I sat watching the dancing, my hand on my belly, my feet uncomfortably swollen to the point that even flip flops felt too constricting. My wife sat next to me, a look of veiled anxiety that told me what she was thinking: this could literally happen anytime. Heidi is a frickin’ time bomb just waiting to go off.
My sister’s wedding was absolutely beautiful. Her new brother-in-law walked me down the aisle, very sensitive to the pace and support I needed at two days before my due date. I stood just behind her as she said her vows, the Wasatch Mountains framing the scene, and cried tears of joy and gratitude. I made it to the wedding – I would have been devastated to miss it. But it turns out, our little bundle of joy was just biding his time, thoughtfully planning his entrance into the world with perfect timing.
Once we made it through the wedding, I figured baby (we didn’t know gender yet) would probably wait another week or so. Genetics and statistics indicated a late arrival – my mom had 6 out of 7 late, and first babies are often behind schedule. So on that Sunday night I gathered my things for work and settled in for some sleep, determined I would work on Memorial Day (our due date) to bank it for maternity leave.
At 6:30 AM, after a bathroom break and laying back down, the first contraction came. I once asked my Mom what contractions felt like when she had her first baby, and how long it took. In her recounting of my eldest sister’s arrival, she said she thought her contractions were gas pains.
There was no mistaking this for gas pain.
“Sarah, I think it’s happening,” I said. She sat straight up in bed. “Oh God! I have to pack! I have to (blah blah blah blah…I don’t know what she said, cause the pain made my hearing go away).”
“Stay with me,” I said as she was about to jump out of bed to do whatever it was she needed to do.
We thought we’d have time. So after the first contraction, Sarah got up to pack, and I got up to make us both coffee and texted our doula. About 7 minutes later another contraction came. Still time. She told us to have some breakfast and a shower and relax.
Between leaving the kitchen and getting in the shower I had two more contractions. Five minutes apart. That’s when they tell you to head to the hospital.
In the shower they shortened to 4 minutes, then 3.
I got dressed as quickly as I could between quickening contractions. By the time we got in the car they were two minutes apart.
LDS Hospital is about 5 or 10 minutes from home. Which felt like forever as contraction after contraction hit. Sarah dropped me at the front door. I had a contraction in the lobby, a contraction in the elevator, and a contraction in the waiting room outside Labor and Delivery. They were bringing me to my knees at this point, and gave me no time to catch my breath. I forgot all that breathing stuff we learned in labor classes.
As I arrived at the counter to check in, they asked when contractions started, which at this point was just an hour and half prior. They then asked if I was a first time Mom and sat back, clearly feeling there was no rush, when I said yes. They thought I had a while, and this was probably even a false alarm.
Then another one came. I caught my breath enough to say “Ladies, they’re about 30 seconds apart at this stage.”
They jumped into action. By the time Sarah arrived in the room with our luggage I was in a gown, getting hooked up to monitors and bracelets put on and lines placed. When our nurse checked me I was dilated to an 8 (out of 10), and she backed out slowly, afraid she might break my water, which was “above her pay scale.”
I was delirious by now. There were two Sarahs, sometimes three, standing next to me. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. All the classes and books and even the doula said first time moms usually get eased into labor. Haphazard, not too painful contractions convince your body that you can do this before it gets to the really hard part.
“Eureka,” I said weakly. Sarah knew what that meant, since we decided about a week before that we needed a safe word I could use if I was really sure I wanted an epidural. “Eureka. Give me the fucking epidural. Now!”
It took a while for the anesthesiologist to come in, and a while for the epidural to kick in. But it was worth it and I don’t care who judges me for it. Once it kicked in, there was one Sarah again. I coughed and my water broke. We were able to have deep, meaningful conversation during our last hour together as childless adults, as we did “rest and descend.”
When it was time to push, I felt strong and ready. It was hard to know if I was doing the right thing, since I couldn’t feel much. The amazing nurse and our doula coached me, and eventually brought in a mirror so I could see that when I did it the right way, the baby’s head would come out just a little bit more. I could feel the tightening of contractions, if not the pain, and knew when to push. With that, I pushed harder, for about an hour.
At 12:33 PM, our baby arrived – just 6 hours after that first contraction.
“It’s a boy!” the doctor proclaimed.
“Hallelujah!” I said. I thought I would be disappointed if it wasn’t a girl, but I wasn’t. He was perfect. They put him on my chest and I was overwhelmed with all the emotions. I haven’t ceased being overwhelmed since that day.
“So, are you a Thomas, or a Traverse?” I asked him. On cue, he let out a little cry that sounded strikingly like a noise my Dad makes when he is pretending to cry. So, Thomas it was, after his grandfather. His middle name, Nigel, is Sarah’s father’s middle name.
My sister, the new bride, came into our labor room shortly after that, and came straight to me with tears in her eyes.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said. And then she turned to him. “What a thoughtful little boy.”
It’s true. It was true then, as he waited patiently so as not to interrupt his aunt’s wedding, but then arrived just in time for her and all the family still in town to meet him. It was true in that he didn’t make his Mama work too hard or too long.
It’s true today, on his six month birthday. He is thoughtful in how sweet and happy he is. In how observant he is. In his deep, knowing eyes. In how adaptable he is to everything from meeting new people and being handed around, to taking off on adventures involving boats, planes, camping, sand dunes, car rides, and subway trains, to moving between bottle and breast and milk and formula without ever complaining.
He is a thoughtful little boy. And I am a lucky Mama.
Welcome to the world Thomas Nigel. Thank you for six amazing months.