Our hospital bag was packed and by the door for weeks. Everything at home was ready. We thought of everything. Comfy PJs, a favorite pillow for Jordan, snacks for the nurses (and us), a carefully constructed music playlist on my phone and the Bose portable speaker to play it, even swim trunks for Jordan so he could get in the tub with me while I labored and not freak the nurses out or soak his regular clothes. And a thorough (but still only one page long) birth plan with very Chapel Hillian roots: delivery with the midwives at UNC, a room with a tub for this water-loving mama, a birth ball, no drugs so I wouldn’t be confined to the bed and my baby would be as alert as possible for breastfeeding, no IV or wires so I could be as mobile as possible, a doula and birth photographer present, delayed cord cutting…all of this. And Riley proved to us yet again that plans are just that.
Exactly one week before our due date of August 19th, I woke up early with contractions - once at 4am, again at 6am. After a few more hours of randomly timed, but still fairly close together contractions, we called our midwife and doula for advice. The midwife on call suggested we continue to time the contractions and call back if they got “stronger, longer, and closer together.” Our doula and dear friend Heather came over later that morning and confirmed that I was in early labor. We knew this could last for several hours, or even days. Especially with this being my first birth. So, she went home to change clothes and grab a birth ball as I was walking around tidying the house in between contractions. We contemplated calling our dear friend and birth photographer, Becci, but had no idea how long it would take things to progress. So we texted her just in case. When Heather returned a couple of hours later, I was tight-gripping the stair rail at the front of our house with my face buried in the crook of my arm, with Jordan putting as much pressure as he could on my lower back. There was no more cleaning the house or casual conversation. Just focusing on getting through each contraction and waiting on and preparing for the next one. During one particularly painful contraction, Jordan reminded me to breathe and focus on my baby. I closed my eyes, and an image of him popped into my mind. I saw the corner of Riley’s face. His little left eye and nose, just as if I was viewing a 3D ultrasound. I said to Jordan, “I see my baby!” And from then on, I knew I would meet him that day.
I made the mistake of asking Jordan to take a photo of me while going through one contraction. Then during said contraction I firmly asked/told him to put the camera down and come put pressure on my back. In as few words as possible because I could barely speak. Things had progressed fairly quickly, and Heather recommended we go to the hospital just to see how far along we were. I had two contractions between the door of our house and closing the door of the car, and had no idea how I would make it through the 5-7 minute drive to UNC without Jordan putting pressure on my back during the upcoming contractions in the car. Though I did make it (with both of my own fists balled up and buried in my back while riding in the front seat), and Heather got there just as Jordan was dropping me off to go valet the car.
The midwives had a wheelchair waiting for me downstairs, and as I was wheeled up to the delivery floor to be triaged, I had another handful of contractions. Thankfully Heather was there, and I couldn’t wait for Jordan to be as well. When we got to the desk to be checked in, there were two nurses chatting, watching me contract. I knew from their faces that things were getting real. They took me in to a room to check my cervix and gather all kinds of other vitals, but before all of that was complete I heard someone say something to the tune of, screw this, this mom is definitely in labor. Admit her. Jordan came in just in time to hear that I was already at 7cm.
I was admitted and taken to a room to deliver directly across the hall. A tub of water was being filled, and all I could think was that I needed my high stair rail at home to cling to. I stood next to the bathroom doorway and clung to the frame with my head in my arms, and focused all of my energy on breathing deeply to get through the pain. Becci made it there with her camera just in time. Not long after this, I felt my body pushing. I heard one of the nurses say, “I think she’s pushing.” I was asked to go to the bed so they could check me again. Fully dilated, contracting like crazy, and naturally pushing, the last thing I wanted to do was get up and move to a different position. Though previously the last thing I wanted to do was deliver in a bed while lying on my back. Plans, schmans. This babe was ready to be born and I wasn’t about to move and slow that down.
During my late active labor and transition phases, things were a strange combination of very focused and very hazy. All of my energy was put towards breathing deeply and slowly, trying to relax my body as much as I could, and the fact that I was very soon going to meet the little bebe that had been growing inside of me for so long. I remembered Jordan’s Grampa Charlie being in the hospital earlier this year, trying so hard to breathe with his emphysema. The only thing I could think of then was that I needed to breathe like Charlie. Deep, slow breaths. That somehow got me through until it was time to push, and that time was here so quickly. I heard the midwife, Susan, say, “Look at that head of curly hair!” I knew I still had several hard pushes to go until he was out, and I couldn’t believe she could see him already. With every contraction I pushed, and eventually Heather encouraged me to continue pushing as hard as I could until he was out.
With a huge sigh of relief and near disbelief, Riley Boone was born at 3:42pm on August 12th. Placed on my chest, crying so sweetly, and so very alert, there he was. I want to remember it all, forever. I remember his cry. His umbilical cord tickling me as he lay there, picking up his little head and pecking me. Hungry immediately. A mess of dark curls on that little head. Seeing immediately that he has his daddy’s lips. Feeling a warm trickle as he peed on me and not giving the slightest damn about it. Jordan kissing me with tears in his eyes. Sheer awe that this little being that we created was finally here, crying on my chest. Loving his daddy so much, and falling more in love with both of them by the second.
Riley Boone Shamp. He’s here, our little Ri-guy. We’re so thankful for Heather, Becci, Susan, and our nurses. And our birth class and breastfeeding class and Daddy Boot Camp class (yep, that’s a real thing). And my sister Gabby, who spent four days with us the weekend before, hoping Riley would make an early arrival. She drove three hours back home to Swansboro on Sunday night, and Monday morning drove back to Chapel Hill after hearing that Riley was on his way. And Jordan’s mom for baking us and the nurses chocolate chip cookies. But most of all I’m thankful for Jordan, of course. That amazing man who gave me this amazing “little dude,” as Jordan calls him. I love you two dudes.
Ten hours of labor, with barely over an hour of that at the actual hospital before we met our little Ri. Our packed bag was never even unzipped until we settled into our room that night. The tub of water left untouched. The music never played. Though I play that playlist for Riley at home every chance I get. I won’t say it’s worthless to plan. That’s just silly. My entire pregnancy, our goal was: let’s get there and see what happens and we’ll roll with it. That we did, and will continue to do. My favorite thing to do with Jordan is to go “adventuring.” Life with little Riley is already an adventure - our greatest one yet.
The images in this blog are ours, taken on our “real” camera and our iphones. Becci’s amazing birth photos of us have been blogged on her site (click to see!), as well as some amazing shots of us at home when Riley was only six days old (or new, really). We’re so thankful to have such a gorgeous collection of images - some of our favorites ever - and glad that Becci’s become a great friend of ours! She’s local, Durham-Chapel Hill peeps (we’ve been referring our clients to her while we’re on our little Riley break). :) Also, the amazing Cheyenne Schultz photographed our little family while Riley was still in my tummy. We sure do know some incredible photographers, y’all.
Apologies for the photo overload. Riley’s taking one of his longer naps this evening, so I’m taking advantage and posting as much as I can. And then I’m going to nap with him. :) Hugs to you, blog readers.
~JAM + Ri-toast