(7 days until due date)
I threw up over the side of the couch, and I knew: it was time to go to the hospital.
Months had passed since I had updated my pregnancy journal. I didn't make nearly as many entries during this pregnancy, and I knew that if I didn't make at least one more entry before the baby arrived, I would regret it. There were no signs of impending labor, no reason to believe that I couldn't make journaling happen the next day...and the later it got in the evening, the more I just wanted to crawl into bed. Still, at 39 weeks pregnant, writing an entry seemed like the right thing to do, so I sat on the floor of the living room, pen in hand.
"October is here...we are one week (or less!) away from meeting our daughter....and we are all so very excited. It seems entirely surreal, and so very hard to believe that her arrival is so near, and our time as a family of three so short."
Thursday, October 2, 2014
(6 days until due date)
I woke up at 6:45 a.m. feeling very definite cramping. I got out of bed and walked up and down the hallway.
Are these Braxton Hicks contractions? I don't think I've ever really felt those.... Baby isn't due for another week, and Emerson wasn't this early.... What are we dealing with here? What did this storm front bring about?!
I wasn't miserable, but the pain was growing increasingly uncomfortable...and closer and closer to being five minutes apart. I knew subsequent babies had a tendency to come more quickly, but what did that mean...really? Just how soon did I need to be thinking about going to the hospital?
I had a doctor's appointment already scheduled for 10:15 a.m. My biggest question throughout the morning was whether or not I could hold out until then to see what was going on, or would I be heading to the hospital instead? Bobby and I exchanged texts as the morning continued, both of us wondering where the day was headed.
I texted my mom at 7:57 a.m. to fill her in on the morning's happenings. The plan had been for Emerson to come with me to my routine doctor's appointment. However, at some point in the morning, as my discomfort and confidence that this could, in fact, be the "real thing" grew, my mom (who had been on her way to babysit my nephew) turned the car around to take care of Emerson here. The contractions had decreased in frequency, but there had been a few that were intense enough that I realized I'd rather leave Emerson at home with Mom.
I drove myself to my doctor's appointment on the rainy fall morning, and as I neared the office, I began to cry. I was in pain. I was nervous, primarily due to continuing uncertainty for how the soon-to-be big sister would handle my absence during the upcoming hospital stay. I was hormonal and emotional, and the tears continued to fall.
Sam Hunt's "Leave the Night On" was playing on the radio as I pulled into the parking lot. That was my jam, and it gave me a boost.
My contractions eased as my exam began (go figure) and had become less frequent. I was about 2.5 cm dilated...a half centimeter improvement from the previous week, and Dr. W said that "it feels like something has changed", that she thought I was in labor, but of course couldn't confirm before my water broke or things became more serious.
Then, she broke the news that in order for her to deliver my baby, I had to "either deliver before 5:00 p.m. or wait until Monday" because she had to take a red-eye flight to Vegas for the weekend for some sort of technology demonstration.
I didn't really care. I was more intrigued by the irony of the situation, given that she missed Emerson's birth, too. Honestly, as normal as the pregnancy had been and my previous delivery was, I didn't feel at all strongly that she be the one to deliver my baby. I'm perfectly happy with her as my doctor! But, I knew that life would go on if I delivered with another obstetrician. I'd done it before! She told me all about the two doctors that would be on-call over the weekend. I decided I'd be comfortable with either one.
"I'll be really surprised if you're still pregnant on Monday."
I drove home in a quiet van, trying to soak up the stillness...very aware that moments of solitude like that were about to become all the more rare.
I touched base with Bobby. I updated Mom, who assured me that she would be "on call" throughout the afternoon, and to let her know if I needed assistance.
Emerson and I had a restful afternoon. She was precious...loving, understanding...sensitive beyond her two years.
"Mommy's tummy is hurting."
"I'll rub it for you. ... That feel better?"
For all of Emerson's tender moments over the past months, rubbing my belly and talking to her sister, I realized that I didn't have any of it recorded. So, we made a video.
I bounced on the exercise ball as the afternoon progressed. Emerson napped for a while. I tried to sleep, too, without success. The contractions weren't all that frequent, but they were intense enough that I realized I didn't want to be alone. Around 2:50 p.m., I was ready for Bobby to come home. He did.
I began counting contractions using a contraction timer on the phone at 4:26 p.m. At that point, they were coming about 2:45 minutes apart.
I labored on the couch, changing positions as necessary, moaning with each contraction, trusting my body and the process and the Lord. Bobby and Emerson played in the playroom. She was happily distracted, and Bobby offered to help me, but there was little he could do. His time with Emerson was well-spent.
The two of them went outside to watch the thunderstorm from the garage. I joined them for a bit, bracing myself against Bobby's truck as contractions were growing in intensity. After a few minutes watching the heavy rain, I realized that I needed to be back on the couch. I was writhing in pain as the contractions came...more frequently, and requiring more focus than before.
My parents offered to bring pizza by for our supper, recognizing that we were otherwise occupied. Bobby ordered the pizza online at 5:27 p.m., though eating was the furthest thing from my mind. Mom and Dad showed up shortly after; I didn't move from the couch. After dropping off the pizza, they left, and I had another big contraction.
I threw up over the side of the couch, and I knew: it was time to go to the hospital.
My parents had barely left before I texted them asking them to return. Of all the scenarios I'd imagined regarding the timing for leaving Emerson, this was exactly the situation I hadn't wanted. Leaving in the evening, before bedtime, late-enough that Bobby wasn't going to be able to make it back to help with the nighttime routine. We'd never been away from her at nighttime. She would be scared. I was, too.
But, Mom in her "grandmotherly wisdom" showed up with a treasure box-shaped cardboard box, full of old Happy Meal toys and similar trinkets, and dumped them on the living room floor. Emerson was captivated with the "treasure" and with Grandma & Grandpa, and Bobby and I were able to give hugs & kisses and disappear quietly. Leaving her was every bit as difficult as I'd imagined it would be, but things were growing intense enough that I had other things to think about.
Around 7:00 p.m., I got in the passenger seat of the van, thankful to be on our way. It was dark, and the drive to the hospital was different than the last time...seeing the city lights and evening traffic instead of the early morning calm. I had several contractions, and noted that I didn't remember driving through them when Emerson was born.
"Leave the Night On" played on the radio again as the hospital came into view.
We pulled into the hospital, and when I stood up getting out of the van, the contractions intensified again. I was only able to walk a few feet at a time before needing to stop to focus through them. Bobby asked if I needed a wheelchair. Then I insisted that we needed a photo in front of the hospital for posterity.... He thought I was nuts.
The contractions continued as we walked into the hospital. I braced myself on the side of the elevator and on the hallway railing as we arrived on the 'Labor and Delivery' wing. We passed a family in the waiting area who seemed to have been there a while...they all had that impatient "look", and were flying paper airplanes back and forth to pass the time.
I leaned against the counter in the Triage area while Bobby got the paperwork we needed. No one seemed to be moving as quickly as I thought they should be.
"There aren't any rooms open right now", one of the nurses said to another coworker.
You'd better find one, I thought. It was getting more serious, and I was having a hard time focusing on anything other than the task at hand...that being, working through each contraction...leaning against the wall...hips rocking.... Does this not look like a pressing situation to them?
I had to fill out paperwork of some kind. I scribbled something down, and would love to see what my handwriting on those documents looks like.
They found a room, I walked back to the Triage unit, and went directly to the bathroom for a urine sample. I realized then that I could probably stop using my contraction timer phone app; the professionals would probably take over the calculation then. At 7:24 p.m., I entered my last contraction into the app: :45 second duration, 1:38 minutes apart.
In the privacy of the bathroom, I realized that we didn't make it to the hospital at all too soon. I was ready to be taken care of.
I was examined. I was 7 centimeters. I said something to the tune of "I wasn't messing around." The nurse reported the (unsurprising) news that my doctor wasn't on-call, but that she'd check to see if she was around. I informed her that she was on her way to Vegas; she didn't really seem to care.
I was wheeled to a room, and instructed to put on a gown. Ready to be in a bed and getting the show on the road, I decided modesty was of little importance at that point and undressed and dressed myself quickly. A nurse gave me an IV and tried to make conversation. "Have you been here before? You look familiar." I answered her politely enough, I think...but I knew I wasn't as friendly as I would've otherwise been. I was very much in "the zone" and knew I had work to do.
Bobby turned on some Jim Brickman music on the computer, and the Royals first ALDS playoff game versus the Angels on the television. I didn't notice any of it.
"Has she done it naturally before?" I don't think there was time for an epidural at that point, even if I'd wanted one. (I most assuredly did not.) I got the impression that they were trying to see if I knew what I was in for.
Time seemed to pass very quickly. I remembered from my labor with Emerson that being on my hands and knees was both more comfortable (relatively-speaking...and I do emphasize the "relatively") and productive. I assumed that position pretty much straight away, and it did get "things" moving.
I'll leave it at that.
A new nurse came into the room, and I introduced myself in a most vulnerable state. She was so kind, sensitive, and compassionate, and it wasn't until after the birth that I even saw what she looked like. (I was picturing her as a much older woman than she actually was.) She was an encouraging presence. Bobby was, too, but I was so focused in those moments...I really don't even remember talking to him....
The nurse asked me about my previous delivery at some point. Yes, I did it naturally. ... No, I didn't push very long. ... It took seven minutes last time, can we beat that? She somewhat doubted it.
An especially-strong contraction came, and with it, a new pressure. I got the nurse's attention. Quickly. She checked me again.
"Nope, I don't feel anything left...."
She rushed to the door, and I heard her yell "I need an O.B. in here, NOW."
I wasn't worried. It wasn't an emergency in the "something is wrong" sense. But, I knew...our baby was coming.
Within moments, the room was abuzz. The warmer was readied (a stark contrast to Emerson's birth, where the warmer sat prepared...and empty...for hours), and nurses all took their places. It was fascinating, really. It was game time, and everyone had a job to do.
I met Dr. L, a sweet, friendly woman who seemed to know what she was doing.... She broke my water, and I realized that I'd forgotten entirely about that piece of the process.
I asked Bobby for my glasses. The tv was turned off. The mirror was positioned.
I remembered from last time that the work was different now. This is where it got good....
A few (three, maybe? four?) pushes and five minutes later, we saw our daughter's head. Dark hair, just like her sister. I got a clear look at her tiny face; she was working hard, too! Entirely surreal.... That's her. This is me. This is happening.
And then, within a matter of moments, I felt the rush of her body leaving mine. Brennan Elizabeth was born at 8:37 p.m., and immediately placed on my chest. We had experienced another miracle, this time every bit as precious as the last. What a gift we were given. Thank you, Lord.
Bobby cut the umbilical cord.
I was quickly stitched, after a minor tear. I barely noticed. Brennan was still in my arms, nursing readily and resting, wide-eyed and peaceful. It was incredible to already know how to be "mom" this time.... She looked like her big sister, with "a beautiful round head because she came down so quick." In the busyness of her birth, the instruction to hold off on eye cream and the vitamin K shot was missed, and I was disappointed by that, but what was done was done.
We called Emerson first. "Brennan Elizabeth is here!" It was precious to hear her voice...happy, but shaky and unsure...it was after her bedtime, and we weren't there. She'd waited up to hear the news. She was in good hands, but hanging up the phone was hard. We sent her a video, showing Brennan nursing and saying 'goodnight' "in person", and she and Grandma sent us a video of her singing "happy birthday" to her new "baby 'tis-ter". It melted my heart, and I was so excited to have our whole family together in the morning.
Bobby called his family to share the news. They were gathered to watch the baseball game, and as the entire process happened so fast (we'd only been at the hospital for just over an hour!), they didn't even know I'd been in labor.
The surprise of her birth, being that it was a week earlier than expected, made the entire delivery feel that much more surreal. Of course we knew she was coming, but didn't imagine that it would be that day...so when she was in our arms, it was hard to believe, and seemed very much like an out of body experience. There we were! With our daughter! Another beautiful baby girl. Ours.
Brennan didn't leave my arms until an hour later when Bobby held her for the first time and she was measured and weighed. (7 lbs. 8 oz., 20 3/4 inches.) She was never out of our sight, and having her with us constantly was a precious experience.
The nurse filled out our admission paperwork. We hadn't had time to do that beforehand given the rush of the delivery. "Consent to treat?" "Oh, okay.... I suppose so." I was now in a much friendlier state of mind and body, and we had pleasant conversation.
The nurse brought me a soda. I felt incredible. Proud of what my body had once again naturally done with the Lord's strength. Enjoying the post-delivery adrenaline rush that is like no other.
I joked with our nurse about the hourly rate for the room and how much we'd saved by being so quick. I held Brennan in my lap as I was wheeled to a recovery room, passing the paper airplane-flying family in the waiting area. I felt proud, and a little guilty, for getting in and getting out with a brand-new baby while they were still waiting. Our nurse congratulated us again and helped us settle into our room.
Brennan was given her bath in our room. In the minutes we held her, we studied every inch of her face, noting lots of similarities between both of our daughters, & growing more in love with each passing moment.
Having missed cafeteria hours (and a pizza dinner at home...), Bobby left the hospital in the rain to bring back Burger King. (Tradition!) A burger and fries and more texts to loved ones later, we were all ready to rest. The three of us settled in to sleep, with anxious anticipation for our daughters to meet each other in the morning. It had been a most wondrous day, welcoming Brennan Elizabeth into our world. All was well.