A few days ago, I was so sure I needed sleep, rest, and alone time.
Instead I got its opposite: 54 hours awake.
Twenty-three of those awake hours spent with a childhood friend at the hospital during her first labor. And most of that private time shared with another friend who knew to stay quiet when I talked too much.
Deanna and I both received phone calls at 11pm Friday night. Ali's water(s) broke and she was "having cramps."
"It's okay...they are not too...oooh, hold on Erin...oww, okay..."
"Hold on, it's almost...owww..."
"Ali, those aren't cramps. You're having contractions. Get to the hospital soon. I will meet you there."
With that, I kissed my sleeping babies and drove straight into tail lights on 495 toward the hospital. Traffic. At 11:30 at night. Welcome to the big city.
A half hour of zig-zagging through DC streets got me there before the guest of honor. An hour before her.
Once Ali arrived with Deanna, we could see her contractions were happening every five minutes. She was in enough pain that she couldn't speak through them. According to my
It took all night, an entire day, and another night until we got to the finish line.
I have never felt more useful in all my days. She ooh'ed and I pressed my open palm on her back in resistance. She aahh'ed and we figured out the yoga ball would relieve her from feeling the baby drop so much. When the pain got to be too much, we pressed harder and leaned in to her more, showing her how to breathe.
Ali dealt with her pain from the inside, disappearing into her own world of deep concentration and staring into someplace we couldn't see.
"I go underwater, into the ocean," she tells me when I finally ask.
"Ahh," I can't help but laugh, "You've always been an oceanographer."
Ali had been laboring hard overnight and well into the morning. She walked hallways in her robe through them, she breathed slowly through her mouth through them, she "swam underwater with the dolphins" through the really bad ones, but hours later exhaustion prevailed with contractions that were not progressing her physical state.
One epidural and bag of pitocin later, she was feeling fine and able to close her eyes.
Deanna went home to take her daughters to appointments while I perused the gift shop for fun and so Ali could rest. Bless her little laboring heart; she felt the need to entertain me when I was in the room with her so I shopped, giving her no choice but to sleep. Veteran moms know all too well that it's the last substantial rest you will get for many months, if not years.
The day wore on much the same way. The steady heartbeat of baby coming through the monitor became the metronome for Ali's tireless work through her pain.
A few more hours later, Ali winced really hard and jammed her cheek into her pillow.
The nurse, Deanna, and I knew: It was GO time.
"More epidural," Ali begged.
"Oh Honey, you're about to have this baby," answered the nurse who was smiling for the first time since early morning.
About 8pm, hours after we thought she would have her baby, dear Ali clacked bed rails with her clenched fists and swam underwater with more seahorses. My poor friend was stuck at 9cm even though her contractions were coming fast and strong.
"How long could this go on?" I whisper to the nurse.
"Hours," was her grim response.
I hate to admit it but I was frustrated. We had been awake for so long. My head was getting cloudy and driving myself home was becoming a scary prospect. I couldn't fathom staying for more hours without running myself off the road in my current haze.
Ali's family had just shown up and I was reluctant but ready to leave her in their hands for the rest of the night.
With much resignation I decided to depart.
"Ali? I have to go. I will be back to see you and the baby tomorrow but I have to drive myself home before I can't."
And before I could bend down to hug her goodbye, girlfriend had one monster contraction and needed to push.
My purse landed somewhere and I and got myself back in position to the right of Ali, Deanna already flanked on her left. Together, we held Ali's tired body forward as she pushed out her healthy baby boy.
Out of nowhere, after so many hours of quiet and peaceful work, the room was at once buzzing with happy chatter of her family. Bright white lights were brought out and the doctor's dimple showed as she ceremoniously gloved up. Things were suddenly festive and loud.
Without any announcement or hesitation, Ali drove her chin to her chest and held Deanna and me as tightly as she could. Then, silently through all happy, Deanna and I looked at each other. Her eyes welled up and mine stung in response. We were at the end of a very long journey. We were about to see our friend meet her baby.
Baby D was born four pushes later.
He is stunning, just like his mama.
He had his eyes open from the beginning and quietly took in his surroundings like he was pleased with all the fuss.
(I love him already.)
The irony is when you stay awake long enough to see a baby being born...
...you're suddenly not so tired anymore.