The contractions hit harder and faster than I imagined. This couldn’t be the real deal, though. While I’d been dilated and effaced for weeks, with an induction scheduled the next morning, I didn’t let myself believe this was actual labor. After all, I’d had two false alarms before, and I knew they’d just send me back home if I wasn’t officially 39 weeks. I SO wanted it to be go time though. I wasn’t quite miserable yet, but I’d always dreamed of that quintessential “honey it’s time” labor sequence you see in the movies. I’d grip my belly and grab his hand while we raced to the hospital. My other two were scheduled inductions, and I always felt like all the fun was taken out, even though I enjoyed the predictability.
I told my husband I would drink a big glass of water and lie down. Surely, they’d pass or slow down. The bright afternoon light streamed through our big bedroom windows. The house was quiet. Our oldest was at school, our middle was at daycare, and my husband had the day off work. We’d been enjoying one last peaceful time together. In fact, we probably enjoyed it a little too much if you know what I mean. While we didn’t actually think it would put me into labor, we didn’t think it could hurt. And that’s enough about that.
Back to those contractions. They were coming every 2-3 minutes, and strong. I tried to ignore them. This isn’t real. This isn’t real. I did NOT want to get sent back home from the hospital again. I went downstairs to fold laundry, determined not to come home to a messy house after we had the baby. I grabbed a bag of sour cream and chive potato chips for good measure. When momma’s gotta eat, she’s gotta eat. Even when she’s alternating between moaning through contractions and folding towels. My husband poked his head in the door. “You okay?” Yep. Just gotta get this laundry folded. And eat this bag of chips. Oh, and tell your dad he might have to stay here with the kids if we end up going to the hospital. My father-in-law was on his way out, delivering some baby chicks we’d ordered together. My husband gave me that look. The one that said, “I’m excited but don’t want to get too excited.
Back upstairs I went, maybe watching TV would get my mind off it. My phone rang. It was my OB’s nurse, returning my call from earlier in the morning about some test results. She could tell something was up. “Are you having contractions?” How did she KNOW? I swear, I was trying to hide it. Yes. Yes I was. She asked how often, and I told her. “You need to get to the hospital. You live 45 minutes away, and your labor will probably go quickly.” But, what if it’s not real and they send me home? “Honey, go.” Okay.
I threw the last remaining items in the suitcase, and waddled downstairs. My husband and his dad were in the garage, finishing up putting the new baby chicks in the empty stock tank, where they’d stay until they were ready for the coop. I stood bent over at the kitchen counter, breathing, cursing, breathing. “They are making me cuss. We need to go.” Then, panic set in. What if I’d waited too long? What if this baby popped out on the way? I mustered all of my inner peace, and hoisted my hippoesque self into the passenger seat of our van.
Let me tell you, if you haven’t yet made the decision of who you’d like to father your children, here’s a helpful hint: men who’ve driven fire engines are excellent labor chauffeurs. My husband drove that van like nobody’s business, passing and maneuvering with speed and smoothness and during rush hour traffic no less. That was perhaps one of the most romantic moments of our relationship. And my Hollywood labor fantasy was beginning to unfold.
Finally, gloriously, we arrived at the BirthCare Center. “Well, I guess I’m not having this baby on the highway.” Seriously, I thought I might have the baby on the highway. I waited what seemed like an eternity to be checked in. I huffed and puffed through the check-in process, and was finally taken back into a room. They checked me. A wonderful nurse named Denise. I was at a four, when I’d been at three the week before in the doctor’s office. “Will they keep me?” She called to check. She came back with the news. Unless I progressed to a five within an hour, they wouldn’t admit me. I wasn’t quite 39 weeks. No. No!!! I cried. “You have to keep me. You can’t send me home like this.”
Denise gently placed her hand on my shoulder. “Start walking honey.” They’d already started me on an IV of fluids to see if contractions would stop, so I had to pace in my room rolling my IV pole, my hospital-issued traction socks shuffling from one end of the tile floor to the other. The clock ticked. I walked. And walked. And walked. Finally, it was time.
Nervously, I let my legs fall apart as the head of the bed was lowered and Denise did what Denise had to do. Her eyes met mine. “I’m calling you a five.” Sweet hallelujah! I’ll never know if I actually was or she fibbed in my favor. Relief washed over me and I finally let myself believe. “We’re meeting our baby boy tonight.” My sweet husband smiled, and started making phone calls. I texted my cousin (of CLG Photography), who’d agreed to photograph the birth. She was out of town at her son’s basketball game, and without her camera. She was planning to come the next day, when, you know, I was actually scheduled to have the baby. “I’m running home to get my camera.” That was a two hour round trip. Bless her. But I wasn’t sure she’d make it in time.
I looked at the clock. It was a little after five. This baby was sure to come soon. My first labor lasted around seven hours, and my second was only five. My OB assured me this one would go even more quickly. I was hooked up with a bag of antibiotics. I’d tested positive for Strep-B, and we were fearful they wouldn’t have time to get in my system before delivery. This particular antibiotic needed to be readministered in another eight hours, but I was assured I wouldn’t need that second dose. This next part was a blur. Except I got up to pee. A lot. Another two hours or so went by, and I was finally at a six. “It’s all downhill from here,” I was assured. I finally decided to get my epidural, since I knew delivery might be here quicker than we knew it. “Will this slow down my labor?” I was assured it would not, given how quickly I was already progressing.
Some angels wear badges, some wear robes, and some wear scrubs. Mr. Anesthesiologist, whoever you are, thank you. He calmly explained every sensation I experienced, until the numbness began to spread through my lower body. Only, I was feeling something else spread through my body. Crap. Crappity crap crap. A panic attack, looming large on the horizon, began clouding my delivery utopia. And while panicked, I remained pragmatic. Denise had gone, and another nurse, Lori I believe, had taken her place. “I have an anxiety disorder. I’m having a panic attack. I know I’m probably not dying, or permanently losing control of my body, but I feel like I am. I need you to tell me I’m okay. I need you to check my vitals. I need facts. I need reassurance.” She didn’t dismiss my fears. She did exactly as I’d asked. She even called Mr. Anesthesiologist back into the room. I know they didn’t smooth my hair and sing lullabies to me, but they might as well have.
Finally, the panic passed. And with it, my contractions. Damn. Slowed down to a trickle. Further apart, and not as intense. Seriously?! The clock inched closer to midnight. I was tired, so tired. Family members tiptoed in and out. “Any news?” After several hours with no real progress, Mr. Pitocin was sent to the rescue. Up, up, up it went until finally, I felt that sweet sensation. The pressure. It was like something had snapped and boom! I could tell it was time to push. I hit the nurse call button. “I think it’s time.” Her gloved had traveled to my numb-to-the-world nether regions. Her face fell. “You’re only at a seven.”
By this point, nearly 13 hours after going into labor, I was crestfallen. I just knew a c-section was on the horizon. That couldn’t be right. Seven?! But I could feel SO much pressure. Did I really not know my body? I began to doubt myself, and feel guilty about my family sleeping out in the waiting room. I felt like I was letting them down. I’d promised everyone a fast labor. I’D been promised a fast labor. My poor cousin (of CLG Photography) sat patiently in a chair, snapping pics of moments along the journey. She definitely hadn’t bargained to be here this long. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I kept telling everyone.
Enter nurse Angela. She’d been by my side several weeks earlier when I’d had a false alarm, and said she was surprised I went another two weeks in my condition. “I’m here to check you.” But, I’d just been checked. Why more disappointment? She informed the other nurse wasn’t as experienced at cervical checks, and she just wanted to see for herself. I held my breath. Maybe I was really an eight? She lifted the sheet and felt around for a millisecond. “You’re at ten. Time to push.”
WHAT?! So, you mean, the baby could have just fallen out? Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But still, that nurse, as sweet and awesome as she was, was WAY off. The lights came on. ALL the lights. The closet was opened and all the tools came out. Every medical staff and their dog rushed into the room. It was showtime.
I remember looking up at all of their faces. I knew I would never be here again. This is our last baby. The moment was so crystal clear. Here’s the part where I shine. These wide hips serve me well. Feet in stirrups, I pushed for less than ten minutes. And when he emerged, when his chubby, slimy, sweet body emerged, I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes, and said, “Let’s have another!”
Yep. Weird, I know. But you guys! This birth, I gotta tell you. It was so beautiful. And perfect. Euphoria. The next two days in the hospital were pure bliss. I’m not trying to sugar coat a thing. Yes, I was tired. And yes, I was sore. But that happiness is something indescribable, and sadly, not something I felt with my others. There’s something about having your third, maybe. And knowing it’s your last. I soaked it in. Every bit.