Oh no. No. No. We just got here…there’s no way. No way. It’s two weeks early.Drink some water, don’t panic, they’ll stop. You’re dehydrated from the sun. This isn’t real. Just take a nap and drink some water and you’ll be fine.
Sorry, Valor, but those are the true and unromantic things your mother thought when the first contractions hit. What can I say? I was overjoyed.
As Stephen said, labor started the night we got to our super sweet, super great deal, probably-won’t-be-a-great-deal-still-going-on-when-we’re-ready-to-go-back pool villa several hours in the mountains away. So, exactly what we wanted to happen.
The funny thing is, in the back of my mind, I knew this would happen. I mean, what else would happen? How else would this go down? So when that first lovely contraction hit, my stomach sank with the I Knew It feeling. Again, overjoyed.
–I do have to say that I was actually excited to have another baby, I just would have preferred he came during the predetermined planned time.–
It’s funny how much we lie to ourselves when we’re panicked. Like, I knew I wasn’t dehydrated. I drink roughly ten million gallons of water a day. I also knew they wouldn’t stop. With Shepherd, the only time I got real contractions was labor. And, just as they were now, they started out perfectly five minutes apart. These were ten or so apart. Like clockwork. Like terrifying clockwork.
We tried to go to bed. I say we tried because within two minutes Stephen was snoring and I was laying there debating waking him up to leave. If it was actual labor, there’s no telling how fast or slow it would go. With Shepherd I had 30+ hours. But they say the second is quicker. Also, some friends recently said, and I quote, “Don’t go into labor in Chiang Rai. You do NOT want to have a baby in Chiang Rai.” So my confidence in the local hospitals was lacking. If I did make us go home and this wasn’t labor, wow. That would super suck. They were perfectly timed though, and all I could think was how horrible it would be to have big, painful contractions in the car for a four hour car ride through the mountains.
Right before he fell asleep, Stephen told me, “Babe, I want you to know that even if we go home and you don’t have the baby, I would never be mad or think this was ruined.” With those words in my mind and a glaring seven minute gap on the contraction timer, I gently said, “Babe. Babe. STEPHEN. WAKE UP. WE NEED TO GO HOME NOW.”
Stephen jumped out of bed like a match was lit in his no-hole butt and he went to check out/do everything that leaving at ten pm required. I packed as much as I could and then just held Shep as a confused and amused set of bell boys filed into our room to get bags. Half of which were snacks because baby.
The whole time all I could think was REALLY? Really? Really. This is how it’s happening. Mackenzie (the Venture intern who was going to stay at our house with Shep during labor) isn’t back. The carseat base for Valor isn’t in. Stephen’s going to be so tired. Frick.
We loaded into a golf cart that took us to our car and it started pouring. REALLY. Shepherd just kept looking at us like we were insane. A what-in-the-actual-heck is happening look was plastered on his face as he watched Stephen running around the car loading it up.
Thank Jehovah I had the good sense to make an awesome labor playlist the night before. Maybe it was prophetic. Anyway, I had decided in the previous weeks to embrace a new way of doing labor: being myself. With Shep I tried deep breathing and being quiet and calm and all that got me was 36 hours of labor, an epidural and a whole lot of fear. That said, I made this playlist with songs that guaranteed a feel-good vibe. So Katy Perry, TLC, Beyonce, Nelly, Spice Girls, you know, really Christian classics. The second we pulled away, Hot in Here started playing and I was in the zone.
We didn’t have gas and didn’t know if there would be a gas station open (Thailand = no rhyme or reason to when things are or are not open). Stephen was panicked, though he was trying really hard to exude an air of calm. He asked if I was sure I wanted to go home and didn’t want to go to a hospital here (one of his worst fears is delivering our baby in a car…and it was now an actual possibility). I told him to take me home. NOW.
The drive was less than awesome. Stephen went fast, very fast (again, biggest life fear is a huge motivator to get the h home). And that would have been fine if we were in an automatic on a straight road on level earth. As it was, we were on the narrowest, windiest “road” going through mountains in a stick shift that has seen better days. I had one hand on my phone to time contractions and one securely gripping the Oh Crap handle the entire drive.
It was starting to become real. Valor was coming! We would randomly look at each other between Missy Elliot choruses and say things like “It’s happening! Valor is on his way! We’re having a baby!” And then we’d be turing a corner as a semi was in our lane or a contraction would hit and conversation would halt again.
(Also, can I just say that I love my husband but he has the worst sense of when something is actually happening to me? For example, I’d have my head down, breathing like a donkey or cow or whatever, and he’d ask me a question. And I wouldn’t answer of course so he’d keep asking or worse, say my name like I hadn’t heard him. When I would
yell explain to him what was happening and why he cannot talk to me then, he would say he couldn’t see my face because he was driving. I asked if was deaf too because he was driving. Fun times.)
We finally got home and I laid Shepherd down and got into bed while Stephen, jacked up on adrenaline, unpacked the car and cleaned something (the kitchen? I don’t remember but he was cleaning something and I was thinking really? right now? get into bed you fool). I told him I didn’t think labor would stop, in fact as I was praying I felt assured it wouldn’t, but that we would get some sleep. So I demanded we sleep.
Our baby really was coming. And we were here, in Thailand. We’re doing this. This is happening.
Around 6am the contractions woke me up again. For about an hour I laid there/got up/went to the bathroom/walked around/rocked around/timed them. At seven I couldn’t lay through them anymore and had to move. They were five minutes apart again. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to labor at the hospital at all, and they always say they need to be like three minutes apart, last a minute and you can’t talk through them. But I had a gut feeling things were further than they appeared. I woke Stephen up, kissed Shepherd goodbye and hung over the yoga ball in our bed. I heard the boys pull away and then I was alone.
I just kept trying to sleep. I’d get up for a contraction, walk around, shake my hands (no clue why but it helped), moan and breathe like some animal, and then immediately try and sleep. I couldn’t lay down at all anymore, contracting or not, so I held a pillow against the wall. That didn’t work, so I stacked every couch cushion we had in a pile and leaned against it. You may be surprised to learn that that did not work either. If you’re ever in a labor and want to sleep, skip trying those. You’re welcome.
It took Stephen like an hour to drop Shepherd off and get back home. I now know I was in transition then because it’s when I planned my C-Section. I decided that I would forget this crap and walk into the hospital, find my doctor and demand she do a C-Section. I could not do this. I did not care what anyone thought. I choose my choices. I will stand by my choice. My body my rules.
I texted Stephen that I couldn’t do this and that I was dying. He voice memo’d me that I was doing it and I wasn’t dying. It didn’t help.
He got home and I was having another contraction. I was swinging my hands and moaning and saying something about not being able to go on, and he came and held me and coached me through a contraction. That was the only contraction he coached me through. That makes me a little sad because I did the majority of laboring alone and he’s such a good coach and I felt so much better having him there, and it’s a little funny because WHAT THE HECK WAS HAPPENING. He nailed it though, that one contraction.
He grabbed our bags and told me to get in the car.
I stood outside the car and said, “No. I can’t get in this car. I can’t. …something is HAPPENING.” And my body started pushing and I peed my leggings. Cool.
Stephen ran over to me, “You can figure out if that was pee or not in the car. GET IN THE CAR.” I was saying something about my water breaking and having the baby at home, all things to calm him down.
I got in the car, which, I can only imagine, felt similar to being born. My body had to bend in ways it wasn’t ready for and it felt so.small. I understood what Valor was up against.
Stephen got us to the hospital in like a minute. I honestly only remember holding his arm and him murmuring encouraging things. He later said I made some animal sound. I told him that was my thing this time around.
As we were getting close, all I could think about was the million block walk in one hundred degrees from the parking area to the hospital.
To which Stephen very calmly replied, “WHAT?! NO. KATIE. NO. I DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THAT. We don’t speak the language and you’re having a baby, no.”
“I…can’t…do…that…walk.” The elipses indicate heavy and strained breathing.
“Are you sure, babe? I don’t like this. I don’t like that.”
“I…know.” My compassion is such a part of me that even in physical and emotional distress, it rises to the surface.
So he pulled up to the front and ran around to open my door. There were, oh, ten hundred people outside this entrance and the second my wet-legging-animal-sound body emerged birth-style from the car, all of those eyes were on me. A tiny man locked eyes with me and he ran back in, grabbed a wheel chair and ran toward me. Stephen kissed me, told me he loved me and I just said, “Hurry, babe. Please hurry.”
The man whom I terrified helped me into the wheel chair and began pushing me through the lobby of the hospital. Apparently this was their busy time. Every person we passed looked at me like…well, like I was a pregnant white lady in labor. A contraction was coming. I panicked for a second and then thought, whatever, everyone is looking at me anyway, and I went ahead with my moans and leg rocking and noises. I closed my eyes so I cannot accurately report reactions.
He wheeled me to secret staff elevators which we still had to wait for, but they were way less crowded than the other ones. In the elevator, I was shoved in the middle of, no exaggeration, 12 people. And, sweet deal, we stopped at like six floors! Even the second one. When I saw the woman hit 2 I said out loud, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Not my finest moment, but I rest in the confidence she didn’t speak English.
Once we got to the 12th floor, my pusher tried to make me get out of the wheel chair at the entrance to the labor rooms. I said no. I could not move yet. So he pushed me all the way in where I was greeted by a nurse who said simply, “Do you want to push?” I handed her my paperwork and said “YES.” She helped me up and pointed to a bed.
Frick, man. I could not lay down.
I climbed on the bed, tried to get on my back, but started another contraction. So I yelled sorry and flipped over onto all fours and buried my head in my pillow. My body pushed and, lo, the previous liquid was now confirmed as pee and my water broke. I swear one nurse shrieked. Or maybe it was me. Who knows.
Now it was go time for the nurses. Out of the walls came like seven Thai nurses in their little blue hats (no for real, think 50’s nurses hats). One told me to flip over and take my pants off. Now the sweet thing about doing that little move is that the bed was lined with what felt like a garbage bag. So the water of mine that just broke? Pooling there. And a nurse was demanding I roll over. Cool. Comfortable. Great.
I took off my pants and another nurse checked me. She said simply, “You are fully.” Me, “Great. Can I push.” She looked at me with a touch of panic and said, “Wait. Please wait.” Another nurse tried to put what felt like a giant infinity scarf around my waist on. I said no. I’d be pantsless and scarfless for this, thank you.
They started wheeling me, on the bed, into another room. I was on all fours again, trying not to push too hard. My body was doing it’s own thing. We got to the other room and they motioned for me to get on yet another bed. Musical beds. Just the game I was hoping to play in labor. There were now like nine nurses in the room, and none of them spoke English.
I realized then that this baby was coming NOW. And all I wanted was Stephen. So I called him, as you do in the throws of labor.
“My water broke. He’s coming NOW. GET HERE.”
The next contraction came and I pushed. And I yelled.
In fact, one nurse on my left even shushed me and kind of hit my knee.
I’m all about cultural sensitivity, but I was currently participating in the most painful, strenuous activity a human can experience. I would yell if I want to.
Nothing happened with that push and I thought of my good friend Amanda who pushed once with Vera and got really mad. What is happening here? I pushed, where is he? Amanda is dumb.
(Amanda is not dumb, for the record.)
I pushed again, and then I knew he was coming. I looked around. Was this happening? Was I having a baby on my own, no husband, no doctor, in a foreign country with a bunch of nurses who didn’t speak English? Apparently yes.
Valor came out about halfway and a nice, obviously in no rush, nurse decided to leave him in there and bulb his nose and do his hair or something. I just started yelling, “PULL HIM OUT! PULL HIM OUT!” They didn’t so I pushed as hard as I could and he shot out the rest of the way.
I did it.
Valor and I did it.
What just happened.
I sat up and reached for my baby, my blue and purple and hairy (!!) baby, but they cut the cord immediately and took him to a warmer.
It was then my doctor ran in, looked at me, looked at the crying baby and said through heavy breaths, “So fast!!”
Right behind her came Stephen. I heard his voice, probably asking what room I was in or something. I had never been so happy to see him in my whole life. He came in with two duffle bags around his neck and a pillow under his arm and he was breathing like he ran a marathon.
“We had a baby!” …which I was assuming he knew as there was a crying newborn in the room.
Stephen immediately walked toward me and started weeping.
I don’t remember everything that happened in the next fifteen minutes, and honestly, that whole day was really frustrating given the language barrier and the fact that my labor was so fast that nothing we asked for or wanted happened.
But, we had a baby.
Valor Rex was born at 9:10am on April 22. He was 8 pounds and 11.5 ounces and 20.5 inches long. And he is perfect.
Unlike his brother, he stopped crying. And he nursed.
Valor is the baby we had visions of when God said we’d have a baby in Thailand. This is our baby who will be bilingual, who will only know Chiang Mai as home. Our inside baby now outside.
He burst out in a crazy way, and I’m assuming this is only the very start of our crazy adventures with Valor Rex.
Also, remind us to never take a vacation in the last of month of the next pregnancy.