Within about an hour of arriving, my sister-in-law began really "feeling" the contractions. I say "feeling" in quotes not because she had an epidural, but because her version of reacting to one contraction after another was to lean her head back and say, "Ouch," quietly to herself. She was in such amazing control of her pain. In between every contraction, she told me a little more about what it felt like instead of regrouping. A soldier, I tell ya.
Finally, contractions started coming hard and fast and the anesthesiologist was still in a c-section. That's probably my new worst nightmare. I think I'd consider putting it in myself if my anesthesiologist took that long.
After her epidural, her husband and I sat next to her for about an hour in silence watching What Not to Wear and Sports Center. Yep, you can do that. You can watch Sports Center while you labor. What a world. What a glorious world.
The next time the nurse came in, she said she would check to see how far labor had progressed. We all held our breath. My sister-in-law was fairly certain she wasn't beyond 3cm. It took the nurse about 2 minutes, repeating, "I don't want to tell you and then change my mind." My other sister-in-law and mother-in-law walked in. We were still waiting. And finally, the nurse looked up and said...no no, asked, she asked... "Nine?"
NINE?! NINE CENTIMETERS? THAT'S BABY TIME! THAT'S THUNDERCATS GO!
Her doctor walked in a few minutes later and asked how she was. The nurse said, "Nine," and the doctor shouted, "STOP!" Oh no, lady doctor. There's no stopping now. I've seen enough Baby Story to know that.
And then all at once, every member of the hospital staff filed into the room. They stepped on me, in front of my camera, and stared directly at the private parts. I wanted to say - Hello? Do you all need to stare? The doctor began giving some coaching tips: Bare down. Push when you need to. Push with a contraction, that helps. Pull your knees back. Hike!
There she went, pushing and breathing and pushing some more. She was so strong and so calm at the same time, it was amazing. And as that little baby made it's way into the world, I didn't cry like I said I would. I didn't giggle. I didn't have any emotional response. It was NOT like a Baby Story. It was so real, so surreal, so primal. It was more than I could process. It wasn't scary and it wasn't gross. It was beautiful and perfect. It was truly the calmest I have felt in a very long time.
After Chloe came, I shot pictures at a rate of 4,000 per minute. I couldn't stop. She was incredible. Small, beautiful, strong, mellow...I found myself saying things that I always thought sounded so stupid on TLC. "She's so beautiful!" Babies aren't beautiful, they're covered in goo and wrinkly and puffy. But I tell ya, this was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen. Her little head was the perfect shape and her pretty eyes opened and closed as she breathed. She didn't cry or scream. She just basked in the "sun" and cooed.
And then you know what I said? I said, what in retrospect, sounds absolutely ridiculous to anyone but me. I said, "She is so smart." I did. I won't defend it, but I won't take it back either. She is so smart. And I see now why people say things like that.
I sat in a hospital room with 2 other people today, and when the day was over, I sat in a hospital room with 3 other people. I am so blessed to have been given a family who included me in the moment our table of 13 became a table of 14.