With my first pregnancy, I was almost a week overdue, and ended up with an induction due to leaking fluid and high blood pressure. While I don’t regret the outcome of that delivery, I knew I wanted to avoid an induction the second time around. Fortunately, as the end of my second pregnancy neared, I felt sure that he would arrive before or on my due date, and that my delivery experience would be different. In the last couple weeks of my pregnancy, I had Braxton Hicks contractions on a nightly basis, with the discomfort mostly in my back. I felt encouraged that I would be able to avoid an induction this time, and cheerfully went to my appointment 2 days before my due date, sure all these contractions would indicate some progress.
75% effaced and a “possible 1cm.”
In hindsight, it was silly, but I was emotional and tired, and I left the appointment, sat in my car, and cried. I felt as if I was headed down a road I had been down before, with limited progression and a stubborn baby. I still had two weeks before my doctor’s office would advocate for medical intervention, which I logically knew was plenty of time, but emotionally I felt that nothing was going to change in that time. Blame it on hormones.
December 1st, my due date, came and went. I went on a massive grocery shopping trip. December 2nd came and went. December 3rd dawned and, desperate to get out of the house, my husband and I took our 2 year old to a morning at a local farm that included a petting zoo, playground, and very bumpy wagon ride. Nothing. I went to bed that night with the same sense of frustration.
At 2am, I woke up and used the bathroom, feeling cranky because the back pain and general discomfort of the night before had subsided and so once again, there were no signs that this baby was coming anytime soon. I had just gotten back into bed, and rolled to my side when the first contraction hit. Not painful, but uncomfortable, and enough to make my eyes pop open again. 10 minutes later, another obvious contraction, and I thought maybe I should keep an eye on the clock, just in case. I didn’t want to wake Kevin for a false alarm, so I went downstairs to play on the computer. Over the next half hour, the contractions continued, moving anywhere from 4-6 minutes apart, but I could still talk, and move through them, so they were lacking in the intensity needed for a trip to the hospital, and I wanted to labor as home as long as possible.
At 2:45, I woke Kevin up, and we called my mom, 2 hours away, to tell her that I thought things might be getting started, and that maybe she should drive down. I was extremely apologetic to both, worried that this might not be the real thing and that I was waking everybody up in the middle of the night for nothing. Still, we wanted to be prepared. The plan was to stay at home and monitor things until my mom got here to stay with Mia, and if things continued moving forward, we would head towards the hospital at that time. Kevin got up and began doing a few last minute things around the house while I decided to take a shower, thinking it would be the last time I had the chance to really get clean for awhile.
I stayed in the shower for only half an hour, but by the time I got out of the shower, contractions were spaced just a few minutes apart and increasing in intensity. We called the triage nurse to let her know of my "symptoms" and she passed the message along to the doctor on call to give them a heads-up that we might be coming in. I had another contraction while on the phone with her, and this time had to stop talking until it passed.
I came back upstairs and tried to distract myself with a movie (RV with Robin Williams), but it wasn’t helping. Each contraction had me bent over the furniture, moaning my way through it. I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to hold out another hour till my mom arrived, so Kevin called our backup to come over to the house and sit with our still sleeping 2 year old. Except nobody answered the phone. I didn’t know what to do, and didn’t want to “bother anyone else in the middle of the night”, but Kevin ignored me and called our neighbor, 3 doors down, a woman we didn’t know really well, but who three girls of her own, and had given Kevin her number a few days earlier, “just in case.” She answered immediately, and was at our house within minutes.
Meanwhile, I managed to pull on a top and stretch pants between contractions that were now only a minute or two apart. I wanted to throw a few last-minute items in my hospital bag, but couldn’t focus enough to accomplish the task. I gave up and worked my way downstairs, where I apologized to our neighbor for inconveniencing her, as Kevin pulled me out the door.
At 4:03am, we left the house for the 20 minute drive to the hospital. I don't remember much about this trip, other than the fact that we passed a sobriety checkpoint at one point, and I thought how inconvenient it would be if they stopped us now. I also remember feeling incredibly relieved when we pulled into the hospital parking lot because I knew that I would soon be in a bed and I could get something to help with the pain.
We checked into the ER at 4:25. I had pre-registered, but there are always more papers to sign. We started the process, except there were no longer any breaks between contractions. I was arching myself out of the wheelchair, and alternating between groaning and swearing under my breath. I just wanted to get checked in and comfortable since I knew I still had a way to go. The ER attendant decided that we could finish the paperwork later, and instructed Kevin to take me down the hall to L&D. He spun the wheelchair around and took off at a run down the hallway, with the attendant running beside him to attach my ID bracelet. I begged him to slow down, that I felt lightheaded and sweaty and his running was making me sick. He didn’t listen.
We arrived at L&D, and were directed to a room, where a nurse asked if I needed anything, and I kept repeating that I felt like I was going to be sick. She directed me to wait until the contraction ended, and then get out of the wheelchair and go into the bathroom to change. Three other nurses arrived, and when I said that I couldn't get out of the chair to move to the bathroom, one of them took charge and lifted me. She half-dragged me over to the bedside, and said she would help me change. I was shaking so badly that my legs were not holding my weight, and I felt what I thought was my water breaking . In hindsight, I think what happened was that my baby began to crown on that contraction. However, I had no idea I was so far along in my labor. My last labor had been 28 hours and I fully expected this one to be long, too.
I was feeling totally out of control at this point, and starting to get a little hysterical. My amazing nurse actually gave my shoulders a little shake and told me to “listen up, Mama” as she half-forced me down on to the bed and stripped my pants off so that she could perform a check.
She asked if my last birth was medicated, and I replied that it was. She answered, “Okay, mama, this one is going to be a little bit different.” Kevin tells me that she then turned and had one of the nurses run out into the hall to grab the nearest doctor. The next contraction arrived and my nurse encouraged me to yell my way through it. I did, and felt immediate relief. The second contraction arrived a split second later, and, without any conscious effort from me, the head and shoulders were out. The doctor rushed in just in time to catch our baby on the third and final push. Jacob Michael came roaring into the world at 4:35am on December 4th…2 hours and 35 minutes after the first contraction and 10 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. No time for medication, no time to get frustrated or tired, no time even to sign the required forms (I signed them AFTER delivery). He was 3 days overdue, but when he was ready, he was ready. 7lbs 7ozs, 20 inches, and a cuddler from the very beginning.
You would think that because it was my second labor, I would have known what was going on, but I had no idea how quickly my labor was moving. Jacob was born 10 minutes before my mom arrived at our house. After the delivery was over and my stitches were put in place, the combination of adrenaline, shock, and physical exhaustion had me shaking so severely that I was afraid to hold my own baby. So I passed him over, and Kevin got some cuddle time while I watched and tried to process what had just happened. 45 minutes passed before I felt more stabilized, and Kevin left to move the car from where we had left it in front of the ER. The only negative? In our rush, we left the camera in the car, so we have no pictures of those first few moments. Fortunately, we made up for it later.
Our first picture as a family of four:
Moral of the story: Every birth is its own experience.
Also, next time I will camp out in the hospital parking lot for the third trimester.