, attire:

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