Contractions started in the evening, but we didn't know they were contractions. Sharayah just said she was having funny feelings. As we went to bed we timed them and found they were regular (about 30 seconds every 9 or 10 minutes), but since everyone said, adamantly, "you'll know they're contractions when you feel them," we weren't sure. There was a lot of "well what else could they be?", but how can you be sure when you've never had contractions and everyone says you'll definitely know from feeling them? At any rate, they were far apart and not too bothersome, so we went to bed.
Saturday, September 13
Sharayah was woken up at 4 am by contractions. Finally at 6 am she woke me up to let me know. At that point I think we were fairly confident (or at least I was) that they were definitely contractions. Forget what everyone said, you can have contractions and not know what they are. They were only slightly closer together and still about 30 seconds long, but they were intense enough to be uncomfortable, not just strange. For most of the morning and afternoon, they stayed about the same. We knew this was at least early labor, but weren't sure if active labor would be starting any time soon - some people have this early stage for a week, ugh. We relaxed throughout the day. Had some snacks. Tried to finalize packing our bag (that was actually a trick to get Lucas to come sooner - if the bag wasn't packed, maybe he would come sooner to teach us a lesson).
At some point in the early afternoon Sharayah managed a nap. My parents sent out a group text to us and my siblings (and their wives) about everyone sending in guesses on when Lucas would be born and what he would weigh. We stayed pretty quiet on that front. The earliest anyone guessed was the 16th, so I guess we didn't spoil it by accidentally dropping hints. We watched some of Sharayah's favorite Friends episodes (at least, episodes that at the time came to her mind as ones she thought were funny). We saw the one with the moo point, bamboozled, the pyramid game show, and the one where Joey speaks French (or, more accurately, doesn't speak French). Apparently, Joey being a dope is funny to laboring Sharayah. And we waited to see if the contractions would reach that critical point (1 minute long, 5 minutes apart) where it's time to call the birth center.
Finally, around 8:30 pm, they had been 5 minutes apart for some time but were still only about 45 seconds long. We decided to call in. The midwife thought perhaps they were actually longer (since we stopped counting when the intensity started to decrease, rather than when it was completely over), but told us that it may or may not be that night, so we should just relax, get plenty of rest, and call if they get a lot closer. At least she confirmed for us that this was most likely actual labor, and we'd probably see active labor that night or the next day. She told us to take a break from timing contractions until they seemed closer or longer.
Some time around 10 pm, while things seemed to be the same, we went to bed and put on Muppet Christmas Carol. We still weren't sure whether we'd be sleeping through the night or not. At some point during the movie we fell asleep. I woke up to Sharayah groggily telling me she thought her water broke. I felt something warm, and for some reason I was surprised. Water was clear (a good sign) and Sharayah got in the shower. We tried to time contractions for a few minutes while she was in there so we'd know how long they were when we called the midwife after the shower. It was tricky. Contractions were suddenly much more intense - I had to help Sharayah stay standing during some contractions. For me it settled in that this was definitely the night. It was pretty late though, so obviously birth would be the next day.
At 11 pm we called in the water breaking and the rate of contractions which were hard to time since she was showering (I think that slowed them down, as well) and we hadn't been keeping track while we were asleep. She said basically that tonight was probably the night but she'd call back in a half hour to get a better read on the timing, or we could call sooner if anything changed. Things started to get blurry and intense. Sharayah needed me to put pressure on her back throughout contractions to make them bearable. I was (probably frantically) gathering everything up so we could leave - we had a few more things to put in the bag, as well as getting the car seat and who knows what else; it seemed like a lot of things to get ready but now I don't remember anything we hadn't already gotten ready. Contractions were getting really close - under 3 minutes apart and always at least a minute long, very close to the final stage of labor - and really intense. Lots of excitement mingled with fear flooded the whole apartment, I think. At some point in there the midwife called and told us to come in. I don't know if she actually waited a half hour. I finally got everything ready to go - at the end Sharayah had to tell me she'd have to do a few contractions on her own while I finished, because it would take too long if I spent over a minute of every 2 minutes helping her through contractions. I got everything in the car and we left. Sharayah was a trooper on the way there. I couldn't help through contractions but she just breathed through them and fell asleep in between.
Sunday, September 14
Shortly after midnight we arrived at the birth center. It took two contractions just to get to the second floor where our birth room was located. I was doing all I could to comfort Sharayah. It was very emotional for me from here on. Up until water breaking, the contractions weren't too uncomfortable, and from water breaking to arriving at the birth center it was a whirlwind of getting things finished and adrenaline and excitement, but from here it was waiting and watching Sharayah fight intense aching pain for 60 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of exhausted rest. When we got to the room, the midwife checked Sharayah's dilation - 7 cm - and said everything looked good and we just needed to wait it out until 10 cm. By 1 am we were in a steady rhythm of breathing through contractions and resting between them. The midwife was impressed by Sharayah's relaxation technique and asked if we'd taken a hypnobirthing class (we hadn't, but out breathing was really good, if I can pat myself on the back for something like breathing).
The hours from 1 to 4 am were incredibly hard. Sharayah was exhausted and just wanted to be done. Progress had been really swift and was suddenly at a stand-still. Several times the midwife checked Sharayah's dilation and thought it was still just a touch under 10 cm, the point where you start pushing. At some point during those 3 hours we walked up and down the stairs to help Lucas move down the pelvis, Sharayah took another shower (during which she slept deeply between contractions) and we continued breathing and waiting. The pain was debilitating for Sharayah, and it was very hard to watch her suffer so much. All I could do was apply pressure to just the right area on her back, breath with her, and give as much contact and soothing words as I could. I found that I really enjoyed her crushing my hands or whatever else she happened to grab during contractions. It made me feel more a part of what was happening. I didn't tell her at the time but she repeatedly rendered my fingers numb. Just to be clear, there's no satire here, I really, truly relished her crushing grip. I only had to ask her once to let up, when she had my thumb at a particularly bad angle and I truly believed it was on the verge of breaking. I waited as long as I could, whispered, "my thumb," and she let up a little. We spent a lot of time with Sharayah propped up on her side on the bed and me beside the bed/half in the bed supporting her. I never really felt tired, but I could see the fatigue wearing Sharayah further and further down. I comforted her and prayed with her and waited with her. I told her we were almost there, and we'd see Lucas soon, and we could finally hold him and see if he had lots of hair and find out whose eyes he had.
Not long after 4 am, it was finally time to push. The midwife didn't think it would be too long from there, since Lucas's head was so low already. In many ways the pushing stage was a relief - the waiting was finally over, and we knew this was the last stage we'd have to go through. Still, Sharayah was already more tired than I've ever seen anyone, and at the end of each push she seemed ready to pass out. She asked a lot how much more she'd have to do. She was incredibly brave and pushed again every time she was asked, every time there was a contraction. Eventually I could see the top of Lucas's head. I thought, just maybe, I could see hair. After an undefinable amount of time, after pushing and waiting and praying and pushing and waiting and praying, enough of his head was out that he clearly had a whole bushy head of hair. This might seem insignificant to many, but it was just one of those things Sharayah had been hoping for. She had dreams where Lucas was born bald and she was devastated (in the dream) about it. Here, now, finally, I could give her some good news to carry her through. He's really here. He's coming. I can see his head. And he has hair. Lots of hair. Beautiful black hair, just like his mom's. She actually smiled when she heard me say it.
I've never seen anyone show more resolve in anything than when I watched Sharayah give birth to Lucas. She so wanted to stop, to rest, for it to be over, for Lucas to be there and in her arms, but she just kept going and going. I've never been more proud of anyone than of Sharayah for pressing on and getting through that labor. When we got to the end, in my memory the amount of time between that final moment when his head was out and I could see his ears and (closed) eyes and mouth and nose to the time they told me to cut the cord and put Lucas in Sharayah's arms was under a minute. I'm sure it was longer than that, but that's all I can remember. He was finally here, the great struggle was over. I never got why the shoulders are easier than the head, but once his head was out he really just slid right out. Out came Lucas at 5:46 am. I don't remember why it came up, but I never went to the bathroom from the time Sharayah's water broke to the time Lucas was born. I just didn't want to leave Sharayah alone. Once Lucas was out, he breathed immediately - not cried, just breathed - and he was beautiful and he didn't look like a worm or a prune or anything, he was just pink all the way to his hands and feet and he got a perfect 10 on his Apgar. They wrapped him up and gave him to Sharayah. We just looked at him for a month or so, or maybe an hour, or a year, and he fed at some point, and they came back and weighed him (7 pounds, 10 ounces) and did other checks of various things, and we just sat with him. Around 12 pm we went home, having eaten and gotten paperwork and done who knows what else. I don't know how we looked at him for so long in only 6 hours, but we did. At that point we had only slept a few hours since waking up on Friday morning, so we were completely exhausted and elated and going home with our own little guy who was somehow our child.
So, approximately 36 hours after the first contraction, just under 7 hours after Sharayah's water broke, and after just over an hour and a half of pushing, we finally had our little miracle. So far as we can tell after knowing him for a week, he's perfect in every measurable way.
The time has come, and now everyone can pronounce your name correctly. Apparently kpluBlet is not as straightforward as your mom and I thought. This past week of getting to know you has been the most amazing time. Being your dad is the coolest thing I've ever been, for sure. Your tiny little shining eyes, just like your mom's, are so easy to stare into for ages.
I love you like 10 pounds of bricks (you'll have to get used to the weird love metaphors from your mom and me). This is the least sleep I've ever gotten in a week, and I don't even care. You're so loved. We don't even know what to do with ourselves, we love you so much. We can't wait to learn everything about you for years and years.