Owen Jonathan Miller
July 13, 2013
9lb, 5oz, 22 ½ inches
Owen’s birth story actually began about two years ago, on our way home from the hospital after having Anna. It was then, high on happy hormones, I declared: “When can we do this again?!”
I may have been sore, stitched-up, and sleep deprived but I knew I’d been part of a miracle…and I couldn’t wait to do it all over.
Getting pregnant with Owen so soon after Jonathan finished chemo was both surprising and terrifying. I didn’t take this pregnancy for granted, although there were certainly times near the end that I didn’t think I could take ONE MORE DAY. The last weeks of pregnancy were long and uncomfortable. Between the heat, the building anticipation, and carrying (what I’d later find out) was a very large baby, I found it hard to wait for delivery day.
Because Anna was 10 days early, I made sure to have everything ready in case Owen decided to make an early appearance too. We got the house cleaned, I stocked up on groceries, and I purchased every last baby item we needed.
And then the days ticked by.
As I got closer and closer to baby’s due date—July 12—I started to take matters into my own hands. Anna and I went on daily 1 hour walks. I got an acupressure massage. I bounced on the birth ball. I drank red raspberry leaf tea and took Evening Primrose Oil and ate pineapple and did all the things that supposedly induce labor. I was also visiting the chiropractor every other day to try and get the baby to move from a posterior to anterior position.
I don’t have control issues—I promise.
The day before my due date I visited my midwife who said I was 3cm dilated. She stripped my membranes, which I hoped would help move things along, and we talked about if and when to induce.
On the night of my due date our little family grabbed a cheap pizza and picnicked at the park. I hopped on the swings while we let Anna play because someone said it was (yet another) way to kick-start labor. Then we headed over to Sam and Sharon’s house for the evening because our longtime friends, the Kielys, were coming into town from Santa Barbara. Sam and Sharon had been on standby all week in case I went into labor. In fact, the plan was to send Anna to their house until my parents could arrive to care for her. Around 8:00pm we laid Anna down in one of their bedrooms, and the Kielys arrived soon after.
I felt my first contraction sometime around 9pm, but I wasn’t positive it was actually a contraction. During Anna’s labor my water broke at home before any contractions started, and I eventually needed Pitocin to make labor progress. Because of the way her labor went I felt somewhat like a first time mom as I anticipated how and when labor would start with baby number two.
At first I didn’t say anything about my contractions. I wanted SO badly to go into labor while the Kielys were visiting that I thought perhaps I might be imagining things. While everyone ate and chatted I stayed quiet about my cramping pains. After about 45-60 minutes I casually mentioned that I might be feeling contractions.
There couldn’t have been a better crew to labor with than Sam, Sharon, Jeremiah, Kristi and Jonathan. We moved our party to the living room, turned the 80s music up, and got silly. The pains I was feeling were low in my abdomen and easy to talk through. Sharon got out her Bradley birthing class notes and gave me some labor tips. The gang also convinced me to do lunges, and then Sam and Miah decided that “twerking” would be a great way to speed things along.
If you don’t know what twerking is—because I didn’t—here’s a quick definition:
“Twerking is a dance move that involves a person shaking their upper hips and lower hips in an up and down bouncing motion, causing them to shake, ‘wobble’ and ‘jiggle.'” To “twerk” means to “dance in a sexually suggestive fashion by twisting the hips.”
Needless to say, between the twerking and Sam’s song selections (Salt N Pepa’s “Push It”) we had a lot of fun at my awkward expense. Jonathan began timing my contractions—which were very inconsistent—and we continued to hang out with our friends. I assumed the baby was still posterior, which can often mean longer labors, back labor, and inconsistent contractions, so I figured that IF I was in labor, it’d be a long night.
At 11:00pm a few of us decided to walk to McDonald’s to see if it would help speed things along. (Thankfully I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to order a McFlurry.) My contractions continued and by 11:30pm we agreed that Jonathan and I should leave Anna for the night and head home to get some rest.
Ha. Rest. That’s funny.
When we got home my contractions were getting stronger but they still weren’t terrible. I was too excited to sleep, so I got to work in the kitchen baking some of the frozen cookie dough I’d made earlier in the week for the nurses. I also finished packing my bags and took a shower. Sometime between 12:30-1:00am, the contractions went to a new level. Not only were they painful, but they were all over the place in terms of time. Sometimes they’d come every 7-8 minutes, but often they were coming every 2-4 minutes. At 1:40am we called the hospital to ask if I should come in. The nurse told me to continue timing the contractions and call back in an hour. At 2:40am, when we called back, I could barely talk. The nurse—bless her ignorant heart—said something like, “I suppose you could start making your way over here.”
Yeah, I suppose.
By the time I got settled in the car, I was shaking uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “I felt this way right before I began pushing with Anna…I can’t be that far along, could I?”
Oh but I was.
Our drive to the hospital took about 20 minutes. As Jonathan sped up the freeway to Roseville I turned into somewhat of a monster—whining about him not going fast enough, whining about him going too fast, and then whining about the music being too loud. I remember saying, “I never felt this kind of pain with Anna! And they’re just coming so fast!”
I hobbled into the birthing center a little after 3:00am. The nurses on duty were calm and collected, and asked me to give them a urine sample. The task sounded impossible—and it nearly was. Finally, after watching me breathe through several back-to-back contractions, one of them said, “Honey, you look like you’re really far along. Let’s check you.”
Thank goodness someone was being perceptive because I was 8cm dilated!
I was hoping to deliver with a midwife, but when you show up at the hospital at 8cm dilated, you take whatever breathing human is available. Dr. Robinson was wonderful—absolutely wonderful—and so was Nurse Julie who stayed by my side through the whole thing. It’s a funny thing, really, to share such an intimate life moment with complete strangers. I’m convinced, after two hospital births, that labor and delivery nurses are special types of humans, and they might even be angels in disguise.
By the time they got me into a labor room, things were getting more than a little crazy. Jonathan was missing in action—I’d later find out they’d cornered him in the admitting department trying to collect payment—and I was begging for an epidural. (Note: these are the reasons some people hate hospital births, and I have to admit, trying to collect payment while your wife is in transition: NOT COOL.)
I’ve seen enough movies to know that at 8cm dilated, you’d better start PRAYING if you want an epidural. Deep down in the bottom of my heart, I saw the writing on the wall: the epidural was probably going to be impossible.
The next half hour is somewhat of a blur. There was a flurry of nurses called in, and a really dumb resident physician who asked me if I’d thought about birth control options after baby, and an admitting clerk who wanted my signature on multiple documents. Thank goodness for sweet Nurse Julie who finally shooed them all away, saying, “She’s in transition right now—she can’t answer these questions!” I also remember Jonathan sternly telling the admitting clerk to leave me alone or let him sign the document.
My water broke in a huge surprising gush around 3:45am, and I remember being glad that no one was sitting down by my legs when it happened. I think I kept my eyes closed through most of the activity—because it took too much energy to keep them open—and between contractions I’d say things like, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and “Am I breathing okay?” and “If you had to guess, when do you think this is all going to be over?”
At 4:00am I began pushing. It was terribly hard work, and the worst part about feeling everything was not feeling like I was making progress. With an epidural there is little sensation—a nurse tells you when to push, and for how long. Without an epidural, I was in charge. I let everyone know when a contraction was starting, and the power felt both thrilling and scary. I read somewhere that there are two kinds of women: those who want to let their bodies be in charge during delivery, and those who like the direction and guidance of medicine and medical staff. And while I was really, really amazed at what my body was capable of doing, I think I fall in the latter camp.
Jonathan was a champ through the whole delivery. I hesitate to say that he surprised me, because I don’t want anyone to think he’s not an incredible partner, but after Anna’s birth he admitted to being somewhat traumatized by how much he saw down there. As I made noises that sounded like a dying animal, I worried I might be scaring him. But the few times I peaked open my eyes he appeared cool as a cucumber! My sweet husband rose to the challenge of natural childbirth in the same way I was forced to do so. I have a whole new level of love and admiration for him.
At 4:32am, Dr. Robinson placed Owen on my chest where he wailed and squirmed. Neither Jonathan or I cried—in fact—I think both of us laughed. We could hardly believe it! A baby! How did he come out so fast?! How did we just survive the last hour?! Did I, the unofficial poster girl for epidurals, really just go through natural childbirth?!
My experience immediately after delivering Owen is very different from that of delivering Anna, for a variety of reasons. With Anna, the epidural allowed me to not pay attention to any of third stage of labor (placenta delivery, stitches, etc.) With Owen, I was aware of all the activity going on down south. Additionally, we decided to bank Owen’s cord blood, which took some time for the doctor to collect. I was trying to enjoy holding Owen but it was hard to do so between the cord collection, delivering the placenta and feeling some of the stitching.
Finally the room cleared out and Jonathan and I were able to marvel in our new baby, nurse, and eventually watch him get weighed, measured and bathed. Although no one guessed he’d be on the larger side—my intuitions were eventually confirmed: 9lb, 5oz and 22 ½ inches. A big guy! Everyone says he looks like Jonathan, but all I can see is Anna in his face. To me, they look very much alike as newborns. And, for anyone curious, he turned anterior before making his debut. No sunny side up baby for us. Thank goodness! It hurt enough with him turned the right way.
A few hours after delivery we moved to the postpartum room upstairs where we stayed through the next day. Sharon and Kristi came to visit, and then Brent (all the way from London!) and Brad. My parents and Allison brought Anna that afternoon and we presented her with gifts and attention while she tried to ignore the baby. My favorite moment is when our little family crammed on the hospital bed together. I can hardly believe we have two children!
After my parents left Jonathan and I continued our delivery night tradition by bringing in Mikuni sushi. We enjoyed a glass of champagne with the Gadd family and then settled into our first night as Owen’s parents. I turned on the little battery candles I brought with me to the hospital, lowered my bed, and gazed at my baby through his plastic cradle. As much as I was (and still am) very tired, I am also incredibly happy.
There is nothing like the newborn days. Nothing. And I can only hope we’re fortunate enough to do this all again someday.
But next time I’ll be heading to the hospital a tad bit sooner.