(4 days until due date)
All I wanted was to make it to July. I had thought I wanted a "June baby"...and then I grew accustomed to the idea of a July birthday for my daughter, and I so hoped I could make it until then. Plus, my brother-in-law's birthday is June 30th, and truthfully, I didn't want baby to have to share her day.
By late-morning, I was almost entirely sure that even if I went into labor at that moment, baby girl was unlikely to arrive before midnight. July birthday...secure.
My mom says that eating pizza helped put her into labor before I was born. And, with such family history, I wasn't comfortable having that meal for our usual Friday night dinner, and so risk a June birthday! However, by lunchtime Saturday, it sounded tasty. Bobby was doing regular Saturday yard work, and I volunteered to go pick-up a Little Caesar's pizza for lunch. It was a hot summer day, and on the drive, I noticed a couple of cars overheated on the side of the road. I thought, "this would be a very inopportune time for that to happen to my car in my 9-months pregnant state!" After I got the pizza, I stopped at Dollar General and the cashier inquired as to my due date. "A Fourth of July baby would be fun", she said. On the quick drive home from the store, my car began to overheat; I was immensely thankful when I pulled safely into the driveway.
What I didn't know then was that that outing was to be my last solo-venture for weeks. Life was about to change in a big way.
I enjoyed the pizza thoroughly.
That evening, Bobby and I went to his Dad's house for a birthday celebration for his brother. Cake, ice cream, and pre-4th of July fireworks-viewing from the bed of the truck in the driveway. As it got later in the evening, I started feeling a little "off"...but everything at that point in the pregnancy felt different...unusual. I asked Bobby if we could head home, and we did.
We began to watch "American Gangster" (Bobby's movie selection), and as the movie progressed, I grew increasingly uncomfortable in my spot on the couch. Around 11:00 p.m. there was a good deal of cramping, tightening...discomfort. We started to wonder as the time went on..."could this be it?" I bounced on the exercise ball to relieve some lower-back pain, only halfway focused on the movie, increasingly aware that my body was doing something unfamiliar.
Maybe there's something to this 'inducing-labor-with-pizza' thing....
The movie ended; my cramps did not. We moved from the living room to the bedroom, only to quickly realize that going to bed or falling asleep were not real possibilities. I double-checked the hospital bag, freshened up my make-up in between waves of what I was all but sure were, in fact, contractions. They were strengthening in intensity, and I threw-up at the foot of the bed at one point...my body's apparent reaction to the unpleasant sensation.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
(3 days until due date)
We were continually using an iPhone app to monitor the timing of the contractions. They were becoming more frequent, and I was definitely uncomfortable. When they became 5 minutes apart, Bobby called the hospital, as we had been directed. The nurse-on-call, however, had different instructions. I was asked to drink 64 ounces of water, and then call again when either the contractions became 2 minutes apart, or my water broke.
Tasked with this new direction, we pressed on through the night. We had elected not to alert our families until we were at the hospital and things were "officially" progressing...and as it seemed we were not close to that scenario, we opted to let them sleep.
I walked through the house. I bounced. I curled up on the sofa. I tried to watch an episode of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman"...and it brought exactly the kind of pleasant comfort that I'd always hoped it would when I found myself laboring. It was a nice early morning distraction as we watched the hours go by with little progress, but continued pain and increasing weariness.
Around 5:00 a.m., my contractions were coming around every two minutes. The nurse had said that I "wouldn't be able to walk through the contractions", and although that wasn't the case, I decided that I'd like to be taken care of and know exactly what we were dealing with.
We headed to the hospital at 5:30 a.m.
The ride was uneventful. Surreal, even. "Are we driving to the hospital to have a baby? You see this in the movies...and now it's us." I was in frequent discomfort, but also enjoying being out of the house, taking in the peaceful, early morning sights...wondering what the new day would hold for us.
The hospital was calm. The main entrance was open for the day, and we headed up the elevator to the maternity ward, stopping outside the building for a quick photo. I filled out the paperwork, and we were escorted to triage. I changed into a gown, was weighed, and my vitals were taken. "So, this is it...." I threw-up again as the contractions continued. When the nurse checked my progress, I was quickly disheartened.
I'd been at 1-1.5 centimeters for a week or so. I thought, "all of that work...all night long...and I've progressed a whole 1/2 centimeter? Really? How could I possibly keep going through that kind of steady discomfort for the rest of the day, if an entire sleepless night got me almost nowhere?"
The nurse encouraged us to walk the halls, and said I'd be checked again in an hour. If, at that point, I'd progressed enough, I could stay. If not, we would be sent home.
So, Bobby and I walked. Up and down the same 3 halls of the maternity ward...past the labor & delivery suites...past the families waiting for their loved ones to deliver...past the janitor doing his morning floor cleaning...over and over. We stopped every couple of minutes, and I braced myself against Bobby or against the wooden railing that lined the hall, waiting for the wave of a contraction to end. I was adjusting to the pattern. "Please, Lord, let me be progressing."
We were tired. Physically and emotionally. It was now early Sunday morning, and we hadn't slept at all since Friday night. I was physically drained from laboring. We needed to know that we were on the right track.
The hour passed, and we headed back to triage around 8:00 a.m.
I was checked. And, I had progressed. By another 1/2 centimeter. We were still around 2 centimeters. That was not significant enough progress for me to stay. In fact, the contraction frequency had even lessened slightly. Two steps back.... I was being sent home.
I started to cry. The nurse saw my obvious disappointment and exhaustion, and noticeably pregnant herself, sweetly did her best to reassure me. She was pretty confident that I was, in fact, in active labor, and said "I think we'll be seeing you later today".
I thought, "Well, lady...so do I. Why can't I stay?" I did my best not to shoot the messenger. We were told to come back if my water broke or my contractions grew even more frequent.
Bobby was weary and saddened, too, and did his best to encourage me. I wasn't a pretty sight.
Bobby sent a text to my mom, explaining where we were, why they wouldn't be seeing us at church a few minutes later, and why we were headed home.
The ride home was quiet, except for my gentle sobs. I was so discouraged. We'd done what we'd been taught in our classes as far as going to the hospital when contractions were 5 minutes apart...and then the rules changed. My body was tired, and we had no idea how to know when we should head back. "How much worse does it have to get before they'll accept us?! ... What if my water doesn't break on its own? ... When should we go back? ... How much longer do we have to do this by ourselves?"
We stopped at Krispy Kreme for breakfast. An unusual breakfast place for us, but we each needed a pick-me-up. I stayed in the truck; Bobby chose a dozen assorted doughnuts. I ate a lemon-flavored cake doughnut when we arrived home, and tried to rest on the couch. I was getting enough of a break in contractions that a nap seemed feasible.
But, then, my contractions worsened; I threw-up again. And, I cried. And, then we decided that a bath might give me some relief.
I heard Bobby on the phone with my mom. "No, I don't think we need anything. We'll just keep doing what we're doing." He sounded as exasperated as I felt.
Bobby sat beside the tub, and I tried to let my body relax. "This is no fun", I thought, "but we're doing it."
At 10:45 a.m., the bath water grew cold, and I was ready to get out of the tub. I stood up, towel-dryed my body...and water kept dripping.
"Bobby. I think my water just broke."
I couldn't be sure. I was wet from the bath, after all. But, as I stepped onto the floor, I was convinced. My water had broken. And, I was excited. I quickly put my clothes back on, taking time to freshen my make-up again and brush my hair. I had a burst of adrenaline, thrilled that we now had no choice but to go back to the hospital this time. What a blessing that we didn't have to wonder, or wait, or worry! I enjoyed this newfound energy.
Bobby, bless his heart, was confused by the extra spring in my step. I wasn't in a huge hurry to leave, confident that we had plenty of time. Bobby wasn't quite so convinced, and tried to get us out the door. (While at the same time, trying to stop the toilet from overflowing. Humorous, really, that Bobby and I were both dealing with leaking water situations.)
We readied things at home, certain this time that we wouldn't be back for a couple of days, and drove back to the hospital. On the road, I exchanged texts with Morgan, filling her in on the happenings of our morning.
We checked back into triage, the nurses moving much less-hurriedly than I thought they should be for a woman in my condition. Of course, they deal with laboring women all the time. Still, I was uncomfortable. "Can't we take care of this paperwork faster?" No stranger to L&D triage, I knew the drill. I put the gown back on, had my vitals taken again, and was checked.
It was at this point we learned that my OB, Dr. W., was out-of-town. A large part of the reason we selected her, aside from her gender, was because of her dedication to making every effort to be present to deliver your baby if she's anywhere in the city. As we got to know her over the past many months, it became clear how hard she worked for her patients. We never even considered that she would be gone for our baby's birth. Still, she was. And the doctor-on-call, Dr. L., was a man. A good OB, I was sure, as many of my friends had experience with him...but, still. He was a "he", and not my doctor. But, what could I do at this point? Really?
I got an IV in my right hand, and asked to not be constantly restricted to the bed. The goal from the beginning was to make this as natural an experience as possible. No drugs, no intervention. Healthy mama, healthy baby. I wanted to move around as needed, doing what my body needed to do.
We were off to a great start. I was reasonably comfortable, all things considering, handling each contraction more confidently as time went on. We met Dr. L. I threw-up again. He offered some anti-nausea medicine, which helped considerably. He checked my progress, and said everything seemed fine. We were on the right track. He was friendly, and I was prepared for him to be one to deliver our baby. We expressed our anxiousness to confirm that baby was, in fact, a girl, and he promised, despite his good-humored nature, not to joke about whether or not she was a she when the moment came. Thanks, doc. See you in a while.
The hours passed as Bobby and I visited together and listened to music on the laptop...lullaby hymns and Jim Brickman piano albums that never cease to help me relax. Without a window, it was difficult to know what time of day it was, and were it not for the clock on the wall, we would never have known how our long day was progressing.
Bobby exchanged texts with my mom. Our families were gathering in the waiting room, but we had decided to labor privately. Still, it was so very special and encouraging to know they were close-by, anxiously waiting and praying as we were.
At one point in the afternoon, Bobby's grandma knocked on the door to our suite. She hadn't seen the rest of the family in the waiting room. Bobby met her at the door and directed her down the hall. ... I requested an orange twin-popsicle, that very much tasted like cherry, although it definitely said "orange" on the package. Strange. ... I bounced on the exercise ball and ate ice chips. ... I progressed quickly & steadily through the afternoon.
Bobby was exactly what I needed him to be. Calm, reassuring, encouraging, strong. He constantly reminded me that I was doing well, that we were making progress, that I was "a rockstar", that we were doing it. "Just keep breathing", he said, probably 200 times over the course of the day and with each contraction..."just keep breathing". It was a great reminder and helped tremendously...though I decided that I'd like to never hear that phrase again.
At one point, I was on my hands and knees on the bed, thinking "this has to be transition...we have to be close". The pain was different...much more intense. It was at that time that the nurse came in to ask once more if I wanted an epidural. This was my last chance, and I needed to decide whether or not I really wanted to continue to do this 'au natural'.
There was no question in my mind. "No, thank you. I'm fine." My motivation? The fact that women all over the world have no choice whether or not they want pain medication, and they do fine...my mom did it...there is far worse pain one could endure...this was what my body was designed to do. There wouldn't be extra jewels in my heavenly crown for going without medication, but I wanted to know that I could tough it out. I was confident that I could.
I was at 8-9 centimeters. We were close. So close, in fact, that sometime in the early evening, a couple of nurses came into the room to turn on the warming bed and ready the things for baby. What a fun thing to see! They were getting ready for our baby to arrive. It's almost time to meet her. But, I stayed at 9 centimeters for a long time, with little in the way of forward-motion. And then we got word from the nurse that Dr. L was monitoring my contractions, and didn't feel that I was progressing quickly enough...that my contractions weren't strong enough to get us to that last centimeter. My first thought..."Really? These are so intense! You want them stronger? What more does a girl have to do?" And then, nervousness that if my body wasn't able to progress further, that we'd be faced with a C-section...and that was the last thing I wanted. So, we took his advice and started the Pitocin drip.
And then things got real. Bobby watched the contractions on the screen beside the bed. The contractions that once read mid-level on the intensity scale were off the charts now. I was getting almost no rest in between each contraction, overwhelmed and frustrated and scared as they continued without a break...incredibly annoyed as each one began. I continued laboring that way for a couple of hours, and the delivery that seemed to be so imminent suddenly felt very far away. There were tears; I was exhausted.
I started to have incredible pressure, and asked where the nurses were. We'd seen no sign of them for a while, and Bobby was especially frustrated by their absence at such a critical time. But as we neared 7:00 p.m., we were approaching a shift change...thus, unfortunately, the lapse in attention. Bobby 'buzzed' again for the nurses, and when a new one came in, I was checked...and I was at 10 centimeters. Time to prepare to push!
The room sprung to life, as several nurses, a few techs, and the doctor entered the room. Although we were surprised that it wasn't Dr. L. that came in.... His shift had ended, and I was meeting yet another new OB, minutes before delivery. Not the way I pictured it...but my choices were limited. Dr. J. was a woman...a good start! I knew nothing about her, but things were going so normally, I had no reason to think that this would be anything she couldn't handle. And again, what could I really do in my vulnerable state? Noting my obvious pain, I overheard one of the techs say, "does she not have an epidural?", and I noted her surprise when told that I, in fact, did not. A rarity around there, apparently.
I was overwhelmed by the "normalcy" of the scene. They had all done this before. Everyone was calm. The room was peaceful.
Dr. J. broke a small sac of water that remained. I asked for a mirror, and was directed to push whenever I felt the urge. So, I did. But, not before the mirrors were perfectly positioned. My apparent preoccupation with that detail was humorous to Bobby and the nurses...but, it needed to be perfect! I needed to see this miracle.
It was surreal. To hear myself, to see the progress, to feel the sensation unlike any other. The pain was different by that point...manageable & purposeful. I thought clearly, "I'm actually doing this. So, this is what it's like to have a baby. Wow."
We saw her full head of hair, which Dr. J. twirled around her finger. We were shocked by the dark locks we were seeing. Completely unexpected! And, amazing.
I pushed a few times. And then, seven minutes later, at 7:03 p.m., our daughter was born.
She was immediately placed on my chest, and I felt a rush of emotion. "Thank you, God!"
Bobby cut the umbilical cord.
The nurses quickly snatched her away and cleaned her off as Bobby snapped photo after photo and watched her with wonder. I was stitched up and tended to, and I rested...both stunned and relieved that it was all over.
Bobby left with Emerson as she was taken to the nursery for her first bath, and I was left in the room. My IV was removed, and we were readied to move to our recovery room. My adrenaline was in overdrive. I felt wonderful...complete.
It had been a long day. Our families waited patiently all afternoon and evening, and then graciously went home after learning Emerson was here and all was well...knowing that meeting her the next day would be best for all of us. Bobby and I settled into our room, and watched a very welcome rain begin to fall outside the window. It was late...we were hungry...the cafeteria was closed. A very worn-out Bobby left to get dinner for us, and I rested, exchanged texts and a phone call with my mom, and waited for Emerson to be brought to our room for the night. Bobby came back with Burger King; Emerson came back freshly-bathed and swaddled. Our family was together. We fell asleep, rejoicing over what was the most exhausting, exhilarating, and joyous of days.
A day to treasure, and one to forever celebrate.