It all started at 2am on Friday the 13th of March. Some may argue it started the day before when I was in Chicago for lunch with a colleague and client and then a happy hour and gala Thursday night. (I certainly YOLO-ed it up until the last moment!) I did eat a delicious raw oyster Thursday night at The Harbor House so that may have done it. (Side Note: Totally worth it.) I woke up at 2 am to my dog staring at me and whining, and then a text message from my best friend Tetter in Arizona. My first question was for my dog, Sushi, and that was, “What the heck? Go back to bed!” (Side Note: She’s a really good sleeper so it was very unusual for her to be awake and alert at that time of night) My second question was for Tetter and that was “What the heck are you texting me for at 2 am?” Turns out both of them had their spidey senses on, because I was having contractions.
Tetter had me download this contraction timer app, and the app told me that my contractions were a minute or so long and 5 minutes apart. Both Tetter and the app then told me to go take a shower and eat a meal. I took the shower, shaved my legs, and blow dried my hair but didn’t eat because I wasn’t hungry. (Side Note: I’m an idiot.) After the shower I timed my contractions again and they were about a minute long and 4 minutes apart. Both the app and Tetter then told me to make sure my bag had everything I needed. So I put away some laundry. (Side Note: Dumb.) After that they were about a minute long and 3 minutes apart so both Tetter and the app told me to call my ride to the hospital.
I call my neighbor, Apostoli. Apostoli is a friend of mine who lives in the same building I do. We are the same age and over the past couple of years have become good friends At this point it’s 3 am. I say: “Hi! Can you take me to the hospital?”, Him: “Why?” (Side Note: This has always been the plan, he’s been calling himself “The Waterboy” for months) Me: “Because I’m having a baby. Can you meet in the lobby in 10 minutes?” (I would be discombobulated as well if I got a call at 3 o’clock in the morning!)
5 minutes later he’s at my door grabbing my bag and the baby’s car seat and acting with a sense of urgency. Which I am not. We get down to the lobby and he already has his car pulled up and heated. On the way to the hospital I’m fairly chipper (Side Note: The contractions just feel like period cramps at this point so I’m not super uncomfortable) and asking him if he thinks we should go through the McDonald’s drive through just in case. (Side Note: Have you seen McMillions on HBO? Mind blowing.) He looked at me sideways and said, “Did you call your mom?” I told him I was going to wait until they checked me in and were for sure going to keep me. He said he was going to wait with me until my mom got there. I said, “No. You’re going to drop me off at the door and then go home.” He looked at me with horror and said, “Um, we obviously didn’t discuss this part of the plan. I’m not doing that.”
We pull up to West Allis Memorial Hospital (Side Note: I was born there!). I get out and thank him for the ride. He rolls his eyes, gets out of the car, grabs my bag and the car seat and follows me inside. I roll my eyes, we head to the emergency OB wing. We get in, I walk to the check in desk and say, “Hello! I would like to check in. I’m having contractions that are 3 minutes apart.” I then turn around and say to Apostoli, “You can go now”. He looks at me with horror and goes to the counter of nurses who are staring at us with confusion and amusement in their eyes. I can tell he’s asking them to take care of me until my mom gets here. I shout, “He’s just the neighbor!” I finally convince him to leave, he reluctantly does, and I smile at the nurses who are staring at me in horror. I realize they think I just forced my baby daddy to leave. I say, “Oh no, he really is just the neighbor, he gave me a ride, I’m doing this alone.” Still blank stares. I point to my stomach and say, “IUI and Sperm Donor.” At this point they all let out a sign of relief and laugh. One of them says, “Damn, that’s a nice neighbor” and one of them looks at me and says, “OMG, I thought you were just [messing] with him!”
They then put me in triage and set me up with monitors on my belly. One to measure the baby’s heart rate, and one to measure my contractions. They checked my cervix. (&$%* I hate that more than anything) I was one centimeter dilated and 60% effaced. They ask if my water broke, to which I didn’t know. They roll their eyes. (Man, lots of eye rolling in such a short period of time!) I thought it might be a little moist downtown, and the night before I thought I peed my pants a little on the way to the bathroom, but peeing my pants had become fairly normal the past couple of weeks so maybe it happened in the shower? Since I wasn’t sure, they swabbed me and told me it takes 20 minutes to get the results to find out if my water did break or if they were going to send me home. (Imagine me thinking about getting sent home. I for sure was going to be calling an Uber and not putting Apostoli through that trauma again. He now calls himself, “The Godfather”)
The doctor who swabbed me peeked her head in 20 minutes later and says, “Your water broke. We are admitting you. You’re having a baby!”
I call my mom (It’s probably 5am at this point) and she gets really excited and says, “It’s the 13th!” What’s interesting about this is that March 13th was my Grandpa’s birthday. Ever since he passed 11 years ago, I laid claim to his name for my firstborn son, even threatening my sister in laws for the rights to the name on their marriage nights. (Side Note: Clayton’s middle name is Jonathan. That’s my brothers name. So Clayton is named after my grandpa and my brother, two of the most amazing men I know in this world. Since Clayton doesn’t have a father (yet) I wanted to make sure he knew he was surrounded by amazing male influences) I told my mom not to get exited because the doctor and nurse were smugly telling me that I was going to be there for a LONG time. Apparently first-time moms are in labor for days sometimes and I wasn’t dilated enough for them to think the baby was coming anytime soon.
By the time my mom got there around 6am, things had gone from 0-60 in 7 seconds. I was 2 cm and 80% effaced and starting to swear like a sailor. (Yeah, I guess that isn’t anything new and exciting is it?) I had previously told the nurse I was going to be going au natural with the birth like my mom did because anything my mom can do, I can better. Apparently, they’ve all hear that before because the nurse went over my pain options with me anyways. About 10 minutes later after a few rip roarin’ contractions, I asked her to tell me a little more about the oral pain option, and she left the room to get it. Minutes later when she came back with the oral pain meds, I asked her to tell me a little more about the epidural. (Side Note: What the actual heck with contractions, that shit is serious business.) Because it was now around 7 am I had to deal with a little thing called “shift change” and didn’t get the epidural until 7:30 am. Most brutal 30 minutes of my life.
Let’s talk a little about this epidural business. It’s officially a yes for me. I had previously been a no, or an “I’ll go as long as I can”, but now I’m 100% yes. They put a little drugs in your back and you just can’t feel your belly or downtown area. You can feel everything else! Legs and feet move… In fact, I guess I had a pretty good one because everyone kept complimenting my epidural. I was like, “Thank you, we’re pretty happy with it as well.” My favorite part of the epidural was the catheter. I stayed SUPER hydrated and never had to go to the bathroom! I drank about 80 gallons of chicken broth and apple juice so my bag was extra orangish yellow and had to be emptied all the time. I wish it was socially acceptable to tip nurses for all their hard work.
My labor and delivery nurse was freaking amazingly unbelievable. At one point when she wasn’t in the room, I called the nursing station and said, “I can feel something moving in my vagina.” She comes in laughing and said that everyone heard me say that, and then got them to give me a booster in my epidural. Drugs are amazing.
My SIL Natalie was supposed to be there to pull the baby out, but she was sick and devastated to miss the occasion. My mom stepped in enthusiastically as volunteer for the downtown business part of things and made it her job to investigate every check they did on my lady bits. A special “You’re Welcome” to all the people that stared into my lower abyss for gritting my teeth and bearing through that Brazilian wax the week before. In lieu of Natalie, my best friend Cynthia was magically off of work and had a sitter, so she stopped and picked up lunch for her and my mom and came to the hospital to be my birthing partner.
This is where things get exciting. I napped from epidural time to pushing time. Yes, epidurals are that good. Around 3 pm, Cynthia and my mom snuggled on the sofa with an iPad and a headphone splitter to watch “This Is Us” together. Around 3:01, I abruptly woke and shouted, “I’m going to poop!” and the nurse ran in smiling saying, “We’re having a baby!” The room then filled with people. A surgical tech set up a table of interesting contraptions for the doctor, and 2 people from the NICU came in ready to assist the baby if need be. (You may remember, the baby has a Persistent Left Superior Vena Cava, so it was all hands on deck if the baby came out struggling) Cynthia grabbed one knee, the nurse grabbed the other, and the doctor and my mom took the downtown view with the surgical tech behind them.
Sidenote: Earlier in the day, the nurse had goaded me a little. She said new moms can push for hours so I shouldn’t get too excited about the baby coming out right away. Then she said, “But you seem pretty feisty. I bet you would be a good pusher.” I, of course, replied, “HELL YEAH I’m going to be a good pusher.” I don’t know how in such a short period of time she identified my character strengths and weaknesses, but she wins. I was actively in a competition with myself to push that baby out as fast as I could.
When it was time to push, I would push 3 times with each contraction. Each push was 10 seconds long, all in one breath out, and one big breath in between the pushes. I was told to curl my body like a shrimp when I did, and push with all my might. About 45 minutes later, someone grabbed my hand and let me feel the head coming out. SO COOL. Knowing it was that close, I gave it my all and pushed the baby out. To put that in perspective. Imagine an alien movie. And then imagine a slimy alien being squeezed through a tiny hole and you could feel all of that happening, each and every slimy body part. That’s how that felt. TMI? Then the baby cried, the doctor showed the baby to my mom, my mom screamed, “It’s a boy!” and then my mom cut the cord. They then threw Clayton on my chest and he looked me in the eye and stopped crying, and that’s when I had the most euphoric, out of body, primal, powerful, unexplainable reaction I’ve ever had and never imagined. I made that tiny human from scratch and he lived inside me upside down for almost a year and then there he was staring me in the eye and basically recognizing me and loving me unconditionally all in a moment. What. A. Miracle. Cynthia caught this live photo of that happening, and I can’t even think of that moment without getting choked up. I’m honored and wildly grateful to have experienced it.
Clayton and I stared at each other for a whole hour while the room cleared out and the doctor did some damage control downtown. I had it pretty good, only a second-degree tear. It sure looked like she was in The Wizard of Oz when they are putting the scarecrow back together. I could imagine her singing in her head, “A stitch stitch here, a stitch stitch there and a couple of la dee das! That’s how we work the day away in the merry old land of West Allis Memorial Hospital!” My placenta was interesting. I asked to see it. It was awesome.
When they finally took Clayton out of my arms they measured him, weighed him and performed his first test, the Apgar Score (which he got a 9 out of 10 on. Such a winner.) Cynthia then delivered into my arms a Chicken Cheddar Sub from Cousins that she had gotten for me at lunch and kept in the fridge for me knowing I would need it. Besides Clayton, it was the second-best thing I had ever held in my hands that day. It was life.
So there it is! Clayton’s birth story. A day to be remembered by all as that also was the day shit hit the fan with the Coronavirus. Happy to be locked inside with this little nugget but also can’t wait for the world to meet him!