Part 1 of Landon's Birth Story is here. Part 2 of Landon's Birth Story is here.
For the next few contractions, I kept the pushy sensation to myself. I felt like I needed to be sure it was a push feeling and not just a new intensity feeling. To find out, I gave in to the pushing urge once and it felt so good that I knew it was real. Justin held me up as I leaned into him. I took deep gulps of air from where my face was buried in his chest, drawing his strength into myself.
"I feel very pushy," I said to the room in general.
The room responded with a resounding "Try not to push!" My nurses were awesome, but I always marvel at how they imagine one goes about not pushing when the baby's ready to come. It's as right as scratching an itch. As essential as closing your eyes during a sneeze. As inescapable as a yawn begetting a yawn. Pushing just is.
Within five minutes, my doctor arrived cheerfully in the room. He's very used to coaching medicated mothers; he's known for excellent, powerful, early epidurals. He was confronted with me and my control issues in all my moaning glory, and still, he was jolly. "Alright! We gonna have a baby?!"
I didn't respond. I was too busy pretending not to push through contractions. The doctor wanted to check my progress, but I refused to move from the corner of the bed where I'd been perched for most of the labor. "That's okay, you just stay put," he said. "I can work where you are."
I have no idea how he did it, but he checked me while I sat mostly upright, and declared me to be almost there. The hustle of nurses began -- moving supplies into position, arranging the bed just-so -- and still I did my laboring. The instruction to crawl further onto the bed and get ready to push had me both worried and relieved; I expected the freedom to push would feel as divine as it had with Lauren, but I knew what pushing led to: crowning.
I think mothers must be more equipped than most to handle the promise of unpleasantness. We stiffen our spines, bite our lips, and forge ahead, because there's nothing for it. There's only one way forward.
At 5:39, I pushed a medically sanctioned push for the first time. I'd been expecting some relief from the pain of contractions while pushing, but I was completely unrelieved. That first push felt awful -- ineffective and blocked and awful.
"You need to sit up a little bit, Sarah." The doctor told me to tilt my hips forward. "Baby's head is stuck on your pubic bone...that's better....now on this next push, you give it ALL you've got, okay? Really push as deep as you can."
I felt the next contraction building as he spoke, and I started to push. Like I was born to push. Like this was the pushing championship and I would die if I didn't win. Like this push would determine the fate of the world. Absently, I felt wetness around my eyes and realized I was crying. Weeping, actually. When the push was over, I leaned my head back and despaired.
"I can't...I can't..." I spoke in whispers, too tired and scared to raise my voice.
Justin and Jill were each supporting my legs, and one of them -- maybe both of them -- said "You are, Sarah! You ARE!"
And even though I couldn't do it again, I did. That was the third push. Tears still streamed. When Lauren was born, I pushed for an hour. I cried because I couldn't bear to imagine an hour of this intensity, and I cried because I wanted to see my son, and I cried because I thought I must be doing it wrong if it hurt so bad.
The doctor was busy. He looked up at me after my third push and said, "Alright, now with this next push, you'll do it."
"Do what...?" I panted. I was confused. What was left to do? Was the head still behind my pubic bone? Would the next push ease that awful pain? Everyone stared at me for a beat of silence. Jill smiled.
The doctor was straight-faced. "What do you think -- we're gonna take your appendix out!" I didn't laugh. He looked at my mom. "Not the best time for a joke, huh?" He turned back to me. "Sarah, you'll have this baby on the next push."
I think I smiled, but I can't be sure; the next contraction curled around me and I pushed against it. I burned and screamed and died and blew away on a violent wind -- and there was Landon -- and I was alive again.
I reached down for his purple hands, and when the doctor said so, I gently pulled my baby boy the rest of the way free. "You can let go now, Sarah." But I couldn't. Landon was gripping my thumbs so tightly that I couldn't bear to break loose.
Then he was on my chest, being rubbed and wiped and marveled over, crying with strong, loud lungs.
I kissed him and whispered. We did it, baby boy. We did it.
Happy Birthday, Landon Asher. You are light and joy and fresh air and laughter. We love you!