I was feeling weird. Chalk it up to maternal instincts or just general anxiety, but I could feel the baby-storm brewing. I wasn't having any notable labor signs. In fact, I wasn't having any. My entire pregnancy, I only had one contraction which very well might have been gas pains. Whatever it was, I knew that our little one would be arriving soon which was surprising & ever-anticipated.
The previous thursday, I went in for my usual weekly appointment. Sitting on the table, with my pants neatly folded placed on the visitor chair, I hoped that my bits & pieces had progressed since my last check up. To my disappointment, my cervix hadn't budged. I was still 80% effaced & 1.5cm dilated. She had been sitting low my entire pregnancy so it was hardly good news. Our doctor indicated that once I did begin to dilate, my labor would go quickly but I could remain at 1.5cm dilated forever. The thought did cross my mind, "I'm going to be pregnant for the rest of my life." I know this was hasty, especially because at the time, I was only 38 weeks & 3 days pregnant. In attempt to send my body into labor, our doctor swept my membranes. So, we waited.
I think the undeniable feeling of angst is common as a pregnancy comes to an end. The house is clean & the nursery filled with all things baby. Perhaps I would have been more patient, but for weeks, we thought she would come early. Between the specialist appointments & follow up growth ultrasounds, I thought I would be induced at 38 weeks. However, she kept growing which was wonderful. The weekend passed after my membranes were stripped, with no signs of labor, I thought I would definitely need to be induced at 41 weeks.
As I organized & re-organized every drawer in our apartment on Tuesday afternoon, I had a conversation with my mom. July will mark 10 years since she passed away in a car accident, but I feel closer to her now than ever. I told her about the fears I was having & residual stress caused by another emergent NST from the night before. I was lucky enough not to feel physically strained by my pregnancy, but I did feel emotionally exhausted. To even entertain the idea of losing our daughter was paralyzing. I also know that the thought was outlandish & unlikely, but we were ready to watch over her here.
In hopes to strike a deal with the heavens above, I played the "dead parent" card which to those who have two living parents find very insensitive. I believe we all have blessings & trials. I don't necessarily believe that because we have trials, we are blessed. However, throughout my life I have seen the blessings that seem to parallel the death of my mom. It's a sweet tender mercy from God in which, I'd like to think, He's saying, "I'm watching out for you, kid." In what I'd like to call a divine conference call between my Heavenly Father, mom & myself, I asked to go into labor soon. The conversation ended with a pretty please & cherry on top. I know it sounds ridiculous, & borderline fabricated, but it's a testament to me that my prayers are heard.
wednesday, march 11.
I knew the feeling all too well. Period cramps. Aching, pulsing, cramps. I didn't anticipate contractions to feel so similar. I'm not sure why, because essentially, labor & period cramps are one in the same- your uterus trying to eat itself & your entire body in the process.
I quietly got out of bed to get ready. I left McKay to sleep, hoping that we had a long day ahead of us. My contractions were consistent, yet bearable. After putting my brows on & starting the dish washer, I told McKay we should head to the hospital.
With our bags in the back seat & her carseat installed, we parked at the hospital. My contractions remained consistent, but I wasn't sure how strong they needed to be to dilate my stubborn cervix. As we checked in, I had the passing thought, "what if I'm still at a 1.5?" I didn't want to be sent home. All of our things were packed, I was freshly showered, the timing was perfect & we were ready.
A nurse led us back into a triage room & handed me a gown. After changing, she started monitoring the baby & checked to see if I was dilating. "Oh, you're only at a two." My heart sank. She mentioned that a lot of first-time moms often stay in this phase of labor- which is actually fake labor with contractions, for 48 hours. Seeing the disappointment on our faces, she reassuringly told us that we could stay for an hour & if I dilated a centimeter, they would keep us.
I remained at a two. My contractions grew stronger & more distracting. Our nurse suggested that we go home & rest because she was hopeful that we would be back later in the day. Anyone who had the pleasure of checking my lady bits seemed confident that our baby would slip right out because she was so, so low. After accepting a dose of percocet to ease the contractions, we were sent on our way.
We stopped at my favorite donut shop on the way home which I formally dubbed labor-donuts. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting plus sprinkles. I have credible reasoning to believe they put me into full blown labor.
As the medication set in, my body relaxed which helped ease the contractions. I slipped into bed & fell asleep.
Contractions are my favorite kind of pain. Consistent, reliable & satisfying. I learned that if you can let the contraction take over your body, the pain, up to a certain point, is bearable. If you choose to tense up, & try to control the pain, it becomes worse.
The tightening ache came closer together, & stronger. I started to screen shot the time on my phone with the beginning of every contraction. 12:59, 1:02, 1:08, 1:13, 1:17, 1:21, 1:24, 1:28, 1:32. I wasn't sure if we should go back to the hospital, for fear that we would be sent home. Again. I also didn't want to labor too far on my own, therefore missing the sweet, sweet window for an epidural. Walking blindly, I decided to wait. We were so good at waiting.
After a few hefty, woah-this-is-why-you-see-women-screaming, contractions, we headed back to the hospital. With the same nurses on staff, I smiled & said, "we're back." I was still walking, talking & had the ability to function through contractions which, I'm sure, made the nurses question why we came back so soon.
Triage room. Gown. Undressed. Re-dressed. Monitored. Cervix check. Please, please, please be dilated to at least a four. The nurse resurfaced from underneath my gown & said, "Oh, you're 90% effaced" YES! "& 3 centimeters dilated." No. I deflated. My eyes filled with tears. Perhaps out of embarrassment. Perhaps exhaustion. A nice blend of both, probably. They continued to monitor the baby for an hour. The hour passed without any changes.
Our nurse, who was so lovely, suggested that we go walk the halls to encourage my cervix to widen. She- my cervix- was being such a brat. McKay & I jogged the stairwell, & walked the halls. Walking through my contractions started to become difficult, so I chose to run the stairs faster. Just one more centimeter, just one.
It was our last attempt to get admitted. After walking, jogging, & bouncing, our nurse came in for a final check. Her face was sweet which seemed to say, "you poor, first time mom. I hope you've dilated too." I held McKay's hand as she measured. I'm sure my face was swept with desperation. Our nurse looked disappointed & gearing up to tell us the bad news. It was bad news. "You are still dilated to a three. I'm so sorry." She continued to talk about what we should do next but I didn't hear her. I generally try to avoid becoming an emotional basket case in front of strangers but I was too tired not to. Tears stained my cheeks, as I tried to listen to her. She was trying so nicely to tell us that we needed to leave. No room in the inn, I thought. I gripped the bed sheets as my contractions grew stronger. Our nurse gave me another dose of medication & we went home. Again.
I had been here today. The gentle haze set in from the percocet was familiar so I tried to sleep as I did before. Then they came. They came fast, hard & over-powered any drug that was trying to counteract them. I suddenly realized what actual labor contractions felt like.
Understanding that sleep was no longer a possibility, I drew myself a bath. My body lost all ability to relax through the contractions. I sank lower into the warm water & braced myself. I only had a a few minutes of relief at a time. Contractions are painful but with every excruciating wave, I was so pleased. I knew that these contractions were demanding my cervix to get moving.
"We need to go back." My sweet, sweet husband hesitated for just a small moment which quickly translated to, "are you nuts?" It was a valid thought. We had been sent home from the hospital 2 hours ago. I was sure that this baby was on her way. Soon. My contractions were telling- screaming, in fact. Without questioning, we left for the hospital for the 3rd & final time.
I focused on my breathing, which is the tag line for labor. It's not the breathing that helps (well, it does help.) It's focusing on anything but the pain. I sat in the passenger seat, focusing. Focusing on our baby that would be here so soon, on the fact that my body was doing something incredible, & admittedly on the hopes for an epidural.
I stood up & immediately recoiled back into the front seat of the car. My contractions demanded all of my attention, losing the ability to talk or walk. McKay retrieved a wheelchair which acted like a pack mule for all of our things & me. It was the first time that we brought our bags in, because I wasn't leaving this place without a baby. I thought to myself, if they try to send me away this time, I'm setting up camp in the lobby.
As McKay wheeled me into labor & delivery, I tried to smile at the nurses again. Many of them I was already familiar with. We followed all of the same steps we knew so well from that day. The nurse waited for the short break between contractions to check my cervix, which I was thankful for. "Oh, you're definitely at a 6+." Yeessssssss. As we moved to our own room, our nurse told us that the anesthesiologist would be in shortly. My nerves spiked. Not for the epidural, but for the IV which is stupid. Tiny needle vs. a texas-sized syringe. Our IV-fairy nurse arrived & I wanted to barf. "Oh, you have deep veins." My eyes widened, I hope that means they are super easy to find. My other hand held McKay's as I looked in the opposite direction. The pinch was minimal. I did ask the nurse if I could put a sticker over the incision because it grossed me out. She said no, so I kept the back of my right hand turned away from my face at all times.
A dark haired, peppy doctor walked into our room. He thanked me for getting an epidural because there was a screamer down the hall. I laughed. He was young, probably not a day over. I pushed the "I hope this isn't your first rodeo, sir" thought from my mind. I sat indian style on my bed with my head towards my chest. McKay tried to watch as I yanked him back in front of me. Next time I won't ruin his fun. As I was breathing through a contraction, I felt a mild pinch on my lower back. It was less painful than a regular flu shot. The anesthesiologist finished taping my back as he told me that I would start feeling the drugs set in within the next 30 minutes. He wished us the best of luck & disappeared off towards the screamer.
thursday, march 12.
As the lower half of my body went numb, so did my contractions. Oh, what a relief that was! My tired body responded so well to the epidural which I am still grateful for. BriAnna, my sister in law & Melanie, my mother in law arrived for the delivery. Now that we had our own room, I was able to host a late night labor party. It was relatively short lived as we all fell asleep. I woke up on occasion as our nurse, Corrina (who was absolutely wonderful,) came to check on my vitals. I looked over to Melanie & Bri curled up on the couch, & McKay asleep on the floor- this is not how I pictured labor. No screaming, chaos, or pain. It was so calm.
I woke up to a pop (which oddly soundly like a water balloon hitting the pavement) & an involuntary rush of fluid. "My water broke! My water broke!" I said, waking the others up. Corrina came in shortly after to check my cervix. 10! It was baby time. I expected the anxiety to set in but it never came. It felt like Christmas morning. The only nerves I had stemmed from excitement. Our room started to shift- they turned on the baby bed warmer, & started wheeling in carts with medical gear.
"Let's start pushing." said Corrina. It was so casual & friendly. McKay held my right leg, Corrina on my left. I wasn't able to feel my contractions, so we watched the monitor to know when to push. I didn't take a birthing class or read any in-depth books about how to actually give birth. Perhaps it was naive of me, but I figured that my body was built for this. As a contraction started, I pushed. I think I pushed anyway. I couldn't feel absolutely anything. With all romanticizing aside, giving birth is like taking the biggest poop of your life. I pushed like I hadn't pooped in days, because frankly, I wasn't sure how else to push. (Also, now you are wondering, no- I did not poop while delivering.)
"I'm going to go get the doctor now." Things were moving quickly. Quicker than anyone anticipated. A few short moments later, Dr. Bean arrived- who is wonderful & should deliver all of the babies. I pushed & started to feel pressure. I once wondered what this "pressure" all moms talk about. I assumed this pressure had to be paired with pain. I'm sure there is pain if you deliver naturally, but with the tender, love & care from my epidural, it was painless. "Look at that hair!" Dr. Bean said as he looked up at me. I looked over to McKay, who was watching, "What color is it?" I asked with excitement. "Dark brown!" We smiled at each other. I was overwhelmed with love for him.
When asked, I pushed. Rest, then push. Though it was now the early morning, my thoughts were clear. Mid-push, I thought to myself, I love delivery. I'd like to do this again. "Oh, there's her head!" Another push, "& her shoulders!" I opted out of having a mirror because I wasn't entirely sure what to expect & I become rather queasy with the sight of blood. However, parallel to me on the opposing wall, mounted a TV. It was high enough that I could vaguely see our daughter in it's reflection. She was nearly here.
With a final push, I felt a relief of pressure. She let out a cry & was lifted onto my chest. With chubby cheeks & a head full of dark hair, she felt so familiar to me. As she laid on my chest, she lifted her head & looked at me. I knew her. I loved her to my core. McKay stood next to me, one hand holding mine, the other holding our daughters. I was overwhelmed with love- for my husband, for the sweet opportunity to be parents, for our heaven-sent daughter. Our doctor asked, "What is this little girl's name?" McKay & I looked at each other, mutually agreeing, "Juniper Grey Livingston."