The contractions start at 4 a.m. on Saturday. I recognize this cramping feeling. I peer out the window to gauge the daylight and roll over and drift back to sleep. At 5 a.m., I can’t sleep. I pick up my glowing phone and click on the “contraction” app: 60 seconds. 7-8 minutes apart. Hm, this could be it.
A. wakes at 5:30. “I think I’m having contractions,” I say. Nonchalant. We slowly get up, take a shower and pack our bags. I throw on a skirt. A. wakes ups my mother-in-law. “Is this it?” she says, beaming, in her pajamas. She hurries into the bathroom to get ready. I press my hands on the wall as I bear the peak of a contraction.
My best guy friend from college sleeps in the living room, his face buried in the dark brown couch. He has to catch a flight that morning from LAX. I eat a bowl of homemade granola in the dark kitchen.
I wander back toward the bedroom.
A.: “How are they now?”
He’s whispering. We’re in the hallway, near the bathroom.
Me: “Three minutes apart.” (I had one that was two apart, but didn’t tell A.)
A.: “Let’s go, I don’t want to deliver in the bathtub.”
Me: “OK, but I don’t want to be in the hospital monitored for too long.”
The door to the garage is open. The car sits in the driveway, the driver door is ajar.
I take a carrot muffin out of the freezer and reluctantly climb into the passenger seat. We drive to the hospital as the sun rises, orange over the horizon. At 6:30, we sit in the hospital parking lot, while I munch on a half-frozen muffin and we chat with my parents in Michigan.
“We’re going in,” I says. “It could be false labor, but we’ll keep you posted.”
By 7 a.m., I’m in a labor and delivery bed, the last one available. The contractions are sharp, but easy to manage by myself. I’m most comfortable lying on my left side, holding on to the bed railing. “Get to the top, get to the top, get to the top,” is my silent mantra.
By 8 a.m., I am 8 centimeters dilated. The anesthesiologist comes into the room. I’m debating whether to have drugs at all. It’s too late for an epidural, but he gives me a spinal, a pinch in my lower back. My legs turn numb and heavy. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that,” I say, panicked I won’t be able to push.
The doctor breaks my water, three pushes, and Curtis Paul Olsen is born at 8:43. 7 pounds, 4 ounces. 20 inches long. I see his head emerge, a vision I’ll never forget. I am floored by how easy it was compared with C.’s birth.
The next early afternoon, we are home, enjoying the newborn snuggles, his skin soft like the petal of a flower, his smell intoxicating.
A. finished his latest wood projects just in time: A homemade co-sleeper (we borrowed one last time in D.C.) and a changing table for our room so we wouldn’t have to take the dresser out of C.’s room. (Little man, I should say, is rocking the potty training and is so far sweet to his baby brother.)
There is so much more to my pregnancy story — my fear of delivering in the desert, my frustration with being over-monitored, the doctors’ treating me as if I had gestational diabetes even though I passed the tests — which I will share later. As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I thought: I wish I was back in D.C.
But being here, now, in the sun in February, in the desert, in the quiet, in this house, with my healthy baby, and my (now) three boys — there is absolutely no place I’d rather be.