Let me just start by saying right off the bat that I know birth stories aren't everyone's cup of tea, so feel free to skip this one if you're less than enthused about the topic! However, I'll spare the goriest details, since...the internet doesn't really need those anyway. Continuing with the disclaimers, I apologize about the length. This post is more for my own memory-keeping than anything else, so it's pretty much a small novel.
I finished working on Friday, May 26th. I had honestly been hoping that the little one would make her appearance ON the 26th, since Chaz and I got engaged on October 26th and married on July 26th, but no luck - I finished working, packed up the remainder of the things left in my office, and Chaz helped me carry it all down to my car. At 39+3 weeks, I was DONE being pregnant. Pregnancy, overall, treated me extremely well - no morning sickness, no cravings, no excessive weight gain - until the last two weeks. Between swelling of all my extremities and some unpleasant side effects that caused severe discomfort, I was really, really hoping to go into labor over the long weekend. Plus, it was a long weekend! Aside from the fact that my brother had declared that May 28th was an off-limits date since it was his birthday, the timing couldn't have been better.
I'd been having consistent Braxton Hicks contractions for most of the day on both Thursday and Friday, to the point where they were timeable. But by the time the evening rolled around, they'd taper off, and I'd go to bed hoping that I'd get a full night's rest and go into real labor bright and early the following morning.
I woke up on Saturday (May 27th) and felt the same - extraordinary discomfort due to my "side effects," with mild contractions about 20 minutes apart. Every few hours I'd get excited because they'd increase to about 15 minutes apart and start feeling mildly painful, but they'd space out again shortly thereafter. We proceeded with our regular Saturday routine. Chaz went to the dump, we cleaned the house, and then we got ready for the day. Around lunchtime, we decided to go on an excursion to Wahlburgers for lunch. While the burger was delicious, it was probably the most uncomfortable meal of my entire life. I could barely sit on the hard chair, and my "Braxton Hicks" contractions, though still not more frequent than 15 apart, were decidedly uncomfortable. We got back in the car, headed home, and spent a quiet afternoon around the house.
The evening rolled around and we grilled pork chops for dinner and sat down to watch a show. I noticed the contractions were getting closer together, clocking in at 10 to 12 minutes apart, but remained convinced they'd go away as soon as I went to bed. But as soon as we got tucked in around 10:00, I realized sleep wasn't in the cards for me. I told Chaz to get some rest, but that I was going to go downstairs and manage them there "until they went away."
I went to our guest bedroom and dozed there between contractions, which were getting steadily more painful and decidedly closer together. I stayed down there until 1:00, at which point they jumped from every 6 - 7 minutes to every 4. I finally convinced myself that they weren't stopping like I expected, so I gave the birth center a call, and to my surprise - I'm still not sure why I found this surprising - they told me to come in.
Since our guest bedroom is downstairs and Chaz was sleeping upstairs, I texted him at first to see if I could avoid climbing the steps. No luck. I waited another five minutes, breathed my way through another contraction, and then went to wake him up. "Is it time to go?" he said. I confirmed, and I put in earrings (again...not sure why I felt that was necessary) while he got his bag ready and put everything in the car.
We arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later and they sent us to L&D triage, where they put me on the monitors for 20 minutes to make sure everything was consistent. After the nurse told me that the contractions weren't the "strong, middle-of-labor contractions" variety characteristic of active labor, I convinced myself they were going to send me home. But! The doctor came to check me, and upon finding that I had made some progress, he informed me I could stay and we'd be having a baby. They had me sign a bunch of forms, took my blood (though I tried to talk them out of that...), and got me into a delivery room by 3:00am.
The hours between 3:00 and 6:00 are a bit of a blur. I spent most of the time sitting on a yoga ball beside the bed with my head and arms draped over a stack of three pillows so I could rest between contractions. The nurse came in to check on me every so often, but by the time 6:00 rolled around, I knew something needed to change since I felt like I wasn't going to be able to handle the pain for much longer. The nurse offered me a couple of non-epidural drug options that I wasn't thrilled about - I've never liked the idea of not being fully mentally present for anything, let alone delivering a baby - but then she suggested that I get into the tub. It sounded perfect, so off she went to fill it up. 20 minutes later, I was sinking into a nice warm bath, which helped immensely. Contractions were still coming regularly, but they were easier to manage when surrounded by what essentially felt like a giant heating pad. Chaz was even able to sleep a bit in a chair nearby!
I hung out in the tub for 7:30. The contractions picked up in intensity again, and I wasn't getting much of a break between them anymore. And by then...I was done with it. I asked for an epidural, and died a little inside when they told me the entire process would take about 20 minutes from start to finish. Fortunately, they said they could do the IV while I was still in the tub, so at least I could distract myself with being surrounded by warm water while they stuck me with needles. Have I mentioned how much I hate needles? I HATE NEEDLES. Prior to labor, I thought my hatred of needles would be enough to prevent me from wanting an epidural. Ha. No. After 10 hours of labor, my mental state was something akin to "Stick me with all the needles! Help!"
And so I hobbled back to the delivery room from the tub room at the speed of an overheated, dehydrated tortoise with an IV pole, where the anesthesiologist arrived with a tray of giant needles that I steadfastly turned my gaze away from. Chaz apparently had a nice view though, and he tactfully said nothing about the size of the needles until several hours later.
They had to do the epidural twice. The first time I could still feel the insertion of the tubing used to administer the drug and it HURT, so they pulled everything out, waited through another contraction, stuck me with the numbing needle a second time, and then did the tubing again. The second time I could still feel a little, but it didn't hurt anymore. Shortly thereafter, my legs started tingling and the contraction pain was significantly diminished, and I sent two friends a text saying, "I've concluded epidurals are God's most perfect gift to women." It was glorious and though after another 10 minutes I couldn't feel the lower half of my body at all, it was so nice to have a bit of a break.
The break was a bit short-lived, however, because about 10 minutes after that, I noticed my arms were tingling as well. When I asked about it, the nurse said she thought it was the blood pressure cuff, since it was taking measurements every two minutes. But the next thing I knew, the nurse was handing me an oxygen mask and paging the doctor. This part is all very hazy to me, but apparently my blood pressure had dropped like crazy, as had the baby's heart rate (normally around 150, down to 80 beats per minute). The flipped me every which way to try to get her heart rate to stabilize, assuming that the cord was wrapped around her neck. I heard the anesthesiologist say, "Ok, give her ephedrine," but around the same time they realized that I wasn't able to support the upper half of my body at all to assist in positioning myself to fix the baby heart rate issue. The doctor was there as well and they realized that the problem was the epidural, not the cord. The epidural drug had gone both down (which is what it was supposed to do) and up (which is not what it's supposed to do), so I had no feeling at all from my neck to my toes!
Eventually, they got me into a position where the baby's heart rate was stable, but they also broke my water and stuck a fetal monitor on the baby's head so they could get more accurate information about her status. They turned the epidural completely off, and once I was looking a little less...zombie-like, I guess...they left us to our own devices until the effects wore off. Fortunately, my body kept on laboring during the whole thing, so things were still progressing.
About two hours later, I could feel my arms again, although everything below my navel was still numb. No complaints - I wasn't really interested in feeling much after that, so I was a happy camper. They gave me a popsicle and I took a selfie that turned out to be a very accurate portrayal of my state of affairs:
Tasty popsicle, messy hair, tired red eyes, and SUPER BLURRY because I'd been shaking nonstop probably since 3am. Labor + adrenaline = the shakes, I suppose.
And so we waited. It was a pleasant couple of hours once I'd recovered enough to talk. Around 10:30 I made a dumb joke that if we had the baby in the next 20 minutes, we could still make it to church on time. Around 11:15, they checked me again and said it was time to push. The doctor recommended that we try every other contraction, since her heart rate was still on the unsteady side and we didn't want to rock the boat too hard. So for the next 1.5 hours, that's what we did. I was starting to feel contractions again now that the epidural's effects had mostly dissipated, but epidurals have a magical re-up button and after a bit they let me hit it since the renewed pain was distracting me from pushing.
I knew things were getting close when people started assembling and the doctor suited himself up. In addition to the doctor, there were at least three extra nurses (aside from the one - Katy! - who'd been with us the whole time) and the neonatologist. When they called in the neonatologist I knew they weren't going to put the baby on me right away, and I was fine with that because it meant they were going to make sure she was in good shape right away.
I guess she wasn't moving out quite as fast as her health required, because the doctor said that it was time for the vacuum. Another side note: the term "vacuum" isn't really accurate. It's really more like a suction cup. With that, they stuck it on her head, gave me a small surgical modification, and vacuumed while I pushed. And there she was! It was 12:58 pm on May 28th, and we named her Elise. We definitely missed church.
They took her over to the warmer right away and checked her all over. She screamed immediately, so we knew her lungs were doing just fine. She was pink and she had ten fingers and ten toes, weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long, and was perfect. Then they handed her to us and we loved her.
We spent the next two days in the hospital getting to know her, recovering, taking a thousand pictures, seeing visitors, sleeping a very little, and eating some surprisingly good hospital food.
And then we took her home and started figuring out how to be parents. It's an adventure!
And we love it.