For quite awhile, I had been predicting our baby would be born sometime between February 14th and 18th. Of course, the weekend of the 14th-16th was a holiday weekend and the one weekend when both our doctor and our doula were scheduled to be out of town. Come Friday the 13th, there were no signs that baby planned on coming anytime soon, so both doctor and doula headed out of town. Zach implemented a bed rest order for me for the weekend (we didn’t want to take any chances!) and set up a TV and DVD player in the bedroom for me. I thoroughly enjoyed two days of lying in bed, watching movies, reading books, and catching up on much needed rest. I was still finishing up a fifteen-day long prescription of antibiotics for the sinus infection I’d been fighting since Thanksgiving, and my energy reserves were in desperate need of replenishing.
On Monday morning, around 3:30am, I had a dream I was in labor. In my dream, the contractions had just increased in frequency and I told Zach it was time to start calling people. Then I was awakened by a real contraction that felt just like the ones in my dream. I tried to go back to sleep for a little while, but couldn’t get comfortable and intermittently would have another contraction. These contractions were definitely “real;” somewhat painful with a lot of pressure behind them. I got up and ate a snack, timing the contractions. They were about every fifteen minutes. Around 5am, when the contractions were every eight minutes or so, I finally woke Zach and told him what was going on. He called my mom and our backup doula to let them know this might be “the day” and I went to get a shower and shave my legs.
After a second breakfast, I headed back to bed to try and get some more rest. My dad arrived to help care for the girls in case we suddenly needed to leave for the hospital. Throughout the day I would experience an hour or two of strong, regular contractions – usually every ten or fifteen minutes – and then they would stop again for awhile. I tried to rest as much as possible, figuring we were in for the long haul. In the afternoon, Zach and I took a slow walk (ok, a waddle) around the block to see if it would help speed up anything. I didn’t have a single contraction.
I had been lying in bed, trying to rest between the increasingly painful but still not regular contractions. I was feeling the need for some support and had called Zach in to be with me while my dad got dinner ready for the girls. He held my hand through several contractions and we talked about the baby we would be meeting soon. Around 5:15 pm we checked in with our backup doula and Zach let her know we didn’t think anything was going to happen very soon. Zach told her we’d probably be calling her in the middle of the night sometime. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, about to get up and join the dinner discussion, when I was suddenly hit by a very intense contraction. It was quite long and painful and then, suddenly, GUSH. My water broke! There was no doubt about it! (Of course it would be on the bed!).
Zach helped me to the shower as I called out to my dad “Thundercats are GO!” Zach went to call back our doula (this was literally only ten minutes after he had told her that he didn’t think there would be any activity for hours to come). I stood in the shower, laughing with joy and surprise at the thought of my water breaking. I wasn’t laughing for long, however, as the contractions suddenly started hitting me fast and hard. Every 1-2 minutes they came, as I held onto the wall and breathed through them.
After Zach helped me to get dried off and dressed, he then packed up the last few things we needed in our hospital bag as I paged the on-call doctor to let him know we were headed to triage. It was then, of course, that I realized I was really hungry. I knew they wouldn’t let me eat at the hospital and begged Zach to throw together a burrito for me from the leftovers in the fridge. (What I really wanted was the pizza we had discussed ordering, but clearly there was no time for that now). I also had the good sense to have Zach throw a towel over the seat of the car. What a funny ride to the hospital that was! Every minute or two I would clutch the overhead handle and groan and breathe my way through a painful contraction. As soon as it was over, I’d start stuffing bites of burrito into my mouth, chasing it with swigs of Cherry Coke and exclaiming how delicious it all was. As we drove over the I-5 ship canal bridge, Zach and I both were enthralled with the stunning Seattle sunset. It was gorgeous and seemed like a good omen. I told Zach that, for the first time, I felt like I was experiencing labor “the way it is meant to be.”
Our backup doula met us as we were getting out of the car at the hospital. A kind person in scrubs who was clearly on her way home saw us in the lobby and brought over a wheelchair. We headed up to the too-familiar OB triage. Fetal monitors were placed on me and I was found to be four centimeters dilated already. I nearly cried with joy when they said that. With Eleanor it had taken me almost forty-eight hours of exhausting labor to get that far! We were then joined in triage by my mom and our primary doula, who had just gotten back into town. The nurses quickly got us admitted and we learned that we would have two nurses, as one of them was newly hired and still orienting to the unit. As if two doulas and two nurses wasn’t awesome enough, we then learned that our fabulous doctor was back in town and going to come in to deliver me, even though there was another doctor on-call for her throughout the night. So two doctors as well!
It was about 6:30 pm when I got admitted, and I spent the next three hours laboring away, mostly in the jacuzzi tub. I decided really quickly that I didn’t like the jets, but the warm water felt great. Zach had brought his swim shorts and was in the tub with me, holding and supporting me through the contractions. Both doulas were next to the tub and one would apply pressure to my hips, the other to my back with each contraction, as they coached my breathing. I remember having a thought of how, despite the insanely hard work of labor, I felt utterly pampered. Here were all these people, focused entirely on me and helping me in any way they could. I almost felt guilty!
The contractions continued to come, with increasing intensity and frequency. A little after 9 pm I decided to get out of the tub and soon found myself doubled over the bed, clinging to Zach as I was hit with relentless waves of pain. Sometimes one contraction wouldn’t even finish before then next one would start, and I felt as if I couldn’t catch my breath. The pain was beyond anything I had expected or planned for and, quite frankly, more than I could continue to handle with each contraction coming immediately on the back of the one before it. I was sobbing and unable to breathe effectively, making the pain worse. I asked to be checked, thinking “if they tell me this is transition and I’m almost there, then I can do this.” When they told me I was still only at four centimeters I was devastated. I knew I couldn’t continue these back-to-back contractions for hours more, especially if they weren’t progressing me. I had reached a point where I realized two things: I don’t want to do this anymore and I don’t have to.
I asked for an epidural, and relief was swiftly administered. (There is a special place in heaven for kind, competent anesthesiologists!). I then settled in for we all expected to be many more hours of labor, albeit blissfully pain free. My mom, Zach and our backup doula found places in the room to curl up and rest and I tried to sleep as well. I succeeded in resting, but was unable to fall asleep as I could still feel quite a bit of pressure with each contraction (although no pain). I felt quite cold and a bit shaky for awhile. I asked for some broth to appease my empty, growling stomach, but felt too nauseous to eat it when it came.
Just a little after midnight I told the nurses that I was feeling a lot of pressure down low. I didn’t yet feel the overwhelming urge to push, and didn’t really believe I could be that far along yet anyway. It was about then that I started shaking head-to-toe and vomiting. I was in transition. A short time later, they checked me and, sure enough, I was fully dilated. I asked if I could “labor down” with the epidural for awhile to lessen the time and effort of pushing later (something I had done when Eleanor was born) and the doctors readily agreed. By then it was about 12:30 am on Tuesday, February 17th.
Around 1 am, baby’s heart rate rate suddenly started dropping from the 140’s down to the 80’s. They called my doctor in and put an oxygen mask on me. I didn’t miss the concern in my doctor’s face and the worry in her voice. As a nurse, I’ve seen and heard that before. It is the “there’s no emergency yet but there are signs there could be one really soon if we don’t fix this” look and voice. The nurse told me, “I think you’re going to need to start pushing baby out now.” I told her to just tell me exactly what she wanted me to do and when. I was talking to our baby, begging him to hang in there, telling him how close we were.
At 1:13 am, my doctor had me start pushing. I felt like I wasn’t pushing quite as strong as I wanted to, and was confused as to why. I figured it was the position I was in or the effect of the epidural but, in hindsight, it was probably because my doctor was having me push in between contractions, rather than during. It was something she said they wouldn’t do with someone who didn’t have an epidural. I think she had me do it that way to put less stress on baby and it also made it less likely that I would tear (since there was less pressure behind the pushes). At 1:20 am, after only seven minutes of pushing, my doctor told me “Open your eyes! Here’s your baby!” I reached down and helped to pull him out of me and up onto my chest. Zach was calling out, “It’s a boy!!” with more joy in his voice than I have ever heard before. I felt no surprise that our baby was a boy (I thought, “Well of course he is! I already knew that!”) but was in complete shock that he was here. It had all happened so extremely fast, especially once that epidural was in place. I had dilated six centimeters and pushed him out, all in under four hours! I remember thinking, “I’m not pregnant anymore!” and having immense joy at that thought!
I held our son to my chest and he started nursing almost immediately. It was quite some time before I realized I should let Zach have a chance to hold him and handed him over. We couldn’t decide what to name him. We had a couple of favorites we were considering. I think we both had been hoping to use one name, but were realizing it just didn’t fit him. The nurses weighed him. He was 7lbs, 2 ounces, exactly what I had predicted earlier in the evening. (That makes all three of our babies that I have guessed their exact birth weight, down to the ounce!). They officially marked him as 18 1/4 inches tall, but Zach said it was actually 19 inches when they stretched him out right (that makes all three of our babies nineteen inches as birth).
About an hour after he was born, as Zach held our son next to me, we looked at each other and agreed. His name is Alden Zachariah, we said. Alden, our “old friend.” Welcome to the family, Alden.