I was talking to my neighbor and heard my facebook messenger ding a bunch of times followed by a few texts. Then my phone rang and I saw Lisa's number come across the screen. I put her to voicemail, with the intention to call her back in just a minute and tucked my phone in my back pocket.
When I pulled my phone out 10 minutes later, and what she would then describe as an eternity, there was a small thumbnail preview next to her text:
"Of course this will be the first time ever you aren't answering me!!!!!"
My jaw dropped open and I immediately called right back.
Me: "Holy shit! Is that yours?"
Lisa: "Oh my god"
Me: "This is so exciting"
Lisa: "Oh my god. I can't believe you didn't answer me!"
The shock turned to joy, and then we cried. 2018 was going to be one hell of a year for one of my dearest friends, and the ending certainly didn't disappoint.
In case you don't know her, she summed up her year, yesterday morning on facebook:
At around noon I got a sneaking suspicion that Lisa was going to take castor oil. I don't talk about it very often, but my intuition for things, is usually on point. My first text was "How are you?" followed by, "Are you planning to take a float?". It was later confirmed by another mutual friend of ours, that she was goint to take it without telling me, but there's no sneaking anything by me.
We texted on an and off through out the day. At 4:40pm I called her. My family was planning to head to dinner, but I had this feeling that she was in labor. She dismissed me. She told me to go to dinner with my family and that she was hopeful that her mild, irregular contractions would turn into something. As I hung up the phone I turned to my husband and said, "I'm not going to dinner. Lisa is in labor." About 15 minutes later, her husband Dan texted me, "She's in labor".
I called her back at 5:10pm and she answered with, "I think I lied to you. I am in labor."
I quickly gathered up things, grabbed two small bottles of champagne I had in the cabinet, this was New Years Eve after all! And ran out of the door. I called our mutual friend, and birth photographer, Victoria Brown, while I was on my way and said, "Lisa is going to have a baby tonight!" Tori squealed and said, "I'm so excited for this!" Her and Lisa had discussed Tori coming to the house, but I told her to sit tight. She wasn't going to make it to Lisa's house, before we headed to the hospital. I told her I would let her know when we were on our way to the hospital.
I spoke with Dan and Lisa 3 times during the 30 minute drive and when I was 5 minutes away, they told me to turn around, that they were getting in the car. Lisa wanted me to be there and confirm that she was in labor, but I could certainly do that over the phone. Her moans were low and shaky. She sounded like she was in transition.
15 minutes on the return drive to the hospital, Dan called me. Hey, this is intense. I asked if he was ok and cold again hear Lisa in the background. He was doing just fine. She on the other hand was not. 10 minutes later and I was sitting in the hospital parking lot waiting for them, when Lisa called.
Her voice sounded a bit desperate, a bit afraid, and a lot in labor. "I just puked. My water broke. And I think I'm pushing. Please be right there at the front for me!" And then she yelled through a contraction. They were 12 minutes away. She asked me to get in touch with her midwife, Suzanne of With Women's Wellness, to tell her that she might be having a baby in the car.
A few minutes later, I called Lisa back and I would talk to her through every contraction until they arrived. I could hear she was pushing, but if I talked to her, the pushing would only happen at the end. I kept asking Dan how far away they were, and told Lisa how many more contractions she was away from the hospital.
Nurses Jess and April, came down to greet her at the car, and Suzanne arrived a minute later. They all heard her on the phone and giggled a bit, as we heard her say, "Dan, where are we?!?" and then their eyes got wide listening to her cope through a contraction.
"I see you!" I said excitedly as they pulled up. Everyone helped her get out of the car and rushed her inside.
It was 6:20pm.
I stood at the elevator with it ready and as she came around the corner, it was evident that she was fully dilated and Dan gave me a huge hug. He was so excited.
Within 5 minutes we were in room 7, Lisa was undressed, and pushing. Suzanne confirmed that she was mostly dilated with a little anterior lip of cervix, but to listen to her body. The baby was still pretty high up in the pelvis. Lisa felt a bit defeated, but we quickly moved past that.
During Lisa's pregnancy, we talked a lot about how this pregnancy, this labor, and this birth would not be the same as her last. Lisa has significant trauma from her last births, that include, cesarean, hemorrhage, pre-eclampsia, hospital stays, NICU's and never a chance for immediate skin to skin and breastfeeding. I wanted this time to be different for my friend. I knew if we talked about it we could get over the fear, and hopefully manifest something else for her. It wasn't until 35 weeks or so, that I think all of the chatter, really started to change her frame of mind.
However, I saw it creeping back in a little bit after the cervical check. She pushed for 5 hours with her last baby, which was a successful home birth after cesarean, that turned into an emergency transfer for both mom and baby. I knew she feared that same length of pushing.
I leaned down and whispered, "Lisa this isn't like the last time. This is and will be different." It was the first time she made eye contact with me since she arrived. When she looked away my eyes welled up. I was so hopeful that my words were true.
Lisa was a powerhouse, contractions coming every 2 minutes, and her pushing and then accepting the breaks in between. This was intense. She had been in labor for a total of 90 minutes so far. Precipitous birth, often feels like your body is way ahead of your mind, and your mental state is constantly chasing down your physical one.
Her husband Dan was doing exceptionally well and was a fantastic support, who only once got yelled at for telling her to breathe while she was pushing.
Lisa had hoped that one of her favorite nurses would be on for the birth. At 6:55pm that nurse arrived and took over. Lisa grabbed my hand. I remember all the information Lisa had told me about her pelvic outlet and so I started to adjust her positions just slightly. Each time Suzanne and I on the same page.
Lisa explained the way the position of her baby felt that ended with "....baby is right on my sitz bones, feels like I want to grab an rip my ass cheeks apart" and the whole room erupted with laughter. Suzanne said, "That sounded so medicalized, until right at the end there!"
Even though Lisa's birth plan had said she didn't want coached pushing, you could see that the baby was stuck right at the bones, and if she could hold her pushing a little bit longer, she could get the baby passed. I started whispering to her, and she started holding the pushes extra long. Probably 15 to 20 seconds or so. She was holding them for so long, that she could only fit 2 into her minute long contractions.
On the 4th coached push, as I talked to Lisa, I heard every one squeal. This baby was coming earth side. Then there was a bit of a delay and Suzanne trying to get Lisa to slow down. Baby had cord wrapped around the neck and maybe the torso. Suzanne tried to loosen it, but eventually summersaulted the baby out of being tangled.
She then passed the baby through Lisa's legs, and everyone was crying. Lisa cried, "You're here!" He arrived at 7:11pm on the very last day of 2018.
I nudged Dan as a reminder to tell us the secret that everyone was waiting for, "IT'S A BOY!"
The next moments I watch my friends, totally in love with each other, fall in love with their little boy. It was the sweetest and intimate first moments of a babies life I have ever witnessed.
I looked over at Tori who was taking pics, but also had a tear rolling down her face, she smiled at me and said, "This is really beautiful!"
Lisa had me call her mother and asked her to gather up her daughters and head to the hospital. Her mother yelled, "It's a boy! I knew it!"
Lisa started bleeding. I helped to her little boy latched on, in hopes that it could help slow it down. Honestly, it was a lot of blood. A scary amount of blood, for this doula, to see coming out of her friend. Suzanne acted fast, putting IV's in herself in both arms. Lisa then looked at me in the eyes and said, "I'm going to pass out." Lisa's lips went white. I kept calling her back, "Lisa are you with me?", her eyes would blink and try to focus, but I could tell she was in a different place. She grabbed my hand with her left and wouldn't let go.
Her blood pressures weren't even registering and then one popped up. No one said it out loud even though we all saw it. I was doing my best to not let Dan know that I was freaking out a bit. I nodded to him and said, "it's ok", but he could hear the blood sounding like a waterfall pouring out of her.
At one point, it was even spraying out of her. Suzanne was trying to get her uterus to clamp down, and Lisa was yelling in agony. She knew why Suzanne needed to do it, but it didn't hurt any less.
It took about 15 minutes, lots of fluid and some medication, but then my friend was back and I was sure because she glanced over had her hubby, holding their new baby and said, "You look so hot right now."
The room calmed down and then Lisa's parents arrived with her two daughters. My two favorite little ladies on the planet. They both gave Dan huge hugs. Then their attention turned to their little brother and they couldn't stop saying how cute he was. It didn't take long for the fighting over who got to rub his head and got to be closest to him started. He will certainly not have any lack of love from his big sisters.
This birth is so very special to me, (even though I didn't do any of my doula tricks), because I love this family as my own.
Little Ellis Jay, you were the cherry on top of your parents magnificent, twenty-five scoop, 2018 sundae. I can't wait to watch you grow.
Thank you to Victoria Brown Photography for sharing some of your beautiful pics with me, for this story.