At around 4 p.m. on Sunday, it was pretty clear I was in active labor. We put on some mellow music (the Bonobo station on Pandora, it was like being at an expensive spa) and I got in the shower. This is when things started to get trippy.
In a lot of ways, I found the early labor harder, because my endorphins hadn’t kicked in and I was trying to rationalize what was happening to my body and over think it all and wonder how much time I had left. From our childbirth classes and my reading, I knew that there was some kind of hormonal pain relief that kicks in in labor, but until that shower I didn’t quite believe it. Once I was under the water though, I started to feel a little high. The pain was there, and it was hard, and I was vocalizing and probably scary to watch, but I was feeling weirdly pretty great.
I kept picturing those extreme surfing videos, of these amazing athletes out on an enormous break in Hawaii, committing to each wave. Now, I’m not a surfer, beyond having taken a lesson once in San Diego. But I think the surfing analogy just really resonated with me at the time because it reminded me that it was an athletic endeavor, but you only had to take it one wave at a time.
The doula arrived when I was in the shower, and I remember noting that I was so utterly uninhibited about being buck naked around a relative stranger. Once I got out of the shower, she started to massage my lower back with each contraction. When one was particularly bad (I remember thinking something a long the lines of “Fuck you Ina May Gaskin! You thought this was a good idea?”) the doula told me that that meant that that contraction was doing a lot of work thinning my cervix. It helped to think that the pain was doing something, and when she said things like “You’re that much closer,” I found it really helpful.
We sort of moved from the Pilates ball to our bed to the living room in a weird little circuit, and she’d try to get me to walk a little to help make things move more quickly. It was getting difficult as I was beginning to get an extreme feeling of pressure when I was vertical. Not quite yet a desire to push but something like it. It unnerved me a little bit, as did the amount of blood I was seeing, and in the back of my mind I started to think that we should get to the hospital. The doula didn’t seem to feel that we were in a rush, which I found perplexing. I remember thinking something like “this crazy hippie wants me to have this baby in the bath tub!” Indeed, when I mentioned the hospital, she suggested I get in the tub. But after a while, that sensation of pressure was building even more and I was feeling like it was time to go.
Right then, at about 7:45 p.m. on Sunday, the sky opened up, and we were in the middle of one of the most dramatic thunderstorms I’d ever seen. Will got our bags while I dried off and dressed, and we went down to the car, with me and the doula in the back.
There must have been a concert on the waterfront that night that had been rained out, because the intersection of Bedford and North 6th looked like some kind of Ibiza rave. Hundreds of 20-somethings running this way and that trying to find somewhere dry. It was really odd to be in the quiet car and watching this all unfold.
We got to NYU about 20 minutes later.