I apologize in advance for the excruciating detail in this post; I write so I can remember, and if I’ve learned anything about giving birth, it’s that I swap brain cells for newborns and writing everything down is no longer a luxury, but necessity. And here we go…
Palm Sunday found us at the 8 am Mass. Bags under my eyes, pleas for the kids to stop jousting with their palm branches, and an exceptionally uncomfortable wooden pew supporting my girth is what I’ll remember most about the The Moment I Knew I Was in Labor. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get comfortable. My back ached, my butt and hips were sore, and when I stood for a prayer, I felt…it. I was in labor. In church.
But that didn’t stop me from going to breakfast with my family after Mass. Don’t judge; I knew the doctors wouldn’t let me eat when I got to the hospital, and I wanted to enjoy a last meal of French Toast in peace.
When we got to the restaurant, I headed to the restroom and found that my body was gearing up for the long journey ahead. That’s a euphemism for my bloody show had started. (Details, see? Sorry, Dad).
I went back to the table and told my husband and brother (who had joined for breakfast) that I needed to call the doctor to check in, and the panic in their faces was priceless; they, too, were concerned they wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy their hash browns. We asked the waitress to please rush our order, and she was happy to oblige. Probably so my water didn’t break all over her dining room floor.
I stepped outside to dial the You’re In Labor But It’s the Weekend and Your Doctor’s Office Is Closed number, and was bummed to learn that a doc I had never met was on rotation. I shared the news with my husband who told me not to worry. “The nurses do most of the work anyway.” Isn’t that the truth?! #NursesRock
After sufficiently stuffing our faces, we went back home where I got into the bath tub and started paying attention to the contractions. They were regular AND intensifying, which is something that hadn’t happened during my Walk of Shame a few weeks prior. It was finally the real deal! We would soon be meeting our new son or daughter! I was thrilled! I was ready! I was tired…
I crawled into bed while Zach entertained the kids downstairs. Every now and again, one of them would pop in asking about my “connections:”
“Dad wants to know how far apart your connections are.”
“About 10 minutes. Tell him we’ll leave soon.”
The kids were involved in the entire pregnancy, helping to take my monthly, then weekly, belly shots, counting down the days to my due date with our fancy pink and blue paper chain–I love that they were invested and interested in our baby. Makes my heart smile just thinking about it. And, for the record, the paper chain? Accurate. So forget the old wives’ tales and Chinese prediction tools for determining gender; the paper chain is where it’s at:
Since we live an hour from the hospital, we packed up the kids around 3:30, dropped them at Grandma and Pap’s for Sunday family dinner, and were on our merry way. But not before I snapped one last pic of my baby belly:
The plan was to arrive at the hospital, but not check in so that I could avoid the epidural and, in my mind, another c-section. Funny, and a little bit obsessive, how one bad experience with my son’s birth scarred me for life. Everything I did or didn’t do in my later pregnancies was all predicated on avoiding a repeat Cesarean.
The second I got out of the car, a huge contraction hit. It scared me. I wanted the epidural five minutes ago. Zach was really good about keeping me calm and praising me for handling the pain, and when we finally got inside the hospital (took me forever to waddle my way in), he succeeded in persuading me to just walk around rather than head upstairs to answer the same set of questions every receptionist, nurse, resident, and doctor was sure to ask me at the peak of a contraction. So I labored up and down a corridor and on a bench in the lobby for as long as I could, and then it was time to make it official: triage.
I was 5 centimeters and completely effaced by the time a doctor checked me. Good progress, but I wanted to go longer without medication, despite one of the nurse’s suggestion to “get the good stuff now.” She also shared some awesome news: my doctor had just started her 24-hour rotation! Weeee!
A little after 8 pm, and we were in the labor and delivery room where we were introduced to the team that would help deliver our baby. Zach was visibly exhausted and starving, so he dug into his treat bag while I considered an epidural after a particularly painful contraction. The anesthesiologist was available, so I jumped on the chance while husband enjoyed an apple.
Epidural in place, and my doctor came back to check me. She broke my water and I quickly progressed one more centimeter. She told me to relax and get some rest, so we dimmed the lights and closed our eyes.
Until my husband was hungry again.
The hospital cafeteria was closed, and because the nurses were in love with him, they brought him menus from all of the local places that deliver, catering to his dietary needs: pasta, preferably with steak. So he ordered, I pretended my ice chips were chocolate chips, and we waited. And waited some more. It took FOR-EV-ER for the food to be delivered, and as Mr. Pasta was paying in the lobby, my doctor checked me again and confirmed I was ready to push. Zach entered the room just in time to hear those words and, like a flashback to breakfast, his face registered sheer panic.
Because I’m an amazing wife (also trying to avoid that c-section), I asked to labor down for a while. I was comfortable and I wanted to let nature run its course, which meant Zach could shovel in his pasta and risk heart burn. Amazing wife.
After a few garlic burps for him and some rectal pressure for me (details again), I thought I was ready to roll. The doctor and the nurses told me we would give it a practice push and if the baby had descended far enough, we would deliver.
Now, I’m not gonna lie: my Type A personality really wanted this kid’s birth date to be 4/14/14 because that’s just cool, and my numerically-challenged self would easily be able to remember it. It was around 11:30 when the doc suggested practice pushes and I was hoping (yes, hoping) that it would at least take until midnight to get that awesome birth date.
I have issues, I know.
One good push and I heard, “STOP!” I immediately thought, “Here we go again.” I prepared myself to hear “wheel her into the O.R., she needs another emergency c-section.”
Instead, I heard:
“The baby is RIGHT there. Don’t push until I tell you!”
God bless the epidural; I was able to delay pushing long enough for the bed to be broken down, the doctor to get in her gear, and for Zach to digest his dinner.
Around 11:50 pm, we got back to pushing. The doctor did everything to help prevent tearing, so I pushed and then stopped. Pushed and then paused. The head crowned and we did our best to ease it out slowly. Then the shoulders. Then the rest. And at 12:04 am (4/14/14, if you’re keeping track), a gooey, screaming infant was on my chest and the doctor announced it was a GIRL!
Lyla Grace (and her huge noggin) weighed in at 9 pounds, 11.5 ounces, and was 22 inches long. I was stunned to hear how big she was; her brother and sister were both just a little over 8 pounds, and I was mostly baby this pregnancy, as opposed to extra chinny and arm flabby like with the other two. My belly disappeared as soon as Lyla was delivered. When in the pushing position, I couldn’t even see my doctor’s face over the giant bump that was my belly; as soon as the baby was out, the doctor appeared! I seized that opportunity to yell, “Hey! There ya are!”
I’m a riot.
Labor and delivery lasted from 8 am until midnight, and ended with a gorgeous baby girl. We learned that she has two small heart murmurs, as per the absolute horror of a pediatric cardiologist with zero bedside manner. The murmurs will close on their own within a few months. Until then, I’ll quietly worry and continue to throw extra prayers up to the Big Guy to keep my girl healthy and safe.
(Update: 4/14/2017: All is well with our little girl’s heart.)
I ended up with a few repairs in my nether region, but I think that’s to be expected after birthing the equivalent of a 3-month old. What’s strange is that I feel amazing. The worst part of the recovery was the nurses continually massaging my uterus back into place. Seriously, ladies, OUCH. Though, this was really fascinating to me: my body was involuntarily shaking right after delivery, shivering SO BADLY and I couldn’t get it to stop! One of the nurses gently took my pinkie toes in her hands and spread them away from the others. The tremors stopped! It was amazing. Our bodies are AMAZING.
Anyway, I feel great. Lyla nurses well, takes a bottle well, AND will entertain a pacifier in a jam. She sleeps like a champ (usually midnight to 7 am–I KNOW) and is generally a very chill baby. Her big brother and sister adore her, and have been helpful and protective. To say we are blessed is the understatement of the year.
Most importantly, especially for my husband, I finally feel our little family is complete. After having my son, I knew I wanted another. After having his sister less than two years later, I knew I still wanted another. And now that Lyla has joined our team, I no longer feel that undeniable baby urge for the first time since Project Baby Making commenced almost 6 years ago. I’m making peace with the fact that there will be no more babies in my belly.
I’m almost positive.
At least for now.