The day before my due date – Tuesday, March 24th – I had another doctor’s appointment. I waited for hours (my doc is popular in the area and is always delivering babes), passing the time in the waiting room watching HGTV and scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed.
I began to feel just the tiniest bit crampy. Small twinges in my belly. I had a feeling I was close. The week prior, I had scheduled an induction for Thursday evening, March 26th, after another ultrasound revealed that Baby Dragon was at least 9 pounds and I had zero labor symptoms.
I finally saw the doc, who told me I was 1 centimeter. Boom! I knew I was in early labor. I’ve never dilated in the slightest before I was in the hospital. I also learned from my doctor that I should have had a whooping cough vaccine (women are now encouraged to get them with each pregnancy)… A fact that she neglected to tell me until I mentioned that there was a potential case of whooping cough at the kids’ preschool, and should I be concerned?
Ailie also had a slight cough. I wanted to ensure she was able to come to the hospital when I had the baby ANY SECOND NOW. So here is how my “early labor ” went:
Rush home to update the visiting in-laws.
Frantically call all the doctors.
Rush to pick up kids from school.
Rush Ailie to the pediatrician.
Good news! Her tubes fell out and she has an ear infection! But probably not whooping cough but let’s just make sure.
Rush to my primary care doc for some delicious whooping cough vaccine.
Finish packing hospital bag. Include tiny maternity jeans and non-maternity tees shirts and clothes because obviously I will fit into those immediately because I am in touch with reality.
SIT, whilst others put the kiddos to bed.
Watch Sherlock, while EATING.
Notice that my cramps have ceased.
Will be pregnant forever, obviously. Baby will be 13 pounds.
Remember that labor with Hendrik started and stalled, but once the cramping started he was born a measly 40 hours later.
Cheer up slightly, because I can do 40 more hours of pregnancy!
Resolve to get some sleep, because it’s almost certainly go-time. I think.
Snooze until 2 AM.
LABOR. SHIT. I remember you. You hurt a lot.
I meander around our bathroom for awhile, stopping during contractions and breathing. My contractions are still manageable, and I’m trying to enjoy them. Really. I know that this is likely my last rodeo. As excited as I am to finally be un-pregnant, I already know there are many, many things I will miss. (Writing this, months later, I’m aching for in-utero baby kicks and wiggles, even though this pregnancy left me handicapped in many, many ways.)
After about 30 minutes, I wake J up. He takes his customary “labor shower” to prepare for an extended hospital stay. I don’t do much but pull on awful black sweats and an old Target cardigan. And you guys? I wish I would have showered or slapped on a little make-up. I look a hot mess. But I suppose I had other priorities at this point. Labor was definitely in full-swing.
We say good-bye to our sleeping babies – I’m vaguely aware that everything is once again changing forever – and tell J’s parents we are headed to the hospital. I’m thrilled through my pain.
I keep breathing.
The car ride is peaceful. We hold hands. Last time, I think. And I am wistful, until a contraction brings me back to the present. Also, J does the ONE thing I ask him not to do, and that is to ask: “Are you sure it’s time?” I try not to do murder.
We park and head to the Labor and Delivery entrance. It’s completely silent and dark, and a sign explains that after 10 PM, we must go through the ER. I had completely forgotten, as J warned me we could not take the labor and delivery course at the hospital a third time. J offers to get the car, but I believe the ER entrance is close and we can walk.
The ER entrance is NOT close. I stop for contractions and say lots of swear words.
FINALLY – a wheelchair! A door!
I’m rushed to L&D. Before I know it, I’m properly attired and being checked.
FOUR to FIVE!
After that, things move very quickly. We got to our room around 4 AM, and my epidural comes quickly. I’m extremely proud that I was able to manage my pain to this point. The last time, I felt like a feral animal (BACK LABOR). This time, I am a zen mama pregnancy master. I didn’t even yell at J AT ALL. Please give me a medal.
This epidural is much more effective than my second epidural, which really did not work well and left me paralyzed but still with excruciating back labor. I’m so grateful that the edge is taken off the pain (and that I can still feel my legs and the contractions). I am ridiculously grateful for this marvel of modern medicine, and in awe of all the women in history who did not have this option.
The next time I am checked, I’m at 7. My doc tells me when she returns, she’ll break my water. A few minutes later, J and I are chatting happily with the nurses when my body makes a loud pop and then there ensues a tsunami of amniotic fluid. I’m slightly embarrassed but it’s really very hilarious. Folks, we are about to have a baby REAL QUICK. The nurses marvel that my belly has gone down tremendously, and assure me that the baby is definitely not as big as we think. HEH.
Only, there’s a small problem. The fluid is not clear. It’s green. I know this means meconium, but I don’t know what happens next. The nurses tell me not to worry – that’s their job – but they’ll have to call in the NICU, the respiratory tech, and a neonatal nurse practitioner. They also tell me I won’t get to hold my baby right away. I’m disappointed, but of course I need baby to be okay. They’ll need to make sure Dragon’s lungs are clear. They’ll keep baby in the room. I tell J he must be with baby.
And then my doc is there and I am pushing. Poorly. I’m distracted by the meconium, and I’m not holding pushes as long as I should. It doesn’t actually matter though. It’s true what they say: the third mostly just walks out. After two bad attempts, the doc tells me to stop pushing. The baby’s head is out. She’s got a finger in baby’s mouth to prevent Dragon from sucking in the meconium. I’m not sure what is happening but a moment later I’m the mama of another gorgeous baby girl, who is yelling loudly as they suck out her lungs in an incubator next to me.
I’m crying as J stands between us keeping an eye on baby. Someone yells “where is this blood coming from?!” and I’m officially out of my mind. J is assuring me there is not much blood. There is some confusion among them, but it seems like it’s just coming from the cord.
Eventually, after maybe five minutes that feel like hours, I get to hold our Violet Patricia.
As I do this, a nurse tells me several things.
Her lungs look great!
But the doc heard a popping noise on the way out and we are pretty sure her clavicle is broken. We’ll confirm with an x-ray.
Also, that blood we thought was coming from the cord? It was coming from her. She lost some blood, so she may need a transfusion. But that’s probably not likely.
Birth is traumatic. Both physically – ahem understatement alert GIANT PADS STITCHES LOCHIA cough – and psychologically. Having this tiny creature injured in this way… I can not stop shaking. Violently. I am trying to nurse her, but I am terrified of her broken bone and my convulsions. Finally, I give her to J and beg the nurses to give me a sedative. Of course they do not, can not. I’m a nursing mama. But they make believe they are checking with the doctor and by the time there is no news (twenty minutes?) the convulsions have slowed to gentle shaking. I practice deep inhalations and try to sip hospital apple juice – nectar of the gods – though it feels like my throat is constricted.
Eventually, the terror of the tense moments fade. My baby is safely in my arms – a bit battered, yes – but not in the NICU. She is a whooping nine pounds and eleven ounces. Her clavicle is broken; she will not need a transfusion. She is strong and mighty and we get to keep her.
And our family is complete.